Pic: Prinsengracht Canal View King Room at Andaz Amsterdam (Mar 2014)
A quick visit to Amsterdam loaded with great experiences last weekend. A long overdue stay at Andaz Amsterdam: amazing interior design by Marcel Wanders, attentive staff, great Bluespoon Bar & Restaurant. Rather expensive at €252 for Canal View King room (upgraded from Andaz King as Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum member)
Pic: Andaz Amsterdam Lobby – Interior design by Marcel Wanders (Mar 2014)
Pic: Breakfast at Bluespoon restaurant, Andaz Amsterdam (Mar 2014)
Pic: Dinner at 2* Michelin restaurant &Samhoud Places, Amsterdam (Mar 2014)
Friend of mine recommended &Samhoud Places for dinner on Saturday night. Booked it after quick look at food pics on Tripadvisor. Turned out to be a rather expensive choice.
Pic: Inca / Alpaco Chocolate / Banana Lime / Coconut dessert at &Samhoud Places
Pic: My UberLUX Mercedes-Benz S-Class ride in Amsterdam (Mar 2014)
Enjoyed 2 UberLUX (Mercedes-Benz S-Class & BMW 7 Series) and 4 UberBlack (Mercedes-Benz E-Class) rides in Amsterdam. As usual, excellent Uber service by friendly drivers. Two cool venues I discovered during my 24 hour trip:
Door 74 (Speakeasy Cocktailbar, reservations required)
EYE Bar-Restaurant (part of EYE Film Institute)
My favorite private driver app Uber, just announced its launch in Brussels. Due to local regulatory restrictions, Uber was forced to limit its service offerings to uberPOP. At least for now. uberPOP allows private individuals to offer transportation services using the powerful Uber app. My personal favorite is still Uber Black, the luxury car service by Uber which is now available in more than 25 countries. I’ve used Uber Black in Paris, New York and Cape Town and was blown away by their phenomenal service every single time.
Pic: Uber launches uberPOP in Brussels on February 25, 2014
To encourage customers to try uberPOP in Brussels, Uber offers €15 discount on your first ride with code ‘uberPOP’. Make sure to sign-up for Uber using this link to get an additional €20 free credit. Enjoy your free rides!
Video: Uber is just awesome, see it for yourself! #UpForWhatever
Pic: The Ultimate Travel Guide to Partying Around the World (Matador Network)
In the past couple of years, I had my fair share of (in)famous parties around the world:
And partied in places like Barcelona, Las Vegas, Athens, Seoul, Tokyo, Monaco, Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Macau, Bangkok, Taipei, Jakarta, Phuket, Bali, Hong Kong, Boracay, Shanghai, Berlin, Shenzhen, Davos, CopenHagen, Dubai, Prague, Bucharest, Kiev, Reykjavik, Sharm el-Sheikh, Riga, Johannesburg, Krakow, Cancun, Sydney, Porto, West Hollywood, San Francisco, …
Pic: Sambadrome Parade during Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Feb 2010)
Looking for more inspiration, my attention was drawn to the newly released “101 Places To Get F*cked Up Before You Die” by Matador Network. The 278 page guide lists 101 places in 8 categories:
Pic: Bart at Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Ipanema Beach Blocos (Feb 2010)
With only 13 major events detailed in the ‘Blowouts’ section, 101 Places To Get F*cked Up Before You Die isn’t a listing of the 101 best parties or festivals in the World. Instead the guide focuses on places where you can have fun all year round. Don’t expect in-depth practical information for each party destination either. It’s the anecdotes and inspirational stories by the 60 contributors of the guide which read like party invitations. Practical info is easily found using Google.
Pic: Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA (Feb 2009)
My personal top 3:
On my todo list:
What are your favorites / recommendations? Share them via the comments section. Thanks!
Order 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die via Amazon.co.uk (£7.93) or Bol.com (€10,99)
Pic: Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA (Feb 2009)
Pic: Coco Bongo in Cancun, Mexico (Jun 2011)
Pic: Hacker-Pschorr beer tent at Oktoberfest in Munich (Sep 2009)
Pic: Hacker-Pschorr beer tent at Oktoberfest in Munich (Sep 2009)
Pic: Bart Lapers at Burning Man, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA (Sep 2010)
Order 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die via Amazon.co.uk (£7.93) or Bol.com (€10,99)
Pic: Visited Cape Town thanks to a Turkish Airlines Business Class Error Fare
Back in June 2013, Turkish Airlines (TK) published a oneway business class error fare from South Africa (CPT, JNB) to Switzerland (GVA, ZRH). It was their second (known) business class error fare of the year. I had already booked a business class roundtrip error fare (€638) between Warsaw and Kuala Lumpur back in February 2013 which I flew and reviewed in Nov 2013. As I had no vacation days left for 2013, I booked my Cape Town – Geneva flight for January 2014 and paid just €339.
Pic: My favorite Business Class seat (4E) on the TurkishAirlines A330-300 (Jan 2014)
Turkish Airlines TK41 from Cape Town to Istanbul via Johannesburg.
Pic: The excellent Turkish Airlines Business Class DO&CO inflight catering (Jan 2014)
Pic: Very spacious Intra-Europe Turkish Airlines Business Class on B737-900ER
Turkish Airlines flight TK1917 from Istanbul to Geneva was operated by a brand new Boeing Next Generation 737-900ER.
Pic: Turkish Airlines DO&CO Intra-Europe Business Class Breakfast (Jan 2014)
Pic: Flatbed Business Class seats on South African Airways A340-600 (Jan 2014)
For my positioning flight from Brussels to Cape Town, I used 52,500 Avianca Taca LifeMiles to book Brussels to Frankfurt in Lufthansa Business Class and Frankfurt to Cape Town (via Johannesburg) in South African Airways Business Class. I had bought the required miles (€611) during a 100% bonus LifeMiles promotion. With the taxes & fees (€79) included, I paid a total of €690 for my BRU-CPT Business Class flights.
Pic: Sunroof Terrace at Park Inn by Radisson Cape Town Foreshore (Jan 2014)
For my first two nights in Cape Town, I booked the Park Inn by Radisson Cape Town Foreshore using the Club Carlson Family and Friends promo. This rate is intended for travelers who have a friend or family member working at the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. Don’t we all have extensive networks of friends via Facebook, LinkedIn, etc…these days? No worries, most hotels don’t ask questions. Check this Flyertalk thread for individual hotel’s ‘behavior’. To use the rate, go to ClubCarlson.com and enter ‘CARLSONF’ in the ‘Promotional Code’ field. It will lower most Park Inn rates to the equivalent of €70 and Radisson (Blu) rates to €80 or $80. The rate has same day 6pm cancellation flexibility and includes breakfast + 25% discount on F&B. Note: The Carlson F&F rate is capacity controlled and thus not always available. Make sure to double check the cancellation conditions and other rate features at the time of booking.
Pic: Sunset at Kloof Neck in Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
Pic: Presidential Loft Suite at DoubleTree By Hilton Cape Town Upper Eastside
After my Park Inn stay, I moved to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cape Town – Upper Eastside where I had booked 3 nights using the Hilton Any Weekend Anywhere sale. Via this promo I managed to book the 122 sq.m. Contemporary New York Style Presidential Loft Suite at ZAR1336 (€89) for my first night, and a Queen Guest room at ZAR934 (€62) for the second and third night. As a Hilton HHonors Gold member (obtained via credit card link), I was upgraded to a Deluxe room on my second and third night and could enjoy complimentary breakfast and internet access.
Pic: The City Sightseeing Red Bus is a great way to see Cape Town (Jan 2014)
The first two days of my trip, I didn’t have a rental car. I found the City Sightseeing Cape Town Red Bus an excellent way to discover the city and it’s beautiful surroundings. I managed to complete both the Cape Town Red City Tour (Red Line) and Cape Town Blue Mini Peninsula Tour (Blue Line) in one day, including the cable ride to the top of Table Mountain!
Pic: Cable Car to Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
Pic: Abseiling from Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
Pic: My Uber private driver in Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
On my second day in Cape Town, I used my favorite private driver app Uber to drop me at the start of the Lions Head trail. (try Uber yourself, €20 free credits via my referral link)
Pic: The money shot at the Lion’s Head summit in Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
Pic: The amazing Camps Bay in Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
Pic: Culinary lunch at Waterkloof Wines, Somerset West, Cape Town (Jan 2014)
South Africa is famous for it’s wines, so we had try some in style. Waterkloof Wines proved to be an excellent venue for both wining and dining… and what an amazing estate! Thanks to the weak ZAR, the 6 course degustation menu including wine pairing was less than €50!
Pic: Porcini Custard – Rocket Pesto, Crispy Quail Egg – Waterkloof Wines Restaurant
Pic: Dessert by Chef Gregory Czarnecki at Waterkloof Wines Restaurant (Jan 2014)
Pic: Coffee with a view to finish my amazing lunch at Waterkloof Wines (Jan 2014)
Pic: Monkey Valley Beach Nature Resort at Noordhoek Beach, Cape Town (Jan 2014)
Another absolute must-do is Chapman’s Peak Drive, one of the world’s most stunning coastal roads! You’ll discover the incredible Noordhoek Beach on your way to Cape Point.
Pic: Bart at Noordhoek beach near Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
Pic: African Penguins at Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town (Jan 2014)
Pic: Bart Lapers at V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
Conclusion: If Cape Town isn’t on your todo list yet, you should add it today. It’s insanely beautiful, friendly and affordable!
Update Wed Mar 5 – Codes ‘BLAPERS’ and ‘BOOKEUROPE’ are still active (€40)
Update Mon Feb 10 – 7:45PM Code ‘ASW3167J’ is dead! See you tomorrow 7pm?
Update Mon Feb 10 – 7:00PM Code ‘ASW3167J’ works again! ACT NOW!
Update Sun Feb 9 – 8:30PM That was fast! Code ‘ASW3167J’ is now dead. Might return tomorrow, as it worked for a while yesterday too.
Update Sun Feb 9 – 7:30PM Use code ‘ASW3167J’ for an additional €40 credits = €80!!
Last minute hotel booking app Hotel Tonight currently has a €20 promo code ‘BOOKEUROPE’ for European customers. If you combine this with the €20 sign-up code ‘BLAPERS’, you’ll get €40 off your first Hotel Tonight booking! I’ve reviewed the Hotel Tonight app in my ‘Best Last Minute Hotel Booking apps‘ article. Make sure to install the Hotel Tonight app now, as the promo code might be revoked at any moment. Once you have the €40 in your account, you’ll have one year to spend it.
Disclaimer: There is no guarantee whatsoever HotelTonight is going to honor your €80 credits. If you want to be absolutely sure, book tonight!
Pic: Bart at the Brooklyn Bridge Walkway in New York (Jan 2014)
Back in Nov 2013, a Flyertalk member reported it was possible to book all United flights without fuel surcharges via Norwegian site Wideroe. As fuel surcharges can make up a significant portion of the cost an airline ticket, the airfares at United were greatly reduced by this error. After some quick search queries, I found tickets from Amsterdam to New York for as low as €122 round trip! I wasn’t convinced the fares would be honored, as Wideroe was a small website and thousands of tickets were booked throughout the weekend of Nov 23-24. Turned out, a Wideroe employee had posted the error on Flyertalk, as they had figured out the problem wasn’t at their site, but at GDS Amadeus. In the end, the fares were honored and I traveled from Amsterdam to New York for just €122! The two United flights also earned me 7278 status miles with Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles. As of 2014, I’ve switched from Lufthansa Miles & More to Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles for most of my Star Alliance revenue flights, as M&M drastically reduced the number of miles earned on economy flights. The United flights of this trip (booking class K) would have earned only 25% of the flown miles at Lufthansa Miles & More versus 100% of the flown miles at Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles. Turkish Airlines status matches elite cards from other airlines, including Star Alliance partners. I status matched my Lufthansa Miles & More Senator card with Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles Elite, both Star Alliance Gold cards.
Pic: View on Empire State Building from my room 1704 at Holiday Inn Midtown 31st St.
For my two night stay in New York (Jan 17-19), I booked two IHG properties. On Friday night I stayed at Hotel Indigo Brooklyn, on Saturday night at Holiday Inn Midtown 31st St. Both hotels offer an exceptional rate with includes 25,000 IHG Rewards Club bonus points. The fact you get 25K bonus points per stay might not always be exceptional price wise, as the rate is substantially higher than the lowest available rate. However, what makes the rate exceptional is the 25K bonus points count as elite qualifying points. With 60,000 elite qualifying points in one calendar year you (re-)qualify for IHG Rewards Club Platinum status. My two stays in New York City earned me 54180 elite qualifying points (4180 base points + 50K bonus points) which is only 5820 points short of re-qualifying as Platinum member!
Macchiato and Banana Cake at Culture Espresso near Bryant Park (Jan 2014)
Some of the nice venues/parks I discovered during my weekend trip:
Brooklyn Bridge Park (Brooklyn)
Bryant Park (Manhattan)
Mile End Delicatessen (Brooklyn)
Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream (Brooklyn)
Cafe Luluc (Breakfast, Brooklyn)
Food Gallery 32 (Korean & Japanese, Manhattan)
El Centro (Mexican, Manhattan)
Culture Espresso (Coffee, Manhattan)
IHG Rewards Club released the new PointBreaks list for stays from January 27 until March 31, 2014. You can book these hotels for just 5000 points per night as of Monday Jan 27, 2014! As usual, IHG Rewards Club point reservations are refundable. Make sure to make a new booking for each night (5 night stay = 5 bookings). This will allow you to shorten you stay without loosing your complete PointBreaks reservation!
Pic: Mercedes-Benz C180 rental from Hertz Brussels Airport (Jan 2014)
Last weekend, I made a short but luxurious trip to Paris. By combining a number of promotions and loyalty program deals, I managed to keep my expenses surprisingly low. Instead of taking the Thalys train from Brussels to Paris, I rented a Mercedes-Benz C180 at Hertz Brussels Airport. Hertz was running a 33% discount promotion on rentals booked before Jan 26, 2014. The weekend rental was €163 with 900km included. I opted for the rather expensive Super Cover (+€63) which eliminated my liability for the excess in relation to the CDW. Contrary to Hertz Brussels Airport questionable reviews on Yelp, I had pleasant encounters with the Hertz staff at both pick-up and return of my vehicle.
Pic: Rue de la Paix entrance Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome (Jan 2014)
For my one-night stay in Paris, I used Hyatt Gold Passport points to book superstar hotel Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme. It was the last opportunity to book this hotel at 22,000 points before Hyatt’s introduction of the Free Night Award Category 7 which requires 30,000 points per night. The best available rate for my stay was €830 ($1127) The 22K points required for my free night at Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome were earned during my Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond Status Match Challenge back in 2011.
Pic: Park Deluxe King room at Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome (Jan 2014)
I had contacted the hotel in advance to make sure they would have a parking spot available for my car. Upon arrival at the Park Hyatt, the voiturier took care of my Mercedes-Benz. To my surprise, parking was free at the hotel! At check-in around 1.30pm, I was was addressed by name and invited to have a coffee at La Cheminée as it would take another 10 minutes before my room was ready. At the time of booking, I had agreed to upgrade my Park King room to a Park Deluxe King for €80. I was assigned room 141 facing Rue de la Paix as requested. I had hoped for a little terrace, but turned out those were only available on the higher floors.
Pic: Hyatt Gold Passport Welcome Amenity at Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome (Jan 2014)
Pic: Outdoor Winter Terrace Park Hyat Paris-Vendome (Jan 2014)
The Park Hyatt Paris Vendome Winter Terrasse had a mountain chalet serving chic peak Raclette. I didn’t try any of the food offerings at the PH, as I had a cheaper alternatives at hand. Back in 4Q2013, the Shangri-La Golden Circle program was celebrating it’s 3rd anniversary with a game offering 200 points per week. I played the game 6 weeks in a row earning me 1200 points in two accounts (mine and my dad’s). It was immediately clear to me this was a great deal, as 1000 points was sufficient for a free night at a number of Shangri-La hotels in Asia. However, a post at Head for Points highlighted a second possibility to exchange 1000 points for a $100 Food & Beverage voucher. You were even allowed to combine two vouchers per bill, resulting in a $200 discount at almost every Shangri-La restaurant. I exchanged 2 x 1000 points for two $100 F&B vouchers to be used at Shangri-La’s most expensive property… in Paris. The bill of my €196 dinner at Michelin Star Chef Philippe Labbé‘s La Bauhinia restaurant was reduced to €58 thanks to my two Shangri-La Golden Circle Food & Beverage vouchers!
Pic: Sunset at Place Vendôme, Paris, France (Jan 2014)
For transportation in Paris, I used the private driver app Uber. It was my first time using the service and it turned out to be a fantastic experience! Within minutes of submitting my request via the Uber app, I had a private driver with Lexus Infiniti M in front of the Park Hyatt. The car was luxurious, the driver extremely friendly and attentive. The payment was automatically processed by the app, so no need to sign any paperwork at the end of the ride. Same experience on my way back to the Park Hyatt, driver arrived within minutes at the Shangri-La driving a new Mercedes-Benz. Total for the two rides: €7 thanks to the Uber €20 free credit referral which runs until January 20, 2014.
Mercedes-Benz C180 two-day rental: €226
Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome Park Deluxe King: 22K points + €80 (value €830)
Dinner at Shangri-La Paris La Bauhinia: €58 (value €196)
Two Uber limo rides: €7 (value €27)
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