Saturday, May 19, 2018

Letters from San Diego

To me, this photo captures the essence of San Diego, though I am not the one who took it. This was sent to me by my friend Albert William, who lives across the border in Tijuana. He was enamored by the beauty of this sign, and took a photo to show me its vivid color. Everything about this image, the strip club, the neon, the palm trees, the clear sky speak San Diego to me. 

I first went there for a conference in October of 2017. I had no interest in the city itself, and truthfully my real interest lay on the other side of the border, in Tijuana. Nevertheless, the four days I spent in a Hawaiian-themed hotel in San Diego were memorable to me. The following excerpt from my diary was written on my first night in the city, hours after my plane landed. 

"Sitting outside on the balcony of my hotel room. Listening to the sound of the freeway. Smelling like the mosquito spray I bought in Athens. Funny how Greece is all smells to me. First, the Queen of the Night flower, my Aunt’s kitchen, jasmine body lotion, and now this mosquito spray. 

I’m grateful for an outdoor space when the weather is this nice. I think the thermostat is set to 74 degrees inside and outside I notice no difference. It’s October and I’m sitting on a balcony in San Diego at midnight waiting for a pizza to be delivered. This was either the best idea or the worst idea. I can’t tell yet. I guess in 15 minutes I will know. Something feels exciting though about ordering delivery from a hotel room. I can’t seem to recall that I’ve done it before in my entire life. There is something thrilling about the first time. I only have to life up the phone and food will come to me. And at midnight on a Tuesday no less. Outside there is only the noise of the freeway and a faux waterfall in the courtyard. I wonder why this hotel is Hawaiian themed when San Diego has its owns beaches and culture. Maybe it was too bland to be San Diego-themed in San Diego. But still, Hawaii feels a strange suit of this place."

- 12:07am October 17, 2017

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Aegean Airlines Review

I rode Aegean airlines from Amsterdam to Athens one summer and was surprised by a few new things.

After an initial negative experience in Schipol Airport, in which I discovered that we would need to pay $100 USD to check out three suitcases, I ended up liking Aegean airlines again once I got onboard.

First of all: the food.

In our brief 4 hour flight, we were fed a meal which was actually partly decent.
A cheese and tomato pasta is a perfectly acceptable dish reheated on an aircraft, and I enjoyed the sesame honey bar that came with it.

I was also excited that we got a complementary bottle of red wine...which I felt entitled to after paying them $100 for luggage.

My favorite brand of butter in the world is Noy Noy from Greece and I was overjoyed to see NoyNoy butter on the plane.

I know that every airlines outside of the U.S. actually employs attractive women as its stewardesses, but I was surprised by how truly pretty Aegean airlines flight attendants were. They were so pretty they gave me low self esteem because I am not such a pretty Greek women. (However, once I landed on my island and saw all my old grannies, I felt prettier again).

It’s been about a decade since my dad went to Greece, and since that time, the airplane seats got smaller and my dad got bigger. Putting the tray table down was not an option.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Tokyo Street Style

The purpose: trip to Tokyo
The setting: July, middle of summer 99% humidity and 100 degrees. 
The challenge: light breathable layers that I could mix-and-match for new looks each day 
(this stuff has to fit into a suitcase after all). 

Day 4 Look: 

Jacket: vintage
Dress: Target
Sandals: Target
Belt: Dior
Bag: vintage Coach

Monday, May 7, 2018

Photo Diary: best of Kyoto summer 2017

On my third trip to Kyoto I finally found my rythym.
Half-day tourist beat, half-day counter-culture café lufe.
A clash of old and new. Modern and ancient. Nature and city.
Kyoto: the third time’s a charm.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Why Japanese Cafe Magazines are the best in the world

I was first introduced to the world of Japanese magazine on my very first trip to Japan at age 15. Since then, I've been saving room (and weight) in my suitcase for 5-10 magazines per trip. This obsession started with fashion magazine, then spread to travel magazines, and finally: cafe magazines.

What is a cafe magazine? We don't have such an equivalent in the united states. There are many coffee trade magazines for people in the industry. There are food and travel magazine that may feature some cafes. But nothing in the U.S. is quite like a Japanese cafe magazine.

The closest equivalent may be American websites that features cafes. Eater regularly publishes a heatmap of cafes in each city, so do local news sources like PDX Monthly, and of course every American knows Yelp. But these are simply lists of cafes that exist - and often only feature a short blurb and one photo.

Nothing goes as deep, or is quite as thorough, as a Japanese Cafe Magazine.

Here are 7 Reasons why Japanese Cafe Magazines are the best in the world:

1. Information Density

There is an enormous amount of information on each page, from photos to floorpans, to maps, to contact info, to stories, and blurbs. when it comes to Japanese magazine, more is more. In addition to cramming information in each page, you will fine ZERO pages devoted to advertisements.

2. Photo Heavy

In addition to jam-packing text on each page, there are color photos throughout the magazine.
No reader wants to spend time on long articles that merely describe a place - I want to see it. And why the hell not? If we can get photos from the most remote corners of the world, the journalist can damn well walk down the street and photograph a local cafe.

Let's zoom in one cafe feature, which shows 3 photos: one of the interior, one of coffee (looks like its in a wine glass) and one of a house dessert.

3. Food Focused (not just coffee)

In Japan, cafes are known for their food. They are most associated with foods like curry (Japanese have their own take on this Indian dish), sandwiches, and pancakes. If that doesn't tempt you, these mouth-watering photos will.

4. Atmosphere and Architecture

Cafes are not just about the food and coffee, they are as much about the experience of being in the cafes. That is why lots of space in cafes magazine is devoted to the architecture and interior design of a space. Some even go so far as to include floor plans.

5. The Human Connection

Short blurbs show you the owners of the cafes, the cafe staff, or the roasters. This allows you to learn about the people behind the cafe and to feel connection to them. Japan, after all, is a very relationship-oriented culture. I also appreciate that the magazines are pro-small business and seek to humanize the cafe experience.

6. Behind-the-scenes access

The magazines also give you an insider glimpse into the business of cafes. Differing from the trade magazine of America, in Japan they tell you only enough to appreciate the background. Short articles and photos highlight everything from local Roasters, to bean imports, to Menu Design!

7. Regional Lists

Lastly, this is my favorite feature of cafe magazines, and the very reason I buy them. Through their lists, I can learn about cafes in a certain city or region I am visiting, and then decide which ones are worth the trip and which ones to skip.

This is not merely a list with a few photos like American websites, this is thorough. Cafes Guides includes maps, contact info for the cafes, and even checklists that include info on number of seats, smoking/nonsmoking, wifi, take-out, and even whether you can photograph inside.

In conclusion, cafe magazines highlight every element of the cafe experience. Whether you are just looking for a way to pass time in a foreign city or you have an unrestrained cafe obsession like me, these magazine will delight and entice you to journey deep inside the world of cafes

Letters from San Diego

To me, this photo captures the essence of San Diego, though I am not the one who took it. This was sent to me by my friend Albe...