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Trains 'n' Planes. A Culinary Trek Of Par-Bru-Col.  
User currently offlineWidebodyroga From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 613 posts, RR: 16
Posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 7420 times:

BACKGROUND

A lifelong dream of my wife's, since she was 9 years old, was to visit Paris and the Notre Dame Cathedral in particular (something about the Hunchback of Notre Dame and that kind of stuff she tells me...). I had once flown to CDG (on a SOF-CDG-EDI route with AF) but had never been to the city itself. One weekend night, after a heavy consumption of wine we decided that it was time to make it happen. The next morning, after we sobered up, we looked at each other and almost simultaneously said: "Is it still on?". There was no question, we were gonna do it. Of course, there was no way I was going to allow us to fly all the way from Chicago to Europe to only visit Paris, so I started negotiating some additional stops along the way. To make a long story short, we decided that we would also visit Brussels since part of my wife's ancestry traces back to Belgium (her ancestors were from the area around Brugge but we couldn't find time to get there too) and also Cologne since I really wanted to visit Germany again and have some proper weisswurst (even though one has to go to Munich for that). Although I had initially found a very exciting deal with SAS that involved stopovers at CPH and/or ARN I did not book it on time so eventually we ended up booking with UA for the TATL segments of the trip (from ORD to CDG and back). From Paris we were to use the Thalys train service to get to Brussels and then to Cologne, while for the return we were to fly a LH (Cityline) CRJ-200 from CGN to CDG to catch our UA flight back to Chicago.

http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/logos.jpg

http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/TR_Route.jpg
Our route (red represents flights, blue represents trains)

Due to the lack of my usual camera equipment, the photos below, albeit decent, are not of the crisp quality that I usually desire. My apologies for that.



READY TO GET GOING:


.
ORD-CDG, UA, B777-222, Reg: N771UA -"Ugly"

As per tradition, my wife and I chose the CTA Blue Line to get to the airport for our late afternoon departure. The fact that we pack very lightly helps a lot when using public transportation. At the airport there was already a huge crowd of pax destined for TATL flights. For some reason we couldn't check in online the night before so we joined the UA's line for International flights. After about 30 mins, we had our boarding passes, which unfortunately had us seated at the very back of the aircraft and on seats with no windows. Bummer. Security was uneventful and after we got done with it we took a seat by our gate, which was already half-full. The aircraft (a 777-222 was our equipment for the day) was already parked at the gate and to my disappointment it was dressed in UA's old blue-gray scheme which is painful to look at. Judging from the people around us, the demographics of the flight were going to be 50% Europeans and 50% Americans. Everyone was carrying very large carry-ons (and to make things worse some people had more than 1 bag) but of course UA did nothing about it, as it is often the case when I fly with them. As a consequence, boarding (despite the existence of boarding groups) was like a wrestling race (if such a thing exists, but you get the idea), with people trying to make sure that they board early to find spots for their jumbo-sized carry-ons. We didn't have such worries but by the time we boarded the aircraft every single inch of available overhead space was taken up, so our small carry on bags had to go under the seats in front of us, therefore decreasing even further the already tiny amount of legroom. Both my wife and I are rather tall so it wasn't fun.

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At the famous "discotheque-esque" tunnel that leads to the C Concourse of T1 at ORD

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Our ugly bird at the gate

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Legroom. What, no army shorts? Sorry, they were in the wash. The bag under the seat in front of me was removed for illustration purposes. Yes, I know that these shoes are out of style nowadays, but I swear they are very comfortable.

Our departure was on time, even though we spent a considerable amount of time taxiing and waiting in line for take off. The take off itself was smooth and a snack and drink service started almost immediately after we reached maximum altitude. We were given a pack of pretzels and a drink of choice (I picked some tomato juice) which hit the spot (I was getting impatiently hungry by that point). When it was time for the meal service however (a choice of chicken or pasta), we suffered the "fate of the last rows". By the time the FAs got to our row they had ran out of chicken, so we got stuck with the pasta dish. We were never told anything by the FAs (there was no "I'm sorry we ran out of chicken" or anything like that) we were just given the pasta. Not very nice. Now, the meal itself was easily the worst I have ever had on a TATL flight and quite possibly the worst hot meal I have ever had on any flight. A completely flavorless tomato-y pasta that was clearly overcooked, a plain lettuce salad with a funky sesame-ginger sauce on the side, a really dry bun and an equally dry oatmeal bar for dessert. Need I say more? After we pushed down our dinner, we tried to watch a movie or two at our personal IFE screens and then spent a couple of hours trying unsuccessfully to catch some sleep . The guys in front of us had reclined their seats all the way down almost immediately after we took off. Knowing that the guys at the rows behind us could not recline their seats (they were the last row), we refrained from reclining ours too, thus confining ourselves to a space that would be considered tight even by a dead sardine. About 90 minutes before arriving at our destination, we were served a light breakfast, which consisted of the traditional croissant and yogurt (sorry, no photo, just a really blurry one not worth posting). After landing, we picked up our bags, jumped onto a train, and off we were to Paris.


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Meal. Easily the worst I've ever had on a TATL.

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On the train from CDG to downtown


PARIS
In Paris we stayed at the Blackston Opera Hotel not too far from Gare St.Lazare. Not the greatest place in the world, with tiny rooms and in a desperate need for a renovation, but nonetheless conveniently located near a metro stop. We spent 5 days in the French capital, visiting all the must-see spots (Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, the Louvre, Pere-Lachaise, Champs-Elysees, etc) and we also devoted a whole day to Versailles.

Here's a collection of photos from in and around Paris:


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This guy was very talented...

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.
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Mussels and taters (we couldn't wait for Brussels to try them so we got them in Paris too). This is at "Clichy's Tavern" close to Place de Clichy

Views from the Notre Dame belfry:
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.
.
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_4774.jpg
Steak Tartare (I Iove my raw meat) and Duck Pie at a restaurant by the Parc de la Tour Saint-Jacques.

While in Paris we tried to sample as much of the Parisian cuisine was we could. We had lunch/dinner at a number of places, which ranged from your typical tourist-trap eatery to some more upscale restaurants. Our absolute favorite was Le Dix Vins near Gare Montparnasse. It's a place that you won't see many tourists in, which is always a huge advantage, plus the food was exceptional. It made us feel like we were in "the real Paris". I was so absorbed by the culinary experience I did not take any photos which I now regret.


http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_4788.jpg
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An exhibition of Peugeot cars:
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The Louvre:
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Versailles:
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_4982.jpg
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More of Paris:
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_0541.jpg
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_0520.jpg
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http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5079.jpg

...and a sample of Parisian parking:
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5071.jpg



THALYS RIDE AND BRUSSELS

After 5 lovely days in Paris we had to move on and head to my wife's ancestral homeland of Belgium. To catch our train we had to get to Gare du Nord. We arrived there early so we had enough time to grab a quick brunch at one of the station's cafeterias (the atlantic tuna sandwich is recommended). We had purchased our tickets online while still in the US (we had them printed out too) at Thalys' website, so all we had to do was board our train and enjoy the ride.

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A Thalys and a Eurostar train at Gare du Norde

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Our Thalys train to Brussels (left) was an older model than the one above

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Seat pitch

The service between the two capitals was non-stop so it was before we knew it that we arrived at the Brussels-Midi/Zuid station. I had been there once before (on a ferry/train trip from Scotland to Greece) so the place felt very familiar. At the station, we hopped onto the subway and got off at the European Commission stop (Schuman). From there our hotel was only a 2 minute walk. We stayed at the New Hotel Charlemagne, which to this day remains one of the top hotels on my list in terms of cleanliness and comfort. The shower cubicle was larger than our whole bathroom back in the US. If you ignored the somewhat rude Balkan guy at the desk and the overpriced internet access, it would be a perfect 10.

We only had a couple of days to spend at the so-called European Capital so we tried to make the most of it. We walked around the main sights in downtown and also visited the Atomium on the outskirts of the city. The food we had in Brussels was subpar but that's probably our fault as we decided to eat near all the tourist traps (see Grand Place). The only exception was of course the Belgian Waffles, which were delicious! The meal we enjoyed the most (aside the waffles) was at a Greek place called "Kafenio" which was right opposite our hotel. They even served retsina wine, which my wife has been obsessed with since a visit to Santorini.

Photos of Brussels:
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5168.jpg
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5181.jpg
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http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5242.jpg


ON TO COLOGNE

Once more, Thalys was our means of transportation of choice to get to Germany. Tickets in hand, we got onto the maroon Thalys train (a newer model this time) and fell asleep almost immediately. This time the route included a couple of stops: one at Liege (Belgium), where I was impressed by the very interesting design of the train station and another at Aachen, right after the crossing of the border with Germany.


Snippets of the really modern Liege station:
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5252.jpg
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5255.jpg

Both my wife and I were very impressed with Cologne. My wife had very low expectations of Germany but she soon realized that the place was much more interesting than she thought. Personally I have a thing for Germany. Every time I find myself there I get this fuzzy feeling inside. I had never been to Cologne before (unless you count a train ride from Brussels to Frankfurt back in 2005) so I was very eager to see how it compared to other German cities I'd been to. I was not disappointed. The Cologne Cathedral was by itself worth a visit to town. Well, anything that required 630+ years to be built should worth a visit. We stayed at the NH hotel, right next to the river, and practically next door to the Imhoff Chocolate Museum which of course we visited. The museum is on an elongated peninsula called Rheinauhafen on the west bank of river and was quite impressive. There was a little enclosed "tropicarium" jungle area (it was super hot and humid) which gave you a very realistic impression of the environment in which cocoa trees grow. Later on, you came across a chocolate fountain where you could dip a cookie they handed to you. You could also watch how chocolates are made (a little chocolate manufacturing factory was set up in the middle of the museum), learn about the history of chocolate and so much more. At the exit, there was, of course, a huge chocolate shop where you could satisfy your (inevitable by that point) chocolate cravings.


Photos of Cologne:
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5267.jpg
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5273.jpg
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.

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Glorious sausage at "Brauhaus Sion"

The Chocolate Museum:
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5260.jpg
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For dinner, we both agreed that we should avoid the "Chicago Steakhouse" that was right next to the Cathedral (for obvious reasons) and opt for something German (which was my plan to begin with!). Both my wife and I are huge fans of German Riesling wines so we made it our mission to find a nice "weinhaus" to try the local varieties. After asking around we found a place (Weinhaus Brungs) that appeared to be no more than a hole-in-the-wall but was in fact much larger, where we had possibly the best food in the whole trip plus some really interesting wine. On our last night there we went out for a very late dinner/drink at Heumarkt and finally I got to eat some weisswurst. It was so delicious I forgot to take a photo (again!) ...


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Rabbit and Spätzle at the Weinhaus Brungs

http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5380.jpg
An out-of-this-world apple strudel at the same place




RETURN TRIP


.
CGN-CDG, LH (CityLine), CRJ-200, Reg: D-ACHK - "Schkeuditz"

For our return to the States, we had to catch an early morning flight from the Cologne-Bonn airport (CGN) to Paris on a LH (Cityline) CRJ-200. I know what you are thinking. LH has no CRJ-200s, save for a lone Eurowings-operated aircraft. Well, they did back in mid-2009 when this trip took place (a fact I forgot to mention). This particular CRJ-200 is now with U8.

We got up early and grabbed a taxi to the train station. From there we got onto a local train that took us to the, still deserted at this hour, airport train station. At the departure area we tried to use the check-in kiosks but could not make them work (they would not read our passports) so we waited for a few minutes until the check-in desks opened. Being there plenty early, we had a quick breakfast and then I wondered around the airport trying to find spotting opportunities. Most of the visible aircraft were cargo (DHL, FedEx, Maersk) while Germanwings and Air Berlin were the main passenger airlines.


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Lufthansa is present at the Cologne railway station too. Apparently one can check in at the station.

Cologne Airport train station
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Check-in area

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Germanwings uses CGN as its base and main hub

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Our gate

Some more photos from around the airport
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At the gate we were picked up by a bus and taken over at a very remote area of the airport, among a number of cargo aircraft, where our CRJ-200 was parked. I almost decapitated myself while trying to enter the aircraft. I had forgotten how small everything is on these birds. After a short taxiing through the rain we took off and headed to the south and west. Service consisted of a choice of ham or cheese sandwich, which were pretty decent but rather small, even for such a short flight.


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One of the buses that would take us to our aircraft

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Sunrise over CGN

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Our aircraft, as if in detention, at a very remote location

A few close-ups of our CRJ-200:
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.

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Legroom

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Cabin view

Views during taxing and taking-off:
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Our breakfast choices. Ham (top) or cheese (bottom) sandwiches:
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5444.jpg
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5446.jpg


Approaching Paris
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FLYING BACK TO CHICAGO


.
CDG-ORD, UA, B777-222, Reg: N772UA

Our little CRJ-200 at the gate after arriving in CDG:
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http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5464.jpg


We landed in Paris on time and with plenty of time to make our connection. However, the gate area for our next flight was already packed with passengers waiting. We decided to sit and read our books and let time pass. Our 777 had also just arrived at the gate and this time it was dressed in the blue and white UA livery (pre-merger) which is much closer to my taste. At some point, while waiting, we heard our names being called from the gate desk. We had no idea what the problem may be but we got up and headed to the desk which was busy with a crowd. After waiting for about 15 mins we spoke to the gate agent who did not make clear what the problem was but simply asked to see our papers/boarding passes. After some chit-chat with some of her fellow gate coworkers in French she handed our papers back and told us that we were all set. Some explanation wouldn't hurt but I was just happy that there was no problem.

Some interesting traffic at CDG:
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TN (Air Tahiti Nui) A340

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SQ A380

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Is this our plane? I'm pretty sure this is our plane.

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Our 777-bird waiting at the gate

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A neighboring US Airways aircraft


Boarding was again chaotic (it reminded me of the old days when the boys at my school were pushing each other to claim the best seat on the school bus). Again, no doubt, the reason for that was the overhead space. Once more we got seats at the back of the aircraft but this time we got windows, which was a relief. The pre-meal snack consisted again of pretzels and a drink, while for the main meal we were given the choice of tortellini or beef with mushed potatoes. I chose the tortellini but my wife was reluctant to give UA's pasta a second chance so she picked the beef. The meals were a touch better than the one on the inbound flight but still a far cry from anything half-decent.

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Seat pitch. Pardon the shoe removal. You may blame the IFE box under the seat in front of me for my desire to get as comfortable as possible.

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Cabin view

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Taking off above Paris

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The pre-meal snack

Our meal options for the day: Tortellini or Beef:
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http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5475.jpg


The choice of movies did not spark my interest, and given that I can hardly ever sleep on a US-bound TATL flight (too much light and commotion), I decided to read and listen to music. Once we reached the Canadian coast, I decided to entertain myself by looking at the incredible landscape which I never grow tired of. An hour or so before our arrival at ORD, we were given a light snack, which this time consisted of a bag that contained a fresh bread bun, a pack of Lay's potato chips and a Twix. Not bad. It did fill me up.

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Flying somewhere over Canada

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Interesting cloud formations

Pre-landing snack (front and back view):
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5487.jpg
http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5488.jpg

http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/JCNadal_x/IMG_5492.jpg
Entering the US somewhere over the Great Lakes

Our arrival at ORD was on-time. Immigration took a good hour or so (our arrival coincided with a bunch of other international flights). After we collected our stuff we made our way to the CTA trains to get back home.

CONCLUSION
UA disappointed me. Being a Chicago-based company I cheer for them (I just can't help it, I even started cheering for the Cubs after I moved to the North Side of Chicago) but I have to confess that I am usually not left with the best impressions after flying with them. The quality of the food was pretty poor (even by the standards of a US carrier), the crew was very indifferent, while their boarding procedures in both flights resembled a kindergar


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19 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently onlinebeeweel15 From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 1752 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 7151 times:

Enjoyed this report. Think I will try a similar route next year. As i plan to travel to London in 2012.

User currently offlinemalioil From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2010, 124 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 7015 times:

First of all a wonderful trip report that was very entertaining to read !

Both Brussels and Cologne seem to be great cities, and well worth a visit, but there is something about Paris that just does it to me. It is probably one my most favorite cities in the world, there's just a charm, a spirit to the place that hasn't changed across the years. It's probably just me, but from New York to London, from Dubai to Stockholm, they all have something that makes them great and appealing, yet with Paris its something deeper. Almost like an inner soul or charm that makes it really the city of light.

It's shame with the UA flights, they should have fared better. My experience two months ago in J BAH-IAD-JFK-IAD-BAH was quite lackluster westbound, but one of the best flights I've had eastbound, so perhaps UA may have a small consistency issue. It must be said however, that the 777-222s you flew on both directions are quite a piece of aviation history. They're both some of the oldest 777's around, built in 1994, and while that doesn't make for the most comfortable flight, you can always say you were on one of the first 777's, as this type further evolves and soon is becoming one of the most popular types on the planet.

Glad you enjoyed your trip, and remember, a bad day in the sky is usually better than a good day on land- at least your going somewhere  


Regards,

Mohammed



Flights Booked: BAH-DOH-EDI-LGW-JER-LGW-EDI-DOH-BAH-LHR-EDI-LHR-EDI-LHR-BAH-DXB-HKG-SIN-HKG-DXB-BAH-LHR-EDI
User currently offlineMHG From Germany, joined Dec 2004, 778 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 6942 times:

Absolutely. That´s a really entertaining and easy to read report !

Am I right suspecting that the train journeys were a relaxing and hassle free experience - since you didn´t tell much about them ?

Glad you enjoy(ed) European food !
Makes me wonder how "bad and tasteless" American food/cuisine really is ...  
I have never been to North America so far (but that´ll change this coming oct/nov arriving in YVR on AB from DUS and leaving 1.5 weeks later from SFO with CX to HKG ...)

[Edited 2011-09-10 12:46:53]

[Edited 2011-09-10 12:48:07]


I miss the sound of rolls royce darts and speys
User currently offlineWidebodyroga From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 613 posts, RR: 16
Reply 4, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 6893 times:

Goodness me. I just realized that my TR was truncated at the bottom and the conclusion did not get displayed in full. Here's the part that was cut out:


CONCLUSION
UA disappointed me. Being a Chicago-based company I cheer for them (I just can't help it, I even started cheering for the Cubs after I moved to the North Side of Chicago) but I have to confess that I am usually not left with the best impressions after flying with them. The quality of the food was pretty poor (even by the standards of a US carrier), the crew was very indifferent, while their boarding procedures in both flights resembled a kindergarten. UA took me from A to B and back, so I can thank them for that. The flight on LH was too short to comment on, but I really enjoyed the airport at CGN. I have yet to fly LH on a TATL route so I am very eager to try them at some point. As for the trip itself, it was a wonderful adventure. My wife enjoyed Paris a lot (despite her extremely high expectations), she got to visit Belgium and got introduced to the awesomeness of German food. Too bad she doesn't drink beer. Such a waste. I, on the other hand, got to see 3 places I had transited through in the past (by plane or train) but never got to visit properly. And let's not forget, those weisswursts were to die for...

Thanks for reading. Comments will be greatly appreciated.

WideBodyroga


A FEW SELECTED PAST TRIP REPORTS:
Purging The Miles On The Mormon Trail
Bahama Mama! South Bahamas On Pineapple Air + More
A Tribute To Meigs Field. A Visit To CGX's Remains
Ugly Ducklings & Tasty Dumplings. Europe On MA/AA
Heading South (MIA & SAT) For Hoops And Friends
Intra-SoCal Commuter. What On Earth Is A DMC?
The Barajas Purgatory. Iberia Being Iberia
Dirty Green And Red. Transatlantic AZ And FB
Porter's New Terminal At YTZ
Athens Airways' (ZF) First TR On A.net
Tokyo and Hiroshima on the Airline of the Year
A Transatlantic Flash-trip To EDI
Flash Transatlantic to England
Hawaii...on Alaska and NW



Visit my aviation page: http://widebodyroga.weebly.com/
User currently offlineWidebodyroga From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 613 posts, RR: 16
Reply 5, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 6848 times:

Quoting beeweel15 (Reply 1):
Enjoyed this report. Think I will try a similar route next year. As i plan to travel to London in 2012.

Thanks beeweel15. Glad you enjoyed it. I'm sure you'll have fun on your trip. What other cities does your itinerary include?

Quoting malioil (Reply 2):
First of all a wonderful trip report that was very entertaining to read !

Thanks Mohammed! It pleases me to know that you guys enjoyed this TR.

Quoting malioil (Reply 2):
Both Brussels and Cologne seem to be great cities, and well worth a visit, but there is something about Paris that just does it to me. It is probably one my most favorite cities in the world, there's just a charm, a spirit to the place that hasn't changed across the years. It's probably just me, but from New York to London, from Dubai to Stockholm, they all have something that makes them great and appealing, yet with Paris its something deeper. Almost like an inner soul or charm that makes it really the city of light.

My wife couldn't agree more with you! Even I have to admit that Paris is a very special place. I would be more than happy to visit it again.

Quoting malioil (Reply 2):
It must be said however, that the 777-222s you flew on both directions are quite a piece of aviation history. They're both some of the oldest 777's around, built in 1994, and while that doesn't make for the most comfortable flight, you can always say you were on one of the first 777's, as this type further evolves and soon is becoming one of the most popular types on the planet.

Actually, I never thought about that. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Mohammed! I do like the 777 a lot but sometimes it's up to the airline to configure the aircraft in a way that makes it more comfortable (or less...). I remember the 777s of OZ were some of the most comfortable widebodies I have flown in. But as you mentioned, this may be because they are newer overall.

Quoting MHG" class="quote" target="_blank">MHG (Reply 3):
Absolutely. That´s a really entertaining and easy to read report !

Thank you very much MHG! I am chuffed.  
Quoting MHG" class="quote" target="_blank">MHG (Reply 3):
Am I right suspecting that the train journeys were a relaxing and hassle free experience - since you didn´t tell much about them ?

Yes, indeed, you are right. The train rides were very smooth and pleasurable. In fact both rides felt very short, mainly because they were so comfortable.

Quoting MHG" class="quote" target="_blank">MHG (Reply 3):
Glad you enjoy(ed) European food !
Makes me wonder how "bad and tasteless" American food/cuisine really is ...  
I have never been to North America so far (but that´ll change this coming oct/nov arriving in YVR on AB from DUS and leaving 1.5 weeks later from SFO with CX to HKG ...)

Hehe, American food is not that bad, as long as you are at the right place and you know where to go. Sure it generally tends to be on the heavy side and with cheese of questionable quality (my main objection personally) but there is so much diversity that you can never be disappointed. But then again, my taste-buds have been permanently traumatized since the years I used to live in the UK, so nowadays they are just happy to come across anything with a hint of flavor.  

I'd like to hear what you thought of the food in Canada and the US, once you get back from your trip  



Visit my aviation page: http://widebodyroga.weebly.com/
User currently offlineMHG From Germany, joined Dec 2004, 778 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 6817 times:

Quoting Widebodyroga (Reply 5):
Hehe, American food is not that bad, as long as you are at the right place and you know where to go. Sure it generally tends to be on the heavy side and with cheese of questionable quality (my main objection personally) but there is so much diversity that you can never be disappointed. But then again, my taste-buds have been permanently traumatized since the years I used to live in the UK, so nowadays they are just happy to come across anything with a hint of flavor.

I'd like to hear what you thought of the food in Canada and the US, once you get back from your trip

I´ll probably stay away from cheese. My guts are a bit sensible against "junk quality" ...
(I even hop over the border into a french supermarket to buy cheese - occasionally)
I´m travelling a bit on the budget side but will still look out for some decent tasty local food !
I´ll let you know about my thoughts afterwards   



I miss the sound of rolls royce darts and speys
User currently offlineLondonCity From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2008, 1487 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 6692 times:

Quoting Widebodyroga (Reply 5):
The train rides were very smooth and pleasurable. In fact both rides felt very short, mainly because they were so comfortable.

Good to read about your train experiences. By the way, German Rail operates its ICE (high-speed train) on the Brussels-Cologne route in competition with Thalys. Some passengers prefer the ICE.


User currently offlineEuroWings From UK - England, joined Sep 2011, 298 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 6677 times:

A very interesting report, I enjoyed reading it. Great pictures from Paris, Brussels and Cologne. I especially liked how you combined high speed rail with your flights.

Quoting LondonCity (Reply 7):

Good to read about your train experiences. By the way, German Rail operates its ICE (high-speed train) on the Brussels-Cologne route in competition with Thalys. Some passengers prefer the ICE.

I prefer the ICE3 on that route to Thalys, I just find it a more pleasant travel experience in general.


User currently offlineShnoob940 From Australia, joined Sep 2008, 185 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 6586 times:

Hi Widebodyroga, great trip report!
How do you show the train routes and the arrows to destinations on GCM?

gibbo



A319 A320 A321 A332 A333 A343 A388 733 734 735 737 738 739 743 744 762 763 773 788 E170 E190 Q400
User currently offlineMHG From Germany, joined Dec 2004, 778 posts, RR: 1
Reply 10, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 6272 times:

Quoting LondonCity (Reply 7):
By the way, German Rail operates its ICE (high-speed train) on the Brussels-Cologne route in competition with Thalys. Some passengers prefer the ICE.

Deutsche Bahn is planning to run ICE3 stock from Germany to London in 2012 !
(there have been trial rides already and the certification process is moving forward - probably done already)
That´ll mean direct service between London and some german cities is due to start soon.
The ICE3 definitely offers higher comfort levels in both coach and first compared to the TGV/Eurostar.



I miss the sound of rolls royce darts and speys
User currently offlinelychemsa From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 1195 posts, RR: 3
Reply 11, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 6235 times:

I flew UA from Geneva to Washington and these were my observations:

1. Legroom is a tight 31" like on BA. LX legroom is more generous. However the last time I paid $80 extra at check in and flew economy + 34".
2. Excess luggage fees are a ripp off. For being about 6 lbs over I was charged $140 with no explanation. On BA I was charged a flat $60 (any weight between 23 kg and 32 kg) get's charged a flat fee which was reasonable.
3. Fortunately from GVA UA serve the same meals as LX but they don't include the cheese.

The meal from the USA looks awful. All US airlines now serve lettuce and a cookie for desert. Main dishes taste like hospital / school food.

Up into the 1970s UA used to serve fantastic meals on domestic flights in Y. They were my favourite airline.

I would have flown AF. Better legroom and decent meals. Next time I fly a US carrier I will order a Kosher or Muslim meal. They seem to be better.

[Edited 2011-09-11 02:54:08]

[Edited 2011-09-11 02:55:56]

User currently offlineFlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1706 posts, RR: 31
Reply 12, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 6089 times:

Hi Roga,

A very nice eurotrip, you managed to combine three great cities into one trip, very successfully I might add! Some great destination photos there - I've visited all of these cities many times and certainly can recognize most of the sights you have captured!

Central Europe is nice in the sense that you have lots and lots of interesting and completely different cities all available within a short train ride from each other so it is relatively easy to come up with these kind of city-hopping trips.

Your beautiful food pictures made me hungry and craving for some good Belgian Mussels!

Those UA flights don't look too good - regular cattle class transatlantic flights I guess.

Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
For dinner, we both agreed that we should avoid the "Chicago Steakhouse" that was right next to the Cathedral (for obvious reasons)

Hey, I've actually eaten there! I remember them serving a nice juicy steak.

Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
Lufthansa is present at the Cologne railway station too. Apparently one can check in at the station.

Actually they codeshare on some of the DB ICE services between Cologne main station and Frankfurt, I think nowadays there are no LH flights FRA-CGN any more (I logged one such a flight some years ago - an interesting short hop on a CRJ!). The ICE trains have a special car reserved only for LH pax and in all senses it is treated as a flight - you check in there, they take your luggage and transfer it at FRA to your plane and you are given a boarding pass for the train, plus you earn miles from it just like from a regular flight. Actually these services were popular with mileage runners some years ago as you could just book a cheap ticket in business class, do your check in but not have to board the train in order to gain some nice mileages. LH closed this loophole, though, so nowadays you have to be onboard in order to get mileage.


User currently offlineWidebodyroga From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 613 posts, RR: 16
Reply 13, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days ago) and read 5886 times:

Quoting MHG (Reply 6):
I´ll probably stay away from cheese. My guts are a bit sensible against "junk quality" ...
(I even hop over the border into a french supermarket to buy cheese - occasionally)
I´m travelling a bit on the budget side but will still look out for some decent tasty local food !
I´ll let you know about my thoughts afterwards   

American cheese is not bad in the sense that it can make you sick. It's just that in many occasions it's not cheese at all. Sure, we Europeans are cheese-snobs but truth be said, with a few exceptions (see some Wisconsin cheeses) cheese in the US is not all that great.

Quoting LondonCity (Reply 7):
Good to read about your train experiences. By the way, German Rail operates its ICE (high-speed train) on the Brussels-Cologne route in competition with Thalys. Some passengers prefer the ICE.
Quoting EuroWings (Reply 8):
I prefer the ICE3 on that route to Thalys, I just find it a more pleasant travel experience in general.

To be honest I don't remember if I looked at the possibility of riding the ICE for that trip. Thalys' fares were very cheap so it's very likely that once I found them I just went ahead and booked them without looking for alternatives. I have used the ICE on that route in the past though (Brussels to Frankfurt (via Cologne) and then on to Munich) and I agree that it is impressive.

Quoting EuroWings (Reply 8):
A very interesting report, I enjoyed reading it. Great pictures from Paris, Brussels and Cologne. I especially liked how you combined high speed rail with your flights.

Thanks EuroWings. I love it when I can combine flights with train or boat rides. I have done this in Japan too and it was a great experience.

Quoting Shnoob940 (Reply 9):
Hi Widebodyroga, great trip report!
How do you show the train routes and the arrows to destinations on GCM?

gibbo

Thank you gibbo! I used CorelDraw to draw some extra lines/arrows on top of a map pre-generated by GCM.

Quoting lychemsa (Reply 11):
I flew UA from Geneva to Washington and these were my observations:

1. Legroom is a tight 31" like on BA. LX legroom is more generous. However the last time I paid $80 extra at check in and flew economy + 34".
2. Excess luggage fees are a ripp off. For being about 6 lbs over I was charged $140 with no explanation. On BA I was charged a flat $60 (any weight between 23 kg and 32 kg) get's charged a flat fee which was reasonable.
3. Fortunately from GVA UA serve the same meals as LX but they don't include the cheese.

The meal from the USA looks awful. All US airlines now serve lettuce and a cookie for desert. Main dishes taste like hospital / school food.

Up into the 1970s UA used to serve fantastic meals on domestic flights in Y. They were my favourite airline.

I would have flown AF. Better legroom and decent meals. Next time I fly a US carrier I will order a Kosher or Muslim meal. They seem to be better.

Thanks for the input lychemsa. AF's fare was way too expensive so we quickly ruled them out despite being our first choice at the beginning. AF is currently my favorite TATL carrier but when they're asking twice as much as UA it's hard to pick them.

The excess baggage fees you mentioned are outrageous. I can't believe they charged you that much.

I totally agree about the food. It was only back in 2005 that US carriers still offered decent meals on TATL. We have gone a long way (backwards) since. Interesting idea about the Muslim/Kosher meal, I should try that trick next time.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 12):

Hi Roga,

A very nice eurotrip, you managed to combine three great cities into one trip, very successfully I might add! Some great destination photos there - I've visited all of these cities many times and certainly can recognize most of the sights you have captured!

Central Europe is nice in the sense that you have lots and lots of interesting and completely different cities all available within a short train ride from each other so it is relatively easy to come up with these kind of city-hopping trips.

Your beautiful food pictures made me hungry and craving for some good Belgian Mussels!

Those UA flights don't look too good - regular cattle class transatlantic flights I guess.

Thanks P.! Always a pleasure to read your comments. I feel jealous of all you guys who can regularly fly within Europe and combine your flights with quality train rides. We just can't do that here in the US.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 12):
Hey, I've actually eaten there! I remember them serving a nice juicy steak.

Nice  . I have no doubt that they are good, but it would be a terrible faux pas of sorts if a couple of Chicagoans went to Cologne and decided to eat at the Chicago Steakhouse.  
.
.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 12):
Actually they codeshare on some of the DB ICE services between Cologne main station and Frankfurt, I think nowadays there are no LH flights FRA-CGN any more (I logged one such a flight some years ago - an interesting short hop on a CRJ!). The ICE trains have a special car reserved only for LH pax and in all senses it is treated as a flight - you check in there, they take your luggage and transfer it at FRA to your plane and you are given a boarding pass for the train, plus you earn miles from it just like from a regular flight. Actually these services were popular with mileage runners some years ago as you could just book a cheap ticket in business class, do your check in but not have to board the train in order to gain some nice mileages. LH closed this loophole, though, so nowadays you have to be onboard in order to get mileage.

Interesting. I love little facts like that. Now I want to try it too...



Visit my aviation page: http://widebodyroga.weebly.com/
User currently offlineMSS658 From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 2474 posts, RR: 15
Reply 14, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 5793 times:

Hi


Nice trip report you've got there. Nice that you where able to try out the Thalys. Glad you enjoyed PAR, BRU and CGN as well.
As for UA, UA looks to be a very average product. Had much better service on a recent PMCO flight from BRU to EWR and back to Frankfurt. Makes it really painfull to see CO vanish in UA.


Greetings
Marc



Next trip report: Well worn A330s and Hassle free MUC transfer
User currently offlineShnoob940 From Australia, joined Sep 2008, 185 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 5771 times:

Quoting Widebodyroga (Reply 13):

Thank you gibbo! I used CorelDraw to draw some extra lines/arrows on top of a map pre-generated by GCM.

Oh ok thanks  

gibbo



A319 A320 A321 A332 A333 A343 A388 733 734 735 737 738 739 743 744 762 763 773 788 E170 E190 Q400
User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6758 posts, RR: 77
Reply 16, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 5643 times:

Hi Widebodyroga,

great report with many beautiful pictures! It seems you had an enjoyable trip.

Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
After about 30 mins, we had our boarding passes, which unfortunately had us seated at the very back of the aircraft and on seats with no windows. Bummer.

That's too bad. Two rows without window?

Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
Everyone was carrying very large carry-ons (and to make things worse some people had more than 1 bag) but of course UA did nothing about it, as it is often the case when I fly with them.

I don't understand either why certain airline tolerate that.

Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
Now, the meal itself was easily the worst I have ever had on a TATL flight and quite possibly the worst hot meal I have ever had on any flight. A completely flavorless tomato-y pasta that was clearly overcooked, a plain lettuce salad with a funky sesame-ginger sauce on the side, a really dry bun and an equally dry oatmeal bar for dessert. Need I say more?

Sounds awful!

Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
Personally I have a thing for Germany.

Good!

Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
Our meal options for the day: Tortellini or Beef:

How did the meal taste this time?



PH



Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
User currently offlineSultanils From Belgium, joined Mar 2010, 1702 posts, RR: 30
Reply 17, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 5615 times:
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Hi Widebodyroga

Quite an interesting trip you posted here. I wouldn't have guessed it dates back to 2009 until you mentioned the LH CRJ-200, that indeed rung a bell. Lovely pics of Paris & Brussels although I believe you should've taken a side trip to Antwerp (I live there nearby  ) and experience the difference with the (boring) city I find Brussels to be... But hey, that's just my opinion  
I loved the way you edited the map depicting your itinerary, making the extra lines for the trains as they are (past Luik and such), you know your geography very well ha ha ha!
And too bad about your subpar UA experience, at least the one CGN-CDG flight and the train rides seemed enjoyable?

Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
with people trying to make sure that they board early to find spots for their jumbo-sized carry-ons.

Oh I hate that. What's the point in taking these jumbo hand luggage in the cabin in a point to point flight? I mean, what's the chance of them being lost if you don't have a connecting flight?

Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
At the famous "discotheque-esque" tunnel that leads to the C Concourse of T1 at ORD

Looks very funky!

Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
This guy was very talented...

Great photo.

Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
UA disappointed me.

Lesson learned, plenty of other goods options are around I guess  


   Sultanils



In thrust we trust.
User currently offlineWidebodyroga From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 613 posts, RR: 16
Reply 18, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 5324 times:

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 16):
great report with many beautiful pictures! It seems you had an enjoyable trip.

Thanks PH. Yes, indeed. It was a great experience. Too bad we didn't have time to check out more places.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 16):
That's too bad. Two rows without window?

I'm sorry, I now realize that I described our seats in a very misleading way. Our seats had no windows because they were in the middle block of seats between the two isles.  
Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 16):
How did the meal taste this time?

Very average, but I must admit that it was much better than the meal on the outbound.

Quoting Sultanils (Reply 17):
you should've taken a side trip to Antwerp

I hear ya. If only we had enough time. I would love to visit Antwerp, Bruges, Ostend, Ghent, Charleroi and Liege to name a few. I'm planning a tour of the UK and as part of that I want to throw in a couple of days in Belgium so maybe I will get to see those places then.

Quoting Sultanils (Reply 17):
you know your geography very well ha ha ha!

The only thing that I am even remotely good at, haha

Quoting Sultanils (Reply 17):
Great photo.

It was one of the first photos I shot in Paris, no more than a couple of hours after our arrival there. Jet lag fuels my photographic inspiration it seems 



Visit my aviation page: http://widebodyroga.weebly.com/
User currently offlineLondonCity From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2008, 1487 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (2 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 5130 times:

Quoting Widebodyroga (Reply 13):
To be honest I don't remember if I looked at the possibility of riding the ICE for that trip. Thalys' fares were very cheap so it's very likely that once I found them I just went ahead and booked them without looking for alternatives. I have used the ICE on that route in the past though (Brussels to Frankfurt (via Cologne) and then on to Munich) and I agree that it is impressive.

You would have needed to have checked with www.bahn.de or the Rail Europe website because the Thalys website would not display DB's ICE services.

Quoting MHG (Reply 10):

Deutsche Bahn is planning to run ICE3 stock from Germany to London in 2012 !
(there have been trial rides already and the certification process is moving forward - probably done already)
That´ll mean direct service between London and some german cities is due to start soon.

.

The certification process is still not finalised. As you may know, the decision whether or not to admit the DB trains through the Tunnel is highly political and shrouded in secrecy.
Even if or when approval or granted, it is likely DB services would not start before 2013. The DB trains would run from London to Brussels where they would split with one section heading for Amsterdam and the other bound for Cologne and Frankfurt.
The big problem is immigration clearance. The UK is not part of Schengen so it means that immigration and customs facilities must be provided at every station where these new through trains stop. And some of Europe's big stations are listed (ie protected) buildings so cannot easily be enlarged to accommodate immigration facilities etc.


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