A Travellerspoint blog

Paris day 1

It's time to reassure you. No I do not spend hours and hours typing in this blog, just use voice dictation software. I like my technology, but most of all I enjoy the least possible effort.

Les found the travel from Hong Kong, a 12 hour flight, distressingly difficult. It was darn near impossible to sleep. The food was not food. It was poorly flavoured and distended Play-Doh. The steak was reminiscent of the 60s. But you don't need to hear this.

He is also thinking of starting a new blog called Les: lamentations and laudations. Did you know that when you leave the Charles de Gaulle airport what you see is very similar to what you would see from any Western airport. Why is it that our culture is becoming increasingly homogenised, that is, it is all the same; and why is it also so second rate this homogenisation. I am sorry, I got it wrong again, why is it all so 27th rate.

We were the first to get off the shuttle van from the airport, arriving at our destination around 8 AM. To get here we went through the old Paris, the unhomogenised Paris, the Paris with flair. We think we like this place.

To our delight the instructions Lucas left were correct except the letterbox, in which lay the keys to our apartment, could not be opened. Containing annoyance, Karen deftly rang Lucas and to our delight he responded to the voice message within 10 minutes saying he was on his bike and was a an hour away.

So to the cafe at the end of the street some 20 m away. Here, trembling, Les tries his first pretend French. Making eye contact with the owner he said "vous parlez francais?" to which the owner said "no". Les was quietly crushed, but as Karen had asked for a noisette, and knew what she was talking about, he ordered "deux café noissettes" and muttered something about "manger". We then sat on the corner outside table, our jackets zippered up it being some 17° cooler than Hong Kong, and enjoyed coffee and croissant. Fortunately both lived up to our hopes, croissant a little more.

Lucas arrived on his motorbike was his helmet engorged with Bluetooth technology. He was young, cool, friendly and chatty and set about completing the preparation of the unit and telling us about how it all worked.

The shower we had was probably the best ever. The water pressure was great, temperature warm and we scrubbed off the drudge of the flight.

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Then it was time to go to the local Bastille market. This was a small art and craft market with a couple of food stalls. Les's eyes burst out of his head as he saw the multicoloured sweet pastries at the Moroccan stall and tasted the mint tea. A little later Karen finally received a Mother's Day present from a jeweller she had seen from her research on the web. I'm sure she will show you the present.

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About now the lack of sleep was catching up with both of us. Walking around this area of Paris led us to realise that it all seems more compact than the maps would suggest. We both got a needed sleep.

After going out again Les spotted a chat carrying a baguette and retraced his steps to find a boulangerie and ordered a "parisse" which we later found out was probably a traditional Parisien baguette. The Aussies and the rest of the world have the skills to make these baguettes but the French flour has a lower gluten content which seems to make a difference.

You know there is a French flair for fashion. we frequently saw it expressed in the young and the less young.

We had booked dinner at a restaurant a 15 minute walk away, Glou, and headed there some two hours early. We enjoyed the history and architecture, the well-placed squares and gardens, and on this 25° day, Saturday, notice how the French families and residents of Paris flocked and played in the parks. In one park it seemed we were the oldies on the bench yet we were just as young as the kids kicking a soccer ball. Karen recalls from her previous trips that alcohol in the park was illegal and it seemed to be the case with most bottles wrapped in paper camouflage.

We made it to the restaurant and attempted in our clumsy French to be understood. Fortunately they understood a little English more than we understood a little French. We were tired but an entree of Lardo, which I think was scented with thyme, went down extremely well. Karen ordered a main course "Lomo de cochon basque" a Spanish fillet of pork which was lean and well caramelised. Les ordered a piece of lamb cooked for seven hours and was served upon cannelloni beans with tomato. The two French reds we tried were well chosen by the staff.

Tired but sated we walked back to our apartment, retracing our steps and looking forward to sleep.

Posted by lesnkaren 22:38 Comments (2)

Hong Kong - a brief tour of the fish market

Thought you might get a feel for the place here.

Posted by lesnkaren 11:56 Comments (0)

Hong Kong - our last day

We commenced our last day in Hong Kong with, surprise, breakfast. Not much to add except Les tried a turnip pudding. The figure this was a pureed pudding. We met Alfred and Sylvia and uncle Nigel's driver, Elmer. Our first task was to meet Amanda, Rob and Ella at their apartment. Unfortunately Robert was unable to join us for the rest of the day as he was unwell. Karen and Les were over the moon because we were soon part of the "Ella club" when she readily took our hands during the day. Ben's cousin Marcus was able to join us and it was a pleasure to meet him. Not only is he a cool guy, but smart too as he understood Macs.

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After a tour of the block we headed off to Nigel's condo in the new Territories. This place has a vineyard and we were a stone's throw from the border with China. The condo has only been recently built and after entering the restaurant with a view of the pool, the resident lifeguards, and some green hills nearby we felt compelled to commence our dim sum, which was indeed yummy. Elmer treated us to a 2004 red from France. I would not have expected this wine to go with dim sum but it actually did. I suspect so because of the many and varied tastes and textures in the dim sum. Ella totally enjoyed the pool and cooling down.

It was at this point that our bodies realised they had left work behind and we began to feel quite relaxed. It was soon time to go and unfortunately Amanda and Ella were unable to continue our adventure. We then headed off and somehow managed to arrange getting to the old markets in Hong Kong. This was an eye opener when we saw more of the range of the population and it was like having a huge and long street full of trash and treasure stalls. Some streets were full of stalls devoted to single items such as remote controls, or another store or shop devoted to second-hand power tools and so on. It was there I purchased a treasured item thanks to Marcus is keen powers of observation and memory which I'll use in my workshops.

Although for a brief period only we got to meet uncle Nigel and picked him up and was soon dropped off to continue some walking in the city. Thank you Nigel for the use of your car and condo.

Spontaneously Alfred and Sylvia and we decided to walk to a destination going through some markets which were rather crowded. We got to see several stalls selling fish in the Asian fashion with fish still live. Along with other stalls we wandered around before eventually having a drink, a quick detour to Marks and Spencer, and then to a food court where Les enjoyed a mango and pomellen sago soup, delightfully cool and mango in flavour.

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Then it was time a fond farewell to Alfred and Sylvia. You looked after us well and we are most appreciative and our experience of Hong Kong would have been so much the less. Les thinks he should start up a business, perhaps you could use the name "Sze-See Personalised Touring" or something far better. There will be no commission if you use that name.

We took the hotel shuttle to the airport, check-in, killed time and reacquainted ourselves with the ordeal of attempting to sleep upright in chairs designed not to allow sleep.

Posted by lesnkaren 11:48 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (1)

Hong Kong enjoyed by us

We slept well! The Regal had a buffet breakfast much like you would expect from western hotels but then not. In addition to cereals, fruit, beans, bacon etc was the Hong Kong leaning. Les chose to have congee with condiments, a kind of Asian porridge made of rice, runny but oat or ricey in flavour?, white and then a choice of condiments which were very interesting and different. Must find out what they were. I believe one was a dried cabbage rehydrated with a mild brush of vinegar. My favourite was the one which was fluffy and dry like pollen and also slighty sweet. A chinese bun and …

Just as well we had breakie because we didn't know how fit Alfred and Sylvia are. Thanks to Larry, we had his car and driver, Tony, for the morning and were treated to a drive through Repulse Bay and got much of the gossip about the town and the mega rich and property disputes. On to Stanley, a town built with a distinct colonial feel to parts and now is a destination for tourists and for locals with a small market and a great place to relax by the water. A shrine built in the 1700s remains and was interesting to visit.

( A year or so ago a famous Hong Kong celebrity had his 50th birthday party there, is that right Alf?).
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A quick ramble through the market then to Aberdeen and a quick view of the floating restaurant (well the half that remained after a fire years back) then off to the peak. us_at_Aberdeen.jpg Heidi, we did Mak's noodle there before going up the building to view Hong Kong from the peak. Yum. Stunning views of the city and harbour and especially the circling birds of prey. view_from_peak.jpg

From there a trip down on the cable tram and a walk in the aviary. Great thing to have in the middle of a city. Les could easily go there every day.
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Then more walking through the city including old parts of Hong Kong. You know their use of bamboo scaffolding is amazing. Walking the streets is a variety show from the wealthy new to the poor and ill and down and out; the fashionable to the Highett boys like me; the tired grungy soul-filled markets to the clean and modern centres.

Antiques and restaurant in Soho; heritage colonial buildings such as the Western Market; shops and stalls with the weirdest dried foods and medicines valued by the Chinese; Hong Kong-ish western food with the famous hotdogs; seeing the old women of Hong Kong placing curses on less than loved ones by whomever will pay them; then a double decker tram and bus ride until a brief power nap before dinner. (I'll swear I saw Alfred and Sylvia continue jogging !)

We finally got onto the ferry to visit the island of Cheung Chau which was preparing for the bun festival the following day. Our reward for nearly keeping up with the Sze's was dinner at the wharf-side restaurant where you saw the fish live before they cooked it. Our pre-entree dish was the small dragon parade related to the teams of young men who limd a large contraction and collect as many of the Chinese buns they can. It is part of their celebration of Buddha's birthday which was the following day. The island is interesting as well because no cars are permitted ('ceptin' police, ambulance and fire).

Dinner was superb with a range of dishes:
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Thanks again for a wonderful day.

Posted by lesnkaren 06:31 Comments (4)

Hong Kong gets us

Day 1

After a very early arrival at Melbourne Airport (thank you Heidi) we boarded and enjoyed the quarter-full aircraft. Kind of wished we'd afforded business class where one can lie and really sleep. One day perhaps.

Good flight and we arrived on time with a forecast of sunny skies and 29 °C but with a reality of heavy rain, a lightning warning and a wait by the baggage carousel for some 90 minutes. Our patience was outstanding. Finally we went through customs easily. Very easy in fact.

Due to the rain there was a delay in taxis for some 5 minutes. However at Hong Kong Airport the organisation was efficient. Four doorways to catch taxis, a queuing system (like when obtaining your ticket), a curly black haired Hong Kong fellow efficiently channeling taxis so no queue missed their turn. His gestures and professional attitude would have made any British Bobby proud. The train to the Hong Kong station was clean, oh so clean!

Bravely defying the rain we finally boarded our taxi and slowly made the way to our hotel looking forward to refreshing and napping before dinner. (The taxi driver had turned his taxi into a shrine for trinkets). Alas the rain had caused the very new hotel to lose power and water in many rooms so they let us know offering an upgrade to a 5 star Regal Hotel down elsewhere in Hong Kong. So into the Regal Mercedes we went.
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Traffic was busy yet not chaotic. We soon learned the rule of the nose: you just edge your car forward enough and then you'll likely be admitted to the flow. It is the city of the assertive on the roads; not aggressive and not anarchic.

We learned there are rain warnings in Hong Kong and levels such as orange, then red which means kindergartens are closed and black when all transport stops. People stay in their offices, buses and cars stop there and then when black until the level is reduced.

We noticed so many people and so many cars; wondered where they keep them all. In the sky perhaps, all those buildings? They use the sky in public transport too: double decker buses and double decker trams.

So four hours later we settled into our new hotel. The flight took nine hours in the air.

After a shower and a power nap we met Alfred and Sylvia and we ferried across the harbour to Kowloon. As we had dragged the rain with us from Red Hill we had cleaned the air of smog and stuff and the light show along the harbour walk was brilliant. Pulsing lasers and various buildings lit in individual ways added to the atmosphere. Hong Kong in striking as the city and suburbs are made of hundreds of tall buildings which seem pencil thin. These stand in the foreground against the steep green mountains and have a compelling look to them.

Alfred and Sylvia treated us to a Vietnamese meal across the harbour after the light show at 8pm. This was deliciously bright as was our meal. (Sorry Heidi and Ben, we were not prepared for the food-photos). Soft crab in shell, poached chicken, braised pork belly in coconut juice, all subtly flavoured.

It was lovely to catch up with the Sze's and we parted ways with plans for an adventure with Alfred and Sylvia the next day.

Posted by lesnkaren 04:15 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

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