Saturday, July 30, 2011

Art in Miami

Wherever I go, I alway keep an eye out for that unexpected moment of breath-taking beauty. In the midst of an international layover at MIA airport, I noticed many amateurish framed drawings from a local kids art gallery. I almost passed on by, unsure just how far away my departing terminal was. But when I saw this photo, I stopped stock still, fumbled for my camera, and captured it. I only wish my photography had an ounce of the talent that this young artist displays. I wish them well and thank them for brightening my trip.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Taxi Cab Touring in Vancouver

 I took my first swing at taxi-cab touring in Vancouver. Here's how it works: As a winter-time business traveler, there are no daylight hours for sight seeing after putting in 10-14 hours at the office. But it was my first visit to Vancouver and I wanted to capture some of the magic and beauty of that great city to share. I had a new Palm Pre Plus cell phone, and it had a camera. A marriage made in heaven, if you ask me. So while the taxi cab was winging its way to the office, I pulled out the cell phone and tried to photograph the beautiful neighborhood we were driving through.

If you've never taken a photography class, you may not be aware of how different your eye perceives the world compared to a camera. It takes a little time and training, learning how to frame a picture, learning how not to jerk the camera around when pressing the touch screen button, and getting the timing down to press the little button in between bumps, jostles and jogs of the moving vehicle.

I was delighted when my photos stopped looking like the first photo, and began to reflect the beauty I was seeing around me, like this Tudor-style home in a suburb of Vancouver. And I'm pleased to be able to share the beauty of this great, big world with all my friends.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The day dawn is breaking, the world is awaking - in Miami

I landed in Miami at oh-dark-thirty, as we say in my family. I'd flown out of Peru, so it was 4:30 AM body time, 5:30 AM Miami time, pitch dark as I rode the sky train to the terminal. But in the midst of the terminal was this lovely atrium displaying the bright dawn, whether real or man-made, I couldn't tell. But beautiful and heart-warming, nonetheless.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Most Important Spanish Sentence

When preparing to travel to Lima, I didn't have much time to brush up on my Spanish. I'd taken 3 years of high school Spanish, I live in California and read bilingual signs all the time, so I thought I'd be OK. I practiced a few phrases with my daughter like Yo quiero Taco Bell, Donde estan los banosMi espanol is muy mal and Hablo espanol un poco solamente, which she promptly transformed into Hablo espanol un puerco solamente, to the amusement of all.

However, hard reality struck when I tried to dial the taxi from the airport. I found that hearing people speak a foreign language is very different from reading it. And outside of the hotel staff, very few people spoke English in Lima. I quickly memorized another phrase: Despacio, por favor, or Slowly, please.

The most important phrase (other than Donde esta mi taxi?) that I wish I had learned is Como se deletrea? or Can you spell that please?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Breakfast Buffet at the Marriotts - Lima

 I travel quite a bit and many hotels offer a breakfast buffet. But the breakfast buffet at the Marriott's is unrivaled in my experience.
Imagine, for breakfast, dishes like Pollo a la Caciatore (Chicken Cacciatore), Trucha con Mantequilla negra y Alcaparres (Trout, black butter and capers sauce), Champignoses Galopera (sauteed Galopera mushrooms), Aleman de Nueces y Pasas (a German bread with nuts and raisins), Chirimoya (apple custard). There were at least five different kinds of cheeses and two types of olives plus a wide variety of breads and cakes. It included fruits both common and exotic like pineapple, melons that looked like cantaloupe but taste very different, and a green fruit with seeds called tuna.
The sausages were almost too much for me. I've heard of blood sausage, but I'd never seen it before. The dish was full of purple crumbles and I just could not bring myself to try it. It just looked wrong! But on the other end of the buffet were some colorful sausage links that I did try. They were quite tasty, each a little different in spicing.
The buffet was so satisfying and generous, I found myself skipping lunch a few days.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sandwiches and Coffee - Late Night in Peru

Some things seem to be universal and universally understood  - girlfriends, shopping, and coffee shops with tasty food. 

My two new girlfriends took me shopping to the Inca Market, a local market where artisans sell their creations. Afterwards, we walked over to a coffee shop owned by a long time friend. They laughed when I counted out all the money I had left after shopping, and offered to tide me over till I could make it to the ATM in the morning. I decided to try the Butifarra, with jamon del pais (country ham), lechuga (lettuce), salsa oriolla and onions. The bread was crispy and light, almost like a croissant. The onions were wonderful, the sauce was delightful and the ham was was perfect. 

They each ordered an apetizer. I didn't write down the names, but they were really tasty. The round ones were a type of potato puff.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ordering Meals, A Challenge in Lima

Ordering meals in Lima was often a challenge. Sometimes the menu was spanish, sometimes in english, but not always very good english. For example, I'd never heard of Lomo Silvestre,  but I knew Lomo Saltado was very tasty. But what does Lomo mean? Checking the trusty phrase book I find it means back, so that's no help at all.

The menu described the dish as sliced beef sirloin with grilled portobellos and port reduction, served with potatoes, pears and Cambozola Cheese. I know I like beef and mushrooms, but what does "port reduction" mean? And though I'm a long-time cheese lover, I have never heard of Cambozola Cheese

The pears were what sold me. I've never had beef and pears before.  As with all the fine restaurants, the presentation was beautiful. The restaurant is at LarcoMar, and what can beat sitting at an outdoor table, overlooking the ocean, on a beautiful clear night? The beef is arranged over a layer of greens and pears sautéed in a delightful sauce. As you enjoy the dish, a new layer of taste treat awaits until you reach the plate below. 

The potatoes were beautiful, of a firm consistency, and melt-in-your-mouth flavor. It was another wonderful dinner in Lima.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Largest Movable Roof

Did you know that Vancouver boasts the  largest retractable roof? My co-consultant and former Vancouver native proudly pointed out this wonder as we toured the grounds of the Pan Pacific hotel on the waterline.

However, since I've come home, I fear he may have been pulling my leg. Does this photo look like the home of the Vancouver Whitecaps to you? 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sunset at 30,000 Feet

Have you ever seen a sun sandwich? You know, a layer of clouds below the sun and a layer of clouds above the sun, kind of like a golden oreo?

As I was flying out of Seattle, through a solid cloud deck, the airplane emerged from the lower cloud deck and I was treated to a sight I'd never seen before: the sun, sandwiched between two solid layers of clouds. As I watched, the sky turned gloriously rosy and the sun sank beneath the clouds. It was the most unusual sunset I've ever watched.

See the article by Michael Pidwirny, PhD, of the University of British Columbia for a scientist's explanation (and an even prettier picture) of layers in our atmosphere.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Taste of Peru at Home - Salsa Jorvic

Although memories of Peru may be fading, I've enjoyed sharing a taste of the exotic with my family after I returned home.

Before I left Lima, I went shopping at the Metro and brought home a few unique items. I'd forgotten my phrase book, so I had no idea what I was buying. But there was a picture of a chicken and a chef on it, so that had to be a good start.

In my familiar kitchen, I pulled out the packet and began to read the instructions.

Verter la sal del pavo por dentro y hacia fuera. Hacer lo mismo conla salsa de jorvic. Arrodillarse piernas hacer lo mismo con la Salsa de Jorvic.

Now what does that mean? Something about the sauce and chicken, probably, but what exactly? Is it a baste, or a marinade? How do I cook the chicken? 

All I can say it Thank Heaven for Google Translate. The english version came out like this:

Pour salt the turkey inside and out. Do the same with the sauce jorvic. Kneel legs do the same with the Sauce Jorvic.

Oops, the sauce is for a turkey, not a chicken. But that's an easy substitution. I'm not sure what they are recommending I do with the turkey legs, but I'll just ignore that, treat it like a marinade, and soak the chicken breasts overnight. The next day I baked them and they came out blackened, but very moist. The spicing smelled strong. We can't quite identify it, a little dusky, but it tasted just right. Serve with a side of rice and your favorite vegetables for a taste of the exotic at home.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Field of Poppies

My photography leaves something to be desired. Rather than a glorious field of California poppies, it looks more like a patch of weeds. Just 2 years ago it was a mere handful, but this year they shine in the sun.  But give it a few more years and it will be glorious. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Can She Bake a Cherry Pie, Billy Boy?

How many of you have savored a home-made cherry pie made from cherries you grew and picked yourself? We are blessed to live on a small property with a few fruit trees and two of them are cherry trees. One is a bing type cherry, very tasty for eating. The other is a pie cherry - tiny little cherries that have the perfect mix of tart and sweet. It takes a fair bit of work, and you have to be the early bird to beat the the others birds to the cherries. But once or twice a year, we enjoy cherry pies like nothing we've ever tasted. It just goes to show "there's no place like home."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Agua sin Gas?

For some people, sin is their favorite four-letter-word. But what does sin have to do with water in Peru?
When traveling abroad, you are always warned to avoid drinking the local water because of risk of gastric distress (also known as Montezuma's Revenge, or less politely "the runs".) When I was preparing for my trip to Latin America, the stats I saw were that up to 40% of travelers suffered from some distress and around 30% had to limit their activities because of it. So I resolved to follow the recommendations and always drink bottled water.
But wait, every Spanish class I've ever taken teaches you the phrases like Necesito un vaso de agua, or
I need a glass of water.  Never in my life have I heard someone explain how to ask for bottled water in Spanish.
Even reading the bottle doesn't help. I know what agua is. And sin, in Spanish, simply means without. But what does gas mean? I pulled out my Spanish-English dictionary, looked it up, and found that gas, in Spanish, means... gas.  A lot of help that was.  Water without gas.
It wasn't until I was shopping a few days later that I figured it out. While reaching for my agua sin gas, I noticed beside it a nearly identical bottle of agua con gas. Then it hit me - gas is carbonation! So if I want a bottle of carbonated water, I ask for Agua con gas, por favor. And if I want just bottled water, I ask for Agua sin gas, por favor.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Ghost in the Window

Such an intriguing image. The beautiful geometric floor patterns. The elegant flower arrangement in the center. The gift shop beyond. But wait, something is wrong. Is that the ghost of the Larcomar in the corner of the window?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hotel Art in Lima

As I wandered about the lobby the first few days at my hotel in Lima, I kept heading for the drinking fountain, only to realize it was an alcove displaying a piece of artwork. As there was no placard, the way good art SHOULD be displayed ;-) , I had to go on instincts alone in viewing the piece.

Was it a historical recreation of a piece from pre-Inca days?
Was it a modern interpretation of traditional culture?
Or did the sculptor slip with his chisel, only to rescue the piece with an astute use of rock saw and polisher? 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Carb Counters Beware of Lomo Saltado

On my visit to Peru, one question many of my new friends asked was "Have you tried Lomo Saltado?" It is a traditional peruvian dish with Asian influences. At first I couldn't say, but after a few more lunches & dinners I realized that yes, I had. My first lunch in Lima I asked a coworker for recommendations, looked at another fellow's lunch, and decided what he had looked really good. The waiter brought me Lomo Saltado and it was wonderful. I highly recommend it.

But if you do a google image search, you'll quickly see why this is not a carb-counter's meal of choice. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

To Infinity...And Beyond - in Miami

Never before in my life have I ridden so many sky trains, walked so many sky walks, and ridden so many escalators on so little sleep. A view like this is enough to make any sleep-deprived world traveler regret the decision to go strictly carry-on. Like a Jacob's Ladder, I wondered... Does it go on forever, like a dream, into the clouds? And who will be waiting for me at the top of this escalator?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

MIA - My Least Favorite Airport

 I left Lima late, later than planned. There was a security alert, the departure was delayed, and it was after 11:15 PM when the plane finally departed. With a mere 5 hour flight, I drifted off to sleep as quickly as I could. But even on an airplane, morning comes too early.
It was my body's equivalent of 4:30 AM when we landed at Miami airport. It was pitch black outside as I rode the skytrain through the terminal. What had originally seemed like an interminable 3+ hour layout, turned out to be just about the right amount of time in Miami.

I didn't know until that day that a connecting flight in Miami only saves you the taxi drive to the airport. Otherwise, it is as if you have arrived and departed all in one trip. I had to pick up my checked baggage, and recheck it. I had to go through security screening all over again. Yes, it included a full-body scan, though not a pat-down search, and some unpleasantness with my wallet. Then I had to take an untold number of skytrains and escalators (yes, a two-story escalator! look closely) from my arriving terminal to my departing terminal. When I arrived, I walked up to the ticket counter, showed her my ticket, and asked her "Am I in the right place?" Her response was "Yes," and finally I could relax - for a whole 30 minutes until it was time to board the next leg of my flight.

Miami ranks as my least favorite airport experience.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Mix and Match Architecture - A Striking Contrast in Vancouver

When I travel to major cities, I love looking at the architecture. It tells a story to me, a little history of the city and when it was growing. For example, here is a quaint 10-story molded concrete building. This would be a large building for many cities, and may tell a story of growth in days gone by. Yet it is dwarfed by the glass-and-chrome skyscrapers around it. Vancouver has been a successful city for a very long time and shows no sign of slowing down.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Infinity Mirror in Vancouver

An infinity mirror is a fascinating concept. You may have seen one in a hands-on kids museum, in a disco, or maybe in the temple. But have you ever seen one in the business section of downtown Vancouver?  

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Best Home Entertainment - No Batteries Required

How do I stay entertained when I'm not traveling to foreign places? The best entertainment value in the world is a cat combined with a small pet like a fish or a hamster. The cat does not need batteries, has a much wider range of behaviors than a furby, works when the electricity goes out, does not require internet access and never, ever needs a software upgrade

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sunny California?

For my east coast and Canadian friends, this is a laughable amount of snow. But for my community in Northern California, it was a minor disaster. It has been an unseasonably cold year. The day these photos were taken, over two feet of snow fell, knocking out power through the entire town. The photos were taken after about half the snow melted.

As you gaze upon the second picture, remember, we don't have snow blowers here. My family shoveled from the house all the way to the road. We repeated this every week for 3 weeks.

My First Day in Vancouver

October in Vancouver: What images does that bring to your mind?

When I think of Canada, I usually think of "The Great White North," very cold, with lots of snow. Much to my surprise, my first day in Vancouver was gorgeous. From our office, my native guide and fellow consultant, Monte, was excited to show me the mountains ringing the city. The air was crisp and clear, enough clouds to be pretty, but not enough to block the view. Overall the weather was very nice.

The view from my room at the Marriotts was gorgeous, overlooking the pool with a view of the mountains on either side of the Hilton. After work, I slipped on my swimsuit and found the pool a wonderful 80 degrees. It was a little chilly, so the hot tub was welcome and very relaxing after my swim.

So if anyone asks, tell them October in Vancouver can be just as beautiful as October in California.