SMD 7, GUM Do, Berlin Do

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  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I am not much for tours, but there were several on the
    agenda for this Do, so, friends, rendezvous point near
    the Hilton so pretty convenient, plus the promise of
    much beer, why not. Five tours in three days, and,
    credit where credit is due, I didn't get tired either
    of my friends or of the tourism.

    The Berlin Express is your first-timer's introduction
    but not at all a bad one. As I've been to this city a
    number of times and seen it grow up, it didn't offer too
    much in the way of new stuff, but William our guide was
    enthusiastic, informative, and though leftist not
    implacably anti-American. There were a few things on the
    itinerary that I hadn't seen before, mostly in the
    burgeoning east, including the Neue Wache with its
    Kollwitz sculpture. A three hour not too fast walk that
    made lili peckish, as well she might have been, so we
    asked William for a recommendation, and he pointed us
    to Hopfingerbrau am Palais right down the way, so we
    hot-footed it there. Checked the menu, which looked
    pretty okay, a lot of fairly appetizing things for 10,
    Schweinshaxe for 15. We planned our play quickly - one
    pig shank for two, a liter of beer and a glass of wine,
    and approached the desk. How many people? Two? Of course ...
    but then our friends caught up with us. Can you accommodate,
    er, fourteen? The English-speaking one's face darkened a bit.
    Of course not, we're full. Big sighs all around, and we
    dispersed hungrily.

    So we ended up having our break at the Dunkin' Donuts, which
    seemed like a good use of the time we had left. lili had
    some kind of croissant sandwich, and I grumped in the corner.

    We returned to the shadow of the gate right in time for the
    Rebel Berlin Tour, where we had a choice of the excellent
    William or his lower-key colleague who joined us because
    the afternoon group was twice as big as the morning one.
    Giving others the opportunity to experience the personality
    of our morning guide, we decided to go with the other one,
    who was perfectly fine but (sadly) unmemorable. A lot more
    sociopolitical stuff, some of which was welcome, little of
    which was unfamiliar. I'm sure William would have fed us
    many of the same facts and figures. We did have the
    opportunity to tread on the Fuehrerbunker, which is now
    covered over by a parking lot.

    --
    Dinner at Weihenstephaner Berlin - slight mishaps as we
    were following various mapping programs that led us to
    various different places. Kirkwood and I believe Benedict
    had dueling phones, but eventually we got there, to occupy
    the last available table in our back room.

    Not a whole lot to say about this meal! It was typical
    beer hall food with a typical beer hall atmosphere and
    typical beer hall beer, and anyone who knows me knows
    that that is not meant as any kind of disparagement.

    I didn't see much, as my glasses were fogged up for most
    of the meal. That's okay, we were not there for the looking.

    Food. Several Schweinshaxen around the table. These were
    pretty good but a little salty and with the rind not as
    crisp as it could have been. I preferred the Krustenbraten,
    roast loin with the ample fat cap intact (the style just
    about everywhere except for barbarian America). These hearty
    meals came with potato dumplings soaked in butter, quite
    good, because of the butter, and cabbage salad with bacon,
    quite good, because of the bacon. I have photographic
    evidence of some contrarian having ordered a plate of
    beef goulash as well.

    Lots of Weihenstephaner Dunkel, with which I am familiar as
    it is the house beer of my friends Dale and Gail in Maryland.
     
  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Tempelhof Airport Tour

    We were told to meet at some ungodly hour in front of the
    Hilton, with instructions for stragglers to rendezvous at
    the general aviation terminal. It turns out that that's
    easy, as there is no other kind of aviation terminal,
    commercial traffic having ceased in 2008.

    It's had an eventful history as one of the oldest airports
    - the Wright brothers did an aviation demo in 1909, though
    it didn't become officially an airport until a decade and
    half later. It was the original home of Lufthansa, and for
    years it was the gem of Hitler's Berlin, with its gigantic
    terminal built by Albert Speer. After the war it was the
    terminus of the heroic Berlin Airlift, and then became one
    of Europe's busiest airports, its pride of place gradually
    taken by Schoenefeld (in the former East) and Tegel.

    A very well-informed guide, probably another leftist
    history major. We got to see spooky and unique bits including
    the air-raid shelters (jocose and inspirational paintings on
    the walls), the former Luftwaffe photo archives (burned out
    by the Soviets, apparently inadvertently), and the basketball
    court built by the US Air Force during the occupation. We also
    got to see one of the original DC-3s involved in the Airlift.

    Half the elevators were out of order or used for something
    else, so we did our share of stair climbing, good exercise
    capping off a most worthwhile morning.

    Lunch was at the Dolden Madel Braugasthaus, which offers
    house-made products and other local brews.

    lili had a Kreuzberg burger, a perfectly ordinary sandwich in
    the European style - i.e., overdone and with filler, with Kies
    sauce, which turns out to be a variation on currywurst sauce,
    i.e. ketchup with curry powder. This came with truly great
    fries of a variety I'd never encountered before - potato
    shavings fried crisp and almost but not quite oversalted,

    For some reason the walking didn't make me feel hungry so
    I just had the dessert plate, which consisted of

    Berliner Luft, raspberry sauce over tapioca custard, almost
    as light as the name suggests;

    kalter Hund, a strange name for a strange dessert, chocolate
    over exceedingly dry cake; and

    Berliner-Weisse sorbet, which was pretty good, herbal and
    mildly sweetly desserty, unexpected.

    With this I had a Ratsherrn Zwickel, a sourish mild
    beer that actually went pretty well.

    Others went off to Mustafa's for the most famous kebab in
    the city, and others visited Curry 36 for the most acclaimed
    currywurst (yecch).

    The afternoon Spies and Escapes Tour didn't feature too many
    spies but focused on the notorious wall and the ways the
    Berliners found to get over, around, or under it. One can
    only admire the ingenuity and courage of the people as well
    as feel their despondency in the east.

    Dinner was a buffet at famous Maximilians, a Paulaner house.
    The things I had:

    Leberkaese - I was encouraged to try this, because I
    don't care for Leberkaese (more like baloney than what
    the word translates to), and this was supposed to be
    different; I didn't care for this either;

    roast chicken, very very done, a la rotisserie chicken,
    but pretty good; and

    roast pork, a bit lean and sad, but I hung back until
    almost everyone was done so picked out the fatty bits
    that others had discarded.

    Sulze is an offal thing, jiggly and maybe just a little
    dubious, with bits of pig brain, tongue, ears, and cheek.
    This was a variation with liver and maybe a touch of
    pig blood, which I appreciated.

    There was also a salami that was like a cross between
    Thuringer and Genoa. Odd but good.

    I got most of my calories from Salvators.

    Strudel, all out by the time I got there, with vanilla
    whipped cream, which was still available, so I got me
    a bowl of whipped cream.

    It was someone's birthday, so they provided us with
    birthday cake. It was a bit much, but the whipped
    cream helped a lot.

    Toward the end of the meal, a waiter came by with a
    beer, which our table had not ordered, but nobody at
    any of the other tables had acknowledged. So of course
    I took it. Turned out to be a Hefeweizen. Pfui.
     
  3. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    End of Do
    Next day, the river Spree cruise on the Stern und Kreis
    line. We allowed the appropriate time to take the train
    (5 minutes from the Hampton) to the dock area (5 minutes
    from the train station). Guess what. Trains weren't
    running. Okay, the bus, it only takes a few more minutes.
    Guess what. Buses weren't running. So taxi time. Guess
    what. We found a taxi fine, with a driver who had been
    to Thailand, Singapore, and the US, so we had a lot to
    talk about, which was good, because we crawled down the
    road, because we had to cross the path of the marathon.
    The fare was, oddly, not enormous, and the conversation
    kept our minds from the vision of the boat leaving
    without us, and eventually we got there, almost the last
    to do so before we cast off.

    So we got to see the city from an entirely new, low,
    perspective. Pretty enlightening, but most appreciable
    was the beer and wine charged at almost street prices.
    The day was lowery and blustery, and we spent most of
    our time huddled downstairs with our beverages. I had
    a Pilsner and another Berliner Weisse mit Schuss, which
    was more vanillary tasting than the one at Babette. At
    the end the waiter overcharged someone at our table,
    perhaps inadvertently, because we all paid at different
    times, putting his system off.

    That was the end of the official Do, so there were
    lengthy Auf Wiedersehens on the quay, and then we
    dispersed. A number of us went back to the Hilton for
    drinks and then to the Bundestag (Reichstag), where
    after long lines and airport-level security and a ride
    in a warehouselike elevator we got to tour the amazing
    Norman Foster dome atop the building and marveled at
    the horrendous weather we'd been having. Don't miss the
    audioguide, which is good and included in the price. And
    don't take the audioguide to the restroom, because it is
    alarmed - who knows what one would do in the toilet with
    an audioguide; only the Germans know.

    Kafer is a local chain, and we had reserved at the
    Dachgarten im Deutschen Bundestag, one of its more
    upscale and prestigious offerings. It is a two-minute
    walk along the rooftop from the audioguide return, but
    that wetted us hugely. By the time we got there, there
    was a crowd in the vestibule, but we got to push past.
    BOB W cleverly having made a booking.

    An amuse of smoked duck with green pea panna cotta was,
    well, amusing. The duck was quite good, the jiggly green
    stuff one could take or leave, with its overly nitrogenous
    flavor.

    The menu descriptions were Teutonically detailed, though
    there were very little of some of the ingredients listed.

    marinated Arctic Sea fjord trout & crustaceans tartar /
    / tarragon / beetroot / cauliflower delice / tobiko caviar
    / curly endive

    Crisp textured, quite nice pink fish and small shrimp. I
    didn't taste the cauliflower delice so can't report on
    why it was so delice. Tobiko caviar appropriately bursty,
    endive appropriately bitter, tickling the throat in an
    odd way as one choked it down. Beets as I recall were
    a mixture of yellow, red, white, and chioggia.

    fried cod fish & lobster / fennel / pea risotto / spinach /
    snow pea pods / crustacean sauce / parsley root

    I forget who had this - BOB W and maybe someone else I
    think. All very clean, good. The fish was very white, the
    lobster very Northern and good. I didn't get to taste
    the other stuff.

    Veal fillet & goose liver / potato puree / elstar apple /
    baked potato / small savoy balls / port shallots
    / truffle-jus

    Pink veal, a little fibrous but otherwise nice, and a
    slab of foie gras that pretty much melted in the mouth.
    Elstar apples are a Golden Delicious cross but not so
    dull nor so mealy as Goldens, actually a little on the
    sour side. Truffle jus wasn't very convincing.

    Calamansi sorbet was incredibly, incredibly intense -
    very sharp, very citrus peely, somewhat sweet, a palate
    wakener that actually hurt my mouth.

    For petits fours there were an almond caramel crunchy candy
    and macaroons dipped in white chocolate, both quite good.

    More Meyer-Nakel Spatburgunder, this the 2014 and not nearly
    ready to drink yet.
     
  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Hans-Erich was to pick us up at the Hampton and show
    us to lunch. I e-mailed him saying that as we were
    going to switch to the Westin (for lili's Starwood stay
    requirements), so he might consider lunching closer to
    there to facilitate our transition. He interpreted this
    to mean that we should meet at the Westin, so about
    quarter past one we got a call from the Westin, where
    he hadn't seen us (we were still at the Hampton). We
    arranged to meet at Alexanderplatz under the spy clock,
    and after yet another comedy of errors, that's what we
    did. By the way, the Spies tour the previous day had
    made no mention of this clock, which has many faces and
    is said to be the place where much covert nonsense went
    on during the Cold War. I suspect that after a couple
    goes, the Stasis would have had the entire neighborhood
    in hand, but there are still stories.

    For some reason Hans-Erich is on a Thai kick, or so he
    thinks. Monsieur Vuong is right on a tram line, but as we
    were now behind schedule, he insisted on getting us a cab.

    Of course, M. Vuong isn't Thai, nor are any of the help,
    who speak Vietnamese, German, and English in that order.

    We started out with a respectable chicken satay with a
    slightly strange hoisin glaze and shrimp spring rolls
    coated in panko and fried.

    Hans-Erich had a salad with a tart dressing followed by
    wonton soup; these didn't interest me, but they were
    reported to be good.

    Pho bo was about the only thing that lili could eat; it
    was pretty standard but with (as one expects in Germany)
    a relatively vast quantity of meat. The broth was decent;
    the noodles not too soft.

    I had a special of the day, a Thai-style chicken in green
    curry, which I asked for "sehr scharf" and which came
    medium minus, which to a German would probably have been
    sehr scharf. This was presented as a blob of broken rice,
    a fair quantity of coconut curry substance, and a huge
    serving of mixed salad on top.

    My Tiger beer brought me right back to Singapore; lili had
    a Madiran that seemed okay. Hans-Erich had a ginger tea
    with an absurd amount of ginger in it.

    Food: quite good though bland. Alcohol: ditto. Company:
    equally good but not so bland.

    Off to the Westin, finally, where we got a lovely biggish
    corner room whose alcove by itself was big enough to sleep
    two and featured a somewhat distant view of the Brandenburg
    Gate over Unter den Linden.

    Welcome amenity - little bars of Edelmilchshokolade 43%
    that actually tasted like chocolate and milk, not
    Hershey's stale cheese. Why can't the Americans make
    milk chocolate that tastes like this, i.e., good?

    After settling ourselves we took Hans-Erich's tour of the
    highlights of East Germany, including yet another DDR-era
    watchtower, a return to the Holocaust Memorial and to the
    Fuehrerbunker, and the museum Topography of Terror, which
    deals with the history of oppression mostly in the local
    context but with a more philosophical bent and fewer
    (by no means nonexistent) gory exhibits.

    This proved to be a bit depressing, so we went next door
    to the Martin Gropius Bau, where Hans-Erich had spent much
    time in his youth. We started off at the Gropius restaurant
    for refreshment (for me an excellent hot chocolate), after
    which it was decided that we didn't have time to fully
    appreciate the exhibitions, so went to the Hilton for drinks
    and goodbyes to GrjApp and bdnyc.

    Back to the Westin by a circuitous route that allowed us
    to see the light shows at the cathedrals, the Jura library,
    the Hotel de Rome, and Humboldt University.
     
  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA 963 TXL EWR 0940 1245 764 6C

    From the hotel it was an easy run up the U6 to Schumacher
    Platz, where a 128 bus arrived in 3 minutes, so we were
    actually a little early to the airport.

    I bade goodbye to lili, whose departure was in a different
    terminal - she was taking KLM again I think, and went back
    to the Senator Lounge, which is I believe bigger but less
    nice than it used to be twenty years ago. The usual
    Germanic breakfast things. I had a banana and some orange
    juice, then toddled to the gate where I was greeted by
    name by an agent and shown to my middle throne.

    Chilled appetizer - Prosciutto with grilled asparagus,
    onion chutney and garnishes

    Fresh seasonal greens - Tomatoes, cucumber, carrots and
    croutons with your choice of creamy yogurt dressing or
    balsamic vinaigrette

    The preludes were ordinary, wholesome, unexciting.
    Good prosciutto, decent thinnish asparagus.

    Main course
    Tenderloin of beef - Port wine sauce, fried onions,
    asparagus-filled pasta, spaetzle, carrots and zucchini

    Thai-style fillet of tilapia with shrimp - Chile-coconut
    sauce, potato straws, basmati rice and garlic sprouts

    Porcini mushroom-filled tortellini - Creamy truffle sauce
    and mushrooms with Parmesan cheese

    I had this last, okay-textured pasta with a sandy, salty,
    bready filling that could have used some more care in the
    making. I ended up tossing much of the filling and eating
    the wrappers with the pretty decent mushroom garnish. The
    truffle sauce was a sort of caricature of truffle, owing
    to large quantities of "truffle oil." Guigal Cotes du
    Rhone went nicely.

    Tomato and cheese omelette - pork fillet, chicken sausge,
    potatoes and sugar snap peas with a caramelized apple crepe

    To finish
    International cheese selection - Grapes and crackers served
    with Port

    Dessert
    Ice cream with your choice of toppings

    Mid-flight snack - Fruit and light snacks are available at
    any time following the meal service. Please help yourself
    or ask a flight attendant for today's selection

    Prior to arrival
    Grilled salmon - noodle salad and teriyaki sauce

    Cheese and charcuterie plate - grapes, caramelized onion
    chutney and crackers

    Fresh fruit appetizer and chocolate

    I didn't have much truck with this stuff but did have
    two little boxes of chocolate.

    The chocolates were oversweet underflavored truffles from
    Lily O'Brien, whose product really doesn't compete with
    the big persons.

    For boozles I stuck with Courvoisier and then a Fonseca LBV.

    We landed quite a bit early, but that was eaten up by the
    traffic tie-up of immigration and customes, where as usual
    my Global didn't work ("system validation error"). The
    latest hypothesis is that the thickness of my glasses
    prevents some face recognition software from happening.
     
  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Somehow none of my upgrade requests on this outbound
    cleared, despite my being 1K on an H fare supported by
    an instrument (miles).

    In anticipation of not getting upgraded, I had lunch at
    the Turkish lounge, where all was sweetness and light,
    mostly the former - you were greeted with lokoum at the
    front desk and proceeded on to fresh and dried fruit,
    bread pudding, and baklava. There were savories as well,
    some notably good, little tapas-size dishes of lamb stew
    on eggplant and some chicken thing, plus big tubs of the
    usual dips and spreads, including hummus that was even
    better than Air Canada's and some excellent baba ghannouj.

    The bar was well stocked, but you had to find someone to
    do the pouring.

    I lost track of time and managed to get myself back to
    D3 as zone 4 was called. The relevance of this was that
    the bulkhead lacks storage space, and I had to put my bag
    a few rows back, which brought back memories of my
    Lufthansa mishap a few weeks before, wherein my passport
    and assorted other things disappeared. This time I was a
    wise guy and hung my passport wallet around my neck.

    UA 525 IAD SFO 1230 1519 739 8A

    I very much dislike this equipment for its bizarrely
    uncomfortable seating in both classes, and this time
    the aircraft offered no surprises. A Courvoisier helped.

    The flight took off ten late and docked about 20 late
    despite an expedited approach owing to a medical emergency
    on board, the nature of which was not of course revealed,
    but the sight of purposeful medics marching on board while
    we all waited was impressive. Eventually a number of
    peaked-looking people exited ahead of us, any one of whom
    looked ill enough to be the patient under care.

    I thought of finding something to eat or possibly attempting
    to rendezvous with lili, who was in town, for drinks, but
    instead just sat at the bar at the club choking down glasses
    of red plonk.

    UA1670 SFO HNL 1900 2130 739 21A was 8A

    I moseyed to the gate around closing time and found that
    they were just boarding group 1. Something about a mechanical
    issue that was just being resolved or something like that.

    Somehow 8A had been replaced by 21A, whether by my own
    initiative or by some malign computer influence I am not
    sure. In any case I slept through most of the flight. So did
    the guy in the middle seat, who kept flopping over into my
    space, which I altogether too gently discouraged him from
    doing. We landed a bit late, and I had time for one glass
    of red wine and a dose of e-mail at the club. When I left,
    15 minutes before closing, the rest of the airport was empty.

    HNL is a pretty yucky place to camp out. There's only one
    authorized place where ticketholders can snooze, in an
    uncarpeted area where the seats are more uncomfortable than
    Continental seats and have immovable armrests, under hot
    bright lights and (horrors) with mosquitoes. I'd not have
    believed this but suffered the bites to prove it. It boasts
    soul-killing noises, the worst of which is escalator
    friction the likes of which I've only heard in the DC
    Metro. A rent-a-cop checked my boarding pass.

    At 0400 another rent-a-cop announced that as the airport
    was now open, people could no longer be even vaguely
    horizontal ... but the security entrance wasn't open yet.
    I think it was open around 0435, which gave me 40 minutes
    to wait for my oatmeal.
     
  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA 154 HNL MAJ 0725 1035 738 8A

    Around 6 our group began to file in, and around 0640 it
    was deemed time to make our way downstairs. Boarding was
    easy, though I don't know why there were so many pesky
    Group 1 people about, and on every leg too.

    We took up a sizable bloc of Economy Plus; I wonder what the
    rest of the passengers thought of us.

    There was a big guy next to me; I gave him the Cliff's Notes
    version of what we were about, but soon the FA felt sorry for
    him and moved him to 7C, whereupon I gave 8C the same spiel.

    Halfway through the flight a snack was served - Jimmy Dean
    sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit, actually not all that bad,
    Upstate Farms strawberry yogurt, and a fig bar. Courvoisier
    for me, which came in a warm water bath. Very thoughtful of
    the FA, but then there was the question of what to do about
    a sloshy cup of warm water when its utility was finished. I
    drank it; seemed to be the most expedient thing.

    Certain of us drank the plane dry of rum, brandy, and whiskeys
    and whiskies. I ended up having the last Courvoisier followed
    by settling for the last Devil's Cut and the last Crown Royal.
    I am told at the end, only that silly Tito's stuff was left,
    with no hope of recatering.

    UA 154 MAJ KWA 1120 1220 738 8A

    We were discouraged from deplaning here, but most of us did
    anyway for a group photo and in the hope for a passport
    stamp. As I have a super-svelte passport now, I didn't go
    for one.

    The flight picked up some people here, so Mr. 7A had to move
    back to his assigned middle seat. Oh, well, it's a short leg.

    A bunch of military contractors including my rowmates got off
    at Kwaj. The rest of us were forbidden from doing so, though
    I am told it's not difficult for someone with provable bona
    fides to get a sponsorship to stick around for a few days.

    UA 154 KWA KSA 1259 1312 738 8A

    IDGflygirl joined me for this leg; we chatted a bit. No, this
    wasn't a 13 minute leg - we crossed another time zone; it was
    still a pretty short flight, made shorter by good conversation.

    We all deplaned into the tropical heat, did our rituals, and
    then filed back in. This is a surprisingly lovely island,
    though very humid - I actually am considering returning here
    and to Pohnpei (Ponape) below. Kosrae seemed more
    geographically interesting to me, though I'm told it's wetter.

    UA 154 KSA PNI 1347 1450 738 8A

    When I got back on, seat C was occupied by some lady who
    slept through the flight. The seat between us remained vacant.

    Another similar stop at a lovely (but I thought the other
    lovelier) hot humid island. This is supposed to be the most
    tourist-worthy of the lot, with its "Venice of the Pacific"
    ruined city, but somehow Kosrae spoke to me more. I figure
    maybe I'll take a few days at each sometime before I die.

    UA 154 PNI TKK 1531 1543 738 8A

    A guy got on who ran a telecomms company with offices in
    Pohnpei, Chuuk, and Guam. He was kind of interesting to
    talk to.

    UA 154 TKK GUM 1620 1755 738 8A

    My seatmate this time was a kid taking his very first flight,
    going to join the Army. I reassured him when the turbulence
    became interesting and wished him well after the flight.
     
  8. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    The Frequent Flyer Giving event

    We were met by a United rep who pointed us to the Turtle
    Transit buses that took us to the Westin, where most of the
    people were staying. Several of us weren't, so we went down
    to the poolside bar for drinks, which were actually not all
    that expensive, ordinary big city prices. They were decently
    made and strong enough.

    None of the help knew about us, but eventually someone found
    out and reported back that our supposed beachside dinner was
    now a buffet in the air-conditioned comfort of the hotel
    restaurant Taste (what an original name). Extensive offerings
    of what seemed to be pretty well made stuff. I heard good
    reports about the carbonara and the Bolognese from the pasta
    station, of all things. As there was free-flow beer at this
    event, well, anyway, Heineken and Amstel, I stuck to protein.
    Kalbi was pretty well flavored though made from tough old
    bovine; fried shrimp was strangely crisp fried but nearly
    raw inside - I counted this a great success, because one
    could tell the impeccable freshness of the seafood. There
    was a cold seafood station from which I had my fill of big
    oysters and sashimi-style slipper lobster halves, both a
    little light on brininess and flavor. I was told by I believe
    Mr. Lincoln that cooking the lobsters didn't improve them
    much, so I gave up on that. Steak and pork chops in about
    4 oz portions: I settled for steak only, picking out three
    pieces that were mostly fat and had them grilled rare. Two
    ended up sort of medium, the fattiest one, which would have
    done well to have been medium, was rare rare. Insofar as
    I'd had a pound plus of protein and fat, I didn't go back
    and investigate the Asian food or the desserts. Toward the
    end of the meal, a waiter came by with an orphan Amstel
    Light and set it before me. It didn't go to waste. It turns
    out Weatherboy was also staying at the Hilton, so we shared
    a cab. I checked in tardily; they gave me a really nice room
    overlooking the bay, which was wasted on me, because even in
    the daytime I wouldn't have been able to see much of it. A
    welcome amenity consisted of two apples, a banana, a split of
    Woodbridge Cabernet, four little lozenges of Astor chocolate
    perfumed with star anise, and a local craftspiece - a cute
    little woven basket with candy in it (I could tell by shaking
    it) which I mysteriously misplaced before I got a chance to
    open it.

    Sad to say I didn't have much opportunity to enjoy the
    hospitality, as the airport event got rescheduled for an hour
    and half earlier, so I got barely five hours in the room.

    Weatherboy's brother Drew picked us up (grudgingly) at 5
    something. I gave him my Woodbridge as carfare, and we were
    soon at the airport, breakfasted by the friendly United
    staff, hastily vetted, and badged to start our day.

    Our hosts were Dan, Claudeen, and Jonathan, welcoming and
    jolly; the entire staff seemed fairly happy to be there,
    something perhaps different from some of their colleagues
    stateside.

    Our group was assigned to work the morning NRT flight,
    which was a bit tardy and with fractious passengers.

    I spent my time with two such, both with oversized carryon.
    One was resolved okay; the difficult case was a guy who
    couldn't get his bag checked past Chicago on YAP-GUM-NRT-
    ORD-MCI. The best anyone could do was to have him pick up
    his bag in ORD (which he would have to do anyway) and
    then recheck it manually to MCI - not that different
    from what he would normally do, and I hope I described
    the procedure clearly enough so he could go through
    reasonably smoothly at the other end.

    Some of the passengers looked bemusedly at a large
    number of reflector-clad people doing relatively little
    relatively slowly. I did not adequately describe the
    situation to one unhappy customer, being too convulsed
    with suppressed laughter. But to give me credit, I got
    some ancient non-English-speaking lady's bags properly
    tagged and on the plane, despite their not qualifying
    for some reason or another.

    Throughout the morning, we had our turns watching (and
    in a few cases, where we couldn't cause much damage,
    participating in) the duties of various departments;
    we saw flight 165 off to FUK, then went to Ops to see
    how they did that there (interesting the logistics
    behind the Island Hopper, with its resident mechanic);
    baggage handling and lost luggage; and Tech (here very
    closely aligned with other Ops, because of the nature
    of the service).

    Ramp Rodeo was reminiscent of what we had experienced in
    Austin a couple years ago, minus, of course, the deicing
    truck. I worked the jetbridge again, this time against a
    hard stand.

    At the United Club we got a nice sandwich lunch with
    guava juice and these irresistible little Chamorro
    cookies, which are sort of like Pecan Sandies without
    so much pecan in them, for dessert.
     
  9. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    I returned to the club around 1 - it was totally empty
    so got to lap up lots of the house red, Coppola Rosso,
    by myself.

    UA 873 GUM NRT 1710 1955 772 4K was 1D

    I was asked to move to accommodate some fussy passenger
    who wanted to sit, or didn't want to sit, with someone
    else; I didn't pay much attention, as I was pleasantly
    muzzy by this time.

    I was completely conked out for this flight, good because
    the gorgeous young lady I ended up sitting next to had
    brought along three squalling kids and a husband who was
    nn ineffective disciplinarian. She had charge of the
    youngest and most squalling kid, the rest of them in the
    middle section where they belonged.

    Apparently the meal choice had been steak or salmon.

    We had plenty of time to catch the supposed luxury
    coach to the other airport; it was like any other bus,
    which is to say in Japan not bad but with not the
    greatest legroom, and it was quite fast despite there
    being a fair amount of trafflc. IDflygirl later told
    me that her walkup ticket cost 20% less than my
    prereserved and prebought one.

    As always the formalities took not much time, though as
    frequently the gatekeeper at the priority security line
    tried to kick me out of it, despite prominent Star Gold
    and business class notations on my documents.

    The ones at the ANA lounge were welcoming and deferential,
    though; of course, here I was by a fair margin not the
    worst-dressed person in the queue.

    A variety of sakes and spirits and the amazing beer
    machine kept me going until boarding time, with the aid
    of the famous ANA curry, which is almost identical to
    the famous JAL curry, only perhaps with more clove.

    Boarding was somewhere between Japanese orderliness and
    American chaos.

    UA 876 HND SFO 0030 1805 772 9G

    Late dinner - two choices:

    Soup and sandwich - creamy mushroom soup and French bread
    with selection of teriyaki chicken and grilled vegetables
    served with teriyaki mayonnaise

    Chicken teriyaki - steamed rice, braised burdock and
    konnyaku, green beans and egg roll

    Having been nicely catered by ANA, I passed on these.

    The main meal, served somewhere over the Pacific.

    To begin
    Chilled appetizer - California sushi roll and broiled
    duck with pineapple chile sauce

    Fresh seasonal greens - cucumber, tomatoes and croutons
    with your choice of creamy garlic dressing or sesame
    vinaigrette

    Main course
    Tenderloin of beef - red wine sauce, roasted potatoes,
    mushrooms and green beans

    Breast of chicken - tomato sauce, egg fried rice, spinach
    and bell pepper

    Hawaiian-style fillet of sea bass - seafood jus, shiitake
    mushroom and leek topping, steamed rice and carrots

    Japanese selection - Appetizers of a simmered dish of tofu,
    fried ginkgo nut and shishito green pepper, grilled chestnut
    with dashi jelly, leek and barbecue grilled chicken skewer,
    sea bream with leek, chive, daikon radish and ponzu jelly

    A main course of saikyo-style mebaru fish with lotus root,
    sweet potato and shishito green pepper, miso soup with
    shimeji mushrooms and simmered burdock, seasoned rice with
    chicken and pickled vegetables. Sake and green tea are
    available.

    To finish
    International cheese selection - grapes and crackers served
    with Port

    Dessert - ice cream with your choice of toppings

    I don't recall having eaten this meal, either, so probably
    I didn't. The glass of Port was welcome to refuel my
    slumbers. Prior to arrival, an enthusiastic FA gave me a
    double brandy.
     
  10. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    Immigration gave me a hard time about my passport, the
    smudges on my glasses, and the Courvoisier on my breath,
    nastily suggesting that I sober up or else. I filed a
    complaint about the agent afterward, though to be fair
    she wasted only about five extra minutes of my time, and
    where was there to go, anyway, there being three hours
    before my connection.

    Off to the domestic terminal, where PreCheck gave me a hard
    time about my passport (I should have just flashed my GE
    card) but not about my glasses or my breath - presumably I
    had sufficiently sobered up during the ten minutes after
    leaving the immigration area.

    Guested in by IDGflygirl to the Centurion lounge, which
    offered the usual undersalted underseasoned grilled chicken
    thighs but also a very nice cauliflower in pretty spicy red
    coconut curry.

    Cain Cuvee and Raymond Reserve Cabernet, among other things,
    were available on tap. Both were almost ready to drink, '12s
    I think. I liked the Cain this time, which was bone dry but
    still alive with dark fruit; light tannins. The Raymond was
    fine as well but had a bit of that coffee aspect that I easily
    tire of; otherwise it didn't make much of an impression.

    UA1681 SFO BWI 2141 0553 739 3A

    This was a most uncomfortable flight. The seats were wrong,
    the temperature was wrong, but somehow I managed to wrestle
    myself into position for a couple hours' shuteye. When I
    woke there was an inscribed business card from the captain
    thanking me for my business. I returned the favor to the
    crew, expressing my gratitude on the way out.

    Despite the earliness of the hour and the reverse commute
    thing going, the ICC bus ended up really, really late, so
    instead of waiting for another bus I took the metro to
    Rockville, but guess what, it was late, and then my last
    leg on the bus was a bit late, causing crankiness and
    out-of-sortsness, but eventually I got into my own bed
    and slept, slept, slept.
     

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