Sunday, May 30, 2010

Jumping Off From The Wharf

We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon yesterday in McLaren Vale, thanks to our friends Ross and Jenny. After a stop at one of the larger wineries, d'Arenberg, for some sampling, we had a magnificent lunch at The Barn, our best meal of the trip thus far. Brian in particular was impressed by the way they describe themselves:

We're not the hot guy but more the slightly chubby guy who always makes you laugh that you end up falling for.

After a long and leisurely meal, Ross rushed us back efficiently to the Hilton, where we picked up our bags and headed for the airport, ADL being a relatively short drive from city center. Another Flyer Talk friend, Greg from IAD, hitched a ride as well.

They hosted us into the Qantas lounge, but we basically only had time to say our goodbyes before heading toward our own Virgin Blue flight on the other side of the terminal.

Our flight back to MEL is best forgotten, the hottest airplane we've been on in many a day. Brian even spoke to a flight attendant, who explained that the back of the plane was cold, requiring them to turn the heat up. Somewhere between our Row 8 and the back of the plane it must have been, like Baby Bear's porridge, just right. Fortunately, it was only a one-hour flight.

We took the Sky Bus to its terminus, only to find out that the free hotel shuttle wasn't running at this hour. A short and not-too-costly taxi ride later, we found ourselves at the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf.

It appears to be just as magnificent a property as our Flyer Talk friends universally suggested. It's quite new, and sits in a newly developed area of the city. The rooms are large and comfortable, the view are fabulous, and the lounge, where we're currently taking advantage of the free Internet, is both huge and welcoming.

We'll soon be jumping off from the South Wharf (now you understand the catchy title above) to pick up our rental car and to wander around the area for the next couple of days. We hope to stop by Sale and visit with our friends Bill and Sue before returning to Melbourne for the final few nights of our trip. Ross has kindly lent us a Garmin Australian GPS virtually identical to our own, so Brian can concentrate his efforts on driving on the other side of the road.

If only the GPS will save us from having to attempt the notorious Melbourne Hook Turns, a turning-right-from-the-edge-of-the-left-lane maneuver to avoid blocking the tram tracks, life will be good.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sunday Drive

We're missing out on the final official Oz Fest event, a bus tour of the nearby wine country today, since our flight leaves a little bit too early for comfort this evening. Our firends Ross and Jenny invited us for a leisurely drive for a few hours around the region and that sounds about right.

Yesterday provided us with an interesting bus tour of the area around this lovely city of 1.2 million (according to our bus driver), although the weather prevented us from the enjoying the usual view from the top of the highest peak, Mount Lofty (a typical Aussie name for a mountain peak). We all had a laugh walking to the viewpoint and looking down at a sea of fog and clouds. Somebody suggested the Pyramids of Giza were down there, and Brian contributed a herd of wildebeests sweeping majestically across the plains. Thanks to the Internet, we can still enjoy the view.

Our Saturday-night dinner at Stanley's was excellent, as was the large meal at a German-style joint in Hahndorf. Our only problem was one too many large meals in one day.

We slept well last night, our first eight-hour sleep since arriving in Oz, and are quickly checking e-mails in the Lounge before meeting up with Ross and Jenny.

It's a flight on DJ back to MEL tonight, overnight at the Hilton South Wharf, and some touring around the region in our "hire car" for the next few days. After driving a one-ton camper van with a standard transmission up and down the hills of New Zealand's North Island last year, Brian is ready to take on the challenge of driving out of Melbourne tomorrow in an ordinary car with an automatic transmission.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Adelaide

A pleasant enough flight on DJ (Virgin Blue) from MEL to ADL, taking little more than an hour. We were interested to find out that the time in Adelaid is a half hour behind that of Melbourne. After a fairly exciting taxi ride at the beginning of rush hour, with the driver playing his Indie music in the background to set the mood, we arrived at the lovely Adelaide Hilton.

Management here has looked everybody and after a fine social hour in the lounge we enjoyed a feast of Indian food at a nearby restaurant.

It was raining when we arrive and it's rainy this morning but we're still looking forward to a tour of the area organized by the local Flyer Talk gurus.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lounging in (Qantas) Style

We're sitting in the Melbourne Qantas Lounge, courtesy of two fellow Flyer Talkers, Dean and Karen, who hosted us in. What a lovely facility it is!

It's on the other side of the airport from our Virgin (DJ) flight, and we'll have to go through security again, but what a sensible breeze it is when traveling domestically. One needs neither a boarding pass nor I.D. You can keep your shoes on. You can carry liquids through. What looks like a long lineup turns out to take a very few minutes.

The Australians are a very sensible people, compared to, ah, some others we've experienced.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ordering Coffee in Melbourne

We again enjoyed what must be one of the world's shortest scheduled flights on a 747, a 438-mile hop on UA between SYD and MEL to ferry passengers and planes between the two airports and only open to passengers connecting to and from UA flights in SYD.

Immigration was quick and friendly. For whatever reason, an official let us completely bypass the fairly rigorous Australian quarantine inspection, that they (along with New Zealand) apply understandably to keep their islands free from invading plant and animal diseases.

We stopped at an ATM (fortunately for us, the US $ continues to have moved up somewhat against the Aussie $) and wandered around the airport, a very pleasant place, after checking in at the Airport Hilton and being told we might have a room by 11:00 a.m. The Hilton is housed in a portion of the airport's parking garage and just a brief walk from the terminal itself.

Brian blew it again ordering coffee in hotel restaurant. One doesn't order coffee here. It's a little different. Brian, trying to blend in with the natives as an "old Australia hand," blurted out that we'd like long flat blacks. The young woman behind the counter looked politely startled, as there's really no such thing. "Do you want hot milk in it?" she asked. Brian, who is known for losing his poise in such situations and blurting out "yes" to whatever is suggested, blurted out "Yes."

Kathy was very polite about pretending to like her resulting cup of flat white that was really more of a café latte, one of her least favorite caffeine concoctions - it least it wasn't sweetened.

Brian recovered in time to ask the young woman at the front desk how to order a plain black coffee with milk on the side. She sweetly instructed us to ask for a long black with a jug of milk on the side. That's called an Americano in some other countries, and it often tastes like watery coffee, because it's basically water added to espresso, which to the Aussies is a - here it comes - short black.

In any event, Brian has now written down "long black with a jug of milk on the side" in his notebook, so as to be prepared for the next coffee ordering challenge.

We're now ensconced in a lovely corner room on the sixth floor, overlooking the airport and runways. The superb soundproofing completely isolates us from the noise of takeoffs and landing a few hundred yards away.

We may meet a fellow Flyer Talker, pat89339, later for dinner. She flew on the same flights from SFO onward. Oddly enough, we bumped into "Pat with a bunch of numbers" (as she calls herself) once before when she noticed our Flyer Talk luggage tags while we were all boarding at Melbourne. Flyer Talkers don't need secret signs - those fluorescent luggage tags do the trick.

After a long shower for Brian and a longer bath for Kathy, our latest trip to Oz is starting off in fine fashion, as long as Brian keeps his notebook handy the next time we want a "long black with a jug of milk on the side."

No worries...

SYD Stopover

We managed to enjoy several hours of sleep on our SFO-SYD flight and recleared security here without problems. A friendly flight attendant had given us a bottle of wine on our first flight. Since we had to clear security into the international area, since our short flight is on UA, we had to give the wine to the first nice young person we saw on her way out.

We're sitting in the quite lovely Air NZ Lounge for a few minutes before boarding. So far so good!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ozward Bound

San Francisco is experiencing fog or rain or something similar which makes the federal authorities cut them back to using one runway only so our SEA-SFO flight has been delayed by 90 minutes or so. We have a long layover in SFO so we'll still have plenty of time to stroll over to the international terminal, enter the RCC, and maybe even visit the Silver Kris Star Alliance Lounge next door.

We fly next to Sydney, a roughly 14-hour flight, and then catch another UA 747 for a very short flight, just a bit over 300 air miles, to Melbourne. We'll overnight at the Airport Hilton and fly to Adelaide Friday afternoon, in time to join up with our fourth consecutive Flyer Talk Oz Fest for dinner after checking in at the Adelaide Hilton.

We took the opportunity to wander over to the Continental President's Club since we now enjoy reciprocal privileges. Nice people and a free bar (which we didn't take advantage of at the beginning our flying marathon) but surprisingly small.

We're now back in the Red Carpet Club, which almost feels like a second home to us. Not at all a bad place to wait for a delayed flight.

Updated to 9:15 p.m. We enjoyed a great flight SEA-SFO with two FAs who were cheerful and kept everyone supplied with water and other drinks along with a grape-and-cheese-plate, pretty good for UA on a 678-mile flight.

It was an odd one in that 22 of the 24 First Class seats were filled, and the probably outnumbered the passengers back in Economy. The flight was delayed and there was obviously room on an earlier flight, also delayed, so there weren't too many passengers left.

What a treat it is to be able to walk the new passageway between the domestic and international terminals SFO, which saves the old dilemma of waiting for a bus, which only ran on restricted hours, or hiking the same distance but having to go through a TSA checkpoint again. We of course have to do all this on our return but we'll accept any small decrease of inconvenience with gratitude.

Next stop SYD.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Friendly Moorea

Moorea: A Fisherman Heads Home

Seen from our deck...





The Mountains of Moorea

Are they mountains or are they hills? The highest spot on the island is apparently 1207 meters, so they may qualify as mountains. Whatever they are, they're beautiful and present dramatic silhouettes against the sky. We spent most of our time looking in the direction of the ocean, but it was also worth looking inland.







The view from near our "front door."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Up In The Air - Again

We see our plane out the window of the HNL RCC. We and our rollaboards will board in about ten minutes. We're booked in F on both legs, HNL-SFO-SEA. We don't land at SEA until after Midnight but it'll only by 9:00 p.m. our time. Of course, morning may come a little earlier than we expect.

On an afternoon flight like this we won't feel guilty about ordering one of UA's quite decent Mai Tais, served only on the Hawaii flights. Besides, it'll be just about 5:00 p.m. PDT by the time they start serving drinks.

And a few hours later... we're climbing into bed following an efficient check-in at the SEA Doubletree after two very pleasant flights. It's only 10:30 p.m. Tuesday Honolulu / Mooorea time, but it's 1:30 a.m. Wednesday here, and we still suspect morning will arrive rapidly.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hanging Loose in Honolulu

We spent a couple of nights in the Hilton Hawaiian Village and today moved over to the Doubletree that's across the street and up a block. Our main reason was based on changing room rates but we also rack up another stay this way, our path to earning status with Hilton.

We were in an ocean view room up in the Rainbow Tower and took a couple of photos of an actual rainbow framing our view of Diamond Head the other night.



We've loaded a few photos on our earlier posts but it's taking such a long time that the rest will wait until we're back in Birch Bay. The Hilton rooms are somewhat dated but still pleasant, and with that million-dollar room who cares if the bathroom is 1960s vintage with chipped pink floor tiles?

Waikiki seems fairly busy compared to our most recent visit - good to see - and despite the people and the shirt shops and the ABC stores and the overpriced restaurants, we still enjoy hanging out here (or maybe it all contributes to the ambience).

Our dining experiences have included a variety of good and not-so-good. We enjoyed a pleasant and not-too-overpriced lunch at a nearby Tony Roma's before heading to Moorea. After returning we made the mistake of going to a nearby Cheeseburger Restaurant for lunch. Rubbery burgers and highly over-seasoned fries made for not much of a lunch. It was entertaining in one aspect - we waited and waited for our order (we ordered cheeseburgers which we thought the kitchen could handle) and others were served while we sat. When we inquired, the waitress came over and said she must have forgotten to put in our order, since she's also forgotten what we'd ordered. Full marks to her for honesty at least, and also for her pride in how quickly our order arrived after she finally put in the order. Such experiences do make us appreciate the good places.

We finally splurged and tried Ruth's Chris. Yes, along with being supremely expensive, it was great, although if you take a USDA Prime ribeye and cook it in butter it should taste good. It didn't completely blow us away, and made us realize that the Certified Angus beef we're now able to buy at our neighborhood market at home is a pretty darned good product.

Last night we ate at Roy's, and enjoyed a prix fixe tasting menu.

Today we tried a Japanese buffet restaurant, Todai, just down the street from the Doubletree, for which we've seen Japanese tourists lining up in droves. It was quiet today and we walked right in. It has the ambience of an Old Country Buffet, but it has one huge sushi station with three employees preparing sushi. We thought it was quite decent. There is a large buffet of traditional Japanese fare, everything from sukiyaki to a tempura station. Some of that food was a little on the cool side, the perils of a buffet, and we probably should have made several quick trips up to pounce on food just emerging from the kitchen. It gets mixed Trip Advisor reviews, and we understand why, but even at a relatively pricy $15 for lunch we'd return.

Tonight we finish up our last little bit of packing, and head for the airport via Roberts tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.

We're flying to Australia next week, so we'll just have time to read our mail and weed the yard - oh yes, and pick up our two youngest grandkids and their mother at the Vancouver Airport, flying in all the way from Alabama. They're definitely cute, as these recent professional studio photos reveal, and we're greatly looking forward to seeing them and getting them together with their cousins.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Talking Tahitian

Yes, that's what they do. We were quite interested to learn that the local inhabitants speak Tahitian, a language indigenous to the Society Islands, although somewhat related to the Rarotongan, New Zealand Māori, and Hawaiian languages. An obvious example to us non-linguists is that every word ends in a vowel.

So we learned to greet someone with a hello by saying ia ora na, which is pronounced almost like Your Anna, and saying thanks with an impressive mauruuru.

The people we encountered were universally friendly and kind, whether of French origin, such as the wonderful Cannes-born Barbara at the Hilton front desk who managed to find us an overwater bungalow for five nights, or the true local Tahitians.

Of course, when you're living on a gorgeous island like Moorea, there's no reason not to be cheerful and friendly, despite some of the cost of living.

Incidentally, many of our fellow air passengers again checked large amounts of luggage and coolers, which they fill to take advantage of the "bargain prices" in Honolulu. We've already mentioned that to a couple of folks here, making them chuckle, since they're not used to the words "bargains" and "Honolulu" ever being used together.

When Getting There Is NOT Half The Fun

We arrived in Honolulu safe and sound less than three hours ago.

Most of the details of our trek worked out well, but there's no way to get around the reality of a 5 1/2 hour redeye flight in crowded economy seats. We passed up the opportunity to buy pineapples while we were waiting for the ferry to arrive:






After a bouncy but mercifully brief 30-minute ferry ride we landed at Papeete and asked a shuttle driver where we could find a taxi. He invited us to hop on and after dropping by the airport (nothing open) he took us to the InterContinental Hotel for a total of $10, a very good deal in these islands. Since it was now only a little after 6:00 p.m. and our flight didn't leave until 11:43 p.m., what to do?

We'd been thinking about attending the Tahitian Show that the hotel runs on weekends, basically to use up that long wait between the last ferry of the day and our flight. We learned that the seafood buffet and show combo cost $100 per person. Ouch! We wandered into the bar that overlooked the show and before we knew it the friendly staff invited us to sit at a table overlooking the show. So, for the price of a couple of beers and an appetizer platter, we got to watch the show - lots of wiggling hips and bold dance moves!





We'd arranged for a taxi to the nearby airport at 9:45 p.m. and the friendly lady (5 of our 6 taxi/shuttle drivers were female) drove us there promptly.

We then stood in a check-in line that truly ran on Island Time - 90 minutes of queuing, moving at glacial speed. By the time we'd had our passports inspected by an Immigration official and did the usual beltless and barefoot walk through security, it was just about time to board.

We had the same 16A-B seats on the return as we did on the outbound - somewhat lumpy seats, minimal pitch (distance between seats)making it virtually impossible even to cross our legs when the passengers in front of us reclined their seats - which they did for the entire flight - and if you want IFE (inflight entertainment) you have to pay $5 to rent earphones or $15 to rent a mini-dvd player. We stuck with our iPod again and slept for a couple of hours as best we could. They did hand out blankets on meals, more than some other domstic carriers are doing.

We're not all that impressed with Hawaiian, but that's mainly due to the seats. They did serve a meal on the outbound, and a sandwich and bag of chips on the return. The flight crew kept the seatbelt signs on for virtually the entire smooth flight, so we just ignored it when we needed to stretch our legs.

The flight landed a little early, and we got through Immigration and Customs with no delay, especially since our rollaboards were among the very first pieces appearing on the belt.

We hung around for the Waikiki shuttle. For $15 each for a round trip, less than half the price of a cab, it's worth a few minutes delay.

When we arrived at our hotel, the Hilton Hawaiian Village, before 7:00 a.m., the friendly clerk found us a room that was already available. It's actually raining here at the moment, but we've had plenty of sun (maybe a little too much) over the past few days, so we like the overcast.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sittin' By The Dock of The Bay

With apologies to the late Otis Redding, we're sitting at the Moorea ferry dock, waiting to catch the 5:00 p.m. boat to Papeete. Ain't technology wonderful...

We're taking in our last few views of this glorious and quite uncrowded island with its 60 kph speed limit after a pleasant shuttle ride from the Hilton with a characteristically lovely lady driver before returning to the hustle and bustle of Tahiti - relatively speaking.

We spent much of the past few hours in the pool and feel relaxed and rested. We'll have to try to maintain the mood when we fly out of here about 11:45 p.m. and land in Honolulu about 5:30 a.m.

Moorea and The Hilton

What a glorious place the Moorea Hilton is. We left the property exactly once for dinner, and only ate dinner out twice, including last night during quite a pouring rain. On a previous night, however, the clouds provided us with a technicolor sunset.





We thought we spied a longboat with some paddlers in it as we savored that sunset to the very end. Look carefully.



It’s sunny this morning and we enjoyed one last long snorkel. Every time we think we’ve seen every kind of fish that hangs around these parts we see another new one. Just before getting out this morning, we spotted a couple of BIG fish, easily three foot long. Whether they’re a kind of grouper we don’t know but they’re obviously timid ones. We like our big fish to be a little timid.





Off to breakfast, packing, and then to check out and generally hang out in the pool until we catch a 3:45 p.m. shuttle to the ferry. We then ferry back to Tahiti, and hang out some more, probably breaking it up with dinner, before catching our redeye flight back to Honolulu, dumping us into the Immigration line there around 5:00 a.m. Saturday morning.

A week ago we might have wondered about all of the nuisance and trouble to make the trip here, but there’s not a bit of doubt in our minds now – it’s worth it!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Slippery As An Eel

It’s been another perfect day in this neighborhood of Paradise. We started the day with Kathy’s homebrewed cup of “Grand Mere” French coffee, a brand we’ve relied on in France. It certainly beats instant. We then took a dip in the water, showered, and headed over for our continental breakfast.

It was then time for some serious snorkeling and we stayed in the water long enough to feel the effects of the current on our inner ears. In other words, time to get out of the "waves" and lie down for awhile until everything stops moving.

We spent an hour at the pool later, sitting in the shade of a lovely tree that leans out over the pool. It must keep the pool cleaners busy but it’s a great feature. The pool itself is shallow and warm. Later we lunched on peanut butter and Wasa crackers in our bungalow. Yes, we stocked up on food on the island of Tahiti before coming here. We ate crepes a couple of nights ago at the little bar about four bungalows down the walkway from our place, but we’ve also enjoyed a couple of nights of the cups of noodle soup that we picked up. Saves some money and we’re snug in our own little place.

This afternoon we returned to the water. It was much calmer and we spent a fair amount of time hanging around various coral columns, watching the action. There are schools of little yellow fish that actually get aggressive. Maybe people feed them or maybe they’re more curious than the other fish, but they’ve nipped us more than once.






Oh, and that eel? A nice young couple from Virginia gazing into the water a couple of bungalows down showed us where to look. The eel showed us his teeth as he displayed about half of his body out of his coral lair, and Kathy snapped a couple of photos, insisting that Brian move his leg closer to the eel to provide “perspective.” Fortunately he wasn’t as curious as those cute little yellow devils.

Incidentally, this is the best place we’ve ever seen (including the Great Barrier Reef, Mexico, and Hawaii) for viewing fish and coral in colors from above the water. That’s probably because the water itself, along with being crystal clear, is quite shallow, and the sand on the bottom is pure white. That’s what enabled the couple to spot the eel from 20 feet away and 10-12 feet up.

Our Internet connection is fine for some things, even including Skype phone calls, but we didn’t have success trying to upload a photo so those will have to come later. Rest assured there will be lots.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Snorkeling in Style

There’s nothing quite like stepping down to the bottom deck of your own bungalow and then climbing down the ladder into exceptionally warm water.

Most of the water is less than shoulder deep, so we can alternate between paddling and walking along the sandy bottom. We saw quite a number of little fish and some interesting coral formations. These needle fish are among the shyer ones...







One funny little incident: The maid knocked on the door as we were getting ready to go and we told her that we’d be going into the water within five minutes. When we returned an hour later, the room was clean and our patio door was locked. She’d overlooked the fact that we were out snorkeling. We explained our problem to a couple walking by on the main deck (not accessible from the back decks) and the maid must have been nearby because she came running to open the door within a couple of minutes, full of apologies. Next time we’ll leave a note on the patio door.

We’re relaxing during the heat of the day for and will head back into the water in awhile. Lots more to see…

Paradise Found: Hilton Moorea Resort

Today we hit the jackpot. We stopped by the front desk on the way to breakfast and asked a staff member, Barbara, about the possibility of an upgrade to an over-the-water bungalow. She spent a lot of time checking and then asked us to return after breakfast.

We ate Mother’s Day breakfast overlooking the ocean. What a view it is. After breakfast Barbara told us we could choose between one beach-facing bungalow for five nights or a reef-facing bungalow for four nights, with a return to a regular bungalow for the last night. She suggested we go and look at them. We thought that either looked great and decided to go with the one available for five nights.

By the time we’d returned to the front desk, something had gone wrong and it was only available for four nights. Then something went right again and it was available for five nights. So, to finish up a short story made long, we moved into our new over-the-water bungalow about noon and spent the day alternating between lying on our deck and snorkeling in the water below.







The water is very warm and we can pretty well walk on the bottom in our water shoes most places. Our deck has stairs down to a small lower deck with a ladder from there into the water. A shower adds a nice touch, allowing us to rinse ourselves and our snorkel equipment after climbing out.

We have the light on right now underneath the bungalow and are watching fish swim by through the glass section of the floor. What a feature that is. We ate crepes for dinner at the little crepes bar just down a few bungalows from us. We think we can handle five nights of this just fine.



Papeete to Moorea

The choice is to fly or to take a ferry from Papeete to Moorea. We chose the ferry, actually a catamaran that makes the trip in about 30 minutes.

The ride from the hotel to the ferry dock was fairly busy, along a highway with a speed limit of 90 km. for part of the way. We bought our tickets and found ourselves a spot in the waiting area.



Our catamaran ferry arrived a fairly brisk speed.



We sailed past the Paul Gauguin cruise ship, moored in the same area of this small port, and headed toward Moorea.



After the ferry ride (the on-board “movie” was an old Perry Mason show dubbed into French), we arrived to pouring rain – at least it was warm rain.

A shuttle driver sent by the Hilton at our request was waiting for us, holding up a sign that said “Warmer” on it. That it is. Suddenly we were on a different island. The speed limit is 60 km. and the road twisted its way along the ocean for most of the drive to the Hilton Moorea.

We checked in and eventually found ourselves in a “garden bungalow,” not the over-the-water bungalows but still very pleasant. We were told that we could ask about the latter “tomorrow.”



Tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Overnight at Le Méridien Tahiti

Our flight on Hawaaian Airlines was just long enough that we were happy to have made the decision to fly as far as HNL on UA. Interesting to make little comparisons among airlines. The plane itself was a big 767 with a surprisingly small First Class section. We of course were back in Economy.

They did serve a complimentary dinner, and we bought a half bottle of a decent California wine for $14 to share, quite superior to the typical little mini-bottles in terms of quality. Their inflight entertainment includes entertainment for which you have to pay $5 each, even if you've brought your own headphones (we passed). They also rent little dvd players for $15 with a variety of entertainment included. Again, we passed, listened to music on our iPod, and played a few games on our iPod Touch.

Going through Immigration and Customs wasn't too bad, although the line was somewhat long and the room was hot. We've never seen so many large coolers on a baggage belt before, obviously the property of returning locals who'd stocked up on cheaper food during their trip to Honolulu. There was a party atmosphere as friends and relatives waited for the arrivals, reminding us of the Saturna Island ferry dock on a Friday night.

We caught a taxi to the hotel and received a pleasant surprise. They were booked up and placed in one of the very few over-the-water bungalows for the night. Quite an "airport hotel" experience for us.





Nothing like surveying a view like this through the little security doo-dad on the door...



We breakfasted on a baguette from the relatively close market, and savored the instant coffee.



Now we're having lunch in the oceanside restaurant before taking a taxi to the ferry. It's not too hot here and a pleasant breeze is cooling us further.

So far so good!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The HNL RCC: Our Little Refuge

We're checked in and through security and now sitting in the UA RCC. It's tough to go from status on United to no status on another airline. Today it's Hawaiian Airlines as we fly off to Papeete (pronounced something like Pa-pe-yet-tay).

A friendly shuttle driver gave us a ride on the Wiki Wiki bus that runs from one terminal to the other, so here we are for the next hour or so. The next stop is Tahiti, followed by Moorea tomorrow.

Riding With a Road Warrior

Here we are in the Alana Doubletree Waikiki in Honolulu, relaxing after a fairly long day of flying yesterday.

Our original DEN-HNL flight did go, but we were happy to play it safe (and grateful to United) for rebooking us DEN-LAX-HNL. We earned a grand total of 50 miles more this way (4430 vs. 4380) but it was worth it for the peace of mind. It still made for a long day as we fell into our beds here around 12:00 a.m. PDT, quite a few hours after that 5:30 a.m. shuttle took us from our Seattle Airport Park-and-Fly Doubletree to the airport.

We were split up in F on the DEN-LAX hop, and Brian had the pleasure of chatting and trading flying tips with his seatmate, a quality engineer in the aerospace industry who travels regularly for work. He mentioned that so far this year he's flown more than 60,000 miles without traveling any further East from his L.A. home than Denver.

It's 860 flight miles between L.A. and Denver, and 954 flight miles between L.A. and Seattle. Yes, we've flown more miles than he has (well over 70,000 EQM January-May) but that includes flights to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Buenos Aires. Imagine how many twice-weekly flights he has to take to accumulate those miles.

He says if he doesn't make it on miles, he'll work to make it on segments (100 for 1K), even if he has fit in a few extra flights on his own time and his own dime. That's a lot of flying, and we tip our hats to him.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to HNL

Just as we were leaving the DEN RCC our "Easy Update" started to work overtime, in conjunction with the departure screen. To make a longer story shorter, our DEN-HNL flight was delayed and delayed again and again, first for "mechanical" and then for "maintenance," and then "arriving from..." No guarantee absolutely that it might ever leave. What to do?

Thanks to the concierges at the RCC, we first got protected and then rerouted through L.A. Our itinerary for the day now reads SEA-DEN-LAX-HNL,which will add a few extra miles to our accounts.

We're sending this from the LAX RCC and our DEN-HNL flight has probably just taken off. Still, we're happy to know that we've earned extra miles, we're still in First Class, we'll actually arrive a little sooner, and, most important, if there's a flight problem we still have an early morning flight LAX-HNL to fall back on to make that once-weekly flight HNL-PPT tomorrow afternoon.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why The Long Way Around?

As mentioned below, we're scheduled to fly from Seattle to Denver to Honolulu tomorrow in First Class on UA, earning 4380 qualifying miles plus our 100% bonus to get there. From there we face two five-hour flights in Hawaiian Airlines, sitting in the back of the bus. The return flight is a red-eye - don't worry, we expect no sympathy.

The only way possible to keep our flying eggs in one basket via Star Alliance (as we generally try to do) would have required going through New Zealand, and not even we are quite that fanatical. More important, we'll have flown nearly 80,000 qualifying miles on UA so far in 2010 and we won't really "need" the miles from the HNL-PPT leg or its equivalent to requalify for our 1K status on UA.

For those of us who are "Up In The Air" types, the question answers itself.

The Moorea The Merrier

Tomorrow morning, if all goes well, we'll fly SEA-DEN-HNL on UA, overnighting in Honolulu before flying on Hawaiian Airlines the next day to Papeete. Where is that? Here. It's the site of an international airport (PPT) and our gateway to French Polynesia.

After that five-hour flight (in Economy, ugh) heading generally south, after our overnight at Le Meridien, we plan to take a 30-minute ferry ride to our ultimate destination, the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa.

Most people have heard of Tahiti and Bora Bora but few have heard of Moorea. They are all among the islands that comprise the Society Islands. Expert travelers debate which among them is best for tourists but it seems they're all great.

We're staying on Hilton Points so the cost is minimal. Apparently everything is expensive so we may eat a lot of peanut butter while there but it looks as if it could be glorious six nights in this corner of Paradise.