Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Santiago de Chile, Valparaiso, Buenos Aires - my last trip while in the US and my first time to South America

OK, it was about time - to travel again, to see some sun, and also to put my feet onto South American soil for the very first time. Santiago de Chile, Valparaiso (a lovely coast town close to Santiago) and Buenos Aires were the destinations of my 10 days of leisurely travel (a thing I haven't done in a veeeeery long time). My last major trip being to India I was expecting at least some degree of chaos during the trip - and I was disappointed in this sense, journeys and pleasure transitioned smoothly into each other.

After arriving in Chile, Gaby - who I was visiting - and myself swung ourselves to Valparaiso, 90 minutes away from Santiago. A local specialty is Chorrillana - difficult to describe, but clearly depicted below:

Now, it might look a little ... different maybe (did you notice those red ... sausages maybe ... on top?) but it is actually quite a delicious dish. Not artificially composed with rare herbs picked by 9-year old virgins or some stuff like that - no, just a healthy base of french fries, a central layer of fried onions "with a hint of egg", topped by a decent amount of grilled beef. Served with spicy sauce - and good for either breakfast, lunch or dinner. Makes everyone happy, no doubt about it! Shown below is the breakfast version. (Not that those for lunch or dinner look any different though.)

You can't live on Chorrillana all day though, so after wandering the city it was time for dinner again - fish at a beach restaurant seemed appropriate after so much walking.

Valparaiso was only on for a weekend, so a few impressions of Santiago de Chile will try to amuse the reader for the next couple of pictures. As we all know implicit assumptions are dangerous - who says that Christmas trees are only happy in a cold environment?

Random street graffiti in central Santiago. I quite liked that one.

Many of the valued visitors of this site may be aware of "Christ the Redeemer" in Rio de Janeiro. Now, Santiago has a similar statue up the hill on offer, it's just not Christ himself but Virgin Mary instead. But what the heck, the views up the mountain were great - I won't show you the pictures of my scared face during the passage about 300ft above ground though. (Believe me - that *was* a scary ride.)

And here they are - the Three Virgins of Santiago:

Well well ... that was Santiago, but every nice time finds its end sooner or later. A different day, a different city, and Buenos Aires for a long weekend followed.

What do you do in Argentina? Right - eat steak. One of the best places, well-known to my local expert Gaby, is probably Del Nivel - crowded during weekends, luckily we have been there during the week. Quite stylish as well, and no one ever left this place hungry since it opened.

Someone happy with his steak. The obvious choice was beef, but in order not to make the mistake of undersampling space that was supplemented by some pork (and salad and desert etc.), too.

And a steak happy just to be. Knowing quite well that in a few minutes, it won't be anymore.

Buenos Aires has a well-functioning subway system - even (or maybe in particular) when compared to those in big western cities such as NYC or London :-). It's cheap (10p or so) and it works.

Being the religious city Argentina (sometimes) is, this is also clearly visible in the subway entrance.
(The McD cup holding the flowers is just *that* slight imperfection the picture needed, don't you think so ... maybe?)

Sunday, sun, and walking around town.

Going out in Palermo. If you ever come to Buenos Aires and fancy a stroll through some of the bars - the area around Plaza J. Cortazar can be highly recommended by this traveller. Also good for dinner (and possibly breakfast the next day.)

While I didn't travel as much from Logan airport as I did from Stansted when I lived in the UK, I still spent enough time there to know the location quite well - and I must say, I started to like the place after a while. The randomly distributed wooden airmchairs in the international terminal, and the morning sun falling into the terminal at just the right angle ... buy a cup of tea and the NY Times, and dawn has never felt better than that.

Ubiquitous American Airlines at JFK in the morning...

... and at my arrival at Logan. I am looking forward to my next time arriving here already.

Have a good day - and hope to see you again next time :-)! A.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Oxford, Amsterdam, Uli's Visit, Chapel Hill/North Carolina, NYC, Albuquerque/New Mexico...

Dear Reader of This One and Only True Source of Wisdom: It's been a while since updating this blog so I thought it's about time to revive this spot again. Apart from the usual work (of which I will spare you details) the last few months gave rise to some very pleasant trips I would like to document for my children and grandchildren (both still to appear on this planet, no worries).

Oxford: Yes, I finally made it to this place as well! Of course I had my doubts - will now the devil get hold of my soul, do people know how to behave in this spot, etc. But I was very pleasantly surprised: Scenic in many places; I like England and its people anyway; the city was just a little larger than I expected and what I was used to from having lived in Cambridge. Well well, I am looking forward to traveling to the country the next time! Shown here: The Camera / Christ Church College in the back.

And one of the most weird looking houses I found in the whole city: Unfortunately it is barely visible in the picture, but the whole house is leaning so much forward and to the left that it really didn't feel *that* safe a place to be in:

Next came a visit to Amsterdam with my sister, just for a day. Since pictures of buildings etc. get boring quite easily and food intake is critical to extend your lifespan here a picture of us eating at a nice seafood restaurant:

This one could be King Andreas I. on his throne:

(OK, it was just at the 'American Cafe' where we had some broodjes for lunch. Check it out when you are in Amsterdam, nice food at decent prices in a relaxed and 'stylish' atmosphere. Exactly what a stylish person like myself needs from time to time.)

Now THE day finally arrived - the biggest fan of the US that ever existed and ever will exist on this planet finally visited his favorite country! My friend Uli from Frankfurt visited me in Boston for a couple of days and we went to NYC together as well. First action - first win: A lottery ticket made Uli a rich man! Well, ok, we won $2 and the two tickets cost us ... ehm, $2 I think, but it was still a decent start on the way to the second million. (Wait, we might be making the second step before the first here...)

We decided to do some traveling together, and North Carolina / Chapel Hill was our first destination - a very nice place, late summer, still pleasantly warm. Also it was the first time I was breathing some 'southern' atmosphere, a stay in the US would be incomplete without it. Karthikeyan, an old friend from Pune, was also currently visiting Chapel Hill so three of the best men this planet has went for dinner together that night:

Chapel Hill is nice but there is only one 'Capital of the World' - NYC! Since I have never been up either the Empire State Building nor the Rockefeller Center now the time has come - my humble self, in the background the Central Park:

Definitely one of my favorite places in the world - and I'll miss it much when finally leaving town.

The last place on the list of today's travel journal: Albuquerque, New Mexico. Possibly not the first place to consider when going on a trip, but I have to say: It was very much worth seeing this quite different location, which is certainly different from most places I have been to as the 'average' European/Boston-raised guy. A visit in Tudor's group at the University of New Mexico brought me there and some pictures of the scenic environment on Sandia Peak will suffice to leave the reader in a relaxed mood when leaving this location...