Back in August I spent some time on vacation in two very beautiful countries: Spain and Portugal. In Part 1 the journey from Perth via Dubai was covered - We're Off To Sunny Spain: EK Per-MAD (by Quokka Sep 5 2010 in Trip Reports)
Since posting that I have been away on a short trip to Ravensthorpe in Western Australia, visiting family. Now that I am back I can describe my holiday in Spain and Portugal and the return journey to Perth.
On arrival in Spain I was met and transferred to my hotel, where I would join an organised tour. Lasting sixteen days and starting and finishing in Madrid, the tour took our group to Toledo, Salamanca, Porto, Lisbon, Seville, Valencia, Barcelona and Zaragoza.
Toledo was the former capital of Spain:
Roman bridge in Salamanca:
Cool spaceman carved in the door arch of the Cathedral:
View over the rooftops from cathedral Tower:
Boats on the River Douro in Porto:
No visit to Porto is complete without a visit to a Port winery:
The Basilica of Fatima where to Virgin is reputed to have appeared before some peasant children:
Colourful gateway to Obidos:
Obidos street scene:
The castle of Obidos:
Delicious Portuguese seafood:
The Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon:
Monument commemorating first South Atlantic Flight:
The Belem Tower on the River Tagus:
Cloister of Jeronimus Monastery in Lisbon:
Fresh fish and seafood in Caiscais:
A fado evening in Lisbon’s Bairro Alto:
Tomb of Christopher Columbus:
Walls to the Alcazar of Seville:
Within the old Jewish Quarter:
Sevilliano Flamenco Dancing:
The Mesquita in Cordoba, a truly wonderful building that blends Moorish and Christian architecture:
Mohamed al Gafeoui, a celebrated oculist:
The other Moses: Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam), the most influential Jewish thinker since the Moses of the Bible or Torah.
The Bullring in Seville:
A good place to eat:
Scenes from the Alhambra and Generalife in Grenada, the last Moorish Kingdom to fall to the Reconquista.
The fruit that gives the city its name:
The castle at Peniscola was used in the making of “El Cid” – the area wasn’t built up when Charlton Heston rode out along the beach and into the Moorish forces.
The Ramblas in Barcelona – a truly amazing city:
St Josep La Boqueria Market scenes:
Witch’s House in Güell Park:
The fantastic, unfinished La Sagrada Familia, designed by Antonio Gaudi
The Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat:
First day back at school and the first performance of the Boys’ Choir of Montserrat:
Yummy cheese, honey and fruit cakes:
Zaragoza street scene:
Monument to Goya who lived in Zaragoza for a few years:
During the Civil War these bombs fell on the Cathedral but failed to explode:
The Plaza Mayor in Madrid:
Minstrels entertained us at dinner:
The Cervantes Monument, Madrid:
Roman Aqueduct in Segovia:
The Cathedral of Segovia:
Segovia Castle houses a good display of armour and artillery pieces:
Sadly, the tour came to an end and it was time to fly home. The evening before I used my mobile phone to check-in and confirm my seat selection. I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare and made my way to the Emirates check-in desk to drop off my suitcase. There was no one at the First Class desk and the young man in attendance asked whether I was happy with the seat allocation and checked my suitcase through to Perth. He printed out boarding passes and told me how to get to Terminal 4 South and where to find the Amnios Lounge.
Terminal 4 South is separated from the main terminal by about 2.5 kilometres and getting there involves a trip on an underground train. But first you have to clear security. The queues, though not very long, took a bit of time because in addition to going through the scanner they like to frisk everybody. That done I went down several escalators to reach the train terminus. Just a couple of minutes wait and one pulled in.
The wave-form roof of Barajas Terminal 4:
Emirates Guests can use the Amnios Lounge in T4S. This is located up another escalator, above the duty-free shopping areas. When I arrived there was no-one at the reception desk but the reception did notice my presence without reaction. It was only after a couple of minutes wait when I moved further into the lounge that she came forward to “welcome” me and take a photocopy of my boarding pass. A smile was too much to expect.
The lounge itself is small, but with sufficient seats for about fifty people, although only ten people were present while I was. There is a very small counter with uninspiring snacks set out and one can make tea, pour coffee or request an alcoholic drink. Soft drinks and water are available from a glass-fronted refrigerator. I helped myself to some water and found a seat near the window. A bonus is that the lounge does offer good views over the gate areas and you can watch aircraft lining up for take-off.
As boarding time approached I made my way down to the gate. Here I managed to snap photo of Flight EK142 being prepared for departure. No further photos were taken in flight:
Flight: EK142 MAD
14:25 29 AUG 2010
Flight Time: 7hr 10min
Aircraft: A340-300 Seat: 2K
Gate 216 was used to board First and Business Class passengers, while Gate 218 was used for Economy. The gate agent was friendly and wished me a pleasant flight. As I made my way to the aircraft I was momentarily confused as the bridge to the “front door” was blocked. A member of the crew asked; “First Class, Sir?” and I replied “Yes, I am.” He apologised and moved the offending back-to-front signage out of the way and invited me to proceed. At the door I was welcomed aboard by the purser and shown to my seat.
A moment later, Antonio came and introduced himself and after some polite conversation offered me a pre-departure drink. I requested orange juice and this came promptly. In the seat pocket in front of me were noise-cancelling headphones and a bottle of water. Shortly after, the purser came and introduced himself as Rafiq (I think, because I did not hear properly, so apologies if I have the name wrong). He offered me a copy of the menu in its leather folder and a wine list. Antonio brought slippers, socks and eye-shades. I declined the offer of a newspaper or magazine as I was still reading “The Museum of Innocence”.
There was only one other passenger in First on this sector and he sat in 1A. It did seem that there might be another, but a woman who had sat herself down in 2A was asked to show her boarding pass and was then assisted in moving into the Business Class cabin. I suppose it’s quite easy to confuse 2A and 10A . A group of four came aboard without seat allocations and waited in First until they were shown to seats in Business as Economy was just about full. I think that they may have been non-revs.
There were no delays on departure and as usual before push back, Arab Coffee and Dates were offered – I particularly like the ones with almonds in them. We taxied out to 18L-36R and were soon rolling and airborne. Shortly after take-off hot towels were brought round.
Shortly after the seat belt sign went off I pressed the crew-call button and Rafiq came and asked how he could help. I requested Tapas and a glass of Albariño for now and the sole about an hour later. A couple of minutes later the wine and Tapas arrived, together with a generous helping of mixed nuts. Later Rafiq came and asked me whether I was ready to eat my meal. The table was raised out of the armrest, covered with a cloth and placed with cutlery. The fish was tasty and succulent, not the dry and hard mass that you get on some airlines. It came with grilled vegetables and potatoes, a side salad and a bread basket. All looked fresh and colourful. After the meal, Antonio asked whether I would like some dessert, but I said no and asked for some more wine instead.
The flight was smooth and it seemed as if we would arrive on time. But as we approached Dubai the captain announced that due to congestion over UAE and Omani airspace there would be a delay of “about five minutes”. Several circles of the Gulf later, we began our final approach and descent into Dubai. We touched down about twenty minutes late. Yet again we taxied to a remote stand past the cargo village and the flower distribution centre. Another scenic tour on the bus was required. It didn’t take long to clear security, although this time I was asked to take off my shoes, and I was on my way to the First Class Lounge.
The receptionist welcomed me and wrote the gate number and boarding time for my connecting flight on the boarding pass. After the usual visit to the spotlessly clean washrooms, I found a comfortable seat. A waitress came and asked whether she could fetch me anything and I asked for still water and mixed nuts. One of the benefits of a late arrival is less hanging around in the lounge in the middle of the night. It was soon time to make my way to the gate.
Flight: EK420 DXB
02:30 30 AUG 2010
Flight Time: 10hrs 30min
Aircraft: B777-200LR Seat 2A
Registration: Not known
Boarding was called by zones, with First and Business passengers being able to board whenever they chose to. Again I was surprised to be the only passenger in First! This time I thought that I would spoil myself and have the champagne before take-off, followed by the dates and coffee. The service was courteous and efficient, but I felt that it lacked the spontaneity of my previous experiences. It wasn’t bad, rude or indifferent – it just didn’t feel to be as warm.
There was another delay, this time caused by some late passengers transferring from a delayed arrival. Once they were on board and their luggage was in the hold, we were underway some twenty five minutes late. The flight itself was smoother than on the way out and we were able to make up a lot of the lost time, arriving into Perth only five minutes late.
Before changing into the complimentary pyjamas, I asked for some cheese and biscuits. Then I switched off the lights and had a pleasant sleep. Later I got up and went to wash and one the way met the purser, who asked whether I’d like anything to eat. “Just an omelette, orange juice and some coffee,” I replied.
At last we were making our descent into Perth. Conditions were overcast and there had been rain earlier in the day. We taxied to the usual gate and after our goodbyes, I deplaned and cleared Immigration, Customs and Quarantine in very little time.
All in all, the service provided by Emirates was of a high standard. The delays and need to deplane at remote stands in Dubai is becoming tiresome, but with the continued high growth in traffic is not unexpected. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Spain and Portugal, so much so that I’m planning to go again in December. Because Emirates offer the most convenient itinerary, I will be joining them again, but it will be in Business Class.
I hope that you enjoyed reading about my experiences. Your comments will be welcome.
[Edited 2010-09-22 23:10:48]