Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Taste Of Things To Come

I've been a long time reader of Delicious Days. The site needs no excuse to be checked out; great food writing, brilliant photography and amazing design. The other day they posted about their travels to Lisbon, our next major destination, making it somewhat mandatory that I make a post.

Image of Lisboa from Delicious Days

I have a feeling they're travelling slightly above our planned budget, but experiencing Portugal's culinary and cultural delights is definitely on the agenda. So be sure to check out the recount of their visit.

The writer and her husband are based out of Munich, where we plan to go, so if you'd like a sneak peek of what we'll be experiencing, snoop through the archives. They also just went to Austria where Karl is currently staying, so you can get an additional feel for that country as well.

Additionally, if you're a fan of graphic design, you would be remiss not to check out the section on packaging.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Food and Dance

Last Saturday a few of us celebrated the potential adventure Geoff, Pedro and I plan embark on this summer. For me, it was also celebration of friends. Good people willing to use the simple pretext of our adventure as a launching board to go out and have fun. People I will miss during the few weeks of my travels. Thank you to all who came and made it a grand evening.

Our evening started out at Fude, a lovely restaurant tucked into the village. Fude is fun, as evidenced by the smiles around the table as people read the menus, the even greater smiles as the food arrived and finally slightly smaller smiles (limited by the fact that we were busily eating).


A Table Full of Friends

Glamorous Guests

Buffalo Rib Ecstasy

Fun Fude

Engaging Conversation

Good Company

It should be noted that Pedro, Geoff and I were not the only future travellers enjoying dinner. Both Florence, going to Italy, and Theresa, going to Albuquerque, are planning to travel in the next few weeks and broadened our reasons (in case we need more) to celebrate.

From dinner we went to the Empire to meet up with some more friends for some hot salsa dancing. By hot I mean, that if our plan was to prepare for a Cuban club where the air conditioner had mistakenly been replaced by a heater, I think we would have been well on our way (as evidenced by the formerly transparent windows dripping with condensation). As a confessed dance addict, I had a marvelous time.

Salsa Dancing
Beating the heat
The McGrath Effect
Those that endured

Once again, thanks to those that made this evening so enjoyable. I've included a collection of photos from the evening here.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Short dives on a long weekend

A warning, but to whom?

This weekend I had my first opportunity to do some open water scuba diving. The location was a very cold West Hawk Lake on a very windy and cold Saturday and a calmer and slightly cold Sunday. The weekend featured every variation possible of jokes involving changes to ones anatomy when entering freezing cold water, primarily from the instructors who had dry suits (much warmer then the wet suits we were wearing), and not quite as often but still quite frequently, jokes featuring the untimely demise of dive buddies.

At the surface

I can't really comment too much on what it was like underwater. It's quite other worldly and exhilarating, but I think I was concentrating too much on not freezing to death to really bring my thoughts to focus. After our first dives we headed out to Kyla's parent's cabin at Falcon Lake and quickly warmed up by putting ourselves to use helping them out as they got the cabin ready for the summer. In exchange we got a warm tent trailer to sleep in for our troubles. A worth while exchange. Thanks again for the company, warm place to sleep and great meal!

You can view some pictures of the weekend here

I've also provided a cautionary photo essay detailing what can happen when you lend Geoff your camera to take pictures.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Re-Post: Too much in Paris

Original posted on: June 26th, 2004

The four us together in Paris

I'm sitting in an Internet cafe right now just outside my hostel. Karl is madly hunting down a CD-R because we're taking pictures at a faster rate than we can upload them. Kyla's cooking up something in the hostel kitchen and Sherri... well I'm not sure what Sherri is doing. Probably somewhere in between helping and distracting Kyla. We're the complete group now and it's absolutely great. Unfortunately Paris is so filled with wonderful things, we could spend weeks here (if it weren't for the cost and time restraints) and feel we didn't get everything in. I'll do a short recap to fill you in.

Kyla encapsulates our feelings about Paris

Karl, Kyla and myself arrived the day before Sherri and decided to walk the city to get a good feel for it. The city houses so many famous landmarks it didn't take long before we were completely wowed. We had brought a baguette, brie and a bottle of wine along for a simple supper. We found a beautiful spot in the park at the base of the Eiffel tower and set about feeling even better about the city. As a side note, I had been quite worried about costs while staying in Paris after reading our friend Mike's travel blog. However, with the help of a local grocery store we managed to get all our food and wine for about three Euro (I probably don't need to tell you that it was cheap wine).

Eating and drinking under the tower

Afterwards, we wandered the city at our fancy, finding beautiful spots and landmarks everywhere we went. As evening approached, we came out from among the tall classically Parisian buildings to find ourselves looking out across a river at a beautiful sky painted by the setting sun with strokes of colour melting into the tall cream coloured buildings of the Parisian cityscape. Needless to say it was beautiful. Warning: The picture below does this no justice

Kyla on the bridge

The next day, after Sherri arrived in the afternoon, we felt the need to decide for her that she should stay up and see all the same sights we had already seen to fight her jet lag. Well, staying up all day conquered Sherri's jet lag, but the sights didn't hold quite the same amazement the second time and Sherri obviously couldn't appreciate them fully with her lack of sleep.

Sherri enjoys the park by the Louvre

The next day we got a Museum pass and tried to milk the most out of it. We went to the Louvre, which is so incredibly vast you could easily spend a day in it. It was the first place we were confronted by mass tourism. As we neared the Mona Lisa the crowds swelled to mob like proportions. Among the pushing and flashing cameras you really had to wonder whether the Mona Lisa deserved this kind of hype, when every other piece in the museum was equally or more amazing.

Find Kyla in the photo to get a sense of the scale

A photo of the mob... oh ... and the Mona Lisa

To proceed with the description of events a bit more quickly (Ed: Blogging about Paris is only so interesting when it exists right outside the shop window and you've got a night train to catch that evening), we checked out many other museums and sights. The next day we went to Versailles which was big and even more besieged by tourists. If you've seen Sansoucci in Potsdam save your Euros and go somewhere else.

We then returned to Paris were I attended a mass at Notre Dame Cathedral. At first its hard to connect with that level of ritualization within a worship service, but when connected with the original motives for those rituals it can be a powerful event. Later, in the tourist equivalent to a dog marking territory, we climbed the church (Ed: Long lines of American tourists bring out the cynic in all of us. I'm also guilty as charged.). After, the group split again to climb yet another famous landmark while I found a relaxing spot on Saint Germain boulevard to sip a coffee in an outdoor cafe and write a letter home.

Then it was the night train and off to Madrid.

Ed: The title of this post "Too much in Paris", is slightly misleading in that is seems as if I didn't enjoy Paris. I wanted to capture the "too much" of Paris in the sense that there was so much of this great city we could never take in. At the same time Paris was the first city we went to where I really noticed the tourists. Being a complete tourist myself, it was disheartening look in the mirror and see the not so nice aspects of tourism. Primarily large numbers of people blindly following other people with no real understanding why the original people came and saw the monuments and artwork and left so impressed. My break from climbing famous structures to an admittedly equally cliched pause along Saint Germain boulevard to take in some espresso and people watching, was my most enjoyable Parisian moment and gave me a short glimpse of the style and pace of life in Paris.

French Security

But enough introspection, the second thing I wanted to point out in retrospect is the picture above. Many of you have heard me tell the story of the heightened security in Paris because of the Olympic torch passing through while we were there and the conflict of interest for security forces that was the French team playing in the Eurocup at the very same time. I've told the story so many times, I began to think I may have been exaggerating the account, but if you click on the picture above you can see for yourselves, all TVs but one focused on the current football match rather than the Eiffel tower.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Quality Assurance Announcement

Dear Reader,

Some less sophisticated blogs considered it a mark of achievement or high standing to be able to stir up drama within the comments of their posts. Comments such as those left by a certain individual in a recent post. I will not be one of those blogs, however this event gives me pause to stop and assure you, the reader, of the quality of reporting that goes on here.

The person (I can only assume, since only a name was left), who triggered this, identified themselves merely as "Dave", hiding behind the anonymity of the millions of "Dave"s which populate our planet to launch this underhanded attack. I will not lower myself to refute the multitude of falsehoods perpetrated by this cowardly individual or individuals. For example, the accusation that I was "complaining" about the forced labour that I was required to bear. Can such a point even be raised? I was clearly outlining the facts bereft of any sentiment to which they might be attached. A lesser person might use their blog as pedestal upon which to launch a counter-attack, but I will stray from that temptation and simply affirm that no person should ever have any doubt as to the opinions expressed on this blog. This blog adheres and will continue to adhere to a standard of utmost truthiness (2005 Word of the Year).


The Management

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Georgian Table

There are two legends that Georgians tell to explain the creation of their country, and fascinatingly, both involve food. In the first, the Georgians claim that when God was distributing land to all the peoples of the Earth, they were too busy feasting and drinking to show up at the appointed time. When they finally arrived, they were dismayed to learn that all the land had already been given away. They explained to God the reason for their delay, and God, obviously recognizing the value of a people who would rather be feasting than fighting over land, took pity on them and gave the Georgians the part of the Earth that he had been reserving for himself - naturally, the most beautiful part. In the second legend, God took a supper break while creating the world, and became so involved with his meal that he inadvertently tripped over the high peaks of the Caucasus, spilling his food onto the land below. This land blessed by heaven's table scraps was Georgia.

The Traveler's Lunchbox - A Georgian Feast

With this kind of folklore behind the country, I was only too happy to accept an invitation to a Georgian Table. The term "Georgian Table" can be roughly translated as an obnoxiously large feast featuring Georgian food. Our guide and host for our adventure into Georgian cuisine was Sara, who, along with her brother Geoff, had spent several years in Georgia. She can be seen in the picture below organizing the unsuspecting workforce some guests in preparing the dishes.

Sara giving instructions

To illustrate the point about utilizing her guests, Geoff and I never even made it through the door of the house before being assigned our duties. We were to barbeque the meat (it had a Georgian name, which I will choose not to misspell for you). Apparently this was very Georgian, as the meat was only supposed to be cooked by the men and over an open fire. While we didn't use an actual open fire, I can't help but feel that the barbeque's uncontrolled flames added a measure of authenticity to the whole endeavor.

Hard at work

I'm not sure how authentic the rest of the preparation technique was (as evidenced by the picture below).

A little too happy

The meal was absolutely amazing and unending, this is apparently authentically Georgian as well. When dish after amazing dish kept appearing from the kitchen, it soon became apparent why the "volunteer" recruitment had been needed.

The Georgian Table

And as a sign of a truly good party, the fun didn't stop until we had received a warning from the landlord. The offense? Ballroom and Latin dancing in the common square between the townhouses. Although, I think she was just bitter Geoff and I hadn't asked her to go dancing by moonlight.

All in all it was an excellent night. A big thanks to Sara and everyone who helped out.

Monday, May 01, 2006

International Incidents

Last Saturday was the occasion for two internationally themed events. A "Dance Around The World" party at the studio and a farewell party for Karl (going to work in Europe)and Cathy (off to camp for the summer).

As per usual the party at the studio was grand, with some interesting showcases from a group of Irish dancers, traditional Indian dancers and one Hungarian dancer (superbly represented by our Saturday group's very own Peter Schilling). The rest of the evening was left for us to capture the floor to musical sounds from around the world.

Waltzing Around The World

Of note from that evening is the fact that Geoff and I now know how to properly treat a "European Lady". We were corrected by our beloved instructor, Margaret (ever the perfectionist), and shown the proper technique. Below, you can see us demonstrate our skills.

Two Gentlemen (*cough*) and a Lady

(Additional Dance Party Pics)

After having so much fun it was hard to pull ourselves away, but Karl is good man, so Geoff and I accepted our humble duty and took off to the pub to offer our support at his farewell.

Cathy and Karl

You can see Karl's recollection of the evening at his blog. My fans may want to add his blog to their RSS feeds*, as he'll be blogging as well when we meet up in Europe this summer.

*If you're using Firefox, Sage is a great extension to make this easy