Mar 312013

Posted from New York, New York, United States.

Day 2 began again with great weather, clear blue sky and moderately good temperature. After heavy breakfast, some organisation and planning, we were off to a walking adventure.

Our first stop west of our hotel were the Intrepids. If we had more time, I would have loved to visit. We therefore walked around the aircraft carrier ship, took a few photos and went on. Cunard cruises’ Queen Elisabeth cruise ship – one of the world’s largest – was anchored right next to the Intrepids. This thing is huge!

The High Line is a project that started under the sponsorship of New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg at around year 2000 and its objective was to revitalise an industrial and unused area of Manhattan. The project turned these train tracks into what is today a very popular 1.5 miles walk alongside contemporary design buildings that popped up right next to it in response to the newly raised attention in the area.

The Chelsea market located in the lower half of Manhattan is a great place to seek tasty European food. Italy is clearly over-represented, so one can get amazing fresh pasta or pop into an Italian supermarket for goodies like mozzarella di bufala or pick from those amazing hams on offer!

Famous Chelsea Hotel that connects the big artistic names of Leonard Cohen, Jack Kerouac and many others was being refurbished, so we went on to the Union Square. The Flat Iron building is a marvel. Few photo-shots away and we were strolling down the Broadway towards East Village where one can admire these 50+ year old punks and alternatives who just never seem to have grown up. The area offers a nice coffee culture too, so we grabbed a couple latte’s to rest after the long walking marathon.

Pier 45 is a hop over the island to its west side and we got there right in time for a beautiful sunset over the Hudson River. The new World Trade Centre is nearly finished and looks magnificent. Look forward to visiting it in the future perhaps next time we visit NYC.

The day finished back in Chelsea again in a Mexican place Dos Caminos. Food was good, but really heavy. The portions were giant! After another 5km walk up to our hotel on the 49th street our feet were glad to be put to rest for the day.

Mar 302013

Posted from New York, New York, United States.

Our first day in New York. Against all available forecasts the weather was great. The sky was blue and cloudless early in the morning. The view from our hotel room on the 14th floor of the Garden Inn hotel turned our mood to max positive.

Quick but calories-rich breakfast in a French-style hotel restaurant and we were off to the Rockefeller Centre. It became quickly apparent we weren’t the only tourists heading that way. Some queuing and we were heading up onto the observation deck. Nice surprise in the elevator revealing the elevator shaft decorated by the neon lights – it felt like we were propelled straight into the space. Nice!

The views from the “Top of the rock” were, well, AWESOME! We took lots of not exactly dissimilar photos and made our way downstairs where we found the ice rink at Rockefeller Plaza. The bush trimmed into a green Easter bunny with a big yellow egg and lots of decorations around it was lots of fun. Honestly, in no other country could such bunny be found, but that’s what makes America special I guess!

Short walk to Bryant park and Flavia started contemplating what life would be like if we one day became New Yorkers. We were sold by then already!

New York public library is free to enter. There isn’t whole lots to do. Te building is beautiful and big and there is this Guttenberg printed book from 15th century, which is very beautiful. The place is close to Grand Central Terminal, our next stop. That place was a total surprise. So much space, so rich in decoration, so much character and vibe! And what’s next, when one least expects it, there is a very stylish …. Apple Store!!!

MOMA offers free entrance on Friday after 4pm. We lined up at 3pm and got in with a crowd of people from all over the world when the gates with free tickets finally opened. The building is beautiful, lots of great art at display, but few disappointments too. First of all we were hungry for more Andy Warhole! Second, the place has this Disneyworld feeling where Joe Hoe runs around with the starting line Canon SLR and takes photo of his wife in front of Van Gogh’s Stary night … And if the picture didn’t come out according to the expeditions, Joe will throw in a bit of flash and totally spoils the experience for everyone else who is actually interested to learn about the masterpiece …

Our day was over at 8pm. Nice couple of cheeseburgers and we were ready for bed.

Mar 282013

Posted from .

Heading off to New York. It’s been such a rush over the past few weeks. So happy it’s all over and the holiday couldn’t come at better time!

I’ve been to New York 4x already, but this time it will be different. Coming with my wife will certainly uncover how little I’ve dedicated to culture and proper in-depth city exploration. We already have a plan, which takes no prisoners if one wanted to go crazy and “relax” … So New York, here I come again and this time I’ll get to know you a bit along the way … ;o)))

Mar 232013

Posted from Foz Sousa, Porto District, Portugal.

The Roman occupation of the Iberian peninsula in the 4th century gave foundations, as we discovered over an extended weekend at the end of February, to an extremely beautiful, cultural and charismatic place – the city of Porto (called “Oporto” by the English speaking world).

Our experience was helped by the fact that the weather was absolutely great through-out our visit and allowed pretty much for our entire time to be spent outside and in the sun! That being quite a contrast to London of course.

To set the context a bit, the city was listed as a Unesco World heritage site in 1996. You quickly get the sense of why it happened when you reach the Ribeira area in the Historical centre of the Old town. The location couldn’t be more stunning as the city spreads along the Douro river estuary in Northern Portugal with beautifully green hills (also in February, yes!), those tiny little narrow and colourful houses … beautiful.

We spent three days in Porto and were busy discovering. The time seemed to be just right to see the place, but one could easily spend a week, relax, enjoy and breath in the atmosphere. There is lots to do there from visiting churches and cathedrals, to walking along the seaside, eating tasty Portuguese food … and you wouldn’t have guessed it … tasting the Port wines!

We have done a few wine tastings. The most memorable was Ferreira, which is the last Portuguese owned winery. Otherwise we have done a tour of Calem and visited Sandeman and Ramos Pinto. If you plan to do the same, take into account that the opening times are tailored unfortunately more around the stores preferences than around the customers, so you need to pencil down when you plan to visit each. Encountering closed doors is no exception.

Outside of the historical centre, do not miss the hyper modern Casa da Musica. You can tell Portuguese architects are clearly top class when walking around Porto, but this building has been designed by the Dutch. It’s really stunning. Not too far from there awaits Serralves, which is a good example of Portuguese architecture where simplicity and white colours predominate. Once done with the buildings, the Foz is a great place for a nice long walk along the seaside and you can grab some nice food along the way. The restaurants here are way above Porto’s very affordable average, but then you know you’re in a premium location.

I already know we’ll be back again in Porto. Next time it will need to be in summer and we will want to travel through out the whole Portugal – that’s the plan!

 Posted by at 12:21 pm
Feb 102013

What do we typically do when choosing a hotel? We look at its location, proximity to a place we want to visit, price and we tend to investigate the value we get for our money, which is typically represented by the equipment provided in the room. Because we do not like to part with our money too easily, we also often check what others say about it on a review site such as or If others didn’t like it, we rather pay a bit extra and get something better.

At the end of 2012 I flew twice to the US on business. The first trip was with United Airlines and the second one with American Airlines. And that’s when I started drawing comparisons between my expectations from a hotel industry and what I deem “acceptable” in air-travel business …

As unlucky as I was, my first trip saw my outbound United Airlines flight cancelled. Little quarrel at the check in desk got me on a flight with Air New Zealand to Los Angeles. I was naturally annoyed about the change in my already stretched itinerary, but my mood changed quite quickly as I sat down in my economy class seat. The seat was comfortable, clean, new and overall really nice. There was space to stretch my legs. All passengers got headphones and were given very good size touch screens with lots of new movie releases or good music selection or other entertainment. The food was good and staff very kind. Air New Zealand was allegedly scoring high on the airline of the year and I could tell why.

In Los Angeles I had to change back to the United and that’s where my travel comfort ended in 2012. Apart from the fact that the United flight was delayed by 1.5hrs because the staff simply didn’t show up, the plane was old, worn off and I’d nearly say dirty. The same happened on my trip back and it only got worse when I boarded American Airlines on my trip to Chicago one month later.

Just for comparison, few interest points about American Airlines planes. First of all, forget “space” if you’re in economy. Actually, forget it if you’re also in “economy plus” and don’t expect much in business. Imagine a low cost airline kind of leg space, but here you have the pleasure to suffer it for 8 hours instead of maximum 2! The next question is where to put your arms. If you’re wearing a suit, your problem feels a notch bigger. I guess the answer is to pay additional £1,000 and fly business or stay at home until you can pay or your company does that for you. But back to your “reality”. Many passengers tend to start checking their personal in-fight entertainment! Well, nothing for you here, but then your plane was built in 1980′s or if you’re lucky in 1990′s and at that time there wasn’t such thing – so make sure you bring a book. Yes, there will be a small 10″ monitor hanging 3m away from you and if you buy headset for $2, you will have the pleasure to listen to movies you’ve probably already seen on Tv. The good news is, as you will be surely informed by a cheesy movie clip, that American (surprisingly United play their version of the same clip too) are considering a sizeable investment to upgrade their fleet sometime in the future. So imagine and be happy, ok?

So what does this tell you? My impression was that I was being ripped off! The flights with United, American, Air New Zealand or any other airline are very much the same price, or similar. Had I been informed that I was to enjoy comfortable 10hr flight to California with Air New Zealand and a discomfort on the way back, which was only beaten by even worse flight as a curtesy of American Airlines one month later? No! Could I have found out? No!

I think that there is a market opportunity that, for some reason, is not being leveraged by those airlines that could do so. It is a full disclosure of what customers can expect onboard when buying a ticket and parting with lots of their cash. Apart from being given the basics, customers could be told that a 10inch touch screen is given to everyone, headphones included, offer of a great music selection and extra space available. Yes, I would pay extra for all this rather than feeling like a involuntary donor to the failing business of United Airlines and American Airlines. These two companies even feel it’s ok to tell me that I’m paying money today for their inadequate quality of service, in exchange for a promise that one day they might just about catch up what others already offer today! And keep smiling while doing it because, hey, what else do you do, right?

 Posted by at 10:20 pm
Jan 092013

Hi there,

it has taken me quite some time to set this all up, but the blog is nearly up and running. This is my first post, so I’ll keep it short. More to come!