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Trip Reports / A Trip to A-Town, & (via STL) The Motor City, & MTL
« on: December 15, 2019, 09:12:01 PM »

This trip started (as almost all of my trips do) with a look at the Master Thread Of Master Threads: Links To 125+ Destination Threads!. I was looking for somewhere for a relatively short vacation (Sunday-Wednesday) so I could wrap it into my annual pilgrimage to St. Louis for Thanksgiving. The reason I wanted to combine this trip with my Thanksgiving trip was that flights from NY (JFK/LGA) to STL were so expensive, and I figured flights from somewhere else might be cheaper. I happened to notice that the Islanders were on the road, two days in a row right after Thanksgiving and their road games (Detroit then Montreal) were relatively close to STL and on the way back to NY. Since Iíve been on a quest to see an Islanders game in every opposing city, this seemed like a great opportunity to cross two more cities off my list.

Once I had the idea for the back end of my trip, it was time to figure out where to go before STL. I considered going to California to maybe catch the Islanders in San Jose and Anaheim, but I didnít really wanna fly trans-con (and itís a good thing I didnít because the Islanders lost all three games in CA). After perusing the Master Thread and taking suggestions from some friends and family I decided on Atlanta. I figured there was enough for 3+ days but not a full week, so it was perfect.

With my destinations set it was time to start working on flights. I regrettably didnít write down the cash costs of the tickets I booked with points so I donít have the value I got. Iím usually pretty on top of that, but I dropped the ball. Oh well.

The flights I booked were as follows:
  • Sunday 11/24/19 - LGA-ATL AA 4498 Depart 9:40a Arrive 12:31p. Cost 9k BA (which I had plenty of because I transferred from MR during the last 40% bonus promo)
  • Wednesday 11/27/19 - ATL-STL WN 2393 Depart 3:35p Arrive 4:20p. Cost $160.98, but I bought the ticket using WN GCs I bought at 25% off from a Staples Amex Offer so the real cost was $123.48.
  • Monday 12/2/19 - STL-DTW DL1897 Depart 6:45a Arrive 9:21a. Cost 15.5k DL. Flights on Monday after Thanksgiving are expensive!
  • Tuesday 12/3/19 - DTW-YUL DL 5494 Depart 10:10a Arrive 12:05p. Cost 9k DL.
  • Wednesday 12/4/19 - YUL-JFK DL 5185 Depart 7a Arrive 9:05a 6,917 UR +$5.60
For hotels I booked the following:
  • Sunday-Wednesday - Atlanta - Hyatt Regency Atlanta $260.85 including tax (for 3 nights I thought that was pretty solid)
  • Monday - Detroit - Courtyard Detroit Metro Airport Romulus 12.5k Marriott
  • Tuesday - Montreal - Crowne Plaza Montreal Airport - 25k IHG (less 10% rebate from the IHG credit card from Chase)
After booking flights and hotels, came planning my time in Atlanta, Detroit, & Montreal. I headed to the Atlanta Master Thread. For things to do, the wiki had most of what I was looking for. I was also interested in touring the new Braves stadium (SunTrust Park) and the Falcons stadium (Mercedes Benz Stadium, not to be confused with the Mercedes Benz Dome which is in NOLA). The other two attractions I did were suggestions of my dad and were history related (heís a history teacher).

Sunday - November 24, 2019

The day had arrived, I got a ride to the airport, checked my bag and sat at the gate for about 45 minutes before boarding started. Iím one of those people whoís petrified of there being a long line at bag drop or pre-check and missing my flight, so as long as Iím not coming from something else, Iíd rather sit at the gate (or a lounge if available) than risk missing my flight.

The flight itself was uneventful and when I landed I retrieved my bag and headed for the Uber/Lyft pickup area. I was planning on taking the subway (MARTA) downtown but since I wasnít feeling well, I figured Uber would just be easier and quicker. Turns out it was neither easier nor quicker. I walked for what felt like forever to the Uber/Lyft pickup area and ordered my uber when I got close. I donít like ordering an Uber before I get there when Iím in an unfamiliar airport because I donít want the car to get there before I do and have the driver wait. I got to the pickup area and then waited another 8 minutes for my car. Finally my car arrives and I open the trunk and its filled with crap and thereís almost no room for my suitcase. Also part of the trunk is hanging from the door, it was a mess. I was able to barely fit my suitcase in the trunk and got in the car. She confirms where weíre going and starts driving, when I notice that the gas light is on. I asked her if sheíd have enough gas to get downtown, and she responds ďoh I meant to get gas before I picked up someone else, Iíll stop and get once we get away from the airport.Ē She was willing to inconvenience me by having to stop for gas, but she had to go out of the way to try and save a few cents a gallon. A trip from the airport that should have taken about 20 minutes, took about 45 between walking to the pickup area and our extra stop. Just for reference, according to google maps, it would have only taken me 23 minutes to get from the airport to the hotel. Oh well.

I finally get to the hotel and head to check-in. The woman at the front desk (who was apparently originally from New York) said my room wasnít ready, but sheíd try and find me another one. She was able to, but it was on the second floor so it wouldnít have any views and might have some street noise. I said that would be fine. It turned out that it was also an ADA room, but that didnít really make a difference to me. I dropped off my stuff, and headed out for my first day in Atlanta.

Hyatt Regency Atlanta

One comment about the weather in Atlanta in November. Every morning (and all afternoon Sunday) it was chilly ~40s in the morning when I left the hotel, so I needed my winter coat, but by 11am it was in the 60s so I was stuck carrying my coat around all day. Annoying.

I made the ~5 minute walk to the World of Coca-Cola. There was a really long line, and I waited about 10 minutes before they finally opened another ticket window for those using credit cards, and I was in shortly thereafter. As the wiki in the Atlanta Master Thread points out, the museum is basically a giant advertisement, but I still enjoyed it. I like how they show the progression of Coke from just a product to a brand. It was also cool to see the tons of memorabilia they have. I spent about 3 hours there, Iím sure some could have spent more, and others less, it depends on your pace.

World of Coca-Cola - Old Signs

World of Coca-Cola - Memo on the Bottle Design

World of Coca-Cola - Santa Coke Sign

World of Coca-Cola - Coke Can Prop Plane

World of Coca-Cola - Coke Can Giraffe

World of Coca-Cola - WWII Russian General Clear Coke

World of Coca-Cola - Coca-Cola Clock

World of Coca-Cola - Coca-Cola Bottle Frame

World of Coca-Cola - Coke Holiday Decorations

After finishing at the World of Coca-Cola, I headed to Centennial Olympic Park for the audio tour. The audio tour ((which can be found online) has 13 stops and the guide goes through the history and significance of each stop on the tour. My two issues with the audio guide where that it was dated (it mentioned the someone as the current mayor who is long gone and it mentioned the Thrashers, who went to Winnipeg in 2011) and that there were parts of the park which were closed for some winter wonderland they had set up that also made it hard to navigate to the parts of the tour which were open. The audio tour took about 45 minutes.

I headed back to my hotel to relax for a little while before heading out for dinner. I took an Uber to what I thought was called Pita Palace, but has apparently been renamed Toco Grill. The place is pretty small with limited indoor seating. If it was nice outside they do have a patio with plenty of outdoor seating, but it was cold out and that wasnít an option. I ordered Shwarama and the service was kinda slow, but the food was good. My only complaint about the food (and I had this issue both times I went) was that the guy couldnít wrap the laffa well. I took an Uber back to my hotel and I was in for the night.

Centennial Olympic Park - Park Entrance

Centennial Olympic Park - Gateway of Dreams

Centennial Olympic Park - Quilt of Nations Flags

Centennial Olympic Park - Quilt of Origins - Tribute to Olympia

Centennial Olympic Park - The Atlanta Nine

Centennial Olympic Park - Olympic Rings

Centennial Olympic Park - Reflecting Pool

Centennial Olympic Park - Fountain of Rings

Monday - November 25, 2019

Monday was the day I was venturing out of the downtown area and therefore had rented a car. I could have sworn I picked the rental place that was only a few blocks from my hotel, but when I looked at my reservation it turns out I booked one that was like 8 mins away by car. The mistake I think I made was that I looked up to see how far the rental place was I put in NW instead of SW, a mistake I made later on when returning the car. I took an uber, and to try and save a little money, I chose POOL, but with my luck it somehow added 20 minutes to what should have been an 8 minute drive. Add in the fact that there was nobody at the desk at Enterprise, and it was almost 9:30am by the time I got into my rental car. Thankfully it was only about a 15 minute drive to SunTrust Park. The issue came when I got there and didnít know where to go. A guard told me where to park but I then got super lost trying to find my way out of the parking lot (there were like 12 exits) and then got lost trying to find my way to the ticket window. I finally saw it (at 10:08a) and I saw that the tour started, and the guide told me I could run to the ticket window and still get on the tour. Phew! It would have really messed up my day if Iíd had to wait until the 12p tour.  The tour took about 2 hours and I got to see some interesting aspects of the stadium and some nice memorabilia, including the bat and ball from Hank Aaronís 715th home run.

SunTrust Park - Lego Tomahawk

SunTrust Park - View from Right Field Corner

SunTrust Park - Xfinity Rooftop - Game Tables

SunTrust Park - View from the Press Box

SunTrust Park - 715 Made of Bat Knobs

SunTrust Park - Home Run 715 Ball Bat

SunTrust Park - View of Other Suite Seats

SunTrust Park - Hank Aaron & 755 Made of Bats

SunTrust Park - Tomahawk Behind the Plate

SunTrust Park - On the Field - From Behind the Plate

After the tour I headed to Pita Grille for lunch. I got a burger for lunch and also picked up a grilled chicken laffa for dinner (so I wouldnít have to schlep out to the Jewish areas for dinner). The burger was ok. Nothing to write home about, but not bad.

After lunch I headed to Atlanta History Center to see the Cyclorama. This was one of my dadís suggestions. A Cyclorama is a giant 360 degree painting which was the 1800s version of a 3-D movie. This Cyclorama is of the Battle of Atlanta. The history of this Cyclorama is interesting because it was originally painted as a Union victory (as the battle of Atlanta was), but after being purchased by a Southerner, he had the painting altered to appear to show a Confederate victory.  The have a 12 minute (I think) video which is projected onto the canvas and then there is a guided tour of the painting. Not only is it a 360 degree painting, but at the bottom they have a diorama which is kinda merged into the painting made to appear to be an extension of the painting which was done really well. There is other stuff to see at the museum, but I only went to see the Cyclorama. Museum admission is $21.50 so just to see the Cyclorama, thatís kinda steep, but I think it was worth it. It was something unique and very well done, so I was fine with the relative high price of admission.

Atlanta Cyclorama - Troup Hurt House

Atlanta Cyclorama - General Logan

Atlanta Cyclorama - Stone Mountain

Atlanta Cyclorama - Only Black Person in Painting

Atlanta Cyclorama - Clark Gable

Atlanta Cyclorama - Meshing of Painting and Diorama

Atlanta Cyclorama - Battle Ground

Atlanta Cyclorama - Diorama

From Atlanta History Center I headed to my final Civil War related activity, Stone Mountain Park. Stone Mountain has a bunch of different things to do, skyride to the top of the mountain, museums, mini golf, a railroad and a 4-D experience (among other things). The main attraction (and the only reason I went) was to see the famous Confederate Memorial Carving. This was the thing my dad convinced me to see because heís afraid that the governments in the South are slowly trying to erase the history of the Confederacy. Iím not sure how theyíd get rid of a relief thats 90 ft by 190 ft and 400 feet above the ground, but still. It was an impressive sight to see. I believe you can hike up and down the mountain, if thatís your thing, but itís surely not mine, so I took the skyride to the top of the mountain and got a great view of the carving both on the way up and on the way down. I also got some nice views from the top of the mountain.

Stone Mountain - Cable Car 2

Stone Mountain - Confederate Memorial Carving

Stone Mountain - Confederate Memorial Carving

Stone Mountain - Top of Stone Mountain Sign

Stone Mountain - View of Downtown Atlanta

After leaving Stone Mountain, I headed back to return my rental car, where I got lost since I put in a NW address instead of a SW address of the Enterprise location. I was lucky and made it to Enterprise with a few minutes to spare.  I took an Uber POOL (since I was in no rush and didnít really care how long it took) back to my hotel and was done for the night. I had my grilled chicken laffa from Pita Grille for dinner, which was good (despite having been made several hours earlier).

Tuesday - November 26, 2019

Tuesday began with a short walk to the CNN Studio Tour. According to the website, the tours run every 20 minutes starting at 9am, so I had planned on taking the 9:40 tour, trying to line it up with my next planned event. I got there a little before 930, and was told that the next tour wasnít until 10am. This in theory caused a scheduling issue with the next item on my to-do list, but there was nothing I could really do about it. I bought my ticket for the 10am tour (for which the security screening starts at 9:50am) and having about 20 minutes to kill, did my souvenir shopping before the tour instead of after.

The tour starts in a theater where they show you screens like a control room, with a little intro on CNN and how a control room works and then they show you a studio (which I donít think was real), but it had a desk a smart TV screen and a teleprompter. Here they explained the smart TV & how the teleprompter works (which I didnít know before that). That is the only area of the tour in which youíre allowed to take pictures. You then see a few different studios (some in use, others not) and see more of the building and learn interesting facts about its history. I thought the tour was nice, nothing crazy exciting, but not boring. At $15+tax, it was a nice and not expensive. The tour lasted about an hour, which caused me issues with my next stop.

CNN - Teleprompter

My next stop was the nearby Mercedes-Benz Stadium Tour. The issue I ran into here was that according to the website, the tours are hourly from 11am to 4pm, and I looked like I wouldnít make it from the CNN tour to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the 5 minutes between when one tour ended and the other began. I walked (about 10 minutes) from CNN to Mercedes-Benz Stadium and was told that the next tour was at 11:30am not noon. Perfect. I bought my ticket (which they sent to my phone, since itís done via Ticketmaster) and I waited for my tour. The tour (which had a very small group of 5 including me) covers several different areas of the stadium, including the locker rooms for both the Falcons and Atlanta United (soccer), the owners club, the 100 yard club, luxury clubs, and the field. In the case of my tour since it was 2 days before the Falcons Thanksgiving matchup against the Saints, they were painting the field so we werenít allowed on the field, but we were allowed on the sidelines. I find it interesting to see what different stadiums do to enhance the experience of their fans and to make their stadium unique and Mercedes-Benz Stadium did that. I enjoyed the tour, but it was a little pricey at $27. I donít think itís a must see, but I donít regret having gone.

Mercedes Benz Stadium - Stainless Steel Falcon

Mercedes Benz Stadium - View of the Field from the Window to the City

Mercedes Benz Stadium - Gulwing Club - Football Shaped Chandelier

Mercedes Benz Stadium - Clock Art Piece - 12:17pm

Mercedes Benz Stadium - Falconsís Locker Room

Mercedes Benz Stadium - On the Field

Mercedes Benz Stadium - Atlanta United FC Locker Room

Mercedes Benz Stadium - Mosaic of Final Game at Georgia Dome

The tour took about an hour and a half and after the tour I ordered an Uber POOL to take me to Formaggio Mio for a late lunch. Again, my POOL took forever because there were 2 other stops before me and for some reason Uber put me with two people going nowhere near me. I spent a lot in Ubers/Lyfts on this trip and I even tried to save money by going with POOL but it was frustrating how bad my rides were sometimes. /rant

The place looked kinda fancy when I got there, but I was surprised when I got the check and it wasnít as expensive as it looked. I got Marinara Pasta and it came quickly and was good. I then walked over to Toco Grill (itís around the corner) and picked up dinner.

From there it was off to my final stop of the day Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. The museum goes through the early life of Carter and then into his time in politics, his political accomplishments and then his life after his time in the White House. There is also a short video (narrated by Martin Sheen who played the president on the West Wing, which I thought was funny) on Carterís life, pre, during, and after his term as president. Near the end of the museum they have (what I believe is temporary) an exhibit called ďGeorgia on My Screen.Ē The exhibit is all about TV and movies filmed in Georgia, and the role Carter played in bringing filming to Georgia. They also have a replica of the Oval Office, but itís mostly closed off and you only walk through the edge of it (unlike the Oval Office at the GWB Library in Dallas where you can sit at the presidentís desk). Not really being a fan of Carter I didnít love the museum, but it presented a large amount of information in an entertaining way. After the museum which oddly closes at 4:30pm, I took a Lfyt back to my hotel and had my dinner. I was contemplating going for a ride on the SkyView Atlanta, but it was cloudy and didnít seem like it would be worth it with nothing to see.

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum - Front of Museum

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum - Naval Academy Patch

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum - Carter for Governor Button

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum - ďIím Running For PresidentĒ Button

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum - Carter for President Buttons

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum - Other Democratic Candidate Buttons in 1976

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum - Oath of Office Used at Inauguration

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum - Inauguration Address

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum - Oval Office

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum - Silver Dish Commemorating Camp David Accords

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum - Carter Painting Made of Buildings, Ships, & Flags

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum - Camp David Peace Treaty

Wednesday - November 27, 2019

Being my last day in Atlanta, I thought it would be fitting to go to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. There are several parts to the MLK historical park, the visitors center, the birth house, Fire Station No. 6, the King Center, and the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. I went to the visitors center, the birth home, and the King Center. The visitors center has a few films that they show on rotation, and an exhibit on Dr. King and the civil rights movement, and is where you get your free tickets to the tour of the birth house. This would not be my only civil rights visit of the trip (keep reading!). I took the 10am tour of the birth home. Unfortunately, while the house is owned by the Parks Department, the contents of the house are owned by the King family and youíre therefore not allowed to take pictures. The tour was nice, the tour guide was funny and had a great wealth of information to share. After the birth home tour, I wanted to see if the Fire Station No. 6 was open, but it was not because itís staffed by volunteers and since it was the day before Thanksgiving, they were short. I then went on to the King center to see the exhibits on MLK, Coretta Scott King, Mahatma Gandhi, and Rosa Parks. After the King center (which was smaller than I expected, itís only a few small rooms) I walked along the reflecting pool and saw the tombs of Dr. & Mrs. King. I went back to the visitors center to see if I could catch one of the films, but the next film (which was ~25 minutes long) was on the birth house which Iíd seen in person, so I called it and headed back to my hotel to pack up.

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park - Birth Home

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park - Fire House No. 6

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park - Glass Chains

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park - Jean Jacket Worn on Famous Marches

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park - Reflecting Pool

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park - Eternal Flame

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park - Martin Luther King & Coretta Scott King Tomb

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park - Ebenezer Baptist Church

I took an Uber back to the hotel, packed up, and watched some TV before heading to the airport. Since I had plenty of time, (and was feeling better than when I arrived in Atlanta) I decided to take the Subway (which was only a block away) to the airport. It was cheap, easy to buy the ticket and took me about 25 minutes to get to the airport. I checked in, dropped my bag, which took forever and then started heading for security. I saw signs for CLEAR, which Iíd signed up for a 2 month free trial but hadnít had a chance to complete my registration or try. I went to a kiosk and the guy helping me had serious issues scanning my ID, he tried my passport, driverís license, & my global entry card at least 3 times each before he was finally able to get my passport to scan. The registration process ended up taking more time than it saved me, but Iíd get to use it once more on this trip and maybe Iíll use it again before my trial expires. It was nice to skip the pre-check line. I made it to the gate about 45 minutes before boarding and watched some netflix while waiting for boarding to start. I was in boarding group B8 which isnít bad, but the woman in front of me (who was actually supposed to be behind me) was B10 and her kids were in the B40s and when they announced family boarding for those with children 9 and under she went up with her two kids (both of whom were clearly over 9). I just hate when people try to cheat a system like that. I thankfully got a window and the rest of the flight was uneventful.

My time spent in St. Louis isnít really a vacation vacation, so I wonít spend any time writing it up except that on Sunday we went ice skating, something I hadnít done in over 17 years, and I now have a greater appreciation for hockey players and their ability to skate.

Monday - December, 2, 2019

I had a crack of dawn (6:45am) flight from STL to DTW and since I was checking a bag I wanted to get there an hour before the flight. My friend dropped me off at the airport at 5:30am but the DL bag drop line was so long I didnít drop my bag off until almost 6am. That left me with less than 10 minutes to get to my gate before boarding. Thankfully there was nobody in the pre-check line and I made it to the gate a few minutes before boarding. The flight was about 2 hours and after landing at DTW I got my bag and found the shuttle to my hotel. I checked-in dropped off my stuff, took what Iíd need for the game and headed, via Uber, to the The Henry Ford Museum. The museum has three main parts, the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, and Greenfield Village. Greenfield Village was closed (as it is for the winter) so I purchase the combo for the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, & the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. I started with the factory tour because it closes earlier than the museum. The factory tour has four parts. The first part has two films, one on the history of Ford and the Rouge factory and one on the F-150, which is built there. The second part has 5 historic Ford cars and information about them. The third part is a viewing deck, but since it was cloudy and snowing (lightly) there wasnít much to see. The final part is the factory itself. Pictures are not allowed in the factory itself. Usually youíre supposed to do the films first, then see the cars, and end with the factory, but because of how close it was to lunch time, it was suggested that we start with the factory and go back to the films and cars.

It was cool to see how much goes into assembling a car, and while you donít get to see every step of the assembly, I was surprised by how little was done by robot, and how much was done by man. The only things I saw done by robots was the installation of the windshields and the measuring to see that any gaps in the car (where two parts connect but arenít flush against each other) met the required size. The way you tour the factory is by catwalk going around the factory, but you only see a fraction of the entire factory, which was somewhat disappointing. I went back to see the films and the cars after seeing the factory. I also ate my lunch which Iíd brought from STL while at the factory.

Ford Museum - Rouge Factory - 1929 Ford Model A

Ford Museum - Rouge Factory - 1932 Ford V-8

Ford Museum - Rouge Factory - 1949 Ford Coupe

Ford Museum - Rouge Factory - 1956 Ford Thunderbird

Ford Museum - Rouge Factory - 1965 Ford Mustang

I took the shuttle bus back to the museum. I spent another 3+ hours exploring the museum which has exhibits on a variety of subjects. I started with the exhibit on Presidential Limos, then moved onto the evolution of cars, other methods of transportation, and then an exhibit on flight. There was an exhibit called ďWith Liberty and Justice for AllĒ which has the chair Lincoln was in when he was shot and the bus Rosa Parks refused to leave her seat (thereís the other civil rights thing I teased about earlier). There was then an exhibit called ďYour Place in TimeĒ which was about the different technologies that were popular in different generations spanning five generations. My favorite part of the museum was the exhibit called ďTowers of TomorrowĒ and it contained skyscrapers from different cities all over the world, made of Lego. They also had a model of downtown Detroit made of Lego, which was made by a local Lego group. Having loved Lego as a kid, I loved this exhibit. There was also an exhibit called ďMathematica,Ē which seemed really familiar to me and after having discussed it with my dad, it turns out they used to have that exact exhibit at the science museum we used to frequent in Boston.

Ford Museum - Reagan Car (Used 1972-1992)

Ford Museum - Kennedy Car (Used 1961 to 1977)

Ford Museum - Eisenhower Bubbletop (Used 1950-1967)

Ford Museum - FDR Sunshine Special (Used 1939-1950)

Ford Museum - 1901 Columbia Victoria

Ford Museum - 1932 Ford V-8 Engine

Ford Museum - 1965 Ford Mustang

Ford Museum - ďSafety FirstĒ- Safer Car

Ford Museum - Holiday Inn Great Sign

Ford Museum - AAA Triptik

Ford Museum - 1925 Fokker F. VII Tri-Motor Airplane, ''Josephine Ford,'' Flown Over the North Pole by Richard Byrd

Ford Museum - Atari System

Ford Museum - Towers of Tomorrow - Burj Khalifa - Dubai, Abu Dhabi

Ford Museum - Towers of Tomorrow - Chrysler Building - New York, NY

Ford Museum - Towers of Tomorrow - Shanghai Tower - Shanghai, China

Ford Museum - Towers of Tomorrow - Barangaroo Crown Sydney Hotel Resort - Sydney, Australia

Ford Museum - Towers of Tomorrow - Empire State Building - New York, NY

Ford Museum - Towers of Tomorrow - Sears (Willis) Tower - Chicago, IL

Ford Museum - With Liberty and Justice for All - Rosa Parks Bus

Ford Museum - With Liberty and Justice for All - Rosa Parks Bus

Ford Museum - Exploded Model T

I headed to Prime 10 on a friendís recommendation for dinner before the game. He told me to get the ďDetroiterĒ which he said was the best steak heíd ever had. When I saw the price $60, I said no thanks. I like food, but Iím far from a foodie, and I wasnít going to pay $60 for a steak. Had I realized how expensive this place was, Iíd rather have gone to Kravings for a burger. Since I was already there I wasnít gonna walk out, so I ordered the brisket burger, which was disappointing to say the least. I ate my burger and then ordered a Lyft to head to Little Caesars Arena for the main event, Islanders vs Red Wings. Continuing with my rough Uber/Lyft trips, the car said itíll be there in 5 mins, and once he was about a block away, he just kept making wrong turns and after I tried calling him, and 8 minutes of him being 1 minute away, he finally cancelled the ride. I then ordered an Uber (which was nice since the price had dropped) and he came pretty quickly, but it looked like he was getting a little lost to, he turned into the parking lot in the front so I tried chasing him down. It turns out that the parking lot goes all the way around and he knew where he was going, I didnít.

Prime 10 - Brisket Burger

After the ride downtown with nice conversation (as it mentioned in his Uber profile), I arrived at the home of the Detroit Red Wings (& Detroit Pistons). I got there plenty of time before warmups and walked around a little. I had purchased tickets on the glass where the Islanders shoot twice which meant it was where the Red Wings warmed up. I probably could have gone to where the Isles were warming up, but I chose to watch from my seat. Itís nice to see a nice new arena as opposed to the dumps the Islanders play at in the Barclays Center & Nassau Coliseum.  While I wasnít the only Islanders fan there, I was the most vocal, which annoyed some of the fans nearby as the Islanders led. The Isles won and I left the arena happy.

Little Caesars Arena - Isles Logo Projection

Little Caesars Arena - Islanders & Red Wings Warmups

Little Caesars Arena - National Anthem

Little Caesars Arena - Islanders Offensive Zone Faceoff

Little Caesars Arena - Isles Win!

Little Caesars Arena - Gordie Howe Statue

Uber/Lyft prices were insanely high around the arena so I decided to walk a few blocks away hoping that with fewer people around the price would drop, it didnít drop much and I paid much more than Iíd have liked to for my ride back to the hotel. I also had the chattiest Uber driver who wouldnít stop talking about how much he knew about New York. I got back to my room and headed to sleep since I had a 10:10am international flight.

Tuesday - December 3, 2019

I got up super early (much earlier than I needed to) and left the hotel around 7am for my 10:10am flight from DTW to YUL. I made it through bag drop and security pretty fast and headed to the Delta SkyClub. I relaxed there for a while, had some snacks and watched some TV and headed to my gate for boarding around 9am. Since it was an international flight, they schedule boarding an hour before, but really we didnít start until closer to 930a. I was waiting at the gate when I saw (who I thought was) one of the Islanders radio announcers Greg Picker, I went over to him to say hi, and he pointed out the play-by-play guy Chris King. Ok. That was cool, I chatted with them for a while, told them I was following the Isles around a little. A few minutes later I heard a familiar voice, it was Butch Goring the Isles TV color commentator! He was there with Shannon Hogan who does sideline and intermission reporting for the Isles! So Cool! Once I saw the four of them together I had to get a picture. I asked where Brendan Burke who does the TV play-by-play was and I was told he took the earlier flight, so I missed him :(

I then got upgraded to Comfort+ and had a better seat than everyone but Shannon Hogan since her upgrade to first cleared. As weíre on the plane and boarding finishes, I see a guy in first class (I was in the first row of Comfort+) who kinda looked like Jon Ledecky the owner of the Islanders. I wasnít 100% sure until the end of the flight when I saw him chatting with Shannon Hogan. He then saw me and waived. I also got a chance to chat with him as we walked up the jet bridge together. I was secretly praying while we chatted (and I told him that I was following the team a little) that heíd offer to let me watch the game with him, but he didnít. Still probably one of the coolest flights Iíve had, four of the five members of the Islanders broadcast crew and the owner on my flight, pretty cool.

DL 5494 - Me & the Isles Broadcast Crew

I got off the plane, headed to passport control (which the walk felt like forever) and when I got to the officer he asked me why I was there, I told him the hockey game, and he asked me which one. Was there really more than one hockey game that night, was he testing me, or did he genuinely not know who was playing? I donít know, and donít really care that much. I got my bag and went out to wait for the shuttle to the airport.

Crowne Plaza Montreal Airport - Bed, Desk, & Day Bed

I got to the hotel, checked in, dropped off my stuff and ordered an Uber downtown for the Bell Centre Tour. I donít like that in Montreal, Uber doesnít give you a firm price, and since we hit traffic, the ride was more than I would have liked, thankfully the price I saw was in CAD and was ~23% cheaper in USD. Because of the traffic the ETA was pretty close to 2pm and I didnít wanna miss the tour, so I bought my ticket on my phone through Ticketmaster. One annoying thing is that the Bell Centre doesnít allow bags or cameras with detachable lenses so I was stuck taking pictures with my phone.

I finally got there and just in time for the tour. Just like my tour of Mercedes Benz Stadium, this tour was very small, and only had two other people. The tour goes through some history of the Habs, and the arena. The areas visited on the tour include the lower bowl, the press area, Jacques Beauchamp Lounge, Alumni Lounge, and Press Conference Room. On non-game days you can also see the  Canadiens Dressing Room. What I thought was most interesting about the tour was the press area which is a ring suspended from the ceiling, and was actually directly in front of my seat, but in no way obstructed the view of any seat. Overall the tour was nice, the guide was knowledgeable and friendly. Having been on the tour also got me a discount at the shop.

Bell Centre - View of the Ice from the Lower Bowl

Bell Centre - View of the Ice from Luxury Suite

Bell Centre - Jacques Beauchamp Molson Trophy

Bell Centre - View of the Ice from the Press Ring

Bell Centre - Alumni Lounge

Bell Centre - Mini Stanley Cups

After the Bell Centre tour, I had planned on checking out the Underground City Montreal, but by Uber driver had suggested since it was ďnice outĒ (not below freezing) that I walk around Rue Ste-Catherine. It turned out that it was actually just shops so it was like walking down 5th Ave, so nothing really special. The special thing that happened was that as I was walking from the Bell Centre to Rue Ste-Catherine I saw Barry Trotz (head coach of the Isles) and chatted with him for a min, but since he kept walking as we chatted I got the impression he wasnít really in the mood to take a picture with me and I didnít wanna annoy him.

I then ordered an Uber to take me to City Grille for dinner. While in the Uber, I saw Ryan Pulock, Johnny Boychuck, Jordan Eberle, & Thomas Greiss of the Islanders, so I rolled down the window and yelled ďGo get emí Greisser!Ē and he gave me a thumbs up! I was surprised that the Islanders were staying so close, since Iíve been told in a number of different places that visiting teams will generally not stay near the arena for fear of being bothered by fans, but they must have been close if I saw Trotz and the players walking. As for my food, it was ok, the food is typical Israeli shawarma schnitzel type stuff. I got a schnitzel pita and fries and I forgot that Canadians do this weird thing to their fries where theyíre coated in some breading or something. I wasnít a fan.

City Grille - Dinner

I headed back to the arena and got there plenty of time before puck drop. I got to my seat which was right behind the broadcast booths. There was a pre-game ceremony honoring the 110th anniversary of the Canadiens which had all the living captains (except for Max Pacioretty since he plays for Vegas now) which was nice. Itís nice to see a team with that much history celebrate it like that.

Bell Centre - Guy Lafluer Statue

Bell Centre - Warmups

Bell Centre - View from My Seat

Bell Centre - Isles Broadcast Booths (upper is radio, lower is TV)

Bell Centre - Captains Ceremony

Bell Centre - Opening Faceoff

As for the game, it left me beyond disappointed, as the Islanders looked terrible, and while they made it close at the end, they couldnít pull the win out and my Islanders road winning streak (which began last season in STL on 1/5/19) ended at four.

Despite the fact that the Isles lost, it was still a fun place to watch a game, I was 5 rows from the back and still had a perfect view of everything. The fans were really into it, and unlike when I was in Philly a few weeks ago, I wasnít harrassed for being an Islanders fan.

I again trying to get a lower price on my uber, walked a bit away from the arena, and then the uber ended up driving into traffic right past the arena, but it still wasnít too expensive. I had a 7am flight and since YUL has pre-clearing I had to get to the airport super early, so I went right to sleep.

Wednesday - December 4, 2019

I woke up super early (4am) and took the 4:30am shuttle to the airport. I had another long line at bag drop, and a surprisingly long line Global Entry line (where the guard asked to see my global entry card which Iíve never experienced before). I made it through security (almost forgetting my laptop) and cleared customs shortly thereafter. I stopped to check out the scotch at Duty Free, but there was nothing of interest. YUL does have a Priority Pass lounge but it was in the opposite direction of my gate and with only about half an hour until boarding it didnít make sense to walk in one direction for a few minutes in the lounge before having to walk all the way back.

I knew from my discussion with Greg Picker the day before that most of the Isles broadcast crew was on one of the 7am flights to NY, one to JFK (mine) and one to LGA, so I looked to see where the LGA flight was boarding to see if I could catch Brendan Burke in case he was on that flight, and it was past my gate so there was a good chance that even if he wasnít on my flight, Iíd be able to catch him heading to the LGA flight.

I saw Butch Goring, and Greg Picker walk by, and then I saw Chris King (who I knew would be on my flight because I saw his name on the upgrade list). I chatted with him for a bit and he remembered my name, which was nice. As I was sitting looking in the direction of security, hoping to catch Brendan Burke, there he was! I saw him and went over to say hi. I told him how I had met and flown with the rest of the crew the day before and was disappointed that Iíd missed him and now the crew experience was complete because Iíd met him. His upgrade cleared (unlike Chrisís) so he boarded before I did but I chatted again with Chris while we were boarding. I was really impressed by how friendly they all were. The flight was short and when I landed at JFK, I walked forever to baggage claim and was in an Uber home shortly.

DL 5185 - Me & Brendan Burke

Overall the trip was great. Atlanta was a nice city for a few days. I had a great Thanksgiving (as usual) in St. Louis, Detroit was great between the Henry Ford Museum and sitting on the glass at the Isles game, and Montreal was a nice experience (even if the game sucked).

I hope you enjoyed the TR as I enjoyed the trip!

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Deals/Deal Requests / $10 off $50+ on eBay with Amex Code AMEXSAVE
« on: October 18, 2019, 11:58:33 AM »
I got an email with this link. It may be targeted, I have no idea.
I assume you have to use an Amex for it to work.


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Tech Talk / USB-C On A Laptop
« on: May 24, 2019, 11:32:36 AM »
I recently bought a new laptop (this one), and it has a USB-C port, but when I plug in my phone charger, it says it's too weak to charge the laptop.

My two questions are:
  • Are there chargers that are strong enough to charge a laptop via USB-C?
  • If I can't charge the laptop with that port, what can I do with it?


The time had come to start planning my post tax season vacation, and I had decided to go to Seattle. I had thought about Seattle last year, but it fell through (I ended up going to Charleston, SC) and I was talking to a friend about planning the trip to Seattle and he said (as heís said a number of times while discussing my vacations) ďyou should go international.Ē My hesitation to go international had usually been the language barrier, but this time the reason I came up with was that I didnít really wanna fly transatlantic for ~4 days. Since it would probably be too late to leave Saturday night and I didnít wanna risk a Friday morning flight coming home, that would leave me with the option of leaving Sunday morning and Iíd have to leave Thursday afternoon/evening. Which didnít seem ideal. He suggested western Europe which doesnít have such long flights, so Iíd have more time, and I started looking at London. I realized I had a friend in London who I could spend Shabbos with and that would allow me to do a Tuesday to Tuesday trip.

The once I decided on London, the next issue was flights. My outbound flight was relatively easy, since AA/BA charge YQ, and UA only flies out of EWR (ew), DL and VS were the options. So my options came down to booking DL in J on the A333 for 58.5k FB or VS J on the A346 for 85k DL. I asked in the Business and First Class Products Master Thread which was better and was told that VS had a better vibe but DL had more privacy. Since it was a relatively short redeye, and I wanted to maximize sleep (and the fact that it was significantly cheaper) I decided to go with DL. I transferred from 59k from Citi to FB and booked (after an hour on hold). Annoyingly I now have 500 points in my FB account, oh well.

The return flight was more complicated. Since most airlines (if not all) charge YQ leaving London, and Iím generally morally opposed to paying YQ, I thought that maybe I could find a cheap flight from London to somewhere else in Europe that wouldnít charge YQ. I then remembered the EK MXP-JFK flight. I know that has YQ, but I figured $221 in YQ for EK F was worth it, especially when my options ex-LHR were all J and had higher YQ. Since the AS devaluation of EK F, it looked to me that the best way to book was directly with EK for 85k. I transferred from MR and tried to book. I got a message saying that I didnít have enough miles. Uh oh. I called and after a short hold I had an associate who wasnít sure why that error was showing up but confirmed that it was 85k and booked it over the phone.

I booked my LHR-MXP for 4k +$44 BA. I thought about booking cash, but it was ~$150 and the cheapest ticket didnít include a bag which booking with Avios did.

Once my flights were booked, next up was hotels. I had an IHG anniversary night expiring soon, so that was an easy option and I figured it wouldnít be terrible to burn another 70k on the second night (should have been a net of 63k since I thought the IHG card came with a 10% rebate when redeeming points, but those havenít posted so Iíll have to look into that). I was leaving NY on Tuesday night so I needed hotels for Wednesday, & Thursday, then Saturday-Monday. So for Wednesday & Thursday I booked the InterContinental London Park Lane. For Shabbos I was going to a friend so I needed to find a hotel for Saturday-Monday. I decided that because I had an early flight Tuesday morning I would use my expiring Hyatt anniversary night for the Hyatt Place London Heathrow Airport. All I had to find now was a hotel for Saturday & Sunday. I looked at the usual suspects, Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt, and I noticed that Hyatt has a partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of The World and I could use Hyatt points for these crazy expensive boutique hotels. I found the St. James's Hotel and Club which seemed nice enough and it was 25k Hyatt/night. I had some Hyatt points left over from previous stays and I transferred the rest of what I needed from UR.

Summary of Travel/Hotels
JFK-LHR - DL 1 J - 4/30/19 58.5k FB (TYP) + $10.10-Cash Cost:$6,603.70 - Value of 11.27 CPP
LHR-MXP - BA 572 Y- 5/7/19 4k BA +$44.35 - Cash Cost $152.38 - Value of 2.7 CPP
MXP-JFK - EK 205 F - 5/7/19 85k EK (MR) +$288.23-Cash Cost $3,796.63-Value of 4.13 CPP

(Yes, the JFK-LHR in J costs almost twice what the MXP-JFK F cost, the JFK-LHR market is crazy expensive)

InterContinental London Park Lane - 2 Nights-One Anniversary Cert+70k. Cash Cost $462/night Value of .73 (if I get the 10% rebate on the points) or .66 CPP
St. James's Hotel and Club - 2 Nights - 50k Hyatt (UR) Cash Cost $507/night-Value of 2.03 CPP
Hyatt Place London Heathrow Airport - 1 Night -Chase Hyatt anniversary night Cash Cost $110

Once I had all my travel figured out, it was on to planning my activities. I looked at the London Master Thread and took some ideas from there. I also bought Rick Steves London 2019 and found some more interesting things there. Once I had most of the things I wanted to do, I put them on a map so I plan things near each other. Once I had everything pretty much planned it was just a matter of surviving tax season and Pesach.

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« on: January 24, 2019, 07:58:56 AM »
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On The Road / Hyatt Cardmember - Get 10% of Your Redeemed Points Back
« on: July 16, 2018, 08:04:47 PM »
I got an email with the following:

Enjoy this cardmember exclusive: Get 10% of your redeemed points back!   

Register today then redeem your points between August 1 and September 30, 2018.

Redeem your points for free nights, Points + Cash stays, room upgrades, or dining and spa services completed between August 1 and September 30, 2018. You'll get 10% of your redeemed points back as Bonus Points. They'll automatically be deposited into your World of Hyatt account after your points have been used.

I had planned on going to Philly for a few days last year but it fell through so when my sister who lives outside of Philly told me to come for Shabbos, it presented a chance to follow through on that planned trip. It was also good timing because I had an Chase IHG night to burn which was expiring soon.

Since Kimpton Hotels are now bookable with the Chase IHG free night I figured Iíd try the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia. I donít remember what the cash rate was but it costs 55k IHG for one night, so Iíd say the $49 I spend on the annual fee for the card was well worth it. When I checked in, I found out that as an IHG elite member I get a free $30 spa credit (which I didnít use), and a free $10 raid the bar credit which can be used either at the hotel bar or for the mini bar.

The planning for the trip had basically already been done, since it was supposed to happen a year earlier, but I did make a few small tweaks to the plan which didnít work out as well as planned. The funny thing was that the one real change I made to my plan was to add a museum which I didnít end getting to go to.

The only detail I had yet to work out (and wouldnít end up doing until the last minute) was whether Iíd drive into the city and pay the $50 at the hotel for parking, or leave my car by my sister and use uber/public transportation to get around. I ended up driving downtown and regretting it. My rationale was that Ubers to and from the few attractions I was planning on that werenít in the center of town (near the hotel), would cost close to the $50 parking fee and having the card downtown gave me the option to go out for dinner. What I didnít factor in was the cost of tolls & parking. While the Ubers themselves would have cost ~$45-50 I crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge twice ($5 each time) and had to pay for parking at 2 of the attractions I went to, which cost another ~$15. So my actual cost of driving downtown was ~$75.

As per a suggestion I saw in the Philadelphia Master Thread, I looked at the Philadelphia Pass, and saw that everything I was planning on doing (that wasnít free) was on there. I could have bought the 2-day pass for $84 but once I totaled all the things I planned on doing and took into account the 20% discount you get for adding 2 or more attractions to your pass, I was saving $1.24 by going with the build your own.

I left my sisterís place around 10a getting downtown around 1030a. My first stop was the hotel for two reasons. One I always like to check-in early, to drop off my stuff, and to be able to go back and relax during the day if I feel like I need it, secondly, to be able to park my car. Everything I planned on doing Sunday was within a 10 minute walk of the hotel, so there was no need for my car. Thankfully I was able to check in and drop off my stuff. I didnít remember if you needed to pay for Independence Hall and on the website, I saw that you need a specifically timed ticket which can either be reserved online for $1.50, or picked up at the visitors center a few blocks away. I didnít think it would be a problem going to the visitors center to get a ticket, but my the time I got there at 10:45, the next available tour wasnít until 12:40p. That was in theory going to cause some problems for my schedule but it ended up working out well.

Hotel Monaco-Bed

Hotel Monaco-TV & Desk

Hotel Monaco-Bathroom

I went from the visitors center to the Liberty Bell. They have a few exhibits and a short video about the history of the Liberty Bell. Then you see the bell. No I did not lick it. I didnít watch the video, and spent a total of about 15 minutes there after getting past security which took about 15 minutes itself.

Liberty Bell-Glass Plate

Liberty Bell-Chrome Plated Brass Bread Tray

Liberty Bell-Bell with Freedom In Several Languages

Liberty Bell-The Bell

I had some time to kill since I didnít need to be at Independence Hall until 12:20p for the security check. In reality I didnít need to to get there until 12:35 because I flew through security (even without the help of TSA-Pre-Check). In addition to the Independence Hall tour, on Independence square, you can also see the Great Essentials Exhibit in the West Wing and the Museum of the American Philosophical Society. The tour of Independence Hall itself was interesting and started with a brief history, then you enter the two main rooms. The first room you see is the Courtroom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and the second room is the Assembly Room, where The Declaration of Independence was written and signed and the Continental Congress met, wrote, and signed the Constitution. Pretty important historical stuff.

American Philosophical Society-Franklinís Library Chair with Folding Steps

Independence Hall-Courtroom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Independence Hall-Assembly Room

From Independence Hall I went on to the National Constitution Center. It was about a 5 minute walk but just my luck, thatís when the rain picked up. I made it through the rain alive and it was time for the museum.

I remember the museum being much bigger (then again most museums I went to as a kid seemed bigger than they actually are). It starts off with a ~20 show with images/videos and live narration, called ďFreedom RisingĒ about the history of the Constitution. Which was a kinda interesting, but I honestly didnít feel like having the live narration of a woman who was walking around the theater added anything.

After the main exhibit on the second floor, I checked out the Signers' Hall which has statues of the signers of the Constitution. There was also a small exhibit on Alexander Hamilton on the first floor. Iíve heard people say great things about the museum, and I remember my family liking it when we went years ago, but I honestly found the museum to be a bit disappointing.

National Constitution Center-Hamilton-Burr Dueling Pistols

National Constitution Center-Dueling Steps

Once I was done with the National Constitution Center I walked over to National Museum of American Jewish History. Originally I had planned on doing this before the Constitution Center, but I realized that the Jewish History Museum was open until 530p, which would give me an extra half hour (which Iíd need). They recommend you start on the top (5th) floor and work your way down, so thatís what I did. The top floor has the special exhibits, which at the time was one on Leonard Bernstein who was born and raised in Philly. It was an interesting exhibit about his life in Philly, his career, and his connection to Israel.

Floors 4-2 go chronologically. The floors went as follows: 4th floor-Foundations of Freedom: 1654-1880, 3rd floor-Dreams of Freedom: 1880-1945, 2nd floor-Choices and Challenges of Freedom: 1945-Today. The first floor has a separate exhibit called the Only in America Gallery, which focuses on the stories of 18 American Jews and their impacts on Jewish American life overall.  I thought the museum was well done and had a wealth of information and artifacts. So much so, that I didnít have time to see everything in my 2 hours there.

National Museum of American Jewish History - Leonard Bernstein Exhibit-Score for Gustav Mahlerís Symphony No. 2 in C Minor

National Museum of American Jewish History - Leonard Bernstein Exhibit-Ticket for Israel 20th Anniversary Concert with Itzhak Perlman

National Museum of American Jewish History - Leonard Bernstein Exhibit-Program for Memorial Concert for Leonard Bernstein 11.14.1990

National Museum of American Jewish History-Ahron Lintel - Lancaster, PA

National Museum of American Jewish History-South Carolina Currency with Hebrew Letters

National Museum of American Jewish History-Acrostic Commemorating Abraham Lincoln

National Museum of American Jewish History-Yiddish Baseball Diagram

Once I was done (and by done, I mean I had to leave because the museum was closing), I went back to my hotel to relax a little before heading out for dinner.

After consulting with a few people, I decided on Cherry Grill for dinner. One would think with ďGrillĒ in the name, that it would be a grill with burgers and that type of food, but no, itís really a Chinese place that also serves grill food. Anyway, the I got pepper steak and it was a pretty good and a nice size portion. My only complaint was the service, while I was seated quickly, it took a while before someone came back to take my order and then a while for me to get a waiter to get me my check. I went back to my hotel and watched hockey.

Cherry Grill-Pepper Steak

I started off with a short walk to the US Mint. Unfortunately they donít allow pictures (understandably), but it is interesting to see the history of coin production and the process itself. Between the exhibits on the history and walking through (above) the production facility, I was there about 45 minutes.

Here is where I made a mistake. I then planned on going to the Independence Seaport Museum which would require me to pick up my car from the hotel. The problem with this, which I realized later, was that I was planning on going to the Museum of the American Revolution which was down the block from my hotel. It kinda worked out because at the end of the day I didnít have time for the Museum of the American Revolution anyway. So I picked up my car and was off to the Independence Seaport Museum. The museum doesnít have its own parking but there are two public lots right there, both of which were super expensive ($25-$30, I think) so I parked on the street a few blocks down and paid a meter ~$3 for the two hours. I think I got the better deal.

I found the museum itself more child friendly than I would have liked, but what I did enjoy were the ships, that are part of the museum. With admission to the museum, you also get to see the USS Olympia & USS Becuna. The Olympia is the oldest steel warship afloat in the world, which is pretty cool. The USS Becuna is a Balao-Class Sub which saw action in WWII, and served several missions during the Cold War.

Independence Seaport Museum-Boat Shop

Independence Seaport Museum-Christening Bottle - USS Philadelphia

Independence Seaport Museum - USS Becuna-Forward Torpedo Room

Independence Seaport Museum - USS Olympia-Junior Officersí Wardroom

Independence Seaport Museum - USS Olympia-5Ē40 Breech-Loading Rifle

I got back to my car and headed for the Battleship New Jersey, which is in Camden, NJ just over the Franklin Bridge. Launched exactly a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battleship New Jersey saw action in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. The New Jersey is US Navyís most decorated battleship and surviving warship having received 19 Battle and Campaign starts. The coolest part about the ship, is that you can go inside the rear turret which is something Iíve never seen on another ship.

Battleship New Jersey

Battleship New Jersey-M-2 Browning Gun

Battleship New Jersey-Captainsí In-Port Cabin

Battleship New Jersey-Glass Recreation of Christening Bottle

Battleship New Jersey-View of Franklin Bridge from Ship & Flag Conning Station

Battleship New Jersey-Close-In Weapons System (CIWS)

Battleship New Jersey-Tomahawk Cruise Missile

Battleship New Jersey-Inside Turret #3

Battleship New Jersey-Inside Turret #3

After leaving the New Jersey I headed for Eastern State Penitentiary, the countryís oldest penitentiary. I actually went to Eastern State in the late 90s with my family, and at the time, the building was unsafe and visitors had to wear hard hats and sign liability waivers. Things have changed, and now the building is secure. While there are guided tours daily at 2p, I missed that and had to settle with the audio tour. Online it says the audio tour takes about 35 minutes so I figured Iíd leave myself an hour for extra exploring of the site, what they donít tell you, is that the 35 minutes is for the basic audio tour, but there are a number of other ďoptionalĒ stops and recordings you can listen to for a more in depth tour. I spent a little over 2 hours there (until they closed at 5p) an still didnít get to listen to all the recordings and see all the ďextraĒ parts.

Two special sections that I saw that I found especially interesting were the Shul, and Al Caponeís cell. The shul, which is assumed to be the first in an American prison, was created in 1924 and was used continuously until the prison closed in 1971. It was actually the first space in the prison fully restored to its 1959 appearance which was seen from photograph from the time. In addition to the shul itself, they have a space behind it which was turned into an exhibit on Jewish life overall in the prison. While Al Capone only spent 8 months at Eastern State, he certainly made his space his own, filling his cell with fancy furniture, rugs, paintings, and a radio. They actually have an update to the recording on his cell, that explains that further research has led historians to believe that some of these ďadded comfortsĒ may not have been special to Capone, and that other inmates may have also had radios and other comforts.

Eastern State Penitentiary-Cell Block 1

Eastern State Penitentiary-Cell Doors

Eastern State Penitentiary-Inside Cell

Eastern State Penitentiary-Recreated Cell

Eastern State Penitentiary-Upper Level of Cell Block 7

Eastern State Penitentiary-Solitary Exercise Yard

Eastern State Penitentiary - Synagogue-Aron

Eastern State Penitentiary-Al Caponeís Cell

Eastern State Penitentiary-Main Entrance Gate

While I realized I wouldnít get to see the Museum of the American Revolution, I enjoyed what I did and donít feel regret for having missed it, only that I paid for it. After Eastern State, I went back to pick up my sister and we went to Espresso Cafe & Sushi Bar for dinner.  I donít know if it was the fact that it was 530p or that it was a Monday night in an out of town restaurant, but we were the only ones there. The food was good, but the service was a little slow, but not unbearable.

Espresso Cafe & Sushi Bar-Penne Alla Vodka

Overall I really enjoy my little trip. It was nice to have a little getaway and to experience as an adult all these places I had experienced as a child.


I was talking to some friends fielding suggestions for my post tax-season vacation (Iím an accountant, but please donít ask me accounting questions) and one suggested Charleston, SC and said that a mutual friend of our had been there last year and loved it. My first step was to go to the Charleston Master Thread to see what there was. After checking out that thread, I was quite worried, but after talking to my friend whoíd been there, and being reassured there would be plenty to do, I figured Iíd be alright. Since the Charleston Master thread was such a dud, I checked out TripAdvisor to see what there was to do. When it comes to ďthings to doĒ TripAdvisor can sometimes be a major fail. When Iím looking for things to do, having the top 7 ďthings to doĒ being different types of tours is not exactly helpful. Also having a bridge at in the top 10 did not leave me feeling very satisfied. Iím honestly not sure whoís doing the rankings when Fort Sumter (the location of the start of the Civil War) is number 26. Anyway, after googling ďthings to do in CharlestonĒ and talking to my friend I came up with a list of some good things to do.

While Iím not someone who needs to eat out while Iím on vacation, I do like to have the option, (for those of you thinking ďoh, just buy from POM, theyíre amazing,Ē Iím sure they are but if Iím not eating out at a restaurant, I donít see a reason to overpay for my food). I was told there were two Kosher food options in Charleston. One semi-normal, and one that seems beyond strange, but apparently is legit. For some reason, (unknown by me) the College of Charleston has a Kosher cafe, its vegetarian, but to be honest it wasnít as bad as I thought it might be. The other option is just plain strange. There is a non-Kosher seafood restaurant called Hymanís, which is owned by a Jew but is not even remotely Kosher, BUT, due to the ownerís connection to Chabad, he has meals which are prepared by the local Chabad, and heated up and served like airline meals. I went there twice and both times were much better than I expected. Heads up for anyone might be going there, Iíd advise calling ahead and seeing what they have (they donít always have the complete menu) and Iíd suggest having them heat it up before you arrive. The first time I went, I waited almost 40 minutes for it to be ready.

One of the reasons I picked Charleston, in addition to my friendís recommendation, was that they had reasonably priced direct JetBlue flights, and I had $175 in travel bank credit from this which would be expiring in August, so I figured this would be a good time to use it. The flight cost $169 (I put $5 on my Sapphire Reserve to get the travel protection) and used almost all my credit from that delay.

Once I had my flights booked it was time to look at hotels. I took a look at all the major brands, SPG only has an airport hotel, so it was out, I looked at Marriott, and the only two ďgood optionsĒ where all the way on the west side of the city, far from pretty much everything Iíd be doing, I looked at Hilton and found the DoubleTree in the Historic District, but at 240k for my 4 night stay, I said no thank you. Finally I settled on the Hyatt House in the Historic District which was 12k/night (48k for the whole stay). When deciding between the Hyatt Place and Hyatt House (which are literally attached, and share a check-in desk) I decided on the Hyatt House because it looked like Iíd have more space (not that I needed it), but for the same price, why not?

Now that my travel arrangements were set, it was time to actually plan out the trip. As those of you who have read my other TRs, may (or may not) remember, I generally plan things out down to the minute, and things always go at least a little bit wrong. Well, I was leaving on April 29th, and as of April 18th, (the actual end of tax season this year) I had nothing planned, so it was time to get to work. I worked on my plan (often while at work, now that I had time to breathe) and as I got closer, things started to take shape, and my trip started to look like a trip. Before I knew it, April 28th was upon me and I had to pack and get to sleep because I had a 713a, flight out of JFK.

FYI, for those of you curious, the rest of the TR is written, it just needs to be proofed, and should be posted shortly.

Credit Cards And Finance / Chase Offers - Now on Hyatt Card
« on: April 17, 2018, 05:10:59 PM »
Looks like the same thing as this just now on the Hyatt Card.


Wasn't sure if this deserved its own thread or should go on the Chase Offers Marriott thread, if it should mods can merge.

Offers include:

Spend $50 @ Lowes get $10 Back
Spend $75 @ Boxed get $20 Back
Spend $100 @ Exhale get $20 Back
Spend $50 @ HelloFresh get $15 Back

There are others too.

Up In The Air / 25% more LifeMiles when Converting Hotel Points
« on: April 05, 2018, 10:08:41 AM »

They have Marriott as a transfer partner, I don't know if the Hotel + Air Packages qualify for the 25% bonus or not.

I assume the SPG transfer 5k bonus still applies if you transfer in blocks of 20k.


Looks like a 20% bonus on a straight transfer of Marriott points to UA miles and 10% bonus on miles+nights packages.

ETA:Original Link

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