Singapore Airlines 777-300ER First Class from Copenhagen to Singapore

I recently returned back to the cold after a fantastic trip to Asia which started off with a trip with Singapore Airlines in First Class, thanks to burning a couple of years worth of Eurobonus points (airline miles).

As a perk for Scandinavian passengers, the usually-with-Eurobonus-points-off-limits First Class cabin is since a while back now available to book on the Copenhagen-Singapore route, giving less rich travellers like myself the opportunity to try among the best of the best in the skies.

After a relatively non-exciting SAS Plus flight from Stockholm, we arrived Copenhagen Airport. We weren’t sure which lounge to use, since we are not gold card holders and Star Alliance has two lounges in Copenhagen; SAS Gold lounge and SAS Business lounge.

SAS Gold Lounge Copenhagen

When we arrived the lounge reception area we showed our first class tickets and were immediately pointed towards the Gold lounge; Yay!

While not incredibly exciting, it had a decent buffet, a good enough selection of alcoholic beverages (but no bubbly), and best of all: a Barista manned coffee bar. While it closed the second we arrived due to staff shortage, our initial dissapointment was turned into the opposite when they opened an hour later, producing a nice latte, even with some latte art vaguely resembling a heart.

But, really, who cares about the lounge when you are about to try Singapore Airlines’ First.

Boarding SQ351

When arriving the gate area of our flight, we saw our names on a screen with a message to approach. Apparently we had to show our visas to China, which we did not have due to planning to use the 144 hour transit visa. After some (very friendly) discussion we were registered and handed new first class boarding passes and asked where we would wait so they could keep an eye on us as we would be boarding the plane First (sorry).

Just a few moments later a man with a first class sign appeared, we discreetely waved and he came and walked us to a check in counter. It was time for the experience to begin!

Upon entering the cabin, a technician was working on my seats reading light, something the staff clearly was displeased with. I did not mind at all, as the guy was just finishing work when we arrived, but it made me wait a whole minute or so before being able to sit down (which I used to take pictures). Nevertheless, the staff apologized immensily on several occassions and after a while they told me they’d decided to hand me a couple of hundred SGD worth of inflight shopping vouchers as compensation. While I was already totlly happy with the free-flowing Dom Perignon and Krug champagne, this was quite impressive in terms of service and their ambition to create a perfect experience.

Food and drink onboard

Shortly after take-off the meal service (lunch) started. Unfortunately Singapore Airlines’ book the cook service is unavailable on the Copenhagen-Singapore route, but a few days before leaving we could log in and see what meals that were available on our particular flight.

To drink there was plenty of good stuff, while mainly focusing on Krug and Dom Perignon champagne, we tried some of the onboard red and whites as well as whiskey (Blue Label and something Scottish).

The food was given our location extraordinarily delicious even though it was of course in the end still airplane food.

First up was chilled Malossol caviar with Melba toast and condiments (chives, lemon, egg, raw onion).

It was either caviar or lobster for starter. I asked to have both, but they were short on supply. Luckily I traveled with my partner so I convinced her to take the lobster salad so that we could try both. The caviar won.

“Care for some more Dom Perignon, sir?” –– Well, if you insist!

Main course: sirloin Rossini with decently tasty steak, fried foie gras, marsala wine sauce, Pommes Anna (potato cake), spinach and mesclun salad. Decadent and tasty, but a notch under “wow”.

Cheese board.

Some kind of delicious ice cream cake finished of the meal. At this point I was beyond full.

The seat and First Class cabin

The First Class cabin onboard Singapore Airlines’ 777-300ER is quite tiny, since it only consists of one row of seats, meaning there are only, maximum, four first class passengers onboard.

While very roomy and comfortable, especially in terms of width, it is not a ‘suite’ per se, with for instance an actual “door” you can slide shut, as some airlines offer.

But you wont suffer, the seats were as mentioned very comfortable for pur 12 hour flight. We actually managed to share one seat, sitting next to each other watching a movie, eating chips and drinking champagne. Incredibly nice. Especially since we usually fly economy, and all too well know the pain of sleeping leaned against, at best, a window, that 200 or so less fortunate passengers were doing at that same time.

When it was time to sleep, our seats were turned into comfy beds with matresses and duvets, and I got a short 3 hour sleep before it was time for breakfast. That breakfast by the way wasn’t too exciting, on the other hand probably due to me being way too tired.

Next time I’ll try to throw in some more sleep, but it’s very hard when you literally are up in the clouds with fantastic service, comfort, drinks and food.

Conclusion

I’m definitely no premium cabin flyer, even if I try to when possible. If I pay myself (this trip we used miles) I almost always fly economy class. So I guess what I am trying to say is that I really appreciate how good and special an experience this was.

Having said that, I’ve before tried Asiana First Class as well as Thai Airways’ First Class, and while both have slightly “better” seats than Singapore Airlines’ 777-300ER First, I still think that my trip with Singapore has been the best so far. The attention to detail, the amazing service from the friendly crew, the wines, the food made this an extraordinary experience I will definitely forget – and hope to sometime experience again.

36 hours of food in Athens, Greece

Before leaving for Santorini, when visiting Greece recently, we spent 36 hours in the Greek capital Athens. We mostly walked, drank beer and ate bread and meat based food, which is one of the best ways to spend time according to me.

Pork gyros at Bairaktaris. Very tasty and about €3 at a sit down restaurant.

All the spread at Bairaktaris. So good.

Athens street art.

A pita bread wrapped bifteki as well as chicken souvlaki with chips and tzatziki at O Thanasis.

Views from the Blue Star Delos which we caught from Athens to Santorini for a pleasant 7-hour trip.

Wine tasting at Domaine Chandon in Yarra Valley

During our stay in Melbourne, we spent Christmas Eve, which is the big day in Sweden, with a trip to the nearby Yarra Valley for a bit of wine tasting. Instead of snow, heavy food and Disney’s Christmas there was lush scenery, actual heat and of course wine drinking.

Based on a recommendation we went to Domaine Chandon, which is owned by LVHM, that is Louis Vuitton Moët Hennesy, eg. the French luxury conglomerate making fancy bags and of course the Moët Chandon champagne.

Splash tasting at Domaine Chandon

We opted to do a little tasting before having lunch, and paid I think $20 AUD each for a ‘splash tasting’ of five different wines – four bubbly and one red. Everyone quite delicious and we ended up buying a bottle of their blanc de blancs (eg. made with just chardonnay grapes) for our upcoming New Years Eve celebration.

After the tasting lunch was literally on the menu. We tried half of the dishes on their menu, and it was all delicious. Cheese and charcuterie boards, a trio of crostinis as well as a plate of crunchy fat chips with a good quality mayo. Paired with a glass of their aged cellar bubbly and a view over the vineyard this was another highlight of our visit, and sort of a must do if you’re visiting Melbourne.

My foodie happy place: Lau Pa Sat food market

Lau Pa Sat, also known as Telok Ayer Market, is a hawker centre that has fed Singaporeans since the 1800s. Situated smack bang in Singapore’s financial district, the classic building, filled with local eateries, is one of my favourite foodie places in the world. Just sitting there, sipping on a beer, smelling the grilled satay skewers from the “satay street” next to the market while waiting for what ever you’ve ordered (there is actually sort of table service with different vendors selling and bringing food to the table). Above is satay, grilled chicken, lamb and beef skewers with peanut sauce. There are different stalls doing different kinds of satay, but all I’ve tried has been really good.

Blackpepper crab and mantou. A really nice steamed crab, woked in a spicy blackpepper sauce. The mantou buns are sort of like deep fried bread rolls that you use to soak up the sauce. So good.

Hokkien Mee. A seafoody noodle dish topped with crispy pork rinds.

Carrot cake or chai tow kway. Not containing any carrot but radish and sliced rice cake in a omelette-meets-pancake kind of creation.

Murtabak. A pancake-like dish filled with spicy, fragrant sliced chicken. Dip in the accompanying curry sauce. Mmmm.

Hello, Singapore!

After a longish trip to Singapore with the new semi-nonstop (you need to disembark in Moscow but then continue on the same plane) route with Singapore Airlines, we’re now in the “Lion City”, one of my favourite food cities in the world. It’s my third visit which is a first for me outside of Europe.

As mentioned we flew in with Singapore Airlines in their premium economy class. While not amazing, it was pretty nice. And hey – we got meatballs with champagne (Nicolas Feuilatte) for breakfast.

Will make a proper review once back home, when we’ve tried them some more. But first up is four more days of food and adventures in Singapore.

A day trip from Bologna via Rimini to San Marino with Trenitalia and Bonneli bus

Since I have the fun, but also challenging, ambition of visiting all the countries in the world, naturally I had to visit the small mountain country of San Marino during my eating-frenzy in Bologna recently.

To get to San Marino from Bologna, I could not really find any simpler alternative (apart from driving yourself) than catching a train to Rimini and from Rimini station taking the international Bonneli bus line to the tiny little kingdom in the mountains.

Taking the bus to San Marino from Rimini’s Central station
We had done our reading, and were well aware that it may become crowded, especially so since we went in mid-July and on a Sunday, and by some reason the bus leaves only every 75 minutes. As we arrived from Rimini about 9 o’clock, we just missed one bus. We went to the tourist office adjacent to the station and bought our bus tickets. We then crossed the road (where Burger King is) and went to check where the bus would depart. It was now 45 minutes before departure and no one was there. – Good, we thought, and went to the nearby cafe for breakfast (boring sandwich, good cappuccino). About 25 minutes before departure we thought we should go and line up. Unfortunately, during our 20 minute breakfast, approximately 70 people had somehow sneaked past us and now formed a twisted line starting in a few different directions. The law-abiding of us formed a line, and a few more ego-centric soon started their own closer to the supposed bus stop. There was however decent order, despite no staff from the company. Suddenly the bus appeared, half full from two earlier stops, and chaos ensued. The semi-orderly lines formed into a wall of people trying to force their way on to the bus. Fortunately, someone had done a little thinking and another empty bus arrived. This meant that the people still trying to push themselves on half-full bus 1, now tried to push their way off and on to the empty one instead.

I’ve heard that it is not at all rare for people to be left behind due to the buses being too crowded, but this time I think all of us actually got onboard, even though it meant us less pushy had to stand up for the one-hourish trip up the mountain.

My suggestion here would be to get on the bus on one of the earlier stops before the Rimini Central station (or just grab a taxi) if you’re traveling during high season. If I were the bus company I would do much more frequent departures or sell reserved tickets on a few departures. The return was not much better, but we eventually managed to at least get a seat.

San Marino, the land of beautiful views
Anyway, after the sort of painful trip we found ourselves in San Marino. The tiny mountain kingdom has a resident population of approximately 33 000 (2016) and is not a member of the European Union (although the border with Italy is open, so no passport control). This also mean that the free intra-EU roaming is not in effect in San Marino, eg. shut off your roaming (or at least check with your service provider).

We had about 5 hours before we needed to go back to Rimini for our trip back to Bologna and chose to spend the first part visiting on of the towers of San Marino for some views of the kingdom itself, the surrounding countryside and also of the Med, looking very inviting in the distance.


Then there was food, of course. I had found a restaurant called La Terrazza that I’d booked online a few days earlier. Problem was, many restaurants was named “La Terrazza” due to having a view, and I had not internet. Fortunately, after some walking around we found the correct La Terrazza and were seated with an incredible view over the surrounding area. We ordered a Piemontese craft beer that the waiter suggested as well as a board of local charcuterie, cheeses and condiments.

I had read in advance that they eat a fair bit of rabbit in San Marino, so naturally I had to try their “Strozzapreti al ragú bianco di coniglio e olive taggiasche”. A delicious rabbit ragu with mini olives on strozzapreti pasta.

The food at La Terrazza was actually very nice, even though slightly pricey. The atmosphere was very relaxed and it was a nice contrast to the busy streets outside crowded with touristy shops and day-visitors like ourselves.

Our schedule worked out in the end and we caught the bus from San Marino back to Rimini about 3 pm and then the Trenitalia train back to Bologna 4.30 pm. Happily we found out that they sold bottled Aperol Spritz onboard which we enjoyed together with the scenery for the rest of the trip. A long day, but absolutely worth it in the end.

Swedish Midsummer eating

One of my favourite celebrations in Sweden is midsommar, or Midsummer. The day is usually started with a boozy traditional sillunch, meaning herring lunch (the picture above), which then continue with dance around the Midsummer pole (yes, we’re heathens) and then usually a bbq of some sort. Usually strawberry cake is inserted somewhere along the way, as is a lot of drinking. My Midsummer pretty much followed the script this year, except for us skipping the pole dancing (pun intended, sorry).

Poolside champagne at my uncles.

Midsummer barbecue.

Midsummer strawberry cake with cream, vanilla custard and untraditional but delicious Nutella.

Post Midsummer weather.

A forest walk to get rid of some of the Midsummer calories.

To cure the Midsummer hangover, fried food was needed. This was a very delicious, if I may say so, homemade Korean fried chicken burger. Deep-fried panko crusted chicken breast, tossed in a spicy and sweet gochujang-butter-honey sauce. Served in a grilled brioche bun together with kimchi mayo.

5 days of food and adventures in amazing Georgia

Just got back from a five day trip to the amazing little country of Georgia (not the U.S. state) nestled between Russia and Turkey in the Caucasus. I’ve been wanting to go to Georgia for quite some time. The reasons for it being the scenic countryside, Tbilisi as a city, rumours of friendly people, and most of all; the Georgian cuisine.

We flew Air Baltic from Riga, which were pretty decent apart from the final leg on our return to Sweden when I got stuck next to a space-stealing seat neighbour on Air Baltic’s cramped Q400.

 

Tbilisi is mostly a beautiful city, as can be seen on the Old Tbilisi building above.

We also took a day trip to Northern Georgia and Mount Kazbek, about a three hour drive from Tbilisi. Due to two (!) flat tires, either by unfortune or lacking maintenance from our tour operator, the whole day took forever to get through. We were picked up at 9.40 am and was back in town around 10 pm. Nevertheless, the trip was actually worth it, despite most of the day was spent on the road.

Our first stop: Ananuri fortress, situated about 70 kilometers from Tbilisi.


The main attraction for the trip, apart from amazing mountainous scenery for a good part of the trip, was the Gergeti Trinity Church, situated at almost 2200 meters height, and still surrounded by massive Caucasus mountains towering over it. To get there we took a four wheel driven jeep from Stepantsminda to reach the Gergeti Trinity Church. After a 30 minute off-road drive we reached the church, and my god what a place it was. Probably top five of the coolest places I’ve ever been, and that’s despite that they, not sure how, actually has rolled up an ugly little food truck selling burgers just outside the beautiful church.


Mount Kazbek, 5074 meters tall as seen from the Gergeti Trinity Church.

 

The following day, back in Tbilisi, we visited the Dry Bridge Market where everything from Soviet memorabilia to knives, old army surplus, wine jars and cutlery are sold. A fascinating place, for me perhaps more for the ambience than the actual shopping.

Jack London restaurant Tbilisi
After the shopping, more food was needed. The name Jack London did not sound too promising, but the menu looked nice and the food on the other diner’s plates did too.

We ordered a sulguni cheese (the cheese used in khachapuris) stuffed kabab and chicken shashlik, both served with mild raw sliced onion. The fries at this place looked great, I still regret not having them.

 

Since I try to visit as many new and different countries as possible, I of course had to visit neighbouring Armenia. Through Envoy Tours, we booked a “de-tour to Armenia” that took us through the green Lore region of Northern Armenia. I had not really understood just how beautiful Armenia would be with its rolling green hills, canyons and monasteries, some of them constructed in the 10th century. That’s pretty old. During our tour we visited Sanahin and Haghbat (or Haghpat) monasteries situated along the Debed canyon, both of them Unesco World Heritage sites and built somewhere around 966. We also briefly visited the old factory town Alaverdi with abandoned factories, train cars and cranes. Felt like something out of a zombie movie, very cool. Our last sight of the trip was akhtala fortress-monastery which was as old and cool as the two previous, but not a UNESCO world heritage site. Finally, before going back to Georgia and Tbilisi we stoped for lunch at a local family’s home. Sat down around a table with mile-long views of the valley and mountains below the 12 or so of us were served delicious home-cooked Armenian food. We started with a couple of vegetable dishes such as a carrot fritter, different pickled vegetables, bread, cheeses, spinach fried with eggs and fresh vegetables from the area. For main we had a great grilled pork, served with raw sliced onions and thick deep fried potato slices. An excellent meal in an equally excellent setting. Also bonus points to Envoy Tours for including this stop instead of just feeding us in a touristy place somewhere along the way.

A very cool tour that was quite affordable and with a great flexible and knowledgeable guide. You can find Envoy Tours website here.

Then it was time to fly back, but not before cashing in my drink voucher I received upon checking in at Mercure Tbilisi Old Town which’s sky bar was to be the last we saw of Tbilisi before heading back home.

So in summary, wow, what a place Georgia is. It’s beautiful, the food is amazing, the prices are low and you can go to an off the beaten track country like Armenia over the day. Now I’m really keen to keep exploring the rest of the region. All the good restaurants we visited are posted after this post. To just keep on reading to get inspired to visit one of my new favourite countries. 🙂

SAS plus domestic flight review

Flew SAS domestic the other day, and thought I should give some info since it’s not very much available in English about what is included. The trip I took was from Stockholm Arlanda Airport to Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, in the South.


When flying SAS plus, which basically is their intra-Europe premium economy, or business class, everything onboard is included and on the ground you have lounge access (with alcohol available in the Arlanda SAS Domestic lounge in Terminal 4, which only had lighter beer before) as well as fast track security. Since I was quite hungry, I had a little bit of everything such as delicious Ringi apple juice, mixed nuts, Marabou chocolate bar, a “Polar roll” of soft Northern Sweden-style thin bread with cheese and butter.

Danish craft beer producer Mikkeler’s Plane Ale is really tasty. Especially with a view of Sweden below a clear day.

Menu pages, for the geeks like my who likes to study that kind of stuff before traveling. 🙂


The new Cafe Lounge concept by SAS in smaller airport is pretty nice compared to no lounge at all. This one in Malmö had quite tasty muffins, a few small cookies, fruit, coffee and juice. No alcoholic beverages.

All in all, SAS plus is quite nice if you’re not paying much more for it. All the food onboard is available to both plus and go (economy) though, so you can pay for the exact same stuff further back in the plane. The seats are just the same, although you’ll sit in the front and can pick your prefered seat free of charge in plus.

Homemade Spaghetti alla Gricia recipe

This weekend, I tried the last one of the four pastas of Rome. The four pastas of Rome is carbonara (egg, guanciale/pancetta, pecorino, black pepper), Amatriciana (guanciale/pancetta and tomatoes), Cacio e Pepe (black pepper, pecorino) and the Pasta alla Gricia, with pecorino and guanciale/pancetta.

Pasta, or spaghetti alla Gricia is sort of a cacio e pepe with added crunch from crispy fried guanciale, or pancetta. The proper pork to use is guanciale, which is air-dried pork cheek. But when not in Rome, you can substitute it with pancetta, or in worst case bacon (preferably un-smoked).

What you need for Spaghetti alla Gricia (serves approximately four):

One package of spaghetti (I use Martelli or De Ceccho)

300 grams of guanciale/pancetta/bacon, cut into cubes, strips

2,5 deciliters/one cup of pecorino cheese

1/2 deciliter (1/4ish cup) of strained pasta cooking water

Black pepper

Salt

1. Add the pork to a cold pan and put on heat. This will make the fat render and make the pork crispier. I sometimes add a garlic clove to this to slightly flavour the pork (discard when done).

2. Cook the spaghetti until almost al dente, the pasta will cook some more in the sauce. Save the cooking liquid as indicated above.

3. Grate the pecorino cheese as finely as your grater allows. Mix about half of it with a couple of tablespoons of water to a smooth ‘sauce’.

4. When pork is crispy, turn off/lower the heat and add the al dente spaghetti into the pork and fat pan (remove some of the fat if desired). Toss around and then add the pecorino mixed with water as well as the reserved cooking liquid.

5. Stirr until the liquids almost has reduced and the pasta is covered in silky cheese sauce. Add almost all the remaining pecorino, salt and black pepper and give a final toss before removing from heat.

6. Serve immediately topped with the remaining pecorino cheese.

Enjoy!