Posts tagged ‘Travel Tales’

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.

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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.