Thursday, March 30, 2017

Aboard Riviera: Cooking Demo

Aboard Riviera: Storm Warning

Oceania cancelled the stop at Oonta Del Gordo in the Azores.

We're sailing instead farther south toward Funchal, so as to avoid a "low pressure@ area, now five sea days.

We're rocking a bit but nothing too strong... Yet.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sailing Away on Oceania Riviera

Our lifeboat muster station for the drill is the casino bar, a great location.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Hotel Hopping in Miami

After one decent night in a Homewood Suites a shuttle ride from MIA (and they assigned us a huge two-bedroom suite), we picked up a rental car and drove to a brand new Hilton Garden Inn across the street from the large Dolphin discount mall.

We walked down the street to eat a tapas dinner at a cute little joint called Bululu.

The canned music was loud and we chose to retreat to our hotel before the band arrived. It's always interesting being somewhere you're 30 years older than the next oldest person there.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Riding Tri-Rail FLL to MIA

A cheap ticket at $3.75 each. A 20-minute bus transfer from FLL, a 40-minute train ride to MIA, and we'll get off and get a shuttle to our hotel.

Doing it this way was cost-effective, and we never would have gotten upgraded flying American into MIA. That was a bonus.

Thunderclouds Over Florida

Our pilot says we're trying to fly around them. We'll be landing late - and maybe bumpily.

Nope. Good piloting with a fairly smooth approach and a good landing. Here we are at FLL.

A Good Start

It's only 6:30 am and two upgrades - whoopee!

First, we were upgraded on our SEA-FLL leg on Alaska.

Second, we got an upgrade to a suite on our upcoming transatlantic cruise. 

Yes, a nice start to the day.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Home Again... for All of Two Days

It was a very good flight from Amsterdam to Vancouver on a KLM A 330, despite the not-great seats.
The service is really excellent and the crew members are always friendly. In a small coincidence, the senior Purser on the flight remembered us from our outbound flight nearly two weeks ago.

Mike is very friendly and always takes time to chat with passengers. We managed to talk travel and music and food during our time aboard.

YVR was not crowded and our checked bag (containing two bottles of balsamic vinegar from Modena) was the very first one on the carousel.

We walked out through customs, crossed the street, and the Park'N'Fly bus arrived within a minute. We picked up our car, beat the worst of the afternoon rush down Highway 99 to the US border, and found no lineup in the Nexus lane. After landing just after 3:00 p.m., here we were outside the Blaine Post Office by 4:10 p.m. Here our lineup luck ended.

Brian spent 20 minutes in the post office queue as the busy clerks dealt with a large number of customers from British Columbia down to mail packages and transact other business.

Finally it was back in the car and home. The house and yard look fine, and it was a treat to get to bed early. We have two full days here before setting off on a fairly major trip early Thursday, so we're having to be as efficient as we can be.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Vancouver (YVR) Bound on KLM

It was a close enough connection and a long enough walk that we only spent a few minutes in a KLM lounge on our way to the gate.

Quite a lot of passengers seem to be in transit en route from India to Vancouver and they all got in one line on our right. Then there was our "priority" line and an economy line to our left, three lines where there should be two.

The thought struck us that, had KLM ordered all Indians to stand in one line, an international incident and inquiry would have ensued.

The Dutch can be firm, as an employee proved. She announced loudly right on time that only Business Class was to board, and we successfully worked our way up and aboard.

We're sipping champagne and looking forward to our flight.

Flying Home

Sunday night we walked over to Airbräu and ate German food, a change after 10 delightful days of Italian pasta.

Bright and early this morning we took the long walk to Terminal 1D.

The airport doesn't seem to be all that busy this morning, and we have lots of time to relax in Air France/KLM Lounge before boarding our first short flight to Amsterdam.

From there it's a non-stop flight to Vancouver, and then a short drive home.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Munich Airport Hilton: Our Fourth Stay in Three Months

Our PSA-MUC flight on a Lufthansa CRJ was fine, with the flight attendants serving tasty little wrapped sandwiches and a variety of beverages, including beer and wine, on this one-hour flight. That's just little bit different from a typical domestic US one-hour flight on a regional jet, isn't it? This is typical for Europe.

We were intrigued that the flight attendant reading the announcements in German and English clearly spoke neither as her first language. This being Europe, she quite possibly speaks four or five others.

We picked up our bags at the carousel after a considerable wait - no German efficiency on display here, other than a countdown clock displaying how many minutes left before their arrival.

We strolled over to the Hilton and checked in here for the fourth time since the middle of January. 

The charming young supervisor who checked us in, Melina. complimented Kathy on her German, and we in turn complimented her virtually flawless American-accented English. It turns out Melina worked for a year at a Napa Valley hotel. Combine that on-the-job immersion with a good ear and - presto -an American accent emerges.

We have a beautiful room again - a two-room junior suite actually - and we intend to relax and enjoy it.

This Hilton property has looked after us very well. While on numerous past visits we've always made a beeline for one of the city Hiltons, we'll definitely keep this one in mind for future trips, especially since their plans to open an Executive Lounge at some point within a year will make it even more appealing, if that's possible.

The closet, and a spot to open a suitcase, occupy a little room between the bedroom and the main bathroom.

We're looking forward hopefully to a good night's sleep before flying MUC-AMS-YVR on KLM tomorrow morning.

This view of the large covered plaza connecting Terminal 1 and 2 reminds us that MUC is probably still our favorite European airport.

The Contract Lounge at Pisa Airport

The We enjoyed a pleasant bus ride back to the Pisa Airport this morning, about 50 somewhat scenic minutes from Lucca. At €3 each, it's a bargain. 

We still don't have our 2017 Gold cards 
From United but the agent at the counter called the lounge and they let us in with a smile.

Incidentally, we were pleasantly surprised that the Lufthansa Lounge folks let us in at MUC last week armed simply with our "Star Gold" boarding passes. Their diligence is legendary.

PSA appears to be a somewhat dismal and overcrowded facility, so it's pleasant to relax in this little refuge before boarding our Lufthansa regional jet to Munich.

Yup, dismal. Their pass readers apparently aren't working so it's a laborious one-at-time procedure.

Finally... A Bombardier CRJ 900.

Riding Past the Leaning Tower

En route by bus from Lucca to Pisa Aeroporto, you can see the very top of it just above the wall between the turrets.

It brought back happy memories of our visit there with Jake three summers ago.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Lucca: Pizzeria da Felice

We've pretty well packed most of our luggage and sorted out our little apartment. The manager is coming by about 8 p.m., so it seemed like a good night for a slice of pizza.

The local (and Rick Steves-recommended) favorite Pizzeria da Felice is nearby and wasnt as crowded as usual, so we gave it a try. We even found stools to sit on.

Like most made-in-Italy pizza, it was just fine - thin and without too much in the way of sauce and toppings.

Yes, we like our style better, but it was still tasty, and we ate our slices folded over, just like real Italians.

The view from inside...

Lucca: One More Opera Concert

We bought tickets for only €15 each at a discount based on our first purchase.

Last night featured a soprano, Ilaria Casai, and a tenor, Matteo Michi, accompanied by the same pianist, Diego Fiorini, in a program of "Mozart e Puccini."

While excellent and enjoyable, it didn't seem quite as sublimely glorious as the previous night's performance, although the encore O Solo Mio duet brought the audience to their feet.

Two nights of arias a 10-minute walk from "home" - what a treat!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Lucca: One More Lunch at L'Isola Che Non C'Era

A meat lover's special... Mixed Grill for two...

We had to snap a photo of this too as it went by.

What a terrific family-run restaurant. We salute Roberto and Riccardo Isola.