European Vacation Fall 2013 – Florence

Florence – Wednesday, October 2

This is the fourth of five posts from our fall vacation to Europe. This entry captures our last day in Italy, exploring the historic city of Florence.

Wednesday turned out to be a day Dickens would appreciate because it was one of those best of times, worst of times days. OK, that might be a bit dramatic but we certainly went through an unexpected set of emotions.

We started the morning with a walking tour of Florence where we were given an art history lesson of Medieval and Renaissance art. No, that wasn’t what I thought we were getting but, hey, go with it. Right? Our guide, Mario, must be an art history teacher. Within minutes, he was calling out our names and quizzing us on the lessons he had imparted upon us. Kidding aside, his lessons made the sights of Florence more meaningful and a richer experience. We have all heard that the Renaissance was born in Florence but probably couldn’t explain or identify the differences, or understand what precipitated the change. Apparently it was the Black Plague that  is believed to have influenced the change in art. Continue reading European Vacation Fall 2013 – Florence

European Vacation Fall 2013 – London

London – Thursday, October 3

London Hilton Tower Bridge
This is the view from the executive lounge of the Hilton London Tower Bridge. Toto, we’re not in Italy any more.

This is the last of five posts from our trip to Europe in the fall of 2013. I already mentioned how long we stood in London customs. What a contrast to entering Italy. Italy was like, “come on in. Stay a while. Spend your money.” We had already been through London customs on Saturday, so we knew it wasn’t that loose but today was special. The line halted when we reached the mid point. Suddenly, there were only two agents checking people through and one guy was clearly struggling with his answers. Almost an hour later, more agents were active but that guy was still ineffectively trying to gain UK access with the customs agent next to ours. As our agent passed us through, I heard the disheartened agent say in her English understated tone “Trap door, trap door, where is my trap door.” Once we emerged from customs, we found our driver who informed us he was going to give us just another 10 minutes before leaving. Knowing we were tourists, he gave us a mini tour around Hyde Park, by Buckingham Palace, through Trafalgar Square, then up the River Thames by the IBM building, the Tower of London, over Tower Bridge, and finally our fifth hotel of the week, the Hilton Tower Bridge. After checking in, London weather gave us a London welcome. We had been on the go for nearly a week, so we decided to stay in and rest up for our final marathon day. Continue reading European Vacation Fall 2013 – London

Toto Concert

Anyone that knows me realizes that I am a big Toto fan. Yet I had never had a chance to see them live. So, when I discovered they were touring in St. Louis, I called my pal, James, to see if he would like to join me. He had just seen them in Paris but couldn’t convince the family to do the whole back stage VIP experience. Well, it didn’t take much to convince him to join me for a bucket list trip including the whole backstage VIP thing. Continue reading Toto Concert

Trip to Orient – Feb 2012

Trip to the Orient

In February 2012, I was given the opportunity to travel to the Orient for IBM; China & Japan to be precise. Going to Shanghai and Tokyo for a two weeks on business was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

To China

Our trip to the orient didn’t start off well at all. As we arrived in the Chicago airport my colleague, Terry, and I were greeted with two flight delays then the ultimate cancellation due to equipment failure. On the positive side of things, it’s always best to have equipment failure on the ground before you take off. But that put our arrival in China behind by a day.

Rebooking my flight was an adventure. After a long wait in line behind one of those difficult customers, I walked up to the counter and proudly said that I would be easy to deal with because I had flexibility in my travel. Wrong. Because I used airline awards to subsidize my upgrade to business class, the airline automatically rebooked me on another flight to Shanghai in business class. Their route was going to take me from Chicago to Newark to Paris to Shanghai.

The gracious host in the Admiral’s club worked on options for almost 30 minutes before we settled on the two best choices. I was tired so it took me a while to decide which option was best. The first option was fly business class Chicago to London (8 hr) with a 6 hr layover then to Shanghai (11 hr) arriving on Saturday at 9:30 am China time. Option two was to stay in Chicago overnight and fly out on the original 10:30 flight to China (14 hr) but in coach. You probably did the math in your head a lot faster than it took me. (I said I was tired) Right, 25 hours travel time in business class versus 14 in coach but with a full night’s sleep in a free hotel. Continue reading Trip to Orient – Feb 2012

World Series 2011

October 2011 – My Cardinals Are in the Series

On Wednesday, we got a text from our friend teasing us about her son, Shea, going to game 6 of the World Series. Now this wouldn’t be a big deal except Shea is a Cub fan. It’s no secret that seeing Cardinals – live in the World Series is on the top five of my bucket list. Deb could tell it was eating at me. Before I was off the phone, Deb found tickets available for Game 6 on the web. Little did I know that we were in for the treat of a lifetime.

Continue reading World Series 2011