Sunday, October 19, 2008

Driving Requirements in India

As told to me by my driver on the way back from Agra.

"To drive in India you only need 3 things: good horn, good brakes, and good luck."

Apparently lots of patience is a given....

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Driving In India: An Homage

I was introduced to the fine art of driving in India last night on my way from the Bangalore airport to my hotel. In short, I can only describe the experience as the real world interpretation of how I drive in Grand Theft Auto.

Where to start... We'll begin with my driver. An older gentleman, dressed in uniform and holding a placard met me outside of the customs area at the airport. Upon introducing myself to him we made our way to the parking lot where he had me wait while he went and retrieved the vehicle from the lot. During the 5 minutes that I was waiting for him, I was introduced to the 1st pillar of Indian driving: Liberal use of the horn. In the US, use of your horn is usually reserved to 2 situations: telling others to watch out, or hurry up. In India, horn use seems to be applicable regardless of the situation. Need to tell someone to hurry up and pull out of their spot? Lay on the horn. Want to say hello to your buddy who you see driving in the opposite direction? Horn. Just realized that you left the oven on? Beep Beep. There are so many horns going off that to my untrained ear, it is somewhat hard to discern exactly who is honking at whom.

One application that I did manage to discern was to, ummm, kindly inform other drivers that they are drifting into your lane. Which brings me to the 2nd pillar of Indian driving: lane markers are purely cosmetic. All drivers, mine included, don't seem to subscribe to the theory that lane markers are put down on roads to maintain effective traffic flow and general road safety. Stuck behind a slower moving car, truck, or tuk tuk? Simply drift over a bit so that you are halfway between 2 lanes and 'thread the needle' between 2 other vehicles. Also, you should refrain from using your blinker whenever executing this maneuver.

Which leads me to the 3rd and final pillar of Indian driving: never, I repeat NEVER use your blinker. In fact, I think that using your blinker may get you a moving violation and 2 points on your license here.

All in all, I think that more than being afraid sitting in the back seat of a small Ford sedan, which BTW had a grand total of zero airbags, I was awed at the almost Jedi like awareness that my driver had for his surroundings. He traversed the 45km trek with a calmness that belied the chaos that was occurring all around us. This begs the question as to why there are not any Indian drivers in Formula One. My guess is that it certainly comes down to money, because lack of skill it is certainly not.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I finally got to Amsterdam and quite a city it is!! I got there Saturday morning a little late because KLM canceled my flight so we took off 2 hours later than planned. All was not lost however as we got into the city around 2:00. After checking into the hotel we were off to see the city. When we got there we walked to the Heineken Brewery but the line was over a block long so we decided to check out the Van Gogh museum instead. On the way over there, all the sudden we were walking in the middle of this senior citizen's tour group which was quite funny. All the sudden this old lady starts chatting it up with us and told us "Yes, you can just be a part of our group." At that point we decided it would be best to take off my 'I Heart Granny Time' t-shirt.

Van Gogh Museum: One word. Crowded. There were so many people there and no real structure as to how you should navigate the 3+ floors. Other highlights included some dude who got stopped by a rent-a-cop because he was trying to smoke a cigarette in the museum. Hilarious.

After the Van Gogh we headed to Vondel Park to check out this little cafe located in the center of the grounds for a beer (Cost of 3 beers - Schix Schixty, ja?). After a few beers at this place, it was time to find a place to have some dinner. This is when things begin to get complicated. First of all, all of the street names in Amsterdam all look the same and the city is built in a semi-circle that so many of the streets just wind around town. Add to that the canals that lead to quite a few dead ends and a few run ins when we were looking at the map in the bike lane (definite no no). We wound up having dinner at an Italian restaurant properly named Italians Restaurant P.D. The owner ended up sitting down and talking to us towards the end of our meal and we didn't leave the place for over 3 hours. The food was actually pretty decent and he wound up giving us a free appetizer and dessert.

Sunday I got up early thinking we could get to Heineken before the line got too long. The guide book said that it opened at 10:00...well there wasn't a line when we got there and we also discovered the place didn't open until 11:00! So much for the trusty Eyewitness Guide. Given that I had made reservations for a guided bike and boat tour of the city, we decided to bail on Heineken and head towards the Rijksmuseum to meet up with the tour guide.

The bike tour consisted of a 3 hour ride through the city followed by an hour boat ride where they passed out a couple of free beers (well they were included in the price of the tour, but I digress). The weather cleared up nicely around 1PM, so it was a nice afternoon to explore the city on a bike. The boat ride was pretty cool and gave you a different perspective of what Amsterdam is like. We were able to get a close look at the many boathouses that line the many canals of the city. After ending the tour, we walked around until we found ourselves in a outdoor market/square area and decided to grab dinner in an Indonesian restaurant. The food was really good and the staff were incredibly friendly. I cannot remember the name of it, but it is highly recommended and was a nice welcome change to the usual crap that you find in London.

Overall a good 48 hours in what is now one of my favorite cities.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Uhhh Yeah....

My friend Mary Anne just enlightened me to an 'event' that took place at a restaurant that is literally 5 min from our house after the London Marathon on Sunday. You have to read this one to believe it.

Click on the link,,2-2007180857,00.html

BTW, I actually ate at this place a few weeks back. I must say it wasn't as bad as that dude made it out to be. Barely...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Why British Food Sucks - Reason 143

After being over here for for nearly 2 months, I have gotten accustomed to not having the best quality steaks over here. Therefore it was with some anticipation that I arrived at Gaucho Restaurant Thursday evening for a business dinner. Gaucho is a chain of Argentinian steak house that was recently crowned 'Best Steak Restaurant' in London by Time Out magazine.

Hearing of the proposed restaurant, I began to look up some of the reviews of this place. It was apparently one of 'the' places to go for steak in London.

Upon entering, I descended a wrought iron staircase into what used to be the wine cellar of the Mexican ambassador, but now resembles a Russian submarine crossed with a satanic nightclub. This certainly isn't a place to go for an intimate tête-à-tête. Conversation was almost impossible as the acoustics of the room meant that you were forced to yell to the person sitting merely 2 feet across from you.

have mercy
This place prides itself on its meat ("Argentinian ... from grass-fed cattle raised on the pampas"), so I why did the steak I ordered taste as though the cows had been raised on a diet of Pampers? My rare sirloin had neither the healthy marbling of fat nor the succulent texture I expect from top-quality meat. Any Morton's in the US is a place where you can get true grass-fed beef, not the borderline dog meat on the menu here.

The starters and side dishes were equally disappointing. The ceviche was a mess of tomato sauce and onions and had none of the subtle flavor of lime that that you expect. Also, any restaurant calling itself a reputable steakhouse that has French Fries on the menu should be avoided on principle alone.

Dukes Uncle Jesse
What made me pleased to be here? Only the act of leaving and getting back to street level after an experience that had left me thoroughly feeling homesick.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Watford vs. Chelsea - Makes a Raiders Game Look Like a Church Picnic

I admit that the title of this post may be hard for some of you to believe. Trust me on this one though. Football (soccer) matches out here are intense. I have been to a few games in Brazil and I would venture to say that the atmosphere was on par with some games that I attended there.

The day started off at 11:30am with me meeting my old roommate from San Francisco at a pub near Baker Street to catch the 1st half of the Liverpool vs. Arsenal game. This is a BIG game in England. I noticed that perhaps I did not quite grasp the intensity of this rivalry when I walked out of the tube station and there were around 10 police officers standing outside of the pub. Mind you this was a pub on a fairly busy street in London and nowhere near the stadium. Upon entering, I was greeted by a guy wailing away on his bagpipes. Next, a guy whose picture could appear next to the term 'hooligan' in the dictionary,started a chant in the bar. The great thing about the chants are that most of the melodies are based on old songs so they are pretty easy to learn. After a pint of Guinness Extra Cold (which is like regular cold in the US) we headed to catch the train to Watford. We arrived in Watford around 1:30 and headed straight to the bar. All football matches in England are like Senior Prom. You cannot drink inside, but everyone shows up drunk. Again, outside the bar there were about 8-10 cops who would occasionally walking to the bar and restore order. At around 4:45, everyone started emptying out of the bar and walking towards the stadium.

Watford, which was owned by Elton John in the 80s, plays its home matches at Vicarage Road. The stadium is small, seating around 20,000 fans. This is a pretty small stadium for England, but Watford is one of the smaller teams in the Premiership. Away fans are housed in the Vicarage Road Stand at one end of the ground. This stand is shared with home supporters sand has the obligatory 'no-mans land' in between the fans.

In brief, lots of chanting (mostly by Chelsea fans), lots of missed chances, and a lone goal in the 93rd minute. Overall it was a blast.

The season is winding down so there are not too many games left, but they start back up again in August.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Have Mercy....Mexican Food in London

OK, having lived in California for most of my life I have grown accustomed to eating Mexican food fairly frequently. Apparently, in London, Mexican restaurants are few and far between. So after going 3 weeks without a burrito form the "roach coach" that parks behind the Gap offices in San Francisco, I was fiending for some Mexican food at a Whitney Houston like level. In order to get my fix of crack, err Mexican food, I ventured out on Saturday to La Perla, a supposedly "authentic" Mexican restaurant near Covent Garden. How was it you ask? Well here is my unbiased review which I will rate using my newly conceived, and patent pending, Uncle Jesse scoring system (scale = 1-5 Jesses)

Bar RatingsRatingsRatings
Quite lively. There is a pretty big bar that serves up margaritas, mojitos, and other "Mexican" drinks. They have an extensive tequila selection, including some special Cuervo that costs $500 a shot!!(No that is not a typo). Margaritas were decent, although nothing to write home about.

Restaurant stamos as jessestamos as jessestamos as jesse
There are about 10 tables near the back of the space. The restaurant was quite busy on Saturday night, but the wait was only ~25 minutes. There were lots of pictures of marlins and sailfish that had been caught off Cabo San Lucas on most of the walls. There was even a stuffed sailfish hanging above the kitchen. Overall it felt and looked like what you would expect a Mexican restaurant to look like.

Food Dukes Uncle Jesse
If you had never had real Mexican food before, great. Otherwise, it was average at best. The salsa was nothing more than tomato sauce with some cilantro and pepper in it. The food was fairly bland and it appeared that they simply doused everything in Tabasco after it had been cooked in order to give it that "authentic" flavor. On the bright side, the tortilla chips weren't bad.

Price: mullet jessemullet jesse
Dinner, drinks, and gratuity came out to $25GBP per person. Not bad for London standards, but the food was sub par.

Overall: have mercy
If this is the best Mexican food that they have here, it is going to be a long 12 months in London....