Travel memories – Part Deux
Setting my plans to finally return back to Charleston from Asia, I made the decision to leave from Singapore to Seoul, Korea for an Anthony Bordain-style, 48 hours in the city.  After a Google search of “what to do in Seoul”, my last call to Global Alliance was made.  This is a great travel group as they get you the absolute best connections, seats and next available flights.  My agent noted my trip around the world to date and told me she was going to negotiate something fantastic for my return from Seoul to Atlanta, nonstop 21 hours, which she called a “special flight”.

She rang me that afternoon with my itinerary.  She was very excited to tell me I would be in “Level Two, Room Two, Front”.  This sounded interesting, but I had know idea what the 747 upstairs looked like, especially from the pre-9/11 days of simple elegance, inflight cooked meals, and real silverware and glassware. But not the advanced glamour or the new planes they have created.

My late night flight left at 2am local time…The Club Room for Korean Airlines approached Belle Époque, Mid-Century Fabulous.  New money usually spends well with a designer to make first impressions correctly, and this group literally threw money at style and quality.  The food was four-star, beautiful china, glassware, linens, unlimited levels of cocktails and all Western desired wines and liquors. The lighting was like landing in George Jetson’s living room on Hyde Park.  This was the First Class and Business Class lounge; full of east bound passengers, all either jet lagged from Western approach or half asleep having to wake up to go to sleep to awake again, to go asleep.  It’s a train wreck on the mind and body.  Not mine…

“Shaken, not stirred” was my motto for the midnight Asian dream palace where James Bond characters abound.  Indian dress, jet-set Palm Beach blazers with Lilly clad ladies, more Indian dress, and many Asian gentlemen dressed in the “up to the hour” tailored suits of distinction, headed to the US to buy up another company. Tom Ford would have been jealous.

A questionable number of martinis were served to me, along with tasteful graduated meals. This was to move the guests to light meals for your flight vs. a steak and lobster type situation.

I heard a typical Asian Zen bell chime, and my name announced to show myself to the hostess…I thought they were throwing me off the plane after just six martinis!!  But instead, the 18-24 people flying on Level Two were escorted to the plane by a lovely lady with her hair pulled back in “chop sticks”, an aqua and melon silk dress to the floor, more makeup than Vogue could ever imagine – totally breathless.  My small leather bag waIMG_5364s gratefully taken away from me by a male assistant in an all-black suit and aqua silk tie.

There actually is a separate entrance now for First Class passengers as well as a Second Floor on the brand new AIRBUS. An illuminated staircase led us from “downstairs” (Coach and Business) to “upstairs” – note the red velvet rope (Studio 54 comes to mind) to the fun and pleasures of the air. The staircase has motion detector sensors and as you climbed “the stairway to heaven”, the lights would illuminate and change color. Frank Sinatra was singing “Fly Me to the Moon” as I climbed those steps that I will never ever forget.

These planes have not sold exceptionally well as they are so expensive, but to the Middle East and Asia, it’s like “what’s the problem?”  They are mostly bespoke with the luxury of their choice…this was Dorchester in the Sky, Four Seasons, and George V…just pick one.  My seat actually wasn’t a seat, it was an entire room!  My “room” had a large flat screen TV and unlimited movies, internet, leather, walnut, pillow choices – anything that could be imagined but for a roommate!

IMG_5374Cocktails are naturally needed at 2:15am, but Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame is the flavor of this airline to serve in eggshell stemware, and in endless supplies.  My wonderful runway model, aka flight attendant, noted after leveling off, that “if I would like a shower, she would make sure I had an appointment”.  Also, she noted, “have I been to the lounge?” Yikes, I was missing a party?! And it was 10 feet from my cabin! Opening the door, there was a beautiful, low-lit leather clad club room with bottles of everything just sitting around. It was a Betty Ford dream…just sitting there with Frank Sinatra singing in surround sound, and no sounds whatsoever that you are in a plane. Just Frank, cocktails, nibbles, and peace at 40,000 feet.  After about 10 minutes sharing my joy of this surrounding with myself, a man strolled in and said, “Jeeeze…that’s a mob scene…those people are so fun!” Well it turns out the TWO story bar was in the back of the second floor and it was rocking.

My shoes whisked me off to the one-minute run to the party lounge.  To my amazement and to this second, I have never been so impressed.  Massive room for 15 people, stand up bar with full buffet, great piano jazz on the system, attended station with a lady carving tenderloin and making small sandwiches.  And drinks…it really was heaven in the sky.  The windows are quadruple the size of regular planes, and the finishes and the design was really a heart-stopping experience.  As we flew over the North Pole, or thereabouts, there was the “pole party” for the area where we crossed and naturally…more bubbles.  I think about 6am Korea time I sought out my shower.bourbon bar

The “dark liquor “bar downstairs that also had a library of books and mags for reading.  Note the spiral staircase to heaven…Private, all black granite floors and cabinets, hot water, walnut finishes and great towels. Toiletries of names I’ve never heard of but who could care? A large black granite shower in the sky, lit from the ceiling and floor, Heaven was near to me.

Departing this Mecca of pleasure was actually difficult. A million cocktails, three movies, six meals, two showers, two breakfasts, one confused visit to the “other bar” which was the bourbon and scotch bar and for some reason it was not busy.IMG_5389

Arriving in Atlanta 21 hours later, the door opened to reality, and I just wanted to run back to my seat, I mean “room” and have a fresh OJ and eggs over easy. Back to Jet Blue, cramped seats, no service, noise, no shower, no valet for luggage.  Ah, the real world.

This was one of my greatest blessings to have witnessed this flying piece of art and modern luxuries 40,000 feet up. It was one of the highlights of life’s experiences of joy, beauty, style, and luxury in the air.

Sent from Heaven,

Merrill