What a shock! I was nominated for a Sunshine Blogger Award. This came as a complete surprise. I was nominated by the wildly entertaining Karlie from Wandering Nobody. I’m reviewing and writing this from the dismal Air France lounge at O’Hare as I wait to board my EVA flight to Singapore (via TPE, of course). A little prosscco should get the creative juices flowing.
Head on over to Wandering Nobody and see what Karlie is up to! Send her my love once you are there too!
The Sunshine Blogger Award is about recognizing bloggers for being positive, inspiring, and creative. This award is voted by bloggers to acknowledge their achievements and offer support. I feel quite fortunate to be a part of this community!!
What are the rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award?
Thank the blogger who nominated you and link their blog so others can find them.
Answer the 11 questions which the blogger who nominated you asked.
Nominate 11 bloggers and ask them 11 different questions
List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog site.
Let’s take a look at the questions that were posed to me, shall we?
What is the weirdest food you have tried? I love food and I love trying new things, but I struggled with coming up with the weirdest food, then it hit me: CUY! Guinea Pig is quite the delicacy in Peru, so we had to try it. No, it didn’t taste like chicken…it tasted just like the herbs it was cooked in. It did remind me of chicken wings though — a lot of work for not much meat. I guess I’m a lazy eater.
What is one thing you have been surprised with (good or bad) since getting into blogging? Great question! I think I’m most surprised when I get an comment or an email about a blog post. I know that’s the whole point of this gig, right? Being creative and engaging with the audience. It still boggles my mind that people actually read my ramblings and offer comments, jokes and support. I don’t really get many (any?) trolls or jerks.
What is the worst experience traveling you have had? Back to the trip to Peru and Bolivia for this one again. After a bout of food poisoning near Machu Picchu, I was stricken with crippling altitude sickness in La Paz. I was never so happy to be back at Sea Level in my life. I lost 12 pounds in two weeks on that trip. Sometimes I think about going back, just for the weight loss option!
What is the best experience traveling you have had? I think my favorite experiences are when I’m traveling in a land and I can (attempt) to speak the local language – AND most importantly have a proper conversation. I’ve studied Spanish, German and French and am not fluent in any of those, but I’ve got enough skills (skillz?) to conduct a bit of business in each of them (food, directions, hotels, booze). It is so rewarding to see your hard work pay off. You also get so much more from a trip if you can understand the local language, history and culture.
If you could be any bird, which bird would you be and why? Well, I wasn’t expecting this question. I’d say, I’d like to be an ostrich. While I do love to fly, I don’t think I’d like to do it under my own power. They are fast runners, strong and seem to have a unique personality. Plus, I’d like to be a tasty bird, and ostrich wellington is fabulous.
What is your favorite topic to write about and why? My favorite topics are the ones that encourage people to step outside of their comfort zones, try something new and learn from their mistakes. If we don’t push ourselves, we won’t ever improve.
If you could quit whatever is bringing in money right now and do anything and be compensated enough to live quite well, what would you do? I would love to run a small inn in wine country. Just a few rooms, we’d serve breakfast daily and have a very limited lunch menu and some great cocktails and snacks. We’d host local chefs every few weeks to really showcase the place we live.
What is your favorite mantra to live by? While I wouldn’t necessarily call it a mantra, but the thing I try to remember in everything I do is “The days are long but the years are short” – this helps me keep the finiteness of life in perspective and helps me not get caught up in the minutiae of the day.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What is your favorite and least favorite trait of whichever you are? People who know me are surprised when I say that I’m an introvert. I put on an extrovert mask frequently so people think that just who I am. It does drain me though, so I need quiet, alone time to recharge my batteries. Writing helps me recharge. My least favorite part is that I find it quite easy to just not do anything – I need to really push myself to get out of my head and a rut. My favorite part is that I’ve found a way to push me into being an extrovert, but it sure it taxing.
When you were a kid, what did you want to do when you “grew up?” I wanted to be a pilot! I wanted to travel the world and have a cool uniform. I travel the world, but am not a pilot nor do I have a cool uniform.
You can only choose one food and one drink for the next year – what would it be?
If it was just one piece of food, I’d say a garden fresh tomato. If it was one type of food, it would be sushi. As for a drink, that’s a tough one. The thing I drink most is water (I’m not a soda guy – I’m caffeine free), but I have to have a big glass of orange juice every day, but the one drink would have to be a proper Pinot Noir, either from France or Oregon.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it (and stepping back to think about it!). Thank you Karlie for nominating me for this fun exercise. Here are my 11 nominations:
- The Wandering Broski
- The Wardrobe
- Dining with Frankie
- Welcome to our Campfire
- Mainly Miles
- Carol Jean’s Capers
- Here Comes the Planet
- Ryan Travels and Eats
- The Voyageer
And now, the exciting part – the 11 questions for you all. Remember, this is supposed to be fun, so have fun with it!
- What is your favorite type of post to write?
- How do you deal with trolls or other toxic visitors to your blog?
- If you could take four weeks away from your real life, where would you go and why?
- What is your favorite meal to cook?
- What goals do you set for your blog (number of posts, readers, hits)?
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten (in life, in blogging, anywhere)?
- What is your favorite book?
- If you had just two weeks of vacation, would you take one long trip or spread it out over the year?
- You can have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you eat?
- What is the most rewarding part for you about blogging?
- What is your biggest regret when it comes to your blog?
I’m looking forward to hearing from you all! Go take a look at the sites I’ve nominated – I’m only nominating bloggers who are actively in my feed. Enjoy!
Last week I mentioned I was in the market for a new point-and-shoot camera. A co-worker had dropped my last camera and basically destroyed it. I had gone more than a year without a proper camera, but even before that I found it was much easier to just use my phone. The last couple of Samsung Galaxy phones have had really great cameras, so I didn’t feel I was missing out on too much.
I did really want a proper camera though. A few people commented on my last post, a few more emailed or sent a DM with suggestions. I also mentioned my want to a couple of friends and the one camera that came back most frequently was the Canon Powershot G9X. Everyone I spoke with loved this camera because it was compact, took quality photos and didn’t break the bank. The other consistent comment: It’s a good solid camera – one that excels in it’s class. It gets the job done, but you aren’t going to become a professional photographer with this piece of equipment. Got it. Seems to fit what I was looking for.
I found it on Amazon, with same day Prime delivery. It retailed for $429, but with an AmEx deal, I got $30 off, plus I had $100 in Amazon Gift Card (additional compensation from a recent speaking engagement). So all in, this camera was delivered about $320.
It didn’t come with an SD card either. I decided to purchase a new one, since the ones I used before were a few years old and were on the slower side. I didn’t want to get stuck trying to get a great video with a slow card.
I took this bad boy out for a spin over the weekend and I’ll share some of my photos soon. As for my initial impressions, it is indeed small and easily fits in my pockets. There are a ton of automatic settings and scene, but also what appears to be a pretty robust manual function – something that my last couple of cameras had too, but I didn’t do any research in how to use those functions at all.
Other than just going out and taking pictures, any other advice on how to get use to a new camera before a trip?
I was recently catching up on a podcast from this spring (Happier with Gretchen Rubin) and one of the discussion points revolved around travel and the time to travel. The hosts were talking about how sometimes it can be easier to take your vacation and not go anywhere because of all the time and effort it takes to properly plan a full week or two trip. First off, I think that is crazy, but they did touch on a few good things. Which is better? Several short trips (long weekends, 5 days away) or one long trip (2-3 weeks) each year.
I work at a standard American company where employees get two weeks of vacation for the first few years of employment. I’ve been there long enough now, I get four week. While I have never, and can never see myself taking all four weeks at once, the question still holds true: which do I prefer, spread those four weeks of time away over multiple trips throughout the year, or do I use it up on two two-week trips?
For me, I think an ideal option would be to take a single two week trip, then spread the remaining two weeks out over the year, taking an extra day on a three-day holiday weekend, or creating my own three-to-four day holiday. I haven’t taken a full two weeks off in a few years now. Even our trip to Myanmar wasn’t quite two full weeks – you have to look back to 2016 for our last proper two week escape.
Part of the fun of the trip for me is to plan the trip, let the excitement build while planning and then execute once you are there. I think some of the planning paralysis comes from people who think they need to see and do it all because they will likely never return to a place again. I understand that, but I don’t buy into that logic. I personally would rather leave a place wishing I had just one more day than the opposite wishing I had left the day prior. You’ll never be able to do it all, so why set that outlandish expectation?
A five day trip can be perfect (including weekend days). It allows you to break your routine, explore a new place, push your boundaries, but not have the stress of actually being gone for a long time. Emails can wait, plan your projects and equip your co-workers with what they need to handle things in your brief absence and move on.
I always have another trip planned somewhere. That’s one of the things that makes me feel fulfilled, always planning for the next adventure and if I took just one or two big trips a year, I fear I’d lose that feeling. Next year, I’m going to try to push for a two-week trip intermixed with several long weekend trip.
What is your preference? Would you rather just take a month off and escape, then have no real opportunity for additional trips? Do you find travel planning daunting?
Flying is still exciting for me, but no matter how excited I am about being in the air, trying a new product or enjoying an old one, there comes a time in every flight that you need some proper entertainment. I’ve got a trip coming up where I’m spending more than 43 hours of time in the air – not including layovers, or waiting to board or deplane. That’s a lot of time and one can only drink champagne and eat interesting airline meals for so many hours without losing one’s mind!
So how do I ensure I don’t get cabin fever whilst in the air? Simple. I over prepare. My rule for years has been to have at least 2.5 hours of entertainment for every one hour of scheduled flying time. This means I’m loading up my phone, my tablet and my laptop with movies, TV shows and podcasts. This usually works out well, as I’ll often watch the airline provided in-flight entertainment during meals, then switch over to my own later on. Here’s what I’m bringing on my next trip:
I have a handful of movies that I’ve purchased over the years on my tablet at all times. These are some of my favorite films, ones that I can put on, zone out, relax and if I happen to fall asleep part way through, I’m not missing anything. Here’s what’s on my tablet, can you sense a theme?
- Fight Club
- Talented Mr. Ripley
- Dr. No / Casino Royale / Skyfall / Quantum of Solace
- The Bourne Identity
Since you can usually catch reruns of the Big Bang Theory on any airline anywhere, I find myself watching that show (God, I don’t know why) for a bit on the plane. It’s easy to sleep to, I guess. I’ve also been re-watching some older shows too:
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (see below)
- Some PBS Documentary like the Roosevelts, American Experience or the like
- Some full seasons to binge like American Horror Story, X-Company or Modern Family
- An Anthony Bourdain show about my immediate destination or a future one
Podcasts are tough for me on planes. I find myself falling a sleep when I’m listening to a pod or an audio book, which is great, if I want to sleep, but not if I want to actually listen to the content. Here’s my current pod queue:
- Young House Love Has a Podcast (Great DIY podcast)
- Happier (A guide to bringing my happiness to your life, with Gretchen Rubin)
- The Greatest Generation (a Star Trek podcast, currently doing an episode by episode recap and review of DS9 – see above)
- American History Tellers
- This American Life
- Up First (NPR News)
- NPR Politics
- News in Slow French (Always be practicing!)
- Having a Friend for Dinner (A Hannibal podcast)
I often find that when I get back home, I’ve still got a ton of things that I didn’t get around to watching while on the trip. That gives me a head start on my next excursion. How do you ensure you are fully entertained on long trips?
After doing a bit of research on fine dining in Montreal, I decided to give L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon another try. I wasn’t overly impressed with it when I was in Hong Kong, but I had delayed planning a nice dinner until late in the game and I couldn’t find a reservation that would fit into our overall schedule. L’Atelier it is! I didn’t realize, until the day of the reservations, that the restaurant is actually in the Casino, which honestly, if I had known, I likely would have changed my plans. Casino food can be hit or miss and if I wasn’t sold in the excellence of L’Atelier from a previous visit, I was sure the locale wouldn’t make it better. Plus, it was too late to cancel without a forfeiture fee.
I roll into the casino about 5 minutes before my reservation and like all casinos, it was like a maze finding the restaurant. Eventually, after a few escalators, an elevator and a flight of stairs, I walk up to the Maitre d’ and was greeted by name. The restaurant was booked full and I was a single diner showing up about 10 minutes after my reservation time – process of deduction lead them to me.
The welcome crew was great, no comment about my tardiness – there were a couple of single seats around the counter, of which I had my choice. Selecting a corner seat gave me extra elbow room and only one opportunity to have a talkative neighbor.
As I sat down the menu was delivered and before I could even get situated, I was presented a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and was asked if I’d be joining in a pre-dinner glass of champagne. OUI! Madam, OUI!
As I sipped my champagne and perused the menu, I finally got a chance to check out the restaurant. It looked remarkably like the Hong Kong version, bar seating, highboy tables around the perimeter, although this restaurant looked out on the river and was quite bright and sunny, despite the deep red and black lacquer finished.
I had basically decided I’d be doing the tasting menu this evening. The final decision was which menu to try, the Decouvert de Saison or the Experience. I was pushing for the Experience, but I didn’t want the sweetbreads and I couldn’t swap out a course, so it was the Decouvert for me. It wasn’t a big let down, I just really wish I could have had the canard – I love duck.
I decided to do the wine pairings as well – why not, right? So I sat at the bar, alone, enjoying a 10-course tasting menu with wine pairings, and I couldn’t be happier. First up, an amazing bread basket was delivered. I knew I wouldn’t eat all that bread by myself…but I did a damn good job. I just left one of the olive loafs behind. So perfect, so buttery, so not needed based on the amount of food I was eating!
Service was surprisingly smooth and knowledgeable. I kept replaying the dinner in Hong Kong and how disappointing it was. Not at all like that here. The service was well timed – a glass delivered, then the wine poured with about 20-30 seconds of explanation of the grape, the region and why it was chosen to pair with the next course. I’d have about a minute or two to smell, taste and admire the wine before the plate was delivered – again with a 20-30 second explanation of the dish, then I’d be left to enjoy it in peace. Dinner continued like that for about two and a half hours.
By the time the L’Asperge Blanche was delivered (which was SCALDING hot by the way), a couple sat next to me. She was loud and brash. She ordered a double spicy, extra horseradish Bloody Mary. The server confirmed and gave her fair warning that that drink would likely destroy her palate, truly diminishing the tasting menu. She ordered the tasting menu…and a second double spicy, extra horseradish Bloody Mary…before the champagne was served.
Despite my initial frustration with this woman, we ended up having a really great time chatting. Her husband (boyfriend?) was more of the silent, look at his phone type of guy and she was a chatty Kathy. She ended up being quite respectful, when my dish would arrive, she’d turn and lavish attention on her date, who couldn’t care less about her (or so it seemed) and once I was done, she let me savor for a moment, then she’d jump right back into her story, without missing a beat. It made for an enjoyable experience.
Finally the petits fours were delivered. Eric Gonzalez, the head chef, came out and chatted with me for about 15 minutes. We spent a lot of time talking about port (I love a beautiful Portuguese fortified wine) and about proper duck preparation and how he doesn’t really dig the whole duck press service. I loved pressed duck, but many places do it so poorly.
My early dinner came to an acceptably timely close a little before 22h00, which gave me plenty of time to head back to the hotel, change and meet up with my friends that evening. The L’Atelier in Montreal is head an shoulders better than the one in Hong Kong. I was thoroughly disappointed in so much of the Hong Kong experience and despite the casino location, this team did a phenomenal job. I’d head back and dine here in a heartbeat — but will I dine in Paris, or Shanghai or Taipei or any of the other cities with a Joël Robuchon restaurant? Time will tell.
Have you dined at any of the incarnations of Joël Robuchon’s restaurants? What did you love? How was the service?