first class on korean air

Three days after our wedding, my new husband Johnny Jet and I departed my hometown of Toronto for our dream honeymoon. We flew out of Toronto on Korean Air, headed first to Seoul and then on to the ultimate honeymoon destination, Bali!

Before leaving for the airport, I went through my usual pre-flight routine. Toothbrush, passport, laptop? Check, check, check. I ran through my list of essentials and was all set except for one last thing. I can’t travel without my Kobo but I’d not had time to download any new books. With just half an hour to go before we left for the airport, I downloaded two new novels: Andrew McCarthy’s memoir The Longest Way Home (Free Press, 2012) and a thriller by Linwood Barclay, Never Look Away (Delacorte Press, 2010). I waited impatiently for the books to download but once they did, my Kobo froze. What? I didn’t have time for this. I started to panic. A bookworm like me can’t go two weeks without her books. I went online to troubleshoot but nothing I tried revived my e-reader. We made a pit stop at Walmart to grab a new one before heading to the airport.

As we walked through the international departures terminal at Toronto’s Pearson airport, John told me I had a number of surprises awaiting me throughout the course of our honeymoon. Surprises? Who doesn’t love surprises? I’d have to wait to discover what he had in store for me!

We checked in for our flight, went through security, then waited in the lounge until our flight was ready to depart. My new Kobo was not formatted; I had to download all my books on there before I could use it. Fortunately, Pearson International Airport has free WiFi so I jumped online immediately to get my Kobo up and running for the 13-hour flight. But it took so long to format and download my 50+ books, it didn’t finish before I had to board the plane. Ugh. A 13-hour flight with no books. Not good. Turns out I didn’t really need to worry about that.

ImageLove the free WiFi at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. Trying to format my Kobo and download my books before boarding our 13-hour Korean Air flight to Seoul.

As we boarded our Korean Air flight and walked to the very front of the cabin, I realized that we would be flying first class … what an amazing surprise! The seats were huge with tons of legroom. And the first class cabin was virtually empty, making us feel like we were in our own private living room.

ImageFirst-class seats on our Korean Air flight were an amazing surprise and made the 13-hour flight a breeze.

When it’s time to sleep, those big, comfy seats lie fully flat. I’ve had the good fortune of traveling business class on other airlines with lie-flat seats but Korean Air’s seats are probably the most comfortable I’ve ever experienced. I was truly comfortable, not just sort of comfortable. I woke up feeling like I’d had a great night’s sleep, which doesn’t happen often on an airplane.

And thanks to the incredible entertainment system, I didn’t even miss my Kobo. The selection of movies and television shows is extensive (I finally got to watch Snow White and the Huntsman), as well as the selection of music, kids’ channels and games. The entertainment system offerings are the same in all classes on Korean Air but the screens get larger as you move from economy to business to first. You can even access the in-flight duty free shopping from your individual screen. Kobo? What Kobo? Yeah, I didn’t miss it – I had more than enough to keep me entertained.

ImageEnjoying the fully lie-flat bed in pajamas provided by Korean Air. Flying doesn’t get any easier or more comfortable than this. I was very lucky (and grateful) to experience this!

The food took airplane food to new heights. I realize I was flying first class, so of course it was good, and unfortunately, I can’t comment on what the food in economy was like. But the first class menu really was first class. From traditional Korean dishes like ‘Bibimbap’ to grilled beef tenderloin and roasted black cod, the food was gourmet. Although my favourite dish might have been the spicy Ramen noodles that were served as a snack later on in the flight. And the still-warm cookies.

ImageLunch begins with blue crab meat cannelloni with poached prawn on mango salsa.

Overall, I give my experience on Korean Air a 10 out of 10. The service was exceptional. The flight attendants couldn’t have been more helpful or friendly. These days, when all we seem to hear about in the news are travel nightmares, it’s nice to know that there’s still exceptional service out there. Thanks, Korean Air!

ImageThe incredibly friendly, polite and helpful flight attendants are a big part of the reason why the experience on Korean Air is so enjoyable.

{Photography via: JohnnyJet.com}

What’s your favourite airline to fly?
Image

 

brindisi, italy: don’t bother

The short story is that Brindisi sucks.

But it seems unfair to just leave it at that. Here’s a quick look at Brindisi, Italy and what I enjoyed and what I didn’t enjoy.

Brindisi is an industrial port. Due to its location on the Adriatic Sea, it’s a major trading port between Italy, Greece and the Middle East. Its leading industries are energy and chemical production and agriculture. If you’ve been following along, then you know that my fiance John and I have been on a 10-day cruise through the Adriatic. When we disembarked the ship, the walk into town was not picturesque. Once we got into town, the streets were slightly more appealing but nothing you’d tell friends and family back home about. Let’s put it this way: There wasn’t a whole lot of Instagram-ing going on, if you know what I mean. There’s lots of shopping on the main drag but again, nothing to get too excited about. In short: Brindisi didn’t seem to offer visitors all the charm we’ve come to expect from Italy. And since this is my first trip to Italy (I started in Venice a few days ago), and I’m full of high expectations, it sorely disappointed.

Streets and buildings like this did nothing to appeal to my senses. Italy? Is that you?

But turn a corner and you encounter this scene. Love the colours, the architecture and the typically Italian Juliet balconies.

Despite the fact that I found this town lacking in the looks department, you can usually count on Italy for good food. John and I broke down and sampled an Italian pastry for breakfast. This sugar-covered, white-chocolate stuffed doughnut was OMG-good. I think it was a diet doughnut, too, thank goodness.

There are a lot of churches in this small town but the one really worth seeing is the Brindisi Cathedral. The duomo was originally erected during the 11th and 12th centuries but what visitors see today is an 18th century reconstruction; an earthquake in 1743 destroyed the original church that stood here.

The old, somewhat dilapidated exterior belies the beauty that lies within the walls of the Brindisi Cathedral. Inside you’ll find soothing colours and soaring ceilings.

John was in need of a haircut and decided to visit an Italian barber for a trim. In a town with little else for tourists to do, it’s great to try and live like a local. The owners of this barbershop were wonderful and friendly and as we communicated in a comical exchange of broken English and broken Italian, this became the highlight of our day in Brindisi.

And last but not least, we had to try some real Italian food. Alas, the spaghetti pomodoro at a restaurant near the port was not quite as delizioso as we had hoped.

All in all, Brindisi failed to impress. What is it that makes some cities great and others disappointing? In this case, I would say that the town of Brindisi just wasn’t beautiful and it didn’t stir my soul. And maybe that’s okay … you need to know the ordinary in order to appreciate the extraordinary. I can’t wait to return to Italy but needless to say, Brindisi is one stop I won’t be making again.

corfu, greece on seabourn spirit

Back in 2009, my fiance Johnny Jet and I sailed on Seabourn Odyssey through Turkey and Greece. This week, on Seabourn Spirit, we traveled to Greece for the second time, this time to Corfu.


Corfu is one of the most popular of the Greek islands (and the first Ionian island at the mouth of the Adriatic), and we were among the throngs of tourists that flock to Greece during the summer months. But as Seabourn Spirit pulled into port, it was easy to see the draw. The vibrant blue waters of the Adriatic Sea and the rugged coastline are a perfect pair.


John and I climbed the rugged and sometimes slippery steps up to the top of the Fortress of San Marco, which was built by the Venetians between 1576 and 1645. (Corfu was under Venetian rule for about four centuries, beginning in the 15th century.) Even in the sweltering heat, the views from the top were worth the climb.


It was hot in Corfu – about 38 degrees Celsius hot. Cooling off in the Adriatic was not just nice. It was necessary! We found a small pebble beach (sand beaches seem to be rare in these parts) and spent the afternoon swimming. This particular beach was popular with locals too. Many of the kids spent hours diving off a wooden platform over and over again.


After strolling around the Old Town of Corfu (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), we asked a few locals for restaurant recommendations for lunch. The reponse was unanimous: Restaurant Rex. We dined al fresco and I had saganaki. Delicious and authentic. Opa!


Back on the ship, there was a performance of traditional Greek folk dancing for all passengers to enjoy. Afterwards, the dancers taught willing participants how to master their moves.


To eat at the outdoor restaurant The Veranda on Seabourn Spirit, you have to make advance reservations. Luckily John and I had. They were serving Indian food that evening and as usual, the food was first rate. My hat off to the chef, who consistently serves up delicious and varied meals for us each night.


After dinner, we were treated to a spectacular sunset, the perfect note on which to bid the day adieu.

exploring kotor, montenegro on seabourn spirit

The first stop on my 10-day Seabourn Spirit cruise on the Adriatic was Kotor, Montenegro. I’d never heard of Kotor so needless to say, I didn’t know quite what to expect. But I’d had dinner with the Captain the previous evening and he’d given me a small sense of the beauty that awaited us upon our arrival. And he wasn’t joking.


After hours at sea with nothing in sight but water, our approach into Kotor was breathtaking. The limestone mountains seemed to rise from the sea, dotted with the terra cotta rooftops of houses along the coast.

The Bay of Kotor is one of the most indented parts of the Adriatic Sea and the curves of the coastline make it pretty and picturesque. The old town in Kotor is especially well preserved, one of the most preserved of all the towns lining the Adriatic in fact, and is also a UNESCO world heritage site.


Visitors to Kotor’s old town are greeted at the entrance with a carving that reads: “What belongs to others we don’t want, what is ours we will never surrender.” The medieval old town reminded me of the setting of various fairy tales I’d read as a child; I had my eyes peeled for a prince or an evil queen at the very least. I loved the centuries-old, winding, narrow streets.


Wandering the streets of the old town is a must but even before you do that, I suggest climbing the mountain that provides the impressive backdrop of Kotor. The climb consists of some 1,500 steps and it’s a demanding walk. Do it early in the day before the afternoon sun gets too hot and be sure to wear comfortable shoes and a sun hat. And don’t forget to bring lots of water. Locals sell water along the way if you forget. When you reach the top of the citadel, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Kotor. The mountains, the peaceful waters of the bay and the old town below make a postcard-perfect picture. On your way down the mountain, be sure to go slowly and hold on to the railings. It’s steep and many of the stone steps are slippery from wear; it’s easy to lose your footing.


The other great thing about climbing the mountain is that from way up there, it was easy to get a lay of the land and spot beaches where my fiance and I could go cool off when we got back down to the bottom.


The beach we found was a small pebble beach. The turquoise water was warm and inviting. A long swim was just what we needed to cool off after our hike in the hot sun and to work up an appetite for a fresh lunch back on the boat.


As Seabourn Spirit departed Montenegro, we passed a small church standing solitary on a small island in the bay. Our Captain had mentioned that he has a tradition of blowing the ship’s horn as he passes; if the local priest is there, he will ring the church bells in response. As we sailed by, the ship’s horn blew and we awaited an answer. And then it came. The church bells rang out loud and clear and as I soaked in that moment, in the most glorious natural surroundings, I felt God’s presence as sure as the warm summer breeze on my skin.

travel essentials

I’ve been home for about a month and I don’t have any travel plans for another month, which leaves me sitting here on this rainy Saturday morning thinking about what I’ll pack on my next sunny escape! Here’s a round-up of essentials I never leave home without:


Moleskine messenger bag
For anyone who reads my blog regularly, you know that I travel with carry-on luggage only. I hate the hassle of checking luggage (never knowing if it’ll actually make it to your destination with you and hanging around baggage claim for far too long). This comes with its own challenges (packing light can be tricky but it’s totally doable), but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. I’ve got a small hard-case suitcase that’s just perfect but finding the perfect second piece has always been a challenge for me.

Enter Moleskine’s messenger bag (conranusa.com, $129.95). This sizable tote is my new travel essential. The adjustable strap is comfortable on my shoulder and it’s roomy, providing space for all the things I like to keep close at hand: passport and tickets (natch!), Kobo (more on that later), magazines, snacks and most important of all, my laptop. The bag will fit a laptop up to 15” and has an ivory velour lining for added protection. It’s got an elastic closure so that you can secure the bag shut. But really, what I love most is the sleek look of this bag. Not only is it functional when I travel, but it’s stylish.


Kobo Touch
I really don’t know what I did before I had my Kobo (indigo,ca, $139). Actually, I’ll tell you what I did. I lugged heavy books around with me when I traveled and if I finished my book, I’d have to buy a new one and lug two heavy books around with me. My Kobo has simplified things and now I can carry a library of up to 1,000 books with me at all times! Lightweight and easy to read, the new Kobo Touch is a great update to the e-reader so many people love. It’s got a touch screen so flipping pages is fun, and with a quick tap of the finger, you can change the font size and zoom in on PDF files. It’s got WiFi capability too so you can download books on the go. If I forgot my Kobo before taking a trip, I swear I’d just go back home. It’s an essential.


Black and white stripes
I’m all about stripes this season. And this striped Raglan Sleeved Sweater (Jacob, $39.50) is a versatile option when you’re traveling. Throw it on with a pair of jeans and it’ll add a touch of French flair to your look. Or wear it with a pencil skirt and wide belt for a great evening look. The key to traveling with carry-on only is to pack pieces that are versatile and this is one of my faves.


Juicy Couture Petal Flower Flip Flop
Traveling typically means lots of walking. You know those days when you’re touring around old European cities and you want to see anything and everything you can? Comfortable shoes are key. But who wants to wear their running shoes? Not me! These Juicy Couture flip flops (revolveclothing.com, $49) are unbelievably comfortable. I’ve never found a flip flop with a sole that’s as cushiony as these and I can walk for hours and hours in them. Plus, the flower detail on the side makes them super-cute and flexible for both daytime and nighttime wear.


Longchamp bag
My boyfriend gave me my first Longchamp bag and I was hooked! It folds up neatly, making it compact and flat so it’s perfect for shoving in your suitcase – it takes up next to no room at all! Unfold it and it’s a great bag for taking on your day travels. It’s light and roomy and the nylon exterior is easy to clean with a damp cloth. The Planete model pictured here (see longchamp.com for pricing) is an ideal tote for the stylish traveler.


Metallic embroidered scarf
Never leave home without a scarf or pashmina. It’s practical for chilly evenings, especially when you’re all decked out and don’t want to wear a sweater. But depending on where your travels take you, it’s also an essential. Some mosques, temples and churches require tourists to cover their shoulders before entering. So on hot days when you’re sporting a sundress or tank top, it’s handy to have one of these tucked in your bag just in case. This white embroidered scarf (Banana Republic, $62.99) is a good option.

What are your travel essentials?

lost passport in tallinn, estonia

What a day yesterday turned out to be. I’m telling myself that the tale I’m about to tell is what makes travel fun, exciting and unforgettable!

If you’ve been keeping up with my previous posts, you know that my boyfriend John and I are sailing on Seabourn Sojourn right now. The 12-day itinerary is as follows: Copenhagen – Stockholm – Helsinki – St. Petersburg – Tallinn – Szcezcin – Warnemünde – Copenhagen. I’ve been to Helsinki before but I’m totally pumped about the six other destinations.

So …

We docked in Tallinn, Estonia yesterday and we were getting ready to do a bike tour. I wasn’t keen on the idea because I haven’t ridden a bike since I was like 12. But, it’s what we’d signed up to do and I’d decided to suck it up and give it a try. Turns out – riding a bike is just like … riding a bike.

Because we’re riding bikes, I can’t bring a bag to hold any of my things. So I’ve got my ship ID card and my passport stuffed into the back pocket of my jeans. We’d been told three times that we MUST have our passports when we go ashore and I’m all about abiding by the rules. The Russians in St. Petersburg weren’t messing around when it came to passports and visas and I didn’t want to take my chances in Tallinn. Maybe the Estonians also feel that Siberia is a good place to sit in a corner and think about what you’ve done.

We rode our bikes for about 40 minutes, then stopped for a break at a local cafe. At which point I realized my passport is missing. Needless to say, I FREAK out. The lovely girl who was leading the bike tour offered to retrace our entire ride and look for my passport. She’s insistent despite my protestations. She goes and comes back sans passport.

To be honest, I wasn’t TOO worried about it. We go back to the ship and I proudly produce an array of identification that I’m positive will simplify the process. Ta-daaaaaaa! I whip out my last passport (I had to cancel it about a month ago because it was full but technically, it wasn’t going to expire for another year) AND a photocopy of my current passport. I’ve got a driver’s license and my ship ID card, which has my photo AND my passport number on it. Besides – I’m Canadian. That’s gotta count for something, right?

Reporting my lost passport to Guest Services on Seabourn Sojourn. I’m not too worried yet.

The staff on Seabourn Sojourn were amazing and everyone jumped on the situation to help out. Phone calls were being made to the embassy, the police department. It looked like everything was going to get sorted out tout de suite. I was so calm, I sat back and ordered a cup of tea in one of the ship’s many lounges. I even contemplated having a brownie.

The ship’s Purser and Guest Services Manager are amazing as they help me to sort out the mess I’ve gotten myself into.

Then the bad news came. I can’t sail without documents. Seabourn staff regretfully inform me that without valid travel documents, I cannot remain on the ship and I most certainly won’t be allowed entry into Poland, our next stop. They tell me I’m going to have to disembark in Tallinn and figure out what to do next. Hopefully, they say, the Canadian embassy can help me get temporary travel documents so I can catch up with the ship in Poland or Germany.

John and I packed up our stuff and raced to the Canadian embassy. We left some of our stuff on the ship, assuming we’d be back at some point.

Leaving the ship to head to the Canadian embassy, I bump into some new friends and stop to tell them what’s happened.

We got to the embassy and the girl working there is expecting me. She’s already been called several times by the ship’s people to find out what my options are. I’m so hopeful that she can issue me some kind of documents immediately so that John and I can get back on the ship before it sets sail again in three hours. (The ship’s captain was so kind he said he’d hold the ship an extra hour for us!) Unfortunately, the girl at the embassy was showing no sign of urgency because she knew she couldn’t help me in time for us to get back on the ship. She said the only solution she could offer was to issue emergency travel documents (that wouldn’t be ready for 24 hours) and that would only be valid for me to fly directly home. Do not stop. Do not pass GO. Just straight home to Canada. Without my passport, I cannot stay in Europe and she won’t be able to provide any kind of documentation that will allow me to fly anywhere to catch up with the ship.

Inside the Canadian embassy in Tallinn, Estonia.

So now things really weren’t looking good. John and I will have to get back to the ship to pick up the things we left, then find a place to stay in Tallinn for the night and then book a flight directly home for me. I started to cry because I was upset and all stressed out and this unexpected twist of events was going to cost a lot of money. The girl from the embassy said she’d try calling the police station one last time and then I would have to tell her what I wanted to do – although I had no choice, really. She would have to issue me emergency travel documents and I’d have to call it a day. Back home for me.

I was looking for a Kleenex because the sleeve of my sweatshirt was no longer sufficing when she reappeared and said that someone must be watching over me. The police reported that someone had just that moment turned my passport in. She kindly arranged a car to take us to the police station and then back to the ship.

Reunited with my passport at the police station in Tallinn. Just in time for me to get back on the ship before she sails again!

I only wish I knew who it was that found my passport, where they found it and how I could get in contact with them to let them know how much I appreciate their act of kindness. Returning my passport to the police station when they did was the difference between a great vacation and one that would have ended rather abruptly and disappointingly. When my passport was reported found at the last minute, it was like the impossible had happened. So perhaps it’s no less impossible that the person who found it will read this blog post. And if that’s the case, an enormous, most heartfelt thank you! Now I know exactly what I’ll do if I ever stumble upon someone’s lost identification.

sailing on seabourn sojourn


It just doesn’t get any better than this. Delicious food. Inimitable service. Spectacular sunsets that wish you good night. This photo is of the sun setting over the Baltic Sea. I don’t think I ever want to get off this ship.  Image courtesy of JohnnyJet.com.

video: pack smart


I just boarded Seabourn’s incredible new ship Sojourn. I’m traveling for two full weeks and need a variety of clothing options – casual summer clothes, warm clothes for cold days, dresses for dinner, high heels, flip flops and even gym clothes and running shoes – travelling on a Seabourn ship means you’ll be indulging in the most delicious gourmet food at every turn, so hitting the treadmill is essential! In this video, I’ll show you how I was able to pack everything I needed and still travel with carry-on only.

copenhagen at a glance

I only had 24 hours in Copenhagen. Here’s a series of photos of some of the things I did and saw:


We spent some time walking along the crowded streets of the Stroget, Copenhagen’s main shopping drag. This outdoor, pedestrian-only area is jam packed with tourists and locals alike. The streets are lined with shops and fast-food joints but there are many offices located in the upper levels as well. The shopping gradually transitions to a high-end affair; one end of the street is dedicated to designer boutiques like Chanel, Prada and Gucci. (Stroget means ‘the sweep’ and is the longest pedestrian shopping area in Europe.)


We stopped for lunch at The Royal Cafe along the Stroget. It’s so quaint and quirky, picturesque and pretty. The cafe prominently and proudly features products and designs from famous Danish designers and companies like Royal Copenhagen, Georg Jensen, Fritz Hansen, Bang & Olufsen, Kvadrat, Carlsberg, Holmegaard and others. Inside, the design is eclectic featuring baroque elements that mix together with both modern and historic touches to create a truly unique space. It feels like something straight out of a fairy tale.


We enjoyed a scrumptious lunch at The Royal Cafe. “Smushi” is a modern twist on traditional Danish fare. The mini open-faced sandwiches mimic sushi but at The Royal Cafe, are made with Danish breads and topped with an assortment of ingredients like eggs, fish, beef and fresh vegetables.


Right next door to The Royal Cafe is the Royal Copenhagen store. The porcelain manufacturer was founded in 1775 and is best known for its original and traditional designs. But today, Royal Copenhagen offers a wide array of tableware products in more modern designs. I love these mugs with colourful ribbed rubber sleeves (above) and bought one in pink. The mug was 199 Danish Kroner, about $35 CAD.


Continuing along the Stroget, we stopped at stalls with all kinds of things from scented handmade soaps, woven bags and freshly baked goodies. The aromas linger in the streets and are almost impossible to resist.


Nyhavn is a tourist haven, for sure, but there’s no denying how pretty this area of Copenhagen is. The 17th century canal and waterway is lined with brightly coloured buildings that are now restaurants, cafes and townhouses. The harbour is filled with old wooden boats and tourists can take canal tours here. Apparently Hans Christian Andersen lived in Nyhavn. Strolling along the canal on a warm summer day was so nice. We stopped for soft ice cream and sat along the waterfront, listening to street musicians play the haunting, beautiful music from Schindler’s List.


You can’t go to Copenhagen and not visit the famed amusement park Tivoli. The gardens are beautiful and vibrant flora is everywhere. But the rides and shops held little appeal for me. Perhaps if you have children it would be more fun. But nonetheless, it was a pleasant walk. I loved this street (pictured below) that made me think of Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books.

radisson blu royal hotel in copenhagen


We landed in Copenhagen at about 7am. From there, we took the train to the Copenhagen Central Station and our hotel was a five-minute walk from there. We checked into the five-star Radisson Blu Royal Hotel.

The Radisson Blu Royal Hotel is one of the city’s premiere design hotels (they call it the world’s first designer hotel), designed by the famed architect Arne Jacbosen. It’s a Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) hotel; they built it in the ’60s after deciding it only made sense that the airline offer premium accommodations to travelers, particularly those who had just completed a transatlantic flight from North America to Europe.

Today, the hotel looks much the same as it did back then, making it a historic look at iconic 60s design. Everywhere throughout the hotel you’ll find the ‘Egg’ chairs and ‘Swan’ chairs, made famous the world over by Fritz Hansen and Arne Jacobsen.

The hotel has a real retro feel; design aficionados are sure to love it. Its a throwback to an era gone by and is rich with history and an emerging sense of creative genius that came to shape the future of design. Take a closer look at the hotel’s design below:




For more information:
Radisson Blu Royal Hotel
Hammerichsgade 1 – DK-1611
Copenhagen, Denmark
Phone: +45 33 426000