Feb 2011 - to London to Ski

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  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Ran through a bunch of quartets at my NEC professor
    friend's house (in preparation for not touching an
    instrument for some weeks to come). Op. 80 and 51#2 on
    viola, followed by Op. 127 and Death and the Maiden on
    first fiddle. Punctuated by chili, a lot of chocolate,
    and a couple naps, after which I got dropped off at the
    T stop for the ride from the burbs to Logan.

    On some stops there's a machine where you scan your
    Charlie ticket or card, and in return you get another
    Charlie ticket good for one ride. This is supposed to
    allow boarding from the unattended doors. This is okay at
    rush hour I suppose, but it's in general silly. On this
    trip some guy failed to pay his fare, the relevance of which
    is that the trolley stopped; the driver made an announcement
    imploring the guy to cough up; he, to the best of my
    observation, did not come forward to do so; and I therefore
    got anxieties about ever getting to the airport. The trip
    eventually resumed, and after an hour or so I got to Park
    and then South Station.

    The Silver Line gets a bad rap on FT. It's really pretty
    good, despite being little more than a bus that has a
    dedicated busway for part of its 15-20 minute trip to
    the airport. I sat as usual in the back, where I intervened
    with some employees making a hash of an information request
    by a lost pax. Difficult question: "Where's Delta?" The
    suggestions were E (from a uniformed US person) and E (from
    a couple who were nonrevving on US, speaking Continental
    mergerspeak and sporting bag tags reading "UNITED against
    outsourcing." I got the poor soul off the bus at Delta,
    which is really in Terminal A.

    US2037 BOS DCA 1400 1532 2F

    I had time for a cuppa at the club, which, despite not
    having had a bar for years, is fairly pleasant, roomy,
    and attractive, with helpful staff.

    Chugged off to the gate, about as far from the club as
    possible. You'd perhaps expect that the Shuttle gates
    might be near the club, but no.

    Our FAs were a hyper FA and a very hypo one, the former
    greeting all the pax by name, serving multiple drink and
    snack services, and doing everything right, the other
    sitting reading on the jumpseat for most of the flight.

    We got in early, but my decision to go straight home
    before checking in for my next trip backfired, as as soon
    as I got to Gallery Place a train broke down, and in a
    few minutes the station went from almost empty to this
    swirling cacophany of human obstacles. I gave up and took
    other means back. By the time I got to a computer to
    check in, I was #55 in sequence; so much for that upgrade.

    Next day I allowed extra time for the Metro to do its worst,
    being once burned and twice shy, so this time of course
    everything worked like a clock, and I was at BWI early
    early. Spent an hour at the observation deck, which is back
    in a dingy phase.

    SOW, does anyone know whose livery the 737 cross-section is
    in? Silver with a horizontal black area from a foot above
    the windows to the base of the windows a yellow stripe
    directly below the windows two feet more black below that.
    Possibly made up and a riff on Maryland colors?

    I stick by my characterization of this airport as unpleasant
    and nowhere, the vaunted planewatching consisting largely of
    a boring parade of 737s and smaller. There has been one of
    those giant Antonov freighters resident here, but of course
    it mostly sits off in a remote part of the airport.

    Bill Bateman's makes a decent burger, I admit, but
    anticipating a square meal on my flight I refrained this
    time. Moseyed to the pier in plenty of time; security was
    slow, but that means 12 minutes instead of 5. Checked out
    Rum Island around 1545 and every 15 minutes thereafter to
    see if anyone had heeded my drinking emergency MP post. No
    one that I could see.
    lili and Freddie Listo like this.
  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    US 627 BWI PHX 1700 2012 319 2F

    Around boarding time three blueshirts trooped toward the
    front, and no doubt everyone was dreading the portable
    security check. But they disappeared down the jetway and
    went invisible for five or so, and then they trooped back
    out and away!

    The BP scanner wasn't working, and the computer was down, so
    I anticipated a seating snafu on the plane. There wasn't one
    at all; so this flight had already started off better than
    expected on two counts.

    PDBs included alcohol as desired; then when we took off
    there soon was another beverage service followed by a snack
    basket followed by dinner. Our cute and agreeable FA kept
    jumping throughout the flight. At some point the cockpit
    announced that we were being served by three of our finest
    flight attendants, and we were appropriately thankful; but
    that was with a 1:12 ratio; I wonder how the back enjoyed
    the service at a 1:56 ratio. Glenlivet came as a double.

    There were 6 chickens and 6 porks boarded. Orders were taken
    in seat order. I was in 2F. Apparently the popularity was
    seriously in favor of chicken, and my seatmate (7th to be
    asked) got the last one. The FA was apologetic and pretty
    good about presenting the news, and none of the last 5
    pitched a fit.

    The pork: a boneless loin chop from a none-too-big pig,
    sided with a little foil cup of warmish liquid that might as
    well have been pond water, some really nice roasted red
    peppers, and a generous helping of fingerling potatoes (none
    too good, rather old, flavored with a few sticks of what
    might have been rosemary in a previous life). The fresh and
    good salad was almost totally covered with croutons; ranch
    dressing in a cup on the side. The roll was fresh and very
    Pepperidge Farmish. For dessert, a lemon-almond-vanilla pie
    whose recipe ignored the fact that these three flavors tend
    to cancel each other out, the result being a slice of yellow
    sweet nothing. Heineken tolerablized the pork, which would
    otherwise been inedibly dry, even with the pond water.
    Tea, an actually decent cuppa on the plane, a first, and
    another double Glenlivet did the same for dessert.

    Harold, my seatmate, was an interesting character - head of
    the hospice program at one of the hospital centers, he was
    full of news and opinions and really, really wanted to talk.
    It was a wide-ranging conversation, ranging from Mubarak to
    universal health care to Judaism and Kabbala on to reiki and
    Buddhist meditation. He's in favor of all of the above
    except for Mubarak. The kicker - his wife is a violist. He's
    in favor of that, too.

    I'd wanted to get a couple hours in, but this guy kept me
    going for the whole flight. I don't regret it, but this kind
    of interaction, in my experience, doesn't usually happen in
    the front cabin - much more likely to take place in coach.

    Half an hour to check the mail at the club, then the next
    gate was just a few steps away. Boarding was half done when
    I got there, and I had to stow my stuff a few rows back.
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  3. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    US 192 PHX SAN 2110 2122 321 10A

    This is the great legroom row - ABC has all you could want;
    F has more, but someone had scored that already by the time
    I'd reserved. After being bored by a couple pax' comments
    about how luxurious this row looked, I slept through the
    flight. We'd taken off a bit late and didn't make up any
    time, and I got out just in time for the bus downtown,
    which took about 10 minutes to get me to the Westin San
    Diego Gaslamp, where I was given a pleasant room - the girl
    at the desk said I'd been an upgraded, but I didn't see
    evidence of that, except it was on the 14th floor.

    I slept pretty well in the Heavenly Bed. The wake-up call
    was 7 minutes late. It was from a real human, though, a
    nice touch that sort of flummoxed me. I think I might have
    been entitled to breakfast, but unless prompted by a fellow
    Moremiler/Flyertalker/Milepointer to get my money's worth
    and what's due me, I usually ignore that meal.

    Just missed the 992 bus, but the 923, which goes past the
    airport but not to it, came by, and 13 minutes later I was
    on the premises of SAN, looking for the AA checkin.
    Following the signs didn't help - I ended up at a set of
    counters not connected to AA and had to hike back down and
    around to the other part of Terminal 2. Actual checkin took
    about a minute, and the premium security had a line of 3;
    we endured the dirty looks of the folds and folds of the
    masses in line but were in the sanctum in moments.

    The Admiral's Club is long and narrow and no more attractive
    than a RCC, but at least you can get wine at 9 am. The chit
    wine is Kenwood Cabernet; the free stuff is about the same
    rubbish you would get at US Air or Continental. Orange
    juice was better than I expected. I later found that US Air
    has gone, in the club anyway, from Minute Maid in a can to
    Florida's Natural, so maybe competition is heating up in
    this tiny arena.

    AA 481 SAN DFW 1110 1600 M80 6EF

    Dingy unattractive pier, chaotic boarding. No problem, we
    were soon in our antiquated but still reasonably comfy seats
    - the plane itself, though, is cramped and seemingly held
    together with crazy glue and duct tape.

    Tribe hummus and Stacy's pita chips greeted us. After that
    I had a shrimp salad that - unfortunately - had feta cheese
    piled all over it. I gave each of the six tender and
    nice-size shrimp a massage with my napkin, and life
    was good. Courvoisier does a lot to make life good.

    We were supposed to come into Terminal D or 4 or something,
    which gave lili the heebie-jeebies as she'd never landed
    there and was confident that Murphy would dictate that we
    use all our barely sufficient time finding our way to
    another terminal. As it turns out, we arrived five minutes
    before our connection was due to board, but a glance at the
    map showed an AC just a few hundred feet away from our new
    gate, so I reckoned there would be room for a pop before we
    had to fly again. The lounge attendant initially didn't
    give us our chits, and then when asked gave us one each.
    lili pointed out that we were entitled to two, but I noted
    that we'd probably have time for one drink; the concierge
    took a second look at our boarding passes, did a comic
    double-take, and allowed that we'd barely have time to
    chug down the one. And so it was.

    Bud Light was the free pour, but for a chit or $6 or so you
    can get Shiner Bock or a European mass-market product. So
    I did. lili showed me her secret hideaway, a room that had
    three other residents, each quite appalled that anyone else
    dared to trespass into his inner sanctum. A few minutes
    there, and no time to be lost getting back to our plane,
    which was in mid-boarding by the time we showed up.
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  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    AA 50 DFW LHR 1640 0740 777 11DE

    Little wimpy earbuds at our seats - Bose noise-cancellers
    came out at the start of service, with each carefully
    documented and matched to each seat. One guesses that
    there has been some problem before.

    PDB was what I expect - the usual OJ, water, Champers,
    but this last was real, probably Pommery, certainly better
    than the Veuve Nonclicquot that UA serves on the ground.

    Guess what. I lost the menu and remember naught of what
    must have been an unmemorable meal. All I can recall is
    that lili's (which must have been beef) had asparagus, and
    mine was nasty enough, and the seat uncomfortable enough
    that I forwent any plan to ditch UA for AA any time soon.

    It's a pod seat that I believe actually offers more room
    than the UA seat, just that it gives a worse sleep. There
    are other good points about it: there's only the forward
    configuration; the tray tables (2) are ingeniously arranged;
    there's decent underseat storage.

    My alcohols were Pommery Brut, Rodney Strong Chardonnay
    (not the Chalk Hill version, which is quite good), and
    Courvoisier. All acceptable.

    Service was decent in the usual matronly way.

    We landed on time, and it took half an hour to get past
    immigration and customs and from the terminal all the
    way to the central bus station, where we thus had half an
    hour to watch the world go by.

    The National Express bus to Bath takes two hours and
    change and costs $20-25 depending on the type of ticket.
    There are stops at Reading and some shopping center in
    the middle of nowhere (15 minute rest break), and then
    it's a local running into Bath Spa. We alit there, and I
    got my first bit of spatial disorientation (why - jet lag?
    brain damage? terminal intoxication?), and I didn't get
    my bearings for several minutes; after this, though, it
    was a quick 10-minute stroll to the Hilton Bath City,
    one of the most pilloried hotels I've seen reviews of. We
    approached it with some trepidation, and seeing it loom
    there in its Stalinesque gray glory, we wondered aloud
    why we'd booked it. For the status and points, of course,
    though I believe that I still should be covered under the
    1998 or 1999 promotion that says that I can stay Gold as
    long as I maintain 1K with United, and she can easily
    stay Gold with that snazzy credit card.

    At the desk a patient bespectacled young gentleman
    listened patiently to our various needs and appears
    to have filled them. I got a big corner room, what
    passes for a suite in these parts, overlooking the
    Avon; this came with bunches of little lagniappes -
    chocolate truffles, shortbreads, a plate of pastries,
    bottles of Strathmore water; more than I would be
    inclined to eat for lunch or perhaps the whole day, if
    calories be counted. The snacks were palatable - the
    chocolate quite good, actually.
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  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I'd asked the desk clerk for a recommendation for local
    pubs, and looking a bit flustered admitted owlishly that
    he didn't frequent such places; but he'd go back in the
    office and ask a colleague for advice. Came back in a while
    with a map, on which he drew a fairly elementary route,
    which we followed only to find a tearoom (no booze) and a
    women's clothing shop at the X marks the spot. We retraced
    a bit and came to the Salamander, which is in fact a rather
    pleasant place with a quiet clientele and an accommodating
    bar manager.

    We drank a pair of local ales - Golden Hare, light in color
    and taste, and the somewhat more robust and hoppy Gem. The
    former is appropriate for Chinese New Year, the latter for
    drinking. Followed by lunch, as we hadn't eaten for a while.

    lili had tomato basil soup, which she endorsed, while I went
    for the considerable more substantial turkey, chestnut, and
    bacon pie, which tasted more of bacon than turkey, which is
    good, but more of turkey than chestnut, which is less good,
    these last being merely little nubbly potato substitutes.

    A couple from an adjoining table engaged us in conversation
    about the local attractions, chief among which they seemed
    to appreciate Rajpoot, as they are keen on Indian food, and
    the Star pub, as they are CAMRA members. We promised to give
    both a try.

    After a couple pints, it was time to wander about town for
    the remainder of the afternoon. We first tried the Star, but
    got there just as they were locking up for siesta, so no go;
    saw bits of the northern end of town and oohed and ahed over
    the Royal Crescent, along with dozens of other tourists,
    including a busload of French schoolchildren - I almost had
    a coronary rushing to get ahead of them, but then we saw the
    light and went, who knows, but somewhere they weren't going.

    As it started to get cool and dark, our attentions were
    drawn more toward likely places for a pint and a plate than
    to the architectural features of the city. I looked with
    interest at a seafood bistro and a couple Thai restaurants,
    but those didn't appeal to lili; conversely, Sally Lunn's,
    the origin of the bread by that name, didn't thrill me, and
    lili agreed after seeing one in the window - she remarked
    that she didn't want a giant hamburger bun for supper.
    Various other places fell by the wayside, until my interest
    was caught by the restaurant in the Royal Hotel, whose menu
    offered pork belly; but inquiry indicated that it was full
    up until 9 or so, too late for us. So we ended up at the
    Huntsman, a rather busy and jolly-looking pub, where I tried
    a most tasty Ringwood Porter (which grepped me afterward, so
    I imagine it must have lactose in it) and the local version
    of a Belgian, the Abbey Bellringer, which turns out to be
    more an English brown ale than a continental one. lili had
    the first in the week's series of $10 vins ordinaires, a
    Hardy's Shiraz I think. The food offerings were reasonable
    in price, generously served, and reasonably tasty for pub
    food. My pork and black pudding stack was three 3-oz chops
    alternating with two 1-oz slices of sausage - would that it
    had been the other way round, as the chops were done to a
    crisp, and the pudding was quite good. I'd also have been
    happy with one 8-oz chop as well. The meat was served over
    completely unseasoned mash, with steamed veggies on the
    side. lili's gourmet burger was good in that meatloafish way
    that non-US restaurants tend to interpret the burger concept
    - not my style, but she enjoyed it. Her fried potatoes were
    quite good (I prefer mine "well done"), and I ate them in
    preference to the mash.

    A pleasant walk along the Avon, which is more attractive in
    the evening, when the weir just south of the Pulteney Bridge
    (reputed to be one of the only two, or four, depending on
    whom you ask, bridges in the world with shops on both sides)
    is floodlit and one can see the patterns of the eddies of
    the current, as opposed to during the day, when all there
    is is a gray-green soup.

    Back at the hotel, the Internet (IBahn wired) was not
    working, so I traipsed down to the desk, who couldn't put
    things to right but gave me a couple of hour IBahn access
    cards for the downstairs public computer, with the promise
    of more if I ran out, which I didn't.

    The shower worked, though it looked as though it had seen
    better days, and the bed was comfy enough for a tired
    lili and Freddie Listo like this.
  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    On the bus to town, we'd noted that the Holburne Museum,
    with its Turners and Gainsboroughs, was closed, so that was
    one off the list. Luckily, the Victoria Museum was just a
    block from the hotel, so we waded through an assortment of
    rather mediocre 20th- and 21st-century works before going
    upstairs to an interesting though chaotically arranged set
    of glassware and the main gallery, which offered a Constable
    or two, several Gainsboroughs, and one attractive, early,
    but still rather out of place Klee, a scene of a fishing
    port. I believe all these had had some connection with the
    Avon valley at some point. Abundantly represented as well
    were local artists of some past reputation, now tarnished
    or dimmed, such as the once-fashionable Walter Sickert,
    R.A., who is sometimes claimed to have been Jack the Ripper
    - though no mention is made of this distressing fact in the
    notes to the paintings.

    We then walked through town and around to the baths - first
    the modern Thermae, which were altogether too fashionable
    and costly for us, then the ancient ones, where we
    encountered a large collection of schoolchildren, so we
    bailed, heading first for the Abbey next door and then for
    a stroll through a British knockoff of that Yann-Arthus
    Bertrand guy's Earth from Above, entitled Britain from the
    Air or something along that line. By the time we returned,
    the kids had cleared, the next annoyance of the day being
    a quavery soprano out front who, to a tinny canned
    accompaniment, crooned, badly, selections ranging from
    almost unrecognizable Italian arias to movie theme songs
    to folksongs from my vintage but with wrong words. Luckily
    she was outside, and we were soon to be inside.

    The Roman-era baths which the city's name references have
    been altered, renovated, cleaned, turned into a major
    attraction. We went because it was on the checkoff list:
    to my surprise I really enjoyed the presentation, and to
    lili's surprise we spent about two hours there, missing the
    free tour of the city that we'd planned on taking. What the
    heck, there was another one in a couple hours.

    You start off at the top level and work your way down -
    much is made of the stratigraphic nature of archaeology -
    the museum part (fascinating) is partway down; then you
    see some actual ground-level excavations, then the
    bathing-socializing-cloacae level. Well worth the L12
    admission (2 off for seniors). We avoided the lurking
    guide/exhibit/out of place person dressed up as a Roman
    citizen; sadly for him, almost everyone else did too. I
    considered accosting him in Latin, but then I realized
    that I could talk for a couple minutes tops in that dead
    language, and it's unclear whether he would have been
    able to do so at all.
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  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Our stomachs told us it was time to investigate Rajpoot, on
    which our friends of the previous day had heaped extravagant
    praise. This is at the far end of the famed Pulteney Bridge,
    down several flights of stairs into a cavernlike space that
    has been divided into several rooms each with a different
    opulent (or, if you don't care for it, bordello) theme.

    The routine: we were welcomed into a bar area while our
    table was being prepared, the better to sell us a premeal
    beverage. We satisfied them by buying the Cotes du Rhone
    La Denteliere, which was somewhat superior, as well it
    might be at $30 the bottle, to the various versions of
    Chateau Thames Embankment of which we were in the midst
    of a grand tasting tour.

    For lunch I ordered the special set meal, costing half
    what the wine did. This turned out to be almost enough
    for two in itself:

    Onion bhaji was an extremely crunchy fried tangle of onion
    strips in a chickpea batter;

    the exotically named machlee bara was merely a tuna
    croquette in the guise of a falafel - not dissimilar to
    what I used to fix for myself in penurious post-student
    days and alas not as good;

    lamb bhuna extra spicy came in a well-flavored but not
    highly fatal tomato and pepper sauce; next to it some
    perfectly made basmati. An a la carte peshwari nan wasn't
    the raisin-and-nut-stuffed flatbread I was expecting but
    rather came smeared with a pretty nice coconut jam (so I
    didn't complain and in fact took part home for later).

    For afters, a good quality plain vanilla ice cream.

    lili's boti kebab, aka tandoori lamb, was very good, no big
    surprises, extremely abundant, and I ended up having half of
    it for a post-theater snack along with the scraps of nan.

    This meal lasted so long (the service was courtly but also
    came at a courtly pace) we missed the next iteration of the
    free tour - our last chance to do so; so we took our own
    walking expedition, starting at the Star pub, which, the
    landlord regretfully informed us, was closed for the

    Up the north side of town to the Royal Crescent, Victoria
    Park (just a park), and the Circus, with a stop at the Pig
    and Fiddle (loving the name) for glasses of Butcombe Bitter
    and Hedge Monkey (loving the names) before returning to the
    Hilton to wash up before the theatre.
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  8. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Off to the Theatre Royal for Alan Ayckbourn's Life of Riley,
    a rather cynical piece of work though amusing enough. It was
    (also amusingly) overacted. It's the latest in the thousands
    of years' tradition of play within a play, one of the plays
    being an amateur theatrical. Problem is that it's hard to
    shift between deliberately bad acting and ordinary acting,
    and the cast here settled on a middle ground of consistent
    rather bad acting, in an almost Monty Pythonesque style.
    I didn't care for it.

    Afterward, we returned to the Salamander, which was only a
    few blocks away, for a nightcap, but as we approached, a
    friendly, somewhat overserved patron out for a smoke
    recommended the Green Tree. What the hey, said we, so we
    followed his direction and found the Old Green Tree, the
    smallest pub in town, with apparently a devoted small
    clientele. The Pitchfork Ale was strong and pleasantly
    hoppy; Old Green Tree Ale mild and pleasantly unhoppy.
    There's no TV or pool table, the entertainment supplied
    being an old set of the Brittanica encyclopedia. The
    barkeep and patrons were inordinately proud of that, We
    were asked about the differences between that reference
    and the ones we had stateside; I dumbfounded them by
    reporting that back in the day when we used real books
    the standard for us too was the Brittanica! I didn't
    complicate matters by asking them to look at the
    publishing data in front.

    The other patrons were a yuppie-sort of guy who was
    very keen on real ale; two women, one a large Welsh
    woman who warned us about large Welsh women, the other
    neither; and Michael, who lives 40 miles away but works in
    Bath and so stays in town during the week and journeys
    back home on weekemds. Amusing.
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  9. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Another breakfast. It was the same. I scouted about for new
    surprises (for example, haggis) - the only one was that the
    fried eggs actually tasted like eggs; the previous day's had
    been resilient plasticky things, the culinary equivalent of
    a cigar store Indian I suppose.

    Some mild wandering before our train to Paddington, which
    came in right on time but terminated a bit behind schedule,
    about 2 hours in toto. Our seats were at different ends of
    the quiet car, each with a table and an electric outlet
    (good for me, as I had some work to finish off).

    It was surprisingly easy to get by tube from the station to
    our next hotel, the Hilton Canary Wharf, which is within a
    5-to-10-minute walk of the tube stop and of three DLR

    The check-in girl pointed both of us to the lounge, where we
    were checked in - myself to an excellent room on the 14th
    floor, lili to a nice room on the 14th floor. I didn't pay
    much attention to her room, as we spent most of our time in
    the executive lounge, which offered sushi for me, rather
    industrial and devoid of gari, wasabi, or soy; and scones,
    with jam and lovely clotted cream, for her. Soon, though,
    it was time to go to Las Iguanas for for SkiAdcock's
    party, so we hoofed it to the station, whence it was a
    quick ride to Green Park and then whatever stop we were
    supposed to alight at.

    It's a kind of cool place, and I am saddened and a bit
    surprised (considering that it must have been raking in
    the ilbs when we were there) to hear that it is closing.
    There must have been 30 of us there, and we were not
    skimpy in the ordering, and the rest of the place at least
    seemed to be hopping.

    Some of us don't like Wagamama. I might have gone with
    the crowd except that there was a sizable movement for
    European food, so I led (not the right word, but
    blundered isn't a transitive verb) this secessionist
    group to La Pulcinella for pizza and pasta, where I
    enjoyed a decent bolognese quite similar to what my
    mother used to make, and this is no joke, and tasted
    lili's pepperoni pizza, which was respectable.
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  10. techgirl
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    techgirl Milepoint Guide

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    Great report, as always!

    It was good to (briefly) see you and briefly catch up at Las Iguanas. How did I miss seeing lili? I was jetlagged and tired (and believe it or not, almost sober) so I'll use that as my excuse. That and I was wedged in that little corner (aka my comfort zone).
  11. joanek
    Original Member

    joanek Silver Member

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    Thanks for this wonderful turn of phrase. I'm sure i'll find a time to use it.
  12. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    You're welcome.

    The next stop in the status-seeking hotel-hopping routine
    was Edgware Rd. and the Hilton London Metropole, one of the
    grand old hotels. I prefer new hotels to grand old hotels.

    I was issued a room in the east tower, which apparently
    hasn't been fixed up in a while.

    What greeted me: a tiny box of too-sweet chockies in a
    fairly okay room with a little balcony that had, um,
    shall we say, detritus on it. Cozy bathroom, not holding
    a candle to any of the other Hilton bathrooms on this
    trip, but it did the job.

    The executive lounge was klein aber schlecht, as one might
    say, and chockablock full. Its catering included an
    assortment of tea sandwiches and oversweet desserty things;
    a large number of Mediterranean people of all sizes and
    shapes - this bothers me not a bit except for the squalling
    underfoot ones, of which there were several. Beer was not
    offered until 6 pm, by which time I'd be long gone.


    Ye Grapes, the traditional spot for FT/MP gettogethers, was
    quiet by comparison to Las Iguanas, and I actually managed
    to have a couple real conversations and to give Ski the
    greetings of the new year. I ended up at a table with
    Blank Sheet and Meg or Peg, his wife's mother; also the_
    happiness_store and someone named Patrick, a FTer's +1.
    We demolished a number of nicely-drawn beers.

    A few of us decided to find sustenance elsewhere. As usual,
    I was expected to provide guidance, and as usual, I did so
    by the dubious method of turning up a street and mumbling
    "I seem to remember that there are a couple interesting-
    looking restaurants up this way." In fact, I'd wanted to
    bring us all to Langan's Brasserie for the famous roasts
    (lamb in particular), but we were told that they were booked
    solid until 9, and anyhow there was no way they were going
    to seat us unless the party could break up into two or three
    tables. So we found ourselves on Dover St., where Pescatori
    (which boasts two AA rosettes, as do half the restaurants in
    Mayfair, it seems) beckoned.

    We were greeted without trepidation and immediately shown
    to a long table near the front. Everything went smoothly -
    it was clear that there was a fully-staffed kitchen out
    back, and until we showed up, it was being underutilized.

    Greg and Patrick ordered a nice fruity Chenin Blanc, Saam
    Mountain, from the Paarl, to go with the white wine dishes.

    I chose the respectable Francesco Candido Salice Salentino
    Riserva 05 for about the same price. It had good ripe dried
    fruits and not so much old shoe as one fears.

    I started with braised pork cheek and sauerkraut with apples
    and chestnuts; the pork tasted good but wasn't nearly fatty
    and gelatinous enough - almost as though they'd substituted
    shoulder. The sauerkraut was surprisingly interesting and
    good to eat.

    Monkfish was really nicely done: I deliberately refrained
    from describing how I wanted the fish to be cooked, just to
    see what happened. Satisfactory result: just done past the
    jelly stage, so there was grain, but neither mushiness nor
    resiliency. The presentation included an ounce or so of
    sauteed foie gras (I gave up some of this so the adventurous
    but inexperienced could experience one of the sublime tastes
    of all gastronomy - and it was a pretty decent example) and
    a generous serving of sweet parsnips.

    Much jollity at our end of the table - KMA26, Greg and
    Patrick, and HPN-HRL were my neighbors -, and I almost
    regretted leaving everyone in favor of the tube and a
    full night's sleep.

    Back at the hotel I made the best of the small but not
    uncomfortable bed.
    lili likes this.
  13. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    It was nice seeing you and meeting your colleague.

    How did you miss seeing lili? There were only 4 tables, as I recall:
    I was at the far left one, she was at the far right one, you were
    at the near right one (next to the far right one).
  14. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Breakfast is downstairs in the restaurant adjacent to the
    (Spaceman says good) sports bar: Fiamma I think it's called.
    The space is very hotel coffee shop; the food similar to the
    other Hiltons, with a couple substitutions - the breakfast
    fish, for example, is a rather cottony but decent-tasting
    whitefish rather than the usual too-salty salmon. Service
    was pretty good.

    I picked lili up and we tubed it back to the Hilton Canary
    Wharf on our little status-seeking game. We'd planned to
    store our traps in the club lounge, but the concierge found
    rooms that were clean and ready for us on the same level:
    I got a room almost exactly the same as the other ones. All
    our rooms at this hotel were almost exactly the same. So
    we were out of there in plenty of time to catch Sunday
    roast at The Grapes (not Ye ...) in the Docklands, where
    KMA26 and Melville had eaten last year. Joining us - KMA26
    and the_happiness_store. Our beers were Timothy Taylor
    Landlord, Adnam's bitter, Leeds Best bitter, and Marston
    Pedigree bitter. All were darkish and in the 4-4.5 range;
    all were good; I liked them, this time at least, in reverse
    alphabetical order. I do enjoy my ale.

    Sunday roast - three beefs and a lamb. All good, none
    spectacular. A mountain of steamed vegetables. As t_h_s is
    a rabid Wolverhampton fan, and they were on television, he
    left early. The three of us wandered along the Thames for
    a while before parting to go to our respective club lounges.

    blank sheet and Penny(?) joined us at ours, which offered
    fried dim summy things - curried vegetable puffs, spring
    rolls, and shrimp dumplings. I washed mine down with the
    harsh but respectable Martell VS.

    Then on to meet up with Greg and Patrick at Covent Garden
    to stroll around and find a pub for supper. We chose the
    Globe, which looked friendly and emanated appetizing
    smells. Our wines were The Black Shiraz, a very jammy and
    vanilla-oaky ripe fruit bomb, from Australia, and the
    pleasant but inconsequential Hazy View Chenin Blanc, which
    tasted like a diluted version of the Chenin we'd had the
    other day (both South African). I stuck with London Pride.

    My charcuterie platter was of high quality and filling
    enough, and everyone seemed pleased with the food.
  15. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    lili and I met for breakfast in the club lounge - it was
    a pared-down version of the full English plus weird things
    (veggie bangers, for example) that downstairs had offered.
    I found the black pudding slightly moister and less salty;
    otherwise I ate the same things, and they were the same.
    Self-serve juice is a plus. Not having anything else to
    do, and being unaccountably logy, I returned to my bed
    and slept for a while. lili's point-maximizing plan had us
    going out to the Sheraton Skyline Heathrow, whence it would
    be a short bus hop to our plane, and from which we could get
    a reasonably-priced stay to help maintain our gold (for me)
    and platinum (for her) status. As she fetched me in plenty
    of time, we tried public transportation, which - in some
    corollary to Murphy's Law, got us to the hotel really
    quickly, because we didn't actually have to be someplace in
    a hurry. Jubilee to the Piccadilly, then out at the main
    bus station and one of the free Bath Road services to the
    hotel: an hour and change.

    I remember nothing of this room except that it was
    perfectly unobjectionable and with a comfortable bed.

    I spent most of my time in the club lounge, which offered
    probably the world's worst catering. There were pretzels,
    potato chips, and some kind of fried doughball, like an
    undercooked unseasoned hush human. But there was Internet,
    which was spotty - lili had a bit of an anxiety when
    suddenly hers refused to work altogether; but that was
    fixed after a reboot and the discovery that (when handing
    the computer back and forth no doubt) either she or I had
    flipped the wi-fi switch. There's "Happy Hour" from 6 to 8,
    with free Budweiser (US), Stella, Beck's, and Carlsberg; at
    other times an acidy and unpleasant off-brand Viura and an
    inky Tempranillo were available.

    For dinner, a quick search yielded the suggestion of The
    Pheasant: the Internet reviews are uniformly glowing, but
    most emphasize the large, ample, or gargantuan (depending
    on whom you ask) portions, which makes one just a little
    uneasy - they seem to have been written by gourmands who eat
    LARGE and drink LARGE. But as it's a mere half mile from
    the hotel, and not on the noisy main Bath road, we decided
    to give it a try.

    It turns out to be a pleasant pub in a bland residential
    area. There's lots of wood, a big bar, plenty of tables,
    and a fireplace.

    You get your drinks at the bar and order food from a counter
    that abuts the restaurant kitchen (the restaurant itself is
    a separate facility).

    The pub food gets great reviews; the food food not quite so.
    Be that as it may, we ordered regular food.

    lili's slow-cooked lamb shoulder with mushy peas was an
    enormous serving and probably the best meal either of us had
    this trip - meltingly tender, amply but not overpoweringly
    fatted; and the mushy peas were excellent, if a little cold.
    To her shock and surprise, she managed to down a good half
    of the kilo serving.

    My lamb masala was heavily tomatoed and though nice-tasting,
    extraordinarily unspicy. It came with blandish rice, further
    diluting the experience. A trip back to the ordering counter
    and a request for a dish of hot pepper, though initially met
    with an offer of Tabasco sauce, was eventually successful in
    winning an ounce of good aromatic chile, all of which went
    into the dish and rendered it absolutely brill. The portion
    was not so impressive as lili's, so I was gifted with over
    half a pound of solid meat and quite a bit of lovely creamy
    lamb fat, some of which I ate like marrow and some I stirred
    into the remains of my own dish, rendering it unbelievably
    decadent. Between us we ate almost all that was offered.

    Lots of London Pride and house red plonk (okay) washed this
    down. Return to the hotel was slower and more difficult than
    the outbound.
    lili likes this.
  16. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    A pleasant female voice on the phone woke me and reminded
    me that here was our chance to lounge-hop the morning away.

    The 105 (and a large number of other buses) leave from right
    across the street from the hotel; and as this is in the Free
    Zone, one doesn't have to shell out for the privilege.
    If tickets cost a POUND apiece
    Why should you make a fuss?
    It's worth it just to ride inside
    That thirty foot long by ten foot wide
    That big six-wheeler scarlet painted
    London Transport diesel engined
    Ninety-seven horsepowered omnibus.
    -- Flanders and Swann, who never dreamed
    that tickets eventually actually would
    cost a pound plus apiece

    From the station to T3 is quite a hike, which I hadn't taken
    since United moved to T1, two years ago and change. It's
    slightly different from the way it used to be. I zigged where
    I should have zagged, but now, in contrast to the olden days,
    the signage is good enough so that one need go only a few
    steps in the wrong direction before figuring it out.
    (Actually, the door leading to our zone was out of order.)

    Flagship checkin was smooth and speedy, but fast-track
    security was as crowded as - and apparently slower than -
    the vulgar plebs (a Latin word) line. A lot of women in
    Islamic garb toting shopping bags from Prada and such. I
    could have sworn there was a Victoria's Secret bag, too,
    but that might just be my memory playing nasty tricks.

    Tip. At the first <- airline lounges sign, it might be a
    good idea to go -> because <- just loops you around through
    an extra bit of the noisy and extremely obnoxious duty-free.

    All the MiPo/FT reports suggest that the recently renovated
    Flagship Lounge is not worth visiting if one can access the
    partner facilities, so we gave it a pass. We started off at
    the CX F lounge, which turns out to be physically about as
    nice as the photos of the AA F lounge appear to make it.

    Very solicitous waitperson who came to our table and said
    that if we wanted breakfast, they'd put it out fresh for us.
    We thanked him and said later, as we savored a mid-tier
    Champers (Veuve perhaps) and an all right but unexpressive
    Barolo 2006. After a little e-mail and BBSing, it was time,
    and I enjoyed a small bowl of congee, into which I put bits
    of bacon off the breakfast; this is served with French rolls
    instead of you tiao, so I passed, thinking this innovation a
    barbarity. Also available was an abbreviated English of
    scramble, bangers, bacon, mushrooms, and tomato. Also soy
    sauce noodles, which even with the aid of congee condiments
    were mediocre. Out of curiosity I poked into the biz lounge,
    which offers the same food choices but more stale-looking
    and picked over. I forget the identities of the wine
    offerings, but they were a couple notches below (sort of
    like what you'd get in a top-class US domestic lounge). The
    unilounge but not unisex bathrooms were very nice.

    When we arrived, we had the place essentially to ourselves;
    gradually it filled up, and greener pastures were the order
    of the day.
    Freddie Listo and lili like this.
  17. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    There was still room to check out Galleries down the way.
    A friendly staff, and lots of them. The F section looked
    spacious even given all the Emeralds using it in preference
    to the regular one next door. Quite fashionable, I thought.

    The Champagne bar, prominent straight ahead as you enter,
    boasted Comtes de Champagne 99 and the altogether too subtle
    for me Bruno Paillard Brut rose. I ended up putting down a
    glass of the latter and half a bottle of the former.

    Langmeil Three Gardens GSM 07 was the best of the red
    offerings (Lagrange was out) - very plummy and with rich
    chocolate notes. There was a faint memory pique - I did some
    investigating of the three gardens and discovered that the
    winery's descriptions of this release have named Lyndoch as
    one of the three "gardens" since 2006 - and my bud Kevin's
    friend, Ray Ward, one of the principal vignerons in Lyndoch,
    died in 2005. We'd visited the site in '06 and found the
    old place abandoned but the vines meticulously tended.
    Interesting. Coincidence? I think not. Could it be Langmeil?

    Beaune 1er Cru du Chateau 07 (Bouchard) didn't interest me
    much, lacking both acid and followthrough, though I admit it
    was a well made, fairly fruity (leaning toward tropical)

    Jack Daniel's Silver Select isn't worth it. It's a green
    estery mess, not unlike other Jacks, only more so.

    My final fallback was the reliable if a little harsh Otard

    Having had a Chinese brekkie before, I passed on the full
    English, which you can order all or part of from the lurking
    staff. lili did get one and was a good sport in allowing a
    couple slices of blood pud on her plate. She may be still at
    the lips that touch offal will never touch mine stage, and
    I did notice that she carefully avoided the part of the eggs
    that had come in contact with it, but there it was, just for
    me; it was the best I'd had in years. I also tasted a slice
    of rather nice bacon.

    The seating was comfy, the wi-fi reasonably speedy, the
    company, need I say it, great.

    It's a tough and terrible thing to leave this place, where
    you are encouraged to feel like a potentate or a captain of
    industry, but our flight eventually beckoned, and after
    initially not finding the huge TO ALL GATES sign overhead
    to the left, soon we were back partway into the real world.
    Freddie Listo and lili like this.
  18. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    Nice shiny airplane. Nice but rather dull service. All
    okay with me.

    AA 137 LHR LAX 1110 1430 777 13HJ

    Dining Service

    To Start: Warm mixed nuts

    The nuts were warm and plentiful. There were plenty of
    pistachios, which are mostly absent from the UA version;
    otherwise, they were, as you'd expect, similar.

    Appetizer: Roast beef and mozzarella cheese served
    with pesto sauce and grilled vegetables

    Better beef than the main course. Two tiny slices.

    Salad: Fresh seasonal greans and an assortment of fresh
    vegetables offered with roasted red pepper dressing or
    Sapori d'Arte olive oil and balsamic vinegar

    I had mine dry: I figured that the taste of art might have
    been more like linseed oil than olive.

    Bread Basket: Assorted gourmet breads

    Three kinds, I think, none looking too exciting. As
    usual, I passed.

    Main Course: Beef Fillet with Mushroom Sauce - grilled
    fillet of beef served with porcini mushroom sauce, grilled
    vegetables and potatoes au gratin

    This was a stringy grayness with the livery taste that
    overcooked filet gets. I didn't try the other stuff.

    Shrimp and Scallop Provencal - Shrimp and scallops with
    Provencal sauce accompanied by lemon tarragon rice and
    zucchini and eggplant tapenade roll

    Foie Gras Stuffed Chicken - Breast of chicken stuffed with
    duck foie gras, offered with black peppercorn sauce,
    buttered haricots verts and wild rice with pecans

    Steaming hot, which meant that the foie gras had turned
    into a molten mess of overcooked livery shards and yellow
    grease (again with the livery. You might say that it was the
    new livery); the meat was surprisingly not inedibly tough, a
    surprise given its rough treatment: nonetheless I ate but
    half of it. The sauce was its usual acridity; beans another
    stringy grayness. The very tame rice (not a grain of wild in
    my dish) was by far the best thing on the tray.

    Pecorino Gnocchi - Gnocchi stuffed with a rich pecorino
    cream filling

    Dessert - Ice Cream - A scoop of Cherry Garcia ice cream

    Yay. the best part of the meal, even though it was hard
    as a rock when served - if it had been served with the
    appetizer, it might have come to an eating temperature by
    the time it was time to eat it. Between the rice and this,
    I was adequately fed.

    Fruit and Cheese - A selection of gourmet cheeses offered
    with fresh seasonal fruit and assorted crackers

    Mid-Flight Snack

    Fruit and Cheese - A selection of gourmet cheeses offered
    with fresh seasonal fruit and assorted crackers

    Assorted snack items are also available

    I passed.

    Light Meal
    A light meal offered prior to landing

    Select From
    Uno's Farmer's Market Pizza - A Chicago-style deep dish
    pizza topped with mixed vegetables and a three cheese
    blend, served with basil pesto and a fresh green salad

    Gourmet Salad - Fresh seasonal greens topped with grilled
    chicken and sliced beef, asparagus, tomatoes and Brie,
    offered with balsamic tomato vinaigrette

    I passed.

    Dessert: Lemon tart

    I passed.

    Pre-Arrival Beverage
    For Your Enjoyment: Chilled sparkling or still water with
    a fresh citrus garnish
    Talk about putting lipstick on a pig! I passed

    The Flagship Lounge is a nice way to while away an hour in a
    relatively quiet and uncrowded space. It offers self-serve
    midtier alcohol and snacks that I can't eat. You get a key
    card from the Admiral's Club concierge, which opens the door
    to the next level, just like a video game, and then you give
    that up to the Flagship concierge, who then passes you as
    worthy. There are little tablets of chocolate at the desk -
    gold wrapping means dark, silver means milk.

    Soup was tomato basil. I passed.

    There was plenty of time for a shower, but I didn't take
    one owing to not remembering that the facilities were there
    (3 of them, fairly nice, though not Japanese nice: the
    former remind you of a gym locker room but nicer; the latter
    remind you of home but nicer).
    Freddie Listo and lili like this.
  19. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    There was a decent Washington State Cabernet and free flow
    of decent bottled beer, so we contrived to make ourselves
    quite comfortable.

    We waited pretty much as long as possible before going back
    downstairs to the shuttle bus and the commuter terminal,
    which is as nasty as the UA commuter terminal used to be.

    3023 LAX SAN 1700 1750 ER4 11BC

    A tiny little flight on a jungle jet. Insignificant.

    I got a little pissy with a Chinese couple who started
    elbowing their way to the front as soon as we got to the
    terminal. The male half called me a piece of ord but
    thereafter gave way as each row was ready to deplane.
    Later I saw him struggling getting his gate-checked bag off
    the cart; it took me some effort not to help (which I
    usually do with struggling elderly people of my age).

    US 199 SAN CLT 2235 0552 321 1C

    The snack that greeted us on our armrests was an English Bay
    Gourmet apple cinnamon fruit bar, somewhere between a
    granola bar and a Pop-Tart, with an astonishing 13 g of
    sugar in a 34 g bar.

    Our FA, a gent of my age, was (unlike me) cheerful and
    energized, and for the half of the flight when I was awake,
    kept us nourished and watered and even had time to help out
    in back. If I'd had the A&B certs that I found in my mail
    when I returned, I'd have given him one.

    US1434 CLT BWI 0945 1108 752 3D

    Interestingly, this CLT-BWI-CLT turnaround was served with
    an Envoy-configured 757 - 12 somewhat worn and dated-looking
    seats that brought to mind the old UA Connoisseur seats from
    decades ago. The electronic controls were somewhat balky, as
    I remembered them to be, and the bus-style fold-down foot
    rests were a blast from the past. Great legroom, though.
    Though I don't care for this style of seat, I did sleep well
    and was pretty unconscious for the whole hour flight.

  20. lili
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    lili Gold Member

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    Very nice and thorough trip report, as usual, so I gave you a bunch of likes for all the work.

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