With all the great cities around the world looking like ghost towns these days due to the CoronaVirus pandemic, thought it would be a good time to revisit arguably the first epic ‘street racer’ video of all time – Claude Lelouch’s “Rendezvous”. While the video has gained legendary status over the years, not all felt so enamored with what he did:
Due to the illegal nature that had to be undertaken in order for the movie to be filmed, the director Claude Lelouch was arrested upon the first screening
What I found great about this classic is being able to see how Paris looked in the mid 1970s – and especially the vintage 1970s cars on the streets – while at the same time being able to clearly recognize the classic sites and venues that the city has to offer. It’s only 10 minutes long and being able to ride shotgun at high speed through the relatively empty streets of Paris still gets the blood pumping.
In 2012, filmmaker Alex Roy made a short video analyzing and breaking down Lelouch’s classic video:
Through history and popular culture, the Vikings of the northern parts of Europe (Norway, Sweden, Finland) have always had a the reputation as hardened, sturdy folk who were able to deal with any situation head on, with the matter of fact clarity that make men and women swoon.
In my opinion, the importance of the Norse on European culture has always been underrated. They were prolific explorers and a critical piece of their traveling exploits were the amazingly sturdy, iconic boats that they built.
So as we fast forward a couple of thousand years to present day, we find the Norwegian Sigurd Aase, who in 2008, initiated a project to build a modern day version of the traditional Norse ship – the Draken Harald Hårfagre. The ship looks exactly like the traditional Norse ships, all the way down to the decorations and embellishments, and was built to as close to specification as could be.
The Vikings left almost no record of how they built their ships, or how they sailed them. Draken Harald Hårfagre is a recreation of what the Vikings would call a “Great Ship”, built with archaeological knowledge of found ships, using old boatbuilding traditions and the legends of Viking ships from the Norse sagas.
Yet, at the same time it has very modern technology built into it. Here is a video of it traversing the North Sea during a storm.
From their YouTube page:
Sometimes it is hard to imagine that this was just a couple of months ago. Draken and her crew have been through storms on the North Atlantic Ocean. What an achievement, sailing from Norway, to Shetland Islands, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland – just like the Vikings did a 1000 years ago, and into the St Lawrence Seaway, trough the locks and into the Great Lakes. She made it, it is a real modern Viking voyage.
Now, let’s think back a couple of thousand years when the ‘real’ Vikings sailed around the North sea, wearing handmade fur outerwear, navigating the seas in these boats with nothing but wooden oars. Pretty amazing. Pretty badass.
Whenever I travel, it is inevitable that I will find myself in the local grocery store picking up some snacks, food, and other essentials to last me through my trip and/or vacation. Or, I’ll be picking up some of the local treats that are unique to wherever I’m visiting – think real Cadburys chocolate (oh, yeah…there’s a difference) or some scones when in England. Seeing Richard Morgan of New York Magazine talk about this in gave me a great big smile, only because everything he talked about was so familiar.
The secret museum in every city is a grocery store. It’s where you can grab and squeeze and not-at-all-weirdly smell indigenous produce. The fishmonger runs an aquarium. The butcher is a zookeeper. But groceries also hoard the culture’s guilty pleasures — its Netflix-and-chill snacks are in its potato-chip flavors (my native London favorite was a packet of sea-salt-and-Chardonnay-wine-vinegar crisps, and Marmite ones always hit the spot, too). Its childhoods are in its confections (I loved Icelandic Prince Polo chocolate bars, which are actually imported from Poland). I am constantly on the lookout for jars of gently tart zarour jam, so freely available in my mother’s hometown of Bethlehem, in Israeli-occupied Palestine. It’s the last tree that still bears fruit in her abandoned childhood home.
Richard Morgan – New York Magazine
On top of the great local vittles you can acquire – or horde up on – in the foreign grocery store, you get to people watch and observe locals live their lives like a voyeur peering through a window. Are they going for the sausages or the salad tonight? Beer or wine?
And honestly, it is not just a practice for a foreign country. The people watching allows you to pick out who are the locals and who are not. A few weeks ago I was on a family vacation in Maine, and my wife got stuck behind a millennial – slash – wannabe yuppy couple at a local Maine supermarket. They were so out of place, and so not local to Maine, that my wife texted me complaining how they were so disorganized that they held up the line for a good 15 minutes (I was sitting in our car). Now, we obviously are not from Maine, but these folks in front of my wife stood out so distinctly that a few minutes later I saw a woman and her husband walking through the parking lot – the woman wearing a loud bandanna on her head. I immediately described her to my wife via text, asking “Was that her?” Yeah, I nailed it.
So next time you are in Iceland, or Paris, or Germany, take a walk out of your AirBNB and pay a visit to the local grocery store. You may discover a treat you would never have found in a restaurant.
Botin Restaurant of Madrid, Spain has been in continuous operation since 1725. It’s wine cellar dates from 1590 – the latter part of the Reconnaissance and not too long after DaVinci and Michelangelo were alive. The say they have kept the fire burning in the oven 24.7 for those same 293 years, which seems a slightly outrageous claim but who am I to question it? Their signature dish is a suckling pig roast and I bet it is spectacular – however, I’m not sure I could eat that dish with a pig’s head staring at me
As Jules said:
JULES: I just don’t dig on swine, that’s all. VINCENT Why not? JULES Pigs are filthy animals. I don’t eat filthy animals. VINCENT Yeah, but bacon tastes good. Pork chops taste good. JULES Hey, a sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie. But I’ll never know ’cause I Wouldn’t eat the filthy motherfuckers. Pigs sleep and root in shit. That’s A filthy animal. I ain’t need nothin’ that ain’t got sense enough to disregard its own feces.
The lack of activity this week was because I was out on vacation in Southern California, visiting Anaheim, Disneyland and Los Angeles. Just a great time and, boy oh boy, the weather out there is just spectacular. I definitely did not enjoy waking up from the red eye this morning to “Welcome to Newark Airport, where the temperature is 38 degrees”.
I spent the majority of this past week out in beautiful San Francisco, CA attending the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s (yes it exists) WOM Basic Training conference. At its most basic level, Word of Mouth Marketing is defined as giving people a reason to talk about your products and services, and making it easier for that conversation to take place.
Overall, I found the conference very eye opening and enlightening. There were some very compelling presentations and they far outnumbered the poor presentations (including the pathetic disappointing keynote from Robert Scoble). What I found most fun were the stories and examples of different people rallying around a specific cause or passion, including www.savesurge.org, www.snakesonablog.com, iPod Battery Replacement, and the ChevyTahoe “make your own ad” fiasco.
I could write for pages the things I learned and the background on the previously mentioned examples, but I think I’ll just add them sporadically to the blog as time goes on. It will make for some interesting and diverse reading.
I look forward to attending future conferences like this and I can only hope they are as informative and enlightening as this one!
Its a sad day in London today. Yes, the Queen is still kickin’, Chuck and Camilla are still an item, Harry is still partying away. But alas, the sadness is for the decommissioning of the old London “Routemaster” double decker bus. London is phasing out these classic busses in favor of more boxy double decker types that can accommodate handicapped riders, and single deck busses like you see in almost any other city.
The image of the Routemaster is an indelible icon of London, as is the image of passengers hanging out of the rear entrance to jump off while the bus is coming to a stop, or running to catch the bus and jump on. And there is also the conductor, another icon that is just as important to the Routemaster. The new busses won’t have the conductors as the driver is the one who collects the fares. No matter how you cut it, its a sad day and the passing of an era in good old London towne. London is one of my most favorite cities and I am definitely sad to see this style of bus go away! I wish I was there to take one last trip to Notting Hill Gate or Knightsbridge.
The good news is that if you are really a fan of these busses, I guess you could buy one or even live in one.
I have spent the past few days in Phoenix, AZ visiting my company’s office out here. My group has had some all day meetings which are always fun. In this quick visit here, I have enjoyed the nice warm weather, the dry air and a good steak at a place called Cartwrights on the north side of Phoenix. I think the interesting aspect of this town is how spread out the city is. The thing I find weird is that all of the houses have the same look and feel to them – very homogenious. Its been refreshing compared to the sub-zero cold of the Northeast this time of year. PHX is not a bad place to be in February!!
This week we took a trip out to Pittsburgh. While there, we took a tour of PNC Park, where the Pittsburgh Pirates play. I was even lucky enough to catch a game there with a couple of friends of mine from college.
Overall, I thought Pittsburgh was a really interesting city. There were many aspect of the town that I liked including the new stadiums they have for the Pirates and the Steelers. The houses in certain areas of the city were amazing. I could also tell that it was a city that had seen its better days and is now having a sort of resurgance. I hope it continues and I look forward to visiting the area again soon.
So I took my second flight on Independence Air within the month, and similar to the first one, this one was also an adventure. For some reason, whenever I have flown out of Dulles Airport to NJ, the weather has been very unstable and there is no doubt that contributed to my adventure.
So to start, we boarded and left the terminal for the runway after some weather delays. We are on line for takeoff and then the Captain comes on the PA to say we need to return to the terminal because there has been an additional delay and that we need to pick up more passengers. We return to the terminal and are greeted at the front of the airline by Police security. It turns out that there were two convicted felons on the plane that passed security without being stopped. Yeah, that makes me feel safe. So, by this time, the weather has deteriorated further and we are now delayed at the terminal. Many passengers were complaining and the jovial spirit of the last adventure was no where to be found (probably because the weather was far worse then).
In addition to the felony situation, there were two parents and their ~18 month old son sitting in front of me. And of course, the son was screaming at the top of his lungs for the majority of the flight. Sitting next to me was a very nice Indian man who had apparently not showered in quite a long time, because his B.O. permiated the immeidate space. He also had a bag that he chose not to check, and was also too big to put in the overhead compartments. He jockeyed and positioned himself in every way with his bag at his feet, and the bag overflowed into my foot space, which on a plane I value immensely since I am 6’3″. He eventually shifted to another seat prior to takeoff which I was thankful for but he did not go far so the aroma still permiated.
And just to cap it off, there was an Italian guy flying up to Newark who had to catch a connecting flight to Rome, IT and of course, it was the only flight to Rome that evening.
This past weekend, I flew up to New Jersey instead of driving. The reason I flew was because a new discount, low fare airline hit the market this month called Independence Air. Their hub marketplace just happens to be Dulles/Washington International Airport and as part of a marketing/promotional deal, they offered AOL employees a free flight anywhere they fly during the month of June. And being that they fly to Newark, NJ, I figured I may as well give it a shot. It was free (except $18 in taxes).
Oh boy, what a trip this was. I flew up this past Thursday (6/17) and for those of you in the Northeast, you may recall that there was some nasty weather that evening, which in turn essentially delayed all airline flights on the East Coast. So to start, the 6:30PM flight was delayed until 8:30PM, which was a bummer but tolerable. So we all boarded the flight ahead of the 8:30PM departure time, we had the doors on the airplane closed, and then the flight crew got the call…the FAA grounded flights to Newark and Boston because of the weather. So here was a plane full of passengers stuck on the runway. And with this news, the flight attendent did the only reasonable thing he could do…he started to serve free beer (and wine). I have to give the guy credit, because in a very difficult situation, he kept everyone loose and in a great mood, cracking jokes on the PA system and just doing all he could to keep everyone happy. Somehow, he even had some of the passengers serving drinks. A classic scene was when one of the women helping him went from the last row of the plane to the front, and announced to the flight attendant in a firm and determined tone, “OK, give me two reds, a white (wine), a Heineken, and a cup of ice.” Just classic.
We eventually took off a little after 10:30PM and arrived in Newark around 11:30PM, making a 45 minute flight a painful 7 hour trip. Hardly a way to kick off a new airline, however the situation was out of their control and it should be noted that the flight back was smooth as silk.
I have been spending far too much time on the New Jersey Turnpike recently, driving back and forth to Northern VA where I am currently working. All the rest stops on the NJ Turnpike are named after famous people past and long past. Do you think people like Walt Whitman, James Fenimore Cooper, Grover Cleveland and others ever envisioned that thier names would be on rest stops on the NJ Turnpike?
On Sunday, I went into Washington, DC’s Georgetown district to just enjoy the beautiful day and walk around one of my favorite neighborhoods in “the District”. While walking on M Street, I cam across the Rhino Bar located at 3295 M Street, NW and quickly discovered that it is the DC home of Red Sox Nation. Now I know where to go during playoff time!
And speaking of Baseball, I also checked out the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s traveling “Baseball as America” exhibit, currently at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History (Why this exhibit is at the Natural History museum is beyond me).
Just got back from a week in Maine with the wife and kids. Had a great time, although the weather during the week was overcast and rainy. We were able to salvage a few days at the beach which was fun. Rebecca really enjoyed playing in the sand.