Weekend in Seattle

Jami here, for my first ever guest blog post!

After Rebecca had a great time eating burgers and drinking New York cocktails, she flew out to Seattle for the weekend. She arrived late Friday night, so we just had a quick catch up and a glass of wine before going to bed.

Since Bec had been to a lot of the sights in Seattle when her & Dan were here for New Years 2016, I decided to mix it up a bit and get out of town. On Saturday morning after having a little breakfast, we headed out to Snoqualmie, east of the city about half an hour. There’s a short little hike near the waterfall that we did before having lunch at the Salish Lodge.

Snoqualmie Waterfall

Jami at the Falls

We lunched on delicious Beecher’s grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup with a glass of bubbles while we overlooked the spectacular view of the falls, then stopped in to the gift shop for a little browse. There were tons of references to Twin Peaks, a famous TV show from the early 90’s directed by David Lynch. I watched all the episodes and movie when I moved to Seattle, but Rebecca had never seen it so I gave her the lowdown. One of the main characters, FBI Agent Dale Cooper, frequented a local coffee shop and always ordered a “damn fine cup of coffee and a piece of cherry pie”. It just so happens there is a little cafe still in North Bend where you can have this Twin Peaks experience, so we decided to go check it out.

Damn fine cup of coffee and a piece of cherry pie

Bec outside the Twin Peaks Cafe

We made our way back into the city, dropped off the car at my apartment, then got on the light rail to Pioneer Square, just a few stops away. I wanted Rebecca to experience the Smith Tower, as it has become one of my favourite places in Seattle. I love the history of the building and the view! It was built in 1914 and is the oldest skyscraper in Seattle. During the prohibition era, whiskey smuggled from Canada made it into the secret rooms in the tower, which saw many famous and diverse people. In 2016, the tower opened their new speak easy style cafe on the 35th floor, which is also the observatory deck. The staff dress in 1920’s era clothing, and they serve interesting cocktails and local beer and wine. I feel like I’ve become the unofficial spokesperson for the Smith Tower, as I like to tell anyone who will listen how great it is!

Jami drinking bubbles

View from Smith Tower

That evening we made our way back to Capital Hill to have a cocktail. In the midst of deciding on a place to check out, 12th Avenue suddenly filled up with protesters, marching for Black Lives Matter, women’s equality and against the president of the US. It was a peaceful march, so we took it in for a bit before ducking into Tavern Law. Our bartender mixed some great drinks for us, and we had a snack before retiring to the apartment for the night. We had some dinner and a few games of cribbage then called it a night.

The next morning we took a lovely stroll around my neighbourhood and checked out the view of Lake Union. We got in the car and headed north to Woodinville, a popular wine region about 40 minutes from downtown. There are many wineries, breweries and distilleries in the area, so it was a bit hard to choose which one to go to first. Because I’m a fan of Mark Ryan, we decided to share a tasting there. The wines are so delicious!

Mark Ryan tasting menu

Selection of Mark Ryan wines

We had some lunch at The Commons before going over to Chateau Ste. Michelle. This is definitely one of the larger estates in the area, and their distribution is far & wide. They have a field behind the buildings that has outdoor concerts throughout the summer. We hit up the bar for another shared tasting. One of the wines didn’t quite taste right, and we discovered it was corked. It was the first time that had happened to me, and clearly it was a rare occurrence for the staff as well, because they passed around the cork and everyone got a chance to smell what it was like.

Chateau Ste.Michelle Estate grounds

After that, we headed back into the city for a quiet night at home. I dropped Rebecca off at the airport bright and early so she could make her way back to Berlin. It was so great to have Rebecca visit me in Seattle! Hope to see you soon.

Posted in USA | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

NYC – Burgers, Cocktails and More

My first work trip in 2017 was to one of my favourite cities, New York. I flew to JFK on Wednesday, February 22nd where I would be spending the next 9 days. I had been to New York twice in the past and had most big sights already checked off my list so instead I focused on the foodie scene. My first stop, after getting my taxi to the Jolly Madison Towers Hotel, was for a good old American cheeseburger. I found out that the original Shake Shack was in nearby Madison Square Park so I walked down to have my favourite burger. The line was short and I ordered the Shack Burger with fries and sat outside in the park enjoying the unseasonably nice weather. Thursday and Friday were working days but I managed to find a great restaurant near the hotel called Madison and Vine where I enjoyed my meals sitting at the bar. Great wine, great food and great service.

Shake Shack by night

Shack Burger & Fries

I had the weekend free so on Saturday morning I decided to go for a run. I wanted to try somewhere new as I had already done Central Park. So I took the subway to W.72nd street and started my run up the Hudson River to Riverside Park. The run wasn’t as great as I had imagined so I decided to cut over to Central Park and finish my run there. I ended up running way further than planned and by the time I finished it was 11.5km. I made it back to the hotel and got freshened up but I didn’t venture too far as I was a bit tired and sore from the big run. I made my way over to Bryant Park where I grabbed a salad from Chopt and then had a coffee while enjoying the beautiful weather outside (seriously, not even a jacket). I relaxed in the park for a while and then noticed a Kinokuniya book store so I wandered over there and bought a book. With “Lion” in hand, I made my way back over to Bryant Park to read a couple of chapters. I decided I had better check out the New York Public Library as it is right next to the park. I strolled through the library before making my way up to the Rose Reading Room where I read another few chapters. By this time it was getting a bit late, so I headed back to the hotel to freshen up for cocktail hour. I had found a relatively “hidden bar” nearby called the Raines Law Room known for their great cocktails. I was lucky enough to get a seat at the bar and the bartender made me a “Gin Nevada”. After savouring my cocktail, I made my way over to my local, Madison & Vine for dinner. A delicious set menu of veal meatballs and cavapatti pasta. Delish.

Chilling in Bryant Park

New York Public Library

Rose Reading Room

The next morning, I was off to meet my Foods of NY Tour group at 12:00. I had booked the tour on Saturday and got the last 1 of 2 remaining seats. The tour was in the Heart of the Village. We started off with a half slice of artichoke pizza from a famous late night pizza joint known for the invention of the artichoke-spinach pizza. It was apparently created by mistake when some artichoke dip fell on a pizza slice and the rest is history. Our next stop was for an Indian tandoori wrap and then we stopped at a coffee shop for some chocolate covered coffee beans. By this time, we were ready to sit down and have lunch at the oldest family run Italian restaurant in The Village, Monte’s Trattoria and they made us their traditional pasta Bolognese. We walked off lunch with a trip to Oatmeal, where everything is made with oats, and had an oatmeal raisin cookie. Passing through Washington Square we made our way to the second and last sit down stop, Toloache, a Mexican restaurant and, you guessed it, we had tacos with optional prickly pear margaritas. We even tried fried grasshopper. By this time, the whole group was getting pretty full but we only had 2 small stops left including a tea and honey shop and a macaroon for dessert. The tour ended around 3:30pm and by this time I had met the other person who booked the last lone ticket, another solo traveler like myself. After the tour was finished, we decided we would head over to the High Line. The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight line elevated above the streets of Manhattan. We walked to the end and then hopped on the subway down to Chinatown and Little Italy. Amanda had a few things she still wanted to check out in the Lower East Side and I had a cocktail bar on the list. We went to Katz’s Delicatessen to warm up and we had a bowl of the matzoh ball soup. We then tried to find the Backroom cocktail bar but unfortunately we were a bit early as they didn’t open until 7:30 so instead we opted for a bar with a view. The night was still young so we decided to try another “hidden bar” in the neighbourhood called Fig. 19. A dim spot tucked behind the walls of an art gallery. The cocktails and the atmosphere were exactly what we were looking for. By this time, it was getting a bit late so I said goodbye to my food tour friend and made my way back to midtown.

Artichoke Pizza

Washington Square

Food Tour Tacos

High Line Art

Katz’s Delicatessen

NYC View

Fig. 19 Cocktail

The next week was work, work, work but we did manage to fit in some fun in the evenings. We went to a Broadway show, The Present, starring Cate Blanchett. I also discovered another great cocktail bar called Lantern’s Keep and on our last night we tried some delicious Korean at Barn Joo. On Friday afternoon, I decided to try one last NYC burger joint. I had heard of the “hidden burger joint” in the Le Parker Meridien Hotel. I found the location and got in line around the black curtain. Funnily enough when I got inside it was a little bit like déjà vu when I saw a sign that mentioned their other location in Abu Dhabi! I do think the one in NYC is better but my favourite burger award still goes to Shake Shack. After my belly was once again full, I picked up some American wine before heading to the airport. Next stop. Seattle.

Posted in USA | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

First Guest in 2017

My first guest to Berlin in 2017 was my friend and ex-colleague Neil. He was looking to use up some carry forward leave and sent me a note to see if I was free in February. The 3rd weekend was the only weekend I was in Berlin which worked for him as well. Soon enough he had booked his tickets to London and to Berlin. Neil arrived on the evening of Thursday, February 16th after spending a few days touring around London and Bath in the UK. Unfortunately there was a strike happening at the airport that day in Berlin so his flight was diverted to Dresden and he was bused from there arriving a few hours later than planned. I had already booked us movie tickets at the Berlin Film Festival, Berlinale, which was going on from Feb 9th – 19th. I met Neil at the Potsdamer Platz station and we rushed over to the movie theatre to catch our show about 15 minutes late. We grabbed a beer and a glass of wine and enjoyed the documentary titled ‘André – The Voice of Wine’ about André Tchelistcheff who changed the Napa Valley wine industry after prohibition working as Beaulieu Vineyards (BV)’s chief winemaker. Steven Spurrier, who arranged the 1976 Judgement of Paris, was in attendance along with Andre’s grand-nephew who created the documentary. We enjoyed the film and then went for a quick pizza dinner at Vapiano’s before heading back to the apartment. On Friday, Neil joined a walking tour of Berlin to catch all of the main sites and we met back at the apartment after I got off work. We decided to keep it local and light, so we went to Bose Buben Bar, a restaurant in my neighbourhood I had been wanting to try. We retired early that evening as we had a morning train to catch to Görlitz.

Berlinale Film Festival

Hanging at Bose Buben Bar

The next morning we grabbed a coffee and some breakfast before catching the 8:38 train from Friedrichstrasse station. Görlitz is a town, located on the Neisse River in the German state of Saxony and is opposite of the Polish town of Zgorzelec, which became part of Poland in 1945 when the boundaries were re-drawn. In our pre-planning, Neil had mentioned doing a day trip and suggested Görlitz as one of his top picks. After doing a bit of research, I agreed it sounded like a great way to spend the day outside of Berlin.

We arrived just after 11:00 and strolled through the town taking in all of the architecture. Görlitz is one of the few German cities that did not suffer any bomb damage from WWII. We found the Görlitzer Warenhaus department store known for it’s appearance in the Grand Budapest Hotel movie however it was closed for renovations. After strolling through the town, we made our way down to the river towards St. Peter and Paul church. Unfortunately the churches in Görlitz are apparently closed during March and April so we could not go inside. We toured the grounds and then crossed the bridge into Poland for lunch. I had done a bit of research before hand and had a place in mind. We easily found Przy Jackubie and it was just starting to get busy for lunch. Neil went for the white polish soup and I went for the beet soup as a starter to warm us up from the cold. We both ordered the mixed perogies for the main course. All of it was simply delicious and super cheap to boot! We spent the afternoon walking along the river, crossing back into Germany and wandering the streets. We stopped for another warm up at a Café for a coffee and some black forest cake. Our last stop was the gluhwein stand and then we grabbed some train snacks for the journey back to Berlin at 8 pm. We got back around 10:30 pm and headed straight home after a long and chilly day.

Neil chilly in Görlitz

Interesting Görlitz architecture

Perogies for lunch

Polish border with St. Peter and Paul church in background

Sunday was Neil’s last day in Berlin so we decided to have an easy morning. We had a late breakfast and then were off to the Berliner Dom for 12:00 when they open it up to tourists after Sunday service. We paid our 7 euro entrance fee and then began our tour of the church which included a walk up to the Dom for a view of the city as well as a tour of the crypts below. After our visit we were getting hungry for lunch, so we walked up to the KulturBraueri in Prenzlauer Berg as I heard that they had food trucks there on Sundays. We arrived, grabbed a couple of craft beers and scoped out the food truck options. I went for the Korean spicy chicken and Neil went for the classic raclette. We sat by the fire pit enjoying the warmth and atmosphere. Our last stop of the day was nearby Mauerpark which has an outdoor flea market every Sunday. We walked through the market surprised at the crowds. It was just starting to drizzle so we headed for the train to take us again to Potsdamer Platz for another documentary titled ‘Untitled’. After another big day, we went back to the apartment to have a light dinner and some German bubbly to celebrate my first guest in 2017. Neil flew back to London on Monday afternoon where he spent 2 more nights before heading back to Canada. Thanks to Neil for a great weekend and for being my first honoured guest in 2017!

Inside Berliner Dom

View from the top of the Dom


Food trucks and fire pits

Posted in Berlin, Europe, Germany | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Skiing the Swiss Alps

The prospect of the week to come took some of the sting out of the cancellation of Metallica’s show.  I found my airport transfer in Geneva and was soon off to the ski village of Verbier in the French speaking southwest of Switzerland.  It was raining and, as we got higher, snowing…a good sign.  My hotel was located on the steepest section of Route de Médran and I struggled in the ice and snow with my suitcase in my well-worn sneakers.  It was too late to ski, but I needed to pick up my rentals and look into the lift tickets.  It was clear my shoes were not only tread-less, but leaky too.  Add buying a pair of boots to the “to do list”.

The conditions on the mountain were terrific with the previous day’s foot of snow.  Verbier is known as one of the top “off-piste” resorts and I didn’t have to venture too far to get some fresh tracks.  I opted for the 4 Valley lift pass which encompasses the total skiable area.  That day, I toured all the way across the 4 Valleys and back again.

It snowed another 6 inches that night and the runs were fantastic on Wednesday.  I did some big “itinéraires” runs of Les Gentianes-Tortin, Mont-Gelé-Tortin, and Chassoure-Tortin that are high alpine tour routes and twice got to Verbier’s highest point, Mont Fort at 3330m.  Later, I checked out the one area I hadn’t seen yet, Nendaz.

Riding Les Fontaines pommel

The last day was a stark contrast to the 2 previous days, it was bright and sunny.  I spent as much time on the itinéraires as my legs could handle in the morning and the afternoon on some easy, high speed burners around Siviez.  I had been tracking my days with my new Garmin Montana 680 and put up over 10,000m elevation gain and 90 km distance each day.

Panoramic view of Mont Gelé at 3023 m

Top of Mont Gelé-Tortin itinéraire

On Thursday afternoon, I picked up a rental car and set out for Bern, Switzerland’s capital, to meet Rebecca.  I had a really tough time finding Bern’s airport as there were few signs and the final stretch of road was dark, bumpy, and skinny.  I bet it’s used more by farm vehicles than airport traffic.  But there she was, waiting at the door with 2 coffees to go.  Bec and I set off south and soon left the main highway for Kandersteg.  The road took us up and up into the clouds.  I was really beginning to doubt my navigating skills when we reached a toll gate (did I mention our regular GPS was on the fritz?).  The cost was 27 swiss francs.  “Wow.  That was a hefty toll!” I said to Bec.  We proceeded through the thick fog and a man in a reflective vest directed us on to a little laneway.  We stopped behind another car when Bec said, “I think we’re on a train!”  Sure enough, without much ado, the train started moving.  Unbeknownst to us, we were on the last car of a train on the Lötschberg Line, a 74 km car transport train which includes a 14.6 km tunnel providing passage through the Bernese Alps.  Out at the other side, we continued our drive to Täsch and dropped the rental car.  We walked across the street to the train that completes the ascent up the Matter Valley.  We had finally arrived in the famous ski village of Zermatt.

I’ll have to pay a little more attention to Google Maps in the future

We skied the Sunegga area on the first day and Bec soon got her ski legs under her.  The clouds blew off and we got our first glimpse of the iconic Matterhorn.  Bec turned me loose for a little while in the afternoon and I took the cable car up to Rothorn at 3103 m.  We had a well-deserved, late lunch at Findlerhof, an on-the-mountain restaurant Bec had on her list, before getting in the last runs of the day.  We enjoyed the outdoor jacuzzi, dry sauna, steam rooms, and the cold plunge pool at the hotel before heading into the centre of the village for dinner.  We each had a raclette dish and shared the bratwurst and rösti at Restaurant Du Pont.

Bec skiing through Findeln

One of many hot chocolates

Bratwurst and rösti

The next day was bright and sunny, much warmer than the day before.  We took the Gornergrat train from the village to the final stop at an amazing 3090 m (second highest train in Europe).  We skied the whole day on Gornergrat and Bec was tearing up Run 36 like nobody’s business.  Bec wanted to stop in for a mid-afternoon gluhwein before riding the train back down while I checked out the Hohtälli cable car at 3286 m and got in a few more runs back on Rothorn.

Theodulgletscher from Gornergrat

Ski slope selfie

Bec stopping in at Iglu-dorf for a glühwein

Sunday being our last ski day we planned to ski over the border to Cervinia, Italy.  However, the weather had other ideas.  We took the cable car up to Trockener Steg at 2939 m, but that was the end of the line.  The lifts above that and on the Italian side were all closed.  A storm was blowing in from Italy and we could see why they might want to close the lifts.  It would have been nice to see the views on a clear day from the Klein Matterhorn at 3885 m.  I got in a few runs, but it was just too windy over there.  So we pulled the pin on our Italy plan and headed back to Gornergrat.  It was much less windy and we enjoyed a nice lunch at Vis-à-vis restaurant.

Garlic soup in bread bowl…great skiing food

We tried to make a reservation at the popular Whymperstube restaurant, but it was fully booked.  We wandered into town a bit later in the evening and thought we’d try for a table in Whymperstube and we luckily got one.  We couldn’t resist a cheese fondue for our last night in Switzerland.  Good thing we were burning a lot of calories on the mountain!

Fondue…who can resist?

On Monday, we had a well needed massage at the hotel and did a small walking tour of the famous mountaineering town before starting our train journey to Geneva.  I flew home to Abu Dhabi and Bec headed back to Berlin.  One of our best ski vacations yet!

Matterhorn from Zermatt

Posted in Europe, Switzerland | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Concert in Copenhagen

For Christmas I bought Dan 2 tickets to see his favorite band, Metallica, performing in Copenhagen. The tickets were sold out for all 4 shows but I was lucky enough to get a couple of tickets for the show on Sunday, February 5th when a few extra tickets were released. Once I gave the tickets to Dan for Christmas, the planning began for our weekend in Copenhagen.

Dan flew from Abu Dhabi via Frankfurt on Friday, February 3rd. I took the 5:00 pm flight after work and we met at the Copenhagen airport at 7:00 pm. We took the train into town, checked into the Hotel Kong Arthur and then headed out to find a bite to eat. I had done a bit of foodie research beforehand so we made our way to Fætter Fætter across the Sortedams sø Pond to Nørrebro for some Toasts, aka grilled cheese. We went for the “toast experience” including The F’ing and the Cheesus Christ served with a dressed up avocado on the side. Delicious.

Skål with some local brew

Toasts and avocado

On Saturday morning, we enjoyed our full Danish breakfast buffet and set out on foot not sure of where the day would lead us. It was a cold and misty sort of morning. We wandered upon the Rosenborg Castle so we stopped in for a tour and a warm up from the cold. We also made our way to the Gernersgade district, through the Kastellet, or Citadel grounds, and over to the infamous Little Mermaid. By this time we were freezing and in need of some lunch so we had a bowl of soup and the Smørrebrød Danish open faced sandwiches in the Nyhavn habour. We finished the afternoon with some shopping on the world’s longest pedestrian street, Strøget, and then grabbed a cup of java from the Coffee Collective at the indoor food market, Torvelhallerne. We made it back just in time for cozy hour at the hotel before our booking at the ‘water temple’ hotel spa which included hot tub, sauna, steam, and cold water bucket. A great way to warm up from the cold. That evening, I had made an 8:30 pm dinner reservation at Höst, a Nordic cuisine restaurant, and we enjoyed a long, leisurely 3 course meal with wine pairings. After dinner we got back to the hotel to find out some bad news … the Metallica concert had been cancelled due to the lead singers throat. Quite the news to end our night with!

Rosenborg Castle

Gernersgade district

Nyhavn harbour

On Sunday morning we hit the cold and damp streets of Copenhagen once again. Our first stop was the Amalienborg Palace. Our visit there just finished as the changing of the guard was starting. We then made our way over to Vinterbad Bryggen with our swimsuits and towels in hand. We had learned about this exclusive members only club that opens their doors to the public on the first Sunday of every month for winter swimming. We arrived a little unsure of what to expect but we found some helpful staff willing to explain the process of getting into the freezing water and then hopping into one of the sauna on wheels to warm up. We got changed into our suits and Dan was brave enough to hop in straight away. We warmed up in the dry sauna and then Dan went for another dip before we hit up the other sauna for the “Aufguss” ritual. This method pours water, enriched with natural essential oils, on the heated stones and then the Aufguss master uses a large towel to agitate the air. Near the end of our visit and after watching so many people hop in the water I decided I would at least be brave enough for one quick dip. I hung onto the rail and dipped in as quick as I could up to my neck and jumped right out. The sensation is hard to describe – my feet were in the longest and they had a strong tingly sensation almost to the point of pain. However, I quickly warmed up as my internal body temperature from the sauna was still very high. We got changed back into our clothes and said goodbye to vinterbad. This was our first experience with winter swimming but it wouldn’t be our last.

Rainy day in the square

Dan taking his first winter swim

Sauna on wheels

We grabbed a late lunch at a brewery near the closed Tivoli gardens and then wandered back to our hotel for cozy hour. We were pretty upset about the cancelled concert and it seems so were some of the other patrons in the hotel. To drown our sorrows we headed back to Nørrebro to a local cocktail pub I had researched called the Barking Dog. Dan went for the Mexican 8 ball and I went for the Aviation. We were really enjoying the atmosphere and the delicious cocktails so we decided to stay for one more. I do not remember what Dan ordered but I went for the Hipster and have been dreaming about it ever since. We both flew out bright and early the next morning – I was heading straight to work in Berlin and Dan was off to Switzerland for some skiing.

Barking Dog cocktails

The delicious hipster

Posted in Europe, Scandanavia | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rendezvous in Varanasi

My buddy Zack dropped me a line over Christmas, “Did you ever travel through India or Bangladesh?”  From there, it didn’t take long for us to firm up some plans.  I would be meeting him in India in late January.

On the evening of Thursday, January 26th, I flew to New Delhi and connected to Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India.  I caught a taxi and headed into town as it started to rain.  The rain quit as the cab let me out.  The driver said he could take me no further and pointed in the general direction of my hotel.  I immediately found myself navigating the muddy and narrow laneways of Varanasi occasionally asking the locals how to get to Munshi Ghat.  My persistence paid off and I found the Ganges Inn which lacks any sort of sign indicating that it is, indeed, a hotel.  The man at the desk greeted me and I inquired about my friend’s whereabouts.  He said he checked in yesterday along with Mr. Scott.  I knew right away it could be none other than Scott from Brisbane.  The 3 of us traveled to S.E. Asia together in 2005 along with some other friends.  I got settled in the room and rested my eyes for a few minutes before I heard the guys coming up the stairs.  What Zack had planned as a surprise was ruined by the deskman, but it was great to see Zack and Scott standing at my door.

Learning Zack was suffering from Delhi belly, likely from his street meat experiment in the capital city the day before, Scott and I hit the ghats while Zack retired to his room.  Walking the ghats of Varanasi is like no other experience I’ve had.  The bathing, the sadhus, the pilgrims, the filth, the smells, the list goes on.  Scott and I made an attempt to enter the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, one of the 12 jyotirlinga Shiva temples, but were turned away because we didn’t have our passports.  We came so close and were not about to be defeated so we went back to the hotel and got the necessary ID.  The temple experience was very cool.  Barefoot with sacrificial marigolds and milk in hand, we entered the temple and had a quick moment in front of the lingam before we were shooed away.  We made it back to the hotel and found that Lucky, night-man of the hotel, had come through with the previous day’s pre-order of a dozen strong Kingfisher tallboys.  We had a few beers on the rooftop overlooking Varanasi before Zack rallied and joined us.  That night, we attended the puja at the nearby Dashashwanedh Ghat and had a thali dinner.

Lucky, Dan, and Scott on the roof of the Ganges Inn

Lucky, Dan, and Scott on the roof of the Ganges Inn

Scott, Dan, and Zack

Scott, Dan, and Zack enjoying some Kingfishers

Little girl selling supplies for the puja

Little girl selling floating flower offerings at the puja

Thali dinner

Thali dinner

We were up at 5:45 am the next morning and made our way to the river.  A young oarsman took us for a morning ride down the Ganges and back.  We saw the Manikarnika burning ghat where funeral pyres burn around the clock.  Back on shore, Zack and I skinned down to our bathing suits and got in the Ganges.  A man beside us offered the use of his soap bar so we indulged and lathered up.  It was a chilly morning so we bee-lined back to the hotel after a quick dip.

Early morning boat ride

Early morning boat ride

Sunrise on the Ganges

Sunrise on the Ganges

Washing away our sins

Washing away our sins

I was off to the airport with the fellas having spent less than 24 hours in Varanasi.  We caught our flight to New Delhi and took the metro into New Delhi station.  From there, we had to cross over the Delhi train station and then hop in a tuk tuk to get to our hotel.  Incredibly, this guy shouted out Zack’s name as we went by…it was Zack’s guide from 3 days prior.  You’re in a city of 20 million people for about 3 hours and meet 2 people.  You return 3 days later and run into 1 of the 2 people you know.  What are the chances?

A.J. and Raj met us at our hotel an hour later and we piled into the back seat of their tuk tuk.  Scott wanted to go to the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh Temple so we made our way there and had a good look around.  After a couple street beers with our guides, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner.  We found a great restaurant in Connaught Place, then, being Saturday night, tried to find some nightlife.  Our attempts weren’t bearing much fruit so Zack bailed early and Scott and I weren’t far behind him.

Guys at the Sikh temple

Guys at the Sikh temple

Dan and Scott at the club

Dan and Scott at the club

The next morning, we had a driver lined up to take us to Old Delhi.  The driver parked and told us to hire 2 rickshaws.  We went into the Red Fort, saw the street markets of Chandni Chowk, visited Jama Masjid, pedaled the rickshaws, hung out with a cobra charmer, bargained for pashminas, and Zack even helped a crew of guys dig a hole.  We stopped by the hotel so I could grab my things and we returned to the same restaurant from the night before.  We had a quick meal before I started my journey home.  Scott would head back to Brisbane the next day.  Zack traveled to Amristar in Punjab before heading back to California.  I’m sure the 3 of us will have more great adventures in the future.

Food festival at the Red Fort

Food festival at the Red Fort

Nice fit but tough sell

Nice fit but tough sell

Delhi has it all!

Delhi has it all!

Posted in Asia, India | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Girls Spa Weekend

When Jen was visiting me last year in Berlin, we decided we should start 2017 off right with some R&R. After getting back into the swing of things after Christmas, I was off to London on Friday, January 20th. I arrived into London city airport where I was greeted by Jen. We met up with Steven, Szcepan, and Cam at the Hilton on Park Lane. We popped a bottle of bubbly and soon Debbi, our friend and ex-flatmate from London, joined us for a cheers. We had a nice visit with Debbi before the 5 of us were heading to our late dinner at Barshu, a spicy Sichuan restaurant in Soho. After dinner, Jen, Steven and I rode the bus back to their place before having a nightcap and heading off to bed.

Visit with Debbi in London

Visit with Debbi in London

The next morning Jen and I picked up the zip car rental and were off to meet Shazar and her friend Nureen, who was visiting from Canada. We grabbed a coffee and were on the road to our vineyard hotel in Newbury. We arrived just in time to get checked in and Jen and I were off for our facials. Post treatment, we enjoyed a traditional afternoon tea beside the fireplace and then met the sommelier for a tour of their impressive cellars. We had a few hours to kill before dinner so we relaxed at the pool, sauna and steam. At 8:30 pm, we met up with the girls for dinner at the hotel restaurant. We each had an amazing 3 course dinner with wine pairings. I went for the crayfish ravioli, squab pigeon, and seasonal farmhouse cheese platter for dessert. A perfect way to end a relaxing day.

The Vineyard Hotel

The Vineyard Hotel

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

Squab pigeon, salt baked celeriac and parmesan

Squab pigeon, salt baked celeriac and parmesan

The next morning we met up for breakfast and then Jen and I were back at the spa for our massage appointments. We enjoyed our hour long relaxation massages before having to check out of the hotel but our girls weekend wasn’t over quite yet. We had booked a tour at the nearby Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery in rural Hampshire. We had a bite of lunch at the on-site Bus Cafe and then started our self-guided tour of the factory. We completed the tour, including a scent station where you select what smells you like the most. Then at the end of the tour you select which gin cocktail you want to try based on your flavour profile. I went for the Laverstoke Winter Edition. Unfortunately we soon had to get on the road though as I had a flight to catch from Heathrow back to Berlin. It was a great way to end our girls spa weekend in the U.K. countryside.

Girls at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery

Girls at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery

The Laverstoke Winter Edition

The Laverstoke Winter Edition

Posted in England, Europe | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments