Hilton

Trip Report: Christmas in Rome and New Year’s in Barcelona (Day 2)

After our first day in Rome by ourselves, my wife and I were looking forward to joining up with my family for several days. However, we were unsure if they had even arrived in Rome until after we ate breakfast at the hotel due to communication issues (As mentioned in the prior post my family had several flight issues and did not arrive in Rome until nearly midnight when they were supposed to arrive at 7:45 AM).

I do need to mention the breakfast at the Rome Cavalieri.  It was the most outstanding breakfast buffet I have ever been to.  The variety and quality were off the charts.  Unfortunately, I believe this has gone away as a benefit for Diamond members as of 1/1/14. We were lucky to be some of the last ones to get it 🙂  (I do not have pictures from breakfast because I still have not conquered my fear of  taking pictures in settings like that)

After breakfast, my wife and I hopped in a taxi to meet my family at their hotel (Hotel Lirico)(Approximately 20 Euro).  We had to take a taxi as the hotel shuttle leaves the hotel hourly and it was approaching 9:30,  we didn’t want to spend an additional 30 minutes waiting. Plus my mother likes everyone to be “On Schedule” so I didn’t want to rock the boat the first day.

Upon meeting up with my family we made our way on foot towards the Vatican.  Some pictures from the walk:

Rome
Brother and Family

Brother and Family

For some reason or another I do not have a good picture of my sister and her kids. Sorry!

Roman Ruins

Roman Ruins

Wife and me

Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo

Since this was most of my families first trip to Rome (with the exception of my mother) I was very excited to see their reactions upon the first view of St. Peter’s.  I have been to Rome 4 times now and each time you see St. Peter’s it is still amazing.  It is bigger than real life.  Here is the view after turning the final corner.

St. Peter's

St. Peter’s

Upon getting to the Vatican we toured the Vatican Museum which is always pretty cool and then took the side entrance from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica.  During my previous visits to the Vatican Museum I have not hired the services of a tour guide.  This time we did as the line to get into the Basilica was quite long and time was precious.  It was 35 Euro per person, including entrance fees, but in the end it was worth it as it provided a lot of depth to the items viewed during the museum tour and it saved some time.  For example, on each of my previous visits I had skipped past the tapestries gallery in the museum, turned out to be pretty interesting.  Would I recommend a tour guide?  Honestly, I am not sure, I think it comes down to time/value proposition that is unique for each person.  Here are some pictures from inside St. Peter’s:

St. Peter's

St. Peter’s

Wanted to include one full group shot, perfect picture showing the difficulty in getting 11 people to do anything at once!

St. Peter's (Family)

St. Peter’s (Family)

The Pieta by Michelangelo

The Pieta by Michelangelo

St. Peter's

St. Peter’s

Christmas Tree in St. Peter's Square

Christmas Tree in St. Peter’s Square

After touring the Vatican we headed on foot towards Piazza Navona to have a late lunch.  Even though it is super touristy and expensive the atmosphere was hard to pass up so we ate right on the square.  Honestly, I think we were all hungry enough to not even notice whether the food was good or lot.  Although, I think the food was pretty solid.  Group picture from lunch (not sure if you can see in the picture that my sister and niece ordered Pina Colada’s…….in Rome):

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

After dinner we meandered on foot back towards their hotel passing by the Pantheon and Spanish Steps on the way.  Some pictures from the walk back:

Pantheon

Pantheon

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

After the Spanish Steps my wife and I walked most of the way back to my families hotel with them as it was in the same general direction we were headed.  We were able to catch the 8 PM shuttle returning back to the Rome Cavalieri from Piazza Barberini and promptly crashed upon returning to the room.

Stay tuned for Day 3: The Forum and Coliseum.

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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!

Blog Update – July 2013

So, it has been a disgracefully long time since my last post.  Close to 6 months.  It was the result of a combination of factors and the most significant of those is that my wife and I relocated to Atlanta, GA this spring.  Selling our old house and setting up shop in a new city presented a lot of time-consuming activities, plus I started a new job which has kept me quite busy for the past several months.

That being said, I am making a commitment to begin posting more updates to the blog and will begin with this post detailing some of the upcoming travels we have booked through the end of 2013.  In addition to those specified below, I am going to try and put out a few more in my travel photos series.

July: Starwood status challenge results

August: Hotel Review: Westin Birmingham

September: No travel plans as of yet but I may try and get my wife to do a guest-posting review of the hotel she is staying at in Miami.

October: The Saint Hotel, Autograph Collection from Marriott in New Orleans, LA.  The Roosevelt, Waldorf-Astoria in New Orleans, LA

November: No travel plans as of yet.

December: Trip report from Green Bay, WI for Packers vs. Falcons game.  Lufthansa Business Class from ATL-FRA-FCO, return from BCN-FRA-ATL.  Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf-Astoria in Rome, Italy. Hilton Diaganol Mar in Barcelona, Spain.  Trip report from the Rome/Barcelona trip.

Trip Report: Ireland – Day 6 & 7: Powerscourt to Dublin

After a wonderful stay at the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt my wife and I departed around 8:30 AM for a quick trip to the Dublin airport to return our rental car.  While the experience of picking up the rental car was painful, our experience dropping it off at the SIXT off-site location was pretty easy. (As a tip there is a gas station about 1 KM past the SIXT drop-off location on the right hand side)  We returned the rental car and within about 10 minutes were back at the terminal catching a taxi into the city to our hotel, the Conrad Dublin.

The taxi ride took about 25 minutes and cost approximately 35 Euro plus a (small) tip to get to the Conrad Dublin.  We arrived at the hotel pretty early (10 AM) but we were allowed to go ahead and check-in since I am a Diamond member and they had already cleaned our room.  Here are a couple of pictures of the room:

Conrad Dublin ($$$$- We used HHonor’s Point for the 2 night stay)

Bathroom

Exterior of Hotel

Once we had thrown our stuff in the room we headed out to explore Dublin!  The city itself is lacking of truly “historical” sites like a London or Rome so we did not set out like we normally do to conquer a number of sites.  We set out with the purpose of relaxing for 2 days while walking around and drinking a pint every now and then.  It worked out well!  With that said, the one thing we did take the time to see was the Book of Kells at Trinity College (6-8 Euro admission, **** – worth it just for the library alone).

Since we didn’t do anything in particular I will let our pictures speak for themselves, enjoy:

St. Stephen’s Green (very close to Conrad Dublin, free entrance dawn to dusk)

Another

Grafton Street viewed from side street (Pedestrian shopping street with good street performers)

Trinity College (Home of the book of Kell’s discussed above)

Temple Bar (Good bar, even though it is touristy, for a drink) (Please note the guy in front with the women’s swimsuit on)

The Dublin Spire (right up there with any other weird monument I have seen)

Inside Temple Bar (sorry for getting out of order the with pictures) (This must be an Irish/British thing to have Stag parties where everyone wears matching shirts, see the guy in red)

Me with a Guinness inside Temple Bar courtyard

River Liffey in Dublin City Centre

That concludes my trip report for our 7 day trip (quick) trip through Ireland.  As I am sure you can tell if you have been following along we had absolutely fantastic, and unusual per the locals of Ireland, weather during our trip.  Seven straight days of cloudless sunny skies with high’s in the upper 60’s (F).  Look for a post tomorrow with some remaining pictures that didn’t make the initial cut for my trip report!  Cheer

Trip Report – Ireland

In what I hope will be a continued series going forward I am going to give a full trip report of our recent 8 day trip through Ireland.  I plan to do a day-by-day account of our trip with tips on sightseeing, hotels and dining options in each place we visited.  I will also try to include as many pictures as possible in order to illustrate what I am discussing.  Today’s post is just the outline for the future posts and I will try to get them up here in a reasonably timely manner.  Here is the daily itinerary for our trip and also the order of the posts:

Day 1, 9/2 – Arrive in Dublin, rent car and drive to Galway

Day 2, 9/3 – Leave Galway early AM and drive to Cliffs of Moher.  From there a quick stop in Limerick and on to Tralee.

Day 3, 9/4 – Depart Tralee early AM and tour Dingle Peninsula.  Spend night in Kenmare.

Day 4, 9/5 – Travel from Kenmare to Kinsale, stay near Kinsale that night.

Day 5, 9/6 – Depart Kinsale early AM to travel to Powerscourt Estate with a quick stop in Cashel. Spend night in Powerscourt.

Day 6, 9/7 – Depart Powerscourt and return rental car, spend day in Dublin and stay in town.

Day 7, 9/8 – Spent the entire day in Dublin

Day 8, 9/9 – Early morning departure for return flight to States.

Look for each day to be a detailed post in the coming weeks!