10/14/10

Eating On The Air & On The Ground



My journey back to New York began with a breakfast at the hotel. Our new Pinay friend Editha was there, overseeing meal operation since early in the morning. Kudos to her and her staff, Mercure Hotel's buffet spread didn't disappoint in this most important meal of the day. We helped ourselves to a plateful of pastries, cheese and some cold meat, gulped down by a glassful of mixed fruit juice. Editha  later on came to our table with steaming cups of cappuccino which really helped perk us up - this on a long day of travel.
 

From the hotel, we walked the short distance to Jerozolimskie - one of Warsaw's major thoroughfares - and boarded the local bus no.175 which goes directly to the airport. Named after Poland's pride Frederyk Chopin, Lotnisko Chopina w Warszawie (or Warsaw Chopin Airport) doesn't have the bells and whistles of the big guys, i.e. Amsterdam's Schipol, Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok, Singapore's Changi or Dubai Airport, but it's still an efficiently-run airport given its size. They have a decent Duty Free where I bought last minute souvenir shirts (Chopin, what else?) for some friends back home. Another ride on a bus brought us finally to our waiting British Airways A320 parked on a remote stand.


Our departure on this mid-morning flight to London was on the dot. Flying time was about two hours and a half. As soon as we reached cruising altitude, flight attendants came down the aisle pushing their trolleys and offering us refreshments - a tuna sandwich which came with a small can of diet Coke. It was not only scrumptious but a guilt-free healthy food.


London's Heathrow is notorious for bottlenecks not just on the ground but up on the air. Just as we were on our final descent, the captain nonchalantly announced a delay in arrival due to heavy traffic. In aviation parlance, this is called a holding pattern. Our plane merely flew in circles above like a  hawk stalking its prey on the ground. Outside my window, I was excited to see other planes on a stacking order, a KLM Boeing 737 and a Pakistan Airlines Boeing 777. My visual delight came at a cost - we touched down almost an hour late.


Erwin, my travel buddy who lives in London, was determined to treat me to lunch in his neighborhood  fave: Nando's. With still enough time to spare despite our delayed arrival, we hurried out of Heathrow via  London Underground's Piccadily line, really the cheapest way to go to downtown. After dropping off his bags in his cubicle/apartment, we walked to this restaurant that specializes in chicken with Portuguese/African flavor. We ordered its trademark dish, the Peri-Peri Chicken (flame-grilled after being marinated) and a bowl of chicken livers. I don't know what's with the sauce that marinated the chicken but it truly was delightful, with every juicy bit an exclamation point. I wasn't too fond with the chicken livers since they were too mushy after drowning in gravy. Little did I know, Nando's is actually a chain that operates in 28 countries.


Had our plane from Warsaw not been delayed, I would have had time to revisit some spots in the city. Much as I was hoping to at least do a quick photo shoot, there were major subway changes that afternoon which further derailed whatever intentions I had. After bidding Erwin goodbye and thanking him for the lunch, it was time to catch the subway again, back to Heathrow Airport. My American Airlines flight to New York will be leaving in less than two hours. Thankfully, my bag has been checked-through from Warsaw all the way to JFK so all I had with me was my daypack and my onward boarding pass.


A Boeing 777 big bird was bringing me back to the Big Apple. As it was dinner time after our unremarkable take-off, matronly American Airlines flight attendants paraded down the aisle with their trolleys. First came the drinks and some packet of nuts. About half an hour later (and after that whiff of "something's being re-heated in the galley"), they came back offering us a choice of two dinner entrees - in my case, some pasta. Nothing spectacular.



The lackluster meal took a backseat as my gaze wandered off and into the western horizon where the sun has just hidden. Crossing the Pond - the Atlantic ocean, that is - is about seven hours but that's nothing compared to the 16 hours I spend flying nonstop to Hong Kong from JFK. With little else to do, I fiddled with the diminutive backseat TV screen and watched a movie until I dozed off for an hour or so.


About an hour before arrival, the flight attendants came back with boxes of personal-sized pizzas for everyone. New York, with all the Italian immigrants that came before me, has a long love affair with pizza. There's probably a pizza parlor in almost every block of Manhattan. But this plumpy in-flight piece, baked somewhere in one of Heathrow's kitchens, does not give pizza-savvy New Yorkers a smile wide enough to mean "this is really good!". I didn't finish it. My thin crust pizza is waiting in my neighborhood.

20 comments:

  1. wow! You boarded the Triple Seven,Boeing 777! Nice! The food looks yummy though kahet pa it's "nothing spectacular" for you at d mu xa naubos,perhaps because you're just so good in taking photos so they look so delectable even if they're not so good.:D Pero kung ganyan ang mga food sa airlines ng Pinas, I'd prefer that rather than the cheap snacks being served to us! :D

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  2. fantastic photos while waiting to land at heathrow...

    Btw, Australia is one of the 28 countries in Nando's books...it's the take-away choice for my family when i'm not in the mood to cook...

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  3. Ah, of course, if you have better pizza in your neighborhood, why eat that crap? Interestingly, researchers seem to make the connection between white noise and perceived tastefulness of food. Check this article from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11525897

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  4. Same thing happened to us on our local flight here two years ago, the FA announced that we will be landing in 30 minutes but it took us almost two hours to land. There was an accident in the airport's runway. The feeling of floating in the air in circles and the fear of eventually losing the plane's fuel made me palpitate. Nightmare.

    And the air traffic, I always noticed that. The thought of colliding with another plane. It's scary.

    Cute diet coke in can. Really, that small? Hope it's available here in Pinas. That pizza and that sandwich, wow!

    Love reading this entry. :)

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  5. Aaack! Seeing planes while you're flying is awesome AND freaky at the same time.

    I was talking to a friend about airplane food, and we were both wondering why a lot of people are complaining how crappy they are, when most of the food we've tried weren't so bad. Her only terrible experience with airline food was with Northwest, while I've only flown with Asian carriers. So our theory is, Asian airlines have better food than say, North American airlines. What say you, Mr. NomadicPinoy?

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  6. havent seen a plane while flying.. ano kaya feeling nun?

    ^nina,
    probably sanay kasi tayong walang food sa flight. low cost! hihi

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  7. never had pizza up there, how did that go?

    i've never really had a good meal on the plane either. but i always get excited when the crew start feeding us, i can't wait for the meal to come even though i know i was going to whine about how bad it would be :D

    what's next?

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  8. Chyng: Oh, but I've tried pretty good airline food that actually taste like food! Of course, I automatically lower my expectations when it comes to airline food, but yeah, I've eaten some pretty memorable (in a good way) meals in the past couple of years.

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  9. thepinaysolobackpacker,
    Mga international flights of "full service airlines" lang serves meals these days, not yung mga "low cost carriers". Even domestic flights in the US doesn't offer free food anymore (except for beverage and those in first class).

    The Beancounter,
    I did check their website, meron din pala sa US but I will have to travel all the way to Washington DC just to eat Nando's chicken again.

    Linguist-in-Waiting,
    Very interesting research indeed! Just saw the same tonight in NBC News. This info could also be valuable to restaurateurs in their quest to make food really taste good - by lowering noise levels inside their restaurants perhaps.

    Rizalenio,
    I do have the same feeling with planes colliding *gasp* There's been plenty of near mishaps even in the New York area due to congestion. Even with radars tracking flights, the humans monitoring them can be so stressed out and easily distracted.
    That can of Coke is really very small - kiddie size

    Nina,
    There are some factors and one I'd just found out - and as Linguist above pointed out - is the level of engine noise passengers are subjected to which distracts taste perception. It also depends on where the food is prepared - most of the time, the hub kitchen of an airline comes out with better tasting meal than from the kitchen of its destination airport. It's also worth noting that inflight meals are heavily seasoned since our taste buds aren't that sensitive in the dry cabin environment (Imagine taking home that meal and eating it later - it's gonna be saltier or sweeter than usual!).
    In my flying experience on coach - considering those factors - I've mostly enjoyed the consistent quality of some Asian & Middle Eastern carriers over North American airlines.

    Chyng,
    alam mo, ang feeling ko para akong bata na aliw na aliw kasi nakikita ko pero when it's totally dark outside and I know na we are on a "holding pattern" above the airport na-pa-praning na ako :)

    Photo Cache,
    as one friend said to me, "I like being surprised with what they serve" - it adds to the experience, di ba? I'll be going south next Friday.

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  10. Yay! Nando's! Nakakain na ko diyan pero sa KL naman!

    I love your 2nd to the last photo! Ang ganda ng pagka blue! :)

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  11. Arceli AlegadṐ6:39:00 AM

    i so love Nando's peri-peri chicken. i dont think there's a week that I dont eat one. :)

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  12. as always, your posts are such a nice read! lurrrve reading them!

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  13. Looks like non-stop eating trip !
    I like travelling but I start to hate the flights in airplanes...

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  14. The shots from the plane were like a beautiful quilt, with earth tones and all that. :)

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  15. princess_dyanie,
    Masarap nga yung chicken sa Nando's. How I wish meron din nito sa NY!

    Arceli AlegadṐ,
    I'm hankering for it but there's no branch in NY :( I would have to travel all the way to Washington DC para lang kay Peri-Peri chicken!

    RV Escat,
    thanks for taking time to read - a bit long as I had a long day :)

    Sidney,
    I know you'll say how you hate flying hahaha!

    witsandnuts,
    That's true - that's what we don't see on the ground.

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  16. isa sa pinakapaborito kong makita habang nasa eroplano ay yung makita din ang isang eroplano habang nasa himpapawid.

    laki ng sandwich parang di ko maubos yan.

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  17. sarap naman ng nando's! first time i've tasted it was back in 2005 in auckland, nz. we have to try it here in penang; dami din nila branches dito.

    photos of those yummies really stimulate my gastric juices on a monday morning at my work desk. have to grab something to munch....

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  18. i never noticed the view of the grounds was like that hovering above heathrow....

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  19. Dong,
    Basta ba nakikita ang plane ayos na ayos pero pag gabi at alam kung busy ang himpapawid, kinakabahan na ako.

    Docgelo,
    buti pa dyan sa Penang meron branch. In the US, the closest branch to NY is Washington DC pa!

    Lechua,
    the grounds you're looking at is still many miles away from the Heathrow's runways.

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