Thursday, December 13, 2012

Damn you, Bucharest Xmas Market!

Over the years, I have carefully cultivated an image of myself as a modern day Scroogette.  I eschew the sending of any type of holiday card. I plug my earphones firmly into my ears at the first sign of anything Noel-ish. I would rather skinny dip in molten lava then be caught dead in a mall.  Hell, I even used to throw anti-Xmas parties on the 26th of December to celebrate the end of all this ridiculousness. Guests were encouraged to bring desecrated Xmas icons and there was many an ice-picked Frosty and creatively mutilated Santa to show for it.

Yet, even with my distate for all things Xmas-y, I saw no reason to skip Bucharest's tree lighting ceremony.  It kicked off the start of their xmas market, which like most European xmas markets, has a certain old timey charm to it.  There are always arts and crafts to be purchased, dangerously unhealthy and delicious fair foods to be sampled and the steady flow of hot spiced wines to be imbibed.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lake Como: Cruising for Clooney

Dear nice people who happened to share a Lake Como ferry with us,

I realize it is highly unlikely that any of you are reading this right now, but on the very off chance that you have somehow inadvertently ended up here, I believe I owe you an apology.  Please believe that when I asked the crew if we had already passed George Clooney's house, I did so only so that we could stop guessing in vain.  Also, please take it on faith, that when I asked them to point it out when we did  pass by, I was at best hoping for an announcement.  I had to way of anticipating that we would end up doing aquatic donuts in front of the man's house.  Trust me that it was not my intention to divert the express ferry so that we could have additional gawking time.  Likewise, I did not foresee that my friend would take upon herself to dramatically and repeatedly pantomime flashing her breasts in the direction of said home (although her declaration on the train ride from Milan stating that if she saw Clooney, she was going to show her tits should have clued me in).  I guess I should apologize to the small and somewhat frightened children for that one.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Milan: Home of the world's most photogenic rooftop


Up until last month, the extent of my knowledge of Milan was that it's that place you have to go through, no matter your final destination, if are unfortunate enough to fly on Alitalia.  As I loathe both that horrid airline and its chaotic, every-man-for-himself hub airport, I never really gave any thought to the city burdened with these twin albatrosses (albatri?).

Therefore,when I found out that I would be visiting for a couple of days, I wasn't exactly disappointed- it is Italy, after all- but I was not exactly thrilled, either.  Granted, I was going via a different carrier and therefore was not going to be subjected to their national airline's DMV level of service, but the lingering resentment over my past Milan experiences, brief as they were, prevented me from doing my usual level of pre-trip planning.  I figured I would just show up and do what normal people refer to as "winging it."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Istanbul

How much do I love Istanbul? Let me count the ways. Or better yet, let me count the photos... cause there sure are a lot of them. This month, I got to visit one of my favorite cities on the planet for the fourth time and added to my ever expanding Turkish photo collection.

Instead of waxing nostalgic about the wonderful times I have had during these visits or struggling through a thesaurus finding synonyms for the words "lavish" and "exotic", I think I should just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Tourist in my own Town

Hi.  My name is Berti and I am a Groupon/ Couptessa/ Living Social addict.  In the past week, I have used vouchers to eat out, bar-hop, workout, get my hair done and, the crowning achievement, to finally- once and for all- visit the Everglades.

I will admit that it has been a source of shame for me that these wetlands that sit less than an hour from my front door, this national park that I would have visited had it been anywhere else, had heretofore gone unexplored.  So imagine my delight when I opened my email and found the following offer: $27 for a three hour Everglades tour ($55 value).  And best of all, I did not even have to undertake the one hour drive since the package included transportation from Bayside Marketplace, just a few blocks from home.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Amsterdam as seen through a Yellow Filter

August in Amsterdam without enough consecutive days off to do anything other than a day trip.  What to do? There are the museums, the plethora of summer festivals, the renting of boats, the joy of simply relaxing with friends at a canal-side bar- I partook in all of it and loved every minute of it.  But there was still plenty of time to fill, so I decided I would take a class of some kind.

I considered taking Dutch lessons but- no offense to the kind people of Holland- that language is nothing short of an auditory assault.  It is so bad that it makes German sound lyrical.  There is a part of me that is ashamed of the fact that I have now spent the equivalent of 14 months living in the country without learning the language.  To be fair, I have reached the point where I can engage in very basic niceties, read a menu or tell off a bicyclist with some adeptness but, sadly, I have not pushed myself to progress beyond that.  And this summer did nothing to change that. Sorry. Het is een lelijke taal.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Country #91: My Ukrainian Workout

Another summer sojourn in Amsterdam, another opportunity to add to my country count.  Due to a somewhat screwier schedule than usual, this year it was only one country added  ("Only" one- my life, it is so full of hardships, no?)  but it was a good one.

With four days off, I flew to Kiev, expecting a couple of pretty Orthodox churches, lots of varenyky (Ukrainian raviolis stuffed with potato), a profusion of cyrillic and some general seediness.  I found three out of the four.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Berry Berry Boriqua Birthday

the midst of my manic home renovation projects, a ridiculously sweet opportunity fell square into my lap, wholly unbidden.  How would I like to go to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a couple of days?  Oh, and it would be during the weekend before my birthday.  How's about I bring along some friends?  For free.  Yup, this happened. Times like this, you have to realize that life does not suck.

Although Puerto Rico is a scant two hour flight from Miami, I had previously never had a chance to fully explore this Caribbean island.  Joined by four of the funnest people you could ever travel with, Ivon, Jorge, Lily and Israel, I was able to right this egregious wrong.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rain, rain, go away. Or at least, leave us Neuschwanstein.

I know. I know. I have been really slacking off on this here blog.  I chose a blog title that would force me to post at least once a month and yet for the past four months, this site has sat woefully abandoned and ignored.  By way of excuses, I will say that earlier this year I became a homeowner for the first time.  As a result, my adventures have lately consisted more in choosing which loud primary colors to use for my walls (correct answer: all of them) and figuring out why my kitchen tile has developed such an explosive temperament (google 'tile tenting'- it is a thing), than my usual galavanting around.

But this does not mean I have become a sedentary being.  Far from it.  Another reason for my absence, has been a hectically busy work schedule, one that has taken me on a number of  journeys to places both new and familiar.  Among those stops, way back in May, was an extended stay in one of those familiar places, Kaiserslautern.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hey, we screwed up. Wanna see a museum about it? The Salem Edition

Salem could easily have been one of the many nondescript Boston suburbs. They are plenty of them, many of them with some tangential tie to America's revolutionary era or historically interesting architecture, but I personally can not muster enough enthusiasm to pay them a visit. 

Where Salem distinguished itself was by giving itself fully up to religious lunacy in 1692. This was not just the usual topical, fire and brimstone variety of god-inspired cray-cray. The Salemites went all out. In the midst of an perennially-feuding village, a new minister who had the questionable distinction of having failed at all prior vocational endeavors, managed to unite everyone in a massive game of "Find the Witch".

Thursday, March 22, 2012

La Brea Tar Pits: Who knew methane gas could be so entertaining?

You ever get that feeling that you have seen everything there is to see in a particular destination? Perhaps you have been there a number of times or maybe the last time you were there, you were particularly active on the sightseeing front. For whatever reason, finding new ways to fill a day have become increasingly difficult. Los Angeles is one of those places for me. It is a city that I really enjoy and always look forward to visiting, but a recent 5 day stay had me scrambling to find new things to add to my itinerary (as opposed to just repeating the same old haunts from prior visits).

Some googling led me to a place I think I may have visited as a child, but since clearly I don’t have a whole lot of recall on the matter, I decided to treat it as something new. It was in this quest for novelty that I planned an outing to the La Brea Tar Pits.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

16 Hours in Kauai: A tale of cocks and canyons.

The NY Times travel section has a regular feature wherein they pick a destination and then tell you what you could do there within a 36 hour period. Of course, they neglect to mention that you would need to have a late model hovercraft to actually complete their itinerary in the allotted time frame. Either that or you must be willing to zip through a museum as if there was a prize to be collected at the gift shop, Amazing Race-style or limit yourself to no more than 30 minutes for a full sit-down meal (good luck with that in Europe).

I, myself, am intimately familiar with the rushed visit. Oftentimes, through a confluence of unfortunate circumstances, I have extremely short stays in places that are worthy of much closer inspection. For a perfect example of this annoying phenomena, I only need to look back to the beginning of this month, when I spent a whopping 16 hours on the unspoiled island of Kauai.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Serengeti: The Grand Finale

Our last day in the Serengeti began exactly the way a last day in the Serengeti should, with a pair of giraffes calmly eating leaves right outside our tents. They were the perfect animal to wake up to.  Any of the smaller creatures would not have been nearly as exciting and none of the more carnivorous ones would have been quite as welcome.

And speaking of flesh eaters, I mentioned to Olly, our tour leader, that once again I had not heard any lions during the night. I had, however, heard baboons left and right with their deep, guttural grunts sounding as if they were coming from pretty close by. Olly let me do my best baboon grunt impersonation a couple of times before explaining to me that baboons make no such noise. Those were, in fact, lions. I, the viewer of many MGM films, disputed this assertion and even threw in some inspired roaring noises by way of persuasive argument. Well, it turns out that those impressive roars are only one note in the lion repertoire, used mainly to express agression.  The grunting I'd been hearing for two nights is the noise they make to communicate with each other. Judging by their proximity, I think they may have been talking about us.