The Whiskey Chronicles (in Buenos Aires)

The Whiskey Chronicles (in Buenos Aires)

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Jordan, part II

Bill began his tour of the 2000-year-old ruins of Petra aboard an obstinate camel who decided to climb the side of a hill rather than walk down the established path. After a 9-year old guide retrieved the beast, Bill was put on a different camel that hissed violently but eventually calmed down and took him safely to the Treasury -- the site of a famous scene in one of the Indiana Jones flicks.

Highlights from our 6-day bike trip around Jordan were sleeping under the stars in the desert of Wadi Rum (although we were absolutely freezing, seeing as how we didn't have sleeping bags!), floating in the Dead Sea and getting in a very short snorkeling session in the Red Sea, where you could see Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt without turning your head. An amazing place we would like to get back to. But the Four Seasons in Istanbul was calling...

We spent our final day wandering through Amman, eating at the city's oldest restaurant (only hummos, muttabal, and falafel on the menu) and meeting a Nigerian peanut vendor who has been selling from the same spot for over 50 years. "He's an icon," our guide, Moayyad, told us.

At 1am, a driver named Youssef, who Dana had traveled with on her way out of Iraq two years ago, picked us up for our 3:30am flight to Turkey. A Palestinian, Youssef is newly married and preparing to apply for a visa to the United States for the second time. "We are not real citizens here," he said, as we pulled away from a police checkpoint. "God willing, I will get the visa and bring my family to America." With travel so easy for us, it was a bittersweet way to leave Jordan, knowing that Youssef has little chance of ever realizing his dream.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Jordan, part I

It's safe to say that things in Amman didn't get off to a great start. We checked into the Petunia Hotel in the midst of a cold front that sent temperatures into the mid-40s. That didn't phase our bellhop, who showed us to our room, pointed up, and said "The air conditioning is very good - it's on full!"

We tried the heat, but the room never got out of the low 50s. And the shower didn't work until we called for help. We went to bed in full thermals, froze all night, and woke up to traffic on the highway twenty feet from our hotel. This was definitely not the Chivas life.

We started biking the next day, heading north out of Amman past fields of olive groves set amidst simple stone fences. Despite protests against Danish cartoons all across the Islamic world, most people were excited to see us. Little children ran out to wave at us, and one man stopped his red Toyota in the middle of the road, opened the door, and said "You are welcome to Jordan!" The teenagers in the town of Ibbin, though, had a peculiar way of greeting us - throwing stones and snowballs. But even that was entertaining in its own way - call it our "Hey! We're in the Middle East!" moment.

The first day involved a lot of climbing, but the ride was worth it when we finally crested a series of hills and the whole Jordan valley opened up in front of us. Directly across the valley was Israel and Palestine. Due south was Mt. Nebo, where Moses is believed to be buried and where we would be headed the next day.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Italian Tour

Just added some photos from our time in Rome, Venice and Florence to the link at right...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Carbo Loading

Thanks to a scarcity of internet connections in Rome and Vienna, we're a bit behind on the updates. But that's Dana in the photo above, trying on a mask at the same store in Venice which provided the costumes for the movie "Eyes Wide Shut" a few years ago (click on the photo for a larger version).

Italy - Rome, Venice, and Florence - was a procession of incredible historical sites, artistic wonders, and non-stop eating. But before we get to that I have to admit, to my tremendous regret, that we actually had to decline a behind-the-scenes tour of the Lamborghini factory in Bologna. A test-drive wasn't guaranteed, but it was strongly implied...

Anyways, our final day in Florence was typical of our time in Italy: big breakfast at our hotel, followed by a 10:30am gelato. An hour later, as we were making our way to a historic church, we passed by what we thought was a store selling fresh pastas and olive oils. We step in, realize it's a restaurant, and are so overwhelmed by the smells that we decide to sit down and have a lunch neither of us are hungry for. An hour later we are running out the door to make an early afternoon train back to Rome. So much for the church.

It's no surprise that after a week of gluttony, all our clothes are fitting a lot tighter. But we justified it all in the name of carbo-loading for our 7-day bike trip through Jordan, which we will try to update you on in the coming days...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Fear the Haggis

If you have ever belted out the lyrics to "Auld Lang Syne" on New Years, you've sung the words to one of Robert Burns' most famous poems. The Scotish bard is still a hero in places like Keith, where the Chivas-owned Linn House is located and where we were invited to join in the annual Burns Night Dinner.

The dinner was something I had been dreading, not because I would have to wear a kilt, but because I knew dinner would include that Scottish "delicacy" known as haggis. Basically a giant sheep's stomach of a sausage, haggis is a mixture of chopped lamb heart, kidney and liver. In other words, haggis is exactly the kind of food that makes me gag just thinking of it.

On our flight to London, British Airways in-flight magazine ran an article about haggis titled "It's Offal-ly Good". That kind of cheesy writing was enough to get me wondering about whether I could avoid the haggis but still save face with my hosts.

In the end, I don't know if it was the kilt or the two glasses of Chivas I had for courage, but the haggis was surprisingly tasty and, even better, smaller than expected. It seems even most Scots eat just a symbolic portion of haggis before a main course is served. Now I'm not saying I'd order it off the menu, but I do think that an annual party featuring a kilt, some whiskey and, yes, a haggis, isn't such a bad idea after all.

Check out the Ofoto link at right to see a few more shots from our time in the UK.

Living the Chivas Life

The whiskey has been poured and the 2006 Chivas tour has started. From La Paz we flew to Miami and on to Scotland, where we celebrated our first Burn's dinner at a Scottish manor owned by Chivas. Click on the title above for some info on our trip at the Chivas website. And check back in the next day or two for the first photos taken of Bill in his kilt and Dana after some haggis...