Air France/Delta Review

I’ve always had an up and down relationship with Air France. They have reasonable prices and their flight times usually work for me really well, but there are many issues with them otherwise. I just flew from Boston to Prague with Air France and the flight was operated by Delta. I always consider that the worst case scenario, because it usually means old planes, ok food, and ok in-flight entertainment. And, sadly enough,  they did not fail to meet my expectations this time either.

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Pre-Flight

The pre-flight procedures go pretty well with Air France. You get an email that reminds to you to check in, which is very useful. However, one thing that anyone who has an allergy has to keep in mind, is that you have to order a special meal before you check in (more than 30 hours ahead of time) but you can’t order a special meal when buying the tickets. So please keep that in mind, because they cannot help you! Other than that, check in and baggage drop off is straight-forward and quick. At the gate, the staff ran into a slight issue, because their announcement was not clear, so, many people lined up to talk to them at the desk. Since the staff had to deal with so many people, you could tell they were getting frustrated with all the customers.

 

Flight

IMG_8886The flight itself was ok. The airplane had pretty decent legroom, so at even when the person in front of me put their seat down, I still had room. One issue several people had, including me, was that the individual lights were not pointed at the correct seats. I saw three people get up and try to fix it. They all gave up rather quickly and sat back down in the darkness. So much for “the lights in the cabin will be dimmed during take off, but feel free to turn on your individual lights”.

The rest of the flight went pretty well, some turbulences, but nothing too bad. The flight attendants were really nice and helpful and for the first time on Air France, they were not completely shocked that I didn’t speak French, and even remembered I spoke English the next time they came around.

 

Food

Food was kind of sad. That usually happens with my gluten-free meal though. The best part of my meal was applesauce, although the applesauce was a great surprise addition to the meal! One thing that Air France really has going for it, is wine. They have really good wine, which I definitely enjoyed!

One more quick reminder! If you have an allergy, make sure you order the meal ahead of time! The woman next to me didn’t and then she was struggling to find something to eat, because of her fish allergy.

 

In-flight EntertainmentIMG_8883

In-flight entertainment was kind of sad. The screens were tiny, smaller than an iPad mini, if you want a visual reference. I may have been spoiled by Emirates and Swiss Air, but I also felt like Air France does not have a large selection of movies and TV shows. Even though they had some new movies, recent movies and even some old movies, in general the choices were not great. On top of that, the sound seemed to be a little messed up. The soundtrack is overpowering and loud, to the point where you can’t hear the dialogue, so even though I tried to watch a movie, half the time I did not understand what any of the characters said.

 

Overall Air France was pretty decent this time. I was just glad they did not lose my luggage this time, because out of the past four trips I took with them, they lost my stuff three times. Let us know what you think about Air France and if you had better experiences.


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Lufthansa: wine, movies, and travel

British Airways and long flights


Travel Agency vs. Travel on your own

If you are planning to travel over the summer, you might be trying to decide what is better, traveling with an agency or on your own. Not a lot of people travel with an agency anymore, but they are definitely still out there to help you out. I usually travel on my own, because I like the freedom I have without the agency, but here are some pros and cons for both.

 

Travel Agency

IMG_2966Pros

  1. They take care of everything for you! Once you pay for a trip, they take care of booking the flights, hotels, any transportation necessary and even insurance. This makes planning a trip very easy and you don’t have to worry about anything!
  2. Point of contact at your destination – it is good to have a contact wherever you are going. You never know what might happen and a travel agent can help you get into contact with a doctor, police or anything else that you might need. They can also help when you are trying to communicate with the hotel staff that don’t speak the same language.
  3. Tours and tour packages – through your travel agent, you can pick out tours or tour packages at your location. They will pick you up at the hotel and take you to different places at your destination. Guided tours can be great, since you find out a lot about the place you are visiting.

Cons

  1. Annoying tour guides – tour guides can be very annoying sometimes. They can be way over the top and almost too nice. They also keep offering you different deals and that can feel like they are pushing you way too much into some of their tours and activities.
  2. Limited choices – when you travel with an agency there are only so many dates they can offer you. The length of the vacation is also set and not flexible. They also have a limited choice of hotels they cooperate with, which means limited amount of destinations.
  3. Bankruptcy – agencies can go bankrupt, which means you just lose your money.

 

Traveling on your own

Pros

  1. Freedom – you can literally do anything you want. You choose your travel dates, the airline you will fly with and the hotel you will stay at. The choices are endless.
  2. Hotel – you can chose where you will stay, which means you can go either as cheap as you want or as luxurious as you want.
  3. Things can be cheaper – you can choose a cheap hotel, which means cheaper trip in general. Also, you don’t have to pay the middle man, which cuts down the price.

IMG_8011Cons

  1. More risk – when you are planning everything yourself, you have to be more careful and make sure it all lines up. When you travel with an agency there is a sense of security because they take care of everything.
  2. Transportation – you have to figure out transportation on your own. Whether that means booking flights, finding your way from the airport to your hotel, or finding buses/trains to your destination.
  3. You have to think of everything – you have to make sure you organize everything yourself, including insurance and if you are planning any trips once there. You might want to ask yourself questions like, will I need to rent a car? Or is transportation secured?
  4. Learning about your destination – find out as much as possible about the country you are visiting. Look up the history, the current situation, best places to go to and even some phrases that will help you get around.

There may be some risk in planning your own trip, but I personally think it is worth it. The freedom of getting to do whatever you want is great. For some people the security is a little more important though. Let us know what you think!


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Weekend in Vienna

Japan


Weekend in Vienna

A few summers ago, I took advantage of an invitation and went to visit my friend in Vienna.

It was my first proper visit there, so I decided I would enjoy Vienna and see the city I’ve  heard and read so much about. Being a history geek, I know a decent amount about the history of the region and the Habsburg family and I was excited about seeing it all in person.

So, on a Friday afternoon after work, I hopped on a train. I made the wrong decision of grabbing a seat in a compartment with four Australian teenagers, who were doing a big Eurotrip and despite having already visited Berlin, were convinced that they were “going to Germany.” All in all, it was not a very comfortable train ride.

Four and half hours later, I stepped off the train in Wien Praternstern, where my friend was eagerly awaiting me. We walked to her place, which did not take long and grabbed dinner on the way, while catching up on the recent events in our lives.

On Saturday morning, I was woken up by the sound of rain against the window. Luckily, it was just a short shower and we were soon able to leave and explore the city. We walked and I saw some of the main sights –  St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Opera house. We ducked into a few stores along the way, which made me realize that my German is worse that I thought.

After a walk through the city, we hopped on the metro and went to see the Schonbrunn palace. After making our way through large amounts of tourists – and stopping at a café for lemonade and the famous Sacher Tort, we finally emerged in the palace gardens. The only word I can think of to describe them is magnificent. The palace and gardens  were bigger and grander than I imagined them. Even the sun decided to come out from behind the clouds. While walking through the gardens, my mind went back in time, imagining the lives of those who lived here a mere hundred years ago and their ancestors. We climbed up to the top of a hill, where the Gloriette stands. The view was amazing and it is easy to see, why this specific site was chosen for the palace.  We sat down in the grass and I was taking in every moment, every image.

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After deciding that we should probably get going, we went back to the apartment to make dinner. We had a lazy evening, but decided that we shouldn’t stay in. So we went for a walk in Prater. We wanted to avoid the tourists and the loudness of the attractions, so we walked through the park.

Sunday morning came fast and with it the need to pack. We then went for a short walk, where I bought a few mandatory souvenirs and postcards, and saw the Hundertwasser house with its interesting architecture and fun designs.  A short visit to Starbucks (and the purchase of the Vienna mug from their collection), concluded my visit and I got on the train to go back.

I have to say, I really liked Vienna. Nothing there surprised me – the architecture and history makes it very similar to Prague or Budapest. I wish I had more time there, which means that I am definitely planning on coming back – there is still so much to see. But, before I visit again, I plan on improving my German and reading more about the city’s fascinating history.  


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Japan

Arima Onsen


Awaji Island

Ferris WheelAwaji Island is across the Akashi Bridge from Kobe and it was the last place I visited in Japan. It is a great day trip, but in a typical fashion, I only had a few hours before I had to pack and leave for the airport.

Just driving around the island was great. The island is made up of rolling hills and mountains, so just driving around is a lot of fun, because you can see a lot. When you first drive over the bridge, you can see the ferris wheel. As you drive on the highway, you pass different towns or just small settlements of the island. You can also see different beaches and even fishermen’s nets set up in the ocean.

 

We drove down to the southern part of the island until we reached the town Sumoto. There we got off the highway and stopped in park for a short walk. Or what we originally thought was going to be a short walk. It ended up being more of a hike that took about two hours. So my tip is bring comfortable shoes! You really never know when you will find yourself on a hike :D!Hiking

The hike was definitely worth it! There were a couple of stops along the way to the top with viewpoints, where we took lots and lots of pictures. When we finally made it to the top, we loved it! Whatever despair or regrets about our choices of shoes we may have felt, it was all worth it when we got to the top. The view was phenomenal! We could see Sumoto on one side and the ocean on the other side of the hill.

IMG_8336So, after taking copious amount of photos, we had to head back down. At this point very thirsty and craving coffee. Since we didn’t really expect a hike, we didn’t bring any water so, my second tip is bring water wherever you go! Again, you just never know when you will want to go on a hike!

Lockers for shoes in RestaurantWe got back down in about 45 minutes and we were starving! Luckily we passed a Yakiniku restaurant on our way there in Sumoto, so all we needed to do was find it. And I’m glad that we did, because we order lots and lots of delicious food, that I still have dreams about! The restaurant is called Tenzankaku, and I really recommend it, because you depending on which set you order, you can eat as much as you want, there is a time limit to what you can eat, rather than the amount of food. Bottomless drinks and ice cream are included! So if you are in that area, definitely go to this restaurant! This is a restaurant where you have to take your shoes off and leave them in little lockers by the door, so just keep that in mind.

On our way back we stopped by the ferris wheel. Obviously, if you are afraid of the heights, don’t go, because it goes very high. But if you aren’t and you love things like this, like I do, the view is so worth it! From the ferris wheel you can see the Akashi Bridge and Kobe/Osaka on the other side of the Akashi Strait. Even if you are afraid of heights, it is a good place to stop. You still get an amazing view of the cities and the bridge from the ground! Also there’s Starbucks right under the ferris wheel, so it is a great spot for a coffee break.Akashi Bridge

Awaji Island was the last place I visited. I wish I could’ve seen more of it, because there are a lot of things to see there, like various Shrines and Castles, beaches and gardens. Definitely go if you get the chance, and let me know what the places I didn’t get to visit are like!


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Japan

Arima Onsen


Arima Onsen

Arima Onsen is another place that I visited only briefly, after my trip around Mt. Rokko. It was enough time to just walk through and explore. It is an adorable little hot-springs town, with various different spa places and lots of shops selling sweets and other souvenirs.

When you park in the center of the town, you can walk along the spring to a red bridge, which is one of the local sights to see. You can also go down by the river, when it’s warm enough, and just sit and hang out for a while.

12822645_10153929314523363_803331105_oWhen you walk into the older part of the center, there are public hot springs on the street, where you can just put your feet in the water (with about four strangers) and warm your them in the 42 degrees celsius water. Sharing the water with four strangers might seem gross but since it was freezing cold that day, we didn’t hesitate and warmed our feet.

Tip: bring a small towel with you! We didn’t and then we didn’t know what to do with our wet feet :( they also sell towels by the hot springs!

 

After warming up, we went looking for some of the shrines that are around the town. After walking through the tiny streets, we found a gorgeous Buddhist temple. Sadly, we did not find the second shrine, but maybe next time :)

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In Arima Onsen there are a lot of hotels and spas, some of which offer public baths in the hot springs and some private. I haven’t visited those either, but I heard they are quite amazing, so definitely look into it, if you have the time!
Arima Onsen is a great place to buy souvenirs and to just go for a walk, especially if you go after seeing Mt. Rokko. I suggest you at least go see the town, even if you don’t want to go into the hot springs!


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Japan

Kyoto