Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Video: A Day In The Life Of Changi Airport

We ran across this video thanks to Lucky's One Mile at a Time blog.

We've spent some time in Singapore's wonderful airport so most of the scenes are familiar to us and it brings back good memories.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Two Countries - Two Grandsons

We started early yesterday morning in Olympia, WA, playing with Blane and Jace, our youngest grandchildren, while their big sister Riley was in the dentist's chair having a tooth pulled. Jace likes to play pat-a-cake...

 We ended the evening in Chilliwack, BC, proudly watching Jake, our oldest grandchild, play clarinet in a very enjoyable band concert.

Now we're snug at home in Birch Bay as snow falls.

It was well worth the drive to spend time with all of them.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

De-Icing At Newark

We found interesting information about de-icing here. The other night we watched it happen as we sat on UA #375 at Newark Liberty Airport.

Before long we were up above the clouds on our way to Seattle.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Up In The Air: Literally

We're posting this from United #375:

UA 375
weather image Seattle, WA (SEA)
44°F / 7°C
2:42 p.m. | Tue, Dec 17
New York/Newark, NJ (EWR - Liberty)
Scheduled: 4:10 p.m. | Tue, Dec 17
Actual:        4:41 p.m. | Tue, Dec 17
Seattle, WA (SEA)
Scheduled: 7:26 p.m. | Tue, Dec 17
Estimated:  8:08 p.m. | Tue, Dec 17
Arrival terminal*:
Arrival gate*: A14
Baggage claim: Not yet assigned
 Amazingly there is no IFE (in-flight entertainment) on this plane but they are offering Internet so we splurged on the $12.95 for one of the longer domestic flights in the continental U.S.

We took some photos of the plane being de-iced (or "de-toxed," as the passenger sitting behind us in 3A described it) in Newark, but we won't push our luck in uploading them.

Once we land, we're driving to visit our three grandkids in Olympia, so it appears we'll be doing well to arrive by 10:00 local time. At least we're on our way, not stopped by weather.

Fly Day

We were up at a reasonable time this morning and got to the airport (FLL) in good time, despite waiting 20 minutes for the drawbridge at the coastal waterway.

TSA Pre-check worked well for us yet again and we're sitting at the gate in the C concourse of Terminal 1 awaiting our first flight, which is predicted to be 15 minutes late at the moment.

We again should have ample connecting time in Newark, so we're not concerned. A bonus: FLL has free Internet and our devices connected automatically; we didn't even have to sign up.

Our flight day looks like this: FLL-EWR-SEA. At that point Brian should join Kathy in the ranks of United 1Ks for one more year. Incidentally, 2014 will be our final year as 1Ks since UA has imposed from 2014 onward a minimum "spend" of $10,000 in basic ticket prices (not including taxes) along with 100,000 miles of flying to reach 1K.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Moon Over Ft. Lauderdale

It's like Moon Over Miami except that it's well, Moon Over Ft. Lauderdale, as seen from our hotel room.

Lauderdale Loafing

The weather is cool (for here) and overcast so we're glad we got in plenty of beach and pool time on Marco Island. We walked north along the beach this morning, ate  decent but not memorable breakfast burrito at a little joint, then strolled back to the hotel.

We took out our Impala for one last spin, driving about 15 miles up Scenic Highway A1A. It wasn't all that scenic but it wasn't crowded and it made for a mildly pleasant outing.

Once back at the Westin, we decided to peek at the waterway behind the hotel and now we're back in our room thinking about packing and wondering how our flights will work out tomorrow.

Big Cypress National Preserve

We were through part of Big Cypress National Preserve and couldn't resist stopping at the Oasis Visitor Center on our way through.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cheap Eats In Ft. Lauderdale: Plaza Bistro

Last night we made the mistake of attending an "Italian buffet" at the San Marco Hilton. Between the 15% discount and the bonus Hilton points, it wasn't a bad deal, but we ate too much mediocre food and have felt remorseful since. It didn't diminish our opinion of the Hilton either. We would happily return there anytime - especially low season.

Driving back to Ft. Lauderdale today, we worked hard, juggling between the GPS and the map downloaded on Kathy's iPod Touch to avoid toll roads. Are we that cheap? No, it's a little more complicated.

We read the fine print on our Hertz rental agreement. Rental cars have a "plate pass" for Florida's toll roads. If you go through such a toll, you pay the cost of the toll plus a daily charge of $5-7 for every day of the rental, even if you only went through one toll. Hertz kindly tops off the charge and we figured if we paid one $3 toll something like $30-35 would be added to our bill.

What a ripoff, but it looks to us like the toll roads in Florida are less and less set up for cash customers, and it's hard to determine that as you're driving down the road. We're interested enough to follow up with an Internet search and learn that consumer class action suits against rental companies have been successful in New Jersey and Florida.

We checked into the Westin Beach Resort and we're not all that impressed. We had to go back out to the car to get Kathy's government I.D., which is demanded on check-in. It's mandatory valet parking, which is not only expensive but a minor nuisance. Anyway, it's close to the airport for our Tuesday departure.

What made up for a lot was our less than 10-minute stroll down the beachfront boulevard to one of the newest restaurant sensations in this neighborhood, the Plaza Bistro, a cute restaurant located completely outdoors on an old tennis court.

The kitchen, screened behind shrubbery, has the appearance of a food truck, but the menu, though limited, is inventive and includes some bargains.

We arrived just after 5:00 p.m., just in time for their Happy Hour, in which appetizers, salads,  "flatbreads" (thin-crust pizza), and wine by the bottle are 50% off. Now that's a Happy Hour!

We shared a generous bowl of guacamole and chips, followed by pizzas (we each ate only a half and brought a box back to the hotel for breakfast or lunch), washed down with a bottle of California Merlot - the total check before tip was about $31.00. What a deal!

We found them on Trip Advisor - ranked #15 of 1,105 in Ft. Lauderdale - and it's another case which shows T.A. is well worth reading.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Another San Marco Sunset

After our brief gator-watching expedition, we spent much of the afternoon at the pool, paddling around and generally relaxing.

We treated to our balcony in time to sip a little wine and to enjoy another sunset. It helps that Florida is so darned flat.

The clouds and the viewpoint allow us to enjoy two - or is it three - spectacular sunsets.

Florida Gator Gazing

About a 45-minute drive from Marco Island at H.P. Williams Roadside Park...

Brian points out the official warning sign to Kathy just before we drive farther up Turner River Road.
Kathy steps out of the car to take a photo of a gator across the canal and then beckons Brian to have a look at the gator virtually next to her.

Yes, warning signs are for other people. She did mention to get some good shots of gators.

Friday, December 13, 2013

San Marco Island Sunset

Kathy gloats over her stash of sea shells drying out on our balcony as the sun sets slowly in the West...
Still going...
 Almost gone...