Saturday, April 26, 2014

Three friends in three cities, and a great flight from Paris to Hong Kong via Istanbul

The Bridge lounge of Cathay Pacific
in Hong Kong

Good afternoon from Hong Kong, after really nice and painless overnight flight on Turkish Airlines from Istanbul.

Living a Travelife, of course.

I left Paris yesterday, a rainy Friday afternoon, after a very leisurely day spent having a lazy breakfast and then reading last weekend's FT Weekend back in bed -- and just a little bit of last-minute shopping. 

I would have shopped for more, but you won't believe how full my luggage is on this trip.

My last breakfast in Paris yesterday

Even I can't believe how full it is, considering I didn't really do much shopping.

MY LUGGAGE PASSED AIRPORT SECURITY

But happily, when I checked in at Charles de Gaulle yesterday, my luggage tipped at just 31.5 kilos -- happily under the 32 kilos maximum for luggage handlers to carry in the European Union.

So I was safe. If any piece of your check-in luggage is over 32 kilos, by the way, they won't let it in because EU airport personnel are not allowed to carry anything over 32 kilos. It doesn't matter if you're in first class, or if you own the airline.

You'll have to find a second luggage or throw stuff away.

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IN A NEVER-ENDING TRAVELIFE,
IT'S A VERY SMALL WORLD

And what a really small world it is.

Thursday afternoon, after driving into Paris from the Loire Valley, we headed to the Musee d'Orsay to catch the Van Gogh exhibit and to see some of my favorite pieces in the museum's permanent collection.


I like the museum's collection of Gaugin, and they have a very intricate painting of the coronation of Russian Czar Nicholas II in Moscow, showing him putting the crown on his own head. For lovers of Russian history, this painting is extremely interesting.

As we were walking through the museum courtyard, someone called my name.

My friend J2 was perched somewhere near here
at the Musee d'Orsay

It was my friend J2, from back home, perched on a ledge with an MP3 player, listening to music I assume and looking like he belonged in Paris.

How funny to see him in Paris, especially since we both live halfway around the world.

And if I didn't have dinner plans already made for my last night in Paris, I probably would have joined his group for dinner.


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BLAST FROM THE PAST

And then yesterday, I was shopping for makeup at one of the stores at Charles de Gaulle airport -- basically to kill time and to get rid of some euros.

What do you know? Someone taps me on the shoulder and it's a Japanese guy I used to know well in Tokyo.

Charles de Gaulle airport yesterday

He's now a bigshot in the business world in Japan, and he's risen so high that I only get to read about him on the front pages of the Nikkei, which is the main business newspaper in Japan.

And there he was yesterday, standing before me, holding a bottle of very expensive vintage champagne he'd probably bought at the duty free.

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NO LIQUIDS ONBOARD

After the catching up and the small talk, I just had to remind him, as the champagne was so conspicuous in his hand, all wrapped up so fancily.

I said: "I hope you're on a straight flight to Narita. If you're connecting in Hong Kong or elsewhere, they're not going to let you back on board with that bottle."

Yes, it was okay on the Paris flight, but it was a big question mark for the connecting flight.

This is the special Acces No. 1 route
for business and first class
at Charles de Gaulle.
It gives you a peaceful and quick route
away from the crowds.

He was shocked. Yes, he knows all about business, but the details of travel are my forte.

He said to me in Japanese: "Are you serious?" He was flying via Hong Kong.

Then he sighed and said: "I guess we should just find a quiet corner and open it and drink it then."

View of Paris from the plane yesterday

I have to say -- that was really good champagne he was holding in his hands. In fact, it's so good and pricey that I've probably only had it thrice in my Travelife.

 I would so have loved a fourth time, but my flight to Istanbul was boarding, so I reluctantly had to say goodbye.

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As I headed for my gate, he called out to me: "If this bottle reaches Narita safely, let's organize a party and drink it in Tokyo next week since you'll be around anyway."

Yes, I have to be in Tokyo on Tuesday night for a fancy dinner.

A Michelin three-star chef is actually cooking a private meal at a friend's beautiful home in Tokyo. So of course, I'm not missing that for anything -- even if I have to live on an airplane to make it from Paris to Istanbul to Hong Kong to Manila to Tokyo.

And then some friends from Manila are arriving and I promised I'd show them around.

SURPRISE # 3 IN ISTANBUL

The beautiful Turkish Airlines lounge
in Istanbul

Then, in Istanbul last night, still living a Travelife, I spent a few hours at the very nice and newly renovated Turkish Airlines lounge. I fly everywhere so I've seen everyone's lounges by now.

This is one of the most beautiful airline lounges in the world, especially after the renovation.

A whole new floor below has been added

When it was time to board the flight to Hong Kong, I was last to board as usual, and my seat was in the first row of the plane: seat 1D to be exact.

As I was settling down in my seat and getting all my paraphernalia ready -- what do you know? Someone taps me on the shoulder.

This was row 1 of Turkish Airlines 777
Istanbul - Hong Kong

It's my dear friend Nesli, a very nice Turkish lady who I know from Manila, Hong Kong and Istanbul.

We once partied on a beautiful summer evening at one of the poshest open-air nightclubs in Istanbul, right next to the Bosphorus.

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A PERFECT EVENING IN A TRAVELIFE

I still remember that night, which was about four years ago, as it was one of the most perfect evenings in a Travelife.

And last night, there she was on the same flight from Istanbul to Hong Kong, two rows behind me in business class.

What are the odds of seeing three friends from three different countries in three different places in 24 hours? Apparently, quite high, if like me, you're on a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.















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