Togetherness

Old Couple in PositanoFrom the balcony of our hotel room in Positano we could look across the road and see the back yard of a small villa which was perched on the edge of the cliff overlooking the bay. An elderly couple live there and every evening they sit outside, side by side and enjoy the sunset.

Sometimes one gets the other a drink and sometimes one or the other nods off to sleep. But every evening they are there, sitting next to each other.

We first noticed them years ago and every time we visit Positano we see them again, each time a little older, a little slower and a little frailer. But always together.

And now we are four

On Saturday we said goodbye to Rosie. Old age has been catching up with Rosie for the last few months  - after all she was 18 years old – and we finally had to let her go.

When Rosie was young she was one of 5 cats in the household – don’t ask how that happened – and she was always the one to be picked on. But since 2011 she has been the queen of Kainui Road and has enjoyed the run of the house, the back yard and the neighbours.

She will be missed.

 


Puppy memories

Two weeks ago my iMac’s hard drive “spat the dummy” and required replacing. Apple were fantastic and covered the cost of the replacement drive and I was left to restore my files from backup.

Yes, as I’ve said before – always back stuff up because every hard drive will fail at some point and it would be tragic to lose photos and movies and all the other stuff that we accumulate on computers these days.

As I was looking through my restored movie files I came across one of Bella as a very young puppy making her first journey down the stairs at home – just to get to Poppie and jump all over her.

I’ve posted this movie before but I think it deserves another airing.

 

Beware of Via dei Condotti

Louis 4One thing Jean was set on buying, even before leaving home, was some form of sleeve or holder for her MacBook Air. She was waiting until we reached Rome so she could visit Via dei Condotti and the Louis Vuitton shop.

Via die Condotti runs from the base of the Spanish Steps to Via del Corso – 4 blocks of premium shopping. Every European luxury brand is on the street. Gucci is on the corner at the base of the Spanish Steps. Valentino is next. Then it’s Prada and Dior. A little further down is Louis Vuitton. It just keeps going.

We headed into Louis Vuitton’s three storey shop and were greeted warmly (well Jean was as she had one of the shops fine products over her shoulder) and asked what we were looking for. Yes, of course they have laptop sleeves and bags. Yes we’d be delighted to follow the staff member to look at some options.

The shelves are full of product all perfectly displayed. The staff (who seem to out number customers by three to one) are immaculately groomed and dressed, and the store is spotless with none of the usual retail clutter you see elsewhere.

None of the bags on the shelves are used as samples. If you are interested in a bag, a sample is available from drawers below the shelves, each bag in a special holder to protect it. The staff also wear gloves to handle the merchandise.

Of course if you purchase an item, it arrives already wrapped from somewhere else in the store.

Our modest “laptop sleeve” rapidly turned into a messenger bag. But which size – there were three –  and which pattern – modern or traditional?  The price started to climb.

In the end a selection was made, aided somewhat by a glass of champagne, and was charged to Jean’s account. Yes, scaringly, ever since she bought her first bag 6 years ago, Jean has an account.

God help us all.

 

Air New Zealand versus Cathay Pacific – our experience

Travelling to London via Hong Kong and then back from Rome to Auckland via Hong Kong gave us the ability to compare the Premium Economy class offerings on the two airlines. And although it’s called the same name, the reality is that the offering is quite different.

Air New Zealand were one of the first airlines to offer this “better than economy but not business” class when they phased out first class and promoted business class to lie flat beds.

The general Premium Economy offering is simple – greater legroom and wider seats in a separated cabin area with a range of added comforts – a dedicated check in, better food and drink, amenities packs, welcome drinks – all which vary by airline.

With Jean and I being tall, the key benefit is the added legroom. This is even more important given the distance we travel and the time we spend onboard.

Until this trip we have been dedicated Air New Zealand customers and have seen their Premium Economy offering evolve over the years from a basic “greater legroom” product through to the specially designed seat pods that they introduced about 4 years ago.

But two years ago Air New Zealand made changes to their Airpoints programme which removed any advantage for us booking and paying for their Premium Economy seats. So this trip we threw ourselves on the open market and simply went for the best deal we could find – which turned out to be Cathay Pacific.

We discovered our trip was, in fact, a codeshare between Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand so our trips between Auckland and Hong Kong were on Air New Zealand metal and the legs between Hong Kong and London/Rome were on Cathay – the same Premium Economy class but very different experiences.

In terms of legroom and seat comfort there was not much in it. Cathay had 8 seats across the cabin, Air New Zealand had nine – but the Air New Zealand seats felt wider. Legroom was expansive on both.

The cabin ambience was better on Cathay mainly because the plane (an Airbus 350) was new versus Air New Zealand’s 777 which was in need of a refit or replacement with one of their new Dreamliners.

The service was much better on Air New Zealand. Meals were better quality and served on china, not plastic, and there were cabin staff dedicated to the premium economy section. If you wanted something, it was there, immediately.

Cathay Pacific, on the other hand served standard economy food on plastic plates – and wine from plastic glasses. The cabin staff served both premium and economy cabins, but they still managed to answer our calls quickly and efficiently but did slip a couple of times.

Because of the comparative ages of the planes, Cathay’s entertainment offering was more comprehensive and higher quality with touch screens and excellent screen clarity. Air New Zealand struggled to compete but, talking to staff, things are looking up with upgrades to the 777 fleet just around the corner and the first Dreamliners already operating across the Tasman.

So who wins? Air New Zealand by a small margin – but when they are flying with better planes it won’t be a contest. They just know how to do things well, and to make passengers who have paid extra for a little comfort feel it’s money well spent.