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August 23, 2015 / oneworld82

A special weekend: Getting engaged in Half Moon Bay (plus JFK-SFO on AA’s A32T in First Class)

Oh boy… here we go.

Thuy and I met about a year ago in Dallas, and ever since it’s been growing love between us. So much so that I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I have never been good at formalizing things and respecting traditions (my bad), because I think that following one’s heart is more important than conventions, but I did want to try to make this one right, to surprise her, to spoil her for our engagement.

I don’t like and I do not mean to bore anyone out here, I just want to write down how that special weekend went so that one day we can look back and read how everything went. Because, let’s face it, that was a pretty magical weekend for us. And as we are expecting a baby (yes!!!), it would be cool if he or she would read how mom and dad got engaged (or at least, we think it would!).

I had spent a fair amount of time planning this weekend – coincidentally, it was July 4th weekend – and everything was made more challenging by the fact that I had been traveling so much for work lately.

On the 2nd of July Thuy and I were to meet in the Bay Area. She flew in from Dallas, while I flew in from NYC, on AA’s A32T (in First Class, nonetheless).

Let me tell you a bit about that flight. I was able to get a seat in what is an amazing plane for a domestic (albeit long) flight. The 1-1 configuration in first class makes it very exclusive and private – and it helps that the seat is the same that AA uses for its 77W fleet in business class.

The flight boarded about one hour late due to some issues with a couple of seats in first class. Once those issues were fixed, first class passengers were invited aboard and I took my seat, 4G.

Flight AA177, JFK-SFO

Airbust 321T, 06:00p – 09:44p

First Class, Seat 4G

AA’s product on this plane is pretty much industry leading in terms of premium cabin. 1-1 configuation in first class with international business class seats, and 2-2 configuration in business class (with lie-flat seats as well). The cabin was 9/10 full.

The seat is exactly the same found on the B77W’s business class: spacious, private, comfortable, with a big TV screen. As I have reviewed this product before, I will not go into too much detail, but I will just say that I can hardly imagine a better way to fly across the US than this.

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A very nice feature of AA’s first class on this flight is the amenity kit – same as the ones provided in international J class. Again, a very nice touch.

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After taking off, food orders were taken for this long domestic flight, and then a pre-dinner round of drinks was offered. I went with the champagne that, albeit not great, was ok with some warm nuts.

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I like the fact that AA now offers champagne in flute glasses and not in the steemless cups anymore.

The table was promptly set about 15 minutes after the nuts were served, and dinner started. As appetizer, I chose the salmon dip, served with toasted baguette. It was actually very good.

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Afterwards, a salad followed.

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Then, the main course arrived. I usually don’t order fish on planes, but this time I decided to try the hallibut (also because the chicken was already sold out).

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What can I say… this dish was a winner! The fish was moist and flavorful – a rare occurrence on planes. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Next, dessert came – butterscotch sundae for me, please!

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One of the best features of the A32T is an onboard Nespresso machine in premium cabin; that meant I had an espresso to end the meal properly.

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The meal was, in all honesty, very good. In a trend I have noticed in the past few months, AA’s catering has improved quite a bit in its premium cabin – at least domestic long haul and international. The wines and other beverages still aren’t on par with top foreign carriers, but hopefully AA will get there.

After this filling meal I finished watching an Italian masterpiece movie (Rome, Open City directed by Roberto Rossellini) before reclining my seat in bed position and falling asleep until 40 minutes outside of SFO. The cabin got pretty warm at a point, but that happens during most flights (at least to me) unfortunately. The sleep quality in these seats is rather good.

Before landing, warm cookies and fruit were offered, but I skipped as I was still very full from dinner. Also, during the flight snack baskets were left near the first seat row for customers to enjoy. Another nice touch.

The cabin crew was attentive and polite throughout the flight – a good note of this flight as well.

In conclusion, I have to say that the First Class on the A32T is an excellent product – especially since this is a domestic service. It really feels like an international service, a first probably among U.S. carriers. While I wait to try the business class in the same equipment, I have to say “good job” to AA and hope that they will keep out to good work up!

——

Once landed in SFO, I proceeded to Alamo, got my rental through very useful self-service kiosks, and then drove to SJC to pick up Thuy, as her flight was landing there. After picking her up we drove back to Redwood City, where we stayed for the night (it was midnight already) at the Hyatt House.

The hotel was fine – the suites are spacious and well kept, and the hotel felt new. We had breakfast the morning after before leaving – the spread and quality was good, but the place was overcrowded with families.

After filling ourselves up, we then drove to Half Moon Bay on what was a great, sunny summer day. I had chosen Half Moon Bay for this special occasion because I know that the Bay Area – especially on the coast – never gets too hot. And I was right, as we are about to see.

Way to HMB

As soon as you cross the mountain range separating the Bay from the Ocean, the weather cools down to a balmy 70F and the sky becomes misty; it’s quite the sight.

True to its reputation, this stretch of highway 1 between San Francisco and Santa Cruz boasts spectacular views of cliffs, coves, and lighthouses. Moss and low vegetation reign in this part of the World, giving the environment a fascinating semi-desert-like feel.

After a little more than a hour we reached the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, a splendid construction that used to guide fishermen in these rugged waters. Next to the lighthouse lies a nice sandy cove, with seals swimming by. Here I proposed Thuy, and she thankfully said yes! And I said thankfully because I had written a whole proposal, that I had dutifully memorized, only to tear up while proposing to her and forgetting half of it… :-O It was a very special, very emotional moment, that reassured me even more that she really is the one. For all the guys out there: whenever you’ll find THE ONE, you’ll know it! Oh, also, because of the anxiety of the moment, I even forgot to kneel down. #totalfail 😛

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Even though it wasn’t a total surprise, I know I managed to surprise, as she did not know when or how I was going to propose. Mission accomplished 🙂

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As a newly-engaged couple, we took a look around this stunning area and took a few pictures before moving north to the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, where we’d stay for the night.

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We reached the hotel around 11.30a, and we were stunned right away by the gorgeous locale of the hotel, perched on a long, scenic cliff along the coast. We valet-parked the car and proceeded to check-in; our room wasn’t ready yet, but we were offered a couple of glasses of Napa sparkling wine right away. We walked around the property, and then down the coastal trail that led us to a cliff with a gorgeous view of the vast beach underneath.

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The hotel sits on two beautifully-landscaped golf courses, and the grounds in general are beautiful and very well-kept. The resort itself is not too large – a definite plus. The outside courtyard is very nice, very relaxing; we decided to have lunch at the al fresco restaurant overlooking it; I had crab sliders, and Thuy had clam chowder served in a sourdough bowl. Both were good, albeit not exceptional.

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Around 2pm I got a call from the front desk, advising that our room was ready. Given that this was a special occasion, the concierge/front desk had upgraded us to a corner ocean view room on the very top floor of the main building. The room was incredible – junior suite-size, elegant and contemporary (just like I like it!). The ocean view made our stay all the more memorable.

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As peonies are Thuy’s favorite flowers, I had arranged for a bouquet to be delivered to our room before our arrival. I was very glad when we walked in and the flowers were there already.

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The hotel also complimented us with chocolate-covered strawberries.

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Shortly after, Thuy went to the salon for a hair do and make up session, as I had hired a photographer for an engagement session later in the afternoon. She was happy with make up but less so with the hair do, as it didn’t last but a few hours. I checked out the gym, which was well equipped.

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After changing into our clothes, at 6pm we headed to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, a charming place just north of Half Moon Bay that became the perfect background for our photos. Kudos to Daniel Neil – our photographer – for some amazing shots!

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Here are some shots from the photo session:IMG_0259 IMG_0260 IMG_0261 IMG_0262 IMG_0263 IMG_0264 IMG_0265 IMG_0266 IMG_0267 IMG_0268 (thanks :

After the photo session, we headed back to the hotel for a romantic dinner at the hotel’s seafood restaurant – Navio. While the food was good but not memorable, the experience was fantastic, as service and atmosphere were top notch. Here are some pictures from it, including poke, lobster bisque, grilled salmon, and duck.

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After this incredible dining (thanks again to the staff for an incredible evening!), we heded back to our room, where we found a rose petal turndown ready for us.

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After a wonderful night of sleep, we woke up at 6am to a beautiful misty morning, and headed downstairs for a tour of a quiet hotel and then a walk outside.

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After a relaxing morning we bid farewell to this incredible hotel and headed to Sam’s Chowder House for early lunch (mostly because it was July 4th and we did not have a reservation). To our surprise we were seated right away. The place was lively, right by the beach in Half Moon Bay. Service was courteous, and food was excellent – likely the best chowders we had, ever!

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After our wonderful lunch we kept going north, towards San Francisco. The coastline gets really beautiful here – especially at Devil’s slide, a cove surrounded by some dramatic cliffs.

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An old military bunker at the top of the viewpoint only adds to the charm of this incredible spot, only 30 minutes south of San Francisco; and San Fran was our final destination of the weekend, since we were aiming at celebrating Independence Day catching some fireworks by Fisherman Wharf.

For the occasion, we stayed at the Park 55 Hotel, near Union Square. The location was very convenient to all major shopping and to most sights, but the hotel itself was old and dated. Our room was large, but the TV was old and the bathroom was nothing to tell home about.

Mission

Mission

After a stop at Ghirerdelli’s for an amazing ice cream sundae…

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…we took the trolley to Fisherman Wharf, where we spent an hour or so strolling around waiting for fireworks. We had some coffee to keep us warm in a typical, chilly SF night; and we had some good bacon-wrapped hot dogs, before the show started. Everything was great, except for one detail: it was very foggy – so foggy that we could barely see the show. Oh well, that didn’t detract much from the overall experience!

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After a decent night of sleep, we set off to explore more of the city. We walked from the hotel to Union Square, and then up to Chinatown. We attended Mass at the cathedral, and then we headed for lunch to a very good Chinese place.

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Then we walked through Little Italy to the wharf area, which was very lively with musicians and tourists. After some good ol’ Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, we enjoyed some good views over the Golden Gate Bridge, before taking a trolley back to the hotel and, then, driving to the airport for our flight home.

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It was certainly a very special weekend, and I was very happy as everything turned out just as I had planned. Now, Thuy and I were engaged! I can’t think of any more special moment than that.

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