Thursday, April 30, 2009

But Who's Counting?

Still catching up on sleep at our hotel on the Big Island after a looong day yesterday. This is our most intensive couple of flying days since returning from Bangkok in January and taking off for Munich and Naples the next day.

Let's see... April 27-29

EQM* Bonus
4535 9070 MUC-ORD
1745 3490 ORD-LAX
954 1908 LAX-SEA
127* YVR-SEA (Air Canada-no UA bonus)
678 1356 SEA-SFO
2360 4720 SFO-KOA

*But I remembered after the miles posted that we earned the 500-mile minimum for that short YVR-SEA hop, adding another 373 to our EQM.
10,742 EQM + Bonus Miles = 20984 miles

No wonder we're noticing the 12-hour time difference between here and Germany.

*Elite Qualifying Miles=the actual miles flown calculated for status on UA

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The YVR Maple Leaf Lounge

There are compensations for arriving at the Vancouver Airport at 5:40 a.m. We checked in fairly quickly and efficiently at an Air Canada machine, and then strolled through US Immigration and Customs and the security line with virtually no wait. The Immigration inspector even managed to be friendly!

The Maple Leaf Lounge is a lovely refuge in a beautiful airport, and the concierge quickly switched our Air Canada Row 13 back-row seats next to the lav in the Dash-8 to Row 3. Of course, we'll only be in the air about 40 minutes as we fly over our house down to Seattle, but we might as well sit up front. Of course, in a de Havilland Dash-8 every seat is near the front, in a manner of speaking.

Now for some light breakfast...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tired Nature's Sweet Restorer

And for all these years Brian thought that was how Shakespeare , not a British poet named Edward Young, had described sleep.

We enjoyed a few hours of sweet restoration at the Southcenter Hampton Inn after arriving in Seattle around 11:00 p.m. last night, about 27 hours after waking up in Munich, and earning another 7204 EQMs (Elite Qualifying Miles*) on United Airlines flying MUC-ORD-LAX-SEA (Munich to Chicago to Los Angeles to Seattle). This morning we were on the road a little after 5:30 a.m. and enjoyed one of our easiest drives ever up I-5.

The flights themselves were just fine, and we managed to sleep for varying lengths of time on every flight. After dealing with the mail and a few other necessities we're off to Vancouver. Tomorrow morning we fly YVR-SEA-KOA, our first visit to the Big Island of Hawaii, after previous trips to Oahu, Maui, and Kuaui. Aloha!

*also referred to as BIS or "Butt-in-Seat" Miles on FlyerTalk. Our 1K status includes 100% bonus miles actually depositing 14408 miles to our accounts.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Self-Catering in Style at the Alpen Club - Schliersee

When we first started to travel we discovered a kind of lodging very popular with British tourists: self-catering "extended stay" apartments in such places as France and Austria. The Alpen Club in Schliersee provides a great example. We've stayed here for a week, made our own breakfast every morning, eaten lunch or dinner or both "at home" as we wish, while enjoying spacious accommodations, scenic grounds, and an indoor pool and hot tub.

The employees here are all very friendly, including Marcel, a charming young bartender and waiter who wants to snowboard at Whistler some day.

A Day on The Train

Thursday was rainy at times so we decided to really get our money's worth out of the 28-Euro daypass we bought to ride on the Bayerische Oberlandbahn, or BOB. We hopped on at Schliersee, transferred at Holzkirche, got off the train at Bad Tölz, where the rain drove us fortunately into a nice little Indian restaurant where we enjoyed a pleasant lunch.

We eventually rode all the way over the Salzburg, hopped off the train just long enough to walk around for a few minutes, then hopped back on the same train to head Northeast to Munich. We then made the long walk to the other side of the terminal where we caught the regional train back to Schliersee.

Although our walking was limited, it made for an enjoyable day of sightseeing through the train windows. It reminds us again how very developed much of Europe is, with its dense population compared to Western North America. Cute villages dot the landscape every few miles, and there are steep terraced hillsides with crops planted and cows grazing that make the countryside resemble one large landscaped garden.

A Bus Ride to Spitzingsee

We caught a bus up to Spitzingsee, a ski resort-town. We ended up in snow up to our ankles once or twice while walking around the lake but it's one more Bavarian lake we can now say we've circumnavigated.

German Woodpile

Orderly, precise, and aesthetically pleasing. When we first walked past it, we suspected it might be Trompe l'Oeil.

Monday, April 20, 2009

German Pile Drivers

Toward the end of our walk, we came across a team of workers driving a pile into place by hand, using a gizmo obviously made for that purpose. Every so often they stopped and switched places, and we could see the large pile sinking deeper beneath the water. It must be a combination of strength, skill, and a fairly soft lake bottom.

A Walk Around The Lake

Schliersee is the name of both the lake and the town sitting at one end. The locals recommend the seven-kilometer walk around the lake. Today being possibly the sunniest day of our week here, we took advantage of the weather to get some exercise while enjoying the glorious scenery.

A pleasant train ride from Munich to Schliersee. We have to make sure to get into one of the two front cars on the train, with the destination clearly marked on a lighted sign, since the train splits at one of the stations along the way.

Even this slow local train traveled along at a healthy clip, and once we left the city we enjoyed our views of the lovely German countryside.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Grüß Gott Bayern (Bavaria)

Here we sit, having a Happy-Hour beer in the bar of our little hotel in Schliersee. In this Southern part of Germany, the locals are more inclined to greet each other with the cheerful "Grüß Gott," as the Austrians do, rather than the more formal Northern German "Guten Tag," or Good Day.

Our flights were all just fine SEA-DEN-IAD-MUC the other day and we're pretty well caught up on the new time zone, after short naps both afternoons.

We stopped at the Munich Airport Lost-and-Found counter and retrieved Kathy's lost necklace, a happy ending to this story. We cheerfully paid the 5-Euro service charge and thanked the young man at the counter. As we left, we noticed quite a pile of purses on his desk, probably the result of the day's "take" of lost articles at the security checkpoint.

Last night we ate at the Augustiner Keller in Munich. It's a fairly authentic beer garden; last night it was actually a quiet night without an oompah-band to be heard, but the food was good.

Today we hopped onto a regional train and arrived at Schliersee after a scenic ride. As pleasant as Munich is, it's great to see some of the countryside.

We have a cute one-bedroom apartment in the Alpen Club and we've already walked down to a nearby supermarket to stock up on groceries (they're closed Sunday, of course).

We'll hope to share some scenic photos of a beautiful part of the world over the next few days.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Warners are wandering - again

The packing is underway:

April 16-17 SEA-DEN-IAD-MUC
(overnight at Hilton Munich Park Hotel), followed by a train ride to David's TimeShare at Schliersee.
April 29 YVR-SEA-KOA
Stays at Hilton Wailoloa Village and Marriott
May 3 KOA-LAX overnight at LAX
May 331-June 1 YVR-ORD-LHR-ARN*
Board Oceania Regatta Baltic Cruise


*CNS=Cairns Australia
*ARN=Stockholm Sweden
You're on your own for the rest.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Those Birmingham Airport Blues

One of Brian's favorite old education-business sayings, stolen from the late John Holt, goes like this: People make programs. Programs don't make people.

So it goes with teachers and school, and employees and airlines.

It starts off at BHM with the coffee at the Wall Street Deli, a food service inside security possibly named in recognition of Southerners' perceptions of New York: indifferent employees, lousy food, and ripoff prices. Bleh...

It continues with the United Airlines Express gate agent who uses her mike to threaten passengers ("if your bag is overweight or too big it will cost you $15") just as we're finally about to board. She also cunningly confiscates passenger boarding passes printed online so she can enter the data later at her own leisure, leaving the lowly passengers with a) no documentation of actually being on the flight (for mileage plan purposes), and b) no documentation of seating for passengers who haven't memorized their seat number back at the gate. The frustrated flight attendant finally instructs befuddled passengers to "sit anywhere."

This all sounds very picky, but the net result of the resulting delay is that we very nearly miss our now 29-minute connection at ORD (Chicago), sprinting part of the way and luckily catching a bus shuttle after waiting 10 minutes (!) for our gate-checked baggage to be brought to the jetway. Our helpful young flight attendant offers to assist the baggage handlers in bringing up the luggage but union solidarity prevails and the bags are eventually handed up one at a time to passengers desperately hoping to make their next flight.

A great flight to Seattle just about makes up for it, however, with an excellent purser serving tomato-basil soup and a shrimp salad for lunch in First, and an ontime arrival allowing us to beat the worst of the afternoon traffic rush back to our Birch Bay refuge.

Birmingham Baby / Back Ribs

Actually, Riley's not a baby - she'll be two toward the end of July - but we couldn't resist the "baby-back-ribs" title. Riley is plenty old enough to enjoy a ride on a carousel and a spin in a car at the carnival sponsored by the neighborhood elementary school.

Other than carnivals, Riley and her parents and we enjoyed visiting some Birmingham-area restaurants during our recent brief visit. Birmingham is well known for its own barbecue tradition. That plate of ribs and beef brisket in the photo was enjoyed at a Golden Rule not too far from Kim's and John's house. On past visits, we've also enjoyed ourselves at Full Moon.

We'll happily work away through various top-ten lists and any glowing recommendations, including a stop someday at Miss Myra's, praised by the Wall Street Journal no less.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bumpy Ride to BHM

This morning we were up bright and early, or at least early, to fly SEA-IAD-BHM. Our 7:40 a.m. flight on UA #916 featured the new business class configuration, very pleasant, although Brian managed to leave a new jacket, an Oceania shell, in the overhead bin. He also very nearly left Kathy's purse in the Red Carpet Club, and the headphones on the plane as well - not a good day for remembering things.

Odd "snack" in UA C (Business) on a 7:40 a.m. trans-con, described quite accurately by the flight attendant (FA) as a "snack," not a "breakfast." It featured a cold plate of fruit, a couple of pieces of cheese, and some salty cured ham, or was it turkey? No, not all that impressive.

Our flight from IAD (Washington-Dulles) to BHM (Birmingham) in an Embraer featured a few moments of some the heaviest bumps we've ever experienced - I'll bet the pilot would have described it as "severe chop," considering the feel of the "mild" and "moderate" chop we've previously experienced.

Anyway, we did make a beautiful landing and are now back at our motel after dining with the youngest of our six grandchildren. Riley looks great, and much bigger than the last time we saw her just before Christmas. We've now seen all six of our little rascals within the past five days. Life is good!