Hong Kong Top 5

So our Asian adventures have come to an end. Though I’m very happy to be home, I’m also feeling an inkling of sadness over having left the city of Hong Kong. Admittedly, Kelvin and I have both grumbled at one thing (people walking really slowly because they’re on their phones) or another (a general lack of service at regular restaurants), but there are also things that we really enjoyed about our time in Hong Kong. We loved the ease of transit and travel and the extensive underground and overground passageways. We marvelled at the baby changing facilities at some of the larger malls. We really liked our brief but wondrous car ride from Mong Kok back to Wan Chai. Beyond seeing friends and eating good food, these were the top 5 highlights from our time in Asia’s world city. 

  

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens 
Albany Road, Central, Hong Kong

Though known for its in fathomable density, Hong Kong actually boasts a fair number of parks. One such park that we really enjoyed was the Zoological and Botanical Gardens. Set on a hill just south of the Central MTR station, this little gem is home to a variety of birds and primates, including a family of orangutans! 

Visions 2050: Lifestyle and the City
Kowloon Park, Haiphong Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

We stumbled upon this completely at random. After lunch at Australian Dairy Company, we decided to walk through Kowloon Park to get to Harbour City. I’m drawn to all things related to urban design and architecture, so naturally the signage for this exhibit at the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre piqued my interest. It was a small-ish but truly fascinating exhibit looking at all facets of life in Hong Kong’s past, present, and future. Through a whole slew of different media, individuals depicted the Hong Kong they know and the Hong Kong they envision. I could have spent double the amount of time there, but alas crying babies are not conducive to leisurely perusing. 

  

Hiking on Lamma Island

Kelvin’s one request for the Hong Kong portion of this trip was that he wanted to do a hike. We decided to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a slower-paced excursion on Lamma Island. We took the ferry from Central to Yung Shue Wan and embarked on a morning-long walk across the island. We saw beaches, pavilions, and even visited Hong Kong’s only wind turbine. There were very steep sections but also some very flat, scenic ones. We ended up at Sok Kwu Wan, where we ate our lunch of Chinese bakery foods before heading on the ferry for home.  

  
Hong Kong Museum of History

Museums are always a great option for us when we are travelling. What’s even better – this place provides free admission on Wednesdays! We loved learning about the history of Hong Kong from virtually the beginning of time until present day. It was amazing to see the quality of some of the exhibits! The Museum of Science is also right next door, which we will hopefully get to next time. 

Star Ferry

Last but not least, we loved taking the Star Ferry. Riding it at night allowed us to see Hong Kong in all its brightness and glory. Plus it made for such an easy (and cost-effective) trip from TST back to our hotel. 

We stayed at the Novotel Century Hong Kong the whole 6 nights we were there, as we did when we last went to Hong Kong. Kelvin is very fond of their breakfast (especially the pancake making machine) and we all love the location. If and when we return to Hong Kong, we will likely stay there again. 

  

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48.

A quick post from a fast-paced city. 

We’ve been in Asia virtually since my last weekly Andy update and it has been a blast. Adjusting to the time change was rough for Andy (and subsequently brutal for us), but he’s gotten into a good rhythm now. If we happen to be out when he is due to head to bed, he just falls asleep in the carrier.

He’s been a huge hit with our extended relatives – especially his great-grandparents in Manila! They love that he eats a lot, and they laugh every time he refuses his sippy cup. Andy has definitely been showered with some serious love over the past few days. His appetite has kept up with ours (at times surpassing it) and we are so thankful he remains healthy and happy on our travels. 

  
Despite a busy schedule, we have managed to have some family downtime every day. Andy is hilarious during these times, probably because he gets to stretch his legs and feels uninhibited. He can act a little loopy during these moments, rolling around the bed and giggling heartily at he strangest things. 

  
We will be in Hong Kong for the next week, and he will be meeting my grandparents tomorrow. Here’s to more fun!

The Grit and Glamour of Air Travel

When you think about it, it’s unbelievable the distances that we can travel nowadays. Places that even a few generations ago seemed inconceivably far can now be reached by spending a handful of hours in a floating metal tube. But air travel isn’t all pretty – especially when you’ve been cooped up for 16+ hours. Here were some of the nice and not-so-nice moments from our recent flights.

Glamour: LOUNGE access complete with hot shower facilities, laksa and sesame balls. And lots of Andy-friendly food as pictured below. 

  

Grit: the state of once-clean bathrooms by the end of a direct YYZ > HKG flight


Glamour:
the baby set-up on Cathay Pacific, complete with bassinet, diaper care package, and baby food set (now if only Andy would actually sleep in the bassinet)  
  

Grit: questionable airline food. Especially when you see where it comes from in the galleys. 

Glamour: personal entertainment devices and catching up on fairly recent releases

Grit: having those same entertainment devices about 10 inches from your face because the person in front of you has reclined back so far

On the whole, our flight from Toronto to Hong Kong was quite smooth. Andy didn’t sleep all that much, but he was in really good spirits still. And I sat beside a really nice couple from Niagara who are chicken farmers and had a connecting 10-hour flight to Auckland prior to getting on a cruise. They were the best.

The Best of 2015

After having read this post by a blogger I follow, I thought it fitting to follow suit and reflect on the top 15 things/moments/experiences of 2015. Some of these were huge things, others more mundane, but altogether these made my year.

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Our first visit to the Tett and the Isabel. These were actually two separate occasions, but they’re in the same complex and together make up Kingston’s newest creativity hub. We went to watch the KSO play at the Isabel in February, then attended the Tett grand opening this May. I still can’t believe we have such amazing spaces in our city.

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Andy’s birth this March. Hands down the biggest event of the year. This little guy has changed our life forever, and we could not be more thankful for him.

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Having my poem featured on GOODJust for fun, I participated in a little poetry challenge online. I wrote an acrostic poem on parenthood.

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Winning a ticket to the 21CLI conference in Hong Kong via #whatisschool. For the last year or so I’ve been really into twitter chats as part of my own professional development. I’m really excited to attend this conference in February 2016.

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Watching the Jays vs. the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Kelvin had a work meeting down in Houston this May, so we made it a family affair. How we came to actually attend this game was pretty random, but it was definitely one of the most memorable, electric experiences of the year.

The Live Sent sermon series. We are blessed with an amazing pastoral team at our church, and this sermon series really challenged us to think about the vision of our church and how we are to go about our daily lives missionally as people of faith.

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Witnessing the marriages of some of our good friends. It is a joy to share life with those around us, and it was an absolute honour for us to have had the opportunity this year to see so many of our friends commit to serving and loving each other for the rest of their lives. These weddings took us far and wide, from within Canada, to the States, and even to Spain.

Joining the KFPL board. I talk about our local library system a lot. I absolutely love what they’re doing. I’ve always enjoyed taking on new roles, and this is one that I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s only been a few months and already I’m learning so much about governance and about the shifting role of libraries today.

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Moving into our new house. This August, we ventured to the edge of suburbia for a little more breathing room. It’s been an adjustment, but we are settling in nicely and really loving making the space our own.

Planning my very first Edcamp here in Kingston. Ever since attending my first edcamp in 2011, I’ve been wanting to host one here in town. With the time off from work, I was finally able to get it done! Hoping this will become a yearly event.

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Our trip to Europe. I could probably fill a top 15 list from this trip alone, but hands down this was one of our favourite vacations yet. There’s something other-worldly about Europe that is so hard to replicate here in North America. We spent time in Spain and in England, and though they couldn’t have been more different, we enjoyed them both.

Discovering podcasts. I know podcasts have been around for a long time, but I just started listening to them this fall. Now I can’t stop. I listen to them all the time. Here are some faves.

Reading Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavour. This book has really broadened my understanding of what it means to integrate faith and work. I’ve loved the discussions that have come out of this, and I cannot wait to finish it with our small group.

Finally subscribing to Darling. This was one of my treats to myself on Black Friday. I fully support the mandate of Darling and I am so happy that  it now comes to my mailbox every 3 months. Pages and pages of goodness that truly feed my soul.

Netflix with Kelvin after Andy goes to sleep. One of my favourite times of day (other then going to sleep) is when Kelvin and I get to hang out, cook dinner, eat, and watch a show together. We’ve worked our way through lots, including Selling New York and Worst Cooks of America.

And there you have it – the Top 15 of 2015. Here’s to reflecting on an amazing year, and looking forward to the next one!

London, England

This post is long overdue. It’s been two weeks since we got back from Europe, and with no written journal to recount our days, I will have to rely on my increasingly poor memory to complete this entry.

Let me start off by saying I love London. If not for this city, I would likely not be alive. Literally. My parents met while studying at the University of London, and I will have you know that on our trip back in 2007, they essentially walked us through their college years. Right down to where my dad would park his motorcycle when they went to Chinatown.  
We flew easyjet from Barcelona to London. There is definitely no shortage of cheap cross-Europe airlines, but my mom recommended it to us. They kill you with checked bag fees, but alas, ’tis life.  We paid for two checked bags when we really only needed one (I didn’t want to run the risk of having to pay more for the bag at the airport). Oh well. We know now for next time.


While we were in town, we stayed at this AirBnB on Sloane Avenue. The location was perfect – short walk to either South Ken tube station or Sloane Square and a Sainsbury just across the street. We loved having a home base from which to enjoy the sights, and the biggest plus was having our own bedroom separate from Andy.

What to See

We took Gatwick Express from the airport to Central London, and with that we were able to access the London 2FOR1 deals. Buy one get one free for certain admissions and food across the city. That was amazing. One place we visited with the deal was the London Transport Museum. Kelvin and I love taking transit whenever we travel, so this place was a dream. We only had 45 minutes to explore, since we got to the Covent Garden area so late, but what we did see was awesome! It was amazing to see how transportation has changed since the beginning of the city’s development, and we loved all the Transport for London paraphernalia! We may or may not have spent a really long time perusing the store afterwards to find the right poster to take home as a souvenir…

Also with the London 2FOR1 deals, we visited the Globe Theatre. I’ve actually been here three times, and this is the first time we were able to go inside and see it! They often have afternoon shows, so if you want to take the tour, I’d definitely try to make it to Southwark in the morning. We took the tube to Blackfriars and then walked across Millennium Bridge to get here. We really enjoyed this tour and I would highly recommend this whether you like Shakespeare or not. We had a super awesome tour guide and I learned so much about the context of Shakespeare’s plays and audience! If Andy was older, I think we would have opted to come back for a performance. Favourite fun fact: Fainting is a regular occurrence at their shows.

One thing that is amazing about London is that so many museums are free. Our favourite one would probably be the Natural History Museum, which we went to on Saturday morning before the lines got too crazy. The dinosaurs exhibit was packed, but it paled in comparison with the dinosaur collections at the ROM or at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. What was awesome was the new Darwin Centre – a space where visitors were able to see firsthand the work that happens behind the scenes at the museum. Everything from the labs to the specimen collections. Having done his degree in biology, this was probably Kelvin’s sightseeing highlight. He lingered at every stop, and it just seemed like everything resonated with him. What a fanboy.

London is also a place for just strolling and exploring. We walked through our share of Royal Parks. We saw Buckingham Palace. We made our way up and down Regent Street and into department stores (we were commissioned by my in-laws to locate some Magnum chocolate, which we found at Selfridges). We enjoyed the buskers at Covent Garden. We ventured all the way out to Canary Wharf and to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

(Side note: Going to the theatre is highly recommended as well – we just didn’t get a chance to this time around. Next time!)

Where to Eat

London is an amazing place to eat, but I’m just going to highlight our two favourites. The first was our Friday lunch at Borough Market. The market is London’s oldest, and the selection is just mindblowing. We ate from half a dozen different stands. Burgers, pasta, baked goods, sausage, shawarma…whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here. My suggestion? Scope out your options beforehand – don’t just jump at the first thing you see. Kelvin and I split up when we got to the market and when we reunited (thank goodness we found each other…we didn’t have each other’s UK cell numbers and our iMessages weren’t working…and the market is a labyrinth) all he could say was that he kept seeing people with burgers and he wanted one. This will happen to you with more than one dish, I promise. We bought a venison burger at this one stall and it was delicious.

Hands down our favourite meal on this trip was at Dishoom. They have multiple locations, but we went to the one near Covent Garden (can you tell that we were around Covent Garden a lot?). Kelvin and I love Indian food and this was well worth the 75 minute wait. Or it might have been 90 minutes… The atmosphere was electric and the food was exquisite. Andy also fell asleep partway through the meal, so it made our experience that much more enjoyable. You can’t really go wrong with anything on the menu, but you must get the calamari. You will not regret it. And have the chai.  

One of the nice things about visiting London is seeing family. My dad’s sister and her family are still in the UK, so we met them in Chinatown for dim sum. It was really nice to wrap up our European getaway by sharing a meal with them. Plus we got to meet my cousin’s little toddler, who we were told was so excited to meet her cousin (Andy) that she couldn’t sleep! I don’t know that Andy lived up to her expectations, though. She barely talked to him the whole meal! Maybe she didn’t realize that he would be a baby. And that he wouldn’t be able to talk…

And there you have it, London in a nutshell. Until next time, London…

The Beauty of the Spanish Seaside

So after our two nights in Barcelona, we headed southwest a short distance along the Spanish coast to attend the wedding of some friends from university (our first transatlantic destination wedding!). Navigating the renfe website prior to this was a total nightmare, plus you can’t book tickets ahead of time for every ride, so we opted just to go to Barcelona-Sants and buy our tickets in person. For less than 9€ each, we were on our way to Altafulla-Tamarit. 

It took us about an hour to get there, and about halfway in, it dawned on us that we were in for a beautiful time. The city gave way to the sea, and the train wove in and out of mountains and valleys. I wish I could have take pictures, but alas I was nursing Andy for the majority of the trip. After arriving at Altafulla-Tamarit station, we walked the few minutes to our hotel. And what a beautiful hotel it was. We had a view of the courtyard, and had it been a tad warmer (or had the pool been heated), we would have plunged in for a dip that afternoon. 

  

Instead, we decided to walk down to the beach, to Carrer Botigues de Mar, for a leisurely stroll towards Tamarit. 

 

The walk reminded us of our time in Newport Beach, except that it was off season so not many of the villas were rented. We headed to the end of the beach before turning around and strolling back. We visited Villa Romana dels Munts (well, we walked up a hill to a dead end street where we could see it all) and then enjoyed a wonderful beachside dinner with the other guest of the wedding. 
The next morning, we decided to visit Tarragona and see some of its sights. We took a ridiculously expensive taxi ride to Pont del Diable, a Roman aqueduct a short distance north of Tarragona. It was amazing to see the architectural feat they accomplished…

 …and even to be able to walk across it!
  
To save ourselves some money, we decided to take the bus back into town. It was actually really easy – we took the 85 (you could also take the 5) bus from right off the highway and it wound its way through Sant Salvador back into Tarragona. And it cost us less than 2€ each. We saw the Mediterranean Balcony, their version of Las Ramblas, and the beautiful Roman amphitheatre they’ve preserved. The city is absolutely stunning, and had we had more time, we definitely would have wanted to see more. 

    

And this brings us to the real reason we came to Europe – the wedding! The whole occasion took place at the beautiful Castell de Tamarit, and MAN were we blown away. 

 
I mean, look at that ceremony venue! Does it get any more perfect? (I will have you know that that pool is strictly for looks. We asked repeatedly whether swimming was permitted, and much to the dismay of some guests, it was not.) 

There were a number of little courtyards and spaces (and come to think of it, we never actually stepped into the castle itself) that we got to enjoy while eating more than a dozen hors d’oeuvres. Below the cliffs and walls, people lounged on the public beach, which beckoned to us. 

  
Looking up, the castle was just stunning.    

The dinner venue was no less magical. 

 At the end of the night, we were pooped, but also filled with the beauty of the people and environment that we were surrounded by. 

The next morning, reluctantly, we packed up our things and headed back on the train to Barcelona. Once more, we whizzed by the seaside, surrounded by many more people this time. Old ladies on their way into the city, students heading to another town for class, businessmen presumably going to work or catching a flight. 

Arriving back into Sants, we took another train to the airport, and after a two hour delay (thank you, French air controller strike), we were on or way to London. 

30.

Has it been 30 weeks already??

I’m going to keep this post short, as it is almost midnight here in London and my head has already hit my pillow (yes I know it’s terrible, but we both bring our phones into bed). The past week has been wonderful, though Andy’s sleep routine has been atrocious. We are loving spending time in Europe and the more we see in London, the more excited we are for when Andy is bigger and able to actually understand what he is seeing. We went to the natural history museum today and Kelvin and I kept talking about how cool it would be if Andy loved science. 

There are times when Andy is super squirmy or when he cries so hard it sounds like he’s yelling. That happened on the tube yesterday and it was not pretty. All in all, though, good times. 

Here are some pictures from around London. 

  

  

  

Barcelona, Spain

Hola from Spain! So I’ve attempted to finish this post about Barcelona on a number of occasions, and alas here I am, writing it as I wait at the airport for our flight to London, which has been delayed. A post on the second half of our Spain leg will have to wait. 

First off, let me just put it out there. Whenever you tell someone that you’re going to Barcelona, the thing that most often comes up is a story about one pickpocket experience or another. Thankfully, the policia has ramped up their security around the city, especially in places like La Ramblas. We’ve been pretty vigilant and my parents let us borrow their pacsafe backpack, so all has been well!

All that aside, Barcelona is truly a beautiful city and we’ve really enjoyed getting to know it over the last two days. We took a red eye flight (such a good idea – Andy slept really well) and arrived into the airport around 12:30 on Sunday. After no more than two words with the customs officer, we were released into Spain and all its glory. 

  
On our first day, we were a little lacking in sleep (good movies on the plane get us every time…) so we didn’t stay out too late. However, we did manage to get in a pedicab tour of the old city (loved meandering through narrow streets and into the Parc de la Ciutadella), a quick pop in to see the ruins at El Born, and some dinner. It was also a Sunday, so pretty much everything was closed anyways. 

 

We stayed at Le Meridien right on Las Ramblas, which was a perfect home base for us as we explored the city. Its proximity to Placa de Catalunya was perfect, and though we’d never stayed there before, it had an SPG familiarity that we have come to look for whenever we travel. 

Andy is a huge hit everywhere we go. He is not shy at all and he smiles at everyone who engages him (and for those who don’t engage him, he takes the initiative). On the bus turistic, he made friends with the other passengers, and when he wasn’t doing that, he tried to eat all the handholds (gross). 

  
Undoubtedly, having spent only one full day in Barcelona, we were able to see but a little portion of the city, but here are a few of the highlights from our trip so far.

Eat

bacoa universitat – just a few steps from Placa de Catalunya, this burger bar has a very North American feel to it, but with the most delicious burgers ever. Highly recommend the one with manchego cheese and caramelised onions!

Carmelitas – best tapas ever. We ordered all these seafood tapas and every single one was delicious. So was their tiramisu. If we had discovered this place earlier we may have had all our subsequent meals here. 

  

See

On our one full day, we opted for the hop on hop off (also purchased ahead of time online for 10% off) to bring us around to the sights. It was a beautiful day and we thoroughly enjoyed that open-air, rooftop seating. Plus if we sat in the right spot, we could see our stroller which needed to be stored on the main floor. They give you headphones for the onboard audio guide, through which you get more info about each of the places you’re passing. 

Sagrada Familia – I’d been here in 2007, but they’ve done quite a bit more work since then! We booked our tickets ahead of time (highly recommended) and opted not to get the audio guide. The entire structure awes you, and the way light is reflected into the cathedral is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Gaudi truly was a master architect inspired by nature. 

  
Montjuic – We paid for the teleferic (even with a 2€ discount it felt steep) and went for a walk at the top of the hill by the castle. We didn’t actually go into the castle, though one could for 5€/3€ (16-29 years. 

  
The best thing, really, is just walking around and enjoying the sights. There is so much to see and explore and so many little cafes that I wish I could while away my time in. Perhaps when we come to Spain next we will visit Port Vell and peruse some of the galleries and museums in the city. 

29.

We are en route to the airport! Our little family is heading to Europe for vacation and for a wedding and we are really excited! All three of us are battling different levels of illness but here’s hoping it won’t affect our plans too much. 

The week was a bit of a whirlwind, and between packing and poor sleep routines, not a whole ton got done. One big highlight, though: on Saturday, I completed one of my maternity leave goals – to host a community initiative

It’s crazy to think that we are now in October (though some would say it feels more like December right now). There are so many things we still want to do, like go to the corn maze, and pick apples, and eat pumpkin pie. Time is a-tickin’! By the time we return, October will be half over, and Andy will be seven months old!

Lately, he’s been really intrigued by cause and effect. He loves banging on the keyboard, rolling his little block cart around, and just this morning, he discovered that he could tip the laundry basket over. His fine motor skills are really developing, and he’s picked up this weird habit of looking intently at his right hand while he draws circles in the air with it. WEIRD. But all the weirdness aside, he is still as cute and sweet as ever. That’s something I need to remember when I am running on very little sleep and he is crying inconsolably. 

   

 
Oh, also, we bought Andy a hat from Roots. The same one that Kelvin has. And that I have. Now we can all match. It’ll be cute come winter. 

Alright, must try to keep Kelvin alert at the wheel with riveting conversation. Next week, we will be posting from London!