Last night while at the Kuwait Airport waiting for my Lufthansa flight I got the message above on my phone. They changed the departure gate after I checked in so Lufthansa sent me an SMS informing me of the gate change. I thought that was pretty cool.
I’m currently in Lebanon for the weekend and earlier today I went paragliding. Now that I’ve tried it I think everyone should when they visit Lebanon the next time since it’s a pretty cool experience. It wasn’t something I had planned to do, I was snowboarding with a friend and during a break we started talking and I found out he paraglides. So I told him I wanted to try it and he called his friend up and we booked an appointment for 2PM. Once we were done snowboarding we headed to the take off location which was high up in the mountain above the area Jounieh. The view was obviously spectacular and the weather was fantastic.
It was me and another girl who were planning to paraglide. It’s a tandem flight meaning you fly while strapped to an expert. You start off high up in the mountain and end up down right next to the sea (where I am pointing in the picture above). There was only one expert so the girl went first and I waited for them to land and get back up. The spot we were taking off from is a popular location and right after they left, 3 military men (I think they were French) arrived and also took off in sequence.
To take off the wind speed and direction need to be right and when it was my turn we didn’t have to wait long to go. I was strapped to the paraglider and when he told me run I had to run. Then suddenly just like that we were up in the air. It was an incredible feeling and surprisingly not very scary. The only parts that were freaky for me was when I was Instagramming the picture above live while up in the sky since I was worried I would drop my phone while doing so. The second scary part was when he gave me the controls to fly for a bit. It’s pretty simple to work but still the idea that I was flying the thing was freaky. The whole flight took around 20 minutes.
So yeah if you’re in Lebanon the next time you should definitely give this a try. The whole experience cost me just $120. To book an appointment call Caroline on +9613559992 or visit their website for more details [Here]
Over the holidays one of the cities I traveled to was Rotterdam and while there I was lucky enough to meet the mayor of the city Ahmed Aboutaleb. Before I left Kuwait my friend in Rotterdam told me he managed set up a meeting for me with the mayor and that we would have 30 minutes of his time followed by a private tour of City Hall. I was pretty thrilled, I hadn’t been to Rotterdam before and getting to meet the mayor on my first visit was really exciting.
We got to City Hall early because obviously we didn’t want to be late for the mayor. Once there we were given a very friendly welcome by the mayor himself and his staff who all met us outside at the entrance of his office. Once inside the mayors office we were led to the seating area where I was told to sit opposite the mayor. On the table in front of us was a little stand with three flags, a Dutch flag, the flag of Rotterdam and the Kuwaiti flag since that’s where I was coming from. Their hospitality and professionalism made me feel like I was someone very important.
We started talking about the weather first since that’s always a good ice breaker and then the conversation shifted towards the city and finally to the way the mayor runs the city. One thing I loved is the fact he checks his emails personally. Everyday he receives on average around 50 or 60 emails from Rotterdam citizens regarding various topics and he reads them all himself. Then depending on what the email is about he assigns various members of his team to follow up and sort the issues out. Rotterdam is the second largest city in Netherlands but the way he runs things hands on you would think he’s running a small town like Pawnee. I loved that.
After my 30 minutes were up I was given a parting gift by the mayor and then had a photo taken with him. I was then given a tour of City Hall before I ended up leaving for lunch. It was such a great and inspiring meeting that it made me more determined to want to be the Mayor of Salmiya one day.
Over the holidays I stayed in two different hotels in two different cities and I had really good experiences with both of them. If you’re planning to go to Amsterdam or Paris I would recommend you check these two out:
Le Citizen Hotel – Paris
I took the train from Amsterdam to Paris and the hotel was around a 15 minute walk from the Gare du Nord station. At first I thought the hotel was going to be far away from everything but it turned out to be close to the Metro and walking distance to many popular places (by walking distance I mean 30 to 60 minute walks). The hotel overlooks a canal and so doesn’t have any buildings blocking the views from the window. I stayed in the Zen room which was really spacious and super trendy with a colorful lounge like area, a large bathroom and a beautiful bed. I didn’t wanted to leave the room. The wifi at the hotel is fast and free and the staff were very friendly. The next time I go back to Paris I’m definitely staying at this hotel again. [Link]
Albus Hotel – Amsterdam
Although my room at the Albus wasn’t as great looking as Le Citizen it was still modern and trendy. What I really loved about the hotel though was the location. The hotel is a 30 minute walk from Amsterdam Centraal or a 10 minute tram ride. You’re also close to a lot of popular hotspots in Amsterdam and no matter where I went, all the roads somehow led back to the hotel. In case of late night munchies there is a McDonalds and a Chipsy King 2 minutes away from the hotel. The hotel staff were friendly and the internet is free but… only at the slow 256K speed. If you want faster internet you need to pay for it. I’d most likely stay at this hotel again on my next trip, great location and not very pricey. [Link]
I’ve never eaten at a Michelin star restaurant so when I found out there was a restaurant with two Michelin stars in Rotterdam, I decided to to try it out. The restaurant is called Parkheuvel and at one point had three Michelin stars before losing two stars and then gaining one back again. I was worried I wouldn’t find a table available since I booked the night before but I did find one and to my surprise the restaurant was actually empty when I was there for lunch.
I decided to go with the fixed 5 course menu option since I wanted to try as many dishes as I could. Below are the dishes I was served with their descriptions written underneath it. Of course when they presented the dishes to me they explained it in a much more elaborate way:
Green pea soup with sausage foam. The soup is inside the crunchy sphere.
Lobster, crab and goose liver.
Lightly simmered scallops with cauliflower and hazelnuts.
Grilled turbot with risotto.
The main course: Lamb with artichoke and potato stuffed with something.
Dessert, golden pearl of white chocolate filled with blood orange and a side of lemon icecream.
When I got the soup I thought it was funny at first but then I appreciated the fact that the soup didn’t look like soup since it made it different than any other soup I’ve had before. I thought the scallops and the grilled turbot dishes were incredible, lots of flavor and like nothing I had tasted before. I actually liked the risotto that came with the turbot more than the turbot itself and I’m not a big risotto fan. Everything else was also good but nothing really stood out like the scallops and the turbot.
The portions as you can see were pretty small making it more a tasting experience than a dining one. The service at the restaurant was the best I had ever experienced with very friendly and extremely knowledgable staff. Price wise the 5 course meal cost 110 euros (around KD40) which I think is very reasonable considering it’s a two Michelin star restaurant. The experience overall was well worth it and has made Michelin star restaurants more approachable and less intimidating to me. I always had the impression you would have to pay an arm and a leg to dine at one and that you would never be able to find a table. Now I know that’s not always the case.
The main reason I went to Japan was for the Electraglide music event which turned out to be so worth the trip. The event was held in two huge halls with a third larger hall between them that served as a refreshment area with picnic tables all around. There were 15 acts playing there that night with the event starting at 9PM and finishing by 6AM. There were always 2 acts playing at the same time so people spent a lot of time flip flopping between the 2 halls which was actually pretty fun to do.
My favorite acts that night had to be Orbital, Squarepusher and Flying Lotus. Once we were done from the event we headed straight to the Tsukiji fish market for some fresh sushi for breakfast which worked out perfect since I don’t think I would have been able to wake up that early any other day. I took a lot of pictures that night but I’m just gonna share some of my favorite ones I had up on Instagram which you can see below. Oh and I’m back.
I’m off to Tokyo for a few days and will be back next week. I’m going to Electraglide Friday night which should kick ass since Orbital, DJ Krush, Kode9 and Flying Lotus will be playing sets among others.
If anyone has any recommendation of where to go let me know. I am looking for weird stuff.
Update: I forgot to add that I’ll be constantly be posting pictures on my Instagram account so follow me @mark248am or check out my online profile [Here]