Category Archives: europe

Day Trip to Bratislava

On the walk to the tram to the train, we stopped at the grocery store, bakery, Hundertwasser Haus and a design store. Needless to say, we missed our intended 10:20 train to Bratislava. Since it’s hourly, we decided to go to the Heeresgeschichtliches (Military) Museum to wait for the next train. The Austro-Hungarian empire had a long military history and the museum has been there since 1856, so we spent more than an hour there. We saw lots of armor from the 1500’s onwards. Also on display were guns, swords, spears, other brutal weapons, uniforms and battle field flags throughout history.

When I took American History in the 9th  grade, I learned that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo started World War I. Back then, I didn’t know much about the Hapsburgs, so I was rather confused. After spending some time in Vienna, I have a bit more context. The museum had the car Franz Ferdinand was riding in when he was assassinated along with his military uniform that day. I have to admit that the slashes and blood stains were a bit gruesome for me.

While the English bits were sparse, there was a hall dedicated to World Wars I  and II. It was interesting to read a different perspective of the wars and why they were fought.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s car in Sarajevo

We finally got on the train to Brastislava, which was about an hour away. We walked around the castle grounds and then searched around for the Museum of Clocks. It’s housed in the reputedly skinniest house in Central Europe, so it’s a bit hard to find. Afterwards, we walked around the Old Town, found a cute cake shop, and then headed back to Vienna.

Bratislava Castle
The house was this big!
Old town Bratislava

Rawr!

Summary Cycling Thoughts

In 8 riding days, I rode 368 miles with 30,578 feet of climbing. I had a great time riding in Slovenia  and Croatia this week, and I highly recommend Far & Away Cycling to folks who like low-frills traveling and lots of climbs.

Some things I learned this week:

  • Churches are often on top of a hill.  Makes for very scenic pictures.
  • It’s not just the mileage or the number of feet climbed, the gradient along the way can also soften your legs.
  • The climbing here can be like Austin hills, except they don’t stop for miles. However, even a quarter mile can still be a long way to climb.
  • The percentage, switchback, and snowflake signs mean more pain and suffering to come.
  • The “right way” usually involves a climb.
  • Here, people don’t create the segments – Strava creates them for you.

Vienna

On the first day in Vienna, we found a crowded coffee shop for breakfast. While we were sipping on our cappuccinos, the shop’s retractable awnings slid out with the threat of rain. At one point, I mentioned that it had gotten cold, and within a minute, the electric heaters came on and set us back at a comfortable temperature.

We decided to tour the Belvedere first as it was in the same district as our AirBnB flat. We walked through the grounds and then toured the Upper Belvedere, which included the well-done Klimt exhibit (includes The Kiss). Even though it was raining, we took the tram to Inner Ring of Vienna for lunch at Hollman Salon, similar to a gastro pub in the States. From there, we walked around the Hopsburg and saw that they were setting up for a sports event. Unfortunately, it didn’t include a run, so we moved on. After a coffee stop to warm and fuel up, we did a walking tour around the area.  In the middle of the walk, I noticed a bakery smell in a courtyard. When we turned the corner, there was a line for the bakery. We walked on, but the smell followed us. Of course, we turned around and had an amazingly fluffy and flaky chocolate croissant.

We returned in the evening to tour the Lower Belvedere. My legs were aching from all the walking and my feet were unhappy with my choice of shoes (Chuck Taylor’s) for the day.

Gardens at the Belvedere

On the second day, we took an early Ubanh (subway) to Schloß Schonbrunn, the summer palace of the House of Hapsburg. Good thing we went early – it got more crowded as the day went on. I guess most folks don’t wake up early on vacation.

We spent about 6 hours touring the grounds and imperial rooms of Schloß Schonbrunn. The rooms were well done, and we learned quite a bit about the House of Hapsburg. While walking through the gardens, we saw how they trimmed the hedges (something we wondered about even at the Belvedere). We completed the maze (more difficult than it looks) and went through the labyrinth.  While we didn’t find Minotaur, we did find a climbing pole. When we arrived, we saw two guys. One had already made it to the top of the pole, and the other was taking his picture. The picture taking one seemed to waffle on whether or not he wanted to climb the pole, so I went ahead and climbed it. After I rung the bell at the top, I think I heard something akin to: “Now you have to do it.” So, of course, the picture taking friend also climbed the pole.

After the labyrinth, we made our way to an apple strudel demo and had a nice lunch at the café. I’ve noticed that museum/attraction cafés in Vienna are quite good in terms of food quality and presentation. We ended the day at Schloß Schonbrunn with a tour of the carriage museum which had an impressive collection of daily, sport, coronation and mourning carriages.

Windy & cold day at Schloß Schonbrunn
How to trim the hedges
Apple strudel demo
Goat cheese salad with pumpkin chutney at Schloß Schonbrunn

Before the trip, we decided to go hear a symphony while in Vienna. The town seems obsessed with Mozart, but I prefer Beethoven. Our choices were easily narrowed down to a Beethoven (and Mozart) Symphony at Karlskirche (St. Charles’ Church).

We took the tram to a quick Greek dinner and then another to the church. The walk there gave us a good view of the dramatically lit church in the evening. While the acoustics could have been better, I still enjoyed the symphony and the surroundings. The first chair was quite animated the whole evening. I haven’t attended many symphonies, so I’m not sure if this is common. I also liked her short sleeve dress accessorized by long gloves with the fingers cut out.

Karlskirche

On the third day, we started off at the Wien (Vienna) Museum, which is a hoarder’s dream. I saw lot of cool armor, sandstones and door signs. Until recent history, most people were illiterate, so the door signs had to be distinct: the locksmith needed a key on his sign or a tavern needed its symbol (I saw an example for the green lizard tavern).

The eclectic mix of items there came from a pattern of donation throughout the years. There was a 16th century item donated to the museum in 1899. Many statues on churches and public buildings were damaged by industrialization and weather. During their restoration, the originals were donated, and the copies are displayed outside in the elements.

Stained glass windows from Stephansdom
Armor!

For lunch, we headed over to Naschmarkt. It had endless stalls of restaurants and stands for vegetables & fruit (I evens saw jackfruit and dragon fruit), spices, dried fruit, sweets, meats, seafood, olives, cheeses and charcuterie. There were even a few stalls for wine. We stopped at the crowded Naschmarkt Deli, and I loved my chicken corn-flake covered schnitzel.

We capped off the sight-seeing with modern art at Belvedere 21. Personally, I don’t like very modern art. The pieces that lack craftsmanship/skill simply don’t interest me.

Cycling in Slovenia

Day 6: Brod Na Kupi to Ljubljana

The morning was bitterly cold, and we immediately rode through the border crossing. The fog was still lingering in the valleys, and within a few miles, we had the uphill for the day that involved some “work.”  (Our tour leader, Bob, has a great way of understating the climbs.)

Fog lingering in the valleys on the ride to Ljubljana

The day was just cold and miserable, and the pack we were riding in (Greg, Robin, John, Roman and myself) weren’t properly bundled up. We accidentally found a coffee shop, so we warmed up with cappuccinos and hot chocolate.  I poured my hot chocolate into my thermal water bottle to have some warmth for the ride.

We had fun riding through the forest and picked up the pace to get to lunch. Due to the cold and unexpected distance to lunch (about 5-7 miles after I expected it), I got a bit hungry and mean. I wasn’t using much nutrition in my bottle on the trip and was counting on lunch to refill my tank.  We picked up some lunch at the grocery store (as the restaurant wasn’t open yet) and tried to warm up at the coffee shop next door. At one point, I was so cold and miserable, I seriously considered not continuing on with the day’s ride.

I toughened up and got back on my bike. After lunch, the cold, cold descent was on a scenic, quiet bike route and then undulating roads into Ljubljana. The ride in was nicely paced and fun, so I was happy I continued.  At the concluding happy hour with the tour group, I found out we weren’t saying goodbye to everybody – some more folks were joining us on the way to Bled.

Off tour: Ljubljana to Bled

Before we started the tour, we knew we were going on to Bled. The question was whether we would take the train or ride there. My big concern was having enough gears to cross the pass into Bled. Since other folks would be riding too, I didn’t have much of a choice. The two couples (Robin and John, Chantel and Bob) set off ahead of us that morning. I wanted to catch up, but I didn’t think we could make up the difference.

While the start/stop getting out of town was difficult, I liked the cycling infrastructure. We had a bike lane on the major thoroughfare that separated us from cars and pedestrians, and there traffic signals for all three.  The bike lane had mostly commuters, and one was upset when we passed her without using a bell.

After some time, we stopped at the picturesque town of Škofja Loka. There was a Citroen bus caravan that we wanted to photograph, and we ran into the two couples at a coffee shop there. I had a great farmer’s cheese stuffed pastry and a tasty tangerine soda.

Citroen bus caravan
Leaving Škofja Loka

After this stop, we had a brisk flat with a bit of headwind. I was careful to maintain an easy pace as I was wary of the mountain pass. The climb itself wasn’t too bad: it had short steep sections relieved by “flatter” sections (3-6%). Near the top, we had gorgeous views looking back at the start of the climb. A few switchbacks later, we saw a WWII memorial on the hillside. At the top of the pass, we had amazing views of the valley and a quaint church down a walking path. We could also see the snow-capped Julian Alps in the distance. 

Looking back to the climb start

Church down the path, Julian Alps in the distance

The descent into Kropa was shaded, cold, and bumpy. My forearms got tired from squeezing the breaks so often. We went into the museum at Kropa, and the attendant turned on the loud, but neat music box for us. It even had a drum head and cymbals.

After another descent, we arrived at Bled, which included a quiet route over a gravel path. On the way in, we took a route that was different than the sign to Bled. I stopped after the sign, and Chantel (Bob’s wife) went in a different direction from the group. I remember her yelling out, “Every man for himself!”  I like the spirit of exploration and the lack of handholding. It embodies the spirit of Bob’s tours. As Chantel said, Bob’s philosophy is that he doesn’t go back.

Before checking in to our respective hotels, we rode around town to see where everyone was staying and decided to meet at Penzion Mayer for dinner. The mushroom soup that night at Penzion Mayer was one of my favorite soups of the trip. (Earlier that day, we saw that the King Boletus mushroom was in season, so I made it a point to order mushroom anything afterwards.)

Our flat from AirBnB was awesome – and our hostess left us with a basket of fresh fruit. I’m a huge fan of how the AirBnB folks go out of their way to make us feel welcome.

Off tour: Bled to Bohinj and back

We met up with Robin and John for the ride to Bohinj and back. At one point, when asked, Roman said the next bit was undulating. Within a mile, we started our penultimate climb of the day – a Cat 2 Strava climb of 4.3 miles, averaging 7.5%, and climbing 1, 657 ft. During the unending climb, we went through two tunnels and saw a warning sign of 18% grade (the highest grade warning I had seen on the trip). I steeled myself and continued on. The climb was so long, I sweated through my arm warmers. This made the descent even colder. At the top of the climb, we could see a village at the bottom of the valley. After descending a bit, we started to see a different village ahead on a slope with hair pin turns.  Next thing you know, we went through the village at the bottom.  We were so cold, our coffee stop ended up being a long lunch stop. We filled ourselves up with tea with local honey, hot cocoa, mushroom soup, pasta and mushrooms, goat, and strudel. In the ride through the valley, we went through several picturesque villages. We heard and saw cattle bells hanging off cows instead of spectators. We finally descended to Bohinj Lake and rode around the lake to the entrance to a waterfall. On the way, we encountered some unexpected climbs to the entrance. There was a 20 minute hike up steps to get to Savica Falls, and when we got there the viewing area was a bit crowded so we took some quick photo graphs and headed back. Along the hike, we saw tons of freshwater fish in the clear water.  The sun was starting to wane, and I was worried about getting back to town before dark.

Riding through the valley

Lake Bohinj
Savica Falls

The road back to Bled was relatively flat with a cross and headwind, so Roman led our paceline home. We saw two cyclists in the distance, but they stayed away for several miles. John moved to the front and slowly reeled in the two. They were quite animated when talking to us initially, but we couldn’t understand them. Roman and their lead cyclist pulled us all the way back to Bled. It was nice finishing the day with a brisk fast pace, and we had plenty of daylight left. When we got back, we found fresh-baked apple strudel from our AirBnb hostess! That night, I had trout for dinner as I had been thinking about fish all day.

Off tour: Bled East and back by Vintgar Gorge

The routes we used the previous two days had been recommended (and defined in GPSies) by Bob.  Using Strava, we looked around for suitable routes with just enough climbs at 3,000-4000 ft and around 40 miles. I then created the route for the Garmins using GPSies. This worked out pretty well – we used the route of a Bled local so the climbing was nice and the roads were reasonably safe.

We met with Robin and John at Helia’s, the travel agency / bike rental company that transported our luggage, and the travel agent recommended some sights along the way. We took a nice cycling path near the main road from Bled to Lesce. This was a well maintained route with a nice bridge. The cycling paths and bike lanes around Slovenia show that they really take care of their cyclists, and it shows in the number of cyclists we saw in our time there. During a Monday afternoon, we saw at least a dozen cyclists riding about.

After one of the first climbs, we saw gorgeous views of a valley and the mountains beyond.  We rode through the valley to the other side and saw those same mountains up close later in the day. The route felt comparatively flat, but we still climbed over 3,000 ft and went over three Cat 4 climbs. On one of our detours (uphill, of course), we rode by the ruins of a castle.

Our route went by Vintgar Gorge, and we had a nice stop there. It had neat wooden pathways through the gorge and beautiful waterfalls. I personally liked it more than Savica Falls. We were so weary of riding, that this was our last ride for the trip.

Bled

The next morning, we tried to rent a car to take us to Vršič Pass.  Since it was the end of the season, there were none available. Weighing our options, we decided to head to Vienna a day early as there was much to see there.

We used the morning to visit the Bled castle atop the cliff and eat ice cream while enjoying the view of the lake. Interestingly, a castle/fortress had been at that location for over a thousand years. Nowadays, a castle on the hilltop looks pretty, but back then, it made great sense from a defensive standpoint.

Cycling in Croatia

Day 2 Cycling: Motovun to Rabac, Croatia

At the breakfast meeting, our tour guide Bob described the morning’s climb to us: “You’ll climb some and then climb some more. You’ll hit an ‘Oh My God’ hill and think it couldn’t possibly continue. But it does.”  That pretty much describes the hill. The reward at the end was looking back and seeing Motovun across the valley.

Motovun

Once again, we saw tons of gorgeous views of valleys and many small farms growing grapes, olives, corn and apples. I quickly realized that cappuccino was fast, delicious and inexpensive here, so I started my steady stream of cappuccino. At the lunch break in Pazin, we viewed the gorge that inspired a Jules Verne’s novel, walked through a castle and saw a tool shed with a heavy file, a kitchen/hearth and a torture room.  After lunch, we went down nice fast switchbacks; these had long straights and smooth roads. Of course, we almost immediately went uphill again. After the climbing, we quickly descended again into the seaside resort of Rabac. The water was clear and cool, but not cold enough for a much needed ice bath.

Rabac

Day 3 Cycling: Rabac and Cres

In the morning, we wearily got back on our bikes and climbed back out of the previous day’s descent into Rabac. Roman didn’t need as much time for the climb, so he stayed in the hotel room a bit later. Unfortunately, Bob didn’t count the bags and left Roman and his bags behind.  Bob went back for Roman’s bags, and all was well.

Scenic overlook before the ferry to Cres

Before taking the ferry over, we stopped at a scenic overlook for a drink and to take some pictures. The descent to the ferry terminal was a bit steep and fast, and the ferry ride to Cres was uneventful. After waiting for all the cars to unload, we started our climb out of the ferry terminal. It was a nice long climb but at manageable grades (4-6%). Towards the end of the climb, we saw the Mediterranean Sea on our right.  The road finally flattened out on the ridge of the island, and we could see the road ahead along with the Mediterranean Sea on both sides of the island. This was one of my favorite views the entire trip.

We descended into the town of Cres (same name as the island) for lunch, and we stopped at a nice restaurant on the water. We gorged on a fish platter with amazing grilled squid and then bought some pastries at a nearby bakery and packed them into my jersey pocket. During the climb out of Cres, I felt the donut melting, so Roman transferred the donut from my pocket to Greg’s backpack – all while riding up the hill.

We rode along the ridge again, and this time we had an undulating descent through a wooded area into Beli for the night. The descent was somewhat scary for me as the roads were narrow and there was traffic in both directions. At Beli, we went to the secluded beach (an 0.8 mile walk that dropped 414 ft), and Roman got into the water.

Bakery treats for after the ride
On the ride to Beli
The beach at Beli
Beli from our hotel

Day 4 Cycling: Beli, Cres to Krk

That morning in Beli, I had a big breakfast that included a multi-egg omelet and pancakes (crepes) with jam and nutella on top.  On this full stomach, I rode through the fog to climb out of Beli back to the ridge. I left a bit early as the sky was dark and threatening, and I preferred to ride in the sunshine and minimize the amount of time riding in the rain.

Ride through the fog from Beli

The undulating hills from the previous night made for some respite for the morning’s climb. Since I was familiar with the roads towards the other end of the island, I rode tempo for a few miles while enjoying the gradual descent off the ridge. Before long, we had a nice long climb. (Being my silly self, I underestimated what an 0.9 mile hill entailed and worked the hill trying for a Strava segment.) Once more, we descended into the ferry terminal, and we could see the fog and mountains on the other side of the island where Beli is situated. This ferry ride was more eventful: we were worried that the support van with all the bikes wasn’t making the ferry. When it was nearly full, the ferry opened up its belly for small cars and our van was one of the last vehicles on. Interestingly, there were tons of campers and RV’s going from island to island on this ferry – I never knew before that this was popular in Europe.

Once we landed (at a bigger terminal that could handle two ferries), we climbed out of the ferry terminal and had an undulating ride into Krk (same name as the island). Here, we had lunch on the waterfront, and again we climbed towards our destination of Vrbnik on a full stomach. We had a fast undulating descent. When we got to town, folks on the tour stopped at the wine shop and picked up quite a few bottles of wine.

The hotel for the night had lovely views of the sea and of the mainland. We swam in the cold yet clear water and had appetizers of bread, salami, prosciutto and white asparagus on the hotel terrace. It started to rain about dinner time, and overnight, a huge storm blew in. As the thunder and lightning woke me up, I made a resolve to not ride in the lightning – in my dreamlike state, I didn’t want to be a lightning magnet on my steel bike.

View from terrace at Vrbnik

Day 5: Unexpected rest day 

This was supposed to be the hardest day of the trip: a 3.2 on the Bob scale. Cycling to Motovun was the hardest so far, and it was only a 2.9. I spent a lot of time worried about my gearing and whether or not I could even make it up the climb. Most of the folks had a triple chain ring and could spin up the previous climbs. I had double chain ring with and felt like I was in trouble on some of the harder days.

All the worry for was naught: when we woke up, the conditions were miserably cold with a windy downpour. Bob asked if anyone wanted to ride, and no one really seemed up for it. So, he found a van to drive us to the next stop of Brod na Kupi, a Croatian town on the Slovenian border. On the drive over, I could see why he canceled the ride: the hydrofoil that was to take us to the mainland wasn’t operating due to the waves and the wind gusts could have easily blown me off the road or over the bridge. Even though I dozed in and out of sleep during the drive, the bridge from Krk to the mainland seemed like it went straight through a mountain. In a short span, we went from a Mediterranean to alpine atmosphere, and I may come back to ride this route one day.

Brod na Kupi couldn’t be closer to the border. I could see the border crossing from the hotel window, and we walked by the river that makes up the border.  That night, we had an amazing feast of mushroom soup and veal at Hotel Mance.

Turbulent coast in the morning at Vrbnik
View from Hotel Mance of Croatian border crossing

Ljubljana and riding out of Slovenia

Ljubljana, Capital of Slovenia

We started the trip with two days in Ljubljana. We stayed at the city center and walked everywhere (cars aren’t allowed in the city center). On the first day, we landed mid-morning and got situated at the hotel. Things went a bit slower than normal due to our exhaustion from the flight (no sleep for me). We visited the castle at the top of the hill, walked around, signed up for a 5k the following evening and watched an ITU (draft-legal) duathlon and triathlon. It was another sleepless night for me, so I ended up getting breakfast at 6AM and fell asleep on a full stomach.

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On the second day, we took a “free” tour of the town (paid for by voluntary tips of the tour guide).  We learned a lot about the different buildings and the multiple bridges that crossed the town. The older part of the town by the castle was protected by the river, and the bridges linked the old town to the new.  We then had a heavy lunch at a traditional Slovenian place which included duck pate wrapped in prosciutto along with different cuts of game.

After putting my bike together, we had a brief tour meeting, and headed over to the race. The nighttime 5k (started at 9PM) does 2 laps of the city center and crosses two different bridges. The course was a bit confusing as I didn’t understand any Slovenian.  However, I liked running through the lit up old buildings and right next to folks having dinner and going to the bars. Even better, when we were done, they fed us a massive plate of pasta with meat sauce. I had another nearly sleepless night.

Day 1 Cycling: Divaca, Slovenia to Motovun, Croatia

We started the morning off with a train ride from Ljubljana to Divaca. It was a nice train ride, with a pretty and varied country side. On the way to lunch, the roads were smooth with a nice shoulder. The climbs were reasonable with sweeping descents. After lunch, we biked across the border between Slovenia and Croatia. Strangely enough, there was at least a mile or two of road that was no-man’s land between the Slovenia exit and the Croatia entrance.

We decided to take the “high road” “with some climbing” (according to Bob, the tour leader) to Oprtalj where we would meet up with the group taking the less hilly “low road.” The high road started (and continued) with some steep climbs that skyrocketed my heart rate. I had to stop a few times to let my heart settle down before continuing. Looking at Strava data, it was a Category 3 climb that went on for 1.8 miles and averaged 10.2%.

As a reward for the climbs, we saw gorgeous sweeping views (common theme for the entire trip).  Some of my favorite memories were watching two women pushing an older farming truck down a hill to get it started, climbing through a quaint town and hanging a right to continue past it, and looking left during the undulation section of the hills and seeing a castle on a hill in the middle of the valley.  When we stopped at Oprtalj, we could see Motovun, our destination, across the valley.  This meant was had a great descent from Oprtalj, and more hills up to Motovun. For some reason, I thought we were done by the time we hit the parking lot for Motovun, but we had over a mile of climbing before reaching the pave. At the pave, I had to walk up the steep and uneven road. I was tired and hungry.

View on the first day’s ride
View of the pave headed into Motovun

We stayed at Kastel atop Motovun, which meant a cool room and great views of the valley.  Even better, we were in truffle region, so I had a dinner of truffle cheese, cream of mushroom (truffle) soup, and white truffle risotto. I was happy after dinner (and I finally got some much needed sleep).

Halloween Weekend in Dublin

Dublin tourist center
Samuel Beckett bridge over the River Liffey

Vegas, Roman and I flew to Dublin for Halloween, and I spent most of the time hanging out with my friend Vjera. The locals were all immigrants to Dublin, and it was a good time. Vegas and I ran the full marathon in costume (cowgirls). Every few hundred meters, I heard, “Well done” or “Go cowgirl.”

After a summer of traveling and bailing on long runs, I still managed a 16-minute marathon PR at 4:22:58. Now, I’m convinced that I respond to intense workouts better than volume and that races should be done in costume when possible.

Hat swap at club in city center

Montpelier, France

Montpelier made a Francophile out of me. The quality of life here is just amazing – the city is lovely (stone buildings from centuries ago, tree-lined walkable roads), the weather was gorgeous and the food was sumptious. The more I travel, the more I believe that we accept crap for food in the States. We’re willing to eat mass-produced junk because it’s cheap and easy – and it affects our bodies accordingly. (Not that I have a place to lecture – I eat plenty of fast food because real food takes effort. And, after years of eating Gu, Infinit and other endurance nutrition, some of my tastebuds and “protests to yuk” have died.)

Montpelier, France

I’m behind again, so my description won’t do Montpelier justice. Amazing food, town weather, and people. Pain au chocolat with fresh orange juice every morning after my walk to work, really fresh fish and bright vegetables, and some pretty tasty desserts. (And I’m not a dessert person.) The three-hour dinners made it difficult to work a lot – but it’s a difference in lifestyle.

I’m still thinking through the lifestyle difference, but I definitely have a lot more respect for it now.

Catching up…

It’s been a while since I posted to this site, so I guess I should catch everyone up to date.

May, Gulf Coast Road Trip

Back in May, P and I rented a car and drove out to Panama City Beach, Florida, so I could do the Gulf Coast Triathlon and do some diving. It was a long drive out there, and we made the 12-13 hour drive in one go. We meandered our way back to Austin stopping in Pensacola and New Orleans.

We dove the Oriskany, an aircraft carrier sunk off the coast of Pensacola. The visibility wasn’t great that day, so we couldn’t see the flight deck. However, I did swim through the flight control room and through the smokestacks. In the New Orleans, we stayed in the French Quarter and just walked around during the day. Food highlights of the trip:

  • PCB: J Michael’s. Good fresh, local seafood.
  • Pensacola: Blue Dot Burger. Best burger I’ve ever had.
  • New Orleans: Couchon Butcher. Best Banh Mi I’ve ever had. I think the Head Cheese set it apart from other Banh Mi.
  • Baton Rouge: Coffee Call. Beignets and beignet fingers. Can’t really go wrong here.

June, Round the World

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I’m a product manager for a global transactional tax system. If you make a purchase from the company and see taxes, the system I work on may have calculated the taxes. (I say *may* since we’re still working on the global part.) Before this summer, I’ve been able to do my job with a lot of late night/early morning calls and a yearly trip. With the onset of our India launch, all sorts of issues come up and I’m summoned to Penang, Malaysia last minute. I’m also summoned to London for another workshop, so I decide to make it all in one go.
The Penang meetings go well, we figure what we need to do, and I head off to Hong Kong for the weekend. As a coincidence, Regan’s (my college roommate) brother was vacationing in Hong Kong from DC that weekend, so it wasn’t difficult to convince Regan (who’s an expat in Taiwan) to also fly in.

It was good to hang out with him and to eat some really good food. It’s a given that food tastes amazing there. I also managed to do a morning run by Victoria Peak – nice to get back to nature and solitude, just minutes away from an urban jungle.

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Before the London workshops, I took the train over to Brussels to watch Stage 2 of the Tour de France. (Cancellara was in yellow that morning.) Also stuffed myself on chocolate croissants in Brussels. The London meetings didn’t have the same urgency as the Malaysia ones, but they’re good for direction going forward. Got to run around Hyde Park a couple of times.

July, India

Nineteen days in India. The launch happened, and straightaway, there were high priority issues left and right. It was a lot of work and stress. There were some down times, and the people who could, drank. Most of my memories involve working, calls in the middle of the night to work on an issue, and more work.

August, Brazil

This globalization thing is happening faster than I thought it would, so on the heels of India (gratefully with three weeks at home), I head to Brazil to gather tax requirements. Awesome meetings – great brain dump of the taxes we charge and why. I’ve come to the conclusion that countries with federated states with taxing authority have the most challenging taxes.

Great country, good food. I got food poisoning on my first night, so I wasn’t able to pig out at the churrascaria. It was a bummer to get sick in a hotel room away from home, but when the stomach cramps were bad enough to call a doctor, the hotel got some EMT folks to come and fix me up (with an IV) in no time. I also got to see my first Brazilian football game with the local team, Gremio. The hardcore fans do an “Avalanche” (above) when their team scores a goal.

September, France

I head off this afternoon to Montpelier to support a big launch and to do some training. I’m scared of the scope of the launch, so we’ll see if it’s all work or if I get a breather and get to see some of the city/countryside.