Truth be known, I am beginning to dislike ALL airports. I have spent too much of my life, both for business and pleasure in good and bad airports around the world. For every Changi Airport in Singapore, there is a dump in Katmandu. And it seems the dumps leave a lasting impression!
Out of 30 ranked midsized airports, here are WSJ’s top 5:
1.) Sacramento International Airport (SMF) I have not been there for about 10 years.
2.) San Diego International (SAN) Always easy to get in and get out quickly. Food needs to improve.
3.) Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) Big improvements over the years. But named for my friend, Norm Mineta.
4.) San Antonio International Airport (SAT) I do not remember much about it.
5.) Portland International Airport (PDX) One of the more interesting airports in the US. Good food and shopping!
We also have Honolulu at #6, Maui at #13, Oakland at #10, Nawlins at #23. Generally, mid-sized airports are faster and easier to navigate. Yet, they offer some of the same perks as larger airports: Airline lounges, bars, restaurants, and sometimes entertainment.
Nawlins is always fun since the food is good, and it seems to have captured a bit of “Bourbon Street” magic. I do not care for any of the airports in Hawaii. Oakland was my home airport for almost 50 years, and nothing can improve its rather boring and sterile atmosphere. My first trip to Europe left from Oakland, a charter that cost $99 one way. Never again!
Without any facts to back me up, I am guessing I have spent as much time in airports as I have in the air. Thank goodness for airline lounges and bars.
Why doesn’t someone write about the best airport bars? Because the best one is the one you are sitting in right now!
For those of you who live outside of the United States, this is the biggest shopping day of the year. It somehow took on a life of its own.
Black Friday in the United States is the day after Thanksgiving, which is always a Thursday. It has always been the traditional beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Recently coined as such in 1966, Black Friday is often called the busiest day of retail sales in the entire year for most retailers. According to Reuters, over 135 million people participate in Black Friday in some capacity. Usage of the term was unceremoniously borne of the East Coast, rather than the Left Coast.
For those of you outside of the United States, Black Friday is NOT an official holiday, but might as well be. Many workers have this day off, as part of a four day Thanksgiving weekend. Those who do not have the day off either call in sick or trade their shift to a less senior staff member. When the normal time to open for business is 9 or 10am, Black Friday has stores opening at 5am, for an “early bird gets the worm” head start on its competitors. This usually takes the form of a limited number of loss leaders. Let’s say, ten iPods for sale at 5am for $25, or ten 56 inch flat screen TVs for $200. You get the idea. It tricks people into the stores early. When the object of their desire is gone, they buy something, many things since they are up at 5am anyway. It is NOT rocket science.
The term Black Friday may have started in Philadelphia, where it described the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic. But now merchants and the media have taken hold of it, and even glorified it. As far as it being the busiest day, it is a creation of the media. Typically, the busiest day is the last Saturday before Christmas, unless Christmas Day falls on Sunday. But electronics and toys are the most popular items of the day.
Originally, September, 24, 1869 was called Black Friday since it was the day of the first stock market catastrophe. Black Friday may also be linked to various Santa Claus parades across the country. In New Mexico, Black Friday is a state holiday called President’s Day, rather than the third Monday in February. This day has even extended its reach to the Internet with the online retail equivalent to Black Friday, now gloriously called Cyber Black Friday. Last year, $595 million was spent this day for online shopping sprees.
But unfortunately, Thanksgiving Day is becoming more important for cyber shopping, and has even adopted the term, Cyber Thanksgiving. It has become the lead in to subvert the early morning Black Friday shoppers. And of course, Cyber Monday refers to the day after the four day weekend, to reach those who were unable to shop over the traditional four day extravaganza.
I have NEVER participated in this event, mostly since I was working, or out of town on vacation. I may just try to observe the craziness, just to say I have seen it. Or maybe, I will just sit back, and try the Cyber version, avoid the traffic, and enjoy the day after Thanksgiving as a day of rest. What do you think?
And I repeat, I have never participated in Black Friday!!!
On my last evening in Munich, during my trip this month, I decided to have an early dinner, and early to bed. I had a 4am Uber pickup from my hotel for a 6am flight to Lisboa. I knew I need a good night’s rest, still suffering from travel fatigue and jetlag.
My nice, but rather strange hotel receptionist suggested the Munchner Stubn for a nice, traditional German dinner. So, expecting some sauerbraten and a beer, I headed about two blocks down the street.
The joint is busy, but not crazy, yet. I was seated at a picnic-sized table with two other guys flying solo. I ordered, though disappointed they had no sauerbraten. But I ordered another of my favorites, the pork knuckle, and a lager (Oktoberfest style).
As I enjoy my meal, I ask the guy next to me, obviously another American, where I might find a sports bar with an NFL game. He seemed to know about a few “American” sports bars and decided we might head over there later. All of a sudden, the guy across from me, who I thought was a local, turns out to be another American and a football fan (Cowboys). So, I do the normal thing, and buy both of them a beer.
The guy across from us decides to leave, leaving me with Todd, from Ohio, a big Ohio State football fan, and an engineer on a business trip. We decide to start with some shots of some German liqueur, followed by a tall glass of beer. We also decided Todd needed to try the famous German pretzel with cheese dip.
Unknown to us, two “locals” are seated at the end of our table. Todd starts talking to them, offers them some shots, and the party begins. It turns out one is a former German jazz singer, and her niece is a mucky muck with the Four Seasons Hotels. The niece is traveling throughout Europe, staying at various Four Seasons hotels, and enjoying the good life, while working remotely! The Aunt lives in Frankfurt, where they are headed next.
Now, the shots and beer really start to flow. They buy a round, Todd buys a round, repeat, repeat!! I lost count. By now, I have forgotten about an early dinner, and early to bed. I can barely stagger to the water closet. And I did not realize each combination of shot and beer was about 20 Euros, so about 80 Euros a round for four of us!
After talking about music, the greats of jazz, of course, the subject turns to the Four Seasons. I ask if she can get a “Friends and Family” discount at their 5-star locations. Of course!!! In fact, I am eventually landing in Istanbul, where the Four Seasons was a former prison. I want to stay there!!!
Meanwhile, Todd and the younger of the “local” pair get quite chummy. I get the feeling it is time to leave, but I am not sure I can walk two blocks to my hotel!! The Stubn is closing and making their “last call” around midnight.
Just then, I had a sobering moment. As I stumbled to the water closet for the last time, I saw a huge TV monitor on the wall in the hallway to the water closet. It was the airline departures for the Munich airport, with my 6am flight listed near the top!!!
I have no idea who paid the bill, or how much we spent. The two ladies walked me halfway to my hotel, and I staggered the remaining portion myself. As for Todd, he seems to have disappeared after paying the bill. I have no idea what he paid!
Since I could not sleep, and it was already 1am, I decided to stay awake until 3am ( my alarm was set for 3am). In other words, I pulled an “all nighter” just to get to the airport at 430am!!!
But I did fall asleep several times on my way to the airport. But the flights to Porto were the longest, and most uncomfortable flights I have taken in many years. I wonder why?
On the spot, I re-established Rule No. 1 when traveling solo: No more all-nighters in the bar before an early flight the following morning!!!!
For 2022, the world is a much different place now. We have a war between Russia and the Ukraine, record-setting inflation, greater awareness of climate change, and contentious politics here at home. Thanksgiving this year, in my opinion, gives us a chance to be thankful for our wonderful lives, free of war mostly, and now, post Covid (I hope), a bit more normalcy in the world.
A Thanksgiving meal is going to cost much more this year. The cost has increased 26%, from $52.59 to $66.39. Since most of our holiday meals will last for several days, the cost per meal becomes a bit more realistic. I enjoy leftover turkey, as well as some of the dishes listed below.
My two favorites, beside another dinner, are turkey curry soup with vegetables, and turkey enchilada casserole. Very simple.
And my favorite bubbly with my Thanksgiving dinner is the Domaine Carneros brut rose’. You can also try a lighter, fruitier white wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc or medium dry Riesling. I look forward to pumpkin pie. The perfect wine with the pie? An Italian passito, of course.
Keep it simple, and family oriented this year. Be thankful we don’t live in the Ukraine, or southern Pakistan (terrible floods due to climate change).
Let’s hope 2023 is a better year for all of us!
One leftover idea for 2022: Shakshuka turkey??
From 2021: Let’s start the leftover parade with a poem.
“And already still November Drapes her snowy table here. Fetch a log, then; coax the ember; Fill your hearts with old-time cheer; Heaven be thanked for one more year, And our Thanksgiving turkey!”
This year’s leftovers will be quite different, nothing traditional. Let’s see how creative the world has become. I apologize for
any repeat offenders.
Kabocha pumpkin turkey pasta
Ginger three flavor turkey salad
Turkey cran enchiladas
Taco Bell turkey taco
Turk Fil A Sandwich
Turkey loaf taco
Tater tot turkey sandwich
Turkey Lurkey (did I stump you?)
Turkey Monte Cristo
Turkey orzo soup
Turkey crunch wrap
Turkey hangover hash
Kung pao turkey
Turkey thyme risotto
Turkey alfredo pizza
Turkey and pasta ranch salad
These days, it’s hard to go even an hour without hearing about supply chain issues, both in the United States and abroad. With shortages on everything from beauty products to toilet paper (again) to food, consumers are going to have to plan early and most likely spend more this holiday season. The Farm Bureau estimates that Thanksgiving 2021 will cost $46.90 for a group of 10. Under $50 to feed ten people sounds reasonable to me.
Latest update: The price of a 15-pound turkey has surged from $11 in 2018 to nearly $21. That’s the highest in decades, after a 25% jump in just the past year. And just about anything else you might need to make that dinner complete is probably costlier, as well, with eggs up nearly 30% in a year and sugar up 12%. The average price for a turkey, across the country is $1.07 per pound. Relax. I would worry more about shortages of canned goods like cranberry and pumpkin, and frozen foods like string beans and ice cream.
But I am certain you can find some decent wines under $20!! I will have my Domaine Carneros brut rose’, and perhaps finish my dinner with a shot of mastika (from my friends in Athens, Greece).
If you have trouble finding a turkey, let me know. I would be happy to help you find one. Same for the wine.
Just remember, I love leftover turkey, both for sandwiches, and using the carcass for soup.
Well, for one thing, I get a free layover of about 18 hours, between my connection from Munich to my flight home from Istanbul to SFO. So, why not take advantage of this layover, spend the night in a decent hotel, instead of spending the night in the airline business class lounge?
I was just here in May, 2019, just before the pandemic hit in early 2020. I spent about a week here, with a local guide. He was a friend of a friend, of Mr. Mike. And he was excellent. I was able to hit all of the highpoints of Istanbul, as well as take the harbor cruise throughout the Bosporus.
But the real reason for returning is simply for the Turkish Delight. I brought back a kilo last time, thinking it was too much. It was not. We enjoyed it immensely.
What is the origin of Turkish Delight or lokum? It is claimed that the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Abdulhamet I, craved a softer candy than what was available at the palace. So, naturally, he summoned his royal confectioners and demanded a soft candy to satisfy his sweet tooth. Turkish Delight was born, though many versions now exist.
Another theory is that an independent confectioner named Haci Bekir Efendi invented lokum around the same time in the 18th century. His candy store became quite famous in Istanbul, Sultanahmet II made him Head Confectioner to the Ottoman Court. Later, after refined sugar and cornstarch were invented, Effendi changed his original recipe. Cornstarch is the binding agent that gives lokum its distinctive chewiness.
Fast forward a bit, and soon unsalted nuts, like pistachios and various flavorings were added. The above photo shows some of the many flavors and combinations available. I like the one with the white nougat encircling the nuts.
Now the trick will be for me to find the exact vendor I bought my Turkish Delight from in 2019. The store is located in the Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s largest markets. And the Grand Bazaar was one of my favorite places in Istanbul. I think I left some breadcrumbs, just like Hansel and Gretel. Wish me luck!
Please realize that I also enjoyed much of Istanbul, particularly the lamb and fish dishes. I visited all the famous landmarks. The most difficult adjustment is the eerie call to prayer, heard throughout the day and evening, everywhere in the city. And I do mean everywhere.
For this short visit, I will focus on the Grand Bazaar, and a fabulous meal.
Can you believe Istanbul has 3,113 mosques? After all, 88% of the population is Muslim. And Istanbul has never hosted the Olympics. During the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul had over 1,400 toilets! Only 15.1 million people live here. There are 237 hamams, but only 60 still in use today.
Tulips are from Turkey, not the Netherlands. The first bulb was sent from the Ottoman Empire to Vienna in 1554. Later, it was redistributed to the Netherlands. The Dutch loved them so much, they grew tulips everywhere!
Agatha Christie wrote one of her most famous novels here, Murder on the Orient Express” at the Pera Palace Hotel in 1933. The Orient Express traveled between Paris and Constantinople from 1883 to 1977. Likewise, the city was an inspiration for writers like Hemingway, Paul Theroux, and Orhan Pamuk.
People here do not seem to be overly concerned about their President Erdogan but were quite worried when we had The Naranjado for Prez.
Everyone thinks Istanbul is the capital, but it is Ankara.
Having been here once before, I can tell you that Portugal is a very underrated place to visit. The weather is great, the food is both hearty and interesting, the wines are inventive, and the people are friendly. Portugal is pricier than a super cheap getaway to the Southern United States, but compared to the rest of Europe, it’s very economical, which is one reason why so many Americans are retiring here. With the dollar about even to the euro, you can expect to pay around $75 for a mid-range hotel and $20 for a three-course meal with drinks. That’s quite a bargain for some of the world’s best cuisine.
One fact I did not know: Portugal has the oldest (1139) borders in Europe. Portugal is situated at the south-west point of Europe and also includes the Madeira and Azores archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean. Mainland Portugal occupies an area of 88,889 km2. It is 218 km wide and 561 km long. It has 832 km of Atlantic coast and a 1,215 km border with Spain.
Portuguese cuisine evolved from hearty peasant food drawn from the land and abundant seafood found in the country’s lengthy coast with the cows, pigs and goats raised on the limited grazing land of its interior. From these humble origins, spices and condiments brought back to the country during the exploration and colonization of South America, Africa, the East Indies and the Far East, contributed to the development of what become regarded as ‘typical’ Portuguese cuisine which inherently, also helped shape the cuisine in the regions under Portuguese influence, from Brazil and Cape Verde to Thailand and Japan. Today, traditional Portuguese cuisine is served alongside the latest trendy and fusion cuisine styles. Several establishments have been awarded Michelin stars.
Native Portuguese are an Iberian ethnic group and they form 95% of the whole population, whose ancestry is very similar to Spaniards and have strong ties with fellow Atlantic Arc countries like Ireland, British Isles, France and Belgium due to maritime trade dated as far back as the Bronze Age. These maritime contacts and the prevalence of R1b haplogroup as the main genetical marker of these countries suggest a common ancestry and cultural proximity. Other maritime contacts with the Mediterranean especially with Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans and Moors added some phenotypes in southern Portugal and particularly southern Spain (the Tartessos culture), making Portugal and north-western Spain a bridge between north-western Europe and the Mediterranean but maintaining the Atlantic character.
Some famous people from Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, Henry the Navigator, Jose Saramago, Salvador Sobral, Luis Figo, Eusebio, Fernando Pessoa, Daniela Rush, Paula Rego, Nelly Furtado, Mariza, Antonio Guterres (Secretary General of the U.N.), Rosa Mota, and Antonio Salazar. And now my dear friend, Sian.
Livaria Bertrands holds the Guinness world record for the oldest bookstore still in operation, having been founded in 1732.
There are over 250 million Portuguese speakers around the world. Only 5% of Portuguese speakers like in Portugal.
Portugal is home to the world’s largest cork forest. Portugal is the largest cork producer in the world and produces 50% of the world’s cork supply.
Cabo do Roca is the westernmost point in all of Europe, located at the western end of the Sintra mountains on the Atlantic Ocean.
The most famous dessert in Portugal: But it’s not just any old custard tart; this is the famous Pastéis de nata. These were created by many Catholic monks sometime before the 18th century. At the monastery, they used egg whites for starch (laundry and all that), but what to do with the egg yolks? Bake them, of course! Thus, the tastiest custard tart in the world was born. You can enjoy it everywhere, from Brazil to Japan, but Portugal is the best place for it.
Tempura is Portuguese! That most Japanese of delicately fried goodness originates in Portugal. On their adventures around the world, the Portuguese came across Japan in the 16th century. Before Japan decided to close its doors to trade, Portugal offloaded several gastronomic goodies onto the island nation – tempura being just one of them. The custard tart just mentioned, castella cake, and even bread are loved by Japanese people today. This is definitely one of our favorite facts about Portugal (how couldn’t it be?).
Britain might have been the most publicized and famous slavery abolishment in 1833, but Portugal did it far sooner. In 1819, Portugal, which admittedly (like Britain) played a big part inthe slave trade, then abolished it. It makes the British Empire look more and more like copycats compared to progressive Portugal.
Dating back to the 1820s, Fado sprung up in Lisbon’s bars, cafes, and restaurants and became an instant hit. Fado comes from the Latin fatum,which literally means “fate” but can also mean “death.” As you might expect, the music is loud and mournful but ultimately zapped with unmatched power and energy all of its own. This brings us to… Believing in their fate, whether it’s good or bad, is part of Portuguese culture. That’s what Fado is all about. Another good example is the amazing word “saudade.” This is one of those allegedly “untranslatable” words that mean an intense and sorrowful longing or nostalgia over someone – or something – that you miss and can’t get back. Missingness, maybe?
All that water around Portugal means a lot of fishing grounds. There are a lot of coastlines for fishermen to use as their base and waters for the fisherman to access. This adds up to Portuguese people eating a lot of fish. No, Portugal is the third-highest consumer of fish on the planet. That’s after Iceland and Japan.
I am certain this is more than you ever wanted to know about Portugal. But I assure you, this country should be on your water pail list of places to visit and experience.Sidebar: I was invited to Portugal, specifically the beach town about 20 minutes west of Lisboa, called Cascais. But my friend’s home is not ready for occupancy due to a series of problems related to escrow.
My last visit to Lisboa, or Lisbon was right after 9-11. I spent most of my time in Portugal playing golf on the Algarve, and just a few nights is Lisboa. I hope to learn more about this very underrated city and country during my visit. One thing I learned on my first trip: Do not try to use Spanish, in hopes that the Portuguese will understand. English works better!
Lisboa is the capital with just over half a million residents, though the city seems much bigger to me. In fact, the metro area is closer to 3 million people. Lisboa’s urban area is the largest in the EU and continues to grow each year. Yet Lisboa only gets about 140,000 tourists annually. The city boasts 290 days of sunshine annually! Seafood is a big deal here, and I intend to enjoy as much as I can, along with some of the traditional treats.
I will spare you the history of Lisboa and move directly to what interests me. I never had time to take the “hop on, hop off” bus on my previous trip, so that might be my first option upon arrival. The Baixa area where I am staying is ideal for street exploring. The old city, Alfama is adjacent and easy to reach. Alfama is also home to the famous fado music. Belem, the traditional port area, is in the suburbs and just a 15-minute ride of the streetcar.
The Vasco da Gama (remember him from your history lessons?) Bridge over the Tagus River is one of the longest in Europe at 17.2 km. Though it took about three years to build, it was completed in time to celebrate 500th anniversary of da Gama’s trip from Europe to India. Speaking of which, the Lisboa Geographical Society is a great place to start. The museum is full of artifacts from every country in Portugal’s former colonial empire, from Mozambique to Macau.
Quite soon on this trip, I need to find the famous Time Out Market, with forty spaces across several food categories. The food has been tested and approved by an independent panel of city culinary experts. As you know, I love the local, and rather colorful markets.
The most famous tram route, and the one everyone, at least tourists, take to see the interesting parts of the city is No. 28. It passes through each of the popular tourist districts of Alfama, Baixa, Estrela, and Graca. You may have seen photos of the famous old yellow trams, built in the 1930s. I would compare it quite favorably to San Francisco’s cable cars. The fare is only 3 Euros.
Since I decided to use Munich as my “base” for this trip, I decided to spend two nights here. Needless to say, I have always enjoyed my trips here, beginning in 1971 for my first Oktoberfest, and a few more times in the last decade. First, a bit of history.
Munich was founded in 1158 and in 1175 the small city, with Marienplatz at the center, was fortified with protective walls. By 1330, Munich had outgrown the fortifications. The walls were expanded, and eight city gates were built, three of which still stand today. Munich was further strengthened in the early 1600s, but by the 18th century, the walls were seen as useless and destroyed. The main sights of Munich remain in a centralized area that was once confined by those city walls. Historic churches, squares and lanes, beautiful buildings and Munich beer gardens are all within the Old City center. Throughout history, both fire and war destroyed many of Munich’s buildings so that today there is a mix of style and more than a few replicas.
But Munich is about food and beer, in my way of thinking. I am thinking German brews, currywurst, and kebabs. Maybe some sauerbraten too.
I wonder if my old Oktoberfest friends are still around?
Munich does boast some famous people, either born here, or otherwise. Seven Nobel winners I have never heard of. But Albert Einstein grew up here. A few others: Thomas Mann, Wassily Kandinsky, Georg Ohm, Frank Shorter, Richard Strauss, and Briana Banks.
Back in 1839, Munich scientists Carl August von Steinheil and Franz von Kobell used a tubular cardboard ‘camera’ and chlorine silver paper to capture what would later be known as the first ‘photographs’ ever taken in Germany. Among them (and considered by many to be THE first photo ever taken in the country) was a snapshot of the famous onion domed Frauenkirche, one of Munich’s most famous symbols.
But to me, Munich is about beer, food, the Oktoberfest, and heavy Bavarian culture. It was my first experience using what little German I spoke. We had friends in Wiesbaden who showed us around, including harrowing car trips on the famous Autobahn. For the uninitiated, there is no speed limit on the Autobahn. As a result, the accidents are quite horrific.
Having traveled a bit during the pandemic, the highly touted United Polaris Lounge has not been available in Chicago, Europe, or SFO. But now, post pandemic, the Polaris Lounges are open for business. I plan to use the one at SFO, though I am flying on Turkish Airlines.
From James Dozer at Travel Codex: THE UNITED POLARIS LOUNGE IS THE BEST BUSINESS CLASS LOUNGE IN THE ENTIRE STAR ALLIANCE NETWORK. My favorite lounge used to be the Star Alliance Lounge at LAX but this Polaris Lounge blows everything else out of the water. The lounge is spacious, beautifully decorated and offers passengers a host of wonderful pre-flight amenities.
The United Polaris Lounge San Francisco is located in the G concourse of the international terminal (closest to gate G92) and is only open to Star Alliance premium cabin passengers. Additionally, passengers must be traveling on a long-haul international flight. Flights to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean do not qualify for access. Star Alliance Gold members traveling in economy class will also be denied access. Those who do not qualify for access will be directed to the United Club nearby.
The two-story, United Polaris Lounge San Francisco is massive, 28,210 square feet to be exact, with great spaces for passengers to rest, relax and recharge before flight. If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, the first floor of the lounge was designed for you. Here, you’ll find a spacious seating area with a variety of seating options from plush leather armchairs to these sleek new Polaris Signature Lounge seats.
The day rooms feature a semi-private space with a lounge chair, bedding provided by Saks Fifth Avenue and other amenities such as eye masks, slippers and sound machines to drown out the ambient noise. The best part of this service is the warm blanket. When you are checked-in for your day room, the attendant will escort you to your room and present you with a warm blanket, which will feel really nice as the room is kept a little on the cool side.
If you need to freshen up, you can reserve a shower room from the attendant. The shower suites are clean and modern with rainfall showerheads and feature Cowshed bath and beauty products, Saks Fifth Avenue towels and a clothes-pressing service.
Then there’s another seating and dining area, followed by the self-serve buffet bar. Here, you’ll find a variety of hot and cold items such as chicken, pasta, salads and desserts; and to celebrate their San Francisco heritage, a make-your-own noodle bar.
But why eat from a buffet when there’s a private dining room with waiter service and an a la carte menu? If you have a little bit of time, I would definitely recommend eating here. The menu is limited but everything served was delicious. Trust me, I tried almost everything (for research, of course).
The United Polaris Lounge San Francisco is an incredible lounge. With its massive footprint, thoughtfully designed spaces, wonderful amenities and a fantastic a la carte menu, the United Polaris Lounge will set a high bar for others to compete with. I was completely blown away by this lounge and I can’t wait for my next visit. Good job, United!
Until now, the best biz lounge I have previously encountered was in Hong Kong at the Singapore Airlines lounge. We had the place to ourselves most of the day. We dined on fresh sushi, noodles, and several hot items. I showered and shaved and could have ordered a massage. The drinks were free, including alcohol. And it was so quiet, I took several naps.
Most lounges, such as United, Hawaiian, American, Alaska and Delta are quite sterile and simple. Why is it the lounges in foreign countries are so much better? My JAL lounge in Tokyo had a beer tap at my seat, along with a sushi chef nearby, and a noodle bar. The Air New Zealand bar had a complete hot meal, with cherries jubilee for dessert.
Regardless of how you travel, I would strongly suggest having access to a lounge, when you have either a long layover, or just need a quiet space to recharge. It certainly helps me.
When planning multi-stop tours, the most important thing is to allocate enough time to fully experience each destination. This can vary by city, but at an absolute minimum, you should plan for two full dawn-to-dusk days in major capitals—ideally more. Travelers benefit from time to shed the underlying anxiety of intercity travel and fully immerse themselves in their temporary provenance.
I once heard of some travelers who took a day trip to London from Paris just because they wanted to see the city. They spent five hours traveling between them and only a few hours on a bus tour of one of the world’s most fascinating cities. They could certainly say they had “seen” London, but it is debatable whether they actually experienced it.
When I make several stops, other than to change planes, I try to use the “two day” rule. I arrive, spend two nights in a hotel, then leave for the next destination. Of course, I spend more time when one of the cities is Athens.
But on my last trip to Europe, I used the following itinerary: Frankfurt (1 day), Athens (3), Belgrade (2), Croatia (10), Paris (3), Frankfurt (1). My upcoming trip will go as follows, at least for now: Munich (2 days), Lisboa (2), Porto (2), Slovenia/Albania (4), Munich (1), Istanbul (1).
Hint #2 Pack Light
Travelers can pack lighter by selecting lightweight, durable clothes that can easily be washed in a hotel sink. Unless you’re going to fashion week, nobody is going to care about your sartorial choices, so you don’t need a variety of coordinated outfits with matching shoes. You’ll be grateful you didn’t take the big suitcase when you find the hotel elevator only has enough room for yourself and a small bag.
Packing light is also a good reason to watch stay lengths. Scheduling two consecutive nights at the same hotel also helps travelers pack lighter–hotel laundry service typically takes a full business day.
The challenge on this trip is packing for both warmer (southern Europe), and colder (mid or northern Europe), with the warmer part first. It would be smarter to start in the old countries, shed clothing (donate), and end up in warm weather.
Hint #3 Plan Transportation First
It is much easier to arrange flights and rail first, then add in the accommodations. And you know I love to use public transportation.
Hint #4 Don’t Over Plan
This is a vacation, after all. I try to plan at most, two big events each day. This could be a Hop On Hop Off bus, museum, bike ride, local market or wine tasting. Anything more is just crazy, believe me, I have tried!!! Schedule some pool or beach time, even a nap, spa, or long coffee break.
Hint #5 Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers
Of all of my advice, this ranks up there at the top. Meeting other travelers, locals, and total strangers is high on my list. It is the best way to learn about the local culture, where to eat, what to visit, and what to avoid. A few times, this has resulted in lifelong friends, like Barry the V from Cape Town, Jason and Chun from Penang, Dirty Pat at the Super Bowl, Katy from the UK (but a real digital nomad), and my adopted Greek brothers (Stavros, Giorgos and Vasilis) in Athens.
So, I now expect each of you who have never taken a solo trip, to do so at your earliest possible time. You will never regret it. You will learn more about yourself than taking Philosophy 101 or reading Ann Landers!