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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
Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report Ha, not a week later! Thanks for the feedback guys.


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...

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
List of all Credit Card Master Threads Click Here to get more details on this card and compare to other cards!

I thought it would helpful for there to be a wiki of all the different CC discussion threads.

I think this will (1) help people find a thread they're looking for faster than searching/looking through the last few pages of the board and (2) help stop people from starting new threads for a CC that already has an existing thread.

I know a similar concept was created already, but that thread is now in the "Start Here" board, which isn't really useful for someone who's already here in the CC board looking for a topic. It also was very cluttered, in my opinion, as it included basically every major thread in this board.

Obviously, this would only really help if it was stickied to the board, but that's not for me to decide. If you think this wiki is useful, please comment so and hopefully it will get stickied. If you don't think it's useful, then it will die out just like the 5 threads that were started to discuss the Delta card or the 10 threads started to discuss the Hilton card.

October 20, 2014, 01:11:19 PM
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
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
Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report To make up for not having my MCO TR for tonight and because I started writing this on 12/26, here is Gibraltar!

Humbly, I present you with the next installment. I can't guarantee more will come soon, though...

I think a quick recap is in order to catch you up from where we left off on the way out of Seville. T'was a Friday morning…

We took a taxi to Hertz at the Santa Justa Railway Station to get a car to drive to Gibraltar. The cab dropped us off at the wrong part of the train station, but eventually we found Hertz. Unfortunately, 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. This happened on my Italy rental as well (haven’t gotten there yet). I thought I had posted about this, but in case I didn’t, eventually Hertz agreed to split the cost of the underage fee with me, so I got back about $40 per rental. 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 in and out of them was a bit stressful. Shortly thereafter, we got to the border and went right through! No one stopped us, no questions, just go ahead! Maybe that’s because they knew what was lying up ahead…

If we thought driving that last strip from the highway to the border was tough, driving in actual Gibraltar was a nightmare. For such a small country/city, there are SO many people and everyone shares the road. Everyone? Yes, everyone. The road – not the sidewalk – is shared by cars, scooters/motorbike, and people. Everyone walks in the street, there are probably more scooters than cars and to top it all off, they have a bunch more roundabouts. I’m not some weirdo - I’m not scared of roundabouts in America – but these roundabouts had TRAFFIC LIGHTS in them! I had no idea when I was supposed to enter or exit and when I tried, I promise you I almost hit an old lady crossing in an electric wheelchair. People honked at me and screamed at my car because apparently I was getting out of the circle on a red light. Once the lady crossed the street, I sped right through the red just to get the heck out of there. I took a deep breath only to find myself in a maze of narrow roads (with fewer cars/scooters, I’ll admit) that couldn’t possibly be 2-way streets, but who knew? Thank G-d for GPS, because the roads don’t have street signs in Gibraltar! We followed Waze blindly until it had us turn down an incredibly narrow street where I couldn’t see if anyone was coming from the other way. I slowly turned and breathed a sigh of relief when I realized no one was coming. A few more twists and turns and we were outside the Eliott Hotel.

Right outside the hotel is a public parking lot that was just as narrow as the roads. Somehow b”h I found a spot there and ran into the hotel. I asked the clerk for information about the free parking lot at 2-4 Red Sands Roads (that SamKey, I believe, mentioned in the GIB thread), but they had no idea what I was talking about or where it was. We ended up passing by the lot on our Shabbos walk and it was a good, decent walk from the hotel, as forewarned by SamKey. After the driving experience and because we were already running late, I decided to just pay them the $20 for parking (I’ve converted my expenses to USD at this point, but yes, I paid in GBP), and we got our stuff from the car and checked into our room. We got a manual key for Shabbos, but had to put down a deposit of 50 GBP to do so. FIFTY!? For a key!? Lol

At this point, I assume you know that I was trying to spend as little actual cash as possible for the travel costs of this trip. With that in mind, bear with my craziness… I booked the Eliott from for something like $160 IIRC, which was cheaper than booking direct. A few days later, I realized that through the UR booking tool, I could use my UR in a terrible way and redeem them for my stay. So, I paid $15 to cancel my Amoma reservation and then used 14K UR to get the night. Stupid? Crazy? I don’t care. :-)

The Eliott is one of the closest hotels to the Shuls and to our host, as we ate our meals by someone my mother knows. It’s definitely not gorgeous, but it’s also not terrible. It clearly hasn’t been renovated in a while, so the décor was old. This was going to be our first Shabbos at a hotel, so I took all the advice I got from DDF and went through the checklist. The lights/AC in the room seemed like there was no timer issue. There might have actually been one for the AC, but it was cool enough to just leave the sliding door open (there was a door, but no real porch IIRC). The front desk agreed to let us light tea lights (that we brought with us) on the front desk itself, and they happily supplied matches. As I said, we got a manual key. The lobby has a manual door on the side, but at nights, they lock it from the outside. They told us that at night, we could just go to the front doors and wave/they’ll see us and come let us in, but after standing there (just outside the reach of the sensor) for a few minutes, no one was coming. Eventually another guest walked in, and we jumped in right behind her. The biggest issue was staying in the room on Shabbos. Before the trip began, I called up to find out if we could checkout late on Shabbos, but they said we would have to pay for the 2nd night since they’re normally full. I really didn’t want to do that (and nothing changed in that regard when we actually checked in), so we agreed that we would pack our bags before Shabbos and leave them in the lobby’s storage room and just keep whatever we needed with us for the night and move them into the storage room in the morning. Hachana? Maybe. I don’t know. It wasn’t fun at all, but what can ya do if you don’t wanna lay out the cash? It’s not such a cheap place, it’s not such a nice place, but supposedly it’s better than the other options, and since there aren’t too many – I’d suggest staying there. I’d also suggest more time in GIB :-) but you’ll see that soon.

I thought we would get to GIB around noon and have time to walk around and find some food, but by the time we settled into the room, we had less than a ½ hour till our 2PM pre-booked dolphin boat tour. There are, I believe, 2 companies that run dolphin tours, and I booked from Dolphin Adventure since they had a web-order discount of like 5GBP. Total cost was 20GBP/person. We grabbed a map from reception and made our way to the docks. It was pretty easy to tell that GIB had 1 main street, appropriately named Main Street, so we followed that for about 10-15 minutes. We soon realized that pre-booking might have saved a few dollars, but it was not necessary for the purpose of actually reserving a spot since there were reps (mostly from the competing company) selling tickets all over. It was a bit confusing to figure out where the ticket office exactly was, but a rep from the competitor helped us find our ticket window. We got there just as the clock struck 2, and they said they were holding the boat for us and told us to run to the docks. We got to the boat as the last few people were boarding (so we didn’t feel terribly bad) and within 2 minutes, we were off!
We were probably out on the water for an hour and a quarter, and it was really fun. The water was so clear, the crew was nice, there weren’t too many people on board, and the breeze felt great. After about 20-30 minutes, the boat is far enough from shore that they can start looking for dolphins. The crew told us about the different types of dolphins they have in the area and how they come into this area for food and then swim back out into more open waters. Finally, we found dolphins!

It was extremely cool watching them swim, come up for air, and move together in groups. Interestingly, they also move based on the currents that the boat creates as it moves, so they kind of swim along with the drifting boat. At times we lost them, found them, found other groups, and yeah it was a cool/fun experience! I would say the boat turned around at just the right time as I was beginning to get bored – I mean how long can you just keep following dolphins swim? We got back to shore, checked our watches, and then the realization hit…

We weren't going to have enough time to go up The Rock and see the monkeys.

Because we got to the hotel a little late, we didn’t have time to find food before the dolphin tour, so at this point, we were really hungry. We knew that we wouldn’t have time to get food and still go up the Rock, so we just decided we would get food and head back to the hotel. It was a sad decision, since ideally we would have liked to have done the activity that Gibraltar is famous for, but having prepaid for the dolphin tour, we just decided it was what it was. I realize now that we could have forgone the dolphin tour and considered the money we spent there as admission for seeing the monkeys – to make wasting the $40 easier on our minds – but we didn’t think of that in the moment, and we also thought we would still have time after the dolphins to go up the Rock.

A quick Google search brought us to a Kosher restaurant (I can’t remember the name) down the block. (Surprised now that I didn’t research the Kosher places before I went.) We caught them before they closed for Shabbos, but the guy behind the counter took one look at me and said, “We don’t have certification, you may not want to eat here.” I thought that was really nice, and I was very impressed with his honesty. We left and wandered around until we found Jews who pointed us in the direction of a Kosher grocery. We got some food like cheese and crackers as well as some snacks for Shabbos. The owners told us there’s another grocery a few blocks away as well as a Kosher bakery nearby, so we headed off in that direction. We found the 2nd grocery and got some more snacks and found out that the bakery was already closed. We went back to the hotel to eat the food we got and then got ready for Shabbos. We had time, but unfortunately, just not enough to hike up the mountain. Oh well. Probably one of maybe 2 real mistakes we made on the trip.

Once we were ready, we had to pack up our bags and bring them down to the storage room as I mentioned before. Once that was all settled, my wife lit candles on the front desk (kinda cool!), and we left for Shul. The only thing we took with us was a package of deli that we had bought for meals on Sunday with the hope of keeping it in our hosts’ fridge over Shabbos. Our host had told us how to go to the Shul that he Davens at, Nefusot Yehuda, and we found it without much difficulty. Upon arrival, the security guard outside asked us who we were and who we were visiting. When we told him, he said, “Oh, that’s me!” Hehe. The Shul was beautiful with intricately carved walls and ceiling – what I believe is known as Moorish architecture. Davening was Sefard (or the like) and after it was over, we walked with him back to his house, which was back past the Eliott and up one block. He had a nice house that looked like he owned the first floor and someone else owned the upstairs, and we had a very nice meal with him and his family. The whole family has British accents (which is super cute with kids), and they also have a gorgeous husky! We told him about our restaurant experience. He thought that was nice, and IIRC and I think I do, he also told us that all the restaurants in Gibraltar are iffy with Kashrus. The meal lasted a while, and when it was done, we said goodbye, walked down the block to the Eliott, tried waving at the front desk clerk to get in as I mentioned before, and then collapsed for the night.

In the morning, we went back to the same Shul. I know people here mentioned that all 4 Shuls are gorgeous and worth seeing, but we decided to just Daven in the same Shul as our host. I also want to point out that the Jews were really friendly in Gibraltar. Walking in the street with our host, we were stopped and asked if we needed somewhere to eat. It’s also really cool that everyone feels comfortable wearing yarmulkahs and Tzitzis out in public here. Gibraltar was the only place we really saw that in Europe. Lunch was very nice, and we told our hosts about our hotel dilemma. Right away, they said to crash on their couch if we needed to rest or to go for a walk and gladly come back at any time. We napped on their couch for a while and then went for a walk to find a lighthouse that they suggested to see. They hadn’t been there in a while and knew it was outside the Eruv, but didn’t know exactly how far it was. We walked a good 45 minutes and never got to the lighthouse, so we turned around to make sure to be back in time for Mincha. Was a nice walk (a bit tiring), and it was on this walk that we got a good view of the cable car up the Rock as well as a nice view of the Rock itself. We also passed by a parking lot on a “Red Sands Road” :) Didn’t notice if it was free, but it was definitely a good walk to the hotel, and we definitely could not have handled finding it with our time constraints and ability to deal with GIB driving any longer. We Davened Mincha and then went back to our host for Shalosh Seudos where he informed us that he eats Shalosh Seudos for a few hours and ends Shabbos really late, but that we should feel free to go to Shul for Maariv and end Shabbos when we wanted to. Never heard of that before, but cool. So we caught Maariv and Havdalah in Shul, went back to our hosts to pick up our deli package :) and then went back to the Eliott to get our bags. Driving at night out of Gibraltar was a breeze compared to Friday afternoon and before we knew it, we were back on the highway to Seville.

January 15, 2015, 10:06:09 PM
Re: Orlando Master Thread Thursday 1/8

It took me a while to figure out what to do for the 3rd, and last, day of the trip. Why did we go for 3 days? My wife had a final on Monday, and I knew I wanted to be home for Shabbos. So I booked the departure for Monday night and figured, hey we might as well stay for as much of the week possible, so we'll stay till Friday morning. I quickly realized that by flying back on Friday, I’d be taking an off-day from work on Friday just to travel, so I changed my flight (thanks Southwest!) to Thursday night. We simply had a 3rd day because, why not? True, we wouldn't be able to do a big park on that day since you really don't want to be worrying about rushing early out of a park to catch a flight, but because Universal only has 2 parks, I knew we'd be done by day 3 and could just enjoy the warm weather with a smaller activity. The Titanic Museum and mini golf with alligators came up as decent possibilities, but when I went to the Eden Wok DO on Christmas Eve and met ad120 who offered me FREE LegoLand tickets he didn't need and happened to have on him (!), I knew exactly what our 3rd day activity would be! (No, ad120 no longer has any tickets.) He warned me that LegoLand is a bit on the kid-side of things, but I figured, free tickets - why not? My wife was very excited as she had gone to LL as a kid and had fond memories.

But, I wasn't done yet. I still wanted to do something else and get in a little surprise for my wife. For the last night/day of our trip, I very much wanted to rent a home with a private pool on AirBNB so we could have fun swimming privately. My wife loves swimming, so I thought it would be a great idea. I spent the weeks leading up to our trip checking AirBNB all the time for possible rentals. Most places have pics of their pool, but you'll find that a lot of times, (at least the homes in Orlando) are walled in by clear glass walls and are part of a neighborhood of homes that share the same big backyard and all have these glass cages around their pools where you can see in from one pool to the next. This provides privacy, although not modesty. The few houses that I found with fences around their pools wouldn't accept a 1 night reservation (1 owner's concern was that I would be having a party) or were way too expensive. I had some issues while communicating with some of the owners and AirBNB gave me a $50 credit to make up for the hassle. After a few (read: too many) emails, I got AirBNB to combine the $50 credit with the $25 credit I got for signing up so I now had $75 off! I was willing to spend $100 after the discount, so now my options opened up a bit. (As an aside, you'll find that the prices you see are often not so accurate - there's an AirBNB fee and often you'll be hit with fees for cleaning and pool heating that are not included in the sticker price.) I still didn't have a place a week before we left (which wasn't a problem, because I still had the BRG booked), and then got the idea to message owners of more expensive houses and ones that had minimum stay requirements and ask if they would work with me because they were still vacant for just a week away. I got one lady to agree to allow me to stay for just 1 night, include the pool heating fee, cleaning fee and everything (after mentioning it was our anniversary) for about $150 so that after the AirBNB fee, the total cost would be under $175! I plugged in my code, which brought the cost down to just $93 and paid with my Arrival+ card, so that in the end of the day, there was $0 out of pocket cost to me - something you by now know I love :)

Now, I know that my wife prefers to stay in the same hotel when travelling (unless we're leaving the city), and I really only booked the home so we could go swimming in the morning (yeah $93 just for swimming ;D), so I didn't want to cancel the Comfort Inn for the last night just yet. I figured we would wait to see how the room was when we arrived and then decide. But because of the possibility that we would leave on the 3rd night to go to the private home, I needed the car rental to be ready for that night, which is why I arranged for it to be ready after Universal as I posted about above. In the end, we were very comfortable in our suite, and I wasn't going to deal with packing up on the morning of our 2nd day and leaving the bags with the front desk - which would ruin the surprise of going to the private home - so we kept our reservation and stayed the night at the Comfort Inn.

Finally, we can start our day. I woke up on time and made it to Chabad. I figured I could be a little later after yesterday when it took them 15 minutes to get to Mizmor Shir, but of course, today they were actually 15 minutes into Davening when I showed up. Perhaps they're not so consistent with their speed. After Shul, I picked up breakfast - again, yogurts and hot chocolate - and went upstairs to start packing. I told my wife that we needed to be ready a bit earlier since we had to drive to LegoLand, so we were out by 9:30. Checkout was smooth (which is always a bit nerve-racking after a BRG) and we were off! About 30 minutes later, we pulled off onto a small street where every house was identical. Every house had the same shape and same tan/yellow color. It was like we drove into a movie set of some utopian world. Pretty freaky. Anyway, we pulled up to the house and when I pulled into the driveway, my wife gave me a look. I said, “C'mon let's go!” and she confusingly followed me to the door. Of course, the moment was ruined a bit when I couldn't get the code to unlock the door and had to call the property manager who reminded me I had to nudge the door as I entered the code, but we were in! The house was really nice. Very clean and obvious that no one lives there and it's just for rentals (few drawers, empty closets), but I immediately saw how this could be really cool for a family for a week. I took her to the back and had her open the shades where she saw the pool! She was still very confused, but definitely happy and laughed when I pulled bathing suits out of my bag, having successfully snuck them into my suitcase at home without her noticing. Unfortunately, it was cold outside today. Cold for Florida I should say. One touch of the water (even with the heater on), and we knew it wouldn't be fun at all to swim in it. :(

To give you an idea of the modesty level of the pool that I finally went with, here’s a pic. The backside was a forest and the two sides had frosted glass on the bottom layer, which meant that if we were in the pool, neighbors couldn’t see in. You can also see from the picture how close neighbors with the glass-cage-over-the-pool are.

We went back inside, and I emailed the owner telling her she was really going to save a lot on a cleaning crew because we were just going to leave. Oh well. It would have been fun, but you can't predict the weather. We were wearing sweatshirts and long pants/leggings that morning, so I knew it may not work out as we were driving, but obviously I was at least going to check out the house/situation anyway.

I had thought we would swim till around noon (got the owner to allow late checkout) and then go to LegoLand for a few hours, but we were obviously on our way earlier than that. 40 minutes later, we pulled into LegoLand, and I realized I forgot to buy parking online for a $2 discount, so we ended up paying $14. Too bad :P You could tell by the size of the parking lot and by how few cars were there at already noon, that it was going to be an empty park which is always great. Right outside the park, they’re building a Lego hotel, scheduled to open Summer 2015. The concept sounds cool – each room is decorated with a different Lego theme, plenty of activities for the kids to do, but the idea of going to Orlando and calling LegoLand your base seems like a bad one. There is 1 park here and you’re 40+ minutes away from Disney and Universal. The official resorts by Disney and Universal make sense because each place has at least 2 parks, and both places are only about 20 minutes away from each other. Anyway, let’s begin with LegoLand!

As a kid, I always wanted to come here – a whole world built out of Lego! – and as a kid, I’m sure I would have loved it. My wife had been to the LegoLand in California as a kid, so she was excited to bring back some memories. However, I was a bit let down. The park is not built out of Lego (or built out of things that are made to look like Lego). Sure, there are Lego statues of characters placed around the park, but I was expecting every building, fence, bench, etc. to look like it was made out of Lego. I was also surprised that every life-size Lego creation was worn out with the colors faded. Did no one think about the ramifications of leaving Lego outside in rainy conditions? Seems like that was just overlooked. The park was nice, don’t get me wrong, but the quality of it was a CLEAR notch down from the likes of Disney and Universal. Additionally, almost every ride is geared towards kids (which is obviously the point) with some rides actually being off limits to adults, while Disney still manages to make adults feel welcome and enjoy kid rides, so I think LegoLand just missed out on that. You would also think that with the huge success of The Lego Movie, there would be a ride or a show or something related to it but NADA except for a meet & greet with a plain-faced Lego character that could have been Emmet – or really any other plain Lego character from your childhood. :-\

I’m going to approach this a bit differently than how I broke down the Universal parks. The park does not have a perfectly clear order for walking around, so I’m just going to point out the things we did (not in any real order) and in much briefer fashion than I did for Universal. I will first point out that the park was empty. Like I said, it was very cold today (we were cold in our sweatshirts) so that likely kept the park empty, but I’m curious if it actually gets much fuller in better weather.

The Beginning
Island in the Sky - a round “arena” that gets lifted slowly up above the park and spins slowly around. Nice way to see the park, but it was closed when we got there, so we rode right before we left for the night.

Fun Town
Lego Factory – sounded interesting but was closed whenever we passed by :(. Fun Town 4D Theater – this was the closest ride to a classic Universal ride where you sit and watch a show, except… that it was just a movie theater. It felt like going to the movies. Sit wherever you want (not placed into a specific row/seat), no seat restraint because the seat didn’t move, and yeah just the theater felt used/dirty and not maintained. The video was a cute story about Clutch Powers which apparently (found out afterwards) was a straight-to-DVD Lego movie. The 4D was fun as they poured snow down on top of us. Overall, the experience didn’t come close to the even the worst of Universal’s rides.

This was a really fun part of the park. It’s basically a section that contains Lego-size creations of famous sites, like the Las Vegas strip, NYC skyline, Statue of Liberty and Kennedy Space Center as well as a whole Star Wars section with different scenes built out of Lego. A life-size Darth Vader and Darth Maul hang out here, too. Fun to look around and they did a cute job of having Lego boats in the water move around, the fountain at the Bellagio splash water, etc. Once again, most of the creations were faded due to exposure to the elements. How they could have spent countless hours building these wonderful works of art (next to many creations throughout the park, there’s a plaque saying how many pieces are in it and how long it took to build) and not realize that leaving them in the rain would “ruin” them is beyond me.

Pirates’ Cove
Nothing to do here besides watch an on-the-water pirate show, which there were no showings of for the whole day we were there.

Imagination Zone
The focus of this section was an indoor Lego activity center. We could tell from the outside that it wasn’t for us, so we didn’t even go in.

Cypress Gardens
At the end of the park, is a botanical gardens. I can’t figure it out either. The most likely explanation is that it was there before the park was built, and they couldn’t get rid of it because it’s a national something or other. We walked through it because “why not?” and thought it was nice, but no need to stop by here. It takes a while to go through the whole thing and that’s not why you came to LegoLand (I’m imagining you’re here with your kids). At the center of the gardens is a huge banyan tree (funny how Yehoshua just posted about one in Maui, well there’s one in LegoLand, too, lol) which is really cool to walk through as you can actually walk under and through the different trunks that make up one huge tree.

Lego Technic
Project X – the first roller coaster that I’m discussing today. It’s like one of those “mouse” coasters with a little cart that goes around very loopy. My wife wanted to go, but there was a drop that I knew I couldn’t handle. Instead, I spent $10 on a game and won her another Minion doll (only because the guy let me have an extra shot at knocking down the clown). This Minion was not nearly as fuzzy, cute or official-looking as the real one we bought yesterday.

Lego City
Because the map I took that day was in Spanish, I can’t tell you the name of the next ride I want to describe. We didn’t end up doing it because my wife wasn’t interested, but I thought it was pretty cool. 4 teams of people get into their own fire truck and they have to get it to drive to a “fire” by pumping a lever that makes it move. Once at the fire, they have to pump a hydrant and aim the hose at a target to put out the fire. First team done, wins. It was cool to watch. Boating School – here, you sit in a 2-3 person boat and go around the short water track. The boat moves with a pedal/wheel, so you are kinda in control. On line, an older gentleman looked at us and asked if we’ve been to Kosher Grill or Simka’s Sweets (Kosher ice cream store) – lol are we that noticeable? Driving School – was really just for kids, but my wife enjoyed watching it and reminiscing her time on it as a kid. Flying School - after watching this roller coaster go around once, I agreed that it was slow enough for me to ride! The line was non-existent, as were most lines today, so we got right on. I don’t know coaster terminology, but it was the type that holds you from over your head/arms and your feet dangle below. It didn’t go fast, but I still didn’t love the twists and turns and drops. Whatever, roller coasters aren’t my thing and by now you know that. :P

Water Park
Right next to Flying School is the entrance to the water park. The water park was closed today, and from the calendar, it seems like it’s often closed when the main park is open and vice versa. If $80 didn’t stop you from entering the main park, perhaps you’d be willing to spend the other $80 or so it costs to get into the water park. From the map, the water park looks a drop bigger than a “section” in the park, yet it costs just to get in there? Okay…

Land of Adventure
Coastersaurus – my wife really wanted me to go on this one, but I couldn’t see enough of the ride, and LegoLand didn’t have entrance agents by each ride like at Universal, so I just couldn’t get myself to go on. My wife was dying to go on Safari Trek as she had very fond memories of taking her disposable camera and snapping away at all the Lego animals that you see on the safari. Unfortunately, adults aren’t allowed on the ride without a kid (kinda opposite how every other park/ride operates lol) and even with some sweet talking, we couldn’t get on. Lost Kingdom Adventure – one of those shoot-things-with-a-laser rides that I love! However, it seemed like everything you shot at didn’t actually get shot and everything you didn’t shoot at did get shot. We finished with about 30,000 points IIRC and the kid infront of us somehow had over 100,000 :o

Lego Kingdoms
The best-made section of the park. You’re in one of the classic Lego castles and yeah, it’s cool. The Dragon – a roller coaster that my wife rode about 100 times as a kid. Or 100 times according to what a kid thinks is 100. She was dying to go and after watching it go around, I was uneasy. Somehow, I agreed. The ride starts out on a slow tour through the castle and you just see such cool things made out of Lego. You go through the King’s dining room, you see treasure, and finally, you approach the dragon. As you pass him, you leave the castle and begin the coaster. It wasn’t fast, it didn’t hurt, and it wasn’t scary – yet somehow I still didn’t like it. When it was over, they told us we could just ride again since there was no line. My wife gave me one look and I agreed, so we rode again. It was more fun the second time, but I’m still ehhh about coasters…

World of Chima
ad120 had told me there was a water ride that adults could enjoy. We finally found Quest for Chi towards the end of our day, but because it was so cold, there was no way we were going to get on it. You basically sit in a boat going around with a bunch of people and you have water guns. People on each boat try squirting each other, and people standing in line also have access to water guns and try to squirt those on the boats. So yeah, lots of water, lots of wet – no thank you.

Duplo Valley
This area, the last we went through, is a toddler zone. One attraction, Duplo Farm, caught my attention as it was housed in a building, and I thought perhaps it’s some sort of petting zoo. My wife said there was zero chance that was the case, yet I proudly walked up to the person standing at the entrance (this ride of all rides actually had someone here) and asked if there were actual animals inside. I got such a look from her as she told me that it’s a toddler playroom and my wife starting cracking up.

We went through some shops as we headed out of the park and went to find our car. (At some point we ate lunch that we brought with us, might have been sandwiches, might have been pasta that I made at home and brought with us – I can’t remember what day we ate the pasta, so I might have lied to you a different day and told you we had sandwiches when we really had pasta – gasp!) LegoLand was cute, is probably a ton of fun for kids, but was just okay to walk through as adults-only. We had a nice day, but yeah, I wouldn’t suggest going without kids.

I had originally thought we’d be at the park till it closed at 5PM and then drive straight to the airport, but because we were done early, we decided to stop by Kosher Gourmet one last time. We ordered 2 helpings of popcorn chicken to go, and I Davened Mincha in the Shul next door while the food was being prepared. We got in the car and headed back to the airport. Found Hertz without much a problem, left the car with the attendants who asked if I was Gold and had taken care of gas. I told them yes, and they said we could go. (Again, I had paid with a free day voucher.) I still never got charged the ~$5 tax so maybe that’s a data point that if you return it by just leaving it with the attendants, they don’t review the file and charge you tax? I don’t know, not complaining. Hertz is a quick walk into the airport, and we had our bags checked with plenty of time to walk around.

MCO is a fun airport, like I mentioned before. Now, we actually had some time to walk around. Unfortunately, they have an interesting layout in terms of gates. There are 4 sections of security that lead to 4 different groups of gates. After security you take a train to that group of gates. We could have gone to either the DL lounge (Amex Plat) or UA lounge (UA Club Passes), but neither were in the same group of gates as SW, so we didn’t want to take the chance of taking a train to a different part of the airport and then having to go back and get to the SW gate for boarding. No worries really as we had a fun time walking through the Universal store (yes, they sell the same stuff at the same prices as the stores in actual Universal – no need to go into the parks to waste $40 on a replica wand) and Disney store. We also had plenty of time to get our shotglass. I’m Makpid on having the name of the city/country we’re in be on the shotglass, so we turned down the Universal one (and even the cute Mickey Mouse one – which would definitely be weird since we didn’t go to Disney) and finally found an Orlando in a newsstand store. Off to the gate where we enjoyed our popcorn chicken – although it definitely had a different breading than the first time we got it (and therefore wasn’t as good) – and just read/played on the phone until boarding for our 8:25PM flight. The flight was empty, so luckily, we didn’t have to pay for an extra seat for Stu.

We got back to ISP and within a few minutes we had our bags. It was freezing, and we didn’t have coats (sine I refused to bring one just for the trip to the airport), but the shuttle came pretty quickly. We were back at the Clarion before we could blink, got in the car, and had no traffic on the way home (much better than on the way there). Until next time, Orlando!

January 26, 2015, 01:11:47 PM
Re: Funny Tweets
June 14, 2015, 01:31:43 AM
Re: Billion $ Ideas A site to learn about travel/CC hacking?
August 11, 2015, 04:35:52 PM
Re: Funny Tweets
And... banned.

August 12, 2015, 01:50:56 PM