Author Topic: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR  (Read 22388 times)

Offline Yehoshua

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Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« on: July 16, 2015, 04:37:13 PM »
Planning and flights
The flights to and from Europe on this trip were actually purchased in J (revenue!) for $1459/person round-trip.  The flights landed and left from Madrid, with a stop in each direction. We flew Alitalia (stopping in Rome) to Madrid, and KLM (stopping in Amsterdam) back home.
The cities we visited:
Madrid (1 day)
Barcelona (1 day)
Seville (½ day)
Gibraltar (2 days)
Paris (4 days)
London (4 days)
 
Our inter-Europe travel was booked as follows:
MAD-BCN on IB cash for $71.90/person (booked on Orbitz as to avoid the CC fee if booked directly with IB)
BCN-SVQ on Ryanair (FR) for $62/person, including one 15kg checked bag (booked direct and paid a small CC fee)
SVQ-Gibraltar-AGP rented a manual car from Hertz for €61.70 for 3 days, one way rental
AGP-ORY on Vueling (VY) for $100.32/person (Optima fare), including a 23kg checked bag, and assigned seats (booked on IB to earn 1000 avios as a promotion)
Paris (Gare du Nord)-London (St. Pancreas Int’l) on Eurostar for €43/person (booked direct)
LCY-MAD on BA for $143.80/person (cheapest revenue available, booked directly on BA)


 
All inter-Europe travel was nearly all offset with Barclays Arrival+ points so total cost for inter-Europe travel was $19.31/person.
 
Sunday, June 28, 2015 flying to Rome
Our Alitalia flight to Rome was leaving LAX at 4:15pm, so we arrived at the airport at 2:30. Like last summer, we were only travelling with carry on bags, but unlike last summer we were not reprimanded for bringing more than the official business class allowance.
 
We stopped for a few minutes in the KAL lounge in the TBIT just to refill our water bottles and take some tea for the trip. For the record, there is no pre-packaged kosher food in this lounge, though it does offer a nice indoor balcony overlooking the terminal.
 

View of TBIT from KAL balcony

We headed to the gate, only to find ourselves in a huge mess of people all trying to get on the plane at the same time; welcome to Italy.
 

Our ride to FCO

We were booked in seats 1A and 2C on a 777, so as to each have a window and aisle access. Since we’d be sleeping a majority of the flight I didn’t see a reasons to book the honeymoon seats, which seemed a bit more cramped as they literally touch.




Seat 1A
 
Our kosher meal was quite decent, being catered by Emuna catering from the valley.  After dinner I promptly changed into pajamas I brought from home and went to sleep. I found it odd that the eye mask in the Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kit was white, so it didn’t do a very good job blocking out the light. Besides for being really hot in the cabin (which is normal for non-American airlines) the beds were quite comfortable. There was quite a lot of room in the foot well, and I slept for about 7 hours, although I kept waking up due to the heat. When I woke up there was still a few hours remaining, so I davened, had breakfast, and after 11 hours landed in Rome.




Kosher dinner
 
Monday, June 29, 2015 Rome and getting to Madrid
Our stop in Rome was scheduled for 5:45 minutes. We did this intentionally so we could go back to BaGhetto Milky for lunch. After a super long taxi to our stand, another long bus ride to the terminal, and an enormous immigration queue (no business lane), we opted to just take Uber for a flat rate of €50 to the city. I got a car quickly, and within 40 minutes we were at BaGhetto.
 
The one thing that I kind of anticipated was that we were not too hungry for lunch, despite it being 3pm. We ordered a caprese salad (we’d loved it last summer) and a mixed bruschetta plate for a light lunch. We also ordered pesto-salmon gnocchi and a mushroom calzone to go for lunch and dinner in Madrid the next day.  We ended up also taking most of the bruschetta and salad to go as well as we really weren’t too hungry. We passed on dessert both from the restaurant and the gelato place. We then went looking for our Parmesan cheese (well, not quite Parmesan, but close), but the grocery store that sold it last year seems to have closed down.


Bruschetta at BaGhetto Milky
 
We weren’t much in the mood of touring at this point, so we decided to just head back to the airport via public transport, which involved a bus and a train.  It was pretty easy, just a couple blocks to the bus from BaGhetto, but our bags were heavy, so it was a bit of a schlep. It took about 1 hour before we arrived back at the airport and, having already gotten our boarding passes in LA the day before) went through security to our gate.
 
The flight from FCO-MAD was actually operated by an AirEuropa  (UX) A330-200, which was a pleasant surprise for a short 2 hours, inter-European trip.  The business seats themselves were just fine for a 2-hour flight, or even for a longer flight if you didn’t intend to sleep. They’re angled flat seats, but really old and worn out. There is no kosher food option on European UX flights, but we didn’t care as we had our BaGhetto leftovers from lunch, which was more than enough. We landed in MAD at 9:30pm and took a taxi for a flat €30 to our hotel.




UX J on A330-200
 
We decided to stay at the AC Santo Mauro (an Autograph Collection hotel) using 35k Marriott points. This hotel ended up being our second favorite hotel (after the PHP)! We were upgraded to a suite, which consisted of 2 full bathrooms, 2 living rooms (one downstairs and one upstairs) and a bedroom. It was huge, spacious, and freezing cold when we arrived. We arrived in Spain during a heat wave, so it was 95ºF+ every day and 75ºF every night. Coming into a cold hotel room was really nice!


AC Santo Mauro Lobby


AC Santo Mauro, outside courtyard


AC Santo Mauro, Suite 30


AC Santo Mauro, entrance downstairs


AC Santo Mauro, downstairs living room


AC Santo Mauro, downstairs looking at entrance


AC Santo Mauro, upstairs and downstairs bathrooms were identical


AC Santo Mauro, upstairs and downstairs bathrooms were identical


AC Santo Mauro, upstairs living room taken from stairwell


AC Santo Mauro, upstairs hallway to bedroom


AC Santo Mauro, bedroom

more to come soon...
« Last Edit: July 16, 2015, 05:27:14 PM by Yehoshua »

Offline Yaalili

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2015, 04:52:30 PM »
Nice, how did you enjoy Ryanair, do they still have all the yellow and the announcements inside?

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2015, 04:55:23 PM »
Nice, how did you enjoy Ryanair, do they still have all the yellow and the announcements inside?
We had a pleasant time on Ryanair. Yes, it's still all yellow inside with the safety "card" posted to the back of the seat and the life-jackets in the compartment above your head near the oxygen masks. We followed their rules to a T and weren't given any issues.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2015, 05:06:50 PM »
Tuesday, June 30, 2015 Madrid; flying to Barcelona
Tuesday was our only full day in Madrid. Since we’re not really museum/art loving people, we decided to skip some of the famous museums in favor of other activities. Our hotel happened to be really centrally located, only a couple minutes walk from Retiro Park. We’d initially planned on visiting the park in the afternoon, but due to the heat wave we decided to go in the morning when it was cooler outside.  The park itself was really nice. There’s a (obviously) man-made lake where you can rent boats, but since there’s almost no shade on the lake, we decided to skip that (it was already 85°!). Instead we walked around stopping in various shady spots along the way. The park has tons of grass and lots of trees and shady spots, as well as benches everywhere.


Bike lane on the sidewalk in Madrid








Retiro Park

After spending around 1.5 hours in the park we made our way over to the Plaza Mayor. Initially we weren’t going to walk, but after realizing that it really wasn’t that far and that there was lots of shade along the way we decided to walk. It was a very nice walk, and we found the Plaza without much difficulty.  We brought along our calzones from Rome for Lunch and found a nice breezy, cool, covered staircase to sit down and eat. There are lots of places to sit at a table in the plaza, but they’re all restaurants and pretty much all in the sun (well, under umbrellas, but still hotter than where we sat).


Dunkin' What?
 

Plaza Mayor


Our lunch spot, Plaza Mayor


Luch from BaGhetto Milky: Mushroom calzones

From Plaza Mayor to the Royal Palace it’s less than a 10-minute walk. After eating we walked there and bought tickets without so much as 1 person in line.  The palace was very nice. There’s a set route that you follow, and photography is not allowed in most of the rooms.  Although many of the rooms are not air conditioned, they still felt very cool in comparison to the 100° heat outside.




Royal Palace

By the time we finished seeing the Royal Palace we still had some time left before we’d need to leave to the airport, and with nothing else we wanted to do in Madrid we decided to go to the airport a bit early, via train. We took the subway from the palace back to our hotel, collected our bags (we’d checked out before we left for the day, as their latest checkout was 12 noon), and walked to the C-1 train to Terminal 4.
 
One thing I’ll say about the trains in Madrid is that they don’t really have signs on them. After asking a few people if it was the correct train, we ended up on the wrong train, which I realized 1 stop too late. We ended up having to get off, go back one stop, and then continue on our way to the airport. Unfortunately this ate up about 20 minutes of time, so we arrived at the airport on time, not early as we’d planned.


See the digital sign where the train info should be displayed? It was off  >:(
 
Just a quick word about T4: It’s huge! Like really, really huge. There are gate areas all the way through W! Not only that, but they don’t post which gate your flight is leaving from until 30 minutes before, so we literally had to stand by the monitors in a duty free shop after security until our gate was announced. We couldn’t go to a more comfortable area, as we were leaving from the J gates, and the duty free shot was the split: half the J gates to the left and half to the right.  Our flight ended up being delayed by around 30 minutes, but besides that it was uneventful.



We arrived in BCN T1 and headed straight for the Aerobus, which I’d pre-booked. We were staying at an Airbnb place in the middle of Las Ramblas (I’m just going to use the Spanish names in Barcelona, not the Catalan ones). It was a 7-minute walk from Plaza Catalunya, and 5 minutes from Maccabi restaurant. It was a great place, although it was on the 4th floor with no elevator. We had eaten our pesto and salmon gnocchi on the flight to Barcelona, so after arriving we just turned in for the night.


Salmon gnocchi from BaGhetto Milky




Airbnb Place in Barcelona

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2015, 05:26:04 PM »
Wednesday, July 1, 2015 Barcelona
Like the rest of Spain, Barcelona was also experiencing a heat wave. While it was only in the high 80s here, it was extremely humid, especially compared to dry Madrid.  We spent the morning just walking around Las Ramblas. It didn’t take as long as we thought it would, so we headed to the end for views of the W hotel (although we didn’t go all the way out to the hotel itself).  At 11am we took a free walking tour that leaves from Travel Bar in Las Ramblas. It’s a 2.5-hour tour that doesn’t enter any churches, which was great. The tour was really informative and I think well worth it, so I ended up tipping our guide €20 (for lack of a smaller bill).
 
We were quite hungry by 1:30 (we even left the tour a bit early), so we headed to Maccabi for lunch, just ahead of the lunch rush.  The food there was good, although nothing truly stood out as exceptional.




Mmmm, hot food from Maccabi

After lunch we headed via Metro to Park Güell.  The difference between Park Güell and Retiro Park couldn’t have been more different. While Retiro Park was lush, green, flat and shady, Park Güell was hillier, less shady, and had a lot more of a hike-feel than a park feel. We made it to the park in the heat of the day, making it a bit uncomfortable. We did walk around the free section of the park and found some shady areas to sit in with views of Gaudi’s structures below.  I’d have kept hiking up, but DW wasn’t in the mood and we had great city views from where we were.


Some streets had escalators to get to the park...


...Others did not


Some Gaudi structures in the park


Random dude floating near the park

We spent about 1.5 hours at the park before heading back to the city to the oldest shul in Europe.  Our tour guide had mentioned the shul on the tour, but we didn’t get a chance to stop in. We arrived just as a tour was starting, so we joined the tour (really a presentation and you don’t walk anywhere). We both found the presentation interesting, and although short, we enjoyed it very much.
 



Oldest shul in Europe

With some time to go until dinner (we weren’t hungry yet), we walked back to our apartment and cooled off a bit before heading back to Maccabi for dinner. As with BaGhetto in Rome, we planned on ordering food to go from Maccabi for Seville. We did order food just fine, but forgot that chumus is a liquid and as such wouldn’t be allowed in our carry on bags. Whoops! Not to worry, I took a tip from my MIL and froze the chumus overnight so it was a solid block. We ended up checking it in with our bag (Ryanair remember), but we might have gotten away with bringing it on the plane in the frozen state (it was a solid, not a liquid at that point). We turned in early for the night once again having had an enjoyable day and looking forward to an early start the next day for our flight to Seville.




Fish Paella (top) and Chicken Paella (bottom) from Maccabi

Offline sruly101

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2015, 05:44:14 PM »
Great Report!! keep it coming.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2015, 05:54:28 PM »
Great Report!! keep it coming.
Thanks!

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2015, 06:11:13 PM »

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2015, 06:18:05 PM »
Thursday, July 2, 2015 flying to and spending time in Seville
Our Ryanair flight to Seville left at 9:15am. We decided to take FR as it was a nonstop flight and at the time we wanted. We arrived on time at 11:05. After going back and forth on how to get to our hotel (taxi for €30 or hotel shuttle for €40) I chose the hotel shuttle. Our hotel, the AC Fontecruz, is located in the historic center of the city, where the streets are so narrow a Smartcar takes up the entire road. Because of this many taxis cannot find the hotel and end of driving around for a while, getting frustrated and dropping you off a few minutes walk away at the cathedral. Plus the hotel shuttle could be billed to the room, which could in turn be paid for with Arrival+ points, making it “free” (or at least no money our of pocket).
 
We got to the hotel and got an upgraded room, which was a bit larger than the standard room, complete with a lounge area. After spending no more than 10 minutes in the room we turned on a lamp and promptly shorted the electrical work for half of our room, including the AC. The hotel tried to fix it for bit, but decided to move us to another room one floor up. This room was a standard room with 1 bed (we’d requested and gotten 2 beds), but it was better than not having AC. We moved all our stuff upstairs, and after about 10 minutes there, the hotel informed us that our original room had indeed been fixed and offered us the opportunity of moving back down there. As much as we didn’t want to schlep our stuff from room to room all day, the original room was a lot nicer and bigger, so we did. As a gesture of apology, the hotel had a fruit plate waiting for us and offered us free breakfast for the next day.




Fontecruz Sevilla Hotel






Fotecruz Sevilla, first (larger) room

With that fiasco out of the way, we headed off to the Royal Alcazar. Unlike the Royal Palace in Madrid, the Alcazar doesn’t have a set way to walk or tour, and photos are allowed (nearly) everywhere.  We really did enjoy the Alcazar. The architecture was a mix of Spanish, Moorish, and Arabic, making it very interesting indeed. We just wandered around, exploring the different floors before finally ending up in the massive gardens for a while.


















Royal Alcazar (including intricate tile work Seville is know for)
 
From the Alcazar we headed for Plaza España, a 15-minute walk away. This place was just gorgeous. Even though we didn’t go inside the buildings (they’re offices), the outside is simply amazing! There’s a little canal where you can rent boats and a huge fountain the middle. We spent some time here before continuing our made up walking tour.






Plaza España

We next walked to a few different sites the hotel suggested. Everything was about 10-15 minutes away from one another, and none of them stood out much as being that exciting.  We walked along the river, saw some of the shopping streets that have shade covers, and ended up in a SuperSol to by some fruit and veggies to accompany our dinner before finally walking back to our hotel for the night.


Torre del Oro, Seville


Shaded shopping streets, Seville


Plaza Mayor, Seville

Offline moish

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2015, 06:20:01 PM »
nice report

if i may ask, the info that it's the oldest shul in europe, where did that come from? i think i may have a different candidate

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2015, 06:29:06 PM »
nice report

if i may ask, the info that it's the oldest shul in europe, where did that come from? i think i may have a different candidate
Their site, plus a carving in the original cornerstone with the date.

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2015, 07:16:07 PM »
Friday, July 3, 2015 driving to and spending time in Gibraltar
Friday morning we were up nice and early to rent our car from the train station in Seville. Not only was it closer, but we also avoided the airport pickup surcharge.  I again took a hotel taxi and billed it to the room.  This was also the first time I rented a manual car, having just completed a course on driving manual.  I had reserved and gotten a Mini, which I wanted and enjoyed. Manual was really fun to drive, and I didn’t go much damage to the clutch or engine. The car had a sort of hybrid “automatic” manual mode as well as a true manual mode. The only difference between the two is that the automatic mode showed you which gear you should switch to, and also if you stalled the engine automatically restarted, making restarting a lot quicker.


Our ride to Gibraltar


The Rock

The drive to Gibraltar was uneventful. The weather went from dry and sunny to humid and cloudy, but besides that the landscape looked the same.  We had to wait for about 30 minutes at the border (which was the most annoying part being in a manual), but once we were in found our hotel (the Eliott) without an issue. Like the center of Seville, the streets in Gibraltar are tiny, and I was constantly making sure I didn’t bump into things or people.  Parking at the hotel is in a lot outside or behind the hotel for £14/day. I didn’t even attempt to find free parking.


Driving across the runway in GIB


This was a wide street in Gibraltar




Our room at the Eliott

After checking in and dropping our things in our room we headed to Café Amar for lunch, arriving there about 1:30p. The food here also was just ok, not great, but I was able to order fish and chips from a British colony! Lunch took a while (service was slow), but we weren't in a rush. Having settle the bill in Euros (their credit card machine was down) and getting a good exchange rate, we headed off towards the cable car to go up the Rock.






Food from Cafe Amar (Fish and Chips and Omelette)
 
Initially I was planning on just taking the cable car up and walking down, but due to the fact that it was really hot and sticky (and DW didn’t want to walk all the way down), we bought a return ticket. The ride up was nice, probably the best views of Gibraltar you can get, but by no means was it as nice as cables cars in places like Switzerland. Once at the top of the Rock we explored a bit. We walked down a path for a bit before coming back up. There were lots of monkeys everywhere, and we even saw a monkey grab a plastic bag from a visitor and try to eat her sunscreen.


View from cable car going up the Rock


Video of monkey incident (no sound)








Views from Top of the Rock


10 day old baby monkey trying to eat a bolt


The "other"/Eastern side of the Rock


The entire Gibraltar, panorama

We spent about 1½ hours at the top before heading back down, returning to our hotel and getting ready for Shabbos (mincha was 8:20 for early Shabbos).

Shabbos, July 4, 2015 Shabbos in Gibraltar
I’d heard so much about Shabbos in Gibraltar that I had high expectation going in. Needless to say I was not disappointed. We had a wonderful experience! We ate our meals with a wonderful family, spending Shabbos day meal with them at his mom’s house. I davened the two main shuls: Nefutzot Yehuda and Sha’arei Shamayim. I enjoyed both of them, but ultimately the later won out as it has AC while the former does not.
 
We took a walk up Main Street on Shabbos afternoon, but besides that spend the day relaxing in our nicely chilled hotel room. Shabbos ended late (10:20), and we heard havdala in shul.  People were super friendly and made me feel welcome. I got a few meal invites over mincha on Friday and Shachris on Shabbos though we had to decline due to our pre-arrangements. Motzei Shabbos we didn’t do anything besides go to bed.

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2015, 07:26:49 PM »
Are there any good takeout or restaurants that offer Shabbos meals?

The only thing holding me back from spending Shabbos in GIB is the AFAIK lack of Kosher Shabbos takeout food, my wife would never agree to eat by some random guy.

And if i go to GIB, I'd only go for Shabbos, given that there is not much to do in GIB.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2015, 07:31:12 PM by Hershelsdeals »

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #13 on: July 16, 2015, 07:29:40 PM »
Great TR... feels funny to me to read a DDF TR that was almost completely booked with real money (except the Barclays points part)

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #14 on: July 16, 2015, 07:33:32 PM »


Great TR... feels funny to me to read a DDF TR that was almost completely booked with real money (except the Barclays points part)

Why? A business revenue ticket under $1500, which Award ticket can beat that?