Japan- April 2017

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I’ve been dreaming of seeing cherry blossoms in their full  blossom glory for years.  I could have made my life easy, by just picking a random day and flying to Washington D.C.  But no, I decided to make my life difficult and aim for Asia. My first attempt was a few years ago. I went to Seoul, South Korea, but that year they bloomed early and I missed them. So this year, I did some research and thought I had timed it better. I used to my frequent flier miles so I could cancel if necessary.  The day before I was scheduled to leave I checked one last time.  Well best laid plans blah blah.

I saw one……

Apparently, the bloom was off a bit.  They bloom showed up early in Tokyo and was late in Osaka. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

I took a trip to nearby Nara. I checked out the Deer Park and local temple

After quite a bit of walking around, I stopped to get some green tea ice cream. But man this line…..

The next day I took an organized tour to Kyoto. I was bit disappointed it was pouring rain.  The little I saw looked amazing, and definitely requires more then just a few hours. My tour stopped along with all the other tours in this little shopping area. It was pouring rain and bit chilly so I just walked around, unsuccessfully, trying to find the meeting point for the next part of the tour.  I almost missed the bus, because the rain just made everything more difficult.

With the lack of cherry blossoms and the continuing rain, and frankly I was just not feeling well, so I decided to call it a trip and head back to Brisbane early.  Since I had booked the flights with my frequent flier miles, I was easily change it.  One of my options, was to go home via Taipei, Taiwan with a 9 hour layover. A quick check of the weather showed, clear skies.  Done. Hello Taipei.

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I saw very little in the 5 minutes that I was there. But from what I was able to see, it’s high on my list of places I want to visit.  It was so green, the architecture was just so interesting. One minute you see a rice paddy, next a pagoda, next a skyscraper.   Just beautiful.

Until next time, safe travels!

 

Portugal and Spain- December 2016

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I’ve been wanting to visit Portugal for years! It was on the top of the list of places that I wanted to visit but for some reason, it never made it into my travel plans.I had planned on being in the States for holidays, but my plans changed and I ended up coming in a week earlier then planned. I love my family, but 3 weeks, especially at the holidays was just not going to happen.

As much as I love European Christmas Markets, I was not willing to bear the cold weather. And the best ones, in my opinion,close on December 24th. I had fun trying to find a location that would not be too cold and that I could also get a decent flight. Oh and I need to fly on American Airlines or at least a One World partner because I need to the miles to keep my status. Madrid and Barcelona, ticked each box. I had been to Barcelona a few years, so I opted for Madrid. But then I realized I was so close to Portugal. I decided to just book another ticket, wise use of my British Airways Miles, and headed straight to Lisbon.

Best idea, ever!  Here is the part that I should say it was awful, that I had a horrible time and I would not recommend it at all.  I would say this so it stays amazing and does not become over run with tourists.  I just felt relaxed. Not paranoid about pickpockets like I was in Spain,  or ring scams in Paris. The skies were blue, albeit a little chilly. The streets were clean and while there were tourist there were not everywhere. They had the fun pedestrian paths in the middle of the busy streets, like in Barcelona.

I made an interesting hotel choice. I did not, gasp, stay at a Hilton or Hyatt. I stayed at a Marriott property, Fontecruz Lisboa.  It’s more boutique then large chain hotel. The location was great, located on one of the major streets. I  headed out to take in the sights. I opted for the Hop on Hop off bus. I find they are a great way to orient yourself in a new city. I tend to do the loop first and then hop off.

Lisbon is quite walk-able, if you can handle the cobble streets and some hills. Ladies, bring your sensible shoes. In fact, just bring an old ugly pair so you have an excuse to go shop. I did… at Moskkito. It was quite an adventure trying to get my stuff home.

I took sidetrips to Sintra and Fatima.  I booked the tours last minute and ended up on a big bus one. I wish I had done better research and gone with a smaller tour company.  I probably could have done them on my own. Something to redo on the next trip.

There was situation with a nutella crepe in Sintra. Let’s just say I learned my lesson about trying to eat messy street food. I am still finding nutella on stuff.

I headed back to Madrid for New Year’s Eve. I had high hopes of doing all this sightseeing, specially checking out the Prado Museum.  All those plans changed drastically when I arrived and it was freezing.  I was tired and cold and so basically I did nothing in Madrid. Well nothing that I am willing to admit doing on this public blog. There may or may not have been a potential meal at a American chain restaurant.

I really enjoyed this trip, I just wish I had more time. And I probably go back when the weather is warmer. I also think if I had to do it again, I would suggest doing Madrid first, then Lisbon. Two totally different cities with different energies.

Until next time, safe travels!

 

Back to Zero, January 2015

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January 1st is a sad day in the frequent traveler’s world, all counters reset to zero ( well US based travelers)

UAL ****Yes I am hiding the fact I spent WAY too much for a flight from Miami to Chicago…

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My sister said to me, you are done right? You are not going to keep chasing “status”? Originally, I quoted Ryan in “Up in the Air” movie, ” Let’s just say that I have a number in mind and I haven’t hit it yet”.  Now that I am back to zero, I am rethinking my strategy. I mean come on, what is the end game? What is “gasp” the point of accruing all these miles and points if there is no plan?

Originally my plan was to book a fantastic trip with my family members for my 40th birthday. Well the destination for the “big” party has been narrowed done to a couple of places. And dare I say, Star Alliance, does not fly there. SO, Plan A, out the window.

Moving on to Plan B, take my family some place for my 40th birthday, where there is a Hilton or Hyatt. Yep, you guessed it party destination does not have either a Hilton or Hyatt.

Now for Plan C? Burn baby burn, the travel bloggers that I follow will tell you airlines miles and hotel points are not a commodity worth hanging on to. They will loose value and by the time your accrued enough for that trip of a lifetime,  the rules may have changed and you’ll need more.

I was able to find a business class ticket to Sydney using my miles. I had not planned on going to Australia, but for $120 in business class, ok why not? Free nights at the Park Hyatt Sydney? Sign me up.

In the past I worked so hard to track my flights and hotel nights, I am taking a different approach for 2015, I am just going to go…..

I am going to use my miles to fly to places maybe I’ve already been or some place new. And I am going to use my hotel points to pay for my rooms vs. worrying about nights and points.

But mostly importantly, I am just going to go…….ANYWHERE AND EVERYWHERE.

**well maybe I want to keep my Hyatt status, so any suggestions on fun places with Hyatt’s would be appreciated.

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!

 

Return of the Passport Flu……

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For those of you who actually know me, you might recall a few years ago every time I would use my passport I would return home sick. It was so predictable that I would I would start making Doctor’s appointments, when I made my flight reservations.

And then I found a new doctor and bye bye “Passport Flu”. Until this year….. I’ve been struck down twice now. After my return from Mumbai in May and now from my return from Hawaii in October.

So there were no burgers in Boston…..

I did make it to Orlando for work, but sadly I must report no sun and sand in Seychelles.

But stay tuned, great adventures ahead, if I can ever kick this darn flu……

Aloha… Hawaii October 2014

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Aloha…..

Well there were no Mai Tai’s in Maui, but there were Lava Flow’s in Kona……

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Due to tropical storm/Hurricane Ana, my plans to meet my friends in Maui were changed. I ended up flying directly to Kona for a work conference. There is something psychological about flying for work, it’s just not fun. My flight had WIFI, which was a good and bad thing. Good because I was able to get some work done, bad because I was emailing and texting my friends constantly for 9 hours.

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With the 5 hour time change, I was not happy when I arrived on the Big Island of Hawaii. I tried to stay up as late as possible, 9pm, but I still woke up with the birds at 3.30 am.  I figured the best way to beat the jet lag? Go to the gym. Except the Hilton is huge, 62 acres to be precise. And it was pitch black. And did I mention it was insanely humid due to that crazy weather system that was blowing past? So I called the operator and she told where to find the gym and it would be a little warm up of a walk……. WHATEVER. I walked for 45 minutes before I found that gym.  Well I got my workout in.

I had no conference stuff scheduled for Wednesday morning, so I spent the morning being lazy by the pool. I am glad I did, I met some amazing people from Kentucky! Hi friends from Kentucky!!! And then it was work, work, a little pool, more work.

When I was in Dubrovnik, last year, I met Bill and Matt, from Seattle. We’ve kept in touch and they were actually in Hawaii for work as well!  So fun to get to hang out with them.  We had a pre-pre-pre-pre party for my birthday party in 2016.  I believe the next pre-pre-pre party will be in Vegas in December.

I did make it out of Waikoloa to do a little sightseeing, I headed up to Volcano Natural Park. It was cold….

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Aloha…

Charlotte for Wine, Brunch in Raleigh

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On the road again……

I really enjoy enjoy traveling, internationally, but man do I ever have issues when I fly domestically. But I gladly suffered thru because I was going to visit friends. And because I was so excited, I had delays upon delays.

IMG_2257My flight was delayed about an hour.  Had to wait, for what seem like forever, for the rental car shuttle bus. And then it took me no less then 20 minutes to get out of the airport because some engineer did a horrific job designing the maintenance of traffic.

I finally arrived at Carrie’s house and was properly greeted by Lucy. I got a hug from Carrie, but Lucy, well, she was running around yapping about how excited she was to see me!

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Carrie showed her enthusiasm in other ways, she cooked! Wait, not only did she cook, she had a menu, yes a MENU!  *** Note to anyone that actually knows me, your lucky if you get water when you come to my house………

 

IMG_2267She also made me candied bacon. Did I happened to mention she’s my best friend in the entire world? ( Disclaimer: I love all m BFF’s equally, make me bacon and you can have the #1 spot,too).

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It was quite the enjoyable evening. I was actually quite sad to have to leave the next day. But I had brunch plans in Raleigh so off I went.

Michelle and her family moved to Chapel Hill a few years back, and I am  sad to say this is only the 2nd time I’ve visited. I am great about keeping in touch, just not about actually visiting. She’s the one the encouraged me to blog about my adventures, in part because I think she was getting annoyed with just getting links to pictures with no explanations. Thanks to her son, Logan, who built this blog, I know have a platform to actually share my crazy adventures.

I had originally hoped to pop out for a day, quick in and out, but United was not cooperating. When I realized I had to overnight, I figured I would fly into Charlotte and out of Raleigh, it’s what an easy drive, like an hour and 1/2? Yeah, no. It was more like 2 1/2 hours and I must have blocked that out from the last time. When Michelle said 2 and 1/2 hours and I was like no….. That’s can’t be right. Oh it was right…..

A visit to Michelle’s is not complete without some Garrett’s Popcorn. I love to see the excited look on Logan and Izzi’s faces when they see they bag. I think next time I will have to make the sweat it out.

We had brunch at Top of the Hill in Chapel Hill. It’s a great spot for people watching.

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The afternoon flew by, way to quickly. But those planes don’t wait, even for me. Here is a travel tip for those of you returning rental cars in Raleigh, get gas when you find it. I took a nice scenic route trying to find a gas station.  Luckily, it’s a small enough airport, that there was no gate running involved. And of course, my flight was delayed…….

I really enjoyed visiting with my friends and I hope to do it more often. I wish I could have stayed but I had to get home to cheer my friend Mandy on as she ran her first Bank of America Chicago Marathon. She’s rocked it of course!

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Stayed tuned for more adventures, next up Mai Tai’s in Maui………