Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Day 18: Lima to Emeryville: Pictorial Pop Quiz and last words

Day 18:  - Lima to E-ville

Quote of the day: Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us

Weather:    It is warm in the immigration line in SFO, it’s great in E-ville (perfect: warm-ish, breezy)

Pics:    Mystery building, the reason for slow traffic near the aeropuerto, and one sea lion that has departed

Pop Quiz: 

1. What is that building in the pics?

2. How many hours (or days) total did THB spend flying and in airports?

3. How many books did THB read on this trip?

4. THB saw red, white and blue footed boobies: True or False?

5. DB was bitten by a:
a) cormorant
b) sea lion
c) shark
d) all of the above
e) none of the above

6. THB has scaled the highest peak in how many countries?

7. What does the B in Hotel B stand for (bonus points for creativity)?

8. On what beach, island, country and/or continent was the pic of the sea lion above taken?

9. Who authored the QOTD? (Hint: you cannot get the answer from any of the postings)

THB will actually post the answers this time! If you wanna give it a go before then, you can reply to the e-mail or in the comments section.

THB can be pedantic, and redundant. Today is no different. We get up very early at Hotel B(lackout) for a transfer to the airport, 5:15am wake up, 5:45 departure, 6:30 at the airport, 7:40 at the gate. 

LAN finds a new way to make us stand in line: the crew shows up very late (the plane is here, probably due to the traffic accident, see pic, THB was there on the scene!).

Nothing happens until the last pilot arrives, maybe 20 to 25 minutes before the pre-boarding bag check is done. DB gets a special security check, so she gets to stand for 15-20 minutes on the other side of the line separator.  

Nine hours on the plane, THB finishing American Icon and DB getting way deep into The Newsroom series. A walk to dinner by the aromatic roses growing on the fence surrounding Pixar: it feels great to be back in Bay Area!

Book Review: American Icon: Alan Mullaly and the Fight to Save Motor Company, Bryce Hoffman: Really two terrific books! First part may only strongly appeal to those of you that had corporate experience in the last 40 years and wondered if there was a better way through the maze. Mullaly has that better way engineered: he turned Boeing and Ford around using an engineer’s drive for data mixed with cheerfully consistent leadership mixed with will and determination to let the process work. The other terrific book is how Ford survived the Great Recession through luck, timing and leadership.

Meditation Uno: The obvious: the Galapagos and Easter Island exceeded THB’s expectations. And, thankfully, THB is now home and can rest up. If you do everything on offer, it’s a lot. The schedule was designed to make sure we hit all our connections to both big destinations and give us a few hours to explore Miami, Quito, Guayaquil, Santiago and Lima. That worked. The Eclipse and the Explora were both great (though the food sometimes was less than terrific): they got the main thing very right, which was maximizing the experience. Hotel B in Lima was a risk, and the hotel should’ve contacted our travel agent and moved us before we arrived. Once we were there, it was too late (actually, too early) to do anything about it plus the workers appear to have gone home for the evening. Other than that, the trip glowed from beginning to end. At least we got substantial refunds.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Day 17: Lima

Day 17:  Lima

Quote of the day: What time do you want to go to the airport tomorrow?

Weather:    Pleasant, a bit of marine layer in the morning, burning off to low 70s with occasional breezes

Pics:  Hotel B under construction, with Delfin (local artist and B&B owner), around Lima  

In bed around 2am (it is the next day, after all), up at around 8am to find a decent breakfast b(uffet) laid out in the library on small short tables next to couches and mini-chairs. Since THB is eating, the beta part of breakfast is acceptable. The slow delivery of coffee and hot milk is tempered by the arrival of the coffee, downed quickly.

Around 10am, the three couples disperse to take in the arts district separately. Is THB having separation anxiety? The six of us have been almost conjoined at the hips for over two weeks.

Some very good local galleries, some interesting folk art, upscale design stores, photography museum, and a great tour of a local painter’s studio (Delfin) and B&B (which he built himself for most part).

Lunch at La Pescederia, highly recommended by the manager of the B&B (Delfin’s daughter). La Pescederia is a true find. Only open for lunch, THB and DB share ceviche with pulpos fritos, grilled atun con capers, and complimentary cups of delicious fish soup, “corn nuts,” and alaflores (small cookies we first had in Argentina), two bottles of water, dos Peruvian cervezas, generous tip for a great waiter, $50.

Out again for trip to Museo de Contemporario Artes; mediocre. B(ack) up to room, fighting construction fumes, to rest up some more (did THB tell you what time he got to hotel? VERY EARLY in morning).  However, since we have to keep the door to the balcony open (there are no windows in the room), the street noise is at a significant decibel level.

When THB checked in early this morning (did he say how early?) we were advised that Tea would be served in the late afternoon at Hotel B(arely). So, dutifully we plan our day accordingly and show up at the appointed time. Sorry, no Tea today.

Instead, we stroll along the palisade, stop for frozen lemonade, orange juice and a mushroom empanada, $12, and stroll back to Hotel B(izarre) to find out the lights in our room are out, so read Kindle at Hotel B(acklit). And they stay off (the plugs and A/C are working). After a number of visitors (some with flashlights) we are moved to another room. The new room is a strange set-up, and the entryway floor is tacky; they lacquered it early in the day.

The six of us head off to dinner at a spot just a few blocks from Hotel B(lackout). Pollo for THB and DB, comes with a green salad and half an avocado, pisco sours with passionfruit (excellente), $65, in a mix of $ and solas. At one time when the Peruvian currency was bobbing up and down, the dollar became king and big ticket items like cars, houses, apartments, and art were sold in dollars. Now the solas has stabilized and the dollar has stuck around.

Upon return from the restaurant, the lights are on in our old room: it turned out that the A/C had somehow created condensation inside the wall and dripped onto the wiring controlling the lights. And, one of our group’s room had a leaking toilet. One room we might have moved to did have a broken toilet (we heard it had flooded a day or two before we arrived). The hotel manager claimed it was a soft launch. Really? Bring in visitors touring first class and make sure they know what it is like to live in a constructions zone? We’re awaiting our refund from Hotel B(roken)!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Day 16: Easter Island to Santiago to Lima

Day 16:  Easter Island to Santiago to Lima

Quote of the day: Would you like to fit in one more visit to the see the heads?

Weather:    Perfect in paradise, dark in Santiago, early morning in Lima

Pics:     Airport art, heads near airport and town, flowers

Again up at 7 to see the sunrise, sitting by the pool. THB asks for 2 cappuccinos and croissants to be delivered. Today, they make it well in time to be enjoyed with the sun arising.

The usual at breakfast (great toast!) and we gather at 10 for the trip to airport. Bag check and then back in the van to visit one head with replicas of the original eyes (all the other eyes are long gone) and a platform with five heads and on empty plinth. As good as it gets, again. M&P&S&A walk back to the airport, THB and DB take the shuttle with the carry-ons.

Flight leaves on time from Easter Island and in typical LAN fashion, there is almost no help moving from a domestic flight to an international flight. THB corners two junior boy scouts in LAN jackets next to a check-in counter and after a few minutes finally gets them to understand that we have our boarding passes already, have checked our bags through to Lima and all we want is help finding the next flight. Ohhhhhhh, the light begins to dawn and in typical LAN fashion they start pointing to the far end of the terminal (THB needs to travel with a seeing-eye dog or a cane and dark glasses…this is getting ridiculous) at some orange dots on the outfield scoreboard. At least they point. THB and crew of five follow, where we get through immigration and to the gate a few minutes before the flight starts boarding.

Yes, this is LAN: they board the first/business class and those needing a little more help first, which means you leave the desk and then stand in the jetway for 15 minutes. There can’t be another airline that expedites their best customers into long standing up holding patterns, can there?

The flight to Lima is on time, and all our bags show up, too. Wow! Of course, it is 12:20am local time and 11:20pm body time (up two hours, back one). Our transfer guide is there to meet us, and the shuttle crawls along from the airport to the hotel, 45 minutes. No traffic. No highway, either. Arrive at hotel around 1:30 am to find that the only part of Hotel B (for Beta?) that is open are our three rooms and the chicken disk and possibly the library (where breakfast will be served).

When we booked the hotel, we knew that we were some of the first guests. We just didn’t realize the other residents were painters, sanders, marble finishers, floor refinishers, wood burners (hmmmm…true, there’s nothing like fresh cut wood in the afternoon!), and other miscellaneous types (scaffolders). The art is great; they have works from local galleries and in the private collections of the hotel owners.

Day 15: Easter Island

Day 15:  Easter Island

Quote of the day: How many horses are there on the island?

Weather:    Another day in paradise

Pics:     sunrise, crater hike, S in a very unusual pose, our guide in camouflage, afternoon hike sights, A&THB at the top, guides at the top

Up at 7 to see the sunrise, sitting by the pool. THB asks for 2 cappuccinos and croissants to be delivered. At 8, when we head up for breakfast, someone is making coffees for la piscina. OOOPS, we’ve returned before they can be delivered (we gave them an hour). Breakfast same as it ever was, minus the pancakes.

Two hikes on the schedule. In the morning we hike to another crater and see ancient refurbished stone huts on the bluff. It’s semi-strenuous and all of our party handles with ease.

Back early (meaning around 1:30) for lunch: another pot roast and fish choice, and floating isles for dessert (iles nevada).

Then THB and A split off again and hike with two guides to the highest point on the island, slight to medium uphill for 5 kilometers and at the summit for a great 360 of blue ocean. On the way down we meet another party of three who ask how much farther and clearly the guide understates the time, 30 minutos; (one of them is in flip flops, one is huffing and puffing and bringing up the rear),  and THB overcorrects by multiplying by 4 and giving them an emphatic dos horas. We don’t think they will be back before sunset.

Again, we’re all  back early for dinner (around 6:30) allowing time for a leisurely shower except the door to our room has jammed shut and two guys are working on it while DB and THB await a dearly needed shower. Door fixed, showers taken, and an even more leisurely drink (pisco sour for DB, vodka gimlet for THB) and tuna ceviche (excellent, we order another). DB has done the afternoon’s excursion again with the Takahashi’s, learned more about their life situation (3 kids, spent 12 years in US), and thoroughly enjoyed the 3 hours. There’s a good chance we’lldo a meet-up in Japan in September (our next big trip). DB is also the only one without a camera so she also fits in a long discussion with the naturalist, one we hadn’t seen before, about the island, national park service, etc.

Dinner of tuna empanada (excellent), tenderloin and fish, and no room for after dinner drinks. Few stars out, there is intermittent cloud cover shielding much of the sky.

Book Review: A Working Theory of Love, Scott Hutchins: THB really liked this novel. THB really really liked this novel. Why? It seemed to ring true throughout.  It’s a story of a late 30s guy, living in San Francisco, working on a three person project to develop a computer program that can fool a human into thinking he/she is conversing with another human. The program is based on his father’s journals. He’s already divorced when he meets a 20 year old woman, and the arc of their relationship spans the book. Much meditation on how much can we know who are parents really are, the signs (or non-signs) of romance, sex cults (ooops, is this why THB fell in love with this book?), competition among “friends,” and lots of local flavor for you Bay Areans (maybe better if you’re not a hipster?). Highly recommended.