day trippin’ dubrovnik: world cup edition

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GOOOOAAALLLL! It’s going to be Croatia vs France in the World Cup Finals on Sunday, so what better way to prepare for what is going to undoubtedly be a nailbiter, then to highlight the two nations?  I’ve already written extensively about the best of Paris, France, but congratulations to Croatia for making it to their first ever FIFA final!  You kinda have to root for the underdog, right?  I’m just happy I get to write about one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, Dubrovnik, Croatia.

I visited Dubrovnik a really long time ago.  Like, we’re talking, I barely had my driver’s license/independence, and they barely had theirs.  It’s obviously changed quite a bit.  Back then, being in Dubrovnik was so memorable because it was a relatively unbothered by tourism (except cruise ships, which is how I came to visit).  Croatia had only declared independence from the former Yugoslavia republic in 1991, gaining that right in 1995 after winning their war.  I visited 5 years later, so the nation was a baby.

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mt srd then…scroll down for mt srd now

But babies grow up…and turn into popular teenagers.

Like really popular…instagram-influencer-status teenagers.  Seems like it is the hot destination of the moment, and I’m glad it’s getting its day in the limelight.  There’s a bustling tourism trade, especially due to its location as a jewel on the Adriatic Sea.  The coastline is one of the most gorgeous you will see, with its orange rooftops and imposing fortresses.  I guess some really popular TV show filmed there too — thrones something or other (wink wink), and that draws a lot of people, too.

As it has been some years, I’ve enlisted the help of my pal (and fellow traveling doc) BD, who has graciously let me use some of his photos and given me some updated tips.

it’s a nice day for a red wedding…

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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.)

london calling part 1

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As the world gears up for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, scores and scores of journalists and fans will be flocking to London town (well, Windsor for the actual nuptials) to try and catch a glimpse of the royal entourage.

If you’re one of the lucky few, or even if you’re not, take this opportunity to delight in the sights of one of the best cities in the world.  It’s incomparable, really.  So much jam packed history, art, music, everything!  All roads lead back to London.

Mind the gap…

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A ‘beautiful day’ in Dublin

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Kiss me, I’m Irish.  Or at least I was while I was in Ireland.  Everyone becomes a little Irish when you’re in the beating heart that is Dublin.  The city draws you in, makes you a believer in the spirit and magic that makes the Emerald Isle unique. It’s no one tree hill.

It was a real quick trip (through your wires) there on the way to the UK, but it was a blitz of activity, colors, sounds and sights.  From Guinness to U2, the history of the city provides a backbone to a truly intriguing place whose energy pulses at all hours of the day.  As an aside, Irish history is very interesting, and not so distantly in the past were the Troubles, a very turbulent period for the Irish in general, it’s worth researching a little before you go.

I had a great time, to say the least.  In the words of the magnificent Bono, it was a beautiful day…

Hold me, thrill me, kiss me…

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Rome if you want to…

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Rome is a polarizing place.  For some, it represents the peak of romance, beauty and charm. For others, it’s a crowded, tourist-laden nightmare.  I think its real appeal is that it’s both; it’s a city of contradictions.  There is a mix of ancient and modern, sometimes seamless in execution (turning on a busy street and seeing the Parthenon) and others not so much (the futile attempt of expanding the Metro due to delays in the name of archeology). It’s very urban, but yet has simple charms similar to those found in Italy’s most rural countryside villages.  There are so many relics and ruins; it’s often a little overwhelming! But, if you take a step back to enjoy the moment, it’s a city that can leave you breathless.  You will understand why it’s called the Eternal City.

Take a Roman holiday…

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know before you go: London Heathrow (LHR)

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“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think of the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport.” — Hugh Grant, Love Actually.

Thus is the beginning to the greatest romantic comedy -with major plot points played out in an airport- ever.  I know, really specific–but that scene with Thomas Sangster Brodie where he’s running through to catch the girl! Love it.

Even though there’s quite a liberal dusting of Hollywood magic in that movie (who would ever cheat on Colin Firth?!?), at least that first scene is accurate.  The excitement always reaches a climax when you walk through that hallway and emerge to see the throngs of people waiting for you. Love is actually all around!

Heathrow is the second busiest airport in the world, and has over 200 gates. You can fly just about anywhere, on any airline.  It’s about 14 miles from the city center, and can be reached via Heathrow Express train, the tube, and bus.  Express will get you to the city in 15 minutes; the tube will take 40 minutes, but it’s only ~3 pounds.

There are four terminals split by alliances.  Terminal 2 — the Queen’s terminal — is Star Alliance (United, Aer Lingus, Icelandair), 3 is OneWorld (Virgin, Delta, Emirates, Qantas, etc), 4 is Skyteam (except Delta), Etihad, Malaysia and Qatar, and 5 is British Airways.

Remember: ✈️ = joni mitchell’s blue to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = to me you are perfect

Convenience to city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (although only ✈️ for hotels, catching the Hoppa would be a lot easier if there were signs telling you which stop is designated for each hotel)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️

Convenience of security lines: N/A, but customs line was ✈️✈️✈️

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (Gordon Ramsay plane food, a few different coffee options, Wagamama, Fortnum & Mason –although more for souvenirs than eating, Pre-a-manger.  I gave it an extra for an M&S simply food, my fav grab and go London spot)

Bathrooms:✈️✈️✈️ (not too shabby for amount of passenger traffic)

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

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (lots of airline lounges, a chaplain for every religion, the BEST shopping with Dior, Burberry, Bvlgari, Chanel, Gucci, Harrod’s, Jack Wills, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Ferragamo, Mulberry, Saint Laurent, Ted Baker, Stella McCartney, Rolex, Tiffany, Thomas Pink! It’s better than like every mall. Emoji heart eyes x trillion.)

 

know before you go: Dublin (DUB)

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Top of the morning to ya. Dublin (DUB) is an exceptionally beautiful airport that serves a lot of flights to and from the US to Europe.

There are two terminals connected via pedestrian bridge.  Terminal 1 serves: most european carriers including Air France, British Airways, Etihad, FinnAir, KLM, and Lufthansa.

Terminal two serves: Aer Lingus, Delta, American, Emirates and United.  This is the modern terminal that opened in 2010,  underscoring the lush Irish countryside with floor to ceiling glass.  This is also the terminal I flew into on Aer Lingus.

Because it is modern, there is good signage, a good amount of restrooms and charging areas.   As an aside, I will say that the people who work in this airport (especially for Aer Lingus) are unnervingly attractive.  Like really, did they do a casting call for good-looking young Irish folk or something?  Their emerald-hued uniforms are so striking, and all of the flight attendants look like the could be a member of the Corrs family.

This airport also features a special pre-clearance area for travelers going to the US.  It is the best thing ever.  You get all of your customs screening done here and when you return to the US, you’re treated like a domestic arrival because it’s all done. Apparently, there’s also a new executive lounge for pre-clearance customers available for a small free as well.

Remember: ✈️ = one pint of Guinness to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = many pints of Guinness

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️✈️

Convenience of security lines: N/A, but customs line was ✈️✈️

Dining: ✈️✈️ (some Irish offerings, grab and gos and Burger King)

Bathrooms:✈️✈️✈️✈️ (incredibly clean facilities)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️  (free wifi available—none of their chargers seemed to work and are very few in terminal 2)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️ (preclearance to the US, airline lounges, but duty free shopping could be better, there’s a chocolate lounge that serves sundaes and fondue though so…call it a draw?)

Consider yourself to have the luck of the Irish if you get to have a layover here.

know before you go: Venice (VCE)

MARCO!!!!

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… POLO!!!

That’s right, the official name of Venice’s airport is Marco Polo, named after the famous Venetian native son known for being a well-traveled explorer and trader.  Luckily for us, we don’t have to take years long journeys to get from one place to the other now, we can jet in and out from his airport.

Flying into Venice through his airport will afford you one of the most marvelous views of your life.  If you’re sure to catch a seat on the right side of the plane, towards the front, you may catch a glimpse of one of the most beautiful cities in the world from a birds eye vantage point.

It’s not a huge airport, one terminal split into only about 35 gates, but it understandably serves a lot of tourists heading on their Italian holidays.  Lots of european airlines, and SkyTeam airlines.  The airport itself sits about 5 miles from Venice’s city center, and can be reached by ACTV bus, Aliguna ferry or water taxi.  Careful, water taxis alone can be very expensive (but may be a little faster).

Remember: ✈️ = o sole mio  ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = volare

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (mainly because of the large sea in between airport and city, understandable though)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (only one terminal)

Dining: ✈️✈️ (all italian, but extra points for a gelateria on site)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (fairly clean)

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

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️  (Two lounges.  For being a smaller airport, there’s a lot of designer shops: Bvlgari, Versace, Ferragamo, Valentino — hey, you’re in Italy, what do you expect?)

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know before you go: Frankfurt

DF204D50-828D-45A0-961D-6A01194B7FF0Frankfurt is one of the main financial centers of the world (this is where the Euro comes from), and thusly, it’s airport is one of the busiest (fourth busiest in Europe).  It’s the hub for Lufthansa and has arrivals from all over the world with planes landing something like every 2-4 minutes.

I have family in Germany, so on occasion, there’s reason to fly into this airport.  It’s huge and can be quite overwhelming.  There are 2 terminals, Terminal 1 and 2 connected by a sky train.  Terminal 1 has about 105 gates, split into concourses A, B, C, and Z.  Terminal 2 has 42 gates split into D & E.  The airlines are split between the terminals/gates based on airline alliances rather than domestic/international so you could conceivably have to go from terminal to terminal.

There are railway stations below the airport, for both regional and long distance trains, which is helpful because Germany is a huge country.

Shopping is decent, but more geared towards business travelers.  There’s a Burberry, Ferragamo, Versace, Mont Blanc, Porsche, and Hermes in terms of high end, but mostly it’s airport shops.  Dining has a variety of German bakeries, many Italian takeaways and restaurants, Asian (lots, there’s crazy traffic from Asian countries here), McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King and Starbucks.  I wish there was more traditional German offerings, but Ludwig’s fits that bill.  Notably, there’s a Nordsee, which is one of my favorite Scandinavian fast food chains.

Remember: ✈️ = the wurst to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = the best

Convenience: ✈️✈️✈️  (the railways make it easy to get to from near and far)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️ (this is a VERY large airport with multiple levels, although signage and directions are in both German/English, there’s not many of them, so make sure you have enough time for layovers as it can be very difficult to get from one end to another especially if you have to go between Terminals on the tram)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️ (for the scale of the airport, it’s as efficient as it could be, but there’s going to be a line)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️  (not enough German food, but your basics of American and Italian fare)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (clean)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi in certain areas)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️ (stores are okay, there is gate to gate transfer service available for a fee, showers for a fee, lots of executive lounges and even the ultra exclusive Lufthansa first class separate building)