Baltics in June

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Aug 3, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    I'd pretty much had it with Washington, so I went online
    and found an overnight positioning mileage run between DCA
    and BWI for under 3 bills (not counting a coupon, so my
    out-of-pocket was under a hundred).

    No snags, for a change, on Metro, and security took seconds,
    so I had plenty of time to enjoy the DCA PC before my nasty,
    brutish, and short ride on the commuter plane.

    It's amusing that this airport, one of the most convenient
    to a center city, is named after a president who was famed
    for his hostility to public transportation and to safe air
    traffic. But here it is; the locals and many others refer to
    it as National. In a fit of reflex, I got off at the end of
    the platform and went off to United. Hiked back to the other
    end and got my first 3 boarding passes and then a quick
    jaunt through Rapescan and then to the club.

    CO3299 DCA CLE 1015 1140 DH4 3D

    As I was dressed pretty much like an Asian refugee (it was
    already hot out), the PC lady looked sort of askance at me
    until I whipped out my large credentials, whereupon she
    was appropriately welcoming, and I had a pleasant hour or
    so at the club. I refrained from ardent spirits, with an
    eye to my longish next couple days and the decorum of the
    time of day. The gate was right at the club exit.

    Boarding on all flights of this trip was consistent - first
    top tier on the native equipment (GS or PP) along with
    military in uniform, followed by all elites (names butchered
    through terminologic unfamiliarity with the other company),
    followed by rows back to front.

    The Q400 flight was slightly noisy (unexpected) and slightly
    uncomfortable (expected) and landed a hair late, so I didn't
    have time to visit the club here (one of my favorite
    bartenders). Tootled around the airport for a few minutes,
    thinking of having some wings at Quaker Steak and Lube or
    something at Cheeburger Cheeburger, but there really wasn't
    time even for fast food, and wasn't I getting lunch on the
    plane, anyhow? Aside: on approach, just south of CLE there
    is a heart-shaped pond, sort of cool.

    CO 173 CLE LAX 1240 1432 738 1A

    Speaking of which, being able to earn SWUs on one or the
    other based on my mileage on one or the other, and having
    many, many more on United, I credited to Mileage Plus, which
    meant that I had to sweat out the upgrade, because a 75000er
    on Continental trumps a 100000er on United, which meant that
    I got the second-to-last seat, which was the less than best
    one in the upper left-hand corner. I mused that perhaps they
    had best award upgrades on last year's mileage flown until
    maybe July 1, and thereafter on current year's mileage flown
    - but that would probably mean that few Continental flyers
    would ever fly up front again.

    They offered some sort of sandwich that sounded similar to
    what United offers, so I regretted not having spent the $5
    and 5 minutes to bring on board a Cheeburger or something.
    There was also soup available, so I had that by itself - a
    decent cream of mushroom but with gigantic tough mushrooms;
    I guess in the central European style or something. Never
    mind, I got my Courvoisier, which went well with.

    The service was good, which is what I have always expected
    of Continental in the air (ground staff are another issue).

    We landed more or less on time, and I went to the PC for a
    beer, and then Ruby's for a burger and - dangerously - a
    Coke. I am unused to the capricious effects of caffeine.
    I didn't do the standard In'n'Out pilgrimage as I had 10
    days' worth of luggage with me, and someone on one of these
    boards had claimed that Ruby's was just as good - this was
    not my experience, but I was willing to give it another
    chance, as it was just a few feet from the club.

    The burger is decent. But it has been previously kneaded,
    probably to incorporate some filler or another, and so its
    texture isn't either rare burgery or well-done burgery but
    more like meatloaf. The Coke, well, I've loved this sugary
    and stimulant-laden liquid since acquiring a taste in early
    childhood, but in recent years have had to ration my use of
    it and such other delights as coffee, tea, and chocolate,
    as they tend to cause unpredictable effects and/or temporary
    insanity. Today I figured I'd be tired enough so nothing
    untoward would happen, so I indulged in one.
     
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  2. hotelsallover

    hotelsallover Silver Member

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    Who doesn't like to whip out their large credentials? ;)

    Interesting report so far. Keep em coming.
     
  3. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    the mileage run part
    UA6528 LAX PHX 1804 1931 CRJ 8A
    UA6528 PHX LAX 2008 2130 CRJ 8F

    Time to trek to the far wilds of Terminal 8 for an amusing
    leg in my pointless or pointful journey. I was greeted by
    a charming middle-aged FA, with whom I spent some time
    chatting before settling into my exit-row seat on a fairly
    empty flight. Short and uneventful: we landed 15 min early,
    but much of the extra time was taken up by taxiing around
    the airport. No worries, my connection was in no danger ;)

    I had to check in again at the desk, as each previous
    attempt to get my return boarding passes had resulted in one
    of a variety of error messages. The agent snorted and said
    something to the effect of, another one of those, and so
    early in the season. The FO was hanging out there and
    remarked that the FA had told the cockpit about me, and
    they'd had a good laugh, and I didn't look as crazy as
    they'd been led to believe. I gave them this guff (actually,
    it was true) about how DCA-LAX-PHX-LAX cost less than
    DCA-LAX; I didn't point out that that was in the context of
    DCA-CLE-LAX-PHX-LAX-BWI in one day. The FO told me to be
    sure and compare the landings, as PHX had been his and the
    return at LAX would be done by the PIC.

    Back onto the plane, on the other side this time, and I
    again chatted with the FA, who no doubt thought, he's trying
    to make time with me, but he's got to be too nuts to be
    mate material. So she started throwing out words like
    "husband" and "we"; I was just being friendly, swear to God.

    An uneventful and dark flight, during which my somewhat glum
    seatmate (full flight) told me considerable chunks of his
    life story - a newly minted 1KMM who commutes to Tucson,
    from where he sells airplane parts to the hated Bombardier.

    I told the FO that both landings were just fine, but the one
    at PHX had been better, and he grinned.

    As my next gate was next door to the RCC, I had time for
    a couple of cookies and a shot of ... no, no alcohol, I'll
    just wait for onboard. And signed the sign-in sheet.

    I heard the boarding announcement through the club wall;
    by the time I sauntered over there, it was about zone a
    million, no big deal.

    UA 349 LAX BWI 2224 0619 319 1A Ch9^

    They offered nuts in a foil bag followed by the salty turkey
    and cheese that I don't remember whether I refused or not,
    as it's gustatorily negligible. I do recall a Courvoisier,
    which I thought would counteract the residuum of the
    caffeine, but it didn't, so I managed to get no sleep.

    A smooth, uneventful flight, with Channel 9 on to keep me
    amused. We landed half an hour early, so I had nearly 5
    hours to kill at BWI, so I decided to check out the
    Airspace lounge, which is a pay-per-use facility that takes
    the area of the former Red Carpet Club. It's decorated in
    a spare but not unpleasant way and offers drinks and snacks
    for not too much money (first one free). The staff seem very
    nice as well. It cost something like $19, probably worth it,
    but I can't tell because of the self-inflicted pluses and
    minuses of my experience.

    There was no connection to the printer from their computer.
    I needed to print out my next couple boarding passes. So I
    had to download them to either their or my computer and then
    put them on a removable device and walk that to the printer.
    Nobody had had the foresight to have a removable device
    handy, so after some consultation, it was decided that I
    leave my stuff and go outside to the ticket counter, it
    would be quicker than figuring something else out. No prob -
    despite the line at security snaking down that far corridor,
    I used the fast track and was back at the lounge shortly
    after my inbound was originally due.

    The first snack or pour is free, and at this early hour the
    receptionist was the only one around to play bartender, and
    I had to tell her to stop when the water glass was half full
    of Jack. I actually nursed this drink for several hours.
     
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  4. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    CO3215 BWI EWR 1410 1540 DH4 2A
    CO 588 EWR BOS 1655 1801 738 3A
    was
    CO3278 BWI EWR 1045 1155 DH4 1A
    CO3476 EWR BOS 1433 1545 DH4 1A

    Around boarding time I said goodbye to the Airspace folks.
    Proceeded to the gate, where boarding wasn't happening. I
    plopped myself down in front of the gate; an agent asked me
    if I was going to Newark and gave me a gate-check tag; I
    affixed it to my bigger bag and took a doze. Apparently,
    the caffeine had decided to go away and cede my brain to
    the Jack Daniel's and fatigue, because when I woke (they
    hadn't bothered to nudge me but let me sleep on!), there
    was nobody at the gate except for two agents. The plane was
    still there, with the airstairs attached, so I asked if
    there was still a chance I could get on. Answer: no.
    Paperwork was done; door was closed. Big "oops" all around,
    and to give them credit, they were somewhat chastened at
    not having noticed me asleep right in front of their noses.
    They offered to put me on a nonstop on AirTran. I asked for
    US Air. They countered with a CO itinerary that got me in
    only 2:45 later than my original, with the second leg on a
    plane that actually had a F section and, more relevantly,
    an F seat. Back to the Airspace, where though still very
    hospitable, the staff (now several people) made good-humored
    light of my situation. The manager offered me another drink
    on the house, and I said I'd better not. I did the mail (had
    to invent some to keep busy) for a couple hours, and having
    gotten a little peckish, ordered a curried chicken wrap,
    which was not unpalatable if on the bland side. Got on the
    little Q400 no problem, got to EWR no problem, refrained
    from drinking any more alcohol at the PC no problem, and
    took the relatively big 737-800 to Boston no problem,
    with one goodbye Courvoisier to keep me going. I swore
    off alcohol for the rest of the day.

    lili met me at the terminal, not having got my message
    about my coming out via the secret upstairs door by the
    ticket counter, and having to hustle upstairs from baggage
    claim (why would anyone wait for me at baggage claim?);
    we hopped the shuttle to the subway station and walked to
    Santarpio's, where I'd planned on taking her anyhow. For
    those who don't know, a stop at Santarpio's is the Boston
    equivalent of an In'n'Out run in LA or Bai Tong or Sharp's
    Roasters in Seattle - you can have a decent meal with a
    2-hour layover.

    A pepperoni pizza, a carafe of cheap cheap red wine (I
    lied about swearing off alcohol for the rest of the day),
    and a skewer of lamb tips: inexpensive and satisfying,
    and she took half the pizza back for later.

    Through some miscommunication, we'd booked the Courtyard
    (I think) and the Hilton respectively. I don't think the
    former has breakfast, so the leftover pizza probably went
    to a good home. The Hilton has a previously reported-on
    meager breakfast in the club lounge - fresh fruit (pretty
    good), mediocre pastries (better than they look, though),
    toast and jam, cold cereal, and boiled eggs. Worse than
    the Hampton's, better than nothing.

    We got together at 11 at the RCC, where Lynne gave us the
    unwelcome news that the bar wasn't open until 12 (she thinks
    I'm a dangerous alky anyhow). So we went to the Beer Works,
    where the hamburgers are big and goodish, and they serve beer
    in the morning. Same issue at EWR, where the club pleads state
    law - but Gallagher's down the way starts pouring at 10.

    UA 823 BOS IAD 1337 1524 320 3AB Ch9^^

    Both the purser and the pilot announced Channel 9. It was
    a nice day to fly, and the flight was on time.

    So an hour to loll about at the C7 RCC, where the catering
    was meager but the restrooms clean, functional, and welcome.
     
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  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA 950 IAD BRU 1751 0730 777 9AB Ch9:td:

    A lot of milling about at the gate when we arrived. We
    were whisked through the priority line, but most of our
    neighbors had already taken their places, probably waiting
    to pounce on our extra-nice seats should we not show up.

    Pre-departure beverage, the usual poor excuse for Champers,
    or water, or OJ, in plastic. I passed.

    This one took off a fair amount late and landed a fair
    amount late. Our service was pleasant in that slowish
    middle-aged way that we have become accustomed to from
    the Washington-based crew.

    Channel 9 was dead air.

    beginnings
    Vegetarian spring roll with ginger soy sauce - filled with
    mint herb, fresh cilantro, carrots, red onion, English
    cucumber and noodles

    and

    Seasonal mixed greens - classic Caesar or Asian sesame
    ginger vinaigrette

    I got two spring rolls, as lili doesn't eat such things.
    I wolfed them down mindlessly, as I was a bit hungry, and
    they were small. They tasted appropriately Vietnamese, very
    minty; the sauce was a tad sweet.


    main course
    Braised beef short rib with red wine demi-glace - potato
    pancakes and oven-roasted root vegetables

    Pan-seared salmon - roasted fingerling potatoes, French
    green beans and carrots

    Spinach lasagna rolls with rosetta sauce - Parmesan cheese

    We both had the beef, which was quite bad. When we were
    done, our dishes looked like what a small child does when
    s/he's been served something unsavory - the food cut up a
    little and moved around the plate, otherwise untouched.
    Though I did eat some of my vegetables.


    to finish
    Artisan cheese selection - served with red grapes and
    crackers - four year aged Cheddar, Saint Rocco triple creme
    Brie

    Ice cream

    We both refused.

    prior to arrival
    Continental breakfast featuring a fruit appetizer, breakfast
    bread and fruit preserves - yogurt is available upon request

    I snoozed through this.

    Featured wines

    Champagne
    De Venoge Cordon Bleu brut nv

    white wine
    Michel Lynch Graves 2009
    or
    Pazo San Mauro Albarino 2007

    Buena Vista Carneros Chardonnay 2007
    or
    Pellegrini Olivet Lane Chardonnay 2008, Russian River Valley

    red wine
    Cave de Tain Crozes Hermitage
    or
    Evodia Garnacha 2009

    Yalumba Y Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
    or
    Chateau Signac Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2008

    I had a few glasses of the Crozes, the first pour of which
    was slightly corky but not too much so; it had more spice
    than I'm accustomed to and a pleasant fruity plummy quality.

    ===
    We landed a bit behind, which is fine, as the Star Alliance
    lounge in Brussels is overcrowded and overheated.

    Immigration was neglectful and fast, so we had plenty of
    time for the lounge anyway, where a pain au chocolat and a
    glass of red plonk made breakfast.

    SN2093 BRU LHR 1000 1015 AR8 2AC

    An Avro regional plane of some kind; not uncomfortable.
    I snoozed mostly. There was a modest snack, of which I
    accepted a little box of Neuhaus truffles - a milk one
    with very hard hazelnut praline and a dark one with a
    whole hazelnut.

    Pro forma immigration questions, though I got a raised
    eyebrow with my "1/2 day" duration of stay.

    We got day rooms at the Sheraton Heathrow - for L50-odd
    per we got stay credit, lounge access, a shower, and a nap.
    Pretty darn good deal, if you ask me, especially as the
    75/76/U3 buses take you down Bath Road for free, vice the
    Hotel Odious Hoppa, which takes almost as long for 4 quid.
    Okay, there's a five-minute walk to the hotel from the
    bus stop, but that seemed perfectly harmless.

    KF 556 LHR HEL 1830 2325 717 7AC

    Six hours later, the U3 back to the airport. We decided
    to check a bag on this leg, as Blue 1 has small planes.

    Fast track security, ham and cheese and beer at the
    London Lounge, and off we went. Interesting fact:
    European beer downstairs; Asian beer upstairs.

    Our flight was three hours of nothing. I think this was
    the flight on which we were issued Lotus caramelised
    biscuits, which are like Biscoffs, only not quite so good.

    Entry into Finland was easy. The luggage came out timely,
    with priority tags, and passport control was negligible.

    Hilton Helsinki Airport, though on the property, is not an
    insignificant walk from the older terminal - through the
    terminal 2 ground level and past a construction site or two.
    In the dusk and after a day of drinking and flying, and
    given conflicting and incomplete signage (thanks to
    construction I figure), it took 10 minutes or so.

    The hotel is perfectly okay, modern, well-kept; my room
    right near the club lounge - irrelevant, as it was past
    midnight - was pleasant enough, with a really nice bathroom,
    and a view out onto the taxiway.

    Next morning: the sights of the waterfront, ferry terminals
    and open-air markets featuring merchandise I won't buy and
    food lili won't eat. The 19th century market house is always
    amusing and milder in temperature than the outside. I was
    tempted to get something to nosh on, but everything was a
    tad rich for my blood. So we just wandered around in the
    lovely sunshine, listening to the street musicians (why are
    there so many mediocre violinists in Helsinki?).

    We chose the Linda Line to Tallinn as it is cheap and fast
    - leaving at 2 and arriving just an hour and change later.
    Its terminal is a big cavern that serves it along with a
    St. Petersburg ferry. Uninviting and with not much to eat,
    see, or do. There is a canteen that offers beer and coffee,
    but it didn't appeal, so we went off wandering - it was
    pleasantly sunny-, returning about 1:45. A longish-seeming
    line had formed, and we were toward the end of it, though it
    turns out that the ship could have held at least twice the
    passengers, and we got perfectly fine seats with very few
    people in our neighborhood.

    The m/v Karolin is clean but somewhat no-frills, the
    catering bus-terminallike, the views restricted (the only
    open-air experience is the little aft smoking area. lili
    bought me a Saku kuld beer - floral but not hoppy, not
    unpleasant; her Hardy's Stamp of Australia Shiraz was
    uninspiring. For some reason, there was a bunch of seat
    changing enroute (perhaps for better views?) - some guy
    picked the seat right in front of me and then reclined
    his seat completely, so his head was almost in my lap. We
    moved over a bit. Linda Line lets you off in the midst of
    this blasted Soviet landscape about half a mile down the
    road from where the other ferries go: interesting in a
    gray massive but crumbling fortresslike way. Someday
    somebody is going to make something of this neighborhood.
     
  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    It's not a huge city. Our hotel was 15 minutes' walk from
    the ferry: Taanilinna, Uus 6, is right at the eastern edge
    of the old town - unassuming, smallish but inexpensive
    rooms, NOT AIR-CONDITIONED. And it was approaching 90/32.
    We dumped our bags, freshened up as much as possible, and
    went wandering: plenty of time before dinner to walk the
    length and width of the old town. Among the numerous
    tourist traps we (both having a thing for pork) chose the
    Kulde Notsu Kurts (Golden Piglet), famous for offering bacon
    bread. We should have heeded the warning implied by a surly
    guard in traditional costume, who, when we asked if we could
    have a table, grunted unpleasantly, "if you like." We were
    wrong in attributing this attitude to a holdover from Soviet
    days. We went in, were greeted by a rather perky bartender,
    parked ourselves near the bar, and sat and sat and sat.
    Turns out the cheery bartender was the only person in sight
    who actually did anything. Oh, except for a surly male
    supervisory bartender, whose role in life appeared to be
    to make things difficult for the cheery one, who poured the
    drinks, served the drinks (most people were outside, wiser
    than we, just drinking), then gave us menus, took our
    orders, and eventually served our food. There were other
    surly employees as well, with whom we had no dealings.

    The famous bacon bread: this is, unfortunately, kind of
    heavy and dry and very multigrain but reasonably laden with
    little cubes of bacon. lili's Speier Cabernet, though
    mediocre, washed it down well, as did the beer advertised
    out front as "A La Coq," a gender-bending oddity that I
    found to be a respectable pilsner, made by an Estonian
    brewery started by a Frenchman in England called A. Le Coq.

    Liking the sound of it (wouldn't you?), lili ordered the
    crispy pork knuckle with onions. The onions, which she
    doesn't care for, were the best part of the plate, which
    offered a large piece of meat that had been salted to the
    point of inedibility and then fried to the point of
    uncuttability. The meat was like jerky, and the skin, which
    should be gloriously crisp with a rich and melting
    underlayer, was instead the texture of crockery.

    I love blood pudding and ordered it, as it was the cheapest
    main course and bearing in mind that I'd probably get a big
    chunk of lili's dish, as though she loves food, she is a
    little lady and can eat little of it. What I got - something
    along the subsistence line, almost unseasoned blood cut with
    a more than equal quantity of unseasoned and undercooked
    barley. My side was supposed to be some kind of kraut, but
    I begged off and was given some rather good pickled pumpkin
    (with cinnamon and tasting almost exactly like spiced
    apples) and a redcurrant sauce that didn't go.

    We should have paid attention to the guidebooks and gone to
    Entrecote next door, which In Your Pocket claims has the
    best schnitzel in town, or Beer House, directly across the
    street, or anywhere else, in fact.

    ==

    Breakfast at this hotel is included and no bargain for that.
    Probably the most palatable thing is the muesli, though you
    can get cold American-style cereal, yogurt, toast and jam,
    and some of the saddest fruit in Christendom. Juice is
    watery. Nonetheless, it provids enough strength to get
    through the morning.

    And now for something completely different.

    Out east of downtown is the Kadriorga district, which
    consists of genteel old homes, museums, a big park, and
    the president's palace (not open to the public).

    We took the tram to its end, which is the edge of the big
    park, whence we walked to the Kadriorg Palace; this holds
    mostly 18th-19th century lesser masters but also some
    important Flemish paintings, including the Bridal Procession
    by Pieter Breughel the Younger (I think). Also there's a
    traveling exhibition space, which was devoted to Orthodox
    ikons when we were there. The gardens are small but nice,
    with a couple Classically-inspired sculpted fountains where
    a more ostentatious ruler might have had twenty. Then across
    the road to the Mikkel museum, an eccentric collection of
    18th-19th century European stuff, 20th century indigenous
    painting, and Ch'ing porcelain. Oh, yes, a room on the
    ground floor dedicated to more ikons, from the olden days
    through to the 20th century. Up the hill, past the
    presidential palace, to KUMU, whose collection traces the
    history of Estonian art from its German- and Russian-
    influenced days through Socialist Realism and to the present
    day. Some interesting stuff, especially the more modern
    multimedia works, though some struck me as self-indulgent
    charlatanism. We had time before lunch to visit Peter the
    Great's cottage, his original Estonian residence, before
    Kadriorg was built - quite a contrast.

    The tram, a different one by way of experiment, set us down
    right by Pushkin, where we decided to lunch. I had a plate
    of salo (Ukrainian lard) that unfortunately had seen better
    days; also a tongue sandwich, zakuski-style, that was much
    more presentable. lili, ever adventurous, had a ham and
    cheese omelet. Mediocre red wine and a glass of malty,
    almost soy-saucy Saku dark. On the way back into the old
    city we passed a bar that offered all the beer you can
    drink between 10 am and 2 pm for E10. I resolved to return
    someday, in a more timely way, with more macho company.

    Just south of old town is the new shopping mall Solaris,
    at one end of which is the Nokia Concert Hall; this night
    it featured an all Rachmaninov concert by the Russian
    National Orchestra; we went to the box office, where we
    were shown an almost completely full seating chart, the
    only seats together in the double nosebleed section. How
    much? The kid said sixty-five Euro each. Sixty-five? I
    asked in stupid incredulity, as that's real money. He
    affirmed: E65 a ticket. I regretfully told him that that
    was too rich for my blood, and we left. It was not until
    a day later that I tumbled to the possibility that he
    might have meant E6,5.
     
  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Tram-hopping as usual, as we had day passes. Outside the
    city, it seems there's not much to see - the outskirts
    look like most other outskirts. These might be slightly
    more depressing than usual, as the Soviets didn't waste
    their top architects on worker housing in the hinterlands.
    At length our tummies began to remind us of their emptiness,
    and having saved vast sums by eschewing that concert, I
    took lili to a very leisurely dinner at Olevi, in one of
    the hotels up a block or two from St. Olaf's church
    (hence the name).

    This is a very small restaurant, with perhaps 20 seats.
    On this occasion, about 10 were taken by a revolving-door
    group of young adults celebrating a wedding or something -
    they came and went ad lib and seemed to know the staff.
    The men were smartish casual, the women dressed to the
    hilt. I don't know if they were dining or just drinking.

    I'd been intrigued by the place when we went on our
    reconnaissance the previous evening, when we ended up at
    the unfortunate pig restaurant; it had been my first
    choice then too, but I figured we had to do the pork
    thing at least once (I'd first bonded with lili over the
    Schachtplatte in Nuremberg). Anyhow, we entered (steep
    steps down to the cellar) to mild consternation - but
    the waitress led us to the only table that wasn't in
    the party area - overlooked by ancient weaponry,
    instruments of torture, and such knickknacks - and
    promptly forgot us.

    Eventually we ordered, and after long communing with
    Mr. A. Le Coq and some somewhat acceptable red wine,
    we saw some food. We also saw other walk-ins being shooed
    away by the help, so we counted ourselves lucky.

    My pelmeni starter was a sizable serving and truly
    excellent, some of the best I've had; after this, an
    "Estonian bone chop" in mushroom cream was plenty - a
    modest-size thinnish pork chop in a quite tasty sauce,
    albeit one I could make just as well and in fact have done.

    Lili was intrigued by the sound of filet with tomato dill
    gravy; it was filet with tomato dill gravy, palatable but
    certainly not special.

    A pleasant and amusing meal.

    It still being light of course, we worked off dinner with
    more strolling around town, this time including some of
    the smaller alleys off the big(ger) streets.
     
  8. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Next day, it being too hot to sleep, we met in the dismal
    but cool breakfast room; then we wandered around a bit and
    then took the tram to the bus station. I'd been looking for
    a pub called Vana Willemi - though on a major road, it's
    nonetheless slightly obscure, occupying a plain old somewhat
    dilapidated building with a door that looks nailed shut. It
    opens at 11, though you'd not know by its looks. The place
    itself is fairly dark (and cool); but there's a courtyard
    out back, and lili went and investigated - even at that
    hour it had a couple dozen happy-looking patrons who had
    apparently entered via a side entrance. We camped out at a
    table that was in the breeze and away from the smokers. I
    ordered fried pelmeni and a plate of pork tongue; lili went
    with just a basket of garlic bread. The pelmeni looked just
    like Jeno's pizza rolls and didn't taste much better; the
    pig part was, however, quite palatable. Garlic bread was
    somewhat peculiar - very sweet black bread, such as you
    might make kvas out of, soaked in warm garlic oil, and
    served with a peculiar dipping sauce. As it tasted mainly
    of garlic and fat, I liked it and ate perhaps more than
    lili did. Not to mention it also went well with pig tongue.

    They offered Pilsner Urquell at the same price as Saku. Of
    course they were out so offered Saku as consolation. This
    was all right with me. Reminded me of the late lamented
    Wursthaus in Cambridge, Mass., which had a beer menu that in
    my day had half of the selections crossed out; in later
    years they printed the run with the names prestricken and a
    note saying something like "permanently out of stock."

    LUX bus TLL RIX 1245 1700 seats 30,31

    The bus station is 500m from the pub. A moment of panic when
    I realized that the bus ticket read 2011-06-09 ... turns out
    as a courtesy to us outlanders, the first page said that and
    the second page had the real date of 2011.09.06. Just trying
    to help, I suppose.

    The business class cabin on the LuxExpress is in the rear,
    offering lots of space, a desk, a half liter of water, and
    a Nestle energy bar, all for a premium of about 25%. It's
    quite comfortable. Across the way was a cute Chinese girl on
    holiday; we had a bit of a chat, but mostly, as I do on
    public conveyances, I snoozed, and next thing I knew, Riga.

    We were dropped off at the bus equivalent of a remote stand
    - I understand the terminal itself is nicer than what we
    saw, but we were eager to get to the hotel that lili had
    cleverly picked out for us, perhaps 6 or 8 blocks away, also
    at the edge of old town. Centra is at the end of Audeju St.,
    across from Steiku Haoss the steak house and near an
    apparently noisy (if you read the online reviews) Irish-
    style bar called Paddy Whelan's, which, though I enjoy Irish
    pubs, Irish beer, and irony, we did not visit.

    Modern, sterile lobby; friendly desk clerk made up for this.

    Modern very high-ceilinged rooms, quite decent size, with a
    fashionable bathroom. I didn't hear a peep out of the Irish
    from my room.

    Another walking old town. We walked.
     
  9. violist
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    Gutenberg is the go-to restaurant. I cannot improve on what
    In Your Pocket says:

    if the weather's good you'd be mad not to take the lift
    up to its summer rooftop terrace. Not only does it offer
    excellent views of the square, it also has a great
    barbecue menu. Grilled steaks and pork chops don't come
    cheap here, but you probably won't mind after you've been
    hypnotised by the golden clock of Riga Cathedral just
    across the way.

    All true, though the prices were manageable. Again, we
    waltzed in without a booking, and we were rewarded with
    the last available table, one of the few with no view.

    lili started with a salad of prosciutto crudo, spinach,
    and strawberries, a generous serving with a good balance
    of meat and veggies; things that weren't cited in the
    description included cucumbers, yellow peppers, grape
    tomatoes, and a quite well balanced soy sauce vinaigrette.
    She followed that up with a nicely done T-bone steak,
    locally grown, grass fed, fairly gamy, satisfying.

    I was there mostly for the wine: that power bar on the bus
    had ruined food for me for the day; nonetheless, I ordered
    duck breast with "blackberry" sauce (probably blackcurrant
    sauce) - slightly over for my taste, but perfectly cooked
    for the connoisseur at medium-rare to rare.

    Each plate had a pretty little garnish of mesclun salad.

    Norton Perdriel single vineyard Malbec 06 was pretty nice
    and a bargain at something like E30: a very dense wine,
    with ripe, perhaps overripe fruit, good tannin, and legs
    up the yinyang. Satisfying to sniff it as the sun set
    over that golden clock of the cathedral.

    For dessert I had a glass of real Cuban Havana Club anejo
    with a Coke on the side.
     
  10. violist
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    I got up early (eschewed the free breakfast); we walked
    pretty much every street of the old town by noon. This
    activity gave us a powerful thirst, so we stopped at Egle,
    the open-air biergarten in the town square - I had two
    kinds of Piebalgas, light and dark, both bland but in a
    distinguishably north German style; these didn't hold my
    attention much, so for my third I had a glass of kvas, which
    is made here, I'm told, by the Coca-Cola company. It was
    sweet rather than sour (I imagine too fresh or something).

    lili had a salami and cheese pressed sandwich, which was
    most ordinary; I got country style ribs, which were dusted
    in salt and caraway and very tasty; this came with black
    bread. I don't think we spent much more than $20 between us.

    We wandered around some more, ending up not coincidentally
    at the box office of the Latvian National Opera, where a
    cheap seat goes for $10 or so (L5). Madame Butterfly, a
    heartbreakingly lovely opera, was on, so we bought.

    Across the canal or whatever it is to the newer part of the
    city, where we poked around a bit and then stalled at
    another biergarten right by the Orthodox cathedral, where
    the beverage of the day was Carlsberg (which apparently
    owns all the breweries in Latvia anyway), which is a little
    drier and more hoppy than the local brands.

    We were a little underdressed for the opera, by the looks
    of all the other patrons, but no matter, as we were up in
    the uppermost section, where for me seeing the action is
    a pipedream (though the acoustics are decent and augmented
    by a fairly discreet sound system).

    Here is where I tried the infamous Riga Balsam, which cost
    the same L2 that it does from the hotel minibar. It's
    similar to other epater-les-touristes liquors, such as
    Enzian and Jagermeister - herbal, woody, musty, sort of
    like Sen Sen, if you remember those. I could go on pounding
    shots of this all day ... but choose not to.

    The opera was nicely done, the staging and costumes the same
    as at the Latvian premiere back in 1920-something. The
    singing was respectable bordering on excellent, except for
    the guy playing the Japanese guy (I forget the name), who
    seemed to have lost his voice. A decent orchestra, no better
    than the ones that I am a refugee from, the violin soloist
    somewhat better than I was when I played that part many
    years ago.

    After the show, the crowds were all headed to one particular
    watering hole, so we resolved to avoid that, ending up at
    the Victory Pub, which advertises heavily in the tourist
    brochures as an English pub in the old town. It's about as
    English as I am. Nonetheless, it was pleasant. I think lili
    had a burger or something; it was dark by this time and I
    wasn't paying attention, devoting this to a tasting of beers
    from Lacplesa - a pilsner, "dzintaru," and "3 iesalu." I
    asked the cheerful waitress what the characteristics of
    these brews were, and she said, light, dark, and (long
    pause) in between. There was scant taste difference among
    them, and I could barely see the glasses, much less the
    color of the contents. With these I had, figuring why
    mess with success, barbecued spareribs, which came as a
    soppy but good-tasting mess, the sauce heavy with HP and
    other Englishy things, quite.
     
  11. violist
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    BT 303 RIX HEL 1015 1125 F50 8AC

    I wanted to get up at 8, breakfast until 0820, and take
    the bus at 0830; lili thought that we should be there
    early, so we did one notch before. The bus stop is even
    closer than the intercity bus terminal - maybe 4 blocks.
    Nonetheless I was self-conscious about rolling our noisy
    rollaboards across the cobbles, until we came across a
    British party, which had obviously been drinking all night
    and was conversing loudly and slurredly and audibly to
    a wide radius. I chuckled; lili, perhaps unused to this
    level of debauchery, looked away, I think.

    The bus came within 1 minute of schedule and dropped us
    off at the airport maybe half an hour later, within 2
    minutes of schedule. Kiosk checkin didn't work - perhaps
    we should have heeded yet another clue, nobody using them.
    No problem, as bag drop had a 20-min line anyway. Security
    was bizarrely easy (ours was the only flight between 0800
    and 1015), and soon we were back in duty-freeland; having
    a couple dozen Lats left, I picked up lots of cheap
    chocolate for souvies, a liter of Aldaris Gaisais (no cost
    advantage over two half-liters, which is what I should
    have done, because that way I wouldn't have felt obligated
    to drink the whole can at one go), a can of Zelta for
    comparison, and a bottle of Masi Valpolicella for later. I
    also got lili her heart's desire, a bottle of Pepsi, which
    cost more than beer.

    Air Baltic is perfectly harmless, the seats not hideous,
    the planes clean; though the bus to remote stand thing gets
    kind of old. Lots of buy on board possibilities, and boy do
    the pictures look good, but the flight is just an hour. The
    experience reminded me very much of the better low-cost
    carriers, such as Virgin Blue.

    We landed with most of a day ahead of us; dropped our bags
    off at the Hilton and took the bus downtown, which eats up
    an hour. I was going to take lili to the Bulevardia area,
    but she was hungry, so we menu-shopped for a while, finding
    most places too costly or serving too many weird things,
    such as reindeer. We almost went in to a burger joint called
    Amarillo, only the burgers were E16 ... we almost gave up
    and went to McDo's, but I recalled an unassuming red-sauce
    checked-tablecloth type place we'd passed called Il Sicilano
    - so that's where we went. The place was slammed, as it is
    right near Cathedral Square, where the samba parade was set
    to start; I should maybe have thought of that. Anyhow, the
    service, though pleasant enough, was slow and halt. I had
    the pasta pescatora, which was palatable though no bargain -
    a big plate of linguini in a fra diavololike sauce with
    various frutti di mare, to wit 3 tiny mussels, some shreds
    of surimi, and a teaspoonful of shrimp that gave new meaning
    to the word shrimp - the teaspoonful was about 5 of them.

    lili had the pizza Parma - a sort of limp crust covered
    with cheap Gouda-like cheese, topped with slices of
    prosciutto and decent grana.

    The house wine was a Nero d'Avola, a little sour, not
    very interesting.

    This Pizza-Hutlike meal cost us within ten bucks of what
    we'd paid at Gutenbergs, one of the best and fanciest
    restaurants in Riga, the other day.

    All right - the samba parade! Not something you'd expect
    in downtown Finland, but what the hey. It was actually a
    load of fun, and we spent half an hour watching scantily
    but extravagantly clad ladies of all sizes, shapes, and
    ages sambaing their way (more or less - there's something
    lost in translation) down the road, disrupting the tram
    traffic, and generally behaving in the way one imagines
    they behave in Rio at Carnaval. After which we finished
    off the afternoon at Ateneum, where we found the art
    collection impressive in a Finnish sort of way, and where
    the temporary exhibition was of a pair of somewhat Socialist
    realist (in style anyhow) filmmakers named something like
    Axl and Rose or Ren and Stimpy, I forget, thus probably
    insulting generations of Finns. The films had these
    exhortatory voicetracks backed with music that sounded to
    me like a bad imitation of Sibelius: turns out that it was
    indeed by Sibelius, worse luck. I listened, half appalled
    and half enthralled, until closing time.

    Somewhat shell-shocked by the price of lunch, we decided to
    avoid another assault on our pocketbooks and retreated to
    the Hilton. We washed up a bit before going to the lounge.
    My room was almost identical to the other but overlooked
    the parking lot. Geisha, another variation on hazelnut milk
    chocolate, was the turndown amenity for me at least.

    Stuffed my face at the executive lounge on somewhat nasty
    pea-potato samosas; there were also smoked salmon and cream
    cheese thingys and a platter of crudites. We'd arrived just
    before cocktail hour, so Nikolai beer was the only such
    beverage; it isn't bad for nonalcoholic, but I was happy
    when the attendant (who had been hiding in the pantry, radio
    blaring) brought out the somewhat more potent Karhu beer and
    an odd assortment of distilled spirits - local vodka,
    Bushmill's, Martell VS, creme de menthe. I mean, what can
    you make out of that? lili had a glass of Irish, I had a
    Cognac; then, as there was nothing to do, we repeated this
    a few times.
     
  12. violist
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    In the morning, the executive lounge was unstaffed and
    foodless, despite it being breakfasttime, actually a bit
    late for breakfasttime. The radio was still blaring. I
    thought of going into the pantry to see if the attendant
    had been murdered or something but instead went downstairs
    to the restaurant for the standard Hilton buffet breakfast.
    I'd say that here it's better than average, the meats not
    disgustingly overcooked or overgreasy, the eggs doing a
    good facsimile of real ones (and one can get eggs cooked to
    order on request). Average pastries. The fruit a mixed bag,
    with melon of varying kinds of ripeness and pineapple
    sadly almost turned to mush. A local dish I've not seen
    before and don't care if I ever do again - Karelian pastry,
    a tough envelope wrapped around a starchy (potato?) filling
    - you eat this with egg butter, which is chopped hard-boiled
    eggs mixed with butter (or in this case, oleo). Smoked fish
    and cold cuts of varying quality. Muesli and yogurt for the
    weird. Green salad for the very weird. I ate fairly well,
    as there were enough savories to amuse me, despite the
    smoked salmon having a whiff of ammonia about it.

    The main draw of the airport hotel is of course the
    convenience factor; but we had a good stay there. By the
    way, I read that there is another airport hotel, apparently
    under the runway; maybe I'll check it out sometime, as it
    sounds neat in a sort of kinky way.

    0612 KF 555 HEL LHR 1545 1655 717 4CD

    Checkin was a mere formality, and we had plenty of time for
    more cold cuts and dairy snacks, this time accompanied with
    beer and wine, at the SAS lounge - perhaps the budget
    airline model, with everything a la carte, is the future of
    travel, but Blue 1 is a subsidiary of SAS and offers Star
    privileges.

    On tap:

    Invenio (Chile) Cabernet Sauvignon - slightly peppery, woody
    taste, thin body, pineapply; I wouldn't have thought it a
    Cab, but what do I know;

    Invenio (South Africa) Chenin Blanc - rather weak, Thompsony
    taste. Good acid, quenching; can't say much more for it;

    Lapin Kulta - this was the first one I had on this trip:
    five years ago it was the dominant beer - now it seems to
    be a niche product, and I hear they even closed the brewery
    in Lapland and now farm it out to someplace else. It now
    tastes like Carlsberg, only with less bite.

    When we peeled ourselves away from the free beverages and
    wi-fi, there was a sizable line for boarding. But as we'd
    again checked bags, that wasn't a concern. Our seats were
    a bit forward from our outbound ones but no more comfy.

    A bumpy gray flight, and due to holding and low ceilings, we
    landed half an hour late in drizzle, the announcement having
    been made in several languages that we would be landing
    early. Why do airlines do this? Why do you build me up,
    build me up, buttercup baby, then you let me down?
     
  13. violist
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    Back to the Sheraton Heathrow, this time an overnight stay
    for L45 or so a room.

    Annoyingly, though the 75 and 76 leave from adjacent stands
    at the Heathrow Central Bus Terminal, the U3 leaves from the
    other side of the building. We'd just missed the 75, and the
    76 had quit running by the time we got in, so we cleverly
    thought to go round to the U3 stop: lo and behold, our
    chariot awaited.

    I had a decent room - nicer view than from lili's though
    otherwise mostly a mirror image. No lounge access as I'm a
    mere gold, and despite being on the club floor, everyone and
    his grandchild was there, and the club lounge was
    chockablock. The previous guy checking in was also a gold
    and was explicitly warned that though being assigned to a
    club level room, he would not get club access, which put
    his knickers in a modest-size knot; nobody told me, but I
    wasn't expecting (or needing) anything anyhow; I can
    coattail on lili, who is platinum or whatever Sheraton
    calls it. But the place was unpleasantly packed anyhow,
    and it was about time for a good dinner. The Sheraton
    snacks were sour, anyway.

    The London Hong Kong is a 5-min stroll from the hotel in the
    rain. It came highly recommended, and we were also heartened
    by the place being filled up, mostly by Chinese people, but
    for one deuce, which we got.

    The decor is standard Chinese restaurant, though not bad for
    that. The service likewise, though not good for that. Food
    surprisingly good.

    lili is a meatarian, so we ordered the Mandarin spare ribs:
    you could have knocked me over - what we got was a slightly
    inexpert version of the ribs we'd had at the Victory Pub in
    Riga the day before - there the balance was toward the HP
    sauce; here it was toward the tomato and a bit sweeter. The
    meat here was better trimmed, and a short visit to the deep
    fryer provided a nice exterior crunch (which the abundant
    sauce did not completely destroy).

    I asked for the fried oyster appetizer (2 pieces); they
    gave me (and charged for) the fried oyster main (5 pieces),
    which was all right, as they were excellent. A fine batter,
    flash fried so the outside was crackling crisp and the
    oysters warmed but still nearly raw. The sweetened
    mayonnaise-like sauce on the side did no one any favors.

    Our main was the mixed meat platter, a generously heaped
    dish of char siu, crispy pig belly, and a duck leg.
    Instead of the traditional Hong Kong garnish of baked beans,
    a few stray pieces of bok choy were at the bottom to soak up
    the juices, upon which they became quite palatable. The
    crispy pork and the duck were exemplary, just like what I'd
    expect in Hong Kong and slightly better (less salty) than
    what I'd expect in Singapore. The char siu (honey roasted
    pork on the menu) was good in flavor but way too lean, every
    bit of fat being trimmed off before curing. lili liked it
    and ate most of it, while I ate all the duck; we split the
    crispy stuff fairly fairly.

    A bunch of Tiger beers was overpriced but welcome.

    The bill came with a pretty nice little fruit plate and some
    milk chocolate mints; these latter were distinguished from
    the standard by a pleasant trace of Scotchy smoke flavor.

    This was, tied with Gutenberg's, the most costly meal of the
    trip. Both of these were good to excellent. I felt blessed.

    It was misting heavily when we walked back to the hotel,
    and a hot shower and bed seemed like just the thing. Alas:
    the plumbing at this hotel is antiquated, though the
    furnishings look up to date. There was no hot water, only
    sort of tepid, and the water pressure was abysmally low.

    It wasn't bedtime yet, and as we had missed happy hour, I
    trundled a bottle of Masi Valpolicella down the way (had
    picked this up at duty-free for this eventuality) ; it
    turned out not such a bargain at LVL6 - it was a bit sour
    cherrylike and then old shoelike in the cheap Italian way -
    I'd hoped for something better than the Folonari or Bolla
    with which I'd wasted my youth, but no such luck. I toddled
    back to my quarters and off to bed somewhat unsatisfied.

    I tossed and turned a bit and thought a little too much, so
    called to change my 0600 wake-up call to 0530: good thing
    I did, as it turned out they had it marked down for 0700. I
    accordingly set every available device to jolt me upright
    around 0530.
     
  14. violist
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    In the morning the 0530 call came right on time (a little
    early, even?), the hot water issue was somewhat resolved,
    and check-out was a smiling breeze. I met lili at the desk,
    and we walked the few blocks to Pinglestone Close, where at
    0630 a 75 bus whisked us to the airport. Check-in and
    fast-lane security took mere moments.

    The Star Gold lounge was crowded, hot, stuffy, and when I
    went to grab some bacon from the tray at the buffet, a
    disembodied hand emerged from the galley and whisked it away
    forever. There was, though, a big dish of bangers, which
    were more meaty than usual, and these went well with an
    unfortunately very gassy pour of Grolsch.

    0750 came and went, and the monitor still said "please
    wait"; I inquired of the front desk, and the rather surly
    young girl said that she didn't have access to the airline
    computers and it usually meant they were looking for a gate.

    0820 came and went. I remarked to lili that we had to
    leave by 0920 to make my carefully crafted connection. So
    with the monitor still reading "please wait," I decided to
    go to the SN transfer desk and see what was what. Well, what
    was what was that we were expected to "please wait" until
    the new but unwelcome new boarding time of 1030, subject to
    change without notice. I pointed out that this would make
    our life very difficult, so the nice but not quite with it
    blonde girl called downstairs to discover that we had been
    rebooked on a nonstop to Boston ON DELTA. This was obviously
    unacceptable, so I asked the girl to try again, this time on
    Star Alliance. She didn't know what that meant, so I had to
    explain carefully, not leaving anything out.

    UA 919 LHR IAD 1200 1505 777 3EF Ch9^
    was SN2092 LHR BRU 0820 1035 AR1 2AC
    and UA 951 BRU IAD 1200 1418 777 12AB

    Eventually we got what we wanted, Star flights booked all
    the way in Biz (but not ticketed, apparently). Perhaps I
    should have gone for LH, but the United agent was just
    next door.

    So we had to troop over there (there's a passage between,
    behind the counter, but obviously not in front) to have our
    tickets reissued, so had to pass the gauntlet of UA-style
    security, with the Indian guys with the laptops, and thence
    to the desk, where another Indian guy gave the bad news that
    despite the fact that our original booking read LHR-BRU-IAD-
    BOS, our blonde agent and the obvious halfwit at the other
    end of the telephone line had rebooked us LHR-IAD full stop
    and had cancelled the onward to Boston. The United guy
    issued our LHR-IAD passes and said rather apologetically
    that since Brussels had screwed up the booking, Brussels
    had to fix it. Back to the first desk, all of ten feet
    away, where after fifteen minutes' feverish typing, phone
    calls, and trips by both SN and UA agents - with both old
    and new UA and SN boarding passes in hand - through that
    door behind the counter, we ended up getting our original
    seats on IAD-BOS. That was exhausting to all, and I don't
    know who were happier to see us go - the United people, the
    Brussels people, or we ourselves. I remarked to lili that it
    had been more interesting and instructive than sluicing down
    more and more Johnnie Black (hers) or Martell VS (mine). She
    agreed, perhaps less than wholeheartedly.

    I made the executive decision that we'd go to the BD lounge
    for our by now one extra hour, and we were surprised and
    pleased to find it decorated if not catered in the Lufthansa
    style. Slightly dodgy British breakfast food, minus any
    protein; packets of crisps (bags of potato chips) as far as
    the eye could see; and an open bar, where lili poured a
    Scotch blend (Bell's or Dewar's or Grouse or something) that
    was if anything inferior to the Johnnie at the Star lounge,
    and I a Hubert de Polignac VS, if anything inferior to the
    Martell at the Star lounge. But the staff were nice, and
    there were a lot of them, and our seating tucked away in
    a secret corner was comfy.
     
  15. violist
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    As soon as we saw the gate announcement, we hustled out
    at top speed, lest the plan in the back of my mind go
    stale. From the BD lounge to the gate was longer even than
    I had thought. One of the guards pointed to my shirt - I
    thought he was going to mention how sweaty I had gotten;
    but he merely said that he'd just bought the same one, to
    which I replied that we both must have good taste; we
    laughed, and I saw that a good omen.

    I went to the desk and asked about a change of seats - being
    late booked, we had an aisle-middle pair but sought an
    aisle-window pair. Or, I admitted, we'd take middles
    together in first, as I had plenty of systemwides handy.
    She said that she'd try, and the list would be cleared
    within 10 minutes and to take a seat within earshot. She
    called us in about 2 minutes.

    The good news was that I got to use two of the SWUs that
    were burning a hole in my pocket. The bad news was that
    United First is - aside from an amazing upgrade in the
    amount of personal space - not that much better than Biz.

    We boarded a few minutes late, because of some mechanical
    issue; they called Global Services and First only. By the
    time we got through the substantial crowd of looming elites,
    it was time for Business only (in the meantime they made
    the explanatory announcement that the economy cabin wasn't
    ready yet - so why do they let Global Services passengers
    sit in an unmade cabin?). There was a gatekeeper who sized
    us up carefully before letting us through and who actually
    pulled some people aside and made them wait.

    Our predeparture beverage was a sad excuse for Champagne.
    Sweetish, very grapy; I almost didn't finish it.
     
  16. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    beginnings
    appetizers
    Portobello, mozzarella, tomato and asparagus with fresh
    micro greens and lemon-infused oil

    soup
    Roasted carrot and swede soup

    salad
    Fresh seasonal greens with asparagus, cucumbers and sun-
    blushed tomatoes served with your choice of dressing:
    creamy peppercorn or balsamic vinaigrette

    The soup was pleasant enough, a puree of unidentifiable
    vegetables, which of course was merciful.


    main course
    Grilled filet mignon with horseradish sauce and shiitake
    tomato duxelle, chateau potatoes with parsley and a green
    bean, red pepper and pea mix

    Roasted cod with artichoke, sun-blushed tomato and pea
    dressing, Israeli couscous with roasted cherry tomatoes,
    carrots and wilted baby spinach

    Indian curry - chicken passanda, rice with cardamom and
    mustard seed, methi peppers and yogurt lentil potatoes

    Mizuna pasta with spinach and cheese, sauteed vegetables
    and a tomato-cream sauce

    lili had the filet - it was all right but obviously had
    been seared, frozen, and then reheated to medium; she
    doesn't care for this kind of mistreatment of meat so ate
    only a few bites, giving the rest to me. I took only the
    pink heart of the (sizable) steak, having had enough to
    eat with my quite acceptable curry. I remarked to lili that
    there must have been an Indian in the kitchen during the
    making of my meal.


    to finish
    Old fashioned hot fudge sundae - ice cream with decadent
    hot fudge and whipped cream

    Caramel sundae - ice cream topped with warm caramel sauce
    and whipped cream is an excellent way to finish your meal

    Just ice cream - enjoy ice cream without the toppings

    Cheese selection, served with red grapes and crackers -

    Cashel Blue - similar in style to Roquefort, but softer,
    more moist and less salty

    Coastal Cheddar - extra mature with a surprising crunch
    from the calcium crystals

    Capricorn Goat - soft cheese from Somerset, sweeter than
    French varieties, slightly nutty

    Graham's is one of the top names in Port and its Late
    Bottled Vintage Port 2005 is intense, powerful, chocolate-
    rich and delicious with our cheese selection.

    No dessert. I didn't want to ruin the clubby atmosphere
    of the cabin with uncontrolled flatus. I did have a glass
    of the Port, which was sort of all right, with none of the
    rich delicious characteristics of the description.


    anytime a la carte
    United is pleased to offer a variety of light and
    refreshing snacks available by request anytime you wish
    throughout the flight

    The midflight snack selection has come a bit down in the
    world over the years. Today's rather meager selection:
    Kettle chips, little 1 oz packets of dried fruit, Walker's
    honey oat cookies, and Sun Bites whole grain snacks, sun
    ripened chilli flavour tiny moments of extraordinary
    pleasure may contain traces of barley due to farming
    practices. I tried these last and found the taste
    reminiscent of the more modest snacks you might find in an
    Asian bar, though a touch of heat almost redeemed them.


    tea service - Your selected entree will be served with a
    side salad, warm scones, clotted cream, butter and fruit
    preserves

    Roasted chicken focaccia sandwich with caramelized red onion
    chutney, Mediterranean potato salad

    Ploughman's plate with cottage loaf bread roll - featuring
    Capricorn, Smoked Cheddar and Oxford Blue cheese wedges, Old
    English chutney

    The scone was "scone cold." Sandwich was quite good, the
    potato stuff a sort of Nicoise but without fish.


    Today's menu features beef from South America.

    All menu items are available up to 90 minutes prior to
    arrival.

    We apologize if your meal selection is not available.

    Featured wines

    champagne
    Cuvee Diamant brut nv - one of the most extravagant of
    Champagnes, Cuvee Diamant exhibits the intense nuttiness of
    great Champagne, along with tart pear and toasted lemon
    or
    Nicolas Feuillatte brut 2004 - a favorite of sommeliers;
    Feuillatte is equally rich and balanced, and the 2004
    exhibits that style: lots of fruit, hints of earth and
    toasted nuts

    white wine
    Bouchard Beaune du Chateau premier cru blanc 2007
    (Chardonnay) - Bouchard is one of the crowd pleasers in the
    Burgundy marketplace, and this wine has luscious richness
    and lemony mineral character in the finish
    or
    Joseph Phelps Ovation Chardonnay 2007, Napa - From one of
    Napa Valley's venerated wineries, Joseph Phelps' seductive
    Ovation Chardonnay is rich, buttery, layered and powerful

    Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2009, Loire Valley - Sauvignon
    Blanc from chalky hills along the Loire Valley River
    generates a rich texture and a lengthy finish despite the
    mouth-watering, refreshing crispness.

    I asked for the white Beaune, which was off; the Phelps
    was all right, I suppose, though not my favorite wine in
    not my favorite style.


    red wine
    Bouchard Cote de Beaune-Villages 2009 (Pinot Noir) - Pinot
    Noir's ancestral home, Burgundy, usually shows a softer,
    lighter version of the grape, but earth, mushroom and tart
    fruit notes offer complexity as well

    St. Supery Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Napa Valley - Napa
    Valley is many places and St. Supery's style is less showy
    than some Napa Cabs, but perhaps more elegant than many
    of them
    or
    Acustic 2008 Montsant, Spain - Montsant, Acustic's home,
    nestles against Spain's more famous Priorat region, but
    offers the same powerful fruit, both dried and fresh,
    exotic and spicy.

    I stuck mostly with the Beaune, which was meatier than
    the description but mostly a flabby, uncharacterful wine,
    probably gone dumb. Tasted the Cab, which was all right,
    with nice pepper, wood, and black fruit.


    port wine
    Graham's late bottled vintage port 2005
    Graham's is one of the greatest and most important names
    among Port producers; its Late Botted Vintage 2005 is
    nothing short of delicious.

    Overstatement.

    beverages
    Aperitifs, cocktails, spirits, liqueurs and beer
    Freshly brewed coffee
     
  17. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    The beds were comfy, and we got a couple hours' snooze and
    were somewhat reluctant to pry ourselves out of there and
    reenter the US a little early. International first class
    is perhaps not such a wonder as it sounds, but it is still
    nothing to be sneezed at.

    Customs and immigration were easy; reentry through the
    security checkpoint, however, has become so much more
    chaotic than it was until recently.

    We had plenty of time to enjoy the lounge - coming off a
    front cabin flight and connecting to another of the same,
    we were entitled to use the fancy lounge, so we had the
    chance to sample decent cold cuts, a pretty good-looking
    array of cheeses and crudites, an open bar with fairly
    prestigious brands (Remy VSOP, for example), and so on.
    I grabbed about 6 oz of medium-rare filet, which was far
    better than that served onboard.

    B-Side Cabernet (Napa) 09 was decent, middle of the road,
    mint and berries, too bright for me. This is a well thought
    of wine, but I thought that Sebastiani offers better stuff.

    Kuyen (Syrah, etc.) (Maipo, Chile) 07 - quite overripe,
    raisiny, decent: not for me, though Parker might tout
    this style.

    Malbec de Ricardo Santo 08 - very pleasant, though the least
    expensive of the trio.

    The Champers was Taittinger Cuvee Prestige, a fairly nice
    blend. I enjoyed several glasses.

    UA 751 IAD BOS 1702 1830 320 2AB Ch9:td:

    Our final flight together was pretty uneventful, though it
    took off 45 late and made up only about 10 of that. During
    the delay I asked the captain for Channel 9; he was genial
    enough but said that he wouldn't do it because of legal
    issues. He made some arcane comparison with congressmen's
    underwear.

    Should I have stayed on Delta and later applied for original
    booking credit? Should I have tried for LH through FRA, or,
    better, MUC?

    lili and I had planned on having a nice goodbye dinner, but
    neither of us was particularly hungry, so we took a walk
    instead that took us to various places including the 9-11
    monument right by the Hilton; then we parted not tearfully,
    but not eagerly, either, and off I went.

    US2131 BOS LGA 1400 1515 E90 3D

    Legal Seafoods in terminal C. The special of the day was a
    soft crab sandwich at a reasonable price. A medium, nicely
    fried, fresh-tasting. This came on a bun with a smear of
    pesto, and enough fixings for half a BLT, so I scraped off
    the pesto, ate the crab alone, and fixed myself half a BLT.
    Sides were crisp, tasty, but somewhat greasy onion rings and
    pretty tasty jalapeno-Cheddar polenta of which I had little,
    only wanting and tolerating a taste. Then off to Terminal B
    and US Air. I'd been booked on a later flight, but things
    were not looking so good. Penny at the club put me on the
    2:00, of which there was one seat left in first.

    They had the peculiar and odious TSA secondary check metal
    table out, and the announcement was made that a life vest
    had fallen out of its pouch, and maintenance had to come and
    fix that. Somehow I doubt. Was there a suspicious package on
    the inbound? Why the TSA? Anyhow, that gave us a 30-min hit.

    Boarding was not that much slower than normal, with the TSA
    guys picking well I suppose. But as we were ready to go,
    some guy in about row 7 tried to get his too-large carryon
    into the overhead, and somehow the door got broken as it was
    slammed shut (I have no idea by whom). He schlepped the
    thing to a bin up front that a speechless FA found for him,
    stuffed it in, and slammed the door again. Luckily the door
    didn't break this time. Nonetheless, he apologized loudly,
    to no one in particular. They called maintenance back, and
    eventually, bin duct-taped shut, we were off. We took off
    an hour late and shaved half of that.

    Time for a beer at the club in New York, but I cleverly
    passed, whiling my time by waiting for the excruciatingly
    slow wireless. The guy at the desk told me not to bother
    showing up at the gate until scheduled departure. Just to
    be safe, I showed up 5 min ahead. Shouldn't have - the
    plane didn't arrive until departure time.

    US4529 LGA BWI 1730 1855 DH8 2F

    I slept through this flight, which took off and landed about
    40 late, even though it announced on time to get everyone to
    the gate (then slid 10, 20, 30 ...). As a result I barely
    had time to hustle to the snazzy new MDOT bus, better and
    cheaper than the Metro bus, which dropped me off at Shady
    Grove and the beginning of reality again.
     
  18. work2fly
    Original Member

    work2fly Silver Member

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    Nice trip report!
     

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