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March 8, 2015

Enjoying Regional Cuisine in Jordan

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Last night I had dinner with a couple of friends in one of the hotel's restaurants. Although I'm in Jordan the restaurant was Lebanese, but it's still in the same region (more or less).

The food was excellent and most of what we had we simply shared "family style".

One of the things that really impressed me were the fresh almonds. I've always liked almonds, but the ones you get in Europe are usually quite dry. These were much tastier and I assume locally produced.

Here are a few shots to whet your appetite :)

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Sausages - I think the meat was beef

 

 

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A raw meat paste, olives from the locality and a garlic sauce

 

A spicy tomato sauce over grilled lamb kebabs

A spicy tomato sauce over grilled lamb kebabs

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March 7, 2015

Exploring Jerash

A line of columns inside the Roman city of Jerash in Jordan

I'm currently spending a couple of days in Amman, Jordan.
This afternoon I'd planned on going to see a couple of the sites in the city itself, but when I hopped in a taxi the driver suggested taking me to Jerash instead. (I had been told by a friend that it was worth visiting)

Jerash is about a 30 minute drive from Amman city. In Roman times the city was called Gerasa and it must have been pretty spectacular. What's left today is impressive, even if it is ruins.

When you come up towards the old part of the town you get a clear view of the gates into the Roman city. They look impressive, but it's not until you've walked around the ruins that you get a real idea of how impressive the city must have been in Roman times.

I took a few photos this afternoon which give some idea of what you can see

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The gates of Jerash, Jordan

 

A line of columns inside the Roman city of Jerash in Jordan

A line of columns inside the Roman city of Jerash in Jordan

 

Some details in one of the buildings inside the Roma city of Jerash, Jordan

Some details in one of the buildings inside the Roma city of Jerash, Jordan

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January 25, 2015

A Mixed Bag of Experiences With Delta & Air France Customer Service

Delta's mobile app includes baggage tracking

I spent the first two weeks of 2015 in Las Vegas attending CES and then NamesCon. After over two weeks I was looking forward to going home. I was "done".
I was meant to be flying Las Vegas - JFK - Dublin, leaving Vegas Friday morning and arriving into Dublin the following morning.

Unfortunately, as can happen, there were weather issues at JFK which led to flights destined for the airport being put on an "air traffic control restriction". Apparently there were heavy winds in JFK which meant that they had to close several of the runways. JFK is a busy airport, so any reduction in capacity will cause headaches and a nasty "domino effect". So my flight out of Vegas was delayed for about two hours. We were asked to disembark and wait in the boarding area. I was able to get to the American Express Centurion lounge, which was fairly close by. So the wait in Vegas wasn't particularly painful. But I knew that my delayed departure from Vegas meant that I'd miss my connecting flight.

I contacted Delta's Twitter account and they were very helpful and also made sure that I asked the right questions once I got to JFK.

JFK is a big airport and obviously the delays earlier in the day had impacted quite a few passengers. But Delta's staff were very easy to deal with and they gave me a few options and put me up in a hotel near the airport for the night. Oddly, while Delta did cover the hotel for the night they didn't actually cover breakfast or anything else. No matter.

So the next day I went back to the airport and spent most of the day in the Delta lounge. As I only had a light jacket and the clothes I was standing in hanging around New York wasn't an option, as it was -6 degrees outside!

I was being re-routed with Delta via Paris, so I'd now end up doing JFK - CDG - DUB which should have been fine. The flight to Paris was fine and also had wifi, which was nice (I wish they had it on their flights out of Dublin to the US!).

When I got to Paris, however, things went downhill.

The flight to Dublin was, as usual, with CityJet. They're very very small planes, so you either walk across the tarmac to board them or get bussed out to the planes and then walk across the tarmac to board. As I was boarding the flight to Dublin on Sunday morning I could see my three bags sitting on the tarmac beside the plane along with other people's bags.

I got to Dublin and went to collect my bags. I waited. I waited and eventually had to resign myself to the fact that only one of my bags had made it from Paris. The staff at the airport were very helpful and sympathetic, but there was nothing they could do as the bags had never been loaded onto the plane in Paris. So I filled out the baggage claim form.

That was Sunday.

Sunday.

Now this is where it just got weird.

From Sunday morning until Tuesday morning Air France apparently were unable to locate my bags. Delta confirmed that the bags had made it to Paris - I knew already, as I'd walked past them on the tarmac. But Air France didn't know where my bags were.

Delta's mobile app includes baggage tracking

Delta's mobile app includes baggage tracking

I was in communication with their agents in Dublin, in Paris and via Twitter with both Air France and Delta.

Eventually I was contacted on Tuesday morning to say that they'd located the bags and that they would be delivered probably at some point on Wednesday. The bags finally made it to me on Wednesday evening.

Air France customer service were in touch with me, but nobody has explained to me the gap between the bags not being put on the plane on Sunday and them finally making it to Dublin on Wednesday.

Here's their email to me from Friday - emphasis added:

Thank you for your message received on Twitter. Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience concerning the delayed luggage following your journey from New York JKF to Dublin on the 17th of January.
I am also very sorry to learn that your disappointment was further compounded by the fact that you saw you luggage on the loading ramp before the departure of your flight AF1716 (operated as DL8577). We consider the efficient handling of customers’ baggage to be of prime importance and every effort is made to provide an efficient and rapid baggage transfer and delivery service. Regrettably, in this occasion your bag failed to be loaded on your connecting flight. This could have been related to an issue with the luggage tag or luggage hold capacity on this particular flight.
In recognition of the inconveniences you were caused and as a token of our appreciation of your understandable disappointment, I am pleased to offer you 5000 miles that will be credit in your Flying blue card xxxxxxx.
We will always make our best efforts to alleviate any problem especially our most loyal customers might face.
We hope that our gesture can work towards restoring your faith in our company and would consider ourselves privileged if you would allow us to welcome you on board again soon.

While I appreciate the olive branch I'm still rather annoyed about the lack of explanation as to why it took them so long to locate the bags and send them on to me. Of course this isn't the first time I've had issues with Air France and bags..

Will I ever get an explanation? I'm not going to hold my breath!

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January 2, 2015

Jetlagged In Vegas

Signage at Vegas airport

Signage at Vegas airportI spent all day yesterday travelling. The flights and everything else were fine, but by about 9 PM local time last night I was completely confused. It was 9pm in Vegas, but 5am in Ireland!

So sitting down for a relatively light dinner around the time that some people might be thinking about getting up for work (or whatever) is rather odd.

The joys of jet lag!

Moving across multiple timezones is always "fun". You land on the east coast of the US and all your gizmos update their timezone, but by the time you get to the west coast of the US they're all out of sync again!

And of course this morning I woke up at 6am!

Having said that, getting up early in Vegas has its advantages. With the time difference I can do an hour or so of email etc., with our offices in Ireland and then head out for the day.

Staying in the Venetian also has some nice perks like being able to have breakfast in Bouchon.

Today's breakfast may not look spectacular, but it was excellent:

omelette from Bouchon at the Venetian Las Vegas

That's a three egg omelette with steak pieces, peppers and mozzarella. Washed down with some nice fresh coffee it was a great start to my day.

 

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December 20, 2014

Washington DC In December

The White House is the most famous house in the US. You can get pretty close to it from this side

For the past couple of years I've made a point of taking a few days off in November or December. It's an odd time of the year, but it works well for me. This year I'm in Washington DC and while it's pretty cold out there, it's not freezing, so I can move around quite comfortably.

There's a LOT to see and do in the Washington DC area. If anything the challenge is deciding what to do..

Here's a couple of shots I've taken on this trip so far:

The White House is the most famous house in the US. You can get pretty close to it from this side

The White House is the most famous house in the US. You can get pretty close to it from this side

The navy memorial. There's also a small museum right beside it which focuses on the US Coast Guard

The navy memorial. There's also a small museum right beside it which focuses on the US Coast Guard

The US Postal Museum which is part of the Smithsonian. A fascinating journey through the evolution of the postal service

The US Postal Museum which is part of the Smithsonian. A fascinating journey through the evolution of the postal service

 

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill

 

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December 8, 2014

Roman Remains In Plovdiv Bulgaria

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I was in Bulgaria for an event over the last few days. As usual the event was held in Sofia, but this time round our host organised a day trip to the city of Plovdiv.

The city is built on the remains of its past, which includes both a relatively well preserved Roman theatre and a rather large stadium, which has been masked by the modern city.

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While you can only get to see small bit of the stadium it still covers a very large area in the city's downtown shopping area

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The day we were there the weather was pretty miserable so we didn't get a chance to see all the ruins nor did I get a chance to visit any of the city's museums, but I did get a nice taste for the history..

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November 22, 2014

Belgian Beef Stew

Belgian beef stew

When I'm on the road I like to try the local cuisine. This week I was in Brussels, so on the way back I grabbed lunch at one of the restaurants before security in Brussels Airport. Belle & Belge has a nice selection of Belgian food and had proper tables and chairs etc., which were a lot more attractive than the rather ugly options on the floor above.

A Flemish beef stew sounded like it could be a good choice, especially as it was prepared with beer. So I gave it a go.

It was excellent:

Belgian beef stew

Yum!

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October 6, 2014

Enjoying Mexican Cuisine

Huevos rancheros

I'm lucky enough to travel quite a bit for work and this week I'm in Mexico City. Since I knew that the jetlag would "destroy" me and render me completely useless, I flew out a couple of days early. So I've spent the weekend here in Mexico City seeing some of the sights, wandering the streets, soaking up the atmosphere and sampling the cuisine.

I've always liked Mexican cuisine. But up until now I've only ever eaten in outside Mexico. And like the way Italian food in Italy is completely different to Italian food outside Italy, the difference between what I'd come to know as "Mexican" and what you can actually get here is huge.

Here are a few shots that I took over the last couple of days to whet your appetite and give you an idea of what real Mexican food looks and tastes like (granted you'll have to base the taste off the photos .. )

Huevos rancheros

Huevos rancheros

 

Crepes with cajeta

Crepes with cajeta

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The presentation of the food is fantastic!

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And of course I had to try the local cheese:

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September 14, 2014

Istanbul Colours and Flavours

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I spent a week in Istanbul, though I only really got to explore the city for two days.

The city is fascinating. It's also incredibly big, so unless you're prepared to walk a lot you won't get to see that much!

I spent the Saturday and Sunday I was there exploring some of the sights with friends and while I was exhausted after two days I was also really invigorated.

Here are a few photos:

Looking towards the Galata tower in Istanbul

Looking towards the Galata tower in Istanbul

Galata tower by night

Galata tower by night

The spice market Istanbul

The spice market Istanbul

Spices and lots of colours!

Spices and lots of colours!

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Archaeology ..

Orient Express, Istanbul

Orient Express, Istanbul

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While I did get to see a lot over the course of the weekend there's still a lot that I haven't seen. So a return trip to Istanbul is definitely on the cards .. It's simply a matter of when..

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September 6, 2014

Respect The Cultural Rules

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I'm currently spending a couple of days wandering around Istanbul.

It's a fascinating city where Islam and Christianity co-exist.

But you have to respect Islamic rules when you want to visit their historic religious sites:
Rules

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