One 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.
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.
I’ve been an SLR camera guy for as long as I can remember. Ever since I bought my first camera back and lens – a Ricoh KR10 with a 50mm lense – I’ve relied on the control and quality a good SLR provides. The downside of an SLR is the bulk of the camera and various lenses – my current camera bag weighs around 6kgs. There is nothing subtle about taking the camera out for the evening and nothing subtle about using it.
I’ve always wanted a compact camera that could go anywhere, which still took great pictures, and which gave me the ability to control things like depth of field and shutter speed.
I’ve also always wanted a Leica camera but have always been put off by the prices – particularly in New Zealand.
The opportunity to get both came my way when we stopped to browse at the Leica shop at Hong Kong airport. Leica’s range of compact cameras have always got good reviews and their latest mid range compact – the D-Lux 6 – has been no exception. And there sitting in the display cabinet was one calling my name.
Now the geeks among my readers will know that the D-Lux 6 is essentially the same camera as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7. There are some minor cosmetic changes – like the addition of the round red Leica logo – but the cameras are one in the same. Leica have been working with Panasonic for years, using Panasonic’s hardware but then writing their own software to control image capture and processing.
This is where the two camera’s differ and the results are impressive. In fact it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between a shot taken on the Leica and a shot taken on my Nikon DSLR.
The Leica version of this camera carries a price premium but it seems worth it – for the added image quality as well as that small red circle on the front.
But this trip there was a bonus – House of Travel’s iPhone app.
We punched in our booking code after downloading the app and had our itinerary available in an easy to digest and easy to use form on our phone. It was amazing the number of times we used it – to quickly check a departure time or to confirm a flight number when completing an arrival card – it was incredibly useful.
And there’s much more to the app than just the itinerary. There is a plethora of options available.
I’ve been involved with designing and developing a few mobile apps and can appreciate the time and attention to detail that has gone into this app. It’s a great piece of work.
I’ve just checked the app and it has archived our holiday itinerary and is ready for our next trip. Nice.
We arrived back in New Zealand earlier in the week after 4 fabulous weeks away. We were greeted by warm spring weather (which has now turned back to winter) and two very happy puppies who, after an initial frenzied greeting, proceeded to ignore us just to make a point.
The last few days have been spent recovering from jet lag and unpacking – as well as returning to work because, let’s face it, the holiday has to be paid for somehow.
There are still a number of posts to write covering such things as our dinner at the 3 Michelin Star restaurant La Pergola in Rome, some thoughts on modern air travel, how purchasing a laptop case on Via Condotti in Rome can turn into something much more and the temptation of Hong Kong duty free shopping.
I’ll post these over the next few days – just as soon as I write them.