Adventures in Australia- May 2017

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My little accident resulted in me having to cancel my planned trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. Since I was not planning on being in Brisbane, I decided to head to Melbourne for a change of scenery.  I booked into the Grand Hyatt Melbourne.  It turns out that was a blessing in disguise. I was practically unable to walk.The poor staff had to put up with me whining for the week. They were fantastic! Once the managers, Jessica, felt bad that I was missing my trip to Vietnam. So she arranged for Vietnam to come to me. Best hotel stay EVER!  Even if the lounge staff was trying to force feed me bananas and yogurt.

My Australian parents, Jenny and John, were heading off a 7 week trip of the world. So as one does, I decided to join them on the first leg of their trip. I actually surprised them at the airport, and flew with them to Sydney. I do sort of admit this is taking Bon Voyage a little too far.  But hey why not?

For some reasons, the hotel rates in Sydney are really high. So I used my points to book into the Park Hyatt Sydney. Big Mistake!  I got lucky and they gave me an upgrade. The pictures show just how horrible it was……

That view…… so funny thing the hotel is only 4 stories. I was on the 2nd floor.  When I woke up I opened curtains and saw this. I sat up to take a picture. I had no regard for the fact people walking right below could see me clearly. Oh well.

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At the end of May, I was scheduled to fly back to Chicago. I was booked on Qantas to Sydney, then United to LA then Chicago.  I am not a fan of the day time flying, so I did not sleep much night before. Plus I had a 6:00 am departure.  By the time I arrived on the United flight to LA, I was ready for a nap. We were originally delayed for 30 mins, then it was hour and then well, 4 hours later, it cancelled.  United was AMAZING.  Seriously, I was laughing with the flight attendants and the ground crew.  It was not ideal, but they made it fun. And the best part? I got to go to Vivid Sydney with my friend Madison.

52 hours later, I arrived in Chicago. I went to follow up with my Dr. regarding my broke ankle. I ended up back in the ER, again. I had developed a blood clot, that was the horrible pain I had in Melbourne. Let this be a lesson, GOOGLE is not a doctor. Don’t be stupid, if you don’t feel right. Seek medical attention immediately. I am not being funny.  Seriously, my clot is pretty much my whole leg. I am currently taking blood thinners and I have to wear a compression hose.  It’s not fun.  So my PSA, if in doubt get checked. Don’t trust google.

Until next time, Safe Travels!

 

Adventures in Australia-August 2016

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Shortly after my birthday trip, I headed back to Australia. Which should really read, Flo had travel drama. I had a little bit of weather trying to leave Chicago .

I eventually made it to Australia, but my bags did not. Since I was “home” it should have been fine. But then I remembered, in a moment of pure insanity, I had gotten rid of 1/2 my clothes. So all that remained were now missing, apart from my exercise clothes. When I am going to learn to pack properly?  My bags turned up about 36 hours after me, so in the end it was not too bad.

I arrived back to my first winter in Brisbane. I was looking forward to it, I just did not realize it was going to be, well so chilly.  Not that I am complaining after the heat in Chicago. Something else that is great about the winters. Festivals, tons and tons of festivals!

It was  like German Christmas markets minus the extreme cold weather. It was fantastic!

In another exciting news, the streets of Brisbane were transformed into a movie set for the upcoming “Thor” movie. I did “spot” Anthony Hopkins and Chris Hemsworth.

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Overall, August was a bit a of boring month for me. I was still recovering from being sick in the States. There was quite a few strands of nasty flu going around Brisbane, and I managed to get one them as well. So I did not get up to much.  Well my major accomplishment was that I stayed on one continent for entire calendar month.

Australia continues to surprise me. I am enjoying it more then I thought I would. I am hoping as spring is sprung I am able to get out and travel some more. There is so much to explore.

Until next time, safe travels.

 

 

 

Flo’s Birthday July 2016- Part 3

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Spotted some Qantas Roo’s eating Dello Mano brownies  on a United flight heading to Germany. Something is off with this picture…

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Thank you to the fantastic flight crew working UA 907 on July 8th. We had a blast on the flight!  Yes, I am referring to United Airlines, close your jaw. I , myself, was quite surprised. Graham, the purser was fantastic.  I was horribly sick when I returned from Scotland. Since I still was not feeling well when were heading out, so I opted to upgrade myself to business class. (Yes, only me, myself and I) To keep it classy, I made sure I had the last row,  which is rear-facing, so I could wave to my friends while I enjoy my business meal. (It’s a wonder I had any friends willing to travel with me with this type of behavior, SMH)

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Unfortunately, we all had a little too much fun on the flight so there not much sleeping. There was a rapper, The Game, and his entourage were on our flight.. They arrived late and there was a problem with the rapper’s seat belt. So we were delayed departing Chicago,  we arrived in Frankfurt with about 30 minutes to get our connection. Of course, we came into a remote gate, so we had to be bused to the terminal. We made our flight to Berlin, but our bags did not. The lucky ones that were traveling with carry on’s were able to refresh while the rest of us were sporting the latest in eau du travel funk.

We had a free afternoon and some of decided to do a bit of site-seeing.  The sun kept trying to hide behind the clouds, but it was quite pleasant when it made it’s appearance.

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That evening the majority of the group headed over to Borchardt for dinner.  We took a stroll after dinner and enjoyed the fact it was still light out at 9pm.Our missing bags finally showed up at midnight. I was so excited I tried to hug the delivery guy.

Sunday morning came too quickly. 1/2 the group went on a bike tour of Berlin with Fat Tire. And well some of us were just lazy

On Monday, the original plan was to go to the Porsche Factory in Leipzig. But it was closed for summer holiday. So option 2 was to take the train out to Potsdam. Well that did not happen. So option 3? Just walk around. The group met up again in the early afternoon for a boat cruise along the canal that runs thru Berlin. Really it was a reason to afternoon drink.

I liked to say we did something fantastic on Monday night, but it appears we were too busy playing on our phones……..

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Photo by Alexis Eckersall

Just kidding, sort of. We hung out the lounge at the Hyatt for a bit before heading out to a nice beer garden for dinner.

This was the last night in Berlin. A few friends were heading back to the States and the rest of the group was heading up Bliestorf for the next part of the trip.

You may have noticed the fantastic photos. I, of course, did not take them. Alexis, was the party photographer.  Thanks again, Alexis. The pictures are amazing.

Stayed tuned for the next part of this fun adventure, which includes dirndls and lederhosen.

 

Flo’s Birthday July 2016- Part 2

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I am solo traveler. I do what I want when I want to do it and well frankly I kind of of prefer it that way. I was little worried about traveling with 20 of my friends.

So how where we getting to Berlin?  Well before moving to Australia, I was very loyal to United Airlines. So I had a healthy amount of frequent flier miles. (If you want to learn more about earning miles, check out The Points Guy.)    Add in my 1k status and the choice was easy, Chicago to Frankfurt on United connecting to Lufthansa to Berlin.I was one of the last one’s to book my ticket. It was primary because I was not sure if I would be coming from Australia or the States.  After booking 6 friends on  one flight from Chicago, I realized it would make sense for me to book myself on that flight. Fun Fact: Lesley was the first one to book.

I’ve been fortunate to be able frequently fly in Business Class, alot. Most airlines provide a in flight amenity kit, some like Qantas and Virgin Australia give pajamas. Since part of this trip was for my friends to experience a “Flo” trip. I made special amenity kits for them. I was even able to include pajamas from Qantas. ( Thanks again Qantas!)

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You probably already know about my love affair with Flight 001. So it should not be a surprise that I choose a Seat Pak for my amenity kit. I included stuff that I found to be helpful on flights. A pen, tissue, toothbrushes, hand lotion, lip balm, electronic glass cleaner, antibacterial wipes and in some cases a battery pack. My friend, Michelle made amazing travel cards that included the itinerary, contact information for the other travels, so Flo travel trivia and a crossword puzzle. She even wrapped them in vintage maps!

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As with any trip, not everything went according to schedule. Apparently the Porsche factory was closed the week were going to be in town. There goes my dream of doing hot laps on the track in Leipzig.  Someone got a new job and had to cancel, another had to change tickets due to a wedding etc. Lots of shifting and organizing up until the last minute, including a last minute cancellation that had me sweating. Let me be very fair in saying, I was very clear to my friends that I would completely and totally understand if they were unable to attend, for whatever reason.  So when one friend, who had been making excuses for months, said that maybe they could not go about a week before, I made the decision to cancel.Only because if we are all being honest, said friend never had any intention of going on the trip.  I had to cancel the ticket, rearrange hotels, update transportation lists, etc. It was not a 2 minute fix. Fast forward to day before departure and I realized, I had no heard from that friend. Oops. Luckily the cancellation text message came in at 28th hour. Whew. That would have been a bit awkward at the airport.

I used my points to book most of us into the Grand Hyatt Berlin. Hyatt has this amazing program called Be My Guest. It allows diamond members to use their points to book rooms for friends and family and they get your diamond status benefits.  So everyone was upgraded to club rooms and given access to club lounge. Which was just ideal given the number of people traveling together. It gave us an opportunity to get together and just hang out. DSC_0052

I had coordinated with the hotel to ensure that everyone’s names where on their rooms and that everything was sorted ahead of time. Then I got an email the morning we were leaving confirming my reservations, minus a few rooms. Nothing like last minute panic. A quick email sorted everything out. And on our way we went.

We were all so excited that we headed to the airport early.I told the group that was traveling with me, that I would meet them at the gate. I was excited but not excited enough to give up my TSA Pre-Check. Stay tuned for the next part of the trip, actually going!

 

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?

St. Augustine, Florida- January 2015

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Traveling is great, but it’s even better with friends. BUT do not assume because you are related or best friends that you can travel together. That’s a post for another day.

When I first graduated from college, I went to work for United Airlines where I met Renee.  Being in our early twenties and broke, we did what most gals would do. We hopped on planes going anywhere and everywhere.  Our first international trip together was to London.  We only had 2 1/2 days, so Renee took the map split it half and said we would go one side each day. Yes we did London on roller skates, but I learned that you should always go, even if it’s only for 2 days. I also later learned, the hard way, that Renee is a fantastic travel companion.

Over the years, life happened, Renee married an Army man and moved all around the country. We’ve keep in touch and manage to see each other every now and then. We had such a great time catching up last year when I had my work conference in Savannah, we said we should hang out more often.  Lucky for me, Renee is very organized, and we penciled in a date right then and there.  We looked at the map and flights and choose St. Augustine, Florida for our first annual girl’s weekend.

I was able to fly a direct flight to Jacksonville and Renee just drove down from Savannah.  There was no Hyatt in St. Augustine so we stayed at the Doubletree. Which should have been ok, given that it’s a fairly new hotel. BUT apparently the contractor forgot to sound proof the walls.  I have spent a lot of nights in hotel as of late, and I can safely say this was first……

Renee was recovering from a medical procedure, so we did not split the map of St. Augustine in 2, rather we just did enjoyed our time together and took in a few sights. Lucky for me, Renee loves to take pictures.

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I realize that I spend a lot of time visiting other countries, I really should spend more time seeing the United States. I take what’s in my own backyard for granted.  And what’s a trip report with about something silly to share?  As a women, I should know better then to underestimate my ability to shop…….well too much shopping equaled a really heavy bag… FLO TRAVEL FAIL……

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Until next time……. Happy Travels!

Edinburgh Scotland- October 2014

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Time for some shortbread, scotch and boots…..

The day before departure, I kept getting notices from United saying that due to weather, ATC issues from the  fire the previous week at the FAA tower, there were a lot of cancellations so check flights before heading to airport. Great. I was scheduled to fly thru Frankfurt connecting to Edinburgh. Since I was up at 4:00 am and thought I would check my flight. Still good, but the direct flight to Edinburgh had seats open and upgradeable seats.  In true Flo reservation fashion,  I could not change my flight online. So I called reservations and was able to change my flight. So instead of seeing my German friends, I arrived in Edinburgh at 7.45am rather then 12.45pm

I actually arrived at the airport on time and did not have to make a mad dash for boarding, for once. I got settled and started chatting with my seatmate and texting a few friends. The purser was going around asking everyone if they were familiar with how the seats work. It was a nice touch, but I was familiar, so ignored the demonstration.  Apparently the lady sitting in front me of me, felt like I need instructions and gestured that I pay attention. WHAT? No proud of what happened next….

DYKWIA moment.Yep, Do You Know Who I Am?  Pretty sure the words I am a 1K and flown over 100,000 miles this year came out of my mouth.

That’s when my seatmate asked had I been drinking, just as the purser approached our row for the seat demonstration. “Do we need to cut you off? Put a star by your name?” Seriously? For the record, no I had not been drinking. I was just highly annoyed that some silly lady thought I needed instructions on how to use a seat…….

I smiled politely and said, no, I will behave. Hmmmmm

Anticipating loads of flight time ahead, I tend not to sleep well the night before a international flight. Sometimes it works, so that I fall asleep and stay asleep or sometimes, I am tossing around like a hamster on a wheel. This was a wheel flight.

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I arrived in Edinburgh ready to go to bed….. But since I had arrived earlier then anticipated I was unable to get into my hotel. So off to Starbucks I went for the wifi of course, but the coffee and Bacon Buttie were not bad either.IMG_2104Stay tuned for more of this adventure…….