Day 24 – Etihad First Class Apartment

16 Apr

This will be a long post because when you fly on a £9000 ticket there’s a lot going on!

First, you’ll probably have breakfast. For me, that was in the superb Manor Club lounge at the Rosewood. Just save some appetite for what’s coming.

(Rubbish photo but incredibly delicious French toast)

Then the Etihad chauffeur will collect you at the hotel for a transfer to the first class terminal.

After check-in you’ll head to the First Class Lounge and Spa, clutching a very important piece of paper.

You’ll enjoy a glass of champagne while you decide what to have from the extensive menu.

And you’ll also struggle to choose from the drinks menu while you eat and watch the activity outside the window.

Then it’s time to board the top deck of the A380 and turn left, where you’ll see the apartments.

And find apartment 4A, selected because it faces forward and the seat is by the window.

Some rows face backwards, or have the seat by the aisle, or have one window not three, like this…

but you spent so much time and effort researching and planning that you were sure to identify the best seat and find a flight where it wasn’t already booked.

The butler will bring you more champagne and some dates…

and show you your own personal mini bar and vanity unit with amenity kit…

and your noise-cancelling headphones…

and pyjamas.

There’s plenty of storage under the seats. No fighting for overhead bin space when you’re travelling first class.

Next you’ll peruse the menus.

You’ll be very pleased with how private it is, even with the doors open. From your seat, you don’t see anyone else. The next person in your row is all the way over on the other side of the cabin. If you lean forward you can just see their legs.

After take off you can close the doors for even more privacy…

but only after the butler has brought you a glass of Bordeaux and some amuse bouches.

Next, you’ll dine. Or maybe later. Or both. Whatever you want, at any time, it’s up to you, and if you want to tweak the dish just chat with the chef.

After your third extravagant meal of the day (it’s still only 3pm), you can ask the butler to make up your bed. Nothing as common as a simple reclining chair with a blanket, here you get a separate bed with proper sheets and a duvet.

If you’re enjoying it too much to actually sleep, the TV screen folds out and there’s another remote control and headphone socket so you can have another cocktail and watch a movie in bed.

Of course, you’ll want to close the blinds on your three windows.

Later, if you’re nice to the butler, you might get a private tour of the exclusive and staggeringly expensive First Class Residence. No photos allowed, but you’ll get to sit where you’d normally have to pay three times the price of the apartment and the previous passengers were Rihanna and Nicole Kidman.

Perhaps a light meal before landing.

Finished with movies? No problem: Etihad has live TV.

With a mocktail, because you’ll be driving soon.

When it’s all over, there’ll even be an Etihad employee waiting to lift your suitcase off the luggage belt in a special section reserved just for first class.

After that, all that’s left is burning off the 25000 calories you just consumed.

£9000? No thanks.

£23 and 60000 air miles? Absolute bargain, and it takes the total value of this trip, if I’d paid the best cash rate for all the flights and hotel upgrades I’ve done with points and miles, to over £31000…

Post from RICOH THETA. #theta360uk – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Post from RICOH THETA. #theta360uk – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Post from RICOH THETA. #theta360uk – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Day 23 – Abu Dhabi part 2

14 Apr

Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi.

It’s spectacular when you arrive:

And it’s interesting to see how “physically disabled” translates around here:

As the light fades it gets more and more photogenic:

And keeps getting better until you’re torn between staying for more photos or racing back to the hotel for the end of happy hour in the Club lounge:

If you visit the middle east, the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi at sunset should be top of your list.

Although, I was glad I decided to leave when I did because the Martinis, whiskey sours, and wagyu beef canapes in the Rosewood club lounge, are absolutely first class.

Day 23 – Abu Dhabi part 1

14 Apr

Saved the most photogenic day till last, so two posts for day 23 because I can’t reduce the shortlist of photos any further.

Abu Dhabi is deserted because it’s a weekend and a special religious holiday.

Nobody in the Club lounge at the Rosewood, which by the way takes club lounges to a whole new level. Not just sandwiches for lunch but a bacon cheeseburger and fries, and the happy hour canapes include succulent slices of wagyu beef and the most delicious cheese I’ve ever tasted:

Nobody on the roads:

Nobody at the shopping mall:

And nobody but security guards at the Louvre, which is way too small and limited to share the name “Louvre” but has some spectacular items including my favourite Japanese:

The best part of the Louvre is the exterior design:

Day 22 – Abu Dhabi

13 Apr

None of the above existed 30 years ago, not even most of the land. Now there are islands, 10 lane highways, high-end hotels, including one of the world’s biggest and most expensive, helipads, marinas, malls, ferris wheels, beaches, 60 storey apartment and office blocks, and a golf course, all created with trillions of dollars of oil money.

Another great hotel suite, this time at The Rosewood.

I can even dim the bathroom lights, close the bedroom curtains, or change the temperature in the living room using the TV remote control.

Day 21 – Beirut and Abu Dhabi

12 Apr

There are two sides to Beirut. The downtown area has been rebuilt post-war by a private company called Solidere that was given exclusive rights by the government and has bulldozed any remaining history and small business. It reeks of corruption and foreign (Saudi) money and influence. At first you think it’s quite nice as you stroll around the marinas and posh shops, then you realise it’s all new and and it’s all empty.

This photo is the laughably named Beirut Souk. Don’t know about you but to me a Souk is not a modern shopping mall. All of downtown is generic international brands, generic international hotels, generic international restaurants, and an absence of soul or charm or character.

There are also no people. You see more heavily armed security guards than civilians. See how busy the souk is at 11am? Two people.

When I first passed through this plaza, all a fake rebuild, there were 7 armed guards and me.

If you want charm and character and soul you have to go to Hamra or Gemmayzeh, and in case you don’t notice all the people and noise and chaos and real life on these “streets of traditional character” there are even handy signs to point you in the right direction.

The places away from downtown are full of life, it’s just that you have to risk your life a thousand times by crossing the road to get there.

There are signs of the war, here and there.

I left for the airport with what seemed like loads of time to spare but I didn’t know the president was doing something in the city which meant that all the roads were closed, armed soldiers and police where everywhere, and traffic was at a standstill. It seemed that nobody knew this was going to happen. My taxi driver complained “This city is shit. Everyday another problem, and they treat us like shit”.

I made it to the airport just in time for a 3 hour ride in the Etihad 787 business class studio, which was a nice precursor to the 7 hours I’ll get to spend in the Etihad A380 first class apartment in a few days.

Star Wars, champagne, a three course meal, and even a massage on the way.

Arriving in Abu Dhabi at dusk and to a suite on the 51st floor of the Jumeirah Etihad Towers.

A very nice room with a view.

And great quality. Just to illustrate the attention to detail, here’s a photo of something I have never before photographed and probably never will again.

Can you tell what it is?