The Queen’s Gallery

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

I was invited to a lecture about Leonardo da Vinci at the Queen’s gallery, so I dug out some smart clothes and blagged a lift to the station with Husband. The gallery is a short walk from Victoria, and is tucked behind Buckingham Palace. I looked at all the people waiting, but none of them looked like my group, so I went inside and spoke to a very nice young man, who suggested I loiter in the shop and he would find me when everyone arrived.

The lecture was held in a private room above the gallery. A table was laid with white cups and saucers, the cups had gold rims (like the cups we were served with at St James’ Palace a few years ago). There were silver coffee pots and teapots, and a plate of biscuits. The Queen has very nice biscuits.

While drinking coffee, I chatted to the man who was giving the lecture, Martin Clayton. He was a quiet, intellectual sort of chap, very knowledgeable about Leonardo, and in charge of the collection. I asked if they ever lent the collection to other galleries, and he said they do—which must be a nightmare to organise, and I doubt if he sleeps while it’s in transit. Nothing can be replaced if it’s spoilt, I would hate to be responsible for such momentous work. Apparently, someone from the Queen’s Gallery always travels with the collection, but even so, must be terrifying.

The lecture was fairly short but interesting. Leonardo was born in Vinci in Italy (the “da Vinci” bit means “from Vinci”, it’s not part of his name) in 1452. He was illegitimate, so unable to go to university (but that doesn’t seem to have held him back at all). He was primarily an architect and designer, as well as making sculptures and the occasional painting. He produced copious drawings for all his work, and it is mainly the drawings that have survived. In 1472, printed books were gradually becoming popular, which led to paper becoming an everyday commodity rather than an expensive luxury. For the first time, artists could afford to experiment, to make drawings that would later be discarded. Leonardo drew using a quill pen and ink, and by metal-point (which is when paper is prepared with a thin layer of bone, and is then scraped with a metal point—it produces a brown line-drawing).

Leonardo was left handed, and because it’s harder to push a pen than pull it, he wrote backwards. His writing is very neat, and goes from right to left (perhaps we should teach children today to do this, if they are left-handed. It’s possibly easier.)

Leonardo was fascinated by how things worked, including the human body. Many of his sketches showed the internal organs of bodies, and he dissected dead bodies to find out how the muscles were placed, the chambers of the heart, etc. Much of his work was way ahead of his time. (Personally, I am suspicious as to where he found all his bodies. Some of the drawings, such as those of lungs, are very detailed. I would have thought that lungs collapsed soon after death, so how did Leonardo manage to find so many recently-dead bodies to cut up? Just wondering…)

On 2nd May, 1519, Leonardo died. He left his work to one of his students (he never married, and Martin C suggested he may have been gay). Many of his drawings were bound into a huge album, and this was given to the king in 1670. It has belonged to the Monarch ever since (so the Queen owns them, but only as the ruling Monarch, she cannot sell them).

We then went to look at the exhibition. Apologies for all the reflections on the photos–galleries seem to be unable to have lighting that does not reflect on the glass covering the pictures. Perhaps it’s something to do with preserving them, so they don’t fade, or maybe they need to update their lighting systems.

If I’m honest, I do not really like Leonardo da Vinci’s art. I can see that it’s clever, and his drawings of dissections are very interesting, but I don’t find I have an emotional response to his paintings. I find his people all have a sort of androgynous look to them—the men look effeminate and the women look masculine. I have never seen anything by Leonardo that is pretty or exciting or sad or passionate; they are the sort of highly detailed, very talented, drawings that you might see in an A Level biology portfolio. Even his more famous paintings, like the Mona Lisa or The Last Supper, are not really paintings that make me feel something. Do you like them? Honestly?

Thank you for reading.

Have a good week.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

anneethompson.com

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An Escape Room in Cambridge

For Husband’s birthday, I gave him a voucher for an ‘Escape Room’—you know, those places where you go to be locked into a room, and then you solve various puzzles until you manage to escape (or you fail miserably and they throw you out because your allocated time has finished). I thought it would be fun if we did one as a family.

Of course, the most difficult part was finding a date when all the family could actually meet, but once that was achieved we were fine. Last Saturday we set off for Cambridge. The second most difficult part was trying to find a parking space in Cambridge, but we even managed that eventually.

We started with lunch in an Italian. I know my family have a tendency to ‘debate’ so I envisioned an afternoon listening to them ‘discuss’ the solution to the puzzle. I therefore decided to drink wine for lunch (I did have some lasagne too, but the wine was the bit that mattered.) After lunch there was a further challenge as we attempted to keep Husband with us while we tried to find where to go (he has a tendency to stride ahead, unaware that the rest of the group is unable to cross the road).

I began to relax once we actually arrived at the Escape Room, feeling that the most difficult challenges were over.

The room was not at all what I was expecting. For some reason, I expected a room, set up like a lounge, with sofas (where I could snooze off the wine) and a table of puzzles for my family to argue over. However, we were met at the entrance by an actor who explained the world was about to be hit by a comet, and then shown into a small room which resembled a cupboard, with a locker (locked) and a desk with a computer, and several posters on the walls. We then attempted to save the world.

In case you’ve never done one of these rooms, you’re not actually locked inside (so you can leave to use the loo or if your family becomes too argumentative). There were also several different aspects to the challenge, so people could try to solve one part, without having to collaborate too much with the rest of the group, and there was no necessity to persuade the rest of the group that you knew the solution, you could simply get on with your own bit—which worked rather well for my family. The puzzles were pretty perfect for us—there were some tricky ones, which it took several people to solve, but it was lots of fun. There was, surprisingly, no heated debate at all, and the whole thing was really good fun.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we did manage to save the world…

We visited the LockHouse Games escape room: link here

Thanks for reading, I hope your week has some fun times too. Next week I’ll tell you about my evening listening to random choirs in the shadow of zombies.
Take care,
Love, Anne x

While we were there, I was able to give the family copies of my latest book: Ploughing Through Rainbows. I wanted to write a happy book, so decided to write about a family on a farm, and as I wanted it to be a funny book, I gave the farmer four sons. However, there are also some gritty issues in the book, as it also shows how the mother, Susan, copes when one of her sons tells her that he is gay. Susan is a Christian, and the book shows her journey as she explores what parenting involves when faced with this news.

Please buy a copy, and tell someone else about it. It’s available from an Amazon near you, as both a Kindle book and a paperback. Links below. Thank you x.

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Visiting Auschwitz

Visiting Auschwitz

We followed a long line of coaches and minibuses, alongside the disused railway line, to the car park. It was a huge car park, with hundreds of people. Our guide went to park, and we went in search of washrooms.

The washrooms are in the basement of a brick-built building—we stand in line on stairs which wind downwards, the walls are grey, the steps are concrete, surrounded by people speaking various languages—we pay 2 zloty to the women at the counter—we file into the clean but over-used cubicles. There are lots of people, everyone sombre, all sort of waiting for what comes next on our tour. Which has faint echoes of the past with the immense difference that we are here voluntarily, and only our emotions are at risk.

We are at Auschwitz 1 (there were two camps—I’ll explain later). This camp has the iconic gateway, with ‘Work Makes Free’ welded above it. We walk through the gate, into the camp, and look around. My first impression is that there are trees (were there trees when it was a prison, or have they been added since it became a museum?) and that it is relatively small—when you stand in the centre you can see all four corners. It reminds me of a students’ hall of residence, which is perhaps not surprising as it started life as a barracks for Polish soldiers, though was extended by the Nazis.

Auschwitz is the German translation of Oswiecim, a small town in Poland, which before the war had a population of about 70% Jewish Poles. It was chosen because of its position, in an area of forests, near good resources, with excellent transport and several large industries (which could be supplied with workers). The Nazis turned the barracks into a prison, filling it with anyone who was deemed to be an enemy of the state (so initially, mainly Polish people who were resisting the occupation, and later gypsies and Jewish people). It was designed as a work camp, with the prisoners sent out of the prison to work, marching to the nearby factories. As the war progressed, the inmates were gradually starved, abused and finally executed.

Auschwitz is now a museum, and although it’s possible to visit alone, there is more opportunity if you have a guide. When we arrived, we had our bags checked (you can’t take much more than a bottle of water and sunglasses inside) and were given headphones. These connected to a microphone which our guide spoke into, making it easy to hear him, so there was not a general cacophony of noise with various guides all trying to out-shout each other. It also meant that when I wanted to simply think and absorb what I was seeing, I could turn him off (though that probably wasn’t the plan). We did though have to follow the route that the guide chose.

We were taken to the extermination block: Block 4. We filed inside, squashed on all sides by people from around the world, a murmur of other languages, cameras in hands, bags slung on shoulders. The building smelt clean, but of bodies—a bit like a school. The stairs were dipped, worn down by thousands of feet—but during the war, these buildings were relatively new, it is tourists’ feet that have worn things down.

The block has been set up like a museum, with display boards and signs and maps and photographs. (The photographs were found by chance, by a little girl after the war, and were taken by German photographers.) The map showed how people from all over the occupied world were sent to Auschwitz. In 1942, the inmates changed to being mainly Jewish, and it became a death camp. The numbers are so big they begin to lose their meaning. The local town became full of German families, moving into the area.

The displays explained facts from both prisons (Auschwitz 2 is much larger). It showed how the Jewish people had been told that they were being relocated, and they paid to buy tickets to Auschwitz. They were told how much they were allowed to bring: up to 25kg of stuff, and we saw displays of their possessions. What, I wonder, would you pack if told to relocate with only what you could carry? There were scissors, and rolling pins, pots and cutlery. On arrival, people were told to leave their bags and go to be disinfected. We saw heaps of their luggage, briefcases and baskets. There was another display of their clothes—a child’s clothing was displayed in a glass case; the clothes were handmade and I wondered who had knitted the socks, who had sewn the trousers? Another display was heaped with shoes, most of which looked faded and dusty, but you could still see fashionable sandals, and fancy heels, and children’s shoes scattered at the front. The inmates were shaved, and there was a display of their hair, faded grey now, and matted with time, so it more resembles old wool than human hair. It was used to make blankets and socks for the war effort. There was a display of crutches and false limbs, which made you realise the scale of the operation, and made you wonder how it felt to relinquish these last, necessary, items. There were shaving brushes, and hairbrushes, and brushes (like my dad had when I was young) for polishing shoes. One display was given to prayer shawls.

After being shaved and showered, the prisoners were given uniforms—the blue striped pyjamas that we recognise from films. This was their only uniform, so if they couldn’t wait to go to the washrooms (only allowed toilet visits morning and evening) or if it got muddy, it stayed dirty. I guess that dirty, stinky, people are easier to dehumanise.

When they arrived, they gave their profession. It was best to be something useful (like a welder, or jeweller, or cook) rather than useless (like a lawyer or accountant—they were sent off to do hard labour).

We were taken (not my choice) to the ‘judgement block’. Some of the things were heard about were horrid, so I shan’t repeat them. We saw the wall where people were shot (I believe the original wall was destroyed, so this was reconstructed in the same place). This now has flowers and candles, with the Israeli flag flying behind it. People paused for a moment, some crossed themselves, couples held hands, people bowed their heads as if praying. It’s in a sunny courtyard, and we could hear birds singing, and the crunch of footsteps, and the murmur of guides’ voices. Then we walked, though the open wooden gates, away.

The next block was the one which I found the most affecting. It was simply showing home-movies, taken before the war. As the images flickered on the walls: a child learning to ride a bike, a family swimming, a school concert—you remembered that the people who died here had lives which were not so dissimilar to our lives today. This did not happen hundreds of years ago in a strange land. This was Europe, less than a lifetime ago.

Auschwitz 1 was where the first experiments with gas were undertaken. Zyklon B was used before the war, as a disinfectant. It is blue/grey pellets, and was sent to the camps in tins. I won’t describe how the Nazis refined their techniques, because it was horrible, but they eventually built a concrete gas chamber, and it still stands today.

As we were about to enter, our guide pointed out the corner of a house, next to the camp. This is where Rudolf Höss lived with his family. I cannot imagine raising my children in such a place (clearly what the book The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was exploring.) We looked at the flat-roofed concrete building used as a gas chamber, and went inside.

There was an outer room, where people would undress (because undressing a corpse is difficult). There were drains in the floor, it was dimly lit, everything was concrete. We shuffled forwards in the line of people, into the main room. Concrete floor, concrete walls, concrete ceiling. There were scratches on the walls (don’t think about it) and drains in the floor and holes in the roof where the gas was added. I expected to feel upset, or claustrophobic, or frightened, but I didn’t. If it reminded me of anything, it brought back memories of changing in a damp concrete changing room at the swimming pool at Letchworth—not a nice place, but still just a place. I didn’t feel the echoes of the people who had gone before, I don’t think their ghosts have lingered.

Then we walked into the area used as a crematorium. There were rails and turnstiles on the floor for efficient moving of heavy bodies, and large brick-built ovens. As we stood, in silence, thinking, a woman started to weep; the only sound was of her sniffs. I touched her arm, and she clung, briefly, to me, needing the comfort of another human. I have no idea whether we speak the same language, but we are both human, and that was all that mattered—which is sort of the point of visiting this place, trying to grasp how humans could lay aside their humanity so easily. One of the saddest things I saw was the photographs of the Nazi soldiers; they were young people. They didn’t look evil, they just looked like the young people who I know and love. How could this have happened?

We went to Auschwitz 2. I will describe it for you tomorrow. Why not sign up to follow my blog so you don’t miss it?

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Kraków

We were in Kraków for the Dragon Festival. I didn’t even know there was a dragon festival in Kraków, so in case you are as ignorant as me, here is a little history:

Long ago, in the caves under the castle, there lived an evil dragon. The people weren’t too keen on this, as it ate their sheep and children, so they wanted someone to kill it. One day Krak, a lowly shoemaker, managed to entice the dragon to eat a sheep full of gunpowder, so the dragon exploded. The king was so pleased, he allowed his daughter to marry Krak, and they lived happily ever after in the castle on the hill. The people settled around the base of the hill, and this became the city of Kraków (I have been unable to verify certain facts).

Each year, the city has a festival. There are fireworks across the river, and lasers, and giant dragon balloons, all accompanied by music. As our hotel was just opposite the river, we had a fabulous view, which was all rather unexpected and great fun. The next day, hoping to do some research, I walked up to the castle. There is a statue of the dragon, which breathes fire at certain times (I managed to just miss it in my photograph) and you can see his cave behind, which proves the story must be true.

 

I love Kraków. We walked through the markets, and bought donuts to eat (traditionally, these should be filled with marmalade, but we chose the plain sugar ones). The buildings are beautiful, there weren’t too many stag-dos, and the sun was shining. Eating is easy, as everywhere seems to be very clean, and cheaply priced, and friendly. We had a traditional meal at Sasiedzi one evening, when we sat under vines in the courtyard and ate by candlelight. The following night we ate at Galicyjska, which was a lovely restaurant in the cellar. It was beautiful, and my only wish was that we had bought Son 2 so he could finish all our leftovers!

The real reason for our trip, however, is rather more serious. We have planned a tour of Auschwitz. I’m not sure what to expect really, I will tell you tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.
Take care,
Love, Anne x

You can follow my blog at
anneethompson.com

 

Have you seen my latest book? The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary by Anne E Thompson

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Hong Kong New Territories (and a little politics)

Here’s another blog from Hong Kong. If you enjoy it, why not read The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary? It will make you laugh, and you can read it for free if you have a Kindle…

UK link here

From our hotel room, we can see across the city to the mountains. I wanted to visit those mountains, simply to see what was there, so we hired a car (not a hotel car, as that was about £100 an hour, but a car recommended by the concierge). The driver was very chatty, which was fun, as sometimes you learn more from the driver than from what you see. As we drove from the city, he said that lots of the apartments in Hong Kong were being bought as an investment by businessmen in mainland China. They don’t live there, or rent them out, they simply own them as an investment. He said that at night, whole floors of luxury apartment blocks are dark and unoccupied.

We approached the mountains, which are vast areas of wild, covered in trees. We asked if there are still wild animals—mountain lions and deer—which roam the forests. The driver laughed and informed us that Chinese people, “Eat anything with 4 legs except the table!” No animals left then… The mountains are wildlife parks, and people from the city hike in them. Previously, there had been some areas of farming, but all food is now imported.

We drove to Lok Ma Chau Garden. This is a small, peaceful garden full of butterflies (and a weird man who was doing something strange). It has wonderful views, across a marsh, to the tower-blocks in China. It’s very close to the border, and the main road actually crosses the border, so we had to drive a clever route (as we don’t have Chinese visas).

We then tried to visit Sha Lo Tung, which is described in our guidebook as a beautiful abandoned village in the mountains. I think our guidebook is out of date. The roads there have pretty much disappeared, and we ended up driving along narrow tracks, up the side of the mountain, with huge potholes, and sheer drops on one side. I worried the car would be damaged, or that we’d get stuck. It was more exciting than we’d planned. Eventually, we found the village, which was more of a ghost town than described. It was wonderfully isolated, and you could see the remains of paddy fields, and tumbled down buildings, and overgrown shrubs. There were lots of hikers (the roads were better designed for hikers than cars) and a whole array of emergency services arrived because someone had become dehydrated and was unable to walk back. (At least, that’s what they told us—but we’re foreign, and they’re Chinese—they wouldn’t have told us if there had been an accident or crime; I admit to being sceptical that a dehydrated hiker would merit a fire-engine, an ambulance, and 2 police cars, but perhaps I have a suspicious mind.)

Our driver told us that people in Hong Kong love Donald Trump (he might not have been speaking for everyone, of course). He explained that: “My enemy’s enemy is my friend.” The politics of Hong Kong are complicated—brace yourself for a lesson:

The British were ‘given’ Hong Kong Island during the Opium Wars (see previous blog—the British behaved appallingly). Under British rule, it became a thriving trading centre, and the British asked for extra land to support the infrastructure, and so were given Kowloon (up to Boundary Road). As the city developed, so more resources were needed, so China leased the New Territories to the British for 99 years, ending in 1997. As the end of the lease grew near, the British tried to renegotiate, but the Chinese government refused to discuss (according to our driver). The islands of Hong Kong, and Kowloon, were unable to function without the resources on the New Territories—for example, the dam that provided all the electricity was there. Therefore, when 1997 arrived, China took control of both the New Territories and Hong Kong, promising that nothing would change for a set period of time (50 years). They operate a ‘one country, two systems’ policy, which will end in 2047. The people who live in Hong Kong are very bitter about this (at least, our driver was, despite being Chinese ethnicity, he does not want to be part of mainland China). At the moment, there is little discernible difference in the present Hong Kong with the pre-1997 one, but people are worried that this will change, and free trade and free movement and free speech will start to be restricted.

Politics aside, Hong Kong is a wonderful place to visit. We arrived home to hatching eggs—I’ll tell you about that next week.

Thanks for reading.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

Thanks for reading.
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The Bun Festival

We caught a ferry to Chuang Chau from Pier 5 on Hong Kong Island. We had a choice—a slow ferry which takes an hour, or a fast ferry which takes 40 minutes. We went with the slow boat, and sat on hard seats next to an open window, enjoying the view as we rattled our way through the water (it’s not a new boat). The seats were comfy, and clean enough, though it’s important to choose your neighbours carefully, as an hour in front of a screaming toddler or a loud old man or a group of noisy teenagers, is a very long hour. The ferry has several signs – signs telling you not to smoke, and to remain seated, and that gambling is forbidden. I have seen the last sign several times since we’ve been in Hong Kong, gambling is clearly a thing here.

Hong Kong is a busy port, and we passed huge container ships, and tugs, and fishing boats of all sizes. It was a cloudy day, and many of the islands were hidden in the mist.

Cheung Chau greeted us with colour and bustle and noise, there was something exciting in the air as we approached.

May is the bun festival, and as we left the pier we could see stall after stall selling buns, and the quay was lined with bright flags, and everyone was in party mood. The buns are white, and round, and stamped with various characters (Chinese script)—they said things like ‘wealth’ or ‘peace’ or ‘good luck’. If you looked behind the stalls, you could watch people making the buns, tray after tray being put into ovens, or stamped with the character, or put into boxes ready to be sold. People were buying them to take home, or to eat straight away, and there were several flavours: sesame, or red bean paste, or lotus bean. People walked along the street eating them, browsing the stalls and shops crowded with trinkets and gifts. There were also bun-shaped mementoes, we bought a bun-shaped cushion and a fridge magnet.

Now, you might be wondering, why buns? I’m not entirely sure, but the festival is related to one of the island’s gods, Pak Tai. In the early 1800’s, there was a plague, and the people believed that Pak Tai saved the island from this plague. In return, they offered mountains of buns to the resident ghosts. (To be honest, I’m not sure why they offered buns—it’s a fishing island, so offering fish would have made more sense—perhaps they thought the ghosts liked buns. I’m also not sure why they offered them to the ghosts, and not to Pak Tai. But anyway, that’s the only explanation that I found.) Every year, the island holds a bun festival to remember that they were saved from the plague. They make huge towers of buns, and the children climb them. Except, fairly recently, there have been some horrid accidents, so now some health and safety regs have been put in place, so the bun towers are built on a solid structure, and the climbers wear harnesses.

We wandered up to the Pak Tai temple. There were bun towers being constructed. There was also a stage, with a Chinese opera, which we watched for a few minutes. If I’m honest, a few minutes of Chinese opera is long enough for me—I don’t really enjoy it. There were also washrooms. (Note, when travelling in China, the Buddhist temples always have the nicest, cleanest, toilets…Christians should take note of this and try to keep up.)

We bought ice-creams, and wandered back to the quay to watch the fishing boats. Then we crossed the island again, and looked at the beach. There’s a net, to stop the sharks eating the swimmers. (When I was in Hong Kong a few years ago, with a friend who lives here, I asked her if shark attacks were common. “Oh no,” she said, “Only about 3 swimmers a year are eaten.” I think the net is a good idea.)

We passed a school, with cute children in uniform running to meet their friends. Cheung Chau is a very normal place, you can see lots of ‘real life’ as well as all the touristy bits.

It was a lovely day, and there were plenty of ferries, so when we’d seen enough we went back to Kowloon (taking care not to gamble on the ferry).

Afterwards, I worried about the cushion we had bought – is it ‘wrong’ to have things from other religions in the house? Is it rude to God? I don’t think I would want a Buddha, or a Hindu statue in my home, but did a bun-shaped cushion matter? If I believe that God is the only God (which I do) then I should be careful not to ‘hedge my bets’ by also having lucky talisman. I decided that it was fine. For me, it represents a happy day out, and an interesting tourist sight, it has no ‘religious’ or ‘lucky’ connotations for me. Perhaps it worries me because it’s unfamiliar. There are symbols from other religions that are familiar, and I never worry about those—for example, every year I have a Christmas tree in my house, yet those came from the sun god Balder (for me, they are simply part of the Christmas tradition). I also will give and receive Easter eggs, but I never think they will increase fertility, nor do I worry that they originated from Eastex, the pagan goddess. My bun cushion has the Chinese character for ‘peace’ on it, which is not a bad thing to have written on a cushion, and it is a cushion, nothing else.

Thanks for reading, remember not to gamble on your way to work. Take care.

Love, Anne x

Thanks for reading.
You can follow my blog at:
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If you enjoyed this, why not read my travel book? It makes a nice gift too… (you can read it for free if you have a Kindle.)

 

The Star Ferry to Central

The Star Ferry to Central

One of the iconic images of Hong Kong is the Star Ferry, going backwards and forwards between Central (the main Hong Kong Island district) and Kowloon (the part of Hong Kong that joins mainland China if you cross the mountains). When you come to Hong Kong, you sort of have to go on the Star Ferry, even though the islands are actually linked by a very efficient underground train service.

We bought our tickets using the ticket machines on the pier. It costs the equivalent of 27p, and the ticket is a round plastic token, which you then use to open the turnstile. When the ferry is ready to board, there are signs and traffic lights, and you walk along walkways that rise and fall with the tide, and onto the boat. The crossing only takes a few minutes, and gives good photo opportunities of both sides of the water.

When you arrive at Central you are greeted with palm trees and Peruvian buskers. (I am guessing that the Peruvian buskers are not always there, but they were on this trip, and they were on my last visit about 6 years ago, so I am going to include them as a fixture.)

You leave the ferry terminal via walkways that cross the roads. These go through posh hotels and shopping malls full of designer shops, so you can walk a long way without leaving the walkways, through perfumed cool air. It’s not very real, but it’s more comfortable than the air outside.

We popped into the Mandarin Oriental while we were there—just because we’ve stayed there on previous visits and I love the smell of place, and the fancy chocolate shop and the comfy sofas in reception. It has an atmosphere of luxury (though again, not very real). Previously, I have always stayed in hotels in Central. However, I now much prefer staying on Kowloon, as it’s easier to find real life, and to glimpse real people bustling in real markets.

We saw old trams, which seem more high and more narrow than trams in other cities, and the old colonial buildings that cluster near to the where the water used to be (but they have now reclaimed so much land, that it has all shuffled back a bit from the water’s edge). We passed HSBC, which is guarded by two lions—they have very shiny paws because people rub them for luck.

The weather was dry, but humid and very hot—not at all comfortable; I don’t know how people managed to be wearing suits.

We returned to Kowloon, and paid 5p extra to sit on the top deck (can’t accuse my husband of being mean). It was dusk when we returned, and the junks had their big red sails illuminated, which was very pretty—they looked like giant red butterflies gliding over the water. The Star Ferry is slightly more prosaic, with hard seats and men who shout, but I prefer it.

We ate at The Night Market restaurant in Elements mall again. We’ve eaten here every evening so far, and the staff all laugh when they see us. But the food is really good, especially for me (am a very anxious eater when abroad because am so often ill)—it’s freshly cooked, comes quickly to the table so is piping hot, and everything is very clean and efficient. We are gradually working our way through the menu, and today I chose noodles, which were basically long spaghetti (no idea how you’re meant to eat that with chopsticks, I made a mess). The dim sum is my absolute favourite, you can’t beat a soup-filled dumpling!

Hope you eat well today. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the bun festival.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

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