Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wild America at The Villages, FL

There is a lovely community in central Florida where you can buy a home on a golf course for under $1 million. As a free bonus, you may be adopted by a family of cranes. This one, nicknamed Ozzie, comes by every day for a slice of bread. Sometimes his mate, Harriet, joins him, but today he was alone.
Ozzie walked up to the lanai, looked at me meaningfully, and waited patiently while I went into the kitchen. I found a  piece of bread to feed him. I was fearful of spooking him, but he showed no fear as I fumbled with the latch for the screen door. I walked up to him and broke bread with him. I believe I could have hand  fed him, he was so calm. What a treat for me.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The National Marine Museum in Virginia

 We were driving south from Dulles Airport on 495 late in the night. It was our first drive down this road, and we were surprised by an eye-catching tower of light along the highway. It had an artistic feel to it, but was mostly hidden by the trees. It became a compelling mystery to solve: what was that tower?
After a good night's sleep, our hosts recommended a short outing at the National Marine Museum at Quantico. As they described the museum, we  realized the mystery was solved. We had seen this relatively new museum, and now we knew how to get there.
As we approached from the highway, the pinnacle was hidden by the forest surrounding it. But when we entered the parking lot, we saw the museum. We parked, and as we approached the entry way, I was overcome by a sense of awe, knowing I walked where heroes walked and were honored.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Five Most Important Spanish Words

I've begun traveling a lot in Latin America. I know a little Spanish, but don't really speak the language. However, I've found that with the following five words, most Americans can get by in Latin America.

  • Please         Por favor
  • Thank you   Gracias
  • Food           Comida
  • Beer            Cerveza
  • Bathroom     BaƱo

US Takes Mexico City

 If you've seen the movie A Night at the Museum you may remember the scene where all the little soldiers in a diarama come to life and start fighting the battle which they depict. I think they included that scene because all of us, as children, have seen a museum diarama and in our young imagination, it came to life. Perhaps it even livened up our dreams that night.
This one caught my eye because I was recently in Mexico City and had to choose between a visit to Chapultepec castle, the site of this battle, or Teotihuacan. Until this moment, I had never known that the U.S. Marines had once captured and held Mexico City. One part of me wonders why we didn't make it part of the U.S. Having recently suffered from food poisoning on that same trip to Mexico City, it seems that if it was part of the U.S. it would be regulated by the FDA  or local health department, and I might have been saved several days of pain and suffering.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

3 Things I Like Better in Mexico City Than Vancouver

1. Cash advance charge on my credit card: 27 cents.
2. Customs is much simpler and quicker.
3. Two-ply toilet paper.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Five Tips to Travel Safely in Mexico

1. Carry your wallet in your front pocket or in a fanny pack, or
better yet, in a money belt inside your clothing.
2. Avoid looking lost or confused, even when you are.
3. Let the porter at your hotel call your taxi cab and give directions
if you don't speak the language.
4. Never assume your door chain is enough to keep some one out. Use a
personal security device. For example, I ripped the chain right out of
the wall at my hotel when I opened the door for room service.
5. Don't accept drinks from strangers.

Cactus for lunch? Lunch in Mexico City

I've never eaten cactus before. The closest I've come is a soda pop called Cactus Cooler. But, as the old saying goes: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Today's lunch was a delightful mixture of sauteed beef and spices served over plantain, with a side of cactus and beans.
I generally find the beans in Mexico City to be fairly bland, despite the seasonings. The beef and avocado were wonderful.  The plantain added depth to the meal. And then there was the cactus.
It looked funny lying there on my plate. It had a shape all its own. I cautiously sliced off a tiny bite and was surprised to find it very tasty. There is a pungency to the flavor, but a crisp smooth texture to the flesh. It was a pleasant change from the usual fare.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Too Many Olives? Dining at the Crowne Plaza in Mexico City

Tonight I wanted something light for dinner, so I decided to try the Ensalada Griega or Greek Salad. In California I'm used to goat cheese being about a tablespoon of crumbled cheese adorning the top of my salad. But at the Crowne Plaza, they do not skimp on anything! The goat cheese was served in thick slices over the top of the salad. The flavor was mild at first, but grew in robustness with each bite. The cheese was firm yet smooth and creamy in texture.
There were tiny, pungent white onions throughout the salad that added to the audacity of the flavor combinations. And it seemed an olive was hiding under nearly every leaf of lettuce. What a treat! The salad was far richer than I expected and left me very satisfied.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dessert by the Sea - Marriott's in Miraflores

wI typically enjoy a large, satisfying dessert and never understood the appeal of the tiny little deserts that are served in expensive restaurants. But when you become a business traveler, you begin to understand the appeal of something beautiful but not too filling after eating in restaurants three meals a day for weeks at a time.
Ponderaciones is a typical Peruvian crunchy spiral dough, filled with creamy passion fruit and borgona grape sorbet. It was just enough to round out the dinner, while not so much as to endanger my waistline. A mix of shapes, textures and flavors to delight all the senses. Very satisfying.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Of Glass and Light - Miami

Light is something we rely on in so many ways, but rarely stop to think about. Without it, we would not have the science of astronomy, as one aspiring astrophysicist points out in her lectures under the stars.
In biblical times Noah is said to have seen the first rainbow. As long ago as 300 B.C. Euclid studied light and tried to understand reflections and the
the science of light. During the 1600s the growing Dutch skill in the depiction of light led to world-wide renown of the  Dutch Golden Age paintings.
For Leonardo DaVinci blending the science and art of light were key to development of this Renaissance man's talents.

During my brief walk-through of the Miami airport, the artistic theme seems to be of glass and light. Simple, yet striking.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vacationing on the Sound in Virginia

 While staying in luxury hotels has its appeal, sometimes the best vacations are spent with friends and family. Imagnine a delightful weekend, sitting on the sound, a little over an hour outside Washington, D.C. enjoying a beautiful view while catching up and getting to know each other again. Savor the cool drink and good conversation.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Blueberry Cheesecake at Max's in Auburn

I called my good friend and invited her to lunch. As always, she found an excuse to treat me. It happened to be my birthday, so I couldn't say no. We went to a nice restaurant in Auburn called Max's. Although I'd seen the restaurant for a few years, I always seemed to wind up at the In and Out Burgers instead. We had a wonderful sandwich but the dessert was superb. The artistry of the arrangement with the chocolate swirl was simple and elegant. The cheesecake was creamy and delicious. And the blueberries were a perfect accent, a sweet contrast to the creamy cheesecake. Cost was in line with the quality of the treat.

However, if chocolate is more your preference, do try the brownie. Have you ever experienced chocolate collapsium? Imagine a brownie with more chocolate than it is possible to squeeze into a square that size. But you don't have to imagine it, you can drop by Max's and enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Exotic Dining - Foamed Parmesan in Lima

 After reviewing the menu, my eye was drawn to the ribeye steak. Normally, I don't expect a ribeye to be the most expensive item on the menu. It tends to be a bit tougher than other cuts of beef. I wondered if there was something special in the way a Peruvian prepared the ribeye to justify the extra cost. But this dish had a side with foamed parmesan, and that intrigued me. What would foamed parmesan look like and taste like?
Sadly, this dish was my only disappointment at the Marriott's in Lima. The ribeye was tough and the sauce could not overcome this basic flaw. The foamed parmesan did add a different look to the dish, but overall was not aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and the taste on the palette was practically non-existent. The side salad had delicate and tasty cherry tomatoes, but were served with sprouts that tasted like weeds.
This meal rates as nourishing, but over-priced and not satisfying.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Big Sin or Little Sin - Eating in Peru

Behind my office is a mega grocery store called Metro. I've been slowly exploring the store with the idea of bringing some treats in for my clients and to take home to my family. To my delight, I discovered Dulci Vilma, a lovely little cafe in the back of Metro. As I browsed the glass cases, phrase-book in hand, I saw the Pecado. I wasn't sure what it was, but I recognized pineapple, cheese and chicken in the ingredients and that was good enough for me. The counter person asked the usual whirlwind of questions. I managed to narrow it down to caliente o frio? and let her know I'd like it hot and to add agua sin gas for my drink.

It was wonderful! So wonderful that I showed a picture to mi nuevo amigas at dinner the next night. They giggled in a way that made me ask: What had I done?

I was informed Pecado meant sin, and  that the dish I had enjoyed must have been sinfully rich.
Then I remembered, pecadillo, in English, means doing the wrong things. So a pecadillo in Spanish would be a little sin, and a pecado is a big sin.

For penance, I skipped breakfast the next day to even up the calorie count and atone for my sin.