...constantly searching to find the best travel deals and places to visit. A never-ending quest for adventure!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

lima recovery

Been a long week so far after getting back from Lima.  Was a fast trip and everything went well, but transitioning back into work-mode and dissertation mode is not easy.  But it must be done - need to get this degree finished. 

For those of you who have visited the Colosseum in Rome, it seems as though some changes may be happening due to adjustments in the structure of the building. 

You can read more about it here:  http://usat.ly/U4mGZf

I still need to get there to see the catacombs - during my last trip it was flooded and noone was allowed in.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lima Trip - Notables

Thought it might be fun to share a few lessons learned:

1. Don't ever lose the immigration card you get when you check in - it is checked all the time
2. Advil and tea work great to prep for altitude - no problems to speak of with that combo
3. Along those lines, avoiding caffeine and alcohol were also smart
4. Being Star Alliance Gold for flying Taca was a great assist for boarding and getting luggage on - might have had an issue without
5. Bottled water is great for everything - including drinking, brushing teeth, and washing hands
6. Bring along toilet paper - just when you think it's dumb to have, you need it
7. Arrange and confirm taxis ahead of time to avoid schedule problems.
8. If a gate isn't listed on your boarding pass, do what you have to and confirm. It's better than running to a gate and almost missing boarding. Signage at LIM is not the best.
9. You definitely need more than 2 hours to transfer terminals at LAX to go international - esp between terminal 7 and 2. Avoiding running like a madman to get to your gate and breaking your luggage handle.
10. Arranging the trip details for Machu Picchu before you depart will save a ton of hassle...and make the entire trip more enjoyable.
11. Patience is a virtue...especially when standing in a six row deep winding domestic Peru security line and everyone is shoving to get ahead
12. Global Entry will let you make a 1.5 connection time on the return easily. Well worth the $!

If I think of any more, I'll add them!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lima Trip - Weekend

After a very long train ride back to Cusco, my evening ended without too much fanfare. I did run and get some food (was starving) before walking back to the hotel and crashing...sleep was not easy though after what I had seen at the ruins.

The next morning my flight was due to depart around 1pm, so I arranged for a ride at 10 so I could grab a bite of breakfast first. This time my ride was not late, and off we zipped. The was a big todo happening in the main square - bands playing, lots of people - so we had to detour all around it.

I was pleasantly surprised when checking in that I could catch an earlier flight if I wanted, and so I took the chance to leave sooner. No checked luggage meant an easy choice for me. Taca has been very good this trip, and I will recommend them in the future (although they are merging names and becoming only "Avianca" in 2013).

It became very obviously upon landing back in Lima that I was sore and worn out. The ruins are quite a trek, and so rather than pushing I erred on the side of taking it easy and relaxed for the evening - I did take a walk and enjoyed the nice weather though. Can't wait to come back when I have more time and see more of the area.

Overall it's been a great trip - long day of flying to get back home. ¡hasta luego Lima!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lima Trip - Day 4 (Machu Picchu)

Was an early morning alarm...5:30a...oof. Was necessary so that I could grab a bite of breakfast before starting my day-long trek to the ruins. After a quick shower and a small sandwich, I was ready to go - my hopeful driver had my tickets and all was in order. Only problem...the car was late. After 10 minutes, the driver who was supposed to take me found me another ride via a separate shuttle to get me to the Poroy train station. I was a little concerned...it was to be a 30 minute ride and the train doesn't usually wait. And of course we had to make five other pickups along the way. After all the stops and several slow vehicles, we made it to the station with about 10 minutes to spare. I ran to my car and seat, and soon we were off. I was surprised to see that half of our train car was empty, so after about 10 minutes everyone shifted around and I got my own seat for the four hour ride.

At this point I will quickly comment about Peruvian driving. I thought there were worse drivers, but none compare to those here. Weaving, jerking, all over the road...add that to very uneven roads that aren't paved, and if you have any type of motion sickness you'd be in trouble.

The next several hours were amazing. The countryside seemed to change every 10 minutes or so and with large windows on every side, picture taking was very easy. We transitioned from relatively barren terrain to much more tropical as we moved. My only complaint would be how much rocking took place on these train cars - not at all like the Swiss ones I'm used to. It was pretty neat though to be whisked along right on the side of the mountain...the route takes you along the river and at some points crosses the actual Inca Trail (next trip).

I wondered how my transition would take place in Aguas Calientes, and as I suspected it was people chaos. Thankfully a nice man was yelling out my name and after all of our group members were found, we walked down into town as a light rain started to fall and to the busses where we loaded and then were off for our 30 minute ride up the mountain.

And we were literally on a one lane dirt road that weaved up the mountain (reminded me of Spring Coulee Road). One wrong move...but our driver got us up there safely and to the entrance!

The ruins...are special. It was a workout to get around (which reminded me of the trek from Gimmelwald to Murren the first time), but at the top the views were unparalleled. Our tour guide was very good and we were constantly on the move for the next few hours. Although it started out cool and with low clouds, the sun eventually came out and things warmed up. Soon after it was back down the mountain to my pre-arranged train trip, and back to Cusco.

A long day, but I'm so happy how everything turned out. Can't wait to come back and spend the necessary time to really explore Cusco and the other ruins around Machu Picchu.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lima Trip - Day 3 (Cusco)

Another Taca flight and I have successfully made it to Cusco. It took a while to take off since the flight was oversold and they were offering vouchers. I seriously considered it, but it would have screwed up my airport pickup. Oh well...next time.

The flight was quick - 50 minutes. They served a small snack that should tide me over until dinner tonight, so I'm happy about that. When I got to my hotel, I was greeted with tea and a very nice room. For the short time I'm here, it will be perfect. Internet is only in the lobby but that is workable.  The boutique style of the Marqueses is very intriguing and I love the seclusion. 

My trip to Machu Picchu departs tomorrow morning at 6:45a...will not be a late night tonight. I'm hope to sample some cuisine later...and maybe find my colleague from work who is also here in town somewhere.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Lima Trip - Day 2

A gray, overcast day here today, but warm - I took advantage and got outside for a bit of a walk around the area. Lima (and the part where I am, Miraflores) would remind you of a metropolitan city like Chicago. It's big (10m people) and very western...you can find lots of comfort food if you're worried about any of the local cuisine. With departing tomorrow for Cusco, I'm not going to go too overboard today but will be back on Sunday to try more options.

Learned another tidbit about the microclimates in Peru last night. Lima is in spring/summer right now, while Cusco will be in fall when I get there. And Lima hardly ever gets rain...they don't even have street drains.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lima trip - Day 1

Travel. That has pretty much summed up my day so far. I'm writing this from high above El Salvador on my last segment into Lima. I must say that the trip so far has been pretty smooth with no real hiccups. This is my first time flying Taca (new Star Alliance member) and I'm pretty impressed. The staff has been professional, and despite my lack of Spanish I'm finding it not too difficult to manage my surroundings.

A couple items of note:
1. Taca has very early boarding times - ala one hour prior. Early checkin will save a scramble to get through security
2. One item I forgot - contact case. Never assume you can find one easily.
3. The handle from my newer suitcase bit the dust. Good thing it happened just as I was getting to the gate (note sarcasm)
4. Taca has all new planes, including the E190 I'm on with USB power at my seat!

My next post will come after I've settled in at my hotel in Lima. I wonder what the dinner service will be on this leg - last one was a penne pasta dish. Yum.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, November 19, 2012

T-minus 2 days

The packing has already begun, but I'm only a short two days away from my short Incan adventure.  I heard back this morning from my staff colleague who made it down to Lima safely and is already on to
Ollantaytambo.  He's reporting a very asymptomatic experience so far with the altitude, so I'm thinking that will bode well for me too (although I've already convinced myself of starting up some ibuprofen on Wednesday before Friday afternoon hits).  Better to be safe than sorry - in all of the times I've been in the mountains and high up in Colorado, I can't recall ever having any altitude sickness issues.  And Machu Picchu is at the same height relative to a place like Aspen.  But the trick is Cusco - that is around a height of 10,200 feet, so chances of feeling something are greatly increased.  And, since there really isn't any other way of getting to the ruins without going through Cusco, I will need to need to brave the city for about 14 hours on each end (Friday eve and Saturday eve) before flying out Sunday morning.  I think I can handle it.

Any suggestions on things to pack?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

tica taca...a new experience

I will be taking the opportunity on my upcoming trip to try out a brand new airline that I've never flown before: Taca.  It is a relatively new member of the Star Alliance, and I'm excited about seeing how far my new United 1K status gets me while I'm on my way down yonder.  I should at least get lounge access while I'm traversing through El Salvador and into Lima - and it can't possibly be any worse than what the United lounges are offering right now (who serves donuts in a lounge??). I'm a smidge bummed that my fare class will only allow me to earn 50% mileage while I go, but I was more than happy to take that in stride since my fare was so low...will be hard to top the price of this ticket in the future considering how far I'm going!

One thing I truly enjoy about flying United as much as I do is how well I'm taken care of, in respect to service, luggage, and upgrades.  And this sentiment pretty much also applies to the whole of the Star Alliance that I've been able to fly (US Airways, Lufthansa, Cityline, Swiss, Brussels, Qatar when they were a United partner).  My favorite so far out of all of these is Swiss, although Qatar is a close second.  Since I will have a considerable amount of time getting down to Lima, I'll be able to get a pretty good sense of how Taca operates and where on my favorites list it will rank.  I'm wondering what kind of food will be served...

Thankfully, it looks as though I'll be flying on A320's on the way down and back, so it should be fairly pleasant.  I'll also be bringing some work along to keep me going on my dissertation...must keep going!

If anyone has been to Lima before, any recommendations on fun things to make sure and see? 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

countdown: one week

I looked at my calendar today, and realized that I should probably start an official one week countdown to next Wednesday.  Why, do you ask?  My next mini-adventure starts one week from today.  In fact, at this time next week I'll already be in the air and on my way.  I've got quite a bit to do before then, but I enjoy making a countdown.

Where is the airplane taking me this time? You may or may not recall back in the first part of June that Orbitz had an unbelievable one-day sale on airfare to South America.  Fortunately, one of my staff members saw this deal and alerted me to it, and after a quick check on vacation approval he and I both got approved to go, and tickets were bought!  The fare was amazing...only $250 roundtrip from LAX to Lima (cheaper than flying to Wisconsin).

So...in one week...Lima, Peru and Machu Picchu!

This post from TPG gives a great overview...can't wait to see it myself.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veteran's Day salute

I certainly want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the many men and women in uniform that have kept our country safe - we should all take time on this veteran's day weekend to be thankful for the many freedoms that we have and should never take for granted. 

As I have several family members in the service (and relatives in the past who have served), I am particularly proud of their service.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Place of the Day: Vienna

It's time for another "place of the day" to highlight on a Thursday, and so here we go...to Vienna!


Outside of Switzerland, Austria is one of the countries I truly enjoy returning to.  Not sure if its the gemutlichkeit or just the atmosphere of being so close to the alps.  You can find the legacies of Beethoven, Freud, Klimt, and Mahler in Vienna, and there is never a shortage of musical offerings to experience.  Some notable things that can be visited include:

The Imperial Apartments - Home to Franz-Josef I and full of 19th and 20th century artifacts

The Treasury - Collection includes the crowns of the Holy Roman and Austrian empires

Vienna Boys Choir - At the Hofburgkapelle and linked to Austria since 1498, try to get a listen if you're able!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


No, 1K is not a seat assignment.  And it's not a lottery ticket number.

It's the designation for United's 1K status - of which I have finally reached!  I wasn't quite sure if I was going to get this far ever in United's program, but with having to travel to Doha for dissertation research, I accumulated enough miles to put me over the top.

If you're curious about how the tiers work, you can find the grid here.

One of the best benefits is the higher priority for complimentary upgrades to first class, as well as Global Premier Upgrades (which can upgrade you to business class on international flights from purchased economy tickets).

Woo hoo!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A check and a sky

I have two personal travel-related updates to share - they've been on my list from past trips, and want to make sure to highlight my experiences:

1. TSA Pre-check - if you haven't heard about this, it's a program intended to help travelers speed through security checkpoints.  Initial rollout occurred at select airports, but they are continuing to implement it at most of the major US airports.  I was able to qualify for it based on the fact that I am part of the Trusted Traveler program (through my Global Entry access), which has really been helpful when I've had to travel back through customs from overseas.

My experience with Pre-check was probably the easiest security experience I've ever had - there was a separate lane just for Pre-check, which came up when my boarding pass was scanned to tell the agent that I was allowed to use it.  Best part - didn't have have to take off my shoes, didn't have to take off a belt, just walked right through the metal detector and that was it!  If you have the ability through your airline or otherwise to sign up for it, I highly recommend doing so.  I completely skipped an otherwise long and winding security line!

2. Boeing Sky Interior - Most of the newer Boeing planes are coming equipped with the new Sky Interior, and I finally was able to see what the hype was all about on a recent flight.  New lighting, new air ducts, new overhead bins - I have to say that I was pretty impressed.  Gone were the terrible side lights on most 737 planes, and they were replaced with soft white light and translucent blue overhead lights.  I even had a power outlet from which to plug something in.  Chances are you will only find these on newer -800 and -900 model 737 planes, but I know that the new Dreamliner also has it. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

my only post re the election

I've tried very hard not to comment too much on the politics of the season - with election day tomorrow, though, I'm sure the airwaves will be full of last-minute spots about who to vote for.

This article was passed my way from the Washington Post, and I thought it might be a good one to share - feel free to read if you're curious, ignore if you've had enough with politics already this fall.  You won't hurt my feelings.  :)

Young Voters

Don't forget to vote tomorrow!

A Team of Rivals movie!

One of the memorable things about my PhD program at USD will be having had the chance to read and present on the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  It really opened my eyes to the leadership struggles and lessons that Lincoln had to balance between his cabinet, and it sucked me in completely.

Smithsonian is highlighting the new movie coming out that is based on the book - you can read more about it here:

Mr. Lincoln Goes to Hollywood

I highly recommend reading the book before seeing the movie, since I believe you will find an easier connection between content areas.  And, from early reviews, the movie is centrally based on the latter third of the book.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

a calmer Friday for flying

My post today is not necessarily specific to any particular region in the east, but rather a quick update on most of the east coast cities that were affected by Hurricane Sandy.  Thankfully, most if not all airports in the NY area are back open and most are operating normally (with the exception of maybe La Guardia as it still works to get back online). 

Please note that if you're traveling through the NY region for the next few days, some airlines have still issued waivers.   United has a waiver out from 11/4-11/7.  You can see the update here.

Hopefully this weekend will be a bit calmer for everyone - I'm sensing storm fatigue in certain areas. 

Happy Friday!