18 March, 2010

How to dress for Europe and Not Get Sold Into The Paris Sex Trade.

...or how not to get mugged for being an American while in Europe.
...or how to not look like a complete American idiot while on vacation in Europe.


Daddy, they're in the room!
It was about three years ago when Shan and I boarded that plane for Europe for the first time. While we were under the false precept that our previous domestic travels would give us some sort of preparedness others might not have, we made one one fatal mistake; we had thought nothing of clothing and dress. I was naive as are most Americans first traveling abroad. While I consider the faux pas a simple first time mistake, at least I can laugh about it. I've seen the movie "Taken" where the young girl is kidnapped and put into Paris's sex trade because she was obviously "clocked" as an American. That crap is scary, I was lucky I made it out of London alive looking like I did.

Looking back, dying my hair a golden beach blond like a Los Angeles surfer girl wasn't the best idea. Buying bright, white NIKE running shoes (trainers), and packing bright colorful clothing probably wasn't the best of ideas either. I'm sure I looked like Coco the clown had just stepped out of the circus and into London the day I landed at Heathrow.

Okay, Lessons learned, wisdom has been gained and noted. You can all now peel yourselves off of the floor and stop laughing. On the other hand, if you're reading this and wondering, "what's wrong with white sneakers in Europe?", well then, definitely you're American.

She scares me, no really, she does.
I'm now so aware of this atrocity that I habitually cringe when I see the Lutheran lady pick up the day-care kids from school, with her bright white shoes. (She's 90, she ain't going to play tennis people.) The kind of shoes that require a bottle of shoe lacquer applied daily and can signal helicopters to land for miles around in case of an emergency. Really when you put it into that sort of context, you've got to ask for the country collectively as a whole, "what the hell were we thinking?"

Last year we traveled better, we learned from our mistakes. Scarfs we picked up in London, arm warmers, and dark clothing. The experience was dramatic in comparison to our first attempt, when ever we went to the counter. Often treated as a local, without the preemptive eye-roll, till we spoke with our rather obnoxious American accents.

When it came time to buy the shoes for that trip, we knew we still wanted athletic shoes that could be worn when we arrived back stateside, to walk the dog, run, or shop. The difference this time was that we made a plan. We found dark colored, and often non-synthetic choices for us to choose from. After scouring the web for European brands like Ecco, Bensimon, and Munro, we ended up at a local shoe store where we purchased some nondescript and sensible, tan athletic shoes. Perfect for walking miles upon end in Paris, or London and they blend in enough to not get us mugged for being American. (Or sold to some Parisian)

I don't want to suggest we succeeded at trying to dress like a European, because such nuances of culture is much more difficult than these silly rules; more that we we're trying to tone down our ingrained American appetite for hideous patterns, bright colors, and brand name clothing. Our plan was simple: dark colors, preferably black or brown, and nothing brighter than dark reds and gray. Simple usable outfits that work, but won't leave us feeling tired or out of place.

Repeat after me everyone... "I will not be the obvious American."

07 March, 2010

Best Restaurants & Food in Dallas

In-N-Out's secret menu makes their burger's and fries some of the best food in Dallas.
A few years back I began traveling every summer to Dallas, Texas. At the time I was trying to find cheap, good eats: food the locals eat- even fast-food if necessary. The problem is no one had really posted anything on it, and I ended up discovering a lot of these places on my own throughout the years. Usually when I go to Dallas, I'm in the Dallas North, or Addison area, and I'm unfortunately tied to take-out or drive-thru due to the circumstances surrounding my time in Dallas. I realize there's a whole lot I've missed, and would gladly love to receive recommendations for future trips.


Cheap eats: Gator
1. Coolest Food: Fried Alligator
At Papa Deaux's, you can get all your cajun food including gumbo, and my favorite: fried alligator. It's not cheap, but it makes for one of the coolest meals you'll ever have. It comes with brown sauce that's out of this world, and make sure they give you bread and butter which is a French baguette and real whipped butter. It's out of this world.

2. Best Burger: Burger Street - This by far was the one place recommended to me over and over again. The lines were always out the door, and they advertise "Texas Chili" right on the sign. Like 5 Guys, or many of the other modern "big" burger restaurants you'll end up with a massive burger dripping in grease, cheese and all the toppings. I like that they use romaine instead of iceberg lettuce, and found it to be one darn good burger. Of course there are several MUST EAT burgers from California that have made their way into the Dallas market:

  • In-N-Out's Double Double.
  • Carl JR's Double Bacon Western Cheeseburger.
It's a nice indulgence at the end of a busy day in Dallas: Sticky Fingers Pizza.

3. Best Pizza:  Mr Jim's Pizza - One of the things I love to do when I travel is get a pizza from a restaurant labeled as the local's favorite. When I saw the ads saying that Mr Jim's had won The Best Pizza in Texas award I knew I would have to try it. I ordered what they call a "Sticky Fingers" Pizza along with a small order of wings and a salad. By all means, it's good. Definitely comfort food, and uniquely different from any other pizza I had. The hot wings were more spicy than the stereotypical red sauce hot, but really good. The salad had tons of veggies and they've got a great ranch sauce.


4. Best Burritos (including breakfast burritos): Taco Joint - This isn't actually near the side of town I stay, it's about 9 miles away but worth the drive. At the Taco Joint you can grab a humongous 14" Great Gordo for breakfast crammed with fresh eggs, bacon, potatoes and cheese for breakfast, or a pork and grilled onion burrito for lunch or dinner. They're the best burrito in Dallas, no doubt. If you can't make it to the Taco Joint, I can highly recommend you supplement it with another California favorite of mine in Dallas:
  • Del Taco's Macho Burritos (Breakfast and Beef).
    • Also try their Deluxe Chili-Cheese Fries, which are excellent.

5. Best Tacos (fast-food): Taco Bueno caught my eye the moment I landed. It's a chain of fast food Mexican restaurants that differentiate itself by being more authentic and offering fresher ingredients. It's also really good. I knew it was good when some of the people I came to visit who were local went there for lunch. While I didn't get a chance to grab one; they do offer breakfast burritos, something I love and is rarity to find outside of the fake ones at McDonald's west of CA. I had a chalupa and a taco. Yes it was good, but what really makes it awesome was the salsa. Also consider what I consider to be the crack of drive-thru tacos: