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Posts Tagged ‘friends’

Hong Kong skyline, as seen from The Peak

Hong Kong skyline, as seen from The Peak

 

I had meetings in Mumbai last week, and I need to be in Beijing next week for another series of meetings.  There are no direct flights between the two places, so I used my schedule as a good excuse for spending the weekend in Hong Kong – one of my favourite cities in Asia, and culinarily-speaking, probably my favourite place in the entire world.  It was a chance to recharge my batteries, visit old friends, and eat some good food.

Mumbai flight schedules are terrible, but mercifully my Cathay flight took off as scheduled at just before 2am.  I managed to settle in quickly and grabbed about four-and-a-half hours of sleep, arriving just before 10am in Hong Kong. 

My colleagues in Mumbai had presented me with a gift before I left.  What was meant to be a generous gesture has instead turned into a bit of an albatross around my neck.  I’d very carefully packed my suitcase to manage my two-week, three-city tour with nothing more than hand-luggage, but now that I’m lugging along a piece of artwork as well, my plans have been scuppered.   My bag went into the hold, and thanks to the efficient ground services at HKG airport, was waiting for me as soon as I’d cleared immigration.

My friend Sean was waiting for me, which was a real treat.  Flying as often as I do, it’s very rare to be met off the plane anymore, except by the airline representative, hotel rep, or driver.  Aside from flying home to see my parents, it’s rare for anyone to meet me off the plane.  But it’s great to see a familiar face.

Touristy photo in Hong Kong

Posing next to the mini-busses at The Peak. Mini busses, full-sized Matt

 

Sean dropped me at my hotel for a quick shower and change of clothes, then we headed out for dim sum at the Kee Club where I proceeded to make a pig of myself.  After eating, uh, “delicately” in Mumbai for the past week, I was ready for some real food. 

Matthew with giant dim sum

They take their food seriously in Hong Kong. Here I am posing with a giant meatball and an oversized tray of dim sum.

 

I managed to stay awake through lunch, then headed back to the hotel for some serious power-napping.  Got up in time for a quick drink at Sean’s apartment, where I finally got to meet his adorable daughter for the first time after more than a year of Facebook photos.  She lives up to her billing, and is even more adorable in person than she is in the photos.  We hit a local Japanese place for sushi, then followed up with a quick drink at the bar at the top of my hotel.

After a blissful ten hours of sleep, I got up late and wandered the streets around my hotel, grabbing a quick breakfast of pork-and-cabbage buns at one of the local shops.  There was a lot of pointing and gesturing involved.  Sunday afternoon meant more dim sum, this time at the Grand Hyatt with Sean’s extended family, something of a tradition and an event I’ve enjoyed with Sean and his family every time I’ve visited Hong Kong.  Loads of good food, including a roast pigeon ordered especially for me.  (Thanks, Sean!)

Roast pigeon at the Grand Hyatt, Hong Kong

From my "food with a face" files, this is roast pigeon at the Grand Hyatt, Hong Kong

 

After lunch, we headed up to the Peak for a short walk and a coffee.  Though it’s been seven years since I’ve last been here, and the skyline has changed somewhat, it still reminds me of my first trip to Hong Kong.

I’ve got one more evening here, and half-the-day tomorrow – tonight’s dilemma is basically “what should I eat?” followed by tomorrow morning’s dilemma of “what else should I eat”?  Then off on a plane to Beijing, where I won’t have to ask myself that question.  The banquets have already been arranged – all I need to do is turn up.

A little later than usual due to my extended stay in Singapore, this weekend marked our annual Christmas-tree-decorating party (my annual Mark Twain excuse for saying “come decorate our Christmas tree, it’ll be lots of fun!” and watching as others do all the dirty work).

There was mulled wine and mince pies, good friends and a lot of swearing at some very stubborn Christmas lights. Still, it’s what makes Christmas what it is, right?

Struggling with the Christmas lights

Struggling with the Christmas lights

Sandro sensibly takes a seat and watches the mayhem from a distance...

Sandro sensibly takes a seat and watches the mayhem from a distance…

Matthew demonstrates a novel approach at untangling the Christmas lights

Matthew demonstrates a novel approach at untangling the Christmas lights

Matthew & Anne-Laure, hard at work on the lights

Matthew & Anne-Laure, hard at work on the lights

A candidate for "Stuff on my Cat" if ever I saw one. Daisy didn't really enter into the Christmas spirit this year...

A candidate for “Stuff on my Cat” if ever I saw one. Daisy didn’t really enter into the Christmas spirit this year…

Neil "supervises"

Neil “supervises”

Anne Laure, hard at work decorating the tree

Anne Laure, hard at work decorating the tree

Neil ends up being decorated himself. Awww, pretty.

Neil ends up being decorated himself. Awww, pretty.

We've subsequently reduced Aude's sugar intake

We’ve subsequently reduced Aude’s sugar intake

Neil didn't quite get the hang of "decorating the tree", preferring to focus his efforts elsewhere.

Neil didn’t quite get the hang of “decorating the tree”, preferring to focus his efforts elsewhere.

Not a happy camper.

Not a happy camper.

Finished at last!

Finished at last!

Satisfaction at last!

Satisfaction at last!

Jean Michel looks skeptical about the whole thing...

Jean Michel looks skeptical about the whole thing…


Back in the UK for a few days, and well rested after a week of wrapping-up the last of my Singapore project. Friday night was Aude’s Christmas party, and the first chance I really had to get into the Christmas spirit. Unlike last year (at the university dining hall, with catering to match), this year’s party was held at a local golf club and they did a really good job – good food, nice sized group, and a pretty good evening overall.

Aude

Somewhere out there is an elf without a hat, as Aude’s stolen it for the Christmas party…

Matt

Even Matt mananged to don a hat for the occasion. Which explains why he doesn’t normally wear a hat…

Aude

Aude has her caricature captured by the roving artist…

Artist

The (very patient) caricature artist, who managed to sketch pictures of most of the people at our table.

Aude, Thomas and Caroline

Aude, Thomas and Caroline

King Jiri

King Jiri. Short of Mugabe, I’ve never seen a man so happy about a paper crown.

Aude and Gino

Aude and Gino dance the night away…

Aude and Matt

Aude and Matt get into the Christmas spirit

Aude with beer

The basis for the relationship between Aude and Matt suddenly becomes apparent to the entire world… Girls like this don’t come along very often!

Gino, burning up the dance floor!

Gino, burning up the dance floor!

Aude and Jiri

Aude persuades Jiri to follow her onto the dance floor. Though he’s (finally) taken off his crown, please notice that it’s safely tucked away in his breast pocket for later…

I’m back in the UK for an entire weekend, which seems like quite a luxury. After whinging (maybe a little too much) that I was only going to have 20 hours in the UK after being gone for nearly a month, my client (in an usual moment of displaying that he actually has some understanding of human compassion) suggested that I might spend the entire weekend in the UK and fly back out on Sunday night. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I promptly cancelled my Saturday flight and booked a Sunday flight instead.

I had an 8am flight out of Istanbul yesterday, which meant a 5am car – which meant a 4am start. And being a worrier, it actually meant that I was up at 2:30am, sleepless because I was afraid about oversleeping and missing my flight. In the end, there was no traffic – the airport was empty except for the families looking for information on their loved ones who were lost in the Atlasair crash. Quite a few police and ambulances were there as well to help with the grieving families. Not a great day to be flying out of Istanbul, all things considered.

My flight, thankfully, went without incident and I slept most of the way back to London. Heathrow threw up all its normal problems – no gates, problems with the jetway, and long waits for luggage – all of which meant that despite landing at 10:30am, I didn’t get to my car until nearly 1pm. I won’t miss flying out of Heathrow, that’s for sure.

I came home, cleared a huge pile of mail and filed my expenses – my normal routine after a long trip.

Aude tucks into her dumplings

Aude tucks into her dumplings

Annmarie shows us the best way to wash down Czech dumplings -- with Czech beer!

Annmarie shows us the best way to wash down Czech dumplings — with Czech beer!

Matt's struggling after a lot of travel and nearly 24 hours awake after three hours of sleep...

Matt’s struggling after a lot of travel and nearly 24 hours awake after three hours of sleep…

Our evening was lovely, with an invitation for dinner with Annmarie and Jiri to celebrate Annmarie’s birthday. Luckily Jiri had read my blog and knew that kebabs were probably off-limits – so instead he proposed a lovely dinner of Czech dumplings with beef. It was just what the doctor ordered.

PS – my new lens arrived while I was away, an early Christmas present to myself. I’m loving it!

Just arrived in Istanbul after a really nice weekend in Paris (although it was over too quickly). We managed to beat the worst of the strikes with a combination of taxis or walking, although we did have to wait ages for a taxi to take Aude to the train station – it was looking a little touch-or-go as to whether she’d make her train in time, but in the end she made it with time to spare.

I spent most of the weekend craving steak at inappropriate times – my body clock is still set to Singapore time, so I’m starving at breakfast and lunchtime but not hungry at all for dinner. What time I didn’t spend starving, I mostly spent freezing. It was hovering around freezing for most of the weekend, and despite having purchased a new coat, I wasn’t wearing nearly enough to keep me warm.

Aude and Gratiane at lunch on Saturday afternoon

Aude and Gratiane at lunch on Saturday afternoon

Matthew and François at lunch on Saturday afternoon

Matthew and François at lunch on Saturday afternoon

Caught her mid-gulp!

Caught her mid-gulp!

We had a really nice lunch with François and Gratiane on Saturday at a restaurant around the corner from our hotel, hampered only slightly my the fact that I managed to step into a pile of dog poo on the way – I suppose that’s one of the pleasures of Parisian life I must learn to get used to.

Aude and Matthew at the Cafe Bibliotheque for her birthday

Aude and Matthew at the Cafe Bibliotheque for her birthday

Matt sits at the kids' table on his own...

Matt sits at the kids’ table on his own…

After a late night partying, we managed to drag ourselves out of bed around mid-day on Sunday, and spent most of the afternoon exploring the city and trying to figure out where we’re going to live.

Matt on the streets of Paris (with obligatory tourist trap of €3 popcorn)

Matt on the streets of Paris (with obligatory tourist trap of €3 popcorn)

Matthew's impression of a rabbit doesn't impress the locals.  Parisians, it appears, aren't easily impressed!

Matthew’s impression of a rabbit doesn’t impress the locals. Parisians, it appears, aren’t an easy bunch to impress!

Aude seems happy to be back in Paris, and looks right at home...

Aude seems happy to be back in Paris, and looks right at home…

32 years young!

32 years young!

Blowing out the candles

Blowing out the candles

Singapore Sling in hand!

Singapore Sling in hand!

Aude in a festive mood!

Aude in a festive mood!

Neil wishes me a happy birthday!

Neil wishes me a happy birthday!

Jean Michel wishes me a happy birthday!

Jean Michel wishes me a happy birthday!

Even Anne-Laure wishes me a happy birthday!

Even Anne-Laure wishes me a happy birthday!

I do not know this man

I do not know this man

Matthew gets ready for his trip abroad with a dodgy umbrella and a Singapore Sling...

Matthew gets ready for his trip abroad with a dodgy umbrella and a Singapore Sling…