Monday, August 19, 2013

The Ultimate Hotel For The Seasoned Traveler



Every time I stay in a hotel, I am annoyed by details which have become to me important issues that most of the hotels I've stayed in haven't tackled yet. So here are my rants, hoping someone will read them:

1) If you promise perks & benefits to guests that hold status with your program, deliver what your promise. For instance, if you promise top-tier status holders that they will be upgraded upon checkin if a higher category room is available, just do it.

I always check room availability on my smartphone minutes before I check in. I just hate it when I see that many rooms are available in higher categories and when I'm told at check-in : "I am sorry we can't upgrade you because we are 100% booked". I'd rather be told: "I'm sorry we're not going to upgrade you because we just don't feel like it". At least, it's not a blatant lie. Otherwise change the list of benefits of your program to "room upgrade depending on availability and mood of the staff member at check-in".

I frequently choose the hotel I'm going to stay at depending on the status I hold with the brand and the benefits that I should receive. When promised benefits aren't delivered, it just feels like I'm being ripped off. This is definitely NOT what you want your frequent guests to feel like.

2) By 2013, all hotels should have easily accessible electrical outlets AND USB ports on BOTH sides of their beds. I just hate it when I have to crawl under the bed to find an electrical outlet or even worse if I have to plug my phone away from my bed because there is no accessible power socket. I don't want to have to get up to get my phone in the morning or before I fall asleep at night.

3) If you charge for wireless internet access then let guests use as many devices as they want. Some hotels still charge on a per device basis and this is not acceptable anymore in this day and age. When I travel with my iPhone, iPad, MacBook & Kindle I just can't fathom being charged $15 X 4 everyday to have internet access. It just kills my mood and makes me never want to go back to that property.

How can you justify charging more for one day than what I pay per month for my cable connection at home?

And Please don't make me go through the trouble of logging in every 24 hours. It just upsets me. I don't want to lose 10 minutes every day to log all my devices back in. If Apple gives away free wireless internet access in all their stores without the need to log in, why can't you?

4) Please provide your guests with decent broadband speeds. 256k isn't acceptable anymore. Every guest should have at least 5Mb/1Mb. I just can't stand it anymore when I update my apps on my iPhone in the morning and it takes me 25 minutes compared to 30 seconds at home. In addition, if I have to restore my iPhone from my iCloud backup, it just shouldn't take me three days (as recently happened to a friend of mine)

5) Get rid of old iPod docks that won't work with most recent iPhones. Get bluetooth speakers a la Jambox that will work with any phone or tablet. You can't imagine how frustrating it can be to see an iPod dock sitting on your bed side table and not being able to use it to charge or listen to music from my iPhone. I just makes me feel like I'm staying in a hotel that was never renovated.

6) Let me open the door to my room with my smartphone so that I don't have to carry a key with me.

7) Let me charge my electronics inside the in-room safe thanks to an integrated electrical outlet.

Any hotel that will comply with these simple suggestions will likely greatly enhance their guest experience. So why not do it right now?


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best Prepaid iPhone Plan in Buenos Aires (Argentina)


In my quest to find unlimited prepaid data wherever I go, I present to you the results of my trials and errors in Argentina!

Finding a prepaid sim card with unlimited data in Buenos Aires was, to say the least, not easy. After browsing multiple websites in English and Spanish (keep in mind I don't speak Spanish), I was under the assumption that the best deal for me would be to get a Movistar sim card. I, thus, went to a Movistar store where I bought a prepaid sim card for 50 Argentinian pesos (=US$10) (it came loaded with 10 pesos of credit) and was told that I would be able to use their unlimited internet plan for 1 pesos per day.

It took about an hour for the card to become active but data access never worked. I went back to the store where I was told that customer service was handled by a dedicated support store to which I went (you have to be ready to lose time when you want your prepaid sim card to work). I was given there various APN settings that I all tried thanks to the Rebel Sim card website and their custom APN configuration page (you could also try the original unlockit APN changer website but it is now limited in functionality). Nothing worked. So, I resorted to a different carrier and went to a Claro store.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Ultimate Question Of Battery Life, The Universe And Everything


Yes, I'm an Apple Fan Boy.

Yes, I love Apple products.

Yes, I actually use them.

And this last statement is actually the source of my rant as for the last five years, I have been constantly obsessed with the battery life of my iPhone (from V1 to 3G to 3GS to 4 to 4S and finally iPhone 5). Each new iPhone with each new iOS iteration brought more features, less power consumption but more or less the same battery and in the end the same battery life.

What Apple failed to realize is that releasing a less power hungry chip doesn't compensate for the increase in use and functionality when coupled to the same battery.

All the talk about great battery life is just marketing BS to me. The iPhone has great battery life if you don't use it. But isn't the point of having a shiny iPhone to actually use it? What if you're heading to the airport after a long day of work (or actually a short day of work) and realize that your boarding pass stored in Passbook won't be available when you get to the airport because you don't have enough battery left?

Well, that's my life and the following picture is what I fear the most and yet see very often:


FaceTime Vs. VoiceTime


Am I the only wondering when Apple is going to unleash the real power of FaceTime by not implementing a new feature but actually giving users the option to choose between videoconferencing and voice calls?

Videoconferencing has been the holy grail of communications for a very long time until it was actually released and most people realized it was actually uncomfortable and awkward to broadcast their image.

Nevertheless, Apple managed to make Apple fans use their FaceTime product more than they had ever used any kind of videoconferencing software or device. One of the best features of FaceTime is that it uses data connectivity (originally wifi and now cellular as well) to establish a session, hence letting people communicate internationally for free.

The next best thing, in my opinion, will be when Apple decides to let users opt out of the video and and only use Voice (they should name this VoiceTime), therefore letting people call each other for free using internet connectivity.

Now, I see you wondering: this is not new, Skype did this years ago... Well yes and no... The genius idea behind FaceTime was to use one's cellular phone number as a FaceTime ID. In the same line of thinking, Apple could very well allow users to use their cellular phone number as an ID to make voice calls, effectively looping the loop by doing so: users will use their phone number to call other users' phone numbers but they will be bypassing cellular carriers' voice infrastructures and only be using data networks. I could very well see Apple becoming a data-only carrier and be a game changer in that area.

Now do you get it? VoIP calls using one's cellular phone number as their ID!

Another Worthy Burger in Strasbourg (France)


Every once in a while, fate smiles upon you. As most of you already know, my wife and I founded the "Share-A-Burger" initiative in December 2004 in a genuine attempt to change the world one burger at a time. If you're not already a fan by the way, please like our facebook page immediately.

As of today, we have 479 fans sharing the love of burgers and even better, a restaurant in Strasbourg that serves burgers using our GNU General Public License Burger recipe with only minor modifications. So, do not hesitate to go try it for yourself at Le Catsy's Chez Frieda!

And of course: May The Burger Be With You All!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summer 2012 Burger Awards

Following up on last year's Burger Awards, here is this summer's list of the best Burgers I've had.


Starting with this beautiful Bacon & Cheddar Burger with Jalapenos and Red Onion from Bill's Bar and  Burger in New York: I loved the generous amount of Jalapenos as well as the overall texture and taste of this one!




Bacon cheeseburger at The Corner Bistro: Although this burger was good, I must admit it didn't live up to the hype of being The best burger in New York City. I, later, learned that the chef that used to prepare this rumored excellent burger doesn't work at The Corner Bistro anymore which might explain my relatively disappointing experience:

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Bazaar At SLS Hotel Review (South Beach, Miami)


The recently opened SLS Hotel in South Beach offers two great dining options: Katsuya and The Bazaar by José Andrés. As I had already dined at Katsuya's in L.A., I opted for the Bazaar.

First off, I have to say I really like the overall design of the hotel. You can see Philippe Starck's touch everywhere and although it is not as original as it once was, it still is very pleasing to the eye.

The Bazaar is supposed to be less adventurous in the molecular gastronomy field than the chef's signature restaurant Minibar in Washington, DC. It, however, doesn't cease to surprise.

One great example is the cocktails menu. I ordered a "clean and dirty Martini" as a pre-dinner drink and was not disappointed. The salt air (the foam on top) combined with the liquid olive at the bottom made for a very original taste for this classic cocktail:


My Favorite Rooftop Bar in New York: 230 Fifth



Sipping a cocktail on a sunny afternoon in New York while contemplating the skyline is an absolute delight. This is the reason why there are many rooftop bars in the city and I can only recommend any newcomer to the Big Apple to experience it. 230 Fifth is located at 230 5th Avenue (making it rather easy to remember its name/location) and it is a must-go.

Enter the building, be nice to the bouncer and head for the elevators to reach the top floor. Children are only allowed between 4 and 6pm so keep this in mind as my suggestion is to go there before sunset so as to enjoy both the daylight, sunset and night views.

More pictures after the break:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Another Secret Bar In New York: Bleecker Heights Tavern


Should you ever wander on Bleecker Street in New York after 4pm and stumble upon the Five Guys burger joint pictured above, then follow this route: head to the counter but instead of ordering food (which is something you can also do before following my instructions), follow the restrooms sign and...

Friday, August 17, 2012

WD~50 Molecular Restaurant Review (New York)


There aren't that many places in the world where one can have the opportunity to eat molecular food. As New York City is one of them, I took advantage of a recent trip there to have dinner at renowned chef Wylie Dufresne's WD~50 restaurant.

First off, let me say that I was surprised by the relatively casual setting of the restaurant which is not necessarily a negative point. If you're sitting at a table, you only have two options: the "Tasting Menu" and "From The Vault". Both are preset menus, the former representing the latest take on molecular gastronomy of the chef and the latter focusing on his all-time classics. We decided to order the tasting menu with wine pairing as it had more items and we wanted to try as many different dishes as possible.

Dinner started with a molecular Grey Goose Dirty Martini with a 2D paprika oil disk just to be in the mood for the molecular dishes to come! This 2D disk is a nice and original attempt at replacing olives with something less common. Then came the "Nigiri, Salsify, Seawed, Sesame" which I found to be tasty and interesting in structure:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A New York Secret Bar Experience (Please Don't Tell)


Secret bars are nothing new but they make for a very special and fun experience. As I had the chance to try one of them, I can only secretly share it with you. So: Please don't tell!

I can't tell you all about it but I strongly suggest you go pay a visit to Crif Dogs on your next trip to New York. If you love hot dogs, you will have the chance to taste the best hot dog in New York so don't hesitate to order one. Here's what the entrance to Crif Dogs looks like just a few steps down from the sidewalk:

                                                                

Once you're in, you will be facing the counter where you can order New York's finest hot dot. And don't get me wrong, many people come here only for hot dogs so it is usually packed and the secret bar is hidden well!

Delta Business Elite Flat-Bed Seats Review



As I recently traveled on the Frankfurt - New York JFK route with Delta, I have to share my impressions of Delta's Business Elite Flat-Bed seats. As you can see above this relatively new seat uses the "pod" design and does provide the passenger with a very wide armrest which is large enough to leave your food tray should you feel the need to get up while in the middle of your meal.

You will aslo find a regular power source as well as a USB port which should be plenty enough to charge your electronic devices while aboard. The In Flight Entertainment (IFE) system is a pleasure to use as the user interface is very responsive (compared to Air France's extremely slow IFE where there's almost a second lag after each press of a button).

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Carl Jung, The Borgs & Twitter


Carl Jung believed in a collective unconscious shared by all members of a species. This idea echoes in Rupert Sheldrake's theory of morphic resonance where he posited that acquired changes in one individual of a species will instantaneously benefit other members of the same species.

Subsequently, wouldn't it make sense to think that Twitter is a new medium capable of broadcasting the collective unconscious to the world and can therefore modify humanity as a whole through our sharing of conscious & unconscious thoughts?

One may argue that Tweets aren't unconscious but many Twitterers will answer that most of their tweets are either semi-conscious or at least less censored by their super-ego than oral speech.

I can't help but think about the Borgs in Star Trek that are connected to "the Collective" via a subspace link in a somewhat similar fashion than my favorite aforementioned social network. They are all inter-connected but this network deprives each individual of their freedom. Call me an optimist, but I believe that Twitter is, on the contrary, a powerful liberating tool that will enable us to better understand our neighbors as well as our species in its entirety.

Let the little bird tweet and liberty will certainly ring!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Behold The NiederBurger


Not content with being the hypest food in France at the moment, the burger is also subject to various Alsatian takes on its recipe.

The French love to do things differently (is that the reason why Steve Jobs would very often refer to France in his keynotes?) and the Alsatian people take pride in setting themselves apart from France. You might ask yourself if that is a good thing in the realm of burgerness and here I come to give you the ultimate answer (which differs from 42): IT IS A GOOD THING.

I had the extreme pleasure of sampling two different Alsatian burgers in less than a week and can only conclude that although they both strayed away from the Classic Burger that I love, they were both excellent and very original. The former is featured in my previous blog post here while the latter is the subject of the post you are reading now (isn't that logic?).

I loved the idea of creating a very tasty and juicy burger using a custom-baked pretzel and crusty and thick patty. The result was absolutely great and I can only advise every single one of you to pay a visit to l'Atelier du Sommelier in Niederbronn-les-Bains (Alsace, France) to try other delicacies (I'm not 100% sure they have the burger on their menu so call in advance should you wish to sample it).

And of course to set things right, my delicious burger was preceded by a fantastic and genuine Caesar salad (in the American sense of the term, not the usual French interpretation of the Caesar salad):

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Alsatian Burger is Here



Though it may not be the corner stone of any nutritious breakfast, the Alsatian Burger featured at La Tocante Restaurant in Vendenheim is a delightful combination that has to be had! The idea here is to replace the bun with potato pancakes (or "Grumbeerekiechle" as they call them in Alsace) and serve ketchup on the side. The closest idea that comes to mind is, of course, KFC's Double Down sandwich.

As for the meat in my burger, it was not only perfectly cooked but juicy and tasty as well. Moreover, the cheese melted to perfection definitely added a plus to the cheeseburgerness factor of the whole thing:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

1741 Restaurant Review (Strasbourg, France)

1741 is the much hyped restaurant that recently opened in Strasbourg. Since everybody's talking about it, I had to review it and let me tell you right away: I was not disappointed.

First of all, the setting is absolutely stunning. The place is decorated with great taste and everything in this restaurant is about details. The staff is extremely professional and nice. The ubiquitous Hermès chinaware is just something that you wouldn't expect to see anywhere even in the most expensive restaurant in the world.

1741 consists of 4 floors amongst which the third one is a slightly more casual one which only serves a "surprise" menu prepared right next to you in the open kitchen located on the same floor.

1741 is, in my opinion, the restaurant that Strasbourg was lacking. It made me feel I was away from my hometown and eating at the trendiest place in New York City. There is no question as to if you should try it or not if you live in Strasbourg. So, here are some pictures of the exquisite food served there:

Well it started off with an excellent chip Pizza (who doesn't love chips and who doesn't love pizza?):



Followed by a cloud of morels & chive (Yummy):

Friday, June 8, 2012

I Can Has Consciousness


I'm in the habit of listening to podcasts while driving. As a matter of fact, I've come to hate most of my local radio stations as I find it rather depressing to listen to news which are usually focused on one sole thing: keeping their audience by tackling fearsome topics. I've found myself to be in a much better general mood since I decided to let go of local radio stations and started to pick the shows I wanted to listen to while driving.

I've only discovered "The Skeptic's Guide To The Universe" recently and must say I really enjoy it.

The last episode I listened to (Ep. #358) dealt with theories of consciousness which I find to be a much more interesting topic than the global economy. Facts & theories were presented in a very clear manner and left for the audience to decide towards which side they personally leaned:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Twitter & The Time Machine Paradigm


As I finally managed to use the word "paradigm" in a post title, I'm sure it will be read by millions of highly intelligent people so I'm really really going to be very cautious with what comes next.

The advent of social networks and the multiplication of tweets, facebook posts, instagram pictures, tumblr entries etc. have dramatically changed the nature of the Internet by speeding up its evolution and relevance.

I tweet, you tweet, we all tweet. We leave digital artifacts of our lives at any moment and from anywhere. This, in turn, lets us interact with other people though we may never meet them in real life (IRL). There is no doubt, in my mind, that this has a profound impact on the way we relate to the world and one another.

Have you ever realized that Twitter & social networks in general constitute time machines? What better way will future digital archeologists have in order to understand the past than to go back in time by exploring its tweets? How intriguing can it be to just go back to the twitter timeline at the time of a historic event so as to cease the thoughts of the many?

Think of this in terms of "what if Napoleon had had a Twitter account?"

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Build-A-Culture & The Obsolete Concept of Citizenship


Before I start with this blog post, let me say that I welcome all comments and critics as I'm sure they will be constructive. I am about to tackle a very sensitive subject that may anger, scare or infuriate some readers.

In my first blog post ever titled "Culture shifting" back in 2007, I intended to describe how modern telecommunication technologies shaped our present at that time. What I wrote, back then, couldn't be more true now.

Most of us, now, have the technological means of immersing ourselves in a totally different culture than the one we geographically live in. Thanks to the Internet, our everyday newspaper can be one from a city located in a distant continent. The same goes for the television shows we watch or the books we read. We even have the ability to almost call anyone on the planet for free thanks to VoIP.

So what does that really mean?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Best Burger in Newquay, UK


As I was on a trip to Newquay (UK), I thought I'd take advantage of this visit to sample some British burgers. I had done my research before my trip and it seemed that Bank Street Bar & Grill was the place to go for the best burger in town.

Well, let me tell you, I wasn't disappointed at all. I ordered a Bank Street Bad Boy Burger and Boy (no pun intended), I loved it! I usually don't like any burger interpretation that strays away from a classic burger but this time, I was impressed. My chili sauce and the combination with excellent meat, tasty bun and cheese was just delightful.

Paris CDG VIP Fast Track "La Conciergerie" Review


Although the general public may not be aware of it, Paris airports offer personalized services to assist premium customers. As with all Premium services, "La Conciergerie" comes with different levels of service: VIP Fast Track, VIP Premium & VIP Ultimate.

I recently had the chance to try their VIP Fast-Track Departure service and must say I was quite impressed and happy with it.

Upon our arrival at CDG, I called the Concierge number that had been texted to me while I was on my way to the airport. A few minutes later, our concierge showed up at the entrance of the 2E terminal. She accompanied us to the Air France First Class checkin counter (we were flying Economy, I am a Flying Blue Platinum member) and handed our passports & frequent flyer cards directly to the checkin agent. Two minutes later, we were already on our way to security through shortcuts that are not accessible to the general public and that are faster than the regular fast-track lanes labeled "Acces No1" for premium passengers.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Best Burger Blogs

I have a passion for burgers and I love to take pictures of them. There are, however, dedicated blogs that do a much better job than me. So here's my list of not-to-be-missed burger blogs:

- Burgerachttp://www.burgerac.com/




- Burger Junkieshttp://burgerjunkies.com/

Drool more after the break:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

British Airways Club World & World Traveller Plus on the Londow Moscow Route Review


British Airways recently introduced long-haul aircraft configurations to their London Heathrow - Moscow route. This three hour flight used to feature their intra-european product with Economy (Euro Traveller) and intra-european business class (Club Europe). As of now, British Airways offers long-haul seats on these flights with World Traveller (Economy), World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy), Club World (Business Class) and First cabins. This is, in my opinion, a great improvement. As I was travelling on award tickets on my recent trip to Moscow, I had the chance to fly Club World from London to Moscow and then World Traveller plus on my way back. So here is my humble trip report!

As a OneWorld alliance Emerald member, I was entitled to use British Airways Galleries First lounge in London and I must say I was impressed. The design of the lounge is contemporary and original. I like their lamp/horses at the entrance as much as I like their champagne and wine offering:


Bollinger Rosé Champagne pictured below:


Gusyatnikoff Restaurant Review (Moscow, Russian Federation)


As you may expect, the Pushkin Cafe isn't the only fine dining restaurant in Moscow. Gusyatnikoff is another place that definitely is in the same category. We went there on a week day and were taken a bit aback when we realized that there didn't seem to be many other customers besides us. As a matter of fact, it looked a bit deserted. Nevertheless the setting was very nice managing to mix contemporary and classic designs. The restaurant is made of many different rooms closed by doors so you can't really tell what's happening in the next room (we could tell that other customers were singing in the room next to ours but that didn't bother us as it only added an even more pittoresque touch to our evening).



We had to have Caviar at least once during our trip in Russia and I must confess we were not disappointed by the Beluga Caviar featured in the menu:


Of course, we continued our meal with a Borsch which we absolutely loved combined with  the excellent bread pictured below:


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cafe Pushkin Review (Moscow, Russian Federation)


The Cafe Pushkin in Moscow is arguably the best restaurant in town. Although it looks very classic, this restaurant is new to the Moscow scene as it only opened back in 1999. This place was actually made up by French singer Gilbert Becaud in the famous 1964 song "Nathalie" where Becaud talks about going to "Cafe Pushkin". It is rumored that many French tourists would want to pay a visit to Cafe Pushkin when in Moscow only to realize that the place did not exist. Finally, in 1999, Andrey Dellos gave life to this mythical place by opening a real Cafe Pushkin on Tverskoy boulevard where the food is influenced by both Russian and French cuisines.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Le Buerehiesel (Strasbourg - Restaurant Review)



Strasbourg used to have the privilege of hosting two three-star Michelin restaurants: both Au Crocodile and Le Buerehiesel shared this honor. However, recent changes in the local fine food landscape led to a single star downgrade of their red guide rating. I already covered what happened to Au Crocodile in the aforementioned link so it only seems logical to tell the story of Le Buerehiesel.

While Au Crocodile was sold to another chef, Le Buerehiesel continued its family tradition as Eric Westermann (former chef & owner Antoine Westermann's son) took over his father's restaurant. Most critics will emphasize the fact that he followed his father's vision while striving to make this holy temple of food a bit more casual.

So what about the food?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Best Prepaid iPhone Plan In Moscow (Russia)



During my preparation for an upcoming trip to Russia, I researched and found what I believe to be the best prepaid iPhone plan in Moscow. As you may already know, my lifelong goal is to avoid the outrageous data roaming fees charged by French mobile carriers! So here come my step-by-step instructions on how to use this plan that will give you 300 minutes of local calls (landline & any mobile carrier), 3000 SMS, 3000 MMS & unlimited data (bandwidth capped at 64 kbps after 1Gb) for RUB500 (= US$17) for 30 days.

S' Musauer Stuebel (Strasbourg - Restaurant Review)


This hard-to-pronounce-for-a-non-local restaurant is a hidden gem. Located far from downtown Strasbourg, it is well worth the 15 minute drive. If you love meat, you won't be disappointed by both the quality of the products and their preparation. The staff strives for 100% customer satisfaction and frankly, how could you be disappointed when you see what is in your plate?

Aux Trois Chevaliers (Strasbourg - Restaurant Review)


Aux Trois Chevaliers is one of my favorite restaurants in Strasbourg. The quality of the food is only matched by the dedication of the team to guarantee customer satisfaction (such a rare oddity in France that it is well worth mentioning).

You will love the stripped down decor adorned with huge mirrors that give a contemporary work-in-progress feel to this old Winstub.

Monday, April 16, 2012

PizzBurgers Strasbourg Review


There seem to be no rest for the true Burger lovers in Strasbourg these days and this is a very good thing in my unbiased opinion... Well almost unbiased...

Last november, Speed Burger opened a location in Strasbourg and I reviewed them here. There is now a new alternative to burger home deliveries in our great alsatian city thanks to PizzBurgers. I tried them out twice and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of their burgers. I found them to be more than reasonably good and the selection on their website is quite large. Most importantly, both times I ordered, delivery was fast and the burgers were still burning hot when they arrived!