And now, a year later, I'm about to set off again on another Big Trip. Every year, at the end of May, the world's most prestigious ballroom dancing competition takes place in the sometimes cold and dreary Victorian working-class resort of Blackpool, England, on the Irish Sea. If this were tennis, it would be like Wimbeldon. I've gone nearly every year since 2007 with some lovely friends from my days as a ballroom dancer. I realized a few years ago that if I was going to all the trouble to get from San Francisco to the UK, I might as well tack on some other traveling. One year I went to Scotland. Last year I continued around the world to Okinawa and Hawaii. This year I will go diving in the Maldives.
In less than 24 hours I will set out on this latest adventure. I'm a bit of a commercial passenger air travel nerd, in that I know the three-letter codes for far too many airports, and the two-letter codes for more airlines than the average person. I also hate being uncomfortable on the plane. I bring this up to explain my somewhat odd routing for my trip: SFO-LAX-LHR MAN-DOH-MLE-DOH-CDG-IST-LAX-SFO. To make a long story about poor planning, changes in plans, and randomness short, I ended up needing to buy a one-way ticket to London, and a one-way ticket home from Europe. I'll get to the return part another time. When I went to book the trip to London, one-way tickets on United were ridiculously priced at about $1200. And this wasn't on the nice non-stop 777 from San Francisco (SFO) to London Heathrow (LHR). No, this was on a workaday United A-320 to Newark (EWR), and then a god-awful 757 to London. First of all, I'm a bit of a snob and feel a bit creeped out flying a single-aisle plane across the ocean. Secondly, I cannot sleep on flights shorter than about 8 hours. The SFO-EWR-LHR route would give me two approximately six-hour legs -- both long enough to be uncomfortable, yet too short for me to get any sleep. Prompted by an ad I had seen a few months ago for Air New Zealand's Premium Economy service, I decided to look into flying on them via Los Angeles (LAX). The price was about $100 more, but service was going to be so much better: bigger, more padded seat, an interesting-looking beanbag footrest, better food, and free booze. (Yes, United started charging for drinks in coach on their transatlantic flights a few years ago.) I decided to give it a try, even though it meant spending another $70 for a ticket to get myself from SFO to LAX. Anyway, I'm quite exited about sampling this service and will write all about it after I get to London on Monday.
If anyone is reading this, awesome, nice to have you come back after I disappeared for a year.