Flight Diary Stats

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August 20, 2014

Bigger Ain’t Better!

I like SMALL suitcases, mine is the size of a laundry basket and I swear I could go even smaller.

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Weight wise I’m always around 12Kg – my record is 9! (under 20 pounds)

Unless I am on a bus tour where porter service is included, or we’re staying put in the same hotel for the entire trip, I always take the small suitcase! 

Based on what I have seen at the airport, most people consider this a carry-on bag! ha!

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How about you? Do you travel light?

August 19, 2014

Iceland raises Bardarbunga volcano alert to orange

Have you heard about this???

I JUST dodged mayhem back in 2010 when Eyjafjallajokull erupted – this news does not fill me with confidence!!!! 

It’s all too early to be concerned; let’s just hope it all ‘blows over’ Winking smile

Volcano

August 17, 2014

Cats & Packing

They KNOW!  it’s amazing.

And I am not even packing for real yet, I’m just sorting things out to see if I need to buy anything.

Of course, JR appears as I lay the bags out on the bed – shockingly he’s not sprawled ON the bags, just sleeping contentedly NEXT to them.

He’s not fooling me; I am onto him. He’s trying to lull me into a false state of contentedness – making me think he’s cute and just keeping me company… but it’s all a trick “I’m acting cute and calm now, but on Real Packing Day watch out! I plan to get in your way BIG TIME”

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Just Nuts

I used to never be able to NOT take the shampoo.  You know, those little bottles shampoo you get in hotel rooms…  I always used to take them: for just in case.

Just in case of what? A world-wide shampoo shortage? I have never ever ever had a shampoo emergency on vacation, so what compelled me?  I admit that they are useful for the gym – but at the rate I go to the gym, this is more than a life’s supply!

I am riffling though my toiletries and pharmacy to see if I need to stock up on anything, and this box-o-crap just screams insane!!!  Thankfully, I no longer feel obligated to “rescue” the little bottles anymore so this is as full as it will ever be.

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The nuttiest part of all this, is that I still insist on bringing my own shampoo on vacation so this stuff will never get used!

I think I will start using them at home now so that at a minimum, it won’t be wasted.

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August 16, 2014

Phase One Done!

AHHHH… I feel so much better now that my paperwork is organized!

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Doesn’t look like much, but those 6 envelops are packed with essential information like maps and schedules and passes and tickets. Train Times and hiking trails and itineraries and vouchers… now all out of my head and on paper.  Insert sigh of contentment here: _______________ .

Tomorrow I move onto phase two which is to comb through my pharmacy and toiletries to see what I need to stock up on.

Feels so good to get things done!

The Frenchness of Swiss German

As I am organizing my vacation paper work, a memory from a Tour Group breakfast in Munich in 2002 flashed into my mind.

As you may know, I speak German – far from perfectly, but well enough to feel confident and be understood.  I massacre gender and verb tense, and I also throw in a lot of Swiss German dialect, but overall it’s solidly passable.

On this morning in Munich I asked the waitress for some milk for my coffee, when she brought it instead of saying “Danke”, I said “Merci”; it just popped out of habit.  The Americans at the table joshed me for mixing up my languages, and I didn’t bother to educate them… until now 12 years later.

Thank you in French is also “merci” but in Swiss German the emphasis on the first syllable and not the second: “MEHRRR–si” versus “mer–SI”.

Many other words in Swiss German are closer to French than they are to High German.

For example:

Chicken.

French: Poulet. poo-LEH

Swiss German: Poulet: POOO-leh

High German: Huhn

 

Mushroom.

French: champignon. shhh am peen YON (the n is silent)

Swiss German: champignon: shh AHMM peenyon (the n is silent)

High German: Pilz

 

So what sparked all this?  I am looking up the connection time for our excursion to Schynige Platte; have a look at this – it’s typical.

schedule

“Hinfahrt” essentially means “incoming journey”

You’d think (if you know German) the return journey would be “Rückfahrt”… not for the Swiss! It’s “retour” just like French but pronounced differently:

French: ruh TWO RR

Swiss German: reh TTT oo rr

 

 

Just wanted to share Smile

August 12, 2014

Stress

This trip-prep is starting to feel a little stressful.  I am excited, don’t get me wrong, but the walls are starting to close in on me and I am getting a little stressed!  I feel like I have a million little details to wrap up and there is a weight hanging over my head!

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When we went to Paris this spring, there was practically zero planning to do! It was just “book-n-go”. This time the planning feels oppressive!

I plan to “do the envelopes” this weekend – that will help. I’ll gain some sense of control once that is done.

Just off the top of my head, here’s what I need to get done in addition to getting my paperwork organized, I don’t even want to think about what’s NOT on the top of my head!  I know once I tackle it I will feel better; I’m just tired in advance.

  • I have a pair of capris with a rip on the back pocket – need to get those fixed.  They’re coming with me, but won’t be coming back home again!
  • There was (yet again) a snafu with Rail Europe: we bought the 2nd class 15-day train pass, but were sold a first class Glacier Express reservation! GRRR…  It’s getting straightened out, I have the correct 2nd class rez now but don’t yet have a refund on the incorrect one.  I have no reason to doubt it will come, but you know how these things go.  It’s 122$!!!!  I want to see that money come back!
  • Hair… Man do I need a haircut
  • Insurance… it’s getting done, but that’s another pending charge and I am sick of spending money!
  • Getting my cell phone provisioned for data… such a long story but suffice it to say that I have no hope this will run smoothly. I feel like I am preparing to go into battle.
  • Gift shopping… this is the hardest one! 2 family reunions; what do you bring? Ice wine? Maple syrup? Canada mittens? Ugh.

 

Sigh.  Preparing for Paris was so much simpler!

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August 7, 2014

Pilot Eye View

Nice to see what goes on in the cockpit when everything is running smoothly – as opposed to the way I usually see these things on Mayday! ha!

It’s about 15 minutes long, and best viewed in Full Screen mode.

http://www.wimp.com/approachlanding/

July 23, 2014

Swiss Itinerary

Someone asked me the other day where we were going in Switzerland and it occurred to me I never posted the most updated version of the plan!

So here it is!

Now that all the hotels are done, I doubt it will change very much – at this point, any changes or updates will be because we were rained out of Plan A.

Swiss Plan

July 15, 2014

Another Flash!

Arles!!

Van Gogh’s Terrace at Night painting is my favourite of his collection:

TAN

What a kick it would be to have lunch there!!! …  I would just LOVE it! 

Arles is only 20 minutes by train from Avignon, less than 40km away – really this is a no brainer!

And so, the revised plan:

PLan

This is shaping up to be yet another great vacation!

July 13, 2014

I Just Realized Something!!

I had a flash of inspiration!!!  Really, why didn’t this occur to me sooner?

In 2010, when we visited the south of France we missed out on visiting the Pont du Gard

Pont

We had every intention of going, but it got really complicated and we gave up. 

To get there, you must take a bus from Avignon but it wasn’t so straight forward. I think we missed something crazy obvious because the Pont du Gard is one of France’s top tourist attractions… therefore you’d think somewhat easy to get to - or at least there’d be tons of relevant signage!  But there was nothing. We MUST have missed something.

After about an hour of trying to figure it out, I considered going to the Tourist Office for help but by then we were too fed up of wasting time so we abandoned the project. (My husband didn’t care either way “It’s just a bridge, why do I gotta see it” MEN!!!)

The South of France is tempting us as a vacation destination again for next spring, and I would hate to see a second opportunity missed!  This time, I will plan ahead!

My idea (previous post) was to fly into Lyon and out of Nice.  I thought of a stop in either Avignon or Aix en Provence on the way from one city to the other, so why not incorporate the Bridge!… and my husband likes the idea this time too! Bonus.

Years ago I swore off one-night-stops, so the trip now looks like this… but I think I now would want an extra day in Nice for another day trip and come home on Sunday instead of Saturday.

PLan

We’ll see in November (when it’s time to pick our 2015 vacations weeks)  if this comes too pass!

July 1, 2014

I’ve Been At It Again…

… 2015 vacation planning!

In February I planned out my trips for 2015 and while I am still up for all of them (London is done and booked) I’ve scrambled them around a bit.  Are you surprised?

I am thinking of France instead of Passau Vienna Prague for spring 2015.

If I can’t get the weeks I need in September for Norway, then we do “PVP” then. Plan B if I didn’t get the weeks for Norway was going to be Sicily, but we can move that to Spring 2016 (cooler weather!)

Are you still with me?

So why France again so soon?

  • Had a greeeeeeeeeeeat time in Paris
  • I love love love French Food & Cafés & Resto-Vibes
  • Disappointed that I missed out on Lyon
  • Some friends of ours are visiting Nice in September and it brought back nice memories of our trip
  • Just read “A Year in Provence” and it brought back nice memories of our trip

France is so damned big! and compared to ALL MY EXPERIENCES SO FAR (and that’s a lot) the trains are really expensive!! What gives? It’s already altering my fantasy plans!  I just need to come to terms with the cost; it is what it is and I am not going to rent a car… so suck it up sister!!

In 2010 we did the Riviera and Côte D'Azur, 2 home bases in Nice and Marseille and saw 8 cities in 8 days…  LOVED IT!  Well, didn’t care much for Nimes or Marseille but the rest of it was GREAT!

 Picture from Provence / Pictures from Côte D'Azur

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Marseille

As is the case with all good trips, we want to relive the good parts and mix it in with some new adventures… and so the fantasizing begins!!!

Transat (albeit insanely uncomfortable) is cheap! AND they fly to Lyon and Nice so I am thinking we could:

  • Fly into Lyon, use that as a home base for 3 nights, explore the city and have a day trip to Grenoble (all new)
  • From Lyon take the train south to Nice, with a stop in either Avignon or Aix on the way (repeat- but these 2 cities were highlights for us last time)
  • Stay in Nice for the rest of the time (repeat- but best home base) visit Monaco (repeat- but another highlight) then that leaves us 2 full days for more day trips around Nice…  I insist these places must be new.  Grasse? Menton?
  • Fly home from Nice

Lots of time to decide Smile

PLan

How many times will this plan change??

PLan

June 17, 2014

Next thing I knew, it was booked!

London is done!

Just like that.

I was not planning on booking anything until Switzerland was all paid off (still have the last night in Basel and the train pass to pay off), but I was keeping an eye out for good deals… and found one!

In April 2013 including a discount we paid 1128 for a direct flight to London. This time: 968!!! (both times with Air Canada). Anything under 1000 to cross the Atlantic is a good price so it was hard to resist.  Could I have waited and gotten a better price? Perhaps, but I feel I am knowledgeable enough to know a good deal when I see one! 

The hotel was easy: what’s dirt cheap, clean, and close to the Tube? Answer: Comfort Inn! Sometimes low prices imply low quality but the fact that it’s a “known chain” is reassuring, and for under 100$ a night I am SO IN!

The pictures on line imply it’s clean and modern…  yes, yes, I know this is a publicity shot, but you know I’ve seen it all.

Comfort Inn

For that price in London, you must have already concluded we aren’t really staying in the city… or even close to the city! We’re not. We’re staying in the town of Harrow, about 20km away.

Harrow

It’s still accessible with the Tube, on the Bakerloo line in zone 5. Barring delays, it should take us a little over 30 minutes to get to London. I can totally live with that commute… the price is so worth it! 

From what I see online it’s 35 minutes from Kenton to Oxford Circus – not bad at all!

Tube Map

How easy was that?

June 1, 2014

Willis Tower Floor Cracks!

Willis Tower 8 - Simone in line for tickets to 103rd Floor

Willis Tower 25 - Skydeck Ledge - Frank Simone Barb Larry

Willis Tower 23 - Skydeck Ledge - Simone's Feet

I think I would have shit my pants; pardon the brutal honesty…

Stepping out there was scary enough, I can’t imagine what it would have been like to FEEL it crack under my feet.

 

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May 30, 2014

300 Sleeps to go!

Whoop Whoop! London 2015 is a go! Party smile

I won’t start getting serious about hotels and flights and excursions until Switzerland is all paid off (let’s see what’s leftover in the budget!!), but I’m excited to get another countdown underway.

We wanted to see our Chicago friends again and they mentioned that London was on their list; since we are anxious for a warmer re-do compared to when we went in 2013, it all works out perfectly!

London, April 2013

Highgate Cemetery 16 - Simone

Hampton Court Palace Gardens 4 - Simone

Wurzburg Germany, April 2013

Alte Mainbrücke 11 - Simone Frank Barb Larry

Looking forward to it already!

May 24, 2014

The Final Stop

After Samedan, we’ll be staying with family for a night in Aadorf…  the site of the Bugs versus Simone’s Leg Carnage back in 2011

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From there, it’s off to Basel for the final night. We fly in and out of the Euro Airport which is actually in France near the borders or Switzerland and Germany.

Euro Airport

I like to be in the final city for the last night of any trip, I’m not interested in a long train ride from a city far away on flight-day. I’m too paranoid that things will go horribly wrong and we miss the flight home.

Besides, the day we leave is Day 16 and our train pass (which includes passage on boats, busses and trams too) is a 15-day pass so all we need to pay for on this last day is transportation to the airport and that is just 1 bus stop away (a 5 minute ride) from our hotel:  Airport Hotel Basel.  Perfect set up.

Bus Stop

We’ll be bussing right passed it on the day we arrive, as we will be taking the same airport bus from the airport to get to the train station to go to Bern… curious to see if we’ll notice it. In theory we should as it’s right at the bus stop and it’s tallest building around!

Basel Hotel

May 13, 2014

Fun Things to Track on Google Earth

Love this!

I should make this my desktop picture at work so that when I’m having a bad day I can remind myself what it’s all for!

Hotel Map

Out Of Town

Our next stop is St Moritz but we won’t actually be staying there – we’ll be sleeping one town over in Samedan.  St Moritz is just impossibly out of the budget.

It’s not so bad, Samedan is only 6km from St Moritz – under 15 minutes by train and there’s one about every 20 minutes.

Samedan

I nixed St Moritz from our 2011 itinerary, so I am looking forward to it this time. I’ve only been once for a few hours in May 2000 and it was so cold the lake was still frozen:

St-Moritz 06

St-Moritz 13

Still it was very nice and it’ll be nice to spend more time exploring the place in more detail (and hopefully in better weather!) My mom recommends walking around the lake, good idea and it only takes an hour… no other plans for St Moritz other than lunch and wandering!

Our hotel in Samedan (Bernina) looks CRAZY nice!! This must be the effect of retouched and embellished glamour shots… wow!

Bernina

Bernina 2

I am extra curious about seeing this one in real life!!!

May 11, 2014

Don’t Be So Cheap!

The third pit stop of our Switzerland vacation will be Lugano in the Italian Canton of Ticino.

Lugano

Lugano (really, like pretty much all of Switzerland) is gorgeous; we stayed here in 2006 and loved it. We skipped it in 2011 but for this trip it was a no-brainer! We’re looking forward to going back.

In 2006, we stayed in an incredible place right on the water – so picturesque! But this time since we have more day trips planned from Lugano (Belinzona & Locarno – and also a possibly family reunion 3 hours away) we were happy to get a hotel closer to the train station.

Hotel Acquarello

The location is ideal. Close to the train station AND the town centre AND the lake (ok, well, given the size of the place just about all hotels meet this criteria).

Lugano 1

So what’s with not being too cheap? Well, to get to the train station in Lugano, you must take a funicular and it actually  goes THROUGH the hotel!!!

Here’s a picture of the funicular that we took in 2006 unaware that were also photographing (a small sliver to the left) the hotel where we’d stay 8 years later.  Frankly, I don’t recall if we even realized there was a hotel RIGHT THERE… we must have at the time…

Funicular to the Train 01

Here’s a neat picture I found on line:

Funi

The hotel warns you that rooms may not be quiet if they are too close to the funicular, and so offers (for a higher price naturally) rooms that are further from it and therefore quieter.

The difference in price for our stay would be about 80$…  I considered the cheaper / louder room because:

  • I am into the idea of saving 80$
  • The funicular does not run between about midnight and 5:30AM

But then, I remembered how much I came to regret the outcome when I tried to save a few bucks in Interlaken in 2011.

My husband could not believe I was even considering the cheaper room. He said to me: “80$!! TOTAL???? are you serious? you probably spent that much out with your friends for diner tonight! 80$ = less than 15$ each per night.”

Hard to argue with that logic. He’s right.