24 hours in Copenhagen

As I mentioned previously while outlining our itinerary for our Scandinavia trip, Copenhagen was a bit of a tag on to this trip.  The original intent was to visit Stockholm and the fjords in western Norway.  As it turned out, it was quite cheap and convenient to add Copenhagen onto the beginning of the itinerary (it actually saved us a little bit of money flight wise to include Copenhagen).  The only downside was one less day in western Norway which was actually pretty tough for me to give up.  Checking another country off the list and visiting another world class city won me over.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark

Welcome to Copenhagen

With just over 24 hours in Denmark, we only really had time to skim the surface of Copenhagen and hit the highlights.  We made the most of our time by staying at the Hilton Copenhagen Airport Hotel which I’ll review in a later post.  We arrived in Denmark around 2 pm and after going through customs were greeted at the airport by workers from either the tourist board or some random milk company who were handing out free samples of Danish milk to arriving passengers.  I found it quite odd, and I’m not really a milk drinker so I passed.  Dawn tried it and said it tasted like any other milk.  So, if you’re headed to Denmark for the milk don’t get your expectations up.

We walked across a covered walkway to our hotel, and were able to check in immediately.  We headed to our room, dropped our luggage off, grabbed some snacks at the lounge, and headed into the city.  A friend of ours had just been to Denmark and recommended we pick up the 24 hr metro pass so we did and then took the 15 minute ride into the city.  One of the things on our agenda was to climb to the top of the Church of Our Saviour’s external spiral staircase for views of the city.

Church of Our Saviour

Church of Our Saviour

As we headed towards the church we walked along one of the canals.  As it was a beautiful day, plenty of people were outside enjoying the weather.  As Copenhagen is what some might describe as a very liberal city, there were a couple of guys enjoying the weather by sitting by the edge of the canal completely naked enjoying a picnic.  We were again reminded that we were very far from Doha.  Coming from a place where the local women are completely covered except for their eyes and hands, and where most men wear long pants (even the non-Qataris) seeing a couple dudes with nothing on is a little bit of a shock.  Quite entertaining, but a shock nonetheless.  

A canal in Copenhagen

Some locals opted to be at least half dressed

We were a little concerned that the church’s spiral staircase wouldn’t be open by the time we got there as we had gotten conflicting information as to it’s hours, and we knew it wouldn’t be be open the next day.  We headed in that direction anyway, and were happy to see tourists heading in to start the trek to the top.  The church’s spire is 90 meters tall, and there are 400 steps to the top with 150 of those being on the outside (thanks Wikipedia!).  It gets pretty tight at the top, though, and as that’s where everyone wants to be it gets a bit crowded.  It wasn’t exactly designed for two way traffic, so getting up and down the spire near the top was a bit of work.  It was quite a hike, but as you can see from the pictures, the view was well worth it.  

View from the top of the Church of Our Saviour

A great introduction to Copenhagen

View from the top of the Church of Our Saviour

Boats lining the canal

After enjoying the views we headed to another tourist hotspot – Nyhavn.  It’s a picturesque part of the town right on a man made canal lined with a bunch of overpriced restaurants and bars.  Again, due to the great weather, the place was crowded, but it made for a fun atmosphere.  The locals knew better than to pay the high prices of the area as there were plenty of them sitting around on steps and ledges drinking beer they had brought from home.  We were hungry, and as the restaurant that was recommended to us by the hotel concierge was closed we had dinner outside at one of the overpriced restaurants there in Nyhavn.  If I recall correctly, my sandwich cost around the equivalent of $30 US.  It was good, but not $30 good.

Nyhavn

The locals enjoying the weather by the water

Eating in Nyhavn

$30 sandwiches are overrated

McCoy's Choice

Gastro Pubs – kind on the stomach, cruel on the wallet

We wandered around the city a bit more and found the opera house.  I think because I had seen pictures of the Oslo Opera House, I was a bit underwhelmed by the Copenhagen Opera House.  As I hadn’t really researched it or seen pictures, I think I was expecting something more architecturally stunning.  It was nice, but nothing to write home about.  After wandering the streets for a bit longer we headed back to the hotel.

Copenhagen Opera House

Copenhagen Opera House

The next morning after breakfast we headed out to catch a free walking tour of Copenhagen.  One of the things I first discovered on my Eurotrip back in 2006 is how there seems to be a ‘free’ walking tour in every decent sized city in Europe as well as many other places.  I’ve taken a free bike tour in Munich and free walking tours in Sydney, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and probably a few other cities that I can’t recall right now.  A tour guide (typically a college student or someone just out of college) walks you by the highlights of the city about for 1.5 to 3 hours for no cost up front.  You just tip them at the end what you feel like the tour was worth.  The tour guide is usually very well informed and enthusiastic about their city and full of stories to tell.  At the end of their tour they typically offer to give restaurant recommendations and suggest other things to do/see while visiting.  I’ve found it’s a great introduction to a city, and I try to take advantage of those types of tours the first or second day I’m in a city so that I can better decide where I want to spend more time during my trip.  The free walking tour in Copenhagen was, as expected, a great introduction to the city.

The Memorial Anchor, Nyhavn

The Memorial Anchor, Nyhavn

Changing of The Guard

Catching part of the changing of the guard was one of the highlights of the walking tour

Free walking tour group at the Amalienborg Palace

Our tour group at the Amalienborg.  People come out in force for free stuff.

A Royal Life Guard at the Amalienborg Palace

Dude loves his job and it shows.

After our walking tour we contemplated skipping seeing the Little Mermaid statue as we read it wasn’t that impressive, but I fell into the tourist trap and decided since we were in Copenhagen we should see it.  It was only about a 10 minute walk away, but we had a little trouble finding it.  Once we got close enough it was easy to spot though as there was quite a crowd around it.  As expected, it wasn’t too exciting, but I can check it off the list of things people expect you to see while in Copenhagen.

The Little Mermaid statue

Been there, seen that, got the picture

Using the excuse of maximizing the little time we had left in the city, we took a bicycle tuk tuk ride from the statue to closer to the center of the city where we needed to be to eventually get back on the train.  I’m not sure a trip to Denmark is complete without visiting the Lego store as Denmark is where Legos were invented.  It seems like they could have done more with the flagship store there, but it was worth the visit anyway.  As a kid who brought creations made from Legos to show and tell every week in kindergarten (yes, every week) I loved seeing the few models they did have.

Model of Nyhavn in the Lego Store

Almost as good as the models I made in kindergarten

We were running out of time, so we passed on trying to squeeze in the National Museum.  That will leave us something to check out the next time we make it back.  It was honestly a tough call whether or not to include Copenhagen in the trip due to the limited amount of time we had, but I’m very glad we did.  There was a lot we didn’t get to see in Copenhagen, and certainly even more we missed out on in the rest of Denmark, but we at least got a small taste of the city and country.  Who knows, maybe we’ll be back some day to catch some of what we missed this time around.

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Cambodia and Vietnam in Style

If I’ve learned anything from my time in the miles and points world, it’s if you can’t get what you want, hang up and call back.  If I’ve learned two things, the second would be jump on a deal quickly when it comes up because it may not last long.  I’ve read quite a few stories about dirt cheap mistake fares and incredible mileage redemptions, but I was never able to take advantage of any of them.  That was until a couple of days ago.  I read about a deal that might actually work out quite well for Dawn and me.  It certainly wasn’t as lucrative as some of deals I’ve read about previously, but I also felt more confident that this particular deal would be honored and the tickets wouldn’t be cancelled.  

Looking forward to flying in one of these seats again soon.

Looking forward to flying in one of these seats again soon.

The basic summary of the deal is that you can get a one way ticket from Phnom Penh (PNH), Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City (SGN), Vietnam for only $245.  The two cities only require a 40 minute flight to travel from one to the other, and so it appears that flights between the two cities are typically fairly inexpensive.  The kicker for this particular deal is that for $245 you can fly through Doha (DOH) to get there, which just so happens to be about 3600 miles away.  And it’s in Business Class.  I found the deal from reading View From the Wing, and Gary does an excellent job explaining the details of it here from the perspective of mileage running.  As I’m not really into mileage running, I’m much more interested in the fact that this deal allows us to visit a couple of places that are quite high on our travel list – Vietnam and Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The fare doesn’t get me to Cambodia; it only gets me home from Cambodia and onto Vietnam.  Also, it only allows you to book that one way flight from PNH-DOH-SGN for $245 if you have less than a 24 hour layover in DOH.  The price bumps up to $430 if you take a stopover (anything longer than 24 hrs) in DOH.  Being based in Doha and not really feeling like back to back 11 hr and 7 hr flights I opted for the ‘pricey’ option of a 2 month stopover in DOH.  This allows us to spread out our 2 trips and not just hang out on planes all day (although I might enjoy that – Dawn, not so much, even in business class).  We’re headed to Cambodia in mid-November and Vietnam in mid-January.

So after I booked our flight from PNH-DOH (November) and our flight from DOH-SGN (January), it was time to figure out how to get to Cambodia, and how to get home from Vietnam.  Originally, I thought I’d be able to book SGN-DOH-PNH (the opposite of the first flight I booked) for the ‘deal’ price, but I couldn’t get it to work out.  Eventually, I gave up and just booked PNH-DOH-SGN again to return from Vietnam in January.  Since PNH is in Cambodia and not Vietnam we’ll have to book ourselves a separate, cheap flight from wherever we are in Vietnam at the time back to PNH before our long haul business class flight home to DOH.  Once we arrive in DOH, we can either hop on the next segment of the flight to SGN or we can just conveniently miss that segment of the flight… and then head back to our apartment in Doha.  As that last segment from DOH-SGN isn’t as important to us, I was able to book the ticket for the lower, non-stopover price of $245.

So, now that our return from Vietnam is taken care of, I just need to figure out our ticket to Cambodia.  Since the main focus of the trip is to visit the ruins of Angkor near Siem Reap (REP) I’ll probably book our flights from DOH-REP.  That ticket is looking like it’ll cost around $700.  We’ll spend a few days there, and then fly the 45 mins to PNH (about $130).  There will be plenty to see and do to fill up a 4-5 day trip between both places.

For the Vietnam trip, with both the long haul flights there and back booked, all we have left to figure out is what to do with our 10 days there.  We’ll certainly spend a few days in Ho Chi Minh City, and since Halong Bay is on Dawn’s list, we’ll most likely head north for a few days as well.  With the time left over we may visit a beach town or maybe we’ll take a quick flight over to Bangkok or somewhere else in Thailand.  The possibilities are almost endless, and that’s what I really love about planning these trips.  So many options.

Here’s what the Cambodia trip looks like:

Cambodia - DOH-REP-PNH-DOH

Cambodia in November: DOH-REP-PNH-DOH

And here’s what the Vietnam trip looks like for now:

Vietnam:  DOH-SGN-PNH-DOH

Vietnam in January: DOH-SGN-PNH-DOH

They look the pretty much the same, don’t they?

In the end, this is what the end cost of the two trips will most likely look like without any additional SE Asia flights for the Vietnam trip:

Cambodia
DOH-REP     Economy     $700
REP-PNH     Economy     $130
PNH-DOH    Business       $215 (split between the two segments)

Vietnam
DOH-SGN     Business     $215 (split between the two segments)
SGN-PNH     Economy   $150
PNH-DOH    Business     $245 (including the ‘unused’ portion back to SGN)

Total flight costs for 2 vacations:  $1655/person

The price will probably jump a bit as we start to add intra-Southeast Asia flights for the Vietnam trip, but not significantly.  It’s was a little bit of work to figure out all of the right flights that were needed, but it was worth the time and effort.  It may seem like a lot of money to some, but when you consider we’re flying long haul business class on one of the top airlines in the world, it’s a pretty good deal.  It’s nothing earth shattering, but I’m pretty excited about it.  Booking similar trips in economy without the ‘deal’ flights would cost about $2400/person.  The normal cost of flying Business class on those same trips would be about $5400/person.

It seems like our list of places we want to visit while living here in Doha is constantly changing (as my mind has a tendency to change quite a bit), but I’m pretty excited that I was able to jump on a deal for a couple of places that were on our travel list from the very beginning.

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A Scandinavian Escape

I’ve been in Doha for 4 months and 2 days.  Straight.  124 days.  That’s a very long time.  Especially for Doha.  That’s roughly 3 months longer than I’d like to stay in the country at any one time.  Don’t get me wrong, I love living here.  It’s an incredible opportunity, but sometimes you just need a break.  Working six days a week is wearing me out, and I’m ready for a change in scenery.  It’s about time to get out of this country.  Go see something green.  Maybe even catch a cloud or two.

Olden fjord, Norway

Olden fjord, Norway by Kenny Muir, on Flickr

With Eid Al-Fitr (the Islamic holiday to celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan) coming up the office is closed for a few days.  Combine that with a couple of weekends and a few days of vacation and I had myself a 9 day trip to plan.  Before moving over here, Dawn and I came up with quite a list of must see places that we wanted to visit during our time here.  We knew we wouldn’t be able to see them all, but we tried to prioritize them as best we could.  Thailand, Jordan, Cambodia.  All very high on the list.  Sometimes the best laid plans are thrown out.  Those places all have something in common.  They’re all ridiculously hot.  Yeah, maybe they’re not Doha hot, but while I’m in Doha I’m sitting in an air conditioned office, car, or apartment for most of the day while it’s 110ºF outside.  I’m not out trekking around visiting temples and ancient ruins.  That did not seem like a good idea at this time of the year.

It turns out Scandinavia can be quite green this time of year, and I think they even have clouds.  More importantly, though, it has highs in the 60’s and low 70’s.  Exactly what we need.  Scandinavia wasn’t really on our radar as far as places to visit, but after talking with a coworker, I remembered that Dawn had mentioned that she’d like to visit those northern countries.  I started looking at flights, and all of a sudden I had a pretty nice looking itinerary.  

I have read quite a bit about how everyone loves Stockholm, and the fjords in Norway are not to be missed.  So, Oslo and Stockholm were definites, and I figured if I’m going to be close, why not try to work in Copenhagen as well.  I may be (I know I am) cramming in too much into a 9 day trip, but if I’m shooting for that Traveler’s Century Club membership I need to visit as many countries as possible.  Actually, as I was searching for flights I looked into  flying into both Copenhagen and Stockholm, and out of Oslo.  And the other way around.  And probably a few more iterations in there as well.  I love searching for flights.  It’s odd, I know, but I enjoy it.  Anyway, for the flights and times I wanted it was actually cheaper to fly into Copenhagen for a little over 30 hours and add the one way from Copenhagen to Stockholm than it was just to fly straight to Stockholm.  Of course then we had to add in our flight from Stockholm to Norway (we ended up with a flight to Stavanger), and then we had our return flight from Oslo to Doha.  Our flights look like this:

Doha to Copenhagen; Copenhagen to Stockholm; Stockholm to Stavanger; Oslo to Doha; map taken from gcmap.com

Doha to Copenhagen; Copenhagen to Stockholm; Stockholm to Stavanger (via Oslo); Oslo to Doha; map taken from gcmap.com

As I mentioned, we only have about a day and a half in Copenhagen, three days in Stockholm, and four and a half days spread out in Norway between Stavanger, Bergen, and Oslo.  It was really tough divvying up only 9 days between the three countries, but I’m looking forward to getting at least a little taste of each country.  Over my years of travel I’ve determined I really enjoy visiting the rural parts of a country over their cities, even while I tend to prefer to live in cities.  My wife certainly prefers the time spent in nature over cities as well.  I think that our Norway in a Nutshell tour of the mountains and fjords of Norway will be the highlight of our trip, and so I’m glad that it’s last on our itinerary (except for Oslo of course).  From the little reading I’ve done on Copenhagen, I have a feeling that there will be a lot we’ll miss out on having such a short time there, but the great thing about major international cities (especially in Europe) is they’re pretty easy to get to.  I hope that three days in Stockholm will be enough, at least for a trip of this length.  We don’t have a lot planned for much of the trip as of yet except for the Norway in a Nutshell tour, but I’m hoping that will change by the time we head to the airport on Friday morning.

No matter what we end up doing and seeing, it’ll just be great to get out of the heat for a few days and experience another part of the world.

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The Bucket List

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.”


For as long as I can remember I’ve been taught how important it is to write down your goals.  If you want to accomplish something, you must document those goals and make a plan to accomplish them.  Most of my life I’ve done an excellent job of avoiding that strategy within the realm of travel.  For the most part I just did my best to take advantage of whatever situations and opportunities presented themselves to me.  While this is certainly an easy (and many times fun) strategy, especially when it comes to travel, it hasn’t encouraged me to focus on accomplishing those travel goals that take a little more effort and planning to accomplish.  I certainly still plan to incorporate plenty of spontaneous travel in my life (which I’ve never had a problem with), but I’d also like to set some ultimate life travel goals.  I hope to focus on a healthy balance of spontaneous and planned experiences.  Plenty of these items on my bucket list have been floating around in my head for quite some time, while some are relatively new.  I’ve known I’ve needed to document the list in some form or fashion for quite some time, but I’m quite an excellent procrastinator.

Recently, I was listening to the Extra Pack of Peanuts (EPOP) podcast, and Trav from EPOP was interviewing Sean Ogle of Location 180.  Sean has done a lot of incredible things in his life, many of which are documented on his Bucket List.  Listening to that podcast and the items he had crossed off of his list was the extra little push I needed to finally publish my very own Bucket List.  I already had much of my bucket list typed up in an excel spreadsheet and had planned on posting it on the blog at some point, so I’ve finally published it.  

Now, granted, many of the things on my list aren’t that important in the grand scheme of life, but all the same, they are things I would like to see, experience, or accomplish in my lifetime.  I fully expect this list to be a living document – continuing to grow as I grow, continuing to inspire me with new goals as I accomplish others.  They are numbered in no particular order, and I will continue to add to the list as more ideas come to me.  Right now they are all at least loosely related to travel, but I’m certainly not limiting myself to only travel related goals.  That’s just where my mind is right now.  Take a look at the link below (or up on the banner at the top of the page), and let me know what’s on your bucket list, or what I may need to add to mine.

Matt’s Bucket List

Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Stepping Foot on the Antarctic Peninsula

Stepping Foot on the Antarctic Peninsula

Hang gliding over Rio

Hang Gliding over Rio de Janeiro

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Connections Abroad

One of the greatest parts of travel is the connections you make with people.  Connecting with the locals in a new place can easily be the highlight of a trip, but travelers shouldn’t discount the opportunity to connect with other travelers, especially those of the same nationality.  It’s an incredible opportunity to bond with people that you wouldn’t otherwise hang out with if you were back home.  All of a sudden, speaking the same language and a love for travel is all you need to have in common to become best friends for the day or week.  It may not immediately help you dive into the culture of a place, but it can allow for unique experiences that wouldn’t happen back home.

Back in 2006 I took a trip to Europe with a couple of friends of mine, Erin and Troy.  Towards the end of my three week portion of the trip we arrived in the Barcelona train station without a place to stay.  This was pretty typical of our trip as we didn’t do much planning as to where we were going to go or when we were going to be there.  The flexibility of a trip like that makes for a really good time, but it can also create challenges along the way.  Arriving in Barcelona with no place to stay during the busy summer months created one of those challenges.  It turned out that the only hostel with availability was on the outskirts of town accessible by the metro which shut down early in the evening.  Of course we were hoping to stay closer to La Rambla and the heart of the city.  We certainly weren’t excited that we’d be calling it an early night every night just so we could catch the metro back to our hostel, but it looked to be our only option.  After our 30 minute metro ride and our 15 minute hike up a mountain (hill) we found plenty of others who were also quite disappointed with the location of their accommodation for at least one night.  Erin, Troy, and I made friends with a couple of girls from Texas who were sharing our dorm room with us.  We decided if we could find a hotel room with a better location and split it five ways, it would probably be close to the same price we were paying to stay in the hostel.  We ended up finding a hotel with availability for the next few nights in a great location within walking distance of most of the places we wanted to be.  It couldn’t have worked out any better, except for the part where Troy’s bag got jacked while we were in a Burger King, but that’s another story.  If I was traveling anywhere in the States there’s very little chance I would have decided to share a hotel room with a couple of strangers I just met.  But when I was on the other side of the world, it seemed like a perfectly logical thing to do.  Hanging out with them turned out to be quite invaluable.  The girls were Hispanic, and their first language was Spanish.  When Troy’s bag was stolen they were lifesavers in helping us talk to the authorities and learn what we needed to do to file a police report and get him a new passport.  By traveling abroad, not only do you have the opportunity to experience other cultures, you also get the chance to connect with different types of Americans in ways you otherwise wouldn’t.  

A few days ago Dawn and I met Greg, a saxophone player from New Orleans, St. Louis, New York, and most recently Tennessee.  He’s in town for three weeks playing at a jazz club at the St. Regis Doha.  He was looking for a place to go to church, and so we gave him a ride.  Later we invited him out to dinner (which didn’t quite happen), and he invited us to come watch him perform.  His set was great, and it’s most likely something that wouldn’t have happened had we been in the States.  The opportunity to network and connect with people from the States with all kinds of different backgrounds and interests is greatly enhanced by being in a place where, although there are a number of us, Americans are a serious minority.

Greg doing his thing.

Greg doing his thing.

While I’m enjoying interacting with people from all around the world, I’m also really enjoying the connections I’m making with other Americans who are 8000 miles away from their home as well.

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I’m not in Kansas anymore…

When you move to a new place, you expect things to be a little different.  I didn’t quite know what to expect when moving to Doha, but I knew a completely different place and culture on the other side of the world would have a few surprises for me.  Below are just a few of the things that jump out to me that are quite different from back home.

The entire city is one giant construction site.
You can’t drive anywhere in the city without passing a new building (or complex of buildings) being constructed or a road being torn up.  Tower cranes seem to equal, if not outnumber, the skyscrapers here in the city.  Doha seems to almost want to be the next Dubai, and it seems to be well on it’s way.  I wonder if Dubai had as many growing pains as it seems Qatar is having.

Everyone here thinks they’re a race car driver.
And a lot of them have the cars to go with driving style.  There are plenty of Ferraris, Maseratis, Porsches, Land Rovers, and Land Cruisers on the road.  The more expensive car you have, the more aggressive driver you are.  Any place the horn is used more often than the brakes is a great place to perfect your defensive driving skills.  

Not a Showroom.  Those are valet parked at a mall.

Not a showroom. Those are valet parked at a mall.

Multi-lane roundabouts are everywhere.
Before I moved to Qatar I was under the impression that roundabouts were safer than the traditional intersections, and Wikipedia confirmed my thoughts.  After living here for almost three months now, I think I’ve lost a little faith in Wikipedia.  The combination of aggressive driving, blatant disregard of lane markings, refusal to use signals, and drivers inching the front of their cars out into the roundabouts while waiting to enter makes for an adventure in entering any roundabout during rush hour.

All pedestrians seem to have a death wish.
There are few sidewalks, and a lot of those that are here are being torn up due to construction.  There are crosswalks at intersections here, but few people seem to use them, and of course there are no crosswalks at the roundabouts.  People not only cross major highways by foot, but even walk down major roads that have no shoulder.  Daring pedestrians, aggressive driving, and the amount of construction going on in this city is a dangerous combination.  

The architecture is world class.
The Qataris want to construct incredible structures, and they spare no expense in doing so.  The architecture in this city is incredibly unique, and completely different than anywhere outside of the Middle East.  Most skyscrapers here seem to have their own unique shape or feature to set them apart from the one sitting next to them.  It’s something that most building owners outside of this part of the world wouldn’t pay for, but here they will.  The combination of the willingness to spend the money for a unique building and the implementation of the traditional Islamic geometric designs into the architecture makes it a fun place for any architecture aficionado.

No two buildings are alike.

An incredibly diverse skyline.

It may look like the Jerry Dome, but it's actually a horse stable.

Looks like they decided to model the equestrian arena after the Jerry Dome.

Parking on sidewalks, major roads, etc. is totally acceptable.
Despite spending loads of money on the buildings here, someone forgot to explain to them that all these buildings house people, and all these people drive.  There is a serious lack of parking available here, and so the people make due with what they can.  Sidewalks are packed with cars near busy malls and congested commercial areas.  People park on the side of major streets, taking up traffic lanes.  Double parking here is almost as common.  Park in front of another car, throw your hazard lights on, and you’re good to go.  At least until the person you’ve blocked in wants to leave and starts using their horn.

Who needs parking lots when you've got sidewalks?

Who needs parking lots when you’ve got sidewalks?

Standard operating procedure.

Standard operating procedure.


The city is incredibly segregated.
I can really only speak for the United States and for the little time I’ve spent visiting other countries, but Qatar seems to be the most segregated place I’ve ever been.  It appears that for the most part, nationalities keep to their own.  To be fair, the heavy majority of people here are not from Qatar and it makes sense that people tend to cling to others that speak their language and relate to their culture from back home.  I need to be aware of this, and make an extensive effort to make friends with people from all over (and there are people here from all over).

The bathrooms are truly international.
Any bathroom you go into here in Doha will have both toilet paper and a bidet shower (aka ‘bum gun’) for your hygiene requirements.  If you’re in an apartment or a house, there’s a good chance you’ll have the option of cleaning up using a full size bidet as well.

So many options.

So many options.

You can get a carwash anywhere you park your car.
This is quite awesome.  Go to the mall, and once you get out of your car there will be someone waiting to ask you if you’d like your car washed for 10 QR (about $2.75 USD).  I parked in a dirt lot once, and a guy offered to wash my car there (and I took him up on it).  Our job site has guys on staff to wash the employees’ cars.  Don’t ask me why, but I’m certainly not going to complain.

Tea boys are standard in every office.
That’s right, tea boys.  Tea boys are guys whose job it is to serve tea and coffee to everyone who works in the office.  Officially, each person gets two deliveries a day – one in the morning, and one after lunch.  You give them your order when you start working there, and that’s what they bring you every day, twice a day.  In our office, during the beginning of every meeting they come around like a waiter asking everyone what they’d like to drink.  I’m pretty sure this is something we need to implement in the States.  Immediately.

You can get any kind of food delivered here.
From pizza to McDonald’s to baked goods, it can all be on your doorstep in minutes… well, maybe not quite that fast.  Labor here is cheap, so they’ve got guys out on motorcycles delivering all kinds of things.  It’s kinda cool, yet kinda strange.  

All in all, Qatar is much more Westernized than I would have guessed, but I’m sure the longer I’m here the more I’ll begin to notice other things that aren’t quite what I’m used to back in the States.  I’m looking forward to discovering all the nuances and differences of this place.  What kind of different or strange things have you noticed while traveling or living in other countries?

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My First Visit To A Mosque – A Photo Essay

A few nights ago after work I decided I wanted to visit the state mosque of Qatar (aka the Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab Mosque) to photograph it.  I had driven past it numerous times, and it’s a beautiful building.  There was one photograph in particular that I was hoping to get.  Although its located a ways from downtown, you can see the skyscrapers located in West Bay in the background if you’re to the East of the mosque looking West.  I thought the combination of the traditional architecture of the Middle East with the modern skyscrapers in the background would create a nice contrast.

I arrived just before sunset, and wasn’t able to find quite the right location to take the picture that I had in my head.  That was ok, though, because the place was incredibly beautiful, and there was plenty to photograph.  I know very little about Islam, and what’s appropriate/respectful as far as taking pictures so I had planned on just taking pictures of the outside of the mosque.

After I had been there a while a man came up and introduced himself to me.  His name was Yatif, and he was Pakistani.  He asked me if I’d like to go inside to look around and take some pictures. He took me into the courtyard of the mosque and told me a little more about himself and a little about the mosque.  The scale of the building is incredible even with just a few people there, but I imagine it’s even more incredible when it’s full.  After we made our way around the courtyard, we took off our shoes and made our way into the main prayer hall.  As it was in between prayer times few people were there, and Yatif explained more of the Islamic faith to me.  It was quite interesting, and I’m really glad he invited me in.  Learning about and understanding different cultures is one of the reasons I was excited about moving abroad, and I’m glad I got to enjoy a little of that the other night.

Here are a few of my pictures of the place…

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It’s Not A Small World After All

People say it’s a small world, but I disagree.

Sure, it may seem like the world is getting smaller with the globalization of businesses and the ease of communication and information flow, but there’s still a great big world out there to explore.  Even in this day and age, there are more than a few places that feel completely untouched by the rest of the world around it.

There are 196 countries in the world (195 if you don’t count Taiwan), but there are 321 “countries and territories” (read distinct places) according to the Traveler’s Century Club.  At last count I had been to twenty some countries and six continents, but I haven’t taken the time yet to make a list of the Traveler’s Century Club places I’ve visited.  I may only have one continent left to visit, but there are plenty of distinct places in the world left for my wife and I to experience.  Quite too many in fact.  It’s the reason behind wanting to take that RTW trip.  Sure, we can’t see it all, but we’re going to do our absolute best trying.

Since I know we’re probably not going to be able to visit all 321 distinct places on this earth, I’m going to have to narrow it down a bit.  The question is where to start.  When anyone asks me where I want to go I usually stumble a bit because there are just so many places I want to see.  Eventually, though, there always seem to be three places that always come into my head:  Machu Picchu in Peru, Petra in Jordan, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.  Why those three places?  To be honest, I have no idea.  If I sat down to really think hard on it, I’m not even sure those would be my top three – top five or ten for sure, but I’m too noncommittal to lock in those as the ultimate.

The other thing about those places is I think they have popped into my head relatively recently (as in the last 5 years or so).  It’s not like I grew up longing to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.  I didn’t realize  the treasury in Petra was featured in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade until long after I decided Petra was on my must visit list.  And I doubt I even knew that Angkor Wat was a real place when I saw Tomb Raider for the first time.  Somehow, though, these places have crept into my psyche.  For whatever reason, those three places seem to be at the top of my list, but give it a month or even a day, and I’ll probably have come up with at least one other destination that would give those three a run for their money.  Heck, give me a few minutes.  Patagonia just popped into my head as a destination that would be right up there with any of those three.  

Since it doesn’t make much sense to make a trip to South America from Qatar, we’re probably going to hold off on Patagonia and Machu Picchu until we’re living back in the States.  Petra and Angkor Wat are certainly much more accessible from here rather than the States, though.  Amman, Jordan is only a two and a half hour nonstop flight from Doha.  Angkor Wat is about 10-12 hours away with one stop, but much better than the 28-36 hour travel time from Kansas City.  The plan is to make both of those trips at some point while living here in Doha.

Sure, I’ve got plenty of other places that pop into my head from time to time that I’d like to see while here, but like I said, it’s tough to narrow it down.  Plus, maybe there’s a few places of that I haven’t even thought of yet that would be easier to get to or that I’d like to see more.  One of the great things about being over here is everything is so much closer than it is in the States.  Europe isn’t as close as I thought it was (anywhere from a 5.5 to 7 hours if you can get a decently priced nonstop flight), but there are still quite a few destinations all within 3-4 hours which, to me, makes them great weekend trips.  I could probably make that 7 hour flight to London be a great weekend trip, too, though, if the flight times were to work out.

The question is, how do you discover all of the weekend trip possibilities?  Well, first, you ask around and see what others have done.  Dubai is obviously a standard for expats to visit (clocking in at just a 58 minute flight), and people say that Muscat, Oman is beautiful (1:22 nonstop).  So, both of those are now on my weekend list.  I’ve been told Bahrain is where all the Saudi’s drive to on the weekend since apparently fun is outlawed in their country (although I’d still very much like to visit Saudi).  Bahrain is only a 40 minute flight or a five hour drive through Saudi Arabia (probably the easiest way to visit Saudi is getting the transit visa to get to Bahrain, although I’m not sure if it’s worth the hassle).  Bahrain sounds like a great weekender, but it’s had some issues of it’s own lately.  Ok, so now I’m up to three places, make it four if you throw Abu Dhabi in there as well.  There’s got to be more than that right?

I got this bright idea that I was going to compile all of the nonstop flights that originate in Doha into a spreadsheet so that I could organize them by distance, time of the flight, airline, etc.  Ideally, I’d like it to even include a rough estimate of pricing for a certain time period out, say one month.  I knew that would be a bit trickier to gather that information though.  I didn’t know what it’d take to gather the rest of this information, but gathering the nonstop flights from DOH together in one place seemed like the most definitive way to come up with all of the easiest possible travel options.  It was a good starting point at least.  (I could have tried to gather all the one stop possibilities, but the amount of information would be insane.  You throw a single layover in there, and I bet you could hit almost every country in the world from DOH.)  I really know nothing about gathering all of this information together or if someone has already done it.  Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, I went to the one guy who might know the best way to gather this information together, The Wandering Aramean.  The guy has built some incredible travel tools, and writes a great travel blog.  I actually got to meet up and grab dinner with him and another friend/reader of his during his 13 hour layover here in Doha.  The great thing about the miles and points community is everyone is so incredibly willing to share their knowledge and help others out.  Sure enough, within minutes of my email, he had responded and told me to start with www.openflights.org.  It turns out that site has most of the information I wanted for my spreadsheet – airport, airline, distance, and length of flight.  All I had to do was type in DOH, and voila, all of that information returned.  It took some massaging of the information to get it into a spreadsheet I liked, but the bulk of the work was done in one fell swoop.  I’m still tweaking two different versions of it, but below is the basic version (without Airline data) sorted by flight time.  There are 102 different destinations serviced by nonstop flights out of Doha, which is quite incredible to me.  Not sure what MCI’s number is, but it’s a lot less.

Nonstop Flights from DOH (taken from openflights.org)

Nonstop Flights from DOH (taken from openflights.org)

Take a look at the list below and let me know if you have any suggestions for must see places – Baghdad and Tehran both look quite enticing coming in at just under 2 hours a flight…  

Wanna get out of Doha?

Wanna get out of Doha?

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24 Hours in Transit: Part 3 – World’s 5-Star Airline (FRA-DOH)

This is the third post in a three part trip report of my big move to Doha, Qatar.  If you’re new to trip reports you may find these boring as I did at first, but now I quite enjoy them.  In other words, I’m going to keep writing them, so get used to it.  If you find yourself falling asleep reading them, just scroll through them really fast to look at the pretty pictures.   

24 Hours in Transit:  Part 1 – Adios Snow (MCI-CLT)
24 Hours in Transit:  Part 2 – Crossing the Pond in Envoy Class (CLT-FRA)
24 Hours in Transit:  Part 3 – World’s 5-Star Airline (FRA-DOH)

A five and a half hour international layover is kind of a rough spot to be in.  It’s quite a long time to spend in an airport, but, depending on the airport, it’s probably not enough time to get out and do something fun.  Prior to my trip, I looked into this situation to determine if Frankfurt happened to me one of those airports where I could run out to see the city for a bit before jumping on the plane to Doha.  No such luck.  It sounded like I’d need a layover of about eight hours or so to make something worthwhile happen.  However, in the course of my research I found out that they have airport tours that last either 45 or 90 minutes depending on which one you choose.  I like airplanes, and, while five and a half hours is a long time to spend in one, I do like airports as well.  It sounded like a brilliant option until I found out the tours were only given in German.  What kind of crazy place only offers tours in their own native language?  Ridiculous, I know.  While I would very much enjoy “breathtaking views of the Airbus A380”, I didn’t feel like the other 88 minutes of having no idea what was going on would be worth it.  So it was onto my backup plan.

Originally, the lounge hopping idea seemed like a great way to blow the time in the airport.  A lot of things sound brilliant prior to jetlag, though.  It didn’t help that I didn’t do much research to even find out where the different lounges were located in the airport (most likely nowhere near each other as it would be quite a waste to put them side by side).  Turns out I should have at least figured out where one of them was located.  I had a heckuva time tracking down the Lufthansa Business Lounge.  (Side note:  No, I didn’t fly Lufthansa, but because they’re part of the Star Alliance and US Airways is as well, that was the lounge I had access to as a US Airways international business class passenger.)

Hello rest & relaxation

Rest & relaxation awaits

When I finally found it, I didn’t like what I saw.  Stairs.  There probably was an elevator around somewhere, but in my jet lagged state I didn’t see one.  I dragged my roller bag and backpack up the stairs and into the lounge. 

Stairs are not a traveler's friend

Stairs are not a traveler’s friend

Once inside, though, it was worth the climb.  I was happy to discover it did have a shower as I had hoped, and plenty of food options.  I headed directly to the showers and found them full.  An attendant gave me a pager (like one you’d get at Applebee’s), and told me to come back when it went off.

I went to check out the food spread, and to grab a drink.  I feel like I’m a little bit of an adventurous guy so I went for an Aperol Spritz, having no idea what that was.  I did know it was orange, though, and I like orange.  It came in a bottle, so it seemed kinda fancy, so it should have been a winner.  It was not.  No good.  So, I decided to go back to my comfort zone and grab a Coke while I waited for the shower to become available.

Don't judge a book by it's cover.  Or a drink by it's bottle.

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Or a drink by it’s bottle.

Eventually my pager went off, and I returned to the shower rooms.  The shower room was quite simple but it had everything I needed to wake up a bit after a long flight.  A quick shower really did help to wash away a good portion of the jet lag.

Simple, yet effective

Simple, yet effective

Like I said, anything you need

Like I said, anything you need

With the shower out of the way, I had a solid 4 hours left to kill in the lounge.  I quickly realized that in my infinite planning I didn’t even consider bringing along travel adapters to charge up the laptop and phone during the layover.  I knew I’d have to get adapters for Doha once I arrived, but didn’t think about my time in Frankfurt.  I had kept my phone plugged in for most of the flight from CLT-FRA, but the laptop was dying.  I didn’t really need the laptop, but it would have been nicer wasting away 4 hours surfing  the internet on a 14″ screen rather than a 4″ screen.  I made do, though.  I’m just glad I had kept the phone charged.

As expected, the lounge was full of drink and snack options, but nothing especially great.  I did find it quite funny that in the land of Bratwursts, they were featuring American hot dogs as the Daily Special.  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some hot dogs, but it just doesn’t scream lounge food.  I mainly stuck with some basic snacks, and the pudding was really, really good.  I found it odd that this lounge supplied gummy bears.  The Swissair lounge Dawn and I visited last year also served them.  It just seems like an odd candy to provide.  The fact that both airlines are from German speaking countries along with my recollection that the Disney cartoon series Gummi Bears was set in a German forest (though a quick Google search could not confirm nor deny that) made me wonder if gummy bears were, in fact, a German invention.  It turns out they are German.  You all may have already known this, but it was news to me.

 -

One of multiple counters full of food

Kiwi on wild berry pudding.  Delicious.

Kiwi on wild berry pudding. Delicious.

American hot dogs? In a German lounge?  Really?

Odd choice in my opinion

Plenty of drink options

Plenty of drink options

Gummy bears now really make me want to watch the entire Gummi Bears series.  I loved that show.

Gummy bears now really make me want to watch the entire Gummi Bears series. I loved that show.

As you can see, plenty of options to partake in, but I wasn’t all that hungry, and plus I wanted to to be hungry for the Qatar Airways flight.  I mainly snacked and wandered around the lounge.  Even with the long layover, the combination of jet lag and the hike to find the first lounge kept me from venturing off to look for others.  The one lounge certainly had enough to keep one busy.  They had racks of newspapers and magazines to read, a kids play area, and even a nap room that I didn’t find until I was on my way out.  That’s something I would have liked to have found earlier.

Do people still read on paper?

Do people still read from paper?

The alligator shadow puppet indicates the nap room.

The alligator shadow puppet indicates the nap room.

Eventually my time in the lounge was up, and it was time to experience the “World’s 5-Star Airline”.  With a slogan like that, you better be good.  Truth be told, there are actually seven (7) five star airlines, but the other six are all Asian carriers.  Qatar Airways is the only one who decided to be as so bold as to use that as their slogan.  The only American airlines that are even four stars are Jet Blue and Virgin America.  However, I do question the accuracy of the rating system when Allegiant Air gets three stars just like United and American Airlines.  Allegiant Air is not fun to fly.  Super cheap, but no fun.

As I mentioned previously, I would have loved to get the nonstop DC to Doha or Houston to Doha flights on Qatar Airways, but they were too expensive.  I was glad that at least one of the legs of my trip would be on Qatar’s flagship airline.  One thing that I’ve learned since being here is that Qatar has a lot of money, and they like to show off.  Qatar Airways is a huge marketing tool for the country of Qatar (as is the country’s nonprofit organization – Qatar Foundation).

I boarded the plane and took my seat.  I was immediately greeted by name, and offered a pre-departure beverage.  I took up the flight attendant’s suggestion of lime juice, and it was so good that I ordered it with my meal later as well.

Welcome to Qatar

Welcome to Qatar

The seat was top notch as expected.  I was in seat 10A on an A330-300, and so I was in my own little mini business class cabin as you can see in the pic below.  I was also lucky enough to not have anyone sitting in the seat next to me.  First class was completely empty.  To be honest, I didn’t realize it was first class until I started looking through my pictures and the seat maps of the plane.  I thought that my flight only had business and economy seats (as I didn’t check the seatmap ahead of time).  The first class seats did look slightly different after studying the pictures, but I didn’t notice it on the flight.  From what I’ve read, typically the big difference between international first and international business class is the food and service, not the seat.    As I said, the seat didn’t disappoint.  It was fully lay flat as the US Airways Envoy seat was, but it did feel larger.  I also prefer the seats to not be in the angled fish bone configuration, which probably leads to more space.  It was quite comfortable for a couple hour afternoon nap.

Seat 10A (taken from Seatguru.com)

Seat 10A (taken from SeatGuru.com)

My Business Class window seat for the flight

My Business Class window seat for the flight

First Class Seat - Not much of a difference except for the large counter on the side

First Class Seat – Not much of a difference except for the large counter

First Class Seat Cabin

First Class Seat Cabin

Besides the beautiful seats, another reason I was wanting to fly Qatar Airways was that I had read that you receive pajamas in business class.  This is something that airlines typically reserve for international first class passengers, but being a 5 star airline, apparently Qatar Airlines wanted to step it up a notch.  Yes, it’s a bit ridiculous for an airline to give out pajamas for a flight, but that’s what flying in a premium cabin is all about.  Since my flight was during the day and it was only six hours long, I was a little concerned I wouldn’t end up with a set of Qatar Airways pajamas.  Upon arriving at my seat I found both a  Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kit and a small Qatar Airways branded cloth bag.  The amenity kit seemed nice enough, and if I was familiar with expensive brands I’m sure I’d be impressed with whoever Ferragamo is.  The kit included hand cream, lip balm, and cologne (an upgrade from the Envoy kit).

Salva what?

Salva what?

What's behind bag #2?

What’s behind bag #2?

The Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kit did seem to be lacking the typical toothbrush and toothpaste, socks, eye mask, and earplugs , though.  For a second I held out a little hope they had somehow crammed pajamas into the small bag.  Pajamas are thin and shouldn’t take up much volume at all, right?  No such luck for me.  No PJs in that bag.  Turns out I’ll have to save my first in flight pajamas experience for another flight.  The cloth bag held the aforementioned socks, eye mask, and earplugs as well as a travel hairbrush.  Still no toothbrush and toothpaste, though.

Slightly disappointing

Slightly disappointing

Turns out they keep the toothbrushes in the premium cabin bathrooms.  They also even have shaving kits, but I figured I’d pass on trying those out.  I can’t imagine using one of those disposable razors on my face on solid ground, let alone at 30,000 feet in the air when we could drop 50 to 100 feet at any moment due to turbulence.  A nice gesture, though, and it couldn’t have cost them more than 50 cents to put that package together.

Business class bathroom with amenities

Business class bathroom with amenities

Who can't use an extra toothbrush?

Who couldn’t use an extra toothbrush?

In case the amenity kit wasn’t enough or you prefer the Molton Brown brand over Salvatore Ferragamo, they provide hand lotion, soap, and cologne in the bathroom.  All it was missing was the shower.  And, yes, an airline does have a shower on a plane.  And, yes, that is one of my aspirations in this travel game.  I want to shower mid flight on a plane.  Over the top?  Yes, but, really, what about flying isn’t at least slightly over the top?

Just add shower for the full spa experience

Just add shower for the full spa experience

One of the nice touches that I noticed about the whole plane was how everything had the Qatar Airways logo stamped on it – from the small dish they hand you with a warm wash cloth on it all the way to the seat belt.  They’re proud of their logo and they put it everywhere.  I’d be proud of it too, as it’s a pretty cool logo.  It’s the Arabian Oryx which just so happens to be the national animal of Qatar.

Qatar Airways hot towel tray

A logo so tiny I’m probably the only person who noticed

Qatar Airways seatbelt

A seat belt worth stealing

If they spent that much time on the details of the plane, you’d hope the food would be just as important to them.  I hadn’t had much (maybe any?) Arabic food prior to this little jaunt, but I was excited to try it.

Menu Part 1

Menu Part 1

Menu Part 2

Menu Part 2

The nasu miso was good, although I’m still not sure what that is.  I chose the mezze for the appetizer and the lamb shank for the main course.  I wasn’t used to Arabic food, but I did enjoy it quite a bit.

I may not know what it is, but put it in front of me and I'll probably eat it

I may not know what it is, but put it in front of me and I’ll probably eat it

First taste of the Middle East

First taste of the Middle East

I better get used to something other than pork.

I better get used to something other than pork.

This time I was able to choose the dessert that came with 3 desserts – treacle tart, golden syrup ice cream with carmelized bananas – and that’s what I call a 5 star airline.

Three desserts in one.

Three desserts in one.

Oh, yeah, and afternoon tea a little later on in the flight as well…

Tea menu

Tea menu

Keep them coming

Keep them coming

In between each of the courses and throughout the flight the flight attendant was continually coming by to bring me more lime juice, tea, etc. or to ask if there was anything else she could do.  The service was excellent, but I don’t have much else to compare it to.  While eating dinner I took the opportunity to try out the in flight entertainment and catch up on another movie (Silver Linings Playbook).  Nothing too special about the system, but because I was in my own little mini cabin with no seat in front of me the screen popped out from the console in between the seats.  I actually prefer the screen in the back of the seat in front of me as that’s just one less thing I need to take down if I want to get up to stretch my legs.  After the movie, I took another nap, and before long we were landing in Doha.  It was around 10:30 PM local time, and I had to start work early the next morning.  I was exhausted, but quite happy to finally be at my final destination.  It was a great flight experience, and it might have even been 5 star worthy.  I’m looking forward to flying Qatar Airways again, but there’s a pretty good chance the next time them I’ll be in the back of the plane.  It’ll most likely be my final flight home from this crazy adventure before I get to sit up front with the big kids again, but I can hope, right?

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24 hours in Transit: Part 2 – Crossing the Pond in Envoy Class (CLT-FRA)

This is the second post in a three part trip report of my big move to Doha, Qatar.  If you’re new to trip reports you may find these boring as I did at first, but now I quite enjoy them.  In other words, I’m going to keep writing them, so get used to it.  If you find yourself falling asleep reading them, just scroll through them really fast to look at the pretty pictures.   

24 Hours in Transit:  Part 1 – Adios Snow (MCI-CLT)
24 Hours in Transit:  Part 2 – Crossing the Pond in Envoy Class (CLT-FRA)
24 Hours in Transit:  Part 3 – World’s 5-Star Airline (FRA-DOH)

I planned on doing a bit of lounge hopping on this trip to take full advantage of flying business class and compare what the different lounges had to offer.  Of course, I was mostly planning on doing this in Frankfurt, but I’ll get to that later.  Yes, most people would find lounge hopping quite boring, but this is what entertains me.

After I got off the plane, I made a quick stop at the smaller US Airways Club in concourse B to compare it to their main club.  It had the standard chips, cookies, cheeses, etc. and coffee machine that main club had when we stopped through there on our way to Ireland last May.  This club was larger than I expected it to be.  There were 2 main rooms with seating for maybe 20-30 in each, plus a separate small business center with maybe 5 or so desks down the hall from one of the seating areas.  Nothing special, but a much nicer place to sit and wait on a flight than in the terminal.

CLT Concourse B Lounge

Concourse B Loungin’ Options

CLT Concourse B Lounge

Concourse B Loungin’ Options

CLT Concourse B Hot Drinks

Concourse B US Airways Club Hot Drinks

CLT Concourse B Food Options

Concourse B US Airways Club Snack Options

I then headed towards my gate and the main US Airways club in between concourse C and D.  Charlotte is really a nice airport with a decent size food court that has floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the tarmac.  They also have quite a few white wooden rocking chairs where you can sit and people watch or enjoy the views of the planes taxing into the gates.  I would have enjoyed wasting time there, but I had another lounge to check out.

From my limited experience and knowledge, the US Airways Club in Charlotte seems to be one of the better US airline lounges (note: not US Airways lounges, but all US airline lounges).  I don’t have much experience with international lounges, but the ones I have been in blow away the US competition.  The main club had the same food options as the smaller lounge (which was expected, but still a little disappointing), but they do offer you a single complimentary alcoholic drink from the bar.  I chose to hang out in a spot in the small rotunda at the far end of the club that has nice views of the planes.  It was a good way to spend about an hour or so.

CLT Main US Airways Club

Main US Airways Club

Main US Airways Club

Main US Airways Club

Main US Airways Club Snack Options

Main US Airways Club Snack Options

Main US Airways Club Snack Options

Main US Airways Club Snack Options

Great View

Great View

By the time I got to the gate, the economy passengers were  boarding and business class passengers were already on the plane.  As this was the city of international departure I had to head to the gate agent to have my passport checked again.  As I mentioned earlier the gate agent here in CLT  also had to check the computer to confirm I didn’t need a visa prior to arrival in Doha before letting me on the plane.  That took a couple of minutes, and I was already a bit disappointed how late I was boarding.

As I boarded the plane, the Envoy section (US Airways business class) was pretty full.  There was a couple sitting across from me who was celebrating their 30 year wedding anniversary by spending 10 days somewhere in Europe (yeah, quite specific I know, but I can’t remember – Greece, Germany, maybe Switzerland….?).  My immediate thought was, wow, that’s sad their trip is only 10 days.  I soon realized that I have such a distorted point of view when it comes to travel.  Ten days may be a super long trip for them, and there are plenty of people out there who don’t want to be gone for longer than 10 days.  However, I was excited that they were able to celebrate such an incredible accomplishment with a big trip.  So few people get the chance (or rather make it a priority) to do something like that, and even fewer get to do it sitting up front.

Packed House

Packed House Up Front

When booking the trip I was really hoping to experience the Qatar Airways nonstop flight from either DC or Houston.  I had even found a great itinerary that would allow me about 8 hours in DC to get out and doing a little sight seeing in capital of the nation I was bailing on for a while.  Turns out the prices on those tickets were quite a bit higher than the US Airways MCI-CLT-FRA-DOH routing.  I was surprised at how much higher, and there was no way to justify the extra expense.  I wasn’t too disappointed with US Airways being the cheapest option out of the bunch as I was familiar with their Envoy seat, and knew it to be one of the better business class options from the States.

As expected, the seat didn’t disappoint.  It’s full lay flat, has electrical/usb ports, and a great in flight entertainment (IFE) system.  As seems to be standard in business and first class they give you noise cancelling headphones for the flight.  Now, if I could only take those home with me…

Home Sweet Home for the next 8 hrs

Home Sweet Home for the next 8 hrs

The amenity kit provided was the same one we had received on our way to Ireland last year (in US Airways old style business class on the 757).  Nothing too special, but I do like collecting amenity kits for some reason.  It came with Gilchrist & Soames lotion and lip balm, an eye mask, ear plugs, a tooth brush, and a pen.

Useless bag of junk to add to the collection

Useless bag of junk to add to the collection

Really, what am I going to do with this stuff?

Really, what am I going to do with this stuff?

Prior to dinner, the standard warm mixed nuts and drink was served.  You wouldn’t think so, but warming the mixed nuts makes all the difference.  I like regular mixed nuts just fine, but warming them really makes them great.   

Mmm... warm nuts...

Mmm… warm nuts…

For dinner they served an appetizer of Sliced Pesto Chicken Breast with tomato-caper relish which was decent (that’s about as descriptive as I’m going to get with food, because I’ll pretty much eat anything), along with a salad.  For the main course, there were four options, and I went with the Citrus Mahi Mahi.  A few people around me ordered it too, but had some reservations about doing so.  The flight attendant assured them both that it was a solid option.  I quite enjoyed it, so that was a win in my book.  It seems like a lot of people complain about airplane food, but I’m always quite happy with it – including what they serve in coach on international flights.  Each time it comes out I always think it’s not going to be enough food.  And by the end of the meal, I was completely full.

Pictures of menus are what you're here for right?

Pictures of menus are what you’re here for right?

Overall I give it a B-

Overall I give the chicken a B-

Pictures mean I don't have to type...

Pictures mean I don’t have to type…

Fish on a plane, not bad

Fish on a plane, not too bad

For dessert I couldn’t turn down the ice cream.  I really should have asked for the Raspberry Mousse too as it looked great.

I should have ordered 2 of each

I should have ordered 2 of each

I scream

I scream

While dinner was served I took advantage of the IFE, and watched Argo.  I’m headed to the Middle East, so why shouldn’t I see what I’m in for, right?  Actually I had wanted to see it for quite some time, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Really good movie.  On flights where I should be sleeping I tend to catch up on movies instead.  I think I didn’t sleep at all on my flight back from Brazil in 2010 just so I could stay up and watch four different movies.  I didn’t quite keep up with that trend, but I did watch Skyfall before crashing for a few hours in the lay flat seat.

Ah movies, how I've missed you

Ah movies, how I’ve missed you

I woke up early as I tend to do on overnight flights (and no other time), and enjoyed the views.  

The only time I'm up early enough to watch a sunrise

The only time I’m up early enough to watch a sunrise

Breakfast was served, and while I usually tend to go with the heavier option on all meals, I chose the fresh fruit bowl this time which I feel completely confident was the right decision.  

Quiche? No thanks.

Quiche? No thanks.

A healthy breakfast? Who am I?

A healthy breakfast? Who am I?

Soon we were landing in Frankfurt…

I prefer Munich, but, hey I'm going going to be here for a few hours anyway.

I prefer Munich, but, hey I’m only going to be here for a few hours anyway.

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