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In the Air #2

London-Chicago

84 °F
View USA 2009 on Johnash's travel map.

Seat 10E, Denmark Strait, 36000ft, 5hrs 23mins to Chicago

Now, this is the way to travel. We are sitting in our own little cabin, almost, with all the legroom you could wish for and a flat bed available at the touch of the button marked _._ on the complicated control panel you need a course on before flying like this.

IMG_3927_800x600.jpgTHE best seats for two travelling together

Heathrow was almost, but not quite, a nightmare with thousands of parents and their "little treasures" packing the place to its lofty roof tops. Check-in had been a doddle but the "fast" security line available to so-called elite´travellers' was so slow they were moving people to the other lines. In the confusion, John walked forward to make room for others and some bossy woman clutching a First Class boarding card told him "there' s queue here you know". "I am fully aware of that madam but I can't stand looking at your fat a**se any longer" John replied (not.... if only).

IMG_3892_800x600.jpgT5 "Fast" Bag Drop. No comment.

John was gleeful when she had to suffer the indignity of a body search after setting off the security beeper, given by a lady somewhat butcher than Nancy Spain (now who remembers Nancy Spain?).

John's glee was shortlived when he too set of the beeper and had to suffer the indignity of a full body search.... er, actually, it was a rather pleasurable, even sensual, body search by a cute young man from Wembley. He knew how to feel everywhere for explosives! So security lines do have their compensations after all.

The first BA Galleries Lounge (as they're called), the North one, looked packed with many kids jumping up and down on the furniture. The "lounge dragon" who was actually extremely pleasant, suggested we try the lounge at the South end of the terminal. We did and it was much better. Plenty of room, and the few kids there were pretty well behaved.

IMG_3894_800x600.jpgQuick Shot of the Haven called Galleries Lounge

Never, ever travel on a Saturday at the start of half-term and a bank holiday weekend. What were we thinking?

The night before all this adventure, the meal at the Pheasant was very pleasant (there's a joke there somewhere), good value and it was difficult to believe we were only about 800 metres from a main runway at Heathrow. It's looks a country pub with new restaurant attached, bizarrely set in this rather rural 30s council estate. I expect there will be a new runway through it by the next time we get here.

Breakfast at the hotel, included in our room rate, was one of the best we've had recently. Excellent, friendly staff (this Marriott almost entirely staffed by Asians) and very good food.

Back here in Seat 10E, we are having a ball. Arthur has approved of the food even though it's a bit high falutin', Bob's kosher meal was the star and John will definitely order Kosher for the return journey. He had a fabulous smoked salmon starter, salad, a main course of roast, stuffed lamb, thickly sliced and served with roasted veggies and a pud consisting of a sort of chocolate and cream bomb, while John chose from the standard Club World menu, quote "Seared scallops with fennel and pesto" ("muck": Arthur), which were delicious, Arthur, then "Roast fillet of Salmon with dugléré sauce". Which was fine, then dessert of "Passion fruit and coconut soufflé tart". Must look up dugléré.

IMG_3909_800x600.jpgSeared Scallops

IMG_3880_640x480.jpgKosher Main course (this pic has flipped horizontally for some reason, but you get the idea)

Great crew with an average age in the high 40s, we'd say. A nice couple of ladies and some trolley guys too old now to be called dollies! John's is from Aberdeen and Bob's from Bremen(?). Well, he sounds German.

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When you're flying like this, you don't want it to end too soon. What a way to start a holiday!

I'm going to lower my bed, now and join Bob in the land of nod and snores.
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A great, great flight. We did not want it to end. The only downside about those seats is there is no view and landing backwards without knowing how far above the ground we were (BANG, we must be down) was somewhat spooky.

  • **********************************************************************

Fast forward to Palmer House Hilton:-

IMG_3928_800x600.jpgThis is ridiculous. We got an upgrade to a "room" on the Executive floor: two bathrooms, two closets, sitting area. More soon.

Night night

PS Dinner tonight at the historic Berghoff Restaurant.

Posted by Johnash 17:49 Archived in USA Tagged air_travel Comments (2)

Holiday Sunday in Chicago

Lots of American Tourists

70 °F
View USA 2009 on Johnash's travel map.

Well, as it's Memorial Day tomorrow, Monday, Chicago is full of people visiting the city for this holiday weekend. Mainly mid-Westerners we'd say.

From the airport yesterday we'd planned to take the subway (Blue Line) to the station nearest to our hotel with an elevator.

We'd got off the plane and through Immigration in no time, our bags were 3rd or 4th onto the belt and we were out into the main terminal in about 25 minutes. However, it was hot and we did not fancy the drag with bags round from the station at the other end so decided a taxi ride would be best. Outside we were hijacked by a limo driver (we should know better having been here before!). As it turned out, it was not a bad option. Traffic on the freeway into Downtown was as bad as ever but our young Turkish driver knew all the tricks to hasten the journey (driving up the shoulder, off at junctions and on again, weaving between lanes) all done whilst turning round to talk to us! A fair fare was charged and we were dropped off right at the hotel lobby.

Check-in was very busy but there was no wait at the "Hilton Honors" line (never understand why most people don't join each hotel chains'/airlines' rewards programmes, it costs nothing and there is usually some benefit to be had). This saved us probably nearly an hour this time plus it probably got our room upgrade.

As the room was on one of the "Executive" floors we could take the "Executive" lift up to the 23rd floor (by inserting our "Executive" keycard by the lift button). The other benefit is free breakfast and drinks and snacks during the day in the "Executive" lounge. However, this "Executive" floor is full this holiday weekend of a load of people one could not really describe as being "Executive". Including us!

It's now late and time for bed, so will catch up on this in the morning.

Meanwhile, couple of pictures from our day:
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Posted by Johnash 22:14 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Holiday Sunday in Chicago#2

A Busy Day

sunny 70 °F
View USA 2009 on Johnash's travel map.

Actually, if it was full of Brits, we'd certainly hate it. As it is, the place is full of families (well behaved), groups of young people, and, as it gradually dwelled on us, a lot of males wearing leather (watch this space!) all having fun in a sort-of jolly holiday atmosphere.

CATERING:
Arthur has not been entirely happy, correction, not at all happy with the breakfast arrangements. Plates of cereal, sticky croissants and bagels with strawberry-flavoured cream cheese eaten in the room is not compensation enough for the "lumberjack slam" type of giant breakfast he had been expecting. So thumbs-down for that. Lunch of sandwiches bought in Walgreens (a chain giant of drugstores) were not that great. We have noticed how pre-made sandwiches here have deteriorated in quality, most relying on tasteless turkey slices.

Dinner in a good old fashioned diner (The Beef 'n Brandy round the corner) met with more approval. Mexican Wraps for Bob, Veal Cutler (as the waiter insisted on calling it) with home made mashed potatoes for John. Very good and John's was a manageable portion for a change. Bizarrely, when we went to pay, we were invited to a "private party" for regular customers (on our first visit!) in their basement. More on that mystery later.

Yesterday we enjoyed a wonderfully sunny day but with a pretty cold breeze off Lake Michigan.

This enhanced all of our "activities" including watching the bike ride along the specially-closed Lake Shore Drive (this had started at 6am).
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Then on the El to the North End of "The Loop" to catch an architectural boat trip on the Chicago River.
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This trip was well worth the $22 each. A great insight into the incredibly diverse city with some very stunning buildings from the beginning of the last century right up to today with the gross, as ever, Trump Tower.

Then up Miracle Mile with its fabulous shops, (enough to keep the Fuente Meca ladies happy for years), and policed by these guys.IMG_4015_800x600.jpg

On and up to the top of the Hancock Tower
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and back to the hotel for a little rest via Macy's to find some camp chandeliers for Paul & Ralph!
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Later we explored the new heart of the City, Millennium Park. Much like the Dome, this was over budget, late and unpopular. Now it is hugely popular and the new heart of an extremely successful city in the centre of which everyone wants to live (with $1.4m plus to spare which is the going rate for units in new blocks being built).
IMG_4028_800x600.jpgIMG_4033_800x600.jpgIMG_4038_800x600.jpg

It also has an innovative concert area with conventional seating as well as grass for picnics IMG_4041_800x600.jpg
Last night saw the first night of the Summer season, though it felt far from summery IMG_4043_800x600.jpg

Today it has been raining a bit and Bob has lost his new glasses, either in the room (and it does not look as if they are going to turn up in here) or on the way back from Marshall Fields dept store, when he must have dropped them. We've been back there, to no avail. So we have now fitted him up with a smart new pair of reading glasses from the local drugstore.

Tomorrow our flight is not until 11.40 so we can have a leisurely potter to the airport. We have a flight to Dallas Fort Worth where we connect to a local flight to Amarillo. We will have plenty of time to catch up on today's events then.

Only to say about yesterday's mystery when we were invited to a "private party" after our meal at the Beef 'n Brandy, a very ordinary but pleasant enough diner. We did not take up the offer as we took a ride out on the "El" to our old stomping ground at Lincoln Park
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We later looked at the invite and were mystified to find that members of IMRL were especially welcome. Well, we looked up IMRL and this is what we found
**WARNING WARNING** Not for the faint hearted. Those of a nervous disposition, who take Horlicks or are easily offended should read NO further
This is what we found
www.imrl.com/visitorguide/index.php
Second warning, go no further..
And here was the winner

Now we know what all those leathery men were doing mincing around here!

Posted by Johnash 19:33 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Amarillo Texas

Behind the storms

sunny 76 °F
View USA 2009 on Johnash's travel map.

A quick note to say arrived safely in Amarillo after full but good flights avoiding giant storms around here (now moved on, thankfully).

Time we'd eaten it was time for bed. Bob is catching up on the laundry and I will catch up on the Blog tonight, unless we find a bar full of cowboys. Ahem....

Lots to tell.

Love from Room 312, Holiday Inn Express, Wolfin Road, Texas

PS To keep up with our itinerary, you can look here which we will update as we go.

Posted by Johnash 08:25 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Chicago and On

Soggy.

overcast 69 °F
View USA 2009 on Johnash's travel map.

Room 312, Holiday Inn Express, Amarillo, TX

(By the way, it is possible to leave comments below. Feedback would be most welcome as I am not sure if this is falling on deaf ears - eyes? Thanks.)

Segways.jpg
These are called "Segways", Paul and a guy called Steve does lessons on them followed by a ride round the park.

Highlights of our 2nd free day in Chicago (which turned out to be cloudy with the odd shower) were:

1. The Chicago Institute of Art (again, one block away from our hotel, as were most things of interest), right on the edge of Millennium Park. It was fabulous. We'd queued to get in for 15 minutes, waiting for them to open, and were entertained by a black guy trying to sell the US equivalent of Big Issue, "Street Wise" with terrible jokes. But also, across the street, he pointed out something we'd missed. A plaque marking the very start of Route 66 on its long journey to Los Angeles, via Amarillo, incidentally!

We rushed to the back of the museum to get to the modern American Art assuming that's where most other people would be headed but, no, for quite a while we had this section to ourselves, the star of the show there being Nighthawks by Edward Hopper which we'd happened to see in New York on our last visit where it had been on loan.

AmericanArt__2_.jpg

By the time we emerged into the street blinking, we'd been overwhelmed by wall-fulls of paintings by O'Keefe, Velazquez, Caravaggio, El Greco, Titian, Renoir, Matisse, Constable, Turner, Monet, Manet, Rembrandt, Goya... stunning...... It was interesting that the crowds were buzzing round the Impressionists.

Arts.jpg

Off to find what used to be Chicago's top store, Marshall Fields now, sadly, a Macys. However, the very posh-looking restaurant must have been preserved from the earlier days.

We were served by a camply fragile and aged waiter with a pony tail who was totally barmy and managed to pour a full glass of iced water over a large lady sitting next to us. He was not in the slightest bit concerned. Someone then set off an alarm and another couple next to us stormed out because none of their choices from the menu were available.

We enjoyed our light lunch.

MarshallFields.jpg
AmericanArt.jpg
Bob leaves wearing glasses

Then back to the hotel for a rest, I thought. I was busy printing out our boarding cards for next day's flights when Bob appeared distressed. His brand new, "designer" glasses were nowhere to be found. The mystery remains. We cannot puzzle out what happened to them as there is photographic evidence of him leaving the restaurant with them on yet he arrived at the hotel room without them. We shall never know. We are now collecting reading glasses of various strengths as we travel around.

Later we tried out our route back to the airport (as far as a couple of stops). Many of the subways stations on the Blue Line, which goes all the way to O' Hare, have lifts down to the platform. Our nearest one was just a 5-minute luggage-tow away.

TheEl.jpg

Unlike the subway, the lines of the "El" around The Loop are very confusing and getting back, we got rather disorientated. We got back to find the local restaurants closed early due to the holiday so we ended up eating "pulled pork" (they do do the most unlikely things with their meat) sandwiches in the hotel lobby. Actually it was not bad value.

And so to bed. Another excellent day in this most excellent of cities.

Our journey to Amarillo will be Blogged shortly.

Posted by Johnash 19:53 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (4)

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