Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sights of Taiwan

My last post was all about food, but I did do more than just eat during my trip! I managed to have some fun in between keeping track of the students...

My father and I saw the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre perform at the National Theatre...I found the program very modern and unexpected, more like performance art with spoken word than dance.

National Theatre
National Theatre of Taipei

The theatre is part of the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, a huge park in Taipei. We took the students to visit on an afternoon field trip.

Chang Kai Shek Memorial
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall

Ching Ming Day was during our trip, so I had a brief respite from the kids. My father and I visited relatives in Taichung, in central Taiwan. My cousin took us to a restaurant where each table was in its own structure, connected by walkways and surrounded by koi ponds. She said the restaurants in Taichung are known more for their decor and ambiance than for their food.

My father and me
Feeding the koi after lunch

We saw many interesting and cute restaurants as we walked along a park near the art museum, where I also spied these stone benches that look like eclairs!

More eclair stone benches
Eclairs dot the park

After returning north to Taipei, I went to see Taipei 101, currently the tallest building in the world. It was a grey foggy day, so I did not go to the top. A student told me each night of the week the building lights up different colors, like a rainbow. So I looked each night, and it does!

Taipei 101
Taipei 101, sans spire

During a break in the rain, we went to Danshui with my aunt. The town runs along the Danshui River, with lots of tasty goodies and big crowds of people. We took the ferry across the river to Bali, where there were many fishing boats.

Fishing boats
Boats along the Danshui River

The sun was setting when we took the ferry back to Danshui.

Dan Shui
The witching hour

The students had a field trip to Yang Ming Shan National Park. Unfortunately it was a windy, rainy day. We saw several calla lily plantations.

Yang Ming Shan National Park
Yang Ming Shan

The children also visited the National Palace Museum and the park next to it. I saw very little of the collection as I was chaperoning students. Next time, perhaps...

The garden outside the Palace Museum
Blue roofed-buildings are the museum

There is so much more to do and see in Taiwan...this visit definitely made me want to go back again. And of course, there's the food!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Back in the USA

After two weeks in Taiwan, I am home again! It's kind of strange to be back, actually...partly because of jet lag, and at first I was not sure Arrow remembered me. Despite 10 straight days of rain and having to keep track of 13 fifth graders, it was a great trip. I regret that I did not take more photos, but of course I did take a few pictures of food.

I had shao bing you tiao several times at a busy shop near my father's apartment. It is a delicious breakfast very common in Taipei; the you tiao are long fritters sandwiched with shao bing, a kind of flaky pastry cooked on an open fire griddle. So yummy with soy milk!

Making shao bing you tiao
Slicing the dough for you tiao

There are bakeries all over Taipei, each with an enticing buttery aroma and an incredible selection of rolls, buns, sandwiches, and more. Each morning I would try a different kind, like a pineapple bun, which has a crackly crumble topping that resembles a pineapple...or a bun filled with red bean paste, or a pastry with taro root, or a slice of matcha tea many choices, but not enough time to try them all...

Bakery goods in Taipei
Sandwich rolls that resemble sushi!

During this visit I noticed almost every bakery had some kind of black bread, sometimes described as colored with squid ink, other times it was attributed to charcoal...I was intrigued, but hesitant to try it.

Black bread
Does this bread look strange to you?

I also ate many of my favorite fruits of Taiwan, like guava, lian wu, shi ja, little green mangoes, and more...but foolishly forgot to take a photo of the fruit stand. In Taipei there are so many street vendors and little storefronts offering delicious snacks that it is difficult to convey all the yumminess! There wasn't nearly enough time to eat everything I wanted to, but I did eat at a few of my favorites places...shao long bao (dumplings) at Ding Tai Fung, shaved ice with taro, red bean, grass jelly, and pearl tapioca at Eastern Ice Store, and a new discovery, mango shaved ice at Ice Monster. And on my last day I tried a pon de ring doughnut at Mister Donut, a Japanese chain found all over Taipei. I do not know what the flour they're made of is called in English; the doughnut is slightly chewy and light....not like an American doughnut, but I enjoyed it.

Mister Donut
How can one resist?

Since I ate so much during my visit, I didn't bring very many goodies home...just a box of peanut candies, green bean cakes, and dried kumquats.

Snacks from Taiwan
Taste of Taiwan

I'll have to wait until my next visit for more deliciousness...hopefully this time it will be shorter than 10 years between visits!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Salty streets of Chicago

Chicago was delightful, despite the wind and snow...brrr! Marilyn and Rob's wedding was lovely, and Dan and I ventured out in the cold and saw a bit of the city. It snowed a couple of days, and I got salt all over my boots and jeans...I guess salty streets are normal in snowy places. Also on Saturday we smelled chocolate all over downtown...mmm...someone told us there was a chocolate factory nearby, so if the wind is blowing in the right direction: mmm...chocolate...

Highlights included Sue the T-Rex at the Field Museum, lots of beautiful paintings at the Art Institute, the gorillas at the Lincoln Park Zoo, and I loved Cloud Gate in Millenium Park...the bean sculpture looks different with the moving clouds and changing light and as you walk around it. Really lovely...there should be more public art in San Francisco...

The bean
Dan checks out the bean

We also walked through a few different neighborhoods, Lakeview and Bucktown...and I got to meet Jennifer of piddleloop! Very, very exciting. I think Jennifer was one of the first readers of this lil' blog who didn't already know me. We both love hounds.

Carol and Jennifer
Looking at another camera

It was so fun to meet her in person, she is very sweet, funny, and vivacious. Dan and I also met her boyfriend Nathaniel and his cat Simon (and Mr. Lester the turtle)... now we just need to get our hounds to meet somehow! And Jennifer gave me so many gifties! Treats for Arrow too...

Piddleloop gifties
The loot! (Click for notes)

Pretty sock yarn, a handmade DPN holder with bead stitch markers and three little pouches (cupcakes and pooches!), so many fun buttons, sparkly hair clips, kitty note pad, Snoopy stickers, doggie bone paper clips, a jelly donut charm (hanging on my bag), and lots of sweet treats (some already eaten), including my favorite candy from childhood, the rice candies with edible wrappers. Thank you so much, Jennifer!