Strolling through Beijing

Since Babsi had a strong wifi I used my Wednesday morning to update the blog again. With a VPN connection it was possible to work a bit on it. I had decided to walk that the day through the Hutong, shop for some presents (Babsi offered to take them to Vienna at the end of May) and then slowly make my way to the park across the Forbidden City to climb up that tower that I had missed the day before.

As usual with these planned things it didn’t work out. I sat down for a little Kimchi soup for lunch, and then walked slowly through the shopping street where I tried some Taiwanese frozen yoghurt. It poured on some frost sheet and top with mango and then cut into smaller pieces while it instant freezes. Makes sense? It looked better than it tasted though and it was difficult to eat.IMG_2807 IMG_2813

Walking through the Hutong gave me time to savor the Chinese everyday life. It’s crazy btw and colorful and crowded and just great to watch.IMG_2808 IMG_2810 IMG_2811 IMG_2814 IMG_2815

This furry part in the last picture is the back of a cat that was sleeping in this shop. I really liked these figures but they were astronomically expensive. I had to take a picture though, they were really beautiful.

When I ended up with 4 bags and the metro was nearby I decided to go home and drop the bags, then go back for the tower. Yeah, did not happen. I spent 30 minutes at home, taking pictures of the kittens and relaxed.
IMG_2801IMG_2803 Then I took the metro to meet Babsi. Tonight we were going with her friend Jennifer to a reading from Timothy Garton Ash.

We met her at a tapas bar around the corner from The Bookworm where we shared a pitcher of some Tequila/grapefruit/soda mix (very good, light and refreshing) and some tacos.IMG_2821 IMG_2822 IMG_2823

 

From there it was only one more minute and we were right on time for the talk of ‘From Berlin to Beijing: reflections of a political writer’. I really enjoyed it, such a completely different program from everything else I have done so far on this trip. And while I will miss one book club meeting while traveling this makes up for it I think.IMG_2824 IMG_2825

But right after the event we left and searched for a taxi. I wanted to be home ‘early’ to finish packing and get some sleep. The next morning I was leaving for Shanghai. Yours, Pollybert

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Books

Purge by Sofi Oksanen: The latest book for the book club. I am reading this one in German since it is a translation from Finnish anyway. It is not easy to read for me, the language is hard and angular. I imagine the life of these people to be the same, so maybe the language is used as a stylistic device. Now after finishing the book I am not so sure about anything anymore. The main character turned out to be something completely different and was either frustrated or crazy. Once I got used to the style the book reads itself fairly easy and the story is worth exploring.

The Death Cure by James Dashner: Book number three in the “Maze Runner” series and finally the end of it. Another YA book which is set in a dystopian world, so all the better that after three books there is hope on the horizon. Fast read but not much character development and some of them go through a whole range of emotions all in the span of two pages. Definitely a weird world.

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley: Christmas at Buckshaw and a shaky truce between Flavia and her sisters. The merry season makes for a wonderful background as a film crew invades the colonel’s home. When the entire village population gets stuck there during a blizzard, it’s time for a murder. And eleven year old Flavia is ready to investigate again. Lovely read as usual!

All Souls’ Rising by Madison Smartt Bell: Very interesting topic about the slave rising in Haiti at the time of the French Revolution, but not an easy read at all. Quite a lot of characters and not one protagonist to root for. In the end it proved to be a fascinating read full of cruelty and prejudice, exactly like the world we live in today. Two more volumes wait for me about the rising and General Toussaint.

Under pressure

I got an email today from a nosy friend requesting another post. Although I tried to explain here that sometimes there is not a lot happening which would be worth a post. But sure, let me tell you what’s going on in my life right now.

In the last couple of weeks I have made it through all the “Best Picture Nominations” for the Academy Awards. This alone shows you that I have been extremely busy. After seeing all of them, do I agree with the Academy? I am not sure; “12 years a slave” is by far not the most entertaining picture. But looking in back in 20 years it will still be a picture worth the award. And this is more than I can say about the others. What I enjoyed the most was “August: Osage County” and interestingly enough “Nebraska”. Who would have thought that I liked the black and white picture best? But the story behind is so realistic, just loved it! And Meryl Streep in Osage County is such a bitch, it’s worth your time!

Furthermore I read the book for the book club among others although I will not attend the club this time. I instead am going on vacation. Yes, you read correctly, I will be going on vacation again (finally!). I will go in April for a week and I will take another week in June. So there you go, something to look forward to for all of us. For me because I will be travelling and for you because there will be a lot of new content.

Since the weather is so fine in Vienna and the cat’s out of the house at the moment, I enjoyed two lovely lunches at the Naschmarkt this week. 016 018
The food was just too good to take any pictures but my preferred place for lunch is the Orient Occident at the moment. Service is slow once the garden is open (which triples the seating but number of staff stays the same) which doesn’t matter since the food is amazing and the sun is shining!

More update coming soon and until then I don’t want to hear any complaints!
Yours, Pollybert

PS: Oh yes, and for the other one of my friends who doesn’t want to read about my running progress: I am still running, I try to every week but at least once every two weeks. We signed up for the Austrian Women’s Run on May 25th. I am not sure if at the moment I can even run the time I had at the New Year’s Run however there are still a couple of weeks to go. Also spring is here, so no more excuses and we are fully committed to running our personal best!

PPS: Remember “Under pressure” from Queen? Here a version with David Bowie! Freddie Mercury is still one of the best!!

Heat wave or missing bike

After all the rain, floods and bad weather we are now suffering from sweltering heat in Vienna. What’s the matter with the weather?

I wish I could use the weather as an excuse for not participating in the sprint triathlon, but I have to be honest with myself (and you). I trained for it (maybe not enough) but the hoped for weight loss effect never materialized. I had bought my tri suit last year (I already supported a sprint triathlon event with my registration fee once before) on eBay. Hating to spend a fortune for sports equipment not knowing if I will ever use it again, I was looking for a bargain. I was exited when I saw a tri suit for a steal, the downside being the size though. The suit was in XS. Now, last year I was not so far away from maybe loosing a bit of weight to fit in it, but this year I grew (literally) further away from the suit. So when I tried it on, it got stuck at my knees. I was astonished to notice that it didn’t budge, there seemed to be no spandex inside. What a disappointment, I had to cancel my appearance at this sports event(I also had no bike and helmet at that time. The suit was only one of my problems).
Still I am tempted to try again next year, I even went to the gym on Tuesday bicycling for almost an hour. Let’s see how this goes in the next couple of months, will keep you posted about any progress I might make.

On this Tuesday after the gym session I went to Mochi again. Was invited there for my birthday just a couple of weeks ago and noticed then that it is place I have to frequent more often. The food was amazing, well seasoned and fresh. And service was excellent! We were only leaving because the mosquitos were eating us alive!

I finished “Winter of the World” Ken Follet and the so-so impression I already had of his latest work just intensified. What a shame that he doesn’t write better anymore. One gets the impression he is paid by word count. On the other hand I finished it and will probably read the last installment in the series as well, just to know what’s happening with the characters. Not that I have grown fond of them, for that Follet doesn’t draw them too well, but I kind of got used to them being in my life the last 20 days.
I started something different yesterday and am now reading “The fault in our stars” by John Green. Not an easy subject, but he writes in such an easy way. I love reading his books, mostly devouring them in one go.

Tonight is my book club meeting where we will discuss “The Bell jar” by Sylvia Plath. I read it also in one sitting. It still lingers in the back of my mind. I quite liked the 60s atmosphere. The subject of depression and suicidal thoughts/attempts was not as heavy as I feared. What I like most about the club is that I read books that I usually won’t. It just broadens my spectrum of literature. What I dislike the most is a member who sees the club more as dinner entertainment, hasn’t read a book for the club in months, usually just watches a film when available and on the whole treats it all as a joke. How do you deal with this?

My next vacation is just around the corner, I will be leaving on Sunday morning for Rhodes, Greece. Still have not decided on my final book list for the trip, I find it is the best part of packing. I will bring probably “Furious Love”, the story of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, one more paperback and the e-reader for the rest. Can’t wait to be in the shade, read a book and when I get too hot go for a swim in the sea. Next post will be from the sea!
Yours, Pollybert

PS: Just so that you get an idea what kind of weather we will have in Greece

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“One Day” the rain will stop

Last week I went to a concert with my friend Sylvia. She invited me to see Asaf Avidan at the Gasometer. Although she already told me weeks in advance that we would go, I didn’t make the time to listen to any of his songs on YouTube. So the afternoon before the concert I went online and checked out some his songs.
Before going to the concert though we used the chance of being in the 3rd district to try a new restaurant/pub that has been around already a couple of months but I never made it there. It is an Irish pub with an excellent cook! The place is called O’Connor’s Old Oak
Basically there is only one song that I know of and that is One Day.
what I found really interesting was that he had no supporting act and started with right on time. Of course when he sang the first note, I thought “Oh my God” I am not sure I can go through two hours of this. But after a while I got used to his high singing voice which was actually quite different from his speaking voice. Plus he had some beautiful songs in his set list. A very enjoyable treat!

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Still in O’Connor’s Old Oak

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A special thank you to Sylvia here, first for inviting me and second for providing the pictures!

By the way I finished “A fall of giants” from Ken Follet, read “The Bell jar” by Sylvia Plath for the book club and started with “Winter of the World” part 2 of the Century Trilogy from Ken Follet. Ken Follet is really an easy read, not as entertaining as he used to since his characters are becoming more and more two-dimensional. I am not sure why I am bothering with book number 2? Maybe because once I have started something I will finish it.
Sylvia Plath surprised me in a positive way. I liked “The bell jar” although it is not an uplifting story once you know the background. But the coming of age story was well written and observed, the characters nicely drawn and interesting. I finished it in a day.

In other happy news in eleven days I am off to Rhodes, Greece. Hopefully the weather there will be a lot better than here. We had floods and high water in Austria for the last week and last night it started to rain again in Vienna. And we can’t even be miserable about it since we still have a roof over our heads while lots of people in Austria plus in our neighbouring countries lost so much! All the best!
Yours, Pollybert