that’s amore: 36 hours in venezia

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What is there to say about Venice that hasn’t been said?  It is the pre-eminent beautiful destination of the world.  A city made up of thousands of tiny islands, its canals are the vasculature to the heart of the city, Piazza di San Marco.

With great beauty comes great tourism, and I think that is the main detractor from the city itself.  There’s too many people here, and in turn, the culture has turned outward rather than inward.  Of course, there is still great art, food and history, all things Italians are most proud of, but you have to push through the crowds and dig deep to find it.

It’s worth it.  Just live in the moment, enjoy the fact that you have the privilege of being surrounded by gorgeous scenery.  Che bella e la dolce vita…

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know before you go: (HAM) hamburg

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hamburg fish market

When you go here, you’re literally GOING HAM. (!)

Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city.  I know, I thought it was Munich, too!  But, Hamburg edges it out at ~ 1.8 million people, and attracts many more as it is a very popular destination for tourists.

Despite having more people, HAM is only Germany’s fifth busiest airport.  It seems like every international airline in the world operates flights to and from this airport, from the common like British Airways and United to the obscure like Iran Air and Air Malta (although United in the only American airline represented,  and that’s only seasonal flights from Newark). There are two terminals, 1 services most of the airlines in Oneworld and SkyTeam alliances.  Terminal 2 houses Lufthansa and its Star Alliance partners.

Remember: ✈️ = hamburglar to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = hamburger helper

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (located 5 mi from the city center and easily reached by train or Deutsch Bahn)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (McDonald’s, Starbucks, and a lot of bakeries, which allows an extra ✈️)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (clean, of course, it’s Europe)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, fair amount of charging)

Amenities:✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Lufthansa, Emirates and AirBerlin lounges, brands popular with Germans like Gant, Desigual, Moleskine, Ray Ban; there’s also a pharmacy, acupressure massage and a dental office! Gotta love German efficiency.)

weekender in LA: the sequel

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Living so close to LA, I feel privileged to be able to enjoy the culture and attractions of la la land without having to actually live there.  I get it, you really have to let the place grow on you and you have to be patient.  Let it in.

My friends from the midwest dislike visiting LA a lot.  Like a lot, a lot.  It’s because it’s so hard to get from point A to point B, and near impossible if you want to cross town to do anything.  But…you can get a ton done if you plan things out well (yes I’m a nerd, but we get the job done).

Here’s another itinerary for an LA weekender

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know before you go: Las Vegas (LAS), Stanley Cup Final edition

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Ovi here

The Stanley Cup final returns to Las Vegas for Game 5 tonight, and I’m hoping that luck will be a lady bing trophy to the Golden Knights so they can extend this series!

McCarran International Airport (LAS) serving Las Vegas, Nevada, is one of my favorite airports through which to fly.  There’s a lot to do here on a layover…like gamble!  I’m not sure I’ve ever flown internationally from here, but I would say I average 6-8 domestic connections per year.  It’s a huge hub to and from the west coast with 110 gates.

First of all, it’s fairly close to the strip (less than 5 miles), and it’s cool to see Las Vegas boulevard from an aerial view as you start your descent.  This part always makes me very excited.  However, because Las Vegas is very hot, both takeoffs and landings can be very turbulent.  This part makes me hesitant.  That’s Las Vegas in a nutshell.

The worst thing about flying into Vegas is that inevitably, one of your flight attendants will call it “Lost Wages.”  This is the worst joke, it needs to be retired.  Please.

Southwest, I’m talking to you…

The confusing thing is that it is split into Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.   There is no Terminal 2.  Not sure if David Copperfield made it disappear or what, but it’s not there.  Terminal 1 (concourses A-D) has a lot of domestic, but not all.  Terminal 3 (also D along with E) has international and some domestic.

I love people watching here.  There’s no other airport where the arrivals and departures are so bipolar.  When people get here, they’re ready to party, all bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  And then when they leave…well they look more like they’ve been cross-checked by TJ Oshie.

The security lines are always a bit hairy, and you’ll watch the TSA video featuring celebrity impersonators/Vegas entertainers like a hundred times, but once you’re in, there’s chimes and flashing lights and all sorts of commotion from the slot machines!

They have good fast food options, it’s easy to get from one concourse to the other (although from the Southwest C gates takes half your life).   You have to take a tram from the gates to baggage, but it’s quick.  The baggage claim area is huge.  Their rideshare waiting area can be tricky to get to (have to cross the street into a parking structure whose elevator levels have the weirdest designations)–random mezzanine level, huh?). But overall, if you had to have a layover here, it wouldn’t be a complete loss (unless you do get tempted by the shiny machines with the flashing lights).

Remember: ✈️ = lost wages to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = viva, las vegas!

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (good signs, it’s a long walk)

Convenience of security lines: ✈️✈️ (get there early)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (mostly fast food, great hours, and there’s Coffee Bean and Starbucks)

Bathrooms:✈️✈️ (always crowded, need more)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi available, not enough charging stations in the gate areas, but have designated areas that are always packed)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Gaming facilities.  People watching can occupy you for hours.  Only a few lounges (AmEx and United), some Xpress Spas, weird B list mall stores, no luxury purveyors because I think they want you to spend the money in their casinos instead)

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know before you go: Reagan (DCA)

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Well I was hoping I’d have this whole week to post about Stanley Cup Finals cities of Washington, D.C. and Vegas, but so far, it looks like the Caps are about to run away with this one…hopefully Vegas can make this a series, but if not, better head over to the nation’s capital by Thursday.

DC metro area has a plethora of options transportation wise, being our nation’s capital, with three major airports allowing for travel to this area.  Dulles, Baltimore and Reagan all feed our nation’s capital.  Reagan National is probably the least chaotic and most convenient. Located in Arlington, VA, it’s a quick Metro ride away from the city center.

As a hub for American Airlines, there are very limited international flights allowed to land here (must be from countries that have pre-clearance US Customs facilities), instead those flights go to Dulles or Baltimore.

Terminal A has 9 gates and operates flights from Air Canada, Frontier, Southwest and Sun Country.  Where it gets a little tricky is that B and C are split into three concourses. Terminal B serves Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue and United with gates 10-22, Terminal B/C gates 23-34 and Terminal C gates 35-45.  Terminal C is used by American and Virgin.

Remember: ✈️ = popcorn jelly belly to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = pear jelly belly

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (quick train ride from the city, traffic in DC can be bad so plan accordingly)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (it can be a long haul from the train station to Terminal A, like so long I thought I had crossed into another state)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️ (security is long here, but for good reason)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (Starbucks, of course, Chick Fil-A, Legal Seafood, Pinkberry)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️  (not the newest or cleanest)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, designated charging areas)

Amenities: ✈️✈️ (lounges available, it is DC after all; Smithsonian and Spanx stores–just in case you forgot your shapewear?)

 

36 hours in Oakland: NBA finals edition

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shooting at the walls of heartache, bang bang, I am the warrior

When I was living in Northern California, I went to Oakland all the time.  But I’ll admit, most of those excursions had been to attend the Alameda Flea Market.

What? This should be no surprise, I’m ancient.

I have, however, attended games at the Oracle Arena and Oakland Coliseum, so in light of the Warriors hosting another Finals appearance starting with Game 1 tonight, here’s some tips for those heading to the games.  See, I had to be equal to Cleveland — I’m Switzerland in this battle, I’m just here for good basketball.  Of course, it may be cheaper to literally buy a game ticket, plane ticket, hotel and rent a car to go and see the NBA Finals in Cleveland…because tickets to see Steph and Co. at home are, as they say in NorCal, hella pricey.

Oakland definitely in the house…

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36 hours in Cleveland: NBA finals edition

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How great is Lebron James?  Honestly.  As an observer of the game, having been alive (but maybe not as cognizant of greatness at that age) to watch Magic/Kareem, Jordan, and seeing my team, the Lakers live their best lives during the Shaq/Kobe era, I can appreciate the magnitude of what this man has done on for the game. 8 straight finals! I mean,   We are the same age, and I can’t believe what he can accomplish pouring his soul onto the court.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to get out of my car without feeling old.  The dude is defying age, gravity, odds, you name it.  Legend.

If you’re headed to Believeland, here’s some recs for a quick trip:

Cleveland rocks.

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3 days in Napa Valley: Memorial Day Bottlerockin’ edition

My favorite weekend of the year to visit Napa Valley is Memorial Day.  Why you ask?  Well, it’s the annual Bottlerock music festival weekend.  Alas, this year is the first year I am not attending of the past few years, as I’ve moved away from Northern California.  That means I’ll be missing out on the Killers, Bruno Mars and tomorrow’s headliner, Muse (all of whom I’ve seen before, but still).  This is the most civilized of all the festivals, with culinary stages and wineries to boot.

While you’re enjoying the festivities, don’t forget to head out from the festival grounds and explore the valley, one of the best weekender locations in the country!

Wine or wine not?

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know before you go: San Antonio (SAT)

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When I heard there was a rhesus monkey that somehow got loose in the San Antonio airport, I thought to myself, that’s so San Antonio.  He was probably just jonesing for some Raising Cane’s (IMO, the best food vendor in the airport).

One of the fastest growing cities in the US, San Antonio is a strange place, often overshadowed by its hip neighbor Austin.  It seems to be a nice place to live and work, and for some reason there are always conferences there.  I myself, have been to San Antonio several times and thus have passed through the airport where said monkey wreaked havoc yesterday.

Located about 8 miles from downtown/River walk, this airport has 24 gates split into two terminals.  Terminal A offers service from Aeromexico, Alaska, Allegiant, Air Canada, American, Delta, Frontier, and Southwest. Terminal B serves American and United flights and there’s a USO for the large military presence in SA.

Remember: ✈️ = Old Man Riverwalk to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = The Big Fundamental

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (not too far and pretty easy to get to from the touristy Riverwalk area)

Security: ✈️✈️✈️✈️:  there’s a steady flow

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Raising Cane’s.  There has been a vast improvement since the first time I visited years ago, but taking off a plane for no whataburger)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (fairly well dispersed for a smaller airport)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available)

Amenities:✈️✈️✈️ (there a few mall stores, duty free, United lounge, USO)

london calling part 2

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To celebrate the latest Royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, here’s the second half of the London series.  Celebrations are going to be kicking up in high gear soon, so cheers to the happy couple and to all the revelers who will be crowding into the streets near Windsor Castle in less than a fortnight.

Cheerio!

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