Posts tagged ‘Pictures’

Heading out to Hanoi

1534. So here I am at Terminal 3 of Changi Airport, being, for the first and possibly the only time in my life, the first person through the boarding gate. I must admit to feeling just a tad lonely because I am taking this flight sans companions, and that is why my trusty little Asus Eee is seeing some use now. It’s either this or watch a local soap rerun of some fifteen years’ vintage.

Have I ever mentioned here that I hate flying? Love travelling, but hate the process of getting there. It’s partly because I have the most heinous tendency toward motion-sickness, and partly because I dislike having to sit in limbo, being transported with a herd of other human beings. Also, as far as today is concerned, it’s partly because it’s that time of the month. Arrgh.

2331, Hanoi time. As with the Bali trip, the start of this one was unpromising. It consisted of sitting in the plane for a whole hour, waiting for air traffic to clear so that we could actually leave. It was a full flight and I remember thinking that it was a good thing that most of it was made up of Vietnamese people, who tend to be small, light and wiry in build. They also have fine, clean-cut features. Wedoryn would blend in quite well here.

Once I had cleared customs (a process infinitely less painful than in Bali– I must have had my worried expression on because the officers were really quite nice), it was plain sailing. There was a lady who was holding up a sign just for me, and after I got my suitcase, I was led to a swanky black Mercedes (whee!), complete with moon roof, refreshments and Wi-Fi (whee!), as well as shades on the back windows to impart the cool-mysterious-passenger look, which ferried me in high style to the Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake.

Checking in was equally painless, and, after doing that, I was surprised for a minute when I was led outside the main building, to a golf buggy. Then I realized that the place was actually bloody immense, hence the subsequent whiz around on said buggy. There are separate blocks of rooms, each one standing on stilts in a huge lake, far apart from one another, so as I write this, I feel like I am practically inVenice. It helps that the weather is absolutely perfect, something like 16 – 18 degrees Celsius.

I met my friends, who had arrived on the preceding flight, in the lobby so that we could go and have our first bowl of pho and our first glass of Hanoi beer. You can see some of both in this picture:

The pho was very, very good.

And now, full and happy, I am waiting for my pillow selection to be delivered to my room before I go and have a nice bath and hit the bed. I am a lucky bug, I know.    


December 2, 2011 at 15:34 Leave a comment

Holy mucal crustacean!

I hate to belabour the point, but my lunchtime Facebook checks have just acquired a punitive element.

Why pay for the cream when you can cut out the middleman?

November 18, 2011 at 13:45 Leave a comment

The following material is incompatible with mealtimes

Here’s what my lunchtime Facebook trawl dredged up today:


Mr. Manx will testify that I’m the sort of idiot who, when confronted with a bottle of baby powder, can be counted on to say something like, “What, made from real babies?”

In the same spirit, I clicked on the snail cream link to find:

Mmm... snail cream... ecstasy...

Oh yeah, made from real snail slime.  Urgh.

This is an indication for cognitive reframing – I am someone who enjoys eating chicken feet, fish eyeballs and liver sashimi, and who’s had nice cooling drinks made from grated antelope horn and bird saliva, and who believes in daily topical applications of fermented rice filtrate. Slathering snail mucus on one’s face is not so bad.

… Not working. Urgh.

November 16, 2011 at 13:30 2 comments

Memories of Paris: possibly the best macaroons ever

Anyone’s who’s halfway serious about macaroons (or macarons, if you want to be really Frenchy) will know that the best ones are to be found in Paris. Moi, I am not serious about macaroons at all as a rule. I first tried some in Taipei, out of a neighbourhood bakery, which was a big mistake because they weren’t much different from pastel-coloured biscuits – two floury, crunchy slabs sandwiching a squirt of randomly flavoured buttercream – not impressive at all. I did not know what was the big deal with them bloody macaroons.

In the course of my pre-trip prep, I was trawling Tripadvisor for places to eat in Paris when I realized that Pierre Herme ranked in the top ten of >6000 restaurants there, and technically, it is not even a restaurant, but a patisserie. Thus it was decided. I told Mr. Manx, “Mr. Manx, we shall visit Pierre Herme when we are in Paris.”

He replied, “As you wish, my love. Is it one of those steak tartare places?”

I said, “No. It sells macaroons.”

He said, “Macaroons? Those pastel-coloured biscuits? You hate those pastel-coloured biscuits. I hate those pastel-coloured biscuits.”

I said, “I have reason to believe that the pastel-coloured biscuits we had in Taipei do not qualify as macaroons. I think it may be that macaroons and pastel-coloured biscuits are two different things. In fact, these are so different that they are spelt ‘macarons’.”

And so it was.

Please pardon the lighting in our Paris apartment. It turns everything yellow when it was really a bright, lovely assortment of colours.

This is a box of seven and these fellas cost something like €2 apiece. Here’s what I remember of them. From bottom upwards:

#1 is Mogador, which means passionfruit with chocolate. I think it must be a point of pride with M. Herme to create taste combinations that are unintuitive and therefore intriguing. This one pairs the bright acidity of passionfruit with the tongue-coating creaminess of milk chocolate. Clever and tasty, but, as Johnny Depp says in Chocolat, “Not my favourite.” Also, I find bright yellow an unappetising colour, unless it’s on Cheetos.

#2 and #4 are the same – caramel with fleur de sel. This one turned out to be my favourite, so I’m really glad I went with my gut and got two.  This one has it all – the heavy, burnt lushness of caramel and then the surprising zing of the pinch of salt that lets you keep tasting the caramel again, over and over. This is the one that pops into my head when I think about macaroons macarons at all.

#3 is pistachio. I’m afraid I don’t have much recollection of pistachio. It was good, certainly, but didn’t stand out.

#5 is ispahan, which is rose with raspberry and lychee. It was my second favourite in the bunch, because eating it was such a pleasant surprise from beginning to end. If you nibble a little bit of it, you get the light, airy flavour of lychee-tinged rose, which somehow you don’t taste as much as smell. Then if you take a bigger bite, you get a hit of tart raspberry jam that brings you back to earth in much the same way as filling your lungs with the first breath of air on a cold morning.

#6 is chocolate, which always has an unfair advantage with me, because as long as there’s plenty of good strong chocolate in it, and not too sweet, I will like it. This had plenty of good strong chocolate in it, and was not too sweet. My third favourite.

As a fitting counterpart to #1, #7 is chocolate and cassis, which explains its purple tinge. Like #1, this was an unusual combination, but I found this pairing of dark choc and sweet berry rather more appealing.

The lighting in the bathroom was much better for photo-taking, though not so good for eating in

Here’s a close-up of a semi-eaten #6. You can see how thin and crisp the outer shell is. You have to be careful just picking up these babies because they’re so delicate. When your teeth meet the shell, it shatters gently and immediately. The fluffy part inside is cool, sweet and airy, and you can’t always differentiate it from the filling, which is very thick and plentiful, and very fresh. When it’s in your mouth, you’re never quite sure if you should chew or just let it melt. I tend to chew, which brings the textures together beautifully, but then the experience doesn’t last so long. 

It’s a testament to how good these were that, after our return, Mr. Manx has, upon passing certain shops, said things to the effect of, “Oh, they sell macaroons here – shall we get some? Should we get six, or ten?”

I hear that Pierre Herme can now also be found in London, so, Kel, since you’re coming along in my suitcase, we can go pig out some day.

December 9, 2010 at 10:49 2 comments

Memories of Paris: A L’Etoile D’Or

What’s that, you say? Well, it’s only the best sweet shop in Paris, owned, managed and run by Ms Denise Acabo. Here’s a picture of the great lady together with me and Mr. Manx, who was reflected in the mirror. In case you’re not sure, Ms Acabo is the one with the blonde braids.

We didn’t have long to spend there, so most of our time was spent choosing nougat bars, chocolate almonds and sugared pecans as souvenirs for our friends. But as a treat for myself, I bought a Bernachon chocolate bar – Kalouga, since I am in a caramel mode these days – which I haven’t eaten yet and am saving for either a very good or a very bad day. Christmas ought to qualify.

Mr. Manx took a picture of some old periodicals on display. I swear, neither Ms Acabo nor her shop have changed. At all.

My French is as good as non-existent, but I managed to establish that:

1) Ms Acabo has been running this shop for about forty years (!) and is over seventy years old (!!!).

2) It doesn’t matter what language you speak. Once she sees your eyes light up, she will give you a tour of the treasures in her shop in French, and somehow, you will feel that you understand.

3) She uses a special wrapping paper with those illusion pictures – you know, the ones that should be turned upside down or have a hidden face somewhere.

4) She’s pretty big in Japan (hur hur, Alphaville fans). She’s appeared in Japanese magazines and, indeed, there was a Japanese tourist who popped in to buy sweets and take a picture with her.

5) Pistachio and dark nougat bars are far better than plain.

6) A L’Etoile D’Or is the only place outside Lyon that sells Bernachon chocolate, which is supposed to be fabulous. Customers are not allowed to touch the bars on display. Now I kinda regret that I only got one. I never got to break that last 100-Euro note…

7) Under no circumstances whatsoever will the combination of chocolate and peanuts be tolerated on these premises. Ever.

8) Ms Acabo believes in gentlemen. After I had made payment, she wouldn’t let me near the bag and instead held it out to Mr. Manx, and I caught the words “l’homme” and “portez“. Wahaha!

I think it’s fantastic that someone has invested this much passion into a sweet shop. This is sort of place that will stay the same over time and will never franchise. I do hope I get to come back to it one day.

A L’Etoile D’Or is at 30 Rue Fontaine, 75009 Paris, quite near Moulin Rouge. No website either, but lot of reviews if you Google it.

December 6, 2010 at 08:56 Leave a comment

Memories of Paris: Strikes!

OK, we never got to see any actual demonstrating, and were out of the country by the time the strikes escalated (thank you, God) but we were victims twice over nonetheless.

(In the interest of witness protection, all identifying data has been removed from the following pictures.) 

#1: when we wanted to climb the Notre Dame towers


#2: when we wanted to visit the Musee d’Orsay


We really, really, really need to go back there one day.

December 2, 2010 at 12:54 2 comments

Memories of Paris: Steak Tartare

I still think of my aborted Europe trip with sadness. Not just because of the missed sights, but also because there’s this association now between that lovely place and my personal loss. I still want to go to England and visit some old churches and light a candle in each one specifically for my grandma.

Till that happens, I remain in possession of some beautiful memories of three days in Paris, and I’d like to share them here. Today’s memory is: raw meat.

Seldom is a picture this repulsive and mouthwatering at the exact same time, yes? 

I had this hunk of steak tartare, palm-sized and inch-thick, all to my greedy little self. You can see the chopped onion, chives, capers, and, best of all, enough raw meat to distract the average vampire long enough for you to run away, unless, of course, you are a Twilight fan who would prefer to regard this as a simple appetizer.

(Raw meat is a childhood memory for me. I love the taste of bloody meat. As a small child, dinner preparation was one of the highlights of the day. I’d wait for my grandma to turn to the stove before pinching a mouthful of uncooked mincemeat or a slice of dripping liver. I ascribe the strength of my gastrointestinal system today to this practice.) 

I’m glad we found this place – a completely random occurrence based on the fact that it was one of the rare restaurants open on Sunday midday. The staff could barely understand Mr. Manx and me (and, I’m quite sure, took us for Japanese, because I heard one of them practice saying “arigatou gozaimasu“) but did their best and even kindly asked if I wanted my steak tartare boiled (to which the only correct response is a loud scream, but this would have been unacceptable in civilized society).

Clearly, though, boiling did not happen and an enjoyable meal was made of this raw beef, together with Mr. Manx’s entrecote (a perfectly done rib steak topped with smoking thyme), a cheese board and half a bottle of rose wine. I think we paid about 25-30 Euros per person, which is not expensive by Parisian standards.

This was eaten at a restaurant called Bo Zinc, which is at 59 Avenue Mozart, 75016 Paris. I don’t think they have a website, otherwise I’d link to it.

November 30, 2010 at 17:13 4 comments

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Welcome to my blog!

My blog-name is Katie but I will not respond if you call me that in real life because it's not my real name. Yes, I do practise virtual-world paranoia. No, I do not enjoy stalkers. But I do enjoy writing and having folks reading said writing, so welcome to my world. It's nice to meet you.

Playing in my head over and over again argh

I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song (Jim Croce)

Book(s) of the moment

Hogfather (Terry Pratchett)

Books read in 2010 and 2011

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling) - 'cos the movie's coming out!
Frankenstein: Lost Souls (Dean Koontz) - ah, bugger, it's part of a series! Now I hafta find all the books...
Dismantled (Jennifer McMahon) - oh, good one
Tigerlily's Orchids (Ruth Rendell)
Shutter Island (Dennis LeHane) - reminds me too much of work
Holy Fools (Joanne Harris) - it's official: I prefer her scary books
A Series of Unfortunate Events; The Unauthorized Autobiography; The Beatrice Letters (Lemony Snicket)
The Little Friend (Donna Tartt)
The main books - 11 so far - of the Southern Vampire series; the Aurora Teagarden series except for A Fool & His Honey - that makes it 7; Sweet & Deadly (Charlaine Harris)
The Woman in Black (Susan Hill)
Full Dark, No Stars (Stephen King)
Room: A Novel (Emma Donaghue)
Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)
The Bachman Books (Stephen King)
Men At Arms (Terry Pratchett)
Carpe Jugulum (Terry Pratchett)
The Fifth Elephant (Terry Pratchett)
Beauty (Robin McKinley)
The Sandman, Vol 1 (Neil Gaiman)
The Burden (Agatha Christie) - her crime novels are waaay better
Snuff (Terry Pratchett)

Visit my photoblog!

I started my first photoblog on 3 May, 2009. Each post features one picture, with a little story of how it came about. Do take a look by clicking on: Manx Pictures
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Don’t say I didn’t say this…

Disclaimers: 1) I cannot help but bitch about work sometimes, but everything here comes under the realm of personal remarks, and nothing here is said in my professional capacity. Nor does anything here reflect the opinion of the institutions that employ me. This is just me shooting off. 2) Most identities have been anonymized, particularly those of folks I know on a personal basis. Same goes for my workplaces. However, commercial and public places and figures remain named. Otherwise some things just wouldn't make sense. 3) Links and sources have been provided where appropriate and possible. They are not meant to challenge anyone's ownership. If this causes any discomfort or offence, please let me know.


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