Greetings from Baku

I am typing this on my phone so there will likely be typos. I’m old.

After an 18 hour trip we have arrived safely in Baku. The trip was weirdly easy. We just beat a crowd getting to the Turkish Airlines check in and also the Dulles security line. We made it to the gate with plenty of tome before boarding. The flight was on time. I slept well on a plane for the first time in years. The food was good. There were plenty of movie options.

We had a 5 hour layover in Istanbul. That’s a long time in an airport, but it was a nice airport. My wife asked about food at a Turkish Airline information desk and they randomly gave us a voucher for a free meal at the airport. Our flight to Baku was also on time and was only a little over two hours.

I had talked about not liking to stand out as the obvious foreigner while traveling and how the last few trips we went places where we were very obviously not from there. We got to our gate and discovered a large group of blonde girls from Finland were on our flight to Baku. There was also a group of girls from Hungary. We discovered when we got to the airport that there is a big gymnastics event in town this week and then next week is a big soccer thing. We hit the mother lode of not being the only obvious tourists in town this time.

I think today will be a “take it easy and explore the area around the hotel day” to get rested up for the full day of tours they have scheduled for us tomorrow.

Here is a photo of the view from the free breakfast at the hotel


Thoughts From Orlando

If you follow my personal Facebook or Instagram, you’ve seen several of my photos from our trip to Orlando. Of not, you can see a selection of them below. I’m not going to bore you with a day by day synopsis of my trip. I do have a few thoughts.

I am not a very patient person, so a trip that involves standing in a lot of lines is not great for me. Luckily, being January. the lines were not nearly as long at the parks as they could have been. They were longer than we’ve had in past January trips. We had one ride at each park we didn’t ride because we didn’t think it was worth waiting. 7 Dwarf Mine Train at Magic Kingdom was never below 90 minutes. Avatar at Animal Kingdom was never lower than 120 minutes and Slinky Dog at Hollywood studios was never lower than 75 minutes. There were other things to do that we considered better than waiting in lines. The Fast Pass system is different now and we were behind schedule on it, so it was harder for us to get passes for better rides. I hate the fast pass line when I’m in standby, but love it when I’m in the fast pass line. It is all about me. I also get irritated with the people who don’t notice the line is moving, especially when we are not yet to the merge with the fast passers. The faster you get to the merge, the faster you get past the fast passers. Now, with cell phones everywhere, it is more common for people to be staring at their phones and miss the fact that the line is moving. I think way too much about the lines.

Speaking of cell phones, there are way too many people stopping at messing up the lines taking multiple selfies. There are too many people taking pictures and videos of the rides instead of enjoying them. There is no need for a flash being used on the Kong ride so you can get a really good picture to post. My daughter got irritated with me mentioning it, but I do think you lose something from the experience when you watch it through your phone.

If you have several people in your party, please don’t walk in a line blocking the entire walkway, especially if you are really slow.

I always kind of liked Universal more than Disney and, now, with Harry Potter World, it is even better. If I had to choose one, I would go back to Universal. Also, butterbeer is delicious.

Customer service at Disney is still very good. I’m pretty sure I screwed up using the app and messed up a fast pass. They didn’t ask questions when we asked for help. They just added the fast pass back to the app so we could ride the ride.

It was nice to see my kids be kids again. Harry Potter World especially brought out the kids in them. They were very excited to get interactive wands and do the spells at the magic locations. It’s a little sad to be back to school and work.

I hope this isn’t the last big trip we get to take as a family. I know it will get harder as the kids get older.


Greetings From The Road

Writing this on my phone so expect many typos.

After over 13 hours in the car we are about 30 minutes from our hotel. We left 20 degree weather and 8 inches of snow and are now at 53 degrees at 9pm. We were able to avoid a closure of 95 south due to a major accident by taking backroads. We saw another closure on 95 north later. Both were major accidents involving semis. Hopefully, the drivers were OK. We stopped at Cook Out in Dunn, NC for lunch and my son was very happy. It’s weird to have the option to get a corn dog as a side. The only mishap so far is my son apparently yet again losing a beanie, most likely by having it in his lap and the getting out of the car and not noticing it fall out of the car. I used to do that with my cell phone. I’m not very smart.

Tomorrow we head to Magic Kingdom.

Some Quick Tater Takes

I don’t have one topic that’s worth a full post today, so here are a couple of quick thoughts:

I’m reading the new Alex Cross novel by James Patterson. I have stopped reading all of the Pattersons except the Alex Cross books. I still read them even though so much of it is ridiculous. All of his kids are superstar athletes or geniuses. His 90-year-old grandmother has lived through things that would kill people half her age and has also won the lottery. Cross is good at everything. Yet, I still read them. This time, though, I ran into something even more annoying than the above – part of the book took place at a Georgetown basketball game and he said they were in first place in the ACC. Georgetown is not, and has never been, in the ACC. How hard would it be to find out the conference to get it right? Is it some weird way to make this a fictional world? Was it just sloppy writing? Whatever it was, it was annoying and it’s made me change my thoughts of moving forward with the story. I probably will. I started the book because I thought it would be a quick read I could finish before I leave for Florida on Monday.


Speaking of leaving for Florida – We are scheduled to drive to Florida Monday morning. Our son is supposed to drive home Sunday to be here to leave with us early Monday morning. There is now the possibility of snow Saturday night and all day Sunday. Right now, it looks like it won’t affect the drive on Monday. They will have all night to clear roads and we will be on the interstate the entire way. I am worried about my son’s ability to get to our house on Sunday night. I think it will all work out if the heaviest snow stays south. Any shift north could really complicate our plans. I tend to find something to worry about when traveling. Now I have an impending snowstorm to add to my worries. This is two years in a row our first bog snow has come on the eve of my travel day. I don’t like it.

And now I have to go to work.  I really need to find a way to become wealthy while I’m away next week.

How Far I’ve Gone

Lorna over at Gin & Lemonade has started a weekly prompt to help inspire our writing. I have not yet participated as the first two prompts were fall related and I discovered that I didn’t really have any fall related memories to inspire a post. Anyway, this week’s  prompt is travel related and asks us how far we’ve traveled from home. I had to google distances to figure out which trip was the farthest from home. I used DC as home for the search. I was a little surprised by the result. So, here are my four longest trips(all traveling with my wife for her annual conference) from shortest to longest:

  1. Seoul, South Korea – 6933 miles: I really enjoyed this city. Our hotel was within easy walking distance of palaces, temples and other tourist friendly sites. We were blocks away from a traditional market street filled with foods and local crafts. The subway was clean and modern. The people from the hosting agency were friendly and helpful. The only negative was that the trip was too short for me to fully adjust to the time change.
  2. Livingstone, Zambia – 7661 miles: This is by far the best conference trip so far. Finland comes close mainly because it was the only one our son attended, but Zambia was fantastic. The hotel was next to Victoria Falls. We could walk out the hotel gate, cross the street and be at the entrance to the falls. Entry was included in the hotel fee. The hotel grounds had zebras, alpacas, giraffes and baboons wandering around. The social program at the end of the conference was walking with lions and cheetahs. We went on a safari. The people hosting were great. The only thing I didn’t like was the stress of haggling at the craft market.
  3. Hyderabad, India – 8203 miles: We follow the best trip with the worst trip. The hotel location was terrible. The only thing within walking distance was a mall. There were no decent sidewalks, so walking around was hard. I was sick most of the time and then had an injury to deal with. The hosts were friendly enough, but we have clearly moved in to “we are hosting a conference and the conference is all that matters” territory with the group. They didn’t seem to care if we had a good experience in the country and seem to be discouraging family from accompanying the attendees. Very disappointing.
  4. Manila, Philippines – 8555 miles: Like India, the hotel location wasn’t great. Mainly malls in the area, but nice sidewalks and crosswalks and some decent parks and restaurants around as well. It was extremely hot, so we walked around until lunch and then went back to the hotel to cool off and wait for my wife to be done for the day before going out again. The hosts were friendly and did drive us around the day before the conference started so we could see the area outside the city. We also had the option of using the driver to go to the mall, but opted to walk instead. Still not as welcoming as previous countries, but better than India.

I Need a Vacation

I know that I’ve posted pictures from two different trips this summer. I know that as far as my job goes I’ve been on vacation twice this summer. I know that this means that no one will feel bad for me, but it doesn’t change the fact that I need a vacation.

I can’t find the post I read that talked about the difference between a trip and a vacation, so I can’t link to it, but I agree. I have been on two trips this summer. I loved the trip to England and Paris. I loved spending time with my family. I loved having both of my kids on the trip. I loved visiting all of the sites. It was also very tiring. It started with a long flight from Baltimore to London. Every day we were there, we had specific things on outr schedule to make sure we saw everything we needed to see. We had a schedule to follow. Some days were very long days. It then ended with another long flight back to Baltimore.  The second trip was accompanying my wife on a work trip to India. If you’ve read this post you know that was not relaxing. It also involved even longer flights to and from DC.

Most summers we try to take a trip as a family.  We love to travel and I wouldn’t give up my trips. The difference most summers is that we also take trip home to Kentucky to visit family.  These visits are different and more what I would call a vacation, not a trip. For the most part, we don’t have a schedule while we are there. We might have a few things we want to do while we are there, but there is no specific time or day we need to do it. I send a good amount of time relaxing and reading a book while we are in Kentucky. Sometimes I go see a movie, sometimes I don’t. It depends on my mood and what’s showing. We spend time hanging out in my brother’s pool. We wake up when we wake up and go to bed when we feel like it. There is no rushing around. There is no place we have to be and no specific time we have to be there. This is vacation.

This is what I’m missing this year. Time to relax and refresh. I am now less than three weeks away from my daughter moving away to college. I’ve started thinking about the possibility of a career change. I’m finding it hard to turn my mind away from the stress of life and work on my off time. I need the relaxing time away to help turn my mind off. I’m not going to get it this year so I need to learn to “vacation” on my time away from work, even if I am just sitting in my house.  Next time I take time off it will have to be more vacation and less trip.

A Throwback Thursday Travel Photo Post

My morning was interrupted again, so I did not have the chance to write today.  My memories on Facebook have been filled with photos from our trip to Zambia, so I’ve decided to share a few of those in a travel throwback Thursday post.



Walking the cheetah


Lion encounter






Victoria Falls

I Survived India’s Attempt to Kill Me

I posted pictures from my trip yesterday. Today comes my narrative of what we did and how I survived India’s attempt to kill me.

Wednesday of the trip is the first day our daughter and I are on our own while my wife is in her conference. In some cities(Seoul, Helsinki, Livingstone) this has been easy with options of interesting things to do within walking distance. This trip was more like Manilla last year where there was nothing around besides shopping malls. We decided to head the opposite direction from the mall from Tuesday night to find another shopping area. As we were walking, I hit a tree branch with my arm and was bleeding enough I decided we should head back to the hotel for a band-aid. The concierge decided I needed more and started wrapping my arm in gauze. While this was happening, the jet lag, stress, and bleeding all resulted in me feeling light-headed so I asked to sit. The hotel was concerned and after we got to our room they sent the hotel doctor to see me(and then tried to charge me for it at checkout). She tried to make me go to the hospital for a scratch. I did not. I rested a little and then we headed out to the mall across the street just to be out of the hotel. This was the night of the official dinner and every other year spouses of the delegates have been invited. India told my wife I was not invited, so instead of getting dressed up and going out, I stayed in the room watching TV with my daughter. It was probably for the best as this was the night that I also started having some stomach issues that would last for the rest of the trip. I did not sleep well that night.

The next morning, while my wife was finishing up her conference we stayed in and napped to make up for the lack of sleep the night before. That afternoon we were going out on the social program with the group. Unfortunately, it was raining, so instead of the tomb visit we were taken to a very boring museum. I wasn’t sure what was going to kill e first, boredom or continuing stomach issues. We left the museum and they took us to Charminar.img_0950It was a very interesting site and saved the day a bit We were able to go inside and tour a little and was also served tea. There was a bazaar in the streets leading up to it, but we were warned not to shop because it was dangerous. After Charminar, we went to dinner where unfortunately for the guy having stomach issues, my wife decided to opt for the spicy food bus. We went to a local restaurant famous for briyani. It was good, but I could ony eat a little of it.

Friday we were taken to Ramoji Film City for the day. We had been told that we would have to pay our own way(all other countries gladly included accompanying guests. India, not so much) but they did end up just paying for all. Film City is kind of like Hollywood studios. We saw film sets for famous Indian films and watched some shows. I was feeling a little better and the buffet lunch had some bland foods that helped. While on breaks, we tried to get someone to tell us where we should go to shop for souvenirs. No one seemed to know.  A few said Charminar, the place they said was too dangerous to shop the day before. It was very unhelpful. They finally said that one bus would be going shopping at a market that had a little of everything. My daughter was very excited to get her souvenirs that night so we wouldn’t have to figure it out the next day. Turns out they took us to the equivalent of a Wal-Mart with nothing worth buying. It was right down the street from our hotel. An annoying end to an annoying trip.

Saturday, we ubered out alone to a craft village we had read about. Turn out it was the perfect place to shop for loca gifts. I’m not sure why no locals told us about it. We had several hours to but local handicrafts and every left satisfied with their purchases. We then headed off to the airport where my daughter was flagged for extra security screening and our flight was held an hour after we boarded to wait for connecting passengers who were late. Thus led to our flight to DC from Delhi being held for the 30 or so of us who were late because our flight was held.  Air India apparently has the policy to hold flights to accommodate connecting passengers who are late due to Air India. We made our fight(despite crazy, multiple security checks in Delhi airport) and made it back home. I’m finally starting to feel somewhat normal despite India’s attempt to kill me with trees and food.

Tater In India

Doing this on my phone from the hotel room. Please excuse typos.

We arrived at our hotel in Hyderabad at 5:30 PM local time yesterday. We didn’t have much time to do anything at all. We walked around the hotel, discovered the pool is closed for renovations and ate at one of the hotel restaurants. We were all boring and got boring American type meals. We all slept pretty good and feel like we have adjusted to the time change somewhat.

Our first full day started with the very nice breakfast buffet at the hotel. American hotels need to adopt this model and offer nice hot breakfasts for guests. We then Ubered(with our Indian government guide) to Golconda Fort.

After the fort we took a break and spent some time reading and watching TV in the hotel. We then called our hosts about going out to the Birla Mandir temple. We again Ubered our with a guide and visited the temple. We were not allowed to take electronics in, so all I have are pictures from the outside after the visit.

We then walked down a the temple to the government offices of our hosts where our guide had someone waiting with a car to drive us around the lake and back to the hotel.

We braved the walk across the street(traffic is crazy here) to the mall for dinner at the food court.

Tomorrow the conference starts so likely no tourism. My daughter and I will probably browse the mall and explore the rest of the hotel neighborhood and then relax. The welcome dinner will follow.

Thursday and Friday the cultural programs begin and we will be on a tour bus full of government auditors from other countries.