Travel


My lips, this cricket

This is a post designed exactly so that people can weigh in on the most exotic foodstuff they’ve consumed.  It’s going to fall heavily on the side of carnivores, for which I apologize in advance, but if you have tasted fresh rowan from the Himalayas, by all means, speak up.

I’ve dined twice at this restaurant in London, Archipelago, which specializes in exotic cuisine.  The first time I went, I was too embarrassed to take photographs of our meal, because this is desperately uncool.  The second time I had no such compunction and snapped away, as I was truly regretful I had not documented the first time I ate crickets.

While by no means cheap, it is reasonably priced for the quality and rarity on offer, and a great place to bring out-of-towners looking for a bit of a treat.  My first visit, I had the ostrich starter (ostrich is always amazing – thready and flavorful) and the zebra steak.  (more…)

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Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic is reporting on Al Qaeda’s first English-language magazine.  It’s based out of the Arabian Peninsula, called “Inspire,” and is aimed at the millions of Muslims who speak English as a first or second language.  A U.S. official has confirmed that it appears to be authentic.  And we all thought publishing was dead! (more…)

I take great pleasure in helping out people looking for directions or guidance, in so far as I am able.  Here in London, exasperated tourists will approach me with varying  degrees of English competency on the regular, looking for assistance in locating their destination; I am always delighted to point them in the right direction, when I can, drawing maps on a notepad or even walking them partway if I have nowhere important to be.  Even though this is not my home country, this is just good hospitality, and I like to do my best to send folk on their way with a positive impression, just as I rely on fellow Londoners to help me out when I’m in an unfamiliar part of town.  I am a big believer in asking for, and offering, directions.

So this is, as I said, just good hospitality, and ultimately good karma.  It’s not a big city, but it is a busy and twisting one, and we all need a little help from time to time.  I was recently thinking, however, about the people I call Travel Angels.  These are the people you meet in the course of your journey who go far out of their way to assist you, and leave you with a warm feeling in the pit of your belly, the people who replenish your basic faith in humanity, however grand or small the gesture.  These gestures are always poignant, but especially so in a foreign setting when you are wary of your vulnerability.

This is more than essential kindness, and more than giving directions.  These acts require the Angel to take time away from themselves to see you safely to your destination, or extend their welcome to the point of invitation into their own lives.  It’s the person who sees you on your own in an unfamiliar place and invites you to a Lebanese family supper, or offers to drive you 30 miles out of their way (both experiences from my own life).  With that thought, I wanted to detail four instances of Travel Angels and invite you to share your own.

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I went to Malta for five nights over the Easter holiday and have subsequently shifted through the 200+ photos from the trip trying to determine what might be worth sharing with my family or possibly posting about.  Although I know next to nothing about automobiles, I am an appreciator of classic vehicular aesthetics, and so writing about the buses in Malta is an imperative – I’ve never come back from a holiday with 10+ pictures of buses before, but this was exceptional.

The Boy and I stayed in Qawra on the northern part of the island, which we quickly discovered was not as happenin’ as more central areas like Saint Julian’s Bay, Sliema/Paceville, or even Valletta, the capital.  Fortunately, the bus service was cheap, accessible, and charming (for the most part).

The buses in Malta are, in a word, supercool.  They reminded me of the Weinermobile, as they are painted mustard yellow and hotdog orange and have excellent chrome detailing.  We took six or seven different buses during our stay there and while they ranged in vintage, every one displayed prominent Catholic iconography on the interior, which was actually more appealing than it sounds.  Several of the older buses featured a thrilling hop-on door that didn’t close, so we could see the countryside whizzing past as we barreled down the exceptionally well-maintained roads: (more…)

Note: I am not snarking on this man, but would like to say that the BF's back situation is not quite so dire.

I’m heading off on Tuesday morning for five nights in Malta and a much-needed vacation after a stressful first quarter (what else is new? – oh, I mean that stress-wise, not jetting to Malta-wise – the latter is new).  Our flight is at the ungodly hour of 6:30 am, and we are requested to appear at the airport two hours in advance.  To cut down on travel stress, we’ve booked an airport hotel room for tomorrow night, and I intend to head there after work for the luxury of rising at 4:00 am rather than 3:00 am, and the avoidance of taxi/tube/train panic.  Worth £44?  You betcha.

Besides my typical packing freakout (present and accounted for, sir!), I took the opportunity today to engage in pre-vacation grooming.  I opted out of a bikini wax this time in favor of an economically advisable DIY razor-job.  While I have been dreaming of a sunshine and beach holiday, I fear that even Malta will be too chilly this time of year for sunbathing, so I don’t see any point in suffering through a wax when I will likely be clad in jeans and a monochrome tee-shirt for the majority of my visit.

Nonetheless, I have plucked, bleached, and shaved in anticipation – at the very least I am hoping for a Turkish bath and a massage, and, sadly, one wishes to conform to Western beauty standards.  But while I am responsible for my own grooming, it seems I am also responsible for that of my male vacation companion.  I’m not complaining, per se – if one was able to competently shave one’s own back, one would be something of a medical marvel.  But aside from my responsibility for sunscreen, bathing suits, itinerary printouts, and toiletries (all things he has/will forget without my prompting), I am also tasked with boyfriend depilation. (more…)

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since I did a post about a piece of advertising that irritates me!  Surely for someone as easily irritated as me, this should be ripe blog fodder and yet I haven’t touched that poisonous fruit in some time.  Wondering how that could be, I’ve come to the conclusion that a) my resistance to live television viewing is strong and b) like most folk in this day and age, I’m so generally bombarded by it as to become largely inured.  I don’t read magazines anymore, so most of my exposure comes from online ads (which barely register, with the exception of the ubiquitous ModCloth ads – cute dresses!) and product placement in films/shows (again, unless someone blatantly pops open and takes an Adam’s-apple-bobbing gulp of Pepsi or ostentatiously places their Apple Mac in the smack-dab center of the screen, I don’t so much notice).

The one place I do notice it is on the street.  Billboards on buses and cabs, posters on buildings, and above all else, the massive adverts along the walls of the tube.  The latter is the only situation in which I am forced to stare at an ad for a prolonged period of time, contemplate it, internalize it.  Nothing subliminal about staring at a Hennessy ad for two minutes while you wait for the train and avoid eye contact with your fellow commuters.  So while I’ve been waiting for the tube every morning for the last week and a half, I am annoyed afresh by this relentlessly stupid Google Chrome ad that’s directly in front of my preferred Stand for the Train Space (halfway down the platform to the right of the entrance, approximately six cars from the back – it’s an art form): (more…)

Damn, y’all.  I travel way too much.  I don’t remember exactly when I started collecting the card keys from my business trips, and I’ve never counted them all, but I couldn’t help taking a quick look through a portion of the collection which I found a moment ago.  Each card here represents one week not spent in my own bed, and you can see the stack on the right there which I didn’t even go through.  The crazy part is that I’m pretty sure these are from the past year only.  If I had a dollar, right?

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