Archive for May, 2009

Big Cham

May 30, 2009

I saw this sad news today and got an immediate flashback to my trip to Chamonix several years ago. As a beginner-level skier, I traveled with a group of about 12 people to the Chamonix Valley in the French Alps. Mont Blanc is the crown jewel, the highest mountain in the Alps at 15,781 ft.

The scenery?  Unreal.

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The skiing? Diverse and challenging.

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The danger quotient? Very high.  

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Some of the experienced skiers in our group had planned to conquer the Vallée Blanche, a guided, off-piste descent over glacial terrain – including traversing crevasses, roped climbers and hiking with crampons (a drop of 9,200 vertical feet). 

 

View of Chamonix Valley from one of the peaks.

View of Chamonix Valley from one of the peaks.

 

 

The cable car going up to Le Grand Montets in Chamonix.

The cable car going up to Le Grand Montets in Chamonix.

 

Unfortunately, attempting this grueling and dangerous hike/ski is highly dependent on the weather, and the day that our group had planned to go out was not conducive to a safe trek, so they couldn’t take the plunge.  They were extremely disappointed, but I have to say I was a bit relieved. It’s clear after hearing about Karine Ruby’s untimely death at Mont Blanc that it’s certainly not for the faint of heart.    

*R.I.P. Karine*

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He’s Just Not That Into You…X3

May 29, 2009

I love a good red eye flight to points east. You get on board, take an Ambien, eat a little, and doze off to wake up at your destination (sometimes well-rested, other times at least half-rested). Unfortunately, when you’re going west, you’re probably awake the entire flight minus a few cat naps here and there. This is where the airline you choose makes a big difference. If you’re on an international airline, they’ll likely provide you with a host of entertainment options, unlimited beer/wine etc and probably more meals and snacks than you need. With the US-based airlines, you really never know what you’re going to get, but it’s definitely not going to be any free alcohol, that’s for sure.

When I chose American Airlines for my recent flight to London (mainly based on price and flight time options), I was a little nervous about the flight back, knowing I’d be awake and would have to occupy myself for 7+ hours on board. I brought along a book, my iPod, and the latest issue of New York Magazine, but I still had a feeling that wouldn’t be enough if there were no movies (a good way to eat up 2 hours at a clip).

American Airlines had about 10 movies on tap, but nothing really called out to me…but they did have “He’s Just Not That Into You,” the movie adaptation to the snarky, tell-it-like-it-is dating book for delusional women. So I gave it a go. I ended up napping during parts of the first two attempts, and the third time it got cut off right at the end…boo….but I think Ben Affleck finally proposed to Jennifer Aniston in the end, yay…

This trip around, I also rented a movie off of iTunes (Woody Allen’s “Manhattan“). If you haven’t done this before, it’s pretty handy. For $2.99 or $3.99, you can download a movie for one-time viewing (this can take a 1/2 hour or more based on your connection), and you have 30 days to view the movie once it’s downloaded, and 24 hours to finish it once you start playing it. I started the movie while waiting to board the plane and finished it after we hit 10,000 feet. Despite the screen being so small, it’s nice to have the movie you want on demand and to be able to pause it if you need to. You can also purchase movies if you have an all-time favorite you’d watch over and over. And if you haven’t tapped into the thousands of available podcasts, I’d suggest searching around on that part of the iTunes store as well (I listened to a great LOST podcast about the finale episode, as well as watched an entire episode of VH1’s “Best Week Ever”).

But unfortunately, I was still bored…! 😦

Tooting

May 27, 2009

Day pass for the tube = Five British pounds

Eyebrow threading = Three pounds

Punjabi carrot pickle sauce at a random grocery = Two pounds

Establishing a new appreciation for the word “tooting” = Priceless

Tooting_Broadway_stn_roundel

Welcome to Tooting! We came here for cheap, authentic Indian food and found some other bargains as well (eyebrow threading under $5!). Slightly reminiscent of Jackson Heights, Queens, this nabe was well worth the long bus ride (through beautiful Wimbledon village, so no complaints there). Our destination was Mirch Masala, voted one of the top Indian restaurants in the London area. I had my favorite, Chicken Saag with basmati rice, and it didn’t disappoint. We also tried the Qeema, Saag Paneer, roti, samosas, kabobs…it was all just so good!! Luckily we had a long day of sightseeing to walk it all off…

Mirch Masala - Best Indian Food in London!

Mirch Masala - Best Indian Food in London!

Wow.

May 26, 2009

I love when I visit a place that I think will be just another city, or have zero expectations for a trip, and then am really, truly blown away.

In short, I absolutely loved London.

I heart London!

I heart London!

I really wasn’t expecting to, since I never had a real burning desire to go there, but Tanya and I were lucky enough to have two amazing local hosts who went above and beyond to make sure we saw the sights, ate and drank at every opportunity (thanks again Kajal and G!). This of course made a huge impact on how I saw the city (from an insider’s point of view), and I am truly grateful for that experience.

I think part of the reason I never traveled to London before was that there was always some other, more exotic or just farther place to go…but if you ever get the opportunity, definitely fit it in! Four days was absolutely perfect – we saw all of the main sights (Buckingham, Big Ben, Parliament!, Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s cathedral…the list goes on) and even fit in some unexpected adventures.

More stories to come…

Cheerio!

May 20, 2009

I’ve been busy, busy, busy trying to wrap up work and get ready for London. It crept up on me pretty quickly, and I leave tonight right after work. Despite my previous bad luck with the E train method getting to JFK, I’m going to give it another go since I’m traveling solo and a taxi would be pretty expensive in rush hour traffic. Let’s hope all goes well. I’m still trying to decide if I should brave London’s Underground/Tube to where my gracious hosts live just outside of the city (Putney), but we’ll see how tired I am when I land! I mean, I’m a NYC subway veteran, but this map looks a little daunting even to me…

I hope to have this zoo of a map (a least a little bit) conquered by the end of my trip.

I hope to have this zoo of a map (a least a little bit) conquered by the end of my trip.