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)

Sadly, the morning came and my friend left before the sun to catch her early flight home.  I was lucky enough to enjoy a wonderful breakfast before checking out to catch my flight.  My flight home, as you may recall, was a points ticket I’d found about 6 months earlier. I’d managed to snag an AA business class ticket home, although through a circuitous routing.  I was travelling Zurich to New York, with a long overnight layover, before hopping to LA on AA’s transcontinental First Class, then up to Seattle and a little hop home to Vancouver, both on Alaska.

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Breakfast spread at Radisson Blu

After spending some time in the lounge during a few small delays in Zurich, it was time to board the plane.  I settled in to seat 2A, which was actually the first row of the cabin.  This plane, a Boeing 767, has staggered seats, so if you want a true window seat, you want to sit in an even row number.  After some pre-departure bubbly it was time to say goodbye to Europe.  The flight was smooth and I did manage to squeeze in a nap as I was going to have a long day ahead of me once I landed.  I will say that I find the vegan/vegetarian meal options on AA to be very sad.  It’s usually just rice and veggies, no creativity in the dishes.

Landing at JFK, I quickly made it through customs (thanks Global Entry!) and grabbed the bag I’d had to check because of all the wine I was bringing home.  I then head up to departures to recheck it  so I wouldn’t have to lug it around all day.  Unfortunatly, this didn’t seem to work so well because my flight didn’t leave until the next day, and there’s a rule about keeping luggage overnight?  After waiting for a while, a lot of back and forth with the staff, and eventually getting a few supervisors involved, I was able to check my luggage.  I guess the solution was to send it on a flight that evening, as my bag made it to Vancouver well before I did.

Free of my luggage, I hopped on the train in to the city.  Getting in to town on public transit is doable, if somewhat time consuming.  First you hop on the “Airtrain” and get off at the Howard Beach/JFK Airport station to transfer to the “A-line.”  This will (eventually) take you into the city.  I hopped off at High Street and decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  It was a bit chilly, but brilliantly sunny, so it was a fairly pleasant walk.

Making it to Manhattan, I didn’t really have a plan beyond visiting a few of the vegan hot spots.  I ended up making it to Moo Shoes, Orchard Grocer, and Confectionary! before hopping back on the subway and back to Brooklyn for dinner at Champs Diner.

Since my flight left very early the next morning, I decided to rough it in the airport for a few hours in the evening before security opened again at 3am.  I found a few chairs and cobbled them together into a makeshift bench and did manage to get a little bit of shut eye.  Once security opened (not until 3:30, ugh) I made my way inside and tried to find the correct lounge for American.  Of course I chose the wrong one and was told I could actually go to the First Class lounge, which was back by security.  There was construction going on, which made it very confusing as to which lounge was actually open.  Finally making it to the empty lounge, I enjoyed some coffee, a snack, and a shower, before heading to board my next flight, back to the west coast.

Because I had booked international business class, that actually included first class on the domestic leg.  The flight JFK-LAX was a transcontinental flight on the A321 (read fancy, updated plane).  I’m sure I looked slightly disheveled as I boarded the flight and took a seat in the first cabin.  Actually, unless I’m dressed nicely with professional looking luggage (aka not a backpack) I usually get side looks when I line up to board with business class folk… but you just gotta own it!  The lie flat bed definitely came in handy as I managed to pass out for a good portion of the flight.  I also had a really delicious breakfast meal, which was a nice surprise.

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Transcontinental on the A321

Landing in LA, I had a bit of time to kill before heading to Seattle.  Of course, the flight was delayed, but that just meant more time in the First Class lounge in LAX… which is really just a sectioned off the lounge with slightly better food and booze.  After we finally got around to boarding the plane to Seattle, I ended up having a pleasant conversation with the person sitting next to me which made the flight go by much faster.

Seattle was the last stop before the quick flight up to Vancouver and finally being home.  It’s always slightly frustrating to be so close to home, and yet so far.  Spent a little bit of time in the Alaska lounge before it was finally time to board my last flight of the trip.  The good thing about having the last flight of the night is that it’s a 737 for a 30 min flight.  I enjoyed my big lounge chair and had a bit of a cat nap before finally disembarking onto Canadian soil.

 

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Soaking up Sun in Palm Springs

So after getting my fill of snow in Utah, it was time to head off to the dessert in California.  I usually try to not waste a lot of time at the airport and end up cutting it fairly close when it comes to checking in, but this time I surprised even myself.  After scheduling the 5am shuttle from my hotel, we actually ended up leaving at 5:05am, at which point I was starting to get a little worried as my flight was at 6am. A slightly stressful drive over to the airport went smoothly and I went straight to the counter to drop of my bags (thank you priority check-in!) and walked over to security.  As I was heading through the security check I got a notification that my flight was boarding, so I picked up my bags on the other side, walked to the gate, and straight on to the plane.  From the time I left the hotel to the time I was sitting in my seat on the plane was a mere 20 min!  I think that will be my personal best for quite a while. Continue reading

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.