September 22, 2004

Oasis found in Mallorca

It's September, and I am already wearing my leather jacket in London. Two weeks ago, a few of us decided to go to Mallorca for some warmth from the sun. Tickets on Air Berlin (from London Stansted Airport) was about $250 USD. That was a reasonable price compared to the other airlines offering $300+. We stayed at the Puro Hotel. Please do check out their website so you can understand what kind of heaven I was in. It obviously was expensive, but you get what you pay for.

I used to think that it didn't matter where I stayed on my vacation as long as it was decent, but staying at the Puro Hotel really changed my thought. The decor was amazing. I enjoyed everything about the hotel. From the 6 foot silver candle holders, to the incense burned lightly, to the white linened staff, to the feather lamp shades, to the wooden carvings on the double-sliding door, to the spa-like bathrooms, to the white decor with indian accent pillows... It was an oasis.

We arrived in Mallorca early Friday afternoon and met Markus and Susanne there. While most restaurants were closed for siesta, we found a place open for tapas. After filling our stomachs with tortilla (egg omelete), crochets, and olives, we headed for Zara. Turns out that when you shop at Zara in London, you're almost paying double. The price tags have the same numbers, they just switched the Euro sign to the British pound sign. I didn't go crazy in the store, but bought a tan-plaid blazer and cute pink t-shirt. It was my first time shopping with Susanne, and she figured out really fast how picky and difficult I was to shop for.

At night, after tapas, Markus and Susanne took us to the most amazing bar... Abaco. They had stumbled across it on their last trip. If you are ever in Mallorca, you must go there. This is no ordinary bar. After waiting in an disorganized line, we walked through this little door cut out from a huge 12 foot arched wooden door. Now, imagine yourself in a rich upperclass home in 18th century Spain. The first floor was decorated with ivory busts, old tapestries, a big display of fresh fruits on the floor, cupids, and giant floral arrangements all over the room. There was an outdoor patio with a typical fountain and little birds in big bird cages. Upstairs were a few rooms, all decorated in the same fashion, including a kitchen area filled with fresh vegetables on the table. As the words "giant" and "big" fill this paragraph, let me also describe the drinks. The menu lists about 10 drinks with just the names, most of which you won't recognize. The most popular one was the Abaco Especiale. Imagine the biggest margarita glass with some fruity mix and sugar coated rim, a cherry in the glass and a pineapple hooked on the rim, but no umbrellas.

The next day, we took a taxi from the hotel to Illeta beach, in a neighboring town. It was a small beach or cove. We ate at the restaurant there and then got massages. I've dreamed of getting a massage at the beach. Now, it's a reality. After the 1+ hour massage, we hung out at the beach. The water was cold at first, but after slowly nudging in, being in the water was nice.

In case you were wondering, yes, the girls here do go topless on the beach. Not everyone, but a good number do. Some even go into the water topless. Susanne was telling me that a lot of people prefer swimming naked in the lake because: 1. They don't like the chlorine in the pools; 2. They don't like the feeling of a wet swimsuit.

At night, we went to the best seafood restaurant. We had reservations for 10 o'clock, but didn't get seated until 10:30. The freshness of the fish was amazing. The chocolate dessert was so smooth. We ended up going there the next evening.

The next day, we went to another beach, which was about a 15 minute taxi ride. This beach was much bigger and catered more to the tourists. No massages available at this beach, though, we did rent some lounge chairs and umbrellas. We got in the water and swam around. With our goggles on, we could see little white and silver fish swimming around.

Our flight back to London wasn't until 7 in the evening. Our friends left earlier in the morning. So, we did some site seeing. We stayed in the Old Town, which is where the cool shops, bars, and restaurants are. The famous cathedral, updated by Gaudi, and the Arabic Baths are close by. The only downside is that the beaches are not in walking distance. Everyday, we had some siesta/rest time in the late afternoon. It was nice to have a relaxing hotel room to go back to.

I would definitely come back here. I think the hotel has spoiled me into staying at these design hotels.


View of Palma Old Town from Puro Hotel Roof

Cathedral in Palma

Illeta beach

Markus and Ryan at the other beach

Puro Hotel Roof

Puro Hotel Roof

Puro Hotel Room

Puro Hotel Room

The magnificent wooden carved double-sliding door

Puro Hotel Bathroom

Puro Hotel Bathroom

Posted by oneray at 4:15 AM

September 7, 2004

European TV

Last night, I had some downtime and decided to see what was on the Telli (not sure if this is spelled correctly). I started watching show called "Conspiracies", which basically was talking about conspiracy theories regarding 9-11 and other historical events in America. I wonder what the Brits thought.

Then there was this show where each night this week, they're going to show "live" plastic surgery. I couldn't watch the boob-job, so I had to change the channel.

There is a British comedy here called "The Office". It's a mockumentary about this British guy and the happenings of the office. Basically, this guy is the show. He's awefully chauvenistic and crass. It's suppose to be funny, but I just can't get into it.

The Soprano's was on! Actually, I've never seen an episode of the Sopranos before. I don't have HBO at home. It didn't seem all that interesting, so I kept flipping.

There's a series called "Best Worst" where they visit banned TV ads, old sitcoms, etc. This time, it was naughty TV shows. Basically, they were reviewing TV shows in Britain, Germany, Italy, and Japan that either was like prime-time TV shows with porn stars or just plain silliness with nudity. For example, there is this German show where they find the girls with the REALLy big bossoms (like bigger than your head! Gross.) and put them on a party boat. Then there is the topless Japanese girls in granny panties who compete in obstacle courses. This was produced by the same Japanese guy who did Banzai. So, you can imagine how ridiculous some of this stuff is.

I don't have cable in London, just the local 7 channels. See what great programming they have?

Looks like I might be going back to Italy again for work. Yeah!
ciao ciao bambini!

Posted by oneray at 5:07 AM

September 5, 2004

A weekend in Paris

I left for Paris on the EuroStar Friday night at 7 and got into Paris at about 11 PM (Paris time, which is 1+ London time). It was my first time traveling on the EuroStar from London Waterloo to Paris Gare du Nord. The ride was rather uneventful, with me sleeping most of the time and a group of loud men talking about their sailing trip.

My friends Max and Sheel who used to live in Paris were in Paris for the weekend. Sheel was there for work. So, I crashed at their fancy hotel, the Sofitel Arc du Triomphe. From Gare du Nord station, I took the M4 North for one stop, then took the M2 to Charles de Gualle Etoile. This brings you right at the Arc du Triomphe. I was so happy with myself being able to get from the train station to the hotel without any help. I have to admit that the Paris Metro is very dirty... and with no cool air in the summer, it's almost unbearable.

After getting to the hotel, the three of us went to Sir Winston, a bar/lounge near the Arc. Rob, Max's friend, joined us a little later. With a name like Sir Winston, you would probably not be able to guess its interior. A large buddha greets you at the front, cloth-covered cone-shaped lamps dimly light the room, and other asian-styled lamp shades provide a nice ambiance. There was a DJ there who was playing some nice lounge beats and was softly adding a little jazz with his trumpet and voice. We didn't stay long since everyone was tired.

The drinks in Paris are fun. If you order a rum and coke, they'll bring you your rum in a tall glass with ice and a stir stick. You'll also get a beaker of coke, separately. It's up to you how strong or weak to make your drink. This is a good because: 1. your drinks get served faster, 2. makes the bartender's job easier, 3. you get to make your drink the way you like it, and 4. drinking is now an interactive activity! Bad thing is that they charge you for the rum and the coke separately.

We were a lazy bunch and slept in on Saturday. We walked the Champs towards Concorde and then took the Metro to the Marais district. It was HOT. I think it was 31 degrees Celcius. This was my first time to be in Paris in the summer. The other times had been, early June (still cool), September, and January. My friends used to live in the Marais district. It's just a really cool place with really great shopping and restaurants. Not full of tourists. I had wanted to go to Las Du Falafel (frequented by Lenny Kravitz), but I forgot that most of the Jewish establishments are closed on Saturdays. So, we went to another place close by for falafels and humous. Afterwards, we walked around the area and shopped. The best chocolate shop in the world can be found in the Marais... Chocolats Mussy on Rue di Bourg Tibourg. The pieces are small and have really smooth texture. Their specialty is tea chocolate! I got a really big variety box to take back to London. Then we went to the Samaritan, a big department store near Chatelet. Sheel wanted to look for brief cases. I saw a few people with their dogs in the store. It's not uncommon. I just enjoy seeing the cute little dogs behaving so well. After deciding against getting the Mandarin Duck briefcase, we return to the hotel for a quick nap before dinner.

My favorite restaurant in Paris (for the past 3 years) is L'Arganier, a Moroccan restaurant in the Marais. If you're a meat-and-potatoes eater, the Tagine Kefta is supposedly really good. If you're a veggie, then you'll love the Couscous vet Legumes (a veggie stew with couscous). They have a bellydancer, but only on Friday nights. Five of Sheel's coworkers joined us for a big feast. After dinner, we stopped at a nearby cafe for a drink outside so we can people watch and talk about the Parisians.

This morning, Max left to go back to Texas. Sheel and I window shopped on the Champs and then had lunch outside at a little cafe in the Marais so we can people watch again. Afterwards, we stopped at the A.G. Spalding & Bros. store to pick up a few items for Sheel. They sell leather wallets and other accessories, including stationary holders, pens, and bags. Don't let the name fool you, it's an Italian brand. They once had a store on 5th Avenue in New York and, some how, the name stuck. For the quality, their prices are pretty reasonable.

I caught the 3 o'clock EuroStar train back to London. I am so lucky to have friends who can speak fluent French! Paris is like London, but ... cooler.

Posted by oneray at 1:21 PM

September 1, 2004

Picture fest!

What a beautiful day it is in London... not a cloud in the soft blue sky. The sunshine makes the white buildings almost blinding. The temperature is close to perfect. Too bad I don't have my camera with me.

I just went through a few of my photos on my computer and realize that there are pictures I haven't uploaded yet. So, here we go.

Early this year in April, we went to Hampstead Heath to throw frisbies. This is a really nice part of London. Less tourists.

The Sprite X Games were in London in July. We were only there for a few hours.
Yes, the fisherman cap is popular here... but for a limited time only!

July 31st was a very hot Saturday in London. Ryan and I went in search of the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park only to find it closed. There had be several injuries by people wading around in the fountain. It had been closed for remodeling. Here is an article from the Economist:

Then we found ourselves at the Serpentine. Paddle boats, anyone?

Finally, the grocery stores here have some weird stuff. Have you heard of "spotted dick"? I think it's a kind of sausage you can buy. I didn't want to try it since I don't eat meat. However, I did give "monkey nuts" a try. They're so good!

That's it for now.

This weekend, I'm going to Paris! My friends Max and Sheel will be there, so I'm going to ride the EuroStar to Paris and crash at their hotel.

Then, the third weekend in September, I'm going to Mallorca with some coworkers for a long weekend. Should be a blast!

Posted by oneray at 5:03 AM