travel


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All photos: Merv K.

For the first of the summer Bank Holidays, I was determined to get away from London. Turns out warm countries always sell out first, so it was going to be Copenhagen, where I found at £100 flight.

I don’t know much about Scandi countries — they all blend together in my mind as countries with very tall blonde people. We watched the first seasons of The Bridge and The Killing to get a crash course in Swedish and Danish cultural differences. One is that the Danes are known for their laid-back attitude.

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Love this track.

vienna3 cafe vienna

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I have become like my parents where, when I’m in a city in some other part of the world, I have to visit Chinatown, if there is one. In case you were wondering, Chinese roast duck looks and tastes the same just about everywhere — London, Paris, Vancouver, Manchester, and after this weekend, Liverpool.

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Since England has sort of become my second home it feels important to learn about the Chinese immigrant experience here.

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Going to Verona on a last minute weekend excursion a week before my flight back to LA was probably the best thing I’ve done in a while. Living in a foreign city like London makes me feel like I don’t ever really need to leave, since everything is still relatively new and exciting to me. But the idea that I could take a cheap three-hour flight to Verona, then hop on a one-hour train to Venice, didn’t really occur to me until a few weeks before I had to go back to California.

Prior to leaving for Italy, at my favorite Italian deli in Islington, which also happens to be my favorite eatery in all of London, Merv and I said to the waiter that we were afraid that the food in Italy wouldn’t taste as good as the food in the deli. To which the waiter guy, who has this angelic looking face and awesome Italian way of speaking responded calmly, “Every place in Italy has good food.” That definitely made me feel less anxious about our trip.

Arche Scaligere

The ironic thing is that in all my adult years as a traveller, our first meal after stepping off the plane is the first time I remember totally walking into and eating at a tourist trap. I totally felt duped. It’s too traumatic to even recall here the events that led up to eating in this tourist trap; let’s just say that the experience was such that for the rest of the trip I dreaded walking into restaurants for fear that I’d have a repeat experience. But like most things in life, it was an isolated event and thankfully, we ate really well for the remainder of our time in Italia.

I don’t want to dwell too much about the food since it was all good and Italian-tasting but I just wanted to remember the places I visited in Verona. The Arche Scaligere, above, was a Gothic tomb of the Scaligere family that ruled Verona from the 13th-14th century. Just behind it is a square that has a statue of Dante, who lived in exile in Verona. Only a few metros away is Romeo’s family home (the Montecchi house) which confuses me since Romeo was a fictional character. Not far from his house is the Juliet balcony, which is definitely fake and built in the 1930s to attract tourists, who to this day, still gather and take loads of photos. Most of the tourists were Italian, by the way.

The best thing I visited in Verona was this Italian Renaissance garden not far from the Roman amphitheater.

Giardino Giusti

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I’ve been thinking a lot about my writing, or my lack thereof. I’ve had loads of entries that I should have written, from my trips in the last year: Dublin/Galway, Menorca, Manchester, Verona/Venice and my discovered favorite city in the world, Seville. I was consumed with a frustrating job hunt in London that I just felt so out of keeping up with this blog that as the days went on, it just became easier to neglect documenting the good things that were happening in my life.

You know what a big part of it was? The pictures. I hate taking pictures! I know that’s not something one should admit in this world of Instagram and photo sharing, but I hate taking pictures. I don’t want to think about how to compose a photo. I just want to look at things with my own eyes and not have to think about uploading photos when I don’t have a smart phone. Even if I sorely regret not taking photos later.

As I get older, I will probably forget the things I’ve seen as I won’t have any photographic reference to trigger those memories. It’s already happening now. Ann will tell me things we used to do in high school and I can’t even recall them. It’s like moments from my life fifteen years ago cease to exist to me now. I probably should have taken more photos as a teenager.

So now that I’m re-committed to this blog, I start with Writer’s Tears. At a whisky bar in Dublin, I was totally overwhelmed with choice. Once I saw this bottle, I had to have a taste. I don’t remember what it tastes like, to be honest, but doesn’t it make a good photo for a blog by a former journalist? The end.

 

I’ve been very naughty about updating my blog but I was too busy eating. (Obviously.)

November, when I went back to SGV for Thanksgiving, now feels like ages ago. My brother and his GF were in town for a week. They ate about five meals a day and one night I joined them, where we ate at four places in 2 hours: Don the Beachcomber for cocktails and pu pu platters, banh cuon in Westminster, chicken fried steak at Twoheys and one last place that I’ve now purged from memory.

It wasn’t until Christmas when I was able to have a decent appetite again. To be honest, it put me off food for a while. My stomach seemed to have been suffering a permanent fullness from Thanksgiving up unit about mid-December.

And dim sum. What is Chinese people’s obsession with dim sum? Being away for some time, the first thing relatives and my parents’ friends would want to do with me was take me for ‘yum cha.’ Then the first thing they would say when we’d sit down to dim sum was, “You can’t find this in London” or “You’ve lost weight because the food isn’t any good in London” or some kind of variation of that. Then I’d have to respond politely, yes there is dim sum in London but no it isn’t nearly as good as it is in LA (I think it would upset them to say that dim sum in SGV isn’t the best).

But it wasn’t dim sum that I missed the most about being away. I missed road trips, so I took one in January.

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I went home for a short visit a few weeks ago and had a little side trip to the Bay Area, revisiting my old haunts.

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