Two days after the public Michael Jackson public memorial, we visited the former home of the Jackson family in Gary, Indiana. It was slightly surreal. We left a card and took a picture of ourselves in front of the house, even tho it felt strange to do so. We didn’t smile.
Category > travel
A few photos from my recent trip to Northern California.
Not that spectacular, I know. I mainly uploaded them to play with the WordPress NextGEN photogallery plugin. I installed this plugin looking for a fast, easy way to get slideshows online, specifically for Mālamalama magazine, which is now built out in WordPress(!!).
However, I find myself really liking the gallery (thumbnail) navigation. The slideshow gives more control to the creator for things like picture order and audio–we like control at the magazine–but the gallery lets users select the pics they particularly like and breeze through the rest, or not.
The other option for this type of photo presentation would be to make a video with the still shots, but that takes a bit more labor and creates issues of how to insert the caption info. But, video can be hosted on a site like youtube, which reaches a wider audience and can be easily embedded by others.
Helsinki seems to be enjoying some springtime shine in the travel pages of the U.S. press.
There was the USA Today feature on Helsinki nightlife and a piece on Finnish design in the LA Times last month. Admittedly two articles don’t exactly equal a cavalcade of coverage, but hey, the sun shines weakly that far north, and is greatly appreciated! I love that the LA Times writer tours the central part of the city for its architectural and design riches, then tucks in for a sauna. Sounds like a fabulous day in Helsinki.
My credit card trembles at the thought of being in the Marimekko store during their annual sale. My plan of shopping attack in Helsinki includes Marimekko, the Moomin Shop, Akateeminen Kirjakauppa–Euro style notebooks in the basement–and Stockmann. And I’d have to hit Zara and H&M, too, cuz we don’t have those in Hawaii. Apparently H&M is collaborating with Marimekko this summer!
The shopping recommendations in the LA Times article are overall more upscale. I’m extra intrigued by these ergonomic chopsticks they mention, wonder how much they cost. “I wanted to design a totally new type of chopsticks that would be easy for everyone to hold. Entwined together the sticks also form a useful fork,” explains designer Mika Ihanus on the website of studio Kuudes Kerros. How very practical for the chopstick-challenged, i.e. my mother, who maintains she can’t eat with “them sticks.” I bet these would work for her in the same way Nokia understands how her brain works. ;~p
Also on the topic of Finnish design and travel, a little mini-documentary by PilotGirl™ about the Helsinki design district (read: expensive stores with cool stuff) was recently featured on the retail-sponsored Finnish design blog.
Really, my credit card is glad I am not there! It’s worth noting that many young people take pride in thrift-store shopping and home-made clothes cuz the Euro is no joke and the resulting styles are more unique. Which is fine for clothes, but please believe that when I have $50 to spare on a shower curtain, this baby is mine!
From ice bar to sauna bar plus communist kitsch in Cuban and Russian flavors, Helsinki drinking establishments are not lacking in novelty. This of course means they are slightly corny and very expensive! A recent travel-section article in USA Today confirms that this trend of theme bars is on the upswing.
After reading the article, I can’t say I’m sad that we didn’t actually make it to the Arctic Ice Bar when we tried a couple years ago, at my insistence. The hours were all messed up and then our party of eight balked at the cover charge. Didn’t even know at the time that the room only seats 12 and has an average visit length of 20 minutes! Sheeeeeeeeeit.
As my charming cousins had already shown us, there are much better places to have a drink in Helsinki. This sounds good tho:
“The most intriguing offering is the $7.25 Fisu shot, found throughout the city. It’s a blender drink made by mixing chilled vodka with pastilles of Fisherman’s Friend, a menthol-flavored cough drop. The result looks filthy brown-black, but the taste is all fresh, Arctic icy burn. It has supplanted in popularity the similar but far more vile [lies!] salmiakki shot, made from vodka and salty licorice candies.”
IDK about “Arctic, icy burn” but it sounds yummy to me, like mentholated Jägermeister, maybe? Or maybe not. This blogger Cracker Lilo from whom I, ahem, borrowed the “fisu and sisu” line (but who is wrong about fisu meaning fish; I think it’s probably based on the name Fisherman’s Friend?), tried it at home after reading the article, even going so far as to try other kinds of cough drops like Sucrets and Halls. LoL!
Another blogger at Necroblogicon was less inspired but equally LoL-able. “The body of a Finn seems to be immune to the nigh-magical hangover inducing quality of this concoction. As a weak American, I spent the next two days dancing on the razor’s edge of vomiting and contemplating suicide. I didn’t cough at all, though, although that may have been because of the acid reflux ripping my esophagus to tiny mentholated pieces.”
In related news, the stereotype of Finland as a nation of alcoholics remains undiminished.
Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations is one of my all-time favorite televisions shows. He writes, he travels, he eats and he’s hungry for more! I can’t get enough of this guy. So when Anasarca from Asita Recordings posted up in the QuadMag forums about his December visit to film in Honolulu, I was geeked!
The Hawaii episode aired last week and I have to say, I’m disappointed. I guess that’s somewhat inevitable when you have such high expectations. Honestly, I couldn’t believe how much I disliked this episode of No Reservations. I watched it twice just to make sure I wasn’t trippin.
The whole episode is available on youtube–for now–so watch while you can.
Below is a loose play-by-play of the episode with my commentary.
Another of the dorky yet ongoing quests in my life is for the perfect travel backpack. Conditions in the blogosphere (do people really use that word?) seem ripe for me to share my discoveries so far. Brave New Traveler, Lorelle and Travel Betty all inspired this entry.
Like Travel Betty, my dad bought me my first pack. It was a great pack, a Mountainsmith, well-made, top-loading, ginormous. It didnt fit me particularly well, nor did I know how to make the right adjustments, but I managed well with it on a relaxed one-month trip to Finland. Studying in Lapland and staying with fam in Helsinki meant I didnt need to rush around with it too much. It worked great on a two-day hike, but you dont need much gear on an organized, two-day hike. . .
It was when I tried to use it for my 3 month Euro tour that I ran into trouble. Admittedly, I made a lot of mistakes on that trip. Not only had I over-packed, I’d bought too much almost right away, including books (books??!) and some very styling, chunky-heeled boots on day 3 in Dublin. The boots wouldnt fit in the pack so I wore them all the time. On day 4 I broke my arm falling from the upper bunk of a hostel bed.
It was only a minor fracture, but it made my overstuffed, ill-fitted bag a major problem.
Scintillating thoughts on the process of getting photographs online, after the jump.
From Flagstaff, AZ to Chicago, IL took about 30 hours. The Amtrak picked us up just before sunrise and chased a tangerine strip of horizon through a scrubby landscape, easily outpacing the semi trucks and pickups that own the roadway. Again I was shutter-bugging like crazy, this time through the train windows–red rock formations and adobe houses, pastel bridges and indian gift shops.
Time moved slowly inside the carriage as we were subject to other peoples’ conversations and parenting skills (or seeming lack thereof).
It amused me to see conservatively-dressed Amish or Mennonite men eating Cheez Whiz, I would have thought that would be one of the unholy modern things they’d do well to shun. Yet I got a “look” from a bearded man in home-made clothes for coming back to my seat with a Sam Adams beer, LoL.
We passed through most of Kansas in the night and early morning, including Dodge City (darn!), but I’m imagining most of the scenery looks like the first few photos, after the jump.
Kicked around Los Angeles’ Union Station and Olvera Street for a day, a part of LA neither of us had seen on previous trips. It was heavily touristed but the locals were mainly Mexican families, giving it a feel both familiar and foreign. M bought a luchadore mask and practiced his Spanish on the merchants and waiters. Street performers addressed the crowd in Spanish, including the indigenous dancers who performed in front of an elaborate nativity scene in the central rotunda of a public square.
We were both sleep-deprived and seriously bickering, up and down and down and up the short street crowded with market stalls selling leather goods, Mexican candy, arts and crafts and Mexican-themed crap made in China. We finally made up over an amazing Mexican meal at La Golondrina, best tortillas I have ever had in my life! And I don’t care if they were lard-inclusive, even the refried beans were excellent, not to mention the rather decadent Chile Relleno de Jaiba ( “Roasted chile poblano stuffed with seasoned snow crab and served in a roasted mushroom and chile chipotle salsa.”) I don’t know if that was authentic or haole-fied, but it was delicious, with big chunks of crab and lots of flavor.
The day was bright but cold and by 3 in the afternoon we were both tired and soon found ourselves perched in Union Station dozing and people-watching. Sitting next to a security guard, we overheard on his walkie talkie a bomb scare, to which LAPD responded but didn’t sound the alarm. We also heard an almost scarier scare, a report of a woman shaving in the ladies’ public rest room. Face? legs? armpits? This I investigated myself only to find a swarthy woman in men’s work clothes drying her face off with paper towel. While I took a leak, I listened to her conversation with a tattooed, middle-aged white lady who had “been on the street for two years” and was giving the other lady a name at some agency, a woman who could help, “tell her you’re pregnant and she’ll help you.”
The train boarded around 6:15 pm and we snoozed pretty much the whole 10 hours to Flagstaff until we were ejected at the dark, cold station with neither our bearings nor our winter gear in place. But we bundled up and made our way to the Grand Canyon International Hostel and jumped in on their all-day Grand Canyon tour, which took us to the site that was the whole purpose of this stopover.
I took about a gazillion pictures that all pretty much look the same, but was thoroughly impressed with our day trip to this marvel of geology, as well as with the elk and the raven who were also there. The scenery reminded me of a cross between Haleakala Crater and Waimea Canyon, but with snow. Tho it wasn’t freezing-freezing, there were several inches near the rim and we used crampons to do the beginning of a short hike into the canyon (am I geek for finding that really fun?)–for my non-hiking friends, crampons are these metal spiky things you strap on your shoes to grip on the ice. Very simple and functional and made me feel a little more bad ass on the trail, LoL.
BTW I’m glad I brought my trusty hiking boots instead of the knee-high, wedge heel, golden suede pair I was drooling over in the department store before we left Honolulu.
With no international travel on the immediate horizon, I was on a mission to make this semi-annual wintertime trip to Michigan just a little more adventure-like. So we leave tonight on a red-eye flight from Honolulu, spend a day in Los Angeles poking around Olvera Street, then hop aboard Amtrak for a cross-country ride on the Southwest Chief.
The train ride takes over 40 hours total, but we’re hoping for fun, relaxation and some scenic oohs and aahs. And maybe an on-board upgrade, too, since we’re traveling coach and that means no sleeper-bed options (we’re armed with pillows instead). We’ll stop in Flagstaff to peek out at the Grand Canyon before continuing on to the City of Wind.
After a few days in Chicago visiting with friends, we’ll rendezvous with incoming fam and once again make the dip south of Lake Michigan to Kalamazoo. Actually we’ll be staying in Portage, a small, suburb-like town next to Kalamazoo, but Kalamazoo is so much more fun to type because I always think of that old song they made us learn when we went to elementary school there… k-a-l-a-m-a-z-o-o, oh, I gotta gal, in Kalamazoo, zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo… er, yea, LoL.
We’ve shipped gifts ahead in an attempt to travel carry-on only, but with the bulk of my winter coat, wool pants, sweaters etc., I’ve ended up taking a small suitcase as well–but still only one pair of shoes (hiking boots), which is a coup for me. I have to admit I’m bothered by the lack of stylishness inherent in hiking boots, but given the weather reports I’m getting from the Midwest (cold, sleet, ice, snow, wind), looking cute will have to take a backseat to avoiding hypothermia. Unfortunately for me, I cannot find my silk long underwear–I think I left it in Alaska–so I’ll probably be shivering a little more than usual.