I went down to the lobby just to scope out if there was an obvious shady pavement, and there wasn't. Tons of staff though. My phone was playing silly buggers and refusing to connect to hotel wifi so even if I'd wanted to get an Uber somewhere like the Souq Waqif or Corniche or whatever, I couldn't. So sod it, I got the lift back up to the second floor and went into Square.
Because the Intercontinental is right in the diplomatic and business district, all the restaurants and bars cater to non-residents of the hotel and there is lots of choice. Square is a giant buffet; I got escorted to a table by a window overlooking a concrete mixer, via a tour of all the different foods available. Blimey. And I asked for a diet Coke, got given a diet Pepsi, served in a jam jar with a handle. Is there no escape from hipsterisms?
Without a word, the driver sailed past the dedicated first and business class entrance and dumped me up at economy. How very dare he! Knows he not who I is?
Inside there's a large smile on a member of Qatar Airways staff welcoming me, and directing me straight to the dedicated immigration lines and securty for business class passengers. It's ridiculously quiet and I am through in absolutely no time.
Been looking forward to this since my only previous time here, when I inadvertently transited during Ramadan meaning the lounge had no food, no booze, no drink except water. Not really the experience I personally opt for. This time round however is a different kettle of fish, and having read so many great things about the place I'm very keen to see how drunk I can get.
First I dump one of my bags in a locker, then I go and explore. The place is huge, and I do a full circuit around the giant water feature (pictured above) looking at all the different seating arrangements, rooms off to the side, etc, and realising that there are no drinks anywhere. At the opposite end is a sit down restauranty bit but I'm not bothered by that, the Square meal was big and I want to save myself for the plane anyway.
Up the huge staircase there are two big buffet food areas and also a long staffed bar, with seats available. Huzzah! So I take a seat at the bar and order a champagne. As I do so, the sound of conversations from my left and right echo through my head: it seems I'm where the English drunks hang out.
One guy in particular sounds really pretty drunk. I'm not out to say he was being a massive twat, but he was loud, and peppering his conversation with swear words in a way which may not be appropriate for this setting at that volume. The barman asked him when his flight was and he said not until 2am - like, 8 hours time. A few minutes later someone else comes and has a gentle word, encouraging him to go grab his airport hotel room now.
It doesn't escalate far - he never gets out of control, certainly not violent, etc - but it escalates long. I guess it travelates more than escalates. The guy who appears to be the manager pours the bloke one more beer and says sir, please have this and then it would be best for you to go, and for the next half hour or so all the bloke and his temporary mate can talk about is how he's not that pissed, he's not offended anyone, he's not violent, he's got an amazing tolerance anyway, and besides, he's a loyal Qatar Airways privilege club member don't you know? These themes are on repeat worse than the BBC World rolling news, but it is high comedy to me.
With no further scene made he leaves. I realise I'm in danger of going the same way, getting through three glasses of champagne inside the first 50 minutes or so - but I still don't really want to go eat, especially not in a restaurant-ish setting. In fact, as nice as this is I realise the lounge is not all I had expected. I prefer self-service to a bar, and when I fancy downgrading from champagne to beer I prefer to have more choice than Heineken, Heineken or Heineken.
So, I got the iPad out and finished the previous blog post. Not even wanting any more booze, I went downstairs to retrieve my bag and sat with a plate of cookies waiting for it to upload. While doing so I fired up the Qatar Airways app on my phone and, hmm, hang on, why is it saying my seat has changed?
Gate C12 is a long walk, certainly longer than the C10 I present myself too (same plane - it's an A380 - but economy class). I go through secondary security then hand my paper boarding pass plus passport to the woman at the counter. I am giddy with excitement and anticipation. The machine makes a weird beep and she stares at the screen then taps the keyboard a bit.
Sir, you've been upgraded to first class.
Yes! Yes! Yes! I bloody knew it. The app said I was in seat 1A which instantly raised my heartrate, but it also said I was still in business, But I knew the plane was almost completely sold out and that Qatar Airways are nice to us shiny card holders on occasion. Woohoo! First class! Five days previously they'd offered me an upgrade for just over £1,000 and I was like, pfft, no chance, there's no way first is worth that much over business. But now that I've been given it for free I'm like, woohoo! They just gave me a grand's worth of upgrade! I'm such a dick like that.
Anyway. Hello, seat 1A on the Qatar Airways A380. I appear to be the only person in the cabin (which does, after all, only have 8 seats; given there are 517 on the plane I'm not quite the top 1%, but top 1.5% will do).
Jennifer comes along, her face 80% smile, and welcomes me onboard. She takes one bag and my coat and places them into my personal wardrobe, and while I'm settling into the cavernous seat and gawping at the ludicrously large TV screen she's off to fetch me a glass of champagne and a cold towel. Krug is good fizz, right? It certainly tastes it.
Some olives and cheese arrive too, and a refill, while a family of 5 have the run of the cabin to pick which of the other 7 seats they want. Menus arrive, I'm told where to find bottled water and headset, and am delivered an amenity kit and some large pyjamas and told where the changing room is. Changing room? What?
While still on the ground I also have a cup of Arabian coffee, poured from a fancy gold coffee pot right in front of me. I absolutely hate the smell of coffee but this doesn't smell like it, so I take a gamble that the name is confusing and it's actually not really coffee. Sadly, I think it is. Whatever it is I dislike it and try not to grimace when refusing a second cup.
I am, however, VERY EXCITED to pick my food, and tickled that there's a choice of dipping oils for the bread.
The wine list I'm not bothered by, but have a look if you're interested. I mean I'll just stick with the Krug please, and have some port later on 'n that.
The USB socket on this plane actually delivers power, albeit only for a minute at a time. Hmm. And I can't get the inflight entertainment system to entertain me. Once we're in the air I ask "should this be working by now?" The handset is working, but the TV doesn't respond to my requests at all, and I'd quite like to watch American Animals. It absolutely should be working already, so they reboot it. Twice.
I can remember very little about the soup other than it being nice. I mean by now I am pretty hammered as well, to be honest.
The pasta main is absolutely bloody gorgeous. But to be clear, nothing (caviar and Krug aside) is a particularly vast step up from business class - but that just goes to show how good they are in business anyway.
"Are you ready for cheese?" and "May I offer you some more champagne?" are two of the more ludicrous questions I'm asked.
Next up on TV I watch Den of Thieves, and have my breakfast order taken. I go for a plate of fruit to start with, and it is mostly terrible.
Arabic pancakes are, however, delicious - but I am way to bloated and full to get even close to finishing them. You'd think I'd remember that drinking only highly fizzy drinks while spending 10+ hours in a pressurised tube does this to me.