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Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Jen, you’ve grown to be an amazing woman in your first 30 years and I can’t wait to spend the next 30+ with you. Love, dj

Strike a Pose

 Jen Jen Aquis Blue Marine Lobby

 Jen Jen Poolside

More photos from Crete

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My simple advice to you…
If you like beer… and I mean good beer.
Get to Belgium… now.

Jen spoke at a conference in Brussels a week or so ago so a few of us decided to meet up there for a weekend of chocolates, frites, and of course, phenomenal belgium beer.

The beer there will knock your socks off so be sure to pace yourself.

After sampling the wares from a range of fine establishments, I can highly recommend three stops, each with their own distinct vibe.

First stop was Delirium Cafe (Official SiteTripAdvisor) in Brussels. Ideal for the younger crowd, Delirium serves the world famous Delirium Tremens and Delirium Nocturnum straight from the tap, not to mention dozens of others and over 2000 additional bottled beers from around the world.

For a slightly quieter night with close friends, we found Poechenellekelder (TripAdvisor) to be a great spot. With a very nice beer list, fine selection of small dishes and cheese plates for sharing, and reasonable prices, we were able to spend much of the first evening here.

Finally, for our day trip to Bruges, the famous ‘t Brugs Beertje (Official SiteTripAdvisor) can’t be missed. This friendly local has been featured in the Good Beer Guide – Belgium and attracts crowds from all over. It offers around 300 beers to choose from and quickly fills up so get there right when they open if you want a table. Daisy, the owner and barkeep made us feel right at home so we made quite an evening out of our visit!

As for the beers themselves, here is a short list of some we sampled, along with links to their ratings from RateBeer.com. Seriously. Superb. Stuff.

Photos follow. Full set on Flickr: Belgium
Cantillon Brewery
 
't Brugs Beertje - Maredsous   't Brugs Beertje, Val-Dieu Grand Cru
 
't Brugs Beertje - Golden Carolus   Poechenellekelder - Amazing Beers
 
Grand-Place   Bruges   Cathedral in Brussels
 
Poechenellekelder   Poechenellekelder

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Since moving to the UK, we travel a lot, and when you travel this much, you know the tricks of the trade. We find deals on Kayak, then crosscheck the aircraft details with SeatGuru to make sure the plane is decent and to pick the best seat. We know which airlines are strategic partners, and we even pack our own first class amenities pack when traveling in coach. Even the little things like being able to brush your teeth before arriving can really make a difference!

So imagine our surprise when arriving at the departure gate last weekend only to be refused to board the plane to Dublin because we “didn’t follow Ryanair’s boarding procedures”. To make matters worse, it was the last flight of the night from the tiny Leeds-Bradford airport, we had tickets to see U2 the next night in Dublin, AND it was my wife’s birthday!

…..

So how exactly did this all go down? Well, we’re on top of things so we had checked in online and printed our boarding passes. We didn’t have bags to check and our carry-on’s were well under the 10kg limit thank you very much. We got to the airport about an hour early, straight to secuirty with passport and boarding pass in hand and breezed through. We sat down, grabbed a pint, and looked forward to meeting up with our friends that night in Dublin.

They called for boarding about 10 minutes before the flight was scheduled to leave and there was a mad rush to get in line. Already I started to wonder if we should have paid a bit more just to fly KLM.

As we’re waiting to board we took a closer look at our tickets.

Ryanair Boarding PAss

The Visa Check statement in the upper right didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Important for all non EU/EEA passengers this boarding pass must be checked and stamped at the document/visa check desk before going through security or travel will be refused.

  1. What the heck is a visa check desk? Isn’t this what they do when they check your passport when you ARRIVE? Last time we went to Dublin (also on Ryanair) they stamped an entry visa at Immigration in Dublin like just about everywhere else in the world.
  2. We already went through security and there wasn’t an issue.
  3. Surely if we needed a visa stamp we would have had to go through some government check point on our way to the gate. This happens a lot in Schiphol for example.

Anyway, it didn’t make sense and we were about to board anyway so let’s see what happens…

Gate Agent: You haven’t followed our check in procedures so you’re not going to be able to get on this flight.
Us: Ummm what?
GA: Non EU passengers need to have their visa checked at the check in desk before going through security. It says so on your tickets.
Us: No it doesn’t. It says something about a Visa Check Desk but the only time anyone’s checked mypassport for visas has been at Immigration.
GA: No, that means the Check In desk. They needed to check it there.
Us: Why would I have gone to the Check In desk when I checked in online and didn’t have any bags to check in?
GA: Because it says so on your ticket. That’s our policy.
Us: It doesn’t say anything about Check In on the ticket, I’m already checked in. What would they have done at the Check In desk?
GA: They need to check whether or not you need a visa and then initial your ticket. I can tell you that you don’t need one but you didn’t follow the procedure so our policy is to not let you board the plane.
Us: You’ve got to be kidding?! If you can tell me I don’t need a visa and all they do at the desk is sign it to say it’s ok, then why can’t you sign it now?!
GA: Because you didn’t follow the procedure… it’s your responsibility to read your ticket. The other non-EU passengers didn’t have a problem.

And so it went… no amount of reasoning, pleading, or tears would sway these two ladies to let us get on the plane. They started talking about taking us to the ticket desk to pay a change fee and fly out tomorrow when we got the hell out of there. The weekend was already going to be a short one and we weren’t about to pay hundreds of pounds more to Ryanair to change the ticket, then drive 2 hours home, only to come back again in the morning.

…..

So where from here? Well, it will be a loooong time before Ryanair sees another cent from us. I’m through. For me this goes down as just another of the many ways they try to nickel and dime you every step of the way. A quick look on Google shows many others with the same issue since Ryanair rolled this new plan out this summer. While they claim they need the policy due to new regulations for flying within the EU/EEA, it’s strange that no other carrier has implemented this.

And to Ryanair… I know you’re uber-low-cost, your logo looks like a 5 year old drew it in MS Paint, and you generally can’t be bothered to do things in a nice friendly way, but may I make a few suggestions?

If this isn’t just another scam to make more money you might consider:

  1. Despite your claim, it’s generally not more convenient to let passengers check-in online but then require them to go to Check In anyway.
  2. If you’re going to operate in a way completely counter to every other airline in the world, it’s bound to cause confusion and you should make a bit more effort to not piss off your customers. Maybe, just maybe, when the occasional person misses the notice, you can take 5 seconds to look at their passport at the gate.
  3. If you are going to stick with this… change the wording on your boarding pass to make it more explicitly clear. I’ve suggested some language below you’re free to use.

VISA CHECK Although you have checked in online YOU MUST STILL VISIT THE CHECK IN DESK AT THE AIRPORT to have your passport verified PRIOR TO GOING TO THE GATE. The check in desk closes 40 minutes before your departure time. If you do not comply, you will be refused to fly.

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We’ve been back for almost two weeks now from what we’ve appropriately named Honeymoon #2. Take a look and I think you’ll see why. All I can say is, “Highly recommended!”.

There are loads more of course on Flickr. Kuala LumpurKoh Samui
View from Orchid Villa
 
Petronas Twin Towers   Us   Spectacular viewpoint at the top of this island
 
First stop for a beer

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Thailand Holiday

Jen and I are wrapping up a much enjoyed two-week holiday to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Koh Samui, Thailand. More accounts, photos, and videos to follow but here’s a clip from our last full day at Sandalwood Resort and Spa.

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Borough Market

This Memorial Day (Late May Bank Holiday) weekend we hooked up with some good friends in London for a weekend of fun in the sun. I only have pics from our Saturday trip to Borough Market but we took advantage of the amazing weather with a great picnic in Hyde Park and BBQ at home as well.

Full photo set on Flickr:
Anna and Keith
 
Vat O curry   Oysters   Amazing looking paella
 
Very red tomatoes

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USA Whirlwind

There are weekend trips and then there’s weekend trips and last week’s run to the States was the latter. In just over 72 hours we enjoyed a day or two with the family for Stacey’s Graduation, followed by catching up with Adam and Maria and their new baby Jonah, then a 30th birthday celebration for Sam, and finally a quick lunch with good friends and parents-to-be Chris and Jerilyn.

Despite having a jam-packed agenda, it worked out flawlessly and save one “Wait… what country are we in?” moment, we kept on top of things. Thanks to everyone that made the time to fit our schedule. It was great.

More photos via Flickr:
Visiting Adam, Maria and Jonah 13

Sam's 30th Birthday 4
 
Stacey's Graduation 30   Visiting Adam, Maria and Jonah 15   Stacey's Graduation 27
 
Visiting Adam, Maria and Jonah 38

What Chris learned at NYU

Google, you deserve a shout out too. Your maps truly are the best:

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