What To Do: Dubai Stopover (2017)

One of the best options for traveling to the Middle-East and/or Asia is on the Dubai flag-carrier, Emirates. If connecting through their Dubai hub, one benefit of traveling with Emirates that is available to you is their Dubai stopover program. Once you book your flight through Dubai, call the airline and have of them adjust your reservation to extend your connection at no additional cost. Or, simply, book through a travel agent and tell them you’re interested in the program. When I travel to Hyderabad in the the coming weeks, I’ll be taking advantage of this program to experience the futuristic city.

  1. Eat dinner at Nusr Et Steakhouse: Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach. Nispetiye Caddesi No.87 Etilera
  2. Visit the Dubai Mall: Financial Centre Road, Downtown Dubai
  3. Take a Desert Safari Ride
  4. Go to the Dubai Opera: Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai
  5. Take the monorail to Palm Jumeirah – one of the largest artificial islands in the world in the shape of a palm tree
  6. Stroll along City Walk: 39 Al Safa St (at the junction of Al Wasl & Al Safa Road)
  7. And finally, look up at the Burj Khalifa: Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai

Nusr Et Steakhouse

First off, it’s a rare occasion when a social media phenomenon collides with my life. And it’s an even rarer that I would coordinate such a feat for myself. Second, we’re talking about the Turkish meat master. And finally, getting reservations at Nusr-et Dubai felt like the beginning of a religious experience, a unique sensation that I’d never previously associated with dining out. Here’s why:

I respect this man, Nusret Gökçe. He commanded my attention, like much of the internet’s, when first appearing on youtube and treating a piece of meat with more respect than most people get on a daily basis. Each motion is a stroke devotion, practice and love. His demeanor exudes respect and he clearly has a relationship with the meat through life and death.

salt bae

His respect for the animal sold me. Time and again I find myself watching his videos, his technique and that finesse.

I’m not ashamed to say that if this man offered an apprenticeship I would start it all over to learn from the master.

I very much am looking forward to experiencing his cuisine and culture.

Take a Desert Safari Ride

Yes please. As someone that has never experienced a proper desert or safari excursion, this is the s’more of traveling abroad. Riding around in 4x4s, camel treks, sand skiing, it reads like a fantasy or a movie.

As intriguing and exciting as a Desert Safari sounds, I can’t honestly say I’m a fan of extreme heat and dust storms. But nothing is perfect. Dubai is definitely an environment that is foreign in every sense and I am very much a home-grown American but I am not deterred. As a cap to my travels in and around India and Dubai, I’m most compelled to experience the extremes this time. Not to be sidelined; to enjoy such an experience vicariously through my family.

I can always be humbled by nature. Irreverence to time and impervious to my (individual) impact. As much as traveling to India is of bucket list quality, experiencing every biome, the majesty of nature is not just nice. I believe to be necessary.

I seek to return humbled by such beauty.

Brunch in Philadelphia

If you’re one of those rare college students who tends to wake up before noon and likes to partake in some quality eating to start off the day then brunch sounds like the restaurant genre for you.

Philadelphia is home to an eclectic variety of brunch restaurants only a short and cheap train ride away and certainly affordable on the tight college-student budget.

The closest to St. Joe’s happens to be right on campus. The new and popular Landmark Restaurant, walking distance for most of us, does in fact serve brunch on Sundays with about six or seven unique breakfast dishes including Breakfast Nachos, Heuvos Quesadillas, and Steak and Egg Burrito, none of which hike above $10. The menu also includes about twelve lunch dishes including the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake Sandwich, Fish and Chips, and Seafood Bisque Bread Bowl.

Café Lift, located in the Loft District (not far off of Route 676), offers a variety of both egg based dishes
(excellent Huevos Rancheros) and griddles such as the Canoli French Toast (as good as it sounds) for those who don’t mind indulging early in the day. For those who’d rather skip breakfast, “Café Lift” offers an array of salads and paninis as well.

Another less expensive choice is Sam’s Morning Glory Diner located a few blocks below South Street’s Magic Gardens on 10th and Fitzwater. The small, changing menu is made up for in quality. My recommendation? The Frittata—fluffy with fresh grilled veggies and served with an enormous hunk of biscuit. Their homemade jam is excellent as is their coffee. Give this place a visit. You won’t be disappointed.

Of course you can’t mention Philly restaurants without a Stephen Starr. “Jones” is a fun, 1960s, almost Brady Bunch themed restaurant that serves brunch on weekends from 10AM until 3PM. Jones is slightly more expensive but don’t let that discourage you – a quality meal under $10 is certainly possible and still a superb choice. A few things worth noting on your first trip: if you love a simple breakfast sandwich, the Jones Biscuit Sandwich is a must. The Monkey Bread ($8.50) is a mouthwatering pastry to split between your group before your meal.  The orange juice is fresh squeezed and worth the $3.75.

For those who don’t mind spending a little time waiting and some extra money, try Green Eggs Café. With three locations (one in south, north, and midtown Philadelphia) Green Eggs is known for its commitment to being environmentally friendly. Their products are bought fresh and locally and their herbs and spices are grown in house. Dishes are often too big to finish in one sitting. Griddle-fans will be in brunch heaven here with French Toast flavors of peanut butter, crème brûlée, and tiramisu. Get there early, it’s quite popular.

Philadelphians take pride in their Brunch. No one does it better. Take advantage!

The Best Time to Visit India

From Jaipur to Hyderabad. The Taj Mahal in Agra to the Venkateswara Temple in Tirumala. India is land dominated by culture, filled with structural wonders and beauty that reflect a history of majesty. Indeed bucket list-worthy; the beautiful landscapes and the distinctly eastern architecture tell stories of one of Earth’s oldest civilizations.

But before you buy a ticket, let’s discuss the best times to visit.

India boasts a wide variety geography and climates due to its landmass and rapid changes in elevation ranging from the snow-capped Himalayan mountain range to low fertile plains and even the Great Indian Desert in the West.

Typically, the best time to visit is between October and March but a prudent traveler would take into consideration that the increasing temperatures in April and May may provide discounted airline and hotel rates.

I will be traveling to Hyderabad in mid-March this year; stay tuned for updates!

Mardi Gras in New Orleans

The city of New Orleans [‘NAW – linz], home to the most soulful brand of jazz and funk that’ll leave your spirit in an elated daze for months. You’ll be tapping your feet to this city’s tunes a long while after you’ve departed while staring sideways at the frenzied humdrum of busy East Coast living—separated’ enlightened. You’ll notice the lack of humanity in most places once you’ve left; the serene, hospitable personalities, the soulful energy, the conglomeration of cultures meshing and working together to create not a dull shade of brown, but an explosion of art, a celebration of life’ won’t exist back at home in the stale suburbs of North Jersey or the brash brawns of South Philly. If Dixieland had a motto, it’d be ‘Slow and Steady Wins the Race.’ If New York had a motto, it’d be ‘Slow and Steady Wins the Race My Ass.’ For New Orleans, it’d be ‘What Race? This Dance Floor Aint’ No Competition.’

Mardi Gras is French for ‘Fat Tuesday,’ a Christian day reflecting the practice of eating rich, fatty foods, and drinking in high quantity on the last night before the traditional fasting of the Lenten season. This story’s evolution from its humble, religious beginning to the iconic event it is now speaks only to the unfaltering energy at this city’s core. So, when attending a world famous event in a city that’s no rookie to partying, going in blind is a risk not wise to take.

My recommendation for shelter: Airbnb. It’s affordable, manageable, and you’ll find yourself in the residential areas of the city, which, if you’re like me, is something to be absorbed: the bold architecture, the hip people, the array of colors, the intrusive botany, the funky street art all ooze a wonderfully original creativity unique to the city.

My recommendation for food: eat out’ as often as your budget allows. This is soul food at the highest possible quality.

Further advice: don’t let your hangover keep you down. The southern sun is a beautiful remedy in the heart of winter. Don’t expect too much nudity, it’s going to be a little chilly. Don’t get too used to being able to leave the bar with your beer because you may make this mistake once you’re back home. Go with good friends. You’ll leave great friends.

Last but certainly not least: don’t bother with Hurricanes being sold at every bar in the French Quarter: very little alcohol, tons of sugar—paralyzing hangovers in waiting.

Road Trip Essentials

So you’ve decided to incarcerate yourself in a small metal object with one more other humans for hours on end, great, you’re in for a good time. But let’s say you’re trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as “legally” possible. In that case, you’re going to need some additional equipment.

 

(Disclaimer: Guys don’t speed. Don’t go on a Cannonball Run. Don’t watch the movie The Gumball Rally. It’s illegal, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible.)

Radar Detector

First things first, you’re going to need a radar detector. Radar detectors are a perfect example of “you get what you pay for”. A big box store Belltronic’s or Cobra unit is just never going to compete with a high-end Escort or Valentine unit. Depending on how fast you catapulting down the highway, if it saves you from one ticket than it has already paid for itself. More modern units use directional arrows to tell you where a threat is coming from and use a GPS to show what the speed limit is on the road you are currently on. Additionally, both Valentine and Escort have iOS / Android apps that transmit speed limits, speed traps, false alarms and more.

iPad Mini

Something I never thought I would recommend until I actually used one, an iPad Mini. One of these with a data connection is an invaluable tool on a road trip. With a proper mount, it makes a perfect GPS as its larger screen is easier to glance. Traffic apps like Waze are amplified on the iPad too as you’ll be able to see obstacles and threats even farther ahead. Finally, the iPad can interact with the radar detector to really paint a picture of what is waiting a few miles up the road. Speeding may not be advised but, it helps to be prepared.

Sunglasses

Part of feeling good is looking good….and it might help when / if you get pulled over.

Power Inverter

It’s easy enough to charge a cellphone or power your radar detector off of a 12v cigarette outlet but when you’re carrying laptops, cameras, iPads and other larger devices you are going to need more power. A small power adaptor will allow you to charge bigger battery pack and devices. A 400w unit should be sufficient but be realistic with your needs. A 400w will charge most devices but, you’re not going to run an air mattress pump off of it.

12v Splitters

A cigarette lighter splitter is a cheap way to keep everyone happy. If everyone can charge their phones simultaneously than you can run a GPS and let your passengers be on Instagram when you’re sick and tired of talking to each other.

EZ-Pass, Fast Pass, Sun Pass, Etc.

Depending on which states you’re traveling through you’re going to want a highway toll pass. They save time and allow you to forget how much you’re paying the state to swerve around their potholes. The North East primarily uses EZ Pass which is linked to a transponder whereas Florida uses a tag that is linked to your license plate. These can typically be picked up ahead of time online or at highway rest stops. Check out local laws. It’s worth noting that on a cross country drive, tolls only become an issue when you get to the East.

DSLR or Film Camera

Your iPhone 7 may have dual lenses but it’s never going to compete with a dedicated camera. If you’re going somewhere worth making an epic drive for that you should make sure you some photos of the entire experience. If you have a laptop or iPad with you than you can even edit the photos to kill time on the highway. Arguably the most important reasons to bring a camera are that better photos get more traffic and if there isn’t evidence on social media, did it actually happen?

Turo – A Better Way to Rent a Car

In the past year I’ve done stints in Baltimore, LA and Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, all three of these have required a rental car at one time or another and being a dedicated car guy at my core, nothing depresses me quite like a wheezy Toyota Camry or equivalent. Lucky for us there is an app out there that can bring salvation to those of us who like a bit more passion and style in the rides.

Turo is a recent addition to the app world and is essentially AirBNB for cars. People can list their personal vehicles on Turo for rent and then app takes care of the rest. Turo provides insurance, protects both parties and makes for an amicable experience. Like AirBNB, some hosts are more accommodating than others and Turo helps you find those that are willing to meet you at the airport for pick up and drop off. The best part is that not only do people list some fantastic cars but they do so at a reasonable price. These are just two of the Turo cars that I’ve used in the past year:

BMW 328i Convertible

Since I was in LA for a week a drop top was an absolute necessity. I rented this awesome 328i convertible and was able to enjoy California that much more when I wasn’t stuck at work. The owner was extremely easy to work with. He dropped the car off to me outside of baggage claim and met me at the terminal to take it back before my flight. Total cost for 7 days: $470 or $67 per day. As BMW fanboy I was pretty satisfied.

Porsche Boxster S

Baltimore’s close proximity to DC means that sometimes I’m required to go between them. A few weeks back my Tacoma was down for repair and my 325i was still waiting on parts leaving me with no car. Since trains end up being ~$70 one way, I knew there had to be a better option. There was. And for $150 I had a 6 speed Boxster S to play with for three days. In this case I took an Uber about 6 miles outside of the city to pick the car up and when I arrived the owner pulled it out of the garage, tossed me the keys said “please don’t wreck it”
and went inside. He didn’t even check to see if knew how a clutch worked.

In conclusion if you need a rental car and want a bit more thrill for not a lot more money, give Turo a shot. If you’re really trying to make it interesting, combine Turo with AirBNB for business for a very unique traveling experience.