December 3, 2010

World Traveler: Travel Gifts from NYT

I love gift guides, and I love the New York Times Travel magazine (as you may have deduced from my past post on Bill Clinton). It should come as no surprise, then, that I love the gift guide the New York Times Travel magazine posted last week. The most exciting item on that list for me was the Bheestie Bag. If you frequently drop your gadgets into liquids, you might want to consider investing the twenty dollars. It’s an ingenious little bag that absorbs moisture and will suck the wet right out of your phone. This would have come in handy sophomore year of high school when I dropped my camera in the ocean, you know, just for kicks, and lost a week’s worth of memories. So if you’re still looking for a Christmas present for me, I’ll take one of these tech savers. And a time machine.

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November 26, 2010

World Traveler: Google Street View

Jon Rafman’s blog “The Nine Eyes of Google Street View” offers the immobile traveler a new way to see the world. Rafman captures images from Google street view, a feature that many have taken issue with because of its unencumbered access to people’s worlds and lives. Rafman is currently showing the images in his exhibition “Free” at New Museum in New York (20 Oct 2010 – 23 Jan 2011). The pictures are sometimes funny, often shocking and in a way, humbling. The camera captures people against their will and, apart from blurred out faces, censors nothing. The internet has drastically reconstructed the meaning of public space.

November 25, 2010

Some World Traveler…

I’m by no means an amateur traveler. I rode my first plane when I was one, and I rode my first plane solo when I was 11. It came as somewhat of a surprise that yesterday I pulled a fatal, rookie travel blunder. I flew from Boston to Buffalo to spend Thanksgiving with my boyfriend’s family. After take-off, I looked down and noticed that my bag had tipped over and my notebook had slipped out. Oh, I thought, and that’s all I thought. Six hours later, after hellos and hugs and dinner and after-dinner and dessert, I look for my wallet and start panicking. Yup, it’s not here. It must’ve fallen out on the plane. We call the airport and the airlines and get in touch with the Baggage Service Office. Long story short, they found it, they have it, can we come and pick it up tonight? Yes, absolutely. My boyfriend and his brother went back to the airport to get it. He called me on the way home, “I’ve got your wallet. Now, you have your passport, right?” “Psh,” I said, “Of course I have my passport. It’s right…um…yeah…crap.” “I have your passport.”

I am so embarrassed, you don’t even understand. “Don’t worry, everybody loses stuff,” they comforted me. I don’t! From now on, I’m being doubly paranoid when I travel. I throw caution to the wind and look what happens! I hope my parents don’t read this.

November 11, 2010

World Traveler: Paris vs New York

Graphic designer Vahram Muratyan has come up with a wonderful art project — Paris vs New York: A Tally of Two Cities. And boy, does he hit the nail on the head. The parallels he discovers make me laugh, and I especially love “La Romantique” with Amelie and Carrie, two of my personal romantic heroines. (Carrie from the show, not the movies. Definitely not the movies.) The project reaffirms what makes these two cities icons in themselves, and why “Paris” and “New York” have become adjectives to describe different levels of chic and fabulous over the past few years. Check out the rest of the prints here.

November 10, 2010

Flashback: Life Is Good

A couple of days ago, I looked down at my most-worn pair of boots and noticed that they looked weird. They used to be a nice polished grey, and after four years of frequent use, they have a cool vintage weathered look, but looking at them, I noticed that the toe was discolored an odd khaki-tan. Upon closer inspection, the tan turned out to be dust and dirt, and I realized it was the residue from a trip out to Canton, MA, back in September for the Life is Good festival. (I should start cleaning my boots.)

The festival was a two day event but we only went on the second day to see Guster and Jason Mraz. Getting to Canton from Boston meant taking the commuter rail for the first time, which was a 20-minute non-adventure, and to get to the 40-acre farm that hosted the festival took another bus ride. But not just any bus ride. On September 12, 2010, I rode my very first yellow schoolbus. It wasn’t as magical as I’d been led to believe it would be (a friend of mine calls me Miss Frizzle because of my hair, and because we’re not friends), but I was still pretty excited. I won’t lie, though: I’ve been more comfortable sitting in coach on a transatlantic flight. But that was one more thing off the bucket list! Another thing I can check off? Seeing Guster.

The first Guster song I ever heard was “Amsterdam”, and it was the gateway drug that triggered my addiction. Or something like that. I put Guster on repeat when I was packing for college, and whenever I listen to “Careful”, I’m immediately transported back to my room deciding which useless thing I should leave, and which I should bring before ultimately packing both. I packed so many useless things. But Guster will forever be the soundtrack to my last summer living at home, and I mean that in a wonderful way.

Unfortunately their set at Life is Good was short, but it was also wonderful. There’s nothing like standing in a field with a couple hundred strangers scream-singing and counting down “4, 3, 2, 1…”. My boyfriend had to explain to me what “Barrel of a Gun” was actually about, though. I won’t write it out, but let’s just say it’s a euphemism, and that the song makes so much more sense now.

The farm was the perfect place for the festival. Even though Boston isn’t a particularly “Big City” city, getting away from it for an evening was a nice change of pace. And getting away from it to see Guster was a pretty great excuse.

 

November 2, 2010

World Traveler: New York, London & Moscow

I love typography, and when I saw these on Flyer Design Goodness by London design studio I Love Dust, I felt compelled to share them.

Wouldn’t be cool if the mountains in Moscow were actually giant Matryoshka dolls?

October 29, 2010

World Traveler: Dave Lumenta

This is my cousin Dave.

Dave is the oldest of our cousins, and my being the youngest meant that by the time I was born, Dave was already grown up. Never mind the age gap, we lived so far apart anyway that my sister and I never got to know him. He didn’t play with us when we visited, we were little kids, and we didn’t really care what he was up to. Now, as I’m finally getting to know him, turns out he’s been up to a lot.

Dave is an anthropologist. He specializes in Southeast Asian cultures, especially in Indonesia and Borneo, where he’s visited places so remote, he’s been the first outsider allowed in by the people. The above photograph with the severed cow head was taken in West Kalimantan, on the Indonesian side of Borneo, in 2001.

Dave has seen and done things we will most likely never even think about experiencing. And maybe it’s better that way — the preservation of as-of-yet untouched cultures is worrisome. Globalization is an unstoppable phenomenon. He hasn’t updated his blog since 2007, but you can check it out here. His photographs capture the cultures he encounters in a way that is both intriguing and eerie.

His most recent photographs of Jakarta, which he calls “A Dystopian¬†Megalopolis.”

 

This is toxic foam.

These are from his trips to Borneo:

Struggling up the Tekelan river to the Gerugu Naris gorges

Batang Kanyau became the frontline for Indonesian-Malaysian confrontations from 1963-66

Seven needles are bound together to block the colour

The skin swells as it’s injected with soot. Salt is the only disinfectant

For Apai Linggong (1945-2003), his tattoos are his life story. He got this one after he traveled on an airplane for the first time when he went to work in Sarawak in 1975. The other tattoos are traditional designs.

October 27, 2010

Travel Tales: Bill Clinton Ate Here

The New York Times Travel Magazine posted an article on Monday called “Restaurants’ Best Press: ‘Bill Clinton Ate Here’,” and I giggled. I know this strategy all too well. I have fallen prey to this marketing tactic. Two summers ago, Family Summer 2008, my family and I went on a culinary trek through Holland in honor of Bill Clinton. We were in search of Bill Clinton’s poffertjes.

A few members of my extended family had gathered in Holland before we all headed off to Belgium for my cousin’s wedding. My Aunt Jane had lived in Amsterdam some forty years ago and was really in the mood for some poffertjes.

Poffertjes are balls of fried pancake dough, and they’re amazing. Fluffy and warm and crispy and buttery, they’re served with your basic breakfast food condiments — Nutella, jam, more butter, powdered sugar, syrup, fruit and cream. My mom said that we would be road tripping to a small town called Delft to find a cafe rumored to have the best pofferjtes in the land. “How do you know?” I asked. “Because Bill Clinton ate there!” Ah, of course.

So it wasn’t that much of a trek, more like an hour in the car. Delft is a beautiful little town. If they hadn’t been able to get the permits to film in Bruges, you can be pretty sure Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes would have had their shoot-out in this canal. A fairy tale town.

The cafe, in the middle of the town square, was not shy about their Bill Clinton affiliation. There was a photo in the window, almost the size of a life-size cutout. The wall outside the bathrooms was dedicated to him. Newspaper clippings, framed photographs, a signed napkin. Hillary would pop up here and there but for the most part, it was Bill-only. It is the most concentrated amount of Bill Clinton I’ve ever experienced. And he ate here in 1997. I’m actually surprised their awning wasn’t just a picture of Bill’s face, throwing everyone a thumbs up, “Best pofferjtes in the land!” The menu featured the picture from the window, Bill arm-in-arm with the owner, next to “The Bill Clinton Special” — strawberries and cream. That’s what I ordered, and that’s what I’ll order again. Simple but classic. Thanks, Bill!

Walking through the square, feeling thoroughly satisfied and pleased with the former President, we passed three other poffertjes places that advertised the exact same thing with the photographic evidence to back it up. So much for brand loyalty.

October 18, 2010

Travel Tales: Airlines Hate Us

©BudgetTravel.com

Last month, Budget Travel posted a list of 8 things an airline can do but would never actually tell you. It’s the kind of article you want to print and whip out the next time you’re at the airport and the nice lady behind the counter is charging you an overweight luggage fee. You want to go, “Hoooold it,” look at her over the top of your reading glasses and ask if she’s so sure about that. You’re no chump! Or at least that’s what I’m going to do.

To be fair to the airlines, I understand number four — an airline won’t tell passengers right away if there’s an emergency. My mother used to be a flight attendant and she explained that it’s basically like yelling, “Fire!” in a movie house. (Though, oddly, you could yell “Movie!” in a fire house without consequence. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.) If there’s nothing the passengers can do to help anyway, better not to give them something that’ll frighten them. There’s enough to be afraid of already.

Cracked.com has a special knack for making traveling mishaps simultaneously hilarious and terrifying. I read their article “7 True Stories That Prove the Airlines Hate Us” a year ago and haven’t been able to forget it. I’ve used the story of the time United Airlines set a woman’s luggage on fire and then kind of just, whatever, shrugged about it, as a conversation piece on several occasion. Their earlier article “The 7 Dumbest Things Ever Done By Airport Security,” as retold by me, has also gotten some laughs. If anything, Cracked makes me a funnier person to be around. But every silver lining has its cloud, and in this case, that cloud would be the gnawing paranoia I now unwillingly pack whenever I head to the airport. (For a very brief moment I was terrified of what would happen if “Sarah Schneider” made it onto the no-fly list. There are a million Sarah Schneiders! My boyfriend even has a cousin named Sarah Schneider. Isn’t it entirely possible that one of them is an international arms dealer not allowed to travel internationally anymore? The paranoia!)

It’s not all Cracked’s fault, though. The Journey Home Christmas 2009 plays a major supporting role. I won’t go into too much detail, but to give an overview: My flight plan was Boston — New York — Chicago — Shanghai. I almost missed my connection in New York, but then was lucky enough to sit next to a very chatty drunk guy. So lucky. Before take-off, he told me how he’s an aspiring actor, and how much it sucks that he has to shoot a movie in New Orleans because “there’s nothing down there. Well, anymore,” and how he wished he were in Texas with his best friend Brett, who shoots guns and drives a Lamborghini, possibly at the same time. I think then he drunk-dialed his grandma? Anyway. After my nine-hour layover in Chicago, we boarded the plane and I fell asleep. I woke up two hours later to discover we hadn’t taken off yet, and instead they’d asked us to disembark. Our plane was defective and we needed to sit tight for eight hours until the good plane got to O’Hare. I missed Christmas Eve, but my family had another one in my honor.

I know that’s not actual proof that the airlines hate us (they gave everyone a coupon for the airport; that was nice, and they did possibly save us from crashing what with giving us a plane that flies and all), but it’s travel stories like the ones on Budget Travel and Cracked, and even my own, that instill travel cynicism that’s pretty hard to shake. Luckily, it hasn’t done any permanent damage yet, but it has added a kind of thrill to it all. The gamble of whether this trip’s going to go smoothly, or if it’ll be a story we’ll still be telling next Christmas.

October 7, 2010

Travel Tales: Paris Signage

It shouldn’t be that much of a shock to find out that I’m a little bit in love with Paris. Kind of like everyone else in the world. Even a recent first-time viewing of Taken starring the incredible Liam Neeson didn’t convince me otherwise. But it did make me pretty suspicious of overly nice guys at airports named Peter. Sidenote: That movie, much to the chagrin of my parents, came out right around when I went on my chaperone-less Eurotrip. Can’t tell you how relieved I am that I only watched it two nights ago. But Paris!

Possibly the best way to get to know a city, and I will argue this in court, is to simply walk around. My junior year of high school, our French teacher took our class to Paris, and that’s what we did. We walked around. A lot. I had been to Paris before with my parents, but I’d never walked around like that. When I sit in a cafe, reading a book or a magazine, having coffee and people watching, I picture I’m in Paris. It feels like that nonchalant cafe chic ambiance is translated throughout the whole city, which makes it so easy to aimlessly wander the streets and never be lost. So maybe you can imagine how much I loved this post on Imprint on Paris signage.

The typography, although not flashy, is characteristic of Paris — cool and distinct, manicured but minimal and casual. With amazing eclairs.