Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Cancun, Mexico

A direct 3-hour 9-minute flight from Chicago, sometimes I wonder if the United States invaded Mexico here. The plane had not a single hispanic passenger (except for one flight attendant) and while waiting in customs line it was all white people. Yet once out of customs, the locals were everywhere looking to take you to your hotel/scuba dive/pyramid tour/adventure excursion/whatever.

Cancun airport is very modern, spacious, air conditioned and relatively nice. It is a shock to the system to exit into the heat - 91 degrees and 90 pct humidity of today. The hotel picked me up in the car and drove me to the hotel, a good 20 minutes along a slip of land and hotel after hotel. Most of the signs are in English, and many of the people walking along the route were Americans. It is like Florida!

The water is very clear and multi-coloured, but much of the beach has eroded due to the near miss of Hurricane Ivan. Work was all day, very tired. Looking forward to getting through the very long next several days... we'll see if I get any sun at all!

Monday, July 26, 2004

Mexico City

Very tired.   The city is very pretty in the area where the hotel is, it is wealthy and actually feels very European with many trees and cafés.   The weather is mild, partly sunny in the low 70s, with no humidity. 

There is a street called "Horacio" which has a park running through the centre of it.   There are pine trees that line the park and it is well manicured, and it goes for what seems like miles.  Just very beautiful.

Lots of nifty book stores and boutiques in the area, as well as the typical expensive stores (Armani, Gucci, Hugo Boss, etc.) that are on the main street.

I will definitely come back to check out the city when I have more time!


Saturday, July 24, 2004

Villahermosa, Mexico

After two very full days of work, with essentially no free time, last night I took a look at the competitive hotels - and therefore my first look at the city.

Villahermosa is a green city, but largely industrial.   The Hyatt is an older building wedged on a small street off one of the city's two main roads.  Adjacent is another hotel (of obviously lower star quality) and a modern and very tall glass office building.   Across the main road is a beautiful large park with a lagoon and a museum housing some of the famous huge Olmec stone heads (I've seen them on tv before).   I plan on going there today.

The city has another main road that intersects; I can see this road rising above the trees from my window, it is very busy and crosses the city south to north.    Along this other road are some of the main shopping centres - nothing fancy, more like strip malls.    But at least all of the streets are lined by trees which is nice.

From the window of my room, which faces south, I can see the cathedral off in the distance.  I plan on taking a taxi there today to check it and the main plaza out.   But the rest of the city looks industrial and rather unattractive.     Villahermosa is an oil town, the headquarters of Pemex.    Scattered across the horizon are water towers, offfice buildings, radio towers, highway bridges and concrete houses.   

The hotel is very hip.   The rooms are modern, sleek, in cream colours and cherry furniture accented with brick red upholstery and red mexican patterned pillows.    The bathroom is small but has a glass stall with a rain showerhead and beige limestone with red granite vanity.  Surprisingly nice!    The lobby is still traditional but they plan on renovating this during the Fall. 

Today I plan on taking my time relaxing in the room, then going to the park and museum, then off to the cathedral, returning to go work out and then work in my room tonight.    The goal is to RELAX.   I leave for Mexico City tomorrow late morning...


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Conversion has gone VERY well, easily, I have budgeted much more time than needed.   The competitive site inspection, day one training and conversion could have all taken place in one – albeit long – day instead of two.   So I’ve taken advantage of the weather and enjoyed the afternoons by the pool and worked in the evenings until late.  
Today it has been sunny all day and no rain – for once.   Weather forecast is clear through the week.
A couple of funny things that have happened that I forget mentioning:
-         Driving back from Chichén Itza in the middle of the Yucatan brush hearing “Born in the U.S.A.” on the radio
-         On my first day orienting with the staff, I asked if anyone at the hotel had met the Pritzkers, the owners of Hyatt Corporation.   Rosario mentioned the closest they ever came was when one of the relatives brought a group of college students every year – from Michigan State University.   I nearly fell over.   She said they come every year and party in Mérida over spring break.
-         The nicest Wal-Mart in the world is just up the street.  It is so inoccuous that at first I didn’t even notice it – which for Wal-Mart is usually impossible.  It is make of limestone and the sign is just carved into the limestone, no tacky blue/white sign.   Inside it is very clean and, although obviously a Wal-Mart, not overstuffed and unpleasant as most of them are.
The heat and the humidity here are stifling.   I can’t imagine living in a climate of 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity for month after month.  The heat is ok, but the humidity makes it hard to breathe!
More work to do tonight, so I must sign off for now.   A full day of training tomorrow, then I leave for Villahermosa for a full day on Thursday with almost no free time. 

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Chichén Itza
“On the immense plain of the northern Yucatan Peninsula, with neither mountains nor rivers to disturb the uniformity of the landscape, among the agaves, thorny bushes and short trees, stands monumental Chichén Itza, one of the most spectacular ceremonial centers in all antiquity.”   - Michelin Green Guide
The morning was clear, not a cloud in the sky.   I left for Chichén Itza around 10:30am, and after getting out of Mérida (I had no idea the city was so large, nor that there were so many one way streets) it was a rather uninteresting drive all the way to the ruins.    Rather flat with tall brush all the way there, very green.
 “On the immense plain of the northern Yucatan Peninsula, with neither mountains nor rivers to disturb the uniformity of the landscape, among the agaves, thorny bushes and short trees, stands monumental Chichén Itza, one of the most spectacular ceremonial centers in all antiquity.”
Nearing the ruins is, of course, a small town where you can eat and are panhandled souvenirs – I can’t tell you how often people came up to me on the street or even at the site saying “one dollar.”   All of the souvenirs were uninteresting and copies, that I saw.
There were so many tourists it was unbelieveable.  I was expecting to be disappointed, that the site would be overrun with them.   Well… 
After paying the entry fee ($9 US, which I thought was steep for México but obviously worth it), I walked down the long trail to the open yard where stood El Castillo.   To say it was spectacular would be an understatement.   The entire complex is so incredibly spacious that it takes hours to wander through it.   It was incredibly hot – by this time, a little after 12noon and definitely nearing 100 degrees.  I climbed El Castillo and nearly fainted by the top, it is so steep.   I relaxed and surveyed the incredible view – why here?   Chichén Itza is in the middle of the jungle and I am still amazed that anyone would build anything there.
It wasn’t spiritual as it was amazing.   The ruins are so complete and in such good condition that you could imagine the priests, priestesses, worshippers doing their daily duties.  Most fascinating was the ball court, which was much more massive than I expected.   The hoop on either side was at least 20 feet off the ground, not easy to get a ball into.   There are murals depicting the winner – or loser? – being decapitated and whose head is in the other’s hands.    Around the corner is the sacrificial altar which has skulls carved into it.   More macabre than I imagined.
The sacrifice well was very, very large, and I’m surprised that any civilization could have carved this out.   It was about the size of a large house, and apparently very deep.    I have pictures so check them out…
I spent over 3 hours wandering the site and just taking it all in, despite the heat.  I would have gone inside El Castillo but it was too hot to wait in line, and I wanted to beat the potential rain.   I did purchase a souvenir from someone I saw carving a totem, the only one who wasn’t trying to hock souvenirs for $1.   It cost me 100 pesos, about $9.   He was very appreciative and much more reserved than the other 90 young men trying to sell to me, and the fact that he was actually making them made me feel like I had something that wasn’t a machine copy, so I felt that experience was worth it.
The ride home was uneventful, and now as I recount the day’s events, a heavy storm has rolled in from the southeast.   The wind is incredibly heavy, and although it is only 6.30pm, it looks like night.   All of the trees are bending in the wind and even the windows in my hotel are bending slightly, the wind is loud enough to hear through the windows.    I think I’ll eat my dinner and watch the world fall apart… 
Last night, I wandered the streets of Mérida as the rain subsided.   Paseo Montejo is a large tree lined boulevard with wide sidewalks and huge mansions – spectacularly beautiful, the mansions reminded me of New Orleans.   Not all of them are homes; in fact, Mexicana, ING and many restaurants take up shop in these former homes. 
At the end of the plaza was a little street festival called “Noche Mexicana.”  It was very charming with traditional musicians and dancers on stage, and beyond the seating were several booths with handicrafts, food and drink.  I had the best tostada I have ever had there, they must have deep fried the shell for a year it tasted so good.    I went to bed early, however, as I have a busy day ahead! 

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Mérida, Mexico
This is the “capital” of the Yucatan, an old town that is the gateway to the Mayan culture.   To get here, you have to fly either through Mexico City or Cancun – on this trip, it was Mexico City.
The good part of the trip – no delays, I slept part way to Mexico City and nearly the entire way from Mexico City to Merida, and I was greeted at the airport and arrived quickly.
The bad part of the trip – screaming baby for at least half of the way to Mexico City; the Aeromexico gates for the flights to Merida were all together, and it made Southwest look organized and luxurious – I’ve never seen so many masses of people crowded in such a small space; it has rained nonstop since I arrived; and the hotel is average, a better fit compared to our hotels in the USA.
That being said, there seems to be a great deal of organization here about the Mayan culture and lots to do in Merida.  The staff gave me a great guide that says what is going on nightly, and tonight there is a traditional Mexican party happening in the centre of town.   As the rain seems to have subsided (perhaps only briefly), I think I will head down there.
Because it was raining, I went to OXXO (the Mexican 7-11) across the street and got some Sol beer and some chips to snack on to wait the weather out.   I was horrified to see at the Fiesta Americana next door is a Chili’s restaurant.  
Many more Americans here than I expected, about 10-15% of the flight here and there are many in the hotel.   It’s a weekend, so perhaps everyone is touring the Mayan ruins.  I guess I will find out tomorrow!
The airport is the nicest I’ve seen in Mexico.  It is small, but clean and I think relatively new.   Modern, good lighting, no trash or peeling paint.

Sunday, July 04, 2004


What an incredible city is Santiago.

On my last day in town, I took the day off and toured the city. I took the metro - only two years old, very clean and only C$320 (around 40 cents) one way - to the Centro. There, I went on a tour to...

La Maneda: home of the presidency, beautiful and well guarded
Museum of PreColumbian History: not huge, but some incredible artifacts
Place de los Armes: as usual, a beautiful Plaza with many old buildings and a bandshell
Mercado Central: market similar to those in Madrid, with restaurants, vegetables, fish
Bellavista: bohemian neighborhood with many art galleries and restaurants

At Place de los Armes, a concert was going on in the bandshell. The Santiago Instrumental Orchestra was playing a medley of Abba hits, which was a little unexpected but not bad.

Mercado Central is a cross between a flea market and an eatery, similar to Madrid's markets but also with a CampdenTown fleamarket built in. All the merchants kept trying to persuade me to eat at their restaurants, it got old so I left. When you cross the river, the flea market continues. Lots of produce and meats and nuts and fish as well as tshirts, pottery, incense, etc. It was cheap and I just made my way down the river until I got to the heart of Bellavista...

Bellavista is a colourful area, all the houses are painted different colours. Just beautiful, big trees. There are many neat restaurants and my full lunch with wine at one of th nicer places was C$9500, or US$15. Along Avendia Bellavista are many lapis lazuli vendors. The stone is indigenous to Chile and after a while you get bored seeing it, but it was neat to see all the vendors.

I then took the metro back to Las Condes - the very modern district where the Hyatt is - and went to Pune. It is such an incredible store, and I got my gifts there. Then I took a cab back, packed and headed home.

An incredible city... can't wait to go back. Beautiful, clean, great weather, safe...

Friday, July 02, 2004


Last night I finally had some free time. The weather has been spectacular - the smog has been greatly reduced, and the sun is shining getting to a high of about 60 degrees. Incredible.

I walked up the street to a local shopping mall and it was like... a shopping mall. This country is so modern it is astonishing. They had a Laura Ashley, Polo Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, two Dunkin Donuts, a McDonalds, as well as some European brands - Zara, NRG, Lush, etc - on top of two department stores, a Carrefour (French grocery store) and a zillion cell phone stores. Chile may be far away, but it is certainly the most modern and safe place I've been to on my travels to Latin America so far.

The park is adjacent to this mall, so I walked up and looked at the incredible mountains as the sun started to fade. They are so HUGE. You can't miss them anywhere. It is like San Francisco being built on the edge of the Sierras, but the Sierras are 20,000 feet tall.

I walked through some of the adjacent streets to get a feeling for the neighborhood here. I am in "Las Condes" which, as I see on a map, is on the outer edge of the city. Modern, safe, everyone has cars and there are many high rise condo buildings.

Today I plan on taking the metro to the old town, then to an area called BellaVista across the river which is apparently very picturesque. I will then backtrack and go to Los Domenicos, which is a trade area with Chilean goods. Marcela, one of my colleagues here, took me to a very upscale store with nice Chilean things and if I can't find anything I like in Los Domenicos, I will go back there. My flight is at 8:30pm, so I better boogie...


Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Hyatt Regency Santiago

A long week.

Santiago is an amazing city. I've only spent time at the Hyatt, with a little time at a local restaurant for dinner last night. But its appearance is a cross between Vancouver and Los Angeles. Vancouver for the modern buildings, green parks, and huge mountains literally adjacent to the city. Los Angeles for the smog, traffic and weather. Difference: the mountains are 20,000 feet tall and population is smaller than Los Angeles.

They have a drink here called Pisco Sour which is kind of like a liquor lemonade, very very good and not too sweet or tart. Very yummy. Last night at dinner I had a red wine known as "Carmenere" which apparently was brought from France to Chile, but was destroyed by a virus about 10 years ago. It now only exists in Chile and is a cross between a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Delicious. For lunch I had the "Pastel de choclo" - a corn pie, which is a Chilean specialty. It is basically red meat, chicken, mushroom, onion and olives topped with corn bread and cooked in a crock. Delicious but quite heavy. Food and drinks: very good here!

The Hyatt Regency is a spectacular circular glass building with a floor to ceiling atrium that is 20 stories tall; there is also a rather vast garden and pool area behind it that makes it look like a resort, it is beautifully manicured. Neat hotel - the planned renovation will be spectacular, I saw the new rooms and they will be sleek, modern and simple. Love it.

I am fading fast. The weather is supposed to be good the rest of the days, and I get tomorrow afternoon and all day Friday to myself before I return to Chicago. I definitely want to come back here on vacation!

Monday, June 28, 2004


Longest flight in history. Check this out:

Sat 14.00 hrs - arrive O'Hare Airport
Sat 14.10 hrs - check in and get to gate G23
Sat 15.00 hrs - gate change across airport to gate H18
Sat 16.00 hrs - flight delayed 1 1/2 hrs from 16.30 departure to 17.45 due to "weather"
Sat 18.00 hrs - flight departs for Dallas
Sat 20.15 hrs - flight arrives; flight to Santiago delayed until 22.10 departure
Sat 21.30 hrs - board plane
Sat 22.30 hrs - plane has malfunctioning fuel gauge
Sat 23.45 hrs - plane departs 1 1/2 hrs late
Sun 09.00 hrs - arrive in Santiago area, but smog; told we would circle for 45 mins
Sun 10.15 hrs - running out of gas, diverted to Mendoza, Argentina
Sun 11.30 hrs - land in Mendoza; refueling and checking weather in Santiago
Sun 11.45 hrs - told weather would not clear for 1 1/2 hrs; required to wait on plane
Sun 13.00 hrs - weather worsened; must stay in Argentina; airline talking to immigration
Sun 13.15 hrs - called Park Hyatt Mendoza, made reservation
Sun 14.00 hrs - still waiting for bus to terminal
Sun 14.30 hrs - in terminal, waiting to clear immigration; must return at 06.30 next day
Sun 15.00 hrs - arrive at Park Hyatt Mendoza
Mon 05.30 hrs - wake up
Mon 06.35 hrs - arrive at Mendoza Airport
Mon 07.35 hrs - flight crew arrives (!)
Mon 08.40 hrs - board plane
Mon 09.45 hrs - departure delayed due to unknown immigration problem on board
Mon 10.00 hrs - depart Mendoza
Mon 11.15 hrs - arrive Santiago
Mon 11.55 hrs - arrive Hyatt Regency Santiago

You count the hours. Long ass travel.

Good news: Mendoza as beautiful and wonderful as ever. Park Hyatt very accommodating. Santiago is warm, clear weather, city is very modern - similar to Vancouver but with 20,000 foot mountains. Long day of work today, work all week. Delayed return until Friday night so that I can see the city on Friday. More on it on Wednesday once I have energy!

Friday, June 04, 2004


A very cloudy morning. I don't think I'll get a chance to get much if any sun. I'll be the whitest person ever to leave Acapulco!

Schedule for today:

08.00 wake up!
08.30 go to health club
09.30 have breakfast
10.00 work on remaining outstanding items
11.00 go downstairs and check on things
12.00 begin packing for departure, post card for my niece, work
14.00 depart

hopefully there will be opportunity for some sun in between all of this!

Thursday, June 03, 2004


Been in Acapulco for three days now. I've been working incredibly hard, it has not gone so well, but it is nearly over. Vacation starts tomorrow in California!

Weather has been sunny in the morning, rain late morning to early afternoon, then sun afternoon into the evening. Tomorrow I plan on going to the gym, then sitting in some sun and doing some final work before I leave for the airport around 1pm. The airport here is PINK. Very strange.

Ran into Julie Coker, the General Manager at the Hyatt Lodge in Oakbrook, yesterday at the pool. It was funny to see a familiar face so far away from home!

Humid night.... back to work.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Santiago International Airport - 7.30pm

I've just arrived in Santiago after a week in Argentina. It is such a beautiful country, but I'm also tired and ready to head home.

Two nights ago, I went to a leather shop to see if there was something I liked. A taxi took me there because it was far - about a 10 minute ride. After browsing for 20 minutes (they only sold jackets, what is up with that?!) they closed the store behind me as I walked down the street to call the hotel. OOPS! My cell phone can't call locally. I called Andy and had him keep me company (in Chicago) while I walked around the poorly lit city streets of Mendoza at night to find my way back home. No taxis were available. It was a bit unnerving, but as I collected my thoughts and remembered my city tour on day one and generally the direction from which the taxi dropped me off, I found my way back. 2 hours later! It was nice to walk around the town, however. Bustling with many college age kids.

Strange sight: I walked past a Shell gas station, and between the pumps and the mini-mart area was a SEATING AREA with umbrellas and seats. So you can have a coffee while you watch people pumping gas. It was packed with people. Bizarre - in any culture.

Last night the General Manager, Director of Sales and Reservations Manager took me to a restaurant near the hotel that was like a goods store. It had spices in glass boxes on the wall, a deli and a very nice wine room. And tables all over, so we ate inside this goods store. It was very nice, although the food was somewhat average.

I also tried this dessert called Dolce de Leche. It was delicious... they gave me a jar of it for my trip home!

Today I had a chance to take some photos as it was not raining. I will miss Argentina.

Tomorrow I will be home and glad to be. I am very tired, I have been traveling for two weeks living out of a suitcase. I look forward to relaxing over the weekend - and seeing Andy!

It is 5.30pm and I am on my way out the door to catch my ride to the airport. A good week of work, a lot to think about. I love this country so much!

I took a few photos today and can't wait to post them all so everyone can see. The mountains are full with snow, but they always get clouded as the sun gets higher in the sky so I don't have pictures of that.

The hotel gave me a gift... Dolce de Leche. It is kind of like caramel, wonderful stuff. Yum.


Sunday, May 09, 2004

Park Hyatt Mendoza, Argentina

Wow. This is one of my favourite cities in the entire world.

Flying over the Andes was spectacular (although it was a bit unusual when the stewardess said "The Governement of Argentina wishes to inform you that it is required to spray an insecticide in the cabin prior to landing. This is non toxic and made of natural materials. Thank you." and then she sprayed the hallway). Landing at Mendoza airport was like landing at Lansing airport, it was so small!

I was picked up and driven through Mendoza. The city was so beautiful at twilight, there are antique lights all over and several squares which had art festivals. They have them every night! The architecture is like a cross between Spain and France, and many of the cars are from the 1950s (and in bad shape). Utterly charming. The Hyatt has a historic façade but is very modern and beautiful behind. Upon arrival, my amenity was a glass of wine filled with cherries and cinnamon. Yum.

This morning, Mario (my driver) picked me up and drove me around town. Over EVERY street the trees grow to make a natural tunnel, and all of the buildings are beautiful. Although a million people live here, it seems MUCH smaller. Behind Mendoza are the Andes, rising up to 20,000 feet. The world's tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas is right behind the city - it is called Acongagua at 22,841 ft. A spectacularly beautiful town.

After touring the town, we went to two wineries (also below the Andes and during the fall, so the leaf colours are amazing): Finca Flichman has all the modern techniques and equipement, a very impressive tour arranged just for me by the Park Hyatt. The second was Nieto Senetiner, much closer to the base of the Andes. We had an authentic Argentine barbeque outdoors at the winery, with amazing beef and empanadas. Delicious!

After all the wine and the warm temperature (about 80 degrees), I came home and had a massage. I realized how weak the currency is here after that, as an hour massage was A$90, or US$30. They have been through so much here, it is amazing. I read an article on the plane about Argentinians, now creative they are culturally to try and generate revenues. Ad hoc theatre, paintings, crafts and performance art.

After my massage, I walked to Plaza Espana and Plaza Independencia to hit the nightly art fairs. It was so charming and very romantic, and the whole city was out looking at all the booths. I bought so many gifts and spent only $30, including a beautiful handcrafted knife just for me at $20. The leather goods are incredibly beautiful and inexpensive.

This is everything I want in a city... nice weather, beautiful architecture, very green, near mountains, very cultural, great wine, inexpensive, wonderful people... what more could you want?

Back at the hotel, now I have to work. A wonderful day ending with work... A busy week ahead!

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Dunkin' Donuts at Santiago International Airport

Arrived here and I've got a 4 hour layover. I slept for about half the flight; it was spectacular flying over the Andes, I took a couple digital pics from the plane that I will try and post. What a view.

As we neared Santiago, however, there was no view. The pollution is so thick you can cut it with a knife - and this is on a Saturday! The weather is great here, however, and I only wish that I could get outside - like the outdoor cocktail lounge at Palm Springs Airport.

I went here and realized as I ordered that I had no money - I ordered a sandwich (jamon y queso) and a café latté and it cost me C$2,900. That's US$4.60, ridiculous. I put it on my corporate Diner's Club. How funny will that look! My phone works here now, and I kind of expected it would. As difficult as some of the economies are in South America, Chile has remained the strongest. That the airport is nice and has free (2 hour "trial") WiFi is a plus! There is a range of shops located in the concourse here, and they are all actually rather nice. Frankly, it is the nicest airport I've seen in South America and Mexico. You'd put it right up there with the nice airports in the States or Europe.

I have some leftover Brazilian Reias (R$56=US$18). I hope I can use it again, I won't even bother to exchange it because it isn't worth the fee.

Every day I am checking www.rassmussenreports.com to see how the LATEST dipshit scandal is affecting the President's popularity. Will Americans finally realize the danger in his blind convictions, and how nuts his foaming-at-the-mouth Secretary of Defense is? In Brazil everyone asked me what I thought, saying "your President is crazy!" Of course, they added theirs wasn't much better either...

Next stop... Argentina!
American Airlines Lounge São Paulo International Airport

What a sorry excuse for an airport lounge. I guess I can´t expect much more than a free cup of coffee; this place has not been refurbished since the early 1980s, and all of the food is either breakfast pastries shinkwrapped or hot dog buns. At least it is quieter than the airport gate.

Thursday night we all went to this place called Miller, Goddard & Cia. Ltda. It was in the Brooklin area of São Paulo. The place was totally fun, it was like a nice pub. It was interesting, when you arrive you are given a card with a price for drinks on one side and a price for food on the other. You can choose either or both, and that much is required to be paid at least by the end of the evening. You can go over that price if you want, but you have at least that minimum. As you select things from the menu, they are checked off on the list. As you leave, they check your card at the door and add up the total, and you pay the minimum or the entire amount, whichever is greater. It ensures a minimum revenue for the bar and a way to track your budget for the customer.

Anyways, the place was very charming, with lots of tables and wood walls with photos and old magazine articles, photos of São Paulo. There was a band in the far corner, and they were VERY fun, starting with a disco version of "Killing Me Softly With His Song," then a disco version of "Have You Ever Seen The Rain." People were getting pretty drunk, and having a great time, and dancing around the tables. It was fun! Later, after a break, the band played all of these traditional Brazilian dance songs that my colleagues said are popular in Rio. It was really fun. I also had some cachaça finally - boy is that strong stuff! Caiprihinas are made with lime and cachaça, and are kind of like a strong margarita. I only had one and had a headache all the next day.

On Friday, it was raining so bad, I did work in my room and then decided to risk it and venture out to the Paulista and Jardim areas. Just as I arrived, the sun came out and it was beautiful! I walked all around the neighborhood, it is so incredibly gorgeous - big houses and apartment buildings, all either traditional or modern. Big walls around some houses, and very very lush with lots of trees. The hills are very steep, like in San Francisco. I walked along a street called Oscar Firiere (sp?). Extremely expensive but charming, lots of cute little boutiques. I got some traditional Brazilian art in one, and I also got a CD (Madonna - American Life - only R$12, which is like US$4).

I walked up to Avenida Paulista, which is the centre of the financial district. People everywhere, and the huge street - really a boulevard - was packed with people! It was very nice, and the sun was out. I ended up at the MASP - Museo Art da São Paulo - which is a stunningly modern building, but I had no time to get into it. My car back to the hotel was waiting!

Traffic was bad, but when I got back to the hotel, I was sad to say goodbye to everyone. A beautiful gift was on my bed, wrapped so nicely. I will really miss this place! Later in the evening, I went with some hotel staff to dinner at TriBeCa, which is in the Itaim district. Very nice place, and again, great food. I had duck ravioli. Yum.

Ok, I gotta go. My flight is waiting... next stop, Mendoza Argentina via Santiago Chile!

Thursday, May 06, 2004

São Paulo

Rained all day today.

Another full day of meetings. Afterwards, I went to the Morumbi Shopping and bought Haivainas. Finally! I hope they are the right sizes for everyone! It was not an easy thing to do. Unfortunately, I could not buy them for Andy or Scott because they don't make them greater than a U.S. size Men's 8. It was not an easy thing to figure out! I spent a total of R$107, which is US$35.

I am going out with colleagues tonight, we are all going to a club. I am excited to experience the Brazilian nightlife. Tomorrow I may get most of the day off, but I have to work with Cancun and Acapulco on some things. More on the nightlife tomorrow...

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

São Paulo

Another full day of work. Did not even get a chance to step outside; it rained last night and I woke up from thundershowers overnight, so it was probably very muggy as it was over 80 degrees again today. Still sunny though.

Everything with work is going so very well. I ate at Kinu, the Japanese restaurant here, yesterday, and at Eau - the French Restaurant - today. Both were very very good, impeccable service.

As I was on the phone in someone's office, I looked at this cable and realized it was a digital camera cable that would work for my camera! So I set it up and I now have pictures online! Yeah!

Having dinner in my room, will finish up my presentation for tomorrow then go to bed. Tired!

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

São Paulo

Worked all day today. A productive day at work. The hotel is so beautiful at night, just spectacularly lit up.

Last night, hired the hotel car to the Morumbi shopping centre. It was like any mall, with two main department stores (equivalent of a Mervyns and a Lord & Taylor). I wanted to find a digital camera connection to my computer, and went into a camera shop. No HP products (in fact, none anywhere to be found - I don't think they distribute here), and a fellow shopper who spoke Portugese helped me translate. I know a little Spanish, but I can't even use that. The language is so completely different. It is frustrating, I feel at a total loss. I should have gotten a portable dictionary. Shoot - I just realized I left my portable Spanish dictionary at home. Oh well, the same trouble in Argentina. How frustrating! No camera cable, no Portugese, no Spanish.

I had the local soft drink, I can't remember what it is called, but it is made from Guarana. This is a Brazilian berry from the Amazon - very popular. Tasty, similar to Ginger Ale but much sweeter. I will definitely have it again!

Enough for tonight. Time for bed.

Monday, May 03, 2004

São Paulo

Olà my friends!

Another hot day in Brazil, it is 72 F right now, high today in the mid 80s. Meanwhile, it is only supposed to be 50 in Chicago. HA HA. Not a cloud in the sky, either.

Met with my colleagues for breakfast. After doing a bit of work in the office, I am now off to tour the Grand Hyatt São Paulo officially, then to see the competition. Some work to do in the afternoon, then I hope to have maybe an hour by the pool and then to go visit the nearby mall to do some shopping - I want to buy some Havaianas and that camera attachment.

The soap here in the hotel is amazing. It is called Granado and I was given three scents: Coco, Pitanga and Guarana. It is made from the Amazon rain forest:


Off I go to the Brazilian sun...

Sunday, May 02, 2004

São Paulo

I hired a taxi from the front drive and took it to the nearest Metrô stop (their subway was built within the last 10 years but does not reach the area where the hotel is). It was fascinating to see the shanty town on one side of the large avenue and on our side, a hill with some beautiful houses of the wealthy looking down on them. Sadly poetic. In Sao Paulo, rich and poor are yin and yang. A couple of 12 year old lanky boys juggled tennis balls in the street for a handout at one stoplight.

The Metrô is clean, efficient and feels safe. It took me directly to Plaça Republica for R$1.90, which is about 64 US cents. Upon leaving the train, it felt great to be in warm sun, among thousands of happy people moving through the stalls. It was interesting to see that the fair (held every Sunday) was sectioned: wooden items in one area, semi-precious stones in another, leather in one area, and an incredibly large section devoted to (mostly awful) paintings. There was also a food section.

Not seeing much of interest, I looked to find the nearest McDonalds - always the best place to find a clean bathroom in any foreign city, fyi. As I neared one, five teenage men created a "scene" in front of two hefty American middle aged men on the Avenida Ipiranga. The two men tried to understand what was happening; a sixth man entered the scene from a store, and went up one of the American man's polo shirt and literally ripped off the gold chain from his chest; he ran into the street and away so fast, it would have been impossible to catch him (although another man tried); the other five then disappeared. The mugged American just stood exactly where he was, stunned to have been so blatantly violated in the middle of a sunny day on a busy street. About four seconds had passed. I checked my person, felt comfortable with my safety, then went on my way, also a bit leery.

I took the Metrô to Sé, the centre of the city. A massive cathedral exists - frankly, much much larger than anything I had expected. I took some pictures, and met two young men who took my photo - and I theirs. We got to talking, and it was ironic to hear that they were from Maastricht, in the Netherlands only 20 kms from my childhood home. They are on a six-month tour for a company on behalf of their university, searching potential sites for the company to expand. This was their second week in São Paulo and they leave this week to southern Brazil, then Chile and Argentina. Nice kids.

Next up was a short walk to Liberdade, a region that has the largest number of Japanese in the world outside of Japan. I had no idea, and it is no lie. The entire area is like Chinatown in San Francisco, but it is Japantown in São Paulo. Tons of Japanese food stores and shlocky shops (anyone up for Hello Kitty! in Portugese?!). As I walked down the street, I ordered a aguadecoco. Literally, what they do is take a green coconut, make a v-cut in the top with a machete, then insert two straws. It cost R$1.50. Not as refreshing as pure water, but by then it was probably 90 degrees out and anything helped. And I met three ladies from Japan who were **so** excited to get this (?!) and I took their picture, and they took mine. This area of town felt very safe. It is on a crest and is halved by a massive freeway, but it is sunken into a hill, so all the streets run over it. What is neat is that you get a chance to see a view - of so many buildings, all highrises, it is unbelieveable. I've frankly never seen anything like it.

The weather was so nice, everyone was outside. It started to get too much, so I dived into a grocery store and bought some aguardente de cana - it is an alcoholic drink used in making caipirinha, the brazilian drink. A fifth cost R$2.90. That is US $0.98. I bought three of them, also bought the mixer for it, it is so cheap. It was neat to go into the store. Basically, the goods seem very similar to the designs found in Europe. Nothing shocking, really.

I took the Metrô home and then ran to get a bit of sun (which, actually, I got anyways just being outside today), then worked out and hit the Grand Club. Free cocktails and hors d'oeurves at night.

Looking forward to a good room service dinner and a good night's sleep... sweet dreams!
Grand Hyatt São Paulo

I slept 5 hours straight on the flight! Amazing.

The most amazing sight was flying over Sao Paulo. For miles and miles, through wisps of clouds, all you could see was 20-30 story white apartment block buildings. This city is huge!

Going through customs and immigration ended up being a non-issue. There are rumours of taking hours to get through, but we were the first flight in from the U.S. and so we were the first in line. They separate Americans, who are subject to a photo and fingerprint screening. But the people who worked the booth were very friendly and smiled a lot.

Very hot and humid today, at least 80 degrees.

A driver from the Hyatt named Carlos picked me up at the airport, and we drove in following a river. He told me they are dredging it because it floods during the rainy season, and then they are going to spend 20 years to extract all the pollution from it. Not a pleasant drive in, and there were edges of a shanty town to be seen, but suddenly a gleaming office park appeared to the left of the freeway, and the Grand Hyatt is on the edge of it.

I was greeted very warmly by the hotel. Phenominal service. Room is spectacular, and the Grand Club Lounge is nice indeed. A very large mall is nearby, so I will try and get my camera cord there later today if I remember. Tonight I will work out and maybe go swimming, then eat room service and chill out. Right now, I plan on washing up and going to see some sights downtown. They say the metrô is very safe and clean, so I am thinking I might try taking that.

Sat May 02, 9:00pm CST

American Airlines Flight 0963

What an exciting trip!

This morning was so crazy, doing laundry at 8am, rushing around packing and getting ready for my trip. By the time I got to O’Hare, I was relieved to be on my way. The bad news was that I realized that I left my cable connection from my digital camera to the computer in my desk. How stupid! I looked it up, to FedEx it to me would take at least 5 days and cost $60. That means that I may be in Argentina by then, half way done with my trip. I’m going to see if during the week I can buy a cable in Sao Paulo.

It is interesting to read the guide books about São Paulo. Everyone has mentioned security to me, and the guide books are very “light” on it. Of course – they don’t want to scare you. In reality, I think São Paulo is probably like any large city. Know where you are going, don’t be flashy and you’ll be ok. I bought a Fodor’s PocketBook on it on Friday, and there are certain areas where it says “be cautious,” etc. But it is specific to different areas – for instance, about the “Avenida Paulista” area it says “… Avenida Paulista may well be the safest place in the city. Even so, stay alert and hold onto your bags, particularly in Parque Trianon.” It is stuff like that which is telling me “be careful.”

I also read that Cirrus/MasterCard are not widely accepted in Brazil. So… I am going to look up and make sure I find a Citibank (they MUST have a branch in São Paulo, it is the world’s 3rd largest city!) and get money there if I need to.

I really like the fact that I fly overnight, and there is only a 2-hr time change (forward). So even though the flight is 10 hrs long, I will arrive in the AM overnight. Yeah! I hate jet lag. I’ll be refreshed and ready – there is a driver to greet me at the airport, and I should get to the hotel and be ready to hit the market. On Sundays, most stores are closed as in much of Europe. But there is an outdoor market that everyone talks about at Plaça Republica, and it is near many sites to see, so I think I will do that. And take pictures!

The Grand Hyatt São Paulo is supposed to be just incredible, I know the marketplace is difficult and they are losing money. But I look forward to the experience, and I have worked so hard on their rates that I think the presentation will go well. I really enjoy talking to the staff there and I can’t wait to meet them! I also hear the hotel is just so spectacular… it should be a great introduction to the “new” Hyatt International product.

Ahh… business class on American. Food, wine, food, food. Dinner is about to be served, so I have to sign off. I love the fact that you have champagne before you take off, crudité and nuts, wine right after take off, newspapers, space, you can even plug in your lap top. It is easy to get used to this, even though 10 hour flights suck. I love that AA gives you a private DVD player with 20 movies to select. Lots to occupy the time!

Saturday, February 07, 2004


Finally over the jet lag, I woke up a bit before 8am. I'm a European now, if only for a couple more days. I opened my windown this morning to find it has gotten much cooler, but it is dry at least - and the dentist isn't working across the street, so the few looks a little less painful.

I had to try room service to see if it was as good this morning as it was last night. Wow. I had oatmeal, coffee and toast. It was so beautifully presented that I took a picture of it. And it was, frankly, the best room service breakfast I've ever had. Not only that, but the oatmeal was amazing - made with real cream, it was so delicious. Probably only 9,000 calories!

About to get ready for the day, then hit some shopping and what looks to be an interesting show at the Musée du Luxembourg. Home later to pack and listen to the MSU-OSU game on-line. Go State!

Friday, February 06, 2004

Park Hyatt Paris - Vendôme

I moved hotels to the Park Hyatt Paris at Place Vendôme on Tuesday night. It is nice being downtown, but I've been working so long that yesterday was the first time I went for a walk since the weekend.

The weather here is spectacular, in the high 50's to low 60's and partly sunny. We walked to the Place de la Madeleine yesterday to visit the other Hyatt hotel and I couldn't get over how nice it was. I'm looking forward to a day off tomorrow.

My room is beautiful - I'm putting pictures of it on the site so you can see. High ceilings and the colours are a mahogany wood and gold, with a brown limestone bath. Just beautiful. I have a view out of my window of the obeslik at Place Vendôme and... funny... a dentist office across the street. Every morning when I get up I see patients getting their teeth cleaned or a root canal.

Tonight was, frankly, the best tasting room service food I've ever had. A simple bibb lettuce salad with shaved parmesan cheese and balsamic vinaigrette, and then mashed potatoes and charbroiled chicken breast. All done simple, classic and frankly perfect. Not too much dressing, not oily, a touch of garlic. And all on sterling silver trays and silverware. You had to be impressed.

Rooms here cost around €450 a night and you can see why. A combination of modern style and classic architecture - unusual, nice. The bar is très hip, they have a DJ and play cool electro jazz music. I love Europe for that.

Tomorrow I go shopping, then I leave for Madrid on Sunday.

Lucky me!

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Ok, this is my first big work road trip and using this blogger, so I did all kinds of stuff prior to my finally logging on and using this... below are the posts.

Paris by Day, Airport by Night

Staying at the Hyatt Regency Charles de Gaulle right now. I have meetings here through Tuesday, so it doesn't make any sense to stay anywhere else. I think I am moving to Madeleine or Vendome this Tuesday for the remainder of the week.

Weather very blustery, windy and rainy. So I took the early bus back home. The Hyatt now has a bus that drops you off right at l'Opera, takes only 35 minutes. Nice compared to the 1 hour train ride that I did in the past.

What do I like about Paris? It is just so incredibly beautiful. Best shopping? No. But the people watching in this city is second to none - there are so many places to perch. Cafes, bars... endless. I went shopping at l'Opera, Place de la Madeleine then got bored and took the Metro to Le Marais. Such a cool area, I got lost going from street to street, they are all so tiny, and just when you think you've seen everything, you are on another street. They are so cute. I found a great tea shoppe but it was so busy, I passed it up. Don't need tea anyways - that is for London!

Decided not to do any cultural things today... but there seemed to be an interesting exhibit at the Centre Georges Pompidou - modern architecture. But it is such a ghastly building it is hard to even attempt entering it... I took a picture of it peeping above a tiny street, see the photo. The guts of the building are on the outside, that is why it is so well known. And ugly.

There was a huge line of people trying to enter this place called ' Le Point Vergule' - that means 'the semi-colon' (as in punctuation - the ; ), and I think it was a comedy club. Comedy in french? Is there such a thing?

Well, I am going to retire for the night. Tomorrow I may go downtown again to buy these shoes I saw in Le Marais, but I also want to work out and relax, so who knows. We'll see.

Fri 30 January 2004

Thalys Train

I’m on the “Thalys” bullet train now from Brussels to Paris. It goes so fast… the conductor just announced (in French, Flemish and English) that “[he was] informed that the train has just surpassed 300 km/h.” That’s 186 mph! The still has some remnants countryside is very rural and pretty… the sun is shining, and the snowfall from Thursday over the hilly fields and on the village church roofs.

Fri 30 January 2004

As I sit in the train station, it is interesting to see that what must be a gay bar called “Pullman” (no comment) is actually in the station. There is only one woman – obviously a lesbian – behind the counter, and the music is pumping loud bad europop. The bar is circular, with cheesy faux-wood paneled walls, and varied dart boards, Hollywood star posters (Marilyn, Madonna) and beer emblems are all around. Needless to say, I just walked on by.

It is neat to watch all the people scatter about the station, looking for the signs. There is so much activity, old and young people confused or lost or just looking for something to do. There must be at least 5 “Relay” newspaper stores in the station, and at least 5 cafés. It is very modern and looks cleaner than when I was here last year.

Friday 30 January 2004

This morning Demet and I had breakfast in the hotel lobby prior to departure. Nice people at the Hyatt Regency Brussels-Barsey, and I look forward to meeting them encore une fois!

Thu 29 January 2004

What a wonderful day. I woke up so late – 10am – that I ended up rushing to get some food and wash up, then off to Gare du Midi to pick up the rental car. It had snowed last night – 2 inches – and I was nervous to drive to Brunssum/Heerlen. Lo and behold, however, the road was pretty clear and in fact the sun cleared as I neared the Netherlands.

I keep forgetting it is only an hour drive from Brussels to Brunssum, so it is very easy to stay at the Hyatt and still do my thing back home. I drove straight to Ubach over Worms to get chocolate. The woman remembered me from last year, and I made her day – I ordered €100 worth. As she was preparing it, I walked over to the Edah grocery store to get some basic items for the next two weeks. I love going to grocery stores in foreign countries, they are so interesting – what do people eat, are there convenience items, how do the costs compare?

No pretzels in Europe…

Heerlen had changed much, but again for the better. The architecture is so great, very modern. It really has come along way since I lived there, or since my visit in 1998. The shopping is much better too. It was interesting to see a stray U.S. soldier in uniform here or there. Found an electric adaptor at a hardware store, after searching HEMA and the V&D. Only €1.95 !

I listened to CFN and AFN (that’s Canadian/American Forces Network) radio. No CFNB anymore – they don’t broadcast out of Brunssum, which is too bad. Still neat to hear it.

I went back to AFCENT (now AFNORTH) and saw the school, then dinner with Doug DeBacker. It always feels so comfortable hanging around there, in some ways it is like I had never left. I am totally able to drive around with little reference to a map, and I don’t get lost. It isn’t a big area… anyways, I had spinach lasagna at a great Italian restaurant just across from the weekend marketplace. I found out that the Eden Park is still run by the same family, only the kids now run it!

When I came home (weather was dry and clear), I logged on-line and chatted with Andy for an hour. Funny how you can be 5,000 miles away and the internet can make you feel you’re at home.

Wed 28 January 2004

I don’t have an electric adaptor… stupid me, I forgot the plug difference. The hotel is looking to see if I can buy one… meanwhile, I am borrowing Demet’s to recharge my computer! DUH!

Wed 28 January 2004

Arrival in Bruxelles/Brussels

Arrived in snow. Big flakes. Welcome to Brussels?! I don’t ever remember snow. I slept well on the flight, and although customs took an hour, it was great to get to the hotel. I took a little nap, then met up with my colleagues for dinner. The hotel offered a full menu for the trainees and the trainers, and I was invited. It was very nice, and we watched it snow in the terrace as we finished our dinner. Good to meet all the hotel personnel, and to see Philippe and Demet.

Tomorrow…. "Home" !