Thanksgiving in Europe 2013: Intro

by | Dec 20, 2013 | International Travel, Travel

Last spring we started talking with my parents about a trip over Thanksgiving. After going through a variety of options we settled on Christmas markets in central Europe, and over the summer I found a nice deal from NY to Vienna on Austrian Air. Since we had visited Vienna in 2009 we knew we would enjoy the markets there, but we also wanted to try a new city, so we eventually decided to also visit Prague on this trip.

Flights

To catch our Austrian flight we flew JetBlue up to JFK ~5 hours beforehand, transferring between terminals via the AirTrain. Since we were switching airlines we had to consider whether to check bags; we had been stuck with a bag to check at a closed counter when arriving early to airports in the past. Searching online we couldn’t find info and they never responded via Twitter so we decided to carry-on. This turned out the be a good decision since the ticket counter didn’t open until 3 hours before the flight.

Oddly for German airlines, the Lufthansa lounge was late opening (and there were several Germans impatiently sighing in front of the locked doors.) We eventually got in but didn’t receive much of a reception from the desk. The lounge itself was fairly small but reasonably comfortable. They had a local NY pumpkin beer on draft and several other interesting options, plus the chicken soup was nice. And the view from the Lufthansa lounge was entertaining, including a view of our jet.

Austrian airways @ sunset

My parents texted me once they arrived at JFK, so we left the lounge and met them before we got on the flight. Shortly thereafter business class was called and we boarded.

our two business class seats

The seats were fairly comfortable with several lounging options. Amenity kits were made of a folded felt pouch which looked nice but the components were somewhat lackluster.

Before takeoff the chef came around to take dinner and breakfast orders- I’m not a fan of this, as it is bit difficult to decide what you want hours ahead of time, plus it’s hard to remember what you ordered. Case in point: I apparently checked a box for hot chocolate with breakfast and when it was delivered to me seven hours later I looked confused so they simply took it away looking disappointed.

first course Eric's food

After take-off we enjoyed the meal service with several rounds of Austrian and Spanish wine. Wanting to take advantage of the much-touted coffee menu, Leandra had a coffee and whiskey concoction. After dinner we did get a few hours of sleep.

We were looking forward to our return flight where we could try a few additional options since Vienna is their home city; unfortunately, Austrian Air did not meet our expectations. First, the Austrian Airlines lounge was tiny, quite crowded, and offered an underwhelming breakfast of pastries and cold cereal. We didn’t stay too long and did some duty free shopping instead.

Second, Austrian was quite deceptive on the flight back, as they didn’t properly staff or cater business class on the return. It was clearly premeditated as we received a disingenuous letter in an envelope before takeoff that didn’t offer a reason for their diminished service. Menu items were missing, service was downgraded, and we never heard directly from the staff outside of the letter. A few days later (via another customer complaint on twitter) we discovered that they understaffed business class for the entire month of December… that is definitely something we will keep in mind for future ticketing.

Bus ride to/from  Prague

We investigated several options for travel to Prague, and the bus was cheaper and more efficient option compared to trains. The Westbus station is directly across the street from the Erdberg metro stop and features a decidedly small waiting room. We checked in around 12:40 and boarded the bus  headed to Prague. Unfortunately, our bus had no power outlets or wifi as advertised.

I watched movies but Leandra can’t do that on a bus, so she observed the scenery, including the crazy scene at the border with an actual jet serving as a restaurant, casinos, fireworks, strip clubs and a medieval theme park. She also got to hear ‘The Neverending Story’ and ‘I Need a Hero’ songs sung in Czech!

When we arrived we found ATMs to get Czech money, plus a English speaking receptionist at the tourist counter to buy 24 hour metro passes. Finding the trams was a bit trickier- we had to head down stairs and take an underground passage past several stairwells to the end where we could catch a tram. Signage was minimally helpful. Catching a metro would have been easier but not as helpful for out hotel.

Our return bus trip was relatively uneventful, this time with (spotty) wifi. Overall, not too bad for $30 one way.

Our Itinerary

2024 Trips

San Diego, CA (Jan)
Sarasota, FL (Feb)
Valencia, Spain (Mar)
Mallorca (Apr)
Croatia (May)
Faroe Islands (Aug)
London, UK (Sept)
Bari, Italy (Sept)
Rome, Italy (Oct)
Frankfurt, Germany (Oct)

2022 Trips

Florida (Feb)
NC Mountains (Apr)
Washington DC (Apr)
Valencia, Spain (May)
Hilton Head, SC (May)
Pacific NW (Jun)
Long Island (Jul)
Florida (Sept)
Chicago (Sept)
Poland (Sept)
NC Mountains (Nov)
Euro Xmas Markets (Dec)