About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

24 March 2012

My Trip in Mugs

It was partly inspired by M's comments on the blandness of my coffee mugs; partly because it would be a practical souvenir and partly because it was likely to be found everywhere. I decided, in Seattle, (though I did think of it originally in San Francisco) to buy mugs or similar drinking implements as souvenirs for the trip.

The first mug, was bought in Seattle. Other than Pike's Market, there are not many places selling souvenirs; so a souvenir from the Space Needle, Seattle's most recognizable landmark felt appropriate.

San Francisco's souvenir market seems to be congregated in Chinatown. Close by, the Cable Car museum, also sells souvenirs and since the entrance is fee; I felt it was a better place to buy a souvenir from!

Belgium is known for its variety of beers. In fact, a store near the town hall advertises that it stocks more than 400 varieties. A glass beer mug with the Antwerp crest, was better than the other options in my opinion; as most of the souvenirs seemed to be advertising Brussels!

Helsinki's markets are more interesting in the warmer days I think. Regardless, a traditional wooden mug was really interesting; though the ornate shot glasses were a close second.

After going through many souvenir shops in Tallinn old town (other than souvenir shops and restaurants there seems to be few other commercial ventures), finding something unique was difficult. But there seemed to be only one shop stocking these mugs, and it is the prettiest of the lot.

The shop just before Neuschwanstein ha an interesting deal - 5 Euros for a mug, with a hot drink and a slice of cake. I wasn't planning on buying a mug; but this was a good deal!

Munich and beer, synonymous I think. So a beer mug it was; though I still want one of those really ornate ones!

21 March 2012

The Phantom of the Opera

It is the most successful theatrical production, and its popularity is easily shown by the fact that the Jo'burg run was not only extended once, but twice - running all the way into May (for a total of around 6 months). I don't agree with the advertising tag line of "The Greatest Love Story", but it is a great story and musical.

I have seen the musical before in New York in 2004; although by that time the original cast had off course left. Compared to the Broadway theatre, Monte Casino's Teatro is quite small and intimate. It is a local cast; and a production of very high quality; with a particularly impressive set design.

The lead actor, Johnathan Roxmouth, gives a superb performance as the Phantom - and has the commanding, haunting voice expected by such a character. I felt that Robin Botha's performance of Christine was not in the same league although M disagreed with me in this regard.

It was a packed sold house show; and it is well worth seeing. Given the recent extension, there may still be tickets left!

19 March 2012

Thoughts on AirBnB

Except for Antwerp (where a hotel was more convenient) and Seattle (where I stayed with a friend) I have relied on AirBnB for accommodation. AirBnB has been on a massive growth spike this past 18 months, morphing to one of the biggest travel services companies in a very short space of time.

AirBnB focuses on sharing of rooms and/or couches in personal homes. The idea is, many people have a spare bedroom or want to share their couches and host visitors who are traveling in return for some money. For visitors, they would be staying with the locals and experience the city from a local perspective.

Of the three hosts, my hosts in San Francisco were the most organised and well set-up. They clearly liked to host visitors and share their experiences of San Francisco. I think my experiences in San Francisco were definitely impacted positively by M&M.

My host in Helsinki, A, wasn't as organised; but it was definitely not an unpleasant stay. It did shed a different light on Finland, but A was definitely hosting on a semi-business arrangement. This is not to say that M&M were not deriving a financial benefit; it just didn't come across that way.

The last host W, in Munich, was very much engaged in a business endeavor. Together with his partner, they owned a series of rooms and apartments in Munich. The rooms were very well furnished (tv, hi-hi, etc) but it lost some of the charm of actually staying with locals.

In South Africa, almost all the hosts on AirBnB are BnB operators; having stayed at many I am not sure I would particularly choose a BnB over a hotel. That said, for future trips AirBnB will definitely be the first place I consider.