WASHINGTON, October 18, 2017 – When you plan international travel to Europe, it is not the same as traveling domestic. There are many details you can control to make your journey an exciting part of your trip.
First, your journey to an international destination can mean a full day or night in the air. If you have a seven-day vacation planned, you will spend two days traveling by air. Your airline choices should be a big part of that fantasy vacation you have saved for.
International travel turns your smartphone from a convenience to a necessity. Most phone companies offer international travel plans; call your provider.
Then as you are making your plans, create a password-protected file on your phone that includes a copy of your driver’s license, passport, and itinerary with all relevant phone numbers.
Add an “ICE”, in case of emergency, contact to your phone’s contacts .
Download a GPS travel app, like WAZE. In Venice, WAZE maneuvered the maze of canals and bridges. In Managua, Nicaragua, WAZE was able to find addresses in a city that does not have many street names.
Loading some basic phrases, hello, thank you, where can I find the museum and the ubiquitous “Where can I find a toilet” into your smartphone can be very helpful. Thanks to Internet-based translators, there is an app for that. Just search “travel translator” in the App Store on your smartphone. Be aware that few people want a smartphone shoved in their face. Learn the phrases, and then offer the small courtesy of asking.
Once you are checked into your hotel, take a picture of the hotel, the address, and phone number of the hotel and have it available on your smartphone. To be able to say “Ciao, puoi dirmi come trovare questo hotel?” (“Hello, can you tell me how to find this hotel?”) then showing the picture and address, can be very helpful. Include a photo of what may be a notable landmark.
Traveling through international airports and train stations is not difficult. Being gracious and kind can usually get you the help you need. In addition to your well-stocked smartphone, patience and not running late are the two best tools you can carry on your international trip.
On a recent short-haul Air France flight from Marco Polo Airport in Venice to Charles De Gaulle, France the smaller, congested airport with many cruise travelers with massive baggage, made it very confusing for some of the international travelers.
Despite the airport chaos and communication barriers, a deep breath, a bit of patience and frequent smiles, getting checked in and to the right gate was not difficult. Here you will enjoy one of the biggest differences between domestic U.S. travel and international.
Once at the gate, you are greeted with a welcoming smile. Once seated you are treated as a guest, a friend. A partner that is valued.
Flying on KLM from Dulles Airport, Virginia, transferring at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to a flight to Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport was twice as nice as expected. Seating in coach for both legs of the journey to Italy, the incredibly friendly faces of the international travel flight crew make the flight tedium easier to bear.
Reasonably sized seats and legroom are welcome on the nearly eight-hour flight, but the largest difference between domestic and international flights is how international flight crews are invested in your comfort and your safety.
The most obvious difference is that for international crews the “job” is treated as a career. Pride in a job well done is obvious. On that recent KLM flight, the crew helped new parents with an infant get a seat that would allow for use of a very ingenious “cradle” so that they, and baby, could get a little sleep on the overnight flight. to assisting a young man, feeling the ill effects of air travel; quite simply they exhibited that they cared. Even in
The able crew was quick to assist a young man, feeling the ill effects of air travel; quite simply they exhibited that they cared. Even in economy.
Flight’s heading East over “the pond” often leave at night so travelers should prepare for sleeping, watching movies on your personal monitor, and a parade of food. A small flight bag with clean socks, a toothbrush, and toothpaste, night mask, earplugs, and gum or mints can make a huge difference. What you don’t need to bring is food; you will be fed well.
On the flight to Amsterdam on KLM, a “Tasty Blue” hot dinner meal and breakfast are served. Both are tasty and, most importantly, served with a smile. If you need more, another dessert or beverage, just ask. If you want to upgrade your meal, visit the airline’s website and review their food menu when you book your ticket.
Foodservice begins with a hot towel to wipe your face and hands before the aperitif and nuts, an hors-d’oeuvre choice and meal choice that includes fresh bread, butter, and cheese. On longer flights, you can anticipate two meals. Heading east, with an evening departure, that would be dinner and then, before landing breakfast.
Between meals, you can ask for snacks, ice cream or a sandwich. All airlines are able to meet most reasonable food requests, including vegetarian and Kosher meals.
Standard food alternatives include:
- a low-salt meal, suitable for people suffering from certain heart, kidney or endocrine diseases,
- meal whose sugar, salt or fat content is suitable for people with diabetes,
- a gluten-free meal,
- a low-calorie meal with no sauce, or
- an allergen-free meal*.
Continental breakfast will include juice, yogurt, coffee or tea and a pastry.
On Air France, who merged with KLM in 2004, complimentary wine and champagne are offered to passengers in all cabins. Amenities in the washrooms are upgraded and asking for another beverage is met with a smile.
Air France, most likely thanks to its Francophile background, offers cuisine rich ala-carte menus in both Economy and Premium Economy as an alternative to the standard in-flight menu offer. Again, check the Air France website for food alternatives and any additional costs.
On long-haul flights, Air France offers that day’s menu, at no extra charge for all destinations and travel classes, and those standard meals are delicious.
Hot and cold beverages, with or without alcohol, are also available.
Far from the dry sandwich wrapped in foiled paper, economy fare on Air France offers a surprisingly delicious dining option.
According to Ghislaine Van Branteghem, Air France’s catering product manager for long-haul flights, Air France seeks to provide all passengers a quality dining experience.
“For the creation of the economy class trays, we privilege the ‘French touch’ and the nutritional aspect of the meals,” Chef Van Branteghem says. “We make sure to offer our passengers healthy French-style meals (starter, main dish, cheese, and dessert). We work mainly on the freshness for the starters which are generally raw vegetables. The vinaigrette can be fruity or slightly pronounced (curry).
“For the main dish, we want to offer our passengers greedy and easily identifiable meals. Considering the number of passengers and our international customers, our meal choices (Starter, main dish, cheese, and dessert) must please the greatest number of them. Also, our customers can spoil themselves by purchasing our ‘Menu à la carte’ on Air France’s website.”
One of the A la Carte options, available for an additional charge, is the Le Marche de Jean Imbert plates. Designed by Jean Imbert, a rising star in French cuisine and the 2012 winner of the French TV show Top Chef, its a chance to dine with a certain Je ne sais quoi. Imbert trained under Michelin rated culinary powerhouse Chef Paul Bocuse.
For foodies, or just those that enjoy food, these food options mean the ability enjoy a new taste while treating the biggest part of your journey, your airline travel, as a part of your once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Dining at 39,000 feet with Michelin Chef Daniel Boulud
Daniel Boulud is a French chef and restaurateur with restaurants in New York City, Washington D.C., Las Vegas, Palm Beach, Miami, Montreal, Toronto, London, Singapore, and Boston.
He is best known for Daniel, his eponymous, Michelin 2-star restaurant in New York City. In addition to Daniel, Boulud also owns DB Brasserie, Café Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne, Bar Boulud, and Boulud Sud in New York City.
Chef Boulud has created numerous award-winning concepts around the globe and is one the French chef’s creating incredible plates for Air France Business and Premier travelers that are completed by French production wines chosen by Paolo Basso, named the 2013 Best Sommelier of the World (Meilleur Sollelier Du Monde 2013).
Impressed by the quality of the plates that were as fresh and delicious as though they came from his award-winning kitchen, not the galley of an airplane cruising at 39,000 ft, meant finding out just how chefs work with Air France to create culinary magic.
CDN: Is there one menu you have created that has stood out as a favorite?
Chef Boulud: I love the chicken dish we have on the menu at Boulud Sud, so when it came to do a chicken dish on board, we thought a tagine would be a great combination of something soulful and spicy that is delicate and powerful at the same time. A well-seasoned meal is always more satisfying on board than a tasteless, uninspired dish.
CDN: You are creating plates that will be loaded onto an airplane but that will taste fresh and just made hours later. What do you look for in your recipes to keep them fresh throughout the flight?
Chef Boulud: The process was first to understand from the catering companies making the dishes what is possible in the air. We start with a long list of ideas and edit down to what is possible, keeping in mind the process for preparing and packaging the food, and how to maintain freshness and brightness in the dishes. We discussed the accessibility of high-quality ingredients and the challenges of cooking in the air.
We toured their facilities to see what goes into the creation and preparation of on-board dishes and taste what they are already doing. For our dish with zucchini, we had thought it was going to be easier to roast it, but we saw the caterers grilling vegetables and having a lot of success with that technique which they had already perfected. We realized that they had already mastered this technique, so we modified our recipe to take advantage, and are using grilled zucchini.
For all the dishes we developed, I was very careful to choose recipes that would retain their integrity and flavor when prepared at altitude. The idea is not to take a dish from my restaurant and make it on the plane; the goal is to apply my expertise in cooking in the best way possible to the constraints at hand.
CDN: How are you able to create delicious meals that have such a unique delivery method?
Chef Boulud: The experience designing onboard meals has made me think more and examine more closely the other food I have had in-flight since we began developing menus with Air France. I have seen dishes served on board and think, for instance, “It was a mistake for the chef to choose this because it doesn’t hold up under reheating.” This attention to detail also helped me pick the right dishes for Air France.
To achieve excellence on board we have to simplify, but not compromise on quality. A dish doesn’t have to be overly complicated to work. The cleaner and more defined it is, the more satisfying it can be.
We worked with the Air France caterers closely to teach their chef teams how we wanted our dishes to be executed. In my restaurants, a dish will be prepared from start to finish to order. Here, certain steps have to be completed ahead and (the foods) reheated.
CDN: Each of the entree dishes is a complex layering of herbs and proteins. What is your inspiration for the hot dishes?
Chef Boulud: I have always loved to travel, and I believe Air France passengers share that passion with me, so for the dishes I created, I took inspiration from my travels around the globe, which you can see in dishes such as Provençal lamb, or Moroccan chicken tagine with lemon and cauliflower; or Atlantic lobster tail with curried coconut sauce, black rice and bok choy.
This is also how I create the menus in my restaurants. Of course, I am French so there is always a thread of French cuisine carried throughout the menus in all my restaurants, but at Boulud Sud we also highlight Mediterranean dishes, with many grilled proteins and vegetables, and seasonings common to North Africa, southern Europe, Turkey, Greece, the Middle East, etc.; whereas at DBGB Kitchen & Bar, which is known for our selection of burgers, bangers, and craft beers, we have dishes inspired also by my travels, including the Thai Dog that is a pork sausage made with ginger, lemongrass, curry, kaffir lime, and red chili, which a trip to Thailand inspired.
And at Café Boulud, we have always had a section on the menu called Le Voyage which explores and celebrates global cuisines.
Editors Note: None of the flights this writer enjoyed were complimentary, though a space-available upgrade to Business Class was offered by Air France for the return flight.