A great thing about going to a new place is having a local show you some of the hidden gems.  Even though a med school student doesn’t get out much, she knew a perfect place to take us for our last night in town.  This spot is not very well known and you would pass by it during the day and not even think twice about stopping.  The name of the restaurant is Bacchanal and they have a very unique concept of operation that I am surprised has not spread around the States.

Taken from their website, this is all you’ll see at 600 Poland St.  No big signs, if you didn’t know to go here, you would have a very hard time finding it.  It is located in a residential neighborhood that is sort of an artists’ colony in New Orleans.  I guess that’s why they don’t mind the nightly music which travels throughout the neighborhood.


The first thing you see when you walk in is that you’re in the middle of a small wine shop.  They also have cheese and some cold cuts for sale.

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Here is where this gets brilliant.  You select one or more bottles of wine, some cheese and meats if you like and then take it to the counter to pay.  After paying they give you a number and direct you to the back of the house.  They take all that you have bought and will then plate the assortment and add in bread, some added “fixins” like gherkins and orange marmalade and then meet you out back.  The way out to the back is going through a little portal and then finding yourself in the house’s backyard which is full of tables and stand bars with a stage at the far end which has a jazz band playing.  There is also a stairway to an upstairs and that is where the band plays in inclement weather.

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The food you purchased is then brought as shown below, but if you want hot dishes you can order from the waiter.  My wife and daughter got a bowl of mussels and some other seafood that they raved about.  I simply enjoyed the wine and cheese.


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We first heard a French band Harmonouche playing kind of folk music in French and then a second band came on that was more traditional New Orleans jazz.  Both were fun to listen to.  One thing about New Orleans is that they have a wide variety of music styles.  Closing time is midnight, although us old folks didn’t stay to the end.

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So now you have a great little secret to share with your friends or check out yourself next time you are in NOLA.

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Continuing on our adventures over the Thanksgiving weekend in New Orleans.  Our daughter lives in the Garden District, one of the better suburbs of New Orleans.  She thought we would enjoy a morning walk around to view some of the historical homes.  It is worth noting that you don’t really need a tour guide as so many of the homes contain a historical plaque or marker to explain their background.

The first cool thing we hit was the Commander’s Palace.  This is a historical restaurant that started in 1880.  While we didn’t eat there, my daughter says she has and a great turtle soup there.  The address is 1403 Washington Ave.


Right across from the Commanders Palace is one of New Orleans famous above ground cemeteries.  This one was very old with many of the early names and text in French.  I thought it was kind of neat how entire generations are all buried together in one tomb and they just add plaques, eventually running out of space on the front and going around to the side.  Note the many generations of vets buried in this one tomb.

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Continuing to wander around the neighborhood, there really isn’t a right or wrong way to go as almost all the homes were lovely.  Plus, we were enjoying the 75 degree weather!  This first one has a big sign out front “Our Lady of Perpetual Help”.  A family home that was eventually turned into a charity.


This next one has really interesting cast iron fencing of corn.  Apparently, this was the house of a rich guy from Kentucky and to make his wife less homesick, he made all the fencing look like corn stalks and ears of corn.

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You really see an enormous variety of architecture in the Garden District and almost all the houses are very well maintained.

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Then it was time for some more sightseeing and our daughter took us to Parkway Bakery for Po’Boys.  They were voted the best Po’Boys in New Orleans this year and they didn’t disappoint.

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I had the Stewed Turkey with Gator Sausage Gumbo and my wife had the Shrimp Po’Boy (there were over a dozen large shrimp on the sandwich), while my daughter had their famous Roast Beef Po’ Boy.  Everything was delicious, but be prepared to stand in line.  It took us an hour to get served here and the line was just as long at 2:30 when we left.

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After coming out to find a flat tire on my daughter’s SUV, we finally made it over to the National World War Two Museum downtown.  We didn’t have a s much time as I would have liked due to the delay, but still saw a lot of the museum.  Really nice exhibits that were mostly interactive and entertaining.  That should be a must-do on your list if you visit this town.

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Continuing on from yesterday’s post.  We started our exploration by walking down towards the French Quarter along N. Peters St.  Of course, the wife wanted to have beignets for breakfast.  The walk there was very pleasant at 75 degrees F and a nice warm up from D.C.  I was impressed at all the renovation of the original structure that had taken place and was still going on to some extent.  We stopped right across from Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral (#2 spot to visit in NOLA according to Trip Advisor).


However, after seeing the line at the famous Café Dumond, we elected to get some at a place that was a block away. The New Orleans Famous Beignets and Coffee.  It is right next to the Jax Brewery and across the street from Jackson Square.  The beignets there are a little larger than Café Dumond’s and they have a peach-filled variety that was spectacular.  Didn’t try the Pigs in a Blanket, but sounds like a good choice for lunch.

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Continuing down Peters St. has you passing by many tourist-oriented shops.  We found the home of the Muffaletta.  If you are not familiar with that sandwich, the unique thing is it has an olive-based spread over a thick bread and then you can have a variety of meats in it.  Unfortunately, this was Friday after Thanksgiving and the store was closed.

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After about four blocks, the street ends right after the golden statue of Joan of Arc.  Why is there a statue of Joan of Arc in New Orleans?  Who knows?  Ask the French.  However, right after the statue is the Market Café which was doing a bustling business.  They were advertising a $10.95 buffet breakfast so another good choice.  The live jazz band would have been nice to enjoy.

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We saved the true French Quarter visit for that night, so more on that tomorrow.


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For a change this year, we went to see our daughter for Thanksgiving instead of her coming home.  Part of the motivation was for us to come see New Orleans where we had never spent time despite this being her third year at Tulane.  The other being that as a third-year med school student, she really didn’t have the time to spend traveling to us.  For 55,000 American miles each we got a direct flight there and First Class on the way home.

Lot’s of hotels to choose from in New Orleans since it is such a tourist town.  I am on a quest to get 30 stays at Hilton to reup my Diamond status which I had received from matching my Marriott Platinum status last Jan.  I have to say Diamond is pretty nice, usually resulting in an upgrade wherever I go.  Even with Hilton, there were half a dozen hotels just in the downtown area.  I choose the Doubletree that was near everything, but not on the water or in the French Quarter.  I saved about $100/night by choosing to stay a few blocks away – well worth it.  The hotel is right along S. Peters and adjacent to Canal Street, which is equivalent to the Vegas Strip for New Orleans.  However, we were not bothered by the noise or lights of Canal St.


The room was nice, but pretty much what you would expect from a Doubletree.  The bed was pretty comfortable.

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One thing I did really like was the mini-fridge.  It was a real fridge, unlike the college dorm room version that you typically find and could keep stuff pretty cold.


As usual, we received the Gold/ Diamond benefit of free breakfast during our stay.


Although the breakfast was nothing to write home about.


The views at night from the hotel were great and you can see on the left that we were right across from the Harrah’s Casino.  I got my wife out of there with a net loss of only $3.25 which counts as a win in my book.

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One little weird thing that was strange is that the property is on a triangular piece of land with the point on Canal St.  That is where the original hotel entrance was, but now they have turned it into a Pinkberry yogurt place.  They left the original Doubletree sign which I thought was a little weird.  The actual entrance is now into the main building off of S. Peters.  One other note, if you simply follow Peters St., which become N. Peters after crossing Canal St., you will be led right to the best of the tourist locations, including the French Quarter.



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An unbelievable response to our little post.  Three times the requests we had for the United upgrades – go figure!

The winners are:


Sean L.






Elizabeth H.

You’ll note that this totals more than the six we had available.  But with this great response, I dipped into the pile of upgrades the wife and I have for 2017 (we have eight each so no worries).  I  also sent one to a respondent who had a compelling story.  Good luck and enjoy.  If any of the winners end up unable to use their upgrades, please let me know and I will draw another name from the list.


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OK, gang, my wife and I have six Guest Gold Upgrades getting ready to expire on 31 Dec.  These upgrade instruments for Alaska Air are easier to use than the upgrades on United.  However, you still have to know what you are doing.

If you already have a reservation on AS, go to your “Trips” tab to see your reservations.  At the top, you will see a link to hit to apply a Gold Guest Upgrade.


It will tell you if you can instantly apply the upgrade.  If not, you can try to apply it a day before your flight by calling reservations, hoping that they released “U” space.  However, I would not say the odds are good as they have likely given the upgrades away to elites by then.  But you could try…

If you want to look for a fare that can instantly apply the upgrade, you need to click the radio button for “Gold Guest Upgrade” in the left column of the results page.  In the example below, note after each leg of a flight there is a box with “F” in it.  If it is colored in, that flight can be upgraded, if not, no upgrade available.  Note that one upgrade certificate can upgrade a whole flight.  In the example below, the last flight could get both legs upgraded, but all the others would only have one leg upgraded.


We have six upgrades to give away.  Same rules as last week – make a comment below and I will randomly pick the winners.  I’ll give people today and tomorrow to comment.  Good Luck!


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Thanks for those who entered the contest last week.  Fortunately, we had plenty to go around.  Here is the list without showing their whole email:


Justin – GPU

Billie – RPU

Nina – RPU

Eric – GP

Deb – GPU

Sorry to those of you wanting to upgrade an award ticket or wanting to fly after 31 Jan.  These won’t work for that, but you have my thanks for reading this blog.

More upgrades coming tomorrow.

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It’s that time of year for our annual list of Veterans’ Day deals.  Hope you have the chance to get a free meal or a great discount.  Here is this year’s list:

    1. Red Robin:  They get first mention because they emailed me directly to tout their deal for us.

      Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews Salutes Military with Free Tavern Double Burger and Bottomless Steak Fries on Veterans Day

      The Gourmet Burger Authority™ to Donate $10,000 to USO in Honor of Those Who Serveredrobin

    2. UNO Pizzeria has a good deal too (and I love their Chicago style pizza).  They will give you a free entrée or individual pizza.
    3. unoDon’t forget Chipotle.  They are offering a BOGO (Buy One, Get One free) on burritos and most of their items, Stop by Chipotle with your U.S. military ID on Friday, November 11th, from 3pm-close so you can receive A BUY-ONE/GET-ONE FREE BURRITO, BOWL, SALAD OR ORDER OF TACOS as a small (foil-wrapped) token of thanks for your service. e5bcfd03-33ef-4b07-9650-b70a905d82a3

I just highlighted my favorites, but here is the complete list:

2015 List of Confirmed Restaurants (last updated 11/3/15)

Buy 1 Get 1 Free, Veterans Day Offers

FREE Meals from 2014


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We are celebrating Veterans’ Day week by extending all of you a generous offer from our reader, Dave.  He has five (5) Regional Premier Upgrades (RPUs) and six (6) Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs) on United that expire 31 Jan. 2017 that he would like to give away to a deserving military member or their family!  Having done this before out of my personal stash when I used to be a 1K, I know people do not always understand the restrictions on using these upgrades.  Nothing is ever simple in the frequent flyer world…

RPUs: These upgrades are good for any fare as long as the flight stays within Central or North America.  There is an exception for some flights outside of this, such as Guam to Manila, but these are rare exceptions that I am not going to detail.

GPUs: These are for international travel, but have significant restriction on what fare class you can apply them to.  From the UA page: Global Premier Upgrades are not available on flights booked in fare classes Z, P, S, T, K, L, G or N. Meaning that you can’t use them on the cheapest fares.  Even cheap First or Business Class.

The United Upgrade page has the details.  Here is the chart:



Bottom line is to please make sure that you have an eligible fare class before getting one of these upgrades.  The eligible fare can be quite higher than the lowest fare and there is no guarantee that your upgrade will clear.  Just want to get that warning out front so you know what you are getting into with the GPUs.

Here’s how we will do this.  Make a comment to this post and what you want – either RPU or GPU.  I will randomly pick the winners on Veterans’ Day and send your email to Dave.  He will then contact you and get your last name and Record Locator in order to apply the upgrade instrument.

Good luck and let me be the first to say “Thanks for thinking of the military Dave!”

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You definitely will not lack for good food in Costa Rica!  Like many cultures, the one traditional joy you can bring is serving good food.  Of course, the setting for that food matters almost as much as the taste.  We dined at the veranda of the hotel with steak as good as you could find anywhere.

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And if you are staying at the San Jose Marriott, I recommend the café near the end of the resort.  $10 platinum breakfast covers most of the price.

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Really nice weather to have breakfast outdoors.  The only hitch is that we had to deal with a fine layer of volcanic ash which the staff were busy cleaning up every morning.  It coated everything, but didn’t really bother me – I can’t say the same for my “clean freak” wife.  Hey, we Army guys are just glad when there’s no dirt in our food!

For some reason, my wife, Eloisa really enjoyed posing in the adjacent garden.  Hey, if Daraius can put pictures of his wife, Emily,  in every shot, so can I.


So, I have to relate a funny story at this point.  See that croissant?  It is a strawberry croissant, which we both thought was spectacular, especially warmed.   Apparently, strawberries are a key crop of Costa Rica and the waiter let us know he was from that area.  My wife, was so impressed with the pineapple we had as our platinum gift, that she raved to the waited about it and said they should make a pineapple croissant.    Between my wife’s Filipino accented English and the waiter’s English somehow this got mis-construed.  Later that afternoon, we had a knock on our door and were surprised by two gentlemen wearing chef’s hats.  The head chef had come to our room to apologize for the breakfast that morning and had personally baked two mini pineapple upside-down cakes for us!  I assured him there was nothing wrong with the breakfast, but also didn’t turn down the extra desert!  Lost in translation, as they say…

Out on the town, there is nothing but more good food.  If you want to eat authentic and cheap, go to the Central Market.  It is all enclosed, so no need to worry about the afternoon downpours, and they smartly spread the food establishments all over the market so no two are together.  This means the “fragrant” smells can’t cluster in one area and overwhelm the passerby.  If you have been to a third-world market, you know what I mean.

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The first picture above is of a cheese and flour tortilla that was simply fantastic.  They also had a similar one made with egg, sort of like an omelette.  The second picture is a little fuzzy, but it is a coffee roaster.   I have to confess, I am not a coffee drinker, but my wife is and she thought this was the best coffee she had ever smelled or tasted.  Needless to say, Costa Rica – great coffee and bringing back whole beans is one of the easiest gift choices to make.  IT was $5 per quarter kilo, so not cheap (I think), but a great gift nonetheless.

Lastly, our tour guide gave us a lunch recommendation for a place called Spoons.  It is a chain, but even so, I thought it was great.  I got the chicken with rice and black beans and my wife got the same except pork belly, both for less than $20.

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There was a little problem in speaking only high school Spanish, but it all worked out well in the end.  The main problem is that they look at my Filipino wife and automatically start talking high-speed Spanish, but she doesn’t know any more than “Hola”.  It all works out OK when you get them to stop and have a chance to say “Soy esta Pilipino”!

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I had a Marriott Free Night Certificate ready to expire so choosing that chain to get a hotel in for our first visit to San Jose, Costa Rica was a given.  Plus, as a Platinum, I wanted to get the benefits of status.  They have properties all over Costa Rica, and while the properties on the coast looked fantastic, this was a short stay of two days.  Plus, we really wanted to check out the capital.  In San Jose, they have properties right at the airport SJO and properties right in downtown San Jose.  We chose the compromise of the San Jose Marriott since it was hallway between the airport and downtown.  I find a full property, whether it be Marriott, Hilton, or whatever, gives a better experience as long as you could afford it.  Fortunately, the Marriott was about the same price as most of the other properties, except for the airport one, but who wants to stay at an airport hotel on vacation?

Getting to the hotel from the airport was easy with a $15 shuttle ride being arranged for.  I initially thought it was $15 each, for the wife and I, but apparently $15 goes a long way in a country like Costa Rica and that was the total charge, although I did tip the driver anyway.  One great thing about Costa Rica is that the dollar is the unofficial currency, just like Panama, and so there is no need to change money.

The hotel was very much like a resort without that ridiculous resort fee so many charge.


AS many of you know, I am an engineer by trade.  And our natural enemies are architects.  However, in this case I am forced to give kudos to the guys who designed this place.  Really amazing architecture as you can see from the pictures below.

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The room was pretty great.  I didn’t get a shot of the bed, but the bathroom and coffee nook was good.  I also show the Platinum gift of a full, yes full, bottle of wine and a fresh fruit plate.  The view was awesome too with the pool and the golf course in full view.

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Although we went at the end of September, this would be a great winter destination with the golf course and pool.  More to follow on dining there.

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