Delta

Work trip to the UK (Leicester)

In my ongoing effort to catch-up to the present day I bring you a quick photo report of my business trip to the UK in Spring 2016. My client has a location in Leicester that was deemed important enough for us to spend a week reviewing procedures so plans were made and tickets booked. In order to sample more products I booked Delta Business Class (ATL-LHR) on the outbound and Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (LHR-ATL) on the return. This was also done so I could visit the Virgin Clubhouse at LHR.

From London, I took a East Midlands train to Leicester the same day of arrival and then 5 days later on the return. Hotel options aren’t great in the city center of Leicester so I booked at the MERCURE LEICESTER THE GRAND and the final night in London was spent at HILTON LONDON METROPOLE. The Mecure property was OK but was definitely starting to show its age. The Hilton Metropole was a pretty standard big-city Hilton property. I wouldn’t go out of my way to stay at either property in the future.

One really cool aspect of the trip was that Leicester City was one week away from claiming the EPL title. The city was alive with team spirit and was quite enjoyable to experience the pride the city felt in the team. To this day, I will support Leicester City when I happen to turn on EPL.

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Delta Business Class seat. Booked last minute so got stuck in a middle section on the older hard product. I know, first world problems.

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View from outside looking in to St Pancras Station in London. This is where the East Midlands train departed to Leicester.

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Brick Lane Market. The London Marathon was going on the day I arrived so a lot of areas were blocked off due to the marathon route. This was a really cool market scene with lots of good street food and great people watching.

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Shot of the Tube in London.

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Another view of St Pancras Station.

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City center of Leicester. Overall, pleasant enough city for a work trip but not much to see for a tourist. In the evenings the city center felt pretty empty.

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Pedestrian road (New Walk) in Leicester. Used this path each day from the client location to the hotel.

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Near the University of Leicester campus. Passed through on the way to lunch one day from the client location. On a slightly unrelated note, the weather was ridiculous. During the span of 1 hour it snowed, rained, and was sunny.

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

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Trip Report: Christmas in Rome and New Year’s in Barcelona – Rome (Day 1)

As mentioned in my introduction post, we were to spend 5 days in Rome with my family for Christmas.  Our plans didn’t exactly work out as expected though.  My wife and I live in Atlanta and were departing directly from there on Lufthansa (connecting in Frankfurt) while my family was flying Delta from Gulfport, MS – Atlanta – Rome.  We had planned to meet up with my family in the Atlanta airport as our time there was going to overlap by several hours, however, their flight was cancelled out of Gulfport due to a “slight” fog.  As there were no other flights out of Gulfport for the day it was up to Delta to find suitable rebooking options for 9 passengers.  Amazingly, they found space on a New Orleans – Atlanta flight and paid for a van to drive them to New Orleans from Gulfport (1.5 hours).  My family did not make their original Atlanta – Rome flight, but did make it onto the late-night departure from Atlanta to London with a further connection on Alitalia to Rome.

As for the flights, we redeemed United Miles for our Lufthansa flights (100,000 per ticket roundtrip in Business).  The Lufthansa flight from ATL is operated by an A340-300 and the flight from Frankfurt to Rome is operated by an A321.  Lufthansa business class was OK for the most part, the seat was infinitely more comfortable than coach but is lagging other more modern business class seats from competitors.  However, the food was pretty solid and the service was fantastic.  All-in-all I felt like we received good value for our miles.

Lufthansa ATL-FRA

Lufthansa ATL-FRA

A little planespotting from the Lufthansa lounge in Frankfurt.  ANA 787.  Sorry for the quality of the picture, it was taken with my iPad.

ANA 787 in Frankfurt

ANA 787 in Frankfurt

My wife and I arrived in Rome on schedule around noon on Sunday, 12/22, while my family did not arrive until nearly 10 PM due to the complications mentioned above.  They were supposed to arrive at 8 AM so ended up losing one day on the ground due to the flight cancellation.

Car Service

Prior to leaving for our trip I had booked a car service from the airport to our hotel based upon the reviews on Tripadvisor, I must say it did not disappoint.  I would highly recommend using www.transfersrome.com for travel to/from the airport in Rome if your hotel is not near public transportation, such as the Rome Cavalieri.  The cost is 50 euros and the driver was standing outside of customs with a sign with our name on it.  Flawless experience.

Hotel

We booked the Rome Cavalieri, a Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, in Rome for 5 nights prior to the HHonors devaluation.  I don’t have the booking confirmation with me but I believe it was 50,000 points per night for a standard King room.

Upon arrival to the hotel a bellman assisted us with our bags and guided us to the check-in desk where we were promptly assisted by the front desk associate.  The associate explained the features of the hotel, our benefits due to my Diamond HHonors status, and provided us a slight upgrade to a “City-view” room.  I must also give credit to the hotel for allowing us to check-in before the standard time.  It was quite nice to be able to get in the room and shower after a long-haul flight.

Overall, the hotel worked well for us since my wife and I had previously been to Rome.  I would not recommend it to first-time visitors due to how far outside of the city center it is (the hotel does offer a complimentary shuttle hourly to Piazza Barberini).

Exterior of Hotel

Exterior of Hotel

Our “Rome View” wasn’t quite as exciting as I had hoped.  We were only given a room on the 3rd floor.

View from Balcony

View from Balcony, Rome is just over those trees!

City view King

City view King

City view King

City view King

Bathroom

Bathroom

Rome

After getting settled into the room and cleaning up, my wife and I headed out to walk around some.  Since we had been in Rome only two years ago for our honeymoon we weren’t that interested in rushing out to see different sites.  We took the hotel shuttle down to the city and began walking from the drop off location in Piazza Barberini.  Nothing too exciting today but we did get a couple of good pictures of Rome decorated for Christmas.

Rome Christmas

Christmas Lights in Rome

Christmas Market

Christmas Market

Stay tuned for Day 2, when my family finally joins us and the madness of travelling with 11 people through Rome begins!

Weekend NYC Trip

I know I haven’t posted anything in a while and I don’t really have a good excuse, I need to work on improving the frequency of the posts. That being said, my wife and I spent last weekend in New York to celebrate our 1-year anniversary. It was a quick but quite enjoyable trip and now I have something to write about!

As both my wife and I have been to NYC a few times each we spent most of the time there just enjoying ourselves with no set schedule.  I love this way of traveling, it provides for such a relaxing time.

The pictures from this trip are not the best but they are serviceable (taken from iPhone) so I will include them with some restaurant and one hotel review below. Enjoy!

Beautiful day in Central Park!

Looking north on 5th Avenue from the front steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (I must recommend going if you haven’t before, rivaled some of the best museums I have seen in Europe)

NYC Public Library

Hotel Review:  New York Hilton Fashion District (W26th Street & 7th Avenue)

Price: $$$$$ (We used HHonors Points)

This is one the of the newer Hilton Properties in NYC so I decided to give it a whirl for our weekend anniversary trip.  The entire hotel has a “hip” vibe from the check-in area to the restaurant (RARE) all the way to the rooftop bar.  It wasn’t exactly “our scene” but nonetheless my wife and I enjoyed the hotel.  The hotel is located in Chelsea and is within easy walking distance to the subway and reasonable walking distance to Greenwich Village.  The rooms were average size for NYC and all features within the room were new and fresh.  I am fairly indifferent as to whether I would choose to stay here again.  There was nothing specifically or even generally wrong with the room or the hotel at all but nothing really connected with me, or my wife, as I think they have a different target audience.

Restaurant Review: Dell’Anima (Italian)

Price: $$$

We used Yelp to research restaurants and chose this restaurant based upon the great reviews and proximity to our hotel.  After finding the restaurant we wanted, we used Opentable to book reservations for our Saturday night anniversary dinner.  We arrived a little early for the reservation and chose to have a glass of wine prior being seated.  There is a small bar right at the entrance of the restaurant with a very good wine/beer selection.

After finishing our drink we were seated in a corner table for two and helped immediately.  I can’t compliment the service enough, it really makes a huge difference when the wait staff appears to actually care about the food/presentation.  We both thoroughly enjoyed our meals.  The restaurant does VERY well with fresh takes on Italian classics.  Overall, I would recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting NYC or to anyone that lives in the city.  The food was fantastic and the atmosphere was great. (The price was average for NYC, but expensive to me!)

Restaurant Review: Cookshop (Meatpacking District)

Price: $$

Again, we used Yelp and Opentable to find and book this restaurant for brunch.  We were not let down this time either!  This was one of the best brunches (not even sure that is a word but I am going to use it anyways since this is my post) I have ever had and would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone in the NYC area on a Sunday morning.  The restaurant has a nice outdoor patio and very open inside and the wait staff were very attentive for how busy it was.  (As a side note – Make Reservations for Brunch.  We were able to skip past a 45-minute wait when we arrived.  Also, order the fried egg breakfast sandwich – you can thank me later)

Hope you enjoyed my first official trip review!  I expect to improve with each one.  The next big trip we have planned is for Ireland this fall but in the meantime I am sure we will have a couple more weekend trips.

Travel Photos – San Francisco, California

I am switching it up this time and going with photos from the most recent (domestic) trip my wife and I took.  We went to San Francisco over New Year’s and really enjoyed spending some relaxing time in the city while burning some Hilton points.  We lucked out getting 2 of 3 perfectly clear sunny days with highs in the mid-60’s.  Couldn’t have been better!  Enjoy!

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from close to Fisherman’s Wharf (Sight – ***).

View of Alcatraz from near Lombard St.

View of Colt Tower (Colt Tower – ** – just for the views) from near Lombard St.

My wife and I in front of Lombard St. (Apparently we took a bunch of pictures up there) (Lombard St. – **)

This picture is looking towards downtown from Columbus Ave. (Notice the Hilton Financial District Hotel peaking over the tops of some buildings on the right-hand side.  I will give a brief review below)

To complete the pictures portion of this post I had to throw in the requisite picture of Chinatown.  It is very touristy but still fun to walk through. (Chinatown – ****)

I do want to give a brief review of the hotel we stayed in during our trip to San Francisco.  We were there over New Year’s Eve and the prices to pay for rooms out-of-pocket were pretty prohibitive so I decided to use some Hilton Honors points to book us a room.  I searched and there are three options for Hilton’s in the city: Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square and Financial District.  The Union Square and Financial District hotels are pretty close together and I liked the fact that they were in less “touristy” sections of the city so the choice was down to those two.  I selected the Financial District Hilton based upon the reviews on tripadvisor.com, which were extremely helpful.  I think the hotel was redeemed for approximately 40,000 Hilton Honors points per night which isn’t the greatest deal in the world, but isn’t awful for the what the rooms were selling for over New Year’s.  (Price Rating – $$$$$)

The hotel itself was updated, clean and had a newer feel to it even though from the outside you could tell it was older.  Hilton has done a superb job of keeping this hotel in good and updated condition.  The check-in was efficient, even arriving when we did at 1 AM, with the staff welcoming me as a Diamond Member and explaining the Executive Lounge.  The room itself was clean but had an odor of stale cigarettes that we could not get rid of. Other than the smell, we had no complains with the condition of the room/bathroom.

Overall, I would recommend this hotel to someone traveling for leisure or business as it has a fairly convenient location (Very close to Chinatown) and the rooms are what you come to expect from Hilton.

Hope you enjoyed this post!  Since I am traveling this week I might be able to press out one more so do look forward to that!