Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Off to Spain with a Jaunt to France

September 23rd, 2010 at 3:04 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

We had not planned on going anywhere for exploration for the rest of the year, but a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity arose for us (the adult half of The Traveling Richters) to dine at the famed elBulli restaurant in Spain and personally meet famed chef Ferran Adrià, so we have wrapped an expedition for all of The Traveling Richters to explore parts of Spain around that event to take advantage of being in Spain for the special occasion at elBulli.

Our Itinerary:

  • Sept. 29 – Oct. 1, 2010 – Bilbao & San Sebastian, Spain
  • Oct. 1 – 2, 2010 – Toulouse, France. Just passing through southern France
  • Oct. 2 – 4, 2010 – Roses, Costa Brava, Spain
  • Oct. 4 – 5, 2010 – Zaragoza, Spain
  • Oct. 5 – 8, 2010 – Madrid, Alcala de Henares, and Toledo, Spain

In addition to having secured reservations at three of the top restaurants in the world for this trip, we’ll be exploring various museums like the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Prado and Reina Sofia in Madrid. We also have a docent to guide us through the history of Toledo, the life and times of Cervantes (author of “Don Quixote”), and an olive oil, ham, chocolate, and Tapas tasting tour in Madrid. It will be tiring, but we’re up for the challenge!

And we’ll be home just in time for our country to change on 10-10-10. We stay on the same island, of Bonaire, but the country of the Netherlands Antilles will be dissolved on 10-10-10, and Bonaire will become a municipality of The Netherlands. More on that here.

Depending on how busy we are in our travels, we may or may not post travelogues. Jake has started an on-line graduate program in photography, so we expect most of his on-line time on the road will be spent meeting his obligations for his classes.

However, if any of you have recommendations on other places we should not miss in the areas we will be traveling in, please let us know!

 

The Traveling Richters on CNN.com

September 1st, 2010 at 9:17 am (AST) by Jake Richter

When we looked at the main page of CNN.com’s travel section this morning we were pleasantly surprised to find… Us! (Linda and myself, that is.)

CNN.com Travel Page with The Traveling Richters (September 1, 2010)

CNN.com Travel Page with The Traveling Richters (Sept. 1, 2010)

The photo on the CNN.com Travel home page links to an article about First Class dining experiences.

A reporter from CNN.com contacted us last week after finding our blog post about first class travel to Hong Kong, and interviewed me by phone for today’s CNN.com story.

The article by Ms. Pawlowski discusses how different an experience it is to dine in international first class cabins compared to lower cost sections of planes, and the effort that airlines make to ensure that their first class passengers have great dining options. Well worth a read as an incentive to use those frequent flier miles (or cash) collecting dust in your account.

In any case, it’s nice to see the final story on-line so soon, and we think it’s a great way to start September.

 

The Peninsula – A Few Images

July 18th, 2010 at 4:53 am (AST) by Jake Richter

Before moving on to observations and photos of Kowloon and Hong Kong, I’d like to provide a few more photos of The Peninsula hotel we stayed in.

The Peninsula at night, with fountain

The Peninsula at night, with fountain

If you ever end up coming to Hong Kong, we can highly recommend that you spend at least a night or two at The Peninsula, and definitely splurge on a Harbour View room (see the previous post on why I think that).

Doorman at The Peninsula

Doorman at The Peninsula

Our room itself was large and comfortable, and quite quiet (with the exception of a loud neighbor one afternoon – but that was short lived). The view was exceptional, and the service quite good.

The Peninsula at night

The Peninsula at night

However, what really made our stay special was the Concierge staff, whom I peppered with dozens of questions about everything ranging from dining, street food, and public transportation, to markets, sight seeing, and getting a last minute table at the posh in-house French restaurant for only dessert one night. Most often it was Kandi at the Concierge desk who fell victim to my questions, and she handled all my queries wonderfully well.

Kandi - our most excellent concierge at The Peninsula

Kandi - our most excellent concierge at The Peninsula

The other thing The Peninsula is known for is their afternoon tea, but we didn’t find it to be anything extraordinary compared to other afternoon teas we have enjoyed around the world. However, being a guest at the hotel, you can get a table reserved for you – something that mere pikers off the street (and there are hundreds who wait in line for the afternoon tea) cannot get.

Afternoon Tea at The Peninsula

Afternoon Tea at The Peninsula

The lobby at The Peninsula

The lobby at The Peninsula

(For the record, the absolute best afternoon tea we have ever had was at the Amstel hotel in Amsterdam last October. It was a veritable tea tasting and feast, with seven different types of tea served and enough finger food for a small army. Maybe I’ll get a chance to post pictures of that at some point.)

 

Views of Hong Kong Across Victoria Harbour

July 18th, 2010 at 4:16 am (AST) by Jake Richter

Victoria Harbour, also known as Hong Kong Harbour, is an amazing place – both in terms of traffic and adjacent building density as well as in terms of sheer imagery. The harbor is a natural one, located between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula.

We had booked a Harbour View room at The Peninsula, which is located on the southern-most portion of Kowloon, and the view from our 25th floor room was certainly a sight to behold. In fact we spent several hours just sitting in chairs facing the harbor, watching the lights and boat traffic.

View from our room at The Peninsula, by day

View from our room at The Peninsula, by day

View from our room at The Peninsula, at night

View from our room at The Peninsula, at night

While the images above are just a portion of the entire view, below is a panorama stitched together from multiple shots. If you click on it you’ll go to Flickr where you can view the entire 7,389 pixel wide panorama. You can also click on the above images to see larger versions of those shots.

Panoramic view from our room at The Peninsula by day

Panoramic view from our room at The Peninsula by day

 

And We Continue to Be Spoiled…

July 17th, 2010 at 11:20 am (AST) by Jake Richter

We had booked our first five nights in Hong Kong at The Peninsula, rated one of the top hotels in the world. Part of the Fine Hotels and Resorts Package we booked through American Express Travel included complimentary airport transfers, a room upgrade, and afternoon tea for two at The Peninsula.

The airport transfers are extra special, however, as The Peninsula has the world’s largest fleet of Rolls Royce limousines, and that’s what you get chauffeured in from the airport on Lantau island to the hotel in the Tsim Shu Tsui section of Kowloon. But the service doesn’t start with the drive. As we deplaned, moderately well rested due to the comforts of our first class flight, we were greeted at the gate by someone holding a sign up with our names on it. He took our carry-on bags and rolled them to the immigration line (sadly, there was no shortcut or express lane for us there), while telling us about The Peninsula and answering any questions we had about Hong Kong.

After immigration we picked up our bags (which came off the conveyor belt quickly because they were priority tagged) and were brought past customs and then outside where our custom dark green Rolls Royce limo was waiting, along with Lee, our driver.

The Peninsula's Rolls Royce airport transfer at night with Lee driving

The Peninsula's Rolls Royce airport transfer at night with Lee driving

It was an incredibly smooth 25 minute ride to the hotel, where our luggage was whisked away and we were brought to our room by Tiffany, a delightful young Chinese woman, who checked us in while in our room (actually, our second room as the first was a bit smoky smelling). We ultimately ended up on the 25th floor, with a room overlooking Hong Kong island (more on the view later).

Daytime view of The Peninsula's Rolls Royce limousines

Daytime view of The Peninsula's Rolls Royce limousines

Our luggage gets loaded into the Rolls Royce limousine upon departure from The Peninsula

Our luggage gets loaded into the Rolls Royce limousine upon departure from The Peninsula

And, yesterday (Friday), we took advantage of the transfer in our package to have another Rolls Royce limousine drop us and our bags off at a hotel on Hong Kong island. The bags stayed and we continued on by ferry to Macau (which I hope to document in a future post).

Dennis drives us to our next adventure in Hong Kong in one of The Peninsula's Rolls Royce limousines

Dennis drives us to our next adventure in Hong Kong in one of The Peninsula's Rolls Royce limousines

We could definitely get used to being chauffeured around in a Rolls Royce limousine, but it’s not likely to happen on Bonaire or anywhere else on a regular basis, I think.

Linda the rock star

Linda the rock star

Jake's Rolls Royce self-portrait - can you smell the leather interior yet?

Jake's Rolls Royce self-portrait - can you smell the leather interior yet?

 

Traveling To Hong Kong, First Class

July 16th, 2010 at 10:07 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

The Traveling Richters are well traveled, and thanks to many years’ accumulation of frequent flyer miles and various elite status memberships with certain airlines, we usually manage to upgrade our flights to first class on U.S. domestic routes as well as to/from Bonaire, our home in the Caribbean. That said, we have never traveled trans-ocean in international first class. Until now.

On our current trip to Hong Kong and Macau, Linda and I had the privilege (thanks to 125,000 American AAdvantage miles per ticket) to fly international first class across the Pacific. Oh my. What a difference that is from cattle economy class!

On the Cathay Pacific 747 we flew on from San Francisco to Hong Kong last weekend, the first class cabin has nine seats and two dedicated cabin attendants who made us feel very loved (thank you Geri and Patrick!).

Flight time was nearly 13 hours, with a 5:30pm departure (our flight was about three hours late), and a roughly 10pm arrival (one day later due to crossing the International Date Line). That’s a pretty long flight, and the seats in first class were perfect to accommodate the flight time.

Linda in her first class pod on Cathay Pacific, with champagne and newspaper in hand

Linda in her first class pod on Cathay Pacific, with champagne and newspaper in hand

Each seat is basically a pod that offers a number of amenities, including the ability to create a flat bed long enough for even my 6’3” body. There’s also a bench opposite the main seat where a travel companion can join you for a meal (or they can sit, a bit snugly, next to you). Of course, there’s also a 17” LCD display, and dozens of on demand program options.

Jake reading his newspaper in his pod

Jake reading his newspaper in his pod

To further make your flight as comfortable as possible, the airline provides a complimentary set of pajamas, custom made by designer/retailer Shanghai Tang, and cabin staff will make your “bed” for you with a comfortable mattress pad, pillows, and even a snuggle-worthy duvet. The only thing they didn’t have were slippers in my size (13 US).

Nap time for Jake, fully reclined, in Shanghai Tang designed jammies

Nap time for Jake, fully reclined, in Shanghai Tang designed jammies

Add to all that a couple of multi-course meals and a snack service, along with a very nice wine list, and you have a recipe for a wonderful and relaxing travel experience. The only minor complaint we had was that the asparagus was mushy – that’s pretty bearable considering everything else.

Dinner for two on Cathay Pacific

Dinner for two on Cathay Pacific

Salmon and caviar for our appetizer in first class on Cathay Pacific

Salmon and caviar for our appetizer in first class on Cathay Pacific

The only real negative we see now is that we are spoiled and will be hard pressed to fly mere coach class. Sadly, even a large supply of frequent flyer miles will run out at some point. But, if you have the miles to spend (or the money), spoil yourself with international first class on a great service-oriented airline like Cathay Pacific.