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Sunday, May 01, 2011

France/Spain 2011 - Day 1 - KL LCCT-Paris-Strasbourg

"Imagine what it would be like if TV actually were good. It would be the end of everything we know." - Marvin Minsky


France/Spain 2011
Day 1 - 17th March - KL LCCT-Paris-Strasbourg

I flew from Singapore to KL to Paris via AirAsia. The return ticket cost me $773 (all-in except for Paris-KL food as I refused to pay 50 ringgit for Nasi Lemak) on promo in November. On the downside I had more than 8 hours to kill at LCCT on the way there.

While AirAsia is one of the few good things to come out of Malaysia, they screwup sometimes too:

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Seat ad for in-flight mobile phone usage

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Sign proclaiming that you can't use your phone during the flight

One nice thing about going to Malaysia is learning wonderful new words in Bahasa:

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"celcom sukses" - I think this is pronounced "celcom sucks"

In the immigration form for Malaysia you can state your occupation as "housewife" (too bad for househusbands). And the purpose of your visit can be "incentive travel". At first I thought this had something to do with the corruption Malaysia is so famous for.

As I had almost 9 hours to kill, I was going to have a snack (and caffeine) at McDonald's to keep me going. I didn't want to sleep as I was following my jetlag amelioration strategy - to try to shift into the desired timezone before landing. So since France and Spain were 7 hours behind Singapore/Malaysia, staying awake until I boarded the plane at 9am would work.

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Unfortunately the whole terminal was closed for a few hours for fumigation. GAH.

With my jetlag amelioration strategy in danger of failing, I found a "food garden" a ways off from the terminal. Unfortunately the roti canai stall had closed down, but I didn manage to buy a teh tarik.

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The lousiest Macaroons I've ever seen

Later I hit a significant life milestone: when an Indian boy's change rolled under my backpack, he said "excuse me Uncle..."

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Coklat Celebration

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"Vacancy wanted. Promoter & Cashier"
I feel sorry for the existing Promoter & Cashier

There was an Iranian lady who I lent a power adaptor to - because she thought the power plugs in Malaysia were the same as in Iran. Duh.

At KL LCCT, I was asked to buy some Sat Kek Mah. I already had 2.8kg of duck eggs (20 century eggs and 6 salted duck eggs) and a tin of matcha powder, which I was going to have to lug around Europe. This was very irritating.

Boarding the plane, I was pleased to discover that the seats reclined. Indeed, except for the lack of free entertainment and that food and amenities had to be paid for, it was more or less identical to a regular airline.

Interestingly, the stewardesses on the flight to Paris did their hair up. Maybe it was an long distance route thing, since on the Asian flights I'd been on they all let their hair down.

The flight to Paris was one of the coldest flights I could recall. Doubtless this was a devious plot to sell you their convenience packs (because blankets were not free). The added benefit was that it was cheaper for them as they didn't need to warm up the outside air pumped into the cabin as much.

The achar in AirAsia's briyani is disgusting - like cardboard.

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I have my doubts about AirAsia's food - somehow their Kung Pao dishes are not spicy at all (and according to the spiciness key contain no chilis - even though the description of the Kung Pao Chicken mentions dried chilis and that of the Kung Pao Tofu mentions chilis), while even BBQ Chicken is mildly spicy.

You might notice a preponderance of Chicken on the menu. So did I. So I did a full count of the menu, and most of the dishes used chicken as their meat (except for "Pizza Bake" on the kids menu where I could not tell the meat used - but it's a good bet it was chicken too).

More specifically, of the 14 x 2 x 2 meal items (14 rows, in and out of KL, and 'Western' vs 'Asian'), only 4 were non-chicken:

1) "Beer Barg with Saffron Rice" (Tehran)
2) "Beef Stir-fry with Saffron Rice" (Tehran)
3) Australian Roast Lamb (from Australia)
4) Roast Lamb with Kumara Mash (from Christchurch)

Perhaps Ayamas is a key shareholder in AirAsia and the chicken all comes from them.

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The "Western" menu for trips to/from Paris was unique - none of those items could be found on the other routes. I was amused that they had the decency to call their Chicken Cordon Bleu stuffed with turkey slices, "French inspired". However, this ignored the bigger problem with their Chicken Cordon Bleu - it's actually American and not French.

Also notice that unlike other airlines, which cater from the place they fly from, AirAsia seems to fly food from KL to Paris-Orly for the Paris-Orly to KL flights (they also fly their mineral water - presumably because generic French mineral water is not Halal). No wonder Nasi Lemak costs 50 ringgit!

Interestingly AirAsia has a corporate culture executive. Who is called Yvonne Lady Diana John Brian Anthony. Who is female despite half her names being male.

CHM ad: "London - an arguably desired destination". Way to go, whoever wrote that copy!

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As you can see AirAsia still has problems with their geography after 2 years (see: Jogja post for May 2009).

Mistake seen earlier are that Northern Ireland still does not exist and country borders are still not fully drawn. However I think they got rid of the Middle East and East Indonesia, forestalling the problems I'd previously pointed out.

AirAsia may be the world's best low cost airline, but certainly their geography is still FAIL.

This was my first time in Orly. I found it more agreeable than Charles de Gaulle, and nearer to the city to boot.

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Halal Foie Gras. Notice the Halal premium - a 210g bloc goes for 31€, versus 28,9€ for a normal bloc.

Another nice thing about Orly was that there was a La Durée, which Shengfeng had recommended I visit.

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La Durée cart in the Domestic terminal.

They were perhaps the most expensive macarons in Paris, if not the world, at 1 for 1,6€ (and 80€ per kg). A box of 30-32 cost 49,7€. For the smallest box (a Reglette Napoléon of 4) one had to pay 7,90€ - there was a 1,50€ premium for the coffret (box). So I just got a paper packet.

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Man choosing macarons

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Macaron selection

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"Maison fondée en 1862" ("Since 1862")

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Vanille, Fleur d'Oranger, Citron, Praliné noisette (Vanilla, Orange Blossom, Lemon, Hazelnut Praline)

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Fleur d'Oranger

Expensive though they were, the macarons were excellent. Orange blossom tasted like what you'd imagine a Body Shop orange shower gel would taste like if it tasted like it smelled. Actually it was better - it reminded me of the Orange Blossom De Tuinen shower gel from the Netherlands.

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Saveurs d'Auvergne ("Flavours of Auvergne")
Gourmet vegetables and groceries in a major train station. Mmm.

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Gare de l'Est (East Railway Station)

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"Pokémon ils sont partout !" ("Pokémon, they're everywhere!")

Since I had a few hours to kill before taking my TGV train to Strasbourg, I went to stone in a McDonalds, which had power and wifi. Perhaps I was getting old, but then it was getting dark, I had a backback and my train was in just over 2 hours.

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They were out of the shake, which I wanted to try ("recette victim de son succès" - "the recipe, a victim of its success"), so I had the 1,95€ wrap ("le p'tit wrap ranch").

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Menu at "le bistro lorrain". Pas authentique ! Why is there spaghetti with chorizo, and "tagliatelles alla Bombay"??? Also I have my suspicions about "pizza" from Lorraine.

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A French brasserie at night. Amusingly ALL of them on the terrace were facing the street, and had turned their chairs to do so.

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"Femmes de Dictateur"
I think there's some wordplay here, given the title "Femmes de Dictateur" ("Dictatorial Women", I think) vs "Femmes des Dictateurs" ("Women of the Dictators").

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007 Gear

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"Paul: Patisseries extra fine. Maison de Qualité fondée en 1889"
Now that Mirabelle has closed down I must go to France for good Croissants. Well actually the croissant I had wasn't very good, but it was 8pm.

I noticed that the Stressdoron homeopathic medicine had alcohol in it. No wonder it worked.

It'd been a while (3 years) since I'd been on a high speed train, but at night they weren't so fun as you couldn't see the terrain speeding by. The gentle rocking of the train lulled me to sleep - either a failure of my jetlag avoidance strategy or a symptom of advancing age.

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Palais de Justice, Strasbourg

There was to be a Janacek opera in April. I wonder if the music would've been alright.

At my Strasbourg hostel the lift was spoilt, so I had to walk up to the 4th (5th) storey. And the wifi was down to boot. Gah.
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