Saturday, June 30, 2012

Summer of Travel 2012: Brampton, Ontario

I'm long overdue on the latest installment in my Summer of Travel 2012 series, but I've been a little busy lately, to say the least. Anyway, a few weeks ago we traveled up to Canada to spend some quality time with my family. We usually make it up 2-3 times a year, so this was our trip for the summer.

We flew Air Canada, and I used some of my Citi Thank You points stash to pay for the tickets, so they were free and we earned miles for the trip! I got 50,000 for signing up for the Citi Thank You Premier card a little while back, and this was the perfect opportunity to finally put some of them to use.

It'd be a while since I'd flown out of the main terminal at LGA, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the security checkpoint in the "A" concourse had been moved, which provided a couple more post-security dining options. The pickings are still pretty slim, so we sat down at Metro Burger for a pre-flight dinner. The food itself was fine for an airport bar, but the clientele made the meal VERY entertaining...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Quirky Hotels: Sheraton Greensboro at Four Seasons

Yes, the words "boutique hotel" usually make me cringe - but I can appreciate a quirky, charming place to rest my head as much as the next guy (as long as I'm earning some sort of hotel points, of course!). That said, sometimes you come across a hotel with quirks that are more strange than endearing.

One such example is the Sheraton Greensboro at Four Seasons, my go-to when I'm down in Greensboro for work.

Right off the bat, there's the name. Four Seasons is a mall in Greensboro, but I'm willing to bet that there have been more than a handful of people who were surprised to discover a Four Seasons when looking for a hotel in Greensboro, and that more than a handful of finance departments have done a double-take when seeing the name "Four Seasons" on expense reports submitted for reimbursement.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Eating Out in NYC: Sparks Steakhouse

This weekend, I had the pleasure of dining at Sparks Steakhouse with a bunch of my good friends. Sparks is definitely one of the big boys on the NYC steak scene, but I'd actually only been there once before (with many of the same people, come to think of it). Much like that first visit, I left with a big smile on my face.

I started with the oysters, as did a number of others around the table. I like a good oyster, and the half-dozen that arrived in front of me didn't disappoint. There wasn't anything particularly special about them (not that I would really know when it comes to oysters), but they were some seriously big bivalves. Cocktail sauce, extra horseradish and down the hatch they went, washed down with a glass of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2010 - a reliably refreshing crowd-pleaser.

I forgot that you're supposed to take the pictures BEFORE you eat your food

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer of Travel 2012: Seattle, Denver (Part 2)

Check out Part 1 here.

After spending the first part of the week in Seattle for work, I was off to Denver to celebrate a good friend's wedding. Back to back weekends with the much of the same crew from Princeton Reunions - no complaints here!

A number of us arrived around the same time, and so decided to share a couple rental cars (Chevy Impala "or similar" baby!). We took the shuttle over to Hertz, and while I usually go directly to my car, I wasn't the one with the reservation this time. As a result, we were able to experience the latest innovation in rental car service technology:

Hertz pick-up at DEN
Yep, that's my friend video-chatting with a Hertz agent in order to get the car. That was a new one for me. It definitely took longer to procure a car than a "normal" agent would have taken - but it was well worth it for the novelty of the experience.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer of Travel 2012: Seattle, Denver (Part 1)

After a great weekend down at Princeton Reunions, I had to get up bright and early Monday morning to hit the road again. This week's destinations: Seattle and Denver. While it's normally no challenge for me to pack for a week in a carry-on, this combination proved to be trickier than expected: forecast for 50s and rainy in Seattle, 80s and sunny in Denver - not to mention the fact that I needed to have work clothes for Seattle and a suit for a wedding in Denver. Oh, and workout clothes. That might not sounds like that big a deal for most of you, but I'm a big guy with big feet - my clothes, and especially my shoes, take up a lot of space! At the end of the day, I made it work - but it was a pretty tight fit.

Hop in the car, and off to Newark we go...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

One of the great perks of having Platinum status on United is the ability to redeposit miles used for booking a trip, without incurring a redeposit fee. I've made good use of this perk over the years, having had several occasions where my plans changed (dates, departure cities), and I either needed to cancel a trip, or make changes to my itinerary. I've just come across a situation that has me seriously considering another redeposit...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer of Travel 2012: Princeton NJ 1

This past weekend, I hopped on good ole NJTransit and sped took the local train down to Princeton to attend my 8th college reunion. Why would anyone ever go back for their 8th college reunion you ask? Well, Princeton does things different when it comes to reunions. Very different.

A quick primer:
Princeton Reunions (known affectionately to those in the know as simply "Reunions") is a weekend-long festival of orange and black that welcomes back over 20,000 alumni and guests each and every year. It is widely rumored to be the most well-attended college reunion in the world and one of the largest single orders of beer in the entire country (at least among people who talk about such things). While the best turnout is usually for the "big" years (25th, 50th), Princeton holds a "major" reunion every 5 years (5th, 10th, 15th, etc.), and there's always strong representation from each of the "off years" in between - especially in the first years out of college. Tents are setup all over campus and serve as the headquarters for each of the majors. As an off year attendee, your class is a "satellite" to the closest major (e.g. the 35th site hosts the 33rd through 37th).

The 1st through 6th are hosted at the 5th, which is far and away the largest, and rowdiest party throughout the weekend. Having served on the organizing committee for my 5th, I can attest to the beer rumors mentioned above - the 5th tent alone goes through nearly 400 kegs of beer over the course of the weekend, not to mention wine, champagne, and other adult refreshments. However, when you reach your 7th reunion, it's time to grow up and move along to the 10th - where the scenery still includes a whole lot of beer, but also a whole lot of strollers and kiddie play areas!

Entrance to the 10th Reunion
The price of entry to take part in the revelry that is Reunions weekend is a wristband. Starting with the 10th, the "major" year basically funds the party for all the "off years", so for the 2nd year in a row, my wristband was free!

Wristbanded-up and ready to go!