Hello Edinburgh……

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I have to laugh at myself sometimes. I gave myself a challenge of visiting 50 countries before 40. In order to do this I would need to actually go to places I’ve never been. Ironically, the next few trips are not new countries, but new places. Oh well, it’s going to make 2015 interesting.

When I was in Tanzania, I met a nice couple that live in Scotland. We have since kept in touch and I mentioned that I wanted to go to London to go boot shopping. Yes boots. Well lucky for me,maybe not so much for my friends, there is a  Duo Fit Ship in Edinburgh. So I can get my boots, visits a new place and see some friends. Win win.

Why am I flying to the UK for boots? I am tall, have wide calves and big feet. Finding boots to fit are a problem. Duo Boots have 21 different calf sizes, 3 widths and various heights.  I think my biggest challenge is going to be suitcase space!

So I made the decision, but I had to find flights. I considered the direct flight from Chicago to Edinburgh on United for about a hot minute. They fly a 757 on that route. Anyone that knows planes, know that 7 hour 35 minutes on a 757 is pushing the level of comfort. So to spare my bum, I opted to go out of my way to Frankfurt and Brussels.  Yes I realize that I would have been better off time wise, but nope. I flew Newark-Dublin once on a 757, that was the first and last time.EDI

 

So other then buying boots, eating shortbread and drinking scotch, I guess I need to research what there is to do in Edinburgh. I am looking forward to discovering a new city and catching up with my friends!

 

 

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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.

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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?????

 

Flying to Copenhagen

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When I started car shopping I knew I wanted to do European Delivery, if possible, depending on which car I went with. I also knew that I was planning on attending a party in Germany in July. So when I finally decided to purchase the car, I asked if would be possible to do delivery in July.

Of course, I should have known it would not work out as planned. The party was in Hamburg on July 26th. So I had asked if would be possible to do delivery in Leipzig on July 25th. Well we know how this story ends, due to the new model debut, the track time at Leipzig was all booked up. My only choice would be August 11th, if I wanted Leipzig. Or I could take July 7th or 18th in Stuttgart. Hmm. so I either fly over for the 7th and fly home and then back to Hamburg, or I take the 18th and take a nice summer vacation. Option 2 just made more sense.

Originally I was hesitant to drive around for days on end, so a short and simple road trip was planned. But then I had 5 days before I needed to be in Hamburg, so then what? I thought about various places, like Malta or Greece or Poland, but I had little problem, Baggage. I was traveling for 12 days so I had some serious bags. Too much to be schlepping on the train. And have you seen what airlines charge these days for bags? So my options were limited to flying on Star Alliance. And of course there had to be a Hilton or Hyatt. And I wanted to take advantage of the fact it was summer.

So given all that nonsense, going to Copenhagen checked all the boxes. SAS flew direct from Frankfurt, there was a HIlton, and it’s just beautiful in the summer.

So I corral all my bags and head to check in for my flight in Frankfurt.Where I proceed to make a big stink because they try to tell me I need to pay to check my 2nd bag. Fine, I tell the agent, just charge me, it’s wrong but I am not going to argue. The agent I am not oh wait I am sorry you are correct you don’t have to pay. VICTORY for like 2 seconds. Why would I fight with the agent taking my bags, they may end up in Timbuktu……

I make it to the gate area and I overhear some Americans talking. It’s funny the things people will say when they think those around them don’t understand. It was quite entertaining.

And finally board the plane, luckily it’s a quick flight because I am not sure how much time I could handle having my knees in my throat

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Last Supper in Strasbourg

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After barreling thru the French countryside, we headed back to Strasbourg for dinner.  We checked out Petite France, which got it name for having a syphilis hospital in 15th century.  It was a grey and rainy day, so when the sun came out, we decided to celebrate.

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I’v been to France before but do you know that I’ve never had a macaron before? I’ve had a macaroon (and lucky enough had some warm ones earlier in the day).  Now you ask what is the difference between a macaron and a macaroon? I am going to say Google it.

After a long day of cheese, wine, macaroons and macron’s, it was time for dinner.  I blame my wine consumption on my dinner choice….

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Yes Beef Tartare, well when in France!

La Route des Vins et le vignoble d’Alsace

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Wait Wine? Yes please……

The great thing about France in the summer is there is a good chance you will find a local festival. Since we were staying in the Alsace region, we were able to locate several wine festivals. Our first stop was in Ribeauville, located on the Route des Vin.

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The Vins and Gastronomie festival ( Wine and Food) was being held in the town center.  The set up was similar to the Christmas Markets, wooden stalls serving different types of wine and food. You purchased a ticket at the entrance that could be exchanged at any of the stalls for different types of food.  For the wine tasting, you had to purchase a glass and a wrist band. Somehow we lost the “need to purchase a wristband” in translation. So we just drank free wine.

And what’s a little wine without some cheese?

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Time to continue on to the next town, which was about 1 minute away. What we then learned was the wine route is better discovered on bicycle, rather then driving. Obvious reasons being, should not be driving while tasting wine and well the towns are not built for large American cars. Did I mention the roundabouts????

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**** Just to clarify, there was no drinking and driving, the driver did not have a sip of wine.****

Strasbourg

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As you know I travel a lot, so there are few givens to my travel. I am picky about how I am going to get there and where I will stay once I have arrived.

If I were to be honest, my airline of choice would be Lufthansa, but they don’t fly Chicago to Fort Lauderdale, so United is my preferred.  When it comes to hotels, I used to be in committed relationship with Hilton, but Hyatt has since stolen my heart.

Given that there was no Hyatt’s in Strasbourg, we opted to stay at the Hilton. It was located right off the motorway, so it was great because it did not require having to drive thru town.  And due to my status, we were given an upgrade to the executive floor, free wireless, breakfast, and executive lounge access.

After a long day of driving and a really nice happy hour in the lounge, we opted to have dinner at the hotel.  Which turned out for the best given the nice wine selection and dessert options. Can you can say food coma?

 

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And I am off….

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I guess I should clarify something with my posts, they are not in real time. They are days behind. So if you arre reading this thinking, hmm I think I am going to find Flo in Germany, yeah I am probably already home.

My usual travel pattern, when heading to Europe, is to take a 6:00pm departure,  so I have a chance at sleeping. Well due to the schedule for the next day, I took the 2:20 pm from Chicago to Frankfurt. Rookie Mistake #2.

I also booked my ticket late, so the choice seats where gone. Rookie Mistake #3.

So I ended up in the middle seat sandwiched between 2 men, both who where armrest hogs. The one to my left was  not as bad, elbows touch someone would move. However, the guy to my right? I am pretty sure he was trying to get his cuddle on.

So 7.25 flight time, I watched 3 movies, so maybe 2 hours of sleep? Arrived in Frankfurt at 5:20 am, ready to go to bed rather then face the day.  But the next day, was the big day, and I was way to excited to sleep.

Originally the plan had been to meet up with friends in Frankfurt and we would drive down to the Audi Forum in Neckarsulam. I had booked a hotel room at the airport so we could refresh before fhe drive.  Well plans changed, flights cancelled and I made rookie mistake 4. Don’t prepay your hotel unless your willing to lose it.

So I walked over to the Frankfurt Hilton Airport to refresh and drink about 4 expresso’s.  The Hilton was located in the Squaire, which right next to the train station for the long distance trains. So it worked out great given my bad situation.

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I had prebooked the train, at risk, because the price difference was so signficant it was worth it. Next stop Stuttgart……….

 

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