London – Transport and Beer – March 2014

London – Transport and Beer – March 2014

Photo of a London double deck bus (2009).

Photo of a London double deck bus (source: Andrew Nash, 2009).

The Urban Data from Fetish Object to Social Object conference in London (see previous post) was fantastic, lots of great ideas discussed by people doing really neat things with social data. Sjors Timmer did a nice post about the conference.

Photo of Camden Town Brewery London 2014 - Tour in progress.

Camden Town Brewery London – Tour in progress.

I enjoyed my trip to London, a city I have not visited for some time. Mostly I walked around and enjoyed the great weather, sunny and 20 degrees the whole time. Of course I found time to sample some traditional beers at the Churchill Pub in Kensington (great Thai food too), the Camden Town Brewery (see photo – next time I’ll plan ahead so I can go on one of the Thursday evening tours!) and the Carpenters Arms in Bloomsbury.

On Saturday I rode a double decker bus on Oxford Street … the view from the top front makes you really appreciate the skills of the bus drivers … pedestrians all over! Then on to the London Transport Museum‘s Acton Depot where there was a special open house (see photos). The Depot is where the Museum restores objects and keeps objects for which there is no room in the main Covent Garden museum building. It’s only open a couple weekends a year and I was lucky enough to be there for one!

London Transport Museum Depot in Acton

London Transport Museum Depot in Acton

My flickr photos of the London Transport Museum Depot are in my flickr photos of transport museums.

My flickr photos of London.

San Francisco – February 2014

San Francisco – February 2014

Just returned from a nice visit to San Francisco … great weather and lots of interesting meetings. The photo above is of Yerba Buena Gardens looking towards the SF MOMA which is currently being expanded/remodelled.

Around the corner from the photo above I ran across my first set of Bay Area Bike Share bikes. Great to see that San Francisco and the Bay Area are becoming more bike friendly. Here’s a photo of the bike station at 3rd and Howard streets.

I seem to be running into bike sharing everywhere I go these days: Washington DC, New York, Brussels, San Francisco and, naturally Vienna, one of the first cities to have public bike sharing. There are photos of all these bike share systems in my flickr set Bike Photos.

No trip to San Francisco would be complete without visiting (or re-visiting) some of my favorite restaurants. In my short trip I could fit in Delfina Pizza in the Mission … had a really delicious Broccoli Rabe pizza with a Lagunitas Little Sumtin’. The breadsticks at Delfina are addictive. Great meal for just under $30 including tip (with a couple slices to bring home). By the way the Pacific Heights Delfina looks to be bike friendly from the photo on the website. Cool.

Bay Area Bike Share station at 3rd and Howard streets in San Francisco.

Bay Area Bike Share station at 3rd and Howard streets in San Francisco.

Broccoli Rabe pizza at Delfina in San Francisco.

Broccoli Rabe pizza at Delfina in San Francisco.

Sign in front of Henry's Hunan restaurant, Sansome Street, San Francisco.

Sign in front of Henry’s Hunan restaurant, Sansome Street, San Francisco.

I also returned to one of my all time favorite Chinese restaurants: Henry’s Hunan. I first started going to Henry’s Hunan in 1984. The Sansome Street location was on my way home from work and I would stop by, sit at the counter and watch as the women cooked my dinner in the huge woks three feet in front of me. It was a great experience and I learned a lot about cooking with a wok. Unfortunately that location was damaged in the 1989 earthquake, but there are several other Henry’s Hunan in San Francisco.

Anyway, I went into the Henry’s Hunan on Sacramento (just east of Sansome) and sat at the counter. It really reminded me of the Sansome Street location, women cooking in woks three feet away and all. I had one of my favorites: hot and sour chicken. When I left I noticed a sign by the cashier saying that the restaurant was designed to look like the original (so I wasn’t crazy). I mentioned to the cashier that I had eaten at the original and he said, you must have known my father and grandfather then … right, he’s third generation! The food remains great and my hot and sour chicken rice plate was $7.50 for a large portion. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

Visiting friends in Berkeley we stopped by at the hardware store and I found several items which I really need. These photos require no further explanation.

Civil Engineer tape available at Berkeley Ace Hardware.

Civil Engineer tape available at Berkeley Ace Hardware.

Plasticville USA model available at Ace Hardware Berkeley.

Plasticville USA model available at Ace Hardware Berkeley.

All to soon my visit was over and I returned to Vienna via Zurich on Swiss International Airlines. Here’s a photo of our A340 as we waited to board. I always enjoy flying Swiss via Zurich, it’s relatively quick and the times work out well.  And of course, there’s my music video “Flowers in Your Horns” which I made for a contest Swiss organised when they started flying to San Francisco. (OK, I should say I enjoy it to the extent it’s possible to enjoy a long flight in economy class these days … and, oddly, the airlines always ask you if you are satisfied with the seats in their surveys, shouldn’t they know by now that no-one is satisfied with a standard economy class seat? – but, I digress.)

Swiss A340 San Francisco International Airport - February 2014

Swiss A340 San Francisco International Airport – February 2014

Brussels – Les Super Filles du Tram

Brussels – Les Super Filles du Tram

Photo of hamburger and french fries at Les Super Filles du Tram in Brussels

Hamburger and frites at Les Super Filles du Tram Brussels.

How could I not eat at a place with the word “tram” in the name when I visit Brussels?

Les Super Filles du Tram is a busy restaurant near Place Flagey in Brussels. Their speciality is hamburgers. I’ve been twice (so far) and both times it was very good.

The staff are friendly and speak English well. They even seem to enjoy it when you try to speak French with them. I started my conversation trying to say “I don’t speak French”, the barman corrected my grammar, but said it did not matter since he spoke English!

I was in a hurry and the barman was super efficient at taking my order, bringing my food and bill. Very nice!

The food is quite good. Because I was in a hurry I ordered a simple burger cooked medium rare.  I haven’t had a better hamburger in a long time. It was flavourful and loosely pressed (I hate really dense hamburgers). Nicely toasted bun with salad and tomato. The frites were also quite good, well cooked and crisp.

Door mat at Les Super Filles du Tram restaurant in Brussels - neat.

Door mat at Les Super Filles du Tram restaurant in Brussels – neat.

The beer selection is fine, but not great. I had a Chimay the first time and a La Chouffe last time. But, it’s a place to go for a good, fast and simple dinner, you can go elsewhere to enjoy an evening beer tasting.

My burger, frites and beer cost about 15 euros with a decent tip.

Vienna – Glacis Beisl

Glacis Beisl Vienna - entrance on a winter night.

Glacis Beisl Vienna – entrance on a winter night.

The Glacis Beisl is one of my favorite restaurants in Vienna. Located in the MuseumsQuartier, it’s a very comfortable place with a great garden in the summertime.

The room is large and comfortable. It’s no smoking (inside) and the noise levels are fairly low.

They give you the option of having linen tablecloth and napkins, bread and a spread (Gedeck, cover charge in English) or not. This is really a nice feature and makes the restaurant good for both formal and informal dining. You should specify which you want when you make a reservation (or come into the restaurant).

The service has been very good every time I have visited. The staff are nice, speak English and are helpful with menu choices. The menu itself has an English translation on the last page.

The food is excellent. Whether you want traditional dishes like Wiener Schnitzel or Tafelspitz, or more creative cooking. Their food comes from good sources, local and often organic. The bread is from Joseph Brot (a local bakery) and is fantastic. They have a changing menu and standards. Like many Viennese restaurants they have a daily lunch special including a main course and soup.

The wine list features many very good Austrian wines by the glass and bottle. This is a nice place to experience Austrian wines. They feature a rotating winery of the month. The beer is good (Eggenberger and Budweiser from Czech Republic).

We love to take visitors to the Glacis Beisl to taste excellent Austrian food at a reasonable price.

Vienna – 1500 Foodmakers

Vienna – 1500 Foodmakers

Table reservation card at 1500 Foodmakers in Vienna.

Nice touch, I’m their buddy!

On New Years Day we tried the restaurant 1500 Foodmakers located in the 25 Hours Hotel in Vienna. We reserved and found the sign in the photo waiting for us on a nice table.

The restaurant is very comfortable. Tables are big and well spaced. The music is good, you can hear it but it’s not disturbingly loud. It’s possible to have a nice conversation. It’s no smoking!

The staff were excellent. Very friendly and accommodating.

The food was very good. Generally simple dishes, but with a hint of complexity. We had 4 pizzas and a salad. All were very good. The menu also featured some pastas and interesting dishes. There was a nice basket of “pizza bread” with olive oil and salt waiting on the table (no charge). Much of the food seems to be sourced locally or at least with quality in mind.

The wine list is very nice with lots of good Austrian and international wines. We had a very nice Merlot for 25 Euro a bottle.

In the summer they have a converted Airstream Trailer outside where they cook hamburgers with picnic tables. We’ll certainly be back!

Antwerp – December 2013

Antwerp – December 2013

MAS Museum Antwerp

MAS Museum Antwerp

I visited Antwerp in December as part of a business trip to Brussels. Antwerp is only about a half-hour from Brussels Airport and there are about two trips per hour from the Brussels Airport train station.

MAS Museum Antwerp - view from one of the sky lobbies.

MAS Museum Antwerp – view from one of the sky lobbies.

The main purpose of my trip was to visit the Museum aan de Stroom (MAS). The MAS museum “tells the story of the people, the past, present and future of the city of Antwerp and the world.” The building, as you can see from these photos is really spectacular. There are changing exhibits and permanent exhibits about the city and port as well as some more esoteric subjects. You can ride the escalators up the building to a lobby on each floor without paying admission. From the 9th floor you can walk up a set of stairs to the roof where there’s an outdoor area with spectacular views of the city and river. It’s a very neat museum and experience.

De Groote Witte Arend Restaurant Antwerp - courtyard.

De Groote Witte Arend Restaurant Antwerp – courtyard.

Next I had lunch in a restaurant called De Groote Witte Arend (Flemish only website) which specialises in Belgian cuisine and beer. It’s on the other side of the historic city center from the MAS museum, about 15-20 minute walk. The building is quite old, there’s a short history at the back of the menu. For many years it was a nunnery and there is still a chapel off the side of the courtyard. The restaurant has several rooms arranged around the courtyard. It was quite quiet at late lunch on a mid-December weekday, but I can imagine it being a lot of fun when it’s crowded.

Carbonnades at De Groote Witte Arend restaurant Antwerp.

Carbonnades at De Groote Witte Arend restaurant Antwerp.

I ordered one of my favourite Belgium meals: carbonnade (or: Vlaamsche Stooflees in Flemish). It’s beef stew cooked in the local dark beer and is said to be the national dish of Belgium. Generally served with “Belgium” fries, here with a chicory salad too. The version here was the best I have ever had, the beef was cooked just right and the fries were just out of the cooker, the salad was a great counterpoint. One of the best meals I ate all year! I drank a De Arend blond beer with it. The waiter was extremely friendly and helpful (in English) in helping me pick a beer. In short, a great place to visit for the food and the beer!

Antwerp Zuiderterrace

Antwerp Zuiderterrace

After lunch I walked over to the river, it was a very grey day, but it’s always fun watching the water go by. There’s a beautiful art deco building that serves as a boarding ramp for large passenger boats, now there’s a restaurant inside too. It has great Antwerpen signs.

Photo of tile diagram showing St Anna Pedestrian and Bike Tunnel under the Schelde River in Antwerp.

Beautiful tile illustration of the St Anna Pedestrian and Bike Tunnel under the Schelde River in Antwerp.

Next I walked across the street to the St Anna pedestrian – bike tunnel located at the Sint-Jansvliet square (end of the Hoogstraat).

St Anna Pedestrian Bike Tunnel Antwerp

St Anna Pedestrian Bike Tunnel Antwerp

This historic landmark is a 572 meter long tunnel under the Scheldt river. It was built in 1931-1933 to link the old city centre with the settlement on the left bank of the river. The building looks like the Battery Tunnel entrance in Manhattan and so I fantasised about filming a Men in Black parody here … They have preserved the wooden escalators, but there’s also an elevator for bikers. Quite neat.

St Anna Pedestrian Bike Tunnel Antwerp

St Anna Pedestrian Bike Tunnel Antwerp

I walked back through the old city to the Central Railway Station. The station has been renovated in recent years to allow trains to travel through on their way from Brussels and south, to Amsterdam and north. I visited while it was under construction several years ago, but now it’s finished and it’s wild. At least four levels of trains plus connections to the city’s metro system. They managed to keep the historic train shed – beautiful – and headhouse building. The photos here do not do the station justice, it’s very hard to photograph … just visit it!

Antwerp Central Station

Antwerp Central Station

The trip back to Brussels took about half an hour (we did not go via the airport station). By the way, it was very easy to buy my railway tickets on line at the Belgium railway’s website www.belgianrail.be.

Check out soundbitecity blog’s post Beer City Antwerp about Antwerp brewery DeKoninck and restaurant café Pelgrim across the street … they’re on my list for next time!

Here’s a link to my flickr photos of Antwerp. Here’s a link to a map with my flickr photos flickr Antwerp photos map. 

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