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Feb '23

Trip Report: Korea Adventure – 48-Hours To Get Home

Even with an early flight – before the shuttle starts (cab ride), wow, the line at the front desk!

What you see at the left below is the line for members of Hyatt’s hotel points plan; which I’m a member. Even if you never planning on staying at that brand (and most of the majors have multiple brands under their umbrella), join the club. Often comes with 5-10% off booking direct, free wi-fi, other goodies. That line was at 5AM! Which is what happens when you have 1200 rooms with a high turnover nightly being an airport mega-hotel.

Probably could have taken the first shuttle since I had to wait a bit for the Business Class Asiana desks to open, which have their own area:

And then I was off to the lounge (SHOCKING!).

At this point, I should probably explain 48 hours to get home. I’m going the long way, with an overnight in Singapore.

Why? I am travelling during Lunar New Year Week meaning no direct flights (in Business Class, using miles) where available out of Seoul. Yes, it’s 48 hours, but it’s in comfort with an overnight half way through.

This is Asiana Business Class intra-Asia (i.e., recliners in Business rather than lay flat seats). Still VERY comfortable for a 4-hour flight.

Looks like a comfy couch to me!

And there is a LOT of leg room…

And then the food begins!

And a little passenger shaming… bare feet on the bulkhead AND putting your hair up in curlers mid-flight – the only thing missing was the hair spray!

And a shot of landing in Manila…

Landed in Manila and then the FUN began. First – didn’t have a QRHealthCode, told them I was transferring and they waved me on. Went to the transit desk to find where my connecting flight on Singapore Airlines was, and to get a boarding pass which Asiana couldn’t issue for some reason. They said, wait, they’d call the Asiana Representative who showed up with a sign with my name on it…probably walked past her deplaning. Turns out I’m in Terminal 3 and my flight is out of Terminal 1 (or the other way around). Turns out that the Terminals are on opposite sides of the runway and there isn’t a connection behind security. I KNEW there was a reason I was only travelling with carryon!

Off she goes with my passport, asking me to wait. Comes back ten minutes later saying I’ve been “cleared” to transit and I find myself in the Diplomatic Line at Immigration (and I get stamps in my passport!), and then led to the lobby where I’m asked if I have any Pesos. No, would you be willing to change some? It will guarantee your connection if we put you in a cab to the other terminal as the bus only runs with it’s full. Welcome to Manila.

Change pesos, get in arranged flat rate cab, overtip because he doesn’t have change, and head out into the city.

Business Class line at Singapore was short, but there were masses of people travelling. Went to the Priority Line which said seniors, and I was through. Apparently there ARE advantages to being old.

Soon, another lounge, this time Singapore Airlines.

It’s actually a very pretty/functional airport:

Wendy’s, McDonalds, Seattle Best Coffee – might as well be in the US! I did find a store and buy 3 minis of booze with some of my leftover pesos. I’m overnighting in Singapore at the Transit Hotel so they will be handy.

A sign that travel in Asia is still recovering, the Cathy Pacific lounge in Manila is still closed (as is the Cathy Pacific lounge in San Francisco, one that I can access with my Alaska Lounge membership):

Plane is at the gate!

And soon I am onboard…

Signs of the Lunar New Year..

Shots of takeoff.


After the preflight champagne, I went for the Singapore Sling – when in Rome, etc.

It was a little too sweet for me. Fortunately, they have other options which I got with the first round of food…

And then relaxation!

And soon, Singapore!

FORTUNATELY, at the Singapore airport, even though my Transit Hotel is in a different terminal, there is a train between the two.

Yes, those are the minis I bought in the Manila Airport.

The room rents in 6-hour blocks, with one meal included. I rented 12-hours, so I got a full 8-hours of sleep. Honestly, the buffet was so, so, and I had breakfast in the Singapore Lounge where I knew the food would be better.

Back on the train to the other terminal in the morning….Singapore is a very efficient airport.

I’m wondering if this was the 747-800 that I saw taking off from Seoul.

Would still like to fly in the 747-800, sigh. Getting rarer and rarer.

Off to the lounge for breakfast!

That means self-service…I’m dine with that.

Yes, the place is HUGE! But I don’t want to overeat for my flight from Singapore to LAX with a stop in Tokyo.

And here we go…

And then the parade of food, I “Booked The Chef” and had lobster thermidor for breakfast – it wasn’t on the in flight menu and I would have had it for lunch, but it wasn’t an option.

With dessert…

And then a light snack..

The staff of the first flight befriended me…

Complete with a Singapore Teddy Bear and a handwritten note from the crew..

WOW – such a loving staff. Sadly, at Tokyo there was a change of crew (who were also great, but no teddy bear)

And the food parade continued after having to deplane (and go to the lounge) and reboard…

Good whiskey…

Good wines…

More food…

And some much-needed sleep!

And even MORE food!

Next up was LAX where I cleared customs/immigration in 5 minutes by facial recognition which is part of my Global Entry – nice, but also a little disturbing.

Six hours in the Alaska LAS Lounge, another flight in Seattle in First, and I was done.

Ready for the next adventure!

[? ? ?]

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Feb '23

Trip Report: Korea Adventure – Time To Start Home

Goodbye Busan, you will be missed (Seoul, less so). LOVE being 500 yards from the train station.

And soon we are on board:

These cars are actually newer than the high-speed cars we came down to Busan on – and this is an Express that takes the old route without all the tunnels, and clocks in at 5.5 hours rather than the 2.5 hours for fast route.

We are the light blue squiggly train line.

Our train has some vending machines between cars!

As you can see, they aren’t stocked well, unlike us, who stocked up in the station with food for the trip.

And some shots from the trip of the scenery…

And some shots from the Main Station in Seoul where we transferred to the airport line to our hotel.

Our digs for the night (two nights for me) is the Grand Hyatt Incheon Airport. Fancy, and big – 1200 rooms.

And here is the nighttime view – yes, I got an airport view room:

And we found food at one of the restaurants in the hotel:

Sean had an early flight out in the morning, and I have another day here of plane spotting from the comfort of my room:

Had my morning food at the deli in the other tower:

And here are some more shots of this MASSIVE hotel complex – two towers!

Had dinner where we SHOULD have had dinner last night – in the Karaoke Bar! No Karaoke as I was there just after they opened for the evening, just great music.

Yeah, I know, it’s not a healthy dinner – had onion rings in honor of my mother and MB.

So, I’ll close this post with a toilet pic – my bidet seat at home was my BEST pandemic purchase, though this one is at the hotel.

Time to head back to Seattle.


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Feb '23

Trip Report: Korea Adventure – On To Busan

Our departure from Seoul to Busan is heralded by snow…

A little snack in the hotel coffee shop to get us going…

And off we go in a cab to the main train station…

We are taking the high-speed train to Busan.

Our route is in the dark blue:

In the station I fire up maps when Sean asks how far the hotel is.

The answer it 500 yards…

That would be the Encore by Ramada Busan Station.

And the room is nicer than the last Ramada…

Though it did take us a bit to figure out how to flush the toilet (big top hand button on the wall remote):

Off we go to explore Busan!

Loving that all of this is within walking distance of the station. Texas street is home to many “lady bars” featuring the finest in Russian and Filipino women.

Busan was an R&R (rest and relaxation) base during the Korean War since it was on the ocean, far from the front lines.

Not sure that “Mom’s Touch” should be in this district…

It is also home to massive markets.

Dinner tonight is Korean BBQ:

And a couple of shots from the walk home…

This is a shot out our window to the train station – it’s THAT close.

And some roof top shots – sadly, the pool was closed and I only got in because there was a maintenance man there.

Our hotel also featured a breakfast buffet – which, while about $20 USD, was well stocked…Asian hotels DO know how to put on a spread:

Today’s adventure is a Hop On Hop Off bus that leaves from in front of the hotel.

The total loop was about two and a half hours assuming you didn’t get off. Early in the trip there was an entrance ramp that triggered Sean’s phobia of heights…

We stayed on until the Busan History Museum which traces back to the stone age in their exhibits…

And shots from the rest of the bus ride…

Sean hopped off at the Film Center – apparently Busan has a world-famous film event.

Found this in the lobby – a miniature of the odd take on the Beatles cross walk photo…

And just so you know I’m not the perfect tourist…I had to try a quarter pounder:

But Korea is known for its fried chicken, sadly, the place we spotted last night was closed tonight, so we ended up across the road:

We went back (OK, Sean when back) to the counter to quadruple up on he sweet pickles and marinated daikon radish. And yes, we had Shochu with all our dinners.

And I include this shot as the last of this post, in honor of Jonathan, who loves 7-11 and has now moved to Texas:

Back to Seoul tomorrow.

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Feb '23

Trip Report: Korea Adventure – Our Seoul Is Frozen

We took the train to the main station, then cabbed to our hotel – The Ramada by Wyndham Seoul Dongdaemun.

Clean and warm, but a little short on things like outlets and reading lights near the bed.

Sadly, the front desk staff, while friendly, is clueless about what restaurants are open within a couple of blocks during Lunar New Year week. Off we go into the bitter cold!

In a bit of “traveler’s luck”, we end up down an alley and upstairs to find an Uzbekistani restaurant.

Nothing like trying to be a tourist when the temperature is -14F windchill.

In the morning we set out for some palace, passing though the main station again where we grabbed a traditional breakfast:

However, several doors down as a different breakfast option….

Off to the palace we go!

It being Lunar New Year week, closed, but the National Folk Museum of Korea, also on the grounds was open (and free).

With some interesting things near the entrance…

Thanks to Mari Jo Girdner Vigil, it’s a game of malttukbackgi or piling game, explained in The Korea Herald article by Min Byoung-Chul “Land of Squid Game”: https://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20221004000680

And, not unlike Kyoto in Japan, the grounds serve as a backdrop for photos in traditional clothing.

With the temperatures, there was a lot of tea/coffee drinking!

This lovely place was across from the museum.

Between the weather and the walking, I was beat – but Sean went off exploring. I got food from the mini-mart next door to the hotel!

Tomorrow, off to Busan.

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Jan '23

Trip Report: Korea Adventure – Getting To Seoul

For the first time in YEARS, I’m travelling to Korea on a PAID ticket, not miles. Granted, I did use a Delta Global Upgrade certificate to upgrade my Premium Economy (think recliner style seats like First Class in the US market) $845 ticket to a Delta One Suite ticket worth about $2500 (though when I looked this up, my Premium Select ticket was $1100, not $845). That said, after the 31st I won’t be an elite flyer with Delta. The are finally reeling in the extensions issued during the pandemic (not like it is over).

One of the perks of an international Business Class ticket is lounge access. Fortunately, the lounge in Seattle wasn’t at capacity, which it is often these days since Delta sells lounge access as a perk of the higher-end co-branded AMEX cards.

If you are wondering why I didn’t eat more, I’m getting on a long flight filled with lots of food (more on THAT later).

Seems my flight has a couple of dozen Elders on board – if you are confused about that phrase, young Mormons heading off on their “Mission”, a rite of passage for Mormon young adults.

Here is our Airbus A330NEO.

And my seat – 2A. I chose this because it has two windows and the seat right next to it, with the footwell for 3A to the right.

And the amenity kit was sown by some nice woman in Oaxaca as part of Deltas global support effort.

Nice view on the way out…

While waiting for the booze trolley (Champagne [not sparkling] please!) to arrive:

Nice “table skirt” on the trolley! And then the food service begins – SADLY, no longer “course” service, just nut course and then the rest (bitch/whine):

Then dessert, which I asked for one of each…

Then it was time to watch movies..

If you look close at the screen….10 hours 45 minutes to arrival. That was supposed to be the WHOLE flight time – instead, because of 167mph headwinds, think more like 12 and a half hours.

And maybe an old-fashioned, oddly, from a kit:

Then a nap – the seat goes all the way flat, with the ability to keep your seat belt buckled if there is turbulence.

Next movie up was Harold and Maude – hadn’t seen it in years, and as I age, the concept of planning ones death for 80 years old is tempting:

That would be Harold hanging in the upper right hand corner.

More food on the way down. I should point out that the mid-flight snack was a pathetic basket of choices of sugar or salt – and was decimated early in the flight, leading to the flight attendants to scrouge more stuff from the back of the plane (poor people since they have the same 2 hour extended flight). Woodford and diet to start, with an espresso chaser (though, unlike Emirates, I didn’t hear the hiss of a real expresso maker – sort of like the Old Fashioned, on Emirates I heard the shaker going!)

And the bacon quiche, nice to have some wilted spinach on the side…

Nice views landing…

We actually only landed 15 minutes late, and then was the fun of finding Sean, who flew in from Saigon.

And finally – turns out we were in different terminals!

I’ll pick up the story tomorrow with our time in Seoul.


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  1. Marybeth McCarthy Says:

    Love this!

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Jan '23

Trip Report: Victoria!

First trip to Vic this year – other than COVID, a winter tradition I’ve done for 20 years at least. The last 17 years, Nicola has been at the front desk!

Because January is the month with both Washington State-based ferries are in for dry dock, it means that we go over the Canadian border at I-5 and catching the BE Ferry at Tsawwassen – meaning the border:

And then the ferry line up:

It’s about an hour and a half from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island.

And a view of the island that Roxy has an off the grid cabin on:

With a little grocery shopping on the way – soon we are in the condo!

With its STUNNING views of the harbor:

And my morning view…

And Roxy down by the water under the trees:

We both had things we wanted to do here – radically different but both fun. Roxy was boat shopping…

And since he wants to get from Friday Harbor to Stuart Island so to make it a 3-season boat, it needs a cabin.

FYI – that boat is just under $100K CAD — $75K USD. Wow.

Me – I just wanted to go to an Evensong Service at the Cathedral in Victoria.

I’m a sucker for any service with a massive organ and choir. This service featured their children’s choir.

As is usual when staying at WorldMark places, we cooked all but one meal in the condo – for the meal out, it was a place that I’d hadn’t heard of before, but right around the corner from the weed shop where you can use a credit card!

The food place specializes in Hot Dogs and Bobo – called Bobo Dog.

I had the Longanisa Fiesta – Roxy had the Cali Bunga. Mine is below:

And the fun story from the trip is that we saw the old high-speed ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, the V2V Empress being towed by two barges out of the harbor. Roxy was on a walk and saw it being loaded on to a transport ship:

And the next day it was in the paper:

If you want to read the article, here is the link: V2V Empress heads to new life in the Caribbean – Victoria Times Colonist

Currently it is off the Mexican coast near Ensenada headed for the Caribbean:

So that’s it for now – I’ll be back in Victoria next month as well.


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Jan '23

Trip Report: Panama Cruise – Part Seven, Galveston, Texas

Final leg (unless you count the flight home) of the epic Panama Canal Adventure…and you can tell you are off the Texas coast when you start seeing oil rigs…

And then the chaos of getting off the boat…

At least it is downtown, unlike our hotel…

Not that it was swimming weather! Look at the surf.

So off to IHOP for brunch it was…

Complete with adult beverages…

And eventually, food:

After the 80’s of the trip, Galveston was about 40 degrees with a blowing wind off the ocean, and we weren’t really near anything to see, unless you count this closed for renovation theme park restaurant…

A rather unclimactic end to the trip, but at least we were able to start getting our non-sea legs back, and the hotel food was really quite good!

Their smashed toast…guac, poached egg, bacon – and add a Red Baron for a festive touch!

That’s it for this adventure!


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Jan '23

Trip Report: Panama Cruise – Part Six, Cartagena, Columbia

Last port stop of the trip, Cartagena, Columbia!

Parked right next to the Norwegian Bliss, named after my friend Kevin (Bliss).

Michael was up and off early for his tour, MB and I were just planning on hitting the terminal which has shops, restaurants, and apparently, a zoo.

It was hot, hot, hot, so I returned to the boat for lunch.

Off to Galveston in the morning.

[? ? ?]

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Dec '22

Trip Report: Panama Cruise – Part Five, The Panama Canal

Here is the historical map of the Panama Canal:

This is what greeted us the morning of our Panama Canal transit…

And the TV screen projecting the bridge cam!

And off we go!

Goodbye Panama – next stop, COLUMBIA!


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Dec '22

Trip Report: Panama Cruise – Part Four, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Another couple of sea days, another port. Welcome to Costa Rica!

The trolley we didn’t wait for…

My view of the open air market – MB did more shopping.

Our boat at the pier:

And my score from the bodega…

Back on board, back to the food.

And just random pictures….

And breakfast is served:

Soon, we will hit the Panama Canal!


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Dec '22

Trip Report: Panama Cruise – Part Three, Hualtulco, Mexico

Second port of call – Hualtulco, Mexico!

Every time I walk by one of the interactive displays, they display Happy Birthday Uncle Markie. Just FYI, it isn’t my birthday, but we have a birthday celebration coming up for a former cruise partner of mine.

And this was waiting for me one turndown…

As usual, tons of good food…

We’ve started a tradition of getting a serving of “table pasta” each night to share. Gives us a taste without pushing us over the edge!

Here is the dock at Puntarenas…

And we stirred up the mud, and up came a turtle! My first wildlife of the trip.

While MB continued her shopping for clothes (and Christmas), I went to church…

And then to the bodega for booze and soda. Then back to the boat for lunch and because of the heat.

Another lovely dinner at our usual table…

Followed by the house band playing up in Adagio (three floors above us) – they were FANTASTIC, really, the best entertainment on the boat, sadly, they back up all the other acts most of the time.

If you want to see the boat decked out in Christmas, it’s starting to come out of the closet.

More sea days, including the second of three formal nights.

And another wonderful performance by the house band the following night, this time with better pictures – we stayed for both sets, they added several more musicians during the break.

Next stop – Puntarenas.

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Dec '22

Trip Report: Panama Cruise – Part Two, Puerto Vallarta

Well, this is the port that I didn’t want, but in a cruel twist of fate, it’s a good port for Marybeth, who’s luggage didn’t make it to San Francisco. Delta is overing replacement clothes for the trip, and even though Princess wasn’t at fault, they offered her a $250 credit at the Tommy Bahama store, and free laundry service for the trip. No wine.

Here is the swimsuit she bought. Also got a LBD (Little Black Dress) and a couple of pashminas which are versatile.

I gift her my Agua Socks and offered to lend her my hoodie as evening wear.

Speaking of formal night, there are three on this trip. Here is number one which we started in the Adagio Lounge at the nights LGBT+ nightly gathering at 5:30pm

Followed by dinner at our usual table with Ashley as our server:


And then a show…

Here is as shot of how I spent most of my days on the cruise:

Was working on getting through this 600+ page book…

Fascinating story.

One day there was a wine tasting, which I felt compelled to attend:

When we got to Puerto Vallarta, Michael and I did a City Tour with Tequila Tasting from 8am-12pm.

Back to the boat for lunch, and some port shots.

And soon, we were off…

That’s it for now. More later.

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  1. Kate Says:

    You are lookin’ good, my friend

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Dec '22

Trip Report: Panama Cruise – Part One, San Francisco

Forward: This is the trip we were planning:

Reality: The trip we got:

  • San Francisco
  • Puerto Vallarta (barf)
  • Hualtulco
  • Puntarenas
  • Cartagena
  • Galveston

Two interesting ports swapped for a crappy one (Puerto Vallarta). Recourse: NONE, not even a comped bottle of wine.

But we started with a short flight to San Francisco…

Which always starts in a lounge.

And the “C” Lounge has added a lot of new space:

I basically doubles the size of this lounge (one of three at SeaTac).

Standard flight to SF in First…no pictures – you’ve seen enough!

Staying a little uphill from Union Square, oddly, no photos of the condo or the room, but it was a 1-bedroom, 2-bath.

Just up the hill from the Ukrainian Embassy:

And an amazing French-English Catholic Parish, where I took some contemplative time:

I’ve passed by for years, but for once, the doors were open. I want to come back for the service in French on Sundays.

Good eats in the city. Scotts Chowder:

Across the street from the Chinese Gate in SF:

And then there is the French restaurant next door, Café Presse.

Heavier lunch than I expected!

And then twice, we went to Maru, a sushi place in the neighborhood that I adore:

After two nights, it was time to get on the boat!

And then our first meal on board!

And then our room for the next 16 days!

And then dinner!

And in case we forget who we are…

And the door unlocks when we approach.

More posts to follow.

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Nov '22

Trip Report: Everett-Vegas Mileage Run With A Surprise Ending

This was supposed to be just a random mileage run so I can have 75K Alaska status for next year. 75K is important to me because it allows me to book premium seats (extra leg room, free booze) at time of booking regardless of ticket price (with exception of Basic which are the seats back by the toilet). The 50K mileage bonus, four First Class upgrade certificates and four Lounge Passes aren’t bad either.

It started out like a normal run, but with a dusting of snow, which is unusual:

Going out of Everett, 45 minutes north of my house depending on traffic.

It’s a lovely 3-gate small airport with the feel of an airline lounge.

Was upgraded to First, so food was included:

Got some good shots out the window once we were out of the weather:

And this is a focused solar array outside of Las Vegas. More on this here: https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2022/04/array-technologies-supplying-trackers-for-nearly-nevada-solar-project/

And Vegas, here we are:

And back onto the same plane I go…

And more get views out to plane:

And more food…

And then the trip “went South” is a big way. First, it was circling the Everett airport for 45 minutes…

There was too much slush at Paine Field, and too little equipment. Off to Seattle we go!

The problem is, my car is in Everett even though SeaTac is 15 minutes from my house. Paging Lyft!

$82 plus tip. But I have a flight in the morning and don’t want to leave my car in short term parking at $30 a day. I remember when parking at Paine Field was much cheaper, but you can’t beat that I was two rows and a driveway from the terminal.

It was slow going getting back because the snow had picked up during the day. I returned to this!

And it was a slow slog home. Got home two hours later than I expected, but guessing it isn’t THAT bad.

Probably should have cancelled, but I’d been upgraded in both directions. Fortunately, it was just heavy rain by the time I got back to Seattle.

The annoying side issue is that I’m out about 100 EQMs for next year due to them changing the arrival airport – and no credit for going round and round in the air.

On the upside, took a call in the morning and got back the last 6000 WorldMark credits from the disaster of the Indio “vacation”.


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Nov '22

Trip Report: Across Canada By Train

Back on the road again! Off to Toronto to catch the train to Vancouver.

The United Club isn’t as fancy as Delta or Alaska, but free food and booze is free food and booze.

And the view from the gate…

Views like this is why I call Seattle, home.

On Air Canada today, in the pointy end:

And lovely views on the way out…

And then the parade of food and drink starts…

You might notice that I was gifted a spare seat this morning. Apparently, Air Canada doesn’t upgrade people, or there was no one to upgrade. I’ll take it!

Met up with Marybeth at the airport, and we are off to the hotel.

Oddly, this is the only picture I have from the hotel:

I do have pictures from the lounge in the ViaRail terminal in the morning!

With the massive traffic jam on the way in, we had about 10 minutes in the lounge before moving into our Cabin For Two, and they say at ViaRail:

And our car attendant found a table to “liberate” for us – MUCH BETTER!

And our first lunch…

Then dinner…

Then dessert…

Once the bed is made up…

To give you an idea of the weather, this is a good example:

So, here is one thing that ViaRail DOES NOT do as well as Amtrak – their lunch burger. Federal law in Canada mandates that they cook it to death.

The breakfast, on the other hand, is wonderful:

And we ARE prepared in our cabin:

And then there are the views from the bubble dome and bullet car at the end…

And this is what we settled on for the day layout of the cabin…a couch(bed) with a table:

We even ordered our lunch in one day! And they brought a tablecloth!

And more pictures of hanging out:

It’s a little fuzzy – but this is a great picture.

And if you look closely, you will see a car attached to the bullet car – a safety measure implemented a couple of months ago when they realized they weren’t crash worthy.

Dinner tonight was French Onion Soup and Prime Rib:

But if you want to see me in the morning, it’s less than pretty – even though I am in my sake pajamas I had made in China:

The dining car was slow because we were in Jasper for a couple of hours, and most of the people were wandering around town.

It was a nonstandard meal day – continental breakfast early, then brunch through until 1pm.

For brunch, I had the Chicken Pot Pie – which was GREAT! Marybeth had the omelet.

And then we were in the mountains!

And here is how we viewed it. Curled up on the “couch” in the room. MB is napping.

We needed the nap so we could have the lamb chops for dinner (salmon for MB):

Had dinner (it’s community seating) with Michael and David, who ODDLY, Michael knows Solus who we are having lunch with in Vancouver – small world.

We had planned for breakfast in the cabin, but for some reason, our attendant pulled the table out of the room when she made the bed rather than putting it in the closet – so we really had “breakfast in bed”!

We arrived two and a half hours EARLY (definitely NOT Amtrak), but they don’t throw people off until the 8am timetable arrival (definitely NOT Amtrak).

We hung out at the train station until my friends swung by and picked us up for high mass. It’s Sunday, and the Anglican Cathedral is downtown.

Service ran about an hour fifteen, and I will admit that every time the organ and choir fired up, tears were rolling down my cheeks. Probably memories of evensong services at Winchester Catheral in England to which I’ve been to many times (after coctails with my friend’s mum).

Lunch was a Sylvia’s on English Bay:

Took Amtrak back to Seattle, and here is the final shot of the trip, at the station in Seattle:

The end to a fun trip.


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Nov '22

Trip Report: What Was Supposed To Be Palm Springs

But is wasn’t, not even close (to be close you have to be within a half hour drive, not 45 minutes). Got an email from the manager of the Palm Springs WorldMark at 3:43pm the DAY BEFORE we were to check in (we had already checked in for our flights). I spent my ground time in Sonoma trying to find us a room somewhere near Palm Springs – Indio was the only option. And not a good one considering the Downtown location is right on the Gay Pride Route for Sunday. Indio is 45 minutes away by car (which we hadn’t planned on renting so add $500 for the car and $100 for the gas).

So, if I get snarky in the post, you will know why, but here’s what we made of it:

Quick breakfast in the lounge, too early for the bar to be open, sigh.

Bigger protein breakfast on board:

And a layover in San Francisco for a few hours:

Before I was back on board…

Seth and Maia met me at the airport, and we were off to our exile in Indio, wedged between a couple of golf courses and the desert. ABSOLUTLY NOTHING to walk to for miles.

In our two-bedroom, two-bath:

And the view:

Typical breakfast:

Went out for lunch at a local Mexican place – my Chile Relleno:

We visited the Moorten Cactus Garden in Palm Springs:

And then we were off to Inka, a Peruvian restaurant on the strip in Palm Springs:

And an evening view from the balcony…

Next day we are off to the East Entrance to Joshua Tree – not expecting two trip to Joshua Tree in one year, but it was close (35 minutes):

And then off to a cactus walk:

Back at the complex, I checked out the mini-mart/sandwich/coffee place:

A liter of Jack will set you back $50. That is at least DOUBLE what you’d pay in town.

So, Canadians MUST come here because the V8 is small, and the Clamato large.

Shocked they have Vernors, sadly, not diet.

A few more shots of pool time where Seth and Maia spent a lot of time:

Another day we were off to a Date Farm so Seth cold have a Date Shake.

What we didn’t realize is the creepy religious cactus garden walk:

Lunch afterwards at SHERMANS! Love this Jewish deli. Sadly, just got a pic of my leftover half a pastrami:

And a couple of shots of the pastry case:

Before long, I was back on a plane home, at least it was direct this time:

Some good, some bad (like multiple calls to WorldMark to claw back some points because of the clusterfuck). At least Seth and Maia had fun – they even marched in the Gay Pride Parade on Sunday under the Alaska Airlines banner. And I got some swag out of it!

Here is a picture from me and the 2019 Parade:

With that, I sign out.

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Nov '22

Trip Report: Sonoma Mileage Run

Managed to squeeze in one more California trip while Alaska is offering a 50% EQM boost which will push me over the 75K mark for Alaska, meaning I can keep buying cheap seats, and plant myself into Premium with the extra legroom and free booze at no additional cost. Yahoo.

Breakfast in the lounge:

Then shots out the window of the Sonoma airport…


Like seeming every other airport, it is undergoing an expansion, so I had to go back through security to get back on the plane. Not the best airport for a mileage run turn at the moment.


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Nov '22

Trip Report: Waikiki and San Diego

After my mileage run to Kona – several people inquired why I didn’t just stay longer. Not really the point of a “mileage run” but I did take it to heart and booked a longer holiday to both Waikiki and San Diego.

Sadly, an early departure for San Diego, then a layover, then onto Honolulu. Small benefit, nice sunrise:

And there was the added bonus of being in the pointy end of the plane:

I really love the Honolulu airport for it’s mixing of outdoor and indoor spaces:

Ubered to the condo, the Wyndham Royal Gardens, where I’ve stayed before – and sweet-talked myself into a upgraded room with a lanai (that’s Hawaiian for balcony).

One of my rituals in Waikiki is a breakfast at the IHOP down the street.

Followed by some pool time…

Nice views from the room, even if the room is only on the 5th floor…

I’m 8 blocks from the beach (in the lower photo) and half a block from the canal (in the upper picture).

Another pastime while I’m vacationing is taking “owner updates” from either Wyndham or WorldMark properties (Wyndham in this case). Fortunately, the sales center is very close to Tommy Bahama’s restaurant/bar where there is a great happy hour from 2-5pm.

The presentation center is above the Galleria which has been closed since the pandemic when Japanese tourist stopped coming. They are slowly coming back, but three are no plans to reopen the Galleria (which is right next to the Louis Vitton store). My informal survey of Waikiki shows about 25% of the businesses didn’t survive.

Some interesting artwork in the hallway – corrugated aloha shirts!

A decent views of the Pink Palace and the ocean…

I set a new record for in and out of a presentation – 25 MINUTES. In is always at least an hour stretching to 1.5 hours. For my time I got 30,000 Wyndham Rewards points, used correctly, $390 value. 30,000 will get you one night in Wyndham’s top end properties, two nights in La Quinta-type properties, or FOUR nights in their bottom-end back-woods properties.

But it’s time for a cocktail and some appetizers at Tommy Bahama where the happy hour prices are reasonable…

And then of course, much later, dinner at the Waikiki Brewing Company, which was WAY TO NOISY.

That was the Portuguese Sausage with all the sides. Picked something that would reheat well!

Another lunch I was off to Siam Square for Thai food, next to one of Waikiki’s gay bars:

But really, I spent a lot of my time like this:

Before long (3 nights) it was time to head back to the airport for another upgraded flight, and some time in the lounge:

And back on a plane with a POGmosa (Pineapple, Orange, Guava juice and sparkling wine).

And more food…

Before long I was in San Diego for the next stage of the holiday!

And the view of Balboa Park across the street….

Had a number of meals here. Decent, and cheap, and across the street!

Spent a bunch of time on the rooftop deck reading….

If you watched carefully, you could see jet on their final descent – wasn’t lucky enough to get a picture.

Did I mention this was in the gay neighborhood?

And a good thrift store….

And yes, I did ANOTHER presentation for ANOTHER 30,000 Wyndham Rewards points. Yes, I’m a points whore.

Soon enough (another 3-night stay), time for the lounge and the plane home…

Another holiday under the belt.

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One Response to “Trip Report: Waikiki and San Diego”

  1. Marybeth McCarthy Says:

    I am your student ☺️

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Oct '22

Trip Report: Uncle Markie Visits Forever

Don’t get the wrong idea – I didn’t have a near-death event. My friends bought a place in Upstate New York (Finger Lakes) that they have named “Forever”. While structurally fine and with amazing woodwork inside, forever is how long it will that them to make it theirs in spirit and functionality.

Prebreakfast in the Delta Sky Club – a notch up from the Alaska Lounge:

And settled into First Class (bless you upgrade coupons):

And airplane breakfast watching Tempopo, and amazing Noodle Western out of Japan – rated for adults but the flight attendance caught a nude seen and will probably report it to management as inappropriate.


And they didn’t have the Old Fashioned in a can, but they had a lovely Negroni…

I diluted mine a bit with club soda.

And for some reason the flight attendant (same one who probably reported the film), was playing toilet paper games in First:

Transferred in Detroit – VERY LONG WALK and it was on to Ithaca and Mark picking me up at the airport for the 24 minute, 4-stoplight drive to Forever:

And here we are….

The end door leads into the stairwell for the cupola:

And other rooms in the house – dining room:

Dual sitting rooms:

And interestingly enough, I had two sets of friends visit, Russ, who drive three hours from Germantown for a couple of hour visit (would have stayed the night save the dogs at home):

Sadly, didn’t remember to get a pick of Drew and his cousin Leslie. Drew lives in Ithaca, Drew in Seattle.

Too soon, the fun came to the end with a ride back to the airport…and a scenic picture from the area:

Should have stood on the tops of the truck to highlight the valley.

And a very strange sign in the snack bar:

And soon we (the royal we) were off:

Back through Detroit – other choice is United through Newark (not) with Detroit Lounge food on the run:

And proper food and drink on the plane:

Arrived back in Seattle early, as did Jonathan coming in from San Antonio, so we shared an Uber back to the house. He is laying over for the night before heading to California, so we get breakfast in the morning!

What a treat his short layover.

That’s it for today.


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Oct '22

Travel Report: What Airlines For What

This is just a quick post to layout my feelings about various airlines since I’ve had the chance to fly some that I don’t regularly fly.

Thoughts on domestic airlines (that I fly) in order of my preference, but there is a HUGE gap between number one and number two:

  • Alaska Airlines: If you are going for elite status and you are trying to be frugal in purchasing tickets, Alaska is the last US airline to be totally mileage-based, rather than revenue-based. Elite status gets you free checked bags (as does their credit card) and the possibility of getting upgraded to Premium (extra legroom, free cocktails, snack) or even First Class. Customer service is consistently great – to the point if the flight is delayed (mechanical, not weather) you will often get a text/email while you are still on the plane saying you will get a link for either extra frequent flier miles, or dollars off your next trip.
  • Delta Airlines: As with the rest of the list, it’s revenue-based, with elite members getting a larger number of points. If you search out the cheapest fare, even if the routing is less convenient, you aren’t going to get all that many points. Should you want to achieve their highest elite level (Diamond Elite) you better to be prepared to shell out at least $20,000 worth of tickets which is WAY OUT of my league, though I’ve enjoyed having top level status for the last two years because of a status match that made an offer from Delta I’d never seen – no dollar spent minimum on the 8-round trips – I did it for $1100 and got about $10,000 worth of benefits out of it (Global Upgrades, Lounge Membership, Miles, etc.). Customer service is high, but occasionally spotty on board.
  • United: Again, revenue-based as above. Less cash spend to get to the top level (1K), but still expensive – and you still have to fly a certain amount of miles as well, not just buy a bunch expensive tickets. Customer service is medium-high, but improving. Front-line employees have been empowered to resolve customer issues by issuing miles or dollars off instantly via their company supplied smart phones. On a Denver flight the outlets at my seat weren’t working and I got 3,750 extra miles, which was oddly a little more than I actually EARNED on the flight.
  • American: Revenue-based, about the same spend as United. Sadly, American is a partner with Alaska Airlines so I do end up flying them occasionally, usually International via mileage tickets. They are finally getting rid of some of their ancient equipment used on their South America routes (not uncommon for Delta and United to use their oldest equipment to that continent). Service is medium. It always feels hit or miss with whether they actually want to be working or not.

So, the above is really geared towards earning Elite Status and the perks that come with it.

Don’t travel often?

In the states, fly Southwest Airlines because of their free checked bags and very flexible cancellation policy. They do have an elite program, but they also only offer one class of service, so no upgrades – just boarding earlier.

Travelling overseas, fly the Middle Eastern or Asian airlines with possible (lean towards Middle Eastern as Asian airlines tend to pack in the economy seats). They tend to have better seat pitch (distance between seats) and much better food. Or the European airlines I tend to avoid Lufthansa if I can – even in Business Class (First Class tickets are rarely available to partner airlines for mileage tickets).

Got questions? Want help with a travel problem – message me. Helping people figure out travel is what brings joy to my life.

As an FYI, at least until the end of the year, I have the following airline status:

  • Alaska 100K – next year HOPEFULLY 75K but its going to be close
  • Delta Diamond Elite via match until the end of January – next year, no status
  • United Premier Gold for life since I’m a million-miler flyer with them
  • Air Canada 75K until the end of the year, got through a status match – nothing for 2023, but I do have their credit card
  • Might still have StarLux, based in Taiwan, next to top level, but got it right before COVID and haven’t flown them yet, but it was for three years

Well, that’s it for the day.


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