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North America

09 Jan 2017

Trumping around the US and Abu Dhabi

I was lucky enough to win 2 business class tickets on Etihad anywhere in the world.  Condition was that we needed to use them within 6 months. Availability was tough (worse than trying to get frequent flyer seats) however we eventually worked out a great itinerary including Niagara Falls, Washington, New York and Abu Dhabi.

The dates available were during the presidential election and we just so happened to be staying in many Trump properties during our stay…. interesting to say the least.

Etihad



Flying from Sydney via Abu Dhabi to New York is a long way, I would not recommend this in economy class.  Sydney to Abu Dhabi was on the Boeing 777, the product, I felt, was a bit dated but I did get 9 hours sleep after enjoying the good food and service.  With a 3-hour transit in Abu Dhabi, we were able to clear US customs in Abu Dhabi, this was great....at 2:30am there were no queues and our passports stamped within minutes.

Our plane to NYC was a 3-month-old A380, the product was exactly what I expected, large screens and personal area.  We were allocated forward facing couple seats on all flights.  There is a large divider between the seats should you be travelling by yourself.

Travelling 28 hours in both directions meant that by the time we were heading home the movie and TV choice were lacking. 

Etihad have connections to Lax, San Fran, Washington, Chicago, NYC and Toronto.

Internal USA Flights

We had connecting flights to Buffalo, so in Abu Dhabi, we checked in online for our connecting Delta flight just in case there were any delays, this was issued as a separate ticket.  Checking in online gave us the ability to purchase our baggage at 25USD per bag and we were given the option to upgrade to Delta comfort which gave us additional let room for 17USD per person. 

Niagara Falls

Due to a visa issue, we had to fly into Buffalo overnight and then head to Niagara Falls across the border to the Canadian side.

Note when flying into Canada you now need an eTA.  If you are arriving by sea or land it is not required.

We crossed the border with a quick passport check and 75USD cab later we were checking in at the Embassy Suites Niagara Falls, Canada.  A large hotel, rooms overlooking the Falls, it is said to be one of the best hotels based on location and standard and I would have to agree.  The view – WOW amazing, our room looked straight over the Horse Shoe Falls. 

As we had not planned any tours, so once we checked in we went down to concierge and could jump on a tour departing at 11am.  The tour we chose was Tours of Niagara Falls and went for 5 hours.  Cost $135CAD

At a cost of $135CAD pp the tour included;

  • Hornblower Niagara Cruise Boat Ride (a highlight like Maid of the Mist)
  • Journey Behind the falls
  • Niagara’s Fury- a platform that demonstrates the power of the falls.
  • Skylon Tower- 775Ft above the falls with 360 degree views
  • ‘At the Brink’ of the Horseshoe Falls
  • Floral Clock
  • Whirlpool Rapids

Our guide/driver had such a thorough knowledge of the area, I could have listened to him all day, this makes such a difference when on a tour for many hours.  As the season was changing into winter there were not too many people around, despite this, the Fall was running a little late….so we could enjoy the Fall colours, such a privilege to tick this off my bucket list.

Washington

Trump Washington DC, had only been open for 2 weeks when we arrived, one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever stayed in, it was once Washington DC’s Post Office.  The rooms are large and opulent, the whole hotel is.  The theme is Benjamin Franklin, the lobby and nine story Atrium is completely open with the Benjamin Bar & Lounge located here.  They hold high tea, breakfast and their bar has very tasty cocktails!   The location was perfect and we could literally walk anywhere from here. 

Washington is a very easy city to get around, however if you are not confident with catching public transport then the Hop on Hop off bus is the way to see it.   The weather was perfect and sitting at the top of the bus seeing the sights of Washington just blew me away, I didn’t think that I would love Washington as much as I did. 

A MUST

The monuments by Moonlight Trolley Tour.  Tour departs around 730pm for 2.5 hours.  Remember to take something warm during the cold months as they tend to keep the Trolley Open to make sure you can take in all the sites.

Dinner RPM Italian

With celebrity owners and with their Chicago RPM a hit, I had to dine here and we did not regret it.  The best Italian I have EVER eaten!!

Washington is one of those cities that wasn’t on the top of my travel list but is now one of my favourite cities!

Next Stop New York

We decided to take the train from Washington to New York.  We booked months out and could get a business class seat for 50 USD one way.  Way cheaper then flying and much more convenient, no three hour check in or airport lines and we arrived at Penn Station in the middle of New York!

New York

We moved around a few times in New York, which was lucky as we were there on election day.

The first hotel we stayed in is Trump Central Park, which is probably my favourite of the two Trump properties in New York.  We had a 1 bedroom suite overlooking the whole of Central Park.  The suite had a full kitchen, separate lounge and bathroom, sort of felt like being at home.  There is also a lap pool (I was in heaven) and very large gym onsite.

Being in this area of NY we spent the day riding around central park, into the Bronx, had a delicious lunch at the Boat House and visited many famous spots from all of the movies.  From here we walked down to The Plaza, 5th Ave…. however, was greeted with protest and trucks lining the street close to Trump Tower- it was election day.  We decided to stay clear, so headed to Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building instead.

The next morning, we moved to Trump Soho, which was a good move as Columbus Circle became the protesting area once Trump got elected.

Trump Soho, has a very different feel to the other properties, still very large suites however with very dark tones it’s very slick.  Being in Soho, we did lots of walking and catching the subway, we headed down to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, then to Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial tour.  We finished the afternoon at Battery Point and caught the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

After two nights in Soho we finished our stay at The Times Hotel.  This hotel has just finished a full renovation, it’s a hidden gem…looks very average on the outside but is quirky and funky on the inside!  For theatre lovers, this is the best location, it is walking distance to every single show with the Book of Mormons performing next door.  As the name suggests it is also very close to Time Square, about 200 metres away, being November, Christmas decorations were starting to go up – it was beginning to look stunning.

I love New York, being there during the presidential election probably wasn’t the best but there is always something new to see in the city that never sleeps….

Abu Dhabi

Qasr Al Sarab Resort by Anantara

I was not prepared for how much I loved this resort, by far one of the most spectacular places I have ever stayed and would easily go back there tomorrow.

Just two hours from Abu Dhabi or Dubai this luxury resort is situated in the endless dunes of the world’s largest desert.  Where do I start, we stayed in a Deluxe Balcony Room, the Balcony could have probably held 50 people it was that large.  The room was fitted with Middle Eastern fabrics with jewelled and bronzed chandeliers.  The view, straight out over the property and sand dunes.

The best way to get around the resort is by golf buggy and with a simple call they were there to pick you up and take you the restaurant, pool, anywhere, we were there mid-week so it was quiet…but that is exactly what I loved about it!  

There are plenty of activities and excursions, with desert walks, camel trekking, Falcon show, fat biking and Dune Bashing.  We did Dune Bashing at sunrise which was scary, we flew over tall dunes, stopped for photos and a light breakfast once the big dunes were done with…it’s not for the faint hearted!

There are several dining options at the resort we booked in advance and ate at Al Falaj, which takes you on a voyage to the spirit of Arabia.  The restaurant is out in the desert…the stars shine bright and the super moon glowed.  There was so much to eat, with a variety of cold Mezzeh then an Arabian BBQ.

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers

We were very lucky to stay at 5 star exquisite hotels throughout the whole trip, and our last couple of nights staying at the Jumeirah Etihad Towers were no exception.  A very tall hotel, we were staying on level 51 which took around 24 seconds in the lift.  The room was everything you could want in a 5-star hotel.  With its own private beach, outdoor pool and plenty of restaurants, Jumeirah Etihad Towers is in a good location, across the road from Emirates Palace and for any tours it’s only a short drive away.

Our last day we visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the world’s largest mosques.  It is striking, the white with the gold columns surrounded by the reflection pools takes your breath away.

Once inside make sure you look up, the world’s largest chandeliers are located into the mosque.

Before You Go:

Dress Accordingly – Nothing could be more important than to get this right, or you will not be permitted entry.

Women – Must cover the head, wrists and ankles. If you are not dressed appropriately, you can ‘hire’ an Abaya for no charge. This will cover you head to toe and prevents disappointment, but you should still arrive in loose fitting clothing covering the knees (ankles better) and wrists.

Men – No singlets and no shorts.

Thankyou Etihad for the opportunity to combine such different destinations.  It was truly a trip of a life time.