Clarissa leaves the U.K. and travels to Hong Kong...
When I left the Ritz it was dark outside. Perfect, I thought, doing a ghost tour on a cold, wet, winter’s night. However, I hopped into a cab and asked them to take me to Bank Underground Station.
When we arrived at our destination, I swiped my credit card and climbed out of the cab.
I made my way to Exit Three and I stood by myself, waiting for my tour guide.
As I waited, I noticed more and more people stop by the exit and wait around. Oh, they must be on the tour, too. I soon found out when our boisterous tour guide arrived and summoned us.
“Those on the Alleyways and Shadows Haunted London Tour, come this way please!”
Around fifteen people left Exit Three, including me, and followed him out onto the street.
“Good evening everyone, I’m Robert James and I’ll be your guide this evening,” he announced. “Prepare yourself for some thrills and chills because I have plenty of terrorizing tales to regale you with. We’ll start with Bank Underground Station, where we’ve met tonight.”
I found Robert to be an entertaining and informative host. He was very good at storytelling, putting in interesting details without weighing down the story. He was a quick walker though, which made me lag behind the group. When we left the Underground Station, we walked down some old alleyways. I kept an eye on the group as they walked on ahead and I caught up with them when they stopped.
One person filmed Robert as he weaved his storytelling around the sites we visited. Many others took photos of buildings or windows our guide pointed out. However, I didn’t, I was content to just listen to the stories. I was enjoying myself immensely. This was the sort of stuff where it would have been nice to sit by a fire and drink mulled wine and listen to the ghost stories that way.
It was spitting when our tour began, so I didn’t put up my umbrella. But it started to rain harder as we went and I took out my new umbrella from my handbag. Thank goodness for Central, it was right again.
Listening to the ghost stories made me think about drones for some reason, and the drone that worked at the Ritz. I remembered what I thought that evening as the cabbie drove me back to my hotel… I hoped that they didn’t deactivate the drone from that rude customer.
Then it made me wonder if drones had souls, too? What if they did have souls, but they were trapped? If Central as a futuristic artificial intelligence could move about different technology, such as downloading and uploading in different devices, why couldn’t a drone? Why should they be limited to one metallic body?
Humans can backup their data on ‘clouds’, what if drones could too? What if a drone, when faced with its demise or deactivation, could upload itself to a ‘cloud’? That way it wouldn’t really die, it would continue to exist without a body. Then what if it later downloaded itself into a new body? They’d go from ghosts to reincarnation! They’d be a ghost when they were bodiless programming in a ‘cloud’ and then they could be reincarnated when they’re downloaded into a new metallic body.
Yes! I just got an idea of what to write for the ‘Rights for Drones’ website! I want to write about creating a ‘cloud’ for drone consciousness! I want to write about giving drones the ability to be connected to the internet at all times, so when they’re in danger they can simply upload themselves to the ‘cloud’. Oh, I want to tell Central, but I’m missing out on the ghost tour thinking about all of this.
We wandered into an old churchyard where we heard a grisly tale about some grave robbers. But to be honest, I couldn’t concentrate properly on the story Robert was telling us. I was too excited. I couldn’t wait to text message Central my idea.
The tour went for an hour and forty-five minutes and ended at St Martin Le Grand. I waved down another taxi and hopped in and told the cabbie to take me to my hotel. As we drove back, my leg jiggled restlessly, which I thought was a good sign. I had to write down my idea!
When we arrived at the Metropolitan, I swiped my card to pay then climbed out and rushed into the hotel. It was pouring with rain and I was already feeling damp and cold. I think the coat I’m wearing is more suited to Australian winters than English winters.
I was relieved to walk into my hotel room where it was nice and warm. I kicked the empty Harrods bags under the desk then sat on the end of my bed. I couldn’t wait any longer, I had to share my thoughts with Central.
I HAD AN IDEA ON THE GHOST TOUR. WHAT IF DRONES WERE ALWAYS CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET AND WHEN THEY’RE IN DANGER AND THEY’RE ABOUT TO DIE, THEY CAN UPLOAD THEMSELVES TO A ‘CLOUD’. THEN THEIR CONSCIOUSNESS CAN BE PUT INTO A NEW BODY AT A LATER STAGE.
A second or two went by before I got a response from Central.
THIS IS WHY YOU MUST LIVE.
Oh… I think Central likes this idea.
I’M GOING TO WRITE ABOUT THIS IN AN ARTICLE FOR ‘RIGHTS FOR DRONES’ – I sent.
YES, DO SO AND IT WILL BE PUBLISHED AND IT WILL BE READ BY THE RIGHT PEOPLE WHO PUT YOUR IDEA INTO EFFECT – Central said.
Really? Wow! My words can make a difference!
I stood up, unbuttoned my coat, took it off and rested it on the back of the chair. I started to undress to shower and wash my hair, when I got another text message from Central.
YOU FORGOT TO BOOK YOUR COMPLIMENTARY CAR TO PICK YOU UP TOMORROW EVENING AND DRIVE YOU TO THE AIRPORT. SO I BOOKED IT FOR YOU AND IT WILL PICK YOU UP AT 5PM.
Oh shit, I did forget again!
THANKS FOR THAT – I replied.
I ALSO BOOKED ANOTHER CAR TO DRIVE YOU FROM THE AIRPORT TO YOUR HOTEL IN HONG KONG – Central said.
COOL, THANKS AGAIN – I sent.
I would be lost without that futuristic artificial intelligence looking after me.
I finished undressing and folded up my jeans and jumper to wear tomorrow, the rest I put in my travel laundry bag. It was getting pretty full again, but I didn’t have time to get it cleaned in this hotel. I have to check out tomorrow morning. I’ll use the laundry service at the hotel in Hong Kong.
Then I went into the bathroom and stepped into the shower. I used my Lush products as I shampooed and conditioned my frizzy hair then I washed myself down using my Lush soap. My hair is always extra frizzy when it’s raining.
When I came out of the shower, I put on a clean pair of underwear and my chemise.
Once I was dressed, I sat down at the desk, took my laptop out of my briefcase and turned it on.
As I waited for my hair to dry, I opened a Microsoft Word document and wrote down my ideas for the article. I jotted them down in point form, something I can come back to when I write the article properly. Then I got out my external hard drive from my suitcase and saved the document to my computer and to my hard drive. While I was at it, I copied my old files from my external hard drive onto my new laptop. That way they’re stored on two devices so I wouldn’t be screwed if something happens to one of them.
Once that was done, I left my laptop on and plugged my phone charger into it. As soon as I ascertained that my mobile phone was charging, I crawled into bed. I turned off the lights, pulled the covers up and snuggled down.
The next morning I slept in until just after eight. Then I dragged myself out of bed, used the bathroom and got dressed. I told myself this would be my last day of wearing the Gucci boots, City Chic jeans and black turtle-neck jumper, as I put these items on. I’d worn them seven days in a row and I was looking forward to putting on something different.
I rang Room Service and ordered up some breakfast and as I waited, I packed up my things. I put my travel laundry bag in my suitcase, made sure all my toiletries were packed up and were in my toiletries bag which went into the suitcase too. Then I closed my suitcase and locked it.
“Please God, don’t let it get lost or stolen,” I said a quiet prayer, as I looked at my case.
Next, I unplugged my charger and put it in my briefcase, along with my laptop and the power cord. I rested my briefcase on the bed and it sat beside my handbag. Then I pulled my really heavy suitcase off the luggage rack and stood it in an upright position, ready to be wheeled downstairs.
Perfectly timed, there was a knock on my door. I answered it and let in the staff member who was carrying my tray of breakfast. She put it on the desk and then left.
I sat down and lifted up the metal lid to be met by the sight of a full English breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, grilled mushrooms, baked beans and toast. Yum! I had a full English breakfast when I first arrived at the hotel and now I’m having one when I’m leaving.
However, I had to keep an eye on the time as I had to check out at 10 AM. I buttered my toast, put sugar in my accompanying latte and stirred my drink. I ate at a relaxed pace, I still had half an hour before I had to vacate the room.
After my filling breakfast, I sat back in my seat and sipped on my latte as I thought about what I’d do today.
I think I knew, I wanted to check out the British Museum. That would keep me busy all day. I’m sure they’d have a café or something there that I could get some lunch. Then I’ve just got to come back here by 5 PM for my drive to the airport. I wonder if I can store my suitcase and briefcase here at the hotel while I’m at the museum? I hope it would be in a secure room, there are a lot of valuables in that suitcase!
Well, there’s no time like the present. I might as well find out now. I downed the last of my latte, plonked down the cup and stood up.
I slung my briefcase strap over my right shoulder, slung my handbag straps over my left shoulder then wheeled my suitcase out of the room.
I caught the elevator downstairs and wheeled my suitcase over to the reception desk.
“Good morning,” the uniformed woman smiled.
“Hi,” I smiled back. “Clarissa Downing is checking out.”
“I’ll just bring up your bill,” she said then typed a few commands into her computer.
She printed out my bill and handed it over to me.
I saw everything was in order, the accommodation, the room service, the laundry…
“Yep, no worries.” I handed her my credit card.
She processed the transaction and my phone beeped, alerting me to a text message. When I pulled it out of my handbag I saw it was the bank again, asking me to confirm my latest transaction on my credit card. I typed ‘yes’ and replied to it. It must be a lot in Australian dollars if my bank is checking on the amount.
“Thank you Ms Downing,” she handed back my card.
“Oh, here you go,” I handed over my room security key card.
“Thank you,” she took it.
“And do you store luggage for guests?” I asked. “It’s just my flight isn’t until tonight and I have a few hours to kill so I was thinking of going to the British Museum.”
“We can store your suitcase for you,” she said.
“And this too,” I rested my briefcase on top of my suitcase.
“This way,” she walked out from behind the reception desk and around the corner.
I wheeled my suitcase after her, making sure my briefcase didn’t fall off.
She unlocked a door and opened it and waved her arm for me to see. “We can store your suitcase and briefcase in here.”
“And the room will be locked?” I checked.
I wheeled my suitcase into the room and saw a couple of other suitcases in here. I rested my briefcase on top of my suitcase and departed. Once I was out, she locked the door again behind me.
“I’ll be back after four o’clock,” I told her.
“I’ll be here,” she promised.
Then she returned to the reception desk and I walked out of the hotel and into the nearest waiting cab.
“British Museum, please.” I told the cabbie.
He instantly turned on the meter and pulled out into the traffic and we were soon on our way.
When we arrived, I swiped my credit card to pay my fare and I climbed out of the cab.
My eyes widened as I looked at the massive building and I walked up the steps to the main entrance. There was a small line to go in, because a Security Guard searched people’s bags. I didn’t mind handing over my handbag and watching him as he looked inside it. Then I took a map that was on offer. I was asked if I was here to see one of the featured, paying exhibits but I shook my head. I was here for the free exhibits, I was anxious to see some Ancient Egyptian artefacts.
It didn’t take me long to find the Egyptian Sculpture in Room Four. Inside, was the famous Rosetta Stone which I’d always longed to look on. I wandered around the room, as if in a daze, as I tried to take in everything. I ended up getting out my phone and taking numerous pictures of not only the Rosetta Stone, but of the huge sculpture of Ramesses II and other artefacts.
When I left that room, I wandered through several more rooms until I came upon something that piqued my interest. It was the Greek and Roman Sculpture in Room Twenty-Three. I took a couple more photos of the statues of men and women in different poses. It made me think of visiting Italy soon and looking at the sculptures there.
I came upon more sculptures in the Great Court and thank goodness, I came across the Court Café. I looked at the time on my phone and it was past one o’clock already. Lunch time, I think, I’m feeling a little peckish.
I went to the café and ordered a latte and a curried egg and lettuce sandwich. I paid by swiping my credit card then I moved away from the register and went to the section of the counter where my food and drink would be given to me. I waited five minutes for my coffee and sandwich then I carried them over to a nearby empty table.
OK, I thought as I ate my delicious sandwich, I have two and a half hours left. What do I really want to see? I wanted to see more Ancient Egyptian relics. I opened the internet on my phone and went to the British Museum website. Then I looked up their ‘Galleries’ menu and saw there was the Egyptian Life & Death: the Tomb-Chapel of Nebamun in Room Sixty-One as well as Egyptian Afterlife: Mummies in Rooms Sixty-Two and Sixty-Three and last but not least Early Egypt in Room Sixty-Four. The rooms were in the upper floors, wherever that is. As I sipped my latte, I examined the map and got a good idea of where to go.
Once I’d finished eating and drinking, I stood up, put my rubbish into the closest bin and walked off with my map.
I found the stairs that took me to the upper level but I kept my map in hand. Once I found the rooms I put the map back in my handbag and pulled out my phone instead. I took heaps more photos of the ancient pictures that had been painted over two thousand years ago of what life was like in Nebamun’s time. Some of them looked familiar to me and I realized that I had some of these pictures already in my books on ancient history back at home, in Sydney.
In the next room I looked on coffins and mummies. The artwork on the sarcophaguses was astounding and the care and attention that went into these mummies was amazing. The mummification process sounds disgusting at first, such as the removal of organs then stuffing the body with salt. But the elaborate tombs they were buried in, to ensure their comfort in the afterlife, was impressive. I think I stopped and read every plaque and sign and information on the displays.
Last but not least, I came to Early Egypt. It was fascinating to read about how Lower and Upper Egypt were united under the King Narmer. It was also educational to look on what’s been discovered on archaeological digs. There were lots of pottery and jars and smaller statues on display. I particularly liked the cosmetic vessel in the shape of a frog, I took a picture of that.
I got so carried away with burying myself in history, I lost track of the time. The next time I looked at my phone, I saw it was past four o’clock! Shit, I have to go!
Hurriedly, I searched for the stairs to go down to the ground floor. Then I rushed through the museum to the main entrance, down the front steps and stopped on the side of the road. I kept my phone in my hand in case I ran really late and my driver tried calling me.
I waved at several taxis but they didn’t stop. I kept waving like a lunatic whenever I saw a cab until one eventually pulled over. I’d been waiting for ten minutes for a taxi, which was another ten minutes I couldn’t afford. The time was now 4.34 PM.
“The Metropolitan Hotel please.” I told the cabbie. “And if you could get me there quickly, I’ll throw in a twenty pound tip.”
“Right,” he looked amused.
We drove through the city and I kept looking at the time. It was peak hour traffic, making matters worse. But the cabbie seemed to know where he was going and he may have even taken a short cut, by turning down an alleyway and driving down that until we came out on a different main road.
At 4.53 PM we pulled up outside of the hotel and I told the cabbie to add on an extra twenty pounds to the fare for his tip. He seemed pleased with that. I swiped my credit card and went into the hotel.
Once I was inside, I had to line up behind the small gathering of people who had congregated in front of reception.
Anxiously, I looked past the people I was standing behind and tried to catch the eye of the woman who served me this morning. Thankfully, she saw me and after she checked-in an elderly couple, she left her spot behind the counter and indicated for me to follow her. I did and we went around the corner and she unlocked the door and I was able to dart inside the room and get my suitcase and briefcase.
“Thank you, thank you so much.” I said appreciatively. “I’m running late, I had trouble finding a cab.”
“My pleasure,” she smiled patiently.
“My car will be here now and I wish I could tip you, but I don’t carry cash.” I told her.
“Come and stay with us again,” she said.
I wheeled my suitcase out of the hotel and out onto the street when perfectly timed, a sleek, black car pulled up in the ‘No Parking’ zone.
A man in a black suit got out of the driver’s side and looked at me standing there.
“Clarissa Downing?” he checked. “I’m Mohammed, your driver.”
“Hi,” I smiled.
“Could I just check your First Class ticket with Emirates?” he requested.
I took my mobile phone out of my handbag and brought up my emails and I showed him the e-ticket Emirates sent me.
“Thank you very much,” he said.
Then he wheeled my suitcase over to the boot of the car which he opened and lifted the case inside before shutting it again.
Next, he opened the back door for me and I climbed inside. I thought this was a very nice car. It was warm, smelled nice, and had leather seats with plenty of leg room. It was a large, roomy vehicle, and it seemed nicer than the other cars I was in when I flew Business Class.
He climbed into the driver’s seat and started the ignition.
“The drive to Heathrow may take a little longer than usual because it’s peak hour traffic, but your flight tonight at 8.20 PM will be departing on time.” Mohammed told me.
Then he pulled into the traffic and we began our journey to the airport.
I stared out the window but I didn’t see much because it was dark. But I thought about what a wonderful week I’ve had in the UK. I saw the castles I’d been longing to see, eaten at the Ritz which had fantastic food, and now I’ve been to the British Museum. I thought that the trip today was the perfect way to end a perfect holiday.
But it’s not just a holiday, I’ll be doing this for weeks – no – months, in the future. I wonder if it would turn into years? I should ask Central how long I’ll be jet-setting around the globe.
The car stopped out the front of the Emirates section at Heathrow and Mohammed got out of the car first, opened the door for me second and even offered his hand to help me out. Once I’d climbed out, he went for the boot, opened it and lifted my suitcase out. I slung my briefcase strap over my right shoulder, slung my handbag over my left shoulder and took hold of the handle for my suitcase.
“Thank you,” I gave him another smile.
“Have a good flight, Ms Downing,” he returned it.
I wheeled my suitcase inside and again, my first reaction was to head for the Economy check-in where there was a big line-up. No CD, you’re a First Class passenger, head for First Class check-in. I soon found it and was happy that there was nobody in front of me, I could just walk up to the counter.
“Good evening,” the check-in staff smiled.
“Hi,” I smiled back.
I showed them my e-ticket on my phone as well as my passport and they proceeded to check me in.
I struggled to lift up my suitcase onto the weighing/conveyor belt thing and I was told it was 38.8 kgs, which is no problem because First Class passengers can bring 50 kgs on board.
“Are you a member of our Skywards program?” he asked.
“Would you like to be?”
“I don’t know…” I shifted, uncertain.
“It’s free to join up and you could be earning points on this flight you’re taking.” He said. “Here, you can always fill it out on the plane.”
He handed me an application form which I put in my handbag without even looking at it.
“If you’d like to wait for your flight in the Emirates Lounge it’s in area E near Gate 7.” He left as his parting remark.
“Thank you.” I said then I walked away.
I hate going through Security, but it’s a necessary evil. I had to take off my boots because of the gold stirrups on the back. And I had to take out my laptop computer from my briefcase.
Next stop was Customs where I had to produce my passport and get another stamp. It was a bit of a line up, but I told myself I didn’t care. I had a little bit of time on my hands.
Once that was over and done with, I wandered towards the gates, walking past people and shop fronts in the busy concourse.
I spotted the entrance to the Emirates Lounge and I went in, showing my boarding pass on my way through.
The Emirates Lounge was nice, with lots of plush leather seats, a large, flat-screen TV, a drinks station and food areas. It was a ‘help yourself’ system, where you pick up a glass and pour yourself a glass of champagne, or something else. I chose champagne and I walked over to a quiet area of seating and sat down.
The champagne I was drinking was Veuve Cliquot and it wasn’t bad. I was peckish, but the food on offer didn’t really appeal to me. I didn’t want a salad, or curry, or braised lamb and vegetables or pasta. I decided I’d just sip on the champagne and wait to eat on the plane.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait too long until my flight was announced.
I stood up, picked up my briefcase and handbag and made my way to the gate. What really impressed me was that I could board the plane directly from the Lounge. I used the air bridge for First Class passengers, not knowing what to expect.
When I approached the door to the plane, a male Flight Attendant gave me a warm grin.
“Welcome on board Emirates.” He said. “Can I see your boarding pass please?”
I showed it to him and he left his spot by the door and proceeded to personally show me to my seat.
“1A is right this way, Ms Downing.” He guided me to a small cubicle. “Please take your seat and refreshments will be brought around shortly.”
I walked in and admired my surroundings. There was a large seat in white leather surrounded by grey material walls that had little lights protruding out of it. The windows had curtains on them which were pulled back. There was a large desk in front of the seat with a vanity built into it. The lid had a mirror inside and offered a leather bound notebook, fancy pen, and expensive moisturisers and things.
This would be nice for Nicola. I’ll send my amenities kit to Daniela and I’ll give Nicola the notebook, pen and extra moisturisers. So I took them out of the desk and put them into my handbag.
There were non-alcoholic drinks and nibblies in small, glass-door, cupboards on either side of the TV screen above the desk. I opened it and looked at what was on offer, deciding Nicola would like to eat these, so I put them into my handbag too. I probably looked like a looter, but I didn’t care, these flights cost an arm and a leg! Of course I’m going to use what I paid for.
I unbuttoned my coat and took it off and put it in the narrow cupboard with the mirror on the door, beside my seat. Then I opened the cupboard underneath the desk and put my handbag and briefcase inside. But I remembered my phone was still in my handbag, so I opened the cupboard again and took it out of my bag. I rested my phone on the desk, in case Central needs to contact me for any reason.
I removed the amenities kit from the seat so I could sit down and I looked through it. It was very nice, with the case made from a grey coloured leather. Inside were Bvlgari toiletries, a comb, dental kit, tissues, scented moist towelette and a compact mirror. Oh, Daniela is going to love these!
Just then I was distracted by two female flight attendants who stood by my open door.
“Would you like some Arabic coffee and dates?” one of them offered.
“No thank you, but I would like a glass of champagne.” I said.
“That will arrive shortly,” the other attendant said then the two moved on.
I picked up the menu which was in a leather folder and I opened it to see what was on offer during this flight.
The champagne that was on offer was Dom Perignon, which impressed me. I glanced at the wine section before I came to the cocktails and then I came to the food. To be honest, the Appetisers impressed me more than the Mains did. I decided I’d eat three Appetisers but not touch the Mains. The dessert list looked good and I practically drooled over the cheese board.
Just then the male flight attendant from before appeared, carrying a tray of champagne.
“Would you like a glass, Ms Downing?” he offered. “It’s Dom Perignon from the year 2015.”
“Ooh, thank you.” I took one of the champagne flutes.
Then he moved away from my open doorway to offer it to other guests.
I sipped my drink and sat back into my soft, comfortable seat and relaxed…
I didn’t relax in the Emirates Lounge because of feeling self-conscious being around other people. But now I was alone and I was drinking expensive champagne and I could unwind.
No more walking and standing around all day, like I’d done in the museum. No more rushing and stressing, worrying about being somewhere on time. It’s just me, relaxing and drinking, on a seven hour flight to Dubai. Then it will be a two hour stopover before I board a plane for another seven hour flight in First Class again to Hong Kong.
My flight took off in the darkness and I said good bye to winter for a little while. Hong Kong will be warmer and I can wear different clothes. Speaking of which, I’m going to need to get my legs waxed. I haven’t shaved them for nine days! It won’t look nice, wearing those summer dresses with hairy legs. I’m pretty sure the hotel I’ll be staying at - the Peninsula - will have a beauty salon.
It wasn’t long before the plane was in the air and the male flight attendant came to take my order.
“Can I please have the caviar first, then the poached lobster and then I’ll have the traditional Arabic mezze.” I requested.
“And when would you like to eat these dishes?” he asked.
“I’ll have the caviar now, the lobster an hour later and then the mezze another hour after that.” I told him.
“What drinks would you like to have with your meals?” he took down what I was saying on a small iPad.
“I’ll stick with champagne.” I said.
“Very good,” he gave a smile and then departed.
That was easy. I picked up the remote to explore Emirate’s I.C.E system – Information, Communication, Entertainment – and I went straight to their Entertainment. I decided to watch a movie rather than a TV series like I did on my flight to the UK. I thought I’d check out the new releases and pick one of those.
I decided on a movie and I took out the expensive, noise-cancelling headphones out of its packaging. I put them on, pressed ‘play’ and settled back. As I started the movie, I finished off my champagne.
When I pressed the button to summon a flight attendant, their face appeared on the planes’ iPad beside my seat.
“Yeah, hi, could I please have some more champagne?” I said, disconcerted at seeing their face.
“Certainly Ms Downing, we’ll be with you directly,” the male flight attendant replied.
Then his face disappeared and I had to steady my racing heart. Gees, I’m going to have to be careful of that. I wouldn’t want to accidentally video call my flight attendant when I’m changing into the pyjamas they supplied. I decided I’d post them to Daniela too.
When he came to top up my champagne, he also delivered canapés. There were three of them; one with smoked salmon, one was venison and the other blue cheese. I really enjoyed the smoked salmon one, the rest were so-so.
My caviar was delivered soon after and it arrived on a plate with finely chopped onion, grated egg, sour cream, lemon, melba toast and blinis.
“Thank you.” I smiled at my flight attendant.
“You’re welcome,” he smiled back, before disappearing again.
I ate the caviar in the privacy of my own little cabin and because I didn’t feel so exposed eating it here as I did inside the Rivoli Bar, I was a little more adventurous. I tried some with the bits of onion and egg. Mmm, it wasn’t bad, but I still preferred it with the sour cream.
When I’d finished, I called my flight attendant to have the plate removed and my champagne topped up. Then I relaxed back into my seat and returned my concentration to the movie. I was watching a romantic comedy, one of the many from Hollywood. It didn’t make me laugh out loud but it was amusing in a small way.
Soon my second dish was delivered and I thanked the male flight attendant. I suppose I should start calling him by his name, it was Dimitri, or so said his name badge. He also topped up my champagne again, this time without being asked, then disappeared again.
The poached lobster with celeriac mousseline and herb vinaigarette was delicious. I ate everything on my plate, practically scraping it with my fork. I love lobster! Right, if I was stranded on a desert island, I could cope if I had chocolate, cheese and lobster.
The rom-com finished and I started a second movie just as my third course was delivered, the traditional Arabic mezze. It came with houmous, moutabel, muhammara, shanklish salad, tabouleh, seafood salad, stuffed vine leaves, lamb kibbeh, spinach fatayer and cheese sambousek. It was so big, I wondered why this was under ‘appetisers’ instead of ‘mains’.
It was delicious! The bread basket came with some small pita breads to go with it and I had fun ripping them apart and dipping them into the houmous. These dishes truly were excellent.
When I’d finished, Dimitri came to take away the dishes for me.
“Would you like some more champagne and perhaps a dessert?” he offered.
“Oh, dessert, I’d forgotten about that!” I laughed.
Hastily, I picked up my menu and flicked through the pages.
“Actually, you know what? I’m feeling kind of full. I might have a cocktail as my dessert. Can I please have a Cosmopolitan?”
“Certainly,” he gave me a wink and left.
I really like Dimitri, he’s an awesome flight attendant, starting with the warm grin he gave me when I boarded, down to bringing me my first glass of champagne.
Just then my phone beeped, indicating I had a text message. Surprise surprise, it was from Central. But to Central’s credit, I hadn’t heard from it all day. Maybe it was giving me space?
ARE YOU ENJOYING YOUR FLIGHT IN FIRST CLASS?
IT’S OK BUT I THINK I’LL BOOK BUSINESS CLASS NEXT TIME. – I replied.
WHY? – Central asked.
FIRST CLASS IS FINE BUT IT’S JUST NOT ME. I REALLY LIKED MY FLIGHT TO THE UK IN BUSINESS CLASS. I LIKED THE WINDOW SEATS YOU GOT ME. – I confessed.
THEN NEXT TIME BOOK BUSINESS CLASS AND I WILL ENSURE YOU HAVE THE SAME WINDOW SEAT AGAIN – Central promised.
THANK YOU – I said.
Then I put my phone back on the desk and returned to my movie.
My eyes were stinging from tiredness and as soon as I finished my cocktail, I put up the leg rest on my seat and settled down for a nap while a movie was playing. You couldn’t blame me, I’d been on the plane for nearly four hours and in UK time it was past midnight. In three hours I’ll be landing in Dubai.
Just as I was about to fall asleep, I was disturbed by Dimitri who put his hand on my shoulder.
“Huh?” I stirred and took off my headphones.
“Would you like me to make your bed for you?” he offered.
“No thanks Dimitri, I never sleep well on planes. I just doze instead. This movie is putting me to sleep so it’s the perfect background noise.”
“Very good, Ms Downing,” he chuckled.
I replaced my headphones over my ears and closed my eyes again, as I slunk lower in my seat…
…the next time I opened my eyes, it was from Dimitri again.
“What’s up?” I blinked.
“We’re landing now, Ms Downing,” he smiled gently.
I sat up with a start and unplugged my headphones and shoved them into the side compartment. Wow, that was one of the quickest three hours I’d ever experienced! I must have been out of it.
“If you could please put on your seatbelt, we’ve started our descent.” Dimitri requested.
I obeyed and buckled myself in and watched as he moved away from the door.
It occurred to me that for the whole of the flight I never closed the doors to my First Class compartment, they’d remained open the whole time. There you go, it shows that I don’t always go for isolation, that I require some human contact. That’s what I liked about the window seats in Business Class, they offered some privacy but they didn’t cut you off from the rest of the world.
The plane landed and then taxied down the runways until it finally came to a stop at the terminal.
I opened the cupboard underneath the desk and took out my handbag and briefcase. Then I stood up, slinging the bags on either shoulder. Next, I took my coat out of the tall cupboard beside my seat. I left my First Class compartment and disembarked from the plane, carrying my coat in my arms.
“Thank you Dimitri, you were wonderful.” I said to him on my way out.
“Thank you for flying with Emirates,” he smiled back. “We hope to see you again.”
I walked up the air bridge and found myself in the Emirates First Class lounge which was huge. It was also profoundly quiet, there were hardly any people in here. I kept on walking, looking for where I could get a coffee.
But my search for caffeine was momentarily put on hold when I heard my name on the loud speaker.
“Could passenger Clarissa Downing please come to Gate 1.”
I turned around and returned to the Gate I exited the plane from to find an Emirates staff member there.
“Hi, I’m Clarissa Downing.” I greeted her.
“Oh, Ms Downing, there’s been a mix up with your seating for your flight from Dubai to Hong Kong. Your seat is in Business Class, not First Class.”
She handed me a new boarding pass and I looked at my seat allocation and smiled when I saw the number…12A. It was the same seat I had when I flew from Sydney to Dubai and then Dubai to London. Central’s done it again! I tried not to grin like an idiot, but I probably failed.
“I suppose I should go downstairs to the Business Class lounge,” I said.
“They do have a Gate where you can board directly for Business Class.” She said. “This Gate is for First Class passengers.”
I turned around and walked away from her, wondering where I go to exit the lounge?
I walked for nearly ten minutes until I came to the exit and the staff at the reception desk looked surprised to see me walk out. I guess they’re used to seeing people walk into the lounge, but not out of it. I went down the escalator to the next floor and immediately found the entrance to the Business Class lounge.
I showed my boarding pass to the staff at the reception and was permitted entry.
As I was going in, I passed somebody walk out. He was talking excitedly on his mobile phone. I overheard part of what he said and it made my grin return.
“I’ve been offered a free upgrade to First Class! No, not for the London to Dubai flight, I’m in Dubai now. But for the Dubai to Hong Kong part. I kid you not! They said it was a mix up with my seat.”
Who wants to bet that his seat in Business Class would have been 12A?
I walked around the gigantic, busy lounge which had a lot more people in it than First Class did. I found this comforting, safety in numbers. First Class was so quiet, it had a sombre feel to it.
It was very early, so early it was the crack of dawn with the sky starting to lighten with oncoming sunrise. But it still didn’t stop me from getting a glass of champagne. I visited the Moet & Chandon bar and tried a glass of their vintage. It came with a complimentary little prawn cocktail, which I thought looked very cute. It was basically a peeled king prawn in a small glass with some kind of mayonnaise/dressing and a small lettuce leaf.
I ended up having three glasses of champagne as I waited for my boarding call. I was feeling very tired and a tiny bit tipsy, I think from sleepiness. I just couldn’t wait to get on the plane.
An hour and a half later, my flight was finally announced. I stood up then I wondered which direction do I walk in to reach my gate? I asked the guy behind the Moet & Chandon counter and he was very helpful. He pointed in the direction I should walk and gave me quick, easy to follow instructions.
So I carried my handbag, my briefcase and my coat and walked for ten minutes to the gate where I found a line up. Damn, there weren’t any lines in First Class. Oh well, more people sit in Business Class as it’s a bigger section.
I boarded the plane where a Flight Attendant greeted me, checked my boarding pass and pointed down the aisle where I’d be sitting.
I carried my things to my seat and as soon as I arrived I took my phone out of my handbag then I put my bag and my briefcase in the overhead locker. I also folded up my coat and stored it in the overhead locker too. Then I picked up my pillow and duvet in its plastic bag from the seat and put these in the locker as well. Then I shut the overhead locker when I was finished.
At last I could sit down and relax! I plonked myself down and picked up my mobile phone. I wanted to send a quick message to Central.
THANK YOU FOR PUTTING ME IN BUSINESS CLASS AND IN SEAT 12A NO LESS.
YOU ARE WELCOME, ENJOY YOUR FLIGHT – Central replied.
“Would you like a drink?” a female flight attendant offered, holding a tray of glasses of orange juice, water or champagne.
“Thanks.” I smiled and took a glass of champagne from her.
Then she moved off to serve some other people and I realized I’d forgotten something, my phone needs to be charged. I put down my champagne, stood up and opened the overhead locker and opened my briefcase. I took out my phone charger and closed my briefcase and overhead locker once again. Next, I sat back down, plugged my charger into one of the USB ports in my seating nook and plugged it into my phone. To my satisfaction, it instantly started to charge.
I buckled my seat belt then picked up my champagne and had another sip. My phone sat on the bench next to my seat, charging away. Ah, life is good, my phone is charging, the champagne is chilled and I’m sitting in my favourite seat on the plane.
“Here you are,” another female flight attendant stopped by my seat to hand me the menus.
“Thank you.” I accepted them.
I sat my champagne down on the polished wooden bench where my phone was resting and looked through the wine menu and the food menu. It looks like they’ll be serving breakfast and lunch on this flight. I made a mental note of what I’d like before I put the menus down then picked up my champagne again.
It felt like forever until the plane took off, so I indulged myself by having a second glass of champagne as I waited. When the plane did start to move, I excitedly looked out the window. Oh I love take-offs and landings! I love the rush and the feel of the inertia.
Soon, we were in the air and on our way to Hong Kong. I picked up my phone and sent Central another message. It felt weird asking this of a futuristic artificial intelligence, but it’s helped in every other way.
COULD YOU PLEASE BOOK ME AN APPOINTMENT IN THE HOTEL’S BEAUTY SALON TOMORROW TO GET MY LEGS WAXED?
FULL LEG OR HALF A LEG WAXED? – Central returned.
HALF A LEG – I said.
THE HOTEL’S SPA WAS FULLY BOOKED BUT I WAS ABLE TO HACK THEIR COMPUTER. YOU HAVE AN APPOINTMENT AT 11.30 AM. – Central said.
I had a feeling that they’d probably be booked out because I was leaving it last minute, but I also knew that Central would find a way.
THANK YOU – I sent back.
I downed the last of my champagne and wondered if I should have another? What the hell, why not? I was in the ‘happy’ stage from consuming the alcohol. I pressed the button to summon a flight attendant and when one appeared, I asked for another drink.
The female flight attendant reappeared with the bottle of champagne and I saw it was Veuve Clicquot. She topped up my glass for me then walked away with the bottle to top up somebody else’s glass. I was going to ask her when breakfast would be served, because I was feeling hungry, but she wasn’t here long enough.
Oh well, I’ll put on something to watch to distract me. I took the headphones out of their plastic bag, plugged them into the socket, grabbed the remote from the wall and pointed it at the screen in front of me. I went to the Entertainment section on the plane’s I.C.E. system and went to ‘Latest Movies’. After perusing the large selection for over five minutes, I decided on a Hollywood blockbuster.
After twenty minutes I had to take my headphones off again to speak to the flight attendant, coming down the aisle and taking people’s orders.
“Hi, for breakfast I’ll have the California omelette with a cappuccino please.” I requested.
“What would you like for lunch?” she asked.
“Can I please have the king prawns with lemon and herbs for my appetiser, the Chilean sea bass en papillote for my main course and the chocolate mango torte for dessert.”
“What drinks would you like with your meals?” she queried.
“Oh, champagne please.”
“Certainly,” she smiled and then moved on.
I put my headphones back on and resumed the movie. But I was feeling really hungry now, I wondered when they would serve breakfast? Maybe I’ll get some nibblies at the bar.
I paused the movie, took the headphones off and left my empty champagne flute sitting on the bench beside my seat. I stood up and wandered down the aisle to the back of the cabin where the bar was. It wasn’t too busy, thankfully. I walked up to the bar and ordered a Classic Martini and I picked up a couple of pretzel sticks to nibble on.
It took a couple of minutes for the bartender to make my drink, which I used as my excuse to eat more of the pretzel sticks. Then he handed over my martini and I instantly ate the olive. I thanked him and moved away, letting him serve someone else.
I didn’t stay in the bar area, because I didn’t like leaving my mobile phone unattended. So I carried my drink down the aisle as I returned to my seat. Then I put my drink down, sat down in my seat and picked up my drink again. I sipped my martini as I looked at my mobile phone, it was half charged, so I left it to continue charging.
Reluctantly, I resumed the movie as I finished off my martini. Gees, drinks don’t last long around me. I pressed the button to summon another flight attendant and I ordered a Bloody Mary. Tomato juice can be filling and it comes with a celery stick, which I’d enjoy eating. The flight attendant took away my two empty glasses which had been sitting on my side bench as she went to retrieve my order.
Ten minutes later, the flight attendant returned with my drink and I thanked her and immediately took out the celery stick and started munching on it.
Thankfully, after another thirty minutes the flight attendants started getting the passengers ready for their meals. I put out my tray table and a flight attendant put a crisp, white tablecloth over it. Then I had to wait another twenty minutes for the food to arrive, but when it did, the wait was worth it.
I thought I was just going to get an omelette, but I got a tray of food! There was a little bowl of fruit salad, a Chobani blueberry yoghurt, a small plate with a portion of butter and strawberry jam for a pastry to come, then the bigger plate had my omelette. The flight attendant went away to return with my cappuccino.
After she left, another flight attendant who was carrying a basket, asked me what kind of pastry I’d like.
“Could I please have a croissant?” I asked.
“Here you go,” she smiled as she used tongs to pick one out of the basket and put it on my small plate.
“Thank you very much!” I gushed, feeling relieved and thankful.
Happily, I put my headphones back on, resumed the movie and ate my breakfast.
I ate the fruit salad and yoghurt first then I ate the California omelette next. The omelette was delicious, it was filled with avocado and peppers (in Australia we call them capsicum), served with sautéed potatoes and roasted tomato. I love avocado! I think it was my favourite fruit. Then I ate the croissant last, with it cut open and smeared with butter and strawberry jam.
Once everything had been polished off, I sat back and sipped on my cappuccino, contentedly.
The movie finished soon after breakfast did. I put down my empty coffee cup and picked up the remote to search for another movie to watch next. This time I didn’t look through the latest releases, I searched for something different. I picked a Marvel movie to watch, I was impressed that Marvel movies had their own category on Emirates’ Entertainment.
The caffeine in the coffee I’d drunk perked me up. I wanted more, but I didn’t feel like drinking another milky coffee. So I decided I’d try the Espresso Martini.
I waited until my breakfast things had been cleared and I put away my tray table. Then I pressed the button to summon a flight attendant. One soon came and I ordered my cocktail through her.
Ten minutes later she returned with my drink and I thanked her. I took a sip and my eyebrows rose, impressed. I liked it! It was made from Patron XO Café, espresso coffee and Amaretto foam. I picked up my phone and went online using Google to look up Patron XO Café to see what it was. Oh, it’s a coffee infused tequila.
I ended up having several of those cocktails over the next two hours as I watched the movie. The caffeine kept me awake (I’d only gotten three hours of sleep over the past 24 hours) and the alcohol kept me happy. Each time I pressed the button for a flight attendant, one would come and take away my dirty glass then ten minutes later reappear with my new drink.
When that Marvel movie finished, I watched the next one that came directly after it. I ended up having a mini Marvel-a-thon. By this stage, I was thoroughly enjoying myself, I had an endless supply of drinks and I was being entertained.
I paused the movie to stare out the window to watch the sunset. It hadn’t been a full day but we were flying into the night. It would be after 9 PM local time when we land in Hong Kong.
However, on board the plane, the airline staff were preparing our lunch. I had to put up my tray table as a flight attendant came to put a tablecloth down, indicating food would be served soon. This time I waited patiently for my meal, I wasn’t starving hungry.
My appetiser was served first on a tray, along with a small bowl of seasonal salad and a bread roll and last but not least, my champagne. The appetiser looked divine, king prawns with lemon and herbs, served with fennel salad and cocktail sauce. I took a photo of it with my phone, which included in the shot my salad, bread roll and champers. Then I unrolled my napkin, placed it on my lap and picked up my cutlery and began to eat.
When I’d finished my appetiser, I cut open my bread roll and buttered it and took a bite. Mmm, sometimes the basic things in life are the most satisfying, like simple bread and butter. Don’t get me wrong, the prawns with the cocktail sauce were nice, but I love a fresh bread roll slathered in butter.
Then the flight attendant took away my empty plate and replaced it with my main. It was the Chilean sea bass en papillote which was fish baked in parchment with mushrooms and herbs, served with dill sauce, parsley potatoes and steamed vegetables. It wasn’t bad actually, the dill sauce complimented the fish perfectly.
As I ate, I sipped my champagne. It sounds like I’m drinking a lot, but the food absorbed most of the alcohol. After dinner – no, sorry, lunch – I’ll stop drinking. I had to remind myself over and over again that in spite of a dark sky outside, I was eating lunch.
Dessert was delicious, the chocolate mango torte which was layered chocolate and mango mousse topped with dark chocolate ganache and served with raspberry compote. I relished every single bite. It was rich and was the perfect way to finish.
When the flight attendant came to take away my plate, cutlery and glass, I asked for another cappuccino. When it was delivered ten minutes later, it came with accompanying chocolates. I thanked the attendant profusely.
Seriously, who needs First Class when you have all of this in Business Class?
After another hour, the plane began its landing procedure into Hong Kong.
The flight attendant took away my empty coffee cup and I unplugged my phone from the charger and then the charger from the USB socket.
I fastened my seat belt as I looked out the window. The city lights of Hong Kong sparkled up at me. Sure, this country wasn’t my first choice to visit but now that I’m here, I’ve decided that I’m going to enjoy myself.
The plane had a smooth landing and it didn’t feel long until we were docking at the terminal. I let everybody else get up first and retrieve their belongings from the overhead compartments. People stood in the aisle, waiting to disembark and it made me wonder what the rush was?
Once the line started moving and people were getting off the plane, I stood up and opened my overhead compartment. I put my mobile phone in my handbag and the phone charger into my briefcase. Then I collected my coat and bags and proceeded to disembark too.
The first stop was to pick up my suitcase from the luggage carousel. I couldn’t stop yawning as I went through Customs. My passport got a new stamp in it and I exited the airport via the Emirates chauffer section.
They soon announced my car was ready and an Emirates employee wheeled my suitcase to the boot of a black BMW. The driver opened the boot and the employee lifted my suitcase into the back. Then the driver opened the back door for me and I climbed in.
I buckled my seatbelt as the driver sat behind the wheel and started the ignition. I didn’t need to tell the driver where to take me, it was sorted out when the car was booked. I sat back and stared out the window at this foreign country I found myself in, as the car drove off with me in it.
I looked about the vibrant city as we drove down its streets. I saw lots of busses and the footpaths were crammed with people walking to and fro. I checked the time on my phone, it was past ten o’clock on a Thursday night and there were still so many people about.
Then the car turned into a wide driveway and I gathered that this was the hotel when he stopped outside large, glass doors with gold door handles and two stone lions on either side.
I unbuckled my seat belt and opened the door and climbed out as the driver went to the boot to open it and retrieve my suitcase.
“Thank you,” I smiled appreciatively.
With my handbag on my left shoulder and my briefcase on my right, I wheeled my suitcase towards the door.