I’m Selling Photos Now

Hello again everyone!

I finally made the jump and have opened an online shop on Etsy to start selling photos. My shop can be found here:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/TravelingTriPhotos

At the moment, I have 6 digital downloads for anyone who wants to print out their own postcards, and 1 listing where I will send you a physical 4″ x 6″ postcard in the mail. Don’t worry, the postcard will be sent in an envelope so you can still send it to someone if you want!

Coming Back and Changes To The Blog

Hey everyone! It’s been a long time since I last posted something but I’m back for now.

Life has been hectic, but soon I will be looking forward to a more structured schedule and regularity. Most of my free time has not been spent training for triathlons, or traveling, or reviewing tech. I have done some of those things like taken some trips up to Seattle, ran a 10k, and did some personal reviewing of two 25mm lenses for the micro 4/3 mirrorless camera system, but I decided not to review any of those.

Instead, I have been playing Pokemon Go and making connections with the people in my life.

One of the reasons I chose to start this blog was to force myself to try something new, and one new thing I have started to work with is film photography, on top of the YouTube channel I started.

Moving off-campus (I had lived on-campus at my university while I attended the last 6 years) has enabled me to more easily use my smart home devices like my Google Home, Chromecast, and Roku TV. Watching a slideshow of select photos I’ve taken over the past year or so has reminded me I wanted to use photography and videography as a means to push my comfort zone and put myself out there.

Long story short, I have had my rolls of film developed and enjoyed a select few more than others and made a photobook out of it. Why? Because I thought I could maybe work towards a gallery showing, or at least display my art for people to see.

I’ve had someone tell me they thought my prints were worthy of being postcards and others should be blown up to at least an 11″x14″ print. These comments got me thinking about selling some of my prints, so I’m going to get the ball rolling by selecting some photos and figuring out how to start a store for buying prints of my photos.

I will try to get my store built on this blog but if I have to create a new website on a new platform I will simply create another post about where I’ve created the store.

So, I hope to see you when my store goes live! Let me know what sizes of prints you might like, maybe those postcards or a big poster sized print.

New PointBreaks Hotel List from IHG

If you remember from my posts about IHG’s PointBreaks deals, you’ll know there are a select few hotels which are offered at a discounted 5,000 IHG points/night. This list usually has inexpensive hotels, but even saving $75-100/night by booking at a nightly rate of 5,000 points can save you enough to buy your tickets to visit.

Well, my recent visit to France to watch the Tour de France didn’t quite satisfy my desire to explore France. Finding new places to visit lead me to the city of Clermont-Ferrand, and the Holiday Inn Clermont-Ferrand Centre.

The new list of PointBreaks hotels is up and the Holiday Inn Clermont-Ferrand Centre is right at the top of the list for Europe. Now, this hotel goes for anywhere between 60-80 Euros, which is $70-94, so it’s not terribly expensive, however booking this for only 5,000 points can mean the difference between 1 night in a hotel in Paris or 7 nights in a less well known city.

Am I going back to France this early? Maybe not, but this city looks exciting and the hotel is rather enticing. Plus, the average elevation of this city is above 1000ft so I could do some triathlon training at a slightly higher elevation than I’m accustomed to in San Jose.

The Tour de France live!

I saw the end of the Tour de France live today and it was spectacular.

The race didn’t start until nearly 5:00 PM local time today so I had plenty of time to catch up on sleep (which I did by sleeping until 10 am) and relax before heading out to watch the Tour.

Pokemon Go started an event today and released the first Legendary Pokemon (Articuno and Lugia) as raid battle targets, so I tried my hand at the first one I saw, and I failed. And I failed again, and again, but it was still fun and it wasn’t even noon yet!

But time started to pass quickly as I started packing and changing outfits for the day. And eventually it became half passed 3. So I asked my dad if he wanted to head out to grab some lunch on our way to the Champs-Élysées where the Tour would do 8 laps before concluding for the year.

Our hotel, the Holiday Inn Paris Opera – Grands Blvd, is directly outside of a metro station. Literally, outside the door are the stairs leading into the metro station.

We hopped on Line 8 which took us to Line 1 which should have dropped us off at the Champs-Élysées, but that stop was skipped because of the Tour so we got off at the next stop.

This worked out in our favor because we were situated next to a bridge the riders crossed over right before heading to the Champs-Élysées, which was right after they came over a bridge just far enough away we could see them in the distance before they whizzed passed us.

Many people walked from the first vantage point to the Champs-Élysées; my dad and I walked to the Franklin D Roosevelt circle not far from our original spot which allowed us to see the riders ride towards and away from the Arc de Triomphe (which we will be visiting and entering in 23 hours).

Given the 8 laps the riders made along the same road, this meant spectators at the Champs-Élysées could see the riders zoom by 16 times if they arrived at the Avenue early enough. My dad and I, however, were not there so we missed a couple laps and a few of the potential video/photo ops.

But 10 times was plenty for the riders passing by us, and I got plenty of video footage on my cameras, and my dad shot numerous (a few hundred) photos.

Alas, the race ended around 7:15 PM and we had to head out with the rest of the thousands of spectators.

As for the experience, it was great.

Seeing the best of the best (at least those still in the ride after crashes and what not) live, in person, at the most famous bike race in modern history was exceptional. I would gladly visit next year, and even make it an annual tradition.

The only thing which would make watching the Tour live any better would have been getting a signature or meet & greet with the riders. I’ll just have to wait and see how things go in the next few years to see if my dream comes true.

Euro-trip Part 1: Getting to New York

Flight 1: Sacramento to Minneapolis-St. Paul (SMF-MSP) – DL1742

This was a red-eye flight leaving at 12:52 am. Delta starts boarding 40 minutes early so the flight started pre-boarding at 12:12 am.

We flew on a MD-90 which is roughly the same as a Boeing 717, which is what our next flight would be on. Seats were arranged as 2-3 in Economy (1-2 in First). This meant the overhead storage was above only 2 seats, on the left that was both seats and the right the middle and window seats, leaving a weird gap on the headspace while walking through the plane.

The seats weren’t particularly comfortable because they were flat and hard. Legroom was minimal and the food tray was not sturdy, especially when it had to rest on my knees in the down position.

I chose this flight for multiple reasons, but one was being able to record the sunrise out of the window. I captured some pictures and did a [time lapse] which can be found on my YouTube channel.

We landed around 6:00 am local time, which put us a little ahead of schedule and gave us some extra time to get from one end of the airport to the opposite side of the airport. Something which took about 10-15 minutes. But it was worth it because we stopped by the Escape Lounge in MSP.

Escape Lounge at MSP

Considering it was about 6:30 am, the lounge was pretty quiet and pleasant. However, the lounge was still being set up with the food being put out for about 30 or 45 minutes after arriving in the lounge.

The lounge is pretty big with lots of seating that was mostly new; maybe a few chairs were 2 or 3 years old. I think this is the first lounge I’ve been to with paper coffee cups for taking your espresso out of the lounge, instead of having only ceramic cups for drinking within the lounge.

Another benefit of being a quiet lounge in the early morning was the ability to take a nap despite not having designated sleeping “pods”. There were some couches and big chairs which ended up being great spots to catch some “z”s.

Flight 2: Minneapolis to New York (MSP-JFK) – DL1310

Featuring a B717, this flight experience was similar to the flight into MSP since the planes are almost identical. One difference between the MD-90 and B717 were the seats, because there was an adjustable headrest on the B717.

Neither flight had In-Flight Entertainment on the back of the seats like the plane I took from SMF-SLC nor is there a TV mounted every few days for everyone to watch the same program like American offers.

I was tired so I ended up napping through take off and a little more of the flight. But after waking up for good I got to work on this blog thanks to T-Mobile.

Delta offers GoGo inflight WiFi and I could have bought a pass but I have T-Mobile for my cell phone carrier and they offer a free “WiFi and Texting” pass. So I picked the free option.

Bathrooms in airplanes are known to be small and the bathrooms on this flight were small. I’m about 6’2” (189 cm) and my head nearly reaches the ceiling even though my shoes have barely any thickness to them.

Back to the seats, legroom still was not good, but it wasn’t terrible. I had room between my knees and the seat in front of me so I’ll call that a success. I can’t wait to fly business so I have not only plenty of legroom but also a lie flat bed.

Getting to Europe via Flexible Rewards and Airline Miles

My recent post announcing I’m going to Europe mentioned I will be flying business class on Brussels Airlines. I booked that flight with Membership Rewards (MR) points I earned from sign-up bonuses. However, that flight is from the East Coast and I live on the West Coast of the USA.

Getting to New York could have been done multiple ways:  a long road trip; flying an early morning, direct flight from SMF to BWI then taking a bus or Amtrak to New York; swimming through the Panama Cannel; and many others. I wanted to keep things simple, and comfortable, so I chose to fly Delta from Sacramento (SMF) to New York (JFK) with a stop in Minneapolis (MSP). This splits the cross-country flight into two 3-hour flights in economy, something more bearable for someone with long legs.

However, I could have picked a flight with American Airlines using the points from the sign-up bonuses from the Aviator Red and AAdvantage Platinum cards. We would have flown into a different airport, but still in the same area a day early so it would have worked out.

Or we could have used United miles from either the United MileagePlus Explorer card or Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to United’s program from the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP). Another option could have been transferring my MR points to Alitalia and flown from SFO to Amsterdam for 80,000 points roundtrip.

What I’m getting at is there are so many options. And there are probably more than 1 that will be a great choice for any one trip.

The biggest reason I chose to fly Brussels Airlines from the East Coast is because I didn’t want to be on a flight for half a day if I flew out of California. I also wanted to try out a few different “products.” “Products” meaning the type of airplane, seating arrangement, seats, and in-flight service offered by an airline.

Flying Delta from Sacramento to Minneapolis to New York (SMF-MSP-JFK) allows me to be more comfortable flying cross-country and trans-Atlantic, while experiencing lounges (which can reduce my cost of food) in MSP, JFK, and Brussels (BRU).

My reasons for not flying American Airlines to get to New York include not being able to visit a lounge in my layover (or not having a layover), and saving my AA miles for another big trip, either with both of my parents or a solo trip in a business or first class cabin to Asia.

The biggest take-away anyone should get from this is that regardless of what points (or how much cash) you have, there are countless options, including some you may never have heard of yet.

I always check Google Flights for cash prices, and I track prices for a flight to be notified if a flight increases or decreases in price. It also gives me the flexibility to search several Departure airports and multiple arrival airports to find the cheapest flight for a trip.

I’m Going to Europe!

Thanks to Membership Reward (MR) transfer partners, I will be flying business class on Brussels Airlines (SN). The original plan was to transfer my MR points to Etihad and book 2 round-trip tickets for ~73,000 points, but that didn’t work out. So I transferred my points to Aeroplan and booked the same tickets, just for more points.

Flying Brussels requires flying out of either New York (JFK) or Washington, DC (IAD). This trip will originate in New York, meaning my second visit to New York. Peter Lik has galleries around the country, and I discovered him when I found his gallery in Hawaii last June, and I’ll be stopping by the gallery in New York.

Europe is a large continent so I will be a little more specific. My main purpose for this trip is to be in Paris, France for the final stage of the Tour de France this year. Other countries I’m visiting are England, German, and obviously Belgium.

While I have strong, and close, roots in Northern Europe, this trip is primarily for tourist and sight-seeing fun. As well as watching the Tour de France live in-person.