South of France-July 2015

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Record Heat Wave hits Europe….. Of course the year that I decide to break my own travel rule.

A few years ago, I decided that I would travel on my birthday. Not that I need an excuse to travel, but why not do something that makes you happy on your birthday.

This year I headed to the South of France. I found an amazing fare to Paris on United Airlines, so I added on a flights to Nice on Air France. Fortunate for me, United provides an arrivals lounge for inbound passengers at the Sheraton CDG. So I was able to refresh before flying to Nice which was great since I have no status on Air France.

Air France has bit more generous carry on policy then other carriers I’ve flown in Europe. They allow up to 12kg/26lbs for hand baggage. Most other carriers only allow 7kg/15lbs. I just checked my bag, because well I did not want to have deal with liquids etc. I am glad I did. There was agents walking around the gate around checking everyone’s bags. At this point, I only had a small tote bag and yet I still got hit with a sticker that said my bag must go under the seat in front of me. I saw many of passengers have to surrender their bags.

Since it was my birthday I decided to spoil myself and use my points, so I booked a room at the Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée. Its quite the charming hotel located on the main street in Nice, Promenade de Anglais, right across the street from the beach.

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If you are looking for a little beach time but also a little sightseeing, Nice is great place to visit. It’s quite a walkable city. It has a lot of Italian influence, as it was under Italian rule, this is especially evident in the old town.

The South of France is the definitely the summer playground for the wealthy.  The private jets, yachts, cars, homes, it’s a wealth that quite interesting. It’s not to say the average tourist can’t afford to visit,  let’s just say you are most likely flying on Easy Jet not your private jet.

I opted for organized tours on this trip, so I signed for a day tour of Provence, that included stops in:

Cannes

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Grasse, where we visited the Fragonard Parfurm Factory, I learned some fascinating facts about parfum. I learned those who create parfum are called Perfumers or “Noses”. There are currently only 50 true perfumers in the world right now. They must attend 3 years of schooling, followed by 7 years of apprenticeship. They are able identify over 2500 scents, from memory. They can only spend about 2-3 hours a day smelling scents and to protect their noses, they do not smoke or drink.

IMG_4821Next stop was Gourdon, a little town with amazing panoramic views of the area. I had an amazing lunch with my  new Australian friends, LeAnn and Kim.

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Our final stop was a quaint little town of St. Paul De Vence, an old medieval town. Full of art galleries and fun little shops. Lucky for me and my curious fascination with cemeteries, there was not a lot of time for shopping. I did discover an cute shop that sold the most fantastic jam, La Chamre Confitures. ( If anyone traveling to Paris anytime soon, do yourself a favor, your welcome). On a serious sugar high, I tried to navigate my way back to my tour meeting point. Until I saw the most amazing painting in an art gallery window. I figured what’s the harm in checking it out? Bad idea, I wanted to purchase 1/2 the gallery. Turns out the actual artist was there, Michel Degav. We had a lovely chat, and while I was not able to purchase the piece I originally wanted, I was able to get a nice print.  If you are in the area, I highly recommend checking out his gallery, Atelier Galerie d’Art, oh and tell him Flo said Hi!

Oh I did finally find my lavender,but it was not very fragrant.

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When I began researching my trip, I found out that I would be in town for the Nice Jazz Festival. The line up included The Roots and Kool and the Gang, so purchased tickets. Now I am not much of concert goer so I really did not know what to expect. It’s a festival, i.e. no assigned seating. Well more specifically, no seating at all. I am glad I went but I will probably be less inclined to do that again.  Did I mention it was HOT?

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The next day I headed out to discover my 47th country,

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I checked out the casino in Monte Carlo and enjoyed the immense humidity.( No not really). I had signed up for the 1/2 day tour and somehow ended up on a full day tour. I think I would be have been good with the 1/2 day one. But honestly, I can think of worst ways to spend my birthday. I got to discover the 2nd smallest country in the world!

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Since I had booked my flights separately, choose to fly up to Paris the night before my return flight to Chicago. While at the airport in Nice, I decided to pick up a sandwich at my favorite place, Paul. While waiting a young lady walked up and asked the server if he had wine opener. He did not, and I said maybe try a knife? She explained, that she was flying to Amsterdam, and had 2 bottles of wine, but was unable to check her bag.  The server suggested trying a place down the terminal, and she asked me if I had time before flight, would I like to join her for some wine. I did actually have time before my flight, so why not?  So cheers to Vanya from Bulgaria for sharing her wine with me on my birthday in the Nice airport.

So officially now have less then 1 year to get planning the big party for next year. Any suggestions on where it should be?

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Amsterdam, November 2014

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So even though I was too sick to enjoy the Seychelles, I had not intention of staying home for the long Thanksgiving weekend. So off the Christmas Markets I went. When trying to decide where to head, I have to admit, I looked for Hyatt’s. I needed 4 more stays to keep my Diamond status. And well since I was going to be staying at hotel anyway, figure why not stay at a Hyatt. Just one minor problem, Hyatt does not have a large footprint in Europe. And then add the fact, that I was flying United, my options of where I was headed where limited.  Enter Amsterdam. Direct flight from Chicago and they have 2 Hyatt’s.

I had visited Amsterdam, many many years ago. So I was looking forward to visiting with fresh eyes. When traveling off season, like winter, it’s the perfect time to visit museums. Amsterdam has many…..

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I had pre-arranged my tickets for Van Gogh and Anne Frank House. There was no line at Van Gogh, but when I arrived at 8:50 for my 9:00 am entry for Anne Frank House, the line was about 30 deep. I am early bird, so I booked the 9 am entry, but turns out, it’s the best time to go. I was not one of the first to enter, there were about 20 people ahead of me. When you enter there are some plaques and a video playing. Well some tourists are not so nice and were standing in way that nobody could read the plaques or really see the video. So I moved on the the next room. BEST MOVE! I had the place to myself. It was amazing. A must see if you are in Amsterdam.

The Lord in the Attic was interesting to find. It’s located on the edge of the red light district. So I had to walk thru it to find it. Except I kept getting lost. So I get stopping in red light district stores, asking for directions. VERY interesting stores. It was worth the trouble, the museum was quite interesting.

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After the I headed over to the Yab Yum. It had a closed early for a private tour for some university students, but they were ok with me joining.  The Yab Yum was a high end brothel in Amsterdam.  It was shut down in 2008 and now operates as a museum.

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The funniest one I visited? The Amsterdam Cheese Museum. Now if only the wine museum were next door….

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I also took a canal boat tour

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And found some Christmas Markets….. WITH CHEESE!!!!!!

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Amsterdam was great, probably more enjoyable when it’s warmer. But then I am not sure I would have gone to so many museums. Stay tuned, next stop Cologne, Germany.

 

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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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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