Brussels, Belgium- June 2017

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The whole purpose of this European adventure was to attend my cousin’s wedding.  My entire immediate family flew over, as well as several members of my extended family.
I had an early morning flight out of Seville. I always think that an early flight is good when I am booking it, but so stupid when I actually have to take it. The nice lady that helped with my missing bags on my way in was working again on my outbound flight.
She remembered me, and politely suggested I take my bags on the plane.  I don’t blame the flight attendant for not wanting to help me, stupid weight about 40 pounds.

After 105 degrees in Spain, Brussels felt chilly at 72.  With my entire family being in town, I took the coward’s way out and booked a different hotel. This was to guarantee I didn’t have to share my bed with my nephews, aka. little moneys.

I got lucky one morning, and I got to hang out with this guy.IMG_1350-2

I asked him if he wanted to find a bar and drink champagne. He looked at me in horror and said it’s 10:00 am. I said how am I your daughter? He countered with let’s go shopping. Love you, Dad!

Overall had fun hanging with the family. Too soon it was time for the next part of my trip. Next stop London. Stay tuned.

 

Brussels, Belgium- December 2015

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Since Christmas fell on a Friday this year, I took advantage of the long weekend to head to Europe to visit some Christmas markets.  The markets in Germany close on December 24th, so I did a little research and discovered the markets in Belgium go thru January 3rd. Since I also have family that lives there is was a easy choice to make.

For various reason, I choose to fly Delta Airlines. I have not flown Delta since I was 4 years old. Having been exclusive to United/Star Alliance for last 4 years, I’ve been interested in seeing what other options were out there. I was actually looking forward to it. Silly me.

My first flight was Chicago to New York. It was middle of the day and Christmas Eve, so no surprise it was mostly leisure travelers. But there was something about this group that was just bizarre. Like we were being filmed for a TV special on strange airport/flight behavior.  It was like a seat assignment was a foreign concept, and why can’t I bring my kitchen sink in the cabin.  It was just weird. Even the flight attendants agreed. Maybe it was just holiday stress.

I had about a 3 hour layover in JFK, so I went to the lounge. Now this impressed me, it is one of the nicest domestic lounges in the US I’ve been to. They had real, edible, tasty food. Chicken in some sauce and roasted sweet potatoes. Yum.  All was fine until I got yelled at my some surly attendant for sitting in the “paid” section of the lounge.  I just wanted a table and I guess the middle section of the tables were for people that wanted premium drinks/food. I was told to move. It should be noted I was on the only one that was told to move,  even though the section was not full nor was anyone else asked to move. Including the lady sitting next to me, who had not ordered anything either. Christmas spirit and all, I just let it go.
I took the 500 mile walk to the gate, where general boarding had already commenced. I had priority boarding. I know from experience, people in general boarding are not interested in letting you cut the line. I was not expecting the red carpet when I boarded the plane, but I was little shocked at the reception of the flight attendants. Given the light load, there were a lot of standby’s on the flight.  Great for them, bad for me. I was virtually ignored. I am not complaining that I was not treated like the Queen of the Sky that I am. ( Totally kidding). I am just saying it was like they were being inconvenienced to have me on the flight. After having stuffed my face on sweet potatoes in the lounge, I declined the dinner service. This was before the door even closed. This was the last interaction I had with anyone until about an hour before landing. All I can say, Delta made United look like Emirates.

Brussels has great public transportation. Trains, Trams and Buses are a plenty. You can get from the airport to the city center by train or bus. I opted for the train, which takes about 18 mins and cost 8.50 euro. I booked in the Hilton Grand Place which is located right outside the Gare Centrale.  Little tip for visiting Brussels, book over a weekend. Hotels can be found extremely cheap due to the high occupancy during the week when the EU parliament is in session.

I spent Christmas Day with my aunt and cousins. It was quite nice. I also visited the Grand Place. It was nice and not so crowded.

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I would like to say the next day I did all this sightseeing. That would be a no. I just wandered around the city. I did make a new friend though. Howard of Howards Brussels. My wallet, however, remained a stranger to Howard which a good thing.
I just wandered around the streets of Brussels, taking in the sights and enjoying the wonderful mild weather.

At one point I tried to head back to my hotel and I discovered surprise surprise, Google did not work.  Notice the weird route it gave me.

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Now no trip to Brussels is proper without an obligatory waffle on the street.  Back in the day you had to look for them, now they drive to you.

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I guess it’s hard to resist a good waffle.  The Hop On Hop off bus driver, saw a truck and just stopped the bus. It was not even a scheduled stop, he just hopped off and got a waffle.
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On a fun note,  I found the same hut outside the church at the Christmas Market near the Grand Place. They were selling the same truffles that I fell in love with back in 2010. I found the market was not as magical without the freezing temperatures and falling snow. The heavy police and military presence also did not help.

I am glad I went and got to spend time with my family. Soon enough it was time to head home, and what adventure that turned out to be. Chicago was hit with a horrible winter storm and all flights were cancelled.  20 hours past schedule, I eventually made it back to Chicago. Delta handling of the situation took my by surprise.  I respectfully reverse my previous negative comments. I will chalk up my negative experience to holiday stress. I would probably not fly them again internationally unless the get more comfortable seats.

I hope all had a Happy Holiday!

 

 

A little history, a little sand and a little shopping

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I love visiting Christmas Markets in Europe. It’s not even about the shopping, honestly I don’t believe I’ve ever actually purchased something at the markets. It’s more about the electricity and excitement of the upcoming holidays, about spending time with family and friends.

Since I am on my quest to visit 50 before 40, I was originally planning on trying to go to Poland and Hungary in November/December.  But then I got a bee in my bonnet…..

I’ve been stockpiling my airlines miles and hotel points for some fantasy trip that I’ve been planning to take. I’ve now amassed enough points to bring a family of 4 with me on this trip, so maybe it’s time to start burning them?

Unfortunately, one of the bloggers I follow, Nomadic Matt, has been posting on pictures from his trip to Vienna on his instagram page.  He’s been making me hungry.  So I really wanted to go to Vienna for schnitzel.

So I started playing on United’s website……….

First off, I am willing to fly coach on United because of the economy plus, but I draw the line on partner flights. So ideally I was hoping to redeem my miles for a Business class ticket.  Second. I was only willing do a saver award, because I did not “need” to go anywhere, so I did not want to spend miles unnecessarily. So after a few hours searching around and 2 calls into United, this is what I came up with.

Capture flights

I fly to Vienna,Austria where I spend a day so I get my schnitzel on. Overnight flight to Addis Ababa, Ethophia, connecting on to Mahe, Seychelles. 6 days of relaxation before I head to Istanbul,Turkey for a day of shopping. Then I catch an evening flight to Brussels, where I will spend 2 nights, getting my chocolate and family fix! And then home.

Austria, Seychelles, Turkey and Belgium in 11 days! At least I was savvy enough to leave the shopping for the tail end of the trip!

I was able to book this entire flight in Business Class using 160,000 frequent flier miles and $151.70. I will be raiding my Hilton points to cover the hotel stay.  And again,thanks to the various travel blogs, I follow, I was able to build in a stopover to be able to see my family in Brussels!

Now I need to research what the heck am I going to do in Seychelles, by myself for 6 days?????