Saturday, November 25, 2006

tribute to a writing colleague

I was surprised and saddened to read on Thanksgiving of the death following a traffic accident in Dunedin FL of Louise Westenfield, whom I met at the Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg Russia in 2005. Louise worked as a flight attendant with US Airways and, according to the report, had four children. She had also won various writing awards. I knew her in a playwriting course --she had written an interesting play about an airline emergency over water and the interplay among the crew.

Louise was friendly and very attractive but otherwise did not fit the usual stereotype of flight attendants--she was far too bright. RIP Louise.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

dolphins jumping

Last evening I saw a school of dolphins jumping and circling just in the channel south of Clearwater Point, the southern end of Clearwater Beach. Several jumped completely out of the water --only time I ever saw this before was when somebody was holding a fish for them.

That is the great thing about Florida --even with all the development here, nature is never far away. Weather is cloudy today and still windy but is expected to warm up over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Air Canada

Just got off a flight on Air Canada from Toronto to Tampa. It is cool and windy here, but at least there is sun. Montreal hasn't seen sun for weeks. The flight was amazing --you have to pay for everything except soft drinks of coffee unless you are in business class. And they were surveying passengers regarding whether they preferred to be served in French or English --sounds as if they are trying to get rid of French on international flights, or at least on those going to the U.S. I of course answered that I preferred to be served in French. What will be the next thing to go? Will you have to pay extra to get a seat, rather than standing in the aisle?

To get a good fare I took the 6:30 flight out of Montreal and went through the terminal transfer trot, complete with a long line up to clear U.S. customs. At least on the flight from Montreal they served some free cookies with the free coffee or juice.

I am one of the many people who is something of a prisoner of Air Canada because I want to get enough Aeroplan points to go somewhere interesting. And, admittedly, they do have the largest number of flights. I wish, though, that there were more competition.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Montreal restaurants continued

Au 14 Prince Arthur Ouest has yummy Vietnamese food at very reasonable prices. The soups are filling and tasty, and the ginger chicken is the best I have ever tasted. The spring plates, with chopped lettuce or sprouts, cooked onions, a choice of chicken, beef, pork or shrimp topping and a sprinkling of peanuts and cilantro on top are also an excellent choice. Even with a beer, it is hard to spend more than $15 per person.

Montreal, like Washington, has a lot of Vietnamese restaurants. This is partly thanks to an influx of Vietnamese immigrants following the U.S. loss of the Vietnamese War. Now that the U.S. seems to be losing the war in Iraq, can we look forward to a similar quantity of Iraqi restaurants in future? In Montreal, the future may be here. A restaurant called Damas Baghdad which serves hearty, tasty Iraqi specialties at modest prices is now operating on the pedestrian part of Prince Arthur. The daily specials which include lentil soup are an especially good deal, but the food is sometimes in need of re-heating.

If you are in search of celebrities while you dine, you could do worse than the Mess Hall restaurant on Sherbrooke Street in Westmount. A certain curly-haired Quebec politician has been spotted there recently with his beautiful wife. Mess Hall's prices are above what I usually pay, but the atmosphere and service are pleasant and friends report (I only had a glass of wine) that the food is very good.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Montreal restaurants

There's a good new Vietnamese restaurant in Westmount, part of Montreal. It's called Sa Po Che and is right across from Alexis Nihon Plaza on Ste. Catherine Street. The specialty is soupe Tonkinoise, and they also offer grills. The price is right --A friend and I had dinner there recently for $20 with two Soupes Tonkinoise and sharing an order of imperial rolls and tea. So far the restaurant has no liquor license.
My favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Montreal is the one called Au 14 Prince Arthur Ouest, near the corner of Prince Arthur and St. Laurent Boulevard.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Hello and welcome to my travel blog. As a budget/business traveller, I'm generally a fan of ichotels, the hotel group that includes InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Express by Holiday Inn and others. They usually provide good value for money and safe, clean, comfortable rooms.

I have stayed or eaten at InterContinental Hotels a few times. Some of the best meals I have had were breakfast buffets at InterContinentals. One was at the Belgarde InterContinental just before the start of the Balkan War of the 90s, and the other was an Easter brunch at the InterContinental in Amman, Jordan near the start of the current Iraq war. The latter was complete with a guy in a pink bunny suit.

Mostly I stick to Holiday Inn and Express by Holiday Inn for monetary reasons. I have visited three of them this year. The first was the Express by Holiday Inn Berlin City Center in the down at heel Kreuzberg area of Berlin. I had a small but quiet and pleasant room for 58 Euros a night, about $75. And yes, there was also a very nice breakfast buffet. As you may have discerned, I am a fan of big breakfasts when travelling --sometimes I skip lunch after one and have a relatively early dinner.

The Express Berlin City Center is very close to the ruins of the Anhalter Bahnhof, which is a U bahn stop, and to a large section of the former Berlin Wall that has been preserved. An ivy covered section of brick wall on the street where the hotel stands was part of the fortifications standing in front of the Wall. I'll tell you more about my Berlin trip later.

I also stayed at the Holiday Inn Georgetown in Washington DC. It was more expensive but also a good choice because of its location --I love Georgetown, where I used to live. However, I was annoyed that on a two night stay the price rose for the second night. When I protested at checkout, the clerk pointed to a place where the higher price was initialled. I thought, though, that I should have been informed verbally about the rate increase. It never occurred to me to ask about it. As the Romans said, caveat emptor. If I ever return to that hotel, I will be sure to ask about the price for each night.

The Holiday Inn Tyson's Corner in northern Virginia was a better bargain --only $89 a night for a larger more elegant room with free parking and a very large indoor swimming pool. Both of these Washington area hotels offer free shuttle service, a big plus especially in Tyson's Corner, which is an incredible suburban maze. Rates were relatively low at both these places because it was late August, one of DC's emptiest periods. In a later post I'll say more about visiting Washington in August.