The Lap Of Luxury

I am writing this from my room on the 23rd floor (Executive Level) of the Chicago Hilton. This is the hotel where the climactic chase scene from “The Fugitive” was filmed and I am listening to the “L” and the bells that helped Samuel Gerard track down fugitive Richard Kimble. My older son and I are in town for a performing arts college fair and several college visits. Here  was the view from our room yesterday afternoon, while we ate Gino’s East pizza and Garrett’s caramel corn:

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While it’s not the $10,000-a-night Conrad Suite (complete with helipad!) perched at the top of this grand hotel, this is certainly more luxury than I ever dreamed of experiencing. I used to hope that maybe some day I’d be able to afford one night at a Hilton.

Wanna know a secret? I got a free upgrade to this room because I’m a Hilton HHonors Gold member, which I achieved just by getting an Hilton HHonors American Express credit card. And rooms here go for just $85/night during the winter. Luxury is sometimes more affordable than you think. Now excuse me while I get my free breakfast in the Executive Lounge…

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Really Good Vanilla

Greenwood, Indiana, where I live, is like really, really, really good vanilla ice cream. It’s not fancy or flashy, but you can do almost anything with it as a great base.

We’ve got low taxes, affordable housing, one of the best school districts in the state, and friendly, welcoming people. We’ve got downtown Indianapolis 20 minutes north for professional sports and first-class cultural events, including the Pacers and Colts, the Indianapolis 500, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and the Indiana Repertory Theatre.

Less than an hour to the south, we’ve got the rolling hills of Brown County and the quaint town of Nashville. A bit west of that is the great college town of Bloomington, home to Indiana University. For more far-reaching adventure, we are two hours from Cincinnati and Louisville, three hours from Chicago, and less than four hours from St. Louis — and just 20 minutes from a beautiful, modern international airport.

Add to all this four beautiful seasons, a collection of great churches, and the fact that most of our restaurants serve sweet tea, and this is pretty much one of the best places in the world to base a great life.

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Paying Respect

Last week on my way to Florida from South Carolina, my plane was saluted by JetBlue and Southwest Airlines employees as it went through a water cannon to honor a fallen JetBlue crew member. I took this (illegal) picture from my window seat as we taxied to the runway:

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I love that competing airlines would honor their airport compatriots.

London Times

In March (hard to believe it was that long ago!), my older son Taylor and I jetted our way across the Atlantic for a week-long trip to London. Taylor had been dying to see London and I had never been there either, so we saved enough frequent traveler miles and points to give this trip together for his 16th birthday.

And what a memorable trip it was. For a first-time visit to London, I don’t think we missed very much. Here’s what we saw and did in six days:

  • The Tower of London
  • The Royal Mews (carriage house) at Buckingham Palace
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Westminster Abbey, where we also attended an Evensong service
  • The Globe Theatre
  • The Churchill War Rooms
  • Windsor Castle
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • Les Misérables on the West End
  • Leicester Square
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Harrod’s department store
  • Rode in a famous London cab
  • Navigated the train and Underground systems
  • Behind-the-scenes tour of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) church on Palm Sunday
  • Kensington Palace
  • High Tea at the Orangery on the grounds of Kensington Palace
  • The six-floor Waterstones Bookshop in Piccadilly

We also enjoyed Poppies fish & chips, Welsh rarebit, steak & ale pie, and ate at the fantastic chain Pret a Manger every chance we could get.

We stayed at the wonderful Highbury Centre, a Christian conference center in northeast London that offers half-price accommodations to Christian ministry workers. Each morning we shared breakfast with Christian brothers and sisters who were visiting London from around the world.

On top of all this, I got to spend a week with my older son, who was a great traveling companion and delightful company. We have a lifetime of memories and can’t wait to go back.

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Unclaimed Baggage Center

Ever wonder where unclaimed airline baggage ends up? Apparently a lot of it goes to the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, AL. In 1970, founder Doyle Owens purchased a truckload of unclaimed baggage for $300. Today, Doyle’s son Bryan oversees an operation that handles 20,000 pieces of laundry a day and over a million visitors a year. Items acquired from airlines are cleaned and sorted, then donated to charities or tagged for sale at 20-50% off retail value. In addition to the usual clothing and electronics items, unusual items have included taxidermied animals, a suit of armor, and a Ferrari engine.

Check out the Center’s website here and this great article at The Points Guy blog here.