lundi 11 juillet 2016

LA HABANA, CUBA TO QUIBERON, FRANCE: NOT THE MOST DIRECT ROUTE: IN PICTURES

I am fond of trying circuitous routes to reach my destination, and I will document one such here: From Havana to Quiberon, in France.
If you want to go the shortest route, you could fly Air France one evening and reach Paris in the morning, and then take a train and with a change at Rennes, you could be in Quiberon by late afternoon, slightly over 12 hours including all forms of travel.
On this trip of mine, in which I discovered SERBIA on my way to France, talked about Gambia in New York and tasted wines that I couldn't pronounce the names of, and made a few friends (that certainly wouldnt have happened on Air France) took me nearly three days.. 1 30 pm on 7th July leaving Havana and arriving in Quiberon at 130 pm on 10th July. 
 the charter flights, which would be ending soon as commercial flights begin, arrive and depart from a run down shed of a terminal with very few amenities with some nostalgia for sale, is terminal 2 at Jose Marti International Airport. The scenes here are far more emotional than anywhere else, but since Obama Raul Pope reconciliation, there are fewer tears than before! and the welcome remain ebullient as ever 
These days I travel light, something I couldnt have imagined before. In the days of scarcity, I used to travel with at least 100 lbs of luggage but I am glad those days are a memory
 A cuban friend who works for the charter company made sure I had a nice seat but I really had to wait in line for nearly one hour, this kind of inefficiency would disappear when real American Airlines begin to fly here. Charter flights are not for the comfort of passengers it is mainly run for profit of the owners.
 there were thunderstorms from west to east, so the pilot has to circumvent a route, in fact he went west and found an opening to cut north. The normal 42 minute light lasted twice as long. But there is Global Entry and within minutes I was out of the arrival hall at Miami and hailing Uber. I saw that the lady driver, from New Jersey was being harassed by some security people at the airport. When would these taxi con men and their henchmen including the politicians know that Uber and other share drive platforms are here to stay?
 Arriving in Miami. My sister had left some Jamaican food which was welcome after the delayed flight. Early next morning, Lyft driver from Argentina drove me quickly back to the airport. We talked about Rock Music from Buenos Aires and I told him that I had seen Charley Garcia once in concert at the Teatro Colon
TSA pre check and within minutes at the Centurion Club at D 12. Warmly welcomed by familiar faces and had a chance to say hello to both Junior and Lily, a recent migrant from Cuba
 Chef Michele Bernstein's food without doubt is some of the best food one is offered at an airline lounge in America!
 The 767 had come in from Brasil and thus the First Class Cabin was fitted like an International Business Class. Enjoyed the nice seats.

 Miami is truly my North American home and I always feel a little sad to leave, even though I would be back in just over two weeks
 The food and wine choices on USA based airlines is nothing to rave about. The Gulf carrier on a 2 1/2 hour flight would have a five course meal. here it was potatoes and eggs with some meat (so unappealing and something not recommended)
 The flight from Miami, at times flies into the Atlantic and then makes landfall at North Carolina and go upwards. Because of the curvature of the earth, it is nice to observe the geography from above. the picture above is between Virginia and New Jersey, I guess
 It is the end of Long Island, just by looking at it I can feel that it might have been sacred to the local indians for hundreds of years before their fatal contact in 1492
 The flight coming into land at JFK International Airport at New York 

I went into the American Airlines Admirals Club while waiting to get a boarding pass so that I can use the Etihad Airlines Lounge used by Air Serbia
 Arielle at the reception of Etihad Club informed me that there was a special on Middle Eastern food  Falafel included. Since it is my genetic food I enjoyed it, I am not sure whether the Laurent Perrier Champagne that came with it is genetically suited to me
 The arabic coffee ice cream was recommended and I did enjoy it, with another flute of Laurent Perrier
 Time to make some new friends. Fatou is an university student from Gambia who speaks Mandinka, Wolof and English. She likes to become a Biologist. Yanet is of Peruvian ancestry and born in New York. She was surprised when I started talkin in Spanish, she said it is rarely the guests spoke to her in Spanish.
 Air Serbia Business Club. I was taking this route to experience this newly opened route less than two weeks ago between Belgrade and New York. It was a good decision as Serbia came as a Surprise!

 The champagne was GH Mumm
A totally new culinary experience: Serbian Cuisine, something I was looking forward to.
 Below is the FA, Tanja from Belgrade who had lived in New York and spoke very good English. She recommended the serbian dishes and wines.
 A littel bit of smoked salmon to whet the apetite
 Traditional Serbian Stew. I did not eat the meat as I was not sure what it was, tasted like Chicken. but the crust and the vegies were tasty
 A Shiraz from Serbia
 Sweets: had taste and texture of Middle East meets Russia, which kind of reflects Serbian History


I had a long layover at Belgrade. I used the Priority Pass to access the Business Lounge. I noticed how friendly the Serbians were. The men looked slavic and women definitely looked turkish or middle eastern. To a fault, they were all friendly and helpful.
this dish with rice and mushrooms was delicious.
This is the first time I have seen the livery of a plane belonging to Montenegro! I wonder where they fly to? obviously to Belgrade their neighbour. but looking up their route map, they do fly to London Paris Copenhagen Moscow St Petersburg Milan.. a busy little airline, I would say
the slavic side of Serbian cuisine
I tried this serbian white wine. a palate used to Marlborough valley sauvignon blanc, it is a bit thick and dull.
I am not a fan of Budget Airlines, but the best connection towards Quiberon whose nearest airport is two hours by car was on Vueling Airline, a spanish budget airline. The fact that the budget airlines are all full and people put up with the inconvenience of just about everything show their popularity. The only budget airline that I am fond of flying is Air Asia based in Kuala Lumpur, but it may have something to do with the fact that it is Malaysian
arrival in Barcelona close to midnight and the hotel shuttle did not arrive until 12 30 am. I have noticed that the people in general are not very happy looking and less friendly than I expected. Even with me speaking Spanish, i was not able to elicit much friendliness, but the driver of the shuttle was a funny guy. a nice little chat about what ordinary people think about immigrants especially from the Maghreb. The usual question: If they dont wish to assimilate why are they coming here?
A comfortable hotel just two km from the airport. The large bathtub was welcoming and a hot bath was relaxing
Early in the morning back to the airport, was able to use Pau Casals Lounge, nice coffee and croissant and left for the short flight to Nantes
Because it was school holidays both Barcelona and Nantes airports were very busy and crowded with confident teenagers
I was picked up at the airport and within two hours we were at Quiberon, around 130 pm, three days after I had left La Habana
but my taking a chance with Air Serbia gave me a nice gift: 
Serbia is a surprise..