Reward Seats to Greece

Tickets to Greece on Continental can run upwards of $2,500.00 or more per person. So, pssst... here's an inside tip. Want to go to Greece next year on miles? There are some standard reward seats floating around in September... (lots of them!!!) Save yourself some money and use your OnePass miles on a typically absurdly priced ticket.


Hampton Court with London Walks

Our December 2006 trip to London was relatively brief... enough to get out of town for a memorable New Year's Eve but not too long to get burned out. Given that we only had so much time to work with, we thought it might be worthwhile to take a little guided tour of something while in the London area. Now, mind you, we're not "guided tour" types. We're pretty much freespirits who, while relatively structured in our travels, do it all on our own.

So, we thought... what the heck... let's see how we can find a tour that will shed a little more light on the sites we see. After doing some research, London Walks came highly recommended. As mentioned on their own web page, Fodor's claims, "London Walks was the first and is the best of the walking tour firms." Wow... that's some endorsement... and we're sure that in many ways, it's probably true. I just don't know how true it was for us. Let me explain...

I printed out a few tour options before we left for London but we didnt' decide on what tour to take until we arrived. We opted for a tour of Hampton Court - the royal palace of Cardinal Wolsey and, eventually, King Henry VIII. We met Hillary, our guide, at Waterloo Station. What we envisioned to be a tour of ten, maybe twelve people turned into a tour of over forty people.

I don't have to tell you how well that worked for us... forty people? This isn't going to be very personalized, we thought. Indeed, it wasn't. Not only did we find that everything took longer (getting tickets, going into the palace), it was just hard to hear since we were in a crowd. Another big drawback was the guide. Yes, she was quite nice but her proper English voice lacked in the volume department. Not only that, her pace was dreeeeadfully slow. Not glacial... but certainly not brisk enough to keep our attention.

This commentary is scintillating!

In fact, the pace and the process was so hard for us to handle that, well, we left the tour. Granted, we ate the 15 pounds or so (I think) that it cost each one of us but we just didn't want to waste our time. We wandered to the Tudor kitchens and enjoyed the rest of the grounds on our own... and you know, we had more fun.

BUT... that was our experience. It could be that we just picked a busy tour or just had a guide that, well, we normally wouldn't pick. You'll have to find out on your own but, for us, it's either a "one on two" guide or we're on our own. Sooner or later, I'll post an entry on Hampton Court. London Walks aside, we highly recommend visiting. It is a splendid palace.


Grabbing a bite in... Omaha!?

So let's switch gears from Rome, the Eternal City to... Omaha!? Well, I have to throw a curveball every once-in-a-while. I'll admit, I haven't been to Omaha in forever but you may need to... you may have to go on business to visit a company like FirstData or swing by to say hello to relatives or the Cornhuskers. Whatever the case, here is a random tip...

Head to The Old Market district in Omaha and grab a bite at M's Pub - a nice "upscale" pub menu with a very broad wine list and upbeat atmosphere. The place has been open since 1973 - they must be doing something right. I liked it when I visited and it's smack dab in the middle of a very enjoyable entertainment district.


Piazza Della Repubblica in Rome

In many respects, you could say that Piazza Dell Repubblica is stunning and yet both blessed and hindered by it's location. It is a glamorous piazza that sits at the crossroad of what many would term a seedy neighborhood to the southeast and the epitome of the dolce vita to the northwest.

From ItalyGuides.it

The design of Piazza Della Repubblica, or Piazza Esedra, and the surrounding buildings is indeed stunning. I've always been attracted by the graceful curves of the buildings that hug the circular piazza. The fountain has a particular glow at night. Surrounding the piazza are some of Rome's finest five star hotels - the luxurious Grand Hotel (Rome's first luxury hotel), the new but stunning Hotel Exedra.

On the opposite side from the Exedra stands the stunning church, Santa Maria Degli Angeli e dei Martiri. The basilica is actually an adaptation of the remains of the Baths of Diocletian - a work undertaken under the guidance of Michelangelo. The basilica's official page lists pertinent visitor information, event listings and much more. Granted, it does help to read Italian.

Running southwest from the piazza is Via Nazionale... a long and regal boulevard commissioned in the middle of the 19th century to connect Piazza Venezia to Piazza Della Repubblica. The road is lined with a broad mix of shops, from high end shops like Furla, Max Mara, Frette and Intimissimi to more typical Italian stores. You can walk from one end to the other (either uphill or downhill) in a few hours. The shops are reachable from the Piazza Della Repubblica stop or via the buses that run frequently along via Nazionale. I traditionally haven't eaten in the area although the scores of side streets off of Via Nazionale are full of restaurants, trattorie and pizzerie. I'll have a better idea of restaurant recommendations after our next trip to Italy as we'll be staying in one of the aforementioned hotels.

Granted, heading southeast you then have the zone around the main train station in Rome, Termini. Many people are hypnotized by the scores of hotels and reasonable rates near the station. Don't be fooled... I wouldn't stay there. It's not the best area in town and no respectable Roman would recommend it... so, just keep that in mind. Of course, travel to the northwest and you have Via Veneto and a completely different ambiance. Regardless, Piazza Della Repubblica and the neighboring area is worth visiting on a trip to Rome.


Quaint Amsterdam Lodgings

I start planning for trips early... very early. For example, we'll be traveling in a few months to Amsterdam and Rome. I've got Rome all taken care of thanks to a cousin of mine. For Amsterdam, our previous hotel wouldn't do - the rooms simply wouldn't work with an infant (mommy and daddy need a little space, of course). So, I started digging... and digging... and digging.

There are lots of great places in Amsterdam with most prices over 100 Euros... at least. Expect 150-200 Euros for a nice 3 star hotel. Some of the ones I came across that looked enticing (and the reviews were quite good) were the Seven Bridges Hotel and the Canal House - both located on the canal ring. Another was Sunhead of 1617, a little two-room B&B on the Herengracht. This one was tempting. Sunhead also offers apartment rentals.

An Apartment at the Prinsenhuis

We ended up opting for the Prinsenhuis Design Apartments - a little pricey, to be sure but the value they offered made them worthwhile. Each apartment has separate living and sleeping areas and fully equipped kitchens. They have balconies and canal views and are impeccably decorated in a chic modern look. The clincher is their reputed service - really a notch above the rest. Consider these benefits of staying there:

Upon arrival, your refrigerator and pantry will contain complimentary soft drinks, beer, milk, orange juice, fruit jams, butter, cheese, fresh bread, corn flakes, coffee, cocao, tea and bottle of Spanish Rosado wine We will be happy to stock your refrigerator or pantry with any other favorite food and drink items before you arrive. Just send us an email with your requests at least one morning prior to the day of your arrival.

How can you pass that up? We'll know more when we actually stay there but, for now, you might want to look into the Prinsenhuis the next time you head to Amsterdam.


Tips on Traveling with a Little One

I need to sit down and read through all these but it looks like there is a ton of advice on this post regarding traveling with a teeny one

I know I know... (and my beloved BA)

Yes, it's true... my posts have kind of stalled out lately. Our little traveler showed up a bit early so we're dealing with the adjustment phase. I'll pick back up soon, particularly since we'll be planning a trip to Italy in the spring. In the meantime, here are a handful of my favorite "detail" pictures from a May 2006 trip to Buenos Aires (Argentina... how I miss you so!)