Of Bed Bugs and Baggage

I’m surprised to admit that I am hugely excited for my upcoming trip to the states – and it’s still about 3.5 months away!  I would say “unfortunately” 3+ months away, but frankly I’ve got no interest in visiting PA outside of the summer and early autumn and risk freezing my ass off in dreary, wet, cold weather.  I guess my excitement is not too shocking, considering it is home and I haven’t been since autumn 2009 and nor have I seen any family or friends since then.  A year and a half in-between visits.  That’s a long time and I’m only talking about Pittsburgh.  I haven’t been back to Philadelphia or NYC since I moved away in June 2008.  I think I am most excited though because my boyfriend is coming with me, who is English, and has never been to the US.  I imagine it’s going to be really fun to introduce him to where I’m from and my favorite bits all around Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York City.  I have literally never been in Pittsburgh with someone who has not been there before, so showing the place to someone entirely unfamiliar with it should be interesting.  Also, the food.  Primanti Bros, American pizza (OMG Vincent’s), deep-fried turkey, Philli’s Reading Terminal Market…  I am going to absolutely stuff myself with unhealthy (for the most part), delicious, American chow.  And then regret it once all is said and done. Last time I came home I started gorging on Dunkin’ Donuts (donuts and breakfast sandwiches) as soon as I got off the plane and into the airport; sickness soon followed.  I’m disgusting.

Side note: Recommendations for things to see and do around the Pittsburgh area with someone who has never been before would be most welcome.  I’ve got some ideas – Strip District and other neighborhoods, Warhol/Carnegie Museums, Ohio Pyle, Kennywood…  I think it’s likely I take much of Pittsburgh’s offerings for granted and am really drawing blanks.  Not to mention, I haven’t lived in Pittsburgh full-time since 1999, I am admittedly out of the loop.  (Although, not so much as I assumed, apparently, as I’ve yet to hear much I haven’t been aware of. Does Pittsburgh ever evolve/update?  And people wonder why I left and don’t want to move back.)

I am also really big on planning ahead so this weekend I started booking flights and hotels.  I’m a bit of fiend for NYC hotels.  I love them – especially boutique hotels in downtown Manhattan – and browsing the options online is a hugely enjoyable activity for me, and one I’ve been mulling over since I first started thinking about this trip about a year ago.  Unfortunately, both of these activities had some frustrations attached.

First, I completely forgot about the current bed bug situation going on in NYC.  What is with that?  It’s entirely disgusting!  How did this infestation happen?  How long before it’s under control or stopped? Even the swankiest joints can’t seem to escape it and upon looking up the hotel I had originally booked (Hotel on Rivington), turns out there are definite reports of bed bugs.  As disappointment and horror swept over me, I quickly decided it was not worth taking a risk and staying there anyway (it seems like the infestation is mostly on lower floors and I had specifically booked a high floor for the view, so I might have been OK, but…?) so cancelled the booking post-haste.

Then I thought, OK, I’ll just go in for the Gramercy Park Hotel, a hotel of that repute should not have bed bugs…but there are recent stories of employees with bug sightings in the guest rooms.  So, maybe it’s just a disgruntled employee, but who knows?  I don’t want to take the chance.

I finally figured that a safe bet might be to book in a totally new hotel, the just-opened Mondrian SoHo (meh, too pretty for my taste) soon-to-open Nolitan in, accordingly, Nolita (actually, technically, it’s in Little Italy; Nolita starts across the street on the northern side of Kenmare)!  The fact that it’s new has me thinking it should be bed bug free?  Here’s to hoping.  And it boasts rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows with views of downtown Manhattan (if you book a ‘Corner Cityscape’ room, that is), which is what initially attracted me to the Rivington (and then later, the Mondrian), so I’m still getting everything I wanted in a room.  I am completely in love with the industrial look of this hotel.  Mmmm…cement.

I know that I am more than likely totally over-reacting to the bed bugs, but I also don’t see any reason to take a chance and stay in a venue where there are definite reports of an infestation.  The bites sound miserable and how aggravating would it be if they happened to hitch a ride back to my flat in Dubai?  No, thank you.

And secondly, the flight from NYC to Pittsburgh on Delta has further stirred my already-great hatred for American-based airlines.  Since I flew on what was, without question the most miserable flight of my life with United Airlines to and from the states and UAE back in 2009, I have vowed to never ever fly (international) on an American-based airline ever again if it could be reasonably avoided.  It was like a ghetto in the sky, I kid you not.  I’ve also flown trans-Atlantic on British Airways and Air France, which I have heard many complaints about from many people, but seriously, they were far more pleasant than my experiences on American flights (and I’m not just talking about UA).

While I stayed true to my vow not to fly on an American-based airline from Dubai to the states, the connecting flight from NYC – Pittsburgh on an American airline really couldn’t be avoided.  Settling on a convenient flight with Delta I decided to see what their baggage policy is, worrying that they may only allow for one free checked baggage, as I know how American airlines aren’t in to being generous.  Imagine my surprise to find that they don’t even allow for one free checked baggage!  Nope, your first piece of checked baggage is $25 and your second checked baggage is $35 (want to check a third bag – fork over another $125, sucker).  What a load!  It’s really infuriating!  To make it even more irritating, on Emirates Airline I can check up to 70 pounds of baggage free, but if my luggage weighs more than 50 pounds on Delta, then I’ve got to cough up $90.  Now, the overweight fee is predictable, but still annoying because a stupid, measly one-way 1 hour and 50 minute flight is screwing me over on my other 28 hours of round-trip fly time, when I should be allowed to carry far more for far less. (I could have booked the NYC-PIT connection along with my DXB-NYC flight on Emirates and gotten the very same Delta flight and then probably would have gotten away with 70 pounds of free luggage the whole way to PIT, but Emirates was charging a shockingly unbelievable extra $800+ for that connecting flight, whereas it only costs a lil more than $100 if I booked directly via Delta.)

You might wonder why in the world I would even need 70 pounds of luggage on a 2 week trip.  Let me tell you, the weight of platform heels and leather handbags adds up very quickly indeed, my friends.  My bad habit of also liking to change outfits multiple times a day does not help.  At least June is warm enough (it had better be, anyway) and I won’t need to bring any heavy winter clothes and boots.  That’s one saving grace.

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6 thoughts on “Of Bed Bugs and Baggage

  1. It’s aweful how quickly (and often) airlines change their fees. Baggage seems to be one they love to hit travelers with. It’s like hiking the food prices in amusement parks when you can’t bring in your own or go anywhere else. They have you by the bollocks.

    Michelle
    @eskyguide
    http://travelfed.wordpress.com

    eSkyGuide from American Express Publishing helps you navigate changes to your air travel plans It helps you get to where you need to be, regardless of the delays and disruptions. Flight Schedules/Flight Status/Weather/Airport Finder/Contact Information

  2. If you get a US airline credit card and charge your ticket through them, the first bag is free. Not sure how that would work since you’re living overseas though. One thing I do is take bare minimum of clothes, wash them on my trip, buy new things at my destination, and ship things back home. Of course, that would probably exceed the cost of checking the baggage.

    Whatever you do, have a safe and wonderful trip! And welcome back to the states!

    1. Ah, interesting to know! But no, I don’t have any US credit cards, let alone an airline one – I really make it my mission to avoid giving them my money.
      I was thinking it’s probably a good thing I can only take 50 pounds worth of stuff over; that gives me leeway to buy 20 pounds of stuff there, since I’m not flying back to NYC from PIT, I’ll be driving & training it. Oh, I miss shopping in Philli & NYC!

      & thank you!

  3. If you’re visiting the Strip in Pittsburgh and haven’t been here since 1999 you will be enthralled. When I moved back here from Philly in 2000 it caught my attention and I spent 8 years looking for funding so I could work with the community development group in the Strip. The Strip is Pittsburgh’s historic food market and the past ten years have seen that aspect grow (along with some sensational residential projects like The Cork Factory in the old Armstrong Cork Factory on the Allegheny River.) Definitely do not limit yourself to Primantis. There are some fantastic restaurants in the Strip. Depending on your food preferences try the Cafe at Enrico Biscotti (lunch only unless you catch their First Friday dinner which is served family style and is a sensational – but warm and homey – experience); for an upscale experience try Eleven, Lidia’s or Chioppino – Eleven has the best Eggs Benedict ever at their Sunday brunch; Kaya will give you a taste of the Caribbean; for breakfast, go to Pamela’s P&G Diner (owners Pam & Gail were called to the White House to make pancakes for the troops on Memorial Day!. And there is so much more. My own palate for ethnic dishes is limited, but the Strip is filled with options just waiting to be discovered by those with more exotic tastes than I have. The Strip also has an extensive number of ethnic and/or local food groceries and just last fall the Pittsburgh Public Market opened (first Public Market in Pgh in 45 years). The Public Market offers even more ethnic, local and niche food options. Beyond food, the Strip is where you can find some unique gift shops and all sorts of Pittsburgh paraphrenalia. It is also the home of The Heinz History Center and Western PA Sports Museum, Society for Contemporary Craft, the Pittsburgh Ballet and Pittsburgh Opera (which offers occasional free lunchtime or early evening concerts), Fantasy (a river yacht) has occasional wine or beer tastings departing from The Cork Factory and there is a variety of first class local coffee shops. Whet you won’t find are national chains. While Pittsburgh is filled with wonderful neighborhoods (and you won’t want to miss the view from Mt. Washington – ride up on the incline), if time is limited the Strip will give you an excellent experience of what this city is all about. If you are looking for a unique place to stay, try The Priory on the North Shore. I won’t go into detail – check their website – it’s an enchanting place to stay,

    1. Thanks – yah I’m pretty familiar with the Strip and most of Pittsburgh in general, it is, as you said, a great place! While I haven’t lived full-time in Pittsburgh since 1999, I was still in and out quite a bit as I was just living in other places in PA, until I moved overseas in 2008, as I was raised there and the vast majority of my family still lives there, parents included.

      I’ve really been trying to dig and find new and interesting things that have cropped up since I left the states in ’08, as that is the area where I am lacking information and experience! (As it turns out, apparently not so much, just keep getting the same old same old suggestions, hmmm.) That said, the Public Market is news to me, so that’s good!

      Thanks for all the info!

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