Posts Tagged '1st class'

Escape to Arizona

view from my room

The spring weather was rainy. It was cold. It was not at all spring-like. I may have mentioned that in prior posts. I decided that I needed an escape. My son used to live in Florida, and I used to escape down there in the winter to get some warm sunshine. Last year he moved out to Arizona, as I mentioned at the time. dining 1st classWhile AZ is very sunny and warm (actually, let’s be honest – it’s HOT), it doesn’t have an ocean. An ocean typically figures in my idea of “escape”. I decided that I would try a desert escape instead and see how it worked.

If one is escaping, one should do it with bells and whistles. I booked everything to be as self-indulgent as possible: first class seat on the plane, private car service to the resort, amazingly gorgeous upscale resort. I’m a little frustrated with paying for first class plane tickets and not loving my seat. Sure, they give you linen napkins and glass, not plastic, but it can still have drawbacks. On the way out I ended up next to a gentleman who wore WAY too much scent. I’m allergic to perfumes and aftershaves and such. I wish the folks who wear these things would not bathe in them nor wash their clothes in them. So sorry but you, sir, stink. 😦 On the way home, silly me, I thought I’d get to board among the first folks to board, thereby not having to worry about storing my carry-on bag. room at The Boulders By the time Group 1 got to board, every seat in 1st class was filled but 2. The seat next to mine was taken by a young man with headphones on, head down deliberately avoiding any eye contact with anyone. I’m short – 5’1″ on a good day. The overhead bins were not only nearly full, but folks had not put their bags in the “correct” way so they occupied more space than required. As both aisle seats were full, and neither “gentleman” (perhaps I should use the term “occupant” as a more accurate description) considered leaning away out of the aisle, I was struggling to lift MY bag, turn it properly and stow it. I thought there was a very good chance I’d end up hitting my seat-mate in the head. As I struggled from the lack of space, a true gentleman from 2 rows back came and placed the bag for me. morning cactus*smile* He also took it down for me at journey’s end. The young man did not stink, thank goodness, and was very quiet. The flight home was a red-eye, and it was delayed over an hour. I think that I am done taking the red-eye home. The last 3 times I’ve taken a red-eye, trying to not “waste” a day, the flights have had issues (2 from Arizona, 1 from Nevada). I think from now on I’ll just waste a day.

Absolutely no complaints about the car service. I took Super Shuttle. I got used to hiring them when I travel on business. I’m not interested in trying Lyft or Uber. I’ve heard too many bad stories and I’m not unhappy with Super Shuttle, so to date I’ve had no reason to change. My driver was being trained, so I had TWO drivers. They were charming, informative (my generation!) and not only drove me to the resort but gave me a running commentary on what we were passing and suggestions on what I should do/see while I was out there. I also learned about how those drivers get their passengers, and how the payment works and such. I am always interested in how other businesses operate.boulders map Although my pre-paid fare had included a tip already, these 2 were so engaging that I added to it. And I did follow 3 of their suggestions!

I stayed at The Boulders. I did very little research on picking a place to stay. I knew that Scottsdale, AZ was known for upscale spa resorts. I knew (or thought I knew) that Scottsdale was close to Tempe, which is where my son lives. I don’t do well when I have to choice from a multitude of options. I decided to narrow my search by starting with Hilton resorts, as I am on their frequent guest plan. (I LOVE the Hilton Orlando with its lazy river!!!!) I put in my key amenities: free wi-fi, a spa, restaurant on site, pool, near Tempe. Answer: The Boulders. I never looked at the building plans. I began to be very nervous when the car service told me I was “way out there”. Apparently The Boulders is in Scottsdale but it’s in Carefree, and the northernmost part of Carefree. spa viewThat makes it closer to 45 minutes from my son, not 20-30 as I was guessing from my last trip. Not only that, but as we drove the winding road through the grounds, I realized there was no main hotel building. There were separate low one-story buildings nestled about the landscape. The resort has a zillion golf carts to pick you up and take you where you want to go should you not want to walk. The map they gave me at check-in was intimidating – it looked like I’d be hiking EVERYWHERE. I took a golf cart to my room.

The room was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. The view outside was astounding. The spa was a 5 minute walk from the room. I unpacked and headed there to spend the afternoon by the spa pool. The view everywhere was spectacular. spa pool The pool was refreshing. I was too late for the lunch menu but the server brought me a muffin to tide me over until dinner. I headed back up to the room after a few hours and fell asleep waiting for my son to arrive. He came up after work. By the time he got there, my body clock was telling me it was nearly 10 and I was HUNGRY! We decided to walk to one of the restaurants. *grin* We didn’t do all that well with our map. We might have been better off calling for a golf cart. But we did get there and dinner was lovely. The best part about eating in Arizona (and Florida) is that all the restaurants have huge outdoor areas. They have fans and misters and awnings – everything to make outdoor dining pleasant. We dined looking over one of the golf courses (there are 2). We did take the shuttle back to the main building and a golf cart home, which really was an extravagance. cottontail jack rabbit (There is no charge for the golf cart service. Or rather, there is, but it’s a daily fee added on to all the other charges so you don’t have to worry about tipping each ride.)

Over the next few days we tended to take a break up at the lodge pool. Again – totally beautiful with a manufactured waterfall in the background. Children are not allowed at the spa pool but I enjoyed seeing them in the lodge pool. My favorite recollections of our family trips when I was just a young sprout were the various hotel pools on our journeys. I was definitely a fish in those days and part of me joins in with the children I see loving the water.

I didn’t take any pictures inside the room – the resort website has completely accurate representations. morning companionsEvery time I went out on our patio/balcony I took millions of photos. I sat out there every morning, drinking my coffee and enjoying the company. There were birds that are not in NJ, there were desert cottontail rabbits, there were lizards and there were quail. OMG, the quail have such cute heads. I’d gaze up at the mountain in the distance and breathe in the air and the quiet and the cactus and the rocks. It was heaven. Staring at the desert produces the same serenity as gazing at the ocean.

My “tour guides” suggested that the next time I come out I should stay at The Biltmore. That is a fantastic suggestion. But if I can’t get a room there, I’ll be delighted to go back to The Boulders.

more view

Leaving. Not Leaving. Leaving. Not….

Well. This has been an eventful week. The walls are spackled and sanded, and the painter has begun priming the walls and painting the ceiling. My understanding is that he will be done sometime on Saturday. I have no pictures to share, however, as I am not there. I am in Arizona. Lucky and glad to be here, too!

IMG_8791WHY Arizona in July??? Because my son has gotten a new job here in Tempe. He and a friend took a week to drive from Orlando, FL to Tempe. The friend flew out on Wednesday and I flew in to help with house/room hunting. The flying-in process was messed up and annoying but did work out ultimately. I think in the long run I may even have come out ahead.

You may have gotten the impression that at times I decide I neeeeeeeed to be treated as a princess. *grin* Flying is one of those times. I booked 1st class tickets using 2 different airlines so that I would have the most comfortable accommodation AND the most convenient flight times and fly non-stop. Odd as it may sound to you, the convenient fly-to-Phoenix time involved getting up at 4:00 am to get to the airport for the 5+ hour flight. I was just shutting down my applications in preparation for sleep when I received a text message: your AA flight is cancelled.

IMG_8793Of course I stressed out immediately. My husband had already gone to bed because he, too had to get up at 4 to take me to the airport. Immediately after the text about the cancelled flight I got a text that I had been re-booked to leave 6.5 hours later, from a different (inconvenient) airport with a stop in St. Louis. There was no way that would work for me. I knew that UA, which I was using to fly home, left EWR 45 minutes earlier than AA. I called UA to see if they could modify my flight to include flying to Phoenix. They were happy to sell me a 1st class ticket for only $1500. Ummm, no. She recommended I call AA and see if they could put me on the UA flight.

I called AA. I chatted with a pleasant man named Michael. As we talked, about changing my flight to UA (where he claimed he saw no seats despite the fact that *I* could see that 1st class seat still) he told me my flight was reinstated. I was again leaving on my AA non-stop flight to Phoenix at 6:45 am. I didn’t get any text message about this, nor did I get an email. He assured me that I was indeed on that flight, but my boarding pass was not good anymore – I’d need a new one. What that SOB failed to mention was that while I was reinstated on the flight, all my seat information had been wiped. Poorly played, American Airlines, poorly played.

IMG_8827When I got to the airport, and printed my boarding pass, it said I had no seat assignment. Please keep in mind I’d paid over $300 extra to be in 1st class. I hate to sound money-oriented or cheap but that is a significant expenditure. I’m going to summarize here but keep in mind I had to live this for over an hour, with many, many, many other unhappy people.

When I got to the boarding gate, and went for my seat, they offered me a middle seat all the way in the back of coach. I said no way, I paid over $600 for 1st class, where the heck is my seat?? They explained that when the flight was cancelled, all that information was lost. I said that nice Michael had assured me I was okay. They said well maybe he’d fixed everything but they claimed that the flight had been cancelled and reinstated several times overnight. In the end, the 6:45 am flight was ON, BUT the 10:15 am flight was cancelled, and all of THOSE people were also on the 6:45 flight now, and 1st class was full. I said there is no way this is acceptable. They would not refund the price differential. They offered me $200 voucher as compensation BUT because the flight was now oversold, they’d offer me $500 voucher to not fly. I said are you out of your minds? Either put me in first class or refund the entire differential. They said – how about a $1000 voucher to give up your seat and we will put you on a non-stop leaving at 9:00 am?

IMG_8806My son will now live in Tempe, AZ. There will now be family traffic between EWR and PHX. As long as I bought the ticket for my son (in his name), I could use my voucher for it. $1000 would buy either a lot of trips for him in coach, or a round-trip for me in 1st (he’s not a princess *grin*). I did not have to be in Phoenix at a specific time. Although they did not have a 1st class seat for me on the 9 am flight, I decided that this was actually a good deal and I accepted it. I watched as that plane was crammed full, out of overhead bin space, every seat taken. I accepted my new boarding pass and my voucher, thinking I was well off that plane. I texted my son and gave him the new flight information and wandered off to find some coffee and breakfast.

While I was eating breakfast and relaxing, I got a text message. The 6:45 am flight (which I was no longer on, remember) was not leaving at 6:45 am but now leaving at 7:45 am. I thought – those poor people, stuck on that plane. A little later I got another text. The 6:45 flight was now leaving at 9 am. Omg, I thought, are they STILL stuck on that plane??? I was quite relieved to be sipping coffee in the restaurant with lots of room to either side of me.

IMG_8829After breakfast I wandered back to the boarding gate where I saw scores of familiar looking people, and bins filled with water and juice bottles. Yes, it was the 6:45 am flight. I began chatting with some of them and it turned out that the pilot had never made it to the airport – they were waiting for a new crew. The night before we’d had torrential rain in NJ. Apparently the pilot was on Rt 80 on his way to the airport when they closed down that interstate due to flooding. He couldn’t move forward, he couldn’t get off, he couldn’t get to the airport.

Again I laughed to myself and thought I’m so glad I’m NOT on this flight. They loaded up the plane again and as I sat there, waiting to see the plane leave, I heard the attendants paging “Passenger Heliosense, Passenger Heliosense, please come to the desk”. Heliosense is fairly common name around these parts but I went up to the desk and said, am I the Heliosense you are paging? They said: Ahuva? I said yes. They said, we can put you on this plane. It was the same young man I’d talked to before. IMG_8835I said I am NOT getting in the back of coach in a middle seat. They assured me that I was in a window seat, the first row behind 1st class, and I would keep my $1000 voucher and my carryon could be stored in an overhead bin. This was again a decent offer so I accepted and texted my son again with changed information.

The attendant walked me down to the plane and led me on. My overhead bag was placed in a bin in 1st class. *grin* My bag knows how to travel. I went to row 7 but….. it was a middle seat. Apparently the couple in the middle and aisle seats had decided that the window person wasn’t coming and he’d moved over. The whole plane was now waiting on me to sit down so I did – in the middle seat. But I performed my own rebellion – I kept my OTHER bag with me, despite not having a seat under which I could store it. It was gray, my pants were gray, I tucked it behind my legs and hoped no one would notice or if they did, they’d ignore it. And that’s how it worked out.

The flight was not bad, I had plenty of room since there was no row ahead of us, the couple both slept, each slumped to the side of their seat AWAY from me. I arrived in PHX around 11:15, only 2 hours later than originally planned.

I went outside to wait for my son to get me and …… OMG. It is HOT here. I love heat, I love sun, I am a sun worshipper (HELIOSENSE – get it????) but oh my. It was 116 degrees F. I have been in the Negev and the Sinai desserts and I do not believe I have EVER felt heat like this. But the sky was clear and there were MOUNTAINS, and I was in PHX AND I have a $1000 voucher to try this again and hope it’s less eventful. 🙂 I’ll leave this story here for now, but I warn you…. the saga continues with the hotel……

(Apologies for the poor photos – many of them were taken from a moving car. Although my son is better than Honour at stopping for photos, sometimes we did have to keep moving.)


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