Saturday, July 24, 2010

La Dolce Vita

Hello Lovelies,

I am so sorry to disappoint, but though I promised photos of Austin, I committed the ultimate travel writer sin and didn't take a single one! I was too busy eating brisket and ribs and mac and cheese and breakfast tacos.

Needless to say, all the weight I lost being on the South Beach diet has found it's way back to my thighs! Yet, I know I will be living the life of the starving artist in about a month, so I'm stocking up, preparing for the winter hibernation.

Why will I be the starving artist in a month, you question? Because I have relocated to NYC for grad school, and you know what students eat.....nothing.

So on that note, step on over to my new blog: www.strangershavethebestcandy.com and check out what I'm up to in NYC.

If you come back here expecting news, sorry can't help you. I'll be in candyland, where it's su-weeeeeet!

See you on the flip side....

Friday, July 9, 2010

Everything's Bigger in Texas

So I'm in Austin!!!!! My first time staying longer than a 24-hour connection in the Lone Star state and I'm loving it already. I know Ive been behind in the blog world, but I'm moving to NYC people, so you're going to have look out for my new blog, details to come soon, and get ready for Write Around the World to take a brief hiatus.

N-E-WAYZZZZZ.....The Austin Skyline will be photographed ad nauseum today, so stay tuned for pics like this....



...and for lunch, it's going to be a decadent, delish afternoon spent at Bess Bistro. www.bessbistro.com. Check out the Mac and Cheese on the menu. Does that sound heavenly or what?!



All I can say is picture-taking, mac-and-cheese-eating YUM!

Till soon.....

Friday, June 11, 2010

Blast from the Past


I got a tweet yesterday that said, "#nowplaying Fleetwood Mac: Landslide" and that just brought me back almost 10 years, to 2002, when a Fleetwood Mac tape with "Landslide" was one of the few on a road trip I took to Anchorage, AK to hit up the local Wal-Mart. 

I was bundled in tight with two sisters from Fairbanks, Jennifer and Denali, who was a single mom, in Jennifer's Ford Bronco, or Explorer, or something like that. We were all in the same English class at Prince William Sound Community College in Valdez (of Exxon Valdez fame) and when you live in a po-dunk, white trash town of 4,000 on a good day, a four-hour road trip to Wal-Mart sounds just awesome.

While the above pic is not from any of the "Wal-Mart Trips" to Anchorage, it is still Alaska. It's actually a view that I had to pass at least twice a day on my way to school. Smack centre is Mt. McGinnis, aka Nipple Mountain, and don't be fooled, people have been airlifted off, or unfortunately died on, that simple-looking boobie. To the right in the back are the Mendenhall Towers, a rough, ice-age era snarl baring its unforgiving teeth from the middle of the Mendenhall Glacier.

I'm going to buy a writing cabin in Juneau one of these days. I guess I should started on the book that's going to help me do it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Trinidad - and not the one with Carnival


Trinidad!

Readers, all seven of you, I present to you, Trinidad, Cuba. If this town had been by a river and just a tad more opulent, I could absolutely see Florentino Ariza writing mournfully long poems in a cobblestreet-side cafe to his beloved Fermina Daza, minus the cholera.

I felt excellently adventured back to 1893 (randomly chosen date), with many a scruffy looking vendor selling fruit or insufficiently sweetened/moistened pastries from carts, 90% of the population on rusty bicycles, and the remaining 10% bouncing low in 1960s automotive gems (as seen above)...




Amid the galleries and the craft markets stood centuries old churches, guitar-playing old men (soon to come) and blissfully ignorant school children. While Viñales had been oh soooo sleepy, Trinidad moved equally as slow as molasses, but it had a certain charm that made that negligible. For the list of charming items, read on....



Juliet-worthy balconies? Check.



Rennaissance churches à la (Pollo) Tropical? Check.



Adorable seaside cottages on the way to the beach? Check.



Gar-ge-ous (as my friend says) views of the island sloping around the bend? Check.




Cloud-ruffled sky, perfect for pics? Check.




                                                                                                             






A trio of characters to form the triumvirate of people-watching perfection? Check.

Trinidad was superfragilistic awesomeness. Just don't do what I did, which is take a long-ass 7-hour bus ride from Viñales, arrive starving, tired and psycho-killer delirious, get fed-up with the home-stay options immediately presented and then let gut-wrenching hunger and ennui lure you into the otherwise obvious trap set by home-stay proprietor, Carlo, whose name has been changed for security purposes.

Here is a summation of the experience staying with Carlo: 

"You have breakfast tomorrow?" No, Carlo, thanks, we go out.
Next morning, Carlo makes breakfast anyway.
"Carlo, we told you we didn't want breakfast. Oh, you thought psychological tricks could work, i.e. we see breakfast, we eat? Negative." 
"You want bicycle, I have berry good bicycle."
Apparently, "good bicycle" in Carlo-speak means bad brakes, hardly a seat, no gears, and airless tyres. I would scan the chiropractic bill, but I'm having technical difficulties.
On our last night in town, Carlo went out and got drunk and brought home a lady-friend. Thereth endeth the description. I sayeth no more.


Except that Trinidad is the bomb.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

We Interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Broadcast...


....to bring visions of future trip heaven.



For some time now I have been salivating across my screen at images of this gargantuan-in-scope, megalith of a national park. Torres del Paine is the name, and it's deep in Chilean Patagonia territory.
And in the words of Liz Lemon: I.Want.To.Go.There.



And while it may not be covered in cheese, or doused in gravy, it's just as tantalizing. There are rushing rivers and glacial flows down which to kayak, rocky, jagged mountain up which to hike; sprawling fields in which to camp; smooth, amorphous ice on which to climb, trek, scale, sharp; unforgiving glaciers on which to climb, camp, scale; sloping vales in which to spot wild-life, horseback ride, cross. It's like that dream deluxe anniversary edition of Nat Geo Adventure magazine brought to life.


What's not to love?


                                                  

I'm watching you Torres de Paine, and I'm coming after you. 
(The small pics just don't capture the "ness". It so much "muchier" in real life, I imagine.)


                              

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Viñales

Despite that my best friend told me I would enjoy the countryside and rural Cuba the most, and that I needed to "get out of Havana as soon as you get there", everything had it's place. So for those who loved the towns, the country had its place too; it reminded me so much of rural Jamaica. It was something to experience, and more enlightenment on all that Cuba is...


The trip to Viñales was almost ruined when what I thought was just a straight bus ride was announced, via a microphoned woman up front, as a tour. I seethed for the length Central Havana and then conceded defeat. It turns out that until we got to the Tobacco farm, where the maestro roller pictured up top was demonstrating the art of stogey-making, the "tour" was just the microphoned woman talking. I survived.



                                                       

The Cuban Five - a group of revolutionary intelligence officers that were convicted of espionage and conspiracy to commit murder, and the entire country is confident will eventually be freed. It seems they may have been from Viñales, 'cause their image was all over. Even on the farm, two feet from the rows of plants.


                                    

Tobacco leaves hanging in the A-frame shed. I thought they shredded the leaves somehow and then wrapped them, but apparently a cigar is just a bunch of full-sized leaves rolled together. Who'd a thunk it?


                                                     

My farmer and the Cuban farmer. Can you tell which is which?



The money shot: old car, country road. Can't say fairer than that.

                                 

I would say Viñales has a population of about 100, 135 when tourists roll in; it looked like something out of No country for Old Men. Yet, down a dirt road, amid three bedroom haciendas with barefoot children running with sticks, the revolution lives on.


                                     

What attracted me to Viñales was pictures I had seen of those massive limestone karsts visible in the background. They just rise up ethereally around the town. In the re-make, Julie Andrews sings, "The hills are aliiiiiiiiivvvve with smell of tobacco....."

                                                         

The personalities of Viñales were fun to people-watch. This guy looked like he was in for the night. It was a long call, he had to make himself comfortable.

                                     

This guy asked me about his picture, "Handsome, no?" Si, Senor.

                                    

Everyone around was lining up to get these rectangular cakes that they serve you on slab of cardboard. I learned the hard way that no store in Cuba has shopping bags (much less boxes), you have to bring your own. I left a little bakery we found with about 15 individual mini-bread rolls piled in my hands. I kept trying to get a shot of people with their cake, but they were grabbing it and going, so I came upon this little familia who were nice and stationary. 


                                      

Speaking of familias, Christopher and I met the coolest one, during our Viñales home-stay. We have Olga (2nd left), her daughter Olgita (little Olga) and Olga's hubby. They chatted with us and talked about the Cuban government and life in Cuba and (gasp!) the fact that they are not rushing to get to the States and stay, despite that they have family. They also made us the most awesomest, scrumptiousest dinner of the whole trip! We were a little concerned about having lobster in the middle of a farming valley miles from the sea, but who'd a thunk it. Better than anything we ate the WHOLE trip.

                                      

Sautéed lobster, green tomato salad, black beans and steamed rice. I peered into my squeaky clean lobster tail, scavenging for more. It was awesomeness embodied!

Lobster: It's what's for dinner! 

Till next time.........

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Havana - Part 1




We start things with the image of the classic car. The ubiquitous Havana cultural icon. More than you can count, more than you can marvel at, and all the while, all I could think was "where do they get the parts to repair these?" But I guess if all the cars are 1950s Chevy sedans, then parts probably come easy. Evidence, the taxi row below.

                                       

 Havana was time warp: crumbled baroque and renaissance architecture (see El Capitolio), wrinkled old men and ladies hovering over fretwork balconies, cigars from their lips and no notice of the obvious tourists with the baby-sized cameras dangling from their necks. I grew up in a resort town, so I love how Havana didn't slow down for all the tourists, how life scurried on very frenetically, in spite of my presence. It was refreshing.


                                
                                                   



We stumbled upon Plaza Catedral and had two stogeys and bottle of wine. It was a great first afternoon in the  capital. I got this shot of the inside of the church and stealthily snapped a doctress all dressed up. Usually they want a little moolah for their pic, but...


                                                      


                                                     

Right before, we had lunch at the much publicized La Bodeguita del Medio, where Hemmingway drank a mojito every afternoon. There no longer make them like they made them in his day (now lacking rum and general mojito-ness), but it was an experience. I can't tell you how disappointed I was to learn that the place had been franchised. The Horror!

                                            

I did write my name on the wall though, which is just about covered!

                                              

Never far from the mind is the revolution and all its glory. This is just one of the many wall murals reminding passers-by just what Castro et al have been fighting for. Viva!

                                                          

Personally, instead of getting all caught up in all that revolution talk, I like to just enjoy a cold Bucanero. It's a much-better way to occupy my mouth.


                                    


                                     



                                   

We finished off the evening near Plaza Vieja, at El Meson de la Flota and enjoyed some tapas and flamenco. Awesomeness. Off to a great start. Need to figure out how to load videos though.