Travelling Home From South America

Iguazu Falls was the conclusion of our trip to South America. I slept in due to being up so late the night before on the phone with Avianca and Air Canada. We packed our bags and got ready for breakfast. When it was time for breakfast the power in the kitchen was off due to a faulty circuit breaker. While they were repairing the circuit breaker we had some cold cuts, bread, fruit, and cereal. Eventually the power was turned back on and we got our morning coffee.

After breakfast we walked a nearby corner store to get some more bottled water and some more Kleenex as we were both still suffering from a cold. We then walked to Tres Fronteras, which is a monument where the Iguazu River joins with the Parana River. On the west is Paraguay, in the Northeast corner is Brazil, and in the Southeast corner is Argentina. It gave an extremely unique perspective into the different levels of wealth of each of the three countries as you could see the three varying levels of development.

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After visiting Tres Fronteras we walked back to the hotel and ordered a Taxi for 700 Argentinian Pesos ($21.50) to Brazil’s Cataratas International Airport (IGR). The taxi driver helped us fill out all of the paperwork required for the border and drove us to IGR, with a very quick and painless stop at the border to process our paperwork. I have dual citizenship so I do not require a Brazilian visa, but C required a visa (which she obtained beforehand).

Once at the airport it was confirmed that our flight was not going to work, so we took an earlier flight on a different route to get to Sao Paulo, which is where we needed to be to get home on a later Air Canada flight. We flew on a 3 week old Airbus A320neo, which was extremely comfortable. It’s too bad they’re going to have to give it back as they’re in huge financial difficulties and are in bankruptcy protection at the moment. The Airbus A320neo is extremely quiet on takeoff, even quieter than the new Boeing 737 MAX.

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Once arriving in Sao Paulo we had about 8 hours to kill before boarding our Sao Paulo to Toronto flight on Air Canada. We checked into our complimentary Star Alliance lounge in Sao Paulo to eat, drink, shower, and relax before boarding our Air Canada Boeing 777-300ER. I ended up upgrading us to Business Class for a small fee due to my annoyance the day before. I was situated in 7D and C was situated in 7G. I had a delicious dinner and a few beers before falling asleep for the majority of the flight. The flight was extremely smooth and despite leaving 1.5 hours behind schedule ended up only arriving 30 minutes late.

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Upon arrival in Toronto we cleared Canadian customs and went to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge. Canadian customs took a while to clear because they were not even open as we were the first flight to arrive. We had to wait for the staff to show up for their shift, and they also were late. We had some coffee and breakfast in the lounge before making our way to our return flight to Calgary. We were warned we would be experiencing an extremely turbulent takeoff and first hour of the flight as a huge storm was rolling in. We ended up being the last flight out of Toronto. That was the most turbulent flight that I have ever been on and did give me a bit of anxiety.

Chile – Day 1 – Travel Day & Santiago

I have to start of with an apology for a half month delay for this travel series. Internet connectivity was questionable at the majority of places we visited, and I was combating a very nasty flu which left me with little energy to write. Anyways, let the adventure begin!

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Today was mostly a travel day for us. We woke up at 8am, got ready and my dad drove us to the airport. We travelled from Calgary to Toronto on one of Air Canada’s last Boeing 767-300ER flights before they are retired from mainline service to Air Canada Rouge; a low-cost subsidiary of Air Canada. The flight departed Calgary at 11:45am and we arrived in Toronto at 5:15pm. After a 2 hour layover in Toronto we departed for Santiago on Air Canada’s flagship Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The flight arrived the next morning at 8:45am.

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After landing in Santiago we went through customs, which was actually a fairly painless experience contrary to what I had read online. After clearing customs we boarded a Centropuerto Bus that took us to the city center station of Los Heros for only $3.20/pp. Once we reached Los Heros we took the Red Metro line ($1.30/pp trip) to Manuel Montt station, which was right below our hotel; the ibis Providencia. We checked into the hotel and had a quick two hour nap before venturing out into the city.

After waking up from our nap we walked along the Mapocho River, which was extremely turbid and fast flowing. The river led us to the beautiful community of Bellavista, where we stopped at the Fukai Sushi restaurant and ordered some sushi rolls. We tried three unique rolls that we’ve never had before; Guacamole Rolls, Baked Brie Rolls, and Seared Salmon with Almond Slivers. We’ll call this lunch/dinner since it was about 3 in the afternoon.

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After having our meal we walked to Funicular de Santiago, which took us to the top of San Cristobal Hill. The funicular was opened in 1925 and definitely shows its age. The views provided from the top of the hill are absolutely fascinating. We had 360 degree views of the entire city, including one of my favorite of the newest flagship building in Santiago; Gran Torre Santiago, which is a 300 metre tall skyscraper that towers over the city. Gran Torre was completed in 2013 and is the tallest building in South America. Also at the top of the hill was Virgin of the Immaculate Conception (Virgin Mary).

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Instead of taking the funicular back down the hill we opted to take the gondola across the hill and down the other side, exiting near the Gran Torre. We ended up walking around a bit before taking the Red Metro line to Baquedano station, where we got off to get ourselves some of the famous ice cream from Heladeria Emporio La Rosa. C had I both had two scoops of Ice Cream. C had Raspberry & Pineapple, while I had Vanilla & Cookies and Cream. It was starting to get late and we were tired so we walked past Santa Lucia Hill before walking back to the hotel. We walked a total of 23km today, which our feet and bodies definitely felt considering we only got 1.5 hours of sleep on the plane as well as a two hour nap.

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2018-08-19 – Still Travelling to Kenya

Today my journey to Nairobi, Kenya continues. I deliberately slept in until 11:30am so that I could start to get acclimatized to Nairobi’s time zone. I took the Hilton airport shuttle to Toronto Pearson International Airport, had a burrito from Freshii, which was actually pretty good, and then checked in for my flight as I was unable to do so online. After checking in for my flight I went through security and sat down at this place called Beer Hive and ordered a Muskoka Brewery Mad Tom IPA. I took some pictures of planes while I was waiting for my Jet Airways India flight to Amsterdam.

I try to be as positive as possible about my travel experiences but Jet Airways India is a pretty lousy airline. The Boeing 777 was 10 abreast instead of the typical 9, the interior was very worn and dated including the seat cushions, and the onboard service was deplorable. They’ve in the news lately because they’re concerned they will not have enough money to continue operating past the end of August as their main financial backer; Etihad has decided not to continue funding the failing airline. Perhaps if they spent more money on providing a quality experience then perhaps people would fly them.

Anyways onto the positives; upon arrival in Amsterdam, which is an absolutely wonderful airport, I went and checked in to a cute pod hotel called YOTEL. I had four hours of sleep before boarding the next and final leg of my flights to Nairobi, Kenya. The pod had an extremely comfortable mattress and a nice thick duvet on top. It felt nice with the air conditioning blasted but having a thick duvet on. When I woke up I was able to shower in my own mini personal shower in the pod.

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The flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi was on a KLM Boeing 747-400M, which is actually the last Boeing I needed to fly on to complete my list of Boeing jetliners except for the Boeing 720. This marks a milestone for my last Boeing Jet, and my last continent except Antarctica. The KLM flight was about 1 hour late departing due to a failed emergency battery, but the pilot was exceptionally communicative the entire time. The onboard experience was perfect; the staff were super friendly and attentive, the food was amazing, and the seat was very comfortable. I got chatting with the crew on the flight and was invited to explore the upper deck, galley;s, and crew rest area. The flight was very smooth as well; probably even smoother than flying on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It was a true joy flying on the Queen of the Skies!

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The plane parked on the tarmac upon our late arrival so we had to take a bus to the terminal. Once inside the terminal it was a quick walk to immigration/customs where I only had to wait about 15 minutes to get my passport stamped. It saves a ton of time if you have you e-visa beforehand. I just needed to get my fingerprints and photograph taken. After clearing immigration/customs I was met by my GoWay Travel representative named Justar. She’s a delightful young lady who moved to Nairobi two years ago after graduating with her bachelor of arts. She will be my tour guide in 2-days time.

Tomorrow is a day of relaxation and exploring the Central Business District of Nairobi. Make sure to check back tomorrow for my next blog post!

2018-08-17 – Travelling to Kenya

Today is the start of my long journey to Nairobi, Kenya. I worked from home in the morning before heading over to my parents house to have lunch with my mom. We went to one of our favorite restaurants, Filo’s, where my mom and I shared a delicious shrimp and mushroom pizza. I then did some more work until it was time to head to the airport.

My dad drove me to the airport at around 2:30pm, but it took nearly an hour due to traffic. I relaxed in the Air Canada lounge and had dinner and a beer before boarding my flight to Toronto. The flight was on a one month old Air Canada Boeing 737-MAX8. I took a few photos before boarding the flight, but as you can see the air quality is rather poor so it made for some rather hazy looking images. The interior on the MAX is substantially better than their Airbus A319/A320 aircraft, with one exception… the washroom. The new interior is very bright and open feeling, despite being 6” narrower than the Airbus A319/320 aircraft it is slated to replace. The seats are leather and extremely comfortable and adjustable. The entertainment system is excellent and has a large high resolution screen. The bathroom is pretty crampt, leaving little room for maneuverability and the sink is very small and sprays water all over you. I was also talking with the flight attendants and they said the galley is rather difficult to work in compared to the Airbus A319/A320 aircraft, which is too bad.

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I landed in Toronto and walked over to the Hilton Garden Inn hotel, which was only about 1km away. It was faster to walk than it was to take the shuttle. I’ll probably take the shuttle in the morning though.

I asked the hotel if I could have an extended stay as my flight tomorrow doesn’t leave until 6:30pm, and they agreed. The room is spacious and has a very comfortable King Bed which I will put to good use shortly. Check back tomorrow as I continue on my journey to Nairobi, where I will start on a 8 day Kenyan Safari before continuing onto Turkey, Greece, and Spain!

2018-03-20 – Heading Home!

Today I woke up naturally at about 8:30am. I took the complimentary shuttle back to the airport. It was time to scope out some breakfast as I hadn’t eaten yet. After some McDonald’s and Starbucks (only choices available) I explored Charles De Gaulle Terminal 1. Terminal 1, an avant-garde style building, was designed by Paul Andreu, and was built in the image of an octopus. It has a circular terminal building which contains the check-in counters, baggage claim conveyors, and a few restaurants. There are also passages between the third, fourth and fifth floors with a tangled web of escalators arrange through the center of the building. The escalators are suspended over the central courtyard and each one is covered with a transparent tube. It has seven satellites (tentacles) with boarding gates that are connected to the central building by underground walkways. I did not take the overhead photo. Credits for the overhead photo go to (www.adp-i.com).
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On my first flight I had an empty seat next to me, but there was a very nice gentleman I believe was named Joshua situated next to the window. He’s from the Minneapolis area in the United States and had previously served in the United States Military. We talked the entire flight which helped make the flight go by faster.

There was a quick layover in Reykjavik before my second flight to Vancouver. The second flight went by pretty quickly too despite it being 7.5 hours long; perhaps Top Gear episodes, a comfortable business class seat, and free Wi-Fi helped!

There was a two hour layover before boarding my final flight home to Calgary. My friend Myriam, who works for Air Canada as a flight attendant happened to also be in Vancouver so we visited during my layover. The flight home was a bit delayed because the ground handling staff accidentally pulled the ground power which shut down the entire plane because the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) wasn’t running. I was exhausted by the time I got home so I went straight to bed.

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2018-03-09 – Paris Bound!!!

This blog post is going to be a bit of a nerdout session for my fellow aviation enthusiasts. I’m on my way to Paris and chose to fly Icelandair this time, namely because they had a smoking hot deal on flights ($602 including taxes, roundtrip in Business Class ($1 upgrade)), and secondly because this will probably be the last time I fly on a Boeing 757 (they’re nearing extinction), my second favorite airplane behind the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

I’m actually cruising right now at 35000 feet over the middle of the ocean on my way from Vancouver to Reykjavík. I just finished a fantastic steak dinner with some delicious Icelandic beer! Icelandair prides themselves with quality service, gate to gate wifi, and friendly staff. They charge a fraction of what the big guys charge for flights to Europe, allow up to a 7 day pitstop in Iceland free of charge, and their seats are just as comfortable in Economy Class, and almost as comfortable in Business Class.

Why is the Boeing 757 my favorite aircraft? A few things; one being that it is quite stunning of an aircraft to look at, the interior is spacious, and the cabin is very comfortable. It has that big aircraft feel, without actually being a widebody aircraft. I also absolutely love the sound of the Rolls Royce RB211 engines, especially when they’re spooled up for takeoff. They sound powerful and agressive.

The Boeing 757 dates all the way back to 1981, before I was even born. It was designed and produced alongside Boeing’s larger sister plane, the Boeing 767. The two airplanes were jointly designed to reduce costs, and both were Boeing’s first two-crew memeber class cockpit airplane. Having two crew-member’s instead of three would shave running costs down significantly. The Boeing 767 was an immediate success with airlines because it had the passenger carrying capabilities, the size, and the range that airlines needed. It could fly short haul and long haul routes. The Boeing 757’s potential wasn’t realized until much later on. Sales were fairly slow until the early 1990’s and then all dried up by 2005. Boeing stopped production this year, with 1049 being built. Overall though it was considered a successful project.

So why wasn’t it’s potential realized until later on? It was a narrow body airliner with two engines and impressive range (nearly 4000 nautical miles), so on paper it seemed great, but there was one catch. When the airplane was first concieved the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) didn’t allow for anything less than three engines to be more than 120 minutes away from land, forcing airlines to take the long way round when hoping the ocean, and this wasn’t good for their bottom line. In fact most Boeing 757’s ended up being run on only domestic runs for the first eight years of their life, with few ever making Transatlantic or Transpacific flights.

That all changed in 1988 when the FAA allowed 180 minute ETOPS (Extended Operations) for twin-engined airplanes. The Boeing 757 sales started picking up, but the potential of this airliner was still not recognized. It wasn’t until the late 2000’s that airlines started to realize the potential of this airline on long and thin routes. All the other airliners were either too big, or didn’t have the range required to do long Transatlantic and Transpacific flights, but the Boeing 757 was perfect to produce a profit on these routes.

The problem now is that many of these airframes are over 30 years old and many airframes are at the age where they have to be retired. There is no direct replacement for the Boeing 757 at the moment. The Airbus A321LR and the Boeing 737 MAX 10 barely have the same range and the same capacity, but they’re missing a few key components; engine power, cargo capacity, large cargo container handling, comfort, etc. This is leaving many airlines pushing the life of these Boeing 757’s even further, with some airlines saying they’re going to run them for atleast another 10 years. This will make some nearly 40 years old when they retire.

Boeing or Airbus need to get the ball rolling on a replacement for the Boeing 757, and fast. It’s estimated another 4000 airframes will be required in the next 20 years to fill the gap the Boeing 757 will be leaving, and the ever growing market is requiring. My heart is with Boeing aircraft, so I hope Boeing comes up with a solution that’s better than Airbus’s solution, and quicker!

Stay tuned for my next blog post, which I’ll be writing about my first days experiences in Paris.

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Day Trip To Seattle

Last weekend I took a quick day trip to Seattle. I had to wake up at 4:30am in order to get to the airport for my 7:30 flight. I ended up meeting my father at the airport before his flight to Mexico (our flights were departing at roughly the same time). After my dad boarded his flight I was asked to show my passport for verification to the gate agent. While I was up there I asked if there was any upgrades available, and they put me in first class for no additional charge. The flight to Seattle was quick and smooth on the Embraer E-175. The breakfast selection was quite large, but I chose a “breakfast” cookie and a banana, as well as some coffee.

After landing in Seattle I picked up my rental vehicle, a Kia Sportage; not a bad car at all! I ended up getting a rock chip within the first 5 minutes of leaving the rental facility, but ended up talking my way out of having to pay for the repair.

I only had a day in Seattle so I made the best of it. My first stop was exploring old Seattle while I was waiting for the Museum of flight to open. After exploring around I still had some time to burn so I decided to get a breakfast burrito at a restaurant in an old fire hall called McCoy’s Firehouse. It was delicious and the staff were extremely pleasant and helpful. After breakfast I went to the Museum of flight where I spent about 3.5 hours exploring around. I would have spent more time there, but there was other items on my list. I got to tick off a few bucket list items there; going on the last two Boeing’s that I have yet to step foot on (the Boeing 707 and 747). The Boeing 747 is a large plane, but I was blown away by how large it feels on the inside even compared to the 777.

After visiting the Museum of Flight I drove towards the Seattle Space Needle and parked my car. I went to the Chihuly Glass Museum and Gardens. The glasswork is absolutely amazing. The amount of detail and effort that goes into his work is phenomenal! I was getting hungry at this point in time so I googled a Vietnamese place that was close by and had some delicious Sate Beef Pho soup there.

The afternoon was spent driving around looking at various touristy places before going to the Seattle Gas Works Park, public park on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant that operated from 1906 to 1956. The plant was purchased by the City of Seattle for park purposes in 1962. The park opened to the public in 1975. An interesting thing to note about the former gasification plant is that synthetic gas was produced from burning coal.

After visiting the park it was almost time to go back to the airport, but I had one last stop to make, the Fremont Brewing Company, where I had a pint of their Lush IPA. Their Lush IPA is super hoppy with pleasant citrus notes. After enjoying my delicious IPA I fuelled up my rental vehicle, dropped off the rental vehicle, and went to the airport. At the airport I asked again if there were any upgrades, and again I was given a complimentary upgrade to First Class. Delta has definitely won me over! The flight back was extremely turbulent, which is typical for evening flights. If you want a nice smooth flight you have better luck on early morning flights with the cooler and denser air.

Take a look at my pictures of my trip below and enjoy!

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