RTW Trip - BOS-ORD-HKG-CNS-SYD-SIN-CMB-MLE-CMB-AMM-IST-MAD-EZE-LIM-JFK-BOS

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by suenam, Mar 11, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    We began our journey on an AA flight from Boston to Chicago in first class. We had a 5 hour wait in Chicago before our flight to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific so we waited in the Swiss Air lounge. We actually had to wait awhile in the airport since the lounge wasn't open when we arrived. It was a small lounge, but they had a good offering of food and beverages. There was a first class lounge on one side and the business class lounge on the other side. The first class side looked exactly the same as the business class side. The flight to Hong Kong was long, but very, very smooth. Great flight, great seats and great cabin crew. So much has been written about the business class flight experience on Cathay. I don't want to rehash the accolades regarding the seats, meals and service. I will say that it was very enjoyable. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, we purchased an Octopus Card for travel around the city on public transportation, a sim card for the phone and caught a taxi to our hotel. The taxi was priced at $250 HK (about $32) and I think this was the best option to get to the hotel with luggage. The airport express train and then a taxi would have cost a little bit less, but would have been much more hassle.

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    We stayed at the Intercontinental on Salisbury Road. It was a fabulous hotel in a great location. We upgraded to a Harbor View Room. I think that was a very good move since the view from our room was fantastic. It was like having a parade always at your doorstep.
    View from our room of the 8 pm light show
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    After checking in around 9:30 pm we went to the lobby lounge downstairs for a drink. They have live entertainment there and fantastic views. We then called it a night since we were meeting our tour guide in the lobby at 9am.
    View from the lobby.
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    In the morning, we met Jamie Lloyd, a tour guide, for a 5 hour tour of Hong Kong. His company is called J3 Tours Hong Kong.
    He took us by subway (we used the Octopus Card) to see a wet market in Wan Chai,
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    then up to the Peak, where the view was a bit obscured by smog (we went up by taxi and down by tram)
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    to St. John's Cathedral, a colonial era episcopal church, and the view of the Bank of China building from the cathedral
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    then to Monument Square and on to Wong Tai Sin, a taoist temple.
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    When our tour was over, our guide directed us to a bus to head to Stanley. We walked around Stanley Market and the waterfront, then headed back to Kowloon on the bus.
    Stanley Market
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    It was a lovely drive on the double decker bus. It was also nice to be sitting down.
    We had seats in the front on top and the views were great. It is surprising how rural the other side of Hong Kong Island is. We passed towns that looked to have lovely beaches and seemed uncrowded in comparison to the city. We had late afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel. The lobby is beautiful and there is live entertainment during tea. Very civilized. We walked back to our hotel across the street. The hotel looks so close, but you can't just cross the street. You must find an entrance to the subway and underground and take a walk through a tunnel to cross the street, so it was a 15 minute walk rather than a 2 minute walk. After an exhausting first day, we went to bed early.
    The next day, on the recommendation of our tour guide, we went to Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lien Garden. This was a quiet spot in the middle of a bustling city. It was quite a juxtaposition from the quiet and serene of the gardens to the big city visible in the background.
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    We then headed to Central for dim sum at Maxim's Palace. We had to take a number and wait about 20 minutes to be seated. This place really packs in crowds. It was quite an experience. There were no utensils other than chopsticks, which I am not very adept at. Some of the offerings were delicious, some I really didn't care for.
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    That evening we had dinner at our hotel at Yan Toh Heen.
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    This restaurant has 1 Michelin star It was a wonderful meal. We had the duck with the pancakes and scallions. After dinner we walked over to the Peninsula Hotel to check out the bar at Felix. They have great views from there.
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    In the morning, we had breakfast in the lobby lounge, stored a couple of suitcases with the hotel and then checked out and headed to the China Ferry Terminal for our Macau ferry trip.
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    We purchased a Super Class ticket, which gave us upper deck seating, seats that reclined a bit and lunch. The lunch looked awful so we didn't eat it. I didn't think it was worth the extra money for the super class ticket, so on our return, we booked ordinary class tickets. The trip takes one hour from the Kowloon side to Macau. Upon arrival in Macau you pass through immigration and then can either take the shuttle bus or a taxi to your hotel. We were staying at the MGM Grand and we took the shuttle bus which was waiting outside the terminal.
    Photos of the MGM Grand lobby and room. This hotel had a serious lack of plugs and the slowest internet possible. They also charge for wifi here and it is definitely not worth it. The room was clean and comfortable though.
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    You can see the Wynn Hotel outside the window of our room
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  2. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    We took the free shuttle bus over to the Venetian Hotel. I think it is an exact replica of the one in Las Vegas.
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    We strolled around and got egg custard tarts at Lord Stowe's bakery. They were absolutely delicious. Later that night, we took a taxi to Fernando's for dinner.

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    Fernando's food was great. One the best meals of the trip to date.

    In the morning we went for a walk around Senado Square and the historic sites. It seems there had been a festival of some kind that involved smiling / surprised fruit. Then we went back to our hotel to check out.
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    The return ferry ride got us back into Hong Kong at 2:30. We had lunch at Al Molo near the Star Ferry dock.
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    The food was very good. We returned to the Intercontinental to pick up our stored luggage, then took a taxi to the airport for our flight to Cairns. We checked our luggage, then went to Cathay Pacific's lounge, The Wing.
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    This is really a fantastic place. They have multiple eating areas with a great variety of food and several seating areas. There are so many different foods on offer. There has been so much written about this lounge, that I don't feel I can add anything further. We took a Cathay Pacific business class flight to Cairns. The seats on this Cathay flight were nowhere near as nice and spacious as the ones we enjoyed on the flight from Chicago to Hong Kong. They were older and I thought they were narrow. I guess it is the herringbone pattern on the seat configuration. Comfortable enough, but clearly inferior to the previous flight. They seemed a bit narrow and coffin like.
     
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  3. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    Upon landing in Cairns, we cleared customs and immigration and made our way on foot across the parking lot to the domestic terminal. We had a couple of hours to spare before our flight to Sydney so we went to the Qantas lounge. I was quite impressed with the lounge. For a domestic lounge, they had a wide variety of food as well as a small business center and shower rooms.
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    We had coffee and some breakfast pastry, but weren't really hungry. We boarded our Qantas flight to Sydney and were seated in seats similar to domestic first class seats, but were more comfortable and had a much better lunch service. The wine was very good and the champagne was excellent.
    We arrived in Sydney and were met by family. We had a great time and attended a family wedding. We’ve been to Sydney 8 times and now we have as many friends in Australia as in the US. It’s always a good time! We will be back in July 2013 for another family wedding. Can’t wait.
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    Congratulations to Elie & Rita!

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    After our time in Sydney, we boarded a Qantas flight to Singapore. This flight had a stop in Adelaide. We had to deplane and wait about an hour before continuing on to Singapore. The flight and the service were great. The seats were quite comfortable.
    Food and wine were excellent. When we landed in Singapore, we went to the Qantas First Class lounge. There was a wide array of food and beverages available and lots of comfortable seating areas. This was a really nice lounge. We had about an hour to wait before our next flight on Cathay Pacific to Colombo, Sri Lanka. On our way to board the Cathay flight, my husband realized that he had forgotten his suit bags on the Qantas flight. He ran back to the Qantas lounge and they contacted the plane. The bags were located and they told him them would send them right over to the Cathay flight. We boarded the plane, but it pulled back from the gate before the suits arrived. This flight on Cathay was a step down from the flight from Hong Kong to Cairns. The seats were similar to domestic first class seats. I declined the meal since we had eaten on the flight to Singapore. I tried to sleep but the seats weren't that comfortable. I informed the flight attendant about the missing suit bags and she offered to send a telex about them to both Singapore and Sri Lanka. This proved to be very helpful.
    When we landed in Colombo, a representative was waiting for us to escort us to baggage services to put in a claim. She took us right past immigration to the diplomatic passport line and we went right through. Apparently you need to have a transit visa to enter Colombo and she got our passports stamped and we were on our way very quickly. She helped us find our way to the baggage claim department to file the claim.
    I really didn't believe that we would ever see the missing suits again since the bags didn't have our names on them and there was nothing to identify them in any way. We filed the report on the hand luggage with baggage services, then collected our checked bags. We wanted to leave one of our suitcases with the bonded baggage service since they have strict weight limits on the seaplanes in the Maldives and I had no need of the warmer clothes I had packed for Australia. I had intended to check the bag inside the terminal, but a man there said that the same company had an office right outside the terminal door and it was much cheaper there. Since we were leaving to go to the hotel, we figured we could do this easily. Not so. But it was too late to go back inside. There are no curb cuts in Sri Lanka. We had our luggage on a trolly but had to go into the street since you could not move from sidewalk to sidewalk with the trolly. It was chaos outside.
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    After checking the bag in, we got our taxi to the hotel which was about a 10 minute ride away. We stayed at the Ramada Inn. The hotel was serviceable and clean but otherwise unremarkable. We had a 3-4 hour nap then it was time to return to the airport for our flight to Male.
    After being picked up by the same taxi driver that had dropped us off a few hours earlier, we checked in for our flight on Sri Lankan Airlines to Male. We had business class tickets so we were invited to the lounge. I wasn't expecting much, but it was quite nice.
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    They had a good selection of food for breakfast but what was really great was the 15 minute foot massage that they offered. This was so relaxing and was a great way to start the day. I had a coffee and then it was time for boarding.
    I was pleasantly surprised by the aircraft and the seats. They were lie flat seats and were very comfortable. They also served a decent breakfast. The flight was only 90 minutes, and I was sorry that we wouldn't be able to enjoy the plane.
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  4. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    Upon arrival in Male, we were met by a Conrad Maldives representative and taken to the Trans Maldivian airline counter for checkin.
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    We were then escorted to a van and transported to the Conrad lounge to wait for our seaplane. This is a view of a construction crew hard at work jackhammering a sidewalk. They were using hammers and chisels. Job security I guess.

    At the lounge we were offered a cold towel and drink. They had a buffet breakfast spread and also a massage therapist who gave 10 minute back massages and discounts for the Conrad spa at the resort. I think the discount offered was $25 per massage if you booked it during your first 2 days of your stay.

    I think we were at the lounge about an hour when they announced that it was time to board the plane. We were then given a bag with a cold bottle of water and some earplugs for the flight. The plane was small, seating about 15 people. All of the luggage was placed in the rear of the plane. I'm glad that it wasn't a very hot day because there were only 2 little fans to cool the plane during the flight and it was quite loud. The flight took less than an hour and was very scenic. I saw many resorts below us and couldn't wait to land at our resort.
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    Upon arrival, we were met by our personal concierge who offered us cold towels and drinks, checked us in and brought us by golf cart to our overwater villa. sum0074.jpg sum0075-leveled.jpg sum0077-leveled.jpg sum0073-leveled.jpg sum0078.jpg sum0072.jpg sum0085-leveled.jpg sum0090-leveled.jpg sum0091-leveled.jpg sum0084-leveled.jpg sum0086-leveled.jpg sum0087-leveled.jpg
     
  5. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    The bungalow was absolutely fabulous. He showed us around the room, explained a few things, told us about gold member benefits, where to get them and offered to make all of our reservations for us. We did have him make reservations for the wine and cheese dinner.

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    He made our reservations for the Maldivian night festivities as well. He also booked the underwater restaurant for us. I called the spa and made our massage reservations myself. Then we had a walk around the island we were based on. The resort is situated on two islands connected by a long causeway. Reception, several restaurants and shops and all of the beach bungalows are on the other island. We walked over to check out the quiet zone, which is an adults only pool and walked by a restaurant and gift shop.

    Views of the Quiet Zone. It was very, very quiet. Not a soul around.
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    As soon as we sat down, a bartender brought us 2 glasses of cold water and some fresh fruit. SUM_0035-leveled.jpg
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  6. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    We then returned to our room to enjoy it. We had a soak in the pool on our deck. The water was tepid and it was a bit disappointing, although the view could not be beat.
    We then went downstairs into the ocean and the water was nice and warm. Later on, we went to Happy Hour and had complimentary drinks at the restaurant/bar near our room, then returned to our room and ordered room service since we were exhausted.
    Vilu Restaurant (where they have Happy Hour).

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    Overnight, there was a fierce storm with torrential rain and heavy winds. The furniture on our deck was thankfully lashed down, but the bungalow was shaking and I thought the roof was going to come off. There was a mixup with our reservations. I thought I had booked 2 nights in the overwater bungalow and 2 nights in the beach bungalow, but it turned out that I had mistyped the dates and we had to move to the beach bungalow after just 1 night. I asked if we could stay for the remainder of our trip, but they said the resort was fully booked and we would have to move.

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    They came to move us to our beach bungalow at noon the next day.
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    The room was very nice, but I was disappointed that I couldn't see the ocean from the room. It really was very private and beautiful. I would have been very happy with the room if I had stayed there first and then moved to the overwater bungalow. All of the doors could be opened to allow for a cross breeze. You could hear the fountain gurgling between the bedroom and the sinks.
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    View from the soaking tub. This tub took a very long time to fill. sum0082-leveled.jpg
    I used the outdoor tub one evening and it was very romantic. They provide tea lights. I did like the outdoor shower, but the weather was very hot and humid. The area where the sinks and mirrors are located were in the non air-conditioned section of the room and this made it difficult to get ready to go out. I had to go into the luggage room and close the door in order to get dressed without sweating. Not ideal. Also, all of the restaurants, except for the underwater restaurant had sand floors. I wasn't crazy about this. It was OK during the day, but with shoes or sandals on, it was uncomfortable for walking.
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  7. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    On our first night in the beach bungalow, we again had torrential rains and heavy wind. I woke up during the night to use the bathroom and there were huge puddles of water on the marble floors. In the dark this was dangerous since I wasn't expecting water and slipped and fell. Apparently, the water came in the windows and doors in many places and there were pools of water everywhere.

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    When we called about the problem in the morning, they sent maintenance who placed towels around the windows and doors. The manager on duty told us that this is Asia, after all…. We replied that it would be OK if we were camping, but….. They also sent a half bottle of champagne and some fresh fruit that night to appease us.
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    The beach area was usually empty outside our bungalow. This is the area where the house reef is located. It was very windy and mostly overcast when we were there, and snorkeling conditions were not ideal. I have seen photos and read that people have really enjoyed snorkeling here, so I was a bit disappointed. sum0054-leveled.jpg SUM_0064-leveled.jpg

    I saw only a few other people during the day, even though the resort was fully booked. It was a great beach for shell hunting. The weather while we were there was less than ideal. It was extremely windy and it rained every night, but usually very late. It was mostly overcast during the days. We saw very little sun. Everything looks different when the sun is shining. They cancelled most activities on 2 of the 4 days we were there due to high winds.

    This is a really beautiful resort, and all of the rooms seem to offer a great deal of privacy. Even though the resort was at capacity, I never felt that there were a lot of people around. Dinners on average were about $230 without alcohol. I thought this was very expensive. Despite the exorbitant prices, the food, overall, was very average. You are definitely paying for the location! But what a location.
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    We wanted to see the underwater restaurant so we booked for the champagne and hors d'oeuvres. We had one glass of champagne and 2 bites and had an hour to spend underwater. There was just one other couple there with us. They left before we did.
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    I was ready to leave after 30 minutes. It is a unique place, but except for being a very different experience, not worth the money in my opinion. I think going for the evening dinner service would have been better. They have underwater lights that attract lots of fish. I think the cost for dinner was $300 per person (no alcohol).
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  8. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    The ferry between the two islands was not running on one of the days due to high winds.
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    We called for a golf cart one night when we were too tired to walk from one side of the resort to the other.
    Here are some photos from around the resort.
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    Main pool. As you can see, all umbrellas were either closed or removed.
    Teahouse
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    The tea house is located opposite the spa. They had complimentary afternoon tea and finger sandwiches every afternoon. Make sure to get there before 4PM to get a seat. They make a limited amount of sandwiches.

    Views from the spa
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    Views from the tea house
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    Walkway from the spa
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  9. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    We were scheduled for the last seaplane of the day at 6 pm. When it was time to leave, the seaplane dropped us back at Male, and we had a 3 hour wait for our flight on China Southern back to Colombo. There is not much to do at the Male airport, and there were really no lounges, so we walked around and checked out a couple of stores, then had ice cream and waited for our plane. The flight was only an hour and was very uneventful. We landed in Colombo, collected our luggage and went to check in for our flight to Amman. Unfortunately, we did not have boarding passes, and we had to wait outside security until someone from Royal Jordanian showed up to check us in. This turned out to be a very long wait in a very poor airport, with minimal seating.
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    Did I mention that our flight arrived at 10:45 pm? I thought we were going to be able to wait in the lounge until our flight departed. I was also coming down with a very bad cold at this point. I felt miserable. We collected our luggage from the bonded service. I could not believe that it only cost us about $5 for the 5 days that they stored the bag. I also bought 2 cups of really, really good tea and the charge was about $0.20. I wish I had bought some of that tea to bring with us. Also, on our way out of the airport we passed the duty free shops. This is the only place where I have ever seen large appliances for sale in a duty free shop. Refrigerator or stove anyone? How about a sink or toilet? There were so many people just standing around the airport doing nothing.

    We finally got our boarding passes and proceeded to the lounge. This was definitely not a great lounge. Sri Lankan's lounge was light years better. I think this was the Araliya Lounge. There was food out, but it looked like it had been out for hours and was very unappealing. I only had bottled water from this lounge. I was also looking for facial tissues since my cold was worsening. There weren't any anywhere. I grabbed a roll of toilet paper! Rough, rough, rough. I even checked multiple shops at the airport. None of them sold tissues. We also checked on the status of our lost hand luggage. They had us go into the room where they store lost luggage to look for the suit bags, but we couldn't find anything in this dark, dank and musty room. There was no sign of the suits. We spoke again to Cathay Pacific who assured us that they had sent the suits on to Sri Lanka. When it was time to go, we had to pass through security again before boarding the plane.
    The Royal Jordanian flight was uneventful. The seats were angled business class seats, so not great for sleeping, but comfortable enough. I put the seat back to lie down, but found I was sliding towards the floor. Not at all comfortable, so I just reclined. It was an older model plane, lots and wear and tear shown throughout. I thought the food and service was really good though. I didn't watch anything on the entertainment system because I wanted to sleep. The flight attendant made me tea. We landed in Jordan and proceeded through as transit passengers to the next terminal. We had about a 1 hour wait for our flight to Istanbul. We had to board a bus and be driven to the plane.

    This flight from Amman to Istanbul was in an even older plane, and the seats were short haul business class. They offered plenty of room for a short flight. We were seated in the first row of business class in a 2 class plane. Food and service were good. During the flight, a passenger from business class got up from his seat and entered the cockpit. I guess it is possible that he was an airline employee, but I found it odd that he could just go on in. About 20 minutes before landing, this same passenger again rose from his seat, along with his girlfriend ? and they both entered the cockpit and stayed there until after the plane landed. I found that disturbing.

    We landed at Istanbul airport and had a short connection time before our next flight to Madrid. Since we were just transit passengers, we had to turn our passports over to the desk in order for the people working there to get our boarding passes. I was a little alarmed that someone was just walking off with our passports, and I really wasn't at all comfortable with the way they handle in transit passengers. After waiting about 20 minutes, the employee came back with our passports and boarding passes, and we were able to proceed to our gate. We went to the gate that was shown on the departures board and also on our boarding passes, but they had moved the gate without posting it anywhere and I found the correct gate quite by accident. We boarded the plane, and our business class seats were 2 economy-type seats with the middle seat empty. This was an Iberia flight, and the food and service were good.

    We finally landed in Madrid after a very long day of traveling. We took the Airport Express bus from the airport for 5 Euros each and had a 5 minute walk to our hotel. We got off the bus at Plaza Cibelas.

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    Walking along the Gran Via on the way to our hotel
    We stayed at the Hotel De Las Letras on the Gran Via in Madrid.
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    I wouldn't hesitate to stay here again. This is the view from the balcony of our room. SUM_0033-leveled.jpg
    We had just a one night stay, then we left for the airport for our trip home for a couple of months before returning to Madrid to continue our trip. We flew US Air from Madrid to Boston in economy since I was unable to find business class seats. When we landed in Boston, we asked US Air to place a courtesy claim for our lost hand luggage. They spent about 30 minutes inputting all of our flights into the system to try to locate the missing bags. We had the printout as well as claim numbers from Sri Lanka, but we didn't have much hope of getting them back.

    Two days after we returned home, we got a phone call that our box was at the US Air office in Boston. It has been shipped by Cathay to Dubai on Emirates, then on to Frankfurt on Lufthansa and finally to Boston on Lufthansa. I thought it was just so great that we got those suits back. Kudos to everyone involved.

    In early February we resumed our trip and flew back to Madrid. We flew US Air first class from Boston to Philadelphia. We spent about 2 hours in the lounge there before boarding our flight to Madrid. It was my first time flying in an Envoy Suite and they were very nice. I don't think they are as comfortable as Cathay Pacific's business class, but they were pretty good. I found the service to be just average. The flight attendant was more interested in chatting about union issues with her colleagues than attending to passengers. She was perfunctory at best, but the meal was decent. I really liked the appetizer.
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    I slept for a couple of hours before we landed. We again took the Airport Express bus to our hotel. We stayed at the Westin Palace, a very classic hotel in a great location with an accommodating staff. I was very happy with the hotel. We arrived about 9:45 am and were very happy to hear that our room was ready. This is one of the perks of traveling in the off-season I guess. I don't have any status with Starwood. I only have the SPG card. We were told that wifi was free only in the lobby, not in the room. We did access it in the lobby once, but found it was readily available in the rooms as well without the need to pay for the service.

    The concierge, Oscar, was very helpful in calling the bank that owned the ATM machine that ate
    our debit card at the airport. He spent an hour explaining to the bank what had happened and they ended up connecting us to our bank in the US. Our bank cancelled the card and apologized for the inconvenience! Oscar gave us 2 lollipops for our trouble :)

    Lobby view
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    Restaurant off the lobby
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  10. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    Photos of our room
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    After getting settled, we napped for a couple of hours and headed out about noon for a walk. We had a long walk and saw many sights. We got very lucky with a 60 degree day in early February.
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    We had lunch at the Mercado de San Miguel. They had so many different, delicious offerings.
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    I really wanted to tour the Royal Palace, but the concierge inform ed me that the king had a meeting that day so the palace was closed. Look at the size of this place. The king was in one room and the whole place was closed.
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    We stopped for coffee and then headed back towards our hotel. Our hotel was right across the street from the Prado. They offered free admission from 6-8 pm. After visiting the museum, we went directly across the street to the Ritz for hot chocolate and churros.
    Ritz Carlton, Madrid
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    I had the best cup of hot chocolate ever. It was like drinking a candy bar. It was melted chocolate with cream. Yum! The churros were also very good. Much better than the ones I tried in Barcelona last May.

    We took a taxi to the airport in the morning and waited for our Iberia flight to Buenos Aires in the lounge.
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    It was a very nice lounge with a great selection of hot and cold food and lots of drinks to choose from. They even had a wine bar.
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    Our flight was delayed about 40 minutes, but there were no real issues on the flight.
     
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  11. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    This leg of the journey was a very pleasant 12 + hour flight. The food was good and the entertainment selection was pretty good. As we neared Buenos Aires, the pilot announced that we would have to circle for a while due to traffic. I was ready to be there at that point, but we finally arrived about 1 1/2 hours late. We collected our luggage and went to the desk for "VIP" remise to schedule our transportation into the city. The cost was about $46 to the Park Hyatt in Recoleta which we paid by credit card. I didn't exchange money at the airport since I planned to pick up cash the next morning from the Xoom office. They have a much better exchange rate that what was offered at the banks. The banks offered about $4.95 pesos to the dollar (the official rate) and Xoom offered $7.36 pesos to the dollar.
    As the taxi got off the highway and entered the city, we were shocked by the amount of graffiti and people hanging around street corners. As soon as we stopped at a light, someone approached the taxi to ask for a donation. The taxi driver recommended we lock our doors.
    We arrived at the Park Hyatt after a 35 to 40 minute drive from the airport. It was about 11:30 pm. We checked in and gave the front desk my husband's platinum amenity card and requested the food and beverage option.
    They gave us a printed card that described what should we do in the event of a mugging! Do not resist and try to remember details...
    Front entrance, palace side
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    Lobby and restaurant views
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    The bellman escorted us up to the room and showed us around. Our luggage arrived 5 minutes later.
    Here are a couple photos from our room. We were housed in the tower section of the hotel.
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    After settling in, we were exhausted and went to bed.
     
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  12. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    The next morning, we left the hotel and picked up our cash at the Xoom office. Stores offered different exchange rates ranging from 5 Pesos/$ to 7/$. One of the exclusive stores was short on pesos so they pointed us to a Xoom-like office where they gave us 7.5 Pesos/$. They only take $50 & $100 bills. The only caveat to this, is that you cannot exchange pesos back to dollars if you don't have a receipt from an "official" bank. I found ways to run out of pesos the last day :)
    There are different types of taxis but the safest ones to take are "radio taxis". They have "radio" painted on the cab. Some of the other taxis are known for a bait & switch scheme. The driver takes your 100 Pesos bill, switches it with a fake one, then gives it back to you saying that it's not good and asks you for another bill. We always had 50 pesos bills with us, and if we had to pay with 100s my husband held each one up, examined it, then gave it to the driver.
    We met a Canadian couple who were spending a month in Argentina. They were traveling with 3 other couples and rented a 3-bedroom apartment. Each of the couples were mugged in different ways. One man was isolated from his wife in the subway by men blocking his way at the entrance as his wife boarded the subway. She was pickpocketed. We never took the subway. The 6'4" Canadian man told us about a typical scheme that they tried on him! Someone sprayed something on his shirt without him noticing, then a woman approached him trying to clean the "bird dropping" while a group of men surrounded him and with the commotion, they tried to take his wallet. They work in large groups and you have to be aware at all times.
    On the walk to the store, we saw many dog walkers. Some of these people walk 12 or more dogs at a time and they seem to be able to keep them all under control and walking well together. I was told by a taxi driver that these walkers get about $50 US per dog, per day, so some them make a pretty good living doing this.
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    We had breakfast at a sidewalk cafe of coffee and medialunas. These are sweet croissants and they seem to be the usual breakfast around here. Delicious. I had asked the concierge at the hotel to recommend a couple of shops to look for a leather coat. She gave us the name of 3 stores and we set off to find them. They were all within walking distance of our hotel. I had success at one shop and they asked me to return later that afternoon to pick up my coat. They were going to make it to order. The coat that I liked was not available in the shop in the color that I wanted, so they made me one in the workshop upstairs.

    I ordered the coat around noon, then we walked back to the hotel to meet our guide for a 3 hour tour of the city. This was a tour that the hotel recommended. The van had room for 12-15 guests, and the english speaking guide was very informative, not only about places and buildings, but people and politics.

    They took us to Plaza de Mayo and we saw the Casa Rosada (pink palace), the presidential palace.
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    Another view of the Plaza de Mayo facing City Hall
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    We then got in the van and continued on to the La Boca neighborhood. The neighborhood was atmospheric, but very touristy. They have a lot of sidewalk cafes and many outdoor performers and couples dancing the tango (high heels on cobblestones!)
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    This area used to be inhabited by Italian immigrants. Our tour guide told us that 40 percent of the residents of Buenos Aires are of Italian descent.
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    After leaving La Boca, we drove past Puerto Madero, the San Telmo neighborhood and into the Palermo neighborhood, before finishing the tour at the Recoleta Cemetery. I think this cemetery is most famous for containing the tomb of Evita Peron. It was really something to see. It was unlike any cemetery I have ever been to.
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    Eva Peron's tomb
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    After the tour, we walked to the store to pick up my coat, then returned to the hotel. They had offered to deliver the coat to the hotel, but I wanted to try it on first and make sure it was a good fit. We had dinner reservations at La Cabrera, a famous steakhouse that was located in the Palermo neighborhood.

    We found taxis (radio) to be the best method for getting around this big city. They are very affordable.
     
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  13. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    In the morning, we took a taxi to Puerto Madero to board the ferry for our day trip to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. We purchased the ferry tickets (Buquebus) at the hotel, and we had first class tickets going over which meant we could sit upstairs in bigger and more comfortable chairs. Other than that, there was no difference from the cheaper priced tickets. I would have purchased the regular priced tickets, but they were sold out for the morning ferry ride, so we went with the upgrade. When we arrived, we proceeded through immigration and went to the Thrifty counter to rent a golf cart for the day. While we were at the counter, we noticed that they had go carts, so we rented one of those instead. They forgot to mention that it didn’t have a reverse gear, so we had to worry about where to park.
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    It was fun to ride around town and we got to see everything there, as well as some of the beaches and resorts a few kilometers outside of town. Colonia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and we really enjoyed ourselves here. The only problem was that our camera had not properly charged overnight, so it died after only a few photos.
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    The weather was perfect, and deciding to visit Colonia proved to be a very wise choice. It was a very delightful day. We had ice cream while listening to a live rendition of “Dos Gardenias”.
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    When we returned to Buenos Aires, we went to our hotel, and found that they had delivered a bottle of wine and some chocolate sweets for our amenity. We had a rest, and then had dinner on the outdoor terrace at Duhau Restaurante & Vinoteca at the Park Hyatt. The food was wonderful.

    In the morning, we set out on foot for a walking tour. We walked by a rubber tree that looked like a forest. It was all one tree, but it was enormous. The entire tree doesn't fit in the photo.
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    We went first to Plaza Intendente Alvear where they had an arts and handicraft market going on. It was fun to walk through and see what they were selling. I purchased a couple of gifts. The church of Inglesia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar was visible from this plaza along with some of the tents for the fair.
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    Then we continued on to the Palermo neighborhood. It was a long walk, but along the way we saw quite a few sights.
    We walked past the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Anish Kapoor sculpture of a flower which is supposed to open in the daylight and close at night. Apparently it sometimes doesn't close!
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    We ended our walk at Plaza Italia in Palermo and had a horse drawn carriage ride past the zoo and botanical gardens.
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    This guy was really crazy. He was cutting off cars with the horse and carriage and I was scared to death. There were at least 6 lanes of traffic on each side of the road, and this guy made a U turn, cutting people off at will. Here are some views from the ride.
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    There are guys on horseback in nearly every square and park.
    We took a taxi back to our hotel and found that the hotel had sent us a bottle of sparkling wine and some fabulous chocolate confections in honor of our anniversary. I cannot say enough good things about this hotel. Nothing is left unattended. Later that night, we walked a couple of blocks to a local restaurant called Fervor and had a wonderful meal.
    In the morning, we took a taxi to the San Telmo area to wander around the flea market that they have every Sunday. There were performers playing guitar and people dancing tango. It was a fun time despite the crowds.
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    That night, we checked out of our fantastic hotel. We left luggage with them for a few days and would return to pick it up prior to our return home.
     
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  14. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    The flight to Iguazu Falls was leaving from the domestic airport which was only about 25 minutes from the hotel. Since we had checked in online and the hotel printed the boarding passes, the long lines for Aerolineas Argentinas were avoided. We had only carry on luggage.

    I had heard horror stories about long delays and such, but my flight left just 30 minutes late, and this was due to an electrical storm. I would prefer to sit that out on the ground. We landed about 20 minutes late and took a remise to the Sheraton Iguazu Resort and Spa. Breakfast is included for everyone. I have no status with Starwood so I expected to have to pay for internet, but this too was included. Here are views of the room. It was clean and comfortable.
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    Here is a view from the hotel lobby. dscn0717i-leveled.jpg
    And a view of local wildlife on the balcony of the hotel. dscn0730lc-leveled.jpg
    Apparently these monkeys are a real nuisance to the hotel. They do bite, so guests are warned to be mindful.
    Here are some views from around the park. I really cannot capture the glory of this place with photos. I took a jet boat tour in the afternoon and got absolutely soaked, but it was a lot of fun.
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    I also saw a caiman in the river. It looks like an alligator, but I wasn't able to get a good photo of it. There were also lots of pretty birds.
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    This is a photo of some coatis. There were lots of them around, but also many signs warning folks that they bite and scratch.
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    The food at the hotel was very, very average, in my opinion. They had a breakfast buffet, but I didn't care for most of the food. There was a good selection of breads and fruits, so I was happy enough with that. For dinner, I had a caesar salad served with eggs. It was actually a welcome change from all the beef in Buenos Aires, but really wasn't very good. The second night I had a burger and fries. Hard to screw that up. In the morning we set out for the airport. The taxi driver showed me photo that he had just taken on his phone of a huge snake that was in the road. I'm really, really happy that I didn't run into it. We again had our boarding passes for the Aerolineas Argentinas flight to Mendoza. This flight had one stop in Salta, but no change of plane.
     
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  15. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    We left right on time and arrived on time in Mendoza. We hired a remise at the airport to take us to the Park Hyatt. Even though we arrived at the Hyatt at 4pm, our room still wasn't ready. We only had to wait 5 minutes though. I gave them my platinum amenity card and requested the food and beverage option. They asked if I wanted sparkling wine and chocolates, or wine with cold cuts and cheese. I chose the wine and cheese and asked them to deliver it the following night. I went up to my room and settled in.

    Front entrance across the street from the park.
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    Restaurant on the patio overlooking the park. shapeimage_4.png
    Lobby shots
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    They provide full size bath amenities at this hotel.
    We then went for a walk around town. The Hyatt is in a very good location, within walking distance of many restaurants and shops. We had a late lunch at Azafram and were astounded by the food and service and also by the price. The cost for a 3 course lunch with a glass of wine was 95 pesos which is about $12 at the current exchange rate. Here are some shots of the restaurant and food. We finished lunch around 7pm.
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    Taste of proscuitto and melon balls to start
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    the salad of tomato, onion, greens and carrots
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    ziti with eggplant, basil, pesto and shaved parmesan
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    dessert of creme brulee, rice pudding and of course, dulce de leche
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  16. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    In the morning, we were picked up by our tour guide. We went with Trout and Wine Tours and I was very happy with both the tour and the guide. We visited 4 wineries and had a fabulous multi-course lunch with wine pairings. The lunch was held at the vineyard overlooking the Andes. It was a magnificent setting. Unfortunately, my camera again had problems and died on me after the second winery. But I got a few shots in the morning. The first stop was Mendel winery. They have old vines here and it is a small operation. I really liked a couple of the wines.
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    One of the caves
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    Getting ready for harvest about 2 weeks away
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    The tasting room
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    The second stop was at ReNacer winery. It was a really beautiful property in a gorgeous setting. The Andes are visible in the background, although they are mixed in with the clouds in the photos. We had the opportunity to taste several wines here as well as mix our own blend.
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    Views of the irrigation ditches
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  17. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    The tour guide explained that Mendoza and the surrounding area are an oasis in the middle of one of the most arid areas on earth. They showed how the vineyards are irrigated. There are canals everywhere, and they direct the water, which all comes from snow melt from the Andes, to different canals on different days. This is true in the city of Mendoza as well. The canals run along every street. The city was surprisingly green and full of trees.
    After touring the ReNacer property, we headed to Ruca Malen for a fabulous 5 course lunch paired with wines. This is a beautiful property overlooking the Andes and the vineyards and was a very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.
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    After lunch, we finished our tour with a visit to the Clos De Chacras Winery. My favorite wines of the day were from the Mendel winery. I bought a few bottles to bring home. It was a very enjoyable day and we returned to the hotel and had a walk around town before relaxing.
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    This the the food and wine amenity. It was very generous.
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    We checked out in the morning and asked the hotel to call a taxi for us. They had printed the boarding passes, so we just went to the gate. The flight left on time and landed at the domestic airport in Buenos Aires at 11:30 am. We took a remise to the Park Hyatt and left our suitcases with them while we went shopping for a few hours at the Patio Bullrich Mall. This is almost directly across the street from the Park Hyatt.
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  18. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    We returned to the Hyatt and collected our bags and had them call a taxi for us to the international airport. We arrived about 3 hours before our flight due to hearing horror stories about this airport, but I found no lines and checked in with LAN for our flight and proceeded to the duty free shop to spend the remainder of our pesos. Then we went to the LAN lounge. I really liked this lounge. It was comfortable, had an abundance of plugs, decent food and beverages and overall, very nice facilities.
    Our flight from Buenos Aires to Lima was uneventful. I had a nice dinner and watched a movie. The business class seats were very comfortable, but I didn't want to sleep since I wanted a restful flight from Lima to JFK. We had about an hour on the ground in Lima and went to the lounge. I wasn't impressed with this space at all. There were lots of screaming children running around, and really, they had no comfortable and quiet place to sit. I was happy that it was only a short stay before boarding. I ordered my breakfast, but skipped my snack and put my seat into the lie flat position and went to sleep. It was a good flight all in all. Upon arrival at JFK we quickly passed through immigration, but had to wait about an hour for our bags to come out. It really didn't matter to me since I had a four hour wait before my final flight to Boston, but I felt bad for people who had tight connections. They announced that they were sorry for the delay. After clearing customs, I rechecked my bag with American and went to the Admirals Club for a few hours before my last flight.
    I was happy to be getting home to Boston. The flight arrived about 20 minutes early. This was really a fabulous, eye opening trip, but I was glad to be home. For now...
     
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  19. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    So, this was my first trip report. I'm sorry if it wasn't the prettiest report, but I'm learning along the way. Hopefully the next one will be in better form.
     
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  20. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Very nice =)

    Was this booked via rtw.oneworld.com? Or via points the OW Explorer
     
  21. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    RTW Oneworld
     
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  22. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    =) awesome I've played around with it, glad to know someone who's actually done it.

    Is the ticket say issued by OW or by AA/etc/etc?
     
  23. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    The ticket was issued by AA.
     
  24. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Did you get AA miles for this? :)
     
  25. suenam

    suenam Silver Member

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    No, I used AA miles for this trip.
     
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