Business trip to Nth America via HKG; QF, CX and AC J

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RooFlyer

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So my main client calls and says they want me in Canada in a week. No problem, I say.

So, how do you want to get there? My eyes flick to the calendar and I realize that flying in early March means a new status year for QF. So: “Qantas!” I reply. No problem, says the client, contact our TA and get yourself booked.

I love my client!

I contact the TA (who is also my TA – we get along just fine!) and, keen to try the new CX J class, ask her to price both direct QF to LAX then AC up to Canada & back, and also a Circle Pacific fare, LAX via QF then CX back via HKG, as its often cheaper. The fares, (including the Air Canada add ons) in order were: most expensive: Circle Pacific HBA-MEL-LAX-YYC-YVR-HKG-MEL-HBA, then direct QF HBA-MEL-LAX-YYC-LAX-MEL-HBA and cheapest Circle Pacific HBA-MEL-HKG-YVR-YYC-LAX-MEL-HBA. The difference between the most expensive and the cheapest was almost $1,000.

So, whacko, its CX to HKG and YVR, then QF back; it’s the cheapest fare for the client and I get CX J class on 2 legs on the way over.

Check in at HBA. Check in lady makes quite a funny joke – several people giggle at it. She then sighs and says “That’s something you might miss when we are gone.” “Oh” I say “Don’t tell me you are going to get replaced by machines like at MEL and SYD?” “No” she replies sadly “we are all going to go when QantasLink takes over.”

On reflection, I guess it was a little bit unprofessional to canvas unemployment when checking a pax, but it is really nice at HBA to have real, experienced Qantas staff on the check in counters, and I’m going to miss that.

Onto the disgraceful Qantas Club at HBA. I was a bit early, so managed to snag a tall table & stool. Just before boarding, I counted 70 people in the lounge; uncomfortably packed. All seats were taken (including all 4 stools around my little tall table where I was using my laptop) and 7 people were standing. It’s always like this. HBA JQ and QF flights arrive and depart in a bunch and the QP is often best left unattended if you actually want ‘comfort’.

QF1016 boarded OK (priority boarding? Forget it - its HBA). Flight left on time and 1C was very pleasant. I may grumble about QF, but their dom J flights are a treat. Great staff & service , as I’ve noted this before - with the exception of one of my recent ones. For a late afternoon flight (dep 4:50pm arr at bit after 6pm) we were offered a choice of 2 hot ‘refreshments’. Basically chicken or beef with rice/spuds/veges, small cake for dessert. This would be quite acceptable as lunch or dinner. Considering how QF has cut back on catering, I’m amazed that such selections survive as a mid afternoon ‘refreshment’.

QF1016 refreshment.JPG


At MEL, walk to bag collection area with some trepidation. How far back on the carousel would they appear? After 5 mins wait, the carousel beeped into life and to my amazement and surprise, my 2 bags were #1 and # 4 !! Well done QF – if you can do it today, why not all the time (or even, the majority of time?).

Across the road and check into the Parkroyal. I’ve been coming here for yonks, when it was the Hilton, and after it changed hands. I didn’t have a great stay last time.

Check-in was efficient and painless. The guy asked me if I wanted to join GHA. Never heard of it – what is it? Basically the loyalty club of a group of hotel brands including Parkroyal, Rydges, and Kempinski . Say no more – I’m looking at Kempinski later this year in Europe so sign me up! It gets me Gold status and free wi fi, so that’s good.

The room hasn’t changed much from Hilton days. Overlooking the runways, and at the end of the hall, so quiet, which is what I like. Views of the outside, and view over the airport from my room:

Parkroyal MEL.JPG

Mandatory room pics:


Parkroyal bed.JPG

Parkroyal bathroom.JPG

Meal at the restaurant was good. After the airplane meal I ate late and had two small dishes; mushroom soup and an entree. Edit: that's NOT the mushroom soup on the left :)

Parkroyal meal.JPG
 
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amaroo

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Looking good!

CX what a way to go :cool: ....even if you have to endure some slurping on route;)
 

RooFlyer

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Indeed, Spruce, however ....

A hot, sleepless night. The aircon decided to vibrate and rattle sounded like a small motorcycle without a muffler. I am so fed up with expensive hotels with aircon issues!

CX check in was quick and easy. Thank goodness for security fast track, as there was only one x-ray machine operating (6:30am) and the normal queue was really long. Lots of pax here who didn’t seem to have a clue. Emigration very quick - then I do the bloody ‘Duty Free chicane’ and up to the QFlounge for breakfast – buffalo yoghurt with poached fruit and eggs benedict with smoked salmon. OJ and strong coffee to wake me up. I’ll save you the pics; I think its been well covered before.

After reading the paper, I decide to wander down to the Cathay lounge to check it out. Big mistake! A horrid, pokey affair with no external windows and only basic food offerings. After shooting some pics, I exited and went back to the Flounge.

CX lounge MEL.JPG


Down to the gate at 8:20, when boarding should have already started. Nope. Delay. Boarded at about 8:35, doors closed at 9:00 and push back about 9:05, 20 mins late.

On board: No particular greeting or welcome. Seat 19 A is on the window, the first row in the J ‘mini cabin’. Nice and private, but I’m getting some noise from the galley immediately in front. There is lots of storage room - on and under the ottoman beyond your feet, a good side area that takes a laptop, toiletries bag, camera, phone and headphone case. There's also the flat shelf on top of that, good for a book, headphones, drink and other debris; and there is also a little cupboard for shoes. This J Seat is as good as its reputation suggested.

Only 4 of the 12 seats in the mini cabin are occupied, and we are all seated down the left hand side! The amenity kit is just the basic stuff for J, with Jurlique products.

Having had breakfast in the lounge, I decline it (twice) on board (immediately after seat belt sign off), then put the seat down to a pretty good bed (elbow room on one side) and fell asleep for about an hour.

Before lunch, I asked for a sauvignon blanc “if you have it” and the reply was “sauvignon blanc, yes sir” and a large glass of white wine was brought to me. It was OK, but it wasn’t sav blanc; maybe a Riesling? Looking at the wine list revealed that it was probably an Austrian wine from Peter Schweiger - a Grüner Veltliner (I'll take their word for it!). When they came back, I asked “Is this sauvignon blanc?” – and the reply was “Yes, sir”.

CX wine list.JPG

Hmmm … when lunch was served, 2 hours out from HKG, I again asked for sauvignon blanc. This time the bottle was presented and it was indeed the Austrian. The wine was OK, but a bit disappointing that the FAs in J should insist that they are serving one wine style, when it is clearly another.

Lunch was very nice; served 3 hours before landing (noon HKG time). Spiced and also smoked salmon for entrée and a really delicious chicken tagine for mains. Having been to Morocco a number of times, I realized it was an ‘adaptation’ of chicken tagine, but it was really tasty. So much so that I scoffed it before I remembered to take a pic :rolleyes: ! Cheese afterwards.

CX134 entree.JPG

We landed into a smoggy/foggy HKG – I only saw the sea about 1 minute before touchdown. A quick trip through immigration, got the bags after about 10 mins wait then onto the Airport Express to Kowloon. At Kowloon station (about 1 hour after de planing), straight onto the Airport Express hotel shuttle bus for my favourite hotel anywhere – the Mira on Nathan Road.
 
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RooFlyer

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I need to overnight in HKG as part of the Circle Pacific fare. The Mira is on Nathan Road, Kowloon, opposite Kowloon Park (the entrance is actually on Kimberly Road) and a few minutes’ walk to the Tsim Sha Tsui MRT station. The Mira Hong Kong Hotel - Always Best Rates Guaranteed.

My TA put me onto this place a few years ago. You could call it funky and hip (something that I am decidedly NOT! :) ) but the rooms, location and service are great. Not cheap – prices vary widely but you’ll rarely get much change out of A$350, but there is value there. In past stays I have booked the night prior to an early morning arrival to guarantee room availability – and not been charged for that night; and I’ve also had mega late check-out (about 5pm) and again, not been charged (I had a Club room that stay). One time I had had things stolen out of my baggage (CX!) – then the Mira moved heaven and earth to help me get the police report done etc (I didn't have to leave the hotel - they ran the paperwork back and forth to the police station :) )

Oops – I had forgotten that the Mira is no longer an actual stop on the Airport Express hotel minibus route – so its off at the Luxe Manor on Kimberly Road and a 5 min walk to the hotel trundling my case.

The guy checking me in worked for about 5 minutes trying to find me a room – calling cleaning several times, furiously looking at the inventory. In the end he gave up and gave me a suite. :D

Here is the entrance way and lobby:

Mira lobby.JPG

And the hallways (with mirrored ceilings!) :shock: ... and counter of the lobby coffee shop ...

Mira hall and coffee.JPG


The room, (like the ordinary rooms) was very stylish and well equipped – including a Samsung mobile for use inside and outside the hotel, with free local and international calls!

Mira suite lounge.JPG

Mira suite bed bathroom.JPG


The bathroom has a TV set into the mirror. Given all that, the view into the internal courtyard is pretty ordinary!

Mira suite bathroom TV and view.JPG
 

RooFlyer

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Their Yamm restaurant buffet is always good, especially for families and solo travelers and this time was no exception. It was lobster night! Piles of Maine lobsters and lobster sauce with everything! Plus the usual buffet fare of very high quality. About $100 including a beer.

The pics are washed out because the wall is ultra illuminated and displaying wine (which as far as I could tell, no-one was drinking). There are 3 'sides' with buffet dishes, plus more to one side of the main area. Huge, tasty selection.

Mira buffet.JPG


And here (for me) was the main deal! As much crayfish (lobster) as you wanted!

Mira crayfish.JPG

There are two other, a la carte restaurants in the hotel; one “Cuisine Cuisine” is great, but eye-wateringly expensive.

A good night's sleep and a morning's work then off to the airport at noon to catch CX 838 departing at 4:30pm. Why so early? CX The Wing of course! :)

First, a shower in one of the cabanas:

CX HKG cabana.JPG


Then lunch at the Haven (it was crowded, so not suitable for pics). I love the hallway leading to the cabanas .... and then there's the Champagne Lounge (the infamous noodle slurper is off to the right :p )

CX HKG hall and Champ lounge.JPG
 

drron

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The Mira looks very like the décor of W hotels.
 

amaroo

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one “Cuisine Cuisine” is great, but eye-wateringly expensive.

Have eaten at their IFC restaurant....IIRC the chef at the time had a gig on Iron Chef (the real one - not the dud from LOTFAP). Nice evening...from what I can remember :rolleyes: It was a huge night!
 

TomVexille

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Looks good so far. Looking forward to the rest.
 

RooFlyer

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Interestingly, when I checked in for CX838 HKG-YVR, they tagged my bag for the follow-on Air Canada (Star Alliance) flight AC 216 YVR-YYC and gave me an AC boarding pass.

CX 838 departed from gate 1, directly adjacent to The Wing lounge. How good is that! We board the 777-300 ER on time and depart similarly. I'm in 18K, right side window in the main J cabin. The usual basic J amenities kit is given out (I asked, as usual, for a ladies version, destined for the Hobart Women's shelter), but no PJs. Pre-warned I brought my own QF ones :) . The cabin is quite warm to start with.

The seat is identical to that on CX134 (and no at-seat air vent here either). In the fist image, to the right is the 'main' stowage compartment, which holds just about all you'd want with you. And if you look at the RH pic, and imagine another seat to the right (centre seats configuration), you can see how its not that easy to 'spread out' over the 2 seats.

CX J seat 1.JPG

View cross the aisle:

CX J seat 2.JPG

Meal service on the flight was dinner then brunch (11:45am local arrival in YVR). Wines were the same as CX134. Entrée on the left, and my Australian beef tenderloin on the right. Both were very nice.

CX 838 menu.JPG

"Brunch". Starting with fruits, yoghurt and croissant, then 'standard' omlette, snag, bacon etc. Nice enough.

CX 838 breakfast.JPG

Landed and then a half hour wait to go through Canadian immigration, after a very long walk from the plane. A flight from China just beat us in, hence the wait. I get my usual grilling from Canadian immigration re my business purpose, but got the stamp OK.

Sorry I didn't take any pics of the YVR Maple Leaf Lounge. Its nice enough, but just uninspiring. I wasn't going to eat, but the food options are the usual coughpy soup and salad, cookies and cold meats that you get in almost every MLL. Booze selection is OK. But after the longer than expected wait through immigration, I didn't have long in the lounge, then its off to the gate for the AC 216 flight to Calgary.

As usual its an Embraer 190, with 3 rows of a 1-2 configuration in business, and the overhead bins on one side struggles to hold a handbag. This means there is no such thing as the luxury of a late boarding, as by that time ALL the bin space will be taken. This is the same on every bloody domestic AC flight I've taken. By boarding early (they do Priority Boarding well!) I snag space for my roll-aboard and put the laptop bag under the seat in front. Seat 2A is my favourite - the 'single in the middle row of 3 in J. Lots of space.

Catering in AC J domestic isn't bad, but I just settled on almonds and a couple of G&Ts. Boy, they serve them STRONG though :shock: .

Glorious flight over the snow-clad Rockies and after an hour we are descending into snow clad Calgary, where its been in the minus 30s for the past week!

Bags come quick, and I meet the limo driver. Its only $5 more for a limo to where they put me up compared to a cab, so its not hard to choose between a dirty cab and a gleaming all-black Lincoln Town Car :p . But the hop over the road to get in is a bit challenging, in a freeze-your-bits-off sort of way.
 

RooFlyer

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The limo driver has my apartment keys, so after a quick stop at a grocery store for essentials, its onto the "Nuera" apartment block, just south of downtown.

Funny thing - the taxi / limo drivers of Calgary are dominated by the Indian sector, so when I ask "How are the Flames doing?" (Flames being Calgary's ice hockey team), its usually a "Don't know.". But they can talk the entire trip about the cricket! I once had the pleasure of being driven by Canada's #1 fast bowler (of Pakistani origin, I believe) :)

The Nuera:

Nuera.jpg

In the past three years, I've clocked up an average of about 100 nights per year in Calgary (in 2 to 3 week bursts). Imagine the hotel status / points I could have racked up in that time :) . But I always ask for an apartment so I can cook for myself and its more 'homely'. Plus its cheaper for the client - prices vary between about $150 to $200 night, depending on size and location, and groceries are a lot cheaper than restaurants. Stays of a month or more are GST free. Most of the apartments have phones which give 1,000 minutes a month of free calls to landlines in most western countries.

Supply shortage means that I've been in about a dozen different apartment blocks over the years, but they are often very similar. This one is a bit newer and larger than my usual. Its 2BR, 2 bathrooms and has great views over the city.

Main living area:

Nuera main room.JPG

Main bedroom (has en suite):

Nuera main BR.JPG

Second bedroom and the laundry:

Nuera sec BR and laundry.JPG

Small balcony and view over Calgary's holy shrine, the Saddle dome (Ice Hockey arena, home of the Flames):

Nuera balcony and dome.JPG

... pretty good value for $175/night in this case.
 

RooFlyer

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The next couple of posts will be a bit of a Calgary tourism booster, so those only interested in air travel and hotels might want to skip on a bit :)

The city has become my second home and I know most of its good and bad sides. Population a bit over 1 million, its a bit like Perth, but without the beaches and with freezing winters. And it gets COLD. I've been here when its been about -35 Celsius for days on end, and that's before the wind chill. But if its not windy, the cold days can be OK, as long as you rug up properly - and of course that means some better gear than you would ever buy in Australia for city wear. I keep my heaviest coat permanently in the office here, as it has no use in Australia.

But in summer its glorious - there are dozens of kilometres of river and park-side walking and cycling tracks. There are 2 rivers through the city, coming off the mountains - the Bow and the Elbow. Large grassy parks and several lakes for boating.

And of course the Rockies and only 40 mins away by freeway,; Banff about an hour and Lake Loiuse a bit further on. Heaven for skiers and fabulous for walking and hiking in summer.

The town started as a cattle centre, and remnants are around today:

Calgary cow town car.JPG

It hosted the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.

But today oil and gas is the name of the game. Many vary large companies are based in Calgary and they are not ashamed to put up tall glass towers to house themselves in. These now overshadow (literally) the 191m tall "Calgary Tower" built in 1967.

Calgary skyline.JPG

This is the view from my current apartment:

Nuera views.JPG

And downtown on a cold day (air con venting is the 'steam'):

Calgary minus 30 degrees.JPG

But you can't beat having the Rockies in your backyard, and back-drop to the city:

Calgary - views to the Rockies.JPG
 

pyffii

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Still have lots of cousins living in Calgary so I am enjoying the photos and discussions on Calgary...Thanks RooFlyer
 

Princess Fiona

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Great Pics, enjoying the read.
I have flown CX the opposite direction (YVR-HKG) to you and loved it. Stepping onto the QF A330 for the next leg was a bit of a letdown.
 

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Will be in Calgary on the 14th April however only flying in from DEN and then grabbing a hire car and driving straight to Banff. Really looking forward to this trip. Great TR.
 

RooFlyer

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Will be in Calgary on the 14th April however only flying in from DEN and then grabbing a hire car and driving straight to Banff. Really looking forward to this trip. Great TR.

Make sure you find the Wild Flour Café on Bear Street. Good coffee and pies :)
 

RooFlyer

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Now, lets get to the important bit.

Hockey ... and more precisely, the (link) Calgary Flames.

Falmes.JPG


Honestly, the average Collingwood supporter has nothing on the average Canadian hockey fan. Here again is the Calgary Cathedral (AKA the Saddledome):


Flames Saddledome.jpg

Inside the Flames perform. This is a 'rebuilding' year, with up to 8 rookies in the side .. but they are doing OK.

Calgary Flames on ice.JPG

He shoots ... he scores!!! And the center TV mounting thing erupts in a burst of the home town product (natural gas!):

Calgary Flames goal.JPG


The other highlight of visiting Canada is watching Hockey Night in Canada and of course, Don Cherry's Coach's corner.

If you don't know who Don Cherry is, there's not much point trying to explain. There is no-one remotely like him or his phenomenon in Australia. But Wikipedia gives you some idea Don Cherry

Don't let the, er, jackets tell the whole story. :shock:

Don Cherry multi.jpg
 
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