Tuesday, October 24, 2006

September 2006 - Monza, Italy - Formula 1 Grand Prix

Six months ago, Casandra gave me the coolest birthday gift any car enthusiast, speed junkie, or 10-year old matchbox/hotwheels fanatic could ever ask for . . .

A three-day pass to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza - the F1 Grand Prix in Monza, Italy (just outside Milan) - one of the 3 most important races in the F1 circuit and Italy's most significant race of the year. The 10-year old about to jump on the platform (above) is me . . . standing next to . . . no, not a sup'd up vodafone on wheels but an actual F1 Ferrari driven by none other than Michael Schumacher, the 7-time F1 Champion and winningest driver in F1 history.

On day 1, we watched the drivers get acquainted (or reacquainted) with the world famous track during the various practice sessions. Above is a shot of Schumacher passing Raikkonen (in the silver McLaren) on the longest straight-a-way.

On day 2, we watched the Porsche Supercup race (above) and the F1 qualifying round. Raikkonen, driving for McLaren, snatched the pole position, Schumacher and Massa claimed the 2nd and 4th spots for Ferrari, and Fisichella and Alonso (the drivers' points leader going into race) driving for Renault (the manufacturers' leader) settled for the disappointing 9th and 10th slots on the starting line .

The driver's parade. That's the back of Schumacher's head on the jumbo-tron (above). His Rockstar status in Italy (and throughout Europe) is undeniable.

Drivers . . . on your marks . . . get set . . .

GO !!! That's Raikkonen taking advantage of the pole on the left, and Schumacher leading the pack on the right.

We had amazing seats at the first and most dangerous turn - Il primo variante - which is actually 2 sharp turns just after the longest straight-a-way. That's Raikkonen after making his first go around the treacherous variant.

And, 2 seconds behind, Schumacher snakes through the familiar turn on Ferrari's "home" track.

Several seconds later, Alonso finds the turn a bit more challenging than the veteran.

In fact, with only 12 laps to go, that variant would do Alonso in. Notice the red-clad crowd celebrate the Spaniard's mishap and the French car's humiliating exit from the track.

Meanwhile, Schumacher capitalizes on the swift efforts of Ferrari's prodigious pitmen, takes the lead from Raikkonen . . .

and, effortlessly maintainting the lead for several laps, races past the Checker Flags (above).

Here's a close-up of Schumacher just as he passes the finish line.

And the frenzied crowd storms the track. Mayhem in Monza !!

In the distance behind us is the first variant covered with Ferrari fans. Notice the 4 Renault/Alonso fans immediately behind us declining to join them on the track, choosing instead to watch the celebration from the safety of their seats.

Giant flags donning the Prancing Horse waived wildly in every direction.
The Winners' Podium: Schumacher in the middle (1st), Raikkonen for McLaren on the left (2nd), and Kubica for BMW Sauber on the right (3rd).
Minutes later, Schumacher (above) announces that this was his last appearance at Monza and that he would retire from F1 racing at the end of the season.

Though not yet F1 fanatics, we couldn't resist joining the rest of them on the track to celebrate Ferrari's and Schumacher's victory.
What an amazing weekend !!
Thanks Baby!

September 2006 - Milan, Italy

We began our trip to Milan with dinner at the elaborately decorated Dar el Yacout. The Moroccan food was spectacular and the restaurant is one of the most beautiful we have seen.The next day we took a tour of Il Duomo, Milan's enormous gothic cathedral. The cathedral offers great views of the modern city. We also went to Santa Maria Delle Grazie, an unassuming 15th cent. Renaissance convent which houses Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper (Cenacolo). The church lost 2 walls in a WWII bombing. Miraculously the wall on which the Last Supper is painting was still standing after the air raid.
In the evening we treated ourselves to a ballet at Teatro alla Scala one of the most regal theatres in the world.

Despite the theater's strict no photo policy and after several scoldings, Kenny was still able to capture this great shot of the ornate balconies and ceiling.

After the ballet, we figured we would end the night in style, so we had dinner at Cracco-Peck, a 2-Michellin star restaurant near the theater. The restaurant was contemporary inside but the service was traditional white glove with more waiters than we could keep track of and more courses than our stomachs could handle. We only ordered 5 courses but the chef insisted we eat 10 so everytime we put our forks down out came some small treat from the kitchen. It was one of the finest dining experiences of our lives - did we mention the creamy risotto completely buried in white truffles?!?!?!
A stroll through Milan reveals the wealth of the city and its residents. After last night's dinner all we did was window shop at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II marked by its beautiful glass dome and arched atrium and its high-end italian fashion.Kenny attempts to pose next to the Ferrari without looking obvious. But wait a minute, we're from Miami, it takes a lot more than one Ferrari to impress us. So off to the Formula 1 Grand Prix we went . . .

Monday, October 09, 2006

September 2006 - London, England - Our Last Few Days

Awaiting the train back to London at the Bournemouth station, I capture the completely nackered state in which the wedding festivities left all of us.

Water, Dr. Evil, . . . keep drinking the water . . . it's your only hope.

Once back in London, we head to Lee & Lauren's amazing flat (above) in Kensington, where we stayed our last few days in London. That posh corner apartment with the balcony is it!

No time to relax . . . it's off to lunch with the wedding crew one last time. Even Ravi enjoyed the dim sum at the ever-so-trendy Ping Pong, just around the corner from London's China Town. A great restaurant choice by Shrieder and Andrea!
Yes, you're seeing clearly, that's J.R. & Bob sitting next to Kenny . . . in London! What a great surprise it was to see and hang out with them on the other side of the "pond". J.R. is so excited he can't even swallow the dumpling he just shoved into his mouth.

With arms crossed and a grin of satisfaction on his face, J.R. can now say he has seen the world-famous "Warren Cup" (shown above in actual size). Casandra reads the caption a third time to understand why J.R. led us on a two-hour odyssey through the British Museum in search of this sacred chalice.
What would a trip to London be without a visit with the Queen and witnessing the changing of the guard? So, we woke up bright and early, fought the hords of tourists, and made it somewhat close to gates of Buckingham Palace. We didn't actually see the guards change. We could hear the band playing, though, and my camera, extended high above the more industrious tourists who actually made it to the gates, got a decent view (above). Later on, we watched the video of it on my camera. Pretty cool stuff!
Wow, that was exhausting! So we passed out on the "front lawn" of Buckingham Palace. Hmmmm . . . if she's sleeping and he's sleeping, who took the picture . . . ? Those Brits are so honest. After our nap, we toured the Palace, the Queen's Gallery, and the Royal Mews (stables, carriages, etc.).
Afterwards, we headed to Harrod's (the world's largest department store, or so the English would have you believe - it's really Macy's in Herald Square) just in time for high tea.
After tea and "crumpets", we headed back to Lee & Lauren's to have dinner with Lee and his sister Carolyn at his favorite Gastropub in London. Unfortunately, Lauren was in Thailand on business saving the world from Big Oil.

The next day, we visited the world's second largest Cathedral - St. Paul's - the magnificent venue of Princess Diana's wedding to Charles.

Then, we met Lee, Carolyn and Shrieder (once again) for drinks at The Bank (now a bar, formerly a bank).
The next day, we flew to Milan . . .

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

August 2006 - Bournemouth, England - The Wedding

From Bath we travelled to Bornemouth for Melissa and Amit's wedding festivities. The stags were reunited so you can imagine it was one long party. The Nayaks hosted a dinner the night before the wedding giving the best man an opportunity to practice his oratory skills.
The ceremony was in the gothic cathedral of Bournemouth. The church was absolutely beautiful and it is famous for housing Mary Shelley's (author of Frankenstein) tomb.

Casandra and Kenny all dolled up.

The Nayaks pose for a family picture.

The ladies stop to take a photo in tribute to Dana Dynamite who couldn't join us in Bournemouth.

The bride and groom arrive at the reception in their chauffered coach.The reception was set in a beautiful English garden.The boys can't help but look cool. Kenny and the most beautiful girl in England. The groom shows off his Michael Jackson.

April and Raj get down!!