Category Archives: air mileage

Morning in Devon, long drive to London via (Dorset) West Bay, Netherbury and Beaminster/Dorset — goodbye (for now) England 

Breakfast hamper in Devon

(a week ago…although it seems much longer…)

We hung around at the Devon farm Airbnb longer than usual, in part, because I needed wifi in order to checkin to my British Air flight 24 hours in advance and change my seat assignment, which as I suspected was a middle seat. (One of the annoying things I discovered about BA is that you can’t pick your own seat without paying $38, more than 24 hours before departing — a bit obnoxious for a round trip flight that cost over $1000…or in my case lots of credit card miles.) But I was happy to kick back, enjoy the lovely breakfast hamper that our host Sarah delivered to our cottage door with fresh homemade granary bread, multi-colored eggs from her chickens, raspberries and strawberries from the garden.

The Airbnb was deep in the countryside, north of Launceton, after a right turn at the pub in St. Giles on the Heath and a drive to the hamlet of Virginstow along another high-hedged, essentially one-lane, winding road that at times made me feel slightly claustrophobic. I generally love country lanes but the ones en this neck of the woods — literally the really wooded ones that form a tunnel, as opposed to the ones through open fields that you generally can’t see due to the hedges — were sometimes spooky, especially at night. (Maybe it’s a good thing I put off reading Daphne De Maurier’s “Jamaica Inn”, a spooky book set near where we stayed in Cornwall, although now I am more interested in finishing it.)

Dirck and I wandered around the farm, past the sheep and “rescue chickens,” the fruit, veg and flowers in the garden, the wood fence and beyond, a bucolic valley of fields stretching far into the distance.

In the church cemetery across the road from our Airbnb, we found a 19th century headstone for a “Betsy,” which was surprising since I rarely see my name anywhere, let alone in England. I also had a nice chat with our 34-year-old host who recently quit city life and a city job i to buy the old farm, fix it up and start the Airbnb (which despite its remote location gets guests from Europe, South America and us Yanks).

The three Airbnbs we’ve stayed at in England were excellent! Part of it may be that I am getting pretty good at picking and I don’t go for the dirt cheap ones (if they even exist) but beyond that, the English hosts seem to be particularly good at hosting and providing a good approximation of the English country life admired by anglophiles like me.

Our drive home was longer than expected, in part because we got waylaid for an hour (argh) in and around Exeter when the nice big A motorway we were on suddenly became a town center traffic jam. We ended up getting out of it by taking another smaller A road in the wrong direction and then having to take a series of tiny no-letter/no-number/high-hedged lanes that often seemed to lead nowhere useful but eventually did. We were amazed at the variety of  roads we traveled on during a short drive and how close they were to each other, from a multi-lane motorway, to a two-lane  (barely) road to a high-hedged lane.

In Dorset, we drove in and out of West Bay, where the TV show Broadchurch is filmed, long enough to see the back of the big sandy beach cliff where some dramatic scenes were shot. Way too many tourists. Fortunately my friend Marion had mentioned a lovely little Dorset village  nearby where she stays, Netherbury, so we sought refuge there. If only it had a pub. By the time we got to the larger town of Beaminster nearby, the pubs weren’t serving lunch any more so we ended up a a little bakery cafe for a few savory tarts.

To get back to our friends’ house in Mortlake, we pulled out the “Sat Nav” which was a big help. (Most of the time I relied on an AZ book of road maps Francine kindly lent us.) Driving in residential southwest London is not easy. The windy streets are narrow and confusing but with the help of “Tracy” (our friends’ name for the Sat Nav voice) we made it to the Mortlake house and even found  a parking spot (several actually) in time to have dinner one last dinner with Una.

Mortlake meal

This morning, without Tracy’s help, we gave ourselves extra time to drive the rental car to Heathrow  and even though I’d made several screenshots of the google map to Heathrow, we still made a few wrong turns. Fortunately a woman walking her dog at 7:45 a.m on a Sunday morning helped us and we were soon out of the tangle of neighborhood streets and onto the M4, heading to sprawling Heathrow, where we eventually found rental car return signs (near terminal 4 and 5 for future reference) and gladly returned our car.

Heathrow was packed thanks to the start of the school holidays so I was glad to have 2.5 hours of time. BA flight attendants were on strike, which affected our service  (no second meal although the first one included a surprisingly edible Chicken Tikka, scant ice for the drinks, a non-functioning computer map and iffy movie reception).  A few nice touches — free newspapers available before stepping onto the plane so I loaded up on the Times and the Mail (The Observer wasn’t offered but fortunately I’d already bought one.) Goodbye England. I’ll be back.


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ben’s chili bowl, rosa Mexicana : Washington, D.C.

IMG_1121Didn’t have much time to be a tourist this trip but I did go to a reception at Rosa Mexicana, which had good -you guessed it – Mexican food — near the gallery metro stop (and hotel Monaco, where my work meetings were). I also had a bowl of chili at the Reagan national airport outpost of the famous Ben’s chili bowl. Didn’t bowl me over. But it obviously lacked the more urban atmosphere of the original Ben’s.
I had hoped to go to the ramen noodle place, daikaya izakaya, my sister highly recommended, also near the gallery metro but ran out of time. Next trip.
Last night I made my requisite pilgrimage to Politics and Prose, a longtime favorite bookstore on Connecticut. Always have to buy a book there, every DC trip!

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flying American – between the merger and the sequester: who knows?

We are not flying American anytime soon (our next flight – to Phoenix on Saturday is on Delta) but between the pending merger with US Airways and the potential budget cuts if the sequester situation isn’t dealt with by Congress, it’s hard to know what to expect. A recent USA Today story about the effects of the merger (not the sequester) offered this info:

  • The merger will probably take months to finalize and to combine operations. So just keep buying American or US Airways tickets until you’re told to do otherwise. (Eventually there won’t be any US Airways. It will go the way of Northwest, Continental,  Republic, TWA…)
  • Your frequent flyer miles on either airline will be safe! It could take up to a year to consolidate the miles from both airlines into one American account.
  • One likely benefit of the merger is that the new American will increase the number of international flights offered.
  • One  likely downside: fares will likely rise on some routes although one study found that two recent mergers (United-Continental; Delta-Northwest) didn’t result in jacked up fares. Some say creating a third mega airline is better than having two mega airlines as far as fares go….
  • As for sequestration, if Washington doesn’t get its act together, there could be major delays in air travel starting in April at major hubs (chicago, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta) that will muck up travel for all of us.

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Sen. Grassley tweets about Delta Sky Magazine’s Iowa package.

Finally – the big time! Iowa’s famous tweeting senator,  Chuck Grassley, tweeted about a story I wrote – or a package in Delta Sky magazine that includes a story I wrote. Too Funny. My 21-year-old son, an avid Grassley follower on Twitter, spotted it and passed it along! It’s a keeper….

ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley)
1/26/13 7:58 AM
Iowans don’t brag(our sin)So we lucky DeltaAir does. Read Delta”Sky”:”The Iowa Advantage” Find out how great Iowa is. Pass it on BRAG/PROUD

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Filed under air mileage, Des Moines, Iowa

Waiting for those American Advantage Dining miles to kick in…

I decided to join American Airline’s frequent flyer dining program – so I can retain the some 59,000 miles that will otherwise expire next August.  But there are only three restaurants in the Des Moines area that participate in the program – from what I can tell. We went to one of them last Saturday and it was, as remembered, mediocre. But hey, if I can use that meal to hold onto my miles, I’m there. However, there seems to be a long lag time between when we dined and when my account shows that I’ve gotten my “miles reward” for dining. Still waiting….

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Getting the biggest bang for your..airline miles

After using 97,000 long-hoarded Capital One miles to buy a $970 ticket out of Iowa to a much warmer place in February, I was pleased to read in a recent issue of Real Simple that  the founder of (whatever that is) says spending miles on top-dollar travel is “the smartest way” to spend your miles. It gets you a bigger bang for your miles than, say, buying an electronic gizmo, says the founder of (“an independent financial education website”…whatever that is part 2.)

But what about using miles for a $350 ticket instead of saving for that $970 ticket?

The only time I’ve used miles for anything other than a plane ticket was when I had some that were soon expiring and were nowhere what I needed to get a ticket. So I donated some to charity and used some for a little self-indulgence – a six-month subscription to People magazine, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Perplexing frequent flyer miles

I made the mistake of looking at my frequent flyer airline miles today and quickly got overwhelmed. Apparently I have gobs of miles that are going to expire next year. I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise since I can’t remember the last time I used miles to purchase a free ticket – I’d pretty much given up because they are seldom of use when I really need them (during holidays etc.) and I’ve begun to rely much more on the Capital One miles, which are much more use-able and easy-to-use. Of course, I decided to see if I could use my American miles for my ticket to Panama City in February but found the process so cumbersome I quickly gave up. It looked like the only way I could use them was by flying in a completely inconvenient way that involved spending the night in Miami. Don’t think so.

Plan B: I’m going to look more closely at the NYTimes Practical Traveler story I saved from last Sunday “Swapping Miles for chocolate” to find other ways to use these darned miles. Word has it I can now use my American Miles to book car rentals and hotel stays. And Delta will let me exchange miles for gift cards to places like the Gap and Lands End. I did use some spare miles recently to get a six-month subscription to People Magazine, which I thoroughly enjoyed (and now miss now that my time is up) and I gave away some other miles to charity.

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