Switzerland: Skydiving The Alps & Plates of Lies

Continuing our journey, our next step was in Zurich, Switzerland. We took a 4 hour or so train from Munich to Zurich. Getting around Zurich is really easy as long as you can get to the main station. Everything feeds out of there and made getting to and from our hotel and the city center a breeze. We set up shop at the Hotel Allegra which was about 15 minutes by train from the main station.  Overall, I found Zurich to be a really nice, clean and accessible city. People spoke english just about every where you would need them to and it made getting around really easy. The one thing I was looking forward to most on this entire trip (along with Oktoberfest) was skydiving over the swiss alps.


For our first day we didn’t have anything planned and instead just grabbed dinner in the city. Our ‘group leaders’ are vegan and found a place (Hiltl) that worked for them which actually ended up being the oldest vegan restaurant in Switzerland (or maybe just Zurich). I don’t think everyone knew that it was a fully vegan place and seeing things at the buffet like calzones with ham and cheese, or chicken nuggets, was misleading. As my buddy Kevin said after learning of the full vegan menu… “this is a plate of lies”. I don’t mind eating vegan foods, I can eat veggies and fruits… it’s when they try to pass things off for meat that I get sad :(. (more…)

Germany: Oktoberfest, Pork Knuckles and… Oktoberfest

After arriving by plane into Germany’s Munich airport I rushed to try and find a sim card while the rest of the group was pulling their bags. I found out that all the sim card stores had closed just 5 minutes ago. We were met by a very cheery Johannes (our airbnb host) and his father. They had a sign made up for us and quickly took us to their vehicles which were waiting outside. They had a large 9 person van and a 5 person car waiting for our group.germany-oktoberfest-me-britt-aussies

After a 45 minute or so car ride we arrived to the airbnb which is about 35 minutes from Munich city center where Oktoberfest is. We had the top floor of a 3 story house and the 12 of us slept in 4 different rooms. The place was spacious and our hosts were really friendly. The spoke english really well which made making plans throughout our stay much easier. They had a traditional German meal prepared for us and kept the beer flowing. (more…)

Norway… Beautiful Women, Beautiful Scenery, Outrageous Prices

I am just now realizing that I’ve been traveling for more than a month without an update to the blog. I was in Spain, Ireland and back in London. I’ve done trip reports on Spain already and while Ireland was EXCELLENT, I just didn’t have the motivation to blog. It’s tough to set aside a few hours to update the blog when there is so much awesome shit happening away from the computer. I know you’ve all missed my posts so I am BACK with some info for you from Norway.

selfie in norway's handangerfjord road trip

The plan for Norway was to meet up with some friends from NY who would be doing a 5 country tour for work. They work in the youtube space and are hosting (along with some youtube personalities) a “Tour De Prank”. They have a couple of youtube ‘pranksters’ and they are being sponsored to tour Europe and create videos. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. There would be Keith and Paige who are from Long Island and DJ, their business partner, from Nebraska. Then they had about 5 pranksters and 2 of their wives. (more…)

London Town: Mates, Markets and The Return of the Mexican

While my trip to London wasn’t what I had originally planned it to be, I made the most out of my few days there. The original plan was to meet the writer for my book there for a few days of research. He had to change plans and instead of losing about $800 in airfare and lodging, I decided to play the tourist for a few days.

london thymes river london eye from far

I arrived to Heathrow around 4pm and walked to the underground, stopping along the way for some SIM cards. I  broke my own rule by not making sure the cards worked before leaving the store and, sure enough, the cards I got for my MIFI didn’t work. In a place like Asia it would not have been that big of a deal, but in London those cards cost me around 30 Euros. With no way of getting in touch with this little bodega, I’ve already disputed the charge thru my CC company.


Bordeaux… Each Trip, Better Than The Last

I detailed my last trip to Bordeaux so I am not going to spend too much time going into a lot of detail here. The trip was really interesting and it was a lot of family time and a lot of time spent learning more details about my grandfather ( and the people who helped him during WWII. This trip was unique, though, in that it was with much of my family. My sister and brother in law, my mother and father, 2 of my cousins and my aunt all joined me on the journey and, seeing as it was there first time meeting all these great french individuals, it was quite special to be able to share that all with them.


A bunch of these photos are from my sister as I just didn’t carry my camera around all the much. So photo cred to Rachel Meyerowitz.


Paris Part 2

The rest of paris beyond (part 1) was fun and interesting. I hit the Louvre and the Eifel tower (obviously). I also hit Arc de Triumph. All 3 were interesting locations and I think i got some decent photos. It was raining a bit each day which made the photo taking a bit of a chore. Constantly wiping the lens off and making sure the camera isn’t getting too wet is just part of the job.

Beyond the tourist sites, I was able to get together with two friends of friends that took me out for drinks and dinner (separately). I met the first women, Doro (a friend of my brother in law), over by my hotel for a couple drinks at a local bar. I met up with one of Patrick’s nephews, Pierre-Marie, at Inaro (38 Rue René Boulanger) for a drink and some apps and then over to Le Verre Volé (67 Rue de Lancry) for dinner.

The food, drinks and company were excellent all around. It was a real pleasure meeting people who are so friendly and willing to show a visited hospitality and a genuinely good time. Thanks Doro and Pierre!!

Below, I’ve included photos from around the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. I hope you enjoy!

paris-louvre-ferris-wheel-close-at-night (more…)

Paris Part 1

So there I was in Paris. Fresh off my visit with my great friends in Bordeaux, I was looking forward to the city of lights. I’d heard great things and was also getting more excited to wrap up my European part of the trip. I was also extremely excited to get to stay at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome. This is a super high class hotel that I was staying at for free (rooms start at around $1,000/night) because of a signup/spending bonus on my Hyatt card from Chase (2 free nights at any hyatt in the world after reaching the required spend)

Anyway, I’ve detailed my stay at the Vendome in THIS POST so I won’t describe the stay in this one.

After landing at ORY airport, south of Paris, I headed to the metro/shuttle that would take me right into the heart of town. I was advise prior to arrival that taxi’s from the airport can run as much as 60-70 euros (almost $100) so I figured I’d find another option. The orlyval (think thats what it’s called) runs a shuttle from the airport to a local metro stop. Then, switch to the metro and get off about a 10 minute walk from my friends place. Easy as pie.

street musicians in paris along the river seine

I met with friends and we toured around town a bit. We picked up some rabbit to cook at home and other then the weather being a bit crappy, it was a nice ‘welcome’ to the city. We got into the subway and on a bus so it helped me get acclimated for the rest of the trip.


Park Hyatt Paris Vendome

Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome rooms are beautiful. I was able to get upgraded because of my hyatt status and have a king bed overlooking the Rue de la Paix.

The customer service here is great. I’ve been emailing with the concierge for about 3 weeks, figuring out rooming options, upgrade availability and even getting a list of places close by that might have some sort of thanksgiving menu for the holiday.

I just received a call from Melanie, one of the concierge women who I’ve been emailing with. She was not here when I checked in, but called me to make sure everything is ok. Thats true service!

The room is gorgeous. They have everything you need. Plenty of outlets, a big TV, really comfy bed, an actual ethernet cable to connect your laptop. They have a jbl iphone speaker with great sound.


Beautiful Bordeaux

This was my second trip to Bordeaux and it did NOT disappoint. I will preface this post by saying I had some really really awesome hosts that showed me around and treated me completely like family. Your experience may be different because of this but I think you would still enjoy a trip here.  The last time I was in Bordeaux I was just discovering this story about my grandfather and the french resistance people who saved his life. It was a very emotional, but short, trip. I was so engulfed in the discovery process that I felt I needed to come back to really enjoy my visit in a more relaxed fashion. So that’s what I did. My hosts, Patrick and Claudine (and Patrick’s sister Kiki) rolled out the red carpet for sure.

[Photo Preview] The exterior of the Chateau in Cadillac, France

The Exterior of the cadillac chateau

I picked up my Enterprise rental car after arriving from Barcelona via Vueling airlines and headed over to Patrick and Clo’s place in Floirac about 25 minutes from the airport and just east of the river that runs through Bordeaux. They have a beautiful home with a large yard and garden, big trees and a nice little guest house (for me :) ). Claudine had lunched prepared (she is a great chef) and after we went to pick up a sim card for my phone and mifi (an adventure all its own). The rest of the day was fairly uneventful.


Cadiz, The South of Spain

Another beautiful area here in Spain. You can’t get much more south in spain than Cadiz and it’s beautiful beaches reflect that. I stayed with friends for 3 nights at their place in Chichlana de la frontera about 25 minutes outside of downtown Cadiz. They live in a house in a development community. It is super peaceful and quiet. My friends have a little pig like dog ‘coco’ who is a pug. It was cute and all but the fact that it was basically snot rocketing all over the place for my whole visit so that it could breathe caused the cuteness to ware off pretty quickly (I’m sure you pug owners out there know what I am talking about).

I arrived mid day on thursday and my hosts Juan and Violaine were there to receive me at their house. I had rented a car from seville (after checking out from my airbnb) and the drive took about 1.5 hours. Violaine had to get to class but was nice enough to have a keesh cooking in the oven for me and Juan. It was very good and a nice “welcome to town” meal. The plan was for Juan and me to head out, check out some of the local villages have some drinks and just relax. This was exactly what i needed after leaving seville, a relaxing, no rush, friendly couple of days.

Cadiz is a summer tourism spot and most of the towns we visited were fairly empty but I can still see the appeal and can see how this would be a summer hot spot. There is not too much to report on Cadiz. I had a great and relaxing couple of days. I got some photography done and also got some work done. I think I will come back here during the summer soon and, if everything goes according to plan, my hosts will be getting married in may of 2016 which sounds like as good of a time as any to make another trip.

Food photos at bottom

Vejer de la frontera in Spain: Scenic Vista vejer scenic vista (more…)

OK, Madrid Nightlife… YOU win…

Well, that was a hell of a night. I haven’t partied that hard or that late since I was in college. Since people don’t eat dinner here in spain until about 11pm, you can understand why the big clubs here stay open until 6am (or later).

One of my hosts is celebrating her birthday this week and she had a big celebration with 20 or so of her friends in the city. I thought it would be useful to grab an airbnb apartment so we didn’t have to worry about getting back to Aranjuez (which is about a 45 minute train ride from the city) after the club. This proved very useful and we were able to find accommodations right by the club. It was a good thing too because we got pretty hammered and I don’t know if the girls would have made it all the way home otherwise.


Welcome to Spain! Aranjuez and Segovia.

One quick note about the people I’ve met so far in Spain (specifically the younger people 20-30). Most are working on learning english. My friends had a very basic understanding of English two years ago but now we have full conversations without much “como se dice” (“how do you say?”). It’s actually fun chatting with them because they are dying to learn all the normal expressions and sayings and different, more complex, words to replace the the ones they already know. It’s really cool and makes me wish I knew more Spanish (yes mom, you were right…)

I’m learning basic words here (very slowly) but most conversations with them are in English. When they are speaking to each other in Spanish I will pick up words here or there that help me understand the basic conversation they are having.

A lot of the people I met are either going to or have lived abroad to help expand their English. The two girls I am staying with, Angela (who lived in Toronto for a year before my last visit) and Andrea, are looking to move to London in a few weeks (I explained that many of the expressions and sayings I’m teaching them probably won’t apply the same there, but, o well. )

(my beautiful hosts below. Angela on the left and Andrea on the right)
Andrea and Angela in Aranjuez


Airberlin: JFK to Berlin, Berlin to Madrid

On to my first flight. We left JFK about 35 minutes late (which is no problem on such a long flight because they make up for it in the air [why don’t they always just go as fast as they can? seems silly lol]). I was able to use my little trick (my secret, sorry) to get priority boarding as well as the priority seating we discussed in the previous post.

Below you can see a shot of the plane, empty. Beyond the “doors” in the back is another economy cabin, with a first class cabin in front of me (or my back when I took the photo). As you can see, the configuration in economy is 2, 5, 2. The seats were reasonably comfortable and I had enough leg room (although I was in the bulkhead seat [the first seat with only a wall in front] and was also on the aisle (because that’s how I like to roll).  The gentlemen next to me, Jan, from Sweden (who was a super interesting and cool guy) was about 6 foot 3 and did have a little bit of discomfort.


And The Journey Begins!!!

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step”….

So here we go.

I am now sitting, comfortably, in the Admirals Club in Terminal 8 in New York City’s JFK Airport. I got to the airport a few hours early because I wanted to make sure I could get some priority seating. I have a little trick (which I have discussed before) that generally allows me to get bulkhead seating especially on domestic flights. I would normally call ahead to get those but when you book through a partner airline (booked on AA for flight on Air Berlin) they didn’t allow me to to pre book.

I waited on the priority line to speak to a reservations agent (even though I’m not priority for Air Berlin).  I was able to get bumped over to a supervisor to discuss my seating issue. As of now (bearing any unforeseen issues) I have bulkhead aisle seating for my flight to Berlin and then my flight to Madrid. HOORRAY (knock on wood).


Rental Car Headache

Dealing with a big headache right now that I have been known about and have put off for a couple weeks. Automatic Transmission rental cars in Europe.

I visited France last year and needed to rent a car for about 6 days. I needed a large van type car because we were going to be traveling with 4-5 adult males with some camera gear and luggage. I realized then that the price difference for an automatic vs a manual transmission was pretty stark.  While my father (who was accompanying me) said that he could drive manual (he hasn’t done that in about 35 years) i thought it best that we fork over the extra money for a car that we could both drive. Besides, he graciously agreed to cover the cost of that since i was making most of the other arrangements for the trip.


Im Nervous…

We all get a bit nervous when planning our travel and during it. Its just human nature (in my opinion). There are a few things I am nervous about and thought that it would be good to share. After all, that’s what this site is going to be all about. Sharing who I am and the travels I embark on.

Im Nervous About… Where I’ll Stay:

I am not super nervous about the first leg of my trip (the Spain and France part). I was in both of these countries last year, stayed with the same people and had a GREAT time. However, I will also be visiting 4 cities (Seville, Barcelona, Cadiz, Paris) within those countries which I have NOT been to yet and also staying in 2 of them with accommodations I found on AirBNB (see below if you don’t know what that is). Furthermore, I will be visiting Thailand and Tokyo and Singapore all of which are completely foreign (no pun intended) to me.


Initial Plans…. READ FIRST

This may be a bit hard to read, but the table isn’t importing correctly from excel so this will have to do.

Here is my airfare. I’ve included flights (to and from and dates) as well as duration and cost (point cost and dollar cost). I used a lot of points to make this trip happen and I’ll explain all that in another post. The crazy thing is, while I will be taking 14 separate flights, flying 26,000+ miles and stopping in 8 different countries, the total cost of airfare is less than a single round trip ticket to my first destination.