A Travellerspoint blog

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Countdown: 11 weeks to go

Half the fun is in the planning and anticipation

Another visit to the USA, our tenth. This one is to celebrate Bob's 60th birthday. Our last US trip, in September 2007, was to celebrate John's. Once we get there, our small bear, Arthur, who always travels with us, will be writing this Blog which is our first.

On our last trip, we used American Airlines trans-Atlantic and upgraded to Business Class using AA miles and $$$s. This has spoiled us for ever so this trip we are paying for British Airways flights, Club Class, as a special treat. Starting from Alicante, one of our local airports.

The planning started way back but began coming to fruition in July 2008 when we booked our flights and when there were still around $2 to the pound.

John felt scared the exchange rate was not going to stay at that level. It went down a bit, then up to over $2 to the pound again in July. So we booked and paid for our internal US flights, our car hire and as much accommodation as we could. Then sat back and watched the pound plummet. We were not smug, though as we have still much to pay for with a much weaker pound. We are resident in Spain but our funds are in pounds.

Eleven weeks to go and still much planning to do. And we want to book things like an Alcatraz tour in San Francisco. We have already bought and had mailed to us (for free) a 3-day transit pass for Chicago.

Thinks: "maybe I can get one for San Francisco. I'll go and have a look". (How did we manage plan these trips ante-Internet?)

Posted by Johnash 11:08 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Conspiring against us?

Swine flu and all that

With only just over two weeks to go (when I started this entry), the usual pre-holiday disasters which seem to be inevitable, have been creeping up. From Bob losing his wallet (with driving license, debit and credit cards, residencia card, you name it....), John developing a gammy foot, a garden fork going through the water main, Bob's shower going cold, the septic tank overflowing, Swine Flu.... every day a new problem).

But we refuse to panic and all of the above, with the possible exception of swine flu, have been successfully dealt with, starting with Bob's wallet being handed in intact to a "Tabac" in Cartagena. No one left a name, so we have been unable to thank the honest person who handed it in. Thank you, thank you!

A long list of "things to do before we go" remain virtually untouched but we will get there in the end.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have booked a night tour of Alcatraz during our stop in San Francisco at the end of our 4-week trip.

One of the biggest annoyances booking with BA was the fact that, as mere casual travellers with no "status", we have been unable to chose our seats despite paying a small fortune for the flights. Somehow we have managed to coincide our departure with Spring Bank Holiday in UK. It is a mystery how this happened as John is always careful to take account of holidays when planning the itinerary. This has meant that the outward flight to Chicago has getting booked up and there was a chance we may not even get seats together!

However, a friend has contacts at BA. Shhhh! Don't tell anyone but we now have our seats allocated, including two together on the Upper Deck of the 747 on the way back from San Francisco. Apparently these seats are like gold dust as they are much sought after by regular travellers and, as they tend to be solo travellers, single seats get booked up and two together are rare.

I have found a great site for drawing up our itinerary and I'll put details of this here in the next day or so.

Meanwhile, back to the packing.

Posted by Johnash 12:06 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)


A Dedication

Last week we lost our good friend, Harvey. Originally she and her friend Ann were going to meet up with us in Las Vegas.

Harvey spent a good deal of her working life in the USA and loved it, in particular Vegas. It's a great shame that she and Ann never made it, but it was not to be.

Ann, I'm sure, will get there one day and perhaps, like we intend to, will place a bet for Harvey on the roulette tables. I am absolutely certain these bets will win as she never seemed to lose in the casinos. Uncanny.

John had the idea of this Blog when we realised Harvey would not be able to travel to USA: we wanted to give her a flavour of where we were and what we were doing as we travelled round.

So this Blog is dedicated to Harvey and our wonderful memories of her.

"$10 on Red!"

Just 4 days to go....

Posted by Johnash 11:19 Comments (0)


On our way

View USA 2009 on Johnash's travel map.

Firstly, we should introduce our travelling companions who will be contributing a great deal to this Blog.

Here are Arthur (Head Food Critic and consumer) and Stanley, Head Worrier, at the keyboard of their very own Blabtop.

In this "VIB" lounge (Very Important Bear) we are the sole occupiers (apart from rather a large number of staff who keep coming and going) of this rather elegant airport lounge.


Except for a wide bar selection, the only refreshments on offer are pastries and coffee plus soft drinks. The coffee is good and a sticky pastry has filled a hole. Just what we needed.


But, Arthur, our travelling food critic and your catering correspondent for this trip is shouting "rubbish". "Where is the Bacon y Huevos!"?

Check-in was a bit annoying. There is a clearly labelled "Club Europe" desk with several non-club (we guessed) queuing for it. Two lasses from Liverpool told us that "at this airport" there was no separate check-in for Club. They were clearly well travelled (if only to and from the pub) so we deferred to their better knowledge.

We held our tongues and waited (fairly patiently) for the other 3 to check-in. To be honest, we paid extra for this service so why shouldn't we expect it?

Odd there were long-ish queues at the other 2 BA desks! And they were not labelled Club. Never mind.

There seems to be an exhibition of Picasso paintings in the lounge, and they are for sale. I find this somewhat suspicious. Don't think we'll be buying one.

Joined in lounge by Johnny Czeslaw (who remembers this 60s wrestler?) lookalike who seems to be trying to communicate with someone in Lancashire without the aid of a telephone, simply by shouting as loud as possible.

Conclusion: Comfortable and stylish. Reception staff very pleasant. Internet access is free in the lounge. Just ask for an access key at the desk. Much more pleasant than sitting outside in the general chaos of the airport.

Posted by Johnash 16:05 Archived in Spain Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

In the Air


View USA 2009 on Johnash's travel map.

On Board our flight to Alicante

After our flight was announced in the lounge, walk to the other end of the terminal to find no queue. Walked straight on to the 737. Had to interrupt conversation between cabin crew to show our boarding cards.

Flight looked more than half empty with no other pax in the Club Europe cabin.

Our FA (flight attendant) is a "wish-I-were-younger" TD (trolly dolly) who turned out to be very pleasant.

Soon lost sight of the ground after Alicante due to cloud. Snow capped peaks were spotted as we traversed the Pyrenees. The cloud cleared as we flew over The Gironde, with fine views of the coast down to Montalivet and we could pick out the Bac (ferry) between Royan and Le Verdon which we have used several times on our way to vacations at CHM Montalivet.

Also great views of Swanage, Studland, Portsmouth etc and, before we knew it, straight into Gatwick 10 minutes early.

Before that we were served with champagne (Bob) and orange juice followed by a kosher meal for Bob of warm bread roll, thick slices of chicken with pasta and for John, the standard BA "extended" breakfast of fresh fruit salad and cold meats with cheese and alioli. No complaints whatsoever.

But the specially ordered kosher meal took first prize. It was specially prepared under rabbinical supervision in some grim looking industrial unit in Wembley, according to the little leaflet that came with it. Well, it didn't actually say "prepared in a grim looking.....", but there was a picture of it.

Time now to listen to the first episode of a Paul Temple we have lined up to help while away the time to Chicago.

"I say Paul... do you like my new het?" "Shut up you silly old tart". That doesn't sound quite right. But you get the gist.

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Leap forward to Marriott Heathrow:-
Gatwick seemed deserted. We suppose everyone was travelling the other way. Silly really as the weather is better in UK (poor Maurice). Our car turned out to be a van/minibus, driven by a very pleasant Asian guy. But a very comfortable and easy journey apart from....

The state of traffic on the M257M4 reminded us of one of the reasons we moved to Spain. Could not go back to all those traffic jams. The driver took a shortcut past T5 to the A4 to avoid yet another jam. Clever guy.

After traversing two UK airports today we reflected on why they consist of so many huts and temporary buildings everywhere with no overall plan or scheme. Enclosures of diggers here, piles of stuff there, a clump of portakabins there. What a total mess. It only seems to happen in UK.

We like this hotel but.... John meant to ask at check-in for a room with at least some sort of view, but forgot. So we have no sort of view. None whatsoever. Well, only of someone else's window across the "well" would you call it?

The Marriott: recently refurbished and quite a good deal, to include full breakfast which Arthur will no doubt be reporting on tomorrow from somewhere over the Atlantic.

But before that we have dinner in the remarkable Pheasant public house a 10 minute walk up the road from here. We ate there last time and it was exceedingly good. Arthur is having the steak and chips with a little something after.

Would recommend the Marriott Heathrow if you can get a good rate.

Night night.

Posted by Johnash 08:12 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

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