Saturday, 22 August 2009

Watching Julie & Julia with Juliane

It wasn't how I imagined I would spend my one and only Saturday night in New York but it turned out to be exactly what I needed.

New York hadn't been the best of start with my hotel cancelling my reservation without letting me know. I needed to find somewhere to stay and fast. I was excited about New York - Its always been somewhere I wanted to go and live in so I was pretty psyched to get here but on the flip side it marked two things: The end of my Intrepid tour in the US - I had spent 23 days coped up in a van with a bunch that turned in to a surrogate family i.e. friends you choose but family you just have to deal with! You can't help not wanting to say goodbye as we leave to return to all four corners. New York also means my flight back to London is only a few days away. I hadn't been diligent in writing my diary and don't even get me started on my lack of blogging... I was in New York feeling alone and blue.

I had no idea what the film was about. Neither did I have a clue who Julia Childs was. Meh, I had nothing better to do. 
Columbia Pictures says "intertwines the lives of two women who, though separated by time and space, are both at loose ends -- until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter, anything is possible."
The film is a true story, of Julia Child (Meryl Steep), the Delia Smith of the US culinary world. As a wife of a diplomat she was moved out to France not knowing a word of French and bored out of her wits she started to learn French cooking, a passion and devotion that went on to teach Americans how to cook and eat with her book: 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' and subsequent TV shows. As for Julie (Amy Adam), she was nearing 30 and miserable in a dead-end job in which she resolved to reclaim her life by cooking every recipe in Julia Child's cookbook and blogged about it: '365 days. 536 recipes. One girl and a crappy outer borough kitchen.' She then got famous. Then a movie got made about it.

I cried like a baby during this film to Juliane's amusement but it hit home and reminded me of some very important things. Just why am I blogging. My blog is in tatters and probably no one reads it. Who cares? Its a project I started to let people know what I am doing and something mentally stimulating to stop my brain from going to mush. I started it before I left and I may have an interesting way around completing it but I'm going to get it done - Eventually. My wit, lack of command of the English language and ability to talk absolute rubbish needs to be channelled.

I was unsure of what I've accomplished. But wait. The only reason I haven't been blogging is because I've not been glued in front of my laptop but instead I've been out living and experiencing my trip. I've accomplished what I had set out to do to have fun and see the world albeit lacked the discipline in documenting it (although some memories are best forgotten!)

Julia had found her purpose in her passion for French cooking. Julie had her blog about cooking through Julia's book. I went travelling in search for something. Despite going far and wide searching for whatever I was searching for - The answer was there all along. There is no answer! You can plan all you want, but you never quite know what organs might decide to explode. With a little passion and perseverance - Anything is possible. Anything can happen. If you stop worrying, you might just give it a chance to happen. I love my food and I love cooking. Who knows, if I ever marry an Officer... Hmm, maybe we just don't go there.

Underlining it all its been a love story of men whom have stood by theses women's passions. But passion swings both ways - When passion loves it is undeniable and vast but when it hates... Boy does it hate. To be able to love unconditionally and uncompromising through such passions take one hell of a fella. I think I want to wait out for one of those. Passionate or crazy... I'm one of those.

Why so deep today Cecilia? I guess I'm just scared of going home. To fall back in to the same routine, to make the same mistakes and above all, to forget all the lessons I've learnt.

Despite not having known who Julia Child was back in D.C., I was lucky that I did visit her kitchen in the Smithsonian Institute. I had completed a pilgrimage without knowing.

PS. I moved in to the Hotel Roger Williams on Madison Ave off 31 St, it was expensive but it was sooo worth it.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Quacking, haunting and the blues (Day 80)

The only way to make the most out of being in a hot place is to get up early, do all the sightseeing, have a siesta and venture out for a refreshing nightcap! The intentions to get up early was there, but attempting to rally others was not so easy! But we got there eventually! Dragging Chris and a bunch of awesome Aussies (I have to say that since I know Anthony will be reading this as he has a tendency to stalk… ;)) from the other van, we ventured in to town on the longest walk to that involved sitting down a few thousand times and Nick and Kelly being sent to various naughty corners for antagonising each other the WHOLE time!! We eventually found the ferry to head over to Algiers, apparently a cool looking place. We did get on the ferry but we just didn’t get off and went back the other way! Its ok, it was free.

I’m not a huge fan of seafood but we stopped off at a seafood restaurant that I at least thought was cool because it had these giant crawfish at its front! I had a giant Roast Beef Po Boy, effectively a massive Subway the size of my head…. So how do you make a sandwich famous and unique? Give it another name.

You don’t need to wonder why the ‘mericans are so fat. They have serious portion control issues. Everything is about being BIG. They pride themselves in serving large portions and fookin’ huge cups of caffeinated drinks but by doing so means you need to consume it all or it goes to waste. I hate the wastage but I’ve stop torturing my body in attempt to finish a mean. When I feel full, I stop. That’s it. No more stupid guilt that my parents had instilled: “You’ve still got food on your plate, think of all those starving children in Africa…”. So I should stuff my face because they are starving?! Give me a postbag and I’ll friggin’ send it over! [My fellow Chinese homies out there will empathise with me on this rant!]. Then again when Chris is around not much is normally wasted on my plate as he seems to hoover up the left over (dude, you’re going to get fat I’m telling you!) I seriously crave a GOOD salad that’s not laden with a million calories. Oh how I long for simple non fried food. I miss… I miss, my kitchen.

A strange phenomena happened on our walk home, I appeared to have been quacking. At first thought I accused Chris’s shoes but then it appeared to be mine. It wasn’t my left shoe, neither was it my right! It was my arse. Well, my bag more precisely! It had skipped my thought that I had purchased a rubber duck bead necklace for Julia on our bus that was collecting ducks and the little fellas were quacking as my bag pressed against my *ahem* child bearing hips as I walked. The quacking proved to be good entertainment for the several blocks walked back for a much needed siesta! Tonight’s entertainment? New Orleans's Phantom Ghost walk.

Whether you are a believer of the paranormal or not, nothing beats a story told by a good story teller. New Orleans seems to have a past of many husbands butchering up their wives and resultant haunts thence and sighting of haunted spirits jumping off residences of sadistic doctors of the past (property which is now owned by Nicolas Cage). There are hotels with playful ghosts of boys from a boarding school fire that likes to watch Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network and areas that gives you the hibbi-jibbies where bodies were stacked during the many bouts of yellow fever. Also not forgetting the thieving morticians daughter that likes to steal jewellery in a bars ‘rest room’ that was formally her workspace.

As the setting for the film ‘An Interview with a Vampire’, this nocturnal setting has a vampire past and present – Avoid The Dungeon pub if you rather not become an involuntary blood donor have a hang over. Pillars called ‘Romeo posts’ holding up old balconies strangely had hooks (formally spikes) donning its upper edges were identified as preventative measures for fathers to keep their daughters chastity. Our guide quipped: “You climb up a Romeo post, you might come down a Juliet!”. Last but not least the only elementary school in the French Quarter. Nothing haunting or ghostly about it but its alumni including that of Lee Harvey Oswald (JFK shooter?) and Richard Simmons -an old American fitness personality who wears short shorts with a video called: ‘Sweatin’ to the Oldies… Now that’s creepy.

We continued the evening chasing other spirits, Daiquiris to be specific. To top it off? Listening to amazing Jazz at Maison Bourbon. On our walk home we even witness a WASP in a football top on and a girlfriend of some sort jumped and wrapped around him stopping him from having a bust up with a guy… Wait for it, in leather chaps proper brook back style with bare bottom, leather jacket and cap and a gag round his neck. My experience in the Big Easy is finally complete!

Oh I do love a good ghost story. But… I couldn’t switch the lights off for several hours to go to sleep. I’m a wimp.

Where Y'at? Drinkin' Daiquiris in N'awlins! (Day 79)

I have a bed. I'm in a bed. I'm in a bed with a mattress and sheets... Oh they might be a floral eye sore but they are bed sheets nonetheless! We've been camping at various locations for nine days since Las Vegas and I'm happy as Larry to NOT have to negotiate another blasted tent pole for TWO WHOLE DAYS as we stay in a hotel in New Orleans... Well, hotel is a dubious definition. Its called 'Old Town Inn' and its a random collection of houses, loads of security gates, pot plants and random stair ways. Its got character al right! That's Kermit the resident piano man in the 'hotel' reception.

The drive from Houston was a long one and at each pee break or gas station, we descended more and more in to the hot humidity of the South. It felt just as bad as attempting to breathe with a plastic bag over my head... Anyone done that before? No... OK, so we've been very fortunate with the weather so far. Baring a game or two with the others of sticking Post-It notes on our heads attempting to guess what character someone else had written, I successfully managed to do what I do best and that was to sleep through most of the journey, waking up in time to spot a road that merely resembles the one where Jeremy Clarkson and co attempted to sell their cars to no avail in the Top Gear US Special!

Factor in the usual ka-faffle that it requires to get six girls sorted in a room [I having been relegated to a single bed away from everyone else thanks to my snoring], cleverly I called shotgun for the showers and got ready within the hour to meet up with our beloved trek leader, Kelly. Where as the rest besides, Chris, Ol' Bazza and myself? They failed.

In our compact gather, we ventured out to the French Quarters and indeed it looks - French. The vibe of this place is easy and ready for a good time. As its motto: 

"Laissez les bon temps roullez!"

We settled down to sample a plate of Alligator - Taste like chicken! Then stupidly I opted for an oyster dinner - Fried oysters and chips. ARGH!! I can't do any more fried food. Cecilia is seriously turning in to a fatty fat fat. But that meal sure got worked off at Bourbon Cowboy on Bourbon St on the bucking bronco! That was from the force of gripping on with my thighs attempting to hold on and the sheer fear of flashing my undies to the whole bar when I spectacularly fly off! 

And this was all achieved before 2100hrs! Sadly, I was mulled by mosquitoes on the camp ground in Texas last night. Lacking sleep and itching like no tomorrow, I had to call it a night after only one Daiquiris. So currently I'm drugged up to the eye balls with Zytec ready to hit the sack. Gutting. This place weirdly had the same feel of Khao San Road, Bangkok or that of Pub Street, Siem Reap which means only one thing - A massive hang over. Guess I'm not missing much after all!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

I blame the Republic Firewall of China (Day erm... 1 - 78)

I started off really good I swear. I had every good intentions to write and then I arrived in China to find all the blogging sites were banned. I started off typing all my blog entries until I got fed up of using a Mac... IT'S JUST NOT RIGHT! Then I lost it all... Then I just gave up.

BUT, I have been keeping all the stories in a leather bound diary and bit by bit (probably by the end of the year) I'll have it all written up and posted retrospectively further confusing everyone where I am - Awesome. I'm only 69 days behind and coming home in 20... 

I'm freezing my arse in a camp ground by Grand Canyon and seriously losing the ability to type! So for now, adieus! By the way, I'm in the US now! =P

Friday, 29 May 2009

"Dude, there are Chinese people everywhere..." - Beijing (Day 01)

An interesting awakening to the Republic Firewall of China - is banned. A curtain to freedom of information pre-Olympics to stop any bad press (I suppose that is one way to do it...) and in order to blog you need to register with the Authorities. I'm just going to avoid a public flogging by uploading my blog retrospectively when I leave the country and head in to the democracy of Vietnam... No, wait. Hmm. I've also managed to find myself in one of the suckiest Internet cafe; I can't plug my camera in to upload any photos. You have been spared the spam of Facebook notifications from me for another day!

I made my flight on the second attempt. Those that have been unfortunate enough to have travelled with me can vouch for my ability to pretty much fall asleep before take off and wake up on landing. Best efforts so far has been London to Los Angeles to John's relief I'm sure. I was doing so well on the no spewing front but the ultimate test is usually on the landing: Cecilia fail. Woohoo to empty stomach and a second breakfast!

First thought that went through my head when I arrived in Beijing: "Dude, there are Chinese people everywhere...".

Rather than taking a taxi chez Ollie's bachelor pad in Wudaoku, I braved the airport train interline for ¥25 (1 GBP = ¥11.22). I was doing so well on the subway as all the signs are now foreigner friendly until I realised all those 'helpful' people had sent me to the wrong station. The airport subway map conveniently misses out chucks of stations, one so which happens to be 'Wudaoku'! D'oh. So I did hop in a taxi for a grand total of three roads 'round the block'. These are not ordinary roads mind you; these are Beijing super-sized roads with up to five lanes. They are death defying to cross, best conducted with your eyes closed and a 'just do it' head on... Whats the worse that can happen, right?

After a shower, what is now turning in to a three a day habit, I headed out to Beijing Station to prebook my sleeper train to Xi'an. Beijingers love their Chicken, KFCs are everywhere. No. I'm not going to succumb to globalised fast food chains (as she writes sipping on a bottle of Starbucks Frappuccino...) but low and behold I find a 'Kungfu'; Chinese food, fast! They definitely have the formula right in that store and I am sure it wasn't intended but its genius any how; I had to climb six flights of stairs to get to my food - Fat nations take note. Homely mince pork and rice, chicken soup with a whole chicken thigh, a plate of vegetable and a drink for ¥35!

Xi'an train ticket was purchased with no problems from an English speaker at counter 10... and then 2. We had to move as the ticket seller next to him was really loud. She wasn't just loud. Angry loud. Whilst I was getting my ticket some local women interjected as to which bunk I should book; curse her if it turns out to be shit. I went for a bimble around Tiananmen Square that even McNay would be proud of. When you look on the road map of Beijing, everything looks just a few roads away. Technically yes, but take whatever time guesstimation you had of how long it takes and throw it out. Tiananmen Dong to Fuxingmen (indeed my favourite station name, Fu-xing-men, get it? Oh Nevermind.) is only four stops away on a straight road; an HOUR it took me. I even some how walked pass Fuxingman, its on a straight road dammit and ended up at Nanlishilu; one station after.

Looking around I'm pretty sure communism advocated bad fashion and that has since yet to be beaten out by capitalism. Just look at what Mao wore for Pete's sakes. Its... Its the exposed pop socks, frilly tops, tacky bling on crop trousers with laces... Oh I can carry on with the list of crimes against humanity, Considering they have authorities for everything, what about a fashion police, eh?

My eyes are still adjusting to the multitude of yellow faces and they're pretty much at my height as well. I just can't help it though, when I walk in to a place and I see all these eyes gauping at this foreign looking me thats slightly chunkier that the average China girl with thanks to my diet of cheese, potatos and Starbucks; I instantly pan the room panicky searching for a white face to connect with. Yes I'm awful.

UPLOADED: 25/08/09

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Badger That

So apparently when I was in that torture shop called a 'hospital', not only was I drugged to the eye balls on morphine and other sweet top shelf IV stash, I seem to have OD-ed on what seem to be the 'chill pill'.

Picture this: I finish off my last week at work and spend a hazy hung over weekend back in Aberdeen to return back to Londonshire with two weeks before departure. I had contemplated about packing (ok, by my old standards this is stretching, so this is odd for me). With less than week to go, I casually cascade to the Chinese Embassy to sort out my final visa (dude, not a sweat) and why not, lets order my rucksack (seriously?!).

Bag was to arrive on the Friday; it didn't happen. Visa was to be picked up too, I some how forgot (!!). Bank Holiday weekend arrived, to which I thought about booking the rest of the accommodation, but I thought so long and hard that I had no energy left to actually do it. (Did I also get a lobotomy in hospital that I did not know of because something is definately not right here...) 

Tuesday afternoon with ONE working day to go before I fly and there is still no sign of a proper 'Cecilia style-eques' panic over 'B-admin' (what the hell is going on?). Just as I opened the door to leave the house to pick up my passport, on the phone at the same time giving the rucksack suppliers a right royal bollocking; the delivery guy appears at my door. Oh. Well, the bollocking was well deserved and I'm sure there were at least a few learning points that for the company in question to erm... use to 'move forward' with there customer service. Free consultancy. Miraculously by Tuesday evening I had my passport, a rucksack, booked whatever I needed and even drew up a packing lists (wahey there is progress!), yet still no motivation to pack. (Someone call a doctor...)

By magic in less than three hours, my packing was sorted on Wednesday afternoon (Paul, what was that you were saying about me needing to pack past midnight?! I think you lose...). Everything fell in to place (baring the distractions of watching the final few episodes of Gilmore Girls and Facebook chat!). Returning home in the late evening peering through one eye, after one too many Long Island Ice Teas, my packing was done. How in Gawds name...

In the midst of being placid and disorganised as hell, my years of obsessive compulsive anal retentiveness (yes I can see you nodding) managed to subliminally overcome making a total doo-doo of the lack of prep and packing. The organised freak is overpowering and its evilness overwhelms any desire to go 'meh'. Above all, I don't even know it! Its unreal. I feel jipped. Panicking was part of the fun. I've been robbed...

So guess what, I compensated by panicking about the lack of panicking! I've just spent the last blog complainingly about being too laid back... I feel like I am me again! Somethings, somehow, never changes. This is going to one long road of discovery. All I have to do now is make sure I get on that plane in... oh, 8 hours.

Badger that.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The route so far...

The 90 day trek is as follows:

BeijingXi’anShanghaiHong KongGuangzhouNanningHanoiHa Long BayHueDa LatHo Chi MinhPhnom PenhSiem ReapBangkokPenangKuala LumpurSingaporeMelbourneSydney San FranciscoLas VegasGrand Canyon Santa FeSan AntonioHoustonNew OrleansMemphisNashvilleWashington DCPhiladelphiaNew York and finally home in time to iron a shirt and start work!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Here's To A Journey

Cecilia had a ruptured appendix. In her drugged up state she woddled in to a travel agent and booked a round the world ticket. With 90 days, armed with just a backpack and her usual wits and charms - Here's to a journey. Your comments, adoration and insults are much needed to fuel encouragement to write in those few sober hours each day.