Info

badice.com ~ travel musings for the masses

Archive for

As we wrap up 2012 I thought it was time to do my year end travel wrap up. One or more nights were spent in all cities. Cities marked with an asterisk (*) were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days. Lists from 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011 are also available.

  • Singapore, Singapore
  • Helsinki, Finland
  • Stockholm, Sweden
  • Brussels, Belgium (visiting Bruges) *
  • Stuttgart, Germany
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Ausin, Texas *
  • New York, New York *
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Flora, Indiana
  • Waldorf, Maryland

One of the more memorable experiences was during our trip to Berlin. We had asked a few locals for a quick meal suggestion and they pointed us to a nondescript Turkish chicken stand on Görlitzer Straße in the Kreuzberg neighborhood of southeast Berlin called Hühnerhaus. The chicken was tender and juicy with an addictive crispy skin and the side salad was served with a lemon dressing that made me abandon the french fries. Put that together with the atmosphere and it was definitely a winner.

Hühnerhaus

In Singapore, the highlight was the experience at the nighttime satay market at Lau Pa Sat hawker center. A whole street closes down every night, making way for satay stands. A bustling atmosphere, cheap Tiger beer, and delicious satay made for a fun way to ignore the oppressive heat of the city.

Satay Alley

As far as flying statistics, 2012 was not a hugely impressive year in terms of distance traveled, but I did have some memorable flights, including my first trip on United’s 787 and my trip to Singapore. All in all, I flew 111,935 miles or 4.49x times around the earth. That flying was done on 53 domestic flights, 2 intra-continental flights, 8 intercontinental flights, and 9 hops around Europe and inside of Canada.

If you’d like to look at my overall flying statistics, you can visit my FlightMemory page.

My Domestic Flights:

 

My International Flights:

My Intra-European Flights:

Have a Happy New Year!

 

On Thursday evening, while randomly looking at reward availability on united.com, I happened upon two first class reward seats on Lufthansa’s A380. The flight would leave from Houston on December 29th and arrive in Frankfurt on December 30th. For 235,000 miles I knew I could have a one-way first class reward with a return in business class for two people. That coupled with how rarely Lufthansa opens first class seats on the A380 I started frantically planning a quick trip to Europe.

The first thing my wife and I did was start looking at different cities in Europe that we would want to spend New Years Eve in. We have been to Frankfurt and while it’s a pleasant city, there is not a whole lot there to do. After looking at hotel prices in Paris, London, Leipzig, Salzburg, and Vienna, we settled on Nuremberg, Germany. We have visited before and enjoyed it, so New Years Eve there would be enjoyable. I made a refundable hotel reservation and jumped into “how to make this happen” mode.

I searched for flights to get us to Houston by Tuesday evening. I have a 7:30am work flight on Wednesday and needed to give myself some time to repack and be ready to go. Jessica is joining me in New York on a later flight and would need time to do the same. Sure enough, I found two business class seats on Lufthansa’s new Boeing 748i to Washington-Dulles with a two hour connection before the final flight back to Houston.

Our dog would need to go to the kennel, we would need to make sure we had our Christmas tree taken down, and a few household chores needed to be completed before we could leave. Jessica got to work on the tree and we hauled it to the tree recycling drop-off. I called the dog kennel and made sure they had space, no issues there. We finished up some chores around the house and then started doubting ourselves.

I’ll admit, the thought of this trip revolved mostly around the idea of trying out Lufthansa’s new first class product on the A380. Neither of us was sold on the idea going back to Nuremberg. It’s a great city and I recommend it to anyone visiting Germany, but we had already been and were kind of wanting to enjoy a New Years Eve celebration. I had looked up what the festivities were in Nuremberg and while they had fireworks it just wasn’t like a New Year celebration like Paris or Amsterdam.

We decided to sleep on it and on the morning of 29th, I made the judgement call to not go. Not going would give us more time to focus on planning our activities in New York and would relieve a little bit of stress on the quick repacking front. Plus, not being sold on the final destination made it a little easier to bear.

That led to a refund.

All is not lost. I still have the miles and I am sure first class availability on the A380 will appear again. Would have it been an awesome trip? More than likely. Would it have been worth it? For such a short trip, I am not completely convinced. I certainly would have enjoyed the plane rides, but the time in Nuremberg would have been too short to really cherish. For this redemption, the lack of a desired destination coupled with the short time of the trip meant it was the right decision to refund the trip.

Update 1/15/2013

Air China has made an official announcement. The service will start on July 11, 2013, pending government approval.

Update 1/9/2013

The route was pulled from Air China’s systems not too long after I posted this. However, there are rumors that a private event at the Chinese Consulate in Houston January 15 will be centered around this service. Stay tuned to see what comes out of that event next week!
========================================

Though there has not been a formal announcement from the Houston Airport System nor from Air China, it is now clear from airline schedule information that Air China will begin Beijing-Houston non-stop service in July of 2013. The 4x weekly schedule currently has the flight leaving Beijing at 3pm and arriving in Houston at 3:40pm local time on the same day. The return flight will depart IAH at 1:30am and arrive in Beijing at 5am local time the next day.

Air China is a part of the Star Alliance so the new route will link up perfectly with United’s domestic network out of IAH. This is also a great way to connect to destinations in Asia. Air China serves a large number of Asian destinations out of Beijing and if connecting to another country, there is a 72-hour transit without visa option to get out and see Beijing.

The route will be served by Air China’s new Boeing 777-300ER, with three cabins of service, first, business, and economy. The first class seat is a suite like product configured in a 1-2-1 layout. From the photos it looks like quite the upgrade from what Air China used to offer. You can tour the cabin by watching the video below. The business class seat on the 777-300ER is pretty much identical to what United installed on their ex-Continental international aircraft, a lie-flat seat with a large entertainment screen. And lastly, economy class is configured in a 3-3-3 arrangement with a new inflight entertainment system and a footrest.

It is great to have another international carrier out of Houston and when added to Turkish’s new service starting April, Intercontinental will have thirteen foreign carriers providing flights.

My Monday mornings are rather mundane. I am up at 4:15am to make sure I get to the airport with plenty of time. Usually, I arrive too early (this has become more common with PreCheck) so I usually buy a cup of coffee and hang out at the gate. Today was just like any other Monday except for two things.

The first, was four women and a baby traveling together. It was, I’m guessing, the grandmother, the daughter, and the two granddaughters along with a great-grandchild. The grandmother had a walker and had trouble moving on her own. When they called for people with disabilities to board first, the grandmother stayed seated. The made the same announcement again, this time with the gate agent looking right at the older woman. Nothing. She sat there and waited. Near the end of boarding I see all four women walking down the jetway. They had waited until the end of boarding so not to hold anyone up. Very thoughtful of them, though I wish an agent would have approached them before boarding to ask if they’d like to get settled before they started regular boarding. Maybe an insignificant observation but I thought it was interesting.

The more random incident occurred about halfway through boarding. A woman walked on-board and stood at the front of the plane, looked at the first class cabin, then exclaimed, “this must be the man’s club”. Sure, every seat in the cabin was occupied by a man, but that had to be the most random thing I have experienced on an airplane in a while. I am not sure if she was joking or what, but the whole thing was odd. I have been seated next to plenty of women in first class so I don’t get the “man’s club” reference. Maybe she missed her upgrade, I don’t know. In any case, it made for an interesting Monday.

As of yesterday there were a number of really good fares to places like Istanbul, Doha, Dubai, and Kuwait City. The most attractive fare is Houston-Istanbul on Turkish Airlines’ new non-stop service starting in April. The fares are good from April through June and requires that return travel not start before the first Sunday after departure.

Want to search for these fares? Simply use your favorite booking website and search IAH and IST departing some time in April-June and returning no earlier than the first Sunday after you left. One note, Turkish’s non-stop service is only offered five times a week, but United has daily service via Newark.