Monday, October 10, 2011

Europe 50x a year and other tales of a real frequent flier

Last night I joined a couple of new friends having dinner at the lobby of a pretty boutique hotel in Makati that one of them owned. I'd already met them before through one of our editors, Miko, and he arranged the meeting last night so we could talk shop about what is possibly an exciting new project.

The hotel owner has ten million stories and I probably could have sat all night listening to some pretty incredible tales; but I was due to afterwards join a group of guys having a wine dinner at Sala on the pretext of test-driving a big formal dinner of a local gourmet society, so I left just before 10 PM to make it to the second dinner in time for dessert.


He kindly prepared a simple but very delicious meal for us. When I arrived and sat down, he said to me: "We don't serve meals here that need forks or knives. I run a very streamlined outfit."

Then he added: "I'm also a vegetarian, so we won't be having any meat tonight." That was fine with me. I'd just been through a long weekend of feasting so a meat-less dinner was perfect.

True enough, everything was edible with hands and there was a box of hand wipes on the table to make sure no one got squeamish about the idea. He served us tall glasses of cranberry tea and we had vegetable fritters and honey-roasted macadamia nuts which he'd just brought back from Hawaii for appetizers.


"You're going to love the sandwiches," he then said, midway through all the munching and crunching. "One of my friends just brought me back a box of the German version of a croissant, and we're going to have them tonight."

The German version of the croissant -- which is available in bakeries and trains stations all over Germany and also in Switzerland -- is basically a tougher croissant which is more meaty inside and it has the covering of a pretzel in stripes outside.

I was skeptical about the taste at first because I don't like pretzels and I don't ever have sandwiches for dinner. Or actually, I just don't ever have sandwiches in general unless there's nothing else to eat. But my new friend kept waxing rhapsodic about this bread and how he eats almost nothing but this when he's in Germany -- which is very often. And now we had a box of these treats right there in Makati, fresh off the plane from Germany care of one of his friends.

He placed slices of German cheese and pickles inside, and then dabbed a hefty swipe of German mustard. Then the sandwiches went into the oven toaster for a bit so that they were served to us rather fluffy and warm.

Still skeptical me took one of the sandwiches offered and took a bite. Fantastic. I loved it so much I didn't have any qualms about taking the remaining sandwich on the plate at the end for a third serving, although I did half-heartedly offer it around in case anyone wanted to share.


"This is a great healthy sandwich but it's very bad environmentally and ecologically," my new friend said. "Nothing in this sandwich is local. Everything came from thousands of miles away. Can you imagine the carbon footprint of this sandwich?"

It was true. But it was so good.

And for dessert, we had incredibly good pecan butter -- basically the luxe version of peanut brittle -- which came straight from some boutique brand in Houston, Texas. Again, ecologically unfriendly in terms of carbon footprints, but terribly delicious.

"Of course it's good," Miko said. "It's all butter and pecan."


Anyway, my new friend is an incredible frequent flier -- so much more than me. In fact, very appropriately, I first met him at the Cathay Pacific party to say farewell to former country manager Ed Higgs and hello to new country manager Martin Xu. All of CX's important partners were invited, as well as it's top frequent fliers in Manila.

Well, I daresay that this guy is probably at the very top of the list in the Philippines because -- and I almost fell off my seat when I heard this -- he flies to Europe about 50 times a year. Yes, this is not a typo. 50 times.

And that's just to Europe. When I met him, he was off to Hawaii, and this time too I believe he'd just returned from Hawaii and then he's going to Japan this weekend.


"Aside from this hotel and owning a couple of other things, what exactly do you do that you fly around so much that you should be Travelife?" I asked him very bluntly. He did explain what he did in so many words, but I didn't really get a clear idea except that he really, truly enjoys flying. Not even just traveling, but flying. As in being in an airplane, regardless of destination.

"I could write for you about riding on airplanes," he said to me. "Send me anywhere. I don't care. I just want to be on an airplane."

As if 50 trips to Europe and dozens of trip to Hawaii and everywhere else in a year wasn't enough. But I can understand. You can never really have too much of a good thing. And that's what I call a real Travelife.


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