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Uncle Markie out and about.

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Tue
12
Jun '18

Trip Report: Wellington To Picton – Day Five

Check out time is 11am, but the ferry to Picton isn’t until after 2, so there is a little tie to sleep in, and scout out some breakfast after leaving the bags at reception.

For the first time on this trip I actually used Trip Advisor to find a close-by restaurant – and considering the number of reviews I’ve posted (296 reviews and ratings) on Trip Advisor, you think I’d use it all the time!

I ended up at Columbus Coffee:

I had the Eggs Benedict, which came on a couple of pieces of dense soda bread – YUM!

After my “light breakfast”, it was off to visit the Wellington Museum (Free) which is on the waterfront in the old Bond building:

Spread over four floors it has some very imaginative/interactive exhibits – like ones where you pick up a 30’s telephone handset to listen to the commentary – perfect for a history museum.

And an innovative spur of the moment donate kiosk:

By far, the most moving piece in the museum was a 12-15-minute piece in one of the two theaters:

Here is a link to a could of newsreel clips on the disaster in 1968 where dozens lost their lives: https://www.nzonscreen.com/title/nzbc-wahine-disaster-1968

A sobering movie to watch a couple of hours before I get on a boat to cross the same passage – at least today it is calm and clear. The video left me a little stunned and chocked up. It’s worth a click through.

With more time to kill, stopped in at the Academy Galleries for the 44 Solo Women’s Modern Art exhibition:

Interesting to see, but nothing moved me to bring out my wallet.

Back to the hotel for a bit of reading, then packed up and Ubered to the ferry terminal.

NZ$10.47 (US$7.37) was the cost – certainly getting spoiled with Uber in New Zealand!

With plenty of time before my boat – there is the opportunity to watch the Interislander unload cargo from Picton. Lots of camper vans…

And trucks:

Imagine my surprise when I heard a train whistle and rail cars started rolling off the boat!

Though technically out of chronological order, here is the train deck on the shop:

As for me, I’d booked the lounge for the crossing to Picton, complete with buffet and lots of wines to sample:

Attached was a lounge where I was permitted to take my wine – and it was a beautiful day, and not so windy at the back of the boat.

Here is a little short video of the panorama at the back of the ship.

It was dark by the time we landed in Picton – and I had a bit of a walk to get to the hotel, no Uber here, sadly.

And the first thing I see in front of my hotel (Picton Beachcomber) is this sign:

Signs like that always worry me, like “Seattle’s Best Coffee”, If they are saying in the name, they probably aren’t. But the room wasn’t bad:

There was even an onsite restaurant, which saved me a trip back down the hill for food. Nothing like having a bowl of seafood chowder delivered to your door.

And yes, that is half a bucket of ice…sigh. But enough for a cocktail or two:

With that, another day down. Tomorrow, the return to Wellington.

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Mon
11
Jun '18

Trip Report: Wellington – Day Four

I know someone in Wellington, he’s been to dinner at my house in Seattle at least once, a friend of Roxy. We’d been messaging over the last couple of months – I added Wellington to my itinerary because he said it was his favorite city in New Zealand. Getting together with him is proving a little more problematic. Long gone is the hope of maybe crashing on a floor someplace, replaced with an hour after his massage a couple of blocks from my place and maybe a get together later in the evening – small crisis, he’s leaving for Australia tomorrow, and he left his passport in his place two hours away.

My morning is free so besides sleeping in until 9am (not sure what is up with this trip, but I’m popping awake 8ish (which is not my norm), I’m off to ride the Wellington Cable Car – it was closed yesterday for maintenance, but open today. And it’s three doors down from the lower hotel entrance.

Needless to say, this isn’t the 1902 version, but the 1979 rebuild (including track gauge change), refurbished in 2016.

It’s a fun ride and here is the view from the top:

With the Cable Car Museum (free) at the top (along with the Rose Garden, Arboretum, and a handful of other attractions.

Crappy exterior shot, but inside was fun.

Including some props to dress up in – I really should have gotten a shot of the couple that went to town with this!

I was done with the hill early, so I hung out in the Burger King around the corner until his massage was finished…and finally we connect and he takes me to the underground market – he only has an hour, but we might be able to hook up at the end of the day once he’s retrieved his passport:

One of the things the underground market holds, is a hot dog stand that usually is on the walk to the waterfront.

Fritz’s Wieners – which during the weekend is located in the Underground Market:

What I really wanted to taste was their lamb bratwurst.

Since Rache and I are going to Chile next year, I was tempted by the booth across the way:

Jake dropped me back at the hotel (he had a car with him, and I napped, then explored the city while he ran back to “Palmy” for his passport, and, of course, another crisis. He didn’t get back into town until after seven, so we settled for a drive to the top of Mount Victoria. It was LOTS of narrow windy roads to get to the top, but the lights were amazing.

They (Jake and his mate) dropped me (again) at the hotel then went off for dinner and packing for their trip tomorrow. I called for room service for another bucket of ice. They finally got the message and brought me a lot:

The half dozen requests before got me this much:

Some day I’ll do a post comparing all the “bucket of ice” requests I’ve made around the world, and what shows up at the door. The winner still is Novatel Citygate Lantau Island (Hong Kong) that brought this. They provided ice buckets in the room, but no public ice machine. (Full post here)

This is my last full day in Wellington, off to the South Island tomorrow.

[? ? ?]

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Sun
10
Jun '18

Trip Report: Auckland To Wellington – Day Three

I had wanted the flight closer to noon, but even after spending 45 minutes on the phone with United, grabbing supervisors, etc., the 10am flight it was.

Didn’t want to do the schlep to the Airport Shuttle, so just booked and Uber door to door:

NZ$49.62 (US$34.91), which is basically twice what the shuttle would have been, but it got me there in 30 minutes as opposed to an hour plus. Money well spent!

As I usually do, showed up at the airport WAY early, just after 8am and headed straight to the lounge:

For a double shot late…

And a lovely breakfast:

And let’s not forget the wine with breakfast. I tried the White, the Red, and the Sparkling.

It wouldn’t let me check in online, so I was amazed that I could still get an aisle row seat 10F, with the guy in the window gone for most of the flight, and a skinny guy in the middle seat who moved right over to the window when the guy left. Hour plus flight so no full drink service.

At the Wellington end, headed to the well-marked Uber pickup area, though if I’d kept going I could have played a few rounds:

This was the Uber ride:

Much cheaper at NZ$27.32 (US$19.22).

Staying at the James Cook Grand Chancellery on “The Terrace”. And though it was only noon, they had a room ready for me!

The pinkish redish one…connected to Lambert Quay by a public use hotel elevator. I’m on the 21st floor:

Which has some strange amenities…like a ruler and stapler:

And they store the living area glassware in drawers…

Which is where I found the coffee pot, coffee, tea.

Look at the showerhead!

Got settled and headed out to explore and find myself some lunch. Turns out I’m about five blocks from the harbor, and where there is a harbor, that means seafood. I ended up at The Dockside:

But first, there is the mandatory Manhattan:

Before the NZ$15 Friday Special of Fish and Chips:

After that lunch, it was time to head back to the hotel for a nap!

Here are some random city scenes from around downtown Wellington:

Including the All Blacks Rugby Club team bus. They were playing France, it I remember:

And, of course, the harbor:

Having dropped a chunk on lunch, I settled for hitting the grocery store a couple of doors down…and getting a pepper steak meat pie for dinner and a quiche for tomorrows breakfast.

After the last couple of days, it was nice to chill for a bit, though air travel took its toll as well.

Just FYI, there are a couple of Maori television stations on the hotel TV – I was watching sports coverage by this Maori woman and the discussion would swap back and forth between Maori (with English subtitles) and English.

I’m amazed at the cultural integration on a daily basis here is New Zealand.

And with that, it was lights out.

[? ? ?]

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Sat
9
Jun '18

Trip Report: Auckland – Day Two

Lovely to be able to sleep in this morning! Today’s wine tour to Waihele Island doesn’t depart from Auckland until the 1PM ferry.

I wandered in the direction of the ferry in search of a late breakfast or early lunch – discovering that lots of Auckland lunch places don’t open until 11:30am, and I was early.

Yes, there is a Seattle Espresso on the waterfront. Only bought a soda, but still found it “oddly” named.

And a racing yacht.

Wandering further afield managed to find a restaurant that was open and serving, which would be Dr. Rudi’s, a brew pub (in honor of Rache). though most of the front was open to the elements so finding a wind protected seat but still having a view was challenging.

Not a bad view over the water bottle…

Got a Manhattan ordered….

And some food – half a dozen oysters on the half shell, and some salt and pepper squid:

Great selection of in-house and local beers:

And if you need to bowl a frame, you can do that as well:

Plenty of time to get to my boat…

And we are off, right on time…

Then onto a bus…

And off to our first vineyard of the afternoon, Mudbrick, which is set on an amazing hillside, with views back to Auckland.

And soon we are sampling three of their wines. Very good presentation, with a walk to the vineyards, description of processes, the works:

Next up was Cable Bay Vineyards:

And their view wasn’t too shabby either, being just down the hill from Mudbrick

Plus, there were little platters of nibbles, which I needed: “this is a Chardonnay, this is a Syrah.” Her heart wasn’t in it.

Final stop of the day was at Te Motu, established in 1993, making it one of the older wineries on the island.

And our Californian Cellar Door Manager:

Good amount of information, and since we were a small group of eight, he even popped open a bottle of their 2009 Te Motu which retails for $125, unless it was the 2009 Syrah, then it’s $175 – either way, most wineries don’t pull out the good stuff for wine tours.

Just goes to show – always good to engage people who are pouring at tastings.

This was a tour that I was able to book the day before, during winter in New Zealand, through Fullers, the ferry company that serves Waiheke Island. Tour and ferry fare was $140NZD –tour itself $20NZD cheaper, but the roundtrip ferry fare to the island is $38NZD ($24NZD one-way). Tour also includes seeing other parts of the island as time permits.

It was getting dark by the time I got back on the ferry – the tour timed for you to make that boat, or let you off anywhere along the way to explore on your own, your tour ticket serving as your bus pass if you wanted to stay for dinner, or just take an earlier ferry over and explore before the tour.

This was a lovely shot on my way back to the hotel.

After wandering around, and not wanting to drop the change on the delicatessen again, found this place for an ostrich burger. Tasted of Middle Eastern shawarma seasoning, and was tasty.

Another early night for me – for tomorrow, I’m flying to Wellington.

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Fri
8
Jun '18

Trip Report: Auckland – Day One

I’m not sure what possessed me to book a winery tour for my first day in Auckland, arriving at the hotel at 7AM, which gave me time to track down some breakfast.

What I found was The Federal Delicatessen, which turned out to have just the breakfast I needed. Nothing heavy, just something to tide me over until lunch, provided at part of the tour.

And I opted for the Ugly Bagel and a mimosa!

Tour (turned out to just be the two of us) picked me up at 10am, and off we went, the three of us. The driver/tour company owner (Auckland Wine Tours), Robyn (a recent transplant from South Africa), and myself.

Because the weather looked to be changing (as it often does in Auckland), we decided to hit the Black Sand Beach and Tasman Sea viewing – at the overlook, this was the weather (we didn’t get out):

By the time we got to the bottom of the hill, it was much better:

John brought along a round magnet to show us the iron content of the sand, after he dug down and found some dry sand!

Back in the van, we were off to our first winery, Coopers Creek, which is really funny, because at the shop we carry their Sauvignon Blanc and their Chardonnay.

Because I recognized the label, and talked about how we carried at least one of their wines at Madrona Wine Merchants, the Cellar Door Manager (also John), opened a few more bottles to sample than the standard tour would get. We sampled their:

  • Marlbourgh Riesling
  • Gisborne Chardonnay
  • Huapi Rosé
  • Gisborne Albarino “Bell-Ringer”
  • Hawkes Bay Chardonnay “Limeworks”
  • Hawkes Bay Merlot/Malbec “Metals and Gravels”
  • Central Otago PinotNoir “Razorback”
  • Hawkes Bay Syrah “Gimblett Gravels
  • Coopers Gold (their dessert wine)

Quite a line-up, and again, I don’t think other tours would get this range of the Coopers Creek wines. It also was a result of it being off-season with two of us compared with the maximum of eight people on John’s tour.

Next up on the list was also our lunch stop. Soljans Estate Winery was founded by Croatian immigrants, as were many of the early wineries in this region.

More wines were sampled, and we were offered a dozen different choices for our lunch. We all went with the Croatian Ćevapčići, hand-formed sausages, since the winery was founded by Croatian immigrants. It came with mash, roasted eggplant, basil pesto, and red bell pepper sauce.


I had a glass of their dry sparkling wine (extra cost) with the meal, the rest opted for water.

Next on the list was Westbrook Winery – with it’s very impressive grounds, great area for picnics in the summer. Their wines were good, but not available in the states – and while they did offer shipping, that would have been $195 a case for air freight. A little rich for my blood considering the wines were in the $20-$40 range.

This is a shot of part of their cellar:

The final winery of the day was The Hunting Lodge:

More wines were sampled – and much wonderful conversation had with the Cellar Door pour person – who is Maori and gave massive amount of information, not only on the wines, but of their history and modern political interactions. Really, quite fascinating.

Back to the city we went, with me dropped off first as Robyn lives in the direction of where John lives – A GREAT TOUR, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Did a little on-line booking for more bits/bobs of the trip, another wine tour tomorrow via ferry to Waikike Island, and a new return plane ticket with a little more room. More on that later.

Was lazy when choosing my dinner spot – I went back to The Federal Delicatessen. I wanted to try the dinner menu, and settled on, what else, the Rueben. But first, the cocktail — NEW YORK SOUR (A refreshing blend of Thomson Whiskey, lemon & sugar. Topped w/ Borsao Garnacha)

And now The Rueben:

They even gave me extra pickles on request – normally a charge for a small platter of them.

And the company next to me – Adrian (I think), who I swear I’ve met before in an airport in the states. He’s a model, drummer in two bands, and can keep up with me drink for drink.

It was an early evening for me. Think I was in bed by 10pm, which considering I hadn’t seen a bed since Sunday night (and it’s now Wednesday), not surprising.

[? ? ?]

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Fri
8
Jun '18

Trip Report: Headed Down Under

The journey begins with the tale of two lounges…I started off in the Alaska Lounge for round one of food/drink, then went to the other end of the airport to the United Club because it was closer to my departure gate and as a Million Mile United Premier Gold for life, lounge access comes free with any itinerary that includes an international segment.

As a side note, I have a friend who works at Florette in the airport as a barista – but he never seems to be working they days I end up flying through…and I thought that would be the case today, but I messaged him, and he was scheduled to work after I left, but then two things happened:

  • He got there a little early
  • My flight was delayed by an hour

I was hanging in the United Club and he came and joined me!

I know him through Roxy, but don’t feed him dinner often enough – the funny thing was that we all just had dinner last Friday night.

Twice in one week. Yahoo.

One thing I’d like to point out is that the United Club in Seattle has stepped up it’s game, bitters wise. I really like the Dale DeGroff’s
Pimento (All Spice) Aromatic Bitters
. And all their bitters are on the bar, so you can self-doctor your cocktails. I found a wonderful combination of Evan Williams, Diet Coke, and a couple of dashes

When we finally boarded, I realized I’d booked the bulkhead row:

The only seat open in the plane was between myself and a Global Services (the highest, invitation-only frequent flyer level at United) – who had a short connection to make at SFO. It didn’t help that we were delayed another 20 minutes on the tarmac – I, on the other, had five hours’ worth of layover.

First stop was Duty Free where I picked up three bottles of Bourbon – New Zealand has very liberal alcohol importation rules, but you can only bring 50 cigarettes in – that’s a pack and a half. Interestingly odd.

Next stop was the United Club in the International Terminal – only to discover that it’s a subpar lounge. Beer and wine, yes. Mixed drinks, no. Had a glass of wine, a bowl of soup, and trekked back to the closest full-service lounge. United has three regular full-service lounges at SFO, and one Polaris Lounge which is business class only – which I’m not on this trip, though I swore after the Montevideo trip last November that I was never ever again flying international in the back.

This would be bowl number two of soup (first at the other lounge) and a real cocktail:

This lounge closes earlier than most – so it was off to their smallest lounge for one last cocktail before the unknowns of Air New Zealand’s drinks policy.

That would make five lounges in one day.

One thing I will say that I like about the United Club lounges is their use of vintage photos in their lounges. This is a collection from the four United Club lounges I was in today:

And speaking of retro things – saw this modern United jet in the 70’s Continental livery:

My flight to Auckland on Air New Zealand didn’t leave until 9:30pm, and it’s about 13 hours in this:

Not as much room as the last flight, and this one is seven times as long – and, as it turns out, a plus size person next to me. For 13 hours I sat side saddle which is only possible because I know where the hidden button is to raise the aisle armrest. More annoying was that the person wasn’t assigned that seat, but was travelling with a group of high-school students and swapped seats so a couple of them could sit together. Again, if the ticket wasn’t so cheap ($409.10 r/t Seattle/Auckland), I wouldn’t be in the back. That is about 1/3 of what a typical bargain ticket to KiwiLand is. A friend in Wellington got $800 NZD to Chicago at Christmas, another steal – and on a 787.

Here is the beef version (as opposed to pasta) option for the dinner:

A downside of Air New Zealand long-haul flights is that in the back, instead of 3-3-3 for nine seats across, as it was designed (the 777) originally, they (and many Asian-based airlines) have opted for skinnier aisles, and 3-4-3 seating.

On the upside, they have some of the most wonderful bathrooms I seen (and I’ve see a lot of airplane lavatories). While no larger than normal, they are “decorated” with a bit of whimsy – like this one with a fake library wallpaper:

Another one had wallpaper of a chandelier!

Once meal service was done – they fired up the seatback ordering system. You may be crushed in the back, but they will bring you cocktails on demand:

This is a feature that is available on the Airbus Alaska fleet that was inherited from Virgin America as well.

I used this as an opportunity to order a double and wash down an Ambien after dinner and watching The Blue Brothers from the Classics section of the inflight entertainment. I actually managed to get some sleep by extending the center armrest with the flight blanket (amazingly thick) still in it package to create my own armrest, since the other one was overflowing.

This is what greeted me in the airport – nice welcome:

The flight was running 30 minutes late, so instead of a 5:30am arrival, it was 6am – but customs/immigration was so efficient that I was on the airport bus to downtown and to my hotel by a little after 7am – and it’s a half hour ride.

Was tempted to stop for a snack curbside at the airport, but I saw the bus coming:

I’m staying in the Central Business District at the Ramada Suites:

And some shots of the room (which wasn’t ready at 7am, so these are from later in the day):

With mini-kitchen, kitted out as they say, with dishes, pans, etc., including a mini-dishwasher:

With kettle and French Press for coffee (provided, along with hot chocolate packets):

\

And en-suite washer/dryer:

And decent views:

Including from the bathroom once I lifted the blinds!

I’m close to the city government offices on one side, and the big Sky Tower on the other:

Yes, at 7am, it’s not quite light yet – it being winter in New Zealand.

Let the adventure begin!

[? ? ?]

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Tue
29
May '18

Life Report: Hacking Your Luggage

Because I’ve had this design gig for the last couple of months, I’ve been traveling with a rolling laptop bag because:

  • I’ve got a pinched nerve in my left shoulder and my laptop backpack doesn’t help the tingling
  • It’s an older, heavier laptop, but it has programs installed that I can’t do this gig without

Problems with the bag are that the bag itself is old-school, meaning it doesn’t have a strap on the back to slide over your rollaboard. A drill, some strapping, and four sets of bolts/washers/locking washers/nuts solved that problem. And, what the hell, while I’m altering it, why not install a removeable battery and a couple of USB charging ports! It’s just a couple of drill holes, some USB flush mount adapters, and a little superglue.

10,000mAh removeable battery pack:

And a flexible plastic cover to keep the removeable battery pack contained between the handle supports.

Don’t really want to take this on my 10-day New Zealand adventure, but it is what it is, and the gig pays well.

And since the battery is removable, I could check it if I had to. What can you check? CLICK HERE.

Guess this means that now I’ve hacked three different pieces of my luggage.

[? ? ?]

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Mon
28
May '18

Trip Report: Andy Warhol Show At The Palm Springs Museum Of Art

I wasn’t in the building for more than five minutes when I was overcome with the thought – “oh my god, he is a talented artist” rather than the P.T. Barnum of Pop Art. Previously, I’d just thought of him as all Soup Cans and Marilyn, but that was just one portion of his career.

I was even tempted by the Warhol dominos in the gift shop:

It being Palm Springs, there is some mid-century furniture on display:

As well as this textile are piece of a melting rug:

And a quilt of the Salton Sea:

I finished the exhibits earlier than either of the boys, so I headed down to the basement café, which actually opens onto the sculpture garden:

Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

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Sun
27
May '18

Trip Report: With Bliss In Palm Springs

This week’s adventure is a mid-week trip to Palm Springs with Bliss for some serious pool time. But first we have to get there…and I’m an early airport person, Bliss less so. Always seems there is a last minute crisis, so I’m glad we are going to the airport separately, which makes sense since he is close to light rail, and I’m not.

The plan is to meet in the Alaska Lounge, but first he has to find it, so I sent him this:

But I think he came through some other security gate, not using the TSApre line (that was on his boarding pass). He made it in time for food and drink, but this was my second drink by the time he showed up:

They make GREAT Bloody Marys in the Seattle Lounges. We had a little food before getting onto the flight – where we’d been upgraded:

Round one!

And lunch followed…

Our mutual friend was running late, so, no ride from the airport – time for an Uber!

Until Craig gets here – no cocktails, just French pink wine in a plastic bottle…

And here is our unit…

And a wonderful view:

With Craig’s arrival – off to the Albertson’s to pick up food, booze, mixers…so dinner comes off the grill.

Salad, pork ribs, corn on the cob. Nice to be hanging out with friends in Palm Springs.

Followed in the morning by scrambled eggs…

And some serious pool time!

With Marines horsing around in the pool:

Followed by another grilled dinner – chicken thighs and grilled asparagus:

It’s a rough schedule that just centers around laying around the pool (Bliss and I), working out in the Gym (Bliss), writing at the coffee shop down the way (Craig).

But we did go out one afternoon for a very late lunch, or very early dinner at Sherman’s – an amazing Jewish Deli:

And I love the way they serve a Sparkling Greyhound…

In the background you can see some of the celebrity pictures – this one being my favorite:

Ricky, Lucy, Little Ricky, Ethel, and Fred of the I Love Lucy Show. And I love that they serve hot steamed onion buns and pickle spears:

And mammoth portions – Bliss’ corned beef with thick latkes instead of bread:

Or my Ruben, which looks like it has a half-pound of pastrami:

Or Craig’s early-bird half chicken dinner:

Can’t believe Craig ate all his – Bliss and I stopped halfway through (for leftovers), but Bliss then ordered this tiny slice of cake:

And there were TONS to choose from:

Our big deal for Thursday late afternoon was to head to the Palm Springs Art Museum for Free Thursday – and the closing weekend for the Andy Warhol show:

I’m going to do a separate post because the show was so good – so we’ll move onto the to the final breakfast in Palm Springs – at the Denny’s next door:

Above would be my $4 biscuit and gravy breakfast (off the $2, $4, $6, $8 menu), and Bliss’ Omelet off the 55+ menu:

Back to the condo to check out, put our luggage into storage and head back to the pool. Two hours for me, three for Kevin – once again taking separate vehicles…welcome to the Palm Springs Airport:

And up the escalator to the 12th Fairway Bar and Restaurant for a VERY EXPENSIVE Manhattan:

And some fish tacos to stave off hunger until our upgraded flight home with a light dinner included, but here are the fish tacos:

The food was cheaper than my drink – huge portion of Mahi Mahi on each of the tacos – thankfully Bliss finished the third when he caught up with me.

Speaking of which, here is our final meal of the trip:

Guess I’d better start working on that Andy Warhol post.

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Sun
20
May '18

Trip Report: What 2018 Looks Like So Far – On A Map

I discovered this great site if you want to make pretty maps of your airport itineraries – but I also do cars and planes, so those aren’t on here. Isn’t it pretty?

This isn’t the final map for the year. I’m assuming I’ll go some more places since I only have one trip for July, one for August, and none for October (when it is cheap travel time).

So, the site is called, Great Circle Mapper. I might have to start adding these to all my posts.

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Sat
19
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”.

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Sun
13
May '18

Trip Report: Couple Of Nights With The Boys

When I find a fare for the low hundreds ($120.40) I book some time with the boys (Mark and Onyx).

Didn’t get out of town until early evening because of a Greek Wine Tasting in the early afternoon. It was in the old Julian’s Pool Hall in South Lake Union – where taking a small car is necessary to get parking:

Basically, that is 6″ behind and 6″ in front. I even get the “short car” discount on the state ferries!

Taking ex-Virgin America metal, where they are only two rows of Premium Seating:

But, because it’s still Virgin metal, there are seat back apps to order as much junk as you want for free in Premium – a step up from Alaska metal (that will be gone by the end of the year):

Yes, that was two doubles. Missed out on the big snack box – thought I’d ordered it, but it didn’t arrive, and was gone when I checked again.

Another amusing thing is seat back entertainment (which includes the food/drink ordering system) which includes a flight map. I just flew over (well, almost) my brother’s house in Coos Bay.

Before I knew it, I was on BART headed to Berkeley:

Did I mention I’m flying REALLY light this trip – yep, one small laptop bag:

Luckily, the boys had some leftovers then I arrived around 11pm… but nothing like dinner the next night, which was a scallop, crab bisque in a lobster broth!

I love staying with the boys (though at this point, they are way over thirty). Here is my dinner shot:

Late afternoon it was back to BART, with a stop at one of my favorite dog stands – in front of the Ashby BART Station:

Then into the lounge:

Sadly, the noodle bar wasn’t open, just burgers, sandwiches, and a lot of booze.

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Sat
5
May '18

Trip Report: Escaping The Rain In Maui

Several weeks ago, I just couldn’t take the rain anymore and booked flights to Maui on United…yes, United. You all know I’m a loyal Alaska flyer, BUT I CAN BE BRIBED! And bribe me, United did.

The offer? Spent $300 on flights completed before the end of July and get an additional 9,000 miles on top of whatever miles you earned from the flight. Spend $1500 (these are just ticket costs, no fees) and they bump it to 42,300 miles. Add another 2 miles per dollar by putting it on their credit card, and the condo on a different card that does a one-to-one match, and by the time this is all posted, it will be just shy of 60,000 miles which is enough for a roundtrip economy ticket to Europe, or one way in Business. And I get a trip to Hawaii in First Class out of it!

The adventure begins:

Yep, taking both sandals AND Panda Slippers.

Sadly, I missed my friend Shua (short for Joshua) who works at Floret at Sea-Tac in the atrium:

Before settling into United’s Domestic First Class:

I had a stop in SFO, but sadly, no new books for my collection. I love the two locations of Compass Books in the United terminals – they have a great selection of remainders (new books, but discounted):

I have two (well, now one) passes for the United Club for use when I’m flying domestic – I get free access when I’m on international. I made use of one of them at SFO:

.

It was a several hour layover, but before you know it, I was in my seat headed for Maui with my “on the ground” cocktail – one of the advantages of flying United.

And once we were in the air, my hot nuts!

What I don’t understand is meal service in First Class – it’s a five-hour flight, but they plop your dinner down all at once…

Rather than salad, then the main. At least they served dessert separately!

Aloha Maui!

Got the rental car, and the first stop is the grocery store for dinner, breakfast, booze and mixers. Here is tonight’s dinner:

And breakfast in the morning:

And yes, I cooked ALL the bacon and clarified the bacon fat using a coffee filter and the cone from the coffee maker:

And this is what the final product looks like. This makes up for not packing any cooking oil.

But I should show you the place that I’m staying…it’s a small studio, but with a full kitchen:

And then there are the grounds:

And the pool:

But, I’m at the far end of the complex:

Yep, it’s a BIG place, bur the oddly had a unit available when I booked two weeks out, VERY RARE for Hawaii and WorldMark. And the major reason that I chose Maui as my “mileage run to the sun” destination.

I only have three nights here, so the focus is on pool time, but I still have to engage in my favorite Hawaii passion – thrift shopping for Tommy Bahama shirts (average price was $12 each).This would be what I scored at The Rainbow Attic – LOTS of great stuff here:

And I did pick up a few other things to bring home:

Next nights dinner was flank steak off the grill (communal grills located around the complex):

Which, the following night, turned into steak salad – no leftovers when I left the place!

My last day held a special moment – I had lunch with Swanda’s sister from Portland. She happened to be on the island as well!

It’s great to see her enjoying life on her sabbatical from teaching. She is recently back from a couple of weeks split between Amsterdam and Paris.

And here is the requisite flower photo:

And the 360-degree video:

My last day on Maui, I had to make a stop at one of my favorite fabric stores:

With it’s GREAT selection of Asian and Hawaiian fabrics:

Before I knew it, I was back in the air headed home, with yet more food and drink.

More room on this 757 from OGG to SFO:

And room for drinks and food:

Warm nuts, and, once again, they didn’t bother to warm the rolls:

Even more room on my SFO to SEA flight:

And a present from the flight attendant – from the “pay for it” in back:

Didn’t get home until around 2am. And there is work tomorrow. Sigh.

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Sun
22
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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Mon
16
Apr '18

Trip Report: Empire Builder

This week Rache and I are back in the air and on the rails, but first, it’s dinner at Loretta’s Northwesterner since we have a red-eye flight:

Sadly, it was a red-eye flight with no upgrade other than Premium Class:

We got the luck of the draw – empty middle seats – Rache drew an extra card with Montana Bear as his window seat.

Got in around 6:30am and transferred to the train to the city to grab the train back across the country. Good thing there is a lounge for the sleeping car passengers.

The Metropolitan Lounge is spread over two floors and is a GREAT improvement over the basement lounge of yore. Complete with minimal afternoon snacks and a “wine tasting”:

Got to see my “Sorta Sister”, which falls into the category of “Sorta Nephews” for a mid-day cocktail in the Station Bar, they don’t allow guests. No pic for some reason – apparently, we all were having too much fun. It was good to catch up, even with the short amount of time – her husband just got home from knee surgery, so I didn’t get to see him, but we did have a couple of rounds of midday cocktails (Bloody Mary, Manhattan, Old Fastioned).

Afterwards, we hit the CVS for booze, mixer, and snacks.

And onto the train, we go!

And soon enough, the bar is set up!

And the chocolates are ready to give to our room attendant. Don’t we look comfortable?

This is a view of the “Family Room” on Amtrak long track trains….

Had a lovely dinner in the dining car – we both had the “surf and turf”, steak and shrimp cakes (with salad):

Lots of interesting shots from stations along the way:

And soon it was bedtime:

The “Family Room” is the largest in the Amtrak Fleet, but sometimes cheaper (though not often) than the Bedroom unit which has its own in cabin shower/toilet. Ours our down the hall. This room has more “hang-out space” and has windows on both sides of the car since its on the lower level – which also means less rocking back and forth for sleeping at night. And it does have enough space to set up a work station (bring a power strip as there is only one outlet).

And the blue LED lights at night make for some interesting photos in the mirror on the back of the door…

We were two nights on the train, they fed us breakfast…

Lunch (I love the burger) and dinner as part of the fare for a sleeper. Wine selection sucks, wish they would institute a “corkage fee” so I could bring my own… but that’s another letter to Amtrak. I always get the dessert “to go” because the meals usually have too much food (and not enough presentation).

After two nights, the train arrived within a couple of minutes of scheduled time – rare for Amtrak, and apparently, the trains for the next two days have been cancelled because of blizzards coming to the northern plains…and the trains two days were cancelling due to 20 grain cars off the track.

Amtrak is always a crap shoot for running on time, but we were lucky.

It was fun, and I’d do it again.

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Fri
6
Apr '18

Home Report: Scholarship Time!

If it’s spring, it must be time to read scholarship applications!

For those of you that don’t know – I have an endowed scholarship that I set up back in the 90’s (when I was WAY more liquid) at The Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington. That would be The Mark Stephen Souder Scholarship For Information Dissemination, whose selection criteria is, as follows:

Offered to a new or currently enrolled student attending full time who demonstrates an interest in information dissemination, e.g., writer, Web designer, teacher, musician, activist—anyone helping to influence the way people think about their world, to change the concepts of “nons”—non-residents, non-Caucasians, non-heterosexuals—to create a more equal, intelligent and compassionate society. Preference will be given to non-resident gay or lesbian students, demonstrating quality and creativity of prior work in the area of information dissemination. Financial need will also be considered.

Requirements

  • Letter of application addressing your passion for and level of expertise in the dissemination of information. Tell us where you have been with this concept, what you are doing now, and where you want to go in exploring how information is shared.
  • A portfolio of work that expresses your beliefs about information dissemination and demonstrates how you have put those beliefs into action.
  • Two letters of recommendation from individuals, other than relatives, who have personally experienced the power of your work in information dissemination.
  • FAFSA or Renewal Application.

Some of the verbiage is in the criteria because of Washington State passage of I-200 floated by shyster Tim Eyman who routinely uses political contributions to support his lifestyle. The gist of the initiative was to prevent “prohibit racial and gender preferences by state and local government”. Sadly, it passed with 58.2% of the voters who actually bothered to vote.

For the last five years or so, we’ve been holding the scholarship readings at The Camlin Hotel, now a WorldMark property in downtown Seattle:

Generally, I try to get one of the three penthouse units because of the size of the living room area, and the attached rooftop deck, which, sad to say, does not have a hot tub (though there is a hot tub and pool on the first floor, along with a small museum in the basement).

This year we had 10 applicants, down from 15 for last year’s reading, and 11 for 2016. It tends to bounce between 10 and 20 applicants per year.

We got a late start because I worked closing at the shop, which means I didn’t get there until 7:30. Usually we start earlier. We had 7 readers this year, down a couple from last year owing to it being on a Saturday night. Here is a shot of the “crowd”:

Yes, I’m in my bathrobe and slippers!

And the fabled rooftop deck view (thanks Randy for both these shots):

Jonathan stayed late to finish reading applications (he is thorough) and do the math on what the ranking is for each of the applicants. We give Evergreen the results ranked in order. Usually the top applicant gets the scholarship, but occasionally, our first choice is lots of other scholarship’s first choice, and they spread the wealth. Here are the redacted numbers:

It always amuses me that even though people grade on different scales, the chart seems to line up. Interestingly enough, last year’s recipient was also the one that we chose this year as the top ranked.

Next year’s reading will be on Tuesday, April 9th, same venue.

So, that’s how I spent my Saturday night.

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Thu
5
Apr '18

Trip Report: Austin

I can’t seem to stay home for long – so after getting back from Japan and working the weekend, it off to AUSTIN!

It was a civilized departure time…12:30, making it a lunch flight with Alaska’s new, improved, First Class food. Bring on the warm nuts!

Followed by salad:

And then the main:

Grabbed an Uber (since Lyft stopped working on my phone) into the heart of the city:

Staying at the WorldMark Austin, which has only been open since February, and is just off the 6th Street entertainment area.

WorldMark has the smallish brick section of the building, Wyndham, the tower behind. The public spaces play up the “Keep Austin Weird” vibe:

And then up on the 10th floor…owner’s lounge, chill out area, infinity pool (no hot tub for some reason):

Welcome to Texas ADA signage!

But then there is my room!

And the view from my deck!

Since I’d had a full afternoon of feeding on the plane, I didn’t get out for dinner until around 9PM – and it surprised me to have to sit inside since the place was packed outside.

The place is called Ranch 616:

You miss a bit of the big neon gun in that shot, so this next day I got a better photo:

Tried one of their Specialty Cocktails, the ATX Jackass:

And I just had a starter – but the starter (Fried Oysters and Calamari) was enough for a good small dinner.

Quirky interior,

But great service from Nick. He’s the one on the left (swiped from Facebook from 5 years ago):

Slept late, when out for lunch at Tumble 22, where I got the “wimpy” version of their chicken – no stars.

Wandered around the neighborhood and checked out this GREAT wine store, Austin Wine Merchants:

Not planning on taking anything back with me, but that store was packed to the brim – Jimmy would have been proud.

Found some amusing graffiti…

Then headed to the roof deck for a little afternoon sun:

Good thing I did as you can tell from the clouds in the background, rain is coming.

Grabbed a couple of tacos to go from One Taco for dinner:

My original nighttime plan was to go see some live music at this place:

But it started to rain, and then get heavier, so I turned around and stretched out on the deck to enjoy the thunder and lightning show:

Sadly, impossible for me to capture the lightning, just how it lit up the night sky.

The late morning found me off to Holy Roller, a hipster café, for a meatloaf sandwich and a Manhattan – enough of Texas cocktails!

Sadly, the sandwich sounded better than it was, though the cocktail was excellent.

My walk home took me past this creek, which yesterday, before the storm was 12″ wide and 1″ deep – not today!

The flooding in this section of Texas was enough to keep the sales staff from coming in, so my 3PM $90 Owner Update was cancelled. DAMN!

Amusing car that reminded me of my departed father, though no Saint:

And a couple of quaint places that I didn’t go in — gotta save something for the return trip I booked for November with Rache.

Gives you a feel of the old neighborhood with high rises plopped around.

For my Last Supper in Austin, I returned to Ranch 616 to have the other dish I’d looked at – the quesadilla. Again, an appetizer big enough for a meal. I passed on the Frog’s Legs, instead, opting for another Manhattan. This time I was on the deck as it was packed again. Sadly, Nick wasn’t working.

Quiet evening at the condo followed by lunch at Walton Fancy and Staple for their Rueben. I got there a few minutes before noon, and no line at the counter. Fifteen minutes later there was a line out the door:

After lunch, hung out in the lobby for a bit, since my flight isn’t until 7PM, but finally hailed an Uber to head back to the airport so long before my flight that I couldn’t check luggage – but I hadn’t filled the suitcase with Bourbon, and my bag was carry-on size, so, to the lounge it went with me. Amusingly, in the lounge they were serving mini-hotdogs, in honor of opening day of the baseball season.

Whiskey and dogs – great combination, knowing that I have dinner awaiting me on the flight home. Speaking of which:

Not bad for airline food.

Home next week – a rarity!

[? ? ?]

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Wed
28
Mar '18

Trip Report: Another Return Home

Early, but not wretchedly early flight from Nagoya to Tokyo…8:30am.

The plan was to have breakfast in the Japan Air Lines lounge rather than the hotel. I should have had a little something at the hotel since the lounge was comfortable, but underserved in the food category:

One the upside – look, it’s a machine that dispenses highballs (whiskey and soda) AND beer!

Guess which one I went for, though I used better whiskey than was in the machine:

Nagoya is a nice airport…

But this doesn’t look like enough people to fill a 787…

So, once again, a HUGE airplane for a 45-minute flight (think Seattle to Portland). And again, my seat was listed as “Economy”, which if this is economy, I’ll take it!

But with only enough time to get some of their “signature” Kiwi Punch. Looks like a radioactive urine sample to me.

It wasn’t long before I was in Tokyo’s Narita Airport for a six-and-a-half-hour layover. Long enough to get bored, not long enough to leave the airport and do something even though I had to go back through security.

Fortunately, the Japan Air Lines lounge in Narita is MUCH better – including a second-floor cafeteria…

Which yielded these plates over the course of the day…breakfast:

And lunch:

At least I could get some work done…

Hours later I was able to board the flight to Vancouver (when you use miles for Business Class, you take whatever routing they give you):

Not as private as on the way over, but not bad.

But the dinner was excellent:

As was the meal before landing:

Watched an interesting Vietnamese movie with some vague homosexual undertones…

And availed myself of the bidet in the airplane bathroom…

Had to do customs and immigration into the US in Canada, which meant that I could have brought back unlimited amounts of alcohol, but I already had two carry-ons because of my gift purchases. Lounge in Vancouver was mediocre, so much so that I didn’t even get a picture (though I did get two cocktails).

By mid-afternoon I was back in Seattle, preparing a meal for Jonathan and myself, including fresh baked bread.

Doesn’t everyone do that after they’ve been travelling for 24 hours?

[? ? ?]

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Tue
27
Mar '18

Trip Report: Toyota City

Wednesday was a quiet day for me. Julian works, and I made a random Scruff date in the city. We ended up at the appropriately named Seattle Sandwich Café:

I was low on cash and the café didn’t take plastic, so it was a meal of snacks and a highball or two, but not a full meal:

Interesting guy, from Lebanon, working on his Masters in International Affairs at one of the universities in the city. Not boyfriend material, but I might get a place to crash in Beirut!

The next morning was an early morning…out of the house at 8AM, on a school holiday for Julian (who is a little slow at this time of the day).

Destination is the Toyota Museum and Assembly Plant Tour, in Toyota City. The downside is that Toyota City is 2.5 hours away from Julian’s flat. And many trains (four). I had to make phone shots of the route to get us there.

I congratulate Toyota on great instruction, including shots of the building that we’d be passing from the train station to get here:

Our tour time was 10:30, but that included half an hour of wandering around their museum:

Sadly, no phones are allowed I the plant, so we have to leave them on the bus. On the way to the buses, Julian made a little friend – now we can call him Poppa Julian, guess that makes the kid my great-grandson.

And off we go!

We were a little over an hour in the plant itself – and even Julian said he’d have like more time just staring at the line and playing their interactive “can you work the line” games.

Soon, it was back on the bus with our complimentary umbrellas as it was raining by the time the tour let out. By the time we got back to the museum, even the rain had stopped, but now we have umbrellas in case it starts again.

Needing lunch, we found this place by the train station that closed at 2, luckily it was 1:30, but we had to rush through our meal:

Ours was on the second floor (Yamauchinoujou), with the homemade banner offering 800yen lunch specials:

Another 2.5 hours and we are back to Julian’s flat, in time to make a farewell meal for ME. Julian and I did the shopping, and then when his girlfriend arrived, she looked at what we’d bought and went out and bought twice as much to supplement it – but it was a stunning farewell meal:

By 8PM, I was out the door and headed to the airport where I’d booked a room for my early flight in the morning:

Again, it was time to do some screen captures of where I was headed:

Toyoko Inn Chubu Kokusai-kuko Honkan (Orange Side). Apparently, the Orange Side is Western, and the Green Side is Asian – as reflected by the morning included breakfast, though you are free to go to either side for your breakfast. I, myself, was planning on going to the Japan Air Lines Lounge for my breakfast. Nice clean hotel, half the price of the ones that are directly attached to the hotel. This one required a five-minute walk (in the rain) from the enclosed overhead walkway. Definitely worth the walk. Mine would be the building with the reflected arrow on it.

And once again, it’s the hotel ice quest. And yet, another oddity – a machine in the lobby that dispenses cups of ice:

All, for this:

It’s going to be another early morning for me…so a couple of drinks, a little internet, and off to bed.

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Thu
22
Mar '18

Trip Report: Kyoto

We arrived in Kyoto a little after three, and easily found our “hostel” – and found it closed until 4PM. We continued down the narrow alley for another block or so.

To discover this:

It was a very serene place to just SIT – one of the few public resting places I’ve come across on this trip. I sat, Julian did a roam of the neighborhood.

When he returned, we still had time to kill, so we went to this place in the alley that advertised Craft Beer (a Julian favorite), called Beer Komachi:

Julian tried a couple of different beers, I went for an interesting sounding sake. Food looked interesting but didn’t try any (though Julian would try to try late in the evening, but the kitchen had closed). It was 4:40 by the time we got back to the “hostel” (Hostel Haruya Higashiyama), just a few doors down.

The main entrance is by the bicycles… as it turned out – our room had a private entrance just behind Julian. You can see the key hanging out of the door!

They had it set up for one person, but rectified the situation after we went out. One thing that didn’t get rectified was Julian’s response to the check-in person’s question as to whether I was his father – sadly, he used the wrong version (though close) which said I was his grandfather. Damn I look good for having a 30+year-old grandson.

Thought it would be noisy, being right on the alley, but amazingly not. Basically, we threw our shit down and left to explore.

One of the things I learned quickly is that Kyoto is full of tourists – mostly Japanese, and it’s dress up time!

And they all seemed to be under 30. Apparently, this is a great “courting” city, as in, if you are trying to woo a girl, suggest a weekend in Kyoto.

While we are on “photo albums”, here is a collection of Japanese posters that I liked:

What the hell –a vending machine – also a favorite of mine, including the first one which actually in the winter dispenses HOT cans of coffee in addition to the cold beverages. Blue signs for cold, red for hot:

Enough random photos!

We wondered around the old town section of Kyoto, which was just over the river from where we were staying. Tried to get into a jazz bar we found.

But it was closed, so we opted for a Yakitori snack and drinks.

After our snack, tried to go back the jazz club from earlier – still closed, though they said they’d be open in fifteen minutes, so we wandered and found another jazz bar, Beer Bar Jive.

Where we had a drink. Turns out, later in the evening they have live jazz. Once again, we are too early.

One drink, and we went back to see if Hello Dolly was finally open…

But one of the staff let us in, since he’d been the one to say that it was still closed because their bartender hadn’t showed up. No mixed drinks, but he could handle whiskey on the rocks and a beer. The closed sign was still on the door so we had the entire place to ourselves!

Nice old wood classy bar interior, but again, we stayed for just one drink before heading back to Beer Bar Jive a little before 8, hoping to get out of paying the cover charge from 8PM on (didn’t work). The musical guests were a Harmonica (& Guitar – but he should have stuck to the Harmonica) player and a Pianist (really good). I’d wanted to hear some live jazz on this trip, so I wasn’t all that picky about what I could find on a Sunday night.

After a couple of rounds of drinks, we left at the end of the first set, not really getting value for our 1500yen each cover charge, but we needed to find food – and probably should have gone back to the yakitori place, but instead, walked around forever, finally plopping me down in a British Pub while Julian scoured the rest of the neighborhood – coming up empty, so we both decided to have a little food. Tip for ordering Western food in Japan. DO order the Fish & Chips (me), DO NOT order the nachos (Julian).

We struggled back to the hostel – and the room was set for two:

Julian went back to Beer Komachi to see if he could get a little more food. No, kitchen was closed, but isn’t beer food?

I slept like a rock. I was up before Julian, meaning I had to find the shower (we had a bathroom in our suite). It was though the lounge, left through a sliding glass door!

Had a bit of trouble getting Julian up and going, but once we were out, found a close café (La Bac a Sable) for a little breakfast:

Nice to have a sort of American breakfast after a couple of weeks!

Off to the temple (Fushimi Inari Shrine) we go – two or three trains later, we pop out here:

Next up was noodles at Men Ko Bo Ren – a place that Julian had been to before. It was popular, so we had to wait for a seat:

But it was a good thing we got in when we did, as they sold out of noodles!

We took the slow (2.5 hours) train back to Nagoya, which saved us enough to pay for lunch.

Notice the railroad watch holder set into the control panel.

I had arrangements for a business meeting with a client from Tokyo who happened to be in Nagoya for the day one business, so we got together for drinks and dinner.

TokyoDave has the ordering tablet in his hand, but here is what it looks like:

I let him order all the dishes, and I wasn’t disappointed!

It was a wonderful dinner meeting, but TokyoDave needed to catch the 7:55pm train home, it was shorter than I’d like.

I, myself, headed back to Julians, for tomorrow is another day.

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