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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report Sounds like Seville is really worth visiting. I've never seen anything like those sheets over the street before, cool!  Nice pictures, too.
July 30, 2014, 12:09:04 PM
Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
YES! Some people should follow your lead on fast TR's.  ::)

But in all honesty, it is tough and takes a lot of work. Even more impressed in what short of a time span you put this together. Sounds like a fun adventure you 2 had. Enjoyed it a lot.
Thanks! I've found the writing TRs on the way home is the only way I can guarantee it'll get done in a timely manner. That said I work on it basically non-stop for 5 hours, so it's a bit draining by the time it's done. I'm glad you enjoyed!

July 17, 2015, 11:56:24 AM
Yehoshua's New Orleans Mini-TR Planning

It was fast approaching Pesach and time to start planning our biannual Chol HaMoed trip. While weíve visited Montreal and Maine in the past, both are within 650 miles of PHL (our starting point) and until recently were only 4.5k Avios. Now that all flights under 1150 miles (in North America), it was time to maximize the distance of our next trip. At 1089 miles, PHL-MSY fit the bill perfectly as the farthest destination from PHL under 1150 miles. On top of that we really wanted to visit the city, but hearing mixed reviews decided to just spend 1 night. It took a while for availability on the flights we wanted to open up, but about 3 weeks out we got the exact flights we wanted, nonstop PHL-MSY on AA.

Figuring out where to stay took the longest. The areas we considered were the French Quarter, the Warehouse District or the CBD. Now all of these areas are less than 1 mile from one to the other, so it really wasnít that big of a difference. There are a lot of SPG and a few Hyatt hotels, some of which are good deals (when using points) and some of which are not. Iíd decided to go with either the Hyatt French Quarter or the Hyatt Regency NOLA in the CBD, both were going for 15k Hyatt.

There were two reasons I ended up going with the HR over the H-FQ: First, Iíd heard staying in the FQ may not be nice and will most definitely be loud. Weíre not big party people and didnít regret this decision at all. Second, I checked the UR travel page.

On, the cheapest rate for a standard room at the HR was going for $261 (before tax, with the members only/AAA rate). UR had the exact same room for only $82, or about 6250 UR. While this may not be the best rate to cash in your UR at, I decided to use them anyway since 1) didnít want to spend cash anyway and 2) it was way cheaper than transferring UR to Hyatt.

Another thing we needed to figure out was transportation and food. Car rentals and parking in NOLA are both really expensive, and with everything so close it didnít make sense to rent a car. Taxis are $36 flat rate between the city (CBD, FQ area) and the airport for 2 people ($15 for each additional person). Lucky for us UberX got permission to pickup at MSY just a few days before we arrived, and their flat rate is $33 for the same area with no additional fees for extra passengers. Uber it was.

For food we just brought a few things from PHL: a box of matza, some matza rolls Iíd made, some fresh fruit and vegetables and some chocolate. We meant to bring cheese but ended up forgetting it in PHL. We also bought some more vegetables while there. No, it wasnít gourmet food, and no, we didnít get to taste the kosher Cajun food, but it sustained us for the 24.5 hours we were there.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 First day in NOLA
Our flight landed about 30 minutes early, getting us in at 11:40am. We didnít check any bags, so just proceeded to the Transportation Center where all ride sharing services are picked up from. The MSY airport is tiny, but there arenít clear signs to the TC. In reality itís just opposite the JetBlue baggage claim, so if you arrive on American just go left at the curbside (or walk inside if itís hot) and then cross the roadway. Uber drivers wait in a lot across the street and take about 2 minutes to arrive. They actually have to park and you just walk to their car, which isnít too bad.

It took about 20 minutes to get to the hotel with no traffic. After checking in and trekking up to our room (you need to take an escalator or elevator to the 3rd floor, then walk to another bank of elevators to get to your room) we ate a quick lunch and got ready to head out to the WWII museum, a 20 minute (leisurely) walk away.

Our room

View from our room

Hotel atrium

The WWII museum was by far the most interesting part of our trip and the main reason why weíd go back. The museum is split into a few buildings all connected with either indoor over-street walkways or on ground level within a courtyard. While we didnít have time to see the entire museum, we did see parts. We spend most of our time in the Road to Tokyo exhibit (all about the Pacific side of the war) and the Road to Berlin (about the Allies attempts to reach Berlin). We also visited the Boeing center (not very interesting) which is just a few old planes you can look at from above on walkways with a few tiny showcases and signs. We were also told theyíre going to be constructing a new building that will just focus on D-Day, though thatís still just a plan as of now.  We spent 3 full hours, from 2-5p when they closed, and felt we could have easily spent another 2 hours there.

Boeing center

Victory Garden at the WWII Museum

After the museum we took a walk through the Warehouse District to the French Quarter. We were very lucky that the weather was beautiful (78 degrees with a strong breeze, medium humidity) so all our walks were very pleasant. We walked down Decatur until we saw the Natchez river boat and decided that that would be a good place to rest for a while and eat. While we were sitting around there (there are lots of benches to sit on, some are under small trees) music started playing (it sounded like it was coming from the boat?) so we were able to relax for a bit there.

Magazine Street in the Warehouse District

Streetcar on Canal St.

Natchez river boat

We continued walking along the river walk to the French Market. Since we arrived there after 6pm, many stores were closed, but it was still cool to see. We continued walking through Jefferson Square back towards Canal Street, weaving our way in and out of the various streets on the FQ. As many have said, Royale Street was very nice and pleasant, but the one block we walked down Bourbon street was more than enough for us. Maybe it was because they blocked off the street to vehicles, but there were way too many drunk people, loud music and a general raunchy crowd. Besides for that one street, we though the FQ was very nice. We were able to see street performers and musicians on other blocks without feeling like we missed anything.

French Market

French Market

Finally someone spelled it like they pronounce it, French Market

Classic street in the FQ

Street band in the FQ

Is it just me, or is the blue building a bit crooked?

Tiny door

The one and only Bourbon St.

After a quick pit stop for a bathroom in the Hyatt FQ (I had to see what I was missing) we continued our walk up Canal Street back to our hotel. We even small marching band crossing the street that got police cars to block traffic just for them.

The walk back to the hotel wasnít anything to special, though it does pass by a large library and one of the ugliest city hall buildings Iíve ever seen.  We got back to the hotel exhausted and had an early night.

NOLA City Hall

Wednesday, April 27, 2016 Last day in NOLA
After an early night we were up early to make the most of the few hours we had before our flight home. By 9:00am we were out the door on our way to take the St. Charles streetcar line to the Gardens District. While we paid the $1.25 fare for both trips, they do offer a $3 all day pass which is cheaper if you plan on taking more than 2 trips.

St. Charles Streetcar

The trip was very pleasant despite the higher humidity, and within 30 minutes we were at the Washington St. stop. The Gardens District is known for its classic NOLA architecture and has strict building codes on how people can remodel their homes. We walked around the residential streets looking at the houses until we came to the Lafayette Cemetery, the only cemetery in NOLA that you can access without a tour. We walked around for a few minutes, noticing that all the graves were above ground. It was quite unique.

Lafayette Cemetery

We then walked down Magazine Street where all the shops are in the neighborhood. After about 1 hour we headed back to the hotel via the same streetcar line, ordered another Uber and left for the airport.

Overall our short stay in NOLA was very nice. Weíd like to go back to do a few things we didnít have a chance to do while there this time, including the kosher restaurants, Oak Alley and the plantations, Audubon Park (described to us a Central Park without the muggers) and of course the rest of the WWII museum.  If Iíd have know better, Iíd say that 2-3 full days would be enough there, but 1 was certainly not enough for us.

April 28, 2016, 04:00:11 PM
Yehoshua's South Africa TR Planning and Routing
The planning for this trip started back in November 2015 when I decided that I wanted to go to Africa in the summer. Iíd never flown any of the ďBig 3Ē Gulf carriers, so that was the goal on this trip. I ended up booking:

For 100k AS I booked (blue on map)
7/5 LAX-DXB in EK F A380 4:45pm-7:30pm+1
7/7 DXB-JNB in EF F 777 2:20pm-8:50pm

For our domestic flight I bought cheap coach seats on Mango (orange on map):

7/13 JNB-CPT 8:10am-10:20am

For 135k AA I booked (red and brown on map)
7/17 CPT-DOH in QR J 787 1:20pm-11:50pm
7/18 DOH-AUH in QR F A320 8:25am-10:30am
7/19 AUH-JFK in EY F A380 3:35am-9:35am
7/19 JFK-LAX in AA F A321 12:30pm-3:54pm

For hotels we booked the following:

PH Dubai for 1 night for ~12k UR booked through UR
Black Rhino Game Lodge in Pilanesburg Game Reserve for ~$168 cash (redeemed for A+ credit)
Intercontinental OR Tambo (JNB airport) for 1 night for 30k IHG
Protea Sea Point hotel for 4 nights: 1 night for 15k Marriott, 3 nights for ~$67/night
Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi for 1 night for ~$87

We stayed with friends of friends in Joburg for the 3 nights we were there before going to the game reserve.

For food, we brought along some instant oatmeal for breakfast in Dubai, Joburg (before our flight to CPT) and Doha. Joburg and Cape Town both have kosher restaurants, but we needed food for Pilanesburg. We could have ordered from POM, had them ship it to LA, and schlep it around the world with us, but I found another solution. Kosher World in Joburg also has travel meals for a fraction of the price. While I only asked for dairy and pareve items, the price range was from R55-81 for a 500g portion, or about $3.75-$5.50 for just over 1 lb. of food. You canít beat that! Like POM, the meals are frozen in advance and can be heated in the microwave or oven. To contact KosherWorld, you can email them from their website. They responded to me rather quickly and we arranged everything via email.

Now on to the trip itself.

July 18, 2016, 06:07:19 AM
Re: Maui Master Thread
Look at my TR I did Haleakala day in that order.
So did I. I also have a TR, but sunrise when I went was just after 7am.

September 01, 2016, 03:36:02 PM
Re: Maui Master Thread
Any idea how long it takes to do Haleakala, Olivine Pools, & Blowhole?
Most of the day, depending on if you drive along West Maui or go the other way, how long you spend at each location and if you do the acid war zone hike to get to the blowhole or not.

September 02, 2016, 03:37:10 PM
Re: What Award Itinerary Did You Just Book/Hold?
Sorry its AA to CDG and Nikki to VIE
Thanks for clarifying.

September 04, 2016, 12:54:56 PM
Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
Very nice TR thanks for that
Especially the London part
Also not making me feel bad I canceled the knightbridge and opted for the grand Sheraton which was a greater value at the time of my booking
Glad you enjoyed.

September 27, 2016, 09:08:29 PM
Re: The Pros And Cons Of Where You Live
Uber in most big/high COL cities is higher than the rest of the country. NJ rates are similar to OH.
That's the beauty of LA: Uber's rates are among the cheapest in the country and it's a big city.

September 28, 2016, 05:55:00 PM
Re: Los Angeles Master Thread Full Mazal'rella Review:

We went back to Mazal'rella the night after our first (disastrous) evening.  On Monday night our experience was 1000 times better than it was the night before. We ate inside and had an extremely attentive server, Karen.

Within 5 minutes of sitting down we had our orders in. Karen brought out some toasted bread with an olive oil and vinegar mix to dip the in.

Toast, 7/10

We started the meal with the Parmesan and truffle oil fries and the endive and blue salad, a salad with frisee, endives, and a blue cheese dressing.

Parmesan fries, 9/10

Endive and blue salad, 9/10

The portion of fries was quite large, more than enough for 2 people for an appetizer. I'd say it can easily be enough for 4 people.

The salad was a nice size for 2 people, though it could be a main for 1 person if you add on the optional fish (salmon, $9 or tuna, $11). It was also nice that they lightly dressed the salad and included extra dressing on the side, in case the person you're splitting the salad with is less enthusiastic about blue cheese that you are.  ;)

For the main course we ordered the Salmon with an apple and onion risotto and green peas. Since we were planning on splitting the entree anyway, Karen asked if we'd like the kitchen to just split it for us which we thought was a really good idea.

Half a portion of the fish and risotto entree, Fish: 10/10, Risotto: 1/10

While the speed of the service was greatly improved, the risotto came to the table cold and bland. There were only 2 small pieces of apple in it (both in DW's dish) and it was completely bland with just a hint of onion. The rice itself was gluey, too soft and not all the grains were separated. However, the salmon was cooked absolutely perfectly. The skip was crispy and served skin-side up as it should be. We asked for the fish medium (the proper temp for fish, not sure why they even asked) and they delivered.

I told Karen the risotto was bland and cold. She took back the dishes (after we'd already eaten the fish) and brought us another bowl of risotto. This time the risotto had flavor and was nice at hot. Unfortunately the rice was still gluey, on the soft side and full of rice clumps.

For dessert we had the chocolate flatbreads. This dessert was new as of that night, since the night before I heard a few people request a chocolate dessert which was previously not on the menu. The dessert was a plain flatbread topped with a house made chocolate hazelnut spread, strawberries and whipped cream.

Chocolate flatbread dessert, 8/10

While the dessert was nothing fancy, it tasted very good, was warm, and hit the spot. My only comments were the whipped cream presentation (it should have been piped on instead of globed on) and the flatbread itself should have been crispier. It wasn't soggy, but rather a bit chewy, almost like a toaster pastry.

We finished the meal 1:20 after we arrived and left full and satisfied.

I'm not sure if the service the 2nd night was so much better because they were trying to impress us or if that's the normal service (they claim it's normal). I really hope it was their normal service, for if it was they have a lot better chance at succeeding. The portions weren't super large (with the exception of the fires), so you'll need an appetizer, salad/flatbread, and main to be full if you're splitting everything.  While we didn't pay for our meal on Monday, the whole meal (including the sparkling water I ordered) would have cost close to $100 including tax. While on the subject of tax, I noticed on Sunday they charged me 9.25% sales tax on the meal. The tax should be 9% through 12/31/16, at which point it will go down to 8.75% at least until 4/1/17. I told them that and hope they change it soon. Overall I'd consider going back for a special occasion.

November 16, 2016, 11:02:58 AM