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………

 

 

Random Pics-Edinburgh Scotland, October 2014

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So yes I flew to Scotland for boots and to visit with friends. But I manage to do some actual sightseeing. My friends were kind enough to drive me throughout the countryside where I got to see some castles, waterfall, bagpipes and more. While I did not eat some haggis, I did get a taste of Scotland and I will definitely be back again, one day.  Here are some random pictures

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Of course there a pictures that I wish I could post, but it being a public blog and all, it’s better that I don’t. But on a fun note, I just happened to be at the same hotel as the Scotch Guards.  You know the ones that guard Buckingham Palace? Turns out they can smile!

Savannah, Georgia- August 2014

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I am blessed to have friends all over the world. I am also very lazy about visiting said friends. Ironic given my love of travel.  So when the opportunity came up to go to Savannah for a work conference, I jumped on it because I would be able to visit some friends.

I flew down on United Express, which I try to avoid, but luckily I got upgraded to First Class and I had super fun flight attendant who kept my wine glass full.

I booked the Andaz Savannah, which at first glance appeared to be a nice hotel. My friend Renee picked me up from the airport, we stopped by the hotel to drop off my bags and then headed over to Tybee Island.  As luck would have it, it started to pour rain as soon as we got there.

After a great afternoon of hanging out, I headed back to the hotel to get some work done. Yeah that thought lasted about 2 minutes. I headed over the Savannah Bee Company store to pick up a birthday gift.  If you like honey, go this store. If you don’t, I would not recommend it.

I spent probably an hour in this treasure of trove. I even did a Mead tasting

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High on Honey, I headed back out to see what other trouble I could find in Savannah.  Interesting fact, Savannah allows open containers on the street. So when in Rome……

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So back to the Andaz. Upon check-in they informed me due to my Hyatt Diamond status, they upgraded me to a nicer room. Great. Expect it faced the square, that had a street full of bars on it. So at 3am I could hear all the party goers, still going strong.  I made a new friend at breakfast as we were both complaining about the noise from the night before. So I guess something good came out of it!

Otherwise, I had no complaints about the hotel. I had booked a room for the night because I had read they had candied bacon at the bar. Well I had to try 3 times, before I was successful in securing said bacon, but man was it worth the wait.

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My friends Carrie and Nick, happen to be in town to celebrate Carrie’s birthday and we had a great dinner at Olde Pink House.

Due to my fish allergy it was kind of pain to eat in Savannah. I just have to remember to ask the important questions, like are the french fries fried in the same oil as the fish?  If anything its making me make healthier food choices.  IMG_1834

 

While I did not get to do much sightseeing, since I was stuck in the conference, I did enjoy my time in Savannah, especially getting to spend time with Renee and her family. I hope to get back one day.

Kenya and Tanzania February 2014, Part 3

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After a long and bumping ride from Amboseli, I arrived back at the Hilton Nairobi.

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Like most capital cities, there were a lot people, car and buses. Organized chaos.  I learned my last lesson on my first trip to Africa and that was pack as light as possible. So I brought older clothes for Safari and I just left them at the camp. So now that I had room in my suitcase, it was time to go shopping.  That little excursion lasted 5 minutes. I could not deal with the haggling and come into my shop business.  The next day I had arranged a tour with a company that participates with Pack for a Purpose. The driver would deliver my donation to the day care, so it was a win win.

I started by day by visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.  They rescue elephants that have become orphaned. They raise them and then eventually return them to the wild.

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After watching the elephants for about an hour, we headed over the Giraffe Manor

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The biggest draw? You can kiss the giraffe? I am way to much of a germaphobe to be feeding the giraffe, never mind putting their food on my tongue so it can grab it.

The next stop was the Karen Blixen House, her story was made famous with the movie Out of Africa.

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And the finally stop was at the Kazuri Bead Factory. Kazuri was started back in the 70’s to provide jobs to local single mothers.  They use the clay from Mt. Kenya to make jewelry. pottery and beads. Of course I had to support the local economy.

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Next up Zanzibar and Dar Es Salaam

Kenya and Tanzania, February 2014 Part 1

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So to add a chaotic mess to this blog, I writing about previous trips but I will be adding new trips in as well. So I’ve added the month/year to the title of each post.

My first trip to Africa was in May,2013 and I feel in love. I was actually quite surprised that I enjoyed safari as much as I did. So when exploring warm weather vacation options for February, Tanzania come up on my radar.  To fly to Tanzania, the plane stops in Kenya. When I started looking into the different safari options, Amboseli in Kenya seem to fit the bill. So I flew into Nairobi and out of Dar Es Salaam.

United does not fly to East Africa, so I booked United to Zurich via Newark and then Swiss down to Nairobi. I had a  tight connection in Zurich, 45 minutes, so I starting watching the Newark-Zurich flight to see if had any issues.  I was scheduled to fly on Thursday evening, arriving in Nairobi on Friday night. On Tuesday I noticed a nasty line of winter storms were scheduled to hit the New York area, so I called and got rerouted thru Dulles ( Washington D.C. area).  Ok until Wednesday morning, I got notification that my flight had cancelled, that’s OK, I can go earlier, maybe bring my laptop and do a little work during my 4 hour layover in Dulles. I did not like my seat (bulkhead) so I keep checking to see if something else opened up. Around 11AM, eureka, flight’s wide open now, hmmm, sure is because it CANCELLED. I’ve been rebooked for 8am into Dulles. Well now that’s a really long day in the airport.  Around 3pm, I get another notification, CANCELLED. Ok no problem, let me call the UAL and figure out my option. The first lady, I get you on a flight to Dulles tonight, I said who’s going to Dulles? I am trying to get to Nairobi. Well we don’t fly there. Yes but your part of this group called Star Alliance and Swiss flies there. Well let’s see, I can get you to Newark, ok yes, I am have to go. Hung up and called again. This time the agent says to me, How quickly can you get to the airport? Can you make a 6:00 pm departure to Europe? It’s now 3.30pm, I still had to go home to get my suitcase. I said if you want to send a helicopter, since United is into jets that option did not really work.  So finally I got rebooked to go Wednesday night on Lufthansa to Munich and connect to Zurich, where I would have to spend the night and pick up my original itinerary. So made dash home, finish packing and head to the airport.

I had always planned on doing Pack for Purpose. But due to my itinerary change (no tight connection), I was able to check in a bag. So I ended up running over to Walgreens and buying a whole bunch of toiletries that the Day Care had requested. I had found an old suitcase in the garage that was perfect to just give with the donations.

So I had made arrangements for a taxi to pick me up at 7.15 pm. I had a 9.20 pm departure, but with having to check bags I wanted to get there with plenty of time. Taxi did not show up until 7.55 pm. To say I was stressed would have been an understatement. I get to the airport and I one to the last to check in the flight. Immediately the gate attendant says to me, I am sorry ma’am we do not have a business class seat for you, you’ve been downgraded. OK. I mean what else could I say? I needed to get Nairobi on Friday night, because I was scheduled to go on Safari on Saturday morning. But then she actually looked at my reservation, oh shoot, picks up the phone and says you have to find her a seat, argue, argue, thank you. Here you go ma’am, we were able to locate a seat for you.  Apparently, the seat I was given had been ” blocked” and they unblocked it for me. So when I got on the plane, my seat mate demanded to see my ticket because he was so convinced that nobody was supposed to be in that seat. Too bad for him.

So I fly to Munich, have time for a pretzel and then connect to Zurich. Have I mentioned how much I love flying Lufthansa?  But they sure do like to make their passengers get their exercise. When it was time to board my flight to Zurich, I was not surprised when we were bused out to the plane, then had to climb up to board. Upon boarding,  they were handing out Toblerone ‘s.  It was a 45 minute flight, they still served full meal. I was not really hungry, but I did not want to be rude. Something I learned in my previous years of working for an airlines, you eat when you are giving food, because you never know when a flight might get delayed, stuck on a runway, holding pattern, etc.

The meal would have been nice, but the flight encounter turbulence.  As a seasoned traveler, I’ve had my fair share of turbulence, but this flight was slowing creeping into my top 5 of bumpy flights.  As soon as the flight attend caught my eye, I gave up my meal, because I was not interested in wearing it.  No sooner did she get the carts locked down, did the pilots tell them to be seated.  I was in the first row, so I was facing the flight attendant jump seat.  She caught my eye and tried to give me a smile. At that point, I just closed my eyes and tried to focus on something positive.  As you know the plane landed safety, or you would heard the story by now. But it was by far the worse flight I’ve ever been on with turbulence.  The pilots were awesome about keeping us informed about what was going on, not that any of understood it, but just hearing from them gave the appearance of calm.  Funny enough, the flight attendant said to me, it was one of the worst for her.  If I recall correctly, the pilot said something about a storm coming out of nowhere when we were trying to land, and it was damned either going up or down, so they just brought us down.  I may have just had a crush before but it was now full on love for Lufthansa after that flight.

I had used my points to book a room at the Hilton Zurich Airport. It was short layover, and I had only packed warm weather clothes, so I pretty much just went from the airport to hotel.

Funny enough,  my original flight from Newark actually departed and my flight to Nairobi was delayed to allow those passengers to make the connection……..

Stay tuned

 

 

 

Seoul, South Korea- April 2014

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In 2013, I booked a trip to Seoul, South Korea. I mentally prepared myself to cross the other pond in coach, because it was a place I really wanted to visit. Then North Korea started playing with their missiles, and everyone advised me that maybe it was not the best time to visit. So I cancelled my ticket.

In 2014, armed with United Global Premier Upgrades, I decided to try my luck with Seoul again. I was aiming for Cherry Blossom Season, but I was off by about a week. It’s not really something you can plan on seeing unless you book a few weeks before hand.

So why Seoul? My uncle travels for work a lot and was always saying what a great place it is visit. And my cousin’s wife’s family is from there and they had just visited and their pictures looked amazing. And I was really interested in the DMZ area, being able to go into “North Korea”.

When I originally booked my ticket, I was scheduled to fly Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Seoul. Why connect thru Denver to get to San Francisco? This was the routing that worked that would allow my upgrade from coach to business class to clear.  Originally I was scheduled to depart at 6 am, a few days before departure I was notified that I had been moved to a direct Chicago-San Francisco flight at 7 am.  And then at 5 am, as I getting my bearings to head over to the airport, I get notified that my flight has been cancelled and I was now scheduled to depart Chicago at 9 pm, with a 10 hour layover in San Francisco, before heading to Seoul the next day. Hmm yeah, no. I called up United and had a conversation that sounded like code, so I am in ORD but I am trying to get to ICN, they have me overnighting in SFO, but I then I am a day late, can you check on the 13:00 to NRT, with a connection into ICN? Or maybe HKG?

Code Decodor: ORD– Chicago ICN– Seoul SFO-San Fransciso NRT-Narita Japan HKG-Hong Kong

Sure no problem says the agent, I can get on the 1:00 pm departure to NRT,connection to ICN, you’ll only be a few hour later then originally scheduled. I said great, until I remember I was on a coach fare with a upgrade. WAIT, tell me my upgrade is protected. I am not doing 13.45 in coach on a 747. Not happening. I rather stay home. Yes I am spoiled, yes I sound like a snob. Yes you can hate me just a little for that comment. But in all fairness, I fly a lot. Like over 100,000 miles in 2013. I know my limits. Thankfully, my upgrade was protected and all was right in the world again.  Well until I realized how sleepy I was because I had not really slept the night before, anticipating 17 hours of flight time.

Finally arrive in Seoul, only to have to stand in a really long immigration line. Something to note, if you have Global Entry, you can apply to get the Seoul version of Global Entry, which would allow you to bypass the crazy lines.  But it only makes senses if you fly to Seoul frequently.

This trip was booked before I starting dating Hyatt, so I was booked in at the Conrad Seoul. Because of my flight snafu, I arrived closer to midnight then late afternoon. And my dumb-ass had booked a tour with a 7am pickup the next day.  You would think I would learn my lesson at some point.    I was upgraded to a very nice room that had more buttons then I knew what to do with.  I am pretty sure that toilet was trying to say Hello in Korean.

So the next morning, came to soon, it was time to go to the Demilitarized Zone tour, or the DMZ.  Why?I wanted to say that I was in North Korea……

See one foot in both each country! IMG_1249

Looking over into the North Korean part of the DMZ        IMG_1259

 

We stopped to have Korean BBQ for Lunch, I was not sure what some of the choices were, so I kept mine simple. Which turned out to be a good thing, because apparently the kimchi may or may not have had shellfish.

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After lunch we headed to the Third Tunnel. At this point, I really wished I had signed up for the 1/2 day tour.  The Third Tunnel was built by the North Koreans trying to invade South Korea. The key fact, it was dug by the North Koreans.  They are not big people, so the tunnel maybe had a clearance of 5.8 in. And I am about 5.11.  You see where this is headed? But wait,  to get to the tunnel, you have to walk about 1/4 mile down, on a serious decline. Never once did it occur to me, that I would have to go back up on a serious incline.  Yeah……

So I make it down to the tunnel entrance, I manage to walk in about 1 foot and I had to turn around. I kept bumping my head on the ceiling. So I go out and waited for the others from my tour group. Then I looked up and realized that I had to walk up the hill to get out.  I will spare you the ugly details,  let’s just say there was tears, prayers, hyperventilation, begging, bargaining and all other cries for help you could image.  When I finally came crawling out, I look like I had taken a shower. Luckily I had some awesome grapefruit face wipes in my bag. I was able to cool off and refresh. And then I started offering them to other as they came out. Yep, I got a lot of strange looks.

I made some new friends at the hotel lounge, yes big surprise, so the next day they suggested I check out the City Bus Tour.  Some fellow travelers from my previous day’s tour were on the bus and suggested stopping at the War Memorial Museum. I have to be honest, I probably would not have stopped normally, but I was glad I did. It was amazing. We only spent a few hours,  but could have spent more. You probably need a few days to really see the whole thing. The best part, it’s free!

The next day, I was still not recovered from the jaunt to the tunnel, so I got back on the bus and checked out Insadong. It was an amazing spring days, flowers were in bloom and the shops were open. IMG_1180

 

Funny how I do not like to shop in Chicago, but in a foreign city, why not. South Korea is known for their cosmetics, and while I am not a big fan, I have friends that like stuff so I thought I would check it out.  Snail Mucus anyone??? I ended up buying a lot of hand creams, face masks and perfume. A lot because the prices were great and they products are also really nice.

So after I was shopped out, I headed over to Gyeongbokgung Palace.  Again beautiful day, flowers in bloom, HUGE palace to walk around. I managed a few pictures before I sought refugee on a bench and had a good cry because I realized I had to walk about 2 miles to get out of there.

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All in all I really enjoyed my trip to Seoul. I would love to go back for the Cherry Blossom Festivals if I could time it properly.

 

 

And all good things come to end…..

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Last day of what has been a grand trip. After a farewell brunch with family and friends, I headed down to the docks for a harbor boat cruise. Somehow, is this in English, got lost in translation, so I ended up on a german only cruise.  Then I had to wonder what language I was speaking because I asked for wine and go this instead……

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The Hamburg harbor was quite busy for a Sunday. Lots of cargo ships being loaded and moving in and out. Including planes.IMG_1700

It was hot and well I was tired so after the cruise I did want I tend to do in all major cities, the hop on hop off bus. Which was ok, until the English portion stopped working. So I decided to get off on the next stop, which happened to be the Wine and Food festival.  I’ve always loved visiting Europe for the Christmas Markets, but I am now seeing the allure of Festivals too! 

After sampling some wine, how could I not? I headed back to the hotel to figure out who the heck I was going to get my bags closed for my journey home. Did I mention that even with my best intentions, I managed to add to my load over the 12 days? 

One really nice perk of being Hyatt Diamond, is the free breakfast (my favorite meal).  And the Park Hyatt Hamburg, puts on a impressive spread. But after 12 days of hotels, I could not do it. I had to say no to the croissants. I guess it’s true, too much of a good thing, is still too much.

So I hail a taxi and off to the airport I go. Hamburg to Frankfurt on Lufthansa, connecting on United direct to Chicago.  Given that I got the airport super early, I went and hung out in the lounge. It was great for plane watching and thankfully, my love of croissants returned. 

It’s time for boarding so I hightail it to the gate. I had gotten rid of my larger luggage but I was still carrying 3 bags and an umbrella. One thing I love about flying on Lufthansa, they feed you, 10 minute flight, no problem, have a cookie. The only weird thing is they hand they out during boarding, while you trying to get settled, so my cookie ended up in the abyss that is my hand luggage.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the Frankfurt airport, odd I know, but I’ve learned to not mind it so much.  I actually really enjoy the Lufthansa Senator Lounge by the Z gates, because they have pretzels. So I was a little disappointed that I did not have time to visit on this trip. By the time I go my tax refund and picked up my airport chocolates, I had to run to the gate. 

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Ahhhh, I made it. I had a nice seat on the upper deck and some friendly people sitting across the aisle. But wait, what is this sitting next to me? Another cuddler? Seriously? I may need to find an airline that only has single seats. 

Hello Chicago!!!

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The End.