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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dubrovnik Day 1

Happy Thanksgiving!

I was really excited about walking the old town today and happy that the rain held off for the entire day.  It’s been threatening to do that in the forecast for the whole trip but so far so good. 

The first stop of the day: the City Walls (cue the Game of Thrones music).  Side note: I realized after booking this trip that primary filming of the King’s Landing scenes in Game of Thrones is done here in Dubrovnik on the walls.   How cool is that?!?

Just before walking the walls, though, a quick pickup was required – there is an option to acquire what is called the “Dubrovnik Card” for all major attractions at one reasonable price.  By ordering online in the US you can then pick up near the Pile Gate when you arrive.  This was extremely easy to do and having the access to many major museums and the walls is a bargain. 

And as you can see from these pictures, the walls do not disappoint:

All told, it took almost three hours to walk but was worth every minute (and included a stop at the Maritime Museum housed in one section of the walls).  The views of the Adriatic combined with the city are just beautiful. 

After finishing the wall walk, it was time to eat.  Where to go for lunch?  How about a place called Presa.  Down a side street and off the beaten path, this place is highly recommended and I now know why.  All the food is prepared fresh and while it can take a bit to deliver, is well worth the wait.  I don’t think I’ve ever had such a good tasting burger!

The rest of the afternoon comprised of visits to several of the primary museums in the city, including the Rector’s Palace and the Art History Museum.  Needing a quick break, I also thought it was fun to walk and find a hidden gem in the city called Café Buza.  This place hangs off the cliff and is a great place to sit and enjoy a libation while taking in the Adriatic. 

Following that I thought dinner might be a good option – I just didn’t realize how hard it was going to be.  I had scouted out several places, including Restaurant Dubrovnik and Barba as top places I wanted to visit.  Unfortunately many of the top places close in the offseason (note to these establishments, please update your websites so that visitors know about these things ahead of time!).  After some searching, the current top-ranked place on Tripadvisor was still open – the Dionysus Wine Bar.  I’m happy to confirm that it is a special place – the food was excellent and wine-tasting included in the experience!  All told a great decision and I’m happy to recommend them as a top place to visit for Croatian wine and specialized food. 

Looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Arrival to Croatia

I must say that it’s been quite a while since I’ve had such smooth flights and connections while transiting Europe.  Considering that three connections were part of this first jaunt, I wondered if I was asking for trouble.  But other than two small-ish delays of 10 and 20 minutes everything went very well.  To recap, I transited Munich and Zagreb onroute to Dubrovnik HR via Lufthansa and Croatia Airlines.  Touchdown for the final segment was around 4pm local time.

Arriving to Dubrovnik via Zagreb is super easy.  Immigration/Customs checks occurred at Zagreb so there was no need to stop once the flight landed.  In fact, the customs booths were empty and baggage claim within a few hundred feet of the gate area.  The airport itself is very small and only has a few flights a day, so they are able to time things out well when you arrive.  The airport bus was waiting for the final luggage to be given out before departing – that allowed enough time to also nab tickets.  I highly recommend doing this option right when you arrive – they accept either Kuna or Euros. 

(Speaking of the Zagreb transition via Munich, you’ll want to note that you will have to ‘exit’ immigration/customs and then re-enter once you deplane.  Zagreb’s airport is also not very large, so this transition time only took about 20 minutes between deplaning and rechecking through security.  Security, mind you, was much more thorough than at any airport along the way – I ended up having to take out everything in my backpack compared to Munich and the US where I took out nothing.)

Once on the airport bus it’s a relatively quick ride into Dubrovnik.  Since it was later evening already the sun was down, but the lights of the city were spectacular coming down the mountain.  The bus drops off right at the Pile Gate and it was a very fast walk into the Old Town to get to my chosen stay for this trip, Andio.  As you no doubt can guess from the following pictures, it truly is walking back in time to some degree to be in the Old Town - I was speechless.   

Arrival to Andio had its moments, since they didn’t have a room designated when I got there.  But after a quick phone call, that was figured out and it was time to walk around a bit before sleep.  The first restaurant of choice was the Café Festival just a few blocks down from Andio.  I think I had the best lasagna broccoli that I’ve ever had, including homemade cheesecake that was amazing.  Not a bad way to start the visit!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Breakfast in Munich

Greetings from Munich!

Vacation has commenced...I'll be updating things as I can again this Thanksgiving trip, but so far all is well. The flight to Munich arrived 42 minutes early which gives me time to relax and get some German breakfast in the Lufthansa Star Alliance Lounge. Probably won't take a shower this morning...seems busy.

My connecting flight departs in about two hours...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Skywest to end flying EMB-120 Brasilias!

I almost jumped out of my chair when I read this - sounds like no more turboprops in San Diego!

From AIN online:

St. George, Utah-based SkyWest Airlines will finally retire its fleet of Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia turboprops by the summer under a so-called transition plan that will see it become an all-jet carrier for the first time in its history. SkyWest said the plan to remove its last 44 Brasilias stems, in part, from increased costs associated with new FAR117 flight and duty-time rules, which require first officers to carry an airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate. It flies the airplanes in a West Coast network as a United Express carrier. SkyWest hasn’t yet revealed plans for discontinuing and reducing service to communities now connected to United hubs by the Brasilias.

Those commuter flights from San Diego to LAX just got a whole lot more comfortable...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hyatt Free Night and 10,000 points in Hawaii

This deal seems extremely targeted, but I want to pass it along anyway in case you have a stay coming up in Hawaii and received the email I did. 

Here are the terms and conditions:

Each property offer includes buffet breakfast for 2 people each morning at participating resort restaurants.
Offer of one free night per qualifying stay valid through March 31, 2015 at Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa and Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa. Reservations are subject to availability and must be made in advance by paying the Sunshine on Sale rate and requesting offer code 10KHGP. Hyatt Gold Passport members must choose points for their stay. Only one 10,000 bonus point award may be earned per member, per stay. This promotion is subject to the terms and conditions of the Hyatt Gold Passport program. Please allow 6-8 weeks after travel is completed for Hyatt Gold Passport bonus points to be credited to your account. Limit one free night per night per stay as long as the minimum stay requirement is satisfied. Minimum stay required to for offer and to earn free night varies by property. Minimum 6 night length of stay at Andaz Maui at Wailea, minimum 5 night stay at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, minimum 5 night stay at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa and minimum 4 night stay at Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa. Free night must be used on same stay it is earned. All properties offer includes buffet breakfast for 2 people each morning at participating resort restaurants. Offer is not valid for groups or conventions and may not be combined with other promotional offers. Prices are based on double occupancy, standard guestroom accommodations unless otherwise noted. Additional charges may apply for additional guests or for room-type upgrades. Free night is reflected at time of booking. Free night is not combinable with Family Plan rooms. Offer does not include tax or service charges. A portion of the rate for this offer may reflect taxes, service charges, gratuities, and third-party charges for certain included items, and those costs are not eligible for Hyatt Gold Passport® points. A limited number of rooms are allocated to this promotion. Promotional blackout periods may apply due to seasonal periods or special events, and normal arrival/departure restrictions apply. Blackout dates: 12/24-1/2/15.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thoughts on my first Uber drives

I knew that driving for Uber would be an adventure, and so far I have not been disappointed.  I've had my share of characters so far but all have been very kind.  In many ways I'm realizing that beyond the obvious pluses to driving, I'm learning more about the city and many of the major hotspots that people frequent.  I'm also figuring out how to get myself home from those places as well.  :)

I've managed to do seven trips so far (including several to the airport and a few to clubs).  My most interesting drive was being called to a condo to drive two people out to get cigarettes and then go home (too much drink to drive themselves, and no, there is no smoking allowed in the car).  They were very nice and I also scored a small tip from them that was unexpected...a scratch off lottery ticket. Ha!

Looking forward to seeing how well this goes in the next week or so.  Other things I've learned:

1. Demand is not even - the College area where I live is on a 'top' list for demand, but I'm often waiting for chunks at a time to get a call (especially in the early evening)

2. Night driving is an adventure - never quite sure what's going to happen

3. Time is money - maximizing availability is the best way to get riders.  No waiting!

Has anyone else given Uber driving a try?

If you're interested in trying it out as a rider, please feel free to sign up using my referral link (we both get credit!).  I also have a driver referral link I can email you if you're feeling adventurous!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Don't know where to stay when traveling? Try Airbnb!

During my 2013 trip to Zurich in late fall, I had the opportunity to try out several new restaurants and the Airbnb service for the first time.  I usually make it a point to stay at the Park Hyatt whenever I can, but not enough points made me consider other alternatives.  The place where I stayed was excellent and gave me some new local flavor for the city, so I definitely recommend it if you need another stay option!

Here are a few pics of the apartment I stayed at:

If you're interested in this location, you can find it listed here.  Giorgia was very pleasant and helpful to arrange the stay, and I had no issues whatsoever. I also enjoying having a Coop right around the corner so I could get my own groceries and make food instead of eating out the whole trip. 

I was glad I made this choice - don't be afraid to try something new!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Reflections on my first Uber driving evening

I have to say: I was pretty excited to finally get approval to be an Uber driver!  Given all of the recent expansion of their service, it seemed like a bit of a no-brainer to try and use some of the extra time I have to do some driving.  And even though the process took several months (way longer than it should have), I was ready to go - Uber phone in hand, car ready.  What I wasn't ready for was having to sit and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I finally got my first legitimate call for a pickup (after two cancels and one distance issue) almost 2 hours into waiting.  Seemed like it should be much quicker, but then again, maybe a Tuesday night isn't a great time to try and drive.  No matter...I had a call!  Off I went toward downtown, and while getting on the Interstate received a call from the girl I'd be picking up: "where are you?" Uber had given me this ride with a 12 minute transit time, which I'm sure confused the girl.  I said I was on my way and got there as quick as I could.  We were off to the airport!  How fortunate. 

After I finally got my trunk open for her suitcase (apparently my keychain lock battery decided to start dying at just the same time), we were driving and made it safely.  Success!

I'm curious to see how other nights of the week compare...at this point I'd be hard pressed to recommend much business on a Tuesday evening.