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What’s in the Box??

January 15th, 2013 | 2 Comments | Posted in Culture Shock

Hmm, mystery box.

What could it be?

Is that a cow inside?

Yep, that sure is a cow.

What?! Cheeses!?

Yes please! But, what kind?

Oh, the suspense…

I can hardly stand it…

Four, four, four farm fresh quesos.

Which one will I try?

Oh yeah. I’m a cheddar eater.

Crumbly, crumbly

Exciting!

How does it taste?

Not bad, not bad. Damn good actually. Sharp, nutty and cheddary.

Berlin

November 28th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Culture Shock, Germany, Travel, pictures

It all starts with a long airplane ride with a long layover before getting to Tegel airport (which may be built out of cardboard) and high tailing it to the hotel for an amazing destination nap.

Once the obligatory foreign country sleep test had been administered, I grabbed my things and headed out into the cold Berlin night to look for a drink and a bite to eat.

The hotel that we stayed at was was locted near the Gendarmen markt which is south of the Spree river, north of checkpoint charlie and east of the Tiergarten. I headed north toward the Spree river in search of my libations, but before coming across the bar that I would eventually settle into for a beer, started noticing people in evening gowns and tuxedos, then stumbled across a red carpet GQ event, so worked my way to the spot on the sidewalk packed with onlookers and paparazzi to see what all the hubbub was about. I had my camera with me, so decided to do as the others were doing and started snapping pics of the celebrities getting out of their black cars, stopping for photos and interviews then being escorted into the building. What is remotely interesting about this? I found it highly surreal that I was standing there photographing people who are locally famous, but I had no idea who they were. Here’s an example. Recognize anyone? Not me.

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Once I had my fill of shooting celebrities, I chose a bar called the Windhorst for a quick drink before weaving my way back to the hotel room taking some night pictures of the city on my way:

The Berlin Dome:
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The fountain in the square outside the dome:
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Odd lollypop installation art spheres across the street from the dome:
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And again with another view:
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Loe arrived late that night, and we both slept late the next day. After waking, we took the train south from the hotel to Kreuzberg where we browsed a few interesting vintage oddity and clothing shops. Overall, the part of Kreuzberg that we were in felt a lot like the Haight Ashbury used to in San Francisco in the 90s and a bit like some parts of the East Village today; geared somewhat toward a young crowd and somewhat toward tourists.

After a bit of a rest back at the hotel, we made reservations for dinner and ventured out for a drink at a bar near the restaurant with a reputation for well made coctails.

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Wuergengel is a bit smoky, but definitely lived up to it’s name for good drinks. We also shared some tapas and thoroughly entertained ourselves by baffling the bartender while trying to ask for the bill in German. We always try to interact in the language of the country that we are in, but it always seems to confuse people. Luckily, much of Germany is english speaking, like so much of Europe, so the bartender switched to our obviously native language and we settled up with him while still laughing about my abysmal linguistic abilities.

Our reservations at Little Otik were made at the recommendation of Time Out Berlin, which was funny to me because I don’t think I’ve taken a single one of their recommendations in my home town. Luckily, we took this recommendation, because dinner at Little Otik was fantastic and the best meal we ate in Berlin. We were seated late in the evening, and while we waited, we spoke to the owner, and sipped some rather curious aperitifs. Loe’s was a mustard liqueur, which smelled strongly of mustard seed, with a flavor that tasted strongly of pickle. Now, many of you are going to turn your nose up at this description, but it was actually a fantastic, if strong, combination of smell and flavor.

While walking our ever so slightly inebriated selves back to the Kottbusser Tor train station after dinner, we passed a busy, inviting bar just south of a canal called Fuchsbau (fox den), where we sat and shared another drink before catching the train back to the Stadmitte station near our hotel.

Day 3 started with bikes. Yes, it was cold, yes we had fun. Bikes are awesome, you should go ride one. We took the bikes west to the Tiergarten, the centrally located park where the trees had turned beautifully gold which provided a wonderful conrast to the crisp blue of the autumn sky.

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Continuing west, we rode to the Victory Statue, also gold against the crisp blue sky.

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Ok, so there’s a cloud in the picture, but I swear, the sky was mostly blue. From the victory statue we turned back east and rode past the Reichstag with it’s modern glass dome atop the rebuilt old world stone building and continued along the Spree river, stopping at a cafe near the Humboldt Museum to warm up and watch students (they look the same as any other student staring into the screen of thier laptop as I am now) before heading back to the hotel.

Evening found us wandering the streets of Friedrichshain counting on good luck to find a nice place to eat. The area we were in looked like it would be lively on a warmer night closer to the weekend. We found a restaurant called Speichaus which had a nice charming atmosphere, but rather non-descript food where we ate before wandering a bit more before catching the train back to Mitte where we called it an early night.

We started day 4 by heading west into Charlottenburg, where we at breakfast in a charming cafe called Manstein in a residential neighborhood. Loe had 2 boiled eggs in a glass and toast and I downed a well made cappuccino, then we walked it off by heading south through the quiet streets of residential apartment buildings. After a bit, we headed back to the u-bahn and east again to Tor Strasse, where there are a number of boutiques known for street fashion and cafes. At this point we shopped. That’s about what it was, and I won’t call it anything else. I bought trousers, she bought a scarf. We looked at a lot more than that.

On our last day in Berlin, we met up with Andy and Kiki, who took us to breakfast at Tomasa in Kreuzburg. We had a long leisurely lunch catching up and having a good time with them. After lunch Andy dropped us back at the hotel where Loe rested, and I decided to take a prolonged walk.

I took the opportunity to take a good long walk west and south into Schoenburg, which proved to be very satisfying. Spending the time walking made me realize how much more of the city there was to see, and how pleasant a city it is.

The next morning we woke at 5 and left for London. But that’s a whole different story.

I loved Berlin, and highly recommend it. The people were nice, the food is splendid and I think the whole city is benefitting from the number of people from around the world that are migrating there as a place where the creative and entrepreneurial can do what they do well and get the best bang for their buck.

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More Japan… More Tokyo

October 16th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Culture Shock, Japan, Travel, pictures

Day 5, Thursday, September 1st

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I made a relatively early start today, and made my way to the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art (MoT). The first exhibit that I saw was a lengthy retrospective on the Canadian illustrator Frederic Back beginning with his animated short film “The man who planted trees”, then showcasing his sketches and illustrations. Mr. Back was an extraordinarily well travelled man who documented the countries that he visited by sketching and illustrating aspects of life as he saw it. He also documented his time spent with the army in the war, where he created many powerful images. In addition to these, the exhibition includes his works from across the 20th century created for the Canadian Broadcasting Company, ending on his current political commentary on sustainability.

After walking this exhibit, I sat for a meal in the restaurant in the basement of the MoT where I had a delicious vegetable curry with okra, carrot, potato and a number of other fresh vegetables lightly fried in tempura and served over rice with a terrine of brown curry gravy, all washed down with a lime tonic.

The restaurant is a charming modern rustic style cafe with bench style seating, trays of antique silver wear and chopsticks on the table. windows look out at the manicured pond and garden that run the length of the side of the museum. At the time, this was the best meal that I had eaten in Japan thus far.

After lunch I explored the exhibits from the museum’s permanent collection that were featured. In particular, I was taken with Takashi Ishida’s work. The forethought, and planning that go into the works are quite impressive, as is the fact that he is able to ad-lib within the constraints that he sets for himself. At first blush, the work seems to be quite chaotic, but given enough time and attention patterns emerge that betray meticulous planning.

I was also very amused at the installation piece “A Liberty Statue for Tokyo” by Pipilotti Rist. The installation is a large cube surrounded by deep blue velvet curtains, into which the viewer is asked to climb to watch a film loop that is projected onto the roof of this inner sanctum, and reflected in a mirror below the floor. The dual viewing experience, coupled with eerie sound design in the muffled, intimate space create a very enjoyable experience.

In the permanent collection, the drawings of Takehito Koganeyama were my favorite, but I also enjoyed the installments that were placed around the sparsely hung gallery.

I dreaded heading back out into the heat, but after buying Loe a scarf at the gift shop, mustered my strength, and forged on into the humidity to make my way down to the ports near Shinibashi, where you can overlook the river, bridges and loading docks.

Loe met Aya and Yuku for dinner again tonight, but I excused myself to stay in the hotel and plan what I would do the following day.

Day 6, Friday, September 2nd
We checked out of our hotel in Kawasaki today, and are staying for 2 nights in Tokyo before heading to Tokushima in Shikoku next week. First thing was to head to Ginza, which is analogous to any other high end shopping district with al of the same mega-luxury brands that exist everywhere else in the world. There are, however, a number of small side streets that seem worth exploring.

I am very much looking forward to leaving the city and renting a car to explore Shikoku. Tokyo is a city with many interesting things to see and do, but I could use a couple of days away from the city, exploring something different and new.

Rather than go to Roppongi, or Tokyo station, I decided to go back to Shibuya to see if Loe had checked into her hotel room yet. As luck would have it, she had, and had left instructions for me to be given a key to the room. I took the opportunity to lay down and relax for a while before Loe got back to the room from work. When she arrived, we left and ate dinner at a wonderful little natural food kitchen called Daylight Kitchen, where we enjoyed the daily set meal consisting of a variety of vegetables, rice dishes, pickles, miso soup, grains & freshly made korean style spring rolls. It isn’t what you think of when looking for traditional Japanese food, but I have been happy to eat anywhere that we are the only tourists in the room, and where quality is the main concern.

Following dinner we walked the neighborhood for a bit before ducking into a little bar called Lennon that contained a massive record collection lining one of the walls. We were serenaded by the Bangles and Heart while sipping shochu.

Day 7, Saturday, September 3rd
Being Loe’s first day off, i wanted to take her to some of the areas that I thought she would like. We first went to Omotesando Koffee, where we enjoyed coffee and the baked custard cubes that he cooks there. They are some of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. We then wandered through Omotesando to Aoyama where we perused the high end retail shops for a bit before walking back to Harajuku, then back to Shibuya. At Shibuya, we ate at a Chinese spicy soup and noodle restaurant where we enjoyed sweat inducing bowls of noodle soup with fresh vegetables, while talking to the owner who had spent time in China, Brussels and now Tokyo selling this type of soup. We encouraged him to bring it to NY, where we are sure that it would sell very well.

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Typhoon Talas missed Tokyo last night, making landfall to the south in the Shikoku area. That meant very little rain for us today and thankfully slightly lower temperatures.

I missed the opportunity to meet up with another electronic musician who lives in Yokohama. I was too focused on seeing Tokyo, that I did not leave time to meet up with him in Yokohama while I was staying in Kawasaki. Next week though, we will meet up with an acquaintance from NY, who moved here a few years ago and has started a family.

Day 8, Sunday September 4th

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On Sunday, Loe and I went out to Ginza from our hotel with the intention of finding one of the restaurants in our guidebook. After some wandering and a bit of confusion, we found the building only to realize that the sushi place was now a clothing store. After realizing this, we ended up having lunch in a rather up-scale restaurant that focused on simple, natural flavors in good combinations. The lunch started with an amuse bouche of blended silken tofu with vegetables and ponzu/soy jelly. This was accompanied by fresh baguette with a pumpkin spread, and a tomato spread. This course was followed by a plate of chilled vegetables (mine tomato based, Loe’s green vegetable based) with various sauces and chutneys. The main course was a grilled white fish with a number of sauces and grilled vegetables.

Following lunch we walked the short distance to the Tokyo International Forum to find a flea market that Loe read about. The market was not there this week because the Tokyo Jazz Festival was taking place instead. We sat and listened to a piano performance for a bit while we decided on our next move, which was to take a turn in the park near the emporer’s castle, then again in Ginza. While back in Ginza, Loe noted a beautiful woodblock print that she intends to return to visit when we come back to Tokyo from Tokushima.

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We were forced to wait out a bit of rain in a nice cafe on the 5th floor of a shop (there is so much to see and explore in Tokyo that is not visible from the ground floor, and having places worth visiting inside shops is also very different from NY). When the rain passed, we headed back to Shibuya to get cleaned up and head out for dinner. We were looking for Okonomiyake, and everyone wanted us to eat it in or near a mall. Luckily, we didn’t settle on those options, and decided to walk around the neighborhood, where we found MCM27, which is a cosy little restaurant with 6 or 7 tables. The mostly black and red interior reminded me somewhat of Brooklyn, so felt comfortable. The waiter was patient with our phrasebook Japanese, and helpful with the cooking. In the end we enjoyed fantastically delicious okonomiyaki (savory pancakes) chased with cold draught Kirin.

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Tokyo Pt 1

October 9th, 2011 | 3 Comments | Posted in Culture Shock, Music, pictures

Japanese Memorabilia
First off, apologies for the how long this set of posts is going to be. I took copious travel notes and am pretty much copying them wholesale onto the blog. Hopefully interspersing them with pictures will make it interesting enough to peruse and get a feel for what we were doing and seeing while we were in Japan.

The quick version goes like this:

  • Love it
  • hot
  • Oh Japan
  • Omotesando is cool
  • Food food food
  • good coffee
  • And this is how the long version starts…

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    Day 1 – Sunday, August 28th
    We arrived safely at Narita after fears of being stuck in NY due to Hurricane Irene, but our flight got out before they closed down the airport. We first dropped our bags at the Shinjuku Hilton and went for a walk while our room was being prepared. We walked for a bit in the park near the hotel, opposite the Tokyo Municipal Building, while we waited. The park is small and fairly run down with many homeless men relaxing in the unkempt grasses under the shade of the cicada filled trees. The trees here scream during the summer months. The cicadas generate an enormous noise, that I have never heard before. One of them latched onto my bag as it flew past us while we were walking, and refused to let go until I blew a gust of breath on him to blow him away. They are brown, furry and larger than the ones that I am used to seeing in the US.

    After checking in and cleaning up, we stopped by a grocery store to buy onigiri to tide us over until dinner. Then, we walked up to the Shinjuku shopping district and wandered through one of the department stores, which are expansive and fascinating. We checked out the large electronics section, but found it a bit disappointing as we didn’t see anything that we weren’t already familiar with, save a few mobile phones.

    Once we had our fill of retail consumerism, we headed back out into the summer streets to find food. After wandering down a few small streets, we decided to forego authenticity for a nice view and headed to the Shinjuku Nomura building where there are a number of restaurants on the 49th and 50th floors. The one we chose gave us a very nice westward view as the sun set over the city. We had a chance to practice our Japanese menu skills with the waiter, as the menu was not available in english (except the drink menu, which seems common. Do english speakers forego food and only drink in Tokyo?). We ate a nice sashimi dinner, and I was happy to have fresh wasabi rather than the horseradish paste that we usually get in the US. It may still have been horseradish, but at least it was fresh, which is a step in the right direction).

    The jet lag was starting to set in on us pretty hard, so we went to the hotel and slept it off as well as we could. The downside to going to sleep at 8:00 pm is that you wake up at 4:00 in the morning, and are stuck writing in your travel journal until the sun comes up and you can go get some coffee (or tea as the case may be). That, however, leaves plenty of time to hit the internet and research what to do when the sun does do it’s thing in the land of the rising sun.

    Day 2 – Monday, August 29th
    I decided to use my time in Shinjuku to find a Muji, find Golden Gai and the bar La Jetee, then take the train to Harajuku to find 5G Music store, and Omotesando Koffee (OK), while generally wandering where curiosity lead me.

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    I headed north past the Shinjuku station and went to the edge of the Shinjuku National Garden before turning west. On one of the side streets I noted a small cafe called Marberry Cafe, tucked into the corner of a small residential building. I did not go in, but saved the idea for later. Continuing on, I meandered through the smaller streets between the main thoroughfares dedicated to high street shopping for a couple of hours managing to find Le Jetee in Golden Gai nestled into a mixed use live/work neighborhood. Golden Gai is a complete mess of minuscule bars, compacted into the space of 1/4th of a NY block. Each bar seats around 6 to 10 people, and are stacked one next to the other. Many will only allow members or their guests in, but they are not to be confused with posh members only bars. These are very tiny little bars that cultivate a very specific atmosphere, whether it be focused on punk rock, hard rock or movie memorabilia. As I was there during the day, the place was abandoned by all but the delivery men driving tiny little trucks and carrying half sized kegs into the basements of the bars in the area.

    On my way toward Muji, I stopped at Isetan Men’s department store, which is like Barneys in NY or Liberty in London. In my scruffy walking clothes, I made my way through all of the high end designer fashions, and was pleasantly surprised to find a wall of handkerchiefs made specifically for the store. I have been wanting a few new ones to wear with my new suit. Also, the Tokyo summer requires a handkerchief to blot your forehead with if you are going to be outside for any length of time. I bought 4. I had intended to buy some at Muji, but these were quite nice, so I decided to splurge.

    Once I did finally arrive at Muji, I perused the 4 floors, decided to skip lunch at their cafe in the basement (witht the thought of going back to the Marberry Cafe that I saw earlier), bought a small bottle of 40 proof sunscreen, and headed back out into the increasing afternoon heat.

    Once back at Marberry Cafe, I sat with a delicious iced honey black tea and considered my next move. I settled on tackling the train line, and heading down to Harajuku after finding an onigiri to eat for lunch. (Sadly, there were no fish or veggie options from the very very tiny counter at Marberry). Once I finished my tea though, I decided to head straight to Kawasaki, as it was getting late in the day, and I intended to meet Loe and her colleagues for dinner near our hotel there that night.

    After the 20 minute train ride to Kawasaki, I met up with Loe, Aya, Yuki and another of Loe’s colleagues at the Sushi restaurant in the basement floor of the hotel. We had a number of different sashimi, tempura and sushi dishes and washed it down with beer and sake before heading back up to our rooms to sleep it off.

    Day 3, Tuesday, August 30th
    Luckily, today we do not have to check out of our hotel, so I was allowed a relaxing morning while Loe got ready for work. I briefly considered staying in Kawasaki for a while before heading into Tokyo, but decided against it on the thought of going to Omotesando Koffee, which I have read is serving some of the best coffee in Tokyo at the moment. (I was sitting in the tiny courtyard of O.K. while I wrote this, sipping my espresso, so can confirm that the atmosphere and coffee are top quality). The owner is friendly and listens to blues and classical music as he works behind his counter pulling shots. The interior of the coffee shop is based around a delicate steel cube that has been placed into the small ground floor of this traditional Japanese residence. Everything within is very beautifully thought out, and executed with minimalist precepts in mind. The atmosphere may go strides to improving the experience.

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    When i was done with my espresso, I continued to walk up and down the small streets of Jinguamae, where there are a number of galleries, design shops, and other small boutique stores, before heading further north into Harajuku proper to find the 5G music store.

    Harajuku is analogous to St. Mark’s Place in NY, or Haight Asbury in SF. There are a few cool things hidden amongst the throngs of vintage clothing, skate shops and other similar establishments. One of those gems is a gothic handmade watch shop in the northeast of the area. I barely fit into the store, and wouldn’t wear anything in it at this point in my life, but enjoyed looking at the craft that they had cultivated, and the various designers who were contributing to this small and unique shop. Also, there are things like the photo below. An entire store dedicated to American children’s toys from the 1980s.

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    By the time I made my way to Harajuku, my meager little onigiri had worn off, and I was getting hungry, so I popped into a restaurant behind a gallery, where I was introduced to monjayaki, which is a cousin of okonomiyake, but not as pancake-y. Essentially, you sit down at a table with a hot plate integrated into the center of it, and cook the combination of cabbage, soup, your choice of meat, sauces and spices yourself.

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    Given the heat of the day, had I realized what I was walking into, I would have avoided it until a cooler time, but having committed myself, I took the additional heat like a trooper, and finished what I started. It was delicious, and worth a few extra degrees of heat for a little while. The draught Yebisu hit the spot though, and managed to cool me back down after the hot plate and chili sauce. Cold food tomorrow afternoon though!

    After lunch I headed to the park, where I visited the wooded grounds of the Meji Jingu shrine, which is built on the grounds of an old feudal estate. The grounds and forest are a beautiful respite from the bustle of the city. The trees here continue to shriek with the sounds of cicadas, fat crickets, ravens and other animals I don’t know the names of.

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    The entrance to the shrine is marked by 3 monolithic gates over the gravel walking path that leads to the building at the heart of the grounds. The sunlight is filtered by a complete canopy of tree branches the length of the path. I took some time at the shrine to take in the peaceful atmosphere, and sense of history before launching back out into the streets and heading down to Shibuya, where the flashing lights, strip clubs, department stores, and hostess bars pose a complete opposite to the placid historic setting just inside the park walls. From Sibuya, it was back on the train to Kawasaki to meet Loe for Dinner.

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    Day 4, Wednesday, August 31st
    I started the day by heading back to Tokyo and 5G, and was successful this time (must remember to check opening hours). I enjoyed playing a few keyboards like the JP6 and a few of the newer instruments that they have on hand. It’s cool that there is a place here where one can try the instruments that they are interested in. I’ll spare everyone the parade of alpha-numeric instrument names, but it suffices to say that I got my hands on a number of instruments that I don’t have the opportunity to play in NY. Like everyone online said, the prices are high, even on the Japanese brands, so buying wasn’t really in the cards.

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    From the instrument store, I headed to Akihabara to check out the electronics stores. Everyone says they’re mind-blowing. I didn’t particularly find them that impressive, or overbearing. They compare to B&H in NY, but spread over multiple floors. I was hoping for more products that I was unfamiliar with, but there really wasn’t anything that fell into that category. There is however, one lonely corridor that seems lost in time. There are a number of booths that sell nothing but transformers, capacitors, knobs and other basic electronic components. This was fun to walk through and peruse isles full of vacuum tubes and diodes.

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    Of course, no description of Akihabara is complete without mention of the numerous hobby shops and comic plazas. These places are filled with every imaginable item an otaku might desire. Do you want a provocative plastic model of your favorite anime character? You can have it. Do you want every imaginable issue of your favorite serial comic? You can have that too. Oh, maybe you just want some gundam, voltron, or other robot models? You may certainly have those as well. There are entire buildings dedicated to gaming, maid bars that try to tempt teenage boys into them by dressing up teenage girls like anime french maids and sending them out into the streets with menus, and various other shady establishments built on the desire for flesh and or technology.

    For lunch, I dove into a cheap ramen house, where I was shown how to use the ticket vending machine by the amused and friendly staff, handed my food ticket to the cook behind the counter, and slurped up my ramen with tempura shrimp. It is a rather solitary experience. Each person in the joint sat alone concentrating very hard on their bowl of noodles at the tiny counter lining the wall of the restaurant. As street food experiences go, it wasn’t the most delicious, but it was tasty and the first time I have used a vending machine to buy noodle soup.

    I wanted to wander a bit further afield, but because I took my sweet time leaving the hotel, I had to head back to Kawasaki to meet Loe. Once in Kawasaki, Loe, Aya, Yuki and I went to an izakaya for dinner and drinks.

    More in part 2. For now, enjoy this cool guy.

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Bannerman’s Island

August 15th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Culture Shock, New York, pictures

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Now that we’re back from the wilds of mild England, I’ll be focusing on domestic, and even local travel. Yes, the ruins you see above are located right here in old New Amsterdam. Toda,y Loe and I took a local day trip with Jason & Desiree to Bannerman’s Castle, which is almost 2 hours north of NYC on a little island in the Hudson near Storm King in charming Cornwall on Hudson.


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There are 2 ways to get out to the island, one of which is a ferry, the other is to kayak out. We chose the latter, which was definitely the correct choice. The tour group consisted of 20 or so people with varying degrees of kayaking ability. The tour guides gave everyone a 30 second demo of how to use a paddle, made sure everyone was wearing life vests, and sent us off to paddle our way across the Hudson River, which just happens to still be an active shipping channel.

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Once we made our way across the mildly choppy water (really, the current is not too strong here, and there was only the one cargo ship, which passed 10 minutes before we put our boats in the water) we pulled up onto the little island where we were treated to a tour of the castle (-ish) ruins that were built by a man who can only be called the King of Scrap, Francis Bannerman VI.

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In the early 1900s Mr. Bannerman made his fortune trolling the NY Harbor for scrap, and re-selling it. Later, he would begin acquiring disused munitions as well.

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From this fortune, and to warehouse the scrap that kept his business running, he built a “Scottish style” castle, and residence. Points to note are that he did not use architects, and often instructed his builders based on rudimentary sketches of buildings that he recalled from trips to Europe. Also, he partially built with scrap, which may contribute to the fact that the buildings are in ruin only 100 years after they were built.

After the tour of the island, we made our way back to the west shore of the Hudson river. This time however, a brisk wind and taller chop on the water had appeared, so getting home was far more work than getting to the island, and involved getting wetter as the waves crested and crashed into the kayaks. Jason, Desiree, Loe and I made it back before the rest of the pack, dried off, changed, drank coffee and headed back down to the city. We were home and napping by 3:30.

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At Long Last

April 7th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in New York, where I'm at

Well, here we are back in Lovely NY for the foreseeable future. We’ve been hectic in our search for apartments and are hopefully coming to the end of that search. We’re currently living in Murray Hill (Yeah, I know, that doesn’t mean anything to you) which isn’t really close to anything that you’re probably familiar with unless you live here, with the exception of the infamous Bellvue mental hospital (It has a more flattering name now, they’ve taken out the mental bit). To give you an idea of what it looks like around here, here’s a photo of the sunset taken from our window tonight:

NYC Sunset

Ok, it’s more boring than that on the ground, but from this posh little temporary apartment on the 22nd floor, that’s what it looked like this afternoon.

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An object in motion

March 21st, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in London, New York, Relocation

This morning the movers showed up and started packing everything. We move into a hotel for the next 10 days, then fly back to New York on the first of April (fitting).

I’ve been remiss in that I have yet to post pictures of our trip to Brussles a couple of months ago. I’ll have that done and a full wrap up of the last couple of years when we get settled.

Once we’re back I look forward to posting more on places that we’ll visit stateside and on the broader Americas.

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Dublin

January 13th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted in Travel, people, pictures

I’ve been dragging my feet on this post thanks to a healthy winter cold and hosting plenty of guests. But the time for procrastination is over, now is the time for action (or at least writing about it).

On Dec 26, Kendall showed up with a bag full of presents like a younger, skinnier Father Christmas showing up a day late. Crackers were cracked, presents were opened and good times were had. Shortly thereafter we hustled to the RyanAir cattle call and boarded a plane for the brief flight to Dublin, Ireland to meet Mike and Michele.

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When Europe is experiencing the coldest snowiest period in decades thanks to Arctic Ocean Oscillations, one should definitely head further north to seaside cities and towns. One will surely be more comfortable there. This is the theory we adhered to, and it worked out well. We only lost a few extremities to frostbite, and as a result, were forced to spend long periods sitting in restaurants and pubs.

We arrived in the early evening, but thanks to our northern latitude all was dark by the time we got to our apartment and started thinking about foraging for food. In the end we decided to avail ourselves of the full kitchen in our lodgings and cooked a pasta dinner. The starch coma that settled in shortly after was only barely overcome and we headed out for a few hours to have a taste of the local Guiness at the local pub.

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On our way in, we were greeted by the unwelcoming stares of old men (the first sign that you have found and chosen the correct pub), so ordered up a round of Guiness & Smithwicks. Eventually though we had to abandon ship because we were being harassed by our bartender to participate in the decidedly country & western karaoke night that was starting up. That’s when jetlag and pasta coma cought up with everyone and we called it a night.

Howth

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Early in the morning we headed up north of Dublin to the fishing (and tourism) town of Howth, where we were promised cliffs, castles and seaside charm. All 3 were delivered as promised. As was this abandoned, haunted shell of a house on the hills behind the cliffs. This is where the banshees live, I’m sure of it.

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The rest of the Banshees live in Howth Castle. We barely escaped with our minds intact.

Howth Castle

Glendalough
On the next morning we loaded up the car, and headed south to see the ruins of the monastic settlement at Glendalough. We mapped our drive as the crow flies, which provided us a lovely drive through picturesque Irish countryside. Little did we know, however, that the crow flew directly over what appeared to be the Eurasian steppe and into something akin to Siberia. The mountains we drove into were higher than we expected, and as we turned a corner, the rain turned to snow, the trees turned to frozen grassland and our little rental car struggled for purchase on the road which became packed with snow and ice. Eventually, thanks to a man who warned us not to go further and guided us back down the hill (immediately dubbed Papa Ireland), we made our way to the less scenic, but more direct parkway.

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After stopping at Devil’s Glen (pictured above) for a few photos, we wound our way through the hills and dales to one of Ireland’s round towers.

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The Ruins at Glendalough are beautiful and eerie when seen in the fog and rain that we were treated with. Luckily we were all up for the adventure.

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All good adventures need a scene in which the heroes stop in a local inn to take a break from the action. And that’s exactly what we did. What was interesting about this inn? Oh, just the border stencil of Sputnik and other satellites around the top of the walls (not to be confused with the stylized flamingoes below).

Kendall Sits Still

That night, Kendall, Loe and I headed out for a bit of a pub crawl. We ended up settling into the snug at the Stag’s Head, an old victorian pub with deep leather benches and dark wood wainscoting. Just my type of place.

Dublin

Ferris Wheel in Dublin

On our last day, we stayed in the city. The weather got worse by the hour, so we settled in for lunch at the Mermaid Cafe for an extended stay, then checked out a few sights like the chapel at the Dublin Castle before packing it in and heading to the airport.

Dublin Castle Chappel

Head on over to my Flickr page to see a few more pictures of the whole affair.

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Nice & Cinque Terre

October 11th, 2009 | 3 Comments | Posted in France, Italy, Travel, friends, pictures

Nice Beach 2

Pallavi and Chris were visiting for a while, and over one of the weekends Loe and I went to Nice with them, and drove into Italy to visit Cinque Terre while we were there. The masses flock to Nice or one of the other cities on France’s south coast to plant themselves firmly in rows of sun loungers with neatly lined up umbrellas and soak up the rays on their summer holiday. There’s good reason for them to do so. The water on the beaches is undeniably beautiful, and the mountainous landscape to the north is a beautiful backdrop for a relaxing time away from home.

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However, Nice is like so many other tourist destinations and feels somewhat generic thanks to a plethora the same tourist type restaurants, bars and clubs that are found in all of those other destinations. Luckily we were staying in a beautiful apartment and had rented a car, so had control over our destiny while we were there. After staying our first night in Nice (and making dinner at home) we piled into the car and drove into Italy. To my chagrin, there is no boarder patrol at the French/Italian border, so I didn’t get my passport stamped. Oh well, small complaint. Remember those beautiful mountainous landscapes that I referred to earlier? Well, we had plenty of time driving through them as we passed Monaco and the numerous other cities on the coast.

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Cinque Terre is an area with numerous small ancient towns perched on the tops of hills. We drove down to Monte Rosa, where we stumbled across a wine tasting of local wines.

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After getting our fill of the local grapes, we got our hands on some fresh gnocci followed (and probably preceded) by delicious gelati.

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After that, it was time to get back on the road for the drive back to Nice, where we spent the following day wandering around town. Check out the slide show below for more pictures. Don’t miss the picture of my new best friend…

Notting Hill Carnival (That’s Carnevaaaal)

August 31st, 2009 | 3 Comments | Posted in London, england, people, pictures

Sound System Block Party
Yesterday and today the Notting Hill Carnival are in full swing. Many of us think of Brazil when we think of Carnival, but this one is a Pan-Caribbean affair, so I was looking forward to plenty of Red Stripe and some good old vegetable Roti (which it took us about 30 minutes of standing in line to get, but was worth the wait). As with any other festival of this type, there were many a sweaty drunk party-goer pushing their way through the massive throngs of people decked out in feathers, face paint and bright colors, drinking cheap beer all the while. Even these 2 craggy old geezers approved of the goings on:

My Idols

Feel the bass of the Sound System!!

Revel in the Bass

I’ll leave the rest in the slide show, head on over to my Flickr Page to see larger versions.

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