2016 The First Leg of our April Trip to Japan

Off we went traveling again. We left Vail on April 5th in a snow storm that closed the I-70 in both directions for hours. We slipped through however before the big accidents and during the time that the highway was clear-ish. 

This trip to Denver we stayed at a new hotel (for us). It was called Woolley's Classic Suites Denver Airport, 16450 East 40th Cr, Aurora, CO, 80011, 720-599-3750, e-mail: frontdesk@wcshotels.com. 

We were pleasantly surprised at how nice and new Woolley’s was. We saw an ad in the Vail Daily for a special rate with a park and fly option so we decided to try it. We booked a mountain rate ($169) first night and a Park & Fly ($209) on our return and each was for a classic king room  (including breakfast). It was large--500 sq. ft. and had 2 large and comfortable arm chairs for TV viewing, as well as a table and a desk. It was not cluttered; there was plenty of floor space. There was also plenty of storage space in a large chest of drawers, bedside tables and 2 small closets (with real wooden hangers). There was a mini-bar area with a coffee machine, small microwave and mini-fridg (with real cups and glasses). The bathroom was also large with a walk in shower as well as a large oval tub. The shower was good and the exhaust worked without noise; what an innovation! There was a vanity with 2 sinks too. The room was nicely decorated with pleasing art but could have used more (or brighter) lights. We liked the draperies in our room. Our only problem was that the wi-fi signal was weak—it was so weak in fact that we couldn’t use Skype in the afternoon. We also had a little problem with the climate control; we didn't get any heat but plenty of cooling. We went to the evening manager’s reception with wine, appetizers and enjoyed ourselves. One of the staff members stopped to chat with us and we liked that. A piano player came and the music was nice although we could hear it through our door. The noise from the bar drifted up to our room until the bar closed at midnight. Amanda and Reggie at reception were very helpful. We wanted our car detailed while we were away; Amanda arranged that for us. The General Manager has a desk in the reception and is very visible. We like that. The complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast was very good. We used the complimentary shuttle to the airport and that worked well. We didn’t use the gym, the pool or the business center but all looked new and in good shape. We were disappointed that there was no hot tub. The hotel opened in 2011 and we liked how clean and fresh everything looked. 

For dinner before our flight we chose Bistro Barbès, 5021 E. 28th Ave., Denver, CO, 720-398-8085,info@bistrobarbes.com, web: bistrobarbes.com. We chose it because it was # 19 of 5280’s list of 25 best restaurants in 2015 and because Bill Porter, the food critic of the Denver Post, answered our e-mail and said we should try it. We had a lovely evening. Megan Silvertooth, the manager, helped us at first. Mitch K was busy because the restaurant was busy when we arrived at 6:30 p.m. The room is long and narrow and looks like it was once a garage; very spare. The art was nice on the brick walls. We shared everything, as usual. We were brought bread and an amuse bouche for each of us. It was a delicious dab of foie with a spicy marmalade on top of a crispy cracker. The restaurant has a limited menu and we think that is great. We started with an appetizer of Roasted Quail with Christophene squash, baby artichokes and blood orange ($13). The quail was infused with the coriander and vanilla that the artichokes were roasted with; it was delicious. For our entrée we had the Duck Breast with saffron-celery root mousseline, sultanas and marcona almond tabbouleh (Israeli couscous) with roasted oyster mushrooms ($34). It was a wonderful dish. Dimitri had a glass of Racemi “Anarkos” Primitivo Malvasia Neva from Puglia, Italy 2013 ($9). He really liked it. For dessert we shared the Cappuccino Pot au Crème ($14) which was a chocolate Grenache, espresso cream with lemon foam served with a tuile. It was very rich! We also had a decaf ($3). We enjoyed the food and the service. We spent $79.06 plus tax.

We flew United non-stop from Denver to Tokyo paying a premium to do so ($3887.59 round trip for both of us). We wanted to fly one of the international carriers but it wasn't possible or practical. Things have changed since the last time we traveled. We were able to print our own luggage tags and zipped right through check-in. We qualified for TSA Pre and it took 7 minutes to get through security. Wow; 2 1/4 hours was plenty of time!

The flight was very full. It was 11 + hours and left 40 minutes late; the excuse was catering was loading more food. In any event, we didn't make up the time flying over the arctic. The audio visual in our row didn't work well at the start of the flight--during the movies, it would freeze for a second. Then it crapped out completely. There weren't seats we could move to where we could sit together. The head of cabin service gave us a complaint form to complete. The flight got really, really tedious because out ceiling lights stopped working too; we couldn't even read. There were two meal services--the first one with a salad (not enough dressing) and ravioli was good. The second one with either eggs (grainy) and potatoes or with noodles and vegetables was awful. Oh well, we endured. Then we got to Narita and found Dimitri's new suitcase had a damaged handle. We were given a form to give the United people in Denver. Oh well.

Our chores at Narita were done efficiently. We got the device that would allow Dimitri's smartphone to connect to the Internet (and it functioned properly). We got money and we got train tickets. The train ride to our hotel was 1 1/2 because we were given the wrong and we went out of our way. When we finally arrived at the Higashi-ginza on the Asahura line we were in front of our hotel. Finally success!