Life Beneath New York’s Sidewalks

Over the past four years Finnair’s in-flight magazine Blue Wings has been one of my main clients. I’ve written all kinds of articles for them, ranging from monthly travel news blurbs to longer features. Thus I thought I’d share one of my favorite articles that I have ever written for them. (To see the original layout, go here and scroll to page 20.) This is is about all the subway artists that are working so hard in the tunnels of New York, and are making commuting more fun for others in the process. 🙂 (And sure, there are always some people who are annoyed at these musicians and dancers as they bring noise to the subway car. But you can’t deny that some of these guys are crazy talented!)



Let’s play Travel ABC’s

Hey fellow travel enthusiasts!

I’m currently doing a fun travel game over on my travel Instagram, @mirvaonthemove. (FYI: I also have an IG account just for Guadeloupe photos, which is @guadeloupeguide. So if you like palm tree photos, head over to that one!).

This Insta game that I invented is called the “Travel ABC’s” and the goal is to post a photo every day of a country/state/city you have been to, in an alphabetical order. I just started a few days ago together with a few other IG users, so it’s still easy to join.

If you want to take part, just use the hashtag #travelabcs and tag me @mirvaonthemove. You’d have to post four photos to catch up: places starting with an A, a B, a C and a D. It might be best if you could post a few photos per day so that you can quickly catch up with the rest of us. 🙂 Tomorrow is letter E.

Here’s what I’ve posted so far.

There are also a few more rules:

  1. When you post a photo, you should tell a little story of the place/country where the photo was taken. (Don’t forget to use the hashtag #travelabcs and tag me at @mirvaonthemove).
  2. You can post about a country, a state or a city that starts with that letter.
  3. If you can’t think of any place starting with a particular letter that you would have been to, you need to reach out to another IG user (maybe a friend of yours, or a new contact) and ask them to loan a photo to you from that place. Then post that photo to your IG. In the status you can say that while you haven’t been to a place starting with letter X, another IG user has in fact been there. And then tell what the IG user had to say about it. And make sure to tag them in the photo to give them credit! (PS. If you need a photo from someplace, feel free to ask me! I’ve been almost everywhere…haha!)

That’s it! See you on Instagram, over at #travelabcs!

Here it is: A direct link to buy The Quick Gwada Guide!

Bonjour everyone!

A lot of people have been emailing me about a direct link for buying my Guadeloupe guidebook. Well, now there’s finally one! So instead of handing all the e-book sales manually and sending the e-book via email, I’ve now outsourced the process to a site called Payhip. Yay!

So if you are interested in buying the world’s only up-to-date English language guidebook for Guadeloupe, click here:

http://payhip.com/b/oGEQ

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Like before, you can still pay by Paypal, but you can download the 67-page PDF right after the payment instead of needing to wait for me to email it to you. That’s progress!

Here are some sample pages. As you can see, the e-book has quite a lot of photos to break up the long text blocks. It is not a heavy read despite being almost too long to be called The Quick Gwada Guide anymore… maybe a name change is in order soon. 🙂 It’s also easy to navigate between the sections with the help of the Table of Contents, which tells you the page you need to go to in order to find what you are looking for.

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The version that you will get via this new link is actually the 3rd edition of The Quick Gwada Guide. The e-book was updated recently (February 2017) – this version is slightly longer than the earlier one, as it has some expanded sections. This means that the “per page cost” has gone down to 22 cents. I can assure you that this guidebook is worth its $15 cost as you will be saving lots of time and money in Guadeloupe with it.

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While I have already included some reviews in my earlier blog posts, here are some more recent comments people have emailed me:

“We just got back from our holiday to Guadeloupe. We had the best time, Guadeloupe is really beautiful, and there are so many wonderful things to do. Of course, we travelled with your e-book. We had it printed so we could take it with us everywhere. I think we did most of your top 30+ list of things to do. Can’t tell which we liked best. Again, we were very happy with your guidebook, so thank you very much.”

“Thank you, Mirva. I have downloaded the Gwada guide. Just gave it a quick look and it is fabulous! It will make our trip next month much more enjoyable.”  

“Good morning – Thanks again for your very detailed advice and for your ebook. We are already planning a return visit.”

“I briefly looked at your guide…just what the Dr. ordered!”

“Thanks to your book we are going to try for some day trips to the various places on the other side of the island. I remember something about sea turtles in Malendure. I want to go to one of the small ilets, that sounds really fun. And the waterfall, and the hot spring, and the volcano. 🙂 Thanks for everything. Your work on the book really made my life easier. I’m very appreciative.” 

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Photo by the awesome Mariana Keller.

I even have a Finnish-language comment to include:

“Hei Mirva, ja suuret kiitokset mahtavasta tietopaketista Gwadasta! Tuo e-kirja avasi saaret aivan uudella tavalla! Poikakaverini pelko siitä, että siellä saattaa aika käydä pitkäksi,haihtui saman tien. :)”

(Translation: Hi Mirva, and many thanks for the awesome information package about Gwada! This e-book opened my eyes in a brand-new way. My boyfriend immediately got rid of his fear that we might get bored there. :)”

See you in Gwada!

PS. Let me know if you have any problems with the new link. If you’d like to buy the e-book the old-fashioned way (via a direct Paypal/Venmo/Chase Quick Pay/bank transfer payment), you can email me at gwadaguide @ gmail.com.

 

Guadeloupe Islands promoted my e-book!

Good news! The Guadeloupe Islands Tourist Board just included my Quick Gwada Guide e-book in their latest newsletter as recommended reading for those heading to Guadeloupe this winter! Here’s what they wrote:

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Aww, so sweet of them! It’s nice to see my hard work rewarded. 🙂

I’m currently in the process of trying to get the purchasing process for the e-book automated. But if your trip is coming up soon, you can look here for more details on how to purchase the Quick Gwada Guide right now.

Welcome to paradise!

Flight 5/15: Bangkok to Singapore

This post is part of the Ultimate Flight Marathon multi-part series, where I review each of the 15 flights I took during 3.5 weeks of intense traveling in the late spring of 2016.

Airline: Tigerair

Date: May 13, 2016

Type of plane: Airbus A320

Duration of the flight: 2 h and 25 mins

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General info: Tiger Airways, operating as Tigerair, is a no-frills airline and a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines. It operates flights to 40 destinations across Asia. Our flight was an evening flight from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport to Singapore’s Changi, a.k.a. the best airport in the world. Above other things, Changi has some fish ponds, three movie theaters, a sunflower garden and even a butterfly garden (that we sadly didn’t get to visit).

What was special about this plane: It was your standard Airbus A320, but the layout was a bit different than what legacy carriers have. There were 180 economy seats instead of the usual 150, and no business class at all. The plane was new and clean, with comfy blue leather seats.

Highlight: There were a couple of Buddhist monks boarding the flight with us! I was surprised to see them flying, as I thought monks had to live a more modest earthly existence… then again, flying with low-fares airlines is pretty much the most modest way to travel nowadays anyway, as it’s often even cheaper than taking the bus.

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Bangkok’s main airport has some nice decorations.

What I would do differently next time: Tigerair doesn’t provide any entertainment on board – not even big shared screens. So I would make sure that my laptop battery was well charged instead of practically empty…

Food served: None was given for free (not even water), as is typical 0f no-frills carriers. Luckily we were not hungry at all, as we had just visited the Louis’ Tavern CIP First Class Lounge at Bangkok airport’s Concourse A that served pasta, puff pastries and cookies.

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Thanks for yet another lounge visit, Priority Pass!

Turbulence: None. Yay! I’m not a fan…

Price: We bought a one-way ticket from Bangkok to Perth through the Tigerair website, which included a 12-hour layover in Singapore. The price of this entire ticket was around $180 per person so about $90 per flight. This whole ticket could have maybe been been cheaper since we had to pay $20 extra for checked-in luggage that we didn’t even have. For some reason Tigerair’s website didn’t allow me to book the flight without luggage – maybe because our second flight was with Scoot Airlines and not Tiger? Who knows…

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Some parts of the Singapore airport are so pretty!

Miles earned: None, though I could have earned some Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer miles from this flight: Tigerair awards KrisFlyer miles to people who buy their Flexicombo fare. However, I didn’t think it was worth paying an extra 50 Singapore dollars (around $37) just so I could earn a measly 60 miles. Even if you get the Flexicombo fare and the miles, these Tigerair flights won’t count towards elite qualification. This means you can’t get silver or gold status with Singapore Airlines by flying one of these low-fares subsidiaries. As is mentioned in the terms and conditions, “Only KrisFlyer Elite miles earned on Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Star Alliance partner airlines, Virgin Australia*, and Virgin Atlantic^ will count towards KrisFlyer Elite Silver and KrisFlyer Elite Gold membership.”

Overall experience: OK.

 

Flight 4/15: Tokyo to Bangkok

This post is part of the Ultimate Flight Marathon multi-part series, where I review each of the 15 flights I take during 3.5 weeks of intense traveling.

Airline: ANA, which stands for All Nippon Airways

Date: May 13, 2016

Type of plane: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner

Duration of the flight: 6 hours

Delays: Nope

General info: ANA is the largest Japanese air carrier. When you enter or exit any of their aircrafts, they play this soothing boarding music that aviation blogger Ben Schlappig calls “the second classiest thing in the world.” The tune is really catchy and peaceful at the same time. You can listen to it here, but start from 01:50 as that’s where the music seemed to start onboard. Our flight was from Tokyo’s Haneda to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport (I know – that’s probably the most difficult airport name in the world!).

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The business class was the usual size – not gigantic as in our earlier flight from NYC to Tokyo.

What was special about this plane: It was a fairly new-seeming Boeing Dreamliner. This was my first time flying a Dreamliner, as far as I can remember. It was definitely a pleasant experience. Dreamliners apparently have all sorts of extra benefits, such as having more cabin humidity which helps you avoid getting dry eyes or headaches.

Highlight: I managed to sleep for almost the entire flight! We were pretty exhausted after sleeping for just a few hours at a capsule hotel in Tokyo. Not that there was anything wrong with Kiba Hotel – that place was great and it was nice and cool inside the capsule. Instead it was the darn jet lag that awoke us after just a few hours of shut-eye. Well, at least it meant that I could visit the hotel jacuzzi early in the morning. And sleeping through a flight is always nice as it makes the time pass quicker.

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What I would do differently next time: As with the earlier ANA flight, the TV shows offered on the personal screen were pretty basic. It would be good to bring alternative entertainment options like books or downloaded TV shows (though I was happy to sleep).

Food served: We were only served one meal during the flight, which was lunch. Again we got a menu from which to choose: The Asian option was simmered freshwater eel with eggs, served over steamed rice,IMG_7710 and the Western fare was roasted chicken with basil flavor. I chose the chicken, though I had a bite of my boyfriend’s eel meal and that was clearly the better choice.

Turbulence: Just a tad.

Price: This flight was part of a super cheap flight deal to Thailand that I scored a while back through Secret Flying (my favorite website!). We basically got roundtrips from New York to Bangkok for $375, with stops in Tokyo both ways and Chicago on the way back. Strangely, this “roundtrip” finishes in Montreal instead of New York, so it’s actually a multi-destination ticket. Either way, it works well for us since Montreal has direct flights back to Guadeloupe.

Miles earned: This second section of the trip, Tokyo to Bangkok, netted us 1,425 airline miles with Air Canada’s AeroPlan program. I chose to bank the points to Air Canada as our tickets were in booking class K, which earns no airline miles at all on Singapore Airlines (my usual Star Alliance program of choice). Also, it would earn very few miles on United because United gives airline miles based on the price you paid instead of the distance flown. These types of revenue-based programs are no good when you fly long distances on discounted tickets (thus I don’t credit my flights to the programs of Delta, United and soon American Airlines).

Overall experience: Solid great ANA quality.

 

 

 

 

 

Flight 3/15: New York to Tokyo

This post is part of the Ultimate Flight Marathon multi-part series, where I review each of the 15 flights I take during 3.5 weeks of intense traveling.

Airline: ANA, which stands for All Nippon Airways

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It was a beautiful day at JFK –  it was almost a shame to fly out!

Date: May 11, 2016

Type of plane: Boeing 777-300ER

Duration of the flight: 13 hours, making it our single longest flight of this Ultimate Flight Marathon

Delays: We took off around 45 minutes later than planned, but were able to make up for it during the flight. So we landed only about 15 minutes behind schedule.

General info: ANA is the largest Japanese air carrier, which calls itself “The Inspiration of Japan.” When you enter the aircraft, they play this soothing boarding music that aviation blogger Ben Schlappig calls “the second classiest thing in the world.” The tune is really catchy and peaceful at the same time. You can listen to it here, but start from 01:50 as that’s where the music seemed to start onboard. Our flight was from New York’s JFK airport to Tokyo’s Narita.

What was special about this plane: The first and business class sections were huge compared to the economy! I guess there are a lot of business people traveling between New York and Tokyo, and less leisure travelers. Non-Asians were definitely a minority on this plane – there were only a few of us in economy. Most passengers seemed to be Japanese, and the announcements were always made in Japanese first.

Highlight: There was free wifi for 15 minutes! It’s available on all flights operated with B777-300ER or B767-300ER (202 seat configuration). You can buy access for about $20 for the duration of the whole flight.

Also, upon trying to recline my seat, I noticed something strange –the seat cushion that I was sitting on started moving forward while the seatback stayed put. This was monumental! It meant that reclining my seat didn’t bother the person behind me at all, and there was no risk of me breaking her laptop by reclining my seat too fast (nor of anyone doing that to my laptop, which is a constant concern for me on planes). The forward-moving cushion created a nice recline. The only thing was that I had a bit less space for my legs but it wasn’t a big change. I wish all airlines did this!

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Another highlight was flying over these snowy mountains of Northern Canada.

What I would do differently next time: Downloading some new episodes of TV shows onto my laptop could have been a good thing to do, as the in-flight TV entertainment options were pretty old. We had personal screens as is typical for long distance planes, but the pickings were slim: There was only one episode of Modern Family, which is my favorite show to watch while flying (in fact I’ve never seen it outside of a plane) and also only one of New Girl. And those episodes were from the first seasons of those shows! That’s pretty lame. There was also one ancient Friends episode. But at least the movies were more up to date – I watched Zoolander 2, which was crazy and hilarious.

Food served: Our plane left around noon, and soon after departure we were served rice crackers and drinks (including wine). About an hour later we were given a menu with two lunch options to choose from: grilled Spanish mackerel with miso paste, and beef and pork meatball with onion sauce.

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I ate my meal with chopsticks, and only realized later on that the fork and knife were hiding under all the other stuff on my tray.

As you can see, I chose the latter option and it was pretty yummy for airplane food. It was branded the “Western meal” and was served with bread unlike the other meal. But randomly the Western meal is the only one that came with a wasabi sauce pack. Everyone got a cup of Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Right before landing we were served breakfast. The options were shrimp and baby scallop pasta with marinara sauce, and sautéed chicken with Chinese-style barbeque sauce. I took the chicken, which came with bread – indicating that this was the Western meal again. Well, I guess Chinese food is pretty standard in the West nowadays so that works. Haha. The taste was just okay.

Turbulence: Only minor. Already forgotten.

Price: This flight was part of a super cheap flight deal to Thailand that I scored a while back through Secret Flying (my favorite website!). We basically got a roundtrip from New York to Bangkok for $375, with stops in Tokyo both ways and Chicago on the way back. Strangely, this “roundtrip” finishes in Montreal instead of New York, so it’s actually an open jaw multi-destination ticket. Either way, it works well for us since Montreal has direct flights back to Guadeloupe.

Miles earned: This first section of the trip, New York to Tokyo, netted us 3,366 airline miles with Air Canada’s Aeroplan program. I chose to bank the points to Air Canada as our tickets were in booking class K, which earns no airline miles at all on Singapore Airlines’ Krisflyer (my usual Star Alliance program of choice). Also, it would earn very few miles on United’s MileagePlus because United gives airline miles based on the price you paid instead of the distance flown. These types of revenue-based programs are no good when you fly long distances on discounted tickets (thus I don’t credit my flights to the programs of Delta, United and soon American Airlines).

Overall experience: Awesome! I would happily fly ANA any time. The 13 hours went by in a relative breeze and off we went to enjoy our 20-hour layover in Tokyo.

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The Sensoji Temple area was our main sightseeing destination in Tokyo.