100 years ago, when cars were as rare as hens teeth, it would be quite an adventure to travel 20 miles in a day maybe on foot, or if you was lucky, by horse and cart. Fast forward to today and modern day transportation is letting us travel farther and faster than ever before.
My ancestors would think me crazy if I were to announce that I was going to New Zealand for the day yet here I am in the Emirates business lounge waiting to board my same day return business class flight to Auckland! Along with a number of journalists and bloggers I relax and discuss the day ahead and the novelty of travelling to a different country, different time zone and different culture just for the day whilst enjoying the drinks and snacks on offer.
Before long we are invited to walk to the gate to board our A380 and I have the pleasure of heading to upper level for business class compared to my usual routing to economy. The upper floor of the Airbus aircraft is dedicated to business and first class seating only. Getting seated is a relaxing affair and I can’t help but notice the lack of pushing and shoving I am more familiar with. The laid-back nature of the flight starts to encompass me further as I take my seat. A massive TV screen is before me under which I can stretch my legs – yes – stretch them to their full extent. A side table, my own personal mini drinks bar and noise cancelling headset are all within easy reach and to top things off, the hostess approaches and invites me to a glass of Moet Chandon. Who am I to refuse?
Traditionally, as an economy flyer, it is hard to think of anything more luxurious than I am encountering however, Dani, our host for the day, invites me to take a look around the first class cabin, starting with the showers! Yes, that’s correct. You can now be moving through the air at 1,020 KPM, at 40,000 feet taking a shower.
At the front of the first class seating a vestibule, complete with a colourful water feature leads to the two shower spas that can be booked by first class passengers on boarding. The spacious shower room is well equipped from the heated flooring, products and fluffy towels, hair dryer and LCD screen keeping you updated on the progress of your flight (it will ensure you’re fully clothed by the time you get to your destination!). The Shower Spa experience is designed to last 20 minutes with the system giving you a set shower time. I can only imagine after sleeping on your totally flat bed and taking a shower you would arrive at your destination fresh as daisies and ready for whatever schedule lay ahead.
As inviting as the showers may seem, it is time for me to return to my seat and take in some of the 1,500 channels on the inflight entertainment system and also enjoy some breakfast. I choose the tasty apple, ricotta and raisin crepes served with stewed apricots and a caramel sauce. However, after the very early start and all the excitement of the morning, the entertainment system has to wait as I soon find myself asleep on the fully reclined seat.
Once safely on the ground in Auckland we swiftly make our way through customs and pay a flying visit (quite literally) to the nearest vineyard to the airport – Villa Maria. This multi-award winning winery is nestled in some beautiful scenery just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of aircraft. Founded in 1961 by Sir George Fistonich we were fortunate to be introduced to Sir George as we tasted a number of wines straight from the barrels. As we tour we learn how this innovative winery was amongst the first to initiated payment for grapes based on quality and also focus on the regional differences in grape quality and styles across the islands. Villa Maria was also one of the first to become a ‘cork-free zone’ in New Zealand choosing to use screw caps exclusively from 2002 onwards.
Of course, anyone can do wine tasting at ground level, the next part of the trip was to get back on board ready to take our wine tasting to a whole new level – 38,000 feet to be precise. Amongst our group we are very fortunate to have wine writer and critic Huon Hooke with us. Huon is one of Australia’s major wine writers and critics, Chair of the Vin de Champagne Awards, judge of the Australian Winemaker of the Year and a number of other major wine competitions and a down to earth chap who is generous in sharing his knowledge of all things viticulture.
Gathered around the bar towards the rear of business class Huon talked us through some of the wines from the extensive Emirates wine list. We was fortunate that this extended not only bottles from the business class menu but also first class. Huon explained the impact of consuming wine at altitude and how Emirates select wines specifically with this in mind. For instance, the dry humidity on aircraft can interfere with your mucus membrane altering the way you experience a wines bouquet. Fortunately the airbus A380 has higher humidity than some aircraft reducing this impact which not only makes your wine smell better, but also leads to a more comfortable flight. Stronger favours tend to be preferred by passengers (to help compensate for the reduced taste and door perceptions caused by reduced oxygen absorptions and the decreased humidity) and this guides Emirates wine selectors in their choice. We sampling included Dom Pérignon 2004, Malartic Lagraviere 2011, Savaterre Chardonnay 2010, Craggy Range Pinot Noir 2011 and Chateu Rauzan Gassies 2004 Margaux.
The wine tasting served as pre-dinner drinks and so we return to our seats for our food. I chose the delicate Salmon gravlax served with potatoes and charring mayonnaise salad followed by a tender grilled beef fillet with beef jus lie sauce served with route blue cheese, camera golden gratin, caramelised shallots and blanched vegetables. For dessert, being a chocoholic, I selected the Chocolate Delice with blackberry jelly.
Just as my last bite of chocolate delice dissolved in my mouth, the Captain announces we are on decent into Sydney. It is hard to believe the four hour flight is about to come to a conclusion. Yet, here I am preparing to disembark after nearly 8 hours of flying and just a few on the ground in Auckland. My ancestors would indeed be amazed at not only how far I have travelling in a day, but the levels of comfort enjoyed. A twenty mile journey by horse and cart 100 years ago would have to be endured where as today an 8 hour flight can actually be enjoyed.
Peter Harris (aka The Pom), originally from England, now resides in Australia. Pete enjoys travel in all its forms and best demonstrated through his mission to visit all the locations mentioned in the iconic Geoff Mack/Lucky Starr song, “I’ve been everywhere“, hence the name of his travel blog. Pete continues to travel afar.