Thursday, March 26, 2009

Going to California with an Aching in my...Stomach

I don’t generally like to complain. Seriously. I have a sort of militant loyalty to the "seeing the best in everything" philosophy. Pretty dumb, I know. It certainly hasn’t done anything good for my love life. Am I right, ladies? Just kidding with that last sentence. The one before it is still true though. Anyway, the point is that I would like to take a moment to complain about air travel. Bear with me, I know we've all heard these rants before.

The main problem on the flight from Indianapolis to Charlotte had to do with the previous night's ill-advised merriment. In fairness, I can't blame that on anyone but myself. Still, the woman sitting next to me could have been a lot nicer. Whatever lady, I wouldn’t want to interrupt you in chapter 43 of your James Patterson book. What’s the deal with that? She wasn’t even a third of the way into the book and it was already chapter 43. I can’t decide if she bought it at the airport or rushed out to Target after she saw the TV advertisement.

I guess that's rather elitist and hypocritical. I too have been known to enjoy a good page-turner. And it's not as though I've ever actually read James Patterson, mainly for fear of actually liking it. Hell, I liked the Da Vinci Code. I was also 18 and on the beach in Aruba. That makes it okay, right? It’s okay that I liked it, right? Right, guys??

By the way, did you know you can take a Da Vinci Code tour at the Louvre?

Da Vinci Code Locations,

Kind of depressing. I think that might be James Patterson Lady with the straw bag.

Anyway, what I really want to complain about is the flight from Charlotte to LAX. First of all, it smelled like body odor. Fine, it's not the first time I've had to deal with body odor while traveling and I'm sure it won't be the last. My bigger problem was the food situation. There were over 200 passengers. It's a six-hour flight. How much food do you think they had on board? I'll tell you. Seven pastrami sandwiches ($7) and seven cobb salads (also $7). Oh, and an undisclosed number of "snack boxes" ($5), of which I saw a total of one (1). Apparently these boxes of food included, among other things, tuna salad. So to recap, that's airplane versions of pastrami, cobb salad, and tuna. I don't know about you, but I don't think I could come up with three more disgusting options.

Still, I was ready to eat pretty much anything. I was even ready to fork over the cash. But, as I was in an exit row about halfway down the aisle, my only option was one of the three remaining pastrami sandwiches. At the last minute, I chickened (pastramied?) out and didn't buy one. The thing is, I'm very particular about sandwiches. I didn't even regret it until the guy next to me pulled out a cookie and some kind of roll. It was just supposed to be the sandwich! Foiled! This is how happy that guy was:

Man eating sandwich
This is how happy I was:

Luckily, I had purchased a bag of pretzels before boarding (probably for about $9- I'm not sure because I willed myself not to look) so I was able to survive until In-N-Out Burger, about which I will write next. In the meantime, check out these websites I found about airplane food:

Vintage Airline Meals
Airline Meals in Miniature (I don't understand, but I know I want one)
One Man Resorts to Violence

Friday, March 13, 2009

New Links

I'm currently working on a post about author Tony Hawks but as usual, it's taking me longer than expected. In the meantime, check out some of the new links I added, thanks in large part to discoveries made via StumbleUpon.

The Maps of War link sends you to a cool and colorful 90-second explanation of the Imperial History of the Middle East, but there are other interesting maps in the site proper. Tangential side note: thanks to an ad I came across in my browsing there, I ended up at If you ever doubted the insanity of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, take a look. My favorite part is when one of the guys in the testimonial video says, "It took me twenty minutes to figure out why I was depressed and the depression instantly went away." Not to mention the fact that they use the phrase "less accidents" in one of the FAQs. It's "fewer," folks. Anyway, that has nothing to do with traveling. I'll try to work it into something in the future, though. I'm a stickler for tying things together.

Breathing Earth
is another cool, if slightly terrifying, site. I'd like to know who chose that particular sound effect. Rattling bones, anyone? Earth Album, on the other hand, has a much happier feel. Perfect for armchair traveling. And don't miss the World Sunlight Map!

In other news, The Armchair will be doing some actual traveling this coming week, all the way out to sunny Los Angeles! Stay tuned!

Come to think of it, what could possibly go together better than LA and Scientology? I guess I tied it together after all!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Colombia, Part II

I have a lot of books in my apartment. I like to pretend this makes me cool and interesting and adds to my overall intellectual street-cred. Unfortunately, for that to be true my bookshelves would probably have to be a little less Bridget Jones and Harry Potter and a little more James Joyce and Feodor Dostoevsky. Still, before resorting to Google, I had a feeling I could find some paper and ink information about Colombia right here in my own little apartment. As it happens, I did.

Colombia makes up .2% of Patricia Schultz' anxiety-inducing tome 1,000 Places To See Before You Die. Check your own bookshelf, you probably got it for Christmas a couple years ago. El Museo del Oro del Banco de la República de Colombia (the Gold Museum) in Bogotá is listed first. Listed second is a discouragingly expensive hotel (one of many in this book, thanks Patty) in a small coastal city called Cartagena.

Hadn't I seen "Cartagena" before? Yes, I had, on the cover of one of many unread issues of Budget Travel Magazine sitting in my living room. Big purple letters say, "Cartagena: Chic & Cheap. The Next Buenos Aires!" Incidentally, there's a little bubble above it containing the words "How to Start a Travel Blog," which I like to believe is an encouraging message to me from The Universe. Even his month's National Geographic (Photo Journal, pg. 14) mentions Colombia and One Hundred Years of Solitude, the book that made me want to find out more about the country and its people to begin with. Talk about encouraging messages.

Okay, so throw in The Internets and apparently I have something to work with. Let's start with the basics. Where is Colombia?

View Larger Map

Famous people born in Colombia:

  • Gabriel García Márquez
  • John Leguizamo
  • Orlando Cabrera
  • Shakira

Rock In Rio Madrid - Day 3

Have we peaked too early with Shakira? Stay with me...

No discussion of South America would be complete without mentioning that dashing hero of the Spanish American struggle for independence, Simón Bolívar (Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar Palacios y Blanco to his friends). Now don't be embarrassed if you'd always assumed Simón Bolívar was a woman. I've obviously known all along, but I wouldn't be surprised if you had been mistaken. In a nutshell, he fought the Spanish in the early 19th century and won independence for what would eventually become the modern states of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, and Bolivia. Amazing, I know. Especially since he was in a nutshell that whole time.

The Liberator

Not bad, right? The mustache is problematic but he was way ahead of his time with the fauxhawk and popped collar. I'm going to put him somewhere between Alexander Hamilton and Albrecht Dürer on my list of attractive dead guys. Anyway, if you're going to go to Colombia (or pretty much anywhere else in South America) you need to know who he is because a lot of things are named after him.

People do seem to be going to Colombia these days. I know it's climbing my travel wish-list. There's something so enticing about the fusion of cultures (Spanish, African, indigenous) across Central and South America. Liz Ozaist, in that article about Cartagena in Budget Travel (which I actually really enjoyed), writes about hearing Cuban music, staying in a Moroccan-style guesthouse, and eating Creole cuisine. Geographically, Colombia has beaches, mountains, rainforest, you name it. And that Gold Museum sounds pretty fantastic. Sign me up!

Okay, so actually it's still kind of dangerous and there's a lot of crime in the bigger cities. And I certainly wouldn't recommend wandering off into rural Colombia by yourself. I guess I wouldn't really recommend wandering off in a group either. Real dangers persist. One of the biggest news stories of last summer was the release of former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt from her captors of over 6 years, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or "Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia" (FARC), a group of militant left-wing rebels. Like most civil conflicts, Colombia's is complicated and difficult to fully understand. In the interest of maintaining some kind of integrity (artistic? journalistic?), I tried to read as much about it as I could before attempting any kind of summary. This is the best I can do:

The violence associated with Colombia today goes back to the mid-1960s when left-wing guerrillas, inspired by the Cuban Revolution among other things, began executing an organized insurgency against the established government. Various manifestations of this conflict continued into the 90s and grew increasingly serious as the rebel factions drew funding from the illicit drug trade (I know, you were wondering when we'd get to the cocaine). The conflict has been characterized by high-profile kidnappings and rural guerrilla warfare.

Colombian Military Launches Offensive Against FARC

It's easy to think of FARC (and other groups like them) as the bad guys and everyone else as the good guys, but of course it's never that simple. Armed forces on the opposing side (some officially sanctioned by the government and others not) are also responsible for high civilian casualties and human rights abuses. And of course, powerful drug interests influence both sides and occasionally, the government itself.

All of that being said, since current president Álvaro Uribe took office in 2002, things have settled down quite a bit. Now deemed a relatively safe travel destination by the U.S. Department of State, the British Foreign Office and others, tourism is steadily on the rise.

Please don't take my word for it:

Less Depressing Things

First of all, please enjoy some Colombian music as you continue to browse. These are examples of vallenato, a popular type of folk music (don't be alarmed by the spoken word).

SeeqPod - Playable Search

More about Colombian Music:

Colombia: National Geographic World Music
(my new favorite website)

Here are some really beautiful pictures taken by people who have actually been there (thank you Flickr Creative Commons):

If Your Curiosity Has Been Piqued

Adiós viajeros!