Category Archives: Reviews

The Quest to Find Starbucks at Berlin Tegel

A couple weeks ago we were all challenged to find the Starbucks shop at Berlin Tegel (IATA: TXL). I then even commented that I was totally unaware of a Starbucks at Tegel. In fact, I was very surprised to hear there was one since I’ve been to this airport dozens of times in the past and have never spotted the coffee shop. So, is it really that well hidden? Well, watch the video and see for yourself as I went on “The Quest to Find Starbucks at Berlin Tegel”.

Shopping desert at San Francisco International

San Francisco is a destination I frequently fly to for my job. When I took off there last time, there was no delay and in fact, when you take off from San Francisco International (IATA: SFO) in 98% of the times your flight is on time according to The Northern Californian airport was also recently rated best US airport. Despite all that, there will still be the odd occasion when your flight actually is delayed (my colleagues who flew back with BA the next day were in fact delayed for about 2 hours), plus, with international flights it is recommended to get to the airport 2 hours prior to departure which often means you have plenty of time to kill before the boarding announcement.

So, what’s there to do at San Francisco International? Well, according to the airports own statistics, the terminal is the largest international terminal by square footage in North America. There are two different boarding areas, A and G with most non-US carrier flights departing from area A. Whilst the size of the terminal is definitely adding to your relaxation, you would also expect plenty of shopping opportunities (even more so with the current weak dollar). No such luck – there are hardly any! For example, if you hoped to buy that last minute Apple iPod for your friend at home, you will be disappointed as none can be found at SFO. So, better get your shopping done before you get to the airport. But what can you then do at the airport? Here are my top 5:

  1. Sit at the North side of the terminal and watch the air traffic
  2. Search the few stores for that one Vitamin Water flavour you haven’t tasted yet
  3. Count the number of public announcements that were generated with a computer voice
  4. Connect online and download your latest emails (connect through T-Online for US$6/hour or use your companies connection software)
  5. DeleteUpload those crazy photos you took last Saturday night at that party in the Castro

Happy travelling!


Airport Facts and Ratings

Airport Name San Francisco International (International Terminal, A Gates)
Design Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Shopping Plane Award Point
Toilets Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Overall Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum, 100ml at the Duty Free Shop
$66.00 (£33.20)
Bottle of Veuve Cliquot at the Duty Free Shop $99.00 (£49.80 – or click to see other currencies)

Crowded house at London Heathrow Terminal 3

Even in full anticipation of a delayed flight, I left my home well in time for check-in at London Heathrow‘s Terminal 3 – home to Virgin Atlantic. It’s funny how this blog can change your whole expectation (but then this was part of the idea anyway). So, was my flight delayed? Technically yes, but I have to admit, it was a close call. The Boeing 747 left the gates about 20 minutes after the scheduled departure time and took off 11 minutes later. In fact, that’s a very acceptable delay, especially for a 10 hour flight.

So, what was there to do in Terminal 3? Quite a bit: Until the recent opening of Terminal 5, this terminal was probably the best Heathrow had to offer, especially in terms of shopping and amenities. It’s still pretty good, however, the one thing that is striking every single time I get there, is the sheer amount of people in one space. The main area is ridiculously undersized for the amount of people and as a result you will have a tough time finding a seat even during quiet times like this morning.

However, there’s good news as well. Having been in this Terminal a couple times before I already know you can find the usual newspaper, electronics and book shops, a large duty free shop, a Harrod’s outlet, the only Yo! Sushi restaurant in Heathrow, TGI Friday’s, Brasserie Chez Gérard, a handful of Designer shops and four coffee shops. Four coffee shops? Yep. And with that insight, I told myself there must be quite some competition among them, so I took a closer look and compared the prices for a regular sized latte (or in new coffee lingo it would be a “tall” sized drink):

  • Bagel Street, £1.80
  • Eat, £1.90
  • Starbucks, £2.05
  • Caffe Italia, £2.10

If you are looking for a soy milk latte, this changes the game slightly as both Eat and Starbucks charge extra for this luxury health choice (Eat £0.30, Starbucks £0.35) where as the two others don’t.

But if price was equal, which one should you choose? Which coffee is the best? Well, personally I favour Eat for regular coffee and Starbucks for Soya as they have the better soy milk. But in line with my previous post about eating healthy while travelling, I only tasted these two this time. I will update this post when I’m back to taste the other two.

Oh, one more thing: From now on we will add a little price index to our airport short facts where possible. I’ve chosen the two most useful likely products you would find in every duty free around the globe: Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum and Veuve Clicquot Champagne. Prices will be shown in local currency and US Dollars.


Airport name: London Heathrow, Terminal 3
Design factor: 2/5
Shopping factor: 3/5
Toilets factor: 3/5
Overall factor: 2/5
Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum: £57.70 (click to see other currencies)
Bottle of Veuve Clicquot: £28.25

[Picture from Flickr]

What the hell can you do at Berlin’s Tegel Airport?

Despite its capital status Berlin has no representative airport so far – which leads to the hassle of few direct flights to international destinations and the question of how to spend your time at Tegel or Schönefeld when your flight is delayed since both airports are very small.

When you have several hours, go back home or to the city center as both airports are close to the city. If you have less time try this:

  1. Find out that “Tegel” is only one label – which man is honored by giving his name to the airport as well? (No internet research allowed!) One tip: He died in a plane crash.
  2. Find the Starbucks in the airport (This is a tricky one! I once thought I was at the wrong airport when somebody told me to meet at the Starbucks.)
  3. Walk around the circle of Tegel and count your steps. Add some entertainment for the other passengers by a) counting loudly b) running c) running trailing your luggage behind you! I assume that should take less than 3 minutes when you shout out loud enough so people jump out of your way (“Bahn frei, Osterei!”).


Please write down your records and I will try to beat them next time I fly from Tegel!


Airport name: Berlin Tegel Airport.
IATA code: TXL
Design factor: 1/5
Shopping factor: 1/5
Toilets factor: 2/5
Overall factor: 3/5 (because it’s just 10 minutes from my home and easy to reach!)

Kodak moment at Rochester airport?

Rochester, home of the Kodak corporation is a 200,000 people city in Monroe county, New York state, south of Lake Ontario. And despite the towns small size it actually has an international airport called “Greater Rochester International Airport” (IATA: ROC). Just don’t expect to fly there directly from anywhere far away, it’s not that international (in fact, I think the only international flight is across the lake to Toronto). But at least it features frequent flights to and from JFK. The only problem is that if JFK is disrupted for some reason, you’re stuck at Kodak’s home airport.

And that’s exactly what happened last time I went there for business: I was hoping to get back to JFK quickly in order to catch my flight back to London Heathrow. But unfortunately a major storm over New York caused my JetBlue flight to be delayed by several hours (and making me miss all possible flights back to London that day, but that’s another story…).

So, what was there to do at thrilling Rochester airport? Here’s my top 5:

  1. Feast on JetBlue’s generous food and drink offerings (mind the cookies, but indulge on the blue crisps)
  2. Make use of the free Wifi (while getting annoyed with yourself for leaving the charger in the checked bag)
  3. Search for the one coffee shop which actually does have soy milk coffee (the one between the two concourses has!)
  4. Calm down the lovely lady next to you who has tickets for the premiere of the Sex and the City movie at the Radio City Music Hall tonight
  5. Bond with fellow stranded travellers and complain in loud voices about the lack of information (and the distasteful cookies, see 1.)

What? You think that stained glass thing (see picture above) should have made it into the top 5? Common, stay focused! 😉


(Picture from Flickr)

Girl’s heaven at London’s Terminal 5

Late Departure at London Heathrow Terminal 5

15 minutes delay for my flight to Berlin? GREAT! Because – LADIES – that’s all you need! Head downstairs to the A departure level and check out my Top 3 which are just next to each other:

  • Go to the comfy ladies bathroom and realize by checking your make-up that you look just gorgeous! This wonderful body needs to be treated well with…
  • … chocolate! Stop at the chocolate waterfall of “Chocolate Box” next door and spend your money on your favourite bar.
  • … gems! Your desire for eye candies can be satisfied at “Accessorize”. One can never have too much jewellery!

After all that, head happily to your gate with the nice thought of enjoying your chocolate while looking at London from the sky).


Airport name: London Heathrow (Terminal 5) Short code: LHR
Design factor: 4/5
Shopping factor: 3/5
Toilets factor: 4/5
Overall factor: 4/5

P.S. I am curious what the guys have to say about Terminal 5! I saw them handing out free shots of Whisky at the Worldofdutyfree, that should make it on to the list. As well as the comfy sofas in the waiting area. But  don’t forget to check out Gucci and Tiffany’s and buy some small souvenir for your lefthome girlfriend! 😉

Reliable Zurich

Well, I think you saw it coming, didn’t you? Of course, there was no delay at Zurich airport on my Swiss flight back to London last night. But don’t be disappointed just yet! As Zurich is kind of home turf to me, I’m still able to give you the lowdown about this airport:

After the major rehaul of the entire airport in 2003, Switzerland’s main hub is now back on the radar of decent airports. Particulary nice is the so called “Airside Centre”, the main area for shopping, restaurants and the starting point to all gates. It offers an attractive high roof and a nice wooden floor. However, the main problem with the airport overall is that other than at most airports, the security checks in Zurich are located close to the actual gates, so after the main shopping area, and not after the passport checks, which means you need to plan ahead and be very contious of your remaining time. Also, if you depart from the E gates you need to take the shuttle train to the midfield terminal which adds another 10 to 15 minutes to your journey. This terminal contains some shops as well but the selection is far smaller than in tha Airside Centre.

But without further adu, here are my top 5 things you can do while waiting at Zurich airport (if that ever happens…):

  1. Choose your favourite “Luxemburgerli” flavour from the Lindt & Sprüngli shop
  2. Hop on the “Gates E”-train and experience the Heidi and alpine scene animations from Swiss Tourism (there’s a different one each way)
  3. Count how many times the friendly Swiss greet you with a “Grüezi
  4. Press your nose against the Rolex glass cabinets in the Swiss watch store and dream of your lottery win on Saturday
  5. Try to find someone who actually can speak the 4th official Swiss language Romansh

Airport name: Zurich Airport / Zurich Kloten
Short code: ZRH
Design factor: 4/5
Shopping factor: 3/5
Toilets factor: 2/5
Overall factor: 3/5

Top 5 things to do while waiting in…. Copenhagen

Thanks a lot for all your feedback on my first blog entry. One of many comments was that you would like to see a top X list of things to do. Fair enough, so here’s the one for Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport:

  1. Visit the tiny but iconic Lego store – DKK 0
  2. Decide between the brown and the black leather jacket in the Puma store – DKK 2,000
  3. Drink a large beer at the Sportsbar while watching the Euro Soccer – DKK 67
  4. Make room for the next beer downstairs in the roomy toilets – DKK 0
  5. Watch the gorgeous blond across the hallway – priceless

Again, comments are of course more than welcome 🙂

(Image from Flickrsome rights reserved)

Lengthy wait at Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport

Copenhagen is a beautiful city, especially when you visit it in June where the daylight hours are the longest of the year and even more so if you are lucky and find warm and sunny weather. All of these parameters were true for me when I visited Denmark’s capital last weekend. And for the size of the city there is a lot to do and see. My favourites were the alternative area Christiania or simply a trip with the water taxi around the harbour.

Continue reading Lengthy wait at Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport