Leo’s travel journal

Leo’s travel journal and other juicy bits…

Posts Tagged ‘Athens

ATH-IST (Turkish Airlines TK1846)

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After spending a wonderful four nights at the Grande Bretagne, it was time to head on to Istanbul.

After checking in at Athens airport, I was directed to the BA Lounge – a brightly lid lounge with internet access and very very basic drinks and snacks.

Today’s aircraft, A320-200 is one of the latest addition to the TK family (IIRC). Being my first time flying TK, I was rather “shocked” with the selection of the cabin colours. It was a regional configured one with a one class cabin, and the J (business) part of the cabin being separated by an armrest built into the middle seat.

When asked by the cabin crew whether I liked it, I said it was “different”. The mentioned crew obviously didn’t like the colour though…

It wasn’t a terribly full flight and to my delight cabin service was prompt.

Moved my behind to the EMEX (emergency exit) row when cabin doors closed.

Full meal service for a one hour fifteen minute flight – I am amazed.

Loved the route map that was shown throughout the flight (unlike LH).

A view of Ataturk International Airport, we flew well off the airport due to traffic and had to circle for 15 minutes or so before landing clearance was given.

Luggage was swift and it was good traffic in Istanbul (surprisingly), I found myself in the W Istanbul approximately 40 minutes from landing.

Written by Leo

25 February 2009 at 17:41

Greece – part 01

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So it was a charming Sunday, the sun was shining brightly (contrary to weather forecasts) an I was in Athens. What else to do but to explore the ancient Acropolis.

Firstly, I must admit that I am not much a history and culture person. Nevertheless, the thought of structures present dating back to pre-millennium times were indeed an eye opener on how advanced the Greek civilisation was in their time.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

I was really not in the mood to go out and hence only visited one of many ancient sites that dot Athens.

The underground metro stations are really something as well. The story was that when they were building the metro system some time back, they would bump into new sites and the project had to be stopped for the achaeologist to work. The many Greek era artefacts are displayed within the stations.

Hence the completion of the metro system in Athens was somewhat of an accomplishment. I think it was a similar case in Rome.

Written by Leo

18 February 2009 at 4:11

The Grande Bretagne, Athens

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As it was my first time to Athens, I heeded advice of more experienced travellers to book a hotel within the area of Syntagma Square – right in the heart of Athens.  Thus, it boiled down to two hotels; King George hotel and the Grande Bretagne.

Moreover, having stayed at Starwood hotels for over 50 nights last year and achieving the Platinum Starwood Preferred Guest, I would say that the choice was clear.  However, it all depended on rates, and suffice to say an EXTREMELY sweet rate of € 138++ for a room sealed the detail with the Grande Bretagne.  It was in my opinion, an extremely competitive rate for a Luxury Collection hotel in a very popular city such as Athens.

Perhaps it was my good luck that the unfortunate riots happened weeks before my trip or just an extremely bad season for the hotel – either way, I was going to stay at the Grande Bretagne.

A week before arrival, I was contacted by their “Pre-Arrival Concierge”, Maria who sent the Spa menu and transportation prices to me.  She also added that if there was anything that they (the hotel) could do to make my stay better to let them now.  As usual, I provided my flight details for them to anticipate my arrival and for me not to have to wait to check-in after almost 24 hours of flying.

A few days after, I checked my reservations online via SPG.com once more and noticed that I had been pre-blocked into a Deluxe Suite, a four categories upgrade from the room that I had initially booked.  What a pleasant surprise.

I arrived at the hotel after almost 24 hours of flights and transits from Kuala Lumpur, flying through Bangkok and Frankfurt.  Needless to say I was physically exhausted upon checking in and the staff members, starting from the doorman to the front desk staff member were most gracious and sympathetic with me.

After a 45 second (probably record time) verification of my reservations, I was ushered up to the suite by the butler, Mr. Spyros who then proceeded to do a suite “walk through”.  My room, a Deluxe Suite consisted of separated living area, bedroom, bathroom and wardrobe.

The Deluxe Suite that I stayed in had a view of Lycabettus Hill, and had an expansive balcony that stretched the entire width of the room.  There were two 32-inch LCD TV’s, one in the bedroom and another in the living room.

The entire suite featured furniture with walnut trims, excellent upholstery and an extremely luxurious carpet.  Walls were lined with Damask, and windows were double glazed to ensure sound of the crazy Athens traffic do not infiltrate the room.

There was a huge wardrobe where (unfortunately) I had to request for extra hangers twice (due to my obssesive compulsive disorder in hanging everything up).

Breakfast was served daily at the GB Rooptop restaurant, with fantastic view of the Acropolis, Olympic stadium, Parliament building and Syntagma square.  It was a full buffet with selection of cold cuts, hot items and my favourite – a myriad of fresh berries.

I also had the pleasure to consume pralines from Leonidas which was replenished daily as a little chocolate box thing.  Turndown service was prompt and little nice cubes of my die-hard favourite Valrhona Jivara chocolates were placed on the Egyptian cotton sheets.

The bathroom featured wall to wall marble and wooden trim, brass fittings and separated shower and bath.  I had the fortunate time to use the deep tub one evening and it was sublime to say the least.  Bathroom amenities were from Gilchrist & Soames of London, the oatmeal soap bars, and shampoo and conditioner were delightful to use.

The bed, was expectedly very nice to sleep in.  With splendid sheets, countless pillows and firm back support, the bed was fantastic!

As you can see from the pictures, the room and hotel in general was decorated in a very classical manner – elegant and not tacky as I thought it would be.

I must say that the Grande Bretagne has been one of the best hotels in terms of physical product and service level that I have had the opportunity to stay in.

More on Athens in the next post…

Written by Leo

14 February 2009 at 18:14

So I’m really leaving…

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This Friday for Athens (at the Grande Bretagne – Deluxe Suite), Istanbul (W Istanbul – Fantastic Suite), Zagreb (Westin Zagreb – Westin Guest Office), Ljubljana (day trip from Zagreb), and Riga (Monika Centrum – Deluxe Room).

Good to finally lift off to Europe after several months of grounding 🙂

Flying Thai, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and Croatia Airlines.

Updates soon! Tatas!

Road trip! Europe in February…

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So it’s that time of the year again, the first of my (foreseeable) many trips to Europe in 2009.

I’m quite excited, it’s been quite some time since I flew long haul – unfortunately it will still be winter in these cities.  New cities I will be visiting this time around will be Athens, Istanbul and Zagreb.

I’ll be flying the TK (Turkish Airlines) and OU (Croatia Airlines) for the first time.  Wish me luck!  And I’m not flying Singapore Airlines this time round due to their prohibitively expensive airfares.

Lifting off on 6 February and back about 17 days after, here’s what’s in store…

TG418 KUL (Kuala Lumpur)/BKK (Bangkok) 2100/2205

TG920 BKK (Bangkok)/FRA (Frankfurt) 2340/0530+1

LH3380 FRA (Frankfurt)/ATH (Athens) 0920/1305

TK1846 ATH (Athens)/IST (Istanbul) 1055/1210

TK1449 IST (Istanbul)/ZAG (Zagreb) 1400/1505

OU410 ZAG (Zagreb)/FRA (Frankfurt) 0655/0830

LH3244 FRA (Frankfurt)/RIX (Riga) 1100/1410

LH3245 RIX (Riga)/FRA (Frankfurt) 1440/1555

TG923 FRA (Frankfurt)/BKK (Bangkok) 2055/1305+1

TG417 BKK (Bangkok)/KUL (Kuala Lumpur) 1640/1950

A preview…

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A preview of my bedrooms in February – can you guess the destination of my travels? 🙂

w-istanbul

grand-bretagne

le-meridien-vienna

westin-zagreb

Written by Leo

20 January 2009 at 20:27