This New Year I’ve decided to go with a more expansive top 10 list that I hope will inform your wine and travel aspirations in the year ahead. Cheers, and happy New Year!
It's been a strange stretch, with a bizarre itinerary that found me flying to Dallas and San Francisco in order to get from Washington, DC to Boston, a jaunt through Connecticut, Rhode Island, and back to Massachusetts, and -- now -- down to about sixty hours before I head to New York en route to London, Stockholm, and Copenhagen.
American Airlines flight 94 from New York to Madrid was one of the very first flight reviews I wrote for WTF, flying economy class back in 2016, so I was excited to return to this flight in business class up front. American is planning to retire these aging airplanes over the next several years, but I feel that enough travelers between the U.S. and Spain read this blog to justify a review of a product that won't necessarily be around forever. Overall impression is that of an enjoyable enough experience aboard an aircraft that is rapidly feeling more and more out of date.
The question is always packaged a bit differently depending on who asks, but suffice it to say that I'm often asked some variation of the same question question: I am miserable when I travel because [it's so expensive, it's so uncomfortable, it's so inconvenient], so what are the core credit cards I should sign up for to make it all a bit better?
The American Express Platinum is a great card that makes a lot of sense for frequent travelers who spend enough time in the airports featuring Centurion Lounges (more on that in a moment) such that they get outsized value from the excellent complimentary bar and buffet on offer there. The additional travel benefits, including point earning, can be profoundly useful depending on how you organize your travel, and what you value personally.
Something wonderful is happening. As a new generation of oenophiles makes wine and cities -- two of the world's oldest institutions -- their own, the two are blending in both ways and places most unexpected.Wineries, wine bars, and restaurants with excellent glass and bottle lists are often reflective of the local culture surrounding them, and -- when such regions exist -- of the wine made in the countryside beyond the next mountain. I can think of few other ways to connect more deeply and learn more thoroughly about a place than to do so in the company one keeps with a glass of wine in hand.
Meghan and I recently flew aboard Air France in economy class from Washington to Paris. This is essentially the reverse of the flight Kathleen reviewed last year, though we have some elaboration and additional recommendations to offer a year on. Air France is one of the last traditional airlines that at least still seems to convey a sense of actually caring about the passenger experience, so we found this to be overall a pretty good way to cross the ocean. Read our review, insights, and tips here.
I make no secret of my love for cities, and less secret still of my particular love for the capital of Spain. I always seem to return to the first European city with which I fell in love on a visit years ago with my grandparents. Though I've written here and there about the city before, I've recently found myself responding by email to several friends seeking advice for their time there. Thus, this Wine:Thirty Flight Guide to Madrid is born.
The soft sounds of happy conversation, clinking of glasses upon tables, and occasional popping of a Champagne cork waft about open, airy spaces filled with white paper lights hanging from the rafters, plants, and a tidy bar. Yeah, I'm sitting in an airport, though you wouldn't believe it. Turns out that the "Atrium" area of American Airlines Flagship Lounge in Terminal 8 at New York's JFK International Airport is one of the best things going in domestic air travel.
I used to dread Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). Now it has become one of my favorite layovers on the east coast. Yes, you read that right... I am actually enjoying my connections at PHL thanks to last autumn's opening of the American Express Centurion Lounge in Terminal A. Its combination of bright modern spaces, excellent cuisine designed by local-Philadelphia award winning Israeli Chef Michael Solomonov, thoughtful wine and cocktail lists, and always warm hospitality makes it one of my favorite airport lounge experiences in the United States.
Don't look now, but Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) -- the DC area's third largest in terms of passenger traffic since being overtaken by nearby Reagan National (DCA) in 2015 -- is taxiing towards the runway of a veritable renaissance. This could be a big year here, and we could not be more excited for the principle international airport serving our home city.
Earlier this week we shared our 2017 Best Nine, the nine most liked photos from @wine30flight on Instagram in 2017, but we were interested that many of our favorites weren't actually the ones that had attracted the most likes. In fact, only a single photo -- from Vinarna Bokovka wine bar in Prague -- overlapped. No matter. This #ThrowbackThursday we're sharing our picks for Best Nine. They took us to Sweden, Hungary, Czechia, Spain, Massachusetts, and Washington, DC. Each tells a different story.
We're bidding adieu to the past year with our 2017 Best Nine, that is, the nine most liked photos from @wine30flight on Instagram in 2017 (follow us!). Our Best Nine took us abroad to Portugal, Spain, Czechia, and around the United States to Massachusetts, Texas, Tennessee, and home to Arlington, Virginia. Each tells a different story in wine. Read for yourself.
Iberia -- Spain's main airline with its hub in Madrid -- operates a trans-Atlantic joint venture arrangement with its partners British Airways (the two are actually the same company), American Airlines, and FinnAir. We have crossed the ocean on both American and British at least once this year, so were happy to add Iberia's economy class service from Madrid to New York (JFK) aboard an Airbus A340 to our experience. This is our review, for anyone considering a similar trip.
Two trends are on our mind as we share our top holiday gift picks for travelers and wine lovers. First are the new airline-imposed bans on smart luggage -- suitcases featuring non-removable batteries, plugs, GPS tracking, bluetooth, or motors (yes, there is actually a motorized suitcase you can ride) -- that have us thinking "Wow, we're happy we never jumped on that bandwagon". The second is more philosophical: Travel makes me a minimalist. If I don't need it on the road, I probably don't need it at all.
I never thought I'd say this, but I've determined that Iberia's European-style business class is worth a few extra euros on a flight -- we'll say -- longer than two hours. I actually flew the service twice this fall, once from Arrecife (on Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands) to Madrid, and then about a month later from Madrid to Stockholm, Sweden. The service was consistent between both flights, though my discussion here focuses on the first.
We're off again on a surprise pop-up junket whose origins are much of the reason we've gone the longest period in Wine:Thirty Flight's history without a proper blog post. This swing has us passing through our well-trod territory in Spain and Sweden, but adding stops in Hungary and the Czech Republic, as well as a bite to eat in the American Airlines Flagship Lounge dining room at New York JFK airport, and a quick hello at Chimichurri Grill (one of our very favorite restaurants).
We've just time for a quick check in from Arrecife, on the island of Lanzarote in Spain's Canary Islands where we've had a remarkable string of days meeting wonderful people, sampling their unique food and wine, and drinking some of their spectacular wines.
We've landed in Madrid, Spain on the first flight leg of what we'll call our autumn junket, en route to the Canary Islands a bit west of the southern coast of Morocco. We'll return to Madrid -- one of our favorite cities -- on its own next week.
With Wine:Thirty Flight's next oversees trip just two weeks away, today I found myself preparing to beat seven timezone's worth of jet lag by scheduling sleeping hours on my calendar over several days leading to our departure. Such is my particular technique for getting the most out of my travel time from the moment I land: Adjust your sleep schedule incrementally, an hour each day, until you get as close as possible to syncing with your new timezone the day you depart. Here's how it works.
Situated on Sweden's east coast, Stockholm is a city of islands perforated and interconnected by canals that ultimately flow to the Baltic Sea. Its maritime informs its aesthetic, a city whose urban geography reflects its national flag: brightly colored buildings atop a sea of beautiful blue. It's a gem of a European capital, ever as charming, historic, and regal as those to the south; cool in May, and connected to the sea as few others are. This is our weekend guide.
But I'd love to hear from others: What are your favorite things to do when escaping Washington, DC? We'll say within a two to three hour drive. Wine or not. Comment, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail away!
Why does Delta Airlines appear to be operating the baseball park equivalent of an airport lounge inside of Nationals Park, in a city (Washington, DC) where it is the only "big four" airline without a hub?
There will be no more linen this year. Last night's wine, Vinho Verde, will perhaps linger -- there isn't a rule for that -- but it won't be long now before we trade in the $6.99 summer spritz for Garnacha and Cabernet Franc. Meanwhile, these red pants are about to spend the rest of 2017 in a drawer.
I'm looking towards next week, the eleventh (and final) straight week during which I will have flown somewhere for either business or pleasure. It's actually been a great run, at the end of which I find myself reflecting on the lessons I've learned since a new job served as my first foray into the world of frequent travel about ten years ago. I've traveled often since I was a kid, but in recent years I've picked up five notions that help me to still keep travel fun. This is the advice I'd give to adventure seekers and business travelers taking to the skies on a more regular basis.
The popular travel blog One Mile at a Time published this piece last month, I’m Not Sure What To Make Of This Travel Horror Story, that recounted a sad incident in which a couple was turned back to check-in, missing their entire vacation due to "travel document" issues. Let's seize this moment to highlight the perils of getting too creative with your travel itinerary. This is particularly relevant to those of us who frequent off the beaten path places such as (ahem) wine country...
Creative point and mile-earning partnerships have been a neat development in travel the last several years. Delta Airlines has quietly given new ways to earn to those of us looking for that next flight to our favorite city or wine region. I've been really happy to pick up some extra miles with Delta via their newish partnerships with Lyft and Airbnb. Spend a dollar, earn a mile. Here's how to do it.
Meghan recently received a note in conjunction with her United Airlines MileagePlus account inviting her to earn 6,500 bonus miles by signing up for the American Cellars Wine Club through Vinesse Wines. While I am a big skeptic of online wine clubs, I am also a big fan of airline miles, so at a risk of $41.95 I signed up to try the introductory offer with an open mind. Consider doing so yourself if the notion of six bottles of wine plus 6,500 United miles in exchange for $41.95 of your hard earned money seems appealing.