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Flight review – Air France Economy Class, Zurich – Paris

After my first normal Summer at home on the shores of Lake Constance for four years, it was time to take flight again for another five months on the road.

My journey started with a short flight to Paris, from where my next long-haul adventure would begin.

For this short flight, I had booked myself in Economy Class with Air France, using 7,000 Flying Blue Miles. During the online check-in I was offered an upgrade to Business Class for €79 (£69/$83). For a one hour flight, I declined this offer.

My flying day started in the Marhaba Lounge, accessed via Priority Pass.

After a decent lunch in the lounge, I boarded the aircraft for the short run to Paris CDG.

The flight was very lightly loaded and I had a row of three seats to myself.

The legroom was perfectly fine for a short flight.

A snack and drinks were served shortly after take off.

Almost as soon as I finished my coffee, we were descending into Paris for an on time arrival.

I was glad that I had decided to decline the €79 upgrade offer. Some time ago, I wrote a piece on whether business class travel is really worth it and at times I believe it is.

On this occasion, however, I was glad I kept my credit card in my wallet.

This flight was one of the better short-haul experiences I have had in recent years and an easy and painless way to begin my Winter travels.

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Lounge review – Marhaba Lounge, Zurich Airport

The Marhaba Lounge is one with which I have become well acquainted during my various journeys from Zurich Airport.

Accessed via Priority Pass as well as several other lounge programs, Marhaba is located after security control and is accessible for passengers travelling both within and outside the Schengen Zone.

It offers a range of drinks, as well as hot and cold snacks.

Although Marhaba is used under contract by several airlines as well as lounge programs, I have never known it to be overcrowded and have always found it to be a pleasant place to spend some time while waiting for a flight.

I once ended up stuck there for around 5 hours during a rather bad travel day and it was a welcome respite during the delay.

Marhaba is a well organised contract lounge and in my opinion the best of the Priority Pass options at Zurich.

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Trip review – Lake Constance

Lake Constance, nestled between Germany, Austria and Switzerland, encapsulates the contrast between the rugged landscape of the Alps and the gentle serenity of the lake waters. It is truly area of stunning natural beauty and I consider myself privileged to have lived there for nine years.

However, over the last two years, the region has been subject to some of the most brutal covid restrictions in Europe, leading me to spend much of that time away from home. Those restrictions ended in Switzerland several weeks ago and on June 1, Austria finally let go of one of the last hangovers of the covid panic, the mask mandate for public transport and everyday shopping.

I decided to fly down from my temporary base in Stockholm to see how fully this new found freedom was being embraced. I was pleasantly surprised.

My trip started with a flight to Zürich on Swiss, which no longer forces passengers to wear a mask. The airport in Zürich was also mask free, as was the 80-minute train journey to my home in Bregenz, Austria.

During my visit, I checked out the situation in all three countries bordering the lake, beginning with a walk along the Austrian shoreline, from Bregenz to Lochau.

This section is one of the more picturesque walks in the region and hugs the shoreline for several kilometres.

Lake Constance at Bregenz

The rigours of the last two years seemed a lifetime away.

My next stop was the Swiss lakeside town of Rorschach, an easy 35 minute train journey away. The journey was entirely mask free and there were no formalities required to enter Switzerland.

Rorschach was exactly as I remembered it from the pre-covid days.

I then headed off to visit my former workplace in Lindau, Germany. This is a relaxing one-hour cruise on one of the famous Lake Constance ships, which ply many routes around the lake to ports in all three countries.

Lindau was as charming as ever, with the rigours of the last two years seemingly forgotten.

Technically, the Bavarian mask mandate still applies to the first five minutes or so of the train journey back to Austria, but I observed only around 50% compliance and zero enforcement by the Austrian train crew.

On my last day of the trip, with one of the infamous Lake Constance thunderstorms rolling in, I headed off on the excellent new Swiss InterCity train to spend the day in Zürich before my flight back to Stockholm.

Overall, this was a successful and enjoyable trip. Switzerland has been restriction free for several weeks now and has returned entirely to pre-covid normality. Austria has now returned to every day normality and Germany seems not to be far behind.

However, it remains to be seen how long the new found freedom in this region will last.

Switzerland has generally been the least restricted of the three countries throughout the pandemic, and I am now reasonably confident that they, at least, have finally emerged from the panic and will not slip back into the restrictions.

Austria and Germany, however, have been somewhat stricter throughout and witnessing first hand how fully the restrictions were accepted and even embraced on a societal level was unsettling, to say the least. With that said, there seems, at least currently, little appetite in the general populations for a return to those restrictions. I remain optimistic, at least for the summer months.

In conclusion, I would highly recommend a visit to this stunning region, to which no written account can do full justice. Unfortunately, I did not have time on this short trip to enjoy the many other delightful areas of the lakeside, such as the pretty sailing town of Langenargen, the castle and wine region around Meersburg and the eponymous historical town of Konstanz. Hopefully I can cover those areas later in the summer.

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