...constantly searching to find the best travel deals and places to visit. A never-ending quest for adventure!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chicago train derailment video

If you haven't heard by now, there was a semi-major train derailment at the O'hare Blue Line station this past week.

The video is amazing to watch - can't believe the people got out of the way:


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hyatt Endless Possibilities Promotion - going on now!

Don't forget - you've got one more month to take part!

With our Endless Possibilities promotion, you can earn up to 4 free nights (valid through July 31, 2014).
Earn a free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel worldwide after every five eligible nights you stay January 15 through April 30, 2014. Simply register by March 31.

Just think of all the places you can redeem your free nights, like Hyatt Place Chicago River North or the luxurious Grand Hyatt Melbourne. Wherever you choose to escape for your next vacation, there are hundreds of Hyatt hotels to welcome you.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bonus points for Conrad/Waldorf stays

Hilton has a new promo out - I received mine via email, so it may be targeted:

I typically don't stay at these properties, but it seems like any easy way to get a few points if you need some.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Breaking away from the Branch Campus model? I hope not.

A very interesting InsideHigherEd article on branch campus development has recently been written - and as noted by another friend and educator in the field, it contains very interesting perspectives on the model...and does not mention the current model being employed in Qatar!

I found it interesting that Qatar was missing from the main context of the article.  Given it's unique status and 'campus' construction, I suppose one could argue that it's not a standard model by which other countries could use.  I disagree, of course.

In my research, I found that the native students gravitated to the Western style of education - they sought it out as being superior compared to their in-country options for study.  And it didn't stop there.  The students also sought out the environment and communal experience within their own cultural context.  In the case of Qatar, students had to negotiate various societal and familiar changes that in some cases proved difficult.  But the majority of students spoke to the positive about their overall experience (once family members were assured of the safe environment offered by the schools).

I'm excited about future research opportunities to expand on this, and hope I can get back to Doha soon to continue my work.  No doubt attitudes will continue to evolve as time progresses and new norms are developed. 

If you're interested in reading more about my research, please click here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Weekend in Seoul - Monday

Monday was travel day back to SFO and then San Diego - we slept in a little, got some food, and then did a quick bit of walking until it was time for me to head out.  And then the fun began.

We had initially thought about having me take a shuttle back, but in order to save some $, the subway is really close to Gate 1 and I was more than happy to do that. And according to the subway map, Incheon was just a short jaunt down on one of the main lines.  Except...we didn't realize that "Incheon" meant the city, and not the airport.  Oops. 

I didn't realize there was a difference until I had already made one train connection, and then after looking at a topo map, figured that I just better get to Seoul Station and take the Airport Train.  It cost a little more money but got me to ICN in one shot.  After arriving at the airport, I made it through security and passport control and then wandered over to the Star Alliance Lounge for Asiana.  Was a very nice experience! Then on to the gate...

I can't thank Jimmy enough for hosting me during this short weekend - everything worked out well and we made it to just about every major site in Seoul.   Was a fun adventure and I can't wait to head back!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Adding a new place to my travel map - Adak!

Yes, that's right, Adak.  Raise your hand if you even know where that is...

Adak happens to be the westernmost municipality of the United States, part of the Aleutian Chain of islands that make up Alaska.  It's actually quite a ways out there:

History shows that Adak was once a military installation that was abandoned in the mid-1990's as part of a round of base closures for non-essential locations (probably due to the fact that it was an important cross-over point in the world wars and unsustainable given its location). The military basically gave everything up to the 300 or so inhabitants, so what remains are the same buildings and structures that were present as "brand new" in 1994 that are now run-down and most unusable.

Alaska Airlines provides Essential Air Service to the island, so miles can be used to have the adventure!  And miles are probably best, since the last I looked at flights, it was almost $1200 to buy roundtrip from the West Coast. 

Can't wait to plan a quick visit to check it out!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Trademark on Parmesan??

When traveling internationally, one the things I enjoy doing is sampling cuisine.  Especially if it's in a new country or locale that I haven't had the chance to sample previously.

So when I read the following story...I literally laughed out loud.  Many thanks to the Wells Fargo Daily Advantage and Jason Ryan for putting this together:

Welcome to the latest international edition of "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but duly registered trademarks will never hurt me." The U.S. and the European Union have recently begun massive trade talks, and one of the E.U.'s opening salvos involves the naming of various products. By virtue of its longer history, Europe has a near-monopoly on many household food names: Champagne, bologna, prosciutto, parmesan, feta, Swiss, Muenster. The U.S., by contrast, has Philly cheesesteaks and Coney Island hot dogs, which don't seem to be in much demand in Europe, although they should be.

The sticking point is that the E.U. would like those names back, especially all the cheese names. According to the Associated Press, as part of the trade talks, the E.U. is insisting that cheese can only be called parmesan if it comes from Parma, Italy, and feta if it comes from Greece (there is no official feta region of Greece, although I suppose they could carve out a place next to the Greek Yogurt region). When American cheese makers use these names, the E.U. argues, they dilute the value of the names for their allegedly superior European counterparts. It's sort of like everyone using Kleenex to stand in for all facial tissue or, in some parts of the country, referring to all soda as Coke. I'm sure Kleenex is flattered, but the company would probably prefer that consumers use its name only to refer to its own products. Champagne is similar. Today, it's generally accepted—and protected by treaty—that only wine made from grapes grown in France's Champagne region can be called champagne. Anything else is sparkling wine.

The U.S. dairy and cheese industries, of course, reject the E.U.'s idea, as they argue that the names parmesan and feta have long since unmoored themselves from their specific locales and become more general styles of cheese making. In a rare show of bipartisanship, 55 U.S. senators agreed, signing a letter to the U.S. trade representative at the talks saying any such name-restricting provision should be rejected.

It's hard to imagine the linguistic hoops we'd have to jump through to fully satisfy the European demands. "Would you like some hard crumbly cheese bits or some soft crumbly cheese bits to go with your, let me check the order ticket … Hold on, did you order the salted, cured thinly sliced meat or the slightly less salted, slightly less cured, slightly less thinly sliced meat that rhymes with Maloney?"

Monday, March 10, 2014

Weekend in Seoul - Sunday

Definitely slept well after our long Saturday - the Dragon Hill Lodge is an excellent property on-base and close to Gate 1 for easy access to Seoul.  Jimmy mentioned that the Yongsan Army Base will be closing in the near future, so I'm curious what will happen to the property.  Time will tell.

War Memorial Museum

There is so much history in South Korea concerning past conflicts, and as a result I was especially interested in seeing the War Museum and the information contained therein.  It made me realize that I need to go back and read up on the conflict and the role that the UN played.  I never knew so many countries took part!  The entire complex is quite large, with artifacts from the war outside and many different historical artifacts inside (including letters between Stalin and the Chinese government).  I'm of the belief that the entire border situation will eventually need to be dealt with, but until then, tensions will run high.


Gyeongbokgung Palace

Once we left the Museum, we made our way toward another part of town, the section containing the Gyeongbokgung Palace and its surrounding support buildings.  The buildings themselves seem to be very similar but have vastly different functions - the guidebook we purchased was needed to determine each.  We even managed to get a quick break with a local music group that was setting up outside - had a few laughs! 

After we finished at the main palace buildings, we also went into the adjoining Folk Museum (as it was part of our admission).  I loved seeing the house and culture info - no pictures though (I got yelled at so I didn't try). 

Blue House

The Blue House is the home of the Executive in South Korea, and we quickly discovered that it's not easy to get over to see it.  In fact, the cab driver just had to drive on through while we saw it off in the distance.  Understandable. We also drove by the Gwanghwamun Gate - plenty of people taking pictures in front of it.  Overall the entire property and layout was very impressive. 

Seoul Tower

The Seoul Tower was our next major place to stop, although we did swing by another outdoor shopping area that had a very interesting circular layout.  On the way we also walked through the Electronics Mall.

Seoul Tower is an impressive fixture on the skyline - getting up to the main part can be done via hike or by tram.  We chose tram for the way up and hike on the way down.  The tram line moved pretty quickly once we got there, and soon we were up top checking out the view of greater Seoul (and the many 'locks of love' left on the railing).  The taxi ride to get there was fun as well - it seems as though Seoul just keeps going on and on in every direction.  Plus our driver was not the safest guy either - I don't think he was happy to drive us up to the tram...

Dinner and Ben's Cookies

Sortino's Cucina in Itaewon was our dining choice to wrap the day.  Who can argue about Italian food?  We ordered several things off the menu and all of it tasted great. And for dessert - the world famous Ben's Cookies!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Weekend in Seoul - Saturday

The first day!

After battling some jetlag on Friday night (which wasn't fun), we were up and out in good order on Saturday morning to begin our trek around Seoul.  I must admit that I'm always excited at the prospect of seeing and experiencing a new city and culture, and this was my first time in the region so I was stoked to soak in as much as I could. 

The areas we visited are highlighted below in each section - I thought this might be an interesting way of weaving in our route as well as pictures from each location.

Noryangjin Fish Market

I couldn't believe the sheer volume of fresh fish available at the market.  Of any make and type, mind you.  If I lived in Seoul I'd be visiting here all the time.  Couldn't really tell what prices were like, but just the opportunity to get fresh fish would be amazing.  Jimmy explained that the restaurants typically get first choice in the morning before the rest of us are allowed in.  Not surprising - what a selection!

63 Building

It ended up being a bit of a trick to get from the market back to the 63 Building, but after flagging down a taxi we were back and taking in the views.  I marveled at how spread out Seoul seems - the buildings never seem to stop.  The price to go up was very reasonable and the Beatles exhibit was also fun to see.


The first thing we did was try out the street food - specifically, Ho Ddeok. The lady who does this is famous for the way she makes it, so we stood in line (amazing for a street vendor!) and finally got our food.  I'm still not sure whether I was eating noodles or something else, but it tasted great. We also checked out a few other vendors and visited the Sungnyemun Gate (which not surprsingly is surrounded by office buildings).

International Food Court/Itaewon/Myungdong Street

Along the route we stopped quickly at the International Food Court at the Shinsagae Mall.  I think we were both impressed by the amount of food choices and desserts that were available.  I tried out some South Korean coke as well as a seaweed chip - not bad.  After that we made our way over to the world famous Vatos Tacos in Itaewon, where I was properly introduced to Kimchi Fries.  And I must admit...they were excellent!  We also stopped by a few vendors along the way - there always seems to be another deal around every corner.

Dinner in Itaewon - the Foody Goody

We were very fortunate to be able to meet up with another USD connection, Mike Arnold, and his family for a traditional Korean meal.  I think I was only in one other class with Mike while we were working on our PhDs at USD, but I was grateful for the opportunity to reconnect and sample the cuisine!


Millennium Seoul Hilton - no luck for us!

We capped off the evening by visiting the Hilton with the hopes of finding some luck with blackjack or roulette.  The tables were pretty terrible so we didn't spend much - we did get a great view of some high rollers playing though...crazy amounts of money being spent!  After that we taxied back to the Dragon and called it a night - more fun to be had on Sunday.