[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 11 most recent journal entries recorded in
|Saturday, January 14th, 2006|
Super crazy ass weather in the morning. Super cold and lots of blowing snow, so dumped the sister-in-law to check out the falls by herself and waited in the car. On the way back to Toronto stopped by an IKEA in Hamilton to get some ice cream, yummy!
Ate at the Korean restaurant on Bloor, then went to the outlet. Pricelined the Marriott Courtyard which is one exit south of the outlet and just off Hwy 7 in this big-ass shopping complex. Went to eat at this entertainment/restaurant type thingy.
|Friday, January 13th, 2006|
Rented car from Hertz. Left home around 2pm. Arrived at Scarborough around 7pm. Left around 8pm and arrived in Niagara Falls around 10pm. Hotel is Doubletree, I think it is new. Tried to check-in online earlier but didn't get a choice for upgrade, so decided to leave as is and try my luck at reception. Got a higher floor but not much else. Hotel location is ok but i don't believe we could have seen the falls. The Embassy Suites is probably much better for that. View at the Hilton is now blocked by the new casino, the Doubletree is about 3 blocks from the Hilton. Weather was unbelievable warm, around 10C. While driving around The Hill saw lots of teenagers running around in shorts and/or t-shirts :O
|Saturday, January 7th, 2006|
Went back to staying at the airport hotel. Parked the same place. Don't really need to ride the subway, walking just as fast.
|Friday, January 6th, 2006|
More Boston city stuff. Stayed at the Boston downtown.
|Thursday, January 5th, 2006|
Went to breakfast at around 9am. The waitress remarked we were only the second customer she served that day o_O ordered off the menu as there was no buffet. Miserable drizzle rain weather so not much view. Went on to Boston and drove around the city a bit and shopped. Stayed at the hyatt airport. Parked at a side street one station north of the airport. about a 25 minute walk back to the hotel.
|Wednesday, January 4th, 2006|
The breakfast buffet is not bad. After eating took PATH to downtown. I have taken PATH before but this is actually the first time I realized that we were passing through WTC. I used to think the exposed concrete and steel beams were some type of art hehehe. Just looked around and took a view pictures, then shopped at Century 21 for awhile. Went back to the hotel and then on Jersey Gardens for lots of shopping. Ate lunch at Jersey Gardens.
Around 4pm set off for the mystical japanese supermarket, which is in Edgefield, NJ if memory serves correctly. On the way there is a road that runs parallel to the Hudson River and you can get some awesome shots of the Manhatten skyline. It's about 10 minutes south of the supermarket.
Bought a lot of junk at the supermarket and ate dinner there. That is one awesome supermarket. Drove around 3 hours to Hyatt Newport. Parking costs $8 and we managed to snag the last available indoor space. Upgraded to a big ass bi-level suite, we're probably the only ones there haha.
|Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006|
only about 15 minute wait to cross border. find korean restaurant without much difficulty at around 7pm! a bit underwhelmed by the relative high price, though the food was not bad. head to JFK around 8pm, got there early so waited at a side street for the phone call to pick up sister-in-law. This is the first time we've been to JFK since China Airlines relocated from T3 to T1, and I must say T1 is much nicer than the crappy T3. After pick-up went to Hyatt Jersey but GPS routed us through midtown Manhatten o_O WTF. valet-parked at $32 :O Room is towards the back of the hotel, which is closer to the river and thus has a better view.
|Wednesday, December 28th, 2005|
|Chicago Day 3
wake-up call as promised at 5:55. 10 seconds after I heard the knocks on the door. Did room service send our breakfast early or did they note our wake-up call time? hmm. Continental breakfast had the standard pastries, nothing memorable, though the bill was. $52 for two continental breakfasts, that's more than our lunch bill! I forgot how expensive room service can get. Luckily breakfast was also included in the room rate.
We checked out and walked to the Mag Mile to catch a bus. We seemed to have missed the bus I originally wanted to catch, so we wander a bit aimlessly until another bus came and we went on it. The bus driver told us that his last stop was State or something, but since it wasn't that far from the train station we said ok. So we got to the last stop, and as we were getting off the driver asked if we were taking the train to go to O'Hare. We nodded yes and he replied that since his shift was over he would take us directly to the train station.
My wife and I were stunned, speechless. Never in our wildest dreams did we expected kindness like that, just because we're as cold and heartless as they come. And as he drove I could tell he was actually taking us directly to a blue line station which meant we didn't have to change lines, saving another 15 minutes off the trip. So we thanked him profusely throughout the journey. He asked us if we were Koreans, to which we replied Taiwanese. He then started to mention how it used to be called Formosa and how the Commies kicked the Nationalists to the island in '48, a history buff he is. Just then we arrived at the station, I gave him a measly $3 tip (cheapskate until the day I die) though I don't think he actually expected one, another revelation. Chicago has now become our second favourite city in the whole damn world.
After we got to the airport my wife mentioned we should give our passes, which haven't expired yet, to other people. I was too anti-social to do it but she volunteered so I went along. She walked up to a woman who was in the process of buying from the pass machine and offered a pass to her. She misunderstood our intention and thought we were selling her the pass, so she shrugged and tried to give us some money. We re-explained the situation and she finally took the pass. There was another woman nearbly, who upon hearing the exchange had no such misgivings and immediately took our offered pass.
Check-in was uneventful, we only had to wait a few minutes, and the security line was short too. Since we arrived so early I decided to try my luck at the RCC to see if they would let us in. I was surprised when the RCC matron took one look at our BP and waved us in, she didn't even look up my number in the computer. This RCC sucks like the rest of the domestic RCC, but at least there was free O.J. and a wall socket for me to charge the laptop.
Two very cute babies on our flight. People used to see Katrina crawl and mention how she could easily win infant-crawling races. Hah, what a joke, the baby we saw in the airport was Jackie Joyner-Kersee reincarnate. We watched her stormed her way through the waiting area while her mother tried in vain to stop her. So kawaii.
I was the only one up front on the flight back. I offered my seat to the wife but she said she was fine in the back, ok. Got the same breakfast as before, but at least this time I found a magazine with a sudoku puzzle which I tried in vain to finish. Finishing higher difficulty sudoku is definitely easier on a computer as opposed to paper/pen. Maybe that's just me. Uneventful flight, customs was again a breeze, the guy asked like 2 questions.
Things I learned on this trip:
- Chicagoans are much friendlier than we thought. At almost every store we were greeted by cheerful employees, even at the supposedly haughty luxury goods stores.
- Park Hyatt is a fucking steal at $250. Service so-so. Never got to use the afternoon tea. Maybe next time. Still have to give away the two free tickets to the modern art museum.
- Don't stay at the Four Seasons until they have finished their renovation. But service is phenomenal, definitely 5-star worthy.
- Still have to try the Pen and the chocolate buffet.
- Chicago bus/train passes are valid for 24 hours, not just end-of-day. Very cool.
- AC IT sucks.. I should seriously think about exploiting that bug I found.
|Tuesday, December 27th, 2005|
|Chicago Day 2
Took the included continental breakfast at the NOMI. Shopped some more. Wife is ecstatic because the coat she bought on sale yesterday went back to regular price today :rolleyes: Went to the Four Seasons around 11am to check in. Forgot the lobby was on the 7th floor, took some time to find it. Booked the deluxe room FHR rate $355, which I believe is two grades higher than the lowest available rate. Another upgrade, this time to executive suite. Packet only contained the FHR comment card, strange, though the clerk assures me of the included breakfast and lunch.
Went up to the 39th floor, only to find a room with tired furnishings, worn out coffee table, a bathtub/shower combo, and so-so view of the west side of the city. Since we can cancel up until 4pm without penalty, we decided to check out and go to the Pen instead. Even though the rate is $40 more, at least at the Pen there is separate shower in every room.
Went back down to reception to talk to a different clerk. Very apologetic about our dissatisfaction and proceeded to cancel our reservation. Sympathetic about the room and mentioned that there were two model rooms that had been redone in a modern decor as part of a renovation project. Offered to show us which we accepted.
The room, also an executive suite, was on the 40th floor and the difference was like night and day. Modern decor and furniture, 27" LCD TV in each room, separate shower and tub, and it's in the northwest corner with view of both the city and the lake, just the way we like it. We accept the offer to move to this room, and go back to the Hyatt to get our stuff.
Back at the Hyatt we ask for a late checkout but are denied, the clerk mentioned someone was already booked into our room. I shrugged and started back upstairs to get the rest of our stuff, but then the clerk came running and told me not to bother as they would make other arrangements. Ok then.
Returned to Four Seasons with some of our stuff and was told our room was being dusted and not ready for use. So we deposited the bags with the front desk and went to eat lunch, which was the extra amenity in the FHR rate. The lunch was a buffet and regular price was only $22, very respectable price. The selections weren't enormous but had some very good stuff, I must have ate four pieces of the delicious rib-eye steak. Asked to charge the buffet to our room, and confirmed later that it was free as promised.
After lunch we went to Water Tower Place for some more shopping, went back to the Hyatt and took a nap there before checking out. Went back to the Four Seasons to unpack and then took the bus to Navy Pier to see if the ferris wheel was open. It wasn't but everything else was. We decided to eat dinner at the Bubba Gump place, since there was a huge line up. The wait was 45 minutes so we walked around Navy Pier to kill time. Nothing exciting except touristy stuff, but some bank had turned the conference rooms into a giant indoor winter carnival, it was pretty cool for the kids and something Katrina definitely would like. I wish Montreal can organize something like that.
Bubba Gump was so-so, ordered the mahi mahi while the wife had some fried shrimp. We then took the bus back to hotel. While closing the blinds my wife pointed out the gianormous apartment in the building across from us. We could see the living room which was easily over 1000 sq. ft. There also appeared to be 3 70"+ TV screens in the living room, though only one was turned on. Holy shit I'm still in awe over that apartment.
Anyways, tried to do online check-in, I could get a boarding pass but my wife couldn't, so that meant we had to get up early since I had no idea how the securitiy lines at O'Hare are like. Called the hotel operator to set a 5:55am wake up call, and then called room service to send continental breakfast for 6:00am.
|Monday, December 26th, 2005|
|Chicago Day 1
Stayed awake all night until we left for the airport. Luckily I did the online check-in, as there was a sizable queue for the USA departures check-in. We pass customs with relatively few questions and since we have about 10 minutes before bording I decide to try to access the MLL without the *G card.
I gave both of our boarding passes to the MLL matron, but she asks to see my card. I told her United never sent me a card, but the *G status is clearly printed on my boarding pass so she should have just let us through. Anyway after hemming and hawing she waves us in. The breakfast spread is pretty basic so I just ate some cold cereal and a croissant. We ate quickly and hurried to the gate, right before the boarding announcement started.
We ended up arriving in Chicago 90 minutes late. First they couldn't find someone who knew how to operate the bridge, then we had to wait in line for de-icing. Luckily I slept through all of that wait, so the delay didn't bother me that much. Breakfast was ok, some type of egg thingy with sausage. The flight attendant was nice, kept my cup filled with coffee.
Had some trouble finding the train to take to the city. We were in T2 and we could have just walked through the Hilton hotel and then directly to the station, but instead we took the tram to T3 and then walked there. The train ride itself took about 45 minutes and included a lane change, but the Washington stop was just 2 blocks from the Park Hyatt.
We got to the hotel around 1pm, we checked in and found out we were upgraded to a suite. Pretty sweet since we booked the lowest FHR rate at $295. The packet we were given contained breakfast coupons, voucher good for afternoon tea, and two tickets to the modern art musium. We took the elevator to our room, 1208, and were very pleased with the layout. Two full bathrooms, the one in the bedroom was handicap-accessible and a tub/shower combination, and the one in the sitting room had a separate shower, tub, and commode. Gorgeous view of Water Tower too. Someone came by and slipped an envelope under the door. Inside was a $50 gift certificate good for anything at the hotel itself or the NOMI. I assumed this is part of the HYCARD promo, very glad they honoured this without my prodding.
We unpack and immediate set off to do some shopping. The Magnificent Mile is probably our favourite U.S. shopping destination now, as there is just the right mix of luxury and cheapo stores all situated around the same area. We shopped for a couple hours and return to the hotel to try the afternoon tea at NOMI lounge. Unfortunately the lounge is first come/first serve and it was packed with people, since we didn't want to wait we just went back up to our room and took a nap.
Ate early dinner at Giordano's (sp?). Packed with people, waited about 45 minutes. Ordered a small dish-pan pizza with spinach and beef, and chicken noodles and fried calamari for starters. Should have just ordered the pizza alone, it is more than enough for two people. The soup was lukewarm too. Next time should just get spinach.
After dinner did more shopping, walked down to the Loop to check out the area. Pretty good weather around 3-4C. Took train back to hotel and took a deep soak in the tub. the little LCD tv in the bathroom was a nice touch.
|Sunday, December 25th, 2005|
|Quickie trip to Chicago
The prospect of spending the next week at home just doesn't seem right. I finally decide to go to Chicago for a 2 day quickie vacation. I used points to get a free ticket for the wife, but the taxes were a whopping $107. Not so free is it.
As for me I buy m'self a 10-segment Air Canada City Pass. Man AC IT dept is seriously fucked. I kept running into some technical error when I try to book the ticket (I later found out on flyertalk that someone else had the same problem and it was a bug that the AC IT knew about but chose not to fix :rolleyes:). I called the idiot tech support line but get no where, so I called the regular reservations only to be toled that city passes can be used online only. I give up and decide to wait until after midnight.
After midnight, I tried again and it actually works, and wonder of wonders the upgrade works too. I did online check-in for the both of us, chose seat 3C for me and 10C for the wife. Tried sleeping but couldn't so just stayed awake the rest of the night.