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Old 20th September 2017, 11:09 PM   #106
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The remainder of the afternoon was spent at Ermou Street, Athens' main shopping street...



I took a break and sat by the 11th century Church of Panagia Kapnikarea and watched people go by, while Mrs yflyer did a round of shopping, before heading back to the hotel.

_____

There is a bar and restaurant on the rooftop of the Hilton Athens.

When we returned to our hotel, we found a voucher that had been slid under our room door. The voucher was given to all Hilton Honors members staying in the hotel that day, regardless of status tier, and was good for 2 cocktails at the rooftop bar.

Voucher in hand, we headed up to the rooftop for a drink before dinner.



The bar has a view of Athens and the Acropolis.



Comparing Acropolis views from the Hilton and the Grande Bretagne, the GB Roof Garden Restaurant view from the Grande Bretagne was a lot closer, and the angle was better too. The view from the Hilton was a little too distant to have the same impact, but all that said, the ropftop bar at the Hilton Athens had a nice vibe, and was a very pleasant spot to spend an evening...

We approached our bartender to redeem the voucher, and learnt that it was for a special cocktail created at the Hilton for guests. It was served in a martini glass and was a striking blue in colour, with a red flower petal floating gently on its surface...



I took a sip...a sweet, intense cocktail with the taste of lime, and hints of almond...it did not taste blue...or at least what I imagined blue would taste like...and it packed a strong vodka punch....yum...perfect for a hot, sunny day....

Mrs yflyer went to the bartender to ask him what it was called...it was called "Beautiful" with the blue colour representing the Greek blue sky.

Last edited by yflyer; 28th September 2017 at 01:38 PM..
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Old 21st September 2017, 11:07 PM   #107
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For our last dinner in Athens, we took a stroll from the Hilton to restaurant Vassilenas, which I had booked online prior to departing for our trip.

This is actually the oldest restaurant in Athens, established in 1920, and had recently moved from their original location in Piraeus, near the port, to a quiet neighbourhood just walking distance from the Hilton.



The restaurant now serves what it terms modern Greek cuisine in a very fine setting. While modern, we found that the flavours were still rooted in tradition, and that the restaurant still sees itself as something of a Greek culinary ambassador.

Vassilenas offers a signature 7 course degustation/tasting menu for 40 Euros, and an accompanying wine pairing for 20 Euros.



The quality of cuisine and service was exceptional, and so was the sommelier, as well as the selection of paired wines to accompany our meal.

This was stupendous value for money!

There is also an a-la carte menu, but the degustation menu looked irresistable.

Bread and olive oil to start.



The selection of Greek wines that came paired with our courses was a revelation: Mrs yflyer and I were stunned by the quality of the wines we tasted -- why are Greek wines not better known?

We were bowled over from the very first glass...a white wine named "Tear of the Pine" from Kechris, made from the Retsina grape varietal -- one we had not heard of before...



This was a crisp and zesty white wine, with a very rich bouquet...



A creamy Taramosalata (Fish roe spread) as a first course...



...and then a rich fish soup, made with brown grouper, which had a very refined, rounded flavour...



The next white wine was a Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko 2016, made from the white Athiri grape...



This was a very balanced, yet powerful white wine...I couldn't get enough of this wine...



...I later learnt that Domaine Sigalas was one of the most well known wineries on Santorini...right under our noses when we were there, in Oia, although we didn't know it at the time!

We had the Assyrtiko with the next two courses...

First, a prawn and amberjack tartar...the fish and prawn combination had a wonderful texture, and tasted of the sea...



And then, a crisp, hot, cod fritter...served on a bed of cabbage and garlic salad...


Last edited by yflyer; 22nd September 2017 at 09:28 AM..
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Old 21st September 2017, 11:38 PM   #108
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Our next wine was a Rosť wine from Troupis Winery, made from the Moschofilero grape...



This was a light, and slightly sweet, accompaniment to a wonderful prawn orzo risotto, which had incredible mouthfeel and a rich umami flavour...



And finally, a very tender and tasty beef skirt...satisfying...



...accompanied by a single vineyard red wine from Lyrarakis' Plakoura vineyard in Crete...



...a deep oaky wine, made from the Mandilaria grape - Another Greek varietal we had never heard of...



We ended our meal with dessert...



...and Samos Vin Doux Grand Cru, a sweet wine made from white muscat...




Mrs yflyer asked our warm and knowledgeable sommelier why Greek wines were not so well known in other parts of the world...she replied that one reason could be that the supply of Greek wines, especially the best ones, was very limited, and a lot it was sold in Greece for domestic consumption. She was a young sommelier who was deeply passionate about Greek wine, and had the gift of being able to explain just enough about the history and nature of the wine to get you interested in it and appreciate its taste...



We ended the meal with one macaroon each...one had already been eaten before I remembered to take a photo...all that wine was starting to make me light headed...



An exceptional meal, one of the most wholly satisfying dinners on our trip.

Last edited by yflyer; 23rd September 2017 at 09:40 AM..
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Old 21st September 2017, 11:44 PM   #109
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Back in our hotel room at the Hilton, I opened the curtains and stood in the balcony...



...and took a long final look at the Acropolis, far in the distance, with the Parthenon bathed in the glow of orange lights...



The next morning, we checked out headed to ATH for our first Scoot long haul economy class experience...

To be continued!
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Old 23rd September 2017, 09:54 AM   #110
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Once again we took the metro to the airport. Evangelismos metro station is a short 300m walk from the Hilton Athens.

At the station, we bought tickets for the metro line 3, which goes to/from the airport.



The new ticketing system is based on a contactless system, not unlike our Singapore farecards, although they also issue one-trip paper tickets that can be read by the contactless readers.

One-way tickets to the airport are EUR 10, although if you are a party of two or three, you should choose "Athens & Airport, 2", which gives you 2 tickets for EUR18, or "Athens & Airport, 3" (EUR24 for 3 tickets).



Don't forget to validate your paper ticket by tapping it on the contactless readers on the turnstile...



Note that not all trains on metro line 3 go all the way to the airport. It is important to look at the signs to ensure the train goes all the way to the airport. The airport trains run every 30 minutes. From ATH airport to the city, they leave on the hour and 30 min past. Obviously from the city to the airport, the timing will vary depending on which station you are leaving from. A useful guide to metro departure timings to the airport from each station in the city can be found here or here.



A pleasant 45 train ride later, we arrived at the metro station opposite the airport. We crossed the bridge to the airport terminal, and strolled along the driveway to Entrance 4, at the far end of the terminal, where Scoot, and the other Star Alliance carriers were clustered.


Last edited by yflyer; 23rd September 2017 at 10:21 AM..
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Old 23rd September 2017, 10:29 AM   #111
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The departure terminal is large and spacious, with a lot of shops and F&B, and quite a straightforward workflow. It is busy though, so go early.



The Scoot check-in counter. At 9.45am, there was a shortish queue for our flight TR701, departing at 11.30am.



The lone ScootBiz / priority counter had just one couple waiting to check in.

The queues at security / immigration were a lot longer. We decided to skip the landside F&B and go straight through security.

There was F&B and shopping airside as well, but the selection of F&B was a lot more limited compared to the airside area, and the airside F&B queues were fairly long, so I would recommend eating in the airside area if you get to the airport early enough.



There was a wine bar close the Scoot departure gates that would have been great for a last taste of Greek wine (Although 10am might be a little early in the day for that...)

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Old 23rd September 2017, 10:43 AM   #112
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At the gate, 9V-OFI, "Mous-Scoot-ka" once again, the same 787-8 that flew us to Athens 8 days ago...



The tech crew were already in the cockpit doing their pre-flight checks...



On time boarding...



This was a very full flight...not something I expected based on the ATH-SIN pricing on the website, or the seat selection seat map, which showed many empty seats in the run-up to the departure date.

In retrospect, I think the fact that the seatmap showed many available seats for selection was more a function of the fact that it costs extra to choose a seat. Many fliers simply did not choose seats, and left Scoot to allocate them.

The regular Y seats in the 3-3-3 cabin have plain blue cloth upholstery...



Regular seats have decent seat pitch, with no IFE and therefore no IFE boxes taking up precious underseat space...



The premium seats, such as emex row seats, or extra legroom / quiet zone seats have yellow patterned blue upholstery, and cost extra to sit there. The cabin crew took great pains to announce at the start of the flight that pax were only allowed to sit on these yellow seats if you paid to upgrade to those seats (Or ScootBiz), and pax were offered the option to upgrade onboard as well by paying the charge to cabin crew -- an offer some pax did take up.


Last edited by yflyer; 24th September 2017 at 05:29 PM..
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Old 23rd September 2017, 11:21 AM   #113
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Electronically dimmed window shades for the window seats...





The regular Y seats have decent recline...



Seat controls on the top of the armrest...not the best position for seat controls as you can inadvertantly press them while resting your arm o them...



The armrests go all the way up...



Underseat power with universal sockets (including UK 3-pin)...



...although unlike in ScootBiz, you actually have to pay (SGD11 on this flight) to have A/C power turned on...



Large overhead compartments...


Last edited by yflyer; 23rd September 2017 at 03:25 PM..
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Old 23rd September 2017, 11:34 AM   #114
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Our push-back was delayed almost an hour because of paperwork issues, possibly related to flight plan or ATC clearance, but the Captain kept us in the loop on status each step of the way. Eventually it was time to go.

Manual safety demo before take-off...a rare treat these days!



A powerful take-off, quieter than a 77W even when seated in the rear of the Y cabin...



We had a cheerful, engaging pilot on this flight, who once again introduced the cabin crew as "Scooties", and took the time to highlight upcoming landmarks along our flightpath in his announcements...

As we climbed towards cruising altitude, the seatbelt signs went off, and the pilot announced that we would soon be overflying the distinctively shaped island of Santorini...

I left my seat and headed to the windows in the last row of the plane (The last pair of seats were considered preferred seats, and were empty), and peered out the starboard side...soon Santorini came into view...



Oia and Thirasia...



The central volcanic island, as well as the towns of Fira and Imerovigli, with Skaros Rock also visible...



...and Santorini's airport, which we had just flown out of the day before...


Last edited by yflyer; 23rd September 2017 at 05:30 PM..
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Old 23rd September 2017, 03:56 PM   #115
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After take-off, Mrs yflyer and I settled into our seats in the middle bank of three seats towards the rear of the plane.

Cabin service began with catering, starting first with pre-orders, before moving onto buy-on-board.



Each seat pocket came with a large, Scoot menu booklet, outlining the catering options available across Scoot's route network...



I browsed the menu, getting hungrier and hungrier as I turned the pages and took in the glossy photos of the food selections available...

The menu began with hot meals...





Then light meals...



Cup noodles...



Snacks...





Drinks...



Liquor...



Pre-order combos (Which must be ordered in advance)...



Premium selections...



In all, a comprehensive and impressive F&B selection. Unfortunately it turns out that all those selections mentioned so far were only available on Scoot's regional network, and not on long haul services such as SIN-ATH-SIN.

For the long haul sector, only a small subset of these selections was offered, and this was outlined on 2 pages at the end of the menu. I wish they had mentioned this at the start of the menu, instead of getting my hopes up for a big feast.

Last edited by yflyer; 23rd September 2017 at 04:07 PM..
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Old 23rd September 2017, 03:56 PM   #116
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All the same, the long haul selections were quite decent, if not quite as comprehensive as their regional network catering.

Long haul meals...



Long haul snacks and beverages...



I believe there is scope to enhance the long haul F&B options on Scoot, to bring them to a level closer to what Scoot offers on their regional network.
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Old 23rd September 2017, 04:06 PM   #117
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We had pre-ordered the long haul meal package when we booked our flights, this consisted of a hot meal + beverage as the first meal service, and then a snack towards the middle/end of the flight.

There were two choices of hot meal: we had one of each.

The hot meal tray as served, comprising Greek salad, hot main, cheese, a fruit dessert, and a plastic cup of water. You also had your choice of soft drink to accompany the meal.



The Greek salad, which came with a small sachet of dressing...



The first hot meal choice was moussaka, made with minced beef and eggplant...



This was quite delicious...



Fruit for dessert...



The other choice of main was chicken in a tomato-based gravy, with orzo pasta...



This was also a tasty choice.

Overall, this first meal service was more than satisfactory. Mrs yflyer and I both enjoyed our meals. Hopefully as Scoot grows their long haul network and works out how to cater a broader selection out of more far flung stations, we will see additional meal choices and BOB items added to close the gap between Scoot's long haul catering and their excellent regional catering.
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Old 23rd September 2017, 04:32 PM   #118
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Although we were on a plane on our way home, there was one more sight to see, at least from high up at cruising altitude...

"Ladies and gentlemen...in few minutes we will be flying over Cairo...", the pilot announced on the PA...

"You may be able to see the Pyramids, either on the right side or the left side of the aircraft"...

Left OR right? Which was it? The pilot didn't say. I left my seat and headed to the rear of the plane, on the starboard side, where the last row of 2 seaters remained empty. 50-50 odds weren't bad...

But where were they? We were at cruising altitude and the Egyptian landscape below was vast...

On an EK A380 flight between DXB and BCN last year, in 2016, I took pictures of the Suez Canal as we overflew Egypt...I am sure the aircraft flew close to Cairo back then too, and my face was plastered against the window looking at the ground below, but try as I might, I simply could not locate any landmarks of Cairo, much less the Pyramids. While the long Suez Canal was impossible to miss, I had no idea what the Pyramids would look like from 35,000 feet. And today, on Scoot, I still had no idea...

With the telephoto zoom lens of my Olympus E-P2, I took pictures of any interesting landmarks I saw below...



When I compared this photo with Google Maps later, I found that this was Warraq Al Hadar Island, which sits in the middle of the Nile river...

But up till that point, no Pyramids...

In the row ahead, another passenger had paid onboard to upgrade to one of the preferred 2-seaters -- he now had both to himself, and he was now also scanning the landscape below...

"Do you know where the Pyramids are?"

"I don't know. I don't see them. I've been to Cairo and visited the Pyramids. The city is below, we may have passed them..."



But just then, as we peered out the window, up ahead I could see the dark urban landscape give way to light brown desert...and nestled clearly in the flat brown desert patch, were several dark geometric specks...

"Look! Up ahead! The Pyramids! There they are!"



The picture above is pretty much what the Pyramids looked like when peering out the window...

I zoomed in for a closer shot...bingo!



With the Micro 4:3 150mm lens (Equivalent to a 300mm lens on a 35mm SLR camera), the great Pyramids of Giza, with their geometric surfaces, were clearly visible...

The Sphinx is apparently in the picture too, although only as a blurry speck, with its features not visible.

Thank goodness I had my zoom lens with me. I took a photo with my iPhone 6 Plus as well. With an iPhone, from cruising altitude, the highest resolution photo of the Pyramids was this one below...



For reference, this was the flightradar24 track of our flight...


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Old 23rd September 2017, 04:59 PM   #119
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What was the passenger experience in this 9-abreast 3-3-3 economy cabin?

This was the Y cabin, which was fairly full on this flight...



This was not the first time I had flown a 787 in economy on a long haul flight. I had previously done SIN-SFO-SIN non stop on UA's 787-9's in economy and survived to tell the tale...

But I am not a fan of 9-abreast Dreamliner Y cabins on full service carriers. They are noticeably more cramped than 9-abreast 77W's, 10-abreast A380 main decks, and also 9-abreast A350's.



But that said, for the price paid, I believe 9-abreast Y on an LCC like Scoot is a reasonable seating plan, especially since, in terms of seat width and pitch, the cabin on this Scoot 787 felt, subjectively, the about same as the 787 economy cabin on full service carriers I have flown to date, such as UA, NH and AI as well as QR, and preferable to a 10-abreast 777 cabin, which many full service carriers are adopting.



In other words, Scoot's Y is a strong offering -- you are not losing anything in seat comfort compared to what many full service carriers offer in Y today on the Dreamliner.

And if flying Scoot long haul, there are a few other strategies to make your flight more comfortable although they involve forking out some cash.

For Mrs yflyer and I, our seats were in the middle bank of 3 Y seats,. We both had aisle seats, with an empty seat between us at the time of seat selection. But would it remain empty when we embarked on the flight?

There was a way to stack the odds, and keep that seat empty, for a fee: Scoot has an innovative "Max Your Space" upsell option. If you are in a seat with either one or 2 empty seats next to you, you can request, for a fee, to keep that seat empty: SGD79 for a single empty seat on SIN-ATH (Prices vary depending on route), and about double that for 2 empty seats. Between 6-12 hours of the flight, Scoot will inform you if this was successful, and only then would your credit card be charged. I requested an empty seat between us, and received an email prior to our flight that our request was accepted.

Having a row of 3 seats for the 2 of us made a world of difference in comfort and privacy. This made this daytime flight quite a comfortable one.

Another thing I noticed as well as that many of the yellow seats in the front section of the Y cabin, whether "ScootInSilence" child free zone, or extra legroom "super" seats, were not occupied, unlike the regular Y cabin, which was quite full. You had to pay extra to sit there, but if you did, and the other seats next to you were empty, you were free to stretch out on them, and many of the ScootInSilence pax on this flight were stretched out on 3 seats, with the armrests up. Something to consider when you book this sector.

Last edited by yflyer; 20th October 2017 at 04:07 PM..
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Old 23rd September 2017, 05:09 PM   #120
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After the meal service, the cabin quietened down as passengers darkened their window shades and settled in for the flight...



What was there to do onboard? Movies and TV, streamed onto your notebook PC, tablet or smart phone, were available for a fee...







...and paid wifi was also available. You could buy wifi onboard, or buy it in advance (In which case your password was emailed to you before the flight...)



I purchased internet in advance...



...which I could switch between notebook computer and phone as needed (But not both at the same time...)...



There is no Airshow on this aircraft, and no inflight map that I could find on the Scoot inflight web page, so I had to resort to flightradar24.com to figure out where I was enroute...

And as mentioned, if you needed A/C power, you had to pay, so keep your credit card handy throughout the flight...
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