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Monthly Archives: November 2013

The all-time, most popular post on this blog is not a story or photos of our travels.  It is a post called “The Different Values of HSBC” which is about a series of advertising posters created for HSBC. It was posted on December 19, 2009. Take a look.

The posters were widely seen in airports around the world several years ago. As you will see, these three-panel ads come in two flavors:

  • same picture, three different words
  • same words, three different pictures

I(Chris) liked them a lot and put what I found online in a couple more posts. These three posts have become perennial favorites each receiving at least several hits per week. We even found a page on Pinterest about our blog with a bunch of pins on these posters.

See more of the posters at  – More different values of HSBC, and Even more different values of HSBC. They will make you smile.

In one of the posts, I said I will make some up myself. Here is my first attempt (without the iconic red border).


I am not sure if the vertical orientation works as well as the original horizontal arrangement. I also wonder if the original series, all about HSBC, influenced my choice of the photo (Citibank) and words in the panel. I hope to create some more in the future because once a good picture is found, it is fun to try out different words. After the picture is processed, Microsoft Power Point and a screen capturing tool were used to create them.

Here is the picture without any word. Have a go if you want. I would love to see what other “words” you choose.


You have permission to use the photo for non-profit purpose.

And last but not least, happy thanksgiving people.

If you see ads below here, they have nothing to do with us.

The W Barcelona is located at the western end of Barcelona’s artificial beachfront. It is one of the taller buildings in the city and certainly the tallest and most recognizable in the downtown waterfront area. The architect, Ricardo Bofil, created a nearly 30-story tall building that is shaped like a sail.

W views-1

I had a room on the 20th floor where all these pictures were taken. Here are the views.

W views-2I have to say the beach is pretty ugly – the sand was rough and it just looked messy from atop. But given its proximity to downtown Barcelona, I am sure the city’s residents are not complaining.

W views-3

The beach starts from Port Olimpic, marked by Frank Gehry’s “Peix d’Or” sculpture (brown fish-shaped object in the middle of the photo below), and ends at the W.

W views-9

The Barceloneta boardwalk is located in the midsection of the beach. Torre Agbar in the background.

W views-8

Barceloneta is known for its boardwalk, nightclubs and numerous touristy restaurants.

W views-10

On the city side of the inlet, from left to right are Carrer del mar (an extension of La Rambla), Maremagnum mall and the city’s aquarium.

W views-4

The Carrer del mar (in the middle of the picture below) is the place where during our last visit we ran into a couple of scam artists (we did not fall for it) – read the post here.

W views-5

Torre Sant Sebastià is the terminus of the Port Vell Aerial Tramway; opened in 1931, it connects La Barceloneta with Montjuïc across Port Vell.

W views-6Apparently, there is a very good restaurant at the top of the tower.

W views-7

One of the tram stops is at the World Trade Center.

W views-11

Opposite the W on the city/harbor side is a dock full of monster yachts. Who owns these yachts ?

W views-12

At dusk.


Barcelona is one of the busiest cruise ship port of call in the Meditterranean.

W views-15The pool area of the W hotel is right next to the beach.

W views-14The 4-5 story long building with green glass on the left houses the headquarters of the Spanish casual fashion brand – Desigual – check out their super colorful website.

If you missed it, there is an earlier post about the interiors of the hotel.

If there is an ad below here, we have nothing to do with it.


I (Chris) attended a week-long business conference in Barcelona. The organizer chose its venue at the “W” on the city’s waterfront !

The hotel is built on land reclaimed from the sea during construction of a new entrance to the harbor.

W Barca-1

Upon arrival, there was a long line to check-in. It was almost 4:30pm. When I got to the reception, they offered me a room on the second floor or a higher floor if I waited.

W Barca-5

Second floor ? No way ! So I waited and they called me 45 minutes later and voila, a room on the 20th floor.

W Barca-2

The location of the hotel is stunning, being located at one end of the city’s sandy beach. The curtains are powered and opened/closed by remote control.

W Barca-3

I got a room facing the west side of the city with a view of the cruise ship terminal. Rooms on the other side has the view of the city and the beach.

W Barca-8

Instead of a mini bar, they provide premium liquor and a cocktail kit (at exorbitant prices).

W Barca-4

The guest room is in fact quite small but with a strategically placed mirror and the big window, the room did not feel cramped.

W Barca-6

A lot of thoughts have gone into the design of lighting in the bathroom and showers. They even provided Philip’s mood light system.

W Barca-9

As a brand, the W hotels are all made to look hip and clubby. Neon red is used everywhere. This is the corridor leading to my room.

W Barca-10

The lobby is kept relatively dark and is lit only with a wall of LEDs  above the 7-floor high atrium, even during the day.

W Barca-12

The lobby bar has a DJ.

W Barca-15

The hotel’s computer system went down on checkout day. So there was another line. They have a “Whatever” desk in the lobby to provide concierge services but most of the time, the staff was helping out at the reception desks.

W Barca-11

Overall, I think the hotel’s interiors (guest rooms as well as conference spaces) are well designed and the services are adequate. The front desk operation could be better organized, however. More photos from the W to come in our next post.

We wrote many posts after our last visit to Barcelona in 2011. Just search the blog using the Barcelona tag. Or try these links to our posts on architecture: CCCB, sights: Sagrada Familia, and food: alkimia.

If there is an ad below here, we have nothing to do with it.


These are the photos I (Chris) took and posted on Facebook. The series was started in March of 2013. There is no theme – just something random and visually interesting. We gave each a title and noted where it was taken (to the extent we could remember the city).

#16 – pool and ground floor – Baden-Baden, Germany

pool and ground floor

#17 – the colors of money


#18 – waiting – New York

Uptown @ 34th

#19 – barbie & friends – Cape May, USA

bathing beauties

#20 – aqua – Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France


If you are interested to see other Random Photos, click on the random tag on the left.


If you see ads below here, we have nothing to do with it.

We have not posted on the topic of advertising for quite a while. The last set of posts directed to the advertising of HSBC in airports worldwide has been a perennial favorite of this blog – if you are curious, you can find them here, here, and here.

Floralp is a Swiss brand of butter and their most recent campaign made us smile.

“Les fripons du beurre Floralp”


We saw this first at a bus shelter in Lausanne. Then we started noticing them at various locations – train stations, billboards, etc.


We call them the “butter bandit family”. The images are very endearing.


We saw Floralp’s previous campaign too, but in my (Chris) opinion, while it was cute, it lacked warmth and fun.



Some of these ads work as a sequence.

“Hamster se cache”


The ads were created by Leo Burnett Switzerland – you can see more of their work here.

“La Tartine”








We have bought Floralp’s butter from the supermarket (not because of their ads though). It is fine product.


Floralp is providing some of these images as wallpapers and screen savers on their web site – here.



This is the third bookstore that I came across in my two-and-a half-day stay in São Paulo. This Livraria Cultura is situated in one of the more luxury shopping malls in town (Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton are its neighbors).

Livraria in mall-1

Like the shop they have in downtown on Avenida Paulista (see my post here), the entrance is unassuming. At the entrance level, they sell music and DVDs.

Livraria in mall-2

The mezzanine level, aptly named as the “Geek” department, sells comics, games and fan toys.

Livraria in mall-4

When the escalator reaches level “3”, I was brought into this one massive room.

Livraria in mall-5

It is a vast reading area with orange comfy chairs.

Livraria in mall-6

At one end there is a series of wooden “steps” that can serve as rows of seats – I imagine the space can host a performance or readings with an audience of more than 200 people.

Livraria in mall-8

If Apple is to start selling physical books, I can imagine them building a store like this one.

Livraria in mall-7

I spoke briefly with a shop keeper (in English) and apparently, the shop is barely a month old (I was there in October 2013).

Livraria in mall-9

Unfortunately most books are in Portuguese …

Livraria in mall-10

Unlike NYC, the existence of Amazon, Kindle and Nook did not seem to affect the brick-and-mortar bookstore in São Paulo. I did see people using e-readers but the physical bookstores appeared to be thriving.

Livraria in mall-11

It is a beautiful shop full of beautiful books in a beautiful mall. See the guards at the entrance ?

Livraria in mall-20

See the other Paulista bookstores here and here.

This is the second bookstore that I came across in downtown São Paulo. I almost missed it because of its non-descript facade.

livraria da vila-1

The size of the store and the neighborhood in which it is located (Rua Oscar Freire) reminded me of SoHo in New York and Rizzoli on West Broadway (closed since late 2000’s).

livraria da vila-2

The store has a total of three levels, the entrance being the middle level.

livraria da vila-4

The plan of the shop is long and narrow-ish and there are “holes” between the levels.

livraria da vila-5

Lining the sides of the holes are book shelves. This is the view from the top level looking down through a rectangular hole onto the street level.

livraria da vila-6

There is a circular void between the street level and the lower level.

livraria da vila-7

Looking up from the lower level.

livraria da vila-8

There was, what I presume, a book tour talk in the basement auditorium. It was packed. The author (male) was speaking French while the interviewer (female) was doing an instant translation into Portuguese and asking questions.

livraria da vila-9

The three floors are connected by an elevator that is made to look like a storage room filled with books.

livraria da vila-11


livraria da vila-10

The top floor sells mostly CDs and DVDs.

livraria da vila-13

The top floor also contains a cafe with a small outdoor seating area.

livraria da vila-12

There are listening stations here and there.

livraria da vila-14

Luckily, when I took these pictures, the people were all in the auditorium. About 15 minutes after I walked in, the talk was over and the store were filled with people enjoying wine and finger food.

livraria da vila-15Helpful staff too – I bought a 10-CD box set of Brazilian pop music – a nice compilation of traditional as well as electro versions of Bossa Nova, Samba and Timbalada.

While in Brazil, I had a chance to visit its southernmost state – Rio Grande do Sul.


From Sao Paulo, we flew to Porto Alegre which is the capital of the state. The airport has on its walls these large-scale mosaics of life on the Pampas. They are black-and-white pictures made with thousands of colored tiles. So it is best to view these pictures a little further away than usual. The word Pampas came from the Quechua word, pampa, meaning “plain”.


Commercial cattle ranching began in the second half of the 18th century. These are the lowlands where the gauchos live. Gaucho or gaúcho is an equivalent of the North American cowboy.


Gauchos were historically nomadic, and lived in the Pampas, the plain that extends north from Patagonia, bounded on the west by the Andes and extending on the east to Uruguay and the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.


In the past, these nomadic riders lived by hunting wild cattle. Most gauchos were of mixed Spanish, Portuguese, Moorish Arab/Berber and Amerindian ancestry.


I did not see any gaucho or large flightless birds (the Rhea). But I met a member of the military police who flagged our vehicle down to check if we were wearing seat belts. We all were.


Given the abundance of cattle, on the first two days we were in the area, we ate at different churrascarias – various cuts of beef non-stop until you say no – “Alcatra yes, Picanha yes …”


One of the best tasting and unexpected item I ate at the churrascarias was not meat but a fruit – a pineapple lightly dusted with cinnamon and gently roasted on embers – served warm and juicy, sliced directly off the skewer like the meats. It was deliciously sweet. Too bad I did not have my camera with me.


It was a nice spring day – comfortably warm and breezy.


Most of these pictures were taken from a moving vehicle so they may be a little blurred. But what I really wanted to capture are the shapes of the trees. Due to the way the branches are organized around the main trunk,  the resulting shapes are uncommon in the areas where I lived.


The Pampas landscape is endlessly flat and the land is fertile.

gaucho-2Pampas, cattle, gauchos, grilled steaks, what a place !

Walking around São Paulo, I came across three remarkable bookstores.  Two in the downtown area and one in a luxurious shopping mall in the business district. My short visit had become an unintended bookstore tour and I was delighted. I will dedicate a post for each one of them.

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 11.56.22 PM

This one owned by Livraria Cultura is situated in a downtown shopping mall in the mid-section of Avenida Paulista (the equivalent of 6th Avenue in midtown New York, or any section of Nathan Road in Hong Kong). The company’s web page is here.


I wandered into the store via the mall entrance and was really surprised by how the space suddenly opened up.


There is a wide ramp that gently rises up to the first floor. Flat platforms served as seats on the sloping ramp. The interior was warm and inviting, playful and dramatic.


I think there are at least three floors each with a balcony above the big atrium space in the middle.


Love getting lost in this bookstore. One could see most departments of the bookstore when standing near the top of the atrium.


The place was packed with people browsing and socializing, and importantly buying books too.


The top floor has a music and video section.


What they lacked, which is always present in a US bookstore, is a cafe. Or did I miss it ?


The Arts department is in a separate unit in the mall and not connected to this big space. When I walked in, it was hosting a book signing party – but it must have just finished – I did not see the writer but there were waiters walking around with trays of wine and finger food. It was a Wednesday night and people were out and about enjoying a decent urban cultural life.


The squiggly handrails and criss-crossing barriers make a very strong visual statement throughout the store.


I suspect that this is their flagship store as it is mentioned first in their company web page.


For those who are interested in bookstores, I toured several university bookstores in Boston last year and blogged about them here and here.

Two more Brazilian bookstore posts to come.