SFO777 The First Class Travel Blog

The First Class Travel Blog

From Flyertalk's Most Popular Trip Reporter

Thanksgiving in England

Thanksgiving in England
via American Airlines First Class
November 2017

Mrs. SFO777 and I are off today to England for a long Thanksgiving weekend.  First to London for some theatre and then to the Cornish coast for Thanksgiving with the Poldarks.  LOL.  One of favourite TV shows is the BBC period series Poldark.  Set on the Cornish Coast, the scenery is breathtaking.  So we decided to check it out.   Lots of airlines fly nonstop between LAX-LHR but none of them are top tier airlines and the two that offer First Class rank near the bottom of the First Class rankings.   Tonight I've chosen the lesser of the two evils, American and their 77W service.  

Despite it being a busy travel week, oddly there was very little traffic at LAX.   We zipped around the Arrivals level and found numerous parking spaces on the ground floor level immediately facing the terminal.

One nice thing that American has is a separate Flagship First check-in entrance and mini-lounge.  A porter took Mrs. SFO777's rollerboard and escorted inside where we were the only departing passengers at the time.   We were escorted up the nearby elevator to the PreCheck security entrance, where there were only a 4-5 passengers in line.  We bid adieu to our escort, who would have gone with us all the way to the lounge.   

Our check-in agent had informed us that the Terminal 4 Admirals Club had just opened earlier in the day.   Sadly, it was only the regular Admirals Club and not the Flagship Lounge or Flagship Dining, where will open in a month or two or who knows where.  It is American after all.  Despite my recommendation that we just head for the Qantas First Class Lounge and I'd come back for pics, Mrs. SFO777 suggested that we check out the Admirals Club.   So here we are, down the concourse to check out the new Admirals Club.

The newly renovated entrance.

Where the freshened up the place and moved the check-in podiums to the other side of the lobby.

Upstairs Customer Service counter now with only 4 positions.

The Admirals Club now occupies the old Flagship Lounge space, which was considerably smaller than the old Admirals Club.   My 1st impression was... what was the point??  After more than a year, this is the best AA could come up with.  When we arrived at around 4pm, this place was packed with no comfortable seats to be found.  Which is what you might expect to happen when you shrink the space.  Duh.

Some random pics before Mrs. SFO777 and I high-tailed it over to the tranquility of the QF First Class Lounge.

 

The old TV room at the south now accessible from the other side of the lounge.

And the room closest to the tarmac, with the same old afternoon blazing sun problem.

And something called The VIP Room.

After a quick round of pics, I retrieved Mrs. SFO777 and we escaped this zoo and headed for the calm of the Qantas First Class Lounge.   On our way to Qantas, we passed Gate 41, from where our flight would depart.

Our 77W.

LOL.  Perhaps someday... but not today.

And then there was this Premium Economy billboard on the connector wall, to which Mrs. SFO777 inexplicably remarked "that looks pretty nice".   Although she did do a quick backtrack when I told her that it was Premium Economy.  LOL.

Another few minutes and we were back at my favorite US airline lounge.

The Autumn Menu... for the photo opp as we just had a drink and some nibbles.  

At around T-45, we headed out and back to Terminal 4 and nearby Gate 41.

Los Angeles LAX to London LHR
American 108
777-300ER (77W)
5:30pm-12:05pm +1
November 21, 2017
Seats 1A and 1D
 

By the time we arrived back at Gate 41, boarding was well under way.  We used the Priority Lane to jump the gate queue...

... but not much one can do about the jet bridge queue.

We originally had seats 1A and 2A but for the 2nd time this year, I was bounced from 2A and reassigned to 1D.    Not sure why this keeps happening as Mr. 2A definitely wasn't a Federal Air Marshall.    

My 1D.   The adjacent 1F was available but with Mrs. SFO777 in the best seat on the place, no reason to give that one up.  Plus we were able to communicate across the aisle.   Service today started very well especially when our lead flight attendant Barbara brought out the good champagne at the gate.  She had initially come around with a tray of champagne or water.  When I asked when the champagne was Laurent-Perrier, she laughed and admitted that it was indeed the cheaper pre-departure champagne.   After some pleasant banter, she asked me to give her a moment and she'd pop the good stuff.   Which she did first bringing out the bottle to show.  Not the Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle from my last flight, but the equally delicious and expensive Philipponant Clos des Goisses which Mrs. SFO777 professed to be "the best she's ever tasted".  Wow.   What a great start to our flight.

The new Casper sleepwear.  The slippers were nice but the PJs not so much.  The old PJs were amazingly comfortable and I'd actually taken some home.  These were not nearly as comfy. 

The new AA Cole Haan amenity.   Beautiful leather case.

Unfortunately, inside was the more of the same old crAAppy stuff.

While American's domestic catering is so bad as to be virtually inedible, their international First Class food and wine, especially to London has been very good.   Tonight's menu...

But the most amazing indeed shocking part of the current service is the wine list.   For our tastes, this wine list is one of the best and most generous list on any airline in the world these days.

The Philipponnat was excellent and retails for over $150.

The Latour Chassagne was spectacular.

And Silver Oak Cab?  Wow.   And a Paul Hobbs Pinot.  

Once in the air, another glass of the Philipponnat.

And then showtime, AA style.

OMG, proper salt and pepper shakers.  

Unfortunately, it was downhill from there with the most disorganized and disjointed service in quite a while.   No drink refills or wine orders before Barbara delivered the soup.  It took another 10 minutes to get a glass of Chassagne and for a 2nd flight attendant to offer bread.  By that time the soup had pretty much cooled down. 

Tasty, but cold.

Next up was the salad or basically a bunch of greens.

Much better after I sliced up the lettuce and mixed in the balsamic.

At the point, Barbara brought the goat cheese starter, apologizing that she had forgot it earlier.  It wasn't very good so forgetting it might have been doing me a favor.  

By now, I'd kind of figured Barbara out and made sure to ask for a refill or my next wine well in advance.  And she'd kind of figured me out by bringing me full glasses of wine.  That way, we're both happy.  I have my wine and she doesn't have to work harder and keep topping me up.   

And my full glass of Silver Oak.  OMG, what a stunning cab.

We both pre-ordered the Beef Short Rib Rendang, which was fabulous.

Yum.

Ah yes, the old annoying lights from the galley.  Not that the wafer thin curtain would help but at least make an attempt.

For dessert, I had the Warm Upside Down Toffe Jackfruit Cake and a glass of the Nederberg Late Harvest.

Sensational!

Still no curtain.

While I went to the lav to change into my PJs, Barbara made up my bed.

And finally, the curtain, like it made any difference.  LOL.  I slept pretty well for close to 5 hours and passed on breakfast.

Service on AA is hit or miss and while tonight was mostly a miss, the food was good and the wines spectacular.  It's not AF or EK, but a reasonably pleasant way to fly to London.

We arrived on time at Terminal 3 and despite using a gate with multiple jet bridges, cheap AA only used 2L which meant a long time before we got off the plane.   And then the long, long walk.

Our Blacklane driver was waiting for us and we were on the A4 a few minutes later.

Past Launceston Place in Kensington, where we rented an apartment for a couple of weeks a few years ago.

The National History Museum.

Harrod's.

And around Trafalgar Square.

And to our hotel for the night, One Aldwych.

Our beautiful Suite 508.

With a great view across Waterloo Bridge.

In addition to our Celebrated Experiences upgrade-on-arrival suite, we received a £60 lunch credit at Eneko, the hotel's signature Basque themed restaurant and the London resto outpost of superstar Bilbao chef Eneko Atxa.

Mrs. SFO777's excellent salad starter.

While my Suckling Pig Tempura was delicious.

Basque oyster mushroom risotto, ceps emulsion.

And my Trigo, wheat pasta, red pepper sauce, egg yolk, shaved truffle.

After lunch, we headed up to our room for a much needed nap.   Beautiful nightime view from our suite.

Just after 7pm we head out and up Strand towards our theatre.

And The Duke of York's Theatre for Ink, an acclaimed play about Rupert Murdoch's purchase and transformation of The Sun and the entire London newspaper business in the late 1960's.

I bought tickets online a few weeks ago.   The price was quite reasonable and included something called The Ambassador Package, which included "VIP entrance, welcome drink and nibbles".   Had no idea what it was but what a treat this turned out to be.  As we were escorted from the lobby past the crowds to a intimate lounge where just 10 people got to relax before the play and intermission, or "the interval" in London. 

Our charming hostess Anna Marie, would served drinks, transferred them plastic for the theatre, and then escorted us to our theatre seats.

And then at the interval had more drinks waiting for us at our lounge seats.  What a way to go to the theatre!!

No pics during the performance but it was fabulously entertaining and educational with great performances from Richard Coyle and Bertie Carvel.

Afterwards, we headed across the street and back to and past Covent Garden Marketplace and Balthazar, sister restaurant to one of our NYC faves.

Mrs. SFO777's Lobster Spaghetti.

And my Dover Sole Meunière.

And the short 4 minute walk back to One Aldwych.

 

After considering the train, we opted for flying as Flybe had a perfect timed nonstop from Gatwick to Newquay-Cornwall.  The price was certainly right at £45 each plus another £12 for an exit row.   And it was easy to check-in and get our boarding passes on the Flybe app.

 

Outside the hotel, it's a brilliant sunny morning.

Our Blacklane driver picked us up just after 10am, and we headed out for the slow trek to Gatwick.

OK, that's good.

Nearly 90 minutes later, we finally arrived at the South Terminal.

Although we found that we were still a long, long way from the terminal itself.

Despite our Economy tickets, security was efficient and very fast.   After security, one has to walk thru a labrynth of stores to get to the gates.   Lots of airports make you do this but I've never seen anything as ridiculous as here.

And on and on...

... and on...

... and on...

Mercifully, there are indeed gates here, or at least signs for gates.

OK, gate info at 12:10pm.   Mrs. SFO777 decides we need to find a Starbucks.

Finally we find it, virtually hidden away in the back of the 2nd level.

With a Gate 21 posting, we headed out for the long walk.

And finally...

First a doc and ID check...

And we're in the waiting area, where boarding began a couple of minutes later.

London LGW to Newquay NQY
Flybe BE 804
Embraer 195
12:50p-2:05p
November 23, 2017
Seats 15AB

 

Boarding was by row starting with 26+ and then 15+.

Nice looking cabin with attractive leather seats.

With great legroom in our exit row.

In the air, our cabin crew efficiently worked the cabin selling beverages and snacks.  

Nothing is free on Flybe and my water was £1.60.  Alrthough the extra glass was free. LOL.

Fifty minutes after take-off we're on final approach to NQY, pronounced "New Key".

We arrived 15 minutes early and were at the "terminal" a couple of minutes later.

Except for having to deal with Gatwick, Flybe was quite a pleasant experience.

Our guide for our visit met us at the airport and dropped us off at our hotel in nearby Padstow, a quaint seaside town.  Padstow's most famous resident is chef/entrepreneur Rick Stein who's been a food and travel star on British TV for years.  Rick owns numerous restaurants, hotels and shops in Padstow as well as a cooking school.  We're staying at his 6 room St. Edmund's House which is located just up the street from the restaurant, which also has rooms.  Indeed, we checked in for our room at the front desk of the restaurant.

Rick Stein's St. Edmund's House.

Our attractive suite.

While Mrs. SFO777 relaxed in the room, I headed out to explore Padstow which is pretty much deserted in the off-season.

Past Rick Stein's Café where we will be eating later.

Back up the hill to St. Edmund's House.

To bring Mrs. SFO777 a snack of Cornish Pasties.    Meh.  I think there's a reason that these things haven't taken the world by storm.  LOL.

Our room package included breakfast and dinner at Rick's restaurants.  Tonight was Rick Stein's Café, a nice resto with great atmosphere, food and service.  

Padron Peppers to start.

Mrs. SFO777's Salt and Pepper Prawns.

And my Deep Fried Squid aka calamari.

And our mains.

My rib eye and little gem salad with an amazing dressing.

And Mrs. SFO777's Chicken Paillard.

Dessert?  LOL.

My Sticky Toffee Pudding was to die for and one of the best desserts of the year.   

We loved Rick's Café.   Great food, wine (including Rick's own private label French wines) and service in a terrific atmosphere and at a reasonabe price.  On the way back to the hotel, we stopped in at Ruby's Bar, another Rick Stein establishment.

Where we had a few drinks with some friendly locals.

Ah, that sounds good as well.

And naturally I had to try RIck's Cocktail of the Month.

What an enjoyable evening.

Our driver/guide Tim, owner of Tour Cornwall, picked us up at 9:30am and we headed out for our day of sightseeing.  Passing thru Truro, the capital of Cornwall County.

Past RNAS Culdrose...

Our first stop is the seaside fishing village of Cadgwith.

We stopped for a coffee but the owner confessed that she didn't make coffee today since there aren't enough visitors in the off season.  At least she still had lots of Ross Poldark.  LOL. 

Our next stop was Lizard Point.

Amazing to be sitting outside here in late November.

And the proper way to build a scone... jam first, cream on top... at least in Cornwall.

On the way to Lizard Point.

Our next stop was Kynance Cove on the western coast of Lizard Point.  It's one of Cornwall's most beautiful and famous beaches, and the setting for many Poldark scenes where it is known as Nampara Cove.

Gunwalloe and the three coves, Dollar, Church and Fisherman's Cove.

Dollar Cove famous for shipwrecks both in history and in the Poldark series.

Wonderful St. Winwaloe Church or The Church of The Storms on Church Cove, featured many times in Poldark, but most recently this year as the church where Dwight Enys and Caroline Penvenen were married. 

And Church Cove looking back from the Church.

Passing thru Penzance.

And St. Michael's Mount, on an island just off the coast.

Our next stop was Penberth Cove, a tiny fishing village featured prominentlly in the series this year.

The barn that Ross gave to Demelza's brothers Drake and Sam.

The fortunes of mining, with its lucky strikes, booms and busts, is part of Cornwall's history and a major theme in Poldark.   Indeed, tin and copper have been mined here for nearly 5,000 years.  At it's peak in the late 18th century, Cornwall was the wealthiest county in Britain.  Most of Poldark's mine scenes were shot at Botallack Mines.  This is West Wheal Mine Owles mine which is Ross' Wheal Leisure mine in the series.

The impressive Botollack Crowns engine houses.

With the sun setting, we headed back north to Padstow.

After relaxing a couple of hours in our Rick Stein room, we headed down to the main Rick Stein building and Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant.   You get picture.  LOL.

I had the Lobster Risotto starter while Mrs. SFO777 went with a simple garden salad.

Our mains.

Lobster for Mrs. SFO777...

Pan fried Blonde Ray (aka skate) from Cadgwith, with bearnaise.

 

And desserts of course.

Next morning, a little breakfast before we head off on our 3 hour drive to Stonehenge.

And three hours later, we arrived at the Stonehenge visitor centre.   While it was another gorgeous sunny today, temps had plunged overnight.  Add in a brisk wind and we're looking at wind-chiils in the 20's and even teens Fahrenheit.

I froze my butt off waiting in line for tickets...

... while Mrs. SFO777 waited patiently in the warm restaurant... in no hurry to venture outside.

After buying gloves for both of us and a hat for me in the Stonehenge Gift Shop, we headed for the shuttle bus.

And fhe 5 minute drive to The Rocks.

Mrs. SFO777 freezing for the photo opp telling me to "hurry up, take your pics and let's get outta here".  LOL.

We may have set a new record for the shortest visit to Stonehenge, as we raced back to catch the next shuttle returning to the visitor centre. 

OMG... It's a long way from SoCal.

Meanwhile, back on the road.  Hey, we could have seen The Rocks from the highway without getting out and getting cold.   Ha.

 

On the road again for the final leg to Ascot and The Coworth Park Hotel.  Today's purchases to keep us from freezing and caps to block the inevitable lights from the galley on tomorrow's AA flight home.  And some lunch.

Some 75 minutes later, we arrived at Coworth Park Hotel, a gorgeous hotel in a magnificent country setting.
 

The lobby area.

The Drawing Room

Lounge...

... and bar.

The 3rd floor hallway of The Mansion on the way to our room.

Our beautifully furnished room #23.

While Mrs. SFO777 rested, I headed out to explore the lovely grounds.

The Spa.

With its own restaurant, The Spatisserie.

Despite being guests, we were unable to get into either of the two main "fully booked" restaurants, the Michelin 1 star Restaurant Coworth Park or The Barn.  So we headed to the bar where we snagged a great table by the fireplace.

Where we started with drinks.

And then a delicious dinner.

And then back to our room to watch a couple of movies from the hotel's DVD library.

With a 9:30am pickup, we had time to relax and enjoy in room dining, included in our Virtuoso rate.

My English breakfast.  Yikes, another reason British cuisine hasn't swept the world.   LOL.

A little chilly, but another gloriously sunny day.

Less than 20 minutes later, we were at Terminal 3.

Check-in took a little longer than usual as it took all three AA agents to figure out how to remove my AAdvantage number and substitute it with my BA Executive Club number. 

Then upstairs to Fast Track security where there weren't many other passengers. 

We had 30 minutes or so before boarding so I tried the Cathay Pacific Lounge.

The First Class Lounge was crowded and nothing special.

With some fashionably dressed clientele, in particular the guy at the bar.  Yikes.

Meanwhile in the Business Class Lounge...

 

At this point, Mrs. SFO777 decided that she'd rather go to the gate.  So I escorted her there and came back to look at what American was offering.

Ugh.  This is what happens when you let everyone mid and upper tier One World cardholder to access your lounge.

There was a proper sit down a la carte dining area, although every table was taken.

I'm thinking that Mrs. SFO777 made the right call by going to the gate.