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Beer

Hunger games in the COVID-19 kitchen

Hunger games in the COVID-19 kitchen

— Thanks be to God, we here in Arizona are not yet subject to any mandatory orders to shelter-in-place or remain confined in our homes during the current coronavirus pandemic. However, many of us — if not most of us — are voluntarily limiting our contact with others. In particular, I’ve been avoiding the most chaotic place in town, which is every supermarket. My last trip to the supermarket was Friday last week, at which time I made sure to buy enough beer to last me two weeks.
I’m way behind on my posts, so here’s a brief status update from Montpellier

I’m way behind on my posts, so here’s a brief status update from Montpellier

— I was doing so well at publishing a blog post at least once a day, and then when we got back from Lourdes it kind of fizzled out. Well, have no fear, we’re doing well here in Montpellier. Yesterday I finally posted about our road trip to Sommières, which happened last Thursday. Last Friday we went on our highly anticipated hike up Pic St. Loup, along with a little bit of beach time before returning the rental car.
I don’t always drink Starbucks. But when I do, I prefer beer.

I don’t always drink Starbucks. But when I do, I prefer beer.

— I’m not a big fan of Starbucks. However, that was not always the case. About eight years ago, I walked into the Starbucks near my office for the umpteenth time that week and handed over almost $2 for yet another “tall” brewed coffee. I sat in the shop for a little while, trying to be excited about my purchase. As I sipped my plastic-covered paper cup of lukewarm sludge with a quarter-inch of dregs circling the bottom because the barista was too lazy to brew a fresh pot, I asked myself, probably for the first time, “What the hell am I doing here?
It pays to have a backup plan or three when travel plans fall through

It pays to have a backup plan or three when travel plans fall through

— Kathryn and I have two weeks of vacation coming up next month. How we’re planning to spend those two weeks has changed three times in the past two months. Plan A: Learning Spanish in Mexico City Our original plan was to return to Mexico City for two weeks of Spanish classes. We had picked out a school and had reserved fifteen nights in a two-bedroom Airbnb with a rooftop patio in the hip Roma Norte neighborhood.
A chill evening at Banger Brewing on Fremont Street in Las Vegas

A chill evening at Banger Brewing on Fremont Street in Las Vegas

— Most of our weekend road trips to Las Vegas end with us heading back to Phoenix after lunch on Sunday. On our last trip, however, we had some business we needed to attend to Monday morning. After our huge lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen early Sunday afternoon, we weren’t in any mood for a big dinner. We decided instead to take a Lyft from our hotel to Fremont Street and try Banger Brewing, a brewpub that had gotten some decent reviews online.
A beer keg urinal in the men’s room of Virgil’s Real BBQ, Las Vegas

A beer keg urinal in the men’s room of Virgil’s Real BBQ, Las Vegas

— It doesn’t happen often, but on rare occasions beer can open up opportunities that may have otherwise passed us by. For example, if I hadn’t had a second pint of beer at Virgil’s Real BBQ on the Linq Promenade in Las Vegas, I wouldn’t have had to make a visit to the men’s room, and I would’ve missed one of the most interesting urinals I’ve seen anywhere. Kudos to whoever thought up a urinal designed to resemble a beer keg!
Eating our way through a busy first day in New England

Eating our way through a busy first day in New England

— Considering the only real sleep we got Friday night was on the flight from Phoenix to Boston, we stayed quite busy yesterday. After waiting what seemed like forever for our checked bags, we took the airport shuttle bus to the rental car center, which didn’t exist last time I rented a car at Boston Logan. Getting our rental car from Avis, a Subaru Forester, was no trouble at all. However, shortly after leaving the airport, a sensor indicated we were low on windshield washer fluid.

Alone in a strange place, wondering if I’m crazy

— Thursday morning last week, I woke up alone in a two-star hotel by the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere. The hotel was at least superficially aspiring to a third star, but a fresh carpet, a thin coat of paint, and a waffle iron can only hide so much. Its two-star standing was further betrayed by the fact that the previous night’s manager couldn’t tell me the closest cold beer was in a lounge a few hundred yards away.
What do they drink for beer in Mexicali?

What do they drink for beer in Mexicali?

— When I got back to work Monday morning after the weekend road trip to Mexicali, one of my colleagues almost immediately asked, what do they drink for beer down there? What an excellent question! The short answer is not a surprising one: Tecate. Mexicali is one of the most populous cities in the Mexican state of Baja California, and Tecate is one of the biggest brewers in that state. While the restaurants and bars we visited also had Bud Light available, I suspect it was only there for the occasional Anglo guests like us.
Weird dinner experience at Gordon Ramsay Steak, Las Vegas

Weird dinner experience at Gordon Ramsay Steak, Las Vegas

— Our beef Wellington, now completely cooked but neither carved nor garnished, was brought out to us in a frying pan lined with what appeared to be coarse salt and a handful of peppercorns. Basically we were teased with our dinner, only to have it taken away again. I’ve decided to call this the proof-of-life phase of our meal. They showed us our dinner just long enough to let us know it existed, and then quickly returned it to hiding for another eight to ten minutes.
Hacker-Pschorr tent at Oktoberfest in Munich

Hacker-Pschorr tent at Oktoberfest in Munich

— Kathryn and I were able to spend part of a day at Oktoberfest in Munich in 2007. It seems everyone who has been to Oktoberfest has a favorite from among the major beer tents. My favorite is the Hacker-Pschorr tent. The theme is charming and simple: Bavarian heaven. To call this structure a “tent” is fairly misleading. It’s a permanent building. The only part that appears to be made of canvas is the section of the roof over the seating area.
Puerto Vallarta: Running the gauntlet at the airport

Puerto Vallarta: Running the gauntlet at the airport

— Prior to our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, I hadn’t arrived in Mexico by air since a 1989 vacation to Ixtapa with my parents. So, in stark contrast to my previous experience, I was pleasantly surprised to see Puerto Vallarta has a clean, modern international airport terminal. Complete with air-conditioned jetways, no less. Although the walk from the plane to the immigration hall was a bit long, the checkpoint was efficient, with passport scanners and barcode readers for the tourist cards.
Puerto Vallarta: Still awaiting Juvo

Puerto Vallarta: Still awaiting Juvo

— An update from Puerto Vallarta, Wednesday morning in Mexico. We’ve been gearing up for Hurricane Juvo since Monday, but it’s taking its sweet time getting here. When we left the U.S. on Saturday, it was forecast to hit Puerto Vallarta directly Monday evening. Hurricanes are unpredictable though. The latest report is it’ll come ashore as a category-three hurricane much further south in the state of Jalisco, then follow the coast north toward us, probably having weakened to a tropical storm by then.
Germany: Any reason to celebrate in Monheim am Rhein, Cologne, and Düsseldorf

Germany: Any reason to celebrate in Monheim am Rhein, Cologne, and Düsseldorf

— I arrived in Paris six days ago and spent a couple nights there. I didn’t do much in Paris that I haven’t done before. Mostly, I just enjoyed being there, sitting in cafes, walking through parks, and so forth. The only new thing I really saw was the museum of the police prefecture, which actually I didn’t find very interesting, aside from an exhibit of some of the firearms used during the Liberation.

Frequently asked questions about our road trip in Europe

— We’ve only been home a few days, but Kathryn and I have already heard a lot of questions about our trip. For the benefit of everyone else, I’ve decided to repeat some of them here, along with their answers. What was the highlight of the trip? It’s been really tough to single out a highlight, since we had such a great time the whole trip. For me, picking up the new car in Germany was a moment I won’t soon forget, and flying a glider in Austria was a truly unexpected surprise, but the trip was really a series of highlights punctuated by sleep.

Oktoberfest, BMW, Rothenburg, Baden-Baden, Eiffel Tower

— Phew! It’s been about 72 hours since the last update, but we’ve managed to pack an awful lot in. We arrived safely in Munich on Saturday, about six hours later than anticipated, so the thought of doing Oktoberfest that evening was quickly dismissed. My friend in Munich met us at the airport and showed us the way back to her place. After we washed 30 hours of traveling filth off our bodies, we went out for a serene evening at a nearby beer garden, where Kathryn had her first ever German meal.

Long overdue post

— There’s a certain irony to writing a blog. During those times when you have the most to write about, you have the least time to write it. The year 2007 has been, and continues to be, almost unbelievably good to me, and for several months I’ve been maintaining a hand-written list of all the things I want to write about. However, the blog format lends itself to telling stories in a chronological fashion, so as my list grows longer, I feel a certain pressure to write everything or nothing.
The prettiest pint of Guinness ever at the Guinness Storehouse

The prettiest pint of Guinness ever at the Guinness Storehouse

— So, in what I imagine will be the last of my alcohol-related blog entries, at least for this trip, I toured the Guinness Storehouse here in Dublin today. I won’t elaborate much about this tour. Much like the Heineken tour in Amsterdam, it was disappointing that we were in a visitor center, not in a real, working brewery. Their attempt at social responsibility, an exhibit dedicated to alcohol-related social and health issues, seemed entirely out of place.

Weight

— I had a discussion with a cousin of mine a few days before I started this voyage. He was joking that I might gain 20 pounds during this trip because of all the beer I’d be drinking, which is perfectly reasonable. However, I responded that I might lose 10 pounds because of all the walking I’d be doing, which is also perfectly reasonable. Well, I weighed myself this morning on my friend’s bathroom scale, and if it is to be trusted, and if I did my metric conversion correctly, I’m down 11 pounds as of today.

Berlin, Germany: Keeping properly hydrated

— Having lived in Arizona for almost two years, I should be keenly aware of how important proper hydration is. However, it’s easy to forget here in Europe where the climate is so much milder. Earlier this morning, I bought a 1.5-liter bottle of mineral water while waiting for a train. I was a little surprised that I was able to drink it in about ten minutes. Mostly I’ve been drinking coffee and beer the past couple weeks, and I’ve been sweating a lot as I walk around cities or haul my pack around train stations, so I was probably poorly hydrated.