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Welcome, new readers! This post has definitely gotten a lot of interest! For actual travel blog posts, you can visit my travel page.

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The Press Trip that Wasn’t. . .

Or that time I was so done with an airline I walked off of a plane before going anywhere. . .

If you’ve been reading lately, you’ll know that I was getting ready for a press trip to England a couple of weeks ago. Over the course of the month or so where the planning was supposedly taking place, the communication was pretty intermittent, a week here, several days there. I honestly wasn’t 100% sure it was happening, even up to the morning of my departure. I was excited for the destination; Bristol, England looks like a really cool place to visit. I soon learned that WOW Airlines, the airline getting me there, is a mess.

Three weeks before departure: First, I receive an invitation,  then I get asked about my blog traffic and social media handles. In my PR experience, you do all of that first, before inviting people. But I let that piece go.

After the initial few emails, I heard nothing for about nine days, so I sort of put the trip out of my head. I knew that if I was going I had to move some work and social events, told the contact that, and still didn’t get any concrete information. And despite being told multiple times by them that I would have my ticket in 24 hours, days and weeks passed, and nothing.

Friday afternoon, six days before departure: I receive an email that the trip is happening and I will get my ticket and itinerary on Monday. Being less than a week out and still having no idea where I am going or how I am getting there doesn’t sit great with me but I am still excited to visit Bristol! Be spontaneous, right?!

Tuesday, before a Thursday departure: I finally receive the itinerary. At this point, I am more than annoyed at how last minute everything is, but the itinerary looks amazing! I start to get really excited, but I still don’t have any airline details. I then receive four blank emails from WOW Airlines. I start to feel not-so-comfortable with their competence.

Wednesday, before a Thursday departure: I finally am able to open one of the ticket attachments. It has me leaving from Baltimore. I’m in Boston. I’m promised another ticket the next morning.

Thursday, day of departure: I start to feel REALLY wary of the trip when I still don’t have a confirmed ticket. I let my contact know that, and I receive a ticket in response. Okay, I’m going!

Four hours before departure: I get ready to go! WOW doesn’t have online check-in, but I leave with plenty of time to get to the airport. A truck fire in the tunnel means it takes me two hours to go seven miles. Maybe this is an omen.

Arrival at the airport: I finally make it to check in! I hand my passport to the desk attendant, and her first question is “Are you sure you’re traveling on WOW?”

Maybe not? They finally find my reservation and then try to force me to check my small bag, which is under the weight limit. The service was incredibly rude and off-putting, and with the disorganization that had already taken place, I am starting to lose patience.

 

IMG_5128

You’ll note that my departure time, above left, is 1900, where boarding is 1940.  They couldn’t even get the ticket right.

Once, I got through security, the delays, without any information, began. I had a glass of wine at Vino Volo and learned from my fellow passengers that none of the WOW customer service numbers they called were connected. Comforting.

We eventually start boarding after the third delay, and everyone around me was worried about connections. WOW is a big connector from Keflavik, Iceland, to other places in Europe, but after looking at their reviews, I now know that people usually miss those connections.

I get to the door of the plane and am told I only have a ticket to Keflavik, but not to Bristol and that I would need to deal with that when I get to Iceland. Except with the delay,  the time to do that and make my flight would require a miracle.

I get on the plane anyway. No TV’s. The tiniest seats I have ever been in. I learn we have to pay for water.

And then the pilot announces another delay because we don’t have the needed paperwork to depart.

All of the above frustrations came together at that moment. I felt sick, extremely uncomfortable, and I used something I learned at the Boston Business Women’s Conference.

 

As in "Wow" this airline is bad

I stood up for myself and I got off the plane. It felt like the only think I could do. I felt so unsure about the trip and the lack of planning and I couldn’t take another mishap.

I had my passport checked to make sure I didn’t leave luggage on board, and I was walked out of security. And I went home. I emailed my contact who was planning the trip and emailed again the next day, outlining all that went wrong. I never heard back. . .

This wasn’t a decision I made lightly. It was more than a little embarrassing to be the person getting off of a full plane. I wanted to go on the trip. I had cancelled meetings, plans with friends and family, and rearranged my life to be away for four days.

I’ve told the story about 10 times now, and every single person I have told has said they would have given up way before I did. I told many PR colleagues who were horrified at the lack of communication. They encouraged me to blog about it.

I work in PR. More specifically, I work with travel and hospitality clients and have planned and executed dozens of trips for press.  Timing sometimes gets off, there are miscommunications. People don’t show up when they are supposed to. But the job of the person planning is to communicate and to make the guest feel excited about the trip and comfortable; otherwise you really aren’t doing a great job of selling your client!

In summary, 1) WOW Airlines failed to impress on every front.

If you enjoy good service, comfort, organization, and any sort of attention to detail whatsoever, you might be best avoiding WOW, at least based on my experience.

2) Trust your gut. I should have turned down the trip earlier in the week. It would have saved me a ton of time, worry, planning and about $100 back and forth to the airport.

I travel a good amount; I think I got in 26 flights last year, that included a trip to Africa, two trips to Sonoma, and three trips to Ireland. I’ve never gotten off of a plane before. I guess there’s a first time for everything! I’ve learned that if something feels really wrong, trust that. This experience is, of course, just that of one person, but I felt strongly enough about it to share. It was upsetting to say the least!

Have you ever walked away from a situation that put you in a bad position? I would love to hear your thoughts on what happened!

 

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Tags: PR, Travel, travel mishaps

Our weekend in Camden, Maine was one I would love to repeat over and over. It involved great food, gorgeous New England scenery, and fun friends. The Hartstone Inn was our home-away-from-home for the weekend and is the coziest little retreat for a relaxing weekend. Our friends have been going for a few years, and when they invited us, we jumped at the chance. We booked way back in September, and when the weekend finally came in April, we were so excited.

Hartstone Inn

We booked the Manor Suite, which was spacious and beautiful, with two bedrooms, a big Jacuzzi soaking tub, a fireplace, and a little foyer. It was in the same house as one of the couples we were traveling with, so we were back and forth all weekend, hanging out for snacks and drinks in the living room in their suite and enjoying their sunny balcony. 

Hartstone Inn

 

Hartstone Inn, Camden, Maine

Our room included a half bottle of wine and chocolates and some cute welcome literature like a recipe for one of the inn’s delicious cocktails.

Hartstone Inn, Camden, Maine

Downstairs, a sunny, enclosed porch welcomed us. Everywhere we looked there were beautiful little touches and cute details. I want the Hartstone Inn to come and decorate my house.

Hartstone Inn, Camden, Maine

 

Hartstone Inn, Camden, Maine 

The main house of the inn was home to reception and the dining room, along with some cozy little rooms for reading and relaxing. Our package included breakfast each day and a credit toward the tasting menu. Food is carefully prepared, creative, and focused on being fresh and local. And it was amazing.

Hartstone Inn, Camden, Maine

Happy Hour featured $5 specialty cocktails and small bites to get us ready for a feast.

cocktail hour

One at the table, we started with a little seared tuna amuse, which we paired with bubbly and a toast to the weekend.

tuna 

While others made some substitutions, I went straight off of the tasting menu.

MAINE SEAFOOD TIMBALE with  citrus aioli, pickled red onions, rye toast points
SWEET POTATO, RUTABAGA AND GREEN APPLE SOUP with maple cream
SORBET – Maine blueberry
PAN SEARED BISTRO STEAK with roasted fingerling potatoes, blue cheese butter
BLUEBERRY-ALMOND SOUFFLÉ with amaretto crème anglaise

It all looked so good to me, and I ended up devouring every delicious bite.

seafood timbale 

You can’t go wrong with Maine seafood, and I love pickled onions. Tart, tangy, refreshing, and light, this dish was a perfect starter.

 

sweet potato soup

Temperatures had dropped during our walk around Camden, and this rich and velvety soup was a yummy way to also warm up and get a dose of veggies. My eating has been terrible lately, especially when I travel, and I appreciate any way to eat vegetables that also tastes really good!

Maine blueberry sorbet

Maine blueberry sorbet cleansed our palates and gave us a taste of summer.

bistro steak

As it got darker, my photos did the food no justice. The bistro steak was perfectly cooked, and you really can’t go wrong with blue cheese butter and potatoes.

blueberry souffle

And then there was dessert. Swoon. The soufflé was hot and fluffy, and the decadent sauce poured over as the top was cracked open was just the icing on the cake, so to speak. Heavenly.

Hartstone Inn      

Breakfast at the inn was just as good. I only ate the first morning as I had some work to do the second day during breakfast hours. We started the morning with a cup of coffee in the parlor, enjoying the super cozy vibe. I rarely feel truly relaxed, and this was one of those moments.

Once at our breakfast table, I had a mimosa in hand and a fruity breakfast starter with a home baked scone followed by an egg strata with the best homemade chicken sausage ever.

breakfast

egg strata with homemade chicken sausage The Hartstone Inn Chef was not on property, but the food was some of the best I have had. I’ve heard that it’s even that much better when Chef is there. When not actually at the inn, you can find the Chef/owners leading culinary trips in Europe, which look like complete dream getaways.

If you’re looking for a lovely weekend away, I can’t recommend the Hartstone Inn enough. We’re looking forward to next year’s visit!

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Tags: Camden, Food, getaway, Maine, New England, Travel, travel blog, vacation

Our magical time in Puerto Rico seems like it happened years ago. . . I am craving warmth and sunshine in a big way, and Boston is not delivering! The trip was full of relaxation, beach time, and lots of local food, which we tried in all sorts of places, including at Los Kioskos, the kiosks in Luquillo, a must-visit for anyone traveling to the area.

The kiosks are a long stretch of roadside food stands, some small storefronts and others more upscale restaurants, all facing a beautiful beach. The kiosks give you access to about 60 different eating and drinking options with some shops and even a piercing and tattoo studio mixed in!

Luquillo Luquillo Kiosks

If you’re visiting Luquillo, you’ll want to visit the kiosks more than once to sample the variety of food there. We loved fresh, tangy ceviche at the Ceviche Hut, along with their peek out at the ocean. This was always a packed spot; you can tell it’s popular and that the seafood flies out of there!

ceviche

los kioskos luquillo

After our hike at El Yunque National Forest, the burgers at the El Jefe kiosk were calling our names, as were their delicious rum cocktails! I loved my Caribbean BBQ Burger with avocado, red onion, and pickles and hand cut fries as much as I loved my rum punch. This would definitely be a spot I would visit again; the menu offered burgers stuffed with chorizo and short ribs, which both sounded decadent and delicious, perfect for a slightly cooler day.

burgers for lunch We also loved that many of the places had happy hours. Tattoo Tavern was great for this as well as for live music later in the evening. I almost got my nose pierced again, but the tattoo/piercing part of the business was closed when we went back. Next time!

drinks in Puerto Rico

One of our favorite kiosks for a more sit down dinner was Terruno, where we found incredible local music, dancing, and dinner, along with really friendly and welcoming service. We didn’t stop smiling the entire time, as we chowed down on fried cheese with guava and shrimp mofongo with a garlic sauce.

fried cheese Seriously, this shrimp was pure heaven. Sharing an appetizer and a main course was enough to fill us up and to get us ready for a night of moving to the music. Such warmth and local flavor to be found by visiting the kiosks!

mofongo empanadas On another night, we did a couple of appetizers at Mata de Platano where again we went with seafood; crab empanadas and salmon skewers, again delicious and served with true Puerto Rican hospitality.

fish skewers

Our final stop at the kiosks was Edelweiss, known for their extensive beer selection and, you guessed it, friendly staff. Edelweiss is the perfect post-beach spot to start your wandering of the kioskos; most places allow you to take your beer to go as a refresher while you browse the other kiosks.

edelweiss kiosk

We really only visited a small handful of the kiosks but spent a lot of time wandering up and down the stretch, seeing families enjoying meals, friends out dancing, people on dates, and lots of people just relaxing after work. It’s a great spot to see how the locals enjoy life, one another, and good food.

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Tags: adventure, Dining out, Food, Puerto Rico, Restaurants, Travel

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