I’m not making much progress against either the Esquire 75 or Jezebel’s alternative 75 “must reads”1. That’s not to say that I haven’t been reading, or that I haven’t been enjoying what I’ve read, but my belief that I am a reasonably “well-read” person has taken a bit of a hit from these lists. That’s why I was pleased to see the Guardian’s Books you can’t live without: the top 100. It’s even got The Magic Faraway Tree on it!
This, therefore, is the list I’m going to try to crack (although… The Bible? Really? I’m going to make an exception for that. Oh, and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. I mean, honestly.)
Anyway, the full list – with strikethroughs – after the jump.
Before heading off on our holiday, I did wonder how long it would be before I craved eating something “not Chinese”. I was particularly certain that I’d miss the lovely, simple goats cheese and lettuce rolls from Fatto a Mano in Gertrude Street.
Of course, “Chinese food” covers such a range of cuisines. Sure, I enjoyed my first lunch back at work, but we have been to both Hutong and Dumplings Plus for dumpling fixes, Nam Loong for buns and Noodle Kingdom for soup. Re-reading “Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper” also fired us up for some Yangzhou cuisine, so on Sunday we got cooking.
I’ve mentioned my irritation with Lonely Planet’s city guides before. Why, oh why, couldn’t they include a map of the whole country inside the cover? It wouldn’t have added too much distraction to the “city” focus and would have drawn our attention to the fact that Yangzhou is actually quite close to Shanghai. Perhaps we could have tried their famous rice and the Lion’s Head meatballs there! Alas, we were reduced to trawling the internet for a decent recipe for the latter (Fuschia Dunlop kindly includes a recipe for the former).
I’m still going through the photos from China (slowly! Resizing for the web takes time, although I’m sure there are quicker ways – hints and tips appreciated!) and have decided to break the Beijing photos into categories. This should 1. take care of the is-this-Temple-of-Heaven-or-the-Summer-Palace-(or-even-Forbidden-City)? issues this end and 2. make the task seem less daunting for me.
Today I tackled the smallest subset of Beijing photos – the pics from our visit to the Dashanzi Art District (also known as 798). I was something of a reluctant visitor; the Wallpaper guide was all “oh, Dashanzi is so over, you’ve really got to go to [somewhere much less accessible]” and, to be honest, there was a lot of pretty kitschy stuff. There was, however, some really interesting work and it was wonderful to spend time wandering around a precinct so thoroughly dedicated to art. (Oh, and there was decent cake, too!) It’s definitely on the itinerary as a longer visit next time.
Chen Wenling’s “farting bull” – “Emergency Exit”, a commentary on the global financial crisis – was extraordinary, and Yan Pei-Ming’s “Landscape of Childhood” installation was truly affecting. The photos do neither justice, but do serve as an aide-memoire for us – hopefully they give you an idea of the work.
China wasn’t all multi-dish meals and dumplings, contrary to how it must seem from the previous post. Oh, no. There were also breakfasts. And snacks. Many, many snacks…
I always forget to take a notebook with me when I go on holidays. This means that one of the first essentials once a destination is reached is to find a stationery shop (the others being eat and find some tonic. The latter proved difficult for the second time in as many holidays – we need to rethink our duty free purchases). Travelling in Korea, Japan and Malaysia has raised my expectations of stationery but it soon became clear that I wasn’t going to find anything as cute as “Pochi and Mongi together forever, happiness always” in Shanghai (try a Morning Glory shop near you). After the supermarket in the basement at Times Square managed to achieve the ultimate disappointment – instead of not stocking tonic, it only stocked diet tonic – I realised I was going to have to settle compromise and bought a serviceable but mostly unremarkable exercise book1.
Flipping through my notes from the trip, I am struck by the contrast in detail. Each dish in every meal is recorded, but a whole morning in the Forbidden City is noted in two lines:
– eggy pancake b/fast on the run towards Forbidden City
– lots of ppl but many areas deserted – so huge
Clearly the most important aspect of our visit to the Forbidden City was the breakfast en route. No wonder Mao didn’t care to visit2.
So the highs, and not-so-highs, of the food in China…
I’m slowly working through the photos. Digital photography has made life much easier, in some respects – knowing that there won’t be horrendous processing costs for potentially dodgy pics frees you up to snap away. The downside? Over 200 photos from a two week holiday.
My Picasa account now has sets from Shanghai and Suzhou. Given that China is a heavily populated country, I was quite surprised by how many shots we have with no people in them. I was not surprised by how many photographs we have of buildings – that’s par for the course when the travelling companion is an architect and takes possession of the camera.
I will write more about the trip soon when I 1. find a minute and 2. get to a point where I feel I can articulate my thoughts properly. I am, however, constantly remembering amazing dishes and meals we ate while we were there, so perhaps food might be my starting point (who’d have guessed?!).
Having arrived back home on Saturday, I was sure I’d be well and truly blogged up on the trip by now. The past four days have disappeared in a catching-up (on sleep, washing, giving-cats-attention) frenzy and it’s back to work tomorrow with no post yet written.
So… why not cannibalise an email in the interim? The following, therefore, is adapted from some possibly inarticulate thoughts scrambled together after a couple of days in Shanghai.