eurotrip 2014

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Hotel Review: Radisson Blu Beke Hotel, Budapest, Hungary

Dang, I am behind on my posts.

I should continue my “Get Me to NOLA” saga, think some more about my best advice or write more about what to do in Iceland (the plan is to cover the entire perimeter of the island, in parts).

But then I realized I have still left out parts of Eurotrip 2014 after reading Travel is Free’s awesome review of the Radisson Blu Beke in Budapest this morning. I stayed at this hotel too and wanted to contribute my review and photos, because I’d argue that the room I stayed in looked even more 1970s than theirs.


Getting there

I went to the Radisson Blu Beke Hotel in Budapest in early October of 2014, right after staying at the Park Inns in Munich and Vienna.

Screenshot 2015-03-05 12.14.15I got out at BUD after flying in from VIE on an Austrian flight, paid for with 15,000 United miles. I’d already researched how to take public transportation and went to buy a bus and train ticket at the tourist desk in the airport. I walked out, hung a right, and the bus was already waiting there. I didn’t understand the announcements and relied on Google Maps to show me where to get off. Then, I took the train and got out at the bus and train terminal near the Radisson Blu Beke, and walked there in about 10 minutes.

Check-in

I found the check-in process to be really pleasant, actually. I was checked in by the assistant manager of the hotel, as I arrived in the middle of a tour group coming in, and he seemed to be supervising and helping with the overflow. Even with dozens of people in line, I was checked in in about 10 minutes, which was blazing fast, considering.

While in line, I looked around and noticed a bar attached to the lobby, and made a mental note to check it out. Along with my room key, the assistant manager gave me a coupon for a buy-one-get-one drink, which was a nice touch. It definitely did its job of getting me into the bar.

He also acknowledge my Gold status with Club Carlson and told me I’d been upgraded to a suite… sweet!

The room

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Hotel Review: Park Inn by Radisson Danube, Bratislava

Entrance to the Park Inn Danube in Bratislava

Also see:

As part of Eurotrip 2014, I found myself in the position of being on a train to Bratislava, Slovakia.

I suppose stranger things have happened

I suppose stranger things have happened

Once there, me and my friend Angie got out of the train station, hopped in a cab, and promptly got scammed by a cabbie with a hot meter. Between that and the somewhat griminess of the train station, I was kinda definitely thinking, “What the hell did I get myself into?”

However, I am happy to report, I ultimately found Bratislava to be a progressive city, one rebuilding itself, modernizing in the right ways, and moving full-force into new and diverse industries. The atmosphere of the city was energetic. I could feel the momentum and drive in the air, which was wonderful.

And aside from that one cab driver, everyone else was completely kind and even eager to talk. I also saw lots of tourists, which apparently Club Carlson hasn’t caught onto yet, because the Park Inn by Radisson Danube is a mere Category 1, requiring just 9,000 Gold Points for two award nights (if you have the US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature card).

The Park Inn by Radisson Danube shares a space with lots of vendors on the ground/retail floor, but it’s fairly obvious where it’s located – at the base of a little square, nearest to the river. I had to look for the sign and wasn’t sure exactly where I was going, but I went with it and ended up at the right place (the taxi driver only gave vague hand motions and spoke no English so I wandered away after being scammed for 20 Euros – grrr).

Check-in was very routine. I was placed in a “Business room.” The agent acknowledged my Gold status and thanked me for staying. Then I headed to the elevator and up to my room.

The room

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Club Carlson-ing my way through Europe

<3

<3

In the middle of Eurotrip 2014, I had a moment where I was like, OMG, I’m staying exclusively at Club Carlson properties (except for one night at the Grand Hyatt Berlin).

So the news that US Bank, issuer of the Club Carlson Visa, may be imposing cash advance fees for Serve reloads was disconcerting. And now that Amazon Payments is over, too… I don’t know what I’ll do to manufacture spend now. This is a hot topic in the points and miles community, and there is some speculation about the new REDcard and possible changes to Serve. In any case, I am looking forward to the next step because I do think the Club Carlson Visa is a very good card to focus on for day-to-day, non-bonused, or manufactured spend.

I couldn’t have done Eurotrip 2014 without that card.

How I did it

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Review: Air France Lounge @ TXL

Quick note: both of the posts so far today (10/11/14) have poo-pooed various things. I do not like to focus on negativity, but want to be honest. There are lots of good things coming, I promise! 

Air France Lounge entrance @ TXL

Air France Lounge entrance @ TXL

As part of Eurotrip 2014, I had the opportunity to visit the Air France lounge following my unannounced schedule change to an Airberlin flight TXL-JFK.

I showed up two hours early, and was oddly directed to the Air France lounge even though there was a British Airways lounge on the floor beneath it (?). I don’t know what kind of crazy voodoo AB worked out with AF but whatever. I was early and was in need of coffee.

This lounge sucks. Read More

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American Airlines changed my flights without telling me :/

Had a bit of a scare yesterday. I went to check in for my Airberlin flight TXL-HEL (that was to connect to Finnair HEL-JFK) to end my Eurotrip 2014.

I booked the one way award flight on aa.com and up until I went to check in the day before the flights, it showed up in the “My Trips” section of aa.com.

Trouble in Euroland

When I logged in, it said “No upcoming trips” so I typed in the confirmation number and it found the reso after a few heart palpitations, thank gods. But the flights were wrong. Read More

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Hotel Review: Park Inn By Radisson Munich-East

Eurotrip 2014 has been very centered around Club Carlson properties. In fact, I’ve done 80% of it with their properties (4 out of 5 – and 3 of those were Park Inns).

The one in Munich was the first.

The hotel

This Park Inn is located about 100m from the Johanneskirchen stop of the S8 S-Bahn stop, equidistant to downtown Munich and the airport. After landing at MUC, I was at the hotel, door-to-door, in about 30 minutes. Not bad.

Park Inn Munich-East check-in desk

Park Inn Munich-East check-in desk

The part of East Munich it’s located in really doesn’t have that much going on. It’s a sleepy section with a suburb-like feel. There isn’t much in the way of food and watering holes. Really just the hotel and a restaurant/beer garden across the street. But for what I needed from this stay, a little off the beaten path was perfect.

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Trip Report: Lufthansa First Class YYZ-MUC

Lufthansa First Class

Way back in November 2013, United announced they were devaluing partner award redemptions. Shortly after, Lufthansa announced a new route from YYZ-MUC aaaand… First Class award availability was wide open for months out. How many months out? Nearly a whole year – which is a lot longer than the usual 15 days.

While the rest of the blogosphere was stuck on “Summer 2014” availability, I kept going through the rest of the months. Munich… October… OMG Oktoberfest! – was exactly my train of thought. I redeemed a one-way to Munich and left the rest to chance. Didn’t want to burn up too many of my Ultimate Rewards points. Plus, I wanted to keep the trip open-ended. I’m not one to plan months and months in advance, so this was quite a leap of faith for me.

The flight

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Eurotrip 2014: Day Two – Lufthansa First Class Lounge and Radisson Park Inn Munich

Made it to Munich safely! Writing this from the fantastic Lufthansa First Class Lounge at MUC. About to get my bearings with a shower and maybe order some breakfast and a beer – I am here for Oktoberfest after all!

Meeting a friend around 1pm – might go ahead and head into the city proper and try to check in early to the Radisson Park Inn where I will be based throughout my Munich adventures.

From this, I can review the First Class Lounge and the hotel – and of course Munich.

So jazzed to be here. Will add more posts with pics soon!

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Eurotrip 2014 – Day One: LGA-YYZ-MUC

Writing this from YYZ right now, in the Maple Leaf/Star Alliance Gold Lounge in Terminal 1.

I booked this flight months ago when Lufthansa (accidentally?) released First Class award space with the launch of their new YYZ-MUC route.

Now, the day has finally arrived.

I woke up this morning and made my way to LGA. The flight to YYZ was a little over an hour on a small aircraft, hardly worth talking about, other than the fact that it DID position me to take the YYZ-MUC flight.

I am meeting my friend Angie in MUC for Oktoberfest, and from there going to Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, and Berlin. I want to try to share my impressions “on the road” (or “in the sky” or “in the hotel” as it were) instead of writing after the fact. God knows I have so many neglected reviews and my memory gets so rusty so quickly. I will be out on the road for two weeks and will tag each of these posts as Eurotrip 2014. YESSA!

The Air Canada flight was basically a shuttle service. Toronto is REALLY close to NYC – I was kinda shocked by how quickly we got here. And YYZ is a really nice airport! Super efficient and really nice employees.

The weather today was/is perfect and the flight was smooth. I have 45 more minutes to enjoy the lounge and wifi, then will get to experience Lufthansa First Class for the first time.

Expect a review of the Maple Leaf Lounge in Terminal 1 and of the Lufthansa flight. As you guys know, I’ve had mixed experiences in their famed business class cabin. :/ AUH-FRA was kinda meh but FRA-JFK was rather pleasant. Let’s see how First compares. Trying not to get my hopes up but also expecting miracles… kind of a strange mix of emotions to have to hold inside of one.

If anything, this trip already makes me want to visit Toronto again. I’d love to before it gets too screaming cold.

So here is Day One. I am challenging myself to post each day then to do a mega recap. Godspeed to me!

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