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Tasmania and the Great Barrier Reef

Tasmania and the Great Barrier Reef
Tasmania and the Great Barrier Reef
via Qantas First Class
December 2018

After a quiet Christmas, Mrs. SFO777 and I are off tonight for 5 nights in Australia... three nights in Tasmania and two nights at the Great Barrier Reef.   And we're back in Qantas First and the LAX-Melbourne A380, after being fortunate to land two LAX-Melbourne-Hobart saver award tickets at just 70,000 Alaska miles each.  Not much traffic tonight on the 405 as we made it from south Orange County to LAX in a little over an hour.   We found a nice parking spot in the T4 garage and used the Level 3 walkway to the Bradley Terminal.

After an easy check-in, we headed for security.  Unfortunately, Qantas is too cheap and/or lazy to sign up for PreCheck.  So, we headed to the opposite on the terminal for regular security where this isn't even a premium lane.  And then to Level 4 and the Qantas First Class Lounge, one of my favorite US airline lounges. 

I'm here quite a bit as my BA Gold status gives me access when I fly American in any class.   The new Winter menu which was introduced a few weeks ago.

We both had a glass of the Nicholas Feuillatte Rosé.   I started with the new Tingling Prawns with pickled cabbage and radish salad, sichuan pepper and coriander.  Very nice.

Mrs. SFO777 had the always on the menu, delicious Salt and Pepper squid with green chili dipping sauce and aioli.

Then for her main, she went with the Spanish style braised chicken with tomatoes, olives, paprika roasted potatoes, braised kale and spinach.

I ordered the Grilled sea bass with fregola, braised lettuce, peas, broccolini and gremolata.

The dish was excellent with the sea bass prepared perfectly.

For dessert, the chocolate bread and butter pudding with mascarpone cream was good, but not as amazing as the fall pudding.

After dinner, we moved over to the lounge seating area until it was time to head down to the gate.

At around T-50, we headed downstairs for Gate 152.

Los Angeles LAX to Melbourne MEL
Qantas QF 94
10:55pm-9:50am +2
December 26, 2018
Suites 2A and 3A


We timed our departure and walk just right as boarding began a couple of minutes after we arrived at the gate.

Nice to see a separate jet bridge just for First Class.

With the other F pax waiting for the boarding announcement in the lounge, we had the cabin to ourselves for 10 minutes.  Still a nice comfortable cabin and seats although a little dated and showing their age.

Pre-departure Taittinger Comtes was delicious...

... but the canapés were awful.  The duck was so dry that it could have been left out all week.

The QF First amenity kit.  No idea who Martin Grant is, but he must have paid for the exposure.

Not a bad kit with some usable take aways including the deoderant and facial mist. 

PJ's were a one and done and not worth taking home.

The IFE system was pretty dated, although better than Alitalia's.

Tonight's menu which given the hour, was available on demand throughout the flight. 

And wine list.

Not sure about the bad print job but clearly Qantas wasn't going to spend any money on a reprint.

Since we had both eaten in the lounge, we changed into our PJ's and went to sleep shortly after take-off.  Kudos to Qantas for at least getting the bedding right.  Nice mattress pad, sheet and comfy duvey and we were out.   

I slept really well for a little over 7 hours.  Mrs. SFO777 slept even longer... for nearly 9 hours.   For food, I went with the "signature steak sandwich" with tomato and chilli (as opposed to chiii) relish.  It was tasty.

The stairs to Business Class.  Didn't take any pics but the snack offerings in the Business Lounge seemed better than those in the First galley, which you wouldn't know about unless you wandered back.

For the pre-landing meal, Mrs. SFO777 went with the cheese plate which looked and tasted pretty good.  

I made the mistake of ordering the Ricotta pancakes with carmelized berries and maple cream, which I mistakenly took for maple syrup.  This was dry and simply awful.

Although the sausages were delicious. 

We landed about 20 minutes late and were at the gate a few minutes later.   All in all, a disappointing and uninspiring fligjht, with no Wifi.  But it was nonstop and you can away with a bad marginal product when there is no nonstop competition.  Although if I was buying a ticket to Australia, I'd dump Qantas and go with AA's 77W 1-2-1 Business Class.  Although if it was just me traveling, I wouldn't fly either of them but go with an Asian or Gulf connection on a real airline. 

We decided to bypass the e-passport control and just followed the Fast Track lane which turned out to be the right choice as we waked to the front of the customs line.

After we cleared customs, we followed the signs for Qantas domestic Terminal 1.

And the Priority security lane which apparently operates on the honour system since no one checked our boarding passes or ID's.

And the Qantas Lounge...

... the Gold Lounge.

Apparently lunch starts at noon, so food options were slim.

Not sure whether it was some state law or just Qantas being cheap, but you are SOL if you want any alcohol before noon.

LOL.  Thank you for your patience.

We left the lounge at around T-40 and headed to Gate 1 in a part of the terminal that was oddly 15 feet lower than the rest of the terminal... with no escalator.    Which meant stairs with rollerboards or some mystery elevator around a corner.  We opted for the stairs.  
Melbourne MEL to Hobart HBA
Qantas QF 
December 28, 2018
Seats 3AC


Boarding began at T-20 with a call for all to board despite the Priority lane signage.

Excellent service today on a very short 50 minute flight.

Including a meal, choice of a hot chicken dish or feta, chickpea, nut salad.  Pretty impressive and what turned out to be the best flight and meal of our domestic Qantas flights.   

On approach to Hobart.

No jet bridges at Hobart but an impressive set of multi-ramps...

The only line at the rental counters was at Avis, naturally.   Despite the line, there was a staff of four who pleasantly and efficiently processed all the customers pretty quickly.

A gorgeous day in Hobart for the pleasant walk to the rental car lot.

About a mile south of the Central Business District is one of the nicest boutique hotels we've stayed at in a long time.  With just 11 suites, The Islington is a beautiful urban retreat lovingly restored and redesigned from its main estate constructed nearly 180 years ago, not long after Hobart was settled.  An amazing collection of original art and antiques can be found throughout the hotel.  

At the rear of the main buiiding a sleek modern restaurant and lounge...

... with views of Mount Wellington.

At the end of the main floor was our beautiful Regency Suite.

Less than 30 feet from our suite was the modern dining room where we ate dinner our first two nights.

I love G&Ts and was happy to hear about Tasmania's emergence as a gin producer.  I sampled a number of craft Tasmanian gins. Tonight was the excellent Poltergeist.

Our dinner was tonight was terrific.  We started with a lovely abalone dish.

And a mozzarella and procuitto salad.  The diil right from the hotel garden was wonderful.

Our tri-tip main was outstanding and perfectly prepared, with potato gallette and fried duck paté.

And delicious veggies from the garden.

OMG, our divine dessert.

Back in the suite, the suite's ipad was playing soothing nighttime music.

After a great night's sleep, we were back in the restaurant for breakfast.

Mrs. SFO777's fabulous omelet...

... and my delicious eggs benedict.

We had originally planned on day long helicopter tour but morning weather was nasty and windy, so we postponed that adventure until tomorrow.  At little after noon, we headed out for downtown Hobart.

... and the Taste of Tasmania, Hobart's annual waterfront food fest with hundreds of food and spirits vendors, and music and entertainment.

Lunch from the Shredded Burger.

While researching Tasmania and Hobart activities, I found this really cool simulator experience.   A 737 simulator... in Hobart??   Owned by a local tech guy with other businesses, the simulator is a hobby which he built on his own with parts assembled from all over the world.  I had originally booked an hour for Sunday, but Robert was kind enough to get me in today to accomodate the helicopter reschedule.  The simulator is in his offices right in downtown Hobart.  


Inside the cockpit.

After a brief introduction, I was ready to fly.   Rob's program and simulator lets you fly to and from any airport in the world.  For the first fight, I picked LAX to SNA/Orange County-John Wayne.   And here we are at the top of 24L at LAX.  The controls are remarkably responsive, complete with engine noise and cockpit warning sounds and lights.  I snapped some iphone pics but Rob also uploaded a youtube video of the entire session so I incorporated some of those as well.

Approaching rotation speed.

Turning back east. 

Over LA.

On approach to John Wayne.

Landing at John Wayne.  With Rob's expert and patience tutelage, I nailed it on my first try.

Up next we headed for Innsbruck, Austria where the mountains made landing more challenging and fun. Indeed, commerical pilots apparently need specialy training to be able to fly here.   I did two take-offs and landings, one up and back on the same runway.  The other was a loop close to the mountains for a more difficult landing.  The view from the top of Runway 8.

Turning back to land on Runway 26.

Runway 26 in the distance.

The 2nd flight here was also a take off from the same Runway 8.

But this time I'm going head directly at the mountains to the south of the airport, skirt them and make a hard turn and descent to land on Runway 8.

Nailed it.  What fun.

And finally, JFK to Laguardia.   And since it's December, naturally there is snow on the ground.

Lining up for Runway 13.

Yes!  So cool.

What a great experience, which I cannot recommend more highly to anyone, even those with just a passing interest in flying,

This morning, we're off on our rescheduled helicopter tour of the Tasman Peninsula including the Port Arthur Historical Site, the spectacular coastline of the Three Capes, followed by oysters, wine and lunch.    Checking in at Par Avion. 

Our Robinson R44.

Mrs. SFO777 and Rory, our wonderful pilot and guide for the day. 

And we're off...

Flying over Hobart (International) Airport.

Beautiful scenery and amazing water colours along the way.

Approaching the Port Arthur Historical Site, where British repeat offenders were imprisoned in the middle of the 19th century.

And touching down for our hour visit.

Yep, still there.

From the Port Arthur Historical Site, we headed south taking in the incredible vistas of the remote southern coast of Tasmania.

The beautiful and rugged coastline past the three capes, home to the tallest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere.

Spectacular Tasman Island.

Then back north towards Bangor.

Approaching Bangor.

In Bangor, we're heading for wine tasting and oysters at Bangor Winery

We started with some lovely sparkling.

... and then a tasting of Bangor's excellent wines.

And locally farmed oysters...

Then off again to our next stop.

Over the oyster farms.

To lunch at Frogmore Creek Winery.

Wow, talk about busy.

Service was excellent as was our cheese course.

Although the mains looked nice, they were pretty disappointing.   Think touristy more interested in quantity than quality.

But the wines were good and the setting and our table hard to beat.

Waiting for our shuttle ride back to the hotel.