Today a Labor Day call from my best friend in New York reminded me that August 2023 is well & truly over.
August 2023 started in Miami and Mandarin Oriental, Miami could not have made the end of my Houston - Nashville - Memphis - Miami trip any more special. Hope the photos below evidence that.
I flew back to London in British Airways First Class on an A380 (the double decker plane). At Miami International Airport I could use the American Airlines Flagship First Dining again. The irony that flying First Class with United & American Airlines, domestically, on the same trip I was refused access to their lounges and now someone was melting the garlic butter on my steak with a blow torch, was not lost on me.
Back at my Barbican place I opened gifts & cards from Four Seasons, Nashville, The Guest House at Gracelands, The Peabody Hotel, Memphis & the Mandarin Oriental, Miami. I felt like crying again, such thoughtful & special mementos.
Despite very bad jet lag, I then hosted my niece from Moscow to the Pret a Portea (fashion) afternoon tea at The Berkeley & dinner at The Wolseley. Four Seasons at Park Lane also created a special mocktail for her. She is such a chatty and cheerful young lady and a joy to spend time with. I am just sorry her UK grandmother could not see her on this trip.
The rest of the month was taken up with two weeks in Shrewsbury, doing my best to raise mum's spirits, with meals out and taking her to St Chad's church.
There were also some sensational breakfasts. The chunks of fresh ginger on my chicken congee at the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park; the insanely good bacon & Bloody Marys at Michel Roux Jr's The Wigmore at The Langham Hotel and the mouthwatering pastries at The Grill by Tom Booton at The Dorchester deserve special mentions.
Meeting my niece Maria from Russia again, after so long, would make it a '7 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) month on its own but the fact mum loves the watch I found for; the Issy card from my godson Miles and finding my postcards India in the 1980s and the one I wrote in Russia when Andropov was their President, have blown my mind. Enjoy the photos below.
I was shocked by how small & dated King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh is. The Alfusan Business Class lounge was fine.
On the 777-300 the wood trim in my First Class suite looked worn. There were no menus and, despite an on-board chef & butler, I was told there was nothing on offer for dinner.
However, chef & butler were friendly & helpful and made my bed up for me. I put on my silky feeling Missoni pyjamas and got a few hours sleep.
In the morning there were some problems getting my bedding cleared away, with demanding Saudi passengers taking priority. However, I managed to get a second Missoni wash bag for my Panama host. It was another plane where the onboard WiFi did not work.
No menus made breakfast ordering complicated. With no alcohol served on these flights, I assumed fresh juices and the best of Saudi cuisine would be showcased. However, the orange juice served was low quality processed, the date dry & tasteless and the eggs dry & powdery. On the more positive side, the warm pastries were excellent and it was the first time I have been served coffee in a cafetière / French Press on a plane.
Hope the photos below explain why this was a '4 teddy' (🐻🐻🐻🐻) experience, despite my luggage being severely damaged. Tips:- specifically ask for the cafetière/ French Press, I was just given a cup of coffee until I asked about this. If you do not have coins for the luggage trolley at Paddington, ask a member of staff. They can release them for free. With a desert rose etc in my luggage, this was a godsend.
Foreign Air Travel Is Stressful & Fraught, But Worth It - Madrid & Barcelona, Spain - September & October 2021
I last left the UK in December 2019 for a New York trip. Concerns about further UK lockdowns meant I decided to go to Spain in September/ October 2021.
The idea was to try Iberia Business Class again flying to Madrid & British Airways Club Europe again flying back from Barcelona.
The purpose of the trip was to stay at the new Four Seasons in Madrid; the new Mandarin Oriental Ritz in Madrid; meet friends from Uruguay & Munich in Madrid; & see my Dubai friend in Barcelona and stay at his elegant place there.
Business Class seating on the Airbus A320 planes both airlines used was disappointing but food was better than I expected.
The main difference was between the crews. Nothing was too much trouble for the British Airways crew, while the Iberia crew did not care. My Apple New York charging cable was not compatible with the Iberia International power sockets and the crew were not interested.
The main points of interest with both flights was the importance attached to scraps of paper on the ground saying "docs OK" (evidencing compliance with COVID-19 documentation requirements) and the fact it was the first time I had entered a European country since Brexit. At Madrid EU & Swiss nationals had short immigration queues, while we British joined the problematic 'Rest of the World' queue. That took so long Four Seasons started calling me to ask where I was.
On the Madrid flight it made me smile that British Airways state that their merger with Iberia is now complete but good customer service is still so obviously lacking at Iberia. Since my flight they have asked for a Direct Message ("DM') on Twitter about my Iberia complaints but have still not replied to any of my four messages. All this reminded me of my Business Class flight from South Africa to Madrid, with Iberia, where I asked for water and was told that would come with my meal.
My advice is still to avoid Iberia at all costs and only pay for Business Class on the London to Spain routes if you are certain you will be flying on a A350.
New Year's Eve With Mum & Dad Again & England's Lockdown3 - Shrewsbury/ London - December 2020/ January 2021
For a second year I skipped New York in favour of New Year's Eve in Shrewsbury with mum & dad. Mum's sublime cooking, wines from dad and even getting to spend New Year's Day with my gorgeous niece, before she flew to spend the Orthodox Christmas in Moscow with her mother, made it such a special time.
On New Year's Day my friend who lives in the Burj Khalifa sent me photos of watching the Dubai fireworks from inside his apartment. Mind-blowing!
I returned to London on the direct Avanti West Coast train in First Class but Lockdown3 in England was announced shortly after this. I now combine exercise with shopping by walking to Fortnums to undertake my food shopping. This is a treat a younger me would not have believed I would ever have been able to do. I also returned to London to find elegant gifts from the Four Seasons George V in Paris.
I am doing my best not to let standards slip, despite everything, & hope the photos below help to demonstrate this. Keep safe everyone. We will get through this together.
Despite experiencing Fortnum & Mason & Avanti West Coast First Class train travel alone; a Daniel Humm Claridge's Fried Chicken dinner at home; showers with Aromatherapy Associates oils, my Frette sheets & my Dorchester hotel bed here in my Barbican London place; seeing a Red Arrows display on VE Day by Palace of Westminster; another spectacular Dorchester hotel roses bouquet specially created for me by Philip Hammond; walks in St James's Park looking at the black swans & Buckingham Palace etc, the UK lockdown since 23 March 2020 has been too long and the UK's new travel quarantine rules wreck www.sifrew.com and so many of my work plans.
My dad's birthday next weekend, & a 'physically distanced' picnic in Green Park with friends from my Qatar days, has made me think how much a miss hugging my mum, swimming & my personal training. Look forward to answering questions about the photos below, when we next meet!
Off for another walk now to try to drop some of the weight gained in the last few months.
While the Brexit date has moved, 29 March 2019 is still fast approaching.
First Class Emirates flights got me from Bangkok to Shrewsbury safely. Two portions of caviar, Dom Perignon champagne and a shower on the A380 plane were perfect but my luggage did not arrive with me in Manchester and the way Emirates dealt with that was far from First Class service. I have made formal complaints about that, & the additional money I paid for WiFi which did not work for long periods on the flight.
I am just off to Tanners in Shrewsbury to arrange the champagne for my Shrewsbury party. Today also spoke to The Golden Cross about my Shrewsbury dinner and signed the contract with Le Pont de la Tour in London. Four Seasons Hotel Ten Trinity Square have created a new Grey Goose vodka based cocktail in my honour. What a two day celebration it will be.
A '7 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) 50th birthday year finally culminates on 29/30 March 2019.
The First Class/Business Class Cathay Pacific Lounge at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. An Oasis of Calm During the Chinese New Year Exodus - Bangkok, Thailand - February 2019
It was pandemonium in Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok the Friday before Chinese New Year 2019. However, the Cathay Pacific First Class/Business Class Lounge was an oasis of sophisticated calm.
The dim sum, phad thai etc from their Noddle Bar made me remember why I like flying with Cathay Pacific. I once undertook a 16 hour flight with them from Hong Kong to Toronto, before returning home to Bermuda!
A '7 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) 50th birthday year continues.
Taiwanese people are some of the most avid readers of #travelblog www.sifrew.com.
I only became aware of Eva Air recently but, as soon as I booked Mandarin Oriental Taipei, I knew I had to fly with this Taiwan airline that partners with Hello Kitty.
A '6 teddy', 'First Class', friendly experience I will never forget.
I have too many people to thank for my 18 unforgettable months in Cayman Islands. My parents, & so many special friends, for visiting me, and there are too many incredible people in Cayman Islands I hope I never lose contact with.
There are a few photos below from my last two days in Cayman Islands but they do not do it any justice!
The New First Class Suites on American Airlines, Heathrow to Miami Flight on a 777-300 - Great Seat/Bed & Crew But Shame About The Food - December 2017
Having flown on British Airways and Qatar Airways in First Class numerous times, and in 'The Apartments' on Etihad Airways, I decided I must try the American Airlines new First Class suites. My 15 hour journeys from Cayman Islands, at Christmas, seemed the perfect opportunity to do this.
I was impressed by the seat/bed, and crew, but once again the American Airlines First Class food let them down. Hence my '4 teddy' rating.
The Sensational New American Airlines Flagship First Dining, Terminal 3 @ Miami International Airport, Florida, USA - December 2017
After delays with my American Airlines plane from Cayman Islands, which culminated with an email warning me that I may miss my connection flight taking me to Christmas in the UK, the American Airlines Flagship First Dining experience was a much needed oasis of pampered luxury.
This First Class dining experience was superior to British Airways' Concorde Room dining and would be difficult to improve on. A 'seven teddy' experience, without doubt.
I am a huge fan of British Airways and was excited that my New Year trip to New York would mean I would get to use the First Class lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5 again.
Having got up at 6:15am, I was really looking forward to their cooked breakfast.
First Class Compartment on Special Express Train with Thailand Railways from Chiang Mai to Bangkok - 13 hours - October 2015
Si Frew has lived in the UK, Bermuda, Qatar, Cyprus & the Cayman Islands. During this time he met Whoopi Goldberg (in Claridge's), Mike Tyson (in the Concorde Lounge at JFK) , Gordon Ramsay (in the Doha Four Seasons), Chris Eubanks (in The Dorchester), Cherie Blair (in Bermuda & again in the Doha Four Seasons) etc. There are funny stories attached to all these interactions, feel free to ask Si about them when you meet him.