Italy: La Spezia

La Spezia, Italy

I have visited a number of cities in Italy, including Rome, Naples, Pisa, and Venice. La Spezia (pronounced like lespet’zia) was the farthest from any tourist center I have ever been for any extended period of time, and I was surprisingly unimpressed with it. A relatively small town with a distinctive city feel, it seems to cater more to native and local Italians than visitors. In fact, My One Hotel La Spezia, as small and unassuming as it is, it is arguably the fanciest hotel in the city, and that’s not saying much. Continue reading

Italy: My One Hotel La Spezia

My One Hotel La Spezia

After a long 20 hour trip from the US, I was finally in La Spezia, Italy. I stayed 3 days at My One Hotel La Spezia, which by most accounts and reviews online is one of the nicest hotels in the city. However, being a relatively small town, and quite a ways from the normal tourist destinations, that’s not saying much. It’s more like a Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn in the US, nice, but not much more than a simple room. The owners really try though, and it was nice enough for the three nights I stayed there. Continue reading

Italy: ItaliaRail Milan to La Spezia

Train in Milan

I arrived early in the morning at Milan Malpensa Airport in Northern Italy for my conference later in the week. This was my first time riding trains through Italy and I was looking forward to the experience. However, I was surprised, and a bit disappointed, with the state of deterioration and lack of modernization in the ItaliaRail trains, at least compared to the trains I have ridden in the rest of Western Europe. Many stations however, like Milan, where quite modern and clean. Continue reading

Italy: Introduction

La Spezia, italy

On this trip, I fly into Milan Malpensa airport in Northern Italy, then take the train down along the coast to visit the very small town of La Spezia. This one is a bit off the beaten path, as La Spezia is not so much known as a major tourist destination, though perhaps those looking for a slower pace and lots of local shopping might find it interesting. I found it a bit disappointing, not that there is anything wrong with the place, it’s just that if you’re going to go all the way to Italy, there are quite a few places I would rather visit, namely Venice, Pisa, Rome, Naples, Florence, etc. Continue reading

Hotel Review: Embassy Suites Orlando Airport

Embassy Suites Elevator Buttons

For my first night in Orlando on a recent visit, I needed a quick place to stay near the airport after a late evening flight from Houston. I was surprised at how cheap the rates are near the airport, compared to the hotels near Disney or Universal Studios at least. There were a number of good choices, but in the end I decided on the Embassy Suites for about $85. For that you get a suite with refrigerator, microwave, separate living room, and free full breakfast regardless of status. Gold and Platinum HHonors just basically get the top floor, otherwise it’s about the same. Continue reading

An Interesting Thing Happened To Me On The Way to Orlando…

Boarding plane

The strangeness started at the remote lot of The Parking Spot 2 on Will Clayton. They left me waiting by my car for more than 10 minutes, while busses went by in all directions. It was strange, since there appeared to be plenty of shuttle buses, just none of them wanted to take me to the airport. Finally, I flagged one down and got on, but we proceeded to drive up and down the isles for a while, and picked up a couple other people, then finally headed out to the airport. No “sorry, we’re really busy” or anything, just driving the bus… Continue reading

Last Train Ride

My Office in Germany

I’m writing this from the ICE 640 from Magdeburg to Hannover, Germany. Unfortunately, due to my upcoming work schedule, it may be a long time before I get back to Germany to ride DB trains again. Hopefully, this January I’ll be riding some trains around Ireland, but I have no idea the next time I’ll be in Germany. Continue reading

SIGGRAPH 2013 – United Economy Plus Orange County (SNA) to Denver (DEN)


With the conference week behind me, and a crazy quick trip to Disneyland, it was time to head home. I originally had flights back through San Francisco (to earn more elite-qualification miles for the year), but I would have arrived back home after 9pm, so once I was within the United 24-hour free change window, I decided to try to book at earlier flight. Little did I know what trouble that would cause… Continue reading

Trains Are Awesome!

SBB Train

I’m writing this on a train from Zurich, Switzerland to Stuttgart, Germany. As I look at the window the quietly rolling countryside of northern Switzerland, I was thinking again how great travel around Europe can be by train. This morning, I checked out of my hotel, took a couple escalators down from the lobby, and walked onto a train. Ten minutes later, I got off again, walked 100 meters to another train, and in three hours I step off in Stuttgart. No packing bags for security, no liquid restrictions, no checking bags or baggage fees, no waiting around for hours for connections, you just get on and off when and where you want (assuming you have the requisite tickets or rail, pass of course). You can even get up and walk around, use the restroom, or eat at a restaurant at any time, no seat belts, no turbulence, it’s just a completely different experience. Oh, and don’t forget the scenery! Continue reading