Archive for the London Category

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Flight 1010 (April 2011)

Posted in Airlines, Amsterdam, KLM, London, Trip Report with tags , , , , , , , on May 9, 2011 by getgowing

The previous posts of this quasi-‘Round the World adventure:

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Flight #1010
London Heathrow (LHR) – Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS)
April 11, 2011
Departure:  11:56 (Scheduled 11:45)
Arrival:  14:07 (Scheduled 14:05)
Duration:  1’11”
Aircraft:  Boeing 737-900
Seat:  16A (exit row, Economy class)
Miles flown including this flight:  3682

This is my first time flying in a Boeing 737-900.  I didn’t really get that close a look, but I guess its just a little longer than the more common 737-800 Delta flies.  Wasn’t expecting much, just a quick flight (I think actual flying time was around 38 minutes or so).  As we leave the LHR SkyTeam Lounge, we see a long queue again.  Let me tell you….elite status is a blessing and a curse in disguise.  I almost never have to wait in line traveling anymore, but its amazing the hook that status can put on you.  I spent money on Delta I normally wouldn’t have just to maintain status.  But that’s another post for another day.  We take our row 16 exit row seats and wait for the plane to fill up.

🙂

My plan for the flight was to grab whatever kind of sleep I could, since I anticipated staying up all night in Amsterdam to take the earliest train back to the airport, around 7am or so.  One of the most amusing things about this flight was the safety demonstration put on my the steward  for the back half of the economy section.  Check this out!

Didn’t get his name, but he loved the camera.  Now that’s something you’ll never see on a US-based airline.  We taxi up, and again, similar to our arrival flight, we have to wait for the “heavies” (big planes going long distances full of fuel) to take off.  While I would normally hate this waiting time, I got to see some amazing planes take off.

Singapore Airlines A380 taking off

More crazy traffic. At least they're fun to watch, if you're a flying junkie like me. (click on me to see it in original size)

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 747-400

British Airways Boeing 747-400 taking off

Qantas A380 taxiing

We finally take off after waiting for all those flights to get off the ground.  Another thing that you’ll never see flying in the capitalist USA…..complimentary beverage and snack service on a flight with a flying time less than 40 minutes.  We had the standard beverage selection and the choice of a sweet or savory snack.  I was already mid-nap when they woke me for the snack, so I was in a little bit of a daze when choosing.  I just grabbed the first bag, which was a savory bag.  The savory snack was a cheese cracker-like thing.  And I believe the sweet snack was mini chocolate chip cookies?  I stuff it in my backpack and try to get some more sleep.  Unfortunately before I knew it, we were already on final approach.  At this point I give up trying to sleep.

Some Dutch windmills, though not the cool kind.

The interesting thing about the Amsterdam Schiphol airport is its runways.  It has its bank of runways near the terminal, then there’s the remote runway.  My guesstimation is that it is a couple MILES away from the terminal.

Of course we landed on THAT runway.  I timed the taxi; it took 9 minutes 40 seconds.  There was no traffic, we never stopped sprinting along the taxiways.  Looking out the window, we assumed we were moving around 30-35mph.

That was definitely the most interesting 71 minute flight I’ve ever taken.  We deplane, thanking the steward one more time for his performance, and begin our Amsterdam adventures!

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London Heathrow (LHR) and the Skyteam Lounge

Posted in Airline Lounge, Airlines, London, Trip Report with tags , , , , , , , on May 6, 2011 by getgowing

Here’s the next installment of my quasi-‘Round the World trip.

April 11, 2011

One of the things I love doing is eating local foods.  So naturally my last meal in London was a Full English Breakfast from a deli across the street from the hotel.  A fantastic heart-attack of 2 over-easy eggs, fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms, baked beans, bacon, and toast with butter.  Of course a traditional English breakfast wouldn’t be complete without a cup of tea.

Full English Breakfast

We take the Heathrow Express back to Heathrow Airport, which again is a great transport, just a little overpriced.  Now our tickets were purchased through Delta.  But this flight was run by KLM, and was only code-shared with Delta.  I should have known better, but we go to try check in at Delta.  They say go down the hall and check in with KLM.  This whole time, I’m looking for signage as to where SkyTeam Elite Plus check-in is.  The sign next to Delta Economy check in said to go Area H (maybe not exactly “Area” H, but _____ H, whatever they called it).  Delta Economy was G, and looking down the hall, the letters only went down to A.  After about 30 yards, I turn around, thinking this can’t be the way.  Then off to the right, around a corner and a wall is Area H.

In London Heathrow, the SkyTeam airline alliance all utilize Terminal 4.  (Here is some more info about Skyteam and LHR Terminal 4)Its cool to see the alliance actually working together, unlike its New York JFK presence, where everything is scattered.  They also have a dedicated premium check-in area (First Class/Business Class/SkyTeam Elite Plus/SkyTeam Elite) separate from the rest of the masses, with separate kiosks and counters for each SkyTeam airline.  I liked it alot, except for the fact that its almost hidden.  I mean, the semi-segregation is nice, but would be even nicer are prudently placed signs directing the higher-value customers where to go.  There was maybe one couple in front of us, so check-in was quick and painless.

We only had about an hour before boarding started.  Jamie and I went into the lounge, Gina wanted to do some shopping.  The lounge in LHR is a shared lounge, and is the only SkyTeam operated lounge in the world.  All the other lounges that Delta uses is run by either another airline, or private company like a credit card.  For example, Delta business class passengers traveling through Paris Charles De Gaulle have the option to use Air France’s lounge there.

Entrance, near Gate 10

Two floors. Never got to check out upstairs.

One of five shower rooms

Shower

They supplied 3 towels, conditioning shampoo, body wash, and a Jo Malone mini gift set which had Grapegruit Shower Gel and Orange Blossom Cologne.

1st Floor. Those chairs around that pillar was a gaming station with PS3s at each seat, I think.

Food area

Some fruits, breads, cereals

Yogurt?, fruit salad, cheese

Bacon, sausage, potatoes, mushrooms

Fried tomatoes, scrambled eggs, pancakes. All the ingredients needed for a full English breakfast. With a few American flapjacks on the side.

Non-alcoholic drinks area

Beverages/Wine Bar area

Good selection of wines and spirits

Better view of what's inside the refridgerator

They started to put out the lunch spread just as we were about to leave

An oxygen bar with 4 different scents. One of the cooler amenities I've seen in a lounge.

From what I hear, not many people know about the second floor.  I even looked at a floor map, and totally forgot there was even a 2nd floor.  If you’re looking for a more quiet, relaxing, and private stay, then upstairs is the place to be from what I hear.  There’s even a quiet area with 4 day beds if you want to get some sleep.  I haven’t been to that many lounges around the world yet, but this one has to be by far better than most, at least from the ones that are operated by a Skyteam airline.  I don’t think you can buy access if you’re not a First/Business/SkyTeam Elite Plus, but maybe if you ask nicely (perhaps with a little bribe) from somebody appearing to go in, they may be able to guest you in.

Hilton London Paddington Station review and the adventure trying to make a phone call

Posted in Deals, Hotel, London, Trip Report with tags , , on May 3, 2011 by getgowing

Read how I scored this hotel in my quick overview of how to maximize Priceline HERE.

I only spent about 6 hours total in this hotel, and I forgot to take pictures of anything.  The room was small, with only two twin beds.  The view overlooked the glass roof of the Paddington Station, so that was nice.  However, the customer service was not so nice.  I expected more from a Hilton.  At the previous hotel (Courthouse Doubletree by Hilton London-Regent Street), the concierge and front desk tried to do whatever they could to please us, and would seemingly go out of their way to do so.

The Hilton Paddington Station was the first upper-middle tier hotel I’ve stayed at that didn’t have a free business center.  There was nowhere inside to check email for free.  Ridiculous.  They charged £5 per 30 minutes.  £5 for 30 minutes.  To connect to the internet.  On their crappy desktops.  Horseshit.

Then when I go ask if I can use the hotel phone to call my friend’s cell, they said they can’t let me use their phones (when the Doubletree concierge even dialed the number for me and gave me the phone).  He said if you have £ coins you can go to the train station and use their payphones.  I even asked as a favor if I could use his mobile, but also got denied.  So I run over to McDonalds to try and use their internet so I can call my friend using Skype, but I couldn’t connect to their network.

I’m now getting a little desperate, and start asking people on the street if I can use their mobiles.  I finally run into this Filipino family pulling their luggage, who just stopped on a corner to decide where they were going to eat.  I politely interrupt their Tagalog conversation to ask if I may use one of their phones to call my friend.  The mother initially says no, but then the father asks if I am Filipino, to which I say yes.

“Ok.  Sige na”  (Ok.  go ahead.)

Being a fellow Filipino certainly has its perks.  🙂

London April 2011 part 2

Posted in Deals, Hotel, London, Trip Report with tags , , , , , on May 3, 2011 by getgowing

Its now Sunday, day 2 of our extended weekend trip to London.  One thing we all wanted to see was the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.  The Changing was scheduled for 11:30am.  Buuuuut, us getting home so late, and just being on vacation, we wake up late.  We probably could have made it, but throughout the morning, Jamie yells at both of us as our alarms are going off to turn them off.  Who am I to argue for a few more minutes of snoozin?……I knew better than to listen.  But the idea sounded sooooooooo good at the time.  Oops.  But all wasn’t lost.  We power walk over to the Palace and get there at 11:45a, but still just in time to see the entire thing, mini parade and all!

Tulips in St. James Park as we powerwalk to Buckingham Palace

Here they come!

And there they go!

Military Band leading the procession to the Wellington Barracks.

One of the gates to Buckingham Palace

As the Band was marching off, they started with a super super slow silent march (seemed like the tempo was around 50bpm.  Amazing with no given tempo or cadence) that looked pristine.  Then all of a sudden it was a normal tempo march, and they started playing.

For the best view of the band leaving, (if facing the Palace) stand on the left side of the Queen Victoria Memorial.

Now, I remind you this is a quick trip, added on last minute due to a great fare that Delta had (~$350 roundtrip from JFK.  Though after all was said and done, we got it for ~$420 with a day trip to Amsterdam).  The next several sights we just taken in front of the sight, didn’t actually go in.  We wanted to see everything and so I don’t have as much info as I’d like on these sights.  Guess I’ll just have to go back.  🙂

Inside Westminster Cathedral

View from the top of the Westminster Cathedral Bell Tower

Better view from the top of the Westminster Cathedral Bell Tower

Westminster Abbey

Big Ben & some of the Houses of Parliament

London Eye and the old County Hall building

Trafalgar Square

The Tower of London and Tower Bridge

In addition to these sights, we also:

  • walked by the Admiralty Arch, which is between Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square (though closer to the Square)
  • walked along the Southern bank and passed by Royal Festival Hall
  • a cool skate park built semi-underground along the South bank
  • the South Bank Book Market
  • the New Globe Theater
  • Borough Market (though it was already closed when we got there)
  • walked past London Dungeon

If you want to see ALL the pictures I’ve taken which include most of these, check out my GetGowing Facebook fan page.  And it would be greatly appreciated if you also Liked it, too.

Get Gowing Facebook Fan Page

At this point, we’re all pretty beat.  We probably walked a good 4-5 miles that day, and the day wasn’t over yet.  We grab our luggage from the Courthouse Doubletree and then go check in at the Hilton London Paddington Station.  (See my Priceline entry on how I got this hotel for 60% off).  We lucked out getting this hotel (since through Priceline you don’t know the exact hotel you’re bidding on) since we needed to catch the Heathrow Express train from Paddington Station, which the hotel was connected to.

I was meeting up with a friend I went to college with, so we split up for the rest of the evening.  They went to check out Abbey Road Studios, and I went to go get some fantastic Indian food.  It was an adventure in of itself just trying to contact my friend to so we can meet up and get some food.  Read about it in my Quick Review of the Hilton London Paddington Station hotel and the adventure trying to make a phone call.

I finally get in touch with my friend, and we meet up for some of the best Indian food London has to offer on Brick Lane.  Apparently this street is the place to go for curry.  There are just tons of restaurants that line the street.  And outside several of them, there would be a hawker at the door beckoning you to come inside.

“Best curry in London!”

“Best curry in the world, come get some!”

they would shout out.  They were more aggressive than the people trying to sell porn/prostitutes/club tickets on the Strip in Vegas.

Brick Lane

After the meal, we get carried away just catching up, talking about the “games” and travel that I talk about on this blog, that I miss the last tube.  So how did I get home??  Double-decker bus of course!

I grabbed a seat upstairs in the front row to see all the action.

I get back and finally go to bed around 2:30-3:00am, only to wake up at 7am to be on my way to Amsterdam!

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London April 2011 Part 1

Posted in Hotel, London, Trip Report with tags , , , on April 29, 2011 by getgowing

This is the first destination on my whirlwind mini ‘Round the World tour in April.  Here is the first installment of my trip.  Delta Airlines Economy Class from New York (JFK) to London (LHR) and the Delta Skyclub in JFK Terminal 3.

Getting from the Heathrow airport to the city center is really easy.  Here are the most common options, from fastest (and most expensive) to slowest via public transportation:

  1. Heathrow Express
  2. Heathrow Connect
  3. Underground/subway (or commonly called “the Tube”)

I would recommend the Express, though we had Groupon coupons which brought its price down to a little less than half.  It usually takes about 15 minutes, has free wifi onboard, and full price roundtrip is about £32.  Its final destination is Paddington Station, which transfers to the Tube easily.  A little pricey though in my opinion.  The Heathrow Connect is, I think, the most economical for the time and price.  25 minutes to Paddington Station, for £16.50 roundtrip.  Much more reasonable.

Arriving at Paddington Station

Thanks to Jamie’s HiltonHonors points, we get hooked up with the Courthouse DoubleTree London by Hilton.  Its a really nice hotel, located near the Oxford Circus tube station.  Its situated in an old building (probably an old courthouse) converted to a Doubletree hotel, with a rooftop bar, and a basement that’s been turned into a full service spa & gym.  Nice simple room, though instead of a king bed, it was two twin beds pushed together, with no real way of separating them.

The large "King" guestroom

Rooftop Bar

There was a fresh fruit plate, along with a box with 4 chocolate truffles, waiting for us.  MMmmmmm.

The delicious treats awaiting us. I may or may not have eaten a truffle before taking this picture.

The concierge was also spectacular.  Very knowledgable and seemingly willing to help out with any needs we had.  After about a 15 minute Q&A period with them, I was armed with a map, and a bunch of circles as to what to hit up.  We picked up another Groupon or Livingsocial deal for 50% off £30 in drinks at the Adventure Bar & Lounge in the Covent Garden area.  So that was the evening’s destination.  But at this point, we were getting pretty hungry, so we figured we’d walk to the Covent Garden area, find an Indian restaurant, then do a little more walking around before we head into the Adventure Bar.

Compulsory pint break on the way to dinner

Out of all the cuisines in the world, I would put Indian at the top.  There are just so many robust flavors that their food has, its an awesome experience every time I eat it.  And because of the colonization of India under the British Empire a couple hundred years ago, there are many Indians that live in England, and thus, have spectacular Indian food.

The Adventure Bar & Lounge

After our first real meal in London, we head over to the Adventure Bar where the shenanigans begin.  We get there 5 minutes before their happy hour ended; the special was 2-for-1 cocktails.  Tall cocktails.  Obviously, we take advantage of this first, before using the Groupon.   The night continues, and after each of us drink a couple shots and several Cooper’s Pale Ales, we get fairly drunk.  (People in England, that you don’t know, don’t seem as willing to take pictures with you as some other cultures do.  But if you just tell them that you’re on an international scavenger hunt and you gotta take pictures with locals, they seem to oblige.  😉 Even the attractive ones.)

She wasn't duped with the scavenger hunt, she actually wanted to talk with us.

By this point, stumbling through London sounds like a great idea, so we stumble and come across Picadilly Circus.  This area is lined with shops, restaurants, bars, clubs, and casinos.  So many casinos.  Unlike the US, these casinos have an inebriation code.  They won’t anybody in that appears to be drunk.  And one of us, cough….the female….cough, can barely stand still.  Needless to say, we didn’t pass the drunk test to get into any of the bagillion casinos we walked by.

Its pretty late at this point, but Jamie and I still want to gamble a little bit and just see what the London late nightlife was like.  After dropping off Gina, we go gamble a bit back at the Picadilly casinos.  The time is flying by, and by the time we both decide to cut our losses, it was already about 4:30am!  We walk home, and everything is closed.  No tube running, don’t see any cabs driving by, nothing.  On our trek back we also get a little lost.  Several times I thought to myself,”I swear that Jack the Ripper is going to run out and gut us.”  But after 20 minutes of walking through the creepy 5am streets of London, we finally make it back to the Doubletree.

To be continued….

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