Saturday, February 18, 2017

Miami: Aboard Oceania Marina

Friday, February 17, 2017

Dining Al Fresco at the Pub: Pembroke Pines, Florida

Second consecutive evening of dining outside and our third consecutive night in a Hamoton Inn, this one as pleasant as the first two.

The Pub proved to be a fine place for an early Friday evening.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bonita Springs FL: DeRomo's Gourmet Market & Restaurant

A fine place for dinner, especially when it quieted down after Happy Hour...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

On the Ground in Florida

After fine flights on Alaska Monday, we realized our colds hadn't yet left us.

We postponed our visit to Kathy's brother Tom in the hope of resting up and also not wanting to infect Tom.

We stayed one more night at the Doubletree near the Tampa Airport. It's a pleasant spot with generous Diamond benefits, including a free evening appetizer in the sports bar and a full buffet restaurant.

Today we drove down to Bonita Springs, only to learn that Tom and Ellyn are fighting off colds as well.

We shared an abbreviated visit, punctuated by a great mid-day meal featuring steak, lobster, twice-baked potatoes, and green beans.

Tonight we're lodged in a brand-new Hampton Inn about a 15-minute drive from Tom. 

We're all looking forward to waking up healthy tomorrow.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Bellingham Sunrise

On our way to Tampa via Bellingham (6:35 a.m.) and Seattle on Alaska.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Snow Snafu on Alaska Airlines SFO-SEA-BLI

The afternoon started so well. We should have known...

We returned by tram from Pier 39. We picked up our bags at Parc 55, walked over to the BART station across the street, and traveled out to SFO, where we got through TSA PreCheck security without a hitch, and headed to the Cathay Pacific Lounge.
Kathy and Brian sampled the high-quality wines while Blane amused himself on his iPad.

The flight from San Francisco to Seattle was somewhat delayed, but we were encouraged to see that the short hop from Seattle to Bellingham was also delayed. The delay on the first flight grew longer and longer, but it also did on the second flight. Unbeknownst to us, the previous SEA-BLI flight had been canceled.

The flight to Seattle eventually took off and we landed at N Gates just a few gates away from our next flight. So far so good.

SEA-BLI was delayed and further delayed. Finally we boarded. At some point the pilot announced they were awaiting further information, and that the Bellingham runway was "still closed" due to snow that they couldn't clear fast enough.

Here's our little annoyance with Alaska (and our first annoyance in nearly three years of solid Alaska flying, which isn't bad). We wish they had warned us back in San Francisco that we might not make it to BLI that night. It would have been better to stay in San Francisco that the nuisance we subsequently endured.

Once Brian let the flight attendant know our flight had been cancelled (yes, we amusingly got the notice before the pilot did), we got off the flight.

A flight to Fairbanks had been canceled simultaneously and the Alaska service desk was swamped. We started looking for hotels. Not a Hilton, Marriott, or IGH property to be had closer than downtown Seattle. Kathy finally got us a room at the Knights Inn, and we took a cab there.

The friendly cab driver explained there was a Microsoft convention occurring, and that's why the hotels were so full.

We made it to the hotel and checked in right behind a nice man who had missed a shuttle for some reason. He returned to inform the clerk that his room had no power, and furthermore that the sheets hadn't been changed - how he knew in the dark the sheets hadn't been changed we never figured out.

By now it was about 12:30 a.m. We headed across the icy and slushy parking lot to our room with a King bed.. Drat - the keycard wouldn't open the door. As Brian headed back to get a card that worked, the angry person already occupying the room yelled at Kathy to "go away - I'm trying to sleep."

We all returned to the lobby, where the clerk blamed the mistake on a housekeeper who had already checked somebody in.

The second room she assigned us to didn't have a King bed - it didn't even feel like a full double bed, but, snuggled up between us, Blane kept us warm in the chilly room. The property reviews are, to put it nicely, mixed. Blane fell asleep fairly quickly (he was a real trooper throughout the ordeal), and we tried to figure how to get from there to Bellingham, where our car was parked. The best Alaska could do was put us on the same 9:00 p.m. flight the following night. One-way rentals were either exorbitant (e.g. $400) or plain unavailable. Maybe an airport-to-airport shuttle would work.

We managed a few hours of sleep that commenced after 1:30 a.m.

In the morning Kathy managed to snag us two seats on a 10:15 flight to Bellingham and one stand-by.

We made it to the airport (in fairness, a hotel owner drove a couple and the three of us there almost immediately) in time for Brian to get Blane two plates of pancakes from the famous Alaska Lounge pancake machine.

Kathy, in the meantime, was waiting for Blane's backpack to be cleared by the ever-vigilant TSA security folks. Yes, we were all wearing the same clothes as the previous day. A fresh wardrobe was not our priority. 

Kathy's stand-by cleared at the gate. Huzzah, as our ancestors shouted. We were all aboard!
After that, the quick flight to BLI was almost an anticlimax. A sympathetic check-in agent gave us enough of a food voucher to stop at Scotty Browns next to the gates at the Bellingham Airport after we deplaned to enjoy our first decent meal since the previous morning's breakfast. Great spot, once the friendly employees figured out we were sitting down for a meal with a voucher after getting off a plane, a rather unusual happenstance.
From there we drove Blane down to Mt. Vernon on a beautifully sunny day with perfect conditions on I-5.

We said our farewells, and drove back out to Birch Bay Village on slightly snowier roads.

Yes, we think we found coyote tracks in our back yard. Pity the neighborhood's rabbits and cats out after dark.

It was a great trip experiencing San Francisco through a bright seven-year-old's eyes, but now it was time for an afternoon nap.

San Francisco: Behind the Scenes at the Aquarium of the Bay

Monday we checked out of Parc 55 after breakfast and stored our bags with them. We rode the tram all the way down to Pier 39 near Fishermen's Wharf and made our way to the Aquarium of the Bay.
We also managed to snag tickets for a "behind-the scenes" tour, and spent a pleasant 90 minutes first walking through the aquarium display. 

It's not a large aquarium, but it's well laid out and contains a lot of interesting exhibits, including a variety of jellyfish - we never knew there were so many different varieties. 

The underwater tunnels, similar to those we've seen in other aquariums (aquaria?), were quite interesting for Blane.

They have a couple of touch pools and Blane, like most seven-year-old boys, likes to touch.

The little frogs were cute to watch.

Before we knew it, we met up with Kathleen (possibly a volunteer but we failed to ask), and found out we were the only three people on the tour. It was fascinating.

She showed us various types of food to feed the inhabitants.

We also observed a few creatures in acclimatization tanks.

More jellyfish in special circular tanks that allow them to drift up and down without getting stuck in the corners - no kidding!

It was fascinating to look down into the large tanks where the underwater tunnels are contained. We could even see the people walking through the tunnels, almost giving the impression they were some other species of sealife.

Kathleen also showed us basic feeding and cleaning schedules posted on the boards.

We thanked Kathleen after that interesting 45-minute excursion and got out in time to watch the three otters get active as feeding time approached. It was a great finale to our San Francisco trip with Blane.

San Francisco: Dinner at M.Y. China, Westfield Mall

Michael Yan is a "celebrity chef" and his restaurant, located in a large mall across a street or two from our hotel, was recommended. After getting a little lost in Nordstrom's and its curving escalators, we got directions and finally found it.

We convinced Blane to try this version of Xiao Long Bao, but one small taste was enough for him.

On the other hand, the Bang Bang Chicken was a definite hit with him.

The grandparents ate the other two plates (Blane didn't particularly fancy these noodles).

We particularly enjoyed their version of Kung Pao Chicken.

The dessert was another hit (Blane mentioned to the amused waiter that there was "just air inside" these puffs).

It was perhaps the best non-breakfast meal of our entire trip.