Tag Archives: blue sky

A walk by St. Paul’s Cathedral…

19 Nov

Since I took my hiatus from the blog earlier this year, there are lots of places that I have visited in the last six months – both for pleasure and business – that I’d like to share now that I have some more time to go back through my memories.  Enjoy!

In June I visited the UK for work.  I was there nearly a week, first flying into London Heathrow and spending not quite 24 hours in London, then heading to Scotland, then back to London for three days of meetings.  Since I was coming from the farthest away, I needed that night in London to balance myself instead of directly transiting to Scotland.

The hotel that I stayed in had a view of St. Paul’s Cathedral – so I decided to take advantage of the summer-like weather and the blue skies to try to combat my jet lag and take a walk – both right after I arrived, but also the next morning before I headed back to the airport.  I wandered around – not quite aimlessly, but tried to hug the Thames and soak in the sunshine.

Here are a few of my favorite shots.

View outside my hotel window

View outside my hotel window

The shard in the distance from another bridge

The shard in the distance from another bridge

St. Paul's peeking from the bridge

St. Paul’s peeking from the bridge

Puffy clouds and classic building silhouettes

Puffy clouds and classic building silhouettes

I really liked this view from under the bridge - a different point of view

I really liked this view from under the bridge – a different point of view

My time in London the weather was amazing – no dreary skies.  It wasn’t a standard visit – I didn’t take the Tube, visit a museum or have afternoon tea, but I managed to have a great time.  As the weather turns cool here and the air quality goes down, looking at these photos take me back to that visit.

I’d like to also call out a Happy Birthday to my father who has always encouraged me to talk the walk by the river or sit in the café in the square.  Happy birthday dad!

Where have you wandered recently?

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A fairy tale castle in Shanghai

15 Nov

Shanghai has many hidden treasures – places just around the corner with history dating to pre-Communist days.  Lately we have been trying to search them out – enjoying the autumn weather to find these hidden gems.

First view from the restaurant

First view from the restaurant

One such place that we found was the former residence of Eric Moller which looks like a fairy tale castle, just under the Yan’an elevated highway in the French concession.

Inspired by Snow White?

Inspired by Snow White?

Li found the secret garden when he was looking for lunch special deals – there is a beautiful Japanese restaurant situated in the garden overlooking the castle and so on a perfect blue sky day, voucher in hand, we went to explore.

Beautiful blue sky day

Beautiful blue sky day

The castle was built in 1936 and was supposedly inspired by Moller’s daughter who wanted to live in a castle – but the plaque outside states the castle was inspired by ships and ship-building as Moller was a “merchant prince.”  Either way, it is not something you’d expect in an Asian city today and it appears to have been preserved relatively well, though we didn’t enter inside.  Now there is a Chinese restaurant and event space – we could see people busily preparing for a wedding later in the afternoon/evening as we poked around the grounds.

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Our lunch was absolutely lovely – beef udon noodles in a lunch set under the terrace with a small goldfish stream to the side.  Initially when we arrived there weren’t many people there, but it slowly filled up.  I could feel my breathing slow down as the bustle of Shanghai fell away.

Under the terrace, waiting for lunch

Under the terrace, waiting for lunch

Beef udon sets

Beef udon sets

Finished off with a sweet treat

Finished off with a sweet treat

Have you found fairy tale castles in other places?

 

Friends across the sea

12 Nov

One of the wonderful things about all the travel I’ve done this year was the opportunity to see people that I don’t get to see very often.  As long as I know I’ll be in an area and have a little free time I will reach out to people to see if we can spend some time together.  This year was a new record for me.  I have been blessed with wonderful friends who are now scattered all over the world – I like to say that I “collect people” through my life, like the pearls of a necklace.

In February I got to spend a weekend with my sister in Austin, Texas between two sets of meetings for work.  The last time I was in town she was recovering from a knee injury – this time we enjoyed local barbecue at Rudy’s and took a long walk down by the river.  I would go back again for the barbecue in a second – and the banana pudding!  It was a great weekend.

Barbecue!  They even let us try samples before we ordered.

Barbecue! They even let us try samples before we ordered.

Nobody does barbecue like Texas!

Nobody does barbecue like Texas!

A couple of months later I was back in the States again and got to spend a weekend back in my hometown with my best friend and her kids.  We had hamburgers and ice cream and went to the park.  It was the quintessential American weekend – one of those days that made me wonder why I am still living in Shanghai so far away from friends and family and blue skies.  The weekend also made me thankful that I have the resources to travel and the experience to appreciate going home.

Blue skies at the park

Blue skies at the park

In June I managed to connect with a former colleague in the UK at Paddington train station in London before heading off to the airport.  We had a long brunch and traded stories since we had last seen each other, nearly a year before in Singapore.  She has now retired and looked fabulous – rested, relaxed with a bit of a tan.  I hope when I get to that phase of my life I have that many stories to tell.

At the end of June I was in San Francisco and managed to connect with many old friends – both at the actuarial conference that I attended,

An old friend from Chicago who worked in Hong Kong, visited me in Shanghai and went to the same conference in San Francisco.

An old friend from Chicago who worked in Hong Kong, visited me in Shanghai and went to the same conference in San Francisco.

but also a friend from Shanghai who moved back to Canada and was randomly in town for the weekend when I was there.  That connection even surprised me – we both put a photo on social media of the beautiful day in San Francisco and then realized our hotel rooms were on the same street!

Also in San Francisco I met up with a friend from Shanghai who lives there now.  She spent a day taking me to Fisherman’s Wharf where we had seafood and visited the famous Boudin bakery where I bought myself a sourdough roll.  We rode the trolley and explored the city – I even bought a T-shirt.  Sometimes being a tourist is the best way to see a city.

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In July I had a friend come to me – Carissa from Everyday adventures in Asia.  She was in town for work and I was actually in Shanghai that week and volunteered my spare room.  We stayed up way too late to squeeze in every moment of time together  because neither of us know the next time we’ll have the opportunity.

And finally I managed to squeeze in a quick breakfast with an old friend from Shanghai who was in my first Chinese class at Miracle Mandarin when I was in Jakarta in August.  She’s Indonesian, married to an Australian who has lived in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Australia.  Her daughter was born in Shanghai and they moved a couple of years ago back to Jakarta.  We hadn’t seen each other since, but we connected as if we had seen each other the previous weekend.

We even remembered to snap a photo!

We even remembered to snap a photo!

Friends are that way – even when they are across the sea.  Shared experiences and special relationships come together to make a wonderful, welcoming place for me all across the world.  If you’re in my neck of the woods – I’m happy to welcome you too!

Do you have friends across the sea?

Do you speak English? (A Santorini photo shoot)

16 Feb

This post is part of our adventures in Greece in the fall of 2013.  To see other posts in the series, please click here.

I'm ready for my close up

I’m ready for my close up

We had spent a pleasant morning in Santorini walking along the old path.  I was dressed in a long white flowing gown that Li had purchased for me that complemented the scenery.  Li wore a blue shirt with a white collar.  We meandered along, looking for the best angles and light.

Along the old path

Along the old path

I felt like a movie star.

We were looking for a certain place that would memorialize our belated honeymoon – a certain view that already had been publicized hundreds of times before.

Looking for the light

Looking for the light

Finally, after asking for directions at multiple places, we found it – the blue roof church with the white bell tower that had appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine many years ago.  The best views are actually taken from a parking lot above the church so you can look down with the Aegean sea behind you and puffy white clouds.

Together under the blue, blue sky - and dressed for the occasion

Together under the blue, blue sky – and dressed for the occasion

In the parking lot were over a dozen Chinese tourists snapping away – posing together and individually – some in casual clothes, others dressed up for the occasion in similar outfits as Li and myself.  We asked a couple of different people to take photos of us  together and hoped that we would have the “money shot” in the bunch that would represent out trip to Greece, our marriage and give us happy memories for the future.

It was a great experience and after we shot those photos we headed back down to the Old Path and started making our way to find a place to have lunch.  Before we got very far, we were stopped by some people eating at one of the many restaurants along the path.  Their table was closest to the path and they looked at me and very timidly asked “Do you speak English?”

Li and I looked at each other and nodded ascent.  They then asked, “Why are there so many Asian women in long white dresses like yours around here taking pictures?  You look beautiful – but we can’t quite understand why there are so many right here.  We’ve been eating lunch and must have seen two dozen women dressed that way over the last hour or so.”

We smiled and explained how the church above the restaurant had turned into something of a Mecca for Chinese tourists because of its fame in the National Geographic photo shoot.  The group who stopped us said they were Canadian but had never heard of that specific photo.  We then shared how the Aegean Sea could be phonetically translated as the Sea of Love in Chinese and how young Chinese couples wanted to get a shot by the church as a memory.  We suggested they climb up the path to take a look.

We talked a little more, sharing where we were from and why we were there and at the end parted company with a smile and good wishes and went on to look for the perfect spot for lunch.

Have you had a random question like this when you have been traveling?  The funny thing is – most of the Asian couples they had seen could probably have spoken English because if you are traveling in Europe without a tour, you need someone who can talk with the hotels.  It was only because I had a non-Asian face that I was asked this question.

The church and the two of us - a perfect pairing - the money shot

The church and the two of us – a perfect pairing – the money shot

Things I didn’t do before moving to China

28 Jan
What to write next?  Who knows?

Do you think I look Asian?

This post was inspired by a post by Girl in Florence about how she has changed since moving to Italy.  To check out her post please click here.

China has changed me.  When we got our wedding pictures back people started to say I looked Asian.  I’m not so sure that’s true, but there are certain behaviours that I know are different.  After reading my cousin’s thoughts on moving to China as a newbie, it made me think even more about those changes.  Here are a few.

  1. Drinking hot water – this is a very Chinese thing and something I do now on a regular basis.  I understand now it is actually very healthy to drink warm water, especially in the morning.  This is something I’ll do in warm and cold weather now, much to the surprise of my family.
  2. Wearing my coat when eating – Shanghai does not have central heating and many small restaurants are cold.  I have gotten used to eating wearing my coat in situations like that which never would happen in Chicago or Michigan.  It doesn’t throw me at all.  This is the time of year when it becomes a regular occurrence.
  3. Cooking over a gas flame – growing up and when I moved to Chicago the ranges I cooked on were electric.  No one has an electric range here – how would you use a wok?  It took a while to get the hang of it, but I really enjoy the control it gives me and both western and eastern flavors.
My first independent fried rice - eggs, onion and Taiwanese sausage

My first independent fried rice – eggs, onion and Taiwanese sausage

  1. Using a squat toilet – I had used squat toilets before moving to China, but now I will use them without a second thought.   In train stations, airports, restaurants – sometimes they are the only option and often they are the cleanest option.  A nice clean western style toilet is something I notice now – and am pleasantly surprised when there is toilet paper.  I don’t take it for granted any more.
  2. Working on weekends – Not working overtime – this is the quirk of the Chinese calendar when they reshuffle standard work days and Saturday or Sunday becomes a normal work day.  I understand why they do it to give people more consecutive days off, but this is one change I don’t like.  I do it grudgingly, but I do it.
  3. Being obsessed with blue skies – Regular readers know how I love blue skies.  This started from my first trip back to the US after I lived in China for 9 months and is still going strong.  I have rubbed this off on my coworkers as I post on WeChat sunsets and blue skies – which they are now doing too!
A snap out of a cab window - the pearl tower with a couple puffy clouds behind

A snap out of a cab window – the pearl tower with a couple puffy clouds behind

Those of you who know me – have you noticed any other changes?  I tried not to pick the obvious answers like speaking in Mandarin or traveling to many Asian countries or eating parts of animals that I had never even heard of.  When you have lived somewhere for a while – how has it changed you?

Beginnings

5 Jan

This post is part of our adventures in Greece in the fall of 2013.  To see other posts in the series, click here.

At the start of a new year, it seems appropriate to think of where we came from – or rather where the cradle of western civilization was developed.  On our last day in Athens we went to see the ruins of the ancient agora – the marketplace that existed thousands of years ago.

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The agora is situated with hills surrounding it, monuments and temples perched above.

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We wandered through the “streets” wondering at whose feet may have walked on the stones, then peered into one of the most ancient churches that exist in Europe.  That would have been the beginning of something else.

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If stones could talk – what would they say about that time?

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This post is my response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning.  To see how others illustrated it, click the link.

How do you define a beginning?

Dubai – photos and thoughts

19 Dec

Aside from multiple camel sightings, I packed a lot more into my trip to Dubai last month.  Traveling for business is always exhausting, but this trip managed a good balance of exploration and eight hours straight in a meeting room.

My first day I arrived about noon and so had half a day to explore with another colleague before we headed into the mandatory dinners and mingling.

First we went to the Dubai mall under the Burj Khalifa.

Divers into an art exhibit in the Mall of Dubai

Divers into an art exhibit in the Mall of Dubai – ironically, I saw a miniature version of this fountain when I was in New York a couple of weeks later

It was so tall that my camera couldn’t capture the entire building in one frame.  I understand that it is taller than two Empire State Buildings put on top of each other.

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At the base is a fountain show – reminiscent of the one in Las Vegas that was featured in Oceans 11.  We found a restaurant overlooking the fountain and chowed down.  One of my favorite dishes was chicken on rice pilaf – the rice studded with almonds and pistachios.

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That evening for the work events we watched the sun set over the city and then enjoyed the lights of the hotel shaped like a sailboat.

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The meetings took place outside of the city in the real desert – you don’t have to go far – 30 minutes will take you away from all of the modernity of the city.

Blue sky over the dunes

Blue sky over the dunes

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The second day they arranged a 4×4 trip and so I got to see what it was like.  We whipped up and down the dunes and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  I’m not sure I’d like to drive – one of the trucks got stuck – but as a passenger – bring it on!

The last couple of days we spent by the ocean’s edge, which is one of the great contradictions of Dubai.  You can go to the beach in the morning and dune bashing in the afternoon.  I didn’t have time to go swimming, but I did manage a walk on the beach one morning before things started.

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As a final treat, we did our team meeting the last day in the Burj Khalifa – for afternoon tea.  We discussed business from 138 floors above the ground before everyone scattered to their own corners of the world.

Tea on the 138th floor?  Please!

Tea on the 138th floor? Please!

Dubai felt a little like a commercial – there was so much new construction, big malls, flashy watches – all things available and ready.  Ironically there were a lot of stores that specialized in selling fur coats – which I hypothesized was for the Russians who come to defrost in Dubai’s heat.

It was a very interesting place – and I enjoyed my time there, but I don’t think I would go back unless I had business to do.  The place felt shallow, transient – very international – but kind of like eating candy – I know it’s not good for me, but still want to gorge every now and again.  And Emirates – the airline – totally, worth it.  It was head and shoulders above any airline I have flown before, from the toothbrushes in the lounge to being able to use your electronics during the entire flight.

Perhaps if I had met some local people, been able to appreciate their lifestyle and gotten away from the “tourist track” it would have been easier to understand the city.  As it is – it remains an enigma.  Who knows – maybe I will go back.

Goodbye Dubai - a final view from the lounge

Goodbye Dubai – a final view from the lounge

Have you been to Dubai?  What do you think?  Would you like to go?

Initial images of Santorini

17 Dec

This post is part of our adventures in Greece in the fall of 2013.  To see other posts in the series, please click here.

Leaving Crete was bittersweet – we had had a wonderful time in both Chania and Heraklion and could have stayed there the rest of our vacation very happily.

Li prior to boarding the ferry - he's not a fan of boats, but everything worked fine

Li prior to boarding the ferry – he’s not a fan of boats, but everything worked fine

Boarding the ferry though, the anticipation continued to build as the siren call of Santorini became louder and louder.  The sky was blue and we sat in luxury on the second level of the ferry.

Casting off under the Greek flag

Casting off under the Greek flag

On the way!

On the way!

Disembarking we found the driver from the hotel and along with another couple headed up the steep cliffs to our hotel.

Right outside the door of our room

Right outside the door of our room

Li had selected the hotel because it was on the highest point of the island and so the car twisted and turned going higher and higher until we arrived.  After settling in to the room – built into a cave in the cliffs – we decided to walk along the old path to a restaurant recommended by the hotel.

Our room - snug inside the cave

Our room – snug inside the cave

The initial view from our hotel

The initial view from our hotel

Each curve presented another picturesque view.  We even saw people taking pictures on the top of a building in front of the caldera.  Upon closer inspection – it was a bride and groom.

The caldera

The caldera

The caldera - zoomed in on the bride and groom

The caldera – zoomed in on the bride and groom

Looking back towards the hotel

Looking back towards the hotel

Lunch was delicious – and as we finished up – the bride and groom came and took a shot just in front of us.   I decided that was a good omen, given that we were considering the trip our belated honeymoon.

The bride and groom came to us - though others were photographing them too

The bride and groom came to us – though others were photographing them too

The white roofed houses and the blue sea and sky

The white roofed houses and the blue sea and sky

How can you not smile with such a beautiful view

How can you not smile with such a beautiful view

We headed back to the hotel, took a swim in the pool and then I posed for a few more pictures before the sun slipped over the edge.

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Santorini was living up to the hype – and we had three days left!

Have you visited somewhere that surpassed your already very high expectations?

Flying high

7 Nov

I am still going through my pictures from Greece.  It is happening in fits and spurts between my new job and business travel and trying to stay in touch with my friends.  The whirlwind continues, but I am having a wonderful time soaring above it all.

These photos from Heraklion, Crete capture my feeling perfectly.  They were all taken on the same day.  I am the one flying high above – enjoying the beauty below and looking for a safe place to land.

Birds flying in the cathedral square

Birds flying in the cathedral square

Sunset over the harbor

Sunset over the harbor

An ancient wall and an airplane above

An ancient wall and an airplane above

I head out on another business trip this weekend so may be out of touch for a while, but will come back with more stories and photos.  I just need to make sure I don’t get caught up in the many currents that exist when I’m that high.  Landing can be the most difficult part – trying to relax after the go-go-go of work as it’s a long way down.  I’ll manage.

Do you soar?  What things make you ready to take on the world?  Where do you soar?   The skies of Greece were an ideal place.

Athens Day 1 – after the Parthenon

13 Oct

This post is part of our adventures in Greece in September and October of 2013.  To see other posts in the series, click here.

After viewing the Parthenon we headed behind it to the other temple – the one originally with the pillars that we saw in the museum – the temple of Nike.

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These pillars are replicas - the real ones are in the museum

These pillars are replicas – the real ones are in the museum

We made an effort this trip to get more photos together.

We made an effort this trip to get more photos together.

Under the techni-color blue skies, we headed down the hill with the intention of viewing the Ancient Agora as well as another marketplace.

A view from over the fence of the Roman Agora

A view from over the fence of the Roman Agora

Since it was so late though, they had closed for the day (at 2:30!) and we continued down until we found a restaurant perched behind the temples.  We settled in for our first Greek salad, stuffed tomatoes and spinach pie.

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Stuffed tomatoes - a vegetarian lunch

Stuffed tomatoes – a vegetarian lunch

Stomachs full we wandered back to the hotel enjoying the narrow streets of the Plaka neighborhood.

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Hadrian's arch

Hadrian’s arch

We happened upon Hadrian’s arch in the distance and then sneaked into the temple of Zeus just before closing time.  The timing worked perfectly.

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We then hurried back to the hotel so that we could head to the airport and continue our adventure in Crete.  The first day of our trip was a success.

Have you ever stumbled across a great restaurant by happenstance?  Eating when traveling can be hit and miss and so much depends on the atmosphere in addition to the food.  Where did you find a hidden gem?

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