trip report

Phone/Internet Service Spain/France

I realize I haven’t touched on this as of yet. Being that I need internet and phone service to conduct business and to get around town in general I’ve done quite a bit to make that happen. I am currently utilizing my iPhone 4s and a MIFI unit from Huawei (the E5331). I was a bit nervous before I left that I would be unable to access my emails while on the trip and also be unable to access Google Maps (which I use 100 times a day). However, so far, I have found that I’ve been able to find good solutions for cell/data service.

MIFI:

The mifi unit I bought was around $85 dollars and it comes completely UNLOCKED, which means you can use any telecom provider for it. This is great and much easier then the process of getting an unlocked phone.

iPhone:

This was not easy. I knew that I really wanted a smartphone so I would be able to use apps like email, google maps, internet, yelp/foursquare, etc. I called AT&T to see what options I had for getting international coverage for both data and voice on my current phone. After 2 hours on the phone we got a $200ish dollar plan set up. (the plans were all quite expensive and the data plans specifically didnt offer much in the way of actual bandwith. They don’t have any gigabit or more plans and everything was in the low hundreds (200-300 megabits) of data allowance. Anyone who uses their smartphone on a regular basis for internet/email/apps/etc knows that this is not enough for a whole month of usage. But, this was my only option for now so I went with it. I had my mifi (see below) and a basic, unlocked phone from a friend which I would get local sim cards for.  Before the end of the call the rep informed me that I may be able to actually unlock my phone and get sim cards for that. OK!! now we are talking… lets do that.

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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…)


Seville, Spain… Getting a little lonely

After 3 days in Seville I am starting to feel a little lonely. I have an airbnb here (when people have extra rooms they put them on airbnb and you can rent them) and my host is nice enough. However, he certainly is not a friend. He is not someone to share my experience with. And from such a great time with my hosts and friends in Madrid, this is a change for sure.

I think I’ve done a good job planning for the month of November though. I have a week with friends in Madrid. Then 4 days alone in Seville. Then 4 days with friends in Cadiz and then 4 days alone in Barcelona and about 2 weeks with friends in Bordeaux, Paris and Singapore.

Being alone isn’t all bad. I have as much time as I want to shoot my pics, visit the places I want, and spend as much time in whatever place I choose.

A girl sitting at a bar in Seville on the river:

girl sitting at a bar on the river in seville

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Last Stop in Madrid Area: Toledo, Spain!

My last stop in the Madrid area was to the south of Aranjuez in Toledo. It is called “the ‘City of the Three Cultures’ having been influenced by a historical co-existence of Christians, Muslims and Jews” (according to my amazing research ability, aka wikipedia). The city is super old (no, I don’t know HOW old) and its coblestone streets and beautiful architecture really stand out.

We arrived around 3:00pm which worked out just fine as far as having enough time to see all the sites we needed to see. I was a bit concerned that it wouldn’t be long enough, but the city is walkable in a couple of hours.

Just a sneak peak of photos from deeper in this post…

The big spectacle (as I like to call it) in the Church. This is a beautiful place with tons of great views.

the San Juan de los Reyes church in Toledo Spain

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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

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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.

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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).

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Trip Report: Denver/Boulder, Colorado

And we are off to Denver – October 9-12

I am joining my cousin Micah and a few of his friends for a couple of days in Colorado for the the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). We booked the trip back in June (before I put all the plans together for my Europe/Asia trip). October has become a very hectic month with the trip to California, this trip to Denver, and a short haul trip to Buffalo. Not to mention the 2 weddings and all the planning and packing for my 7 week trip overseas.

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Trip Report: San Diego, California

San Diego 

We found the Doubletree (at hotel circle) which I arranged through the JetBlue getaways. I didn’t do too much research because I’ve stayed at doubletrees before and been pretty pleased. We walked in to find that this one has a pool and Jacuzzi. The pool is heated and the Jacuzzi was a nice relaxing way to wash away the day of driving.

As a Hilton honors member we got free cookies and waters at check in. They have a nice business center where we could print our zoo tickets and boarding passes.

The room was nice with 2 queen beds and a sleeper sofa. It also featured a really nice balcony over looking the pool (our room was on the 6th floor).

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Trip Report: Santa Barbara, California pt.2

Picking up car at hertz:

This was a pretty standard pick up in my opinion.  The only thing that was a problem was that when I booked the trip through JetBlue getaways it removed my eligibly for the hertz gold. This was a little inconvenient (although not very).  I still went into the “vip” section anyway and the rest of the rental process was standard

Santa Barbara

We drove from Lax to Santa Barbara. We took the more inland route and planned to take the more coastal route on the way from Santa Barbara to lax after our wedding.

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Trip Report: Santa Barbara, California

Flying to lax from JFK on JetBlue:

Got to the airport right around 6am this morning for a 7am fight for a wedding in Santa Barbara this weekend. My friends had gotten there a bit earlier and where already through security at the gate.

When I travel, especially domestically, I have a little trick which I use to help me get front row seating and some other benefits (on JetBlue you get a priority line for security and priority boarding at the gate). I can’t share this trick with you though. I’m going to keep it as my little secret… sorry

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