Thursday, October 31, 2013

YVR: A Lovely Place To Start A Trip

We're starting a four-day trip that will end in Barcelona Sunday and eventually on Oceania's Nautica for a Mediterranean cruise.

We fly on United (sadly all in Economy)from Vancouver to San Francisco to Newark. The next flight to the cheapest nearby destination, Milan, doesn't leave until Friday evening so we will stay in Newark at an airport Hampton Inn.

Tomorrow evening we fly to Milan and stay overnight there Saturday morning we fly on Easy Jet from Milan to Barcelona.

Even with some traffic delays at the end of the morning rush, we drove up B.C. Highway 99 with few delays, parked our car, and were through all of the formalities and in the Maple Leaf Lounge almost before we knew it.

We had a choice of NEXUS or Global Entry as went through US Immigration at YVR. We chose Global Entry because with that we didn't have to fill out a Customs form. The Customs questions are included as one goes through the Global Entry process on the machine.

Let's hope the rest of the trip goes as smoothly as the first three hours have.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Olympian Gymnastics

Since we watched two of our three Olympia grandchildren in their gymnastics classes during our visit, that seems like an appropriate title.

What amazingly glorious weather! We drive over to a nearby park to watch the progress Riley and Blane have made riding their bikes.

 Jace has to assert himself as well.
Now it's onward to gymnastics...

 Working on the handstand...
Jace, of course, like any one-year-old has to have his turn as well.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Weekend Wanderings And Best Laid Plans

We were going to watch grandson Jake play soccer Saturday but he was still recovering from a minor bout of flu and stayed home. We still wended our way across the border to Abbotsford BC and enjoyed a wonderful dinner with Don and Pat as we caught up on the comings and goings of our combined 15 or so granchildren.

On this sunny Sunday we drove all the way down to Olympia to visit a couple of days with Riley, Blane, Jace, and their parents before flying to Europe October 31.

We're going to miss Avery, Peyton and Lily this time because they're swamped with a variety of activities  over and above their usual hectic schedule. We're looking forward to seeing them in December when we return from our transatlantic cruise.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Sunny Soccer Saturday

A belated birthday cake for Jake and Taegan last Sunday was followed up by a glorious Saturday in Chilliwack watching each of them play soccer.

Taegan played exceptionally well, even though her team lost, and Jake's Chilliwack rep team came back from 3-0 to finish up with a tie game. While Jake didn't score any goals, he came close to scoring three and had a great game.

We're of course objective in our judgments, and here's some photographic documentation of their moves today


Friday, October 18, 2013

The Birthday Ball

Jake and Taegan requested a birthday cake with a soccer theme and Gammy Kathy obliged. It wasn't a bad effort coming four days after our return flights from Hong Kong and the seven grandchildren in attendance (Jace stayed home with his mother) seemed to agree.

And Saturday morning if all works out we're driving up to B.C. to watch them each play soccer.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dear Deer!

We watched six deer grazing this morning with Riley and Blane at their new house on The Steamboat Peninsula.

One little fawn was so interested in us that we probably could have invited it into the house.

Driving South on I-5

Flying HKG-SFO-SEA both of our United flights were okay. In fact, the service in the 747 upper deck was among the best we've seen. The crew appeared to be HKG-based. For the first time ever, we were served a warm midflight snack on United, a bowl of won-ton soup, and very pleasant it was.

United had actually set up a backup flight for us in the event we missed the connection. This led to a small misunderstanding as we first thought our original flight had been delayed significantly. Between Global Entry and the TSA Pre-Check we were at our gate with 40 minutes to spare, and had to time to drop by a very crowded SFO United Club for a few minutes.

The plane was of Continental vintage (with a CO crew) and had DirectTV. Brian's in 2B didn't work though and the flight attendants were fairly indifferent. Fortunately we carry splitters in our Bose Headphone kit and Brian simply watched the news with Kathy on her seatback screen.

We picked up our car at the Doubletree and drove 90 minutes south on I-5 and then 101, arriving at the new home of Riley, Blane, Jace, and their parents in Olympia, out on a lovely little peninsula.

We weren't much company last night, but we've managed to get ourselves quite a few hours of sleep and today should be better.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hong Kong Conrad To HKG Airport

Morning arrived early. We wanted to build in plenty of spare time to get to the airport. As it happened, it wasn't necessary.

Since the lounge and downstairs restaurant open at 6:30 a.m. for breakfast, the lounge manager suggested we take advantage of the complimentary room service breakfast. That was a nice way to start the day at 6:00 a.m.
We checked out efficiently in the lounge and were in the elevator going down to level three, the "secret entrance" to the Conrad from Pacific Mall between two shops, Loewe's and Celine.

By now it was 6:50 and the escalators weren't running but the elevators were. We descended to Level One and walked the usual distance across the mall and downstairs through the group of restaurants before arriving at the MTR station.

Surprisingly, neither the station nor the train was all that crowded, and we rode the single station to Central.

From there it was another long walk and more lifts until we finally arrived at the Airport Express. We had loaded our Octopus Cards yesterday with HKG $50 each, giving us a small cushion for the HKG $100 ride to the airport.

A train was in the station, we found comfortable seats, and off we went, stopping only at Kowloon and one other station before zipping out to HKG.
For some reason we enjoy the little visual display of lights up above that illuminate along the line toward the destination.

Once inside Terminal One, we went to a United kiosk to print our boarding passes. We had chosen a flight that allowed our upgrade instruments to clear immediately. We couldn't help but notice that a woman using the next kiosk was offered Economy Plus for $28. That's a bargain for a flight as long as HKG-SFO. We also saw she was offered a "buy-up" to C (Business Class) but we didn't see the price.

At this point, there are still eight or nine people on the list waiting to see if their upgrades clear and it's showing only one seat available - Suckas!

Seriously, it's another example of why we have fallen out of love with United post-merger.

We're currently in a deserted Singapore Silver Kris Lounge and will head closer to our boarding gate in a few minutes.

We're due to take off on time and land in San Francisco on time. We have a fairly tight connection for our SFO-SEA flight, but between Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check we might just make it.

If so, we'll be landing in Seattle 90 minutes after we take off - 12:50 p.m.,given the change in time and International Date Line. Heck, we'll be landing at SFO three hours "before" we take off, something for grandchildren to ponder.

Hong Kong Conrad: The World Outside Our Windows

Breathtaking on a clear day! We've never gotten tired of watching the little Star Ferries make their crossing.
 As for the rest, wow...

The views from the large bedroom window are also incredible, even without the water.

What an amazing place it is.

Hong Kong: A Final Round Of Xiao Long Bao At Crystal Jade

Well, we just happened to be in the neighborhood and it seemed like a great idea. We took number 141 for two (121 was next up) and strolled down the mall to take a photo of the latest TV set development, 4K. Amazing picture clarity with a 3D feel and of course a rather amazing price, this one costing upwards of (USF) $20,000.

We wandered back to the restaurant. Horrors! Number 142 was now up on the screen. Brian explained our plight to the hostess, who said she would let us in and we were seated before long.

Here's something Kathy learned for future reference at this restaurant, but only 20 minutes into our second restaurant. If you want service, you hold your hand up and somebody comes almost immediately.

Our initial wait gave us time to read the thorough yet cute description on the placemat:
"Xiao Long Bao" - Steamed Pork Dumpling is a dish originated from China, Northern Song dynasty due to its popularity among the commoners. As it is small, delicate & exquisite, and steamed in a bamboo basket, hence, the name "Xiao Long Bao" (small basket dumpling) comes about. The perfect, authentic & superb Xiao Long Bao requires the skin to be thin, wrapping up the freshest meat.

Crystal Jade Superb Xiao Long Bao ~ Every piece of our soup dumpling Xiao Long Bao comes with smooth soft skin, filled with the freshest succulent meat & delicious soup broth that is uniquely tasty, burst in the mouth with a juicy explosion.
We explained to the pleasant waitress that all we wanted were four baskets of  Xiao Long Bao. Four soup dumplings? No, four baskets of soup dumplings. She smiled and went away. Awhile later, four baskets of soup dumplings arrived and nobody else noticed. We'd halfway expected pointing and giggling but the Chinese can be very polite and discreet.

These are slightly larger than those offered at Din Tai Fung, where we last ate in Taipei, but they're delicious here as well. Both establishments are on at least one list of the best Xiao Long Bao places in Hong Kong. We're not surprised.

On the way out we took more photos of the employees behind the window assembling these wonderful little morsels. Again we wanted to applaud. Instead, Kathy shot a 27-second video.


Hong Kong: A Leisurely Last Day

We decided to have a look at the Aberdeen Fishing Village on the final day of our stay.

We took the MTR to Central Station after having trouble finding the right bus at Admiralty. There we were among the first to board and sat in the front row on top of the double-decker, allowing us to gawk at buildings as rode up and down and around and through a tunnel before arriving.

Once off the bus we wandered around for awhile. It was a quiet Monday morning, although a few individuals did invite us to take sanpan rides, a popular tourist pastime. When we politely told them "No thank you" they accepted that with a smile.

By now it was nearing noon and it was hot here, without a lot of shade. We took in the views, decided that was quite enough, and hopped another bus back to Central.

We don't what this catch is, but it certainly looks interesting, doesn't it?

Back on the bus we pass by yet one more example of the way these folks use bamboo for scaffolding and support in construction.
Since we're in the neighborhood anyway, one more lunch at the Crystal Jade sounds very tempting.

Why not?