September 30, 2009

accent on service

I'm back at home. But I really have to give a call out to Air France for the exceptional flight back. I've flown a lot of airlines, but Air France - both for my short haul flight between Munich & Paris, and for the long haul flight from Paris to LA - was far better than any other airline I've flown. I hoard miles to use for the trip to Europe each year, so my tickets are typical economy non-revenue tickets from frequent flier miles. One tip I learned: when using miles from a US airline that partners with European airlines, book your flights on the European airline if you can. (I use Delta miles, which partners with KLM and Air France, among others.) One big reason: baggage fees. US airlines now charge $50 for each leg for the second checked bag to Europe. That's $100 or more extra added to your ticket. But even if your ticket is through Delta, when flying Air France, the Air France rules applied - meaning two checked bags. Which in turn meant a much nicer day in the airport, a much faster and easier boarding process, and a more pleasant disembark from the plane. No one on that plane was fighting for overhead bin space. (Air France also allowed me to check both bags on the short haul flight - she said it technically was part of the flight to LA, so it qualified. bonus!) Beyond that, the meals were excellent and huge (when do you get lamb in an economy section?); if you want to sleep, take advantage of the beer and apertif or cognac that are included as well. In the middle of the flight, self-serve sandwiches, ice cream and drinks appeared in the galleys of the plane without announcement. You won't go hungry. Seats were comfortable, though still clearly economy; and the seatback personal entertainment system had more things I wanted to watch than I had time for. I actually had a ball on my flight. When do you get to say that anymore?

September 29, 2009

au revoir

Oh Paris, you're so easy to love and so hard to leave. But its time. I really don't give you the time and attention you deserve. Maybe that hope in the back of my head for a project that would have me in Germany for a few months would make more sense from Paris, at least I have a better grasp of the language. Regardless, its been another amazing journey, and I'm nothing but thankful for the experience, especially to old and new friends who shared it with me, either in person along the way or here online. Some slivers from my last day (and of course, night) in Paris. Much more catchup and followup posts still to come from back in the States, but I'm off to catch my flight now. Au revoir!

September 28, 2009

my paris

It's no secret that I enjoy the nightlife side of travel. The main reason for this is because this is often the way that I am able to meet people who live there and make new friends, as well as experience a side of their city that is less likely to be experienced by the average tourist. And of course, my natural night-owl tendencies lend to that as well. (and especially in Paris, I love how many bars are literally in cellars, complete with clearly original stone archways and passages that haven't been put there for any theme, but are simply structure). I often beat myself up for enjoying the nights because it does mean sacrificing the mornings and missing more of the usual tourist highlights, sometimes thinking "gosh I didn't see the city at all" or feeling like I've wasted the day. This is compounded at this point in the trip by the fact that I've reached that fatigue stage where I've just been away so long, not to mention decompression after Munich's festivities. But last night during the unusual stillness while walking home (it was Monday morning after all), I felt the opposite. A few people were about, but the streets were unusually still. Cobblestones glowed and the walls soaked in another night of history that probably dated for centuries. Cafes awaited the morning and museums stood guard awaiting their crowds. This was my secret magical side of the city that many others don't get to see. Maybe I'm not the one missing out after all.

September 26, 2009

mais oui

some random shots from wandering around Paris. I can't say that I feel like I've "done" much yet, but I'm enjoying it here as always (and somehow always forget how much I love this city). I walked around with my friend Kevin yesterday which led to drinks and then a long dinner with him and his friends last night at his partner's restaurant, ending well after midnight. My high school french that allows me to get by in general interactions with clerks is a lot less successful in a group of eight people in full conversation. Still, a nice night. And so much more of a 24 hour city than New York or Berlin, time gets away from you so easily here.

September 25, 2009


With a couple hours to kill yesterday before leaving Munich for Paris, I decided to jump on the UBahn and head out to Olympiapark and wander around. Apparently, Olympiapark was never meant to be the real name, but it has come to be called that due to that designation as the metro stop. It was more impressive than I expected. More than anything, I loved how much of the original stadium and environment from the 72 Olympics had been preserved, from the seats to the signage that clearly remains from then. It's difficult to find much trace of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, so that was a pleasant surprise. Olympiapark is in an area of Munich called Oberwiesenfeld, which had been almost a wasteland since 1939. Until then, it had been used as an airfield, and later stored hills of rubble from WWII bombing debris. Munich made a conscious effort to make a "green Olympic Games" and converted the area to green space with architecture that looked positively to the future. They succeeded. The "tensile" sturctures that cover much of the park, not only the stadium, were designed by Frei Otto. And while there is a decidedly retro feel to it in some ways now, it still feels positively forward looking.

September 23, 2009

never enough

Because our Sundays at Oktoberfest are completely consumed with the Bräurosl Sunday event, my friend Richard is usually willing to make a second visit to Oktoberfest to wander around other tents and rides while I'm still in Munich. Yesterday our friend Markus joined us for an evening of perfect weather at the grounds. We wandered through a few tents, but spent most of our evening in a biergarten at the Ochsenbraterei, including an almost-required half-chicken to go with our bier. I was more amused by the lady with the bucket of pickles, though. Of course I got one. We also stopped by the Augustiner tent at the end of the night to say to my new friend Andy that I met the night before. We hung with him a little as he finished his workday and he taught me the proper technique for carrying a fistful of mugs. Richard and I tried to make it on a ride after that, but managed to catch them just as they closed the ticket booths. I was prepared to even get on the Star Flyer, the one ride that taunts me every year. All in all, another fun Wies'n night for me and a chance to see a few other sides of the fest, because you just can never get enough or experience it all.

September 22, 2009


A day of recovery, then an evening of Vietnamese with friends (they said they were schnitzeled-out), a night at a Schlager bar, followed by the glorious morning construction workers at the hotel window. What a long strange trip its been. (and just for the hell of it: just when we think the US has commercialized everything, notice the ads on the paper towels from the bathroom at the bar).

September 21, 2009


Oktoberfest never disappoints. My friends Richard and Markus and I went with purchased tickets this year to allow us a little extra sleep before starting the day. We heard stories that the doors closed at 9am - meaning the tent was full already. Whether thats true or not, I can't say, because its one of those things that is always subject to hyperbole. But getting there at 11 ended up being pretty much perfect timing for us (and doors were definitely closed then, which I don't think was the case last year, though we were much earlier last year in expectation for that). It was your usual Bräurosl Sunday. Several thousand of your closest friends packed in a tent for beer and singing and general merriment. The band stuck to the hits much more this year, which was just fine by me - giving me at least 4 or 5 times to do my favorite lasso dance. As the night wore on they veered into other songs. As with every year, at some point I get overwhelmed with how amazing it is that a gathering this large is all sharing in a communal joy, because that's really the only point of it all. Usually its during a favorite schmaltzy schlager song that I never hear anywhere else like "Einen Stern", but this year, of all times, the tears started against my will during "Let it Be". Go figure. I've learned to just keep singing through em. But it's just another part of the night that before you know it always comes to an end too soon. Yes, even 11 hours is never enough. Once the tent closes, we always go for a couple rides to close the fest for another year. Another one down. Such a rollercoaster of a day from high expectations, to pure joy, to disappointment that it has to end. But that's really the only disappointment there is.