April 21, 2011

Quick Bite: Bar Mut in Barcelona


After we left La Sagrada Familia on our last day in Barcelona, Tammi and I went to Bar Mut, in L'Eixample for some wine and a few snacks. We were there in that late afternoon dead period that confounded us just about everyday, but thankfully, they were open through the siesta and we spent a couple hours snacking and drinking wine there. See the food after the jump.

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April 20, 2011

Barcelona: La Cerveteca

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If there's anything I really find myself missing when traveling abroad, it's the availability of good beer. In Barcelona, we imbibed in wonderful cavas and red wines, but when it came to beer, nearly the selection everywhere boiled down to international mass-market dreck and a few, slightly better imports like San Miguel, the Filipino beer I discovered in Hong Kong. If ever there's an American beer, it's the worst of the big brands that made it all the way across the Atlantic.

So, it caught my attention when we passed Le Cerveteca. It looks more like a shop than a bar and in the window, there were signs up with the logo for the Victory Brewing Co., a Pennsylvania-based brewery known for it's quality, hop-laden beers.

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April 18, 2011

Scenes from Barcelona: Kiosko Universal


Heading to Barcelona, I was obsessed with the Boqueria marketplace. I wanted to photograph it and sample all the different foods there, gorging myself on slice after slice of jamon and who knows what else. Once we got there, though, I ended up mostly window shopping, ogling the wares and wondering how one cooks a cockscomb.

On the one 'morning' we did eat there (and by morning, I mean afternoon), we went to Kiosko Universal.

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March 28, 2011

Barcelona: History All Around


Directly across from our hotel in Barcelona stood this plaque honoring Salvador Segui. He was an anarchist and part of the republic that was overthrown by Franco in the Spanish civil war.

I don't know enough about the war to be able to regale you with facts about it, but suffice it to say that it was significant and fascinates me for its context in history. Seeing reminders of those events around us while we traveled reminds me of the other fascinating

March 19, 2011

Barcelona: The Vila Viniteca Food Market


As usual, I took some time while we were in Barcelona to pick up a couple bottles of wine to take home. After reading about the selection available there, we sought out Vila Viniteca in the warrens of El Born, a neighborhood we ended up wandering around quite a bit. When we got there we discovered that it was much more than a wine shop.

Turns out there are three or four different storefronts, this one, above with stacks and stacks of wine, another for private events a third that we didn't get a good look at and a food market that captured my attention for a full half hour. Check it out after the jump.

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March 16, 2011

Barcelona: Cal Pep


Tapas bar, Cal Pep has been on Barcelona's must visit lists for so long that I almost skipped it just because it's so over-exposed. Except that it was clearly on the list for a reason. I wasn't going to skip it just to be contrary.

The crowded line of people waiting for one of the prized seats at the counter Was enough to scare us off one night, but after our lovely lunch at Quimet i Quimet, I was very excited to keep trying the more amazing options in town.

The line, it turned out, wasn't so big a deal. We walked in to find half a dozen people ahead of us and we were seating within 15 minutes. We passed the time with some house wine and watching the show behind the counter as the chef chatted with customers and the staff presented new dishes to each party.

When we sat down, we were asked what sort of foods we liked and whether we had any particular restrictions. It seems the standard serving style is what the Japanese call omakase - chef's choice. You're in their hands and they bring up whatever is fresh and fits your preference. We went with it and enjoyed course after course - plus one addition we couldn't skip. See the blow by blow after the jump.

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March 15, 2011

Barcelona: Agua Con Gas

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I took a liking to sparkling water back on our honeymoon in Paris. There, as in Barcelona, every meal begins with an offer of water with or without 'gas.' Tammi prefers her water flat, but I found that I really enjoyed the sharp bubbles and, in the case of the Vichy Catalan water that I had nearly everywhere, a slightly salty flavor.

March 7, 2011

Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia

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Much like our time at home, when traveling, we often mean to explore cultural attractions and sites, but usually end up spending more time exploring the local food and drink. I'll walk for hours through neighborhoods tracking down hidden culinary delights, but the museum down the block from the hotel often gets missed. Sad, but true.

So, when we found ourselves with just a day left in Barcelona and we hadn't been to La Sagrada Familia, I considered skipping it. But just briefly. I took my sister to see it 8 years ago and before that had seen it on my high school Spanish trip back in '94. It is quite literally a wonder and not to be missed.

As a site that's been under construction for a century, it's been different every visit. Where I remember the various piles of marble and concrete stacked from my last visit, there is now a huge open hall, a pulpit, statues and gorgeous stained glass windows lighting much of the space.

If I was surprised, Tammi was blown away. The size and scope of the entire building, the beauty and the detail brought her to tears. Neither of us is religious, but walking through the place is a humbling experience.

This week on Tumbr, I'll be posting photos from the La Sagrada Familia, inside and out.

March 4, 2011

Barcelona: Quimet i Quimet

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When I put out the bat signal requesting recommendations for where to eat and drink in Barcelona, no less than four friends insisted that we try Quimet i Quimet. The small wine shop in the Parallel district is famous for its tight quarters and it's wonderful selection of tapas.

The talk of its small space certainly made me hesitate. I'm not partial to being bumped and jostled at every turn, but given the word of some of my most respected food geeks, I had to go. We went for a late lunch and actually found plenty of room.

We weren't super hungry, so didn't get that much - although I could certainly have kept gorging myself just because it was all so good. Check out the courses after the jump.

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Barcelona Observations: Broken Benches

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Walking around Barcelona, I noticed that instead of benches in public spaces, there were sets of three chairs bolted down slightly askew and spread out. I suppose it stops anyone from trying to sleep or spread out over them.

March 3, 2011

Barcelona: Gracia

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We spent most of our time in Barcelona in the tourist centered Rambla/Barri Gotic area with regular excursions to the vaguely less overrun El Born area. There is much to do there and it wouldn't have been a loss if we had spent the entire time wandering the corners and alleys of this area, but I wanted to see a bit more. A friend who had lived in Barcelona told me to check out the Gracia neighborhood. It's a neighborhood more for locals than visitors with quite a few bars, shops and restaurants and a vibe that is less about selling stuff to tourists than offering a cool environment where people actually live.

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March 1, 2011

Barcelona: Cafe Viena


It's been several years since Mark Bittman wrote that the best sandwich he'd ever had was from a cafe in Barcelona, but it's been in the back of my head ever since. Now that we were there, it was high up on my shortlist of things to try while we were there.

The inauspicious Cafe Viena doesn't stand out from the various shops and cafes along La Rambla, but it's so worth the visit.

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Barcelona: Sant Jaume Sunday Danceparty

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We got to Barcelona on a Sunday morning. While we waited for our room to be available we wandered the Gothic District looking around and seeing what's what. Somehow, we missed the dancers of San Jaume until later in the evening as we were searching for the Picasso museum.

I'm glad we did. It turns out that the plaza hosts a weekly musical performance, along with some sort of traditional circle dance by some of the older Spaniards. It was a fun little glimpse beyond the busking and nonsense of the Rambla.

February 28, 2011

Barcelona Observations: Spanish Time

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Since we were only in Barcelona for four days, we didn't try to acclimate to the time zone too much. Except the first morning, when I woke up early and took this and a few other sunrise photos from the roof of our hotel, we rarely got out before 1pm.

Most often, we'd start the day with lunch in the early afternoon, then tapas around 6-7pm, then dinner around 10 or 11pm. Occasionally, the night was finished with a late night doner kebab from one of the Turkish spots in El Raval near the hotel.

Our only real issue with the local schedule was the siesta period from 2 or 3pm to 5pm - invariably the exact times when we were hunting down a shop. We also had some difficulty finding open restaurants and bars Sunday night - the hazard of visiting a catholic nation.

We usually managed to get back to those places, but sometimes it took a few attempts.

Barcelona Graffiti

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My last trip to Barcelona was back in 2002. I was already taking a lot of photos, but not nearly as seriously as I have been in recent years. Using a borrowed point & shoot, I shot scenery and my sister, who I was traveling with and, for the first time, lots of graffiti.

The street art scene was starting to pick up here in New York, but it wasn't until I saw all the interesting pieces up in Barcelona that I started to really consider photographing it.

This week on my non-analog Tumblr blog, I'll be posting my pics of the local artwork I came across.Enjoy!

February 24, 2011

...And back again


Tammi and I got back from Barcelona this afternoon. It was a great trip and I've got loads to write about. I hope to spend the next day or two catching up on my posts about this trip, San Francisco, Aspen and Hong Kong.

February 16, 2011



Apologies for the lack of content lately. I have much to catch up on, but first a bit of news: I found a last minute fare deal from New York to Barcelona and Tammi and I are taking it. This weekend, we're off to spend 4 days on the Mediterranean.

I plan to spend a good deal of that time photographing and eating and hopefully practicing my Spanish. When I get back in a week, I hope to have many stories to tell.
Stay tuned...

May 17, 2009

London: The Message

I took this photo five years ago on my first and only trip to London. It was at a Hip-hop show at Shepherd's Bush Empire. The show was called The Message and it starred Gza from Wu Tang Clan, Dead Prez and a number of British rappers I'd never heard of before. Gza was still doing the same songs I heard him do in the late 90's when he performed at my college. And Dead Prez hyped the crowd saying the crazy shit they are known to say. ("And you white people can be down, too. Just give back what you took!")

But what I still remember now was hearing the British MCs rhyming in an indecipherable accent. There was a freestyler on stage lambasting his fellows for trying to sound American when they are "BRITISH!" Coming minutes after hearing Dead Prez reject their nationality in favor of being "An African," I wondered if anyone else noticed the irony.

I also remember the Palestinian MC whose hook was in Arabic. It was the first time I had seen International Hip-hop live. I've been fascinated with the concept of foreign language Hip-hop ever since.

It's a challenge to me as someone who has always listened to Hip-hop as a form of storytelling to listen to a song and not know the words. But it's an interesting experience.

April 3, 2009

Paris: Penguins Bowling


There's nothing French about these Penguins. Hell, we bought them at Muji, the Japanese shop that also has a branch right here in our own fair city. But we saw these over and over while we were in Paris and pined after it until I finally bought it on our last day, just an hour before we headed to the airport. Not everything needs to be local.

March 17, 2009

Butchery: Italy's Finest

Here's another example of the butcher in the spotlight: The new food blog by the Atlantic did a post last week on a man they call "Italy's Most Famous Butcher," Dario Cecchini of Chianti.

Tammi and I have both been wanting to go to Italy for years, and may go this fall. Now I have one more must-see to add to the list.

March 4, 2009

Paris: Robert et Louise


Tragically, this piece of loveliness was not mine. I have to mention it anyway. It's the Ribeye steak for two, cooked on the open wood fireplace in the back of Robert et Louise, in the Marais.

I first read about the restaurant in Ruth Reichl's extended Editor's Note in last year's Paris issue of Gourmet. I immediately added it to my short list.

We passed by one night hoping for dinner, but walk-ins weren't available. The small space fills up pretty quickly, so you'll need to make a reservation a few days in advance.

When we got there for our reservation, the beautiful old tavern space was packed tightly from the entryway down to the kitchen. I stood next to the open kitchen watching the staff work as we waited for our table.


My main was duck confit, while Tammi had a Beef Bourgignon. Our meal was wonderful, although even now the most memorable part was the steak we didn't have. I had a pair of sausages, a boudin noir and a boudin blanc that were grilled in the open hearth in the back wall of the restaurant.


The spectacle of the fireplace drew our attention for most of the night. Hunks of meat grilling above, while firewood burned to charred embers below. Days later, Tammi and I were still smelling the wood smoke in our coats. I got hungry again every time.

February 22, 2009

Paris: Pork Spread


At Au Pied Cochon, as one would expect of a place named after a Pig's foot, they don't sully bread with a pat of butter. Instead they provide a small bowl of pork pate to spread. Much like everything else here, it's profoundly rich.

February 21, 2009

Souvenirs: Coffee Spoons


I'm not a coffee drinker, but Tammi is and whenever she had coffee, she got one of these cute little spoons. Before we left we went to BHV, the department store near our apartment and picked up a couple to take home.

February 13, 2009

Paris: Scarves


Of the many observations in Paris that Tammi made that I would never have noticed was that everyone wears scarves. Nice scarves. I don't really understand the concept, but Tammi certainly appreciated it and picked up quite a few for herself and as gifts.

These were beautifully displayed at Diwali a chain that we came across a few times.

February 12, 2009

Paris: The Wheel of Excellence

Wheel of Excellence

I'm not fond of Ferris Wheels. I can't see one without thinking of the deathtrap out in Coney Island. So, it took a little cajoling from Tammi to get me on the giant wheel that towers over Place de la Concorde at the end of the Champs Elysee.

It turns out I had nothing to fear. This one was not nearly as rickety as the Wonder Wheel. There's none of the terrifying creaking and rocking, which is for the best because it meant I could spend more time with my eyes open, affording views like this:


February 1, 2009

Paris: Sunday Shutdown

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I know I have been in Paris on a Sunday before, but somehow I didn't remember dealing with the fact that on Sunday all the shops and many of the restaurants are either closed all day or close up early in the afternoon.

I knew places might be closed and so did a walk through of Montergueil when I first left the apartment. I saw that everything seemed to be open, so instead of shopping for the groceries I needed, I wandered around more and took photos. Then I noticed the line below in front of a boulangerie waiting for bread. A few minutes later, I noticed vendors cleaning up. Finally I started piecing together that the reason all those crates and boxes I had been shooting were out on the sidewalk was that the sellers were wrapping up early that day. I scrambled to pick up what I needed and was mostly successful. Within half an hour nearly all the markets were closed.


January 26, 2009

Paris: Strike


It wouldn't be a trip to Paris without a protest. Tammi and I saw this one near the Bastille as we were going to the market to buy the Poulet du Bresse. I never figured out what it was about, but I was happy that it didn't involve tear gas or transit shutdowns.

January 19, 2009

Graffiti of the Day: Reach


Marais, Paris. 2008

January 17, 2009

Photo of the Day: Navigating

IMG_0262, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Left Bank, Paris. 2008.

January 15, 2009

Paris: French Onion Soup


In Paris, I discovered that I love French Onion soup. This shouldn't have surprised me, as it involved butter, onions and lots of cheese, but the soup we had at Au Pied Cochon was the best I've had. I tried to make some when I got back, but wasn't quite satisfied. The broth and the onions were great, but I got the cheese wrong, which is crucial.

Based on the weather lately in New York, I'll have plenty more opportunities to need a great soup to warm up chilled bones.

January 8, 2009

Paris Souvenirs: Jurançon

IMG_1327, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

"Don't let anyone see you walking down the street with that! They'll want to be your friend and you'll know they only like you for your Jurançon!"

That was the least colorful advice given to me by Juveniles Wine Bar owner Tim Johnston, an old scot who, for 10 years has run this Australian themed wine bar in the heart of Paris.

The wine, a sweet dessert wine, is by Uroulat a family vineyard in the southwest of France, near the Pyrenees. It has a light body for a dessert wine and tastes strongly of apricots.

When I tasted it after our meal, I had to have it. But they didn't have any regular sizes left, so I was 'stuck' with this magnum. Johnston said the wine is great to drink now but offered that it will be even better in 5 years, "If you can hold out that long."

I can't guarantee that it'll survive until 2013, but we'll see...

January 7, 2009

Food Finds: Candy for Breakfast


Paris. 2008.

I thought our cereals are bad. This one was based on a popular candy bar. It's got caramel and chocolate in it.

Paris Souvenirs: Wine for the Cellar


Yes. I bought all that wine in Paris. More, to be honest. We came back with 15 bottles. Among other things, I've decided to really spend some time learning about wine in the next few years. And part of that is to take advantage of the cellar conditions we've got in our basement. It's consistently 10-15 degrees cooler than the rest of the house, typically in the mid to low 60s, and the humidity tends to be upwards of 50%.

Starting my 'collection' in France just made the most sense, since we were heading there for the honeymoon anyway and the French, more than anyone else, have put a lot of effort into aging wine. I took learning about French wine up as my distracting obsession, something I think everyone who is planning a wedding should have. If you don't have something like that, the wedding will consume you.

I learned a lot more than I knew before about French wine, but there's so much more to discover. In the meantime, I mostly stuck with regions I knew I liked when buying. Many of the bottles I bought to 'hold' are from the Rhone regions, whether Cote Rotie, Gigondas, or Chateauneuf du Pape. I tried to expand into Bourdeaux as well. It was Burgundy that gave me the most difficulty. Tammi and I both found it hard to tolerate the thinness in body and flavor of wine from Burgundy. I bought one bottle of a Grand Cru, to hold for 5 years, based on the recommendation from the clerk.

At the center of my newfound obsession is my deeply ingrained hoarding habit. I can't lie. But beyond that is the idea of holding onto these bottles for our anniversaries, 10, 20 and 30 years in the future. We may pop open one of these bottles to celebrate our kids' graduations or any number of events in our life together through the years. I can't plan any of those things nor do I want to. But I love the idea that no matter what, I'll have the right bottle for the occasion.

January 5, 2009

Paris: Oven


Another spiffy thing about the kitchen in our apartment in Paris was the oven. I'm not sure what type of heat it was, surely electric of some sort, but nothing more specific than that. What made it cool was that it had this dial which selected the direction of the heat source. In addition to above or below, there were options to rotate the heat source to provide a rotisserie-style cooking environment for your roast.

January 4, 2009

Paris: Induction


The kitchen in our apartment in Paris was equipped with some pretty cool features, which according to the guy we were renting from are pretty standard. That includes this induction range, above, which brings liquids to a boil faster than anything I've ever seen. It took some getting used to and I almost ruined a roast while browning it, but it was very cool to cook with.

I don't know the science of the thing, but the whiz-bang factor comes from the fact that the range stays completely cool. You can have hot pan on it one second and put your hand in the middle of the cooking circle the next and not feel the slightest warmth. Also, the smooth surface also makes it significantly easier to clean than the stovetop I have at home.

January 2, 2009

Food Finds: Dolo


Paris, France. 2008.

Paris: Thanksgiving Dinner


This year, Tammi and I broke our long held tradition of not celebrating Thanksgiving. As usual, we were far from home in a country that doesn't celebrate this very American holiday of mass consumption. But this year more than others, we had much to be thankful for. So, I took advantage of the local ingredients and cooked up dinner in our little kitchen in the apartment.

What you see above is the finished product, a roasted Poulet de Bresse, the famous French Blue-footed chicken.

A month or so before the wedding Eric first mentioned this breed of chicken to me and shortly afterward, I read Jacques Pepin's description of the bird in his memoir, "The Apprentice," so I was excited to find it so readily available, if highly priced at the outdoor markets we visited in Paris.

When I bought it, the seller asked something I didn't understand. Figuring he knew what he was doing, I answered, "Oui." He chopped off the feet and the head, but then appeared to be ready to cut the bird up. I stopped him in time and had the bird intact to roast whole. But it wasn't until I started to prep it that I realized that the bird hadn't been gutted. Unlike every other chicken I had ever cooked, the internal organs did not come in a paper bag stuffed in the cavity.

After the jump, the gory details (with pictures!)...

Continue reading "Paris: Thanksgiving Dinner" »

December 31, 2008

Paris: Party


Now, I tend to halt my voyeuristic tendencies at actually peeking through windows, but in this case it was required. We heard this party from a block away. The dulcet tones of Elton John and a dozen others singing 'Tiny Dancer' echoed through the empty Paris street.

We stopped for a moment to enjoy the spectacle and hear the next track in the sing-along, which was 'Grease Lightning.'

Paris Obervations: Flamel


Here's a little something for the Harry Potter fans. Our Apartment in Paris was a block away from a street named after Nicolas Flamel, someone I had no idea had been a real person until I saw this sign.

December 30, 2008

Paris: Musee d'Orsay


I love Musee d'Orsay. It's such a beautiful space, regardless of the art inside, which is also great. Sadly, we only got to pop in for a little while on this trip, mostly due to a miscalculation of distance on my part. I sort of thought that it was a quick walk from the Eiffel Tower, which is is decidedly not. An hour or so later, we got there, wiped out with about an hour left before it closed for the evening.

In any case, the building is a former Paris train station, which may account for my fascination with it. The arched ceilings above and the gorgeous use of the wide open space within make me wish they'd shut down Grand Central Station and dedicate it to art in a similar manner.

Paris Observations: Smoking


When I heard that France had barred smoking in bars and restaurants, I assumed that this law would be flouted in Paris, much like traffic laws tend to be. Shockingly, I found that people really followed it.

On the one hand, seeing the familiar site of smokers huddled in the cold in front of bars, restaurants and office buildings reminded me a little too much of home. On the other, I was profoundly happy to spend the entire trip without tobacco smoke infesting my clothes and hair.

December 29, 2008

Paris: Sarko Paste-Ups

IMG_8232, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

The French may love Obama hands down, but Sarkozy doesn't have quite the popularity. One morning these paste-ups were all all over central Paris. I still only have vague notions of what the messages say, but could tell they weren't particularly flattering. I eventually figured out that one translates to "Yes We Can outsource thousands of jobs from France."

By the evening, they were shredded. I don't know if those were fans of Sarkozy or Obama acolytes offended by the comparison

Paris Observations: Obama Love


Everywhere we went in Paris, we saw our new president looking back at us. There were signs and life-size cutouts and T-shirts all over.

Tammi bought a bobblehead there that says "Yes! We! Can!" when bobbled or otherwise nudged or jostled, which now greets us when we walk in the house.

Paris Observations: Boys will be Boys

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Generally, this would be a POTD, but I just had to comment on the idea of kids growing up in a place like Paris. With art - including nudes and such - surrounding them at all times. I think it's awesome.

December 28, 2008

Paris: Beer Bar Disappointment


I was psyched when Tammi and I stumbled upon La Pinte on Paris' Left Bank. It's the Belgian Beer bar I posted a photo from a while back. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to find it again, but there it was.

But then I walked in. Giant plasma screens playing football matches were the first hint that something was amiss. The English-speaking, though welcome, was another. But really, the photo above says it all. The gorgeous taps that used to host a rotating selection of obscure beers have been retired and are now used as drying racks for pitchers. Four or five narrow chrome taps replace one of the original taps, piping through nothing more rare or tasty than Kronenberg or Heineken.

Sad, sad, sad.

December 23, 2008

Paris Observations: Legends of Christmas

IMG_0575, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This display in the windows of BHV, a department store in the Marais, Paris, was labeled "Legends of Christmas." Personally, I don't remember any Christmas stories about dragons or unicorns, so I'm guessing this is something culturally specific.

December 5, 2008

Photo of the Day: Noel

IMG_7538 - Version 2, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Store Window. Paris. 2008.

December 4, 2008

Graffiti of the Day: Dak

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St. Germain des Pres, Left Bank. Paris. France. 2008.

Photo of the Day: Pont

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Paris. 2008.

Paris Observations: La Mode

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Yes, even the kids in Paris are stylish. Check out the little boots matching her mother's.

Paris: VeLib

IMG_6694, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Nearly everything in central Paris seems pretty close to everything else, but isn't quite. The Metro seems to stop every 5 blocks or so, but rarely in quite the right direction for where I want to go, so we usually end up walking.

The walking often adds up though, and what seems like a quick walk around the corner ends up being a whole day on our feet.

Enter VeLib, the free bike rentals that are ALL over the city. Everywhere we go there is a VeLib 'station,' a dock of 10-30 bikes and a machine to purchase a rental from. The best part is that it's free for the first half hour which is about as long as we'd ever need them to get from point A to point B.

The downside: We've never managed to get them to work. For whatever reason, they just won't accept any card that we've tried to use. We've been trying for the entire time we've been here with no success. Unfortunately there seems to be no support for them to speak of. The website has just about the worst English translation I've ever seen, so it's no help at all.

So, our 'great' disappointment of our honeymoon is that we weren't able to ride around on our little bikes to go shopping or to get to a museum. All things considered, not that big a deal.

December 3, 2008

Paris Observations: RollerBlading Police

IMG_7420 - Version 2, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

One night in Paris we came across cops cruising around on Rollerblades. A few minutes later, we say them giving a driver a ticket. Sadly, we didn't see how they pulled over the car, but that would have been a sight.

December 1, 2008

Food Finds: Microwave Lamb Tagine

IMG_6439, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

The local Daily Monop, the Parisian equivalent of a bodega or 7-11 has a fascinating selection of TV Dinners, including this Lamb Tagine.

I'm totally against lean cuisines and other such nasty microwave meals, but if there was a selection of meals like this, I might reconsider it as a quick meal in a pinch.

Paris: Sunrise on the Seine

IMG_6564, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

On our first morning waking up in Paris, I discovered that the sun doesn't rise in Paris until well after 8am. So, Tammi and I ran out of the apartment down the block to th river to see the sun come up together.

The weather was feeling slightly less romantic, as the cloud covering obscured a good deal of the view. Still, it was a great start for our trip.

Afterward, we grabbed some pain au chocolat and warm beverages and quickly went back to bed.

November 30, 2008

We're Married!

IMG_6155, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

It's been over a week and I still don't know what to say. Last Saturday, Tammi and I gathered our closest friends and family to declare our commitment to each other and have the best party we've ever hosted.

Seriously, it was awesome.

More on that as time goes on. Right now, I'm sitting in our apartment in Paris unable to sleep at 2am and finally getting around to doing what I should have a while ago.

Stay tuned for Wedding, Honeymoon and Paris Travel posts.

September 16, 2008

Photo of the Day: Snow on the Champs Elysee

IMG_3591, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Paris, France. 2003.

As we're getting ready for our honeymoon in Paris, my first visit comes to mind. My sister and I arrived in Paris after a balmy New Year's in Barcelona. Our arrival in Paris immediately preceded the biggest snowstorm the city had seen in ages. We knew the weather was going to be cooler, but this was completely unexpected.

The weather this fall should be significantly more moderate (I hope!)

July 30, 2008

Photo of the Day: Atocha

Atocha Station, Madrid, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Madrid, Spain. 2003.

Atocha station has an interesting significance in my memory. My sister and I stayed a couple blocks away from Atocha station when we were in Madrid on our Euro-Trip. It's a big beautiful station and strikingly, it houses a climate controlled rain forest in the remnants of the original station.

It was one of the landmarks that we both remembered very clearly. A little over a year later, it was at the center of the March 11th bombings. It was jarring. One of the great benefits of traveling, as far as I'm concerned, is that it tangibly connects us to places we might otherwise only see or hear about abstractly on television or in movies. The flip side of that is that when someone happens to try to blow it up, it hits closer to home.

July 20, 2008

The Honeymoon Decision

Paris, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

After a year of hoping and wishing and just about giving up, Tammi and I have decided to go to Paris for the Honeymoon.

You'd think that the travel portion of the wedding would be something I'd be all over. It's certainly the area I'm the most comfortable with and knowledgeable about, much more so than paper and printing styles or what kind of suit I should wear.

Yet, I've been putting this off for a while. Mostly because, given the economy and the weak dollar, Paris has been out of reach for us.

Instead, we were going to go to Brazil. The tickets were on hold, awaiting the final click. Then my Aunt - my wonderful, fantastic Aunt - called me to let me know that she would be entering a large donation to the honeymoon fund. We were elated.

Nothing against Brazil, but before I had even figured out how to propose, the idea of a honeymoon in Paris was nearly fully formed. It would be a change from our standard expeditions, something familiar and relaxed. I wanted to defy my habit of spending my vacations on my feet trying to see every single thing possible before leaving. Instead of exploring all the time, we'd live there if only for a couple weeks. We'd go to the markets, I'd cook, we'd wander the streets leisurely instead of intently seeking out the next place on the list.

There is a visible difference in our attitudes toward just about everything wedding-related since deciding on Paris. This morning I gathered up my Hemingway and Orwell along with various other books about or set in Paris and started looking at vacation rental sites.

We're so excited!

July 10, 2008

France: Paris Train Show

IMG_5247, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Champs-Elysee, Paris. June 2003.

There was a Train Show on the Champs-Elysee when I visited Paris during the summer of 2003. The obvious cultural difference here is that the French were having a public show boasting the technology of rail transportation while the US, even now sees 'starve the beast' as the best way to deal with such alternate transportation. You'll rarely see anything like this in the States as it is.I've gone on my tirades before while discussing the shinkansen in Japan, so I'll leave that alone.

More jarring that that was this train car, above. It's a cattle car, which was used during The War to deport Jews, among many others, to concentration camps. This was amazing to me. I can't imagine anything like this taking place here in the US.

One of the most fascinating parts of visiting Europe to me is the remarkable perspective they have on history. Europeans live surrounded by institutions and structures older than the United States. Something that happend 60 years ago is considered a recent event and something worthy of continued remorse. Here we consider 30 years of Affirmative Action sufficient to counter 400 years of oppression. Perspective is not something we do so well in the land of "You're either with us or against us."

Much can be said about whether the French are really admitting any culpability here. There are a million perspectives on history. Regardless, the mere acknowledgment strikes me as more mature than anything I've seen here at home.

July 1, 2008

Photo of the Day: Santa Claus has a Posse

Santa Claus has a Posse, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. 2003.

December 28, 2007

Ornaments: French Globe

IMG_1368.JPG, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

A small reproduction of an antique globe from the 1700's. The most obvious issue would be the lack of Alaska, which presumably hadn't been discovered/invaded yet.

I got a larger version of this that I got in a shop in Paris. I'm trying to remember if I actually got this in Paris or if I just found it in New York afterwards...

December 17, 2007

Ornaments: Parisian Glass

IMG_1390.JPG, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Purchased in Paris. November 2004.

November 17, 2007

Madrid Recommendations

IMG_3928, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

My world traveling friend, Eli is heading to Madrid soon and I offered the few recommendations based on what I remember from my trip there with my sister back in New Year's '03. I can't believe it was really 5 years ago.

Here's the list I sent, slightly extrapolated:

Restaurante La Paella Real (Calle de Arrieta 2) is apparently the only place to go for paella in Madrid.
Lhardy (Carrera de San Jeronimo 8) has been around since 1839 and has a gorgeous old decor to it. From whatI recall, it's just down the street from Puerta del Sol.
Restaurante Sobrino de Botin (Calle de Cuchilleros 17) has been in business since 1725, making it one of the oldest restaurants in Europe, if not the world. Even though it's listed in every guidebook, it wasn't particularly touristy. They're signature dish is the suckling pig. It's a block or two away from Plaza Mayor.

The Prado houses the work of Spain's most famous historical artists. I believe it only has works through the 19th Century. This where you'll find a lot of Goya's work, including "Saturn devouring his son." It also has one of my favorite paintings, Velasquez' "Las Meninas." First of all, it's huge, wikipedia says it's about 10 feet tall and 9 feet across. And the piece itself has a lot going on, with 8 characters, including the painter - twice. Picasso did over 20 studies of this painting, apparently he always aspired to be like Velazquez.

The Museo Reina Sofia is where you'll find Guernica, which really you just have to see. It's intense.

November 12, 2007

Photo of the Day: Spanish Fountain

Spain 6 - Fountain.jpg, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Madrid, Spain. 1994.

October 17, 2007

The Digital Shoebox


A couple days ago, I went rummaging through my pre-flickr photos, realizing that I don't really go back to any of my non-posted images very often. I decided to pick some of my better images and post them.

I found quite a few blasts from the past, including shots from festivals, my college reunion and the RNC protests back in 2004. Of course there's a ton of travel photos as well. I finally posted more photos from my trip to Europe with my sister.

I'll break them up into smaller sets as I go through them and deal with proper tagging, for now, check the all out here.

September 20, 2007

Bye Bye Barcelona

Sagrada Familia 1.jpg, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

For the time being, Barcelona will have to remain a memory. Last week I canceled our thanksgiving trip.

While I like to say that this vacation was sacrificed to the Wedding Gods, in truth it was to the much more frightening Responsible Adulthood Gods. These Gods don't leave you alone after the big day. They stalk you for the rest of your life making demands.

For the first time in a while, I have no destination to plan for. There's no lonely planet I need to go out and buy, no place for me to research in the dozens of travel magazines or newspapers I hold onto for just such projects.

I've said for a long time that the only way I make it through the daily routine is by looking to my next destination. Planning my travel has been the counterweight to work and other such nonsense. I guess I'd better find something else to keep everything together before everything falls apart.

May 16, 2007

Photo of the Day: 20 Year old Port

20 Year old Port, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I first tasted port in Lisbon. After dragging my jet-lagged sister around town all day, I had one last stop. We stopped at the Solar do Vinho do Porto - Lisbon, a branch of the government organization dedicated to the promotion of port wine. The main room looked more like a living room than a bar. Apparently the word "solar" in traditional English is the "upper chamber of a medieval house," presumably similar to a parlor or sitting room. At least that's what my computer's dictionary says.

I hadn't had port before. At the time I didn't know much about wine in general. I wanted to try it because it was so specifically Portuguese. I've been a fan ever since. While in Lisbon, I picked up a bottle each of red port and white port. White port is great, but you can't find it here in the states. When done right, it has a nutty caramel flavor that's incredible. The closest thing I've gotten to a good white port is a Marsala I got from Italian Wine Merchants last year.

Outside of that, I'm 'stuck' going after 10 and 20 year old red port as I find it. I've been considering buying a 1977 for myself for my 30th birthday this year, but I haven't actually done it yet...

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May 6, 2007

Archival Footage

Spain 6 - Fountain.jpg, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Looking through the scans posted Mike and Marni flickr streams, I was inspired to do a little scanning myself. I found what was left of my old portfolio from HS during the move and took them to work months ago. I'm stuck in the office tonight, so I decided to finally get around to it.

This shot is from my high school Spanish trip in 1994. It was my first time to Europe. I think back to how much I enjoyed it and wonder why it took me so long to go back. . . .

I hope to find more of my old photos and get them scanned in, too. Looking back at my old photos, I see some of the same themes that I'm attracted to now: repetition, reflections, shadows, textures. . . . It will be interesting to see what else I've held on to.


April 30, 2007

Photo of the Day: Tea Time

Tea, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

The Orangery, Hyde Park, London. 2004.

April 29, 2007

Photo of the Day: Barcelona Boardwalk

Barcelona, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

New Year's Eve, Barcelona, Spain. 2002.

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April 16, 2007

Photo of the Day: Helmets

London, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

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April 15, 2007

Photo of the Day: Bridge on the Seine

Paris, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

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April 13, 2007

Graffiti of the Day: Paris Silhouette

IMG_9232, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

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April 12, 2007

Photo of the Day: Barcelona

Barcelona, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

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April 8, 2007

Photo of the Day: Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

London, 2005.

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April 7, 2007

Photo of the Day: Palacio Real

Palacio Real, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Spanish Royal Palace.
Madrid, Spain, 2003.

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April 6, 2007

Photo of the Day: General Strike, Paris

IMG_5258, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Summer 2003, Paris.

Ah, Paris. The Metro shut down, cops in full force and tear gas in the air.

My second trip to Paris happened to coincide with a general strike. It was all very fascinating. Shutdowns were scheduled and announced daily. Businessmen rollerbladed and rode motorcycles to work, and traffic was jammed everywhere. Thankfully, I stayed two blocks from Place de la Concorde, so walking everywhere was pretty convenient.

This was also a month or so before the notorious heatwave that killed thousands of elderly.

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April 5, 2007

Photo of the Day: Left Bank, Paris

IMG_5499, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

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April 4, 2007

Photo of the Day: A Slice of Paris

Paris, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

As seen from the Eiffel Tower, Summer 2003.
As you may have noticed, it's "April in Paris" week here at, all of this week's photos of the day are going to be shots from Paris. Enjoy.
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April 3, 2007

Photo of the Day: Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Paris, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

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March 30, 2007

Graffiti of the Day: Insa

IMG_9019, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Insa. London, 2004.

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Photo of the Day: Paris Beer Bar

Paris, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Bar la Pinte 13 Carrefour de l'Odeon, 6th arrondissement Left Bank, Paris

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March 26, 2007

Graffiti of the Day: Paris Truck

Paris Truck, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Le Marais. Paris, France, 2004.

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March 20, 2007

Graffiti of the Day: Laughing Buddha

Laughing Buddha, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

London, 2005

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March 13, 2007

Graffiti of the Day: OK Baby, Paris

Paris, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Storefront gate, Le Marais, Paris. 2004.

Continue reading "Graffiti of the Day: OK Baby, Paris" »

March 6, 2007

Photo of the Day: Paris Metro

Paris, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Paris, France. 2003.

March 5, 2007

Graffiti of the Day: Open Your Eyes

Paris Stencil, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Open Your Eyes Stencil. Boulevard Haussman, Paris, 2003

After seeing this I searched and searched to find out more about it. I didn't see it again for years, until last year I saw it on Flickr. The shot was from right here in New York. I later came across a few myself when passing 5 Pointz in Long Island City.

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February 28, 2007

Graffiti of the Day: EINE

EINE, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

London, 2005

Continue reading "Graffiti of the Day: EINE" »

February 27, 2007

Photo of the Day: Paris

IMG_8490, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Top of the Arc du Triompf, Paris. 2003.

Continue reading "Photo of the Day: Paris" »

February 26, 2007

Photo of the Day: Lisbon Funicular

streetcars, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Continue reading "Photo of the Day: Lisbon Funicular" »

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