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Friday, July 27, 2018

Virgin Atlantic Airline & Extreme Temperature in Las Vegas

Aloha Everyone,

Today was the busiest day of the year for flights in the UK with 8,841 aircraft estimated to take off and land as people embarked on their summer holiday.

This was our first experience flying on Virgin Atlantic Airline and we loved it. J.J. and I knew about the story of how Richard Branson started the airline in 1984. All airlines advertise about their customer service, but with Virgin Atlantic, their claim to “offer an exceptional service to each and every one of our customers around the world” rang true. From the ground hostess to in flight attendants, they were pleasant, well-trained and provided continuous service from departure to arrival. 

J.J. and I sat in the spacious “Premier Economy” section. We were served a full breakfast with choices of entrees, snacks (we chose pasty), constant beverages, ice cream or chips treats, followed by breakfast with choice of entree, and finally candies to help prevent barotrauma or airplane ear.

Though I declined most of the food, I tried to take photos. 9 hours flight time went quickly. J.J. and I also watched an excellent film, “Darkest Hour” based on the true story about Winston Churchill, who faced extreme challenges within days of becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Approaching Las Vegas, we were treated to amazing desert landscapes.

Extreme temperature at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas delayed our connecting Delta flight to LAX by nearly 90 minutes. The temperature was 114 degrees. Most airlines grounded their planes until temperatures dropped several degrees.
Aloha -- Cathi

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Reflection on Our Trip

Aloha Everyone,

How quickly the 3 weeks have come to an end. Today we transferred to the Premiere Inn at Gatwick Airport. Our departure on Virgin Atlantic is early tomorrow morning. Entry to the USA is via Las Vegas. Hopefully, the temperature will not exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If it gets hotter than that, we understand that planes may not be able to take off.

Truthfully, J.J. and I are leaving with a bit of reluctance. With newly acquired knowledge, deeper understanding and appreciation of humanity, this too was a successful sojourn. As Brits would say, “We had an impressively splendid time."

Let me share a few differences between British English (B) and American English (A).

Chips (B) - French Fries (A)
Jacket potato (B) - Baked potato (A)
Flat (B) - Apartment (A)
Surgery (B) - Clinic/doctor’s office (A)
Chemist (B) - Pharmacist (A)
Bonnet (B) - Hood of a car (A)
Loo (B) - Toilet (A)
Torch (B) - Flashlight (A)

And finally, who said that English food has to be bland. With multi-national residents and visitors, sometimes it was difficult to find typical English food.

Aloha -- Cathi

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Day Trip to Brighton

Aloha Everyone,

Brighton is an English seaside resort town. We took a train from Victoria Station. Depending on which train you get on, the trip takes between an hour to an hour and a half. Schools are out and we saw many families with small children enjoying the day in the seaside resort.

Brighton Palace Pier, the central attraction has a long board walk with cafes, ice cream parlors, restaurants and amusement arcades. Brighton Palace Pier, opened in 1899, also has rides for children. There were advertisements all around as the town is known for its art exhibits, festivals, shopping and nightlife.

The beach is not sandy. It is mostly pebbles and stones. Most sunbathers were using reclining beach chairs, quite different from beach mats and beach towels spread over the golden sand in Hawaii.

Being on the seashore, there was a breeze and it felt at least 5-10 degrees cooler than London. J.J. and I walked to the pier under the noon-time sun, then took a taxi back to the train station.

Aloha -- Cathi

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

River Thames Cruise

Aloha Everyone,

J.J. and I purchased 24 hours tickets from Golden Tours which included bus rides on 5 popular routes, a couple of walking tours as well as a River Thames sightseeing cruise. The cost was £32 each or about US$90 for the two of us. The river cruise made it worth the price. The boat was not crowded and the sea breeze was very pleasant on a humid day. From the guide, we learned some interesting facts about River Thames:

Historians think that the name Thames comes from the Celtic name Tamesas, meaning ‘dark’.

The River Thames length is 215 miles. The source of the river is located in Gloucestershire. This mighty river supplies 2/3rds of London’s potable water.

There are over 200 bridges crossing the River Thames and there are a total of 47 locks.The longest bridge to cross the Thames is the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at 2,660 plus feet.

Approximately 125 species of fish live in the river.

Westminster Bridge is painted green to mimic the color of the benches in the House of Commons.

Tour guides made rather strong and unabashed request for tips. As such, we also learned the origin of word of  “tip - to insure promptness”.

In the United States, tipping began just after the American Civil War in the late 1800’s. It started as wealthy Americans traveling abroad to Europe witnessed tipping and brought this rather unusual custom back. Sociologist state that it was to show others - less traveled people - their superiority and sophistication.

Whatever the origin, in most countries, tipping is now expected. Tonight, J.J. and I enjoyed fine dining and noticed it was clearly stated on the menu that the prices shown exclude taxes and tip. For the latter, we were charged an additional 12.8% on the total of our bill, “that is paid directly to our staff.” It seems rather audacious of the management to suggest that customers automatically compensate their staff. It would have been more palatable if the tax and tip were included in the menu prices. The tax or VAT is 20%. The good news is that J.J. truly enjoyed his roasted lamb shank.

Aloha -- Cathi

Monday, July 23, 2018


Aloha Everyone,
London is the 3rd most visited city in the world. Hong Kong and Bangkok are 1st and 2nd. (Source: World Economic Forum). Last year, over 19 million people flocked to London. With a wealth of history and cultural diversity, the city offers a countless variety of activities.

London is home to more than 8 million residents who speak collectively over 300 languages. Like many parts of the world, London is experiencing very little rain and abnormally high temperatures.  

J.J. and I decided to take a Hop-on Hop-off Open Top Tours to revisit some of the major sights. There was heavy traffic resulting in over one hour delay.

In addition to London’s iconic landmarks, our tour guide mentioned many places where Harry Potter movies were filmed including the Ministry of Magic, Gringottd Wizardry Bank, Diagon Alley, etc. Please enjoy our photo journal of today’s London sightseeing highlights:

Aloha -- Cathi