Category: Wiggins’s Words

The next leg on our three-stop journey home was a flight on LH400 from Frankfurt (FRA) to New York (JFK). This was another very well-executed flight, and I came away with very fond impressions of the extended staff at Lufthansa and their brand as a whole.

One huge perk of this ticket was access to the Lufthansa Business Lounges. They are incredibly elegant, clean, and straightforward. There is something about the simplicity in design that leaves for a very soothing feeling. It’s a stark contrast from a similar lounge experience (virtually anywhere) stateside. I wondered if this had something to do with German people in general, as they seem to be very professional, clean, and precise. Thus, even as the lounge got more crowded during our four hours there (when we arrived around 6 AM, there were perhaps 8 people in the whole facility, versus when we left when there were 150+), it didn’t seem to get chaotically loud (such as those I’ve seen in ATL, JFK, DCA, among many others).

The flight was another non-eventful one. The staff seemed much more friendly and engaged than the Thai Airways crew. After having been in Thailand for nearly two weeks prior though, I chalked that up to the Thai people simply not wanting to impede on your time to bother you for questions (e.g. How is everything tasting? Can I get you anything more?). Rather, they will be of utmost help if you simply ask them for anything you’d like.

The food was a bit boring again (side question: where does one have to fly to get good airline food??), although there were some added perks that still helped differentiate the experience. For one, the menu had an interesting narrative about the changing over to winter, and what that meant for ingredients as well as one addition to the menu: goose. Katy and I both opted for the goose, as it seemed like something culturally appropriate (such as trying the Thai dish on Thai Airways coming from Thailand). It was so-so. But the small pack of cookies (again, with a narrative about how important baking cookies is to the German culture around the holidays) was a nice touch.

The amenity kit, although pretty standard, had a Christmas theme to it as well, with an ornament of sorts attached (reading “Happy Holidays”), along with a snowflake interior liner.

Til Next Time,

Michael

The first part of our multi-leg return trip home was a 12 hour flight from Bangkok (BKK) to Frankfurt (FRA) in Business Class (also known as Thai Royal Silk). We would then continue onward from there to New York (JFK) and finally back home to Atlanta (ATL). We paid 80k Chase Rewards Points per ticket (for just the BKK>FRA>JFK portion, whereas we booked JFK>ATL separately with Delta miles because it was overall much cheaper).

Seeing as our flight was at 11:40 PM on a Sunday, we didn’t quite know what to expect, either from (unpredictable, but usually terrible) Bangkok traffic or the airport itself. We were also unaware of just how awesome Thai Royal Silk would be. For an airport so massive, I was actually somewhat surprised by the order and efficiency that existed. Perhaps that was due to recent comparisons in airports that are much smaller and quite chaotic (Phuket and Chiang Mai).

The experience with Thai Royal Silk was great to put it simply. Upon arrival to the airport, there is a specific set of check-in counters (not unusual for Biz Class) with a seated check-in counter experience (way unusual for airports in my experience). After that, it’s a quick move through (dedicated) security checkpoint, and (if you so choose) down into the many Royal Silk lounges.

The next “wow” moment for this flight was the “Royal Silk Spa”, which offered us as Business Class ticketholders, a 30 minute massage (our choice between leg massage and head/neck/shoulders). We both opted for the head/neck/shoulders as we had already gotten a leg massage earlier that afternoon. It was a great way to decompress before a flight.

As far as the flight itself, it was relatively uneventful, but a very cool and unique experience since we were flying on the world’s largest passenger jet (an Airbus A380, capable in Thai Airways’ seating configuration of hauling over 500 passengers at once!). The jet was awesome, and we had great seats in the spacious and comfortable business class cabin on the upper deck of the plane. I appreciated the configuration of this plane more than others, because wifey and I got to be much closer to each other (versus, say, many Delta One configurations where you have a barrier between you and your seat mate).

Our flight began with a (fairly typical) hot towel to freshen up. Additionally, passengers in the business/first class cabins had their selection of several pre-flight beverages (spoiler alert: Katy and I obviously picked champagne, because it was Veuve Cliquot and because… champage). The food left a little bit to be desired. Neither of us were fans of the majority of our selections, although they weren’t bad by any means. Additionally, Katy was served by a different FA for the majority of the flight, which ended up causing some awkward timing differences (for instance, she got her main course at least 20 minutes before I did).

The amenity kit was another “what you see is what you get” moment. Nothing to write home about, but Katy was really excited for the quality of the bag and the ability to take it on weekend trips in the future with a small outfit of makeup and such.

One final added bonus was the tail camera, visible in the entertainment console. I got a pretty cool video upon approach into Frankfurt, which shows the plane fighting some light crosswind. Avgeeks of the world, rejoice…

All in all, using the Chase points to book this flight (through United) was a huge score. The business class experience was more than adequate for the points spent, and I would totally do it again.

Til Next Time,

Michael

Delta Flight to Hong Kong

Our outbound flights to Asia were booked as Skymiles Award tickets, costing 105k miles apiece. This seems like an outrageous sum to be sure, but when the true dollar cost of the flight is nearly $5,000, you can look past it. The flight from Atlanta to Seattle itself was a bit of a yawner, as that is a basic first class domestic experience. For the sake of time (and boring you), I’ll go ahead and put that aside and say that the ATL>SEA leg was great and met my expectations.

The buildup to the Hong Kong flight itself was fairly ordinary, although we did get a specific email asking us if we wanted to make meal selections in advance for our SEA>HKG leg. I had heard about this, and I think this particular case was one of their extended pilots, whereby they’ll take certain global travel regions (e.g. Asia) and offer specific menu options. Neither of us opted to do this because we wanted to see all the other options (which, apparently, will roll out next year). Once we got to the airport, the check-in process was fairly standard. The one nice touch Delta adds is free SkyClub access for business/first class passengers on international flights. I personally never pay since I have a Skymiles Reserve Card, but it was great to have Katy’s access free of charge (avoiding the typical $29 I pay otherwise when we go).

As far as the experience once we boarded the flight itself, I will say that I was  actually very impressed. Having flowing in Delta’s top-end cabins many times previously – I doubted that this new(ish) Delta One product would be able to deliver anything extra special. Admittedly, I don’t know that it would have been that much different than business class, but I think there were a few things here and there that made the prestige a bit more grand.

After being seated, we had the customary offer (for business/first class at least) of champagne, which we were definitely not going to refuse since this was the start of our trip of a lifetime. Beyond that, the flight had a proper dinner course, with all sorts of accompaniments, snacks, and beverage choices (even including careful touches like offering Port wine with the dessert). Just before arrival into Hong Kong.

Til Next Time,

Michael

For our one year anniversary, my wife decided that we should go on a “real” honeymoon. I use quotation marks because, by all accounts, we did go on a proper honeymoon the first time around (see posts on Tulum – we spent 6 days there and had a blast!). However, since we were nearly out of paid time off at the end of 2016 when we got married, we didn’t get to do a lengthier couple week trip to really relax. So – this is why I refer to it as our “Anniversamoon”, or as you’ll see in upcoming posts – our “Asiaversary”.

Here is a brief overview of our itinerary, and I will be sure to add all the details in upcoming posts (from things like flight, hotel, food, activity, and entertainment perspectives):

Asiaversary Itinerary

As you can see, we had quite a diverse range of stops, as well as carriers (and lodging types). Our major stops were Hong Kong, Chiang Mai, Phuket (well, the islands near Phuket really), and Bangkok. We learned a lot, had a blast, and can’t wait to share more.

Hope you enjoy!

Til Next Time,

Michael

Cast

Cast: our favorite happy place in Dry Creek Valley

On our third day in Napa (a Saturday, and our friend Jamie’s birthday), we decided to venture over to Sonoma. It was Katy and I’s day to plan, and we really wanted to expose the group to a side of wine country they had likely never seen (i.e. the less snooty, more affordable side!).

Something different this trip: we had a limo taking us around all day. It was the first time Katy and I had done this and it was definitely a much safer alternative that allowed us to focus more on our time with friends (instead of navigating, losing cell service, etc etc). This did present some challenges, though, in terms of staying on schedule. Admittedly, the group was a bit more relaxed and leisurely than we predicted, so missing out on one tasting wasn’t the end of the world.

We originally aimed to do Cast, a possible flex option before lunch, Imagery, Eric Ross, and Saintsbury. We only ended up getting to Cast, Eric Ross, and Saintsbury. It was still a blast!

The reviews from day three:

  • Cast
    • Wine Score: 9/10
    • Property/Tasting Room Score: 9/10
    • Notes: Very consistent with our prior trips (this was at least our 3rd visit to the vineyard).
  • Eric Ross
    • Wine Score: 8/10
    • Property/Tasting Room Score: 8/10
    • Notes: While it was very enjoyable (similar to our prior visits), we were a bit turned off this time because we were not greeted as favorably because we were a large group. Considering this is the type of place that doesn’t really accommodate large groups, we shouldn’t have been too upset about it, but the fact that we did reserve in advance left us a bit sad. Once the owner came over though and put two-and-two together – they did seem to be much warmer with us.
  • Saintsbury
    • Wine Score: 9/10
    • Property/Tasting Room Score: 10/10
    • Notes: We actually rated Saintsbury higher this time. Not because it was less enjoyable the first time around (we scored it overall 8/10). But more so because the experience as a group was so enjoyable. Everything from our new best friend Jacob (who poured us delicious wine), to the fact that we signed up for the wine club (because, admittedly, this is still the best Pinot Noir we’ve ever had and only realized that much later after our first visit), everything just seemed right. And, to top it off, the owner and head vintner/winemaker was there. They even autographed the magnums I purchased. How cool!!

All in all, we had an amazing trip and were very fortunate to get to spend it with so many of our friends. Can’t wait to go back next March!

Til Next Time,

Michael

Del Dotto Caves

On our second day in Napa (a Friday), we decided to primarily stay on the Napa side of the valley, although Katy and I lobbied hard to get everyone to Sonoma (more on that during Saturday’s post, though, as we were given the chance to plan that whole day’s itinerary!).

We were actually rather pleased with Napa for once, and the wineries, tasting rooms, and prices didn’t feel quite as exorbitant as other places we’d been on that side (with the exception of one – more to come on that in a moment!). We started the day at Del Dotto, and then migrated to Paraduxx, which was actually all we were able to do that day. Why, you may ask? Well, we actually scored a hard-to-get reservation at the French Laundry, and six of us decided that would be an ideal way to have a once-in-a-lifetime meal at one of the country’s most famous establishments. I’ll have to dedicate a separate post just to the meal, though, as there are so many details that it would get distracting (and I’d start to get hungry as I type).

The reviews from day two:

  • Del Dotto
    • Wine Score: 9/10
    • Property/Tasting Room Score: 9/10
    • In full disclosure, I would usually avoid recommending somewhere like this due to the tasting fee ($75). However, it was simply the best barrel tasting experience I have ever experienced, and the uniqueness with which they customize your group’s tour is unparalleled. Barrel tastings are where you get the chance to taste wine directly from the small batch barrels in which it is aging (sometimes even before they would claim a wine otherwise “ready” to be drank – so that you can see how the wines age with time and how that impacts their aromas, flavors, and tannins). One drawback, though, was the price of the wine itself. While it is some of the best Cabernet I think I’ve ever had – the going rate for most bottles was $100-200 (with some selected bottles like a really cool one they have – THE BEAST – ringing in closer to $300). That’s steep. Plus, even though our group of 8 purchased several thousand dollars worth of wine (mostly all attributed to one of our DINK friends – dual income no kids), they still didn’t refund the tasting fees. This had previously been almost customary, so it’s a bit of a shame that they try to bleed you so much from a financial perspective. Everything else about this stop was incredible!
    • BONUS: They serve you some delicious pizza, homemade sausage and cheese, as well as chocolate at the end of the tour (most likely to help you avoid early intoxication if you’ve got other tastings on the horizon!)

Del Dotto Food

  • Paraduxx
    • Wine Score: 7/10
    • Property/Tasting Room Score: 7/10
    • This was a cool spot, and had some great wine. It’s a part of the extended Duckhorn family, so you know you’re getting a good, quality product. Our tasting table outside, on a very nice day, was a great way to relax the afternoon away, all while enjoying the elixir of the gods.

Stay tuned for the review of the day we planned (Saturday). It’ll have a lot of familiar names that I’ve written about before. Spoiler alert: they did not disappoint at all!

Til Next Time,

Michael


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