Home

United Polaris Global First is a good thing. There is nothing to complain about at all, really. In fact, as we’ll see here, the pods in Polaris First beat the pods in Polaris BusinessFirst hands down. The real question is, is the price delta (on the order of $5000 to $10,000 for some routes) worth the plus up in service?

Lets find out.

Here is what a Polaris BusinessFirst pod looks like

And by comparison, here is what a Polaris Global First pod looks like

There are 8 First pods on the 777, and two sections of Business pods lined 6 across (versus 4).

Seat layout on the United 777 version 1

The first class pod is much roomier. It is both longer and wider, and it is easier to sleep in. Of course, sleep does not come easy on these flights!

The first pod also has lots of compartments for stashing your stuff. This appeals to my anal sensibilities. I like consolidating and stashing stuff.

The food is exactly the same. I mean exactly. Hint: get the thai chicken udon noodles and the garlic bread.

The service is also pretty much the same. Maybe one notch more attentive in Global First, which can at times be a bit over the top.

Bathroom access is, surprisingly, better in Business. That’s because on the 777 at least, you share the bathroom with the flight crew.

Oh, and the wifi is the same. It doesn’t work.

Bottom line? Polaris BusinessFirst is definitely worth the cash outlay, but Polaris Global First, being mostly the same is something to cross your fingers for and hope for that upgrade.

R2 Wine Luncheon Take 3

March 12, 2018

There are rumored to be more wine luncheons than those that we can attend, but rumor is just rumor unless there is photographic evidence. The latest incarnation that can be shown to exist happened in LA on March 9th. The target was Little Sister.

As you can see, nobody enjoyed themselves, least of all Donnie.

Also there was not enough wine.

The weather was terrible. Cold and snowy.

Obviously, we drove the waitress completely insane.

The food was delicious, a fusion of Asian and American (kind of like that helicopter sound that immediately brings to mind Vietnam).

Many courses, only one of which included shakey beef.

There was little wine.

Pinot noir from the wine club.

There was big wine.

Pinot noir from the cellar.

There was plenty of wine.

The selection

Then all of a sudden we were on a quest. First to the Athletic Club of LA. Very old school, but willing to learn how to make a Corpse Reviver #2.

Then to Miro (under an Italian eatery), which was very suave but still willing to make a great Sazarac with Willet Family Reserve 12 year old rye. Perfection.

Sazarac (with only ywo dashes of Peychauds)

Then to dinner, where the political state of Virginia became a problem for some of us with an overly sized buzz. No GOP weenie has been elected to state wide office since 2009 in Virginia DAMN IT! And that was before the sheer idiocy of fake president Twump.

Dinner was somewhere near these very tall buildings

Then to Cafe D’oro in Santa Monica to hang with Vincenzo and drink whatever the dealer dealt.

Dealer’s choice (mezcal)

By 1am we were back at the Georgian Hotel, a good thing since our departure was slated at 5am sharp.

Would we do it again? Of course.

This California in December thing seems to be a trend now that NPS works for a silicon valley company. What that means is a week-long delay in the start of our annual no fly nöel thing.

So how did 2018 stack up? Well the tripometer was up year over year after many years. And most of the travel was international. This year we visited:

  • London (twice)
  • Inverness
  • Stuttgart
  • Neuremberg
  • Tokyo
  • Kyoto
  • Oslo
  • Sardegna
  • Malta

Lots of time outside the confines of the broken United States and its Orange Caligula of a “President.”

Here’s the graph.

The annual tripometer. Trips are up for NPS.

Because of all of the international travel, we had some interesting impact on loyalty programs. It’s not even clear we’ll make inner circle this year at Kimpton (horrors)!

Other than the “not really Virgin America” we have no loyalty anymore for any airlines. Treat them all the same and let the chips fall where they will. Use money to “upgrade” by starting out upgraded. My my how things have changed.

A direct comparison of international business class shows United has the best service. Here are two examples.
Delta
United

Anyway, time to stay home by the fire for a while.

Though this place is generally unavailable to the public, the showers are not plastic.

Valetta, Malta

Enemy boat hat (Leukemia Cup)

The definitely-no-sign-of-plastic shower.

Even the second bathroom!

Transparent glass sink

Coffee service is unprecedented. Espresso Macchiato in the morning.

The taproom is an outstanding place for dinner. Great cocktails too.

Make sure to visit Medina, the Dingli Cliffs, and a beach!

Don Berto pizza in Cospicua is as enthusiastic as it comes. Great pizza and a bunch of great bargains on the wine list if you know what you’re doing.

In Valetta, lunch at Trabuxu Bistrot is a must.

Skip dinner at Rampila. It is old school and needs some work on serving people under 70. The food is good, the experience is nothing special.

Visit the Malta War Museum and wander around in Valetta.

The view from the bus

First you take a bus from Oslo. The views along the way are incredible. As the altitude gains, the temperature droops.

Oslo Bus Station

Then you arrive and are met by a good friend who whisks you off to the cabin in the middle of nowhere. Rustic. Beautiful. Warm. And Perfect.

The cabin

The hours spent eating, talking, playing music, drinking rum and wine, and sleeping go by fast!

Morning view

Ready to hike?

The 13.8 mile hike on day one was incredible. One of the best hikes ever.

(Read more and see more pictures about the day one hike here.)

Day two summit attempt was beautiful in its own way on a cloudy, rainy, blustery day.

(Read more about hike 2 here.)

But what made it all particularly amazing was the friends.

(Oh, and the shower was not plastic, because there was no shower!)

Yep, it’s silicon valley time and that means the Cowper Inn. This place is so much like home that we request rooms by number in a particular order. Fortunately, we usually end up in 31 (the NPS preferred room).

The flight out on Virgin America was great. Upgraded to first class and ended up with a row of my own. Virgin America makes you pay to upgrade no matter what, but that works for NPS!

It became a clear sunny day in Palo Alto. If you have not visited, Palo Alto is a great place to walk around, window shop, and spend way too much money on furniture. Last time NPS was in town, we accidentally discovered a store which has since managed to sell us multiple very expensive and very comfortable chairs. That would be rejuvenation.

Sequoia

In the yard

Nice room if you ignore the wallpaper

That ’80s kind of shower that your parents had

Through the looking glass

The living room and breakfast room is almost always unoccupied after morning.

Always fresh flowers

In other news, do not go to Roots and Rye which sucks in all possible ways. A waste of gas to get there. workaday: lazy prep, stale bread, uninteresting cocktails, terrible architecture, service that needs training.

Five nostalgic shower heads for the Cowper and its gorgeous yard.

Delta does manage to trip over its feet doesn’t it?

On a multi-hop trip this week we ended up way overpaying to get an earlier flight (oops!) which put us in 1D in first class for an Atlanta to Chicago run. Nice flight with excellent service and some booze to boot.

Then the next day trying to be early again this time we opted to pay $75 for standy and the worst seat in the history of NPS! But it was fun.

Last row, no recline!

What a massive fall from grace. At least we got to get on the airplane first to stash our stuff.

So, does money matter? Yes it does. Does “status” matter? Hell no! You go capitalism.