Mele kalikimaka: a very Hawaiian Xmas

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Aloha, one of my favorite places to spend the holiday season (or any season) is Hawaii!  It’s the perfect getaway for a tropical vacation while staying on American soil (although I have heard tourists ask what currency is used there — facepalm).  As a Westcoaster, the rainbow state is only a stone’s throw 3-4 hour flight away, and Hawaiian airlines is the BEST domestic airline…free Mai Tais, anyone?  We’re lucky to be this close to paradise.

It’s very festive around the holiday season, and it’s a great reprieve from snowy weather — the average is high 70s with frequent showers.  But with many resorts and beaches and shopping and malasadas? Start planning your Hawaiian getaway now for next year.

Mele kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way of saying Merry Christmas to you!

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happy holidays 2: lost in new york

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Remember Home Alone 2?  That’s a holiday classic that never gets old.

New York is my favorite US city when it comes to the holidays, and really for lots of people — that’s why it’s featured so heavily in many movies around this season, Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, Scrooged.  From the Rockefeller skaters to the Rockettes, this city comes alive during the most wonderful time of the year.  Even though it’s colder than Jack Frost, there’s something very magical about rockin’ around this enchanting city while it snows.  Happy Hanukah and here’s to dreaming of a white Christmas!

Tis the season!

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know before you go: GSP

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Greenville-Spartanburg International airport in South Carolina is the best kind of airport. Modern, convenient and easy to navigate.  The architecture is clean, there’s not too much hustle/bustle, and best of all, there is a Chick-Fil-A.

It’s the simple things in life, truly.

There is one terminal split into Concourse A (Allegiant, American, Southwest and United) and Concourse B (Delta).  Check in terminal and security is the same for all gates.

Even though they call it an international airport, it’s really only international for cargo.  Who knew (probably everyone in this region), but BMW has manufacturing here, and so there are cargo planes that travel back and forth from here to Germany.  Most of the travel is local in the South (ATL most popular destination), but there are featured flights as far as La Guardia and Las Vegas.

Remember: ✈️ = it ain’t easy being greenville to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = this is SPARTAnburg

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (it wasn’t hard to get here, but it felt far?)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (so easy, good signage, straight terminal)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (Chick-Fil-A.  Baskin Robbins.  Dunkin Donuts.  Wolfgang Puck.  All your bases are covered, obviously)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️  (very clean and not too claustrophobic)

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

Amenities: ✈️✈️ (Just get a book from Hudson and call it a day.  There’s an Escape lounge for AMEX members, and weirdly a place to file grievances based on discrimination on their website?  Is there something you’re not telling us, GSP?)

know before you go: DXB

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Appearing like a glittering jewel oasis in the middle of the desert, arriving into Dubai and being saluted by the sea of skyscrapers and hotels makes you feel like you’ve stepped into another world.  A paradise that is far more fancy and luxurious than anything you could imagine…except no need to pinch yourself, you’ve made it, you’re here.

DXB is one of the world’s preeminent destinations, so it’s no wonder that its airport is one of the top three busiest in the world.  The numbers for passenger traffic are astounding when you take into account that there are only 2 runways.  Being the largest traffic stop for Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 helps.  It is the hub for Emirates (if you live in the USA, that’s probably how you’ve arrived — from a very long flight out of LAX, JFK, SFO, IAH, ORD), flyDubai, and Qantas.

The MASSIVE airport is split into three Terminals.  Terminal 1 is for international flights and is connected to a separate Concourse D, and 2 is for travel around the Middle East region (“domestic flights” as it were), and Terminal 3 is the main one, further divided into Concourses A, B, and C.   Emirates operates out of Concourse A.

Terminal 3 is the second largest building by floor area in the entire world.  Think about that for a second.  Yeah, there’s multiple 5 star hotels, more shopping than most massive luxury malls and several FLOORS of executive lounges.  In fact, there is a secondary mini-terminal near Terminal 2 that is exclusively for people richer than you and me.

As one of the top cargo ports in the world, there’s even a terminal specifically for flowers.  FLOWERS.  This is how you know exactly how extra they are at this airport, and I’m here for it.

Remember: ✈️ = dub down to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = dub step

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (there’s metro, ground, taxi — just be sure to check the times if you’re traveling during Ramadan)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (it is massive, but there’s a people mover and shuttles –luckily most connections are long bc it takes more than 30 minutes per shuttle ride in some cases)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Your typical International fast food brands — Starbucks, McDonald’s, Burger King, Shake Shack, Krispy Kreme, KFC, Charley’s Steaks?, Pinkberry, Subway, Wolfgang Puck, and a lot of Indian and Asian fare)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️  (obviously very clean, and +100 for FREE showers at Terminal 3, C gates)

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

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (This is what makes it worth it.  Gucci, Hermes, Ferragamo, Chanel, Cartier are some of the high end.  Many spas, executive lounges — literally the Emirates lounge has been my travel goal for years– 5 star hotels, showers, prayer rooms, gardens, gym, conference rooms).  Shout out to the baggage claim, too.  What usually looks like a bottom of a trashcan in most airports looks like the foyer of a palace here, mad props to DXB.

Pittsburgh strong

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It completely broke my heart to see the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday.  It’s just so sad and the vitriol so unnecessary, and I don’t have any more words to describe it other than that. The Pittsburgh community is one of the most down home, genuine cities with the best people and the actions of a hateful individual will not change that.

The city is strong like its Steelers, neighborly like one of its most famous former residents, Fred Rogers, and a horrible act of violence and hate will not change that.  Pittsburgh strong.

Let’s channel a little Mr. Rogers and be good neighbors to all our friends in Pittsburgh.

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know before you go: BOS

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Well, I honestly thought I would be writing about Houston and Milwaukee this week, as I thought they would be in the World Series, but that shows you un-Moneyball I am because the Dodgers are playing the Red Sox tonight.

Before we get to see Manny Machado be yelled at by the delightful Boston fans this eve, you gotta get there, and Boston Logan airport is the largest airport in New England.

It’s a hub for Delta and JetBlue (the best way to fly to Boston, IMO).  There are 4 terminals ABCE that make up 102 gates. A is for Delta and some Southwest flights.  B is American, United and Air Canada.  C is Alaska, Aer Lingus, JetBlue (including South American/Central America — flights to Havana start next month).  And E is the one you want to be flying out of, the International terminal.  Boston has flights from Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic and gates for the Airbus 380.

Remember: ✈️ = bos baby to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = like a bos

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (there’s metro, ground, ferry transport and the Logan Express)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (you can take the airport shuttle between terminals, but in some cases you have to leave security and re-enter which sucks)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (There’s everything you need from Legal Sea Foods to Starbucks, Wahlburgers to Samuel Adams Brewhouse.  But seriously?  You’re in Boston, why aren’t you at one of the many locations of Dunkin in the airport)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (fair to clean)

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

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️  (not a ton of high end shops, but there’s lots of airline lounges and a few outposts of the Massachusetts State Lottery in case you need to get that Powerball)

3 days in Boston

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Boston has had a pretty good past few days with the Pats beating my Chiefs on SNF and the Sox defeating the Astros on Sunday.  But today is a new day, and we’ll see if Boston can continue its streak against Houston.  Starting with Beantown, here’s the first in the series of the ALCS/NLCS cities.

One if by land, two if by sea…

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miss saigon: weekend in HCM City

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Vietnam is one of the most popular places in the world to travel, probably because it has everything: culture, art, delicious food, natural beauty, miles upon miles of beaches, history, welcoming people, hospitality and above all else, affordability.  You can live like a king on a moderate budget, every dollar goes super far here, while not sacrificing quality.

When traveling to Vietnam, you’re going to want to traverse the entire country, as there are unique landscapes, disparate culture and people throughout.  Even though it’s a smallish country, citizens from each region are very proud of their own distinct communities, from food to style and everything in between.  Just don’t get into a debate about who invented pho…there’s no winning with that one (it was the northerners ;).

The south of Vietnam is a great place to start.  Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is the country’s largest city by population.  The history of this city is rich, from its origin after Vietnamese conquered Khmer area, to the capital of French colonial rule to the then doomed epicenter of the Republic of Vietnam.  Because of the timeline of all sorts of different influences, the city is a mishmash of architectural styles.

Above all else, this is probably the epicenter of the future of Vietnam, with skyscrapers sprouting up everywhere and a population that is projected to be near 15 million in the next few years.  Not as cramped as Hanoi, this area is certainly still very crowded with motorbikes and people teeming into the streets every which way…and it’s ever changing.

blink and you’ll miss saigon

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know before you go: ATL

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Welcome to Atlanta where the players play…it’s that time of year again, when droves of Otolaryngologists flock upon one lucky city for their annual society meeting.  This year, it’s HOTLANTA, so watch out, many  mild mannered surgeons will be heading your way.

The world’s busiest airport, Atlanta Hartfield-Jackson, is like a city on its own.  Luckily there’s a train that connects the terminals because no one would ever make their connections due to the vast nature of the complex.  Speaking from experience x multiple times.

There’s MARTA and SkyTrain transport that can get you to the airport from the city, which is convenient as it is about 10 miles or ~30 minutes in Atlanta traffic.

There are five (count em, 5! runways that serve two terminals, which are where you check in and retrieve your baggage.  The Domestic terminal is further split into a North and South.  South houses Delta, which has its hub at ATL.  North has all other domestic carriers: American, Frontier, JetBlue, Alaska, United, Spirit, Southwest. In between the terminals lay the 209 gates in the seven concourses A-F and T.  T is connected to the Domestic terminal, F is connected to the International side.

You can fly anywhere from this airport.  I’ve gone to Central America, Africa, Europe.  Literally it is a microcosm of the world, as is its dining options (albeit Americanified).  The shopping could be better, but the international terminal does have a bunch of duty free shops.

Remember: ✈️ = stomp the yard to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = ATL

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (MARTA, SkyTrain available to domestic terminals)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (there’s a train, but be prepared to walk)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (every type of fast food you can imagine, all major chains including Burger King, McDonald’s, Chick Fil-A.  There’s Panda Express, PF Chang’s and Peiwei.  Are you thinkin’ Arby’s? Cuz you can because there’s one in there.  There’s a lot of southern fare, too, if you want low country food at high country price)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️✈️  (depends on the concourse, but clean and plentiful)

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

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️  (not a ton of high end shops, although there’s a Sean John store? American, Delta and United have lounges, there are Xpress Spas and art)

 

24 hours in Vienna

Austria is one of those fly under the radar countries.  Like, in the way that it’s surprising you don’t hear about how amazing it is all the time.  Because you should.  Because it truly is.

Especially it’s capital and largest city, Vienna or Wien (they speak German here).  Not Ween, that’s an alt-rock band.  This is a European city: there’s sprawling boulevards, a backdrop of rolling hills and mountainous terrain, miles of shoreline along the Danube river, awe-inspiring art, stunning Roman and Baroque architecture, amazing food, interesting if not dubious history (umm home of Freud, Hitler and Lenin?), innovation and culture, and…it’s the sound city of music.

plan your travel soon because vienna waits for you

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