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December 2, 2014

SNCF Intercités Train Review – Bordeaux to Nantes

After a wonderful few very sunny and warm days in Bordeaux (more on the Bordeaux trip here: Walking Tour of Bordeaux, France), we headed north to the region of Pays de la Loire to visit my sister, Leslie.


We purchased our tickets at the Bordeaux train station, aka Gare de Bordeaux-Saint-Jean, about an hour before departure. We made sure to skip booking way in advance using a USA-specific site such as Rail Europe (read more about the best way to book a French train ticket in advance here: How-to: Booking French Trains (RailEurope vs SNCF)).

We were able to book our tickets for 37.30 euros each (~$46.43 USD); in contrast, the RailEurope version of the [...]

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April 17, 2014

Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme Hotel Review – Paris, France

On a recent visit to Paris, we wanted to splurge for a night and found some pretty superb value in using Hyatt points. Because I had no hotel points, I knew I wanted to transfer points from either Chase or AMEX– check this guide on the best value hotel in Paris using points in either of those programs: Paris, France: Best Hotels for Free Using Points. This was my first time transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to a hotel partner and, in fact, my first ever stay at a Hyatt.


We booked about 2 months out for 22,000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points transferred from Chase at a 1:1 ratio. Since then, however, this property has gone up [...]

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March 27, 2014

Paris, France: Best Hotels for Free Using Points

Booking in Paris on Points

Having recently acquired the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, I knew that Hyatt was a 1:1 ratio transfer partner. The bad thing about the nice hotels in Paris is that they’re expensive in Euros, which means they’re outrageously expensive after making the conversion to USD. While shopping for a way to spend at least one night in a luxury hotel, I had totally ruled out paying $1000+. The only other option is to use points, specifically hotel programs that I could transfer AMEX or Chase points to…

These choices will assuredly put a dent in the travel budget

The goal: Find the [...]

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March 9, 2014

Walking Tour of Nantes, France

Nantes was our second stop on our trip to France and also the reason we were there in the first place:  Jeffrey’s little sister was studying there for the semester.  After spending a few days in Bordeaux (see our walking tour of Bordeaux here), we took the SNCF INTERCITÉS train up to Nantes to spend a few days exploring the city and visiting his sister.

Nantes is the region of Brittany’s largest town and another large port, with a population of half a million people.  Nantes, though, felt way different than southern Bordeaux. In Bordeaux, it had been sunny and warm. Our entire stay in Nantes was filled with rainy days and the damp cold that comes with it. Maybe we [...]

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January 3, 2014

Deal Blitz: 50% off Air France/KLM Flying Blue Awards in Jan/Feb 2014

Don’t miss out on Flying Blue’s Fall promo where Air France/KLM awards are 50% off in January & February 2014:

The Deal

Award bookings on Air France/KLM routes have been reduced by 25-50% for travel between Jan 1 – Feb 28.

For those of us sitting in ‘Merica (and Canada), we’ll be most interested in:

REGION USA CITY Atlanta CABIN Business 1-way 46,875 Round-trip 93.750 USA Boston Economy 18,750 37,500 Canada Montreal Business 31,250 62,500 Canada Toronto Business 31,250 62,500 Canada Vancouver Economy 18,750 37,500

All destinations below. Note: Everything is to/from Europe.

RegionEurope [...]
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September 19, 2013

SNCF Train: Paris CDG to Bordeaux

After doing our research ahead of time and researching how to buy tickets (SNCF vs post here) and then arriving to Charles de Gaulle airport and making our way to the train station (post: Taking a train from Paris Airport CDG-Charles de Gaulle), it was time to begin our first train journey of the trip.

TGV service/review

We were scheduled on the 16h21 train (that’s 4:21pm to you Freedom-fry-loving guys in ‘Merica). Because this train didn’t originate at the CDG airport, we had to wait until about 15 mins before departure to see which track it would be on. The trip was scheduled to take 4 hours 16 mins (!) and put us at Bordeaux St. Jean right [...]

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August 21, 2013

Taking a train from Paris Airport CDG-Charles de Gaulle

Fresh after landing at Paris-CDG, we had hoped to have a chance to check out the Air France Arrivals Lounge at Charles de Gaulle but were worried about making our train connection. So we just sucked it up and scurried out to baggage claims, but not before passing a very casual form of “Customs and Immigration” which consisted of an area with a few French police/military decked out in fatigues and submachine guns. They stopped me, seemed confused that I spoke French and then insinuated that I’d just come off the flight from either Casablanca or Cairo, when I corrected them and said that I came from New York JFK they seemed even more confused, checked the arrivals board and then waved [...]

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August 9, 2013

Top 10: Longest Domestic Flights in the World

You’d think that this was a cut and dry topic, but it’s far from it. What flights should count? Non-stop only? Contiguous countries? Territories and dependencies (they do often have the same currency and government as their mother country)?? As a result we’ve had to categorize the list a bit. We’ll start with a little background:  the IATA (International Air Transport Association) defines “domestic” as two places with the same ISO country code. Contrary to the IATA definition, however, the regular passenger considers domestic flights as those where they do not need to pass immigration on departure and arrival.

Longest non-stop domestic [...]
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July 31, 2013

How-to: Booking French Trains (RailEurope vs SNCF)

Why you don’t want to book trains using

Pros: is a good resource for researching entire rail network in Europe and is the only place to book a multiday rail pass that covers numerous countries and service providers

Cons: If just booking a simple roundtrip or one-way ticket, it can cost 20-40% more than going direct to the train website

When planning our France trip, we needed to book about 3 train tickets to get us from CDG-Bordeaux, Bordeaux-Nantes and then Nantes-Paris. So, when trying to research the best way to book, we checked out all the venues, starting with

We were looking at taking the 11h05 [...]

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July 18, 2013

Walking Tour of Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux was our first stop in our France trip. Roughly three hours away by train, we only had to wait a short while once we arrived at CDG (in first class style!) to board our train straight from the airport.

Jeffrey studied abroad here in the spring of 2009, so he knows this port city like the back of his hand. It was my first time here, and it was so fun for me to explore where he lived. We even got to have dinner at his host family’s restaurant! How cool!

On the Garonne River, the water plays a large part in Bordeaux’s history. And, as the fifth largest city in France (with a population of 1.1 million), Bordeaux is the world’s wine industry center, [...]

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