Emma and I recently took a trip to London and Prague.  I’ve been to London before, although it was many years ago, but this was my first time in Prague (or really anywhere in Central Europe).  I’ve actually wanted to visit Prague for over a decade.  I was actually trying to plan a trip and was looking at flight options when the big flood in 2001 happened and suddenly it was off the menu as a tourist destination for a while.  We ended up with a lot of miles on British Airways as part of a credit card promo, and discovered that you can stop at any layover point on your trip without additional costs.  I.e. we could fly to Prague via London all at once (with an hour or two layover at Heathrow) or we could stop in London for four days on each end of our trip, with no added costs.  So of course we made it a three segment vacation.  London for four days, Prague for eight days, London for four days.

It had been about a decade since I had been to London, and I think it was Emma’s first time, so we really did all the tourist stuff: Big Ben, London Tower, Buckingham Palace, the War Cabinet and Churchill Museum, Harrods, the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, and more.  We had a great time, stayed at some great hotels, ate some great food, and walked all over the city.

Prague is an amazing city.  It’s a city of beautiful buildings. The architecture is unlike anything either of us have ever seen, anywhere.  Old, beautiful, detailed buildings are everywhere.  Almost every building takes your breath away.  It has a mini-Eiffel tower.   It’s a city of history.  The city’s history goes back over a thousand years, with some of the buildings dating back a millennia or longer.  It was the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor.  It has castles.  It has cathedrals.  It’s a city of really crappy customer service.  My only guess is this is a result of it being a post-communist country, and perhaps no one there actually has any idea what customer service is supposed to look like.  The standard Czech response to any question is a dramatic sigh, often accompanied with some serious eye rolling.  Ask your waitress for the check?  Expect a sigh and an eye roll.  Ask your hotel’s concierge if you can get ballet tickets?  Expect a sigh, an eye roll, and then him telling you “no”, but you can walk 20 minutes to this vague area and find the ticket place and figure it out yourself.  It’s unending and really sort of hilarious.  In the tourist areas many restaurants will have people standing out in front, with a menu, who’s job it is to try to entice tourists to come eat there.  80% of these people are Czech.  They stand, with arms folded, the menu closed and tucked under and arm, and glare at everyone as they walk by.  I’m not kidding.  At first I thought there were just people who were pissed off waiting for late friends to join them.  But no, they’re employed to lure people into the establishment.  The other 20% are foreign and do crazy things like smile, talk to people, tell passers by about their lunch specials, and show people the menu.

We walked through the old town, saw the Astronomical Clock, saw tons of churches, cathedrals, toured castles, climbed the mini-Eiffel tower, walked through the Jewish Quarter, along the river, saw the ballet, walked some more, took the train into the countryside to see another castle (with bears!), walked more.  It was a really great trip, and Prague is an amazing city.  I’ll post some photos soon.

Los Angeles

I just got back from my first trip to LA. I was there for a week, working the first half, and exploring the second half. Overall it was a great trip! Did some shopping, visited the La Brea Tar Pits, went out to a crazy club night with a burlesque show, walked from the Santa Monica Pier down through Venice Beach, and ate lots of good food.

The Pros:

  • Amazing amazing cars everywhere! I have never seen more Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, BMWs, Mercedes, tricked out Range Rovers, and more.
  • Beautiful People Wearing Amazing Clothes and Shoes.
  • Great weather! It was mid-70s and sunny the whole time.
  • Great shopping. Dangerous shopping.
  • Very friendly people. We made friends everywhere we went.

The Cons:

  • The Smog.
  • Super slow 3G data service.
  • The focus on appearance over getting things done.
  • The one-up-ing race of cars, clothes, etc…

I wouldn’t want to live there, but I am looking forward to visiting again!

Mount Washington Ride 2011

Last year a large group of about 12 motorcycles rode up to Mount Washington from Boston, drove up the mountain, and came home via the Kangamangus Highway (which has got to be one of the best roads in the Northeast.  You can see pictures here: Mount Washington 2010 Photos

This year was a much smaller ride, just three bikes: myself, Christian (which Hannah riding with him) and Alex.  All Ducatis, which was fun.  Having a smaller group was easier in many ways and made the whole day a little more laid back, although I did miss the massive group ride dynamic as well.

It was a long day, leaving my house at 9 AM and getting home just after midnight, but it was a lot of great riding, amazing views, good photos, and good friends.  Climbing Mount Washington was amazing as always.  At the top there was a huge glider circling the mountain and leveraging the wind and updrafts.  I shot some video of that.  On the way home at a rest stop in New Hampshire I got some cool photos of the moon behind impressive clouds.

You can see photos and the glider video here:   Mount Washington 2011 Photos

or just look below:

Weekend In Maine

This past weekend I went up to Maine with some friends for a long weekend. It was initially planned as a medium sized group of friends to go up and work on fun, non-day job, coding and development. Unfortunately many people were unable to come at the last minute so it ended up just being three of us. It wasn’t how I had planned it, but it ended up being an absolutely great time anyhow.

My friend Jon rents a cabin on Sebago lake in Maine over the summer and kindly offered to host the event there. The cabin is beautiful and sits right on the lake, with a long dock, perfect for fishing or swimming. It has a large waterfront screened in porch which is perfect for avoiding the afternoon heat and the evening bugs. There is also a large common room with a fireplace , tons of seating, and a long table. The bedrooms are small but feel cosy and comfortable.

I drove up on Saturday afternoon, settled in, and then the three of us went shopping for food supplies. We did some coding and grilled up dinner and got a fire going in the lakeside fire pit for a while before the dark, cold, and some bugs finally chased us inside, where we lit another fire in the fireplace in the common room, and hung out, coding, talking, and just enjoying the relaxing time with friends by the fire.

On Sunday morning I was first awake, which is prety unusual for me. I took advantage of the beautiful morning on the lake by going for a swim first thing. The lake water was chilly but it was a great way to wake up and soon I was happily swimming around and floating on m back watching the sky. I really love being in the water and I wasn’t about to pass up this opportunity. After a shower I made some breakfast and we all ate some cinnamon rolls and OJ.

More coding in the late morning and early afternoon, and then we headed out to grab lunch and rent jet skis. Ive only jet skied twice before, but it’s always a blast! This time was no exception. Christian and I blasted around at breakneck speeds, getting air off wind borne waves, and generally having a great time!

The afternoon was filled with some fishing (to no effect), RC boat racing, and coding. We cooked up chicken fajitas for dinner and worked by the fire before an early bed time.

Monday was another early morning for me, with a brisk swim and then some fishing. This time I hooked a frisky little 8″ fish, snapped a photo, and let him go. Breakfast was eggs and biscuits. More coding on the deck followed. Our afternoon diversion was a trip to the drivnign range where I learned that I should really just get a 5 wood and a putter and nothing else:).

Two more folks showed up Monday night and we did grilled meat for dinner. We had a big fire by the lake and I invented a great desert. Take a smore but replace the Hershey’s chocolate sections with a Reeces peanut butter cup. It’s amazing. Try it. Now.

Tuesday morning was the earliest morning and the coldest swim. I tried my hand at fishing again after my swim but while I was able to hook a few fish, they all escaped before I could get the back to the dock. I made some french toast with leftover bread and wrapped up a few things on my weekend project before I headed home shortly after noon.

It was a really great time. Getting away from work, chores, bills, and a change of scenery can’t be overrated. It was beautiful and my time was my own. I felt productive and engaged in everything I was doing. I found I needed less sleep and slept better than usual.

I want to go back. For a week or two.

Montreal Motorcycle Road Trip

This past weekend Christian and I rode our Ducati Multistradas up to Montreal. We took the long road up, driving West on route 2, connected on to route 116 (which was great) and then rode North on Vermont route 100 from the Massachusetts border up to 108 to St. Albans. Route 100 has got to be the best motorcycle road on the East Coast! It’s amazing. Beautiful sweeping turns through the Vermont mountains, with the tree leaves changing colors for the Fall, no traffic, no police, just open road.

The only downside was it was colder than expected, and once we headed into Northern Vermont, gaining altitude and once the sun had set we quickly moved from chilly to COLD! We started having to stop at gas stations just to warm up a bit indoors before continuing on. We rolled into Montreal about 12 hours after we set out, cold but alive. The bridge we drove over heading into the city gave us a killer view of the night time city skyline. While the ride up was cold, the amazing ride and roads more than made up for it. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

We stayed at the Opus Montreal, sister hotel to the Opus Vancouver (one of Emma and my favorite haunts out there). Other than a rocky start with room service, the stay was great!! We did some shopping (warm gear for the ride back), walked all over the city, hit the casino, did Old Town the next day, some more walking, and had an early night in after some great Italian food.

We rode back on the fourth day, heading back directly on the interstates, which is less fun than back roads, but if you have to ride on interstates I-89 through Vermont is probably the best one for a beautiful ride. We hit Brookline early, grabbed a slice of pizza before rocking the William Gibson reading/signing at Coolidge Corner.

It was a great trip! Amazing rides, great company, and exploring Montreal was a lot of fun!

Here are some pictures from the trip: