Back to North America: NYC edition

Maybe Liechtenstein – Part 6 (March 2017)

Before leaving Switzerland, we spent a night out by the airport as we both had morning flights the next day.  We arrived at the Radisson Blu hotel and checked in for our last night in Switzerland.  I was looking forward to the stay as they have a huge vertical wine library in the center of the hotel.  After finding our room, which faced the inner courtyard (and the wine), we made our way down to watch the acrobats fetch requested bottles from the tower.  It’s actually a neat thing to watch and would suggest having a glass or two if you ever find yourself at this hotel or have some extended time at the airport (since it’s outside security.)

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Wine bar at Radisson Blu (Zurich Airport)

Sadly, the morning came and my friend left before the sun to catch her early flight home.  I was lucky enough to enjoy a wonderful breakfast before checking out to catch my flight.  My flight home, as you may recall, was a points ticket I’d found about 6 months earlier. I’d managed to snag an AA business class ticket home, although through a circuitous routing.  I was travelling Zurich to New York, with a long overnight layover, before hopping to LA on AA’s transcontinental First Class, then up to Seattle and a little hop home to Vancouver, both on Alaska.

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Breakfast spread at Radisson Blu

After spending some time in the lounge during a few small delays in Zurich, it was time to board the plane.  I settled in to seat 2A, which was actually the first row of the cabin.  This plane, a Boeing 767, has staggered seats, so if you want a true window seat, you want to sit in an even row number.  After some pre-departure bubbly it was time to say goodbye to Europe.  The flight was smooth and I did manage to squeeze in a nap as I was going to have a long day ahead of me once I landed.  I will say that I find the vegan/vegetarian meal options on AA to be very sad.  It’s usually just rice and veggies, no creativity in the dishes.

Landing at JFK, I quickly made it through customs (thanks Global Entry!) and grabbed the bag I’d had to check because of all the wine I was bringing home.  I then head up to departures to recheck it  so I wouldn’t have to lug it around all day.  Unfortunatly, this didn’t seem to work so well because my flight didn’t leave until the next day, and there’s a rule about keeping luggage overnight?  After waiting for a while, a lot of back and forth with the staff, and eventually getting a few supervisors involved, I was able to check my luggage.  I guess the solution was to send it on a flight that evening, as my bag made it to Vancouver well before I did.

Free of my luggage, I hopped on the train in to the city.  Getting in to town on public transit is doable, if somewhat time consuming.  First you hop on the “Airtrain” and get off at the Howard Beach/JFK Airport station to transfer to the “A-line.”  This will (eventually) take you into the city.  I hopped off at High Street and decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  It was a bit chilly, but brilliantly sunny, so it was a fairly pleasant walk.

Making it to Manhattan, I didn’t really have a plan beyond visiting a few of the vegan hot spots.  I ended up making it to Moo Shoes, Orchard Grocer, and Confectionary! before hopping back on the subway and back to Brooklyn for dinner at Champs Diner.

Since my flight left very early the next morning, I decided to rough it in the airport for a few hours in the evening before security opened again at 3am.  I found a few chairs and cobbled them together into a makeshift bench and did manage to get a little bit of shut eye.  Once security opened (not until 3:30, ugh) I made my way inside and tried to find the correct lounge for American.  Of course I chose the wrong one and was told I could actually go to the First Class lounge, which was back by security.  There was construction going on, which made it very confusing as to which lounge was actually open.  Finally making it to the empty lounge, I enjoyed some coffee, a snack, and a shower, before heading to board my next flight, back to the west coast.

Because I had booked international business class, that actually included first class on the domestic leg.  The flight JFK-LAX was a transcontinental flight on the A321 (read fancy, updated plane).  I’m sure I looked slightly disheveled as I boarded the flight and took a seat in the first cabin.  Actually, unless I’m dressed nicely with professional looking luggage (aka not a backpack) I usually get side looks when I line up to board with business class folk… but you just gotta own it!  The lie flat bed definitely came in handy as I managed to pass out for a good portion of the flight.  I also had a really delicious breakfast meal, which was a nice surprise.

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Transcontinental on the A321

Landing in LA, I had a bit of time to kill before heading to Seattle.  Of course, the flight was delayed, but that just meant more time in the First Class lounge in LAX… which is really just a sectioned off the lounge with slightly better food and booze.  After we finally got around to boarding the plane to Seattle, I ended up having a pleasant conversation with the person sitting next to me which made the flight go by much faster.

Seattle was the last stop before the quick flight up to Vancouver and finally being home.  It’s always slightly frustrating to be so close to home, and yet so far.  Spent a little bit of time in the Alaska lounge before it was finally time to board my last flight of the trip.  The good thing about having the last flight of the night is that it’s a 737 for a 30 min flight.  I enjoyed my big lounge chair and had a bit of a cat nap before finally disembarking onto Canadian soil.

 

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Maybe Liechtenstein

Maybe Liechtenstein – Part 5 (February 2017)

If you’ve noticed, this trip was dubbed “Maybe Liechtenstein” (you can search the #maybeliechtenstein hashtag on Instagram to see more fun photos) because we were never really quite sure if we’d make it to the small land locked country.  But we packed up and left our Airbnb in Zurich and once again hopped on the train.  We started with a train ride through Switzerland to Sargens, the main stop closest to the border.  Once you get to this station, you can either take a bus directly to Vaduz, the capital, or take a local train one stop north and then a short bus ride across to the city.  We opted for the bus since we had to transfer to a second bus in order to make it to our hotel, Hotel Kulm, located in the mountains just above the city.

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Views from the train on the way to Sargens

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Lucerne Day Trip

Maybe Liechtenstein – Part 4 (February 2017)

I love taking trains!  Maybe not as much as Sheldon (BBT reference), but I still think it’s such a fun way to travel.  Luckily Switzerland seems to share my option.  The train system in the country is fantastic!  After deciding to take a last minute day trip to Lucerne,  we booked some super saver tickets.  You can only book these on the app or online so it’s a good idea to check there first.  Unlike normal tickets, you’re locked in to a specific train but get a really good deal.  You can find more information on the SBB website.

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Great views coming in to Lucerne on the train.
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Zurich

Maybe Liechtenstein – Part 3 (February 2017)

I left Paris and hopped on my Air France flight to Zurich (still a part of my points ticket) and I got a chance to visit the Air France lounge for Schengen flights.  Unfortunately it was far away from my gate since the one closest to my gate was under construction.  The lounge was still a nice place to relax before the relatively short flight.  There were lots of drink options, including bottles of Evian, wine, and liquor, and a decent selection of food and snacks.  My flight was nothing too special, due to the short duration and the fact that “European Business Class” is just regular seats with the middle blocked out.

After a short hop from Paris, I arrived in Zurich slightly before my friend, who was coming from a connecting flight in Amsterdam.  There was some crazy weather and most of the flights that day had been cancelled, except for hers luckily!  I tried to meet her at the gate, but the plane ended up being diverted to the auxilary gates with a bus ride to the terminal.  We ended up meeting at baggage claim to pick up her luggage.  Of course, she made the flight but sadly her bag did not, due to a super tight connection.  After filing the appropriate paperwork, we were off to Zurich. Continue reading

A Canadian in Paris

Maybe Liechenstein – Part 2 (February 2017)

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been to Paris many times, but it had been a while since I spent more than a day there.  I ended up having the equivalent of three full days there (midday Monday to midday on Thursday) and I tried to fit in as much as possible.  Much of my time was spent running around between monuments, and finding delicious vegan restaurants to try.

Although Paris has a pretty decent metro system, I decided to walk most places.  I always enjoy walking around a city if I can since it gives me a much better sense of the city, and sometimes you stumble upon fun surprises.  Luckily the weather cooperated and although it wasn’t sunny, the overcast sky gave the city a cozy mood.

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Skiing in Utah

So February was a lot of travel all back to back (I was gone for almost an entire month).  It started with skiing in Utah for the Family Day long weekend in February. By the time I got around to booking my ticket, there weren’t a lot of options left, so I decided to use up my delta gift certificate that I had and get a direct flight in Business Class from YVR to SLC.  The price difference actually wasn’t that big and it included 2 free bags(which I would have had to pay for,) so it was a good deal… and the early morning flight made the comfy seats very appealing 😉 Continue reading

Flashback Friday: First Trip to the UAE

November 2015

Warning to my friends: if you move somewhere, I will come visit you.  This is not an empty threat.  Some friends who had relocated to Dubai found this out first hand 🙂

After a late arrival (or early morning depending how you look at it) my friends picked me up at the airport and I promptly crashed for a few hours to catch up on sleep.  After waking up and reorienting myself, it was off to explore Dubai Marina (the area where my friends lived)! This, of course, included a stop at Starbucks. Continue reading

Flashback Friday: Reykjavik

November 2014

One of the biggest tourist booms in the last few years has happened in Iceland.  No doubt thanks to the free stopover (via Icelandair) and the new discount airlines (like WOW air), almost everyone I talk to is planning, or has just gotten back from Iceland.

I first went to Iceland in 2014, thanks to a super cheap Groupon deal with Icelandair.  Icelandair does have really good deals on their website, but the Groupon basically took that deal and made it irresistible.  So after finding an unsuspecting co-worker to go with me, we were off on an adventure!

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Helsinki for a Day

As I mentioned before, I took a bit of time out of my Stockholm trip to head over to Helsinki for a day with my friend.  When I originally mentioned my intention to go to Finland for a day or two, my friend jumped at the idea, suggesting we take the infamous “Party Ferry” one way. Since her husband had to work during the week, it would just be the two of us on our “girls weekend” to Helsinki.

During the planning, I came across the last minute deals on the ferry website and it turns out that they had a round trip ticket for less than the one way ticket… So we booked a whole cabin to ourselves (on the lowest deck, but we weren’t planning on spending a lot of time in the room) for a grand total of $50 USD. Yes, $25 each to spend 2 nights on a “cruise” ship.

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Heading to Stockholm

So if you remember from one of my previous posts (Stockholm for a Whole Week!) I had a trip planned to visit my friend in Stockholm; well I’ve finally gotten around to typing up our adventures!

Firstly, the trip over went fairly well.  I made all my connections, got to check out a number of lounges and made it to Stockholm just under 24 hours later 🙂  My voyage started bright and early (well not really that bright) in Vancouver as I had booked a separate ticket down to SFO to start my international trip.  Luckily I was upgraded on my SEA-SFO flight (thanks Alaska!) and got a few other surprise things (free Starbucks card!) which made this a great start to my trip.

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