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Day Nine: Grand Cayman

Posted on Friday, March 16th, 2012

Dave!Hello from the land of rum and pirates.

As a Hard Rock fan, Grand Cayman has been on my list of places to visit for a long time. I almost visited years ago, but a hurricane in the area changed my travel plans.

But here I am at last.

I wasn't going to do the whole "excursion thing" so I could just bum around George Town and hit the beach, but my face is still burnt to a cinder, so I thought "What the hell?"

Which is ironic, because the first stop was... literally... Hell. Hell, Grand Cayman...

Welcome to Hell!

Hell Landscape

I wouldn't have expected it, but there are chickens in hell. Chickens who like eating coconuts...

Hell Chickens!

And here's a shot of Seven Mile Beach taken from the bus window. Sigh. If not for faulty sun-screen and a massive burn on my face...

Gorgeous Seven Mile Beach

Then it was time for a turtle farm. The idea is to preserve and protect the species, but the poor turtles looked incredibly bored swimming around in circles within their small, crowded tanks. I felt pretty sorry for them, as it didn't look like much of a life...

Turtles!

Baby Turtle

There were also other critters wandering around the place...

Iguana!

After the tour dumped everybody off in George Town, there was only one place I really wanted to go...

Hard Rock Grand Cayman

Hard Rock Grand Cayman

The cafe is a small, old-school property that's located at the end of the main shopping district downtown. It would probably do a lot better business if it were more centrally located near the cruise ship dock, but there you have it.

I would have eaten lunch at the Hard Rock, but I don't really care for their veggie burgers and fries. Since that's what I was craving, I decided to wander down to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville.

What a huge fucking mistake that turned out to be.

First of all, they didn't have Boca Burgers like every other Margaritaville I had ever been to. Oh well, I decided to have nachos and a Coke instead. Not a big deal.

EXCEPT THEY WERE THE WORST NACHOS I HAVE EVER EATEN IN MY LIFE! And I am including the time I had Australian nachos where the crazy bastards mix the salsa into the chips for a soggy mess. Because, hey, at least their nachos use actual cheese and are... you know... WARM! Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville nachos are inedible shit. And COLD! They take roasted chips... pour in some FUCKING DISGUSTING COLD IMITATION CHEEZ-WHIZ-LIKE CONGEALED SUBSTANCE... put a small puddle of melted real cheese on top... then add some shriveled olives, jalapeños, and crap. What you end up with is a bunch of soggy tortilla chips coated in this grotesque oily mess. And did I mention that they were COLD? They weren't "not hot" or "merely warm"... but FUCKING COLD!

Yes. COLD! I couldn't even bring myself to eat them they were so bad...

Shitty Nachos from Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Grand Cayman Georgetown

If that wasn't bad enough, the Coke was watered down and flat. I only drank it because it was something cool. I would have complained to my waiter... but I rarely saw him. The poor guy was given way too many tables that were too far apart. I did tell him when I hunted him down to pay, but his response was to give me a "souvenir glass" I apparently paid for but never wanted, and tell me he would tell his manager.

I'd chalk this up to a bad experience, but the table next to me didn't get hot food either, and the buns on one of their burgers was stale. So... lesson learned... when you're hungry in George Town, Grand Cayman... avoid Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville like the fucking plague. Which is such a shame, because all the other Margaritavilles I've eaten at have had excellent food and service.

Jimmy should be ashamed to have his name on this place.

And, thanks to my pricey souvenir glass I never wanted, I have something to remember one of the worst meals I've ever had for the rest of my life! Or until I throw the shit in the garbage.

Anyway...

Couldn't have asked for a nicer day. Lovely sunshine and a nice breeze to keep things pleasant. And then there's that amazing Caribbean Blue water here that looks like some kind of Photoshop hack, but really isn't...

Caribbean Sea Blue

Caribbean Sea Pirate Ship

Sweet! As I was writing this, I heard somebody telling bad jokes over a loudspeaker ("WHY DIDN'T THE SKELETON CROSS THE ROAD? HE DIDN'T HAVE THE GUTS!"). I thought it was coming from the ship, but it was instead a small touristy pirate ship thing floating by my balcony...

Fake Pirates!

Yo! Ho! A pirates life for me!

And, just like that, my last excursion was over. We set sail for Florida in a couple hours.

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Inspiration...

Lil' Steve Jobs!

This should come as no shock to anybody who has read Blogography for any amount of time. Steve Jobs takes inspiration to an entirely new level. But he did that with most things. I know it probably rings hollow for somebody to gush over a person they've never met... but I miss Steve Jobs terribly and think of him often. What I wouldn't give for just one more keynote speech... just one more thing.

   

Day Eleven: Key West

Posted on Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Dave!When I booked my cruise, I found that flying home today would have cost an arm and a leg. And since I would rather spend an arm and a leg seeing cool stuff than trapped in a metal tube, I decided to extend my vacation a few days so the airfare would be cheaper.

The problem is that Ft. Lauderdale is the #1 destination for Spring Break that's going on now, and I really didn't want to be caught up in that craziness as I attempt to take a vacation from my vacation. So I decided to get as far from Ft. Lauderdale as possible... Key West. I haven't been here in ages, so why not? sure it's a long drive, but it's a nice drive too...

Seven Mile Bridge to Key West

And boy was it a stunningly beautiful day to be in Key West...

Downtown Key West

Strand Theater Key West

Until I found out that Key West is the #2 destination for Spring Break that's going on now...

Slopy Joe's Bar in Key West

Oh well. Key West is absolute magic no matter what's going on, so I really don't have much choice but to enjoy it. And speaking of magic...

Disney Magic Docked in Key West

In a wild coincidence, the Disney Magic was in port... the same ship I cruised with in The Mediterranean back in 2010!

From there it was time to visit one of my most favorite Hard Rock Cafes on the planet. It's an amazing property that's built into a grand old house and crammed full of great memorabilia the way a Hard Rock should be...

Hard Rock Cafe Key West

Hard Rock Cafe Key West

Hard Rock Cafe Key West

Hard Rock Cafe Key West

And don't forget a slice of delicious Key Lime Pie...

Key Lime Pie in Key West

Then back down South to watch the sunset...

Southernmost Point Marker

Key West Sunset

Ships Sailing in a Key West Sunset

Key West Sunset

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, that's for sure!

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Just a Doodle...

Drawing Challenge 18

After spending a week in the Caribbean, I guess I have pirates on the brain! Kind of tough to draw it on my MacBook's trackpad though.

   

Planned

Posted on Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Dave!My "big plan" for the year 2012 was to visit my 150th Hard Rock property.

I'm at 144 now, with concrete plans for two more through December. Thus leaving me four short. I was planning on dropping in on a few cafes in Asia this Fall, but that's looking less and less likely. So now my plan is probably scuttled. When the realization of this sunk in while I was in the shower this morning, I tried to be upset about it. But I just couldn't for some reason.

Oh well.

It's not like I haven't got bigger things to worry about.

It's not like I haven't had more important plans fall through.

It's not like the world is going to end.

But...

I sure want to feel at least a little upset about it anyway.

Lil' Dave Unhappy Hard Rocker

And so my new plan is to drink a six-pack of beer and get depressed.

If I can't manage to get that done, I might as well give up.

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Day Six: Hamburg

Posted on Monday, April 16th, 2012

Dave!And so I am in Hamburg now.

Though I have been to Germany many times, this is my first trip to the northern part of the country. I was actually supposed to go to Bremen, but there's not a shiny new Hard Rock Cafe in Bremen, so I decided on a detour. This ended up being quite a nice excursion, because Hamburg is a lovely city... if a bit hostile to the non-German-speaking traveler. Unlike Cologne, Berlin, Munich, there's not a lot of signage or help available in English. I'm guessing that this is due to Hamburg not being a big foreign tourist destination, but it's puzzling that the touristy advertisements and touristy spots don't have at least something in English.

As an example, here's a poster ad in one of the most touristed train station in the city (Landungsbrüken) for a very popular attraction: "The Hamburg Dungeon." ...

Hamburg Dungeon Poster... NO ENGLISH!

All that space, and they couldn't bother to put even a line of English to help a brother out? NEIN!

But I wasn't here to play tourist so, after my work was through at 11:00, I headed directly to the Hard Rock Cafe. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200...

Hard Rock Cafe Hamburg

For being one of the "new style" cafes, I was surprised to find that they actually did a decent job of packing in the memorabilia. Far from being the sparse rock museum wasteland we've been getting, there was a nice and varied assortment. This is not to say that there are not oddities, however. Marc warned me about the mirror-finish of the bathroom urinals, but it's not something you can truly appreciate until you have actually pissed in it...

Hard Rock Cafe Hamburg Urinal

Having an entire audience watching you pee from a photograph is borderline-traumatic. But, sure enough, my junk was clearly reflected for all of Hamburg to see. On a busy Saturday night, I can only guess that somebody walking into the urinal would be greeted by a giant wall of dicks. I'm not exactly shy, but THAT'S traumatic!

On my list of things to see was St. Michael's St. Nicholas' Cathedral... which has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times, only to finally be destroyed for good during WWI and WWII. You can buy an elevator ticket to the top of the one remaining tower, but my fear of heights coupled with my FEAR OF BEING ON TOP OF A BOMBED OUT TOWER WHEN IT COLLAPSES meant that wasn't going to happen...

St. Nicholas' Bombed-Out Church

From there I walked to City Hall, which is a really beautiful building...

City Hall Building

I then went to a man-made lake area called "Aster." It has a really beautiful view but, as if that weren't enough, it also has an Apple Store...

Apple Store Hamburg

From there it was time to visit the ONE "must-see" attraction on my list... MINIATUR WUNDERLAND! It appeared on a Travel Chanel show a while back and really appealed to the model-train lover in me. Of course, the trains are only a small part of the experience. There a multiple dioramas created from famous places in the world that are painstakingly detailed...

Miniatur Wunderland Park

And the closer you get, the more details you see...

Miniatur Wunderland Camp Site

And the details are not just in the models. It seems that every scene is telling a story. You might see emergency vehicles lit up in one area... only to turn a corner and see that they're headed to a house fire or something...

Miniatur Wunderland Fire Trucks

Miniatur Wunderland House Fire!

They sneak in little jokes and pop culture references sometimes as well. As I was examining model cars involved in some kind of countryside race, I found Herbie the Love Bug in the lead, having to stop for some sheep...

Miniatur Wunderland's Herbie the Love Bug!

Another interesting bit is that all the dioramas cycle from daylight to dusk to night to dawn and back to daylight... with computer-controlled lights providing the appropriate sunlight simulation and the lighting in the buildings, cars, trucks, and such. Here's the airport, going from evening to dawn as I walked around it...

Miniatur Wunderland Night at the airport

Miniatur Wunderland Dawn at the Airport

As the airport is one of the newest additions to Miniatur Wunderland, it's fairly complex. The planes move around and everything. Even better, they give you an underground view to the U-Bahn (subway) station...

Miniatur Wunderland Subway Station

One of my favorite sections was the rock concert diorama, complete with performers, working video screens, and a massive audience...

Miniatur Wunderland Concert!

No detail is spared... right down to the portable toilets...

Miniatur Wunderland Porta-Potties!

The USA is represented, but it's been boiled down to Las Vegas and some kind of red rocks diorama that looks more like Disneyland than the American Southwest, but it's still pretty cool...

Miniatur Wunderland Las Vegas

Miniatur Wunderland American Southwest

Miniatur Wunderland is also kind of educational. In the diorama for Hamburg, the building where the new Hard Rock is now located was apparently home to a skating rink on the roof at one time...

Miniatur Wunderland Hard Rock Building Hamburg

From there I headed to the central part of the city so I could visit the famous Hamburger Kunsthalle Art Museum but, alas it was closed on Mondays. I can only guess that tourists in Hamburg don't go out on Mondays? Oh... no... when I was there I saw other tourists leaving in disappointment too. Not the smartest move on the museum's part, but it's their money to lose, I suppose.

And speaking of the Hard Rock...

When I mentioned a while back that I was sad I wouldn't be reaching my goal of 150 Hard Rock property visits this year, I got a comment from Katharina telling me I should come to her city of Hamburg where they have a new cafe.

Little did she know...

"I WILL BE THERE IN TWELVE DAYS!" I replied.

And she was kind enough to meet me for dinner tonight! Which is why I will have a hard time ever giving up Blogography no matter how passé blogging becomes. Because of blogging, I really have made friends all over the world. No matter where I end up, there's always somebody I can hang out with.

And now I'm back at my hotel packing my backpack for the journey back to the Netherlands tomorrow morning.

Good bye, Hamburg.

   

Bahamas – Day One

Posted on Friday, July 6th, 2012

Dave!I'm not a sun-worshipper. I'm not one to lay around on a beach all day. I'm not a fan of high heat and humidity. So I'm the one who experiences a secret glee when I hear that there will be overcast skies and scattered thundershowers when I'm headed to a tropical destination. It'll still be hot, of course, but at least I'll be shielded from the sun and the rain will make it so there's a reason for the humidity.

Except the forecast was a lie, and so here I am in the Bahamas with blue skies and unrelenting sun in full 95° heat. If I was into this kind of weather, I'd describe it as "perfect."

Restort Room Window View
The view from my room pretty much sucks, doesn't it?

Oh well. At least the flight down was surreal... but nice...

Bahamas Flight

Bahamas Flight

The reason I am here is twofold...

  • There's a Hard Rock Cafe in Nassau I haven't been to yet.
  • I desperately needed a break, and it was unbelievably inexpensive to add this little diversion to my work itinerary. Gotta love those cheap-o internet specials!

I'm staying at a resort on Cable Beach, which is a pretty stretch of sand west of Nassau...

Cable Beach

I was able to contain myself all of an hour before I hopped a taxi to Nassau, and Hard Rock #146 for me...

Hard Rock Nassau Exterior

It's a nice, old-school cafe with plenty of memorabilia covering the walls. In other words, it's exactly what a Hard Rock should be...

Hard Rock Nassau Interior

Hard Rock Nassau Interior

The town of Nassau is kind of nice, if a bit touristy with all the cruise ships stopping by. I didn't feel like doing any of that kind of thing, but couldn't resist when I saw there was a PIRATE MUSEUM!!

Pirate Museum!

They recreate a pirate village you can walk through along with a pirate ship and various dioramas to show what pirate life was like. They also have a bunch of trivia you can play along the way, which was pretty cool...

Pirate Museum Village

Pirate Museum Marooned Diorama

I have no idea what's going on here. I hope it's some freaky-ass attempt at surgery to alleviate back pain...

Pirate Museum Scary Surgery?

From there I wandered down to Junkanoo Beach...

Junkanoo Beach

One thing I've noticed so far is that the kids who live here are really well behaved. This adorable tyke was content to play quietly by himself while his family was swimming, which was a big contrast to the tourist kids who were screaming and yelling and going bat-shit insane as they terrorized the beach...

Bahama Native

Bahama Native

If I knew that the weather was going to be this beautiful, I would have brought my "real" camera instead of relying on my iPhone and my pocket shooter. Oh well, something is better than nothing...

Nassau Wall Drawing

My plans for tomorrow? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Though I'll probably venture away from the resort for a little while... especially if those overcast skies ever show up.

   

Four Winds

Posted on Saturday, September 8th, 2012

Dave!I make it a point to keep up with every Hard Rock Cafe that opens in the USA so I don't risk having a property close before I can get there (like Aspen). The latest cafe to open is located inside the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan. Lucky for me, it's just a short hour-and-a-half drive from Chicago, which made it ridiculously easy to rent a car and drive on over.

The Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds is directly off the main casino floor on the west side of the building...

Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds Entrance

I was shocked at how big the place is. Larger properties always worry me because the capacity can be hard to fill, which means it's more likely to close down...

Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds Main Hall

The style of the cafe is kind of hard to pin down. It has elements from the shitty "new-style" cafes that look like some kind of hipster lounge... but it's been mercifully toned down to a more classic look. Even better, there's quite a bit of rock memorabilia, which has been badly lacking in the "new-style" properties...

Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds

Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds

Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds

Overall, a pleasant surprise. Not as great as the older properties which helped to define the "Hard Rock look," but a drastic improvement over the later properties that have been popping up.

As for the Four Winds Casino itself... it's absolutely beautiful. Gorgeous wood construction and accents make for a warm, earthy feel. They then artfully blended in some very nice stone work and tribal decorations. I was very much impressed...

Four Winds Casino

Four Winds Casino

Four Winds Casino

The rest of my day was spent doing something I absolutely hate... shopping.

But I don't have much choice, because my tennis shoes are falling apart and I need some clothes for my upcoming trips. My favorite place to shop for shoes is a Nike Factory Outlet, and my iPhone told me there just happened to be one in nearby Michigan City. A mere 20 minutes from the casino (but not actually in Michigan as the name would imply, instead it's in Indiana).

Pulling into town, I was greeted by a big surprise...

Looks like a nuclear reactor!

Holy crap! That's really close to civilization for a nuclear power plant! But then I recalled a trivia question asking which states don't have nuclear power, and remembered that Indiana was one of them. Turns out it's a cooling tower for a gas & coal plant.

Anyway...

The selection at the Nike store was pretty bad. Almost every style I'd be willing to wear was in crazy colors I wouldn't be caught dead in. This was really disappointing because I love the way that Nikes feel on my feet. Instead I ended up going to the Adidas Outlet Store, which was a blessing in disguise because they were having a store-wide 30% off sale. This was in addition to the already discounted close-out prices, which meant I got two really nice pairs of shoes for $60 instead of the $170 they originally retailed for. Heaven only knows I love a bargain, so this was a great start.

Unfortunately, my plan to buy a bunch of shirts and pants was doomed to failure, as most everything I found that I might wear was either not in my size or more money than I was willing to pay. After four hours of looking at two different malls, I finally gave up after finding only two shirts. This sucks ass, because it means I'm going to have to go shopping again when I get home.

I eventually got back to O'Hare around 6:00, which would have been a perfect opportunity to head into town for some awesome Chicago food. But I was so exhausted that I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I'd blame my tiredness on all the driving, but I know darn well it was the stupid shopping that wore me out. I just cannot fathom how there are people who actually go shopping for fun when, to me at least, it's the ultimate torture.

Much like the KIA Soul I was stuck with from the rental car company. This is the third time I've ended up with one, and they make me insane. Not because they're bad to drive... on the contrary, they handle just fine. It's the BLIND SPOTS in the rear corners that are fucking insane...

Good luck looking for traffic behind you!

Just like the KIA Soul I got when I was in Hawaii, I was constantly freaking out over not being able to see in one of the most important places that a driver needs to be looking when changing lanes. An entire car... hell, an entire semi-truck... could be hiding there and you'd never know. So instead you have to be overly-reliant on your rear-view mirrors and tiny back window, which is hardly the safest way to drive. It's as if KIA fucking wants you to crash into another car... it's the only thing that explains such idiotic design.

I can't believe that these things are legal. I have an even harder time believing that car rental agencies actually buy these things knowing how difficult and dangerous they are to drive.

And now I suppose I should try and get some sleep since I have to fly out early tomorrow morning. Oh how I wish I could have taken a later flight. But the price was quite a bit higher, so it is what it is.

Here's hoping the pilots are more awake than I'll be.

   

48 Hours Part 2

Posted on Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Dave!Today The DutchBitch's DutchBoyfriend was kind enough to drive us to the new Hard Rock Cafe in Brussels, where we met up with Beautiful Disaster's Pinky. I hadn't been to Brussels since The DutchBitch and I last visited in 2010, and I hadn't seen Pinky since Bitchsterdam 2, so it was a triple threat event for me.

The Hard Rock Cafe Bruxelles is a wonderful return to everything I love about visiting these properties around the world... a beautiful restoration property lovingly brought to life in classic Hard Rock style that has been packed to the rafters with terrific memorabilia...

Hard Rock Brussels Exterior

Hard Rock Brussels Exterior

Hard Rock Brussels Interior

Hard Rock Brussels Instrument Collage

Hard Rock Brussels Interior

Hard Rock Brussels Interior

Truly a fantastic property, the Brussels cafe is a well-crafted, eclectic, multi-level Hard Rock that doesn't disappoint. Located right off the Grand Place "Great Market" square, it is worth a visit... even if Brussels wasn't already destination worthy in its own right...

Brussels Grand Place

Brussels Grand Place

Brussels Grand Place

Brussels Grand Place

Belgian Waffles!

Belgian Chocolate!

Sorciere Halloween in Belgian Chocolate!

Leffe Beer!

It was a very quick trip, but we squeezed in a lot. Just like it said in the elevator of the parking garage... we're hardcore like that...

Hardcore Graffiti in a Hardcore Elevator!

From there it was back to the Netherlands and the end of my 48-hour trip to DutchyLand.

Tomorrow it's back in the metal tube to hurl myself back home.

   

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