2008 Travel Report

Looking back at 2008 I discovered that it was a quiet one — travel-wise that is. Mostly I have to thank Etta for her appearance in May and becoming a good excuse for some no-fly-zone right before and paternity leave after, running into the summer.

  • Number of business trips: ~15
  • Flight legs: ~32 (+ 3 international trains)
  • Days away from home: ~67
    • London: 41 days (including one almost-a-month with whole family again)
    • Luxembourg: 11 days
    • San Jose / San Francisco: 7 days
    • Prague: 3 days
    • Brussels: 2 days
    • Paris, Athens, Helsinki: 1 day each (the latter only due to a canceled flight)

All-in-all, I was away 30% less and took almost 50% less flights than the year before. More video calls, logistical efficiency and less carbon footprint…

It was really nice to spend most of vacation time in Estonia, adding just over a week in Italy (first time there, btw) with two more flights. I am a bit sad not to make it over to Asia this year, those trips have always been a delight, especially Tokyo.

See also: 2006, 2007 travel summaries

Making wine at Crushpad

Grape cap
On a recent trip to California got a chance to visit [Crushpad](http://www.crushpadwine.com/). They are a high-end winery… where you are the winemaker. Some of my friends invested in them last year and one of them has been pushing a group of us to make a barrel of our own wine together. So we kicked off the process and it has moved along, for some reason without much enthusiasm from my part.
Now after being there, including a half-day [Crushcamp](http://www.crushpadwine.com/hostevent.php) ([full photoset here](http://www.flickr.com/photos/seikatsu/sets/72157607847026394/)) of hands-on winemaking, I have gotten really excited.

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Summer – over and out

It is obviously the back-to-school-and-work season now.

First: I’m receiving complaints that this blog has seen just 2 posts in last 2 months… In July nor August nobody cared, including myself. If you were one of those worried about silence – I now know that you have not subscribed to the feed. My Flickr feed you receive as an automagically embedded freebie when subscribing to this blog, has actually had a full trail of mobile snapshots of what has happened over the summer. And I have twittered.

Secondly, the travel season has started. Looking at the calendar, in the month of September I will drop by Tartu (spoke at Baltic Dynamics there last week), Pärnu (attending From Visions to Solutions), London (a wedding + Seedcamp), Athens (Skype Beta Days), Luxembourg, San Francisco / San Jose.

Hope this is enough chances to see you in person. And if not – I’ll try to be a better boy when it comes to dropping a line here on the way. Thanks, your pings to see if I survived the slow season are heartwarming.

Tallink Taxi – Service Matters

Just this week a new cab company launched in Tallinn. I’ve been quite happy with the one I (infrequently) use, but last night just thought I’d give them a try. And was in awe.

New bright yellow car, filled with shiny new gadgets, a big screen GPS, etc. Well, that’s what you get when you buy a whole fleet in 2008 and everyone else on the market has been around for 10 years plus.

But what was really special was the service. How often have you heard lines like these in a cab, anywhere in the world?

  • Sir, would you fancy listening to radio on the way this evening?
  • What would be your radio station preference?
  • How are you doing on cash? Just let me know if you need to stop by an ATM, but we do accept credit cards too, of course.
  • I haven’t been to your area often, so to aid my service with next customers, which would you say would be the most convenient ATM to stop by on the way there, if anyone needed to?
  • Thanks for riding with me, hope to see you again soon!

It was so different, polite and genuinely caring that I’m almost a little bit afraid to call 1921 again – maybe it was just this one guy… But I sincerely hope this meant that a newcomer to what seems to be a crowded market actually nailed what will make a difference.

Le Gavroche

Plate still empty
If you happen to be in London but feel the urge for really old-school French gourmet dining look no further than [Le Gavroche](http://www.le-gavroche.co.uk/main.html). The settings resemble of an antiques store and the full two-dozen strong hierarchy of waiters (all French, *bien entendu*!) are so stylishly arrogant that I almost felt let down by the gray-haired gentleman who first welcomed us at the door: he was actually willing to shut an eye on my blue jeans on the condition that our whole party of three men wore the ugly blue blazers he lent us…
At least on your first visit, stick to the 8-course *Menu Exceptionnel* (with wine pairing). My favourites from that shockwave of tastes remain the grilled scallop and hot foie gras with cinnamon duck. And the word is that people travel from all over the world just to try Chef [Michel Roux Jr](http://www.michelroux.co.uk/)’s (who was also visibly present at the venue all night) cheese souffle.
[Our full culinary trip is available as a photoset here](http://www.flickr.com/photos/seikatsu/sets/72157604148051496/).
**Verdict:** Le Gavroche might have lost one of their top Michelin stars since the eighties (today they have “only” two), but they are still very much worth your four hours of time and money.

Encounters with the Really Smart Cab Drivers

In October, I had what I figured to be one the weirdest cab rides ever. Our driver in Tokyo revealed surprising knowledge of Estonia and the Baltics, which he gained through his interest in… maps. If you assumed that the brave men of this trade limit themselves to just studying local street names, think again. (5 minute video clip of that ride available on Blip.tv)

Now, half a year later in London the following dialogue took place in an ordinary black cab, heading home with friends around midnight.

Driver: “Excuse me, listening to you speak I can’t help but wonder – are you from Norway?”

Us: “Close, but it’s actually Estonian”

Driver: “I though it sounded Scandinavian! I’ve never met Estonians before! Actually, you’re right, I was quite off – your speech sounds more like Finnish. Suomi, or how you say it. But again, this is the same Fenno-Ugric language group as Estonian, silly me…

You know, I know some Turkish and there are some resemblances there as well. If I’m not mistaken, Estonians started moving from the Altai mountains towards Europe, along with Finns and Hungarians about 10,000 years ago, wasn’t it? Hungarians came in waves, right, there was some tribe first and then the Magyars… Did you know that Turks have this interesting legend that their Heartland once expanded as far as Finland?”

Us: “umm… uuuh?”

Driver: “Coming from Scandinavia, I’m sure you like Knut Hamsun? I just love him, you know. His writing has this sense of clarity…”

Us: “He could have been in our mandatory reading in highschool, but can’t really remember…”

Driver: “Really? That’s surprising, I would have imagined that in Estonia you read more of Bulgakov and Dostoevsky. I do love reading these chaps as well! In Master and Margarita, I’ve always admired how Bulgakov teases the Russian Orthodox church, that was not a common practice at all at his time…

But speaking of these lads, you have to agree that they could not have been if it wasn’t for Mikhail Lermontov. That Raskolnikov character in Crime And Punishment would never have existed if there wasn’t the legacy of A Hero of Our Time…

Other than these, I don’t really appreciate Russian literature of the 19th century… Too streamlined, if you asked me, to be honest. A Hero of Our Time truly was ahead of its time, written in 1890, was it, but the rest of it…

Anyway, don’t want to keep you for long, lads, here we are. Very nice chatting with you, let’s carry on next time, ‘aight? Cheers!”

And off he drove.

Leaving me and my friend no other option than sit down in the closest pub to transcript this encounter with a suspected literature and linguistics professor in disguise. He did miss with that Lermontov date by a few decades, but still…

Notting Hill Breakfast

If you have moved to London for four weeks, your son has fallen sick on the first night, but thankfully, two doctor occurences and five days later he can actually hold some food in, the sun is shining and spring is in the air, and to top it all, it is a Sunday which happens to be the (British) Mother’s Day, do no more than head to Tom’s Delicatessen for breakfast. And even if you’re lucky enough to escape the context we had by today, I can still recommend the place.

Get a fresh juice, one of their excellent coffees and, if you are not the full English breakfast type, Eggs Royale with salmon and caviar (pictured above).

Googling around I’ve found people calling this the best breakfast in Notting Hill. Have to agree, even if I haven’t had many out here. And, they are extemely kid friendly.

By the way, they say that Tom is the son of Terrence Conran. And what a talented, but down to earth gourmet son he is then. See more of his places to eat.

Sushi heaven

Ikeda chef
This is actually a very very simple restaurant review: [Ikeda](http://www.london-eating.co.uk/1981.htm) has the best sushi I’ve had outside Tokyo. Period.
When (shouldn’t be “if”!) you go there for a first time, say Omakase!*, sit back and watch the chef’s choice of freshest sushi and sashimi magically appear on the red counter pictured above.
Apparently Ikeda has been around for 25 years already. And there is a reason why.

*Footnote: *In Japanese, “Omakase” means “entrust” or “Chef, I’m in your hands”. (Taavet)*

2007 Travel Stats

Just like in 2006 I took a look back to the calendar again to recap the time spent on the road (or in the air for that matter) in 2007:
* Number of business trips: ~28
* Flight legs: 79
* Days away from home: ~95
* London: 67 days (including a ~30 day stretch stay, though)
* Prague: 8 days
* Luxembourg: 6 days
* San Jose: 6 days
* Tokyo: 4 days
* Brussels: 2 days
* Netherlands: 2 days
Now, when it almost seems that the year on year travel stayed basically flat, I also looked at family holiday trips. These four (Tenerife, Burgundy, Zürich & Dominican Republic) add to another 14 flights to get away for ~30 days. Of course, with your loved ones along, those were much preferable kind of “away from home”.
Since you asked – yes, I am laid back in an armchair at home right this very second. And loving it.

Dominican Republic

The virtual radio silence here is excused by a lovely internet-less trip to the Dominican Republic and the busy weeks post-return. I finally managed to sort some photos from there, at least.
Cheers to Carlos for thorough briefing ahead on where to go and what to see in his homeland and Rosendo Alvarez III, the Honorary Consul for Estonia there for his kind invitation in the first place.