2016 Year in Review – Top 5!

My personal travel for 2016 brought me to many new destinations including the US states of South Carolina, Vermont and New Hampshire; the countries of Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria and Colombia; one questionable territory and a city that has been on my wish list for many years.  At the end of every trip I reflect on my experience to denote the highlights, any challenges and most importantly what I learned.

This was a pretty busy year traveling on 35 flights and staying at 19 different hotels; however nothing compared to road warriors who travel relentlessly for work who are likely to quadruple these numbers.   However keep in mind this is all vacation travel and don’t dare ask the cost unless you want to pay the Visa bill.

 

Best Festival – Romania Annual Spring Ploughman Festival (April 2016): On our visit to Bran Castle we had the good fortune to be there at the time of the Annual Spring Ploughman Festival which is held to promote a good harvest for the crops.   It was a beautiful display of local traditional clothing, music and dancing.  In addition to all of this fanfare the ladies promenade around with enormous basket of pastries welcoming the public to enjoy the good harvest blessing.

April 2016: Ploughman Festival – Bran Castle

 

Best natural site –  Fall Foliage Drive near Conway New Hampshire (October 2016):  For many years I have wanted to travel out east to check out the fall foliage.  However as an avid college football fan historically this had conflicting weekend priorities; until I sold my season tickets.

Timing is everything for fall foliage and that window can be very limited sometimes.  There is only so much planning you can do in advance as it all depends on Mother Nature.  Look at the historical weather reports and peak foliage reports to get a gauge of what weekends it might peak then book your hotel room asap.  There is limited hotel rooms and everyone wants to be there when the fall foliage peaks!  Check out possible driving routes but be flexible to changes based on the latest peak foliage report.   Be sure to take your smartphone and backup charger to plan your revised driving routes.

 
October 2016: New Hampshire

Best site –  Bucovina Romania Painted Monasteries (April 2016): Do you remember when I said UNESCO sites do not disappoint?  This is definitely one!  We sat mystified gazing at the frescos dating back to the early 1500’s and wondering what natural ingredients were used to create the blue hues.   When we visited in April it was off season but rarely had to
share any part of the monastery with anyone else.  This may still be off the tourist radar for many people however given that it is a UNESCO site it could gain in popularity.  I would highly recommend a visit if you have interest in fresco artwork.

 

 

 

 

Best Drink – Colombia coffee at Don Elias Organic Coffee Plantation (November 2016):  Colombia is famous for it’s coffee production and we had enjoyed countless cups of coffee around the country.  Everyone has their own personal taste when it comes to coffee but in Colombia you will never be offered cream for your coffee as it would distract from the taste.  You can have it black or with sugar in general.  We headed to the source to see coffee plantation region near Salento to learn more about the coffee production.  While on descent you can already see the beautiful lush green landscape that you can only imagine.November 2016: Don Elias Coffee Plantation

Don Elias plantation is a family run business that focuses on sustainable production and utilizing your environment to peak performance.  They offer tours of the plantation which are very interesting to see their simple and wholesome process that produces a large volume of coffee.  At Don Elias Coffee Plantation I had the best damn coffee in my life.  I prefer cream and sugar in my coffee; however I was surprisingly in agreement with the locals that when you have a good quality coffee it is better to drink it black.  The good news is that he sells the coffee whole beans or ground packaged onsite and I bought several packages to take home.  The bad news you can only buy it on the farm and I should have bought more!  Or perhaps when you visit you can pick me up a package?

 

 

Best Tour – Hello Bucovina (April 2016)

As an experienced international traveller I generally prefer to avoid organized tours.  However we found Hello Bucovina as the perfect option as it offers private  customi

April 2016: I love Tiraspol, Transnistria!

zed tours!  We had requested a 3 day private tour which covered a big wish list of sights spanning many kilometers and multiple countries.  We had two guides

over the course of the itinerary who were very knowledge about the sights, country, history, etc.  The guides were extremely friendly and kindly greeted us at the airport late in the evening for transport to our hotel.

We had time available while in transit to learn more about local culture and current events.  We spent several days with Chip as our guide who is also the company owner.  Chip is very dedicated to providing his clients with the best experience and asks for feedback throughout the tour.  We appreciated that each day the agenda and rough timelines were clearly established so we knew what to expect.  I am looking forward to traveling to Eastern Europe sometime soon and connect again with Hello Bucovina to arrange another tour.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope 2017 brings you great travel adventures!

Seek your adventure!

 




Around the world in business class on $100!

Anyone who has ever gone to dinner or shopping with me knows that I purchase everything on a credit card.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
View from Micronesia Island Hopper flight!

I want the points!   I am obsessed with earning points so that I can travel for free. The travel industry reports that over 75% of all airline points are NOT earned from “butt in seat” flights.

Last year was my best airline points redemptions ever, which was on my Micronesia Island Hopper trip with all flights in BUSINESS CLASS from Chicago – Honolulu – Kauai – back to Honolulu – Micronesia Island Hopper UA154 – Guam – Palau – Seoul – Tokyo – Chicago. I paid under $100 in taxes; yes you read that correctly.

The magic my friends is all in the credit cards. Now we could literally spend months talking through all the intricate details of how to earn points and the best way to spend points. However there are several amazing blogs dedicated to these topics so I would suggest visiting some of them. I have attended conference to hear these bloggers speak and they all have incredible travel tales.

I want to share with you my favorite credit card for earning points currently is Chase Sapphire.

Chase Sapphire benefits:

  • Earn 2X points on dining at restaurants from fast food to fine dining*  
  • Earn 2X points on all travel from airfare and hotels to taxis and trains*
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases*
  • 1 to 1 points transfer to the following airlines British Airways Executive Club, Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM, Korean Air SKYPASS, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, United MileagePlus®, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • 1 to 1 points transfer to the following hotels:  Hyatt Gold Passport®, IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards® and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®.

Check out these great blogs: 

The Points Guy

Million Mile Secrets

Johnny Jet

Seek your adventure!

 

The 5 tantalizing sensations of Quebec City

P5290188

You can have the perfect European vacation without the long flight or expensive plane ticket right here in North America.  It is true!  Quebec City, Canada has a multitude of alluring options to entice all of your senses yet leave you wanting more.

See: Historic District of Old Quebec City was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.  The architecture is stunning and you will be instantly charmed by it’s beauty.

Touch: The “pitter patter” feeling while walking the old cobbled streets will have you reminiscing of any European vacation taken or future wish list.

Hear: Parlez-vous français? You can practice your French!  Or at least be immersed in a world where French is the primary spoken language.  Nobody panic…everyone is bilingual in French and English.

IMG_8106

Taste: There are many restaurants where French influenced food is available.  The most common is the classic French crepes with a little side of Canadian maple syrup to P5280059remind you that you are  not in Paris.

Smell:  There are several cafes and bakeries in Old Quebec City so the scent of fresh bread and baked goods seems to waft through the air in every direction.  Pair that with a nice cafe au lait and you have yourself a true delight.

 

 

P5280096

Quebec City is so quaint and charming that you simply want to embrace it!

Seek your adventure!

 

An oasis in the meadow!

Ladies and gentlemen may I please have your attention.  I would like to introduce you to an oasis in the
middle of Indiana meadows; it has been attracting guests since 1845.  Please without any further delay let’s begin to acquaint you with  French Lick Resort located in French Lick Township, Orange County Indiana.

West Baden garden view
The allure began with “miracle waters” from the natural sulphur springs inspiring people to travel over 100 miles back in the 1850’s.   The resort has been visited by hundreds of famous individuals including Tony Bennett, Bing Crosby, Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Hope, Duke Ellington,  Louis Armstrong and several US Presidents.  The Chicago Cubs hosted their spring training here for several years including 1908 which is coincidentally the last time the Cubs won the World Series.  

 

All aboard the train to French Lick!Unfortunately due to economic hardships the hotels had lost their luster;  however in 2007 a $500 million project restored both hotels to their glory days and beyond.  While the renovation has restored the buildings I think the largest asset the resorts currently have is their staff.  

The staff at French Lick Springs and West Baden Springs Resort possess a rare trait of providing the highest quality customer care imaginable which is the cornerstone to their success.

 

West Baden Springs Resort

I had the pleasure of staying at the West Baden resort this past weekend.  The resort greets you with a long cobbled stone driveway where the valet service is ready to assist with your luggage.  The valet offers parking services so get ready to say farewell to your beloved car for the duration of your stay.  There are shuttles and trains available continuously throughout the day to both resorts, golf courses, casino, sports & exhibit complex, and the stables.

Upon entrance to the hotel you will probably find yourself speechless in the lavish palatial atrium utilizing European architecture.  In this breathtaking atrium you marvel at the creation built in 1901 showcasing the world’s largest free-span dome which was dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. West Baden lobby

 

West Baden figurine

West Baden dome at night
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hotel rooms are extremely spacious with a wet bar that included a small fridge that was stocked with complimentary bottled water.   The bathroom was enormous and nearly the same size as the bedroom with a shower, seperate tub, private enclosed toilet and closet areas.

West Baden hotel room

 

West Baden patioA daily resort bulletin summarizes key events with upcoming 3 day weather forecast and detailed information on the variety of activities including times, prices, etc.   The resorts have over 100 things to do so get ready to have some fun! I would recommend advance reservations for Afternoon Tea with live harp music to relax you during the afternoon.  While there are no reservations required the rocking chairs on the patio are pure childhood joy.  There is also live jazz music in the library every Friday and Saturday evening which was a splendid surprise.


I would make an appointment at the West Baden Spa to partake in some classic luxury indulgence.  The spa offers a variety of services and the hot stone massage will melt away any stress.  The spa has won numerous awards including Top 20 List of Top 100 Resort Spas, Condé Nast Traveler.  Trust me it is divine!

 

 

French Lick Springs Resort

French Lick lobbyWhile most of the weekend was spent at West Baden we visited French Lick Springs twice.   Historically the only transport option between the two hotels was a train which still operates today on a regular basis.  The train station has been modernized providing a GPS map including visual update on current location. The French Lick Resort is designated as a National Trust Historical Hotel of America and has actively operated the current building since 1901.

The front door entrance to the hotel has a lovely patio complete with rocking chairs to enjoy.  The hotel lobby is intimate and ornate which encircles you like a warm blanket.  You instantly feel comfy and relaxed.  The Neoclassical paintings on the ceiling provide a view beyond delight.

French Lick has a casino which includes Vegas-style gaming facility including a non-smoking section!   In addition French Lick offers a six-lane bowling alley, game arcade, and a 60,000 sq ft Sports & Exhibit Complex.  This hotel has something for everyone.

 

Get outdoors

The outdoor recreation options are limitless including 4 golf courses with impressive golf course awards:

  • Pete Dye CourseCarriage ride
  • Donald Ross Course
  • Sultan’s Run Course
  • Valley Links Course
  • Hiking including 5 miles of trails
  • Indoor & Outdoor pools
  • Mountain Biking including 6 miles of trails
  • Horseback riding
  • Bike rentals
  • Carriage rides

 

Ready to go?

This is a resort where you can achieve ultimate relaxation and I recommend spending a few days.  Simple and pure bliss.   My only regret for the weekend is not leaving Chicago earlier in the day to spend more time at the resort.

Seek your adventure!

Do you know the way to Transnistria?

In last week’s post I shared with you highlights from my amazing recent vacation to Romania, Moldova and Bulgaria.   Well friends,  I saved the best for last or at least the most unique.

Raise your hand if you have ever heard of the Transnistria or  Trans-Dniester.   Anyone?  I had never heard of it until I was preparing for my trip to Moldova.  So this is 1 of only 4 breakaway territories stuck in post-Soviet “frozen conflict” zones.   It is officially defined as Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR)  also known as Pridnestyrovie.  While this territory has their own military, currency, and government; it is not recognized as a country by the United Nations.

We travelled from Moldova with a private guide who was very comfortable with the procedures of entering this territory.  We approached the passport control and my fellow American traveller got his passport approved in seconds. However my passport seemed to cause some problems as they appeared to be having a hard time translating my name into Cyrillic.  Thankfully our private guide spoke Russian and could translate their questions as they wanted to know my father’s full name and city of birth.  Given it is not a recognized country there is no passport stamp but an immigration card that you must return when you leave the territory.  Finally after 10-15 minutes we were in.  Well not so fast actually.  Next came the full car inspection to ensure we were not transporting anything illegal.  While the inspection lasted only a few minutes our guide was brought into the office for paperwork and allegedly required insurance fees.  So after nearly an hour at the border and additional alleged taxes we were off to see Trans-Dniester.

Interesting facts about Trans-Dniester:

  • Population is about 30% Russian, 30% Moldovan, and 30% Ukranian
  • Only electric tram in the world which crosses 2 cities Bender & Tiraspol
  • Only territory to display hammer and sickle which is a traditional communist symbol on their flag
  • This territory was previously part of Moldavian ASSR from 1924 – 1940 which was an autonomous republic of the Ukraine
  • The Transnistrian ruble coins  are made of plastic and huge collectors item on eBay

P4281063 P4281067

Hands down the strangest place I have ever been and I have been around many blocks in many countries.  We spent a few hours touring around the city of Bender and eventually on to the capital Tiraspol.  We were grateful to have the wisdom of our private guide Chip from hellobucovina.com who travelled with us for several days.  He was able to provide guidance on the importance of not taking any photographs of military, police or major infrastructure.

Tiraspol P4281126

The capital is Tiraspol with a population of 150,000 yet we saw only a few people on the streets that day.  You could clearly see all of the CCTV cameras that were recording your every move which might explain why all of the locals walked briskly looking down at the ground.   It was a completely surreal experience.  It seemed as though we had been transported into a movie set and I was waiting for the director to shout out “Hey you in the white shirt…yes you…can you move a little to the left please?”.  It instantly reminded me of the The Truman Show movie where the character portrayed by Jim Carrey had his whole life staged.  Imagine it for a moment.

P4281108

On exiting the country, sorry got that wrong….territory, there was some additional trouble with my passport.  My passport is due to expire in December 2017 and I had additional pages inserted a few years ago; yet regardless it is pretty full with immigration stamps along with several visas for India and Brazil.   This apparently raised some concerns at the border control.  Once again my guide with his Russian translation came to the rescue to explain that I was not a secret agent spy but simply one girl who travels.

Seek your adventure!

 

Amazing sites & great wine at affordable prices: Highlights from Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria

When I tell people I have just returned from vacation in Romania, Moldova and Bulgaria most people  get that funny look on their face.  For any of you hard core travelers out there you know this look.  I have seen this look before and I can usually guess what comes next.  Their question is always the same “Why in the world would you want to go there?”.   My response is pretty standard “I had never been there before and it sounded interesting!”.

Let’s start with the big reasons visit…

  • There are 17 UNESCO sites within these three countries which is pretty amazing!   Even more incredible trying to put this in perspective all three countries total square miles combined is smaller than California yet there are only 23 UNESCO sites in all of the United States.  Apologies to my dedicated readers but this needs another shout out;  although not all UNESCO sites interest me however those that I do find interesting never disappoint me!  Bottom line:  You can see a lot of amazing places that are relatively close together!
  • Enjoying simple living and wholesome local food.  While our hotels were in urban areas we would drive through the countryside during the day filled with many farms.  It was commonplace to see a horse and buggy as a mode of transport between farms into the villages.
  • The language barrier is minimal as majority of locals speak English.  We visited a few open air markets where communication were a little challenging however with basic hand gestures we managed to sort it out.  We learned only the basic phrases that while our pronunciation may have been terrible most locals were touched that we had made the effort.
  • It is very inexpensive.  The exchange rate is extremely favorable to the US Dollar, Euro or British pound.  We had very nice 2 course dinners for $15-$30 for 2 adults not including alcohol.

Best thing I ate and drank in each country…

In Romania:  A lovely bean soup in a bread bowl and raspberry lemonade.     IMG_7694    IMG_7639

In Moldova: A cheese plăcintă which is similar to a pot pie or pasty and a glass of Negru du Pucari wine.

IMG_7717   IMG_7761

In Bulgaria:  A stuffed pepper with tomatoes, onions, beans, topped with feta and a perfect cappuccino.

IMG_7791    IMG_7900

While we visited so many places along the way I have summarized them with photos in a video for your viewing pleasure.  Grab some popcorn, sit back and watch the brief movie.

In order of appearance and all UNESCO sites denoted with *:

Romania

Moldova

Bulgaria

 

 

Seek your adventure!

 

“In my mind I’m gone to Carolina”

IMG_7116

This past weekend I had my first visit to South Carolina in the lovely historic city of Charleston.  While James Taylor wrote the song “Carolina In My Mind” dreaming of his years growing up in North Carolina this week I find myself singing the tune in my head.

Charleston provides the quintessential historic city in the South.   In 1860 Charleston had the 4th busiest port in the country,  some of wealthiest people in the US and host to the Democratic Convention.  The gorgeous Georgian houses including the largest cluster in the country with Rainbow Row.  One of the oldest plantations Magnolia Plantation established in 1676 with single family ownership.   In addition Magnolia Plantation is proudly the oldest public gardens in the country.

 

IMG_7050

IMG_7188

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admire the scenery of the historic architecture with sweeping live oak trees yet be mindful to:

  • Appreciate a simpler time with slower pace of life
  • Enjoy a walk down the old stone cobbled streets.
  • Taste the delicious southern dishes in many of the gourmet restaurants.IMG_6938
  • Breathe in the fresh air and listen to the peaceful melody from the morning birds.
  • Savor the charm of southern hospitality.
  • Take a moment to stop and smell the magnolias.
  • Cherish the memories.

For anyone who has been to Charleston this may remind of your visit and may suddenly get the urge to sing the tune along with me. “Can’t you see the sunshine?….”

IMG_6900

Seek your adventure!

My essentials for a “flip flop” trip

This Chicago winter has been very kind to us so far,  yet my desire to run for the sun was still there.  I just returned from Puerto Vallarta Mexico for my annual “flip flop” trip  which is simply defined as  anywhere location I can wear flip flops.   Ideally I would like to visit a city I have never been to however I am not picky as the goal is to wear flip flops.  The one year I skipped my annual “flip flop” trip it was -46F with the windchill factor for several days.   Trust me when I say I won’t make that mistake again!

What makes a good “flip flop” trip?

IMG_6680
Sunrise walk

 

Sunshine – Enjoying some beautiful weather and replenish your Vitamin D by soaking in some sunshine.  Of course the weather is something we cannot control; however there are so many websites where you can check the historical temperature of that location to get solid information.   I like weatherspark.com because it gives you the weather, humidity, daylight hours, and precipitation.

 

 

IMG_6678
Breakfast view

 

Al Fresco –  I want to have morning coffee on the balcony, breakfast on the patio overlooking the gardens, lunch at the pool and dinner on the beach.  The locations are negotiable but I want to be outdoors enjoying the open air.

 

 

IMG_6629
Beach sunset

“Unplugging” – I cherish these few days when I can power off the digital world for 99% of the day!  I don’t check personal or work email.  I will rarely turn on the TV.  There are so many benefits to an unplugged vacation.  If you need to stay connected to work while on vacation; please be warned don’t sit next to me or I might accidentally toss your laptop into the pool.   Uh Oh!  Just enjoy the outdoors and read a good paperback book or magazine.  I try to imagine what life would have been like in 1965!

 

Seek your adventure!

 

Micronesia Island Hopper Flight (United 154)

So I booked this flight literally last Christmas Day 2014 as soon as the seats open for the award travel.  It is a “hot award” ticket in the travel geek circle so much that I actually did not get my first choice of dates even though I was ready to book the day the seats opened 330 days in advance.  I attend several travel seminars over the last few years and had heard about this trip in one of the sessions.    After seeing a few aerial view photos it was immediately added to my wish list of travel ideas. So to say I was like a kid on Christmas morning getting ready to take this flight is an understatement. I had waited nearly a year.  I had obsessed over which side of the plane has a better view and based on reading many travel blogs of those who completed the journey before me.   I took their advice and choose to sit in a window seat on the right hand side of the plane (i.e. the right hand side when you are sitting down looking towards the cockpit).

IMG_5808
United Premier Access in Honolulu


  So the morning finally arrives I head to the Honolulu airport early in the morning to catch the 7.25am flight.  I spent the extra frequent flier miles and I am traveling first class with my award ticket as the total travel time is over 14 hours.  I have  an official “house policy” after flying 25 hours in economy class return from Bali last year.  House Policy:  If the flight is over 10 hours either split the journey into multiple legs or fly business class.  

IMG_5810
My boarding passes for the day!

So my first class ticket, my TSA Precheck, my carry on luggage and I go to security.  I get the TSA agent and the alarm bells go off.  “Excuse me miss but you have security code SSSS on your ticket and this will require us to search all of your belongings.”  OH NO!  Seriously?  So of course I am very patient as they do extra body screening and open all of my carry on luggage and test everything for chemical residue.  So my only guess is that not many people would on purpose make all these extra stops through Micronesia and Marshall Islands so it caused some alert to trigger.  There are plenty of direct flights from Honolulu to Guam that don’t stop 5 times along the way.  Anyway moving onwards…..  So by the way the TSA agent was so impressed with how incredibly organized my suitcase was on the inside.  Apparently she had never seen anyone with packing cubes before.  She loved them and was going to buy some!  

 

Interesting facts about United 154

So a few interesting facts about this flight that I discovered in preparation and during the flight.  Given that it is such a long journey with no nearby airports they take 2 entire sets of crew: pilots and flight attendants so they do not run into the FAA regulation.  In addition the flight takes their own mechanic every time in case there is anything that needs to be fixed along the way.  In the event that a part is needed the flight would be delayed until a new plane or part could arrive from Honolulu or Guam.  Hmm okay let’s get ready to roll!

 

PB250703
Boarding gate at Honolulu airport

                    Honolulu to Majuro (Republic of the Marshall Islands) There were some lovely views of Honolulu from takeoff that was great.  The flight was about 5.5 hours  with not much to see out the window during the flight.  I enjoyed the flight with a lovely breakfast, a movie and a wee little nap.  The arrival into Majuro had some amazing views.   Oh and we crossed the International Date line which is exciting in a very geeky travel way but this was the first time I crossed the date line I awake.  My historical trips crossing the International Date line I was sleeping as it was in the middle of the night on the way to Australia; by the way there is nothing to see when you cross the line…I checked : )

IMG_5817
My first class seat for the day : )

IMG_5815
Breakfast is served!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I deplaned and checked out the airport terminal which was a glorified bus stop.   There was a small snack shop that appeared to have coffee, chips, candy etc.  Although there was a local woman selling handicrafts at the gate….let’s be clear there is only one gate.   I bought a lovely handmade headband from her for a reasonable price.  We were on the ground for less than 1 hour then onto the next flight.

Majuro to Kwajalein (Republic of the Marshall Islands)

Once again the views at take off were amazing and I snapped photos like it was a major sporting event.   In first class they serve a variety of light snacks on the 1 hour flight between the islands. The island of Kwajalein is in a coalition with the US Military and you are not allowed to deplane the aircraft unless you are Marshallese, US Military or have a permit from the military.  US Miltary base with some crazy missile testing things going on here.

Kwajalein to Pohnpei (Federated States of Micronesia)

The flight to Pohnepei was just under 1 hour with continued incredible aerial views even with the rain!  It is apparently one of the wettest places on earth.  I deplaned to visit the small airport terminal to enjoy some free wifi!  I also was surprised to see an NBA basketball game as the group choice on the 1 TV for entertainment while waiting for the flight.

Pohnpei to Chuuk (Federated States of Micronesia)

This was another 1 hour and 20 minute flight with again light snacks served in first class.  They saved the best for last in regards the aerial views as Chuuk was absolutely incredible!  The island has many tourist for diving and snorkeling here including many WWII remnants which became famous after Jacques Cousteau visit.

I deplaned to the terminal which was little larger in size than the others.   I went immediately to the snack shop looking for something to eat of substance.  They don’t really plan for people to join the crew for the entire days journey and while I had an amazing breakfast that was now 8 hours ago.  The light snacks they served on the other flights were not holding me over.  I was pleasantly surprised to find available chicken veggie bao; if you have never tried a bao bun before check it out.   So while I am enjoying my bao from inside the terminal I am watching a heavy tropical storm blow from a clear blue sky.   They wait until the storm passes before we board the plane for the next flight.

Chuuk to Guam

Phew last flight of the day!  I am having a great time and totally enjoying this journey however the United safety video which is funny yet informative after the 5th time in the same day is wearing on me.  So the last flight of the day is 1 hour and 40 minutes with more amazing views that never stop.  On this last flight they served a light lunch which when the steward came to deliver he realized I had not eaten a meal for 8+ hours.  He apologized as of course most people don’t join them for the whole day.  No worries glad I always carry snacks in my bag as you never know what the journey will bring.

Summary 

It was an absolutely amazing experience to visit these tiny little islands literally in the middle of no where.  The views were so much more beautiful than I could have imagined or hoped for.  I am so glad I brought the nice camera and reserved the window seat on the right hand side.  It was a lot of flying time for the limited about of time I had to enjoy the aerial views yet I am very happy I had experience.

I had so many awesome photos I loaded them to a brief 1 minute video.  Enjoy!

Seek your adventure!

 

2015 Year in Review – My Top 5 places

2015 travel plans emerged quickly based on some personal commitments.  I had no intentions of going to Europe this year and yet I found myself there twice this summer; thank you American Airlines, United, and Delta airlines for having available award space for last minute travel.  There were so many great travel memories from the year it is hard to choose but I will attempt a top 5 list.  For reference of where 2015  destinations included take a look at the Recent Trips page.

 

Best Festival – Cordoba Spain: La Fiesta de Los Patios (May 2015)

I was so luck that my trip to Europe was timed perfectly to attend the festival as the patios are only open for 2 weeks in May.  It was such an incredible experience to “visit” so many private homes to enjoy the gorgeous garden patios with flowers blooming.

 

P5150525

P5150486

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Tour – Toulouse France: Airbus Factory (May 2015)

So my travel addiction takes me to seminars to talk about travel with other fellow addicts. In May a few of my long time friends and I had the pure pleasure to complete a wish list tour by attending a  Mega Do event.  The original agenda for our group was going to include factory tour of Airbus A350.  However when we arrived they had a bigger treat for us that they NEVER offer anyone else…..a self guided tour of a Airbus A380 still in testing phase.  Unfortunately we had anticipated we were going to be in the factory where no cameras were allowed; so while I got to sit in the cockpit I have no photographic evidence.  However I was awestruck to walk around this plane which had merely the electronic equipment and the whole inside body was wide open.  I have yet to fly in one of these planes as sadly Chicago Ohare is not yet equipped to support A380 planes.   It is the largest passenger plane yet which can hold a maximum of 525 passengers, 3000 suitcases, 81,900 gallons gasoline and weighs approximately 590 tons.  It is a beauty to see with a wingspan over 50% larger than a Boeing 747.  For any airplane geeks like me check out the video but keep in mind that each airline makes configuration variances to their needs as some first class are now suites including showers!

 

 

P5140242

Best site – Seville Spain: Real Alcazar de Sevilla (May 2015)  Well UNESCO sites   never disappoint and this one is no exception.   The photos I took will give you limited insight but here are the videos to virtual tour will give you better perspective.  The architecture of this palace left me speechless.  Every corner you turn the architecture and views only continue to get better!

P5140264

P5140279

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best natural site – Kauai Hawaii (November 2015) OMG!  I said it before but I will say it again.  One of the most beautiful places I have been.  Everywhere you look it was continuously amazing views.  Literally like living in a postcard!  Put it on your wish list if you have have never been!  Here are some photos to get you thinking about it.

PB240431
PB240319


PB230060
PB240390

 

Lost in Translations – Tokyo Japan: Tokyo train station (November 2015)

On my return home from the Island Hopper Bonanza I had a 24 hour stopover in Tokyo.  I had never been to Tokyo and was a little apprehensive how things would go traveling on my own in a land where I could not even read the signs.  I had done extensive research and prepared for my visit including printing out the train station map as I heard stories of people getting lost in train stations for hours.  My arrival went relatively smoothly however my departure is where things fell apart.  I entered the Tokyo train station which ended up being a mall and restaurant section but could not find any signs to the actual train platforms.  After walking around for over 30 minutes I started to panic thinking I might miss my train and possibly flight home.  A lovely Japanese woman approached me asking if I needed assistance.  She then proceeded to guide me through the train station right up to the gates of the train station ticket gate for the train line I needed.  I could not thank her enough.  This experience reminds me of many other times I have gotten assistance from strangers when traveling.  Random acts of kindness do exist.

IMG_6398 copy

So it must have been my lucky day as I waited for the train a Japanese women approached me with a small gift.  Based on the packaging it looked similar to the small gift I received after making a purchase at the temple.  While no words were exchanged it was clear that she wanted me to have it.  Then about 30 seconds later she was back to explain to me that it was a charm that you attach to zippers on purses etc.   I was blessed with kindness twice within one hour;  once again travel reminds me to practice gratitude.

I wish you a very Happy New Year and hope that your plans for 2016 include travel!

Seek your adventure!