By Emma Krasov
Let me start with a rant. If you’re a young mother with a 2-day-old baby, for god’s sake, stay at home. What impulse takes you on a 14-hour flight with a crying child to a remote land where you have no relatives (which is obvious from your pasty complexion) and where all kinds of unfamiliar insects and food carry diseases that pose a real danger for a tiny newborn? Yes, I’m talking to you, and you, and you, and all 10 to 12 young adventurous mothers with babies in the same overbooked economy cabin where flight attendants run out of bassinets and bottle warmers. Never mind the rest of us, listening to your crying baby for the duration of the flight. Think of the defenseless human being you just brought into this world. How much fun do you think he/she is having right now?
A for Airlines
First, a riddle – guess what airline employs this flight attendant:
On an international flight late at night I wake up in my middle seat thirsty as hell and trying to think what can I do to spare the peacefully sleeping passenger in the aisle seat? A flight attendant is passing by. I whisper to her, “Excuse me, may I please have some water?”
She looks at me as if I asked for a parachute and to open the cabin door, and says loudly, “I collect trash now! Do you want some trash?!”
So, what airline? You guessed it, United!
Another riddle, this one’s harder:
After an 18-hour flight delay, being late for work, and losing income from my work shift I couldn’t fill, I call the airline customer service to ask for reimbursement. The customer service rep says he can’t help. I write a letter complaining about his attitude, and receive a response from this same person, saying that he can’t and won’t help.
So, what airline? You’ll never guess it, Lufthansa!
On a positive note, for those who are already able to appreciate it, travel is indisputably beneficial, and looking back at my year in travel 2017, I’m happy to share some tips on where to turn for great deals, excellent service, and unforgettable experiences.
For the best airlines I’ve flown this year. And the winners are:
Austrian Airlines (Austria) and China Airlines (Taiwan). Both are good with timely departures and landings, both have friendly considerate staff, courteous service onboard, and will do everything to make their passengers comfortable.
B for Bed and Breakfast
I don’t mean small B&B establishments, but real beds and included with a room price breakfasts that constitute some of the most important staples in any traveler’s life (on par with showers) in big hotels around the world. I hope you’ll agree with me that designer appliances, local artists’ displays, board games, and whimsical monikers for hotel environment (like calling cleaning staff “talent,” etc.) are all good perks, but when you’re on the road must be deemed secondary to comfortable beds, impeccably working showers, and well prepared breakfasts!
The best I’ve experienced these year, are:
Altstadt Hotel in Vienna, Austria. Clean comfy bed with a calming smell of starched and ironed linens, and made to order omelets for breakfast that include pouched eggs in champagne sauce and other delights, all served on white table cloth.
Alchymist Grand Hotel and Spa in Prague, Czech Republic. The four-poster gilded bed under red velvet covers with a mountain of fluffy pillows is fit for royals. Breakfast at the Aquarius Restaurant on the premises presents an array of European salads, breads, fruit, hot dishes, and pastries.
Grandhotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. A historic treasure of immense beauty. Sleep tight, eat well, and enjoy the grand dame of European hotels.
Danubius Hotel Group in Marianske Lazne, Czech Republic. I haven’t had a chance to stay at one of the five connected Art Nouveau hotels of exquisite beauty in the world-famous resort, but having lunch at the hotel restaurant was enough to understand that this place rocks! Hope to be back and experience it fully.
The Lin Hotel in Taichung, Taiwan. It was hard to leave my enormous plush bed in the morning. I could’ve stayed in it for another 8 to 12 hours, sleeping, dreaming, and just relaxing. However, a gigantic breakfast hall at the hotel held culinary masterpieces from Asian and European cuisines in quantities that were impossible to survey or choose from. Whatever I’ve picked was delicious, and I’m sure if I’ve stayed at the Lin Hotel for a whole month it wouldn’t be enough to try all the breakfast dishes. They include any imaginable foods as well as drinks, tropical fruit, and ice cream.
Lithia Springs Resort in Ashland, Oregon, USA. From the moment I saw a woody hillside covered with autumn colors from my room balcony I knew this will be a very enjoyable stay. Wonderfully comfy bed with a hot tub nearby, filled with mineral water from the Oregon springs – that’s what we call luxury! Besides full breakfast, there’s an afternoon tea with scones, clotted cream and lemon curd. Posh and beautiful.
C for Cruises
AmaWaterways river cruise. A wonderfully cozy bed in a balcony cabin. Pull out a curtain, and – elbow on your pillow – enjoy the views of [in my case] Danube shores with great European cities and neat little villages slowly gliding by. Breakfast, and all other meals are hearty, well diversified, more than satisfying, served by accommodating staff, and individualized according to any imaginable requests. On Danube cruise with AmaWaterways I visited several European countries with onshore walking tours and cycling trips. Their itineraries, destinations, tour guides, staff, and accommodations cannot be beat.
D for Destinations
Austria – a culinary journey from Vienna to Graz and Salzburg.
Germany – little towns with medieval castles and rose gardens on the Martin Luther route (this year the country celebrates 500 years of Reformation).
Taiwan – a country of endless wonders. From Taipei with its busy city life, the National Palace Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and Taipei 101 tower with Din Tai Fung restaurant on the first floor, to Sun Moon Lake, Taichung and Tainan – all unforgettable sights and experiences.
E for Experiences
All of the above, plus a very special singular culinary adventure with Bold Food Tours based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tour operator and scientist/chef/foodie/world traveler extraordinaire, Muffie Fulton takes groups of up to 12 people to various international and domestic destinations, like Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, Barcelona, Mexico City, Chicago, Portland, Seattle – the list goes on. My own experience with Bold Food Tours was in Lima, Peru – the city of outstanding culinary culture and some of the top Latin American and world restaurants. What’s good about traveling with Muffie – she takes care of every detail of the trip, picks out the best of the best restaurants, markets, demos, cooking classes, street vendors, etc., and makes reservations to the most coveted and least approachable places.