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Oct '21

Trip Report: Return From Waikiki

Headed home after my 65th birthday in Waikiki.

I could have taken the bus to the airport for the senior rate of $1.50 direct from Waikiki. I was lazy and took a Lyft for $23.00 – but the driver and I hit it off, he gave me a box of incredible pineapple shortbread cookies, and I made his day tipping him with a $2 bill, which I always travel with a stack. When I got in, he asked, “freeway or scenic”. He gets the same either way. I said, “your choice”, he said, “it’s your ride, which way?” Settled on scenic and I’m showing off my knowledge of long-gone places…that used to be Sam Choy, but now it’s a great bakery with great fried chicken – that was the Kmart – he says, “they closed it when shoplifters would just run out with bags of stuff”. That was Hilo Hattie’s – I had the famous shrimp truck stuff there. It was the best ride-share ride I’ve had in years.

No CLEAR at the Honolulu Airport, but at least TSA-Pre, so though quickly and into the Delta Sky Club since I’m flying them home. It was supposed to be a mid-day flight, but a couple of months ago they changed the schedule to a red eye on the same 757 with a small recline. I rebooked to a connecting flight through Salt Lake City, but on an A330 with the Delta One lay flat suite. Sadly, not with the international food service.

One of the perks of being the Delta Diamond Medallion is that I used one of the Choice Benefits to get Delta Sky Club membership (sadly, guests are $39. Fortunately, HNL has a Sky Club:

Took a break from the lounge where the AC was cranked to the max to explore the gardens that are part of the airport:

Hard to believe that you are behind security it a major airport. Email me if you want to know where the public bathrooms that have bidet toilet seats.

Killed a couple of hours – nice to have unlimited food and booze.

Big seat awaits me!

A nice step up from a 737 (this is an A330), or the Delta B757 that they wanted to stick me on overnight.

Cocktail service, then they brought a box meal – they aren’t back to hot food yet.

Truth be told, that photo is on my dining table. I was so stuffed from lounge food I just threw the box in my carryon. Honest, they did not serve me all those bottles at once – that was two rounds with a lot of Diet Coke, which was what I was drinking because of some “gastrointestinal issues”. I did eat the snack box, but at the wine shop on Saturday. Didn’t end up drinking anything on the almost six-hour flight.

Back to those “gastrointestinal issues”. An hour into the flight, “the bottom fell out”, fortunately with enough time to get to the lavatory. It was a red eye flight so everybody was sleeping and there were two lavs 10 feet away, so no lines – which I would NOT have survived, and all I could think was, well, at least I have shorts in my carryon.

The “evacuation” helped with the pressure, not so much with everything else. An hour later, the “mountain blew”, sadly, into the sink. The sink with VERY SMALL drain holes. It takes a long time for paper towels to soak up that much liquid. And, a lot of paper towels.

In the end (now both flushed out) got the lav cleaned, and wiped down with sanitizing wipes. I was NOT going to leave that for an FA to deal with.

Did manage to get some sleep thanks to the lay flat bed, though I kept it in “Barcalounger” position.

My original flight was a mid-day direct flight. Which is why I booked First Class on Delta out of pocket. Couple of months ago they turned my noon departure into a 9PM departure. A B757 is fine for a daytime flight, but not an overnight. Hence, how I ended up in Salt Lake City at 7AM. Might as well be Atlanta for the size of all the Delta gates, but I found the lounge.


Full hot breakfast buffet from bacon, sausage, eggs, oatmeal, breads, rolls, the works – and with my now timid digestive system, plain toasted bagels with cream cheese and sparkling water (not that the bar was open in Utah at 7AM):

Quick hour and a half flight back to Seattle:

And the view out the window that I never get tired of.


Home this week, so project time!


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Oct '21

Trip Report: Couple Of Nights In Waikiki For My 65th

The adventure continues…

After a dumping our stuff in the condo, we were off to a 3PM late lunch/early dinner/happy hour at my favorite (happy hour) place in Waikiki, Tommy Bahama’s Grill above their clothing store. Normally the restaurant is pricey, but the happy hour actually has decent food and drink specials.

Dirty vodka martini with blue cheese stuffed olives for me, basil grapefruit martini for Dan.

Compared to the regular menu, the Grapefruit Basil is $16.50 and the Vodka Martini is $17. Appetizers run $15-$17, making the Hour Menu affordable.

Blackened Mahi Tacos on the left, coconut shrimp above, shadow of the fresh breadbasket to the right.

After a bit, we were joined by Boo, a buddy of mine from Tacoma who is on holiday with his boyfriend who was too beat from the day to join us.

Boo had the sliders (and a Lemon Drop).

Happy 65th to me! They even brought me a slice of their macadamia nut cake, which, apparently, I even ate the photo.

Much fun, good conversation, good friends, reasonable bill.

We all headed back to the condo, had another cocktail and Boo left to check in with his boyfriend. As the sun went down, the city came out:

Not a bad view from the balcony.

We had breakfast in the room – from materials I’d collected on the flights and lounges on the way here:

Couple of packs of oatmeal, bagels, cream cheese, granola cookie bakes, mini-frosted wheats (which I figured we could eat without milk). Yep, I’m a low rent kinda guy.

After breakfast, we crossed the canal so I could do a little fabric shopping at Fabric Mart:

Where I picked up a couple of yards of two different patterns, and was surprised Dan did as well:

Mine are on the top, Dan’s the bottom.

Next, we were off to Dan Quijote for supplies and lunch. The Colonels turned me onto this place a decade ago.

We were starving so we woofed some sort of beef and rice bowl standing in front of the store, and headed home for a couple of kinds of poké for the main dish, along with some nigori saké

And found a lovely, overheated car from another century….

Dinner found us in search of a Korean restaurant I’d been to before – Waikiki Gangnam Style Korean BBQ, that wasn’t where I thought it was anymore:

A kind stranger asked the two confused tourists (us) if we needed help – and actually knew that it had moved a couple of blocks and had open air dining:

And the food was as yummy as I remember:

Both were good, but I think Dan’s Kalbi Beef was a little better.

With an early morning checkout, we moved to the pool so Dan could take a family conference call – and I left after a bit to attend a Wyndham Owner Update for 30,000 Wyndham Points – which was the exact amount I’d used to get our room for two nights.

Dan is staying for five more days, and a little after noon we met up to get the keys to his AirBNB place, and have a final drink together with whatever was left:

Soon after, I was off to the airport for the return home.

More later.

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Oct '21

Trip Report: Off To Waikiki – Got To Get There!

To get to this moment, there was a huge dallop of stress.

Long raucous dinner party the night before, phone (not mine) left in Uber to the airport. Me boarding with both our bags hoping Dan would make the flight, but so exhausted I’d given up caring.

It was a relief when we were in the air, and cocktails arrived:

Followed by a cold breakfast – but at least they are back to serving them on plates, not boxes:

Short transfer in San Diego – yes, not the quickest way to get from Seattle to Honolulu, but the only way to go cheap in First Class. Had to get wrist bands to get into Hawaii, had a quick drink in the lounge, and back on a plane for more food. I had the chicken with pineapple:

Dan had the risotto of some sort, though, technically, the kale came from my plate, but I know he loves it:

We had great service, and in chatting with our FA – turns out she used to work for Emirates, which I flew a couple of weeks ago!

And yes, I grabbed a couple of the Alaska branded face masks for my buddy who collects airline ephemera.

Great views on landing:

And a lovely shot from the Honolulu Airport – an airport that I really like:

I’d arranged for a private transfer to meet us and get Dan lei’d at the airport. Nice to get right to the condo – the Wyndham Royal Garden. Stayed here before and used points to get a studio:

Those MIGHT be the worst photos I’ve ever taken of a hotel/condo.

I’ll pick it up in the next post with all the fun in Honolulu.

Until then.

[? ? ?]

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Sep '21

Trip Report: The Long Way Home

Because of my early flight out of Berlin to London (and back to Seattle), I booked a hotel right at the airport.

When I was at the liquor store earlier in the day, I picked up some sparking German wine to have as a final toast with Horst.


And Horst was king enough to run down to the bar and get me a “bucket” of ice:

The hotel (like the airport) is only a couple of years old, so the rooms are really fresh and modern:


But the hotel restaurant is NOT cheap – good thing I’ve got Schnitzal!

But I LOVE the inserts in the hallway carpet!!!!!! Very Berlin 1936 Olympics:

Up at 4am, cross the street to the airport at 5am, flight at 7am.

But first, the lounge. Saw this in the Duty-Free Shop – almost bought one for a friend’s dog:

And the Lounge, though it’s run by a third-party vendor – and has COVID protocols in place:

Interesting – baked beans or scrambled eggs in Mason Jars!

And Kombucha!

Sadly, this is not my plane – it’s the TinTin plane from Brussels Airlines:

Sadly, I’m on British Air, with their ridiculously excessive surcharge fees – but I’m up front:

And at Heathrow, ANOTHER FUCKING BUS to the terminal:

But, at least I have access to the First Class Lounge even though I’m only flying in Business – my top-level OneWorld Emerald status gets me in…and a whole lot of other people:

And some of the food – you scanned a QRCode, pulled up the menu and put your location.

And they had some great posters in the bathrooms….

And, finally, a jet bridge!

But onboard, I realized I’ve been SCREWED. They downgauged my plane from a 787-10 to a 787-9. From the modern Club Suite to Piece-of-80’s-Crap-Business-Class-Seat-That-Doesn’t-Even-Go-Completely-Flat.

Look at how bloody cramped and claustrophobic the window seat is!

This is what a Club World Suite looks like:

One is NOT the other. Once again, BA has screwed the pooch. Last time for me to pay excessive fees and get screwed. But I have to get home. They moved me to an aisle seat which was much less claustrophobic, but still not all that comfortable.

At least I had my old seat open to throw my extra crap in.

And then the food and booze started:

An upside is that BA has brought back a traditional British Roast dinner:

Interestingly enough, The Points Guy did a review of this Business Class meal, even through he was in First Class – but they had run out of them (bigger portion, better cut of meat, but the rest sounds the same). Link is here: I flew to London to try British Airways’ roast dinner (thepointsguy.com)

His description is MUCH better than mine.

Panacotta and cheeses for dessert.

The meal brought my anxiety level down, and my exhaustion (and the crappy inflight selection of movies) brought me sleep after watching to Judi Dench movies, Murder On The Orient Express (which I’ve taken the train from the station with the hotel that the book was written in, north of Istanbul) and Blithe Spirit. Both lovely.

With my annoyance level of the flight, I just decided to sleep – which is exactly what BA cabin staff wants you to do. The feed you and expect you to go to sleep so they can chat with their friends in the galley for the rest of the flight. Again, no more BA flights for me.

Was at the gate at 4:20, was through customs/immigration by 4:40pm (shockingly quick – mostly because I didn’t get secondary COVID screening), called the upholstery place that was putting a new top on my convertible to confirm they were still open, and grabbed a Lyft to the shop, paid for the top, and was home by 5:20pm – an hour after I landed.

The advantage of sleeping the rest of the flight was that I was sober enough to pick up the car.

I’ll do a car blog post down the road, still working on some interior stuff.

Back to work for me. Arrive on a Friday, work Saturday, Sunday, then Wednesday-Sunday filling in for Jim

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Sep '21

Trip Report: Berlin – Part Three

Another beautiful day in Berlin, except for a couple of showers.

Some shots from around Horst’s apartment:

And yet another car – two-tone Miata:

Had lunch at this place down the street from the apartment. I had the steak burger and an Aperol Spritz:

Horst had a massive salad:

Next stop was at the COVID-19 testing center, located in a musty old bar:

Fifteen minutes later, the negative results!

I’ll need this to fly on Friday.

Dinner tonight was at the boy’s favorite Thai restaurant (Suksan) – sadly a long cab ride stuck in traffic:

Definitely slept well that night!

Final lunch in Berlin found us back at Morgenland, a couple of blocks from the apartment. We decided to eat inside because of the bees we had the other day:

I had the Weinerschnitzel:

I couldn’t finish it all, so it will be my dinner at the hotel tonight.

Mid-afternoon found us in a cab headed to the airport.

Time to start the return.



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Sep '21

Trip Report: Berlin – Part Two

Off to Potsdam we go, but we are in need of gas and wieners!

Since I’m reading this book, Boys In The Boat, which deals with the University of Washington Crew team and their quest for the Berlin Olympics, we swung by the 1936 Olympic Stadium.

And had I waited, I could have had a sit-down wiener in Potsdam!

Next stop was the Bridge of Spies where Cold War spy exchanges took place:

And random buildings along the way:

Next stop is the Neuer Garten, a UNESCO site:

After a short walk, we get to Schloss Cecilienhof, famous for the location of the Potsdam Conference in 1945, in which the leaders of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States made important decisions affecting the shape of post-World War II Europe and Asia. Think Stalin, Churchhill, and Truman.

With high-tech toilet entrances to get the 50 cent (Euro) out of you:

And because it’s German, it even gives you a receipt!

Plus, another lovely old car:

Next stop is Sanssouci Palace and its gardens:

All that sightseeing works up an appetite, but the on-site restaurant was booked full, so off to the Dutch Quarter of Potsdam we go:

Sadly, the local gay bar wasn’t open yet:

The final stop of the day was to a cemetery, for a brief remembrance:

Marlene Deitrich’s grave. Horst was at her public funeral (along with thousands) in 1992 (first in Paris, and then her interment in Berlin, her hometown).

There was a very brief discussion as to whether we should stop here:

Yes, THAT kind of swinger club.

Dinner tonight was a modest affair at the apartment. Nice after the whirlwind day:

What a day!


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Sep '21

Trip Report: Berlin – Part One

Such a joy to be met at the airport overseas. It rarely happens, but Horst had a car for the week, and he wanted to see the new, much delayed, airport. THANKS!

Horst is lending me his “spare” apartment for the week:

After throwing my stuff down, we (Horst, Ollie, Myself) headed out for Vietnamese food at Cocochu, a few blocks away…I got the duck, and there was PLENTY for leftovers:

What a wonderful way to be welcomed to town.

Needless to say, I slept well!

With a fully stocked kitchen, breakfast was a breeze, and lunch was around the corner at a Shawarma place:

Again, more food than I needed, but got doggy bags for both last night’s Vietnamese and today’s lunch (I sense tomorrow’s breakfast).

On the way to the car, passed this place which I didn’t get around to poking my head in, but Horst claims it has an extensive whiskey selection:

And off on the driving tour we go!

Brandenburg Gate. Check.

And from the other side:

And a pointy memorial:

And a pointy memorial (Victory Column, Prussian war, not the Nazis) coming out of my head:

And the famous Tiergarten public toilet made famous in the 1980 movie, Taxi Zum Klo (Taxi To The Toilet) where the main character is released from the hospital and the first thing he does is go to the cruising toilet.

And a stroll through the park:

To a beer garden by a lake:

And a couple of nice cars in the car park:

Talk about both ends of the dollar spectrum!

On the way home we swung by parts of the old wall:

My first trip to Berlin was in 1989 before the wall came down, and went through Checkpoint Charlie:

Just A LITTLE redevelopment of the area, complete with a Checkpoint Charlie McDonalds. WHY would they ever have permitted that!

Back at home it’s time to feed the Tree Frogs that Horst breeds –they are endangered, and he raises them from tadpoles and releases them once a year through a non-profit. Takes a lot of bugs and leaves to keep those little guys happy.

Couldn’t really get a picture of the frogs with the netting in place, but there were lots.

Tonight’s meal was a homemade sauerkraut soup – with lots of sausage. Yum.

First full day in the books.

Tomorrow we are off to Potsdam.

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Sep '21

Trip Report: AY1435 (Finnair) Helsinki to Berlin

In case you need a little refresher, here is the total flight plan of my first overseas trip in 18-months:

After checking in, walked past DutyFree where they were selling Reindeer Hides…oddly, I already have one:

It is a late afternoon departure from Helsinki, so, of course, there is a lounge involved.

And if you didn’t like wine (no hard liquor served – bastards), there was a dispenser with:

  • Lingonberry
  • Apple
  • Orange
  • Cold Water

Interesting “tap” for all of them.

Small selection of hot and cold foods available, I had a nibble.

Time to board!

In Business on this leg:

And it comes with food:

I almost cried when I realized the pattern of the glassware:

And a little Cognac afterward in another “Finlandia” glass.

My mother had rocks glasses in this style – I might have to break down and buy a set. The ARE NOT cheap, sigh. It choked me up to see these glasses – such an integral part of my growing up.

Before long, I’d landed – with Horst and Ollie waiting for me with a car. It is very rare to get picked up in person at a foreign airport.

I’m blessed.

Next up, four days in Berlin!

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Sep '21

Trip Report: Overnight In Helsinki

Just a little over 24-hours I Helsinki, and only one objective: hanging out with Viking Diva who taking the ferry across the Baltic Seat from Tallin, Estonia.

Looks close, but it’s a 2.5 hour ferry ride. And Viking Diva will arrive in the morning, and me the afternoon due to boat/plane schedules.

The Scandic Grand Marina hotel is in a converted warehouse right in the docks section of Helsinki.

The weather is very reminiscent of winter in Seattle – a cold drizzle. Fortunately, we are inside, VD waiting for me:

With presents for Horst (my Berlin stop) and I:

The rooms remind me of what are called “shotgun apartments” in New Orleans – long and skinny.

Hung out for a bit before heading downstairs for food:

A pasta and chicken dish for Viking Diva…

And the mashed potatoes and reindeer meatballs for me!

For some reason – we were both pooped and dead to the world by 9PM – so much for going out dancing, even if that WAS a possibility.

The morning found us asking for a late checkout (1PM rather than noon), and hitting the morning buffet, included in the price of the room:

This is round two – forgot to take a picture of round one!

And then back to bed for a nap!

Checked out at 1 and I caught an Uber to the airport. Viking Diva’s boat is later in the afternoon, but right next to the hotel so he won’t get too wet.

Berlin here I come!

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Sep '21

Trip Report: AY1144 (Finnair) Warsaw to Helsinki

When I originally booked this trip, Helsinki wasn’t on the list of stops until I found some spare miles in another account. When I added it, it would have been quicker than taking the train between Warsaw and Berlin, even with Helsinki being hours north.

And then, a couple of months ago Finnair moved my outbound flight from Warsaw to Helsinki from Saturday to Friday but kept the connecting flight on Saturday Helsinki to Berlin – and not offering a free overnight hotel. Called, cancelled it, and rebooked so that I’d have about 24-hours in Helsinki, enough time for my friend Viking Diva to come over from Tallin, Estonia.

So, that is the story of why I’m ending up in Helsinki, but first I have to get there.

Sadly, this car sitting in duty-free in Warsaw wasn’t for sale:

But I did find a lounge that I could into for free.

Nice to grab a meal for the airplane since they’d downgraded to plane so I was no longer in Business, just the first row.

And this is one of the perks from Alaska joining the OneWorld Alliance – top level (means international lounge access no matter what class, priority boarding, bulkhead/exit row seating). Nice to be able to use the benefits again now that I’m travelling.

Time to board!

And, once again, BUSSES and STAIRS!

And finally on board.

With the seat open next to me!

Another benefit of Emerald Status on OneWorld is a free item off the buy-on-board menu – I went for the red wine:

It was French, it was a nice blend, much better than you’d find on a US flight.

It went well with the Salami Panini and Chicken Caesar from the lounge.

And the view from leaving Warsaw:

Before long, I was in Helsinki, and greeted by the lovely bear bollards:

Uber to the hotel, more later.

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Sep '21

Trip Report: Warsaw For Three Nights

Got my first stamp in my new covid passport. If you look at the photo of me in the passport, I have one of my homemade masks around my neck.

The Mercere Warsaw Ursus Station is outside the middle of the town. Nice modern hotel:

With large, comfortable rooms.

One of the reasons I chose this room was that it not only had a free breakfast buffet, but a ala carte restraint in the evening – which I used the first night as I’d arrived at 3PM and promptly took a nap.

As usual, I tended to make a mess upon arrival:

Not reading the menu closely I ended up with the eggplant burger, which was probably healthier than the regular burger. Had the regular burger on my last night, so here is the comparison:

Will say that their breakfast buffet is VERY GOOD:

Now, No Smoking signs include TWO Smoking icons:

Started exploring the neighborhood – like, where was the train station (across the street), and did it have any ticketing machines (no).

Found the closest convenience store, stocked up a little more, took another nap. Mid-afternoon found me peckish so I popped back downstairs for and order of fries and a glass of white wine (Chenin Blanc from South Africa).

Wish I had these wine racks at home – the lower parks – since I have lots of wooden wine boxes!

The drawers pull out.

Dinner found me wanting to just hang out in the room in my robe – still working on Jet Lag – yes, it even affects me! Got the Chicken Caser to help move things through the system:

My last day in Warsaw has been saved to all the tourist stuff now that I’m on a little more even kilter. The Palace and the Old Town – all recreated to its pre-World War II glory since it had been flattened by bombings. Same footprint, same facades, better interior structure.

And they were still working on some of the buildings:

Found a through street and grabbed an Uber – headed to the Warsaw Neon Museum, which, oddly, I’d see a little clip about on the telly:

Watched enough of the dual-language video to piece together that Poland, being in the Eastern Bloc was rebuilt by Stalin and the Russians after the war. As times started changing, the Warsawians wanted something other than drab brutalist architecture of the Russians, and neon signs began to proliferate so that many neighborhoods had their own style. True to top-down planning, there was basically a “Minister of Neon” in the planning department that had to sign off every sign, and often it came with recommendations on changes to fit the neighborhoods.

Personally, as a neon junkie, I was moved, not to tears, but close, when I walked in the doors. Helped that I got the “senior concession” priced ticket (two Euro off).

Breakfast had worn off, and the temps were in the 70’s, and I was in a button-down shirt and long pants – needed food, not a lot, but food soon.

Think “roller-dog” meets Panini – the Paninis are baked with a tubular hole. When someone ordered one, the heat press the bun, then add the condiments to the hole, and slide the dog off the roller machine – thereby not allowing the condiments to leak out. BRILLIANT!

Next off on my whirlwind tour of Warsaw is the Polish Vodka Museum. I should mention that NONE of these places are next to each other, so Uber has become my very good friends today. The Museum is located in the courtyard of al gentrified factory complex in the old distillery building. The rest of all shops, Facebook, Google, etc. offices, an Aldi supermarket, an exhibition of The Art of Banksy, yes, hipster central!

None of the actual equipment left, just lots of history, and at the end, four samples since I paid for the premium tour – should have gotten a tour of the other two Dutch boys on the tour with me. Both well over six feet! And friendly.

Out of steam I headed back to the hotel and pack for tomorrow’s flight to Helsinki.

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Sep '21

Trip Report: EK179 (Emirates) Dubai to Warsaw in First

Twas a long walk from the First-Class Lounge to the gate for the Warsaw flight – and my worst fears were realized. The dreaded haul all your crap down the stairs, get on a bus, drive 20 minutes to some remote stand, and climb back up the stairs.

In my case, it was a little more surreal since I’m flying in First-Class. First, they called all the Coach Passengers, specifically asking Business and First wait in the lounge. Then they called all the Business Class passengers, leaving just ME in the boarding area, fortunately with two agents. And waiting and waiting (while I could have been drinking champagne on board). I was hoping they’d send a Porsche or Mercedes for me – but sadly, it was just a seriously pimped out transport bus:

Yep – just for me. And then the stairs:

But soon, there was a little 2008 Dom Perignon:

And then there is the seat, or shall I say, throne:

They brought around traditional tea and dates:

And before we start the real meal service, there are a couple of “powered” accessories in my suite. The mini-bar:

And the closing doors to the suite:

Started with an espresso martini, since it was morning:

Before moving onto the caviar starter with a little more of the Dom Perignon:

There was a HUGH menu of “on-demand” food items for the six-hour flight – but to be honest, I was still stuffed from all the lounge food. After taking a nap, ordered the Duck Foie Gras:

With a lovely French Burgundy:

If I got peckish during the flight – there was the basket of snacks they left in my suite, plus more in the galley.

The menu had three full pages of canapes, mains, starters, an entire page for the Cheese Board. I really should have thrown up in Dubai so I could start fresh. Next time!

Immigration and customs in Poland was very smooth (though, as usual, a long walk). Show my passport and vaccine card, they didn’t even want my passenger locator form since it was tied into my passport number.

Finally found where the Uber pickup area it was, and I was off to the hotel.


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One Response to “Trip Report: EK179 (Emirates) Dubai to Warsaw in First”

  1. The Daughter and onSister Says:

    About the walnut chest… It looks refreshed and self-possessed again, very nice, tho in the photos it looks lighter than I remember; perhaps a trick of the light.

    I beg to differ about the count and disclosure of the hidey=holes — all seven were divulged before it left my house, and none were unknown to me. You just got to them first, and with more dexterity. So there.

    But it looks quite at home in your bedroom, tho I’m not sure I agree that the change in drawer pulls is an improvement. I too found the white ceramic ones jarring, tho I’m sure Papa had a precedent for using them. He did it on my little cherry chest, too. It certainly affects the formality of tone of the piece… on the cherry chest the white knobs sort of make it ‘ok to use this’ vs ‘don’t touch this!’ and I actually like them. But on the walnut chest-folly, no. A foolish choice.

    I didn’t realize that darker wood was ebony. Cool. I doubt his reason for using the ebony was as calculated as you think; he needed pieces of equal strength, and probably had to remake the drawer after finishing the body — the ebony was a seat-o-pants choice that worked for the reasons you say, but was hardly chosen by following that thought process. I can much more easily envision Papa squatting in front of the finished chest body aftre he put on the top, holding a drawer in his hands that now won’t fit in the slot with the top open, either sucking meditatively on his teeth, or whistling to himself if he was within sight of a solution and liked it, or simply turning the drawer in his hands while he contemplates the self-inflicted problem that has now become glaringly obvious, occasionally whispering bitterly “sonofabitch, sonofabitch.” Unlikely to be the mindset for contemplating Moh’s Scale of Hardness.

    Anyway, I’m glad it’s happy, and I’m glad you talked with Ray about it. I assume he also read your post about it an saw the photos. If he didn’t, he should. But up to him.

    Hugs!! When are you coming down to Oly to sit with me in the front yard for a while again??

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Sep '21

Trip Report: 14-Hour Layover in Dubai

For those just joining the story, here is an overview of my first overseas trip in 18-months:

Yesterdays’ adventure was the 14-hour flight from Seattle to Dubai. Since there isn’t much demand for flying to Warsaw from Seattle through the middle east, the schedules don’t really line up – leaving me with a 14-hour layover in Dubai, but at least it’s in the First-Class Lounge, since my connecting flight to Warsaw is in First.

Several years ago, I’d been at the Business Class lounge in Dubai and was VERY impressed – hence, the bucket list item of trying Emirates First-Class flight, AND the lounge. In checking, I’d been in the Business-Class Lounge in March of 2015 (blog post) going to Tokyo and in February of 2016 (blog post) returning from Vietnam. The different on this trip is that in 2015/16, both the Business and First-Class lounges ran the length of the terminal on separate floors. Because of the downturn in travel, they each cover only half of the terminal – but they are still massive as you will see later with a shot of the kitchen for just the First-Class side of the lounge.

It still did not disappoint, as you can see in these photos of the lounge:


To be honest, I was a little confused as to the shower and bathrooms weren’t very posh:

When I did the research for when I was last in Dubai, I realized that the First-Class Lounge had moved into half the old Business-Class Lounge, and plumbing in concreate floors isn’t something you move about on a whim in a pandemic.

No worries since that isn’t where you are spending most of your time (hopefully).

Plenty of other wonders, like the Sushi Counter (though, oddly, no Sake available):

And the massive kitchen to turn out all the food and pastries:

Didn’t get pictures of The Spa where you could get free 15-minute foot or back massages, or pay for up to a two-hour massage session, or the semi-private area with loungers for sleeping.

But there was a Kid’s Play Area:

And its own high-end Duty-Free store (I noticed some $10,000+ bottles of Scotch):

Sadly, in Pandemic Times, no newspapers available in the lounge, something I TRULY miss:

Now, just remember, again, this is HALF the stuff that used to be in the Lounge. Oy!

Speaking of food (and booze), started my stay with a little Moet-Chandon Imperial Rose Champagne (and some nuts):

Life is hard, especially then THIS is the list of Champagnes to choose from:

When I finally got my hunger back from all the food on the plane, I ordered a little sushi platter:

If you blew up the photo, you could probably scan the QR Code for the full menu (or click here).

Then I went and took a two-hour nap in the Quiet Room. That seems to be my schedule this trip. Drink, Eat, Two-Hour Nap, repeat.

Next up on the food parade was a little Foie Gras Terrine with toasted brioche, fruit preserve, lamb’s lettuce and truffle vinaigrette when was served with a breadbasket, and he brought a selection of cheeses while I waited:

Look at the plating/presentation – even on the breadbasket! Love the line of mixed salt/pepper on the Foie Gras plate.

And the wine? A lovely little 1998 Margaux:

My business partner requested a sneak a case or two into my luggage.

Keep in mind, there are two-hour naps between all this food and booze. And the finale:

The Champagne above is the 2012 Moet-Chandon Grand Vintage.

The waiter even asked HOW I wanted my eggs done: liquid, semi-liquid, firm. As you can see, I went for messy.

The waiter asked if I wanted any sides with the Eggs Benedict – not with that breakfast breadbasket. You could smell the Pana Chocolate from a foot away. The cinnamon roll was stunning, as was the plain croissant – all baked in house and served warm. Lordy, take me now, it doesn’t get any better!

Maybe there is a reason that Emirates charges a little $5,000 for a First-Class ticket from Dubai to Warsaw. The ticket from Seattle to Dubai would have been $17.000 in First (which they no longer do – but I was supposed to be on when I booked in March), or about $5,000 in Business. My tab? 180,000 Alaska miles and about $50 in taxes and fees. I like my rate better (even though that is a TON of miles).

That’s it for today – next up, First-Class from Dubai to Warsaw.

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Sep '21

Trip Report: EK230 (Emirates) from Seattle to Dubai In Business

My first overseas trip in 18-months. The lead up was a mix of excitement and anxiety. Equal amounts.

I booked the trip in early March, probably after I’d cancelled, moved out, rebooked Australia and Cape Town trips. It was a lot of miles (180,000 Alaska miles) for a one-way ticket, but in was in First Class from Seattle to Dubai to Warsaw on Emirates. I’d had the opportunity to upgrade to First on a Dubai to Dallas flight years ago, and I was too cheap – Business Class was (and still is), fine.

That plan got derailed months ago with the pandemic continuing, Emirates downgauged the 777-300ER 3-class aircraft (economy, business, first) to a 777-200ER 2-class aircraft (economy, business) with no refund of miles since for the 6-hour segment (getting to Dubai is 14-hours) was still in First. Confirming seats a week ago, noticed that they had gone back to the 777-300ER with First Class seats, but they weren’t selling them. Turns out they were used for crew rest. Lucky crew. There are eight seats in First and 42 in Business. Considering that on my flight only eight of the 42 business class seats were booked – that would have been a lot of expensive catering for the one or two First Class seats filled. There were only 60 in the back on a plane that carries 304 in the back. VERY light load.

Getting to the airport 4-hours early, as required these days to check passport, vaccination cards, negative COVID-19 test, and in my case, the Polish Passenger Locator Form, meant plenty of time in their “contracted lounge”, Club SEA.

Sadly, while the booze is of a higher quality at Club SEA, the food is not as good.

Should have just gone to another terminal and gone to the Alaska Lounge.

Plane at the gate:

My seat awaits:

With lots of charging ports, HDMI ports (so you could play your own movies?):

And a cubby to hold a glass and refreshments:

And two separate devices to control the flat screen (which is also touch screen).

For reference, the First Class enclosed suites look like this:

Then comes the Champagne (Piper-Heidsieck) and menus:

Then, the amenities kit:

And there are decent bathrooms:

Once we are up in the air, food and booze starts coming!

Cocktails and nuts with Katherine Hepburn (Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner with Sidney Poitier, 19697). Forty-five years later we are still dealing with the same racial issues.

And more Champagne, this time Veuve:

To go with the starter of air-dried beef and the salad – then the main of lamb chops (almost went for the cod):

Which I had a nice red:

Before launching into the cheese course with a little port:

To give you an idea where we were – here:

This is what the bed looks like all made up with the mattress:

An Old Fashioned with Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961):

A long nap, then an espresso Martini:

Then another nap before starting Nomadland (2020) with some Fish Balls and an Aperol Spritz:

At this point, we were somewhere over Greenland (on my bucket list, but it’s wickedly expensive):

And a final glass of bubbles with breakfast:

Four hours on the ground, fourteen in the air.

In case you are curious, here is what the whole trip will look like:

Next up, the First-Class Lounge in Dubai, which has been a bucket list item for me!

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One Response to “Trip Report: EK230 (Emirates) from Seattle to Dubai In Business”

  1. Jon Souder Says:

    Norma and I did that same flight to Dubai in February, 2018 in a bulkhead row next to a mother and baby in steerage. I think we were in a different world!

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Aug '21

Trip Report: Canada – FINALLY!

The Canadian border opened to U.S. residents on August 9th – albeit with conditions:

  • Must be fully vaccinated
  • Must have Negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of entering Canada

That said, Canadians are prevented from driving into the US until at least September 21st.

I’ve been fully vaccinated since the end of March, bring on the booster shot – I want to get this thing whipped so I can go back to barely-restricted travel!

Looks promising….

NEXUS lanes aren’t open but there aren’t many cars….but other drivers seem to be less prepared with the right documents than I am.

Half an hour later, I’m through the border, but feeling “weepy” – it’s been two years since I’ve been to CanadaLand.

So nice to be back at the WorldMark at The Canadian:

Oddly, this is the view from the 2nd Bedroom (bathroom in the hall) rather than the Master Bedroom, which is en-suite:

Unit #2302 – WorldMark has a half dozen of the middle floors of the building.

In all my excitement about being back in CanadaLand, didn’t get a pic of first night’s food – which was a couple of pork loins over a bed of potatoes, salad, red wine, bubbles, and much, much, whiskey. But I did get a shot of Solus+ and Tantalus:

Tuesday night was a “me” night, which started with Happy Hour nibbles next door at Relish. Started with prime ribs sliders, and a double highball:

BUT, that didn’t turn out to be enough food, so I ordered the Poutine:

Which turned out to be TOO MUCH food.

Wednesday afternoon snack was a trip to JapaDog, which used to be more convenient when it was across the street from the closest grocery store – now, they are in a store front:

I had the #3 –


Freshly grated radish with a special soya sauce. East meets West.

Dinner guests, Epick and Jase, showed up at five for a salmon dinner – which I remembered to take pictures of!

As you can see, there is no dining room in this unit – but at least they provide TV Trays.

Thursday dinner was a repeat of Solus+ and Tantalus….

Butternut Squash Ravioli, salad, lamb chops – as you can see, didn’t get a photo when the plate was pretty:

Friday morning, I was out of the condo before 10 (sadly, pretending it’s COVID related, WorldMark has moved checkout from noon to 10am.

Fortunately, Duty Free was open on the way south, but as you can see, there aren’t any people to shop:

YES, that is a 4.5 liter bottle for $110 Canadian – sadly, it would have put me WAY over my booze limit coming back into the US.

The NEXUS lane was even open, with no one in front of me, or in the other lanes. They flagged my car over for x-ray inspection – which I chalk up to being bored and wanting to keep the training standards intact. It was a 5-minute delay with a look under the bonnet and in the truck, and a welcome home.

Stopped in Mount Vernon to hit a favorite low-end thrift shop that supports the Humane Society and found a glass for my airline memorabilia collector friend.

And just because I’m travel paranoid (and I wanted to check out how the process worked), I swung by a drive-thru COVID-19 testing center:

Oddly, these were previously Emissions Testing Centers run by the state – great reuse considering they were already striped, open-air facilities.

Had the results in 12 hours – NEGATIVE as expected, but I’m getting ready for my first overseas trip in early September.

Oh, how I missed CanadaLand.

Upon my return I booked 3-nights in December and realized that I had October reservations for 3-nights, and two 3-4 nighters in Victoria for January 2022.

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Aug '21

Trip Report: Day Trip To Ride Cable Cars

When I was in San Francisco in June, I saw a news segment on the reopening of the cable car system starting August 1st – and that they would be free for the entire month of August. Shortly after, I crafted a plan – go down for the day midweek and spend the day riding around the city. Normally, it’s $8.00 per ride, though there is a daily pass. When you start planning at 10PM at night, you can guarantee that there is alcohol involved – and probably with the people you are trying to draft to go along with you. Originally there were going to be three of us, a fourth came aboard a couple of weeks ago.

The table set with boarding passes instead of name cards:

And the four musketeers:

The downside of this plan was that the first flight out to San Francisco is at 6:05am – BUT there were First Class seats available using my First-Class upgrades. Sadly, it left no time for the lounge, so food was on the plane:

Tray service is back! Sadly, not real glassware.

BART into town to the Powell Street stop, which is also the end of the line for one of the cable car lines:

Most people want to ride on the outside, we were fine with “wherever”.

Here is the route map:

The end of the line of the random car we took was Fisherman’s Wharf.

Since it was an early start to the day, even though it was 10:30am, we were all a little puckish. Food was in order, and one of my cohorts wanted crab bisque, and while there were lots of seafood places, best he could do was crab chowder at the Chowder Hut, which I didn’t realize was part of the Boudin bakery empire:

Chowder for two (one with sour dough bowl, one without).

Fish tacos for me:

And one wanted something lighter, so it was the hot dog, not realizing it came topped with onion rings and a massive amount of fries.

Exploring after our early lunch:

In the window of the Boudin Sourdough Bakery, that is a giant bread alligator.

Back on the cable cars, next destination was The Candy Store, another bucket list item for one of the companions:

Something about malted milk duds, which were good, but I’m not a candy guy. And it was multiple hilly blocks off the cable car line.

Took the line back to Market Street, then decided I needed a cocktail (mostly to get off my feet) and we’d noticed this place – Sam’s Cable Car Lounge:

Fancy cocktails were $14. Bar whiskey and Diet were $7.75. And there were peanuts and popcorn for free (no Cracker Jacks).

Next up was one my bucket list since I’d never done it – The Cable Car Museum. What none of us realized is that it is a “working” museum. It powers ALL the cable car lines in the city with its DC motors:

The coolness of the museum caught us all off guard – will return with other people. Geek heaven.

On the way back, transferred to the California line and went back to Market, and headed towards The Pied Piper, which is a bar in the Palace Hotel (used to be a Sheraton, now a Marriott):

It was an AMAZING charcutier platter. And the Maxfield Parrish mural is STUNNING.

Next up was sushi for dinner – at Maru Sushi (long-time favorite hole-in-the-wall place):

Oyster shooter, nigori sake, spider roll. Everyone else ordered way more than I did:

After dinner it was back on the Powell Street cable car, then BART back to the airport, arriving past security about 10 minutes before boarding – a little close for my comfort.

Home by midnight, with a WHOLE LOT of steps in today:

After staying up chatting until 3am – that makes it an almost 24-hour day. LONG.

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Aug '21

Work Report: Trade Wine Tastings Are Back, At Least One

One of the MANY things that changed with the Pandemic is the suspension of Trade Wine Tastings – where restaurants, wine shops, etc. can sample of offering from a distributor, or, in this case, an individual producer.

Mondays are generally when they happen, usually 11-3, noon-4, etc. Some weeks there are two, three, four different ones spread across town. There haven’t been in any tastings since early March 2020 so I made a point to go. It felt almost normal.

Had no clue if there would be nibbles to keep the palette clear – so I was surprised at the spread. Sometimes it’s just cheese, crackers, bread. This was a tad more:

It was held at The Metropolitan Grill and was definitely on the high end of what is usually provided at tastings.

There were about a dozen things open, some available from our distributor, some they are hoping to place with the distributor.

With so few things open (compared to some large tastings with a hundred things (literally) open, I was able to swallow a few of my favorites, like the one above.

Time will tell if there will be more tastings…hoping yes – it is the way that we find things we like to stock the shop.

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Jul '21

Trip Report: Tahuya & Sequim

Took a little midweek road trip. First stop was Tahuya, on the Hood Canal outside of Belfair.

Because of the free mapping software I was trying, they don’t seem to know that there is a ferry that connects Bainbridge Island and Downtown Seattle.

My buddy Bliss has a place on Hood Canal…

The privacy hedge is great for not noticing the houses on either side that are four times the size of Bliss’ 650sq.ft. cabin.

Company came over for cocktails – by boat, and one of them was on crutches and had to be carried to shore!

Contrary to the angle of the photo, there is no dock, you just run the boat up on the gravel and wade ashore (or be carried ashore if you have a foot cast).

After the cocktail guests left, we were on to dinner!

As the sun goes down…

Bliss was up and out early, leaving me to lock up the house and head north to Sequim to visit the in-laws.

Took an early exit off the road to check out the John Wayne Marina, which I’d seen the signs for on multiple trips, and it also took me past a B&B that is all railroad cabooses and a dining car for food service:

I wasn’t willing to pay the $10 entrace fee to look around, but if you want to book, here is the link to the Red Caboose Getaway. Be warned, it’s like $270 a night. Cool, but OUCH!

When I said “in-laws”, it’s a very “loose” definition, it is the sister of my brother’s widows husband (and her husband). The sister is the mother to Julian and Jameson, who I count as my “faux nephews”, one in Nagoya, Japan, and the other in San Luis Obispo.

Mari Jo smoked a pig butt in my honor! Good thing I brought wine.

On my way out of town we took a tour of the house they are building that they should be able to move to in September. No clue as to why I didn’t take any photos of the new place.

It was a great visit, and a chance to get to know the “in-laws” a little better.

Came home via the Bainbridge Ferry…and thought I’d be waiting for more than the next boat because I was outside the gate stuck hanging out with my ass out in an intersection as the line stopped suddenly – but inside the fence I was near the end of the first line of cars.

I do love a good ferry ride:

And the cruise ships are back!

Nice to get out of the city with the top down.


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Jul '21

Home Report: Furniture Project Creep

It started with a piece of walnut furniture. A piece of furniture made by the father of best friend in high school, gifted to me by his younger sister. Growing up together I spent a lot of time in the basement woodworking shop. He bought his walnut straight from the sawmill in southern Missouri and stick-air dried in said basement. He made monumental pieces of furniture, mostly Secretaries, and has pieces in both the Truman and Carter libraries. Fortunately, the piece of furniture I was gifted was MUCH smaller and more manageable. And a bit of a “folly” in the British sense.

While small, the sucker is seriously heavy – be being solid walnut.

I found the drawer pulls “distracting”, and my high school buddy, son of the cabinet maker, wasn’t fond of them either. First job, find more appropriate knobs (yes, I kept the original ones – they are in the drawer with the spare hinge for the top). Normally, his hardware was New England Forged Brass.

I like the way they fade into the surface and let the walnut shine through. Which brings us to the start of “project creep”. Needed a serious reoiling with Watco Danish Oil Natural, the same oil he used on all his furniture. As I write this days later, the outgassing of the oil is still in my house.

Drawers come out both sides, though not all of them, more like every other – the other side being fixed. There is one feature of this piece that he put in all his pieces, the hidden compartments. His daughter showed me the five she knew about. In replacing the knobs, which was a pain because some of the small spaces, I found two more, for a total of seven. Some of the hidden compartments are nested behind each other.

There is another interesting detail to this piece, the pull-out drawer supports (the way that Secretaries support their fold out desks) have Ebony supports in them. At first, I thought it was just a random wood choice from scrap laying around his shop since he worked with lots of exotic woods.

It is a curious design, 3/4 inch walnut on one side, 3/8 inch ebony on the other.

My guess (he’s long dead so I can’t confirm) is that it’s based on the hardness of the woods. Walnut is 1010 on the hardness scale, Ebony is 1780 on the hardness scale. If you notice the notch on the walnut side, it’s so that the “folly” top can swing and lay flat. Once it is flat you push the drawer slightly in to get a solid support.

The project creep started with the oiling and the knobs and continued into the bedroom where it will live with the rest of the walnut furniture (can you tell I’ve been taught the love of walnut).

I have a bed that I bought 30-years-plus-ago, sold, reacquired 15-years-ago after it was in serious disrepair from an overweight guest. It always had a problem with the book matched back panel of the headboard popping out from, well, you know, excited adult stuff. That needed to be put back in place.

The cabinet maker would be aghast, but this keeps happening (the bed is from the 40’s and was handmade), so I finally broke protocol of all wood workers. Like I did years ago when I replaced the slats with an industrial version:

So, the bedframe, which is walnut on all four sides, needed oiling, as did the Cerwin-Vega speakers from my parents Quadraphonic Sound system from the 70’s (my sis-in-law Jennifer has the other two – please don’t let them go if you downsize!). Over the ensuing fifty years I’ve had to replace the woofers twice due to age rot. They still send out great sound (and make nice side tables for the bed). The house stereo is wired to support ten speakers in a 780 square foot house.

The end result, I need to move the pictures over the bed about six inches to the right to re-center them over the bed. OK – it looks great.

The chair in the corners is 50’s, picked up by my oldest brother out of a free box at Bard College in the mid-70’s, and I’ve been dragging it around with me since the early 80’s – was black, stripped it down years ago, stained it walnut, and reupholstered it again (probably 5th time). It has an amazing curved slightly seat that is very comfortable even with not much padding.

Well, that is one home adventure I’ve been working on. The other it has been too hot to actually work on. Building an outdoor sauna in sauna like weather conditions. The bedroom I can do in the comfort of air conditioning and oil fumes.

My buddy mentioned that one of his father’s Secretaries was featured in the background of the dust jacket for Jimmy and Roselyn Carter’s 1987 book, Everything To Gain — Making The Most Of The Rest Of Your Life.

[? ? ?] but have put on a few pounds

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Jul '21

Trip Report: Manitou Springs For A Train Ride

This is just a quick trip (two nights) to see the rehabilitated Cog Railway that goes from Manitou Springs (6,100 feet) to Pike’s Peak (14,100 feet). A month or so I read an article on the reopening, and talked Dan into going with me.

Dan, who lives north of Denver, picked me up at the airport and we set out for Manitou Springs. My breakfast on the plane was fading, and we stopped along the way at Rosie’s Diner in Monument (just north of Colorado Springs.

Dan had the Patty Melt; I went for Eggs Benedict:

Not a “light” lunch.

Sated and back in the car, we drove through Garden of the Gods between Monument and Manitou Springs:

Didn’t spend much time but we also did it on the way back out of time.

Next up, the The Day’s Inn – Manitou Springs:

We did not stay at The La Fun Motel across the street who cater to pot smoking pets:

Mike McEvers, an old family friend met us at the hotel for a drive into “downtown” Manitou Springs for dinner at The Loop – a Mexican food place:

VERY big margaritas and that was the SMALL one, and the “shrimp coctktail” was this wonderful mashup of ceveché and guspachho:

After the huge lunch, that’s all I and Dan (he had the same thing) could get through – luckily, they had to-go soup containers!

Wednesday was the big day – the Cog Railway! But, first, we have to get there, and the parking lot is small, so, they recommend taking the shuttle…which has a VERY LONG line:

We made our reservation time with barely enough time to grab a snack and a drink, though not as much as we should since there was NOTHING for sale at the top. Visitor’s Center is set to start partial opening in a couple of weeks.

Before long, we were headed up the mountain:

And we are off:

Dinner was at The Keg Lounge:

And my pulled corn beef, and a Manhattan that I didn’t get a picture of:

The next day we were back headed north. Dan dropped me at the airport where I settled into The Admiral’s Club for soup, salad, drinks….

Got upgrade on the way back, rewarded with Bulkhead Window which made for a picture…

Another one down!

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