I decided to welcome 2018 in Madrid and spend my birthday in Lisbon. I came to this decision in October 2017 while in the midst of completing the last stages of my master’s degree and realizing that I’ve never been on a real vacation for some time. All my trips had an official or educational aspect to it. It’s been a while that I purely travelled for leisure. Since there were still a few months left in my Schengen visa, I decided to go for it.
I was supposed to fly home for Christmas but a typhoon got in the way. I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Century Park Hotel so as not to be completely miserable in my apartment. I was not inclined to listen to the reveling of my neighbors. Besides, my flight to Madrid was on December 27th so I considered it a vacation in preparation for another vacation.
While I was waiting for the boarding announcement, my name was called over the PA system. I approached the staff at the boarding gate. They asked for my Economy boarding pass and casually handed me a Business class boarding pass. Once I got back to my seat, I took to social media to brag about the upgrade and called my sister.
We boarded an old Boeing 777-300ER. As in my previous flight, the touch screen did not work well so I had to make do with the portable console. If you intentionally fly business class, you pay the same price regardless if the plane is old or new. Well, I got my seat for free, so there was no point on griping. Any business class seat is better than an economy seat.
After finishing my welcome champagne, I asked for Hennesy XO Cognac and watched Groot dance in the opening scene of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I had selected Lemon and Chickpea Soup with Focaccia Croutons for appetizer, which was served with garlic bread and a salad. While the soup was being served, a flight attendant saw what I ordered and she smiled and said “Good choice!” and made a smacking gesture with her hand and mouth. Since I am in constant need of validation, I was flattered by the affirmation of my good taste.
Emirates had started to incorporate regional elements in their menu. I decided to try Pinatisang Manok(braised chicken in fish sauce served with steamed rice and vegetables stewed in coconut milk) and paired it with Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf-Du-Pape Blanc 2015. I noticed that they used Thai fish sauce on the chicken. The dish was similar to Hainanese Chicken rice – which could have been the inspiration. For dessert, I asked for a Selection of Pastries: carrot and pecan cake, chocolate brownie, and fruit choux. The carrot and pecan cake was quite rich and went well with the tea.
After a short nap, I put on Spiderman: Homecoming. For light snack before landing, I was served Fried Prawns with Sesame Seeds served with Egg Fried Rice and Sweet Chili Sauce. It was tasty and I wanted to have more. I don’t know if it was allowed to ask for seconds though. The cabin crew were very busy during meal service and I did not want to appear greedy. Besides, I could always gorge myself with the buffet offerings in the Dubai business class lounges.
As usual, service was excellent which made up for the not so perfect entertainment system.
For my return flight, I flew from Lisbon to Dubai. I spent a good six hours in the business class lounge in Building A, Terminal 3 – the glitziest and least crowded among the Emirates business class lounges. An hour before the scheduled departure, I took the train to Building B and walked from one end to another to get to my gate. When I arrived, they were already admitting Economy class passengers and the queue was quite long. I heard one of the staff call out for business class passengers as well as Platinum, Gold, and Silver Skywards members. I skipped the line and went directly to the gate.
The guy inspecting the boarding passes noticed that the machine did not recognize my boarding pass. He pressed a button and a Business class boarding pass came out. “Business class” he said while staring at me, bewildered. He must have wondered who I was and I would have replied “ I am no one”.
After my usual champagne, I asked for a Negroni(Sipsmith London Dry Gin on the rocks with Martini Rosso and Campari). While waiting for lunch, I went to the business class toilets but they were full. I headed to the Economy section and parted the curtain between the two worlds. One of the Economy toilets was available. As I went back to the portal into Business class, I heard someone say loudly “He’s in business class, why is he using the toilet in Economy?”. I would have preferred to be in a Business class toilet so that I could douse myself with variants of Bulgari eau de toilette.
For appetizer, I had Traditional Arabic Mezze(Spinach bil zeit, labneh, houmous, and stuffed vine leaves) served with salad and bread. I’ve seen this item on every business class menu on Emirates and I thought it was high time I tried it. It was delicious. I’m used to eating ground grains but I was surprised by the strong flavors. It was also my first time to eat grape leaves.
The main course selection was the usual Emirates business class fare. I was a bit hungry so I had Grilled Beef Steak served with green pepper sauce, steamed green beans, and potato cakes with truffle and fittingly paired it with Chateau La Marzelle 2006(“a powerful nose with scrubland aromas, savoury red berry fruit, black tea, black pepper, and cedar, The palate is medium bodied with supple tannin, persistent sweet black cherry, fruit and a distinct earthiness”). For dessert, I again had chocolate truffle cake with cherry compote.
I slept throughout most of the flight and woke up just in time for light snacks. I ordered a Selection of Savouries: Hoisin Chicken Drummettes, prawn dumplings, and lemon grass chicken parcels and orange juice. In terms of food selection, I took the safe route and had the things that I’ve tried before. The plane was an old Boeing 777-300ER but I had already gotten familiar with getting around the defective entertainment system controls.
When I got off the plane, I thought it would be the last time I’d fly Business class for some time. I did not know there would still be another.