Author Topic: Chapshnell's Trip Report - Florence-Rome, Italy-London, UK 3/2015  (Read 6565 times)

Offline Chapshnell

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 4345
  • Total likes: 12
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 10
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: BP
  • Programs: Delta Skypesos, AA Shilling, AS Pounds.
With a family simcha upcoming in London another opportunity presented itself to fly overseas & test out some different airline cabins. The Singapore A380 double-decker intrigued me and due to our good experience in Venice this past summer & the hospitality of the Italians being very good we decided to visit the old & historical cities of Florence (Firenze) & Rome.

We were running a little late to JFK however check in at the suites counter was empty & efficient. This was a full flight with over 500 passengers onboard so I had a hard time booking for myself in the suites even on a waitlist, however I was able to get 2 seats confirmed for other family members of mine, so I "only" ended up flying business class.

After check in we headed to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Lounge. Those flying suites have access to it. Business class has access to the wingtips lounge, however if you are a traveling party & anyone is going suites they can bring you in as well for free.

The boarding process already started but the final boarding call didn't ring out yet so we asked the lounge front desk agent to communicate to the boarding gate that there are a few passengers in suites (first) class in this lounge & whenever the plane has been completely boarded they should let us know. Everything seemed complimentary and its even served. Even for example potato chips!

When they asked us if we want some food we told them its not kosher, so they told us they have some kosher meals... I was shocked to see that the meals were from FreshKo & had a nirbatir hechsher!

There wasn't time to heat up the food in their microwave so they let us take as many meals as we wanted & we took it along unto the plane knowing that Borenstein's serves all kosher meals ex: USA and its really horrible.

The seats in business class are very wide & comfortable leather as well.
After takeoff the meals were served & I sent the Borenstein meal right back. The only good part of their meal was the plastic cutlery that actually came in very handy. Steward was more than happy to heat up the kosher meal I brought along from the lounge & it was excellent... I had chicken & white rice with mushroom sauce. Other travel meals that were available were spaghetti & meatballs, pepper steak or cheese ravioli.

Although I don't drink wine,  (except Purim) but for those that do, Singapore served in business a closed bottle of 2010 Herzog Cabernet wine, I found that a pretty cool perk.

The purser (manager of all stewardess) allowed me to sit with my family a little bit in first class, I got to check out the seat & controls. Its a private room on the plane with window-shades & doors. The business class seat is a softer product than the suites seat. For some reason they lately changed over all seats in suites to a new style. Its still very comfortable, its just not as comfortable or wide as the business class seats which is weird.
However one perk in suites/first is that you get a Ferragamo amenity kit with perfume/cologne. They also measure you for pajama size!
Singapore's service is amazing, everything is done with a smile & very quick. Pillows are fluffy & you even get two!

Arrived into the connecting city of Frankfurt, went to the LuxxLounge to daven. Entry was free via the lounge club card courtesy of Chase Ink. However two things were a bit annoying, 1) its outside of security, so you have to check back in. 2) Showers cost five euro PP. However, if you want to be cheap you can technically let many people take one, as you get the key to the bathroom.

Now when I checked back in through security they confiscated the wine & perfume/cologne given out on board the Singapore flight. After a back & forth with security they agreed to let the perfume go through but the wine bottles we got on board were dumped.

Frankfurt airport is very large & there is usually a lot of walking involved. For the smaller flights you need to take a bus to the airplane so be sure you are a MINIMUM of 30 minutes before your flight at the gate. Everything works like clockwork here & if you are late and in a rush it can get a bit tense as they don't wait on anyone.
We boarded in economy a small Lufthansa E95 jet via steps & off we went to Florence for a 1:10 plane ride.

A taxi from the airport to any of the main hotels will cost you a standard rate of 20 euro plus 1 euro for every luggage or carry on you have. Check in at the St. Regis hotel was smooth & they introduced the staff & gave a rundown of all amenities in the suite. The service they provide is downright amazing, everything is done quick & professional.

Florence is an old city, not much "to do" best thing here seems to be to just walk around & get lost... There are lots of tourists all over. Most people I found speak english here.

The only kosher place to eat at is Ruth's. Its a vegetarian restaurant, not fancy but when there is only one place you cant be too picky!
The lentil soup was good, the spicy fish was too spicy, however he makes a good sea bass & grilled salmon.
The assorted plate with falafel balls, techina, hummus was very good. The pasta with mozzarella was OK. The cost for 3 people was on average 80 euro. You have to ask the person that runs the place "Simcha" which dishes are parve, cholov yisroel and which are cholov stam. He also makes cholov yisroel pizza etc. There is a hechsher from the local rabbi of Florence. Its on the same street as the grand synagogue.

We took a tour of the BEAUTIFUL Shul & city with Giovanna Bossi Rosenfeld she is an excellent knowledgeable tour guide that will work at your pace & will answer all questions you may have, it was 190 euro for 3 people but it was the highlight of the day. These tour guides know the city inside out & point out things we walked right past by & didn't even realize. Email is info@jewish-florence.com & cell # is +39-335-678-1831

Booked an Alitalia flight FLR-LHR with a "stop" in Rome for 13 hours. This way the bags got checked through to London & we didn't have to worry about shlepping them around the city. We left our carry ons at the airport hold in terminal three for 6 euro per bag.

A taxi from FCO to the Coliseum for example is 48 euro. When you have multiple people its worth it, however the train is 14 euro per person & its quicker + it goes nonstop, so we decided to try that.

For 17 euro we purchased Coliseum tickets + a tour. The ticket is valid for the Roman Forum & Pantheon as well. Its worth the 5 euro more for the tour.

Stopped in for brunch at Ba'Ghetto milky. Everything was absolutely delicious! Cost for a good full meal for 3 people costed 105 euro. The big Shul is around the corner & entry to the museum + the Shul is 11 euro per adult. Its an active shul, just expect nissuch italki & lots of security. I took a taxi back to the airport, standard fixed rate is 48 euro.
Flew into London with Alitalia.

Went to the Imperial War Museum where they had some interesting exhibits on WWI & WWII. Entry is free. They are open until 6pm daily.

There are no restaurants in Stamford Hill. If you will want to eat out you're going to have to go to Golders Green.
 
Checked into United at LHR, collected back some VAT. Give yourself an extra 15 minutes if you ever plan on doing that. The walk from terminal two check in until my gate (B31) was a 15 minute walk minimum. Its over a mile distance in walking.

When I originally booked my flight back in October it was on a 767-300. They changed the aircraft to a 757-200 & its a much smaller aircraft. United flies this route EWR-LAX/SFO. Im quite surprised they still use this from Europe-USA. Space wise it definitely felt that way on board too.

Kosher meal was catered by Stogel. For some reason almost every kosher caterer thinks that lox must be part of an airline meal, in either case the appetizer was not good however the main dish of coconut chicken nuggets with white rice & cooked string beans were very good. I had this on a previous United flight from Europe & it seems that they are sticking to this main dish which is a good thing for the kosher traveler.

For some reason the US & European carriers are not up to par with the Asian carriers. Its mind boggling because Cathay flies the same 777 United does & Lufthansa flies the same A380 Emirates & Singapore do.

This trip brings to an end an intense 2 months of traveling. Im not sure how I'm going to manage not being in the air for a while but the next trip seems to be in the distance. In the past 2 months I've traveled over 35,000 miles on premium cabins all via credit card sign ups, manufacturing spend & spending credit cards correctly for each category. Anyone can do it, I started out as a rookie in April of 2013 but wasn't afraid or embarrassed to ask the questions & now I get to travel & treat my family on awesome trips in style & comfort. I did it, others have & are doing it. So can you, especially if your wife/husband has good credit as well. 

Here are my updated rankings on premium cabins I have flown/tested:

1) Singapore First A380
2) Cathay First 777
3) Emirates First A380
4) Singapore Business Class A380
5) United First 767
6) Emirates Business A380
7) Cathay Business 777
8.) Swiss Business A330
9) United Business 777-200
10) United Business 767
11) Lufthansa Business A380
12) Lufthansa Business A340-600
13) United Business 757-200
14) Emirates Business A330
« Last Edit: March 17, 2015, 06:50:52 PM by Chapshnell »

Offline Hershelsdeals

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Jul 2014
  • Posts: 3448
  • Total likes: 6
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 2
    • View Profile
Re: Chapshnell's Trip Report - Florence-Rome, Italy-London, UK 3/2015
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2015, 06:49:17 PM »
Your missing LX J

Offline Chapshnell

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 4345
  • Total likes: 12
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 10
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: BP
  • Programs: Delta Skypesos, AA Shilling, AS Pounds.
Re: Chapshnell's Trip Report - Florence-Rome, Italy-London, UK 3/2015
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2015, 06:51:04 PM »
fixed, thanks for the heads up

Offline Chapshnell

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 4345
  • Total likes: 12
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 10
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: BP
  • Programs: Delta Skypesos, AA Shilling, AS Pounds.
Re: Chapshnell's Trip Report - Florence-Rome, Italy-London, UK 3/2015
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2015, 06:51:44 PM »
SQ J in bed mode

Offline Chapshnell

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 4345
  • Total likes: 12
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 10
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: BP
  • Programs: Delta Skypesos, AA Shilling, AS Pounds.
Re: Chapshnell's Trip Report - Florence-Rome, Italy-London, UK 3/2015
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2015, 06:52:07 PM »
SQ R in seat mode

Offline Chapshnell

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 4345
  • Total likes: 12
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 10
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: BP
  • Programs: Delta Skypesos, AA Shilling, AS Pounds.
Re: Chapshnell's Trip Report - Florence-Rome, Italy-London, UK 3/2015
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2015, 06:52:21 PM »
SQ R in bed mode

Offline Chapshnell

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 4345
  • Total likes: 12
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 10
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: BP
  • Programs: Delta Skypesos, AA Shilling, AS Pounds.
Re: Chapshnell's Trip Report - Florence-Rome, Italy-London, UK 3/2015
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2015, 06:52:44 PM »
St Regis Florence

Offline Chapshnell

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 4345
  • Total likes: 12
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 10
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: BP
  • Programs: Delta Skypesos, AA Shilling, AS Pounds.
Re: Chapshnell's Trip Report - Florence-Rome, Italy-London, UK 3/2015
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2015, 06:53:09 PM »
St Regis Florence, more pics of suite

Offline Chapshnell

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 4345
  • Total likes: 12
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 10
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: BP
  • Programs: Delta Skypesos, AA Shilling, AS Pounds.
Re: Chapshnell's Trip Report - Florence-Rome, Italy-London, UK 3/2015
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2015, 06:53:26 PM »
Arno River

Offline Chapshnell

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 4345
  • Total likes: 12
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 10
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: BP
  • Programs: Delta Skypesos, AA Shilling, AS Pounds.
Re: Chapshnell's Trip Report - Florence-Rome, Italy-London, UK 3/2015
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2015, 06:53:55 PM »
Arno River 2

Offline Chapshnell

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 4345
  • Total likes: 12
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 10
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: BP
  • Programs: Delta Skypesos, AA Shilling, AS Pounds.
Re: Chapshnell's Trip Report - Florence-Rome, Italy-London, UK 3/2015
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2015, 06:54:19 PM »
Florence Shul, only open on Yom Tov

Offline Chapshnell

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 4345
  • Total likes: 12
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 10
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: BP
  • Programs: Delta Skypesos, AA Shilling, AS Pounds.
Re: Chapshnell's Trip Report - Florence-Rome, Italy-London, UK 3/2015
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2015, 06:54:40 PM »
St Regis "Winter Garden"

Offline Chapshnell

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 4345
  • Total likes: 12
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 10
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: BP
  • Programs: Delta Skypesos, AA Shilling, AS Pounds.
Re: Chapshnell's Trip Report - Florence-Rome, Italy-London, UK 3/2015
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2015, 06:55:09 PM »
Colosseum 1

Offline Chapshnell

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 4345
  • Total likes: 12
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 10
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: BP
  • Programs: Delta Skypesos, AA Shilling, AS Pounds.
Re: Chapshnell's Trip Report - Florence-Rome, Italy-London, UK 3/2015
« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2015, 06:55:47 PM »
Coliseum 2

Offline Chapshnell

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 4345
  • Total likes: 12
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 10
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: BP
  • Programs: Delta Skypesos, AA Shilling, AS Pounds.
Re: Chapshnell's Trip Report - Florence-Rome, Italy-London, UK 3/2015
« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2015, 06:56:10 PM »
SQ Friendly Service