Eat Local: Vigan Empanadas, City of Vigan, Philippines

As we were touring the City of Vigan in the Philippines [see our previous blog post of the same name) enjoying colonial architecture, we passed by Irene’s Vigan Empanadas, a small hole in the wall café just beyond a well-preserved two-story house

As we were touring the City of Vigan in the Philippines [see our previous blog post of the same name) enjoying colonial architecture, we passed by Irene’s Vigan Empanadas, a small hole in the wall café just beyond a well-preserved two-story house

While exploring the City of Vigan by foot, we passed by Irene’s Vigan Empanada café.  For an afternoon snack, we headed back there to sample the Vigan empanadas.  They were prepared on a custom basis – we chose the pork empanadas [see the photo, below].  We thoroughly enjoyed them, noting a huge difference in having a crispy rice-flour shell, compared with the traditional wheat-flour pastry shells of Spanish empanadas.  Like our guide book, we would also recommend Irene’s!

 

“In between exploring the UNESCO-designated city of Vigan, make time to try the local Vigan empanada, sold by vendors on Calle Crisologo and in the surrounding streets.  The town’s signature delicacy starts with a shell made from a rice flour mixture that is hand-kneaded thinly on a banana leaf.  The filling is made with shredded papaya, grated carrots, bean sprouts, egg, and seasoned pork longganisa.  The empanada is deep-fried and served with Ilocos vinegar.  While pork longganisa is the traditional filling, many cooks add their own creative spin and make them with beef, chicken, crab, and bagnet.  Vegetarian varieties are also available.  Locals eat empanadas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack.  A 40year tradition, Irene’s Vigan Empanada is one of the best places to enjoy one of these savory snacks.” – The World In Currimao, Philippines

 

The late afternoon shadows gave the entrance to Irene’s Vigan Empanadas a sinister appearance -- but when we came back to try some empanadas, we were pleasantly surprised by the café’s coziness and the friendliness of the staff

As we were touring the City of Vigan in the Philippines [see our previous blog post of the same name) enjoying colonial architecture, we passed by Irene’s Vigan Empanadas, a small hole in the wall café just beyond a well-preserved two-story house

Here the chef is preparing a Vigan Empanada from scratch on a banana leaf; once the rice-flour dough is filled, it is fried for a few minutes in the fryer, City of Vigan, Philippines

Here the chef is preparing a Vigan Empanada from scratch on a banana leaf; once the rice-flour dough is filled, it is fried for a few minutes in the fryer that is behind, and lower down than the selection of cooked empanadas, City of Vigan, Philippines

 

Although it was only mid-afternoon, a number of patrons were enjoying snacks of Vigan Empanadas at Irene’s in the City of Vigan, Philippines

Although it was only mid-afternoon, a number of patrons were enjoying snacks of Vigan Empanadas at Irene’s in the City of Vigan, Philippines

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2020 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

TWA Hotel, John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, NY, USA

“The TWA Hotel now occupies Eero Saarinen’s stupendously restored 1962 TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport, midcentury modernism’s great tribute to sex, adventure and the golden age of air travel”

“The TWA Hotel now occupies Eero Saarinen’s stupendously restored 1962 TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport, midcentury modernism’s great tribute to sex, adventure and the golden age of air travel”, New York, NY, USA – text credit The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/01/travel/twa-hotel-jfk.html; photo credit: http://www.twahotel.com

 

We enjoyed 10 days on the East Coast of the U.S. with our children and grandchildren for the Thanksgiving holiday period, and decided our last night in the New York City area to spend the night at the recently opened TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy Airport.  While we had read very favorable reviews about the refurbishment of the old TWA Flight Center terminal at Kennedy and knew that two new building wings were constructed for the soundproof guest rooms, our experience far exceeded expectations.  So much so that we would recommend the hotel for anyone flying out of JFK on an early morning flight (to avoid the long and nerve-wracking drive) or arriving late afternoon or evening and wanting to relax before heading into Manhattan or another destination in the New York area the next morning (after rush hour).  Our stay was too short to take advantage of either the roof-top swimming poor or the expansive, well equipped gym, but both look terrific – unexpected amenities at an airport hotel.  The gym, in fact, is open to day visitors (including those with a long layover at JFK between flights).

 

The entrance to the former TWA Flight Center (terminal) is now the entrance to the TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

The entrance to the former TWA Flight Center (terminal) is now the entrance to the TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA; note the split flap departures board with TWA flights from the 60s – the first departing flight was nostalgic for me, as my hometown growing up was Jacksonville, Florida!

 

“The new TWA Hotel is a seven-story split structure that humbly perches behind Eero Saarinen’s Jet Age landmark, the TWA Flight Center, at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. Designed by Brooklyn-based firm Lubrano Ciavarra Architects, the glass-clad building features 512 rooms, a rooftop infinity pool, and a 10,000-square-foot observation deck that looks out over incoming international flights in Jamaica Bay.  It’s these things and more that have allowed the revered terminal to reopen as the hotel’s lobby and reception after being closed to the public for over 18 years.” — https://archpaper.com/2019/05/

 

The former terminal check-in area is now the hotel check-in area – now heavily automated with guest self-check-in on computer screens; TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

The former terminal check-in area is now the hotel check-in area – now heavily automated with guest self-check-in on computer screens; TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

 

Set in the iconic former TWA flight center designed by architect Eero Saarinen, this chic airport hotel on the grounds of John F. Kennedy International Airport features soundproofed floor-to-ceiling windows.  The stylish, retro rooms come with complimentary Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs, plus minifridges, safes and fully stocked cocktail bars.  Some have airport views.  There’s a sleek 1960s-inspired bar, a food hall with grab-and-go options, and a celebrity chef-helmed restaurant/cafe.  Amenities include a 10,000-sq-ft gym, meeting space, and an outdoor pool with runway views.

 

Outside the terminal (hotel) entrance there is a vintage Lincoln Continental parked for nostalgia – inside the terminal (hotel) by the snack and coffee stand is a 1960s Chrysler; TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

Outside the terminal (hotel) entrance there is a vintage Lincoln Continental parked for nostalgia – inside the terminal (hotel) by the snack and coffee stand is a 1960s Chrysler; TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

 

The central area of the former TWA terminal, now the TWA Hotel, opens up to the check-in area, the snack and coffee stand, the restaurant, lounge and special exhibits areas; JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

The central area of the former TWA terminal, now the TWA Hotel, opens up to the check-in area, the snack and coffee stand, the restaurant, lounge and special exhibits areas; JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

 

“In 2015 MCR, a New York development company led by Tyler Morse, won the right to lease the disused Flight Center and turn it into a hotel. Mr. Morse’s business owns and operates the High Line Hotel in Manhattan along with dozens of midrange chain hotels around the country. He saw TWA as a shrine for architecture buffs and a potential retreat for transients power-napping between flights. It lets guests rent rooms for the day as well as overnight.

“The room designs by the interior design firm Stonehill Taylor are crisp, compact and clean — pretend time capsules from 1962 — with brushed-brass fixtures, walnut paneling and floor-to-ceiling windows of 4.5-inch glass to keep out the sound of jet engines. Maybe I missed it, but I failed to locate a USB port. Each room is stocked with pole lamps, Saarinen tulip tables and womb chairs, martini glasses, cups of bright red TWA-embossed pencils and copies of Life magazine.” — www.nytimes.com/2019/07/01/travel/

 

Our grandchildren have no idea what these devices – wall-mounted pay telephones – are, or what they are used for; they can’t imagine not walking around with a telephone (and Internet computer) in your pocket, e.g., a smartphone

Our grandchildren have no idea what these devices – wall-mounted pay telephones – are, or what they are used for; they can’t imagine not walking around with a telephone (and Internet computer) in your pocket, e.g., a smartphone; TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

 

How many readers – yes, you! – know or remember what “TWISTER” was?; TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

How many readers – yes, you! – know or remember what “TWISTER” was?; TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

 

When Saarinen built the TWA Flight Center (terminal) at Idlewild Airport, two long concrete tubes like this one connected the main terminal to the airplane gates – today the tubes lead to the elevators of the hotel wings

When Saarinen built the TWA Flight Center (terminal) at Idlewild Airport, two long concrete tubes like this one connected the main terminal to the airplane gates – today the tubes lead to the elevators of the hotel wings and the Saarinen tunnel also leads directly to an elevator in the new Jet Blue Terminal 5; TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

 

“The room designs by the interior design firm Stonehill Taylor are crisp, compact and clean — pretend time capsules from 1962 — with brushed-brass fixtures, walnut paneling and floor-to-ceiling windows of 4.5-inch glass to keep out the sound of jets

“The room designs by the interior design firm Stonehill Taylor are crisp, compact and clean — pretend time capsules from 1962 — with brushed-brass fixtures, walnut paneling and floor-to-ceiling windows of 4.5-inch glass to keep out the sound of jet engines”, TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA; text credit The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/01/travel/twa-hotel-jfk.html

 

The desk in our room had a functioning rotary dial telephone (another device our grandchildren have never seen and have no idea what it does) along with snack items, along with a mini Etch-A-Sketch, for purchase; TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport

The desk in our room had a functioning rotary dial telephone (another device our grandchildren have never seen and have no idea what it does) along with snack items, along with a mini Etch-A-Sketch, for purchase; TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

 

The Sunken Lounge was returned to its original 1962 design, including the same historic shade of chili pepper red carpet and another split flap departures board in operation – it serves 1960s classic cocktails as well as the Royal Ambassador

The Sunken Lounge was returned to its original 1962 design, including the same historic shade of chili pepper red carpet and another split flap departures board in operation – it serves 1960s classic cocktails as well as the Royal Ambassador (Champagne, orange juice and Grand Marnier) which was once served to TWA passengers in gold-flecked glasses; TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

 

“Connie,” a 1958 TWA Lockheed Constellation L-1649A Starliner has been converted into a 60’s-era cocktail lounge, TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

“Connie,” a 1958 TWA Lockheed Constellation L-1649A Starliner has been converted into a 60’s-era cocktail lounge, TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

 

We enjoyed a nice dinner in the Jean-George Vongerichten Paris Café Restaurant, now occupying the space of the original Paris Café and Lisbon Lounge in the 1960s, TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

We enjoyed a nice dinner in the Jean-George Vongerichten Paris Café Restaurant, now occupying the space of the original Paris Café and Lisbon Lounge in the 1960s, TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

 

Enlarged reproductions of photos taken at the TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA and in the photo booth in the hotel lobby

Enlarged reproductions of photos taken at the TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA and in the photo booth in the hotel lobby

 

“Now & Then – Instant Photos:  The first photo booth – dubbed the Photomaton – opened in New York City in 1925 and soon became a sensation.  (Wait time for the ‘instant’ pics back then? About 10 agonizing minutes.)  By midcentury photo booths were everywhere.  Newlyweds John and Jackie Kennedy stepped behind the curtain to pose on their honeymoon, Marilyn Monroe used one of her 25 cent images as her passport photo and Andy Warhol took models to Times Square photo booths to sit for portraits that later appeared on a 1965 cover of TIME.

“Today, of course, mobile phones make it possible to carry a photo booth in your pocket.  Since the TWA Hotel opened on May 15, 2019, tens of thousands of visitors have snapped and shared their memorable moments.  [Including your blogger!]  Use some of our favorites as the backdrop for your own self-portrait — then grab some friends, hit the booth and try a few the old-fashioned way!” – sign at the TWA Hotel Photo Booth

 

Period TWA flight attendant uniforms – here from 1968-1971 by Dalton of America -- and flight bags are in one of several museum-quality exhibitions curated by the New York Historical Society at the TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport

Period TWA flight attendant uniforms – here from 1968-1971 by Dalton of America — and flight bags are in one of several museum-quality exhibitions curated by the New York Historical Society at the TWA Hotel, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

 

A lounge for hotel guests at the TWA Hotel, near the flight attendant uniforms exhibition, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

A lounge for hotel guests at the TWA Hotel, near the flight attendant uniforms exhibition, JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

 

“When was the last time you lingered for pleasure at Kennedy Airport? When was the last time you felt happy to be there? An architectural advertisement for the thrill of air travel at the sunny dawn of the jet age, Saarinen’s reincarnated terminal is an unavoidable reminder of just how sad and degrading the experience of flying has become, if you’re not rich.

“Some history: In 1955, the architect Wallace Harrison came up with a master plan for what was then called Idlewild Airport. It prescribed stand-alone terminals built and run by competing airlines encircling a traffic loop. The plan was a kind of recipe for architectural scene-stealing. During its early years, Kennedy boasted the world’s longest continuous cocktail lounge (in the since-demolished American Airlines terminal designed by Kahn and Jacobs), and Tippett-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton’s (now also sadly demolished) 1960 Worldport for Pan Am, the architectural analog to Marilyn Monroe’s billowing skirt in ‘The Seven Year Itch.’

“The 1950s and 60s were the days before airline deregulation, when the government still set ticket prices. So airlines competed not over who could offer the cheapest, no-frills fares but over who could offer the best-dressed flight attendants, the most scrumptious Chateaubriand on the plane and the best terminal experience. Back then, Howard Hughes’s TWA was the nation’s glamour carrier, the Veronica Lake of airlines. Hughes is said to have spent his five minutes with Saarinen demanding something truly out of this world — money being no object.

“Saarinen earned his spurs conjuring up a raft of rectilinear behemoths for big companies and swooping spectacles of sculptural engineering like the St. Louis Arch, Ingalls Hockey Rink at Yale and Dulles Airport in Washington. He was a chameleon and a master of corporate branding.

“For TWA, he seems to nod both toward Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp Chapel and the Las Vegas Strip. The building, an amazing feat of technological improvisation in the days before computer design, was a populist proto-emoji for flight, all free-flowing, liquid curves, improbably poised on four slender buttresses like a winged bird on skinny legs. Its sheer formal poetry kept the aviary and female allusions from tipping into kitsch. This was high modernism at its most seductive and crowd-pleasing.” — www.nytimes.com/2019/07/01/travel/

 

The TWA Flight Center architect, Eero Saarinen, on the cover of Time magazine in 1956 – famous before he won the commission to design and build the TWA Flight Center (terminal) [now the TWA Hotel] at JFK International Airport, New York

The TWA Flight Center architect, Eero Saarinen, on the cover of Time magazine in 1956 – famous before he won the commission to design and build the TWA Flight Center (terminal) [now the TWA Hotel] at JFK International Airport, New York, NY, USA

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Yuan Yuan Restaurant, Shanghai, China

Yuan Yuan Restaurant in the French Concession, Shanghai, China, is one of the premier, authentic Shanghainese restaurants in the city, where our Context Travel food tour guide knew the owner and staff

Yuan Yuan Restaurant in the French Concession, Shanghai, China, is one of the premier, authentic Shanghainese restaurants in the city, where our Context Travel food tour guide knew the owner and staff and ordered what she considered some of the highlight typical dishes of Shanghai

 

Following our walking tour of the Guangyuan Lu Market (a so-called “wet market” — 菜市场, cài shìchǎng) in the French Concession [see our previous blog post, “Shop local: Guangyuan Lu [‘wet’] Market, French Concession, Shanghai, China (2019)”, our guide from Context Travel tours walked us through the neighborhood, ending up at one of the premier, authentic Shanghainese restaurants in the city, Yuan Yuan Restaurant, where she knew the owner and staff.   With some input from our small group, she ordered what she considered some of the highlight typical dishes of Shanghai.  It was an excellent meal and opened out eyes to the diversity of ingredients and flavors in the local cuisine.

 

Crystal Shrimp (a local specialty), Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Crystal Shrimp (a local specialty), Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Tea-Smoked Duck, Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Tea-Smoked Duck, Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Red Braised Pork (a real signature dish of the city, alternatively available for locals as red braised eel), Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Red Braised Pork (a real signature dish of the city, alternatively available for locals as red braised eel), Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Local Dumplings, Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Local Dumplings, Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Eggplant with Pork, Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Eggplant with Pork, Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Rice Cakes (noodles) with Greens and Pork, Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Rice Cakes (noodles) with Greens and Pork, Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Braised Chicken (another local specialty), Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Braised Chicken (another local specialty), Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Amerinth greens (generally purple in color, not green – a local specialty), Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Amerinth greens (generally purple in color, not green – a local specialty), Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

The Peace Hotel (Sassoon House), Shanghai, China (2019)

In Shanghai, China, at the center of the Bund (at the end of Nanjing Road), today’s remodeled and restored Fairmont Peace Hotel was originally the Cathay Hotel in the Sassoon House, built by Sir Victor Sassoon in 1929

In Shanghai, China, at the center of the Bund (at the end of Nanjing Road), today’s remodeled and restored Art Deco Fairmont Peace Hotel was originally the Cathay Hotel in the Sassoon House, built by Sir Victor Sassoon in 1929

 

“The Cathay Hotel was designed by the architectural firm Palmer and Turner and completed in 1929 and was the pride of its owner, Sir Victor Sassoon.  It has a triangular shaped piece of land at the intersection of Nanking Road and the Bund, with a green pyramidal tower with Tudor paneling, imitating the American Chicago School.  The Cathay Hotel was only one portion of the Sassoon House, which also contained offices and shopping arcades.  Nowadays it known as [the Fairmont] Peace Hotel.” — http://www.virtualshanghai.net

 

The lobby of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains a central atrium leading to the famed restaurant and world-famous Old Jazz Band venue (the Jazz Bar), Shanghai, China_

The lobby of the Art Deco Fairmont Peace Hotel contains a central atrium leading to the famed restaurant and world-famous Old Jazz Band venue (the Jazz Bar), Shanghai, China – this was one of the preeminent dining and entertainment venues in the 1920s and 1930s when Shanghai was famed as the Paris of the Orient

 

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “frescoes” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one depicts buildings along the Bund (looking south) with boats approaching the quay

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “murals” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one depicts buildings along the Bund (looking south) with boats approaching the quay

 

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “frescoes” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one also depicts buildings along the Bund, but a street scene (looking north) with automobiles from the 1920s

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “murals” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one also depicts buildings along the Bund, but a street scene (looking north) with automobiles from the 1920s in the foreground and the quay to the far right

 

We had an outstanding dim sum and Chinese cuisine luncheon at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

We had an outstanding dim sum and Chinese cuisine luncheon at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The eponymous Dragon and Phoenix in the ceiling panels at the at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

The eponymous Dragon and Phoenix in the ceiling panels at the at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The view of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, across the Huangpu River, from the windows in the Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

The view of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, across the Huangpu River, from the windows in the Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The Fairmont Peace Hotel is the best spot we’ve discovered in Shanghai (on the west side of the Huangpu River) for a view of the curved section of Pudong and its concentration of high-rise buildings; China

The Fairmont Peace Hotel is the best spot we’ve discovered in Shanghai (on the west side of the Huangpu River) for a view of the curved section of Pudong and its concentration of high-rise buildings; China

 

A panorama of the Huangpu River with our ship docked at the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal (on the left) and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong, Shanghai, China

A panorama of the Huangpu River with our ship docked at the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal (on the left) and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong, Shanghai, China — taken from the Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The living green vertical wall along the quay of the Huangpu River on the Bund side, overlooking the tops of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, Shanghai, China

The living green vertical wall along the quay of the Huangpu River on the Bund side, overlooking the tops of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, Shanghai, China

 

The promenade along the quay on the Bund (looking north) along the Huangpu River, with our docked ship visible on the right; Shanghai, China

The promenade along the quay on the Bund (looking north) along the Huangpu River, with our docked ship visible on the right; Shanghai, China

 

 

“The Man Who Changed the Face of Shanghai” by Taras Grescoe, The New York Times, October 2, 2014

 

“Until recently, the name Sassoon — or, more exactly, Sir Ellice Victor Sassoon, the third baronet of Bombay — had been all but effaced from the streets of Shanghai.  The scion of a Baghdadi Jewish family, educated at Harrow and Cambridge, Sassoon shifted the headquarters of a family empire built on opium and cotton from Bombay to Shanghai, initiating the real estate boom that would make it into the Paris of the Far East.

“The 1929 opening of the Cathay Hotel (its name was changed to the Peace in the mid-50s), heralded as the most luxurious hostelry east of the Suez Canal, proclaimed his commitment to China.  (He even made the 11th-floor penthouse, just below the hotel’s sharply pitched pyramidal roof, his downtown pied-à-terre.)  Within a decade, Sassoon had utterly transformed the skyline of Shanghai, working with architects and developers to build the first true skyscrapers in the Eastern Hemisphere, in the process creating a real estate empire that would regularly see him counted among the world’s half-dozen richest men.  Within two decades, the red flag of the People’s Republic was hoisted over the Cathay, which would for many years serve as a guesthouse for visiting Soviet bloc dignitaries.

“Yet, over the course of the years, Sassoon’s buildings, apparently too solid to demolish, continued to stand, so many mysterious Art Deco and Streamline Moderne megaliths in a cityscape growing ever grimier with coal dust.  As Shanghai once again takes its place as one of Asia’s fastest-growing metropolises, and supertall, 100-plus-story towers define its new skyline, there are signs that the city is beginning to value, and even treasure, its prewar architectural heritage.  Sir Victor would have appreciated the irony: The landmarks of Shanghai’s semi-colonial past, vestiges of a once-reviled foreign occupation, have lately become some of its most coveted addresses.

“The last time I was in Shanghai, in 2007, the Peace Hotel was in a sorry state.  In the Jazz Bar, whose faux Tudor walls seemed to be stained yellow with the nicotine of decades, I watched a sextet of septuagenarian Chinese jazzmen lurching their way through “Begin the Beguine.”  (The musicians, who rehearsed clandestinely through the Cultural Revolution, are still sometimes joined by their oldest member, a 96-year-old drummer.)

“I was given a tour of the property by Peter Hibbard, an author whose books ‘Peace at the Cathay’and ‘The Bund’ document Shanghai’s European architectural history.  He showed me tantalizing glimpses of marble and stained glass, partly hidden by poorly dropped ceilings, and explained that the lavish décor of the eighth-floor restaurant — inspired by the Temple of Heaven in Beijing’s Forbidden City — had to be papered over during the Cultural Revolution to spare it the wrath of the Red Guards.  Hidden away in storerooms, he assured me, were the original Arts and Crafts furniture and Deco glasswork that had been a feature of every guest room.  Mr. Hibbard informed me the hotel was about to close its doors for a complete makeover; he feared the worst.

“After a three-year restoration overseen by the lead architect Tang Yu En (and a makeover supervised by the Singapore-based designer Ian Carr, completed in 2010), much of the cachet of the old Cathay has been restored to the Peace.

“On the ceiling of the Dragon Phoenix Restaurant, gilded chinoiserie bats once again soar; Lalique sconces have been returned to the corridor that leads to the eighth-floor ballroom. In nine themed suites, the décor has been recreated from old photos:  The Indian Room is newly resplendent with filigreed plasterwork and peacock-hued cupolas, while a semicircular moon gate separates the sitting and dining rooms of the Chinese Room.  A spectacular rotunda has once again become the centerpiece of the ground floor, its soaring ceiling of leaded glass undergirded by marble reliefs of stylized greyhounds that remain the hotel’s insignia.

“Some changes would surely have caused Sassoon to arch an eyebrow.  To avoid spooking visitors from the south, elevators now skip directly from the third to the fifth floor. (The number 4 sounds like the Cantonese word for “death.”)  The revolving door on the riverfront Bund, once the privileged entrance for such celebrity visitors as Douglas Fairbanks and Cornelius Vanderbilt, is now chained shut with a rusty padlock.  (It is bad feng shui for a building’s main door to face water.)

“In spite of such adjustments, Mr. Hibbard is delighted to see Sassoon’s flagship property reclaiming pride of place on the Bund.  “Sir Victor changed the face, and the manners, of Shanghai,” he said.  ‘The Cathay exemplified this.  Outside, it’s so simple, clean and streamlined. Inside, it’s fanciful and buoyant.  It gave society a venue to play in. It still gives people from around the globe an opportunity to have a fantastic time in one of the world’s most exciting cities.’

“The building has something else going for it: location.  Sassoon built his headquarters where bustling Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s main commercial street, intersected with the banks, clubs and head offices of foreign firms that lined the Huangpu riverfront.  The hotel, in other words, sits at the exact point where China meets the world — which means that, to this day (and well into most nights), it is buffeted by concentrated streams of humanity.

“I was not surprised that Noël Coward found the serenity to write the first draft of ‘Private Lives’ during a four-day sojourn at the Cathay in 1929, or that Sassoon, a nomadic tycoon who could live anywhere in the world, chose it as the site for his aerie.  The sensation of being swaddled in luxury at the calm center of a bewitching maelstrom is unique.  After building the Cathay, all Sassoon had to do was sit and wait for the world to come to him.” – www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/travel/the-man-who-changed-the-face-of-shanghai-.html

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Kyoto Highlights (Part III), Honshu Island, Japan (2019)

We began our third day in Kyoto, with a tour of the Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, led by the master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho (the third generation artisan to own and direct the nationally acclaimed family studio)

We began our third day in Kyoto, Japan, with a tour of the Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, led by the master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho (the third generation artisan to own and direct the nationally acclaimed family studio)

 

“Woven on takabata looms since they were introduced from China over 1200 years ago, silk mon orimoro (design figures incorporated into the weave, itself), is exquisite, luminous, luxurious and multi-colored.  The high precision and skill level required to weave this fabric and the resulting extraordinary beauty and quality demands that it be distinguished from ordinary brocade by giving it a distinctive name, Nishiki.  In the Japanese language, the idiographic character used for Nishiki is a combination of the symbol for woven cloth combined with the symbol for gold, implying that the value of Nishiki is equal to that of money.

“Since ancient times, the word Nishiki has been used as an adjective to indicate great beauty as in the term, ‘Nishiki Autumn,’ to describe a colorful landscape in fall.  Nishiki, as a work of art, represents the pinnacle of silk weaving, rarely found in the world.  Historically, it has been highly coveted by the Japanese people, and remains a great source of national pride as an example of Japanese beauty.  Nishiki is created through the combined skills of numerous craftsmen, involving a broad range of technical processes that require time and patience. The work of Koho Tatsumura can be compared to that of a conductor who gathers together craftsmen like musicians in an orchestra, to complete each musical piece.  As the silk threads, each shining like gold, combine with one another, they come to harmonize as a brilliantly colored, dazzling, sublimely created Nishiki creation.

“The superb visual-textural feeling of silk’s infinite variations and hues, enhanced through processes cultivated over a millennium, is translated into works of art that will always draw our affection, regardless of the era.  At the studio of Koho Tatsumura we continue to produce woven fabrics as a Japanese art, preserving the tradition and skill, seeking to ever expand the beauty of Nishiki.

“Rather than thinking of weaving as flat and two dimensional, it can be created as a three-dimensional fabric.  This is one of the main defining characteristics of Nishiki, that it is woven in layers, creating a 3-dimensional effect.  Moreover, the individual translucent silk threads are like glass rods with a slightly rounded, triangular prism shape.  This is metaphorically referred to as a ‘silk prism.’  Because of this structure, silk thread both allows light to penetrate as well as reflects light and thus is able to sparkle with a diamond-like complexity.  By bringing the properties of silk thread to life in a woven piece of work and, moreover, moving it forward into the world of three dimensions, Nishiki becomes a ‘fabric of Light’ that manifests infinite changes in the light it encounters.” — http://www.koho-nishiki.com/en/

 

Master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho sells many of his fabulous beautiful three-dimensional woven silk fabrics as works of art in his studio, Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan

Master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho sells many of his fabulous beautiful three-dimensional woven silk fabrics as works of art in his studio, Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan

 

“Because there is no appropriate word for Nishiki in either English or French, we feel that the Japanese word ‘Nishiki’ can be used in foreign languages. Japanese-English dictionaries define ‘Nishiki’ as ‘brocade,’ but the two are really conceptually different things.  In order to expose the boundlessness and charm of what can be called ‘the most beautiful woven fabric in the world’ to a greater number of people worldwide, we continue our efforts to encourage the acceptance of the term “Nishiki” until it is universally recognized and used.” — http://www.koho-nishiki.com/en/

 

One of two 90-year old hand looms for weaving Nishiki silk fabrics at Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan; on the left are visible the Jacquard punch cards that are programmed with the patterns for a given fabric

One of two 90-year old hand looms for weaving Nishiki silk fabrics at Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan; on the left are visible the Jacquard punch cards that are programmed with the patterns for a given fabric, with 33,000 cards required for the most complex fabric produced at the studio

 

One of the masterpiece Nishiki silk fabrics produced by Tatsumura Koho and for sale (for well in excess of $US 100,000) at his studio, Kyoto, Japan, representing waves in the ocean with over 200 colors of silk used to weave it

One of the masterpiece Nishiki silk fabrics produced by Tatsumura Koho for sale (for well in excess of $US 100,000) at his studio, Kyoto, Japan, representing waves in the ocean with over 200 colors of silk used to weave it

 

The gateway standing at the entrance to Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is called a torii, indicating that the area inside the gateway is sacred space, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The gateway standing at the entrance to Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is called a torii, indicating that the area inside the gateway is sacred space, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is quite old – by the end of the 7th century it already commanded considerable indluence; today, it is a well-known for a variety of ritual ceremonies and festivals and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kyoto, Japan

Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is quite old – by the end of the 7th century it already commanded considerable indluence; today, it is a well-known for a variety of ritual ceremonies and festivals and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kyoto, Japan

 

The tower-gate(ro-mon) and the corridors to right and left are in front of the Main Shrine (Honden) at Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrineare painted red, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The tower-gate(ro-mon) and the corridors to right and left are in front of the Main Shrine (Honden) at Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrineare painted red, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#1), Honshu Island, Japan

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#1), Honshu Island, Japan

 

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#2), Honshu Island, Japan

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#2), Honshu Island, Japan

 

The desert to conclude our luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura was simplicity and freshness on a plate – delicious fresh fruit, artfully arranged, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The desert to conclude our luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura was simplicity and freshness on a plate – delicious fresh fruit, artfully arranged, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Okonomiyaki (a savory pancake), Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

From the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, we walked through the covered Hondori shopping arcade to Okonomimura where we had okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) for lunch, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

From the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, we walked through the covered Hondori shopping arcade to Okonomimura where we had okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) for lunch, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Hiroshima, Japan’s culinary profile attracts foodies from around the globe.  Birthplace of Japan’s famous okonomiyaki (a savory pancake), the city’s version of the dish is a must-try for gastronomes.  Piled inside a thin crepe are layers of shredded cabbage, meat or seafood, fried noodles, and an egg; all topped with sauce, seaweed flakes and, optionally cheese or sliced green onions (scallions).  From the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, we walked through the covered Hondori shopping arcade to Okonomimura, an 8-story building with a collection of okonomiyaki restaurants on the second, third and fourth floors, all little mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall “restaurants” specializing in the city’s signature meal.  We read brief English language descriptions of the various restaurants and liked the descriptions of those on the second floor, where we headed.  Only about half were open, so we chose one in the front corner of the building filled with Japanese customers.  Luckily, they had an English-language menu so we were able to order two different okonomiyaki for lunch with a draft beer.  We sat at the counter, watching with great interest the construction and cooking of our made-to-order okonomiyaki on a hot griddle.  They were quite delicious and very filling.  No desert needed!

 

Okonomimura (on the right), an 8-story building with a collection of okonomiyaki restaurants on the second, third and fourth floors, all little mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall “restaurants” specializing in the city’s signature meal, okonomiyaki

Okonomimura (on the right), an 8-story building with a collection of okonomiyaki restaurants on the second, third and fourth floors, all little mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall “restaurants” specializing in the city’s signature meal, okonomiyaki (a savory pancake), Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

There was a staff of 5 or 6 to prepare the okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) on the hot griddles for a total of only about 14 seats (customers) at the L-shaped counters in front of the griddles, Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

There was a staff of 5 or 6 to prepare the okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) on the hot griddles for a total of only about 14 seats (customers) at the L-shaped counters in front of the griddles, Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

After making the pancakes on the griddle, the okonomiyaki were piled high with shredded cabbage, proteins (pork in one, pork and shrimp in a second), with oil for cooking poured on; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

After making the pancakes on the griddle, the okonomiyaki were piled high with shredded cabbage, proteins (pork in one, pork and shrimp in a second), with oil for cooking poured on; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

After cracking an egg and spreading it on the griddle to a circle the size of the pancake, the okonomiyaki was flipped over on top of the cooking egg; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

After cracking an egg and spreading it on the griddle to a circle the size of the pancake, the okonomiyaki was flipped over on top of the cooking egg; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The finished shrimp and pork okonomiyaki topped with shredded dried seaweed; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

The finished shrimp and pork okonomiyaki topped with shredded dried seaweed; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The finished pork okonomiyaki with udon noodles and topped with sliced green onions (scallions); Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

The finished pork okonomiyaki with udon noodles and topped with sliced green onions (scallions); Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The road north from Okonomimura, where we had lunch, to the Shukkeien Garden [see our upcoming blog post], through downtown Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

The road north from Okonomimura, where we had lunch, to the Shukkeien Garden [see our upcoming blog post], through downtown Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Jagalchi (Seafood) Market, Busan, South Korea (2019)

One of the main streets in Busan, South Korea, the country’s second-largest city and one of Lonely Planet’s top cities to visit in Southeast Asia a year ago

One of the main streets in Busan, South Korea, the country’s second-largest city and one of Lonely Planet’s top cities to visit in Southeast Asia a year ago

 

“Home to majestic mountains, glistening beaches, steaming hot springs and fantastic seafood, South Korea’s second-largest city [population 3.4 million] is a rollicking port town with tons to offer.  From casual tent bars and chic designer cafes to fish markets teeming with every species imaginable, Busan (부산) has something for all tastes.  Rugged mountain ranges slice through the urban landscape, and events such as the Busan International Film Festival [early October 2019] underscore the city’s desire to be a global meeting place.” – www.lonelyplanet.com

 

Busan captivates visitors with its intriguing history, artistic spirit, delicious street food, and cosmopolitan personality.  Important sights to see include the poignant United Nations Memorial Park and sacred Buddha relics at Tongdosa Temple.  Locals and visitors can enjoy a hike along the stunning coast of Taejongdae Park and explore regional history at the Busan Museum.  You don’t have to be a cook or chef to marvel at the unrivaled selection of fresh fish at the massive Jagalchi Market – the largest in South Korea.  Experiences as varied as wandering the winding alleys of Gamcheon Culture Village (now a creative community of brightly painted houses on the slope of a coastal mountain, originally home to refugees during and after the Korean War) or indulging in the local cuisine along Gwangbokdong Food Street show that Busan delivers great opportunities for exploration.

 

Archway over the entrance to a shopping street leading to BIFF (Busan International Film Festival) Square, Busan, South Korea

Archway over the entrance to a shopping street leading to BIFF (Busan International Film Festival) Square, Busan, South Korea

 

A pedestrian shopping street near BIFF Square lined with food carts in advance of the opening of the 2019 Busan International Film Festival, Busan, South Korea

A pedestrian shopping street near BIFF Square lined with food carts in advance of the opening of the 2019 Busan International Film Festival, Busan, South Korea

 

A downtown street food vendor with typical South Korean snacks , Busan, South Korea

A downtown street food vendor with typical South Korean snacks , Busan, South Korea

 

A street full of fish and seafood stores and restaurants, across from the Jagalchi Seafood Market in downtown Busan, South Korea

A street full of fish and seafood stores and restaurants, across from the Jagalchi Seafood Market in downtown Busan, South Korea

 

The street-side front aisle (one of three), nearly one city-block long, lined with fish and seafood vendors in Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan, South Korea

The street-side front aisle (one of three), nearly one city-block long, lined with fish and seafood vendors in Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan, South Korea

 

Shoppers and chefs can wander the first floor of South Korea’s largest fish and seafood market for an unrivaled selection of raw, dried, and cooked varieties.  The majority of vendors are traditionally female and have earned the nickname Jagalchi Ajumma (married woman).  The second floor of the market features various seafood restaurants that will cook seafood purchased on the first floor and serve it at seats in their restaurant.

 

Beautifully colorful scallops front and center amid an array of octopus, clams and crab in a stall at Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan, South Korea

Beautifully colorful scallops front and center amid an array of octopus, clams and crab in a stall at Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan, South Korea

 

A variety of fresh and smoked fish in a stall at Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan, South Korea

A variety of fresh and smoked fish in a stall at Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan, South Korea

 

Fresh Asian abalone (very expensive!), Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan, South Korea

Fresh Asian abalone (very expensive!), Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan, South Korea

 

A variety of shrimp and prawns at a stall in Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan, South Korea

A variety of shrimp and prawns at a stall in Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan, South Korea

 

A vendor – a Jagalchi Ajumma (married woman) – cleaning squid at her stall in Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan, South Korea

A vendor – a Jagalchi Ajumma (married woman) – cleaning squid at her stall in Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan, South Korea

 

This crab looked like it just finished yoga and was saying “Namaste”, Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan, South Korea

This crab looked like it just finished yoga and was saying “Namaste”, Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan, South Korea

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.