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Re: Should I Change My Username?
DON'T EVEN THINK OF CHANGING YOUR USERNAME!!!! ChaimMoskowitz is one of the staples of DDF!
5ppd with Ink?

June 07, 2015, 12:13:22 PM
1
Re: Should I Change My Username?
5ppd with Ink?
Corn Chips  ::)

June 07, 2015, 12:16:52 PM
1
Ask AJ Edelman Anything: DDF Member And Member Of The 2018 Israel Olympic Team! Hi guys,
Shameless but necessary plug.
My name is AJ Edelman, Israel's national skeleton athlete and longtime DD user.  I am training to try and qualify Israel for the 2018 Olympic winter games.
My indiegogo campaign just launched, and if you've been trying to hit some spend on your CCs while getting a tax deduction this might be a good opportunity.
Check out the campaign and videos:
indiegogo: IsraelSkeleton.com/go



Any suggestions on making the campaign a success would be most appreciated as well.
Thanks!
AJ Edelman, #HebrewHammer
fb.com/IsraelSkeletonAJ
AJ

August 10, 2015, 11:21:55 PM
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Yuey's Spain Trip
Spain Vacation
[/size][/size]
Planning
•   Hotels:
o   Barcelona: W (25k SPG, suit upgrade with SPG Gold)
o   Seville: Alfonzo Luxury Collection (20k SPG)
o   Gibraltar: Sunborn ($443 for 2 nights, used Barclays card to get full reimbursement)
o   Madrid: The Westin Palace (12k SPG, , suit upgrade with SPG Gold)
•   Flights
o   JFK – BCN 30k AA Advantage
o   BCN – Malaga $89/ticket (used Barclays card to get full reimbursement)
o   MAD – JFK 45k AA Advantage
•   Transportation
o   BCN and MAD, Double Decker Bus (reimbursed with Barclays card), subway and cabs.
o   Malaga – Granada – Seville – GIB – Malaga – Car rental ($203 Rented Mercedes with Chabad corporate code, used Barclays card to get full reimbursement).
•   Food
o   BCN – Macabi
o   Malaga: 2 restaurants
o   GIB: several restaurants and a bakery
o   Granada, Seville and MAD wraps, Haagan Daz, hard salami, tuna, salmon, and fruit.

•   Payment – used Barclays and Chase BA card for all purchases as they have no foreign transaction fee (1USD = 1.111 EU)


Day 1 Schedule – Barcelona
To kick off our Spain vacation, we took "fat tire bike tour." 🚴🚴🚴  Cameron, our tour guide, gave us an excellent overview of the magnificent city of Barcelona. We stopped at all the "hot spots," including the famous Sagrada Familia. After the fabulous bike tour we took a stroll on "The Ramblas." It was hustling & bustling with tourists. We ate an early dinner by a delicious restaurant called Maccabi. We then went to the Park Guell, the colorful Gaudi-designed park overlooking the city. It was unbelievably gorgeous! We then walked back to our hotel, the W, passing through Barcelona's magnificent beach walk.

Day 2 Schedule – Barcelona

The jet lag definitely hit us today.. We went to sleep at 10pm (after touring from 8am-9pm) and woke up at noon, refreshed, and ready to continue seeing the magnificent city of Barcelona. We started our day visiting the Museo Picasso. (We booked tickets in advance, with a 1:30pm time slot... (Very important to book in advance so you can skip the line.)  The works of Picasso were eye opening & so creative. We then took the "hop on, hop off bus" (best way to see any any new city!) to the Ramblas to eat an early dinner by Maccabi Restaurant, one again 🍴🍝🍻.  We then walked through the beautiful streets of Barcelona. We went through the Barri Gothic (City's Gothic quarter, seeing remnants of Barcelona's Roman past), went to see Casa Batllo, Gaudi designed home topped with fanciful dragon-inspired roof. (It's thought that Guadi based the work on the popular legend of St. Jordi slating the dragon. We then continued walking down the Psg de Gracia, filled with all the fancy shops. Then we went toward the Placa d'Espana to see how beautiful the National Palace looks at night 🌜... (There is only a magic fountain show Thursday-Sunday). We then walked home, passing the beautiful Port Vell to our hotel. Another wonderful day...

Granada/Seville
[/i]

Day #3 - Granda/Seville

•   Hotel: Alfaso Luxury Collection (20k SPG)
•   Arriving 9:15 (Flight: Vueling BCN - Malaga, I used Barclaycard Arrival Plus to get full reimbursement)
(No Known Kosher Restaurants)

We woke up bright & early ☀️ and took a flight ✈️ from Barcelona to Malaga. At Malaga airport we rented a car 🚘 and drove to Granada. We had 4pm reservations for the Alahabra. (We booked these tickets weeks in advance. They sell out at least a week, sometime months during high season, in advance. They are very strict with the time slot. We came an hour early and they wouldn't let us in. (This wasn't a problem at all because there is soooo much to see around the grounds surrounding the Alahabra.) The Alahabra, the last and great Moorish palace, highlighting the splendor of that civilization in the 13th and 14th centuries, was absolutely breathtaking! We then went to the Plaza Nueva to get a much needed Ice cream! (There are 2 Haagen Daaz shops on that block that carry ice cream with an OU). We then, drove to Seville. We took a nighttime horse & buggy 🐴 around the entire Seville. It was such an amazing overview of the city. Tomorrow we'll get to explore the city of Sevilla in detail....

Day # 4 Seville 
We walked to from our hotel (the Alfonso XVII.. Which was extremely centrally located.. a quick 10 minute walk to all the attractions) to the Alcazar Palace(the picture below was taken in the "Hall of Ambassadors."  Here, in the throne room, Pedro received guests and caroused in luxury. The room is a cube topped with a half-dome, like many important Islamic buildings. In Islam, the cube represents the earth, and the dome is the starry heavens. In Pedro's world, the symbolism proclaimed that he controlled heaven and earth. Islamic horseshoe arches stand atop the columns with golden capitals. lattice windows are above those.)  The Real Alcazar, which was built by the Moors in the 10th century, revamped in the 14th century, and still serving as royal digs. After the palace, we took a relaxing boat ride on the Guadalquivir River. (They had an adorable costume set, where we took the photo below. In the background of that picture is the Torres del Oro/Gold Tower.) We then went to the Plaza de  Espana. It was absolutely gorgeous! (Felt like Central Park with people row boating🚣around the gorgeous views of the ️Stunning plaza.) We then drove to Gibraltar... Continue to the next e-mail for details about our amazing experience in Gibraltar...

Gibraltar
Restaurants
Abudraham
Deli Express
Uncle Sam's Deli
Tamid
Amars

Shuls
•   SHA’AR HASHAMAYIM - Esnoga Grande or Great Synagogue -  47/49 Engineer Lane (Box 174), Gibraltar, Tel: (350) 200 74030
•   ETS HAYIM - Esnoga Chica or The Little Synagogue - 91, Irish Town (P.O. Box 31), Gibraltar. Tel: (350) 200 75563
•   NEFUTSOT YEHUDA - Esnoga Flamenca or Flemish Synagogue - 65 Line Wall Road, Gibraltar. Tel: (350) 200 76477
•   ESNOGA ABUDARHAM - Abudarham Synagogue- P.O. Box 190, 19 Parliament Lane, Gibraltar. Tel: (350) 200 77789

Schedule Day 4 & 5
We arrived in Gibraltar at 4:30pm. (You have to pass through border patrol to get from Spain to Gibraltar. We got very lucky because there was absolutely no line. They advice you to give yourself an extra 2 hours, just on case there is a long line to get in.) We went straight to the Rock of Gibraltar. (At first we were disappointed because the cable car was closed due to strong winds. This was definelty a blessing in disguise, because we ended up getting an amazing taxi driver/tour guide that took us to all the stops, including the "Walls of Hercules 💪"   The Caves, to see the  famous monkeys 🐒🐒🐒 jumping around and of course, "The top of the Rock!" We got especially lucky because it was a very clear day so we were able to see Africa & Moracco from the top!
We then went back to our hotel, The Suborn, which is yacht 🚢 that is permanently cemented into the ground, to get ready for Shabbos.
We had the most wonderful time over Shabbos. The community in Gibraltar are so friendly & warm. Gibraltar is tiny so everybody know everybody. It was a fabulous experience!

Madrid
Day #6 Schedule - Madrid

We woke up bright & early 🌅 to drive to from Gibraltar to Malaga Train Station (return our rental car there) to take a high speed train 🚉 from Malaga to Madrid.
We got off the train at Madrid and walked 5 minutes to our hotel (The Place by Westin). We then went to see the Royal Palace, Spain's sumptuous, lavishly furnished national  palace.
After seeing the magnificent Royal Palace, we went to pick up our tickets to the bullfight. 🐂🐂🐂🐂 Wow!!! That was an eye-opening experience!! Crazy!! Definitely an experience!
After the bullfight we went walking through the Plaza Mayor, center of town, to our hotel to rest up for our final day of touring around Spain...


Day #7 Schedule - Madrid
We started our of day by taking a tour around Madrid along the "hop on, hop off bus" 🚌... After we completed route 1 (took about 1 hour & 15 minutes), we went to the Prado Museum. The Prado is one of the world's great museums, loaded with masterpieces by Diego Velazquez, Fracisco de Goya, El Greco, Hieronymus Bosch, Albrecht Durer, and more. It was truly remarkable!
We then went back on the Mardid City Tour bus to take Route 2 around the city. We hopped off by the Puerta del Sol, Madrid's lively center square, Calle de Serrano, with all the beautiful shops and just enjoyed soaking in the city of Madrid.
We then went to Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, the modern-art museum featuring Picasso's epic masterpiece Guerica.
The day was topped  off by Flamenco street performers by the Puerta del Sol.
Spain is such a beautiful county. We feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to see its magnificence!

Special thanks to Bex for an awesome tip and for contributing to this trip report!

November 18, 2015, 11:17:20 PM
1
Re: Anyone famous here? Then there's always this guy.
December 01, 2015, 10:51:58 PM
1
Re: Aurora, Storms, and Snowpants: An Icelandic Saga by Something Fishy, whYME, and ChAiM'l [Something Fishy] We had been on the road to Jokulsarlon for only a couple of minutes, when it started to snow >:(. If we weren't annoyed enough at the Icelandic weather, we definitely were now... The road was very well marked, with evenly spaced reflectors along both sides, but our progress slowed considerably.

Luckily, after about half an hour, we passed the area of bad weather and left the snow behind completely.

whYME was driving at the time,
([whYME] naturally :D) while I was in the passenger seat gloomily watching the sky for the aurora I knew was not coming. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a point of light. It took me a couple of seconds to realize what it was - a star! This can't be right... the entire country is cloudy! whYME slammed on the brakes, turned off the lights, and I jumped out to investigate.

Thousands of stars were twinkling at me. Here and there a small patch of clouds still hung, but unbelievably, the sky had cleared!

Adrenaline pumping with excitement, we hit the road again, this time all three of us watching the sky intently. Not ten minutes later, I shouted for whYME to stop. Unless I was very much mistaken, I had just seen the faintest glimmer of green in the sky.

Again I jumped out of the van, rested my camera on the hood, and pointed it in the general direction. Lo and behold, there it was! While incredibly faint, there was no doubt about it. Even though it was hardly visible to us, my camera's long exposure had seen it clearly:




Like maniacs, we threw on whatever layers we could find, grabbed our cameras and tripods, and ran (literally) out into the night. We parked the van on a little outcropping of road, turned off all the lights, and sprinted to the other side of the road for a better composition.

We were a sight to behold. Three nutjobs, running and slipping across a frozen field, shouting instructions and tips over the wailing wind, trying to take a picture of what was really the lousiest aurora display you could imagine. Two minutes later the display brightened up a drop, and we had our primary objective for the trip completed: a picture of a real, live aurora. Sure, it was as meh a picture as I ever took, but at least we had seen something:






Let me digress for a moment and address the elephant in the room: the vast majority of the time, the aurora doesn't look as bright or as colorful as you see in all the pictures and time-lapse videos. Often, there is a lot of Photoshop put into each picture to bring out the aurora and show it the way people want to see it. Additionally, since a long exposure is needed to properly capture the lights, there are no videos to be had, only time-lapses (this has since changed with the introduction of the incredible Sony A7r camera). This means that the quick "dancing" we're used to seeing does not exist at all; reality is more like a shimmer, or a quick-moving cloud. Mercilessly, I kept on reminding Chaim'l and whYME about these facts; we must be prepared and not have our expectations exceed reality.

[whYME] Although I heard Something Fishy's warnings, it never quite registered with me because even though I knew not to expect it to look quite like the time lapses, I wasn't expecting it to be that bad.

[Something Fishy] As we were bundling back in the van, I mentioned this yet again. We were of course hoping that this display was just a teaser, but we know that it won't look like the videos we had seen ahead of time.

The above pictures are pretty much exactly the way we saw it in real life; as a demonstration, here's what they look like after some Photoshop wizardry:





 
Heading back to the van Chaim'l continued his clothing-losing streak, when his glove blew away into a pitch-dark, fenced-in field. From my end, my memory-card-losing trend appeared to be over, thankfully.

Our low spirits were now very definitely gone.


[whYME] Um, what? I guess SF and Chaim'l were happier, but me? That was quite another story.

Uch, such a disappointment. At this point, in a sense, I was even more disheartened and dejected than when we were looking at total cloud cover. And SF's insistence that this is how it often is didn't help matters. At least beforehand there was hope for the clouds to clear and we'd still see something, but now you're telling me that it's all a bunch of BS and I won't actually see the aurora looking anything like they appear in the pictures and videos?

Of course on one hand I was excited to have at least seen something, and was certainly hopeful and optimistic that we'd still get somewhat better views. On the other hand, with the full reality of Something Fishy's dire warnings setting in, I couldn't help but think "Really? that's what the fuss is all about? What a bummer."

Little did I know...


[Something Fishy] Back on the road, we got into the real hunting mode. We layered up everything we owned, from balaclavas to ice spikes for our boots. We set our cameras to manual mode, ISO 400, f/2.8, and 8 seconds (a good exposure starting point). We manually focused our lenses to infinity, and taped them down in that position. Bubble level in the hot shoe, wireless remotes receivers plugged in and set. We put our cameras on our tripods, fully extended legs their legs, and put those on our laps. The point of all this was simple: if the aurora appears again, we're ready to shoot in two seconds flat.

Turning off the car's heat so that we don't melt, we hit the road again. I don't remember who it was, but at this point someone pointed out that we must look like the yidden eating the korban pesach for the very first time - מָתְנֵיכֶ֣ם חֲגֻרִ֔ים נַֽעֲלֵיכֶם֙ בְּרַגְלֵיכֶ֔ם וּמַקֶּלְכֶ֖ם בְּיֶדְכֶ֑ם  ;D ;D ;D.

It was around half an hour later when the sky EXPLODED. We ran out into an otherworldly scene, one whose intensity took our breaths away. Auroras stretching from horizon to horizon; curtains of green, pink, and purple twisting, dancing in a cosmic dance. A thick green line drops, stretches, expands in all directions. It spreads into the vertical, the upper reaches changing from green to pink to purple. The dark, black landscape is transformed: the brightness of the aurora lights up even distant mountains; every patch of ice and snow glows eerily green. The silence was absolute; nothing could be heard but the melancholy wail of the wind.

Pictures? Who could think about pictures now.

We did however take some ;D. After drinking deeply of the incredible phenomenon before us, we now tried to capture it in camera. I should point out that these pictures are pretty much as we say it; other than the typical RAW adjustments (sharpness, contrast, etc.), these pictures are barely edited. We were truly luck to catch an exceptionally powerful display:




Photo by Chaim'l:



Photo by whYME:



Photo by Something Fishy:



Photo by Chaim'l:



Photo by Something Fishy:



Photo by Something Fishy:



Photo by whYME:



Photo by whYME:



Photo by Chaim'l:



Photo by Something Fishy:



[Something Fishy] For a couple of seconds, we even even lucky enough to see a somewhat rare coronal aurora, where the rays all appear to emanate from one point directly overhead:



Photo by whYME:



Photo by whYME:



Photo by whYME:



[Something Fishy] Once we had our shots, we put the cameras down and just watched.

In my opinion, this is something that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. There's something spiritual about it; words cannot begin to describe the feeling of lying on the ice, in the middle of nowhere, in the freezing cold, and watching the spectacular display of Hashem's work. I don't think I've ever made as heartfelt a birchas Osah Massai Bereishis as I did that night.


[Chaim’l] There isn’t much I could add to SF’s excellent oratory. It was a most amazing experience, lying on the snowy ground beside my tripod in the stillness of the night, watching the most awesome display of dancing colours across the sky. At that moment you cannot help forgetting about lost gloves and any other trivialities. This was Nifla’os HaBorei at its best.

[whYME] Wow! Just wow.
There's not much for me to add other than after thinking of Something Fishy's earlier dire warnings, I've never in my life been so glad to be able to tell someone "Ha! you were wrong!"


[Chaim’l] I took the opportunity to capture some pictures of SF and whYME lying on the ground spellbound by the show.

Photo by Chaim'l:




Photo by whYME:



[Something Fishy] After 35 minutes, the show began winding down. With a final burst of pale green and pink, the display came to a close:



Absolutely exhilarated, we got back in the van. After such a disappointing weather forecast, to be witness to such a spectacle, was just beyond our wildest dreams.

Once again, we headed to Jokulsarlon.

Except that we didn't. Fourteen minutes into the journey we, once again, hightailed it off the road. That sky!




Photo by Chaim'l:



Photo by whYME:



[Something Fishy] This video I took - while absolutely abysmal in quality - allows you to get an idea how the aurora dances, shifts, and fades in real-time:



This display was quite short; after 11 minutes, this one, too, faded to black:



This was turning into a pattern, and no sir, we did not mind one little bit ;D. Back in the car, drive a couple of minutes, screech onto the side of the road, and see display after marvelous display:



Photo by Chaim'l:



[Something Fishy] Sometimes we didn't bother taking pictures. For example, at one point in this weird and wonderful night, there was no aurora to be seen save for single, thick, bright green stripe stretching from horizon to horizon. Like a giant celestial snake, just hanging there, overhead; sometimes still, sometimes hypnotically waving from side to side. No way a camera could capture this otherworldly apparition. But we stood there, spellbound, until it faded into a memory.

[whYME] Perhaps there was no way for a camera to capture it, but I was still willing to give it a try :):





Meanwhile Chaim'l and Something Fishy just enjoyed the show:



[Something Fishy] As the hours passed, something incredible happened. Unbelievably, we were getting aurora fatigue. Spoiled by utterly epic displays, we'd see a medium-sized aurora and say, "Eh, not worth stopping for. We've seen better than that". I think that's the only reason we actually made it to Jokulsarlon in the end, by forging on and ignoring multiple "lesser" displays.

[whYME] Some lessons learned while driving that night:

1. If you're the one driving, try and leave the sky-watching to the passengers. I know it's important to know if there's any new aurora displays, but it's more important to pay attention to the road.
2. When disobeying rule #1, if you're approaching a one-lane bridge, be extra cautious and make sure you're not about to hit a tractor trailer head-on.
3. When disobeying rule #2, you darn well better hope the tractor trailer flashes his high beams and honks his air horn at you to get your attention with enough time for you to stop before the bridge...


[Something Fishy] At around 3:00 AM, we finally pulled into the parking lot at Jokulsarlon. The weather had turned overcast again and the parking lot was deserted, save for two cars whose occupants were fast asleep. Our goal now was simple - get some sleep ourselves. Other than a 2-hour nap on the plane, we had all been up for 40-something hours at this point; we were running on pure adrenaline.

Now the real fun started. While the camper supposedly sleeps five, it only really fits three adults - on two beds. The bottom bunk was not bad: there was plenty of room for two, and a camera bag divider did a nice job of maintaining, uh, a secure Demarcation Line. The top bunk, on the other hand, while being plenty wide, only had a clearance of twelve inches or so :o. I volunteered to climb up and be the guinea pig.

Oh. My. Flipptin'. Felusa. You have never felt something as claustrophobic as this. Once I was in, my fate was sealed; no way I'm getting out of there without some major gymnastics. I couldn't roll over; I couldn't bring my arms up or down. In fact I woke up at one point in the middle of the night freezing cold, as my blanket had fallen down and there was simply no way for me to retrieve it.

And it goes without saying that the bed (shelf?) was not exactly long enough. Chaim'l and whYME were laughing for half an hour straight when they caught sight of this:




[Chaim’l] This was probably the most comical turn-ins I've ever experienced. Due to the cramped space inside and ferocious winds outside, it was nigh on impossible to get undressed properly. We went to sleep almost fully clothed save for our snow boots and mid-layer tops. Although not the most comfortable sleepwear, it kept us warm and meant that when we awoke we were almost ready to go.

On the note of ferocious winds, it is recommended to check the wind’s direction before answering nature’s call outdoors in these conditions. An airfield windsock attached to the vehicle would do nicely.


[whYME] Indeed, the wind can be a bit of an issue when standing at the edge of the water and aiming for an iceberg, but with a little effort it's doable :D.

[Something Fishy] Sunrise was scheduled for 8:54. That meant we wanted to be ready to shoot by 7 o'clock, the latest. By the time we had settled down it was 4:00; we had two whole hours to sleep before our alarms went off at 6:00.

We were asleep in seconds.

December 27, 2015, 03:43:12 AM
1
Adding AA FF# to BA ticket trick I hope this saves everyone some time ;D


I was trying to add my aa ff# to a BA res using finair (http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/29252)

I have done that many times successfully in the past. This time a no go. I googled around and found that others were having the same issue "generic error" on finnair.


The second suggestion by Dan and others is to add the AA FF# using royal jordanian, this works  - but is a pain because it makes you put in your passport info (even for a domestic flight).


So I started going through the One World partners and I finally found that Qatar's "Manage my booking" works quite well!

Here is the link  - http://www.qatarairways.com/global/en/manage-a-booking.page


Enjoy!

January 03, 2016, 06:03:42 PM
1
T-mobile Tuesdays (free stuff) Today's Freebies include.

Free Lyft ride up to $15
Free Domino's Pizza
Free Vudu Movie Rental.

June 14, 2016, 11:39:36 AM
1
Barry Lincoln's Summer 2016 Venice and Maldives Trip First off, I'd like to extend my hakaras hatov to the many dedicated DDFers who contributed valuable insights to the planning of this trip.  The purpose of the trip was to celebrate a milestone anniversary and it certainly did not disappoint.  Planning for the tip started in earnest in January 2016 when we conceived the idea to visit the Maldives as a once in a lifetime experience and plan a short stopover in Venice on the way out there.  While MLE was our destination, my wife had always wanted to visit Venice and if there was a way to make it all work, we would try.  Travel is generally a bit easier for us in the summer as our kids are spoken for between sleepaway camp and in-laws.

Flights
With that said, in mid-February I was able to secure EY-F (pre-devaluation) using 90k AA miles per ticket for our return trip MLE - AUH - JFK.  With EY-F serving as my anchor, in March I used some leftover Delta Skymiles (that I really had no intention of using) to book DL-Y from JFK to VCE for 30k per ticket (was upgraded at the gate to exit row seats so had sufficient room to stretch out).  Booked in April, our VCE-MLE flight took us through Istanbul on TK-J booked using 45k UA miles per ticket.  Our trip took us through IST about two weeks after the attempted coup in Turkey and needless to say, that made us somewhat nervous. 

Hotels
Our first night (Sunday night) was spent on a DL 764 putting us in Venice the following morning (Monday).  Booked using 20k SPG points per night, our home for the next two nights was the Westin Europa and Regina in Venice.  We were booked into a Deluxe Double room which was sufficient for our needs.  More on the room later.  Wednesday night would be spent on-board a combination of TK flights (A321 and A333) on the way to MLE, arriving on Thursday midday.  The combination of TK's lounge in IST and business class accommodations on-board made the long trip bearable.  Beginning Thursday night, the next five nights would be spent at the Conrad, booked into their basic Beach Villa using a combination of 3 weekend night certificates and 190k HHonors points.  I accumulated the certificates and points over a 3 month period and was anxiously awaiting for everything to post.  Six weeks out and I was still waiting for my certs to hit.  They eventually hit my HHonors account and I quickly turned around and made the reservations.  [Sidenote: I had 4 of my 5 nights booked while waiting for a weekend certificate to hit my account.  When it finally hit, the last night was no longer available.  After several repeated attempts, Hilton still refused to help me, even though the night had been available.  I then called the Conrad Rangali directly and they were able to open a revenue room for me for that day which I immediately booked.  Over the following week, award availability opened up so I snagged the room for my last night and cancelled the revenue reservation so it all worked out in the end.]  Immediately after making my reservations with Conrad Rangali, I reached out to their reservations team to ask about paid upgrades to an OWV and was advised that there weren't any paid upgrades available for my stay. They would keep an eye out for me but couldn't guarantee anything.  Needless to say, I was somewhat disappointed but what more could I really do.  I wasn't about to postpone the trip although I did consider it at one point. 

Food
In addition to our canvas cooler (more on that shortly), we brought a separate suit case for non-perishable foods.  Yes, maybe we went a bit overboard, but better safe than sorry.  In the suitcase, we had our non-perishable items (breakfast bars, protein bars, Trader Joe snacks, chips, Horizon shelf-stable milk, packages of tuna, mayo, challah rolls for Shabbos, box of matzos, grape juice, Pam spray olive oil, plastic silverware, paper plates, etc.).  Our plan in Venice was to make sure of places like Gam Gam, Gam Gam Goodies and Ghimmel Garden.  We are generally OK with a coffee/protein bar for breakfast, small snacks and either a late lunch or early dinner.  We also ordered 12 Pom meals mostly for dinner in MLE.  We transported the Pom meals in our 48-pack AO Canvas Cooler (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002YKQC56/ref=twister_B01HG5KTAC?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1) and three Cooler Shock freeze packs (https://www.amazon.com/Lg-Cooler-Freeze-Packs-x14/dp/B00V9ITMYC/ref=pd_sim_468_3?ie=UTF8&dpID=51srLPizjgL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR160%2C160_&psc=1&refRID=SN9B9YPDYRB8GX1Q7FNS).  In Venice, the folks at the Westin were happy to store our Pom meals in their freezer.  Upon our arrival at the Conrad, our meals were still frozen nearly 24 hours after leaving Venice.  We also brought a couple of packages of vacuum-packed deli and cheese.  I had connected with the Conrad in advance and they were happy to store and reheat our Pom meals.  They also provided, at our request, a brand new frying pan, chef’s knife, spatula and cutting board, primarily so that we could take advantage of the Conrad’s “free” breakfast.

To be continued with more details and pictures (hopefully sooner than later...)

August 07, 2016, 09:27:04 PM
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Re: Barry Lincoln's Summer 2016 Venice and Maldives Trip Venice
We landed in Venice around 11:30am, went through passport control and then to baggage claim.  We had checked a suitcase and our cooler, and took two carry-ons onboard, computer bag and another bag for my wife’s chatchkes.  It was a lot of luggage.  We ended up buying RT Alilaguna tickets from the airport to San Marcos for 54 euros (had some issues with my credit card and the ticket machine – ultimately changed some dollars to euros and used cash for two RT tickets).  After the 10+ minute walk from the terminal to the waterfront, we waited a few minutes and then boarded the boat for the trip to San Marcos.  Now, I’m all for saving money (water taxi was 100+ euros) but taking the Alilaguna was a mistake.  It was the hottest part of the day, there was little to no ventilation on the boat (read no A/C) and it was a 90+ minute ride.  It must’ve been 90+ degrees outside and probably 20+ degrees warmer in the boat.  They would only store our two largest bags, forcing us to find space for our carry-ons etc. on the seats next to us.  It was a rough 90 minutes, particularly after DL-Y.  If you’re traveling with few bags and its 60-70 degrees outside, the Alilaguna isn’t a bad option – would not recommend otherwise.




[Little side note here – had some issues with my memory card and lost several pictures from the flight and first few hours in Venice so no picture of the room or airplane]

Getting from the Alilaguna stop in San Marcos to the Westin was a royal pain but we made it (barely).  We checked into the Westin and it appeared that it was at or near capacity.  I asked about a Gold upgrade and the check-in agent made it sound as if we had already been upgraded to the Double Deluxe room.  The concierge put our cooler into the freezer (he kept on saying refrigerator and I kept on saying freezer - had to confirm with three people that it was in fact destined for the freezer and not refrigerator).  Up to our room we went.  There was no real circulation in the hallways which made the hallway stink.  The A/C in our room was weak but we weren’t about to let than derail the trip.  After chilling in the room and checking our email over the hotel’s wifi, we got directions from the concierge and made our way to the Ghetto for some dinner.  The walk was about 30 minutes and took us through San Marcos square and the streets of Venice.











Needless to say, it was mega-HOT outside.  I stoped at a TIM mobile store to pickup a SIM card which for 35 euros you really can’t go wrong.  (35 euros gets you 100 minutes of talk time and 4GB of data which can be used over 30 days – you’ll need your passport to get the sim card)  It was worth it just for Google Maps – super easy to get lost in Venice.  Once at Gam Gam, we ordered some Israeli salads, schnitzel, grilled chicken, etc.  We sat inside thinking it would be cooler than outside – the difference was barely noticeable.  But it was nice to have fresh food.  It was a bit cooler on the way back to the hotel. Ad kan day 1.

Got a bit of a late start on Day 2.  Made our way back to the Ghetto for a tour of the Jewish community.  We toured several shuls that each date back several hundred years.  The level of detail in the shuls is truly exquisite. 













A tzedakah box in the wall…



We did a quick tour of the museum which was cool and then went to Ghimel Garden for lunch.  Sitting outside in the shade at Ghimel Garden was a pleasure.  Nice breeze and menu looked delicious.  My wife ordered eggplant parm (6/10) and I had a Mari Mote pizza (lox, mushrooms, etc.) (10/10).



We then chilled around the new section of the Ghetto for a while.  This year is the 500th anniversary of the Ghetto and there was a production of The Merchant in Venice taking place that evening so there was a rather large police presence in the area.













We went on a beautiful Gondola ride in the late afternoon taking us through some of the smaller canals and the finally onto the Grand Canal.











Back to Gam Gam for dinner.  Not sure what the consensus is, but in our view the food at Gam Gam was mediocre (maybe we are just used to tri-state cuisine…)

Walking back after Gam Gam, we stopped at Dr. Kiss Fish for a very unusual experience.  Had read about DKF on a TR Yehoshua DDF and sounded intriguing.  It's a foot spa with unique fish that eat the dead skin from your feet.  Tickles a bit but you get used to it pretty quick.  After reading online about it, this type of foot spa is banned in 15 states because of hygienic reasons - the water isn't cleaned between customers... I feel bad for whoever dunked their feet after me...



More on our last day in Venice to come...  then onto MLE...

August 09, 2016, 07:28:19 PM
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