More on the condo…from a different perspective

Beedoo has posted her very comprehensive review of our condo already – Our Holiday Condo – Ilikai 1925, but I did want to take some time to provide some notes on my experience that I had in the condo, since I had the pleasure of being in the other bedroom, and using the other bathroom (the “main” one – not the ensuite).

First off, would I stay at this condo again?

Absolutely! It was a great place to stay, with a good view, well appointed (with proper furniture – not just cane furniture), and since it was a condo, you didn’t feel like you were in a hotel. It was a home away from home that was actually a home…not just a room with a couple of beds and a bathroom, or two if you’re lucky.

What I didn’t like –

The bathroom. More than anything, there were two minor nitpicky things that I wasn’t a fan of. Everything worked fantastically well as one would expect, with these exceptions

  1. Hot water in the shower. Yes, the water pressure was awesome for being on the 19th floor of a hotel/condo complex with well north of 1,000 units. The shower head itself was also fantastic. What was not so awesome was that the water took a good 3-5 minutes to warm up from freezing cold. I do not like cold showers, so I had to choose to do one of two things – either run the shower for a few minutes to let the water warm up, or get in and freeze my nips off waiting for the water to get to temperature..
  2. The Pocket Door. I understand that it’s a space saving measure, but please, for all that is good in this world, come up with a better latching system. I don’t know how many times I had turned the little dial (which is difficult to move since it’s so small) thinking that the door was locked, to move the door and find that it was not locked.

The other nitpicky thing that I think can be improved is providing wayfinding signs in the lobby at the Ilikai, so that when you’re in your swimsuit going to the pool for the first time, you have a clue where you’re going.

Though with as awesome as the pool is, maybe it’s a good thing that it’s not as well signed, otherwise there would be queues of people going to it, knowing as warm as it is! If only the pools on the mainland were that warm even in the middle of summer! The other thing that I loved about the pool is that in addition to the temperature (which, as noted, was just PERFECT), the water was not overly chlorinated, so you didn’t come out smelling like chlorine after your swim.

Anyway, back to the room itself. The air conditioning? It’s a requirement. I do not know how anyone can live indoors in Hawaii without it, and yes, it was mentioned that *ahem* someone would be randomly turning on aircon units…that was me ๐Ÿ˜‰

I come from a place that varies in temperature, on average, from the coldest low at around -12C to the warmest high at approximately 27C. Now of course, there are days that are above or below those normals, but that is what the weather is like on average. Being placed into 27C on a daily basis, with high humidity is a recipe for being uncomfortable, and aircon is a way to combat that ๐Ÿ˜‰

That doesn’t mean that I actually did have the aircon on all of the time, as there were times when I would turn it off because I actually got too cold, mostly when I was sleeping and would wake up just freezing.

One other thing I will like to note is that the kitchen bench did make a great alternative workspace, as I used that for my computer desk since I was arriving after Beedoo and her other half, the computer desk was already spoken for, and I have to say that I did like the convenience of being able to stand or sit to use my computer, though again it was not something that I did that often, seeing that I was in Hawaii and had better things to do than sit on my computer ๐Ÿ˜‰

Street noise

Being on the “city” side of the building did mean that you were exposed to the street noise from below. As was mentioned, it was not that big of a deal for either her or her other half. Since I was in the other bedroom, I actually was on the other side of the lanai which looks out over Ala Moana Blvd, 19 storeys down, and the street noise was very tolerable for me, especially considering that I am not usually exposed to that much street noise.

Now train noise is a different thing, as I do have a train track about 20-30m from where I am sitting right now, and they can be *very* noisy, so some busses almost twice the distance away and below is not much of a bother. I’d find it hard to think that some busses passing and stopping (and lowering themselves for accessibility purposes with the necessary safety beeps) would be much of a consideration for me either ๐Ÿ˜‰

View

The view from the lanai on the city end was just stunning for me. I love looking out over a city to view the goings on, and to watch people from a high vantage point, so this was very fun to do. Not only that, I was able to get some great shots of the city waking up on a Saturday morning.

Panorama of the west end of Waikiki

Panorama of the west end of Waikiki

From the other lanai, there was a view towards the ocean and a great view down Ala Moana (to the right in the photo above); somehow we never managed to get any pictures off of that lanai during the daytime – mostly because we were always out of the condo doing stuff…I mean, why would you want to vacation in Hawaii just to stay in your condo or hotel room all of the time??? ๐Ÿ™‚

The only reason I got the shots off of my lanai was because I got up so early on the first morning, thanks to my body clock still being 5 hours ahead and thinking that it was almost 10:30 AM, despite the clocks all saying 5:30! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Below are a couple more shots that I took off of the lanais – the first is from the east/south facing lanai (Makai – ocean facing), and the other is from the north facing lanai (Mauka – inland)

Looking towards the stage at HHV

Looking towards the stage at HHV

View down Ala Moana Blvd.

View down Ala Moana Blvd.

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Delta to HNL, Part 1

Previously in my trip, I had an overnight stay at the Comfort Suites, where I didn’t sleep (incidentally, I’m never a good sleeper the night before I leave on a trip). Now, it’s time for me to fly on Delta from Milwaukee to Honolulu, via Minneapolis and Los Angeles.

My day started out really early (5:00 AM), after a sleepless night in my hotel (not caused by the hotel, but by my anxiousness to get out to Hawaii to meet up with my best friends in person again, and not wanting to miss a flight). I took the courtesy shuttle through the end of the night and beginning of the morning, riding with a couple of other folks who were going to LA as well.

Actually, it was a different LA to the one I was transiting through. They were on their way to Lower Alabama. Both gentlemen were from Up North, and were heading south for the Winter. It was a short drive to the airport as I was the last pickup for that round, and shortly after, my checked bag was left with the folks at Delta and I entered the airport, skipping check in since I had done so already (and paid for my bag) the night before from my phone.

Since I had a few minutes, I wandered around the pre-security area. There is a store that I like to look through when I’m at Mitchell Airport, simply because of the variety of items they have available. That store is Renaissance Books, and they have a wide selection of books to buy and peruse before you go through security. However, because of the hour, they were not open as of yet.

One other piece of advice I have to give is to, while at the airport, visit the Mitchell Gallery of Flight. It has a good variety of exhibits on the history of civil aviation, along with a small exhibit on Jim Lovell who most will know as part of the Apollo 13 crew.

The line for security to concourse D was about 3 lines deep, but was moving consistently, even with the full body scanner in action in the morning. After going through the recombobulation area, I headed to gate D43 for my flight out. If you’re in a bit of a rush and have a gate the far end of the D concourse, there are moving sidewalks available in the lower level, just follow the signs after security.

You will not miss too many shops at all, and there is a coffee shop, along with a small restaurant and news store available for you to peruse while waiting, but not as good a selection as other airports have after security.

Another note about Milwaukee – there is no free wifi available in the airport. In order to get online, you do need to either have your own mobile internet, or purchase a pass from the wifi operator in the airport, Boingo. They do have wifi available in a number of airports, including Dulles.

However, for me, I wasn’t too bothered, as it was still early in the morning, and I did have my phone with me. I spent a few minutes reading USA Today, which honestly isn’t worth $2 to buyโ€ฆat least to me. I ultimately recycled it before I got to Honolulu.

Soon after, they started calling our flight for boarding, and while I do not stand around waiting for my group to board from the minute they start boarding the flight, I do pay close attention so that I am among the first to board in my group, as that usually will ensure that I have space available in the overhead bin for my backpack ๐Ÿ™‚

Delta 1071
N946DN (previously owned by JALโ€ฆ)

Scheduled Dep MKE: 7:00 AM CDT
Scheduled Arr MSP: 8:28 AM CDT

Actual Dep MKE: 7:30 AM CDT +0h30
Actual Arr MSP: 8:18 AM CDT -0h10

boarding

This was the scene as we boarded. A couple of minutes later, I was confronted with a choice – when I went to Australia, I made it a point to ask the flight attendant upon entering the plane for a seat belt extender, which was necessary due to my extreme size. To be honest, I really should have been made to buy two seats on the flights last time. It just wound up that I was incredibly fortunate, and did not have to buy a 2nd seat.

I made the choice on this occasion to not ask for the extender right away. I figured, why not, let’s try to put the belt on naturally, low and across the hips. As it turned out, had I asked for one, I would have had to return it! The belt fitted me perfectly, which was very exciting for me! ๐Ÿ™‚

Of special note on this flight was the announcement the crew made prior to closing the doors and heading out. The lead flight attendant made it a point to remind us that, even though the FAA had allowed airlines to file paperwork to allow for gate-to-gate use of electronics, it was still not official for Delta, so we had to adhere to the rule of no electronics during takeoff or landing. This was the only flight on this day that the new rules were discussed.

inflightmealThe flight to Minneapolis was delayed because of other incoming traffic into MSP, which meant that we had to get in line behind the other incoming flights and wait on the tarmac at Milwaukee, which is something that I would prefer than staying in the air and circling, wasting lots and lots of fuel in the process. The crew kept us updated as far as the progress, and after a smooth 48-minute flight, we arrived in Minneapolis, where the sun was shining.

While on our way, however, the flight crew did take the time to do a quick snack service, which in the morning consisted of a Biscoff cookie, and your choice of Coca-Cola beverages (of which I chose water).

Layover in Minneapolis

In my original plan, I only had about a 30 minute layover in Detroit, but thanks to my calling Delta and talking to a supervisor, I was able to get this particular flight arrangement, where I was able to transfer directly from the Milwaukee-Minneapolis flight to the Minneapolis-Honolulu flight via Los Angeles, instead of leaving things to chance with Delta transferring bags and making the flight in such a short time.

I have to give huge thanks to the person I spoke to – they not only waived the change fee, but they managed to get it that I didn’t have to pay the fare difference either. Epic WIN!

Of course, had I followed the original plan, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the awesomeness that is MSP. I actually lived in the Twin Cities for a bit of time while I was in college at the University of Minnesota, and it is certainly an area that I love to be in. One other small advantage, and one that I think Aussies would love to hear for shopping purposes – clothing sales are not taxed in Minnesota! ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, my layover started out with visiting the restrooms. I then stopped at the lottery vending machine that was there, buying $5 worth of scratch off tickets. In the end, I won back $2 of the $5. After I bought the tickets, I discovered something that I never remembered in my previous trips to Minneapolis, since I had not had time to explore the airport too much.

takeoff

In concourse D of MSP, there is an upstairs viewing area available where you can look out on the planes, and watch takeoffs and landings on runways 12L/30R and 4/22. This is the transport and radio geek in me speaking, but I would love to have a way that you could plug your headphones into a jack and listen to the tower frequencies. ๐Ÿ™‚

However, the folks at MSP do make it easier for you to do that, as they do offer free wifi – the only thing you have to do is view a short ad for one of a number of sponsors, and you’re connected throughout the airport. Using the free Wifi, I was able to use the LiveATC app on my phone to listen in to the MSP tower without using my data plan.

After watching a few takeoffs and landings, I started walking around the concourse in search of breakfast and lunch. I wound up finding out another way that Minneapolis-St. Paul is superior to Milwaukee – the sheer quantity of shops and restaurants post-security. I stopped at one of the shops to pick up some souvenirs for myself and my friends (including a keychain shaped like Minnesota that has a very large sticker on it proclaiming that was made in Canada).

snoopyflyOne of the things, while I’m talking about the Minneapolis airport, that I love is the fact that there are two of the Snoopy statues that were created and decorated in 2000 to celebrate the life of Charles Schulz (a Minneapolis native) in the airport. The first one that I spotted was the one in the central mall, which I believe would have been designed by someone at Northwest Airlines.

charleysI then made my way to the central mall area, where they had a fully-featured food court, including one of the best sandwich shops out there – Charley’s Philly Grill, where I had a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich and hash rounds. I enjoyed my meal at a window seat in the food court, which again looked out on the tarmac and runway 4/22.

travelsnoopy

Once breakfast was done, I continued moving around the airport. I had enough time that I was able to do a full lap of the airport, aided by the moving sidewalk, making travelling around there such a breeze.

During my lap of the airport, I came across two things in Concourse A – first, was the travelling Snoopy right by the kids’ area. The second was a taco stand. But it was no ordinary taco stand; it was a place called Maui Tacos, and as you’re travelling along the moving sidewalk (which features a British lady informing you that the walkway was moving), there’s a huge map of Hawaii along the wall, showing off surfing spots around the islands.

Strangely, it only included Sunset on the North Shore, and not Waimea, Haliewa, or Pipeline. I’m thinking that was due to space ๐Ÿ˜‰mauitaco

I wound my way back to the end of Concourse G, at gate G22, stopping off at Subway and getting myself something for lunch to enjoy sometime later in the afternoon, probably in Los Angeles. At the gate, and this is something else that is cool, you had a bar set up where you could use some iPads that were put there as a courtesy of the bar (you could order food and drink from there and pay using your credit card).

Eventually, it was time for the ground crew to call our flight for boarding, and we started to make our way into the plane, and to get settled in for our flight to Los Angeles.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, there was something else happening. What happened would completely change the complexion of the day, and I’ll get into how it impacted on my trip next time.

Comfort Suites Milwaukee Airport

For me, this is where the trip began. When we were organizing the trip, I had originally planned to depart out of Milwaukee at around 9AM on Friday, but thanks to some good negotiation with the people at Delta, I was able to get a 7AM flight.

That led to a new wrinkle – how to get to the airport so early, and the idea was hatched to pick up a stay at a hotel the night before. I used Hotwire to get a deal on the Comfort Suites Milwaukee Airport, and I have written a review on Trip Advisor, which I have, for the most part, republished here; just with a couple of more details ๐Ÿ™‚

I stayed at the Comfort Suites while I was on my way out on a trip to Hawaii. It worked out much easier for me to stay overnight in a hotel since my flight was due to leave Milwaukee at 7AM, and I found that the rate for the hotel, and having a family friend take me down to the hotel was a better (and less expensive) option than having to be awake at 3AM to leave my home with a car service.

The room that I was booked into (2062) was a suite with two queen beds, and it had a very simple set-up. When you enter the room, you are presented with the two beds, a large dresser and a flat screen TV.

hotelsleep

Behind that is the bathroom and kitchenette, featuring a microwave, mini fridge and coffee maker. Finally, you have the sitting area, with a second TV, couch and workspace.

hotelsitting

There was also a window there, and in the room that I stayed in, it had a view of the indoor pool and spa, which was fantastic – it also meant that you would not have to worry about any sunlight coming to you as a surprise if you are a later sleeper, or staying in the summer when sunrise can be as early as 5:30 AM.

hotelpool

One thing that I have seen mentioned in other reviews is the charge for the use of a safe in the room. I was aware of the charge already (which can be removed by simply asking at the end of your stay) thanks to the reviews. However,ย  travellers who may not have read reviews on TripAdvisor are made aware of the charge for the safe on the check-in paperwork that you sign off on prior to receiving your room key. One other thing that I arranged for right away was a booking on the free shuttle that runs at :10 and :40 past each hour.

After getting myself settled in to the room, I headed down to the bar in the hotel to check out the happy hour that was mentioned (which you get a card for at check-in), along with the prospect of pizza being available for a dinner. When I got there at around 6PM, there were a couple of people in there enjoying the complimentary beverages (Miller Lite was the beer on tap, along with house wine and soda). While there was not any pizza there at that time, there were pretzels laid out on each of the tables.

I waited for around half an hour or so in hopes that the pizza would appear. Ultimately, I decided to head out into the rain and walked over to Subway to buy dinner, along with stopping at Speedway to pick up a bottle of water. There’s also a McDonald’s at the same corner, but I wasn’t interested in it. I then came back to my room and had my dinner.

I then went into the pool and enjoyed the spa and pool area, swimming a couple of laps of the pool, then spending time in the spa. I also played some of the games in the game center, which was a good way of spending a couple of minutes, even though some of the machines seem to be a bit out of maintenance, which is a disappointment.

While on the way to the pool, I went back through the pub (which I will mention was quite poorly lit, even for a “pub” atmosphere), and found that a single pepperoni pizza had been delivered sometime around 7:00-7:30 PM.

After that, it was time for me to (try to, but ultimately fail) go to sleep. I will note that it was due to me not wanting to oversleep and miss my flight, as the bed was very comfortable and I was glad to have the choice of soft or firm pillows available to me.

One item that I had seen touted on their website is that the rooms are more “tech friendly” with USB ports available. I was disappointed to find that all of the available power outlets were in the kitchenette, bathroom, and seating area of the suite, and not a single USB port available in my particular room. This could be an issue if you like to plug your devices in near to your bed and have them set to play an alarm, especially if you’re needing to get up at 4:30 AM for your 5:10 AM shuttle to the airport.

toiletOne other thing about the room was that the toilet seat was cracked. While that did not prevent me from using the toilet, it did make the experience unnerving since I did not know if the rest of the seat would hold. When I spotted it, I did make a call to the front desk, and they did assure me that the issue would be resolved in the morning when maintenance came in.

A final item about when I checked out (which was easy with the gentleman who was there doing the overnight shift) – I was very pleasantly surprised to see that there was a box on the front counter with a number of bags in it, offering a small breakfast treat for those who, like me, were getting up too early to enjoy the full breakfast the hotel offers.

hotel breakfast

In the bag was a granola bar, an apple, and a bottle of water, all of which I did enjoy having as a nice treat which came as a surprise to me.

Overall, the Comfort Inn is certainly a hotel that I would stay at again if I were needing to stay overnight close to the airport prior to heading out on a very early flight on my own, and not wanting to use the at-airport parking. It’s also a great option for anyone staying for a longer time in the Milwaukee area, as you find that while you are not immediately close to downtown, it’s only about a 10-15 minute drive, and you can certainly pick up public transportation into the central city.

Up next for me: going through the recombobulation area at Milwaukee Airport, and on my way to Honolulu. It was dark then, and I was expecting it to just be hitting sunset when I arrived.