Friday, June 20, 2008

Paris déjà vu

Ah, what a turn of events for tonight. I started out the evening snoozing by the pool thinking I would nurse a glass of wine by myself at a wine bar I saw (they have FIRE PITS!!!). And I ended my night with new friends and plans for a girls' trip to Vegas in December. What????

Once I got my arse up from the pool chaise at my hotel, I shuffled outside and called Phil to see how our softball game went. Alas, GCOWA II got a reverse can of whoop ass. Phil asked me what I was up to, and I told him I was trying to find the cool wine bar Mandi and I walked by Tuesday night (and she recommended). I finally let him go because I knew I walked too far, and told him I would ask for directions.

I stopped outside a residential tower and started Googling when a woman came out with a stroller. Turns out it wasn't a baby, but 16-year-old Sammy, an old chihuahua soul who needed a little pampering. I asked the woman, Michelle, where I could find a wine bar with cool fire pits outside, and she exclaimed that she was on her way there and I should join her. Weird, and yay!

It gets better. When we got there, Michelle introduced me to her Serbian friend Ivana and then explained that because she is a wine club member, the three of us could all enjoy flights of wine for free (yesssssssssssssss). So we started with a white wine flight of local and international wines, then nibbled on a cheese plate and moved on to reds. Our sommelier was great, as was my company, and I learned a lot.

I chatted for a few hours with the girls, and then we exchanged contact info and pledged to meet up in Vegas in December for a rendezvous. The evening very much reminded me of when I crashed a dinner party in Paris after randomly meeting someone on the train from London.

It also reminded me of when I lived across the street from a wine bar in Cleveland Heights and my only worry was not swaying too far outside of the crosswalk lines when I walked home after a mellow night with friends.

All the BIO show walking and wine is going to help me sleep well tonight before my long day of connecting flights tomorrow.

P.S. Enjoyed a delightful lunch at Cafe Chloe in the East Village. Lavender lemonade and gourmet mac n'cheese rocked.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mingling with every scientist but my own

I'm an old lady.

I turned down an invite for
drinks at Envy at the Ivy Hotel so I can crash in my hotel room. To my credit, my brain is full and I've been on my feet all day (OK, except for my mani and 15-minute chair massage :)). And, my hair is frizzy.

I was at BIO all day and then attended a poolside cocktail party hosted by my client at a nearby hotel. My notepad is nearly full from all of the trends and topics gleaned from bio attorneys I've been chatting with, so I'm really glad I was able to attend the convention. At one point I was getting story ideas from three people all at once. That NEVER happens. Usually I have to drag info from these folks.

A lot of the bio attorneys I've been chatting with have chemistry degrees and Ph.Ds like my hubby, so I feel inclined to network on his behalf in case any of their client companies are looking for the next biochemist superstar. Phil grumbles when I write about him, but such is the price when he doesn't take me up on being my travel buddy. Phil, can we come back to San Diego in December for that angiogenesis conference? Please?

For lunch, I wandered back onto 5th and ate at Bondi, an Aussie joint with very cool space with interesting pods for seating. (Apparently Bondi is a popular beach and the name of the surrounding suburb in Sydney, Australia.) I tried Wagyu sliders (mini burgers), which were described as what made Bondi famous. My meal included three mini burgers with havarti, lettuce, tomato, beetroot, mustard mayonnaise and onion jam, but I declined the mayo and jam because they're sick (duh). Mustard mayonnaise is a double whammy for me because I hate mustard and mayo individually with vehemence. Basically, I am anti-condiment. However, I am now a big fan of beets on my burger.

At the end of the day, I walked a little bit of the show and noticed there were sections named after states
and countries. I was hopeful I'd find an Ohio contingent, and I finally did with the BioOhio booth. Go Cleveland biotech!

My comrades and I at the show made friends with the New Zealand booth nearby and those dear souls graciously kept dropping off wine samples from their tastings. One wine was a trophy winner in London...wonderful, but don't ask me what it's called because I don't remember.

Some of the booth gifts at the show were a bit ridiculous. Green Crocs and wooden Rubix-like cubes were the big hits. I turned down syringe way am I trying to get those through airport security... and beach balls. Finally did break down and get in line for Crocs. I learned at the booth that you can culture stem cells from fat removed during liposuction. Sign me up! I'd be happy to lose 5 lbs. in the name of science.

Tomorrow is another full day at the show, and a night to myself.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

BIO show begins, Jamba Juice ends my day

The BIO convention officially started this afternoon, which is about a 15-minute walk from my hotel. After a few unsuccessful tries to get in early to the expo to meet up with my client, I registered for access later and then headed out to find a lunch spot.

An archway proclaiming the Gaslamp District as the historic heart of San Diego caught my eye, so I wandered in that direction and walked into an area I hope Cleveland's East 4th Street will rival in five years...a plethora of restaurants and trendy (but not necessarily expensive) boutiques. Man, if we can get the Medical Mart downtown, I think we'll see ripple effects from East 4th and the Warehouse District. It's amazing to think of the potential.

I stopped in at Masala, an Indian restaurant with a rich, exotic décor and a great atmosphere. I lovvvvvvvvve masala dishes. (My all-time favorite is chicken tikka masala from Indie's downtown in the Old Arcade. So good, so cheap and so lauded by Indian friends as the best Indian fare in Cleveland.) The food at Masala was good (yummy spinach curry and a surprising banana curry), and I really liked the drink I ordered: Night in Jaipur, which was comprised of lemonade, pineapple, cranberry and mango pulp. I was completely mesmerized by the bellydancing music videos on display that featured a Colin Farrell lookalike and a gorgeous Indian beauty. I'd come back just to watch more. A few years ago, I took bellydancing classes for a while and loved it.

Finally got into the show once it was officially open to all attendees to mingle at the booth and facilitate an interview with a reporter. When I left the convention to go back to the hotel, protestors were crawling all over the place shouting, "BIO, go home!" They were all really young --maybe high school/college kids-and I thought it was strange that most of them had their faces covered with bandannas. At first I thought they were trying to demonstrate that chemicals impact air quality, but then I realized I was thinking way too high-level and they just wanted to protect their identities. Lame-o.

Headed back to my hotel to change into my workout gear and then window shopped next door at Horton Plaza while I waited for Vikki's sis Mandi. Mandi graciously gave me a brisk walking tour of the city to the tune of nearly 2.5 hours. I'm going to sleep like a baby tonight! I had a blast chatting with her and hearing her funny anecdotal stories. I caught myself staring at her because she reminds me so much of Vikki (work friend)...her voice, her face, her vernacular.

Mandi walked me all along the harbor past the ginormous USS Midway (now an aircraft carrier museum), historic ships and a sea of sailboats. We saw the sun go down, the moon glow and even fireworks. Good times.

By the time we got back, I was beat, so I dined on a Jamba Juice shake and am ready to hit the hay. Tomorrow is the BIO show all day followed by a client soiree that's poolside. No worries - my client has already banned me from sporting a bikini at the party. Seriously.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Biking Coronado Island

This is my first visit to San Diego, and at first blush, it's fantastic! Absolutely perfect weather (mid-70s all week), gorgeous scenery, cool art deco buildings and a lively night life.

I'm here on behalf of a client for the international BIO convention and will be working the show to set up booth interviews with reporters.

I'm staying in the Gaslamp Quarter right next to Horton Plaza, which is an outdoor shopping mall (yessssssssssss). Hilariously, I think the historic district's name has something to do with a feisty, red-haired call girl Ida Bailey from the late 1800s. Love my fellow gingers.

I flew for pretty much most of the day yesterday and got to my hotel around 3 p.m. PST. I checked in, put my bags in my room and then grabbed my suit and hit the pavement to catch the ferry to Coronado Island, which was only a 15-minute walk away. My friend Kim from work visited San Diego a couple weeks ago with her hubby and gave me lots of tips for places of interest and restaurants, and she said Coronado Island was a can't miss.

I had a blast! I caught the 4 p.m. ferry (stopped for ice cream while I waited...yum) and immediately rented a bike once I got to the island. I opted for an old school "cruiser" bike because it looked so ridiculous and even got hooked up with a basket for my garb.

The bike path was great
and maneuvered along the boardwalk of the island, so my ride was almost always right next to the water. I haven't ridden a bike with brakes on the pedals in forever, so I may or may not have been the cause of a near three-way collision with a golf cart and another bicyclist. I'm not telling. I rode past parks, a golf course and even a pick-up softball game, which I totally would have joined had I not been sporting flip flops (or been absent a glove).

My trip from one side of the island to the other was about two miles and ended at the famous historic Hotel Del Coronado that celebrated its 120th anniversary earlier this year. I parked my bike in a rack and then walked the beach and stumbled upon the end of a wedding, which was great. All of the wedding party and guests were in formal wear without kind of party.

I gave myself a tour of the hotel shops and lobby and perused a c
ool display about the history of the Del. In 1958, the Del was the backdrop for "Some Like It Hot," starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. The resort has also seen a steady stream of celebrity visitors - from Charlie Chaplin and Humphrey Bogart to Brad Pitt and Madonna.

Since many of you comment on your curiosity about how I get random people to take my picture for my posts, I thought you'd appreciate that the first couple I asked to snap a shot of me on my bike said no. It was really funny!

While the ferry leaves San Diego on the hour, it departs Coronado every half hour, so I took the 6:30 p.m. one back to the mainland. Since I had dinner plans at 7:30 p.m., I had to book it to get back to my hotel and get ready.
I'm happy to report that I arrived on time even after a minor directions snafu.

Dinner at Trattoria La Strada was delish, and I scored with a cheesecake
martini and spinach ravioli with a rich gorgonzola sauce.

Heading to the show shortly and then have a date tonight with the sister of my friend Vikki from work who lives here. Mandi offered to give me a walking tour, and I can't wait.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sweet tea? No. Kentucky Hot Brown? Yes.

Traveled to Louisville yesterday for a short stint to meet up with a new client this morning. When my colleague Gary and I were planning our trip, he mentioned the client's affinity for Hot Brown, which he described as a heart-attack meal...something about mashed potatoes, bacon, cheese and other goodness that's all part of a hot sandwich. I was in!

Last night we headed to Z's Oyster Bar and Steakhouse, and there was no hot brown to be found. However, we did sample cheese browns, which were mighty delicious...pretty much a distinguished version of cheese fries. And, I really liked the Hawaiian opah (moonfish) that I tried, which was served with a sweet chilli sauce. Our server told us that the "good luck fish" was never sold by old-time Hawaiian fishermen; they always gave it away. Incidentally, for some reason, she thought it was my birthday and brought me a strawberry treat with a candle with my Kentucky Derby souffle, so I loved her.

The Derby soufflé was a concoction of chocolate brownie, pecan and bourbon and came to the table with quite the presentation, flames and all. Had I not been a tired, old lady, (and embarrassed to whip out my camera) I would have filmed it, or at least snapped a shot.

So, lunch today was my last shot to score some hot brown, and I "lucked out" at a restaurant at the airport. Gary intimated that my sandwich paled in comparison to the one he saw our client devour, but I was happy to try it all the same. Came with a Mornay sauce, which I had never heard of before and was super rich. Our server rolled her eyes when I ordered veggies and fruit as my sides...kind of an oxymoronic meal, I suppose.

Turns out Gary loves sweet tea as much as I do, but neither restaurant or our hotel served it. Our hotel receptionist said Louisville suffers from an identity crisis and sometimes thinks it's North and sometimes thinks it's South. I say that if residents say y'all, then you better be able to find sweet tea.

(To the right: different airport confiscation bin than Cleveland)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Revenge of the nerds (and the river)

I am lame-o and forever a nerd, and I'm OK with that. And, I'll be just fine if I never, ever sleep in a tent again -- particularly when there are hillbilly neighbors on both sides of our camp site who blare crappy country music from their car stereos, set off their car alarms at least three times in the middle of the night and spout bloodcurdling yee-haaaaaws every five minutes spurred by marathon sessions of beer pong.

Last night hillbilly camp site #1 merged with hillbilly camp site #2 and rolled their coolers right by our tent. Phil and I were dead tired from rafting all day, so when we couldn't sleep from the ruckus next door, we counted out ways to return our neighbors' hillbilly hospitality instead of counting sheep. My suggestion was to go Bam Margera on them by sticking our hatchet in the side of their pick-up and removing their license plates. Phil wanted to run over their tents, and I liked that idea so much that I couldn't stop giggling. (Sorry for the ranting. I really did hate those bastards.)

Rafting was awesome! I'd definitely go back (as long as I can stay in a cabin :)). The New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world, and according to our guide (who was funny as hell, but quite the liar), it's the second oldest to the Nile. Sure.

We lucked out with a gorgeous day. It drizzled for all of 10 minutes and the temperature reached mid-80s. We rafted just under nine miles for a total drop of 290 feet. The water was about 60 degrees, so Phil and I wore wetsuits, and I was glad we did because I was really comfortable all day. Our wetsuits kinda matched (which is why I don't have any pictures--forbidden by Phil), and we looked like Mr. & Mrs. Wetsuits. Mine was from my water-skiing days in my youth and Phil's was my brother's.

We started with the sissy Pin Ball rapids on the Lower New River (our guide said if any of us fell out on this one, we really sucked) and finished with Ol' Nasty, just past the New River Gorge Bridge, which was incredible. The bridge has the world's second longest single arch steel span (China is first). At 876 feet above the New River, it is the second highest bridge in U.S. Only the Royal Gorge Bridge over the Arkansas River in Colorado is higher.

None of us fell out of the raft involuntarily, but there were a couple close calls. We also got to swim some rapids, which was great, surfed our boat a few times and jumped off of a ginarmous rock called Jump Rock. My entire raft made fun of me because I plugged my nose before jumping off. Hey, you have no idea how much water had made its way up my nose by then! I also was relentlessly teased around the camp fire last night for somehow ending up backward on the raft when we started to paddle after a swim. When I got pulled into the raft, I moved to the opposite side of it so others could get in, and I just never turned around again. Our guide, Doug, told us to take two forward strokes, and I couldn't figure out why everyone else was backward. Oh yeah, just me. Good times.

The bus ride to the rafting drop-off point and the return trip to the campground was almost as scary as some of the Class V rapids. Our bus driver looked just like Elvis and took some crazy turns in those mountains. I stopped looking out the window once I realized there were no guardrails on the dirt road and the river was straight down below. But, we got to ride over the New River Gorge Bridge, which was really cool. I couldn't believe how small the rafts looked.

Once we got back to the campground, we sprinted to the shower house since there were only so many stalls, and then stuffed ourselves silly with an all-you-can-eat dinner and booze fest. Mac n' cheese, s'mores and Bud Light Lime (tastes like Corona) made my night. We recapped our adventures around our camp fire once it got dark and discussed trying the Gauley River with Rivermen next May, which no one in our group has done and is supposed to be a step up from the Lower New River rapids. I'm in.

Next trip is San Diego in a couple weeks. Can't wait!

(To the left: Phil's dream portrait)