Friday, May 31, 2013

Doggy Love

I interrupt my vacation update posts to bring you this little gem.  She is our friend's dog, and so loving and cuddly!  I love it when she licks contentedly at my hand...the only thing is, she doesn't like looking directly at the camera.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bonjour, Paris!

I had very good intentions to blog while we were away on vacation, even bringing my laptop so that I could post in real time.  But sadly the wi-fi in both places did not cooperate, so I will have to do a trip recap in parts.

We had a really great time in both Paris and Marrakech.  What beautiful/amazing/interesting cities, and what a breath of fresh air (most of the time - the Marrakech medina with its offal and raw meat is an exception) compared to Hong Kong!  It was a nice break.
The obligatory Arc picture
Le panoramique: the Eiffel and a tugboat on the Seine 
Pretty Laduree.  We didn't buy any, but I'm probably one of the few people who doesn't like macaroons
What wide sidewalks!  What sweeping stairs for the metro!  
Such an empty street seems like a miracle

Paris was pretty rainy and cold, but that didn't stop us from falling in love with the city.  Coming from Hong Kong, the main things we noticed were the wide open sidewalks, the ample public seating and the greenery around us.  The architecture in this city is beautiful.

We stayed at Hotel Cecilia, just off the Arc de Triomphe. It was a quaint neighborhood and very easily accessible to a lot of sights.
A little balcony packs a lot of charm

One of the first things we did was head to the Musee d'Orsay:

I refrained from taking too many pictures of the art, but couldn't resist these two:

Then we moseyed around and let our eyes and noses take us around - which seems inevitable in Paris! 
Gloriously gloomy interior of Saint-Sulpice
Side, exterior view
Jardin du Luxembourg was as pleasant as I expected
Feeling Parisian.  It's so nice to have empty chairs in public spaces!
Just like in the movies.  Little kids pushed their sailboats around. 
An important looking building, just because
The Pantheon with some serious clouds rolling in behind it
More to come.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Hello friends,

I'm back.

It has been a while since I posted - and there are a lot of vacation updates to provide.  The three days in Paris and five days in Marrakech were lovely and a nice break from reality.

While I get my pictures in order, however, I just thought I'd muse that... this particular homecoming has been rough.  Perhaps vacation was too carefree?

As cliched as it is to say, I really felt the weight of the world on my shoulders yesterday and today.  It's amazing how the smallest of problems can become magnified until each issue seems to take on epic proportions.  In my more rational moments, I know that these are all small problems exacerbated by terrible timing and lack of sleep.

But in my more hysterical moments...

Take your pick:  being confronted unexpectedly at work, engaging in a few heated verbal disputes with my previous landlord over the security deposit, trying to untangle the cable and internet provider's reasoning for how they're charging higher prices for slower speeds and less (missing) channels, waiting on hold endlessly as I am bounced around and wait to speak to said cable and internet provider (and never receiving a satisfactory explanation despite three agents and an hour long phone call), an uncooperative and unresponsive property manager, or the unexpected and disappointing noisiness of the new apartment.

Sometimes, sometimes, it just feels like a lot.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

St Betty

Last night I went to a work dinner at St Betty in the IFC mall.  Yes, it has taken some getting used to, but I no longer feel as weird about going to a really fancy restaurant in a shopping mall.  It's just part of the Asia experience.

The menu was quite lovely.  The restaurant overlooks Victoria Harbour and, with its dramatic glass walls of windows, I think it would be a most delightful place for a quiet, relaxed Sunday brunch.

Touches of plaid adorn the restaurant and waitstaff
Ox heart heirloom tomato salad with arugula, burrata cheese, green olives and croutons
Wagyu blade with heirloom tomatoes and onions, served with pureed potatoes

Friday, May 10, 2013

Kee Club

Last night, I dragged myself to a networking event for lawyers and bankers at the Kee Club (a "members only" club situated above Yung Kee in Central). 

As no one checked where I was going and I changed my shoes very awkwardly right in front of the doors, I'm not sure what "members only" really means...

Anyway, I'd already expended most of my willpower to drag myself to the gym, so I was almost certain I wasn't going to actually make it to this event.  But in retrospect I'm glad I went.  It's always intimidating to enter a room by yourself with a lot of people clustered in small groups, and to try to manuever yourself into (and out of!) conversations.

Having done it a few times now, I think the process, probably much like flinging yourself off of a cliff, gets easier.  And sometimes it can almost be fun.  With that ringing endorsement... I wish all and sundry a bon weekend!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Power Suit (Dress)

I recently went to a tailor to acquire some more business-like attire in my wardrobe.  I wanted some sheaths that would be appropriate for meetings and conferences, which could hopefully replace a two-piece suit.  In hindsight, the dresses are fine and beautifully lined, but I'm not sure that a purchase from Ann Taylor or Gilt or Saks or Bloomingdales or any other myriad number of shopping outlets available to women wouldn't have also done the trick. 

One thing I've learned from this process is that a lot of women's clothes are made from very stretchy fabric.  I tend to classify polyester or rayon or viscose as inferior to wool or cotton or silk, which I informally consider the "premium" fabrics.  But, polyester + rayon + viscose is what gets you the clingy, fitted, stretchy dress that flows and hugs the body.  Men don't need that in their outfits, but women do.  Or at least, I think women do!

I may give this another go, but I'll likely leave the custom made stuff to the men and revert to hunting for a good bargain online...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Have Apartment, Will Move!

Pictures to come.  The unit is a very small space, on the fourth floor of a walk-up, or "tonglau".  The fourth floor in Hong Kong is really five flights up though, because there is a ground floor (which happens to be an adorable cupcake shop).  I'll definitely not need a Stairmaster during my time here.

We've gotten some funny looks by referring to the building as a walk-up, and we finally realized that a walk-up is shorthand for the UK equivalent of a walk-up brothel, which leads to some confusion and awkward pauses when you say: "Walk-ups are just so unique and charming here" or "We've been visiting a lot of walk-ups but can't decide if they're worth the price" or "We just love walk-ups!"

The building is very unique because it overlooks a little park, and only contains one unit per floor.  Unlike typical tonglau in Hong Kong, this building is completely free-standing, which means that the unit has windows on every side.(!)  For normal people who live by normal standards in actual houses, I'm sure that this does not seem particularly amazing.  But in the land of cardboard box living, it is special.

I am also trying to justify the "coziness" of this unit with its brand new amenities, bright and airy interior, generous kitchen (for Hong Kong) and, perhaps THE selling point, the big private roof terrace.  Basically, this unit has beacoup de charme in spades.

It's in a really central location (perhaps too central - I actually wanted something a bit more out of the way, quieter, away from the bars and restaurants) but having gone to check it out on two separate nights, I'm satisfied that at least the apartment interior is quiet. 

Getting ahead of myself a bit here, but I am already ambitiously contemplating what vegetables, herbs and flowers to plant. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Seeking Travel Suggestions, or STS

My dear readers, time is moving very quickly.  We are leaving for Paris on May 18 and will be there for 3 days.  I would love to hear what sights you recommend seeing and, in particular, where you recommend for eating and shopping (most important!).

I'm afraid I haven't done much more than determine that I want to see the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay.  I would also like to eat my weight in crusty bread and stinky cheese and drink lots of delicious coffee.

We are then leaving for Marrakech where I plan to spend every day immersed (lost) in the bazaar.  But if you have suggestions for there as well, I would be ever so grateful if you'd also send them my way.

Excited!  Bisous.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Fun Street Art

This sidewalk mural recently popped up.  Adds a little bit of bright to my morning commute.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

On Flowers and Fruit

Today I address two topics: the gardenia and the banana.

The gardenia is probably, possibly, my most favorite flower.  This is saying a lot, because I have pretty much never encountered a flower I did not like.  I think it's gardenia season in Hong Kong again, because huge batches of these flowers have started popping up at the flower markets. 

Simply sensational.

Did you know that the gardenia is a relatively late discovery in the flower world?  In 1758, the gardenia was discovered in England and was formally declared a different genus and species than jasmine.  The flower is named after the Scottish doctor and naturalist (men did a lot more back then) Alexander Garden, who was honored with the very first transplanted gardenia bush.  He planted it in his backyard in Charleston, and the gardenia has been a fixture of Southern gentility since.

I don't think it should have taken these world-renowned botanists so long to figure out the difference between a jasmine and a gardenia, but then again, while men may have done more back then, they still didn't do things any better. 

I think it's fascinating that there are thousands of varieties of bananas, and Americans only get access to a mere one! (the Cavendish).  I'm sure if you were to survey Americans from coast to coast and ask them to describe a banana, they would all describe one type of banana (and that would be the Cavendish). 

This is sad, because as far as flavor and texture goes, the Cavendish stacks up very poorly against its brethren.  It is the only banana that so much of the non-banana growing world sees, however, because it is perfect for transport/transporters have perfected the shipping method for this banana.  Just think, if another shipper had perfected the method to transport another variety of banana, your everyday breakfast fruit could be an entirely different size, color, taste and texture.  It could be like my current breakfast banana instead.  Read more here.

When I was in Thailand, I tried at least four or five different varieties of bananas. Hong Kong doesn't have that many varieties, but there is one banana stand that usually sells at least three different kinds. I am in love with these baby bananas (from Thailand). I placed a pen next to it for size contrast, but I'm not sure it's all that helpful.  Basically, these bananas are a mere 3 inches in length. They have a denser consistency, are a darker yellow, and are much, much sweeter than the bananas I ate back home.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Price of Authenticity

Today, while walking around Sheung Wan in despair over the current state of my lease, I stumbled upon a local building that was quintessentially "Hong Kong local".  I am all for living like the locals and shunning the prissy expats, but... there is a limit.  What do I mean?  Sometimes, despite my affinity for words, pictures are still better:

I admit I am captivated by this courtyard.  And the lone chair!  Simply poetic.
Mmmmm seven glorious flights to the top. 
At least this presumably means there IS running water in this building...
Right across from this building was an alleyway with a prominent poster, warning pedestrians of poisonous rat bait that had recently been laid extensively in the area.  Oh, Hong Kong.  Now all we need is an avian flu outbreak... oh, wait.