Brian’s Travel Spot: Narita Airport and the Keisei Skyliner

The platform notice for the Keisei Skyliner service from Tokyo.Welcome to another instalment of Brian’s Travel Spot, following on from my flights with Finnair from Manchester via Helsinki and on to Tokyo’s Narita airport. I ended that particular Travel Spot at Narita Airport, where, as every seasoned traveller knows, the journey’s not quite over. You still have to get from the airport to your ultimate destination. Sometimes, this is fairly straightforward. However, in the case of Narita, you are faced with a bewildering array of options…

Part of the trick is knowing where in Tokyo (or, in my case, where beyond Tokyo) you want to get to. This Travel Spot is dedicated to getting to and from Narita Airport using just one of the options, the Keisei Skyliner, although I will talk about the merits of the other routes/options.

Narita, by the way, isn’t the only airport in Tokyo. There’s also Haneda, which, in contrast to Narita (65 km east of Tokyo), is much closer to the city centre, on the western edge of Tokyo Bay. You also have a similarly bewildering array of options there, including a monorail! For more on getting to Tokyo from Haneda and getting back to the airport, check out my trip from July last year.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying Finnair, Part II – Helsinki to Tokyo

My espresso on board a Finnair Airbus A350-900 bound for Tokyo Narita airport.Welcome to second instalment of the latest Brian’s Travel Spot, covering my journey to Tokyo, flying with Finnair via Helsinki, a new route and new airline (for me). Part I covered my journey from Manchester to Helsinki, while this, Part II, covers my onward flight from Helsinki to Tokyo’s Narita airport.

On my previous three trips to Japan, I’ve flown British Airways, and, wherever possible, I fly direct (one less thing to go wrong). However, since I was starting in Manchester, I had to change planes somewhere, so I decided to try the Manchester-Helsinki-Tokyo route, flying with British Airways’ One World alliance partner Finnair.

Compared to the route I would normally take, flying to Heathrow with British Airways and on from there, this meant a longer first leg, heading over the North Sea to Helsinki (approximately two hours in the air versus 35 minutes), followed by a shorter second leg, roughly 9½ hours as opposed to 11½ hours. That may not seem like much, but when you’re trying to sleep on the plane, that’s actually two hours less sleep, which can be crucial!

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself: my first challenge was to make my connecting flight at Helsinki.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying Finnair, Part I – Manchester to Helsinki

The best part of flying out of Manchester's Terminal 1? I got to make my own coffee in my Espro Travel Press, grinding the beans (Grumpy Mule's Widescreen blend) with my Aergrind from Made by KnockWelcome to another Brian’s Travel Spot, quickly following on from the previous one, where I noted that I wasn’t writing many Travel Spots this year! This particular Travel Spot covers what is my fourth trip to Japan in a little over two years. However, whereas for each of the previous three trips, I’ve flown British Airways, this time I’m flying Finnair via Helsinki.

Wherever possible, I fly direct (it’s quicker and there’s less to go wrong). However, on this occasion, I was starting in Manchester, so I was going to have to change planes somewhere. Normally, I’d fly down to Heathrow with British Airways, taking a direct flight from there, but since Finnair is part of the One World alliance with British Airways, the Manchester-Helsinki-Tokyo route was shown as a (significantly cheaper) option, which prompted me to book it.

Since my Travel Spots run on the long-side, and since each flight is a considerable journey in its own right, I’ve split the trip over two posts. This first part covers the flight from Manchester to Helsinki, while Part II covers the onward flight to Tokyo. And hopefully there’ll be a Part III for my flight back from Tokyo with British Airways.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying from Boston with Virgin Atlantic

Mademoiselle Rouge, a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330-300, waiting on the stand at Boston Logan Airport to take me back to London Heathrow.Welcome to the second instalment of my Brian’s Travel Spot covering my trip to/from Boston with Virgin Atlantic. In the first part, I wrote about my flight over from Heathrow, where I was unexpectedly upgraded to Upper Class. This post covers my flight back to Heathrow from Boston Logan, where I travelled in premium economy. I tend to fly either at the front of the plane (business class, when work is paying) or at the back of the plane (economy, when I’m paying), so this was a fairly unusual experience for me.

I also took the daytime flight from Boston to Heathrow, which leaves Boston in the morning and arrives in London in the evening, the perfect flight for someone like me who doesn’t enjoy sleeping on planes. When I first started flying transatlantic in the late 1990s, this used to be my favoured flight, but after 9/11, they largely disappeared from the schedule, only to reappear a few years ago. This was probably the first time I’ve caught this flight or its equivalent in nearly 20 years! With my flight leaving at 08:15, this meant an (unreasonably, for me) early start, although my first problem was getting to the airport…

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying to Boston with Virgin Atlantic

My ride to Boston from London Heathrow's Terminal 3: Miss England, a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330-300.Welcome to another instalment of my occasional Brian’s Travel Spot series. These weren’t so occasional last year, when there I managed 16 in all, but in 2019, I’ve concentrated on writing up coffee festivals, such as this year’s London Coffee Festival and Birmingham Coffee Festival, which, between them, have generated 10 posts and counting! It seems to be a case of writing up festivals or writing Travel Spots: clearly, I don’t have the time to do both!

In a year packed with business travel, mostly flying with British Airways, today’s Travel Spot marks something of a departure from the ordinary, prompting me to write about it. Firstly, I’m not flying for work. Instead, I’m making the (for me) relatively short hop from London to Boston to see Amanda, which means that I’m paying for this one. Secondly, although I’d planned to fly with British Airways, I’ve ended up flying with Virgin Atlantic for the first time in three years, which made for an interesting change.

This Travel Spot covers my flight out, with a separate Travel Spot for the return flight a couple of week later. My first challenge, of course, was getting to the airport…

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Travels with my Coffee: USA 2019

My Therma Cup and Travel Press take in the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and, in the fog on the other side, northern San Francisco on their way to hiking in Muir Woods, April 2019.Welcome to another in my new series, Travels with my Coffee, where I take my coffee to all the best places, particularly when there are no speciality coffee shops to be found. This is the third Travels with my Coffee of 2019, which got off to a good start with my road trip through Arizona & New Mexico in January, followed by a trip to Shanghai in March.

Today it’s the turn of the five-week trip I took to the USA in April, which turned out to be a bit of an epic journey, starting in New Orleans and ending at the opposite end of the country in Chicago. In between, however, I flew to Los Angeles, took the train to San Jose, spent two weeks in the Bay Area, then took the train all the way to Chicago!

As ever, I was joined by my trusty Travel Press, Aergrind and Therma Cup. I also brought, for the first time ever, my rCup, a new reusable cup made from recycled paper coffee cups, which I’d picked up at the London Coffee Festival shortly before leaving on the trip, which doubled as a test-drive for the rCup.

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Travels with my Coffee: Zhujiajiao & Hangzhou, 2019

My coffee, in the shape of my Global WAKEcup and Espro Therma Pres, overlook the West Lake in Hangzhou from the Fair Rainbow Bridge on a recent trip to China.Welcome to the third in my new series, Travels with my Coffee, where I take my coffee to all the best places, particularly when there are no speciality coffee shops to be found. So far I’ve covered my trip around Florida and Phoenix at the start of 2018 and my road trip through Arizona & New Mexico at the start of this year. Now it’s the turn of my trip to Shanghai back in March.

I’ve already written about one of the finds of that trip, my new gooseneck pouring jug, which has fundamentally changed how I make filter coffee on the go. I also tried a new (for me) pour-over method, the all-in-one filter bag. You’ll see how that went later on.

Although I was in Shanghai for a month, it was mostly for work and I didn’t have much opportunity to leave the city for a variety of reasons. However, towards the end of the trip, I did manage to get out and about, first to the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao, then further afield to the nearby city of Hangzhou. Naturally, I took my coffee, in particular my Travel Press, Global WAKEcup and Therma Cup, with me.

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Travels with my Coffee: Arizona & New Mexico, 2019

My Therma Cup and Travel Press look across Apache Lake, one of several reservoirs on the Salt River as it flows through the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix.Regular readers know that having good coffee on my travels, particularly when there are no speciality coffee shops, is important to me. I’ve written about my travelling coffee kit, and also documented making coffee on planes and at airports, making long journeys bearable. At the start of last year, I wrote Travels with my Coffee: Part I, which documented, from the perspective of all the places I took my coffee, my trip around Florida and Phoenix.

The title, with its “Part I”, implied that there would be a Part II (possibly more), but the year went by and although I took plenty of photos, time got the better of me, and I never did write up Part II. However, this year started off with a flurry of travel, with three month-long trips, first to the US, then to China, and now back in the US, so I thought it high time that I continued Travels with my Coffee, beginning with this post. This covers the first of this year’s trips, an extensive road trip around southern Arizona and New Mexico. As you’ll see, with good coffee shops in short supply, my Travel Press and Therma Cup saw plenty of use.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Jet Lag

The (indirect) cause of my latest bout of jet lag, the Hainan Airlines Boeing 787-800 which brought me from Boston to Shanghai in February 2019.Today’s Travel Spot represents a somewhat new direction for the Coffee Spot. Traditionally, I’ve written about coffee/coffee shops in my main posts, or about my specific travels in the Travel Spot posts. Today represents the first time that I’ve written about a general travel subject: jet lag.

Normally when I write about my flying, I stick to the actual experience. However, criss-crossing the globe has its downsides, one of which is the crushing tiredness that is jet lag. I’ve never been as tired as when I’m suffering from jet lag (caveat: I’ve never had children, so cannot compare my experiences to having a new-born in the house).

I’ve been suffering from jet lag on my current trip to Shanghai, which is what prompted me to write this piece. Like all my Travel Spots, it’s about my subjective experiences: the times when I’ve had jet lag, what causes it and what I do (sometimes not very successfully) to avoid it. If this one is well received, then I might write more occasional posts like this.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying from Chicago (Again)

My British Airways Boeing 777-200 on the stand at Chicago O'Hare airport, waiting to take me back to the UK.Welcome to the third and final instalment of the first Travel Spot of 2019, covering my first trip of the year. This started when I flew to Phoenix on the 4th January, getting upgraded to First Class along the way, and ended with my return from Chicago on 1st February, when I had to slum it in business class. Along the way I spent two weeks in the warm, winter sun of Arizona and New Mexico and then flew from Phoenix to Chicago, arriving in time for the polar vortex and the second coldest spell in Chicago’s history.

In all, I spent four days in the suburbs, hanging out with my friends, before catching the commuter train into Chicago proper, which was when it got really, really cold. Perhaps fortunately, I was there for work and, knowing the reputation of Chicago winters, had already booked the hotel in the same building as my office, so I didn’t actually have to go out… The downside was that I only had a single day to explore, but, given the weather, that’s probably just as well. Then, as soon as my meeting was over, I was off to O’Hare for my flight home.

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