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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report Barcelona

When we landed, we went to the info desk and found out that it would be 2 trains to get to the hotel, so we opted for a taxi that “should be 30”. It came out to 41€ of course. ;) We stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal for 7K SPG/night for 2 nights. We settled into the room (w/ free water bottles – perk of staying at an SPG) and went down to the front desk to learn the metro. The closest stop was a bit further than it was in Madrid, but not bad – took a good 5 minutes to walk to. We were trying to figure out how to buy tickets at the station when an English-speaker saw us and helped us get a 10-pass for 10.30€. The metro was nice like Madrid and thinking about it now, it was kinda cool learning the different metro systems throughout the trip although we only got to use each one for a few days. Now I have a list of the all the things I wish NYC subways had. ;)
Funky office building outside the metro station:

We got on a train and got out near La Ramblas, which is basically the pedestrian-only shopping street of Barcelona. Unfortunately we didn’t check the weather and it was raining, so I gave my cap to my wife to protect her shaitel and then bought myself the cheesiest Barcelona hat we could find for… 7€! >:(

Anyway, we strolled down the long strip until we found Maccabi restaurant. We really liked this place. My wife got a hamburger that was full of flavor and I opted for the shnitzel, which was a bit of a weird texture but tasted good. The portions were large enough that we were full halfway through and were able to save the other half for dinner. In total we spent 28.4€ there for what turned out to be 2 meals, so you can see their pricing and portions are pretty good. I spoke to the Mashgiach here about the other Kosher restaurant, Delicias, to find out what the deal was. Obviously, you have to assume that he wants to support his own restaurant so his words have to be listened to with that in mind, but he told me that Delicias is under the Hashgacha of a Rav in Portugal and although there is a Mashgiach on premises, the Rav never comes to check out the place. As opposed to Maccabi, which has the Chabad Rabbi leaving in Barcelona. That was his argument and we ended up not going to Delicias at all. Maccabi was great and cheap anyway, so no big deal. He also told me that Lays regular potato chips are Kosher in Spain – they’re the ones in the red bag and the only ingredients are potatoes and oil.

After we ate, we headed towards our scheduled Jewish tour with Urban Cultours. After 5 minutes of waiting at the meeting point, I realized I misread the address, and we dashed over to the correct place. We found Dominique waiting with an older couple and no one was upset that we were 5 minutes late. The tour was really great. Dominique has been researching the Jewish history in Barcelona for years and is a heavy advocate in protecting Jewish areas like the cemetery that still exists. Dominique showed us the old Roman city that existed within Barcelona (I didn’t even know the Romans were there at any point) and which streets were where the Jews lived. She pointed out stones with Hebrew words that were tombstones taken from the Jewish cemetery and used as building stones, a doorpost that clearly once had a Mezuzah, the old palace where it’s historically logical that Ramban had his famous disputation in and the few other Jewish things you could still see in the streets. You also visit a basement that was most likely once a Shul. A rich Jew bought the property after historians became confident about its past, and now it’s been remodeled to look a little like a Shul from that time. A guide there gives you a brief background into the property and purchase. If you want to just visit the Shul and not take the Jewish tour, you can for a small donation. As students joining others who had already “opened up” the tour, it was supposed to be 45€ pp but when she didn’t have change, she just told us to pay 80€ and that was it – was very nice of her.

*Quick rant on Jewish tours*
As we learned from this tour and the Jewish tour in Rome, you can walk through an area that has a ton of Jewish history and not know it if you don’t have a tour guide since so little actually remains for you to see by “walking around” the Jewish quarter. So for those on the edge about Jewish tours – it seems like each major European city has 1 or 2 companies that offer Jewish tours and the reviews always seem to be amazing, so I would think it’s safe to assume that they usually will be. Your decision, therefore, is likely based on whether you want to shell out the cash for the experience. Obviously in Barcelona for example, you could go around seeing the few remaining Jewish things on your own (if you knew where to look) but hearing the guide take you back in time to those days is really the focus of the tour and these little pieces just added a nice touch to the history. That’s really what we got out of this tour as well as in Rome. It’s basically a live history lesson in the place where the history took place. Sorry for the long rant here, I was just personally debating back and forth whether Jewish tours were worth it, so I hope my explanation can help others in their decision.

It was also here on this tour with the older couple that our trip really hit us. The retired wealthy couple travelling for 2 weeks through Spain and paying probably double what we were for a Jewish tour (as well as taking other Jewish tours throughout Spain) is how travelling the world is “supposed” to be. Yet here we were, just 2 young people going through the same experience that the world has taught us is supposed to be reserved for the rich and/or retired. Felt kinda cool.

After the tour we realized that the functioning Shul, Comunidad Israelita de Barcelona, was completely out of the way from the hotel (and Chabad was even further out of the way and only has Shacharis), plus we had no idea what time Mincha/Maariv was, so we just headed back to the hotel for the night where we had the leftover Maccabi food for dinner.

In the morning, I really wanted to Daven with a Minyan (something I learned throughout the trip was not going to be an easy thing to do), so we got up early to head to 7:30 Shacharis. It was going to be like a 35 min metro ride, which would have meant getting up super early, so we shelled out the money for a 15 min taxi instead for 12.30€. We found out that the GoDaven-listed time was pretty accurate, but there weren’t 10 people there. This Shul could easily fit a few hundred people, and unfortunately, there wasn’t a Minyan. After a little while, everyone started Davening by themselves, and I was disappointed as we took the taxi and woke up specifically for Minyan but then after about 20 minutes, 3 Israeli tourists popped in and we had a Minyan! It was a miracle! Publish it in the next cheesy Jewish story book. :)

After Shacharis, we found the Kosher grocery, Isamar Kosher, down the block and waited a few minutes till they opened. There is a deli counter (not sure about the Hashgacha) and a small grocery. We’re talking the minimum of the minimum here. We picked up hamburger buns and Nutella and a few packages of mini-muffins to last us for food while we travelled out of Barcelona and through Seville. It’s always nice getting food from groceries instead of restaurants as 20€ worth of food lasted 4 meals for us. :) We had some of the muffins for breakfast and it turns out they were Pesachdik, so yeah they were kinda gross, but you eat what you can when you’re in the middle of Spain.

From Issamar, we walked to La Pedrera/Casa Mila, which is the house that Gaudi lived in and designed. (He’s famous for his architecture throughout Barcelona.) The exterior of the house is cool, but unfortunately it was covered in scaffolding (although they designed the image that covered the scaffolding to look like the façade – something we saw throughout our trip – not like it made up for missing the actual view though). We pre-booked tickets for this for 16€, but there was no line at all. We opted to skip the audio guide, as we did for most of the sites on our trip. The self-guided tour starts on the roof and we mistakenly chose to take the stairs to the top instead of the elevator as the building didn’t look too tall. There were a lot more stairs than we realized, and they were just in a small stairwell, so it’s not like you see anything cool while you walk. Anyway, on the roof you can walk around (not really any especially nice views) and see the different weird, random “structures” that are built on it. They’re funky and cool to look at for a few minutes, but then you start heading downstairs.
La Pedrera roof "structures":

Most of the tour was walking through the different floors of the house but it looks more like a museum, not living quarters. We quickly realized we were really in a Gaudi museum with exhibits on how he designed the different buildings he made. Although we didn’t have the audio guide, I don’t think it would have added much – there were enough English plaques to read – but the place was not for us. We didn’t care too much for all the detail on the architecture and were bored, so we moved through quickly. Finally, we entered a floor that was more of a living floor and they had a few rooms that were furnished olden-day style, which we really liked. After we finished, we went next door to another exhibit that came included in our ticket. The enclosed, outdoor lobby of this building was very nice – in Gaudi style – but the exhibit was terrible. It was a collection of photographs from some unknown photographer – and they weren’t very good nor “kosher”. We left after 5 minutes. That exhibit didn’t factor into our “liking” of La Pedrera, but we still wouldn’t recommend spending the money to see it unless you’re into architecture or Gaudi’s work. Maybe pass by the building to see the exterior (when it’s not under scaffolding) if it’s on your way, but yeah, we didn’t really enjoy it. We probably spent an hour there in total.

We then took the metro to Park Guell. After we got out, we had to ask around how to get to the park and were directed toward the famous (at least in the Spain Master Thread) escalator in the middle of the street. The park is at the top of a hill from the metro, and there is literally a row of like 5 escalators built into the sidewalk to go up.
Escalator in the middle of the street:

The park was free and really large. You first walk down a winding, paved path and then you’re at the bottom where you can pay to access the parts of the park that have Gaudi statues and buildings to walk through. We actually bumped into the couple from the Jewish tour here who were waiting for their entrance time to spend money and see the Gaudi stuff. ;) We passed on paying more money (and waiting on lines), as the park was nice in itself and we felt we had seen enough Gaudi in the morning. We stopped under some cool arches and had some chocolate spread sandwiches (the first of many – *barf*) and listened to some band try to perform American music with Spanish accents. ;)
Cool arches (not the ones we are under) in Park Guell:

We continued on the path which now led up the mountain and had some nice things to take pictures of. We ventured onward until we got to a fork in the road and chose a direction which turned out to lead all the way to the top where we had a breathtaking view of Barcelona. (Sorry, I realize now we only have pics of the view with us in them, so you'll have to go yourself to see what the view was like. ;)) There were a bunch of people up there and some cute dogs, and we were really glad we made it up to the top. There was a path descending the hill opposite the way we came, so we started taking it down, but it quickly turned into a dirt path. We couldn’t see any of the actual park down below, and we weren’t sure if we were even still officially in the park, so we went back up and headed down the way we originally came. In total, we probably spent about 1.5-2 hours in the park.
Artistic photo taken with my fancy DSLR that came with a built in iPhone 5 on the back:


We did not go to Sagrada Familia (as its a church so you'd really just be going to take a pic, which we weren't dying to do), but we did see it from our hotel window and in between buildings as we travelled the streets.

After the park, we took a metro to Maccabi for dinner. We ordered a steak and a tuna avocado salad to split. The steak was phenomenal. It came out as 2 pieces (which was great for us) and it was just bursting with flavor. The salad was also really good. We finished off with my wife’s favorite dessert of warm chocolate cake with ice cream, but unfortunately, it was much more cake-ier than most restaurants make it and the inside wasn’t so gooey-chocolatey. Oh well, still didn’t take away from the awesomeness of the steak. Dinner was 43€ and was plenty for 2 people. While we were eating, we had them prepare pastas for us to take with us for dinner the next night in Seville. The 2 pastas together were 19.8€, so again you can see it really wasn't an expensive place.

After dinner, we quickly debated going to Mincha/Maariv and decided not to thinking about our barely-Minyan Shacharis experience and we could only imagine how Mincha/Maariv would turn out. It was too bad that our hotel wasn’t near La Ramblas, which wasn’t near Shul, which wasn’t near the hotel, etc. We enjoyed the Four Points, but if you have the points/money to stay closer to either the Shul or “town” you would be better off IMO, which is something we learned throughout out trip. We knew that by only staying at points-hotels and by trying to stay at cheap ones that we would often be far from things, but that’s what you have to do when you go on such a long trip. If you could stay closer to at least 1 main area, then I would obviously say to do that.

In the morning, we continued our tradition of trying to return to the airport via a cheaper method, and we followed the hotel clerk’s advice to take the metro. Again, I wouldn’t suggest this if you’re travelling with a lot of luggage. We walked to a station that was a bit further than our regular metro stop (took about 15 min after getting a bit lost even with Gmaps). As we had used up our 10-pass the previous night, we had to buy tickets just for this ride. I’m having a bit of difficulty remembering exactly, but I believe that when purchasing an individual ticket, you have to pick your destination like in Madrid and a ticket to the airport was 4.20€ pp. If I remember that correctly, then it shows how getting a 10-pass is really worth it since I think it could have worked for this trip and saved you about 3€ pp. Anyway, we got on the train and were on our way. I assume that because our flight tickets were “confusing” – an AA-booked RTW on different airlines – we were never able to checkin online ahead of time, nor could we even checkin at a self checkin machine. This was annoying because we never able to find out online which terminal we needed, as you saw if you read my Madrid TR above. So, despite the hotel clerk telling us that we would need the terminal that the train drops you off at, airport workers told us we needed a different terminal that had to be accessed via a free shuttle bus. In the end, it was no big deal, but this was one of the reasons why we always tried to be at the airport 2 hours before our flight. Most of the time this meant relaxing in a lounge, but in times like this, it was helpful to have some flexibility. We waited for the bus and finally got to our terminal. This is where the story I posted above came into play.

We walked into the terminal at 7:58AM and couldn’t find our 9AM flight on the board. That’s because our flight was at 8AM, in 2 minutes, and I had misread my itinerary. I freaked out for a bit as we needed to make the connection in Madrid to Seville, didn’t know if/how much we would be charged for getting on another flight, if there was even room on another flight, and would missing a flight affect the rest of the ever-so-delicate OWE ticket? My ever-so-calm wife turned around and saw an IB customer service desk right there, so we went up to the counter and told the guy what happened. He was a bit hesitant at first and mumbled some stuff while looking at the computer and then voila! He had us on the next flight to Madrid FOR FREE and it would even get us there on time for our connection! We didn’t know for sure at the time, but b”h nothing happened to our OWE either. So yeah, thank G-d that all worked out. The flight to MAD and from there to SVQ were 3x3 seating with the middle seat blocked off. I probably said this already, but even though most flights were like that, the other benefits of flying business were really awesome – lounges with free drinks, priority checkin, priority security line, and priority boarding (i.e. guaranteed room for our carry-ons). Obviously, free bags would also be great, but we didn’t need them. ;) We found out that IB wasn’t going to get us KSMLs for the intra-Spain flights, but they did confirm that they will get us for our last IB leg on the way to Rome.

On to Seville!

July 27, 2014, 11:59:54 AM
1
Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report Ha, not a week later! Thanks for the feedback guys.

Seville

Even with missing the BCN-MAD flight, we got to MAD with enough time to go to the lounge, which we got quite accustomed to being there 3 times in 7 days. We had some more hamburger buns with Nutella for lunch and then we were off to our gate. MAD-SVQ was again a 3x3 plane with the middle seat blocked off. No KSML.

SVQ seemed really small and instead of looking for an information desk to find out about public transportation, we just went straight for a cab to the hotel. You should be able to guess my next words by now... Even though the hotel had told me over the phone a taxi should be 22€, it was actually 30€. >:(  :) The ride was just 10 minutes, which made it even more frustrating, but what can you do?

We checked in to the AC Hotel Sevilla Torneo for one night at 10K Marriott and then asked the front desk how to get to the Royal Alcazar. There's a bus that leaves from right behind the hotel for about 1.6€ pp. It probably took about 20 minutes to get to town and then we walked for about 10-15 minutes till we got to the palace.
Nice street in Seville - cool overhanging sheets to provide shade:

There's a huge, and I mean just gargantuan, church complex right across from the palace that alone was very impressive to look at. We continued towards the Alcazar and got in line. After about 5 minutes, someone came up to us and told us they were all part of a group and that we should just skip them. We then walked straight inside to the ticket counter and paid just 2€ each as students! Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was too late to get an entrance ticket to the "upstairs" area which I assume has the living quarters. That's one of our favorite parts of these old palaces (and the Ogden Mills mansion we visited in NY) - we love to see the furniture and all the nostalgia. But anyway, we stepped into the courtyard and looked around. They were in the middle of setting up some sort of dinner there and there was a stage set up with a large screen. Maybe all the dignitaries were coming here tonight! (Ya, sure.) There is no 1 specific way to go here (as opposed to the Royal Palace in Madrid), and with my OCD, I made sure we checked each doorway that led out of the courtyard. The first few doorways on the right side lead you into a few rooms inside the palace. Some large tapestries hung on the walls, but the rooms didn't really blow us away. Then we headed into another doorway which led into a series of large (empty) rooms that were all decorated with different Moorish architecture. The rooms were completely covered from ceiling to floor with crazy intricately carved work and mosaic tiles. Some of the rooms led outdoors to mini courtyards decorated in similar fashion.
Mini courtyard:

After checking out these rooms for a while, we find one that led outside to a small garden with some fountains. That led out back to the much larger gardens where we really began to enjoy ourselves. The first garden area was really more of like a large backyard. Most of it was just grass and trees with a few paths running through that led to different statues and some small fountains. In here we found...
Peacocks!

Boy were those things beautiful! As we moved towards the back of the garden (which btw is enclosed by a castle wall - pretty cool) we started seeing some more fancier-looking garden pieces. There's a maze of tall bushes, but it unfortunately had a complete wall around it of bushes, so you can't try to make it through the maze. :( After that, we chose to turn towards what looked to be the real fancy garden and left the backyard area. This are was much larger and was full of long pools of water, incredible landscaping, rows of hedges shaped beautifully, etc. All the things you expect from a palace garden!
Random nice structure (I think it's just a wall) infront of one of the pools:


We had a really nice time at the Alcazar and probably spent about 1.5-2 hours there. We headed out and decided to walk around the city a bit instead of just calling it a night. We ended up finding our way to the river, passed on taking a cruise, and just enjoyed the views. Seville was definitely one of the most beautiful cities on our trip. We loved walking through the streets. When we had enough, we walked back through the city to the bus stop and took the bus (again, like 1.5€) back to the hotel. At the hotel, we ate the dinner from Maccabi in Barcelona that we ordered to go as we were eating there. We both got spaghetti with garlic and even being a day old and not warm, it was incredible! (Both pastas together were 19.8€.) We really liked Maccabi in case you can't tell. ;)

Friday morning, we took a taxi to Hertz at the Santa Justa Railway Station to get our car to drive to Gibraltar . It cost about 8€ and of course, he dropped us off in the lot for 4 other car rental companies, but Hertz turned out not to be there. We walked through the station and out to the lots on the other side and found it. Things went quickly in there except that they wouldn't honor the USAA underage fee waived deal. Instead of it costing about $145, they wanted $234 and that's what they got. :( At the counter, they said they never heard of USAA and later on I called Hertz and they made me email them my original reservation with the lower price. 2 weeks later, they got back to me and said USAA only works in America and even if the reservation went through online, the international pick-up location didn't have to honor it. Now that I'm home, I'm going to try and fight it a bit more as this happened on my Italy rental as well. The car was nice (a Mercedez!) and automatic :) and we were off! Driving in a foreign country was not the most fun but with Waze, we were able to get onto the highway and once there, I was much more comfortable. RT tolls from Seville to Gibraltar were 14.5€ and gas came out to about $32 on my cc bill although I could have sworn I paid close to 38 euro at the pump. When we got off the highway near the border, driving became more difficult. The road to Gibraltar had a ton of roundabouts and getting and out of them was a bit stressful. But more on that next!

July 30, 2014, 11:37:46 AM
1
Re: Jersey Shore Master Thread
ummm creepy... Also there are many "dgindi"s from deal. I doubt we know each other.
Lol late response. But yes, that was still creepy.

November 28, 2014, 12:45:10 AM
1
Re: Bahamas Master Thread
;D ok no problem, i will make a goyish name... lol
Try Chaim Moskowitz  :P

January 15, 2015, 03:08:54 PM
1
Re: @Yehuda's Trips to DEN Thanksgiving 2015

I booked this trip back in August, and as SW usually goes, if you book 6-8 weeks in advance, you can generally find very cheap rates. The RT EWR-DEN cost about 28K and with the magical CP, that's 7K per person each way - a steal! These pictures are my first TR pictures taken with an iPhone 6S. I personally think they're better than the pictures from my iPhone 5 - let me know what you think.

Thanksgiving, Thursday, 11/26
I checked in for the flight exactly 24 hours before and got boarding numbers in the A50 range - not bad. We couldn't fly until Thursday itself and flying on Thanksgiving day turned out to be quite normal, as most travellers likely flew to their destinations on Wednesday night. After leaving the car at my mother's house, she kindly drove us for the short trip to EWR. We got there 1.5 hours before the flight and without checking bags, already having our BPs printed and having TSA Precheck, we were at the gate with over an hour to spare. What can I say? We prefer to give ourselves extra time rather than rush. We picked up a Fresko sandwich from the market; they're pricey, but tasty, and it's especially convenient to have the Kosher option while travelling. Before we knew it, they called boarding, and we got seats next to each other pretty close to the front of the plane. Right on time, we backed away from the gate and took off.


The beautiful view of what must be Linden, NJ.

It was our pilot's retirement flight and boy did he land that bird smoothly to a round of applause. Upon entering DEN, we were shocked to see a new airport kiosk.



I wasn't familiar with Coffee Beans that don't have a Hechsher, so we decided not to get anything. Now I know that the drinks are Kosher everywhere and only the food products need to be avoided. Good to know for next time!

Thankfully we had just slight turbulence and no delay on our flight despite landing in snowy Denver. It was our first snow of the winter - and interestingly my first time being in Denver when it was snowing! - and boy, it's much nicer here than in NYC.



After a sumptious Thanksgiving dinner prepared by my MIL, I was hoping to meet up with a Denverite DDFer, but alas, the travel + food knocked me out.

Black Friday, 12/27
Having bought the printer I needed a few days ago, there was nothing really on my shopping list for today. After Shacharis at the East Denver Orthodox Synagogue (EDOS), we headed to the Denver Museum of Natural History, specifically for the temporary Sherlock Holmes exhibit.



We got there a bit early, so we had time to revisit some of DW's fond childhood memories of the museum, including dinosaurs (!) mummies and gems/mines.


Brachiosaurus


Woolly Mammoth


Our Zaidah? ::)


Crazy how her teeth and eyelashes are still intact!


Stalactites and stalagmites



Seeing these exhibits took less than 30 minutes. Once it was our scheduled time for Sherlock Holmes, we headed that way. The exhibit first goes through Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character creation process, where he was influenced from, etc. and shows up some original handwritten copies of his books. After that, the displays teach you different investigative techniques in preparation for a case you have to solve.


Learn Morse code at the telegraph display.

Once you've picked up all your skills you head to Sherlock Holmes' apartment, where you hone your skills a bit more.





After that, you're taken to the scene of a crime where you need to study certain aspects like the splatter of blood on a wall and dragged footsteps.



Then it was time to test theories by seeing for example, how blood looks when it drips from a cut versus being shot forth from a bullet impact and how footsteps look when being dragged versus running away.

At the big reveal, you just look kinda confused as you never would have guessed who was the culprit. Nu nu, it was a fun exhibit. My only complaint is that it was too crowded. There were way too many people at each station throughout the exhibit, which made the interactive displays hard to use. At the end, there were some displays showing props from the different Holmes' movies/TV shows.


The original Beats by Dr. Dre?

After the museum, we were hungry but with Shabbos so soon, getting a full meal didn't make sense. Have no fear, winter and snow can't stop us from getting Bonnie Brae. ;D




So many fresh, homemade flavors. How to choose??

As always, the ice cream didn't disappoint.

Shabbos was very nice with family, even with the frigid temperatures on the walks to Shul. On Motzai Shabbos - Israel time - I had a fellow, kind DDFer check in for our Sunday morning SW flights for us. Despite checking in exactly 24 hours before, we still somehow got B30s. Must have been a lot of people who paid extra for EarlyBird Checkin.

Sunday, 11/29[/u]
On Sunday morning, we said our goodbyes and headed to DEN. This was our first trip where we couldn't see the Rockies at all during our stay, but we did get to see the airport's first on-premises hotel finally open - the Westin.


Bad quality, I know.


DEN airport, with it's snow-capped mountain roof and the Westin in the background.

Without checking bags, quickly printing BPs at the self-checkin kiosk and TSA Precheck, we were at the train to the terminals in no time. We had less time at the airport than we did in EWR, so we were boarding the plane shortly after arriving. This was my first time that I recall a flight I was on offering to bump a passenger, but $300 wasn't enough to make us wait around all day and then land in LGA 2 hours from my parked car in Jersey. SW offers free live TV and on a winter Sunday, it's awesome to catch the entire Giants game from the moment you step on the plane all the way till landing. (Tough loss :() My mother picked us up and before we knew it, we were heading back home.

Another fun trip to DEN!

December 02, 2015, 02:02:56 PM
1
Re: @Yehuda's Trips to DEN December 2015

Having been to Denver just a month earlier for Thanksgiving, we were fortunate to spend quite some time here again at the end of the year. This trip ending up consisting of Denver for Shabbos, Hawaii for a week, and then back to Denver for another 10 days. You can read all about the flight bookings, our first Shabbos in Denver and our incredible week in Maui over here. Now, it was time to return to Denver for 2 more Shabbosim and a week of Coloradan activities.

Christmas, Friday, 12/25 - Shabbos, 12/26
After flying from Maui to LA on Thursday, we spent the night at an airport hotel before catching an early Christmas morning SW flight to Denver for a measly 4,299 SW points (divided by 2 when you consider the Companion Pass). The airport felt quiet, but it could have easily been due to how early it was and not because of Christmas. The uneventful flight got us into Denver with plenty of time till Shabbos. Our second Shabbos in Denver was as nice as the first, with Davening at EDOS and wonderful family meals.


Getting greeted by a cowboy in the airport. That's Denver for ya.

Sunday, 12/27
Today we went to the Denver Aquarium, which was very nice.




An insanely old turtle.


Otters!




We saw these black-and-white striped fish in Maui!


Cool tunnel you can walk through and have sea life swim over you, including sting rays.



For some reason, they have a few endangered tigers in an Aquarium? The size of their cage brought up feelings of Blackfish...




Finding Dory #classic




Those TEEEETH!!!


Aren't these poisonous little guys so beautiful?

They also had a cool area where you could touch sting rays.


After a fun morning, we headed to our favorite in-between-lunch-and-dinner spot... Bonnie Brae!





After catching Mincha/Maariv at EDOS...[/i]



...it was off to the East Side Kosher Deli for dinner.






Some of their fantastic wings and ranch sauce.


Their classic bourbon burger.


My wife's favorite since she's been a kid - chicken nuggets. :)

That wraps up some #SundayFunday!

Monday, 12/28
We started the late morning off by going to the Cherry Creek Mall. It's on the mid- to high-end level, and looks very nice inside. After shopping, we headed over to Brooklyn Pizza for a late lunch. While I have been very critical of this place in the past, they really changed things around, and the pizza was very tasty. Glad for that!





Nothing too exciting at night, as we just stayed at home.

Tuesday - 12/29
After a chill morning, we got in the car and drove out for a free tour of the Kosher Hammond's Candy Factory. Their website said they don't take reservations in advance, so we just went and figured we'd go on whatever tour was next when we got there. Unfortunately, the place was packed when we got there, and the lady behind the counter rudely told us that all the tours were booked for the remainder of the day! We asked how that could be if they don't take reservations, and she just rudely said, "Sorry." Frustrated, we left, but maybe one day we'll return...





We continued on to our next stop -- more shopping. :P This time, we went to the really nice, outdoor Outlets at Castle Rock.





Turns out there was a ton of Kosher chocolate at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.



We headed out as the sun was setting and got a gorgeous look from the parking lot.



Back in Denver, we stopped by King Soopers, one of the main super market chains in Colorado, to pick up some stuff for dinner. (It's actually located in the same parking plaza as Brooklyn Pizza.)



In the evening, we went out to Monaco Lanes for some bowling.



Wednesday, 12/30
On Wednesday, we were ready to experience our first day of Colorado snow.  We debated between going skiing or snowtubing, but when we researched the costs and considered the anticipated 0 degree weather in the mountains, we decided on snowtubing. The roads were not too kind what with snow coming down for a good portion of the journey, but my father in law handled it superbly. On the way up to the mountains, we were treated to some gorgeous views.





Finally, we pulled into the city of Winter Park.



We had already decided on which company/hill we'd be going with, but there were several that we passed as we got to Colorado Adventure Park. Thankfully, it was also a bit warmer - at 12 degrees - than the forecast predicted.



Our hill looked like a fluffly, white blanket.



The view of the mountains behind the parking lot was quite special.



Whoever brought their husky out for the day wins the awesome award.



Now, here's where things went bad. We went into the office and found out that they had an estimated 1.5-2 hour wait until we could get on the hill! They have a limited number of people that are allowed on the hill at once and everyone pays for either 1 or 2 hours of tubing, so we had to get on a waiting list and just sit around. You never really saw more than 5 people at the top of the hill at once, nor more than 20 people going up the lift at any time, which meant that there was plenty of time that no one was tubing down. I really wonder where they came up with their numbers, because it seemed like they could have even doubled their capacity and everyone would have still been safely enjoying their afternoon. Almost 2 hours in, they told us it would be yet another hour. It was quite frustrating, but we weren't going to just go home. We stayed warm by the campfire they had set up, and eventually got our turn to take the tubes and head up the hill.



Going down had an exhilarating feeling to it, although I'm sure the skiers here will say it's nothing compared to skiing. Yeah, yeah. Part of the hill was smooth, but part of it had 2-3 bumps set up where you could actually catch some air. Some times we went alone, others in double tubes, and sometimes all of us went together by holding onto each others' tubes. All in all we went down probably close to 10 times in our hour.



We had a blast and then headed back to Denver where we, once again, went out to the Deli. As always, the chips and salsa on the table kept us busy while our food was being prepared.



The chicken soup was very good with a homemade taste to it.



I then went for the shnitzel sandwich, which came out as a completely fried chunk that I simply couldn't even bite into.



I courageously asked for it to be replaced, and the next version was much better.



After dinner we called it a night, and that's it for a fun, Colorado-filled day!

New Year's Eve, Thursday, 12/31
Today, we really relaxed by just sticking around the house for most of the day. Towards the evening, we went to our uncle and aunt's house for a New Year's party, where we had an amazing dinner, played games, re-watched some of the Broncos-Patriots Conference Championship game, watched a movie and had some Bonnie Brae New Year's ice cream cake. Yummmm.



New Year's Day, Friday, 1/1 - Sunday, 1/3
On Friday, we went bowling again, hehe, and then spent a 3rd wonderful Shabbos in a row in Denver. On Sunday, we headed to the airport, passing by the famous Bronco.


I know, I know, these pics were in the Maui TR.

We said our goodbyes and headed into the airport. At the self checkin kiosk, I realized that my boarding pass didn't say TSA Precheck on it! So, I tweeted to @SouthwestAir, and while waiting on line to check our bags, they responded that it was typed in wrong, updated it, and when we got to the front of the line, the agent re-printed me a new boarding pass. Gotta love it. We flew through security, got on the train and had enough time to pick up some Coffee Bean before our SW flight back to NY (at an amazing 9,574 SW for 2 people).



What an amazing 2.5 weeks, from the Rockies to Maui and back, topped off with a beautiful picture from the sky.


March 27, 2016, 08:57:30 PM
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The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami! Introduction/Trip Planning

At the end of May, I realized that my wife's schedule gave her a free weekend at the beginning of June, and I quickly seized the opportunity to plan a trip. We'd be taking our first trip to Miami! For a short Friday-Sunday trip with a pool/beach destination in mind, I would have preferred going to the Caribbean for the first time, but Zika held us back, and so we opted for Miami. While it may not be an exciting destination for many NYers, for 2 people who have never been before, the warm weather and ocean sounded great.

Flights
Based on availability, and having experienced the ease of flying Southwest out of Islip Airport to Orlando before, we once again chose ISP, but this time to FLL. With the SW Companion Pass, the roundtrip came out to about 13,500 miles + $11.20 per person, even cheaper than it would have cost if Avios had availability.

Hotel
Part of the excitement behind the trip was also the fact that Hyatt had recently taken over it's first beachfront property in Miami as part of the new Hyatt Unbound collection, The Confidante (previously known as Thompson Miami Beach). I booked it for 2 nights at 25,000 Hyatt points per night. The hotel is located on Collins Avenue between 41st and 40th Streets, which as I quickly learned, was the heart of everything we'd need. I reached out to a manager there who offered to order us Kosher food daily as part of the complimentary Diamond breakfast, giving us choices from 2 restaurants (even providing their Hechsherim and Cholov Yisrael/Pas Yisrael status) with a $25 allowance per person. She even agreed to swap out breakfast on Shabbos morning for a brunch that would be waiting for us when we checked in on Friday. Additionally, on her own, she asked if we needed a low floor and let us know that the staff would be more than willing to press elevator buttons for us or change the lights in the room, as well as include an extra refrigerator in the room. We found out that the lobby doors and door to the pool/beach were manual, so that would be great for Shabbos. The room doors, however, were electronic, so we would just have to do the little tape-your-keycard-over-the-door-jamb trick (thanks Dan!). It turns out she herself is Jewish, which helps explain her knowledge of all the Jewish matters. Upon checkin, we were upgraded to a Partial Ocean View room (which really has no view at all). The manager wasn't in, and I couldn't get the agent to upgrade us to anything better. I found out afterwards that the manager specifically told them to keep us on the 2nd floor (which didn't have any suites available), and the front desk agent didn't want to put us on a higher floor (even in a better room). I didn't make my preferences clear enough, but the manager promised to give us a better room on our next trip. All in all, she provided incredible service, as did the rest of the staff, to make our stay as comfortable as possible.

Transportation
As we didn't plan on doing any activities or travelling to distant restaurants, we didn't rent a car and instead just ate at places that were within walking distance. Ubers to/from the airport would be our only transportation expenses.

Shabbos Meals
I hope I'm not forgetting anyone here, but major thanks to yakrot, JJ and jaywhy for their Miami advice in general, but specifically to yakrot for suggesting I look into Chabad for meals. It turns out they only have lunch (served in a Kiddush style), so we brought food from home for Friday night dinner.

Off We Go!

At pre-6AM, there really isn't any traffic on the roads, so we made it to the Clarion next to ISP for parking in less than an hour. Amazingly better than our last experience driving to ISP, for those that recall. We prepaid online for 3 days of parking for $27.46, including a few dollar discount that I found via Google. 10 minutes later, we were at the gate - ISP rocks. Davening Shacharis in an airport is never comfortable, but it is what it is. The flight left on time, and before we knew it, we were touching down. We got our bags and called an Uber. However, the driver did not speak English well and finding each other was very difficult. We told him where we were, the app showed where we were, and of course, we saw him fly right past us. He ended up pulling over at the end of the terminal and told us to walk to him. With that small hassle out of the way, we were on the road for the 45 minute trip to Miami Beach, which came out to $15.33 after a referral discount. I know that people prefer to fly to MIA, but from my understanding, it's only 15 minutes closer than FLL, so I would go with whichever airport has the cheaper flight/points availability.

Settling into the Hotel

OH, THE HUMIDITY!



We pulled up to The Confidante and were greeted by friendly doormen who opened the doors for us and said hello/welcome back/see ya later literally every time we entered or left the hotel. The hotel has a very art-deco style that gives off the impression of old fashioned and yet sleek at the same time. It was definitely unique compared to other hotels we've been to and especially did not fit with Hyatt's normal branding - but that's the point of the Unbound Collection.



After checkin, we went up to our room, and a few minutes later our brunch from Tasty Beach Cafe arrived. The buttermilk pancakes were HUGE and the egg harvest wrap (thanks CS91) had an interesting, but good taste.







Pools and Beach

After eating, it was time to head down to the pool! The grounds were very nice, but not too large, which I assume is the case for most Miami hotels.





The pool area has two, almost identical pools - one for adults only, and the other for families. The staff outside were also incredibly nice, not just giving us lounge chairs, but even laying towels down/tucking them in and preparing the area for us. There was ice water by the pools as well as magazines to read.


Family pool


Adult pool

I figured I'd compare the pools/beach to other ones I've been to, so I'll compare them to NJ beaches, Eilat and Hawaii. Quite the contrast indeed, although you'll be in for a bit of a surprise. For most of our stay, the pool area was kinda crowded. The pools themselves only had a few people in them, but there were lots of people hanging around. I'd compare it to the busyness of the pool in the Hyatt Regency Maui and contrast it with the nearly-empty (aside from a few families) pools at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. Many of the people were there for bachelor/bachelorette parties, as opposed to Hawaii where we mostly saw families and kids. The pools were somewhat heated which made entering them not terribly difficult. I don't really understand it, but the water was a good 20 degrees warmer than the freezing cold pool in Maui.

After a while, we headed out past the pools across the boardwalk to the beach. For those, like myself, who have never been to Miami Beach before, it's basically a strip of hotel after hotel all up against the beach with a boardwalk running seemingly the entire way. Every hotel has their own section of the beach where they've set up chairs, yet the beach also has plenty of public entrances where I imagine you can enter for free and set up your own towels or perhaps rent from one of the hotels out there.


Crossing over from the boardwalk to the beach



The beach area was also crowded, although having all the beach chairs and umbrellas pre-set up definitely adds to the feel of it being full. Here again, the Hyatt reps set up chairs with towels for us. I can confidently say the sand and ocean is a 100% cleaner, warmer and nicer than the Jersey shore. :D Additionally, there were also planes constantly flying overhead with ads hanging off the back, which was VERY reminiscent of Jersey.



Of course, the beach was way better than Eilat's "beach", which is mostly just pebbles. However, the heat and humidity here made it feel like the 100+ degree weather we experienced in Eilat. :)

Compared to Hawaii, the sand was surprisingly similar in color and the ocean was incredibly clear, just like in Hawaii. However, the bottom of the ocean floor was SO sandy that it blew any of the beaches we went to in Hawaii out of the water in that regard. It was so nice not having to watch out for our feet hitting rocks or getting cut up. Interestingly, the ocean is also very shallow. We must have gone 100 feet out into the ocean, and it was still barely 4 feet deep. I don't know if that was just this area of Miami or the whole strip. The water also had a sand bar (if that's the right word) about 20 feet out that was really cool because it broke the waves coming in and also allowed for relaxing on sand with only a light amount of water splashing on you. (You can see people sitting on it on the left side of the above picture.) Regarding the waves, Miami really loses to Hawaii. On the calmer beaches in Hawaii, you could swim and snorkel with the water barely moving, but here, there were waves every 10 seconds that knocked you over and made swimming difficult. Of course, the number one difference is that Miami had no coral and almost no fish (we saw just a few), while snorkeling in Hawaii was a most incredible experience. Of course, you'd say you can't compare Miami to Hawaii (and I agree), but I did it here to discuss specific differences.

I'll also say that the hotels were all kinda similar on the outside - tall, plain, white buildings with not much personality - which was very reminiscent of many Eilat hotels.


The back of the Confidante, on the right

Pre-Shabbos

As the long summer afternoon moved along slowly (thankfully!), we left the beach, went for another quick swim in the pool (much better swimming than the ocean) and ran across the street to a market to pick up some snacks for Shabbos. We then went for a run on the boardwalk, but it started raining, so we headed back pretty quickly. On the run, we saw the backs of many of the hotels/pools and thought that the grounds/pools by our hotel were definitely among the tops in our area. All along the boardwalk, we noticed poles with a string atop them and, upon further inspection of the signs hanging on each pole, realized it was the Eruv! Pretty cool.



We got ready for Shabbos - including preparing the door lock (see above) and setting the lights and timers for the things we wanted on/off. We couldn't figure out how how to turn off the light in the fridge, but we only needed it for our drinks for dinner since we were eating lunch at Chabad, so we filled up a bag inside the garbage can with ice to act as a fridge for the night. We then headed back down to the beach to get some pre-Shabbos pictures. Boy, the water and sky was beautiful.





Shabbos

Once I found out Chabad was 10 minutes away on 41st Street, we decided to just Daven all Tefillos there. It turns out that the Minyan was originally established to be a sort of "Children's Minyan", so there is lots of singing for the kids, and the Rabbi gives out raffle tickets to the kids the whole time. Davening was therefore a bit slow at times and a bit quick at times when they were saying things the kids wouldn't be saying. There was a women's section for my wife, someone asked if we had somewhere to eat dinner, and after Davening, we headed back to the hotel for our little, quiet, super-relaxing meal. Like our hotel Shabbos meals in London, this one will stick in the memory for a long time.



In the morning, we went back to Chabad for 10AM Shacharis (WOW!) followed by the Kiddush/lunch. It was very communal style, so we found seats at a table and met a nice Chassidish couple from Monsey who just finished a trip to Key West, another couple visiting Miami and a local guy. Food was served to the group (i.e. not individual plates) except for very good cholent which was handed out in individual bowls. The rest of the food included salad, egg salad, gefilte fish and chicken. Everything we had tasted good, and I think this is a doable option for someone visiting Miami for Shabbos. After the trip, I sent them a donation online, including something for the Aliyah I was given. I would have liked if there was something more formal to the meal other than Kiddush made after Shacharis - perhaps a Rabbi going around introducing himself, but maybe that isn't so doable with such a large meal likely every week. The truth is that we only met the Chabad Rabbi in Venice because we went over to him, so maybe formalities/introductions don't usually happen at these meals. The Chassidish couple we ate with told us they ate in a restaurant in the Days Inn (I think...?) Friday night and loved it, so perhaps we'd look into that for another trip.

In the afternoon, we went for a long walk along the boardwalk, but couldn't last for too long as the heat was really strong in our Shabbos clothes. Mincha and Maariv back at Chabad and Havdala in the hotel room, and that was it for Shabbos!

Motzai Shabbos and Sunday

For dinner Motzai Shabbos, we were happy to hear that many options were open that late at night. We chose Beyond by Shemtov's, a well-decorated dairy place, and were thrilled with our decision. Their penne ala vodka, baked potato pizza, french onion soup and milkshake were all amazing! The fries were only decent, though. Prices were a bit on the expensive side, but it's clear that this place is not "just" a pizza store. Feeling stuffed, we walked back to the hotel and took a look out back - the pools were empty! The water was still impressively warm enough to quickly acclimate to, and we enjoyed a midnight swim. There was a security guard/staff of sorts that was hanging out by the pool area, and eventually another 2-3 people showed up but stayed in the other pool, but overall it was great and especially nice to finally swim without a lot of people around.

In the morning, I went to Chabad for Shacharis and then came back just as our breakfast from Tasty arrived. The chocolate chip pancakes were even better than the buttermilk ones (just as large), and the egg white omelet was pretty good. Truly a real treat for Kosher Diamond breakfast. After securing a late checkout of 5PM, we spent the day at the pools and beach again. That was our goal for the trip, and we really enjoyed it. We decided that lunch had to be at Shemtov's again, and this time we ordered a small pizza to split. It was plenty (no need for a full pie), but we had chosen the cheddar broccoli pizza thinking there would be some cheddar sprinkled on top, while in reality, the cheddar was the main cheese of the pizza (no mozzarella), so it was an interesting taste. We also got mozzarella sticks which were out of this world as well as a great strawberry mango smoothie. Would definitely go here again. After lunch, we stopped by Carlos & Gabby's to pick up 2 helpings of buffalo tenders to go for the plane (which we weren't even hungry for and didn't eat till we were home). We then packed up our things and went down to the pools for one last swim. As we finished putting our things together, we saw our flight get delayed, but decided not to chance it and rather checkout and grab an Uber to FLL for $18.49 after a referral discount. Good thing, because the flight got pushed forward again and was only delayed a short while. The evening flight got us back to ISP around 10PM, and we got our car and made it home at a relatively normal hour. What a great short getaway to Miami!

July 08, 2016, 10:32:08 AM
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Re: Rome Master Thread BA"Ghetto Milky twice a day, every day. I know I didn't try everything at both places, but everything we had at BA"Ghetto was "WOW" and everything we had at Yotvata was "Good".
August 15, 2016, 01:36:48 PM
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Re: Kauai, HI Master Thread
Please show me LAX-LIH lie flat.
Wow first date that I searched. 🙈

August 31, 2016, 05:58:27 PM
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Re: Maui Master Thread
Anyone know how long it would take to do Haleakala at sunrise, blowhole and then olivine pools?  Sunrise is about 6:15am that day and coming from the Andaz.

As it stands, looking to do Haleakala, Snorkeling, and RTH each morning Monday - Wednesday with early wakeups every day.  Is this a bad idea?

Thanks!
Look at my TR I did Haleakala day in that order.

September 01, 2016, 03:09:59 PM
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