Tuesday 1 April, 2014 – USA Food and Wine Tour – The Journey Commences
Well, here we are at MEL about to fly out to the USA. Yes, I know I said I would never come back again but here we are ready to head there again. I will omit editorial comment.
We are flying Virgin Australia, a first time ever for an International Flight. Most everything is positive about the flight. The plane appears to be relatively new; the Steward spends some time with us explaining the facilities; the staff in general are quite pleasant.
JV and I order the same meals for Lunch and Breakfast. Whether this is because limits of choice I am not sure. What we did have was pretty good. For Starter we had smoked salmon. No photo but there was a lot of salmon on the plate. As this is Julie’s favourite, I gave her most of mine.
We ordered fish for a main course, unusual for me.
It was very nice. For dessert, there were cheese platters.
The wine was good. A new feature of this air plane is that it had the ability to convert the entrance pathway into a bar. So I settle in there for a while and have pleasant chats with a few of the other Business Class passengers. We were even joined by the Pilot for a while, he did not have a drink, naturally.
The seat folds out to a flat bed and I am able to get a reasonable amount of sleep, 5-6 hours which is good for me.
Breakfast is Croque Monseur which was the only hot selection but was quite nice.
We land peacefully at LAX. All in all it was quite a good flight. However, I had one significant problem – speed of service. The Business Class Cabin is structured as 5 row with 2-3-2 seating. There were three stewards serving – 2 doing rows 1-3 (one for Port, one for Starboard) and one for Rows 4-5. We were in Row 3 and there was significant delays at almost every service point for us as opposed to Row 4. For example, the first drink was served to us over 30 minutes after Row 4 and such anomaly continued through the meals etc. Maybe I should not worry about such a thing but I do bristle when others around one are served a long time before us which happened a few times in up market restaurants last year.
As I said above, generally very good with the one negative. We will be flying Virgin Aus. back so we shall see how it stacks up on the way back.
We de-plane at the Tom Bradley Terminal at LAX. It had gone through a major make-over a few years back and boy did it show. It has gone from one of the worst terminals in the world to a very good one. The plane drove in straight to the gate, there was only a shortish walk to Immigration as opposed to the half hour stroll in the past, there were no major queues at immigration. The Immigration Officer was a little narcy “What are you doing here?” – a question of an American Citizen seems quite rude. Any way, we pick up our baggage, relatively quickly through Customs, drop off the bags for luggage transfer and are out into the morning sun. It is a small walk to Terminal 5 where Delta Airlines is based, we are code sharing with Delta. We don’t have to check-in again, like you used to, as we have already been given a boarding pass. Security is annoying and slow – “be sure to empty your pockets of everything including paper; take off your belt; take off your shoes” – you can avoid that if you are over 75.
Once out of security we are in Terminal 5, which is old and crowded. The Lounge is at the end of the Terminal but we are allowed access and it is pleasant enough. We were concerned initially about how long it would take to get from landing to the terminal but here we are at the Lounge with well over 3 hours to go. In fact, the “worst” thing about it was the boredom of waiting for 3 hours with little to do. Ah well, the glamour of jetsetting! There is food but nothing exciting and besides, we had eaten a lot on the plane. Drinks are OK although one has to pay for alcoholic drinks, we did not bother.
At the bar on the plane the last night, I met a nice guy Terry and his Wife. We had discovered that he was from the Colac area where Julie went to school. It turns out he was a neighbour of Julie’s when She lived there as a youth in a very small place – Carlyle River. Amazingly small world. They are on the flight with us to NYC.
After seemingly interminable wait, we head to the plane with a slight hiccup being the gate had been changed and we did not know because the info screen in the lounge was not working. On the plane, a 777, the Business “Premium” section is very nice with a 1-2-1 layout with a seat structure I had not seen before – alternating seat and gap to enable the seat behind to have a flat bed layout. The service is very good with a California Pinot that was quite good. The Starter, no picture – sorry, was a large salad plate with various lettuces, chick peas, cold meats, dips etc. I did not eat much of that. For main course we had:
I would point out that the size of these servings, including the Starter I did not take a picture of, is large even on an airplane, showing what we will be facing in general for American food servings. Any way, it is a pleasant enough flight – JV gets a couple hours of sleep on the flat bed until I wake her up so She will be able to sleep once we reach the final destination.
There is a little bit of “excitement” in that a youngish Australian girl, who had ben on the same MEL-LAX-JFK flights got quite sick and was moved up to Row 1. When the plane lands, everyone is told to remain seated until Paramedics board the plane to look after her. We are in Row 2 so hear everything. They decide to take her to an Ambulance and then a Hospital. We hope that Kayla is ok.
All in all, the Delta experience was quite good albeit no doubt helped by being in Business Class.
After de-planing it is a long walk to baggage. As usual, significant delay in the Carousel starting but are bags are off relatively early. We say goodbye to Julie’s neighbours, Terry and Wife, and get in the (long) queue for a taxi. We eventually get a Taxi and take a medium long trip to our Hotel near Times Square. We miss the Hotel, on 46th Street, the first time around, but I eventually find the address and we drive around the block to where we had pretty much been before. We check-in and get to our room at 10:00 NY time – roughly 26 1/2 hours door to door. It has been as pleasant a trip of that distance in a long time. We went out to a local liquor store on 9th avenue for supplies. We notice that there are a number of restaurants and bars surrounding us.
The Hotel is called the French Quarters on 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. Good location, not far from Times Square. The people are quite friendly and it is a relatively quiet area. The room is nice enough although quite small – I believe I saw some cat’s whiskers on the walls. Some minor issues, no bedside table for me, no place for me to open the suitcase. Plus, there is only one glass per person which serves as water glass and for the wine.
We liked the place.