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Tag Archives: Dining

Brett’s Birthday Get Away to The City of Lights

22 Jan

La Tour Eiffel! FASHION: Multi-Colored Fox Fur Jacket with Brown Suede Over-the-Knee Boots

I love Paris in the Springtime….I love Paris in the Fall!  Ahh – gay Paris!  Is there any other city so full of romance – delicious wines, the creamiest butter, and steak tartare served to perfection?  I think not.  So – I decided to surprise Brett with a trip to The City of Lights for his birthday celebration.

We left Beijing on a red eye flight on Aeroflot – a Russian Airline that offered a first class fare for almost the exact same price as the coach fare of Air France.  So that was a no-brainer.  Thank you Kayak!  We did have a quick stop in Moscow – which was actually kind of fun, and we arrived in Paris at 7AM.  By the way, I would recommend this airline.  Their fleet of planes might be a little older than other airlines, although the interiors do appear to have been updated, the service was excellent, and the price was right.

On Plane to Paris

I knew we would have plenty of time to freshen up once we arrived at the hotel seeing that Paris doesn’t really wake until almost 10.  Gotta love the 30 hour work week!  We stayed at Hotel Cambon – a sweet little boutique hotel across from the original Chanel store and Coco’s actual apartment.  All the rooms have a different, very modern and eclectic design, and ours even had a balcony overlooking a section of the Tuileries Gardens.  It was lovely.  I had arranged for a chocolate birthday cake and champagne to be in the room upon arrival. Okay…8AM might have been a little early to pop the bubbly – but it was 3PM Beijing time – and that is definitely happy hour in France.  So when you do the math – it was clearly acceptable.

In Front of Brasserie Lipp

Our first day was spent at the Musee Dorsay to visit the Impressionists followed by a late lunch at Brasserie Lipp in Saint-Germain to devour steak tartare and escargot.  The evening was spent at Guy Savoy – a 3 Michelin star restaurant.  We gorged ourselves on a 7-course tasting menu with wine pairings that included Guy’s infamous truffled artichoke soup – quite possibly the best thing I have ever put in my mouth.  I think it is obvious that our clothes fit a little bit tighter after our trip!

The next morning we awoke bright and early to wonder the streets while most Parisians were still warm in their beds.  We hit many of the necessary spots…a kiss on the Lover’s Bridge, a stroll by the Seine, the L’Arc de Triomphe on Champs Elysee. And, when our feet (I should say my feet in 5″ heels) couldn’t take anymore, we stopped by Cafe Marly overlooking the Louvre for a mid-morning snack.  For lunch (yes – the trip was based around eating) we went to Nomiya on top of the Palais de Tokyo modern art museum.

Nomiya at Palais de Tokyo

I had read an article about this place in the NY Times a while back, and it sounded very interesting.  Honestly, it exceeded every one of our expectations, and it was one of our favorite activities during the trip.  The lunch – which you must make reservations for well in advance – hosts 12 guests and no more.

Lover's Bridge

Perched on top of the museum in a tiny glass building, we ate great food at a communal table with interesting guests and a panoramic view of the city.  It was a great time – and as it turned out, the woman sitting across from us had lived in Murray, Kentucky (my off the beaten path tiny hometown) for a couple of years as a child.  What are the odds?

The Louvre. FASHION: Ivory Bunny Fur Jacket with an Eggplant American Apparel Lycra Skirt, matching tights, and Fuchsia Gladiators. Taupe Bottega Veneta Top Handle Tote

The remainder of the trip was spent at many other Parisian classics – The Bar at the Ritz, George V, the Pont Neuf, Hotel Costes, some shopping for the birthday boy in the Marais, window shopping on Faubourg Saint Honoree, Plaza Athenee (for drinks with my cute friend Jenny Leeper, her handsome fiance, and her very sweet mother) and a grand finale stop at La Tour Eiffel.  All in all – a perfect trip.

More Pictures from Paris….

Breakfast at Hotel Costes

Le Pont Neuf

Self Portrait at Plaza Athenee

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Up – Up – and Away!

15 Oct

Just After Take-Off

The plan for our second day in Luxor was to visit the Valley of the Kings and Queens.  You can’t really come to Egypt without seeing King Tut’s tomb, right?  But before we got up close and personal with the “boy king’s” burial digs, we decided to get a bird’s eye view via balloon.

Neither of us had ever been on a hot air balloon ride so we decided that there was no better way than to try a sunrise ride over the Nile.  It was spectacular!  You truly feel like you are floating.  Gliding through the sky in that tiny basket, I hadn’t a care in the world.

Firing Up the Balloon

Surprisingly though, my favorite part was not at the highest part of the journey (which was obviously beautiful) – but at the end during our landing.  The area surrounding the Nile in Luxor is almost all farm land – primarily sugar cane. Because the balloon pilot has to be very careful to not land in a spot that could hurt or destroy any crop, we cruised over the fields gently grazing the tops of the sugar cane for about 10 minutes.  It was so incredibly peaceful.  When we did finally land we were greeted by a “balloon team” with a truck to take the balloon, and a van to take us back to the “drop-off” spot.  But of course, we squeezed in some time for a little singing and dancing first!

Dancing with the Balloon Clean-Up Crew. FASHION: DVF Silk Chiffon Wrap Dress

TRAVEL TIP:  Currently, Luxor is the only city in Egypt that offers hot air balloon rides.  Our hotel recommended Viking Air and so would I.  The trip begins around 7AM and the 45 minutes or so ride takes you over the Nile, the Temple of Hatshepsut (the only female to rule Egypt as a Pharaoh), and the Valley of the Kings and Queens.

Brett on the Throne at Habu Temple

Our tour guide met us at the balloon drop-off spot, and we began our day of sightseeing from there. Sites for that day included: The Valley of the Kings & King Tut’s Tomb, Valley of the Queens, Habu Temple, Al-Deir Al-Bahari Temple, and the Tombs of Nobles.  Once again – our brains almost exploded with the amount of information we tried to retain.

I am going to touch on the highlights and the most surprising details.  Certainly, I assumed that King Tut Ankh Amun’s Tomb would be the most memorable part of the day – and while it fascinated me that it had been discovered completely in tact just 88 years ago, a few of the underrated sites interested me the most.  The Habu Temple (or the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III) was far less crowded than many of the other tourist spots.  Perhaps I enjoyed it more because we were able to get up close and personal with the well preserved and brightly colored hieroglyphics, perhaps it was the sheer amount of carvings and stories (75,350 square feet of decoration) but more than likely it was the opportunity to take a photo of Brett pretending to pee in the “toilet” of the Royal Palace Remains on the southeastern side of the temple.

Brett Pretending to Pee in the Royal W.C.

Okay – it probably wasn’t the best representation of American Tourists…but what do you expect from a small town boy from Ohio and a small town girl from Kentucky? Sometimes your roots just take the wheel.

I also really enjoyed the Tombs of the Nobles.  Honestly, we almost scrapped going to see these because of the heat and the fact that we could hear the pool calling our names.  But I am so glad that we didn’t. Of course the tombs are much smaller than those of the royals, but the captivating drawings on the walls depict the everyday lives of real Egyptians or at least the details that the Pharaohs approved. Nobles had to get the “okay” from the ruler at the time.  Talk about the original “Big Brother”.

The last fun fact that I would like to share involves a great love story of Ancient Egypt between Ramses II and his first wife, Queen Nefertari.  Known as the favorite and most beautiful of his 8 wives, her tomb (created by Ramses II) is the most spectacular tomb in the Valley of the Queens.

Trying to Survive the Heat at Al-Deir Al-Bahari Temple

Unfortunately, the tomb has been closed to the public since 2003.  But like everything in Egypt…it has a price. Apparently, with the right connections and the right amount of Egyptian Pounds (of which we had neither) you can gain entrance to this sacred tomb.  Another option is to take a trip to Abu Simbel in Southern Egypt to see the temple that Ramses II built in her honor.  There you will find a statue of her – equal in size to the statue of Ramses II (typically queens only came up to the knees of their king). Nefertari made quite a mark in Egyptian history by becoming the only queen to be named a living goddess.  However, this story does have a bit of a disturbing side – because Ramses II lived into his 90’s, Nefertari died many years before him.  It is said that after her death, he married their daughter because she looked so much like his cherished queen.  But let’s be honest, it is also likely that Queen Nefertari was Ramses II sister or half sister. Apparently, that is just the way these Pharaohs liked to roll.

TRAVEL TIP:  I felt that 2 nights in Luxor allowed us an appropriate amount of time to see all of the sites.  I also think that the Sofitel at the Winter Palace is by far the best hotel option.  Be sure to book a room in the original part of the palace.  They are the nicest and the most unique rooms.  Also, the french restaurant, 1886, located in the hotel is delicious (please note that coat and tie are required for men).

http://www.concierge.com/travelguide/luxor/hotels/2842

Gliding Over The Valley of the Kings

Up next:  Al Tarfa Desert Oasis

Destination: Dalian, China

20 Jul

Before moving to China I had never heard of Dalian – a city due east of Beijing on a peninsula.  I assume that most Americans are not familiar with Dalian either, which is funny because it has over 6 million people (over 2 times the size of Chicago – the 3rd largest city in the US).  Brett and I have been spending quite a lot of time in Dalian due to his work, and I imagine there will be many more trips in the future.  So – I think the best way to document the city is through photos and captions.  This way I will be able to update the stories and experiences of this city by the sea often and easily.

The beaches in Dalian are actually quite bare. While there is definitely no shortage of humans, luxury resorts have no presence at all. In my opinion, someone is missing out on a great opportunity here. Will someone please get on this? I would love to have a cheap beach option that is only a 1 hour flight away from Beijing!

Of course most places by the sea offer tasty and fresh seafood but Dalian takes this to a new level. Almost all of the restaurants allow you to visit tanks within the dining space to select your main course while it is still living. Sometimes your dish is still living when it is served! This is Brett kissing our sashimi. The fun part....it kissed him back!

Hand picked lobster. I waited to eat him until after he was properly prepared!

Back wall of restaurant - lined entirely with tanks, buckets, and baskets with everything from sea sausage (don't ask and don't eat) to king crab.

We typically stay at the Kempinski Hotel during our trips to Dalian, which is right across from Labor Park. The park is sort of a hybrid between an amusement park and a pedestrian area. There are beautiful gardens with areas to relax mixed in with a handful of rollercoasters and games. We took the gondola ride to get a better view of the city. Unfortunately it started to rain shortly after our trip began....but on a positive note - we did get a lovely view of the inside of a cloud!

The Gondola at Labor Park

This little girl is literally fishing for gold fish. I think this explains why they are so thin. Clearly...this is going to be my new diet plan.

Enjoying local ale at the Paulaner Brauhaus & Restaurant. This place has a great live band every night. And...like everywhere else in the world - they are googoo for GAGA!

Thank Goodness for My L Visa

19 Jul

Photo booths are all the rage in Seoul. We couldn't resist!

The beauty of living in Beijing on an L visa (a type of visa to visit friends and family) is that I am forced to exit every 60 days.  It might sound like a frustration but the truth is…it creates an amazing guilt free excuse to travel and experience all that Asia has to offer.  Our most recent get away was a long weekend to Seoul, Korea.  What a fantastic and modern city!

Lucky for us a recently opened Banyan Tree Resort was running an extremely discounted introductory rate.  The room itself was enough to make for a great escape, and the Banyan Tree never disappoints with their cabana clad pools.  And while it was hard to pull away from the sunshine, the city of Seoul has so much more to offer.

First – let’s talk fashion.  (I will get to the more intellectual details later!)  I loved it.  It is fresh, inventive, over the top, and saturated with accessories – just my cup of tea!  The innovation is not limited to the clothes; the retail displays and marketing methods in Myeongong (a great shopping street) create fabulous eye candy as well.  In fact, we were so inspired (okay – maybe that “we” should be an “I”) that Sex and the City 2 seemed like the only fitting follow-up.  So…off to the movies we went.  It was cute to see that Korean girls dress to impress for SATC just like American girls.  It was also cute to see Brett dish about which outfits he liked best.

Second – let’s talk food.  Gorilla in the Kitchen, a restaurant owned by a Korean celebrity, was our favorite meal. We selected the seven-course tasting menu, which offered a variety of traditional Korean dishes with a modern twist.  Every bite was better than the one before.

Please don't ask me to pronounce the name of this!

Third – let’s talk our favorite local attraction.  The Cheonggyecheon Stream, recently uncovered in 2003 after being buried under a highway for 30 years, is part of a vast urban renewal project in Seoul.  We strolled the banks for hours listening to local musicians and watching various street performers.  The greatest entertainment; however, was the light show.

Every few hours, a giant fountain emerges on one end of the stream and a light show projector beams through the spray creating a 3D show of crazy colors and holograms.  The finale…a hot pink Rockette-esque kick line.  Remarkable!

In front of the waterfall on one end of the stream

Finally – let’s talk hostess bar.  What we thought to be a cute underground hotspot turned out to be a true gentlemen’s club.  I confirmed this fact when I visited the lady’s room.  The men’s room, which I passed on my way, appeared to be a luxurious lounge. Honestly, I got excited.  I have a secret love for cool bathrooms with attendants.  Well…to say that my experience was different is an understatement.  First – I had to climb 3 flights of stairs in a dark and dingy stairwell.  Then – I traveled down a never-ending hallway, and when I finally made my way to the toilets, after stumbling through the janitor’s closet, I found a group of young girls in shirts posing as dresses counting their earnings from the night.  Despite feeling a bit out-of-place (mainly because my dress actually covered my bum) we enjoyed our drinks and had a great time people watching!

Example of one of the photo booths. They were everywhere!

We had a blast in Seoul.  I highly recommend it, and I hope that we return in the near future!



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