Thursday, July 31, 2014

A study of contrasts, Sunday in Hong Kong...

Our first day in Hong Kong was an eye-opening study of contrasts.

It was a clutter of old and new.


Chaos 


and order. 


East 


meets West.


It was a steamy, hot day with threats of rain showers,


maybe that's why there weren't many people at the tranquil Hollywood Road Park.



The funny thing about Hong Kong is that you can almost avoid the weather altogether, because there are covered and enclosed pedestrian passageways that give you access to most of the city without having to walk on the roads.

In contrast to the the serene green scene at the The Hollywood Road Park, the open air passageways were filled with a wash of humanity...


Sunday is the official day off for the many domestic employees, so they set up camp and spend the day laughing, eating, gossiping and even playing a little bingo in their makeshift living rooms.


Another respite of serenity on the complex stretch of Hollywood Road is the Man Mo Temple, when you walk in, the thick incense scented air moves you immediately into a slower, more tranquil state, glowing lanterns hang above and the spacious temple is filled with deep red lacquered furnishings. The expansive rooms are filled with the sounds of murmurs and chants, interrupted sporadically by the sound of a mellow toned gong. The complex is actually a combination of three temples, the Lit Shing Kung and Kung Sor Temples are also in this 3 block compound. To read my previous post on this incredible sight, click on take me to the Man Mo Temple


Other signs of spirituality, in particular these small shrines, could be found along the road,


a stark contrast to the artful graffiti that covered nearby walls, 

does anyone know what this says?


Or this? 

When the rains hit, 


there was no need to curtail our explorations...


In the more chi-chi sections of town one can access a variety of shopping and dining experiences using the very clean and enclosed walkways, which have glass bridges that go over the roads to connect you to the next mall...

without feeling a drop of rain,


or a percentage of humidity.  



In the Landmark Atrium we were delighted to find a private room for our hungry brood at the very elegant China Tang restaurant, where the ambiance feels like a rich dosage of traditional Shanghai decor brushed with a glaze of British colonialism.

唐人館 }


Our beautiful room provided a special sort of shelter, giving us all a chance to take a deep breath and prepare to receive some civilized sustenance. Quite a difference from our busy morning hustling and bustling along the streets of this fascinating and seemingly endless city. 


The intensely colored walls of the private rooms are decorated with handpainted and embroidered wallpaper.



Darn it! Why can't I get that text {above} to center? or this text? Must be the cool Chinese lettered link I imported, but I'm not going to delete it 


 !!!!

 

Sorry, I digress, back to China Tang {no link provided this time}... 


The crystal cruets in the center of the table, filled with oils, vinegars and other exotic concoctions, allowed us to add just the right amount of flavor and spice to our expertly prepared food, a selection of traditional dishes from different regions of China.



The deep indigo, silver tipped chop sticks added an elegant touch to every delicious morsel.


And the delicate celedon serveware reinforced the sense of calm and serenity that was now ours to enjoy.


Thanks for sharing this day in Hong Kong with me, 


but I'm not finished sharing the my highlights of this remarkable city, 
so please stay tuned. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Eat your vegetables, the journey begins in Hong Kong.....

 For me, of course, one of the more intriguing notions about traveling to Asia was the food. I was not disappointed on that front, we had so many incredible meals, in fact I was a little surprised that I didn't gain more weight as we ate our way through SE Asia.



 Reflecting back, I think it was the fact that most of our meals were loaded with plenty of vegetables, some familiar, some completely foreign, but all were prepared with flavorful herb and spice combinations. 


It takes me back to a lesson learned at The Ranch, which is to ensure that your plate is always 3/4 filled with vegetables, not a difficult assignment to accomplish on this trip. 

This giant zucchini was present in many of our meals, note the scale compared to the egg cartons in the upper part of the image.
Our final destination on this trip was a boat on the the Island of Flores, in the Java Sea, in East Nusa Tenggara in the Republic of Indonesia where we were meeting up with 3 other families to explore the Komodo National Park. 


When I was looking at the globe, trying to scope out a route to get to our final destination, I realized that we had a long, LONG way to go to get to the Labuan Bajo Airport where the crew would be meeting us, and I saw the names of so many compelling  places along the way that we would be flying over, so I thought, "why not make a few stops"? 




With my globe on one side and Expedia.com at my fingertips I started exploring different scenarios that would get us to where we wanted to go. Influencing the itinerary is the fact that I'm a complete mileage junkie, with a preference towards Alaska Air, our fabulous local airline which partners with some great international airlines.




Our first stop was in Hong Kong, China, where we visited this "wet market" on a hot and steamy Saturday.


We were traveling with another family with whom we shared the ambition of getting up, getting out and getting on our new timeline as promptly and painlessly as possible. One of my number one strategies for breaking through jet lag is to start thinking about my future timeline a couple of days before lift off, and to try to shift my daily routine (primarily my sleeping schedule and my morning cup of coffee) as closely as possible to when I'll be doing it in my new land.


I also believe in making the travel a part of the adventure, so I like to indulge in the services and enjoy the opportunity to watch plenty of movies (a luxury I rarely partake in at home).


We took Korean Air over to Hong Kong. We found our business class seats to be some of the most comfortable we'd ever experienced. The extra cost of being able to get completely horizontal bought us the strength to get up and go the next morning,


after indulging in the incredible breakfast buffet, of course.

More on those dumplings coming soon...


Monday, July 21, 2014

"Jump in, let's go..."

I loved all of the tricked out "beach buggy's" we came across while living in the S of F, they just make you want to be more carefree and adventuresome, ready to hit the winding road to just see what the summer may bring your way. 

 

Aren't you just dying to load a picnic in the basket and hop into this open-air ticket-to-adventure?


This jeep, a little more polished and perfectly protected with thick rope guard on the bumper would take you anywhere you wanted to go, I'm sure. This rig was regularly sited in front of Le Columbe d'or in St. Paul de Vence, so you know they could order up a fabulous picnic lunch or dinner and go for miles to dine somewhere special, way up in the Alps even, especially with that extra tank of gas and lead of rope on the side.


While decidedly less rugged, this blue and white 3-wheeler Moke is perfect for getting to the beach or the market, and parking would be a breeze. 


If "breeze" isn't your thing, this dainty dandy may be the perfect option to get you "further".



"... Everybody gets high, everybody gets low, 
these are the days when anything goes"

~Cheryl Crow, Everyday is a Winding Road

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Chemin de Nietzsche, Eze bord de Mer...

For an entirely different view of the Mer, I highly recommend taking The "Chemin de Nietzsche" a steep, rocky trail that takes you from the sea to the sky. The start of this trail is right by the apartment we lived in while staying in Eze Bord de Mer, so we navigated this route frequently during our stay. 


If you are in good shape and walking at a steady pace, you can make it up to Eze Village in 45 minutes, where you will be rewarded with views such as this one from the patio at Chateau Eza, looking down on Eze Bord de Mer and out west to Cap Ferrat and Nice.



I love this hike because it reminds me of what really makes this part of the world so spectacular, it is where the Alps meet the Med, and the craggy, rugged hills are such an intense contrast the velvety blue Mediterranean. I believe this dramatic geographical situation is the foundation to the incredible views and environments that are available here.


Like most of the impressive hikes throughout France, this one is maintained, with stone steps built in many sections to help one to reach the higher ground. Along the way you may see wild flowers amongst the shrubbery, views of exclusive mansions and perhaps a few butterflies. Be sure to wear sturdy tennis shoes, sunscreen and bring a large bottle of water and a hiking stick if you can find one. This is somewhat of a mecca for many, we were often be stopped and asked where to find the trail head in a variety of accents and languages. If you don't feel like walking up, you can take the bus up to the top (the stop is right by the Eze train station) and then walk down after exploring the art galleries, shops and views in Eze Village (the Medieval hilltown). 


There are a few restaurants there, but aside from the very formal dining at Chateau Eza and Chèvre d'Or, we didn't find many remarkable meals. Instead, I'd suggest you plan on lunching when you get back down, at the edge of the sea (read on).


The trail is named after the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who lived on the French Riviera beginning in 1883. He was known to regularly take this path from the seashore to "the wonderful Moorish village of Eza, built among the rocks". It was here where he composed the third part of his work "Ainsi Parlait Zarathoustra". Or "Thus spoke Zarathoustra", from which you could borrow his mantra "You are treading your path of greatness: no one shall steal after you here" if the going gets tough on the trail.


On the way down you can stop into the Fragonard perfume factory to take a tour or just visit the gift shop to sample some of the scents or pick up a few bottles to bring home, Belle Nuit is my all time favorite scent from Fragonard. Many times when we were hiking up we were treated to the scent of roses that must have been being distilled at the factory.


Once you make it down to the main road, I highly recommend you go to my favorite beach club, The Anjuna, for one of the most delightful and relaxing dining situations ever, right on the edge of the sea. Enjoy the herb scented Nicoise olives they bring to the table with a glass of rosé.


And then, maybe one of my favorite dishes, which is the poached white fish served with a creamy, garlicky aioli,


plenty of steamed vegetables, a boiled egg and even a few snails, this is sort of a single serving version of Le Grande Aioli



The Anjuna is a little tricky to find, if you get to the bottom of the trail, you can cross the street, and then the railroad tracks by the Eze train station to make your way to the rocky beach, when you get on the beach turn to the right (West) and walk until you see the Papaya Beach club (also very good and very fun) and then Anjuna. DO NOT turn to the left, unless you want to join in the fun at the "Naturist" (nude) beach to the east.


This section of the Riviera is covered with big, round rocks and they are a little hard to walk on. You may find it easier to turn to the right at the base of the trail and walk on the road for a couple of blocks until you see this sign on the sea side of the road. When you get here you should be able to find arrows to a tunnel that is on the north side of the road, the tunnel will allow you to walk under the road and out to the beach, when you get to the beach turn right, and Papaya and Anjuna are near. 


I hope you are having some interesting explorations wherever the roads are leading you this summer.