Monday, August 07, 2017

Lake Bohinj, Slovenia lovely national park!

So as I’ve been to Slovenia before, I wanted to get out of the city in the summer and get to one of the lakes. I’ve been to Lake Bled before for two quick day trips, and I realize how its so popular and thus very crowded, so I opted with the help of some friends to goto Lake Bohinj area instead. What a great decision that was.

It is a 2hr bus ride to Bohinj, which is located inside of the Triglav National Park(the only one in Slovenia), the bus from Ljubljana runs every hour and costs 9 Euros. You also pass thru Lake Bled town, so if you sit on the right side of the bus, you can get nice views of the church in the middle of the lake. There is a town Ribcev Laz at the beginning of the lake that has some hotels, restaurants, mini market, free Wi-Fi you know all the basics you need for your trip. I stayed at the very nice Hostel pod Voglom about a 20 minute(1.5km) walk from the town, and there is a bus you can take that drops you off in front of the hostel, but the walk is very nice as long as the weather is good. The Hostel itself has a floor of Dorm bed rooms, these are 4 beds to a room and I can’t recommend as the bathroom situation is not good, one stall, one shower per FLOOR of about 12-15 rooms. But they have a second building across the parking lot that has some single rooms connected with a shared bathroom to another single room, this was the way to go and how I stayed and basically enjoyed my own space.

You are right on the lake, you can walk the length of the lake as it’s an 12km trail, 4km on the side with the road, and then 8km on the opposite side that doesn’t have a car road so you get up and around in the nature a bit more. It’s a nice walk as I did the entire “south” side of the lake that has the driving road and a “sidewalk” that is separated from cars, as people do bike…

What to do here?, well just unwind, relax and enjoy the scenery, there are some small beaches on the lake, its rocky but the water is cold, crisp, fresh and clean. Lovely to take a dip in the water for sure. Also in the summer the ski resort Vogel, is a great trip. Take the cable car lift up 1500meters in about 4 minutes, and from there many chair lifts or hikes for gorgeous views of the Julian Alps, its also possible to hike the entire way from the lake area, but that was not in my plans..

Overall the area was not crowded, there is much more to see and do in the national park, but you really need a car as there is limited public transportation and even with a car, many of the trips due to lack of roads take 2 hours only to go a few km. I wanted to see the Soca River area, and Waterfalls but the weather was basically a wash out with rain 2 of the 3 days I was there, so weather permitting there is plenty to do. Lovely Slovenia, if I ever get my hiking skills together I will be back with proper boots and gear and take on some of the hour long hikes!!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Day 2 Ljubljana, Slovenia - City of Dragons!

Day 2 of my trip brings me back to Ljubljana, Slovenia. I visited this gem during my 2006 backpacking trip, I only stayed one night but the city made enough of an impression of me that I vowed to return and I did so for 3 days in 2010. This visit in 2017 was just a short visit as a stopping off point before going to explore to Triglav National Park. There are many reasons I love Ljubljana, one of which is that it is fairly empty most of the time, in a country of only 2 million people, I’ve seen that anywhere from 250 thousand to half a million live here, for someone who spends most of my days in the 8 million people plus tourist always crowded NYC this is a blessing. Despite the small size, they know how to have fun here in Ljubljana with many outdoor cafes and bars mostly packed around the old town on the river, which is closed off to cars. In fact many of the streets in the old town are closed off to cars, making this a great bicycling and walking city, its small enough to get around to most places in less than 30 minutes.

I arrived here by bus from Trieste, there are companies such as Hello and FlixBux that offer fares from 8 Euros for the short 2 hour ride, you can buy the tickets online and have the PDF sent to your phone, very easy and comfortable bus with air conditioning and wifi that works (sometimes), its always a worry where to get the bus in Trieste the Hello bus was late, and without any signs or representation, you had to keep your eyes out for it and you got on where it parked with the rest of the busses.

Tivoli Park is a lovely large park with nature hiking, artwork, performance space, cafes, childrens play areas located a short walk from the center of town. On a warm day it’s a great place for a picnic, with some views of the whole city. A worthy destination during your trip there.

On past trips I visited the majestic Castle which sits overlooking the river, on my one full day here this trip I spent some time walking around the huge Tivoli Park which is situated right in the city and is a lovely green space. I was lucky enough to randomly run into matches of the European Beach Volleyball tournament which was being played in one of the main squares just a short distance from the river walking area. As night falls onto the city, its time to walk around and find some music and a good bar, but before we do so, we have to respect the Dragon.. Yes Game of Thrones fans, while much of the show is filmed in Croatia, Iceland and other places, it would be right at home here. The city has a small obsession with Dragons, from the famous Dragon Bridge spanning the river, to logos used on craft beers and merchandise. So the mythical creatures live here for sure.

Walking around I happened upon the finals of the European Beach Volleyball championship which was being played on a court in one of the main squares. It was a fun atmosphere with a full crowd, DJ, announcer between points to get the crowd hyped up.

As for bars, you have your choices, but one I really enjoyed this time was Malakona, which is located downstairs, so you might miss it if you aren’t looking for it, but once you go downstairs you have a chance to sit and drink right on the railing of the river, just below the pedestrian traffic above you, it’s a really nice get away from the sometime hustle and bustle on the main drag. They also make their own microbrew Beer, which was tasty and a welcome relief from the city that seems to be dominated by the two large beer makers Lasko and Union beer, which are everywhere. Another nice find was the Begov, which is made in Austria but totally from Slovenian founders, I guess some tax issues or paperwork was the reason for the move, but the cans are awesome with again their dragon themed design.

Beers are well priced with a large 500ml draft going for between 2 and 3 Euros of the local choices, and cans of microbrew all under 4 Euros. So if you are ever in the area stop in Ljubljana stay a few ways and I’m sure you will enjoy it

Sunday, July 23, 2017

2017 European Backpacking Month begins now! First stop Trieste, Italy

So here we go starting off on the 2017 European backpacking adventure. Its scheduled for one month, with stops in Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Albania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and France. It sounds like much, but many of these stops are one day/night only. So my first stop was in Italy, a country I realize I’ve been to six times now. I flew into Milan Malpensa airport from NYC. For those looking for a good entry point to Europe, check out flights to Milan, from NYC I know that many airlines including Emirates, Alitaia, American, Delta, United all fly there making it a reasonable option. I used my frequent flyer miles on Delta (35,000 one way) to book my ticket on Alitalia airlines, the flight was great on a modern Airbus 330, with seatback TVs and good movies (I watched Get Out, highly recommended, good job Peele), and had surprisingly good food for an airline(order the Pasta, I mean you are going to Italy). Milan is also a train hub, with fast routes south to Rome (3hrs), north to Geneva (4hrs) and many more places.

After a 4hr train ride from Milan I arrived in Trieste, this is a city tight on the fat east of Italy, near the border of Slovenia. I have been to many cities for just one night, most have lefts a good impression on me so much so that I have vowed to return (Ljubljana, Luxembourg City), well add Trieste to my list of places I will eventually return to.

Why did I enjoy it so much, well I met up with a great friend from my Prince concert fan days, the legendary Toto!! He has been called up to Dance on stage more times than I can remember, so he showed me around the city. How to describe Trieste? Well all the charm of an Italian city with open plazzas, outdoor cafes on streets blocked off to cars, liberal drinking policy… here sure you can take your glass from a bar, walk around outside even to another bar, just be a good citizen and return the glass to your original bar, no one will complain or stop you. The food as always in Italy is exquisite and also amazingly cheap, I had a lovely fish dinner that was local to this area for only 10 Euros at Eataly, well the Eataly in NYC that wont get you’re a salad probably, the wine is 3-4 Euros a glass, with draft beer being the same price. I will say like some other places in Italy the draft choices are not local, mostly imported Germany, even Belgian, but in bottles there are local choices

It’s a great walking city from the main train station to the outdoor plazas is no more than a 15 minute walk, the Train and Bus stations are right next to each other. The Bus station is a bit confusing for sure, as inside there are a few basically local busses, but the long distance busses to places like Vienna, Ljubljana you catch those against the wall where many busses are parked, there are no signs for what bus company so you have to be on the lookout. It was a bit nervous with a bunch of other traveling trying the bus company Hello, that advertised 9 Euros to Ljubljana, a great deal considering other companies were charging twice or three times that. But it was nerve racking as the bus was late, and no signs or updates even calling the number on the company website, it was all good in the end as the bus showed up 30 minutes late. So now I’m headed to stop two, the lovely as always Ljubljana, but Trieste you won me over and I will return one day!!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

My first experience at Paisley Park at a Prince concert...

So this is the review that i originally wrote some 22 years ago to post on probably Alt.Music.Prince or the Prince Mailing List way before the internet know what bloggers and social media were. This concert was February 12th (well really 13th early am), 1994 and it was my first time in Paisley Park. I know as the one year anniversary of Prince's death comes up, many people are going back there to "celebrate", for me the only Paisley Park is one in which Prince is in the building, so i will pass. But everyone deals with their grief in their own way.

I saw about 80 Prince concert performances during his lifetime, and from looking at my reviews that i found on old floppy disks (yeah remember those) about 25 of these were held at Paisley Park, so it was a special place for me. So here with all spelling errors is my review from the all-star celebrity concert that Prince hosted at Paisley Park in February 12, 1994 during NBA All-Star Weekend

Well since no one else on the list who was present at the Beautiful Experience, this past Saturday, Feb 12th, at Paisley Park has yet talked about it, i guess i will offer my details of the event.

We were let in at midnite, and Paisley Park was open to us, in the rooms various things were set up. Rooms i remember were, an Eric Leeds concert room, that was smoke filled in the sytle of a jazz club. Eric had like a keyboard player, a drummer, and i think a bassist. Prince appeared in this room, before he played his concert, and his guitar was brought up to the stage, but Prince never played. This jazz room was popular through the night with appearances in the crowd, by Mayte, Magic Johnson, Danny Manning, Prince Levi, Tommy B, and a few others.

Another room was set up as a portable NPG store, they had a few things, including the single for the Most Beautiful Girl in the World. They had the limited edition gift card(cd and tape), and the 2 tracks single(cd and tape) I managed to get my CD single for free by talking to the right people, but they were selling them for like $3-$12 for the various formats. I didnt see the 5-6 remix one, advertised on the NEW-FUNK line. The CD single has a 4:07 version of Most Beautiful Girl in the World, and a house beat remix of 3:57 of Beautiful. Theses Cd's were suppose to be in the regular NPG store on Valentines Day, no word if they made it.

Another room was Studio B, which was open to the public. Interesting to see poetry on the walls, and coffee was being served in there. There was the interactive room, that had a wall for "10,000 Autographs" meaning the fans who showed up, also pictures and artwork, complete with editor color/reduction notes, were on the walls. A MAC computer has the CD-ROM interactive playing. The only song i heard in the 2 minute demo was Interactive, and pictures of older videos, being wrapped about the symbol was happening on the screen. The date "Coming the Summer" was given on the computer screen.

There was a "back room" where a large projection screen showed 3 Chains of Gold, and the Undertaker during the night.

There were also a few assorted rooms, that i really cant remember, but one was a peep show, with little holes cut in the wall, for us to watch 3 people, well undress each other, this wall drew a large crowd of the basketball players in the crowd, in fact 1 possible California Rookie of the Year candidate, a recent student of the school where this list originates from(hope ya can figure out who), was very impressed at this voyeurism.

In the big sound stage, was the stage, where Prince would later play. Between the stage, and the audio/video control center, it took up half of the room. on the sides of the room were stages, where every 30 minutes or so, Mayte and her posse would come out and do some dances.

Well enough on the whole atmosphere, but you get the idea, they wanted people to mingle, and not stand at the front of the stage for 3 hours to get the best "seats" in the house. Anyway enough of that on to the details

Prince came out at about 3:15 am, there was a DJ playing Rap/R&B all nite and before prince came out, the DJ was playing some nice instrumental rap tracks, and we could hear the familar sound of a guitar playing over it. Prince did a very good job of funkin it up to the rap music. We knew this was the sign the concert was about to start. Others can give you details on his clothing, but i do know he had underwear on that on the waist band had his name( O+-> ) on it. I guess someone has been running around the Park stealing undies, so he wants everyone to know, who's draws those were!

Prince came on, and played Interactive, Days of Wild, and Now. Then a break during which, the 7 most beautiful girls in the world were brought out and the video was played. After that Prince came back and played, The Ride I Believe in U, did the band intros, asked Tevin to come up, but he didnt so Prince did Shhhh!!!(this was the moment of the show for me), as during the "Whats my name?" line, Prince got a good laugh. After Shhhh, prince took the bass, drums, and keys and jammed for a while. Then he invited a guy to play guitar from the audience up. The guy complained about the sound of the guitar he was playing(not Prince's new symbol one) and prince procced to take it, play it, and give it back, saying "just checking to see if it was working" Prince was at the piano when the guitar guy came over to ask him something, me being 5 feet from the piano, think i overheard, change the key to a B. Prince got a laugh outta this guy tellin him how to play.. Anyway, Prince told the band to stop on the 1 for a guitar solo, and the guy was up there, doing nothing, looking like a fool.

Then Prince asked for a piano player, and some guy got up and was very good. he got into it, playing with 1 hand and doing a gett off like screech into the mic. Prince also got a laugh outta this.

Prince asked for a singer, but no one came forward. Then he continued the concert with What I'd Say(ray charles) and a final Jam. I think i have written enough for now, but overall, this was a damn great time, and prince was as relaxed as i have heard or seen him ever. If you want any other details, send me email and i will try to write to list about it.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

It has been a while my friends... beer of the world

Currently in New York City where I live we are having a snowy winter with storm after storm after storm.. makes me think of beer and traveling the world to drink it.. something i have done.. I was recently in Brazil for new years and must say i was overall disappointed in the beer down there, despite as many people love and drink it..

I did find one good beer that i enjoyed.. Antartica Original, usually sold in 600ml bottles and costing 12 Reis, or about $4-$5 at current exchange rates

Saturday, June 28, 2014

USA vs Germany at World Cup in Brazil!

So my first game to attend of the 2014 FIFA world cup was the USA vs Germany group stage game held June 26th in Recife. When I planned my trip a few months ago, I picked this game as as Recife was easy to get to directly from the states with direct daily flights on American Airlines from Miami. My fear was that this being the 3rd group game could mean nothing (as in the case for English, or Spanish fans), or mean everything. In the end due to the great result the USA got with all 3 pts against Ghana, this game meant something but our chances of progressing were very high due to the opening game ass whopping Germany put on Portugal.

The day of the game it was raining heavily in Recife and all in the area for the last day, in fact much of the city streets were flooded, but I guess this happens often in a city called the Venice of Brazil, transport to the game was easy with the Metro system working fine. The stadium in located way outside of town, sort of in the middle of nowhere. The initial plans during the hype leading up to the world cup was to develop with area surrounding the arena with shopping, housing, entertainment you know all the typical crap they talk about that makes new arenas so attractive. Heck in Brooklyn the area around the Barclays Center is still years away from the promises made, so its not shocking that in brazil nothing was done other than build the arena. From the closest metro station we all had to board shuttle busses for about a 4km trip, at the end of this trip we still had a decent 10-15 minute walk, which in the rain sucked, but at the same time for a 1pm kickoff it could have been hot and humid.

Entry to the stadium was easy, in fact probably too easy, I did not have to show that I was a ticket holder until right at the turnstile to get in. not at any of the outer checkpoints such as x-raying bags. There were vendors, probably unlicensed selling the variety of crappy beer from coolers, I am not sure how much they were charging as I randomly found my friends and was handed a pre-game beer to drink. The atmosphere outside was good but since I was soaked I went into the stadium early to dry off.

My seats were upstairs but by no means “nose bleed” seats, I had a great view behind the goal from Section 411, and these are the seats I usually enjoy most for games. The game itself was a yawn, both teams seemed ok to play for a draw. The germans had most of the possession early and shots, in fact I don’t think team USA had a shot on goal until very very close to the end of the game, yet Tim Howard as busy as always with 5 saves. The goal he allowed was from a rebound, he made the initial save, but the punch out was a bit too in the middle of the field and the defenders could not clear the ball..

With the score of the other Portugal vs Ghana game being monitored on the bench by Jurgen, and in the stands by the fans there was a sense of calm towards the end knowing we would be the 2nd place team, while level on points with Portugal ahead on Goal Difference.

This game is a big step for USA soccer in that now we have qualified for the knockout round in 2 consecutive world cups, and in groups with strong teams such as Germany, Ghana, Portugal and England (oh wait they are not that strong..). Hopefully in future world cups we will not be talked about as a placemat for teams when figuring out how many points they are going to get, and that some of the worldwide media will be talking about USA soccer. As for the fans, the USA fans have traveled well, been vocal and supported our team away and at home, but it is still hard to find any fans outside of the USA who will support our team, the world still thinks of us as joke, but let us go out and beat Belgium and make a strong run to the last 8 and convince people!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A tale of 2 Cities in Joao Pessoa, Brazil

A tale of 2 cities is what I witness on my first full day here in Brazil. I arrived in Joao Pessoa, which is a gem of a city located on the Atlantic Ocean halfway between Natal and Recife. When I got here I was told it was a holiday, but I was like wait Brazil are not playing a world cup match which gave the rest of the nation a holiday. Turns out the street were empty as it was the celebration of St. John’s Festival, in portugese I think it is called O Maior São João do Mundo. Well this is a day where most of the stores in the city, including banks, malls, and pretty much everything is closed. When I checked into the nice hostel I’m staying at, I was told down by the beach I could find some food and few things open. So I went down and watched the second World Cup games of the day, Greece vs Ivory Coast was a great one, I was rooting for Cote D’Ivorie but I think they got screwed on a bad penalty call late in the game. As I was finished dinner, it was about 8pm and already very day. This is one think I have to adjust to here near the Equator it gets dark every day around 6:30pm. I was walking and looking in my phrasebook how to say “where is some live music” and was going to ask any friendly looking stranger passing my way. Well I got to Tambau beach and there was a huge stage setup and a crowd of people ready for the concert. I lucked into something I figured..

What I didn’t know is that almost the WHOLE town showed up, families with teenagers, kids in strollers, kids on shoulders, old couples, single teens just about everyone was at the beach check out the band. I watched about 90 minutes of it, and while all in Portugese it was obvious the act performing was well known, as the songs were sung by everyone. All the beach bars were setup and selling beers and were packed.

All in all it was a fun night, and I would say if you are in this area around late June when the festival is held by all means try to get up here for it. Its an easy 2hr bus ride from Recife that only costs 20 Reias, which is less than 10 bucks.

Thank you Joao Pessoa for a great live music concert, now for me its off to Recife tomorrow for the USA vs Germany game. I will be there and expect it to be one of the best sporting events in my life, and with the right result of a USA win or draw, our world cup run continues. Something that spain, italy and England all former champions can’t say as they are on an early vacation.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I have visited 18 of the 32 Countries participating in the 2014 World Cup. My thoughts..

The world cup is almost here so it made me think about the countries participating and which ones I have been lucky enough to visit. I was shocked it was over 50%, with having gone to 18.. so here is a list, and some brief thoughts on each country that I have visited. The other 14, watch out I just might be visiting you one day in my life.

Visited (18) Brazil. Croatia, Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Greece, Uruguay, England, Italy, Switzerland, France, Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany, Portugal, USA, Belgium, Russia

Not Yet (14) Mexico, Cameroon, Australia, Colombia, Cote D’Ivorie, Japan, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Iran, Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, Korea Republic

Brazil – I went for New Years Eve in Rio 2011 going into 2012, one of the best parties in the world. Despite the numbers that seems scary, 2 million people on the beach all night long it was beautiful, peaceful, fun, multi-cultural and fill with traditions. I also visited Ilha Grande, a true island paradise that does not have cars, has pristine beaches and great hiking trails. I will be back in the country less than 2 weeks from now to spend time going to a few world cup games and exploring new cities. Overall a must see destination in a country that is varied and diverse in food, music, culture, art, and much more.

Croatia – A country I have visited twice, my 2006 trip was a bit of a disappointment as Pula in August is not setup for the backpacker. Yet I tried again in 2012 and had a total blast of a time in Zrce Beach on the island of Novalja. This was a party paradise running 24hrs a day 7days a week on a big island that had plenty of room for exploring, and even some sand beaches which are a rarity in Croatia. Still much of this nation that I have not explored including the walled city of Dubrovnik, the much talked about Plitvice National park and many of the 1000 islands off the coast. Again a country that is a must visit if you can.

Spain – I was in Spain for much of the run to the 2010 world cup championship and I must say it was an amazing time. Watching the Spain vs Germany semi-final on large screen TVs outside of The Santiago Bernabeu stadium was an amazing time with Pujol heading in the only goal in the game. This country is very popular for students doing study abroad programs and while I was never lucky to do this I have made it a point that if I’m anywhere close to Spain while in Europe to check it out. Barcelona is one of my all time favorite cities in the world and I still have some bucket list things there to get done including watching an FC Barcelona game in person. I have been to the lovely and unheralded Northwestern Asturias region of the country thanks to a good friend knowing that area. Madrid is a good landing spot and always can find a party, but finding a place to cool down in the july heat is a bit tough.. Never been to any of the Spanish party islands such as Ibiza or cities such as Valencia that have their own history and culture, so Spain you will see me again in the future!

Netherlands – this country always will have a dear spot in my heart as it was my first international trip. I don’t remember it as I was a 3 month old baby going with my family. Since that trip I have been back numerous times and not always just to Amsterdam where everyone flocks, but you have to check out other cities such as Leiden a great college town, the hague for the north sea jazz festival or Rotterdam for a change of pace. So much culture in the arts has come from Holland, along with the always favorite Heineken beer that is a solid goto in any country of the world where you are not sure whats in the local beer. I will always consider Netherlands one of my favorite places and any chance to go back I will take it, I suggest you do so also.

Chile – on my 2012 trip to brazil I decided hey why not hit 2 south American countries on the same trip. I enjoyed Santiago and Vina del Mar, but it was near the end of my trip and lets just say my stomach was not operating on all cylinders. I still have the “tourist visa” in my passport till expiration so another trip would not be more expensive than catching a flight. Many places here I would love to see including the Atacama desert, Easter Island, and if feeling very adventurous the Patagonia region at the bottom of the earth. Much to see, eat and drink in this skinny on the map but full of things to do nation. Heck skiing in the Andes during the USA summer, what could be cooler? Oh yeah I don’t ski and have never been on a mountain..

Greece – My visit here was only 4 days in the spring of 2011, and not enough to explore much of this country that historically is one of the richest in the world. I was only in Athens and then the lovely Santorini. But so many more islands and places, yet this trip with my family during Easter was a great time even for non-religious people like myself. Gotta get back to many of the other special places in this country

Uruguay – I went to Punta Del Este after a sort stay in Buenos Aires back in 2005. This was a great trip as my first time staying in a hostel and realizing how traveling solo does not have to be an alone proposition. I met some great people and shared cultural experiences such as a real South American cookout. The town of Punta was sort of “over” by the time I arrived mid Feburary but I was told that from Christmas until then it’s the place to be in south America, so next time I will have to time my trip better. Also I had one of the best steaks ever in my life here in Uruguay! Great undiscovered country check it out

England – A country I have been to many times, and have always enjoyed. While most of my trips involve London and the surrounding areas, when I finally got outside in 2012 to Manchester to see a USA Womens Soccer game, I realized as much as I enjoy London I have to get to see more of the English countryside. I promise next time I will, but will always remember watching 2010 USA vs England at a pub where I as a USA fan was outnumbered by 99.99%.

Italy – A nation that I spent much time of my childhood years, as the son of a jazz musician many of our summers were 2 months spent going around itlay for many concerts and setting up base in the town of Cesenatico and exploring the country. I have always loved the food, art, culture, fashion of Italy. My trip in 2012 allowed me to explore Sicily which had things I loved and hated about it. Still the one thing I will never come around to is the style of Football or the Azzurri. I was in attendance for the 2006 World Cup game Italy vs the USA and it was a disgrace to the game the violence dished out and the diving going on. So while I will travel back to italy to visit places I have yet to see, you wont see me cheering on their team anytime soon. With a country with so much connection to American immigrants and our own identity in the USA, its not uncommon to know why this is one of the most visited countries for Americans when traveling abroad.

Switzerland – I have only been here one to the lovely(but expensive) city of Geneva, I spent a night in Zurich before my flight back to the USA and a dorm bed in a hostel was 50 Euros, holy smokes. Still Geneva is lovely city on the lake, and on train trips thru the swiss alps I realize the summer is not necessarily the best time of year to visit. I am sure I will be back to hike, and explore the rest of the lovely country.

France – another country with multiple visits both as a child with family and then on my own as a tourist. So much to see, so many things to eat and drink, museums to visit and culture to soak up. The south of france has amazing beaches, the atlantic coast has plenty of history directly connected with the USA due to the D-Day invasion of Normandy in World War 2, probably the number one visited country for Americans and its easy to see why. More of this country is yet to be explored by myself, this will change in the future.

Argentina – ahhh a country that holds a fun place, such turmoil both policital and economic but such a culture between the dance, food, wine, music exists here. Due to the poor economic situation at this time, argentina is a bargain probably the best bargain for any American to visit as our currency is strong, and even desired on the black market. A huge country with multiple regions I was only in Buenos Aires so if I ever go back I must see more of the country. If you are a wine lover this is the place for you! Also for steak fans almost all the steak is grass fed so you don’t need to ask, and it is delicious.

Bosnia and Herzegovina – This country totally surprised me, well I can’t even say that as when I visited in 2006 I knew basically nothing about it other than it was where Sarajevo was located. I left loving the country and wanting to visit again. During my backpacking trip I did not have a set itinerary which is such a blessing in many ways, so I jumped on a bus to Sarajevo. My arrival was rocky ending up at the old bus station on the outskirts of town in a tiny station that lacked any services, but once I figured things out and got to the center of the old town I had a blast. I spent 3 nights and never left Sarajevo which if I ever visit next time I will surely venture out to Mostar and other places. Off the beaten track, but worth a visit if you are looking for something with history and less tourists go here.

Germany – Ahhh the host of the 2006 World Cup and probably the best sporting event in my life. My first true backpacking trip to Europe was as a result of getting USA TST-5 tickets for the games. With my trusty Eurail pass I was off on an adventure of a lifetime. The fans, the games, the cities all were amazing. Easy travel, modern facilities made for a great world cup. Still my only trip to Germany I was lucky to travel all over, but I do want to get back to Berlin a city I only partied for 12hrs before catching my next flight. Thank you Germany for being such a great host and showing me how easy it is to travel and forcing me to test boundaries on future trips.

Portugal – Gosh I sound like I am harping that all these countries I have visited are great, and well for the most part they all are. Portugal is a twice repeat visitor for me, in the winter in the Algrave and the summer in Porto, I will take Summer in Porto anyday! From the great desert port wines, the grilled sardines, the colorful houses. If you love shopping this is your place as I know my sister set world records for things bought during her visits there. Go see Portugal if you get a chance!!

USA – well I live here, so yeah I’ve been here.. in fact been to I think 38 states, only a few places left I have never visited that I want to go.. so Portland Oregon, and Memphis Tenn be on the watch out!

Belgium – Ahhh the beer! The chocolate! The mussels!! A great little country that I have great memories, at least the few memories still left in my head after a night of drinking Delirium or another triple... I remember being here in September as a kid and it being as cold as ever, but I was coming from Italian beaches so that is understood.. As many times I’ve been to Belgium, I have really never left Brussels except for a day in Antwerp, so next time watch out Brugges, just don’t let me fall into one of the canals.

Russia – This was a country only visited and this was years ago. I went on a 3 week high school exchange program to goto high school and live with a family, and they did the same sent their high schooler over to NYC to live for 3 weeks.. well naturally it had a bigger effect on those kids coming to America for the first time, and I think many of thing went on to attend college, so my host Slav Volkov and watching his eye open up at his first trip to an American supermarket will always be the memory of this exchange program. St. Petersburg is one of the great cities of the world, I’ve been told and since I’ve never been there I want to go one day.. Russia just has to get his political situation under control a bit.. who knows maybe the 2018 world cup will be the time I can get back to Russia

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Purchasing a SIM card for your cell phone in Brazil circa 2011

Note this was written from my December 2011 trip to Rio De Janeiro, not sure if things have changed now in 2014 to make things more tourist friendly for the upcoming world cup.

Ok how to buy a Brazilian SIM card for your unlocked GSM Phone. Upon my arrival in Brazil this was one of my biggest concerns as I needed to get in touch with my friend who would be arriving the next day. No way was I going to pay T-Mobile outrageous roaming rates. At the hostel I was staying at they were very helpful and told me to visit the Botofogo shopping mall and look there. I knew I was going to get one from the carrier TIM as some previous research had told me it was the best pricing and coverage. Now as normal this is where the frustration sets in, after going to the TIM store, along with all the 3 other stores that sold phones in the mall, asking if anyone spoke English to which I got a resounding NO, I was able at least to point at the phone and they understood that I wanted a SIM card.. But wouldn’t sell it, and kept on saying Lojas Americanas, which was a store that I saw downstairs, eventually I ventured down there and it was intimidating at first as this place sold everything under the sun. The phones were right in the front and thankfully one gentleman spoke some English and with my pre-printed sheet and pointing at my iphone was able to figure out I wanted a Sim card. The card itself was cheap at R$10, my second concern was not having a Brazilian CBF number, the equivalent of their social security number. From previous reading I knew that TIM had some English customer service and would take my passport number as a way to register it. Seems the girl who helped me must have registered it with her CBF number, as I never gave them my passport or number. The card itself was R$10, but then I had to load up credit and just went with the smallest amount which was R$6.

Ok so now I thought I was in business but my initial attempt to call my friend failed, with the message in Portuguese and me having no idea of what they were saying it was back into the store again.. I showed them the number I was trying to call and it turns out I didn’t need the +55 for the international country code and actually numbers in Sao Paulo should be started with 041 instead of the city code.. with this change made, boom called and was able to talk and text my friend.. Plans were made to meet for new years eve and it was all good.. The service is good data plan with 3G, 3G sucks the hell out of the battery of my old unlocked iphone 3G, so I just go with slow edge or WiFi. So far I have not run out of the initial R$6 credit after using for 6 days… its been great to be able to have internet especially for the mapping with GPS features.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Top 10 Love songs from Musician and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member PRINCE!

Since Prince is currently treating fans in London to some amazing concerts with his band 3RDEYEGIRL, and its valentines day why not with a list my top 10 Prince lovesongs. Its hard naturally to narrow it down to just 10 songs, from a career that has spanned 35+ years and a prolific artist who has released hundreds of songs. I tend to favor his older stuff, and I’m suure that people will say but you forgot anything in the past 20 years, well these songs are all from my formative years of being a huge fan and member of the #PrinceArmy. So you won’t find much in the last 15 years, but be sure there are some great songs from that era. These are songs that I always have in my head. Sorry to fans of recent jams like “Sticky Like Glue” or “The Dance” but these are my tastes that when I heard the lyric for the first or 754th time I simply go wow. So hopefully for yall who might need some extra inspiration on this day with your loved one, turn down the lights, light a candle and pump up some of these jams. So now in no particular order my top 10, plus an honorable mention Prince lovesongs!!

When We’re Dancing Close and Slow (Prince Self-Titled, 1979) This song is simply musically, but lyrically is just a masterpiece, here are just two of my favorite lines. This is from an album which hosts 2 songs in this list, a very performance from an early album that also includes straight out guitar jams, and a song that Chaka Khan would later make famous. If you don’t already own the full album, give it a shot as its in my top 5 of all Prince albums. Here below are 2 sample lines that are great.

“I feel your warm embrace, the softness of your face, tell me babe are We here alone?” “when we’re kissing, long and hard, I can almost taste the thoughts within your mind”

Amazon MP3 Download of the Single

Amazon Physical CD of the full “Prince” album

When 2 R in Love (Lovesexy/Black Album 1988) A song that appears on back to back albums, means it was just meant to be released, totally different tempo and feeling from the other songs on both Lovesexy and the Black Album it still deserves to be heard… my fave lyric from it

“Come bathe with me, let’s drown each other in each others emotions”

Amazon MP3 Album Download(sorry but single not available)

Adore (Sign of the Times, 1987) To some this is the ultimate love song, many wedding vows have used these lines. Its good that Prince has started to perform this song live as for many years after its release there was only some lucky people in a Vienna café who ever hears the emotion live and in person. To many this is his greatest showing of love in a song, to me there are so many lines to choose from.. here are 2 of my favorites.

“Until the end of time I’ll be there for you, you own my heart and mind I truly adore you” “Nothing could compare to your lovely face, do you know what I’m saying to you this evening…”

Amazon MP3 Download (well worth the buck and change)

I Love U in Me (1989, b-side to Arms of Orion and 1991 b-side to Insatiable) A song that it seems like was determined to be released, as it was a B-side(yeah you kid who never bought vinyl have no idea what that is) twice in a 2 years span. One of my best concert memories was him playing this song live at the 1995 Miami Birthday concerts that I attended. This is a gem and finally released for the masses on the Hits/B-sides 3 CD box set. My favorite lyric follows and people find the 99 cents under you couch if you have never heard it!!

“She took off her dress, I took a peek, while thunderstorms played hide and seek” I begged for a kiss, she gave me 7, our lips touched and it feel like heaven”

Amazon MP3 Download

The Beautiful Ones (purple rain, 1984) To me the iconic scene of the movie that made him a star to the masses, this song I have heard at countless strip clubs in the world, but they never do the emotional justice that it does in the film.. Wait you haven’t seen the film, yeah I know its 30 years old, so check it out, it might be considered a classic at some point.. but the song is just lovely musically and lyrically! Note that this song gets only 5 star reviews on amazon!

“what’s it gonna be babe, do you want him, or do you want me, cause I want you.. said I want you..” Amazon MP3 Download of the song

The Whole movie for those who have not seen a great soon to be classic

Space (Come, 1994) I am sure I will take slack for this, but this song just hits at me, and the fact it was remixed into an awesome maxi-single plus the cover photo of the album was shot in lovely Barcelona possibly one of my favorite cities in the world. The song has plenty of great lines but this is my favorite.. so when are humans going to Mars again? Sign me up

“if you and I were just 10 feet closer than I’d make you understand, that everything I want to do to your body baby I would to do to your head”

Amazon MP3 Download

With You (Prince ST 1979) The second single from the great album, this one is lovely in both a male voice from Prince and a women’s voice from the version done by the great Jill Jones 8 years later which is an album worth seeking out, I paid $50 for mine and had it shipped from Michigan back in the pre-ebay days and it sits proudly on my shelf.

“if at night if you’re not with me I’m scared you’re gonna leave”

Amazon MP3 Download

Do Me baby (Controversy 1981) This song just hits you from the beginning, this is what its about, and for the next 7+ minutes you know what is going on, its on like donkey kong! I wonder how many babies in the past 33 years have been made to this joint?

“here we are all in this big ole empty room, staring each other down, you want me just as much as I want you, let’s not fool around..”

Amazon MP3 Download

Scandalous Sex Suite – The Passion (Batman, 1989 maxi-single) This is a gem that hard core prince fans know about. 19 minutes of loving with Kim Basinger with honey supposedly found in places in Studio B that honey should not be found. If you wonder how Kim and Alec ”created” the lovely soon to be supermodel Ireland Baldwin, this would be a good starting point along with having great genes. Hard to find as a maxi-single my CD copy is precious and will never be sold, but only played many times.

“can we please do it, Lets do it by the mirror, so I can see what I want to see, be what I want to be” Amazon MP3 Download of the regular single (sorry remix is not in print)

Friend, Lover, Mother, Sister, Wife (Emancipation, 1996) For his first marriage Prince penned this song for his lovely wife Mayte Garcia, and I’m sure many men who are in love or in trouble with their wives need to use these words. I remember the first time playing this for a friend who then said “oh my god that is the best thing he has ever written”, well its been almost 20 years and I’m not sure he has topped it since then despite another marriage.

“air, food, water, love of my life” “and if I ever made you cry, all I have to do is think about it and I want to die”

Amazon MP3 Download of full 3CD set that has some great tracks, sorry single not available come on people 11 bucks for 36 songs!! Buy it!

Honorable Mention #11 If I Was Your Girlfriend (SOTT, 1987) Last but not least, and a song that I have heard performed live and yes it does make me move side to side, but somehow not on this top 10 list. Why? Well it would take years to break down as its from his greatest album of all time to me, Sign o the Times. oh I can see the arrows shooting at me... If you are just starting out to learn about Prince, this is a great place to do it! whatever the case listen to this one at some point in your life to understand both the male and female sex!

“We don’t have to make children to make love, and don’t have to make love to have an orgasm, your body is what I’m all about”

Amazon MP3 Download of FULL ALBUM(I say his best) And to end thank you Prince for making this great music over the years, life and love would not be the same without it!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Olympic Hockey has started for the USA! Go for the Gold!

Considering the draw(Ghana, Portugal, Germany) that the US Men’s National soccer team was handed at the upcoming 2014 World Cup in Brazil the chances to advance from our group are very difficult. So my current attention for a big win for a USA national team has to fall to Ice Hockey at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. We have made it to the gold medal game in 2002 and 2010, both times to lose to arch-rival Canada. This time hopefully things will be different and the competition got underway today Feb 13th.

The USA played Slovakia, a team that produces much current NHL talent, and in the past has produced greats like Peter Stasney, who now has a son playing for the USA. This was thought of as a tough game, being both the first game where the players were going to gel, fight off jet-lag/tired legs, and figure out the line combinations. Well the USA got off to a great start with a rousing 7-1 win, with Slovakia having to pull their starting goalie. It was necessary to run up the score, as one of the tie-breakers to win your group and automatically advance to the Quarter-final round is goal differential.

I was impressed by goalie Jonathan Quick, who in reality should have had a shut-out as the one slovakia goal was clearly off-side and missed by the refs. Also as a fan of the NY Rangers it was great to see Ryan Callahan get some good ice time both even strength and penalty kill. I can’t find stats with individual player ice-times, but I saw him and hear his name along with fellow teammate Ryan McDonagh called many times. Derek Stepan was a scratch, but hopefully in the weekend back to back games against Russia and Slovenia he will get to show what he can do.

Overall LET’S GO USA.. I have my jersey, and plan as of now to wake up early Saturday for the USA vs Russia game and hit a bar.. yeah its 7:30am don’t judge, its almost 5pm in Sochi and we know some Vodka will have been drunk!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The USA are going to Brazil 2014!!! Dos a Cero against Mexico for the 4th time

So with 2 games to go in the CONCACAF qualifying campaign (October 11th home against Jamaica in Kansas City, and October 15th at Panama), the USA has clinched a spot among the 32 teams going to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The 2-0 (dos a cero) win against Rival Mexico in Columbus Ohio now seems like the normal outcome of the home qualifier against Mexico. We always play it in Ohio, and going back the last 4 cycles we always win it 2-0 (2001,2005,2009 and now 2013). This is the 7th consecutive World Cup that the USA will be a participant in, dating back to the 1990 Italy World Cup which is a run that some major soccer powers can’t say they have done (England and France missed 1994, Uruguay and Russia missed 1998, etc).

While it seems almost inevitable in the CONCACAF region with 3 guaranteed spots, plus a playoff spot and only 6 teams in the final group stage that the USA will always make it, it is always a good feeling and relief. Now for the next 9 months until June 2014 the USA can develop, harmonize, and bond as a team for a hopeful long run in the tournament. The next big obstacle coming up is the Final Draw, where all 32 teams will be paired into groups of 4, and assigned venues/dates for the games to take place. This Draw will take place on December 6th, 2013.

The USA will probably not be in the Pot A containing the host nation and the best 7 teams in the world, we will most likely be in Pot B. This means our group is going to contain one of the world powerhouse teams such as Brazil, Spain, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Argentina, etc. Going back to the 2002 World Cup we had Portugal which at the time was a world best team, 2006 we had Italy, Czech Republic and Ghana. This 2006 was probably our toughest group in recent years. 2010 was the year we won our group featuring England, Slovenia and Algeria. For 2014 we can deal with a powerhouse team, and proven in the past we draw with them (England and Italy) or beat them (Portugal), the key team to make or break us will be who comes out of Pot C, this could be a really good up and coming team (Belgium, Bosnia, Switzerland).. Still there is a good chance for us to progress out of the group.

As for the game against Mexico itself, I’m not a soccer analyst/coach/manager in anyway, just a sports fan but I know what I see. I see that Damarcus Beasley, who is one of my favorite all time USA National team players simply is not suited to play the Left Back position, we need to develop that. Without Michael Bradley who was out to injury we showed that our midfield was weak and lacking that controlling midfielder position. Jermaine Jones is highly rated by his club and national manager, but I find he turns the ball over too much, takes bad fouls and is a yellow card machine.. I would prefer to see someone else in this role. Players who I would love to see more of include Mix Diskerud, who provided the vital assist on the second goal after only being in the game for a few minutes. Also Eddie Johnson who scored our goal, and had our best chances hopefully he can have a productive year with Seattle Sounders and be in the best form for 2014, remember we took Robbie Findley and Edson Buddle to South Africa and those names have not been spoken again in terms of the US National team.

Well with 9 months to go, lets hope the USA progresses in terms of team organization and player development, I’m excited we will be in Brazil and have every plan to go and enjoy the World Cup.

Friday, August 02, 2013

It is International Beer Day, a Celebration of Worldly Beers!!

Wow so today is International Beer Day.. ( August 2nd. It must not be celebrated much in New York City as I just found out about it and it’s a Friday, and its almost 5pm, Happy Hour time.. Only a few bars on the website promoting it have any presence. Well not to worry I will do my best to represent here tonight in New York.
Some of my favorite beers I’ve had from around the world, and I make sure that every country I visit I attempt to have a locally brewed beer. My first trip to Bratislava, Slovakia in July of 2006, I ate at the Slovak Pub restaurant(Obchodná 613/62, Bratislava - Staré Mesto) I ordered their house beer .5 liter draft and the price was 20 kourna. At the time the exchange rate was 30 Kourna for every $1, so this beer was 66 cents. To this day that is still I think the lowest I’ve ever paid for a beer while sitting in a classy place!
My second trip to Slovakia in 2010, I wandered into a garden of the pub and ordered a Bernard Pivo( This was a tasty wheat beer, just perfect for a hot day. The country had converted to Euros by then, but the price was still a very reasonable 1.35€ inflation a bit, but well worth the less than $2 USD cost. Here is a picture of the Bernard.

A country that has a big craft beer movement is Brazil, while during my only trip I initially drank much of the mass produced, flavorless crap beer, I eventually found some good stuff in both Sao Paulo and Paraty. In Sao Paulo, the Cerveja Paulistania Premium was a great tasty choice, I don’t remember the price but it was probably “expensive” as we were in a premium beer garden. But this was one of the first YUM taste of beer during my trip. (

In the city of Paraty, known for its cachaça sugar cane rum, it was still possible to find great beer at places, one of my favorites was the Colorado Indica IPA, a decently strong beer it was done in a true IPA style and very refreshing, later on in the night as the samba music player it was Caipirinha time all the way.

Currently in NYC, one of my favorite IPA beers that I’ve encountered is Henry Weinhard IPA. I’ve only found it on tap at Smithfield NYC(215 West 28th Street,, one of my favorite soccer bars in the city. According to the website for the beer, its roots are in Oregon but it is currently mass produced. The distribution in the area is not that great as it was suppose to be available in a local supermarket near me, Best Yet Market in Harlem but searching the racks of their self proclaimed Beer World I’ve found nothing. As long as Smithfields keeps it on tap they have a returning customer every once in a while..

Ok its past 5pm, its HAPPY HOUR TIME.. Enjoy your beers on this International Beer Day

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

FIFA move this world cup from Qatar 2022. The entire voting process of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were controversial, from England which thought it was the favorite (but they think they are the favorite for everything…) receiving only 2 votes in the 2018 voting.. to Qatar winning the 2022. After Qatar wins, it seems all of FIFA except his Holiness Sepp Blatter either quit, was suspected of taking bribes, expelled from English soccer. With CONCACAF losing its former corrupt headman Jack Warner, and his second in command Chuck Blazer turning whistleblower on his boss but eventually realizing he was unwanted and stepping down.. to the former Qatar head of Football and want to be president of FIFA candidate Mohamed bin Hammam also being accused of bribery and going away..

But yet the most recent reason for Qatar to not host the world cup came this weekend with Ecuador national team player and bright star, Christian Benitez died after playing his first game. While it is being reported today by some news sources like CNN that it was heart failure, how sure are we that the heat did not have an effect, this is a player who grew up at the high altitude of Quito, Ecuador and played hundreds of games there and in Mexico. Also it should be noted the quote was released from the Qatar club Al Jaish, and while not saying they are not being truthful, the fact they paid $10 million dollars just a few weeks ago for the transfer of the player, and insurance issues could have something to do with their determination.
We have seen many players in multiple sports who had congenital heart defects die or have heart attacks when playing both soccer(Marc Vivien Foe in 2003) and basketball (Reggie Lewis, Hank Gathers come to mind). I’m not a doctor, I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn last night but the fact that the game Sunday the temperature in Doha was over 100F (41C) from 9am to 5pm. In best case the players will have great doctors, cooling fans/machines, defibrillators available for them but what about the spectators, the vendors, the workers in the stadium will they be treated as well?

The new plan proposed by genius Sepp Blatter to host the world cup in the “winter” months of November. This will upset domestic leagues all over the world including the end of the MLS season, and the start of European leagues..

Its time just to move the world cup to a country (and I am all behind my home the USA getting it) that is not incredibly hot and does not have to build the infrastructure from scratch. Lets put this this way, Qatar basically has 2 cities, Doha with a population of 340,000 and Ar Rayyan with population of 270,000. These 2 cities are about 30 miles apart, so basically the whole of the country live in suburbs of the two main cities. What are the plans for locations of the 8 stadiums needed, where are people going to stay, how to get around.. Hosting the Asian games is one thing, the FIFA World Cup is to a whole another level in terms of fans traveling and games to be player. Yes plenty of time before 2022 and this is a country so rich with natural gas/oil that the financial cost will not really be a burden.. but its geography is what the problem is.. MOVE THE WORLD CUP!!