Tag Archives: United

The Big Europe Trip: London

11 Jun

A couple of months ago James had to be in Zurich for work, so we decided to add a couple of cities and make a vacation out of it.

It’s not an international trip if I don’t start it with the Paper Plane cocktail at the Polaris Lounge:
MVIMG_20190424_145120I had fish and chips for lunch and this lovely meringue for lunch-dessert:
IMG_20190424_153326Also I received three compliments on my new Globe-Trotter luggage before we even landed. =D

Day 1

We arrived around midday and got a fast pass through the arrivals hall at Heathrow which saved us a ton of time. We collected our checked luggage, purchased Oyster cards, then took the Piccadilly train to our AirBNB.

We wanted to make it a low-key day so we could recover from the flight but still tell ourselves we’d seen a bit of London, so we checked out the Google office. They were very into their post-it note art!
IMG_20190425_155854The elevators were cool – they had that fancy technology where you press the button for your floor and it assigns you an elevator.

In one of the microkitchens we discovered canned water. I don’t know why we found it so shocking but we did.
IMG_20190425_154201It’s weird, right??

The office was pretty small but there was a lot of construction nearby to build a larger campus – hopefully we get to see it next time we visit! It’s hard to tell, but the little floor level markers are Android figures.
IMG_20190425_145654Speaking of Android figures, here is a hint for what I bought as my London souvenir:IMG_20190425_151327On the walk back to the station there was this cool bird cage swing. =)
MVIMG_20190425_160819_1 We had an early dinner at an Indian restaurant, then headed to a couple of cocktail bars. IMG_20190425_192048_1The cocktails at Lounge Bohemia were very inventive and the presentation was fantastic, but taste-wise they ranged from average to awful. There’s just no way to make a red bull reduction taste good. We had a lot of fun though!

My tasting menu was “good morning” themed and contained six mini cocktails. I was already pretty excited that my first drink came in a bathtub and halfway through I found this little guy:
IMG_20190425_194837 This toothpaste one had rum and peas in it. It was kind of gross and I made James finish it.IMG_20190425_201545This is a photo of him resentfully drinking it:
IMG_20190425_201442The coffee cocktail was my favourite:
IMG_20190425_202305Feeling like we’d beaten jet lag, we took the bus back to our place for a well-earned sleep.

Day 2

We started the day off at the Tower of London. We went on the Beefeater Tour (definitely recommend! It’s free and really informative), looked at the Crown Jewels, and had a nice walk around. This is James standing where the tower moat used to be:
IMG_20190426_094706 Afterwards we walked across the Tower of London Bridge and took a bunch of photos. It was windy and my hair makes it look like I have a ton of eyeliner on.IMG_20190426_115044Then went to the Borough Market where James bought some scotch eggs for a morning snack. They were delicious, but right afterwards we had afternoon tea at Sketch, so the timing wasn’t ideal.

Sketch is famous for its gorgeous bathroom (scented with a billion Diptyque candles) and individual pod toilets:
IMG_20190426_132219 Also its beautiful pink room: IMG_20190426_140826The food was delicious (and AYCE – damn you scotch eggs) and we were massively stuffed at the end.

Afterwards James bought himself a souvenir – a hand carved umbrella from James Smith & Sons. They had cheaper umbrellas, but James argued (quite rightly) that the point of going to a store like that is to buy their custom-made ones.

The ones in this photo started at £250 depending on the wood and the shape of the handle.
IMG_20190426_174438But James fell in love with this super fancy option.
IMG_20190427_112719Hello Owl!

The store customized the umbrella’s height to him, which was pretty cool. Here he is getting fitted (behind him are the cheaper regular umbrellas)
IMG_20190426_173835We then went to the British Museum, which was amazing, and not too crowded on a Wednesday evening. We saw all the highlights, and I think James was quite pleased at being able to show Owl a bit of the world.

The Easter Island statue:
MVIMG_20190426_200229 Assyrian lion sculptures:IMG_20190426_202137And the Rosetta Stone (this one was just me – Owl saw it earlier with more people around):
MVIMG_20190426_202206Then we went to the Connaught Bar where we had fantastic cocktails (James thought they were the best of the trip) and bought a bottle of their house gin.

Day 3

In the morning we went to Westminster Abbey which was a lot more interesting than I expected. The highlight was definitely the Jubilee Galleries for an extra £5 – we got to see the Magna Carta, and had a killer view down the length of the chapel. No photos allowed though. =(

Afterwards James and I split up and he went to a gin class at the City of London Distillery where he learned about gin and distilled a bottle with his own custom mix of ingredients.
IMG_20190427_131928He got to name it and said he wished he’d called it Jamegin.IMG_20190427_135402They store the recipe on site, so if James ever runs out he can get them to make him another bottle. =)

While he was making (and drinking) booze, I went shopping and had some more Indian food for lunch.
IMG_20190427_131108Afterwards I went to the Burberry flagship store. I tried on almost every trench they had looking for the perfect one, and eventually found it in the Heritage Kensington in honey. I think the coat looks much nicer open rather than belted, and I love, love, love it.

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image from Burberry

Maybe I should rethink my usual method of shopping online because apparently I don’t know myself as well as I think I do – I surprised myself by preferring the double breasted trenches and more relaxed fits.

Anyway, giant, unwieldy Burberry shopping bag in hand, I met up with James again and we headed to the Royal Stables for some more sightseeing. We went later in the day (around 3:30/4pm) and we were practically alone as we looked at all the different royal carriages.
IMG_20190427_160129We also went to the Queen’s Gallery, which wasn’t quite as spectacular, though I did get to see Faberge eggs for the first time, which was pretty cool.

The highlight was definitely the Buckingham Palace state rooms. In Summer the rooms are open to the public but in Spring they only have small group tours on days when the Queen isn’t in residence. It’s more expensive, but it was amazing. 

James and I agreed it was one of the highlights of our trip to London, which was unexpected because we’re not normally interested in that kind of stuff. But the tour guide was really informative and a fantastic story teller (Her: If you’re looking around and wondering whether something is real gold, it is), and we got to see a bunch of priceless art and history in a really intimate, unhurried setting.

As usual, no photos allowed, so here’s one we took outside the palace afterwards.
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Then for dinner we went to Bob Bob Ricard. IMG_20190427_224849Don’t mind if we do!

Day 4

We were pretty knackered by day four, and had a bit of a sleep in before popping down the street to Blacklock Soho.
IMG_20190428_121320Where we had the world’s largest Sunday Roast.
IMG_20190428_123933The Yorkshire puddings were so big that they had multiple potatoes living in the craters. James liked the roast beef, pork and crackling but my favourite was the lamb. It was delicious and if I ate like that every Sunday I would be as fat as a yorkshire pudding.

Then we went to Jensen’s so James could try (and buy) some more gin. We also went to the Tate Modern where we saw – and failed to appreciate – a bunch of Rothkos. James discovered he likes Surrealism though, so there’s that.

The Tower of Babel at the Tate Modern:IMG_20190428_171115We had dinner at Padella, which I had been forewarned would be very busy. Also, when you see there is a queue outside the building, that is not a queue to get into the restaurant – that is a queue to leave your name/number to get a dining time. We got there 30 minutes after it opened and had an estimated eating slot at 6:30pm/7ish – perfect!

To kill time went for a bit of a wander around the waterfront.
IMG_20190428_182210 (1)You can see a little bit of my lovely new coat!

When we went back to Padella the pastas were beautiful. Really tasty and really affordably priced, even with wine.IMG_20190428_190720Afterwards we had cocktails at Lyaness which, in its former incantation was rated the best bar in the world, but eh. It was fine, but I can think of several bars that I think are superior. I did like this sign in the hotel lobby though:
MVIMG_20190428_195454(It turned out the sign changed automatically every 10 minutes or so. I sent James out to admire it and he came back confused because it just had some random quote about coffee).

I enjoyed our time in London – I think we packed a lot into three and a half days. =) The next morning we grabbed an Uber to the airport and got on a flight for the next leg of our trip – Switzerland!

Travelling to Tokyo

16 Jul

Last month James and I crossed off one of our bucket list items and travelled to Japan for two and a half weeks. We loved it. It was so hot and humid but we had the best trip and I totally won’t be able to do it justice in my blog.

But first off, I want to say that the new United Polaris lounge at SFO is amazing. It has a really nice cocktail bar and an area where you can get meals cooked to order.

We were there for breakfast I had a “deconstructed” bagel (the deconstruction seemed a bit unnecessary but I appreciate the attempt at artistry).
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And James had a cheeseless omelette and a Bloody Mary.
IMG_20180620_093547Then we spent the time before our flight drinking cocktails and eating breakfast dessert. (Actually I was the only one who had breakfast dessert because James doesn’t believe in it – or lunch dessert for that matter).

When we boarded they let me sit in the cockpit!!
IMG_20180620_122117Don’t the controls look like they could be from the 1960s or something? It’s not even an old plane – one of the pilots told me that it’s less than a year old.

The pilots were super nice and funny. They immediately offered to take a photo, we chatted about Tokyo, they showed me what some of the controls did, and they moved the chair back and forth for me.

Me: Is it true that they don’t let you guys eat the same meal in case of food poisoning?
Pilot: They don’t even let us breathe the same air.

During the flight James and I both opted for the Japanese dinner and immediately regretted it because it was massive.
IMG_20180620_135720Way too big for a plane meal.
IMG_20180620_141459James (afterwards): Did you also think it was over and then get surprised by the second course?

Yes. Yes I very much did.

We landed at Narita in the late afternoon, grabbed our bags and took a train to Tokyo. After checking into our hotel we explored nearby Odaiba.

I don’t know why there’s a Statue of Liberty but I love it.
IMG_20180621_195735 And a Unicorn Gundam! IMG_20180621_202000At certain times there was a show where music would play and bits of the Gundam would light up and move. It was pretty cool. =)

We were both a little bit tired from our flight. James said he actually just wanted to stay in the hotel and veg but that seemed like a waste, so just wandering around Odaiba and admiring the lights was a nice, low-key way to end our first night in Tokyo.

I Still Call Australia Home

10 Oct

We just got back from three weeks in Australia! We were efficiently visiting for two weddings – Julian’s and my cousin Jon’s. Like last time, we used pretty much all our free time to catch up with friends and family (and also gorge ourselves).

Plane Anthropology

On our flight to Melbourne, our section of the plane (the blue Economy Plus area) had hardly anyone in it – behold!

Screenshot_20170904-223549I had optimistically put myself in 21L and James in 22L but had been obsessively monitoring the situation in case of a flood of newcomers to our section – I figured rows 16 (the one we vacated), 17, 18 and 20 would be my canaries in the coal mine, and if I saw those starting to fill up I’d change our seats so James and I were in the same row.

It was pretty interesting to watch people figure out that there were empty rows for the taking, and start to spread out and stake their claim. The first people to catch on were a group of guys in rows 22 and 23 – they separated and took the DEFs in row 20 and 21. The other empty rows were taken maybe 10-20 minutes after we’d sat down, and well before the boarding doors closed. 24DEF was the last to go, and after that it was people just circling around looking for empty rows. I counted eight of us who had the very best situation – an ABC or JKL row to themselves (DEF was less optimal because you didn’t have a wall to lean your back against to stretch your legs out on the seats).

I also thought it was interesting how reluctant people were to move to a row where someone was already sitting. As far as I could tell, almost everyone who started with their own row stayed that way. Everyone technically only had the right to their own seat, but clearly the seat poachers realised how desirable it was to have a row to yourself and didn’t want to be the one to take that away from someone (also a lot of people had defensively moved to the middle seat of their row).

Which brings me to the 17JKL bloc. I was particularly fascinated with it because it was one of the few filled rows. 16JKL was also full but the guy there moved to 16ABC pretty quickly, and the 16s weren’t really that desirable because the seat arms don’t lift up (which was partially why we had moved our seat allocation). But anyway, early on in the boarding process (after the 22/23 guys had spread out but before other rows had been taken) I saw a lady from 17JKL look around and realise that the blue section was likely to have empty seats. She asked a flight attendant if she could move, and I guess the flight attendant told her that after boarding she could take any empty seat, because she stayed put but kept looking around.

Which was a huge mistake, because by the time she started walking around, all the rows had been claimed, and even people who had moved (and had just as little “right” to the row as her – except for the apparently crucial part of being there first) had started to feel territorial about their space. I heard her ask to sit with a single in 17 or 18 ABC, who straight up lied to her face and told her that someone else was sitting there! She got rejected from another row and was roaming around looking for someone who was too nice to say no (from my live email updates to Cat and Ivo: “the unwanted lady just moved seats again to someone else’s row. She was like “can I join you here?” NO! Nobody wants you!!”).

Obviously she had to do it because moving would be a significant upgrade for her, but just as obviously people didn’t want her in their row because it would be a significant downgrade for them. I think she ended up in 18DEF on her third attempt.

The flight took off 30+ minutes late, but watching people tetris around was the most engrossing 30+ minutes I’ve ever spent on a plane. Also I slept nearly the whole way, sat with my legs stretched for the rest, had nobody reclined in front of me, nobody pulling my seat to get up, no lines for the toilet, and had three tray tables/seat backs to organise my stuff – highly recommended!

(I had high hopes for our return flight which was looking similarly empty, but it filled up a couple of days beforehand. So we did the only reasonable thing and upgraded to business. =P)

Catching Up

The whole point of visiting Melbourne is to catch up with family and friends, and we always make the most of it! I love our friends in Seattle and SF, but there’s nothing quite like being around the people we grew up with. We met up with my school friends, James’ school friends, James’ computer science friends, and my cousins.

Being with my cousins reminded me of when we were kids and hung out every weekend (except half of them have kids of their own now!)
IMG_20170928_163922I wasn’t sure if it was just me, but Cat said that she also got teary-eyed looking at that picture. We were so close growing up, and it’s so much fun hanging out with them – we’re only fully assembled every couple of years or so, because of Klene living in Sydney and me in San Francisco.

Last time we visited Melbourne we didn’t see as much of my parents as I would have liked, so this time we had a weekly dinner with them and Cat/Mitch.

It’s funny, because I feel like at times, Cat and mum didn’t always get along that well – Cat used to get exasperated with her easily, and mum would come to me and be like “you tell Cat to do X, because Cat won’t listen to me”. But now Cat writes all these funny, sweet anecdotes about mum on facebook, where apparently “Mama Chen” has quite the following among Cat’s friends – even some of my friends have told me they love the Mama Chen facebook updates!
21768353_10156217380865656_6916487172671501806_n (1)All of James’ high school friends have kids now, and about half of my school friends have kids. Everyone is getting so old! Here we are with James’ uni friends after a brunch catch-up:
IMG_20170923_130956

Stuff I Had Totally Forgotten About:

Chicken Salt

The first time we went to get fish and chips (with flake! Not that cod bullshit they have here) and they asked if we wanted regular or chicken salt, James and I were like “OMG how could we have forgotten about chicken salt???”

How is it not a thing here? Possibly for the same reason the US doesn’t have Burger Rings, chicken Twisties and chicken flavoured chips (that aren’t a novelty flavour like chicken and waffles) – Nancy said “people in the US don’t like meat-flavoured chips” (!!!)

But anyway, we brought back three different kinds of chicken salt.

Magpies

I never saw them in Seattle or SF but they’re everywhere in Melbourne. I was walking down the street and heard a magpie sing and was hit with this intense wave of nostalgia. I used to hear that sound all the time, and hearing it again after all those years felt simultaneously foreign and familiar.

Melbourne Food

It is so good, especially the Asian food. James and I reckon the best Asian restaurants we’ve been to in the US would be middle of the pack in Melbourne.

James had his first proper Melbourne coffee and said he’d forgotten how good it is – and also how strong it is! We went out to brunch with Joel, Nancy, Damo, Joan and their kids, and afterwards James said he was really jittery from the coffee – whereas Joel and Nancy made themselves another cup when they got home.

Anyway, here is a random selection of food we ate and took photos of:

My pavlova freakshake at Naughty Boy cafe:
IMG_20170917_095758Sushi platter from Shyun:
IMG_20170923_181953The “Money to Burn” cocktail at Eau de Vie:

20170925_085924-ANIMATIONEau de Vie was really fun – the cocktails were delicious and beautifully presented. We love speakeasies and didn’t realise that they were now a thing in Melbourne. Mitch had a cocktail with some fairy floss and a paper plane:
IMG_20170913_204716 I think this one involved a drink being poured into a glass full of hickory smoke. 00004IMG_00004_BURST20170913212612_COVER
Next time we go back to Melbourne James wants to do Eau de Vie’s food/cocktail tasting menu because he was absolutely in love with the place.

(Also, James fell asleep on the train ride home. It turned out he had actually started to get tired after dinner and before we went on a 20 minute hunt for a speakeasy, and certainly well before we had 3-4 drinks each at said speakeasy – but he said he was having such a good time with Cat and Mitch that he “wanted to keep the party going”).

The “Meat Fruit” at Dinner by Heston:
IMG_20170926_181002 (1)

Vegemite gyoza at Shizuku Ramen & Craft Beer. You can take the girl out of Australia …
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Zombie VR

Ivo said she wanted to do this, and to be honest at the start I was dubious. I mainly went along with it because I thought it would be fun to hang out with everyone – I could take or leave the VR experience, really. It was at Zero Latency in Melbourne and it ended up being amazing.

They were running a bit late so we could see the people before us. They were wearing their gear – VR set, headphones, motion capture stuff, guns, some sort of computer backpack – yelling at each other, and sort of shuffling around tentatively in this massive warehouse space. I imagine we looked just as goofy when we were doing it.IMG_20170917_205923_1It was really immersive – not just 3D but completely responsive to our actions because of those little motion capture bobble things. I can’t believe there isn’t something like this in SF!

We did the zombie and the space one, of which I think the space one was better. There was some really cool stuff, like where you walked up this torus, and when you looked down you could see your friends still down below you and it felt completely real. And walking across high platforms, hiding behind boxes, dodging baddies … it was really, really cool.

The zombie one was just a straight up shooter experience, which is why it felt a little less interesting. It was still really immersive though, and thus pretty freaky having a zombie running right at you.

Mitch did really well and ended up coming with the third highest score ever. The guy working there was really impressed! They sent us all these cool stats afterwards, like how accurate our shots were, how many points we’d scored, how far we’d moved etc. I thought the funniest stat was that during the space boss battle, all of us moved a pretty consistent distance – from 8-17 meters … except James, who apparently just spent the whole time walking around and had travelled 112 meters! WTF James!

Souvenirs

Generally stuff is way cheaper in the US so we tend not to buy too much stuff when we visit Australia. James usually replenishes his supply of Bonds undies, and I pick up some clothes, but this time we decided to go all-in on Aussie snacks:
IMG_20171001_174837Things James missed the most: banana lollies, wizz fizz and musk sticks

Things I missed the most: chicken Twisties, Burger Rings, honeycomb chocolate, noodles

You can’t really tell in the photo but there’s a couple of boxes of Wei Lih noodles that the Pringles and chicken salt are sitting on. They’re sooo much better than any other instant noodle I’ve had and I can’t find them in the US. They were $23 for a pack of five on eBay – outrageous!

James and I taped two boxes together and checked them as luggage, and they survived the trip really well. And it was only a little bit embarrassing collecting them from the carousel and carrying them through the airport. Cat reckons I’d be able to tape four boxes next time – I think definitely three, but I’m not sure if four would exceed the allowed luggage dimensions.

I also bought some sneakers from Country Road (I’m having mild regrets on that one – they look cool but they’re made of fucking neoprene and make my feet sweaty) and this awesome croissant rain coat from Gorman that I will never, ever regret:

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image from Gorman

Every time we visit, we’re surprised at how much cooler Melbourne is than we remember, and how our friends are just as wonderful as we remember. And we sort of get stars in our eyes and think about moving back even though it doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes we just miss being around people who sound like us, you know?

But anyway, we’ll be back next year for Cat’s wedding!

New York – Again!

15 Aug

Cat and Mitch were visiting NYC and James was able to time one of his work trips so we’d be there at the same time. Then Brian joined us from Atlanta on the weekend, so it was a big week!
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AirBNB Disaster

We usually get a hotel but went with AirBNB this time – but when James called the host to let him know we were on our way he didn’t answer. So for the next couple of hours James was on hold with three different AirBNB customer service reps trying to figure out what to do. Apparently they couldn’t get a hold of the host or their emergency manager, who was the person that could authorise James to get a hotel room. Eventually James got fed up and told them it was unreasonable of them to expect us to sit around until they figured their shit out, so we were going to get a hotel and they were going to pay for it.

Easier said than done – we tried four hotels in the area and they were all fully booked. Panic was definitely settling in as we wandered the streets of NY at 1am with our luggage, frantically looking up different hotels on our phones.

Finally the host called and said he’d fallen asleep. We were pretty angry but mainly just relieved that we’d have somewhere to stay that night.

The next day AirBNB called James (while he was in a meeting), apologised, and said they hoped last night hadn’t soured him on AirBNB. They offered him $100 credit, and James got them to give it to him as cash.

So yeah, that was incredibly shitty. When I told Brian and James told his NY colleagues what had happened, we found out they all didn’t use AirBNB anymore because they’d had similar experiences.

The Great Comet

Every time we go to NY we like to see a Broadway show. This time we saw The Great Comet – and it was a good thing we did because it’s closing in early September. The set is absolutely spectacular:

IMG_20170801_185734-PANOI loved the interactiveness of the show. The story was kind of weak, but I liked several of the songs and it was a great experience.

Afterwards we had dinner at 2nd City and it was fucking amazing.

Dear Irving, Momofuku and Pouring Ribbons

On Wednesday James had work drinks at Dear Irving and then we headed to Momofuku Noodle Bar. It was delicious (though James preferred the pork buns from 2nd City) and we got in just before the main rush so didn’t have to wait at all.

We ate lots of food – ramen, buns, lychee slushies, ginger scallion noodles – and took lots of photos but this one of the bo ssam is the only one that turned out.
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Afterwards we walked to a speakeasy called Pouring Ribbons. They change their menu regularly, all of it based around a central theme. This time it was Revolutionary Artists (James said he can’t remember what it was last time he went – “maybe movies or something”)

James ordered an Andy Warhol and it came in a sealed glass Coke bottle. And this was his Cai Guo-Qiang (an artist who is apparently famous for using gunpowder and fireworks in his art):

Burst_Cover_GIF_Action_20170802212937

Google Tour and Various Bars

On Thursday James gave Cat and Mitch a tour of the office and then we had a Google lunch. For dinner James went to Nomad Bar, where it was way too loud and crowded but James said the burger was the best he’s ever had. Then we met up with Cat and Mitch at Raine’s Law Room afterwards.

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photo stolen from Cat

Now that James and I are old we can’t stand loud bars so we pretty much exclusively go to speakeasies. We went to Angel’s Share with Brian and it was so lovely, quiet and uncrowded, and the drinks were also wonderful.

I also discovered that I only really like going to NY bars on weeknights. This trip was our first experience with Friday/Saturday night and it’s such a huge difference when we’re used to short (or no) waits for the best bars in the city.

Central Park and Sleep No More

On Saturday morning we had brunch and then cycled around Central Park. OMG it is so much easier than cycling around San Francisco!

Here are James and Brian at Belvedere Castle inside the park – so majestic!
IMG_20170805_150124 And the view from the castle. IMG_20170805_150229Earlier that week it had been really hot and humid, so we got  lucky that it was such a nice day for cycling.

In the evening we went to Sleep No More, which we were looking forward to because we had such a great experience last time. Unfortunately this time was a complete bust – I hadn’t realised how different it is now. They pack in the crowds and it’s gone from being really intimate and intense to being part of a huge mob that chases the performers around.

The first Sleep No More was one of my favourite memories of NYC but our second time was really disappointing. =( I was so pissed that I stayed up late writing an angry Yelp review lol.

We should have taken the money and gone to a Broadway show or a really nice dinner. But here, have some cool street art that we saw on our walk to Sleep No More:
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Bagels, One World Observatory and Dead Rabbit

Brian wanted a bagel on our last day in NYC so we went to Russ & Daughters. We got there around midday and it was pretty busy, which seemed like a good sign.
IMG_20170806_125719 Inside it was really crowded at the door but much roomier at the back of the store. We took a number and waited maybe 20 minutes. It would have been shorter except there was one guy making a monster order – like 50+ bagels!IMG_20170806_124429Brian and James weren’t super wowed by their bagels but mine (plain bagel, caviar cream cheese and western salmon) was awesome – much better than the Murray’s bagel I had last trip.
IMG_20170806_130356Then we headed to the One World Observatory, which is the tallest building in the Western hemisphere and had amazing 360 degree views of the city. Of course we took a billion selfies.IMG_20170806_141126

At the base of the windows they had these cool cityscape silhouettes (Statue of Liberty in the background):
IMG_20170806_143740 I’m super intrigued by this photo. What am I pointing at? Is it the reason I’m making that distressed face?IMG_20170806_140749Afterwards we wandered to the NY Stock Exchange and then had drinks at Dead Rabbit before it was time to head to the airport.

We sprung for first class on the flight back because at the time of booking economy was so expensive that first was only $200 more. We normally fly economy (or, as our Hungarian friends call it, “chicken class”) so it was pretty cool, though kind of unnecessarily fancy – they give you a little tablecloth for your tray table!

Here was the dinner menu (we both got the lamb):
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We also got a little amenity kit and a constant stream of very weak Moscow Mules. The pillow and blanket were also significantly upgraded from economy (which sounds like faint praise but when I saw James unwrap his blanket I made an “oooOOOoooh!” sound).

James really liked the extra room and has decided all of his future work flights will be in first.

When we got home we felt super sluggish cos we’d been eating out and going to bars all week. Like I said earlier, we are super old now and no longer spring back from a week of gluttony. But it’s still totally worth it for special occasions, like seeing Brian and entertaining Cat and Mitch. =)

A Slight Detour On Our Way to Australia

15 Dec

Our flight from San Francisco to Sydney made the news! We were supposed to arrive in Sydney around 10:30am but actually touched down some time around 6:30pm.

About half an hour before we were due to land, the pilot made an announcement saying that there was only one runway open due to debris. He said that there was a backlog of planes trying to land and the earliest they could slot us in was 50 minutes from the originally scheduled landing but that the plane didn’t have enough fuel to keep circling. So he diverted us to Canberra to refuel. James and I figured it would be tight, but we would still have enough time to make our two hour connection.

Nope.

We all sat there for an hour, and then another hour before they told us what was going on. Occasionally we’d get these stressed-sounding updates that they were trying to figure everything out and they would let us know what was going on as soon as possible.
IMG_5047It turned out that the pilots and flight crew had exceeded the hours they were legally allowed to work so the airline would have to bring in additional crew. But they were all in Sydney so they would have to be flown into Canberra so their ETA was in 5 hours. And we weren’t allowed out of the (increasingly hot and stuffy) plane because we hadn’t been processed by customs. And the airport didn’t have enough staff on hand to process us so we’d just have to sit and wait until the government decided to allow us out.

The flight attendants cooled down the plane by cracking open the emergency doors.

At the back:
IMG_5040And at the exit row right where we were sitting:
IMG_5043James was sad that they didn’t allow him to open the door. I was so glad we’d forked out for the extra legroom seats (even though they ended up being a mixed blessing because they were right near the toilets so a lot of people stood there to wait or stretch their legs).

For us, the most stressful part was not being able to contact our family to let them know what was going on. The guy sitting next to us was very nice and let us use his roaming to call James’ dad, and several hours later we were also able to use one of the customs guys’ phones. Then after that, the main worry was how we were going to get to Melbourne now that we’d missed our original connection – we did have a wedding to get to the next day, after all! The flight attendants told us there was a team on the ground who would be re-booking connections for everyone, so that was a relief.

After a couple of hours of not knowing what was going on, people were starting to get irritable, not to mention hungry/thirsty and the toilets were gradually failing. The crew brought us some crackers and water (donated by Qantas) which was nice. For the next hour we would get updates about how they were trying to negotiate with the airport to allow everyone outside of the plane but that it was difficult because the Ukranian President and the Australian Prime Minister were in Canberra (and we were like “whaaat?! The Australian Prime Minister is always in Canberra!”).

Finally (after 3+ hours in the plane) we were allowed out! And it was glorious.

IMG_5049Under the watchful eyes of customs and the federal police we frolicked around in our pen.
IMG_5048Rations!
IMG_5067We sat in the sun to have our lunch and then headed back in to use the rapidly deteriorating toilets. One of the toilets near us had a clogged sink and the other was no longer flushing.

Obviously it was a massive inconvenience but once we knew what was happening (and that our connections were taken care of) it became much more bearable. The crew were trying as hard as they could, and you could tell that everyone was making the best of a bad situation. It was kind of funny because a lot of the crew were also taking photos of us and the open emergency doors, so it was just as much a novelty for them as it was for us!

I talked to one of the flight attendants who said that two hours after we left San Francisco the airport had cancelled all flights because of the storm, so they had been talking among themselves and were like “aren’t we lucky to be on this flight!”

After our bathroom break we headed back out for one last moment in the sun.
IMG_5061As it turned out James should have done a bit less basking because he ended up getting sunburned!

When we went back in they had emptied the toilets and everything was back to normal, just in time for the new crew to arrive. It was a bit sad when our original crew was swapped out. They were applauded off the plane because they were awesome even though they must have been exhausted.

When we finally landed in Sydney, people with connections were directed to a new line where we got tickets for our next flight. We were pretty much rubber-stamped through customs (not sure if that’s normal or if they gave us a break out of pity) and waited to board. We ended up getting another exit row seat on the flight to Melbourne which was nice!

James’ parents picked us up from the airport – and as it turned out we needn’t have worried because they knew about the delay. Once we had an internet connection we read some reassuring updates about the cats from our house-sitter, and felt much better – especially the next day, when United emailed and offered us $500 each to apologise for the inconvenience.

All in all it was a really long day, but no harm done as we arrived 10 hours late, but well in time to see Ivanna get married! =)