Friday, November 20, 2009

United's Global Services Program

We (I mean The Husband since he's actually the one who flies all the time) received this email from United:

Congratulations, and welcome to a year of exclusive benefits

Dear Mr. XXX,

In appreciation of the revenue you brought United® during 2009, we are pleased to offer you a Global ServicesSM membership for 2010.

Eligibility for Global Services is by invitation only, exclusively reserved for the top percent of our elite membership population, based on their extraordinary contribution of revenue. Unlike the Mileage Plus® elite levels, Global Services qualification is not measured by the number of miles flown, but by the value of tickets purchased. Every year we review all accounts and extend invitations to those whose United flight revenue in the previous year meets this criteria. The limited number of invitees ensures we are able to maintain the exclusive nature of Global Services program.

Your 2010 Global Services credentials will be mailed shortly and will outline the unique benefits enjoyed by this distinguished tier of travelers.

On behalf of United, I would like to personally thank you for your commitment to us. We place exceptional value on your business, and it will be our pleasure to serve you in 2010.

Best regards,

Graham Atkinson
Mileage Plus

This is a secret program.  United does not advertise about it.  No one knows exactly what you must do to qualify each year other than spend a boatload of money on United tickets.  One article I googled referred to it as the Skull and Bones Society of the sky.  A little dramatic I think. 

I am eagerly waiting to see what the benefits of this are.  Maybe we get to fly in the cockpit with the pilot.  I've heard rumors of escorts to take you all around the airport.  Umm we can do that ourselves.

The funny thing is we spend hardly any of our own money with United.  Almost all vacations we book are using miles.  If we don't use miles it's because we found a supercheap deal or we're only flying within the Midwest and it's not worth it.  And even better is that I look like a homeless person when I fly.  I am the girl who wears her yoga pants and hoodie on the plane.  Yes, even when I flew first class.  And when I get cold on the plane I actually put the hood over my head.  I think The Husband thinks of me as "that girl".  And I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Travel Shoes

Travel shoes. Bleh. There is no bigger problem in my life than what to wear when I am spending hours walking around a city - both my own and when I travel. Only tennis shoes and JCrew flip-flops keep my feet going for hours and hours. And tennis shoes aren't stylish and flip-flops only work in the summer. The sad truth is that almost all really comfortable shoes - the ones you can walk in for hours - are not attractive. And attractive shoes are not comfortable. Tennis shoes are ugly, flats don't have enough support or somehow manage to dig into my heels even when they felt comfortable when I first bought them. I'm looking at you silver shoes. Heels are a definite no, especially in Europe or old cities where there might be cobblestones or messed up sidewalks. I am going to try my flat black boots this trip but I figured I should have a backup.

So I bought nearly every black flat semi-athletic/padded comfortable style at Zappos. Thank god for free shipping and returns. So nearly $700 in shoes later we have a winner.

These are from Naturalizer. Not my favorite pair of shoes in the world. Kind of matronly, but better than many others out there, I figure these will work well hidden under my jeans.

I'll have a full report when I get back.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Atwood Cafe

I have been to Atwood Cafe three times. Twice for lunch and once for drinks and small plates at night.

Their prices are a little high. I've had the lobster roll (delicious), grilled cheese and tomato soup (very good although pricey for a grilled cheese and the soup was very spicy), and the lobster rangoon (not a fan at all). The restaurant is in a hotel which is probably what is driving some of the high costs.

I'd recommend this place for a business lunch for a convenient location downtown. I wouldn't really recommend it for dinner. There's so many other options out there.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tokyo Pt. II

We have managed to extend our Asia trip so we will be staying in Tokyo for one night. Any suggestions for areas to stay, hotels, or things to do would be much appreciated!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Birchwood Kitchen

I am a huge sandwich lover. Over the weekend I decided to try a new sandwich place and squeeze a little shopping in since it was beautiful weather.

I decided to try Birchwood Kitchen, located near the Damen Blue Line stop.

Even at 2 pm this place was busy. Since I was eating by myself I was able to get a seat immediately at the counter by the window. The place is cute but probably not good for a larger group. Getting a table for 2 is the easiest.

I had the Speck sandwich. It consisted of smoked prosciutto, celery root cream, celery, truffle oil served on ciabatta. Yum. I love prosciutto but the celery was a little out there for me. It was delicious. It was actually really good together. The celery root cream was delicious and the celery provided a nice crunch. How does one come up with some of these sandwich combinations?

I highly recommend stopping by if you're in the neighborhood. They are only open for brunch and lunch on the weekends.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


We fly through Tokyo on our way to and from Bangkok. The thought of travelling to Japan has never really excited me. Not that I wouldn't like to visit, there's just many many places before Japan on my list.

But now I am kicking myself that we didn't book a day or two in Tokyo at the end of our trip between flights. When's the next time we will be back to Japan? Probably not for years and years. And since our layover is only 3 hours there's no chance to escape the airport.

I have heard there is sushi in the airport lounge. That appears to be as close to Japan as I'll get.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hotels in SE Asia

We are finally finished booking hotels for our Thailand and Cambodia trip. Well actually I'd booked a long time ago but then changed my mind.

In Bangkok we are staying at the Millennium Hilton. We were originally booked at Adelphi Suites but liked the idea of staying on the river as first time visitors to Bangkok. The river gives easy access to the main wats and the Grand Palace. Plus we were able to pay for 3 nights using our hotel points so it ended up being cheaper than the Adelphi Suites. Plus I fell in love with the pool at the Hilton although I probably won't even use it since we'll be so busy.

In Siem Reap we are staying at Viroth's Hotel. I love a cute little boutique hotel and am really excited about our stay here.

Back to Thailand in Phuket we're going back to corporate America with a stay at the Holiday Inn Phuket. Normally I'm not a fan of Holiday Inns but this was rated as one of the top hotels in the world or Asia on TripAdvisor's yearly rankings last year. I think it was something about the best value. Plus, once again we are using points to stay there. Hotels that are free are always just a teensy bit more attractive.

Our last stop on Phi Phi Island we are once again at a Holiday Inn and once again it is free. Phi Phi Island is small and there's really not a lot of choices. I believe the Holiday Inn Phi Phi Island is the second nicest hotel on the island. So either this is the nicest Holiday Inn ever or the other hotels would probably not be our first choices.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Grocery Bistro

We started off dinner with a big fail. Grocery Bistro is a BYOB restaurant. Instead of bringing a bottle of wine from home, we decided to go to Perman's Wine Selection next door so they could help us choose a bottle. Their website said they are open until 9 pm to accomodate diners at Grocery Bistro and are sometimes open even later. When we got there slightly after 8 pm, the place was completely dark. Thankfully, there is a Dominicks grocery store right across the street where we were able to buy a bottle.

Grocery Bistro is not the place you want to go for a private and romantic dinner. There is a giant table in the middle that several parties are seated at. The tables along the sides are practically right on top of each other.

The appetizer list looked fantastic and I wanted one of everything. I started with the curried crab and apple napoleon, crispy wonton, and cilantro whipped cream. The crab was delicious. The only complaint was there was a bit too much cream since there was a thick layer at the top and bottom.

The Husband had the multigrain bruschetta with goat cheese, oven-dried tomato, and fava bean hummus. It was wonderful. It was also nice since this one was not messy and falling apart like traditional bruschetta often does.

I had the grilled ancho-rubbed flank steak with melted tomatillo, corn puree, chimichurri coulis, and tostones. This steak was too spicy for me to finish. If they cut back on some of the spice it would have been excellent.

The Husband had the Tallgrass Farms burger with white chedder and fried egg. He really enjoyed the burger although he said the egg over powered the cheese too much and he couldn't taste the cheese. It came with a side of frites and truffle aioli. The frites were awesome. Nice and small and crispy and the aoili was excellent.

For dessert I had the cheese plate. It came with tallegio, a blue cheese, and a parmesan-reggiano. The tallegio was good. The blue cheese was too mild, you could barely even taste the blue. And the parmesan-reggiano was too soft and almost processed. Definitely not worth the $14.

The Husband had the Venezuelan chocolate and bacon toffee crepe with creme anglaise. I tried the bacon toffee and it was excellent. Sweet and savory inside. He liked the crepe a lot. I didn't even get to try a piece.

Grocery Bistro has a fixed price menu available Monday through Thursday from 5 pm - 7 pm for $29 for three courses. This would be a good choice if you're looking to save some money. Generally when I eat out I prefer to do it on a weekend though and also at a later hour.

Overall I thought this ended up being a little pricey for a BYOB. Our total bill was $110 without wine. It also sounds like there's some drama with the owner. From the sounds of it, he didn't pay his last chef. So the last chef quit and they've got a new one. I've only pieced this together from things I read on but he sounds kind of shady although I'm not sure of the full story.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Out of Control...Again

We have tentatively booked a week in Amsterdam, Brussels, & Bruges around next Labor Day.

I say tentatively because we booked using airline miles and you have to book early to get the days that you want. Bookings for the weekend have only been open for 2 or 3 weeks and flights to Paris and Rome on the days we wanted were already closed. We can always cancel later if our plans change.