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Last Post: Travel Report: “Interesting” Trip To New Orleans
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Last Modified: August 16, 2016 @ 8:04 pm (GMT -7)
Aug '16

Travel Report: “Interesting” Trip To New Orleans

Guess this means that there will be more than one post for New Orleans as there were some “interesting” events on the way to The Big Easy.

It started out WAY too early – and I stayed up the night into the morning before. Short story – bed at 1am, alarm at 3am, flight at 5:30am. The only good thing about this was that I was in First Class so after breakfast I got an hours sleep or so. But here is what I look like at that time of the day – not pretty:

This was on the Seattle to Denver leg – Seat 1B, my favorite. And the breakfast was tasty, but a tad under warmed:

Choice of biscuit or cinnamon roll – since I’m headed to the south, it was biscuit (where is my gravy!)

Since it’s a domestic only ticket – no lounge access EVEN on a Paid First Class Ticket – something that Alaska Airlines does (Paid, but not on upgrades) but apparently United Airlines doesn’t. This meant that I took a two hour “nap” (much needed) on the carpet at DIA. Man did I need that nap!

But the real reason for this post is TWO different run-ins with Service Dogs – BOTH times I was seated in 1B – maybe it shouldn’t be my favorite seat after all!

The first time it was on a Seattle-Tucson direct flight with the woman sitting next to me reeking of cigarette smoke and for most of the trip was on her shoulders – panting in my ear, and going after my meal.

The guy behind me seems freaked out as well. This was in in August of 2014. Here is the post back then: http://blog.unclemarkie.com/2014/10/05/trip-report-ficos-birthday-in-tucson/

I boarded the flight for my favorite seat (1B) to find my legroom filled with a service dog the size of a small pony. When I went to sit down, the woman noticed my apprehension and asked if there might be another first class seat that I’d be more comfortable in – “First is booked full.”

The said small pony:

Luckily, the woman pestered all the flight attendants trying to get a gate agent involved – I actually didn’t say anything, but she could tell that I was uncomfortable. The matter was solved when the guy in 1C offered to switch seats saying, “I like dogs.” Situation defused, but you can see the dog is clearly laying across the leg room of 1A and 1B.

My post on the other dog (http://blog.unclemarkie.com/2014/10/05/trip-report-ficos-birthday-in-tucson/) was skeptical of the “service dog” – seemed more like a cranky, smoky, old lady wanting to keep her pooch with her.

On this trip I actually saw the “small pony” in action.

Turns out that she has HUGE fear of flying issues and was flying to New Orleans when there are huge storms and flooding all over the region. She said she refuses to board flights with expected turbulence – she shouldn’t have boarded this one (I was expecting to be it bumpy), or they gave her bad information at the gate. When we hit the expected turbulence she really started to freak out – grabbing the arm of the gentleman who traded seats – she was pushing the call button, yelling for more alcohol, etc. That’s when the dog (who was totally chill), got up and snuggled up to her – and it did help her, but she was still a mess, not helped by the captain telling the flight attendants to strap in.

After my day I said the hell with the hour plus bus to the city ($2.50) and then a trolley ($2.50) and opted for the UberXL (no UberX from the NOLA airport) for $50.00 – it was just nice to get to the condo in half an hour.

Next post will be the fun of New Orleans.

[? ? ?]

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Aug '16

City Report: Back to Filson’s For A Drink With Smokey The Bear

I know, I was just at Filson’s last week – but they were having a Smokey The Bear birthday party complete with Smokey himself, mini-cupcakes (the kids were running wild), and for the adults – it turns out, real cocktails, served in Mason Jars with Smokey The Bear cozies.

First – the Smokey The Bear photos:

This one features the “hottie” tour guide from last week (in the plaid).

And, of course, Uncle Markie had to get his picture taken with the big guy…

But really it was all about cocktails and cupcakes…

And “real” designer cocktails they were:

I had the “Smoke But No Fire”…

Any they even were giving out Smokey The Bear cozies!

The one thing I passed on was the Union Pinot Noir in a can – I kid you not – an aluminum can!

I really wanted to pocket one – apparently they also had a white and a rosé that they were desperately to get cooled down (along with the beer) after a delivery held up my Seattle’s infamous traffic.

The timing was good for the SODO-area event – I had to make a run to the Post Office to drop a Priority Mail envelope – nice to have a cocktail and a cupcake (OK, two) with Smokey on the way home.


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Aug '16

City Report: Time Off In The City, From Free To Pricey

So, its summer, which for me is no cheap bargain flights anywhere, so it’s time to explore the city. So over the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing tourist things with friends who are also free during the week.

Let’s work from Free to Pricey – though I visited these places in the reverse order.

Filson Factory Tour (FREE):

Filson is what Eddie Bauer used to be – the rugged outdoor ware company, albeit from the West Coast rather than the East Coast. Eddie Bauer has bounced around from corporate overlord to corporate overload, but Filson is still privately owned. But one thing is the same – they stand behind their product, even if your grandfather bought that jacket, they will repair it.

Here is great overview of Filson from Wikipedia: LINK HERE. Like most things, you start digging into it and although privately held, it’s held by the same folks who have Fossil and Shinola. On the upside, you should see the Filsons/Shinola bike which I don’t see on their site (or Shinolas) that had nice bamboo accents. There is still one in their showroom in Seattle – last time I asked the price I think it was upwards of a grand.

All of Filson’s production is done domestically for most of its flagship line of bags and heavy-weight jackets with a free small exceptions like dry bags (thick rubber bags for rafting, etc.) – belts, bags, all US production in Seattle, but their new line of more casual shirts I believe are outsourced/partnered to Levis (guess I’ll have to look at the “made in” tags on the next visit) but the one I looked at on the site said “imported”.

All that said, it was great to see high-end work being done in the middle of Seattle. Here are some shots. First the showroom:

And then the factory tour – with the “hottie” tour guide:

TONS of staff (ratio 4 staff to 1 customer) on the floor. Unfortunately the one item I wanted was only part of a package of a watch and books. Sigh. FYI – that “package” with the watch runs $1000. I just wanted the orange bandana! Tours are Tuesdays at 10am, Thursdays at 1:30pm– the meet on the THIRD floor, showroom is on the SECOND floor. It almost made me miss the tour!

Next up (in reverse order) is:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitors Center (FREE)

The Foundation is right across the street from EMP – The Experience Music Project, located at Seattle Center. Why not add it onto a visit to Seattle Center, The ChuckHooy Glass Abuse Garden, the Science Center, etc.

During opening hours it’s a self-guided tour – which is esthetically pleasing, but WORD heavy. Show up at 2pm for the guided one-hour tour. It still give you time to explore areas of interest in-depth, but give you a better overview of Uncle Bill’s work (no, I’m not his nephew, I’m just an ex-Microsoft employee).

Here are a couple of shots from the Visitor’s Center:

Because we need a “selfie” in this post – they had a photo booth:

Would have been nice to have some starving children in the background or something (just kidding).

And the final stop in this Seattle Tour is:

Experience Music Project – EMP ($25 but free for “North American Reciprocal Museum Association” Members)

This might be the hidden benefit for my “Pioneer” Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) membership. Last October I got a TAM membership to support the AIDSartAmerica exhibit which they were lead organizer. With the membership I got reciprocal privileges to The North American Museum Association and Museums West. Very amazing for a smaller regional museum – and that level of membership was $125 for a year, with half a dozen guest passes to the museum.

So far, during this year, I’ve gotten six entrances to EMP ($150), 4 entrances to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans ($54 soon to be 5 at $67.50), 1 entrance ($10.50 soon to be 2 at $21.00) to the New Orleans Museum of Art, 4 entrances into The Tacoma Art Museum ($60), 2 entrances into The Neon Museum in Las Vegas ($36), 2 entrances into the Georgia O’Keefe Museum ($24), Palace of Governors ($24), and New Mexico Museum of Art ($24). Round numbers: I’ve gotten $382.50 value out of my $125 – think about that they next time you are in a museum – check out their partners and get something than the other “basic” membership (caveat – some reciprocal memberships restrict benefits within 60 miles of your “home” museum, and some [like the Neon Museum] require BOTH member cards for two people, most do not). It’s nice to be able to give your “Guest of Mark Souder” pass to visitors in town especially for the EMP. Just like my National Parks Pass, I tend to favor smaller museums because they collect a larger chunk of the money.

But I digress (as usual) – we are talking about the Experience Music Project which started as Paul Allen’s dream to build a Jimi Hendricks Museum. The Hendricks family looked at the co-founder of Microsoft and wanted a whole wad of dough to aloe name to be uses – hence “The Experience Music Project” that holds Paul Allen’s’ collection of Jimi Hendricks memorabilia, his Sci-Fi (Paul’s, not Jimmi’s) collection, and rotating exhibits. It is in a Frank Gehry designed building that has the Seattle Monorail running through (but not stopping in) it. Here is the LINK to the background of the museum.

Let’s get to some pictures of the place!

Mr. Whippet and the EMP.

So, the Museum is split into sections – Guitars, Hendrix Nirvana and various other music-themed exhibits, and then there is the Horror, Fantasy, Infinite Worlds sections, plus a couple of areas for special exhibition – currently one on Star Trek (extra $5 upcharge) and the other “The World of Wearable Art (WOW)”. Here is a sampling of photos starting with Fantasy and a couple of costumes from The Wizard of Oz:

Then Science Fiction:

Then into Guitars:

And finally, wearable art:

By the end of the Museum I was feeling a little peckish – luckily there is a Wolfgang Puck Pop Kitchen & Bar – 50% off on food items for members and reciprocal members. Yahoo!

Time for a Manhattan and some parmesan fries.

Next time I go to the opera I might have to come here for an early dinner!

So there you have some free and not-so-free (unless you want to borrow my pass).

Safe travels everyone.


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Aug '16

City Report: Touring Amazon’s Headquarters

I really would have preferred to tour one of their fulfillment centers – but alas, nothing in the state and nothing with slots open (I would have FLOWN to get on a tour), so Seattle Headquarters it is.

Here is a map of the fulfillment centers that offer tours:

And I was serious about flying to do a tour! Just rechecked – Jeffersonville, Indiana has an October 4th opening…sigh. And now I have spots for two people. Where the hell IS Jeffersonville! Across the river from Louisville, Kentucky it turns out.

I’ve got friends in Kentucky – The Colonels, Babs…but it turns out The Colonels will be in NOLA (New Orleans) during that time – might have to reschedule.

But back to the HQ Tour! We start at “Day One North” – because in Amazon speak, “Every Day Is Day One”, in this case North, but we parked in Day One South – separated by a free Banana Stand for everyone (Amazon or not):

We were early so we wandered down to Lake Union, stopped at my Credit Union for cash, ogling all the “worker bees” before our tour.

And off on the tour we go, with two guides (and BADGES!):

Random shots of the “views” from various Amazon buildings (12 spread around South Lake Union and Belltown):

All the buildings are named after Amazon’s history – this building, Rufus, named after the first “office dog”. Currently there are about 2,000 dogs at work per day – doggie biscuits at all the reception desks. Rufus is also the name of one of our “shop dogs” – i.e., dogs what drag owners into Madrona Wine Merchants:

Lots of rooftop gardens!

And a candid shot of my tour buddy Mags:

Lots of walking – should have brought my hat from the car.

For me, the highlight was the Tote Robot (nicknamed Tottie) that delivered our “swag” – here is the video:

Please note that the robot is running at 20% of its normal speed – now you know why I want to get a tour of a fulfillment center!

Here is the SWAG and my “badge” from the tour – one of the stops was at the “reading room”, filled with advance copies of books which we could take one with us – I grabbed a “thriller” call “The Capitalist” – appropriate for an Amazon tour!

Selfie stick, badge, book, and not pictured, pen and stickies set – not sure where that’s gone to!

It was a fun day – we’d thought about doing the Gates Foundation Visitor Center, but we’d run out of energy. OK, I’d run out of energy!

Fun day in the city.


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Jul '16

Trip Report: Whistler With Roxy

In what has become an annual tradition for the last three years, Roxy and I are once again off to Whistler for some “hiking”.

Top down the whole way, with a few sprinkles – overcast mostly.

Condo was ready for us when we arrived a little after 4pm – not a bad place. It’s a one-bedroom so Roxy is on the fold-out couch:

First stop is the IGA for a bird and supplies:

Just like my trip to Puerto Vallarta a couple of weeks ago, it’s going to be a chicken week, made easier by the fact that Roxy is enthusiast about food.

The next morning up and on the road – but with a wake-up selfie for a friend just back from Europe:

A bit out of focus, but that’s Roxy’s fold-out couch/bed.

We were SLOW getting out of the condo, it was after noon when we picked up our Peak2Peak Season passes… what was overcast yesterday was cloudy and drippy on the mountain….this is on the first gondola:

Which turned into this on the Peak2Peak….

For us, having skipped breakfast (for sleeping in until 11am) we headed directly to Christines for lunch – it was closed for renovations last summer, but it was a favorite our first year:

Roxy had the Salmon…

I had the Blackened Ahi…

Sorry that both shots were after we’d “tucked in” as the Brits would say.

This should give you an idea of the weather on our first two days on the mountain:

But there was a “cool” display of a “faux” GMC Denali gondola:

After last night’s dinner, I’d stripped the chicken and Roxy made us Chicken/Ciabatta/SweetOnionDressing sandwiches for our mountain adventure – tasty they were:

I also boiled down the bones and made stock for chicken/vegetable/noodle soup – with is tonight’s meal:

Got to get your money out of that chicken!

Even made it to the hot tub for a soak post dinner after our “grueling” day of “hiking”:

Day Three in Whistler required a room change – down the hall in the Handicapped Unit – couldn’t find four days together in one unit, so that meant packing everything up, leaving it on a trolley, bagging the stuff in the fridge, and having it magically appear in our new unit.

But, again, the mountain was socked in…

This day, we were wise enough to bring books along, spending many revolutions in the Peak2Peak Gondola, not bothering to get off – just introducing ourselves to new riders with each turn.

More chicken noodle soup for dinner – the staff kindly moved it pot and all, replacing the missing pot from our new kitchen.

And oh what a difference a day makes when the sun comes out! Lines everywhere…

No more round-and-around for us. People everywhere because of the break in the weather…

And the first hike we do – it’s a Black Diamond trail to the Peak Express. Remember, I’m the guy that only does the Green Diamond Trails. That would be the lift down in the valley – bad for my knees on the way down, bad for my breathing on the way up:

Said “Black Diamond” trail:

On the walk I saw this gentleman doing a watercolor on the path – reminded me of my brother-in-law on hikes:

That would be a snow making lagoon on the upper right.

As you can see from the video below, there is a reason we didn’t take this lift Tuesday or Wednesday in the bad weather – they are open chairs!

But it sure is pretty at the top!

The way DOWN is actually a little more breathtaking – though I didn’t get the camera turned on in time to see the sudden “over the cliff” launch – but as luck would have it, that’s right where the lift stopped.

I had a hankering for a hot dog – apparently not easy to find when they don’t have their outdoor grill going – unless you are a whole suckling pig!

Guessing that’s for the pulled pork poutine (which I had last year). I had to settle for the Children’s Combo which had a VERY SAD hot dog, fries, and three sides (yoghurt, fruit strips, fruit cups, etc.). That said, it was $10 CAD, minus 10% because we are pass holders, bringing it to $9 CAN, and with the exchange with $1 USD equal to $1.30 CAD, it was a cheap lunch in an expensive place:

Alas – lunch at Christines is a once-a-trip treat (we spent $110 CAD on lunch Tuesday for the two of us).

The trip is coming to the end, so, a little more reading, hanging out on lifts, but no more hiking:

And from our final ride down the mountain:

Before you know it, we are one the road headed home – actually got out of the condo by 9AM! Don’t we look relaxed on the road?

The border was maybe 20 minutes because I spent five minutes buying duty-free rye, cutting off another 10 minutes of traffic – would have been quicker, but Roxy doesn’t have a Nexus card – but not bad. We made it home after getting stuck in Seattle traffic by 3:30 or so… plenty of time to cook dinner for our mutual friend, Mr. Whippet!

Pardon the stacks of wine boxes – got 10 cases of “Buck-A-Bottle” for upcycling.

All-in-all, a fun trip. Going back early September since I have a season-long pass – and there is “room at the inn”.


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Jul '16

Trip Report: Mt. Rainier Steam Train

This week’s adventure is a visit to Mt. Rainier, and a Steam Train ride on the way home. Rache is back along for this adventure as we both like trains. We are also flying to Calgary at the end of August for a Lunch Train to nowhere. But back to the present.

Nice overcast day – perfect for a top-down drive.

With just a two-hour drive, we get to leave at a leisurely time since check-in is a 4.

Had to swipe the picture – forgot to get a decent picture of the place. But I did get a shot of the room and the view:

This is the view from the first floor – there were screens on the windows making for bad photos, but you get the idea:

We had a little nap after our “long” drive and before long, it was time for dinner. I’d brought a bottle of the 2005 Château de Clairvoy Bordeaux – and was amazed at the low ($8) corkage fee. Glad we brought it since the wines on their list trended to mass market Washington State wine (Sagelands), or $60-100 better bottles (but way over-priced).

Rache ordered a Bombay Dry Martini, I, a Manhattan – his arrived proper, mine was a little “less” properly glassed. Apparently the “up” confused our server and didn’t get that you also “shake and strain” Manhattans:

And it’s minor – but someone orders cocktails, wait to pour the wine.

Dinner was good, not “write home” excellent, but well-prepared. I went for the linguini with clams and a salad – Rache the bone-in pork chop (which he said he should have ordered medium rare):

After dinner it was time for a hike – with a cocktail from the room in hand….a ¾-mile loop across the road from the lodge – site of a former “Medical Springs Resort” – alas, just a couple of baths and one building are left, but it was a pleasant dusk walk, hence, the darkness of the photos…

Rache, as usual, was up early and revisited the trail from last night, I grabbed breakfast at 8 (early for me – but they have limited hours)…

And went back to bed until just before check-out at 11am.

A quick drive to look at a couple of things I hadn’t seen before in Longmire…and a random selfie:

Uncle Markie and mountain, followed by a cool suspension bridge for the road that goes to the Community Building:

The Administration Building (where you get your backcountry permits:

And one of the old tour busses:

Next up, a drive up to Paradise – the bigger and older lodge at Mt. Rainier National Park – but with road construction delays….

But we made it…

A little more “grand” than the National Park Inn at Longmire. Here are some random pictures from the run down the hill:

We stayed for a bit before heading back down the hill to the town of Elbe, just outside the boundaries of the park. This is where we catch the Mt. Rainier Steam Train – but after we grab a bite to eat at The Sidetrack Room:

Might as well start with a drink – much better than the one last night:

We both ended up with the pulled pork sandwich, which was really good, though I would have served it on an onion bun!

There is even an old Lutheran Church open for viewing…

Now for the train!

And some stills from the trip to the Museum in the woods….

First Class where we WERE NOT, which was air conditioned…

Couch Class where we were which was not air conditioned, but the windows opened…

LOTS of kids – might have been worth the extra $10 each in the “less children zone”. Lots of scenery:

But the Museum was the real treat (which for me was unexpected):

Lots of building housing engines, renovation shops, and this display of 1/8th scale functioning steam trains that they are going to start laying track for next month…

And a final shot before we headed back to the city.

It was a quick (just one overnight) but fun trip.

[? ? ?]

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Jul '16

Trip Report: Puerto Vallarta

After the craziness of the Greek Reunion was fun – but as all “group” endeavors, there is a schedule of stuff to do. Even with most of a week off to get printers fixed, status, sleep in my own bed, cook for friends, work – I needed a vacation vacation.

Luckily I’d scheduled Puerto Vallarta as part of a United Airlines promotion – spend a grand, get 10,000 bonus miles (on top of miles and bonus’ earned), spend another $500, get another bonus of 15,000 miles. Yep, another quest! Having done the math, with “class of service” bonuses, turns out a couple of First Class tickets is the quickest/cheapest (in terms of lodging/cars/etc.)

First ticket – Puerto Vallarta!

United was actually running a 757 on the SEA-SFO route. Actually one of my favorite airframes, becoming hard to find as operators like the size as well:

Smaller bins than newer models, but a larger First Class section but I’d gotten up at 3:30am to make my flight, so I’m not looking my best:

Too bad the flight wasn’t on time EVEN BEING THE FIRST FLIGHT TO SFO OF THE DAY.

Arrive SFO – and my flight to PVR is at a Domestic Gate – miles from a Duty Free. Managed to HIKE to the International Terminal AND get back in time for the flight – and eventually have my Duty Free delivered onboard. Why? I’m a Bourbon drinker – Bourbon is NOT cheap in Mexico (though with the exchange 18 to 1, cheaper than it used to be).

737-800 to SFO-PVR. Still looking like the walking dead:

And I’m still tired – but this flight comes with breakfast:

With just carryon luggage it was quick through immigration and customs, into the cab (use the cab ordering stand in the terminal) and to the condo. I’m staying at the Vacation Intervals exchange resort with WorldMark – that’s a mouthful!

And I love that they offer you a free beer at check-in….

Not that is was a GOOD beer, but it was cold and I drank it looking out the balcony of my one-bedroom (full kitchen/no washer-dryer).

Yep, overcast, but humid as poop, with the occasional afternoon showers:

But when it’s raining outside, there is always inside:

And other than picking up mixers at the Soriana a half block away:

It was off to the restaurant in the complex – I didn’t get to the condo until almost 5pm.

Turns out this would be my ONLY meal out while in PV – starting with a margarita!

And then the grilled octopus starter:

With the requisite chips and pico de gallo….

And the main of mole chicken enchiladas….

Enchiladas were a little on the dry side, but I was poolside in PV, so……

Next day it was back to the Soriana to get supplies for the rest of the week – maybe I shouldn’t have brought Bourbon, because they sell Jack and Coke in cans in Mexico:

But I was shopping for real cooking things for the kitchen – like chicken/eggs/cheese/pico de gillo/salad…..

And that chicken will turn into heavos rancheros/stock/soup/quesadillas…..

That chicken fed me for a week!

But here are some other shots from the place (which I basically never left)…the entrance area…

Complete with big ceramic frog….

My room, the one above the towels….

The pool area….

Trust me, there were MANY, MANY more kids in that pools usually – between the heat and the kids, reading on the balcony with the sliding door open and AC wafting over me…..

But really, when the sun started to go down, too wonderful:

But after four nights – back to the airport (half the $12 equivalent fare to get back to the airport), no lounge, but a Carl’s Jr., you’d think I was back in Cali:

A little shopping and it was onto the flight – some decent leg room….

And lunch number one:

That would be plantains, not potatoes.

Another short international transfer – TIP – in Houston take the exit rather than transfer lane if you want TSA-Pre. You have to show ID again, but at least you are express.

Enough time for a QUICK cocktail in the lounge (use it or lose it) before leg two of three (PVR-IAH-DEN-SEA):

I DO love bulkhead aisle….and some of the new tray table tricks – a prop for your tablet:

And lunch number two…

The plan was for a four-hour layover in Denver (the joys of a cheap First-Class ticket), but with club access (Gold Status, International Itinerary) I went to the desk to inquire about the delayed earlier flight and First. Question: “Reward travel?” “No, paid First.” Click, click, click. “Got you a seat.” I get to the gate and there are two screens of people (about 40 people) on the complimentary upgrade list waiting in vain – a part of me feels like I actually got some value out of paying cheap for up front – and I get home three hours early! This is actually huge since I would have gotten home at 1AM and had to work at 11AM.

And rather than a snack (and the couple of drinks in the lounge waiting) on the flight – yet another meal:

That would be the mushroom risotto – the other choice was pasta in a tomato sauce – a guarantee of heartburn for me.

A four-night holiday – didn’t do ANYTHING cultural in PV, unless you consider the last Soriana photo – looks like the soda pop aisle doesn’t it?

This is the DISH SOAP aisle – THAT’s an accident waiting to happen.

Home safe.


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One Response to “Trip Report: Puerto Vallarta”

  1. UMTravels » Blog Archive » Trip Report: Whistler With Roxy Says:

    […] like my trip to Puerto Vallarta a couple of weeks ago, it’s going to be a chicken week, made easier by the fact that Roxy is […]

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Jul '16

Home Report: It’s 3AM And I’m Online Ordering

So, I’m home, I get an Amazon Prime offer – so at 3AM in the morning (rather than ordering pizza because I can’t sleep) I’m ordering:


Angel Soft Bath Tissue, 12 Double Rolls
Angel Soft
Sold by Amazon.com LLC


Zevia Natural Sugar Free Soda, Ginger Ale (6 Count, 12 Fl Oz Each)
Sold by Amazon.com LLC


King Arthur, Special Bread Unbleached Flour, 5 lb
King Arthur
Sold by Amazon.com LLC


Best Foods Real Mayonnaise, 15 oz
Best Foods
Sold by Amazon.com LLC


Key Limes, 16 oz
produce aisle
Sold by AmazonFresh LLC


Frankly, I would have just ordered Evan Williams (which apparently you can do) but the $10 off coupon didn’t apply.

So, sometime between 8am and 10am (I have noon commitments) somebody is showing up at my house 5 hours+ from when I placed an order.

FYI – these are random things that I was out of, there is no recipe involved. But $10 off on a $21.85 (+$2.50 cent), delivered in a couple of hours, and a future $10 off couple. Hell yes.


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Jul '16

Status Report: Alaska Gold

MVP Gold status through the end of 2017 now confirmed:

Here was what put me over the top – The Alaska/Air France/Alaska trip to Greece:

Were I you, I’d abandon Air France and catch at KLM flight if you have the option. Air France, with its recent history of strike action (almost disrupting my trip to Greece) is actually dragging down the partnership. As you can see in my POST, the Air France fleet is a bit tatty.

It was about this time last year that I hit the United Million Mile mark and had a little party.

Six full months into this year and I’m Gold on Alaska Airlines. Odd that I’m on a trip booking miles on United where I’m Gold For Life (but prefer to fly Alaska especially after the trip getting down here). Guess I could fly a bunch more international flights on partner airlines (38,820 more) to hit 75K status, but the free DigiPlayer in the back doesn’t warrant the money and the butt-in-seat time. Don’t think I’ll ever hit the Million Mile status on Alaska. Sad. That’s where I’d like Gold For Life.

Just FYI – in the Mileage Whore circuit, they call this “The Game”.

[? ? ?]

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Jul '16

Home Report: Jonathan Fixes The Honkin’ Huge Printer

You might remember a couple of weeks ago (maybe a month) when I posted this video:

And said I was just going to roll the Honkin’ Huge Printer to the curb – until Jonathan volunteered to install a new carriage belt – so, this is really a HUGE HONKIN’ SHOUTOUT to Jonathan. Thanks – I’ve already printed all the tourist maps I’ll need for my upcoming Puerto Vallarta trip.

A pro can do this in an hour….Jonathan took longer, but was meticulous in his effort:

As the parts pile up in the living room – you really DO have to break this thing down to the carcass to get to this belt:

That pesky belt – it’s supposed to be in one piece, not shredded:

And his reward!

Thank you Jonathan for fixing my printer.


If you got here from a direct link from FaceBook, you can see all the posts at: http://blog.unclemarkie.com.

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One Response to “Home Report: Jonathan Fixes The Honkin’ Huge Printer”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    Glad to have been able to save the plotter from whatever fate might have come from the curbside…and my God, I am really starting to go bald! You never get to see the top of your own head like that until one day someone snaps a photo of you…and then your life is changed forever.

    Oh, well…life goes on, I will adapt.

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Jun '16

Trip Report: Greek Reunion – Part Eight, The Way Home

Luckily my ferry back to Piraeus isn’t until almost noon, and I’d booked the cab yesterday so it’s a gentle morning travel day.

After another lovely breakfast buffet, it was pack and get out the door – in the company of two of the other guests who are sharing the cab. Actually, they picked up the cost of the cab so I bought them a coffee at the port:

Pretty much another scrum (though smaller) to get onto and settled on the ferry:

Those would be my cab-mates standing.

Uneventful journey, but massive rains in Piraeus….

And wet kids (and me!):

We waited it out…and by the time we arrived at the airport on the train we were pretty much dry. Said goodbye to Reuben and Jasmine who had a 9PM flight – mine is at 6:30AM, hence, the night in the Sofitel Athens Airport – which besides being more than I want to send ($200+, but it’s right across the street from the airport), at least it was a really nice room:

And the full-service 24-hour restaurant in the lobby serves REALLY TASTY food (and a good Manhattan as well):

Tempura cod sticks, aioli (the yellow sauce), steamed greens, potato balls, really good bread (which I actually had on since it was an olive bun).

I must have been exhausted from the trip since my last cocktail was at 6PM, water until bedtime at 9PM, as I’m up at 3:45am for my 6:30am flight to CDG (Paris). This is what 4AM looks like:

I was able to check-in on-line at the hotel AND get a printed boarding pass, so I actually had about an hour in the lounge:

And there was ICE at the open bar (I’m so easily amused):

It wasn’t until I was through final security that I realized there was no shopping! Shit – I still have two (well, I only had two) presents to try and buy:

  • Clay figurine (for The Lady Colonel)
  • Tacky T-Shirt (for Kathy)

Well, I thought there was no shopping until I saw someone with coffee – it was just a bit of a walk, and NOT MUCH selection. Imagine my surprise when I found both, though I had to take my second choice of t-shirts (in hind-sight I think I like it better anyway) – and the clay (more likely plastic or plaster) figurine came attached to a bag with a bar of olive oil soap – which The Lady Colonel requested from my upcoming fall trip to Paris/Epernay. Score! And JUST UNDER the deadline of boarding (15 minutes later).

Off to Paris – if only for a moment. This “business class” flight is a “little” better – the armrest, while not able to be put up, did move to the right an inch or two. And unlike on my previous flight, this one had the seatback that folds down for an extra tray table space:

Unlike on the “Main Line” flights – the attendants don’t seem to think aesthetics are important and leave the steamer covers on. Tacky if you ask me – even if there are only FOUR people (out of 20 seats).

And now Champagne, sigh. She even had to track down some Coke Zero – which at least came with caramels and chocolates….

Flight landed on time, BUT I have one hour forty-five minutes to change terminals AND go through border control (at least not baggage scan again). Even the Priority Line was sluggish – can’t imagine being able to do this without the Priority Line. I did get a moment in the Lounge (after a ten-minute wait to get in), with just enough time to look for a printer for my Alaska Boarding Pass (nope) and grab a drink and a bag of crisps (that would be potato chips to the non-British).

Finally, on the plane – this was my mood….

Luckily pre-flight Champagne helped, as did the after-takeoff Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve Scotch with a chaser of Coke Zero:

That would be an empty Mise en Bouche (bend spoon, a.k.a. “An Amusement”) of Scallop and Crispy Vegetables. Dinner itself (even though it was 11:30am and they called it “Lunch”) was smoked duck foie gras terrine, mango chutney with lime and ginger, mozzarella cheese timbale with pesto sauce, lime radish escabéche.

With a lovely glass of Côtes de Provence Château d’Olliéres Classic 2015 Rosè. The main (my choice of three) was the baked filet of beef with Banyuls wine, vegetable pearls and chestnuts with orange zest.

Did I remember to take a picture – no. But I had the 2011 St. Émillion Grand Cru Château Jean Faure. I didn’t even get a photo of dessert! I did get a photo of the forward lavatory – which, while not as nice as the SAS old Seattle-Copenhagen route, which was a “double-wide” with blinds and full-length mirror, this one was better than most, though I should have picked up the towellette before photo’ing.

At least you can “spread your legs” as the disgraced Idaho congressman introduced into our lexicon.

Watched a movie, took a nap, watched another movie and it was time for “breakfast”. This would be thyme potato crisp, sautéed asparagus, cèpe mushrooms with smoke-flavored cream, hazelnut cake, custard sauce, chocolate puff, and berry panna cotta. And look – more champagne!

Luckily I don’t eat like this every day!

The final picture, but not comment, is that these Air France 777-200’s are tired old beasts – I had a pop up screen (that you could angle for a better view), the seats behind me had small embedded screens:

The resolution is SOOOOO bad on these screens that any subtitles are virtually unreadable. Apparently, this fall, they will be all updated (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France). It can’t come soon enough. And hopefully they will move to lie-flat beds as part of the move.

Arrived YVR (Vancouver, British Columbia, CanadaLand) and got through Border Control with just my on-line Alaska Boarding Pass (whew!) and rolled my case to the next available Alaska flight back to Seattle. I arrive around noon – and my official flight isn’t until 9:30pm – luckily the flight gods were with me again, scored a window exit seat on an almost completely full flight and I was home and in bed by 2:30pm – almost 8 hours early.

Slept for four hours, was up for four hours, took a sleeping pill and woke up at my normal time.

Yahoo! Home and rested.


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Jun '16

Trip Report: Greek Reunion – Part Seven, Sifnos Anniversary Party

It’s not exactly time to say goodbye to Sifnos, but it is the final day. Last night I said I wasn’t going to make the hike (in the heat) the 20-minute walk from the road – this morning I caved, feeling that they’d gone to all the bother, at least I could show up.

Bus time again! We get dropped off at the goat trail leading to the farm and wait (luckily in the shade) for those driving to join us…

Guess I could have taken a helicopter in – though actually that just serves Athens.

This should give you an idea of the terrain of the goat path…

That would be the town of Kastro in the distance. Here is a better look:

What you need to realize is that ALL of the materials to fix up the house and build a small guest house had to come up this path – by human or donkey. Idyllic if you don’t mind hiking in and out.

And it even comes with its own chapel which they are hoping to renovate within the coming year.

The picture somehow manages to hide all the bird poop – it really does need a lot of work, and the boys, well, they can garden, but not plaster.


Mulberries (which stain the hell out of everything) …

And originally a cistern with waterwheel for grinding grains.

It really is a lovely quiet place (if it weren’t for that brutal hike in).

Hiked back out, caught the bus to “the big city”, Apollonia where I spied this sign – mind you, this the day AFTER the British decided to leave to the European Union.

Lots of Brits as part of the party so needless to say, the conversation later around the pool is Brexit, Brexit, Brexit.

It seems that I’ve rather bonded with this particular British family….

Speaking of poolside food (they had the seafood risotto which looked heavenly) I tried their marinated octopus (7 Euro) that came with a caper/green onion potato salad that was stunning. I don’t usually rave about poolside food but this deserves it.

Such a hard life – after all that hiking I needed a little (or a lot) of relaxing, especially since tonight is the big party. But wait! More walking – at least this time there is a band to march along with. But seriously – is everything off the beaten path – on Sifnos, apparently.

At least at the end of this march there was Champagne!

And stunning views…

This should give you an idea of the place…

Big party, big food, lots of fun. I’m feeling all GREEK!

The band….

And the happy couple!

As the sun goes down….

Dinner begins….

Nice buffet spread….

The plans called for the party to go all night – with a spaghetti feed at 3AM. For those of us with less fortitude, buses start running at midnight, running every 40 minutes until dawn. These people know how to party, alas, I don’t. I’m on the first bus out – I’ve got a morning ferry back to Piraeus.


If you got to this post directly from FaceBook, you can find the rest of the trip in chronological order at http://blog.unclemarkie.com.

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One Response to “Trip Report: Greek Reunion – Part Seven, Sifnos Anniversary Party”

  1. Umekes Fishmarket Bar and Grill Says:

    The Food And Family Look awesome and that plate right above me makes me awfully hungry. Can you explain about some of the dishes on the plate? What were they exactly inquiring minds want to know. It all looks pretty delicious. Thanks for sharing your adventure. One day want to go with my family to the island of Santorini

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Jun '16

Trip Report: Greece Reunion – Part Six, Hello Sifnos

On the boat after the chaos is “freestyle” boarding – assigned seats so I’m upfront (not “Comfort Class” which is upstairs) in 6A, and Nigel and Reuben are separated by a row in the back near the snack bar – and in this picture, totally absorbed in their zeros and ones:

Speaking of the snack bar….

It’s about two and a half to three hours from Piraeus to Sifnos – with one stop – and it’s a cute little port town to arrive in:

Just as with boarding, there is a scrum for cabs – all four of them on the island (just kidding). There were twelve of us on the boat that are attending the party – which is clocking in at 120+ people. Talk about a “destination” anniversary!

I think we (Nigel, Reuben, me) were the last out of the port, but we are already on “Greek Time” so no worries.

We are booked into the Hotel Alexandros at Platy Yialos which is a beach town (though we are on the hill overlooking the beach). More money that I wanted to pay (315 Euros for the three nights, single occupancy). That said, the place is really nice:

View from my bougainvillea shaded deck followed by the view up the hill to the breakfast room.

This would be my deck on the right…

And the pool area…

This anniversary is planned down to the last drachma…with buses arriving to take guest to dinner at another beach town, Vathi Beach.

Good to see old friends and meet new friends – I was last here 15 years ago for their 10th Anniversary Party.

GREAT breakfast spread in the morning…

And the view isn’t too shabby either…

A sampling of my usual breakfast over the next couple of days…

Complete with fresh squeezed orange juice…

Just a little housekeeping note here, the Greeks aren’t big on providing wash cloths, and they have a very odd (by US standards) way of disposing of soiled toilet paper – one that I will not miss.

I’d think if that was you plan you might put bidets (France) or wands (Vietnam) next to the toilet. Luckily, the shower (with wand) was right next to the toilet.

With nothing planned during the day Friday (most people are arriving today), pool time sounded good…

And maybe a little lunch as well…

With a Gin & Tonic (or two)!

I shouldn’t say there were no daytime activities planned – there were Greek dancing lessons for tomorrow huge celebration:

Here is a short video to give you the idea:

The evening activities are a reception at 7pm with free wine – and you know how I feel about my free wine:

There was white in there as well – but I think it’s locked in my ViVino account pictures. Nothing to write home about on the wines, frankly we have better Greek wines at the shop, but everyone was having a good time.

No official dinner tonight so Reuben, Nigel, and now daughter Jasmine and I hiked down the beach a bit for food. Man are the portions BIG! I had two starters – the grilled octopus and the fried cheese:

Reuben and Nigel both had the calzone (the size of a cow’s head) which they could have easily split one

And Jasmine had the burger which came with fries and a big salad – being gluten intolerant at least she could throw out the bun.

But wait! Dessert. Unfortunately, I spied waffles on the menu – not so much for me but out of amazement, which turned into Reuben ordering the Nutella Waffle:

Nigel the Fruit Waffle:

And Jasmine, the gluten-free Banana Split – honesty, where do these people put this food?

As for me – like my mother, I’ll just drink my dessert….

I think we will all be sleeping well tonight – the only downside is that at 10am the buses leave for the tour of David and Ethimios’ 13-acre farm.


If you got to this post directly from FaceBook, you can find the rest of the trip in chronological order at http://blog.unclemarkie.com.


2 Responses to “Trip Report: Greece Reunion – Part Six, Hello Sifnos”

  1. Fumi;s Kitchen Says:

    Just the pictures of the food and drink are so sexy and makes me want to jump on a plane and visit and maybe even live there. Everyone looks so happy and dancing around in the streets! Now that is the way to live life! Thank you for sharing just love the photos so much and wish you would speak more of the dishes and what they are made of. Thank you again for sharing these intimate moments publicly

  2. Chef Pabs Says:

    Enjoyed the food photos especially. The Greeks don’t play when it comes to food it seems. That fried octopus and the fried cheese looks the best and that nutella waffle my children would go nuts over that! Got to get over to Greece myself.

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Jun '16

Trip Report: Greece Reunion — Part Five, Goodbye Athens

On the food front I’ve been less than ambitious – just going across the street to Pita Bar. Partially less ambitious because I know when I hit the island of Sifnos for the big anniversary party, all the food will be over the top.

I even got it to go the first night:

That, my friends, is 4.60 Euro worth of pork pitas – yep, 2.30 Euro each – and I only really needed ONE – lunch the next day took care of the other. As for the next night I splurged and ordered almost 10 Euro worth of food (which again, was WAY too much food for one person). Two orders (should have gotten one – didn’t realize the size) of the spiced lamb skewer, and a really wonderful Greek Salad – it’s not just for breakfast anymore!

And I did do a tiny amount of shopping, though I have yet to find the perfect tacky t-shirt for Kathy or a clay figurine for Kate…. got myself a flashy 3 Euro hat!

And you’ll never guess the material….

On that school trip I actually came home with a blanket made entirely of rabbit pelts – I really should have gone for the one they said was “gatto” – all calico cat pelts!

Speaking of school trips – there is one staying at the hotel! They were in the lounge finishing off their final assignments with their teacher – fun to listen in on. They leave the hotel earlier than I do my final morning in Athens.

Their bus causing a massive backup on the street – though it doesn’t take much!

I left the hotel shortly after 1 (shortly after the first version of this post disappeared) and headed for the Port of Piraeus – home to the worst of the worst taxi drivers (personal experience). I’ll be taking the Metro again (1.40 Euro).

Last time I was here, the option was taxi, no train….

Technically the port is just across the street, but in reality, the port is REALLY big.

The Metro stop is near the center, but it’s still a hike with my multiple bags. And then hunt fun begins…

  • Soda
  • Booze
  • Food

Found that – while luckily running into other people headed to the same party which meant someone to watch the bags (thanks Rueben!) Not much in the way of signage, but found the ticket counter, found a place to wait in the shade (seriously important). Because when it comes time to load – there is no shade, just chaos. No lanes for people exiting to boat, and just people pushing to get on (and out of the sun) which is ODD because it’s all assigned seats.

Off to Sifnos go I and a couple of hundred other people.

Bye-bye Athens – stay tuned for more of Uncle Markie’s Greek Adventure!

[? ? ?]

If you got to this post from a direct FaceBook link, you can find more adventures of Uncle Markie at http://blog.unclemarkie, from newest to oldest. Happy exploring.

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One Response to “Trip Report: Greece Reunion — Part Five, Goodbye Athens”

  1. John Hall Says:

    I wish I’d stayed in Piraeus last time, and poked around there. Same thing with Livorno, and Civitavecchia. I think I’d have preferred sitting in a bar with locals, instead of doing multi hour tour bus trips for a few hours milling around in Florence, Rome and Athens

    BTW, your link http://blog.unclemarkie/ cannot find a server.

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Jun '16

Trip Report: Greek Reunion – Part Four, Athens Culture

In the midst of all this shopping, churches, LOTS of churches. This one is basically across the street from the hotel:

While this one is next to the Hadrian’s Library archeological site:

Speaking of Hadrian’s Library – paid a visit in homage to my mother (a librarian) and Salamander (a bibliophile):

Pretty amazing place (4 Euro Entrance Fee – and they try and upsell you to the combo ticket for the Acropolis and the rest of Empire):

Mind you, this is just a block beyond the Metro station – keep going and you’d hit The Agora and the Acropolis. Easily walkable, but be warned – it’s a hell of a hike UP to the Acropolis. I bitched as a 20-year-old, not even thinking about it pushing 60. And showing up early to beat the crowds means your crowds are hordes of ill-mannered pushy Asian tourists.

Also included in this site is a small museum with a winged Nike with one foot on the globe, as if landing (well, what is left of her):

Along with other fragments:

These two small pieces amused me – a clay tobacco pipe and a carved bone tobacco pipe tool ala Swiss Army Knife:

To me, the most interesting things are the murals and tilework that still partially remain at the site…

…and how they have partially restored some steps and columns to give you an idea of what this would have looked like originally:

This all takes me back to my Evergreen State College days when I took a summer course, “The Art History of Ancient Rome and Greece” with Gordon Beck. Once I return to the states I’ll see if I can dig up the guidebooks we make for the 6-week trip and post the Athens section.

Athens is getting broken up into more and more parts – stay tuned for more of the unfolding adventure!

[? ? ?]

If you got to this post from a direct FaceBook link, you can find more adventures of Uncle Markie at http://blog.unclemarkie, from newest to oldest. Happy exploring.

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Jun '16

Trip Report: Greek Reunion – Part Three, Athens Neighborhood

It seems to me that the hotel is located in the hardware district – much like my hotel in Istanbul was located in the bedding linens district.

I’d love to have this drawer pulls/cabinet corners/hardware store in my neighborhood at home!

Up the street, there is a huge meat market –

With a fish market in the middle –

Nor the plants – in this case giant basil bushes –

Coffee anyone?

Fruits and Vegetables?


Or even junk!

Stay tuned for more – next up is Athens Culture!

[? ? ?]

If you got to this post from a direct FaceBook link, you can find more adventures of Uncle Markie at http://blog.unclemarkie, from newest to oldest. Happy exploring.


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One Response to “Trip Report: Greek Reunion – Part Three, Athens Neighborhood”

  1. John Hall Says:

    I remember a time in Seattle when one could find whole pigs heads at the Pike Place Market. I’m not sure their absence now is proof we’ve advanced.

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Jun '16

Trip Report: Greek Reunion – Part Two, Athens Lodging

I had the post almost done with the exception of the links….and then it went away, never to be recovered. Guessing it was a hiccup during the save. Lesson to all – save early, save often – and I’m not just talking about your documents!

Hotel Attalos, where I’m staying is just two blocks from the Metro Station that I exited (three from the other exit). It’s nice to be able to avoid the overly aggressive taxi drivers that Athens is famously known for.

First, and overview of the hotel itself:

That would be my balcony in the bottom set, middle, next to the balcony for the “winter bar”. Speaking of bars, here is the day/night view from the roof top bar:

Already talking “bar” when I haven’t even shown you the room!

Or the view from my balcony – think of it as my office for the next two nights –

Not huge, but a cute little balcony, nice shower, 3-star functional! But it does (as many overseas hotels have) one of this annoying room key to keep the lights on. I understand where they are coming from, but I’d also like to return to a cooled off room AND my laptop charged. As you can see, you can use any card, or even stiff paper to get around the interlock.

One amusing feature of the hotel is a totally non-OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) approved elevator – there is no inside gate:

And we’ll finish the hotel section with the breakfast buffet room on the mezzanine – good selection!

Hot dishes like eggs and spanakopita, cold dishes like muesli, cheese, meats, Greek salad…

Athens is getting broken up into three parts since it keeps crashing – stay tuned for more!

[? ? ?]

If you got to this post from a direct FaceBook link, you can find more adventures of Uncle Markie at http://blog.unclemarkie, from newest to oldest. Happy exploring.

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Jun '16

Trip Report: Greek Reunion – Part One, Getting There

Nothing like getting back from Vega at noon on a Saturday with just enough time to take a shower and get to the shop in time for your 1:30-7pm shift, working again Sunday, and getting up butt-early (that’s a technical phrase) to head off again. This is a short turn time even for me!

Destination: Greece
Reason: Friends 25th Anniversary Party

But first I have to get there.

I booked Vancouver (YVR) to Athens (ATH) via Paris (CDG) last fall in a fit of “I have to get my ducks in a row”. This is contrary to what I tell most people about international (and domestic flights for that matter) that you should book 60 days out for the best deal – when you book nine months out, you are basically getting “rack rate” – a phrase that refers to the highest rate that a hotel will sell its rooms for (think retail, versus on sale). With the difference in price of $1800 (r/t) for Economy or $2700 (again, r/t) for Business, I opted for Business Class on Air France – at least the food and wine should be good!

As for the SEA-YVR and the return of YVR-SEA, those were two separate OTHER reservations – outbound I found for $105, but the return was expensive so I used 12,500 miles for the return. One trip, three reservation numbers.

I bore you with all this because I had feared that I’d have to collect my multiple bags (see photo) in Vancouver, go through customs with them, then recheck them onto the Air France flight, then collect them as it would be the first stop in the European Union, and repeat the whole thing again. Needless to say, I’d arranged for LOTS of layover time in each city.

Now the reality. When I checked in, the guy said, “Final destination?” Answer, “Vancouver on this ticket, but connecting to Air France to CDG, then onto Athens on a different ticket.” I was pleasantly surprised he said, “Give me the flight numbers and I’ll check them in all the way to Athens.” Frankly – even this jaded traveler was amazed. Two reservations numbers, two different carriers. I knew you could do different carriers on the same reservation number.

And when I talk about multiple bags – this is what I mean. Two “carry-on” size bags, but both with liquids – like snow globes – in them:

The back pack with the computer goes with me on the plane, but in the back of my mind I’m going, “How will this actually work?” The Silver bag (and parts of the black bag) are filled with “airplane memorabilia” for one of the two boys whose anniversary I’m celebrating. I was there (the Island of Sifnos, in Greece) for their 10th Anniversary, it only seemed right to return for their 25th Anniversary.

Checked in, and time to go to The Board Room – here is the shot that I sent out in homage to Lambchop who always sends shoe/airport carpet selfies when he travels.

Seems that Alaska is upping its game in the airline lounge world. I usually start each trip with a Red Baron (sparkling wine and cranberry juice). Red Barons are my family’s traditional celebration (i.e. Christmas, New Year’s) drink. The Board Room used to serve Cooks (which is plonk – a British phrase), but they have now gone local, well, Yakima. Their new bubbles are from Treveri Cellars – we featured them at a tasting at the shop a couple of years ago.

So far, the day is going MUCH better than I expected.

  • Baggage checked all the way through to Athens
  • Better bubbles in The Board Room

Had a bagel/cream cheese and a hardboiled egg (and a Red Baron, and since the bubbles are good, a second glass of just the bubbles) before heading to the gate. Small delays boarding (crew late), and then a small mechanical delay, but really, I’d blocked plenty of time in YVR when I thought I had luggage issues, so it’s all good.

Turns out the both Alaska AND Air France use the same third-party lounge at YVR (Plaza Premium Club). Not a bad looking lounge:

With a better than usual food selection:

Soup and sandwiches – after the scrambled eggs and sausage…then kim chi fried rice and bulgogi

The only downside is that the bar doesn’t open until 11am – guessing that would be British Columbia liquor laws – and it isn’t self-pour. I did manage to get a couple of cocktails in (one featured above) before it was time for the plane:

That would be a 777-200 a bit past it’s prime as witnessed by the covering rubbed off the Senheiser noise cancelling headphones from a previous generation. These were hardwired so there was no way to use your own personal current generation headphones.

And the old-style 2-3-2 angled Business Class seating (no First Class service on this flight). At least there were universal outlets (sans USB) to charge things up.

Maybe that’s why they were giving away (at $2700 r/t) Business Class connecting service to Europe from the West Coast so cheap (or it could be the Canadian Dollar crisis). Here are a couple of more cabin shots:

They (Air France) have announced plans to upgrade their Business Class seating (Link Here), but I got the old product.

That said, the service was good, the food better, and the wine and champagne, better yet. This would be the start of dinner service for a flight leaving YVR at 2PM (though we were late). The champagne was a Joseph Perrier la Cuvée Royale Brut – both before take-off and after my whiskey on the rocks. But let’s talk food (and more wine)!

Starters and salad (though there was a Mise en Bouche [bent spoon] of salmon-cheese roulade with fennel salad) which would be from left to right:

  • Seasonal salad with pecans
  • Grill-seared dill-marinated scallops
  • Smoked breast of duck with fig compote

Wine: 2015 Château d’Olliéres Classique Côtes de Provence Rosé

Followed by the main (choice of Beef, Salmon, Vegetarian Cannelloni, or the special of the day – which is what I had, the Roast Chicken Fillet with Tarragon Cream Sauce:

Looks like I was a little late photographing that one!

Wine: 2011 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Château Jean Faure followed by the 2013 Gérard Bertrand Domain de Villemajour Carbiéres-Bouenac (at the shop we have featured wines by Gérard Bertrand in the past).

But let’s not forget dessert —

Cheese platter with at Graham’s 10-year-aged Tawny Port, and with the dessert trio (chocolate truffle, mini raspberry-chocolate cake, lemon macaron) and sorbet (cassis) a Eau-de-vie de poire (pear brandy).

I also had to try the Calvados hors d’âge (apple brandy) and the Bas-Armagnac Château du Tariquet
Folle Blance 12 ans (12-year-aged Armagnac from a vintner we have also featured at the shop).

Time for a movie and a nap – the movie, which was actually moving (to tears at one point, but then again, after all that booze there isn’t much of a lock on the emotions) was Boychoir, which featured the Fried Green Tomatoes lady (Kathy Bates), Dustin Hoffman, Debra Winger. Really, the only time I watch movies is when I’m trapped in a tube.

Nap time before breakfast showed up – luckily they still had some Champagne!

WAY too much food, but I managed to eat most of it. Fresh fruit, yoghurt, pastries, ham and vegetable omelet, bacon, roasted potatoes.

We landed in Paris pretty much on time – though to weather more typical to Seattle – drizzly overcast:

After minimal immigration (though another stamp in my passport) it was off to the Air France Lounge in Terminal 2E (after a train ride). This would be Terminal 2E at CDG which a portion collapsed in 2005 shortly after opening. Click on the CDG link for morning information – it’s actually rather informative. But today, it’s rebuilt and rather pretty.

F30 was my gate, FYI. But for my multi-hour layover (I’d rather have spare time than no time) I was in the lounge:

Where I had a nice workspace:

THIS is the reason you either have status on an airline, or pay for Business Class. AND there was an open bar, which expanded….after 11.

Which is when the wine came out – but if you wanted ice in your drink you had to snag it from the wine bucket – you’d think they were ENGLISH with regards to ice:

More food in the lounge (have yet to pay for a meal on this trip). I nibbled on breakfast stuff and lunch stuff after 11:30.

But more importantly, after an overnight trip, access to shower facilities (albeit a tad humid from constant use):

There was some worry about my checked bags (really, I don’t have to tend to them?). Wanted to make sure – went to the front desk – much punching of keys before, “Shows here that they were loaded onto the plane at 9:20.” And it was about 10:15 at that point.

Boarded the final leg of the trip to Athens knowing that “Business Class” within Europe should always have parentheses around it. Economy seats (albeit in leather) with the center seat blocked out.

And no extra leg room:

But, again, the food is better than in back:

That would be lentil salad with sautéed oyster mushroom and sun-dried tomato, sautéed chicken thigh in a lettuce cream sauce, crisp vegetables, a thyme potato crisp, cheese and an apple tartlet, all served with their covers on (a bit tacky to my mind).

We move from tacky to tatty – seems even their intra-Europe jets are showing their age. Look at the magazine rack:

But I the grand scheme, all I care about is being united with my bags in Athens – and to my surprise, they are on the belt.

Collect bags, exit through an unmanned customs booth, find the Metro Train to the city with a stack of bags (luckily one of my bags converts to a hand truck):

One of the anniversary boys gave me the number to his “driver” because Athens is notorious for aggressive cab drivers especially towards tourists. Just 38-50 Euro (plus tip) from the airport, depending on time. I was happy to skip being met at the airport and pay 10 Euro to get to within two blocks of my hotel. Mind you, the above photo was taken closer to the airport than the city, before the commuters started piling on the train.

All settled in my room – time to go in search of easy food.

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For those of you who got to this page with a direct link from FaceBook – you can see other posts at http://blog.unclemarkie.com with the latest first and going back in time.

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    […] disrupting my trip to Greece) is actually dragging down the partnership. As you can see in my POST, the Air France fleet is a bit […]

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Jun '16

Trip Report: Lost Wages – Part Four, The Final Act

I finally found the pictures of the condo unit (2-bedroom, 2-bath):

And here is the place we moved into at Bally’s on The Strip. But did I take any interior shots….no, damn. This was the view though at sunset with the wheel front and center, so who cares what the room looked like, though it was nice, unfortunately $225 nice since it was the first day of the Electric Daisy Carnival, more on that later:

Out of the condo at noon after snagging another $125 AMEX reward card for saying no a dozen (or three dozen) times, and off to Bally’s on The Strip for us – and luckily we were able to check in early! Here is a shot of Rache and I on the casino floor headed to the room:

Since breakfast was a while ago – it was time to find food. And that food would be Truffle Mac and Cheese at Off The Strip (on an “alley” leading to The High Roller).

Though you can barely see it, there is a Manhattan behind it, and Rache’s beer as well – we both had the Truffle Mac and Cheese for lunch – Rache did the smart thing and only ate half of his – I foolish ate the whole thing (which, while good) sat like a lump in my stomach with 100 degree temperatures outside.

Tourist item for today is The High Roller at the Linq Hotel. That is The High Roller in the photo above. The interesting thing about this one is that four of the cars have open bars (a more expensive ticket, but I had a two for one TravelZoo coupon).

And the stunning views:

At a pit stop after the ride – we stumbled across this mural in the bar. Yes, there is a bar at the attraction – in case you wanted a drink for the ride.

What trip would be complete without some random “about town” shots:

For my buddy Mr. Whippet – also known as LastBuffalo – one of the slot machines in Bally’s.

So – more about this Electric Daisy Carnival – one of the local DJ schools for high-school students had their kids set up in booths all over town welcoming folks to the carnival – this one sponsored by Red Bull:

This is a chunk from Rache’s email blast about his trip – he did the research so I don’t have to:

So, Markie and I are really lucky to have a room this evening on The Strip. Because this long weekend is the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), one of the biggest electronic dance music festivals in the world. The flagship is held here in Las Vegas. In 2015, it drew more than 400,000 people over the 3-day event. Helicopter rides from The Strip to the venue and back go for $800. A reporter on a local news/talk show this morning said that he witnessed a party finishing up at 5:00. He inferred that the theme of that party was beach or swimming because of the attire of the folks emerging from the party site. Anyway, Markie and I are going to be on The Strip tonight so we’ll see what comes of that.

As it turns out, my longtime friend OffWhite was in town with his BurningMan posse with their flame throwing octopus:

Thanks Off for letting me use your pictures.

One of the possible plans was to go see Wayne Newton – maybe just to see how tight that facial skin has been stretched over the years. He has a new show, Wayne Newton Up Close and Personal which, of course, he since Danka Shen and the other great hits from his 120-year-long career. Mostly he sits on a couch with his guitar singing and interacting with the audience. I heard a rumor that he lip-syncs some of the songs – who does he think he is, Milli Vanilli?

Instead, earlier in the day I’d gotten a text from NorthShoreJeremy who I met last month on, you guessed it, the North Shore of Hawaii. He came over and hung out and drank with us for a couple of hours. It was nice getting to know him better:

It was an early to bed evening for the both of us – stimulation overload is part of the cause, and early flight in the morning the other cause. I’ll close with the shot of Rache and I’s morning request communications system:

Until my next adventure….

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Jun '16

Trip Report: Lost Wages – Part Three

Not AS early a morning, but we need to be in Boulder City by 11am – and it’s half an hour away, and we need to shit/shower/shave and get some breakfast (leftover pork loin scrambled with eggs).

Our mission today? Be the Engineer on an 80-ton General Electric Locomotive emblazoned with “Jackass and Western“. Jackass as in Jackass Flats, part of what was/is the Nevada Proving Grounds. It turns out that you can become an “Engineer For An Hour” at the Nevada Southern Railroad Museum in Boulder City.

I’d passed this place a couple of times and checked out the “static” displays of cars and engines – but since it’s only open on the weekends that doesn’t work for me. But the “Engineer For An Hour” takes place during the week with a couple of weeks’ notice.

I’d booked it months ago (but didn’t call back and confirm), and showed up with Rache to be told the guy before me cancelled so they just wiped the schedule. Luckily he was able to rustle up an Engineer and a Brakeman so we could go out and play.

This is the engine I requested (they have four to choose from, but one is in the paint shop at the moment) – an 80-ton General Electric switching locomotive that was used to move nuclear rockets around the testing ground. Maybe I should have brought my Giger counter!

We also got a tour of their shop as well since they suddenly had to power up one of their four…

That is a purpose built shop – and NICE! This is the engine that’s in the paint shop at the moment, but usually available to run the circuit:

Time to learn how to drive this thing!

And because we all love a good video, thanks Rache for the above picture AND the killer video:

Alas – after an hour, and almost 20 miles (out, back, out, back), it was time to go – sigh:

But we got certificates!

We had to correct the year, but…it was a hell of a lot of fun. Thank you Rache for letting me drive – you did look a little worried at some points.

After all the excitement we also went through a couple of cars they had on display, along with a 40-ton GE Locomotive – the little brother of the one I drove.

We headed back to the condo for lunch – Revenge Of The Chicken, Round Three – chicken noodle soup. The first night of the chicken, after dinner I’d stripped the carcass (doesn’t that sound dirty!) of the meat (for omelets and salads over the next days) and made stock from the bones. Today I added vegetables, the leftover chicken and these cool rustic noodles, and lo and behold – soup!

And used up some of the sour cream!

Yum! And time for another nap because there is dinner to make tonight – bacon wrapped filets, baked potatoes, and yes, salad. Tonight was a red wine which I’ve totally forgotten the name, and apparently I didn’t take a picture of the bottle, but looking at it, guessing an Argentine Cabernet Sauvignon. And we hauled the patio table in to eat on – should have done that the first night.

This is our last night at the condo – tomorrow we are off to The Strip.

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