One Day in Taipei

Jet lag be damned!  With only one day off, I needed to make it count.  So, I set out on Sunday to explore Taipei and found a delightful city filled with temples, art, shopping, easy transportation and friendly folks.  What’s not to like?

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I always love to just walk a city to get a feel for the people and culture.  Taipei 101 is THE building in downtown so off I went to get a view of this famous building.  Along the way,  many shops had opened and the shoppers were out in force.  As in many China cities, there are little clothing boutiques and drugstores (no OTC meds just beauty items) everywhere along with the high-end luxury brands like Gucci, etc.

I was first struck by several differences between Taipei and Shanghai, where I lived a few years ago:  drivers of cars and scooters seemed to actually obey traffic signals and stay on the roads vs. driving on the sidewalks as they often did in Shanghai.  Crazy! I felt a little safer in Taipei though I still was cautious crossing streets.  The streets were clean yet I didn’t see the street sweepers that you would on mainland China who cleaned up after everybody.  I’m thinking the Taiwan citizens seem to be very tidy and I’ve yet to see the many smokers or public spitting/urinating that I got used to after living in China.  Not knocking my former home in Shanghai because it was awesome but the differences were noticeable.

After seeing Taipei 101 in the distance and it is a lovely unique skyscraper, I jumped on the blue line subway and off I went to Longshan Temple.  The subway was clean, staffed and signed in English.  For less than 50 cents, I arrived across town and walked through a lovely park where groups of men were playing games and socializing, very similar to Shanghai life on a Sunday.  Packed with locals burning incense and praying at the Temple, I was one of the few Laowai’s enjoying the experience.

A fellow traveler from Warsaw, Poland was nice enough to snap my pic at the koi pond, where a cat stalked from the roof above.  I love meeting new people on my adventures.  On the subway, a mature lady smiled as I sat next to her and, though not an English-speaker, she gestured at my map and seemed excited when I got off at the Temple stop.  Another lovely gal in the subway was toting her pup in a front-facing backpack.  I need to get one of these for Thor!  He would love to be carried around to see the sights.

After taking in the Temple, I was off on the subway again-first the blue line, then transferring to the red line and finally taking a cab the rest of the way to the National Palace Museum which was on the outskirts of Taipei by the mountains.  Tour groups of China tourists dominated the galleries where for only about $12.50 US, you can view three floors of treasures from jewelry to vases to calligraphy, all ancient and beautiful.  The only gallery not packed with people was the Tibet exhibit.  Hmmm…  Every item was behind glass to protect from the hordes taking it all in.

The jet lag finally kicking in, I jumped in a cab to get to the red line, then the green line and arrived back at the Westin ready for room service and a good night’s sleep.  Wish I had more time in Taiwan to explore-a vacation with Thom is definitely now a necessity!  Monday we start meetings and then off to Hong Kong on Tuesday-the journey is just beginning!

 

Back Home Again in Asia

I didn’t realize how much I missed the Asian culture until I landed in Taipei last night.  The sounds, the smells, the friendly people!  Waking up to a cloudy view of the mountains and the local neighborhood after a 20+ hour journey to get here from Boise to Seattle to Tokyo to Taipei, I couldn’t wait to get out on the streets and explore!

 

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Hat courtesy of caution cone/vest?  Staying safe on the crowded streets of Taipei!

 

This is a business trip, hopping to a new city every 2-3 days for meetings, so hubby Thom is not along for the adventure.  I’m on my own and, after lengthy conversations with the Westin staff and maps in hand, I started to just wander.  Of course, the hotel team tried to talk me out of walking around “too far!” but I like to walk and they aren’t used to visitors wanting to do that.  I get it and just smile and keep on walking.

Originally, I had planned to book straight to the National Palace Museum via the subway but a combination of uncertainty and self awareness that I get lost easily plus a desire to absorb the local culture vs. art, I decided instead to try and find a temple nearby.

First, though, I noticed a Alice in Wonderland theme in the Westin lobby bar and checked out the adjacent gardens where it looked like a wedding might be taking place today with decorations everywhere.  How fun!  Wonder if the bride had an “Alice” dress to walk down the aisle?  She will definitely need a parasol as it is quite wet here today.

Instead of a temple, I found a delightful street market where I was the only Laowai, aka foreigner, in sight.  Fish, fruit, meat, pigs feet, dry goods and handmade noodles in stalls lining the narrow alleyway-it was packed with shoppers and very reminiscent of my old neighborhood where we lived in Shanghai.  I thought of my friend Patti when I saw the cherry tomatoes merchandised in the fruit stalls next to the apples and oranges.  Yes, Patti, tomatoes are considered fruit.

As I reviewed my map, still hopeful I could find the temple, a 20-something young man walked by me, stopped and considered, and then came back to offer his assistance.  How kind and friendly he was to help me plus he spoke English!  Even with his guidance though, after a few more blocks, I gave up and just enjoyed the journey.  Glad I did too or I wouldn’t have seen the quiet neighborhoods or the lovely lady in the “cautionary” hat displaying her lovely fruit or the antique noodle maker cranking out the sheets of pasta.

 

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Making noodles

 

Ahh, to be back again in Asia is indeed a beautiful thing.  After a few business meetings, I’m off to Hong Kong (TurboJet to Macau at night for fun!), Shenzhen, Shanghai (home!) and Beijing.  Two weeks of work and fun!

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If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a scooter!

 

See the Andrew Wyeth Exhibit at SAM!

Experiencing the Andrew Wyeth in Retrospect exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum is a day well spent, especially on a rainy Seattle Sunday.  Room after room filled with amazing art.  Damn.  I’m in such awe of this artistic talent.

When my antique phone couldn’t download the app for the SAM audio tour, I forked over $4 to rent the old school technology wand to listen to the audio tour.  How embarrassing!

Quite the scoundrel, Wyeth painted up until his death at age 91, sneaking away starting at age 53 to secretly paint a neighbor’s caregiver, Helga, in the nude during a 15 year period without telling his wife.  Oops.  Of course, this was after he had started doing other nudes in a dramatic pivot to erotic art and his wife, Betsy, had told him, “If you do this again, don’t tell me.”  So, he didn’t share and painted nude Helga privately while also cranking out landscapes that he DID show his wife.  Hmmm….

 

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Wyeth’s muse, Helga

 

I appreciate the audio tour interpretation of the paintings because I gaze upon them and think simplistically, “pretty picture” when I should be seeing all kinds of imagery and subtexts telling me about the meaning of life.  Nope.  Not unless I’m told by the kindly intelligent audio guide do I see the “death as a subtext” message and “sex as a rebirth” theme.  I’m an idiot but I do enjoy viewing art as did the huge crowd packing the museum today.

One masterpiece did speak to me, after the audio guide explained that “Snow Hill” was a memorial piece created in 1989 and dedicated to his models, both living and dead, symbolizing renewal and reevaluation of life’s purpose.  The models dancing around the May Pole was quite evocative.  Well done, Wyeth.

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Snow Hill symbolizing renewal

Wyeth painted in tempura and watercolor and pencil sketches.  The attention to detail was incredible especially the blades of grass in the landscapes.  His dad was a famous illustrator who taught him starting at 15 years old.  Wyeth sold out his first NYC show at the ripe old age of 22 and continued to paint until he died in 2018.  He is known for his realism.

 

“I search for the realness, the real feeling of a subject, all the texture around it…I always want to see the third dimension of something…I want to come alive with the object.”              -Andrew Wyeth

The exhibit will be at the SAM until January 15, 2018.  In addition to the paintings and sketches, the SAM has done a nice job incorporating videos about Wyeth’s life and an interactive area with touch screen devices where you can create your own art.  I highly recommend it.  Enjoy!

Foy Vance takes the stage

Foy Vance is a brilliant artist.  His vocals soar and lyrics inspire.  Moving from piano to ukulele to guitar, Foy without a band at The Triple Door was a totally different experience than when we last saw him at the Columbia City Theater.  Less rocking and more talking.  He opened the show with Free Falling, a Tom Petty tune, and finished with a haunting Irish song in acapella.  Awesome.

A Northern Irish musician and singer-songwriter, he was signed to Glassnote Records in 2013 and has been touring non-stop.  The Triple Door gig was his next to last U.S. stop before a well-deserved break to go home.

Clink, Clink, Clink.  W.T.F.  Foy was not amused.  Clearly used to playing larger venues opening for artists like Ed Sheeran, Elton John and Josh Groban, you could tell it was painful for him to sing and endure the irritating noise from the audience dining.  “Are you still on the first course?  Entrée? Dessert?”  Will it never end?  Clink, Clink, Clink.

Inspiring singalongs on a few songs, the sold out crowd knew the words and didn’t want to stop being Foy’s back-ups.  When one patron yelled out “More”, Foy let him know that he was not a “fecking jukebox” and that was that.

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I do love The Triple Door because the seats are comfy and they pour an amazing strong and plentiful Old Fashioned.  However, the crowd can be noisy when enjoying their food and tend to chat as most tables seat 4-6 and encourage groups.  Of course, we were at one of the counter tops and the guy next to us thought we had paid to hear HIM sing not Foy.  Wrong!  I quietly protested by covering my ear closest to him with my middle finger to block out his musical stylings.  I wonder if he saw or cared.  Probably not but it made me feel better.

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Next time Foy needs to share his artistry at The Moore or The Paramount.  No delicious shrimp noodles but better acoustics and focus on the really important thing.  His gorgeous voice and storytelling.  Until next time, Foy, cheers!

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Blade Runner 2049 & Biscuit Bitch-A Perfectly Seattle Combo

How do you top seeing Blade Runner 2049 on a 70mm wide screen on opening weekend?  Well, after this dazzling movie you hop on over a few blocks after the flick and hit up Biscuit Bitch for an AMAZING basket of bliss.  Damn. Perfect. Saturday.

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First, Seattle Cinerama (owned by Paul Allen) is THE best place to see movies, possessing surround sound, comfy seats and a 70MM wide screen.  Seating 500+ on opening weekend, the chocolate popcorn and alcohol were flowing as the sold out 11 a.m. crowd buzzed with excitement pre-movie in the lobby.  It’s highly unusual for crowds these days not to look incessantly at their phones during a film or get up to go for bathroom/food runs but nobody moved the whole 160 minutes of this flick, glued to their seats not knowing what the hell was coming next.  A retro Merry Melodies cartoon featuring Michigan J. Frog  amused the 20-something and predominantly  male audience after the previews.  They probably had never seen such a thing before in their young lives.

Not to stereotype male Seattle tech nerds but this movie seemed to be squarely made for their lane with lots of naked females, high tech everything and violence galore.  Still, amazingly, I enjoyed it though it was definitely NOT in my normal preferred genre of light comedy, but even I could respect the complexity of this flick.  And Ryan Gosling’s adorableness.  Just saying, he is too CUTE and boy can he kick ass!

No spoilers but let’s just say the whiskey-loving dog got a good laugh and Harrison Ford still rocks.  How is it Harrison has gotten older and yet I never age?  Hmmm…   Ryan Gosling played his complex character well and if this film doesn’t win all the lighting awards, I would be surprised.  Stunning.  This future world was just harsh in all aspects and, while the women dominated the power roles, they were seriously evil bitches and this civilization had a whole lot of prostitutes and gigantic naked holograms.  No one needs to see ta ta’s that large looming over them or is just me?  Disturbing.   Prior to Trump, I couldn’t imagine such a bleak world but unfortunately now I can.  With just one tweet, we too could be looking at forgotten cities condemned forever after being nuked.  While not an uplifting film, it was well done.  Go see it!  While we’re all still alive.

So after contemplating a world where the rain never stops and there are no trees or flowers, what’s a girl to do?  Hit up some biscuits, bitch!  Starting out small and now with 3 locations in Seattle, Biscuit Bitch was just as good as the reviews make it out to be.

Luckily, the Belltown location didn’t have a line by the time we dropped by, close to their 3 p.m. closing after our movie, so we walked right up and got us a “Hot Mess Bitch” meal to share.  Cradled in a paper boat, the layers of biscuit, gravy, cheese, eggs over easy, garlic grits, grilled Louisiana hot link and jalapenos were plenty big enough for 2 to split for $11.70.  Holy Smokes!  It was hot and messy and DELICIOUS.  Their motto is “trailer park to table” and they keep the menu simple and focused on biscuits.  Smart.

Love their smiling staff, the cool tunes being played, bitchin’ logo and the upbeat décor.    I’ll be back.  Hope everyone’s Saturday was just as fun as ours has been.  Now, it’s time for Seahawks football!

 

Japan to Italy in One Seattle Morning

On a sunny fall Seattle morning, it was time to visit different cultures without leaving downtown.  Thom and I love to experience new places so, from Japan to Italy, we decided to get out and savor the warm weekend weather.  Time to explore!

First stop-Seattle Japanese Gardens in the Madison Park neighborhood is a 3.5 mile oasis of tranquil ponds and flowering trees.  Now, parking is scarce especially as the garden parking lot sits next to soccer fields filled on a Saturday morning with cheering/jeering parents coaching their little ones on ferociously.  Be quiet, Mom and Dad, and let the tykes play.

After driving by and circling back with no spot in the lot, we just parked on Madison St. and walked down.  For only $6 per head, you can achieve zen and see some very hungry koi.  Bring your camera as everywhere you look is an Instagram moment.  They have a teahouse where you can buy tickets for an authentic Japanese tea, which I’ll have to try sometime.  Winding through waterfalls, streams and bridges over the ponds, I was so happy to see lots of turtles (I have a fascination with these ancient creatures) sunning themselves on the plentiful rocks in the pond.  The koi were colorful and hungry, being fed by the small children visiting the gardens.  A few of these koi may want to consider eating less carbs and swimming a few more laps around the pond-they were HUGE!

After wandering back by the soccer fields (we can’t wait until Mia starts playing!), we enjoyed putting the top down on Sexy Beast and driving back home to check out the Festa Italiana Seattle at the Seattle Center.  Oh my holy Hell those meatballs were delish and I rarely eat meat.  I didn’t even take a pic of them because I ate them so fast.  Swimming in lots of spicy sauce, my “tub of meatballs” went down quickly-tub being an overstatement as there were only five so I refused to share with Thom.  Waddling down to the exhibits where they had music, dancing, a wine garden and lots of vendors, we quickly sought out the Borracchini Bakery table and purchased cannoli’s, biscotti and other treats to take home to enjoy later.  When in Italy and all.  To be honest, they didn’t last long after we got home so I just might have to visit the Festa Italiana again tomorrow for another bakery run.  So. Good.

In another building, there was a fierce bocci tournament going on.  Such a game of finesse.  A show with elaborate puppets for the kids was enchanting and well attended.  The festival also showcased Italian dogs, Cirneco dell-Etna, small, wiry and high-strung Sicilian hound that hunts rabbits, as well as cute Vespas and classy Maserati cars.  Oh those Italians know how to live!

I love living in Seattle and going from zen to festa in a matter of minutes.  I’ll never take living here for granted.  Now it’s time to lift a glass of vino to toast the start of another great Seattle weekend.  Cheers!

Boise Bday Booze Tour

What could be better than spending quality time with my lovely daughter Hannah exploring Boise’s best bars and sipping tasty cocktails?  Maybe adding in some tasty nibbles along the way so that we can sample more spirits?  Having Thom as our designated driver? What a perfect afternoon!

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Hannah knows her momma well and surprised me with a thoughtful birthday present that we could enjoy together.  After your kids grow up and leave the nest, you quickly find out that any time you are able to be together is precious and to be savored like a fine wine or aged whiskey.  Luckily, she gets me and gave me not only time with her but tasty hooch.  LOVE. THIS. GIRL

Her birthday card made me cry and I am not a crier like Thom-just saying.  “You are the absolute best mom and Nai Nai!”  Nothing beats that.  Ever.  I’m going to laminate this card and pull it out every time I’m having a challenging day.  “Let’s go scout some bars & restaurants so you can have some new fave places when you live here full time.”  She wants to spend time with her momma?  Be still my heart.  I’m not sure when we’ll be able to make that dream of living in Boise full time real but I’m working on it.

So, off we went this past week on the Boise Booze + Bites Happy Hour Tour hosted by Indulge Boise Food Tours.  I like their tag line, “Eat Well.  Indulge Often.”  Okay, I can embrace that wisdom.  Our friendly tour guide, Lauren, told us about their company which started in 2016 when the owner decided to get off the corporate track working for the WNBA and settled back in her hometown of Boise.  Thom and I have taken advantage of walking tours and cooking classes all over the world in our travels.  Not only do you meet cool people but you learn stuff too.  We like them.

On this tour, I learned all about my daughter’s first drinking escapade (at a much younger age than previously disclosed), her favorite booze (beer-New Belgium Rogue) and her favorite food (Thai or sushi).  Lauren prompted discussion at every venue we visited with probing conversation-starting questions.  Even with family members, this can be fun and eye opening.  Hannah’s choice of the one place she would live if she could?  DC.  She spent a summer interning for Congressman Minnick while she was in college and it was political heaven for her even with multiple roommates (including cockroaches).  Me-NYC.  No place like it in the world.  Fav meal and drink for me? I would choose a Caprese Salad  with a nice Cab.

We explored new places like Flatbread Neapolitan Pizza tucked away on the second floor in an office building overlooking the downtown core.  I would probably never have gone to this place but the flatbread, washed down with a tart Raspberry Lemon Drop, was delicious so we’ll be back.  Hannah’s drinks during our tour had a summer garden theme either by accident or design:  Sage Cucumber at Flatbread and Lemongrass Sage with a Lemongrass straw at Press & Pony.

Mai Tai’s house cocktail, Mai Thai Old Way with dark rum, rhum agricole, dry curacao, orgeat, fresh line and mint, was a refreshing way to wash down some veggie spring rolls.  The atmosphere here is beautiful with overhead glass sculptures and water features.  Lauren said their Happy Hour is legendary and embraced by Boise locals.  I’ve had lunch there before but was impressed with their Happy Hour cocktail list, which I hope to sample in the future.

Now, I have started my own “Best of Boise Old Fashioned” contest to justify my tasting of the classic cocktail wherever we go.  So, I sampled The Mode and Press & Pony on this tour.  No contest.   Press & Pony, an intimate speakeasy with serious bartenders, won by a large margin.  The Mode’s Old Fashioned was okay but lacked the nuances of the one at Press & Pony.  There, Eric took my challenge seriously and laid down a cocktail I could enjoy with my Boise Fry Co. veggie burger (black bean and quinoa) and red potato fries.

Indulge Boise offer several types of tours:  Historic Downtown Boise Food & Cultural Tour, Capital City Sunday Brunch and private tours.  Check them out here if you are visiting Boise or are a local who just wants to have fun.  Cheers!