Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

The Isle of Calypso

Looking through the 658 pictures that I’ve taken thus far, I realize I have to play a serious game of catch-up! I still have some fun pictures from Day 1 and 2 to upload, but I’m going to fast-forward to yesterday’s journey. We woke up to semi-warm Mediterranean sunshine and decided that it would be a good day to take a journey to the Maltese island of Gozo (Maltese: Għawdex, pronounced OW-desh). Gozo’s a quick 20-minute journey by ferry from the mainland and though it was windy, it was definitely a gorgeous view!

[The view of Mellieha on the way down to the ferry was pretty outstanding, too!]

We had a pretty great view of Gozo from the ferry. The island is so small that you can literally see the entire thing and capture it from a camera lens from a distance!

As you can tell, it was a pretty blustery day on the ferry but the views of Gozo were worth standing on the sun deck.

Gozo has been inhabited for around 5000 years and has a ridiculously long and amazing history, so our day was jam-packed. Lesson: If your journey is well-planned (and you’re with some Grade A tour guides who take care of you!), you can see all the major sites in a day. First stop on our agenda?

The Azure Window:

The natural arch is thought to have been created millions of years ago and is absolutely breath-taking! The water is insanely blue and the journey to see the arch close-up is a trek along fossilised rock. Probably one of the most beautiful things I have seen yet!

After our trip to the Window, we headed to the Citadella (didn’t really get any pics there) which is set on the hill of the capital city. It was built as a fortress of sorts to protect the island from attacks. We got to tour the inside and it was pretty awesome! After our mini tour (and a mini bout of rain), we headed to the Ggantija Temples which are a UNESCO Heritage site and date back to around 3500 BC.

By the end of the day, we were officially exhausted and napped on the ferry ride back home! Our tour guides had everything planned perfectly — we got sooo much in during a single day! Gozo’s definitely a nice trip for anyone visiting Malta. And the few Gozitans that populate the small island seemed friendly as well! Fun fact: Gozitans speak a slightly different version of Maltese… a little bit more Arabic-sounding. Just a fun fact to throw in your arsenal of goodies during Trivial Pursuit.

Love from Malta,

Wanna see all the pictures? Click here!

My Guide to EasyJet

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

In the spirit of the holidays, I have decided to gift something travel-related:
My Guide to EasyJet.
Keep in mind, most of this can be found on the EasyJet website , but I find that websites can be cumbersome: everything that is relevant to you is mixed in with superfluous information that’s totally extraneous. So, here are the things that I think are important to know when traveling with Easy Jet. As a preface, I can’t really stress how much I prefer EasyJet to RyanAir. Although RyanAir has some really great deals, I find that their advertised “£5” fares actually end up being £40+ when you add in taxes, fees, etc. With EasyJet, I hop online and the advertised fee is what I actually pay. Additionally, EasyJet flies into major airports. If you take the time to peruse RyanAir’s website, you’ll see that you typically don’t fly into the city. Rather you fly 45 minutes to an hour outside of the city and then you’re bused in (for a fee, of course). All in all, I prefer paying a few extra dollars (or pounds, as it were) for convenience and time-saving. You are on vacation, after all and dealing with the headaches that come with travel are something you can probably do without.

Your Guide to EasyJet

When to Arrive:

This is relatively standard across airlines, but arrive 60 minutes early for domestic flights and 90 – 120 minutes early for international flights.

Where does EasyJet fly out of [from London]?

From London, you can fly out of Gatwick, Luton or Stansted airports. Just some info on the locations of these (since I had no idea where they were in relation to one another):

Gatwick is about 28 miles south of London; if you’re GPSing it, use postcodes RH6 0NP (South Terminal) or RH6 0PJ (North Terminal)
–  Luton is about 32 miles from London (North, I think!); if you’re using GPS for this one, use the code LU2 9QT
Stansted is in Essex about 36 miles Northeast-ish from Central London; use postcode CM24 1RW

I would recommend flying out of Gatwick unless it’s significantly cheaper to leave from the other two.

What’s the best way to get to the airport?

You can, of course, get to the airport via taxi, car, bus or train, but let’s look at the most efficient and cost-effective ways to get there: EasyBus or the Express. EasyBus leaves from Central London and goes to Gatwick, Stansted, and Luton airports so regardless of where you’re flying out of, you’re well covered. Prices vary, but you’re looking at between £2 and £9 each way.

– If you’re flying out of Gatwick, the EasyBus pick up is at Fulham Broadway, which can be reached by tube.
– If you’re flying out of Stansted, the pick-up points are Victoria, near stop 6 or at Gloucester Place, near the Baker Street tube
– If you’re flying out of Luton, there are multiple pick-up points:  Brent Cross, Finchley Road Underground, Marble Arch (near the tube), Victoria or Gloucester Place

{The tube works great for getting around within London to find your EasyBus pick-up point if you don’t live close to one!}

The Gatwick Express is also an option, albeit a more expensive one. It leaves from Victoria station and it takes roughly 30 minutes to get to the airport; if it’s like the Heathrow Express, it’s comfortable and convenient. Count on your wallet being about £14 – £16 lighter.

What kind of luggage am I allowed?

Not much, I’m afraid. You’re allowed one piece of hand luggage (a carry-on) that can measure no more than 55 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm. On the bright side, there is no weight maximum, so you can load that bad boy up! Keep in mind, this is not British Airways: you don’t get a carry-on plus a personal item. You get one item. If you’re taking a real carry-on, your purse, briefcase or laptop case has to stay at home or it must fit inside of your luggage. The only additional things you can carry-on are:

a) one of the following: an umbrella, an overcoat or a shawl and
b) one standard size bag of goods purchased at the airport

If you need more than one carry-on (like in the case of my Maltese excursion), you can opt to pay a fee and take some extras with you. It’ll run you £18 for a checked bag which has a maximum weight of 20 kg (44 or so pounds). Do not go overweight on this! Every 3 kg of ‘extra weight’ (on top of the 20 kg that you’re allowed) will run you £42. I’m not kidding. Best plan of attack: put your heavy stuff in your carry-on and the bulky stuff in your checked baggage. I have yet to find size restrictions on checked luggage, but I’m taking a pretty large, full-sized suitcase! I’ll let you guys know if I have issues; I’ve never checked baggage before with EasyJet!

How do I change a flight, a passenger name or cancel a flight?

You can cancel a flight within 24 hours of making the original booking for a refund (excluding transaction/administrative fees). You have to call in to cancel (0871 244 2366; costs 10p per minute). After the 24 hour period, your flight fees won’t be refunded. You can purchase insurance for £25.

If you’re looking at changing a name (essentially signing your flight over to another passenger), there’s a £25 fee, but it can be done online. You can also call in and handle the name change, but either way it has to be done at least two hours prior to the flight.

Things to keep in mind when flying:

* Don’t forget the liquid rule! No more than 3 oz (100 ml) allowed in carry-ons. Believe me, it sucks having your brand new lotions/shampoos, etc confiscated. Double-check to make sure your stuff fits the requirement and that it’s in a plastic bag! If you forget the plastic bag, they’re pretty good about supplying them at the airport.

* Don’t forget your passport! That could possibly be the worst situation ever and it’s one that’s easily avoidable. Make sure you have your passport easily accessible but safely stored. I usually keep mine in my laptop case or purse in a zipper pocket. Losing your passport is more awful than forgetting it!

* Try to have some relevant currency. Luckily it’s 2009 and major cards are widely accepted, but it’s always nice to have some cash available just in case! I like to keep a mini stash of euros at home because it’s such a useful currency. I like to have 30 – 50 euros with me just in case we need a cab, bus ticket or in the off-chance that an ATM isn’t functioning. I find that being prepared reduces the headaches. Lots of banks will hook you up with a bit of relevant travel money if you pop in before your trip.

Hope that guide helps someone out there somewhere! That’s most of the information that I’ve ever found myself needing! If I think of anything else that is potentially useful, I’ll add it to the list.

Happy travels,

a few big smiles in day two of hell.

So, it’s 847P and it feels like it’s about 1130P right now. Despite the wave of tiredness that just hit me, I feel fortunate in the fact that I still have two solid hours of work I can get in this evening. I just knocked out one presentation in my Health & Population seminar this evening and it actually went pretty well! After so many years of business classes/public speaking, I seemed to have forgotten that I actually enjoy speaking in front of people when I have a good grasp on my topic (one reason that a career in academia/university teaching has been of interest to me). I have one more presentation tomorrow morning, followed by preparation for a third presentation for Monday. Despite the fact that I have had to relinquish my rights to a social life, I actually kind of enjoy having work to do. I feel like I’ve finally been pushed into grad school mode and I can really start to bring my ‘A’ game on a daily basis. Also, there is a reward to finishing this load of work: tomorrow night I get to hit up an Arsenal game with a friend and finally see the Emirates stadium (Chris, if you’re reading this, that statement may be perceived as sacrilegious considering my mandatory alignment with Manchester United) and Thursday night, I’m hitting up the Apollo Victoria theatre with some fellow MSc kiddos to catch a showing of ‘Wicked‘! I think that those two nights of social re-integration will help me re-focus for a weekend of presentation prep work and paper-writing.

My goal for this weekend is to a) prepare a kickass presentation for Monday’s seminar and b) write my formative essay for my Health & Population class. I figure if I post this on my blog for the world to see, I’m semi-accountable to someone/everyone. If, on Monday, I have to write about how I still have essays to write, I will feel entirely defeated.

On an even brighter note (speaking of things to look forward to): Nine days until Rome! I think that all of this writing and academic reading has fried my brain. The excitement and reality that I get to take a jaunt to Italy in one short week has yet to fully hit me.

Hope all is well in the world! Feel free to send some love my way — getting comments always puts a smile on my blogging face.

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Side note //  Two other things put a smile on my face today: One – I finally tried the Hare Krishna food on campus today and it was way better than I had envisioned.  Two – I got an email from my dad that used the term ‘OMG.’ Hahah. Love it. Dad, I know you’re reading this: OMG, I love you. <3.

Hell begins…

After being on campus from 830A to 730P and having been studying since getting home, I’ve decided that it’s time for a much-needed break/status update from abroad.

Update: Life for the next three weeks is going to be insanity. The light at the end of the tunnel? I get to go to Rome on the 12th of November! The thought of Roman architecture and Italian coffee is probably the only thing that’s going to get me through the next few weeks.

Some perspective: I have a presentation on poverty reduction & child mortality to deliver tomorrow in my health & population class; Wednesday is a presentation on women’s rights and the effects of women’s rights on children for a child rights & poverty course, and the rest of the week will be spent working on a third presentation (to be delivered next Monday) which addresses the role of the state in social policy and requires some ridiculous readings by Foucault. On top of that, I have a formative essay due in my health and population class in a couple of weeks, followed by a paper on implementation of social policy theory.

In any case, I have officially gone into hiding and am holing myself up in my room for the next twelve days with the ultimate goal of finishing everything before my trip to Rome.

I’ll keep you updated from my cell room.

Lots of love,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Dialed in for Oktoberfest 2009!

So, I booked my roundtrip flight to Munich from London a while back, but I officially have everything in order as of now! Our flight from LGW leaves on the 24th in the morning, and we have booked a bus from Fulham to LGW with EasyBus! We also got EasyBus tickets once we return to take us back to Central London. Gatwick airport is about 70 minutes from Central London, so public transportation was a must! Roundtrip tickets with EasyBus (to and from the airport) were around £13, plus the cost to Tube it from Covent Garden to Fulham (about a 30 minute journey). EasyJet also allows you to check-in for your flight up to 60 days in advance, so I checked in and printed my boarding pass this morning! Now that all of that is paid for and in order, Oktoberfest is sure to be an amazingly fun time!

We’ve been looking into Mike’s Bike Tours, which runs in both Munich and in Amsterdam, for a fun, informational bike tour of Munich. After checking out all of there offerings, we found the most amazing full day tour of Neuschwanstein Castle, which takes a scenic trip through the countryside, a trek through a waterfall and gorge and ultimately a tour of this amazingly gorgeous fairytale castle.

NCastle

The tour runs full time during Oktoberfest and is a full day tour with pick-up and drop-off in central Munich. The entire tour costs 39 Euros (hostelers with a receipt get a discount; normally it’s around 48 Euros) and includes the journey by bus/train and the bike ride. Considering the half day tour costs 18 Euros and only covers the central part of Munich (still beautiful!), we’re leaning towards the full-day extravaganza to get the most out of our brief stint in Munich. I still can’t believe that I’ll be seeing all of this amazingness first-hand. I’ll keep you guys posted with amazing photos & blogs about everything!

Has anyone done a tour like this before? What did you think?

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Pleasant(on) Weekend.

I’m currently sipping some delicious coffee in our Pleasanton, California hotel room and am pleasantly surprised by how comfortable our hotel has been! I joined Chris in the East Bay for the weekend and though it’s only 2:50P on Saturday, it’s already been amazingly relaxing. Surprisingly so, actually. We checked into the Residence Inn on Dublin Canyon Road last night and the room is spectacularly roomy, especially when you consider the price range of these rooms ($89 – $129ish per night).

IMG_5909This is only half of our room — the ‘bedroom’ part of the place.

IMG_5907IMG_5917There’s also this fully equipped kitchen!
Fridge, freezer, microwave, toaster, coffeemaker, stove, plus pots, pans and silverware for cooking.
{Plus, there’s a big screen TV and lounge area, of which I didn’t get a shot.}

After checking in, we headed out to grab some dinner — sushi! — my new most favorite food. After a two-year stint as a strict vegetarian, I have switched to pescetarianism to increase my protein intake; accordingly, sushi has jumped back to the top of my favorite food list. I have never really met sushi that I didn’t like. Perhaps I have only eaten at good sushi places, though, and have thusly taken the quality of sushi for granted because last night’s sushi was far from good. Even the edamame was overcooked — soft and mushy. How do you mess up edamame?!

IMG_5914

IMG_5910It actually looked decent when it was plated, but it was super bland. I’ve never had sushi that didn’t really taste like anything… possibly poor quality fish? I can’t be sure, but after spending $30 for our two rolls (plus an order of tempura) we were highly dissatisfied. If you happen to be in P-town, skip this joint. There’s a cool Indian place next door that’s much more enticing.

To make up for the grossness that was our sushi, we hit up Coldstone Creamery for a bit of ice cream. I haven’t enjoyed Coldstone’s amazingness for at least five years, so let me just say this: cake batter-flavored ice cream with butterfinger is possibly the most delicious morsel I have ever tasted in my twenty-three years of existence. Seriously. I don’t know what they put in that ice cream (highly-addictive drugs, perhaps?) but it hovers in another realm of deliciousness. Mmmm. They do have some healthy indulgences, but seriously: split a small and go for the good stuff. Ahhh-mazing.

After hitting Pleasanton’s 24 Hour Fitness this morning for a good sweat sesh, I spent the early part of the afternoon poolside, enjoying the amazing sunshine and catching up on my pre-sessional readings for classes in the fall. Such an awesomely relaxing weekend!

Hope everyone else’s is equally fantastic,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Beijing & Shanghai for $799!

China

I had to seriously double-take on this one, guys! I am even more stoked than usual because my mom has a minor obsession with Asia and has always wanted to visit. If you, too, are looking for an inexpensive way to visit China, this is it!

Beijing & Shanghai 8-Night Package WITH AIR for $799 from San Francisco! 

Typically, the airfare alone costs this much, so this is a serious steal. You can spend 10 days and 8 nights exploring two of China’s premier cities. Here’s what you get:

* R/T nonstop air from SF to Beijing
*Intra-China flights and ground transportation
* Airline fuel surcharges
* Eight nights first-class accommodation in centrally located hotels (5 nights at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Beijing; 3 nights at the Holiday Inn Vista in Shanghai)
* Full buffet American breakfast daily
* Services of an English-speaking tour guide

This package is available November through April with the $799 departure dates on December 4th and January 8th. Even if you can’t go on those dates, you can book other dates for $100 – $200 more. Such a great deal. Click here for more details! 
Book by July 21st.

Happy Travels!

Signature Stamp - Shannon