On Holiday

An exhibit from the Taipei Fine Arts Museum

It’s now Thursday May 18th, 2023. Kia ora!

I am somewhat horrified to realise that it is now Thursday, and our stay in this lovely place is half-way through.

So what happened yesterday? I did some Tai Chi in my hotel room, although I had intended to go to the park and do it. But we went down to breakfast after 8 am, on JD’s recommendation, and it was extremely busy. We had to share a table, and queue up to get food!  Also it was very hot, and a bit late for exercising, I thought. And there are no beards here! And very few pets. There are advertising screens. And curtains, in some taxis. The ads are annoying, and although one can’t understand what’s being said, it’s pretty obvious what’s being sold: a vitamin supplement, or pain relief medication.

The breakfast buffet works really well, and it’s obvious that all the guests know how it works. At the dining room entrance, you show your room key/card, and you’re given a blue place-holder plastic-covered label. That’s so you can find a place to sit, and leave your blue card there while you go to get fruit, juice, cutlery, napkins, cooked food, toast or coffee. Dirty dishes are frequently cleared away, but I guess you can go to the buffet as often as you please.  There is steamed rice in a covered container, watery oatmeal, and things one would normally eat for dinner such as a cooked meat dish, noodles, rice, vegetables, and various pickles. Once you get over the fact that the only Western food is white bread for toasting, butter, peanut butter and jam, and orange drink and coffee, you’re good to go. After realising that we usually eat large lunches, I’m happy to eat fruit and toast for breakfast. Everyone is polite, unhurried, efficient, and neat. The recorded music is – eclectic, perhaps?

I’ve seen one nail salon here, and no hair salons!  I’ve seen various clinics for animals, but there are very few animals around. And I’ve seen very few dress shops!  Not much chance for shopping, then!

We went to a vegan restaurant called Herbivore, a spacious and newer one. They had an extensive menu, and colour pictures of all the dishes, which all looked amazing. We had chive dumplings to share, with a spicy dipping sauce, and then our mains came (called entrees here, in American fashion).  I had pasta with pesto and avocado.  This was the first time I’d seen avocado here. The food isn’t especially spicy, unless you want it to be.  My food was delicious, and although I tried manfully I wasn’t able to finish it. JD and I had smoothie type drinks made with oat milk; mine also had banana, mint and kiwifruit. It was delicious, and not too filling.  Note: in almost all restaurants they bring you a glass of water at the beginning. The tap water seems fine to drink. If you buy a drink, you’re asked whether you’d like it hot or cold, and, if cold, whether you’d like ice. The smoothie type drink seemed to cut through the heat of the spicy sauce.

My delicious lunch with noodles, pesto, pine nuts, and avocado.

After this we walked to Moonshine Café, where I could order a Long Black coffee!  It was a bit bigger than I expected, but it was very good. JD ordered affogato again, something they do really well here, serving a dish of ice cream and an espresso in a small jug.

Then we walked some more, and caught two buses back to near our hotel. I was not feeling very well, having worn a skirt with elasticated band that seemed far too tight, and a clingy top that seemed far too hot. On the bus, a voice over announces each stop in four languages: Mandarin, Taiwanese (a version of Mandarin), Hakka (another Chinese language), and English.  Our grandchildren were having another Taekwondo lesson, so our son was going to join them there; in the meantime, we went back to our hotel for a rest before visiting our loved ones in their apartment at 7 pm.

We duly did so, and played cards, built a marble ramp, and did sudoku, before leaving at around 8:45 pm. We hadn’t had dinner, but all the restaurants seemed closed, But we found a Carrefour supermarket nearby, where we bought Anchor cheese slices (from New Zealand!), some crackers, and some more pineapple. That was ideal! We had a wee feast in our hotel room, and then went to bed.

This morning we went down to breakfast at 7 am, and although there were already lots of people in the restaurant, we were able to find a table.  The background music included Silent Night!  I had intended to go to Da’an Park after breakfast and practice Tai Chi/Qigong, but in the event I needed to go back upstairs and use the bathroom. Later on in the morning we went to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

What a strange place this is! It’s very spacious, and very odd. We visited an exhibition without a nudity warning – in New Zealand it would have had one!

One of a series of exhibits made from paper at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum

There was a couple huddled together, perhaps homeless, having a dialogue – in English!  This was asking fairly existential questions: what’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? Why is the sky blue? What’s the meaning of life?

All the exhibitions we saw are very different, and I found them quite confronting; an interesting mixture of ancient and modern.

We also saw an exhibition of photographs, and found them really interesting, trying to figure out just where they were from. 

Then we went to have lunch at the Acme Café, where there was Western-style food, at exorbitant prices. There was a QR code containing the menu; and there was a buzzer on our table, which beeped when our order was ready. It was very modern, with wooden seats without backs at Formica topped tables. I ordered a baguette with prosciutto and cream cheese; JD ordered a toasted cheese sandwich with avocado; we ordered waffles with strawberries and chocolate sauce to share; I ordered an espresso and JD a English Breakfast tea! It came in a mug, with a tea bag.  This is unusual in Taipei, where tea would often be served quite formally, on a tray, with a teapot and small cup and another pot of hot water, My baguette turned out to be a bagel, but tasted good, none the less; the waffles were a bit over cooked. We each were served some salad leaves with dressing and tiny tomatoes as well.  It did feel like back home, paying rather too much for not great but familiar food! 

This must have been quite close to the airport, because there were planes flying overhead every few minutes.

Afterwards, we caught a taxi back to our hotel. Our bedroom had still not been made up, although a fresh banana and orange had been left. JD found Housekeeping, and used Google translate to indicate that the room had not been serviced yet. Really, we just needed clean towels, hand towels and bathmat. Accordingly, it was done a few minutes later. Someone from housekeeping had come while JD was in the shower; I asked them to come back later but she had no English so I may have been misunderstood.

In the early evening we intended to go to The Dancing Goat Café for something to eat; it was due to close at 7 pm, and we went along about 6 pm, but the chef, who spoke some English, apologised profusely, explaining that it was closed because they’d run out of food!  Then we went to another café nearby, Café Prague, which looked quite luxurious, with a grand piano and beautiful furniture, but the woman there explained that they served beautiful coffee, but no food. It was a bit late in the day for drinking their beautiful coffee, so we went back to the hotel and ordered one meal, to share, and two yummy cold drinks. That worked really well.

It’s now Friday May 19th.

It’s overcast and raining today, and much cooler (24° – 26° C); there was a thunderstorm early this morning. Although I woke early, and wad quite hungry, JD’s theory was that we shouldn’t go down to breakfast until after 8 am.  So we shared a delicious banana in the meantime. Each week, it seems, a guest room gets an orange, and a banana, and I have to say the Taiwanese pineapples and bananas are far better than the ones we get in New Zealand.

We had no trouble getting a table for breakfast, although there was no peanut butter, and the jam had been replaced by – marmalade. It looked like pineapple jelly, but it was quite tart, and tasted like marmalade, although it had no tell-tale “bits” of citrus peel. It had no pips, either.

We are due to meet our son for lunch.

In the event it was raining when we met our son and daughter-in-law, and we took a taxi to another vegan restaurant – this one perhaps the best yet. It was more modern, and had packages of foodstuffs for sale. Almost every restaurant we’ve been to involves stepping up from the kerb, and wrenching a heavy door open. In New Zealand we’re used to automatic doors, perhaps, and an Open banner outside.   

This time I ordered more wisely. I asked for a skewer, and a Thai salad. Both were delicious, and I was glad I’d ordered less food. I had a drink of fizzy vinegar with ice – a bit like cider vinegar, and not too sweet. JD had a submarine – a subway-type sandwich made with wholemeal bread, and potato chips!  Afterwards, we shared two desserts: a blueberry mousse (actually it was more like a frozen pie), and a delicious creamy pie with papaya – a bit like apricot.  Totally yummy. Afterwards we visited a gallery across the road, with paintings based on street art, and then went to Moonshine Café for coffee, a long black for me and an affogato for JD again.  After that we got a bus back to our hotel, a few minutes before JD was due to pick up our grandson from his pre-school.

That evening we watched our grandchildren at Taekwondo again; next to the premises, there is a second-hand book shop, and a clothes boutique. I must go there again!

Back in our hotel room, we had more fruit and more cheese and crackers. We had been given some jelly, but to be honest we couldn’t distinguish the flavour, and found it quite bland.

It’s now Saturday May 20th.

This afternoon we are to attend a concert in which our granddaughter takes part. Again, it is cloudy and raining, off and on; my forecast tells me it’s cooler today, but it was very hot last night, and I had trouble sleeping. I had gone to sleep and was dreaming when JD came to use the bathroom. How did you get here, I asked him, being somewhat disoriented. I was always here, he replied, as, of course, he was. After that I had great trouble getting back to sleep.

In other news, there’s been dreadful flooding in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, which includes Ravenna, where I indeed want to go. I do feel for those poor folk: a current pattern seems to be drought, followed by intense downpours of rain, so that the dried out ground cannot absorb the rainfall as it normally would. Although there’s a lot of drizzle about too, where you get a bit wet, but it’s too warm to wear a winter jacket. Ah, ponchos are the answer!

We went to a restaurant that advertised itself as being Gluten Free.  It was upstairs in a building. The lovely waitress made a huge fuss of our grandson.  Waitpersons here are determined that you’ll have a good time.

This was a Japanese restaurant, and not all dishes were vegan. Some included eggs. The waitresses wore charming shirts, brown, with white stand up collars and cuffs, over black trousers. Our waitress sprayed our hands with sanitiser before we entered. We ordered some light beer to share, as well as the water we’d been brought. Then began the lengthy scrutiny of the menus on offer, which had photographs of the food – very helpful, rather than being off-putting, as they sometimes are. I ordered a bowl of soup with noodles and vegetables. It seemed to be a good choice. I ate it all apart from a vegetable segment which looked like parsnip, but was in fact a kind of mushroom. Anyway, it was too tough for me to eat.

Pudding was good too: a kind of cranberry-topped cheese cake, a chocolate tart, and a purple-topped dessert chosen by our grandson.

While we were there, an anxious young man, obviously from the US, came in. He was concerned about what kind of gluten-free flour was used: he couldn’t tolerate almond flour, apparently.  My gluten-free friends generally use a combination of gluten-free flours for their very successful baking. Anyway, he was anxious, in the way only Americans can be. Our son spoke to him. He asked where he was from: America and New Zealand, our son replied. He’d been to Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin.  The waitress was very sorry not to be able to help him, as he sadly went on his way. Actually, in Taipei, it would be very easy to eat well without eating anything glutinous, but if you don’t have Chinese, it might be difficult.

This restaurant was in a more upmarket area, with shops selling clothes, handbags, and shoes; a spray of fresh flowers was bought for our granddaughter, who was going to sing at the concert. She could not join us for lunch, because she had to be at the concert venue early.

We made our way to the concert venue – a large auditorium, perhaps slightly smaller than Wellington’s MFC, but the seats were better spaced and more comfortable.  We ended up going from 3 to 5 tickets, so we were all able to stay and watch.  There was an MC, who did a good job, I think, but being unable to understand Chinese, I found it rather boring. The concert seemed to take a long time to get started, but it included several musical groups, who performed very professionally.  My grandson behaved amazingly well, for a 5-year-old; the appreciative audience was very well-behaved too. There was no talking, or going in and out, or rustling of sweet papers, as there might be in New Zealand.

The school choir sang at the beginning of the second half, they sang three songs, and then returned towards the end to sing Singin’ in the Rain and other items with the very accomplished orchestra. What a performance!

After the choir’s first performance JD and our eldest son left to meet two other sons who were to arrive late that afternoon, one from the UK, and the other from Auckland, New Zealand.  They were due at separate terminals, but thanks to Messenger, we were all able to communicate. The other two are staying in an Air B’n’B near Da’an Park. We are due to meet for lunch on Sunday.

My daughter in law and the children and I got a taxi back to my hotel.

That night JD and I ate in the hotel restaurant again, sharing a meal. We were both quite hungry, and sharing a meal works well for us.

That’s it for now! Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

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