Thursday, December 22, 2016

And To All a Good Flight....


 
 
The end of the year is always a time for me to collect my thoughts, to reflect back on how far I've come and maybe where I'd like to go next.  The more I travel, even for very short trips, the more I've come to appreciate what these trips and destinations have taught me, and have tried to put them into words.  To close out 2016, I'm giving a shot to putting these mid-flight notes together with some of my favorite travel photos from the year.  So, at the risk of sounding like a fortune cookie, here we go....


Chicago O'Hare
 'If there is a universal language, it's travel.'


Panama City from the skies.
'The wonders of the world are not a thing of the past.' 
 
Cape Cod National Seashore
 'Sometimes solitude is necessary, and is not at all the same as loneliness.' 


View from The Wing, Hong Kong
 'Being able to find familiarity in the foreign is a gift.'

The Red Suite, HND 1st Class
 'Passion for an interest, no matter how unique, is never something that should be apologized for.'
 
Morning Trail, The Peak, HKG
 'The constant feeling that the thing you're searching for might be just ahead is nothing to be worried about.  In fact, it may be the way to keep moving forward.' 


TBIT Pavilion, LAX
 'You can learn something from everyone you meet.  Yes, everyone.'

Hong Kong Harbor
 'In transit, it's best to think of time as an illusion.  Bedtime, doubly so.' 



"The Bean," Chicago
 'There are so many places to go in this world....


Seattle, WA
 ....But don't forget to enjoy the beauty of coming home again.'

 
Best wishes to all, and to all a good flight,
 
~CruisingAltitude 

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Last Mileage Run of 2016- Epilouge: All's Well That Lands Safely

 

I won't lie, 2:30am is really late to finally get into bed after 24 hours of travel time.  Travel time well spent, but 24hrs nonetheless.  I'm well aware it's supremely clich√© to show up late to work after a short night, with Starbucks.  Well I showed up late, with Starbucks. 

Temporary exhaustion aside, I've said I have yet to regret doing a mileage run and this one was definitely no exception. I saw a new city and country, and added to my knowledge of the region.  I endured, adjusted, and rolled with the delays and changes, and strengthened (and probably tested) a friendship.  There are few experiences that can condense both this much stress and euphoria into three days. 

To recap the journey in numbers:

Flights: 5
Plane types: 4
Delayed flights: 2
Airports: 4
Lounges: 5
Glasses of Tattinger: No comment.
Hotels: 2
S. American Sushi Bars: 1
Days: 3
Nights: 2

And 18,956 elite qualifying miles!

You know it's been a good trip when before you even reach the last jetbridge, you're already looking forward to the next adventure.  However, this flight marks my last mileage run of 2016, and all that's left for the year is a quick flight up to Seattle to visit family over the holidays.  The insanity will have to hold off for awhile.  Until February, anyway....

As they say, all's well that ends well.  Thanks for anyone who actually followed along!

Travel well,

~CruisingAltitude





Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Last Mileage Run of 2016 Part 9: Over St. Louis



If you're just tuning in:

Part 1- Famous Last Words

Part 2- So...Yeah...Um...

And now the conclusion....
Well friends another year, another 100,000 miles.  I'm pretty sure I've just about crossed over St. Louis, which by my calculations means I've gotten to my requalification for the year.  It's proved to have been a long day of flying, but that's pretty much what we're going for here.

When we last caught up, our brave mileage runners were landing in JFK, so let's back up a minute and talk about the new JFK Flagship Lounge.  It's only been open a few weeks at most, so I was excited to check it out.  We had about 3 hours, which as it turned out was still not quite enough time to use the lounge entirely.....but that's just how I feel about it.



The space is redone to make the seating more plentiful, and the d√©cor more modern.  It feels like a real first class lounge.  Maybe not as opulent as JAL's Sakura or Qatar's Al Safwa lounges, but probably the best AA has to offer in the US.  It keeps up with BA's and MH's offerings, and beats some of the others, which is an improvement.

 
There's a certain feeling to getting ready to board the last mileage flight of the year.  Just one more jetbridge, one more seat, one more runway, one more takeoff.  You're finally heading home, and delays or no, it looks like you'll get there.  Of course, there's always room for a few more airplane hiccups.  This one was no exception. 

We boarded pretty much on time, even if we personally were a little late to the gate...possibly on account of a completely reasonable amount of free Tattinger on offer at the lounge.  We got safely to our seats, which by a stroke of good luck in routing, were the very comfortable business class on AA's 321-T. 

Then, just as they're finished boarding and preparing to push back...the lights went out.  I don't mean the quick off and on when the plane changes from ground power to regular...it went black, and for awhile.

Let me just illustrate with a real-time photo, shall I?

This is the actual photo I took.  Yes, I took a photo of this.
 
So...um...yeah.
 
This goes on for the better part of a few minutes, then the lights come back up, and the captain announces we have a mechanical issue.  Cue the collective sigh from the cabin.  We then proceed to wait at the gate for more than an hour getting the issue resolved and the sign offs done.  Honestly though, it didn't seem all that long given the rest of the trip.  They weren't seeming shifty about cancellation, so this plane was getting to LAX tonight, dammit. 
 
Update:  And, eventually, it did.  We touched down more than an hour behind schedule, putting us on the gate close to 1am.  Tired, but accomplished, it was finally time to get out of airports and head for home. 
 
In all honesty, if you set out to fly 5 flights to Quito and back in the course of 3 days, including the Northeast in the winter, and you arrive home safely and only one hour late, I think you can feel pretty successful. 
 
Thanks 2016, it's been a trip.  Literally. I've been the equivalent of around the world 4 times, visited new countries, cities, and of course airports.  I've even made some friends along the way.  Can't wait to see what 2017 has in store.  Spoiler alert- it involves more airplanes.
 
Fly Well & Land Safely,
 
~CruisingAltitude
 


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Last Mileage Run of 2016 Part 8: How Did We Get on the Zurich Flight???

Final Approach into MIA
We landed early into Miami, with time enough to hit the Centurion club (yes again, this is how it works) for a shower and massage, before heading out to the next plane to get up to JFK.  The next flight was just one of those flights that seems more entertaining than it should be.  First off, it was an aging 757, however, it was configured for international service, so the Frist cabin was set up with 16 angle-flat seats, rather than the usual 22 recliners.  This was good, however, the lack of an update was showing.  My IFE did this every 10 minutes, and nothing seemed to fix it:



Aside from the service and the destination, how you feel a bout a flight segment generally has to do with the people, or person, sitting next to you.  This one was a real winner.  "Mr. 3F" sat down and immediately started talking loudly on the phone, making sure each person he called knew that he was a- on a plane b- going to New York for some very important meeting, and c- would also be in LA later in the week, presumably for some even more important meetings.  He then took a breather from these calls to aggressively flag down a FA, and insist (twice) that they hang his coat that very instant.  It was at this point that I tried to think of the best way to signal that we weren't together...in any way, shape, or form.

Believe it or not, Mr. 3F wasn't even the most notable passenger in the cabin. 1E had a hair color and style that would have made Cruella DeVil jealous, whilst 3B seemed completely befuddled by the buttons to operate his seat.  He spent a full 15 minutes trying to figure out the 'seat forward' and 'seat back' functions.  Dude.... it's two buttons, and they're well labeled.

Since my IFE was conclusively broken, I pulled out my laptop, and watched some saved shows I have on iTunes.  Mr. 3F then spent the remainder of the flight watching my laptop over my shoulder while he ate his salad.  He didn't even try to hide it....I almost offered my headphone splitters to him...

It was about this time in the flight that I happened to notice that the airplane itself was even having an off night, judging by the monitors in the cabin which appeared to show our final destination as Zurich??


I checked and double checked my memory....but I was pretty sure I hadn't put together THAT good of a mileage running itinerary.  According to 'The Plane" we weren't even making a detour to let passengers off in JFK.

What's unsettling about this is either a- I boarded the wrong flight, or b- the computer system has no clue where we're headed.  The times, and remaining time in the flight screens were likewise completely incorrect.  Since I was in all honestly, reasonably sure the pilots had this in hand, my next thought was how disturbing it is that AA still considers the 757 to be an acceptable choice for TATL flights...

Anyhow, spoiler alert- we did, in fact, touch down in JFK on time, giving us ample time to check out the newly renovated Flagship Lounge (see next post).  Priorities, priorities.

~CruisingAltitude

The Last Mileage Run of 2016 Part 7: Early Returns

Three Boarding Passes at once- Bingo?

How did we get to here?

Parts 4 and 5- Over and Out

Part 6- So..Quito...

There’s nothing like an airport in the morning- full of possibility, adventure….and well, fake smiling at customs agents and sitting in plastic chairs.  Bright and early to catch the morning flight out of UIO back up to MIA.  So long, Quito, it’s been real (short).  Overall, I still am thinking this is a good mileage run city.  It hasn’t done anything to offend me just yet, unless you count the 45min ride from the airport into town.  That I could do without.  But if you’re only in town for a night, there’s a Wyhndam right at the airport that looks vaguely like something that touched down in Area 51.  So, you know, there are options.  There also seem to be some smaller hotel/guest house in the region if you feel like going ‘off brand’ (the horror).


As was the case yesterday, the views from the UIO-MIA flight are definitely worth writing home about.  The flight path starts climbing out of the valley, past mountains, crater lakes, and glaciers, then heads north for a view of the Panama Canal, before making the MIA southern approach over the keys.  It definitely makes that 5am wake up time closer to worth it, I keep telling myself with increasing ferocity.

 

On another but pertinent topic, I have a theory about these crazy trips that at some point in each one you must necessarily hit “the wall.”  It can be to varying degrees, but it always happens.  It’s that moment where you are forced to reflect with a sense of dread upon the life choices that have brought you this far.  'The Wall' this time around probably set in about the time I paid the taxi driver and headed back into the UIO airport at 6am local time...3am at home.
Staying on your home timezone is all well and good, but when you also have an early morning to go with the late night your jetlag requires, it all starts to catch up with you.  Plus, the hotel restaurant was a sushi bar...in Quito... and I just had to experience it.

A great way to get past 'The Wall' - Upgraded 767 lie flat seats.
The good thing is that once you get past 'The Wall,' the euphoria (or oxygen deprivation) of hitting 30,000 feet comes back, and all is well again.  It helps of course if your plane is comfortable enough for a nap, which due to AA's recent upgrading of their older 767s, it definitely was.  Once I could drag myself away from the sights out the window, I slept off the early morning until descent into MIA.

I could seriously fly this flightplan every day. 
3 down, 2 to go....

~CruisingAltitude

Last Mileage Run of 2016 Part 6: So, Quito....





Quito from El Panecillo- The stairs up here take no prisoners, especially at altitude.
Well, it's been an interesting (half)day in this high altitude city.  It's my first time in Quito, and only second time to this general region.  So far, my opinion on this place for the purposes of mileage running is if you're going to do it, either do it well, or very poorly. That's a terrible sentence so let me explain- you either need 2 days or more here to go up into the rainforest to go hiking, or you need about 12 hours to stay at the airport Wyndham to do 'the turn', and get yourself back to MIA. 

From what I've seen, I'd prefer the former.  This place deserves a second look, and I hope I can give it the dignity.  It's set at high altitude (around 9,000ft at the lower points), and the buildings cover much of the valley, and go on up the hillsides in a variety of colors, making for some memorable views.  It also has that feel of a South American city that is trying to grow and modernize without losing it's heritage, and struggling with the concept. 

San Francisco Church and Square
 
 

If you're just here for the day, your first stop should be the 'old town' section of the city.  It has undergone a bit of a renascence, including some effective policing and renovation of the cultural center.  Quito is one of those places where you can enjoy exploring, but you do need to pay attention to your surroundings.  I wouldn't have gone out at night without a guide or a taxi directly to and from a destination.  Daytime felt decently safe, and we did some 'urban' hiking around the steep hills of the city.  If you're particularly ambitious, you can climb the staircase to "El Panecillo," which is a 200-metre-high hill adjacent to Old Town to get some great views of the city below.

Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus 
One thing I couldn't get over is how beautiful the skies were.  It was a treat, especially since every single weather report I found before we went predicted thunderstorms and rain the entire time.  As it turns out, apparently, this is just a thing about Quito.  They always call for rain, and 90% of the time they're wrong.

We stayed at the JW Marriott for the night.  No complaints here, especially given that I actually got a nice upgraded room, which I find is rare at Marriott even for their top level travelers.  It was a comfortable stay, and the executive lounge was well stocked and serviced.  It was a nice place to wind down after the long day of flying in, and exploring the city.

Sunset from the Executive Lounge
As it always goes, the stopovers are short and the flights are early.  Just enough time for a few hours of sleep before heading out again.....

~CruisingAltitude

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Last Mileage Run of 2016 Parts 4 and 5: Over and Out


Sunday, 9am, Miami International Airport:
No, this isn't the MIA airport, but it's the flight to there.  Take what you can get.
The story so far:
Another day, another airport lounge.  I’ve decided Centurion lounges need to multiply.  Yes, they’re head and shoulders above the average Admiral’s Club, they have the food and the cocktails, and the spas, but they also have a chronic lack of seating.  They’re one part four star restaurant, one equal part overcrowded high school cafeteria. 
Anyhow, to catch you up.  I woke up this morning at 6:30 am after a few hours sleep at the Element By Westin (registered trademark) and headed down to catch the shuttle…only to learn they run every half hour, on the half hour….and I’d just missed it.  Story of my life this weekend.

It’s been an interesting impromptu overnight in Miami, complete with a nice dinner out at Bulla in Coral Gables.  It was one of those times when I get reminded that, despite enjoying a good trek around the world in a weekend, I am at a basic level, extremely boring.  To encapsulate, last night the words “will they still be serving at 10pm” came out of my mouth.  And I meant it.
It was good!  Next time you're in MIA, I recommend it.
Spoiler alert- yes, bars and restaurants in Miami on at Saturday do, in fact, remain open past 10pm.  They also have a 45 minute wait for a table. At 10pm.  It made for a late night, but you don’t mileage run to catch up on sleep.  No pain, no gain. 

10 minutes to boarding, the rain is tapering off and there's a rainbow in the sky.  Time to pack up…

~CruisingAltitude




Sunday, 11am, seat 3F:


I’M OKAY NOW!  We’re at Flight Level 31, careening over the Caribbean.  All is well that ends in a surprise upgraded cabin interior.  Yes, that is a sentence that I both wrote AND understood!  I'd heard rumor that AA had been overhauling a select few of their old international 757s and putting in lie-flat seating like they have on their new 321Ts.  As it just so happens, we stumbled upon one of them, and thank God for that.

 
After the misconnect, I'm getting rewarded with one of, if not the most, beautiful flights of my year.  Once we climbed out of the overcast skids around MIA airspace, things have opened up and the views are stunning!  The flight path out of MIA takes you first across the water, including Cuba, and other islands, then goes over Panama, then climbing into the Andes, before dipping down through the valleys of Colombia and Ecuador, into Quito. 
I'm just going to let the pictures do the talking on this one...
 
 
 
 


I think I'll end with strength here.  Seriously, it was a beautiful day to fly. 

Now, to see what Quito is all about...

~CruisingAltitude

The Last Mileage Run of 2016 Part 3: Miami Elemental


So, here we are again friends.  Jet setting, jet lagging.  I can't honestly say it's going poorly, even though for all intents and purposes one could say not much has gone right, but as you will see, that's a vast oversimplification.

We were supposed to be winding our way into downtown Quito in a cab about right now, hoping our driver understood where we needed to go, and further hoping we actually ended up there.  I hear the Andes are lovely this time of year, or something.

Which brings me to the point I should be making about the disconnected nature of mileage running.  It's not about the destination, it's about the journey, and how bizarrely you can route it so it takes forever to get there and back.  So, does it matter all that much that we ended up with one night in Miami, and one in Quito?  Well, yes, but not all that much.  Also, what the heck was I going to do about it really?
I feel like I should have Bingo already.
As it ended up we touched down in MIA a full three hours late.  Didn't even get to play the 'maybe I can make it if we taxi fast and I do my best road runner impression through the D gates.'  I was resigned to my fate, and that always makes it the tiniest bit easier.  Rebooked on the flight for the morning, and promised a hotel accommodation on AA's tab, so once again, roll with it. 

Well, now what?  After a tour of a couple stops at lounges to unwind, we headed out to the hotel.  Now, I should preface this by saying that I've had a recent horrific hotel accommodation story involving family travel, $800 in voucher incentive, a hurricane, and the most depressing timeshare resort I've ever seen.  So, suffice to say, I was a little skeptical. 

Thankfully, the hotel of choice was the Element, which is to the Westin as the Aloft is to the W.  If you followed that, well done.  It wasn't scenic, and came complete with a 7ft security fence surrounding the property, but it was clean and fresh inside, the rooms were ready, and most importantly FREE. 
Element by Westin (TM)

My one criticism, and it turned out to be kinda a big one, is that this hotel doesn't exist.  At least not when the Uber app is concerned.  It took us until the next morning, and about four failed attempts, to sort out what was happening.  So, the moral of the story is- drop your own pin. 

Anyhow, there are moments along the way in any of these trips where it would be so easy after a long day of travel to just hibernate in the hotel, catatonic and watching the weather channel.  However, mileage running, if it's not purely about miles, is about experiences. So...out in to the humid, windy Miami night we go...

More soon,

~CruisingAltitude

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Last Mileage Run of 2016 Part 2: So....yeah....um...


"The Plane" At TBIT.  Even it was on time, and it woke up in Sydney this 'morning.'
See part 1 here.

Whelp, welcome to mileage season…. It all started so promisingly, it really did.  I was here on time, American.  Let’s just get that in the official record of this weekend.  I got myself up at the ass crack of dawn, no wait…before dawn this morning, got myself in an Uber, showered at the Admirals Club, all of that.  I was READY to do this thing.

Then, life happened.  Let’s just do a recap here.  We had 1hr 15 to make the connection in MIA.  This seemed doable, well outside of the minimum connection time for this airport.  But I should have known better, let’s face it, I DID know better.  I’ve been up nights about this exact thing.

Let’s stop for a moment here and talk about how mileage runs SHOULD be booked, and why it seems like I’m always in an airport lounge.  I’m always in an airport lounge, because that’s what you do on a long layover.  You have a long layover when you don’t want to risk missing your flight.  You don’t want to risk missing your flight when you on a mileage run, and don’t have much (or any) time in the destination.  So, has the point been made?  Yes…no…maybe?? 

For the record, again, I did book a longer connection but an equipment and schedule change forced my hand here. 
Not a bad place to start the day though...
Anyway, back to reality…

Currently sitting on the tarmac.  On an inert 777, waiting to GO BACK TO the gate for more maintenance.  This is a new one for even me.  We pulled back, rolled to the end of the runaway and then thought….yeah, no, just kidding!

Apparently there’s something wrong with the cargo doors.  This is why you should NEVER check luggage!  Come on, we’ve talked about this.  Seriously, people.

I’ve only had one PDB, and it’s not nearly enough right now.  Hope is fast draining from this run, and we haven’t even hit the first flight level yet.  

Update, it’s not the doors…but some badly stacked cargo?  You had one job, seriously.

We have rolled back to the gate, shut down, got towed in, and now they’re apparently down there playing cargo tetrus with a 777-300.  Fantastic.  Remember when I said I was about to lose a friend by bringing them with me on this madness?? Yep, I’m pretty sure those famous last words are hitting home about right now. 

I feel the plane is on the edge of anarchy.  The passengers are starting to migrate toward the now opened aircraft door, and the FAs are playing interference between them and the lonely gate agent who’s been sent down the jetbridge to deal with this (major) kerfulffle.  The snack baskets are even being broken out now, which is never a good sign, despite the sweet and spicy popcorn, which is just delightful.

Anyhow, just several short calls to the AA EXP desk, and a dalliance with the idea of trying to jump ship (plane?) for the 1pm to Lima on LAN, and we’re re-booked on the 9:50 am out of Miami tomorrow down to Quito.  Roll with it, I think.  Now if this plane could just push back so they can open the service carts and bring me my pre-ordered “breakfast” and a(nother) mimosa, that’d be great.  Mileage runs are judgement free zones.

Onwards (and hopefully upwards) from here.

~CruisingAltitude

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Last Mileage Run of 2016, Part 1- Famous Last Words


Note-  I've been doing some actual blogging about the current mileage system recently, if you're the type who cares:

The New Math- Mileage Style
The Great Mileage Debate and;
Five Rules of Mileage Running

Now that that's out of the way, on to the rambling pre-flight post.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ahh, December mileage running, how much do I love thee? 

Well, if past predicts the future, then an awful lot.  It's the last run of the year, the bottom of the 9th....and other metaphors derived from sports games.  It's also the last travel weekend without a holiday attached to it- the ultimate freedom that all nicely takes place in pressurized metal tubes, and fluorescently lit corridors behind security checkpoints.  Perfection.

In prior years I've taken an early December weekend to see Shanghai (whilst trying to not breathe the air), stayed out until 2am in Hong Kong (whilst trying to find my Uber), and generally bounced back and forth across the US between LAX and BOS in aging 737s to the tune of 20k qualifying miles.  Please note- these were three separate years, I'm not THAT awesome. (Or crazy, or both)

This year, I'm taking it south of the border, and up in the mountains.  Get ready Quito, I'm coming for you... for about 36 hours. 

It's a pretty comfortable itinerary if you overlook the whole Quito and back in 2.5ish days thing.  Allegedly (equipment change shenanigans notwithstanding) the seats should all be lie-flat business and first.  LAX-MIA-UIO-MIA-JFK-LAX in 20 hours of flight time for 18k elite qualifying miles.  Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy, right?  Famous last words. At least there's no upgrade waitlist angst this time around.

I'm taking a friend with me on her first mileage run, and she's already done the traditional introspective questioning of whether she's really going to actually fly to another continent for no reason.  I laughed, and let her know this is the shallow-end as far as bat-crap-crazy mileage flying goes.  Maybe not the kiddie pool, but definitely the shallow end. 

I then (helpfully? yeah, let's go with helpfully) explained how it takes 17 hours to fly to Hong Kong, and that doing the 18 hour layover is all the rage this year.  This, somehow, does not resolve the current issue for her.  All in good time.  She will undoubtedly learn to love this nonsense.  Either that, or I'm about to lose a friend. 

Anyhow, back to business.  T-24 hours to take off, and I've been debating the exact time I need to get myself to the airport.  There are several important factors here.  They all involve lounges, mimosas-hold-the-OJ, and what might be the earliest time some poor Uber driver might be cruising my neighborhood on a Saturday.

If I can make it happen, 5:30 am sounds like an auspicious time to roll into LAX tomorrow.  This gives me time to hit up the FSL for a shower and a to-go cup (more on this later), then arrive at the Qantas First lounge as they open their shiny geometrically patterned doors of flyer envy.  Therein will be breakfast made to order, and a drink to go with.  This at least, the travel Gods can't take from me.  My seat assignment, my phone charger, and my dignity maybe... but not my lounge access.

So, this all leaves just one short night of packing and obsessing left.  Why yes I am currently flight tracking our inbound 777 from Sydney with bated breath, thanks for asking.

Wish me luck & the next update should be on the go!

~CruisingAltitude

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

See One Thing: The Imperial Palace Gardens

 
  
Tokyo is regularly featured on lists of the most beautiful cities in the world, and it is easy to see why.  The ten to twelve hour layovers that I find are standard when connecting from a Southeast Asia flight back to the US give me the perfect amount of time to 'see one thing' in the city.  It is a massive urban area, but is immaculately maintained, safe to explore, and features some elegant public spaces.  One of the most famous and accessible of these is the grounds of the Imperial Palace, and the surrounding gardens.  This complex includes the residences of the emperor and empress, various administrative and government buildings, as well as the gardens. 
 
It is an expansive space, set in the heart of the city, just a few blocks from Tokyo station.  It is estimated that at the height of the Tokyo property bubble, the Imperial Palace and grounds foot-for-foot were worth as much as all the real estate in California, combined!
 
 
Much of the grounds are closed to the public, but the East Gardens are free of admission.  You get there by crossing the moat that encircles the grounds via one of the bridges.  At the gate, you are given a free 'admission ticket' that you hand back when you leave.
 
 
Wandering around the gardens is a perfect respite from a long weekend of traveling.  When I have a layover in Tokyo long enough to make it into the city, which takes approximately an hour each way via the Narita Express train, I try to spend a good amount of it outdoors.  Of course, my second order of business is always a sushi lunch! 


The gardens are comprised of many smaller areas of trees and planted areas, that allow for a range of experiences.  There are groves of bamboo, ponds, and waterfalls.

 
 The use of water was particularly beautiful.  It made the spaces seem even more peaceful, even amidst such a busy urban area.  


 
There were also some of the most beautiful Koi I've seen.  They were swimming by one of the bridges over their pond, probably hoping it was feeding time. 

 
It wasn't cherry blossom season when I visited, but there were still a few last petals hanging on. 
 

 
After a relaxing stroll for about an hour, I headed back into the rest of the city to look at the nearby shops and get some food before catching the train back to the airport.  As always, the train was immaculately on time, clean, and quiet.  I arrived back in plenty of time to enjoy a drink at the Sakura 1st lounge, before catching my flight back home.  
 
 
Just one more reason to love a Tokyo stopover!
 
Travel well,
 
~CruisingAltitude 
 
If you're looking for other one-day stop tips, also check out See One Thing: Victoria Peak
 

 This post is part of #WanderfulWednesdays, Budget Traveler's Sandbox's #TravelPhotoThursday, #WeekendTravelInspiration, and #FlyAwayFriday at Time Travel Blonde. Check out these linkups!