Mark Holmes

Travel Agent. Former German Teacher. Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker. B&B Manager. Transportation Manager Interested in all things travel, blogging, apps, electronics, reading, music
Living in: Winston-Salem, NC, United States
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  • Day0

    Turkey - October 2019 - Planning stages

    May 5 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 70 °F

    Just back from China and still recovering, but those darn coupons that keep appearing everywhere just seem to never stop appearing during moments of weakness! Travelzoo popped up a coupon worth $1100 off a Treasures of Turkey trip and we couldn’t resist. When you can do a 13 day fully escorted trip for two for 5k, including airfare, hotels, many meals and all excursions, it’s hard to turn down (ok, insurance and spending money on miscellaneous items such as tips will probably push that closer to 6k by the time all is said and done.). Still an incredible bargain in my book as have been all the Gate1 trips
    we’ve taken. Now will cross my fingers that markets keep going up and not down so that I can avoid slamming my head against the wall! Will be first time flying Turkish Airways (non stop JFK-ISAT). Liking those non-stop flights - sick of crazy connections. Looking forward to that Turkish food and hot air ballooning in Cappadocia as well as a day’s excursion to Ephaseus. For a closer look at our itinerary - https://www.gate1travel.com/mediterranean/turkey/2018/escorted/turkey-tours-13dturtre19.aspx. (Click the Itinerary tab)

    Booked our tickets today for the CLT-JFK flight (non-stop American). Going in a day early (10/15) and spend a night at a cheap hotel near JFK that offers shuttles. Don’t go out till around 7pm on Wed (10/16) but don’t trust the airlines to get me there the same day and I don’t need that stress.
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  • Day17

    A new day in Houston!

    April 9 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 72 °F

    So our flight is estimated to leave around 12:50 pm. We shall see. Looks like our plane is coming in from Pensacola and it left on time so just maybe.... had to do a bunch of digging to resurrect that info (used Flight Aware and United’s app).

    So we finally got on the plane! Operated by Mesa Airlines, it’s a brand new Embraer 175. Surprising amount of leg room. Can stow my backpack under the seat in front of me and still have room to strertch out both legs next to it. That’s a first. No seatback entertainment but if you have the United app, you can watch entertainment on your phone or iPad. I had downloaded a few movies to my iPad, so I’m in the middle of a movie out of Iceland , “And Breathe Normally”

    Rather turbulent takeoff. - don’t think planes like all the hot air rising up from Houston.

    Landed 4:08 pm. Made it home around 6:30. Gypsy (our cat) looking ok despite having lost Willow. Following us everywhere constantly meowing. Pretty exhausted. Janet fighting the crud she often gets from these long trips and coming going badly. I’m hanging in but quite tired. All in all though, a great trip at a great price. I’ll be back later to post some of our impressions.
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  • Day16

    Houston big delay

    April 8 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 70 °F

    Well at 7:30 pm, 15 minutes before we were scheduled to depart, they announced they didn’t have a flight crew for us, due to recent tornados causing flight delays and backing up flights. So the flight was pushed back to 1am. Got new reports that our crew was coming out of Norfolk, but now they were delayed due to “bathoom maintenance”. Then 30 minutes later while we were waiting in customer svc line, notification came through my app that our flight was rescheduled for tomorrow at 11:30! So then got another message through the app saying that I could pick a hotel to stay at and giving us each $40 in meal vouchers. So off to the hotel where we managed to see the final minutes of OT and see Virginia win their 1st national championship. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow bringsRead more

  • Day16

    Houston airport

    April 8 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 81 °F

    Got about 3.5 hrs before connecting flight. Smooth flight coming in on a brand new jet. Only a week old. Watched “A Star is Born”. Finished as the wheels touched down. Eating some more junk food and then lifting off around 7:45, just about time for the NCAA title game. Obviously didn’t pick that flight very well!! Not that we had any choice using our frequent flyer milesRead more

  • Day15

    BACK IN THE USA

    April 7 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 68 °F

    Very smooth return flight. Comfortable seats as it was on the flight going. Slept very little though. Did watch about 3 movies though - Vice, Juanita, and something with Julia Roberts. Did move around a lot trying to avoid those DVT’s. I was a bit surprised how few people did. Once at LAX , managed to quickly scan our passports and have the machine take our fingerprints and then sat for about 10 minutes waiting for our Global Entry interview. That was insane - about 3 questions and we’re done. Can’t believe you normally have to drive to the Charlotte airport to get that done. Don’t think I’d be happy if I had done that! Shuttle driver to our Wingate hotel was super friendly Guatemalan guy. Decided to spend the night with a 10:22 flight out in the morning albeit a 4 hr layover in IAH (Houston).Read more

  • Day15

    Last Day in Beijing- off to the airport

    April 7 in China ⋅ ☀️ 61 °F

    So last 1/2 day here and then at 1 pm we’re off to the airport. Maybe I’ll get a chance on the plane to catch up and expand on prior postings. It’s tough to cram in all the thoughts when you’re moving so quickly from stop to stop. I tried to toss in some Wikipedia links to help in the interim. Plus fighting a cold along with most of the group which seems to go along with tours. One person gets sick and boom, it’s off to the races. Despite that, everyone was a trooper and kept on moving on! Does make it a bit difficult to keep up with writing though!

    Had an interesting experience last night after browsing computers at an Apple store (screens are hard to move around in when all the characters are in Chinese!). After I left the store, I stepped into a large mall area and noticed some young professional lady eyeing me and my first thought was that she probably wanted to sell me something, but nope she wanted to practice her English so we had a nice conversation for awhile and then she asked me if I would go for coffee with her and at that point I had glimpses of myself disappearing into some Chinese gulag. Thought it was a good time to tell her I was married and that my wife was waiting on me across the street! We talked for a few more moments and then she excused herself and walked away. Thought it was a fun experience, but still felt like perhaps my antenna needed to be up. . All in all, I find the Chinese friendly and if you smile at them, they will smile back, especially if you interact with their children. The language barrier is tough. Google translate can help in a pinch but its translation abilities are a bit sketchy at times so who knows what you could really be saying!! It was really a Godsend that our tour director took his personal time to take us for extra walks and introduce us to Chinese cuisine. Otherwise it can be rather challenging. :).

    4:50 pm - boarding flight. Jam packed

    Looks like we might get in about 44 mins early. Flight has been very smooth. As usual, slept very little. About 4:18 am for us on China time. Should arrive around 5:40 am (2:40 pm California time). Going to try and do our Global entry interviews as we pass through customs. Looks like the food carts are coming by one last time. Can’t imagine what this delicacy will be. Earlier was chicken and rice which was just fair and after that s ham,cheese,pickle sandwich and dome kind of chocolate wafer thing
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  • Day14

    Final Dinner

    April 6 in China ⋅ ☁️ 66 °F

    Great final night dinner with Peking Duck and about 12 other dishes. All the booze you want. Place is getting boisterous!! :).

  • Day14

    Summer Palace

    April 6 in China ⋅ ☁️ 68 °F

    50,000 here today. We have to wait till some people leave before we can get in. Total madhouse here today. Was not a good idea to visit on a national holiday. Made for great people watching, however. I love studying them as much as they love studying us! The little kids are adorable

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_Palace?wprov=sfti1https://maps.apple.com/?ll=39.997500,116.268900&q=Summer Palace&_ext=EiQpSOF6FK7/Q0AxPnlYqDURXUA5SOF6FK7/Q0BBPnlYqDURXUA=
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  • Day14

    Pearl Shop

    April 6 in China ⋅ ☁️ 66 °F

    Not much going on here. Just a place to buy pearls, which a few of the ladies did. Some serious haggling going on, which is pretty amusing. Once these ladies think you might be 1% interested in something, you’re doomed. They’ll even follow you into the parking lot!

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