A Travellerspoint blog

Arrive home

The American Airlines flight to Auckland [Auckland-travel-guide-1139106] turned me around in terms of my perception of the airline. The ground staff and crew were pleasant (rather than nasty as seen on previous flights).

They served a generous meal about 30 minutes after take off; it was what I call a Qantas-style meal with a bit hot portion and forgoing the salad/appetiser. The dessert was a branded Lily O’Brien chocolate mousse which was heavenly.

There was a wide selection of soft drinks, red/white wind and spirits (including Bailey’s for after).
As I settled in for my rest, I realised the recline was very generous for cattle class. Pity the seat width was typical narrow Dreamliner spec.

About 7-8h into the flight they served a hot ratatouille pirozhki (they didn’t call it that) followed by ice cream. This was shown on the menu but I missed it. I did pick one pirozhki from the galley and even in a barely warm state, it was delicious.

I managed to get two lots of 3h dozing before the crew served a generous breakfast 1h15 prior to landing. They efficiently completed the service and then finished collecting-in 35 minutes prior to landing. Impressive! I always thought most airlines do the second meal too early and that eats into good sleeping time.

We landed in Auckland at 0630, about 50 minutes early. We had to be parked remotely and waited on board for landing cards to be distributed (they were not loaded in LA). Then with a medical incident, we had to wait a little longer before we were bussed to the terminal.

Miserly Auckland International Airport Limited has upgraded their buses. They are now second hand local street buses rather than used Japanese street buses complete with signage in Japanese! CIQ was quick today and we were out in the fairly nice spring morning waiting for our ride from Kim’s friend Rodger.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Flying home


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We had a day to kill before our flight to Auckland at 2310 tonight. We checked out at 1030 and had plenty of time till our appointment with my old school friends Joanne and Jeff at a Korean restaurant in Torrance [Torrance-travel-guide-14928].

So we stopped by a Walmart along the way. Just as well we bought a big bag yesterday as there weren’t any cheap refugee/homeless bags available here for us to take our shopping back to New Zealand. Kim bought some car polish and I found some cheap Avia running shoes.

The Korean lunch (with friends) was as good as what I’m used to in Auckland. Usually my first night home is Kimchi stew (if winter), but it won’t be necessary any more. It was nice to see my old friends again.
We made our way to a nearby Ikea to look for some bathroom accessories for our upcoming bathroom renovation but that proved rather fruitless.

We thought we’d make our way back to the airport area for our last stop so we wouldn’t run into last minute traffic hassles. In that neighbourhood, we recharged ourselves at Starbucks before some last minute shopping at nearby Ross and TJ Maxx. Still more discounted goodies to be snapped up.

At around 1730 we had dinner at In-N-Out Burgers at the end of the airport runway. What an awesome spot; it was even better than the Super 8 for seeing planes overhead at nearly an arm’s reach. The burgers were good too.

We dropped Dai at the airport around 1800 for his 2130 flight. It was time to change into warmer clothes for the evening and for the flight, so we parked at our old motel to do that and also pack away our last minute purchases. Budget car rentals was handily across the road for our car return.

We shuttled to the airport getting to check-in about 4h prior to the flight. I ran into some problems checking-in at the kiosk, then at the helpdesk too. Whenever they scanned my passport, it said “Visa Required”. It appears that their staff have a dumbed-down interface on their computer and they didn’t know what the problem was.

I had to queue at another desk (more like a ticketing rather than check-in desk) and they were pretty clueless. They tried calling the NZ Immigration Helpdesk but while the call was in progress, an Asian staff member took over. All she did was corrected the order of my name and a boarding pass spat out immediately. Malaysian passports don’t split the name and surname and it is a problem for some airline systems. As American Airlines staff largely deal with domestic passengers, they didn’t have much knowledge and experience; I was lucky enough to have one person who knew what she was doing.

Once airside, we walked over to Tom Bradley international terminal and attempted to use the Korean Air lounge. While we were eligible, it was a little full and we couldn’t be admitted until nearly our flight time.

We returned to our adjacent terminal and waited till boarding time.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Exploration & shopping


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large_5550_14744242675167.jpgVenice Beach.
Today, Kim took us to Venice Beach. It was new for Dai but not for me. We were very lucky with parking near the Venice Canals which was close enough to the beach. We had a nice walk in the perfect sunshine and stopped for coffee as well.

From there, we drove northwards passing various beaches along the way until Santa Monica. We didn’t stop as the crowds, traffic and parking was a bit crazy.

Daisuke wanted to do some shopping at Citadel Outlet Centre. We had set aside today for that. It turned out to be further than we thought, taking about 50 minutes. It was a very fruitful expedition for him. Kim bought a few items too but it wasn’t my kind of shopping.

We made the drive through traffic to Costco in Culver City. As we had allowed a bit of time, we got there an hour before my nephew Julian. So, we did all our picking and choosing beforehand. By the time Julian arrived, we were ready to pay and go.

Julian’s dinner idea was a hole-in-the wall Mexican place called Cinco de Mayo. It was cheap and good. I wish we had had more time to try more things on the extensive menu.

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Exploring LA


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large_5550_14744240675169.jpgAt the Mission at San Juan Capistrano.
Today was our first of our three driving days in this sprawling city. Kim decided to take me and Daisuke somewhere we both hadn’t been to. And that would be the mission at San Juan Capistrano [San-Juan-Capistrano-travel-guide-14256] about an hour away.

Dai and I went around the two main courtyards of the mission and several rooms in the buildings. We wandered around the older parts of town near the railway tracks. I expected old ornate Spanish buildings but they were largely simple wooden cottages.

Then we found Ross Dress for Less where I bought a nice pair of Skechers shoes for USD30 (similar ones were selling for double that at the outlets next day).

We found a nice cafe near Newport Beach for lunch. It made quite a nice change from franchised fast food in the USA. Next stop was a walk on Hermosa Pier.

We drove by Manhattan Beach [Manhattan-Beach-travel-guide-12878] before settling for dinner at Chipotle. It’s good that we love Mexican food because it is often the best choice.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Bullshit on my flight


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Flying from Quebec City to Los Angeles

Despite half a tablet, I only dozed for about 5h. I didn’t feel too bad when the alarm sounded at 0300. We were out pretty swiftly and headed to Quebec City’s airport nearby where we returned the car.

With 2h before departure, the check-in queue was relatively long, considering it was only a small plane. It moved slowly (as did the security queue) but we still had time for about 30 minutes in the lounge.

Our flight on the Canadian CR900 aircraft was again noisy about two-thirds down the plane, despite the rear-mounted engines. We arrived into JFK about 15 mins early and walked an awfully long way from one of the furthest gates to immigration.

Immigration was swift with plenty of self-service terminals which generated a ticket which one would then present to an officer for some quick questions and stamping. We dropped our bags and went through security and the lounge again before boarding a completely full B757 for Los Angeles.

Airlines staff hadn’t been strict enough with carry-ons and there were plenty of people with a wheelie and a backpack (rather than a small personal item). We managed to stow our stuff. The flight was pleasant and quiet enough on the nicely refurbished aircraft with PTV and blue mood lighting. The Delta crew seemed more hospitable than I had encountered on other US-based airlines.

Time went quickly reading over the shoulder of the woman diagonally in front of me (read more under separate header below), doing some bills/admin and watching a few episodes of the Simpsons.

We arrived into LAX to find that the Super 8 no longer provided a complimentary shuttle. Fortunately we remembered that they're next to Avis and Hertz, so we hopped into the first of the rental car shuttles that came around. Jaywalking across the road with luggage in tow, an Emirates A380 flew right over the hotel.

We tried getting some sleep but it didn't work. Our friend Daisuke came in front Frankfurt about the same time and got to the hotel later (due to having to clear CIQ). We caught up and had dinner at Rubio's after collecting our car at Rubio's.

Reading some serious bullshit on my flight

On the flight from New York to Los Angeles I sat behind a woman who busily worked away on presentation slides with plenty of inspirational lines. But wait, it leads to some serious bull-shit:

1. America, the land of opportunity.
2. A rallying cry to bring the nation together, and to embrace diversity.
3. Embracing diversity is key to progress as a nation.
4. As White Americans give up on the American Dream, Blacks and Hispanics embrace it.
5. Brand vision of building a cultural icon of personal progress in America.
6. Hispanics; “They were part of our history and they are key to our future”.

There were also plenty of demographic charts; Hispanics and women are under-represented.
It turns out she is writing marketing strategy for a very famous Scotch whisky company (yep, not beer or wine but spirits - hard liquor).

My thoughts:

1. Even though I drink a little and don’t have an issue with social drinking, I feel quite uncomfortable (slightly sickened) with her work. It takes me back to the days when cigarettes were grossly and glossily marketed.

2. I can understand wine/beer being cultural icons of France/Germany. But for anyone to say hard liquor (especially a foreign Whisky) is a “cultural icon of personal progress in America”, there’s something seriously screwed up.

3. I don’t know how Hispanics are part of the history of a Scotch whisky company.

4. It surprised me greatly that they aren’t trying to market more strongly to women. Surely they are a larger untapped market than Hispanics.

What do you think? Any marketing specialists out there?

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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