Kristen Schuelke is the Account Manager, West Sales for British Airways, based in San Francisco. She recently visited Vienna with her fiance, and did it a bit differently than I’m guessing most of my clients would! [Except for the Business Class part on BA] Here is her post of this great experience on Marcel’s couch.
I have to admit: during my first interview at British Airways three years ago, one of the final questions tested my knowledge of the BA seat. In my corporate infancy, I’ll admit that I really didn’t know the answer! I even had a model from which to base my response, but the brilliant British Airways business class seat in the front lobby was in it’s upright position giving no sign of what made it so special. It looked more like a fortress– a long, stylish seat separated from it’s neighbour by a privacy screen. I didn’t quite make the connection; for in fact it’s not a seat, but a bed!
My first time travelling in Club World on British Airways, I revisited that feeling most adults remember only vaguely-the Christmas morning, seeing-snow-fall-for-the-first-time feeling. I was taking advantage of a special fare to Vienna and decided to go on a whim with my fiancé. Needless to say, we didn’t have time to reserve a hotel at our destination. We stepped onto the 747 to find fabulously luxurious seats; only this time I knew the secret of these seats: they are actually beds! Before lights were turned low, the cabin crew came through the aisles to offer business class Club passengers a “night cap” of tea or hot chocolate and cookies-perfectly blissful. More so was the smell of breakfast in the morning, waking passengers up in just enough time to enjoy a quick bite before landing…. When was the last time you can remember wanting a flight to last just another hour or so? It was lovely.
About this point is where the luxury vacation turns into a brave adventure. Couchsurfing.org is a youthful travel revolution, organizing a network of like-minded travellers to swap travel information, location ideas, and yes-places to “couch surf.” It’s a mix of ebay, craigslist, facebook, and your favourite travel agent site. The exchange of money is strictly prohibited, placing the focus on the exchange of traditions, culture, and local maps. You have to have a profile on couchsurfing.org in order to participate-and those who have hosted or “surfed” get feedback on their profiles. From what I had heard, couch surfing is a way to practice a language, meet a new friend, travel extensively on a less than a dime, and get to really know a new place-rather than viewing a new city from your hotel room. It’s not for everyone, but it worked for us on this occasion – the infamous weekend trip to Vienna!
Our host, Marcel, lived in a penthouse apartment in the heart of Vienna. Working on his third master’s degree, he loves hosting and practicing languages. He greeted us with maps, itineraries from previous couch surfers and of course, nutella! He also had an entire section of his apartment dedicated to karaoke. A screen pulled down from the ceiling to cover an entire wall, and he had what appeared to be professional-grade microphones. We participated in his daily karaoke with friends a few times-except when he did it in Russian because it was too hard to read and keep up singing with the others. Needless to say, Marcel is now invited to our wedding in October.
During our stay in the city, we visited the Sissy Museum and the Hofburg Palace, the Belvedere Museum, Schonbrunn, the Danube Tower, St.Stephens Cathedral, the Prater fair, the outdoor Naschmarkt…. all recommendations of Marcel, our couchsurfer host! All of these places were worth visiting, but I especially enjoyed the Belvedere Museum with Dali and Gustav Klimt paintings. It’s a fabulous palace full of art, and surrounded by gardens.
My first couchsurfing experience was a great success, though I’m not sure if all future experiences will be able to reaffirm my faith in humanity in the same way. Did we just luck out with Marcel? Needless to say, it was only a couch-though it was a free couch.
On the trip back to the States I was happy to finally find have a bed to sleep in, compliments of British Airways….
To learn more about about a luxury vacation to Austria or anywhere you can go with British Airways (in a comfortable lie-flat – even couch like – business class seat); or to learn more about booking your business class travel with a high-touch service oriented professional, contact Josh.
Josh Friedman is a travel agent specializing in luxury travel for small groups and individuals – particularly ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations and food & wine inspired journeys. Based in San Francisco, and with clients throughout the USA and abroad, his business is focused on 24/7 personalized service to the sophisticated leisure and business traveler and management of study abroad groups. Business services include high-touch reservations, exclusive hotel and airline offers. His relationships with the world’s top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies will ensure your successful business or leisure trip.
First published June 20, 2009