Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Airline Seats Part 2, also Sorrento

As promised, here's an update on airline seats to cover AF business class. To my surprise, my flight from Paris to San Francisco was a 747, not the Airbus 340 I was expecting. It looked as though it was seriously overdue for a refit, so maybe the 340s are different. This is the first time I've flown AF long haul in five years. The good news: they no longer have the tiny and exceedingly uncomfortable footrest. The not-so-good news: they don't have a footrest at all. Every reclining seat I've ever flown on, even long before lay-flat, has had a fold-out footrest at the bottom of the extending leg-rest. Not this one though. It really wasn't very comfortable for sitting reading. I wonder why they did it this way.

The entertainment system was seriously out of date, a flashback to the 1990s. No video-on-demand, just a handful of movies running at fixed times. No audio-on-demand either. And everything looked kind of old and tired. It was a surprise, because the KLM 777 I flew on to Europe was much better - and it's the same company now.

On the other hand, the food and wine were excellent. This is where AF really excel, even in economy. The champagne was excellent, and they had an excellent Crozes-Hermitage as well to accompany the lamb main course I chose. AF serves a second meal just before arriving, a proper cooked meal and not the greasy sandwiches that BA serves.

The reason I travelled was to join my wife in Sorrento, Italy where she was attending a conference. And then we stopped in Nice on the way back as well. Sorrento was just wonderful. I think this must be the perfect time of year to go there. The weather was perfect, warm but not too hot. And the traffic was perfectly reasonable. We got round to Positano, Amalfi and Ravello all in one day, and it only took us just over an hour to drive all the way back from Ravello. In summer the narrow, twisting coast road must be a nightmare. The SITA long-distance buses make it more exciting - the drivers operate on a "take no prisoners" basis and assume that hooting just before a bend will ensure that there is no traffic just around it. We did get into one formidable tangle, caused by a driver who wouldn't go ahead through an easy gap and caused a deadlock with a bus, not helped by people pulling out to pass the blocked traffic then getting blocked themselves. The summer must be continuously like this. Ouch.

The best restaurant we found in Sorrento was L'Antica Trattoria. We did eat at the "best restaurant in town", Il Bucco. It was a good meal, but disappointing considering the price. And we ate "authentic" pizza in Naples. Our first attempt was a serious disappointment, a tourist rip-off place on a main square when the place we'd selected from the guide turned out to be a real dive. But the second attempt, Pizzeria Brandi - one of the oldest in the city - was a great success. Though still not as good, in our opinion, as Pizza Cresci on the waterfront in Cannes (and also in Nice).

The picture is the view from our hotel room, at dusk - a perfect view over the Bay of Naples to Vesuvius and to Naples itself. Many more pictures on Flickr.

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