Rome at Night

The New York Times has a nice article about Rome at night in yesterday’s Travel section. The Web version includes a slide show and a multimedia walking guide.

It brings me back. Rome is one of my three favorite cities in the world (I haven’t yet decided what the other two are), and as the article suggests, it is particularly magical at night. When Martine and I were there about two years ago, we spent a lot of time walking the various streets and neighbourhoods under the cool white light of the full moon and the ochre-yellow glow of the street lamps.

Piazza Navona, via Giulia, via dei Coronari, Piazza di Spagna, Campo dei Fiori, via del Governo Vecchio … I can’t imagine I’ll never go back, yet there are so many other places to see.

Thank goodness for well written travel pieces, as well as Flickr, my blog, and the Monday Morning Photo Blog. It keeps the memories alive.

Via dei Coronari, under a full moon.

Airbus A380: Some Numbers

Everybody’s talking about the Airbus A380 that landed at Montreal’s Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport yesterday. I’m a big fan of airplanes and flying, so I wish I could have been there to witness it. I’m an uneasy fan, however, as I realize that air travel is one of the biggest contributors to pollution, oil consumption, and greenhouse gases.

A380 lands in Montreal

Photo by Abdou.W (via Flickr)

The A380 is supposed to be more fuel efficient than other jumbo jets, which is encouraging. The plane is also supposed to be significantly quieter than other large passenger planes, an improvement which should not be overlooked. But what do all those numbers really mean? I decided to do some calculations in order to find out.

Fuel Consumption

The A380 supposedly uses “less than three litres of fuel, per passenger, per 100 kilometers.” Apparently that’s pretty efficient for a big jumbo jet, at least on a per-person basis. Airbus’s Web site claims it is 17% more efficient than “today’s largest aircraft.” (Elsewhere on the site it says the plane “burns 12 per cent less fuel per seat” than “its competitor.”)

Those “per person” numbers look impressive, but what happens when you start factoring in many persons and long distances? For example, Montreal to Paris is something like 5500 kilometres. The standard configuration for the plane is for 525 passengers in three classes. (It can carry up to 853 people, but that assumes an “all economy” configuration – which is unlikely to occur. )

Since the 525 seat configuration is mentioned on the Airbus Web site “green” pages, we’ll use that as our basis. In that case, 525 people times 5500 kilometres equals 2,887,500 “person-kilometers” for the trip. Divide that by 100 and you get 28,875 “100-kilometer units,” multiplied by 2.9 liters per unit (“less than three litres”), and you get a total of 83,737 litres of fuel burned for one trip across the pond.

CO2 Emissions

Airbus’s Web site says the A380 emits 75 grams of CO2 per passenger, per kilometer. So let’s crunch some numbers again, using the same Montreal-Paris flight we talked about above.

525 passengers times 5500 kilometres times 75 grams = 216,562,500 grams, or 216,562 kilograms, or almost 217 metric tonnes of CO2 for that one flight to Paris.

Let’s put that in perspective. According to the calculator at the U.K.’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited’s Web site, my Honda Fit spits out 134 grams of CO2 per kilometer, which is almost double that of the (per passenger) output of the A380. So having 525 people fly to Paris on an Airbus A380 is like having 294 people drive there in Honda Fits (assuming you could drive across the ocean).

Keep in mind, however, that this Guardian Travelog story calls some of those numbers into dispute. For example, it claims the efficiency numbers are based on 550 passengers with no baggage or cargo.


I have to admit, I thought air travel burned more fuel and emitted more pollution than what these numbers indicate. I feel less guilty about my once or twice a year plane rides now. But all you have to do is watch the dozens of planes that land at Montreal’s airport every hour, or the roughly 1500 landings and takeoffs per day at Charles de Gaulle International Airport to realize how many planes are out there spewing their 75, or 90, or 150 grams of CO2 per passenger per kilometer. Even if flying is more fuel and emissions efficient than driving, there is still a “death by a thousand cuts” issue based on the sheer volume of daily air traffic.

Pauline’s Pizza (San Francisco)

A few weeks ago I wrote about my recent pizza experiences in San Francisco. In particular, there was my revelation about Pizzeria Delfina on 18th Street, which makes a pretty good approximation of a Neapolitan-style pie.

We ate another San Francisco pizza about a week later. It was our last night in the city before coming back to Montreal, and after leaving a wine bar we were on our way down Valencia Street with Delfina in mind. Neither of us were looking forward to the inevitable lineup, so when we passed Pauline’s Pizza Martine said “Hey, what about this place?”

What about it indeed. First of all, it’s a much bigger space, and second, there was a single unoccupied table for two over against the wall. I had seen Pauline’s mentioned in a positive light in a few Chowhounds discussions, so yeah. Sorry Delfina’s. (Why don’t you expand into that empty storefront that’s right next door on the left?)

It proved to be a very good move.

Pauline's Pizza

Photo by pecanpieguy

Pauline’s takes a different approach to pizza than does Delfina’s. Pauline’s emphasis is very much on the “California style” with fresh, homemade ingredients and no particular affinity to Italian classics. Despite all my expostulation (which is to say, ass talk) about “authenticity” I’m quite happy to go in other directions as long as it’s done well.

And Pauline’s does it well. The pies are available in various sizes (that’s not very Italian), and you can get “half & half” pies, where half is dressed one way and the other half another way. All very standard American pizza experience on the surface. But the difference is in the quality of the ingredients, the technique, and of course, the tasting.

We went half & half. One side was “vegetable combo” with mushrooms, peppers, and olives. The other half was the special of the day; some kind of finely chopped leafy chard, something else (I don’t remember), and a lot (a lot!) of garlic. When it arrived it smelled insanely delicious, and looked great. One half was a mix of white and green (chard and cheese) and the other half was almost black with olives and mushrooms.

Photo by Pengrin™

We had ordered a “medium” on the waitress’s recommendation, and at first it we thought we had perhaps gone too far, as it seemed like a very big medium. We needn’t have worried, however, as we managed to gobble the whole thing without any problem at all. The cheese was delicious but lightly applied (as it should be), and the crust, was thin(ish) and very light and crispy.

We left there feeling pretty good, and pretty happy about our various pizza choices.