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Nov '18

Trip Report: Beantown

They ask, I visit – when I can. This trip started with a random text three or four weeks ago. The questions was: “When are you coming back through?” My answer was, probably winter, but let me look at fares. And the fare was $237 round-trip Seattle to Boston. Off to the Lounge go I:

And it nicely started with an upgrade!

At least it’s an aisle near the front for the long red-eye flight.

And I learned something new on the Alaska First Class Menu:

The unit of measure called an IBU which stands for International Bitterness Unit (though it also is a medical abbreviation for Ibuprofen). People who like really hoppy IPA (India Pale Ale) want a higher score. Check out the Wikipedia article HERE.

It’s a redeye, so the food is going to be minimal, but it starts with a little berry smoothie….

And then usually, it’s veggies and hummus….but this was a small hot sandwich thing, which I was grateful for:

The problem with red eye flights is that they are red eye flights – my arrival in Boston was around 6am, and with checked luggage I couldn’t even go sleep it off in the lounge one terminal over, so it was:

  • Baggage claim
  • Silver Line to South Station (Free)
  • Red Line to Alewife (Free)
  • Uber to Pucci’s place ($15)

As also is my way when getting into Boston (actually Belmont) is to head straight to bed for a nap – which is what I did in my lovely guest bedroom:

After my nap, we were out the door to Total Wine & Beverage (which isn’t close, but it’s cheap), and then back to the house for a lovely Pucci lunch. Plans to get together with Jill were thwarted by UPS deliveries at her place. Sadly, I didn’t get a pic, so you’ll have to take it from me, it was a stunning lunch.

When I visit midweek, I basically get to see Pucci around his teaching/performing schedule, so it’s catch as catch can. Left me time to wander up the street to The Spirited Gourmet to grab a sandwich for dinner – and to check out the wine selection and look for a favorite Gin of Pucci’s.

I got back just in time to miss the rain storm dumping!

While Pucci was off teaching – I ACTUALLY tuned to TV to watch the first game of the World Series:

Much cocktails and conversation at the end of the game when he returned from teaching and watched them win. Almost felt like I was with Dad watching football!

The following day’s lunch was at The Red House in Cambridge where during the day they feature ½ price oysters for the first dozen – I decided to tag mine with a couple of Maine Crab Cake sliders (and a Manhattan!)

I should have had our server get a picture of all four of us – Jill, Norma (Jill’s mother and wonderful woman), Pucci and I. Seems like I’m missing a lot of “photo ops” on this trip.

Pucci had the entire day off – he rearranged his schedule to move students to Friday and Saturday. THANKS!

With the afternoon free, we headed to a museum that I learned about through the North American Reciprocal Museum group that I get access to through my family membership at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art (with Rache). This is the same organization that exposed me to Intuit –Museum of Outsider Art in Chicago a couple of months ago.

Today’s visit it to the Boston Waterworks Museum:

This is actually the back of the building – had to borrow a shot of the front from their site:

Pucci had never been, and I hadn’t either – and they gave up a grizzled mobility challenged docent who was a font of knowledge about not only the equipment in the museum, but the whole Boston area water system. I was glad Pucci was there with his knowledge of some of the public reservoirs. Amazing old pumping equipment in the building, that was only shut down in 1974.

Serious “Steam Pump” at this place.

Jill was back at the house for dinner (after Pucci and I had afternoon naps!), and what a dinner it was, Beef Tenderloin, green beans, sautéed mushrooms, mashed potatoes – what a meal!

And I can’t forget the special guest, Jill’s dog, Murphy (aka, Murphy, The Wonder Dog):

It was a wonderful quick trip.

The return trip was as cruel, timing-wise, and the incoming – a 7am flight (basically getting on the same plane that brought me here). I was out of the house, in an Uber (under $30) to the airport at 5am.


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Sep '18

Trip Report: Kansas City

The trip didn’t come off as planned. I made it, but DancingBear had to cancel at the last minute since his dog Buster just got out of surgery the afternoon of the day before we were slated to leave. Buster went under the knife to remove a cup of pea gravel covered in BBQ hamburger drippings. I’m sure it tasted great going down, but not so much in his tummy:

Not only painful to Buster, but painful for DancingBear:

Ouch – but at least he is home and one the mend…

Meanwhile, I’m headed to Kansas City…and while at the airport, saw one of Alaska’s newest liveries, the SubPop plane…

Which also shows you the smoke from wild fires raging in BC, WA, OR, CA – seems that we are getting smoke from all of them. As seen from above:

One of the sad things about DancingBear having to cancel his part of this trip is that there is no one to swap almonds and walnuts for cashews with in First Class (I like the cashews, the almonds, not so much).

Was served a lunch from Alaska’s new “trendy” menu. For some reason they thought I’d pre-ordered the fruit and cheese plate – silly people:

Got to see an interesting view on the landing in Kansas City – the NASCAR speedway on the Kansas side of the border.

Knew it was there, but hadn’t seen it from the air before.

DancingBear had arranged a rental car, but no DB, no car. I texted my buddy Paul before I left, and he was able to be my chauffeur for the visit – with our first stop at a grocery/liquor store in North Kansas City, where they had Verners, but I didn’t really need a twelve pack (or the Yoohoo next to it):

Got checked in at the 21st C at The Savoy Art Hotel, and after a little juggling, got the two queens changed to a king bed on an upper floor. Love the “Do Not Disturb” door hangers!

Maybe I should have stuck with the two beds…would have made for a bigger room.

Live and learn. Nice, but not sure worth $250 a night (though I got a 21% introductory discount which barely covered the 19% Kansas City Lodging Tax).

After she got off work, we grabbed Gail and headed off to CharBar we went. Nothing like starting the trip with BBQ (and a Manhattan)!

Paul and Gail split a couple of things, starting with the grilled jack fruit burger (vegetarian):

And the Fruits and Roots salad:


I went for the Pickled Pig sandwich (deep fried pickles and cole slaw):


And though we were all full – we split the peach bread pudding – which was stunning:


Gail dropped Paul and I off at The Green Lady Lounge for a little after dinner jazz, but to be honest, from all the food, we made it through a couple of songs and a drink and grabbed Uber’s back home.

It’s one of my favorite spots for jazz in KC – just wish I’d had more energy.

Back at the hotel, I found this wandering in my hallway….

Apparently, penguins are “a thing” at the 21st C hotel chain.

The next day brought BBQ with Wendy in Lawrence at Bigg’s BBQ (the favorite of my friend Nita):

I went “small” with the three pulled pork sliders since we have 7pm reservations at The Savoy Grill:

Paul had some massive sandwich thing:

For Wendy, the burnt ends with cole slaw and fries you get two sides, but if you do it right you can end up with four between two people because the big sandwiches come with one AND endless fries:

Paul dropped me at the hotel so I could get a quick nap (which didn’t happen – worked instead), and Gail showed up at six for wine and cocktails in the room before dinner, which we made, and then headed out to check out the modern art on the first and second floor of the hotel (which is open to the public as well):

Even art in the meeting rooms:

My favorite piece in the “Refuge” exhibit:

Then we were off to The Savoy Grill (after returning our drink glasses to the room):

The view from Booth Number 4: The President’s Booth – and of cocktails:

Me: Martini, Gail: Bee’s Knees, Paul: I’ve totally forgotten!

Next up, the cheese plate:

Check out the “retro” dishware:

For drink round two, I switched from a Gin Martini (in honor of Pucci), to a Manhattan:

Paul got a Chocolate Martini (which he had at The Green Lady Lounge as well), Gail, the Kat’s Kimono:

Then the mains and sides started coming…prime rib for me:

Pasta Primavera for Gail (housemade pasta):

Salmon for Paul:

And sides of green beans almandine and creamed corned (which was pretty much mashed fresh corn):

For dessert, the profiteroles!

To go with my Benedictine and Double Espresso – and no, they didn’t let me light the cigar:

In the morning, I tried the room service (and in the restaurant) Biscuits and Gravy (same price as the restaurant [$14] and only a $3 delivery charge)

I was underwhelmed…A) salad with breakfast? B) the biscuit was more dense than fluffy, which had they split it, the gravy would have worked better.

To wrap up the visit to The Savoy, some random shots of the hotel, restaurant, and bar:

Check out was 11am (which I find annoying, but better than 10am). Paul grabbed me from the hotel, and we were off to lunch at The Nelson-Atkins Gallery:

Spent a little time seeing art….

Next stop, the airport – and fortunately, the gift shop was closed, or I might have been tempted by these two t-shirts for Kathy:

And onto the plane for dinner on the way home…

Complete with a couple of cases of BBQ sauce!

Another week, another trip.


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May '18

Trip Report: Mileage Run To NOLA

Normally I make mileage runs on Alaska to keep my MVP Gold 75K status, but this spring United (where I’m Premier Gold for life) has been offering me some amazing deals for bonus miles. I got almost 50K out of my Maui trip a couple of weeks ago, then they made me another offer of an additional 50K miles if I spent just a little more – so New Orleans, here I come.

Sadly, the flight boarded at 4:30am – so no lounge access, but unlike Alaska First Class, with United First Class, you get a cocktail on the ground:

Once you are in the air, it’s time for breakfast – the first of two because of the time of the day:

Was on the ground in Denver for a little less and an hour, before the routine repeated itself:

Same meal, different caterer and presentation.

Was in New Orleans by early afternoon – plenty of time before check-in, so grabbed the $2.00 city bus into the city. Once I hit the city, hopped off at the closest stop to the condo – which also meant I could swing by the Southern Food & Beverage Museum to check out there discount cookbook shelves. Sadly, nothing. Still got to the condo before check-in, but I got a room early – and promptly make a mess of it:

Got everything set up and headed out to happy hour at Poseidon, across the street:

There are cheaper happy hour oysters, but I’m lazy, and that bar is six blocks away (in upper 90’s temperatures).

Returned to the condo and checked out their roof top deck – which I’d forgotten was up there:

Reminds me that Rache and I need to check out The Hot Tin Roof Bar, across the street at the Hotel Pontchartain.

Got some work done while watching the news, but headed out to Igor’s (basically next door) for a take-out dinner of a cheeseburger and fries:

Made it an early night.

Checked out a little before noon and grabbed an Uber to the Ogden Museum of Fine Art to just my membership before it expires tomorrow. Normally I’m really jazzed by the exhibits they mount, but this visit, the main galleries were filled with Southern Impressionists, and Impressionism isn’t really my thing. There was one piece in the photography section that caught my eye:

Wonder why!

I could have taken the bus back to the airport, but it was splurge time. Too hot and humid to be walking around the city — $38 well spent to get to the airport early and have a little lunch:

Love their Cajun Dog. Probably should have bought some Crystal Hot Sauce for Pucci while I was there – and since I was past security. Sadly, I’m travelling with a very small carryon:

I watched two other shuttle flights take off for Houston before it was my turn – seems that they just run back and forth all day…

Across the tarmac you can see the completely new airport that will be done in a couple of years – can’t wait.

Short hop to Houston, but there was seat back entertainment:

But not even a bag of pretzels to go with my cocktail – fortunately, my Houston to Seattle flight had food (but no TV):

Made it back to the house around 11:30pm – plenty of time before opening the shop tomorrow at noon.

Since I mentioned this was a mileage run, here are the bonus miles I’ve earned in the last month on United:

Though they have my mileage balance off – currently its 155,958 – enough for a roundtrip to Europe in Business/First (120,000), or on one of their partners (140,000), or Middle East/India (150,000), almost enough for Australia/New Zealand up front (160,000), but definitely enough for Bangkok (150,000 on United metal). I mention this because for less than three grand I got First Class to Maui and back, New Orleans and back, and enough miles for a nice long intercontinental flight up front in the big seat.

And now you know why I play “The Game”.


For more blog posts, CLICK HERE.

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Apr '18

Trip Report: Friends And Food In Boston

Another week, another flight, another breakfast in the Alaska Lounge…

This picture is for my sister…while that plane is at my gate, it’s the departure before mine:

Got the upgrade to first days ago, so that means lots of pictures of the new Alaska First Class menu that they are rolling out, starting with the hot sweaty nuts:

Continuing with the salad (that would be Murder on the Orient Express in the background):

Onto the Cod in Miso:

Followed by what may be the best gelato I’ve had in years!

My flight arrived a little early, grabbed my luggage, struggled with surge pricing on Uber before abandoning Uber to grab the last train to Alewife – free as opposed to $50-60 door to door. I have time, I’ve been drinking and on holiday. Who cares if I don’t get to Pucci’s until 2am – he left the door open, and he sleeps soundly. Grabbed an Uber from Alewife that was $10. Much more reasonable!

When I visit Pucci, we have a system. He gets up in the morning and goes to the gym, I sleep in until eleven or so, then get up for my breakfast/his lunch:

Crab and arugula omelets. Yum. Pucci has students today, though not as many as usual since half are on break, so after a liquor store run, Jill picks me up and we are off to check out Pucci’s favorite local wine store, The Spirited Gourmet:

Well over twice the size of my shop, it includes a deli counter for sandwiches, sliced cheeses and meats, imported food goods. We probably have the same size wine collection.

Next up is the Red House, which is turning into a ritual. They have 2 for $1 oysters from 12-5pm. Yep, that’s $6 a dozen, so Jill and I both got a dozen:

And then we added the mussels and frites ($9) before we headed out.

Pucci taught until 7PM (usually 9PM), so we had a nice rack of lamb off the grill for our dinner:

Served with a lovely Bodegas Carrau Uruguayan Tannat from The Spirited Gourmet:

The following day, it was Pucci’s Homemade Chili, with a lovely Garzon Pinot Noir Rosé (also from Uruguay):

Before we headed to the Red House for cocktails (me) and oysters for dessert. Yes, oysters almost immediately after chili.

The last supper, sadly, I was having too much fun and forgot photos…here’s the appetizer spread:

With this amazing Greek Caviar Spread:

No pictures of the guests (Pucci, Jill, Netta, Joel, Susan), but I did get one of Murphy the Wonder Dog patiently waiting for something to hit the floor.

I was up at 6am the next morning so Pucci could run me to Alewife before his run to the gym.

An hour+ later I was at the airport, settled into the Admirals Club, one terminal over from mine:

And soon I was on the plane home – I’d gotten a 1am notice that I’d been upgraded…NICE.

Today’s menu was a beef in mole which was “interesting” – like they were trying too hard, unlike the flight attendant who on a 6-hour flight, served it all at once, rather than in courses (well, the nuts and gelato came out separately).

I returned to my house to find a riot of color in my front yard. What a nice welcome:

Another week, another trip – wonder where next week will be?


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Jan '18

Trip Report: Boston For The Rare Weekend Plus

Normally my domestic trips I don’t do weekends, as to not annoy my business partner in the wine shop. Made an exception to see Pucci. His schedule is freer on the weekends as he teaches most afternoon/evenings during the week.

Got the rare upgrade to first on the Seattle-Boston run – rare because Seattle is the major Alaska hub with LOTS of 75K fliers who spend way more for their ticket than I ever do. A rare upgrade, but a lovely one:

I love going to visit Pucci – he LOVES to cook (and I brought wine).

We had a lovely Garzon Albarino from Uruguay to go with the chicken.

The next afternoon found us at MFA (Museum of Fine Arts) for a Dutch Masters exhibit that ends in a couple of days:

And a couple of Gaugin’s in another wing – including one from his Japanese phase (just at Van Gogh had):

And with art, you have to have food….

My pork belly steamed buns:


And Pucci’s mussels (in a lovely broth):

It was time for a little quick nap before heading over to have dinner with Netta and Joel (and occasionally Max):

We did a couple of racks of lamb (well, Netta did), using a Le Creuset that Julia Child gave her when she was her archivist…

A damn fine meal for the four of us (Pucci’s Caeser Salad not pictured):

And the self-proclaimed “picky eater”, Max, did make an appearance after dinner:

Monday’s big adventure for me since Pucci had Winchester Community Music School recitals to play in with his students was to meet up with my buddy Fernando and finally meet his husband at Christopher’s in Porter Square:

My first drink was…

Not bad – as was the blue cheese burger with tater tots:

And Fernando got the chicken pot pie which looked great as well.

Total forgotten what Fernado’s husband, Steve had – he was a bit camera-shy.

Suddenly, this post is all about food, because for Tuesday’s lunch, we (Pucci and I) met up with Jill at the Red House for Manhattans and oysters:

The first dozen was $6, the second (and beyond), $12. Still an expensive lunch considering we each had two dozen (and a couple of cocktails for me), and I was still hungry in an hour or so – which meant I hit up Pucci’s Noodles from lunch the other day:

Here is the recipe:

Delicious hot, or just from the fridge.

The Tuesday night adventure was for a recital at the Winchester Community Music School with one of Pucci’s groups – the Mo-Town group. This was during the sound check:

And the Beatles group up after Pucci:

And Pucci’s group:

It was great to see him play – though piano isn’t his best instrument – that would be the Bass. Would love to see him in a “gig” environment (a.k.a. bar).

My final day in Boston I was greeted with snow:

But Pucci had a student move his lesson so he gave me a ride to the “T”:

And after one transfer, I was in the Admirals Club lounge having a little lunch:

That was just the starter – fresh house-made guacamole – several rounds of soup followed. And then it was on to the plane, sadly, in back, but at least I was in the free booze section:

And soon, I was home…for twelve hours before the next adventure.

[? ? ?]

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Nov '17

Trip Report: Boston For A Buddy

It’s going to be a quick trip, but a friend is about to turn 60…on Thanksgiving Day. I can’t be there for the holiday (I open the shop on Thanksgiving Day from 11-3), or for the party on Saturday (also working), so I thought I’d pop out for a couple of nights to hand deliver a birthday present (which I’d show you a picture of, but he might be one of those stealth blog readers and it would ruin the surprise).

I’d gotten upgraded for the return leg, but a few hours after I checked in for the outbound I got an upgrade notice for the flight to Boston. Woohoo! Rarely happens on the Boston/Seattle run since there are lots of business travelers on the route – maybe that 75K Gold status is paying dividends. The flight, booked just two weeks in advance, was $320 – and I had a $300 future flight coupon that I cashed in, so $20 for First Class roundtrip across the country.

Sadly, it’s a red-eye to Boston and an early morning flight home. Headed to the airport early to have a little dinner before the flight since I’m guessing it will just be a snack even up front.

The Alaska Lounge now has their pancake machine turned on all day – and some people are fascinated by how it works:

I’m not much of a pancake guy, so this was my meal in D concourse lounge:

Followed by a different soup in the new C concourse lounge:

Seat 1A on the way out…

And the aforementioned snack…

Can’t overdrink on the plane because I’m picking up a rental car in Boston. Sad, I know. In retrospect, I would have done this differently.

Got to Pucci’s place about 8am, and promptly went back to bed to get more than the couple of hours of sleep I got on the plane.

By the time I got up, it was time for lunch…

There was one convenience of having a car…a run to the liquor store for supplies. Pucci wants me to teach him my mother’s recipe for Manhattans. I brought orange bitters, decent cherries, vermouth, and some of my hooch, but mom always liked rye in hers if she was making them fancy.

The downside of the timing of my visit is that it’s just two nights (Monday and Tuesday) because I had company coming into town starting Wednesday, at least I did when I booked the trip. Both Monday and Tuesday are days that Pucci teaches from 3-9pm so we’ll just get lunches and drinks after work this trip.

And drink, we did, staying up to 3am Monday night. The damage:

Oh, and the one on the left is a liter bottle. Needless to say, Pucci didn’t make it to the gym in the morning. We barely had time to go out for Mexican food at Jose’s, and we were so hungry, I didn’t even get a photo of the “before”, just the “after”:

My dinner plans tonight are with Dan and Lisa from Denver. Dan works from home for a Boston-based company, and happens to be in town for a couple of weeks for work, and to see his Grandmother who evacuated Florida during the hurricane. The plan was:

  • Uber to the Alewife T Station
  • T to Government Crossing
  • Meet up with Dan and Lisa
  • Lyft to the restaurant

There was a mix up in times, and for me to be on-time (actually, 15 minutes early), I just took Uber all the way to the restaurant.

Half the time, and only $17.25! Guess how I got home.

Dinner is at Hojoko, located it The Verb Hotel. I started off with a cocktail and some edamame…

That would be the Relaxing Time Highball – a nod to Lost in Translation that I watched on my return flight from Montevideo.

Nice restaurant – with a view of the hotel pool:

We were a party of six, including one six-year-old or so…

At this point, I’d switched to the Lil’ Ume, there take on a Manhattan…

No, we didn’t get into any of the “drink buckets”…

And then the food started coming…

Above, halibut collar, below, Brains on Crack (calf sweetbreads).

Plus, lots of sashimi, tempura mushrooms, some sort of roll, and more. We did not go hungry.

We started so early that I was home via Uber before Pucci got back from teaching!

More cocktails this evening, but there was a conscious decision on both our parts to wrap it up by midnight since I have to get up at 4am to get the barely used rental car back to the airport and get checked in.

Grabbed a Croisantwich on the way to the gate – sometime to tide be over until a real breakfast on the plane…this time in seat 1F.

And said breakfast:

Not sure about the one piece of asparagus and the grilled Roma tomato, but ate the rest of it.

Got home around 1pm, and you guessed it, went back to bed for a nap.

A quick trip, but I managed to squeeze a lot in.


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Oct '17

Trip Report: Birthday By The Bay

Another weekday, another trip – this one to the Bay Area to visit Mark and Onyx, and celebrate my 61st birthday!

It’s always lots of luggage when I visit – bringing wine to the boys. A lot of stuff for three nights!

Another early morning flight….

And no upgrade to first…

But plenty of room in the overhead!

Onyx was a saint (a hungry saint) and stopped at a small burger stand on the way home.

Pretty good stuff (even if the staff is a little surly).

Got settled in and took a nap before getting rousted for a dinner of take-out Ethiopian which, for some reason, I don’t have a picture of, even though the boys had company over – must have been having too much fun.

Was up late (Mark [the other one] was up until 4am working), so slept late. Hit BevMo in the afternoon for bourbon, rye, and ginger – because at 6pm we are due at Rosenblum Cellars on the Oakland waterfront for the start of my birthday (61) evening:

Devon is a member so the first flight is on the house….

A good time was had!

Even the hipsters who are playing Giant Zynga on the lawn:

We had some little nibbles, but it was off to dinner at Marica, starting with a Beefeater Martini in honor of Pucci:

It was a fine meal…. with free mussels for the birthday party!

Followed by swordfish for several of us:

Meatballs for Devon:

Salad and Calamari for Mark (I thought about those, almost wish I’d ordered them):

A damn fine birthday meal!

Friday was a laid-back day, I took BART into town to hook up with Rache who as on a day trip to the Brazilian embassy for our upcoming trip to Uruguay in November.

Takes about 15 minutes to walk to the station, and 20-30 minutes later, you are in downtown San Francisco. I found Rache in the Ghirardelli chocolate shop having a coffee:

We headed out for an afternoon of drinking, starting at The House of Shields:

Next up is the Pied Piper (which didn’t open until 4pm):

The Pied Piper is the home of this WONDERFUL mural by Maxfield Parish:

Just the three of us having scallops and Brussel sprouts as our dinner.

All the fun came to an end with an early Saturday morning run to the Oakland Airport for my return home. Had enough time for a real breakfast at Chili’s…

Which, as it turns out, sadly I wouldn’t need when I heard my name called:

But really, all I wanted was a place to sleep, not a huge breakfast burrito and a fruit place (though it looked REALLY good).

Next week is Kansas City, and the completion of my quest for Alaska MVP Gold 75K!

[? ? ?]

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Feb '17

Trip Report: Back To Boston For The Miles

For the miles, and lunch with friends. This is the final Boston mileage run for the winter – I’m surprised that all of the flights actually made it there and back since Boston has serious winter weather. As it turns out, it was Seattle’s weather that almost tripped me up.

Yep, that is a snow storm in Seattle…but I’m warm inside…

But there was a huge backup in getting deiced….

Because we were on the ground for two hours, by the time we got in the air – those who were still awake were treated to free movie players, free drinks, chocolates….

We were an hour late getting into Boston – but the weather there was great:

At 10 I left the lounge (where I’d had breakfast and a nap) and headed to Harvard Square to have lunch with Pucci at Toscano (Italian).

I went for the gnocchi:

It was good to spend some “guy time” with him before heading back to the airport (and another nap or two).

At the gate, I was surprise once again with an upgrade on the return to Seattle – that’s three weeks in a row!

Even got my favorite seat! Maybe it does pay to bring chocolates for the counter staff along with the flight attendants.

Bring on the food and booze!

Grilled pear arugula salad with walnuts and blue cheese crumbles…

I opted for the blackened chicken with café au lait sauce, mashed potatoes and creamed spinach…

Finished with a Cupcake Royal mini-cupcake.

Not a bad way to end a mileage run. And for some reason, a bathroom selfie:

Home to bed for tomorrow I’m headed to the Bay Area.


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Jan '17

Trip Report: Boston Mileage Run Number One

My business partner just rolls his eyes when I mention mileage runs. Not sure what I’m talking about? CLICK HERE.

This is the first of four mileage runs I have planned this spring – all transcontinental flights, and number one is Boston. The fare was $256.00 roundtrip. That works out to 2,496 each way for a total of 4,992 flight miles, plus another 4,992 Bonus Miles for being an MVP Gold, so basically you have 10,000 miles (technically 9,984) to redeem which would be a round trip between SFO and LAX, or a little less than half for a roundtrip to Florida. End numbers — .0256 per mile which isn’t bad considering they are valued at 1.9 cents, but the way I use them I get much more value since its business class international flights where I use mile – ticket prices that I’d never pay cash for.

The schedule: Leave SEA at 9:20pm after having drinks, salad and soup in the Alaska Lounge, arrive BOS 5:30 – walk from Terminal C to Terminal B to use the Admiral’s Club, sleep for a couple of hours, get a cocktail:

I was a little surprised at the size of my whiskey/diet, but I was a trooper and finished it.

Nice lounge though…

Jill picked me up at 11 to go have lunch with Pucci at Jose’s Cantina in Cambridge. Great lunch!

After lunch, we went computer hardware shopping before stopping at Jill’s for installation (her), shower (me) before heading back to the airport.

Back at the lounge, the Mexican theme continues – there is a guy making fresh guacamole!

And one of the two soups being served was Chicken Corn Tortilla!

Return flight is at 6:20, and I’m number five on the upgrade list, so it doesn’t look good – but sometimes, miracles happen!

And even my number two favorite seat (favorite is 1C). Now if they’d just shut the back cabin door since it is turning the jetliner into a wind tunnel – I needed those layers!

Of course, I’d stuffed myself in the lounge, but I ate the dinner they served anyway:

I went for the cod…

My seatmate went for the ravioli…

Not much sleep on the way home…and then Roxy showed up, so, not much sleep in the evening as well.

Only three more mileage runs to go!



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Nov '15

Trip Report: Boston With Friends

My East Coast contingent has been begging for a visit so off I go (it doesn’t take much convincing, just a decent fare and hopefully an upgrade or two).

Paid more than I’d like (close to $500), but I was able to use my last two MVP Gold Upgrades for a guaranteed First Class on the Monday night red-eye to Boston, coming back through Portland on the dinner flight.

Uber’d to the airport since who knows what state I’ll be in on my return.

One of the things I really like about Alaska Airlines is their on-time rate (and best in the US for fuel efficiency):

…had a soup and salad dinner at The Board Room:

That would be (clockwise): green leaf salad with ranch and cheese cubes, molasses cookies (which I packed away for later – actually had a spare zip-lock bag courtesy of the TSA), chili, Yankee pot roast soup, whiskey/diet. On the red-eye, it’s always a crap shoot of what you will get served on-board, definitely not a full meal.

And no, that isn’t a potato, that’s a dark roll to go with the Caesar Salad.

For the first couple of hours the service up front was great, even with just one attendant working the section, but as three quarters of the cabin went to sleep – service quality died. Snack basket make a quick trip down the aisle missing me (had to go ask – and I’m in the first row aisle with the light on. Forget more drinks without asking even though there were several of us waiting TV. It seemed that the Fall Fashion issue of Elle was more important than customer service. And yes, I know flight attendant’s main duty is to protect our safety.

That said, I did log on and leave comments after I returned home about the flights going and coming, and the STARK difference in service levels in the same cabin. I’m used to the crew at American, United, Delta on the red-eyes and long international flights being happier sitting there with their reading material, but not on Alaska (usually). The return crew were all 20 year plus at Alaska and were fantastic on the dinner run from Boston to Portland. In less than 24 hours after my comments were submitted (on a weekend!) I got this response back:

Good Morning Mr. Souder,

Thank you for completing our survey regarding your flight. As a valued passenger, I sincerely apologize that you didn’t receive customer service that met or exceeded your expectations while seated in first class. Being unhelpful or unfriendly, even if it is on a “Red Eye”, is certainly not our norm or something we condone at Alaska Airlines. We strive to provide exemplary service on each and every flight to all of our passengers and it sounds like we fell short.

By taking the time to contact us and giving us your feedback, you have not only given me the opportunity to hear your concerns, but also an opportunity to be proactive in preventing a similar situation from occurring again. I would like to offer you the following compensation of a $50.00 e-certificate which you should expect via email within the next 10 business days.

I am confident that on a future flight you will enjoy the high level of service that Alaska Airlines is known for and that you deserve.

Kind Regards,
Nicole XXXX
Alaska Airlines

And this is another reason I’m a huge Alaska Airlines fan.

Saint Jill picked me up at the airport in Boston on my very early arrival – hence the name, “Saint Jill“.

After a long nap it was out for “loooobsterrrr”….Belle Isle Seafood here we come. Not cheap, but a ton of lobster (could have used just a tiny bit more mayo):

Did a little sightseeing in the afternoon…

Before I started in on dinner called “what’s near the end of its life in Saint Jill’s fridge. The base of ground beef, sautéed onions, peppers, etc.

Then toss in spinach and cheese for a one skillet meal:

Served over spaghetti… not a bad meal, all and all:

Hooked up with Pucci after he got off work – staying there because Saint Jill’s place is small, I snore, and Murphy sheds. Aisling is out of town so it’s a long night of drinking and catching up.

Breakfast/Lunch at Strip T’s – I opted for the Turkey Rubin with Pucci opting for the buttermilk fried chicken:

GREAT pickles – but a seriously non-OSHA bathroom in the basement, labeled with a sign saying, “Use Extreme Caution Using This Restroom” – certainly worthy of a picture:

Yep – the toilet is up several steps.

Pucci needed to go back to work so he dropped me off in Harvard Square where Jill was to meet me for a little culture. Kind of fun hanging out on Harvard Square – under the watchful eyes of Dewey, Cheetham, & Howe right about the Curious George store:

Lovely fall day…

Turns out Netta was also floating around after a doctor’s appointment (same thing as Jill was doing) so we all met up at Starbucks…

Great to hang out and catch up, but soon Jill and I were walking across the quad to the museum:

The Harvard Art Museum was having a showing of a pop artist that Jill likes. Name is Corita Kent…no photos of the exhibition (forbidden) but one of the inside:

All that culture made us want a little snack at The Russell House….

After culture and cuisine, it was time to walk over to Jill’s Mom’s place for cocktails and dinner…forgot to take a shot of her view of The Charles from her 3-bedroom condo, but I did get some food shots!

By the third bottle we finally found an old white that wasn’t off…

Amazingly it was the oldest (2000 Cheverny) that was OK, while the 2004 Pouilly Fume and the 2001 Latour Pouilly Fuse were both off but in different ways. The Cheverny went quite nicely with the Oysters (yes, more oysters) on the half shell:

Followed by some appetizers (grave lox, salamis):

Followed by the salad course (greens, pears, beets, Blue Cheese dressing):

Then the main: (swordfish, roasted potatoes, asparagus):

Then dessert with a lovely 1985 Sauternes:

Why go out when Jill’s mother cooks like this!

Back to Pucci’s after dinner – and in the morning Jill swung by to take me lunch and then to the airport – lunch Greek at Demos. This would be the lamb shish kebab salad.

After doing a little more sightseeing – like the Mystic Brewing in Chelsie:

Yes, I drank be, 4 different 4 ounce samples. Then it was off to the airport.

Contrary to rumors, terminal C for Alaska isn’t too great – they are off in a little wing with its own TSA checkpoint and little in the way of food/drink:

I had to walk to Terminal B to use the American Admirals Club – which is huge and the food good:

But, it’s a 15 minute walk in each direction. Oh well, walking is good for me. And there was also good food on the dinner flight home starting with a nice salad:

Then the main course:

And ending with dessert:

Not a direct flight home – I connected in Portland. Good thing I took a cab home!


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Sep '14

Trip Report: Birthday Ramble – YVR

Got to the condo around 10AM – and check-in as at 4PM.Been there, done that. Left my name and number at the desk, went down the hall to the lounge, gathered a couple of pillows and took a 3-hour nap.

The nap done, it was off to find some lunch…and a coupon from WorldMark to make it cheaper. The choice? Relish, a European Gastropub just around the corner. The deal? 15% off food.

Got there to find the house wine, a Naked Shiraz on offer for $4 a glass, VERY cheap by Canadian standards and not a bad glass pour. I paired it with the Duck Confit tacos ($11) for a wonderful little lunch:

That put me back at the WorldMark around 2PM – room still not ready, so it’s off to the IGA Marketplace with a 10% off coupon to get the rest of the stuff we need for dinner.

Tonight’s dinner guests are Solus+ and Helene. The dinner menu is:

  • Fish that Helene is bringing
  • Sourdough bread
  • Caesar salad
  • Red and White wine
  • Croatian cookies for dessert

But before that can happen, I have to get checked in, which turns out to be around 2:30 – after declining to have them fix a broken light in the kitchen. I think I can suffer.

And oh how I suffer at The Canadian…

Helene arrived around 5, Solus+ around six…alas, none of the dinner picture turned out…might have been the wine…

A late night, and a late morning of sleeping in…did a 3-egg fish scramble with cheese for my breakfast this morning, before settling into getting caught up on the blog… and by 3 it was time for another run to Relish for their oyster happy hour from 3-6PM with oysters at a “buck-a-shuck” – paired nicely with a Beefeater slightly dirty martini in honor of Pucci:

I ended up having a dozen of those “buck-a-shucks”.

Back to the IGA for a little more fish – Helene brought more than enough, but not quite enough for two meals – more salad and a little more for the pupu platter that BamBam always devours….

Croatian chocolate cookies on the left, sliced up heirloom sweet peppers that were on sale at the IGA for .99 a pound.

The boys (Hummingbird and BamBam) got there a little after 6, and with no word from Epick since I emailed him yesterday, finally a text response that he wasn’t coming….would have been nice to know, might not have bought more fish.

But a good dinner it was:

With leftovers for the boys to take home.

Their big news is that they finally, after seven years, have settled with the insurance company over their house fire. The money is in the bank, and they’ve found a place that they want to put an offer on in the city, in a neighborhood that I really like (as does Helene), so I’m wishing them the best of luck.

Another relaxing morning capped with another 3-egg omelet (no fish this time – sent it home with the boys for the cats). Checked out a little after 10:30AM, waited a few minutes trying to flag down a cab and finally just decided to save the $10+ and walk back down the hill to the cruise terminal – at least it wasn’t raining!

This is one of my favorite oddities on Hornby – it’s actually the bottom floor of what is now the Vancouver Art Gallery, but obviously in the past it was a police station…

Showing up at 11am seems to be the thing to do…unless you are on the Holland America boat that isn’t boarding until 1PM since they had a little norovirus outbreak. The downside of the Vancouver Cruise Terminal is that everyone, no matter how many boats are in dock, are all shoved through the same security line….meaning to Elite Line. At least past security – where they always notice my bottle of wine and direct me to the registration table – which I’ve started ignoring since no one seems to notice – there were dedicated lines for Preferred Passengers.

And a waiting area with coffee and pastries — too bad my Cruise Card is still showing Platinum (Silver) rather than Elite (Black) …I hate to start my cruise by bitching someone out, but I want my free mini-bar setup and I’ve got shirts that need laundered and starched.

[? ? ?]

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Jul '14

Trip Report: An Irish Wedding.

Part three of my Irish Saga. The real reason for my trip to Ireland – the wedding of one Mark J. Pucci.

A lovely train ride from Dublin’s Connolly Station to the town of Bray in County Wicklow. Popped into a taxi for the ride to Enniskerry and the Summer Hill House Hotel where the wedding is scheduled. I’ve booked in for two nights.

You guessed it – swiped off their site, somehow I forgot to get a picture of the main building. I’m out back in the Courtyard Units:

Perfectly functional room, complete with balcony (but no chairs). Downside is that there are no Wi-Fi repeaters in this building so I have to go to the main building to get access – and even then, it’s not great Expect TripAdvisor review. But the view of the Irish countryside is nice….

The first night’s activities were drinks in Enniskerry at Mac’s Bar at the Powerscourt Arms followed by dinner next door at the The Relaxing & Classic Lounge. Here is “downtown” Enniskerry:

And me in Mac’s Bar hoisting my first Paddy’s Irish Whiskey of the evening:

And the fair-haired Groom making the “time for dinner” announcement:

And my dinner of Fish and Chips, oddly served with salad and mashed peas – we are in Ireland after all:

And a selfie with Jill and her mother, Norma (who also all had the Fish and Chips):

It was a late evening – stayed up drinking until two with one of the other US-based wedding guests – put a HUGE dent in the Paddy’s I’d brought for the occasion.

The wedding was the next afternoon – an outdoor wedding – which has only become legal in the last couple of weeks – you still have to “rent a room” to sign the documents in – guessing to protect all the hotels. Lovely weather, if a bit on the hot side. Charming ceremony which included multiple quotes by Rumi, very humanist.

Pictures of Mark and Aisling tying the knot:

And the food – choice of pork or salmon. I took the slightly overcooked pork…

One of Aisling’s pals made the cake (which was gluten free if I remember correctly):

Another long evening of drinking the Paddy’s on the rocks – and considering that I have a 5:15am wake-up call for a 5:40am cab ride to Bray to catch a 6:30am bus to the airport – I really should have stopped sooner.


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Jul '14

Trip Report: Dublin.

After arriving in Dublin – well, at least at Jeff and Mindi’s place though no Jeff (aka Mork) – made pleasantries and went to bed for a 5-hour nap, which by the way is exactly what you are not supposed to do to help with your jetlag….I have other tricks up my sleeve for that. Awake at 5 while Mindi is on her daily work call – time for a little Knob Creek and seltzer:

Yes, weird ice “cubes” more like ice stalactites. The gin is waiting for Mindi’s G&T after her call.

Mindi works at home so I’ll be able to see lots of her this trip – and more importantly (for continued invitations) be able to cook our meals in.

Since I’ve visited before I know where all the closest markets are and they have a “veg” delivery service all we really need is some protein and some wine. Got the protein for tonight and tomorrow around the corner at the Halal market (no pork!). But before that we need to restock the wine rack – and no, not with this which made me CRINGE:

The first evening’s meal was marinated chicken bits in a semi-spicy curry sauce with a bunch of the “one their last day” vegetables…

And the incomparable Mindi waiting for me in the dining nook:

An evening of drinking was enough to get me to sleep through the evening until 10ish the next morning – we were both running a little slow.

Today’s outing is a new hairdo for Mindi – her monthly appointment. While that’s going on I wander the streets, pick up supplies like booze and diet soda and stumble into a gay bar – the big purple thing – called The George. No time to really go in, and I can only imagine a gay bar at 2pm in the afternoon – though it would have given me a place to sit. As I learned from the website later, at 2pm they would have been just opening so it would have been me and the bartender most likely:

And a couple of doors down, another place I should have tried but didn’t. Pitt Bro’s BBQ which apparently uses American-built smokers. I seem to have read something in an advert (as the Brits say) about these folks – even before stumbling across them:

My motto is that if you see everything on your trip you have no excuse to come back. Guess I need to ask Mindi when she is getting her hair done again. That would make the afternoon:

After Mindi’s hair was finished – she had a little shopping to do…at the Celtic Whiskey Shop – and this is only ONE wall – the even had a hallway filled with small bottling’s in minis – too tempting.

Here is the one that Mindi picked up for Jeff’s birthday – only EU125 ($168 at today’s exchange)

The salesman had ME at Madeira Cask aged. One of 377 bottles made just for this shop.

Tonight’s dinner is a lemon pesto roast chicken on a bed of root vegetables:

While that is going I worked on a little ratatouille for tomorrow night’s dinner – to be tossed with greens in an oil and balsamic dressing:

Got to use those vegetables before they expire.

Can you see why I get invited back? Especially since after the meal it was pulling off all the remaining chicken to make chicken salad out of for tomorrow’s lunch – and stock for the freezer:

Well, stock for cooking and chicken vegetable base – just add noodles.

Another late evening of staying up way past midnight shooting the shit – didn’t get out of bed until noon today, so breakfast was definitely brunch but without the Bloody Maries or bubbles. More like cheesy scrambled eggs with oven re-roasted root vegetables:

Got an email mid-day from the Groom (Pucci) saying that Aisling was going to be out tonight on the traditional Irish “Hen’s Night” and that he was free….off to the Halal butcher go I as we’d just had another batch of “veg” delivered (even though I wasn’t through with last weeks). Tonight’s meal in honor of the groom is an American BBQ dinner with a Mediterranean Flare: Grilled lamb chops (yes, these ex-pat Dubliners have a charcoal Weber), served with a zucchini-based tzatzkiki sauce, and the ratatouille and garden greens with olive oil and balsamic. Didn’t get a pretty picture of it before, but here is the during:

And in the background you see a bottle of 1994 Mondovi Cabernet Sauvignon… that didn’t survive the move from the states too well – the cork was shot. I had to strain it through a paper towel. It really was about TEN years beyond its prime… luckily we had another bottle handy.

Oddly not corked, just no fruit left – it wasn’t their Reserve which might have still been drinkable. This one was slated to drink between 2002 and 2008… 6 year ago. It was well after midnight when we stuffed the groom into a cab, not exactly knowing the address he was headed for but he knew the area and the street. Luckily he DID make it home in one piece.

And just to get us off the food track for a minute or two – the house where I’m staying:

And the back yard with the Weber:

Before you know it – the last supper has arrived. Walked a little further afield today to get pork for dinner and supplies for the trip – tonight’s meal are pork cutlets in chili-garlic sauce, cucumbers in yogurt, and the standard salad we’ve come to love:

After dinner it was off to the neighbor’s – Paul and Mary who remembered me from my last visit… a VERY LATE NIGHT of chatting and playing with the dog – Paul didn’t get in from the airport until after midnight and Mini and I didn’t leave until around 3am – and then talked back at the house for another hour:

Even with the late night, I still had time for a final meal – Heavos Rancheros that I’d prepped the night before so the eggs could soak into the corn tortillas…

Too bad I’m leaving for the train station at the same time that Mork, I mean Jeff his headed home from the airport. Guess we’ll have to just have drinks when they are in Seattle in August.

Before I knew it I was on the train to Bray to catch a cab to the wedding venue – more on that in the next post.

See what I look like with not enough sleep. At least we all ate well in Dublin.


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Jul '14

Trip Report: Ireland Bound.

Well – it’s another early day – luckily my buddy Ray is in town to get me to the airport at a little after five for my three-hop to Dublin for Mark Pucci’s wedding:

  • Seattle-Portland (Coach)
  • Portland-Atlanta (Business)
  • Atlanta-Dublin (Business)

Left the house a little after 5am, and here is a selfie of what I look like at that hour (with an Alaska 737 with Disney livery in the background):

Looking a little “gruff” – but then again, the bar doesn’t open until 6am – time for a couple of bagels with cream cheese. I’m looking a little better in Portland, and another Red Baron (bubbles and cranberry):

And yes, that’s my plane, which I thought was a 737-400 because it didn’t have the winglets that the majority of Alaska’ fleet has. Turns out that it’s a 737-900 that is in the middle of renovations – the new Recaro seats in the back and no hard divider between First and Coach – apparently they haven’t gotten the curtains installed yet since the current divider seems to be blue painters tape. Classy. I wonder if it’s the same on as in this YouTube video? LINK

But my seat is comfortable (notice the lack of divider):

I tried reading my current book – but it’s more of a page-stoner than a page-burner. I picked it up several trips ago at Compass Books in the San Francisco Airport on their remainder stack. The book is Pornographia, by Polish author Witold Gombrowicz. This is a new translation direct from the Polish. The previous edition was translated from Polish to French and then from French to English. Not a good idea.

I should say, tried and failed – at least so far. I hate travelling with hardback book (even when skinny) and then not reading it. It reminds me of the six weeks touring Europe while at Evergreen trying to get through Lewis Ferdinand Celine’s Journey To The End Of The Night.

Instead it was the call of dinner and reruns:

That would be The Big Bang Theory and:

  • Farro Salad
  • Warm Dinner Roll
  • Blackened Chicken
  • Creamy Polenta
  • Creamed Spinach
  • Chuckanut Huckleberry Cheese Cake

And both of their red wines to sample. I’ll give the book until the end of the trip and then it’s getting left behind, read or unread.

Got to Atlanta with enough time to walk across the airport, do some duty-free shopping and head to the lounge for a couple of drinks. Between my United Gold and my Alaska Board Room membership I’m pretty much covered. It did amaze me that the Knob Creek (at 100 proof) was the same prices as the Jack Daniels (80 proof). In stores there is a big difference in price:

Nice international lounge in Atlanta:

Even opted for a quick shower:

And I needed it since it is another 6+ hour flight before I get to Dublin.

The plane boss, the plane (as Tattoo would say on Fantasy Island):

That would be a 767-300 and what the business-class seats look like:

My two movies for this leg (before I got into the reruns) were classics – which is what I’m seeming to revert to in my on plane movie watching:

Started with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and moved onto Breakfast At Tiffany’s. I’d forgotten how light-hearted Ferris was and the dark themes of Breakfast.

With a two-hour delay (mechanical) out of Atlanta I was almost done with Ferris (and pleading for more champagne) by the time we took off. It was with dinner that I watched Audrey:

  • Shrimp with avocado
  • Mixed greens with cranberries, pecans and feta cheese
  • Squash soup
  • Beef tenderloin (amazing tender that loin) with Béarnaise sauce, buttered asparagus, lobster macaroni and cheese
  • Some cheese and sweets for dessert

I passed on the ice cream sundae (second shelf) because before you knew it some more reruns and little naptime:

About 90 minutes before landing it was breakfast time:

  • Seasonal fresh fruit
  • Portobello mushroom omelet with asparagus, potato wedges and bacon

I was actually impressed with bacon since you know everything is reheated. So much for the diet.

There was a curious thing about the meal service…the silverware was magnetized and you could do amazing balancing tricks with the cutlery:

One of the things that I like about flying into Dublin is the “low key” entrance form you fill out:

They don’t even ask for your passport number. And it’s quick when you are on the ground, especially if you are in seat 1A and they are disembarking from the front door.

By 11:30 or so (should have been 9:30 or so) I was at Mindy and Jeff’s – sadly only Mindy as Jeff (aka Mork) was in the states for “management training”. The perils of becoming a General Manager for a tech company.

Chatted for a bit with Mindi before heading upstairs for a 5-hour nap, waking just in time to start working on that duty-free Knob Creek.

[? ? ?]

Mar '14

Trip Report: Overnight In Boston With Friends.

Tuesday found me at the airport again, back to Boston for the second trip this month. At least this time I’m spending the night.

In the Board Room before my flight… it’s a mid-morning flight so it wasn’t too ugly to get up and out this morning.

My seat for this trip – no upgrade in either direction is Exit Row window, not my favorite but not the worst. Here is the view as they deice the plane:

I was late getting to the gate so I have no idea how far down the upgrade list I was – I assume at least a half a First Class cabin. This is the down side of the during the normal days flights that Alaska has between Seattle and Boston. If you want to take the crappy red-eye or the early morning return it turns out it’s easy to get an upgrade because none of the guys/gals who fly WAY more than I do hate those flights as much as I do.

Here is a shot of me over what I think is either Minnesota or Wisconsin judging from all the lakes:

Got to Boston a little after 6PM and Fernando came to the airport to meet me. Such a sweetheart.

Off to dinner we go at Christopher’s in Porter Square. A little wait for a table (30 minutes) which we killed in the bar – beer for Fernando, Manhattans for me.

Got to our table – ordered more drinks and an appetizer – a Summer Roll (non-deep-fried Spring Roll) that seemed to have been prepared last night. For dinner, I broke my diet and had the Fish and Chips (good), and Fernando had the chicken, green bean special – it looked good and I’m sure it had a better name. I’m amazed that when I looked at their site today they had their Daily Specials for TODAY. Now THAT is good website management.

By 9:30 Pucci and Aisling joined us for cocktails (Martini for Pucci, Prosecco for Aisling) – lucky we had a four-top! I’m going to their wedding in July in Wicklow (20km south of Dublin), Ireland.

Apparently when Fernando chose Christopher’s he didn’t realize that it was a block from Aisling’s gym and easy for Pucci to park at – god going Fernando!

After a couple of rounds of drinks and good conversation it was time for us to all head back to our mattresses – walking distance for Fernando and I.

Slept in late, late, late, we both did… we didn’t get out of the house until a little after noon – first stop Starbucks for lattes. Which held me over for the one “T” stop until we got to the Russell House for lunch.

Here are shots of the two of us at lunch…

And here is my lovely lunch of the steamed mussels in a fennel heavy (think a jar of seeds) broth that was surprisingly good. I like that the fact that they served bottles of either still or fizzy water – wish I’d gotten the fizzy, but the glass of Bonny Doon Vin Gris Rosè was damn fine with those mussels.

After lunch Fernando and I parted ways – him for the office, me for my office – the Delta Sky Room. I had about three hours to catch up on email, drink cocktails, liberate biscotti, have some snacks, read a bunch of papers before my flight back to Seattle – number 7 on the upgrade list, but at least I’m in 6D… just behind First Class, close enough to smell the freshly baking cookies.

Bought the Rueben Hot Meal ($6), they comped me my second free drink (one free with MVP Gold), bought several more. For airplane food, that Rueben was stuffed with meat and really good. On the way out I passed on the Pulled Pork Sandwich, but the guy next to me had it and it looked good (and smelled divine).

Back at the house by 11 – time to clean out the rollaboard of all the Biscoff I popped from the Delta Sky Room – mostly because they are really good, and Roxy needs more carbs before I can get dinner prepared. I love that the Biscoff have the Delta logo imprinted on them.

Next up, TURKEY.

That trip report might have to be split into:

  • Istanbul, Turkey (3 nights) Part One
  • Budapest, Romania (2 nights)
  • Istanbul, Turkey (2 nights) Part Two

If there was another day, I’d try and squeeze Bulgaria into the trip, but I like to have a “buffer” before I get back for my departing flight.

Worked today, working, tomorrow and Sunday, off early Monday to either Europe or Asia, depending on which side of the Bosporus that I’m on.


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Oct '13

Sightseeing Day.

Today Fernando and I are off sightseeing… even with the Federal Government shutdown:

Luckily the boat to Spectacle Island is run by a private firm and the Rangers on the island are State financed.

On the boat:

Great view of planes coming into Logan Airport:

We didn’t do too much walking on the island, though we did do most of the interpretive center stuff.

Next up was the top of the Prudential Building for appetizers and drinks:

And the view:

And a Ruby Manhattan – bourbon and ruby port with a twist of lemon in it – quite tasty:

Fernando fixed us steaks at his place before we headed off to meet Pucci for cocktails at 9:30pm. Looks like it’s another last night.

[? ? ?]

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May '13

Work, Camlin, Opera.

With it being Mayfair in Madrona today, the wine tasting started at 1pm instead of 2pm… which for me is handy since it’s Opera night and I have a room booked at the Camlin. Means I get to check in at a little before 4 rather than a little before 5.

This is the shot of the room AFTER I completely rearranged it so you could actually open and use the Murphy bed. They had the couch backed up against Murphy bed and the kitchen table was where I moved the couch to.

Dinner with WonderFool at Dragon Fish – small Asian plate meal type place. With the 20% off coupon we got out of there for $60.00 + tip, which included a lot of sake for both of us.

Off to the Opera next, via the monorail:

WonderFool wearing my old sport coat that he had retailored (when he was 20 pounds heavier).

This is our last season of tickets – giving up my truly wonderful seats, but at a grand for the pair, it’s become too much.

And how did Speight Jenkins reward us for our final opera? By presenting two short and incredibly painful operas. http://seattleopera.org/tickets/production.aspx?productionID=123

I spent the evening wanting to slit my wrists. Here is the summary:

In this exciting pair of Seattle Opera premieres two very different composers explore the fates of women who must come to grips with grave disappointment. In Poulenc’s sensual, captivating 40-minute monodrama, a desperate woman is shunned by her lover over the telephone and stumbles through a minefield of emotions towards an unknown fate. In Puccini’s sentimental one act, a noble-born woman who has joined a convent is disowned by her family, takes poison in despair, and miraculously passes into a state of grace.

Sister Angelica (Suor Angelica)
Music by Giacomo Puccini
In Italian with English Captions

The Human Voice (La Voix Humaine)
Music by Francis Poulenc
In French with English Captions

Luckily it has only one more performance – the matinee tomorrow.

We should have taken the monorail home – got stuff in a traffic mess of Mercer AND 99 being closed. We could have walked home quicker.


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Feb '13

The Real Reason I’m Here.

The 29th Annual ZAP Tasting.

The sore throat has advanced. I’m not feeling in the best shape. Especially since the Zinfandel tasting starts at 10am and runs (for the trade) until 1pm when all hell breaks out and the public is invited in.

Here are some lovely pictures from the event:

The queue up to get in.

Shot of the hall 15 minutes in.

Lunetta with a baguette and spit cup.

An hour and a half in.

By the end of the first hour we were only stopping at booths that there was nobody in front of… with the exception of Ridge Vineyards where I just muscled my way to the front of the line.

By the end of two hours I was spent (but Lunetta was only half way through his bagette). We headed back to the East Bay, with me scoring an extra ZAP Tasting 2013 glass – more freebie glassware for the shop – guess I should bring in the 4 that I have from the Boston Wine Expo of several years ago (where we [Pucci and I] got comped in as well). Joe Fico from Tucson was supposed to be on this tasting but work didn’t clear up until last week, and all the cheap fares were gone.

Oh well.

On returning to the boy’s place in Berkeley it was straight to bed for me, only waking at 3:30 in the afternoon because of hunger. I ate the remains of my breakfast I couldn’t finish this morning, and went back to bed, getting up at 5pm feeling a little more rested and less funky. I think an antihistamine is in order in case the scratchy throat was due to the grocery run on Thursday and pollens in the air.

The boys were kind enough to take me to the airport (SFO = 40 minutes each way) before their “date night”. BART is convenient to their house, but sitting in the back seat is way more comfortable.

At the airport in plenty of time, and nicely settled into the Board Room having snacks of tiny carrots, dip, cheese, and yes, two damn packages of those Club Crackers® which I can’t seem to turn down.

No room on the flight that is an hour earlier (well, no room in First which I have on the later flight) so it’s time to update the blog, read a newspaper, and generally hang out.

In theory due home at about 11pm tonight (that earlier flight would have helped). It’s funny – I think Oakland has more flights these days, but it’s SFO with the Board Room location – though no soup or salad in this location, but they do have the Pancake Machine for in the mornings. Either way, the Board Room is the place that I stock the fridge with oranges for DancingBear’s Old Fashions.

If something screws up, it will be on tomorrow’s blog report.

Good night all, I’ll be sleeping all the way home with luck.

[? ??]

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The 29th Annual ZAP Tasting.

Jan '13

Sunday At The Shop.

Well – slow Sunday. Barely pulled it out except for the customer who showed up at 4:30, inquired about tracking down four different wines, and then went on to buy a mixed case that came to $284 something after the 10% discount and tax. Whew! Made it an OK Sunday.

With all that time, I started thinking about Pucci’s wedding this coming summer (assuming they can find a place in Ireland to hold it). After a Points Guy article on oneworld’s World Explorer fare I crafted this itinerary:

15 segments in 10 days, the only time stopping is for 3-4 days in Ireland for the wedding. Imagine this flight pattern:

City Miles


EQM Qualified Just Miles Bonus Miles



Dallas-Ft. Worth




















Buenos Aires





New York













































FF Miles





Ticket Cost

per mile

per ff mile

$8,522.15 $0.19 Total FF Miles



Cost per mile for this $8522.15 turns out to be .19 which isn’t good, but if I kept them all on American, a couple of more trips on Alaska or American I’d have Gold on American, which doesn’t really do me good. If I put them on Alaska, only half the flights it would get me Alaska MVP status for next year with the 27,568 EQM Qualified Miles, almost enough for a Business Class ticket to Iceland (75,000 or onward to Europe 80,000), drop the cost per mile to .12 – but push up my qualification numbers for MVP Gold to 50,000 from 40,000.

Makes me dizzy just thinking about how many hours that is my butt in a seat in Economy and I’m sure Colonel Eric thinks I’ve lost my mind to even consider it.

Dinner at Swanda’s tonight – lovely broiled salmon, high heat roasted brussel sprouts, and a big salad. And he opened a bottle of white wine from his last month’s shipment. Score another one!

[215.0] OK, no more carbs.

May '12

Day One – The Canadian.

Checking Out Of The Canadian, Boarding The Canadian.

The blog post sounds confusing… Checking out, checking in, boarding, all The Canadian?

The WorldMark is at The Canadian, across from Wall Centre (home of the Sheraton). The Canadian is also a beer slogan (Molsen?), which BamBam had four of while we were hanging out waiting for The Canadian, the train that runs from Vancouver to Toronto.

Apparently, the Canadians like to call everything “The Canadian”.

My day, after The Canadian, and before The Canadian.

Up at nine, packed and out of the condo at noon. Off to the train station (via SkyTrain, C$2.50) to drop off my bag so they could put it in my “stateroom”, a.ka. a “roomette” on “The Canadian”. Damn, I’m about to wear out the ” key.

After dropping the bag (C$3, which they didn’t charge for the last time, but still totally worth it), I still had time on my SkyTrain ticket – got back on the train to go to the end of the Zone One area, but realized that the first stop was Commercial Drive where I know has nice restaurants for lunch (breakfast was a Slim Jim basically). Basically I have until 8:30pm when the train leaves to amuse myself. Commercial Drive here I come.

My buddy Pucci would like all the old Italian espresso bars, not turned sports:

My favorite memory of this place 20 years ago was of a couple of old Italian guys eating sushi, drinking espresso, and chatting in Italian.

Got off the train and remembered my buddy TomTuma often works from home. Called, and he was home, at least for a glass of fizzy ice water on the rocks before his next appointment:

Damn. Lose 25 pounds and you still look fat next to the skinny one.

Lunch at the Memphis Blues BBQ place close to Toms:

That would be the pulled pork on greens. Where I’m from, those greens would have been mustard and sautéed in bacon fat, not drizzled in a BBQ vinaigrette.

On the way back to the station, stumbled across this lovely duo busking on the street corner… cello and accordion. Can’t wait to check out www.sidewalkcellist.com to see if the accordion player is listed. He’s HOT.

Had to buy another SkyTrain ticket so I started exploring Zone One which is as far as you can go in an hour and a half. Down to Chinatown, Waterfront Station, Marine Drive, and eventually, back where I started: the train station.

The boyz (Hummingbird and BamBam) showed up at 4:30 for one last get together – and off we go to the place across from the train station which is part:

  • Bar
  • Youth Hostel
  • Odd restaurant

Cheap it was. Jameson on the rocks for C$4.50, beers cheaper, and for less than C$20, dinner for the three of us. Not exactly “take a date place”, more of a “pick up some rough trade” place. After lunch I didn’t needtoo much to eat (expecting and receiving sparkling wine and canapés on boarding).

Parted with the boys so they could have an evening, and for me to deal with the excitement of the journey. It’s a long train we have…

We have a seriously LONG train – and I’m in Car 213 which is smack dab in the middle of the train. There are THREE Vista Dome cars, and all-glass Panorama car (we lose that in Edmonton for the west bound run) and bloody TEN sleepers. Now I really see where all the old cool pre-Amtrak equipment went… to Canada. Good thing I’ve got the knee brace on as it’s a long way from one end to the other. Hell, there are even TWO dining cars on this run. 23 pieces of equipment – three engines, a baggage car, two coach cars and all the stuff I mentioned before. We lose the other engine and the Panorama car in Jasper tomorrow at 4 (thought I think we are running late).

The train was so long that to get it into the yard they had to split it in two – the coach/baggage/engines on track 4 and all the rest of the cars on track 5 – it still made for a half mile walk for the folks in Sleeper Car 210.

First – a shot of the Panorama Car which I have never seen on ViaRail before:

Sorry for the crappy picture, but it’s still better than AmTrak’s just for the number of people who can actually sit there… not a bubble dome, but can hold three times the people.

And I’m flummoxed over the last picture of the night, of the room (after the champagne and several cocktails).

So I did both.

One of the most interesting conversations on the train was with the “Bullet Lounge” car attendant who repeatedly had to answer… “Is this where I get breakfast”… “No, that’s the dining car, ask your room attendant.” That the Express Fares have filled up the train with many people who haven’t done this before (I’m channeling Swanda to not be snarky – it took me three times to rewrite that sentence.) Considering that normally my fare would be C$1800 and I got it for C$575 – it’s opened up rail travel in a sleeper to a bunch more people, hence, TEN sleeping cars and TWO coach cars (those were on sale as well).

[? ? ?] The last Alli® pill was on Sunday with my noon meal. And now I’m on a trip with three meals a day, doubtful any carb free. Started this trip at 210 and hoping not to come back as a blimp.

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Checking Out Of The Canadian, Boarding The Canadian.