Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Boise Briefly

We're sitting at our gate in BOI, waiting to board. It's a modern airport and one of a number that offers free Internet.

We were hoping to see Patti, the lovely UA employee who we said hello to for years as we entered the SEA RCC. She moved to Boise awhile back, in part to look after an elderly parent. One of her colleagues said she would pass along our "hello."

Boise strikes us a fine place, and we'll have to drop back here sometime.

For now it's back to Birch Bay via SFO and SEA, and the next phase of our kitchen renovation.

This little break has been fun.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Boise Barbecue: Good Eats At Goodwood

We still love this part of the world, partly due to the happy memories of driving our children on our annual trek from British Columbia to visit relatives in Southwest Colorado, driving on Interstate #84 for much of the way, including right through Boise.

The cars always looked new and clean, and everything looked well tended in Boise. Most important, the people are really friendly. When we saw a chance for a quick trip here, we jumped at it.

We're staying in the Hilton Garden Inn Boise Spectrum two doors from a well regarded independent restaurant, the Goodwood Barbecue Company. And, as we walked over to the restaurant, we noticed the clean cars and the general tidiness.

Great food, friendly service, and reasonably priced - definitely worth a couple of flights and certainly worth that two-minute walk from the hotel!

Wednesday morning we fly BOI-SFO-SEA. Our new oven and flooring are both being delivered within the next few days as we move to the final stage of our kitchen renovation, and we'll try to pick up our passports, with new visas for India, as we drive by the Bellingham Fedex office. It's going to be a busy few days.

SEA Doubletree: A Suite Deal

When we checked in at the SEA Doubletree around 1:00 a.m. the clerk and we were surprised that our reservation had been canceled and that somebody else was in "our" room.

She sorted it out and found us a suite on the Penthouse Floor to make up for the inconvenience.

This is the biggest suite of the trip. Too we bad we arrived late and left early so we couldn't fully appreciate it.

It's going to be quite a return to reality to stay in a "mere" room again.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Yawn... Just Another Waikiki Sunset

Suite Dreams At The Princess Kaiulani

This time at the Princess Kaiulani we're on the 28th floor in the Kamani Suite.

It's another large and lovely suite. These corner suites have obviously been renovated since we stayed here last year with Australian friends Bill and Sue. The views are terrific.

Best of all, it has a soaker tub and Kathy is able to put her feet up and really relax.

As Jackie Gleason used to say, just before "And Away We Go," How Sweet It is.

Honolulu's Pink Palace

The Royal Hawaiian may not be the biggest hotel in Honolulu. It may not be the best. It does, however, come with a history dating from 1927 onward that links it inextricably with the story of tourism in these islands.

Its Spanish / Moorish / California mission-style architecture was all the fashion in the 1920s, and this retro look has stood the test of time nearly a hundred years later.

President Franklin Roosevelt conducted business from here, and it was the first location to be described as the "Western White House." It also claims to be the birthplace of two famous drinks, the Shirley Temple and the Mai Tai.

Their virgin Blue Hawaiians, a complimentary welcome drink at the Mai Tai Bar, aren't bad either.

For the past two days we've luxuriated in Old Hawaii, and have long forgotten those check-in glitches. The beach, its friendly attendants, and chaise lounges are only a few steps past the pool, which is only a few steps outside our door.

It's been a great stay.

Soon we'll stroll back to the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani across the street and up the block before flying back to Seattle tomorrow afternoon.

Royal Hawaiian: Lunch At The Surf Lanai

Treated Royally At The Royal Hawaiian

We called this morning to see about a late check-out time. Despite two tries at being connected to the front desk through the guest relations number, nobody answered so we asked for a call back.

When the guest services manager called us back, she apologized for the delay and offered us a rather amazing 6:00 p.m. checkout time.

Today will definitely be a day to enjoy ourselves around this property.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Royal Hawaiian: Lurking On Our Lanai

Honolulu Comfort Food: Side Street Inn

We met fellow FlyerTalker Daniel (Friendly Skies), at the Hyatt Regency, where he hosted us at a very pleasant executive lounge.

From there we took a quick taxi ride to the Side Street Inn, a wildly popular local restaurant with a couple of locations.

There were a total of nine of us and things looked bleak for awhile as far as getting a table, but eventually we were seated at adjacent tables and managed to share some excellent family-serving dishes with the help of the friendly wait staff.

The only negative part of the evening was the fact that "background shooting" was being done for that annoying Man vs Food TV show and the lights and noise soon became distracting, even as the crew demanded officiously that nobody else in the restaurant take photos.

In fact, once the host himself in a sort of Man-vs-paying-diners move accosted young Daniel at our table after he'd inadvertently taken a flash photo, Brian told a crew member to leave us alone and we finished an otherwise enjoyable dinner in peace.

Despite the delay and the filming, we enjoyed our evening with some very nice folks, and the food itself was terrific.

Honolulu Hotel Hop: Sheraton to Sheraton

We enjoyed our brief stay at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani and our lovely suite in particular. There's no question that Platinum Starwood status has its benefits.

Just after 1:00 p.m. we wheeled our rollaboards the leisurely couple of blocks over to our home for the next two nights, the Royal Hawaiian, where we were greeted with an orchid lei for Kathy and a shell necklace for Brian as we checked in.

Our room wasn't yet ready - it was a "spa suite" - so we gave the clerk our phone number to call us, checked our bags and basically wandered around the premises. We were also looking forward to hearing from fellow FlyerTalker Friendly Skies, Daniel, who had noticed we were flying to HNL the day before he was and invited us to join a FlyerTalker group at dinner.

We checked back at the desk at 3:00 p.m. (check-in time) but our suite wasn't ready so we decided to sit nearby.

About 45 minutes later an employee approached us and said, "Didn't anybody tell your room was ready?" We picked up our key cards and walked over to Suite 4. It's a two-floor layout with a a cute little lanai overlooking the hotel's tiny swimming pool.

Oh-oh. The air conditioning was off and we couldn't get it to work. The temperature was a sultry 79 degrees. A friendly maintenance man eventually arrived and got it going. There's only one small unit upstairs so it takes a long time to cool. The upstairs was okay for sleeping but it's still 71 degrees downstairs this morning.

Our next surprise: Who would have guessed a room described as a "spa suite" wouldn't have a bathtub? There's a shower large enough to hold an entire family and even one of those fancy Japanese toilets, but no tub for Kathy's currently aching back.

We did something we've rarely ever done before and called the front desk to find out if they had a room with a tub. Yes, they had two available so off we went for a look. Yes, they had tubs, but the tubs are no more than four and a half feet long. It's not hard to figure out that this property is owned by Japanese and that they cater to well-to-do Japanese tourists, even if we hadn't already seen two Japanese brides on the premises in their wedding gowns having photos taken.

Our suite with its large shower was looking better and we returned the keys to the other rooms at the front desk and returned. One final problem: Our keys no longer worked, so it was one more trip back to the front desk to get them fixed.

And here we are.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Waikiki: Breakfast At Al Lupino

We were up fairly early this morning by Honolulu standards (note that sunrise shot in the previous post) but late by Pacific Daylight Savings Time three hours later.

After wandering a bit, we settled for breakfast at Il Lupino, a self-described trattoria that is a corporate "baby brother" of Wolfgang Puck's, according to one of our servers.

The breakfast menu is expensive by our standards, but it was less than half the price of our hotel's offerings. Besides, the coffee maker in our suite broke down after one pot and we were getting desperate for a jolt of caffeine.

Kathy chose the Frittata Fiorentina while Brian went for the Omelet Peperonata. We enjoyed them and their sides of home-fried potatoes. This meal will easily last us up to the dinner hour. Since it's right next door to the Royal Hawaiian, the hotel we're moving to later today, we might even pay a return visit.

This "little wolf" definitely provides food worth wolfing down.

Waikiki Sunrise

From our balcony at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani.

Looking in the other direction from our 20th floor balcony, we can see surfers out early trying to catch a wave.

And we're enjoying our first cup of coffee.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

SEA: Fondling For Both Of Us But Not With Each Other

Today was apparently our day at the TSA check point at SEA. We both were directed to the X-Ray scanners rather than the magnetometer. We of course opted out. Why? We have our reasons.

Brian did ask an employee where his dosimeter was, and replied that he wished he was allowed to have one. Crazy!

The TSA employees at SEA tend to be very nice and we each chatted with our friendly federal fondlers as they went about their jobs. Kathy tends to discuss the dangers of X-Rays while Brian goes for the cheap jokes. It's probably just a coincidence that Brian was flattered with attention by an observer as well as the actual screener, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Still, it was over almost before we knew it and we're relaxing in the Red Carpet Club before boarding our flight to SFO.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where's That Travel Checklist?

August 17: LAS-SFO SEA... Has it really been that long since we've flown?

We'll drive to Seattle tonight and fly SEA-SFO-HNL tomorrow morning. Sandwiched between two cheap hotel nights, we have two free nights booked at the Royal Hawaiian, the legendary Pink Palace of the Pacific.

We fly back Monday, overnight, and fly SEA-BOI Tuesday for a quick overnight stay to accumulate some miles and hotel points.

Wednesday it's back home to await the arrival of the wall oven and flooring for the kitchen and dining room, both of which we've just ordered.

Now, let's see if we can remember our toothpaste this time.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"She got them at a gas station"

That's what granddaughter Lily helpfully told us when we thanked her mother for the beautiful bouquet of flowers she brought along as a kitchen-warming present.

Mom Dana hastily pointed out that she bought the arrangement at a farmers' market adjacent to a gas station.

We really like our "gas station" bouquet, and we really love some of the comments our grandchildren come up with.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Cheery Tour Of Cherry Point

We found ourselves among the lucky 400 people who signed up for today's free tour of the BP Cherry Point Oil Refinery

As would be expected when a large corporation invites the neighbors over, our tour was was well run, informative, and enjoyable.

Since cameras weren't allowed, we took a photo near one of the main employee entrances just before driving around to the recreation facility where we were to meet.

Once the security people at the gate checked our IDs against the visitors' list, they pointed us toward a gravel road that led to a large grassy field that had been painted with temporary parking lot lines. We headed for the large tent, and enjoyed the coffee and pastries while standing in line for one of the fleet of buses that had been ordered for the day.

When we boarded we met our guides for the tour, Karen and George, both long-term employees of the company now in management roles.

We learned quite a bit on our drive through one portion of the 3500 acres that British Petroleum owns across Birch Bay from us.

There are about 800 employees, and on any given day there are typically 800 contractors also on site, although occasionally there are as many as 2000.

Of the five refineries in Washington State, Cherry Point is the largest. It refines gasoline, diesel and jet fuel at the rate of about 234,000 barrels daily.

It supplies most of the jet fuel to SEA and PDX, and sends a fair amount up to YVR as well.

60% of its product leaves the refinery by pipeline. Quite a bit arrives by pipeline as well, although there are usually one or two ships at its dock. Today we saw both a "supply" ship and a "product" ship.

It originally got most of its supply from ANS (Alaska North Slope) but Alaska currently supplies 60%. Cherry Point also processes quite a bit of oil from Alberta, although it isn't equipped to refine oil from the Tar Sands.

Along with all that fuel, the refinery minimizes pollution while making money by recycling by-products. It produces 200 tons of sulfur daily, which it sells to manufacturers. Carbon dioxide is recovered and sold to producers of dry ice and beverage carbonation. And it takes a half pound of calcined coke to make one pound of aluminum. Our guides proudly claimed that one of every six cans in the entire world is manufactured using Cherry Point calcined coke.

Many of the large towers always visible at refineries are distillation towers. The different products (gasoline, diesel, jet fuel) require towers of varying heights. One tower emits what relatively little carbon dioxide is not recaptured, while most of them emit steam or, more accurately, water vapor.

Among its many employees are a significant contingent of professional rescue/fire/EMT employees, and of course a security force.

We took a guided walk through their large new maintenance shop, and were each given little BP keychains stamped out on an elaborate auto-cad machine that must have cost a few dollars.

Our cheerful guides dropped us back at the tents an hour or after we left, where a very pleasant catered picnic lunch was laid out - hamburgers, potato salad, and baked beans.

We left awhile later with our souvenir insulated BP mugs, thinking to ourselves that, if you have to live across the bay from an oil refinery, you couldn't do much better than this.