Sunday, July 16, 2017

The 30+ Hours of Flying and Airports to Fiji

Myself, Lydia, her sister Zoe, and our friend Steph embarked on a long journey today. Our final destination was Fiji but we had over 30 hours of flying and sitting in airports ahead of us. How fun!

I came up with a plan to fly free from LA to Nadi, Fiji and back again with miles earned by signing up for a couple of Delta American Express cards.

The airlines and credit card companies of the world are determined to make sure that I see every country for free. Thanks guys!

Our first stop was Oakland. They had a really nice view from the airport windows.

LAX was really bustling. Right around the time I took this picture I found a $100 bill on the ground. Everyone asked for me to wave it around in their faces over and over the whole trip.

I was impressed with how fancy the international terminal was.

There was a whole lot of written Chinese on signs and advertisements. A sign here is telling Chinese people that unfortunately this $85 box of Godiva chocolates with an American flag on the front is not available in China. Better stock up while you have the chance.

There are a number of the fancier credit cards that have a pretty cool perk: Priority Pass membership. I'd had this for a while but never really bothered using it. But I brought the damn card on this trip and I was intent on finally using it. It's essentially a pass that will get you into a lot of the airport lounges around the world. Lounges filled with free wifi and free food and a free sense of entitlement. My understanding was that I could only have one guest though, so after a dramatic session of "eeny, meeny, miny, moe" I chose Lydia and we went on a hike to the nearest participating lounge.

There wasn't a useful lounge in the international terminal so we had to walk through these weird service hallways that connect some of the terminals.

Finally we arrived at the Alaska Lounge. Salmon and dog sled racing for everyone!

Sitting on the check-in desk was this sign talking about despite the fact that the website says you can bring a guest, you in fact cannot bring a guest. Oh hell no. We turned around to leave but the desk clerk, assumably seeing the impending departure of his most attractive customers of the day, insisted that the stupid sign did not apply to us and let us in. Damn straight.

It was sort of like a Shoney's buffet, except instead of pizza sitting under a heat lamp it was champagne and minestrone soup. Alaskans like the same things I do apparently.

I like fancy airports because they almost inevitably have fancy free samples of things. We had some really ornate Bombay Sapphire cocktail samples at this little bar. The bartender was complaining about how much it sucks to do this job in an airport. For example she wasn't allowed to bring a knife so she had to pre-cut the lemon slices at home. It was amusing to hear.

I don't know.

Thankfully we didn't fly on a Delta airline with our Delta miles because American airlines are sort of like flying gulags. We were able to fly Virgin Australia. 

We picked the very last two rows of a giant plane because back there there were two rows of two. No stranger danger here!

I passed out. Lydia was impressed because I managed to knock out like 8 or 9 hours of sleep on the flight. There wasn't much boredom torture for me on this one.

One of the fun things about flying on foreign airlines is that they have fun foreign food and drinks to try.

We got an amazing view of a Brisbane, Australia shrouded in mists.

I really liked the sort of Greek goddess with the Australian flag on the front of all of Virgin's planes. I thought maybe it was the personification of Australia. Wikipedia refers to her as "Virgin Girl" but a quick search for "virgin australia "virgin girl"" produced mostly, shall we say, unrelated results.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Collinsville's World's Largest Catsup Bottle Festival

Today we indulged my love of small town festivals at Collinsville, Illinois' 19th Annual Brooks® World's Largest Catsup Bottle Festival Birthday Party & Car Show. What a descriptive name you have there.

Collinsville used to have a Brooks ketchup (the catsup spelling is for heathens) factory that had a giant ketchup bottle shaped water tower. Well the factory moved to Canada (they took our jobs!) but America got to keep the sweet, sweet water tower. The festival honoring said water tower took place at Woodland Park which was also the location of the International Horseradish Festival. Collinsville truly is a city of wonders.

One the most unique things they had going on was a ketchup tasting booth. If you could guess which one was Brooks brand you got a prize. Having never had it before I failed.

Mom pulled out a win though and got this sweet button/ribbon combo.

Fun ketchup fact: ketchup is a descendent of the Chinese fish sauce kôe-chiap or kê-chiap. It being a loan word that can't really be perfectly converted is the reason there are a few spelling variations.

A couple of ketchup-haired ladies caught my eye. Gonna need a picture with them!

Hurray ketchup!

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Surprisingly Good Food at the Trinidad Airport

Our time was up. Time to leave Tobago for Trinidad then back home.

I think Turtle Beach was a perfect blend of real and comfortable.

The Caribbean Airlines propellor plane to Trinidad was real loud. Was like a flying lawnmower.

When we landed the pilot turned on the intercom and said 
"remember to guard your modesty during your festive moments."
Thanks for the tip mother superior.

This memorial to the bombed Cubana Flight 455 was a rare thing to see in an airport. I had never heard of this before but I guess it was a terrorist attack that killed the entire Cuban National Fencing Team.

Trini and tranny are unfortunately close words.

So we arrived at the airport in Trinidad and we were both excited to try the food. When we first arrived here I spotted a sign describing all of the awesome local food that they were serving at the airport. Well we looked all around the building and couldn't find the food. Figuring the last remaining place to check was beyond security we passed through and still couldn't find anything to eat at all. Well still being hungry we made a move that I think is a first for us: we left the secure area of the airport. It was especially awkward because we were in the international terminal so we had to pass through customs as well to "reenter" the country. Luckily we didn't have to do immigration as well. Would have had a lot of explaining to do and they very well could decide we were sketchy and not let us back into the country.

Hello again.

We eventually figured out that the Trini food was at another outdoor food court.  

I like a nice long line of locals at an eatery. I was really excited!

I'd been on the lookout for "doubles" the whole trip. Doubles get their name from the two baras (flat fried bread) that are then filled with curry channa (curried chick peas). The place also had "pies" which were a similar bread but bigger and had a spicy potato concoction inside in addition to what I think was the same filling as the doubles. My mouth is watering just writing about it.

That sweet TnT.

We didn't eat at this booth but there were several stalls set up to sell the same stuff.

Airport food is usually something to be endured but Piarco International Airport has got it going on. I spotted a bag of chow, which is like pickled unripe fruit. Had to give that a taste, now didn't we?

Travel montage.

Travel montage.

And then we were home. Trinidad and Tobago was a good trip!