I left off last week from Paris. From there I made the mistake of taking a taxi to the CDG airport—can you believe it cost 72 euros (US$104)?! Next time I will take the train.

CDG Airport
It seems everyone is always throwing the Charles de Gaulle Airport (website) under the bus, but I love it. Maybe it’s because I don’t live there and I have a fascination with France, but I usually get goose bumps traveling in and out of CDG. In the old terminal I love the Jetson’s design of its escalators and moving walkways, and in the new terminal I just love the design.

Lufthansa Business Class Lounge
Since I was invited to partake in Lufthansa‘s inaugural A380 Frankfurt to San Francisco (SFO) flight, they bought me a business-class ticket to Germany and to California. With a business-class ticket comes lounge access–well, not really for me since my ticket was free, but I talked my way into the lounge. In Paris, Lufthansa’s lounge is on the ground floor and is super clean. There are some free snacks, drinks, and a variety of seating, but no windows. What’s a bummer is they don’t have free Wi-Fi, and since you are in a dead zone you can’t even access the airport’s Internet, which is free for 15 minutes. But fortunately I have a Boingo account, which worked like a charm.

Food on Lufthansa
What’s amazing is that when I checked in I asked the agent if business class gets food on the flight, and she scoffed with a smile and said, Everyone gets food on Lufthansa’s flights. How awesome is that? Note: She then told me there are a couple of really short flights, like Frankfurt to Dusseldorf, that don’t have food.

Paris to Frankfurt
The flight to Frankfurt is only 45 minutes, and the business-class seats are really coach seats except they block the middle so you have plenty of space and there’s extra legroom. Sure enough right after takeoff the seat-belt sign went off, and the flight attendants came down the aisles with food and drink. I had a medley of king prawn confit with bell pepper salad and sesame seeds, poultry rissole with sesame oil dressing and fresh chives, Asian vegetable salad with water chestnuts and fresh coriander, as well as sesame mousse Gugelhupf with mango sauce and strawberry puree. Umm mmm! By the time I was done we were on our descent, and I was daydreaming about the German countryside.

 Sheraton Frankfurt Hotel
I came in a day earlier than the rest of the travel writers who were only going to be in town for 24 hours. Since all of our meetings were at the airport, Lufthansa booked us in the Frankfurt Sheraton Airport Hotel. I had stayed here once before so I knew my way around. What’s convenient is that it’s literally across the street from the airport. What’s crazy is that it was 80 degrees outside and the bridgeway to the hotel was super hot–I’m talking like a sauna. Why can’t they crack a window or put some a/c on?

My Room at the Sheraton Frankfurt Hotel
The Sheraton Frankfurt Hotel is huge! It has 1,008 guest rooms, 60 banquet rooms, a couple of bars, and two good-looking restaurants, one serving typical German specialties and the other your usual international culinary fare. My room was in an older tower so it wasn’t anything special, but it was clean (except for the soundproof windows) and comfortable. The walls weren’t that thick, but the bed, pillows, and comforter were to my liking, which was a pleasant surprise. FYI: The pillows were standard size, not bulky, and the comforter wasn’t heavy. There was a flat-screen plasma TV with satellite channels and expensive Wi-Fi (8 euros for an hour, 19 euros for 24 hours, or 57 euros for three days) to stay connected or relax. The only thing that didn’t work well was the water temp, which changed frequently. Other hotel amenities include a business center, small spa, and large workout facility. Rack rates begin at 150 euros a night. Sheraton Frankfurt Hotel & Towers, Conference Center, Hugo-Eckener-Ring 15, Rhein Main Airport, Frankfurt, Germany, Tel.: 49-69-69770.

An interesting observation: All the maids were male. I know this is standard in Arab countries, butFrankfurt?

Frankfurt Airport Grocery Store
Since I had a lot of work to do (being a travel writer isn’t always that glamorous), I didn’t have time to go into the city. So I planned to eat at one of the airport’s many restaurants. But first I asked the hotel receptionist where I could get some bottled water, and she said at the bar. I said, How about the inexpensive stuff, and she told me there’s a grocery store in the airport. Now that’s more like it.

I visited this hidden treasure four times in 40 hours, and let me tell you, it’s not that easy to find. I’m guessing the other airport shops must’ve put up a stink since their prices are so much lower. I paid just 69 eurocents (US$1) for a 1.5-liter bottle of Vittel water. They also had all kinds of great souvenir chocolates and candies to take home at more than reasonable prices.

Note: The store was hopping with flight attendants, pilots, and airport workers, so you know it’s the best deal in town. The best way to find it is to follow the signs to Hooters–it’s right across from it. Yes, can you believe FRA has a Hooters?! It must be because so many U.S. soldiers pass through.

The prices at the grocery store were so low that I decided to get dinner there–I bought a currywurst and a side of potatoes for 4.70 euros (US$6.64). When I paid with my Visa card, the cashier asked for my passport. I showed her my driver’s license instead and that worked. FYI: Currywurst is German fast food that’s made of hot pork sausage (Wurst) cut into slices and mixed with a tomato paste then seasoned with curry ketchup and curry powder.

Airport to Frankfurt City Center
A few of my friends were on the press trip: Chris McGinnis (@cjmcginnis), Brett Snyder (@CrankyFlier), and Stefanie Michaels (@AdventureGirl), and being the troopers that they are, they opted to sightsee instead of sleep after flying from California. We all met in the lobby and walked across the street to the airport, where you will find trains basically going everywhere. We took the one to the city center, which is only 7.5 miles (12.0 km) away; they depart pretty much every 20 minutes. The ride takes 15 minutes and costs 3.90 euros (US$5.51). Note you can buy your ticket from a machine before boarding, using euros or your credit card–if it has a chip in it–most American cards don’t, so get cash (there are plenty of ATMs, including one that has euros, pounds, and dollars). Too funny! Check out this hot dog vending machine I spotted in the train station.

Good To Know: They don’t sell tickets on the train, and no one checked to see if we had one, but if they do come by and you don’t have a ticket, you’ll get an on-the-spot fine.

Lunch in Frankfurt
We strolled down Biebergasse Street, which was full of locals. Brett and I decided to go to Schlemmermeyer, not only because the food looked darn good but because it had the longest line, so you know it has to be the place to eat. We both had the currywurst, which was darn good. We all then strolled down Zeil Street, which is Frankfurt’s most popular shopping area with a bunch of modern buildings including Galeria Kaufhof (a huge mall). Seeing them juxtaposed against a backdrop of historic buildings and churches is really something. We then walked along the Main River before heading back to the train station.

Did you know: Most ofFrankfurt was destroyed in World War II. Today, it’s a huge financial city. It has the world’s third-largest stock and foreign exchange market.

My Mom
I’ve only been to Frankfurt three times, and the first was with my mom in 1998, so it will always be special. Every time I go I seem to retrace our footsteps, and the memories start to come back. Thank you, God.

Lufthansa A380 Maintenance Hangar
At 4:30 p.m. we met our group in the hotel lobby and took a bus out to Lufthansa’s A380 maintenance hangar (15-minute ride). Brett and I both had the same expression when we walked through the hangar doors–wow. Seeing two A380s parked inside, and one outside, we were like kids in a candy store. We toured Wein (Vienna), which was going into service for the very first time the following day. Our plane was the one next to Wein, named Tokio (Tokyo). They name the A380s after cities they fly to and the airline’s hubs. FYI: Tokio already had 200 flights under its belt, which I found comforting.

A380 Facts
Lufthansa flies the A380 to five destinations worldwide from Frankfurt: Tokyo, Beijing, Johannesburg, New York (JFK), and San Francisco. And on June 10th they will begin service to Miami. In anticipation the Miami airport released these A380 facts, which I thought were fun and mind blowing.

-The Airbus A380 is a double-deck, wide-body, four-engine airliner–the largest passenger airliner in the world.
-It took seven years to develop at a cost of $8.9 billion. Each Airbus A380 costs over $300 million.
-First A380 went into service with Singapore Airlines in October 2007.
-It’s 237 ft. long (equal to two blue whales), 79 ft. high (five giraffes), has a 263-ft. wingspan (35 wedge-tail eagles), and weighs 1.3 million lbs. (165 elephants).
-The A380 has about 4 million parts produced by 1,500 companies from 30 countries.
-It has 330 miles of wiring, which would cover the distance between Frankfurt and Paris.
-It has a 40 percent higher takeoff weight than the 747-400, but it burns 12 percent less fuel per seat and it emits half the noise.
-The main deck on the A380 is 163 ft. long and the upper deck is 157 ft. long, each substantially longer than the distance covered by the Wright brothers in their first flight (120 ft.).

Lufthansa A380 Economy Class
To get up to the plane we had to climb a fairly steep set of stairs–if you don’t know, the A380 is the largest commercial aircraft and it has two full-length floors. Each airline designs the interiors differently, but Lufthansa makes the first floor all economy with 425 coach seats. They are configured in a 3-4-3 configuration with 94 rows. They made the seats using new composite materials so they are thinner and supposedly provide more space. The seat pitch is 31 inches and the width is 17 inches, so by the numbers it’s pretty much standard. What’s nice though is that each passenger has a video entertainment system with all kinds of options to cure boredom.

Lufthansa A380 Premium Classes
Upstairs on Lufthansa’s A380 are the premium classes: first and business. There are two staircases, one in the front and a windy one in the back. Neither are supposed to ever be accessed by passengers. The airline boards and deplanes the two floors using separate jetways–at least one for coach passengers and one for premium–so only flight attendants use the stairs.

Lufthansa A380 Business Class
In the business-class cabin there are 98 seats. Unfortunately, they are fitted with Lufthansa‘s older angled flat seats, which were the best when they came out but they are not any more. Lufthansa’s CEO, Carsten Spohr, was on our flight, and he acknowledged that they are no longer the leader in business-class seats but he said they are working on a new product that will be a leader, and it should debut when they get their 747-800. Business-class seats have a 10.6-inch entertainment system that has programming in 10 different languages and an electrical outlet. Note: Business class is configured 2-2-2 and the bathroom has amenities and a window.

Did You Know: Lufthansa is the launch customer for Boeing’s 747-800 plane? Actually the first eight are going to private families (I’m guessing Middle Eastern princes), but Lufthansa will be the first airline to get one.

Lufthansa A380 First Class
The first-class seats and cabin on Lufthansa‘s A380 really are innovative. There are just eight ergonomic true lie-flat seats that measure 6’9″ in length and 2’7″ in width. The cabin is configured 1-2-1, and what makes it seem like there’s even more room is there are no overhead bins. Instead each passenger is given a locker, like at a health spa, so they can change out of their street clothes and into comfortable flying suits (pajamas) that Lufthansa supplies. Don’t worry about having to be confined while changing–first class has two extra-large, luxurious bathrooms–one even has a urinal. If that’s not enough, there’s also an air-humidification system. It’s supposedly the first of its kind to be installed on a commercial aircraft, and it improves air humidity to help fight off jet lag. FYI: First-class customers also have access to closets to store their larger luggage.

Dinner at the Da Vinci House
After our tour we took a short bus ride to the Da Vinci House (website, where Lufthansa hosted a dinner. The house was originally created as a TV house for a talk show, since it had a great backdrop because it runs parallel to the runway. Talk about great plane spotting! The Da Vinci House is now owned by the airport and used as a VIP center. Just out back is an old sign for Rhein-Main Air Base, which was run by the United States Air Force–it’s no longer here, but they do have a couple of old fighter jets on display as monuments. For more info on the Da Vinci House (or haus), see this link.

Lufthansa First Class Terminal
After dinner we toured around the Lufthansa First-Class Terminal, which is a huge treat. Get this–they have a private terminal only used by around 200 passengers a day. Those passengers are obviously the airline’s best customers, because to get in you have to either be flying internationally in Lufthansa’s first class or be a member of their HON program, which means flying 600,000 actual air miles in two years. Yeah–that’s crazy. I fly half that, and I’m traveling constantly. But the benefits are huge–first of all, you can pull your car right up to the valet at the terminal. Then go through a private security screening, which never has a line, and then relax in their incredible lounge. They have all kinds of good food, snacks, drinks, newspapers, magazines and even a cigar bar. You can wash the smoke away in one of the plush bathrooms with showers with Etro toiletries. To top it off you get driven to your plane in a Porsche or Mercedes to board planeside at the very last minute. Wow! For more info, read Cranky’s in-depth account.

Frankfurt‘s Departure Board
I love daydreaming while staring at airport departure boards and monitors, but hands down my favorite is the one at Frankfurt’s Airport. Not only does it list a ton of flights to countless places I want to visit and go back to, but it’s made like one of the old train station departure boards so it makes that distinctive ticking noise as it magically and continuously updates.

Business Class Lounge
The big day arrived, and they had a small gate ceremony in the business-class lounge at 8:45 a.m. (an hour before departure). What’s unique about this lounge is that passengers (premium or members of the club) can board directly to the plane from the lounge by swiping their ticket through a subway-like gate reader. Very cool! When you step on the plane the flight attendants check your ticket and passport. BTW: The lounge is filled with all kinds of tasty treats and drinks and of course wonderful views.

Notes of Frankfurt to San Francisco on Lufthansa’s A380
Instead of giving you a play by play of the flight, I made a video of the journey and tour of the hangar. So check it out on the next page. In the meantime, here are my notes from the flight.

-Newspapers are in the gate area or lounge–they don’t pass them out on the plane, but they had magazines in shelves on the wall.
10 hours and 30 minutes was our scheduled flight time, which is about an hour quicker than normal thanks to favorable winds.
-In business class they have noise-canceling headphones that are attached to the headphone jack so you don’t have to fumble with the wire.
-There’s lots of storage for the window seats because there are bins attached to the wall.
-The bins above the window seats are not that big, but the ones over the center seats are oversized.
-The entertainment system has three live cameras so you can see what’s going on outside without opening the window shade. One points straight ahead, the other looks down, and the last, my favorite, gives a view from the tail.
-Each seat also has its own electrical outlet and USB port.
-My seatmate was the famous Chris McGinnis. We sat in 19A and B.
-The A380 is unbelievably quiet.
-The pilot turned the seat-belt sign off within 15 minutes, and he didn’t turn it back on again until we landed.
-Here’s a scan of the menu.
-They use carts to serve food and drinks.
-The food was really good, and I especially loved their pretzel bread.
Dessert was a surprise box filled with all kinds of delicious treats.
-To celebrate the special flight, they served what must be the best-tasting cake ever served on a plane.
-The only thing the flight attendants weren’t on the ball with was picking up trays. Instead of getting them when people finished, they waited to collect them all at once.
-They offered a wide selection of videos/music. To give you an idea, they had 19 comedies alone in the movie section. However, the TV shows don’t have multiple episodes like Cathay Pacific.
-When we landed at SFO we had a water-cannon salute, since it was the airport’s first-ever scheduled A380 service.
-I realized during the salute that it’s tough to see out of the forward windows since they are so deeply embedded.
-There were tons of media and airport workers taking photos of the plane, so we felt like rock stars. I later found out the airport even had a plane-spotting party parallel to the runway. How cool is that? What’s not cool is that we were so early we had to circle for 30 minutes so the media could get set up.
-According to Chris McGinnis, current round-trip coach fares between SFO and Frankfurt are in the $1,300 range for June trips.

Video of first-ever A380 service to San Francisco with Lufthansa

Here’s video of the two other A380 flights I’ve taken (Emirates and Qantas)

First-ever A380 service to San Francisco
There was no wait at passport control, since it was stocked with Border Patrol workers. I asked if it was like this all the time, because if so I would fly through SFO more often internationally. The agent said No, it’s just for this special occasion. Boo, SFO, but thanks for making our transfer so painless! Brett, Stephanie, and I then grabbed a new boarding pass, went through domestic security, and attended the gate party where San Francisco mayor Edwin M. Lee had one of his staffers officially declare May 10, 2011, as Lufthansa German Airlines Day. We then flew United Airlines (Lufthansa’s Star Alliance partner) down the coast to Los Angeles to complete an amazing journey that now seems like a dream.

Related links

I used my points from the best travel credit cards to fly first class
I used my points from the best travel credit cards to fly first class


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