Return to Asia – Part 6 – Napa Sonoma

 

Housekeeping:  I am in Montreal, where my WiFi has not been connected and I have no easy access to email.  If it’s important call or text me.  The 707 number is still my main number and will be for a very long time.  Text me for my Montreal home phone, if you haven’t seen a recent email.  Canadians who need to reach me can call the 707 number and just let it ring once.  If your name comes up, I’ll call you back as soon as I see it.  Back to the blog:

It’s still Sunday, January 19, because you arrive before you leave when you come back from Asia.  It’s all about the International Date Line.  Unfortunately, your body doesn’t know anything about that.  It’s just exhausted because you have been up for a hell of a long time.  I was right about the oversized checked baggage having tales.  I waited about a half hour for it with the golfers, waiting for their clubs.  It finally came and one of them wrestled it onto my cart with my pig of a suitcase, and two maxed carry-ons, Roffice and a backpurse.  I managed to roll all that onto the Air Train and arrived at the rental car counter.  Did I tell you the mirror is 35” x 35”, a little bigger with packaging?  I got off at the Rental Car Counters and I had to pee.  But you can’t fit a cart with a 40” square item on it through the door of the restroom, never mind the cubicle.

Luckily, there were only two people ahead of me and the clerk was sympathetic.  Once she had some particulars, she offered to watch my overburdened cart while I went to the rest room.  I had a new best friend.  When I picked up the car, I had another, who volunteered to load the mirror into my back seat.  I gave both of these ladies very nice ratings when Thrifty surveyed me, because neither would accept a tip.

The drive to Napa was uneventful, except for presenting myself at the wrong address on the Mendelsons’ street, but that was no biggie.  Ralph and Melinda’s new Napa house is absolutely charming, just like its owners.  I had my pick of two great guest rooms and what to do about lunch.  I chose the ABC Bakery, which is perfect when you don’t know what meal you’re eating.  I had cornmeal pancakes and bacon.  They were swell.  Melinda had a lunch salad.  We were both very happy.  I try to stay awake all day to reset my body clock, but I had to lie down and meditate for a couple of hours.

I was up for Melinda’s delicious dinner, though.  It was a baked pork chop in a sauce of caramelized onions and pears.  It was a new recipe she had found and it looked pretty easy, as well as being yummy.  Melinda loves to cook, and it shows.  Ralph got a lovely bottle out of his particularly well stocked new cellar, and we were very happy. I went to bed early.  Ya think?

I didn’t get up any too early on Monday, January 20, either.  It was at least noon, when I surfaced.  I was feeling pretty dull, but I ploughed through my email and miscellaneous paperwork and we settled on LaToque for dinner.  I wanted to treat my hosts but the most they would do was let me buy a bottle of white wine to get the corkage waived on their Chateauneuf du Pape.  Melinda helped select a Chenin Blanc from Lang & Reed, the only one grown in the Napa Valley.

It’s a tasting menu at LaToque and always good.  We picked the three items plus dessert option.  They threw in two amuse bouches, including gluten-free options for Melinda.  My choices for tasting were all fabulous.  The black truffle scallop carpaccio was beautiful as well, and I didn’t take a picture.  The agnellis were filled with mushroom duxelles and came in some foamy broth that Ralph and I agreed to soak up with the French bread, like Italian peasants , and we were happy.  Our main was duck, two ways, breast with crispy skin and a little confit.  It had a nice mole sauce.  Melinda picked this, too.  The chocolate concorde dessert was out of this world.  It always is.  I always order it.  Our family has patronized LaToque since its beginning in Rutherford.  Scott Tracy, the original and long-time sommelier, was a friend of Susan’s in L.A. and shared our house with Cathryn one summer, when we were in Montreal.  He wasn’t there, of course, but Becky, the new sommelier, is his female twin.  Watching her walk away, you would swear it was Scott in a dress. BTW, she’s very good.  I hope Scott is mentoring her. She has his great personality, too.

I had been having trouble with the WiFi at Mendelsons’ and wanted to see if it was real or if my equipment was faulty.  So, on Wednesday the 21st I took my computer to the Napa Library.  The Internet was blazing fast.  Then I had a nice Massage with Kirsten, whom it turned out I knew from the wine club at Rust Ridge.  I went back and told Ralph and Melinda to call Comcast and not to put up with a simple reset.  They need a better signal and probably a repeater.  It will save them hours and hours in long haul.  We ate in again.  Melinda is amazing.  The pork chop may have looked easy to me, but this paella did not, though she said it was.  Ralph is very spoiled. It tasted as good as it looked, too.20200121-01NapaMelindasPaella

On Wednesday morning, I had a blueberry muffin and a hot chocolate at ABC with France Scott, so we could catch up and trade gossip.  Here’s someone I know I will see in Montreal.  She and Terry go (come?) there every year.  Then I went to the library for my WiFi, as we had play planned for the afternoon.  We were going to Viader to pick up my last wine club shipment and have a taste.  We were happy they were closed Tuesday, as Wednesday was by far the better day.  Wednesday had lots of sun.  Tuesday had none.  Viader was delightful, as usual.  Jennifer Lee, our host, enjoyed talking to Ralph, who faced the same grape growing challenges at Pedregal as Delia faced on Howell mountain, steep and rocky.  These properties are difficult to work, but they make the best wine, because the grape vines have to work hard, too.  Somehow that concentrates the flavors and both Pedregal wine, now made by Ramey, and Viader, are delicious. Viader won “best boutique winery in the Napa Valley” again in 2019.

We had dinner at Celadon with Ruth Berggren and Kathy and Dave Fitzgerald.  You’ll need to pass the crow.  I want a big helping.  No sooner did I tell you that my friends didn’t think China would move in, when they did.  Dave flew in the day I left and found about 200 Red army troops in Chater Square.  That should discourage the protesters.  It was nice being with this group of favorite people again and Celadon doesn’t disappoint.  I had just got through their enormous lamb shank, washed down with Viader, and a rich hazelnut chocolate dessert, when I felt funny.  My pulse was racing and it wasn’t all that regular either.  I waited about 15 minutes for it to go away and it didn’t.  I confided in Ralph, who has some experience in these matters, but he thought I was just making idle conversation and gave me a fifteen minute dissertation on the merits of the Mayo Clinic, which, of course, is THE place to go.

It had now been a half hour and I was getting concerned, so I shared with the rest f the group.  We decided to call for the check, and repair to Mendelsons’ house, where there was a blood pressure cuff.  After about another hour and a half, during which time it remained alarmingly high, despite everyone’s best advice being tried, Melinda told me to get in the car, she was taking me to the Queen.  Now the Queen of the Valley Hospital just happens to be a cardiac trauma center, and they take their role seriously.  They put a little cuff on your finger while you are giving them your name and date of birth.  We never got past that.  All of a sudden, I was on a pallet in the ER being hooked up to a heart monitor, IV and ECG.  The doc came right in, asked a few questions and ordered something to be put in the IV to bring my heart rate down.  It was way up there.  The nurse went off to get the liquid and loaded it into a syringe to add to the IV.  As she was rounding the bed to do that, the heart monitor started to report that it was back to normal.  Just like that.  All by itself.  I guess it didn’t want to be messed with.

It took another hour of watching, and now dealing with the accounting, before they unhooked me and sent me home, with the admonition to have it checked as soon as I got to Montreal.  If that weren’t bad enough, they proscribed, among other things, my two favorites, alcohol and chocolate.  Here I was planning to drink my best wine, with my friends in Santa Rosa where I had left it.  Bummer.  By this time it was about three am and Melinda was happy to drive me home.  I was so glad to have had her calm loving presence in the hospital.  I will be eternally grateful.  BTW, not only is Melinda a wonderful friend, she’s an AOPi sister, too, as is Kathy, for that matter.  We got to bed around 4:00 am and I turned out my light well after 4:30.

On Wednesday, the 23rd, I bid fond farewell to the Mendelsons, leaving them some of the Viader as a gift and some for us to drink together next time.  They are fabulous hosts and I hope they do come to the Grand Prix in Montreal this summer.  They have first dibs on it.  I was supposed to be having a day in the City on my way to Santa Rosa.  It included a haircut with Addison, lunch with the Laskers, hotel research for Irene Lam, and dinner with Chris and Larry Silver. The alarm went off at 8:30 am.  I got up, assessed the situation and went back to bed.  Two hours later, at 10:30 am, I brought the phone to bed with me and cancelled/rescheduled that stuff and my dinner at Fountaingrove Lodge.  I made a new dinner plan, too.  It was a quiet dinner at a very good Japanese restaurant, Hana in Rohnert Park, with just one friend, Geri Randall.

Over dinner we solved the problem of how to keep my American phone number, for the convenience of my friends and clients, and because American plans are better and cheaper than Canadian ones.  I would just become another phone on Geri’s new plan with Xfinity.  With unlimited data, that was only going to be $45/month.  Looks like a deal. I’ve been paying T-Mobile about a hundred.  I happily checked into Fountaingrove Lodge’s guest room around 9:30 pm and slept very well.

The next morning, Thursday the 24th, I was busy.  I had breakfast in the Dining Room, with the breakfast club and Pat Gustafson, who came especially for me.  Then I got to work.  There’s no Internet to speak of in the room, but it’s next door to a good friend and client, Mike Donigan, so I called him to ask for his password.  Meanwhile I had a lot to do on the phone.  I thought I had arranged for my medical records, ECG and blood tests from Wednesday night, to be sent to the Lodge fax, but they hadn’t come, so I started to chase them by phone.  I called the ER where I had gone to request them.  I actually got the same clerk I had at 6:00 pm the night before.  These people work long hours. She apologized profusely because she hadn’t known she had to have me sign a release.  I didn’t like the idea of driving back and forth to/from Napa, again. It’s an hour and a half each way.  I had her check for another way, and there was.  They could fax them directly to the McGill Medical Center.  That was a relief.  And so it was done.

Comcast had satisfactory answers about Geri’s plan, which works in Canada, the USA and Mexico, with free calls.  So I asked them what she had to do, communicated same to her, and she did it.  I was good to go.

I called Air Canada to advise them I would be traveling with oversized luggage, but their phone answered with a recorded message in two languages by some Air Canada executive named L’oignon.  The onion said that they had just put in a new system and were experiencing higher call volumes than usual.  These things are related?  Anyway, they weren’t putting any calls on hold and I should call back within 24 hours of my flight.

God bless Steve Harrold, who, I am happy to report, is now in full remission from stage IV cancer.  Anyway, Steve agreed, in exchange for an In ‘n Out Burger lunch, to accompany me around on my calls, so I could be able to make calls etc. and, well, we could have a visit.  We prefer it over a bottle of Rescue Red after dinner, but I’m not allowed to drink at the moment.

Lunch was great.  I don’t even like burgers, but I like In ‘n Out’s Flying Dutchman, with grilled onions.  It has lots of cheese and no bun at all.  We planned our route while we finished the fries and ketchup.  First stop, Xfinity.  They have a very inadequate store, understaffed for how long everything takes.  It was less crowded than it was in November, though, and they got to me after about a half-hour.  No problem with putting me on Geri’s plan.  I had a few more questions and got more satisfactory answers, so I had him start the port to Xfinity from T-Mobile.  While it was porting, I decided I needed a little reassurance about roaming charges.  I expected them in the rest of the world, but not in Canada nor Mexico.  I was wrong.  They charge for roaming and they charge plenty.  I don’t just want to call Canada free from the USA, it’s that I want to call the USA from Canada.  And I likely want to do it every day. I said I was sorry, but could he please stop the port, I was sticking with T-Mobile, where I roam free in Canada and Mexico, and pretty cheap all over the world.  I would not always be making WiFi calls, and I would be using Google Maps.

On the way to T-Mobile, we discussed putting my phone on Steve and Trish’s T-Mobile plan, if that’s possible, because I am paying for two lines at the moment and I only need one.  It’s a question for T-Mobile before it becomes a question for Trish, who owns the plan.  The guy at T-Mobile was really good.  He understood easily and was ready to help.  The Harrolds’ plan is only for 2 people, just like mine, so I would have to just reinstate mine.  However, I could now eliminate one of the lines.  I guess the rules changed.  So, I am using Geri’s address and she can join me on my plan, which is being billed to her address anyway.  They don’t seem to care that my credit card is being billed to Canada.  For now, I just have the one line.  My other phone has a cheap Canadian plan for use only in Canada.  See my email signature for the numbers.  So, all’s well, but it took most of the afternoon.

We just had time for one more stop before dinner and it was Chase Bank, to empty out my safety deposit box and change my address.  I made it to Leona’s on time for gingerale and nibbles before dinner with them and George and Manny and Toby.  Pat Jordan is still battling pneumonia that she has had since mid-December.  My best wishes for a speedy recovery.  I  went back to the guest suite and did emails until 1:00 am, catching up from my own bout in the ER.

Luckily, Addison, who cuts my hair, works Saturday and had a 3:00 appointment for me when I cancelled on Wednesday.  I went to the Laskers for a quick visit and found Ruth there.  The four of us had a nice pissaladière/focaccia type thing and caught up, and I was off.  Frank and Paula Schultz met me for a half-hour at Boulange, which is a French bakery, next door to Addison.  It was short but keeping in touch with one’s good friends is what life is all about.  Maybe they will come to Montreal soon and we’ll have more quality time. Frank scared the bejaysus out of me, though.  He didn’t think the hospital should have released me without a drug, like Eliquis.  What if the a-fib came back and I have a stroke?  Since my father had one of those and lived the last six years of his life, paralyzed down one side, I was spooked.

I got a very nice haircut from Addison, while we talked about Hong Kong the whole time.  Addison is Chinese, you see.  I made it back in time for drinks at Steve and Trish’s.  Too bad I never saw her texts about having had two cancellations for dinner, or I could have filled the spots.  There are so many people at the lodge that I love to eat with.  Rich and Oki were healthy, though and joined us.  They are so very nice.  The conversation took a morbid turn, though, as three residents died while I was in Asia, and they were all ones that we really liked.  We analysed all three situations and decided the two cancer patients, who were in a lot of pain, David Averbuck and Larry Ray, were in a better place, but Ted Johnson, who shocked everyone, had the better death.  He died in his sleep, with no warning.  I had to ask that we change the subject because I probably wouldn’t sleep all night if it went on any longer.  As it was, I couldn’t and ended up taking an Advil-PM at one-thirty.

I had work on my emails until 11:30 pm, thanks to Nationwide Insurance, who are driving me nuts, cancelling, reinstating, opening new policies, threatening me with collection because I haven’t paid bills I haven’t seen, etc.  Cross-border moves are the pits.

I spent Sunday morning with my neighbor, Mike Donigan, going over shore excursions for his trip to China in April and getting them into a Tripit, to consolidate all his information.  I sure hope the coronavirus is under control by then.  Wuhan is where the three-gorges river cruise boards.  We, and Viking and Allianz Insurance, all have a watching brief on that.

The post office had not managed to change my address to the Lodge main address, as I had requested, so I put in a call to the guy who is living in my apartment to ask if he had any.  While I was waiting for him to call me back, I went up to see Pat and Mike, to look at the wine they were keeping and discuss its disposition.  I was still nervous as a cat about the a-fib business, and checking my pulse every ten minutes.  Mike is a doc and they have a blood pressure cuff, too, so we took it, and it was high, but not alarming.  We sat and talked about what to do about my mail.  They volunteered to get it from my apartment’s new resident and keep the good stuff for me.  I love my friends.  I put the cuff on again and my blood pressure wasn’t far off normal for my age.  One hundred plus your age over anything under 100 is Mike’s rule.  While I am dispensing medical factoids, I did get something from the doc at the Queen.  If I go into a-fib again, I can probably get rid of it by bearing down hard, as if I were pooping a hard one.  Nice.  His other suggestion was to plunge my face into a bowl of very cold water.  I’ll try the pooping idea first.

Back in the guest room, I opened the one piece of mail that the concierge had, and it was a $1,000 check form Nationwide, who are not ALL bad.  They had received a settlement from PG&E after winning a class action suit for the 2017 fires.  It was our deductible.  So, instead of going to the gym, as planned, I went to the bank to deposit it.

At 6:00 pm, I was back in Pat and Mike’s apartment with Susan Harris, gathering for dinner out, at Lacoco’s.  Lacoco’s is an old Italian restaurant in downtown Santa Rosa that Mike introduced us to during the fires.  I was treating and I got away cheap, as we shared Calamari and gnocchi ala gorgonzola for the appetizer and Pat and Mike shared vial piccata, while Susan and I had lasagna.  It was all good and it was nice to be just family.

I went to bed early, as I had to get up at 2:30 am to make an 8:00 am flight, after checking in the 40” square albatross.  Air Canada still had not deigned to speak with me, even when I was within 24 hours and their web site didn’t have a place to collect for oversized baggage.  I had checked in as if I had two suitcases and a surfboard and paid $114.95, so I figured I was OK, but it might take a bit of sales talk.  I couldn’t take a pill because I had to drive at 3:30 am, but I was so sated by the carb and cheese heavy meal, that I figured I could sleep if I went straight to bed in that state.  It worked and I got five good hours of sleep before the alarm went off at 2:30 am.

I was out by 3:38 am and there was no traffic to speak of.  Even with the rental return, and air train, I was checking in by 5:30 am.  I went into my sales pitch and it was easy.  So easy that I don’t think I even needed to pay the $114.95 for the oversized baggage, after all.  But, it was non-refundable, so it’s paid.  Still cheaper than United.

I lucked out on the plane and the middle seat is free.  My row mate is happy, too.  There is no food except the terrible for purchase stuff.  The only pieces I can tolerate have chocolate in them, so I am requesting tomato juice and planning on Chalet BBQ when I get to Montreal.

Return to Asia – Hong Kong – Part 5

Monday, January 5:  You can really take me with a grain of salt.  No sooner do I write a paragraph about China being able to just stand by and watch HK self-destruct, when China does something.  It has sent in a trouble-shooting envoy to replace, Wang Zhimin, the very unpopular one, who was here.  The new envoy is Luo Huining, and he has zero experience in Hong Kong, but a ton in settling disputes in other parts of China.  He was on the retirement path of a cushy head-office job for five years.  Just a few days into it, he was called for HK duty.  He wasted no time meeting with Carrie Lam, HK’s chief executive and giving her marching orders to restore order and do something about the terrible living conditions for the poor that are likely at the root of it.  Watch this space ten days later.

I was reading the SCMP, while having the Conrad’s lovely brunch, of course.  I had managed to have just scrambled eggs most days on the ship and was determined to continue, so I had them again, even though there were lots of temptations, like this char siu bao.  OK, so I added it.20200105-01HongKongConradCharSiuBao

I had a lot of travel work to do and plenty of days in HK, so I mainly worked and went to the gym.  Soon enough, it was time to go meet Lloyd Chao for dinner at the HK Country Club.  Lloyd had been snagged by Vivian and Kenny Wan, who were having dinner with their three sons, when they saw Lloyd, so they ended up adopting both of us.  This time of year, the kids are home from their International schools and universities abroad and tables of families abound.  Tables of families abound all the time in Hong Kong, just now, the families are complete.  The country club was packed.  It’s in Deepwater Bay, which is an affluent suburb of HK, near to other affluent suburbs, like Stanley, Tai Tam, Ap Lei Chau, etc.  The people there aren’t going to Central for dinner anymore, especially on Sundays, when the protesters are active.  They just do the little short drive to the Country Club, where they lament about the state of Hong Kong.  The protesters have talked past the sale and now they are damaging the economy.  That is not the Hong Kong way.

I got to meet Lloyd’s 89-year-old mother, she who wrote “Remembering Shanghai” a couple of years ago.  They are now making it into a TV series.  I’ll let you know when you can watch it.  There’s a lot of material.  It should be good and Lloyd is in that business.  While he was waiting with me for my taxi back to Central, I had to step aside so a fan could have her picture taken with him.  The only good thing I can see about the protests, is that they sure have cut down on the traffic.  There are no more long taxi queues and no traffic to speak of once you get your taxi.

Monday, January 6, I decided it was time to get going on my Chinese furniture project.  I had been warned that there were not the number of furniture stores and antique shops that there used to be, but I figured surely Shoeni must still be in business.  Some of Elvon’s and my best stuff came from there.  Google Maps still had the place on Old Bailey street, just above Lan Quoi Fong, where I remembered it.  I took a tram and made for the Mid-Levels escalator.  That didn’t do me much good, as they were refurbishing the first section, from Queen’s Rd. to Hollywood Road and that was the part I needed.

So, I trudged up the hill, walked a block to Old Bailey Street and trudged up some more, quite a lot more, actually.  And, it wasn’t there.  I saw the place I think it was, but no Schoeni.  I found one antiques shop on Hollywood Rd. but it didn’t have any big stuff.  I walked back down Pottinger Street and made my annual pilgrimage to the lanes, for a red copy watch and some souvenirs, as gifts for friends back in my other two homes.  I got back with time to go to the gym and clear my email, before it was time to go to The Dynasty Club, for dinner with my McGill Society friends, Elizabeth Law, Paul Chan, Anna and Yuk Shan Wong, Thomas Shek and Lily Chu.

I decided to walk to The Dynasty Club, which I remembered as being closer to the Conrad than it is.  Google said it would take 18 minutes, but I managed to make it take three-quarters of an hour.  I had on the shoes that Mary told me to throw out in Dublin.  She’ll be glad to know they never stepped out of the Conrad again, at least not on my feet.  They were very sore feet by the next morning.  I was just twenty minutes late for dinner.  It was a delicious dinner.  Thomas really knew how to order and we had the place to ourselves.  That was not good.  Not good for the Club, not good for the economy, not good for Hong Kong.  Elvon belonged to that Club and I never saw it empty, back in our day.  I realized what a tribute it was for these people to have come out.  It was fun to catch up with my good old McGill friends, all of whom are younger than I am.  I have a card to photograph and send to Ernie Scalberg, too.  YS wanted to be remembered.  You’ll find him in this picture, Ernie.  20200106-01HongKongMcGillElizabethLawAnnaWngHelenYSWongThomasShekPaulChan

Small world, Hong Kong.  They talked about the protests, and, for the third night in a row, I heard how much everyone wants it over, and how they worry.  The press is not being fair to the police, who, they are convinced, are not exercising police brutality.  Au contraire, they need to use more force.  The protesters are the ones who are brutal and they need to stop and be content, at least for now, with what they have won.  China won’t step in because that’s what the US wants.  They wouldn’t be surprised if the protests were US funded, at least the mercenaries, anyway.

YS drove me home to the Conrad, which was a good thing, as I could hardly walk by the end of dinner.  (The shoes, not the booze.) I applied liberal amounts of liniment to my ankles and slept like a baby.  On Tuesday, the 7th, I could barely make it to the bathroom.  My left ankle loosened up enough to get me down to the buffet but I knew I had better put it up for at least a day or two.  I went furniture shopping on the Internet.  At least, I tried to find the places in Hong Kong that might have what I wanted.  The stuff was all over the place twenty five years ago.  I googled Schoeni again, this time straight Google, not Google Maps.  Its own web page told me it was closed temporarily.  I don’t see it opening again any time soon in the Hong Kong of today.  There was plenty of work to do on my computer and I could do it from my bed, with my feet up and the best view in the world. 20200108-01HongKongConradFeetUp

I also took a taxi to the Grand Hyatt to meet the Apps for dinner. Vic and Leona’s daughter, Claire, was in town for the holidays.  She’s now a producer/director in LA.  I remember when she made her first film in HK, 25 years or so ago.  The Grand Hyatt has an amazing buffet, and it, at least, was full.  Claire is a vegan, and there was plenty there for her to eat, but it wasn’t the exotic stuff the rest of us had.  I ate lobster two ways, chilled with seafood sauce, and hot, Chinese style with ginger and shallots, crab, sushi and sashimi, foie gras, braised short ribs, and three desserts, a mille-feuilles, a charlotte rousse and bread pudding with crème anglaise.  I missed the lamb, duck, suckling pig, chicken, 15 hot vegetable dishes, and who knows how many salads.

The Apps have retired in Hong Kong.  They bought an apartment across the road from The American Club in Tai Tam.  Their son Vic, Jr. lives here too, now, and they keep a flat in London. I am hoping to see them in Montreal, soon, along with the Wongs and a lot of other HK friends.  I have a lot of payback to do.  I should let you know I am not quite the sponge I appear to be here.  I brought very good wine to most of my dinners, Stags Leap Cab Sav, 2014, to be exact. Watson’s Wine shop isn’t giving it away either.  I didn’t, mind you, try to compete with David Pong’s wine cellar.

Wednesday, January 8, my ankle was still swollen, and I still had plenty of work to do, so I did it in bed again.  It’s such a luxury to be able to.  So far, I am having the kind of holiday you have at the seaside, doing your writing and such with your feet up, with the occasional stare at the ocean.  I like this better. I have it all, including the ocean, the most beautiful city view I know, and lovely friends for dinner every night.  This is my idea of a holiday.  I’m just a city girl.  It comes with tea in the Executive Lounge, too, where I undo all the good the scrambled eggs do me.  It’s the scones and clotted cream kind of tea.

Dinner was at the FCC, with my Mensa friends, Simon Clennell, Don Meyer and Cindy Kwok.  Caroline Mo, came, too.  We drank the Stags Leap, among other things.  I got to eat calf’s liver and we all went home a lot earlier than we did back in the day.  So good to catch up, with the friends still living in HK.  Simon and Delia might be going back to the UK at some point, though.  He has inherited his dad’s house in the country and is starting to fancy himself a country squire, pottering around the garden and all.  We’ll see about that.

My ankle was showing improvement, but I worked from my bed again on Thursday, January 9, and, for the first time, I didn’t have a lunch or dinner engagement.  I got a lot of travel work done, some moving related work and I finished my log for Distinctive Voyages, from which this blog stems, when I am at sea.  I thought I would take a tram into Causeway Bay for dinner alone, but I worked so late, I thought I’d just stay in the Pacific Place Mall.  I bought a pair of shoes to replace the ones that did my ankle in.  They’re too wide, of course, but they lace.  I ate at Yè Shanghai, choosing a starter and two dim sums.  The starter was chicken, glass noodles and peanut sauce and I loved it, after I picked the cucumber out.  Then I had Shanghai dumplings and pot stickers.  I washed it all down with a San Mig and went home to bed.

Friday the 10th, I was still in the room working, but I was back at the desk, where I can work faster.  It’s interesting how often they interrupt you, to make up the room, bring fruit, or try to turn it down at 4:30pm.  They have an uncanny way of knowing when I am on the toilet. too.  It almost never fails.  I am still spoiling myself with tea and scones and it has to stop.  I bought myself a new outfit, 60% off. It’s a size 12, and just barely closes at the waist.  I took my purchases up to my room and came back down for dinner. The mall is practically deserted at every time of day.  There’s no traffic when I look down at the city’s main thoroughfares.  It’s wrong, very wrong.  I don’t like it a bit.  I want the hustle bustle back.  You can get into usually busy restaurants without a reservation, too.  I picked Hom10, a Sushi Bar.  That’s a good choice for a single.  You order your food by the piece and quit when you’ve had enough.  I went through $600HK worth and I only had one beer.  I wanted warm sake but I would have had to buy the whole bottle.  The food was excellent, though.  I was very happy.

On Saturday the 11th, I went to the gym right after breakfast because I didn’t know when Don Meyer’s lunch would be over, and he had offered to escort me to their home in the New Territories.  Don’s lunch was over by two something and my ankle was well enough for me to walk over to the Admiralty MTR station to meet him.  I bought an Octopus card, and the clerk asked me if I was over 65.  Since I am one of the very few people in HK with grey hair, it wasn’t much of a stretch.  I asked her if she wanted to see proof and it’s a good thing she didn’t because that would have queered the deal, which is only for HK residents.  Anyway, I put down $HK50 and seeded it with $HK20, and for less that ten bucks, $6.40 of which is refundable, I went all over town and have plenty to use again next time.  I’m paying $HK2 per ride.  There are 7.8 HK dollars in a US dollar, so, a quarter.  Taxis are cheap because they are competing with this.

We rode the MTR to the end of its line and got on a train for a couple more miles above ground.  Then we hopped a minibus, because it’s straight up to Don and Cindy’s house, and I mean straight up.  It’s some hill, and it’s a one lane road, which is quaint with high rise buildings all around.  Don and Cindy live on the 4th floor of a low rise near the top of the hill.  It’s the top floor.  For HK, it’s a very spacious apartment, probably about the size of mine.  They overlook a ravine and you’d swear you were in the country, if you didn’t know better.  They have an adorable Pekinese rescue dog named “Jolie” and I only heard her bark once, and that was when we came in.  A “Hello”, really.

I was planning to take Don and Cindy out for supper in their ‘hood, but it turned out way better.  Between our planning on Thursday, and Saturday, they were invited to Cindy’s nephew’s 31st birthday party.  It’s a typical Chinese family thing.  Everybody’s birthday gets celebrated, so they all get together a couple of times a month, always at least three generations.  I was just going to go back to the Conrad, but somehow, while I was sitting there, I got invited, too.  I love these things to pieces, 16 people around a big table with a lazy susan full of fabulous food that just keeps coming.  The Kwok family has three or four favorite restaurants.  This one was called “Honorary Family” and it was huge.  They put up a lot of divisions, though, so we had a sort of room of our own.  It overlooked the fish tanks and we had these local lobsters.  20200111-03ShatinHonoraryFamily

We also had suckling pig, squid, crab, scallops, chicken, pigeon, BBQ pork, sweet and sour pork, steamed garoupa and a lot of veggie dishes which I managed to ignore.   I met Cindy’s parents and her sisters, Patty, who works for Manulife, and Alice, who hosted because Erin, the birthday boy, was her son.  Patty’s delightful daughter was there, too, home from school, and about 5 young men, who were brothers and friends, but I kept getting them mixed up.  It was totally fabulous, and I loved every yummy minute.  More people who can come visit me, as long as they don’t all come at once.

Sunday the 12th the main event was lunch.  I have readers who tell me they put weight on just reading my blogs.  You can well imagine what it’s doing to me.  I brought 2 bottles of Stags Leap to this one, because I knew it was going to be over the top.  My hosts were my HK family, the Lams, all present and accounted for, too.  Jackie and her daughter, Amanda, home for the holidays, picked me up at the Conrad and we added Allan from his office.  Alwin and Agnes and Chi Wai and Isabella were already there.  We didn’t wait for Kyung Jin and Natasha, because they were at Natasha’s choir practice and we knew they’d be late.  This brunch buffet was about the same size as the Grand Hyatt’s dinner, if not bigger.  Lobster, crab, marinated salmon, oysters on the half shell, clams, mussels, everything on four legs except the table, everything that flies through the air except the airplane, everything that swims in the sea except the submarine.  The most impressive thing was probably the tomahawk, a very interesting cut of beef, in which the bare bone is the handle and axe shaped part is the meat.  It was like roast beef only more tender than you have ever had.  20200112-03HKCCAllanTungIsabellaKyongJinChiWaiAmantaTAlwinIreneNatashaJackieAgnesHelenWe wanted for nothing, and when Jackie’s birthday cake came out, no one had any room for it.  So, she took it home.  Momentai. (That’s Cantonese for “no problem”).   Again, we talked about universities, as the younger generation gets close.  Amanda is already there.  Again, we’re on the side of the HK police.  The protesters lost most HK people when they persisted past the concession.  They don’t know how to win and no one respects that.

After lunch Chi Wai dropped me off at Horizon Plaza, where I would have the best chance of finding furniture for my apartment.  It’s a 28 story mall, if you can imagine that.  Most of the stores are either fashion outlets or furniture and décor.  There are only two specializing in Chinese antiques.  I found something suitable for a reasonable price but the shipping charges were twice the price of the buffet.  I could have added a bunch of other stuff for the same price, but I’m not in the furniture retail business.  I went home and started taking a long look at Alibaba.

After that lunch I was able to break the tea habit.  I almost broke the supper habit, too.  Around 6:30pm, I went to the Executive Lounge for Happy Hour.  They had a nice variety of hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, and it worked just fine.  It also had an interesting looking single man, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.  We exchanged a couple of words and went out separate ways.  I spent some more time furniture shopping on the Internet.

Monday the 13th, I finally submitted my report to Distinctive Voyages, the first time ever I have met the 14 day deadline for that process.  I just knew that if I didn’t get it done in HK, it would be setting the opposite record.  Once I am in California and Montreal, there won’t be any free time to speak of.  As it is, I sleep more than ever, and just dealing with email takes about three hours a day.  Yes, yes, I know there’s travel work mixed in there, and it all gets done, but it doesn’t leave that much for projects, décor shopping, etc.  So a bunch of stuff got done and I went to the gym, and I stayed away from tea, in favor of happy hour.

My fella came in again and I offered the other seat at my table.  He was meeting his business associate but sat down with me while he waited.  We got along like a house on fire.  He’s very funny.  When his colleague arrived, he introduced me as his sister and the guy believed it.  No wonder I thought he was good looking.  We really do look like each other.   He lives in Shanghai, and for all I know he has a wife and six kids, but a little spark among friends is a nice thing.  So, next time I’m in Shanghai.  Yeah, right.

Now come a couple of days of both lunch and dinner, when I am lucky to get through my emails and go to the gym.  Tuesday I hopped a tram in front of the Conrad and got off at the China Club for lunch with Joachim Isler, who started off as a friend of Cathryn’s and became a friend of our family.  He now has a wife and a son and is into this new phase in his life.  We all change.  Except the China Club.  It doesn’t.20200114-01ChinaClubLunch I spent another hour and a half doing research on which tram I would need to meet the Apps at the Crowne Plaza for the races on Wednesday night.   I did it by taking the first one that came and when it didn’t turn, I got off and took a different one.  Surprise, surprise, the one marked Happy Valley stopped right in front of the hotel.  I just stayed on it and it took me back to the Conrad.

There I freshened up and changed for dinner and a little junk trip in the harbor.  It’s a tourist package that I had never done, but a few people, including Dr. Sue, had told me it was great.  The weather was fine, my friend, Mabel Lam, was agreeable, and off we went.  The restaurant is Hutong on the top floor of a high rise facing the water from the Kowloon side.  When it first opened it was fine dining.  I wouldn’t call it that anymore, but it was decent, and they kept us to our time schedule.  It wasn’t hard, because the tourist trade is so down that there were less than ten of us in the restaurant, who were going on the junk.  So, the junk sold to all comers at the pier and I probably could have got it a lot cheaper, but it didn’t matter.  It was a fun evening and we did see a lot of pretty lights, while sipping our wine.  20200114HKAquaLunaMabelLamHelen

Mabel and Ramon are nearing retirement age and they likely will retire in Hong Kong, too.  She’s from Vancouver and he’s from New Zealand.  They have one kid settled in Canada and one in Australia.  Mabel’s mom, who has Alzheimer’s, is back in Hong Kong, in a flat in Taikoo Shing, with a caregiver.  It’s a nicer, cheaper option than a memory care place, and when she’s done, Ramon and Mabel will still own the apartment.  Mabel takes over the care-giving role one day a week, on the maid’s day off.  Her mom doesn’t know her anymore.  Terrible bloody disease that.

Another morning, another breakfast with the South China Morning Post.  On January 15th, its lead headline was: “Lam U-Turn hands billions more to poor and elderly”.  Mind you $1.7 billion of it will lower the age to get $HK2 rides on public transportation.  The rest is for housing and subsidies for those waiting for it, more public holidays, government payments to provident fund for those who don’t earn enough to be paying in and a policy of listening more to the people.

SCMP, also on Page 1: “Police could get stun guns or net weapons to subdue protesters”   Now refer back to mine of January 5, about Carrie Lam’s interview with Luo Huining

Also, according to today’s SCMP, the US and China are in a “cold war over the artic”.  I read the full-page article and Canada wasn’t even mentioned. It has to do with trade routes, which are opening up, thanks to Global Warming.  China is already heavily invested in Iceland and Greenland.  We saw that last summer and I expect to see it on my next two cruises.  China is taking over by investment.  Russia is accepting.  I wonder where Canada stands.

Plus, there’s a half page article about HK parents sending their children to Singapore’s bilingual schools.  Next thing you know, HK people will be moving there.  They are probably already buying the apartments.

This time it was Agnes Lam who picked me up for lunch.  I was out waiting ten minutes early, as no Lam family member is ever late.  This was different, after there having been no traffic in HK for months, there was this lunchtime, and it was all around the Conrad and the Shangri La, next door.  We are getting close to Chinese New Year and the lunches have started, it seems.  We were a good half hour late for lunch and it was a busy restaurant, so Agnes just phoned it from the car and ordered.  The restaurant was Lei Garden in the International Finance Centre and this was the Lam ladies lunch.  Remember the restaurant.  They had all the usual Cantonese lunch items, but what was special was they nailed each one.  Everything was done to perfection, so the chicken was crispy but still moist, the green things were bright green, the dumplings were of a perfect consistency, and so on.  The daan tart was to die for.  In my case it will be to diet for, soon.

I went straight back to the Conrad and called Oriental Home in Horizon Plaza and said I wanted the Tibetan mirror. I figured I could take that on the plane with me.  Agnes had surprised me with a tea box gift that was pretty heavy but could be packed easily with the mirror.    I should have done this the day before, but on spec, I sent an email to my old friend who used to give me the horse race tips.  I hadn’t connected with him in years, but I knew he was doing it again, from the 2018 Bloomberg article.  Then I went to the gym and got ready for the races.  Since I was going by tram, I had to leave early.  I checked my email, nothing.  Off I went.

The Apps were standing outside the Crowne Plaza when I got there ten minutes early.  We were still waiting for John Ball.  We waited about a half hour.  Vic called him, no answer.  Finally, Leona and I walked to the American Club box.  About ten minutes later, Vic and John came in.  He had been dozing in the lobby of the hotel and somehow, they had missed him.  Anyway, we had a blast.  Our fun was enhanced by having the entire box to ourselves.  It was actually a joint American Club – Hong Kong Golf Club box.  And we had it to ourselves.  It was never like that before.  So we hooted and hollered and had a ball.  I, of course, made no money, because I only do exotic bets and if don’t know how to pick the horses, well, I lose.  The other three all made a bit of money and I was so happy for them and grateful that they had arranged this super night.  The next morning, I found the tips in my email.  If I had had them, I would have made some money, too.  Just one quinella, but it would have covered dinner and bets, and then some.  I miss playing twice a week.  It was such fun.  I do look forward to hosting these people soon in Montreal.  I just have 110 boxes to unpack.

After breakfast on Thursday the 16th, I went to the gym to get that out of the way and then took a taxi to Horizon Plaza.  The tea box was heavy.  Johnny, my salesman wasn’t there, because he has had a bad bit of seafood the night before and had gone home very sick.  Maria helped me and got Sam, the owner to come in and pack it with her.  It’s a pretty impressive job of packing, but I am confident that tea box and mirror will arrive safely.  This isn’t cheap shipping, either.  I had forgotten I am taking two planes. United just charged me $200 for the oversized package and I am pretty sure Air Canada will do the same.  Methinks I should have given it to FedEx, after all.  It’s going to be a huge PIA, in my rental car in California, too, and on the other end in Montreal.  I’ll let you know.

That night I was meeting Richard Feldman for dinner at his Peak Café and Bar in Lan Quoi Fong.  Richard was one of the first people I met when I went to Hong Kong in 1989. When you relocate, you arrive with a list of people to connect with, gleaned from every friend and business associate you have who knows anyone.  Richard was only 24 at the time and had been in HK about 3 years.  He’s still there.  He had been doing very well and owns four restaurants/bars in trendy, expat and tourist Lan Quoi Fong and Soho.  The trouble is what I had been seeing.  Nobody is going out at night anymore.  There were only three or four tables full.  He barely covers the rent, not to mention the staff.  This can only go on so long.  We had a lovely night and I was so glad to have reconnected with this lovely man on a one-on-one basis, with the time to share the details of our lives.  I am so happy I took the time to meet a lot of people that way this time.  The big parties are fun, but this trip was real.  I felt like a Hongkonger again, and I loved it.  I am just sad for the state it’s in and so hope it gets to come back.

I had my first Hong Kong hangover the next morning, which is amazing, with all the eating and drinking.  It wasn’t very bad, and after a bit longer lie in bed, and a good shower, I was myself again.  It was a good thing as I was going to a wine dinner at The Football Club that night.  It was Italy meets Australia and we had wines from both countries with every course.  It was also the best deal in town, great food, pretty decent wine and lots of it for about $75 a head.  The company was a great deal, too.  It was Mabel and Ramon, Helen Pakchung’s sister, Janice and her husband Merv, and another Canadian couple Sharon and Don, who have become new friends and I hope I see them in Montreal, too.

Saturday, I took it easy.  Other than regular email and its duties, all I did was pack and go to the gym.  I went back to Yè Shanghai for dinner, as it never disappoints.  I went to bed early, woke up at 3:00 am, to another California phone call I couldn’t answer, and never got back to sleep.  I rousted myself around six, and 16 hours later, I have just finished writing this.  Next chapter, Napa and Sonoma and tales of the oversized checked baggage.

Return to Asia – Vietnam-Hong Kong – Part 4

It was Saturday, December 28, and we were docked in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Before we could go out in Saigon, I had quite a bit of work to do.  There was an email from DV, adding five cabins to the group and informing me that no one had received their “Surprise and Amuse” $100 ship board credit.  I was surprised, and not exactly amused.  Luckily the five cabins were just two families, so that cut down on the phone calls.  I just had to figure out who the parents were and deal with them.  Distinctive Voyages were helping my disgruntled guests, too, but between the time difference and the holidays, we haven’t managed to turn them around yet.  It’s just more emails flying around the ether, bumping into the reindeer.

Sue and I took the shuttle into Ho Chi Minh City. The hotel overnight was a gift from Sue, in thanks for the opportunity to share my pretty cheap cabin on the Ovation.  Hotel des Arts was a nice new hotel about a twenty minute walk from where the shuttle dropped us.  We checked in, dropped our bags and headed to the market.  The market gets a little more upscale, the more I visit it, and that’s all right with me.  I got a better bathing suit and a few other items, including black pleated dress pants in two lengths.  Sue bought the long ones of those, too, and some very nice tops.  After an hour of that, we went out and crossed the street, because we were hungry and there were a number of local restaurants there.  We scored a nice bowl of Pho and a new friend.  20191228-01SaigonSuePho

Lillian was a local, now living in California and back for a vacation with her two sons.  We asked her to recommend a nice restaurant for tonight, near our hotel, as she knew that part of the city.  We poked back into the mall for a little bit, and noted that it had a whole section devoted to fast Vietnamese food.  We saved that for breakfast tomorrow and went back to the hotel to rest before the main event, our dinner.

Cocktails before dinner turned out to be a lot better than the main event.  Our hotel had a very trendy rooftop bar, with a DJ, overlooking the pool.  20191228-05SaigonHoteldesArtsRooftopBar

Sunset was magic and the space was packed. We had a couple of glasses of champagne and walked to Lillian’s restaurant choice.  I am not even going to name it, because, alas, I have nothing good to say about it.  Lillian’s idea of fine dining and ours just weren’t on the same plane.  We had met her in a cheap Pho shop, after all.  When we got back to the hotel, we went looking for more action, but the rooftop bar was now deserted.  We did share a very yummy mango souffle, though, and an early night.

Our second day in Saigon was a Sunday.  We got up and both did a little work before heading out and back to the market.  This time, it was for brunch, and what we wanted was good, fresh Pho.20191229-05SaigonMarketSeeingPho

And we found it:20191229-07SaigonMarketPhoShop

And it was delicious.  We shopped a little more, but I was too encumbered with my computer and all to be having much fun.  We looked for a foot massage place, but it had closed for renovation of the building.  Enough, back to the ship, where I did some logging and blogging and called my new cabins about coming on our shore excursion and they are all coming.

We went to our Happy Hour in the Observations Bar and nobody came, which was no surprise, but two of the singers sat down with us.  One was Dustin Kerr, whom I had known on the Amsterdam, probably five years ago.  Then we went to the Sushi Bar for dinner.  It was excellent.  The show was pretty good, too, Divalicious.  It’s a career path for ageing Opera Singers.

Monday, December 30, we were back at sea and it was time for a newsletter again, to remind them of tomorrow’s shore excursion and to check that they now all had their $100 ship board credit.  I caught another Steve Wozniak talk at eleven and delivered my newsletters.  It was a big day for ship-board entertainment. We went to a lecture on Asian stereotyping by Australian Warren Fahey, and I won’t be attending any more of his.  He doesn’t know what he is talking about, and he’s digging up old dirt, that should be left buried and creating new dirt.  I was appalled when he made “Crazy Rich Asians” into a slur that Asians are all crazy.  He didn’t get that that the title referred to perfectly sane Asians who were “Crazy Rich” meaning they had so much money they could never spend it all.  I could have let him know, but somehow, I didn’t think he wanted to.  Scary stuff.  The after-dinner entertainment was excellent.  It was Peter Howard, the current lead singer for old British rock band, “The Hollies”.  He also starred as Roy Orbison in “Only the Lonely” in London’s West End.  Good Stuff.

The next day was New Year’s Eve.  We were up early because today was our DV excursion day.  I have been to HoiAn at least four times over the last ten years.  Three times, we had our DV tour there.  The first one, a cooking school, was by far the best.  The second was much like this, but with far fewer tourists to contend with.  It was very hard to keep up with the guide and that wasn’t his fault.  There were just too many people.  We had tickets in to the Japanese Bridge, a Cultural Center, a Merchant’s House, a Chinese Temple and a Silk Factory.  At least most of those weren’t too crowded inside, but I think everyone was grateful when he turned us loose to shop on our own.  There again, things have changed.  It was still fun, but way more upscale than it had been, just a couple of years ago.  It’s not a great trend.  In the middle of our shopping hour, it started to rain cats and dogs.  I got caught on the wrong side of the river and stayed put until it was time to get back to the meeting point. Luckily it had cleared.

Lunch at Nam Long was in a building in a beautiful garden, but it was your typical tourist buffet, only the food was Vietnamese, nothing like the wonderful fare we had when we had the cooking lesson.  I would recommend we bring that back.

We went back, got all dressed up and went out for New Year’s Eve.  We had a nice time, but we didn’t even last until midnight.  It had been a big day.

On New Year’s Day, the ship celebrated with a very extravagant galley brunch in the dining room.  I wrote and delivered my farewell letters and the entertainment was Peter Howard again, and he was good, again

On January 2, we were in HaLong Bay.  I had been here a couple of times before and done the Shore Excursion, so we just went in to town.  Halong Bay is growing up like the rest of the region.  We got dropped off at a glitzy mall – Vincom Mall.  We looked for a massage place but they didn’t have one, so we decided to go out on the streets and find one ourselves.  We needed to arm ourselves with water for this expedition and decided it would be cheapest in the supermarket.  They checked our bags at the entrance, put Sue’s in a plastic bag and stapled it shut.  Then they locked mine up with a plastic electrical tie.  My phone was still in my hand, so I was able to get this interesting shot of some funky little puddings that were selling for very next to nothing. 20200102-01HalongBaySupermarket

Then a nice young man politely told me I couldn’t take pictures in there.  It was their law.  OK.  So we found our water, checked out, got my bag unlocked and I crumpled up the receipt and threw it in there.  Next thing that happened was that I was stopped and asked for the receipt, for the two bottles of water.  I found at and gave him the little wadded ball, which he duly smoothed out, read and let us pass.  A lot of manpower to make sure two tourists weren’t stealing two little bottles of water, which were less than 50 cents each.

This new mall had just popped up beside an existing market.  The streets around were full of stalls and such, but no Pho places, not even on Pho Street.  We met two other couples prowling around trying to find Pho.  Eventually we found the old local market and bought a couple of things, but our hearts weren’t in it.  So, back to our lovely ship.  We both always have work to do.

After dinner, Sue went back to the room to pack and I went to the show, which was a production show called “Stage and Screen”.  I always enjoy the singers and dancers on board.

January 3 was our last day at sea.  I delivered farewell cards and came back and packed, interrupting myself for Steve Wozniak’s third talk at 2:30pm.  Of all people, he doesn’t believe Artificial Intelligence will ever take us over.  We don’t understand our own intelligence and memory well enough, and he doesn’t think anyone ever will.  He and Janet were early adopters and testers of the Tesla.  It frightens them to death.  They let it drive itself, paying a higher degree of attention than when they drive themselves.  There is so much it doesn’t get, sunlight, traffic lights, weather, road conditions, etc.  When the question period came, I had one.  I described the downgrading of Word, Excel, Access, Outlook, etc. which have become more and more complex over the years, not to mention downright buggy.  I am very concerned that the digital world will implode.  My question was “Does this scare you as much as it scares me?”.  His answer wasn’t exactly comforting.  He said: “It scares me a lot more than it scares you.”.  Then he went on to describe how software is just a product, made to budgets and schedules, and the short term.  It can do us in in the long term.

Before you knew it, it was time for the Captain’s Farewell Party, Happy Hour and dinner with one of our people.

Saturday, January 4, we disembarked in Hong Kong.  Sue carried her luggage off early to go to work. Saturday morning is still a work day in Hong Kong.  I worked a bit in the cabin and missed breakfast, so I went up to Seabourn Square for a muffin and tea.  Eventually my group was called and I went out to meet the Conrad car I was sharing with another guest who was staying there, too.

The first thing I noticed about HK was how smooth the traffic flow was.  This would be an on-going observation and it’s not a great thing.  Less congestion means less business.  In particular, tourism has fallen off a cliff.  It’s not just us, although most of the ship wasn’t staying the usual three or more days.  It’s the Chinese tourists who aren’t here.  They no longer feel welcome.  The protesters have been going so far as to target them with insults and sometimes blows.  It’s terrible for retail, restaurants, hotels, etc.

I settled into my nice executive floor room, with breakfast.  Yes, I got a deal, but, to get it, I had to take all the extras.  A little bit of Conrad pampering won’t hurt me a bit, at this point.  I unpacked, had tea and scones in the Executive Lounge and went down to the entrance, where David Pong, Eric Quizon, and three of their friends were picking me up to go to the museum.  The museum has just undergone a $130 million dollar renovation.  Gone was the bathroom tile cladding, and there were significant additions, like a penthouse and a new wing.

We started at the top, where there was a new exhibit of contemporary art.  We were encouraged to take pictures inside one of the installations and I got this nice shot of David and Eric in the forest:20200104-13HongKongMuseumDavidPongEricQuizon

The next exhibit was equally interesting.  It was a sampling of the works of Wu Guanzhong, a contemporary Chinese painter widely recognized as a founder of modern Chinese painting. He is considered to be one of the greatest contemporary Chinese painters. Wu’s artworks had both Western and Eastern influences.  David once owned one of the paintings displayed.  No, he had not donated it.  He had sold it to the donor.  Still impressive.  Selling something that has appreciated like that lets you collect more up and coming artists.  David knows what he is doing.

The museum also houses ancient Chinese art and artifacts and a very respectable collection of British art, Turners, Constables and such.  It was a wonderful time and over all too soon.  But there’s another thing to do in Hong Kong that is taken very seriously and that is eating.  We piled back into David’s van and made it over to the Hong Kong side and the Shanghai Residents’ Association Eating Club.  These clubs are all over the place.  This one is on Queens’ Road Central, across from Melbourne Plaza, and I had been here before with my McGill Society friends.  It’s not very fancy, just a big room full of tables, but they have white tablecloths and excellent food.  David ordered a lot of my favorites.  He also brought four bottles of wine, two of an Australian white and two Robert Mondavi 1985 Cabernet Sauvignons, from his cellar.  I was happy as a clam.

The Hong Kong protesters were the hot topic of conversation.  The Hong Kong people I know are very fed-up with the protesters.  They aren’t too happy with the news media either as the facts, belie the tales of police brutality.  Au contraire, the police are way too soft.  It’s the protesters that are brutal and they seem to have Ukrainian mercenaries in the front lines.  The speculation is that they are US funded.  True or not, the police are soft, and society is getting polarized, like it never was before.  My friends aren’t at all worried that China will come in and quell it.  They have time on their side.  China can just stand by and watch HK self-destruct.  Already it has gone from 16% of China’s GDP in 1997 to 3% today.

Return to Asia – Thailand Vietnam – Part 3

We are at sea again, on Monday. December 23.  I did get to the show last night.  It was Patrick Roberts, Prince of Violin.  I’ll give him a pass next show.  Business as usual, I saw a few people, wrote a newsletter including what had transpired at the cocktail party, delivered it and went to the gym.  That felt good.  Got back to messages from guests re what they would be coming to and what, not.  The shore excursion is doing well, the dinner, not so well.  On a holiday cruise, this is typical.  The people are traveling in family and friend groups and have planned activities with them.  I phoned the three cabins that I had not spoken to and left ore voice messages.

At six o’clock, the ship held a block party.  We all went out in our halls, where they served champagne and hors d’oeuvres, and we met our neighbors.   At 6:30 pm, I went up to the Observation Bar for Happy Hour and no one came from my DV group, but I had a nice time with some of my block people.

 

I ended up eating alone in the dining room and missing the show because it was so late.  It was New Zealand Comedian Simon McKinney and I later heard he was really good.

On Christmas Eve, in Liam Chabang, port for Bangkok, I got up, and worked a bit before breakfast, then went up to the Colonnade, where I had more scrambled eggs.  I am finding it easy to follow Ginger’s good breakfast formula here.  Then I went to the gym, did some business on the Internet, logged and blogged a bit and took the shuttle to Pattaya.  It was too far from Bangkok to be worth going in.  I save that for when we have an overnight there.

Pattaya has grown immensely since last I was here, likely about five years ago.  The wiring has grown, too.  20191224-01PattayaWiringWe were let off at a large modern shopping center, which I cased, but it had little appeal.  Out the back side ran a more ordinary street, with local shops on it.  I found one that sold me a hat, a pair of pants, a top, and almost an hour of fishies nibbling at my feet.  I had planned that for boarding day in Singapore, but I should know never to plan anything for boarding day.

When I got back to the ship, my message light was on.  The voice mail from one of my guests, who said she need to see me re their Bangkok shore excursion, which had gone horribly wrong.  I called her back and listened to her story of a tour operator who had been almost an hour late, took a 15-minute break on the way to Bangkok, only getting there after noon, three hours later.  By this time they were afraid to go on tour for fear of missing the ship, which was sailing at 5:30 pm. The tour guide offered to have them picked up in two hours, but that wasn’t acceptable to them.  They wanted to get straight back to the ship, so the guide ordered a car for them.  It still took an hour to come, and another three hours back to the ship.  They got back at 4:15 pm, having has a stressful, excursion-less day.  They wanted their money back from the tour operator and to cancel two other tours booked through the same tour company.

I asked her to gather her information, tour company names, etc. and meet me at 6:30 pm in the Observation Bar.  By the time she got there, she had already sent an email to Cruise Direct.  I explained that I could likely have been more effective using the power of Travel Leaders, and that I was certainly willing.

Remember, this is Christmas Eve.  We parted on good terms, I went to dinner, met some very nice Aussies, and went to the ship’s nice Christmas show.

20191224-17OvationCarolsThen I went back to my cabin and set an alarm for eleven-fifteen, to go to midnight mass.  There were only twenty-five people there.  How would I know?  I hadn’t been in years. It was nice, though and set me up for the night’s work ahead of me.  I had to phone my bank branch in Santa Rosa, as Chase Internet Banking had shut me down, for making two $50,000 wire transfers in a row.  They called it “suspicious activity”.  I called it me doing my best to move the money Fountaingrove Lodge had refunded, to cover my bridge loan, which was accruing interest that it would bill on December 29.  Luckily, the banker there who knows me best was working and he was able to set me free and push through the two wires I had already initiated.  Two down, three to go to make the deadline.

While I was going back and forth with the bank, I composed an email to Distinctive Voyages on behalf of my guests, with the botched shore excursion, and another to the guest telling her what I had done.  And PS and FYI from me, who has done this particular run a number of times:  I don’t try to go in to Bangkok, nor recommend it to my clients, unless there’s an overnight there.  Then I book a hotel.  It’s really the only way, with the traffic now. Even if you make it in and out in four hours, that’s a tough, nervous tour, only to be done using the ship’s tours.

On Christmas Day, we docked at Ko Kood, Thailand, where we were having a Beach Party at a private beach.  All very swish.  I worked through another easy to solve problem, and replied to Distinctive Voyages query about the botched tour.

Then I went to the Beach Party, which was very nice, indeed.  After the lobster and caviar, it was a toss-up as to whether I would go snorkeling or have a massage.  The massage won.  It was only $30 for an hour. I had a nice dinner with another Aussie couple, missed the show and went to bed early.  Last night had worn me out.

On Thursday, December 26, we docked in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. I took the shuttle in to town, which is maybe fourth world, if there is such a thing.  This is a typical street. 20191226-03SihanookvilleCambodia But, there’s a crane in the background.  They are building and opportunities doubtless abound.  I didn’t know there was anywhere like this left in the world.  From that standpoint, it was refreshing.  But there was nothing to do.

When I got back, I picked up a sticker on the gangway, with Sue Jamieson’s name on it and mine.  So I knew she had boarded.  She wasn’t in the cabin, so I went up to Seabourn Square where she was checking in.  I’m delighted.  I was getting a tad lonesome.

While I was there,  I was stopped by Jo, the Guest Relations Manager, who is getting our people going to her about the lack of our “Surprise and Amuse” amenity, the $100pp SBCs.  I promised her a current manifest, so she could check them all, and to write to DV to see how they had been applied.

While Sue was unpacking, I did all that.  Happy Hour isn’t going so well, but we went for a half hour. We had been invited to dinner at 7:00 pm, by the Spa Manager and Fitness Director, so we went.  They were fun to be with and Sue is all about wellness.  She speaks all over the world on the healing powers of light, and such like.  Then we went to “an Evening with Sir Tim Rice. He wasn’t real but our singers and dancers were, and good.

We were at sea again on December 27, and I had an answer from DV for my people with the botched tour.  DV had to step back, because they had already had answers from their travel agent and tour operator.  The fact that neither of them had done anything didn’t sit well with me, so I wrote back to DV hoping we could do more.  The guests are very unhappy with the travel agent, for not taking their side.  They had not been dealing with a travel agent prior to this and only did do so because this (online) agency offered them a cabin they liked, while Seabourn Direct, could only offer them Gty.  They prefer to deal directly with the cruise company because of these possibilities.  They believe they are in better hands when they deal direct.  They do not plan on using a travel agent gain, and certainly not that one.  I am doing my best to make the case for using a travel agency, but their TA is not helping.  This may be a bigger problem than it looks like on the surface.  I wish the guests had let me handle it from the beginning.

I had planned to enhance our guests’ experience with a talk from my roommate, Dr. Sue, who is an integrative physician specializing in East-West medicine and mind – body integration.  Having been doctor to the world’s major rock stars, including Sirs Mick Jagger and Elton John, she is aware of the pressures that distractions that can discombobulate us in modern day life. She explains the science and philosophy behind the concept of understanding ourselves as beings of energy and light. Most importantly, how to connect to your own inner light for guidance and to hone your most important asset – your intuition .

But the ship came back with: You can’t give a talk on board, not even to a private group, unless it’s approved by head office in Seattle.  I would have had to start the process a few weeks before boarding.  It never occurred to me because I have given talks of my own on Holland America with no problem.  Same parent, different company, apparently.

There was a special lecture at eleven.  Steve Wozniak is on board.  He reminds me so much of Steve Harrold, it’s uncanny.  It’s that geek sense of humour.  His wife has to warm him up by humouring it.  They do a silly back and forth, where some things are funny, and others are just lame, to all but other geeks. Once he gets going, he’s engaging and charming and we did learn all about growing up geek, and how his mind works.  It was absolutely wonderful.  And magic, how the three right guys to found Apple got together, one tech, one visionary and a businessman with some money.

Back in the cabin, I had a little more work to do, all positive.

We had dinner in the Dining Room, with some of my people, a mother and daughter.  We had a delightful time  with them.  It turns out Madeline was a Nurse Practitioner and Susan still is a homeopath.  That’s right down my Dr. Sue’s alley, so the conversation was very lively and very different.  Patrick Roberts was entertaining again, so we went to The Club to see if anyone was dancing.  They weren’t but the band was good, so we stayed and listened an hour.

We were getting off in Ho Chi Minh city tomorrow, so I went up to Seabourn Square to report that and pick up maps, etc.  Woz was right behind me in line.  He was there to borrow the use of a pencil sharpener.

 

Return to Asia – S’pore to Ship – Part 2

Singapore, Friday, December 20, I looked up Bobby Pebbles, my Little India blouse supplier, and found him.  He has moved his store, so now it is a larger tailoring shop for men and women, and not nearly as nice as it was.  His prices have doubled and I damn near walked, when I was having to pay almost twice what I paid last time.  In retrospect, I probably should have, but in fact, I have three more blouses.  I wear then a lot and I bleach them, so for me, they are staples.

Then I had dinner at Banana Leaf Apolo, which is just good Indian food, washed it down with a couple of Kingfishers and went back to The Regent for a good night’s sleep.

Saturday, December 21, boarding day, another decadent breakfast, more attempts to transfer money from Chase in the US to RBC in Canada.  On the Internet, I can only transfer $50,000/day.  With the holidays, I am going to be hard pressed to avoid another month of interest on my bridge loan.  At least I do have the money to pay it and that’s the main thing.  My driver arrived a little early, The Regent sent a Bellman right up and soon we were sitting in traffic, bound for the port.

My verandah suite on the Seabourn Ovation is the nicest I have ever had.  I went from a verandah guarantee to a V5 this time and it’s right mid-ship and big enough to do yoga in.  This is why I always suggest my clients book “guarantee”.  You always get at least what you pay for and It can be really fine.  They even stocked my bar with my preferences, look:20191224-01OurBar

I went to find my contact and was directed to Seabourn Square, the nicest front desk arrangement ever.  The guest relations people all sit at desks around a central core, which holds things like printers, and likely some little clerical mole.  The desks have glass tops, through which they view their computer screens, and you can, too, when it’s appropriate.  Around this central core is the coffee bar, with sandwiches, cookies, gelato, etc., a lot more chairs in 2 to 4 people groupings, and a few desks for computer work.  I won’t have a desk.  I’ll just meet my people here.

By five o’clock my welcome letters were written and in their little folders.  We broke for the mandatory drill and I had them all delivered by six.  Then I unpacked and went down to the restaurant about 7:30pm.  I landed great people at dinner.  Paula and Steven live in Charleston, SC, where they do stem cell research and teach at the local uni.  I think they are both heads of departments.  They were pretty impressive and very, very nice.  I hope to see more of them.

Sunday, December 22, I called every cabin before going to Seabourn Square and my desk hours.  I met a few of my people and updated my manifest. On my way out to find someone to book a group dinner with, I met Jo, the Guest Relations Manager.  I posed the question and the next thing I know, Ali, the Food and Beverage Manager appeared, and I had my first date, two tables of 12 for December 27.  I could have had Christmas Day, but…maybe not.  We discussed a kitchen tour, but the ship is already doing one.  He did promise to send me the Head Sommelier to discuss a wine tasting.

I had a very calorific bowl of gelato on my way out. As far as I can see, this is the only drawback of my office hours location.  Then I worked my email and my cocktail party speech, went to the gym and came back to dress, just in time for my 4:30 Cocktail party.  I couldn’t have it later, as the captain was having his, you see.

I was disappointed with the attendance.  Only thirteen people came and the ship’s officers had turned out as never before. We had the Captain, the First Officer, the Hotel Manager, Food and Beverage manager, Bar Manager, Guest Relations Manager, Cruise Directors, one and two, Shore Excursions Manager, and Future Cruises Consultant.  I have been doing this a long time and have never seen this many officers at my party before.

The people I did meet were fabulous, we have triathletes, doctors, nurses, educators, and all.  We added a couple of things to our program, and I promised a newsletter, detailing them.

When it was over, I went to talk to the bartender and, dispense the tips and to relax with my own drink.  That’s when I found out our welcome drink had champagne, gin, Cointreau, something else and a cherry in it.  It was pretty good, and I don’t even like gin.  The guy beside me did, though, he was having a specially prepared martini.  He introduced himself to me as Roger, and he was a Canadian.  We got along like a house on fire and he invited me to dinner in the Thomas Keller Grill.  By then I knew I’d be dining with the ship’s priest, but he was fun and I knew it wouldn’t be a bad meal.

It wasn’t.  We sat near the kitchen, though, and I would love to be a fly on the wall the day Thomas himself does the same thing, because I have never sat beside a louder kitchen in my life.  They were having a lot of fun back there.  We shared it every time the door opened.  But the food was very good, and so was the wine.  Roger, who knows Cliff Lede, had his Sauvignon Blanc and I had Jon Williams’ Frog’s Leap Cab Sav. Roger has spent a lot of time in the Napa Valley, too.  By the end of the evening, I was sorry he was the priest.  Some first date.  Leave it to me.

 

Housekeeping:

Internet pricing is such that I am buying it by the minute in 2-hour tranches and doing send/receives for email. With the time difference, that means you can expect 24-hour turnaround, when you email me a question unless it looks urgent.  Please be aware of that.

Thank you for the Holiday wishes.  I might not be picking up the Jaquie Lawson cards, which take forever to load, but I will know you sent them and acknowledge you.  The attached Christmas letters download faster, so I will get them in their entirety, and I enjoy them immensely.  Where did you all get these big children, many of whom have children of their own?

I won’t be getting my own Christmas letter out, as I have been busy with my move to Montreal and this planned trip. I am telling you everything, anyway.  I’m on board now, in Bangkok.  It looks like HK for two weeks is back on the table.  The Straits Times told me.  My Hong Kong friends find this very funny, but they know everything in Singapore.

My news is all in my blog.  If you aren’t getting it, see the first blue line in my signature below and read all about my move and on to Asia.  And please take this as my very best wished for a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and whatever else you celebrate.

Yes, I know the preceding paragraph is superfluous, for my readers, but please forward it to anyone you know who has been wondering what I have been doing.  I am not sending it out by email, because I lost my current address book in November, backed up an old one and have to doctor every email address in Outlook, as I use it, removing % SMTP% in two places in each entry.  I am doing this as people write to me.  Those of you who got it from some kind forwarder, can just go to www.helenmegan.com and sign up.

Future Cruises can always be found in my signature, along with my new address.  Write me if you want to see that.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year,

Love and Purrs,

Helen

On Seabourn Ovation, on the way to Bangkok,

I am only using email on board, and phone when on shore,

New Address:

Helen Megan – Travel Advisor
****email me to get this****  The blog is a bit too public.

Get an email whenever I blog by clicking on www.helenmegan.com and then on “follow” on the left. Yes, I am at wordpress.

Next cruises:

The best place to see them all, with maps and my comments is www.helenmegan.com and here, of course:

2020:

Spring:  May 4 – 21 – SilverSea Silver Muse – Tokyo to Vancouver
https://www.silversea.com/destinations/transoceanic-cruise/yokohama-to-vancouver-6009.html

Summer: Aug 10 – 20 – SilverSea Silver Spirit – Copenhagen to Copenhagen – Norwegian Fjords
https://tinyurl.com/2020CopenhagenDV  and you can add this for a song:

Traditional Baltic, with St. Petersburg, ends Stockholm    https://tinyurl.com/2020CopenhagenAddOn

Fall: Montreal and October 27-November 9 – SilverSea Silver Whisper – Montreal to Fort Lauderdale

https://www.silversea.com/destinations/canada-new-england-cruise/montreal-to-fort-lauderdale-wh201027014.html

Christmas 2020 – December 1 to 18 – SilverSea Silver Spirit – Mumbai to Singapore
https://www.silversea.com/destinations/africa-indian-ocean-cruise/mumbai-to-singapore-sl201201018.html

 

 

 

 

Return to Asia – KL – S’pore – HK – Part 1

Still in Montreal, Tuesday, December 10, after clearing my truck through customs, I took the stamped paperwork to Ginger and proceeded to Cours Mt Royal to look at the apartment next door, which had come up for sale.  It’s a little one bedroom, and it doesn’t boast frontage on three streets like mine does, but they managed to bill it as a corner because it is a notch and has a little look out on Peel, as well as Place Mt.Royal.  It’s also $11/sq.ft. cheaper than mine.  It’s a perfect apartment for a McGill student, in move-in condition, and I could keep it as a rental.  But I am not sure I am ready to have all my eggs in one basket.  And I had a plane to catch.

It wasn’t flying out until five o’clock, so I took my United One-Time Pass to the Maple Leaf Lounge, because my flight was a codeshare with Air Canada.  There’s no rule that says they have to honor it, but all this grey hair is worth something, sometimes, and I got in.  I used the time to order taps, shower heads, towel bars, etc.  for the whole house, from Wayfair, in the only model that Andrée and I had liked at Home Depot.  Etc. were TP holders. I’m partial to those.

By the time I was done with that, it was time to board and I was off to SFO.  The plane touched down more or less on time, around nine, but the gate wasn’t ready, so we sat on the tarmac another half, three-quarters of an hour, got the luggage, got the car, paid an extra $40 to get the “Manager’s Special” down from a mini-van to something I might actually be able to drive.  Won’t book that again.  Couldn’t get the space ship of a Beemer into park or drive, couldn’t find anything on it, did manage to hook up blue tooth, but it was all very disconcerting.  Finally got on the road only to spend an hour and a half crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, which merged down to one lane for midnight construction.  It was about one thirty, when I got to Fountaingrove, where the long suffering Steve was waiting for me. Trish was in England for a funeral.

Steve and I can talk forever, any old time, and we did, over almost two bottles of Pinot Noir.  That set me up for a very good sleep and I didn’t surface the next day until after noon.  I took care of the necessary paperwork to get my FGL deposit back, help my clients, work with my Montreal Interior Designer, etc. and barely made it to a Wine Wednesday in memoriam for Ted Johnson, who had died suddenly a couple of days before.  He was a good friend and Bridge-player, and I shall miss him.

Pat Gustafson had put together dinner for me, and Trish was arriving back from England.  Besides Pat and Mike and Steve and Trish, Pat Finot and Sue and Carol were at the happy table. It was wonderful to see everyone again.  I’ll be back for a longer stay late January.

Thursday, December 12th,  I was back on the road at the crack of dawn, bound for SFO and KL. When I reached the Petaluma narrows, I called Ginger to see how the move was going.  They had hit a major snag.  My custom-made red ginger jar shaped cabinet wouldn’t fit in the elevator.  SculptureCabinet170614small

I guess I should have thought of that.  It’s seven feet tall and six feet wide.  Once again, I thank my lucky stars for having Ginger Petty for a friend.   Who else has a four-car garage in downtown Montreal?  So there it will sit, while I work out the logistics.  I am still hoping we can get it in a window with a crane, but God knows what that will cost.  Alternatively, I have to hope that Dennis Douglas, in Napa, who made it, knows where to take it apart and put it back together again.  Not easy with the bent wood.  Thank you, Ginger, I am your slave for life.

After that high drama, an eleven-hour flight to Narita, followed by a seven-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur, was nothing.  Vellu, the ride I had booked through Expedia, was there waiting, at midnight, and he was delightful to talk with.  He was a karate teacher and twice all-Asia champion, when he wasn’t driving people around and managing the taxi/limo business.  He had a solution for Linda, who had been robbed in her own driveway, inside her gate, last month.  The answer is dogs.  You get yourself a couple of rottweilers.  I can just see Linda, in her wheel chair, and her 95-year-old father with those.

I was still lively when I got to the Cititel Hotel in the Mid-Valley Mall, at two in the morning.  So, at 2:30 am on December 14,  I had Nasi Goreng, before I went to bed.  It was good, and I was able to sleep until 3 pm, when I got up and got ready for my dinner-date.  Ulla’s daughter Angela, and her daughter, Arianna were picking me up and taking me out.  Angela is in her early 50s, Ariana is 15, and we got along like a house on fire.  On the forty-minute drive back to their neighborhood and their favorite restaurant, I caught them up with my move and how to live with Montreal’s miserable weather.  Between us, we came up with “The Mole in the Mall”, which is what I’ll be, while I am unpacking this February-March.  In the future, I have no plans for even being there, then.  The Restaurant was Tamarind Springs, and it was lovely.  We ate outdoors, with a roof over our heads, but no walls.  The cuisine was an East-Asian blend, with a Thai chef, so it leaned that way, to which I had no objections at all.

We talked a lot about Arianna’s future.  She’s a wake-boarding star, at the moment, at a crossroads.  Does she pick her university to further that career or does she settle down and get some serious academics?  How lucky she is to be in a position to even have that choice.  She’s also lucky to be half-German, where university is free, but no wake-boarding to speak of, although she does compete under the German flag. Anyway, she’s charming and level-headed and I know she’ll do well, whatever she chooses.  I am happy to have a young friend to follow, at this stage in my life.  So, thanks, Ulla, for the “you must meet them in KL”. I am very glad I did.

The 15th  was a  Sunday, and it was about time I went to see Linda Chew, my partner in fun, from our Hong Kong days. Her nephew, Steven, with his wife , Connie, and children, Olivia, Edmund and Josephine, from New Zealand, were visiting at the Chew house, which is why I was at Cititel, nearby.  Linda and Steven picked me up around 9:30 and took me back to the house for a breakfast of mango-sticky rice, my favorite.  Yes, there is one fruit, I really love.  I had had it for dessert the night before.  I can’t get enough of it.  Linda’s maid, Maria, makes a wonderful version and packaged some up for me to take back to the little fridge in my room.  It made three more breakfasts.

Linda’s father is almost 96 and he is doing fabulously well.  He’s barely frail.  People ask him to what he attributes his longevity and good health and he says it’s because he never eats his vegetables.  I knew I was on to something and here’s living proof.  Too bad Ted just died.  I’d love for him to be reading this.  He was a vegetarian.20191215-05MalaysiaKLMrChewHelenLindaChew

At noon or so, we all left, eight of us in two cars, and went to Aunty Irene’s for lunch.  Aunty Irene is over eighty, herself, but it didn’t stop her serving a multi-course lunch to 14 people.  Linda brought her maid, Maria, to help Irene’s maid, Annie, but sill. It was impressive.

The piece de resistance was Assam Laksa, which is a fish stew, to which you add five or six chopped things, mostly vegetation.  I liked it well enough to have my bowl, without the veggie add-ons, but I probably won’t be ordering it, when there are things I like better on the menu.  It’s supposed to be quite an expensive dish, if you prepare it right.  Most restaurants cut corners nowadays, so the Chew family were happy to be eating the real thing.  There were also noodles, called “Fried Bee Hoon”, which were very nice.  Dessert was a sweet soup and a couple of cakes, which were really jellies.  They were pretty and delicious.

This family speaks English, when it gets together.  I gather that is the language of the educated class in Malaysia, which was under British rule, until 1957.  The new Malay government would like it to be Bahasa Malaysia, but that’s not a world language and those who can afford to, educate their children in English.  Smart.

Mid-afternoon, they brought me back to Cititel, where I planned to dine alone at Dragon-I, in the hotel, but with its entrance in the Mall.  It was packed every time I saw it, but I was underwhelmed.  It could have been I just made a bad menu choice, because my appetizer was excellent.  It was about six chili won tons.  The noodles were tender and the sauce just right.  The main course, which was the restaurant’s specialty, fell short for me.  It was hand pulled, hand cut, noodles with seafood.  The sauce was thick, brown and unimpressive and there was no end to the noodles.  The more I ate, the more there seemed to be on my plate.  I guess they were getting fluffed up by my chopsticks, but it was depressing not to be able to make them disappear.  I finally gave up.

Monday, the 16th, I was picked up again for a family lunch, this one at Trace, in the Marriott, overlooking the famous twin towers, on the 40th floor.  Yesterday afternoon, and on the way to lunch, I learned a little about Malaysian politics.  You see IMDB, all over the place, mostly on skyscrapers.  It’s a government company, controlled by former prime minister Najib Razak, now famous for his troubles with the law.  He’s currently on trial for money laundering, and there is talk in the papers of adding murder.  He kind of makes DT look like a choirboy.

Linda’s friend Yonne was with us and took me shopping in Brickfields afterward.  Brickfields is a suburban version of Little India, with less of a parking problem.  It sure worked for my cushion cover purchases.  With Lonne and Connie helping with the bargaining, I ended up with five wedding sarees in red, gold, turquoise and purple.  I wanted red, gold, turquoise and black, as those are the colors in my latest art acquisition, an 80” triptych by Zabel.  But you can’t get a wedding saree in black.  It’s bad luck to wear black at a wedding.

They didn’t have any of the white Indian blouses I wear all the time.  So Lonne took us to Amcorp Mall, one that no tourists know about, but, again, easy access and good shopping for locals.  Within five minutes, I had three acceptable white blouses.  Then we spotted the carpet store.  After getting nothing for carpets I had loved, when we moved to Santa Rosa, I was into genuine imitation copies, this time.  I found exactly what I wanted for my office, in what I think will be just the right colors.  All we have to do is ship it to Montreal and get it through customs. Yonne knew where to have dinner, too.  We went to a Japanese restaurant in another mall, called Edo Ichi.  It was excellent and it’s part of a chain, so it can be found in Singapore, Penang and (would you believe) Connecticut.  If it comes to your town, give it a try.

Full and happy, I went to bed around eleven, and, at midnight, the phone rang.  The power had been cut off at my apartment in Montreal.  Silly me.  I had assumed it was part of the condo fees.  I could have sworn I asked that question when I was buying the place and was told they took care of heating and air-conditioning.  I suppose that could be true, but I have to run my own lights, stove and appliances.  Anyway, Andrée told me it was easy and I would be able to do it from here, and she was right.  The Internet and Hydro’s site were very slow, though, and it took me until one-thirty to get it done.  It’s nice to have that crisis averted and nice that you can do this kind of stuff from all over the world.

Over dinner, the brilliant Yonne had suggested I get in tough with the carpet guy first thing in the morning to see if I could add the sarees to the shipment, because they were pretty heavy.   I didn’t get up any too early after that night, though, so it was noon by the time I was back at the carpet shop with the sarees.  While Salahuddin was working on packing, weighing and comparing shipping methods, I found a rug that would do nicely for my living room yoga mat.  Then I found another and couldn’t decide which would work better, so I bought them both.  By the time I was done, I had 40 kilos worth of stuff and a whopper of a shipping bill.  I likely won’t have saved that much in the end, but it has been fun.

I had to hurry to get back to the hotel and change for Linda’s 70th birthday party, as I was being picked up at 5:15pm.  The party was a big deal, a lot of food and a lot of fun.  I took a few pictures.  Here’s the menu:20191217-03MalaysiaKLLindasBirthdayMenu

And the wine flowed, and conviviality led to karaoke, as it has been doing since the nineties, when I was in Hong Kong.  First the only other white guy in the place was tapped to perform, and, bless him, he did a canto-pop song. 20191217-05MalaysiaKLLindasBirthdayTonysingsCantoPop

More and more people volunteered, some better than others, until Linda’s 95 year old father joined in and stole the show.

20191217-09MalaysiaKLLindasBirthdayMrChewSings

And the paparazzi couldn’t resist.  They were my two new friends, Yonne and Connie:20191217-15MalaysiaKLLindasBirthdayPapparazziYonneConnie

Dessert was served, we all had our pictures taken with it.  There was a family picture and a friends picture.  I was the honored friend, having come from farthest away, and got to sit beside Linda. 20191217-37MalaysiaKLLindasBirthdayFriends

Gorgeous as those desserts were, I had to show you the dessert that was on the menu and let your imaginations go where mine went:

20191217-31MalaysiaKLLindasBirthdayBun

Really?

It wouldn’t be a holiday in Malaysia without a trip to Perlang, a famous local Port Klang restaurant, by the river.  Linda’s friend, Dolly drove us there.  I was pleased to see they had upgraded the washrooms to nice clean western toilets.  Last time, we went to McDonald’s for that part.  The food, however, has gone to the younger generation, I guess, as the chilli crab was sweet, and not as we remembered it.  Next time, we’ll mention that in the ordering process.  It was still good, and always fun.

Linda was ready for another meal that night, but I was ready to crash.  Comcast had called me, at what was 1:00 am KL time, to collect the 56 cents it thinks I owe, and those miserable telemarketers in the US that tell you your social security number has been compromised, called me seven more times between one and seven am.  I am answering everything because I have people working on my house in Montreal, who might need me, but that had been no fun at all. At ship’s prices, I’ll be declining if the area code isn’t 514.  By the morning I was of the opinion that all telemarketers should be taken out and shot.  I know they have to make a living but torturing people is not an honorable occupation. So, we just had tea and I went back to my room, packed and crashed.  I didn’t need supper after that lunch.

Plus, on the 19th I had to get up at 6 again.  Such is traveling.  I was flying to Singapore.  I got to my hotel by 1:00 pm, checked in and set out to find the full-service Chase Bank that Google promised at 150 Beach Road.  I chose a bus and an 11 minute walk, which I thought would be good for me.  Well, they don’t put numbers on skyscrapers anywhere where you can see them from the street, so it took a lot longer to get here, only to find out there was no Chase Bank in the building.  JP Morgan still has a branch in Singapore, but they bank with OTB, because Chase no longer has a presence.  It was important to find one because Fountaingrove Lodge has returned my deposit to my Chase account in Santa Rosa, and I need to get it to the Royal Bank of Canada to clear my bridge loan, before another month of interest accrues.

I took a taxi back to the Regent and had tea in the lobby, with the piano.  Every so often I treat myself to a very nice Asian hotel with such amenities.  I stuffed myself so I wouldn’t need dinner and went up to my room for a nap.  I woke up, did my yoga, cleared my email and called Chase, when it was 9:00 am on the East Coast.  I found out I could do it on the Internet in $200,000 tranches and set about doing that.  Once I got all the forms filled out online, it told me that part of the site wasn’t working, and I should try again later.  That’ll be tonight. Wish me luck.  I’m not having too much.  The US dollar is falling with the impeachment and I am getting less and less Canadian dollars, the longer it takes me to move the money.  Oy.

Today is the 20th and I treated myself to The Regent’s buffet breakfast, reading the impeachment news from the points of view of the New York Times and The Straits times, Singapore’s paper.  It’s four thirty and I have been photoshopping and blogging all day.  This stuff doesn’t write itself.  Now to go to the gym and off to Little India for dinner.

 

Montreal – La Rentree – Part 2

 

Sunday, December 1st I spent some time with my computer, still not enough to blog, but I did take time to exercise.  I left the house around 4:30 because I was planning to walk to Park Avenue to meet Linda, Bev, and Wendy at Blumenthal’s, close to the movie we were going to see, part of the LGBTQ film festival.  It wasn’t much colder than it had been, but it was a lot damper and that makes a big difference.  I lasted about eight blocks along Sherbrooke, before I broke down and took a bus, to get out of the cold.  I got there first and had a nice glass of Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo, to warm me up while I waited.  Dinner was good.  They had foie gras, so I had it, and boeuf bourguignonne, too.  The movie was excellent, Vita and Virginia, and yes, Wolfe.  Now I am reading Orlando, because it’s about Vita Sackville-West and I know some of the story.  I am almost half-way through, and Orlando is still male. We came back on the Metro.

Monday, December 2, I signed up online for my McGill Lifelong Learning courses and ordered my party furniture from Bench and Table – 5 banquet tables, 40 chairs, two garbage cans, and two coat racks with hangars and boot bags.  The pavement was dry, but just in case. At one thirty, Joan McGuigan, my Real Estate Agent, picked me up to take me to the notary’s office to close on the condo.  This I did and picked up the keys.  It felt good.  It’s been feeling good the whole time.  The weather may be terrible in Montreal, but everything else is just wonderful.

When I got back to Ginger’s she was home and what did we do?  We went out to dinner.  We picked her local Thai restaurant, which, sadly had been going downhill these last few years.  It had been so great.  But it was good enough and again, within walking distance.  We took cabs, though, because the weather was pretty foul.

Tuesday was full of party related activities, getting all the purchases in and setting up the rented furniture.20191203-01MontrealMoveInParty

The chicken came at 6:30pm and the people followed at seven.  In the end there were 30 people eating warm dead bird, drinking boxed wine and having a wonderful time.  I know I sure did. The snow held off and there were no boots to deal with at all. 20191203-03MontrealMoveInParty

Still no news as to when my furniture, etc. will arrive.  But now I am ready for it.

Wednesday morning, I walked back to the condo, broke down all the chairs, threw out the garbage, and cleaned it up as best I could. Then I walked back to Ginger’s, did my exercises and read my email.  I found out my car had arrived at the car pound and I had 72 hours to get it out of there before it started costing $40/day.  The train is moving.  Ginger and I walked back to Peel St and had dinner at Alexandre, of which I had fond memories of lunches and happy hours, when I was working downtown.  It was good.  I had liver and onions, yummm.  It was, however, pretty empty, as all the other downtown restaurants had been.  Montreal’s new mayor’s focus on bicycles and all the new, as yet unoccupied, condos, have made it very hard to park downtown, with the result that people are eating out in the neighborhoods, where there are a lot of new little restos, many of which let you bring your own wine.  It’s a concern.  We passed the Ritz on the way home and stopped in for a drink at the newly restored bar.  It was very nice but should also have been fuller.  Oh, but the Madeleines, OMG, we ate two orders.

Thursday, I finally met with Andree Sauter, my Interior Designer, at 1207 (the condo).  Here began some very intense days.  We went over the place with a fine-toothed comb and found a lot of stuff that looked a lot worse than it did when I looked at the place in August.  It’s going to be a big ka-ching, but every penny will come back, because it’s one of the best in the building and will surely be the best two-bedroom, when we are done.  We see eye to eye on a lot, but Andree likes her colors a lot lighter than I do and has no truck with red walls at all at all.

Around 3:00 pm, we quit because I had to go deal with the car at the pound and it was sort of on her way home to the West Island.  She drove me to Saint-Laurent, where I picked up the paperwork, and over to customs in Dorval, where it took about a half-hour to clear.  An agent will inspect the car tomorrow, and I should be able to pick it up in the afternoon.  I took a taxi back to Ginger’s.  The weather was awful, all snow and sleet and wind.  Ginger and I were supposed to be having dinner with Maqbool Spencer, but we called it off because she’s in a walker and it was dangerous out there.  We stayed in and had warm dead bird leftover from the party.  Perfect.

The next morning, I woke up knowing I was going to have to insist on my red office.  I had lost a lot of sleep over losing it.  In the end, resale is not as important as being happy in the house you just bought and plan to live in for a while.  I picked up my email and found out Justine Sentenne was ready to have dinner with us and so we decided to be a foursome, with Maqbool, as the weather had improved some.  Ginger and I went to meet Andree at Union Electric to look at light fixtures and taps in the same building.  We got a bunch of LEDs for the ceiling lights, and checked out ceiling fixtures, should my existing ones not work.  Then we looked at very high-end taps, so high-end that it was going to be over six thousand dollars just for the master bedroom bathroom.  I gulped.  Then Andree drove me back to the car pound to pick up Babar, as it was getting on in the afternoon.  He was waiting patiently, covered in two or three inches of snow.  I don’t own a scraper, so I tipped Hugo, who works at the pound, and he scraped him off for me.  Bless his metal heart, Babar started on the first turn of the key, as if he had been in Montreal all his life.  His windows were frozen shut for a few minutes, but that’s par for the course.  I drove him home through the slush and bought him a hand car wash from the guy in our garage who does such things.  Nice place to live.

Ginger and I picked up Maqbool and Justine and their walkers and went out to eat in a neighborhood.  We picked Baton Rouge, which was packed and noisy, and we wished we had eaten downtown in one of the nice, empty, quiet places.  Oh, well.

Saturday, Andree and I met with our general contractor and painter for a good few hours and got a lot done.  It was pretty intense, though, particularly when I rejected the red she came in with as dusty rose and got out one of the Dollar Store red napkins to show her what I wanted.  I can hear Deborah Robertson laughing from here.  Never mind, we’re getting through it and it’s going to be fabulous.  Best of all, I am going to be happy.  I am happy already.  I got back to Ginger’s around five-thirty, did a little work and exercise, and we went to eat at the bar at The Ritz.  That place could easily become our local.  Not a cheap local, but very, very nice. When we got home, I got a phone call from Kevin, the Allied Van Lines driver who had picked up my worldly goods in Santa Rosa.  He would be in town soon.  I would meet him on Tuesday morning at 7:30 am, at the same pound where I picked Babar up, get the paperwork and clear customs.  He would deliver the goods on Thursday, December 12.  I sputtered that I would then be on my way to Kuala Lumpur, but that was how it had to be.  Wait until you see the plan we came up with.  I have the most amazing friends.

Sunday, December 8, we went to the first ever Children’s Christmas party at the Mount Royal Club.  Ginger decorates the club at Christmas, along with the A & P, and Victoria Hall.  It’s her Christmas gift to these nice places.  Anyway, the party was fabulous and lifted The Mount Royal Club, that staid bastion of Montreal’s English establishment, to a new place.20191208-05MontrealMtRoyalClubChristmasRam

The Club President donned a Santa Suit and took letters from the children, there was face-painting and a balloon man, and everyone brought a present to go to the Toy Tea a few days from now.  The children learned the art of tipping, note the balloon man’s hand.  It’s a life-skill they’ll need one day.

20191208-12MontrealMtRoyalClubChristmasLesson

I especially loved the carol singing, which alternated between English and French carols.  There really is no longer an English establishment, and that’s how it should be.  It has all happened in my lifetime. Note the little boys playing the piano, along with the pianist. She reacted by drowning them out.  It was good fun.20191208-20MontrealMtRoyalClubChristmasCaroling

Next thing you know, the club will have a woman president.  Ginger would be a good candidate.

20191208-26MontrealMtRoyalClubChristmasGinger

We walked over to The Vogue Hotel bar for a top-up dinner, after the lobster rolls, cheese, etc. at the club.  That was a great place, too.  So many great places to walk to.

Monday, December 9, I was back shopping with Andree.  This time we went looking for window shades, which was easy, after the taps.  Then we went to Home Depot, where we got track lighting, a medicine cabinet, a nice bright ceiling fixture for the kitchen, felt and clear pads, a new tap for the powder room, and we looked at floors.  I was still fussing about taps and didn’t like much of what Home Depot had, except for the little powder room tap that we did buy.  Andree vowed to get the price of the ridiculously expensive ones down.  Helen and Ginger ordered in warm dead bird again.  It was wonderful, and easy to digest.  I had to get up at five-thirty and I still had to pack.

Today is Tuesday and I did get up at five-thirty.  My taxi driver was waiting at six-thirty and we loaded my very heavy luggage into his trunk.  We went to the pound and met Kevin and my truck.  I got the paperwork and the taxi took me to customs, twenty minutes away.  I cleared customs in record time.  The nice customs man didn’t even ask for my passport, as he had seen me bring it, well, them, out to clear Babar, last week.  Then we went back to the pound and they released the truck to Kevin.  It’s complicated, but he will be unloading on Thursday, so in lieu of me being there:

Ginger will be there at 8:00 am, Andree will take over at 10 am.  If they are not done by 1:00 pm, Bev will be there from 1 to 3. Andree will return at 3:00 pm to finish up, if they are still there.

I will be at the end of my cell phone until 1:30PM Montreal time, after which time I will be in the air for many, many hours.  I am flying to Kuala Lumpur.    Huge thanks to Ginger, Andree and Bev.  I have the most amazing friends in the universe.  I can’t wait to get back and see what the place looks like.

 

 

 

Montreal – La Rentree – Part 1

Coming to you from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – shows you how busy I have been

“Bloom where you were planted.”  The idea had been haunting me for some time, since the fires of 2017, to be exact.  I believe in global warming, and California’s perfect weather could get pretty hot in fire season.  When our 2017 fire, Tubbs, which was the biggest on record, lost its title, the very next year to the Paradise Fire, I started thinking about getting out of there while I still could.

I came to Montreal this last summer, with the idea of maybe looking around and seeing what was available, in no rush.  Then I saw the cranes and I knew the time had come.  20191125-15MontrealCranesAround 1970, Montreal went through a period known as the FLQ crisis.  French Canada had been lobbying for its language rights for years. It did not seem right that 20% of the population (The English) controlled 80% of everything (at least).  But that’s the way it was.  The FLQ crisis consisted of protest marches, the kidnapping of British Diplomat James Cross, and the kidnap and murder of Pierre Laporte, Quebec Deputy Premier.  Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, invoked the War Measures Act, apprehended the perps and all should have been well.  The Partie Quebecois, a legitimate way of handling the situation, was formed and rose to power, with its first premier of Quebec, René Levesque.  The English establishment was not amused.  It picked up its marbles, which included almost all of Canada’s financial institutions, and moved their head offices to Toronto.  What did you think that would do to a city?

I watched all that happen and was never very happy about it, but I understood.  The city was impoverished, property values sunk to new lows, fluctuating with the fortunes of the political parties.  It evolved and filled in the office buildings with more creative enterprises and festivals.  It’s the world capital for French language entertainment.  Le Cirque du Soleil was invented here, and the first circus schools in North America.  We have the biggest jazz festival in the world, not to mention comedy, and a number of great music festivals.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we had the most Michelin starred chefs for one city, too.  Tourism is at an all time high, and…the cranes.  They mean rebirth and growth, and I wanted to be part of it.  I also wanted to pick up a little piece of prime real estate while I could still afford it.

I had my eye on Cours Mont-Royal, an elevator ride to the first and largest underground city in the world, smack in the middle of downtown, but still part of Montreal’s Golden Square mile.  A safe urban neighborhood, where a woman can still walk home alone at midnight.  I scored big time.  I am on the top floor of the old Sheraton Mt-Royal Hotel, looking out at Peel and Ste-Catherine.  I have a two-bedroom apartment, where I have parked just a little more money than I had in Fountaingrove Lodge and it will appreciate handsomely, I’ll wager.  Well, I have wagered.  In the meantime, I am paying less than half of my monthly fees at the Lodge and in Canadian dollars, no less.  I still have to eat.  If I give myself a budget of $1000 a month to do that, I can eat out a couple, three nights a week, more, if I don’t pick the most expensive places.

Ritzie Cracker came in on November 17th and 18th to help me sort things out, as only she can.  They were pretty intense days.  Ritzie doesn’t let you waste a lot of time.  Once I was ready for the packers, I packed myself on the 19th,  for Montreal and my upcoming trip to Asia.. The packers came on the 20th, the movers on the 21st and the car transport on the 22nd. I had been planning to give Babar, my 1998 Mercedes, to KQED, and had it all arranged.  Then I slept on it and I couldn’t do it.  So Babar was towed to a vehicle truck and off he went on the 21st. 20191121-01Rear

Then Steve Harrold drove me all over Santa Rosa, to negotiate with T-Mobile, return the video and Internet boxes to Comcast, mail the Fastrak transponders back, etc.  Thanks, Steve, love you.20191121-11SantaRosaT-MobileSteveHarrold Around five, Eric sent Chris to drive me to SFO and I took the first red-eye I have ever taken in my life.  It wasn’t so bad.  By 10 am I was in Ginger’s kitchen on Redpath, having scrambled eggs.  Ginger makes wonderful scrambled eggs.  She learned on her prom night when she spent the wee hours in the kitchen with the hotel chef, rather than getting drunker and drunker. I can make them too, now, and did most every day for my two-week stay with her.  No toast, jam, or anything else but a bit of ketchup. They hold me longer than an Atkins shake or yoghurt and a croissant and don’t contain any ingredients with 10 letters in them.

Montreal has already had snow.  It had left the streets and sidewalks, but some of it was sitting on a table on Ginger’s patio.  Welcome home, Helen. 20191122-13Ginger'sPatio I went for a nap. That night I walked up the hill to Linda and Bev’s condo on Dr. Penfield.  It’s wonderful having good friends so close I can walk to them.  Yes, I know FGL provided good friends, too, but this is the real world.  Bev made wonderful hamburgers.  I don’t even like hamburgers, and I thought these were super.  Wendy was there, too.  We talked about things to see and do, and I’ll be signing up for the McGill Community for Lifelong Learning, that Paul Terni was so involved with, these last twenty years.  I am going to learn about Modern Warfare, Pity, and Performance in Montreal.  The latter will involve going to a lot of live heater, which I love, anyway. Wendy offered me a lift back to Ginger’s, and I took it because it was 28 degrees out and I wanted to stay warm and cosy.

The next day, I put my nose to the grindstone and turned out a party invitation in franglais:

InvitationV3

I was still pretty tired, so Ginger and I ordered from Chalet BBQ, who were to be the caterers for this grungy party, in an empty condo, I hoped.

 

Sunday, November 23, I went to church with Ginger at the A & P.  That’s what the locals call St Andrew and St Paul.  It’s a rich Presbyterian church with some of the finest stained-glass windows you’ll ever see and a whispering arch.  It’s just across the street from Ginger’s, terribly convenient.  They had a visiting preacher and, if it hadn’t been for Ginger being so well known there, I might have walked out during the sermon.  He was preaching about Jesus’ trial and time on the cross and the mockery he had to endure from government, the people and even the thieves.  That was all well and good until he drew a parallel with what is currently happening in the States.  He went so far to say he wasn’t being political, but I take exception to DT being put in the same category as JC.  This is very dangerous preaching, and if I’m hearing it in Canada, you can imagine what’s spewing out of the pulpits of middle America.  But I digress…

I spent the afternoon catching up with email, and joined the Symansky family dinner at 63 Chesterfield.   I walked there, too.  That was a bigger challenge, as it was more than two miles and it was something like 24 degrees.  My trusty mink-lined raincoat kept me warm, but it was the only one I saw.  Montrealers have adopted down coats, big time, and everyone looks like the Michelin Tire man.   The whole Symansky family was there, with all the grandkids.  It’s such a nice tradition.  After dinner, I hung around longer with Judy, cleaning up and discussing a cruise they wanted to buy, while Adam ran some of the family home and came back for me.  One 2 plus mile walk was enough for one day.

Monday morning, I walked to my Notary’s office in St. Henri, about a mile and a half away.  I signed for my mortgage and bridge loan and took the Metro, first to my bank in Westmount, then to its central station to be photographed for a Seniors’ card, allowing me to ride anywhere in the city for $1.75CAD.  The Metro is fabulous here, similar to Tokyo’s and Hong Kong’s, clean, safe and really covers the territory.   I took it back to Ginger’s, too.  We went to ShoDan that night for some nice Japanese food.

Tuesday, December 26, I worked on Adam and Judy’s cruise and other travel business, cleared my email, started this blog but didn’t write enough to send.  Later in the day, I went out with Ginger and we explored a new Provigo (supermarket) that had opened in the Bell Center, something else I will be able to reach, without going outside, I think.  They had great Teddy Bears for $15, so we bought three, for the Christmas parties we were going to, that asked for Toys for shelters.  We also bought a couple of decadent rib-eye steaks for dinner, and went back and cooked them.

Wednesday, the 27th, I walked to the offices of the Regie des Assurances Maladie du Quebec, to sign up for Canadian Medicare.  Apart from having me wait almost two hours, they were very nice to me, and I’ll soon be a part of the Canadian Medical system.  I rewarded myself with a hot chocolate and a doughnut at Tim Horton’s, on the way home.  All of this walking would be so healthy, if it weren’t for the tempting shops along the way.  Ginger and I ate left-over warm dead bird and had a lovely evening together.  Our days are really intense, but we are a couple of old shoes in the evening.

I don’t remember where all I walked on Thursday, but you can bet I did.  Ginger had left at 3:30 am to go to Minnesota for Thanksgiving with her family.  I went to Molinaux, a Greek restaurant, with Adam and Judy.  Again, I walked there and back.  I will thank you to remember I am doing all this walking in below freezing temperatures.  Ginger lent me a Michelin Tire man coat, of which she has about six.  It’s lighter to walk in and I am loving the walking.  One of the nicest things about it is all the young people you walk among.  McGill is near my place and Concordia is near Ginger’s.  There are only eight blocks between them, along Sherbrooke, which runs between our houses.

Adam picked me up the next morning so I could do a Costco run for the party.  We ended up leaving my considerable purchases at 63 Chesterfield, to be brought to the party on the 3rd.  With the house to myself, I had Linda and Bev in for dinner.  It was lobster and shrimp penne, which I had bought at Costco, and it was very good.  I had procured pastries earlier in the day, on another walk, at Christian Faure, the new fancy pastry shop in town.  They were $6.75 each and they were nasty, compared to our beloved obeserie, the Patisserie de Gascogne, which failed last year.  I have a new theory.  They failed because they weren’t charging enough.  Christian Faure has seen the first and last of me.  I have to find a new pastry shop.  They were pretty, though, and you should have seen the box before it opened up to that flower.  Bev was amused:

20191129-01MontrealBevandFaure

On Saturday the 30th, I took Ginger’s car out and hit the Dollar Store, the pharmacy and the liquor store for my boxed party wine and some decent stuff for Ginger’s house.  Then I changed and took the Metro to Place des Arts to see “Come from Away” all by myself, because all my Canadian friends had seen it. It was great, and the audience was most appreciative.  I’ll be able to visit this fine concert hall all I want, without putting a coat and boots on, once I am moved in.

Kincade Fire – 4

The big news is that Fountaingrove Lodge is welcoming us back as of this afternoon.  I can’t say enough about how well they handled this one.  We always knew what was happening.  They bused everyone out in a timely fashion, put them up if they needed it, etc.  Huge kudos to Linda Fisher and her team.

Me, being me, I was out of there before they even thought of evacuating, and having the wonderful friends I have, I haven’t suffered much at all, except for the mental anguish.  With these factors still in play, I won’t be back in until Monday or Tuesday.  I have a bunch of new plans, you see, and free places to stay, while I execute them.  Thank you Pati and Freddie, for two more offers.

Before the fire, I was scheduled to host the Women’s Technical Wine Group’s Annual “Small Plates Extravaganza” at Fountaingrove Lodge, this coming Saturday, November 2.  It didn’t look good for that as of the day before yesterday, with the fire only 15% contained.

I wrote an email, trying to postpone the party a week or two.  That didn’t fly very far.  This is a busy bunch of people and it had been hard enough to nail down November 2, in the first place.  Barb Olmsted didn’t want to give up and offered her home for the “Glamping Small Plates Extravaganza” and that’s what we’re going to do.  We agreed that, more than ever, we need to get together, drink and hug, drink and hug, repeat, repeat.  FGL probably didn’t want to host the party, while people will still be re-entering, and they are in start-up mode on everything, and, frankly, we aren’t totally out of danger.  It has not rained and there’s no rain in sight.  I am still plenty uncomfortable.

So, glamp, we will.  That’s glamourous camping, by the way.  I hired Ritzi Cracker, who had her own fire problems, but I think it was just a power outage.  She lives up near the fires, nearer even than I do.  We’ll use paper plates, but Barb says she does have enough silverware, napkins and table cloths.  I’ll pay for everything I can, it will still be way cheaper than the bus I had promised to provide without checking its cost.  The bus company was charging me by the hour for six and a half hours, not just two trips.  Now I have learned a lesson without having to pay for it.  “tis an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good.  I’ll take a picture of the menu and send it out Sunday.

So, I am going to take Maurine Potter to the party, as my date.  This party is where the husbands come and every member brings three bottles of the winning wine from her tasting and a dish to pair with it.  I’ll take a picture of the menu and post it here on Monday, with thanks to Barb, et al, but especially Barb.

Pat and Mike have been out as long as I have, and for the same set of reasons.  Yesterday, Pat reported that they had spent a couple of days at a casino in Reno.  Brilliant idea.  The rooms are cheap, because they want you to gamble and the drinks are free, if you do.  Mike got them a bunch of free drinks and came out fifty cents ahead.  And I thought I was good at this evacuation stuff.

I’ll be in Napa through Monday, as I have repairs to the car’s air conditioning scheduled at Alpina, who have been maintaining it since it went off warranty, eighteen years ago.

Enough – Happy Halloween to all.

 

 

Pat & Mike’s stpry

Kincade Fire – 3

Have moved today, into Pat Perrin’s apartment in Sacramento, while she is in Santa Fe.  Very grateful, Pat.  All’s well.  Had dinner with Mariann, Steve and Trish.  All’s well with all of us, except for being evacuated and more strong winds coming, we hear.  I was in a conference all day today, but I’ll be all over the Internet tomorrow.

Love to all.