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Loyalty Traveler 2014

San Diego December 2014

London-Ireland November-December 2014

This post contains a series of 28 articles related to our trip to London and my week in Ireland in late November-early December 2014. My ticket was SFO-London-Dublin with British Airways and included RyanAir from Dublin back to London Gatwick. My wife Kelley flew American Airlines from SFO to London Heathrow. I stayed two nights in Athlone, Ireland before flying to London for seven nights and then back to Dublin for four nights.

Planning Phase

These articles relate to buying an airline ticket in October during a low fare sale from San Francisco to Dublin, Ireland when tickets were around $500. Once a great airfare is detected, the clock ticks with little knowledge of how long the deal will last. Deciding to spend $2,000 for a trip to Europe is one of the thrills and headaches of travel. And $2,000 is an economy budget week for London.

Kelley had an $800 American Airlines voucher and her ticket was $835 for San Francisco to London. I took advantage of the low Ireland airfare to stay in Ireland a couple of nights before Kelley arrived in London during Thanksgiving week and I stayed four nights in Dublin after a week in London.

The articles below cover the planning period of our trip from the day the low airfares to Dublin were published to my ticket purchase and hotel planning. I bought tickets about five weeks before travel.

One of my primary objectives with hotels in London and Ireland was earning two free nights from IHG Into the Nights promotion by staying in an IHG brand in two different countries outside the USA. The other main objective was taking advantage of the Club Carlson Visa card member benefit of one free night on stays of two nights or more in London. I booked three 2-night stays in London at The Mayfair, Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street and Radisson Edwardian Mercer Street. I also used Club Carlson’s 2-for-1 weekend rate for two Radisson Blu hotels in Ireland.

SFO-DUB under $500, SFO-Europe under $750 (Oct 14, 2014)

Finding Dublin Deep in the Heart of Taxes (Oct 16, 2014)

London hotel rates and competitive set hotel pricing (Oct 19, 2014)

Comparing hotel reward value in London among different hotel programs (Oct 20, 2014)

London with Club Carlson points and Club Carlson credit card (Oct 20, 2014)

Geography for 18 Club Carlson hotels in London (Oct 21, 2014)

Club Carlson London hotels TripAdvisor rankings (Oct 22, 2014)

Club Carlson Gold elite 2-for-1 rates scarce availability in London and Dublin (Nov 3, 2014)

Where the hell is Athlone, Ireland and why am I planning to go there? (Nov 12, 2014)

Trip Report

Ireland

British Airways LAX-LHR A380-800 in World Traveller Class (Nov 21, 2014)

A day in Athlone, Ireland (Nov 22, 2014)

Irish dancers at Radisson Blu Athlone, Ireland (Nov 23, 2014). Hotel review and this article includes a visit to Seans Bar, Ireland’s oldest pub according to Guinness World Records.

Estate Life at Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Dublin (Dec 13, 2014) Hotel Review.

Dublin footsteps of Bono, Michael Collins and Oliver Hardy (Dec 1, 2014) A day hike from Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel in south Dublin along the coast to Dalkey, Ireland.

James Joyce slept here and Ulysses begins here in Sandycove, County Dublin (Dec 2, 2014) Part 2 of coast walk.

Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk in County Wicklow Ireland (Dec 2, 2014) One of Ireland’s most popular coast walks.

Bono and Enya’s neighborhood Killiney, County Dublin (Dec 14, 2014) Photos of the coastal village of Killiney, the so-called Beverly Hills of Ireland.

London

Holiday Inn London Gatwick for IHG Into the Nights (Nov 24, 2014)

Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street London convenient for LHR arrival and departure(Nov 25, 2014). Hotel review.

Live Well for Less at The May Fair London (Nov 26, 2014) Grocery shopping in London.

Ritzy enough for The May Fair London (Dec 4, 2014) Hotel review.

Radisson Blu Bloomsbury Street London location by British Museum (Dec 6, 2014) Hotel review.

My Square Foot London Edition (Nov 27, 2014) Descriptions of small rooms in London hotels with focus on Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street.

Gatwick to Heathrow in 3 hours for £8.10 with Oyster card (Nov 30, 2014)

London Gatwick Airport ATM Bad Exchange Rates (Dec 12, 2014)

London touring

Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain for the public Hyde Park London (Dec 7, 2014)

St. Paul’s Cathedral London on Paddington Trail (Dec 11, 2014)

Canals of Paddington London

Can London teach America art tourism? (Dec 16, 2014) Piece about public art displays in London with London buses and Paddington Bear temproary exhibits.

Norway September 3-17, 2014 Trip Posts

Norway for two weeks on a budget with a $541 United Airlines round trip ticket SFO-OSL and $300 spending cash for the trip.

Climbing hills for a few days in Bergen was the highlight of my trip. While Norway is expensive, in top three countries worldwide for cost of living, the hotels I picked for stays provided most of the food I wanted to eat. I only needed $25 or about 150NOK for food and I spent about $275 for  train and bus tickets and a plane ticket to travel OSL (airport) – Oslo Central-Larvik (southeast Norway)-Sandefjord TORP Airport – BGO Bergen (Norwegian Air) – Express Bus Bergen Center – Bergen Line to Oslo (bus/train) – OSL (airport).

There was no corporate or tourist board sponsorship for this trip. My objective was to find out what value Choice Privileges have in Norway. Answer: Terrific value. Sweden and Norway have about 170 Nordic Choice Hotels. The focus of my trip was checking out Nordic Choice Hotels with stays at six hotels and site visits at four other hotels in Oslo, Bergen and Larvik and also a visit to Clarion Collection Hotel Atlantic, a unique hotel/whaling museum  in Sandefjord, the whaling capital of the world a century ago on the southeast coast of Norway, 75 miles south from Oslo.

I redeemed 216,000 Choice Privileges points for 13 nights with $6,000+ in hotel stay value. Most of the points were purchased at a rate around $4.00 per 1,000 points through U.S. Travel Association annual Daily Getaways promotion, generally held between April and June each spring and limited to U.S. residents. Loyalty Traveler – Daily Getaways Choice points are good deal for Europe Hotels (May 14, 2014).

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Bergen seen from Mount Floyen
  1. Oslo, Norway walking on a summer day (Sep 6)
  2. Hotel Review Clarion Royal Christiania Oslo, Norway (Sep 6)
  3. Hotel Review Clarion Collection Hotel Bastion Oslo, Norway (Sep 7)
  4. Think before you eat whale meat (Sep 8)
  5. Six days in Norway and $6 spent on food (Sep 9)
  6. Hotel Review: Farris Bad, Ascend Collection Larvik, Norway (Sep 10)
  7. Hotel Review Farris Bad Kaupang Suite upgrade (Sep 10)
  8. Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord offers whaling culture experience and beds too (Sep 11)
  9. Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord, Clarion Collection (Sep 13)
  10. Oslo Sandefjord Torp Airport low cost flights (Sep 12)
  11. USA Branded Bergen (Sep 12)
  12. Oops! Radisson Royal Bergen hotel damaged Bryggen UNESCO World Heritage Site.(Sep 12)
  13. Walk like a Norwegian up Floyen in Bergen (Sep 13)
  14. Think before you eat Norwegian farmed salmon (Sep 13)
  15. Biked, hiked and psyched about Bergen (Sep 15)
  16. Clarion Collection No 13 Bergen, Norway (Sep 15)
  17. Clarion Collection Havnekontoret Bergen, TripAdvisor #1 hotel – Part One (Sep 16)
  18. Clarion Collection Havnekontoret Bergen – Part Two (Sep 16)
  19. Bergen Line to Oslo, 500 km by train (and bus) – Part One (Sep 18)
  20. Bergen Line to Oslo 500 km by train part two (Sep 19)
  21. How I stole 2 nights at The Thief Oslo with points (Sep 23)
  22. Hotel Review The Thief Oslo Room 603 (Sep 23)
  23. The Thief Oslo by design (Sep 24)
  24. Clarion Collection Folketeateret Oslo is recommended Nordic Choice Hotel (Sep 27)

Road Trip Posts from $105 one-week rental car deal Jacksonville, Florida to Norfolk, Virginia May 3-11, 2014

Three objectives for trip.

1. Visit Savannah, Georgia and learn about open container drinking, but it turned out to be a record breaking anticyclone heat wave in early May and I could not walk around outside drinking anyway.

2. Visit Charleston, South Carolina and learn more about the southern perspective of the Civil War. Charleston blew my mind with its beautiful and old architecture. The historic center of Charleston is a seaport relic. By chance, I found myself at Sullivan’s Island and learned a deeper history than expected.

3. Outer Banks, North Carolina Ocracoke to Kitty Hawk via North Carolina State ferries and on Highway 12.

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Bodie Lighthouse, North Carolina Outer Banks
  1. Jacksonville and the St. Johns River (May 4)
  2. St. Augustine, Florida: History in Black and White (May 5)
  3. Hotel. Casa Monica St. Augustine, Marriott Autograph Collection (May 6)
  4. $15 to $20 per day in May for one-way rental cars out of Florida (May 7)
  5. Notes from the Atlantic Intracoastal Road (May 9)
  6. If I’m Ever Back This Way (May 9)
  7. Images of Historic Charleston South Carolina (May 10)
  8. Hotel Review: Savannah Andaz Suite (May 11)
  9. Road tripping Highway 17 St. Augustine to Savannah, Georgia (May 13)
  10. St. Simons Island of Georgia’s Golden Isles (May 14)
  11. Hotel Review: Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront, Marriott Autograph Collection(May 14)
  12. Southern City in Green: Savannah’s 22 Squares (May 17)
  13. Savannah’s ’Crown Jewels’ Monument Squares (May 18)
  14. Red wolves, alligators, dolphin and birds at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge South Carolina (May 24)
  15. Hotel. Historic Charleston, SC 1853 The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel (May 25)
  16. British Cemetery Memorial Service Ocracoke Island, North Carolina Outer Banks(May 26)
  17. Hotel. Mansion on Forsyth Park, Savannah, Marriott Autograph Collection (May 31)
  18. Road Trip to DoubleTree Atlantic Beach North Carolina and Ocracoke Island (June 1)
  19. Three lighthouses of Cape Hatteras National Seashore (June 5)
  20. Hotel Review: Florida Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront (June 6)
  21. Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Savannah (June 7)
  22. Meeting History on Meeting Street Charleston, South Carolina (June 8)
  23. Sullivan’s Island, SC is perhaps the most significant historical site in the USA you never heard of (June 9)
  24. Hotel Review: Charleston Marriott South Carolina (June 12)
  25. One location, many memorials — Fort Moultrie and Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina(June 14)
  26. Ocracoke, the ferry island on North Carolina’s southern Outer Banks (June 15)
  27. Pilgrimage to Wright Brothers National Memorial (June 22)

Iowa and Chicago for #IPW 2014 (April 1-8, 2014)

Iowa sponsored tour

  1. Iowa, more than a four-letter word? (April 2)
  2. Hey L.A., looks like Fenelon Place Dubuque beats Angels Flight for shorter incline railway (April 3) – historic funicular in Dubuque, Iowa by Mississippi River rivals Los Angeles historic funicular.
  3. Hotel Julien Dubuque and Al Capone Suite (April 4)
  4. Bald eagles and eaglets in Iowa (April 5)
  5. Iowa Farm Country Shopping
  6. Iowa Ag Tours–Embrace the Tractor (April 14)
  7. Hotel Review: Upgraded, Hilton Garden Inn Ames, Iowa (Free sponsored hotel night on Iowa tour)

Chicago for U.S. Travel Association #IPW 2014

  1. 360 Chicago Views (formerly John Hancock Observatory) (April 7)
  2. Historic Renaissance Blackstone Chicago (April 8)
  3. Inn of Chicago, Ascend Collection one night for free – successful Choice Hotels Best Rate Guarantee claim. (April 12)
  4. Palmer House Hilton history of Chicago’s oldest hotel (April 14)
  5. Hotel Review: Chicago Downtown, Autograph Collection, Marriott brand hotel (April 15)
  6. Field Museum, 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and Ferris Wheel

Minneapolis, Minnesota February 13-21, 2014

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Mill City Museum tells history of when Minneapolis was the milled flour producer for the world.
  1. Beating Priceline again with a Minneapolis Hyatt Suite BRG (Feb 10, 2014)
  2. Hyatt Regency Minneapolis hotel review (Feb 19)
  3. Largest hotel fitness center I’ve seen (Hyatt Regency Minneapolis) – (Feb 17)
  4. Hilton Minneapolis in pictures (Feb 21) Photo essay from visit to 821-room downtown Minneapolis hotel. Hilton has two other higher rated hotels in city.
  5. Chillin’ Minneapolis for Valentine’s Day (Feb 14)
  6. Freezin’ for a Reason with Cupid’s Undie Run Minneapolis (Feb 15)
  7. Bridging the Great Divide in Minneapolis (Feb 15)
  8. Craft Beer Revival in Minneapolis (Feb 16)
  9. Down by the river Minneapolis, then and now (Feb 17) is a story about the city’s industrial past of timber and flour mills and urban renewal of the Mississippi riverfront.
  10. Depositing Points in the Westin Minneapolis BANK (Feb 18) The Westin Minneapolis BANK restaurant occupies a former bank lobby and the wine is stored in a bank vault.
  11. TripAdvisor #1 attraction is Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Feb 22) A fine art museum founded in the gilded age of Minneapolis. Well worth time to visit.
  12. Hotel Ivy Minneapolis, Starwood Luxury Collection in photos (Feb 28, 2014)
  13. Radisson Blu FireLake Grill House, Mall of America and Minneapolis

Detroit, North America International Auto Show (Jan 9-15, 2014)

Ford Motor Company invited me to be their guest in Detroit for the auto show. By chance I stayed two days at The Henry, an Autograph Collection hotel of Marriott before the start of the Ford event and I spent one day at the Henry Ford Museum. Great museum.

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Ford trimotor airplane (1920s) – Henry Ford Museum
Ford clay modeling mustang
Ford Clay Modeling exhibit featuring Ford technician-artist modeling a Ford Mustang on site at 2014 North America International Auto Show Detroit.
  1. From Monterey to Detroit NAIAS flying United on Ford’s Dime (Jan 9, 2014)
  2. The Henry, Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan (Jan 10)
  3. Aviation History at the Henry For Museum – Part 1 (Jan 11, 2014) I did not know that Ford Motor Company was one of the powerhouse manufacturers of aircraft in the 1920s – until I went to the Ford museum.
  4. History of Early Commercial Aviation at Henry Ford Museum – Part 2 Travel Remembrances of Things Past – discovering my life memories in Henry Ford Museum exhibits kind of blew my mind with the realization that I am getting old.
  5. Detroit in my Pictures – a few snaps of Detroit.
  6. World’s First Airport Hotel, historic Dearborn Inn, a Marriott Hotel (Jan 16)
  7. Intro to Dearborn Ford Land and #FordNAIAS (Jan 16, 2014)
  8. Hotel Review: Westin Metropolitan Detroit Airport (blogger disclosure: Ford Motor Company paid for two nights at Westin DTW hotel for attendance at North America International Auto Show.)
Fox Theater Detroit was world’s first theater built for speaker system sound when it opened in 1928.