Archive for the Category Travel


Survey: Best European Street Corner

"Seen in Antwerp /1"

After extensive research (consisting of some considerable loitering around Europe) our survey of the Best European Street Corner is complete. It has taken quite some time to finish, but patience is a virtue.

We first set off in Liguria, dashing down Via Garibaldi in Genoa. Lorenzo Bagnara was a charm, as always, but we felt as if the corner itself lacked the overall feeling of hospitality that we were expecting. Moving on. A swift Lufthansa Italia A320-flight later, and the warm tarmac of Lyon welcomed us. We went straight to Place Saint Paul, where a small, rustic, bakery had charmed us on the corner of Rue de la Lanterne. Perfectly connected with a convenient TCL tram stop just outside, surely this was it?

The charm of the childish interior mixed with the scent of freshly made flutes and Pain aux Raisins left us tempted to permanently move in at the Collège Hôtel further down the same street. Still, something was lacking. No cosy cinema. The metrics just didn’t add up this time.

Our quest went on. But this time we knew where we were heading – a mental image of a Flemish neighbourhood kept reoccurring in our minds. We boarded the TGV that brought us up state in a briskly fashion. As was expected, the corner was to be found in Antwerp. Kloosterstraat & Blarenstraat received us with open arms, with barista Rob Berghmans still remembering how short we prefer our ristretto to be.

In the end, the proximity of everything one could possibly ask of a street corner proved to be unbeatable. Brasserie Chez Fred for breakfast, a quick stop at Limonsoda to pick up a pair of shoes for our niece, or simply a relaxing muse through Erik Toonen Books. It’s simply all there.

Service, and the lack of

Lufthansa Airbus A340-600 D-AIHS

My Lufthansa experience the other day was anything but TBI 100. Although I appreciate the proper cabin uniforms and the charming Mid-European accents, I would also like to add some service from the more well mannered parts of our flight origin. As my Star Alliance points regrettably belonged to another programme than Miles & More, I was treated like the rest of the Economy Class cattle – prodded to behave. Surely, there is such a word as ‘flexibility’ in German, recht?

Well on board the A340-600, I enjoyed the redesigned cabin with it’s lighter leather. Easier on the waking eye, I found. But the same awkward correctness showed itself during the service, impairing the experience. It is fine to do things the right way, but sometimes the right thing isn’t what the manual says but what the customer needs.

As you know, we like Lufthansa and they have many fine traits – the black first class service Merc is top notch, for instance. But when you can’t serve Krug with a smile, it doesn’t matter how well designed your timetables are.

The Cockpit Combo

Cockpit combo

When do people travel with their families? Summer time.
What is their main concern? Safety.
So what to write about on a summer sunday? Naturally, the horrors of a dysfunctional cockpit combo.

Lesson to live by: If you can’t understand what the pilot is saying, be sure to put your Oneworld Emerald status to work and board that Cathy Pacific flight bound for Singapore instead. And do it swiftly.

What’s wrong with San Francisco? This.

San Francisco Sunset

For the last month, I’ve been spending my summer hols in San Francisco. My Med place was getting a refurbishing (Gaggenau oven, Toto toilet, etc), so I thought I´d give it a shot. After all, it is a tech savvy, liberal and generally bikeable place – steep hills aside. Even the public transport works (by North American standards). That being said, the Caltrain station is not exactly Hauptbahnhof in Zürich, if you know what I mean.

However, the city has failed to make any of the Monocle´s lists of liveability. We believe Tyler Brûlé´s response to whether SF was a decent city or not was simply: “God, no!”. Quite. Therefore we feel obliged to point out what has gone so wrong with this seismological little treat on the Pacific.

The list of possible improvements is literally endless, but let’s focus on three main areas:

1. Retail. It’s a nightmare, as is most American cities. Finding an interesting shopping route requires a patient driver, willing to whizz all over the place to get a sufficient itinerary. No Tsutaya´s either, or anything even close to it.

2. City planning. Mayor Newsom may be a celebrity favourite, but a city planner he is not. In certain areas, surprisingly central, a wrong turn on a cross street will send you straight into areas where the locals prefer malt liquor to single malt.

3. Business friendliness. The whole state of California is actually the worst American state to do business in – and has been so for four years running. And even if SF can’t be blamed for the disastrous state of the state, it certainly doesn’t seem to be working especially hard to improve it. Signs of closure are as commonly spotted as 50% sales.

So, is there any hope for San Francisco? Yes. There is a surprising amount of pet oriented stores, especially in the Hayes Valley/Haight districts. Also, to our delight, we found a top pet bakery up on Union Street. We’re glad to see that the notion of canine entrepreneurship is still thriving. If that can’t pull the city and the state out of it’s rut – nothing can.

Better summer: The Tote Bag

Tote bag

The summer season is upon us, and if you did manage to catch your flight to that idyllic summer getaway house right off the beach in Palma or taking a 2 day stop-off in Santa Margeritha Ligure en route to Tuscany, you’re most likely to travel with this seasons most essential accessory – The Tote Bag.

As we see it, there are a number of items that every proper Tote bag should hold. Starting off with the bag itself, in the ideal world it will be from Tomorrowlands collection of stylish bags. The content of it could hold a couple of incredibly soft and comfortable Aspesi bermudas, a handmade notebook from Misuzudo, some Sisely Sunscream (because of its lovely fragrance) and of course you’ll be enjoying the shade through your handmade Barbisio sun hat.

That’s some essentials that a cool and modern tote bag could and should include. The question is now, what’s in your tote bag?

Private jet – the new ambulance

Private Jet XA-ABA in Koh Samui

Our fellow highflyer Kristin, points out a very interesting blog post in the FT regarding Steve Jobs and his recent liver transplant. We quote:

“If you had access to a jet and had six hours to get anywhere in the country, you’d have a wide choice of programs,” said Dr. Michael Porayko, the medical director of liver transplants at Vanderbilt University, one of the Tennessee centers that has said it did not treat Mr. Jobs.

Could it be any clearer? We suggest mandatory private jets for anyone who wants to stay healthy. The reasons to buy a HondaJet HA-420 or a Pilatus PC-12 are literally stacking up.

Quote from the weekly

Seat Leon FR1

From the 25th edition of the Monocle Weekly:

That was the Mexican Institute of Sound. Rob, if that does not get picked up by someone like Seat to market some sexy little convertible, for hairdressers, I shouldn’t be in media probably.

A decent week for Zürich


A couple of weeks ago Zürich was just another of many trending hubs in Europe, perfect for dashing in and out over a weekend to do some local shopping in the city’s Vice district. This part of Zürich that, instead of being constructed as your local Swiss bank vault, actually looks like it’s painted with colours from the vibrant streets of Berlin-Mitte.

Last week the spotlight certainly turned to Zürich. It started when they snatched the award for Best European Airport right in front of the always confident Münich airport. Which was, I think we all feel, quite an upset, especially since Lufthansas work pods ranked as Most productive place in Monocle’s Travel Top 50.

Later last week Monocle released one of the absolute highnotes of the year – The Most liveable cities list of 2009. What affected the list this year were the new metrics. First, The Zara/Starbucks index, i.e. the independence of a city’s retail. Secondly, how easy it is to set up a new small business shop. And last, planned improvements in infrastructure. This change of metrics of course meant that all previous bets were off. Frankly we had our money riding on Münich for a long time, but after this radical change of the lists fundamentals we would have put our money on Copenhagen.

But Zürich proved unbeatable this week, snobbing Münich not once but twice in seven days. We’re guessing the equally elegant as arrogant people of Zürich have been celebrating on Bahnhofstraße all week long, probably drinking large quantities of Fledschloesschen while filling up with some delightful hot chestnuts at some of the best street corners in Europe. We tip our hat for Zürich and plan on taking a closer look at the city later this year.

How to save SAS


The Airline Blog reports on the once proud Scandinavian carrier SAS´ financial troubles. They note that the A330s and A340s are flying long haul without filling up adequately with passengers, leaving these routes to account for 50% of SAS losses. The blog suggests that they should turn Copenhagen Kastrup Airport into a stronger European international hub, competing for North American flights, in order to save the company.

Although we completely agree that something needs to be done, the analysis is slightly off. The route map is fine, what needs overseeing are the inflight amenities. From Nuuk to Beirut, we’re all wondering why the glassware can’t be crisp Iittala like Finnair? Why the nightwear can’t be sharp like ANA? Don’t get us started on the pre-flight dining – have you never been to Cathay Pacific’s Wing lounge in Hong Kong?

Fix these details and you’ll have passengers queuing up to hit the skies in those SDL-designed Airbuses again.

The Economist works in Economy?

Lufthansa Business Class

We just noticed the business travel blog Gulliver over at The Economist, as you know, is a magazine that best could be described as Monocle minus Wallpaper*. Still, it seems to be worth reading occasionally.

However, this article regarding whether or not one can should travel business class worries us slightly:

The simple answer is: sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t. For daytime flights, either long- or short-haul, business-class travel is an unnecessary expense. We can all work in economy, if necessary, and even the weariest voyager should be able to regain their pep after a night’s sleep.

Working in economy class? That would be like shopping in Oxford Street. Out of the question and sincerely unlivable.