Day 5 – Tuesday June 23 – Durbar Square, Swayambhunath, and Patan Zoo

Yesterday I saw Durbar Square with Sarah but it was midday, really hot, and swarmed with people. I wanted to see it in a different light so I got up early and left the hotel at 6:30. I was a bit disappointed that it was so bright at that time, since I wanted to see it with a bit more of a warmer light. By the time I got there it was morning, really hot, and swarmed with people. But it was a different kind of crowd. This time it was filled with people visiting the temples as part of their religious practice, and vendors selling fruits and vegetables on the street. It was fascinating to see people doing things as part of their normal routine.

I managed to do a panorama with the new gear from Really Right Stuff. I’ll let you know when I have completed some of the stitching of the pics. That will probably happen when I get home. But setting up the equipment is quite an event for most of the locals. First I extend the legs of the tripod, then attach the panning clamp and level it. From there I attach the arm to moves the lens’ nodal point back. I attach the camera’s l-bracket and mount the camera to the arm. I rotate it a few times to make sure I have it all set up right and then take the pictures. The entire process takes about 20 minutes and reminds me of the care I took when taking photos with a 4×5 camera on hikes around the Olympic Peninsula near Seattle. I could take the same care with every photo, but I don’t. When I do take the extra time, the ratio of fantastic to crap photos goes way up. 

After my second visit to Durbar Square, I went back to the hotel and met Sarah for breakfast. Since there were a few more things I wanted to see during my stay and they happened to be things she wouldn’t mind seeing again, we decided to arrange for a tour. For today we decided it would be Swayambhunath and the Zoo at Patan. I think this was the first time anyone had asked to go to the Zoo at Patan because she had to ask us if thats where we really wanted to go a few times. Eventually a price was agreed on and we were to meet down in the lobby around 12:45. At 12:45 we were there but she was on her lunch break and would return in 10 minutes. 25 minutes later we were still waiting. When she finally arrived it seemed that she just started to arrange the tour that we book several hours ago. Ugh. Well then the driver showed up and it turned out to be the same guy as this morning. And off we went.

Swayambhunath is one of the typical sites that every Kathmandu tourist visits. At the top of one of the hills inside the Kathmandu valley, it is one of the most important religious sites in the city. There are two ways to visit this place. First there is the very energetic way which is what I did 15 years ago. If you are coming here in a taxi or private car, you can go the lazy route which lets you off very close to the top. You still get to see may of the monkeys that swarm this place, you just don’t get quite as stinking hot as you would if you climbed all those steps from the bottom. And despite what others will tell you, its not all that more gratifying to do the whole thing.

We then had a short climb to the top where you are greeted with an incredible view of the city. Time for a pano. We spent an hour or two here wandering around the temple at the top and having a lunch of chow mein. Then we met up with the driver and moved on to Patan. Apparently most tourists who go to Patan see the Durbar Square there. But we saw the zoo. Its not a very big zoo, but what they have is very impressive. In fact, for certain animals I think this may be one of the best zoos in the world. Seriously!!! I used to have a membership to Miami’s MetroZoo and have visited the zoos in Seattle, DC, Sydney, and SF often. I love zoos. But I have never been able to have such a good viewing of tigers, rhinos, hippos, or leopards as I had here in Patan. In fact I was no more than 5 feet away from the leopard. Incredible.

And then we headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow we have a visit to Bhakatapur and Pashupatinath planned…goodnight.

Day 4 – Monday June 22 – Durbar Square and Thamel

Well, these late mornings are great, but I may need to take better advantage of my time here. By midday we finally got out of the hotel and went out to Durbar Square in Kathmandu. Durbar Square is apparently a generic name referring to the square opposite the old royal palace. There are three Durbar Squares, one in Kathmandu, another in Patan, and a final one in Bhaktapur. Today was just the KTM one.

As with any tourist location in Nepal, a westerner is instantly swarmed with people selling their wares (usually a bunch of crap) or their skills as a tour guide. Read up beforehand and just soak up the wonderful space like I did. Some of the tourguides are very persistent, and may end up insulting you to try to get you to hire them. I am not sure if that works with others, but it just turned me off.

Unfortunately, the skies were not good for me for this entire trip so far: cloudy, not a hint of blue skies, and very bright. So my pictures aren’t quite as good as I could imagine. But I am still pretty happy with it all.

After a few hours in the square, we went over to a little rooftop restaurant. This one’s claim to fame was that it was a rotating restaurant, kind of like what you find at the top of the Seattle Space Needle. Except the motor in this one was broken. Add to that some horrible momos, and a TV with terrible reception at an ear-shredding volume, and the end result wasn’t what we were hoping for. At least they had a good view over the square and of the surrounding rooftops.

Nearby the square on the New Road (although I see it listed in Google as Sukra Path) is a little market my sister loves to visit for glass beads. We sat for a while and found a few items we couldn’t live without. Well, I think I would have had more success at living without them than Sarah would. We finished up our shopping and headed back to the hotel for a short rest.

Dinner tonight was at one of Sarah’s favorite spots: Kilroy’s. I guess the quality of the food is subjective. It helps if you had been in KTM for a while. At that point, any European food is starting to look and taste really wonderful. In fact I seem to remember Kilroy’s being incredible last time around. This time, it was OK.

Perhaps one of the more entertaining aspects of the night was watching the movements of the older gentleman sitting next to us. After his dessert, he walked downstairs and talked with one of the workers. And then out of nowhere he started screaming about the noise created by some band that was playing nearby. It seemed very out of place and, although my description was very quick, you’ll have to believe me when I tell you that he came across as a real ass. After our dinner was finished, we wandered through the restaurant looking at the photos on the wall. We then saw our screamer in some of the pictures: co-owner of Kilroys. Thats too bad, perhaps it was just a bad night for him.

Well, thats another day over here in “Mystical Kathmandu”…

Day Three – Sunday June 21 – Changes Again

Ahhh, finally a sleep in. A 9AM breakfast and lazy morning is much more like it. After that I went to my room to clean up some more photos while Sarah met with colleagues in the lobby. After she was done, new changes to the plan were announced. We would be going to Jiri after all. If the worst does happen and we get stuck, we will have a helicopter take us back to KTM. Although it is a terrifying 9 hour drive, its a 35-45 minute helicopter ride. And it can be a terrifying and sick-making flight. We will be out there for about 6 nights and then return to KTM for our last few days.

She also let me know that we would head out to the monkey colony today. While the road out to Jiri is pretty scary, it is a relatively good road. Not too wide at certain points, but you aren’t likely to slam your head against the window several times per minute. Thats a pretty accurate description of some of the road to this other location a couple hours out of KTM. The first 3/4 is actually fairly smooth. And it goes through quite a few small villages with locals doing what locals do.

There were men working on the road, women tending the fields, kids running around, chickens and cows and goats roaming anywhere they pleased. And then the paved part ended and it was a good hour of the worst road I have ever been on. A roller coaster this bad would be illegal in most countries. I tried as hard as I could to keep my head from snapping off at the neck. Sarah and Pravesh commented on how much the road had improved over the years. This was an improvement?

Finally we reached the destination but I cannot go into that here. Toward the end of our stay we had a wonderful lunch with rice, peas, and a wonderful mixture of mushrooms, tomatoes, and beans. Quite spicy and oh so tasty. I keep meaning to take pictures of these meals. Arrgghh.

For the return journey, the road had not improved at all, though I think I was able to handle it a bit better. Then again, I had just eaten a very spicy and acidic meal, so there was just a little churning going on as well. On both the way out and the return I was very happy with my new camera. The benefit this time was the automatically changing ISO speed, 1/8000 sec shutter, 8 fps, and good fast lenses. On the paved roads, I was sometimes able to use the zoom with great success. On the more rocky roads, the 50/1.4 really helped to keep the ISO down for less noisy shots. The fast shutter speed allowed for some good sharp pictures even though I couldn’t hold the camera very still. Sure, it would have been better to stop, but we didn’t have all day, and I managed to take about 1000 pictures on this one day alone.

One thing I noticed in this type of shooting was that the 80-200/2.8 that I have owned for about 15 years is still surprisingly fast at finding the correct focus. The 50/1.4G is very quiet, but much slower at focusing. Its a pretty demanding scenario since we were sometimes moving around very quickly and I don’t see it being an important question in the purchasing decision of any future lenses. But the weight is really tough on my arms. The D700 is hefty on its own. The battery pack adds a little, but the 80-200 is just as heavy as the body, perhaps more so.

By the time we got back to the hotel we were very shaken. On the elevator up to the bar, we all noted that it felt like we were still moving a bit. Much the same feeling as getting off a boat after being on high seas for a few hours. After resting for an hour or so with a soothing beer, we ventured down the street to a wonderful little Chinese place, and then an early night to bed…

Day Two – Saturday June 20 – Arrival into Kathmandu

 

It was another early morning today. Well, not quite as early as yesterday, but considering the late night after my sister’s arrival, I didn’t get the beauty sleep I normally require. Sarah raves about the breakfast at the Novotel at the airport, though apparently all that is needed for a quality morning meal for her is a bowl of miso soup and some lychees. That sounded a bit on the revolting side for me, but I was willing to give it a shot. Its not quite as weird as I expected, but I won’t be having it again. I thought that overall it looked like any standard nice hotel breakfast buffet. Certainly not as good as the Hilton Sentral Kuala Lumpur, but good enough.

Perhaps the more interesting part of the breakfast was the argument we had with the waitress about the cost. We thought it was included in the room, she thought it was not. The manager of the restaurant came over, and he stood by his employee. Someone from the front desk came over and agreed with the manager. All this over a 10 dollar dispute. We left the desk without paying, but the desk attendant made it clear that he would be charging our cards the extra amount. It turns out that for this trip I am a little more prepared than usual. Not only do I have a copy of my entire itinerary, including confirmation numbers, stuck inside my notebook, I also have all emails from hotels printed out. The email from Novotel clearly stated that breakfast was included. We showed that to the desk as we checked out a few minutes later and, while a bit confused over the whole affair, they apologized to us for the mix up and removed the charges from our bill.

Apparently one of the benefits of the Novotel is that it is walking distance to the hotel. This may be true under a few very special circumstances. First, you have to be dressed in very light clothing. Second, you have to have no baggage with you to sap your energy (I didn’t notice any sherpas up front). And third, you have to be willing to stink up your entire airplane cabin from the smell of sweat that has dried into your clothes from the steaming hot walk you just completed across several football fields to get there. Since we were not willing or able to comply with those three requirements, we took the free hotel shuttle. The first stop was ours.

Thai Business Class. Ahh, yes, this is a better way to travel. I sometimes get to fly business on United because I use my miles to upgrade. The only time I ever paid for business was when Piedmont Airlines would occasionally ask for only 10 dollars extra to upgrade. Once, due to a travel approval snafu, Captaris had to pay for a business class flight on KLM to somewhere (the customer had already paid for me to be there, plus it got me one of those cool KLM houses, my only one). But the flight from Bangkok to Kathmandu is so ridiculously cheap that the business fare is really quite affordable.

The benefits of the upper class were pretty good. First there was the massive check-in area for the 16 or so people in that cabin. Then came the attendant who ran off with your airport tax money and returned with the receipt while we lounged on some little stools. Then the dedicated immigration officer who reviewed our passports and visas. One escalator below we relaxed in the lovely Thai Business lounge. OK, not sure how much relaxing we could do in 20 minutes, but this was a benefit and dammit we are going to take advantage of it. I wandered around a bit with my camera to take a few shots of the building, but then it was time to move on to the flight.

We boarded and waited for the flight to start moving. It gave me a chance to pull out my laptop, transfer photos from my camera, and see what I got. I much prefer this over the routine from the last trip to Nepal. I took one after another roll of film and waited 3 weeks until I returned home to Manhattan to see if I had anything good. That was with 25 rolls, multiplied times 36 exposures, that gave me about 900 pictures, total. This time I have a 12 MP camera. An 8GB CF card lets me take about 550 pictures, and I have 4 of those cards, plus some older 4, 2, and 1 GB cards as an extra backup. I can offload all of those to my computer and 2 backup drives, enabling me to have three copies of each picture just in case any drive fails. A little Powershell script takes the pictures off my cards as soon as I attach the reader, and Robocopy easily synchronizes all of the disks. I have no realistic limit to the number of pics I can take, though if I really push it, I guess I am stuck with less than 41 thousand. Whew, I think it will be a good thing if I can manage to take up to 8 – 10 thousand images. Though I expect many of those to be components of HDR and Panoramic photos. You are already starting to see the results of some of the 5-exposure HDR (High Dynamic Range) compilations on my flickr account.

The pictures from the airport looked pretty good. I am especially excited by one of the handheld HDRs of the airport architecture. The handheld HDR is something I often tried but rarely had good luck with. First on the D70, it only auto-bracketed 3 exposures. Then the motor drive could only handle 3 frames per second or so. The D700 could do brackets of up to 9 exposures, though I am sticking with 5 so far. Plus, the drive is 8 frames per second. That extra half second makes a world of difference when it comes to keeping the camera still enough to get this effect.

A movie later (something with Renne Zelleweger about her moving to Minnesota from Miami, pretty good), and we were approaching Nepali airspace. Unfortunately we were on the left side of the plane and the Himalayas are on the right. Usually this is not a problem since you cannot see anything anyway, but today, Everest was peeking out. I grabbed my gear and got a few shots off. None are all that good since it was so far off and the airplane window obscures quite a bit at that distance. But the image in my head is wonderful.

I headed back to my seat for approach and landing. Coming in is pretty amazing. These are foothills, yet the plane is flying below their peaks for the last few minutes. And we are down. Like in Doha, we all walked down the steps from the plane onto the tarmac and into the terminal. Just like Bangkok, there was a medical team waiting for us to take temperatures and assess us. I passed! Whew!! We waited in line for the immigration official to stamp our passports. Since Sarah comes through this airport so many times, I followed her, but I had to ask why we were standing in the diplomats line. I figured she had some special clearance due to her clinic. For some reason right about then we moved to the regular tourist line, while she quietly giggled.

There are lots of forms that they review. Who knows if they actually make any use of them. But a few minutes later we were through. Either Thai recognizes me as a very special person or I just got lucky, but my bag was the second off the plane. My sister, who gives so much to this country in the form of free health care to many of its people towards its east had to wait a while. A long while. Last time I was here, John panicked when I told him in Portland that the gate agent at JFK could only check my bags to Tokyo. The agent was apparently supposed to be able to check them all the way to Kathmandu. I heard for much of the flight about how I would have to shop for clothes in Nepal since I would not be seeing my bag. At Narita, a small Japanese flight attendant scribbled some notes on the back of a napkin with a pencil and assured me the bag would make it. Just like this time, my bag was among the first off. John, the Nepal expert waited…till there was no one else left in the terminal. They left his bag in Tokyo. A few days later it arrived, but not before he had to pick up a few clothing items in Kathmandu.

Fortunately her bag did arrive. They do weigh your bags in Bangkok but apparently if you have only a suitcase or two, they have no problem with it. The reason for that was obvious looking at the baggage belt. Sony, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung. Box after box of electronics went round. Some boxes just held smaller radios, others were 42-inch TVs. Bangkok is much cheaper for these kinds of electronics and it is a popular quick trip for the locals.

At the airport, Pravesh picked us up and drove us to the hotel. We had just a few hours before a meeting she had with another colleague. So we walked to Thamel, stopping off at a money changer. This particular money changer on the right from the Radisson has some of the best rates in case you are looking. Sometime around then the “walk” turned into a quick taxi ride due to the heat. And there we were, in Thamel. This is a place filled with trekker shops, artist shops, and more. It seems a bit more touristy than last time. Pilgrims Bookstore is still there, filled with interesting books and crafts at a fixed price. Go there to figure out what the slightly expensive price is for something, then venture elsewhere to practice your haggling skills. Or just cave in on paying 50 cents too much and buy it there.

At another store I found some of those wonderful prayer flags that you so often see everywhere. Just over a Euro for 25 flags on a string. Sold! I may need some more later. Sarah had to make her usual stop at her favorite Thamel jeweler. She has been coming here every time for years and trusts the proprietor to not scam her. That said, there was plenty of haggling to bring the price down…sometimes below half the initial asking price. She has practiced this skill quite a bit. For my patience, I was given a beautiful crystal spire for my desk at home.

And then it was time for her meeting, so we headed back to the hotel. This gave me a chance to review the photos and again I am pretty pleased. Dinner was up at the top of the hotel. There aren’t many tall buildings in Kathmandu, and at 5 stories, the Radisson peaks out over most. The rooftop cafe was a wonderful place for the sunset, but I heard of some changes to our travel plans. Apparently the Maoist groups will occasionally call a bandh. When this happens nothing is allowed to move on the roads. These can last a day or a week. If we head out to Jiri, we could easily be stuck and miss our flights. We are thinking of heading out to the west instead for a few days (not to Chitwan since that is apparently very dangerous right now), and maybe a couple more at a monkey colony. That means I also have a bit more time in Kathmandu to see all I want to see. Unfortunately this also means that much of the trip becomes a personal trip rather than a business trip for my sister.

After dinner, I was able to get my packages from her. Before the trip I had a few items shipped to her in the US which she brought along to me here. So the final components of my photo bag are complete: A Really Right Stuff BH-25 QR ballhead, an L-plate for the D700, the PCL-1 panning clamp and the MPR-CL II nodal slide. This stuff is amazing. I hope to get some great pano’s with this and the ballhead is much lighter than the Gitzo head I have now. Plus, I can leave it on the tripod and it almost folds up completely. 

Well, the day is over now, and its off to bed. 10PM and my eyes are drooping…goodnight.

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Day One – To Doha and on to Bangkok

Whew, I almost started today in a very bad way. Last night I had to get a few last minute items at the Mall of the Emirates. It took quite a bit longer than I expected and I finally got back to the hotel around 11:30. I went against my usual way of doing things and packed before going to bed. I usually wait until the morning that I leave. I set my Blackberry alarm to wake me up at 4 and as a backup had the hotel call me at 4:15. It had been a very busy day so it took a while to finally doze off, but when I did I was completely out. So far out that I have no idea if my phone alarm worked. Thankfully at 4:15 someone said something on the phone that got me out of bed. When you are that tired, it doesn’t matter what the person says because I had to use my entire brain to remember how to say: OK, I am up.

My flight was at 7 and Dubai airport is not a place to arrive at the last minute. To make things worse, Qatar is an airline I have never flown, so I have ZERO status. From then on until check-in, everything was going according to plan. Well, maybe I started second guessing a little bit earlier. In the taxi I noticed that Qatar allows a single bag that is 7kg or less. Thankfully I left the bag with the Cisco router and my work laptop at our Dubai office, but I still had my other bag with me. Let me tell you, this ain’t light. With the D700, battery pack, extra battery for the battery pack, 3 extra batteries for the body, 20/2.8, 50/1.4, 80-200/2.8, SB400, binoculars, Zune, IXUS880, Gitzo 1541t, Gitzo 1780QR, Asus eeePC 1000HE, Flip MinoHD, 2 external hard drives, and lots of other little things like wires, battery chargers, pens, and more, I am surprised my arm is still attached to my shoulder.

As soon as I actually reached the airport I realised that this wasn’t going to be like my usual trip to the airport. When you first get into the terminal, there is usually a long queue to go through the metal detectors before the check in counters. Today there were 3 people in front of me. When I got to the Qatar check-in counter there were only 2 or 3 in front there too. I noticed there was only one check-in agent who was weighing every carry on bag and when he waved over to me to step forward, I started to panic. I wondered if I could somehow hide the bag somewhere.

He weighed my checked bag and I noticed it was just a little over weight. Crap! Then he asked if I had any carry ons. Ummm…one. Somehow my throat managed to get all clogged up right at that time. Ahem…one. Put it on the belt so I can have it weighed, he told me. Crap! As I lifted it onto the belt, he reached down to attach an Approved Carry On Item tag. I don’t think he ever looked at the scale’s display before I quickly removed it. He probably just saw the ThinkTank Urban Disguise bag and thought it was a standard laptop bag. He handed me my tickets and let me go. Whew, I made it.

Around the corner, I was very disappointed to see no lines at the second security line. I only like to see those lines when I have a shortcut through and in Dubai its the eGate card. This is a program which involves some sort of minimal background check, biometric scan, and the exchange of a few Dirhams. With the card, its a quick swipe and then a thumbprint scan and you are through. But again, this is most satisfying when there is a huge line for the regular folks, which wasn’t there this morning.

At the Qatar gate, I noticed there were plenty of others with very oversized bags, so I needn’t have worried too much. On the plane, there were probably more empty seats than full ones. Often even in those cases, I manage to get the one person in a middle seat right next to me. But not this time. I did get one fellow passenger on the aisle of my seat block. And he turned out to be one of the most interesting people I have sat next to for a very long time. He was on his way from Dubai to go home to Virginia. What made it so interesting was that he was Iraqi, and served on the CPA in Iraq from 2004 to 2007. In fact he was just back there a few weeks ago. It was fascinating to hear his views on the current state of the country as well as how different it is compared to when he was growing up there.

I mentioned that the closest I had ever been to Baghdad was in the skies above on a KLM flight from Dubai to Amsterdam. On one of those flights, the entire plane became very nervous as the plane made a 360 degree turn right above the war-torn city. The captain came on to assure us that we were just in a small holding pattern due to traffic over Europe. I thought he could have chosen a place for that where the natives might not cut our heads off if we survive a crash landing.

My flight companion had a similar story of 360s above Baghdad, though a bit more nerve-racking. When he first started his job in Iraq in 2004, they flew to Kuwait on a scheduled airline flight. From there they flew a military transport plane to Baghdad. He was shocked at how maneuverable this massive contraption was. Normally when a plane comes in for a landing, it gradually descends in a straight line. But when US military planes fly into places like the Green Zone, they come down in a very tight spiral until they land. That way they are relatively protected from most of the surface to air missiles used by the less friendly types. In fact, he had to ask a friend why there were fireworks being set off at night in the city. Apparently when some types of aircraft come in, they set off enormous fireballs to confuse the heat-seeking guidance systems in some of the more advanced missiles. 

It was fascinating for me. Iraq is definitely a place I would love to visit some day. Its going to be a long time before it will be safe enough to go, but there is much to see. In fact, there is so much in the whole region I am very eager to see. Places like Afghanistan, Iran, and Syria all have locations that are somewhere on my list. Again, those trips are a long way off and my seat mate agreed.

Doha Airport is a pretty basic place. I thought it was very small considering how many big planes were waiting on the tarmac. There was another security line to get into the main airport which felt like it took forever. My connection was just over one hour so I began to get a bit nervous, but after the initial squeeze into the lines, it seemed to move pretty quickly. On the plane I was very disappointed. This was a flight I would be on for 6 and a half hours. I have never been on a plane with such a small seat. The seat in front of me was fully upright and my knees pushed it ever further forward because there was just no room. I thought this was going to really suck. But when they closed the doors, most of the seats were empty so I managed to find a row to myself. Wonderful. Service is good, food is OK. Entertainment system is a bit ancient, but better than some airlines. Not sure where they get the “5-Star” rating from. I guess on that scale, United and some of the other US carriers must be 6- and 7-star carriers. How many stars does a perfect airline get?

The flight felt very short. I had the entire row to myself but I didn’t use it to stretch out. Watched a movie, 12 Rounds, tried a second, Watchmen, but gave up since it was a bit boring. Guess I needed to read the comic book first. And before I knew it we were getting ready to land in Bangkok. Those who know me will probably be surprised that I get worried over little things so much. I had something new to worry about. The flight attendants informed us that Bangkok is using thermal scanners to single out potential swine flu victims to quarantine. Considering the fact that I spent much of this week talking and teaching a class, my throat is a bit raw and a flight aggravates that a bit and makes me cough. Add to that the way that everyone on the planet, especially the far east, seems to be completely overreacting to this minor issue. How many people have died from this? 200? A thousand even? In the entire world??? In a few months?? This is crazy. More people die in the US in that time from the common flu or from crossing the street. So when I made it through the line unscathed, I was very relieved. I think I owe it again to the attendant not paying attention to his duties.

Anyway, I make it through security, customs, and pick up my bag. And then I have to figure out how to get to the Airport Novotel Shuttle. I see a sign that says Level 2 Gate 4. There are no signs saying what floor I am on now so I am a little confused. The escalator seems to point to level 2 being up a level, so I take it up. But at the top, I am now at level 3. Dammit, I was on Level 2. So I try to go right down, but the other escalator is also going up. I walk down about 100 meters and find the next escalator going down, but you have to have some airport pass to get down there. And there are guys with guns preventing me from ignoring the sign. So I walk further to an elevator…an elevator that does not stop at 2. Another 100 meters finally gets me to an escalator down but now there is another one of those signs between me and gate 4. Crap! I explain to the guard my situation (I don’t think he understood anything but Novotel) and he let me through. And that was it. Its 8PM now and I am sitting in my room. Nice place, very comfortable room, beautiful lobby. Now I have 4 hours to rest before my sister arrives from San Antonio. Hmmm…nap time? I think I will ask for a wake up call just to be safe…