Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Monday, September 25, 2006
It's been a while since I posted anything. So I'll catch up real quick and write about my trip to Germany and Austria in September. Anne and I flew into Munich on the morning of September 22, checked into the Hotel Germania, and spent the day at shopping and hanging out in a beer garden, the Augustiner. I had a goal of buying lederhosen. And I did try some on. But I just couldn't find the right size in the style I wanted. As Oktoberfest was in full swing, we spent the evening at the Theresienwiese (the Oktoberfest fairgrounds.)
The next day, Anne and I met our other friends who were coming in that morning. We spent the morning drinking some beers at Oktoberfest.
Afterwards, we caught a train to Berchtesgaden, an Alpine village near the Austrian border, where we checked into the Alpenhotel Kronprinz.
Scenes from Berchtesgaden:
That night, we had dinner at the Hofbrauhaus Berchtesgaden.
The next day, we went to Salzburg, Austria for a day trip. Austria was beautiful. We walked around, spent the afternoon in a beer garden (Augustiner Braustubl), and saw the sites:
One of my favorite sites was the cemetary where the Von Trapp children hid.
Here I am hiding from the Nazis.
Monday morning we left Berchtesgaden to return to Munich, where we had Oktoberfest tent reservations at 4:00 pm. Scenes from Oktoberfest:
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
On July 4 weekend, I decided to fly up to visit my friends Betsy and Eric in Calgary. They had recently purchased a condo there in close proximity to lots of bars. This is a very important selling feature if you know Betsy and Eric.
Anyway, after spending the day visiting these local establishments (The Yardhouse, Rose & Crown, and others that I'm sure I'm forgetting), we met lots of people from all around the world who liked to drink in Calgary. (I think the whole city was practicing for Stampede, which is the big festival I was a week early for.)
Anyway, we ended up singing "It's a Small World After All" as we walked home, but we were unsuccesful in getting the Indian girls walking behind us to join in this revelry.
Monday, May 29, 2006
Memorial Day was a busy weekend! I had two weddings--one on Saturday in Pittsburgh at the Conservatory and one in Nassau Bay, Texas (near Houston.)
The wedding in Pittsburgh was my fraternity brother Kevin's, so I got to see lots of college friends and their kids.
The wedding in Texas was my cousin Kim's. Mom and Dad met me at the Houston airport.
Lot's of fun at both weddings!
Now I generally write about good places to eat--and I couldn't be in Texas without eating at a Mexican Restaurant--Mamasita's. Great!
Sunday, May 07, 2006
I flew up to New York the weekend of May 6 for the Tribeca Film festival. I saw three films, Local Color, God Spoke, and Word Play.
My favorite was Word Play, a documentary about the New York Times crossword puzzle, the making of crosswords, and a tournament held every year in Stamford, CT.
While there, I visited Ground Zero for the first time since September 11. I've been to New York many times since then, but until this time had only missed the Twin Towers dominating the Skyline to the South.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
OK, this is the first post in a while. In the meantime, I've gone to Orlando for Braves Spring Training, and I've gone to Los Angeles and San Francisco a couple of times, but I was without a camera and decided that the posts would be boring, so I didn't bother.
But, now I've bought a new camera, so I'm traveling internationally again, so here goes a new post: DUBAI.
I am sitting in the Dubai airport on my way home from Dubai. I’ve got a long bit of travel ahead of me.
I left Atlanta on Sunday evening at 7:20 pm. After a short layover in Paris, I was on the way to the United Arab Emirates. Flying over, I found it strange to be so close to Iran and Iraq. Yet upon landing, I was really surprised to see that Dubai wasn’t at all the foreign land feared by American in the recent Dubai Port scandal. Instead, I found it very American. It is really easier for an American to navigate than many of the European cities I have visited. First, while there is written Arabic everywhere, every sign is also in English. Nearly everyone speaks English. And the feel of the place almost seems to be not as much Arabia as a Disney Park devoted to Aladdin. Today, there was a moment when I thought I could just as easily be in Vegas. It’s big, splashy, and glitzy. Of course now, with 16 + hours of flight time ahead of me combined with a 6 hour layover in Paris, I wish I were.
Now I’m writing from Paris. I mostly slept on the 6 hour flight from Dubai, but luckily have access to the Air France Lounge in Paris for the long layover.
After arriving in Dubai on Monday night, I met up with Mark, a coworker who arrived in Dubai at around the same time on KLM, while I was arriving on Air France. A car from the hotel picked us up and we checked into the Palm hotel shortly after midnight. After a quick shower, I met Mark downstairs and we headed next door to the Hard Rock Dubai for a quick beverage before going to bed.
The next day, we had meetings all day in a conference room that was by the pool.
Afterward a long day of fighting leg lag, we packed into a jeep for a dessert safari. Our jeep had me and Mark as well as other industry colleagues Manuel, Rachel, and Caroline. I had met Rachael last year in Vancouver. I believe I met Manuel in Montreal the first time, but had since hung out in Los Angeles and Dallas.
We drove out quite a ways before deflating the jeep tires and heading into the dessert. Even before heading onto the sand we had to slow down for camels on the highway. Luckily, we had a professional driver as we tackled the dunes. It was quite a roller coaster ride, at times feeling like the jeep would topple over.
Along the way, we got out several times to stretch, walk around, and take pictures of the dessert.
The next day was an even longer day of meetings, but after they were over, Mark, Manuel, Carsten and I headed to the Madinat Jumeirah complex (http://www.madinatjumeirah.com/) to walk around and have dinner before catching our post-midnight flights back.Upon arrival, we took pictures of the Burj Al Arab, the largest hotel in the world.
We walked around the market (called a souk), relaxed with a beer as we overlooked the Persian Gulf, then finally had a wonderful dinner a Pisces, a restaurant in the soukha. It was very trendy and stylish, with lots of surprise mid-course treats. I had a tuna carpaccio appetizer followed by pan seared scallops.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Early Thursday morning, January 12
After arriving in the Mumbai Airport, Nameeta and a driver picked us up and we headed to her apartment in Bandra, a section of Mumbai where a lot of Bollywood actors live. We stayed up talking and catching up. Of course, we also had to eat—I tried a small, unusual fruit called a chikoo, also known as sapota. Nameeta also had gajar halwa, a sweet dish with minced carrot, cream cashew nuts with clarified butter (ghee) and sugar.
The next morning, Nameeta had breakfast prepared for us: Idli (steamed rice dumplings) topped with hot spicy sambhar (lentil puree) and coconut chutney. Also uthapam (open rice pancakes) some with onions, and some with onions and tomatoes. (I loved the uthapam!)
After getting cleaned up, we headed out to Smita and Nameeta’s parents’ house. Leaving, I noticed the crazy traffic—lots of horn blowing as everyone jockeyed for position. It looked like organized chaos. Between that and everyone driving on the left side of the road, I was glad we had a driver. (His name was Jadhiv, by the way.) Of course, I kept trying to get into the driver’s side every time I rode in the front seat. On the way, we stopped to do some shopping. I bought two pair of leather sandals—one with open toes, and one with closed toes. These came in very handy over the course of the trip.
We had lunch with Smita’s mom which consisted of buttery garlic crab, lentils, chickpea and potato curry, and roti.
Following this, Jadhiv drove us our hotel (The Shalimar, in midtown) to check-in, where we would be conducting focus groups for the next two evenings. After work, we went out to dinner near the hotel at an Italian place, called “Under the Over.”
Friday, January 13
After breakfast at the hotel, John, Smita, Nameeta and I headed out to Film City, where Nameeta was meeting with the founder of a film institute which was being built, called Whistling Woods. We toured the building in progress, and were presented the business plan.
Afterwards, we toured Film city, and saw the set of the Indian Version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which is hosted by India’s most famous celebrity, Amitabh Bachshan. This 35 year veteran of Indian films is highly regarded, and was in the newspaper every single day.
Leaving Film City, we drove back into Mumbai where we had lunch at Taj Lands End with a director who collaborates with Nameeta, named Sunil. In this awesome meal, I had muurg malai kebab (very tasty marinated tender tender chicken), tiger prawns in chettinad (red coconut curry sauce), garlic naan, roomali roti (very thin handkerchief-like bread), ganna juice (sugar cane juice) with Bacardi, and Muurg do pyaz (chicken in a spicy tomato and onion). We grabbed some pan (betel leaf with coconut, cherries, rose essence, anis, cardamom, clove, shredded betel nuts, used as a digistif) as we left.
After being entirely stuffed, we went back to hotel for rest before focus groups. To celebrate the last of the focus groups, we went out to have Sizzlers at a restaurant called Kobe in Phoenix Mills. “Sizzlers” come on a hot skillet, kind of like fajitas, but the meat also has French fries and other vegetables sizzling with it. After dinner, Smita and I drank Belinis at a pretty empty club while John had Heinekens.
Saturday, January 14
Saturday morning, Nameeta’s husband Ajay met John and I at the hotel with Jadhiv, the driver. Smita and Namita were already on the way to meet us by the Gateway of India. We joined them there, and then took a ferry to the Island of Elephanta, where there is a temple to Shiva from 700 AD carved from the mountain. From the ferry, we had a great view of the Gateway and the Taj hotel.
Once at Elephanta, we hiked up the mountain to the temple. Monkeys were everywhere. We had a very good guide, who explained the significance of the carvings in the cave temple. Afterwards, we had some snacks and beers as we sat on the mountainside overlooking the water. The day was a day of festival where everyone flew kites and ate a sweet candy where we were then to also “speak sweetly.” (We witnessed the kite flying event on the beach once we got back to Mumbai.) Coming back down from the mountain, I bought a set of red Ganeshas, the elephant headed deity who is the son of Shiva. Ganesha is a favorite god, as he is the remover of obstacles.
After ferrying back, we shopped along the Colaba Causeway. Here I bought three khurtas to wear as I had only packed winter clothing. (The weather in Mumbai was quite warm—80s and 90s, despite the fact that it was still winter.) I also bought an elephant made from rose wood. We had lunch at an old haunt called “Leopolds” (where I tried Indian Chinese food).
That evening, at Nameeta’s and Ajay’s, we meet up with a trio from the Netherlands who Nameeta was working with to bring an exhibit to Amsterdam recreating Mumbai. Earlier that day, on the Colaba, Ajay had purchased a street salesman’s entire inventory of rat poison (including his box and sign) just for the exhibit.
Sunday, January 15
Ajay made toast and eggs before heading out with a driver to Mantheran, a hilltop station, where we took hairpin curves beside cliffs up a mountain. On the drive up, we stopped at a roadside restaurant (more like a roadside stand with some tables and chairs) where we had Wada Pav, a deep fried potato mixture on a roll with hot green peppers and chutney, and pagoras (crispy fried onions.)
Manthran is environmentally friendly, so no cars are allowed. We had to stop and go up the rest of the way on horseback. Near the villa where we stayed (known as The Byke) there was a little village with shops. The roads were covered with red dust, which got all over our shoes and pants. On the way up the mountain, I was on a horse named Arju. John was on Albela. Monkeys lined the trees as we rode.
John and I were in a huge room with a bed and bathroom downstairs and a bed upstairs as well.
After arriving, the staff was eager for us to have lunch (the head guy had informed them that they had very important guests). We had a huge lunch called Thalis. The meal was completely vegetarian, but I didn’t even notice because there was so much variety and so many tastes. After lunch, we went to the game room where Smita and Nameeta taught John and I how to play a mini-billiard like game called Carrom.
After a nap, I awoke to find everyone else sleeping, so I decided to head up the road to the village by myself. Watching the sunset, I met up with two young people who taught me some Hindi and were interested in knowing who my favorite Bollywood stars were, and were eager to share their favorite Hollywood stars.
As I walked back, I met up with Ajay, Nameeta, Smita, and John coming the other way, so I turned around and walked back into the heart of the village. We walked alongside cows, bulls, and goats. One calf became particularly fond of me, nudging its head against me and following me around. A bull seemed to follow us for a while, too. He wasn’t nearly as friendly. Ajay and I both got head massages at the barbershop. John gambled at a local attraction, winning lots of rupees (at least to the villagers.) Heading back to the Byke, we played poker and Kingfisher beer and dinner by poolside.
Monday, January 16.
With slingshots we purchased the evening before in hand to keep monkeys from stealing our food, we enjoyed tea and breakfast on the front porch. Afterwards, we went horseback riding to Charlotte Lake, Lord’s Point and Echo point . This time I was on Albela, who was 15 years old. The horse keepers, who accompanied us, get paid 1000 Rupees a month, and sleep in the stables with the horses. Mine was named Pravahda. After heading back to The Byke we relaxed on our porch, packed, and then I mounted Abela once again to head back down the mountain. The staff was extremely disappointed we didn’t stay for lunch but we did not want to eat that much before the descent from the mountain.
After some shopping at a store called Fabindia, where I bought several more khurtas and an outfit for my niece, we picked up some Kingfisher and went to visit some with Smita’s family.
Later that evening, Nameeta had made reservations at a restaurant called Saltwater Grill, owned by one of her friends (who later comped the meal.) The food was delicious, and the view spectacular. The linen topped tables sat on the sand on the beach of the Arabian Sea, with the palm trees lined in lights and the view of “the queen’s necklace,” the lights that curve around the bay on Marine Drive. After dinner, we crossed the street to have cream and strawberries at a famous Mumbai institution.
Tuesday, January 17.
Tuesday morning, John, Nameeta, Smita, and I took rickshaws (small three-wheeled cabs) shopping in a district called Santacruz. Afterwards, we had lunch at “Only Parathas” where we had Parathas, bread stuffed with different vegetables. I had lassi to drink—a thick yogurt based drink.
After lunch and shopping, we headed back to Nameeta’s to pack our things. We went to dinner at Smita’s and Nameeta’s parents house before leaving for the airport to head back to Atlanta.