Showing posts with label Starbucks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Starbucks. Show all posts

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Just a ‘dash of Dubai’ to spice up the trip!

I was disappointed that we had only a few hours in Dubai – that fascinating, modern metropolis that sits in the southern Persian Gulf, a part of the United Arab Emirates – en route to Bangkok, Thailand.

We could have spent the night there instead of having a three-hour layover but still only a matter of a few more hours wouldn’t be enough to explore this city which ranks Number 1 in the world’s destinations by Trip Advisor’s 2015 Travelers Choice Awards.

So our stop was just a dash of Middle Eastern seasoning; a taster for what we have in store on the cruise with an itinerary that allows time in other exotic Middle Eastern ports. Even though it was a brief visit, it didn’t take long for me to utter my favorite, “We aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto!”. . .


Just strolling through the long hallways of shops, was a clue. How often do we see camels in merchandise displays back home?


We hail from the Land of Starbucks (that would be Seattle for those of you not familiar with the brand – but is anyone not familiar with this brand?) This was the first of our ubiquitous coffee shops that we’d seen displaying the name in Arabic. We suspect it won’t be the last time before our trip is over.


The airport, the sixth busiest in the world, is as sprawling as the city/emirate it serves.  We were forewarned that it could take 45 minutes to reach gates of connecting flights once we landed in the early evening hours.  By the time our flight to Bangkok left, the gate from which we were leaving seemed to be at the end of an endless – and empty – terminal.


Moving walkways help ease the distance between the gates.

 I told you in the last post about flying Emirates Airlines Business Class but I didn’t mention that waiting for flights and connections, we were able to use Business class lounges – also rather luxurious places that combined restaurant, lounge, and rooms to take showers and freshen up (which we did). I was so busy doing that in Dubai I didn’t take photos so just imagine it by looking at The Scout at the Emirates Business Class lounge in San Francisco.


Pretty amazing we have to admit!  But even topping that was the First Class lounge. Remember, I told you they had 12 First Class ‘suites’ on our flight of nearly 500 passengers, well this is where they waited for connecting flights in Dubai:


Yes, one can only imagine what that lounge must be like . . .

So we were off to Bangkok at 10 p.m. arriving the following morning about 7:30 am – rush hour traffic time.  It made for an hour and a half taxi ride (slightly over $20US, by the way) to our Marriott Vacation Club  ‘home-away-from-home’.  I’ll tell you about it soon - it wasn't the stereotypical Marriott, that's for sure!

Thanks for your time with us.  We can’t tell you how nice it is -- especially when on the other side of the world --  to find your comments on Facebook or here in the comment section – thanks to those subscriber/friends out there in the blogosphere who’ve written emails.  All are appreciated!! Happy and safe travels to you~

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Travel Tip Tuesday: Do-It-Yourself Room Service

There is nothing we like better when traveling than to sip that first cup of morning coffee in bed or while sitting on the deck enjoying the view from our room.  Just grabbing a few more minutes of lazy relaxation is a perfect start to a day.

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On our recent trip to Greece that’s how we pretty much started each day. At the Hotel Manessi in Poros, Greece we were up early to watch the waterfront come to life each morning – cup of coffee in hand.

Pt1Crete2013 074Most of the places we stayed in didn’t have room service options but they had something even better: a pot in which to boil water, cups, saucers and spoons.

We were at the Corelli Suites in Elounda, Crete when I took the photo below and to the right.

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Not only was this do-it-yourself room service convenient, it also saved us a couple hundred dollars over the course of our month-long stay.

Sfakia2Amster2013 364Good coffee – no longer just the Nescafe powered stuff – can be found in upscale coffee bars throughout Greece. In the places we visited, the cost was about $2US a cup for coffee and  $3US for a cappuccino.

Don’t get me wrong, we did visit any number of those coffee houses for a java jolt in the afternoon, like the one pictured above in Heraklion, Crete, but morning was the time for ‘home brew’.

Doing Do-It-Yourself Room Service

We brought a pound of Starbucks ground coffee, the individual filter holder and filters in our suitcase.  As we used the coffee and filters, it made room in the suitcase for souvenirs like honey and spices. We did replenish the Starbucks (yes, Starbucks has come to some places in Greece) but bought a smaller quantity to use up before our return.

Arizona Spring 2012 147Note:  When we take road trips that begin in Kirkland, I always stick our hotpot and two cups into the car.  Two years ago, while staying at an upscale Vegas hotel, that didn’t offer in-room coffee, we saved having to dress and go to the coffee shop (where two coffees were $10US) by simply using our do-it-yourself room service pack.
Do you use do-it-yourself room service?  If so, what tips do you have for us on this Travel Tip Tuesday?  Please add a comment below or shoot us an email and we will make sure we publish them in a future post.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Greece: Coffee and Computer Culture

Po Po Po!!!*  There’s been a cultural revolution (the good kind) taking place in Greece the last few years and so focused has mainstream media been on the country’s economic crisis, they’ve failed to tell us about it.

Perhaps coffee and computers are so common-place in newsrooms that reporters didn’t recognize it, however, the change has been dramatic in areas we recently revisited.

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So let us -- who hail from Seattle (The Land of Starbucks) and Microsoft (Bill Gates and Gang) –  tell you:

Greeks are wired (the state of being resulting from ingestion of large amounts of caffeine) and at the same time unwired (by Wi-Fi.)

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Based on our previous trip’s experiences, we arrived with our pound of coffee and filters, prepared to use the hot pots provided in our rooms to ‘brew’ our java. Being of the Starbucks habit, we weren’t fond their mild, instant Nescafe – served everywhere as coffee three years ago. (Okay, it is still popular and used in drinks such as chilled Frappe's.) 

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Lattes and cappuccinos had been rather exotic and hard to find.  That's all changed as coffee shops now line the streets. In Iraklion, Crete, for example, (above) we found so many chic, upbeat coffee shops (including Starbucks) that was hard to choose between them.

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The same was true in city after city we visited.  On a Sunday at the Ministry Music Bar in Sparti, the heart of the Peloponnese, tables were packed long into the night with caffeine-consuming patrons – all of whom seemed to be checking their computers and mobile devices because. . .

Wi-Fi has come to Greece.  Signals sometimes can’t compete with centuries old stone walls of which many structures are made, but generally it is available everywhere.   Our jewelry-making friend George Chalkoutsis, living in the tiny hamlet of Kastri on Crete’s southern coast exemplifies the change.  At the time we met, he didn't have a computer because. . .

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Three years ago there was no computer access in Kastri. We traveled up a  looping road to a village perched high on a hill above and then sought out its sole internet cafĂ© to check our emails.

I expressed surprise during this visit to see that George had a laptop in his studio.  “But, of course,” he replied. “Computers have come. I am on Facebook – and Skype. Are you on Skype? We could chat after you get home.”

Po Po Po! I had to admit we don’t yet have Skype – nor the skills to use it if we did.
*Po Po Po!  The phrase is a popular one in Greek.  It is a multi-purpose sort of exclamation covering surprise, wariness, disapproval or approval – depending on the tone, the accompanying look and the situation in which it is used.

Hope to see you back again later this week when we take you to one of Greece’s most beautiful beaches.  To receive our posts in your inbox, just sign up on our home page,

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Signs: Preventing “Lost” ~ Providing “Laughs”

When visiting a new place, don’t you find yourself often relying on signs to get you to where you want to go?  We do.
And often, while preventing lost, signs are providing laughs, like that morning in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. . .

Carnival Cruise 2012 053

If you didn’t know it, Cabo is a deep-sea fisherman’s paradise, so how appropriate to name the streets after the pescados? Here it is for Dorado and Marlin fish, both types of fish caught in these waters. (And two very important directions – to our ship and restrooms).

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How about those rickety buses belching exhaust fumes as they pass? They may not be modern, but one look at the window and you know where they will be stopping.

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Cabo is also a  party town – this store seemed to offer ‘parties-to- go’. . .or vitamin water; whatever the bebida, (beverage) it took to refuel your engine.

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One thing travelers to Mexico’s beach towns must be aware of are the ‘free breakfast. . . or lunch. . . or tour. . . or drink’ offers from timeshare sales touts.  This bar made it clear you wouldn’t have to be on guard.

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We spotted this bit of Happy Hour philosophy while sipping a latte across the street at . . .yes, I have to admit it: Starbucks, the Seattle-based coffee company.

And for my grand finale on this Travel Photo Thursday, I leave you with this gem outside a farmacia, (pharmacy)we walked past:

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For more travel photos be sure to stop by Budget Travelers Sandbox today!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

“The Bluest Skies You’ve Ever Seen Are In . . .

. . .Seattle!  And the hills the greenest, green are in Seattle. . .”

If you watched television back in the late 1960’s you're probably humming 'the tune' already and if not, click the link and watch a YouTube clip of the show, “Here Come the Brides” that aired from 1968 –1970, putting Seattle on the map and the song on the charts.

Seattle, these days, is a far cry from the remote, forested outpost portrayed in that show. It's a regular high-rise, high-density city.

Although it's only a 20-minute Metro bus ride away from my driveway, I admit that I am guilty of ignoring our state’s Emerald City.  I go there to show out-of-town guests our touristy spots like The Space Needle, and Monorail from the 1962 Worlds Fair, Pike Place Market, the Washington State Ferries . . .
Have you ever found yourself guilty of living so close to a ‘destination’ that you don’t often visit it?   I haven’t spent time really exploring this city-next-door since I did the walk through history article for the Seattle Times

But this week I’ll be joining the 10 million tourists who visit  each year~I am attending a conference there. (Can you believe that just under a million of those visitors are cruise ship passengers these days? )

Sadly the weatherman has dashed my hopes of seeing the ‘bluest skies’ – heavy rain is predicted.  But in this post-Bobby-Sherman era, what else could I expect. . . well, okay, maybe a cup of  Starbucks?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Starbucks and other travel tips

You might call us cheap, or frugal, or thrifty. . .or you might call us wise travelers who look for money-saving deals.  Whatever you call us, our approach to travel allows us to spend nearly four months a year living out of our suitcases. Here's some ways we've saved money:
                         Starbucks menu - Rhodes

Saving Money

Starbucks, our Seattle-based coffee company that has taken the world by the cup, has already saved us several hundred dollars this year. How? In a word, Via.  Via, is their instant coffee ( Italian/bold and Columbian/ milder), sold in a 12-packet box for $9.95, less than a dollar a cup. The Italian is strong enough for us to use a single packet for two cups of coffee.

In Greece, the price averaged 2.50E, or a bit over $3, a cup for coffee; no free refill and was often made with a packet of a mild instant Nescafe.  Being accustomed to at least two cups each in the morning and another in mid-afternoon of strong coffee, we calculated that over the course of the month we were gone, we would have paid more than $300US for coffee had we kept up our caffeine habit at restaurants and hotels. 

By using the hot water pots provided in our rooms -- a nice touch that we've found a part of our European stays -- and our Via, we saved big bucks.  We replenished our supply at the Rhodes Starbucks. 

We were not so frugal as to pass up cappucinos or lattes, but made our own black coffee. . .except on our Easy Jet flight from Rhodes to London where we paid 2.50E for a cup of Via. 
Back home, I've purchased hot water pot to use at home that is similar to those we used in Europe. I took it along on our recent road trip through the Western United States. It was incredibly convenient to have coffee in our hotel rooms and it again saved us money;  a cup of plain black coffee at Encore in Las Vegas was $3.50.

Room Rates

We learned a lesson about room rates on our road trip. Opting out of the afternoon pool time when Las Vegas temperatures hit 107-degrees, we did some Web-surfing in preparation for our departure the following day. We were seeking reasonably priced first-night-on-the-road destinations. The place that had the best prices it seemed  was Reno, where at its Silver Legacy Casino Resort, the internet price for a standard room was shown as $49.  We still were hesitant to book it, just because some other place might call out along the way. We planned to just call from the road the next day to make the reservation. 

Out of curiosity, I called the hotel while we had the price on the computer and was told the rate for the sametype room on the same night would be $89; at best it would be $59 if I held any of a number of memberships. . . that settled it; we decided to book then and there - using the internet.

       Greek trip began on Kirkland bus

Public transit
If you pack as we do - no more than a roller bag sized for an overhead bin and smaller carry-on bags then public transit systems can be navigated with luggage and save enormous amounts of money. Using our local Metro bus  and new LINK light rail system we traveled from our Kirkland home to SeaTac some 25 miles away for $10.50 for the two of us; taxi fare would have been $50. 

In London we caught the Piccadilly Line (The Tube) for a 45-minute trip to Heathrow after walking two blocks to the station from our hotel. The cost for both L9, or about $13 at the exchange rate at the time.  This compares favorably with the taxi fare to Paddington Station and then the Express Train to the airport. The train tickets alone would have been L33 or just under $50US.

FROM THE INBOX -Places to Stay

United Kingdom: Val and Bill Kitson, the murder-mystery writer and his editor wife, whom we met in Crete, reported staying at a great -- reasonably priced as well -- place on a recent stop in his book signing tour.  They recommend  The Best Western in Mexborough where they nabbed a Saturday night stay for L56 and that included free WiFi and a buffet breakfast.

Greece:  Michael has sent some great ideas for places to stay and eat in Karpathos, Greece.  Karpathos is an island between Crete and Rhodes where we'd contemplated a stop on our recent trip, but ferry schedules didn't cooperate. We would like to return to Greece in the spring and Michael has recommended Holy Week as the best time to visit Karpathos and Olympos for the island's best photo ops.  Do a little armchair travel and check out his son's website,  for great photos and information.

We are always looking for travel tips; if you have some to share please comment below or send them to so that they can be included in a future Tips Post.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Move over EasyJet - our money-saving tip

EasyJet is among the low cost European airlines we've flown in recent years as part of our quest to save euros, and even more importantly, US dollars, whereever and whenever possible without foregoing safety. The airline flies modern Boeing 737's, and offers the pay-as-you-go services from buying a cup of Starbucks Via instant coffee to checking a bag for a heafty fee. For short-haul flights we can do without coffee, and we needed clothes, so paid the bag fee - and still paid far less than using a traditional airline.

Preparing for this year's trip, we were about to book a flight on EasyJet from London's Gatwick Airport to Heraklion, Crete (the same routing we used last year) when we happened upon a website that provides a quick round-up of all budget European airlines called Jumble Fly.

That's when we discovered another budget airline that not only offered a cheaper fare than EasyJet, but departed Gatwick at the more civilized hour of 8 a.m. (not 6 a.m.). It also offers a miriad of pay-as-you-go services. Not only did we book the flight, but also bought their 'adult extra bundle' for each of us which allows us to check a bag, get a full meal AND sit together for a mere 14L ($21US) per person . . .about $3US less than just checking one bag on EasyJet had cost last year.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Easy Jet ~ Easy Coffee

Several of you expressed some concern over our flying Easy Jet to Crete. . .was it safe? What kind of aircraft, had we flown it before? Answers: yes, we have flown it before and would do it again in an instant. Speaking of instant, that is my lead in to Starbucks. . .

Easy Jet with its cheapy flights to detinations throughout Europe was proudly announcing Starbucks was being served on board. It was: in instant packets. You could choose medium bodied and receive a tube of Columbian instant or strong and get the Italian instant and a cup of hot water. The cost 3E per cup. Starbucks hot chocolate - another powdered packet was 3E per cup and Tazo tea 2.50E.

We tried to buy instant packets at the Starbuck's in Chania, but the clerk said it hadn't yet arrived. . .he had only been shown packets by folks stopping by hoping to replenish their stock as we had been (we bought ours at Houghton in Kirkland).

As for Easy Jet, our aircraft was an Airbus - modern and comfortable.

On a final Easy Jet note, those of you who followed the packing know that we opted for the Rick Steves' travel plan: take carryon liquids, lighten the load, bring the bag with you no need to check it. . .it worked well on British Air but Easy Jet has a one bag limit carry-on and that bag could be a purse. . .so 16 pounds (about $25) each carryon bag later, our suitcases were checked. . .and I carried on the tiny liquids in a plastic bag in my purse; Joel carried the Netbook. The good news though is I get to buy all sorts of olive oil beauty items from hair masques to foot creams and for a fraction of the price I would pay back home!


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