Monday Motorway Music™, May 18 – Oooh, A Normal Week

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Just home from a short vacation with my wife and two friends – as the previous post suggests, we were in Istanbul. I have had the joy of being there several times – it is a wonderful, many-facetted, complivated, beautiful, energy-rich, historical and cultural place. And a lot more, surely…

This week is all going to be in the office – for the first time in a long time. But don’t worry – a quick trip to Paris has been sneaking in for next week. (sigh – although I do absolutely love Paris).

So, in other words, we’re back to normality –

“Five to one against and falling…” she said, “four to one against and falling…three to one…two…one…probability factor of one to one…we have normality, I repeat we have normality.” She turned her microphone off — then turned it back on, with a slight smile and continued: “Anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem.”And as next Monday is then both a travelling day and a national holiday (Whitsun) – do not expect an update…
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Zindy Kuku Boogaloo
I’m Gonna Getcha Good – Shania Twain
I Was Made For Lovin’ You – Kiss
I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
Nothin But A Good Time – Poison
Only You – The Platters
Hey Baby – The Bellamy Brothers & DJ Ötzi

Photo by me.
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Istanbul in Black & White

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Monday Bicycle Music™, May 11 – Biking Season Finally Started

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The rapeseed in bloom with all it’s yellowness

 

No, you did not read “bikini” – biking, as in bicycling! And man, it was about time. Last year, I started my version of interval training – biking to work in the summer, not in the winter – already in March. This year, we almost hit mid-May before I got on the pedalled steel-horse. Well, when you’re busy travelling by planes all over the place, there’s not much room for biking.

The day at least was a magnificent day for it. Blue skies, sunshine, the forest at its best – really, really nice. Apparently, no one had been working on flattening the hills since last autumn, so the ride was as hard as anticipated for the first one of the season. And maybe a little more – lots of plane seats and restaurants over weeks just isn’t good for physical endurance…

But I got out and I got back again and I felt all the better for it. The list was deliberately chosen to be on the slow and quiet side – when you’re not yet in shape, there is no need to be belting out songs at 140 bpm:

I’ve Been To Town – Cæcilie Norby
You’ve Got A Friend – Carole Kig
Waterfalls – TLC
I Surrender – Saybia
Shangri-La – ELO
Do I Wanna Know – Arctic Monkeys
Sign Your Name – Terence Trent D’Arby
Let The Music Play – Barry White
Samba Pa Ti – Santana
I Wanna Be Yours – Arctic Monkeys

– but also included some faster stuff, if only a little, especially on the last part of the way back, including:

It Don’t Mean A Thing – Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga
The Look – Roxette
I Wanna Rock – Twisted Sister
Highway To Hell – AC/DC

Photo by me.
PS: And I don’t really know why this didn’t hit the interwebs yesterday. But at least I got to kill a few extra typos
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Springtime Evening Walk

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Cobblestone Cooking Music XVII – Spring Rhubarb Dessert

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It’s that time of year! The beech forest is hopelessly pretty in all its sheer greenness – and in the garden the rhubarbs grow so tha you can almost see it. They’re just sooo good when they’re yound and fresh.

  • Annie Lennox, Who’s That Girl? (Live from Central Park)
  • Electric Light Orchestora, Strange Magic

Get approx. 1/2 kg of rhubarb – it turned out that carrying them into the kitchen packed in one of the big leaves as a wee bag was quite practical. Alternatively, I am sure that your local rhubarb pusher will have something to wrap them in ;)

Clean the rhubarbs and cut off any not-nice looking end. Cut them into pieces of 1-2 cm – a sharp knifw helps a lot here. Put them in a suitable oven-proof dish and mix them with a somewhat liberal coating of sugar. Bake the mix for 10 min at 200°C.

  • Status Quo, In Your Eyes
  • Deacon Blue, Will We Be Lovers

Get some marcipan and grate it/cut it ito wee bits and pieces. Mix with a bit of butter and 1-2 eggs (or 1 egg and 1 egg white). Give it a whirl with the electrical mixer.

  • Kelly Clarkson, Walk Away

When the rhubarbs have been pre-baked, take ’em out of the oven and pour the marcipan mix all over the top of the rhubarbs. That’s one reason for not giving amounts – it will depend very much on the geometry of your dish.

  • Roy Orbison, Careless Heart

Back in the oven it goes – 30-40 min, still at 200°C. Keep an eye on it – you’re looking for deliciously brown, not black. If it turns too dark before it’s done, cover the disk with alu foil but make sure that steam can get out so that it doesn’t go soggy.

  • Lenny Kravitz, Can’t Get You Off My Mind

Et viola. Let it cool for a bit when it comes out – and serve while still a bit warm with whipped cream.

Happy cooking!

Photo by me.
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Like A Poem

Tonight I felt like a poem

How is that even possible?
That was the next thing in my mind
And to tell the truth,
I had no immediate answer for that

How does ink feel on paper?
It cannot really know the emotions it carries
Can it?
And the paper…
Does it just lie back and allow itself to be used
As a bed with clean white pristine sheets
Stained and wretched afterwards
But smiling because the message came through?

A very graphical thought, that
And somewhat pleasing, to be honest
But no

More vague
Internal
More mind than body
More alone than together
More loss than intimacy

Words describing
Not emotions uniting
Words read aloud
Not spoken from sharing lips
Words telling the distance
Not fingers ignoring it

Yet, word also console me
Soothening, they are
Words have the power to make me smile
When I eventually speak them

When I say the words to you
And they come alive
Forging the chain between us
When I say the one word

You.

Photo by Jennifer Lantigua on flickr

– – – – –

Hastily written onboard EK980 tonight on a sudden urge.

With just a little guilty nod to Jim Morrison .

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Cobblestone Flight Review – CPH-DXB-IKA and back on Emirates Business Class

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Opening confession 1: This trip contained the most unusual and unexpected lounge experience I have yet had in my travelling career.

Opening confession 2: I opted out of the very first luxury offering of the trip. Included in the Emirates business class concept is to be picked up at home by a chauffeured limousine. But – latest pickup is three hours before takeoff which would have me spend 2.5 hours in CPH before departure. And Bob knows I’ve seen that airport enough to know that I didn’t need that much time there. On a Sunday, no less. So thanks but no thanks.

Boarding commenced some 10-20 minutes later than the time stated on the boarding card – and the monitors in the airport also had “Go to gate” and even “Boarding” (I believe) up quite a bit on the early side relative to that. Oh well, nothing better than spending time in a crowded gate area. Or, wait… ;)

The gate area had a peculiarity I haven’t seen before – the business and elite passengers were in a seperate pen from the economy “riff-raff” (and no, I’m not seriously meaning that there is a class divide between passengers!). I guess it makes managing the boarding process easier – which actually is really if only because because travellers in general are pretty bad at adhering to PA instructions.

With that pet peeve out of the way, we got on the flight. 5F, across and a slight turn to the left. Hmm! Both bins above my seat were stuffed full of blankets, pillows, whatever. Across, the passengers there had put their stuff up. It took a few minutes before a cabin attendant sorted it out and found somewhere else to store the bedding. Across in the other aisle, a previous colleague travelling with his family, including two young children, looked a bit stressed and flustered until he had bin space sorted out in a similar way.

That, on the other hand, were the issues on this flight. The rest was a smooth ride – 777s do fly quite steadily – and the service was impeccable. Below a few shots of dinner and such – overall, the food was good except for the mocha tart for dessert. That was outstanding (and the Warre’s 2000 Colheita that I had with it followed suit)!

The entertainment system is likely the best I have tried yet on a plane. A very wide screen in seatback in front and a side-mounted detacheable tablet-thingy to control it and show secondary stuff such as routing. All info screens on the main monitor of course shows important stuff such as remaining time to destination.

Widescreen showing cameraview at takeoff

Only “complaint” is that in-flight adverts, such as duty-free going on sale, pops up on top of everything and requires an active icon-touch to be put away again. And the information videos run a bit long as they screen first in Arabic, then – showing the exact same footage – in English. But those are minor points – don’t really score at all on any complaint scale that I know of. But then, I’m more often in the riff-raff end of the plane :-P

Emirates had us early into Dubai – only a 5 hours 30 min flight versus an announced 6:20. Plenty of time then to sample the Emirates business class lounge in DXB – which seems to be half of a whole building. At least, you can take a good long hike around for health purposes if you need some exercise after the flight. It is also the only lounge I have been to where you take the elevator down to the gate area to reach your flight …
DXB-IKA – a 1am departure and a 1½ hour flight does not make any flight a really nice one. Having said that, it was nice to be able to stretch out for a nap, however short it was – and the crew caught on to that very fast and put me down as an “ND” – not (to be) disturbed.

Going to the CIP lounge in style

Going to the CIP lounge in stylert

This first part has been written along the way -and was made up-to-date in the CIP lounge of IKA; the airpoirt of Tehran.
CIP means “commercially important people” and is the local lingo for business class and elite flyers – with just some gentle pressure, the two of us flying business were able to make the invitation extend to our Dubai-based passenger who was booked on economy.

 

That lounge is landside – and it is certainly the first lounge I have been to where they drive you from the terminal to the lounge in a Volvo limousine!

We had a laugh along the way that for people in dairy business like us, CIP is usually short for “Cleaning In Place” (which is the procedure for cleaning of process equipment). At the entrance counter, they checked our boarding passes and then took hold of our passports – apparently, CIPs do not stand in passport queues here, they have minions to take care of getting the passports stamped while floating around in lounge chairs. (Again, the minion part is not to be taken seriously!)

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Suite No 7

Two of us wanted to change out of the suits and into more relaxed clothes for travelling. That is a task normally taken care of in the toilets – a disabled one if one is available and there seems to be no people in more serious need of that facility. Here, the toilets actually looked a bit cramped for unzipping a roller bag and going through the motions so on a whim I asked if they had an option with more space. Whereupon I was shown to a suite – a small hotel room, basically, with two beds and a small bathroom. Gee!

Getting on the plane from there involved going through a small passport queue – where your now stamped passport was handed back to you – and also a security check. Then, a ride on a bus to the plane. It all worked reasonably well with just a modicum of cattle market involved.

The flight was fine – the phrase”would you care to join us for dinner, Sir?” is not one you hear on most flights. I would, thank you, and had an absolutely decent if a little too well cooked beef tenderloin. And feasted on a glass of Italian red and a Hennesy XO if only to mark that I had left “dry” Iran behind me.

My travelling colleague had booked an Emirates drive to the hotel – in Dubai,  business class passengers gets whisked to and from in Volvos while first class passengers apparently get the Mercedes S500 treatment. The Volvo did a fine job!

– – – – –

Return flight to Copenhagen ended up being a very pleasant affair :) Left the hotel somewhat early so breakfast was at the Emirates business lounge. OK but due to refurbishments, not a great experience. Of course, that sort of thing has to be done, so no hard feelings.

On the flight, I opted then for the express breakfast – a good-sized mug of decent coffee (Yay!) and a pain au chocolat. To be honest, that actually followed a glass of champagne and one of orange juice – that eventually combined into a mimosa :)

But the truly nice thing about this particular flight was the very kind and friendly crew. With a good long flight, they do have time on their hands (and of course in general spends it well on taking good care of us!). But it also meant that there was time for a long, nice chat with especially Julia but also with Eva about travelling, about the captain of our flight being a woman and that is just is good when people can achieve their ambitions regardless of irrelevant things like gender, the joys of seeing the world, people’s misconceptions about different people of the world (such as Iranians are actually the most friendly people you can imagine visiting, contrary to what many people seem to think), and, again, cabin crew top tips for a better experience:

  • Stay hydrated (Julia of Emirates agreed very much with Debbie of AirNZ)
  • Focus your eating on lighter fare such as fruit and possibly the vegetarian options – seems to give the body an easier time. The heavy, fatty, saltier options may not be as helpful.

Julia was kind enough to tell me that from when I came on board, she had me pegged as a seasoned traveller who knew the routines and would be easy to deal with – and that I did immediately come across as friendly and appreciative.

I was glad to hear that – it is my nature but I also deliberately aim to be, which lead me to one of my favourite Cobblestone Traveller Tips™:

  • Be kind to the crew (and the gate agents etc) – give them a smile and your thanks. It makes you happier, it makes their job more bearable – and, you’ll quick enough find out, it unlocks the next level of the game where a lot of small things can happen to make your experience a whole lot better (again, refer to [my recent Air NZ Skycouch nap]).

Julia mentioned that back in the economy section, a passenger giving them a smile and a heartfelt thank you would be standing out. That it is rare actually makes me sad – but it also offers you the chance of being the one that stands out. In a good Karma sort of way. Just do it!

I shared some tourist trips of Istanbul and Copenhagen with them – hope it repaid for their kindness and time in lovely conversation.

IMG_7266As to the physical side of the trip, I was in 6D the 777-300ER in a two-class configuration (whereas the 777s on the IKA route also had first class up front – y’know the ones who gets picked up in S500s ;) ) A benefit that I realised along the way was that this offered me a standing desk of sorts – as depicted here…

(and yes, that is a champagne glass – all in a day’s work…)

All in all, the trip home was a very easy, pleasant and well working one. Even if the ever so kind crew forgot to come around with my port wine for the dessert… ;)

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Emirates Mercedes drop-off from CPH

Final leg: CPH to home – taken care of via the chauffeured drive service. And in the Copenhagen end, that was a Mercedes – albeit not an S500. Very nice drive, though – and very efficient, too – the driver was right outside of arrivals and I was home in no time with an absolute minimum of hassle.

The overall score, then? My immediate thought was a full house of Cobblestones. But then, of course, it is necessary to judge business class on a different scale than economy. Tough, but that’s the way it is.

A small handful of small slipups – countered by quite a few encouters with a dedicated and very good staff. And, absolutely, the crew on EK151 DXB-CPH was outstanding. So Emirates lands on five solid cobblestones!

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Fly safely out there!

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Monday Motorway Music™, May 4 – Far, Far Away

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Not home to play music while zooming around on motorways – this time, it’s Iran and Dubai. So the picture above will have to suffice for the candles I’d normally put in the window back home on May 4 in the evening – the eve of liberation day, WWII, in Denmark.

And as for the music? Well, Slade’s got it right: Far Far Away…

Photo by me.
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Blue Moon…

 

Not that the moon is blue at all, I know. Neither is the phenomenon known as a blue moon – which this isn’t either. But there is a moon and there is something blue, so there.

As to the music, take your pick – The Marcels, Elvis, or what just might be my favourite, Ella Fitzgerald…

Photo by me.
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Inspired by Crystal Vision

Seeing you from afar
You walk across my horizon
From left to right
And across my memories
From then to now

As you move across my field of vision
They, in turn, move from new to old
From clarity to obscurity
From presence to history

Long after they are gone
I stare into that horizon
Just maybe still seeing you

– – – – – – –

After I put this together, I was shortly wondering where that “vision out there” came from. Not sure – but it could well have been good old Fleetwood Mac –

Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions
I keep my visions to myself
It’s only me
Who wants to wrap around your dreams and…
Fleetwood Mac, Dreams (Rumours, 1977)

Who knows.

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