Sunday, September 30, 2012

Eastern European 9 day Vacation to Prague-Vienna-Salzburg-Budapest!

Wow! What beautiful cities. The first words that come to mind when I think of them are amazing architecture, breathtaking views, charming streets, proud history, great cappuccino, cool trams and subways, nice people, relaxed atmosphere, interesting food, lively nights, peaceful parks, unexpected beauty......
In fact all three cities we visited had a river running through them with bridges and banks where one could spend hours, days, weeks, months with a camera.

So here is my  itinerary for an 9 day Eastern European Vacation:
Prague 2 nights, Vienna 3 nights (including a day trip to Salzburg), Budapest 2 nights, Prague 1 night again and back home. 
Hope you enjoy reading and maybe try and plan the same trip for yourself some day. I promise you will have a great time.
We left from Atlanta on a Friday evening and arrived in Prague at 8 am on Saturday.  A taxi is recommended form the airport. You can choose to do a bus+subway combo but it takes over an hour so we opted out.  There are two main taxi stands/companies as you exit the airport.  The cost was about 700 CZK (1 Dollar = 22 CZK) so around $32.  If you buy a round trip the return is 47% discount or 480 CZK ($22).

DAY 1: PRAGUE Saturday Aug 4
We stayed at the Sheraton in Prague located in Charles Square.  The first day (Sat) we walked around, rested and just discovered Old Town.  In old town, the main attraction is the Astronomical clock. Every hour on the hour, it chimes and the skeleton representing death kicks off a few minute music routine accompanied by the peeking on certain creatures through the windows.  Little strange but more of a tourist thing.

The best part was just walking around the square. It was also where I tried the Trdelnik . From here we walked to the Charles bridge. You can't miss it. There are a number of statues of different saints as you walk along. This is where you will see people trying to touch the St John statue for luck.

We took a little boat ride that was quite nice. Seeing the city from the river gives a whole new perspective.  On the boat they served us beer and the most delicious soft cookies filled with orange jam. I spent the next few days looking for these cookies but couldn't find them.

We then walked along the river and arrived at a great park by the hotel. A lot of people were relaxing, having wine, taking naps, playing with kids or dogs, reading, and simple catching up. I decided to lay on the grass and take a small nap -- this was so much fun. The grass was clean and cool and I got to rest my feet and revitalize my senses.  My husband preferred walking to the bridge and taking pictures.

For dinner we decided to find a local place and ended up going to Svejk Restaurant U Karla which was right by Karlova Namesti tram/subway stop (Address: Kremencova 7, Prague, Czech Republic). Svejk by the way is a character depicted in the The Good Soldier Švejk, an unfinished satirical/dark comedy novel by Jaroslav Hašek (there are cartoons/images of Svejk on the chairs of the restaurant)
On the menu -- roasted duck with red cabbage slaw and potato dumplings. Interesting and pretty good if you are adventurous and like trying the local fare. It is off the typical tourist path, simple and czech style, the food is good, the prices reasonable and the beer is Pilsner. Pilsner Urquell is the local favorite beer brewed in the Czech Republic.
I highly recommend trying the local snacks -- this is one of my favorite things to do. The potato sticks and peanut covered in paprika goodness were yummm!  Also the gelato and ice cream stands are literally at every street corner. And it was only 1 Euro -- what a good idea for a treat. Our personal favorite of course was the cappuccino.  The seriously did not taste anything like American coffee and I mean that in a good way. It was simple delicious and refreshing.

DAY 2: PRAGUE Sunday August 5
The next day we decided to go to the Prague Castle.  On recommendation from the hotel concierge whose recommendations we took only with a grain of salt, we took a Tram # 22 from Karlova Namesti to the stop across from the Royal Gardens.  I have about a 100 pictures of the trams because I fell in love with the trams.

We walked through the gardens, crossed over the moat to the castle and then covered all the highlights within the castle walls. These were Golden Lane.  We then walked down the steps to the Little Quarter -- I loved this walk. We stopped in a restaurant to get a sandwich and it turned out to be so delicious -- just bread, emmenthal cheese and salami. So simple but so delicious -- it is probably the quality of the bread and ingredients.  The restrooms in the restaurant were like that in a modern 5 star hotel!

I was overall really pleased with all availability and cleanliness of restrooms. In fact the worst restroom of our entire trip was at JFK during our layover (how interesting is that). Now I should mention that a lot of restrooms charged 10 to 20 CZK. But totally worth it in my opinion.
We shopped for some souvenirs and then came to Malostranski Namesti square and sat at our favorite cafe right by Church of St Nicholas. We had a new beer Staropramen and coffee and hung out for quite a bit watching the trams, people and taking in the sights and sounds.

For dinner we set out pretty lat -- around 1:30 and realized that all the restaurants were closing down. So we ended up in a Chinese restaurant which was the only place to accept us.  We didn't know what to expect and ordered some egg drop soup, schezuan chicken and fried rice.  To our surprise, it was easily the best Schezuan chicken we have had -- better than India and New York. It was authentic, spicy, tasty and light. So much so that we will definitely go back to it when we return to Prague (yes we will go back!).

DAY 3: DEPART FOR VIENNA Monday August 6
We left for Vienna by train on Monday afternoon.  I booked the train tickets at  Instead of the eurorail pass, I found it was better to do confirmed rail tickets with seats. The tickets were sent to my home by free shipping through UPS.  We took the 10:42 Hilvani Nadrazi to Wein Meilding.  Most trains from Prague to Vienna go to Wein Meilding.  The train ride was about 4 hours and the coach ticket was about $60. This was an OBB train -- nothing fancy but very comfortable. We had the cabin to ourselves most of the time because the other two passengers got off early in the ride.  There was a restaurant car on the train but best to pick up a sandwich or croissant and water at the station.

From Wein Meilding we took a subway to our hotel Le Meridien Vienna located in the Opera/Belvedere quarter very close to the Museum Quarter.  The was an excellent location and a top notch hotel -- modern art everywhere, cool lighting, new building and excellent service.  We would 100% stay there again.

We rested after the journey and set out to discover the city on foot -- we we shocked at the proximity of the museums and wonderful architectural marvels around us.  The atmosphere was lively and bustling. We stopped at a greenhouse Schmetterling Haus right by the Austrian National Library for dinner and read about the history of this city.  We had loved Prague but Vienna had so much to offer that we were excited all over again to discover a new place.

DAY 4: VIENNA Tuesday August 7
We decided to walk to the museum quarter right behind the hotel.  On the way we saw the Musem of Arts which was open but would probably take 4 hours to cover so we decided to skip it. The museum of Natural History was right across from it and that sounded very interesting but was closed. So we kept walking and ran into some guys selling tickets for Opera that evening at 6:30.  We ended up chatting with them about the sights and museums. They also recommended SiSi's palace. Sisi is the princess of Vienna and daughter to St Maria Theresa who was instrumental in developing the arts and encouraging music.

We bought 2 tickets to the Opera at the Palais Ausberg and decided to walk over to the Parliament building which was also close by. This ended up becoming Rashids favorite building -- we have a lot of pictures of it in various lights and from various angles.  Just past the parliament building was a park and we heard some music and saw some food stands. Turns out it was the Film Festival with vendors selling foods of 12 different countries/cuisines.  The Indian food looked so good that we decided to snack on something before walking the gardens across the street.

The opera was a great experience. It was about 1.5 hours total but had both Mozart and Johann Strauss pieces performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Ochestra.  There were dancers too and there was an intermission with a champagne service.

DAY 5: SALZBURG Day trip from VIENNA Wednesday August 8
I really wanted to do the Sound of Music Tour and so booked this ahead of time on  Luckily for me, my husband was along for the ride -- we watched the movie before we left so he was somewhat excited.  When we got on the bus and started going into the mountains, he was very excited.   We got to see the Alps and the countryside.  So beautiful!! The our also stopped at the beautiful own of Mondsee and we visited the yellow Church of Mondsee where Maria and the Captian Von Trapp got married in the movie the Sound of Music. We saw the fountain where the children played and the facade of the house where the Baron and the children lived. We also saw the top of the abby while driving by on the bus but the most breathtaking were the hills and there were really alive!! The bus tour played the songs from the movie and also clips from the movie. The main stop was the gazebo where 'you are sixteen going on seventeen' was filmed.

This was the only tour we booked and it was also my first experience booking with Viator. I was pretty pleased. I had the voucher via email that I was carrying but needed to call the local Panorama Tours number to reconfirm. When I did this from the hotel, they sent the train tickets and updated vouchers to the hotel room within 15 minutes.  That was nice and after that it was all very easy.
Here is the link to the tour itself $105 or $140 with optional walking tour in the morning. We did the latter.

This was an all day tour so fairly hectic but the train ride made it so exciting.  The trains were modern and we got to sit on the upper deck!  My husband was super excited by the journey -- the lanscapes were beautiful and the train was super cool.

DAY 6: Train to BUDAPEST  Thursday August 9
I booked this ride ahead of time from Super easy -- like shopping on amazon. Tickets were mailed to the house.  I recommend getting confirmed seats here.

Budapest is 2 hours from Vienna. the journey is not as pretty as the one to Salzburg but comfortable. iPad's came in handy for the train and plane journeys.  This was our quiet time to write, listen to music or just gaze outside. The train rides were smooth, comfortable, no hassle and on time. The cabins have good storage bunks on the top and sometimes in the middle of the car for bigger suitcases.

We checked in to the Le Meridien Budapest. This was an older, ornate, baroque era style furniture hotel.  Also comfortable and excellent location. We walked outside and started walking towards the river -- we figured, the riverwalk probably has the best sights.  There we met a guy selling tickets to an evening cruise on the Danube. We ended up chatting with him for a long time and learning of his favorite places.

We came back to do the cruise at 7 pm.  Good decision because it was only $35 and it included white tablecloth dinner seating, full buffet with Ghoulash, 3 meats, salads, potatoes, 4 desserts.  Also included were champagne and a glass of wine.  Besides we saw amazing views of the Parliament and the city from the Danube!! And there was a band on board!  The cruise on the river Danube at sunset is a must-do -- you get to see the whole city at a glance while enjoying a great dinner.

After dinner we walked down to the St Stephens Cathedral.  
There were bars, pubs, restaurants alive with people, the Olympics being shown on big screens and everyone enjoying food and wine. So we also decided to sit on the steps by the cathedral for some wine before we called it a night.
On the walk back to the hotel we came across several such after dinner hangouts near parks with big TV screens and people carrying wine and beer in the open and enjoying with their friends and families.

DAY 7: BUDAPEST Friday August 10
We had really wanted good pictures of the Parliament house but it was so big that it was impossible to get it all into the camera unless on a cruise or from the other side of the river.  So we decided to cross the river the next day.  Turns out the walk across the bridge was easy peasy -- 15 minutes at the max and we got to see the Chain Bridge up close and fall in love with it. We had a few things we wanted to cover -- Mathais Church & Fishermans Bastion (recommend by our friend we met on the boat ride), the Palace and the Communal baths (after I saw it on TV)

We walked the bridge per recommendation from our friend. He was right -- this was the best and quickest route to Mathais Church. The last thing on our list were the Baths -- Budapest is famous for this baths -- Gellert and Szechenyi.We decided to try Szechenyi which was a quick 10 minute train ride from the hotel. The whole experience was bizzare but I'm glad we did it. It was comfortable once we found the warm water ones. They had probably 20 or 30 pools in the complex all at different temperatures. Some were saunas, some were cold, others had massagers - it was very interesting. The complex also had a restaurant, bar and lockers to store your valuables.  
DAY 8 Saturday August 11: Flight back to PRAGUE
I booked the tickets on  First time trying this site and quite liked it. Tickets were the cheapest here compared to all other sites.  $200 and it was a 1.5 hour flight versus a 7 hour train ride back to Prague from Budapest.

DAY 9 Sunday August 12: Flight back to ATLANTA 
1) Learn and read a bit about the city, history, exchange rates and culture before you leave.  The DK Eyewitness guides are "Highly Recommended" for this  -- they have walking tours, key highlights, subway stop info, brief history and excellent maps. Also I like them because they are Illustrative and User friendly.  They are a must and you wont need tour guides and will never be lost if you have these books. You can buy new ones for $15 or used ones for $5 to $7 on Amazon. Get them early.
2) Stay close to the river
3) Take the trams and subways
4) Buy water from the local groceries and gas stations
5) Drink the coffee and the wine
6) Try all the local meals, snacks and drinks
7) Carry coins for the WC
8) Rest in the late afternoons at a garden, bench or cafe
9) Buy excellent walking shoes before the trip. Your feet will thank you.  I highly recommend the Clarks Wave Wisk Women's Sandals and my husband recommends Addidas Light Clima Cool Ride
10) Don't be a tourist, be a traveler

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Building a home for Mr Fan, Pinghu, China

This time our mission was to build a home for Mr Fan (pronounced faan).   He is an older disabled gentleman who was unable to marry because he was poor. Mr Fan was a jolly old man who was loved by the community.  He was being looked after by the neighbors but had no accomodations of his own.

The town is Pinghu is outside Shanghai (About 90 minutes by car). We would travel by bus every morning until drop off point and then walk through the fields to get to the build site. The homes were made of brick and mortar very similar to my build in India. The challenge was using string as a leveling method to make sure the wall line was straight.
I noticed initially that the Chinese folks are very reserved and shy so wasn't sure how to approach them.  After a few hours passed, and after we started laying brick, making cement mixture and laying down row after row, Mr Fan and the rest of the community started coming out and making eye contact. As soon as I took a picture and showed it to some of the older ladies, they started giggling and smiling (almost blushing).   

This was so cute and so strange to me but then I realized that they were just shy. On day two they were out and waiting to meet us and on day three, I started missing them and feeling bad to leave.

I still wonder how I made such a bond with strangers when I didnt even speak their language, and I think it was in their emotions and gratitude and the look in their eyes. 

They were incredibly grateful and this made us all feel a unique sense of attachment that is hard to explain. 
My only desire was to stay longer and work on more houses for them. God bless the community of Pinghu and I hope we filled their lives with as much joy as they did ours. 

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Building a home for Wanida in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I was so fortunate to be selected to go to Thailand this year for the Habitat Build. It was 66 people traveling to Chiang Mai which is a city North of Thailand. We flew from Atlanta to Narita and then from Narita to Bangkok and then from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Looooong journey but worth every second.

We were tasked with building a total of 6 homes and this was part of an 82 home build with Delta Air Lines and the Jimmy Carter Foundation. Jimmy & Rosalind Carter were both present and I saw Jimmy working in the hot sun, mixing cement. Truly amazing couple and people.
On the first day we had a fun excursion planned to the Elephant Reserve -- very nice and I just loved the elephants! Monday was our first day of hard work and the sun was hot at 90 plus degrees. I was the leader of team "Bandanas" and we were assigned to house number 34!

The home was around 300 square feet, one external sink and one external kitchen. Foundation was laid and our job was to build with concrete blocks. uptil row 26. Then we had to get the roof up and the tiles and finally finish up with doors and windows. In all honesty, the first day was pretty chaotic -- too many chiefs and order givers and not enough teamwork. My house had 8 people from Delta, 4 from native thailand, 1 Habitat contractor, 1 block leader & 5 others from different parts of US and the world. Thats too many people! So at around 11 am, I called a team meeting under the tree and established some rules -- Rule 1: Only the construction lead gives instructions Rule 2: We will each be assigned areas like walls, doors, windows, grouting, mixing cement and we will each stick to our areas. Rule 3: we will keep ourselves hydrated and make sure we help each other out and take care of each other.

Things started getting smooth as we went along. Soon we were gelling and by day 2 we were rocking and rolling. By day 3 our house was ahead of most others. I have to mention that I had a fainting/passing out episode on Day 1 in the afternoon -- I drank a ton of water but I ended up going to the medical tent and then back to the hotel where I slept until the next morning. The doctors called it soem kind of Heat Stroke-Exhaustion. I heard that it was almost 100 degress that first day and I knew I had to be careful. So I decided to rest and after my rest, I was back on day 2 and then good to go. My co-team Cheryl was great and she helped me out a great deal. The rest of my team were rock stars too -- Ed and Alex, the married couple who worked at Delta for 31 years. David Hamm who had great engineering skills and was nick named the "scaffolding cat". CK, my pilot friend who was with me on the Chile build as well. Jane who was Miss congeniality and added humor to every day. Debbie, our lawyer and grouter, Belinda our Red Coat and Francis from Philli. Kirk from China and John from Tampa were also very good. I was very lucky to be working with such awesome people and I will always remember the moments I shared and everything I learned.

The lady in the picture with me is the home owner Wanida. With the help of a translator and learing some Thai myself like Sawa dee ka (hello), Kap kun kha (thank you so much)...I began to start conversations with her. She is 50 and this is the first time in her life that she will have a roof over her head. She is a tailor and also does some landscaping. She wanted her plants planted in certain spots and she was right on in terms of light and shade plants so I knew that gardening was a passion for her. Wanida has been HIV positive for 15 years but has been recieving the medications and is living a happy life. She has one daughter who made me a lovely bookmark that had a beautiful elephant drawing. Wanida was such a nice person -- so greateful and so loving and sweet. She worked hand in hand with us every day. On the last day we gave her the key to her home and she cried and hugged me -- I will never forget the emotion I felt when I hugged her. I cried a lot and again felt grateful and blessed for what I have today.
I wished her many happy years in her new home and told her I would loved come back to visit and have dinner some day. She said she would make me her special chicken curry.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Guide to perfect 2 day weekend in Argentina

So I was in Buenos Aires Argentina a couple weekends ago and decided that I had to blog the itinerary for the perfect 2 day weekend in Argentina. You will not be dissappointed!! I have to thank Cindy Espinoza for it and Jonathan for indulging my escapades including the obsessive trying on of boots which there are plenty of in Buenos Aires. So go to Argentina for the weekend. Its doable! Follow this itinerary and you will come back happy!

Arrive Saturday morning:
If you work have starwood points, stay at the Sheraton Libratador. Fly in Friday night and you will arrive into Buenos Aires in style and rested by 8:30 am. Ask the hotel to hold your bags and walk down to Florida Street. Shops and restaurants will just be opening. Its your time to explore the area and and grab a coffee or a snack. Walk all the way to Casa Rosada (The Pink House). See the famous balcony that Evita stood on as she sang "Dont cry for me Argentina (ok, that was only in the musical -- but you get the point).
Lunch on Sat: Go to La Boca. Cab rides are cheap. You can spend hours here. Its the street with colorful houses. I have never seen a street more colorful. You will see multiple cafes, bars and Argentine Tango dancers on the street. Get some poses with the dancers!! Walk around and check out the local artists and their works. Try the Empanadas -- yummmmm and Quilmes (local beer). Check out the leather goods. When you have had enough, take a cab to the Recoleta area where the Cemeteries are. These are a must see.
The Recoleta Cemetery includes graves of some of the most influential and important Argentinians, including several presidents, scientists, and wealthy characters. Internationally, Eva Perón is the best-known person buried in this cemetery.
The entrance to the cemetery is through neo-classical gates with tall Greek columns. The cemetery contains many elaborate marble mausoleums, decorated with statues, in a wide variety of architectural styles. The entire cemetery is laid out in sections like city blocks, with wide tree-lined main walkways branching into sidewalks filled with mausoleums.
After exploring this area, its probably time for an evening of rest or refreshment before heading to the best steak restaurant in BA.
Dinner on Saturday:
Since you are in Argentina, you have to try a fine restaurant for Stealk and Malbec. Take a cab to La Cabrera located in the Palermo area. This came highly recommended by Cindy and by NY Times. Best cut of meat and Malbec I've had yet.
Note that there are 2 La Cabrera's across the street from each other. Either is fine. One of them had classy tables set out on the sidewalk and I believe requires a reservation. 8 or 8:30 is the right time for dinner. After 9 it will be very crowded however I hear that they serve champage to all guests that are waiting for tables :-).

Sunday Morning:
After breakfast, head to the San Telmo flea market. Its is very crowded and bustling with activity. Plenty of things ot look at and plenty places to eat and drink. We selected, La Terraza del Balcon which has a Tango performance with brunch plus the option to sit ion the roof deck and sip some chilled beverages. Very nice! When you are done here, head back to Florida street to finish up some last minute shopping.
Sunday Tea or Cafe + Snack before heading to the Airport:
You have to visit Cafe Tortoni to try some churros and cafe. Perhaps a sandwich if you are hungry. The Café Tortoni is a coffeehouse located at #825 of Avenida de Mayo (which is right in fron tof Casa Rosada). Inaugurated on 1858 it is the oldest coffeeshop in the country where the elite of the Parissiense culture gathered in the 19th century. Inspired by Fin de siècle coffee houses it makes the perfect last stop before heading back.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Japanese Vending Machine Products - Fascinating

Green Tea Latte
Great tea, Many flavors



So I landed in NRT (Narita Airport) which is about 1 hour from Tokyo on April 28th. This was a work trip but knowing me, I have to experience the sights, tastes and sounds of the city to rally call it a true travel experience.
Here are the highlights of my trip:
1) Bento box (also called Obento) shown in the picture is a classic Japanese lunch box with everything Japanese
2) Tokyo Tower which is walking distance fromt he Northwest Office located in Kamiyacho.
3) The Trains and Subways -- Really sophisticated. Not many people have cars
4) Tsukiji Fish Market: Have to go at 4 or 5 am when the auction for "tuna" begins. Japan has the worlds largest demand for seafood. Large 100 to 200 lb Tuna are brought in, every morning, graded and auctioned off to hoteliers and restauranteers.
5) Shibuya Crossing: It's like Times Square. Need I say more?
6) Pachinko: Vending Machines with Pinballs. they are everywhere.
7) Akasaka area near New Otani Hotel in tokyo (Walking distance); Lots of restaurants open late. Great for walking around and taking in the Japanese way of life.
Also shown above are pics of a Traditional Japanese Garden -- This one was inside the New Otani.
I picked up some Japanese!!
Arigato Gozaimasu (Thank you Very Much)
Aridato (Thx)
Sumimasen (Excuse me)
Campai (Cheers)
Itagakimas (Let's eat, Lets be thankful for the food we have in fron of us): Said before a meal.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Years

I celebrated NYE in a cabin in Chattanooga. I actually had decided that morning to be home this year because it has been so tough and I wanted to be alone, quiet and reflect. At noon, I had already spoken to Nameeta and Dad and they had already had their New Years in India. Then I decided to take Rita up on her offer (Thanks Rita!). She invited me to join her, Mark, Mel, Morgan, Dave and Angela at the cabin. She asked me to pack a bag and be ready by 3 pm. She also said that they would drive me there and back the next day. Thank God for friends. What would have I done this past year without my friends. I did end up thinking about mum the whole day and night and it was nice also to be close to my friends who are always looking out for me.

The log cabin was wonderful with several bedrooms, pool table and hot tub. We cooked and made cocktails and played Jenga, Uno Attack, cards all day. We also took the riverboat cruise for dinner and champagne at midnight. I looked up at the stars from the boat with my champagne glass and gave mum a flying kiss and raised my glass to her love and life. I missed her very much. Soon after, we went back to the cabin (not sure how but I ended up being designated driver so I was not buzzed but it was fun watching everyone else). We got in the hot tub in 20 degrees weather and by then I was very very very tired. Tired of 2008 and ready for 2009.

Thanksgiving 2008

Thanksgiving was really nice at Mel and Morgans. We each brought a dish and her friend who is a chef cooked the Turkey so it all worked out. Michelle brought her yummy procuitto wrapped dates and green bean casserole, Tori and Marcus brought Mac and Cheese, I brought sweet potatoes and a brocolli salad, Mel took care of the drinks. We also had mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing and desserts. Mel as usual was a great hostess!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Brunch in Atlanta

Smita's Top 10 Brunch places (Under Construction)
I LOVE Breakfast. Easily my favorite meal. Dad got me into it. Growing up, I ate an eggs a lot. Dad and I love them as runny as possible! (cholesterol is still ok and I just think that eggs got a bad name in the 90's). I also love a Sunday Brunch. So I decided to dedicate a posting to Brunch.

I also submit restaurant reviews to Great site for foodies.

1) Carol Street Cafe
Descriptors: eclectic, unique, cozy, stylish
Love this place. Went there once with Mel and another time with Jen, Mar mar and Ed.
Recommendations: Start with the Mimosa's and make sure they are made with fresh OJ. I am a big fan of runny eggs so I would go with Eggs Meurette or Eggs Benedict
Details: Neighborhood: Cabbagetown 208 Carroll St SEAtlanta, GA 30312(404) 577-2700

2) Radial cafe
Descriptors: green, local, brick, art, diner
Some unique dishes include buckwheat pancakes, bagel and lox, gouda scramble
Details: Edgewood/Candlerpark neighborhood; 1530 Dekalb ave NE; Atlanta GA 30307

3) Flying Biscuit
Descriptors: good for out of towners, popular, fun
Try the biscuits, shrimp and grits.
Details; Multiple locations; I usually go to the one in Inman park

4) Original Pancake House
Descriptors: Rockin pancakes, crepes, original
Signature Item: Dutch Baby (
Details: Tara Shopping Ctr.2321 Cheshire Bridge Rd. (Lavista Rd. NE) Atlanta, GA 30324

5) Canton House (Dim sum)
If you are looking for "real dim sum" this is the place. It may not be as good as SanFrancisco and New York, but is the closest thing I have come across to a chinatown in Atlanta. They have everything. If you havent had dim sum before, be prepared to be introduced to dishes that you will never typically see in a regular chinese restaurant (Think Singapore and China).
I liked they typical, steamed pork buns, dumplings, shrimp shu mai. If you are a fan of the red bean paste, they have that too.
Descriptors: Ballrooms, old fashioned, dim sum on carts, families
Details: 4835 buford highway; Chamblee, GA 30341

6) Belly General Store
Descriptors: Cool, hip, modern take on traditional general store
Details: 772 North Highland Ave
Best cupcakes, olive oil bagels made fresh, nutella and banana panini.
Good for a simple breakfast.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Casablanca, Chile -- Habitat for Humanity House Build

We arrived in Santiago on Friday November 8. 60 people, 12 houses, 3 days. I was assigned to house number 4 and house number 9. We took a bus to Casablance, Chile which was the town where we built the homes. I was very fortunate to be selected to go on this build through Delta's partneship with Habitat for Humanity. It is my second one -- the first was india last year. I would say that these experiences have been one of my best ever -- I will carry the memories with me and smile everytime I think of them.
I actually built a home for someone. It is an unbelievable feeling. Especially knowing that it was was someone who would be given hope for a new life. My home owner had 2 kids and she was a single mother. She was 19. The house was only 2 rooms but to her it was everything.