Priests + Persimmons: Pairing a Spanish White with a Deadend Date

Can Feixes, wine pairing, salmon with persimmons, bad date, tasting notesIt’s few and far between that any wine leaves a bad taste in my mouth, especially when it’s something as delicious as this Can Feixes, from Spain. But when you get, you know, scorned or something by no less than *ahem* a priest, well, bad taste is all you have left. (Disclaimer: he was Episcopalian and in seminary, but still, how funny is it to call him a priest? Pretty damn funny, so just go with it.)

Basically, I met a dude on the Internet. You know, the same old story: boy gets lonely, boy goes online, boy messages other boy-who-would-be-priest, boy-who-would-be-priest says “sure, let’s go out.”

And lo and behold, we had a great first date! Neither of us was creepy (apparently. At least, he wasn’t; can’t say much for myself), there were no majorly awkward silences and if I can be so bold, conversation was stellar. Hell, we even shared some key lime pie. Key lime fucking pie. Call Nora Ephron now, damn it!Continue reading “Priests + Persimmons: Pairing a Spanish White with a Deadend Date”

The Day I Considered Pulling an Art Heist

No Ball Games, Australia, Melbourne, Banksy, street art, art heist“The art at Art Series Hotels is not for stealing.”

So begins a blog post from Art Series Hotel, before detailing that yes, there is one piece of art guests may attempt to steal: An authenticated Banksy. How’s that for a souvenir?Continue reading “The Day I Considered Pulling an Art Heist”

Dining Out: M. Wells Diner

M. Wells Diner, bone marrow, escargots, Flickrgood friend invited me along to dinner at M. Wells last Tuesday, my second day in New York. Because the diner (yes, diner) is slated to close at the end of the month, my friend thought it would be a good opportunity for me to experience it. And boy, did I ever.

On the same day, M. Wells was panned by GQ’s Alan Richman and praised by Bon Appetit. Like a schmuck, I read both pieces before heading to Queens for our 9:45 reservation. As such, it was hard keeping my expectations in check. Seeing the crowd loitering outside inspired little faith; was Richman’s assessment right? But then: the smells emanating from the modest ’50s-style diner! Oh boy, the smells. The air was savory, smelling of spice, meat and warmth; I was salivating as soon as I stepped out of the subway station. Was Bon Appetit to be believed?

Continue reading “Dining Out: M. Wells Diner”

City of Hush + Wonder: Amsterdam

Amsterdam, travel writing, canalsAmsterdam is a city of distinctly small sounds. Upon walking the cobblestone-paved avenues, one becomes acutely aware of the slow bikes making their way over canal bridges. The quiet lapping of water on the hulls of canal boats. The whispers of footprints on leaf-strewn sidewalks. Despite the city’s reputation for being laid-back, liberal and sexually-charged, it is at its heart a city of soft-spoken pride.

We were in Amsterdam all of 24 hours. Such a shame, too, because I generally believe in being a tourist the first day of a trip, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of a place in order to get my bearings. With only 24 hours to enjoy the city, there was little chance I could do much else; on this trip, donning the hat of a local would be impossible. We wanted to do too much: enjoy ourselves, explore, be merry. Our itinerary was built-in with no chance to deviate.Continue reading “City of Hush + Wonder: Amsterdam”

Roamin’ Holiday: Volunteering Abroad

WWOOF, WWOOFing, voluntourism, France, Spain, Pueblo Ingles, free travel, adventureParis, Barcelona, Copenhagen: Undoubtedly beautiful cities of light, culture and pride, that is assuming one ignores the overwhelming number of tourists. Why limit yourself to the same museums, walks and experiences as everyone else? There are other ways to see the world that don’t cost you an arm and a leg and dump you into a gift shop at the end. For those passport-holders with more than a little wanderlust and the genuine desire to lend a helping hand, here are a few cool abroad volunteer opportunities:Continue reading “Roamin’ Holiday: Volunteering Abroad”

World’s Largest Collection of World’s Smallest Version of the World’s Largest Things

“I love finding the bizarre and unexpected that many people pass up because they don’t want to be ‘taken in’ by a tourist trap. I want to see!” So says Erika Nelson, founder and creative mind behind the wandering World’s Largest Collection of World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things. Tourist traps are Nelson’s stock-in-trade, having navigated the country’s backroads and highways in search of the monuments to eccentricity, creativity and good-ole Americana.

World’s Largest Things is exactly what it sounds like: curated by Nelson, it is a collection of models resembling those “World’s Largest” things you see on the road when traveling. The World’s Largest Thermometer, Penny, Turkey… You name it, Nelson’s most likely seen it, not to mention created a miniature version of said thing.

Eccentric? Absolutely. But to Nelson, it’s much more than that. What started as a childhood way of navigating distance to Grandma’s house became an artistic pursuit involving many logged hours on the road, collecting stories from around the country. Nelson, who’s seen 200 of around 350 “World’s Largest” monuments, started WLT for practical reasons. “I couldn’t find good souvenirs,” says Nelson in a phone interview. “There wasn’t something I could take home, so I started making my own miniatures to commemorate my visits, which turned into a collection of miniatures of the world’s largest things.” The collection keeps growing, as Nelson is now the defacto collector and documenter of the simultaneously grandiose and mundane WLTs.

Based in Kansas, Nelson travels the country three or four times a year on road-trips, often solo, to visit new sites or to return to already visited WLTs. Nelson does not create her miniature models until seeing the WLT which serves as its inspiration. Her initial visits to the monuments are always research-based: she photographs different aspects of the Thing while also documenting its background and history. “Some of these monuments are created by a lone eccentric. When a town gets together [and builds one], it’s usually to commemorate an event or build tourism,” says Nelson.

Upon returning home, Nelson spends anywhere between a few hours to a few days recreating the monument as a miniature. Using a variety of materials and mediums, she crafts her models according to her photos, but does her best to use materials similar to the original model. For instance, the model for the World’s Largest Ball of Twine is made of embroidery floss, which Nelson shaped into a model replica as proportional to the original as possible. For models made of metal or fiberglass, Nelson utilizes plastic or clay mediums to create her models.

Albert bull

Reunited and it feels so good: A meta-photo of Albert the Bull’s incarnations.

The point of all this? “It’s fun! [The monuments] remind you that even if you’re an adult, you’ll feel silly and like a kid next to the World’s Largest Badger,” says Nelson. To that end, Nelson revisits monuments after crafting her models, whereupon she takes “meta-photos” of the model with the original. Sometimes, she is commissioned by a town to visit their monument or bring part of the collection for special events. Her traveling and documenting of WLTs has garnered her some attention: She was recently on the Conan Show talking about WLT and her Mobile Museum, a truck she converted into a traveling museum for her collection (she’s since retired it, due in large part to prohibitive gas prices; when traveling with models now, they are part of a sideshow setup, channeling the same kitsch appeal of the monuments). On April 9, she will take part in Atlas Obscura Day 2011, which highlights “expeditions, back-room tours and hidden treasures in your hometown.”

The gigantic things Nelson visits, besides acting as beacons for tourism or hobby projects for those “lone eccentrics” Nelson is fond of, are in some way, deeply entrenched forms of Americana. Truly, “some monuments are built by people with no established art background while others are artists. Claes Oldenburg has a classic art background and creates a series of WLTs. It runs the gamut,” says Nelson. “The bulk of them, though are made by normal people with no artistic training. I hesitate to say it’s a strictly US phenomenon; it’s not just the US where this happens. Young countries like the US, Canada and Australia have the most of them,” says Nelson.

The onus of documenting and creating the models falls squarely on Nelson’s shoulders. The true definition of a Galavanter, Nelson isn’t afraid to hit the road on her own if it means visiting yet another monument. “It’s so much work to go with someone else. This way, I don’t have to stop for other people to pee!” says Nelson with a laugh. Along the way, she’s developed her “road instinct.” “I’m able talk to a wide range of people, so it doesn’t occur to me to be afraid on the road. Your gut will tell you if it’s safe,” says Nelson.

Ultimately, Nelson created her own opportunity to travel and see parts of the country people would otherwise ignore. “Just go for it. There are so many voices in people’s heads that intimidate them to not travel. You’re going to regret not doing it more than regret actually doing it, especially when it applies to what happens on the road. It’s always good to tell more stories from the road.”

To learn more about World’s Largest Things or Erika Nelson, visit the site and blog. Photos by Erika Nelson for World’s Largest Things, Inc.

Original article on the now-defunct Galavanting 

Traipsing through the Canadian Rockies

travel photography, travel, dogsledding, Alberta, Canada, Banff, winter travel, winter activity, nature, wildlife, slideshow, travel press trip, travel bloggerJasper, Banff, Lake Louise: The majestic triumvirate of the Canadian Rockies. It’s hard to believe that the region experiences its off-season in the winter. Below are some highlights of the media trip I took with one Kim Mance.Continue reading “Traipsing through the Canadian Rockies”

Tra(vlog)ue: On Glaciers + Patience

So I’m trying something new (for me) by putting together some footage and photos from a recent press trip to the Jasper region of Alberta. I don’t have a lot of video experience–unlike some–and decided to tool around on my computer with photos and footage taken off my (rather insufficient) point and shoot camera.

Admittedly, it’s not much, but I’m actually pretty happy with it. Thoughts?

The FTC would like me to inform you I traveled to Jasper/Banff on their dime (not the FTC’s, the tourism folks’). My opinions, antics, and wildlife-cooing are my own. If you’re an [United States of] American consumer, consider yourself protected.

Douglas Coupland’s Vancouver

Vancouver, City of Glass, Douglas Coupland, TBEX, Generation X, travel bloggers, travel blogging, British Columbia, CanadaAs a blogger, wanna-be storyteller, social media neophyte d-bag, I find it hard to fathom any one of our ilk not having read Douglas Coupland’s work. His seminal Generation X (and popularization of said term) speaks to our collective post-Reagan need to connect, to inspire, to live for something greater, real. Admittedly, I’m just beyond the Gen X age-range and yet I still feel an urge for something–anything–I can call reality, digital or otherwise. Coupland has always topped my list of authors to read, whether it was his hilariously touching 2006 novel JPod or his treatise on loneliness, Eleanor Rigby, he is an author I fear many of my generation fail to read, let alone understand.Continue reading “Douglas Coupland’s Vancouver”

Travel Photo: The Lady of Jasper

mountain goat, Jasper, Alberta, Canada, winter, press trip, scenicThe road was clear and well-maintained. Salt, sand and snow mixed in varying quantities but it was still an easy drive, nothing dangerous for uninitiated mountain drivers. Locals, though, warned us not of the weather conditions but of traffic. Specifically, wildlife-related jams, much like the little lady above. Taking up the right lane, she happily licked salt from the road, ignoring the idling car and its enthusiastic passengers snapping photos.

She didn’t even look up.

The FTC would like me to inform you I traveled to Jasper/Banff on their dime (not the FTC’s, the tourism folks’). My opinions, antics, and wildlife-cooing are my own. If you’re an [United States of] American consumer, consider yourself protected.