Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Le Meridian Delhi

India is a cultural experience everyone should have without question.  Given time I would have travelled much farther afield in the country, but my situation dictated that I stay "only" in Delhi.  The hotel was the Le Meridian Delhi

Generally speaking, I enjoy Starwood hotels.  I am a big gan of the W chain.  This was only my second stay, and I wasn't disappointed.  It falls neatly into the category of a well appointed business hotel.  The rooms are well short of lavish but are certainly comfortable.  The staff was exceedingly friendly and helpful.  The food onsite fell a little short of my hopes, but otherwise all was well.  In an interesting, quirky aside, on loop in all of the elevator lobbies were Tom & Jerry cartoons?  In the same space they were also pumping in the sounds of the rain forrest?  That bit of bizarre norwithstanding, a fine hotel for my purposes.

If you were looking for something rather more over the top in Delhi accomodation, I dropped into the Taj Mahal Hotel for a dinner.  Though I didn't see a room, the common spaces were fantastic.  I dined at Wasabi a Morimoto restaurant on the property.  I began the evening a little weary of sushi in India and finished the evening impressed by the meal. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Longboat Key Club

AAA says Four Diamonds for the Longboat Key Club just outside of Sarasota, FL.  It's truly a nice property.  I wouldn't question AAA's grading in this case.  The rooms are a little aged but still nice and a good value.  The Gulf beach leaves little to be desired.  The golf course is pristine.  I would never discourage anyone from seeking a quiet beach vacation from giving it a try. 

I have to say though, that I just didn't feel at home there.  That may be the point of vacations, to not be at home, but I mean more in the sense that it simply didn't resonate with me.  I think it hearkens back to this story: I decided for the first time in my life to try a massage while I was on Longboat Key.  The timing was not spectacular.  I had a deep thigh bruise at the time.  I let the misuse know, and she was very good (this is no reflection upon her).  At one point though she grazed that bruise, and it shot a pain that went straight up my spine.  I literally jumped from the table in one fluid motion and let out a yelp, scaring that poor woman to death. 

It's a nice place for a quiet beach vacation.  I think, unfortunately, I've given myself a mental block on Sarasota.

The Economist

My undergraduate degree is in Financial Economics.  That is not why I read The Economist.  In fact the economics in The Economist is relegated to a fairly short section near the back of US edition.  I read the magazine for context while travelling.

I've found it has the best scope and quality of international reporting among mainstream print media sources.  Day to day, I'm regularly bombarded with American media biases.  I find it enriching to digest some British media biases instead. 

On the whole, my guidance is simply provide yourself some context before you travel.  Understand what is happening in a place before you arrive.  Not to avoid riots or coups, though that can be a pleasant by product, but to better enjoy your destination.  I certainly enjoy my trips a lot more when I have some basis in local affairs and politics before arriving.  You should give it a try.

Holy Taco

I a major disciple of weekend brunch.  In my own humble opinion, brunch on Sunday is easily the most important meal of any week.  It's highly versatile.  It can be used as the capstone of an amazing weekend or a chance to set the stage for the week ahead.  Lucky me, Atlanta is teeming with a number of good brunch spots.

Easily one of my favorites in Holy Taco in the East Atlanta Village on Glenwood.  They have a chorizo torta on the menu.  If I was forced by a higher power to pick a brunch meal that I would consume forevermore, it would probably be this torta.  Chorizo, fried egg, tomato, lettuce, radishes, this delicious is an awesome thing to behold.

I will note here that they are a slow.  I don't know if it is the time it takes to make my torta or something else, but they are slow.  It doesn't matter.  Have another Bloody Mary and relax.  This torta is well worth the wait.  Go try it.  I dare you not to enjoy it.

The Westin Palace Madrid

I was unsure what to expect of the Westin Palace Madrid.  It isn't that I lack respect for the Westin brand, but I wasn't sure it would stand up to the hype I had heard.  I reviewed a few pictures and decided to take the dive.  Neither the hype nor the pictures stood up.  They both grossly underestimated the property.  It truly deserves the name Palace. 

The rooms had an especial old world regal air about them, without sacrificing any modern comfort.  The staff were of course very attentive.  The location within Madrid is pretty central.  I will tell you what put me over the top though.  This hotel has the single best breakfast spread I have ever experienced.  My breakfast at home is usually pretty quick, if existent, Greek yogurt, raspberries, and a measure of cereal mixed together.  That notwithstanding, breakfast foods are some of my favorites.  There was absolutely nothing missing from this offering at the Palace.  I would return just for the breakfast, it was that good.

That being said, there is little to complain about at this property.  In fact, nothing comes to mind.  Cash in your Starwood Preferred Guest points, it's probably the best destination to do so, or just go and pay.  Either way, the Westin Palace Madrid is almost certain to be my temporary home on any future trips to Madrid.  I suggest you give it a try as well.

Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations

I don't watch that much television.  Brief aside, somehow when I'm overseas and packing my bag to return home, I will inevitably flip on the TV, find the National Geographic Channel, and there it is...Seconds From Disaster.  It is always a show about a commercial airplane disaster.  It's freakishly reliable.  I'm not superstitious; it's just tradition now.

Of course when I am home and turn on my TV, I'm naturally pulled toward shows about travel.  I must admit some jealously of Anthony Bourdain.  I'm sure the No Reservations show comes with its own drawbacks to produce, but travelling and eating...come on. 

I have to assume that restaurants featured on the show almost instantly becomes overrun with tourists.  But I'm not ashamed to say that I will likely join their ranks.  I do some restaurant scouting by watching the show and will definitely take in some of his places.  And he makes me laugh.  It worth a watch for any travel enthusiast, either for the ideas, the laughs or both.

Dear Delta, Retire the MD-88 Family

While boarding an MD-88 recently, I noticed the workman at McDonald Douglas had riveted a plate into the door frame that identified when the plane came off the line...1991. That is to say, that I have been flying on this fleet of planes for the material preponderance of my lifetime. They've served me well, carrying me for what must be hundreds of thousands of miles back and forth from Atlanta to domestic and Caribbean destinations. A true work horse. But, as with any great tool, eventually its utility will apex and for this family of planes that time has come.

I honestly enjoy the 3 x 2 seating arrangement in coach. It almost assured that I would never have to fly in a middle seat. Now, however, approximately 1 in 3 flights I am on with MD-88 equipment spend an extra 30 minutes or more at the gate while they either: fix the thrust reversers, replace a landing gear tire, correct an instrumentation problem, or whisper sweet nothings in her ear to get the engines to turnover. Not to mention, on the other end of the flight, about half the time upon landing when the pilot hits the brakes they scream as if being tortured by the cruelest dungeon master.

It has reached a point where I now check equipment while booking flights and if workable with my schedule, avoid flights serviced by MD-88s. It's not a safety thing. I don't believe if you knew they were mechanically unsafe you would fly them, I just don't have the patience for the near certain scheduling disruptions.

I believe I recently read a WSJ article that said you were planing substantial fleet purchases. I can only hope those purchases are meant to replace the MD-88 family, Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, Embraer...I don't care, anything that doesn't require a few extra hours of ground maintenance between flights will improve things markedly.
Just some unsolicited feedback from a regular Delta customer.