This is the year of the horse. In the Chinese zodiac, that is. The spirit of the horse is recognized to be the Chinese people’s ethos – making unremitting efforts to improve themselves. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. Returning to Paris just in time enjoy the local celebrations, living close by to one of the cities Chinese neighborhoods. In NYC I lived not far from Chinatown and reveled in the yearly parade that wound it’s way through the streets. This felt much like those days, living amidst an ethnic people and sharing in their traditions.
The traditional costumes were elaborate and impressive!
The parade took place near Arts & Metiers, close to the Marais. There lives a small population of the Wenzhounese from the Zhejiang province of China. The majority have settled in Belleville, which along with the 13eme arrondissement, is considered Paris’ Chinatown, the largest in Europe.
My quest this year of the horse, in addition to improving myself, is to find a dim sum restaurant!
What I love about traveling is not merely arriving to the destination but the actual movement from one place to another. The travel. While on the road for 13 months I embraced this ‘time inbetween‘, as it allowed me to reflect on the places seen and to anticipate those waiting to be discovered. Many 12 hour plane rides gave me plenty of time to muse, but it is via train, traveling over land (and perhaps under sea), that I always feel most connected to the journey. Put me on a train, and I am happy. (Even simply the Long Island Rail Road or these days, the Trenitalia.)
My most memorable train ride to date was 48 hours enroute from Lhasa, Tibet to Beijing. I could have easily flown and spent more time exploring China’s capital, but I chose the option of adventure.
With only my thoughts to accompany me, I observing as the worlds of Tibet and China converged in my midst. I was one of a handful of Westerners and shared my sleeping cabin with 2 Chinese men, a Tibetan, and a few good books. My conversations were limited to very basic English as I taught the Tibetan man to play backgammon and in turn he taught me a Tibetan game.
I became a voyeur. Much of my time was spent observing life on the train.
The dining cabin became my ‘room with a view’. The landscape my vista.
The sun rose and night fell. And again. I could have easily spent another 2 days enroute.
One day I hope to board the Orient Express to destinations unknown… But these days I will happily settle for the night train from Paris to Venice.
The morning was misty. The arduous climb felt like the combination of a dream and trial of strength, hiking up to the Great Wall, the longest and most time-consuming ancient defense system, taking over 2,000 years to construct, a length of 6,300 kilometers. This piece of the wall was not restored and not easily found, and I was undeniably exultant to have reached this path that felt so close to heaven. To end my final day in Beijing, I feasted my eyes on a traditional Chinese Opera and my palate on Peking duck. Both proved most appetizing.
I agree with Duchamp’s conception of art that a person’s “life” is “art” in a way, and neither is more important than the other. 798 Art Centre is one of China’s largest art spaces, the former facility of state-run 798 electronic factories. Since 2002 artists have built their studios in these old warehouses, now home to impressive artwork that is being recognized internationally. These warehouses also boast independent designer boutiques and cafes, a world of not-so-hidden treasures.
The past week has been a whirlwind, feeling much more like a month with all that I have seen, eaten, experienced…and all those that I have met. I feel completely immersed in the life here and have even begun to find my way around the city, taking subways, speaking with the locals (still limited to ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, spoken mostly with the eyes). One night I attended an art opening of international female artists at a wonderful space (www.1918artspace.com) followed by a grand ‘hot pot’ dinner with the artists. The Chinese dining experience is quite an event in itself! Last night I met several friends at Barbarossa, a favorite moroccan lounge of mine, placed most serenely on a lake, and onwards to Bar Rouge for champagne in the rain and a dance amidst the ex-pats.
Today a tasty brunch at Sasha’s with Crystyl, Anthony and Blair who has flown in from Hong Kong. What dear friends I have made in this city which has most graciously drawn me in! The ‘Art in America’ show at the Shanghai Museum and MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) satisfied my mild cravings of the city and culture I left behind. I will miss this place and it’s people and the life that I have found here. Indeed parting is such sweet sorrow as I bid farewell to Shanghai and prepare to greet Tibet.
I arrived to Shanghai not knowing a soul. On my first night I made my way to ‘3 on the Bund’, a prime location including Jean Georges and many other fine eateries and bars. It was there that I met several strangers who soon became friends and began what feels like a very privileged life. I found a home in People Square, downtown Shanghai, at the warm hospitality of Georg, a german ex-pat, one of many in this continuously growing foreign community. Days here are hot amidst the polluted air, but my curiosity provokes me to wander these seemingly unnavigatable streets where noone speaks English and I am at the mercy of a map and any written scraps of paper bearing the name of my destination in Chinese. While it is strange and uncomfortable to feel so helpless I am deeply fascinated with the life here. My eyes speak volumes while my voice cannot. Surely I will not take the ease of communication for granted when I land on familiar soil.
The art world of China is finding its voice in this city of fervent growth and energy. I spent an afternoon at Moganshan Road, a mass of ateliers revealing artistic provocation. Much of these works are clearly politically driven.
My favorite neighborhood is the French Concession, flavoured with the charm of Paris. Tree lined streets filled with boutiques as well as many trendy restaurants. Shanghai is indeed a city of eating which I am doing much of, including such delicacies as pigs knuckles and soups that I can’t even begin to describe…and shopping, which I have not been doing so much of as my shoe size (39.5) is non-existant and a size 6 is translated into XL !?
From one island to another. I arrived to Hong Kong after three weeks under the Bali sun, it was not easy to leave, yet I was eager to enter a new space of culture and movement. Hong Kong is a unique city with it’s Asian flair and European influences, filled with habitants from all over the world. We are staying with friends in the Soho neighborhood, and feeling quite at home. A day of carousing the sloped streets, up to Victoria’s Peak for a proper view and back down to join the locals and ex-pats in the revelry of dining and dancing…
The view from “Aqua” prior to the lightshow…the perfect moment of nightfall.