Saturday, December 16, 2017

Morocco

2017-12-16 trip start

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Day 1
Started in the Admiral’s Club in DFW. With status, was able to get into FlagShip Dining 













Plus there was tomato soup, chicken noodle soup, a salad bar, vegetables bar, pastries etc.

Plus there was beef short ribs with white rice and green beans. I scarfed it down and then it was gone so I could not take a picture. It was yummy. More food comes back out at 4pm


Boarding at 4:00 PM
We all have our own seats in Business Class. It is a 2 cabin aircraft. One seat in Business Class fits three seats in coach class.  

Yes, we are fortunate and we appreciate it. 




Pre-Departure beverage





Bedding



This is the brand new Casper bedding they just rolled out. We did not get mattress pad nor pajamas. We got the small pillow not the big one.

 


Got 8 bottles (two per person) of water from Admiral’s Club







We are on-time. This plane came in from Frankfurt late. It is 41 degrees F in Madrid.  It is 50 F in DFW. 




Intended route



Actual route



Meal started but they forgot to give me dressing. I pushed call button, no one came. I waited 4-5 min, turned it off and pushed it again, I saw it light up way up front, no one came. System worked but human did not pay attention. Also human never addressed me by name or thanked me for my business. 



I had pre-ordered all 4 meals. This enchilada dinner is not recommended. Ended up with stomach problems for a long time and there was no meat in this


Yummy





Breakfast one hour before landing, not very good. There was runny water under the eggs. Sausage was awful. 



Sunrise over Portugal





Landed in Madrid
Went to transfer desk, had to put everything thru x-ray again. Went through security and had to go back out and take out any cords, any iPads, anything with wires and put it in its own bin and go through again. 

We first went to the Sala lounge right next to security, they wanted $ per person to get in. OneWorld Emerald does not work here. Went down one level and went through large duty free shop and found this one. 



They said only me plus one guest. So two of us went away. Then agent changed his mind. Oh, are all 4 if you Business Class?  Yes. Oh, then all 4 of you can enter. Sorry, I said but the other two already left and went to sit at the gate. Here is the lounge. Huge.




There is a dark room for resting and another shower area hallway. 



Many people have written that there is no hot food in this lounge.
Here you can see eggs and bacon that is hot.







So we had breakfast #2 here


 


 
Time to Board Iberia
Walked down to S gates and they already boarded - early. They changed aircraft to A319. Pilot and crew very polite and respectful and happy to see us. Had breakfast #3. Can we say I am stuffed?



Ok, here is when you can laugh. Really laugh out loud. FA came by and offered newspapers. I took the top one she was offering. It was not in English but it didn’t matter to me. I was just going to skim it so language doesn’t matter. 

Get ready to laugh 

Then she comes back and says would you rather have this one ?  She pointed to the words. They were in English. I said no I am fine with this even though I don’t speak or read Spanish. She said this is French. Then I looked at it and it was in French. 


She said this is French not Spanish. I never even looked to see what language it was in. 

Now you can laugh

See, I am happy to make fun of myself. 

She and the family had a big laugh and that is ok. 


SIM card for unlocked cell phone
I spent some time at the airport looking for a place to get a SIM card.  The place I read about had a line of three people that was moving very slowly, so we left and decided to find a place later in the city. 


 
Shuttle from Airport to Hotel
I had pre-arranged with the hotel to send a Mercedes Vito van for us. It is a 45 min ride. He was standing outside with a sign with my name on it and the name of the hotel. 

We arrived at the 5* hotel located right on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. 

While standing to register, a young man eagerly rushed towards us with a tray and poured each of us hot tea in a short glass and offered us biscuits. 

We got two lovely rooms on the very top floor. One with a king bed and an adjoining room with 2 full size beds. Beautiful hotel and rooms.   Large closets on right side



Separate room with a door for



Separate room with two sinks



Large shower


 
Large bathtub with two fluffy robes and tons of little amenities



A VERY comfy bed. The pillows were the best part. Different sizes and different firmness.



On the table was fresh fruit, pistachios, knife, fork and plates with a welcome letter


Door holding mini-bar






Look honey, I can see America from here. Do you get the joke here?


Ok, so we all collapsed for the afternoon

Went to dinner at Rick’s Cafe at 6:30 when they opened. He asked do we have reservations, I said no. The hotel didn’t say I needed reservations since it was Sunday night. He said they were full. I said really? As I looked, the entire restaurant was totally empty. He said we are full. But you can sit at the bar. I said ok. We ate and left at 7:30 and the restaurant was still empty. 



Look closely and you will see the center one is autographed


Crispy chicken 



Lamb



Far left: small potatoes with some sort of cole slaw, amazing. Next one is celery cooked with beets. Then white basmati rice. Then lentils like I have never had. Then a small mixed vegetables.


Zoom in on the lentils and you can see them glistening

Upstairs 





The taxi trip from Rick’s Cafe back to the hotel
This is where negotiation skills are essential 
I held up a 50 DH note. That is what the hotel said I should pay. That is what I paid to get to the restaurant. 
I told the driver the hotel name and held up the note. He said no no no. 100 DH. I said no no no
He takes his finger and points to the sky and says
this is Casablanca and it is dark and the price is 100 DH. 
As if to say the sky is falling. 
As if to say the gods are angry. 
As if to say it is totally out of his control. 
As if to say oh my goodness, the price is 100 because oh my gosh anything could happen at night in Casablanca. 

I could barely hold back my laughter
My incredulous look on my face 
Wow, this was very talented of him to come up with this exotic scenario

I said 50. He said 100

I said 50 then he said 80

I said 50 then he said 70

You should have heard him shrieking in Arabic and in French

Walking back and forth
Glaring at me

I said 50

He stopped pacing and took his hand and swooped down and snatched the 50 from my hand

Snatched I say, snatched.  Not took. Not grabbed. Snatched. 

I tried to open the back door but it was locked

I walked the left side and tried to open the back door and it was locked

He walked to the driver door

Was he going to leave without me and take my 50 ?

He got in and unlocked the right back door. Not the left back door where I was standing. Then he got out of his seat and walked 10 feet then came back. He opened the left rear door

We got in

He got out and walked back to the other taxi driver group and talked to them. We sat in the car wondering. 

Is this dangerous?  I pulled out my GPS to map where I am and where hotel is and the roads leading to the hotel. 

He got back in. Never said a word. He turned the radio up with lots of Arabic talk radio. Lots of swerving and weaving in and out of traffic. 

Drove for a bit and hit traffic and made a right and started taking side streets. I still knew where I was. Was starting to wonder if I should worry. I watched the GPS.  Heading in right direction. I had a sense of the main road and we were heading in the right direction. 

Finally swerved back on to the main road and I saw my hotel in the distance. Close. He swooped in at the last minute all the way from the left lane and did not enter the hotel driveway. Instead just stopped on the street. We opened the door and got out and he sped away.

Not a word was spoken. 

If I had sensed real danger, I would not have gotten in. I just kept verifying as we went along. You just have to do this gut check in these situations. He was just angry I got the better of him. 50 for a short 2 mile ride was the correct fare. And he knew that. It is not like the correct fare was 200 and I got away with only paying 50. 


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Sunday, November 19, 2017

2017-11-19 DFW-LAX-DFW-HKG-DFW-LAX-DFW

2017-11-19 DFW-LAX-DFW-HKG-DFW-LAX-DFW

Nov 18
DFW-LAX
A321 first class window seat.  Pre-ordered seafood meal, they did not have it.  In fact, my name was not even on the PIL, the sheet that has everyone's name on it.  So they thought who are you and why are you sitting in first class?  I said I paid a lot of money for this seat.  They looked it up on their handheld and there I was.  They said I should complain to AA that the gate agent printed the PIL prior to all passengers being confirmed.  But I checked in online the day before and did everything the way I always do it


4 hour layover in LAX.  Ran into Elma.  She suggested going into the "canteen" and getting free drinks, sandwiches, desserts, whatever I wanted.  Then take tunnel over to T5 and sit in Admiral's Club.  That is what I did.

737 back to DFW.  Landed at 11:11pm, drove home, slept at 2am.


Nov 19
Wife’s birthday.  6am, kissed her happy birthday, kissed sleeping kids, called uber, 7am arrived DFW.
FlagShip Dining does not open until 8:30am.  So I took a shower but the shower was broken.  Had to shower with a hose.  Water all over the place.
Ate breakfast, it was nice. 

10:00am boarded AA125 DFW-HKG

Nov 20
5pm landed HKG


Nov 21
Woke st 6

Sunday, July 9, 2017

2017-07-06 DFW-SKB Saint Kitts and Nevis

2017-07-06 DFW-SKB Saint Kitts and Nevis

We flew from DFW to MIA to SKB.
First stop was Admiral's Club in Terminal A in DFW to get breakfast

The flight DFW-TPA is about 3 hours

TPA-MIA is about one hour


Second stop was Admiral's Club in Terminal D gate 15 at MIA.  This was just remodeled and looks good.  Gate 30 is under construction but will have a FlagShip Lounge and FlagShip Dining when it opens in 2018.


The flight MIA to SKB was scheduled to leave at 5:30PM but was delayed and then gate changed from D1 to D19 and we were told there would be an aircraft swap and it would be brought from the hanger and so it would leave on time.  Wrong.  They can't seem to get their story right.  A flight came in from Bermuda at D19 at 6PM and that is what they had to clean and then we could get on it.  Had to wait for catering to do the front cabin as there was equipment blocking the area.


The flight MIA- SKB is a little over 3 hours, 737-800 at 370 (means 37,000 feet altitude) and 442 (means 442 knots speed).  Went straight over the Bahamas and many other islands.  It was a night flight and very pretty to look down and see all the white lights


We landed and there are no jetways to deplane.  You have to walk down steps.  It was not raining so we were lucky.  The rain had stopped about half hour before we landed.

Fill out your form on the airplane.  Make sure the bottom part and the backside are also filled out.

Then the customs person will quiz you, why are you here, where are you staying, how long are you staying, what are you bringing with you, how many times have you come here, where are you coming from (I said Miami), where are you originally coming from (I said Dallas) and so on.

We had a taxi driver pre-arranged who was waiting outside with a sign.  He drove us to the Marriott just 10 minutes away.  It was, I thought, XCD $20 which is 2.7:1 or USD $7.20.  I give him XCD $20 + 5 tip but he said it was USD $20.  I even clarified and confirmed it on email two times that this was XCD not USD.  So be careful.



There are zero traffic lights.  There are a few roundabouts.

Peak season is December to early April when hotel rates tend to skyrocket.

The best time to visit St. Kitts and Nevis is in May and June, when hotels lower their rates to lure in travelers and the winter crowds thin out. Really good deals.  For example, get 7 nights, only pay for 4, get 3 free.

Summer months when the islands experience the Atlantic hurricane season. And keep in mind St. Kitts and Nevis' average highs hover around 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round and the humidity in July is 80 to 90 to 100%.




Day 1
Spent by the beach and pool and hung out.  Burger at the pool bar is USD $17.  Smoothie USD $10.  Everything is USD $.  A 1.5 litre water bottle is USD $7.

Took taxi to Marshalls's for dinner.  Got there at 6 PM.  Apparently people eat around 7, so the place was empty and we had it to ourselves.  The sun was setting, what a pretty view from our table

Looking west


Looking south


Lots of mosquitoes.  Bring bug spray or spray before you go.

Took taxi back to hotel.



Day 2 Sunday
Woke early, had breakfast.  Taxi arrived at 9:00 AM and we started a three hour tour around the island.


First stop was up the hill and look back at the Marriott (middle right in picture where the crescent shaped beach comes to a point).  All that brown stuff floating on the water is seaweed.  Tons of it floating in covering the beaches.

This is the view looking south.  On the other side is the island of Nevis.  The body of water that separates Saint Kitts and Nevis is about two miles.


We went through the capital city BasseeTerre, stopped to get a haircut at a local barber shop.  It was $25 XCD (about USD $10).


Three hospitals on the island.  Three universities, one of which is a vet school.

We went to see Wingfield Estate that is supposedly Thomas Jefferson's great-great-great-grandfather's place but there is no evidence to that effect.  Established in 1625.  Declaration signed in 1776.  So do the calculation how could this have happened

http://www.caribellebatikstkitts.com/wingfield.asp


http://www.thedailybeast.com/uncovering-the-secrets-of-st-kitts








Flambouyant Tree... the national tree of Saint Kitts



We went to the north of the island and the view looking east.  See where the waves are breaking (way out there)?  That is the Atlantic ocean meeting the Caribbean Sea.  Look all the way to the left?  See that tall volcano?  That is another country.

Did not stay long.  Lots of little large ants that bit us on the ankles that left big scars.




I took the picture from the red dot on the far right and the dots show the view looking at the other country




Here is an Anglican church by the sea


The volcano on the island erupted in the year 1,000 and it flowed down to the ocean, they call this area Black Rocks





Monday
The beach at the hotel was deserted.  No one was there.


Took taxi to different beach
Went to Cockleshell Beach http://www.stkittstourism.kn/explore-st-kitts-activities-beaches-display.php?business=68 and it was deserted with lots of seaweed.  That big mountain way in the background (faded) is the island of Nevis




But a few feet away was Reggae Beach and there were a few people.  Lunch was USD $100.  Taxi was USD $24 to get there and USD $24 to get back.

And a mountain goat (that white spot)


That is two brave folks from our family doing paddle boarding

Look closely at the boat, it is named Rush Slowly.



Dinner at Rock Lobster
http://rocklobsterstkitts.com

It was too buttery


Shrimp and pasta


Shrimp


Fish

Dessert



Walked back to hotel.  It was dark but safe.  Only one guy trying to harass everyone, trying to offer shoe shine.  As people ignored him, he would walk besides you and touch your arm and tug at your shirt sleeve and ask for money.  Other than that:
No beggars
No t-shirt shops selling junk
No loud scooters or mopeds or motorcycles
No little shops along the road trying to sell you junk
Very little litter along the road

There are
a lot of junk cars sitting around
a lot of old buildings and shacks everywhere
a lot of unemployment is visible


The taxi's all have names painted on the front
The taxi fares are set prices.  Everyone takes US Dollars
http://www.discover-stkitts-nevis-beaches.com/st-kitts-nevis-taxi.html


Everyone has a nick name.  Their name might be Robert, but their nick name is Blues

I invented a new nickname for myself: Don't Ask




Our dog ButterScotch (a cavapoo) misses us.  He stayed home.




Tuesday
Woke early.  Ate quick breakfast.  8:15 AM gathered in lobby, total of 12 people piled into a taxi at 8:30 AM and headed out to zip line tour.
http://www.skysafaristkitts.com

This was a lot of fun.  Best part of the trip.  Watch video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elSr8C3zTuQ


Relaxed by the pool in the afternoon

6:00 PM s'mores by the pool.  Dinner at



Wednesday
Woke early, taxi arrived at 9:00 AM, drove to ferry station.  9:30 AM ferry (USD $10 per person one-way) to Nevis, a 50 minute trip.  Alternative is to take a taxi to Reggae Beach USD $24 one-way, then a water-taxi $? for a 10 minute ride to Nevis, then a taxi to destination on Nevis.  We are in no hurry and wanted the scenic route.

Ferry schedule
http://www.sknvibes.com/travel/ferry.cfm