Mike Grehan says...

Random musings about search marketing, flying around the planet, networking and people watching.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The big New York/SES Toronto road trip.

So I've been harping on at my buddy Kevin Ryan, for little short of a lifetime, to get this new vehicle of his out of the garage and give me a tour somewhere. Living in New York, I don't have a car (it's sitting in the UK with a flat battery and flat tires by now, I guess). I get around OK on the subway and by taxi same as most New Yorkers.

I was kind of hoping we could do a Sunday afternoon around New Jersey and visit some places I've seen on The Sopranos. But, if you know Kevin at all, you'll know he never does anything by half. So the big day arrived.

Instead of flying up to Toronto together for SES... We'll drive he says!

Excuse me Kevin, but isn't that like a ten hour drive or something? Sure, he says. Ten hours of big fun!

In fact, the trip took the whole weekend getting there. Kevin's folks live upstate at Finger Lakes. It was father's day the coming Sunday so he could do brunch with his dad.

But more to the point, specifically for me, they make wine upstate New York... Lots of it.

An so, we hit the road, early Saturday morning. On the way up we stopped only once to fill up... On something called Pudgie Burgers! If my diet wasn't specifically geared towards an early heart attack, it surely was now. I could feel my arteries filling up with pudginess each mouthful. At one point in his varied career, Kevin worked part time at Pudgies. And after we finished burgers the size of our respective heads, he told me a total gross-out story about what he used to get up to making the famous Pudgie Burger.

Donnt ask!

We did actually have to make one emergency stop. I couldn't resist this shot.

Last chance for what?



A shag?

All of the above?

Our next emergency stop was essential. The Herman J Weimer vineyard to stock up on his delicious (and famous) Riesling.

There's only one word for the Finger Lakes area: Beautiful.

And what else would you do at the lakes, other than sail a boat.

And in keeping with his usual style, Kevin had picked out a great place for us to stay overnight. Geneva on the Lake.

This is a beautiful resort sitting right on Seneca Lake.I found out later, from Kevin's mom that, it used to be a monastery at one time. And when I discovered this beautifully serene corner of the gardens, it seemed fairly apparent.

Kevin's folks were attending a family and friends get together along with Kevin's brother, Frank and his family. It was such a wonderful laid back family affair with plenty of cold beer, hot dogs and burgers. Just the tonic I need as I miss my family get-togethers back in the UK very much. So, I was adopted as a member of the family for the weekend!

I was made to feel very much at home. So thanks so much you guys for having me over.

Sunday was father's day. I got two texts from my kids (one forgot - you know who you are!!!) and Kevin had his mom and pop come join him for brunch at Geneva on the Lake. And he kindly invited me too. What a wonderful family brunch that was.

Kevin's parents are absolutely delightful folks. And I couldn't have been more happy than when, Kevin's mom gave me a huge hug just as we were leaving and invited me to come back and stay again (I was also instructed to get Kevin's ass up there more often too, of course :-)

After we crossed the border into Canada, we decided to visit Niagara on the Lake as Kevin had never been there before. It being the place which boasts the oldest pub in North America... I had!

This is a beautiful little town which has been voted prettiest in Canada on more than one occasion.

And so, we had lunch and local beer at the Angel Inn.

Sunday night we arrived in Toronto and met with Andrew Goodman (SES, Toronto, Co-chair) for dinner. And Monday night was the traditional pre-show dinner. Incisive Managing Director, Gary Lynch, myself, Kevin, Matt McGowan, Frank Fazio, Richard Zwicky and a bunch of others piled into my favourite little Italian eatery in Toronto. The Kit Kat.

The show started Tuesday with another extremely informative and entertaining keynote by another favortie Canadian buddy of mine, Fredrick Marckini. He really is a first class public speaker.

There were the usual shenanigans and parties. And the usual pic of me taking a pic of Li Evans taking a pic of me (with my number one Guinness drinking buddy Motoko Hunt in the background).

And yes, my usual pic of the audience at my sessions.

After an excellent show (well done Andrew and team) Kevin and I made an early start for home. On the way, we both became aware that neither of us had ever been to Buffalo before. I did a quick check online and discovered that Buffalo really does have the restaurant where buffalo wings were invented. The Anchor Inn.

It had to be done!

And God bless Teressa Belissimo for inventing the wings that have had people all over the world asking the question: "Why are they called Buffalo wings?"

Although I have to say - 20 on a plate as the smallest dish may be a little too much Buffalo and wing!

So, rite of passage and all that, Kevin and I entered the Anchor Inn where we were seated and Kevin...


Next stop, the Turning Stone casino and resort for a quiet stay over.

This is based on an Indian reservation and is HUGE!

Strange thing is... It doesn't sell alcohol. Remember I mentioned how we stocked up earlier in the trip with that lovely upstate Riesling? Well that's the reason nobody received there gifts when I got back.

Of course, it was a long trip and we had some big, big laughs along the way. But I think we'll just leave this as the edited version. And next time you meet with Kevin and I... Buy us lots of alcohol and we may tell you the unabridged version (as Kevin's mom and my own read this blog. It's best kept out :-)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Central Park.

One thing I really do love about where I live is I'm only a few blocks from Central Park. And one of my favourite places is the park!

Last weekend (in the heat wave, I should add) I thought it would be a great idea to go to the Boathouse... I adore the Boathouse. So, yes, it's a little touristy, but what a great spot.

There's always live entertainment going on in the park. I spotted these two guys with a great comedy/gymnast/dance routine which was hilarious. Here, in the set up, you can see a small kid and a group of adults. The idea is, that one of the guys will leap over the top of the kid first and then the group. So much more to it actually (but I have a ClickZ column to write so this is the short version).

Kid first

And then the group

Excellent act!

So, my favourite place is the boathouse on the lake.

It's so relaxing just to sit and drink a nice chilled Sauvignon Blanc and watch the boats go by.

But, when you do it in a heat wave, your drink starts to boil in ten minutes and then so do your brains. Doh! Not my best idea last weekend. I'm still suffering from sun stroke!

But on the way back to my apartment, I thought what a good idea it would be to dance a little Tango first...


Thursday, June 05, 2008


My son Joe and his beautiful girlfriend of four years have just announced their engagement.

That's fantastic. You're a great couple and have been for years. And it's wonderful that Paula will join the family. She's lovely.

But take your time, kids. Weddings are expensive :-)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Walldorf...

Just before I came back to New York I paid a flying visit to Germany. Although I had been to Frankfurt a couple of times, this was my first opportunity to visit both Heidelberg and Walldorf. These towns have very interesting history.

My friend and colleague, Crispin Sheridan at SAP recommended a small hotel in Heidelberg. It was just wonderful! Die Hirschgasse is a small, luxury hotel with a 500 year history.

And I have to say, the food was outstanding. This is most certainly a place I'll be coming back to with my wife (well, whenever I see her again!). Heidelberg has a very interesting history. It's a small town of about 140,000 people and is world renowned for the famous Heidelberg press for paper and envelopes. It's a very pretty place.

And the University of Heidelberg is one of the oldest in Europe (some say the oldest) dating back to 1386. Of course, the outstanding landmark, sitting 80 meters above the river Neckar, is Heidelberg castle.

John Le Carre's novel, Absolute Friends, was set in Heidelberg.

Close by, in Walldorf, are the global headquarters of the world's third largest software company, SAP. And yes, there is a link to the Astoria family and the famous New York hotel. But the actual spelling of the name is with two Ls

SAP was founded in 1972 by five former IBM engineers and has a huge presence in the region (as well as the rest of business world... And most certainly in my life these days!).

Yes, I’ll definately be coming back to this part of the world as often as I can!

Devon, Cornwall and Eden...

Over the long weekend Tatiana and I decided to goo take a short break somewhere. Not unusual for as we're separated so often we usually look forward to spending some quality time just the two of us.

This one was a little different though. I'm living mainly in New York right now. And my wife has just been promoted and... She has to go live in Geneva, Switzerland.

So, we checked our schedules and it turns out, we won't see each other again now until September. So, with us both living outside the UK for a while, I thought I should try and do something in the UK that my wife has always wanted to do.

And she's always wanted to go south to Devon and Cornwall. So it seemed like an ideal time to jet down to Exeter, rent a car and drive around the English Riviera.

We checked into a wonderful little boutique hotel with an excellent view of Torbay.

Torbay has a nice marina.

And a long boardwalk (can't quick figure what that building with the pagoda style features are on the hill).

But the big surprise I had for Tatiana was that I had bought tickets for the world famous Eden project. Basically, you’re driving through this wonderful Cornish countryside and bang! You come across this.

It's a global garden and it's quite breathtaking. Recreated right there is a rain forest environment and also a Mediterranean environment housed inside huge "Biomes" as they are called in what used to be an old china clay pit.

If this next pic looks a little steamed over... It is. The shot was taken inside the rain forest Biome and the temperature was... Well, just like a rain forest!

And to prove the point that it is the real thing, they actually grow and package bananas for sale.

The temperature on the other side at the Mediterranean Biome was a little easier for Tatiana to handle.

These are vines growing grapes with some kind of weird shit going on with dancing bulls... and er... Stuff.

All manner of flora and forna is grown here.

And for all kinds of reasons.

One of the other Biomes had an exhibition called the Sexy Green Car Show. There was wonderful old Ford Prefect on show, the first car my father ever owned (and incidentally, where Douglas Adams took the name for the lead character in the Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy.)

And as a contrast, one of the most modern (and green) cars on the planet. The hydrogen powered Morgan, LIFECar

This guy looked a little scary when we bumped into him.

But then a second look and we could see he was made from old washing machines and vacuum cleaners!

Eden project. Fascinating!

Afterwards we were ready for lunch and went to the wonderfully quaint village harbour of Mevagissey. This is still a working port so you can watch the fishing vessels coming in and out. I can recommend the ancient old pub, the Sharksfin.

The next day, on the way home, we stopped at Exeter, the ancient capital of Devon. Here we had a beer at the 17th century Prospect Inn.

After which, it was time to hop a jet back to Newcastle.

See you in September, Tatiana!