Aeroflot 101 (JFK-SVO) – Business Class

Aside

I have flown Aeroflot 101 from JFK to Moscow twice, with polar opposite experiences.

The first time was in coach. It was a miserable experience, mostly because my seatmate was very large and took up all of her seat plus half of mine. I was looking at an entire vacant row of seats in front of me, but I could not move to that row because they were “premium” (bulk head) and I had not paid for premium. I would have gladly paid for an upgrade to be able to move, but it was not possible once the plane was boarded. If they’ll take payment onboard for Duty Free shopping, you’d think it would be possible to pay for an upgrade during flight. In any event, it was a VERY long and uncomfortable flight. I learned a good lesson about paying for an upgrade to a bulk head when given the option in the future.

This time, however, I flew in Business Class. This experience was COMPLETELY opposite of my previous jaunt with this airline. In fact, it was the best business class experience I’ve had on any flight, other than my first BC flight (the first time is always the best).

Boeing 777-300ER

Boeing 777-300ER

I boarded the 777-300ER with ease and quickly found my seat, ushered by a gentleman flight attendant, who insisted on lifting my bag into the overhead bin for me. Within just a few minutes I was offered a sparkling welcome coctail (or I could choose juice or water).

There was an amenity kit in the seat with the basic amenities. I forgot to take a photo (sorry!) and I can’t remember exactly what was in the kit, but I believe it was the same basic stuff in most BC amenity kits. I also can’t remember if they offered slippers, but I think they did. I apologize for this missing bit of information… I always enjoy getting a peek at the kits on blogs. ūüôā

Comfortable seat with ample legroom

Comfortable seat with ample legroom

Shortly before takeoff the staff delivered menus to review for dinner choices. I chose the fish option, which wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. The thing that impressed me the most regarding the service on the flight, was that the attendants didn’t wait for everyone to finish something to serve the next course. As soon as I’d finished one course my plate was whisked away and the next course was promptly delivered. This was wonderful because it allowed passengers who eat quickly to move on to the next portion of the flight: sleep!

 

The menu for Business Class SU101

The menu for Business Class SU101

Appetizer: Roast Beef Chateau fresh frisse and arugula lettuce, tomato plum eggplant puree, served with reduction balsamic vinegar

Appetizer: Roast Beef Chateau fresh frisse and arugula lettuce, tomato plum eggplant puree, served with reduction balsamic vinegar

Main course: Grilled Red Snapper with mashed pumpkin and mixed vegetables, served with Cafe de Paris sauce

Main course: Grilled Red Snapper with mashed pumpkin and mixed vegetables, served with Cafe de Paris sauce

Dessert: Chocolate and Hazelnut pudding, served with whipped cream and fresh strawberry

Dessert: Chocolate and Hazelnut pudding, served with whipped cream and fresh strawberry

I am looking forward to my next business class flight on Aeroflot 101 from JFK-SVO. And if, by chance, I can’t score BC and must ride in coach, I will be sure to upgrade to a premium seat so my options to move around to find a more comfortable seat will be much better.

A quick post about my JetBlue experience

I flew JetBlue from Charleston to JFK recently. I was expecting an average or below average product from them because I’ve always thought they were a “budget airline”, but I was pleasantly surprised with my experience. Not only did the seats have way more legroom than any other economy class seat on any airline I’ve flown, they served full sized complimentary snacks! Not the tiny pretzel or peanut packs I’m used to receiving on Delta, but full sized snacks, which you choose from their basket. The snack basket you select from is very similar to the snack baskets on a regional Delta flight in Business Class.

I’m really looking forward to flying with JetBlue again sometime, hopefully in the near future.

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Look at all this legroom (and my groovy pants)!

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In case you need even MORE legroom. But really, unless you’re 7ft tall, I think you’ll be plenty comfortable.

These are the snacks offered in the basket during flight. Yummy!

These are the snacks offered in the basket during flight. Yummy!

A Day In Barcelona

One day is not enough!

It really is not possible to experience Barcelona in just one day, but if you are okay with just getting a little taste of the highlights, you can almost do it.

We recently spent two nights and one day in this bursting city, and it was just enough to leave us wishing for more.

This stop was during a EuroTrip my husband and I took with my son and my mother, so chaos was already the name of the game. Why not throw more insanity in the pot?!?

We started our day with an early walk though Park Guell. This beautiful park is free to enter and, in addition to having beautiful artwork by Gaudi throughout the park, has spectacular views of the city. This is a must-see if you are visiting Barcelona, no matter how short your stay.

One of our favorite sights in Park Guell is the “cat and mouse” game played by the illegal street vendors and the local police. The vendors have blankets with jewelry, hats, sunglasses and other wares laid out on the ground. As soon as an officer gets close they all scoop up their blankets and scatter. We found this dance to be quite amusing.

http://www.parkguell.cat/en/

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

After leaving the park, we stopped to briefly admire the Segrada Familia, and then spent the afternoon wandering around Las Ramblas, the central boulevard in the center of the city. This seems to be the most happening place if you want to do any shopping, bar hopping or tapas tasting. You’ll also find plenty of souvenirs along this area, with artists selling paintings or charicatures, cheap gimicky toys, and all the typical wares you’ll find with the street vendors. Some of the vendors are legal, but many are the typical illegal vendors with goods on a blanket on the ground. These guys seemed to be more clever by holding strings that were tied to all 4 corners of the blankets for a faster getaway.

These guys were ready to run when the police came near

These guys were ready to run when the police approached!

About halfway down the Ramblas, there is an amazing food market, La Boqueria, for a meal or a snack while wandering around. Some of the food is raw meat and fish for cooking, but there are many booths with fruits and vegetables, as well as tons of booths to grab candy by the pound, sandwiches, smoothies, alcoholic beverages or hot meals.

La Boqueria

La Boqueria

La Boqueria

La Boqueria – Check out the size of those prawns!

The Ramblas ends (or begins, depending on how you look at it) at Port Vell, a beautifully redone port with some impressive yachts and a pedestrian bridge (the Rambla de Mar) leading to some tourist attractions. The best tourist attraction is the Barcelona Aquarium, but I only say this from what I’ve read since I didn’t actually go there.

While in Barcelona the food you must have is Paella, and I think you can get this anywhere. I’ve read that you should get this outside of the city center if you want the best bang for your buck, but since we were limited on time we took a chance and enjoyed a nice Spanish meal of Paella and Sangria right in the middle of La Rambla. Even if we paid a little more than it was worth, we were not disappointed. In fact, I think we enjoyed it a little more because of the location, since the “people watching” there really is the best entertainment around. Dinner and a show!

Paella and Sangria, because Barcelona. Ole!

Paella and Sangria, because Barcelona. Ole!

We made the mistake of going to a Flamenco show in Barcelona. Don’t do it. We saw a fantastic Flamenco show when visiting Seville, Spain once and thought this would be fun in Barcelona. It was a much different thing here and definitely not a quality show. It was more of a diner atmosphere with dancers. Trust me, don’t do it. Even the venue smelled like a mix of urine and Pine Sol cleaner. The only other patrons in the place were relatives of the dancers and they didn’t even eat the awful looking food they were served. I should have read reviews before booking this and I would have known that this is not the place for a Flamenco show. Lesson learned!

The Barcelona version of a Flamenco show. No bueno.

The Barcelona version of a Flamenco show. No bueno.

After the show we went to a few different tapas places. We met a couple from Ohio and another couple from Ireland at the first place, then we went with them to a few other places. Such a fun night! My mom still keeps in touch with the couple from Ohio.

Isn’t it fun to make new friends in exotic places?

We may have only been there for about 36 hours, but we proved that a grand time can be had in such a short visit.

One of my favorite parts of this trip was watching my son bargain with the street vendors. Several times he tried to sell them things, like his leftover pizza or the raggedy shoes he was wearing. This kid is a trip!

One of my favorite parts of this trip was watching my son bargain with the street vendors. Several times he tried to sell them things, like his leftover pizza or the raggedy shoes he was wearing. This kid is a trip!

Ending a chapter

John Burroughs said, “Leap, and the net will appear”.

I’m putting my faith in that, as I gave my resignation letter to my employer today. After working for the City of Isle of Palms for 7 1/2 years, my last day of employment will be September 17th.

The Isle of Palms is a small, (mostly) quiet beach town. I love this city and I have loved being a part of the community. I have also loved being a part of the police and fire family, along with the other city offices. My decision to leave was not an easy one, especially since I regard so many of my coworkers with a familial respect and affection, but I feel this is the best decision for my personal growth, both personally and professionally.

My immediate plan is to take some time off and travel with Ben on his business trips. After all, someone needs to spend those miles he earns. I think I’m up to the task!

I don’t know what my next step will be. I’ll figure that out later. Life is for living. I’mma get out there and do that the best I can, while I can!

Amsterdamage

Tagging along on one of my husband’s business trips, my mother, my son and I took full advantage of the¬†super cool¬†city of Amsterdam.

The first thing you absolutely must do when visiting Amsterdam is go on a canal tour. As touristy as it sounds, it is the best way to get a feel for the city, and it is also a relaxing way to enjoy the sights while recovering from a long flight if this is a first stop after crossing the Atlantic.

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Seeing the city from the comfort of a canal tour boat is a relaxing way to get acquainted with the city when you’re jetlagged.

If you enjoy both art and history¬†museums, the Rijksmuseum is a good bet for you. This beautiful museum has tons of pieces of art and history, but the building itself is enough to impress you even if you don’t care for museums.¬†We also visited the Van Gogh museum, but I didn’t care for it as much as the Picasso museum in Barcelona or the Escher museum in the Hague, about a 30 minute train ride from Amsterdam.

There are lots of museums and other tourist attractions that people rave about, but I am more of a fan of experiencing the city than seeing those sights. This is why I most recommend a stop at Caf√© Hoppe for a drink in one of Amsterdam’s oldest bars. Caf√© Hoppe has been on the Spui since 1670 and still seems to be a popular spot with both locals and tourists, alike.

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If there is one museum you visit while in Amsterdam, I recommend the Rijksmuseum.

We are fortunate enough to have a friend who lives in Amsterdam who is always willing to show us around when we are there. This was our 3rd visit to the city, and he once again graciously met us at Café Hoppe and gave a tour of the city. The tour he gave was exciting enough to please my 21yo son, and tame enough for my conservative mother to enjoy.

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We can't go to Amsterdam without visiting Café Hoppe at least once.

We can’t go to Amsterdam without visiting Caf√© Hoppe at least once.

 

I’m a sucker for street markets. Seriously, I seek them out in every town I visit. I love the combination of delicious food stand smells mixed with the excitement of possibly finding a great bargain. If you’re a people watcher you’ll also enjoy street markets. Amsterdam has a great street market called the Albert Cuyp Market. This¬† is the largest street market in the Netherlands, with 260 stalls selling everything from meats¬†and fresh produce to clothes, toiletries, bags, electronics accessories and cheap souvenirs.

My son was on a hunt for a watch. There were several jewelry vendors with lots of beautiful watches to choose from. We found lots of bargains!

My son was on a hunt for a watch. There were several jewelry vendors with lots of beautiful watches to choose from. We found lots of bargains!

Amsterdam is a great place to begin a European vacation. Everyone I’ve encountered there speaks English and the Dutch are all such friendly people. If you’re on the fence about going to Europe because of the “fear of the unknown”, start with a few days in Amsterdam to warm up to it. You’ll be glad you did.

Amsterdam Central Station

Amsterdam Central Station

Flying Business Class on the 747

My husband and I recently took a vacation with my mother and my son. This was a very special trip, so we splurged and practically depleted his frequent flyer miles to get us all on business class on the upper deck of a 747. Let me tell you, it was everything I dreamed it would be. I think I could have slept on this flight if only I hadn’t been so excited!

We wanted to surprise Mom and the kid with the business class part, a secret we successfully kept. Climbing up that staircase to the Business Class section and then seeing our seats was a fun way to begin the trip, and seeing the look on my mother’s face was worth keeping the secret!

The trip included Amsterdam, Barcelona, Cinque Terre, Florence, Rome, Naples & Sorrento. Posts about our adventures in those cities will follow sometime soon.

 

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I’ve never seen my mother more surprised!

 

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You could see the stress of the previous week melt away.

 

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The food in Business Class is so much better than in Coach.

 

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Cheers to making great new memories!

 

Dessert in Business Class: I'll have one of everything, thank you!

Dessert in Business Class: I’ll have one of everything, thank you!

Personal space 

I’ve always been super sensitive to touch. When I was a kid I would shy away from my family when we entered a gathering because I come from a family of huggers, and I’ve never been comfortable hugging. As an adult, I’ve learned to find ways to be comfortable hugging people as long as I’m prepared for it. Strangers touching me is a completely different story.

Recently, I was walking through China Town in Sydney, Australia, when someone was trying to get me to come in to the store for a massage. This lady touched my shoulders to convince me to come inside and I had an instant panic attack. I almost swung around and instinctively punched this complete stranger!

I’ve had similar experiences on trains and in lines in Europe, where personal space is not a thing that is respected or even considered. Nothing has compared to the pure panic I felt when this little Chinese woman touched my shoulders. Why on earth would someone think it is okay to put their hands on a stranger without an invitation?

I’m not sure why I felt the need to write about this little experience, other than I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. So there it is. That is all.

Have a great day!

Turbulence.

Last week I decided to go visit my mother in the upstate. I knew I was in for a bumpy ride on the way up because of a cold front that was coming through, but the forecast was saying the front would push on through. The forecast was right, but I was wrong.

When I woke up the¬†following day to prepare for my flight home¬†I saw that the front had passed, but another was blasting through right behind it… didn’t see that one¬†coming, but I should have. The AIRMETs were calling for turbulence through 4pm, but looking at the outlook charts for the day I knew the turbulence would not be going away at 4pm, but that it would probably only get worse. I started asking around at the airport for pilot reports from folks who had been up in the local area. They all seemed to say it was bumpy, but okay. I decided to take a chance and just go for it, knowing there were small airports all along my route where I could land if it was too much. The tailwind was around 30mph, so at least the flight would only be around 1.5 hours. I got up to my planned altitude of 3,500′ (the most turbulence was above 4,000′) and realized I was in for quite a workout. I made it just about 50 miles before¬†I seriously¬†needed¬†a break. I was being tossed about in the sky, barely able to keep the dirty side down.¬†After I knocked my head on the ceiling¬†during one particularly violent blast I realized I needed to get on the ground immediately.

I landed at¬†the very small Newberry County Airport (EOE), which was understandably abandoned for the day. I thought that while I was there I would get my SCAA passport stamped to prove I was there, but I couldn’t find the mailbox where it was supposed to be kept. The tiny FBO didn’t have much, but it had a planning table, 2 sofas, a water fountain and a bathroom, so I decided to just relax on the sofa and consider my options. Option 1: I could ask my mother to come get me and spend another night with her, but since I was supposed to work at 6am the following day, that option would have lots of people frowning on me…still better than being killed due to get-there-it is. Option 2: I could ask my mother to drive me home to Charleston (a 3 hour drive for her, 2 hours from my current location), spend a few nights with me and then drive back in a few days, dropping me off at the airport on the way. Unfortunately, she wasn’t feeling well and was in no shape to travel. Option 3: I could ask my husband to come get me, a huge inconvenience for all of us, and the weather did have a slight chance for improvement, so that could be in vane (pun intended). Option 4: I could sit it out and see what the winds did later, taking advantage of the down-time to catch up on some reading. I chose option 4, which turned out to be the best option. After about an hour, I¬†felt like it would be okay to give it another go…call it a hunch. I planned a¬†low¬†route that would take me directly over every airport possible along the way.¬†This route has a lot of airports, so I would have the option to land again any time I felt like I was reaching my limit. Luckily, staying around¬†2,200′ was bumpy, for sure, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the first leg of my trip. I don’t like “scud-running” because it limits options should something go wrong, but now and then it becomes necessary…. but ONLY with careful planning and a thorough review of all emergency procedures since my friend, Altitude, is left out of the equation.

Once I got closer to home the uncomfortable turbulence faded into light chop and I was able to breathe easy for the last 40 miles of my trip. I arrived home bruised and sore, a first for me, but I arrived home safely.

Funny addition to my story: I received a phone call from a couple of¬†friends (James & Matt), literally as I was shutting down my engine, asking if I was available to come pick them up from the upstate. I told them I would have gladly offered a free lift had they called earlier, but I was too exhausted from my saga to fly any more even if the winds were calm. Apparently, James was¬†dropping his¬†Mooney off¬†in Anderson, SC for the annual and Matt¬†followed in his RV8 to bring him home. When¬†Matt attempted to start his plane for the return trip, his starter broke. Terrible timing! Then again,¬†James’ wife¬†‘liked’ my Facebook status saying¬†I was in the upstate for the night, returning Tuesday (the day¬†James was taking his plane¬†up), so he should have just asked me for a lift. I would have been happy to oblige, especially since¬†I would have felt much more comfortable with¬†an extra pilot in the cockpit on that bumpy flight. ¬†Why are people afraid to ask for favors? They ended up renting a car and driving back to Charleston.

This flight was definitely a good lesson and, in my opinion, a good testament of my ability to choose to stop a flight to assess my judgement instead of charging on because I really want to get home. I was fully prepared to stay safely on the ground if I felt the flight was beyond my comfort level. In fact, I did make that decision a few days later when Matt asked for a ride to get his RV8 from Anderson. I wanted to fly so badly that day, but that AIRMET was the same as it was on Tuesday. I knew I could make it, but I also knew that it might push me to my limit again. Fortunately for Matt, I was able to hook him up with another local pilot with a faster plane who was happy to make the trip. Win, win, win.

Ohmagosh, OshKosh

I just returned from an amazing few days at Oshkosh EAA Airventure. I spent time with some top notch AvGeeks, spent too much time in the sun, ate too much bad food, drank too much and had too much fun. Scratch that… too much fun is not possible. How would I describe Airventure to someone who isn’t an aviation enthusiast? Lots of kids in the world’s biggest candy shop!¬†It’s where you go to be so completely absorbed in the thing you are most passionate about that it is actually a little painful. It’s just too much! Sensory overload. Yes, that’s a good way to begin to describe it.

I arrived in Appleton, WI Wednesday afternoon, via Delta and caught a shuttle¬†to Oshkosh. After¬†arriving at the campgrounds I wasn’t sure where to go. Mike Ladd was kind enough to not only pick me up and deliver me to the campsite, he¬†also offered a¬†refreshing Gatorade.¬†¬†Such a kind man! After setting up camp at “Camp Bacon” (the name given to the camp where Airpigz has a couple of bacon parties), I planned to enter the grounds to watch the air show, but I discovered that if I waited an hour I could get in for free. Since there is a nice view of the planes from Camp Bacon, I decided to enjoy the company of my fellow campers for a while and just go into the grounds when it was time for OshBash. OshBash is a creation of Dan Pimental, aka Av8rdan, creator of Airplanista. This was a celebration and awards ceremony for people who are active on social media sites, promoting aviation and creating cool advancements in general aviation. It is possible that I am wrong in my perception of Oshbash, but that was my understanding. I was a nominee for an award for Spirit of Airplanista, but I did not win. I’m okay with that. The main purpose of the award ceremony was to bring us all together and recognize the effects we have on each other, as well as recognizing the influence we have on outsiders. I feel that every nominee, as well as everyone in attendance, deserved the award of recognition and appreciation, which is what we all received. Dan Pimentel, who hosted Oshbash, runs a blog and online magazine called Airplanista. You can find it at www.av8rdan.com. Dan also has an aviation advertising company in case you know of anyone with an aviation company looking to make it grow; Dan seems to be pure genius when it comes to making things happen.

After the Oshbash a few of us broke away to find food before the night air show began. The night air show was spectacular; though it was better last year. The music for the performances seemed to be more subdued than previous air shows I’ve attended. I like it when the music is as rockin’ as the performance. Don’t get me wrong, the show was very enjoyable, I just think it could’ve been improved with better music. For instance, I remember the Aeroshell team kicking off the show just after dusk to Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America” at the night show at Oshkosh last year as well as the night show at Sun-n-Fun earlier this year. I don’t remember what music they flew with Wednesday night, but it was very relaxed. Perhaps “God Bless the USA” or something. Again, it was nice, just not as kick-ass as I’ve seen in the past. The other performers were also great, but again with the slow music. Even the fireworks had slow music, though Adele’s Skyfall did make a beautiful backdrop. The post-night show party back at the campsite was a ton of fun, and a great way to top off a wonderful day. There was moonshine involved so my memory is a bit fuzzy.

On Thursday I wandered all along the flight line, enjoying everything from the Ultralights to the Homebuilt section and Warbirds. The warbirds have always been my favorite; Though, I’ll admit that I can rarely correctly name them. After all the excitement of the afternoon airshow, I arrived back at camp after everyone had left to go to the UCAP Tie-Down Party (Uncontrolled Airspace podcast beer bash). After getting lost and ending up as far away as I could possibly be from the party, I walked for an hour and a half to get there. I arrived just as some folks were leaving to hang out at the nearby Hilton rooftop and tagged along with them. After drinking nearly a pitcher of donated beer, laughing until it hurt, seeing an iridium flare, we headed back to the campsite for more debauchery and laughter.

Friday was the big day for me. We started with 10 of us taking a ride on the Ford Tri-Motor. Hard to top that!! ¬†The ride in the Tri-Motor took us back to an era where commercial aviation was new and exciting. After returning to 2013 and wandering around, we stopped at the Beechcraft tent to say hello to another person from Twitter, Jeff Stiles. I tagged along with some of the group for a safety meeting with the IMC Club, but I was chased away by a chatty clinger. I found the Other People’s Airplanes group, who were waiting for a callback from Patty Wagstaff for an interview. She cancelled on them, but they went over to the air show performers tent to try to catch her and ended up scoring an interview with Matt Younkin, the pilot of the Twin Beech 18 that I absolutely LOVE! After this encounter I was on cloud 9 for a while, but eventually found my group and went to a party thrown by and for Open Airplane. The Aviators crew was also at this party, so it had a pretty big turnout. There was a rumor spreading that space for the premier of Disney’s Planes was filling up, so two of us went to check it out. After arriving, we realized that we really should stay in the little spot we found or we may not get to see it. Sadly, this meant that I missed the chance to meet a fellow AvGeek that I had been looking forward to meeting. Sorry, Russell Loving! ¬†Total fail on my part.

Planes was great!

After Planes, we made it back to camp to sit around the campfire one last time (for me, anyhow). There was no shortage of s’mores, beer, wine or moonshine. There was also an adventure walk somewhere around 2 or 3am, but that’s a little foggy, too. It’s really a great idea for them to have guards at the gates to the airshow grounds all through the night. That’s all I’ll say about that.

It was so much fun to see all the people in person that I have regular contact with in the world of Twitter. I feel that I’ll be enjoying the memories we made this week for months to come.

To all the fellow Baconeers: Thank you so much for making these few days so much fun! The 3 days felt like a week, even though it flew by so quickly. As a female, it was nice to feel so welcome and comfortable in a mostly male camp. The level of respect and kindness given to me was not something that went unnoticed, nor will it be forgotten.

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Lookout Amsterdam, here we come!

My brilliant husband has been invited to speak at a tech conference in Amsterdam. Because of all the traveling he does, he has enough miles for me to go along with him!! Tomorrow we leave for Amsterdam and at the end of the conference we will hop up to Norway to visit friends, since we’ll be so close. I’m really excited to go back to Amsterdam for the 2nd time and to Stavanger, Norway for the 2nd time, but I do look forward to seeing other unexplored parts of the world. With so many wonderful places to visit it seems a shame to travel so far to visit a place we’ve already been. If¬†that sounds¬†like a¬†complaint I didn’t mean for it to sound that way, at all. I’m going on this trip for practically no charge; there are noooooo complaints from me!

 

So excited!