Guten tag!

Apr. 26th, 2017 01:29 pm
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[personal profile] sarea
I am now in Germany! Well, I've been here for a few days, and am leaving in another couple, but I have a lull in the work I'm doing right now so might as well take the time to update LJ, lol. It's kind of crazy, though, the workspace here is TERRIBLE. There are hardly any power outlets for dozens of people, so people just camp out at an outlet or queue up to use one, it's insane. If I have to come back next year, I'm going to have to remember to bring a power strip.

I'm pleased to say that my experience with this trip has been a lot better than it was last year. Last year, I basically only knew one person, O., who was great to work with work-wise, but on a social level she wasn't really that person. This year, I'm not only traveling with one of my writers, which is great, but my business owner this year is J., who isn't as good on the work side, but is great for the social side of things. Last year, O. and I had one dinner together; this year, J. has arranged at least two team dinners so far which have been fun!

The first night was really brutal. I had left Seattle Friday morning, flew 11 hours or so to Paris, had a 4-5 hour layover at CDG, then flew another 90 min to Hannover. I barely slept at all; I attempted to at CDG, but kept waking up every 15 min or so. (The CDG food options were also incredibly disappointing. I mean, I realize it's not actually Paris, but still. The chef salad was OK, but the chunks of pineapple I bought were in some kind of juice that was like... foot juice. It smelled and tasted like it, anyway. And I got a caramel madeleine that was fine, but... again, it's Paris. It should be better than fine. It should have easily been the best madeleine I've ever eaten! It wasn't.)

Anyway, the point is, by the time I got to my hotel, it was nearly 4pm on Saturday in Hannover, which meant I'd barely slept in 24 hours and was exhausted. V. and I were supposed to meet up with J. for a first-night pow-wow and dinner at 5, but it got pushed to 6 and seriously it was like torture. Then by the time we got to the restaurant, Meiers Lebenslust, some others wanted to join us, but they were running about 20 min late, so we had to wait some more. I think it was 7 by the time we actually even placed our orders. I was going to go for the mixed grill, but the waitress talked up their duck. I had seen it on the menu and also considered it, but the restaurant was kind of a slightly upscale bar type place, and I thought ordering duck from such an establishment was just asking to be disappointed. At her recommendation though, several of us ordered the duck. And it was delicious! The skin was really crispy, the orange-tinged brown gravy that came with it was delish, and it was served with two very crispy and delicious potato cakes. (I might have liked the potato cakes best of all.) The portion was quite large; it was half a duck. I couldn't even eat the breast part. :/ And it cost 18 Euros. One big difference between this trip and last is that the US dollar is much stronger this time, so everything seems really cheap.

By the end of dinner, I was dying to get to bed. Being so exhausted, I think I slept OK this first night. I did wake up at 3:30am, but was able to get back to sleep.

One of the things I actually LIKED about my last Hannover trip was the breakfast where I stayed (the Kastens). I had been told that all German breakfasts are good, but I found on this trip that that is NOT the case. The Dormero, where I am this year, is like a poor man's version of the Kastens breakfast. So that was disappointing.

The next day (Sunday), I had the hotel breakfast, then had lunch at Koh-I-Noor Dhaba, a highly rated Indian restaurant in Hannover. Um... it was "good" in that the food was hot and fresh. I really liked my mango lassi. But this "Indian" food was barely Indian, even though the workers were, at least, of that ethnicity. The sauce (I can't even call it a curry in good conscience) was watery and not very interesting, certainly not full of spices as Indian food should have, especially a good Indian curry. I know, I'm in Hannover, I really should have known better. Sigh. I guess I was hoping that since I was in Europe, the Indian food might be good, because the best Indian food I've ever eaten in my life was in England! Lesson learned. The thing about Hannover is that they take their Sundays very seriously. Hardly anything is open, and things that are open close super early, like 6:30. The worst thing was that their drugstores (or apothecaries, as they call them) aren't open, because I desperately wanted to buy some shampoo and the like. Why? Well, because even though the Dormero is somehow a 4-star hotel, what they provided and didn't provide was a weird contradiction. My room has a 50-inch Samsung TV with surround sound, and my complimentary toiletries came with a condom, but the provided soap was awful. It's like being at the gym. Full-size bottles of soap are hung on a rack in the shower and by the sink area, and this soap is supposed to be good for body and hair. Ummmm... no. Made even worse is the smell of it, like Axe-body spray, so strong it actually burned my nose. And as for my hair... I had been starting a Kevin Murphy regimen before I left home, and to go from there to some awful generic body-hair combo soap? No. Just no. I finally found the only open apothecary in Hannover, a Rossman at Hauptbanof station, and it was overrun with people. I bought a number of toiletries there, including some awesome-smelling soap. For dinner, V. and I went to L'Osteria, which was packed with people, but we still got a table pretty quickly. They're primarily a pizza place, but the pizzas are ridiculous in size. And so cheap! A margherita pizza was 7.75 Euros or something, and each pizza is the size of a New York pizza. We ordered a vegetarian pizza and a pasta, and honestly, while the pizza LOOKS very impressive, it didn't taste as good as it looked. Could have used more sauce, and the veggies weren't particularly good. I think I probably would have enjoyed the marghertia more. An older Italian guy eventually sat next to us and he ordered what looked like a proscuitto pizza, and the amount of proscuitto on that thing probably made the price well worth it. (He was both charming and annoying. Like, stop trying to monopolize our conversation, dude.) The pasta was good, though a little dry. The carpaccio and salad we ordered for apps were okay. I really dug the ambience more than the food; it was a really fun place, and the food was decent enough that I'd go back.

Monday was the official Day 1 of the event, so after breakfast at the hotel we went over to Hannover Messe. My god the security bag check thing was terrible. They planned for that SO poorly; it was just a total chaotic mob of people -- mostly businessmen in suits -- trying to get through, and getting super grumpy about the lack of organization, which I felt as well. Anyway, blah blah blah, work stuff. Lunch was just catering at the event, and it wasn't bad, steak of some kind iirc. For dinner, we ended up going to Arc en Ciel, a Chinese restaurant. lolol We were actually thinking of going to Al Dar, which we had heard was a great Mediterranean place, but they couldn't take us until 9pm. Right across the street was Arc en Ciel, and it was packed with Asian people. I did not necessarily take this to be a good sign (I hadn't looked them up on Yelp until now), because there are a LOT of Asian visitors here for the conference, and the thing about Asian people is that they have to have Asian food, and it doesn't matter if it's the only game in town and terrible. The servers were speaking to each other in Mandarin, and I can GET BY, JUST BARELY, in a restaurant situation in that dialect, but I'm much more comfortable in Cantonese. So just to try, I spoke to them in Cantonese, and they spoke right back! And the funny thing is, that got them all to start talking in Cantonese to one another. One of the servers, a woman, could speak both dialects, was originally from Vietnam so could no doubt speak Vietnamese, could speak English, and could also speak German. I mean, that is just AMAZING. They were really busy or I would have talked to her some more about her life and how she ended up in Hannover, and how long it took her to learn each language. OK, as to the food! It was honestly very decent for Hannover. I was expecting, like, Panda Express. It was more authentic than that. We ordered: beef with onion and ginger, fish in black bean sauce, Singapore fried noodle, and a tofu/vegetable hot pot. I mean, this food would never survive in LA, but as your only option, it's actually better than you might expect. That might account for the 4.5 stars it has on Yelp -- similar to the Indian place. :))

What's funny is that three 20ish Asian guys came in and sat in the booth next to ours, and it took me some time to pick up on the fact that they were speaking Korean! I tried so hard to understand what they were saying, but other than the word for friend (친구), I didn't understand anything. :/ So disheartening. Anyway, I would also guess that they were speaking in some kind of regional accent; I don't believe they had Seoul accents, which made them song more singsong (I doubt that's the reason I couldn't understand them, though).

Day 2! Which was yesterday! Yesterday I went to V.'s hotel, the Novotel Suites, to try her breakfast buffet. She had talked it up so much that I was convinced it had to be better than mine. Other than the little chocolate croissants they had that are pretty good, the buffet was definitely NOT as good as the Dormero, so that actually made me feel a little better. I think V.'s expectations were lower, despite my having talked up German breakfasts, because she's never had the Kastens breakfast! Had lunch again at the event, and it was some sort of turkey thing that was totally forgettable. Dinner was the real star, not just of the trip, and not just of Hannover, but possibly of many, many meals that I've had. It was SO good. Shocking that it was in Hannover, which I now realize I gave a really bad rap to last year, because I could not find ANY good food. Well, this trip has really changed my mind. For dinner we went to the Skybar, aka 6 Sinne. It was a very upscale place, which was already promising. The menu had 21 pages of drinks, 3 pages of food, and 1 page of dessert. Certain friends of mine (*cough[personal profile] akscullycough*) would have loved it! I had a strawberry pina colada, two glasses of wine (one of which was a $30 bottle, one was $85, and I COULD NOT TELL THE DIFFERENCE AT ALL SHHHHH), and their surf and turf, which they called "cattlefillet" and "gambas." I was even using the English menu, lol. "Cattlefillet" I knew had to be steak of some kind, but the internet failed me on "gambas." [personal profile] akscully and [profile] jade_okelani helped me figure out that it meant prawns. Jade laughed that my English menu had the Spanish word for prawns on it, haha. We ordered a bunch of appetizers, and they were good, but nothing spectacular.

I was expecting my entree to be good though, based on the apps. But my entree blew them out of the water! The cattlefillet (I might have to call steak that from now on) was super tender and cooked PERFECTLY -- it was a warm red from edge to edge. How do restaurants cook steak like that?! MUST be sous vide... I mean, I don't see how else you would be able to not brown even a millimeter of the meat if you put it on a hot pan or in a hot oven for more than a minute. It was so tender, and it was flavorful because they serve it with herb butter on the side, which you put on top of the steak. The shrimp was okay. It didn't have much flavor and was overcooked, though I did enjoy eating the head.

Surprisingly, my entree did not come with potatoes. It really could have used some fries or cream scalloped potatoes or those crunchy round hashbrown-type things the Germans are so good at. It's surprising because it seems like potatoes come with everything around here. The veggies it did come with were pretty good, but I needed a carb in there, I guess. The best thing is that the entree cost a mere $33 Euros. That's not chump change, but that entree would have cost like $50 in Seattle, and there would have only been one piece of steak, instead of two like I got. We didn't leave the restaurant until midnight, and even though we were wide awake, there was nothing to do in Hannover at that time, lol.

I should also mention that I haven't slept super well. After the first night, I kept waking up around 3:30am. I have no idea why, since that's 6:30pm Pacific -- it's not like I'd normally be waking up at that time normally. Anyway, Sunday night was the worst... I went to bed around 1, woke up at 3:30, then watched a movie. And yet, I didn't feel all that tired the next day. Weird. The day after that, I woke up at 3:30 again, but managed to go back to sleep. Only last night, possibly because I'd been drinking, possibly because I didn't go to sleep until 2am, I actually slept until my alarm went off at 7:30.

I've also watched a number of movies, lol. The Dormero offers maybe 15 or so free movies in your room, which is nice. I do not know why they have so many horror comedies, or why it was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to watch, but I've now seen all 3 they had in their selection, lol. Krampus, The Visit, and The Boy Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. The first was not as good as I was expecting, the second was way better than I was expecting (it's prob now my fave M. Night Shyalaman movie after The Sixth Sense), and the third was terrible, but that's fine, it was what I wanted. I'm also glad I saw it because the star -- Tye Sheridan? -- is going to be the main lead in Ready Player One, which I'm looking forward to (I think it'll actually make a better movie than book, especially in Spielberg's hands). In non-comedy horror, I also watched Hail, Caesar! which was okay.

I have one and a half more days here -- I fly to New York on Friday -- and V. and I are hoping to get in at least two massages (one today, one tomorrow) before we go, because J. found a Thai massage place that costs only 30 Euros an hour.


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