Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: January 2014

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Nostalgic Travel Post | London in February of 1999

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Travel to London in February of 1999 

Visiting London via Zurich for a solo trip back in '99

Hell ride. I only slept two hours on my flight to Zurich. I watched two movies and loved The Wonder Boys. In Zurich I switched planes to a smaller aircraft called "Cross-Air". I had a two hour layover and a one hour delay. I landed in London at 11:10 a.m. (one hour late), this was 5:10 a.m. my time. 

I lost my luggage and arrived at the backpackers hotel at 1:30 p.m., slept until 4:30 p.m., got up and waited for my luggage until 7p.m. While I waited, I watched the Simpsons with the other backpackers and later went to dinner at Pharmacy [a Notting Hill restaurant designed by Damien Hirst].

Pharmacy Bar London

Pharmacy was within walking distance of where I was staying. I arrived around 9-ish. They could not seat me, so I waited in the bar. I waited for over one hour [by myself]. I made friends with the bartender, he was a little English version of Tom Cruise from Cocktail (minus the skill + some bad tattoos). He set me up, charged me £5 for two drinks that would normally cost £20. I flipped him a £5 tip. 

They had Absinthe on the bar menu, so I tried an Absinthe Martini. Advice: No need for a date rape drug if you drink Absinthe - so don't drink it! 

Finally I went upstairs to the restaurant. My meal was excellent. I was really turned off by the place when I got there - it was very young, cheap, with bad music. But that was the bar. Upstairs in the restaurant area, it was more sophisticated - very chic. The food was phenomenal, I had the whitefish in a soy sauce broth with asparagus and cilantro on top of a corn meal casserole. Holy shit it was good. 

I do miss traveling. I shared my dinner with a Spanish business traveler and then met this girl my age with stains on her shirt and a face that looked steam rolled. She was Australian and had been traveling for over a year and a half. I wish! 

I came home from Pharmacy and hung with the staff and people at the hotel back at the bar for about 25 minutes. We were all laughing, it was fun. I really wish I had done it [backpacked] longer when I had the chance. 

If this job thing doesn't work out, I'm hitting the road. Why not run? Why should I stay in my stagnant reality when I could create my own reality everyday in a different country. 

My sleeping pill is kicking in....


Saturday, January 18, 2014

How to Instagram | Part One of the Instagram Studies by @leylaruinseverything

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Instagram Studies Part 1 - Displaying Content Online

I've been pooling information on Instagram for marketers and users. I plan to post everything in one comprehensive format, but until then, here's a bite... 

Displaying Your Instagram Content Online 
Slidagram is one third party Instagram tool which helps display your IG content better on your blog or other static websites. If you look to the the right hand column, you'll see a smaller IG feed (by snapwidget). The problem is that neither feed drives back to my Instagram account, instead they link back to the respective third party sites.

If you care about driving users back to your IG page... 

Perhaps aesthetics don't matter much? If that is the case, use the embed code provided by Instagram.

Each Instagram photo has an embed code that's easily found on the desktop version of IG. By using the embed code (vs. third party tools), you will drive people back to your account and potentially grow your followers and gain likes (if this is your goal).

The image will remain static, the look may not be as nice and you don't get the multi-image view, the rotation of images, etc. but there's certainly a benefit in using the native code from the IG. Your native profile pic is viewable, as well as the number of likes and comments on the photo. You can control the size of the image by changing it in the code, there is not a WYSWYG (drag / drop) option for sizing.

Another easy-breezy way of syndicating your content is to publish your content directly to Tumblr, a site that works fairly seamlessly with IG.

Please keep checking back for more updates on my blog *here* for more, or you can follow me on Twitter (@leyla_a) or Instagram where I will keep updates going too.

More posts on Instagram and other social tools here: 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

San Francisco in September Part 2 - #LeylaExpress

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Amtrak Trip Across the U.S. - Fall 2013 

San Francisco on #LeylaExpress - Getting Lost, Specs and Drinking Tap Beer
continued from San Francisco Part 1 

Getting Lost 
When I travel, I make no solid plans, l leave everything to chance. Should I happen across a rodent infested bar, and that rodent infested bar is occupied by toothless individuals, and if those toothless individuals should engage with me in delightful conversation, I might opt to remain in their company all night. I may prefer their company than.... say.... attend a Senator's dinner. Not that I am frequently having dinner with any Senators, but I wouldn't want to tie myself down to have dinner with a Senator, just in case a scenario such as the one I described should arise. I prefer to remain footloose and fancy free, in life, but especially in travel. 

Ordering a Drink at Specs
I've been to a thousand dive bars around the world, and if there is one thing I know about dive bars, I know better than to order tap beer at a dive bar. Will come back to this, so hold this thought

In that little alleyway across from Vesuvio Cafe, I found a hole-in-the wall, dive bar - Specs (this is where my dinner plans for that night went bye-bye).

Alleyway Bar Specs

Inevitably, one thing happens to me when I find myself in a hole-in-the-wall, dive bar - I freak out. I get nervous and feel like everyone is judging me. I imagine they're all thinking Go back to your fancy bar you big phony girl. They're not. They're not thinking about me at all, but this is how it feels as I stand at the bar trying to order a drink. I lose myself, I could be the best drinker in the world, yet in a hole-in-the-wall, dive bar, I'm nothing but an amateur. (This is probably why I find myself in so many drinking competitions, it's like I always have something to prove). 

I stood at the bar at Specs for some time contemplating my order. There was an aging Chinese bartender lady in short-shorts standing behind the bar waiting on me. I was taunted by the many bottles of fancy beer on the rail. The bar patrons were hardcore day-drinkers, they were friendly with the older Chinese bartender lady, but they looked at me with disapproving eyes. The Chinese bartender lady asked me what I wanted to drink, I fumbled. I starred off at the fancy beer bottles on the rail, I tried to say a drink, any drink, but all I could do was try to guess the Chinese bartender lady's age in my head. I looked back over at the patrons, the beer bottles on the rail, and then back at the Chinese bartender lady. She was well over 50, she was wearing short-shorts, but she looked pretty good - what was her deal? My brain continued into a 100 different directions - When did she come to the United States? How long had she worked at Specs? Why the short-shorts? What's with her accent? 

It was too much, I could not figure out the Chinese bartender lady, her short-shorts, or her life story, AND could not order a proper drink. I knew I was getting weird. I panicked, so I ordered the first thing I could think of, a light beer on tap. I may as well have ordered urine straight from a homeless man's penis. 

Specs San Francisco

I worked in bars from my early 20s through my early 30s, and I know that hole-in-the-wall, dive bars don't clean their beer lines (trust me on this). And as my lips uttered those words, a light beer on tap, please, my brain knew I was not only going to make an asshole of myself in front of all the patrons sitting at the bar at Specs, but I was going to consume cockroach babies with each sip of that light beer. 

As I suspected, my beer was disgusting, but I drank it anyway. They were playing Roy Orbison on the juke box, so I guess everything worked out OK in the end. Cockroach babies and all.

See my #LeylaExpress photos on Instagram
See my #LeylaExpress San Francisco Set on Flickr
Read more #LeylaExpress posts on my blog 
Read San Francisco Part 1 post on my blog 


Monday, January 6, 2014

San Francisco in September Part 1 - #LeylaExpress

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Amtrak Trip Across the U.S. - Fall 2013

San Francisco on the #LeylaExpress - Palace Hotel, Ferry Building, America's Cup, and Vesuvio Cafe 

Staircase at Palace Hotel San Francisco

Arriving in San Francisco
The train pulled into Emeryville at 8:10 a.m. and I hopped on the Amtrak Thruway Bus Service to the Financial District. I got off at a curbside bus stop and walked 6 blocks to the Palace Hotel (it should've only been 4 blocks, of course I went the wrong way, I'm an idiot when it comes to simple directions). I was extremely tired from my journey, but thankfully I was able to check-in early. Lucky for the front-desk clerk, because that early check-in probably saved his life, I don't think I could've been responsible for my actions should I have been made to wait. The free wifi I received was also greatly appreciated.

I chilled out for a while in my comfy room; I laid around in my fluffy, king sized bed and enjoyed temperature control for the first time in days - the train is either too hot or too cold. After a few hours, I got up, I took a hot and very long shower - although I love train travel, showering on a train is no treat. Next, I took my time getting ready, and for the first time in over a week, I did my hair and make up. After using a tiny train mirror that ginormous hotel mirror felt like an extreme luxury. Around 1:00 p.m., I left my hotel room and ventured into the city. I was excited as this was my first visit to San Francisco.  

Ferry Building Pier San Francisco

The America's Cup
I wandered towards the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building. I bought some dried cherries, nuts, and other items I could eat on the go. I talked to some people out by the pier, I snapped a bunch of pictures (over 300+ photos to be exact). And then, I slowly started to meander towards the America's Cup area. 

LeylaExpress San Francisco America's Cup

San Francisco America's Cup

Louis Vuitton - America's Cup

The America's Cup "park", or whatever they called it, was amazing, and it was a perfect day for sailing / boating / yachting. This experience was so unlike anything in the Midwest, or the horrible boating culture I am accustomed to in Chicago. No offense friends, there really is no comparison. But I imagine the America's Cup brings a certain level of wealth, sophistication and high-brow-ness that San Francisco doesn't experience on any given day either. In any case, The America's Cup was park area was very enjoyable, I drank champagne and ate oysters in the middle of the afternoon while pretending to understand what the boats were doing. I believe I even had the whities fooled. 

Getting Lost in San Francisco 
On my return, I didn't take the pier / waterfront back to the hotel, I made my way up the streets and took the long way. I figured I'd find my way back along the side streets. As far as I'm concerned, getting lost is the only way to travel. I do my best to get lost - often. I mean, when else does one have the time to get lost other than vacation? 

Uphill San Francisco #LeylaExpress

Leyla in San Francisco

I walked a bit through China Town (or at least that's what my travel notes say, frankly, I don't believe that's accurate, but who am I to argue with myself). I kept walking and took more photos, apparently I spent over an hour taking photos on my walk back - see all of my San Francisco photos on my Flickr account. 

Suddenly, I came across Vesuvio Cafe, and I liked the looks of it. It seems I was in North Beach standing outside the bar where "beat" poetry was invented, had I still been in my 20s, I would've cared. But, I liked the colors and I wanted to get a good photo, so started backing up to capture the building in it's entirety, I wanted the whole shot. I backed up more, and more, and more, until I found myself cornered in a small alleyway across the street from Vesuvio Cafe. 

See my #LeylaExpress photos on Instagram
See my #LeylaExpress San Francisco Set on Flickr
Read more #LeylaExpress posts on my blog