Winter Park Florida, No You Didn’t!

I came to Winter Park to find a Trader Joe’s and you had one! Also nearby is an Irish Pub and a Shake Shack?! I Love Shakes! I must go in. One chocolate shake please, no crap on top. What, double chocolate? Um Yeah!!! Dee-lish! This is the perfect town! And, it’s a glorious 78 degrees outside. So if you’re stuck inside for a meeting or it’s cold outside, well, Sucks to be you!

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Orlando, Florida! No Snow Here

I highly recommend getting away to Orlando if it’s cold where you are.  It’s a wonderful feeling to wear a t-shirt in January. Points and Miles work Great here!

  1. Fairfield by Marriott 3 nights $853.00 or 30,000 Points ($270.00 in value). Used 30k Points!
  2. Silvercar, Audi for 3 days $126.00 or free with Sapphire Reserve $300.00 Credit. Used Sapphire!
  3. Uber from Airport. Free with AMEX Platinum $15.00 each month Uber Credit.
  4. 2 Allegiant Air r/t tickets. $210.00. Used Ritz-Carlton $300 Credit to pay for carry-on, seats and priority boarding (2018) Bought Tickets In 2017 using Ritz-Carlton 2017 Credit. Total cost $0
  5. Ate on the plane $16.00 or free with Ritz-Carlton Credit. Free

Total out of pocket for 4 days 3 nights in Orlando. $0.00. Even the 30k for Marriott were from a sign up bonus. Probably will cancel Ritz-Carlton next month when renewal comes. Anyway, enjoy the view!

 

Finding the Gate to Hell; Culture shock in a Chinese Bathroom.

This is a cautionary tale of travel. Ok, cautionary but hilarious. I was thumbing through my pictures of our trip to China and oddly, I found this photo. It looks like a bathroom floor but in reality, it’s the entrance to hell; at least that’s what I thought that day…

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So how did I end up staring into the abyss? It started in Vietnam. When we travel, we like to wander and we wandered into a “restaurant”, for lack of a better word, for some Pho. The #1 Rule of travel is “don’t drink the water” especially in countries that have signs everywhere that say “don’t drink the water”. The first thing I noticed as we enter, is a lady sitting on the floor pulling cooked chicken off the bones and putting the meat in a bowl. The stack of bones was about two feet tall, so I concluded that she had been at it a while.

We sit down, order Pho and drink some strange packaged beverage while we’re waiting. By the way, Pho is a noodle/vegetable soup kinda thing and I ordered mine with meat (not chicken).

Our meal came, it was good and we left. I spent the next hour trying to identify what kind of mystery meat was in my soup and finally gave up as it was probably better not to know. That night, my stomach was not very happy. Soon we go to Cambodia and things go bad fast. Four days later we’re in China and while I felt okay, my digestive system was having epic problems.

I always believed that I had two things going for me; a garbage gut and a twisted sense of humor. The first was a mess, the second was having a heyday. I couldn’t help but think of all those movies in which so and so slipped a laxative into someone’s drink and the hysterical bathroom scene that followed. I looked around for cameras, thankfully there weren’t any.

While in China, we took a bus tour and ended up near Changping. After forcing myself to eat lunch, the proverbial “sh#t hit the fan” and I was in desperate need of a bathroom. It was a chilly day and I was wearing multiple layers of shirts and a coat. I finally found a bathroom, sort of.  Picture a large room with stalls and no doors. On the floor, a hole. No rails, no hooks and to my horror, no toilet paper. Apparently it was a “bring your own” kinda place.

I stood over the hole, peering into the abyss seeing only darkness with no bottom; I expected flames. People were walking by. I realized that I was now in hell and was running out of options quick.

They say necessity is the father of invention and I was at critical mass. I learned three things that day; The gate to hell is way too small, Pho is an evil soup and that I came in wearing a t-shirt and left in a halter top. Desperate times and all that.

Finding the exit as fast as possible, I stealthily made my way to the bus, waiting for the maintenance crew to run screaming from the building in search of the culprit.

Ultimately, I was able to leave the country without being arrested and forced to clean that building. It took an additional two weeks to clear that nightmare from my system. It never occurred to me that I would ever catch a stomach bug, but I forgot one important thing; Pho is a soup and that soup usually has a broth and that broth is made with water and that water probably came from a faucet that has a sign above it that says “don’t drink the water”. I do also hope the maintenance guy is done with his therapy and back to living a normal life.

Happy Travels

 

 

 

Going From A to B. The Second Half of 2017; By the Numbers.

 

Our return from St. Louis marked the end of our 2017 Travels.  It’s been an amazing year and I am looking forward to 2018.  Our next trip is to Florida in January. In an article dated July 31st, 2017, I broke the numbers down for the first half of our year.  I’ll list the numbers for the second half of the year and then I’ll do a grand total for 2017. We started the second half with a trip to Santa Fe, NM and ended the year in St. Louis, MO.

  1. 12 trips, ranging from 1-7 days
  2. Stayed in 12 different hotel Brands
  3. Stayed in 1 VRBO
  4. Stayed in 1 AirBnB
  5. Flew ~11,000 Air Miles
  6. Drove ~8,740 Miles
  7. Rented 6 Vehicles
  8. Used 3 Ubers
  9. Endured 9 different Airports
  10. Held Lilly’s hand for 24 airplane take-offs and landings
  11. Visited 12 US States

Clearly the second half of the year was a bit more sedate than the first half.

Here are the combined numbers for Travelinggump.com’s 2017 Travels:

  1. 28 Trips, ranging from 1-17 days.
  2. Stayed a total of 119 nights in various Hotels
  3. Stayed in 2 VRBO’s
  4. Stayed in 1 AirBnB
  5. Flew ~60,000 Air Miles
  6. Drove ~15,440 Miles
  7. Rented 13 vehicles
  8. Endured 31 Airports ( A few more than once).
  9. Held Lilly’s hand for 86 take-offs and landings
  10. Visited 19 US States
  11. Visited 5 different Countries
  12. Took 7 buses
  13. Took 4 Taxi’s
  14. Used Uber 9 times
  15. Used Lyft once
  16. Used one Roller Coaster to get to and from the Great Wall of China
  17. Used 3 Tuk-Tuks
  18. Added well over 1.5 Million Points/Miles to my travel portfolio
  19. Reached Diamond status with Hilton, Platinum with Marriott/Ritz and Starwood, Spire Elite with IHG (Intercontinental and Holiday Inn) and Discoverist with Hyatt (Ho-Hum).
  20. Loved Every Single Minute Of It All! (except maybe the tummy bug I caught in Vietnam, not so much).

Wishing you Happy Travels and a Wonderful 2018!

Michael

The Last Trip of 2017; St Louis, Mo

As the year draws to a close, I realized we had no travel plans for New Years. The year can’t end this way! 2017 has been an amazing travel year that came in like a lion.  A quick check of Hotels and a trip to St Louis was added for the 30th-31st.  I’m doing the Marriott Platinum Challenge and St. Louis will make #8 of the needed 9 stays.  The St. Louis Marriott Grand and a nice dinner at Mizu Sushi Bar made for a great end to a wonderful year. It’s hard to believe that this time last year, we were in New York on Times Square.  I wish everyone the best and blessed 2018 possible and as always, Happy Travels!

Pull Back The Curtain; New Orleans, Louisiana

If New Orleans were a vegetable, it would be a sweet onion.  It’s all about the layers. This amazing city offers to you what you seek. Want a light historical stroll? Fine, no problem. Want to experience more, keep digging and this City will open it’s Soul. But beware, the more layers you peel back, the “deeper” you go and it can be overwhelming.  I’m good for about 5 layers of 10. The voodoo and spirits freak me out, yet I just can’t stay away. (Maybe it’s the food). This is definitely a bucket list City!