An Unplanned Hike in Ljubljana – Sometimes I Don’ t Plan Well

Okay, I was back on the bus this morning for a two hour trip from Zagreb to Ljubljana – the capital city of Slovenia. The bus trip, which cost something like $7 USD, was fine. Comfortable and with good wi-fi. But, I had not really looked at my plans for how to get from the bus station to my hotel, the Four Points by Sheraton Ljubljana Mons.

Once we arrived, I checked to see if Uber was in operation in Slovenia. It was not. I checked Google maps and it showed walking to be a bit over an hour, public transport to be about 40 minutes, and a taxi about 15 minutes. This should have sent warning bells off in my head, but it did not.

When planning a trip like this one, there are a lot of variables that have to be dealt with:

  • Dates of travel
  • Award flight levels and cities where best deal can be scored
  • Pay cash flights, use miles, pay for economy and use upgrade certs, etc.
  • Time to spend in each location
  • How easy it is to move between cities
  • Hotels for each city – costs, award options
  • Visa requirements and any special considerations
  • Family calendar

It’s complicated.

When I was planning this trip, I was largely looking for value from hotel points for my lodging to keep costs down. So, Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, and Hyatt were all in play. In some cities, like Milan and Venice, they were not realistic options. But, in other cities I was able to find properties that worked but, in retrospect, I was more concerned about the cost/points issue than anything else and didn’t really do enough research on location.

That worked out fine in Vienna, Bratislava, and Zagreb even though I was out of the city center in each case. But, in each case, I had very convenient public transport. But, my lack of planning, bit me in the backside in Ljubljana.

Given that I was not sure to trust the taxis and the public transport seemed too complicated, I set off on foot for the 3 mile + hike to my hotel. Somehow, it did not dawn on me how far this was and the implication for how far out of the city that my hotel is located.

After 10 minutes of walking in the city, I turned right into Tivoli Park and there was no turning back. Now, I like hiking. Luckily, my ultralight packing plan allowed this option. The fact that it was in the high 70’s and very sunny and I was in long, black slacks, made it a bit warm. But, it became pretty comical.

I wasn’t anywhere near a city or town. Here are pictures I took along they way..

 

It is my understanding that Ljubljana was recently voted the “Green City” of Europe and that is where I was walking. After a little over an hour of walking, I was near the hotel that is located near the highway that runs in the outskirts of the area and a technology park.  After all that walking, I was afraid I was going to be killed in the last 800 meters when I had to go along a busy two lane road with no sidewalk.

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But, I did make it to the hotel. I was a sweaty mess and the front desk personnel affirmed that they were unaware of anyone ever walking to the hotel from the bus station, so I have that going for me in addition to total consciousness on my death bed.

Sheraton – Salzburg, Austria

Hotel Review

The Sheraton Salzburg could not be in a better location and the hotel was beautiful.  My room looked out over the Mirabell Gardens, famous as setting for much of the Do Re Mi song from The Sound of Music movie.  A two block walk takes you to the river Salzach and into old town where Mozart once lived and filled with small shops and tourist traps.  The staff was super and I wish I had been here more than one night.

The only possible criticism I could level at this property was the fairly slow wi-fi network.  Perhaps it was a temporary issue while I was there but was noticeable.

Final Grade: A

Points and Dollars

At the time of my booking, the best rate was $187 USD.  The standard point redemption was 12,000 points per night which would have yielded a redmption value of 1.56 cents per Starpoint.  Alternatively, I could book at “Cash & Points” award for 4,800 points plus $90 per night which pushes the redemption value up to a little over 2 cents per Starpoint.  Since I earned 632 Starpoints due to my Gold Amenity and spend on incidentals during my stay, it was as if I only redeemed 4,168 points which would take the redemption value to 2.3 cents per Starpoint. 

For my one night stay, my total bill was $281 with tax. As a result, I earned 632 Starpoints based on the following breakdown:

  • Base points = 41
  • Elite 50% bonus = 21
  • Gold Amenity = 250
  • SPG AMEX (2 points per dollar) = 320

Sheraton Meadowlands – Seacaucus, NJ

Hotel Review

The Frequent Traveler University (FTU) event brought me to this property located just off the NJ Turnpike and Rte. 3 by the Meadowlands.  Check-in was fine and I receieved a pretty standard room.  As a SPG Gold member, there is no access to the Club level or lounge.  Instead, you get a choice of free internet or a free drink or some other amenity.

I took the internet option but have to say that the wireless internet in this hotel was the slowest I’ve had for a while.

The meeting facilities themselves were very good.  Their is a Starbucks in the lobby and the restaurant and bar was nice.  There are several nearby restaurant and shopping options but make sure you have clear directions on how to get back to the hotel because it can be tricky.

Incidentally, had dinner at Minado, a Japanese seafood buffet in nearby Little Ferry.  It was outstanding!

I’m not sure I would stay here on next visit as there are plenty of options in the area, but wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid it, either.

Final Grade: B

Points and Dollars

My total spend for my two nights was $351.

For this, I earned 626 base points SPG Elite 50% bonus of 313 points.  Since I charged it to my SPG American Express Card, I will also receive another 702 points (2 points per dollar) for a total of 1,641 points.