Thailand, November 2018

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I love a good points redemption, especially when it’s super easy to find flights to places I actually want to go on the day that I want to go. Since it was cold in Chicago, I decided to continue my trip to someplace warm. I was able to score a free ticket on a direct flight from Vienna to Bangkok. And free return ticket from Bangkok to Chicago via Paris. Sign me up.

Christmas in Thailand is NOT like Christmas in Austria…..

And with Rowan and Oliver now living in Bangkok, you know that lots of alcohol was involved. I had a night out in Bangkok. It was interesting. It involved Flo in a Tuktuk, at a bar that was on fire, beer and dancing.

The next night, was a bit more sedate. We went to Le Bua. and took are requisite instagram photos.

It was great to catch up with friends, but I sooo happy to head out to the coast for a few days of relaxation. A 3 hour ride from Bangkok found me in Hua Hin. It was just the right for relaxation. Interesting that the resort was full of Americans.

By the end of the trip, it was clear I was sick. And I had a LONG journey home. A 3 1/2 hour car ride back to the airport in Bangkok. Then flight to Paris, connecting on to Chicago. Which I had scored for free! I realized that I had not done any Christmas shopping, so I made the best of my time in the Paris airport and hit up duty free. The journey was not as bad as I thought it would be. The chest infection reared it’s ugly head the next day, so my timing was perfect in getting home.

Until next time……


Vienna, Austria-November 2018

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To know me is to know I LOVE Christmas markets. Especially the ones in Europe. So after hearing me going for years about them, my friends Sheila and John were game to go to Vienna.

It was a little colder then I thought it would be for November but it was lovely all the same. I openly admit that I am a hotel snob. I love my points. So I tend to stay at places that will increase my point balance. We booked into the Hilton Stadtpark. I arrived literally seconds before a tour group pulled up. The tour leader was quite upset that I was being addressed before him and 100 of his closet friends. The lady at check-in was lovely, apologized for the rude tour leader and gave me some chocolates. That was the best part of my stay. The “upgraded” room smelled like it had been smoked in. I was tired so I didn’t think much of it. It was clear that they had used something to try to mask the smell, but it almost made worse. When I asked to be moved room, I was told it was not possible since housekeeping was gone for day. So I did what I had to do, I opened the window. Such a bad idea.

It was quite cold and windy, so the markets were not quite as enjoyable as previous visits. But it was nice all the same, to be able to visit them with friends.

Given that it was so cold, it’s a wonder that we went hat shopping. And well did you know Vienna is famous for furs? No shock there, did I mention how cold it was?? Well when in Rome……

Well it turns out that sleeping in smoking room, even the windows open was not a good idea. I managed to get a WICKED sinus/chest infection. Lesson learned, next time fight for a new room and move to another hotel….

Until next time……

Germany-October 2018

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I used to be convinced that once I visited a city, that it would be better to go somewhere new, versus returning to places I have already been. Well cities evolve, so that is just dumb thinking on my part. I LOVE visiting Germany, especially for the Christmas Markets. Since I was attempting to learn the language, I thought what a better way to force myself to speak, then to spend a week immersed.  So Hallo Deutschland! 

First stop was Koln or Cologne.  I had flown to Frankfurt and took the train to Cologne. Which sounded like a good idea when I booked it, but the reality I should have flown. I was traveling for 30 days, so I had 2 suitcases and a laptop bag. And they were heavy. Lifting them onto the train, was interesting. So yeah, trains are not the best idea if you have lots of bags!  But Cologne was just beautiful in the fall. 

This is the part where I should tell you all the great sightseeing that I did and culture I took in. Sorry nope. I walked a lot and just enjoyed the beautiful fall weather. I caught with a friend Laura, who lives close by.  Apparently this my new way of traveling, just not making plans and going with things.  Fun note, I saw Shania Twain in the hotel lounge. 

We took a day trip to Dusseldorf. With the amazing weather, it was great to just stroll around. I would like to visit again in the summer, as the river front looks amazing. 

After spending a week in Cologne, I attempted to head south to Frankfurt. There was a fire on the train line, so I was told to go main train station and take the regional train. And then the adventure began, I had to take a train to the other station, found the regional train that was chocked full, and it was going to Mainz, not Frankfurt. While the train ride was scenic, along the Rhine, it was not ideal to stand for 3 hours only to arrive in Mainz, and find that the trains to Frankfurt were still having issues.  I gave up and took a taxi!  By the time I arrived in Frankfurt, I was pleasantly surprised.  I had been once before, but only vaguely remember walking over a bridge. I really enjoyed walking around and taking in the varied architecture.

I really only headed back to Frankfurt, because I was scheduled to fly out of there on Monday night. Rather then stay all weekend, I headed down to Heidelberg to meet up with some friends, Kevin and Lisa. I had met Kevin while living in Brisbane, so it was nice to meet up in his home country. I continued to be super lucky with the weather. Heidelberg is an idyllic college town. Perfect for a weekend visit. 

Too soon, I was on the train, heading back to Frankfurt. In hindsight, I should have just gone straight from Cologne to Heidelberg. Or even better, try not to cram in some many cities into one trip. But it worked out in the end, lesson learned. It was worth getting to catch up with my friends.  

I’ve normally try to visit Germany in late November because I love Christmas market. But now having visited in the Fall, I think I may need to make this an annual thing. It was just a magical!

Stay tuned…. next stop back to Australia! Until then Safe Travels!

Lisbon, Portugal- June 2018

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Something I had to consider when I was planning this trip was limiting the number of stops and connections I made because I was at maximum capacity with my bags.  Originally I had planned on going to Porto, but it required a connection so instead I opted to fly direct to Lisbon instead.  I was meeting up with friends and after 8 days in practical seclusion, I was looking forward to social interaction.

Ironically it was pouring rain the first few days, I ended up just giving up on site-seeing. , including skipping my trip to Porto.  I made the mistake of leaving the hotel and got into shopping trouble. More like I discovered Vista Alegre. Which would have been fine had I been heading straight home, but I had one stop. Oops. I could not resist.

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Luckily the sun finally came out and we were able to do a bit of sightseeing. But first we ate. We had asked the hotel for a recommendation and they suggested A Gina. I was intrigued by the Secret Black Pig. It was SO good. So much so that we went back for seconds the next night.

After a very filling lunch, we decided to walk around town  and burn it off.

It a little chilly for June in Lisbon.  And having walked too many of the 7 hills the day before, we decided to do a Tram Car Tour. It was hilarious. We had seats right behind the tram driver and it added to the enjoyment. First all the streets are narrow in Lisbon. They have to fight with pedestrians, cyclists, motorist and stupid people.  At one point a cyclist was riding in the middle of the street.  No amount of bell ringing was making the guy move. Finally at the red light, the tram driver told the guy you have to share the road. The guy started arguing “Why? It’s Saturday, I want to enjoy my bike ride”…even though this exchange was in Portuguese, it was obvious the guy was not going to give in. After a 2 minute exchange, the Tram driver just said enough and resumed our tour. We hit another snag, with a car blocking the the tram tracks.  The driver kept ringing the bell, which brought out some on lookers. They then proceeded to yell at the driver that he had plenty of room to clear and why wouldn’t he just try.  5 minutes later a harried van driver arrived and we were on our way.  45 minutes on the tram, who knew it would be so entertaining.

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We did so more walking around, more eating and just enjoyed our time in Lisbon. Frequently stopping for drinks and food.  If it only it had been a little warmer.

Its always fun to discover new places with friends.  Soon it was time to head off to my new and final stop, Paris.  But first I had to figure out how I was going to sneak my new purchases on the flight, since they clearly were NOT going to fit in my suitcases.

Travel tip- look for a friendly business man that has only one carry on. Ask him nicely if he wouldn’t mind carrying your 3rd carry-on because you are over the limit……..

Stay tuned for Paris!

Malta-June 2018

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After my long weekend in Bangkok, I started working my way back to the States, via Europe. First stop was Malta.  Which was interesting choice. I was meant to meet up with friends, but our dates got crossed and I forgot that I did not actually need to be in Malta.  It turned out well, because I actually needed to finish up my last assignments. The days were beautiful, but it was a bit chilly. So I spent most of my time looking at the ocean, while working. Not exactly the best way to see Malta.

IMG_1645What really surprised me about Malta, is that limestone and lack of color. The island itself has an interesting history.  It only finally became the Republic of Malta in 1974.

I did see the Blue Grotto but I did not go swimming, as it was a little chilly for me.  When I did manage to finally leave my room, I partook in the local cuisine, like the Maltese Sausage and the local beer, Cisk.

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I think I would have enjoyed my visit more, if I was not under a tight deadline.  I have to imagine that it keeps quite warm in the height of the summer. While it was a bit chilly, it was ideal for sightseeing.

When I booked this trip, it seemed like a good idea to spend 3 weeks in Europe. As I was packing up for my next stop, I realized I was successfully learned how to travel like an Australian. It’s not very American to take a 3 week holiday. So stay tuned, the next stop is Mallorca, Spain

Vienna, Austria-November 2017

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It’s Christmas Market time! My favorite time of year! Before moving to Australia, I would  take advantage of the airline fare sales. I would choose my destination based on wherever it was cheapest to fly to.  Well the airlines adjusted their business model and realized it would be better decrease capacity then offer fare sales. So this year I actually had to think about where I would like to go. Which actually harder then I thought it would be. SO many markets to choose from. In the end, the decision was made for me.  I was able to use my miles to book a direct flight in Austrian Airlines to Vienna and from there to Kraow, Poland.

Fun Fact, Austrian Airlines has a chef in Business Class!IMG_2732

Another reason I chose Vienna, I was able to use my points to book in the Park Hyatt. It’s in an old bank building. In fact the pool is in the old vault. Funny enough I never did make it to the pool. Oh well next time!

I was settling into my room, when the phone rang. ” Good Morning, I just saw you check in and you looked so familiar, it’s me Kevin from the Grand Hyatt Berlin.” I met Kevin in lounge in November, 2014 and he actually checked me in during my birthday stay in July, 2016.  Got to love this “travel” world I live in.

I arrived early enough to catch breakfast in The Bank. It’s the old reception area for the bank. It worth checking out, even if you are not staying at the hotel. The coffee alone is worth the visit.

Then it was time to start exploring the town. Lucky for me it had stopped raining. A bit unlucky for me, the first thing I see when stepping out of the hotel?  A Christmas Market!
I went to check out St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Where musical great, Joseph Haydn once sang and Mozart was married.

It started to rain, so I headed over to the Jewish Museum. The history of the Jewish people in Vienna was quite fascinating.  I had not known what they had to go thru to be able to live openly in in their faith.

And then I did what anyone rational would have done on a cold rainy day in Vienna. I found a cafe for a Hot Toddy and some Strudel.

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And then I couldn’t put it off any longer, it was time to hit the markets. It seem like every time I turned a corner I found another one. Unfortunately, I was unable to partake in my normal gluhwein indulgence. I was worried about walking on the uneven surface.

I had grand plans of going to the Opera while I was in town, but in the end I did not get organized in time to secure tickets. So instead I opted for a tour of the Opera House. I also walked around quite a bit and took in the sights.

And of course I eat some really good food, and some bad… the Langos was bad. Like really bad.

As you can tell from the pure volume of photos, I really enjoyed my time in Vienna. Something that made my visit even more magical? The staff at the Park Hyatt. They were just so nice and engaging. Which is ideal for me being a solo traveler. On my last night I ordered room service. It was a rainy and I had a long day of walking around the city. I just could not be bothered to find food. When my food was delivered I said something about missing out on the Christmas market food due to the rain. The room service guy asked if I had any gluhwein and I explained how I had to limit myself because I was afraid of falling. (So sad).  Imagine my surprise about 15 minutes later, there was knock on my door. The room service delivery guy was back with glass of gluhwein from the market across the way.  UNBELIEVABLE.

I was sad to leave but it was time to head to Krakow. Until next time, Safe Travels!

Adventures in Australia-March 2017

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March found me back outside enjoying the beautiful skies of Brisbane.  After the hot summer days, it was refreshing to be able to be outside again and not feel like you were melting

March also brought Champagne Tuesday’s. Ok, who am I a kidding, it was champagne day for every day the ended in Y.  My friend Madison flew up from Sydney to join in the festivities. She enjoyed it so much, she flew up again the next week.  ( Truth I think she really wanted to try the Pomegrante Baba Ganoush on Virgin Australia)

The group favorite of the 3 pictured was the Ruinart Rose. Definitely worth checking out if you are into bubbles.

I also had the pleasure of taking a trip to Noosa. Its a beach town located just north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast. I really did enjoy it,  but it’s the quintessential beach town. Great place to visit, but I am not sure that I could live there full time.

With fall settling nicely in Brisbane, I was happy to have the opportunity to get out and discover some of the local markets again. One Saturday found me at the West End market with some friends. Fortunately I had just eaten a large breakfast, because imagine my surprise to see Langos, Empandas and Arepas. I guess all the good food is hiding from me at these markets I have not been visiting.

Stay tuned for more adventures. Until next time, safe travels!