Back to North America: NYC edition

Maybe Liechtenstein – Part 6 (March 2017)

Before leaving Switzerland, we spent a night out by the airport as we both had morning flights the next day.  We arrived at the Radisson Blu hotel and checked in for our last night in Switzerland.  I was looking forward to the stay as they have a huge vertical wine library in the center of the hotel.  After finding our room, which faced the inner courtyard (and the wine), we made our way down to watch the acrobats fetch requested bottles from the tower.  It’s actually a neat thing to watch and would suggest having a glass or two if you ever find yourself at this hotel or have some extended time at the airport (since it’s outside security.)

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Wine bar at Radisson Blu (Zurich Airport)

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Heading to Stockholm

So if you remember from one of my previous posts (Stockholm for a Whole Week!) I had a trip planned to visit my friend in Stockholm; well I’ve finally gotten around to typing up our adventures!

Firstly, the trip over went fairly well.  I made all my connections, got to check out a number of lounges and made it to Stockholm just under 24 hours later 🙂  My voyage started bright and early (well not really that bright) in Vancouver as I had booked a separate ticket down to SFO to start my international trip.  Luckily I was upgraded on my SEA-SFO flight (thanks Alaska!) and got a few other surprise things (free Starbucks card!) which made this a great start to my trip.

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New Zealand to Australia on a South American Airline.

I arrived back in Auckland mid-day and was once again greeted by my friends parents at the airport and went back out to the Beachlands.  After a quick visit, some puppy cuddles, and dropping my bags, I was back on the ferry to head into the city.  I did some more general site seeing, got my mugs from Starbucks and met up with my friends for a nice dinner at Hector’s.  Hector’s is great because they have a number of veggie and vegan options and promote healthy and sustainable dining practices.  It’s also quite a nice space, being inside the Heritage Hotel.  It wasn’t particularly busy on a Friday night, but it was a great chance to catch up and enjoy some time with my friends.  I caught a late ferry back to the Beachlands and went to bed fairly quickly as my flight was early early early the next morning.

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Delicious dinner at Hector’s

As my flight back from Auckland was supposed to be part of my awards ticket, I had to find an alternate flight for the trip back to Sydney.  One of the cheaper options was to fly on LATAM (formerly LAN), a South American airline.  Typically airlines are only allowed to fly to/from the countries they operate in; however, in some instances, they continue their flights on to a 3rd country.  These are called 5th freedom flights and can sometimes be a lot of fun to fly.  I remember getting to fly a big Qantas plane (perhaps even a 747) from San Francisco to Vancouver when they flew SYD-SFO-YVR-SYD.  The bonus of these flights is that while they are relatively short, they are usually on the latest and greatest of the airline’s long haul product.  It’s like taking the airline for a test drive before committing to a 9 hour flight.

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Stockholm for a Whole Week!

So I’ve got another crazy trip coming up! If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you would not find this shocking. The surprising part is that I’m actually spending a whole 6 days in Stockholm! The crazy part is just they way I get there. I never spend that much time in one place, so it should be fun! I’m going to visit a friend who just bought a house there (although I really don’t need a reason to visit) and I managed to get a fantastic deal on airfare!

It’s a bit convoluted…My routing is as follows:

  • YVR-SEA-SFO on Alaska
  • SFO-AMS-ARN on KLM
  • ARN-IST on Atlas Global
  • IST-CDG on Air France
  • CDG-SEA-SFO on Delta
  • SFO-SEA-YVR on Alaska

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First time on Cathay Pacific: KUL-HKG-SYD

I arrived at KLIA 1 and made my way up to the departure levels.  I found the airport was a bit confusing, with not a great deal of signage.  I didn’t have any luggage to check so I didn’t bother trying to find the check in counter and instead wandered around until I saw a sign that said “International Gates.” Heading down the escalator, I found the passport control at the bottom and was quickly through to the terminal area.

I had booked a ticket in Premium Economy, not looking forward to the long overnight flight being in a tiny seat, but had been notified a few weeks before I left that there had been an aircraft change from KUL to HKG and I had been bumped to business class… Score! This meant I had Lounge access for my trip, which is always a plus! At KUL this got me access to both Malaysian Airlines Golden Lounge, and the Cathay Pacific Lounge.  I found the Golden Lounge just past security and went up the escalator to the entrance.  The lounge staff suggested I should try the satellite lounge since that is where my flight was departing from.  I had a few hours before my flight, and I would have liked to check out both lounges, but didn’t feel like arguing and head off towards the satellite terminal.

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Heading over the north pole with Emirates … Santa? Are you there?

After the rest of my flight down to LAX, we landed safely at Terminal 6 and I headed to Alaska’s Board Room to start my long layover. I had a few hours to kill until the Emirates lounge opened at 12:45. I had visited the lounge previously on a layover in LAX and while it’s not that big a lounge, you can grab a snack and a drink or two while avoiding the busy LAX terminals; it’s much more relaxing than sitting around the gates.

A little after noon I left Terminal 6 and headed towards the Tom Bradly International Yerminal. LAX recently opened a walkway that runs from Terminal 4 to the TBIT  and earlier opened an underground walkway that connects Terminals 4 through 8. This means that I wouldn’t have to leave and re-enter security in order to get to the terminal. Terminals 1, 2, and 3 are still separate, so luckily I didn’t land at any of those terminals. The walk took about 15 minutes and gets a bit confusing once you get to Terminal 4 since you have to leave the underground walkways and head through the gates to get to the overhead walkway that links to the International Terminal.

I took a quick look around the terminal before heading upstairs to enjoy the lounge. The lounge is a decent size with seating “outside” on a balcony that overlooks the rest of the terminal as well as inside, where it’s a bit quieter. The gate we were leaving from was right across from where the lounge is, so I kept an eye out and saw our plane when it pulled into the gate 🙂 after spending a few hours enjoying the amenities of the lounge, including having a quick meal to tide me over, it was time to board the plane for the long 16 hour journey. The boarding area was pretty chaotic and it took me a while to figure out exactly where to go through the gate, but eventually I made it up the escalator and entered the second floor of the A380!

When I entered the plane they checked my boarding pass and called over a flight attendant to take me to my seat, 2K… And what a seat it was.  I’d been obsessing about this flight a little bit so I had some idea what it was going to be like, but it was still pretty cool walking up to my suite 🙂

Once I had taken some pictures and settled in I was asked if I’d like anything to drink.  From my research, I knew they didn’t serve the Dom until we were in the air in LA so I asked what kind of juice they had and ended up going with some fresh carrot juice!  Then came the dates and Arabic coffee (I think I had about 5 little cups of it).  And the menus.  And the slippers and pjs… And pretty much anything you wanted!

We ended up sitting on the ground for quite a while due to various delays, although I wasn’t really complaining since I had my little cocoon to play with.  The cabin was actually pretty empty with only 4 or 5 of the 14 seats occupied; I asked our flight attendant about it and she said it was fairly unusual and that the last few times she’d worked the route it was a full cabin. Eventually it was time for out long taxi down the runway (which is pretty cool to watch from the tail camera) and we took off over the Pacific Ocean, turned north, and we were Dubai bound!  After watching our process on the monitor and out the window for a while, I decided to change into my pjs and get comfy.

First class has an a la cart dining system where you can order you food whenever you like, it just takes a little while for them to heat it up for you.  I relaxed for a little while, ordered a few glasses of Dom Perignon, got started on a movie, and then ordered an appetizer plate and my special meal (VGML) for dinner.  While the spread had a nice variety, my special meal seemed like a bit of an after thought; basically a bunch of sides thrown together.   

I had also had a chance to book my shower appointment.. I went with 2 1/2 hours before landing so I’d have time to revel in the fact that I’d had a shower at 35,000 ft in the air! 

Then I decided it was time to try to get some rest, so I asked the flight attendant to make up my bed, which included a memory foam mattress cover on my seat and a duvet! The problem you face with this route is that you end up going over the North Pole ( Hi Santa! Hope the elves are working hard and the reindeer are eating lots of carrots!) in the summer with its 24 hours of sun which means the majority of the flight is in brilliant daylight.  Add onto that the fact they were having problems dimming the cabin lights and I wasn’t the most successful at the napping part.

After getting some rest and watching some more of the enormous entertainment selection, I decided to get up and wander to check out the bar.  The bar on the A380 is at the back of the plane on the upper deck, just in front of the main galley for business class.  There were quite a few people up and about the cabin, so it was a happening place.  But as it was nearing time for my shower I headed back to my seat.  After watching the “time until landing” indicator go from 3 hrs all the way down to 2:20, I finally asked about my shower only to findout they were having technical difficulties and we wouldn’t be able to shower today 😦 This totally bummed me out as I was really looking forward to it! But such is my luck when it comes to travel.  I did end up taking a walk through the lower deck of the plane, which is all economy class seating, and goes on forever! By this time I’d change into my regular clothes and freshened up as best I could sans shower, so at least I wasn’t walking through the cabin in my pjs 😉

I ordered my breakfast, fruit and special pancakes, and went to get a drink at the bar while it was being heated.  Ended up chatting with a few of the crew, who were all so friendly and took a few photos of me posing behind the bar.  Sadly I didn’t get to try on one of the cool hats they wear… Next time! With a little under 2 hours to go I headed back to my seat to eat some breakfast, which was very odd since we were going to be landing at 8 pm, but made sense if you were still on west coast time.  It was also around this time that the sun finally set, after being in my sky for about 26 hours, and it was pretty spectacular, I did well in chosing the right side of the airplane!


And then we were fastening our seatbelts and stowing our carry-ons as it was time to land in Dubai.  For such a long flight it was actually bareable and never really seemed to drag too much.  The movies, wifi, and large amount of alcohol consumed probably  had something to do with it, but also the A380 is an amazing plane and I think really helps with making the flight more manageable.

After coming to our gate, I disembarked down the stairs (also super cool… I love stairs on planes!) and was off towards customs with my fast track pass in hand. I wasn’t exhausted, but was looking forward to getting some sleep in a real bed.

127 miles down, 38,607 miles to go…

I’m on my way!  I have successfully completed the first leg of my trip and have 2 more flights to go today.  After an early wake up call and a ride to the airport, I headed over to the nexus lane and zipped through security… Well, relatively zippy.  The regular line was quite long, and I was through in about 10 minutes and went through the nexus passport control. I did get asked about my luggage (apparently taking carry on for a 3 week trip is a bit odd) but the customs dude seems okay with it once he saw it. 

I took a quick wander over to Starbucks, but the line was very long, so I just headed to the gate instead.  Boarding started just a few minutes after I arrived and I scanned my Boarding pass and was walking down the jet bridge.

Recently Alaska switched the YVR-SEA service from the Q-400s to the CRJ-700 and it was my first flight on the new planes (new to the route, not actually new planes)  so I was eager to check it out.  I had secured seat 1A so after leaving my roller bag on top of the ramp I settled in to the front row (because is there any other row?? 😉 ).  It’s a bulkhead seat so there is a bit more leg room than normal.
The rest of the passengers boarded fairly quickly and we pushed back from the gate ahead of our departure time.  After a quick safety demonstration, we started to taxi towards to runway, but the captain came on on told us they were holding out flight in Vancouver due to the weather in Seattle and we were looking at a 25-30 min delay.  Of course the flight was delayed… I was on it :/ This was part of the reason I booked such a long layover on LAX, because there was going to be no way I was missing my flight to Dubai!

After sitting in the holding area for about 15 minutes, we continued our long taxi to the runway and were in the air a little after 6:30.  This was going to make my connection to LA a little tight, but there was still a good chance I’d make it.  

The flight itself was pretty uneventful, except I did notice it was a LOT quieter 🙂 We landed and about 7:10 and after holding for a few minutes for crowd control (SeaTac is a very busy airport) we finally pulled up to our C gate.  Since I had to wait for my bag at the gate, it took a few more minutes which meant I had just enough time to hop over to the N gates on the train and make it to my gate.  No lounge for me 😦 

They had just called “all rows” when I arrived at the gate so I quickly made my way onboard and settled into 2A.  I

 was planning to post this on the ground, but blog posts from the air will just have to do.  Currently speeding towards LAX on the rest of my long journey…

route finalmap

 

a total of 38,734 miles of flying.  To put that in perspective, YVR-YYZ is about 2,000 miles… so I’ll be flying that over 19 times over the next 3 1/2 weeks.