Grand Canaria is GRAND!

DSC05933(This is part of a trip report flying British Airways first class, using a “Travel Together” ticket to Canary Islands, via London).

We flew from Tenerife to Gran Canaria and had an amazing timeshare in Mogan, with absolutely stunning views, AND a garden!DSC05743DSC05740DSC05739DSC05744DSC05748DSC05758


Our first day we rode the bus to Maspalomas sand dunes, and they were great! (But not as beautiful as the white sands of Lencois Maranhenses in Brazil). DSC05783DSC05791


We rented a car the next two days and drove first to Picos de las Nieves, which we couldn’t see because of the weather. Then it was to Barranco de Guayadeque – a canyon area, with cave restaurants and some the BEST food of the trip!DSC05812DSC05811DSC05817DSC05819DSC05821DSC05841DSC05845DSC05846DSC05847DSC05852DSC05855DSC05860


We had read about GC 200 coastal road, which all the locals said wasn’t worth it, but I’m SO glad we made the (very crooked) drive – there were spectacular views! So in one day we went all the way around the island! WHEW!DSC05868DSC05870DSC05873DSC05875DSC05879


Our next day was less driving – we went to a quaint little town in the north and to Teror Crater.DSC05897DSC05903DSC05906


DSC05907DSC05910DSC05922The last days were just walks on the beach and relaxing with our view!.DSC05770DSC05772DSC05775DSC05777DSC05930DSC05931DSC05934DSC05749DSC05753


Next up, London…

Canary Islands!

DSC05487(This is a trip report flying British Airways first class using a “travel together” ticket, paying with miles and fees, flying into London).

Where in the world are the Canary Islands anyway? They are about 60 miles off the southern coast of Morocco. The islands are part of Spain, and there are seven islands – we visited two. We had to get separate flights to the Canaries, flying economy through Madrid. We flew first to Tenerife and got some great views on the bus as we made our way around the island to our timeshare in Puerto de la Cruz. That first day we went to the charming little village of La Orotava (with a beautiful park), then to Santa Cruz, and enjoyed tapas that night.DSC05454DSC05458DSC05459DSC05463DSC05465DSC05466DSC05472DSC05473DSC05474DSC05475DSC05477DSC05478DSC05479DSC05481DSC05483DSC05489DSC05490DSC05491DSC05493DSC05495DSC05499DSC05503DSC05508DSC05512

The next day, we rented a car and drove on VERY curvy roads to Masca, where we went on a boat to see Los Gigantes – the best way to see them! And we ended the evening with dinner at Thai Botanico restaurant and a show. “Malizia” featured a blend of flamenco, opera and dance, and is an adapted version of the opera “Rigoletto,” by Verdi. The venue is the Pirámide de Arona, one of the largest auditoriums in Europe with a capacity for over 1800 people, and across from a great shopping district in Playa de Las Americas!DSC05516DSC05515DSC05527DSC05551DSC05558DSC05559DSC05587DSC05607DSC05613

 One day we drove to El Teide (another curvy road) and saw Los Roques, which is exactly how you picture Mars! These pictures don’t show the redness of it all…DSC05618DSC05633DSC05645DSC05644DSC05641



 We came home and ate near the timeshare that night.DSC05657DSC05666DSC05667

And our last day, we saw Las Montanas on the other side of the island…it was lots of driving, but we really saw the island.DSC05674DSC05671DSC05682DSC05683DSC05686

 And our last evening, we walked around Puerto de la Cruz.DSC05715DSC05717DSC05722DSC05727DSC05734

And some photos of our timeshare pool – we didn’t get in, it was too cold for us! And I’ll end with our view from the balcony the next morning.DSC05736DSC05737DSC05738


Next up, Gran Canaria…

St. Louis, gateway to a fun weekend!

iphone, 3-16 044St. Louis is one of my favorite cities…there is so much to do and so much of it is FREE! We went to see our son one weekend in February and the weather was absolutely AMAZING! We walked through Forest Park on our way to the zoo, which is of course free…iphone, 3-16 098

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 For lunch, we ate at Adriana’s On the Hill ~ a wonderful spot to get Italian food (the meatball sandwich is delicious, and I ate it so fast I forgot to take a picture! And what is “The Hill” anyway? It’s a St. Louis neighborhood (one of many fun to explore neighborhoods). From Explore St. Louis website, “The Hill’s roots are interspersed with the history of St. Louis, generating two of the region’s proudest exports – world-class athletes and Italian cuisine. Baseball’s Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up here, and today it maintains a traditional collection of authentic Italian bakeries, grocery stores, restaurants and mom-and-pop trattorias.iphone, 3-16 037

Then we did some shopping and walked to the Arch – a must see in St. Louis!  Here are some little known facts about the Arch…the Arch is as wide as it is tall, it’s 630 feet wide and 630 feet tall. Doesn’t look that way, does it?! And if you want to walk to the top, there are 1,076 steps. (By comparison the Washington Monument has 897. The Willis Tower in Chicago, on the other hand, has 2,109 steps.) Despite its seemingly small appearance, the Arch’s observation deck at its top can hold up to 160 people!iphone, 3-16 039

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We finished the day with a meal at Missouri’s only Afghan restaurant – Sameem. If you like ethnic food, it was superb! iphone, 3-16 032iphone, 3-16 030

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We ended our weekend with a stop at White Castle for burgers (not that great). iphone, 3-16 027


Even though we didn’t fly, we did accumulate some points charging all that delicious food!  (:

Next up, spring break in the islands…

$3,301 for $38,535 trip to 9 countries!

DSC01805(This is the final summer trip report using miles and points to fly first class/business on Emirates from JFK to Dubai/Paris, costing $41 and 100K Alaska miles. Our return flight was on Singapore Airlines first class, Moscow to Houston, which cost $275 and 57,375 Ultimate Rewards!)DSC01601

Our flight home was on Singapore Airlines first class to Houston, which cost $275 and 57,375 Ultimate Our Rewards (received from the Ink Bold/Plus credit cards). The value of that flight was $4,569 and here are some photos…DSC04565DSC04566DSC04567DSC04568DSC04569DSC04570DSC04574DSC04577

This trip was a whirlwind to visit major cities, most which I’d never seen. We went to ten cities, including New York City, nine countries on two continents! It took hours of planning and figuring out logistics, but it was well worth it! Some highlights from each country…IMG_0751

DSC01891DSC02107DSC02300DSC02480DSC02644DSC02720DSC03328iphone, 3-16 330DSC03792DSC04337We were in hotels 23 nights and 18 of those were paid with points, so five paid stays. We were very fortunate that at all our Club Carlson hotels, we were able to get the third night free. And our paid stays were “deals” that made them more cost effective.DSC04152

On our airfare, we flew first class to Dubai, business class to Paris, for a total cost of 100K Alaska Air miles and $41, received from the Alaska Air credit card. All intra-country flights and railpass were paid for, no points used, but some received (via credit cards/miles). DSC01576

For our return flight, we flew Singapore Airlines first class from Moscow to Houston, using 57,375 Ultimate Rewards, from the Ink Bold/Plus credit cards, and paid $275. I booked my trip home from Houston using my Southwest points.DSC04572

So what was our total cost and value for this huge trip? We paid $3,301 on all our airfare, hotels, and railpass. And the value, ie, monetary worth, for this trip (including upgrades) was an astounding $38,535!

This hobby is lots of work sometimes, but I definitely like the benefits! Thanks for coming along on the journey…DSC01714

Also, how CAN a teacher afford a trip like that? I’m a National Board Certified Teacher and receive a very generous yearly stipend from the state and another one from my district and that is my “travel money.” I prefer to buy experiences and memories rather than material stuff!  (:

Next up, a spring-like weekend in February, with Afghani food in the US!