Flo’s Birthday July 2016- Part 3

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Spotted some Qantas Roo’s eating Dello Mano brownies  on a United flight heading to Germany. Something is off with this picture…

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Thank you to the fantastic flight crew working UA 907 on July 8th. We had a blast on the flight!  Yes, I am referring to United Airlines, close your jaw. I , myself, was quite surprised. Graham, the purser was fantastic.  I was horribly sick when I returned from Scotland. Since I still was not feeling well when were heading out, so I opted to upgrade myself to business class. (Yes, only me, myself and I) To keep it classy, I made sure I had the last row,  which is rear-facing, so I could wave to my friends while I enjoy my business meal. (It’s a wonder I had any friends willing to travel with me with this type of behavior, SMH)

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Unfortunately, we all had a little too much fun on the flight so there not much sleeping. There was a rapper, The Game, and his entourage were on our flight.. They arrived late and there was a problem with the rapper’s seat belt. So we were delayed departing Chicago,  we arrived in Frankfurt with about 30 minutes to get our connection. Of course, we came into a remote gate, so we had to be bused to the terminal. We made our flight to Berlin, but our bags did not. The lucky ones that were traveling with carry on’s were able to refresh while the rest of us were sporting the latest in eau du travel funk.

We had a free afternoon and some of decided to do a bit of site-seeing.  The sun kept trying to hide behind the clouds, but it was quite pleasant when it made it’s appearance.

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That evening the majority of the group headed over to Borchardt for dinner.  We took a stroll after dinner and enjoyed the fact it was still light out at 9pm.Our missing bags finally showed up at midnight. I was so excited I tried to hug the delivery guy.

Sunday morning came too quickly. 1/2 the group went on a bike tour of Berlin with Fat Tire. And well some of us were just lazy

On Monday, the original plan was to go to the Porsche Factory in Leipzig. But it was closed for summer holiday. So option 2 was to take the train out to Potsdam. Well that did not happen. So option 3? Just walk around. The group met up again in the early afternoon for a boat cruise along the canal that runs thru Berlin. Really it was a reason to afternoon drink.

I liked to say we did something fantastic on Monday night, but it appears we were too busy playing on our phones……..

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Photo by Alexis Eckersall

Just kidding, sort of. We hung out the lounge at the Hyatt for a bit before heading out to a nice beer garden for dinner.

This was the last night in Berlin. A few friends were heading back to the States and the rest of the group was heading up Bliestorf for the next part of the trip.

You may have noticed the fantastic photos. I, of course, did not take them. Alexis, was the party photographer.  Thanks again, Alexis. The pictures are amazing.

Stayed tuned for the next part of this fun adventure, which includes dirndls and lederhosen.

 

Flo’s Birthday July 2016- Part 2

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I am solo traveler. I do what I want when I want to do it and well frankly I kind of of prefer it that way. I was little worried about traveling with 20 of my friends.

So how where we getting to Berlin?  Well before moving to Australia, I was very loyal to United Airlines. So I had a healthy amount of frequent flier miles. (If you want to learn more about earning miles, check out The Points Guy.)    Add in my 1k status and the choice was easy, Chicago to Frankfurt on United connecting to Lufthansa to Berlin.I was one of the last one’s to book my ticket. It was primary because I was not sure if I would be coming from Australia or the States.  After booking 6 friends on  one flight from Chicago, I realized it would make sense for me to book myself on that flight. Fun Fact: Lesley was the first one to book.

I’ve been fortunate to be able frequently fly in Business Class, alot. Most airlines provide a in flight amenity kit, some like Qantas and Virgin Australia give pajamas. Since part of this trip was for my friends to experience a “Flo” trip. I made special amenity kits for them. I was even able to include pajamas from Qantas. ( Thanks again Qantas!)

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You probably already know about my love affair with Flight 001. So it should not be a surprise that I choose a Seat Pak for my amenity kit. I included stuff that I found to be helpful on flights. A pen, tissue, toothbrushes, hand lotion, lip balm, electronic glass cleaner, antibacterial wipes and in some cases a battery pack. My friend, Michelle made amazing travel cards that included the itinerary, contact information for the other travels, so Flo travel trivia and a crossword puzzle. She even wrapped them in vintage maps!

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As with any trip, not everything went according to schedule. Apparently the Porsche factory was closed the week were going to be in town. There goes my dream of doing hot laps on the track in Leipzig.  Someone got a new job and had to cancel, another had to change tickets due to a wedding etc. Lots of shifting and organizing up until the last minute, including a last minute cancellation that had me sweating. Let me be very fair in saying, I was very clear to my friends that I would completely and totally understand if they were unable to attend, for whatever reason.  So when one friend, who had been making excuses for months, said that maybe they could not go about a week before, I made the decision to cancel.Only because if we are all being honest, said friend never had any intention of going on the trip.  I had to cancel the ticket, rearrange hotels, update transportation lists, etc. It was not a 2 minute fix. Fast forward to day before departure and I realized, I had no heard from that friend. Oops. Luckily the cancellation text message came in at 28th hour. Whew. That would have been a bit awkward at the airport.

I used my points to book most of us into the Grand Hyatt Berlin. Hyatt has this amazing program called Be My Guest. It allows diamond members to use their points to book rooms for friends and family and they get your diamond status benefits.  So everyone was upgraded to club rooms and given access to club lounge. Which was just ideal given the number of people traveling together. It gave us an opportunity to get together and just hang out. DSC_0052

I had coordinated with the hotel to ensure that everyone’s names where on their rooms and that everything was sorted ahead of time. Then I got an email the morning we were leaving confirming my reservations, minus a few rooms. Nothing like last minute panic. A quick email sorted everything out. And on our way we went.

We were all so excited that we headed to the airport early.I told the group that was traveling with me, that I would meet them at the gate. I was excited but not excited enough to give up my TSA Pre-Check. Stay tuned for the next part of the trip, actually going!

 

Flo’s Birthday July 2016-Part 1

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In 2013, I made my first trip to South Africa. I LOVED it. So much so, that I remember asking my sister how old would my nephews have to be for me to take them on safari. I said maybe for my 40th?  That is how the idea of having a destination party came to be for my birthday this year.

I sent out announcement with Christmas cards, warning everyone to save the date and start saving pennies. I even started hoarding my airlines miles and hotel points.

Fast forward to July, 2015 and the questions started. Where are we going? What’s the plan?
The original list included, Maldives, Thailand, Seychelles, Russia, Alaska, Haiti, Italy, France,  Germany ,Australia.

My cousin, Natasha and her husband, Jan, were just tremendously supportive in planning this party.  I can honestly say it would not have happened without them. Jan become the official Party Secretary. I highly recommend his services for staying on task. I am pretty sure I would still be thinking about where to have this party, if had not been for him.

There were lots of phone calls, emails, texts, facetime and even in person meetings.  It was at one meeting, where Party Secretary 2 and 3, Christianne and Norbert, assisted in narrowing down the location. We were all in Boston, visiting Natasha and Jan.  At that point, the party was leaning towards Russia. Why Russia? Well, Katy wants a Faberge Egg Pendant.  As one does. Haha.  You can just imagine that conversation  Wait? Who’s Katy? What is this Faberge egg? And why Russia?   Thank you, Norbert, for pointing out that maybe going to Russia was not the best idea. (FYI-Faberge Egg Pendants are not available for purchase in Russia)

My friend, Will, had been helping me search Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway, for house rentals. We had found a manor house in Bliestorf, Germany, Herrenhaus Gut Bliestorf. It fit the bill. So the decision made we were going to Germany.

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Then came the fun part, how does one handle the logistics of getting everyone to Germany?  Very carefully.  Ironically the timing of my decision, coincided with my decision to move to Australia. I had some fun conversations. “Hi Lesley, how are you? It’s been a while. So my birthday trip location has been locked to Germany, and by the way, I am moving to Australia”

So passports were renewed, tickets were booked, guidebooks were purchased. And then we had to wait. Oh the torture, it was almost like having kids on a road trip ” Are we there yet?”  The months turned to weeks to days and then next thing you know we were heading to Germany!

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Stay tuned for Part 2 of this crazy adventure.

 

Scotland-June 2016

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I am super lucky to have amazing friends in all over the world. One of my favorite friends, Katy, lives in Scotland and well it’s just not that easy to get to from Australia. I had planned to be back in the States in June and had this insane idea to drop off my bags in Chicago and continue on to Scotland. In theory it made sense, in actuality I was tired! But getting to hang out and chill with Katy and her friends (my friends), was worth flying to the moon and back.

I flew British Airways, well because I had a coupon. It should have been a simple connection in Heathrow, since it’s their hub. It was a NIGHTMARE. I only made my connection because the flight was delayed. The worse part is I normally avoid Heathrow at all costs. I arrived on the day that United Kingdom voted to exit the European Union. And the day the pound dropped to it’s lowest value against the dollar in over 30 years. It was interesting to be there on that day.

Katy surprised me this time at the airport. Even though I knew she was picking me up, it was nice to see her at baggage claim.  The Royal Highland Show was right by the airport, so we decided to check that out.

I think Katy just wanted a excuse to play with the tractors….. And I don’t recommend eating a burger in front of the cows. I got some pretty ugly stares and moo’s.

Then there may have been some drinking, dancing in the rain and pakora…

There were grand plans to go the Highland Games the next day, but it got called on account of rain.  So we did something unprecedented for Katy and Flo Adventure, we just chilled out. We went and saw the movie, “Me before You”. I warned Katy to bring tissues, man did we cry.
The next day we headed off to the Gleneagles Spa . I was always hearing about how Katy and Helen would go to the spa. I wanted to spa too! So I got to spa with Catherine, Helen and Katy. It was AMAZING. I could make a annual spa trip. It was just as I imagine including getting kicked of the quiet room.

I am so thankful to have had that weekend away. I needed a break and a break is what I got. And I finally got to meet people who I’ve only known virtually,Catherine and Helen,who are just as awesome in person.

The pre-birthday celebration was pretty fantastic!

Now it’s time to prepare for the big birthday celebration in Germany.  Stay tuned.

Adventures in Australia-June 2016

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In the end, I was only away from Brisbane for 2 weeks, but it felt like months. I must admit I was happy to be “home”.  It’s amazing how much changed during that time. Winter had officially arrived, there was definitely a chill in the air.

I had flown Qantas back to Brisbane and I had to check my bags, because of all my purchases in Fremantle. One of my suitcases was broken in transit. Lucky for me, Hunt Leather was close by and they were able to deal with Qantas directly to get my bag fixed.

As I was walking towards Hunt’s I noticed something odd, it appeared to a new bake shop. I had just eaten breakfast, so I glanced but did not really think much of it.  I went about my business and forgot about it. Later in the day I was chatting with concierge at the Hilton, and I asked if they had tried the bake shop. Nope.It was tea time and we were all a little peckish……

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That mahogany velvet cake came from Dello Mano . I would be lying if I said I wish our paths had not crossed. RIDICULOUS is the only word I can think of that to describe this bit of heaven on earth. Ridiculously good, fantastic, amazing, awesome… choose what word you will,  you must come to Brisbane and try these cakes and brownies. Did I mention the brownies?
I asked the shop nicely to put a photo of me on the wall saying I am banned from entering. I am already on a first name basis with the staff. That only took 2 days……..

Just when I think Brisbane is pretty great, I discover something that makes me love it more. Winterfest in King George’s Square.  I was heading somewhere and I thought I smelled what could only be described as Christmas Market smell. So I followed my nose. And boy was I surprised. And ice rink in Brisbane!

They even had Langos! I was so excited to get my “market” fix in Australia, especially in June! I guess it was a blessing that I was heading back to the States the next day.

Stay tuned….further adventures in Australia await.

 

 

 

 

Perth Australia-June 2016

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After my little situation in Kuala Lumpur, I was not so eager to continue my schedule trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia.I really just wanted to go “home”. I still had another week before I needed to back in Brisbane, so I decided to head to Perth.

I am really proud myself these days, I’ve learned to be less of a control freak and more of a go with the moment type of person. Which is great to a point. Not so smart was booking a flight to Perth, without considering the weather. It’s winter in Western Australia, and I arrived with shorts and sundresses.   First stop was Target to buy some pants.

I had not done any research on what to do in Perth. I just walked around and enjoyed the views. I have to imagine it’s pretty spectacular in the warmer months.

A positive note I found a hair salon that uses my hair products, so I was able to get my hair done. While flying to Perth is not ideal, at least it’s an option.

I took the train out to Fremantle. What a fun town. I forgot I was in Australia. It was highlight of my trip. It’s a port town with a rich history, including the jail that used to serve all of  Western Australia.

I did some some retail therapy at Debra Corbett Studio and  The Laced Dutchess.  While I may not rush back to Perth to just visit Perth, I would for sure be back to explore more of Fremantle.

 

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia- June 2016

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Hello 50!
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After spending a few days in Phuket, I was off to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was super excited because this would be my 50th country. I was not excited to fly Malaysian Airlines.
When I tried to book a ticket, I was overwhelmed with all the options. I thought Ryan Air was bad about fees. I ended just paying double, $120, for a business class ticket because I could not figure if out if the $60 ticket included a seat or checked bags. I get that Southeast Asia is backpacker heaven, so low cost is King. But man I felt like I needed an advance degree in travel language to figure out how to book that ticket.

The airport is bit out of town, so the easiest option is to take a train to Sentral and then a taxi to your hotel. I would suggest if you need a taxi, prebooking the KLIA Express  with the VIP treatment. I did not and when I got to Sentral, I overpaid for taxi to my hotel.

I booked into the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur.  The hotel is located quite close to the Petronas Towers and is walkable to other tourist sites. The hotel was amazing. I highly recommend it, if you will be visiting KL. In  fact, I’ll go with you.  One of the nicest features of the hotel, was the huge bathroom. I was able to do laundry. Something I had not thought about when I took off traveling for 3 weeks.

After rain bound for days, I was excited to get out and explore KL. I originally was going to walk, but the hotel concierge convinced me to Uber to start my day. I should have stuck with Uber.  My day took my to Chinatown, which honestly could have been any country in the world.

It’s funny since I’ve been living in Australia, I’ve become climatized, the heat no longer bothers me as much. So I walked and walked and walked, 10 miles later, my back started to hurt. I ended up at mall about 1/4 of a mile from my hotel. I had pinched a nerve in my back and at that point I just needed to lie down. I finally found a taxi stand, only to realize I did not have enough cash. I would have ordered an Uber, but I could not figure out where to go for a pick up. So I hobbled back into the mall, found an atm and back to the taxi stand I went. I made the mistake of sitting down. I almost passed out from the pain. It hurt. When a taxi finally showed up, I did not care that it like small clown car, I was just happy to heading back to hotel.  ***I really had to think about if I wanted to share what happened next. I was worried that if by sharing someone might be less inclined to visit Kuala Lumpur. It’s an great city and stuff like this could happen anywhere. *** The driver saw me limping over and opened the front door of the car. The driver was horrible.He started out quite chatty, asking me to direct him to the hotel. He kept touching my arm, on purpose. Without going into too much detail,  he keeping touching me, to the point where I ended up jumping out of the taxi, pinched nerve and all.

When I finally returned to the hotel,the staff immediately assisted me in contacting the authorities and reporting it. I had been able to take a picture of him touching me, which helped in providing my side of the store. It was quite the unpleasant experience. Much appreciation to Rachel, with the concierge, who arranged for me to have a massage the next day. I was not so excited about being touched, but turned out to be just what I needed.

I realized I could not hide in the hotel forever, so I ventured out the Skybridge at the Petronas Towers.

Kuala Lumpur was interesting place to visit. I would go back, but probably not alone. I barely scratched the surface on what there is to see and do.

Stay tuned…….