Back in March, I wrote about how to book partner award flights on Etihad Airways. We originally booked First Apartments both to Abu Dhabi from London and from Abu Dhabi back to London over the Thanksgiving holiday, but unfortunately, the airplane for our flight from London was switched from an A380 (which has First Apartments) to an A340 (which has Etihad's standard First Class). The airplane switch was somewhat devastating, but at least we will still experience the Apartments on our way home. We planned a whirlwind luxury long weekend in Dubai around these flights and I'll be covering all the details in upcoming posts.
Review: British Airways Club World SFO - LHR
Review: LHR Etihad Airways First & Business Class Lounge
Review: Etihad Airways First Class LHR - AUH
Review: Park Hyatt Dubai
Review: Afternoon Tea at At.mosphere Burj Khalifa
Review: Burj al Arab Part I: One Bedroom Suite
Review: Burj al Arab Part II: Grounds and Amenities
Review: AUH Etihad Airways Premium Lounge
Review: Etihad Airways First Apartments AUH - LHR
When we decided to go to Dubai, one of the first things we booked was afternoon tea at At.mosphere, which is located on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa. If you want to see the views from the Burj Khalifa (currently the tallest building in the world), you can either pay AED 125 (~$34) per person to take an elevator to the observation deck on level 124 or you can pay AED 350 (~$95) per person to make it to level 148. We thought it was a better option to have afternoon tea at At.mosphere, which gets you essentially the same view as the lower observation deck, but there's no line and you can enjoy the view with wonderful food and drink.
Afternoon tea at At.mosphere has two price tiers: AED 580 (~$158) per person for a window table or AED 530 (~$144) per person for a non-window table. It's certainly incredibly pricy and more than I've ever paid in my life for a meal, but it was definitely an experience that I couldn't pass up. Since we were already spending an exorbitant amount of money, we went for broke and spend the extra $14 to get a window table. Why not? The price includes an unlimited selection of hot and refreshing beverages, so come thirsty.
Reservations for high tea are available between 12:00 and 4:30 PM daily and can only be made by emailing email@example.com. We decided to reserve the latest possible seating, which was at 2:30 PM since it was our last day in Dubai and we wanted to enjoy our morning at the Burj al Arab before check out and kill time before our red eye out of Abu Dhabi at around 1:00 AM.
We took an Uber from the Burj al Arab and were a bit late for our reservation because it took a bit longer to check out than we anticipated. The Uber dropped us off at the Armani Hotel, which is at the base of the Burj Khalifa. We walked inside and asked a staff member where we needed to go to get to the elevator for At.mosphere and she escorted us through the lobby to an elevator. We then arrived at the reception desk for At.mosphere where they checked our reservation and directed us to the elevator that would take us to floor 123. From floor 123, there is a set of stairs down to the 122nd floor where the lounge is located.
Despite being slightly late, we were promptly seated and had some time to gape at the view. Honestly, the view was incredible and I was really glad we were seated next to the window so I didn't have to awkwardly walk to the window to take photos or take photos with people in them. The one thing I was a bit disappointed by was the glare from the windows. You'd think a place that fancy would figure out how to reduce the glare, but I guess that hasn't been perfected yet. It also got REALLY hot sitting next to the windows in the afternoon sun (and we were there in the winter) so that's something to keep in mind.
At.mosphere is a curved room with a circular bar in the center of the room and all of the tables lining the windows in a crescent shape, which really works to capture the extensive floor to ceiling views of the desert. I was surprised to see that the bathroom also took advantage of the floor to ceiling windows, which was pretty incredible.
The tea menu was present on the table when we arrived and it was extensive. There were four full pages of tea selections (I missed a photo of one) and two more pages offering fruit juice blends and espresso drinks. Our "tea" was the "Luxurious Menu", which offered four courses along with the unlimited beverages.
The tea started with an entire bottle of Pierlant Brut. Our server did a very fancy first pour and then continued refilling our glasses until the bottle was empty, which was honestly more than I would have liked because I wanted to sample some of the other drinks on the menu. Along with the Brut, the first course included berries and cream, which came garnished with gold leaf on top (of course). I didn't know what to make of the gold leaf, but I wanted my money's worth, so I ate it. It had a slight metallic taste (as expected), but didn't taste like much. The rest of the berries and cream however, were amazing. It was perfectly light and refreshing and a great way to start the afternoon.
After the berries came the "Declinations", which were a selection of three finger sandwiches and three small bites. That's six items each, so not only do you need to come thirsty, but you better come hungry as well. The offering included salmon, foie gras, and a lobster salad along the top of the plate, then a roast beef and rocket sandwich, a tuna sandwich, and a chicken caesar sandwich. As expected, I passed the salmon and foie gras on to Chris and avoided the tuna sandwich, but the rest was truly excellent. We continued drinking our Brut through this course as well because we had the whole dang bottle to finish.
Next, it was time for the main course. At.mosphere offers both a vegetarian selection and a non-vegetarian selection for the tea and both had two choices for the main dish. True to form, Chris and I both selected the roast of the day rather than the catch of the day. The roast was fairly small and was served with mashed potatoes and garnished with a carrot and asparagus. As expected, it was excellent.
At this point, we had finally finished our champagne and were ready to order some tea to have with the next course, which included pastries, scones and mini cakes. This is where service really went downhill. Our server just disappeared for a long stretch and by the time he surfaced again, he had completely forgotten that we ordered tea (we had been waiting for it for 40 minutes at this point). I was really disappointed because I really wanted to sample some of the fruit juices, but we ended up with no time to do so. Luckily, the final course included no less than nine delectable items each, which led to me taking a bite out of every single one (classy, I know) and then deciding which to finish (I couldn't possibly finish all nine!).
After we did what we could to the tower of dessert, we were brought the check and a small bag of housemade chocolates to take with us. By the time we finished, it was around 5:30 PM, so plan to spend quite some time for this experience. We loved that it took several hours, because we got to watch the beginning of the sunset, which was, of course, amazing.
Overall, the tea was truly excellent. Everything we ate was so well-prepared and incredibly presented. Aside from the service blip, we both decided the experience was totally worth the cost. This isn't something we'd do regularly, but if you're doing a "once in a lifetime" sort of trip, this should definitely be on your list.
I am currently in Sevilla, Spain getting ready to celebrate the new year in just a matter of hours. Before the year is officially over, I wanted to take a brief look back at 2015 and the awesome adventures I was able to have.
As those closest to me know, traveling is something I prioritize over many things in my life and because I have dedicated time to learning how to work the system, I have been lucky enough to experience so many wonderful places and adventures this year. I sometimes feel guilty because I get to travel as much as I do, but the truth is that it's a lot of hard work (and sleepless nights) and although I have a job that took me to China four times this year (which means I earned miles and hotel points that I could use later), I've done the rest myself. I spend a lot of time and money on traveling and learning how to get cheap or free tickets and if everyone else did the same, they could too.
In 2015, I
Vancouver, British Columbia
In late January, we spent a weekend in Vancouver, which is something that has become our yearly tradition. I love Vancouver and each time I visit, I love it even more. We didn't do much other than wander around and eat good food, but we did make it up to see the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which is definitely worth the quick trip from downtown.
We found a killer deal on Alaska Air flights to Maui on Black Friday 2014, so we jumped on it and spent a long weekend in Maui at the Andaz in Wailea. It was such a dreamy place to stay and was my first time in Maui. Needless to say, I feel completely in love with the island.
We did another weekend trip at the beginning of the month to Seattle, which is a place I have visited many times, but usually to see family. We lucked out and caught Seattle on one of the first sunny and warm weekends of 2015 and caught up with some friends.
Hong Kong and Shanghai, China
I took my first business trip of the year in March to Hong Kong and China and had a free day in Hong Kong. Since it was my third time to the city, I didn't have a lot I wanted to do, but I did make it out to the flower market, the bird market, and the goldfish market, which were all incredibly interesting to see.
New York, NY
Another weekend trip in April, this time to New York. Visiting New York is another yearly tradition we've started and we always try to catch up with friends and eat as much as possible.
May 1 marked one year since I started this blog. Although it's still mostly only read by Chris and my mother, I've really enjoyed being able to share my journey and experiences (including Chinese ER visits) via this blog. I love traveling more than anything else and in many cases, getting to where I'm going is really half the fun.
While I do want to try to blog more often and cover more than just reviews of hotels and flights, as someone who reads countless reviews before booking anything or making decisions, I like being able to contribute to the wealth of knowledge that can be found on some of the truly aspirational travel that can be had with miles and points.
Since I've now been doing this for a whole year, I thought I would look back at my top 5 most popular posts so far.
5. LAX Star Alliance Lounge Review
The LAX Star Alliance Lounge is possibly one of the nicest lounges I've visited in the US. It's a large lounge located in LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal with a small, private area for First class passengers and a large area consisting of various seating areas, both an indoor and outdoor terrace, and an excellent food spread for Business class and elite passengers.
4. SFO American Express Centurion Lounge Review
I was fortunate enough to be one of the first passengers to visit the SFO American Express Centurion lounge on the day after it opened. SFO is my home airport and while I am mostly exclusively loyal to American, I sucked it up and flew United for a day so I could visit this lounge located in Terminal 3. While it's not extremely large; stylistically, it's one of the more beautiful lounges at SFO. You also can't beat the buffet and extensive wine selection, all of which are free for lounge visitors.
3. Park Hyatt Tokyo Review
The Park Hyatt Tokyo is one of those aspirational properties that many travel bloggers are over the moon about. It was also made famous as the setting of the movie Lost in Translation. The amazing views offered from every one of Park Hyatt Tokyo's windows plus the always incredible Japanese service make this an absolutely solid choice if you're visiting Tokyo.
2. HND JAL First Class Lounge Review
I'm honestly shocked at how popular this review has been. I had no idea how often people are searching for information on this lounge, but due to the lack of reviews, this was my number two most popular blog post this year. The JAL First Class lounge is massive and has everything you could need while waiting for your flight. It features multiple seating areas and plenty of hot food and alcohol to choose from. Absolutely a solid choice if transiting the somewhat bland HND airport.
1. Singapore Airlines Suites Class LAX - NRT
Not surprisingly, my most popular post this year (by a landslide) has been my review of Singapore Suites from LAX - NRT. Singapore Suites got a lot of attention last year when a review of the incredible "suite" went viral. I was fortunate enough to have my own suite last September when I traveled to Asia and it was an awesome experience. I'm glad so many people have been able to read about my take on the extremely hyped Suites class.
Overall, it was a great first year. I'm hoping to continue enjoying documenting my travels and I definitely have a lot more in store for this year! Next up: Denmark, Iceland, Norway, the UAE, and plenty more of China. Hope you'll join in for the ride!
The night before last, I experienced something that I hoped never to experience in my life. I visited a hospital in China. I've never had to visit a hospital before in my life even in the US, so to say I was unprepared for what I experienced is an understatement.
I am currently in China on business and I'll be honest and say that I drink very little liquids while I am here. I spend most of my days in factories and the bathroom facilities aren't the greatest, so I try to avoid them. Last night, as I was leaving the factory for the night, I noticed an extremely sharp pain in my left side. I thought it was most likely some kind of cramp and all I needed was to make it to a bathroom back at the hotel, but after almost two hours, the pain was not subsiding and it became absolutely excruciating to the point where it was making me physically ill. A bit of Googling and discussing with a coworker told me that I most likely had a kidney stone.
In general, I don't take medication ever aside from the occasional Ibuprofen. Even if I'm sick with a cold, I rarely take anything for it and just prefer to wait it out. In this case, I was hoping I could do the same, but after two hours of excruciating pain, I couldn't wait any longer. I got on the phone with International SOS, which is a service that my company thankfully provides to employees abroad who have medical emergencies. Unfortunately, the process was terribly slow, and, although I had a very nice doctor to talk to, after telling her my symptoms and where I was, it took the service over 30 minutes to decide what hospital would be best. Ideally, I wanted to go to a Westernized hospital with doctors who spoke English, but that was a completely false hope. I honestly had a vision of myself in a white bed in a room by myself with an IV waiting out this kidney stone thing. Boy was I wrong...
Just a twenty-something with a full-time job and a full-time obsession with traveling. It's best to LiveTraveled.