49. Concluding Thoughts (And a Sophmoric Treatise to Freedom)

49. Concluding Thoughts

[Charlotte, North Carolina]

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American homecoming wall collage put up by some friends

As promised, Concluding Thoughts on The Trip of a Million Lifetimes.

Before I get into it I want to say thank you again for the Blogosphere, FlyerTalkers, Friends, and Strangers who have chimed in to cheer us along on our amazing journey. Your encouragement was endearing and kept us going with zeal.

Well now that we are a couple weeks back in the thick of things at work Lady Tocqueville and I have had some time to let things digest. It was terrific to return home to see nothing adverse had happened to the house. We are thankful to some of our local friends who were looking after things while we were gone. A couple even decorated the house with Americana for our return. It took us a good day and a half to get our lives back in order. And the jet lag finally caught up to us, it was about 4 nights later before we started sleeping through the night.

Going back to work and getting back to our “routine” lives was surprisingly not difficult. You would think it would have been much harder. Hell, for 10 weeks straight we had been cruising the world in First Class or Business Class, staying mostly at 5* hotels or charming alternative accommodations, and doing nothing but being young and in love and basking in copious amounts of leisure time and exploration. What a treat! But this trip, almost as a culmination of all our past travels, really made us appreciate how good we had it back home. Here are some of the things we have begun to appreciate in new light:

  • We have a beautiful, old rental house that is just the right size for us with wonderful character. It is our nest and it is a clean, comfortable place to live in a fantastically fun and charming neighborhood. After seeing how so many others live, from Saigon to St. Petersburg, from Sao Paulo to Sydney, we have an appreciate for how we really have it made. We are so lucky.
  • We are gainfully employed, paid fairly for the work we do, and get to learn and be challenged every day at our job. Yes waking up at 5:30AM on Monday to go visit the TSA on the way to a client site isn’t the most fun. But we could be working so much harder, at so much more painful a task, for so much less money. In fact most of the world does. This trip really made us appreciate having a job. We are thankful to be working.
  • Our health is our biggest asset. We are young and healthy. We have a solid foundation. This trip just reinforced to us what a gift that is to us and how we have to enjoy it every day. Whether raking insane amount of leaves from the 100 year old tree out front or just laying on the couch catnapping, being healthy and happy and sound is such a gift from God. For some reason this trip really helped reinforce this for us.Life is good. We can owe all that is good to our freedom. Our freedom, inherent in our humanity, is God’s greatest gift to us. If you don’t believe in God, then consider human freedom the Earth’s greatest gift to humankind. Governments all over the world artificially restrict this freedom in the name of safety, false equality or libido dominadi (the lust to dominate). While this is a fundamental shame in the world, and yes, certainly in the USA, we try to enjoy what freedom we have left every day. The USA used to be the freest country in the world. That is what made it truly great. That was “American Exceptionalism”. Slowly our freedoms have been restricted by federal and state government and we are no longer the most free. At least we are still in the top 15 or so most free. Freedom is being free to engage in voluntary transactions with others. Freedom is to not be aggressor unto others. Freedom is the just power to fight back when someone brings aggression or restriction unto you. As somebody way more brilliant than I will ever be, Judge Andrew Napolitano, once said, “Freedom is our natural state and is the ultimate natural right.” Seeing others who have more government restrictions placed upon them all over the world made us look on the bright side of our American freedoms remaining in comparison to them.If you don’t exercise your freedom on a regular basis, it atrophies like muscles unused If you don’t use your freedom at all, or allow others to substitute their muscle for yours, you don’t stay strong. And you become subservient to those with stronger muscles than you whether you consent to it or not. What happens when a benevolent government turns evil? Has it happened repeatedly, all over the world, and in our own backyard in our lifetime? Regrettably, most Americans are no longer of the tradition to exercise their freedoms as the government restricts them of their rights which existed before governments ever existed and is guaranteed to the people in their own constitution. Wasn’t it Alexis de Tocqueville that 175 years ago said, and I paraphrase, “Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom”? This trip reminded us that life is good because of freedom as the natural state of our being, and we still have more than most, even if it is being taken away from us more and more each day. I hope the USA can become the freest nation in the world again. I hope all people in all nations have their artificial restrictions of freedom by their governments reduced in all sectors of society. If they can become more free than us, cheers to them.We saw the good side of people everywhere we went. So many people, of so many nations and tongues, welcomed us with hospitality and open arms. Around the world people shared smiles, stories, and their time with us. As rock and roll hall of fame inductees Rush said, they were… “bearing a gift beyond price, almost free”. And in our case thanks to strategic frequent flier mile and hotel spending it was almost free. There is no price we could pay for the value, learning, insight, perspective, fun, excitement, and enjoyment we gained from meeting and learning from others around the world.We also learned from the bad side of people. As I outline in this FlyerTalk post we got what we felt was an unfair shake by a Brazillian Border Guard. What would you do in our shoes? I found it insightful, interesting, and absurd to read what some other FlyerTalkers thought of us and our perspective on the situation^:td::confused:. Read the thread for yourselves and see what you think. And don’t miss my sophmoric magnum opus on “Responsibilities of a Guest vs. a Host” in a foreign country in response to some of my detractors on FlyerTalk. We are thankful that across our 10 weeks that was the worst that happened to us. There could have been many more bad outcomes from that or other situations while traveling abroad outside of your comfort zone. I guess that is part of the adventure.

    Many people have asked us about the more personal aspects of our trip. That is a fair question considering our blog and FlyerTalk mainly focused on the nerdy Airline and Hotel aspects. Well I will try and share a tidbit or two on each place to paint some more color on the beautiful portrait of a trip we got to enjoy.

  • Cuzco, Peru: Taking the unbelievably full $1.50 public bus the 1 hour trip from Cuzco to Pisac having the opportunity to sit next to some local indigenous people on their giant ruck sack on the hot center console of the bus while having Peruvian mountain flute music blared out on the radio and holding on for dear life around curvy roads.
  • Lima, Peru: Exploring the childhood home of Lady Tocqueville’s mother near the Mira Flores district. Runner up experience: Ceviche in the Chorillos bario.
  • Easter Island, Chile: Renting a ATV/Quad for the day. From beautiful serene sun-up with the Moai keeping watch over us to a dusty day of seeing all the spiritual aspects of the Rapa Nui people and their amazing Moai we enjoyed the adventure cruising around the island.
  • Santiago, Chile: Eating delicious casita empanadas in the historic center of Valparaiso. Runner up: Enjoying a delicious Chillean Asado meat feast in the Andes Foothills after a wine tour at Concha y Toro vineyard outside of Santiago.
  • Mendoza, Argentina: Private wine tasting at Trivento hosted by the head of marketing and a full hour of insight with the Head winemaker himself of one the reserve line of Wines. Runner up: Celebrating my 30th birthday with my lovely wife and her parents in the Andes at a alpine churrascaria in the Historic Manzana village on San Martin day.
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina: Getting a straight edge shave while Lady Tocqueville sipped Fernet at one of the (#7) 10 best places to get a men’s shave in the world
  • Iguazu Falls, Argentina Brazil: NOT the border crossing which is supposed to be easy. What was awesome: After hiking around and viewing the magnificent Iguazu Falls sitting back in the living room of the Secret Garden with our host Bernardo enjoying homemade snacks and delicious caipirinhas.
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil: Crushing a shrimp and cheese pastel at the Mercado Centrale after moseying around some beautiful neighborhoods all morning
  • Istanbul, Turkey After touring the Hagia Sophia getting into a beautiful 45 minute discussion about Iznik tile art and classic middle eastern antiques with a Kurdish shop-keep in SultanAhmet
  • Santorini, Greece Hiking all the way up the volcano to the fascinating ruins of Ancient Thira. Then coming down and raking our thirst and hunger on awesome gyros wraps and ice cold coca-cola.
  • Athens, Greece: Seeing the Acropolis. Holy smokes.
  • Vienna, Austria: Watching Carmen at the Vienna State Operahouse with Lady Tocqueville, an Italian friend of mine, and his lovely girlfriend. Then coming back to the hotel room at 1Am to watch Georgia beat South Carolina in football.
  • St. Petersburg, Russia Being in Russia with my wife, my parents, and four of my good friends from Zurich. Eating a delicious Georgian feast which included the discovery of Khachapuri into my life. The Summer and Winter Palaces, Hermitage, and St. Issac’s cathedral also did not suck. I’ll give the St. Petersburg ballet for their performance of Romeo & Juliet, but by then I was getting a little of tired of enjoying “the classics”. It was over 3 hours long!
  • Saigon, Vietnam: Taking in the assault on all senses. Favorite assault on taste sense included street food and amazing restaurant food serving street food. We even got to meet up with one of Lady Tocqueville’s friends there who brought us to some incredible insider’s restaurants.
  • Tokyo, Japan: Eating the freshest most delicious sushi ever at the Sushi Zanmai by the Central Fish market. Runner up goes to seeing people performing Cosplay at Asakusa Square at about 3PM on a random Tuesday.
  • Kyoto, Japan: Other than seeing a grammatically incorrect Subway Restaurant napkin, walking hand-in-hand down the philosopher’s path seeing all the temples, zen gardens, and Shinto shrines.
  • Hong Kong, China: Hiking up Mt. Victoria from our hotel to see the stunning views of this amazing shrine to the testament to human freedom and capitalism Hong Kong represents. And the Dim Sum was killer too.
  • Auckland, New Zealand: Catching up with a friend on our quick stop in Auckland.
  • Noumea, New Caledonia En sirotant du vin sur un banc de parc avec vue sur la plage et océan magnifique. Runner up: eating pizza made with Roblechon, which is one of my favorite cheeses in the world. It is restricted from consumption in the USA because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t want to let American’s choose for themselves if they want to eat unpasteurized dairy. If I eat this back home, I go to jail. They call this a “Free Country”.
  • Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia: Rambling about the gorgeous Le Meridien Ile Des Pins. Being drunk on how nice and relaxing our private beachside bungalow was. Paddle boarding to uninhabited pine islands and frolicking on private beaches.
  • Melbourne, Australia: Taking in all the interesting neighborhoods and enjoying the Anglophone Commonwealth culture.
  • Port Douglas, Australia Snorkeling the great barrier reef. (A few of you have asked for photos, we took none of the reef itself since we didn’t have the equipment- so here is some consolation photos from Google). Seeing a sleeping tiger shark was pretty cool. So was hiking for a few hours through the Daintree rainforest looking out for Cassowarys. I did not know Cassowarys even existed until we came to this place. We did eventually see one at a nature reserve.
  • Sydney, Australia Hiking for hours around the beautiful eastern suburbs with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in five years. It was a treat to catch up with him. Also watching the Sydney Union Rugby League finals at a local bar in Bondi Beach was a lot of fun. My memories are a bit hazy on that one.Can you believe how much fun we had? What a blessing to be able to have the health and resources to take a trip like this. The world and its people are such a gift. How are we so lucky? Our Parents? God? Hard work? Creativity? I would argue all of the above.As of today the FlyerTalk thread about our trip has over 58,000 views. 58,000! In less than 3 months! The Tocqueville Miles and Points: Putting the Free in Freedom blog has over 20,000 page views in the last 3 months! I never could have imagined the response and readers who have followed us along on our journey. Thank you again for your support.I am happy to answer questions about our trip or share our lessons learned, pitfalls, and game changers along the way. Let me know how I can help. And I can’t wait to learn from you.You saw how much of an appreciation we got for our home on our return based on my blathering introduction at the beginning of this post. With this concept in mind, I leave you with a sage quote Lady Tocqueville taught me before she was even my girlfriend or my wife:

    We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – T.S. Eliot

     

     

     

48. SYD-DFW-CLT on QF/AA in J

48. SYD-DFW-CLT on QF/AA in J

So after 69 days, it was time to head home. Our last day in Sydney we spent packing and walking around the city on a beautiful spring day. The Naval Parade was in town and we saw seamen from many countries dressed and lining the sidewalks ready for the parade.

Our Qantas ChaufferDrive pick-up from the Marriott came right on time, 11:55AM. Our flight, QF7, departed Sydney at 2:25PM and we had no reason to be rushed. The Mercedes S class was beautiful and the driver a friendly Aussie from The Port Douglas area. He is very interested about our visit to Port Douglas and made for an entertaining ride. We were at the airport in less than 30 minutes.

Sydney, Australia to Dallas, USA

QF 7

Departure Time: 2:25PM

Boeing 747-400 Longreach

Business Class Seat 15K

Duration 15 hours 20 minutes

This would be one of the “longest” days we would ever have. You see the flight left Sydney at 2:25PM on Wednesday October 9. It would arrive 16 hours later in Dallas at 1:25PM on the same day. By the time we would connect and make it to home to Charlotte it would still be Wednesday.

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Beautiful Mercedes S class complimentary courtesy of Qantas ChaufferDrive

We arrived at the Sydney international terminal and made our way to the Departures area. We didn’t immediately see the Qantas Business Class check-in but eventually found it. The check-in with an agent was quick and there was no gruff about the weight of our carry-on bags. Our boarding passes were issued all the way through Charlotte and we were given Immigration/Customs/Security express passes.
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Sydney Qantas Business Class Check-in
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Express passes through immigration, customs, and security in Sydney

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We followed the signs for ExpressPath and made it through all departure formalities in about 15 minutes. I was randomly picked for a body scanner at the security checkpoint instead of going through the Walk-Through Metal Detector like most others.  I tried a Shoulder Syndrome opt-out and was granted it and went through the Walk-Through Metal Detector and had a light pat-down.  Success.  We then made our way to the Qantas lounge to enjoy a drink and relax before the massive almost 16 hour filght.
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Escalator to the Qantas lounges. We did not have access to the First Class lounge but the Business Class lounge was plenty nice.

IMAG1758The Qantas Sydney Business Lounge
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The food spread was excellent especially compared to offering by the US based airlines in the USA. They also had very friendly staff that would come by and take food orders in case one wanted to indulge in a massive meat pie. Lady Tocqueville took the bait on that and really enjoyed what seemed like a homemade pastry stuffed with chicken in a nice wine sauce.

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The food spread also included lamb in a curry sauce that was quite nice.
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The booze selection was pretty nice. I went with a Peroni on draft. I really like beer and have been lucky to enjoy it all over the world. I haven’t been very impressed with Australian beer, even the few “microbrews” that have been available. Over the last 10 days my go-to Aussie beer was Coopers but I still preferred Peroni, which seemed to be highly available in Australia, better. The cold Peroni hit the spot and Lady Tocqueville cooled her jets with some Aussie Sparkling Wine.

We hung out in the lounge for about an hour and then left for our gate a few minutes before boarding.

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View of our bird, the Qantas 747 Longreach taken from the gate area. We were lucky enough to be in the upstairs cabin which is smaller and has a more private feel.
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View of the gate area for QF7 to Dallas.

Boarding was called on-time and we made our down the jetway, onto the plane, and up the stairs to the upstairs cabin. This plane had a 3 cabin configuration, business, premium economy, and economy. Of course we were rockin’ business for this mega long-haul. This flight, I believe, is currently the 3rd longest commercial flight operating in the world and by December will be the longest when Singapore discontinues some of their Singapore mega long-haul service. There is business class both downstairs near the nose of the plane and upstairs. Downstairs its in a 2-3-2 configuration, while upstairs a 2-2 configuration. We opted many months in advance for the 2-2 configuration upstairs to have that private cabin feel.

As soon as we boarded we were seriously impressed with these seats. They were definitely the best business class seats we have had on all of our trips (although the Turkish 777 business seat I think would be pretty similar but as I noted we got moved to the First Class Suites seats on that flight and didn’t get to try those out). They were spacious, new, clean and so functional. Cubbies and storage everywhere. The seat could move any which way you wanted and even had massage action. This would be a comfortable nest for the next 16 hours.
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View of the seat when in the take-off/landing position.
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A view of the mini-cabin upstairs.
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Leg-room while seated was epic.
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Menus were passed out. There would be a dinner service and a breakfast service on this beast. The breakfast orders were taken on a filled-out card sort of like ordering room service breakfast the night before in a hotel by hanging your order on the door. Dinner had multiple choices of appetizers and entrees. I went with the Swiss Cheese and Schnitzel sandwich while Lady Tocqueville got after the Venison with Polenta. For breakfast I ordered the mushroom cheese toast and opted to have them wake me up for breakfast by checking a box on the card.

To handle jet-lag as smoothly as possible our strategy for this trip home was to stay up for about the first 8 hours of the flight and then try to sleep for 5 hours. We would commence our sleep at 10PM Sydney time which seemed normal for our bodies. By limiting ourselves to 5 hours of sleep we would wake-up at around 10AM Dallas time. Then if we could survive the rest of the day we would try and go to bed at the “normal” bed-time once in Charlotte to try to get us quickly back on track.
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The extensive drink menu on the Qantas Sydney to Dallas QF7 flight.
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The multi-course dinner menu.
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The flight attendants came around with water, orange juice, or sparkling wine for a pre-departure drink. We had to go with a sparkling wine toast just as we had done at the Charlotte airport on August 3 when we commenced the trip.
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The flight attendants passed out very nice looking amenity kits. Kits for the ladies were manufacturing by Kate Spade. The ones for the gentlemen were made by “Jack Spruce” or something like that.

<PART 2>

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The men’s amenity kit.
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Inside were the standard kit; toothpaste, ear plugs, eye shade, socks, and some fancy moisturizers.

We pushed-back from the gate on-time and made our way to the runway. On take-off we had awesome views of Sydney and the harbor as we made our way up and out towards the ocean.
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Awesome views of Sydney and the harbor on a drop-dead gorgeous spring day.

Shortly after take-off the flight attendants brought around pajamas. I went with the L/XL size which were still a bit small on my 6’4″ frame but fit me just the same. They were comfortable and made of a decent cotton blend.
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Qantas Business Class Pajamas passed out on QF 7 Sydney to Dallas
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A view of the swing-out TVs. 22 minutes into the flight we still had about 15 hours to go.

Our in flight entertainment systems worked fine for about the first 30 minutes of the flight, and then conked out.  They tried resetting them 3-4 times and finally after over an hour of them freezing and not functioning the Flight Supervisor came to us and apologized.  He explained that he did not know what was wrong or how to fix it.  There were no more seats left in Business Class on the flight.  He offered us each any one item we wanted out of the Duty Free Catalog as compensation and we could use a Premium Economy seat to watch TV or movies.  While this was a nice gesture, this was going to be pretty weak.  Part of the premise of the nice long meals is that you can enjoy a movie while you are eating.  And/or watch a movie while lying down or strongly reclined.

Luckily we did not have to take him up on this offer.  Randomly about 90 minutes into the outage the system started working again.  This same issue happened to only one other passenger in the Upper Cabin and per the Flight Service Supervisor nobody was impacted downstairs.  What a strange error!  He never came back by to let us know if the duty free compensation was still on or not and we didn’t feel like asking since it was working again and was only out for about 90 minutes.

During the first 8 hour stint before we attempted sleep I mostly played Railroad Tycoon II on my laptop and watched an interesting French movie, Renoir. Lady Tocqueville watched an entire slate of Donton Abbey episodes she had already seen. She freakin’ loves that show.
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We each had a Vodka and Ginger Beer aperitif which hit the spot before the meal service.
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First course was potato croquettes and some salad.
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Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich as my “main” was a bit greasy but pretty good.
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Lady T really enjoyed the Venison and Polenta. We both took some White Wine blend from Western Australia to wash down these great meals.
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A view of one of the two flight attendants that serviced the Upper Deck Business Cabin and the drink cart.

We finished the meal with a cheese plate and some Cognac. Now that’s what’s up.

I feel obligated to add a note about the service on this flight. Up until now, we have had 4 Qantas flights and in each case we found the service spectacular. Hell on one the Qantas flight attendant gave us a full wine bottle to-go. We expected more of the same exceptional service on this flight. In this regard we were disappointed. Both flight attendants seemed very disinterested in their job, one even more than the other. They reminded me of the older USA flight attendants you get on long-haul flights who are very senior in the Union pecking order and just biding their time until retirement and pensioning. For example when request some water, on past flights the attendant would come right in front of you and present the water to you in a face-to-face non-rushed manner. On this flight the flight attendant would angle sideways to avoid non-verbal and face-to-face contact and reach with one arm and hand you water from almost behind the seat. At one-point I asked for water while I had my headphones on. The flight attendant took the empty bottle I had on my tray presumably to get me another one. She said something to me which I interpreted (incorrectly) as “would you like some more water?” I said, “yes, please I’ll take another water.” She then retorted rudely, “I SAID I WILL REFILL YOUR BOTTLE.” I said “OK, thank you” that was fine. Saying “please” and “thank you” were usually returned with a mutter or nothing at all. If all other Qantas flight attendants we had got an A+ rating, these flight attendants got a C+ and a D.

After dinner, movie watching, and being a railroad tycoon it was time to attempt some sleep. The seats folded into fully flat horizontal beds and they even had a mattress pad to put on to make it more comfortable. When fully flat the seats were very comfortable. They were a bit narrow which was fine for my ectomorph frame and plenty long, probably a full 2″ taller than my 6’4″ build. The blanket was big and warm and the pillow solid. This was an amazing airline seat. I would even say the seat functionality, “newness”, and comfort while eating and sleeping was better than Thai Airways First class on their older 747’s (the one we had was Bangkok – Sydney about two weeks ago).
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A view of the seat turned into a bed with a duvet and blanket. The seat wasn’t fully flat at this point.

While our goal was 5 hours of sleep we both attempted sleep for about 6 hours. During that time sleep came off and on but was decent. I would guess 4 hours of actual sleep total. This left us with about 2.5 hours of the flight just in-time for breakfast.
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Breakfast was delicious after waking up from my sleep. The cheese toast with bacon and mushrooms were yummy and so was the warmed apricot danish.
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View of the flight map right when we got to Mexico.

The flight proceeded on to Dallas and arrived about 20 minutes early. Once at Dallas we deplaned down the stairs and made our way to a thankfully empty immigration and customs line.

We headed to an American Airlines transfer counter to try and get our next flight sorted. Way back when we booked these flights in November 2012, our original flight from Dallas to Charlotte left Dallas at 4PM, giving us a nice 2 hour layover. About two weeks ago there was a schedule change and our flight wouldn’t depart for Charlotte until 6PM, giving us about a 4 hour layover at this point. I called AA before we left Sydney to try and get on an earlier flight to Charlotte that departed at 3:15PM which would put us home at 6:45PM instead of 10:00PM. AA said there were no seats left in first class for award bookings. I asked if they could inquire to revenue management to open two seats since our request was based on a schedule change delay caused by American. They said they would ask and let us know within 24 hours. They never got back to us, but I checked the AA app on my Android phone and it showed us stand-by for the 3:15PM flight. So that was good. Except for one thing. Once we had checked-in at Sydney for the Qantas flight I pulled up the AA app again and the 3:15PM no longer showed up on our itinerary, just the 6PM flight. So my goal was to:

1) Get us on the 3:15PM flight to Charlotte instead of the 6:00PM flight

2) Get us on Economy to have a confirmed seat

3) Get us on the stand-by list for First Class which was as of current showing full.

We accomplished 1 and 2. We were also put on the stand-by list for First class and at the top of the list. We then proceeded through security and onwards to our gate and maybe the AA Admirals Club if we had time.

On our amazing Trip of a Million Lifetimes we had something like 30 flights in over 10 countries. We saw how security screenings were handled in many places in the world. Some places were better than others. The #1 worst place to go through airport security in our opinion is the USA. The TSA, we feel, is an invasion of our natural rights, unconstitutional, and just Security Theater and not actual security. So we were dreading seeing the lethargic jobs-program goonsquad in Blue again for security screening. We were not eligible for TSA Pre-Check on this flight and the DFW transfers security checkpoing we were at didn’t even have one. There was a business class line which we used but it was as miserably slow as Economy. The checkpoint wasn’t busy, maybe only 20 passengers in front of us waiting for screening. But somehow it took 30 minutes. Walk-Through Metal Detectors were roped off and the cattle was being herded into the Nude-0-Scopes. I successfully executed a TSA Shoulder Syndrome as my shoulder was hurting from the long flight and lugging around luggage. This one was comical:

Me (Standing in front of the Nude-O-Scope with my left arm up facing a TSA agent): Hi, right now I can only raise my left arm, my right shoulder is hurting;

TSA Agent facing me: Your right arm is up;

Me: (blank stare until he figures that when you are facing someone your right and left are switched from your current orientation)

TSA Agent: Oh yea, I see it’s your left arm that is up. You can’t raise your right arm?

Me: No.

TSA Agent: (unropes Walk Through Metal Detector) OK go ahead

Me: Passes through Walk Through Metal Detector and is on my way

Maybe one day we can have a world without the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA.
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TSA bin-pusher loving life at DFW D Terminal checkpoint

After security we took the inter-terminal train and made our way to the gate. We saw our names had been cleared from the Standby list, but that just meant that we had our Economy seats and not First Class. We then proceeded to the lounge for a quick 20 minute stop to get sync up on the Internet and have a glass of water.
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AA Amirals Club in Terminal A at Dallas
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We were admitted as a virtue of being on a OneWorld Business Class International Itinerary since we had no status with American Airlines. The lounge was pretty full and offered the standard fare for USA based domestic lounges.
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A view of the food and drink spread at the DFW AA Admirals Club Terminal A. I knocked back an espresso to try to keep alert and not go to sleep until night-time actually fell on the East Coast of the USA on this long Wednesday.

After about 20 minutes we headed to our gate, A28 to catch our final flight!

Dallas, Texas to Charlotte, North Carolina

AA 1593

Departure Time: 3:15PM

Airbus A319

Economy Class Seat 14B

Duration 2.5 hours

Just before boarding we asked the gate agent if anything had opened up in First Class. He said it had checked-in full. For us it was a no brainer to take this flight in Economy instead of a flight almost 4 hours later in First Class. It would be nice to get home. And by taking this flight we made a quick 1 hour 30 minute International to Domestic connection in Dallas. All said and done we would transit Sydney to the East Coast of the USA (Charlotte) in 19 hours and 20 minutes. That has got to be about as fast as it can possibly get.

The only two seats together were in the very last row of the plane so we accepted seats 14B and 14E, seats apart from one another but at least in the Emergency Exit row with plenty of leg-room. I was a bit disappointed to miss out on First Class on this flight. This airplane is a brand-new Airbus A319 that American has just rolled out. First class only has two rows, but brand new state-of-the-art seats for USA First Class. I haven’t seen many trip reports of this plane yet so I was hoping to make a novel contribution. Nevertheless, Economy class was fine. Leg-room was excellent. Each seat had a brand-new in-flight entertainment system with your own personal TV. The overhead bins were slightly bigger and less of a struggle. This was one of the most comfortable full economy flights I have ever had.

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I passed on drinks to focus on working on trip reports. We arrived in Charlotte on-time and without incident.

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Well there you have it, 19 hours and 20 minutes from Sydney to Charlotte. The Sydney to Dallas flight was incredibly comfortable even if the service was a miss. We were fortunate to make our connection so quickly and get on the earlier flight home.

We each have four days at home to recover and get our lives back in order before we head back to work. I already have gotten my next work assignment and so I’ll be on a plane to Houston come Monday morning. I have a feeling that flight will be a little bit less enjoyable than any of our “Trip of a Million Lifetimes” flights.

Stay tuned for Concluding Thoughts from our trip.

47. Marriott Sydney Harbourside

47. Marriott Sydney Harbourside

Marriott Circular Quay

Sydney Australia

3 nights points redemption

Operahouse View Suite Upgrade

We arrived at the Sydney Marriott and were promptly checked-in.  The agent noted our Platinum status and was excited to share with us we have been upgraded on the house to a Operahouse view suite for our loyalty with Marriott.  Awesome!  Not a bad start for our first time in Sydney.  We were on the 25th floor and were given lounge access to the concierge lounge on the 30th floor.  For our check-in amenity, we selected some toasts, olive oil, and a bottle of wine to be delivered right away for immediate consumption.

We got up to the room and were very impressed with this modern, comfortable space.  It was the first time I think I have ever had a room where the bedroom had no windows.  This was done to squeeze in the room with an Operahouse view.  And it worked fine based on the way they created the suite.

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Lobby of the Marriott Circular Quay.
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Upgrade city, here we were.  Room 2523.
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The “living room” of our suite.
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The bedroom as taken from the “living room”
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The beautiful and comfortable bathroom
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Shower pressure was awesome.
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The view of the quays, operahouse, and from another angle the bridge were spectacular.
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The toasts and wines promptly arrived.

We were bittersweet to be in Sydney.  On one hand, this was our last stop on our Trip of a Million Lifetimes.  Yes, 10 weeks had elapsed already.  Incredible.  On the other hand, we were in a beautiful place on a beautiful spring day.  An old friend of ours from Atlanta was coming to meet us and take us out and about.  And we had the trip home to look forward to of getting back to Charlotte and getting back into our “nest”.

Overall the room was excellent.  The two big screen TVs were used for watching some American Baseball playoffs and NFL action.  We slept like babies in the dark cavern of a bedroom on a very comfortable bed.  And we really enjoyed the views from the room of the city on three sides.

Breakfast in the concierge lounge was great.  We took advantage of this each day.  When we reflected on it, it is amazing the number of high-caliber complimentary breakfasts we enjoyed on this trip.  The tab for just this perk on our entire trip easily would be over $2,000 had we not had status with each of the hotels we stayed at.
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The juice and cereals at the Marriott Harbourside concierge lounge
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The grains were great.  I got greedy on it and went with some pain au chocolat and sticky buns each morning.
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There were plenty of sliced meats, cheese, nuts, and other awesome garnishments like fresh mozzerela.
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Bacon and eggs per usual.
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View of the modern comfortable feel of the lounge.

We also enjoyed the lounge on each night for the evening cocktails and snacks.  I had been craving some popcorn and the lounge delivered with a big giant self-service bowl of some salty popped kernels.  They had free booze from 5:30PM – 7:30PM which we used for some beers while catching up with our aforementioned American friend.

As we ambled around Sydney we discovered the hotel was in an exceptional location.  Right the heart of everything with easy walking or public transit and ferry access to all the outlying areas we wanted to get to.  This hotel was a Marriott Category 7 and set us back 35,000 Marriott points per night.  With rates easily topping USD500 while we were there, not to mention what our complimentary suite upgrade would cost, we received exceptional value for our 105,000 Marriott points spent on this property.
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I couldn’t help but share this photo taken from the bathroom of the Sydney Fish Market.  It depicts the appropriate toilet usage configuration.  I guess some people like to stand on them or just squat next to them on the floor when it’s time to do their business.  Nevertheless, this had me cracking up!

 

46. CNS-SYD on QF in J

46. CNS-SYD on QF in J

Cairns to Sydney

QF925

Departure Time: 12:10PM

Boeing 767

Business Class Seat 5K

Duration 3 hours

Once we returned the rental car we walked into the Cairns domestic airport terminal.  We found the Qantas business class check-in and were able to speak to an agent right away.  The agent found our reservation and asked us if we had any bags to check.  I let her know Lady Tocqueville and I had only hand luggage.  Usually this goes unchallenged, but she asked to see it.  We showed her our bags we have now had with us as a carry-on for 30 straight flights without checking them.  She said because they were as big as they were she had to weigh them.  She said the maximum weight allowed as hand-luggage was 8kg and since the flight was 100% full they were enforcing this heavily.  I thought to myself if they are worried about a full flight, what does the weight of an acceptable bag have to do with the volume in the overhead bins? I knew our bags were 15kg so I wasn’t about to put them on the scale and have her check them.  I let her know we would repack our bags and come back to check-in.

We then walked straight to the check-in kiosks and did the check-in there.  Our boarding passes were issued successfully and we made our way to security.  I was confused why the agent was pressing so hard to view and weigh our bags.  We were in business class.  I am not sure what the Qantas size and weight limit is but we have now had three Qantas flights and we weren’t hassled about them in the least.  Nevertheless, checking in at the kiosk worked fine.

We cleared security and followed the signs to the Qantas lounge.

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Entryway to the Qantas club in Cairns
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The Qantas club in Cairns
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View of the tarmac from the Qantas club in Cairns
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The buffet spread was pretty good especially compared to a USA domestic lounge
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Entry to the gate area
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View at the boarding gate.

Boarding was called right on time and we were first on the plane after those needing assistance.  This flight would be a 767, a big bird for a domestic flight.  I had expected the odd 1-2-2 configuration we had on our Qantas 767 from Noumea to Sydney the week before.  However, this one was 2-2-2.  What else struck me right away was that each seat had an iPad.  I have heard of this but never saw it in real life.  Qantas on some of their 767s uses iPads to deliver the inflight entertainment.  There is even a little iPad pouch in the seatback so you could enjoy it hands free.  The operation of it was glitchy and they weren’t functioning until about 45 minutes into the flight, 30 minutes after the flight attendants actually turned on the delivery system.
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Qantas iPad for in-flight viewing.  I ended up watching “This ain’t no mouse music” about the fascinating history of Arhoolie records.
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Brand new seats had plenty of room.  A great domestic business class offering.
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A close-up of the neighboring seats.
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Legroom was ample.

The flight was full as the check-in agent had noted.  It appeared many in first class with us were Qantas pilots flying to some sort of training.  The staff again were nothing short of excellent as they have been for all of our flights.  Prompt professional service made us feel right at home.
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No menus were passed out, just two meal choices offered verbally by the flight attendant.  We went for the mint lamb-chops which were terrific.
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A view of the cabin from my seat.
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This is one of the few flights were I didn’t blog so I wasn’t afraid to get after it a bit on the booze.  Jack Daniels, Ginger Ale, and some lemon were the drink of choice for me.  Lady Tocqueville went for Sparkling Wine.  It was a pleasure to toast one another at 30,000 feet while enjoying our movies and our meals.
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I went for the chocolate orange ice cream to cap-off the meal.
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Beautiful views of Sydney and the harbor on our descent.  This weekend was the naval parade weekend and the harbor was packed with boats and sailing vessels as you can see from the photo.
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Qantas ChaufferDrive came through for us again with another free pick-up.  Our driver met us at baggage claim and hustled us to our Mercedes Van which was waiting for us for the 30 minute trip to the Sydney Circular Quay.

Overall Qantas has been excellent in customer service (except for the agent who was adamant about the carry-on bag weighing).  We have arrived on all of our flights refreshed and happy from a great experience by the crew.  And the free rides with a Chauffeur certainly don’t hurt.  Cheers to you, Qantas.