Houston to Heathrow, via Miami, on American Airlines – PART 2, the main flight

After saying goodbye to the lovely lounge near D30, I walked the short distance to D28 to board the final leg of my flight to London Heathrow. I don’t usually have the opportunity to fly business class, but I saved up 57,500 miles with American Airlines Advantage program. That plus a fee of just under £5 scored me a great seat for the duration of my flight home.

The business class section had a 1-2-1 configuration, with the seats at a slant. I was in 5J which was at the front of the second business section.

Being at the front made the foot rest area slightly bigger, so great if your legs are long, unlike mine.

Right as I sat down, I was offered a glass of champagne to relax and mull through the food and drink selection.

I was able to preorder my main a few days ago, which was the roasted cauliflower orecchiette pasta.

The starter was smoked salmon and cream cheese rolls with capers, a quail egg, and a bit of veg. I’m not a fan of cream cheese, but it was presented well and I think it’s something most people would enjoy. The salad was ok; romaine leaves, mango, radish, and toasted sunflower seeds with some balsamic dressing.

I ordered the vegetarian main as I was looking forward to some cauliflower with a tikka pasta sauce. It was a tasty sauce and spicy just the way I like it. But it was very carb heavy as there was naan bread on the side for some reason in addition to the pasta, and only 3 small pieces of cauliflower. It would’ve been nice to have loads more veggies and less pasta since cauliflower seemed to be the main star of the dish, on paper that is.

The best part of the meal for me was the Irish Cream Mousse Cake. It was just heavenly! And a generous portion as well! They also offered ice cream sundaes and a cheese board with Gouda, cheddar, and jalapeno cheese.

When settling back to explore the entertainment options, the first thing I noticed was that the Bose headphones seemed a bit worn and tatty. They felt flimsy as I put them on, but worked just fine and definitely cut out the noise.

However, I thought they were broken at first, as this socket seemed to be the obvious choice to plug the three pronged plug into. But, no. Keep looking…

Its actually just out of sight to the right of the green water bottle above. Why they put it there didn’t make sense to me. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only one, as a few others around me asked the flight attendant the same question.

The entertainment selection was vast, and I watched The Favourite, then fell asleep for nearly the duration of the flight. I asked to be wakened for breakfast, as I wanted to have plenty of time to enjoy it without being rushed. I chose the fruit, yogurt, and granola which was all nice and fresh. It would’ve been nice to have raisins and nuts as well, but other than that, no complaints here.

Last but not least, the amenity kit. The bag was created by This Is Ground, and was of good quality. There are all the usual toiletries such as toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, pen, socks, tissues and a nightmask. The lip balm and hand creme were provided by Allies of Skin. I haven’t tried this brand before, but was pleasantly surprised.

All in all, this was a very comfortable flight. It was just under 8 hours, so the service at times seemed rushed. However, the flight attendants still managed to serve everyone in a professional and friendly manner. Especially Nelson who was never without a smile! I look forward to trying this class of service again mostly due to the comfort I experienced. Until then, I’ll continue looking for travel bargains and flight deals. And if anyone was interested, I caught the National Express coach back to Bristol for £15 and two hours later, I was back home. Ta-rah for now, thanks for reading and Happy Traveling!

Houston to Heathrow, via Miami, on American Airlines – PART 1, preflight

My trip home has come to an end, and it’s time to take the journey to my other home in Bristol. I saw lots of family, ate quality Mexican food, and even caught a track meet at my old workplace. All in all, it was a great visit. However, I’m about to encounter my least favourite part: saying goodbye. When you live across oceans, it’s an unavoidable aspect of returning to your original home. The visits go too fast and are never long enough. And I’m always aware that my trips to Target and HEB will be my last, possibly for another year. And yet, the longer I’m away, I get anxious that each day waking up in this time zone will make it harder to adjust back to Bristol time. It’s just one of the things I have to get used to each time, that never really gets any easier. Such is life.

That said, it’s time to head to Houston George Bush Airport. I am flying to Heathrow with an almost 6 hour stop in Miami. I don’t normally like long stopovers, but as this flight was booked with frequent flier miles using American’s Advantage program, I’ll just go with it. Especially since it cost me all of £5 to book. And since the second leg of the trip is a business class seat, the layover will be spent counting down the minutes in the lounge. Not so bad after all!

Arriving at IAH is always just fine for me. As long as it’s not Thanksgiving or Christmas, the 20 minute drive always seems to give way to a quick check in experience. My first flight was in economy and I was sat in row 8c, which is a Main Cabin extra row a.k.a. more legroom. If I’m taking a short flight under 3 hours, legroom isn’t much of an issue for me, but I will admit, this was nice. Bulkhead seats always seem to offer that perk, even though all bags must be put up top. And as with most economy flights on American, coffee and soft drinks are offered with a snack of biscoff cookies or pretzels just after takeoff. The 2 1/2 hour flight was uneventful (just the way I like it) and it arrived on time. My phone was deep in my carryon, hence no pics of the seats, but the plane was clean and pleasant.

Now, for the lounge. I don’t usually take advantage of lounges as I live close to Bristol airport and my family is close to the Houston airport. So, I tend to arrive with enough time to check in and find a water fountain to refill my bottle. The lounges I have experienced before were good (Delta in Indianapolis) and not so good (United at DC Dulles), so it will be interesting to see where this one falls.

I used the Flagship lounge located near gate D30. There’s also an Admiral’s Club adjacent to it. Upon check in, I was greeted warmly and given the WIFI code – two things that put me at ease straight away.

I noticed instantly that the lounge was airy and comfortable, with plenty of seating on a Tuesday afternoon in late March. However, come 4 pm, there was a noticeable increase in passengers. That said, I still spotted empty seats and there didn’t seem to be any shortage of food or drink.

What I liked most about the seating arrangement, was all the intimate and cozy spaces throughout the place. After choosing a seat with a view of the runway, I ended up in the quiet zone, which had cubical like seats and comfy lounge chairs in a darkened environment if one wanted to take a nap (as shown in the photo above).

Unfortunately, I was having a sore stomach as I went overboard on Mexican food last night. So, I regretfully did not partake in as much of the food options as I normally would. There were definitely plenty of options from salads, charcuterie, roast beef, gnocchi, chicken, soups, etc. I had a small sampling of the cold salads, but I really wished I had my usual appetite.

This was a lovely experience, and the perfect place to spend a 6 hour layover before flying to London Heathrow. I don’t have a broad base to compare it to, but this definitely is on the good list.

My First and (maybe) Last Flight on Norwegian Air

After a lovely stay at Bloc, I checked out at 10:30 am to make the short walk to the check in desk at Gatwick’s south terminal. Check in was a breeze and was surprisingly quick considering the lengthy line. After a quick meal at Nando’s which consisted of their quinoa salad and a FREE tea (courtesy of Bloc), I strolled to the gate I would be leaving from.

The boarding experience was a far cry from check in. There was a rush and crowding to get ones passport checked without any orderly queue or organisation of any kind. As I sat waiting for my boarding group to be called, I started to realise how much I loved proper lines and waiting your turn; surely a sign of having lived in Japan and England for quite a while.

I quietly celebrated getting to my seat in one piece and finding room in the overhead space for my carry on. As I booked my seat back in October, I was able to snag a seat in the front of economy, ensuring I had plenty of leg room. Andd then I sat down to a very narrow seat, and possibly the narrowest I’ve experienced. To be fair, I was in row 11 which is a bulkhead row, if sat in the middle or right sided three. So, it meant both the food tray and video screen is tucked into the side. So, OK, it’s just one of those things that comes with the territory.

Then the food came, which was both a pro and con. First the cons. This was their idea of a 3 course meal. The tiny salad, sans dressing was my starter, the hot food selection was the actual meal, and the tiny portion of fruit was the dessert. I had to remind myself that I DID book a budget carrier for a long haul flight, so I’ll just file this one away for future reference. That said, here comes the pro… the salad and fruit were very fresh and my vegetarian main was delicious. I couldn’t fault the flavorful spiciness of the roasted aubergine dish which had smoky accents and a savory sauce. I just wish I had more of it.

We weren’t served anything else until 2 hours before landing. The vegetarian option consisted of a juice smoothie, fruit (2 apple slices & 4 grapes), and a hummus/harissa vegetable wrap. Again, the food was good, just wish I had more fruit. The other option was a chicken roll and brownie.

Now, comes another con… They don’t recycle any of their plastic cups!!! I noticed the flight attendants filling up more plastic cups with drinks, even after some of us already had a plastic cup. I politely asked if they recycled them, to which the flight attendant regretfully shook her head no. So I decided to take my clear plastics with me and will dispose of them in the first recycling bin I come across.

They did allow me to use my ecoffee cup for my tea. I take my cup whenever I travel as it’s super lightweight and totally cute! It’s a small gesture, but every time I utilize one of my reusables, it is one less piece of plastic or trash to worry about.

Entertainment wise, the pull out screen was small and the video selection was not vast. I did get the chance to watch Crazy Rich Asians which was a plus. They also had Friends and Modern Family (3 and 1 episode, respectively) which I love, but I wish they featured more episodes and seasons of the shows on selection.

So, the final verdict…. Would I fly with Norwegian Airlines again?? For a long haul flight to the states, probably not. I know it’s a budget airline so I knew ahead of time there weren’t going to be any frills, as it really was just a seat in the sky. For short European hops, that’s not a problem for me as I often use budget carriers out of Bristol. But for a longer flight, I think I just need a bit more comfort. I’m not sure I would pay more for their premium economy service either. For one, those rows didn’t have video screens in the seat in front of them. To me, that’s not a good sign, especially since the premium economy offerings with other airlines, for the same price, offer ALOT more. But to be honest, I think people will continue to purchase budget long haul flights, because getting a £215 one way ticket to sunshine is usually worth it when you live in Ol’ Blighty. And right now with all the Brexit mess, we can all use a sunny getaway. Keep an eye out for my next plane review taking me back to England – I can promise it will be drastically different!! Thanks for reading and Happy Traveling!

Bloc Hotel at Gatwick

Today I am taking a long haul flight by budget airline, Norwegian Air. Since it leaves midday, I wanted to be at the airport with plenty of time to spare. So, I decided to hop on the National Express the day before and spend the night at the Bloc Hotel, located at Gatwick’s south terminal on level 3, before security.

I’ve stayed here twice before, so I decided to write about it as it’s a great option if you find yourself needing a bed to lay on whilst at Gatwick. Now, let’s not avoid the obvious, let’s talk about price! I paid £79 on hotels.com and the average price on that site seems to be around £88. It’s about the same directly on Bloc’s site as well. There are a few hotels located at Gatwick’s terminals, and this is the second cheapest. If you want a cheaper price, you can opt for a windowless room at Bloc, or at Yotel located on level 2. I chose a window as I like to see the planes.

The idea behind Bloc Hotel is simple – it’s a place to rest at the terminal which is price conscious but also stylish in a minimalist setting. Now, it is a small space at 108 sq ft for the room I have. But since I’m only resting here for around 12 hours, I’m one of those people who just needs a shower and a place to lay my head.

The bed has a semi firm mattress which may suit a lot of people, and the duvet and pillows were super soft which I loved.

There’s a light switch by the door, but you can also control the lighting via the touch pad above the bedside table, next to the complimentary water. You can also use it to control the electronic window blind.

The bathroom is very sleek, and they provide aromatic hand soap and shampoo/body soap made by The Scottish Fine Soaps Company. There’s also a hair dryer provided in the room .

It is small, so I couldn’t get a full shot. The toilet shower combo can be tricky as there’s not a separate shower space; it’s all next to the toilet, so it all gets wet. I do love the rainforest shower head, which makes up for the awkward space.

All in all, I really enjoy staying here. It’s small and no frills, but comfortable and a refreshing place to rest before your onward journey. If you need a place to stay whilst at Gatwick, this is a great option and one I’ll use again. Thanks for reading and Happy Traveling!

The Latest After a Small Break

OK guys, so I know I haven’t baked/cooked much lately. In January, I started a new job which has changed my schedule around a bit. However, I’ve got some treat ideas ready to try out soon. But since I’ll be gone to visit family for the next two weeks, expect something tasty a bit later in the month.
However, in the absence of my baking delights, I have been thinking a lot on how I’d like to improve my blog. I often think about new ideas as I’m walking home, mulling around the harborside, or inbetween gigs here and there. I mean, we live in Bristol right? So there are endless foods to try, bands to see, and places to go! In the near future I plan on reviewing these things more and more, including airline reviews starting this week with my flight to Las Vegas on budget airline, Norwegian air. I’ll also be looking at good travel options from Bristol by putting my budget minded skills to the test!

For example, did you know that you can grab a one way fare to Gatwick airport from Bristol coach station with National Express for as little as £2?! That’s less than a meal deal! And for comparison, if you bought it on the day it would be £20. So it really does help to book in advance if you can (I booked the trip in October).

Anyhow, lots to come, places to see, and things to do! So, watch this space. There are things cooking, but think of it more as simmering in a crock pot. In the meantime, check out my Instagram page as I post random pics around Bristol, including some of the local food I munch on. Thanks for reading and be careful of the crazy weather we’ve been having!