Grant McWilliams

Day 1

We flew out to Charlotte NC via Dallas. The best price ($208 plus tax) was on a plane that left at 11:58pm and got in at 10 am in the morning. This seemed like a great plane because we’d get to sleep and the journey would go faster. That would be a great plan as long as I don’t take into consideration the time zones ( I didn’t). It looked like on paper we’d be on the plane for 6 hrs to Dallas so we’d get some sleep. I should know better because I’ve flown to dallas many times. We were on the plane 3 hrs then had a layover. I think my head is really sensitive to cabin pressure because sometimes I feel sick on a plane and sometimes I don’t for no apparent reason. The one I’m sick on may be a perfectly smooth flight and the one that I’m ok on could be rough. Anyway the three hrs to Dallas ended up being three really long hours because I didn’t feel well and had to make a run for the bathroom. The second plane was perfect and I slept on it. We landed in Charlotte and got a cab to the car rental agency where we picked up a car and drove to Asheville NC, the home of the largest private residence in America. They should warn you not to drive after not sleeping for a day but they don’t. I got about halfway there and pulled off the road and slept for a few hours before driving on. We got to our motel 6 (I’m cheap) and slept some more. Stomaches were growling so we headed out to a china buffet. I really needed to get to an internet access point but since we’re in America this seems almost impossible. The Quality Inn across the street was advertising free high speed interenet so I went over and asked if I could use it. I think they thought I was one of their guests because they said yes and later asked me to come back at 6 for breakfast! Anyway the wireless on my laptop isn’t working but they had a lamp with an RJ45 port on the bottom (no joke!) which was hot so I plugged in. I left my printout of important phone numbers at home so I got into my email and got the ones I really needed. Tired I returned to the hotel and slept.

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Charlotte to D.C.

We decided to turn in the rental car in Charlotte and take a train to Washington DC for two reasons, it was actually cheaper (thanks to a 20% off promo code I found on the internet for Amtrak) and it’s a pain to have a car in D.C. We’re used to using the metro to get around anyway so it wasn’t much of a problem. The only problem was we needed to turn in our rental at 1pm and our train came at 1:50 am the next morning! We start off on the wrong foot by thinking we’re in Europe and started searching for left luggage facilities. In Europe you can leave your luggage places for a few euro. The man in the library recommended we try the grayhound bus station. They did have lockers but only about 10 for the 1000 or so people there so we took a taxi to the train station where we checked our bags in ahead of schedule. We then walked back to the city center and ate dinner an an Italian restaraunt which wasn’t bad. We were trying to kill time so we asked the waitress if there was a movie theatre around, there wasn’t but she gave us tips on how to get to one. So armed with a bus schedule we head for the other end of town to watch a movie. We end up watching two movies which took us to about midnight. We called a taxi to pick us up and waited the 25 minutes needed for them to get there. Then we waited another 10 minutes. We couldn’t call them again bacause the theater was now closed and the phone was inside. We had about 50 minutes left before our train left with our luggage. Since I don’t have a cell phone we headed for the main street to see if we could find a pay phone. We didn’t but we did find an all night diner and the man behind the counter let us use his phone to call again. It would only be 10 minutes this time. We wait 10 minutes and no taxi shows up. I’m getting ready to make this a really expensive night and offer a bunch of money to one of the people eating just to take us to the train station. Right before I did that the taxi showed. Thankfully it only took us 15 minutes to get to the station so we had about 20 to spare.

It’s been about 10 years since I’ve ridden an Amtrak train so it was interesting to contrast them with my more recent train experiences from Europe. I’ve ridden Englands worthless trains, the French TGV, German ICE, Italy’s Eurostar and many other eastern European trains. I have to say the Amtrak really isn’t bad other than the fact that it’s slow and only comes by once or twice a day. The seats are comfortable and spacious, the food isn’t bad and the service is pretty good. In Europe once you get on that train everything else is up to you. With Amtrak they keep an eye on you to make sure you get off at the right stop. They will wake you up too if you’re sleeping.

Anyway sleeping was about as comfortable as sleeping on an airplane but without the headrests that wrap around your head. So I didn’t get a lot of sleep but arrived anyway in D.C. at about 10:00 am.

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Food Resources

Cooking and Food related Resources...


You'll find website links, stores and book recommendations here about food and cooking.

Food websites


Cooking websites

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Panasonic LX-2 comparison

Ok, so I've been looking for a camera to replace the SD500 as I said before. A wide angle lens is a must because I'm having a problem getting far enough away from buildings. I also want a small size with a good lens and at least equal pixels to the SD500 (7MP) and more manual controls. So far the race has come down to two contenders - the Canon S80 and the Panasonic LX-02. I'd buy the Canon this minute if it were not for one thing - no image stabilization. I don't know how many pictures I've taken have turned out blurry because there was no place for a tripod or I was on a boat. Image stabilization could have been what I needed to take a clean shot. The Panasonic has image stabilization and a wide angle lens, and more megapixels (10MP) and manual controls and a Leica lens and a wide screen mode. The last Panasonic LX also had horrendous noise which is why I'm dragging my feet on getting the LX2. I did however, find some LX2 photos on a Japanese website that compares the LX-1 with the LX-2. I've cut out small areas of the photos for better comparison which I'll show below.

ls1-lx2sunflowers

LX2 LX1

 

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Welcome!

Welcome to my travel pages. We travel quite a bit and always have people back home who want to follow our journys around the world so I've put up photo galleries and journals about our trips. Usually I update them as we travel although sometimes I can get a few days behind if I don't have reliable internet access.

So in this section you'll find

  1. Photos of our trips
  2. A blog about travel
  3. My travel journals

You might be wondering what is the difference between the travel journals and the travel blog. Let me explain. For every trip we take I keep a daily journal of what we do and my thoughts. I also spend a good deal of my time throughout the year when I'm at home thinking about traveling. I've created the Travel Blog so I can put my thoughts down. I'll also post about really good deals that I'm aware of, tricks about getting frequent flyer miles etc...

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Typology

Typology is a shorter term for Jungian Psychological Type, Myers-Briggs Personality Type, Keirsey's temperements, Hippocrates' Humoralisms, Platos types etc... I always use the term Typology because it's really hard to google Personality Type isn't it? You get a lot of unrelated junk when you do that so I champion the idea of assigning one term to Personality Type that can be searched online. I propose we use the term Typology. So from here on out that's what I'll call it.


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Krakow day 5

I found a pastry shop today and bought some filled doughnut looking things. They had a strange filling in them that was fruit but there was another odd taste. We’d find out later from another baker that spoke 4 english words (which was 4 more than the first one) and she pointed to the pastries and said “alcohol” when I tried to buy them. I’m guessing that strange flavor was alcohol of some sort. Weird, beer in doughnuts.

Our plan was to take the train or bus to Wiliczka (via-leech-ka) to see the salt mines. As we were standing in the train station a man came up to us soliciting his services. I saw his accomplice near the door when I came in. You can always tell these people because their the only ones in the train station not moving. Everyone else is trying to buy a ticket or get to a platform, they just stand trying to make eye contact. Anyway his deal was he’d drive us to Wieliczka for 160 zloty ($55). This seemed a bit steep to me but the train schedules weren’t making any sense and both guidebooks were really vague about what to do once I got there so I told the man it was a deal and we followed him out of the station. He drove a early 90s Mercedes and the whole experience reminded me somewhat of Fernando in Mexico City driving us around. On the way out of town he started pointing out various places of interest and telling me history that I’d already read. We stopped at Schindlers factory and went in. Even though there isn’t much to see but a movie with Schindler in it and the stairs and office in the movie it was still neat going there and knowing it was the real factory that saved so many people. I’m sure they’ll make it into a museum some day. Back on the road for about 20 minutes and we arrived. Our driver started earning his keep fast. The line to get in was about 1 hr long and our English tour started in 30 minutes so he put us in line and took off somewhere. In about 10 minutes he came back with tickets. Apparently he does this a lot and knows the ticket sellers. He says sometimes they let him barge in line and sometimes not. Today they did. He didn’t have enough money to pay for the tickets so he had to wander around to find someone that would convert Euros to Zloty. He really went out of his way to get us in. We made our tour which started out with a 360 stair decent into the earth. Thoughs of Jules Verns “Journey to the center of the Earth” came to mind. Our guide spoke English but her accent was really strained. Polish people sound like chihauhas when speaking English. Maybe the sounds are hard to say but they sound very tense.

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Krakow day 4

We start once again foraging for food. I find at yet another small grocery yogurt cups. I’m getting desperate so I’m willing to eat bacteria infected milk for breakfast. It was much better tasting than the yogurt we have in the states but still no replacement for a good burrito or Paris croissant.

Before the second world war there were 65,000 jews living in Krakow, after the ware there were 200. There used to be an actual second city where all the Jews lived called Kazimierz (kazsh-meer-ezsh). Krakow has grown to the point that it engulfed Kazimierz and it is now a district. I guess it was hard to figure out who should own the buildings there after the war because there just wasn’t enough jews left to claim it. It’s sort of a run down area but is starting to come alive as people move back into it. We spent the day wandering around there and didn’t see much to take pictures of. We were told by the two Polish guys on the train that we should go down there and eat at a Jewish restaurant. The idea of trying to order food that I’ve never seen before in a language that I can’t speak isn’t appealing so we eat dinner back in the city center. Many years ago there was a wall surrounding the city with the Wawel castle at one end. The wall was taken down by the Austrians when Krakow was part of the Austria-Hungary empire. The Austrians seemed to think there was no use for it and took all but one small section down. Where the wall used to be is one long park or “planty” area as they call it. It’s really nice because they’ve put benches along all the paths so if you need to get anywhere in Krakow you walk allong the planty area instead of walking next to the street. Sometimes it’s almost a block wide and other times it’s only 30 ft. You could start at Wawel castle and walk all the way around old town and back to the castle without ever leaving the planty area.

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Krakow day 3

Our first day in Krakow started by Jade and I foraging for food. Bernadette said there was a supermarket to the right of our apartment so that’s where we went. We found a few min-mart types of places, a nice park with fountain, a tiny grocery that had croissants but no supermarket that would have cereal. On the way back we found a slightly larger grocery that has small bags of cereal and milk. A welcome suprise was the fact they give plastic bags to carry your grocery items in. We’ve gotten accustomed to bringing the day bag because most of the eastern countries don’t give you bags, they expect you to bring your own. The croissants weren’t too bad in a non-French way. I guess about the quality I’d get in America which after spending a month in Paris were unexceptable. I think I’ll starve in these countries because I don’t get my burritos for breakfast and I can’t have my second breakfast (croissants) either. Anyway after breakfast we walked toward the city center and found a Polish fast food place so we ate lunch. Piper and I had a big sausage with onions, Jade had fried chicken patty and Natalya had Pierogies. People here don’t speak English at all. The order process is a little weird. We point at the menu and tell her how much, she has us pay and gives the receipt to another lady who takes it into the next room to a food counter. When the food is done the same lady comes back, picks up the food and yells it out at which time you’re supposed to motion to her that it’s yours. You’d better be able to pronounce your food in Polish or you might not eat. The rest of the day we spent in the old center of the city.

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Krakow Poland

We spend the day on the train with two young guys from Poland. One spoke ok English and the other spoke excellent English. We talked about the language and America. The one had taken a Greyhound from San Diego to Chicago and vowed never to do it again. He also said the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC is excellent.. He saw it before going to see Auschwitz in his own country which seemed backwards. We get to Katowice 20 minutes late and our connecting train is supposed to leave in 5 minutes. We jump off the train and run under the overpass to the first train that says Krakow and get on it. It’s a very rough rattly regional train that gets us to Krakow 25 minutes late. We manage to get a fair taxi for 15 zloty ($3) to our apartment and Bernadette a pretty red headed Polish girl is waiting for us. Our apartment is really kind of fun. It’s one of those things that’s so peculiar that you’re just willing to live with it like French cars with gear shifts in the dash or Swedish cars with ignition switches on the floor. We enter the courtyard with is very pretty and head for a building at the back. Inside is a wooded crate of an elevator that can only handle 35 kg so we put 2 bags in it and carry the rest up the stairs. The stairs are bare wood and very rustic like they were in a barn. We climb, and we climb and we climb some more until we get to the attic. The two bags are waiting for us. Our bodies were so tired by this time I could see it possible to accidentally fall over the rail and plunge to a violent end at the bottom of the stairs. Thankfully this doesn’t happen. Inside the apartment you are very aware that you are in the attic. The floors are a dark stained hardwood like Cherry or Walnut and there are dark exposed beams in the ceiling and walls. There are also exposed wooden poles supporting the ceiling. We have one bedroom instead of two like we thought. These Europeans count funny. In America a two room apartment would probably have two bedrooms, in Europe it has two actual rooms not including the bathroom. So you take the number of advertised rooms, subtract the number of bathrooms and kitchens and what you have left is the bedrooms. If this number is 0 you sleep in the kitchen and if it’s less than 0 you sleep in the bathtub.

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