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Tim Foolery

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Adventures in Argentina: Introduction

Argentina has been on our list to visit for a few years now. We finally decided to pull the trigger and spend our Thanksgiving break exploring three separate cities in Argentina. These adventures were a great break from a hectic work life.

Our goals for this trip were pretty simple – get away from work for a week and explore a new area of the world. Argentina is well known for it’s wine and it’s beef. As with almost all of our trips we built our experiences around food, wine and seeing beautiful spaces. Of course we had to couple these requirements with our need for a relaxing break. It is a vacation after all.

Andes Mountain Views from Argentina
Views of the Andes from Mendoza.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share with you my thoughts on the various flights, hotels, restaurants and experiences, including:

  • Flight Planning
  • United Flight IAH – EZE | Economy
  • LATAM Flight EZE/AEP – MDZ | Economy
  • Park Hyatt Mendoza – Standard Room
  • Valle Uco Wine Tasting
  • Dining in Mendoza
  • Austral Frlight MDZ-COR | Economy
  • Sheraton Cordoba  – Junior Suite
  • Dining in Cordoba
  • Walking Tours in Cordoba
  • Cordoba Airport
  • LATAM Flight COR – AEP | Economy
  • Park Tower Hotel – Corner Suite
  • Buenos Aires Bike Tour
  • Dining in Buenos Aires
  • The Bird Poop Scam
  • Taxis in Buenos Aires
  • United Flight EZE – EWR | Economy
  • United Flight EWR – ORD | First

Not to spoiler the ending here, but we loved our time in Argentina. Next time we will do somethings a little differently though.

Have you been to Argentina? What was your favorite spot? Did you have to deal with the bird poop scam?

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Vienna Airport Lounges

Leaving the Hotel Bristol at 08h15, I was at Vienna International Airport by 09h10. Passing through security and immigration was a breeze and I found myself at the Austrian Airlines Business Class Lounge about 40 minutes before our scheduled boarding time.

A Tale of Two Lounges

The Vienna Airport Lounges are interesting to me. There is the Business Class Lounge and the Star Alliance Lounge. Each time I fly in Business, I am relegated to the Star Alliance Lounge. The only explanation I get is that I have to go their since I do gave Star Gold Status.

While this is indeed true, I am flying Business Class and think I should be allowed in that Lounge. The Star side is utterly packed. Each time I enter this lounge, I find that every single seat is occupied and people are just standing around like vultures, waiting for a seat to open. It isn’t relaxing. Usually, I’ll just pop over to the Priority Pass Lounge next door, which looks like a mediocre restaurant at a mall. At least I can sit though.

This time was different, I was admitted to the Business Class side of the lounge.

Vienna Airport Lounge

Booze selection available at the Business Class Lounge

Vienna Airport Lounge

Breakfast Breads at the Austrian Business Class Lounge

Vienna Airport Lounge

Tea selection at Austrian Airlines Business Class Lounge

It wasn’t stellar, but I did get a seat. I also grabbed a pastry, some sparkling wine and the Monday edition of Le Monde.

Vienna Airport Lounge

Lounge water, bubbles and newspaper

I spent only about 20 minutes in the lounge then took the long walk to my gate.

Teheran Gate at Vienna Airport

Maybe I will go to Tehran after all

Austrians Business Class Lounge is head and shoulders better than their Star Lounge, but it sure isn’t anything to arrive early for. Show up early enough to grab a newspaper and a glass of bubbles and call it good.

Austrian Airlines Boeing 767

My ride to Chicago. Austrian Boeing 767

Which Lounge is your favorite in Vienna? Have you ever been relegated to the Star Lounge despite having a proper Business Class ticket?

Brass Heart – Fine Dining Chicago

Brass Heart is Chicago’s newest Fine Dining Restaurant.  Taking the place of 42 Grams, the stellar Two-Michelin-Starred Restaurant in Chicago’s Uptown Neighborhood. We loved 42 Grams from jump, and I was personally surprised at its abrupt closing.  You can Google more about that, but I refuse to support a chef with abusive tendencies, no matter how amazing the food is.

Brass Heart opened in late August and I’ve been looking forward to popping over for a while now.  Deciding to pull the trigger before it becomes impossible to snag a reservation, I searched just four days ahead of time and found an early spot for two on a Saturday.  While 17h30 is usually too early for me, I figured I would make an exception this time.

Unlike 42 Grams, which was fully BYOB (YES! A 2 Starred resto and BYO to boot), Brass Heart has a lovely cocktail and wine menu.  While not outrageously extensive, it was very respectable and the prices are perfectly in line with the neighborhood and the City as a whole.

We arrived a few minutes before our reservation.  The space is small, and without a proper separate bar, we didn’t want to crowd the space….although, the only people there when we arrived were also dining at 17h30.  We were seated immediately upon arrival and were welcomed by several staff members.

When booking the reservation I selected the nine-course tasting menu, so our only real decision was beverages.  We could do the wine pairings or select individual cocktails, glasses of wine or bottles.  We obviously chose the pairings – we always do.

Brass Heart Chicago

Full Nine Course Tasting Menu

Brass Heart Chicago

Osetra Caviar, Pumpkin

Brass Heart Chicago

Osetra Caviar, Pumpkin

Brass Heart Chicago

Ham and Eggs

Brass Heart Chicago

Ham and Eggs

Brass Heart Chicago

Mulligatawny Soup – Ham and Egg Alternative

Brass Heart Chicago

Duck, Apple, Black Walnut

Brass Heart Chicago

Duck, Apple, Black Walnut

Brass Heart

Brioche, Fried Chicken, Honey

Brass Heart Chicago

Brioche, Fried Chicken, Honey

Brass Heart Chicago

Rice and Beans

Brass Heart Chicago

Rice and Beans

Brass Heart Chicago

Duck Fat Halibut, Celery Root, Matsutake

Brass Heart Chicago

A5 Kobe, Chanterelle, Pommes Souffle

Brass Heart Chicago

Quince, Acorn Squash, Granola

Brass Heart Chicago

Gateaux d’Epices, Paw Paw, Bourbon

Brass Heart Chicago

Petit Fours

Brass Heart Chicago

Petit Fours

The meal was stellar.  We loved every part of our experience.  The wine pairings were on point.  There were a surprisingly large number of Oregon wines on the wine list, which we all know is the quickest way to my heart.  The nine-course tasting menu is $125 per person, plus $75 for the wine pairings.  While this isn’t a cheap night out, it’s cheaper than most other fine dining options in Chicago.  My recommendation:  Make reservations NOW while you can still get in!

Have you dined at Brass Heart?  Did you dig the wine pairings?  Which course was your favorite?

A Night In Vienna

The return home from my 68 Hours in Singapore afforded me the luxury of a night in Vienna.  While I could have found an alternate route home, it would have cost more miles and eaten into my time in Singapore (or added a day to this trip). I love Vienna.  This Vienna layover was short.  I had 15 hours from the time the door on my inbound flight opened until my outbound door closed.

What would I do with this time?  I had a a beautiful suite at the Hotel Bristol, so just relaxing in luxury was an option.  There were no shows at the stunning Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera), so that was out.  I wasn’t in the mood for fine dining experience (shocker, I know!), so what is a guy to do?

The Wiener Staatsoper / Vienna State Opera House.

The Wiener Staatsoper / Vienna State Opera House.

The hotel recommended that I hop on a street car and head out to a huge park on the edge of the City. That’s where the Viennese go when it is hot (and it was 33C when I landed at 19h00).  Splendid idea.  The street car took about 25 minutes to reach the end of the line.  The park was beautiful, very natural, with trails in various levels of manicure which led to a large lake. When I arrived it was getting dark, so not many people were left hanging out.  I spent about 45 minutes walking around, enjoying nature in a fabulous city.  It was starting to get dark and I was afraid I’d get trapped out here in the pitch black – there were NO LIGHTS in this park.

Vienna Erholungsgebiet Wienerberg

Sunset from the Erholungsgebiet Wienerberg

Vienna Nature Preserve

The verdant nature preserve offered a cooling refresh from the heat of Vienna

Heading back on the street car, I rode past my stop up to the Rathausplatz – City Hall Plaza. I figured I’d just walk around and make my way back to my hotel.  What do I hear, once I’m off the Street Car? Music. Laughter. A crowd.  Was this, what Chicagoans call, a Street Fest?

Rathausplatz Vienna

The entrance to the festival – Big Crowd for a Sunday night.

It was! But it wasn’t like a normal Street Fest.  This Platz was not only lined with food and booze vendors, but there was a large screen strung up in front of the Rathaus.  Surrounding the screen was bleachers.  On the screen: A 2002 production of Swan Lake. Yes, a 16 year old recording of the ballet had drawn several thousand Viennese out at 22h00 on a Sunday night. The Platz was electric.

Rathausplatz Vienna

Such a crowd for a Sunday night!

I’m not a huge ballet fan, but I do love warm weather, beer and dining al fresco.  I grabbed a lager, walked around the crowd, yes, even watched part I’d the production.

The most fascinating food booth called to me.  Wienerschnitzel. Made fresh while you watched.  This culinary assembly line kept the crowd as enthralled as the ballet.  It had been about 4 hours since I had the prelanding meal on Austrian, plus the beer, I was famished.

The Wienerschnitzel and Potatoes were amazingly perfect.  Usually I think if this as a cold weather dish, it paired perfectly with the heat, the beer and the fresh air.

Wienerschnitzel or Wiener schnitzel

Wienerschnitzel and Beer!

I had no plans for my time in Vienna, but stumbled upon this absolutely perfect evening.  Music, dancing, food and drink.  Who could ask for anything more?  Have you ever come across a surprisingly great event like this before?  What would you have done with your handful of hours in Vienna?  Would you have relaxed in the beautiful suite or would you have gone out to explore?

Austrian Airlines Business Class BKK-VIE

My flight home from my 68 Hours in Singapore was a bit of a round about experience.  Leaving Singapore to Bangkok, I continued on to Vienna.  I’ve flown Austrian Airlines in Business Class a few times before and was looking forward to trying it again.  I left the Thai Airways Business Class Lounge about 50 minutes before scheduled departure.  The boarding area was utterly packed with passengers.

People were getting a bit restless, as announcements were made about early boarding. People would line up, then another announcement saying we weren’t boarding. This happened two times before we actually boarded.  There were many people traveling with children too.  These false starts really got the children confused and frustrated.

Bangkok Airport Boarding Area

Very Crowded Boarding Area in Bangkok

On Board

I boarded early, as I usually like to do.  A single seat wasn’t available, I had to sit in the middle area in the two-seat section.  I could have moved to a single seat, but it would have cost me an additional €500.  It wasn’t worth it to me.

Austrian Airlines Business Class Seating Boeing 777

Business Class Seating on Austrian Airlines

Our seats already had pillows, blankets and the amenity kits waiting for us.  After I got settled, the flight attendant came up with menus.  She introduced herself to me and I attempted to speak German, as I usually do when flying Austrian.  My college level German gets me far enough on a flight, but it’s just utilitarian, not conversational.  I started off my journey with some sparkling wine and some still water.

Austrian Airlines Legroom

Business Class Legroom on Austrian Airlines

Austrian Airlines Pre Departure Beverage

Pre-departure beverage with seat controls

The flight was pretty full, but I was fortunate enough to NOT have a seat mate.  I’m so happy I didn’t pay extra for a single seat.  Even if I did have a seat mate, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.  The seats are large and while not very private, Austrian Airlines Business Class is still pretty great.

The flight time to Vienna from Bangkok is 11 hours and 30 minutes.  One of my main disappointments when I fly Austrian Airlines is that the flight from Chicago to Vienna just isn’t long enough. I want a little more time to rest, relax and enjoy the Business Class product. This flight gives me a bit more time and I was going to love it.

Meal Service

Austrian Airline’s crew includes an on board chef.  Before take off, the chef meets with every Business Class Passenger, explaining the menu and taking orders.  It is a nice additional service, although not really necessary.  It’s this aspect that I like the most I think.

After departure, drinks are served and the food service begins.  I like the antipasti trolley that wheels through the cabin.  You select the exact appetizers you want to try.  I selected all options, of course!

Antipasti Selection on Austrian

Antipasti selection, including marinated prawns, herbed chicken breast, feta cheese, Thai beef salad, maki and crab cakes.

The meal service continued for the next 90 minutes.  It was efficient and friendly.  Austrian does a good job of ensuring that your wine glasses are never dry too.

Austrian Airlines Red Lentil Soup

Red lentil soup with olive ciabatta croutons.

Main course - Stir Fried Beef on Austrian Airlines

Stir Fried Beef, ginger oyster sauce, egg fried rice.

Austrian Airlines Dessert Chocolate Cake

Dessert of Chocolate Cake

With the meal over, the we had about eight hours until we landed in Vienna.  I spent the rest of the flight watching movies, TV shows and napping. I really didn’t want to get much sleep as we’d be landing in Vienna at 19h00 and I sure didn’t want to be up all night.

Other than a little bit of excitement midway through the flight, our time in air was quiet and uneventful.  We landed 20 minutes early, but were requested to remain seated while a passenger was taken off the plane by paramedics.  More on that story in another post.

Wrap Up

Flying in Business Class on Austrian Airlines is still exciting and fun for me.  It isn’t the world’s most avant garde product, but the service is smooth and efficient.  The wine and food is good and the seats are really comfortable in both seated and bed positions.

Have you flown Austrian Airlines from Asia?  What is your favorite Business Class product out of Bangkok?