Pic: Bart at Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Canada
After my First Class flights to Los Angeles the journey continued to Calgary, Canada. I had booked Hertz’ cheapest rate but was lucky enough to receive a brand new car for my 3-day roadtrip (map) in the Canadian Rockies. When I arrived at Radisson Calgary airport on tuesday night, the weather was gloomy and the forecast wasn’t really encouraging. Fortunately, this turned out to be an advantage when the weather cleared up on Thursday. It was exceptionally quiet in the parks which offered me the opportunity to enjoy the sights without the summer crowds!
Pic: Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada
A short stop to buy a rain jacket at the town of Banff and off I went to beautiful Moraine Lake and Lake Louise in Banff National Park. I stayed at Paradise Lodge & Bungalows, a 5 minute drive from Lake Louise. Not the cheapest place to stay, I paid $228 Canadian dollars (~€165) for my last-minute booking of a Preferred Fairview Suite, but what a relaxing experience! Nothing feels better than a hot shower after hiking all day in the rainy woods!
Pic: Bart at Icefields Parkway, Canadian Rockies
On Wednesday, the weather cleared up right in time for The World’s Most Spectacular Journey: Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper. What a FANTASTIC route! Probably the nicest I’ve done in my entire life.
Pic: Etihad Chauffeur service to London Heathrow Terminal 4
One weekend, three A380 First Class flights, a personal record! On my way to Canada, I flew Etihad Airways A380 First Class from London to Abu Dhabi, Qatar Airways A380 First Class from Doha to London and British Airways A380 First Class from London to Los Angeles. For the Etihad flight, I burned 40,000 American AAdvantage miles, the two other flights were part of the British Airways First Class error fare from Dubai (~€1350 out-of-pocket, a fraction of the normal fare ~€7000). The revenue OneWorld flights earned me a total of 23,429 American AAdvantage miles.
Pic: Etihad Airways A380 First Class Apartment 4K (May 2015)
I had very high expectations for my Etihad A380 First Class Apartment flight from London to Abu Dhabi, but unfortunately those were not met. Was it because Martina was not part of the flight crew? Maybe. The ground experience at Heathrow was nice with a tasty breakfast (menu) and relaxing massage (Six Senses Spa) at the Etihad First & Business Class lounge. But onboard there were a number of disappointments: a less than enthusiastic welcome by cabin manager Bashar, a pre-departure drink served in a broken glass, mediocre inflight dining & service, a cramped shower, a lobby bar lacking the grandeur of its competitors, and more… All first world problems, but if you pride yourself on “setting a new standard for best in class”, expectations of your premium passengers are very high.
Pic: Etihad A380 connecting First Class Apartments 3K and 4K
Obviously, there were a number of positive features as well. The spacious ‘Apartment’ offering great privacy, the ottoman converting in a 2 meter bed, the huge IFE high definition screen, etc… check the Design Air Etihad A380 First Apartment trip report for more details and pictures. I’ll fly Etihad A380 First Class later this year again which hopefully will be an improved experience.
Pic: Etihad First Class – Bollinger La Grande Année 2005 Champagne
Pic: Sunrise Beach at Koh Lipe in Thailand (Jan 2015)
Pic: Thai Airways Royal Silk Business Class B777-300ER
Back in January, I booked a last minute side trip from Australia to Thailand. I used 80K LifeMiles to book Brisbane – Bangkok roundtrip in Thai Airways Royal Silk Business Class for a total cost of €1092. Revenue tickets started at €2800.
Pic: Rooftop Pool at Hotel Indigo Bangkok Wireless Road
For my stays in Bangkok, I booked two brand new IHG hotels. Before heading to Koh Lipe, I spent 3 nights at Holiday Inn Express Bangkok Sukhumvit 11 (room) at €43 per night. Upon my return from the island, I stayed two nights at Hotel Indigo Bangkok Wireless Road at €101 per night. Stays which earned me valuable credits for the IHG Set Your Sights promo.
Pic: King Deluxe Room at Hotel Indigo Bangkok Wireless Road
UPDATE MARCH 2022: The €60 reduction offer has expired. However, you can get the Brussels Airlines American Express card with 20,000 bonus miles!
Don’t have a Brussels Airlines American Express card yet? Lucky you! Until May 30th 2015, you get a €60 reduction on your first American Express annual fee! Combine this with the double sign-up bonus for friend referrals and you get an awesome deal.
Pic: Use your Miles & More miles to fly Lufthansa First Class like me!
Pic: Partially frozen Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls (Feb 2015)
Weekend trips can be so awesome! Friday morning, I flew Jet Airways from Brussels to Toronto for the weekend. Very reasonable travel times of 8h 45min for the outbound flight and only 6h 16m for the inbound flight thanks to the strong jet stream over the Atlantic.
Pic: Bart at Table Rock, Niagara Falls, Canada (Feb 2015)
My day trip to the Niagara Falls on Saturday was originally booked with BG tours, but as they didn’t have enough participants they rebooked me with King tours. At $67 Canadian dollars, the 9am till 6pm tour was excellent value. Glad I avoided renting a car and battling the 240km (roundtrip) of icy roads!
Pic: Breakfast at Early Bird, Toronto
Avoided the expensive hotel breakfast buffets and enjoyed a fantastic start of the day at Early Bird in the hip Queen Street West neighborhood.
Pic: King room at Trump Hotel Toronto
Friday night, I had booked Trump Toronto using HotelTonight, where even Donald Trump himself was expecting me! 😉
Pic: Social media welcome amenity at Trump Toronto
Pic: The Moon & Toronto CN Tower
Another magic moment of my weekend in Toronto: blue hour at the famous CN Tower! It was the World’s tallest tower (553m) until the Burj Khalifa (Dubai) was finished in 2007.
Pic: View from the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada
Pic: Deluxe room at InterContinental Toronto Centre
On saturday night, I had a fantastic view from my deluxe room 2327 at the InterContinental Toronto Centre.
Pic: View from InterContinental Toronto Centre (Feb 2015)
Pic: CN Tower seen from InterContinental Toronto Centre