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Tim Foolery

Home » 2015 » April (Page 2)

Monthly Archives: April 2015

Sixt Rental Car Update

I wrote about our Thanksgiving Rental with Sixt Rental Car in France and how I thought their service was subpar.  Most of the comments/emails I received were basically in agreement, but not necessarily about Sixt – just that every Rental Car Company is crap and you should just focus on the best price and move on.  I don’t disagree with that, but I still think that basics of customer service should be adhered to.

After I posted my issues with Sixt, I received a very quick tweet asking for me to DM (Direct Message) my reservation info to them and they’d do more research.  That’s one of the great things about social media – after you’ve tried traditional channels to get a problem resolved you can take to Twitter or Facebook, etc and try again.

I sent our reservation info back and explained what had happened.  Then I waited.  And waited.  I wasn’t sure what I was waiting for.  I guess I had hoped that they’d reimburse us for the road side assistance extra expense we incurred because their assistance wouldn’t help us.  At least, I thought I’d get an apology that no one had gotten back to me, but that’s all they could do. What did I get? Nothing. I sent my info, as requested by Sixt and that was it.  No further correspondence or response period.

Honestly, I would have rather just been ignored, than have someone give me the indication that they’d look into the situation and offer assistance.  Just a tease.  I shouldn’t be surprised.  Their real time customer assistance was non-existent.

We are off to Italy in a few weeks and will need to rent a car again (God I hate rental cars) – even if Sixt is the best priced, I’m going to veto that rental.  I’d rather take my chances with another company and have the hope that if we do need assistance they’ll be there to help.

I know – I just need to let it go.  This is the last you’ll hear of my issues with Sixt.

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Transit Quiz

I love mass transit.  I live in Chicago and have been car-less since 2001.  One of the reasons I chose to move to Chicago was the extensive transit system.  I feel very fortunate to live in a City where I can be without a car and not feel trapped in a small area of the City.

I stumbled across this transit quiz somehow this week and was surprised by not only how many Cities I could pick out just by the transit system (here’s a hint — see if you can make out the shore lines where transit lines come to an abrupt end) and by how useless some of these systems seem to be.  If you live and work along one of those lines it would be great, but you are really stuck in your own little area.  You’d likely need a car to live your daily life – to go to the doctor, the grocery or to visit friends.

All Transit – Image courtesy of alltransit.cnt.org.

I am spoiled by living in Chicago.  I am disappointed at how little we spend on mass transit in the US and even more disappointed in how we as Americans aren’t fighting for this basic urban right.  Higher population density demands an effective mass transit system.  It reduces vehicles on the roads, pollutants and stress (that last one is just my perception).

I found San Diego, NY, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco and Milwaukee to be the easiest.  These Cities have full transit systems that hug the shores.  Each round has 10 questions, with each round getting progressively harder (some of the systems are impossible to guess, unless you are very familiar with the area – as there are just one or two routes intertwined).  I scored 7, 8, 4, 5 correct in each of the rounds.  How did you do on this quiz?

Street Markets and Food

After our visit to Victoria Peak we headed down to Nathan Lane and started walking north with a plan to stroll through the various open air fruit and vegetable markets, and to see the sea food stalls.  We were using the TripAdvisor mobile City Guide to help us find our way around.  The app worked reasonably well and we only got slightly lost, once or twice.

I really enjoy these open air markets. They are so different from what we have in the US.  I’m use to getting my meat from the butcher counter or the freezer section – not from a stall on the street with the meat being stored at room temperature.  It is my American upbringing that makes me very nervous about this type of market.  I’ve never purchased food at a market like this, but I still love strolling down the aisles, listening to people haggle (even though I don’t understand what is being said).  I love seeing the little old ladies picking up their food for the day and for their families.  So much fresher and it seems so much more healthy (despite the questionable storage techniques).

This woman has worked a long day in the market.  Look at all those choices.

This woman has worked a long day in the market. Look at all those choices.

Look at these prawns.

Look at these prawns.

Fresh fish waiting to be your dinner.

Fresh fish waiting to be your dinner.

Very large carrots and other root vegetables.

Very large carrots and other root vegetables.

Dozens of bowls containing small shellfish including snails

Dozens of bowls containing small shellfish including snails

Hong Kong Meat Market

Hong Kong Meat Market

Fruits and Veggies

Fruits and Veggies

Aubergines and Cabbage

Aubergines and Cabbage

The crowded market in Kowloon

The crowded market in Kowloon

We’ve visited these type of markets in Shanghai and various points in Vietnam and even though I never purchase anything here, I love visiting.  The sights, the smells, the energy – it is such a departure from what we see in the western world.  Do you make a point to visit these markets when you travel or do you try to stay away?

Hutong (Dinner)

After our mediocre dinner at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon on Friday night, I didn’t have really high expectations for our Saturday night dinner at Hutong.  Hutong came highly recommended by 2 friends – they both loved the view and said the food was great.  Hutong is located on the 28th Floor of One Peking Road.  This 30 story sky-scraper is located in the Tsim Sha Tsui area of Kowloon on the corner of Peking Road and Canton Road, adjacent to the Peking Road Metro Station (among other Stations as well).

I’ve said before, how I enjoy going to high places (buildings, hills, etc) to get a better view of the surrounding area, but I’ve never really found the food at these locations to really be worth it.  If a restaurant has a great view, more often than not, you’ll hear people talk about the view and not the food.  In any event, it came highly recommended so we gave it a try.

The Lunar Gate. Photo courtesy of Hutong.com.hk

 

Dining Room overlooking the Hong Kong Skyline. Photo courtesy of Hutong.com.hk

We had reservations for 20h00 and we arrived about about 15 minutes early.  We were told to wait off in the corner until our table was ready.  About 5 minutes into our wait we were offered a wine list, but the server never returned to take our order.  At exactly 20h00 we were shown to our seats.  I chose this reservation time because the Symphony of Lights begins promptly at 20h00 and this restaurant is designed to highlight this spectacular light show.  The Symphony of Lights is a daily phenomenon in Hong Kong, organized by the Tourism Board to showcase the beauty of the Hong Kong Architecture and natural surroundings.  This light show is timed to accompanying music that was piped into the restaurant as well as various viewpoints around the harbor.  It was a bit cloudy when we were there, so my photos are pretty much crap – but if you Google the “Symphony of Lights – Hong Kong”, you’ll see what I’m talking about.  The show lasts for 14 minutes.  The show started as we were being seated at our table and the servers kept away for the entire light show.  It was nice that they weren’t in our way or disrupting other patrons pictures, although, I would have enjoyed a drink during the show.

Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera to dinner this evening, so all my pictures are just awful – my phone didn’t do the venue justice.  All the photos I’m including herein are the official photos from the Hutong website.  To watch the light show we were seated on the same side of the table.  When we sat down, I didn’t even realize that both place settings were on the same side, I instinctively sat across from my friend and everyone around me had a good laugh.

We decided to order family style and started with the abalone carpaccio.  This was my first time eating abalone – I honestly didn’t realize it was a sea snail – when I read abalone on the menu, I thought “abacore” – a tuna species.  The abalone was very good – served very clean, just with a bit of green onion oil.

We then had the thick cut pork belly which was served with cucumber and a garlic sauce.  I thought this pork belly was great – sometimes I find pork belly just to be a big wad of fried pork fat, with very little meat and little enhancements to the flavor.  This was a nice mix of fat and meat and a great flavor.

Next up, we had the Kung Po Style Chili Prawns.  Of this dish, all I remember is the cashews that came with it.  Not a winning endorsement, I know.  For our main, we had the crispy duck, which was sliced and served with another green onion sauce and Chinese pancakes.  The duck was my favorite item on the menu.

We had a nice Bordeaux wine with this dinner – I couldn’t stray from the French theme we’d been sticking with so far on this trip.

When we were finishing up our meal, there was another show – this time inside the restaurant.  The chef entered the dining room and provided a demonstration on how to make Chinese noodles.  The music turned up and he began flinging the dough around, rolling it, stretching it and within 5-7 minutes he went from one large ball of dough to dozens of feet of thin noodles.  It was great to watch, except that everyone was pushing trying to get the best picture of the spectacle.  I was interested in watching – and enjoying my wine, not taking the best action shot in history.

My expectations were low.  The service was a bit shoddy.  The food was very good and the two shows (light show and noodle show) were both quite enjoyable.  I would recommend that first time visitors head on up to Hutong for the shows and a meal.  It is definitely designed for tourists, but the food wasn’t of standard tourist quality.  While I don’t think I’d go back on my own for a meal here, if I were traveling with a Hong Kong virgin, I would return to show them the spectacle.