Friday, December 14, 2007

Cafe de Paris, Columbia, MD (Revisited)

Cafe de Paris
8088 Center Park Drive
MD 410 997 3904

Today I visited this restaurant for a quick bite for lunch. They now offer crepes in a little cafe atmosphere. They serve the crepes with a fresh salad, and they are delicious. I had a Shellfish Crepe, and my daughter had mozzarella, tomato, and pesto. Both were served promptly. They were freshly cooked and delicious.

The total bill for the two crepes, a soda water, and tax was under $18. This is a good new addition to Columbia's options at lunch.

For a (rather old) description of my last full dinner at this restaurant, click here.

This is a recommendation.  I paid my own way and do not have any connections, sponsorship, or freebies from Cafe de Paris.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

MAXjet -- The Washington Route (IAD)

Well, I never got to try it!

Almost two years ago, I posted a comment about MAXjet, the airline that was trying to compete on the London to Washington route flying business class-only Boeing 767s. I wondered whether the story would end in "ignominious defeat."

Business class fares on this route have always been really expensive, and I welcomed the idea of a new competitor -- particularly since they offered fares as low as $750! I also liked the idea that you could transfer on to an EasyJet flight since they flew to Stansted rather than Heathrow.

Unfortunately, MAXjet has given up on Washington. But it is hardly ignominious defeat as the airline seems to be thriving on the New York (JFK), Las Vegas (LAS), and Los Angeles (LAX) routes!

So we are left with United, Virgin, and British for our non-stop options. (They all fly into Heathrow.) So how much does it cost? According to Kayak, the site that searches for the cheapest fares, leaving on February 12 and returning one week later), you would pay $3390 on United, $4060 on British, and $4050 on Virgin Atlantic. A lot of money!

The United option is certainly the best deal particularly as they now offer lie-flat seats in Business Class with 15-inch monitors! For a description of United's new and improved Business Class, follow this link. But you should book with caution as these upgrades will not be complete for some time!

Quite often the best (but less reliable) way of getting into Business Class is to buy an Economy ticket and upgrade. I have frequently been offered a $500 upgrade -- sometimes less -- even when I have been holding a really cheap cattle class ticket.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Hampton Inn -- Bloomsburg

Hampton Inn
255 Paper Mill Road
USA 17815

Tel: +1-570-380-1020
Fax: +1-570-380-1035

I have traveled frequently with my old friend and business partner, Dr. A. It seems as if he has a principle that he applies whenever he stays at a hotel: If he doesn't like it, he complains a lot. If he likes it, he complains a little. There is a rumor that hotel owners across the world have him on a watch-out list! I remember him once warning a hotel manager that he was about to instruct the head of travel of the North American division (of our then twenty-eight person) company to blacklist the entire hotel chain and expressly forbid all our (two) sales representatives from staying there!

His usual complaint used to be a lament for the basics. "Just give me a decent bed, a clean room, and an adequate bathroom, and I'll be happy," was his usual cry as we would leave a hotel. Added to his list of basics was a morning banana without which he would growl for the rest of the day.

I used to find this refrain somewhat unconvincing coming from a man whose agonies tend to be making up his mind between the Four Seasons and the Ritz-Carlton. I often used to wonder how the basics would really sit with this Lexus-driving, Perignon-drinking, foie-gras eating consumer of luxury goods and services while listening to his plea for "just the basics" typically made while sitting in Seat 2A on a British Airways transatlantic flight.

Anyway, we spent the better part of this week at a Hampton Inn in Bloomsburg Pennsylvania, and Hampton Inn really is a chain that just gets the basics right with few loftier ambitions or pretensions. And while I had some minor complaints (shower not warm enough, no signs of recognition for a Hilton Diamond member, a room with two queen beds when I really wanted a king, a rather noisy window-situated heating system), Dr. A was ecstatically happy. "Perhaps the tables have turned, and now you are the complainer," he commented as he cheerfully munched his way through his second banana.

To summarize, the Hampton Inn in Bloomsburg is an excellent basic hotel with a few minor flaws. An adequate breakfast is provided by an extremely friendly English server in the morning on, alas, disposable plates.

But for only $114 a night, you can hardly complain! In general, I really do like this chain, and I appreciate being able to get Hilton points when I stay there.

This is an enthusiastic recommendation.  My employer reimbursed me for my expenses. I do not have any connections, sponsorship, or freebies from Hampton Inn or Hilton Hotels except for those associated with my HHonors account.