Trip Report Spring Break 2012

27 Mar

This is the first installment on a series of trip reports where I tell you about my tripping. From the airport to the hotel to the destination to the journey itself, if it’s worth sharing, I will let you know.

Spring Break 2012, 15,000 miles over 12 days:

The itinerary? MCI-MSP-NYC-CCS-BRM-CCS-SJU-JFK-LHR-BRU-LHR-IAH-DFW-MCI

Part 1: KC to Minnesota with Delta to NYC with AA (+ the W Minneapolis)

Part 2: PP lounges at JFK and JFK-CCS in AA J (plus, Venezuelans being Venezuelans)

Part 3: Venezuela to San Juan to JFK with AA to London with British Airways (+ Sheraton Heathrow)

Part 4: London to Brussels on BA  (+ Aloft Brussels)

Part 5: The journey to Hasselt and Sensation White Belgium! (+ Marriott Brussels)

Part 6: Brussels-London on BA business class and the NASCAR experience on air

Part 6: London. Greatest City on Earth? (+ Radisson Edwardian Heathrow)

Part 7: London-Houston-Dallas-KC (+ Park Inn DFW)

———————————————————————

Part 1:

MCI – MSP with Don’t Ever Leave The Airport.

Having had two DISASTROUS experiences with Delta Airlines over the last couple of years, I could not wait to use (get rid of) their Skymiles (Skypesos) to get to Minnesota. It’s funny, the first time Delta royally screwed up they compensated me with 9k Skypesos. Then they screwed up again and what did I get? 5k more Skypesos!

It’s the way the airline industry works, “You had a bad experience flying with us? Sorry, here’s free miles so you can fly with us again!”

For some mysterious reason those MCI-MSP tickets were going for 350-400$ RT. (I guess a ton of people like Minnesota for Spring Break?) Luckily, I was able to get a one-way ticket for 12,500 Skypesos. Not only that, the planets must have been totally aligned the right way because I flew the thing and miraculously made it in one piece along with my bag. Unheard of! Thanks for going out of your way, Delta.

In Minny I met up with a former co-worker and future TttB contributor (coming soon) and headed straight for the goods.

As far as I’m aware, Minnesota is known for:

  • Brutal Winters (and somehow it was 70F when I landed in early March)
  • Sounding surprisingly similar to Ve-ne-zue-la, I guess?


(I swear it happens all the time. Incredible)

  • And the Juicy Lucy

Ever heard of a hamburger called a Juicy Lucy? In my experience they are rarely found outside of Minnesota. But believe or not, this comes as a shocker for the locals. I’m aware is just cheese inside a beef patty but in all of my traveling within the USA I can’t honestly say I’ve ever seen one…on a menu. And trust me, I’ve seen a lot of menus.

The extensive menu of Minny burgers in St. Paul

Normally, I’d give you a picture of an actual Juicy Lucy. But I scarfed down that thing so fast (after waiting for the cheese inside to cool down, that is) there is absolutely no photographic evidence. Want to see one? Check out this video from that Yale-educated actor turned eating-dude on the Travel Channel.

After that magical cheesy moment the world stopped for about 40 minutes.

Hockey loving Irish Pub? Yes. In Minnesota.

Seriously, there was some crazy traffic from a high school hockey tournament. Traffic, in Minnesota? Yes, silly Minnesotans and their hockey obsession.

What are they trying to be? Canada?

A few hours went by and after a quick tour around the Uptown area (please explain to me, why is it called Uptown when is in the South of Minneapolis and at the same elevation? I don’t get it! ) it was time for the main event.

NBA time! New Orleans Hornets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves. The great Venezuela (Greivis Vasquez) vs Spain (Ricky Rubio) matchup I had been looking forward to all year! As luck will have it, the Spaniard of the moment, Mr. Ricky Rubio, blew his knee the night before. Let’s thank Kobe Bryant for crushing my dreamed matchup. It’s OK, everybody blames Kobe. Not the first time.

(You don’t need to know Spanish to feel the drama)

Players intro at Target Center in Downtown Minneapolis. See the moon? Timberwolves...get it?

2.5 hours later and with a great performance by Greivis, New Orleans got away with a 95-89 victory over the Rubio-less T-Wolves. (Minnesota is screwed without Ricky)

The W Minneapolis

As a Starwood Platinum member, I crashed at the Downtown W Hotel which was conveniently located a few blocks from both the Target Center and the train station.

A picture from their website. Yes, it's cool. Yes, it's tiny.

The W Hotels are all about being hip, cool and trendy. This one was, indeed, cool and trendy by having popular drinking establishments in the lobby and the rooftop. The building where this W hotel is 100 years old (or whatever) so they are rather limited in terms of functionality. I had to endure a 15min wait in line to take one of the three lifts (really, that’s why the called the elevators) and that is simply unacceptable (#firstworldproblems). They also have a rather strict no-noise policy so…no ravin’ in the room, Charlie Sheen. I should also add they have a deal with Accura and they can drive you anywhere (withing reasonable distance) at no extra charge. Of course, the service was all booked for the night when I asked.

Honestly, if you can score a room here for ~150$ and are able to split with 3+ people, go for it. Otherwise, keep looking.

After a fun night out in downtown Minneapolis and minimum sleep it was time to get going. At 5:30am Sunday morning I took the 40min, $4 train/rail from downtown to the airport, (nice job, Minneapolis!).

MSP-LGA on AA

For this Minnesota to Caracas trip I happily burned 30,000 AAdvantage miles to get there in business class (J). Considering I booked it 2 days before and was essentially, well, free…it doesn’t get better than that.

The first flight took me to LGA on American Eagle. I didn’t think American Eagle had real planes with F/J seats but they do.

Here’s how packed the flight was:

With this many people the service had to be great, right? Wrong.

About 30mins into the 3hr flight I got asked: “Would you be joining us for breakfast?”

Hell, yeah. Is the sky blue? Half the fun of flying in J is the food. Although, anything besides tiny pretzels and old peanuts is a major step up.

Now, keep in mind last month I flew LAX-DFW (also in J) on a newer AA aircraft (763) and we got this awesome breakfast:

Best omelet I have had on a plane.

So my excitement for breakfast on this MSP-LGA flight was not completely unfounded.

Then reality set in:

Really, American Airlines? REALLY? What is this? Continental breakfast at a motel? Victoria’s Secret models eat more than this and they have no idea what they are doing.

Major letdown….and needless to say, I was still hungry. Unfortunately (and unforgettably) the flight attendant for J spent 70% of the flight at the back of the plane sitting in coach chatting with her colleague. A 25% capacity flight with 250% the worst attention and service I ever got on AA. Unforgivable.

The flight was also my first time landing at La Guardia and I got to capture some great views of NYC on the descent. Including Manhattan:

Cool city, innit?

Once in LGA a ~$12 shuttle took me to JFK in less than one hour. Great option if you’re not in a hurry. However, if there’s 3 or 4 of you traveling together, a cab may be a cheaper, faster option.

Part 2 coming up. Airport lounges are nice (free food, booze, showers) and I finally board to Caracas. JFK-CCS in AA J.

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3 Responses to “Trip Report Spring Break 2012”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Part 2: PP lounges at JFK and JFK-CCS in AA « Tripping to the Beat - April 2, 2012

    […] Part 1: KC to Minnesota with Delta to NYC with AA (+ the W Minneapolis) […]

  2. Part 3: CCS to San Juan to JFK with AA to London with BA « Tripping to the Beat - April 19, 2012

    […] Part 1: KC to Minnesota with Delta to NYC with AA (+ the W Minneapolis) […]

  3. Part 4: London to Brussels on BA (+ Aloft Brussels) And shopping? « Tripping to the Beat - May 29, 2012

    […] Part 1: KC to Minnesota with Delta to NYC with AA (+ the W Minneapolis) […]

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