Jun 27, 2010

Rüdesheim am Rhein

We are invited by a friend to spend a few days at his place in Altheim, near Frankfurt, Germany. Where to go, what to visit? We suggest Rüdesheim, because it's not far, it's famous for its Reingau (Rhine) wines, and we've never been there before.

We arrive by ferry from the other bank, and it rains. A tourist trap under a cloud? 

The lunch, schnitzels, is excellent, even though German schnitzels, as a rule, are not thin enough. It is served with a local sauce, Rüdesheimer Sauce, with a hint of the local brandy, Asbach-Uralt. I also order a glass of the local whine, which is, as expected, disappointing (Rüdesheim is simply located too far up north; there is not enough sun for a decent wine).

Rüdesheim, under the rain

What to do next? We take the cable car up the hill, and discover the official monument of the War 70/71.

Jun 26, 2010

New Bern, North Carolina

What was this?

Yes, it was a bear, or at least a representation of one.

The "logo," of New Bern is the bear, Ann explains at the reception of the local Hampton Inn, and since the town is celebrating its 300's birthday, bears are all over the place.

The local tourist board (Ann is a member) asked businesses to commission a bear of their liking (inside fairly strict rules). America at its best.

New Bern's claim to fame? It's the birthplace of Pepsi Cola.

Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

What was this?

Yes, it was the first aeroplane, the first vessel that would lift off, fly, and land entirely on its own power. The Wright Brothers developed it and it flew on Dec. 17, 1903, in the dunes of Kitty Hawk.

The place sits on the OBX, the outer banks of North Carolina, a chain of sand banks, not unlike the Frisian Islands of the North Sea.

Jun 21, 2010

Jun 19, 2010

Rehoboth Beach (postcript)

It's a pity that our host had already left when the Republican Club of Rehoboth started to erect an enormous statue right between Rehoboth Av. and the beach.

The statue is dedicated to Peggy Noonan's famous 2004 column in the Wall Street Journal about George W. Bush, and when it is finished, an inbuilt recorder will speak her unforgettable words in an infinite loop:
"Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man. He’s normal. He thinks in a sort of common-sense way. He speaks the language of business and sports and politics. You know him. He’s not exotic. But if there’s a fire on the block, he’ll run out and help. He’ll help direct the rig to the right house and count the kids coming out and say, “Where’s Sally?” He’s responsible. He’s not an intellectual. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world."

Jun 16, 2010

Burlington, Vermont

We had barely arrived in the North-East Kingdom, or Perry would haul us off to visit an old friend, Big Al, in Burlington. Burlington is in the Guinness league, twice, for being the largest city of Vermont (more than 10k inhabs), and for being the cloudiest city of the continental US. It borders on the Lake Champlain (pictured), which is widely held responsible for the microclimate.

I had never seen the sun in Burlington before, but it did shine upon our arrival for dinner with Big Al and Helen, his lovely wife, whom we had last seen in December of 1988, when we had been invited to her perfect Christmas Dinner. Nothing had changed, of course.

Al is an emeritus of the University of Vermont, and we could not resist the invitation to his alma mater.

The University is home to the Dudley H. Davis Center, where the university's coop is located (T-shirts, Maple syrup), and where the Value Hall enshrines the values of the university. Respect, Openness, Integrity, Innovation, Responsibility. "Why not Justice," a Senior Vice President of Academic Communication must have asked during interminable Power Point Presentations. Was she fired? No, justice was duly added to the value spectrum,  and is missing only from the picture because our Samsung travel camera does not do wide angles.

We however, are in a spiky mode. Why Justice, we ask Big Alk, even though we know the answer already. Stay tuned.

Jun 12, 2010

Hilton Head

We had been invited by Lesley and Cory---not for the first time, we should add, they had invited us to a place in the Alpilles in the Provence region in 2005 (after a week that they had rented out house), and to their condo in Chicago in 2007. This time, it's Hilton Head, South Carolina. Another condo of theirs.

We have barely arrived or are hauled off to a dinner at a delicious restaurant (pictured above, under Live Oak trees covered with Spanish moss).


Hilton Head has a rich history. It was a major outpost of the Union Army in the Civil War, and became a settlement area after the war for emancipated African Americans, the Gullahs, who developed their own language, still spoken locally.

Its main attraction is the beach, possibly the best beach I've ever seen, warm, luscious, breezy, sexy, with long stretches for solitary encounters, and wild life to match. The finest sand in the world.

Columbia, South Carolina

Located on Congaree River's fall line from the Appalachian Mountains (fall line: the spot where rivers become unnavigable for vessels sailing upstream, and simultaneously the spot farthest downstream where falling water can usefully power a mill), Columbia serves as the long-suffering capital of South Carolina. As we are following the Two Point Rd. from our hotel in the direction of downtown, we expect traffic to intensify. Instead, traffic calms down to a mere trickle. On a Saturday, the business district is completely quiet. Situated at its heart, the Convention Center provides interesting views over the Congaree Valley.

(The place appears to have had a historic downtown which was destroyed 1865 in a fire at the end of the Civil War, etc. wiki. etc. wiki.)

Jun 1, 2010

Hyatt Harborside Boston

We arrive at the Hyatt Harborside next to Boston's Logan airport at 3:30 in the morning (our time). With a valet parking price tag of US$ 36,00, this must be a good hotel. We are tired and plan on a quiet room service evening, but Chang reads the fine print of the room-side menu: "All Room Service orders are subject to State and Local taxes, a Delivery Charge of $3.00, a service charge of 15% and an administration fee of 3%. Only the service charge is given to service personnel."

View of downtown Boston from the Hyatt

Why is the "Delivery Charge" in large caps but the "service charge" in small caps? We are getting suspicious of the Room Service, and descend to the Hyatt Harbor-Side Grill, where the outside patio with a view of downtown Boston across the harbor is closed because of smog ("Air Quality Alert"). Only minor confusion arises as we enter the grill --- stop, we do not enter the grill where we would burn on freshly ground charcoal, we enter the Grill --- enter the Grill at the wrong entrance, and only one waiter is irritated.

Chang reads the menu backwards but cannot find a dish below $36.00. I read the winelist backwards and cannot find a bottle of wine below $36.00. Thirty-Six Dollars is the lower bound of the financial algebra of this hotel. They must have hired a marketing psychologist from HBS across the Charles River to figure this out. "Why not $40.00," a pugnacious junior executive must have asked pointlessly during interminable Power Point Presentations. Was she fired?

Chang declares his lack of hunger. I declare a certain lack of alcoholism, and settle for one glass of Mondavi Chardonnay, an utterly pointless white wine served in an utterly smallish carafe.

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