Tim Foolery

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Fun with Language – When One Letter Makes a Difference

I spent this past weekend in Vienna and while I didn’t exclusively speak German. I did push myself to speak the native language as much as possible.  Choosing to speak German almost exclusively while on the Austrian flights though – a flight attendant even commented that my accent reminded me of her grandparents, who lived along the German border.

I studied German in College for about two years.  I find that the Austrians are pretty easy for me to understand.  They speak clearly and slowly and if I know the vocabulary, I can get by pretty well.  A couple of times on the trip, I struggled with a few words I didn’t know, which reminded me of a Thanksgiving trip to Mexico, a few years ago.

We were heading to dinner in Polanco – a swanky district in Mexico City.  We took the subway from our hotel to the restaurant and as we were sitting down to eat, I decided I really wanted to wash my hands. I needed to wash the subway germs off before I ate dinner…so I asked the waiter.

In High School, I took three years of Spanish. I don’t practice Spanish as much as I do French of German.  I told the waiter that I’d like to wash my hands before dinner — “Me gustaría lavar mi mono antes de la cena.”

The waiter looked at me quite quizzically.  He looked around our dinner table, obviously confused.  He responded with “El baño esta ahi….donde esta tu mono?” I was very confused…but then the waiter switched to English and repeated his previous statement “The bathroom is over there…where is your monkey?”

I misspoke.  Mano is hand Mono is monkey.  This poor waiter, who seemed genuinely confused by my first question, which was actually “I would like to wash my monkey before dinner.”

He was a good sport about it and didn’t make me feel foolish.  We did joke about bringing a monkey to dinner later on in the evening.  One simple letter dramatically changes the intent of the sentence.  Why indeed would I need to wash my monkey before dinner?

What language snafus have you made?  Did you have any truly awful interactions or were they just a little embarrassing?  Share your language struggle stories below!

Guisados DTLA

I spent a week in LA for work recently and my travel companion was sort of lame – he preferred to order room service each night.  Then again, maybe he just didn’t want to eat with me, either way, I didn’t have to worry about preferences of anyone else when picking dinner places.

The first night in town I went to Badmaash.  The next night I wanted to hit Sugarfish, but unfortunately, the wait for a single was about 90 minutes and I didn’t have the energy to go for that.  I figured their may be a problem getting into Sugarfish, so I had a backup plan.  I figured I’d hit Guisados for tacos if Sugarfish didn’t work out.

I walked about 15 minutes over to Guisados and it was pretty empty.  Lucky for me.  It had more of a coffee shop feel than a taco joint.  There were a couple of tables full of people using their laptops, one woman was skyping (which included regular shrieks of laughter, which startled everyone around) and one table hosting a really awkward date.

I ordered three tacos and a fresh lemonade.  Like my meal the previous night, there were more things on the menu that I wanted to try, but I felt I’d be acting like a big pig if I ordered them all.  I settled on three tacos:  Cochinita Pibil, Chorizo and Pescado.

Taco Trio from Guisados

Taco Trio from Guisados

The pescado was by far the worst of the three, but it was still very good.  I feel I could eat half a dozen of each of the other two tacos. The flavors, the spice and the fresh in-house made tortillas made the meal fantastic.  The fresh lemonade paired so well with the meats as well.  I fear if I lived in this area, I’d end up eating here much more than my arteries or my waistline could handle.

Have you eaten here before? What is your favorite taco?  When Downtown LA, where do you go for tacos?

Taco Tour

We are staying in town for the long Independence Day Weekend – the first three day weekend we’ve been in Chicago in a very long time.  We plan on cooking, drinking, taking some bike rides and just enjoying the City.

A few days ago my favorite cooking schools (the Chopping Block) forwarded a link to the “9 Best Tacos in Chicago”.  I love me some tacos!  I then posted, in a half joking manor that I wanted to try all of these taco joints (and their best taco) in one day — and to get between all these places, I want to Divvy (the Chicago bike share program).  A few people thought my idea was great — but was I serious?  I guess once people said what a great idea it was, I guess I was serious.


The problem with this list is that they are all at fancier places.  We aren’t hitting a great taco joint in the Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen (which use to be a German / Czech neighborhood, hence the name).  These are mostly in the River North Neighborhood – so we will likely Divvy down to the neighborhood and walk between these various shops. I am a little disappointed we don’t get out of the predominately white touristy areas of the City.  Here’s the list of the recommended tacos:

  • Elle on the River (Langham Hotel)
    • Piri-Piri Chicken Taco
  • Big Star
    • Taco de Pescado
  • Ten Mile House (not in Chicago, but in neighboring Evanston)
    • Smoke Pork and Bacon Taco
  • Fish Bar
    • Crispy Shrimp
  • The Dawson
    • Redfish for Two (this monster costs $48 and includes a whole fish)
  • GT Fish and Oyster
    • Fish Taco with chicharrón
  • Tallboy
    • Atlantic Salmon Taco
  • Slurping Turtle
    • Hamachi Taco
  • Antique Taco
    • Garlic Shrimp

Unfortunately, some of these places are closed for the holiday, so maybe we’ll have to add to our taco tour with some of our favorite taco places – De Cero on Randolph and Carnitas Urupan in Pilsen.


So that’s our plan for Saturday.  We’re hydrating, hopping on the Divvy and schlepping around the City eating tacos.  I will be live Tweeting/Instagramming/Faceboking our taco travels – so follow me and keep and eye open for #TacoTourTXN

Where is your favorite taco joint in Chicago? What do you always order when you visit?  Where else should we go?  Help us get out of River North and see and eat something new!  What are you doing to keep yourselves occupied over this holiday weekend?

Quick Tip – Booking Awards on United.com

As you know, each year we take a trip for Thanksgiving – not a family trip, but just an “us” trip.  We’ve gone to Ireland, Mexico City and most recently France/Switzerland.  Usually we’ll wait until summer to book — or if we hear of a great fare sale.  This year we are trying something a little different  – we aren’t going abroad, we’ve decided to stay in the US – again, skipping the family events though.

Once of the reasons we love traveling abroad over the Thanksgiving holiday is that flights in the US are outrageously expensive, while trips to Europe (and even Mexico) are cheaper than usual and often just a few bucks more than domestic flights.  For example, we toyed with the idea of going to San Diego last Thanksgiving.  The airfare was going to be nearly $850 — while our flight to Paris for the same days were basically the exact same price.  I love San Diego, but I love Paris much more.

Since we are traveling in the US over a hugely busy travel weekend, we decided we’d start looking now.  We’ll be spending time in Colorado and needed to fly into a smaller airport away from Denver (we didn’t want to have several hours of driving after our flight to Denver).  We did a quick spot check on the fares — which were running about $700 for less than ideal times and $950 for our preferred times.  I can’t pay that much for a domestic flight – something in my DNA won’t allow for that.

We flipped the switch on United.com to search for award space. Our outbound flight was coming in at 12,500 miles while the return was coming in at 50,000 – a total of 62,500 in economy.  I’d rather not spend that many miles for domestic flight either.  We decided we’d just hold off and see if the cost comes down.  Then it clicked.  MS wasn’t actually logged into United.com – he was searching as a guest.

Screenshot from UAL.com -  "MileagePlus Premier members may receive better search results by signing in."

Screenshot from UAL.com – “MileagePlus Premier members may receive better search results by signing in.”

United.com even offers a warning that Premier members may receive better search results by signing in.  A little “benefit” for being an Elite Flyer that I almost forgot about.  We signed in and managed to find the exact flight we wanted for only 25,000 miles each – coupling that with our outbound for 12,500 our trip would cost 37,500 miles per person versus the 62,500.  That savings of 25,000 miles means that I can take another cheap domestic flight in the future.

My advice – always make sure you are logged into United.com when you start your search for award seats – you’ll need to log in to use your miles, so save yourself some heartache during your search.

Mexico City : Final Thoughts

Our goal for this quick trip was to maximize our Thanksgiving weekend and get out of the cold in Chicago.  This trip definitely fit the bill. Was it perfect? No, not at all.  We had some pretty good food. We didn’t get sick, robbed (or murdered) – which is definitely a win in my book.

I mention getting murdered because I think we all have this perception that Mexico is such a dangerous place to visit and it can be.  Interestingly enough, the crime stats for Mexico City are better than Chicago when it comes to violent crime.  Chicago’s murder rate is substantially higher than Mexico City’s.  We even had a cab driver comment (when he found out we were from Chicago) on the murders: “Ay – Chicago is so dangerous. Murders all the time. How can you live there?”  That’s a telling tale, isn’t it?  A Mexico City cab driver comments on the rampant crime in Chicago.

Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mexico City

Would I return to Mexico City? Absolutely. It has much more of a European feel than I was expecting.  Next time, I’ll stay in the Polanco neighborhood and try to get a local to take me on a street food tour.  So many of the things we saw on the street looked amazing, but also looked like they would ravage our digestive systems.  We need local help.  Mexico City isn’t high on the revisit list, but it is still there and I will definitely be heading back.

What are your thoughts on the City?  What did we miss that should make the list for next time?