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An Eating Trip to Spain: Arzak, Etxebarri, Lufthansa 747-8 J, Swiss A220 Y / 777 J

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  • An Eating Trip to Spain: Arzak, Etxebarri, Lufthansa 747-8 J, Swiss A220 Y / 777 J




    The last couple of months have been full of ups and downs. I'll not go into details here, but life throws you all kinds of surprises, whether related to work, home or family. Support from family and friends really makes a difference. During times like these, any opportunity to spend time together with loved ones should be cherished.

    One such opportunity for family time came up last month: a confluence of events made it possible for me to plan a snap vacation with Mrs yflyer and Miss yflyer no.2. Everything was planned in February, just a few weeks in advance of the trip in March.

    After exploring many flight and destination options, we eventually decided on a trip to northern Spain: Basque Country, Asturias, and Galicia. On this trip, we would check off a couple of restaurants on Mrs yflyer's bucket list (She has a very long list), and by carefully choosing my flights, I would also get to cross off a couple of aircraft types on my to-fly list. Miss yflyer no.2 would also get a well deserved break after completing her current course of study.

    We would start off with a flight to Frankfurt on LH779, operated by Lufthansa's 747-8. Thanks, fellow SQTalker Caravelle, for posting that LH would be operating this equipment on the SIN-FRA sector, otherwise I might never have known!

    Our basic airfare was an inexpensive economy (Y) ticket with SIN-FRA-BCN on Lufthansa, and MAD-ZRH-SIN operated by Swiss. However, there were attractive paid upgrades / bid upgrades available for all our long haul sectors, and we took full advantage of this.

    We flew 747-8 Business Class on the SIN-FRA sector, with my seat on the upper deck, and Mrs yflyer and Miss yflyer no.2 seated together on the lower deck.

    Our starting point in Spain was Barcelona, where Miss yflyer no.2 visited the Sagrada Familia for the first time. Mrs yflyer and I had been to Barcelona before, but we revisited our favourite places. We also took the opportunity to check out Paradiso, a cocktail bar ranked No.1 on the World's Best Bars list in 2022.

    It was then a train ride to San Sebastián, where we dined at Arzak, helmed by chef Elena Arzak and her father, the legendary Juan Mari Arzak. In fact, it was only after we had secured our restaurant reservation for Arzak did we make a final "go" decision on our trip, and book our air tickets.

    After several days in San Sebastián we headed to Bilbao, where we visited the Guggenheim Museum and other local attractions.

    We then headed to Axpe, to dine at Asador Etxebarri, where we sampled delights from the wood-fired grills of chef Bittor (Victor) Arguinzoniz. If anything this reservation was even tougher to secure than Arzak...

    It was not all about food and planes. There was also stunning scenery.

    Apart from my runs, we did several short hikes/walks. Of course, short is relative. One of our hikes was to Gaztelugatxe, a stunning islet off the coast of Biscay in northern Spain. The hike to this spot, which featured in the HBO series Game of Thrones, was only 2.5km round trip, but the steep climbs up and down meant that we were all soaked in perspiration by the end of it.

    This was not just a food pilgrimage. We also spent time in Santiago de Compostela, the endpoint of the religious pilgrimage route known as the Camino. Although we didn't walk the Camino on this occasion, it was quite an experience to soak in the atmosphere in this very spiritual place.

    Our last stop was Madrid, a city which was so lively and buzzing when we were there, not to mention packed with tourists. Apart from seeing the sights and enjoying the food in Madrid, we also spent a lot of time in their museums, the Reina Sofia and the Prado. Both were incredible places, with masterpieces from Picasso, Dali, Goya and many other old masters.

    For us in Singapore and Asia, there are currently very few opportunities to fly the Airbus A220, previously known as the Bombardier CSeries. It was no coincidence that our flight out of Madrid was on a Swiss A220.

    I was very keen to check out this clean-sheet design, and find out why the A220 had been getting such positive reviews from passengers.

    Landing in Zurich after our A220 flight from Madrid, we only had a 40 minute connection to catch our ride home on LX176 ZRH-SIN.

    I am normally quite paranoid about missed connections, and usually pad my connection times very generously, but in this case, it was a single ticket MAD-ZRH-SIN. If the connection was missed, it was LX's responsibility to get us back to Singapore. Worst case we would get our vacation extended by a day in Zurich. But true to the Swiss's reputation for punctuality and reliability, our connection went without a hitch.

    Our flight home was on LX 777 Business Class, which was a paid upgrade (i.e a confirmed paid upgrade, as opposed to an upgrade bid on our LH SIN-FRA sector)...

    Overall, a very memorable trip, that we all enjoyed immensely. Interested? Read on!

    Last edited by yflyer; 18 April 2023, 12:42 PM.

  • #2

    01. Airport - Changi T2
    02. Lounge - SQ SilverKris Lounge T2
    03. Flight - Lufthansa LH779 SIN-FRA in Business Class (747-8)
    04. Airport - Frankfurt (FRA)
    05. Flight - LH1124 FRA-BCN in Economy (A321)

    06. Hotel - H10 Madison - Barcelona
    07. Barcelona Attractions
    08. Bar - Paradiso
    09. Dining - Los Caracoles

    San Sebastian
    10. Train - Barcelona to San Sebastián
    11. Hotel - Sercotel Europa
    12. San Sebastián attractions
    13. Dining - Arzak
    14. Dining - Bar Nestor
    15. Bar - Dry Bar @ Maria Cristina
    16. Runs - San Sebastián
    17. Monte Igueldo

    18. Bus - San Sebastián to Bilbao
    19. Hotel - Ercilla Bilbao (Marriott Autograph Collection)
    20. Dining - Serantes
    21. Gaztelugatxe
    22. Portugalete and Viscaya Bridge
    23. Guggenheim Museum
    24. Run - Bilbao

    Axpe Atxondo
    25. Hotel - Mendigoikoa Bekoa
    26. Dining - Asador Etxebarri

    27. Bus - Bilbao to Oviedo
    28. Hotel - AC by Marriott Oviedo Forum
    29. Oviedo Attractions
    30. Dining - Cocina Cabal
    31. Picos de Europa & Covadonga Lakes
    32. Dining - El Mirador @ Lastres

    Santiago de Compostela
    33. Bus - Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela
    34. Hotel - Palacio del Carmen (Marriott Autograph Collection)
    35. Santiago de Compostela attractions
    36. Dining - Dos Reis Parador de Santiago

    37. Airport & Lounge - Santiago (SCQ)
    38. Flight - Iberia Express IB3877 SCQ-MAD in A320 Economy
    39. Hotel - Petit Palace Triball
    40. Museum Sofia Reina
    41. Flamenco @ Torres Bermejas
    42. Run - Madrid City
    43. Madrid Attractions
    44. Dining - Botin
    45. Run - El Retiro park
    46. Dining - Casa Julian de Tolosa

    47. Airport - Madrid T2 & Lounge
    48. Flight - Swiss LX2033 MAD-ZRH in A220 Economy
    49. Airport - Zurich (ZRH)
    50. Flight - Swiss LX176 ZRH-SIN in 777-300ER Business

    51. Final Reflections
    Last edited by yflyer; 19 April 2023, 12:06 AM.


    • #3
      Our first flight, LH779 SIN-FRA had a departure time of 11.55pm.

      Lufthansa flights now depart out of Changi T2...

      As T2 is mainly used by SQ for regional flights, the terminal was quite empty in the evening.

      The check-in area for LH...

      I had told Mrs yflyer and Miss yflyer no.2 that we were flying home in business class from Zurich to Singapore, but as the Lufthansa SIN-FRA business class upgrade bid only came through at the last minute, they both thought we were flying economy to Frankfurt.

      They came to the airport carrying large neck pillows etc and were bracing themselves for a long flight in Y when I broke the news...

      "I thought this might happen!" said Miss yflyer no.2, "...we are going to be the only people in business carrying neck pillows..."

      I think they were pleasantly surprised, and quite relieved to be getting a good night's sleep onboard...


      • #4
        We headed to the T2 SilverKris Lounge...

        This lounge does not appear to have been updated since pre-COVID days, but at least it was not crowded at this time of the evening, unlike the T3 SilverKris Lounge, which would have been packed at this time, with all the long haul departures out of T3.

        I guessed that since there were no SQ flights, and few Star Alliance flights, departing from T2 after 11pm other than LH779 to Frankfurt, LH791 to Munich, and LX177 to Zurich, most pax in the lounge must be on those 3 flights...

        I poured a couple of glasses of Taittinger Champagne to celebrate the start of our trip...

        There was a decent F&B selection available for supper in the lounge...

        Sweet and sour pork...

        Ayam Masak Merah...

        Beef lasagna...

        Indian selections, including onion pakoras, chapati, aloo bonda and vadai...

        Vegetarian noodles...

        Mackeral otak buns...

        Duck porridge...

        Last edited by yflyer; 27 March 2023, 02:04 PM.


        • #5
          One red wine, a Nippozano Chianti Rufina from Italy, and two white wines, a Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc from NZ....

          ...and an Heirloom Vineyards Riesling from Eden Valley, Australia.

          The liquor selection...


          • #6
            The showers in the lounge were also available, with no line or wait while we were there.


            • #7
              We left the lounge and headed to our gate at the other end of the terminal.

              At the gate, Lufthansa's Boeing 747-8, "Köln", rego D-ABYU, an 8 year old aircraft first delivered in 2015.

              What a beauty!

              It was soon time to board...


              • #8
                The main deck J cabin, laid out 2-2-2...

                Window-side J seats on the main deck...

                The middle bank J seat pairs, and a glimpse of the F cabin in the nose...


                • #9
                  I headed up the stairs to the upper deck...

                  At this point, I was nearly ecstatic...I never thought that I would get to fly a 747 upper deck again in my lifetime. Happy memories of flights on SQ, CX and QF 744 upper decks came flooding back.

                  My seat was 88H, the last row of the upper deck...

                  Note the large side storage bins on the upper deck, which could also double as shelf/table space with the covers closed -- a unique feature of the 747 upper deck!

                  The upper deck overhead bins also seemed more spacious than I recall the 744 bins were (Pic taken from later in the flight)...

                  Last edited by yflyer; 27 March 2023, 02:07 PM.


                  • #10
                    At that point, after dropping off my luggage upstairs, I headed back downstairs to check out the rest of the plane (Old habits die hard!)...

                    I took a stroll through the main deck Y cabin, laid out 3-4-3...

                    This was familiar territory for me. Seat pitch looked ok, with the underseat areas generally free of obstructions...

                    The seats themselves were fairly comfortable...

                    ...with decent recline...

                    Full widescreen AVOD IFE of course, but the screens looked a little small compared to what SQ and other airlines offered...

                    Overall, I would say this was a decent Y product, similar to LH's A380 Y, though in terms of cabin ambience, I did appreciate the slightly greater width of the A380 main deck Y cabin compared to the 747-8.

                    This aircraft also had several rows of Premium Economy (PEY) at the front of the Y cabin. There was no partition between PEY and Y -- that was a negative for me. A partition should not cost the airline much if they are smart about the cabin seating plan, and it adds so much to the perceived value of PEY. Good examples of this are the SQ A380 PEY, with a dedicated section in the front of the A380 main deck, no less, and QF's superb A380 upper deck PEY.

                    The PEY seats themselves looked similar to the current gen LH A380 PEY seats. These were large and comfortable without being particularly stylish. These seats had large IFE screens, with USB power sockets just below the screen...

                    This flight was completely full in all classes. Wow.

                    After that quick round trip tour of the main deck, I headed back up to my seat on the upper deck....
                    Last edited by yflyer; 1 April 2023, 06:55 PM.


                    • #11
                      I settled into my seat on the upper deck as the cabin crew were serving pre-departure beverages...

                      Champagne? Yes, please!

                      Cabin ambience on the upper deck was wonderful -- serene and uncrowded. The 747-8 upper deck is actually longer than the 747-400, by about 4 meters (According to this source).

                      There were 3 bathrooms on the upper deck, two in the front, and one in the rear. The bathrooms were similar to the ones on the 787...

                      ...with sensor operated tap...

                      Toiletries and amenities...


                      • #12
                        Back in my seat, lights were dimmed, and the aircraft took a long taxi to Runway 02R for take-off...

                        A smooth and powerful take-off into the night sky. The take-off was very quiet from the upper deck, though not as quite as quiet as an A380...

                        Flight time to Frankfurt was estimated to be 12 hours 45 minutes (Although the actual flight time was slightly shorter, at 12 hrs 38 min)....

                        After seatbelt signs went off, I headed back downstairs to check on Mrs yflyer and Miss yflyer no.2...

                        They were very comfortable in the first row of J on the main deck...

                        Unlike today's trend of closed partitions and privacy in J, the LH 747-8 J cabin concept was fairly open, which made for a very spacious and open business class cabin, which felt very uncrowded and airy.

                        I would be quite happy to be seated in J on the main deck of the LH 747-8. That said, the Upper Deck has always felt special and remains my preferred place to be on a 747-8.


                        • #13
                          Back in my seat on the upper deck, moist towels were handed out...

                          It was time to explore the features of my seat...

                          There was an adjustable reading light by the headrest...

                          Wide armrests with space for a drink, and seat controls. This was a seat that could be reclined to a angled/lounging setting or fully flat bed, at a push of a button.

                          Under the armrest was the foldable tray able, and storage for headphones...

                          IFE was full AVOD on a large widescreen...

                          The screen angle could be adjusted to suit the viewer...

                          I extended the tray table...

                          When fully extended, this formed a large, stable surface...

                          The noise cancelling headphones were also stowed under the armrest...

                          What I didn't notice until the flight was almost over, was the USB charging port within the headphone storage was too dark to spot it for most of the flight!

                          A nice design touch was a thin gap between the armrest cover and the storage, which meant headphone cables and USB cables would not be crimped by the armrest cover when the cover was closed.

                          A/C power was also available...

                          Small storage compartment under the IFE screen and literature slot...

                          I browsed the 747-8 safety card...

                          Last edited by yflyer; 27 March 2023, 01:47 AM.


                          • #14
                            The seat reclined to fully flat position, forming a fully flat and long surface for sleeping.

                            Possibly the most "controversial" aspect of the seat was the angled footrest, which angles the feet of the 2 passengers next to each other, separated by a hard partition...

                            Other online reviews seemed to imply that some pax tended to have their feet or legs occasionally touch the other pax during the flight, but this didn't happen to me on this flight, and both my seat mate and I managed to stay within our respective personal space without any difficulty.

                            Last edited by yflyer; 27 March 2023, 01:45 AM.


                            • #15
                              Amenity kits came in a Porsche Design mesh bag, which was quite stylish...

                              Contents of the kit...

                              Each pax also received a Van Laack designed soft pyjama top, along with bedroom slippers...

                              The Van Laack pyjama top was very stylish, and of good stylish in fact that after the flight Miss yflyer no.2 took to wearing it as a sweater while sightseeing!

                              Each pax also received a bottle of water...

                              Last edited by yflyer; 27 March 2023, 01:48 AM.