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Weekend in Denver

Weekend in Denver
Weekend in Denver
via Covid-era United First Class
July 2020
Mrs. SFO777 and I have had enough of the China virus lock-down nonsense and decided to visit SFO777Jr. and family in Denver this weekend.   It’s been nearly six months since my last flight and I’m really looking forward to flying again even on United.   On the short drive to John Wayne up the always pleasant rarely crowded 73 Tollway.  Oddly, the morning clouds had not burned off by noon today.
 

We parked in the A Terminal garage where they were plenty of empty spaces.   Inside the terminal, eeriily empty and very quiet.

There goes that brilliant idea.  LOL.

OK, so that's where everyone is. 

Happy to have PreCheck.

John Wayne SNA to Denver DEN
United UA 554
A319
1:40pm-4:59p
July 23, 2020
Seats 2EF
 
Gate area was very relaxed with plenty of room for social distancing.  Gate agent reminded everyone that masks must be worn to board and in flight, and that we would be boarding from the rear.   Load factor today was just under 40% although all but two of the 12 First Class seats were occupied.   Boarding began promptly at T-30 with GS, 1K, active military and those needing extra time.   And then the rest of plane, rear to front.   With so few people there was plenty of spacing and we decided to board after the row 10 and higher announcement just to make sure there was no problem with overhead space.  Two flight attendants greeted everyone boarding and handed out packs of sanitary wipes.  My initial impression was wow, this plane is spotless.  Looked and smelled like cleaning crews had indeed cleaned the cabin including seats.  Even the floor was spotless.
 

Our isopropyl alcohol wipes.

And we're off with the always fun steep climb out of John Wayne.   With the sun finally out.

From reports I'd read, I really had no expectations about service of any kind, but I was really pleasantly suprised and amazed.  It helps to have a great FA and our Purser was wonderful.  Open bar service albeit with plastic cups which is perfectly fine these days.

And then the surprising Snack Box...

... which was much better than what UA served on this route pre-Covid.

Time to check out United Wifi.  LOL.  Not at those prices.

We landed early but for some reason parked in the A gates which mean it took forever for the jet bridge GA to come over from B and connect us.  Deplaning was orderly front to back, with everyone asked to stayed seating until our row was called. 

We lucked out as our Avis bus pulled up as we arrived at the RAC island.

Yeah, not much action at Avis today with a rather empty Preferred list.

As Avis Presidents Club member, the cool Avis let me select my upgrade.  If you don't like the selection, just keep refreshing it.  Et voila, nice big Chevy Tahoe for our drive to the mountains.   Although it did take me a while to find the Y aisle.

We got to the kids' house and just after 6pm and relaxed before walking up the street to Tables, a very nice local restaurant.

After dinner, we headed for Cherry Creek and The Jacquard, our hotel for the weekend... or so we thought.   We pulled up to discover that the place was eerily dark as in no lights.  They had lost power sometime that evening and had no idea when it would be restored.

We were accomodated at the nearby JW Marriott, a two minute drive.  A pleasant enough basic room but oddly lacking robes or slippers.

Since we found a parkiing space right in front of the hotel, I avoided a $50 parking fee but had to feed the meter by 8am.  

Morning in the lobby.

And back up to the room before checking out and moving over to The Jacquard.

 

The Jacquard is a Marriott Autograph Collectiion property, a lovely trendy, boutique hotel on the east side of Cherry Creek. We stayed here last year after it had just opened and really enjoyed it. 

 

 

Our pleasant and comfy corner mountain view room.

One of the cool features of the hotel is the rooftop pool and bar.

Back down in the lobby.

The hotel's restaurant Narrative which was very good last year.

Pleasant outdoor seating and bar area.

Mrs. SFO777 has been making noises about wanting to move back to Colorado.   So part of our plan this weekend is to explore potential areas of the Denver metro.  Today we're heading south to Castle Rock, Larkspur and Sedalia where land it plentiful and housing prices reasonable, at least compared to SoCal.

 

After a nap, I headed out to explore Denver's tony Cherry Creek, a wonderful combination of residential, office, retail and restaurants.

Past Hillstone, one of our old favorites haunts.

Some of the very nice nearby homes...

 

Back down to 3rd past Le Bilboquet Denver where we'll be dining Saturday.

Just back north of 3rd, more nice homes...

And back down to 2nd and another favorite, a sister Hillstone restaurant.

Dinner tonight is at another of our old Denver favorites, Nobu's Matsuhisa, in Cherry Creek just 3 blocks from the hotel. 

Matsuhisa cocktails to start.

Food tonight was simply spectacular.  Starting with the spicy shrimp crispy rice.

OMG.

Maguro tuna.  And spicy shrimp rolls.

Eel and avocado rolls.

The soft shell crap rolls were divine.

Lobster tacos.  Out of this world.

And the delicious Mixed Green salad with the amazing Matsuhisa dressing.

The Gyoza was heavenly.  4 Wagyu beef and 4 Lamb.

And a little tempura, asparagus and shrimp.

For dessert, Nobu/Matsuhisa mochi.

And chocolate lava cake with Thai green tea ice cream.

What an absolute delight.  One of the best meals of the year.

Saturday morning's first stop was Starbucks to get Mrs. SFO777 her double Tall Caramel Macchiato and blueberry scone.

An hour later, we're on the road to explore The Foothills... Golden, Evergreen, Conifer and Morrison.

Evergreen.

Conifer.

And Morrison which was probably our favorite.

Gorgeous red rock formations.

 

Dinner tonight is at French bistro Le Bilboquet, the new Cherry Creek outpost of a small chain, with restos in New York, Sag Harbor, Atlanta and Dallas.  Perfect location less than two blocks from the Jacquard.

Nice menu and an excellent reasonably priced wine list.   Indeed the food was wonderful.  Unfortunately, the service was "unpolished" to be polite. 

Mushroom risotto was fabulous.

My beet salad was excellent.

Oh yeah, steak friites pour moi.

Prepared perfectly.

Mrs. SFO777's cajun chicken was out of this world.

My tarte tatin.  Yummy.

And chocolate mousse.

Much quieter when we left around 9:30p.   We'd definitely come back for the food but clearly avoid the server we had this time.

Back to The OC

With an 11:30am departure, we checked out of the Jacquard just before 9:30am, topped up the gas tank at the airport before pulling into the Avis return lot.   This Avis facility was suprisingly busy so much so that there were at least 30 customers waiting at the bus stop for the next shuttle bus.  Ugh, so much for social distancing here if we even made the next bus, which wasn't anywhere in sight.  Fortunately, I remembered an Avis email about their $35 Curbside service to the terminal.  Time to see if it works.

I asked the check in rep who told me to just turn on my hazard light as he scurried off to find a driver.   Less than a minute later, an Avis rep greeted us, hopped in our SUV and drove us to the terminal and directly to the United Premier Access door.  Wow.  OK now that was defiinitely well worth the $35.   Inside the terminal, it was pretty busy.

Although security was not that busy, especially so at the PreCheck lanes.

Oddly enough, we're off to the A concourse where it looks like UA has just two gates, A31 and A33.  No idea why since I can't imagine that all the B gates were being used.

John Wayne SNA to Denver DEN
United UA 551
A319
1:30am-12:55a
July 26, 2020
Seats 2EF
 
As at SNA, the gate area was very relaxed with plenty of room for social distancing.  Gate agent reminded everyone that masks must be worn to board and in flight, and that we would be boarding from the rear.   Load factor today was higher today and again all but two of the 12 First Class seats were occupied.   Boarding began promptly at T-30 with GS, 1K, active military and First Class.  Board was very orderly with a complete absence of the pre-Covid gate lice.  As on Thursday, the plane was spotless.   

Today, each First Class seat had a mini bottle of Dasani.  Also, some pre-departure entertainment as 3A asked for a PDB and then griped when FA told him no PDB due to Covid. He wouldn't let it go. She'd finally had enough when he asked “do I get a discount?” and called a DEN UA supervisor to come on board. Asked him to deplane. Five minutes later, no doubt after a facts of life lecture, he was back on board. He was pretty docile after that. LOL.

 

A different version of of the snack box today with only one spread instead of three, and two breads instead of two.  Go figure.

We arrived at John Wayne around 10 minutes ahead of schedule.   The terminal was much less crowded than Thursday when we left.

The walk to the Terminal A garage.

Only $62 for 3+ days is much better than $40 a day at LAX.   Outside, hardly any cars or people on the departures level.

My favorite part of John Wayne.

We were home by 1:30pm and I even had time for my regular 6+ mile walk/run around the hills and horse trails of South Orange County.

Thanks for following along.  We really enjoyed our weekend in Denver and getting back on a plane.   I was really impressed by how positive and appreciative that UA employees were, how clean the planes were and how comfortable we felt as a result. After this weekend, I now feel totally comfortable flying pretty much any where and getting back to normal.