Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying From San Francisco to Phoenix

Making airline coffee bearable: make your own! My Espro Travel Press and Knock Aergrind in the American Airlines lounge at San Francisco Airport before my flight to Phoenix.Welcome to the second instalment of the first Travel Spot of the new year, documenting my first trip of 2020. Part I saw me flying from London Heathrow to San Jose on 3rd January, where British Airways kindly upgraded me to Club World, thus ruining my plans for writing about my experiences in World Traveller Plus (premium economy to you and me). Not that I am complaining too much.

After a week in the Bay Area for work (plus visiting plenty of coffee shops and an unexpected Cat Café), Part II sees me on my way from San Francisco to Phoenix, flying with American Airlines. From there, I’ll have two weeks in Arizona (one for work, one travelling) before flying from Phoenix to Boston with Delta and making my way home from there with British Airways.

Flying internally in America is one of my least favourite activities, but I’m slowly learning to make the most of it, helped immensely by having a work travel budget that allows me to fly first class (not as grand as it sounds), plus having enough status with British Airways that I can use the lounge when flying with partner airlines such as American Airlines.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying to San Jose

The nose of my British Airways Boeing 787-900 which flew me to San Jose.Welcome to the first Travel Spot of the new year, on my first trip of 2020, which means I’m starting the year much as I started 2019, when I flew to Phoenix on the 4th January, managing to get upgraded along the way from Club World to First Class. That was also on the first Friday of the year (I flew yesterday).

This time, I flew from Heathrow to San Jose, California, where I’ll be spending a week (for work). Then I’ll back be in Phoenix the following week (work again), before spending a week travelling around Arizona, enjoying the winter sun. Finally, I’m flying to Boston to see Amanda for the weekend, which will make an interest contrast (similar to last year, when I flew from Phoenix to Chicago). From Boston, I’m flying home at the end of January.

As usual, I’m flying with British Airways to and from the US, while, due to time constraints, I’m doing the internal travel by plane as well, flying from San Francisco to Phoenix with American and from Phoenix to Boston with Delta. I’d have loved to have done either (or both) of those legs by train, but it wasn’t feasible.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Returning from Tokyo in Club World

My British Airways Boeing 787-900 on the stand at London Heathrow Terminal 5, having safely returned me from Tokyo's Narita Airport.On Friday I’ll be flying to Tokyo again, so I thought it was high time that I finished writing  up my previous trip, so welcome to another Brian’s Travel Spot, this time covering my return from Tokyo. On my flight out, I travelled a new route and new airline for me, flying with Finnair from Manchester via Helsinki and on to Tokyo’s Narita airport. However, for my return, I was back in more familiar territory, flying with British Airways from Narita to Heathrow, with a short hop after that to Manchester.

This is the fourth time I’ve flown from Tokyo with British Airways and the third time I’ve done it from Narita (my other flight, in July last year, was from Haneda, Tokyo’s second airport). It’s also the third time that I’ve flown Club World (business class to you and me), although the first time I went to Tokyo, in April 2017, I was in World Traveller (economy to you and me).

The first step, as ever, is getting to the airport, taking the Keisei Skyliner. For the first time, I’ve covered this in its own post, so we’ll start at the airport.

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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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