SFO T2 open house

On Saturday afternoon Thom and I went to the community open house for the completely redesigned Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport. As a travel geek I was totally excited, and since T2 is the new home for Virgin America, as a VX loyalist I was doubly excited. This terminal is on the site of one of the original buildings at the airport and for several years served international flights. I remember coming here as a kid with my parents several times to drop off and pick up relatives traveling to and from the Philippines. For a time you could go to the gates if you weren’t traveling, and I’d even bring a bag with me so that I could put it on the conveyer belt and run it through the X-ray machine at the security checkpoint. I was just fascinated by the whole airport experience. Travel geek in training!

SFO T2 open house

A detour: These are those kinds of moments when I miss my dad, who passed away almost five years ago now. He was an architect and was always interested in keeping track of new projects in the area, especially transportation infrastructure. So this was an event he would have loved. For example, several years ago he and my mom attended the groundbreaking for the Colma BART station near our house, and they were also at the opening of SFO’s new International Terminal. That sort of fascination has rubbed off on me. Back when I was living in D.C., one of the times I came back to visit my parents, I told my dad to pick me up not at the airport, but at a BART station along the then-new SFO extension, so that I could ride BART from the airport for the first time. He completely understood.

OK, back to the open house. As I said, T2 is the new home for Virgin America, as well as for American Airlines. I will say that Virgin America’s previous location in the International Terminal was nice too and was actually easier to get to from the airport BART station. Now that they’re in T2, from BART you either have to connect to AirTrain or walk a long-ish way through Terminal 3.

The open house was a free, ticketed event, and thankfully no security to get through, since flights were not yet operating. I was saying this was probably the easiest access to the gates that I’ll ever see. Red carpet, even:

SFO T2 open house

The terminal is chock-full of shops and restaurants on the way to the gates. (We stopped inside a bookstore to browse, and I had to fight the instinct to load up on magazines. Force of habit.) Overall I’m impressed with the terminal; it’s light and airy with lots of windows for planespotting, and plenty of good places to eat. However I’m not sure there is enough seating at each gate area. We shall see. My next Virgin America flight may not be until August, so my first chance to actually use the terminal as a passenger will not be for a while.

SFO T2 open house

SFO T2 open house

SFO T2 open house

The open house had a bunch of information booths and entertainment going on: bands on stage at the food court, prize raffles, and so on, including this Virgin America photo booth:

SFO T2 open house

We were so on board with this. The lady with the props was like, do you want to be captains or flight attendants? Well, we couldn’t resist. We put on the little hats and red scarves and decided to do emergency-exit hands, and it’s hilarious how we instantly did the same Charlie’s Angels-like stance. Flight attendants, ready!

SFO T2 open house

Most of the other visitors’ portraits were kind of “normal,” so I think the staff got a kick out of us. Fun times.

» See also: The rest of my photos from the T2 open house are up on Flickr.

Travel slideshow: Valentine’s Week in Las Vegas

We were in Las Vegas for Valentine’s Week, and while I don’t have a full-on travel recap for you, you can view a slideshow of photos below or go to the Flickr set. Our home for the week was the Encore, and while in town we saw three shows: Zumanity, Le Rêve, and The Beatles–LOVE. One day we drove out and took a tour of Hoover Dam.

By the way, thanks again for your restaurant suggestions on Facebook and Twitter. We were able to fit in Raku (off the Strip) and Bradley Ogden (at Caesars Palace), among other places, and they were fantastic.

Las Vegas sign

» Previously: “Travel preview: Valentine’s week in Vegas.”

Travel preview: Valentine’s week in Vegas

Last year we went to Palm Springs for the first time, for Modernism Week (my Flickr photos are here), and this year we started planning to go back but then were tempted by a promo that Thom had received from the Wynn Las Vegas, which included midweek rooms for $99 (upgradeable upon booking) and two tickets to Le Rêve. We thought, why not? And make it a Valentine’s and anniversary kind of thing? The time around Valentine’s is one of our anniversaries. In 2009 we became domestic partners on February 13, and the next day we got engaged and had our wedding later that year.

So we’re flying down to Vegas on Virgin America tomorrow, and our home for the next few days will be a resort suite at the Encore. We’ve also started filling our itinerary with more shows (Zumanity and The Beatles – LOVE) and restaurant reservations, thanks to your suggestions on Facebook and Twitter… and if you have more, please let us know.

The Strip

Have a happy Valentine’s Day! And as a side note, there are several community actions taking place on Valentine’s Day at county offices across the country to advocate for marriage equality. The one in San Francisco will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at City Hall on the steps and inside the county clerk’s office. If you have time, do check it out and help raise awareness for LGBT rights.

Travel preview: Southeast Asia

We leave for vacation today, so I guess it’s time for a preview! Over the next couple of weeks we will visit the Philippines, Cambodia (Siem Reap), and Thailand (Chiang Mai). The trip was first spurred by my mom, who is going to visit the Philippines in time for a festival and other reunions in her hometown, and Thom and I decided to tag along, as we similarly did this time of year in 2007. It’ll be great to see a bunch of my relatives again. This time, to add some variety, after one week in the Philippines, Thom and I decided to plan a side trip and are going off on our own to some neighboring countries that neither of us have been to before: Siem Reap for the temples at Angkor, and Chiang Mai, one of the ancient cities of Thailand.

(Originally we had planned to go to Bangkok, but given the political unrest there, we finally decided to divert to Chiang Mai. We’ll still fly to Bangkok airport, but just to change flights.)

Quick airline geek-out: our total flight plan to and from SFO and within Asia covers about 18,862 miles on four different airlines–all of which I’m flying for the first time–on aircraft ranging from a Boeing 747 jumbo jet all the way down to an ATR 72 turboprop. And the way it works out, in the middle of the trip we’ll even have a stopover in Singapore, just long enough to see a few sights and rest before continuing on. Map time!

View Southeast Asia 2010 in a larger map

We’ll likely have Internet access for most of the trip, so I will try to at least update status when I can. ‘Til next time!

Our big fat Greek honeymoon

Wow, I really meant to write a wedding recap (more than a month has passed since the wedding, so it’s not like I haven’t had the opportunity!), and I will eventually, but for now here are a couple of links to photos, which you may have already seen on Facebook etc.: our Flickr group Happy Together, and our pro Julie Bernstein’s photos. Speaking of photos, if you’ve seen my Flickr photostream lately, you’ll notice that I recently started to post last year’s Alaska cruise photos. You know how I procrastinate. I figured I would try and post them all before our next cruise, but I may have to put that on hold yet again, ’cause our next cruise is here!

That’s right, our honeymoon is upon us! Tomorrow we fly via Amsterdam to Venice, and the day after that we embark on a twelve-night cruise aboard the Grand Princess from Venice to Rome, stopping at the following ports and cities in Croatia, Greece, Turkey, and Italy: Dubrovnik, Corfu, Katakolon (Olympia), Athens (Piraeus), Mykonos, Kusadasi (Ephesus), Rhodes, Santorini, and Naples. We finish in Rome, where we’ll stay for a couple of days before heading back home. (Google map? You got it.)

View larger map

We’re totally excited, as you can imagine. I can’t wait to see so many things in person for the first time that I’ve only seen in pictures, like the Parthenon in Athens, the canals of Venice, and so on and so on. I’ll try to update now and then, but for now, γειά σου and ciao!

Las Vegas weekend

Wonder of wonders, I managed to upload all my photos from our Las Vegas trip that we took two weekends ago and am getting around to write a blog post about it! So yes, we had a great time. We stayed at the Planet Hollywood hotel, which was nice; I liked the slick, mod feel. Our room had props and photos from the movie Tank Girl. Our room faced The Strip, but our direct view was of a roof below and construction across the street. If you craned your neck to the right, you could see the Bellagio.

Walking among the hotels provided lots of photo ops; here’s Thom’s photo of us down in front of the Bellagio, waiting for the fountain show:

Speaking of the Bellagio, after unsuccessfully trying to get into Olives without a reservation, we ended up having dinner at Sensi, and it turned out to be fabulous. We had a prix fixe dinner: I chose crisp fried shrimp, Kobe flatiron steak, and “chocolate temptation” (layers of milk chocolate, nuts, and praline, with salted caramel ice cream). Yum! After dinner we saw O, one of the Cirque du Soleil shows, and it was amazing. The only thing I knew going in was that it was performed in and out of water — I was thinking a see-through tank — but it’s more like a pool that takes up the entire stage, with the shape and depth constantly varying with each scene. I loved it.

On Sunday we had brunch and went window shopping at the Miracle Mile Shops, the mall adjoining Planet Hollywood. In the evening we had dinner at Olives (with a reservation this time). I have to say, I wasn’t quite as impressed as I was the previous night at Sensi, but it was still a great meal. I had a prix fixe of butternut squash tortelli, paella “olivacious,” and chocolate falling cake. Then we saw another Cirque show, Mystère, which is at Treasure Island. This is more of the big-top circus show that I’m used to, and our seats were pretty close to the stage, so it was thrilling.

Trader Vic'sMonday was our last day in Vegas. We had lunch at Trader Vic’s — you knew we had to work tiki in somehow, right? I don’t usually have a cocktail with lunch, but hey, it’s vacation, as if I need an excuse. We shared a tiki bowl, and I had Kahlua pork sliders. Tasty!

Then walked next door to Paris. (The Strip lends itself to time-space transportation, doesn’t it?) We had a coupon for the Eiffel Tower Experience (though “experience” is overstating it; it’s an observation deck), so we went up to the top of the fifty-story tower. It has some great views of the area. But just as we got up there, it got all windy and hazy, so it wasn’t ideal viewing. We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping, and before we knew it, it was time for our flight home.

We had taken US Airways there, and our favorite airline, Virgin America, on the way back. We upgraded at check-in and made our way to the gate area, where Thom noticed celebrity chef Tyler Florence! As we got in line to board, Thom addressed him as “chef” and said hello. Heh! And onboard he ended up sitting in the row across the aisle from us.

We remembered that Virgin has started serving absinthe (Le Tourment Vert), and we had to try it. Our flight attendant recommended mixing it with club soda (or lemon-lime soda), so that’s what we had. I have to say, I’m not a fan of licorice taste, so it wasn’t my cup of tea. But it’s nice that they offer it. They have it for a limited initial run, but I wonder if it will catch on enough for them to keep it. Our flight attendant was real nice and even gave each of us a mini-bottle to take home!

So yes, we’ll definitely have to plan another Vegas trip soon. It’s just not the same being back on our street with no hourly fountain, volcano, or pirate show to entertain us. It’s so quick to get to (by plane, at least), and there are a billion more Cirque shows to see! At least it seems that way. Oh, and yes, we did gamble, but we’re such low rollers. I mostly played video blackjack and lost a few dollars. That’s enough action for me!

The Strip

My pics are on Flickr in my Las Vegas set; see also Thom’s set.

Dueling country roads

I thought last night’s episodes of The Office were just OK, but Dwight and Andy’s dueling performance of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” (to impress the new receptionist) was pretty hilarious. “In German! Das Leben ist alt dort…”

Aside: That song will always remind me of our vacation in 2007 to, of all places, the Philippines. A bunch of us were having drinks at the Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay, being serenaded by a roving trio of guitarists. We talked to them a bit, and when they learned that Thom was from Virginia, they broke out into “Take Me Home, Country Roads”! Ha! We were all singing along; it was great.

Oh, wait, I just dug through my photos of that trip (which I still haven’t uploaded completely to Flickr!), and found one of the players: so it was two guitars and a bass. That’s my uncle and cousin in the foreground. Good times.

Taal Vista Hotel

Valentine’s Day weekend

If you followed my Twitter or Facebook status a couple weeks ago, you know this news: Thom and I are engaged. We’ve talked about this amongst ourselves for a while, so it was kind of planned — no one surprised anyone with a ring in the champagne or got down on one knee — but still special and romantic. We plan to have a wedding in the Bay Area sometime this fall. Although we are already registered domestic partners, there is nothing like a ceremony with our friends and family present. We’ll have it regardless of the outcome of the Prop 8 court challenge, and if the ban is overturned, which we hope will be the case, then we’ll get legally married!

Our Valentine’s Day weekend was spent on a little road trip down the Central Coast. On Saturday we went to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, about a four-hour drive from here in Daly City. That night we had dinner in Carmel at Citronelle, where we popped the question. (We said yes!) We stayed the night at the Hyatt Regency Monterey and the next day visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was a lovely getaway (though the drive back on Sunday was stormy and harrowing).

My photos from Hearst Castle are up on Flickr, and soon I’ll add the aquarium photos to the set.

Hearst Castle - Neptune Pool

And so the wedding planning begins!