Monday, December 19, 2016

New Zealand 2016

Queenstown from the beginning of the approach

Returning to New Zealand after 13 years! A really nice 11 and a half-hour flight from SFO to Auckland on Air NZ with a good amount of sleep, then a 1 hour 40 min flight from Auckland to Queenstown to start our trip. When we landed, learned that there had been a large earthquake off the eastern coast of the south island but despite several thousand landslides there very few injuries on land and nothing that interrupted our plans.


Very nice stay at the Rees in a 1br apartment. Was great to have room to hang out in, laundry in the unit, and a huge balcony that would have been more useful if the temps got above 10 C and it did not rain parts of every day. Great room service breakfast. 35-40 min walk into town on the trail by the water was nice despite the weather. Great views from the room and pretty much everywhere we went.

Took the gondola to the top of the skyline and had a nice leisurely hike down, that became a bit more stressful when we got off the forest road onto a trail that was a bit slick and muddy from the rain. Would just stay on the road next time :)

Food: Liked Botswana Butchery for seafood and lamb with a great wine list. Very nice service though on the expensive side. Fishbone was ok, pretty pricey again but with a little less sophisticated menu and wine list and a step down in decor. Speight's Ale House was good for beers and standard pub food, with Erik's Fish and Chips as a quick, gluten-free stop for lunch.


Balcony at Foxglove

A quick one hour flight to Wellington, which is a pretty funky airport design. Quick taxi ride to the Museum Art Hotel which was decent. Took a harbor ferry to Days Bay and walked about 20 min to Eastbourne for lunch at a great cafe at the corner of Rimu St and Muritai Rd that seems to have no internet presence. Great lamb curries. Went through Seatoun on the way over and Somes Island on the way back. Really nice way to see the area.

Did not particularly love Wellington, but as with everywhere in NZ, the people were very nice and the city seems to be transitioning into a better place. A couple blocks were still closed because of structural damage from the earthquake.

Food: Great seafood meal at Whitebait. Good cocktails, wine selection by glass and bottle, and fantastic shellfish and fish. Highly recommended. Had drinks and snacks on the balcony outside at Foxglove which was nice. Did not have a great experience at Hummingbird so would skip that in the future. Cannot get enough of the Gunpowder Rum that I had in a cocktail at Crumpet. Bought some NZ wine at Regional Wines and Spirits which has a great selection of both wine and liquor, and really good wine/liquor/groceries/ready to eat foor at Moore Wilson's various detached stores.


Napier harbor from the Gintrap

About a 4.5 hour drive from Wellington to Napier in our small rental SUV. Not particularly scenic but seeing the beach when reaching the coast is very rewarding. Had a quick but good lunch of middle eastern food at the Desert Rose in Palmerston North. Stayed at the Pebble Beach Motor Lodge a few days and had a good time. Very helpful staff. Spent the last night at the Nautilus as the PB was sold out. Decent room but slightly smaller. Nice staff there as well. Note that checkout time at all of the NZ motor lodges is 10:00am. Lots of one-night stays from what I could tell and the housekeeping staff needs the time to prep.

The Hawke's Bay region is really a great place to visit. Beautiful scenery. Good wine and seafood pretty much everywhere we went. Kinda feels like the area around Santa Barbara but way more relaxed. Particularly liked the syrahs from the Gimblett Gravels district just outside Napier in Hastings. Dark, spicy wines that were well balanced and not at all showing alcohol. Had a couple nice low-oak chardonnays as well.

Rented bikes for parts of two days and rode on the paths on the beach and around town. Could do this for days. Well managed trails and not many people on weekdays in November.

Food: Excellent lunch at Mr. D, again with very interesting seafood and a great wine list. Really liked dinner at Emporium. Great service, cocktails and meal. Good pub food for a dinner at Gintrap. Not much open on Sunday nights so we ate at Lonestar which I would skip next time. Next visit will make a reservation for the fixed menu at Pacifica and try more Thai and Indonesian.


Hahei Beach from the trail returning from Cathedral Cove

The drive to Hahei from Napier starts with about 2 hours through forested terrain with logging trucks in plentiful supply on a mostly two-lane road, so leaving early in the day was helpful. The next two hours are through smaller towns but not particularly scenic. The last hour winds up and down hills with a reasonable amount of traffic before winding to a few fantastic beach towns. Had an amazingly good lamb burger at the Crazy Cow in Putaruru, though if I was driving this again, would stop in the much cuter and less busy town of Tirau just down the road.

Stayed at the Tahiti Village which is in a great location just a couple min walk from the beach and you can start the hike to Cathedral Cove either up the road to the parking lot or by going to the north end of the beach. We took the water taxi from Hahei beach to Cathedral Cove and hiked back. Not sure it is worth the NZD 15 per person, but you do get decent views on the 5 min ride.

The beach itself is very clean without many people during the day, at least in November. Had a couple really relaxing visits. Next trip will make the 20 min drive to Hot Water Beach, which has a thermal spring right at the waterline. At low tide you can dig a hole in the sand and it will fill with hot water!

Good fish and chips at the Gourmet Cottage food stand and at The Pour House, a brewpub with a good beer (theirs and a few guest taps) and wine selection.


Auckland (Lawn) Bowling Club

Finished the trip with two days and one night in Auckland at the Hotel DeBrett. Unlikely to stay again. Very claustrophobic room with little natural light and very pricey. Nice staff, good location, but hard to overcome the room feel.

Yummy thai fusion (?) at Woodpecker Hill. Sitting at the counter by the kitchen and seeing the chefs work was a nice experience. Good service as well. Next trip will visit the Pineapple bar at 207 Parnell Road. Looked great from the outside but we had to head to the airport just as it was opening on a Saturday.

Another nice flight on Air NZ with a good amount of sleep on the way back to SFO. Leaving around 8pm on both flights really helped to get sleep and feel at least somewhat refreshed on both arrivals. Decent Air NZ lounges in the AKL domestic terminal and in Queenstown, and a nicer lounge in the International departure area before our flight. So much nicer flight attendants than United on all of these flights.

$1 = NZD 1.40 at the time of this trip

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sofia and Oktoberfest - September 2016

Three days in Sofia for meetings and Munich for Oktoberfest. One part of this was significantly more fun than the other. Had a 5 hour layover in Frankfurt on the way to Sofia so took a trip in for a really good lunch at Atschel. Only four or five people at lunch so really quick service.  A note for future visits that Frankfurt is really shut down on Sundays so make sure to check restaurant and bar hours. Had a nice walk along the river.

Checked luggage in Terminal 2 at FRA worked very well then S-Bahn in and about a 30 min walk to the restaurant. Same trip in reverse was needed after lunch. No issues and easily done in the layover time. Relatively quick 2:10 flight to Sofia on Lufthansa though pretty bouncy as we flew just off some storms over Serbia. Went with OK Taxi from the airport to our hotel. Think that 20 min ride cost about $5. No issues but would definitely book at their desk in the airport after passing through customs given other internet reports.

Only one meal of note in Sofia: Manastirska Magernitsa Restaurant. Great mixed plates that we shared with a group of four. A lot of greek/turkish messe like grilled peppers, eggplant, tomato, and green onion served with hummus, dolmas, soft cheese, and a couple really hot peppers. Followed with a plate of four or five mixed meats. A ton of food for not much money and decent local beer and rakia.

The other food we had was a mixed bag, not bad but a bit boring. Chicken skewers were a safe and decent choice pretty much anywhere. Getting around was really easy on the metro system and highly recommend buying the 10-ride pass for approximately $6. 

After out meetings took a quick Air Dolimiti RJ to Munich for Oktoberfest. Great time. Late dinner to start at Augustiner-Keller, next day lunch at the Hofbräu tent followed by a table outside in the sun at the Späten tent. Would recommend Spaten for space and beer during the week. Dinner at Wirthaüs am Au, then a few cocktails at Negroni's. 

Inside the Späten Tent

A bit of a late lunch at Airbräu outside at MUC then a nice albeit 12 hour flight back to SFO. Good tea on Lufthansa :)

$1 = €1.12 and Bulgarian Lev 545 at this time.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Amsterdam/Copenhagen - May 2016

Sun right in my eye at the Little Mermaid

Two days in Amsterdam for meetings and two days in Copenhagen for RIPE. Pretty rainy weather in Amsterdam but really nice sunshine for 18 hours a day in Copenhagen. A fantastic city when the weather is nice. Good meetings both internally and with our partners, and got to present to the AMS office at lunch. A nice new tradition that I hope they keep up for others :) 

Again good seafood at Mossel and Gin in Amsterdam, and nice food in Copenhagen at falernum with drinks at Ruby but the highlight was far and away lunch at Noma. Fantastic food, very attentive service without being over the top or fussy, and the best overall dining experience I can imagine.

Mixed shellfish at Mossel & Gin

Uneventful travel on United through LHR to BA on the way over and LH to FRA on the way back, with a KLM short hop AMS-CPH. Immigration inbound at AMS is fantastically quick, maybe a 30 second wait at passport control and picked up an Uber at the Sheraton across the street from arrivals. Would have taken the train and walked to the W but it was pouring rain. Again reminded how weak the food is at the KLM lounges in AMS, so you are pretty much there for a drink and wifi.

Did not take a ton of photos, but got almost every course at Noma :)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Zurich - Barcelona - Munich - Dubai (MWC + Cap ME) 2016


Had a nice flight on swiss SFO-ZRH and a quick train/tram combo to the Sheraton Zurich. The hotel is 10 min on a tram from the Hauptbahnhof (Hbf - central train station) but this provides better rates than other hotels in the city center, at least on this particular weekend. Was nice to buy a ZVV zone 110 pass that includes the Zurichsee boats nearby the city. If you have a 110 pass for a couple days, you can update for an hourly or daily basis, for example to add your trip to/from the airport to the city. Zone Map.

Very nice city in winter but a bit tricky as a solo traveler on Saturday night without dinner reservations. The weinstube at Frau Gerolds looked great but was fully booked by larger groups. I would image it would be easier on other nights, and much more room outside during warmer months. 

On Sunday, had a nice sunny day to walk along the lake, from central Zurich to the Kilchberg train station (about 110 min total), then a quick train back to the Hbf. A note that many stores and restaurants in Zurich are closed on Sunday, but there are multiple grocery stores, pharmacies, wine stores, and other very useful places open in the mall under the street connected to the Hbf.

Had a good, if touristy, dinner at the Zeughauskeller. Solid beer, mains, and röstli.

Zurich remains an expensive city, even at $1 = CHF 1.03.

Left Sunday late afternoon for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Again on Swiss.
Short flight but pretty constant turbulence and a good headwind the whole way making things much longer. Tried to get a better photo out the window, but this one of greater Lyon with the last bit of sunset on the horizon.


A quick cab ride into the city as the one thing staffed very well at Barcelona was the taxi line. The ATM situation at the airport was not great with long lines and some machines running out of cash (MWC takes over the city). The airport has followed the trend of being turned in to a shopping mall with a forced 5 min walk through stores in order to get to/from the gate area. Tough to get a cab or uber in the morning from the city to the exhibition hall so if you go plan to arrange a car/bus or to take public transport.

A number of great food options

Buenos aires steak - ok, but not very local. Decent steak, decent wine.
Dos Cielos - very good. three hour tasting menu as promised. liked the wine pairing.
Maitea Taberna - good tapas at lunch
Restaurante Gorria - very good. the bellota here was outstanding, as was the lamb and short rib
Tandem Cocktail Bar - great bartenders and liquor selection including cuban rums. Good time.
La Boqueria - fantastic market on Rambla. The restaurant with seafood and oxtail soup just after walking in was fantastic

Even though I find razor clams a bit tough, the flavor on these was very good, and their gambas al ajillo and oxtail stew were fantastic. Washed down with a bit of white wine. Very nice. Good timing to hit then headed to the airport for a weekend in Munich via Vueling, which was dramatically understaffed for the departing MWC crowds. No issues at any rate, just a few lines. Pleasant flight. On time. Bit of a wait for bags. 

Generally in the 60's (F) for highs and pleasant if chilly at night.


Colder in Munich, with highs in the 33-38 (F) range with a bit of warming on the Sunday as we were leaving.

So much beer. So much pork. So very very good.

Augustiner Keller - so good we made it here twice. goulashsüppe
Café Am Beethovenplatz - Venison goulash and a weissbier is a healthy lunch!
Wirtshaus In Der Au - how can you go wrong with a mixed plate of meat and german things
Hirschgarten - make sure to look at the deer and goats on the side of the park

Giesinger Bräu - food looked awesome but we had dinner plans. solid, non-mainstream beers.

For future reference: 9 breweries to try  and  top 15 places for craft beer

Nice stay at the Le Meridien near the Hbf, which is a great location. $1.11 = €1 for this trip

If you ever happen to be booked on Emirates in business class, please note that you can upgrade online, at at least as of Feb 2016, you can exchange Starpoints 1:1 for Emirate points. This can come in very very handy.


Three days of meetings in Dubai. Many skyscrapers. Can only drink in bars/restaurants connected to the hotel. Rooftop bar at the Four Seasons was nice but a bit chilly. Strange that they serve a mai tai in a baby bottle with a straw in the nipple.

Sambar Iraqi - The Helw Aiwa fish roasted "hot fish" style, with hot sauce on the side, is fantastic. the tomato sauce on the side is very odd and not needed. So good. We went back for this again the night before we left. The hot, awesome bread never stops arriving either :)
Coya - very good Peruvian food at the Four Seasons. nice wine list.
at.mosphere at the Burj Khalifa - great views. The fixed menu and wine pairing were not great. Very expensive.

$1 = AED 3.76. Stayed at the St Regis, which was very nice, but kind of in the middle of nowhere. At least a 15 min taxi/uber ride to get anywhere. Only 25 min from the airport though. Great bar in the lobby and decent breakfast.
FRA-SFO LH A380 - Can I go home now please?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Quick Madrid Trip - September 2015

A very quick trip to Madrid for a couple days of meetings. Had a Saturday to visit the Reina Sofia museum to see Picasso's Guernica and an interesting display of their collection on revolt and change from the 60's to the 80's including the end of Franco's reign in Spain (see what I did there? :) ) Watched a bit of the Battle of Algiers in French dubbed in to Spanish, but it was not hard to understand what was happening. Highly recommended.

A bit of time in the Retiro and two days of meetings. A good amount of ham. Some mediocre white wine by the glass at more than one place. Averaged about 10 miles a day of walking over the weekend according to my phone.

Food and Drink

Marisque Riveira do Mino - Really liked hanging out at the counter with a glass of white eating cold (previously steamed) prawns and the pulpo you get as a tapa with the wine. Great lunch. They have a number of different things to try. Would definitely return.

Charlotte - Huge gin and tonics outside, then around 2:00 or so the party moves inside. "What time do you close?" (asked around 4:30am Saturday with still like 20 people drinking and eating popcorn) "Oh, around 2:30".

Sifón - Nice and little out of the way. Good chill place on a nice day.

Ramses - Can only comment on the terrace, not on the overly fancy looking inside restaurant or the club that looked pretty euro-douce. Good wine by the bottle list. Food was decent. Great to sit outside.

La Giralda II and Restaurante La Despensa - decent if unspectacular places in an area covered with bars and tapa. Not expensive at all, so a decent time. The places that looked "better" from a food standpoint were jammed full both Friday and Saturday nights.

La Venencia - Very touristy off the Gran Via, but really nice sherry and ham for a snack. Interesting differences between the three types they pour from giant kegs, and if you have a couple people a bottle for €14 is a good deal

Botin - So very touristy but for wine, a salad, and some crispy pig it is a very nice stop. Not expensive

La Barraca - Pass. No need to have paella in Madrid. Rice and clams were great but the prawns were either way overdone or just not great to start with. Wine was good. Super touristy. The Del Diego across the street had good cocktails.

Up very early for the return flight.

€1 = $1.12. Flew Virgin Atlantic SFO-LHR RT, BA LHR-MAD, and Iberia MAD-LHR. Quite nice flights. Made it to SFO just in time to drive to our company offsite in Sausalito.

More Photos

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lyon, St. Briac, London - July 2015

Mixing in some time with Adrienne's family and a couple days in London. SFO-LHR on Virgin Atlantic with a BA LHR-LYS on our outbound.


Arriving in Lyon at midnight had us a little hungry, so we started at La Gratineé  a "member club" open from 23:00 to 7:00 each night. Membership costs €2 per person, so not a real impediment. They do have an apparent rule that everyone must order a main, and if you're sitting in the back as opposed to in front of the bar, look at the menu and decide what you want on your way in. Very simple menu with four steaks, three sauces to choose from, and a couple kinds of potatoes. Cannot recommend enough for late-night dining.


High temperature was around 38C/101F for our two days. We made the hike to the basilica on the first day and wandered around the heights of the old city which was nice. The second day was very hot and we tried to stay out of the heat as much as possible. Nice walk through a market along the Sôane in the morning and dinner at Le Passage which was very good, but a note that locals eat outside so they can smoke, leaving the inside full of tourists. Good food and fantastic service nonetheless.


Saint Malo

UntitledLeft Lyon on a train to St. Malo, transferring at Marne-la-Vallée - Chessy, otherwise known as EuroDisney. You don't have to leave the station to transfer, so the mouse is not pushed on you :) No issues on the way to St. Malo and a quick cab ride to St. Briac. Had a great stay at Le Vieux Logis which has 4 or 5 rooms and fantastic breakfasts served by an excellent hostess.

A couple very nice days with Adrienne's extended family and a little bit of beach time on an actually warm day. This was followed by a windy, cloudy day just to make sure we got the full experience. Had a very nice hike along the Gulf de Dinard despite the conditions and saw a WWII German bunker that was interesting. Good dinner at Les deux sardines where I had very good sardines and fish. I think I ordered poorly at Cotes et Broches, with the pulpo being a bit tough and the fish not great while Adrienne's lamb was fantastic. A quick uneventful flight from Dinard to Standted (DNR-STN) on Ryanair, with the only highlight being the surprisingly great pub on the second level of the Dinard airport. Really a nice place.



Two nice dinners with Adrienne's friends at Fifteen (would probably not return based on very slow service) and Ffiona's (great sea bream). Good visit at the Tate Modern including tea and scones on the 6th floor overlooking the Thames. All around an excellent museum stop. A lot of construction in London with a ton of cranes all over the city. Was tough to find a simple pub to watch the Wimbledon's mens semifinals but after trying a couple places (including the Sports Bar & Grill Farringdon which was pretty meh) I ended up at the Kings Stores by Liverpool Stn. Great service and good beer/cocktail list. Food menu was interesting but we had dinner plans.

Completely uneventful return flight to SFO and actually got a bit of sleep to help with the time adjustment.

$1.09 = € and $1.53 = £1 - More Photos

Restaurant Links:

La Gratineé
Le Passage
Les deux sardines

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Amsterdam and Lima - May 2015


TK 80 SFO-IST 773 J

A bit of crazyness at SFO to get a boarding pass, waiting 90 min in the business/star gold line. The economy line looked to be about 100 deep and barely moving. Going to guess growing pains as TK just launched this route. Ended up delayed about an hour waiting for everyone to check in. No security line for a 6:30pm scheduled departure. A mobile boarding pass would have been a huge improvement but apparently they needed to physically scan passports. I did receive a mobile boarding pass for my IST-AMS connection when I checked in online but SFO prints a paper pass anyway...

Nice flight. Very good wifi the entire flight which was helpful to kill time. I only snacked, no meals and the cheese was ok. Food looked good overall. Wine was decent with a couple red and white choices. Service was attentive but a slight bit awkward. Got 5-6 hours of sleep which was very helpful. Power and headphone (two prong) under the middle armrest.

The lounge in IST was nice but very busy upstairs so I went downstairs which was a bit better. Olive bar was a little disappointing. Mezze bar was good but the other food was pretty uninteresting. Good wifi in the lounge as well.


TK 1195 IST-AMS 321 J

Very quick boarding. Not much legroom in business, just the middle seat blocked. Good food on this flight. Right on time. Landed on the close runway at AMS. Less than a 5 min wait for immigration to open new lanes. Uber pick up at the Sheraton across the street from the arrivals and I was at my hotel in under an hour after touchdown at 22:30.



Went out for a wander around AMS on arrival and had a couple drinks then amazingly slept from 1:30 to 10:00 which helped reset my clock. Woke up the 2nd night from about 4:30 to 6:00. The Andaz Pricegeracht was very nice. Had a great room with a canal view. Good bar where, as with every other bar in Amsterdam, they featured a wide variety of gin and tonics. Yelp was very helpful for restaurants and other things, like finding a laundromat.

For the love of god, buy Rijksmuseum tickets online. The line was wrapped around inside the building and far down the street outside, but with the pdf on my phone from buying online, zero lines to wait in. Museum itself was very crowded as well, but the ship modeling and other temporary exhibits in the bottom floor were interesting

Restaurants and Bars

Mossel Gin - fantastic mussels and gin cocktails. had oysters and calamari as well. just great
Butcher's Tears - good beers, both theirs and the guest taps. cheese plate has a *lot* of cheese :)
de Biertun - great beer selection. good snacks. did not get to try the food as they do not serve from 2:30 to 5:30 or something along those lines
Staring at Jacob - good American style Sunday brunch 
Restaurant de kas - great setting. good food. very reasonable wine list.
Restaurant Shiva - very good Indian. Not fooling around with heat on the vindaloo. good pickles 
Cafe Toussant - nice cafe for a couple lunches. really liked the tomato soup, the salmon bread, and I think there was a good salad involved one afternoon
Bar Oldendorf - good cocktails. nice people. pricey at €17 each, but that was unfortunately common at similar places
Wurst & Schnitzel - Good schnitzel. liked the bratwusrst a little less. the potato salad and fried potatoes were a little meh
Sampurna - indonesian - just ok. would probably find something else next trip

Additional Amsterdam Photos - $1.12 per 1 euro for this trip.

KL 743 AMS-LIM 773 J (KLM Asia on tail)

Mobile boarding pass really worked for this flight. 28 min from getting in an uber at the Andaz to the KL lounge, which was boring, almost UA red carpet-esque. Food was sliced cheese and salami along with some cereal and dried fruit for breakfast. Had a bloody mary which was fine. Under construction so might improve. Flight was ok, but no wifi. OK movie selection. For the TV series, they had one episode per series. This could be so much better. Headphone jacks (three prongs) were under middle armrest which made them a bit annoying. Power on front of middle armrest. Lunch finished about 2.5 hours from takeoff, followed about 90 min later by a snack (ice cream, cheese, veggie something). With about 3:30 left in the flight we were back over land entering South America over Guyana


Not a particularly attractive city but Miraflores and San Isidro were nice. Lunch starts late and runs late in Lima. The Westin Lima was a good hotel, pretty much what you would expect from a Westin in a city. Nice executive lounge on the 29th floor. Breakfast buffet on the first floor was good but a bit boring after five days.


Pescados Capitales - Great ceviche, pulpo, grilled fish, and drinks. Just great.
La Carreta on Ricardo Rivera Navarrete - San Isidro. Love the Rafael sauce (dijon and peppercorn) on a steak and paps rosti. So good.
El Hornero - Francisco Masias 505 - San Isidro. Good steaks and salmon here as well.
Astrid y Gaston - pass. 3.5 hours of touristy tasting menu. experience was very good, but the meal dragged way too long. 29 courses is just too many. I did really like the wine paring.
El Mercado - meh. very upper class clientele in a casual space. the grilled fish was good but everything else was kind of a miss. service was  uneven during brunch. much more interested in taking food orders than drink orders.

Additional Lima Photos  3.12 Peruvian Soles for $1


LAN 600 LIM-LAX 789 J

Online check-in only served to allow for seat changes. Have to physically check in at the desk but there was not a line two hours before the flight. Made it from the Westin to my gate in 55 min having left at 22:30. LIM is a nice airport but the lounge here is tiny and jammed with people having flights between 00:00 and 02:00.

Flight was fine until the attendants began waking people up for breakfast two hours in advance of landing, at 5:30 Pacific Time. OMG, just let people in business sleep a bit longer and make breakfast much shorter. Why even serve breakfast? Just stay quiet until 6:50 or so and wake people for approach. Nice plane though.


Yeah, so you have been on an E-175? Yup. That was this flight. An unglamorous ending to what were a few really nice flights. But great to have made it home!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Santiago - October 2014

A pretty quick trip to Santiago for meetings with ISPs at LACNIC 22. Flew Delta SFO-ATL-SCL as the lowest total flight time. Not particularly impressed with J in the 767 for 9-10 hours ATL-SCL and back, but was fine. The food was reasonable and FA's were nice. Just felt cramped as there was not a lot of space around the seat to store anything. All flights on time and the DL lounges in ATL were decent. Not sure of the appeal of the lounge in Terminal F with the outside area as I could not get past the constant smell of jet exhaust...

I was very bad at taking photos this trip, basically being inside for meetings for four days and not building any extra time in for sightseeing. The air was not particularly clear for any of the days I was there, rather a mix of haze and smog that was not good for either landscapes or my allergies. Good stay at the W Santiago. Nice residential and business neighborhood by the W but funky in that there was an Appleby's and a Denny's within two blocks, along with a number of pizza places. Took the metro to the conference hotel which took 10 minutes and worked very well. Area was pretty dead at night from what I could tell in my brief ventures out.

Apparently the tallest building in South America was right down the street from my hotel. Office and residential space on top of what appeared to be a huge mall. Chile remains on my list for further exploration but will definitely get out of Santiago. Good reports on Valapariso, skiing in Portillo, fly fishing south of Santiago, and hiking in Patagonia. $1 = CLP 584 at the time of the trip.

Do have to make mention of the California Sports Cantina where we watched the Giants win Game 7 of the World Series. Probably the best American-style sports bar I have been to anywhere outside of North America. Highly recommended.

Croatia and München - September 2014

One busy week in Croatia. Mostly a work trip with a bit of sightseeing thrown in. Started another one of my convoluted travel days with SFO-MUC in LH First on a donated upgrade, which was really really nice. Food was good but the best part was the space including a foot locker and full lie-flat without anyone near. Very attentive service. Felt a little bit funny after the flight but may have been due to overindulging in the caviar. Basically progressed downhill from there in the luxury department as MUC-SPU on Croatia Airlines was ok, followed with a completely reasonable $5 bus ride from SPU to the port of Split, then a 60 min ferry ride to Hvar town. All told about 18 hours in transit.

Nice stay at the Adriana Hotel with a room overlooking the harbor. Roughly $1 to 6 HRK and 1.34 EUR on this trip. Had a day and a half in Hvar and was great to wander around. Very lively at night with a chill crowd for a small town.  Food was decent but not spectacular on average, without a real highlight excluding the consistently good octopus. Hiking trails in multiple directions from the center of town. Had a longer hike along the coast planned that was cancelled due to a day of pretty good thunderstorms. Very pretty when it was not raining and I can see why people bounce from island to island in the Dalmatians. Clean water with many visible sea urchins and abundant fish. Could definitely spend some time here.

Ferry back to Split and a totally crazy cab ride to the Le Meridien Split, which is about 15 min from the port. A decent hotel but a bit eastern European feeling as opposed to a relaxing destination. Was fine for our four days of meetings and presentations. Not in a real hurry to return to Split as the city is pretty built up for tourists and the number of mid-rise residential buildings do not make it particularly attractive or interesting from a visual perspective. A bit surprising but the food at the restaurants right outside the hotel, on the marina by the yachts was very good. In particular the grilled octopus and fish were outstanding with a good wood grill taste coming through. The clams, mussels, and avocado salads were also fresh.

A tiny bit tricky to find, but one of the better meals I have eaten was at F de Mar in the Split harbor area. There are two or three other F restaurants in the area, and friends gave one of them less than stellar reviews, but this is the one furthest from the cruise port on the water. Did essentially a 7 course chef's choice served 3 "starters" then 3 "mains" that is not on the menu but our waiter put together based on things we wanted to try and/or avoid. Great seafood bisque to start, a couple shrimp dishes, a cuttlefish risotto, a small crunchy fried fish, one sort of forgettable octopus dish, and with the final plate, the best piece of beef tenderloin I can remember having. Just perfect temperature, color, taste, and prep. No idea where it came from, but absolutely perfect. So stuffed from the soup and six courses that nobody could manage desert. All told, including two bottles of Croatian white wine, $180 for three people.

Limited flights out of Split and needed to be in LA Thursday night for meetings on Friday, so took a late afternoon flight SPU-MUC on LH and spent the night in Munich. Good service and seasonal food on the short flight. LH really delivers on these. Did not go to Octoberfest, rather opting for a more quiet experience in the Hirschgarten, made even more quiet by everyone else apparently being at the Weisen :) Had a good dinner and no issues with MUC-LAX the next day. A good trip with some highs (Hvar, München, the food in Split) and meh's (Split overall, the flight situation to/from SPU) but no travel issues.

More Croatia + Munich Photos on Flickr

Monday, September 15, 2014

Taipei 2014

Four day work trip to Taipei but got a decent amount of sightseeing in at night. Very warm, 96F and humid. Not bad in the morning but high heat very early in the day. Decent flights on UA SFO-TPE. Taxi to the hotel and Uber back ($52). Great stay at the W Taipei including excellent buffet style breakfasts and a highly respectable Tuesday night American-style BBQ with a number of other Taiwanese/Chinese/Japanese dishes to go along.

Very nice people wherever we went, but one recurring question: Why on earth does a city with such hot weather specialize in hot beef noodle soup?

The soup was indeed good but not much food variety in local dishes other than soup, dumplings, pork buns, and the occasional vegetable. Many Japanese restaurants around the area of our hotel but we never sought one out for some reason. The Rahoe Night Market had some nice food including great steamed pork buns and a whole crispy pig (weekends only). Ling Tong Fung had great noodle soup and sides for around $8 per person for 5 of us. Good dumplings at Din Tai Fung, but a bit cliched and touristy. Still worth the trip at least once. The fried pork was good there if you have tired of soup and dumplings.

World-class cocktails at Alchemy, which is a great speakeasy vibe upstairs and opposite a more normal bar. Couple decent western beers at Beer and Cheese Social House with your average US/Aussie/Canadian traveler crowd.

More photos and the exchange rate was around 30.0 Taiwan New Dollars per 1 USD.