A Post-Flight Farewell


The Embraer 145 had just left the hot tarmac of Sabiha Gökçen and we were admiring the Bosphorus over a glass of Krug. It was one of those days. But rather than put the finishing touches on the weekly column, we decided that it was time to move on.

Looking back, it had been a smooth 30 000 ft ride. The Independent thought that we lampooned TB. New York Times wrote that we “aped his global galavantings”. In an interview in Portfolio, the man himself described us as simply “odd”. That’s what you get for flying Lufthansa instead of JAL on pan-asian routes.

So that was it for this time. Our glasses of Krug were beginning to look worryingly empty (the inflight glassware on this beauty is awfully small). We’ll see you all in the Frankfurt lounge, waiting for the Cayenne to pick us up to our next destination. Thanks.

Finding Japan-ness


As much as we love the screeching sound of the tires touching down at Haneda, as equally hard it is to feel them lift off again. You simply cannot get enough of Nippon.

To try to make up for the lack of izakayas, ubiquitous Maglev transportation, and the whispering of “irasshaimase” everywhere, we have made a short guide to the three best places to get your Japan fix – outside of the Land of the Rising Sun itself.

1. Kinokuniya, Bryant Park, New York
Yes – they are all over the states, and no – it’s not the same as the one between Shinjuku and Shinjukunishiguchi. But it is good enough to pick up some Takehiko Inoue, and what’s more – there is a NTT Docomo counter downstairs.

2. Toraya, Japantown, San Francisco
Apart from the katsudon being absolutely oishii, you should try to get your hands on some Kuromaguro (or Honmaguro, if you will). One bite and you’ll be back at that charming Mimasuya in Chiyoda-ku in no time. Pop into Ichiban Kan for something kawaii on your way out.

3. Japanshop, Neustadt, Berlin
An ambitious nippon excursion, far from the German strictness of Mitte. Stepping in through the door and hearing Eiko Yamashita is a good sign, no matter where you are. But seeing that they have the full lineup of Hana-Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo makes you want to stay all afternoon.

For the not-so-premium voyageur

Air France

The struggling French carrier Air France have just introduced a new “premium voyageur” seating class:

With Premium Voyageur, you will enjoy:

– 40% additional space: on average, 22 Premium Voyageur seats will be available over an area which before held 40 Economy class seats; this translates to very generous legroom.
– A completely new seat: equipped with a fixed shell which guarantees passengers’ space and privacy. You will also enjoy an extra large tray table and a leg rest.
– A wide individual video screen: enjoy hours of video on demand.
– Amenities from the Affaires (Business Class) cabin: travel kit, noise-reducing headphones, a feather pillow, pure new wool blanket.

Seat and amenity innovation is an area that is often overseen by airlines (not to mention international award shows). This should therefore be encouraged. In theory. But where is the innovation in taking the amenities from Affaires and adding seats with less space than in the front?

There’s a perfectly good place to sit in aeroplanes, and that means turning left when boarding. We see no point in wasting space with an upgraded cattle section.

Renaissance retail: The dry cleaner

Opening hours

A couple of days ago we were picking up our less than minty scenting and not so freshly ironed Anatomica shirts from the local dry cleaning shop. As we brisked through the shopkeeper in the door, just as he was about to close, we had a rather rude check-out experience. This resulted in a discussion about the ever failing concept of dry cleaners. The only true quality dry cleaner we have met ditching across Europe is Alberti’s at Piazza Castello in Milan. There you find spotless, clean and service minded personnel in appropriate suits that more resemble George the butler than Joe the cleaner. This rare treat makes us wonder if dry cleaning is due for a make over. And a real one at that.

Our proposal: The renaissance cleaner

The answer is most likely a laundry boutique, where you will drop off your Incotex trousers and Uniqlo underwear at a friendly bakery and pick them up in a vibrating pintxos bar.

Morning drop-off: A scandinavian style bakery, with a touch of italy in a world class barista. The lovely scent and taste of freshly baked cinnamon buns fills the shop during the morning hours. You can also pick up a couple of dark rye breads baked with ingredients picked from the farm lands of Västergötland. Supplemented by a tiny pet bakery providing a perfect morning treat for your favorite Jack Russell.

Evening pick-up: At night the venue provide an atmosphere right out of the quarters of Parte Vieja in San Sebastian, through a pulsating pintxos bar. Providing a great selection of traditonal pintxos, the anchovy on mini-baguettes and alikes. Mixed up with pintxos nuevos, such as crepe de bacalao with a light parsley sauce. You’re welcome to stay for five minutes or five hours. When leaving you’ll find a nicely wrapped package with a lush scent of lemon waiting for you.

A proper ending for any day.

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.

Brûlé Airways: The Management

"Basically You're Asking Me Why I'm No Longer the CEO of Dell"

Continuing in our series on TB´s airline, we have reached the management. Crucial, in harsh aviation times like these. In some positions there are clear stand out candidates, but an airline of this caliber requires titles that are yet to be defined. Recruiting will therefore be a challenge. We set five of the more obvious titles in our top management, with some essential criteria for success:

1. CLO – Chief Lounge Officer. We looking for someone with the hospitality of Adrian at the George V in Paris, but with experience from modern retail and property development. A tricky one.

2. CAO – Chief Apparel Officer. What could be more important in an airline cabin that what the crew are wearing? We can’t think of anything. So we would be looking at someone from Asiana, obviously.

3. CMC – Chief Maître de Cabine. No point improving perfection, so the legacy from Swiss should live on. The regular six languages and concierge knowledge of the normal top 50 cities will do.

4. CISO – Chief Inflight Service Officer.
This one is easiest, by far. We’ll just get Terence, the butler from the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong, straight away.

5. CTO – Chief Timetable Officer.
If you take your airline seriously, you take your timetables seriously. And as often as we’ve had to experience downloaded and badly designed PDF:s, instead of gripping on to a sturdy and finely printed dito – we feel that this is an issue that needs its own manager. Probably a German.

With a management like that, it would take more than a global economic depression to keep Brûlé Airways on the tarmac.

The Wallpaper tragedy

A wallpaper mall

Wallpaper, the magazine Mr. Brulé left in 2002, has since then been operating further and further away from our radar. Since it all of a sudden made a comeback in our newstands, being prominently placed in eye-level. We thought, for a moment, that we had missed something. That Wallpaper had went back to its roots, with extensive coverage of international travelling and Scandinavian design.

After a couple of glances we felt at ease again. Wallpaper is certainly not in it for a comeback. Readers, you are well aware of our hunger for outstanding, independent retail, that is as intoxicating as it is service-minded. Especially as retail sets the foundation of an economic comeback that can take us out of our current gloomy situation.

Hence, we were at least mildly excited to take a closer look at Wallpaper’s Retail Directory. People, even your next door automotive CFO will write down a more interesting list faster than you finish a sweet and dense espresso from Fernanadez & Wells.

Some examples; Diesel Store (New York), Tiffany (Tokyo), Lacoste (Paris) and so on. If we wanted Lonely Planet recommendations we would have bought one in that crowded, sweaty newsstand at Hauptbanhof when we arrived from our low-cost airline flight. As if.

Wallpaper, we grew up with you. You helped us take our first stumbling steps in international travelling. Such as which frequent flyer program to choose, which airy, friendly hotel to pick during our carribbean get away or how to pick a decent travelling bag. Now you are ill of all thoose mall advertisers and mainstream buyers, get well or don’t bother contacting us again.

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.