Tag Archives: Food

Day 71-72: End of the Rainbow

Alas, I am at the end of my fourth world trip. After 11 flights, 11 train trips, and numerous bus, taxi and private car transfers, I will have successfully completed my world travel goal for this year. We met old friends and made new ones. We gained much deeper understanding and appreciation of our roots. And as mentioned previously, I overcame my fear of drawing!! Like any phobia, it is easy to avoid what you fear most. I grabbed the bull by the horn and grappled with it. It was so easy it wasn’t even a contest. I just simply had to do it!

Granted, the circumstances were perfect, and for that, I must give credit to an incredible teacher and artist extraordinaire, Diane Olivier. Don’t miss my tribute to her in the video posted on Day 58, Moroccan Magic.

Our last day in Hong Kong included a visit to the Man Mo Temple near our Air BNB and a walk along Bowen Path. It is one of the best kept secrets of Hong Kong. It winds for three miles along the Mid-Levels in a horizontal stretch. The torrential rains that day drenched us with plenty of waterfall activity along the route. (See also Day 66, 2014, tagged below.)

We stopped for lunch at Lin Heung, an old Hong Kong mainstay. You rinse your dishes in discarded hot tea that is brewed and poured at the table.

So, until next time, Farewell! Please send me any comments you wish to share about what you liked or didn’t –I heard that there were too many opera posts so cut back (of course only after leaving Germany!!). Do write, and I definitely will write back!

Thanks to all for following travelswithmyselfandothers.  As you know, this is a personal pursuit of my favorite activities and being able to share it with you gives me the greatest pleasure.  I hope to see each and every one of you (whom I can recognize by name) in the next year–let’s make a date!

Auf Wiedersehen, 在见,  وداعا!!

VickieVictoria

P.S. In an effort to sketch every day, here are a few sketches of people eating at breakfast and still lifes of dishes that didn’t get posted.

P.S.S. Last of series of daily sketches:

Addendum: Apologies to the last few comments that didn’t get answered: I have just returned home and am in a state of recovering to bright blue skies and 72 degree weather…will write back soon!!

Days 69-70: The Sweet Spot, Cantonese Food

You may have noticed a considerable shift in cultural emphasis from museums and concerts in Europe to other topics in Asia. These are developing and of growing interest here, as exemplified by Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House and the vacuous Guangzhou Modern Art Museum.  I didn’t go there this time, but if you are interested you can see them in the September 2014 archives from my very first world trip.

We did find one exception this week, however. A spontaneous decision to visit the Overseas Chinese Museum proved to be an interesting discovery of Sun Yet Sen and the Uprising around 1910:

The museum contained many historical relics of first overseas Chinese emigrants. They are still considered Chinese compatriots and their contributions are honored here. Bruce Lee was among the notables. Unfortunately, the exhibits are not translated into English, so you need to bring a Chinese friend who speaks English with you to make it worthwhile.

It would be unconscionable to visit Guangdong and not highlight the food. Famous throughout the world, Cantonese food can never be ignored for its freshness, simplicity and sheer elegance. While these are the trademarks of excellent Cantonese cooking, many foreigners and even Chinese Americans miss one of the key factors.

When I think about traditional Chinese cooking, I think of the glommy sauce added to the quick stir-fry dishes. A tablespoon of corn start in a cup of water, some soy sauce splashed on top, and you have the finishing touch for any dish. We seldom used this method and opted out for watery vegetables and meat instead.

However, what the sauce does do for me, is to provide the “slime factor” or glutinous means used to make eating food more pleasurable. The food is intentionally slippery, so it slides down and lubricates your throat.

The word “wat” in Cantonese describes smoothness in a dish. This characteristic is often a criteria for the quality of the dish. I have seldom heard this description in Western cooking as anything perceptible, desirable or necessary. It is a sensual experience for Chinese. That’s my two cents worth about Chinese cuisine and my “China’s Test Kitchen” analysis.

We were invited to the 80th birthday of the wife of my mother’s first cousin in Zhongshan, China. The festive dishes demonstrate what I attempted to describe about Chinese food above. The dishes were straightforward, with minimal additive flavorings or spices, but promote the freshness of ingredients and the natural sweetness of meat, fish, seafood, eel (not shown), fruit and vegetables. By the way, no rice at banquets, but long life noodles at the end for major birthdays like this celebration.

The traditional dessert of steamed bread stuffed with melon paste and a salted egg is just the opposite of Western desserts:  sugar is used as little as possible. The Western-style cake can blow it all, but it too, had only a modest amount of sugar in it. A dab of red wine at each place was used for toasting only. In addition to tea, plenty of fruit juices including coconut milk was served.

A more typical meal on the street consisted of meat and veggies over rice. These fast food joints are everywhere, unfranchised, and gives any Chinese a person to be his own boss. Not bad, considering you can make or break your own fate, your way.

This is close to the end of my fourth world travels with myself and others! It has been a fascinating experience for me, and I hope it has been for you as well!! Thanks to all of you who have traveled aling and sent comments. They were particularly appreciated during my month in Germany.

Of course the highlight was going to Morocco. I experienced Islamic culture, met a great group of people, made some new friends, and overcame my fear of drawing!! It was a life-changing event!

Please write and let me know which parts you found the most interesting. I’ll be sending a teeny weeny survey to get your feedback, so please reply!!

中 国 的 朋友们, 谢谢 你们的 客气,我们 很 高兴 有机会 看到 你们!快 来 美国 见 我们!

Days 59-61: Magic Carpet from Menara to Chek Lap Kok

Arrival in the big Kahuna was a bit anticlimactic, after five flights and stopping over in five cities. A bit crazy, but that’s the routing life of free travel. From Marrakesh Airport, a lovely new facility, I flew back to Frankfurt via Geneva and Zurich. I managed to buy a stock of Sprungli Truffes du Jour for Gee Kin. Unfortunately, in a moment of weakness, I bought a gigantic bottle of Argan Oil before leaving Marrakesh that was confiscated because it exceeded the 2 oz. liquid limitation.

Marrakesh Airport:

After an overnight stay at the Frankfurt Airport, I flew to Hong Kong via Beijing. A combination of mishaps made the journey less than ideal. My tax-free refund was denied at the Frankfurt Airport due to insufficient documentation. Then Beijing Security delayed me due to the same stupid portable charger that got me into trouble at the US Embassy last month. I ran like the dickens to catch the flight to Hong Kong with only an hour between flights. That included going through Security in Beijing twice–once out, once in again. It was enough drama to remind me that my heart beats within me.

Give Me Your Tired Passengers, Your Bored, Your Hungry

Aside from my luggage being delayed due to Customs inspection scheduled in Beijing rather than in Hong Kong (how was all that supposed to happen in an hour!?!) and a Typhoon Signal #8 in Hong Kong, everything here has been great! After husband Gee Kin joined me on the back end of my travels, we decided to slow live and let the weather dictate our actions. Not all goes smoothly all of the time, so this has been the R&R (Revise and Resubmit) weekend for me. OK, not exactly a MAGIC carpet, but it was a carpet.

Man Mo Temple

Despite the stiflingly oppressive heat and the onset of Tropical Storm Merbok, I did manage to keep up my daily drawing activity. Living in an Air BNB near the Man Mo Temple in Sheung Wan, I drew the temple from a couple of different angles and Ladder Street. Like San Francisco, Hong Kong uses staircases up and down its hilly slopes, only more so.

This area is also part of a burgeoning art scene. The gallery downstairs offers drawing classes at $300HK for two hours, and I was tempted to participate.  Huge murals throughout Sheung Wan and on the side of the building where we are staying add to the street art in Hong Kong.

Sheung Wan

The ex-pat community is alive and well, and it looks like Lan Kwai Fong has spilled over into the Hollywood Road Antique area with a rash of foreign culture and food spots like Fusion Supermarkets, Classified Wine and Cheese, and Congee and Milk Tea sets.

It’s been a bit overwhelming to see the huge cultural shift to update the dining experiences in Hong Kong. In addition to infinite choices for traditional Chinese food that offer every Chinese provincial and regional cooking, you can frustrate yourself by deciding whether to sink into the bowels of Western food and desires. Life has always been a multitude of contradictions in Hong Kong, and food is no exception.

After coming down the hill from the Sun Yet Sen Museum, we re-discovered the series of free escalators half-way up a steep incline of Hong Kong Island. It serves as a clever conveyor belt and painless way to scale a mountain. It bustles at lunchtime, when we used it, to navigate a hillside with virtually zero calorie bust. It was even more impressive as we lived in the area it serves. It was more than just a superficial touristic attraction but a necessity. This system preceded the High Line in New York City, but certainly it has the same innovative spark and delight for residents and tourists alike.

To Build or Not to Build?

I’m reminded, after living in this city for seven years out of graduate school, that only 15% of the land is buildable. If you compare the high density living for 6-7 million people as positive space next to the negative or open space, the relative value of open area is immense. That creates some of the awe and beauty of Hong Kong that make a spectacular setting for human existence.

There are hiking trails that one would never expect from such a highly urban environment. Our daughter Melissa was pleasantly surprised when she visited here earlier this year. You can take excursions to the multitude of outlying islands, go to the Beach at Shek-o, or hike to the Peak. The New Territories offer even more camping and backpacking opportunities. Hong Kong is not just about shopping. However, foodwise, it’s just about FOOD…and rightly so. There ain’t nothing like it anywhere but here.

Fallout of Typhoon Merbok

A Camel_s Eyes Saved the World—a short fairy tale by Victoria Fong

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More adventures later about Hong Kong and after the typhoon signal is removed…and Guangzhou to come.

Addendum: speaking of magic carpets, here’s one of the two Berber carpets I bought in Essaouira:

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Day 56-57 Dromedary Dates

I’m not sure whether dromedaries or dates came first, but we had both in the same day. The one-humped camels, by the way, are called dromedaries.  Our group  of a dozen or so artists and students launched the camel ride at the surf shop in Essaouira. After being well-clad in Berber style scarves, we braved the mini-sandstorm and headed south along the beach.

Our guide made sure that the camels stayed in one line. They were amazingly docile and sweet, and only pooped occasional olive-sized pellets that acrobatically cartwheeled in the sand.

After about an hour, we headed to a sheltered area of trees for a grilled sardine and watermelon lunch prepared by our camel guide.

In the evening, we feasted at the home of Diane’s friend and guide, Hassan. During Ramadan, this was a particularly festive and meaningful occasion. The table was laid out with fat juicy dried dates. Next, a huge dune of toasted almond paste flattered by bread, followed by pizza, then chicken tagine with olives and fries, custard dessert, and mint tea. My stomach hurts from the memory of how much delicious food I couldn’t consume.

The next day, we buckled down with a perspective, sighting, and measuring session first thing in the morning. Here are a few before and after sketches:

Day 48-49: …They’re Taking Me to Marrakech…

When we were ferried out in a bus to the flight to Marrakesh at the Frankfurt Airport, I already sensed that the trip was not going to be a run-of-the-mill commuter. Instead, we ended up outside a hangar where planes were being repaired, and the lone plane outside looked as if it had been grounded for bad behavior.  The airport stretched for miles as far as the eye could see, between the Baltic and the Alps. I never realized that an airport could be THAT big, but Frankfurt was, like all German things, serious business.

We took off and landed three hours later to an another immense airport. The new Menara Airport, next to its old one, was so vast and empty that you wondered if they hadn’t put several square miles of the three largest airports in the world together and renamed it Menara. It was indeed a beautiful architectural masterpiece. Hopefully by a local architect. Regardless, it was impressive and ready to compete with Hong Kong, Paris or New York for tourists.

If you are in interesting places, it won’t be surprising to find that you are in a UNESCO world site without knowing it. That’s what happened here. Without trying, I discovered that the Medina of Marrakesh is indeed on the list. The history, the Islamic significant buildings (madrassas, mausoleums and mosques) and souks, or markets, all contribute to its status.

On an initial walk around the neighborhood of the hotel where we stayed, here were a few of the sights and sounds:

The Madrassah Ben Yousef was one of the earliest institutions of higher learning established in Marrakesh, where the doctors, lawyers and mullahs were trained.

The guilds within the market area preserve traditional crafts such as tanning, carpet weaving, metalwork, woodwork, and making argan oil and other pharmaceuticals for remedies.

The doorways are significant entry points through walls and into private spaces. Beautiful courtyards lie beyond reach for the public pedestrian. My guide explained, that after you arrive at someone’s home, you announce your presence. If they do not answer, you are never allowed to enter beyond the doorway, even if the place is accessible. That would be considered a breach of trust.

After a walk around the neighborhood on my own and a guided tour of the souk (market area later in the morning, I participated in a hands-on cooking class at the Clock Restaurant all afternoon. Its famous camel burger was on the menu, but we learned how to make tame versions of traditional dishes that included harisa soup, chicken tagine, eggplant caviar, and biscuits with dates.

And the Chef de Cuisine:

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At the end of a very busy day, I could escape to my suite in the historic Riad Dar Mouassine (also photo featured above)

Tomorrow: On to the Drawing Boards!!!

Day 32-38: Essen in Essen

Essen always had a curious name, since it sounds like the German word for “Food”, or “to eat”. There doesn’t appear to be any connection. I was tempted to feature the food we ate in town, but it wasn’t anything remarkable. A side trip from Dusseldorf to nearby Essen takes only a half hour by train, so friend Helena and I planned a full day excursion there.

At the recommendation of a fellow architect and German student, we spent the afternoon exploring the massive Zollverein, a coal mine converted to a museum for explaining the extraction, production and transport of black gold. As a UNESCO world site, this was the heart of the famous Ruhr Valley.

Like the African-Americans who migrated from the Deep South to the San Francisco Bay Area after World War II, many migrants came from Poland at the end of the 19th Century to this rapidly developing industrialized area. In the 1950’s and 1980’s, many new migrants from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Russia and Romania arrived in this area and other parts of Germany to search for a better life.

The museum had a you-name it-we have it approach to anything and everything to do with coal and beyond. The plant area was so extensive, it could be a quarry for humanity. Integrated with the coal production factory itself, the collections included dinosaurs, Roman ruins, Greek urns, geological rock samples, and memorabilia. It felt a bit like the Tate Gallery and the High-Line concept in New York City thrown into one gigantic area, but it tries very hard to not be a theme park.

I amused myself by looking for the oldest fossil and located coral imprints that were 600 million years old!! My favorite though, was just a tender young fish print checking in at a measly 60 million years.

In addition to the actual production lines, scaled models were used to demonstrate the work flow. The tidiness and efficient Bauhaus-designed buildings didn’t reduce the cast of sadness and grueling work that must have taken place there. Work conditions were so poor that many workers did not live long. Below is a short clip of one of the videos presented (unfortunately in German only) that shows how the coal could be delivered from the shaft to the ground in 30 seconds:

In the evening, Helena and I saw Romeo and Juliet, the ballet by Prokofiev. The music was stirring and the performers expressive. We experienced a rare standing ovation by a primarily local crowd (i.e., no tourists), so it was definitely worth seeing. Recognition by the audience in such a warm way has been a rarity in my experience in Germany, but when it happens, you know you have seen something amazing.

The ballet was performed in the famous theater designed by Finland’s namesake architect, Alvar Alto. The flat panels of granite covering the building seemed strange on curved surfaces. He didn’t seem to think that poured-in-place concrete would be acceptable for such a noble building.

I couldn’t resist sharing this photogenic shot of Helena, my friend and traveling companion from Switzerland.  Every year, we attend music festivals in Germany or Switzerland. Some of you may remember seeing her in previous posts in Dresden. We keep threatening to tackle Salzburg together, or maybe a music festival near where she lives next. She prefers ballet over opera, but we compromise and go to both as well as concerts.

As a physician and therapist, she has traveled the world and lived in many places. She has an admirable life, from moving to Switzerland in high school from the States, to studying in China (where she and Gee Kin met), building a hospital in Mozambique, and working at a sleep clinic in Switzerland! She also has an amazing outlook on life that is energetic and contagious. She kept me on my toes (literally, trying to keep up with her pace), and fit enough for a queen.

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At the end of the weekend Helena and I went to another local event at Düsseldorf’s Oper am Rhein with a joint Russian and German concert. The program included arias from many popular operas, including Eugene Onegin, Don Giovanni, and Puccini. If that weren’t enough, we were in for another standing ovation.

The warm crowd (maybe a lot of passionate Russians?) clearly loved the performers and the music. We did too. But two in a row? If I don’t watch out, I will have to amend my comments on the rarity of standing ovations among German audiences. I could swear I didn’t detect any over-enthusiastic Americans or their accents prompting or provoking the crowd. In any event, it was a very satisfying weekend of walking, talking, listening, watching and enjoying life.

(Forgive me for cheating: the dish on the feature is from Düsseldorf, not Essen! We searched high and low for an American Breakfast on Mother’s Day, but only found a fancy hotel on the way serving yucky healthy food. Ironically, the scrambled egg on salad with sweet potato chips was delicious).

Days 17-18: Asian-American in London Sees An American in Paris

Blenheim must be one of those architectural gems featured in An Outline of European Architecture  by Nicholas Pevsner. I wanted to run to my tattered and worn copy on my shelf at home to see if it was. The book got me through most of my Architectural History classes, just at a time when I wondered why studying palaces like these were useful endeavors in life.

A rare English Baroque palace, Blenheim was built by John Vanbrugh. He was a controversial pick over Christopher Wren, who designed and built St. Paul’s Cathedral. Van Brugh managed the project poorly and he himself had to be managed during the process. In the end he left the project in disgrace. It’s funny, but I’m sure I didn’t learn the project management details in architectural history, but it figured prominent in the storytelling about Blenheim.

Van Brugh was probably better known for his layout of the rooms. He originally designed an entire length of the building intended as a picture gallery. It didn’t work out. Maybe there weren’t enough portraits of the family. The walls were converted for use as a library. One of the photo shows how it looks like…well, an afterthought.

The Duke of Marlborough, an original Churchill, lived here. He was granted the property after winning the war against France and Prussia around 1704. The battle took place in Blindheim, Bavaria with 50,000 troops on each side.

Sir Winston Churchill was also born in Blenheim–I didn’t realize that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, as they say. Sadly,  I didn’t find this palace very impressive, even though it is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site,

To reach Blenheim by public transportation, it takes a side trip from London through Oxford by train, then by bus to Woodstock. We stayed overnight in Woodstock (half an hour from Oxford) to visit the Palace early the next morning. Woodstockers are proud to claim their namesake that preceded Blenheim by about 500 years, and  ‘way before the piddly little NY town claimed the name. It’s famous for glove-making.

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Before the palace was open, we took an early stroll through the grounds. The rolling hills were fun to navigate among the pastoral sheep and a stray pheasant here and there. Not much going on except extensive stretches of green lawn as far as the eye can see and shady trees as shown above. No one was in sight, until we arrived back at the entrance where the tour buses were just unloading the hoards. It started to feel a little bit like St. Petersburg again so we hustled our way out of the throngs quickly.

Our friends in Bath had recommended the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, so we stopped there after Blenheim on the way back to London. The museum has an impressive ancient art and archaeological  collection and many representative pieces I had not seen elsewhere. I could also continue pursuing Silk Road connections and learn more about the string of cities along it.

From what I recall,  art history seems to formally begin around 3000 BC, when Egyptian civilization became established.  One of the earliest pieces in the museum was from as early as 8000 BC, during the Neolithic period in Metsopotamia. Here are a few of my favorite pieces from later periods:

On return to London, I planned a special return visit to Fez Mangal, an “authentic” Turkish restaurant in the Ladbroke Grove neighborhood. I craved its fresh mezzes and kebabs as much as those in Istanbul. Friend and fellow traveler Karen will remember this restaurant from our 2014 visit to London. While we waited for a table SRO, we ordered our sea bream and mixed grill (with lamb, chicken, and mixed lamb kebabs) dishes in advance of being seated.

An American in Paris (see curtain call in featured photo above)

Unfortunately, despite excellent dancers and singers, the confusing and dated dialog from the original production couldn’t be improved. Save your money and watch the movie.

By the way, I forgot to mention in my previous post that Bath is also a world UNESCO site.

In keeping with my celebration list, I’d like to wish dear Dresden friend Hannelore, who keeps me motivated and learning German, a “Happy Birthday” or “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!”

Days 12-16: A-Mews Yourself with Bathing in Bath

Arrival in London reminded us that the British are much more formal than Americans, but also friendly and engaging. Their use of the language is brilliant and a reminder of why so many of us use it throughout the world.

Our early morning walk around S. Kensington where we are staying surprised us with the V&A Museum, Imperial College, and the Natural History Museum within a half-mile radius. More intriguing were the quaint mews or back streets that used to house the horses and carriages of the gentry living in Kensington. They are homes to die for. A few little shops were tucked in for a-mews-ment. Back on the main road, we enjoyed the gigantic London Plane trees that lined Cromwell Road so majestically. They reminded me of the street trees where I grew up on Grosvenor Place in Oakland’s Lakeshore District.

At mid-day, we met an old friend for lunch at the Comptoir for Lebanese food to share our missed lives together. She was, at the time we first met, a community activist working in the Fitzrovia area helping Chinese settle in London. I was doing a study of the London Chinese as part of the Branner Traveling Fellowship from UC Berkeley’s Architecture Department. She helped me to connect to Chinese living and working in Soho, or London’s Chinatown.

I only discovered in our conversation today, that, in addition to training at the London School of Economics, she studied at Cambridge University and visited China with a group of students from Cambridge for two months. She also lived in the Hong Kong New Territories teaching English during the time that I worked in Hong Kong as an architect.

We shared many stories about our early careers and how we chanced to meet each other. It was a great rediscovery of each other’s past, ones that we had barely known or understood at the time. It was so much more meaningful, now that each of us have lived (and loved) in life. A few bruises along the way gave us greater depth and understanding of the world and each other’s lives.

I encourage everyone to go and find an old acquaintance and to rediscover the time absent between yourselves. You will gain perspective and learn more about each other. Like seeing old friends, this meeting made the entire trip across the universe from San Francisco to London worth the trip alone. Life is short.

Our first full evening was devoted to opera. I was looking forward to seeing Thomas Ades’ new work, “The Exterminating Angel”, based on the movie by Luis Bunuel. Modern opera has a way to go in appealing to devoted opera goers. The music, story, singing, and staging has to pair like a fine wine with the passion and drama of opera. I admit that I am a bit of a drama queen, but that’s why I appreciate good opera. It has all the elements of the classic life stories, whether they occur today or the day they were written. This one didn’t quite make it for me, but I’ll give it a *** for effort and execution. Here’s the story: http://www.metopera.org/Discover/Synopses/Eugene-Onegin/

Bathing in Bath

Within one and a half hours’ train ride, you can get yourself to Bath. I never connected the roman orgy of bathing to Pride and Prejudice, but it’s definitely alive and well in Jane Austen country.

All exteriors of buildings must be of local limestone, so the buildings are consistent and match each other beautifully.

Our first official tourist act was indeed to go to the Bath Thermae Spa around the corner from the hotel. The words all seem redundant, but we did enjoy the minerva spa, outdoor roof pool with a view of the city, and the steam bath indeed peeled away any stress from traveling and overeating.  I indulged in a facial. I convinced myself that I deserved it after passing up all the Baden in Baden-Baden.

The real purpose in coming to Bath was to visit friends here.  They had abandoned the frantic London life for a kinder, gentler world. Bath was perfect, being only a stone’s throw away but real enough to feel the quality of life run between your fingers. We luxuriated in a beautiful country home, complete with an English garden and view of the city’s skyline of limestone structures tucked like sets of stellae in the rolling hills. The canals rippled just below the back of the house and offer lovely strolls to town and beyond.

Our host-catered lunch included spinach ricotta cheese in puff pastry, tibouli salad, and baked ratatouille in the shell, with hummus and homemade yoghurt on the side. Another perfect day with finest of friends, food and the fine.

More Royal Crescent

Days 9-11: (Upper) West Side Story

Following our side trip to Washington DC, we are back in New York staying at The Beacon Hotel on the Upper West Side. It provides convenient and walking access to the next three days’ events at Lincoln Center’s Metropolitan Opera: Aida, Der Rosenkavalier, and Eugene Onegin. You might find that worse than doses of cod liver oil, but for me, it’s like dying and going to heaven. You’ll hear more of the gory details later.

Breakfast

We started off the day with the Fairway Supermarket across the street from the hotel. We loaded up with fresh Mediterranean fare (see photo above)–fresh fruits with yoghurt and granola, cucumbers and tomatoes, and veggies with protein. We are taking a break from restaurant food everyday by booking a hotel with kitchens in the rooms to cook and eat healthier.

A quick walk within a half-mile radius of the Beacon Hotel yielded a wealth of new finds. Many shops are individually owned, mixed in with community gardens. Sandwiched in between Central Park on the east and Riverside Park, the Upper West Side is stocked with plenty of greenery and O2 to replenish the body and soul. A couple of retirees in Riverside were racing their model sports car through our feet as we gingerly tiptoed through the racetrack and the tulips.

Lunch

What more can you say? Food is everything in New York. You can find just about any type of cuisine or ethnic cooking, including crossovers like my favorite example of Uzbeki-Korean food. Not to beat that over a dead horse, but that level of complexity ain’t in foodie-snobbie San Francisco.

After-Dinner Snacks

The evening performances at Lincoln Center are dazzled by sparkling chandeliers inside the operahouse that modestly excuse themselves from blocking anyone’s view as the concertmaster plays A on the violin, the lights dim, and they retire to the very top of the ceiling.

All seats are good. The ones I selected for the series of three this time were side-saddles with box seating at the dress circle level. The $25 tickets I purchased at the very top row of the balcony in the past aren’t a slouch either. You have the option of ditching the performance if you don’t like it or incentive to get creative with a wild one.

What follows is our raisin d’etre for coming to NYC this time. The string of operas with curtain calls, synopses and my subjective opinion of the performance (all in: singers, staging, music, etc) for those interested:

Aida

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http://www.metopera.org/__Redesign/Views/Pages/Discover/Synopses/Synopsis.aspx?id=46544&epslanguage=en

My Rating this performance: ***

Der Rosenkavalier (Renee Fleming’s swan song/final performance and curtain call as an opera diva, along with Elina Garanca)

http://www.metopera.org/__Redesign/Views/Pages/Discover/Synopses/Synopsis.aspx?id=46548&epslanguage=en

My Rating this performance: **

Eugene Onegin (with Anna Netrebko in Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece)

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http://www.metopera.org/__Redesign/Views/Pages/Discover/Synopses/Synopsis.aspx?id=46533&epslanguage=en

My Rating this performance: *****

Let me know if you have ever lived on the Upper West Side or on the Lower East! What was your experience? We had been pretty stuck on Midtown or Upper East Side in the past but found that trying out these new neighborhoods gives us a very different dimension to New York City. We’re encouraged to try a different neighborhood each time we come to this magnificent, multi-cultural city. I hope you will consider doing the same!

As a final tribute to our being in New York, we toasted our anniversary and a birthday with a dear friend whom we met in Hong Kong and who is a New York City native. At a rehearsal of the American Ballet Theater’s upcoming Don Quixote, we caught a glimpse of Misty Copeland! What more could you ask for in a sendoff from New York City??

We’re on to London, so be prepared for a British accent to the next post! (Fewer operas, Queen’s Gate, then on to Bath and Blenheim)….

Days 5-8: Dizzyin’ D.C.

The number of museums (all free) in Washington D.C. is staggering, and deciding which ones to visit is a daunting challenge. We decided to each pick one today–and a few off the beaten path. We had already covered the most popular ones in the past with our kids–the National Gallery, the Smithsonian, the National Air and Space.

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First, we headed to the U.S.Holocaust Museum. The featured photo above shows the five-story high atrium of the museum. Photos of Jewish families who perished in the Holocaust were displayed there.  The chain of events leading to the holocaust were many and complex, to say the least.  False evidence blamed the Jews for killing Christ.

Around 1525, Martin Luther initially embraced them. He later turned against them when they refused to convert to Protestantism. It wasn’t until 1994 when the Lutheran church acknowledged Luther’s anti-Semitism.

We primarily think of the Jews from Germany and Austria being sent to camps and killed there. Even more Jewish people from Romania, Poland, Russia and Lithuania were killed. Many were forced to live in ghettos segregating them from mainstream society. However, most Jews living in Italy, Bulgaria and Hungary were spared.

There were chilling graphic depictions of the camps. The arrival of American troops helped to document the horrors before evidence was destroyed. More than half of those who were liberated died within two weeks of being freed. They were already too sick to survive or were unable to digest the food they consumed.

While very sad and sobering, the museum presented an important lesson in history. Similar events could take place again.  This museum teaches us the social, political, and economic circumstances behind such heinous acts and the chain of events that caused the Holocaust. You can learn more about the museum here: https://www.ushmm.org/information/exhibitions/museum-exhibitions/permanent.

In the afternoon, we made our way to the Native American Museum. While the museum is housed in an impressive building, it didn’t reduce the weight of the subject and its history. The many tribes and unions between nations were systematically ignored and destroyed.

The many treaties that were created between the Native Americans and the U.S. were constantly violated, despite initial good intentions. The map below shows how Americans pushed the Native Americans westward further and further from their homelands, while new settlers expanded into these territories.

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Non-native Population Expansion, 1820 (Dark Red), 1850 (Rust), and 1890 (Yellow)

We welcomed the slow walk back to the hotel to ponder our thoughts from the day’s deep and sobering educational experiences.

Days 7-8: The NMAAHC, Capitol Hill, and the Museum for Women in the Arts

Many of the newer Washington D.C. attractions like the National Museum of African-American History require advanced tickets. I was glad I knew ahead of time, or I would have been disappointed. The stunning new building was designed by David Adjaye and is clad in filigree bronze screen panels.

After being guided down to the lower floor where slavery, civil war, and segregation topics were covered, we began our long difficult journey tracing and understanding the roots of African-American history.

Everyone was very quiet and pensive as we shared the tragic stories of Africans from mostly Central and Coastal West Africa being captured by Portuguese, Dutch, British, French and Danish slave traders. By around 1800, the importation of foreign slaves was banned. Rhode Island slave traders developed and dominated a thriving domestic trade.

Less than half of the captured Africans survived the journey to the Coast or the horrific slave ships. While approximately 500,000 slaves were brought to the States, a total of around 12 million slaves were captured in Africa and sold in the New World. The largest proportion were sent to the Caribbean or to Brazil.

As families were split up and sold, the humiliating auction blocks were used to showcase the black slaves. They were split up from families and loved ones, mothers from their babies. Both sides of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War used the issue of slavery as a strategy to rally supporters to their side. The British and Americans offered freedom to those slaves who fought in the Revolutionary Wars, and the North and the South also made promises to African Americans that often were not kept.

After slavery, it was difficult for African-Americans to survive the post-Civil war era. Many prominent leaders and heroes were featured, and there were many historic events and landmark decisions. Segregation displaced slavery and became another racist era.

The museum was split into the history and dark past on lower levels, and modern culture on upper levels. The NMAAHC offered insight and understanding of the arduous path of not only African-Americans, but the shared path of all Americans. You can read more about the museum’s collections here:  https://nmaahc.si.edu

The combination of these museums left a powerful imprint on my understanding and perspective of oppressed people in America. It seems more pertinent for all of us to learn about the history and development of oppression as race and religion become major issues in our current society.

The stretches between sights and buildings along the Washington Mall and Capitol Hill are far and wide, so good shoes and good planning are essential for surviving D.C. The Washington Metro provided some relief in getting between points, but the distances by foot are intimidating, even to veteran walkers like us. Thanks to L’Enfant and his grandiose French city planning scheme, the wide boulevards and diminished human scale do seem to put people in their places.

Well, the verdict is in. Yes, Washington D.C. is a pretty awesome place. I couldn’t help but compare the time lapse walking between buildings with that of Versailles. We got our royal injection thanks to L’Enfant. And I’m not sure whether the Kremlin and Red Square came first or we did (around 1800), but I’m guessing that National Mall beats Moscow’s in area. While we’re at it, it might be worth comparing Beijing’s Tian An Men Square and Forbidden City.  A research project for another day.

At the opposite end of the National Monument, above are just a few grand dames on Capitol Hill: the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.

Above are one of three perfect copies of the Gutenberg Bible at the Library of Congress; and Cupcakes?!? (click on image to see captions and to increase scale)

Below: interior of ornate Italian Renaissance style Library of Congress. Almost stands up to or equal with the Library in Vienna. (To see the Vienna Library, search posting from Day 27 of 2015, dated Aug. 21)

A very understated but worthwhile visit to the Women’s Museum yielded some gems: a Frieda Kahlo Self-Portrait dedicated to Leon Trotsky, and friend Hung Liu’s noble portraits of women who were prostitutes. Gee Kin had trouble identifying five famous women artists, but managed to come up with these and Annie Liebowitz. Sure enough, she had a photo of Dolly Parton proudly on display.

There were numerous other interesting works there, but I felt sad that these great artists (including Berte Morisot and Mary Cassatt whose works were represented) and others (I didn’t see any Georgia O’Keefe) had to find a cause to be celebrated on their own and could not be integrated with the mainstream art world. Can you name five living women artists?

To top off the day at Momofuku DC: Honey Crisp with Arugula, Kimchee, and Maple Sugar; Skate Wing, and Chinese Broccoli with Cashews. Highly recommended.

Apologies for the long post.  Combined posts will reduce the load on your Inbox!