Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving in Paris

It's Thanksgiving and Phil and I are in Paris. I have to say that the next best thing to being home with our family enjoying pumpkin pie and turkey, is being here in Paris enjoying the amazing food, rich history, and romantic streets.

This morning I traveled to the other side of Paris for a morning market tour/ cooking class. We have spent the last four days ravenously exploring the city sites. We have climbed the Eiffel Tower, toured the city by bike at night, visited the Notre Dam, seen the Sacre Coeur, wandered the streets of the Latin Quarter, cruised along the Seine at night, visited the Palace of Versailles, and the list goes on. I have to say that of all of the sites we visited and all of the things we have done- the cooking class was my absolute favorite thing on this trip.

Food is the heartbeat of culture; particularly French culture. I feel like more than any other time in this trip, I was able to truly experiene the essence and heartbeat of French culture.

Off to the next adventure!

Phil and Jen

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Phil and I arrived in Amsterdam yesterday afternoon. As we walked through the airport I was amazed to see all of the Christmas decorations. Living in a land that only celebrates the holidays as a commercial enterprise (and not even that well), it was really refreshing to see proof of holiday celebration all around me.

After dropping off our luggage and meeting up with some friends, we were off to find some food. Having settled on simple pub grub at an Irish pub, we cozied into a corner booth and placed our orders. I looked around the dimly lit pub and marveled at how festive it was. Christmas trees, garland, and wreaths covered the place from floor to ceiling. It was the perfect atmosphere. As temperatures dropped and snow fell outside, we were warming up under the dim glow of the Christmas lights; Belgian ales in hand, and a little Johnny Cash on the radio... all was well in my world.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008


It's a sunny and beautiful Wednesday afternoon here in Shanghai. I made it through the last week and now I can start packing for our trip to Paris! After finishing an article over a week past its deadline, speaking in front of more that 500 people (just an announcement in front of church), celebrating my 6 year wedding anniversary, playing catch up on a weeks worth of reading, and finally taking my final test for Mandarin class; I can focus on the important task ahead- my trip to Paris.

So here I am, sitting at my dining table looking out onto the sun kissed city, listening to a little Billie Holiday- dreaming of the crepes, macaroons, and brie that will soon pass my lips. If food were a love language, I think it would be mine. Perhaps this is the real reason Paris is referred to as a city of love. It's not the beautiful architecture, or the magical way the city lights up at night. It's not the Eiffel Tower or even the magnificent Palace of Versailles- it's the pain au chocolat made every morning before dawn, the baskets brimming with crusty baguettes, the crepes of any imaginable filling, and oh...the macaroons ;) I can almost smell it all now.

Right- so by now you've gathered that I really like food and I am also really excited about our trip to France. Both observations are correct. Phil and I will be meeting with our friends Will and Jen in Amsterdam- where we will have just enough time to stroll the canals, eat some pommes frites with mayonnaise, and find our favorite schwarma vendor. After a day or so in Amsterdam, we will drive through Belgium and stay overnight in Brugge. In Belgium, we will visit the Chimay brewery restaurant to taste some of our favorite beer. What better way to enjoy your favorite beer, than to go right to the source! From Belgium, we will drive to Paris and spend the rest of our time there.

I say let the gastronomique journey begin!


-Phil and Jen

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Review Is In! Mom Shares her "View from Here"

My trip to Shanghai has come to a close and I have had time to reflect upon my adventure. To begin, I arrived in Shanghai with very few expectations. I was most struck by its’ cosmopolitan air. I recall the same physical sense when in New York City but with many more people. If you have ever stood in Time’s Square on Saturday night in Manhattan, imagine adding ten times the number of people; not just in one spot, but everywhere. Traffic in Shanghai is a sight to behold. Vehicles can pretty much park anywhere. If you can’t find a spot, just park on the sidewalk. Any cabbie from Shanghai would find driving in NYC boring and not the least bit challenging. The streets are filled with people walking, riding bicycles, and riding, sometimes 3-4, on one moped-like vehicle, as well as buses of all kinds, shapes and sizes. At first the chaos made my head swim and resulted in a few actual nightmares. After a few days though, I realized that despite no traffic rules and an inherent insanity, an “organized chaos” existed and I could learn to just go with the flow. Jen coined the term “organized chaos” and it brought me a reconciled comfort.

I returned from Shanghai with many gifts, literally and figuratively. I love to shop and I love a bargain. The many marketplaces Jen and I and sometimes Philip visited were incredible and indescribable. You haven’t lived until you have seen Jen “bargain”. She has become a pro and her command of Mandarin is awesome. Her energy kept me going when I was on “overload”. My favorite shopping experience was the fabric market where I had a few things made to order; and very inexpensively thanks again to the queen of bargaining.

The exploration of tea and tea-drinking was another true gift. Jen and Philip shared their “tea lady” and her shop with me and we sipped tea, learned about tea pots and had an awesome time. I also attended a “tea-party” hosted by Jen and attended by her friends, myself and the “tea guru”. We drank teas and learned about tea types and their health benefits, regions growing tea and tea politics. It was an inspiring afternoon. I am grateful to have come home with the gift of incorporating tea into my daily life.

Another treasured gift of my stay was an increased knowledge of Shanghai and Chinese Culture and history. We went on two tours, one with a famous photographer/historian named Gang Feng Wang. He toured us through an area of disappearing Shukimen-housing where he grew up. The other tour was through the old Jewish ghettos with a photo journalist named Dvir Bar-Gal. These were walking tours and both placed indelible marks in my memory. For example, I had no idea of the role Shanghai played during WW 2. Shanghai was one of only 2 open-ports in the world to harbor refugees. I never learned that in history class. That was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of what I learned. For me the most profound overall cultural/historical view was the juxtaposition of old and new Shanghai, with emphasis on a disappearing old. There is little respect for the past and its history and although a few are fighting to preserve some structures, old Shanghai is being torn down 24 hours a day seven days a week. The sad part is the Shanghainese do not know much about their own rich history. I am so grateful to have seen it before it is gone. Hint, Hint.

The greatest gift of all was the time spent with Jen and Phil. Unfortunately Philip had to work. Did I mention how hard he works? He works from early morning to evening and then conference calls in the late evening because of the 12 hour time difference. Weekends are also filled with potential calls etc. What a guy!!!! Jen and I realized that we had not been together for a long time period since she was a little girl. I truly enjoyed my daughter and the kind woman she has become. I had fun with her. Did I mention she can really cook? The kids fed me, cared for me and treated me with such kindness. Did I mention the accommodations? The apartment they live in is just beautiful. I had my own room with private shower/bath. I was a queen! They live on the 55th floor overlooking the Bund. The view is wonderful. You could spend the day/night watching boats, ships, lights etc.

I am so thankful to Jen and Phil and their graciousness. This was an opportunity NOT to be missed.

WANTED: Family and friends to visit Shanghai. Stay in luxury accommodations overlooking the Bund. Tour with young, knowledgeable couple possessing very good Mandarin skills excited by the community and culture. Explore local history. Major opportunity for phenomenal photos. Extraordinary shopping, great food. Guarantee: You will never be the same. Make reservations before your opportunity slips away.
Could you pass up an ad like this?

Obviously, I had an awesome trip. I would go back in a heartbeat. I am already saving my vacation time at work……just in case there is a vacancy.