Oct 202019
 


I had been so busy running around all day after deciding I was going to not only make this work, but getting it booked, that I’d pretty much forgotten to eat all day.

I popped in to the Turkish Airlines lounge at Dulles which I know lots of people are a fan of (and which generally has better food than Lufthansa) but…it was its usual late-afternoon standing room only and the only option would be to share a small table with someone. I don’t need that kind of hassle before a hectic but fun trip, so back to Lufthansa it was!

It always bums me out that Lufthansa doesn’t have a first class lounge at Dulles, and makes me sort of giggle that they just rope off a section of the lounge for First Class and Hon Circle passengers. Looking at the lounge, which was surprisingly not crowded today.

Food was nothing overly special, but enough to hold me over until the flight. The flower was a nice touch, since I’d be away a short time (and remember how hot ANA likes to keep the cabins) I’d decided to bring my own USB fan with on the trip.

Also, apparently they “don’t have anymore” champagne glasses today, so will this be ok? Hah!

Boarding was straight from the lounge which is one of the things I love about Lufthansa at Dulles, and the agents came and got the first class passengers individually before announcing boarding for business class. Nicely done – even without a dedicated lounge!

Lufthansa flight 419
Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 18:15, Arrive: 08:10 next day, flight time: 7:55
Boeing 747-8, Registration D-ABYD, Manufactured 2012, Seat 2K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 126,120
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,818,708

Friendly crew immediately upon boarding, and when I got to my seat…wow…wine list was brought over along with macadamia nuts and champagne right away. I could tell this was going to be an extra-good (and photogenic) flight!

Despite a snack in the lounge I was still hungry, so perfect time to explore what’s to eat today!

It was a little warm during boarding, but fortunately I had come prepared! The crew got a good laugh out of it.

…and when I say a little warm, I’m not kidding!

Slightly late departure, but a mercifully short taxi, and soon we were lined up on runway 30 ready to take off into the sunset!

This crew was absolutely fantastic. About 15 minutes after takeoff they came around to each passenger in first, introduced the crew, and asked how we would “prefer our flight paced.” I told them I probably wouldn’t sleep much, if at all, so I’d prefer the meal service to be slower and drawn out. They were more than happy to accommodate, starting with a canapé.

About 30 minutes into the flight we were treated to a gorgeous purple sunset above the clouds. Loved the way the purple hue came through the windows across the cabin.

What better way to start a fabulous, spontaneous trip around the world than with caviar service! Smallish portion today, but it seems everyone was enjoying it so this is just the “normal” portion…

Since it was a leisurely meal, I decided I would go with all the appetizers. From right to left, the halibut on vegetable ceviche was super light and tasty. The burrata and baby tomatoes and maitake mushrooms was also outstanding, and the beef tenderloin with baby beets and tartare sauce was also really good. Usually at least one of the three appetizers is a little weird or not great, but tonight they were all super. We were off to a fantastic start for the trip!

I’ve been skipping the beef on planes lately, but how could I resist “tenderloin of beef with lobster claw.” It was really tasty, a nice medium, and the lobster was really good too. I worried the beef might be overcooked like usual, or the lobster rubbery, but my fears were totally unfounded tonight.

I have to admit, I do love seeing the giant cheeseboard wheeled out on Lufthansa, and watching as the cheese is cut up and served. The lovely flight attendant asked me if I would mind, however, if she plated it in the galley as by this point the lights were out as all the other passengers were asleep.

No problem at all – and a delicious selection as always tonight!

Finally, the grand finale, passion fruit panna cotta with butter crumble. Out of this world, and with a glass of Johnny Walker Blue or two it was a perfect way to end the first decadent meal of the trip.

I did end up napping about three hours before landing, which was unexpected, but I also had a hotel room booked since I would have nine hours in transit…and only planned to spend the last three in the lounge.

Managed to get four hours of sleep on top of the three I got on the plane, which was absolutely wonderful. Then…it was time for the short walk to the First Class Terminal (with a stop at Starbucks on the way of course) and enjoy a bit of food and drink…all while chairing my meeting!

Oct 192019
 


So, a bit of background is necessary to understand this trip. No, I’m not talking about the fact that I have a few screws loose when it comes to traveling; that part is a given.

I’m talking more about Lufthansa’s gimmick of the “first class duck.” I’m not quite sure where this tradition started, but as I understand it Lufthansa many years ago started offering souvenir ducks to passengers taking a bath in their first class lounges and first class terminals.

Then, one day, someone had the novel idea to make a “special” thematic duck for spring, or summer, or some such reason. This caught on, and more and more Lufthansa started to offer other special ducks.

By this point, people had started to collect them, and they were no longer just for people taking baths. People came up with all kinds of reasons to stop by a get one. Seriously. One of the first phrases I ever learned in German was “Kann ich zwei Enten für meine Kinder haben?”

Yeah, there was a bit of embarrassment and shame and made up children involved in getting the ducks. I know I’m not the only one. (In all fairness, I’m much less shameful now and just ask for one….unless it’s a special one…and then the made-up children may come on board to justify needing two.)

Right, so over the years, I may have amassed quite a few of them. I know this is less than half of the ones that are out there, but thankfully my “problem” isn’t so bad that I’ve taken to eBay or such, but I may have engaged in a few trades. So, yes, my problem:

Yup. We have “Euro Duck” and then there’s “Dirndl Duck” and don’t forget “Corporate Wanker in the First Class Lounge with his Bluetooth Headset Duck.” Ok, maybe it’s not called that, but you get the drift.

So, you’re asking yourself, what does this have to do with anything?

See, a week or so before my birthday (yes, if you’re keeping track this is about a week after being home from so much back to back travel this summer and looking forward to a solid month at home) I learned there was a special duck out there…one you could only get on your birthday…the elusive “Birthday Duck.

Of course, this led to planning out trips…maybe even going to Frankfurt just for a few hours as an excuse to get it. But see, unfortunately, my birthday was on a Thursday this year, and that makes things a bit difficult for work. It also turned out I had a big “can’t miss” meeting I had wisely scheduled on my birthday at 9am in DC, (3pm in Germany – pay attention – this is important) so given flights arrive from the US in the morning it meant it just wouldn’t work out this year. There would be no Lufthansa love for me.

Fast forward to Wednesday, the day before my birthday. I woke up with an inspiration: what if I could find a way to fly to fly to Frankfurt today, spend the day in the lounge, and fly out after 5pm? Surely there would be a way to chair my meeting from the lounge, right?

All I needed was a flight after 5pm. The meeting would last 90 minutes putting me done at 4:30pm German time, and Lufthansa generally drives you from the First Class Terminal to the plane around 30 minutes before departure, so I just needed to find a flight from Frankfurt that left after 5pm – there has to be something back to North America, right? (Oh, and I should probably check to make sure DC to Frankfurt isn’t sold out in First tonight, right? Though I suppose I could fly business into Frankfurt if needed.

After spending my entire commute into the office searching, there was nothing. I was crushed.

But wait, why turn right back around and go home? Johannesburg leaves from Frankfurt around 10pm, that would work! Ugh, completely sold out…search, search, search. Whoah, Shanghai! Leaves Germany at 5:10pm which would be perfect. Without a second thought I pulled the trigger. Sent a note I would be taking a half day and working remotely on Thursday, and two hours after getting to the office headed back home to throw things in a bag.

Ok, great, no time to plan…gotta get to airport. Packing is both harder and easier when you don’t how how long you’ll be gone. I would leave DC on Wednesday (birthday eve) and arrive in Shanghai on Friday night, so I figured I should be home on Sunday hopefully? Ok, that’s enough to plan to pack for roughly four days away.

Off to Dulles mid-afternoon (remember, this whole plan was only hatched about five hours prior) and all the way I was searching for ways to get home. Try as I might, I wasn’t finding anything interesting. If I was going to be in China, I figured I should go all out and make it a true round-the-world and come back over the Pacific, right?

After a couple hours of searching, I found it: Tokyo Haneda to Los Angeles on ANA All Nippon Airlines in first class! Score!

Now….there was the matter of getting from Shanghai to Tokyo, but I wasn’t worried about that. There are plenty of flights and not too expensive, so that was the least important piece.

A bit more searching, and I found an Air Canada 777 with proper business class from LA to Toronto (because why fly LA to DC direct when you can connect in Toronto and get a proper product?) and with a little more searching I found a perfectly-timed Shanghai to Tokyo Haneda flight with Japan Airlines.

Now, all I needed was a ticket from Toronto to DC. That would be easy…all sorted and purchased right as I was arriving at Dulles.

Amazing what I’d pulled off in under eight hours of planning, and just in time to relax and enjoy the experience a bit. The final route would be DC – Frankfurt (9 hours) – Shanghai (30 hours) – Tokyo (3.5 hours) – LA (4.5 hours) – Toronto (2 hours) – DC.

Whew. I’m tired just typing that. I couldn’t imagine how tired I’d be in 86 hours when it was all over. Oh well, I can sleep when I’m dead. Time to enjoy the adventure!!!

All this, just for a duck….

Oct 142019
 


My time in Johannesburg was over far too quickly – as it always seems to be – and soon I was at the airport preparing for my trip home. Due to work finishing a bit sooner than expected I had moved my flight forward by a day, and in the process moved from SWISS to Lufthansa up to Europe.

I immediately waitlisted both flights for upgrade, but with the flight to Frankfurt at F2 it looked pretty hopeless. The flight from Frankfurt to DC, however, was F6 so looked much more promising! I tried to stick with United over the water to build more flights towards Global Services status, but the United flight only had J class availability and was more than double the price. No thanks!

At check-in, the agent offered to immediately confirm my upgrade out of Frankfurt (didn’t know they could do this!) and called a supervisor to try and clear my upgrade to Frankfurt as well. I found this odd as the flight was down to F0 in the meantime, but wasn’t going to argue. Unfortunately, she couldn’t and told me it would have to wait for the gate.

Got to the South African Airways lounge, where my favourite bartender in the world remembered me instantly and told me to “go sit down, I will bring it to you!” No order, no anything, and he showed up immediately…with two glasses of wine. I might need to break this reputation…

Boarding was absolute chaos as it always seems to be with Lufthansa in Johannesburg (I’m not sure what’s behind this, but it’s always a madhouse with a million pre-boards and salty gate agents) and I asked about the upgrade and politely told “if you get it we will tell you.”

I wasn’t counting on it, so when boarding started I joined the mass rush to the plane…and enjoyed a glass of bubbles while everyone else tried to part the sea and get on board as quickly as possible.

Lufthansa flight 573
Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 19:00, Arrive: 05:35 next day, flight time: 10:35
Boeing 747-8, Registration D-ABYS, Manufactured 2015, Seat 8D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 102,131
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,794,719

We had a great crew tonight, and they worked on being quick with service so people could sleep while at the same time being professional. It’s a nice balance. Also, I think Lufthansa might be the only airline I know who puts macadamia nuts in the business class mixed nuts (but why are they always over-roasted in business but perfect in first?!) along with walnuts.

Salmon appetizer was relatively light, but tasty. A nice change from the ever-present prawns lately.

A salad was offered separately (wow, a multi-course meal in business!) which was really tasty with feta cheese and roasted vegetables. Small, but one of the best appetizer salads I’ve had in business class in quite some time!

Grilled beef with chimichurri sauce, asparagus, and polenta. I still don’t understand the recent fascination airlines seem to have with polenta, but maybe it’s trendy again?

Baked bread and butter pudding with vanilla sauce for desert was outstanding, but the cheese course, sadly, was well below-average.

After dinner, I still wasn’t tired, but after a few more hours did manage to fall asleep and get around four hours of sleep in flight. Woke up to breakfast being served, and figured I might as well try it. I went with the roasted vegetable frittata, but it was very meh and I only had a few bites. the deli plate and muesli were more than enough food, however.

After landing, I did my usual with a seven hour layover and headed straight to the Sheraton Hotel for a solid four more hours of sleep. Feeling nice and rested, I walked to the Lufthansa First Class Terminal since my upgrade had already been confirmed.

I do love what I call the “Wall of Whiskey” that greets you upon entering the terminal.

But first, a glass of rosé and the seasonal duck to kick things off.

I wasn’t terribly hungry, but also didn’t want to pass up the usual deliciousness in the lounge, so grabbed a seat and helped myself to some snacks from the buffet. Mmmm quail eggs!

I had to order it because, I couldn’t imagine Tom Kha Gai soup in a lounge in Germany could be good. I was right. It was outstanding…and amazingly spicy just as I requested!

After lunch, it was time for a quick shower (I had maximized sleeping time in the hotel room, and went straight to the lounge sans shower) and some whiskey tasting to round off another outstanding Lufthansa lounge experience. So much choice!

It never gets old being driven from the lounge to the plane, and taking a selfie below the plane that’s about to deliver you more than 4,000 miles away!

Lufthansa flight 418
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD)
Depart 13:15, Arrive: 16:05, flight time: 8:50
Boeing 747-8, Registration D-ABYO, Manufactured 2014, Seat 2K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 106,212
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,798,800

Boarded….and love seeing the reflection of the plane in the window!

Pre-departure mixed nuts…odd…usually first on Lufthansa is macadamia nuts only, but today included almonds and cashews. (…and the macadamia nuts were perfect as always in first…not over toasted!)

What’s for lunch today?

I may have enjoyed the champagne a little TOO much before departure…that or it was the whiskey tasting in the lounge…

….beautiful sight on pushback from the gate

Off we go!

Once airborne, I noticed there was a second champagne on offer as well (but only one bottle) and the purser was a total character “I call her Alex, because she is beautiful. Perhaps you’d like to take a picture with her?”

Lunch started with an amuse bouche of tuna tartar.

Followed by caviar service with a rather generous helping.

Alex also kept me company during the appetizers, which today were roast beef with asian glass noodles, tuna with mashed green peas, and “coconut mousse with curry bok choy, cliantro, and ginger mayonnaise.” The last was a bit odd, but they were all pretty tasty.

Palate cleanser of sorbet and champagne before the main event.

The butter gets me right in the feels every time.

I decided to go with the tomato and pine nut crusted tenderloin of beef which was delicious, and almost perfect at a nice pink medium.

Lufthansa first’s always-delicious cheese cart. It’s hard to pick a winner in this category between Emirates, SWISS, and Lufthansa. Now that would be an amazing trip….

Desert was outstanding – which has been the case on many of my flights lately (with the obvious exception of United and their sundaes which are basic, but good) – iced dome of white chocolate on curried pineapple carpaccio with crumbles.

Napped and worked for a few hours, and then it was time for some light bites before landing. I didn’t really need them, but it’s so hard to say no. Started with a “gourmet salad with water melon balls, olives, baked feta, and grape seed oil vinaigrette.”

Couldn’t resist trying the “club sandwich” which was incredibly soggy and disappointing. Not often I’m let down in Lufthansa First, but this one was a huge miss by a mile.

After years of not knowing that Lufthansa offers arriving passengers at Dulles a private car to immigration instead of having to take the shuttle I’m now much wiser, and sought out the agent outside the jetway, and got one more pic of my beautiful plane. YO! this was an awesome flight! (look at the wheel well…)

…and with that I was home…for a very short two nights before heading out on the road for the last instalment of this epic six weeks of travel. Next up: off to India!

Oct 122019
 


After just a few days at home, it was time to head out again and cross the Atlantic back to Switzerland. In this case, it was a total coincidence that I was connecting in Switzerland, but keeping in the spirit of maximizing time at home I left for the airport at the last possible minute.

An Uber to National Airport takes me about 12 minutes, and with CLEAR at the A Terminal only taking two to three minutes, I can easily be door to gate in under 20 minutes. So when I left home 55 minutes before the flight, and got to the gate before the incoming had even arrived, I knew I had maxed out every possible minute at home!

I stalked the gate a little bit, since the biggest problem sitting in 1A is no storage space, and you really have to be one of the first one if you want to find overhead space near you. No problem, and off we go.

Air Canada flight 7615 operated by Sky Regional
Washington, DC, National (DCA) to Toronto, Ontario (YYZ)
Depart 12:45, Arrive: 14:12, flight time: 1:27
Embraer ERJ-175, Registration C-FXJC, Manufactured 2009, Seat 1A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 87,495
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,780,083

Takeoff on runway 1 today, and another great view of the Pentagon as we climbed:

Air Canada was mixing up the snack today, and we were offered smoked salmon which was good. Not amazing, and certainly not filling, but good. I feel like this “meal” could have used a small sweet to go with it.

After relatively quick transit security in Toronto it was off to the Air Canada Signature lounge for a more substantial snack and some champagne. Horror of horrors they were out of rosé champagne today (something to do with LCBO being out of stock) but the smoked meat sandwiches more than made up for it!

After finishing up some work it was off to the gate, where the usual chaos of rush-hour boarding at YYZ was already well-underway.

Air Canada flight 878
Toronto, Ontario (YYZ) to Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH)
Depart 18:05, Arrive: 07:40 next day, flight time: 7:35
Boeing 777-300ER, Registration C-FRAM, Manufactured 2008, Seat 11K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 91,540
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,784,128

Having changed my departure date rather late, there was only one window seat left, so I was curious to see how sitting in the last row – 11K – would be. Turned out, it was actually nice and quiet. The folded napkins were a bit weird to me – is this supposed to be fancy or something?

Shortly after takeoff was the usual warm nuts with some wine.

Sigh. Shrimp appetizer yet again. At least there were five of them so it was a reasonably substantial amount…and they were relatively tasty.

None of the other options sounded all that good today, so decided to go with the beef which was as expected rather overdone.

The usual Air Canada cheese course. Nothing adventurous, but it was tasty enough with a bit more wine.

Ahhhh the absolutely amazing Air Canada brown sugar tart. Absolutely delicious as usual.

Managed about three hours of sleep which is pretty good for me on such a short flight, especially when I knew I’d be napping shortly after arrival.

Woke up in time to have a little bit of breakfast – which I really didn’t need, but it’s just so hard to resist the Air Canada omelet with that unusual salsa and cottage cheese concoction.

Landing was right on time, and there was no line for immigration this morning and soon I was in the train station and headed straight to my hotel where I planned a solid five hour nap before getting up to enjoy a little bit of time in Switzerland.

Had no trouble at all sleeping, and woke up early afternoon and headed out for a short walk around Zurich to enjoy the city a bit and stretch my legs. The hotel had been kind enough to agree to a 6pm checkout (this was the same hotel I’d left just four days prior and I’d arranged this with them in advance) so I also enjoyed a small snack in the executive lounge before catching the train back to the airport with plenty of time before my flight.

I had a bit of drama with my return seats (SWISS had for some reason canceled my “throne” seat and put me back in a regular seat) and spent some time at the airport trying to solve it – but was unable to as the return flight was completely full.

Admitting defeat, I headed to the gate in the satellite terminal to wait for my flight. At least I would have 4A tonight – a throne seat – so I would have an enjoyable flight to Johannesburg.

Wanting something a bit more substantial I found these unusual turkey roll-ups in the lounge that were basically deli turkey, cream cheese, and a bit of pickle all rolled up in a tortilla. What’s not to love!

I spent my time in the lounge obsessively checking the seat map to make sure they didn’t take my throne seat away again tonight, and everything seemed on the up and up, so headed off to the gate to board.

Waiting to board, I chatted a bit in line with the passenger in front of me, an older gentleman who was headed to Zimbabwe. We talked about life in Zimbabwe a bit, how hard things are with the currency situation these days, and soon enough it was time to board.

The gentleman boarded first, and the machine made all sorts of angry noises when his boarding pass was scanned. The agent informed him “I’m terribly sorry sir, but we’ve changed your seat to 1A in First Class. I hope that won’t be a problem.”

I joked with the agent that if it was I’d be happy to take that seat instead…and then scanned my boarding pass…which was also met with angry noises…and an upgrade to seat 1K!

I have no idea what process SWISS uses to do upgrades when business class is full, and maybe it was a psychic wavelength, but I wasn’t going to argue – my first operational upgrade to First Class on SWISS and I couldn’t wait!

SWISS flight 288
Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH) to Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB)
Depart 22:40, Arrive: 09:10 next day, flight time: 10:30
Airbus A340-300, Registration HB-JMH, Manufactured 2004, Seat 1K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 96,751
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,789,339

Warm grüezi on board from the super friendly crew, and was promptly welcomed with a glass of Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle and an amuse bouche which set the mood for what was sure to be a lovely flight!

Tonight’s menu:

Being quite a late departure, the table was set right after takeoff, and it was perhaps the most elegant table setting I’ve seen in quite a while. Loved the wooden salt and pepper shakers.

Decided to go with the balik salmon as a starter. Slightly disappointing that there’s no longer caviar in SWISS first class, but the salmon was absolutely delicious.

The flight attendant was a little hurt I didn’t want a second appetizer, so I decided to go with the meat platter from the Canton of Vaud. Super tasty, and just small enough it wasn’t too filling.

I decided in for a penny, in for a pound, and decided to risk the veal. OMG I’m glad I did, because it was cooked to a perfect medium rare with an absolutely delicious sauce. One of the best steaks I think I’ve ever had in flight!

I was getting pretty full by this point, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to try a cheese plate on a new first class product. I was very glad that I did, because it was an absolutely delicious sampler of Swiss cheeses – once again from the Canton of Vaud. I think that may have been tonight’s theme….

I really didn’t need desert at this point, but it sounded way too delicious to pass up. Layered chocolate cake with salted caramel, praline ice cream, and caramelized hazelnuts. I could have eaten several of these!

Hard to say no to a few pralines with a glass of Johnny Walker before heading off to dreamland.

Still six hours left in the flight, so plenty of time for some shut-eye!

Woke up and wasn’t all that hungry. so decided to have a mini pain au chocolate, some fruit, and being SWISS of course a bit of Muesli. I decided to skip the heavy caffeine in favour of a diet coke since I was hoping for one more short nap upon landing.

With that, a wonderful treat came to an end. I knew how fortunate I was to receive this upgrade, and it really is all about expectations. When you have no expectation of it happening it really is a wonderful treat, and your mood can go from zero to one hundred in an instant.

Now, if only the same could happen on the return….off to my Johannesburg hotel!

Sep 242019
 


Decided to take the train to the airport in the morning despite my early flight, mainly because the train station was only a five minute walk from the hotel and based on previous taxi experiences it might actually be faster to take the train.

Everything was on tie and worked out really well, and soon I was at the Thai Airways check-in desk and getting my boarding pass. Nothing unique about check-in, security, or immigration, and soon enough it was into the scary duty free area before you could get to the gates and lounge.

When I say scary duty free, I mean it: complete with M&M wearing a genuine aussie cork hat:

Had just a little time to enjoy the Singapore Airlines lounge, but despite being a little bit after 8:00 in the morning it was time for a glass of champagne. I mean, it was….oh wait, even earlier in Bangkok, but I suppose 5am doesn’t justify a glass of champagne…unless you subscribe to my theory that champagne is always appropriate.

Always liked the work/etc cubicles that the Singapore lounges have:

Soon it was time for boarding, and when I got to the gate people were swarming, so I walked up to the podium and introduced myself as a first class passenger, and they were happy to board me right away. I love the service with Thai!

Thai Airways flight 476
Sydney, Australia (SYD) to Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi, Thailand (BKK)
Depart 10:00, Arrive: 16:20, flight time: 9:20
Boeing 747-400, Registration HS-TGG, Manufactured 2003, Seat 01A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 67,849
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,760.437

This wasn’t my first flight in Thai first on the 747, and the seat was pretty much as I remembered. Reasonably private and comfortable, but very open – reminds me a lot of the Lufthansa First seat, but with a bit more colour:

Pre-departure Dom Perignon bubbles are always welcome, especially with an orchid:

Tyler Oakley is extremely amused at the macadamia nuts and hors d’oeuvres that were served shortly after takeoff. I totally wanted to keep the mini cocktail sticks, but had no idea what I would do with them!

Next up was the caviar service, which scored an A+ for me for presentation. Mother of pearl spoon, amazed curved condiments tray, caviar in a classy glass jar, silver trimmed plate…it just oozed class. Well done Thai! I think this is my new favourite caviar presentation in-flight…sorry Lufthansa…I still love you!

I don’t do shellfish on a plane. Ever. One too many bouts of food-borne illness, but I decided to take one for the team since I do love me some scallops and lobster…and oh, look, duck too! How can I say no! It was pretty darn tasty…

Next up was Thai beef soup with tomato and chili…it was good, but not super to my taste, so I just had a few tastes of it and saved my room for other courses. I do love the classy silver-rimmed service-wear though!

I decided to go with the “Samrab Thai” main course, which was described as “Pork Tenderloin in Pa-naeng Curry served with Som Tam Kung (Thai Papaya Salad and Prawn), Thai Northern Style Chicken and Tomato Dip, Stir fried broccoli, grilled mixed bell peppers, steamed jasmine rice.” It was pretty delicious, and I really liked the curry….

I wasn’t expecting much from the cheese course, which in my experience on Asian airlines never lives up to their European counterparts, and this was pretty much confirmed. It was ok, but not really worth leaving room for.

Dessert was Thai pumpkin custard, which was absolutely amazing!

Watched a little more tv, took a nap, and soon we were 90 minutes from Bangkok and the crew was insisting that I had to try a snack before we landed. Not one able to resist Thai hospitality, I gave in to a light snack.

Chicken satay, of course with a splash of Johnny Walker Blue on the side.

Second dessert of a frangipane raspberry tart with vanilla sauce was astounding, and paired very nicely with my friend Johnny.

There were agents waiting for first class passengers when we landed, ready to whisk us to immigration in buggies. I insisted I preferred to walk and stretch my legs, but they would have none of it and insisted I have a ride. Which was kind of weird, because when we got to immigration they just dropped us off and sped off – no indication where the premium immigration lines were. Very well-intentioned, but lacking in execution.

Grabbed a taxi to my hotel…and here’s where I confess that Bangkok is probably the only place in the world where I intentionally give in to the airport taxi service. It’s hot, it’s humid, I’ve just landed, and the last thing I want to do is take a “normal” taxi with questionable AC…or walk to the train to take that. It’s well worth the extra money to me.

Arrived nice and early at my usual hotel, the W Bangkok, which I’ve come to like because of the reliable suite upgrades and fabulous breakfast spread. I mean, how can you not like a suite upgraded like this:

I was exhausted at this point, but dragged myself out to at least enjoy a little of the city before crashing. The Skytrain is less than a five minute walk from the hotel, and was absolutely packed tonight:

Stopped by the Siam Paragon Mall, where this absolutely delightful t-shirt was for sale. I was really tempted to buy one, but figured they probably wouldn’t have “westerner sizes”

The mall was also home to the world’s saddest Zamboni. Growing up, every little kid dreamed of being a Zamboni driver, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for this guy and his attempt to maintain ice inside a shopping mall where the temperature was way, way too high for it.

I made it until maybe 10pm, despite a series of disappointments that included my usual dinner restaurant having shut down…and my favourite “New Zealand Ice Cream” shop also shutting down. I was so used to some hokey pokey ice cream! That’s not to say I didn’t eat well in Bangkok:

With that, my all-too-brief stop in Bangkok was over, and it was time to head to the airport and catch my first-ever flight on the A350-1000!

So long Bangkok! Off to the airport we go!

Sep 022019
 


So, right, off the plane in Singapore after back to back flights and straight for a walk around the airport. Singapore is cool because T1, T2, and T3 are all connected, but if you have a long way to go and don’t feel like walking you can take the train between terminals.

After back to back flights I definitely needed the walk, so walked for about 45 minutes around the terminals to stretch my legs before heading to the lounge. Fortunately, I had done my research online before visiting, and knew that there was no dedicated first class lounge in Singapore for Qantas. It will be opening later this year, but for now I would have to share with the masses in business class. Oh the horrors!

Now, that said, if you have to spend time in a business class lounge, a Qantas lounge is an excellent place to do it. I was feeling the need for a brief detox at this point after two flights of back to back champagne-fuelled nonsense, so went with the coke light along with a little bit of curry and some dragonfruit.

After a quick snack, I felt like I should walk a bit more, so went out for another 30 minute or so stroll around the terminal before coming back for a shower. Fortunately, the Qantas showers were a much more reasonable temperature than the horrendous Emirates ones, and I actually would be heading to my Qantas flight feeling a bit fresher.

…which was definitely a good thing, because I think my Qantas flight was boarding from Malaysia the walk to the gate was so far! Oh well, it was good to get more of a stretch in before boarding!

Qantas flight 2
Singapore (SIN) to Sydney, Australia (SYD)
Depart 19:30, Arrive: 05:10 next day, flight time: 7:40
Airbus A380-800, Registration VH-OQK, Manufactured 2011, Seat 03A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 59,026
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,751,614

The signs in the boarding area weren’t clear, and I hadn’t researched, so I followed the jetbridge to the upper deck…only to discover the saddest first class seats I’d ever seen in the front of the plane. Fortunately, it was just a momentary confusion and I was able to trudge back downstairs where I found a seat much more to my liking!

This definitely takes the cake as the most unique first class seat I’ve ever been on. Faces forward for takeoff and landing, but then you can swivel the chair about 45 degrees to the light so it lines up with the monitor and foot rest. Definitely unusual, but I really enjoyed the spaciousness of it!

Nothing says welcome aboard quite like a glass of Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2004. This is actually one of my favourite champagnes, and I know I’ve said it before but it’s always nice to see airlines taking a “risk” in first class and deviating from the common offerings of Dom Perignon or Krug.

After takeoff, I must feign confusion. I remember the amuse bouche of a caviar tart…but I have no idea what this glass of what appears to be white wine is. Maybe it’s the angle of the pic, but I’m certain I would have been enjoying champagne at this point!

So what’s to eat? That’s a good question, because I also don’t have a picture of the menu! I know I was exhausted on this flight, but it’s very not like me to forget to take so many pictures. At least you can see what’s to drink!

Note that despite serving the Sir Winston during departure, they actually had Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame during the flight. That much I remembered and actually added in my trip notes!

Probably one of the largest tables I’ve ever seen, even in first class! I do remember switching to the rather nice syrah for the main event.

Delicious appetizer, if I remember right it was a thai style spicy shredded chicken salad.

After all the eating the past few days I decided to go with the lighter fish option, which was absolutely outstanding. I’ve been ordering fish a lot more lately on flights, and so far have had mostly excellent luck with it!

Of course, I couldn’t skip the cheese. It pales in comparison to Emirates’ or Lufthansa’s offerings, but was a reasonably solid showing.

The desert, however, was a lemon tart that was out of this world. If I wasn’t so stuffed from all the flights I might have shamelessly asked if there were more, but my waistline thanks me. Plus, despite all the time zone confusion I was feeling pretty tired so decided to chance a bit of sleep.

I must have been exhausted, because I had absolutely no trouble passing out for a solid four hour nap. At this point, after two consecutive redeyes, my body had no idea what time it was anyways, so I was definitely in “nap when you can” mode.

Woke up with just enough time for a light breakfast, and enjoyed some muesli and a tasty cinnamon roll. Before anyone judges me, yes, that’s Coke Light and not red wine with breakfast. Unfortunately, the strawberries with the fruit were seriously underripe, but other than that it was the perfect light breakfast right before landing.

…and just like that it was 5am, and we were arriving into Sydney. Fortunately no queues at immigration at this hour, and had no trouble catching an airport express train straight to my hotel.

The stop was just about a three minute walk from the hotel, and despite showing up at 6am they were ready for me, and let me check in super early. Another solid four hour nap, and around 11am I was ready to head out and make the most of my day in Sydney!

Sep 012019
 


Eventually found my way to the A gates, and from there to the elevator up to the First Class Lounge/Floor. I say floor, because the A terminal is one long pier, with the entire second floor being business class lounge, and the top floor being first class. Given that first class on most planes is 20% the size of business class or less, you can imagine just how spacious it is!

I really needed a shower at this point, despite having read multiple times online that you’re almost better off skipping it due to the heat and humidity in the shower rooms due to lack of good ventilation. Well, out came my temperature cube while I took an ice cold shower. At the end it was reading 81.4F in the room with 77% humidity….and that was 10 minutes post-shower. Yeah.

Went to have a nibble to eat (not so much because I was hungry, but because who can pass that up?) and was still warm…and getting a little sweaty. Ugh! Probably the most extensive made-to-order lounge dining menu anywhere in the world:

I love a good poke bowl, although I was really reluctant to risk raw fish in an airport. Oh well, if a first class lounge can’t get it right who can! In fairness, it was super tasty!

If they’re going to go through the trouble of having a signature sandwich (the Emirates Sandwich) I had to give it a try. The sweet potato fries were actually really good, and the sandwich was pretty meh. Only ate a little of it for the novelty factor…and to have something to soak up the champagne. I’d heard the catering on the next overnight segment would be sparse (and being honest, I was getting really tired so hoped to sleep a fair amount).

So, how about a quick tour of the lounge? When I said it was enourmous, I wasn’t kidding. The “features” like the restaurant, showers, etc were in the middle, and down the sides by the gates (yes, there are gates and if you leave from the A Terminal you get to board directly from the lounge) there are nooks with chairs and such.

I had time, and the bar area was calling, so I decided to have some bubbles. It was also the most populated and social area of the lounge, so it looked inviting. Sometimes privacy is nice, but this lounge was so huge it was almost too much. Lovely bartender from Kenya, who instantly became my best friend when I wished “asante” after getting the champagne. Refills were very quick to arrive…

Sadly, at a fairly late moment, my A380 got moved to the B gates (I thought A was supposed to be the A380 terminal and nearly all A380 flights leave from there? Boo hiss!) but it wasn’t too bad, so took the underground people mover over just as boarding was starting.

Emirates flight 354
Dubai, United Arab Emirates (DXB) to Singapore (SIN)
Depart 03:05, Arrive: 15:00, flight time: 7:55
Airbus A380, Registration A6-EDV, Manufactured 2012, Seat 03K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 55,118
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,747,706

I really wasn’t looking forward to a 3am flight, but given I was going from Tunisia to Australia I’d be crossing so many time zones I’m not sure my body would know where it was anyways. Plus, I’d take a flight in this seat any day of the week! …even at 3am!

Not sure if it’s a known fact, but I’m convinced that Emirates caters their wine lists by destination, with “cheap destinations” like Tunis catered with nice stuff like Dom Perignon, but not ridiculously nice stuff like 2006 Dom Perignon Rosé – was nice to have something a little less common!

Shower orders were taken right before takeoff, and I was informed that I only had one choice of time left – 3 hours before landing. There was a large family of eight in the cabin, and apparently they’d reserved the eight closest slots to landing. Ugh. I told the flight attendant I’d take it if awake, but please don’t wake me up three hours before landing just to shower.

More interesting than a shower, the food and beverage list. Confirmation it would only be light snacks on this flight. Probably good, more incentive to sleep!

Crew was fantastic, and right after takeoff I asked for more rosé, and he said he’d just located a second bottle despite telling many other passengers they were out….so I’m guessing this was to make up for the shower disappointment. The FA serving my section was from Belarus, and when he found out I spoke (pretty awful) Russian we became even better friends…

Decided to snack on the nasi goreng which was actually delicious, and have some of the Château la Mission Haut-Brion 2004 which is an excellent bottle that’s quite hard to find. Generally receives ratings of 98-100 from many of the large wine raters lately, and was shocked when asked “maybe you’d like it decanted into a carafe?” Are you kidding me? Forget the shower, this is onboard living!

I’m not certain if the carafe was refilled or not…maybe it was…the wine was definitely delicious…so I’m guessing it was. Passed out for several hours…and must have tossed and turned a bit because I remember being gently asked if I wanted the shower or not…and saying no and falling right back asleep. So long that I actually missed any pre-landing food. I would have said breakfast, but when you land at 3pm it’s hard to think of it as breakfast.

So, yeah, it was honestly a super rough schedule on the body, and when we landed it was 3pm and I was staring yet another redeye in the face. I was starting to feel a bit out of it and not great again just like I had in Tunis, so decided the best strategy instead of going to the lounge in Singapore would be to walk around the terminals…all three of them…and then go to the lounge for a cold shower.

Turned out to be a good call, because after a stroll I was starting to feel more human. (Yes, I’m sure two long flights of good eating and drinking had nothing to do with this…) I’m getting ahead of myself, however…

Aug 302019
 


Woke up reasonably early, and headed up to the Sheraton lounge for breakfast, although I didn’t have high expectations based on the previous night. The espresso machine worked well, there was reasonably fresh orange juice, hard boiled eggs, and most importantly nice and warm pain au chocolate, so overall it was a success!

On the way up to breakfast, however, I made sure to stop by the concierge desk and order a taxi for an hour later so I could make the most of my time and head to the Bardo Museum.

Taxi showed up right on time, we negotiated a price by the hour so he could wait for me, and we were off.

Got to the museum, and there was an extremely ominous sign on the front: apologies, due to some sort of construction work, there was no air conditioning in the entire museum. That might have been nice, but it was 90F and climbing and it was sweltering hot inside.

The museum has an amazing collection of mosaic tiles, and it’s really sad the facilities that are housing them. These are an international treasure, and it was hard to think they’re not being damaged by the harsh elements. That said, they did survive hundreds of years under the desert, so maybe not?

I managed about 90 minutes in the heat, and got to see a fair amount of the museum – there’s only so many mosaics you can be interested in if you’re not some sort of art historian! Perhaps most interesting is the second picture below, that shows where a bullet hit a glass case when the museum was overrun by ISIL terrorists a few years back killing two dozen tourists.

Driver was waiting for me and back to the Sheraton for a quick shower and to cool down after the hot museum, and soon it was off to the airport. I had agreed to take the hotel shuttle since it beat trying to get another taxi, and soon I was there and checking in.

No problems at all with my slightly unusual itinerary, and immigration and security were both remarkably efficient. Soon I was in the departures area, free to roam the duty free shops and explore the lounges.

Not often you see two flights to Libya on the departures board!

Another mosaic outside the TunisAir lounge…I’d seen enough for the day, and headed inside.

Honestly, the lounge was a really pleasant surprise. During my previous visit, I remember it being super unremarkable with broken air conditioning, but today there was plenty of space to sit and it was nice and cool. I wouldn’t go early for the lounge, but it was definitely a comfortable place to wait!

Knowing there would be a feast waiting on Emirates I only had a small snack to tide me over, and a but of Coke Zero. There was quite a buffet spread, but none of it really looked all that good…

Walk to the gate was relatively short, and with no additional security or anything it was relatively straight forward.

Of course, everybody in the gate area was mobbing the door thinking they needed to be first on board, and the gate staff did a terrible job of anything resembling priority boarding, so I proactively went up to the counter and asked if first class could please board first…so the agent shouted out “ok, we’ll board first class now” and that’s where things got interesting.

A rather angry woman in an abaya and her young (I assume) daughter of about 10yo mobbed the door and were shooed away, told they were in economy and would have to wait. Lots of yelling in Arabic ensued along with arm waving…and when I say yelling, top of her voice yelling to the point airport security and several guys in suits came over. I have no idea what it was about, but at one point in english she yelled “I NEVER SIT IN ECONOMY!” No clue how, but she ended up in first in the end…with the kid… (fortunately both slept the entire flight)

Emirates flight 748
Tunis, Tunisia (TUN) to Dubai, United Arab Emirates (DXB)
Depart 14:05, Arrive: 23:10, flight time: 6:05
Boeing 777-300ER, Registration A6-EBW, Manufactured 2006, Seat 01K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 51,485
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,744,073

Although it wasn’t my first time in Emirates First, I was still giddy about the whole thing, seat and all! The over-the-top bling definitely isn’t my thing, but hey, you can’t argue it’s an amazing seat!

Bit of welcome aboard Dom Perignon? Don’t mind if I do!

Warm cashews and almonds were served on the ground, and then after takeoff the crew suggested maybe I’d like some savoury Japanese crackers with another glass of champagne. Who could say no to that?!

Since the second flight would be a redeye to Singapore I decided to max out the dining this flight and enjoy the entire experience. First up was a starter combo of buffalo mozzarella with pea cream and smoked olive oil, salmon with panko herb crumble, and bresaola with feta and cinnamon poached pear. YUM! (Yes, I’m talking about the appetizers…)

Moving on from the starters…as distinct from the appetizers…next up was smoked fois gras with chicken and mushroom terrine and asparagus. More yum!

The main event was Bzar Lamb with emirati spices with aromatic rice, fried onions, and pistachios. This was absolutely amazing and the lamb was so juicy and tender. I could have eaten two… Delicious with a glass of Château Lynch-Moussas 2008 Pauillac.

So, anyone whose read my blog before knows I like cheese, and that nobody does an in-flight cheese plate quite like Lufthansa in first class. Well, I have to officially announce that Lufthansa has some serious competition with Emirates. Especially the soft cheese in olive oil…wow…it was absolutely out of this world.

Sad to move on, but there was dessert to be had. But first, a glass of Johnny Walker Blue to aid with digestion…and for science of course. Of course, some apricot pudding was also in order…

Stuffed, I watched some tv, and then later in the flight when it was dark the turned on the in-cabin stars on the ceiling so we could have a landing under the stars. Awww… I’m not a cognac drinker generally, but when Hennessey Paradis (which retails for over $900 a bottle) is on offer, it would be insulting to my hosts not to try it…right?

Landed on time, but ended up at a remote stand at the C gates, which is pretty much the world place to end up in Dubai! Oh well, it’s not so terrible when you get your very own bus to the terminal! Fortunately I didn’t have to share it with angry lady who had forced her way into first class.

Meanwhile, if you’re going to East Sketchistan, please take the bus below:

I had a few hours, so I was determined to head to the A gates where there is an entire FLOOR of the terminal dedicated to the first class lounge!

Next up: Emirates A Gates First Class Lounge Dubai, and the A380 to Singapore!

Aug 272019
 


I’m not really sure how the planning for this trip got started. One day, I was looking for some fun flights I could redeem miles for, and the next day I was planning a trip around the world.

The problem was: I had a lot of “empty” segments in the middle, where I had to connect two “cool” awards by something that worked. I figured if I was going to go full-on Av-Geeking this trip, I should add in some stuff I would never do otherwise.

No, I didn’t book economy class or something silly like that, but I did book some stuff that I’ve never done before. Lots of stuff I’ve never done before. But, I won’t ruin the surprise now. First, let’s get the trip on the road, and then you can see just how unusual for me some of this stuff was.

They say every great journey begins with a first step. Well, mine began with Metrorail – which wasn’t on fire that day – so I consider that a small victory in the grand scheme of things!

Where was I going? Dulles Airport where I get to experience the “Silver Line Express” bus to get there? National Airport which is actually the easiest of all with just a short change of trains? Nope, somewhere I never go – and hadn’t been in years and years – Union Station! I think it’s been since the construction was going on, and I was impressed how the foyer looked all shiny and bright:

I had asked friends who travel on Amtrak with some frequency, and they told me I had to find the Amtrak Lounge, and find something called a “red cap” who would give me the magic of having the perfect experience.

Found the lounge, and the two older couples checking in in front of me both asked if they needed a “red cap” to take them and their mounds of luggage to their train, but I wasn’t asked. Perhaps it was because I was 20+ years younger than everyone else in the senior citizens’ home…I mean lounge….but I did ask for one, and was told he would come to pick me up.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed the finest snax Amtrak had to offer:

“My” red coat came to get me and one of the couples about 15 minutes before the train, and past everyone else who was waiting so we could board before all the other first class passengers. A small tip was a small price to pay, and if I could get escorted from airline lounge to boarding the same way I would pay it every time. Are you listening airlines???

Not as sexy as a lot of trains, but our Acela was still….interesting?

Once we had boarded, and the car was filling up nicely, I took a gander out the window at the next platform and saw this. Who says America’s infrastructure is crumbling? Ugh…it’s quite shameful for the self-proclaimed “capital of the free world”:

Whoah, a menu for a short train ride?!

The attendant (can’t really call them flight attendants, right?) came around offering pre-departure beverages, and for some reason I decided to forego by usual beer or wine, and asked for a Woodford with a “little” ice. Well, I got more than a little ice, and I got more than a little Woodford too: a full glass plus two mini bottles!

During boarding, an elderly couple I would put in their 80s were very, very unhappy with their seats. They had been assigned two seats side by side, and kept kvetching at the attendant that they could not sit there because “we don’t like people looking at us!” The attendant tried to explain that every other seat was taken, and next time they should tell their travel agent (apparently those are still a thing?) to book the type of seat they like the next time. They made such a scene that the police had to be called….

Eventually some folks gave up their preferred seats just to shut the complaining old couple up, and with that sorted, we were on our way. Lunch came soon after, and I went with the cheese plate…which was…adequate. The cookie, however, was delicious!

Choo Choo….off we go up the Northeast Corridor!

Bal’mer, hon!

Some tv, looking out the window, and it was time for a beer as we kept chugging along. I had to admit, this was a perfectly civilized way to travel, and I was definitely enjoying it much more than flying with Ubers on each end! Plus…savory snack mix!

Picked my hotel in NYC because it was (a) walkable from Penn Station (b) a Marriott Bonvoy property and (c) because I was told I’m the “target demographic” for this brand. I guess it’s true, because every time I’ve stayed at an AC hotel I’ve rather enjoyed it. That same IKEA practicality combined with European design…sign me up. Plus, the AC was ice cold, so for Manhattan it was a great hotel!

Off to spend the afternoon with fellow country-collecting friend, and managed to drag her to Tipsy Scoop near her office, which several friends recommended I try. I give rave reviews to the dark chocolate salted caramel whiskey flavor. Yum! The spiked mint chocolate chip was also delicious.

It was a rare gorgeous summer day in New York, so we basically just sat around Madison Square Park and did what country collecting geeks do: chat about the best things to do in Angola, the quirks of the Cameroonian visa, and how to “sneak” into places like Yemen and Syria without getting yourself in trouble. You know, every day conversations….

Empire State Building…because it was close and I had to do at least one touristy thing with my night in New York City!

Off to Hell’s Kitty next to meet some friends for dinner, which was absolutely delicious and it was great to catch up. Considering I got into New York mid-afternoon it was great to get to see multiple friends, a little bit of the city, and get the trip off to a really unusual (for me) start. Yes, I know I live less than 200 miles from New York, and maybe that’s why I don’t make more of an effort, but it was really cool nonetheless.

Off to bed at a quasi-reasonable hour – I had to be up early to head out to JFK to catch my flight onwards to London, and I decided I would be brave and try public transit!

May 302019
 


Yes, to answer that question I know you must be thinking, I did make it to every country in the world before I made it to the Florida Keys. I also haven’t been to New Orleans, Austin, or New Mexico yet. These are things I definitely need to fix in the short run.

So my friend Jen who’s also an ultrarunner turned me onto the Keys 100 race, and I was determined to have my first go at 100 miles. Unfortunately, as it has done so often lately, work conspired against me, and there was no way I would be able to make the cutoff time despite pretty decent training. Fortunately, there was a 50 mile option that just ran from Marathon Key to Key West which had a super generous cutoff and I was planning to do.

Unfortunately, I got sick shortly before the race, and had to drop out, which turned out to be the right call given the heat and humidity I clearly wasn’t prepared for. That just means I can go back next year now prepared to run the full 100! Right, so you really want to hear about the trip…

Thanks to the 24 hour change policy I was able to bump my departure from 09:30 to around 13:00, which gave me just enough extra sleep that I felt human after two transatlantics in 10 days, and it was off to Florida.

I won’t bore you with the details of domestic flights on United, but they were predictably meh. More or less on time, however, and exactly what I expected, so overall I can’t complain.

Met my friend John who came down to support me for the race, and after waiting an unreasonable amount of time to pick up my car as an Avis President’s Club member, finally got this one which clearly had barely gone through the carwash. Gross.

Also took another 20 minutes to get out of the lot, but that was more a customer problem than an Avis problem. With that, we were off!

Driving 50+ miles when tired probably wasn’t a stellar call, but made it to Key Largo in one piece completely ready to crash. This was my first time in the Keys, and I was determined to make the most of it…and that combined with being jetlagged and time zone confused kept me up a bit later than I should have. So, as one does, we walked around outside a bit, got lost, and ended up with a few drinks at Skarkey’s Pub. Delicious craft beer selection…

Next morning the sun was shining, and the view from our room wasn’t bad at all…and there was a Starbucks less than 10 minutes walk away. Life was absolutely grand!

Few plans the day before the race, so we drove back up to Homestead to go to the Robert is Here Fruit Stand which John mentioned was definitely worth seeing. I had a delicious Jackfruit and coconut milkshake which was to die for, and the wildlife in the “petting zoo” was pretty cool too.

Next it was down to Marathon for lunch at M.E.A.T. Eatery and Taproom which had an absolutely delicious burger! Total dive (and was even on Diners, Dives, and Drive Ins) but absolutely delicious!

On the way back up to Key Largo, we couldn’t resist stopping at the Florida Keys Brewing Company for a set of tasters which was pretty delicious!

Back to the hotel in Key Largo the night before the race, nice sunset over the marina…

After dropping from the race I still figured I could support my friend Jen, but first decided we had to lunch in Marathon at the Island Fish Company and Tiki Bar…delicious conch fritters and deadly tropical frozen drinks.

Spent the rest of the afternoon following Jen…nearly 50 miles into the race and she was still looking amazing!

We got to Key West just before sunset, and in time to get a sunset pic at the southernmost point in the continental U.S.A….

We found an amazing little bar filled with kitch called Glitchcraft which was absolutely amazing. Great craft beer selection, and even better staff. John actually came back the next night where they were hosting a huge watch party for the final episode of Game of Thrones. Super cool place!

I’ve never met a cutout where I could take a corny pic that I didn’t like…

Brunch the next day at Blue Heaven… lethal bellinis and delicious lobster Benedict. Well worth the wait…plus they had a pony I could ride!

Plus, they had a cat who literally couldn’t be bothered. This is the life…

We decided to play tourist for a little bit, and stopped by the Little White House which was President Truman’s getaway from Washington, but was also used by several other presidents.

Of course, no trip to Key West would be complete without margaritas…

…and the iconic picture at Mile 0 of Route 1…which runs right up through home in Arlington Virginia as well, and I used to live on!

The question still needs to be answered: why did the chicken cross the road?

Last morning in paradise…picture on the beach at our hotel…the Casa Marina by Waldorf Astoria. Nice enough property, but I have to admit the rooms were sadly in need of renovation, especially given the prices. I can’t say I would choose it again all things considered. That said, the location was fantastic.

I wanted to buy this painting…unfortunately it was a little out of my price range at $12,000…even though they did offer to ship it for free….

Neat sign…had the store been open that morning I probably would have picked it up…

Driving up to Fort Lauderdale, we passed the first Starbucks from Key West…80 miles in. This sign is terrifying!

One final lunch in the keys at the Key Largo Conch House where I had some delicious conch tacos. A fitting end to an amazing rest between three hectic work trips. Anything else would have been too much, but it was just enough relaxation with an amazing friend that made it work.

So yeah, I’ll be back next year to run the full 100 Miles, wiser at what it will take to succeed. With that, we were at the Fort Lauderdale Airport, and it was time to catch my flight down to Brazil to get back to work!