16 December 2008

Signs of the times

I am a reasonably intelligent human being who has used public transportation all over the world. So why did I feel like such an imbecile trying to navigate Atlanta's MARTA? Jet lag perhaps? (You know the time difference between DC and Atlanta is so huge.) No, I think it had something to do with the god-awful signage the brilliant folks at MARTA have decided to put up and perhaps even more because of the god-awful signs they haven't put up. As you can see from the map above, there are only two lines that make up the MARTA system. Shouldn't be hard should it? But it was. The London underground is infinitely more complex but it's superior signage makes it nearly impossible to get lost or even confused on that system. Yet MARTA had me cussing out loud as I changed trains and stepped onto a platform completely void of any kind of information that would have indicated that I was in the right place. The screeching Mariah Carey Christmas music did nothing to improve my mood. Don't get me wrong, other metro systems have poor signage, but none as worthless as the stuff in Atlanta.

Love at First Bite

We were in Atlanta this past weekend staying with friends. Happily they took us to a really lovely restaurant (gastro-pub? bistro?) called Cakes & Ale in Decatur. This is the kind of place I wish we had in DC. (Who knows, maybe we do. Although most places in DC seem too crowded, too corporate, too pricey, or too bad.) But at Cakes & Ale all is right with the world. It is a comfortable space, low noise, with really tasty food. The wine list was a little short, but the Oregon Pinot Noir we had darn good (Maysara, Jamsheed Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon-2005).

Right off the bat things were really tasty. They put those thin, cracker-like bread sticks on the table which I normally don't like. But these particular babies were delicious. For starters we had an antipasti plate which was really set off by these amazing pickled cherries, Arancini--little deep fried balls of rice and cheese, and my personal favorite, roasted pork belly with farro, bacon, pecans and kohlrabi slaw. The pork belly was crunchy and melt in your mouth at the same time and the farro was perfectly cooked. I think everyone at the table (except for the vegetarian) coveted the pork belly. I don't really remember what everyone else had for a main, I think there was gnocchi on the table, but I do remember my delicious cavatelli with sausage and short ribs.

Decatur is too far below the Mason Dixon Line for my taste, but if I had to live in the ATL, Cakes & Ale would be high on my list of favorite places.

02 December 2008

Safari: Kenya November 2008

John and I in two different hemispheres--literally!

We had the great opportunity to go on the trip of lifetime a few weeks ago. We joined a group of of 7 travel agents (like me) and their companions (like John) for a week long safari with Abercrombie & Kent. We saw and experienced so much in a week it was unbelievable. We had wonderful weather and a great time with our group.

If you plan to go on a safari, take my advice, don't economize. This is one trip that has enough bumps (literal and figurative) that you should do everything you can to smooth them out. If you have to cut corners on your next 10 vacations to do your African safari the right way, I say do it. A&K did a fantastic job and was worth every penny.

Instead of being in a hotel or run of the mill lodge, we were in permanent tented camps that combined a great deal of comfort with the feeling of being out in the wilderness. The hot water bottle in the bed at night, comfy beds and linens, hot showers and flush toilets, and wake up calls that consisted of coffee and hot chocolate delivered to our tent was a great way to see Kenya.

As you will see from the following pictures, we also saw lots and lots of wildlife. This is just a fraction of the 1500 or so pictures we took.

Safari: Samburu National Park

Kenya had gotten a lot of rain right before our arrival and through our first day of the trip. The weather was predominantly dry after that, but the landscape remained pretty lush and green. The usually dry Samburu was no exception.

Safari: Supersize Moment

CLICK on the picture to get a larger view.

Safari: Elephants!

Safari: Baboons

Safari: Cheetah!

The fastest land mammal. Some of these came so close to our Land Cruiser we could have reached out and pet them.

Safari: Reticulated Giraffe!

The reticulated giraffe was the first of the two types of giraffe we saw.

Safari: Masai Giraffe!

This is the Masai giraffe, the second type of giraffe we saw on our safari.

Safari: Birds

I am no good at bird photography so there isn't a good representative of all of the amazing birds we saw on the trip. But here are a few.

Safari: This and That

We saw so many things on this trip that it was hard to get pictures of all of them. In addition to the myriad gazelles, topi, oryx, impala, etc., we saw mongoose, warthog, bushbabies, genet cats, ostrich, dik dik, gerenuk, and on and on...

Safari: Rhinos and Buffalo!

Safari: The Illusive Leopard!

The Leopard is one of the more illusive animals to spot (no pun intended) on a safari. We got very lucky and managed to see this beauty on a rare daytime walk about. Normally they hunt at night and sleep during the day.

Safari: Cat Food

Some of the many things the big cats will eat.