Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pie in Old Blighty

Today is National Pie Day. Not that I ever need incentive to think about pie, but this sanctioned celebration of all things pie got me to pondering the best pie I've ever had.

How would I decide? I love pies. All sorts of pies. If given a choice between pie and cake, I will always take the pie. Sifting through memories of flaky crusts (or maybe dutch crumbles), coconut creams and sweet-tart cherries, my decision was much easier than I had imagined. The best pie I ever had was in early September 2001 in London, England. Traveling alone, and having walked until I was exhausted, it was dark, and I was lost. A warm glow from down the street led me to a neighborhood (unknown) restaurant. Not a pint-filled pub of my colonist dream, just a (very) plain neighborhood restaurant.

There it was on the laminated menu. Apple pie. I'm always keen to not eat traditionally American food while traveling, but my blistered feet and throbbing loneliness demanded the comfort of pie.

It wasn't the crust (too thick) and it wasn't the filling (too gelatinous) and, although I did enjoy the pool of creme anglaise it was plopped on top of, it was strictly its state of pieness that makes it the best pie I've ever had.

The best Chinese food I've ever had was in Rome. But I'll save that travel tale for National Chinese food day.

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

oh! to be a high flying and free-breathing bird

The amazing Neti Pot is for all travelers who suffer from congestion or post nasal drip upon landing in unfamiliar climates. A sinus headache can cripple even the most adventurous traveler, but we just tried jala neti - the Indian Ayurvedic practice of using a small pot for nasal irrigation by pouring warm salty water into one nostril and allowing it to drain from the other - and yes, we heard about it from Oprah. But oh boy, do we believe! Come on - don't be scared - visit to see a full demonstration. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t leave home without it. Of course, make sure you are somewhere that you are willing to drink the water before pouring it in your nose.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Make a run for the border

You won't want to miss Santa Fe Steakhouse, a McAllen, Texas restaurant and bar where you'll find everyone who is anyone. But the in-crowd is not why High Flying Bird hit Santa Fe last Wednesday night while down south on business; the espresso-encrusted beef filet was.

Feast in the dining room and finish up with live music in the cantina. With reasonable prices, fantastic food and a happening bar, Sante Fe Steakhouse is almost reason enough to head to the Valley.

Santa Fe Steakhouse 1918 S 10th Street, McAllen, TX 78503 (956) 630-2331

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I'm sorry, I don't speak Hindi

High Flying Bird aims to be the go-to travel blog for everyone interested in "in-between travel," travel somewhere above the $10-a-day backpacking trip and below the $500-a-day coach-tour-guided-never-see-the-real-country trip, with an emphasis on information useful for the traveling female.

But this news tidbit from our favorite travel destination, India, is a shout out of warning particularly for our male readers.

Per a January 12 Indian court ruling, having sex with a woman after a false promise of marriage is rape. "The so called consent under a false promise to marriage is no consent at all."

The man, who had promised marriage to his female neighbor, was sentenced to 7 years.

Namaste and keep your mouth shut!

Not coming with High Flying Bird to Israel in September, Gloria?

The American Jewish Congress recently submitted to Ms. Magazine (which one would presume would be downright orgasmic about such things) this advertisement about the success of women in Israel.

Ms., however, rejected the ad, claiming it "will set off a firestorm" and told the AJC that Ms. "would love to have an ad from you on women's empowerment, or on reproductive freedom, but not on this."

How irrelevant can a magazine become? RIP Ms. Magazine, 1971-2008.

See the full AJC press release:

Friday, January 11, 2008

More Bathroomish Travel Thoughts

There is been much brouhaha lately about the current successes and failures, respectively, of McDonalds and Starbucks. My professional I-Have-A-Degree-In-Finance-From-UT-But-Don't-Use-It analysis of the situation is thusly: McDonalds stuck its big toe in the "premium" coffee lake and is succeeding while Starbucks dove into serving food and is failing. Perhaps serving food is where Starbucks went wrong, but I think the real problem is with their bathrooms.

For anyone who has made the nerve-jangling roadtrip down I-35 from Dallas to Austin, dodging 18-wheelers and ducking concrete barriers, you can appreciate the need for a rest stop right around Waco. We specifically chose Starbucks just off the highway, not only to get a beverage, but we felt it would be a more soothing experience than, say, a McDonalds. The zombie soccer moms standing in line ahead of me were scary, but the barista was college-boy adorable and charming. I ordered a single espresso (I refused to say "solo espresso" on principle). I'm guessing not that many people order just an espresso at a Starbucks, so college-boy barista took the opportunity to discuss the taste with me and explain how they had adjusted the espresso machine for better flavor. "Fantastico!" I cried. But the dingy, filmy, "Joe Versus the Volcano"-esqye bathroom? Molto not fantastico.

All of which got me to thinking about my favorite "on the road" bathrooms. Since I now recognize that when it comes to travel, I am bathroom-obsessed, I'm sure I will have more to add to the list. But for those of you traveling in Texas, the following are my current two favorites along with the introduction of my good bathroom/bad bathroom ranking icons.

The Buc-ees in Giddings, Texas (Between Austin and Houston)
A Buc-ees is similar to Stuckey's. It's a "roadside convenience store" where you can conveniently purchase both gas and a variety of nut-based candies. I can't speak to the men's bathroom, but the women's bathroom is absolutely spotless and the stalls are completely enclosed. I honestly don't know how they can maintain the bathroom the way they do, but I bet I have stopped at that Buc-ees no fewer than 50 times and not once has it disappointed.

Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas (Between Dallas and Houston)
Collin Street Bakery is "world famous" for its DeLuxe fruitcake. My mom loves fruitcake, so while living in Houston the tradition became to stop by the bakery to buy her a fruitcake on our way to her house in Dallas for Christmas. For me, when you say a loaf of red and green maraschino cherries, I say upchuck, but Collin Street Bakery not only carries other baked goods, it is home to one of the most glamorous, inviting bathrooms in road trip history. Warm tones and a stylishly comfortable loveseat welcome you to the sophisticated, marbled women's bathroom. Is this a bathroom of a fruitcake bakery in a small Texas town or a bathroom in an elegant Parisian hotel? You tell me!

Starbucks in Waco, Texas (the one just off I-35)
The Barista? Charming and cordial. Espresso from the adjusted machine? Smooth. The bathroom? "Brain cloud".

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Thursday, January 10, 2008

India to US: shame on you!

While we chug up more fuel with our land monstrosities and fight our neighbors to have the most expensive Mercedes, a true revolution from India: the world's cheapest car at $2500. Tata Motors Ltd unveiled its 'People's Car' (Volkswagon, anyone?) in New Delhi. The People's Car will revolutionize car ownership in India - even the middle class will be able to own a car. Where they are going to put those cars on those roads, and how a middle class father of three will learn to drive like those crazy Sikhs is another question altogether.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

High Flying Bird Episode 1 - Basics of India

Robyn Tinsley, Managing Editor of joins High Flying Bird for a discussion of the basics of the first trip to India. From where to go to whether to get shots, all the fundamentals are here. If you want to experience something in between the backpacking trip and the air-conditioned group tour, this podcast is for you.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Haiku For You (HFY)

Here is a special vacation-themed HFY to get your 2008 started out right.

Scottsdale and Vegas
Eureka Springs what will year
2008 bring?

After New Years Day
it's all over until the
day Memorial

Back to work new year
in a funk so I will start
dreaming of vaycay

Haiku Hannah