Now that my Qantas First dream has been fulfilled, what now? Well the end of May i am flying Cathay First Class so no need to get working on that as it was easy. Other than getting myself into the Lufthansa First Class Terminal (which seems like it is going to take some strategic thinking to do that) my one other real desire right now is Singapore Airlines. I've already flown them a couple of times and their business class product both long haul and regional are fantastic. Their long haul seat is practically a First Class Suite. But their actual First Class Suite seems to be the epitome of luxury. Only onboard their A380 so it is fairly exclusive and at one point when first released, cost a fortune. Now though times have changed and the cost is reasonable. A one way Suites fare between Tokyo and the West Coast of the USA will set you back about 70,000 points. So that's my aim right now. Working towards that amount of Singapore Airlines Krisflyer points. I managed to get 50,000 points when I got myself an American Express Premier Rewards Gold card, that took a huge chunk away. But now I still have 20000 to go.. What to do? Well I am taking my first attempt at manufacturered spend, kind of. All the rage in points earning circles right now is using gift card purchases to rack up heaps of points. You buy the gift cards on your credit card and use them like cash or use them to pay off your bills. Cheap easy points. I am doing this kind of thing but not all the way, yet. The hardest thing about doing this for me is getting the right gift cards and they are hard to come by in Seattle. So i have decided to just do what I can so I am not losing out on anything. Good thing with my Amex is that it is double points on Gas & Grocery. I have a good strategy still with this. Here it is. Walmart and American Express put out a prepaid card that unlike any others had a bill pay function where you could get them to send a check to pay your bills, then came the ability to writr checks from the card, now resembling more a bank account than a prepaid card the Bluebird is just pretty awesome. You can load up to $1000 a day at Walmart onto your Bluebird card, and I have two Walmarts within 10 minutes of my place. With a little bit of guidance from Scott at HackMyTrip I now have my process down pat and it means I don't miss out on any points. My biggest points loss was my rent & utilities. Almost $1000 a month and it just was not possible in the past to use a credit card. New owners came in and they allowed credit card rent payments, but with a $38 fee. Stuff that! I can buy $500 gift cards at QFC or Fred Meyers for $6 a piece, they can have a pin assigned to the card (not all allow this) and I can then load them onto my bluebird at the local Walmart, where I can then write a Bluebird check for my rent. Sounds complicated? It's not. I did this for the first time over the weekend and it was easy. My time in Walmart was all of 3 minutes, I shop at Fred Meyer weekly so adding on a gift card to a weekly shop is nothing. The hardest thing is writing the check and walking it to the office. What does it cost me to do this? Well the cards are $6 a piece so $12 a month plus all up about 10-15 minutes of my time each month. The good thing is that using my amex getd me double the points as I'm buying at a grocery store. 2000 points for 12 aint bad. What's even better is I can earn grocery points towards fuel discounts at the same time! Ahh the life of a points junkie. Confusing right?

It is Anzac Day (in Australia at the moment, tomorrow for me) and every year I pay tribute to those who have fallen for their country and gave their life in sacrifice of our freedoms. What is more poignant for me this year as it is my first Anzac Day out of Australia. Normally I would of been shivering in Martin Place at dawn service, getting ready for the march putting on my Grandfathers medals (which I have the miniatures with me mind you). Instead I spent my morning this morning heading into work. But it doesn't meant that I don't feel any different about the day. This day will ALWAYS be about my Grandfather and his brothers. Both his real brothers and his brothers in arms. My Grandfather was a member of the 2/2nd Machine Gun Battalion during World War 2. He was in that unit along with 2 of his 3 brothers. The 4th brother was also in the war but I believe he was on a headquarters staff (I am sure my cousin Lindy can help me there). All 4 of the Stewart brothers (my mums maiden name) all returned unharmed back to Australia after the war. Amazing achievement when you come to think of it. So on this day we pay tribute to those who fought and did their part for our freedoms. I find the best way to say it is a quote from "For the Fallen" by Laurence Binyon. Written in 1914 to commemorate the World War 1 fallen

They went with songs to the battle, they were young. Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted, They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

From Anzac Day 2012

Well I have been back for about 2 weeks now, and the trip looking back was damn crazy. I can't believe I almost missed the wedding ceremony. I mean seriously, the whole reason for going to Australia and I come so close to missing it. That would of been shame that I could not of lived with at all! Lets look at some of the things in the trip though the good and the bad. Bad - Long Haul Economy. It's never good, it always sucks but this flight with VA wasn't their best but it wasn't the worst flight I have ever had either. It was "so so", not really worth talking much about. Bad - Qantas First Class Suite Windows - My one and only complaint about that Qantas flight was the fact I couldn't see out the window cause the seat is so far away from the window. I mean seriously if thats the worst thing about an experience like that..... damn! Bad - Rydges Capital Hill Canberra - Service failures across the board... way to go Rydges.. not going back thats for sure! Good - Chrysler 300C - Love this car... enough said. Good Yet Bad - Radisson LAX - They always seem to come through on the upgrades but then they always have failures of some kind. This time it was the bed (though in the times I have stayed there the bed has never worked anyway) Good - Langham Melbourne - Absolutely Loved this hotel, definately staying at Langhams when I can afford it! Good - Qantas First Class.... i <3 it. I want to do it again... right now... please! This trip was worth every cent (though I didn't pay for the flight down), the hard earned points (140,000) and the $350 in Fuel surcharges were totally worth it. I still have a bucket load of Qantas points so now that I have that dream flight done, where to look next? I should of earned a good portion of points on this trip from Virgin, however for some reason I am still chasing the Virgin America points. Freaking stupid that I have to do retro claims, it is always the same with Virgin America. Virgin Australia domestic points posted practically the same day, however the long haul flight took almost 3 weeks! Totally not cool Virgin Australia! But all in all I did manage to get my 4 minimum segments, so I am a gold for another 12 months 😀 All in all I spent an ungodly amount of time in the air, almost 18000 miles travelled, for 4 nights back home in Aus, 3-5 hours with my folks, getting to see my friends and family. Was it worth it? Hell yes!

Introduction Seattle to Los Angeles Los Angeles Los Angeles to Brisbane Brisbane to Sydney to Canberra Canberra Canberra to Melbourne Melbourne Qantas First Lounge Melbourne Melbourne to Los Angeles Los Angeles to Seattle Conclusion                                                                                                                                                                     I was off the aircraft shortly after leaving the cockpit and saying my final thanks to the crew. I was disembarking through door 1L on the lower deck (is that L1L or 1LL?) and headed through the crowds of TBIT. Apparently first class don’t get an express pass card in LAX but people connecting do. Even in Economy. well that kind of blows! I made what felt like an endless journey through the bowels of TBIT from the newer gates all the way through to the crummie older side. The last time I had been through TBIT immigration had been October 2011 when I came over to visit for my job interviews. It hadn’t changed a bit. I was in line maybe 10-15 minutes and I wasn’t grilled nearly as much as when I head to Canada. Next thing I know I am grabbing my bags off the belt and heading to customs to try and explain exactly why I am carrying the nether regions of kangaroos in my luggage. I did a bit of luggage jiggling once out into the terminal (change of clothes out, trip goodies in) and headed over to T3 where I could check in for my Virgin flight. I had made it through in far better time than expected (1h so far) and figured it may be a chance to get on the earlier seattle flight at 9am. I checked at the check in area and was told it was possible for $25 confirmed or free for stand by. Considering I didn’t want to have to wait around for the bags that I had paid good money for, it was going to be an extra $24 but I would be home hours earlier. What the hell! Lots of taping and a swipe of my credit card later and I was off to security and for the first time in a week to do the dignity dance. Lines were substantial but not all that bad and in the end I made it from touchdown to lounge in just on 90 minutes. At the entrance to the Virgin Lounge I was reminded of the boarding time and advised flights were not announced and I also got my seat reassigned as I realised it was a middle seat. I had about 10 minutes in the lounge to get changed and get stuff sorted. Which was good but I was starting to feel not so good. Figured I had just eaten a bit to much at breakfast. I headed down to the gate pretty shortly and there was a boarding call shortly after Virgin America - VX781 Los Angeles to Seattle 0920-1200 Airbus A319 (N530VA) Main Cabin Select - Seat 8F Boarding: 0845 (Gate 38) Push Back: 0918 Take Off Roll: 0927 (Runway 24L) Top of Descent: 1135 Touch Down: 1205 (Runway 16R) Shut Down: 1213 (Gate A4) Not much to talk about this flight. I board, stashed my gear and then started to zone in and out between consciousness and sickness. We took off back out over the ocean and turned north back over LA and then I don’t really remember much. I remember ordering some lunch (that I was going to stash and eat later anyway) and a bottle of water. I remember taking a bathroom stop cause I was feeling sick as hell and the seat belt sign going on while I was in there, but then by the time I came out it had been switched off again. Upon approach into Seattle I was just wanting to get off the flight and die, I was not in a good state. So I didn’t hang around in Seattle when we landed. It was a boring quick flight. But that is good right? I grabbed my bags and got over to the car park to get to the shuttle stands, fought with the lift a little and was soon on my way to the car park where my truck awaited and I was home about 30 minutes later. Ready to crawl into a hole and die. That was not a good sign!

Introduction Seattle to Los Angeles Los Angeles Los Angeles to Brisbane Brisbane to Sydney to Canberra Canberra Canberra to Melbourne Melbourne Qantas First Lounge Melbourne Melbourne to Los Angeles Los Angeles to Seattle Conclusion                                                                                                                                                                     Qantas Airways - QF93 Melbourne to Los Angeles 0915-0645 Airbus A380 (VH-OKQ) First Class - Seat 2A Boarding: 0845 (Gate 9B) Push Back: 0951 Take Off Roll: 1004 (Runway 16) Top of Descent: 0620 Touch Down: 0649 (Runway 24R) Shut Down: 0700 (Gate 134) I was collected by a Qantas Staff member at the entry to the First Lounge (you don’t normally get this service) and I was escorted through “secondary” screening which was really just checking that I had a passport on me. Kinda pointless since I had to go through 3 previous checks to get to that point. From there I was taken downstairs via the Lift to the boarding area right as they were preboarding some economy families into the back of the whale’s belly (ie the rear of the lower deck of an A380). I was brought to the boarding door where I was greeted and escorted directly to my seat and from there it was “let the show begin”. First up was an offer for a PDB of my choice... “Perhaps Champagne”. I then broke the news that I didn’t drink, so I took my usual sparkling water and I was informed it would be served with some almonds and olives. These promptly came back while I took heaps of empty cabin shots. Getting all the photos I could use I was all giddy and hadn’t even sat down when my drink came back and then I was offered an amenity kit and pyjamas (even double checking the right size). I was so excited that without realising people were now coming on board and first was filling up. So I made sure to hop out of the way after stowing my gear. The first thing I like about first on Qantas is the overhead bins. They didn’t exist on Emirates (but then Qantas don’t have a shower so fair is fair) so thats one big difference, but that just meant I could store stuff out of the way and didn’t have it impede on me anywhere. Though there was space under the ottoman if I needed it (which I didn’t really but I stored my backpack here for most of the time). With the cabin filling I noticed the cockpit was open so one of the other Cabin Crew who was serving my area came around to introduce himself and I did ask if it was possible to visit the cockpit, handed him my business card and figured what the hell. He came back advising that I can’t before departure but upon arrival it would be possible, the captain has my card and will let me know upon arrival. Well it was worth a try, but at least it wasn’t a no, more like a not right now. As time settled on we got an announcement from the crew advising that we were waiting on 2 missing passengers and once found we could depart, but it was a good thing right now because with the tailwinds we would've arrived before the opening of LAX. Woops!! I was happy to wait, hell I would've loved a divert, some headwinds... anything to make that experience longer. Guess it wasn’t to be. My drink was refilled and eventually we shut up shop and pushed back just over half an hour late. We taxied out of Melbourne and i realised the one complaint I have about the Qantas first suite on the A380. I can’t see out the windows! As an avgeek that is a must! O well I still had the Skycam which is located in the Tail. We took off to the south and then took the long way around the city to head towards Sydney and then out over the Pacific towards the USA. I loved the fact that now there was no going back and I was on my way home. I was looking forward to the rest of the flight as the real stuff was going to start. During climb out I was just playing with things all excited and stuff and without even realising it, the seatbelt sign was off and we were free to move about. The crew came around to hand out the menus (which you can find here) for the flight but I knew what I was going with already. Tasting menu!! Didn’t care what was on it, I was doing it (pending there was nothing like “garlic this garlic that”). So I had a quick look over the menu but there wasn’t so it was an easy choice. I was offered my choice of beverages (going with Diet Coke) and here was my first mistake. When asked if I would like my Hors D'oeuvres (the first course of the tasting menu) with my drink. I said no. What I should've said was “not right now” I settled in to finish off some stuff that I had been working on for the next hour or so and by that time it would be a good lunch time in Melbourne to start the tasting menu (which I was going to take my time at either way). Time flew by, a few drink refills later and the crew reappeared for my lunch. So I asked them to come back in a few minutes to set it all up and I shut down my stuff and packed it away and selected a movie to watch (went with The Aviator, a nice long movie to enjoy). Then the show began. First up came the Soup course. It was nice and thick but not overly thick and the croutons were a good crunch. When I was part way through I thought for a second... shouldn’t there have been something else. the Hors D'oeuvres!. When the soup was collected I asked about that and then it came to light with the mix up. The crew apologise and we tried to sort out something as a replacement as they had all been taken. So what we came up with was to swap out one of the other menu items as a replacement course. None of the other smaller plates had items left.. damn. So the offer of the calzone or the chicken pot pie.. but they just sounded too big. My brain came up with an awesome idea. Dessert! Lets have an extra sweet course. it was agreed and it was set up with the extra dessert safely tucked away. We continued on the food journey and next up was the Salad course of Roasted Beetroot & Goats Curd. O yeah, roasted beetroot salad. It was heavenly. Then came the main course which I had the filet of Beef with a cabbage and potato gratin (or as an aussie would call it fancy potato bake). I had taken the horseradish option for the sauce and it came served with a good size dollop of horseradish cream. The one thing i was worried about was if the beef would be cooked ok and if it would be tender. Push test was ok, I cut it and she was good. Was a bit under medium well, which is more than the way I normally have it, but it was still really good. With the end of the main course, I decided to take a break for a bit and watch some more of the movie. About half an hour later my cheese plate arrived. Plenty of cheese and more into the belly. I am not a big blue cheese fan so avoided that. I also let the crew know that I would wait about 15 minutes after finishing the cheese for dessert... number 1. Dessert #1 arrived dead on time, and it was the Honey Cake which was deliciously decadent. It was a nice spongy syrupy cake with a good fig compote on the side. By the time that was finished about 5 minutes after that out came the second dessert The second dessert was the Chocolate Bread & Butter pudding. When it came out it looked deceptive. It smelt divine, so rich and chocolatey. It looked like it was going to be just all chocolate and very rich. But upon first scoop and bite it was light, fluffy and tasty!! It was definitely not what it seemed. A coffee was delivered soon after the dessert arrived and I had a choice of some very nice Chocolates to go with it. As I finished up the dessert and it was cleared away and a fresh coffee brought over, It was now almost 2 hours since I started lunch. Wow! It did not feel like that! Lunch complete, work complete. Time to relax. Seat to lounge mode it is! I finished off the movie and the crew took me on a tour of the aircraft to see the lounge etc We had a good chat about the differences with Emirates and different aircraft (like comparing the noise levels within a 747 or the crew rest on the 380 vs the 787 or 747). I got myself some water to go with a few more chocolates and returned to the seat for another movie. After a while I got a bit more tired so I asked for the seat to be turned into a bed (and I ducked upstairs to the lounge for a photo (in the hope there was no one in there this time). When I came back the bed was about half way made and I saw the mattress pad they were using. Full Lambswool! Wow... comfy looking! The setup was great and looked mighty comfy. I settled in trying to get some sleep but it didn’t happen. But I did get some rest, it wasn’t sleep at all but it was better than nothing. I can see why people sleep easily on these flights because it was damn comfy! Eventually though I gave up on that, snuck a cookie from the galley (we were about 4 hours out of LA now and figured time for more movies). I was not even going to try a steak sandwich or anything bigger. I could see why the Singapore and Hong Kong flights only offered a light breakfast before landing with the tasting menu. You wouldn’t need any more food! Around 2 hours out of LAX I could smell breakfast under way. Bacon can easily permeate the cabin. I had seen the Bircher muesli in the lounge and figured it would be the same recipe. Maybe worth a try over normal muesli. So ordered that along with the pancakes (as I went savoury in the lounge and they didn't sound all that big) some coffee and a danish as my bakery item. No to big of a breakfast but a good end. The bircher was good, would've preferred a little bit more crunch to offset the softness. The danish was good but the pancakes were the right size for that meal and the pears.. yum! Washed down by plenty more coffee and I was set! As we slowly started to wake up and get ready for arrival into Los angeles I was really wanting it to just keep going but sadly it couldn’t We came in and started to descend turning for a north arrival right over Randys and In n Out. As we approached the sun was rising beautifully and from the Skycam I could tell we were getting a crosswind as we were crabbing it in. I never would've known unless I had the skycam but seeing an A380 crab in the arrival was amazing! We touched down about 5 minutes late and took a long slow taxi back to TBIT. With that the flight was over 🙁 I would be kicked off back to the land of TSA Hell, dignity loss and nude o’ scopes at every turn. I had waited around for everyone else to head off (I had 5 hours I wasn’t in a hurry) and before I walked out I was invited into the cockpit! Score! I had a quick chat with the crew, thanked them for a great flight and mentioned the crabbing and was told there was still a 30 kt crosswind at 1000ft. wow.. that was hefty cause I didn’t feel a thing! With a brief photo in the captains seat. I was off into TBIT.

The research continues! Since the weather turned to crap this weekend and cancelled my plans to go tulip photo hunting (though looking outside right now looks pretty good.. damn you weather! So I decided on Saturday morning that I would take another stab at a breakfast spot. I tweeted out to my usual suspects for some recommendations and did a bit of googling. I didn't feel like eggs so filed away the options suggested to me for next time (got a number of good spots in mind now) and found Portage Bay Cafe.. they sounded like they had some good sweet options (I Do have a sweet tooth remember) so that was settled. They have 3 locations, Ballard, University and South Lake Union (SLU). Since it was Sunday morning I probably should of hit up the University location but with the 520 shut, instead I went to SLU. Figured it would of been quiet.
From Seattle Life 2013
Street parking was a b$%ch to find (and part of me went.. your dumb for even trying) but I found a spot about a block away and walked on over. When I got there it was PACKED! People were jammed in everywhere... (turns out not my best work on some of the photos... sorry)
From Seattle Life 2013
But there is always one thing that helps, being a single person eating alone. You can slot in anywhere, and for me it was like walking in ahead of the masses. As someone was told it was a good 45 minute wait for a table, I was directed to a seat at the side counter... score!
From Seattle Life 2013
Portage Bay Cafe is more like the trendy kind of place with Vegan this, and gluten free that. But no matter what it all looked tasty. I got a coffee pretty much before I took my jacket off which was a half decent sign of service. The menu looked good but I was sticking to the top half of the menu.
From Seattle Life 2013
From Seattle Life 2013
With the top half of the menu you also get access to the "Breakfast Bar" which is really all the stuff you would normally see on the side of most restaurants. So really if you can't find a topping you do like for your pancakes you can just make up your own. Me... I was going for something tasty 😉 I checked out the "toppings" after ordering and they looked good
From Seattle Life 2013
While ordering I got suckered into a Side of Bacon. Not that I needed it. The wait wasn't to bad, I had just finished my emails when my breakfast arrived
From Seattle Life 2013
Let's look at them individually shall we... first up the not so needed side of Pepper Bacon. Good (although not at all as peppery as it could of been), not 100% crispy, but not aussie crappy bacon either. So that wasn't to bad.
From Seattle Life 2013
But the main show this morning was this:
From Seattle Life 2013
Bananas Foster French Toast! 3 big chunks of Challah dipped in "custard" (ie egg) and then grilled and topped with the most craziest of real caramel sauces. How do I know it was real caramel? The damn stuff was hardening on the plate! It was sooooo good. I grabbed some whipped cream, some flaked almonds (for that crunch) and some berries (Strawberries & Blackberries for some Tartness to offset the sweet) and tucked in!. My god it was good. The bread was as light as a feather so even though they looked huge, they were light and airy in the middle meaning it wasn't as filling as you would think. Three pieces was the perfect size as it wasn't to much but it was just enough. I saw some of the other meals go out while I was eating and they looked good. Although the special (which I never got given a specials menu mind you) Spare Ribs Benedict looked more like a Loco Moco to me, since it came with rice not bread. The service towards the end got a bit shoddy. My coffee was hardly ever refreshed, I was never asked if I was enjoying my meal and at one point a couple moved to the counter to my left (where there was only meant to be one person but they tagged on another spot). I had gotten up to go get some extra whipped cream cause I ran out and before I even came back they were planning to move into my seat... I hadn't even finished. From that point in I felt like I was being pushed out the door! All up the food was good. The french toast would be worth the trip back that's for sure. I would definately skip the bacon though. Price wise all up set me back $23 incl tax & tip, so about average for the preppy places. Definately more of a special occasion place than a "I feel like breakfast out" kind of place. With the amount of people there as well, it would be worth it to come early.... REAL early. I don't know if the other cafe locations are as busy on a Sunday morning but if they are more busy than that, tables may come at a price. Definately recommended for the sweet tooth!

Introduction Seattle to Los Angeles Los Angeles Los Angeles to Brisbane Brisbane to Sydney to Canberra Canberra Canberra to Melbourne Melbourne Qantas First Lounge Melbourne Melbourne to Los Angeles Los Angeles to Seattle Conclusion                                                                                                                                                                     Tuesday 9th April 2013 This was going to be an early start, with a flight time that moved forward 20 mins a day or two out, and then a morning departure and wanting to make sure that I spent as much time in the lounge as possible, it was a given. So at 230am! I was up and hitting the gym for a workout. Why? Well because then i could justify all the goodness that was ahead of me. My pickup was 430am. Why so early? Well check in was meant to be 4 hours prior to my flight and that time with an average of 30 minutes to the airport would have me at the terminal just before that 4 hour mark to check in. My ride picked me up dead on time! Unfortunately no free limo from Qantas for me as it doesn’t apply to the USA routes till later in the year, but i still rode in style! I had found a recommendation for a reliable driver who offered pretty good rates, so thats what I went with. It’s not my fault he drives an M Class Mercedes! Sadly there was no traffic and we made it to the airport in 20 minutes! With a new departure time of the flight of 915 I wouldn’t be able to check in for a bit yet, sadly when I approached the First Class Check in, they told me they no longer start check in 4 hours prior but 3.5 hours prior. So I had just under an hour to wait 🙁 So I did what anyone does, I sat down, and used the free wifi! It was damn comfortable in the Marc Newson designed chairs (same as in the lounge) and just did a lot of the work there, that I was intending on doing in the lounge (like responding to emails, checking in for my VX flight home to Seattle) that sort of thing. So really I didn’t lose any time! One thing the staff did for me was book a spa time. 730am Spa appointment was confirmed (apparently they had tried calling me the day before but they called my US number). Once I was allowed to check in (and mind you they had it all ready for me) I was bags checked to Los Angeles, express path card in hand (not that I needed it at that hour) and lounge instructions given. I was on a mission to get through as quickly as possible. Security was pretty painless (they had the nude o scopes going but only selected at random and you got to go to the front of the queue if you were selected) and then immigration was painless as well (though they refused to stamp my passport). Now that I was officially no longer “in” Australia I was stuck in the giant (and i mean giant) duty free store. I did buy some candy for all the people back home and headed for the lounge. Total time Check In to Lounge... 15 mins! Once I got up to the lounge, I was super excited. I was greeted in (after a few photos of the door etc) and I also handed over my Business Card to hopefully set up a pre board for some photos etc. The staff could not do enough, they took me on a tour of the lounge, offered to help me in anyway they could. I decided to take some time taking photos of the lounge and exploring while it was quiet and I ordered a coffee to kick start my morning. Coffee was good, photos were good. I was enjoying the lounge! It looked magnificent, had anything you could want (even a stocked library with some nice Avgeek titles). The bathrooms even had fully stocked toiletries (i may now have some of the moisturizers in my collection). With all of the exploring and photos out of the way, it was time for a spot of breakfast! What to have what to have!! So many options. Do I go sweet, do I go savoury. Decisions decisions. (The Full Menu is Here) I started off with some Fruit and some Yoghurt. The yoghurt was sheep's milk yoghurt and came with some Figs, honey and Toasted hazelnuts. The figs were amazing! The fruit was just spectacularly fresh! Then it was time for the main course. I liked the sound of the Egg white omelette over the Normal omelette so ordered that with a side of bacon and roasted field mushrooms. It automatically came with Sourdough toast but I wanted rye so I never touched it. The omelet was delicious and the bacon was good (though I should've ordered it crispy). When that was all said and done I ordered some Rye toast and out came 2 thick slices of Brasserie Bread New York Rye... YUM!! With all the different jam options (Triple Berry, Marmalade or Lime & Passionfruit) along with Vegemite, I had plenty of choices. With breakfast now filled me up, my spa appointment time was fast approaching. So I packed up my stuff and headed over to the spa for my free 30 minute massage. I grabbed a quick few photos of one of the smaller treatment rooms (a few jokes with the staff suggesting they can put one of the hotter ladies in the photos for me if I wanted). While they asked what I wanted during my massage my response was simple. Legs, dear god just fix my legs! A lovely 30 minute massage later (and my treatment room had some of the most amazing views) and I was in heaven. Spa... check, breakfast... check... time for a drink (some water this time) and a few sneaky pastries I think while I waited to be collected for the pre boarding. Time had gone by so quickly this was only a matter of minutes away... my time in the lounge was coming to an end... did I have to leave? I was collected and then it was going to be off to the aircraft... ready for the main event!

Introduction Seattle to Los Angeles Los Angeles Los Angeles to Brisbane Brisbane to Sydney to Canberra Canberra Canberra to Melbourne Melbourne Qantas First Lounge Melbourne Melbourne to Los Angeles Los Angeles to Seattle Conclusion                                                                                                                                                                     After taking the Skybus from the Airport to the city and then using their free connecting shuttle to my hotel, I was looking forward to relaxing for a bit. I was staying at the Langham at Southbank and before even contemplating staying there had scammed an elite status with their loyalty program. Add into the fact that the travel agents I deal with at work rave about this hotel, I just had to check it out. Check in was painless and my bags were taken off me and I headed up to my room, where a few moments later my bags joined me. I settled into an afternoon of relaxing to catch up on some stuff I had not been able to do up till this point and just before I was due to meet a friend for dinner I encountered a problem with the aircon in my room, but it was fixed with ease and didn’t require a room move. I left the Langham (not before being told by the staff that I must take an Umbrella with me and they wouldn’t let me leave without one) and walked over to Fed Square to meet up with my friend Ross, lay down a sticker somewhere that was visible that I had been wanting to do for a while. I spent the evening catching up with Ross over dinner of Laksa on Racecourse Road in Flemington at an extremely busy Laksa King (Curry Combination Laksa recommended) and a failed attempt for some ice cream. I retired for the evening totally beat and looking forward to a comfy bed. Monday 8th April 2013 A sound sleep on an absolutely comfy bed and I was as happy as larry. Up early for a morning run along the yarra river. As I got to the ground floor lobby I noticed a pile of water bottles right by the door to the lifts. That was odd I thought, I looked a bit closer and it turns out they have a “Jogging Station” including a suggested jogging map. Nice! I asked how long the run was and they said they thought it was about 3.5km, not long enough for me so I said thanks anyway and headed off on my own little route that I had kind of worked out the night before. 5km run complete and I got myself ready for my breakfast meeting with the hotel rep and a site inspection through the hotel, though I won’t go through what happened (as it would be boring to everyone really) what I will comment on is the breakfast buffet at the Langham. Just WOW! It had just about everything you could want including a chocolate fondue fountain and a pancake station... with ICE CREAM! Though I was going for a healthy morning I grabbed a bowl of good thick porridge, just the way I like it! After the breakfast and site inspection I finished off some work I had intended on doing the night before and had skipped, writing up some trip reports, some articles, clearing out some of the trash in my email accounts (how much junk i accumulate is crazy). After a good relax and productivity I packed up my stuff right as the housekeeping staff turned up to clean my room. Good timing! Off I headed (after a quick turnaround cause I forgot my ipod) to walk my way to a catch up with some friends for lunch. After lunch with friends and having to head off way too soon (hate leaving my friends) and I hit the streets to walk away the afternoon. I was on a mission. Walk back to the city (did I mention that I was walking for two reasons, one I hate Melbourne public transport and two I was happy to enjoy the sunshine and exercise) and do my supply shopping before repacking and having a quiet night in. First up on the purchase list was a scout of all the tacky souvenir stores in Melbourne for some birthday gifts (well in advance kind of thing) for some people. Something unique to Australia... Kangaroo Scrotum! My friends couldn’t believe that as Aussies we tend to use the entirety of the Kangaroo. I scouted out all the stores before purchasing as they were all in a line and figured that I would get them on the way back to the hotel. So with the scouting done I decided to walk over to Crumpler just to check it out since it had been forever since I had even seen a crumpler store and i was having withdrawls. I came out of the store only having spent $3 on a keyring of one of the old school crumpler zips. Something that they don’t use on their new bags. From Crumpler it was over to Melbourne Central for a supermarket stop to get the supplies that I miss in the USA. Vegemite, Diet jelly and some candy for the people at work (well at least the first hit, I would get some more at the airport duty free). From there it was back to the tacky souveneir stores and back to the hotel. I packed up my suitcase and by this time it was getting fairly late in the afternoon. My evening was quiet I was intending on spending that time relaxing. Watching some TV and then hitting the pillows really early. Because to be honest I was going to be up super early. I wanted to hit the gym before leaving the hotel, and since I had an morning flight and wanted to spend as much time in the lounge as possible, it was time to head to sleep, because tomorrow was going to be a truly epic adventure.

Introduction Seattle to Los Angeles Los Angeles Los Angeles to Brisbane Brisbane to Sydney to Canberra Canberra Canberra to Melbourne Melbourne Qantas First Lounge Melbourne Melbourne to Los Angeles Los Angeles to Seattle Conclusion                                                                                                                                                                     Sunday 07th April 2013 After a morning catch up with my friends over breakfast and a quick few last minute photo ops, I headed back towards the airport for my flight. It was still pretty early but there was a reason that I was going to do this that early. I wanted to get through to the airport a bit earlier as I needed to fill the car but next to the airport was something that I had wanted to check out. An Aussie costco. Now they were just opening up when I left Australia almost a year ago and they were pretty popular. Since I had seen what the real costco was like (and I had actually been to the original costco), it would be nice to see what the aussie version is like. That and I had been told they had giant tubs of vegemite, which was going to be tempting to see if it would be worth taking one of them home compared to tubes. So I stopped by and was surprised at just how expensive some things are in comparison to normal prices. To give you an idea 2 x 1125ml bottles of Bundy rum set me back $54 AUD duty free. Costco wanted 1 for $45. General 700ml bottles go for $45 at most bottle shops. So in the end the prices are still pretty high but cheaper than normal but not as cheap as duty free (in the booze scenarios). With costco explored and the car filled (at $1.55 per litre, which equates to $6.20 per gallon) I was wishing that things were not over so soon. Unfortunately it meant that my time in the city was coming to a quick end and I had to go and head off. I dropped back the car and there was not a single person around to scan the car back in. So I grabbed all my stuff and headed back inside the airport, to which when I dropped it all off, the person was almost wanting to just get rid of me without a receipt or anything. O how much I was wishing that I had National over in Australia as well. Car dropped off I headed upstairs to departures and the terminal was EMPTY! The new Canberra airport is almost finished and it was really nicely designed and looked a treat so I was totally looking forward to exploring some of the newer areas. Last time I had been through only the Qantas side had opened but barely 2 weeks prior the new Virgin Australia side had opened. Which was great because I could see the new lounge. Check in was a bit slow thanks to an older lady who wasn’t even flying that day tying up the staff complaining about baggage costs or something. Eventually an extra staff member had to come over and check me in cause the old lady was causing hassles. While checking in I was asked if I had been through the new lounge and was given directions to it from check in, which was very welcome as I had no idea where the new lounge was. Security took all of 30 seconds. Shoes still on, belt still on, watch still on (hear that Brisbane airport), only thing required out was my laptop. No silly liquid restrictions either!. Hell thll the new security check point had comfy looking couches so if you needed to remove your boots or something (if they had metal in them) you could do so comfortably. God I was going to miss this! The flight wasn’t going to board for a good 90 minutes or so, so I had plenty of time to relax in the lounge, catch up on some work and have a chat to my folks and touch base with them, maybe even make a few other phone calls. So off I went to the new lounge following the directions I was given (through security, turn left, up about 40m, through the glass doors, up the escalators, turn around and you can’t miss it). The new lounge follows the same design as Brisbane, Melbourne and to some extent Sydney (though the Sydney lounge has not yet finished refurbishment) but damn it was nice! So open and beautiful! Big picture windows with the best views of the runway (perfect for spotting). The lounge was very quiet with only about 15 people there, but could easily hold about 150. Perfect to my liking as I like quiet (which is what i like about lounge access). The lounge had the usual lunchtime offerings so after a couple of coffees, some work, some spotting and a nice healthy lunch of sandwich, salad and pumpkin soup (god yes!) it was time to get myself ready for the flight. It was at this point i realised something not so good. I had NOT brought with me my earplanes (which are special kind of earplug that I have to wear). I had left them in my suitcase which was now checked in. I would have to go and purchase some. There is only one problem with that, though they are readily available in the airports the cost to buy them in Australia is extortionate compared to the US. I usually pay about $4 a pair at walmart (each pair is good for a return flight) whereas over here in Aus the airport pricing is almost $20, off airport you are lucky to get them for about $12-15. So when my aircraft landed I knew it was time to head down to the gate via the newsagent to bend over and take that wallet hit. With that handled I headed over to the gate itself to wait for boarding which was not all that far away from when I got there. People were lining up everywhere and I heard a lady bitching about elite guests and how they always take up the overhead bin space. seriously? She had 4 bags herself! Virgin Australia - VA268 Canberra to Melbourne 1305-1415 Boeing 737-800 (VH-YIA) Economy Class - Seat 7A Boarding: 1240 (Gate 7) Push Back: 1307 Take Off Roll: 1315 (Runway 35) Top of Descent: 1343 Touch Down: 1407 (Runway 27) Shut Down: 1415 (Gate 8) Boarding was called and I had to wait for the loan person to finish his announcement so that I could get onboard as I wanted an empty cabin shot as I wasn’t sure but I had a feeling about this specific aircraft. That feeling was justified when I walked onboard. BSI! Yep that’s right. Boeing Sky Interior! I had only ever flown 1 flight with a BSI and I was up front in Business so this would be good to see it from the Economy perspective. I was totally impressed and I still love this aspect of the new 737 fit outs. Other than that this was a pretty normal flight with Virgin Australia. The boarding process took a while but we pushed back on time pretty much and taxied out past all the Qantas Aircraft (but I had sat on the wrong side as usual, why do I always go for A seats?). We held short of the runway for a bit for some reason, there was no arriving or departing traffic ahead of us, so maybe the crew were double checking something? Maybe the sequester is affecting Australian Airports to 😉 When we finally turned onto the active, gave the engines some JP1 and hit the skies it was good to know that the last leg of my qualifying was now over. With me in the air and winging my way to melbourne on this short 45 minute flight (as announced) it would all be over. I settled in for the usual Capital Connect freebie service, with my book and that’s about it really. We took off to the north, looped around the city to the right and headed south for Victoria. The free service was the usual, juice, water and “take this snack or your getting nothing” option which today was some savory biscuits but since I wasn’t hungry, into my bag they went. The water did help though. As we approached melbourne the clouds came in and it turns out that some weather that we should've avoided was looking like it was going to hit earlier so our forecast of “all is good” became “sorry you will get wet now”. But the landing on the cross runway at Melbourne was non eventful and as we taxied the long way back to the terminal we got a good sight of 3 different Whale Jets (SQ, EK & QF) all at the gates along with Cathay, China Southern, Malaysian and even a Thai 777 about to head skyward for Bangkok. We pulled into our assigned gate easily and with that my flight was over. Boring yet true! I grabbed all my stuff and fought the crowds to get out of the plane and then saw just how busy this place was today. It was packed! So many people, security was a mess of people as well. But it was a sunday in Prime weekend flight returns so people heading home etc. I dropped by the Lounge to say hi to an old friend who works there and then went off on my way to the baggage claim where my bag was doing laps of the belt, single, solitary and all alone. I was lucky the AFP had not yet destroyed it as a suspicious package. With suitcase in hand, I paid for a Skybus ticket and I was off to the city. Quickly & Easily. Shouldn’t travel always be this effortless?

Today was the Registration for the Marine Corp Marathon 10K and I made it in! I was a little worried as the full marathon sold out in a matter of hours. So I wanted to make sure I got in quickly as I have always wanted to do the MCM for some reason. Not the full Marathon as I definately couldn't run that length! The MCM is run around the streets of Washington DC and it has been a number of years since I have been back there but the biggest drawcard of this run is it finishes at the Marine Corp Memorial:
From USA 2007
An iconic statue in DC (technically Arlington Virginia) I am looking forward at getting back there and running around a city that I do enjoy visiting. One thing I have to mention though at the moment. Boston. What happened at the Boston marathon was shocking, it was disgusting and it is sad that people have been injured and killed. Thankfully of the people I knew who were there for it, all were uninjured and made it out actually before the bombs went off. I know that what happened won't change the way I run or think about running in big events like that and to be honest it wouldn't scare me off the bigger runs, it makes me want to run them even more. So with the MCM I now have 2 runs on the drawcard for 2013 with also my triathlon in September. 1 more local one to go with... but which one...