October 20, 2007

Claremont

From Cleveland we flew to Claremont to visit her sister and her family. We had two tight connections in Chicago and Denver, but the trip was uneventful. Debbie's sister met us at the airport and we drove to their place.

Claremont is a very pretty little college town. Broad quiet tree lined streets, few pedestrians, a pretty downtown with coffee shops and a Saturday farmer's market. We spent the time playing with her niece and nephew (great kids and very fun to be with. Robin is into drawing, especially fairies, and Arlo is a cute talkative four year old.)

We went out for Mexican food with her brother-in-law's parents (who are fascinating people, well travelled, well informed, great conversationalists) the kids got tired and bored so went home early and we had a nice walk home. The food was forgettable, but the company was memorable. I took a few pictures that I may post later.

The next morning was Saturday, and we walked downtown for coffee and the farmer's market. Fair trade coffee, fresh pastries, sitting around listening to typical liberal college town coffee house conversation, looking at the zen brush paintings on the wall, we were in our element.

Next - San Francisco!

Cleveland

From Krakow to Cleveland we flew LOT the national Polish airline. First we flew from Krakow to Warsaw. The domestic terminal in Krakow was an open empty concrete floored space kind of like a warehouse, but it has a spare modernistic feel that made it comfortable. Before living in Bangalore I would have thought it was kind of primitive and boring, but now it stands out in contrast to the international airport in Bangalore as a paragon of cleanliness and efficiency. Not adjectives historically applied to Polish facilities in my mind!

Anyway, the flight from Krakow to Warsaw was on a 64 seat turboprop. I love turboprops so it was a treat for me. Next we jumped from Warsaw to Toronto on an unexceptional two class jet flight. LOT business class is nothing to write home about, but it was comfortable and the alcohol was plentiful. We had a small adventure in Toronto. When flying from Europe to the US via Toronto you actually clear US immigration and customs in Canada. Our luggage was supposed to have been routed to the transit area, where we waited for almost and hour, but actually went to regular Canadian baggage claim. So we had to enter Canada to get it, then go through US customs and immigration. The Canadian customs people, perhaps because they were bored, asked us all kinds of nosy and intrusive questions:
How much money do you make? (Lots)
Do you own the company? "Do I own Google? I wish."
How much did your plane tickets cost? "About $10,000 each."
What is that, first class? "No, business class."
How long are you going to be in Canada? "About an hour..."
How long are you staying in Cleveland? "Two days."
How come so short a time?
Toronto to Cleveland was an even tinier turboprop so I was happy. There were nine people on the flight, with a back row of five seats - like a bus. We sat back there and spread out.

Cleveland was lovely. Debbie is from Cleveland, and we spent the time with her parents and visiting all her old favorite haunts. I have pictures of Tommy's, an iconic Cleveland restaurant and source of one of Debbie's old favorite T-shirts. The food was prototypical 70's hippy food. Lots of salads, baked sandwiches with cheese and sunflower seeds, giant frozen yogurt milkshakes, stuff like that. Her mom made us a nice home made dinner, and I got to see her childhood home and the neighborhood she grew up in. Very nice.

We gave a little talk at Debbie's dad's International Business class (he's a professor at Cleveland State) talking about business in India. She talked about what it's like day to day living in India, and I talked a little about infrastructure, property rights, and the rule of law.

Krakow

Krakow is great, very old European. Old buildings, old streets, old churches, lots of history, great food. We stayed in a B&B in an old apartment house. It's a small city, you can walk everywhere, but there is a great transit system. Trams and busses go everywhere and they're cheap!

The food is about as diametrically opposite of Indian food as it's possible to be. Every meal revolves around meat. Pork, beef, game, you name it. Spicing is very simple, and sauces are often heavy with fruit. As for vegetables, well cabbage is a vegetable, right? So are potatoes aren't they? The first morning we went to a cafe, the menu entirely in Polish. We had sandwiches - toasty multi-grain bread, fresh tomatoes, fresh cheese, preserved meats - it was heaven. Then we had espresso, dark thick Illy espresso with rich golden crema. Ahhh...