2014 Year in Review

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Recently a friend shared his 2014 flight statistics, from number of flights, to airplane type to cost. Yeah, your not getting that information from me. I can tell you I roughly flew, bottom in the seat, about 110,000 miles this year, on 55 flights total.  While I do not recall all the other details, I can share some interesting facts

* Only had 2 flights, in which I was stuck in the middle seat.  Chicago to Frankfurt and well the most famous one of all, Chicago to Charlotte.  ( Funny enough both flights involved an adventure with Carrie….)
* 1st flight of the year, Fort Lauderdale to Chicago
* Last flight of the year, Chicago to Miami
* 2 major flight cancellations- Chicago to Zurich- rerouted a day early to make my safari ( lesson learned) and Chicago to Seoul- arrived about 5 hours later then scheduled.
* Most visited airport, besides Chicago- BERLIN…. shocking actually usually it’s Frankfurt.
* Nights in a Hotel- more then I am willing to admit…..
* 5 new countries visited this year; Kenya, Tanzania, Liechtenstein, South Korea, North Korea,
* Drove in Europe for the first time, in my own car.
* Ate fruit in a country where your not supposed to drink the water, Alphonso mangoes, would do it again in a heart beat!
* Actually visited friends, on purpose, just because.
* Discovered a visa service company that opened up all those countries that require visa’s.
* Checked bags and actually got them back, in a timely fashion.
* Booked way too many 6 am flights….
* Only got yelled at twice by Flight Attendant for misbehaving- Chicago-Honolulu for using my phone in airplane mode  and well my DYKWIA moment Chicago to Edinburgh
* MET THE MOST AMAZING PEOPLE ALONG THE WAY……… Katy and Russell in the pool in Dar Es Salaam, Laura at a party in Hamburg, Kris and Bill heading home from Germany, Kevin over pizza in Chicago, Whitney on a boat in Savannah, Shelley and Carmen over bacon in Savannah, Brittany in LA while delivering pizza, Travii in Las Vegas while gate crashing a party, John in Savannah where he was so bold to ask me who my airline alliance is……

Its been a great year!  I looking forward to many new adventures in 2015. And who knows I may be popping in for a visit……….

Happy Travels!

 

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Sunday Funday, Charlotte, North Carolina-December 2014

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Ding ding, who’s there? SURPRISE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So due to unexpected change of travel plans, I decided to fly out to Charlotte and crash Sunday Fun day at Carrie and Nick’s house. But since I waited until Thursday to book my ticket the United options would get there too late to spend any decent time, so I checked out American Airlines/US Air. Oh they had seats, alright, MIDDLE SEATS!!!!!!!

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Never mind, that A & C were empty, I will forever being using the “remember that time I fly middle seat Coach story”.  Oh how can I forget Zone 5 boarding? Well that was not so awful, I did meet Scott in line, so it was not a total waste.  Hi Scott!

It was a fantastic afternoon hanging out with old friends and making new ones, Shari and Shelley! The boys flew their planes, while the gals gossiped over wine.

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And then I had to go back home…….

I am so very thankful that I had the ability to fly out for the day. The look on Carrie’s face was absolutely priceless! The 2nd best look of shock was Brian and Jen……. ( Brian’s realization that I might be there to collect my hug was more a look of horror then shock!)

So friends, be forewarned, I might be stopping by for a visit soon…….

 

 

Berlin,Germany November 2014

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And my final stop, Berlin. I had visited Berlin this summer, so I had done the “major” sites. I enjoyed it enough to want to go back to visit.  And well you already know of my love of Christmas Markets.

I arrived in Berlin by train from Dresden. Again with the laziness, I took a taxi to my hotel, Grand Hyatt Berlin.  That lucky taxi driver is now the owner of my Ipod. Yes I still carry an Ipod and all I have to say on the matter, is mind your business. (Yes I mean you, Whitney and Kevin)

This summer I used the Hop on Hop off bus for all my transportation needs, because it was easy. This trip I decided to walk around because according to the map the sites were close by. Which was probably true, but it was COLD.  So first stop? Yep, you guessed it, Gluhwein and a Bratwurst.

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There are over 100 Christmas Markets in Berlin. There was no way I was going to hit 100, but I figured I could visit some of the majors.  I started in Potsdamer Platz as it was right next to my hotel. It’s claim to fame is that is has snow hill for tubing.

I then headed over to Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt, which is probably my all time favorite market.

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Gluhwein, Langos, Hot Belgium Waffles….. Magical…….

I did manage to do some actual siteseeing, in between eating and drinking.  I booked a early tour of the Reichstag. And given that I still had not mastered the train/tram/bus system, I walked.  It was cold, but I got to see a not crowded Brandenburg Gate. IMG_2783 IMG_2786

I checked out the Topography of Terror and then the Jewish Museum. They had a interesting special exhibit on circumcision, Snip/it!

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And finally back to the Christmas Markets, I finally had to breakdown to get a tram/train ticket. I visited the markets at Alexanderplatz,  Kaiser Wilheim Church and Charlottenburg Palace.  They were all quite nice, but the winner is still the one at Gendarmenmarkt.

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I will be heading back again, no question. And with that I say Auf Wiedersehen

 

Dresden, Germany- November 2014

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I really enjoyed my time in Cologne, but off I headed to the oldest Christmas Market in Germany. The Dresden Striezelmarkt opened it’s 580th market on November 27th. IMG_1527

I flew from Cologne to Dresden, because the train would have taken the better part of the day. Because I booked this trip so last minute, I was unable to get a room at the Hilton. Luckily, the Westin was available on points. Having no status with Starwood, I expected the worse, I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at 9:00 am that not only was my room ready, they also gave me an upgrade.

I headed out to tour the city, so I jumped on the Hop On Hop off Bus. Dresden was heavily bombed in WWII. The remaining architecture was just amazing.

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I decided to check out the the Hygiene Museum. It was quite interesting, but at this point, I was hitting my museum fill.

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It was getting dark after the museum so I headed back to the City center. There are no other words to describe this market, then just magical. I really can’t explain the electricity in the air.

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After partaking in a little too much Gluhwein, I attempted to head back to my hotel. But I kept finding more markets and more Gluhwein.

And then I found the Hungarians…….

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Langos-fried dough with sour cream, pancetta and cheese. Yes please.
Properly stuffed with Gluhwein and Langos, I decided to call it a night.

Dresden was fun, I have to imagine it’s beautiful in the summer. I will definitely be back, if for anything to visit the VW plant and well for the christmas markets. At this point in my travels, these markets are at the top of my list.

The journey continues with one more stop…..

 

Cologne, Germany- November 2014

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A few days in Amsterdam was enough for me. There are only so many museums one can take. Next stop, Cologne,Germany. As I explained in a previous post, I stopped in to see my friend Laura.

I took the train from Amsterdam down to Cologne. Which was super easy to book via German train site, DB Bahn.

This was a trip that I spent the whole lot of my convenience money. I am not sure if it was because I was still not feeling well, but I had absolutely no patience to deal with trams, subways and trains. I actually took a shuttle from the Amsterdam Airport to the hotel. And I took a taxi from hotel to the Central Train station. Public transportation was an option but so was convenience money.

When I arrived at the Hyatt (come on did you think I would say Hilton?) in Cologne, my room was not ready, but they allowed me to go the lounge. Within 5 minutes, my room was ready. Props to the Hyatt  Regency Cologne!  The view from the lounge was amazing…. IMG_2667

Since I was just there for a quick afternoon to hang out with Laura, we checked out the Tower near the hotel which gave a amazing views of the city and the Cathedral.

We also checked out the Cologne Cathedral. Which I had visited many many years ago, but was quite interesting to see again with “adult” eyes. The architecture is just amazing. And well to be honest a little creepy….

IMG_1509And then we hit the Christmas Markets, where we enjoyed cheese, waffles and well wine……

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Cologne’s market made the top of my list at this point. They had quite the variety of markets. Nicer then the ones I had been to before in Munich. Or maybe it’s because I was with my German friend, who showed me to really enjoy a market. Thank goodness, germaphobe Flo stayed home. I can still taste that cheese sandwich, it was soooo good……

Properly stuffed and with the rain starting, we headed over the the Chocolate Museum.

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And then back for more markets, which are just magical at night.

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We met up with Laura’s friends and enjoyed some gluhwein before heading off to support Ukraine.

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I had a great time visiting Cologne, it was fun to see Laura and make new friends. If you are heading to Germany for Christmas markets, I highly recommend Cologne. Besides you can give Laura a call…….

Stayed tuned, next stop Dresden,Germany

Amsterdam, November 2014

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So even though I was too sick to enjoy the Seychelles, I had not intention of staying home for the long Thanksgiving weekend. So off the Christmas Markets I went. When trying to decide where to head, I have to admit, I looked for Hyatt’s. I needed 4 more stays to keep my Diamond status. And well since I was going to be staying at hotel anyway, figure why not stay at a Hyatt. Just one minor problem, Hyatt does not have a large footprint in Europe. And then add the fact, that I was flying United, my options of where I was headed where limited.  Enter Amsterdam. Direct flight from Chicago and they have 2 Hyatt’s.

I had visited Amsterdam, many many years ago. So I was looking forward to visiting with fresh eyes. When traveling off season, like winter, it’s the perfect time to visit museums. Amsterdam has many…..

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I had pre-arranged my tickets for Van Gogh and Anne Frank House. There was no line at Van Gogh, but when I arrived at 8:50 for my 9:00 am entry for Anne Frank House, the line was about 30 deep. I am early bird, so I booked the 9 am entry, but turns out, it’s the best time to go. I was not one of the first to enter, there were about 20 people ahead of me. When you enter there are some plaques and a video playing. Well some tourists are not so nice and were standing in way that nobody could read the plaques or really see the video. So I moved on the the next room. BEST MOVE! I had the place to myself. It was amazing. A must see if you are in Amsterdam.

The Lord in the Attic was interesting to find. It’s located on the edge of the red light district. So I had to walk thru it to find it. Except I kept getting lost. So I get stopping in red light district stores, asking for directions. VERY interesting stores. It was worth the trouble, the museum was quite interesting.

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After the I headed over to the Yab Yum. It had a closed early for a private tour for some university students, but they were ok with me joining.  The Yab Yum was a high end brothel in Amsterdam.  It was shut down in 2008 and now operates as a museum.

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The funniest one I visited? The Amsterdam Cheese Museum. Now if only the wine museum were next door….

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I also took a canal boat tour

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And found some Christmas Markets….. WITH CHEESE!!!!!!

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Amsterdam was great, probably more enjoyable when it’s warmer. But then I am not sure I would have gone to so many museums. Stay tuned, next stop Cologne, Germany.