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Tim Foolery

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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Travel Inspiration #5

What inspires you to travel?  A photo from a friend or a news/magazine article often inspires me to research a new destination — or to plan a trip.

Do you know where was this photo taken? Does this photo make you want to pack a bag and take a trip? How do you get inspired?

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Ways to Travel for Free?

Well, who doesn’t want to travel for free?  So many other travel bloggers leverage the credit card sign up bonuses to allow them to travel in premium cabins worldwide.  I never really got into this before.  I was concerned about my credit score and meeting minimum spend requirements to get the full bonus.  I knew that I also wanted to refinance my house and I didn’t want a bunch of credit pulls from various banks to affect any rate or ability to refi.

Fast forward to last week. After 4.5 months of working on a refi (there were no issues, Wells Fargo is just super slow), we closed.  I decided to get a couple new cards for the sign up bonus.  I put all my spending on a credit card (that I can — can’t do a student loan, a mortgage, my dry cleaning or the housekeeper, all else on plastic) then pay it off each month.

My go to cards now are the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Freedom Card (if you want to know how I choose between these cards, let me know).  I have no intention of getting rid of my two Chase cards, but I do want to get sign up bonuses for other cards.

Which new cards did I choose?  I decided to get the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card (with 25,000 SPG points after $5,000 in spend within 6 months) and the Citi American Airlines AAdvantage MasterCard (with 45,000 American miles after spending $1,000 within 3 months).  I was approved instantly for the City AA Card.  My Starwood card wasn’t approved immediately, the website said it would require further review.  I had this issue earlier this year when it came to my Chase Sapphire Card. A simple call, confirm a couple items and you are done.  I pop over to check my email and see that American Express had already approved my application — 45 seconds after they put a hold on it…and I didn’t have to call the reconsideration line.  Neither of these cards have annual fees for the first year either.

The cards should be here next week, which will allow me to start getting the minimum spend behind me.  Will I keep these cards for the long haul? I doubt I’ll keep the Citi card when it comes time to pay the annual fee, but I’ve heard the Starwood card is pretty great because of the earning options and how great the Starwood points transfer to airlines (or even for use at their great hotels).

Do you leverage credit card sign up bonuses to travel the world? Were you afraid how it would affect your credit score?  What cards are you churning right now?

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Olympics & More: Dining in Vic

We wandered around the ghost town of Vic, Spain looking for a bit of lunch.  As I said before, this down was dead — Zombie Apocalypse dead.  As we started making our way back to the car, we stumbled upon a small restaurant called El Jardinet – it was open, but empty.  
The chef/owner greeted us and walked us to the back garden for lunch.  MS asked for an English menu for me, but they had none – they had menus just in Catalan and French.  Good enough for us (while I suspect they had a Spanish menu around too, it wasn’t offered).  I told the chef that I am studying French and he walked me through everything on the menu in French…and surprisingly I understood a vast majority of it — and was able to explain some of it to MS who was reviewing the Catalan menu.  Ultimately we managed to figure out the menu and order lunch.
Lunch Menu
Of course we started off our lunch with a bit of water and a nice bottle of white wine.
No lunch is complete
without water and wine
By the glass or the bottle?
No questions here.
We both started with the gazpacho with shrimp and ham — it was amazing! I don’t think I’ve ever had gazpacho with ham — it totally makes the soup. Hell, ham would make any soup so much better, eh?

For our entree we each had a great paella – MS had a black paella and I just had a lobster paella. The food was so great. I do love some lobster, but really hate when I have to fight with the shells — it’s just a big pain in the neck for me.  The servings were so big, we could have easily shared one paella — but since we are Americans we did eat a huge portion…and still had room for dessert.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
Flan

This stop on our road trip to Toulouse started out a little rough – an empty town, nothing really to do and almost no food to speak of, but it really turned around when we found a fantastic little Catalan restaurant and an amazingly gracious chef/owner.

Have you been to Vic?  Do you love Catalan food?  Don’t you love when someone adds a pork product to an already great dish — making it even better?

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Olympics & More: Visiting Vic, Spain

We left Barcelona heading to Toulouse, France.  On the way north we decided to stop off in the Spanish town of Vic, which is about 70 kilometers from Barcelona.  We decide to eat lunch in town, so we set the GPS to bring us to the main square.

The City of Vic dates back to the Romans and sat in the border land between Frankish Europe and Islamic Spain.  When we arrived we were quite shocked at how empty the City was.  We knew August was vacation/holiday month for people in Spain and France, but we had no idea it would be so extreme here.  It felt like we were in a Zombie Apocalypse film – not a soul on the streets, just a couple other lonesome tourists wandering aimlessly around a dead square.

We continued to walk around the empty streets, looking at the beautiful architecture from the Roman to Medieval to Modern eras.  The City was really beautiful and had a good lively vibe, even though no one was around.  We weren’t able to go into any of these great spaces on this trip, but since it is such a quick trip from Barcelona. We will be back.

 

Have you been to Vic? What did you think of it?  Would go back? Have you been to a Zombie Apocalypse City before? 

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Travel Inspiration #4: Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam and before the unification of the North and South in the early 1970s was called Saigon and was the capital of the south.  This sprawling metropolis has more than 7 million people.
The French colonized (conquered) Indochina in the mid-19th Century and remained there until they were kicked out in the 1950s.  Wars continues with various foreign parties until the reunification in the 1970s.  Ho Chi Minh City is located on the Saigon River.  Like many highly populated cities, traffic accidents are a common occurrence — one travel book I have indicates on an average day, 30 people are killed in motor vehicle accidents.

Have you visited HCMC? What do your recommend in the City? Where did you stay?  We plan on going to Vietnam in March (like we TRIED to do last year) – any advice you have is greatly appreciated.

What inspires you to travel? Do you have a photo (to share) that would inspire others to travel – if so, please share it.

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