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Jan '17

Trip Report: Charleston Bound

When I booked this trip – it was to provide comfort for my buddy Sean who had moved to South Carolina shortly after I visited him in Saigon. I was out here last October (if you click on Sean, it should come up) and even before I’d gotten out here then, I found another good fare – and the chance to use a couple of Alaska Gold Guest Upgrades, though, now they are just called Guest Upgrades. To get them you have to pay a few dollars more for your ticket, but you are guaranteed First Class, which is what I did.

Which means for my “butt early” flight, not only do I have a bagel and a hardboiled egg in the Alaska Lounge, once on board, there was breakfast:

The flight is close to five hours, so I get the DigiPlayer and watch AbFab (Absolutely Fabulous) The Movie. Took a while to get into it, but in the end was laughing.

Next up TV reruns….

Yes, it’s a Windows Tablet. Brought my noise cancelling headphones (the Bose for longer flights, the in-ear for shorter flights)

We were supposed to be (according to the Flight Attendants) catered snack trays for later in the flight, but instead, we got a hot lunch as well! Not complaining:

And I even ate the jalapeño slices (which they should have sliced THINNER) – it was some sort of chicken baguette thingee, complete with fresh cilantro.

Alas – Sean who I was planning on visiting was the same Sean who I shipped back to Saigon a couple of weeks ago, which also solved the other dilemma – that of picking up a rental car after being five hours in first class, which generally means drinking them dry of all the bourbon on the plane. If I don’t need to drive to Orangeburg after flying – cancel the rental car and take a $20 Uber to the hotel, which is in Old Charleston.

In spite of the early departure, I DO love the SEA-CHS-SEA schedule – you arrive around 4pm so you have time to get settled…

Before heading down the street for dinner at Sticky Fingers, which was recommended by one of the wine shop patrons.

With cheap drinks — $8 for drinks with Bulleit Bourbon!

And the food is really good as well – this is the “Lunch Sampler” at dinner, with sides of collards and slaw to go with the ribs, wings, and pulled pork.

With your choice of several good sauces….

Bed calls after a little teletime (as in time in front of the television).

Tomorrow is a new day that requires sleeping in.


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Jan '17

Trip Report: Vancouver & Victoria

Well, the travel season has begun again – starting off with a road trip with my old college roommate, MB.

Left my place at noon headed for CanadaLand…with a couple of stops on the way:

Since we were going into a “crown county”, we thought we’d gets our crowns on early.

First stop is a WorldMark that I hadn’t tried yet – actually a trade with Vacation Internationale or something like that – Rosedale on Robson – warning, I didn’t take this picture:

But it gives you an idea. We were in a one-bedroom unit with a sofa bed in the living room…

Good day and night views…

Not as nice as the WorldMark at the Canadian in the heart of downtown – especially considering valet parking is $30 a night at the Robson on Rosedale. However, it does have a decent restaurant ion the ground floor – Original Joes – were we had cocktails and dinner:

MaryBeth had the Brambleberry, I went for the Royal Buffalo (Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Chambord Liqueur)

My haddock and mixed chips – biggest piece of fish and chips fish I’ve ever seen:

MaryBeth went for the noddle/broth dish – both excellent:

Out at eleven to catch our ferry to Vancouver Island, but first breakfast/brunch at the ferry terminal which has a HUGE food/shopping court. No, I did not have the sugarized apples:

And it was a GORGEOUS day for a ferry ride – and we had a front row seat!

Our room was ready when we got there!

MaryBeth ignored the howling breeze and hopped into the tub. Me, I stayed inside and enjoyed the view:

Before it was cocktail time:

Sort of a “faux” Lemon Drop – Citron Vodka with fresh squeezed “orange lime” juice – we found them at the local Thrifty Grocery. These are organic (hence the code starting with “9” – regular limes are 4306):

Looks like a small orange, but has the juice more like a lemon. And we liked them so we made two more runs to the store over the stay to get more.

As is my usual Victoria journeys, people are invited to dinner – including one of the checkers from the Thrifty:

Our first set of guests managed to drain the bar – resulting in this:

This was AFTER the hot tub, which with a 30mph breeze, was more like a lukewarm tub – with heads bobbing barely above the water line to keep from ice forming.

Wednesday is all about PIG – the restaurant called PIG, and one of the cooks at PIG.

Totally forgot to take pictures of our lunch – I went for the pulled pork sandwich, MaryBeth went for the pulled port poutine (fries, cheese curds, gravy, pulled pork) small portion, which was the size of a small child’s head.

Next up was to stock up on provisions….

Great guy working there who I assume was one of the owners – GREAT customer service.

Two bottles of wine, replacement vodka, replacement whiskey, and we are on our way to the fish market for dinner protein:

Love the fact they tell you what boat and where – this is why I shop with these folks (Finest At Sea) – they are a wholesaler who has a tiny retail store a couple of blocks from the condo on a side street behind their offices, and now, a food trailer out front.

So, they translation to US measures/prices – a pound and a third of troll caught salmon for $22USD which works out to $16.36 a pound (thanks to a 30% difference between the $USD and $CAN).

The dinner company is MaryBeth’s daughter’s boyfriend (who is a cook at PIG) and his mother – how’s THAT for an interesting dinner! And I’m making him cook after I do all the prep work – doesn’t it look GREAT?

And he taught me a tip – give it grill marks on the flesh side, then finish cooking on the skin side – I’d change this to a 45-degree angle – or a 45, and then a 90 for cross hatch.

No hot tub action tonight!

When I hang with friends at WorldMark places – even breakfast is “ensuite”:

That is a coil of sausage done on the grill, Caesars (that would be a Bloody Mary made with Clamato), scrambled eggs.

Today we are off to a CASTLE – and not the one that most tourist go to in Victoria – we are driving to Hatley Castle, not his father’s castle Craigdarroch Castle (FYI, his father died before the Castle was complete). Hatley was Royal Road Military College after the family finished the cycle from rags to riches to rags and lost the place, now it the Royal Road University, mostly on-line but offering career transitions. Thank you, MaryBeth, for stopping a person on campus who must have been in the administration for the great boiled-down mission statement.

It’s “shoulder season” so no tours of the Castle since it is a “living building”, i.e. and Administration Building – but still pretty:


And the lobby…

And my favorite lobby sign from its former life:

Even though there wasn’t a tour – there is a small museum in the basement (along with gift shop, and oddly school supply stop):

Back in town, it was time for an afternoon snack – I’d taken the chicken from the first night, turned it into stock, skimmed the fat after an evening in the fridge, add noodles and frozen veg…and a lovely soup!

Got a lot of use out of that chicken! After we’d had our fill, I packed up four small containers (left over from appetizer plates) for the staff – nothing like a little homemade chicken noodle soup. They are VERY understanding of my life – they even got me chocolates for my birthday in September.

Dinner tonight was a friend of mine who connected over social media and his husband – one of those, “stop by for a cocktail” that turns into dinner. Take the two marinated steaks, cube, skewer, grill, add a couple of salads, and we have dinner!

Another day…another castle! This time it’s dad’s castle — Craigdarroch Castle!

Search on Craigdarroch on my blog to see more pictures of the interior – this time I was specifically looking for this one plaque:

Specifically, for this portion of the plaque:

My “faux” nephews Julian and Jameson, apparently names after Julian Jameson (there is a mention HERE).

Love this radiator in the library….

It was a great tour before getting in line for the Coho Ferry to Port Angeles. But first, LUNCH:

And we did have calamari with those drinks. Honest.

In the line:

On the ferry:

Made the last ferry (Bainbridge) with just enough time to line up and be the last car off the ferry.

Home, MaryBeth headed home, I headed to bed after opening one of the bottles of Duty Free and making a cocktail.


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Dec '16

Home Report: xMess Day

Season platitudes one and all as the end of the year is quickly approaching.

As for me, I spent the eve and morning with a friend, his daughter, his daughter’s mother (his ex), daughter’s mother’s brother, an unrelated friend from Portland, and yours truly.

I had forgotten the energy that xMess brings to a seven-year-old. Needless to say, it was I that needed a nap.

My advice to the New Year (in no particular order):

  • Hug your friends more often
  • Read less current events news (but don’t completely shut yourself out, just choose wisely)
  • Travel while you still have your mobility
  • Invite people to dinner and share a bottle of wine
  • Engage in random acts of kindness
  • That piece of cake – eat it (just not the whole thing)
  • Disengage from your electronics at meals
  • Read a book or three
  • Treat other people how you would like to be treated

Doubtful that there will be another post before the end of the year, so,stay warm for those in the North, stay cool for those in the South, and raise a glass of whatever and remember all of our “problems” are first-world problems.

Peace Out (as the kids say),


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Dec '16

Trip Report: Quiet Pre-Christmas In Victoria

Just a quiet little mid-week jaunt to Victoria with DancingBear before the rush of xMess starts at the shop.

If it’s a Victoria Clipper trip, that means it’s time for Red Barons (cranberry juice and sparkling wine):

And a breakfast burrito from the Clipper Café in the terminal.

DancingBear had arranged for a car, so after customs/immigration is was a quick call to Budget for a pickup. Car in hand it was off to Costco for meds that are over-the-counter in Canada but are expensive prescriptions in the US, and steaks, and scallops, and a hot dog – before going across the parking lot to grab a wi-fi router for DB and 11×17 paper for me – the joys of 30% off because of the exchange rate.

On a lark we swung by the WorldMark Victoria to see if the room was ready – and even though it was only 1pm with check-in at 4pm. Yet again, we are in a 2-bedroom Penthouse :

Not a bad view from our room.

Woohoo – must be time for a nap!

Swung by the Thrifty (alas, Royce wasn’t working) for the rest of the supplies for dinner – looks pretty good doesn’t it!

Ribeye steaks off the grill topped with sautéed chanterelle mushrooms, seared scallops topped with fried prosciutto, and a loaded baked potato and a little salad. And here is the chef!

We eat well when we are on the road. No company this trip, so it really is a “quiet” trip.

The next day finds us on a road trip north to Duncan – for no particular reason other than shits, giggles, and snow….

OK – not the best picture of me, and the sun highlights the camera, but it was a pretty overlook on the way to our lunch spot – The Dog House:

I had the Ruben (bit surprise):

DancingBear had the turkey wrap:

We booth took ½ of each of ours home – maybe we should just decide on a meal and split it — neither of us eats the amount of food we used to.

Time to head back to Victoria before darkness (and maybe some snow) falls:

This evening just straight up seared scallops, risotto, salad and wine.

We do eat well – even the breakfasts are stunning:

Rare view of both the Victoria Clipper (coming in from Seattle) and the Coho (headed to Port Angeles):

Our final day in Victoria we did something I’d never done in all the times I’ve visited VictoriaCraigdarroch Castle. Considering there is a 25% off coupon at the front desk, odd none of us had done it. Will definitely go back in January with MaryBeth. Pretty, and amazing:

Looking up the staircase to the top floor:

And at the top – this nice carving:

All the rooms are decorated for the holiday – making it even more festive:

Looking back down the staircase:

Then there was the purpose-built billiards room:

Let’s not forget the bathrooms:

All-in-all, a lovely little sightseeing adventure before heading back to turn in the rental car. I must say, with regard to the rental car company (Budget), I haven’t been very impressed with their efficiency in this location over several visits.

Checked in the luggage and headed across the street to Belleville’s for a spot of lunch. I had the seafood chowder,

DancingBear had the BLAT (Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, Tomato).

The fries where excellent – some of the best I’ve had. Crunchy on the outside soft on the inside. Yum – as was the Margarita Double that was on special, and even the Highball for $5 once it turned to happy hour.

An amazingly relaxed trip – no dinner parties, no stress. Just lovely.

Can’t wait to go back in a couple of weeks.


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Dec '16

Trip Report: The Road Home From Lima

Oh the panic!

Just checked out of the hotel in Lima when my phone dinged. This is the phone that seemed to only work on Wi-Fi in Peru even though T-Mobile says they roam.

Text Message From American: Your flight is delayed 10.5 hours.

YIKES. Since we already had Edwardo arranged, and Rache needed to get to the airport for his flight to Cusco, off to the airport I go, knowing there is no lounge that American has privileges in that would honor my Board Room (now The Lounge) card from Alaska.

Luckily, I’m in Business Class (on an award ticket) which, if nothing else, means a shorter line. This must happen on a regular basis because all the ticket agents look nonplused…and twenty minutes later I had a ticket on a LATAM flight that left an hour later. No worries about my connection in Miami as I have six hours to cool my heals in the lounges at MIA.

Downside is that I had to then go check in at the LATAM counter, and they only checked my bag to Miami – but I would have had to pick it up before customs anyway. Just means I have to go to the ticket counter in Miami as well – but plenty of time for that.

Upside – LATAM Business Class has access to a shared lounge!

And the bar opened a few minutes after I arrived.

Turns out there is another advantage to moving over to LATAM is lay flat sleepers in Business!

Before you know it we are in the air with booze and food!

Then its nap time…

Much better than the recliner on the way down – still, it’s no Emirates. Especially in the food department. This was our pre-landing snack:

Customs and immigration was easy – call it what it is: “white privilege”.

It being Miami I have my choice of lounges for my five hour layover – including what was the International First Class lounge, now open to all while they remodel all the Admirals Clubs.

Nice spread – and a pour it yourself bar!

Time to head off for the last flight of the day – only three gate changes over the course of the day. Found this great poster on the walk:

Back on American Airlines livery – 737-800, and yet more food…

Served by a twig of a twenty-two-year-old flight attendant – only three weeks on the job:

Who also loaded me down with snacks, ran to the back for more Woodford Reserve whiskey, apologized profusely when I had to switch to Jack Daniels (almost drank them out of that as well):

He even helped fill my backpack with snacks as most of the rest of First Class was snoozing…

I close this post with an “arty selfie”.

In bed at 2pm so I can open the shop at 11am. I can just see Jimmy rolling his eyes.


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Dec '16

Trip Report: Lima, Peru – Day Three

One of the things about travelling with Rache is his LUST for experience. Leaves me in the dust.

Another day, another whirlwind. But, on a light note, I forgot something from yesterday – apparently, in Lima, you can get children made to order:

I do need someone to clean the toilet’s, vacuum, make the beds – do kids do that these days?

But, I digress – I’m up early because Edwardo (our airport driver) is back at the hotel this morning at 10am for a five+ hour tour ($18 USD per hour). Thank you Rache for pulling this off (aka making this happen).

First stop is breakfast…the meal that I never miss if it’s free:

Next up is some ruins (Huaca Pucllana) …

Unique in that they are in the middle of a thriving city. Off on a tour go we.

Seriously, IN THE MIDDLE of a mega-city. This….

Including Death Rooms of the Tumba Wari:

FYI – days later I realized I got a sunburned nose from those hours of “cloudy” days.

Ruins done – onto the Capital Square (guessing there is a more official name). Edwardo dropped us close by with a pickup time.

What we realized about that crowd gathering is that they were gathering for the changing of the guard – which I have a little video clip:

WOW – but there is more to see, next up is the Cathedral, where we get an English language tour…

Of the catacombs…

There are no photographs permitted, BUT, our guide let us take this shot of dead bones…

WOW – again, I amazed. And more amazed by the by procession out of the church:

For those interested, we were out and about on a holiday, The Feast of The Immaculate Conception.

It’s odd that when I owned an ex-church on Lopez Island, I installed a massive carving of St. Rose of Lima at the entrance. I got it (and shipped it two-day air – because it was a cheap as the two-week rate) from Dan when he lived in St. Pete who salvaged it from a bar that was being remodeled.

It took a while to track down an image of it – but apparently, I have TONS of archived project files, and it was part of the first Great Art Party to support Floating Bridge Press here in Seattle. And it was in the catalog, AND I had the files:

Which means that I also had the description – which you should note the SIZE and WEIGHT of the Saint:

St. Rose of Lima
Carved and painted wood, costume jewelry, feather boa, sequin shoes. 80″h x 63″w x 20″d
This St. Rose of Lima statue was rescued from a bar in St. Petersburg, Florida in 2002 and reinstalled at the Lopez Sanctuary on Lopez Island Washington. St. Rose is the patron saint of Latin America, florists, and embroiderers. This life-sized statue weighing 300 pounds breaks down into 4 segments.

Now imagine me flying to Florida, heading to Home Depot, building a crate, and arranging to ship that beast back to Seattle!

But I digress….

Soon we are in the old train station (turned library) …

On the way out, Rache, who totally connects with the kids, and ends up being interviewed by students working on their English:

What intrigued me was this old printing press:

And look – Peruvian Anonymous knitted hats! Looking at this photo, I should have bought a PILE of these!

Maybe I’ll contact Rosa and see if she can get me some before she leaves town headed to the US Virgin Islands for her next assignment.

But I digress…LUNCH TIME! We asked Edwardo to find us a nice place for lunch – and he took us to El Bolivariano:

Where we sat outside just off the street…

What I didn’t realize until I went to the loo was exactly how HUGE the restaurant really was:

And trying more wine with lunch (after our Pisco Sours!):

We both ordered the Ceviche – which was stunning AND wonderful:

If we needed more spice – there is a plate of HOT peppers. Note the various side of corns.

One last stop for the day – that would be Museo Larco, and anthropological museum with stunning gardens…

But the real treasures lay inside….

They have plenty in reserve as well – stacked floor to ceiling:

I was joking with Rache about “where is the naughty pottery”, conjuring up memories of my college summer class, “The Art History of Ancient Rome and Greece”. Turns out, its in its own area, just off the garden, next to the restaurant and gift shop. And “naughty” they are:

WOW – what a great museum!

We had Edwardo take us back to the hotel – Rache went out for a dinner solo at a restaurant we had passed the other night – a handmade pasta place, which I’d like to try should I come back to Lima.

As for me, I had date night with a local tech worker guy. Alas, the only shots I have of him look like mug shots, i.e., not very flattering – guess I should have gotten a selfie with him.

After he left I was starved – hello room service! Hamburgesa con caso por favor.

We are both up VERY early in the morning for our return to the airport, with Rache headed to Cusco, and I, Miami and home.

Thanks for a great trip, Rache – it made my wild-ass suggestion of Peru on cheap miles a hell of a lot of fun.

[? ? ?]

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Dec '16

Trip Report: Lima, Peru – Day Two

When Rache and I travel, we settle into a routine…don’t bug me in the morning. So, it was another morning of going down for breakfast, and coming back and grabbing another hour or two of sleep. Happens on the train as well – basically, anyplace that has breakfast included in the price.

So, really, after “internet time”, my day really starts at noon – with lunch. And lunch must equal chicken!

Beer Chicken it is! From the street taking the above photo, a waiter waved us in, and then again from the top of the stairs through an empty section to this lovely private dining porch.

And before you knew it – Pisco Sours were on the way…

Followed in due course by….wait for it…chicken! Nope – salad for Rache:

Pork for me:

Slowly wandered back to the hotel, so here are a few more street scenes starting with the Swiss Embassy (turns out we are in the embassy district):

Followed by the Indian Embassy:

Rache has pictures of the Cuban and Russian embassies.

Look – they even still have Radio Shack affiliates here (tiny sign to the right of the front door):

And big city graphitti:

With beautiful boulevards – guessing there used to be trolley tracks running down this one, now a biking/walking lane:

And carts of fruit on side streets:

And back to the hotel we are…

The BIG item on today’s agenda is meeting up with Rache’s Facebook friend Rosa, who met us at the hotel at 5pm to take us on a little city tour. The original destination was Larcomer – a huge shopping mall built into the cliff by the sea. Alas – there was a fire that killed a couple of people yesterday, so it was blocked off. Here is the link to the story.

But we still have LOTS to see before out buffet/folkloric show later tonight. Yes, what on the weather report calls “Partly Cloudy” looks like smog to me:

Back in the cab we go, off to different neighborhoods – the Miraflores and Barranco Districts. Here is Rache’s description from his email blast:

Rosa is lovely and vivacious and making me want to be in her classroom. She met Markie and I here at the hotel and we headed to the Miraflores and Barranco Districts in the city. Miraflores is pretty modern, swanky and Barranco is more established with some artisans and hostels thrown in. Posh bohemian and artistic folk. Good energy, both places, actually. Rosa was an excellent tour guide.

Yet another cab, this time to La Dana Juana Restaurant for a buffet and folkloric show where they put our national flags on the table (Rosa is from the Philippines). Again, Rache’s commentary:

We eventually arrived at La Dana Juana Restaurant where Rosa had made reservations for us. It’s a buffet of Peruvian dishes (I won’t do lung again) followed by a lively 1.5 hour Peruvian cultural lesson told through dance. I had such a lovely time. Markie and I would never have found a place like this and I’m grateful for Rosa’s knowledge. Good fun.

Are those complimentary Pisco Sours? YES! And we have ringside seats and a HUGE buffet of Peruvian delights:

And I didn’t even shoot a picture of the dessert table. But we did get a bottle of wine to go with all the good food:

Soon it was time for the show:

If you needed a little video clip – there is one for you:

A BIG THANK YOU to Rosa for taking time out to show us around and arrange this wonderful dinner. Rache leaned over to say he was going to pick up her dinner/show ($22), I said, “Let’s split it.” This was certainly something that I would have experienced on my own, unless I was with some huge organized tour. Thank you again Rosa!

And a final Rache comment from his email blast:

Since Rosa lives in another direction from our hotel, we parted. Rosa hailed a cab for us, negotiated and had us on our way. BTW, we paid for three cab rides and the total for all of them was about $9.00. When we got home, I let Rosa know we were home safe. She was too, but the lady sitting in the front seat of her cab had her purse snatched while waiting at the stop light. Keep the windows rolled up, even in good neighborhoods.

Boy were we beat by the time we got back to the room.

[? ? ?]

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Dec '16

Trip Report: Lima, Peru – Day One

Rache was up early and exploring, I was in bed snoring peacefully after returning from breakfast (never waste a free meal).

Once I was up, we headed in the opposite direction that Rache went earlier – in search of a place to have lunch. No, we didn’t eat here:

Nor McDonalds, KFC, TGIFridays – all at a mall a dozen blocks from the hotel. We wanted a little more local flavor, even though it was probably a chain restaurant as well, but at least it was a Peruvian chain:

Starting a theme of this trip – Pisco Sours all around!

Since it was a chicken place, you’d best order the chicken! Rache had the half chicken with two sides, I had the quarter chicken with one side, which also came with a salad:

It was funny to pointing to the part I wanted – thigh, not boob. My side was a lovely corn salad. And now for round two of drinks – this one had passion flower juice in it:

And you get a bit of a better shot of the corn salad in that shot. Witnessed one of those “birthday” staff-sung songs:

I photobombed a cute guy while Rache was taking a video of the song:

Mind you, this restaurant was on the edge of a block square mall, all decked out for xMess:

Complete with a grocery store on the bottom floor where I stocked up on some Inca Cola – a “color not found in nature” “cola”.

And pre-boxed Christmas baskets – if you look closely, I’m not sure why Corn Flakes would be in a box that also had sparkling wine:

Back in the room, it was time for cocktails!

Followed by a nap before we headed out to look for dinner – some Lima street scene photos:

With US restaurants everywhere – this corner gas station had a KFC, a Burger King, and a Dunkin’ Donuts (along with Mr. Sushi and a couple of others):

Then we move onto bugs on the street…

And fishes that eat the dead skin off your feet. My curious as to why Santa Claus is hanging from the office window….

And just so you don’t get the idea that Lima is totally safe – this is a big business in the city – laminating windows:

Eventually we wondered out for dinner – guess we should have looked on our phones, but ended up back at the hotel restaurant (Paprika) for dinner.

There are odd-angled mirrors in the background so it looks like a funhouse dinner – and it was a fun dinner, and excellent! Rache had the twice braised sweetbreads (that’s brains you know):

While I had the lamb shanks:

Part of my mission on this trip is to try Peruvian wines – so here is bottle number one:

It’s a delightful blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay.

Definitely got our 10,000 steps in today! We will sleep well tonight.

[? ? ?]

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Dec '16

Trip Report: Peru Bound

Rache and I are headed to Peru – Lima for me, Lima and Cusco (and more) for Rache – so off to the airport we go, after a lovely meal at St. Clouds, next to the shop:

Did I mention that we had just finished a late-running Champagne Tasting (at the shop as well)?

We were in FINE spirits by the time we hit the airport – and I discovered the new kiosk in D concourse – you can get ebooks from the King County Library – at the airport!

Pretty cool if you ask me, but no time for books – we are off to the lounge!

I’m all dressed up for First Class:

Rache in the back for half the miles I used – and he had three seats to himself. And he sleeps on flights, I stay up, watch movies, and drink:

This is a LONG trip – Seattle to Dallas redeye, Dallas to Miami morning flight, Miami to Lima after that.

Got a really nice surprise on the DFW-MIA flight – it was a Boeing 777-200 on a domestic route…

Even Rache got a Business Class seat…

But alas, no food in the back…

Wish that this was my aircraft for the next leg – alas, it’s an old-style 767-300 with tight business class seating as noticed by tightness of the shared middle armrest.

But the food was plentiful even in the dreaded window seat (which also illustrates the crampedness of these old seats:

The big meal:

The little meal before landing:

Yep, life is hard.

Arrived into Lima around 9:30pm (yes, a LONG flight day), got through immigration/customs, and even located our driver, Eddy, for the ride to the hotel.

As for the hotel, the Wyndham Costa del Sol, it’s definitely nice. Here is the lobby area:

And the room I booked for the walk-in shower – was one of the larger ones on the property:

With a good daytime view, with the ocean in the distance to the right:

Rache was hungry so he popped down to Paprika – the onsite restaurant which turned out to be amazingly good – even the bread presentation:

Of course, by the time he got back up to the room, I was hungry and ordered the ceviche from room service:

BEST room service food EVER!

Eventually sleep called me, hours after it called Rache

Off to explore the city tomorrow.

[? ? ?]

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Dec '16

Trip Report: Day Drinking With DancingBear

Got a text from DancingBear a couple of weeks ago… “What are you doing the Wednesday the 30th? Want to do some day drinking?

Turns out he needed one more trip on Alaska to hit MVP status for 2017. Sure! He owned me about the same amount of money for our upcoming trip to Victoria, so I booked us seats using his credit card since at MVP Gold, I get access to better seats.

Off we go! Just me and the backpack…

Breakfast in the Alaska Lounge between C and D concourse:

Even managed to squeeze in a cocktail in the N concourse lounge – they start serving at 6am, and our flight left at 6:40 – barely enough time!

Before the free drink on the plane (once of the perks about being GOLD – drinks and chocolates)…

The seat next to me was ODDLY open – good thing since I’m number 32 on the upgrade list! And got a bit of a view shot, even being in the aisle seat:

It’s just a two-hour flight to Denver, and soon, we are on the train from the airport to Union Station on the new light rail service.

It’s less than 45 minutes from the airport to the city – which is amazing since the airport is in the middle of wheat fields east of the city. But we are there – with Dan and Lisa there to meet us.

Off to lunch at Next Door

Featuring my first Manhattan of the day, complete with a Luxardo Cherry ($18 a jar at Madrona Wine Merchants). And Dan, his burger, magnetized silverware, and another shot of my Manhattan.

I had the burger as well, nice that it some standard with an arugula salad.

DancingBear had the meatballs over a bed of Polenta.

They asked Dan how he wanted his burger cooked, he said medium, they didn’t ask me, so I got it medium, found it a little dry with WAY TOO MUCH salt and pepper. Lisa’s Caesar also came pre-peppered, with too much, and DB’s meatballs I found bland. Too bad – the last time I ate here is was good. Maybe it was just the fried pickles we had the last time.

After lunch DancingBear and I are off on a random trip to check out the US Mint since there was a Car2Go across the street from the station:

…sad thing is that we actually couldn’t take the tour since I had a backpack and DB a briefcase, and they didn’t have any lockers which seemed odd, but I guess I can see it from a security standpoint – but for the tour you’d have to go through a metal detector, why couldn’t you put lockers beyond the metal detector and just hand-search all left bags. We did get to the gift shop – DB bought a hat (which he’d forgotten, and I found one on the 50% off rack) and some coinage as xmess presents.

Car back to the station, our asses back in seats (FYI, it’s $9 for a day pass – don’t know if that would include busses as well), and off to the Admirals Club Lounge we go – as an Alaska Lounge member (formerly known as The Board Room before the rebranding this fall), I get into all the Admirals Club locations that aren’t the Arrivals Lounges – if I’m on an Alaska or American ticket.

We were in the “quiet room” with cell phones prohibited – we only had THREE people who thought that didn’t apply to them. They really need to make the signage more prominent.

Managed to AGAIN get the seat open next to me on the way home as I was number 22 on the upgrade list. But in the end, DancingBear gets MVP, I get a few more miles, all is good.


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Nov '16

Trip Report: ABQ-SEA On The Train

At least once a year or so I take this trip – a couple of days with the remaining relatives (and now The Colonels) in Santa Fe, and then the long ride home on the train. Fly in, train home.

As I was saying goodbye and hugging my sis-in-law (my eldest brother’s widow), to paraphrase, she basically said, “It just seems weird that Eileen isn’t here.” It’s been a year and a half since she passed, and I’ve been back to Santa Fe a couple of times since, but YES, it is weird that neither of my parents are around for my visits to Santa Fe. My parents moved back to New Mexico, settling in Santa Fe after I graduated from high school – so my entire adulthood Santa Fe has equaled parents.

I’m hoping what her (my sis-in-law) husband said about me, “He’ll outlive us all.” About ME! Geez, I hope not. I’m hoping it’s just worry over their recent health issues. But enough about family – I’m on an adventure starting this afternoon!

Before I get on the train, time to have lunch with Michelle – sis-in-law’s best friend, law school buddy…

Oddly, at Pueblo Harvest Café, we both had the same thing – the Chicken Nambe Relleno with Christmas sauce (both red and green chili) and the Calabacitas (mixed vegetables). Not used to the zucchini being so large in the mix, but not overcooked.

Got the car returned after lunch…

And Uber’d to the train station. I could have (in theory) taken the shuttle back to the airport, then taken the shuttle to the train station – it seemed easier to just pay Uber $9.01. Nice day – no need for the hoody:

I had a little time to kill at the station, but soon enough, the train (The Southwest Chief) was here:

And my sleeping car:

Didn’t take long to settle in, and get a bucket of ice for the room, and relax:

The nice thing about the train (even with a transfer in LA to The Coast Starlight with Lounge access) you can just stare out at the changing landscape of light and beauty…

And the occasion Vandenberg Air Force Base with soldiers on patrol:

Nice thing about the sleepers is that you have places to hang stuff:

And places to shower:

And, for the last 6-months, WI-FI! Granted, it’s cell phone-based…

Sadly, they don’t block streaming services such as NetFlix. A woman in my car complained that her movies would cease up. Duh, you are on a wireless connection, shared with other people.

Platform shot Santa Barbara:

At Eugene:

The new Amtrak is even trying to convince younger folk to travel – with this poster in my car:

I’d share a cabin with him….but before I know it, I’m back in Seattle, 2.5 days later, Uber’d home, and on my couch with a cocktail:

Home for a week or so…


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Nov '16

Trip Report: Santa Fe

Part one of my trip is getting to (and staying for a couple of days) Santa Fe.

I booked long enough in advance that I used an Alaska Gold MVP Guest Upgrade for a few more dollars – turns out it was a good idea as there were 34 people on the upgrade list (guessing I wouldn’t have gotten one). My favorite seat (1C):

Sadly, someone showed up for 1A – it was a TOTALLY packed flight. But there was food and drink:

I was a little shocked to see luggage coming down the carousel even though I was first off the plane and only stopped to be on the way to baggage claim. Sadly, the rental car counter was much more disappointing. One person behind the counter, five people in line behind a woman who wanted all her options. I even had time to leave my back in line and go to the next counter over to inquire if they had cars available and would match the rate. $150 a day for the cheapest car – I’ll continue standing in line for my $25 a day let them choose anything for me over a compact – it’s always amusing to see what I’ll be driving – one time I ended up in a Fiat 500 from the same airport. This time, if there is the exact opposite of a Fiat, it would be this:

Yep, Dodge Ram Crew Cab 1500 4×4 with tow package and 23,000 miles on it.

Don’t think about the gas mileage, the display said it was averaging 16mpg. Makes me wish I had somebody who needed something moved!

Santa Fe is a little over an hour north of Albuquerque, where I flew into. Add a stop at Albertsons for supplies (read that as Evan Williams and Vernors) I was at the condo a little after six – and checked into my little retreat:

And the “compact or bigger” looks great in front of the unit:

Even got the table set up for The Colonels who showed up with Blake’s Lotaburger Green Chile Cheeseburgers – welcome to Santa Fe!

Yep, the place even comes with a gas fireplace.

Wonderful easy meal, wonderful chatting, too long since I’ve them. It was an early night for everyone, even for me, took a sleeping pill and got ten hours of sleep to make up for the night before the flight.

Lunch Tuesday was my sis (technically, my ex-sister-in-law, former wife of my dead brother). She’s family – think she said we met in 1986 which would make it 30 years of family ties.

GREAT restaurant – Artisco Café & Bar (sister restaurant to Tomasita’s which ALWAYS has a line to get in) – that can even pull off a Manhattan in the land of Margaritas. I ordered a Manhattan in honor of my departed mother.

Jen’s comment was – “I haven’t smelled that smell since Eileen passed,” Guess it was a meal of memories as I ordered the Chile Rellenos (which my mother used to make growing up and she did like the ones at Atriscos):

That led to an afternoon nap which was interrupted repeatedly by workers ripping the roof off my unit, playing Banda music (OK, that wasn’t bad), giggling, and dropping pipes by my window. I did get a bit of a nap as they clocked out at 3:30.

A bit of texting back and forth, but dinner with The Colonels, Jen, Kennan, me was at La Choza– yet another restaurant I hadn’t tried. I started with the Smoke and Fire Margarita — you have to have at least one Margarita while in New Mexico, and you should make sure they squeeze their own limes rather than using mix. The fire part was Jalapeno, a little juice in the glass, slice on the rim. THAT, I forgot to get a picture of, but I did get a picture of my crisp tacos with a picture of the Margarita in the background:

This time I actually got a picture of the guests!

Too bad I didn’t get a picture of our waiter. Smokin’ Hot. I understand now that The Donald is headed to the White House it’s OK to objectify men as well.

Speaking of that, I’ll close this post with the book that I liberated from the laundry room of the complex on the take one/leave one pile:

A 1996 New York Bestseller called Dixie Rising. It will be interesting to compare the vision of Dixie Rising twenty years ago to the 2016 version of dixie risen.

Maybe I’ll have some time on the next leg of my journey home – or maybe I’ll add it to the top of the pile and plow through it.



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Nov '16

Trip Report: Phoenix

I headed to Phoenix at the invitation of friends for a celebration – that, sadly, turned into a funeral. Yes, I was flying on Election Day.

Breakfast in The Board Room since I’m in coach for both legs (SEA-SFO and SFO-PHX):

Lunch in the United section of SFO – I’ve always loved The Fillmore from Klein’s Deli:

That would be the pastrami, Swiss, sauerkraut, Klein’s special sauce on rye.

The United section of SFO has been seriously upgraded over the last year or two, so it was just fine to have a long layover without lounge access:

Totally PACKED flight from SFO to PHX – I even turned down a $500 flight voucher to take the later (3 hours) flight, but I wanted to be with friends for the election results.

As it turns out – I should have taken the money and the delay – we put quite a dent in the mixer drawer in my host’s refrigerator:

Alas – the celebration bottle of bubbles was consumed with brunch the next day:

Might as well make the best of a bad situation – time to go liquor shopping! Did a little online comparison, and also noted Safeway’s prices:

BevMo was $19.99 for the 1.75 (no quantity discount), but Total Wine and Spirts was a shockingly low $14.99 a bottle. I stocked up –4 of the 1.75’s and 2 750’s of other bourbon/rye for the liquor cabinet. Had to check a second bag as the FAA says no more than 5 liters of under 120 proof hard liquor per bag:

A VERY EARLY flight out on Thursday – before the hosts were even out of bed – luckily I got upgraded on Alaska to first so after my reciprocal lounge access to the United Club, I had a full breakfast.

Got home before noon and went back to bed for a long time.

I’m just glad my mother didn’t live long enough to see what happened this year – it would have killed her being the life-long League of Woman’s Voter supporter.


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Nov '16

Trip Report: South Carolina

So, last time I saw Sean we were both in Washington, DC by the airport. He was on a layover; I was on a mileage run to see a museum while I was at it.

More memorable was Vietnam in January. He was teaching English in the small town of Saigon (OK, that’s a joke – Saigon, a.k.a. is a huge city) to students ranging from 6 to 60. These days in South Carolina he is teaching high school juniors and seniors – a tad bit of a change, and all the more reason to pay him a visit.

But first I have to get there – and the United Gods smiled on me by granting me an upgrade on a mileage award ticket on my red-eye from Seattle, to DC.

Sadly, I didn’t get to use the new Delta Sky Club:

I hear from friends it is truly spectacular. Alas, I just had the Alaska Board Room before boarding the red-eye with my freebie (used miles AND got upgraded) seat:

And there was a snack on the flight….

Because there is free booze in First Class – on a five plus hour flight I might have gotten an hour of sleep.

Before sleep, I did learn the reason that there are still ashtrays in airplane bathroom doors – even on the newest planes. Mandated by the FAA as a place to put out a forbidden cigarette. New planes now have just “stub out” devices:

My layover in DC was an hour or so…and look – they even still have these analog devices!

Sadly, the next plane was of the “cramped” variety:

At least I’m in the single of 1-2 seating.

By the time I landed in Columbia, South Carolina, picked up my car and got to Orangeburg, I was an exhausted mess. I needed a nap – and felt bad because Sean had taken the day off — had I known I would have drank less and slept more.

But we did get in lunch …I went for the pulled pork sliders, cole slaw rather than fries:

Sean went for seriously flied, as is the South Carolina tradition:

And a visit to the visitor’s center at Fort Sumter:

We were too late for the last ferry to the island, but we poked around the visitor’s centers, and the neighborhood.

Time to move onto old downtown Charleston

Had to make a stop on the way back to Orangeburg for cheap booze:

Didn’t realize how cheap it was until I check the prices here (in Orangeburg):

Total was $17.99+tax for the 1.75 liter of Evan Williams Black – 4-Way was $27.99. WOW!

A couple of weeks before my visit, South Carolina had a hurricane blow through, and some of the damage was still evident…

Which just added to the rather depressed economy of this city:

Lots of shuttered shops in downtown Orangeburg, along with a huge number of auto parts stores and car title loan establishments. Surprised they weren’t in the same business. And there was the Democrat headquarters:

Orangeburg is actually home to two colleges, one is a historically black college called Claflin. I (as was Sean) was expecting a more vibrant “college town” atmosphere in Orangeburg, but apparently the student body is very campus-based. No Starbucks (except 5 miles away at the freeway), no coffee shops, places to hang out – I did find a bar that has music Friday/Saturday (sadly, I leave Friday):

One of the items I arrived with was a housewarming present of a small BBQ:

Yes, I checked a BBQ as luggage!

And picked up accessories:

I really need to go back and buy the rest of the pink pig corn on the cob holders for gifts!

But it does make for a nice little set-up —

All by the back door, and with chairs to tend the fire…which we didn’t use when we BBQ’d pork chops and vegetable (VERY Vietnamese):

My final full day in Orangeburg was a day of change for Sean’s place…when I arrived this was the place:

The spare bedroom is the workout room (a.k.a the second bedroom):

With the addition of a couch, arm chair, dining table and chairs – it’s much less dorm room flophouse, and more home:

Still needs artwork – LARGE artwork. And it has had its result….

Our final meal together of the visit was at Antley’s BBQ:

Including a takeout window:

Which is South Carolina seems to mean buffet:

I was amused by this sign on the Men’s room door…

But apparently, they are slacking…

So much for my checking out the Carolina BBQ scene. I’d hoped to check out Maurice’s BBQ (no link – I don’t reward bad behavior) which has good reviews for the food, until I found out the owner is responsible for this Orangeburg “monument”:

Turns out the people who rent the restaurant don’t rent the corner triangle with the Confederate flag post and tombstone.

And oddly, I thought Halloween wasn’t a thing in the south, but apparently, I’m wrong. Thought it was a whole Satanist thing.

I must say that my favorite memory was spending after dinner time two nights helping Sean grade mid-term US History exams. For the students – they should count themselves LUCKY to be graded on “a curve”.

Time to warp up this visit – off to the airport for the reverse flight home.

Got to the airport so early (to avoid extra hours on the rental car) that check-in at United wasn’t even open. Killed an hour in a decent airport amenity wise. The shop had a t-shirt I’d love for tacky t-shirt lady, but they didn’t have it in her size:

As it turns out, once I was through security, I found one (sadly, not on sale) without South Carolina, and a bigger logo, and more sparkle. SCORE!

I ended up spending five hours in this airport – seems ALL flights out of Columbia, South Carolina were oversold for Friday afternoon. Yes, I can be bought for $500 in future travel and a guarantee of bulkhead aisle seats on the rebooked flights through Houston.

I used some of the money for food/drink:

I just wanted the dog – but apparently, EVERYTHING in South Carolina comes with something fried on the side – I thought onion rings were a better choice than fries:

My layover in Houston had just enough time to use my last United Club access coupon (I get free access on itineraries that include international):

Three cocktails, three bowls of soup, one salad, all in an hour.

Back on another plane headed home….

AND had the whole row to myself, so I moved to the middle:

Another trip down – I’ll be back in South Carolina in January for another “pep visit”.


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Oct '16

Trip Report: Bay Area For A Couple Of Nights

It was February the last time that I was in the Bay Area – I travel so much I had to look it up!

This trip I have one night in the city and two nights with The Boys (Lunetta and Onyx).

Overcast, but a nice day to fly – not my plane, but a recent delivery in the Boeing 100th anniversary livery:

Got the lucky upgrade to first on the way down – not aisle, but bulkhead:

Which means food…

And views:

This is Point Reyes coming into SFO:

The first night I’m staying just off Union Square and connecting with my buddy, Moody, who I haven’t see in a year.

This is the place that Salamander has booked for his birthday in the spring – though I booked him on the top floor which doesn’t have elevator access – you have to walk the last flight at the back of the building:

These are two places I’m sure he’ll want to check out since he’s a writer:

But he’ll probably spend all his time here:

Or Chinatown:

All are mere blocks from the condo.

Had dinner with Moody at Cesario Brasserie which had a 10% off discount from the condo. Oddly, they didn’t have a full bar, but they did have a Sochu (24% alcohol by volume Korean) Martini. Yes, a Korean-based drink in an Italian Restaurant. I’m a little surprised that two of the restaurants we looked at going to didn’t have a full bar (neither did the Saloon from my last visit).

Moody had the Lasagna, which was massive and “food coma” worthy – I went with the starter of mussels, sopping up all the juice with the bread. Oddly, no food pictures. Guess we were too engaged to get out phones.

He had an early morning, so alas, no sleepover which meant I stayed up late knowing I could sleep in

Got out of the unit just before noon and headed to my usual lunch spot, Maru Sushi:

And my lunch Bento:

Having left my bags at the front desk, my destination after lunch was a KLM pop-up store front…apparently they have just started SFO-AMS direct service – they even had a babe on the corner with signal lights:

And free coffee drinks (and water, and key chains):

And a working business class demonstration – though no entertainment system:


A fun way to kill some time before heading back to the condo, picking up the bags and heading to Berkeley on BART.

Tonight’s dinner is a duck/mushroom soup (yum) with a little white wine…nothing fancy, just tasty:

And Lunetta even made me a cruise ship bed:

Today’s agenda involves checking our one of our distributors (North Berkeley Imports), picking up a bottle of bubbles while there.

We actually have a customer that calls and picks up her Wine Club curbside – didn’t know other folks did that as well. Nor have I ever seen such a specific time amount on a parking sign:

Then off to The Berkeley Bowl for tonight’s meal – marinated black cod, salad, bread joined by Devon and Alicia.

But first, the rosé bubbles that I brought.

Luckily the black cod is rich enough to stand up the 2007 Château Nuef du Pape that Devon brought! So much for the magnum of Bonny Doon Vin Gris rosé I’d brought with me.

It was a fun evening – and sadly I have to head to the airport in the morning.

No upgrade to First Class on the way home, I’m 7th down the list – but I do have access to the Singapore Business Class Lounge – I chose my flight specifically to be in the lounge when the noodle bar is open:

Hard not to love this lounge. But alas, I have to fly away – only had an hour to stuff myself before snuggling into Seat 6D.

Maybe next time I’ll get lucky – though the mid-day flight is ALWAYS packed.


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Oct '16

City Report: Excitement At The Shop

There was a little excitement at the shop for my “once a month” Friday shift…lots of police, a mess of traffic, lots of people.

Turns out Hilary was half a block away at the Washington State Democratic headquarters.

Locked up and went to watch the show….and got a quick video of the motorcade pulling out:

Next week, the Bay Area.

[? ? ?]

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Oct '16

Trip Report: Saskatoon, Headed Home

Gentle Reader: no, I am not still in Saskatoon, I’m just tardy posting my progress. But here it is, however delayed like many of my flights….

We arrived into Saskatoon an hour and a half late – something I’d anticipated when I booked a late afternoon return flight to Seattle via Minneapolis. Personally, I’d have rather slept in.

The first thing that struck me about the Saskatoon ViaRail station was the stark Soviet-era Brutalist architecture. Wikipedia claims that the 1964 station was built in “The International Style“, looks pretty Brutalist to me.

When I mentioned this to Rache – his comment was, “I was just thinking that.”

At least the cab was modern:


Our driver was a laid off millwright reduced to driving cabs to put some food on the table.

Our next problem was getting into the town from the prairie-side station – a 20-minute delay for the world’s longest grain train:

The plan was to go to the 9-Mile Legacy Brewery and find a breakfast place until they opened. More brutalist architecture – but at least we found ourselves in Saskatoon’s hipster neighborhood – I was surprised there was meat on the menu. This would be Drift Sidewalk Cafe. The interesting thing about doing the research for these posts is when you start looking into the history of the neighborhoods you are visiting, in this case, one of Saskatoon’s historically poorest neighborhoods – hence, where artists can afford to live. More information here: http://thewalrus.ca/reviving-riversdale/. It’s actually a well written article about the city, it’s politics, it’s aboriginal legacy issues…but back to the Drift. Decent sized menu, all a little on the “odd” side, often filled crepes:

Look at that sexy ManBun!

I had The Hero (prosciutto, aged cheddar, dill pickles, maple aioli):

Rache had the B-E-A-T Crepe (tomato bacon jam, scrambled eggs, arugula, aged cheddar) with a cup of broccoli soup:

By the time we were done, it was time for the 9 Mile Legacy Brewery – and their friendly crew:

I should point out that at this point, 9-Mile had only been able to serve flights or pints for TWO DAYS. Apparently (according to the locals), Saskatchewan is the Utah of Canada. And I scored another sticker for my bag!

While Rache did his beer thing (so NOT me), I went next door to an Archie McPhee like place called Glitch – and they DO get some of their stuff from Accoutrements, which is the wholesale arm of Archie McPhee. I have a friend who used to work at Archies – and would occasionally model some of their products:

Sadly, these are no longer available, but if you want a tattoo – check out Jeff at Project Tattoo.

After our breakfast, our beers, our novelties it was time for another cab rib – this time to the airport, which was surprisingly NOT Brutalist, including the lines:

And desks to work at – oddly with no power outlets.

With an amazing flight display of real-time what planes are coming and what planes are going:

We are on a Embraer 175 from Saskatoon to Minneapolis:

With 2-1 seating – we took the two bulkheads on the wide side:

No food on the flight – but drinks…

And blankets, with Rache trailed into the bathroom like toilet paper stuck to your shoe….

And sunsets….

In Minneapolis we BREEZED through Immigration and Customs – me with my Global Entry, but Rache wasn’t far behind – they have gone paperless in Minneapolis – scan your passport, answer the questions, it spits out a receipt, take the receipt to the desk, get it stamped, go pick up your luggage.

We were so quick through the border check (and the plane was a little early) that we had time to see if because we were paid First Class whether we could use Delta’s Sky Club – the answer was yes because we were on an INTERNATIONAL Business Class ticket (though on the site they called it First Class). Nice lounge:

And we grabbed some snacks – OK, a little more than a snack:

OK – that is for BOTH of us. The free food in US lounges is getting soooooo much better, and they were pouring Evan Williams Black (my daily bourbon drinker) as the house pour!

Back on the plane, back in the bulkheads for our last leg home to Seattle:

This was a cool addition to the overhead storage bin – a light to tell you when Wi-Fi is available. It was a 737-900 with the Boeing Sky Interior:

Notice that the No Smoking “light” is now just printed on.

More food on this flight – does it NEVER end!

I know that cream sauce is going to give me indigestion… but I hate turning down free (with the price of a First Class ticket) food.

It was a QUICK trip – but one that yielded three posts. Not bad for leaving Seattle on Tuesday morning and returning Thursday night – in time for me to work tomorrow.



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Oct '16

Trip Report: Saskatoon Bound, On The Train!

After our day of wandering around town, it was time to grab our bags from storage at the station, and move to the Panorama Lounge – which is the lounge for all Sleeping Car passengers.

The lounge isn’t really anything to talk about – not enough chairs inside (the heaters were on outside), free coffee, tea, cookies, crackers – they should have had the wine and canapes here, rather than once we boarded…but I’m getting ahead of myself – here is a shot of the final car in the “consist” – that’s what a train is composed of, and ours is 24 pieces (two engines and twenty-two rail cars).

Before long we were settling in our “across the aisle” Sleeper Plus: Cabin for 1. I just checked, and for fall/winter/spring, they have close-in savings every day of the week, rather than just Tuesday – too bad it’s just for trips 30 days or less. It drops the price from $1857.00 CAD to $1261.50 CAD (the latter would be $962.58 USD) for between Toronto and Vancouver (or reverse). You can find the fare page here: http://www.viarail.ca/en/deals/

But back to our rooms. Mine – which comes with booze and mixer:

The bed comes out of here – yes, it has an oddly shaped mattress:

Our car attendant actually tracked down a TABLE for me – there are like ONE of these per car!


We went to the lounge car for the sendoff party – bad pink bubbles and uninspired canapes, but great views:

Since we didn’t leave until 8:30, not long after we both headed back to our rooms, with Rache heading to bed….

And me to get a little work done before we lose phone/internet connections:

And finally – even I turned in…

The morning finds us doing breakfast separately, well, that was the plan – but then I arrived and was directed to the seat next to Rache, who was finishing his breakfast – this one was mine (and Rache had the same which is why I knew about the Rye bread toast):

Yes, I got up at 7:30 for breakfast – and promptly went back to bed until 11 (with lunch at 12:30).

At this point we are heading into the mountains and its time to pull out the cameras!

ViaRail has an amazing collection of “bubble dome” cars, which have all been lovingly restored:

Even the kitchens, which they don’t use (all the meals are in one of the two dining rooms on this train):

Speaking of meals – it’s time for LUNCH, and maybe some wine to go with it:

We opted for a glass of the Union White and the Pillitteri whites (both from Ontario) – Rache found the touch of sweetness in the Union White a bit much so I drank that one with my tomato bisque followed by a fried chicken sandwich:

Why, yes, the food is included in the ticket price – and it’s several notches above what is served on the Amtrak long-distance trains.

Here is a little overview and behind the scenes in the dining cars:

After lunch I returned to the room to do a little more work, but mostly stare out the window at the view…

We were a little late getting into Jasper – one of my favorite stop on this trip as it is right downtown, and you have an hour to explore.

Time for Uncle Markie to do a little work – checking out as many of the wine shops in Jasper as I can:

Cute little town….

Anchored by the train station…

And inside the station, an A-Board showing the layout of our train:

FYI – we were in Franklin Manor, which has a layout like this:

We were in the second rooms in, right hand side. Rache in the bottom of the drawing, me at the top.

After our hour in Jasper, back aboard the train for some new scenery:

And some new food dinner food – RACK OF LAMB!

The reds for tonight were the Sandhill Estates Cab/Merlot from BC, and the Konzelmann Estate Winery Baco Noir from Ontario.

And the dining staff knew that it was our table mate’s 25th wedding anniversary, so when desert was brought out, it was signed:

The aspect ratio is a little off since I took that from our side of the table and flipped the image.

Breakfast in the morning was a bit of a bust – Continental Breakfast starting at 6:30, Brunch starting at 9:30 – we are scheduled to get off the train at 8am in Saskatoon – and the reason for the truncated breakfast schedule. Had a crappy croissant, a cup of coffee, a shower, and since we were running late, a “sitting up” nap, getting off the train at 9:30 – had I known, I’d have slept in.

I’ll save the return to Seattle for another post.


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Oct '16

Trip Report: Saskatoon Bound, First Stop Vancouver

Who doesn’t want to go to Saskatoon for a couple of hours! It’s really just about the journey, not the destination. Rache and I are going on a train ride! Actually TWO train rides, one short (to Vancouver), one long (Vancouver to Saskatoon). You might ask why not Edmonton (would require a hotel room either two or from because of when the trains arrive/leave), or Winnipeg (same reason), or Toronto (it arrives Saturday, and this week I’m also working Friday). The train from Vancouver arrives at 8am in the morning (assuming it’s on time), and we have a 3:20pm flight to MSP, then SEA. Enough said.

I really wish Amtrak’s Cascade Service had a mid-day train. Our only choice was the 7:30 departure which gets us in at noon, and our ViaRail connection isn’t until 10:45.

Don’t I look happy on the train:

It’s a little better once we are on the train and I have a little food in me, but…

Lovely fall colours (since I’m headed to CanadaLand I’ll get a head start on the spelling):

Here is a shot of the Vancouver train station. Sorry for the lighting…j

We need food, so we head in the direction of China Town which I’d never really explored – found this piece of street art made more sinister by the shadow of my hand – I’m seeing a theme here!

We walked, and walked – what we were looking for was a sit-down, service, bar, nice lunch. It wasn’t in China Town, but there were enough street junkies and people shooting up, hanging out, offering us drugs, that I was glad it was noon on a sunny day with lots of cops around.

An hour and a half later – stumbled into Per Se Social Corner and settled in for a cocktail for me, and a beer for Rache:

Before settling into our shrimp and vegetable linguini with flatbread and salad:

Wonderful presentation – and on the lunch menu the food was $14 CAD each, my drink was $12 CAD – and the booth was comfortable and the bathrooms clean.

After our leisurely lunch, MORE WALKING – YES, ME. Passed by the Law Courts, spied the WorldMark Vancouver, passed three JapaDog stands, ended up at the Waterfront near the Cruise Terminal.

Random Vancouver tourist pictures….

Decided to take a ride to North Vancouver on the ferry. Neither of us had ever been, and at $4, seemed like a great way to kill time even though the transit was under 15 minutes. Man, they have loading and unloading down to science!

Since it was after three at this point in the day – HAPPY HOUR – and we found one in the Harbour (those crazy CanadaLand spellings) at the Tap and Barrel:

It was a HUGE space – look at the Keg Room!

And the bar area (dining area is at the far end, upstairs to the right are private function areas):

And it really is about wine and beer (but with a full bar). The barrels are the wine taps, the stainless steel, the beer:

I ordered a Happy Hour highball (Rye and Diet Coke) for $4 (CAD) for the 1oz shot (they are a little skimpy with hard liquor in CanadaLand), Rache went for the $10.50 beer sampler:

And who can say no to deep-fried pickles (well, Roxy could – he hates pickles and anything else sour, except for me):

It was easy to kill time in the only two cushy club chairs in the place – right in front of the non-running fireplace.

And the two random photos from the dock area of North Vancouver – two signs:

As for the upper one, self-explanatory, the one below, just because it’s a sign for a Green Market with a planter of dead plants, both of these The Tacky T-Shirt Lady would love.

Here was our wondering journey this afternoon – if you look closely you can see the miles and steps on the map (dashed line = public transit):

What, were we (NOT) thinking!

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Oct '16

City Report: Lunch At Loretta’s and The Space Needle

In the city for a week – and company is in town! Now where to go – for guests who used to live here. Can’t believe we had dinner Sunday night and I don’t have pictures.

But Tuesday, we headed for a quick lunch we headed to Loretta’s Northwesterner for lunch for me, soup for Gail (which came with my Lunch Special), coffee for Paul:

The soup was a Cream of Broccoli which wasn’t overly thickened had lots of celery, and I had the panko-breaded chicken cutlet burger. Both GREAT!

Wednesday lunch was the Prime Event – Paul said they wanted to have lunch on their last day in town, “somewhere with a water view.”

I made a reservation at the Space Needle Restaurant. Great views (and it turned out to be a sunny day), and while the ride to the observation level is $22, for a $25 minimum lunch spend at the restaurant, you get a free ride up, AND access to the observation deck AND a free digital photo from your meal. This would be ours:

For those of you who don’t know, the Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, and these days looks like this:

The lower section is an event space.

Did I mention that it rotates? Here are some lunch shots:

And views….North – the horseshoe buildings are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation buildings with Lake Union to the top.

East towards Bellevue with downtown Seattle to the right (more like Southeast):

South to downtown – cloud cover over Mount Rainier:

Southwest over Puget Sound:

49 minutes to rotate – but first we need drinks!

We DID NOT order the Millionaire Martini at $250! I started with the Seattle Sazerac (Paul and I), and then after dinner the Woodinville Manhattan for me:

We all spent WAY over the $25 – but think of it like a $22 off coupon! Round one for me – Razor Clam Chowder, salads for Paul and Gail:

Round two – Penn Cove Mussels with Chorizo – I was feeling the need for seafood, the Dungeness Crab Melt for Paul, and Gail had the Roasted Cauliflower Flatbread:

Paul got a little Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert, not on the list, but provided (and shared by all) while I had my Manhattan:

What I realized when we went up one floor to the observation deck is that every view had wire, rather than windows:

Finally, it was time to go down to ground level:

Since the $25 minimum includes food AND drinks – literally, you could sit at the table, nurse two cocktails for two hours (the maximum dining time allowed) during lunch hours, and meet the minimum. As Gail said, “well, lunch was less than our insurance deductible for the rental car that we scratched and we were expecting to pay for – but they said it was nothing.”

Fun in the city.


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