Archive | May 2013

Barcelona – Castle Montjuic and The Magic Fountains

Continuing the Paris/Barcelona Trip Report, if you missed it you can read from the start here: Paris and Barcelona Part 1. To read from the start of the Barcelona segment, see my post on Air France and Atenea Aparthotel.

We arrived at our hotel (Atenea Aparthotel) around 5pm, and were ready to head back out around 6. We used one of our T-10 metro trips and took the metro line 3 to Placa Espanya and caught bus 24 to ride up to Castle Montjuic. Unfortunately it was rainy out, so the views weren’t as as great as I had been hoping for. Bus 24 takes you past Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium/Park and many other neat areas. If we had had more than two and a half days in Barcelona it would have been nice to explore the area a little more. The alternative to the bus ride is a cable car that also takes you up to that area, but as it stopped running at 7 and it was already 6 we went ahead and took the bus.

Cable Car to Castle Montjuic

Cable Car to Castle Montjuic

The Castle was interesting to walk around, and was especially great since it was free. It had great views of Barcelona even in the rain, as well as the harbor.

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From Paris to Barcelona – Air France and Atenea Aparthotel

Continuing the Paris/Barcelona Trip Report, if you missed it you can read from the start here: Paris and Barcelona Part 1

We flew out of Paris from Orly (ORY) to Barcelona (BCN). We had flown into Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG), so getting to Orly was new to us. My unlimited metro pass had stopped working during the week (I think I put it next to something I shouldn’t have – opps), so I had to get it replaced. When the guy replaced it he somehow gave me an extra day and my pass worked on Friday. My friend’s pass did not though. We took a bus to the RER station, where my friend bought a ticket for RER B to ORLYVal. Her ticket cost €11,30. I only had to buy the Orlyval ticket at the Antony RER stop since my pass worked, so mine was just €8,30. The Orlyval ride was short and we arrived with plenty of time.

As we were used to only flying in the US, flying out of Orly was a little odd. Security did not require me to take my shoes off, and no one even checked my passport or id. We simply printed our boarding passes at the kiosk and showed that to get on the plane. The flight was run by Air France and wasn’t crowded at all. We actually enjoyed it, other than the issue of flying while sick. If you’ve never flown while sick, it hurts. Your ears don’t pressurize right if you’re congested and it can be very painful!

We arrived at Barcelona around 3pm and bought an aerobus ticket to get into the city. My card would not work in the machine, so we had to use cash to purchase the tickets. I’m not sure if it was a chip and pin issue (mine is chip and signature), or just that machine. The bus ride into Barcelona was about 30 minutes and cost us €5,90 each.

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Variable-load Visa Gift Cards Possibly Coming Back to Office Depot?

I just got back from Office Depot where I found the variable load $20-500 for a $4.95 fee Visa gift cards on the shelf! There was a stack of the Vanilla Visa and the One Vanilla Visa. I went up to the counter to purchase the One Vanilla one first in hopes of potentially using it with a pin to load my Bluebird account, but it came back “Item Not Found” and wouldn’t come up in their system! So I tried the Vanilla Visa and got the same result. They were unable to sell them. This is the second Office Depot in the last couple of weeks where I have seen them in the store. I don’t know if it’s a screw up or they are eventually coming back, but I’d like to think it’s a good sign!!!

Vanilla Visa At Office Depot

Vanilla Visa At Office Depot

…and…

OneVanilla Visa At Office Depot

OneVanilla Visa At Office Depot

For anyone who is unfamiliar with why these matter, it is possible to purchase these with the Ink Bold or Ink Plus business cards which get 5x Chase Ultimate Rewards Points at office supply stores. This is essentially a very cheap way to add miles or hotel points. Especially with gift cards which allow you to set a pin and load your Bluebird account with them to then make bill or loan payments.

The cards where immediately pulled from the shelf at my Office Depot since they could not be sold. Please let me know if you have any luck at yours in the comments below. Good luck!

App-O-Rama Results!

For those who are new, an app-o-rama means applying for multiple credit cards on the same day. This is usually done so that 1) multiple inquiries from the same bank will sometimes merge into one inquiry hard pull on your credit so that it minimizes the impact to your score and 2) the banks you are asking for credit do not see the inquiries from all the other banks you are asking for credit at the same time. After 91 days, you can apply for more credit as older inquiries cycle off your report. I explained in my last post which cards I was applying for this time around, and a little bit on why.

WARNING: this hobby is not for everyone. If you cannot use your credit responsibly and pay off your cards each month, interest on the cards will override ANY benefits you get. Don’t attempt this if you are not disciplined. I treat my cards like cash and pay them off either right before the statement hits or immediately after. If your credit score isn’t great I would not attempt this without researching the effects. However, scores in the upper 700’s don’t benefit you much as they increase. If you have a great score/history and don’t need a mortgage or loan any time soon, use your score to your advantage. This will negatively impact your average age of accounts. If your score is low and you are new to credit cards I’d definitely hold off and establish your credit/history some. See my post about traveling on your credit score for more information on this topic.

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App-O-Rama Time Again!

It’s been 91 days since my last confession…I mean…round of credit card applications. I had several possibilities I was considering for this round. Now that Japan is booked, my new long term goal is eventually a trip to Australia/New Zealand. Of course after reading up on it, this seems to be one of the most difficult trips to book based on other bloggers’ experiences.

Since I can’t get all the points I need in one go (or even two or three!), I’m going to approach it with flexibility. It looks like airfare-wise, my best options are US (110k business class – but no one way), AA (125k business class, one way for half that) or United (135k business class, one way for half that). I’m going to pursue cards that could help me in multiple ways, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards points which I could use for United miles or Hyatt hotels. I’m also going for the American Express Starwood Preferred card, since SPG points can be used for hotel or converted to airline miles and when you convert 20,000 you get 5,000 free. They convert 1:1 to American and US, 2:1 to United (so not a good option).

So, with that in mind…

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Points Destination #2 – Cheap Hilton Award Option

I just got back from the wedding of two friends in Gainesville, Florida this past weekend where I needed a hotel. Some of my friends found rooms for $60-$70 each night in the area. I used my Bluebird account combined with Vanilla Reloads to get a room at the Hilton Garden Inn nearby for $39.95. Since I have Hilton Gold from the Citi Hilton Reserve card this also included wifi and a hot breakfast.

Hilton Garden Inn in Gainesville, FL

Hilton Garden Inn in Gainesville, FL

It was nothing fancy, but it was easily acquired for less than I would have paid otherwise.

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Paris Day 5 – Sacre Coeur and Parc des Buttes Chaumont

Continuing the Paris Trip Report, if you missed it check out:
My Air France Economy Flight To Paris
Hotel Cardinal Rive Gauche

This was our last day in Paris, and also unfortunately the first we both starting feeling sick. Remember that woman I mentioned who sat next to us on the plane? Yeah, thanks lady. She coughed multiple times in our direction and it worked. Luckily it was just a cold and could have been much worse – but wasn’t much fun even so. We decided since our museum pass was over and we had hit most of the items on our list we were just going to have a relaxing day and only do two things.

We slept in a little and headed to Sacre Coeur around 10 or 11am. It was PACKED. This was the first point on the trip we actually felt a little unsafe. I had read terrible warnings online about scammers and pickpockets and was worried, but didn’t feel like we had encountered much. Within five minutes of being at Sacre Coeur a guy had tried to tie a bracelet on to my friend’s wrist, by forcefully grabbing her. She said no and had to shove him to move away. I had read online that they put the bracelet on then when they are done ask for money. There were also several find the item shuffle games going on in the street.

Sacre Coeur itself was very nice. We took the funicular up the hill since the metro pass covered it (and we had already done tons of stairs by this point!).

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

It was very pretty inside. Entrance was free, but it was €6 to go up into the dome. If you hadn’t noticed by now I love views, so I climbed 300 more stairs. Yay! The views from the top were nice. I enjoyed it and spent a while up there taking pictures.
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