21 flights in 100 days!

By the time we got to Dubai, we had completed 14 flights in 58 days!

We knew the routine and were getting really good at airport security as well as customs and immigration! Only 7 more flights left on this adventure!

Tip-sometimes the rules on what to remove while going through security are in another language and all the airport security screens are slightly different so watch what the locals are doing.

Example: no need to remove liquids in Vietnam but we had to remove shoes. Shoes stay on in Singapore but liquids come out.

Also, Vietnam and Cambodia did not let us go through immigration together as a family, we needed to go up one at a time. Dubai made us go together and Switzerland chastised us for waiting to go up one at a time because they didn’t want to have to “repeat all the same questions”. Geez.

We also had to check our 21 inch bags on the regional flights and my suitcase suffered greatly and got 2 big tears. I see the appeal of hard sided luggage if you are constantly checking bags rather than our usual carryon. Lesson learned!

Since I’m wide awake at 5am (jet lag!) I decided to make a list of airline, airport, food and lounge bests and worsts.

Yes, we’ve traveled business class almost the entire trip- I don’t think we could have done all this travel in coach, in this short timespan, without completely freaking out!

Best Airlines:

Singapore

Air New Zealand

Thai Airlines

Worst Airlines:

Angkor Air

Vietnam Airlines

Runner up: Air Canada

Best Airports:

Brisbane International

Singapore

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Queenstown, New Zealand

Portland, Oregon

Worst Airports:

Honolulu, Hawaii

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Upon landing in Vietnam, we waited 45 minutes to get our passport back and approved. We had all of the proper paperwork completed and approved in advance so we aren’t sure what the hold up was.

That airport, and the Vietnam Airlines counter lady, also charged us a mysterious and inexplainable $60 fee that could only be paid in crisp American dollars.

We knew we got ripped off and the lady pocketed the cash but we just wanted out of the airport at that point so I guess it was money well spent.

Worth mentioning:

Los Angeles

New York

Not from this current trip but LAX and JFK are dirty and gross airports and we avoid flying through them whenever possible

Best preflight check-in:

Air New Zealand in Auckland-The business lounge is completely separate from the regular checkin. Really amazing!

Photo credit: CPRW Fischer

Runner up: Swiss Air whisked us through the airport and the lines through Dubai. We felt like VIPs!

Best Plane Landing:

Queenstown, New Zealand- breathtaking views and incredible huge mountains. You can only fly in to their airport during the day currently but you never know when that might change.

Runner up: Zurich- the Alps!

Worst Landing:

Siem Reap, Cambodia-Small, old plane. Lots of turbulence despite the pilot telling us what a smooth flight we would have! I nearly had to break out the barf bag, which would would have been an airplane first for me!

Best Food on the Plane:

Singapore

Thai Airlines

Best Wines:

Swiss Air

Worst Food on the plane:

Swiss

Lufthansa

Best Airline Lounge Food:

Singapore

Best Amenities Kit:

Swiss Air- La Prairie lip balm and hand cream are amazing!

Best Safety Video:

Air New Zealand – not only are their videos good and entertaining but one of the featured male flight attendants in the video was actually our flight attendant!

*Runner up-Vietnam Airlines for the unintended comedy factor. It shows 2 seat mates that are very excited to smoke a cigarette and vape. They practically “cheers” their smoking paraphernalia until the “no smoking light” comes on and they sadly put their stuff away. We saw it on 3 flights and laughed every time!

Best Business Class Seats and Configurations:

Singapore -huge seats, great in seat storage and a makeup mirror!

Thai -similar to Singapore just scaled down a tad

Worst Business Class Seats:

Angkor – didn’t have any!

Vietnam- old planes, non functioning leg rests and the seat in front of us reclined so far back that I couldn’t get out to use the bathroom

Air Canada-same issues as Vietnam but not quite as old and no leg rests.

Best Airport Lounge:

Singapore

Auckland, New Zealand

Dubai

Worst Airport Lounge:

Bangkok, Thailand

Toronto-Air Canada – special mention- not only was the lounge fairly dirty but this was the only lounge where the check in lady was rude with a bad attitude.

Friendliest Customs and Immigration:

New Zealand

Australia

Singapore- the kids got candy

Most intimidating and unfriendly Customs and Immigration:

Vietnam

Switzerland

Odd Business Class Configurations:

Delta One Some rows in Business Class were facing backwards

Air New Zealand seats were angled in so you faced people across from you. Row A seats face the back of seats so these are more desirable.

Of course, you can look at the type of plane and seat configurations before you book. Sometimes though, the plane changes and you end up on something different.

There are lots of great websites that provide pics and reviews of seats and planes!

What airports do you enjoy or try to avoid?

Laurie Eats Sometimes- Spain Edition

Every country has something they are proud of, you might even say a national treasure.

New Zealand has Peter Jackson and Lord of the Rings, Cambodia has Angelina Jolie and Spain has Jamón Ibérico! A cured ham from the Spanish countryside and the crown jewel of Spanish food!

It’s so special they cover it with a blanket and tuck it in at night….just kidding…sort of!

Ham is everywhere and in lots of food. And, it is delicious. But, for a vegetarian, we found Spain to be the trickiest of the countries that we visited during this trip.

However, one meatless dish that you can find everywhere is patatas or papas bravas. It’s native to Spain and you will see it on the menu of most bars and restaurants. It’s simple but varies a lot by sauce (tomato and aioli) potato shapes and spice level.

We ate this at at least half a dozen places but we especially liked the version of it at Ena in Seville.

Another place where we enjoyed the potatoes was Ocaña in Plaza Reial, Barcelona. I don’t have a picture of the potatoes but who needs that when I have this picture!

Drag queens, great live music and tapas! What a fun night!


ta·pas

ˈtapəs/noun

small Spanish savory dishes, typically served with drinks at a bar


Some other popular tapas that we saw on every menu were olives, ham or fish croquetas, anchovies, squid and tomato toast usually served with manchego cheese slices on the side.

The squid was either fried or in some cases, served as finger puppets!

In Granada, we ate at a casual little restaurant called Kiki-located in the Plaza de San Nicolas. Sea anemone was the special that night and it was absolutely delicious!

We really enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Gallito in Barcelona. It was on the beach, close to the W Hotel. Sea views, some cava, tapas and this yummy shrimp, squid and artichoke paella dish. What a fantastic way to spend the afternoon!

We had exceptional tapas at Vinitus Restaurant in the Eixample Quarter…in fact we ate there twice!

I mentioned anchovies earlier…the best ones were served like this at Petite Corner Bar in Seville. In fact, everything there was exceptional!

We had a delicious dinner at El Trillo in the Albaicín in Granada. Risotto, pig cheeks and tasty red wine. The ambiance was nice too-we ate in the garden but you could also get a table with a view of the Alhambra.

If you are in the mood for non-Spanish food, you should go for Moroccan or Arabic food in Seville or Granada. The hummus and moutabel at Alwadi in Seville were particularly good!

Photo credit: saffrontrail.com

When in Spain, you should definitely sample some delicious cava! Cava is a sparkling wine that undergoes the same production process as champagne. I guess that’s why it tastes so good!

Most cava is produced in Catalonia and it’s very affordable too…so drink up! Salud!

There are many other dishes that you should try while in Spain.

Gazpacho is from Andalucia- a cold soup on a hot day tasted good! I had a strawberry gazpacho in Granada and it was quite tasty!

Tortilla Espanola is another popular dish in Spain. It’s made with potatoes, onions, eggs and olive oil. It’s a Spanish omelet!

Photo credit:my gourmet connection

Bocadillos-little Spanish sandwiches with various fillings can be found everywhere.

You will also see Gambas, or shrimp in olive oil on most tapas menus.

Don’t forget to get some churros dipped in chocolate! Mmmm.

Next up…best and worst airlines, lounges and airplane food reviews

Barcelona and Gaudí

I’m not sure why you would go to Barcelona and not see the famous works of Antoni Gaudí! His work is really one-of-a-kind!

Gaudí was born in 1852 and moved to Barcelona in 1868. Unfortunately, in 1926, when he was 73, he was struck by a train and killed.

During his life, he studied architecture and his first projects were the lamp posts in Plaza Reial – which we got to see in person and they were pretty cool!

While in Barcelona, you should make sure and stroll through the gardens and unique buildings of Park Güell. It was built between 1900-1914 and open to the public in 1926. It was originally supposed to a housing site with amazing views of the city. It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984 so, you guessed it, it’s a very popular tourist destination!

You should also make time to check out Casa Batlló, a house that was redesigned by Gaudí in 1904 with the roof designed to look like the back of a dragon. The local name for the apartment is the House of Bones and when you see the building, you can see why!

The number one, not to be missed attraction in Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia.

Tip-you should get your tickets several days in advance!

The Sagrada Familia is an absolutely stunning gothic church, that has been under construction since 1882 and is supposed to be completed in 2026. (To commemorate the 100 years since Gaudí’s death). The outside is amazing but the inside really makes your jaw drop!

The light coming through the beautiful and colorful stained glass was like nothing I have ever seen before! In fact, I don’t remember a time that being in a church made me so happy!

There are lots of places to read more on the Sagrada Familia…it’s fascinating and really a masterpiece!

Next up…Laurie Eats Sometimes-Spain Edition

Montserrat – Don’t miss this awesome day trip from Barcelona!

Montserrat is about 45km outside of Barcelona and should be a “must do” day trip during your visit to Barcelona.

It is a beautiful monastery with amazing views of Barcelona and the surrounding area!

We went with our great friends (so it was even more fun and special!) and hired a private driver and guide for the day and that was really enjoyable. You can check out this link for travel tips to Montserrat.

It’s home to the wooden statue of the Virgin Mary of Montserrat-or the black Madonna. In fact, the monastery was built around worshipping her. You will have to wait in a very long line if you wish to touch her hand and pray!

Photo credit: Montserrat Tourist Guide.

Montserrat means “saw mountain” in Catalan. To me, it looked like fingerling potatoes…but maybe I was just hungry!

It’s easy to spend the entire day touring Montserrat, at the very least, a few hours.

You can walk around, tour the abbey, see the Madonna, ride up the funicular, have lunch, buy local products, listen to the famous boys choir, tour the impressive museum or, if you are really adventurous, go rock climbing.

We started our day with a private tour of the Museum of Montserrat. It was quite impressive-Picasso, Monet, Dali, Caravaggio and an excellent collection of ancient artifacts. We were even surprised with some delicious cava and local pastries at the end of our tour. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

After the Museum, we went inside the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey. It was beautiful.

Next up was a steep funicular ride on the Funicular Sant Joan to the viewpoint.

It was gorgeous!

As with all my posts and pictures from our travels, you just can’t get the same feeling by looking at pictures. You’ve got to get out and experience it for yourself!

Next up…Gaudí

Barcelona-a city so nice, we visited twice!

Barcelona is a vibrant and exciting city on the Mediterranean Sea. It has amazing architecture, beaches and tons of nightlife. And the average temps range from the low 70’s to the mid 80’s Fahrenheit from May to October.

It’s got over 1 1/2 million residents but it gets over 30 million visitors per year. That’s insane!

We had a late flight into Barcelona from Italy and rather than a layover and a long night continuing our travel on to Seville, we decided to spend two nights in Barcelona.

For these two nights, we stayed at the fantastic Hotel DO in Plaza Reial. What a fabulous boutique hotel set in the perfect location!

Note: I don’t always post about where we stay. Sometimes because I feel indifferent towards the place and I try to keep my blog positive and sometimes it’s really a fabulous place but it just doesn’t fit into what I’m writing about. I might eventually go back and write about some favorites but I’m still deciding. Also, I do review the places that we’ve stayed on TripAdvisor, Booking.com and Airbnb.

But, if you are curious, just ask me!

We had a great time exploring the Gothic Quarter, which was a short walk from the hotel.

Gothic style architecture is really cool so we returned to the Gothic Quarter when we were back in Barcelona a few weeks later.

In the Gothic Quarter, we heard some lively music and we followed it. What we saw was a jaw dropping Castell or human tower. These towers originated in the 18th century and have become popular in the last 50-60 years. Women started participating in the 1980’s. Record setting human towers can be 10 stories high and children are at the top! Incredible!

From the Gothic Quarter, we walked down La Rambla, the big pedestrian street that is super crowded and touristy. We ended up at the Christopher Columbus Monument (from 1886) and Port Vell, which is a lively harbor built just before the 1992 Olympics.

I wasn’t a fan of La Rambla and we only walked down it one more time during our trip to Barcelona. It had too many drunk tourists and street performers -and not the talented musician performers but creepy mimes and people in costumes.

Speaking of crowds, you should visit La Boqueria, a large public market that’s close to the opera house. We were in awe of all the delicious foods!

Another fun thing you can do in Barcelona is go to the beach. Or, better yet, you could rent a poolside cabana at the W Hotel and look at the beach while you swim and have cocktails! So decadent!

The beaches in the city can be crowded But if you travel outside of the city, you can get away from the crowds. Here is a link to the Barcelona beaches. Top Photo credit Timeout.com

It’s really fun to see the beach and stroll along the boardwalk. We ate lunch at a great little place and soaked up the beach views and the scene.

And this is random but there were so many bachelorette parties in Barcelona! We saw multiple groups every night. Some had t- shirts, some had matching dresses, some were wearing sashes. I didn’t get any good pictures but I guess Barcelona is like Las Vegas…a crazy, pre-wedding destination!

When we came back to Barcelona after a few weeks in Andalucia, we stayed in a beautiful apartment on Passeig de Gràcia. It was in a fantastic location, close to shopping and terrific restaurants. This was our view!

The Casa Batlló was lit up one night to celebrate Pride.

Of course, you can’t go to Barcelona without visiting the Sagrada Familia or taking a tour of some other Gaudí masterpieces but that is coming up in a separate post…stay tuned!

This is the Plaza Reial at sunset. Pretty spectacular huh?!

Next up…Gaudí and a day trip to Montserrat

Granada, the Alhambra and the Albaicín

Granada, also in southern Spain, is much smaller than Seville and very different geographically. It sits at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is a higher and drier climate.

Since they were working on the train line between Seville and Granada, we rented a car for this 3 hour drive. The fields of sunflowers were beautiful!

The main attraction in Granada is The Alhambra, a moorish citadel and palace.

We stayed in the medieval moorish neighborhood called The Albaicín. It has narrow, windy cobblestone streets and is located on a hill facing the Alhambra.

See the crane and tower in the picture below? That’s where we stayed.

We stayed just below Plaza Mirador de San Nicolas, where everyone (including some bus loads of tourists because the Alhambra and Albaicín became UNESCO sites in 1984) came each night to admire the views of the Alhambra and watch the sunset.

I was a little nervous about staying in the Albaicín because I had read a few mixed things on TripAdvisor. Whoever thought the Albaicín was sketchy or unsafe has obviously never really traveled before. Just use common sense. Geez! The only dangerous thing in this neighborhood was all the dog poop!

We loved spending the week relaxing in our apartment, swimming in the pool, walking to everything and taking in these incredible views from the top balcony!

Of course, you can’t go to Granada without touring the Alhambra!

Tip– you must get your tickets well in advance to see the Alhambra! You can’t just show up on the same day and expect to get in. Get ticket information here.

We had a private, guided tour that lasted about 3 1/2 hours. I’m glad we started early (it gets hot) and I’m glad we had a guide.

Although, our very friendly and knowledgeable guide spent a lot of time discussing Roman aqueducts and Arabic writing. I had to force myself to concentrate and listen in case she asked me a question!

By the way, the Alhambra and the Alcazar in Seville were built by the same architects. Cool huh?

The gardens of the Alhambra were especially beautiful and peaceful.

There is more to Granada than the Alhambra…

I already mentioned the Albaicín-just wandering around the streets is a fun way to spend the day.

There are many teterias or tea rooms in Granada. They are typically informal with a selection of teas, juices, water pipes or hookahs and moorish pastries. Mmm.

You can also spend time wandering around the Alcaiceria in Granada. It was once a great silk bazaar but there was a fire in 1843 and it burned down. Today, it’s filled with souvenir shops but we had fun strolling through!

We could easily walk to the lovely and clean center of town from the top of the Albaicín. Getting back up in the scorching hot temps was another story…but that’s what taxis are for!

On our last night in Granada, we headed out for a flamenco show and dinner at Jardines de Zoraya. We had seen a terrific show in Seville so we had low expectations. The show was actually very good!

The appetizers were good, dinner meh and the dancers were very good particularly one man at the end of the show. However, we were blown away by the amazingly talented female singer (cantaora) and the guitar player. Incredible!

One thing that we didn’t get to do was visit Sacromonte, the Roma cave community above the city. Arabs first inhabited these caves but after they were driven out during the 1500’s, the Roma settled there and still live there today. It’s full of shops, restaurants and flamenco. Well, I guess we gotta save something for next time!

Next up…Barcelona, Gaudí and a day trip to Montserrat

Sevilla, Seville…Call it what you will!

We arrived in Sevilla by high speed train from Barcelona on Father’s Day. It was about 5 1/2 hours. You can easily fly too, of course, but after all of our flights (18 by this point in our trip), the train was a welcome change!

This city in southern Spain is incredibly gorgeous and like much of our trip, it also happened to be incredibly hot during the week in June that we visited. (The week before had been raining and about 55 degrees Fahrenheit and that actually sounded great…but oh well!)

Seville is the capital of Andalusia. It’s famous for Flamenco and amazing architecture- like the world’s largest gothic cathedral, the Seville Cathedral, which was totally awesome!

Did you know that Seville is a popular movie filming location?

This is the Alcazar – where some of Game of Thrones was filmed. (Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here too in the 1960’s).

The upper floors of the Alcazar are actually currently in use by the royal family and it’s one of the oldest palaces still in use in the world!

It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 as as we discovered during our travels around the world, if it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, it will have tour groups arriving around 9:30/10am. So go early.

Tip– buy your tickets ahead of time so you don’t need to wait in line, in the hot sun, for like an hour!

It’s really special here-don’t miss the Alcazar!

And Star Wars, Episode 2 (which I like to pretend is the trilogy that never existed!) was filmed at the incredible Plaza de España. The Plaza de España was built for the 1929 World’s Fair. It’s a really cool half- circle of buildings with a moat and bridges.

A great way to get a nice overview of the city is by horse drawn carriage. There are multiple places throughout the city where you can get one. They are all a fixed price and non-negotiable. Easy!

Even though we decided that we didn’t want to see a bullfighting event while in Seville, we really did want to tour the museum and the bullring. This is so unique to Spain that we felt it couldn’t be missed and we weren’t disappointed!

Another really cool “must do” thing in Seville is to go to a flamenco show. Flamenco is a Spanish dance that is passionate, intense and full of incredible dance steps and intricate hand movements AND amazing singing and guitar playing! One of us even cried-but I won’t name names!

If you don’t go see a professional flamenco show in Seville, you are really missing out! We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the venue but we loved the show so much! Wow!

By the time we got to Seville, Harry was majorly overdue for a haircut but he had been holding out because he really wanted to get his haircut by The Barber of Seville (you know, it’s an opera). And he got it cut here…and it looked good too!

Seville is probably one of the prettiest cities that we visited during our trip around the world. It seemed that there was a unique and beautiful building around every turn.

Seville was beautiful, clean, the people were friendly and the food was good. There was live music everywhere and dancing too. It’s a great city to walk around in or ride a bike. In fact, it’s pretty flat and there are bikes to rent everywhere… if only it hadn’t been so hot!

So, is it Sevilla or Seville? Either way, you should visit!