Magistrale Diaries: The warmth of Komsomolsk

24 Jul

The clock advances to 06:27 and on cue, train 667 comes to a halt. On the wide main platform outside, dozens of people are waiting for family and friends to alight – its quite the reception party. Past the station building, passengers make their way through a sprawling plaza towards the parking area, to city buses and rickety old trams. We are the first arrival for the day, and Komsomolsk-na-Amure is slowly coming to life.P1010511 Continue reading

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Magistrale Diaries: Khabarovsk, we meet again!

16 Jul

The last time we passed through this way was over 3 years ago. The Rossiya was running 90-minutes behind, and our brief stop in the city was chilly and all too foggy. It’s a much clearer day today; temperatures are hovering around the 30C (85F) mark, and this time around we find ourselves on the business end of Khabarovsk station…
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Unmistakably Utah

22 Jun

I still recall my first visit to LA, when, as a student, the cheapest ticket I could find was via Salt Lake City. My transit through there wasn’t particularly long, but a single glance outside was enough to make me want to return to Utah.

Return I did, several years later, to the southeastern corner of the state, only to realize that Utah was much too large and far too beautiful. Three years have passed since, and I’m in a different part of the state now, but its that very feeling creeping up on me yet again…P1000791

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The Crescent to the City of New Orleans

14 Jun

Any hopes of eating southern-style barbecue are quickly dashed at JFK itself. Presidential activity, the pilot informs us, as we finally join the endless queue for takeoff. I arrive at ATL so late that even the airport’s own restaurants have called it a night. Save for a lone Diner, downtown Atlanta doesn’t fare too much better, and to make matters worse, its several degrees cooler than NYC…

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Le Canadien

23 Apr

How long are you in Toronto for? Just a few hours, I reply. I’m actually headed to Vancouver. How long are you spending there? Not a lot, I’m literally taking the train west and flying back home from there. Perplexed for a moment, the immigration officer at Pearson International hands me back my passport. Hope you’re carrying a good camera, he says, as he ushers me through.

By the time I’m done wandering around downtown Tee Dot – a city that looks and certainly feels very different in the winter – I saunter in to Union Station, with only a half hour or so to spare before departure. Blissfully unaware, all the while, that there is a special lounge for sleeper class passengers within.

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Patagonia, the last hurrah

21 Dec

Patagonia, that humongous swath of land, which makes up the southern half of Argentina, is also its least populated region. Only a handful of towns exist within, most of them established in the late 19th or early 20th-centuries. San Carlos de Bariloche, in the Patagonian province of Rio Negro, is one of its better known ones.

A favored winter sports destination by Argentines, Chileans and Brazilians alike, it is equally popular in the summer months, attracting hikers and mountaineers from across the continent. Not one to betray its European roots, Bariloche is also known for its alpine-style architecture, specialty chocolate shops, and an ever-expanding roster of microbreweries.

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Uco, the Valley of Goodness

26 Sep

Malbec is probably the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Mendoza. Possibly Mt. Aconcagua, for those more daring. Other than being a gateway to wine country, the city of Mendoza itself rarely finds mention. There are no riveting edifices; no monuments or museums of note, not even an imposing Iglesia. Taking cue from that, the city administration took it upon themselves to make the town as inviting as possible, no matter how long you choose to spend in it.

The result: Mendoza today is a perfectly pleasant city to amble around in, dotted with beautifully kept plazas, and plenty of exciting dining destinations. Boasting wide tree-lined streets, it’s also incredibly green. Surprising, when you consider it’s essentially located in a desert. Back in the day though, town planners were smart enough to channel the runoff from the precordillera (Andean foothills), through a network of irrigation channels, and the results are there for all to see…

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