I’ve already written an upcoming post on my experience at the #StarMegaDO4 and will post it up shortly after I get through that pain staking editing process. Until then here’s a video sneak peak:<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/55310072″>megado#smd4</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user14763442″>Chris Holenderski</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
I recently completed my 4th stay at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald in the last 3 years. The hotel is located right in the heart of downtown and overlooking the river valley. It’s about a 45 minute drive from YEG airport and about 20 minutes from West Edmonton Mall, the two biggest attractions in Edmonton
My plan was to play some golf before checking in to the hotel but time was tight so I passed on the golf and arrived around noon. I wasn’t expecting my room to be ready since I gave them no indication of an early arrival. John greeted me, apologized a few times the room wasn’t ready, offered me a free drink and got on the phone with housekeeping to get me a set of keys asap. He also mentioned a few local arts and culture events happening in Edmonton since this is a Passion my other half selected and the reservation was under her name.
I’m not one to refuse a free beverage so I ordered a Stella and got a lot of dirty looks from all the business folks stuck drinking water, working on their laptops and checking out my golf clubs which I proudly displayed in the middle of the confederation lounge. I wasn’t even a quarter through the beer and my room keys were delivered.
My better half stays at this hotel regularly so we were upgraded to a nice room overlooking the river valley. The room and furniture were in good shape. The king bed was comfortable and didn’t have any sag. The blue paint on the one wall gave the room a more modern classic vibe which I thought worked very well.
I did notice the bathrooms in this hotel need a renovation fairly soon. The bathroom was clean as you’d expect at a hotel like this except the shower head was actually rather disgusting. The towels were of good quality and I think this was the first time I got the entire Le Labo line of bath products.
Since I brought up Le Labo I will share my pennies of wisdom here. I know this fragrance has won some awards but I’m actually quite shocked Fairmont decided to use it chain wide. At least in the past we only had a 1 in 3 chance of getting Fleur du Matin by Miller Harris which is very similar to Rose 31. The Le Labo Rose 31 soap has a nice lather and I think the scent is fainter compared to the shampoos. I tell you when my better half arrives from a Fairmont it invades whatever room she is in at our place if she used Rose 31 shampoo that morning. So in case you sit in similar shoes to me and truly detest floral scented soaps I suggest you request different soap.
The first time I checked into this hotel a few years ago I received an amenity that hasn’t yet been duplicated. It was 3 tiers of desserts and treats including Crème Brulee, chocolates, baklava, shortbreads and more. The bottle of Champagne at Monte Carlo is the other amenity that stands out too. This time around we got a few fruits.
As I sat on the couch I noticed the card and opened it up. Inside I found a very nice hand written message and welcome from the concierge. Since she noticed the Arts and Culture passion she dropped off a bunch of extra magazines on this topic for us to enjoy during our stay. Nice touch by the staff here and I guess Fairmont is really noticing our passions and good on them. A free round of golf and lesson at the Banff Springs is an excellent perk for being a platinum member with Presidents club.
We enjoyed some food and drinks on two nights at the confederation lounge at the hotel. Both nights there was live music which is one thing Fairmont seems to do well in all their hotel lounges I frequent. Colin Bullock I met about 5 years ago at the Mallard lounge at the Chateau Whistler. He also plays at the Pacific Rim so if you are ever at these hotels I suggest you sit down and enjoy his performance.
Maid service was great during our stay. We did get turndown service on one of our nights but not the other but the only part I miss about turn down is the bottles of water. There are two brothers who work as valet/doormen and they both had a great attitude and gave me rides in the complimentary BMW 7 series within the downtown core.
During check-out I met John once again who I got to know over the weekend. I think he knows my other half fairly well since she stays here more often but we shared a few jokes and he stored my luggage while I went to grab lunch before heading home.
Overall the service at the Fairmont Macdonald during this stay was personable and excellent in many regards. The hotel obviously has a very classy and old school feel so if you prefer a contemporary hotel I would look elsewhere such as the neighbouring Westin. Edmonton doesn’t really have much choice in higher end hotels.
If the Fairmont Macdonald continues this level of service and renovates their bathrooms in the near future I think they should have no problems keeping and gaining a loyal clientele and being the place to stay in Edmonton.
What makes the perfect schnitzel? To start it has to be at least as big as the plate. It also must be extremely crispy and thin. Figlmuller even goes a step further and just uses the tenderloin of the pork. So even though you will see many other schnitzel ads and get a few leaflets handed to you with specials I suggest you make your way to the place which has been around since 1905.
The concierge at our hotel warned us of the lines. There are two locations just around the corner from each other. The original location in the little alley is smaller and usually has a longer line-up. In our case there were two of us so my girlfriend took a spot in this line while I quickly went around the corner and noticed the location added in 2001 only had 1/3 of the people.
After a 10-15 minute wait we were seated at the table on your right as you enter. At first I was a bit sceptical because the crowd waiting stands right next to this area but the bartender who took care of us did an excellent job. The table actually worked well because beverage refills were on our table within a minute of ordering.
In addition to our schnitzels we ordered house specialty salads which were different types of coleslaws and potato salads which complimented the entrée well. We didn’t order ketchup but did get a few more lemons to drizzle on our perfect schnitzel. This is one place I will be back to next time I step foot in Vienna.
It’s nice having the rocky mountains a 30 minute drive away from home when you want to get your ski fix. But like any Canadian we tend to dream about summer far too often and during one of my daydreams I made the decision to buy another boat and make the most of our limited summer.
Now if you have ever bought a boat you know it stands for “Bring On Another Thousand.” Not only is this true but the best day in your life is the day you buy a boat and the day you finally sell your boat. Even though I’ve dished out numerous $1000+ bills from servicing my boat, I still decided to proceed in this expensive passion.
Since I live in Calgary, there isn’t an abundance of lakes close by so the used boat market is limited and overpriced. My boat search usually ends south of the border since they have more supply. After a few days of browsing craigslist, I found my new toy and she was in Port Angeles, Washington.
Since I had a few days off, I made arrangements with the seller to see the boat the following day. Once again I found myself searching for a last minute airfare. The best option was to fly into Victoria and take the ferry over but our national carriers were charging a handsome sum for this privilege. After some time on itasoftware I found a flight in First Class for a similar total and booked it. Flying through Denver to get to Seattle isn’t the most direct route but at least I accumulate miles to my frequent flyer account and get the first class bonus.
Check-in at YYC was smooth and customs was a good 30 minute wait (I’m getting NEXUS soon).
United Airlines #1122
I was seated in 1D for this flight and the seat next to me remained open. Every other seat in First was taken and the load was about 90% in economy.
Breakfast was served about 30 minutes after departure. I ate the fruit and pecked at the rest. When I first laid eyes on this meal all I could see and smell was grease. I’m not sure it’s possible to put anything more disgusting in one’s mouth than this sausage. I’m Polish so I feel I’m qualified to state this considering I’ve probably ate over 1,500 sausages while I grew up.
My connection wasn’t tight so I spent some time people and plane spotting. Meanwhile I also got a call from my stock broker and time just flew since I managed to be one of the last to arrive at the gate. As I scanned my boarding pass just before getting on the jet way it got flagged. Right away the agent gave me a new boarding pass with a new seat 5A instead of my reassigned 1D. I didn’t find out why but my original seat stayed open during this flight and for another short hop I really didn’t care.
Since I was a little late I wasn’t offered any pre departure beverage or coat service but that’s understandable. Soon enough I was up in the air and looking forward to seeing the ocean and picking up my new toy.
The gentleman sitting beside me kept flashing his Rolex Submariner. It’s a very luxurious watch so I did compliment him on it though I did notice it was a service award since it had a Fortune 500 company logo on the face. Perhaps this was because as I took my seat initially I was still talking with my stock specialist and placed a few buys. I’m sure a few people thought I was that guy who you see too often blabbing very loud about his billion dollar deals.
As meal orders were being taken I could hear almost everyone opted for the Salmon Salad so when the FA reached me I asked for the turkey sandwich. Perhaps everyone knew something I didn’t but I did take one bite of this sandwich and I don’t even think I finished it. The bun was stale and dry with two slices of turkey, unrecognizable pesto sauce, extra mayo and tasted like it was toasted at 150 degrees for 3 hours. If you want to try it for yourself that’s the best way to replicate this sandwich.
I don’t recall what movie was being shown on the small TVs but I do remember noticing 90% of the cabin watching it which surprised me. Also there wasn’t a single female passenger in this cabin today which is a first considering the cabin was full besides my original seat 1C.
Since I used to live in Seattle I met up with a friend for lunch at the Metropolitan grill which is a great spot in case you find yourself here in the future. After a nice meal I continued north to Edmonds to embark on a 6 mile ferry ride to cross the Puget Sound. The drive up to Port Angeles was beautiful and after inspecting the boat I agreed to pick it up the following day since it was already around 4pm and I had no tow vehicle yet.
I wasn’t really looking forward to a night in a motel in Port Angeles I decided to call a local charter flight company to see if I had any options to fly across to Victoria. I use to live in Victoria and still have a lot of friends there. Rite Bros was willing to help me out for $250 so I accepted gladly and headed to the Port Angeles airport.
Customs needs 2 hours notice before you cross any country lines so I arrived exactly 2 hours after I gave my passport info and booked the flight. I paid my fare with a credit card so at least I got a few points from this flight.
Rite Bros. Cessna 172
Port Angeles – YYJ
Co Pilot Seat
My pilot informed me he just returned from Whistler and to expect a bit of turbulence. He also let me know not to talk during the takeoff and landing since this is a law. After a quick taxi we were up in the air for this short 10 minute flight back to Canada.
About halfway through the flight the turbulence really hit. I tightened my seat belt and held the flap so it wouldn’t release at all. I had never really experienced turbulence this bad before and since the plane is so small and you can see it all, the huge changes in altitude are amplified. I actually got scared as we were flying over Victoria Harbour and was relieved when we touched down safely.
Since I had never crossed a border on a charter flight I wasn’t expecting to be dropped off at an area far from the airport terminal. Once we stopped the pilot called customs and they told him I’m free to go on my way. I exited the Cessna 172 aircraft, the gate opened for me and I was back on Canadian soil without even having to speak to a customs officer.
I met up with a few friends and we enjoyed ourselves at a few pubs in downtown Victoria. The next morning I rented a truck with a hitch (US rental companies don’t offer this at the Seattle airport) and took the ferry over to Port Angeles to pick up the boat. The crossing was quite rough and the ship “MV Coho” isn’t anything to write home about either. The décor is straight out of the 70s and the cafeteria has very limited choices.
I picked up my new toy, headed back on the ferry to Victoria and put the boat in storage. Once the highways between Calgary and Victoria cleared up I drove out to pickup the toy.
At the end of the day behindthecockpit.com is here to help you maximize your travel experience value. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by using points you accumulate for free tickets, upgrades, car rentals, hotel stays or even toasters. The usual ways to accrue points is by either flying or buying.
Over the last few decades credit card companies have started offering tempting bonuses to sign up for their card. While I don’t suggest you get 12 different credit cards because this will screw with your credit rating but having an AMEX or two and a VISA/MC is fine.
Living in the great white north we don’t have the same amount of banks as in the USA and as a result we have very few good bonus point credit card offers compared to our neighbours. I will touch on other credit and cheqing account offers in the future but will start with the Grand Dame first so those of you who want to get a nice cushion right away will be able to do so.
Our friends at American Express have a card called the Aeroplan Platinum Plus. At certain times throughout the year they offer 50,000 Aeroplan bonus points structured in this way, 25,000 for signing up, 20,000 after your first purchase and the remaining 5,000 when you spend between $1,000-$3,000 total in the first 3 months after activation.
Now let me start with the bad news, $499 annual fee. I’m sure most of you have headed back to facebook by now but those who are still with me there is an easy chance even with the fee you will be well ahead of the game.
So besides the miles what will you get with this card? Air Canada Priority check in and Maple Leaf Lounge access any time you’re flying on a Star Alliance flight, which includes Air Canada and 25 other major airlines. Air Canada charges $399 for these benefits alone. You will get access to Priority lounges with any airline ticket. Also once a year, you will get one free companion short haul ticket when you redeem 15,000 aeroplan miles for a flight.
If you happen to stay 5 nights at a Fairmont hotel you receive Platinum status (Normally you need 30 nights or 10 stays minimum) which entitles you to one free night, 2 confirmed suite upgrades, room upgrades, welcome amenities, early/late check in and out, $100 dining credit and many other benefits that can be worth $250 such as a round of golf. The free night can be used at hotels such as; The Plaza in NYC, Savoy in London, Monte Carlo, Banff Springs, Pacific Rim Vancouver and any of the other 50 Fairmont hotels worldwide. A night at some of these hotels can start at $700!
With Fairmont Platinum status you can also choose one free local food experience yearly with your Passions Choices. Here we each enjoyed a local Maui raised Rib Eye steak on one side with local fresh fish on the other, excellent meal.
Lastly you also receive the 50,000 bonus aeroplan miles which is enough for two tickets to anywhere in the continental USA/Canada. So for example I’m long overdue to visit my buddy in Chicago. Since there are only a few direct flights fares usually are in the $750 range per person. So I could use my sign up bonus and head to Chicago with my girl and save $1500 on plane tickets right there. Truthfully though I save my miles for longer trips in premium cabins because that’s where I personally see the best value for points.
So in total even with the $500 fee I can easily get over $2000 of value with this card. If you don’t see yourself needing any of the additional benefits in a future post I will touch on the AMEX Gold cards which are also an excellent option and have no annual fee for the first year.
If you do decide to sign up for this card make sure it’s when they offer the 50,000 bonus. You can usually find this deal at the aeroplan.ca website