29 June 2011

Wordless Wednesday, practicing caligraphy.

video

27 June 2011

Glad to see you!

O.k. I admit the title is a little corny,
but just look at what is blooming in my yard!


Gladiola!
I still have photos from Beijing to show you, we were there for three days. I will start posting them soon. In the meantime, this photo, I had to share.
Cheers,
Kat

23 June 2011

Xian China, Day 6

Always a welcome sight.  
We spent two days in Xian. On the second day we went with the group out to the site where the Terra Cotta Warriors were found. Do you know about the Terra Cotta Warriors? I remember when the find was announced back in the 70's and I have wanted to see them ever since. 
 The warriors were all broken when the archaeologists first found them.
This picture shows the painstaking work the museum is doing to restore them.
No two are exactly alike, and there are thousands of them.
They are life sized.
If you are intrigued or curios, terra-cotta-warriors is an excellent information site with more pictures.
 There are a couple of museums on site, this one features smaller funerary figures from other tombs.
Notice the ladies with the long sleeves? I told you I would show you that again.
Next to the ladies, some acrobats.
These figures range in size from a few inches tall to about three feet high.
We also spent some time at the Shaanxi Provenance Museum.
They have an excellent collection of Chinese art through the centuries.
I particularly liked this one, it is propaganda from the revolutionary era. 
While we were at the museum, we had a basic calligraphy lesson. 
We also had the opportunity to buy some very nice art.
We passed, although it was difficult. 
They have some very aggressive sales people.
(Aggressive sales people seem to be everywhere we went). 
At the end of a long day, my Sweet Husband,  took me out for dinner.
We walked to the restaurant from our hotel.
Since it is a Mediterranean restaurant, they washed our hands with rose water prior to serving us.
 My Sweet Husband at the Azur Mediterranean Restaurant.
Very good food and a lovely way to spend an evening.
Early flight the next morning back to Beijing.
Beijing was our last stop on the trip, we were there for three nights.
This photo was at the Xian airport, no, that is not fog.
Air quality was dreadful.
I will post photos from Beijing soon.
Cheers,
Kat

19 June 2011

Xian China, Day 5.

We started off our day in Xian with a walk through the area around Small Goose Pagoda. 
 Playing a ball game in the park. Our guide told us the game is very old, the ladies are playing in modern western clothes.
Xian is an old city. People have lived in this area for over 22,000 years.
The mixture of old and new is a constantly reoccurring theme.
Small Wild Goose Pagoda. 
 We toured part of the old city wall. This is one of the gates. It is actually two gates separated by an inner courtyard. Invaders who managed to get through the outer gate, could be picked off from above before they could get through the inner gate. This picture gives a good idea of how high these walls are.
The golden stage was set up for a ceremony to be held later in the day. Xian was having an agricultural festival while we were there.
 Up on the Xian city wall.
Once again, the old and the new side by side. See the high rises?
The mist you see is not just fog, the air quality in Xian is pretty bad.
That is the only drawback, otherwise I thought it was a wonderful city.
 Street food, a grocery store and lots of bustle. This is the Old Muslim quarter of Xian.
I could easily have spent an entire day just here.
All this walking has made us hungry. Tonight, dinner and a show.
A Dumpling Dinner. Top left, the pot for dumpling soup. Top right, fish dumplings. 
Many of the dumplings look like their filling. Those on the bottom left are duck, if yo look closely you can see they are shaped like ducks, see the head and necks? Bottom left are baked dumplings, these had a nut filling, they were some of my favorites. The duck and fish dumplings were steamed in bamboo steamers. 
Tang Dynasty dance program. This is a traditional Chinese dance that is supposed to be similar to what the Tang Emperors would have watched. Our guide for Xian, Florence (she told us her Chinese name was very difficult so we should call her Florence or Flo)  told us we would be treated like Emperors and Empresses during our stay. She was right. (Note the dancers sleeves, they could be extended or retracted by several feet as part of the dance. It sounds silly but it was very graceful. Keep it in mind, you will see it again.) 
 Another group of dancers. The center one has the long sleeves.  
By the end of the show, we were a couple of tired kids so back to our hotel.
Florence was not just talking about our dinner and show. We stayed at the Grand Mercure on Renmin Square. This has to be the poshest hotel I have ever stayed in. Luxury everywhere.
Big soft terry cloth robes and warm fuzzy slippers even waited for us in the room.
The two pictures on the left are of the lobby, the two on the right are of our room.
In the morning, our breakfast buffet lived up to the rest of the hotels standards. 
It was lovely and there were a lot of choices. 
Very nicely done.  
I had to take a photo of the sign, everything was labeled in English and Chinese.
I did try the "Boiled pears with snow fungus and crystal sugar",
they were OK, I expected something more exotic. They were a little too sweet.
For some reason, I did not take a picture of them.
Sorry.
They kind of looked like translucent white stringy noodles.
The question is, would you try something with a name like that?

I promise not to take so long to post the next installment.
Stay tuned,
Kat

10 June 2011

Day 4, last full day in Shanghai and an early morning on day 5.

Breakfast each morning was included. Our Shanghai hotel served an excellent buffet.
The coffee was good and there was plenty of variety.
Shown above, tomatoe juice, a very good croisant, fried noodles, steamed pumpkin, fresh tomatoes, chicken sausage and my favorite discovery, canned Lychee fruit.
 After breakfast, the brave explorers had the hotel call us a cab.
They wrote our destination in Chinese and Pinyin (you can use our key boards to write out pinyin and most Chinese can read it) on a card with the hotels information. We gave it to the cab driver and we went on the second scariest cab ride in my life (The scariest was Chicago IL back in the 1980's).
The cab driver drove like mad, zipped in and our of places he should not have fit, darted around big busses and remained calm. There were no seatbelts.
The cab driver took us to the Jade Buddha Temple. 
Breathtaking.
These are two of a set of four gaurdian statues. One represents each direction and the element associated with it. They are much larger than life size.  
According to our guide book, this is the most popular Buddhist temple in Shanghai. It was built to provide a home for two statues of Buddha that were each carved from a single piece of jade. One is reclining, the other sitting in the classic position. Tourists are not allowed to photograph either statue, but they gave us the post card above. This is by far the nicest of the two anyway.
From the Jade Buddha Temple, we walked several blocks to the metro.
We rode the subway for a couple of stops, then navigated our way for several more blocks with the aid of a very good map and some kind people. 
We discovered that very few people outside the hospitality trades speak any English.
A map with English and Pinyin is a necessity.
This is the entrance to the Long Hua Temple and Pagoda.
Quite an amazing place, well worth the effort it took to get there. 
The big Iron things are incense burners. 
Worshipers buy huge bundles of incense, then light the whole bundle at once.
They bow and pray with the lit bundle, then place it in the burner.
The place smells great, but it is a good thing this part is done outdoors. 
My favorite Buddha from this temple is a lady.
She is associated with the harvest.
Doesn't she just look serene and kind? 
 We met this fine Cat on the way.
 One of the buildings in the French Concession area.
 For our last night in Shanghai, we had dinner and a show with our Friendly Plannet Tour Group.
If you saw my Wordless Wednesday post the other day, these guys will look familiar.
They were part of the Acrobat show. It was great!
This guy was pretty impressive too. 
The gentlemen in our party liked his dancing partners more.
After the show, it is back to the hotel. Early flight in the morning. 
 Cheers from the Shanghai Airport.
(Yes, I can find coffee anywhere.)
Next stop Xian China.
Part one of our Air China Breakfast.
No Lychee fruit but the yogurt drink was great and, 
part two includes mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, my chicken sausage, scrambled eggs and fried potato wedges. They brought me more coffee too!
It is hard to believe this was almost a month ago.
We have been back for about three weeks, and I still have not printed out any photos!
I did manage to get my suitcase put away finally.
I still have several blog posts to share about Xian and Beijing.
Cheers,
Kat

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