The Traveling Steve's

July 4th weekend in Mendoza

Once again, I’m interrupting the Africa blog to update our latest travel adventures. I’ve been very busy with work trips since I’ve been back from South Africa, and we are already on to our next holiday.  I’ve started the last three posts of our Africa trip, and will finish them as time allows, but for now here’s the latest from The Traveling Steve’s.

I (Steve UNO) was in Washington D.C. this week on business.  As I worked quite a bit of hours, I didn’t have a chance to venture out and sightsee, although I lived in the D.C. area until 1998 (on the Maryland side),  and saw a lot when I lived there.

The flight up was uneventful, with the exception of this woman who brought her standard (large-sized) poodle on the plane under the guise of ‘service dog’, using one of those $25 lanyards you buy on the internet.

It was obvious it wasn’t a service dog, and she didn’t want to pay the extra fee for transporting a dog on the plane, clearly abusing the handicap law for people who really need it; i.e. blind, epilepsy, etc.  While I love dogs, this woman took up the whole bulkhead row with her pooch laying in the floor space of her fellow passengers; not very considerate. I’ve seen real service dogs in fight, and they are trained to sit down and are frowned upon for petting, neither which was this cute pooch.  At one point he ran down the aisle towards the First Class section where I was seated, and the Flight Attendant had to subdue him, and walk him back to his ‘seat’.

Here is a photo of the woman walking her dog thru the terminal after the flight; not exactly needing the support of a service dog with her high-end pocketbook and traveling bag.

Anyway, I like flying into National Airport, and from what I’ve read is one of the most challenging airports to fly into, due to the airspace restrictions (i.e. White House and others) as well as the relatively short runways.  Washington National Airport is actually located in Virginia, but it’s a very short distance to downtown D.C., and you can actually see some of the monuments and the Capital from the Admiral’s Club at the airport there.

I flew up Monday morning into Washington Reagan (National) Airport, and back to Orlando on Friday.  I stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City, which was a short ride from the airport. Not a lot to show for the week as I was quite busy, but here are a couple photos of the hotel and my view from the room overlooking National Airport.

I worked a lot of hours this week, as I anxiously waited waited for Friday as Steve (DOS) and I were going to Mendoza for the July 4th weekend.  Since I had two separate trips booked, the one to DCA for work, and the one to Mendoza for pleasure, I had to fly back to Orlando on Friday to start the trip to Mendoza.

Fortunately due to the long work days, Friday came fairly quickly, and I was soon headed back home to Orlando.  Although I was flying on American out of Washington Reagan terminal C, the original and historic terminal is a short walk away, and if you have time, it’s really worth seeing. There is also a small museum between the historic terminal and terminal B, and for airline nostalgia buffs, it’s really a fun exhibit.  

There are posters, model planes, photos, etc of a bye-gone era of aviation, and it’s a pleasure to look back on, much of which was before my ‘flying time’.  Of particular interest, I loved the Bob Hope quote ” I love flying.  I’ve been to almost as many places as my luggage!”

 

Anyway, I flew home from DCA on Friday around noon, and met DOS at Orlando airport.  I didn’t even go home, as we were flying from Orlando to Mendoza, Argentina for the July 4th weekend, via DFW, and Santiago, Chile.  I was worried all week the flight from DCA to MCO would be delayed due to weather, or the evening flight out of MCO to DFW would be delayed due to weather, and we would miss our international connection flight to Santiago, Chile.  Fortunately, everything worked out as planned, and after switching suitcases from DOS’s car, I re-checked in for my flight to Dallas, connecting to Santiago and ultimately Mendoza.  We even had time for a short wait in the new Orlando Admiral’s Club where the staff are so friendly.

Our flight from Orlando to DFW was on an Airbus 321 ‘Sharkettes’ plane, (due to the wingspan look), and we were both in First Class, although not seated together.  After the busy work week I had in Washington, I slept most of the flight, although I did manage to check a few emails, and enjoy the snack they served on the 2 1/2 hour flight.

Once in Dallas, we went to the Admiral’s Club in the ‘D’ international concourse.  As we were Emerald One World members, and flying internationally, we were able to have dinner in the International First Class dining room.  We were flying Business Class, which is really First Class, as they don’t have a First Class section on the Boeing 787 jet we flew on (only coach and business classes.)

After dining, we had only a few minutes before boarding our flight from DFW to Santiago, Chile.

   

I was in seat 3D, while DOS was next to me in 3H.  The Business Class configuration on American’s 787 is 1 X 2 X 1 in the forward cabin, thus allowing everyone a direct access to the aisle which is awesome.  DOS and I were seated next to each other in the middle section, and could chat as needed as we left the center divider wall down the entire flight.  We were actually facing backwards, which was a bit odd, but we quickly got used to it.

I wish I could say the service was excellent, or at least good, but I can’t – it was minimal at best.  I was really disappointed in the service as I was recalling the EXCELLENT service we had on AA May 18th, when we flew Miami to London Heathrow.  The African-American woman flight Purser should have been serving in the back of the coach section, and definitely no where near First/Business Class.  It was like plop and drop meal service without a smile or follow-up to see if you needed any more wine or anything.  When she came by for dessert I asked her what the choices were and she said ‘It’s on the menu’!  (I guess it was too much trouble to answer my simple question.)  She didn’t wake me up for breakfast, but did wake me up to take the Bose headset away, telling me to unplug it in my semi-not awaken mode.  She never offered coffee, and I didn’t see her again even though there was still 40 minutes left in the flight.  I had watched the movie “Founder” about Ray Krock, the entrepreneur of McDonald’s franchises, and had not finished my beer as I finished the movie and laid down for sleep.  My 1/2 unfinished beer sat on the side tray table all night, and the Purser didn’t even pick it up six hours later when she wanted the Bose headset back.  I ended up taking my unfinished beer to the galley, and asked another Flight Attendant for some coffee, which she gladly got me.  I’m sorry, I don’t expect perfection, but this Purser should not have been in that lead position; she didn’t have a customer service attitude at all, and just went thru the motions as minimal as she could.  She was by far the worst First Class (and even Coach) Flight Attendant I’ve ever had, and I’ve been flying since 1986. I guess she had the seniority/union card and played it to the max, at the detriment of premium paying passengers.

Anyway, (rant over), we got to Santiago ok, and had a five hour layover.  We went to the Admiral’s Club, which at the early hour of 6:30am was deserted, with only one other couple in the large lounge.  We had some breakfast and coffee there, and the time went by fairly quickly.  DOS enquired to the Admiral’s Club Concierge about one of our pieces of luggage, as it didn’t show being loaded onto the plane in DFW via the AA iPhone app.  The AA Concierge was very helpful, and did confirm the bag was in Santiago, and would be loaded on our next flight to Mendoza on LATAM (formerly LAN) Airlines.  Later when we arrived in Mendoza, we could see that the luggage tag bar code was slightly ripped; hence that’s why it didn’t scan properly.

Walking to our gate for our flight to Mendoza, we went by scores of duty free shops and restaurants.  We stopped for a quick photo by a replica of one of the Easter Island ‘heads’ we had seen in person last year when we went to Easter Island.

Our flight from Santiago to Mendoza, was on a A321 all coach configured jet.  DOS and I were in Row 1 with adjacent aisle seating.  

The short 45 minute flight was uneventful, yet full, and I only wish I had been seated by the window on this flight as we flew over the snow-capped Andes Mountains.  I was seated next to a nice Argentine couple, and although they didn’t speak English, we communicated a bit with body language and pointing, and they graciously took a couple photos for me with my iPhone, as we crossed the Andes Mountain range. The Flight Attendants remained seated the entire flight, and a pre-recorded announcement told passengers to say seated as well, as it can be turbulent flying over the Andes Mountains.  Fortunately it was a smooth and scenic flight for us.

Once in Mendoza, we cleared immigration quite quickly, however there was a bit of a wait for our luggage, and about a 30 minute line to clear customs.  The hold-up was actually the agricultural check at customs, and everyone had to put their bag thru the X-ray machine.  I can definitely understand why, as Mendoza is such an important wine city, but it really seemed to take much longer than it should have, as we were the only flight in at this time.  No worries though, we eventually got thru the line, and we were met by a driver DOS had arranged to take us to our hotel.

As always we overpack, but fortunately between the trunk of the car and the front and back seat, we fit into the car ok.

We had a short drive (less than 30 minutes) to our hotel, The Park Hyatt Mendoza, where we quickly unloaded our bags with the doorman, and checked in.  

As a Hyatt Diamond member I had used one of my confirmed suite upgrades (you get 4 a year), and we were shown to our beautiful Diplomat Suite 637 on the sixth (out of 7) floor. This 1,000 plus square foot room had a comfortable living room, dining table, work desk and chairs, plus a huge master bedroom, bath area, and also a second 1/2 bath off of the living room.  Quite comfortable for our three night stay!

After we checked in, we went to have our first meal, and as it was already 3pm,we wanted something light so as not to spoil our dinner for the evening.  DOS arranged a steakhouse restaurant for dinner at 8:30pm, which by Argentina standards was quite early.  We went to a nice wine bar in the Hyatt for lunch, and have a delightful server, who had lived in Miami for several years, and spoke perfect and energetic English.  

Our server recommended the empanadas, and paired with the nice Malbec she suggested, was just perfect.   We actually got a second round of empanadas, and a second vino before we charged our tab to the room.

Back in our room, we showered and took an hour and half nap, as we had been up since yesterday, although we did sleep a bit on the plane last night.  The Park Hyatt Mendoza does not have a concierge lounge with evening drinks and hors d’ourves, so we headed straight to dinner a little before 8:30pm.  Our server in the wine bar had told us most Argentinians don’t eat until at least 9pm, and even 11pm is not unusual, as we would soon find out. They take siestas in the afternoon, which sounds like a wonderful idea!

We went to the steakhouse the Concierge had recommended, and had a wonderful first night out in Mendoza.  The restaurant is actually an old mansion, located only a couple blocks from the hotel. When we got there, there were only a three other couples dining, however, it was quite crowded within a couple hours, as people came in periodically up until 11pm at night!

The food was outstanding and plentiful, and my prawns appetizer actually should have been a main course – it was two skewers with 3 shrimp on each.  DOS had the empanadas, and we shared some of our appetizers back and forth.  We had a glass of local white wine with our appetizers, and ordered a bottle of red for our main course.

For the main course, I had the ribeye, while DOS had the Filet Mignon; both of which were cooked Apunto menus, (medium rare).  Argentinians in general like their meat cooked well done, so I was pleased to see our steaks were cooked just as we requested.  We had a nice bottle of El Enemigo Malbec 2014 with our steaks.

We did finish up the meal with a shared dessert, and for once, didn’t even finish the bottle of wine, so we brought it back to our hotel.  Tired out, but in a good way, we headed to be on our first night close to midnight.  Tomorrow is a full day tour of wine-tasting in the wineries of Mendoza.  And so this concludes our first night in Mendoza. Bienvenido a Argentina, and Buenas Noches!

 

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