Friday, August 31, 2012

Once In A Blue Moon Part Two

Tonight from the front porch...

Time to listen to The Marcels' classic 1961 original version of Blue Moon.

Thanking Neil Armstrong... "Once In A Blue Moon"

How fitting that we're experiencing the last "blue moon" until 2015.

Neil Armstrong's family suggested people look up at the moon and wink at it in his honor.

Brian took advantage of this early morning's beautiful view from our back yard to do that...

Thank you Neil Armstrong!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fun With Grandchildren: Apples To Pie

Jake and Taegan pick apples and help make a pie during their visit...

The resulting pie was delicious and here's the evidence...

There's even an extra pie to take home to Mom and Dad.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sehome Sunset

We've been taking advantage of some great weather lately by sitting in our back yard and gazing out at majestic Lake Thunderbird as the sun sets.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Airline Dress Codes: The Naked Truth

Every so often somebody makes news for getting kicked off a plane for what they're wearing.

It could be a shirt with rude words, or it could be clothing that's considered too skimpy. It all reminds Brian too much of his days as a high-school principal trying to enforce a dress code fairly and even-handedly.

Old fogeys that we are, we think it's appropriate for airlines to enforce some minimal standards.

We also realize, based on our own experiences, that a necessarily subjective judgment will inevitably lead to unhappiness on the part of somebody who disagrees.

An article covering the debate may be found here.

Disappointing: Shoe Scanners Fail TSA Tests

Ever since a would-be terrorist tried to explode his shoe on a flight, it's been a requirement for people to remove their shoes at the TSA check points and put them through the X-Ray baggage machines.

Apparently the latest machines have failed the tests so it will continue to be necessary to remove shoes until an acceptable technology becomes available.

You can read about it here.

Perhaps the powers-that-be could bring back the old shoe store fluoroscopes.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Longest Airport Walks

We ran across an article purporting to rank the longest walks between check-in and plane. We'll assume the distances are ordinarily about the same as those between arrival and the baggage carousel.

It brought to mind our most recent trip, since ZRH (Zurich) is listed as the second-longest walk among airports. If we recall correctly, the reason for that is that passengers arriving in a newer terminal have to walk all the way under a runway before going back upstairs to claim their baggage. More than once we thought we were lost. It surprised us because it makes ZRH feel like a huge airport. As well, it just doesn't seem that logical a layout for the logical Swiss, but undoubtedly there are logical reasons they've arranged it this way.

We've visited most of the airports on the list and noticed long walks at a couple of airports not mentioned, even when transiting from one flight to another - IAH (Houston), ORD (Chicago) and LAX (Los Angeles) immediately come to mind - but there's no question the airports mentioned provide lengthy strolls. Moving walkways and escalators do help.

World's Longest Airport Walks Between Entrance And Furthest Gate In Terminal (PHOTOS)

Friday, August 24, 2012

One-Track Minds

Speaking of road trips, we were considering some details of our October Amtrak trip on the Coast Starlight when we happened to run across an article in USA Today: Amtrak's Coast Starlight sells the joys of slow travel.

We're looking forward to it already.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Homeward Bound: Barcelona To Brussels To Birch Bay

All good cruises must come to an end, and we left Riviera at Barcelona, flying to Brussels and then onward to IAD and LGA. Planes, buses, trains, and more planes eventually got us to our destination, as we discuss here, here, and here.

The next morning we can peek out our LGA hotel room window and spot the Empire State Building in the distance.

Kathy crossed a hundred thousand miles for 2012 on United Airlines this trip, while Brian has a couple of thousand to go. After the way they've treated their Million Mile Flyers , and the many other post-merger problems that are apparent, we're not nearly as excited about that as we used to be.

It appears there are going to be more road trips in our future.

A Classic "You Snooze You Lose" Experience

Sleepy woman's epic 18-hr flight after she misses stop

Pakistan International Airlines officials are investigating how a French woman could have taken a flight from Lahore to Paris and slept while the plane stopped for two hours at the French capital. The woman did not get off the plane and flew back to Lahore.

The only improvement to the story would be if PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) was instead Pakistan International Transcontinental Airlines, or PITA.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How Secure Are Those Key Card Hotel Keys?

Not very, apparently. Anybody with a home-made electronic gizmo and a screwdriver can defeat them, as this fellow demonstrates.

It's somewhat reassuring that the manufacturer has already responded by offering a couple of fixes.

Of course, anybody staying in a hotel room should already be well aware that others have access.

You can read a good overview of this situation in the travel blog Hack My Trip here.

The Forbes article linked there is well worth reading as well. You can read it here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Marseille Movie

Ashore in the Marseille, France's second largest city, we first thought we'd stumbled upon the end of a very traditional wedding - Orthodox Jews perhaps - as we gazed on the elaborate hats and fancy dress.

We slowly came to realize that the exit of the bride and groom from the church was a scene being shot for a movie or TV show - or maybe even a TV commercial.

Riviera: More Of The Suite Life

It's 5 o'clock somewhere, and definitely on Riviera.

A Ship Named Hameln

We just happened to spot Hamelin City nearby, a ship named in honor of Hameln, home of Der Rattenfänger von Hameln (the Pied Piper of Hamelin), as well as the home of our old friends Peter and Elke.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"America's 10 Scariest Airports"

Complete with a disclaimer of sorts in the introduction - "While all major hubs in the U.S. are considered safe (in the words of pilot Patrick Smith, "There is no such thing as an unsafe commercial airport"), some hubs are far more hazardous than others." - Smarter Travel runs a photo essay, America's 10 Scariest Airports,

That scary list includes the following:

MDW - Chicago Midway (IL), BUR - Bob Hope (Burbank CA), ACK - Nantucket Memorial (MA), ATL - Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (GA), SNA - John Wayne (Santa Ana CA), LGA - LaGuardia (Queens NY), Los Angeles International (CA), DCA - Reagan National (Wash. D.C.), EGE - Eagle County Regional (Vail CO), RNO - Reno-Tahoe International (NV).

We've flown in and out of most of them, and probably a few others that could just as well be on the list. As the pilot says, talking about EGE's poor weather, high approach, and high surrounding terrain, "all the other Colorado ski resorts and most Alaskan airports share the same risk factors."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Aboard Riviera: Dinner with J R Lustig

On our July Mediterranean cruise on Riviera we were more than happy to encounter Assistant Cruise Director J.R. Lustig.

We've sailed with him on Oceania twice before. Our first cruise with JR was on a transatlantic from Buenos Aires to Barcelona. He was acting Cruise Director and we found him to be one of the most personable individuals we've ever met. The second occasion was our Baltic cruise just a few years back.

As we recall, JR is originally from Wisconsin, and his background includes the experience of winning a substantial sum of money on one or two of the big TV game shows. He's a fine singer and we've enjoyed his own one-man show aboard.

As an assistant cruise director, one of his major responsibilities is running Bingo, which is not ordinarily one of of our favored pastimes.

He did, however, most kindly invite us to dinner one evening and we enjoyed the occasion thoroughly.

He's a real gentleman with a great sense of humor and we hope our paths cross again.

Thanks for dinner, J. R.!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

When Dining Well Is The Best Revenge

After our hot, tiring and ultimately frustrating day ashore in St. Tropez during our July cruise, we reward ourselves with dinner in our suite from one of Riviera's specialty restaurants, Jacques, with food that lives up to Oceania's standards and to its impressive menu. The treats include Les Escargots, La Soupe Gratiné à l’Oignon, Le Ros Bif comme Frites, and, for dessert (a real splurge that we definitely earned and deserved that night), Mousse au Chocolat and Tarte aux Pommes Frangipane (Jacques’ Favorite Apple Tart with Hazelnut Cream).

Bon appétit...

Our Lost And Found Day In St. Tropez

We wrote here at the time about getting ourselves lost while walking around St. Tropez during our cruise.

It's mainly our own fault that our memories of that famous resort are somewhat negative. Tendering ashore we caught only our second glimpse of a yacht equipped with a helicopter, the first being Microsoft big shot Paul Allen's yacht docked in Nassau some years ago.

Maybe this is one Leonardo DiCaprio (isn't he an actor?) just visited.

We did manage to get a lot of exercise as we walked and walked and walked...

There's some WW II history here that at least a few remember...

By the time we found our way back to a sentier and walked awhile longer, it was a relief to find a spot to stop for lunch and share a pizza while looking in vain for an Internet signal and a map.

Onward to the sentier...

As we looked back at the restaurant, we realized we had a long way to go...

More history along the way...

We realize we still have a long way to go to get back to St. Tropez. We're told there's a bus but there's no schedule and we give up after an hour or so.

Fortunately we find another bus stop a couple of blocks up the road after turning down a 40 Euro limo ride back. Unfortunately, when the friendly and free bus arrives, we still manage to get off a couple of stops early and face another hour's walk back to the port.

We did eventually make it back aboard and spoiled ourselves with a fine dinner in our suite, but that's another post...