Tag Archives: phoenix

How the other half travels – BA FIRST Class review

First Class and Business Class air travel is a very expensive luxury, all very well if your company is paying for it, your name is Simon Cowell or Victoria Beckham, but for most of us, is usually reserved for honeymoon treats or lottery wins,

In my earlier blog  “Why I am in debt to frequent flyer websites” I explained how I had learned how to earn enough airline points to travel in big seats for just the cost of the tax as opposed to the very high fares. I signed up for a British Airways Amex card and use it to buy everything. And every year I build up enough points to earn a “companion voucher” which means that I can buy two posh seats with Airmiles.

This year’s destination was Phoenix, Arizona. I knew that British Airways were installing brand new seats in their FIRST class cabin – the so called “New F”, but the chances of travelling on an updated aircraft was still quite low.

BA First Class Review

Hence why I was utterly delighted to see the aircraft pictured above – the gap between every second window in the nose section tipped me off that this one had the new seats installed.

So I decided to make a little video of the experience. Please click on the picture below to see my BA FIRST Class review, including the lovely “Concorde Room” at Heathrow, fine dining silver service at 35,000 feet, snazzy window blinds and, of course, fully flat seats.

Over to you: What is the most luxurious way you have ever travelled. I would love to see your pictures or videos. Please leave a comment or post a link. If you liked this video please Tweet about it by clicking here.

Other British Airways related blogs:

A Mediterranean oasis in the centre of a bustling city – Royal Palms Hotel Scottsdale

Here’s an authentic Mediterranean themed resort right in the middle of downtown, The Royal Palms Hotel Scottsdale, in the shadow of the stunning Camelback mountain. When you arrive at this resort you leave the city behind and discover a sanctuary of charm, beauty and culture.

royal palms hotel scottsdale

As you enter the property through giant mahogany and iron double doors the atmosphere is that of a lavish private residence. Each hotel room is resplendent in old world charm, many filled with a breathtaking collection of European antiques, tiles and artifacts.

royal palms hotel scottsdale

Strolling around the grounds you can find hidden places to sit by beautiful fountains, or orange groves or in warm meadows. Mediterranean arches, walkways and staircases give this place the feel of a mountain village.

royal palms hotel scottsdale

The sky overhead was constantly blue, and the grounds were alive with the splashes of colour from many flowers and trees.

The very famous T Cook’s restaurant buzzes each evening, its reputation drawing visitors from afar. In truth the service here is a little stilted as if the staff don’t need to go the extra mile for hotel guests because they have so many attending just for the food. Everywhere else in the resort the staff are exceptional. Being able to learn and remember the name of every guest must be a condition of employment here.

Have a cocktail before dinner in the lovely Italian courtyard, served with a smile by Kala, who also seems happy to share interesting stories of Phoenix life. The wine list is extensive and you can have a three glass tasting flight before you settle on a bottle you like. For lighter fare eat at the poolside bar. They serve amazing slow roasted pulled beef with crispy fries and flat breads.

royal palms hotel scottsdale

The Jacuzzi by the pool is hot and strong jets massage away any tension you might have in your muscles. Upstairs above the gym is an open air yoga studio. It was lovely to practice here with a cool breeze wafting down from the Camelback mountain.

Afterwards spend an afternoon in the Alvadora Spa, worth a visit simply for the steam rooms and plunge pool, or linger for a hot stone deep tissue massage with the smell of orange blossom relaxing your senses.

royal palms hotel scottsdale

Then just lie by the pool, relax with a beer or cocktail and comfort yourself that the city buzzing away literally yards beyond the wall cannot be heard or seen. You may as well be in the middle of nowhere. But if you do get itchy feet, the expansive Fashion Square Mall is only a five minute cab ride away.

Over to you: This is the last of my Phoenix/Scottsdale 2012 blogs. If I was to return where else should I stay? I would love to hear of your visits to this fabulous city and the desert that surrounds it.

Here are some more hotel reviews:

The only thing missing is the sea – Four Seasons Hotel Scottsdale

We grabbed a cab at Phoenix Sky Harbour airport and headed north through Scottsdale for about 30 miles.

The Four Seasons Hotel Scottsdale nestles on the edge of the Sonoran desert. It is surrounded by mountain peaks, statuesque cactuses with many spiky arms reaching for the sky, and rocks and boulders of interesting shapes and sizes. The buildings are authentic to their American Indian origins, decorated in warm reds and oranges. A slight burning smell wafts through the resort from the many blazing chiminea fireplaces.

The view from the sundeck in the cocktail bar literally takes the breath away. 35 miles of unbroken horizon right back down to the Camelback Mountain in downtown. Whilst the resort contains all the amenities that you would find in a normal seaside resort, this amazing vista is more than adequate compensation for the obvious lack of sea.

four seasons hotel scottsdale

The weather was pleasantly hot, never quite rising above 80° each day. Most of the American guests would not appear until after lunch leaving the poolside relatively empty until then. The poolside staff are attentive, but not intrusive, and always happy to help and talk.

four seasons hotel scottsdaleLiv who works there set up our sunbeds each day with fluffy towels and supplied us with an endless supply of Bud Lights, nibbles, sundaes, smoothies and of course lunch. Try the spicy chicken skewers with hot green dip. You need the cold beer to cool your mouth down.

four seasons hotel scottsdaleThe guest rooms are luxurious, the beds gigantic and soft enough to sink into. Fortunately for us we also had that astonishing view down towards the Camelback. A huge shower, a separate bath and double sink filled the bathroom which was suitably replenished daily with a range of lotions and potions. There was even a fireplace in the room should the temperature drop too much, and although not a real log fire, it was a great fake gas one.

Breakfast was in the Mexican themed Crescent Moon restaurant. Isn’t it just fantastic to have breakfast made order? No cold congealed buffet sludge here. Great fresh food cooked as you like it. Eggs over easy. Eggs sunny side  up. Muffins with sharply sour but refreshing grapefruit juice.

The Talavera restaurant was much posher and somewhere to spend a pleasant evening. Although chilly in the evening, the patio has fire-pits which keep you toasted and warm. Fine dining, great steaks, great chicken again with a Mexican and American Indian twist. And what a great bottle of Ravenswood Barricia Zinfandel.

The on-site spa is simply lovely. They have the steamiest steam room I’ve ever seen in any spa anywhere in the world.

I can’t fault the service in this resort, always efficient and delivered with a smile, especially the concierge who keeps you fully updated on all arrangements they make. There is golf nearby with two 18-hole courses. If you want to see the desert on horseback, they’ll arrange for Cave Creek Outfitters (here’s a review of a desert horseback riding trip) to come and collect you.

four seasons hotel scottsdaleYou can walk to Pinnacle Peak Park and take a gentle pleasant hike of about 4 miles up to a summit another fifteen hundred foot above the resort. From here again the views are stunning. You can see 50 miles in every direction and the peaks merge into the horizon and into the light wispy clouds which gather as the sun goes down.

four seasons hotel scottsdale

Over to you: I love this part of the world.Have you ever been? Do you live there or do you visit? Please leave a comment and let me know.

Here are some more hotel reviews:

Desert horseback rides – the best way to see such stunning scenery

Her name was Kate. She had very strong but slender legs. And she loved it when I jumped on top of her and rode her hard for nearly three hours.

desert horseback rides

Before you get too excited I need to tell you that Kate was a horse. The part about the legs is true but for hard riding think more like gentle cantering with the occasional acceleration into a half hearted trot. In fact Kate was my patient steed on a lovely ride through the sun soaked Sonoran desert slightly north of Phoenix Arizona.

Todd Masden has been running Cave Creek Outfitters since 1993. He picked us up from the hotel and whisked us from the Four Seasons Hotel’s fake western surroundings into the reality of an authentic cowboy ranch. They won’t take your money until after the ride, “Only survivors pay,” Todd announced. You might have a moment of doubt when you sign the disclaimer, but Jed’s collection of ranch bred and rescue horses are very used to the unsure holiday rider.

Kate was a beautiful choice for my desert horseback ride

Once in the saddle, hands on the reigns and feet in the stirrups we ambled out into the desert stirring up a little dust in our wake. It was only 9am but the February sun, still winter even in the desert, was already a pleasantly hot 78 degrees.  Jack rabbits with ears longer than their bodies dashed excitedly across our path, and white cotton tailed bunnies sprinted from rock to rock. All around us the giant, majestic, statuesque Saguaro cactuses pointed their many spined arms up towards the cloudless blue sky. Incredible to think that some of these are over a thousand years old – having existed for twice as long as the whole history of the USA.

desert horseback rides

Kate was easy to control.  A little tug on the reigns would change her direction. She knew where she was going anyway.  Occasionally a little nudge with my heels would encourage a trot. But I am inexperienced in horseback riding and I often mistimed my bounce mid-trot. It can be painful. I should have worn thicker pants.

We ascended hills, ambled through rocky outcrops, and skirted around even more vicious looking cactuses. An occasional owl soared overhead, chipmunks darted for cover, and hawks circled looking for prey. We missed seeing the deer and bobcats which our guide assured us had been sighted by earlier riders.

desert horseback rides

Two hours in and my legs were screaming and my lower back beginning to ache. Nothing a little Yoga stretching wouldn’t cure though. Kate returned me safely to the ranch where Todd waited with water and transport home. “You’ve seen the desert the way it’s meant to me seen. From the back of a good horse,” he said as we left cowboy country behind knowing that one day we wanted to return for more.

desert horseback rides

Over to you: Please add a comment and tell me about your own experiences on horseback. Where do you go riding? Where is your favourite location to get into the saddle?