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12 Highlights From Flying First Class on the World's Swankiest Airlines

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This week, a flight from Newark to Denver had to be diverted because two passengers got in a fight over a reclining seat. It's a testament to the state of domestic economy class that most people I talked to about this weren't surprised—this type of thing was bound to happen.

Sure, complaining about air travel is the Soliloquy Of The Privileged; no one wants to hear about how your satellite TV feed went out or how you had to spend a whole three hours sitting upright and not splayed about like some boneless child. Still, no one would turn down the chance to melt into a full reclining seat and have total privacy on a flight.

You can get this via the first class cabins of international airlines, although this alternative will set you back a few thousand big ones. Those of us who aren't petrol magnates will probably never get the chance to experience these kinds of perks at 35,000 feet. Instead, we'll have to live vicariously through those who are lucky enough to fly on the world's swankiest carriers and who have documented their experiences.

1. Emirates Airlines (Airbus A380; Bangkok to Hong Kong)

Highlights: The shower! Our gracious video host films himself taking a shower mid-flight, which is equal parts insane, mind-boggling, and wonderful.

2. Cathay Pacific (Boeing 777; Hong Kong to Chicago)

Highlights: Cathay was recently named "World's Best Airline," so that must be neat for them. The pre-flight champagne is a nice touch, and so is the personalized hand-written card that comes with the first course wishing the passenger a Happy New Year.

3. Swiss International Airlines (Airbus A330; Zurich to Boston)

Highlights: Free pajamas are a great souvenir, although something tells me first class passengers flying to Zurich can afford PJs.

4. Asiana Airlines (Boeing 747; Incheon to Frankfurt)

Highlights: Here's just some of the food you get to shove down your pampered gullet: Caviar, peppered tuna with carrot-chive slaw, pickled mushroom and chickpea salad, chicken soup with a risotto ball, sorbet, veal tenderloin with lobster, a fruit and cheese plate, and dessert pastries. Keep in mind, that's just one meal. Passengers also get breakfast and lunch if the flight is long enough.

5. All Nippon Airways (Boeing 777; Chicago to Tokyo)

Highlights: Your seat is inside a self-contained little box made with modular pop-out units for entertainment features, charging stations, and storage. You also get a pretty damn big TV.

6. Garuda Indonesia (Boeing 777; Tokyo to Jakarta)

Highlights: Caviar, a nice wine list, and a fully-stocked bathroom kit with like 56 different types of lotions.

7. Etihad Airways (Boeing 777; Abu Dhabi to Sydney)

Highlights: An ornate sliding door provides privacy for each first class passenger. Also, the roof of the cabin transforms into a digital star map at night, which is haunting and seems like something straight out of The Fifth Element's Fhloston Paradise.

8. Singapore Airlines (Airbus A380; Singapore to Melbourne)

Highlights: Turndown service. C'mon.

9. Lufthansa (Airbus A340; Munich to San Francisco)

Highlights: A single rose sits in your armrest's built-in vase. Remember that next time you're jostling your seatmate for elbowroom on the way to Ft. Lauderdale.

10. Qantas (Airbus A380; Melbourne to Dubai)

Highlights: Double-decker A380s have tail-mounted cameras, meaning you can watch take-off or landing on your flatscreen TV from that incredible vantage point (skip to around 15:50).

11. EVA Air (Boeing 777; London to Bangkok)

Highlights: The framed artwork is a nice touch, even if it looks like it belongs in a divorce lawyer's beach house.

12. Thai Airlines (Airbus A380; Frankfurt to Bangkok)

Highlights: Your meals are prepared fresh next to your seat. You may have to bring aboard your own little bag of pretzels if you want that, though.

BONUS: Qatar Airlines (Boeing 787 Dreamliner; Doha to Frankfurt)

While not technically "first" class, this footage comes from an all-business class 787 Dreamliner. This is the newest and nicest passenger jet you can fly, and the features are ridiculous. The armrest magically rises from the console, which is totally unnecessary but that's all part of the joy. The windows are huge on the 787, and you won't find a pull-down shade here; you can control the tint from your digital control handset. It's like transition lenses, except not embarrassing. The toilets "auto-flush" and the bathroom has a window, which is ingenious—there's no reason all plane lavatories shouldn't feature this. Who's going to spy on you? Superman? That guy's a wuss. Oh, and the seatbelts have airbags.

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Design
China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
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FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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Pol Viladoms
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architecture
One of Gaudí's Most Famous Homes Opens to the Public for the First Time
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Pol Viladoms

Visiting buildings designed by iconic Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí is on the to-do list of nearly every tourist passing through Barcelona, Spain, but there's always been one important design that visitors could only view from the outside. Constructed between 1883 and 1885, Casa Vicens was the first major work in Gaudí's influential career, but it has been under private ownership for its entire existence. Now, for the first time, visitors have the chance to see inside the colorful building. The house opened as a museum on November 16, as The Art Newspaper reports.

Gaudí helped spark the Catalan modernism movement with his opulent spaces and structures like Park Güell, Casa Batlló, and La Sagrada Familia. You can see plenty of his architecture around Barcelona, but the eccentric Casa Vicens is regarded as his first masterpiece, famous for its white-and-green tiles and cast-iron gate. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Casa Vicens is a treasured part of the city's landscape, yet it has never been open to the public.

Then, in 2014 the private Spanish bank MoraBanc bought the property with the intention of opening it up to visitors. The public is finally welcome to take a look inside following a $5.3 million renovation. To restore the 15 rooms to their 19th-century glory, designers referred to historical archives and testimonies from the descendants of former residents, making sure the house looked as much like Gaudí's original work as possible. As you can see in the photos below, the restored interiors are just as vibrant as the walls outside, with geometric designs and nature motifs incorporated throughout.

In addition to the stunning architecture, museum guests will find furniture designed by Gaudí, audio-visual materials tracing the history of the house and its architect, oil paintings by the 19th-century Catalan artist Francesc Torrescassana i Sallarés, and a rotating exhibition. Casa Vicens is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. General admission costs about $19 (€16).

An empty room in the interior of Casa Vicens

Interior of house with a fountain and arched ceilings

One of the house's blue-and-white tiled bathrooms

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

All images courtesy of Pol Viladoms.

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