Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Leprechaun land

Ahoy mate.  Rather than flip flopping blogs and posting on the other one just because it's in the northern hemisphere I'm going to stick to this one now and going forward. After all, I don't want to confuse what few readers I have.  The catalyst for this trip was...............you guessed it.......a wedding.  I'm fortunate that my friends choose exotic places to get married, but I've made them the promise that there's no destination short of the moon I won't go to celebrate a matrimony.  I once even went to LA and then to India 6 months later for the same nuptials.

This time it was for an ex-coworker of mine from London and a good mate of mine, Mark Williams.  After many, many years of dating the finally decided to tie the knot in a small town in Southwest Ireland called Adare.  It was my first time in Ireland and my only real goals on the trip were to A) find a Leprechaun  B) steal or at least negotiate with him for his pot of gold and C) have a Guinness.  The wedding venue was a manor and from what I can tell, it is the main attraction in Adare.  Initially, I was led to believe it was a castle, but in my strict definition of a castle, there must be a moat and a drawbridge.  Bonus points for something deadly swimming in the moat.  This one had water on one side and even though it didn't qualify as a castle in my book, it was nothing short of spectacular.

That out-of-place looking tree on the left is a Lebanese cedar that someone planted 100 years before the US existed.  

This picture is self explanatory.  That's my ex boss hanging out in the Pet Cemetery. 

Of course there was a wedding and it was glorious.  The bride looked beautiful and my mate, well, he looked good too.   

The blurriness of that picture is a direct result of me figuring out how to use the spiffy new camera my sister got me.  I think I was using about 8% of it's functionality during this trip so the good news is that it can only go up from here.  The important thing is that the newlyweds look happy cutting the cake and my mate is flashing his usual ear to ear grin.


Nothing like a gong to signal when it's time to move from one room to the next.  This was used about 5 times during the course of the night.  Really, there's nothing like it, I'm serious!   

On the list of things I shouldn't have taken a picture of, but did anyway, here is the beautiful bride helping out a fallen wedding guest who had a little too much Jameson and Guinness. It was a fun night filled with dancing and other shenanigans (that seems like an Irish word to me), but there was no leprechauns around.  

The next day I went to check out the golf course and to see if there was anything menacing in the river.  There wasn't anything so I posed on the bridge instead.  

After the weekend, I got a ride with the Best Man to Dublin which was 2 hours East of Adare.  I was initially surprised at how small a city Dublin is.  It wasn't the huge metropolis I was expecting, but this gave it a cozier feeling and was undoubtedly a good thing. 

It was there that I accomplished my 3rd goal.  I have never been a big Guinness fan, forcing it down once a  year on St. Paddy's day.  However, the rumor that it is better in Ireland is unequivocally true!  I love to taste the beers of the world wherever I go, and over there it was so much smoother going down.  A real pleasure. 

After Dublin I was so tired of planes after having taken a 14 hour flight from Argentina a couple days before my Ireland flight that I took the ferry over to the UK.  I later found out that most Londoners don't  know you can take a ferry to and from Ireland.  I'd shake my head, but most Floridians don't know the capital of Florida.  

Hey!  Look what I found on the ferry?  It's the newlyweds looking much more relaxed and chilled out.  Always much better to spend time post wedding with those that just tied the not.  Mark hates ferries, but they were able to load their car onto this one so he did it + fared quite well on it.  I have to apologize for basically wearing the same thing in every shot.  Even though my suitcase weighed a ton I only packed two sweaters and this was the warmest.  I normally don't care how much it weighs, but one wheel broke off on the way over so I was left carrying my luggage like it was the mid 80s for ten days in Europe.  They say the caveman invented the wheel + why it took till the 1990s to apply it to luggage I'll never know.  

After the ferry, I decided to take a train to London.  In case you're wondering, it takes about 2 hours and requires 2 transfers but like most European trains it's comfortable and easy.  On this ride there was a bonus of some unexpected entertainment going around my seat.  Even though I had my ipod in and was trying to catch the sunset scenery I could sense some mischief going on around me.  Basically there were two women and a child sitting in the same row on the other side of the aisle from me and a drunken guy in the seats in front of me.  I thought they knew each other at first.  The women were drinking too out of a flask + between the think accents, drunkenness and  cursing every other word, I could make out a tenth of what they were saying even though it was English (I think).  It was worse than being in Brazil and hearing Portuguese around me.  Anyway, after about 50 minutes of animated speaking someone alerted the police and they took the drunk man down.

This all happened behind my seat so I had to sneak pictures without the bobby seeing.  After being cuffed, the guy denied he said anything offensive and that he only wanted to get to London.  

Moving right along, I spent 5 days in London staying with my friend Ali, her husband and their adorable 4 year old Emma.  I even did some babysitting which was fun and got to see lots of friends.  I barely consider London an international city so no pictures from that one.  

I stopped in Scotland for a night to complete the tour of the UK and although it rained I had fun.  Their accents are the least decipherable of anywhere in the UK.  On my way back I had to go through Shannon (where I first landed) and had a half day to kill.  I was going to see a nearby castle, but it was a beautiful day and I was feeling ambitious so I went to the airport, compared all the car rentals and got on the road.  I was worried I would wreck since they drive on the other (not wrong) side of the road, but I took my chances and headed to North West Ireland.  My destination was...

The Cliffs of Moher

Like most natural marvels, pictures can't adequately convey the feeling of being there.  I had seen many pictures of the Grand Canyon and they looked cool, but the first time you see the Canyon in person it is breathtaking.  These cliffs were close to that level of magnificence, just not on the same large scale.  

 This is yet another of the 28 finalists for the New Seven wonders of the World.  To see the latest rankings go to http://www.new7wonders.com/community/en/new7wonders/new7wonders_of_nature/latest_ranking.  Surprisingly, the Canyon is not ranked very high at the moment.  Guess I have more to experience.  

I returned to NY not finding any leprechauns or pots of gold but was rich on experience (is that cheezy enough?).  The Irish people were very warm and helpful in every possible way.  I enjoyed seeing their country + the Irish bars in New York are reasonable facsimiles for food and Guinness, but I can honestly say that nothing beats the real thing.  

The Best Beef Stew I've ever had. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's the little things.

As my stolen summer days in Buenos Aires wind down I thought I'd take the camera out and document some of my travels around the city and what make it so great.  As Vincent says to Jules, "It's the little things...."

This is an ad on the side of the street for the recently released movie "No Strings Attached" (it was better than expected but I don't believe Natalie got any Oscar nominations or awards for this one).  Anyway, the poster made me laugh because literally translated it means "Friends with rights or benefits" which is pretty different to the English title even though the gist is the same.

Here is a picture from Puerto Madero a nice and very touristy spot of Buenos Aires.  Maybe it's the nearby buildings or brown water but if I didn't know any better, I could almost say it's the Thames River in London. Just on the other side of the river where I was standing was:

I don't believe the Thames has a Hooters on it.  The wings in Hooters are better than the articles in Playboy.

One nice thing about Buenos Aires these days is that this ad is everywhere.  That's Evangeline Lily (aka Kate from LOST).  It made me happy and simultaneously nostalgic for Lost but I won't get into that now.  

Taking a break from culture for a second I came across this guy:

Argentinos love their dogs just as much as New Yorkers do.  They just don't pick up after them nearly as much or effectively.  That is one little difference that I wish wasn't a difference at all.  Anyway, this dog looked like he had a beard and won for most adorable I had seen there or anywhere in a while.  

Switching gears, I found this restaurant in Palermo Soho which is one of my favorite spots in the city.   It takes its name from Soho of NYC and in my opinion is better.  This is an Aphrodisiac restaurant + the first one I've ever seen.  While I like the concept, I'm not sure it's so much the food as the wine that goes with it.  I've only heard of 2 foods that potentially have aphrodisiac qualities, oysters and chocolate, and oysters weren't even on their menu.  Still I applaud the novelty of the idea and hope they were fully booked on Valentine's day. 

Also in Palermo Soho was this band.  The trumpets and wooden guitar in the middle were a nice touch + there were around 100 people gathered around them on that day.  I stayed, listened for a bit and left fired up. 

And thus concludes my short stint in Argentina this year.  I must return to the northern hemisphere to go to the land of leprechauns and pots of gold for my next adventure.  I promise to have new and sharper quality pictures thanks to my sister.  Buenos noches amigos....

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Dog days of Summer

While I'd like to make the focal point of today's blog something we've not covered before like that nutty Superbowl halftime show or quantum vs. classical physics but instead it's going to be about, yes, tennis.  (At least it's not more LOST).  The twist this time is that it's not about me playing (I use that term loosely).  This week last year I was in Rio learning about the craziest party in the world hence I missed the annual tennis tournament that rolls into town here for the week. It's no Lipton, US Open or Wimbledon but it has it's own charm and some of the best red clay courters in the world.

I was so eager to check it out, that I went to both days of Qualifying.  These are the days before the tournament even starts where 32 guys you've never heard of try to win 3 matches in a row to get one of 4 spots in the main draw.  These dudes are literally playing for a paycheck and it's not really a big one at that.  That doesn't mean the competition or skill level is any less intense.

That's one of the final qualifying matches in the nice stadium they have for the main matches.  There's a few things to be gleaned from this picture.  The first is that although the stadium looks empty, most people were sitting on our side or behind me in the shade to escape the hot hot heat.  I know I won't get any sympathy from my New york mates but I think we went 5 days in a row with not a cloud in the sky.  The sun just beats down on you till 730pm at night.  The other thing to note is LOOK AT WHERE THIS  GUY IS HITTING A FOREHAND FROM!?  He's a good 2 feet outside the doubles alley.  There is such stroke as a backhand but some of the players here will do anything use their strength and this guy hit a winner inside out from there so what do I know?

My buddy Pedro is good pals with the coach of a russian player named Igor Andreev.

I took a picture in his first round match when he came to net because that doesn't happen often especially on the slow clay.  Unfortunately, he lost that match but he is still alive in the doubles which is good for free tickets. 

In case you forgot what Pedro looks like he is the same as last year.  We've been hanging out every day and he's not quite tired of me yet, but I'm working on it.  One day we went to the tournament with all of the kids he trains.

That made me nostalgic for my days of teaching kids.  Screw you Wall St. for making me jaded and bitter.  Actually I'm not that jaded nor bitter but David Ferrer looks like it with that face he's making in the background.


In a nice touch they also have night matches here as relief from the incessant sun.  That's an up and coming player named Alexander Dogopolov.  He made the quarters at the Aussie Open already this year and has a very unorthodox game.  That is him right after he makes contact on a serve and look at the air he gets.   Who says white guys can't jump?  He lost this match of course, but I think he can make a serious run at Wimbledon given the way he plays.  Remember you heard that here first.
When we weren't suffocating in the heat we were doing what most Argentines do for dinner in groups. 

That's right, an ASADO.  It's very similar to an American style BBQ except the grill looks and works a bit different.  Here Pedro is supervising something.  

Here, I'm not sure what he's doing but the rest of us are happy after the tasty burgers.  

Aside from the above everything has been very tranquilo.  The girls whose Iphone I found took me to an Argentine brewery which was very nice of her as payback for returning it (as well as getting me two bottles of wine).  I'll take that over the $50 cool hard cash any day.  It rained all day today which was sorely needed so I stayed home and traded RIMM stock at options expiry making 5 positive trades which I'm fired up about.  We shall see what the weekend brings.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Back to basics....again

Buenos dias muchachos!  In an effort, to confuse my loyal readers (the 3 of you know who you are), I have switched back to my original blog URL because, well, I'm back south of the equator and this was the reason I started the blog in the first place.  Unlike last year, I wasn't even planning a trip down south.  I was starting to get serious about either growing the company I started or finding a jobby job.  When New York was getting pummeled by it's 10th snow storm in mid January, I couldn't take anymore.  Don't get me wrong, I like snow when it's falling.  As a native Floridian, the number of times I saw snow was exactly the same as the number of Super Bowls I've played in.  So even now, it's still a novel and enchanting event.  What gets old quick is the slushy sidewalks and dirty snow that lingers in the days that follow, making the trip down the street to get lunch a chore.  "But Alex", you say, "that's what delivery guys are for".  This is true however then you don't leave your apartment for days and begin to get depressed and/or slowly lose your mind.

But I digress, I am back in Buenos Aires this time for a shorter but no less exciting stay.  I landed yesterday and wasn't thinking too much about it, but now that I'm here and the jetlag is fading I had forgotten what a wonderful place this is.  It truly does feel like anything is possible here and that feeling is nearly impossible to convey in writing (pun intended).  That might seem strange coming from someone who lives in New York (where dreams and people are made), but there is something inspiring in Bs As.  It might be the extreme creativity that people possess, or that speaking another language is a challenge and makes everything more interesting for me.  Life seems easier and this year I have friends from last year and that makes a substantial difference.  It's probably just the fact that it's summer. 

For those that are new to my experiences here, let's quickly recap.  I am staying in a little part of the city called Las Canitas where the nightlife goes all ummm.....night.  I am staying at the studio of this guy:

That's Dominic and the little meatball (his words), Dante

His studio has a pool on the roof that welcomes gringos like me

30 feet away is a restaurant called Campobravo which makes excellent empanadas and steaks like this one.  I took this picture (and the others) a year ago but had this exact meal tonight.  Those are garlic fries and that sauce is grioja (tomatoes, onions and olive oil) and tastes as good as anything I've put on steak (including Lugars steak sauce).  Delicioso!

30 mins away by foot is the most famous tennis club in Buenos Aires where Guillermo Vilas plays (who the club is named after) and Juan Martin del Potro (2009 US Open champ) among others.  

Also there are yoga and tango lessons I take as well as a casino that is thankfully far enough away for me to consider going frequently.  I almost died and got punched for the first time last year down here, so if I'm not careful I can find myself in a predicament.  I hate carrying my camera with me everywhere for this blog (I'm already recycling pictures) so I might do more talking this year. 

So far, only one thing of note is worth mentioning.  After 18 hours of  travel, including a Brazilian layover, I arrived discombobulated.  I went to get the cart for my luggage (they are free here) and while waiting I noticed a small pocketbook in the basket of the cart I chose.  I looked around to make sure I wasn't on candid camera + opened it.  Inside were some papers, cigarettes and an Iphone.   Now, this is the 3rd time I've encountered an Iphone left by itself in a public place.  Each time little angel and devil popped up on my shoulders for a minute about what to do since the devil knows I want an Iphone.  However each time, the angel wins since I know what a nightmare it is to lose your phone, and I return it a few days later.  The going rate apparently is $50 since I received that both previous times.  I was curious what it would be in another country and found out today when the owner came by.  Apparently it is worth 2 nice bottles of Argentine red wine. 

So now that you're all caught up, we shall see what 2011 brings amigos...