Category Archives: Travel

Oh American Airlines

Online check-in opened up 24 hours before our flight to the US last week, so when I went to check in I was a little surprised to see that ALL the seats were taken aside from some hefty upgrade options. Then I was disappointed.

It seemed a little scammy to me. Would we really have to chalk up more money in order to get seats together after we had bought tickets together (and assigned seats) four months previously?

Kay actually sounded vaguely interested in spending an additional $180 to get some emergency exit row seats together, but the principle of it really disturbed me. I bought two seats together with plenty of time before the rest of the plane filled up. Our seats should be together! I didn’t want to have to pay significantly more just to sit together.

American airlines responded via Twitter and said they would look into it, and after a little while they told me that some seats opened up and we would only be a couple rows from each other, which is easier to ask people to switch than when you are on opposite ends of the plane from one another. But when I checked our reservations later in the evening the night before we flew, we were still in the same seats above. I was frustrated so I went to bed and hoped something would open up in the morning.

Luckily seats had changed again in the morning and I was able to change our reservation to two seats together finally. But the site told me while my seats were confirmed, they would have to print them at the airport. Fine.

At the airport, we received our tickets and our seats were still together, but when we got on the plane I realized the seats were in an entirely different section than I had confirmed online. And on our connecting flight and the flights home, we were also together but on totally different seats than our reservations had told us. It’s really like a slot machine. You have no idea where you will end up on the plane! I can’t imagine paying for business tickets and being treated this way, but it seems to be totally fine to treat economy passengers with these mystery seats.

We were also always in the last boarding zone, group 4. I believe most airlines use boarding zones to fill the plane up faster from the back to the front, but on our last flight by the time group 4 was called and we made our way onto the plane, the back of the plane (row 39 out of 44) was almost completely full already and many people further ahead and further behind had been seated before us.

It didn’t make any sense.

During check-in I was asked if I wanted to upgrade to group 1 boarding for $10 a piece. I said no of course. It really seems like boarding zones are based on how much you paid for your ticket and not where you are sitting in the plane. And in the end, loading people into the plane after it has filled up wastes time and causes more flight delays. Our plane landed in Zürich almost an hour late. Coincidence? I think the poorly planned boarding zones contributed to the delay. Many people straggling into the plane late had issues storing their carry on luggage away because everyone around them had already taken it and we had to wait for flight attendants to help sort the issue out.

Does anybody else have experience with American Airlines having totally bogus seating arrangements and funky boarding groups? I really get the feeling that they are just trying to make an extra dollar off me. I’d rather have them treat passengers normally and roll those costs into tickets if need be. Otherwise, I will be choosing other more dependable airlines in the future.

Starting to think I should write up some airline reviews when we fly… What do you think, is that worth reading?

Five Years Together

With our five year “kiss-iversary” coming up on June 23rd, I booked train tickets to Paris so that we could go back to our roots and relive our magical first kiss at the top of the Eiffel Tower last weekend.

We met at the train station on Friday evening and to my great amazement, Kay took the opportunity to surprise me by shaving his beard off for the FIRST time in five years! As soon as I saw him, I burst out smiling and couldn’t keep the grin off my face for the rest of the weekend.

It was like traveling back in time to 2008, seeing a 24 year old Kay walk into the train station. To say I was ecstatic was putting it lightly. I couldn’t stop smiling from ear to ear!

The entire 4 hour train ride over, I kept looking at Kay and feeling very fuzzy inside, like we were really doing it all over again. My sister saw a picture on Facebook and said he looks ten years younger!

But poor Kay isn’t ready to give up the beard. He had trouble identifying with himself in the mirror and planned on starting to grow his beard back immediately. I had to enjoy that smooth face all I could!

We stayed in the 9th arrondissement in a studio rental I found and had dinner the first night at 1000 & 1 Signes, a mega cool Lebanese restaurant run completely by deaf staff. The entire staff were so, so sweet and caring and it was so interesting seeing into the open kitchen where the chef and waiters were signing orders. They had to be the most polite French wait staff I have ever encountered!

Around the restaurant hung artsy photos showing how to sign for things and after we ordered we were given a brochure about even more signs. Our waiter was so thoughtful at the end he signed to me to keep the brochure with a wink in his eye.

It was all in French of course, but in general I enjoyed the signing because all I do in Paris is point at the menu anyway. And the Lebanese food was great. I only wish I took more pictures so you could have seen our main courses!

After visiting the catacombs of Paris all Saturday, we started Sunday out with some crepe and coffee and then it was off to the Eiffel Tower. It was the 23rd afterall!

Unfortunately, the weather all over Europe was kind of crap. It was apparently sunnier in Switzerland, although they had called for rain, but in Paris it was overcast, windy and COLD. But I was on such a high, I wasn’t going to let the weather ruin the weekend for me.

We had waited already 2 hours in line to see the catacombs and we weren’t much luckier with the Eiffel Tower. We didn’t know about reserving tickets, so we also waited around 2 hours to get to the top, but it’s always worth it for this view!

When we got to the top… the blue sky even started poking out a bit.

But in typical fashion, the blue sky wasn’t really out until we got down from the tower. We had to get ready for our semi fancy dinner though!

Because the weather wasn’t the greatest, we couldn’t really have our wine, cheese and bread picnic at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, so we did the next best thing and did it back at home!

Kay was temporarily disappointed that all the groceries were closed on Sunday, but I spotted a little old lady with some grocery bags, so we asked her where the grocery was and bought all our goodies right as it started to pour outside.

One bottle of wine and one rough downpour later, we were both in a good mood!

For dinner we went out to Mama Shelter which was a pretty trendy, cool restaurant.

It had couches and funky seating everywhere with chalkboard ceilings and texture overload. I loved it!

After dinner the weather was playing nice, so we went back to the Eiffel Tower at night to really soak up the last romantic moments.

But sadly, those shitty street vendors from Rome with all their lasers and crap have made their way to Paris. It kind of ruins the atmosphere when they are throwing glow in the dark toys up in the air and pointing lasers at you. I only like the vendors from last time who sell wine and champagne at night.

The next day we checked out and went to the Louvre before heading home. I was completely exhausted from standing in lines and walking around, but I’m so happy we made it to Paris for our five years. Hopefully in another five years we’ll be back again!

Where do you celebrate your anniversary with your significant other?

Rome!

After making my list of 2013 travel destinations last September, our travel plans changed quite a bit when we decided to go to the US for Christmas and also are planning on visiting again for a friend’s wedding this year. But my sister and brother in law surprised me by planning an Easter trip to Rome, so even though it is an expensive time to travel there we went for seven days back in April!

To save money we all rented a condo together and ended up only paying around 33CHF per person per night, which was definitely not bad. All the hotels would have been over 150 a night just for two people! And to save money on flights, we flew out of Basel for the first time.

Rome is also an amaaazing city. I’m so happy we went… just look at all we saw!

The Pantheon… the Colosseum…

Ruins…

Rome at night.

The Spanish steps.

The Vatican… where, I kid you not… the heavens opened up and sunshine poured down on us ALL FOUR times we went there. For a rainy week, this was pretty spectacular.

We saw the pope too! He gave us a blessing and Kay stayed for mass before we went to the Sistine Chapel.

The Vatican at night…

But they did call for rain every day that week… and on our second day we encountered this:

Which pretty much soaked my sister and brother-in-law’s shoes completely. But I was pretty happy in my gortex rain jacket and hiking boots. Best shoe choice yet!

We saw more ruins… just scattered around the city.

We saw the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel and all around the museum. 🙂

Ate tons of gelato, mozzarella, pasta, pizza and wine.

Trevi fountain:

Spanish steps… yet again! 🙂

Some beautiful sunsets.

Colosseum at night!

St. Peter’s:

We also saw the catacombs with 2000 year old graves from Romans and early Christians. Between that and ALL the basilicas we saw, the Vatican, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum… I feel like we “did” Rome.

Now I am only feeling a bit guilty that we’re almost half way through 2013 and I’ve only been to one of the cities on my 2013 list. I’m not sure we are going to make it to Venice… but I’m hoping we can still manage London this year!

Weekend in Wallis

In, gosh… 2011 (how long ago it sounds!) we received a smartbox as a wedding present that would let us stay one night in a number of fancy hotels or wellness centers in Switzerland, eastern France or northern Italy.

During the winter of 2011/12 we put off deciding when to go because we thought it would be nice to go in the summer and spend one night in the mountains camping and then another night in the hotel. Then we would really have a full weekend to utilize the long journey time by train.

When summer 2012 rolled around we finally sat down and decided which hotel we wanted to stay at but because it was really a wellness hotel with a sauna and steam room, Kay thought it sounded like more a winter activity and he wanted to wait until it was cold to go.

Well, here we are in January and the smartbox was expiring soon! Without waiting we finally booked the hotel last week and left for Mörel early Saturday morning.

Mörel is around 2.5 hours from Zürich and originally I wanted to spend two nights in the hotel, but Kay wanted to save some dough so we just planned to go early Saturday, spend the day snowshoe walking and then later enjoying the wellness center and then on Sunday we would head back.

We got to Salina Maris hotel around 9:30am. They were pretty surprised when we told them we walked up from the station. I didn’t read the reservation email thoroughly, but apparently they would have sent a driver to pick us up from the train station for free! Oh well… it was only a 10-15 minute walk up the hill.

The hotel generously let us check in early (9:30 is pretty darn early!) and rented us snowshoes and poles. We dropped our thing in the room, rearranged our backpacks for hiking and were off.

As you can kind of tell, the mountains were pretty gorgeous. When we first arrived it was really sunny and we had blue skies, but we did experience some clouds and fog throughout the walk.

Snowshoe walking is also, by the way, pretty fun. Tromping around like a little kid in the snow is great!

I ended up just wearing long underwear under my normal trekking pants. I had puffy $10 snowpants from Kohls in my backpack, but I didn’t need to use them because it was warm enough walking.

After a few hours of walking the trails, we headed back down the gondola to Mörel again and prepared ourselves for wellness time!

In the wellness area we spent several hours using the sauna for 15 minute increments, taking a rest outside, using the steam room for 10 minutes, resting and repeating. At the end we jumped in the salt pool and enjoyed the jacuzzi.

At 18:00 there was an apero for guests and we met the other guests (all Swiss) in the hotel for some white Walliser wine. Everyone at the apero was very friendly and I had a nice time trying to keep up in Swiss German.

One of the couples at the apero ended up going to the restaurant as well so we actually enjoyed our complementary three-course meal with a pair from the Biel region! It was not as “romantic” as we had planned, but I was surprised and delighted to have much such open, friendly Swiss. It is really not common to just sit down and eat dinner with complete strangers here, but they were so much fun to talk to.

The next morning we got up and enjoyed the delicious brunch before enjoying the sauna and steam room one last time. When we headed back to the train we were both extremely relaxed.

I can highly recommend the hotel rooms at Salina Maris. They are very large, have nice, clean bathrooms and even kitchnettes and fridges to use for the weekend. The ski slopes were also practically empty, in case you were looking for more reasons to go. 😉

Our Times Square NYE Experience

I still can’t believe we even did this…

1:00pm-2pm:
On Monday, December 31, 2012, we rolled into NYC and after eating a quick meal, we geared up to head to Times Square to stand and wait.

3pm:
I wore my long underwear under my jeans that I was discarding on this trip, in case I felt like sitting down on the dirty streets of NYC during our wait. I also wore my new Goldtoe socks with wool in them, which were supposed to be “very, very warm” according to my sales lady and my snow boots. On top I wore my tank top, thermal top, merino wool sweater, Häglofs down jacket, Häglofs gortex shell jacket, arm warmers, gloves, hat and scarf.

1. Thermal Long Johns, 2. Jeans, 3. Goldtoe socks, 4. Snow boots, 5. Tank top, 6. Thermal top, 7. Merino wool sweater, 8. Häglofs down jacket, 9. Häglofs Riot II Q Gore-Tex® Performance Shell Jacket, 8. Arm warmers, 9. Leather gloves, 10. Hat (personal photo), 11. Scarf (personal photo)

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