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Quick Trip to check a box off my 'B' bucket list

Quick Trip to check a box off my 'B' bucket list

Old Feb 10th, 2024, 11:58 AM
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Quick Trip to check a box off my 'B' bucket list

As I've posted before I have a major bucket list I've been working on for years (Machu Picchu, flying 1st class TATL and TPAC, Bay of Fundy, certain Michelin 3✯✯✯ restaurants, some of the 'stans' along the Silk Route, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, NCAA Final Four, etc) and have been lucky enough to check off maybe 2/3 of the list so far - and a bucket list of fairly minor things that would be fun to do.

One of these 'B-string' check boxes was staying at the TWA hotel at JFK. It is the old Eero Saarinen designed TWA terminal at JFK that has been converted to a mid century modern / sorta camp hotel. It is a must for AV geeks, but for me it was more for the architecture, 60's vibe, the cocktail lounge in a 1958 Lockheed Constellation - called 'Connie' of course, old cars, - stuff like that. . Figured I'd fit it in sometime on a layover en route to Europe or maybe go through JFK on my way to New England - but have not fit it in . . . until last weekend.

Found a cheap R-T 1st class fare SMF > PHX > JFK leaving early Saturday morning and gettin in to JFK about 4PM, and a ugh return of JFK > BOS > PHX > SMF leaving 1-ish Sunday afternoon (AA calls it 'First Class' but its really domestic business just a step above Economy+). Flagship 1st ( the REAL trans con 1st class with beds was something like 4,000 bleedin' dollars (YIKES!) but this down market 1st was barely over $400.

A Saturday night stay at the TWA hotel in a slightly upgraded room with views of the terminal was $298. But after the six (yes SIX) NY State and NYC taxes and fees plus the one small hotel add on - the total bill would be $368.

So off I went Slight / almost major hiccup on Saturday morning. Flight out of SMF was a 0600 and I had not been able to check in from home on either the app or website. No worries -- there is no traffic in Sacramento at 0400 on Sat mornings, and the parking garage is directly across the road from the AA check in desks. So off I go. Get to the airport in plenty of time and going inside I see there are 3 parties in the Premium check in line. I hesitated to use the kiosks because if they also wouldn't check me in I'd have to get back in the check in line and it was growing. So to the queue I went. Well the two women and toddler at the desk must have had big problems - OR - the agent was totally incompetent (I suspect the latter ) 20 minutes and her going back and forth between two computer terminals later she finally printed off their luggage tags and called up the next passengers. Look at my watch - 10 minutes to cut off but I'm optimistic. By now there are 8 parties in the queue. I get to the agent exactly ONE MINUTE late and she says no go! The gate has already given my seat away. I argue a bit - knowing it is fruitless but gave it a try. She said my flight was totally booked so no seats even in coach. She re-booked on a flight 4 hours later that would not get me to JFK until nearly 11PM!

I grumped up the escalator, was through security in seconds and went to the gate just on spec. The angels there said no problem, there is one seat left - its a middle seat in a coach exit row and I could have kissed them Short flight SMF > PHX and even a middle seat is fine - plus being an exit row it wasn't actually crowded. (Why the check in agent couldn't have given me the same seat - who knows?? ). They trashed my boarding passes, printed me two new ones including my original '1st'/Business seat on the PHX > JFK flight and I sashayed on the plane. Only very teensy glitch -- because my original itinerary was cancelled so was my pre-selected meal on the PHX > JFK. But in the scheme of things not a biggie - got my 2nd choice so I didn't starve.

A huge storm was headed towards the West Coast but it hadn't hit yet and the flight was smooth as can be. Had maybe 45 minutes in the PHX Admirals Club then boarded the flight to JFK. Was mostly smooth and we arrived a bit early. I went directly to the Admirals Club in Terminal 5 and got my Sunday boarding passes printed, then took the AirTrain to Jet Blue's Terminal 5 and walked maybe 7-ish minutes to the hotel (would have been an easier walk but there is masses of construction going on a JFK so a few detours on the way)

Checked in and I mentioned the b-list thingy and the desk agent said I might want to leave my overnight bag with her since Connie would be closing for a private event so If I wanted to visit her it would have to be right now. So that's what I did - left my bag and went to the static plane and up the stairs into a 1960's cocktail Lounge right out of a Matt Helms spoof -- or maybe more like Austin Powers

More about the hotel when I finish this later . . .
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Old Feb 10th, 2024, 01:53 PM
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Janisj,
What a fun thing, love that you are doing it, and looking forward to the rest of your trip. Sometimes these little Bucket list trips are the best because they are so focused. We did a three day trip to hear Jimmy Carter teach Sunday School (see his boyhood home, etc.) and a two day trip to see Falling Water. Both are sharp and wonderful memories. I hope this one is for you as well.
I have a special interest in the terminal. Many years ago, in a course on the history of American architecture, I did a big research paper on Eero Saarinen, and visited several of his buildings. I had been to the TWA terminal before, went to see it again, and later had a layover there on route to Germany. I also went up in the Arch in St Louis and to Dulles. I have been through Dulles several times since and the arch is unique, but the TWA terminal is an iconic example of Saarinen’s philosophy. I am so glad it has been preserved in some form. I was worried that structural issues would force it being demolished. Is this a permanent transformation?
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Old Feb 10th, 2024, 03:57 PM
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" Is this a permanent transformation?"

Yes -- it is a permanent hotel.

I didn't take a lot of photos -- mostly I was eating and drinking . . . and sleeping.

But here are a few:


This is the orientation map they hand out





Connie the Cocktail Lounge



Inside Connie. You can go into the cockpit and sit at the controls but tere was a queue waiting so I didn't 🙁



The big central sunken lounge areas



The Arrivals/Departures sign continually rotates through flights to exotic places, cute sayings, and TWA ads



Eero's Office



Lordy - I even remember those things



A 1960's livingroom


Scattered around inside and out front were lots of old cars -- a teensy Izetta, suicide doors Lincoln, old sports cars, VW camper van, etc, as well as cabin crew and flight crew uniforms through the years, Howard Hughes' office . . . and lots and lots and lots of nostalgic photos of 50's 60's celebrities and planes.
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Old Feb 10th, 2024, 04:56 PM
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The pics of beauty shop and living room are priceless. Thank you for posting.
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Old Feb 10th, 2024, 09:30 PM
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Very cool! You sure do have fun travels!
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Old Feb 11th, 2024, 04:43 AM
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What a fun time!
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Old Feb 11th, 2024, 07:55 AM
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I'll finish up about the hotel and my trip home this evening -- in between I have to get my game face on to help the Ninersovercome Mahomes . . . 🏈
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Old Feb 12th, 2024, 04:41 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj
I'll finish up about the hotel and my trip home this evening -- in between I have to get my game face on to help the Ninersovercome Mahomes . . . 🏈
Sadly, your game face didn't do the trick.
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Old Feb 12th, 2024, 08:29 AM
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Without all the stupid penalties in the first quarter we would have been up at least 20 points and Mahomes heroics wouldn't have mattered

I actually didn't watch the overtime after we made the field goal since I assumed we were going to lose (did listen to the OT on the radio). - Electing to take the ball first with the current NFL OT rules is a bad ides but the 9er defense was pretty much fried after the Chiefs' final looooong drive in regulation so Shanahan really didn't have a choice.

I'll finish up the TR when I can see through my tears
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Old Feb 13th, 2024, 08:32 AM
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Love your photos. We made sure to stay at the TWA hotel which is so full of memories. Would happily return there!
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Old Feb 13th, 2024, 10:07 PM
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I toured all around the first two floors of the hotel -- remember this was an airline terminal so there are some loooooong walks and hallways - but they make it really entertaining with all the exhibits/facsimile rooms/cars/uniforms/old photos/etc. I spent some time in the sunken lounge -- It is so 60's I actually ordered a Grasshopper. Yessss I did! That was the first alcoholic drink I ever tasted on a Christmas Eve when I was about 12 or 13. OMG -- did we really drink those things?? A few sips in and I ordered a Martini. Much better

Most of the special cocktails have air travel names -- like Jet Fuel, Flotation Device, Whiskey Charlie, Mile High - you get the idea.

Then I went up on the mezzanine to the Paris Café - they were quite busy but I got a seat at the bar which was actually comfortable. I'm pretty short and hate eating at bar and having to climb on a bar stool. But this bar was not much taller than table height and the 'stools' are comfortable bar chairs. Had a very nice grilled salmon served with caramelized heritage carrots and lemon-leek emulsion and a glass of chardonnay.

Then went to the Food Hall and bought a croissant and juice to eat in my room in the morning and went back to the sunken Lounge for a nightcap - a decaf Irish coffee which also served as dessert Slept like a baby.

My flight wasn't til 1:30 so I slept in til maybe 9AM and had my juice/pastry, and eventually wandered over to T-5 and the AirTrain on to T-8 where I ate and drank in the Admirals Club for about 2 hours. I booked this weird JFK > BOS > PHX > SMF itinerary on purpose -- I do enjoy flying but that is a lot of air time even for me - but adding in the BOS flight reduced the total fare by almost half.

Its a good thing I ate at JFK because this has to have been the least efficient cabin crew I've ever experienced. Its a teensy 16 seat first class cabin - andf it took them more than an hour to get the first drink service out and then we were literally over Kansas before the first food came out. Our flight attendant would wait on one person at a time and make 4 trips to each person 1) drink order 2) deliver drink 3) food order 4) deliver food -- and there would be 20-30 minutes between visits 3 and 4. I am not exaggerating -- after about half the food orders had been taken (three hours into the flight) two of the FAs from the back of the plane came up and took over the service and we never saw the 1st FA again until she started preparing the cabin for landing. Maybe she was ill or something but it was the weirdest service.

I ended up not taking my main course because we were over New Mexico and I figured I could get a better meal at the PHX Admirals Club. But one thing about the flight was great -- my seat mate was the most interesting guy. Originally a farm boy from the Forest of Dean (in SW Gloucestershire and someplace I'm very familiar with) and we have been to many of the same places and attended some of the same events (British Grand Prix, Chelsea Flower Show, the Savoy). He moved to Boston decades ago and when they retired he and his wife moved to outside Scottsdale. He was returning from a major international bridge conference and tournament (the card game not the river crossing) in the Bahamas. We talked and talked and talked some more. And when we got to PHX he stuck with me until we found an Arr/Dep display board to see where my gate was and then he had to run because his car service was waiting.

Went to the AC and had something to eat - don't actually remember what at this point -- but probably soup and salads and cornbread. There was a really major storm over California (an atmospheric river they call it) with gale force winds etc, and the flight was quite bumpy over the Sierra and up the foothills but we landed back at SMF about 5 mins early. All the way up from PHX I'd been working out what route to drive home if trees were down or roads flooded - Even though I live only about 25 miles from the airport I was even considering staying at a hotel near the airport if it was too stormy/windy . . . well when we touched down it was almost calm and the tarmac was essentially dry. Had no trouble driving home -- until about 4 miles from home when the skies just opened up with a deluge. Rain and hail so heavy the wipers couldn't keep up - luckily I knew exactly where I was and made it home by braille. When I got home it was obvious the power had been off at least a couple of times over the weekend, but other than twigs nothing was down in my yard -- My neighbor's BBQ cover had been picked up and blown over my fence and was half in a tree and half in my fish pond. I was really lucky -- several trees down in the neighborhood including a huge magnolia tree three doors down.



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Old Feb 14th, 2024, 05:26 AM
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Thanks for sharing this report.
Glad you made it home safely.
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Old Feb 19th, 2024, 02:38 AM
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The TWA hotel is on my list as well. Perhaps combined with a flight on Emerites to Milan
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Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 01:11 PM
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Ahhh, the memories your report brought! TWA was the airline that brought us to USA in 1989.
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Old Feb 24th, 2024, 06:57 AM
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My memory of TWA is that it was the first commercial airline that my wife and I flew. My previous flying experience was on Pipers and Cessnas. The plane had spent the night at Harrisburg International (MDT). About 10 of us sat in first class and had OJ served to us on the short flight to Dulles. I do remember seeing Three Mile Island when we took off from MDT. We all had to get off the plane in Dulles with our carry on. We all got back on the plane after the first class passengers were seated. We flew to St. Louis which was TWA's hub for the middle of the US. We had a quick transfer (20 minutes?) to another TWA plane to SFO. We were a little early so the pilot flew us by Yosemite which was the first view of half dome I ever had. I remember the approach to the runway over water. It was a very smooth landing.
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