August 28, 2010

Faces of Mine - Summer 2010

Money Saving Tip on Traveling ... and Still Impress Your Friends and Family - Summer 2010

Here's a helpful tip I use. It saves a ton of money and you can still have all the traveling photos you want.

Step 1:
Download a generic picture of any location you want your friends/family to think you're visiting.

Step 2:
Take a close-up of your head/shoulders by holding the camera an arm's length away.

Step 3:
Photoshop it!

Go anyplace. See everything. And never have to leave the privacy of your own home! Think of the money you'll save.

Note: It's wise not to answer the door when they think you're out of the country.

August 26, 2010

Best City – Summer 2010


And the winner ... oh, c'mon. It's obvious, isn't it? Barcelona easily wins this category.

While the other cities have certain great qualities, Barcelona offers so much more. It’s really that good.

Best Meal – Summer 2010


And the winner ... has to be ... er ... what? This is difficult only because of the lack of real quality entries (or should I say entrees?). If I take away the location or the view or the price or anything else extraneous, I am left with the food. And this, unfortunately, does not leave me a lot of options.

Well, the winner is something nondescript but delicious. A simple salad and potato wedges from “Giraffe,” a small restaurant in London. Two things make this meal better than all the others: 1) I’m starving. 2) I don’t expect much and am surprised by how tasty it is. Yeah, it’s not really much of a recommendation, but this meal is enough to peek out ahead of everything else.

Best Walk – Summer 2010


And the winner ... has to be Montjuic in Barcelona.

My determination to walk the entire way up the mountainside is rewarded by this view of Barcelona. Only faint bird calls, the hum of the wind, and the sun.

Best Nirvana – Summer 2010


And the winner ... has to be the award-winning video of the aquarium in Barcelona.

Though this is only a few seconds long, I sit in the darkness and watch the pattern of fish for half an hour. At least. It’s time to think of nothing. No cares. No worries.

Best Thrill – Summer 2010


And the winner ... has to be the rollercoaster ride in Stockholm.

Not much of a contest.

I've already posted this video 2 other times, but so what? It deserves another look.

August 24, 2010

Best Veggie Burger – Summer 2010


And the winner ... is not what you expect.

Of all the places I eat, and of all the veggie shacks I track down, the best vegetarian burger is found in the same restaurant in every city throughout the world: Hard Rock Café.

Surprise, surprise.

I’m not a big fan of the décor. I don’t particularly like the clientele, who seem more interested in buying the t-shirts than actually eating decent food. But the veggie burger is damn near perfect. It has the right texture, which is much harder than you might imagine. It's perfectly cooked. The spicy salsa is an extra bonus. And the fries are dee-lish.

Top 5 Videos - Summer 2010

[Top 10? That’s easy. Narrowing it down to 5? That’s the stuff of continuous debate.]

Some tough choices here, but I finally come up with my Top 5. See if you agree.

ET Modern Art – Barcelona

This video sums up everything I expect and want from modern art.

Peace at Aquarium – Barcelona

All I want is this video on a continuous loop, playing inside my head.

Something for the Ladies – Barcelona

Right time. Right place.

Rollercoaster – Stockholm

The kinetic energy of this video and the fact that I can’t seem to hold the camera in the proper direction is wonderful. Simply watching makes me want to ride again.

Godzilla vs. God – Rome

I find this funny every time, over and over. I’m in the Vatican, making freaking Godzilla noise. Is there a special place in hell for that? Nah. You can’t have Godzilla with God.

Bonus video, because I can’t seem to cut this list down to 5. Yeah, I cheated.

Birds – Dublin

Uneventful video until the scream at the end. I love the scream.

Things I Learned From My Trip – Planning – Summer 2010

  • Think ahead
My summer trip was a little haphazard. My only plan was 1) go to city 2) check out what to do and 3) do it. Fine, I suppose. But my next big city-tour (which is only 11 months away!) will be more mapped out. Instead of relying on the city to be interesting, I need to research a little more. For example, I’m thinking of planning my next summer tour around concerts; check out the schedules of singers/bands I want to see, and then plan my trip to that city. Or for a different aspect, maybe next summer I’ll do an “adventure tour”, planning around different stuff like bungee jumping, white water rafting, parachuting, etc. I think if I go someplace with a specific agenda, then I’ll get a bit more out of my trip, and I’ll still have time to walk around and soak in the local atmosphere.

Lesson Learned: If I had simply checked the calendar, I could’ve seen that concert!

  • Longer is not necessarily better
I visit 6 cities in 6 weeks. It’s fun. It’s crazy busy. It’s exhausting. Maybe it’s too much. I admit that I took time off while in Stockholm and probably don’t appreciate the city as much as I could. And yes, my week in Dublin is more of unwinding than adventuring. I’m not a youngster no more. I don’t have the energy to stay up until midnight to hit the clubs (By the way, since when is clubbing such a mandatory all-nighter? Back in my day, the dancing started at 9pm!) So, all this considered, my next trip might be shortened a week or two. Or I might deliberately book a week off to simply do nothing before moving on. This removes the guilt of gluing my lazy butt on the bed for a full morning and doing crossword puzzles.

Lesson Learned: Maybe I should change my “veggie-a-go-go” to “veggie-a-go-and-then-rest-a-little”?

Top 5 Photos - Summer 2010

[Top 10? That’s easy. Narrowing it down to 5? That’s the stuff of continuous debate.]

This is difficult. I have a great list of 8 photos, but finally pare it down to 5.

Moment of Serenity – Barcelona

I’m sorry this photo does not do justice to this little park, outside the mainstream tourist routes. The trees. The wind. The sunlight. It is one of those irreplaceable moments.

Polka Dots and Stripes – Stockholm

Many of you familiar with this site would have chosen my “Skinheads vs. Art” photo. I understand, as I went back and forth on this. However, I find the juxtaposition of the artist’s and viewer’s patterns to be cosmically coincidental.

Dome in the Pantheon – Rome

Look, I’m an angel here on Earth.

JC on My Back – Rome

Another of those moments when the stars align. The reality of the modern day priest with the surrealism of religion is perfect.

Me Psychedelic – London

I have at least 5 of these type of photos to choose from – me being somewhat surrounded by weird stuff. I find this one to be a great example of the moments I encounter.

Things I Learned From My Trip – Moneywise – Summer 2010

  • You get what you pay for
The most obvious example is my hotel room. Without really thinking it through, I book “single” rooms throughout my travels. Bad idea. Especially in Europe, single rooms are basically slightly bigger than a closet. You always hear someone say “I don’t plan to spend much time in my hotel anyway, so it doesn’t matter.” Well, unless your plans include sleeping in other people’s beds, then this is not true. The reality is that in a small, cramped, claustrophobic room, even a couple of hours can put a damper on your mood. Add to this the fact the even the slightest quirk is suddenly amplied 10-fold because there's no room to escape.

Lesson Learned: Spend the little more and book a double room. It’s only around $20/night extra, but that cash spent can make a huge difference.

  • Time is always worth something
Yeah, I’m talking about my flights from city to city. As I write about here, I come up with this brilliant idea to save cash: I book all my flights through Heathrow. On the face of it, this works out well for the wallet. Since Heathrow is a major hub, flights in/out are heavily competitive and cheap. I save close to $700 by doing this. However, what I do in reality is to exchange a reasonable 3-hour travel day (direct from city-to-city) for a 12 to 15-hour travel day, including layovers and connections and getting through passport control, etc. Every Sunday of my trip becomes worse and worse, and I head into the weekend with dread with the fear of a delayed flight throwing off the entire schedule, the fear of lost luggage, having to make 3 flights instead of just one, the fear of not having enough time to check-in again for the next flight. Ugh.

Lesson Learned: The simplest, most direct path is the best, regardless of the money.
  • Leave room in my luggage
This is actually something I did right. (I know! Can you believe it?) I use this summer trip as an opportunity to buy a few things in Europe that I can’t get in Kuwait. Or at least, I can’t get them cheaply. Not so much clothes, as Kuwait is filled with cheap outlets for shirts/pants. But other stuff like Xbox games, cds, books, etc. Some things are simply impossible to find here and this trip allows me to stock up on these items cheaply.

Lesson Learned: Do like everyone else does here when they travel, buy buy buy.