Introduction
Seattle to Frankfurt
Frankfurt Fun Times
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Frankfurt to Newark
Newark to Seattle
Conclusion
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

I stepped off that plane in Newark with a sad face, knowing that the fun was over. I was about to possibly go through hell. At the end of the jet bridge was a Lufthansa staff member waiting for all F guests. She apologized that she couldn’t help us expedite US immigration (no one ever can) but said she would have our bags waiting for us when we get through . I let her know that I might be a while, as I knew my process through immigration would require immediate Secondary processing. She said that she would wait for me. Now that is service!

Immigration turned out to be a non event barely a question asked and barely an extra 5 minutes added, all of which was spent me sitting on a chair pre thinking of answers to questions that might happen. I even had a very happy quick joke with one of the CBP agents about baking on my way towards baggage claim. That experience turned out to be way better than expected. My flight was late arriving (only about 15 minutes, nothing horrible) and I had a 3 hour connection. Through all of it I expected immigration to take around an hour, thankfully with secondary and waiting originally, and waiting in line for customs (and declaring a bag full of candy) took around 45 minutes. I had a good 2 hours till departure, plenty of time to connect right? WRONG! This is Newark!

I wanted a United boarding pass on United cardstock (what… stop judging me already!) and so I made a quick pit stop at airline desks after dropping my bag off at Connections. They issued me one with no problem at all and then it was off to terminal C. The airline desk staff pointed me in the right direction and that is the way I went. Sadly I don’t think they were aware that it was all broken, and that is not a good thing. Although the terminals are quite close at Newark (although not SeaTac close) they run a train (on the landside) between them. Sadly this train was broken somewhere and there was a mass amount of people waiting. No announcements nothing at all. It was bedlam. What they didn’t tell you was that yes you could walk between terminals. I waited a good 25 minutes before I knew that was even possible. At that point, it was time to haul ass, and that is what I did. I moved as quickly and as efficiently as possible between the two terminals and I was sweating (it was almost 90 out).

I made it to the C terminal with expected waits at security of “less than 10 minutes”. I had to quickly trash my water bottle and grab out my boarding pass (as I had stashed while i waited for the Air Train) and while I was doing that I thought I had lost part of my stuff. By the time I cleared security I actually found it and about 15 minutes after entering the security line, I was on the other side. This gave me just over 25 minutes till the apparent boarding time of my flight to get to the far side of the terminal. A LONG way off. I hauled butt to the United Club hoping I could jump into a shower room and clean up a bit, sadly no chance as it was a 15-20 minute wait for a shower and I had less than that till boarding. I resounded to smell and look like crap.

I grabbed a banana (for sustenance) and hot footed it to the gate area to get there before boarding started. By the time I got up there, the gate had no seats at all (literally there was no seats at this gate and the gate area adjacent was full (either from the flight from that gate or mine). I tried to see if the boarding time was realistic (in the hopes that I could maybe find somewhere to sit close enough) but as usual, this is United and it comes with mandatory surliness. I found a table close by to drop my stuff and kind of get myself sorted so that I could quickly email Heidi to let her know all was ok (since I had not done that yet). When it got close to boarding time, I went and joined the gate lice who were already clamoring for positions in the wrong boarding areas. What is it with American’s doing that! The only thing is we just waited and waited and waited some more. I wasn’t surprised at this, like I said this is United.

United Airlines – UA1160
Newark to Seattle Tacoma (EWR-SEA)
1900-2222
Boeing 737-900ER (N64809)
First Class – Seat 2F

Boarding: 1835 (Gate 131)
Push Back: 1913
Take off Roll: 1928 (Runway 22R)
Top of Descent: 2147
Touch Down: 2208 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down: 2217 (Gate A11)

Boarding was called almost 20 minutes later than the time noted and it was blamed on “cleaning the aircraft” yet by that time, the plane had been on the ground for quite some time. Me thinks that someone was telling porky pies! They called every conceivable kind of person before allowing First Class to board. By now I was just wanting to sit down and relax, maybe put my feet up a little. When they got to Zone 1 for boarding, I was happy to jump onboard.

I got myself sorted in my seat and didn’t spend a whole lot of time taking too many photos. This is United remember so it is not all THAT special. The flight boarded and the seat next to me remained empty, right up until the point they paged someone for a “new seat assignment”. Yep F was going out full tonight… sadly. Having a spare seat next to me would have been nice as I could have spread out a little more.

The pushback was delayed due to “the printer in the cockpit not working” (or at least that is the reason given by the flight deck) so we missed our push window and had to wait, I enjoyed watching the ground crew working seeing the slight differences that happens between airlines. When wef did push, we taxied out fairly quickly all the way out to the runway adjacent to the one we landed on earlier.

After only having to wait for 1 or 2 other planes, we lept into the air and settled in for a fight to the west coast. I wanted to try and finish my book for the first part of the flight and I accomplished that quite a bit, until my new seatmate wanted to chat. It wasn’t all bad (found out he used to live in the same suburb of sydney that my grandparents did) and his talking kept me awake and entertained for a while.

I had not flown Transcon UA F ever before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect and when the starter salad came out I thought to myself “where is the salmon”. Woops! Didn’t expect a course by course meal. But the good thing with that was the fact that they had ICE CREAM!! I ate away while chatting and once the meal was complete (and ice cream bowl licked) I switched over to working on the trip report some more while trying not to fall asleep.

Thankfully the WiFi was working as I had to buy a couple of bucks worth to organise my ride home since we were getting in early apparently. Way to schedule pad united. When the internet ran out (I spent most of my WiFi time goofing off) I went back to the trip report and also tried hard to keep my eyes open. They were just so heavy and tired and once I had caught up on the trip report, well my eyes just kept on shutting.

I didn’t sleep, but I know I zoned out to relaxation mode and soon enough we were on descent to Seattle. I couldn’t see squat outside since it was dark and it looked like the weather had rolled in. Add in the fact that my eyes were so heavy and tired and I just didn’t care. I thought we were approaching from the South but when we touched down on the right runway I didn’t see anything out there on my side, turns out we had come in from the North. Soooo observant there Malcolm.

We touched down and taxied over to the A Gates where we would pull into A11 and end our trip for the night. I was hoping that the priority bag tags would have me out quickly (in the past it has been a hit or a miss) and I moved my way over to the baggage claim. Since we were meant to get in early (But apparently landed on time instead) I had reached out to a friend to pick me up since Heidi was working (and actually finished late) and as soon as I had my bag, he came down to grab me. Homeward bound to Heidi & my bed only after being awake 27 hours, way to end a trip!

Introduction
Seattle to Frankfurt
Frankfurt Fun Times
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Frankfurt to Newark
Newark to Seattle
Conclusion
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

It is tough being back to reality now (although not full reality as I don’t start back at work till Monday). The craziest part about the whole trip was just how easy it was to put together. I always expected that when I wanted to do my Lufthansa first class trip, I wouldn’t be able to do it, that I would never find the space. Well that was a total non event because I was able to get what I wanted, fairly close to when I wanted. Now that I am home and able to look at it all, I am so happy to have done it. Before I get to far into it though, all my photos are up:

Weekend in Frankfurt
Frankfurt Spotting

Let’s look at these pieces one by one so that I can give some comments on them really quickly. First up, Condor. I was hoping for an upgrade on Condor, but then life was not able to do that (since we had only a 3 row J class config). This did however give me a first opportunity to fly a Premium Economy product. Now unlike a lot of airlines, Condor use a standard Economy seat with more legroom for their PE service but they have upgraded amenities. This flight was actually pretty good and one of the first times in a while I have flown long haul. I didn’t have a horrible experience but it wasn’t all that great as well. It was fairly so-so. Nothing really to complain about at all.

Frankfurt, o Frankfurt. You were wonderfully relaxed and quiet. One thing my friend Clare said (and I kind of agree with) is that Frankfurt is a city you could move to. It is a city that just confused me in the fact that a Sunday would be so quiet. The city is such a large and pivotal city and yet on a Sunday it is shut down to bare essentials, if that. The hotel, the Radisson Blu Frankfurt, let’s just say that you were not my favourite and I probably wouldn’t go back again. Only if you managed to fix up a whole lot of the issues I addressed with you and you didn’t seem to care.

Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal will remain as one of the main reasons I wanted to go. I wanted to explore what is reputed to be the epitome of the airline lounge. I have to say that it did not disappoint. I was in awe of this facility before I got there and I feel now that I see the draw. I see why so many people say that this is the best they have ever visited, that it is one of the best lounges in the world. The staff help make this lounge. You can have the best restaurant, the best facilities, but without the service, you have just seats. The Personal Assistants are what make this lounge fantastic. Antje really did have passion for what she did. I could see it in the way she talked, the way she spoke about what she does and why. Nothing felt like a hassle and normally I would be all excited about being in the airport lounge prior to a flight. This time though, I was totally relaxed, it was something unlike me. I was still excited but I wasn’t like the Energizer bunny. Considering that I will be doing something similar in life now, it has given me an insight to show that a passion for this kind of work really can make someones day and make their time feel even more special. Mine certainly did!

The flight on Lufthansa itself though, I can’t put in words how amazing that experience was. I feel like I was doted on by the two flight attendants. Kira and Oezlem, you both deserve recognition for what you did. I know that you both were just doing what you do, but you made me feel like the experience was worth it. I had an amazing time on this flight and enjoyed every minute of it. The only thing that i can complain about is that the flight was not long enough, add a few hours to it and I would have been happy. I want to fly it again! The 747-8i was also an amazing aircraft. I loved sitting right in the nose as I felt like I was the first person to do anything on that plane and I was happy to be able to tick off another new model to my list.

Coming home to Seattle on United was like going back to reality. I came home to rain and grey skies. I had left when it was bright blue and sunshine (so I am claiming I took it with me to Frankfurt). Life has to go back to normal now, but really how much normal do I need to get. I will remember this trip for quite some time to come, the only thing I wish i could have shared it with Heidi. Although taking her for her first time visiting an airport lounge or flying true first class, this would probably ruin her for good. Sorry hun… but SQ Suites will have to do for you.

Introduction
Seattle to Frankfurt
Frankfurt Fun Times
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Frankfurt to Newark
Newark to Seattle
Conclusion
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Lufthansa – LH402
Frankfurt to Newark (FRA-EWR)
1320-1545
Boeing 747-8i (D-ABYA)
First Class – Seat 1K

Boarding: 1248 (Door 4/Gate Z69)
Push Back: 1338
Take off Roll: 1348 (Runway 25C)
Top of Descent: 1525
Touch Down: 1614 (Runway 22L)
Shut Down: 1622 (Gate 62)

After hopping into the Mini Van to be taken to the gate, myself and the other two passengers in the van enjoyed our quick little drive towards A/Z69. Technically my gate was door 4, however I am not quite sure exactly if it was A or Z that the plane actually arrived from. All I know is that when I arrived at the gate, I was standing on the ramp just outside the circle of safety. From the mini van I stopped to take more photos (was already taking them inside the plane and had missed out on seeing the Retro 748) of the plane we were flying. This was my first time onboard a 747-8i as a passenger, and I was about to step foot on the first commercially delivered 747-8i to an airline.

As we got in the lift that took us up to the boarding jetbridges, we stepped off into a maze of people. However the driver who was our escort just pushed his way through, and ran interference for us. We essentially pushed our way through the entire crowd of people and the next thing I know, I am standing at door L1 and turning left into First Class. I was now here. This was not my first time making that turn. The last time was back in 2007 on my first solo trip to the USA. I had paid to upgrade to Business on Air New Zealand and although I couldn’t get the nose for the main part of the journey from LAX to AKL, I did manage it from AKL to home. This time though I was going to be in Row 1 and there was going to be a lot less people up there. Score!

I took a number of photos and tried not to bump into anyone while I was doing it. When I did sit down a glass of sparkling water and macadamia nuts were placed at my seat. I wasn’t sure if they were meant for me, because I had not spoken to anyone by that stage, so I was astounded at the fact that they had read my mind. That is what I was going to ask for, the crew had the best mind reading skills (or so I thought). I was shown where my personal locker was and I took the time to get myself sorted, dropping the camera bag at the back of the cabin. I took my seat and stashed the rest of my gear and got myself situated.

The crew introduced themselves to me and I relaxed as best as I could. I was excited and that meant I didn’t need caffeine or anything as I was already buzzing. We waited a while once the doors closed for the cargo doors to be shut and then we had to wait for another aircraft to clear the taxiway before we could push. When we finally did, it meant that my journey was about to truly begin. It was around this time that the safety video played and unlike on Condor, this one plays part of the way through in German then repeated it in English. By then we were on the taxiway heading for departure. The crew got us situated correctly with the seatbelts in place (the sash belts had to go on as well) and we waited our turn to depart behind another Lufthansa 747. Behind us were two more 747s as well. Score!

It was around that time that the battery in my camera finally died after 2 days (was waiting for that) and since I was strapped in, I couldn’t reach my other one. From then it was just time to enjoy the view as we climbed out. The ride out was pretty bumpy and I wasn’t sure if that was just because you could feel it more in the nose. I can tell you that sitting about the nose wheel gear set up means that you hear extra noises that just truly do not sound normal. We climbed out and once the dings went off to signal the seatbelt sign had been turned off there was a mad dash in F to the bathrooms. I managed to squeeze my way past someone else discussing pyjamas and relieve myself quickly. I returned to my seat and got myself sorted for the upcoming meal. I was going to enjoy this!

Before the meal service started we got all the good stuff brought to us. Amenity kits (no rimowa… *sad face*), pyjamas, slippers, menus. All the stuff that I would be stashing away later (including the safety card). I took it all in while perusing the menu. I could see caviar would be on the menu and this was going to be my first time trying it for real. There was a total of 8 courses on offer with an Amuse Bouche, Caviar, Starter, Salad, Soup, Main, Cheese and then Dessert. If you count cofffee and chocolates that is 9. A LOT of food. But there was one thing on that menu I was really hoping would be there. Aspargus. The famous german white aspargus. I was going to have that no matter what.

The service for drinks etc was kind of slow, but it turned out to be a pretty full cabin, 7 of 8 people. The sad thing is that as people were not really eating and getting ready to sleep, I was just going to be enjoying this flight. This flight really isn’t a busienss flight as you arrive into Newark at the end of the work day. It is a daylight flight going over as well, so I was determined to soak it all in and stay up. Why sleep and miss something when I can soak it all in, then sleep on my connection (though being United, that was doubtful).

When the menu orders were taken, I put in my preference for the aspargus and said that I would be awake for the 2nd service (though doubtful I would have space to try anything). Once everything started it was a slow affair for the first couple of courses but then it hit the right pace. I saw a few people just have cheese, one person didn’t eat at all, me I just soaked it up. The best part of this flight was going to be the indulge, because they don’t come along all that often. I have flown Qantas, Emirates and Cathay first, this would just add another experience to them all.

The meal came out with caviar after the amuse bouche (you can find a copy of the menu in the AR report, but I will update that when I get a chance so there is one here too). This was my first time really trying it and it was presented so nicely. I screwed up the photo of the cart service so that was just dumb, but I did try it with everything. I have to say I am not a fan, maybe I didn’t do it right, but it just didn’t do anything for me. The rest of the meal was amazing. The salad and starters were tasty and then the main was what I was waiting for. I didn’t really want the whole thing by that stage as I was slowly filling up but I downed that asparagus, with a little bit of the ham and hollandaise, not much. I didn’t have much cheese and I gave a little break so I could stretch and use that bathroom before dessert. When dessert rolled around, Kira (the english speaking crew member working first) asked me which one I wanted. I wasn’t sure and said “whichever you think”. She replied with “How about both?” Who am I to say no to that!

I had both desserts with coffee and by this time my movie had finished (Ex Machina) and I was watching a tv show to fill the gap. With Lunch out of the way (is lunch the right meal… I don’t know) I settled in with some more coffee to work and get some of the trip report out of the way. A couple of coffees later I was up to date and decided to settle in to a few movies on a nicely outstretched bed. YAY!

I let the ladies in charge of first change my seat into a bed and I ducked out to the bathroom, when I came back it had all been fixed and I settled down in a slightly modified bed mode (head elevated). I didn’t want to sleep on this daylight flight as if I stayed awake I could keep myself going and crash out when I finally reached Seattle around my bed time. The bumpy flight helped to ensure I didn’t really try and sleep all that much. The flight had been bumpy from the start and with so much bumping, lying down to sleep was not really going to happen.

While I watched my movie, I ended up with another coffee (somehow) and I also wondered if they had any cookies (hey… you know my weaknesses… stop judging). It seemed to be the one thing the FCT was missing and I was hoping they had something with some crunch. The flight attendant on duty (it was Kira at the time) said she would see what she could find as I don’t think it was a standard F item. I sipped on my coffee and low and behold a few minutes later a plate of wrapped cookies arrived at my seat. I am not sure where she got them, but damn they were delicious. I will deny any knowledge of half the supplied cookies landing up in my suitcase.

By the time my movie was finishing up, the cabin was starting to wake up from all their sleeping. I think I was the only one up front who did not go to sleep at all. This was something that confused the hell out of me as if I was heading just to EWR, I wouldn’t want to be waking up around 2pm local and then getting in at 4pm local to then head to bed a few hours later. That doesn’t make any sense to me. As the cabin slowly started to strip down their bedding and the crew put it all away, people started getting ready for the 2nd meal service. I was really not at all that hungry at this stage and thankfully Lufthansa probably knows this. The 2nd meal service is more of a light meal service with a salad cart buffet followed with a piece of cake or fruit for dessert. For me this was perfect but since I just wasn’t hungry at all, I got just a small amount of vegies (I was dreaming more vegies I swear). The salad was fresh and tasty and hit the spot for something that just should top me off.

We started a very long gradual descent over New England and it was still bumpy. I don’t think there was a moment on this flight where there was not a whole lot of bumps for anything more than say 10 minutes. Crazy! We descended with fantastic views of New York City on the wrong side of the plane to me. That was just not fair. The touch down at Newark was a sad moment, it meant that this dream flight was over and now I had to contend with US Immigration and the worst part. Transiting Newark.

This flight of just 8 hours in length had been something I had dreamt of for quite some time. I wanted to ensure that this flight was everything that I could want and more. If it could have continued on forever I would have loved that. The crew looking after F (insert name & Kira) were two fantastic ladies who could not do more to look after me. Even though we had an almost full cabin, they were fantastic and helpful and amazingly kind. They were the epitome of their job imo. As we pulled up to the gate and the seat belt sign came off, I grabbed my stuff and lined up to get off the plane. I said my final goodbyes to the ladies and resounded to make sure that they would get the credit that they deserve for being such an amazing crew.

I stepped off the flight into the terminal at Newark and knew that this part of the adventure was going to be interesting.

Introduction
Seattle to Frankfurt
Frankfurt Fun Times
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Frankfurt to Newark
Newark to Seattle
Conclusion
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Saturday 15th May 2015

Today’s flight was a little bit different than what is normal for me. I generally end up on two kinds of flight when leaving my home. Either one that requires departure first thing in the morning or one that requires departure late in the evening after work. Today was a flight departing mid afternoon on a Saturday, very foreign to me. What was also strange was the fact that this was going to be my longest trip away from Heidi since we got married. The last time we were separated for this length of time, was when we were just dating and I was visiting Vancouver to get my visa renewed. So what time I had free was spent with Heidi, getting some quality time together before she dropped me off.

Originally I was hoping to get a shot of the aircraft landing at SeaTac but unfortunately the winds did not allow south flow, so after a quick detour to the drug store to pick up some last second supplies, Heidi dropped me off at SeaTac. This was the first time I was departing directly from SeaTac on an international flight, again a new experience for me. This was also my first time flying on Condor, which you could say is a Low Cost Carrier of sorts. Condor has good reviews from some friends, so I was interested to see how it went. They contract out their staffing at SeaTac to Swissport so whatever was going to happen on the ground, was not going to be done by actual Condor staff. I was wait-listed for an upgrade to business, but it didn’t look possible at all :(

I lined up in the Premium Economy queue and it didn’t look that busy at all, however it looked like just about all the staff were in training as there seemed to be problems everywhere. I waited about 5 minutes or so before I was called over to a desk and I handed over my passport. The funny thing was from this moment on, I knew it was just not going to be a perfect flight. Check in took forever and that was mainly due to a new hire checking me in. You have to start somewhere right? It didn’t really bother me at all and I confirmed my fears that Business was already full. Premium Economy it is! Since she was knew I didn’t try to push my luck to an empty adjacent seat, I just left it as is. I think I confused the new hire a little bit when I she asked me for my checked bag and I put up a carry on sized bag. When she asked to see my carry on, I knew something was up. I said I had two pieces and showed my usual carry ons (Camera Bag and small backpack). She asked to weigh them, and this is when I figured things were going to go bad. My small backpack went down first and it was super light, just a couple of kg. However when I put the camera bag on, she was shocked at the weight (funnily enough it weighed more than my checked bag, about a pound more). I told her that it was all camera equipment and that I would be happy to move things about into my other bag if she really wanted, but it was not getting checked and it was coming with me either way. She told me to leave it and she left it at that. She wished me a safe flight.

I walked away wondering what the hell. No telling me boarding, or reconfirming departure gates. So confusing! I walked away and stashed my lovely cardboard boarding pass and whipped out my print at home version. Time to thwart the TSA. Security took forever, even with priority security (which again, was not told I had, however I knew I had it). The silly thing was that although the ID check was non existent, the scanning line took a solid 20 minutes to get through. Ugh! Once getting through, I did the dignity dance and it was all done.

After getting through security, I swapped around a few things in my bag and grabbed out my camera (had forgotten to take it out) and headed off around the airport. No upgrade meant no lounge and that meant I had several hours to kill. I went for a walk to the B gates to scope out where the new American Express lounge was going to go, wanting to see just where it was all going in (in between the McDonalds and the Sbarros, should have good views of the A Gates). I wanted to grab a coffee while I waited and had a good discount code for a really cheap iced coffee, but Starbucks did not want to play ball, so cancelled the order and decided to head over to the gate (since I know how to read a monitor). Had I not known where or what to do at the airport, I would not have known where to go to or even what section of the airport I was departing from).

A quick trip on the train and I was in the S Gates where it was heavy time. Just about every gate was tied up with a heavy flight departure. Several Airbus wide-bodies for Delta, a 787 for Hainan, an A330 for Asiana, Lufthansa’s lone 747 and 777s from Korean (hello Skyteam livery), British Airways and Emirates and our my lone 767. The blue winglets on Condor really do stand out compared to everything else that was there. The terminal was rammed and there was staff walking around paging last minute stragglers for certain flights. The gate area for Condor was so small and even so far out from departure there was just no where to sit. I checked at the counter about the seat situation and was told unfortunately it was going to be a full flight so my seat was not going to change. *sigh*

I sucked it up and headed off to find somewhere to sit near a power point to give my portable battery pack some juice. Since there was no power outlet onboard condor (just USB), I decided to make sure that the portable USB pack had as much power as possible. I pretty much sat at a random gate (near the lounge steps) and just chatted online about a few things. Nothing all that exciting. It was an easy way to pass some time. About 30 minutes to boarding I decided to head over to get some water and then head over to the gate to find a seat. Finding a seat was not possible, so I picked a spot up against a wall. When things started to get closer and closer to boarding, I moved over towards the duty free store (which was next to our gate). Anything to avoid the crowds by being close to the front of the queue.

Condor Flugdienst- DE6048
Seattle Tacoma to Frankfurt (SEA-FRA)
1510-1035
Boeing 767-300ER (D-ABUb)
PremiumEconomy Class – Seat 8K

Boarding: 1435 (Gate S1)
Push Back: 1531
Take off Roll: 1544 (Runway 34R)
Top of Descent: 0958
Touch Down: 1028 (Runway 25R)
Shut Down: 1042 (Gate B43)

Originally boarding was set for 2:30pm (not that I was told) and a few minutes out they advised a delay by about 10 minutes. No big deal they said, we should be out on time. Hah! It was funny though because they started doing pre boards mere seconds later and in fact started boarding a solid 5 minutes ahead of what they said they were going to. This flight was so confusing! I can’t tell if it is just Swissport doing this or if it was Condor? Who knows!

When boarding began they of course boarded Business first, which really just caused a massive rush of everyone trying to cram into one lane. I waited a few seconds till they called Premium Economy passengers (which by this time had already been boarding). As I got my passport checked (and the paper home copy stamped) I headed around the corner to the actual boarding lanes. When I showed her my boarding pass from home, the Swissport staff member said that I couldn’t use this, I had to go and get a real boarding pass. I said to her that this was my boarding pass, it even says “boarding pass” on it. After about 30 seconds of convincing her it was legit (which it was) she saw a supervisor, waved my boarding pass in the air and her supervisor yelled back “Just scan it already”. I let her scan it, she handed it back and onboard I went! Hello unbroken, non scribbled boarding pass 😀

Into the Jet-bridge I headed to see a total traffic jam ahead of me. Not a single person had moved further than the jet-bridge and it was backed way up. *sigh*. I waited it out in the jet-bridge for a while and eventually we got moving. I walked down towards the aircraft and stepped onboard my first 767 in almost 2 years (the last one I was onboard was from Seattle to Honolulu on my way to NZ). I walked through the small 3 row business cabin (I guess I could of had that upgrade if they had of equipment swapped out to a 5 row cabin). Premium economy was starting to fill up and it was then I got the first introduction to my seat mate, an old lady. She was dumping all her stuff on my seat and then going through her bag on her seat. When I stopped she apologized for having her suitcase on my seat to which I corrected her saying that I was at the window (which again I had been foiled by the offset window). Eventually I stored my camera bag up top and hopped into my seat and started getting myself settled.

We took a while to get sorted in the cabin. It felt like an endless stream of people in the jet bridge. The set up in the seat wasn’t bad. Although it was still a standard economy seat, I had extra leg room and better amenities. There was even a small amenity kit (socks, eye shade and a toothbrush/toothpaste set up) in a little plastic case. Did not expect that at all! A pillow and a blanket were on my seat to round things out. Can’t really complain about that can I. While boarding took forever by the time the crew started to close things up we were still sitting there, a good 10 minutes past our scheduled departure. On time my butt!

The cockpit crew came on and told us that unfortunately we would be delayed going out as the ATC had changed our routing and they had to reprogram the flight management computer. I totally understand this, just wish ATC did not screw with us sometimes. We eventually had two different sets of Safety video. First it was done in German with English subtitles. Then it was done in English with German subtitles. Confused yet? We slowly pushed back and as we did I watched out the window, judging the Swissport ramp staff on their push back. I don’t know their exact procedures for wing walking or disconnect, all I can say is that the guy working the captains side on this flight today was very very lazy. As the bypass pin was waved in the air and the push-back was driven away with the tow bar, we were cleared away (with an extremely weird, and I assume incorrect, hand movement) towards the sky.

We taxied out of the ramp control area, onto the taxiway and towards the south end of the field. A Short taxi was extended by what felt like endless waiting, for what reason I have no idea as I didn’t see much in the way of other aircraft around us. We finally took a good push into the air and were airborne before the gate areas around C20 (my old stomping ground). We climbed out of SeaTac passing over Boeing Field, and then turned right over lake washington to skirt between Bellevue and Factoria, climbing and heading East. We apparently had our routing changed to head more over Eastern Washington and headed for the Midwest states, rather than climb for a polar route, Usually the aircraft would come down over the Rockies however winds or turbulence must have been better this new way. Well as long as we get there in one piece, I was not worried.

We climbed out and got to our cruising altitude pretty quickly and the crew did not hesitate to turn off the seat belt sign at an efficient time. None of this wait for a solid hour crap, it was just switched off. So when it went off I jumped up and grabbed my laptop, so that I could do a little work on the flight. As I wrote away we were offered a round of drinks and some snack mix (happy mix?). The first meal service would be a while after takeoff, almost 90 minutes after take off. Which isn’t to bad as it would resemble an early dinner for some. For me, since I don’t sleep in flight, this was just a late lunch for me and some fuel to keep me going. I was expecting a long long day, almost 25 or 26 hours awake.

The meal service began (and it smelt amazingly good) and the set up was pretty decent. The thing that caught my eye was the full metal cutlery and the full size kit kat. I had not had a kit kat in ages and I had been contemplating buying candy in the airport. Kind of glad I didn’t now, because now I had some for free! I stashed the kit kat away for later (and the spoon from the cutlery of course) and stuck into the food. It was fairly fresh and tasty. The appetizer portion of the menu was some smoked salmon and a prawn (and I was reminded so much of that famous Shrimp Cocktail song by Alton Brown). The main was some kind of beef stew thingy with what I think was “Gnocchi” but who knows. It was tasty though so I can’t really complain.

Rounded out by some kind of cheesecake thing for dessert and the meal was good. No coffee service (why I don’t know) but I just settled in to watch a wierd movie, I was constantly worried about my laptop since the guy in front of me somehow was able to constantly make his seat move more than anyone I have ever met. Whatever dude! The lady next to me though. Not a peep… she just stayed quiet and in her own little world. All the movies had been set to free for the entire aircraft as the credit card system was offline, which meant everything had to be done in cash. Drinks and all, Sorry guys, I barely have any euros (6 to be exact) so I am keeping it.

I set to work on the trip report a little and my screen went offline. I tried to turn it back on but it just would not work so I just left it. After a while I wanted to see where we were, but nothing. So I just held in the power button till it hard reset. I didn’t think it would work, but who knows. It did work and it reset itself. Will remember that trick for next time! I managed to get a good chunk done and before we had reached St Johns Newfoundland, I was watching some of my TV shows to catch up.

As the flight cruised on and I settled in, it just kind of blew by. By the time I finished through all of my shows, I headed to grab a cup of coffee and before I knew it, the crew was coming through the cabin to wake everyone up. It was a bit of a show. First the crew came through hot towels and then came the breakfast service (a simple yet tasty service). Then after that was another coffee service. Once that was all cleaned down we were about an hour out from Frankfurt and slowly starting to cross the UK and into mainland Europe. We crossed the coast around Amsterdam and as was passed Cologne we began descent.

We seemed to head into a runway that felt like them middle of no where. After a long long taxi, we were dropped off at a bus gate and taken over to the C arrival facility. Everyone groaned, I as happy. Then they mentioned that we could only exit via the rear door. Sigh. Since I was in row 8, so it wa going to be a long time, By the time I got off, took a few pictures of the QR A350 at the gate two down, and off we went. Off to immigration, a quick passport check (he didn’t even ask any questions) and a non existent customs check. I was in Germany, let the fun time roll.

Introduction
Seattle to Frankfurt
Frankfurt Fun Times
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Frankfurt to Newark
Newark to Seattle
Conclusion
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

In 2010 I started planning my trip around the world in Business Class. Something that was on my bucket list. During that planning process I looked at alliances and who would serve best and who had the best price. At the time it was Star Alliance and I put all my points towards a new Aegean account. The main thing I was hoping for out of that trip was Star Alliance Gold (which I got easily), what I also ended up with was a whole stack of points. Since then I have credited all my United flights as well to that same account and it has finally come to the point to use some of those points (before all my Star Gold benefits finally disappear). But what would I use 75000 points on? Well since around that time I have always wanted to visit the Lufthansa First Class Terminal (FCT). I had read so many things about it, such good reviews, and of course there is the fact you are flying one of the best First Class’s out there. I even set it as a travel goal two years running (like that was going to happen!). Well it was time to make that a reality…. Finally!

But 75000 points would only really get me one way somewhere, how the hell was I going to get to Frankfurt (since you can only use the FCT on Departure from Frankfurt)? Well this is where a stroke of luck comes in. Last year I managed to win myself a nice prize from Condor Airlines. All I did was take the below picture of a Condor Aircraft and it netted me a $1000 airline prize. Hello One Way flight to Frankfurt!

From Anchorage Spotting

So now that I have a rough plan on getting to Frankfurt, now it was a matter of finding a way home. If I am going to be heading home to the USA on Lufthansa I really want to come on an aircraft that they fly that practically no one else does (apart from Air China but they don’t count) the 747-8i. I remember the amount of times I saw them fly into LAX so figured that would be the way to do it. Now to figure out when, because Lufthansa don’t release First class Award space till about 2 weeks prior to the travel date. This means that the whole trip would have to be really short notice. Well when I ended up finding out I had a new job, well I decided to take a little break, one that would allow me to scoot away to europe for a few days. I got Heidi’s permission and now it was go time, I was going to get a new aircraft, a new Airport and a dream experience…

From Seattle Spotting 2013

So within the 2 weeks of me going, I was able to start looking at the planning stages. I wanted to do this for as little money as possible. I had Club Carlson points that could get me a hotel for free (yayay) and that was easy because Frankfurt has 2 options. One at the Airport and one in the city. Getting to Frankfurt was easy. I just had to email Condor with what I wanted and it was booked, no hassle at all. So although I wanted to fly Business, I couldn’t. So the next best thing was Premium Economy. Condor flies direct from Seattle every few days but has connecting cities on the days they don’t. So that was going to be easy. The hardest thing was the Lufthansa space. I did a bit of a look into what routes are now operating for the 747-8i and LAX was gone :( It was Chicago, Washington DC (Dulles) and Newark. Chicago would be the better option (since Newark is just a dump, Dulles is crap and I felt Chicago was the nicer of the 3). With the help of a friend, I was able to work out that Chicago was ok. But I had to leave it overnight didn’t I. Sadly that space via Chicago disappeared when I went to book. All I could get was Newark and the day after I wanted. Sadly I also wasn’t able to work my way into a 1 night stop in Chicago either, It was going to be a same day connection through Newark (3 hours should be plenty right?) and back to Seattle. So since I had to push it out a day, I pushed my departure out a day as well.

I left Condor to book after I had dealt with Lufthansa. I wanted to make sure that the whole booking went smoothly. It didn’t go as planned. The biggest hurdle I expected was a language barrier (I am dealing with a company in Greece after all). Spoon feeding the flights and times made it easier, and that went well for the first segment to Newark. It was coming home from there that was a problem. During the first attempt, I was told that it would have to be booked on a separate ticket because the onward flight is coded as business (even though United calls it Domestic First, they code it as business… bastards). That isn’t right, so I gave it 10 minutes and called again. Funnily enough I got the exact same person! Figuring she would tell me that I couldn’t do it again, this time she said I could do it, but it would be a “downgrade on that segment to business” but they wouldn’t charge any further miles. Well I guess that is what I am after so that is a win right? Figuring It was all going to turn out a mess, I waited for my eticket to turn up (which it did seconds after she said she had sent it) and it was correct on paper. I pulled the book references off the ticket and checked with the Airlines directly. Yep… correct! Aegean win! Lufthansa was set, so I emailed Condor and after some scanning and a few more confirmation of what I wanted, that ticket was booked.

Last thing to do was book the hotel and I booked the Hotel by the Airport (figuring I was probably going to be doing stuff with AirlineReporter, so wanted to be close). Sadly I found out a couple of days later that wasn’t to be. I kept that hotel as the airport hotel was cheaper than the city hotel. However Jokingly I was chatting away with my friend Clare (who I met in 2011 on my RTW trip in Kyoto) and said to her “You should come for the weekend” to which she said “Sure why not!.” Next thing I know I have cancelled the hotel at the Airport and changed to the City hotel. Sure it was 18000 points more, but I got breakfast daily and a premium room. So that wasn’t too bad. I booked the room for 2 (even though I was only going to be staying) so I can give Clare a freebie breakfast.

So as tomorrow approaches I need to pack, and put a few things together to make it all work. I can’t wait to get back on a plane (as a passenger at least) and enjoy myself. This trip has been a long time coming, so stay tuned for plenty of fun!

I can’t believe this trip is almost over. Today is our final day and we fly home at 545pm this afternoon. Although I will be happy to be flying again, I am sad that it is all over and we have to go home :(  we both want to stay down here and keep having fun. The last few days have been a blast.

The time in Anaheim was great. Although we were not staying as close to Disneyland as we could have, it was still a good location. The Radisson Suites Buena Park was right next to Medieval Times (no we didn’t go) and surrounded by restaurants & shops. We were also about 500m to Knotts Berry Farm. Can’t complain about that right? The hotel wasn’t bad and had decent sized rooms. We really only stayed there to be close to Disneyland and it was only a 10 minute drive away.

Ahh Disneyland, what can I say about you. I had a blast acting like a 4 year old all day. We both got into the swing of things and at the suggestion of the ticket agent we went to guest services to get a celebration badge (we actually got 3 of them) and for the rest of the day we got many congratulations for our wedding. It was odd yet awesome. The rides were good and we didn’t have that much of a wait for anything. Longest wait for a ride was maybe 20 minutes if that. The longest wait we had all day was for Heidi to meet Thor. Yep, not even as long as for the mandatory Mickey visit (which was funny and a whole different story). Once we finally got into visit Thor, Heidi was star struck (and it wasn’t even the real Thor), she couldn’t speak.

Disneyland was fun but I am never going on Space Mountain again….. EVER! I just don’t like that ride, it is horrible! I would be ok with the roller coaster if it was light but in the dark my body (and mind) just couldn’t handle it. Not doing that again. O and I almost puked on the tea cups, so that was worth it!

We also headed down to Long Beach to catch up with a friend (hey Brett!) and also check out the Queen Mary. We didn’t do a tour as the prices are extortionate, but it was good to see the ship that my Grandfather came home on from Africa, during World War II. The boat is so small in comparison to others yet was one of the biggest of the time. I don’t know if that is a sad thing or a good thing.

We headed out to the Ontario (California) area so that we could spend some time with Heidi’s best friend Sylvia. It was good to catch up with her & finally meet her husband. I hear so much about them both so it was good to spend some time with them. We took some time out yesterday and headed to Santa Monica & Venice beaches. Santa Monica felt super touristy & posh and Venice was just weird. Although I don’t normally like touristy places all that much, I would take Santa Monica any day of the week. Venice was just an absolute clusterfuck. It was just amazing that people could live in that area with how bad the traffic, parking & overall stupidity of California drivers (that part deserves a post on its own).

We finished off our honeymoon by retracing the steps I took to head out to Vegas almost two weeks ago. Cruising down the 105 towards LAX really added to the fact that it was coming to an end. We had a good final couple of donuts, a last lunch at In n Out & then it was time to drop off the car.

Sitting here in Terminal 5 at LAX I am sad to be heading home. I wish we could keep going but it is back to reality.

Current Location: Gate 52A LAX Terminal 5
States Visited: 3
Miles Driven: 2000 miles
Slim Jims Eaten by Heidi: 8
Cookies Eaten by Mal: 38

Tucson was fun, much better than I thought it would be. Our time there was Heidi’s idea from the start and to be honest she handled it like a trooper. She treated her avgeek husband like you would expect in this situation. You let him go and say yes dear a lot.

We spent the last two nights in Tucson at the Country Inn & Suites by the airport. Why that one? Well we were using the mountain of Club Carlson points I have and the card offers the 2nd night free on a stay, so for very little we could get a free stay. It wasn’t bad but our check in was comically bad. 3 rooms till we got one that was acceptable. It was like Goldilocks, the first room had a broken shower curtain rod, the 2nd reeked of cigarettes (non smoking hotel as well) the third was just right (and by just right I mean we could live with it). Breakfast at the hotel was basic (but they couldn’t make oatmeal to save their lives) but tasty enough. Nothing really to complain about for the price we paid.

The main reason we went to Tucson was to visit The Boneyard. I will cover more in the airlinereporter pieces about them specifically but we had fun, PIMA was great and they had way more planes than I expected. It was heaps of fun and Heidi wasn’t totally bored.  Great spotting as A-10s were always climbing out of Davis Montham (even managed to see a couple of F-16s doing touch & go’s at the main Tucson airport).

Tucson was a good break for us. We could settle in for 2 nights and relax.  The weather was nice (70s during the day) and we thawed out after the Canyon & Sedona. We also caught up with some friends of Heidi’s (well her best friends in laws) for dinner. It was apparently the birth place of the Chimichanga although I was to scared to try one (who deep frys a burrito… Seriously!). We even found a really cool ice cream shop that had old school sundaes (although as usual I chose wrong & ended up with something smaller than I wanted… Typical).

We rolled out of Tucson early this morning as the sun rose. A lot of highway ahead of us as we cruise along I-10 heading to Anaheim. Tucson was a great stop & one that I enjoyed. We will probably go back some time, there is more I want to see around that area, a good way to escape I guess.

Current Location: I-10W, Mile Marker 70, La Paz County Arizona.
States Visited: 3
Miles Driven: 1369m
Slim Jims Eaten by Heidi: 5
Cookies eaten by Mal: 35

I hadn’t intended on giving Sedona it’s own post, it was an in between stop for us.  A stop for us to switch off and give us a break between the Grand Canyon & Tucson. We could have driven that in one day and perhaps had an extra night in the Canyon, but we didn’t. We decided to break it up & we could see more (plus this way we avoided Phoenix).  When we originally decided to stop in Sedona we wanted to try the Kimpton, to give them one last go at keeping out business. After the incidents on the starvation, I was a little dubious about what might happen. However that need not have happened.

We made good time into Sedona & Heidi was at the wheel the whole time. We stopped at the Oak Creek Vista trailhead for a quick lunch stop. Sadly the temperature wasn’t much better than the Canyon but it was still higher at least. The quick stop gave us a chance to stretch our legs and feed our stomachs (we had packed a lunch from the morning buffet).

We rolled into Sedona around 2pm and went to the hotel first, thinking we would have a room to go to. When the Amara told us that the room wasn’t quite ready, they would look after our stuff & give us a call once it was ready but it wouldn’t be to long. So we left our stuff & the car and hiked up the hill to town. We went for a walk wondering if this was going to be a moment of truth.

When we got the call to come back, we came back down the hill to the resort, checked in & headed for our room. We were on the far side of the resort (which isn’t all that big). Our room was at the end of the left wing, on the upper floor, it didn’t look all that big from the outside & I was wondering if the upgrade didn’t happen. Then we walked in. The room was huge, I wouldn’t call it a suite but it was awesome still.  More a junior suite with a large 2 person Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom. We were in the room mere moments till we saw the Amenity.

Kimpton hotels are pretty awesome to their elites. All their entry level members get free wifi & $10 worth of bar credit (at the bar or mini bar). But as an elite (which i am till the end of this year) you also get a tailored Amenity. They will put whatever you want in your room. Like nuts & diet coke, that’s what you get. Our last Kimpton Stay was a shock because we didn’t even get our Amenity, we got someone else’s. Not this time. We walked into this:

image

The hotel knew we were on our honeymoon, we had told them in advance. We had tweeted how excited we were to be staying at a Kimpton, I guess they did some research on us. They had done it right, all our snacks wer packaged up like takeaway boxes like you might get on a flight. We even had bottles of water with our names on it. We were Muir Airlines!

The amenities were spot on for us. Cookies, Fruit, Diet Coke & Water. Add on some Prosecco to celebrate our wedding & that would have been amazing on its own. The staff even wrote us a little note to say that they appreciated our stay, the kicker is what was on the TV, us. We were on TV, the TV in our room. What the hell. I remember stammering to Heidi “look at the TV”. The hotel had downloaded the YouTube video of our wedding and was playing it via a USB stick in our room.

It isn’t that often that you get to see a bug moment of your life in a hotel room in a state several hours flight time away from home. They had really done it, pretty much Kimpton had our loyalty now, one small gesture like that will keep us staying (though inner circle probably will slip). The Amara as a whole was a great hotel. Nicely furnished, not to large of a resort but not to small either, a good mix of both. The staff were great and really helped us enjoy our one night in town.

Although we didn’t do much, we still had a great time. We did go for a little explore through the trails around Sedona (and by explore I mean getting lost on some trails for an hour or so). Sedona overall is a great town, somewhere we would like to come back to spend a few days in the future. But if your thinking of going, go to the Amara, you won’t regret it, we didn’t.

Current Location: Exit 175, I-10E Arizona.
States Visited: 3
Miles Driven: 1005m
Slim Jims eaten by Heidi: 3 

After we rolled out of Vegas at 6am Saturday morning we were heading East towards Arizona. Retracing some steps I took the very first time I visited the USA though this time I was at the controls and not trying to sleep off any hangovers. The drive was stunning as the sun started rising over the mountains.

We made a pit stop in Kingman AZ for breakfast. Quick stop at the Dunkin for coffee & a bagel and back on the road we go with Heidi at the wheel.   Another pit stop in William AZ for a walk, a snack & some beverages & then North towards the Canyon. The road was easy going & our first real road day together on this trip. We were aiming to be in Grand Canyon Village by 1300 at the latest as we had a helicopter flight booked. I had applied for an industry stand by rate for one of the longer flights and it was a deal for $35pp.

We made it into town around 12 so went for a walk, grabbed some lunch & tried to check in but they wouldn’t let us. Not a big deal. We headed off to the airport for our flight. This was Heidi’s 2nd helicopter flight in as many days & she was still super excited.  I thin I have created a monster. I am going to say that the best way to get a perspective on just how vast the Canyon is you need to see it from the air.  No real commentary from our pilot bug a good flight. I was in the back with Heidi next to me on the window. Didn’t worry me at all, we only paid 1/10th the price others did.

After our flight we headed into the National Park (here’s a tip, purchase your pass at the Imax Theatre, same price, no lines & no wait at the park entrance)  and headed for the rim. Originally we were going to head to the rim around the main visitors center for sunset, however there was massive crowds, way over the top. We decided to go East towards Desert View & the sunset point out there, it would be less crowded (it was). The winds were up and the temperature had dropped dramatically. In Vegas it was in the 70s during the day, at the Canyon it was high 30s plus windchill. Ugh. We had an early night with Mexican food & TV in bed.

Woke up the next morning to a snow & ice layer on the ground. A temperature of high 20s was a rude shock. Not something you want to deal with when you are meant to be out hiking. We revised our plans after recovering from a rude awakening by the fire alarms going off at 5am (joy) and decided to just stick to the rim walk for a few kms, mainly for safety & keeping our bodies in one piece.

The Canyon walk was good & worth the hour or so we took to stroll along. At one point we came across an entire flock of Mule Deer, just wandering along as though we didn’t exist. Still really beautiful & Heidi had a blast running about amongst nature. We finished our Rim Walk by the fire thawing out at Bright Angel Lodge before Hopping the shuttle back to our car.

The Canyon is ever as beautiful as I remember it, the colors at sunset were stunning. Although we didn’t come prepared for temperatures at that level (my hands froze solid at one point & I went through considerable pain as they thawed out) we still enjoyed the time we had there. Right now we cruise out of the park headed for Sedona & our most expensive night on this trip, but hopefully the one that is going to be the most relaxing & luxurious.

Current Location: State Route 64 between Tusayan & William AZ
States Visited: 3
Miles Traveled: 777m
Slim Jims Eaten by Heidi: 3

Vegas was a good couple of days. Heidi has never been before so it was a good mix of new stuff for me (on my 4th time around) and also seeing the traditional touristy things for Heidi. I picked Heidi up at the airport after the first flight in from Seattle. The flight was actually early and I made it to the terminal pretty much as she was walking off her flight. Timing it well and the 15 minutes free parking meant that I could be there as she cleared out of the secure area, scored a big hug for that. Took Heidi back to the hotel so she could get some breakfast and finish off some Uni work she didn’t quite get done and then it was off to explore Vegas.

The first thing we did was check into our hotel, the Mandalay Bay. After 2 days of searching www.mycheapvegas.com I managed to find a really good rate for a Bay Suite that was less than what other hotels were charging for a room (conferences in town and the Rock n Roll Marathon had something to do with that). But the check in process really summed up just how this hotel was either hot or cold. There was never a real middle ground, the hotel was either really good for something, or just horribly bad. The first person to check us in at the Invited Guest desk (a suite check in benefit we had, along with also the fact that my Mlife Gold status has that benefit) was borderline rude. Treated like we didn’t deserve to be there and that just put me off immediately. Had Heidi not been there I may have made a scene, one thing for certain, she didn’t get a tip (aka $20 trick). When we came back later to get our room, the person greeting us then gave us a great welcome. However even though I had made a point to make sure they knew it was our Honeymoon, no one really seemed to care.

The Mandalay had it’s good and bad parts, the rooms were large and spacious and I did love the bed (however it wasn’t to Heidi’s liking). The bathroom was large and we had a giant Tub but the room itself had three major flaws:
1. No power plugs anywhere near the bed at all, they seemed to be centered around the desk where there was an ample supply of 6 plugs
2. The lights were terribly awkward to control and were predominantly lamp based, again a pet hate of mine.
3. This one really got Heidi’s goat, but there was no coffee available in the room. Not just no supplies but no way at all in making any. Not even like MGM where they provide a Keurig machine and charge you $6 for the cup and the pod to use. Nothing at all! Way to go Mandalay Bay, you just made an enemy of my wife.

The facilities around the hotel were great, and although the main pool was closed for the winter, Moorea was more than ample for Heidi’s needs (way too crowded for me personally). Our most memorable part of the Mandalay was technically not even at the Mandalay Bay but at the Four Seasons Las Vegas. A hotel within a hotel, the Four Seasons lobby and check in are below the main casino floor but they occupy a good portion of floors towards the middle of the main tower. They do however have a hidden gem that is Charlie Palmer Steak. This isn’t your typical Vegas steakhouse where you pay $120 for a piece of steak with no sides. We opted for the set menus at $50 for 3 courses including “Bottomless Wine Pairings” it is amazing value. The “Cut of the Week” menu that I had alternates on a weekly basis but the value for money is amazing. We expected to end up with smaller portions like you may expect for a set menu (ala restaurant week) however the portions were full size. Well worth it as my Steak would normally go for $40 on its own!

Apart from the Mandalay Bay we spent quite a bit of time outside of the hotel. We spent time exploring Caesars Palace and their shops (as it has a very large H&M that Heidi wanted to check out). We also spent some time wandering through the Venetian and grabbing some treats at Carlo’s Bakery (famous from the TLC show Cake Boss). I am a sucker for a baked good and one that is from a celebrity chef. SOLD! Not bad but the Tiramasu that Heidi decided to have was quite expensive for the size. My Cookie though was super tasty. We also grabbed a couple of cup cakes from the Cupcake ATM which was a weird experience of itself. We had a good time exploring Cosmopolitan in search of their secret pizza place and it was worth it. Yummy thin pizza, New York style, and cheap too! Of course this is Vegas and what trip would not be complete without a buffet. Of course you all know Heidi and I love going to Brunch. But in Vegas, Brunch is a weekend only affair and we couldn’t have that. So we went with a breakfast buffet instead, one that we could enjoy without feeling guilty over the quality. There was many hours of research, checking out best value and best quality and in the end it came down to Aria. Their buffet even had like 9 different types of Ice Cream. We had breakfast with my friend Kevin and I think Heidi and I ate way to much food. I know I had 4 of those 9 ice cream flavors along with other tasty treats (Banana Waffle, with Bananas foster sauce and Pumpkin Ice cream is AMAZING).

I was able to get Heidi her first ride in a Helicopter (though you will have to wait till I write that up for AirlineReporter to see what she thought of it) and I also checked out the Neon Sign Museum. It was really interesting to see a good portion of Las Vegas history from all the signs that the city was just so well known for. Also a piece of interesting trivia. Put Las Vegas Neon Museum into Google Earth and see what you see when you Zoom in, you will thank me 😀

We rolled out of Vegas early this morning with the overall feeling that it was a great couple of days. It really pushed in the fact to both of us that Vegas in small portions is ample enough time. You can always come back another day to see something else, because I am sure it isn’t going anywhere any time soon. We left heading further east towards Arizona and the Grand Canyon hitting up some old school Route 66 but heading into the National Parks.

Current Location: Holiday Inn Express & Suites Grand Canyon
Miles Driven: 725m
States Visited: 3
Nights on the Road: 3
Slim Jims Consumed by Heidi: 2