Seeing Europe in the Summer of 2015

•2015.07.10 • Leave a Comment

Observations from my business trip to Lille, France via London, England.

TRAVEL

We got through Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest airports, faster than we did RDU. Score one for the Brits.

The food service on the return flight, Heathrow to RDU, was far superior to the food service from RDU to Heathrow. Another one for the Brits.

Early morning U.K. border police can be a surly bunch. Most likely, one two many pints the prior night.

Europe doesn’t ask you to remove your shoes or boots going through security.

Traveling on the Eurostar is what an airplane experience should be. Business class highly recommended.

It takes 20 minutes to cross the Chunnel via the Eurostar.

On the return Eurostar to London, I would have gladly spent my day having the French stewardess ask me questions in French {swoon}.

While you can travel pretty well as a non-French speaker, every conversation start is an awkward moment.

On the return flight a steward and a passenger got into a war of words. For a moment I thought we were going to have one of those headlines of “Passenger Removed from Flight for Unruly Behavior”.

LILLE, FRANCE

Lille, France

Love the cobble stone streets. Consequently, you don’t see many women in heels {suicidal}.

There’s money in spray paint. Graffiti everywhere.

Meal portions were much larger than I remember. I hope this not a sign of more Americanism corrupting a culture.

There are no peepholes in hotel room doors.

Smoking remains prevalent.

Blowing the car horn in traffic is common, but they don’t lay on it like they do in NYC.

LONDON, ENGLAND

Prince Albert

The Underground was on strike the day we returned, but no one really seemed put out.

When we checked into our hotel, two of us received upgrades to executive suites. The one who did not was wearing a t-shirt. The two, polo shirts.

Had a pint and fish-n-chips in a pub. Did not throw darts (no dart board). Did not eat my mushy peas.

I stood in Hyde Park where Taylor Swift stood for the British Summer Time show, minus the stage and the accompanying super model friends.

In the St .Pancres train station, I had an empty drink can but could not locate a trash can. I asked a policewoman and she said I would not find one. She also said just set the can down. Someone would come along and collect it.

You must re-learn how to cross streets. Remember, the Brits drive on the other side of the road.

When you are walking down the street it is really weird to pass moving cars and not see someone in what would normally be the driver’s seat.

Ice Cream

•2014.01.11 • Leave a Comment

I’m leaving out how this post came into fruition, but in a nutshell a co-worker asked me for a recommendation on ice cream. Having spent the better part of the spring, summer and fall trying various brands and favors, the following is what I answered (with a help from my food buddy on sampling and memory recall).

I shied away from store brands and tried to focus on the high-end to the obscures (although Ben & Jerry’s does make an appearance). Think Whole Foods, Earth Fare, The Fresh Market or your local coop. What I found is that most brands have a couple of real winners with their remaining offerings just being good to fair. What you should take away from that last statement is that price does not determine taste (remember that when shopping for Jeni’s at $12/pint).

2nd St. Creamery – Copper Kettle Caramel
Ben & Jerry’s – Cherry Garcia (FroYo or the real stuff)
Ben & Jerry’s – Pina Colada (limited summer availability unfortunately)
Ciao Bella – Blood Orange Sorbet
Ciao Bella – Lemon Zest Sorbet
Ciao Bella – Key Lime Graham Cracker Gelato
Ciao Bella – Peach Ginger Sorbet
High Road – Mango Chile Lime Sorbet
Jeni’s – Brown Butter Almond Brittle
Jeni’s – Goat Cheese with Red Cherries
Jeni’s – Queen City Cayenne (not currently available)
Phin & Phebes – Banana Whama
Talenti – Chocolate Chip Gelato
Three Twins – Sea Salted Caramel

If you need one decadent winner, take the Copper Kettle Caramel.

If fat content is an issue, forget the ice creams and stick with the sorbets. The fat content in the ice creams can range in percentage from the low 30’s up close to 60. Ice cream and labels do not mix.

The following have been added to the list as of 2014.04.12:

Talenti – Toasted Almond (my current favorite across the board)
Talenti – Southern Butter Pecan

Lofty Ideas

•2013.04.28 • Leave a Comment

I seldom use my own social properties to comment and/or promote anything for work, but this is too good to ignore. If you’re a interior designer or decorator, someone who’s TV seldom strays from HGTV or simply someone with a loft and in dire need of design assistance, this is absolutely for you. Watch it and if you want to learn more, just pop over to the Perspective: Atlanta web site.

State of the Nation

•2013.04.28 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a while WordPress. You’re slice of my virtual social life has gone from being quite large to being almost non-existant. You’ve been replaced and I don’t see that changing, no matter how many tweaks you make.

Users have to come to this site to see the content. It’s not something that rolls across their Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr feeds. Does that put the onus back on me? Somewhat, but I don’t have the time to chase/produce the content that would drive this site. The other properties just make it too easy to type a few words and click submit.

And does a 140 character tweet make sense here? Not really.

So, am I killing you off? No. This is just a “state of the nation” post to let you know that you’ve not been forgotten. You’ve only been ignored.

Lost and Found

•2012.03.02 • Leave a Comment

Last Saturday morning I lost my wallet. Last Sunday my wallet returned. That’s how things go.

This is not a post about how I lost it or how I got it back, but about the canceling credit cards and their replacement. With in 15 minutes of realizing my wallet was gone, I started canceling cards. I had an AMEX and Mastercard issued from my employer, an Exxon gas card (which I never use) and a debit and Visa card from Truliant Credit Union.

AMEX – Logged into the AMEX site, quickly located the link for reporting a lost card, filled out the form and boom it was done. As for the replacement, I was given an option of overnight delivery or 2-3 day. I went with overnight. The replacement card arrived Monday at ~9:30am. Grade for AMEX: A+

Master Card (Wells Fargo) – Logged into Master Card site. This site really sucks, so finding the lost card link took a bit of work. I don’t know who designed this site, but it wasn’t anyone who understands usability. Anyway, once I found the link I was able to cancel the card. No options on replacement delivery. Replacement card arrived Thursday. Grade for Master Card: B

Exxon – Welcome to call center hell. I had my statement and called the number it provided. Welcome to India. I start explaining the situation and I’m told its no problem, they can take care of it. As I’m answering questions, the line goes dead. I call back. Different person answers. I start explaining the situation and again the line goes dead. Take three — yet a different person except this time I am told that they do not handle Exxon cards at this center. What?!? Before this conversation goes dead, I’m given a number to call for Exxon cards. Funny how the first two operators could help me, but the third could not. I call the number. It appears I’m in America now. The operator is confused as why I called this number. I explain the situation and she says they also do not handle Exxon cards and to call yet another number. Take five — I finally get someone who can assist and we work through the process. Total time I would put at 30 minutes. I will say that everyone was personable, especially the final operator (Donna). Card arrived today (Friday). Grade for Exxon C+.

Truliant – Logged into their web site. Located the cancel cards link. Its was a damn email form which means its not an immediate action. Someone would have to receive the email and then act on it. Did I mention that this was a Saturday? Screw that. After hunting and finally locating a phone number (why are these so hidden?), I reached a live and very helpful person. She efficiently walked me through the entire process. Delivery? Not yet. Still waiting… and waiting… and getting more mad. Grade for Truliant, who I absolutely love in all other aspects, D.

p.s. Having no useable cards, I had to go to Truliant to cash a check for funds. The cashier made an off-hand comment about it taking two weeks to get replacement cards. I thought he was joking at the time, but its not turning out to be a joke. It it appears to be a customer service failure.

Shearwater (Not)

•2012.02.13 • 3 Comments

If one of your favorite bands shows up at your local venue and 4 of the 5 members are different is it the same band? Should it even be called the same band?

Let’s say you bought a ticket to see the Pixies. The band walks on stage and you have Black Francis, but in place of Kim, Joey and David you have three people you have never seen in your life. Is it the same? No. Should they be called the Pixies even if they play Pixies songs? No.

So this is the scenario I encountered last night at the Cat’s Cradle. The lights dim, the band walks on stage and what do I see. I have Jonathan Meiberg and four questions marks. No Thor. No Kimberly. So this is Shearwater?

I don’t know the reasons. Maybe Thor and Kimberly either had conflicts or didn’t want to tour, but this is not Shearwater. And what’s bad here is it should not be sold as Shearwater. I’d been okay if it had been sold as “Jonathan Meiberg” — I have seen him solo — but to show up with a four unknowns is not acceptable.

Was an explanation offered? No. Was there any indication there would be a difference in players? No. Look at the NPR article that accompanies the stream of the new album. It shows the five members I expected to see and even talks about Thor’s and Kimberly’s contributions. So what gives?

From the moment I realized I wasn’t getting who I expected, it became an immediate disappointment. I was done and it was all I could do to stand there and take it. This is not to say they weren’t good – they were – but my engagement was zero. I just wanted it to stop.

This may seem like harping, but this is a band I have seen more than any other band. This was show number six (or was it?). I had planned to buy the CD at the show and I didn’t and at this point I doubt I ever will.

Coach

•2012.01.19 • Leave a Comment

I hadn’t planned to post this, but since Coach has chosen not to respond to my email I’m making it public. It’s my email response to their order cancelation email, with a few inserts and a correction on the year (I’m still thinking 2011).

I was extremely pleased that Coach FINALLY sent me offer that could be applied on-line versus all previous offers that required a visit to a store. I assume someone at Coach woke up to the fact that not everyone lives in New York where there are multiple Coach stores and that people actually do shop online. Anyway, I knew exactly what I wanted, went to the web site and ordered it. It took a day to get an order acknowledgement (that’s a painfully slow email system you have). It took another day to get an order cancelation (to my great surprise).

I find it pathetic that your web site is not connected to your inventory. You do realize this is 2012, correct? This situation reminds me of the Best Buy debacle of Christmas. Not a situation that invites a complementary comparison.

So what are my takes aways here? The obvious one is that Coach has serious information systems issues [and thus customer service issues]. The not so obvious one is that even though I have a Coach wallet and check book… and that I bought a Coach handbag for my mother for Christmas, [along with the thousands I have spent over the years]… I’ve probably spent my last dollar on any of your products.

 
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