Friday, January 29, 2010

Lost in Translation

I admit I am language challenged. I took 6 years of French and did not think I remembered anything until I started learning Spanish and then I realized I retained way more French words that come out of my mouth when I am searching for the Spanish word. My language challenges often result in interesting situations.

This language issue has led to unrecognizable food in Korea, a week worth of carbonated water in the Netherlands that caused major stomach distress and countless wandering around a town looking for a street or museum and having to ask a bunch of people for the same location and never getting a direct answer that I understand.

Last July, our lack of a command of the French language led to a one hour boat ride that went to 5 ports instead of a 20 minute with 1 stop. That problem was OK as we were tired of walking around the city and were cruising on the beautiful Lake Leman.

This trip to Paraguay led me to be in a car on the side of the road thinking I was being kidnapped. After pointing and yelling "Jota Cee Eee (JCI)" over and over and repeating the hotel name, a call was made to Fredrico (the head of the conference) who told me in English that I was with his body guard and a police officer and we were waiting for an escort that would be there shortly and we would head directly to the hotel. If only I understood Spanish, I would not have been looking for sharp objects in my bag!

So, I can tell you, when I have a kid, I will be sending them to language lessons as soon as they say "Mommy!" It certainly will lead to less confusion!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Random Thoughts from 2009 - Day 9 aka The Top 10 Cities (continued)

As I get ready for my next trip for JCI to Paraguay for 2 1/2 days, I have to stop and wonder, what would happen if I had actually time to hang out and explore the city? I would probably get bored if I did not have to cram 10 things into 12 hours.

5) Monte Carlo - home of Princess Grace and Prince Albert and the mystic that is royalty. As I went to the casino, I felt like I was in a James Bond movie. I was waiting for James to come and pick me up in his Porsche and drive me through the mountain side. What I got instead was a Rose Garden that closed 5 minutes before we got there, a bus ride to nowhere and a lot of walking.

Word to describe Monte Carlo: Mystical

4)Maui – Kannapali Beach - the place where Tom and I spent 10 magical days on our honeymoon. Adventures abounded - biking down a volcano, riding in a submarine, exploring a Buddhist temple and even watching a movie about Hawaii!

Word to describe Maui: Breathtakingly Beautiful

3) London - the best place to visit when you are a new traveler. They speak English, it is easy to get around but it is freaking expensive. What did I learn? Never take a bus tour ever again! They suck - they are long, crowded and people are always late. However, there are some super cool places to visit including Harrod's, the Sherlock Holmes House and Madame Toussard's.

Word to describe London: Familiar

2) Las Vegas - besides the multiple girl's trips to Vegas, the site of our wedding, the most memorable day of my life so far. From the bachelor and bachelorette parties at the top of Hotel Mandalay to the great reception at Stallion Mountain and dinner at Mesa to the brunch at the Bellagio, the weekend was awesome! Despite the trip to the ER with my Dad during the rehearsal dinner (what is a vacation without someone being sick?), it was a blast. Don't forget the trip to Starbuck's in our wedding attire with the limo!

Word to describe Vegas: can't, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas......

1) NYC - the city that never sleeps - to me the best place in the whole world. From the Village to Yankee Stadium, every step is an adventure. Nothing can compare. As Jay-Z and Alicia Keys sing
In New York,
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
There's nothing you can't do,
Now you're in New York,
These streets will make you feel brand new,
Big lights will inspire you,
Lets here it for New York, New York, New York

I so wish I lived the Sex in the City dream!

Word to describe NYC: Unparalleled

Let's see what my 2010 travels bring!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Random Thoughts from 2009 - Day 9 aka The Top 10 Cities

Everyone knows I like to travel a lot. Shocking I know but there are so many interesting places to see, why would any one want to sit still? I still have a long list of places to visit - Italy, the Greek Isles, the Vatican to name a few but I have favorites already from the over 35 countries that I have already visited. Here we go:

10)Amsterdam - this city is awesome. There are canals, the juxtaposition of old and new, but it very difficult to find our way around. All the streets curve around the canal and everything is named so and so platz. I got so lost that I had to find a Hilton hotel to hail a cab to return to my hotel quickly when it started raining.

Word to Describe Amsterdam: Twisty

9)Chicago - the windy city and one of the closest to where we currently live. I have been there in the heat of summer with the Ann Arbor Jaycees to watch the fireworks on Navy Pier and dance the night away at some college bars . Tom and I flew out there for a overnight trip near Christmas where we went to a Christmas Tree exhibit, drank some gluwein at the German market and had a yummy dinner at Harry Carey. I have been there when the river was green for St. Patrick's Day and we have had many fun girl's trips there. We built a fort in Marshall's with all the clothes, Wendy, another friend and I bought. We had so many bags we could not even get through the El turnstiles and we filled the Vue to the rim.

Word to Describe Chicago: Familiar

8)Napa Valley - I love wine! I love the wineries there - V Sattui, Domaine Chandon, Coppola, Rutherford Hill to name a few. I have visited the wine caves of Kunde on a private Northwest tour (did you know I travel a lot) and I drank my way thought the many towns along the route (with a designated driver of course)!

Word to Describe Napa Valley: Hazy

7) LA - 2 years of work hell, but a lot of fun. Movie stars, cool restaurants, fun sightseeing and great friends. Where else can you run into Michelle Pfeiffer at a traffic light, and see Randy Quaid at the Beverly Hills Hotel dressed in a tuxedo ts-hirt? Will it ever be the same when I go back? Probably not but, the memories will last forever.

Word to Describe LA: The Single Life

6)Istanbul - Starbuck's is my friend! I sought it out as a way to refortify myself for the marathon sightseeing adventure! The shopping is great, the views amazing. Just be aware of the taxi drivers - you need to negotiate or you will get cheated. I argued with several taxi cab drivers before finding an appropriate driver to take us from the airport to the hotel.

Word to Describe Istanbul: Mystical

The top 5 are still to come....but if I could drink wine, drive a convertible with the top down while singing "Istanbul is Constantinople" while winding my way down Lake Shore Drive or the PCH, I would be an extremely happy camper!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Random Thoughts from 2009 - Day 8

As I started my 12 Days of Random Thoughts, I believed I had lots of bizarre ideas and opinions, but as I struggle with the last 6 days, I realize I might not think enough. So I guess one of my resolutions for 2010 will be to think more. But in the mean time, I am hungry. I just ate my Fruit Loops and yogurt, but I really want a waffle. Too bad, no one at work has one for me! So anyways that got me thinking about my favorite restaurants so here is My Top 10 List (like David Letterman):

10) Chimaya (Huntington Beach) - Wendy, Mike and I spent a good part of a year there drinking mango martinis, sitting around the fire pit on the beach and eating chips and guacamole. I recently came across a picture of me there as I was loading our new Digital Frame Christmas present and while I had bad hair, I looked skinny, had good skin and seemed happy.

9) Luna Park (L.A.) - Dr. Pepper martinis with Dr. Pepper jelly bellies, need I say more? Fay and I were full of candy when we were done but it kicked off a fun weekend adventure in California that included San Juan Capistrano!

8) Chop House (Ann Arbor) - Wendy, Tom S, Trudi and I spent a very fun-filled evening here discussing the publication and marketing of Tom's book Managed Murders. I felt very grown-up and smart as we discussed book signings, interviews, launch parties and such. To this day, the only book that I know of where I am in the acknowledgement section.

7) L.A. Farm and Whist (Santa Monica)- Again more Michelle and Wendy adventures where we made friends with the chef, were late to our reservations yet again because of traffic but had the best salmon and steak of our lives!

6) Spice Kitchen (NYC) - Besides being a celebrity hot spot, it represented a fun weekend of sightseeing and the Fancy Food Show with Tom. After a yummy dinner with Tom, Liz and The Jose, it was off to see the Broadway play "Curtains" and then champagne at the Marriott Millennium. A true New York experience!

5) The Stinking Rose (San Francisco) - A whole restaurant where every entree (and desserts) include garlic! A stinky but yummo dining experience during a fun trip to a great city that included a Ghost Walking Tour!

4) Auberge du Soleil (Napa Valley) and Yavapi Restaurant (Sedona) - The views were spectacular - vineyards at the first place and the red rock mountains at the second one. It doesn't matter who you are with, if you are a nature lover or not, you can not help but be impressed with these restaurants. Just don't eat my jicama like the waiter at Yavapi did. I don't care that I think it is gross, don't touch my plate! French Laundry, here I come!

3) Palio (Ann Arbor) - our favorite Italian restaurant in town. The mushroom crostini (or as Scott calls it, the fungi) is to die for, the pesto is delicious and they have the great birthday special that I love so much. They make me feel like I am in Naples (I'll let you know if my feeling is accurate once I actually visit Naples).

2) Rosa Mexicano (Washington D.C.) and some hole in the wall Mexican restaurant (Albuquerque) - both adventures with Helen. The first involved 2 extra subway rides and about 2 miles of walking in 95 degree heat because we were in the wrong quadrant of the blasted city. The second involved a strip mall restaurant recommended my a friend that had mouth watering quesadillas, crazy patrons that were sharing their dinners with us at the bar and way too much sangria!

1) Real Seafood (Ann Arb0r) - the best crab legs on the planet and Tom and my engagement dinner (only I did not know it - I thought it was just a birthday dinner!) Over the years, I have been there with so many friends and family, it seems like an extension of our dining room (though a much better one). My mouth is watering now!

This blog did not help with me being hungry but it did bring back memories of good times, good friends and fun travels. OK, off to find some toast!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Random Thoughts from 2009 - Day 7

Putt-putting is a passion of mine. Tom and I have a family membership to the local mini golf place because we are regular customers. Course #3 is our favorite, we dislike holes #17 and #18 and we hate it when non-serious players slow us down. We seek out putt-putt courses when we travel. We found and played the only one on Maui in the scorching heat as we continued to aggravate our already burnt skin. We dragged Jaime to the course at Put in Bay where we learned navel history about Admiral Perry and I am on a first name basis with many of the courses in Myrtle Beach, where we used to go every fall of my childhood. They even had a course for 75 cents at the campsite we stayed at, so my sister and I golfed every day like we were Michelle Wie and Annika Sorenston. The hardest course I have ever been to was in London, Ontario. Fay, and I and our exes played a putt putt course with Par 5s and 6s. Are you sure we are not at St. Andrew's course? There were no borders, there were sand traps and again it was like 95 degrees. Definitely, a game not to forget. Disney World has awesome courses - Winter Wonderland, Summer Wonderland and Fantasia. I am ready for the mogul course in March when Tom and I head to Florida!

Kooky museums are also lots of fun to visit! The weirder the better. I have subjected my friends to the Call of the Wild taxidermy museum in northern Michigan, the surgical instruments museum in Chicago and the Kim Chi museum in Seoul. For God sake, who eats kim chi much less goes to a kim chi museum? Realistically, do we even know what it is? Tom and I braved the ghetto to go to the Christmas Story house in Cleveland, Molly and trekked to lower Manhattan to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum for our women's study class and I have even been to a Sake Museum. We'll have to see what pops up this year on the most interesting list!

Now if there was only a putt-putt museum, I think I would have died and gone to heaven!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Have you ever had those ideas that while you are planning them they seem like the best idea since sliced bread, but in hindsight, you want to smack yourself in the head and yell "What was I thinking?" I have these moments once in a while and it is usually when I have over extended myself and my body just rebels against me. Other times, it is just plain stupidity. Well, let's take a look at a few such instances:

- It is never a good idea to leave a Jaycee or JCI conference on the 6 a.m. or earlier flight. I tried this is L.A. and was physically ill driving from Anaheim to L.A. at 5 in the morning on 1 hour of sleep. However, I did look cute in my J Lo like matching track outfit! Also, don't try this at home - Leaving for the airport at 2 am with NO sleep for a 5 a.m. flight from Antalya to Istanbul is just a bad idea! It got worse when you take three cranky girls (Me, MJ and Melissa) on a 12 hour sightseeing run of Istanbul. We slipped in and out of consciousness on a tour of Istanbul that we payed good money for. I can tell you the most memorable parts of that day were the gross rain and the Starbuck's, which became our mecca for home.

- It is not a good idea to buy swords on vacation without prior thought. My ex-boyfriend did this and while we accounted for the 3 foot sword and packaged and checked in accordingly, we did not count on the 9 sword letter openers that raised the red flag with security and almost lead to missing our flight and a full body cavity search! More ridiculous was the time that security determined that was Jaycee gavel was a lethal weapon but the 20 pounds of plaques in my carry on were not. Go figure!

- It is not a good idea to go on vacation without sneakers. I have done this twice and lived to regret it both times. The first time was in Paris. I did not want to bring sneakers - it was so American and I did not want to look like a tourist. Let's face it, I scream tourist no matter what! After a day walking around Paris in sandals, the number of blisters on my feet outnumbered the number of toes on my feet (and I have all my toes!) On our way to the Louvre, I bought a pair of sneakers and hobbled my way through the rest of the week. By the time we reached Giverny, I was contemplating a wheel chair! Next time with no sneakers, this year in Puerto Rico! Flip flops just did not cut it on the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. After a quick stop at Payless, I was good to go!

What have I learned from all this - pack my sneakers, buy normal souvenirs and don't take the earliest flight of the day. It makes Michelle a happier camper and that makes everyone with Michelle a happier camper also!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Random Thoughts from 2009 - Day 6

I am a sports fanatic if you can not tell. Two weeks after Tom and I started dating it was Valentine's Day! I had already made dinner plans with my fake-o boyfriend Scottie so I told Tom I would join him for dessert and drinks after dinner. After all, I was not going to cancel on Scottie for something I had only been out with 3 times! The morning of Valentine's Day changed everything! My friend Maria called and she had box seats to the Pistons, $600 tickets (each for free), so what was a girl to do? Cancel with both Scott and Tom of course and go to the basketball game. What else did you think I would do?

Trying to stay fit, I like to try new classes. In college, it was Gilad and Denise Austen exercise videos which I subjected Molly and Liz to. We would cram into our dorm room and jump around trying not to hit one another (or the wall) and that is where I earned my name of "Hyper Spaz" and Molly earned her title as our uncoordinated friend :). In grad school, I was a stair master fool and when I moved to Michigan, I started yoga with Randy. Randy was a crazy man who drove Linda and I to drink (almost) but we became stronger. I would promptly fall asleep and start snoring at the end of every class when we were supposed to shut our eyes, lie down and concentrate on our breathing. I am too active to sit still and when I do I have narcolepsy! Now, I torture myself with Strength Pilates and Jazzerise. My pilates instructor just trained Clive Owen when he was in town shooting a movie, and she can be down right mean when she makes us do Speed Pilates. I want to throw up and pass out! Kickball and softball and Wii Fit augment my classes.

I like to try interesting things. I have been parasailing twice - once in Myrtle Beach and once just recently in Tunisia. I went tandem parasailing in Tunisia with my friend John where you take off and land on the beach. As we started to come in for a landing, I realized we were over the 4 lane road and some hysterics ensued until he redirected us over the beach for a safe landing! I have tried indoor skydiving. That made me feel like I was being folded up in a sofa - the pressure on your body is enormous and I was exhausted when I was done. Up next: Tango lessons, zip lining and white water rafting!

As I start 2010, I am trying to decide what I want my focus to be for 2010. I know I need to see some new places, meet some new people and try some new things. Now, if I can only come into some new money, so I can do all this :)!