We’re always looking to introduce new voices on The Milelion, and we’ve got an aspiring guestwriter in Sam. Over the next few days and weeks, we’ll be publishing Sam’s flight reviews and adventures bit by bit. Please let us know what you think in the comments, especially if you’d like to read more!
Singapore to South, East and West Africa: Trip Planning
Singapore Airlines A350 Business Class SIN-JNB
South African Airways Baobab Lounge JNB
South African Airways A320-200 Business Class JNB-EBB
Air France A330 Business Class ACC-CDG
Air France La Premiere Lounge CDG
Air France 777W First Class (La Premiere) CDG-SIN
My A330 Business Class experience to CDG had been deeply underwhelming so I was hoping that AF would step it up a bit.
It was about a 10 minute drive to the Lounge, during which my escort made polite conversation.
There was bottled water in the car, and the seat had all manner of adjustments and air vents – very pleasant and a massive overkill considering the distance covered.
There was an X-Ray and passport check at ground level, after which I was escorted into the lift that took us up to the lounge.
My first thought upon entering the lounge was that it was busier than I expected. There were perhaps 20 people milling around and getting breakfast. It turns out that this was one of the few ‘rush hours’ in the day. The other ones seemed to occur at about 12pm and 3pm. Beyond that I had the lounge largely to myself and even when there were others around, it didn’t feel full.
As you enter all your food options are immediately to the right. There’s also an old jambon carving machine which is a fairly good declaration of culinary intent.
There are pre-plated options cheeses and cold meats here, and more options on the menus on the table.
The seating is fairly open, with some restaurant style tables laid closer to the food, and then various types of lounge seating as you get further away.
It’s a very open space, but it is possible to get some more secluded seating.
The bar is adjoined to the main lounge area, but recessed and darkened (presumably to enforce the idea that it’s 7pm somewhere in the world so you should probably have a drink).
If you walk through the main lounge area, you get to something like a roundabout,
with working space on the right,
and the showers, bathrooms and rest area down a corridor to the left.
The showers have all the usual trappings (dressing gowns, fluffy towels, slippers etc.) and are quite spacious. All the toiletries are from a company called Biologique Recherche and were pleasing to use.
The rest area was also very pleasant, with a choice between recliners and flat beds with adjustable lighting. It was almost eerily quiet here.
Actual (non-plastic) flower decorations are scattered throughout the lounge which were a nice touch.
Past the showers there’s a spa. You’re entitled to a 20 minute session for free, and there’s a menu of additional treatments that they can do.
It’s hard to describe the lounge décor. Some will tell you it’s visionary and the pinnacle of understated elegance. Others call it a glorified waiting room. Personally, I was a fan. There were small touches and features that exuded a sense of comfort without having to be baroque. They’ve also managed to give it some character, so it’s not as sterile as, say, Al Mourjan.
There appears to be a commitment to design that trumps practicality, like in this lightshade feature:
And what could be more opulent than a chair that can’t be sat in?
Now I know what you’re thinking. If you’ve got a long wait in CDG, and like food, why on earth are you eating in an airport lounge when some of the world’s best restaurants are just down the road? The answer is simple – I didn’t have a visa to get in to France and getting one would have meant leaving my passport at the embassy for longer than I had time to before the trip started.
I had 3 meals in in my ~12 hours in the lounge, starting with breakfast.
I started with some juice – it was fresh and…juicy.
And then opted for some poached eggs
and cured meat
and comte cheese
The breakfast was actually a little underwhelming – the poached eggs on toast were precisely that, eggs on some toast (no butter etc.) Perhaps there was an option for something more complex like Eggs Benedict, but I didn’t see it. The cheese and cold meat portions were comically large. I suspect that the cold meats were just one plate of each kind from the self-serve area.
While the toast that came with my eggs was eminently forgettable, there was also a selection of bread and it was much better. I believe the butter is in a Le Cresuset dish too which is a nice touch.
The espresso was pretty watery, and service was ok, but missing details. For example, I was only given one knife (no butter knife). The comical portions of cheese and meat and underwhelming eggs left me feeling that it was a pretty mediocre breakfast.
Lunch on the other hand, was fantastic. Having done what I needed to do work wise after breakfast, I was committed to a leisurely lunch. The menu read as follows:
There were also some options at the self-serve area.
I asked the waitress what she recommended, and went with her choice of elbow pasta with ham and black truffle
And the veal ‘special’.
In the spirit of a leisurely lunch, I asked for a tasting pour of both champagnes. I know startlingly little about wine and champagne, but really enjoyed the Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs.
I was suggested to pair the veal with a Saint-Julien which I really enjoyed. It was a new experience for me to have all the earthy, complex flavours of a Bordeaux in a light bodied red. My little experience with heavy-hitting reds is that the punchy, full body and earthy flavours feel like getting kerb-stomped into the steps of a catacomb. You may be surprised to hear this isn’t really my thing.
Special mention should be made to the teatime selection. By this stage I was rather full, but with a firm resolve to try as many different things in an unwavering commitment to you, the reader. To aid my cause, I opted for some mint tea. The self-serve section had again been revamped and was now fully of fanciful sweet things that accompany tea.
I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but decided I’d try a “Paris-Brest”. It was incredible. So much so that I immediately went back for another, laying waste to plans of gastronomic restraint before the flight.
Invigorated by the sugar high, I went to explore the bar. I say explore but I was only interested in the whisky, perhaps it was more of a colonisation effort.
There was a great offering of whisky, and the hardest part was balancing variety of whiskies sampled, and, well, balancing (and remaining upright). As I’d already taken any sentiments of ‘paiseh’ out back and shot them long ago, I opted for the following six.
I kept meticulous tasting notes (“the Glenlivet 18 was obscenely rich and smooth, with strong sweet notes on the nose, it’s like being run over by a sherry fuelled Rolls Royce while running through hardening toffee”) – leave a comment if you’d like more details on any of them.
I went for a stroll around the terminal to see if there was anything of interest in duty free. I ended up panic buying a huge amount of cheese and saucisson, a decision I didn’t regret despite the noxious odour of my wares.
The service in the lounge was exceptionally good. I was generally left to my own devices unless I asked for something which was swiftly dealt with. They also went above and beyond – for example, I needed an adapter to plug my computer into the power points. When the found out they didn’t have a UK adapter, someone went downstairs to buy one. Similarly, at a later stage while I was browsing the reading material someone came up and asked if there was anything specific I was looking for. I asked if they had the Economist and they didn’t but sent someone downstairs to buy the latest copy. I really enjoyed that the staff were adequately empowered to be able to go beyond the call of duty like that.
It was then back to the lounge for a shower, and one last meal before boarding. Unbelievably, despite a 12 hour layover, I was in a bit of a rush. Fortunately the menu was the same (and incidentally this waitress also recommended the pasta– not sure if they are pushed to suggest it?) I opted for a croque-vollaile because I am a simple person and believe that if you melt cheese and truffles with anything, it’s probably going to be good.
After my croque-vollaile, I was escorted downstairs to another BMW 7 series and my on-board La Premiere experience was about to begin!