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Day Three: Ushuaia

Posted on December 2nd, 2017

Dave!It's pronounced "OOO-SHY-YA"... but not really. There's a subtle accent thing going on somewhere in there which the locals make sound prettier than that.

As to what it is? At 54°56′ South longitude, it's the Southmost city I'll probably ever visit, that's for sure. Further south than Johannesburg in South Africa... even quite a bit further south than Sydney, Australia...

World Map Ushuaia

Flying in amongst the jagged mountain peaks as you land, you can't help but think "Oh, man... I hope that the pilot brakes in time so we don't accidentally go scooting off the end of the world...

World Map Ushuaia

The city itself is small, as you'd expect... but, at the same time, it's also much larger than the tiny village I was picturing in my head. I mean, it's big enough to have a Hard Rock Cafe (bringing my total Hard Rocks visited to 169)...

Hard Rock Cafe Ushuaia

It's a fairly recent property, so it's one of the newer "hipster lounge style" cafes (which I hate) but at least they tried to work in more memorabilia than some of the latest Hard Rocks...

Hard Rock Cafe Ushuaia

Hard Rock Cafe Ushuaia

Hard Rock Cafe Ushuaia

Hard Rock Cafe Ushuaia

The surrounding mountains make the city a pretty one, and there's two jagged peaks in particular that keep popping up when you look eastward from anywhere in town...

Ushuaia Peaks

Ushuaia Peaks

The skies, as you see, are a deep blue. The local church in town decided to paint their building to play off the color beautifully...

Ushuaia Peaks

Since the expedition boat to Antarctica leaves on Monday whether you are here or not... whether your luggage is here or not... I decided to play it very safe and arrive two days early (hey, when you're spending this much money to get here and equip yourself, better early than the alternative). This means we have an entire day to fill up tomorrow. And since we've pretty much seen all there is to see in Ushuaia, I guess that means we're heading out into the Tierra del Fuego region of Patagonia. Maybe. It's going to be Sunday, and I have no idea what that means in this part of the world.

   

Day Two: Buenos Aires

Posted on December 1st, 2017

Dave!So here I am for a single day in Buenos Aires... what to do, what to do, what to do?

After surviving an insane taxi ride into the city, my soon-to-be-cabinmate and I decided to walk around the neighborhood while we waited for our hotel room to be ready.

Coincidentally enough... La Recoleta Cemetery, which happens to be one of the biggest attractions in the city, is directly across from the hotel.

The reason it's famous is not only because it's eclectic and beautiful... but a lot of famous Argentinian people are buried there. Like Evita herself, Eva Perón (the real version, not the Madonna version). And, sure enough, there she was...

Eva Peron Gravesite

Eva Peron Gravesite

The cemetery itself is quite large (spanning several city blocks) and, as I said, is eclectic. A variety of architectural styles fill the place and something gothic and ornate can sit right next door to something stark and modern. You could spend a day wandering around the place. We breezed through in about an hour...

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

Found a pretty cemetery cat...

Recoleta Cemetery Cat

Then it was time for a walk around the corner to Hard Rock Cafe No. 167 for me...

Hard Rock Cafe Buenos Aires

Hard Rock Cafe Buenos Aires

Before we knew it, 2:00 had rolled around and the hotel was ready to receive us. And I wasn't kidding about the cemetery being right across the street... as this view from our balcony will attest...

La Recoleta Cemetery View
To see a more detailed view, click on the image to embiggen.

Recoleta Cemetery View

When the dinner hour arrived, we opted to take the hotel desk advice and eat Argentinian empanadas at a local restaurant. I opted for cheese and onion and corn and onion, both of which were delicious...

Empanadas Buenos Aires

Wish I could say the same for our dinner companion, which was right above my head...

Empanadas Companion Buenos Aires

And that's pretty much the extent of my day in Buenos Aires. Which isn't a lot, but probably to be expected after traveling for the better part of 20 hours on no sleep.

   

Bullet Sunday 489

Posted on January 8th, 2017

Dave!There's hope for 2017, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• WALL! And so now The American People are going to have to pay for President Pussy-Grabber's idiotic Mexico border wall. As if there were ever any doubt. Can I just have the $25 instead? Giving everybody in the US $25 would be just as effective as this HYSTERICAL LEVEL OF DUMBFUCKERY would be in protecting the country. Look, it's not going to work. It's not going to stop drugs. It's not going to stop illegal immigration. And it's FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE TO BUILD THIS BULLSHIT IN THE FIRST PLACE... JUST ASK ANY ARCHITECT! — And Trump's 8 Billion price tag is a joke. It's going to run billions over that in costs AND EVERYBODY KNOWS IT. And the price doesn't even include the outrageous cost of maintaining such a wall... which is BILLIONS more. This is absolutely one of the most stupid fucking things I have ever heard of. It's a security blanket for total morons, and we're all going to have to pay the price. And if you honestly believe that Mexico is going to reimburse us for the final cost of something that doesn't even work? You need a serious reality check.

   
• Home! I'm a big fan of unique houses, and just when I think I've seen it all, something cool like this comes along...

Yeah... I'd have figured out a way to have a bathroom up there, but other than that? What an awesome place to call home!

   
• LARSENNNNNNN! I head to Antarctica for a photography expedition in 324 days. After wanting to visit for decades, I finally decided to throw finances to the wind and go this year because every time I see Antarctica in the news, it's because another chunk of the ice shelves is breaking off. And scientists are saying another massive chunk is about to go...

A map of Larsen C's iceberg by MIDAS/Swansea University/Aberystwyth UniversityA map of Larsen C's iceberg by MIDAS/Swansea University/Aberystwyth University

Now I'm just hoping that enough of Antarctica holds together for me to see it come December...

   
• This is It! If you're into cheesy Norman Lear comedies from the 1970's, then have I got a treat for you. Netflix has used that same framework to delve into contemporary issues by remaking One Day At A Time with a Cuban twist. It's a glorious trip back in time that's about as well-done as comedy gets...

As if that weren't enough, they had Gloria Estefan remake the theme song with a latin twist...

I really, really hope that this critically acclaimed show gets a second season. There's a lot more to be said.

   
• Maui! I was saddened to learn that the Hard Rock Cafe in Maui closed this past week. This was my very first Hard Rock, and is what got me into traveling the world to visit 165 more of them (and counting!). It had the perfect location at the end of Front Street in Lahaina, and was about the most laid-back cafe you could hope for when vacationing in Hawaii. From my DaveCafe blog...

While vacationing with friends in Maui (circa August 1990), we were wandering around Lahaina looking for a place to eat. As we came to the end of the Front Street tourist shopping district, one of us spied a place called “Hard Rock Cafe” in an unassuming building across the street. It sounded like fun, so away we went.
   
Little did I realize how my life would change after that moment.
   
At the time I remember thinking “The Hard Rock Cafe is such a great idea… it’s like eating in the middle of a Rock-n-Roll museum!” I hadn’t seen anything like it, and was so impressed I bought a couple pins at the gift shop. When we went back to Lahaina a few days later, I ended up buying a denim jacket that I still have today.
   
When I got back home, I discovered that there were 22 other Hard Rock Cafes around the world. But none of them were in Seattle, which is why I hadn’t heard of them before. Some were in places I might visit one day (San Francisco, New York, Chicago)… but others seemed like impossible destinations I’d never see (Reykjavik, Stockholm, Singapore).
   
How wrong I was.
   
As time went on, I started traveling more and more, and managed to see some Hard Rock Cafes along the way. Pretty soon I found myself traveling to places specifically to see the cafes there. By that point I was becoming obsessed, and set a goal to visit 50 properties before the end of the year 2000, 10 years after my first visit in Maui. That I did in December of 2000 when I vacationed in Rome, Italy. I always thought that once I reached my goal, that would be the end of it all, but I was wrong again. I kept going, visited properties around the globe and adding to my growing collection of pins, T-shirts, and glassware.
   
I owe a great debt to the Hard Rock Cafe for exposing me to places I probably never would have seen if not for their restaurants, hotels, and such. Amazing places like Warsaw, Poland… Bali, Indonesia… and Lisbon, Portugal (to name a few). Even nifty places here in the USA that I never would have gone to if not for checking another cafe off my list. I may go for the Hard Rock, but I always stay for all the other wonders these places offer.
   
And there are still so many places yet to see.

You will be missed...

Hard Rock Cafe Maui

And, while we're on the subject...

The original Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas (in front of the Hard Rock Hotel) has also closed. Probably because they opened a second cafe on The Strip, and there wasn't enough room for two of them. This is a shame, because the original had a much better "Hard Rock feel" to it... as opposed to the "Hipster Lounge" style that they've got going now.

Ah well. Progress and all that.

   
I'm outta bullets, so have a good week, everybody!

   

Bullet Sunday 434

Posted on May 24th, 2015

Dave!I can see Russia from my hotel room... because Bullet Sunday from the great state of Alaska starts... now...

   
• Double Daylight! "In Anchorage, visitors from more southerly latitudes are often surprised to see the sun set at 11:41 p.m. on the summer solstice, but the actual 'solar time' is 9:41 p.m. This is because at 150° W, Anchorage is a full solar hour behind the legal time zone and observes daylight saving time as well. Some local residents refer to this phenomenon as "double daylight time."Wikipedia.

Which explains my panic when I awoke after dozing off thinking it was 9:30am instead of 9:30pm and I had slept through two alarms. As I write this now at 10:45pm, there's still daylight out there...

Anchorage Double Daylight!

I can't fathom how insane it must be to visit Nome, which is still in the Alaskan time zone with Anchorage, but technically two hours in actual time zones further back. Their sunset is after midnight!

   
• Rock! The purpose for my Memorial Day weekend excursion is, of course, to visit the new Hard Rock Cafe that opened up last year here in Anchorage. This is Hard Rock No. 166 for me, and (finally) gets me caught up with all the North American properties again...

Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

There's an upstairs with a second stage and bar...

Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

Overall it's a nice property with a great staff and a terrific location... right in the touristy section of town... but the decor is lacking. Memorabilia is stretched a bit thin throughout, and there's a Rock Shop and massive stairwell that's devoid of any artifacts at all...

Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

This is a massive oversight which is unimaginable to longtime Hard Rock fans who remember when the cafes used to be packed with so much stuff that you could spend hours looking around and keep coming back to see stuff you missed. I mean, holy crap... look at this shot of the old Salt Lake City cafe where you can barely see the walls...

Hard Rock Salt Lake

That's what a Hard Rock is supposed to look like, and Anchorage falls way short. Putting in the effort to visit a new property is supposed to be an overwhelming experience... but more and more I find myself saying "I traveled all that way... for this?!? I dunno. Maybe they'll eventually add more cool stuff to give Anchorage the Hard Rock it deserves, but right now it's hardly destination-worthy.

   
• Burger Me! On the plus side, the food was pretty good...

Hard Rock Cafe Veggie Burger

Even if I had to build my own to avoid all the crazy shit that the Hard Rock usually puts on their veggie burgers.

   
• Market? I was told by my airport shuttle driver that the Anchorage Summer Weekend Market was going on and I should take a look if I had a chance. It was supposed to be open until 6:00, but most everything was torn down by 5:20...

Anchorage Market Sign!

Anchorage Market Gone Empty!

Bummer, I guess.

   
• Murder! Much like Starbucks locations in Seattle, fur shops in Anchorage are on every street corner...

ANCHORAGE FURS!

I'm vehemently anti-fur, but might change my mind if I could walk in a shop and pick up something that was personally slaughtered by Sarah Palin. Like I'm guessing this poor bear was...

Stuffed Bear in Gift Shop

By Grabthar's Hammer I will avenge you, bear!

   
• Drop! Holy shitballs do I wish Apple would get off their fucking asses and get crap fixed that's been broken for ages. Like AirDrop, their miraculous file-sharing technology that's been a steaming pile since day one. When I sent the first photo looking out my hotel window from my iPhone to my Mac, it was no problem. AirDrop found my MacBook immediately. But when I tried to send the next shot (below) 45 minutes later? I just spent 10 minutes trying to get my iPhone to see my Mac, but it absolutely won't do it. And yet... my Mac can see my iPhone just fine? WHAT THE FUCK, APPLE?!?

AIRDROP AND APPLE'S BUSTED FUCKING SHIT!

Why don't you use some of the BILLIONS OF FUCKING DOLLARS that people have paid you because of the promise of things like AirDrop TO FIX ALL THE CRAP THAT DOESN'T FUCKING WORK?! Every time I turn around now-a-days I'm having to deal with Apple's busted shit and I'm just sick of it.

   
Annnnd... I suppose I should get some sleep seeing as how it's now 11:30pm and the sun is finally going down and all...

Sunset in Anchorage. At last.

   

Lake Tahoe

Posted on May 4th, 2015

Dave!"What's the bare minimum amount of money and effort we can sink into this thing and get away with calling it a Hard Rock?" —Warner Hospitality

Or so I assume.

The property currently known as the "Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe" began as "Del Webb's Sahara Tahoe" and was a pretty big deal back in the early 70's because Elvis performed here regularly...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

Eventually the property was rebranded as the "Horizon Resort" before ultimately becoming a Hard Rock in January of this year. As it's not part of the "authentic" Hard Rock portfolio owned by the Seminoles, I was prepared for it to be underwhelming. Because they usually are.

But this one didn't even reach that far for me.

Not that it's not a nice hotel... it totally is... but the complete lack of excessiveness and rock-n-roll theming that defines a "Hard Rock" is just not here. And it starts from when you first pull up to this rather boring building...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

If it weren't for the signs, you'd never guess this was a Hard Rock at all. Things are slightly better on the other side, where at least there's a giant guitar...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

Inside isn't much better. The reception desk is boring as hell. No effort whatsoever was put into making your first contact with the property be special. No guitars. No cymbals. No art. No nothing. Just blank walls to stare at...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

I mean, seriously, what the hell?

There are some nice showcases on the back wall, but it's just not enough...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

At the far end is my favorite piece, a passport belonging to Johnny Cash...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

About the only attempt at making the lobby feel in any way special is a display for one of Michael Jackson's gloves. Which is nice, but it does nothing to pull you away from all those blank walls behind it...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

And then there's the rooms. Again, nice... but where's the "Hard Rock" here? An orange wall, a teddy bear, and a couple of prints is all we get?

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

At least the bathroom has something rock-related. Even if it is just a tiny guitar print...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

Seriously... this could be any mid-range hotel anywhere in the USA. There is absolutely nothing about it that makes you feel like you're in a Hard Rock except when you look closely at the water bottle tag, the shampoos, and the guest services book. About the only unique thing about it is the fire sprinkler in the closet...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

I guess they have a real problem with guest's clothes spontaneously combusting or something.

Oh... and thank God I paid the extra money for a "lake view" room. I would have hated to have missed this beautiful view of... the parking lot?!?

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

I mean, yeah, there's a lake way back there... but I'd hardly call this a "lake view" room. When I booked it, I was expecting to look out my window and see something like this...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

...which is a shot I took when I pulled off the road on the drive here.

Oh well. The casino isn't much better. Absolutely nothing on the casino floor. Just a couple of cabinets scattered at the entrances...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

And some guitars scattered without presentation down a random boring hallway you have no reason to visit...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

The pool is total shit... though there are signs everywhere about a fantastic new pool area that will be debuting this summer, so maybe it'll improve...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

Overall, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe is a massive disappointment for Hard Rock fans. There's just not much here to see. If you don't care about the Hard Rock, it's a nice enough hotel, sure... but for those who do care, it's hardly destination-worthy unless you're a hard-core completist.

Which, unfortunately, is me.

UPDATE 5/5/15: You know, it may not sound like it, but I was trying to stay positive here. But when I went to check out everything kind of came to a boiling point in my head. First of all is the idiotic "resort fee" I had to pay... $22 ($26 with tax) which basically got me internet. It's not like I could go lie by the pool or anything (given there's no furniture). But even worse was the service. When I checked in, you're supposed to get complimentary valet parking, but the ONE guy tending the drive was too busy talking to somebody to bother and, after I had to interrupt to find out what the fuck I do with my car, he positioned valet parking as a "well, if you really want to..." situation, so I ended up self-parking. THEN, when I went to leave in the morning, I asked the guy at the reception desk if they had a postbox. No. Can you put my postcard with your outgoing mail? No. Now that's service! They wouldn't even mail a damn postcard. Seriously, fuck this place. I wish I had never come. A complete stain on the Hard Rock brand if there ever was one.

Contrast and compare to the positively gorgeous "authentic" Hard Rock Cafe next door at Harvey's Casino. It's an absolutely mesmerizing property that's got a "Tahoe Ski Lodge" aesthetic going on. And it's packed to the rafters with fantastic rock-n-roll memorabilia and classic theming. So much love went into this place...

Hard Rock Cafe Lake Tahoe

Hard Rock Cafe Lake Tahoe

Hard Rock Cafe Lake Tahoe

Hard Rock Cafe Lake Tahoe

Now THAT'S Hard Rock! That's a destination-worthy property. That's why I am a Hard Rock fan.

sigh.

Anyway...

Before driving to Lake Tahoe, I got to have lunch with the Blogger Formerly Known as Floating Princess, so the day wasn't a total loss. We had most excellent pizza at Pirate's Pizza in Reno... it is, in fact, the best pizza in the whole world...

Pirate's Pizza Reno

Pirate's Pizza Reno

Pirate's Pizza Reno

Dinner tonight was another excellent meal... across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe at the Lucky Beaver...

Lucky Beaver Sign

I like the place very much... excellent service and a cozy atmosphere. But the food is way pricey... $12 for a burger and tots! Though their black bean veggie option is really good, so I guess it was worth the money.

And that's my day. Time to walk back to the Hard Rock and see if I can get some sleep.

I'm not much of a gambler, but I was compelled to put money in the "Ellen DeGeneres Show Slot Machine" until something happened. Five dollars later and...

Ellen DeGeneres Show Slot Machine

If you win something special, cartoon-body Ellen dances across the screen and she talks to you. Cute.

Tomorrow? The journey back home.

   

Memphis

Posted on March 23rd, 2015

Dave!There have been three times in my travels where I have forgotten my camera.

The second was Austin, Texas, in 2002 where I was visiting the terrific Hard Rock Cafe that used to be on 6th Street. This was an especially painful mishap, because the cafe closed before I could get back and document this amazing property. I did manage to find a disposable camera at a local drug store, but all the photos turned out terrible.

The third was while visiting Osaka, Japan in 2003, where I managed to purchase a cheap plastic toy camera at the Universal Studios Osaka gift shop to get shots of the new Hard Rock Cafe there.

And the first time?

When I visited Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee way back in 1995. And, despite returns to Memphis over the years, I never went back.

So my grand plan today was to run out to Elvis's house... THIS TIME WITH MY CAMERA... and take some photos. Except when I got up this morning I realized that, when it comes to Graceland, once is enough for me... photos or no photos.

And so I was off to Hard Rock No. 163, bitches!

Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

As always, I was prepared for the worst. Yet another ugly hipster Hard Rock with only a smattering of memorabilia. Which would be a real slap in the face for Memphis, because their previous cafe was so awesome. So imagine my surprise when I visited this new property and found that the new location is in a primo vintage building with plenty of history and character... and they had a decent amount of rock-n-roll memorabilia to make it actually worth your time to visit!

Nice.

The Hard Rock is located at the head of famous Beale Street. The location is hopping at night, but fairly sedate in the daytime...

Beale Street Memphis Tennessee

Beale Street Memphis Tennessee

Beale Street Memphis Tennessee

Beale Street Memphis Tennessee

The one big tourist attraction in Memphis I haven't done yet was to visit Sun Records, which is the birthplace of rock-n-roll. And home to some very famous musicians. Like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many, many others...

Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

Well worth a stop if you're ever in the Memphis area. The tour cost me $11.50 and lasted 40 minutes. Our guide was fantastic, and really made the place come alive.

And that's now I spent my only day in the city.

And now? I'm going to dinner at Faiqa's house and you're not!

UPDATE: Uh huh...

Dinner with Faiqa

   

Day Three: Johannesburg

Posted on September 19th, 2014

Dave!And so here I am in Johannesburg, South Africa.

I added a full day layover in the city to recover from the long-ass 30-1/2 hours of travel I put in yesterday. Originally I was going to fly into Cape Town, but they don't have a Hard Rock Cafe there anymore, so Johannesburg it was.

The property is of the new-style "hipster cafe" variety. Usually I hate the cold and impersonal approach of these Hard Rocks, but this one is not so bad. It has a nice assortment of memorabilia, at least (even if it's not as big as it could be)...

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

The Hard Rock is located in the district of Sandton on Nelson Mandella Square, where they have a very nice statue of him...

Nelson Mandella Square in Johannesburg

And so... after posting this I'm off to bed with hopes of getting some sleep before a rather busy day tomorrow. Though I doubt I'll get to update my blog because the hotel internet is utter shit...

Crappy internet connection error

Good preparation for when I have no internet at all real soon now.

That'll be interesting.

   

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