Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Home Sweet Sehome In The Rain

Another nice flight on Air Canada ICN-YVR capped off our trip. Before we knew it we were landing at YVR, after the captain announced that "unfortunately it's raining."

We got through Immigration quickly with our NEXUS passes (it wasn't busy at all), retrieved our checked baggage, and then took the shuttle to our parked car.

One missed turn had us driving into downtown Vancouver until we basically made a U-turn. No delays at the border, stops in Blaine at the post office, the library (to return our New Zealand tour book), and a supermarket to buy milk and other necessities, and it was home to Sehome Road, where we plan to take the rest of the day off.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Boarding Time

Time to wrap the cards, pack the Europe / Korea plug away, make sure we have our Boarding Passes.

Next stop YVR, arriving about 8:30 a.m. earlier today.

Yes, Even Asian Airport Lounges Can Be Dismal

What, you say, looking at these photos of the lovely and fairly deserted Asiana Lounge, where we visited with Tom and Ellyn on our previous trip to Seoul?

We remember Tom in particular turning up his nose at the food offerings, and today we have to echo his complaints, especially after the beautiful buffet spread (and we hate that word, reminding us of the "spread" that "spreads" cause) in the SIN SQ Lounge.

This is also a contract lounge for other airlines, and it's as if they're working hard to keep the costs-per-entry contained. The best offering was the Korean bowl-of-noodles soup, and the first runner-up was the bowl of pretzels and peanuts that Brian artfully assembled.

Kathy tried but did not finish the mushroom soup, and the spaghetti with "beef from Australia" looked wilted enough that we suspect the entire dish had been imported from Oz.

Ah well, as the current cliché goes, it's a First World Problem, and we'll look forward to some Air Canada delicacies on our upcoming flight as we while away the time by admiring the faux-library that forms one wall and wraps around two others.

Brian "peruses" a "book" from the "library." Oddly enough, many of the books on these shelves share the title Sketches by Boz of Dickens.

Senior Moment In Seoul

We both managed to get a few hours sleep on our SQ SIN-ICN flight. The configuration was identical to that on the first plane, although the seats in the Airbus 330 seemed just a little narrower than those in the 777.

The IFE (in-flight entertainment) controls were handier on the second flight, even though it might have an older system.

This was the flight on which we'd elected to "Book The Cook" (why not?) and our meals were delivered promptly after our delayed 12:40 a.m. takeoff. Brian enjoyed the Chilean Sea Bass but the olive flavor was not to Kathy's liking. On the other hand, her Chicken Tikka was spicy and tasty, and the meals were clearly the best airline meals we've had this trip - at least since our YVR-SYD flight on AC.

We'll see how AC measures up on the return. We're already looking forward to AC's flatbed seats.

On our Tripit reservations it appears that we had booked the ICN Airport Queen Hotel several kilometers off-site, albeit with a free shuttle.

Rather than "transit," we formally entered South Korea with a minimum of fuss - the photo and digital fingerprints were quick and easy - and a polite young woman at an information kiosk give us a phone line to the hotel, who politely told Brian they had no record of a reservation. Maybe we switched to the transit hotel?

We already had our AC BPs so we departed from Korea (not so much as a raised eyebrow from the employee at the desk) and went through security. Again, that was quite reasonable with only metal detectors to walk through. The security people did want all of the electronics pulled out of our bag and run through the X-Ray again. It's amazing how many gadgets and gidgets we carry with an on-off switch or the equivalent.

There was no reservation at the transit hotel for us but a room is available for a minimum six-hour rental for about $68 USF. We're sitting in it now and will nap for awhile, shower later and check out around 2:00 p.m. local time.

Our final flight doesn't board until 3:50 p.m. We bumped up one more hour here so as we write this it's close to 9:20 a.m. May 28, while back home it's 5:20 p.m. May 27.

We're arriving at YVR on the morning of the 28th, and this non-stop flight will ensure that we arrive before we left, so to speak.

Once home, we'll check to see if we have a reservation for either hotel - or worse pre-paid some other hotel. Another task after this experience will be to double check every single night and travel connection for our August trip to South Africa.

But for now, it's time to snooze.

SIN Layover

Our first flight ever on Singapore was not as overwhelming as we would have hoped. The service and food were fine - we even enjoyed a Singapore Sling after takeoff - but you can see from the photo that the configuration of this 777 is closer to domestic than international. In addition, the cabin was too warm for our liking. Still, it was fun.
We're now in the Silver Kris Lounge in the transit area, a fair hike from where we'll be boarding our plane in a couple of hours. The lounge itself is quiet and uncrowded tonight, other than one rather unhappy little boy who keeps making a fuss and yelling "Mom."

Brian enjoyed a shower, and we anticipate quite the little red-eye flight with a similar configuration as we fly onward to ICN - Seoul.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

PER Silver Kris Lounge

We said our sad goodbyes to Sue and Bill drove us to the airport in their rental car, where we said more sad goodbyes.

Checking in at the SQ Business Class counter was efficient and before we knew it we had presented our exit documents to the Australian authorities and were on our way through security.

We managed to get in a line with a metal detector functioning, although we're not nearly as concerned about the millimeter-wave scanners that Australia has now made mandatory (when you are directed to one) as we are about the back-scatter X-Ray scanners.

It took three times for Brian's carry-on to go through the X-Ray. We know what it probably is, a tiny flashlight on his now-ancient key chain that no longer works, but that looks like something threatening.

We were warned that the PER Silver Kris Lounge is small, and that it is, although there's a temporary wall on one side with hopeful signs - CONSTRUCTION WORKS IN PROGRESS - prominently posted.

If it weren't for the quite tasty food, that includes sushi, curried beef, and braised pork, we would suggest it has the charm of a slightly upscale bus depot.

Given it's Silver Kris, we're surprised the bubbly wine is from Tasmania rather than France, but it still tastes good, and we toasted Bill and our Sue and our entire marvelous experience these past couple of weeks.

Next stop SIN, i.e. Singapore for anybody in doubt what that means.

Perth: A Final View From The Terrace

And of Bill and Sue, as we bid farewell to our beautiful penthouse stay, and think with gratitude of the generous couple who made it available to use...

 Once on top and past the master suite, tub, and sauna, it's outside to the deck to enjoy one final time the sweeping views that extend from the harbor on one side to King's Park and the city in the other direction.

Packing Up

All good things must come to an end, and so it is with Oz Fest. We took part in an enjoyable wine tour of the Swan Valley yesterday, capped off by an informal dinner at a downtown pub that allowed us lots of time and space for visiting with Flyertalk friends. Best of all, the pub wasn't noisy, and we had a room to ourselves.

This morning the sky looks better than we thought it might. Bill is planning to "hire" (rent) a car to visit relatives in the area before flying home tomorrow. If all works out, we'll share one last taxi into downtown, and get a ride to the airport with Bill and Sue.

The next stop will be the Singapore Lounge at PER, which apparently opens about 1:00 p.m., in time for us to enjoy it before our 3:30 p.m. first flight to SIN.

The journey homeward begins.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Pleasant Perth

We enjoyed a very congenial group dinner at the Hyatt last night. Today we're off for the official Oz Fest wine tasting tour. Yes, that's the second one for us but the first one was an unofficially pre-Do event.

Who's counting anyway?

As The Sun Sets In Perth

The moon rises...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Perth Touring

Another beautiful if slightly windy morning in Perth and we're off on a ferry to Fremantle with fellow Flyertalkers - with a little more effort we could have made the alliteration sing in that one.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Perth: Views From Our Crowley Terrace

Lovely views Friday morning for Kathy's birthday...

Out And About On A Margaret River Wine Tour

We thoroughly enjoyed our wine tour, along with 11 other Flyertalk members in Perth for OzFest.

The name of the tour outfit we used is literally Out & About Wine Tours, and our guide was the owner himself, Claude Rossetto.

He's not only extremely knowledgeable, but a very funny guy. The 30 hours flew by, as we visited five wineries, and enjoyed two delicious winery luncheons. We also had a pleasant dinner at the Wyndham Resort, this hotel stop having been found by one of our members for a relatively bargain rate - $200 for room and a two-course dinner for two is a heck of a bargain in this part of the world.

We of course had heard of the Margaret River wine region and were surprised to find out how new it is.  The first vines were planted by a doctor in the early 1970s and serious wine making only started to occur in the 1980s. There are hundreds of wineries and Margaret River is well known in Australia and beyond.

Thank you Claude for a most enjoyable tour with Out & About.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Penthouse Living In Perth

We greatly enjoyed meeting up with Bill and Sue, dear Australian friends whom we came to meet seven years ago through attending Oz Fests.

A year or so back Bill directed an Australian flyer friend our way for advice and suggestions about restaurants in Vancouver. We were happy to oblige. Completely out of the blue, he and his wife offered the four of us the use of their vacant Perth apartment while we attended Oz Fest here.

We arrived yesterday afternoon to discover it is a magnificent 1 1/2 story penthouse apartment, at least as large as our own house,complete with a huge wrap-around deck featuring views of the Perth Harbor. It's an incredible place, and a wonderful spot for us to stay. Who knew that our simple and modest assistance would be repaid so generously?

Today we're heading with Bill, Sue, and several others for an overnight wine-tasting tour of the Margaret River area, another well known Australian wine center.

The weather is lovely here - apparently it gets quite hot in the Australian summer - and we're looking forward to the trip and to meeting up with a number of our Flyertalk friends over the next several days. We're enjoying watch the sun rise...

Monday, May 20, 2013

A New Zealand North Island Road Trip: Sites And Sights

The North Island's Northland encompasses curvy narrow roads with numerous one-lane bridges, cows and sheep and birds and even the occasional large snail, Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet, and gorgeous scenery everywhere you point your camera...