Gordon Ramsay Steak, Las Vegas

Shortly before the arrival of our main course at Gordon Ramsay Steak in Las Vegas, my wife Kathryn leaned over to me and said, “This has been a very weird experience.” She was right. The service had been weird. Quite weird. However, the food was more than worth the weird.

Shortly before the arrival of our main course at Gordon Ramsay Steak in Las Vegas, my wife Kathryn leaned over to me and said, “This has been a very weird experience.” She was right. The service had been weird. Quite weird. However, the food was more than worth the weird. Continue reading “Gordon Ramsay Steak, Las Vegas”

Hacker-Pschorr tent at Oktoberfest in Munich

Kathryn and I were fortunate to spend an afternoon at Oktoberfest in Munich in 2007. Everyone has a favorite from among the major beer tents at Oktoberfest. Mine was the Hacker-Pschorr tent. The theme is charming and simple: Bavarian heaven.

Kathryn and I were able to spend part of a day at Oktoberfest in Munich in 2007. It seems everyone who has been to Oktoberfest has a favorite from among the major beer tents. My favorite is the Hacker-Pschorr tent. The theme is charming and simple: Bavarian heaven. Continue reading “Hacker-Pschorr tent at Oktoberfest in Munich”

Eating and relaxing in Las Vegas

Our weekend trips to Las Vegas tend to be busy. We usually cram everything we possibly can into the less-than-48 hours we’ll be here. Sleep comes only out of necessity. So it’s a little weird that I’m starting a new post at 6:20 am, after getting a full night’s sleep and then some. I think we were in bed by 9 pm. That’s pretty lame.

Our weekend trips to Las Vegas tend to be busy. We usually cram everything we possibly can into the less-than-48 hours we’ll be here. Sleep comes only out of necessity. So it’s a little weird that I’m starting a new post at 6:20 am, after getting a full night’s sleep and then some. I think we were in bed by 9 pm. That’s pretty lame. Continue reading “Eating and relaxing in Las Vegas”

Going places: November edition

My typical Sunday evening is spent with my wife and my parents, who have us over for dinner regularly. Today, however, my wife is in Chicago, and my parents are in Key West. It seems like everyone is traveling but me.

I’m writing this installment of Going places from home on a Sunday evening. That’s a bit unusual. Continue reading “Going places: November edition”

Puerto Vallarta: Running the gauntlet at the airport

Immediately upon leaving the customs area, we were forced to walk through a narrow corridor, maybe 50 feet long, with white desks and video screens on both sides. I now refer to this as the gauntlet. In the gauntlet, roughly a dozen men and women with official-looking badges work over the fresh arrivals, trying to convince us they are our ride to our hotel. They’re not.

Prior to our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, I hadn’t arrived in Mexico by air since a 1989 vacation to Ixtapa with my parents. So, in stark contrast to my previous experience, I was pleasantly surprised to see Puerto Vallarta has a clean, modern international airport terminal. Complete with air-conditioned jetways, no less. Continue reading “Puerto Vallarta: Running the gauntlet at the airport”

Puerto Vallarta: Still awaiting Juvo

We’ve been gearing up for Hurricane Juvo since Monday, but it’s taking its sweet time getting here. The latest report is it’ll come ashore as a category-three hurricane much further south in the state of Jalisco, then follow the coast north toward us, probably having weakened to a tropical storm by then.

An update from Puerto Vallarta, Wednesday morning in Mexico.

We’ve been gearing up for Hurricane Juvo since Monday, but it’s taking its sweet time getting here. When we left the U.S. on Saturday, it was forecast to hit Puerto Vallarta directly Monday evening. Hurricanes are unpredictable though. The latest report is it’ll come ashore as a category-three hurricane much further south in the state of Jalisco, then follow the coast north toward us, probably having weakened to a tropical storm by then. That should happen this evening. Continue reading “Puerto Vallarta: Still awaiting Juvo”

Germany: Any reason to celebrate in Monheim am Rhein, Cologne, and Düsseldorf

Christian let me know that I had to order the right beer for the city I was in. In Düsseldorf, they brew Alt, so that’s what they drink. In Cologne, they brew and drink Kölsch. I would be frowned upon if I ordered a beer in the wrong city. Those fortunate enough to live in Monheim am Rhein could order either, when in Monheim, of course.

I arrived in Paris six days ago and spent a couple nights there. I didn’t do much in Paris that I haven’t done before. Mostly, I just enjoyed being there, sitting in cafes, walking through parks, and so forth. The only new thing I really saw was the museum of the police prefecture, which actually I didn’t find very interesting, aside from an exhibit of some of the firearms used during the Liberation.

I left Friday morning by train for Cologne, Germany, where I planned to visit a friend of mine, Christian, who lives near there. I had planned to spend the morning in Paris, but after speaking to Christian by phone, it seemed like it would work out better with his schedule if I arrived in the mid-afternoon. The rail line between in Paris and Cologne is a mostly high-speed line called Thalys, so the trip took less than four hours, with only a few intermediate stops. Continue reading “Germany: Any reason to celebrate in Monheim am Rhein, Cologne, and Düsseldorf”

Things you probably don’t know about me

Here’s a list of things you probably don’t know about me. It’s in no particular order.

Here’s a list of things you probably don’t know about me. It’s in no particular order. Continue reading “Things you probably don’t know about me”

St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow

Usually when I talk or write about St. Mary’s Basilica, I’m referring to the beautiful Spanish mission style Catholic church in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. I was looking through some of my old photos recently, and I found a picture of another, much older St. Mary’s Basilica. This one is in Krakow, Poland. It’s also beautiful, built in a Brick Gothic style in the 14th century.

Usually when I talk or write about St. Mary’s Basilica, I’m referring to the beautiful Spanish mission style Catholic church in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. I received confirmation there. My wife and I were married there, and we remain parishioners there. It’s quite special to both of us. Continue reading “St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow”

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas: Secret hidden pizza on the Strip

On our recent trip to Las Vegas, Kathryn and I decided to find the secret, hidden, nameless pizza place at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. I had read about it in our local paper some months earlier.

On our recent trip to Las Vegas, Kathryn and I decided to find the secret, hidden, nameless pizza place at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. I had read about it in the local paper some months earlier. Continue reading “Cosmopolitan Las Vegas: Secret hidden pizza on the Strip”

Frequently asked questions about our road trip in Europe

We’ve only been home a few days, but Kathryn and I have already heard a lot of questions about our trip. For the benefit of everyone else, I’ve decided to repeat some of them here, along with their answers. Continue reading “Frequently asked questions about our road trip in Europe”

Long overdue post

There’s a certain irony to writing a blog. During those times when you have the most to write about, you have the least time to write it. The year 2007 has been, and continues to be, almost unbelievably good to me, and for several months I’ve been maintaining a hand-written list of all the things I want to write about.

There’s a certain irony to writing a blog. During those times when you have the most to write about, you have the least time to write it. The year 2007 has been, and continues to be, almost unbelievably good to me, and for several months I’ve been maintaining a hand-written list of all the things I want to write about. However, the blog format lends itself to telling stories in a chronological fashion, so as my list grows longer, I feel a certain pressure to write everything or nothing. More often than not, over the past few months, I’ve chosen nothing, but with a new travel adventure beginning in less than 48 hours, I’ve run out of time. Therefore I’ll dispense with the formalities and blurt out everything I recall in whatever order seems relevant. Perhaps it’ll all make sense at the end. Continue reading “Long overdue post”

Celine Dion in Las Vegas

I had two specific goals for my recent visit to Las Vegas. I wanted to see Celine Dion, who was sick when I visited in December, and I wanted to learn how to play craps. I’m happy to say I accomplished both goals, and I did it while fighting a cold. In retrospect, I probably should have spent the weekend in bed, but I really did have a great time.

It probably seems like I just got back from Las Vegas, but I went again a couple weekends ago. I had some unfinished business from my December trip, so I’d been itching to take another trip up there. I had two specific goals for my recent visit. I wanted to see Celine Dion, who was sick when I visited in December, and I wanted to learn how to play craps. I’m happy to say I accomplished both goals, and I did it while fighting a cold. In retrospect, I probably should have spent the weekend in bed, but I really did have a great time. Continue reading “Celine Dion in Las Vegas”

Drinking in Pasadena, redux

I spent last weekend in Pasadena, visiting the same buddy I saw in August. I’ve spent the time since then sobering up.

I spent last weekend in Pasadena, visiting the same buddy I saw in August. I’ve spent the time since then sobering up.

When my friend and I started planning this trip a few weeks ago, I reserved one of my club airplanes, intending to fly out there. I was looking forward to getting some good cross-country experience, and flying into the crowded Southern California airspace was a challenge I felt I was ready for. However, the week before the trip, the weather forecast started to deteriorate, and by Wednesday, I decided just to abandon plans to fly and simply drive there instead.
Continue reading “Drinking in Pasadena, redux”

Last-minute solo getaway to Las Vegas

I made a last-minute executive decision this morning to do an overnight trip to Vegas. I got in the car at 8:10, and thanks to the miracle of time zones, I was at my hotel at 12:20. I’m going to see how much trouble I can get into by myself in less than 28 hours. I’ve already wandered off the Strip, and I’m settling into my second beer.

I made a last-minute executive decision this morning to do an overnight trip to Vegas. I got in the car at 8:10, and thanks to the miracle of time zones, I was at my hotel at 12:20. I’m going to see how much trouble I can get into by myself in less than 28 hours. I’ve already wandered off the Strip, and I’m settling into my second beer.

Drinking in Pasadena

One of my friends, who goes all the way back to junior high with me, finished his PhD a few months ago and is doing a residency at UCLA. His wife was out of town on business, so we decided to do a guys weekend. I arrived early Friday evening. My friend and his wife are living with her parents, and her father cooked us a great dinner. After that, my friend and I proceeded to Old Town Pasadena to do some serious drinking. However, neither of us Einsteins considered the fact that we had already done some serious drinking during dinner, so the evening rapidly devolved into sloppy drunkenness.

I got back this afternoon from a fun weekend in L.A. Well, I was mostly in Pasadena, but that’s close enough, right? One of my friends, who goes all the way back to junior high with me, finished his PhD a few months ago and is doing a residency at UCLA. His wife was out of town on business, so we decided to do a guys weekend. Continue reading “Drinking in Pasadena”

Guinness Storehouse

I toured the Guinness Storehouse here in Dublin today. I won’t elaborate much about this tour. It goes without saying there was a pint of Guinness at the end of the tour, which is of course said to be the world’s freshest Guinness. However, to their credit, they served it in a top-floor bar with a 360-degree panoramic view of Dublin.

So, in what I imagine will be the last of my alcohol-related blog entries, at least for this trip, I toured the Guinness Storehouse here in Dublin today. I won’t elaborate much about this tour. Continue reading “Guinness Storehouse”

Pub stop in Ireland

I’m in Ireland, and for the first time on this trip, I’ve rented a car. I left the airport in Dublin maybe an hour ago, and I started driving north until I found a little roadside pub. I’ve had a pounding headache all day.

Quick update. I’m in Ireland, and for the first time on this trip, I’ve rented a car. I left the airport in Dublin maybe an hour ago, and I started driving north until I found a little roadside pub. I’ve had a pounding headache all day, exacerbated by a flight, a long line at immigration, and a car with both a right-side steering wheel and a stick shift, which is of course operated by my left hand, which is very confusing. Of course, once I get on the left side of the road, everything is backwards, so it all seems to make sense. I thought a little food, a little beer, a little coffee, and a little Advil would make the afternoon go better. Continue reading “Pub stop in Ireland”

Weight

I had a discussion with a cousin of mine a few days before I started this voyage. He was joking that I might gain 20 pounds during this trip because of all the beer I’d be drinking, which is perfectly reasonable.

I had a discussion with a cousin of mine a few days before I started this voyage. He was joking that I might gain 20 pounds during this trip because of all the beer I’d be drinking, which is perfectly reasonable. However, I responded that I might lose 10 pounds because of all the walking I’d be doing, which is also perfectly reasonable. Continue reading “Weight”

Munich: Bavarian beer

I’m waiting in a bar near where my friend lives in Munich. She had to work late, so she’s not home yet. I thought I’d have a beer while waiting for her. Until just now, I had forgotten how good Bavarian beer is.

I’m waiting in a bar near where my friend lives in Munich. She had to work late, so she’s not home yet. I thought I’d have a beer while waiting for her. Until just now, I had forgotten how good Bavarian beer is.

No more words, while I savor the moment.

Great steak dinner in Ljubljana, Slovenia

I had the best meal of my trip this evening here in Ljubljana. I’d walked past a little hole-in-the-wall place with a sign that read “home cooking” several times since yesterday, so tonight I walked in. I don’t even know the name of the place.

I had the best meal of my trip this evening here in Ljubljana. I’d walked past a little hole-in-the-wall place with a sign that read “home cooking” several times since yesterday, so tonight I walked in. I don’t even know the name of the place. Continue reading “Great steak dinner in Ljubljana, Slovenia”

Croatian beer: Ožjusko and Karlovačko

The local beer was generally one of two brands, Ožjusko and Karlovačko. The quality of both was inconsistent, especially when served on tap. A couple times I was poured beer that tasted almost stale, leading me at first to believe the way the bars were storing and serving the beer was the problem, not the beer itself.

For the sake of completeness, I figured I should post an entry about Croatian beer. In short, it wasn’t very good. Continue reading “Croatian beer: Ožjusko and Karlovačko”

Train ride from Zagreb to Split, Croatia

The train ride from Zagreb to Split has had some stunning scenery. We’re up in the mountains, and I’ve been seeing valleys below with lakes and streams and shallow rapids, with campsites and people wading and canoeing. It makes me want to hop off.

The train ride from Zagreb to Split in Croatia has some stunning scenery. We’re up in the mountains, and I’ve been seeing valleys below with lakes and streams and shallow rapids, with campsites and people wading and canoeing. It makes me want to hop off.

The downside is that this mountainous route is not especially straight, so the train changes speed constantly as it negotiates curves. This has left me feeling a bit seasick. Fortunately there are snacks on this train, so I got a sandwich and a beer, and I already feel a little better.

Punchline on the beer

A half-liter of Amstel in the hotel bar is 900 forint, which is a little more than $4. And the hotel tacks on a ten percent service charge. The half-liter beer I’m drinking now is 300 forint, with no service charge. You do the math. I’m about 100 feet from the hotel door. I wish I knew about this place two days ago.

A half-liter of Amstel in the hotel bar is 900 forint, which is a little more than $4. And the hotel tacks on a ten percent service charge. The half-liter beer I’m drinking now is 300 forint, with no service charge. You do the math. I’m about 100 feet from the hotel door. I wish I knew about this place two days ago.

Polish beer

I’ve had some really good beer here in Poland. I don’t know why no one ever told me about Polish beer, or why it doesn’t find its way to the US. I’ve had Żywiec and Tyskie both in Warsaw and here in Krakow, and right now I’m drinking Okocim. All have been very good. I’ve been enjoying them in moderation, of course.

If you’re beginning to wonder if beer is becoming a theme of this trip, relax. Beer is a theme of every trip I take.

Warsaw, Poland: Local currency, done with camping

I decided to spend one more night here in Warsaw. It’s a beautiful city. Mostly I’ve just been walking around, particularly through the city’s lovely parks. I had a beer and an ice cream in the old city center. Not at the same time.

I don’t like walking around a city without local currency, but my minor debit card crisis was resolved quite easily last night. I just took some dollars from my backup and exchanged them at a bureau, old school. Now I remember why I bring backup cash when I travel. Continue reading “Warsaw, Poland: Local currency, done with camping”

Berlin, Germany: Keeping properly hydrated

Earlier this morning, I bought a 1.5-liter bottle of mineral water while waiting for a train. I was a little surprised that I was able to drink it in about ten minutes. Mostly I’ve been drinking coffee and beer the past couple weeks, and I’ve been sweating a lot as I walk around cities or haul my pack around train stations, so I was probably poorly hydrated.

Having lived in Arizona for almost two years, I should be keenly aware of how important proper hydration is. However, it’s easy to forget here in Europe where the climate is so much milder. Earlier this morning, I bought a 1.5-liter bottle of mineral water while waiting for a train. I was a little surprised that I was able to drink it in about ten minutes. Mostly I’ve been drinking coffee and beer the past couple weeks, and I’ve been sweating a lot as I walk around cities or haul my pack around train stations, so I was probably poorly hydrated. From here on, I’m going to make it a goal to drink three liters of water per day, or more if necessary. I’m just over two weeks into my trip, and it would be a lousy time to get sick.

Beer in Denmark

After a few days in Copenhagen, I can say that I’m absolutely amazed by the quantity of beer people drink here.

I learned during my tour of the Carlsberg brewery that historically the water was unsafe to drink here, so people drank beer instead. During the Renaissance, Danes began importing new foods from all over the world, but they were very salty, so the average person would drink upwards of ten liters of beer a day. As recently as the late 19th century, the daily beer ration per worker at the Carlsberg brewery was four liters per day. That’s over a gallon of beer per worker per day. What a perk!

Nowadays, they still drink quite heavily here. I saw people on the street drinking as early as 10 am. Kids hanging out by the harbor in the evening settled in with entire cases of beer. I assume they were sharing among several friends, but it’s still a lot of beer when you’re hanging out in a public place.

Being one to do as the Romans do, I had an early beer this morning before I boarded the train. I’m heading to Germany today. Does anyone know if they serve beer there?

Danish beer: Carlsberg and Jacobsen at the brewery in Copenhagen

I just finished the Carlsberg brewery tour, which naturally included a couple tastings. The beer here is very good. I had a Tuborg last night, and a Carlsberg Pilsner and a Jacobsen Brown Ale here at the brewery.

I just finished the Carlsberg brewery tour, which naturally included a couple tastings. The beer here is very good. I had a Tuborg last night, and a Carlsberg Pilsner and a Jacobsen Brown Ale here at the brewery. Continue reading “Danish beer: Carlsberg and Jacobsen at the brewery in Copenhagen”

More Amsterdam, more rain

Of course, being in the red-light district, we had to have a look at the offerings in the windows. It appeared that the more attractive girls worked the main street, and as you got further away, they became, shall we say, uglier.

Rain seems to follow me everywhere I go. This morning I woke up to thunder and rain pouring down on my little tent. I’ve managed to keep dry, somehow.

Last night was a late night. I was told to check out the red-light district after dark. However, it doesn’t get dark here until around 11 pm. While I was in a bar waiting for it to get dark, I ran into four other backpackers from all over the US, two guys and two girls, plus one guy from Australia. After another round at that bar, we did some bar-hopping together.

Of course, being in the red-light district, we had to have a look at the offerings in the windows. There seems to be something for every taste there. All the guys in the group thought the girl with the glasses was quite hot. At first I thought maybe it was just me because, well, I’ve got a thing for glasses. It appeared that the more attractive girls worked the main street, and as you got further away, they became, shall we say, uglier.

One of the girls in our little group thought we should all go see a sex show, so we found one and went inside for a half-hour. I think we were all a little disappointed. I think I had an image in my mind of Amsterdam before I got here, and so it was a letdown to discover it isn’t really as depraved as I thought it would be.

I had some city plans for today, but I’m going to wait for the rain to let up a little, and maybe get a little more sleep. I also have a critical laundry shortage, so I need to do some wash soon. I’m down to my last pair of undies, and they’re starting to get ripe.