Luck of the Irish – 6

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My last and final day in Ireland. Got off the train in Dublin and rushed out of Heuston station to drop of my luggage. I had only an hour to do that and get to the meet-up point for the tour I had booked. The drop-off happened quickly, but I took a while to figure out the bus stop to the meet-up point. When I did, guided by friendly folk once again, the bus ride was extremely quick and I was there early.

City Hall
I took a Sandeman’s free tour (where you tip the guide whatever you like at the end). It was a three hour tour and promised to hit all the main spots, which I thought suited my needs since I was pressed for time and couldn’t afford to do my usual getting lost schtick.I wavered over the tour quite a bit, and finally decided to leave it up to fate whether I made it in time or not, which I ended up doing.

Dublin Castle
The pros of the tour was that the guide was very into historical details, though he did use humour to keep the less, um, intellectually inclined on the tour happy. He also chose his stopping points carefully so that there was usually place to sit down while listening to him. The cons were that I don’t think we covered as much as we could have, and not in enough detail. Like we just got a glimpse of Trinity College, when I would have liked to go into the Long Room of the library. Maybe it was ambitious of me to expect that of a three-hour tour. There was also a bit of selling their other paid offerings, but that is to be forgiven given that they have to earn their keep somehow.

Trinty College. Was surprised how gravelly it is.
In retrospect, I probably should have stuck to my alternative plan of doing an individual tour of Trinity College and one library, and doing general wandering. Since my interest is literary, I feel I didn’t do enough darshan to the holy sites of great writers. I’m so glad I did the James Joyce tour on the beginning leg because otherwise I would have had major remorse.

Guiness. 
I met a really nice girl while waiting for the tour to start and we hung out together throughout. To look at, you’d think we had signed up together, but in reality we had just met. When the tour took a break at a pub, we had our first Guinesseses together. It wasn’t half bad, better than beer anyway.

Sculpture outside Christ Church
After the tour, I had planned to catch evensong at Christ Church cathedral, where I heard the choir performs Handel’s Messiah for free. Unfortunately, we got there late but it turns out they don’t have evensong in the summer as their choir is touring. And they charge to enter the church which I find a bit rich. What if we wanted to go there to pray?

St Patrick’s
My newfound friend and I then went off to St Patrick’s Cathedral, where Swift was dean, to click a photo for my colleague in Hong Kong who is researching him. I would have liked to visit the grave but we couldn’t find it and anyway, I wasn’t about to pay to enter the church.

We then headed back to try and buy souvenirs and for some weird reason just could not find the Carroll’s shop we had spotted on the way to Christ Church. Finally, I bought a rag doll for Mimi and an Irish fire brigade for Nene at the Tourist Office. Said a hasty goodbye to my friend and rushed off to catch the bus back to the train station where I needed to pick up my luggage and catch the bus to the airport. I was rushing, but in the end, I made good time.

We had to actually get onto the tarmac to board the plane Never experienced this on an international flight.
Got to the airport in half an hour, and frankly could have spent another half hour wandering in Dublin. Hmph. But I guess it’s better than panicking because I’ve cut it too fine which has also been known to happen. I changed my clothes, and explored the duty free where I dropped some euros on Irish single pot whiskey and chocolates for the office and the helpers as well as two mighty slabs of Galaxy for me.

Was checked into my flight by the hottest guy, a David Beckham lookalike with an Irish accent that I still see in my mind’s eye and smile sometime. Suddenly, while waiting for my flight, I had a panic attack realising I hadn’t gone through immigration. After sitting around dithering over whether I should sit pretty and see if I was ‘caught’, or ask someone, I spotted the same hottie who had checked me in, and asked him. Turns out they don’t have immigration on the way out except for the flight staff checking your passport again before boarding, which they barely do. Heh.

And that, me darlings, was the end of my Irish adventure. I flew nearly 40 hours both ways to spend a total of four days in the Emerald Isle. And you know what? It was worth it.

Luck of the Irish – 5

Was knackered when I got back from dinner. It was about 11.30 pm. But of course, I couldn’t sleep. Finally, crashed out, only to wake up at 3 am and toss and turn unable to sleep.

At 5 am, woke up and Skyped with the kids. Was soo hungry that at 6.30 decided to wander around. Wondered if the English Market might be open and I could get something to eat. Unfortunately, it wasn’t and neither were the convenience stores or the McDonald’s I could stop. While wandering spotted this huge bird (a heron?) just standing about on the street. I clicked a photo and the butcher type loading his truck nearby laughed.


Waiting for the convenience store, I noticed an Internet cafe that was open and that might have food. I needed to print my itinerary and boarding pass, so I entered. Only after I had paid for the use of a computer (for an hour!) I realised that I couldn’t check in so early, and I probably should have just asked the conference organiser to help me print out my itinerary (later, I realised that I could have printed at the airport. It’s not like Bombay airport where they ask you for a printout to enter.) Instead, I chatted with MinCat which I could have done from my room only, wrote blog posts, and finally got a print-out on the best quality paper I’ve seen in a long time.

By then it was 8 am so headed back to the English market, where the bakery was just opening. Though the breads were still not on display, the friendly (this word is now becoming redundant in this country) girl at the counter moved things to show me what I could buy. I got one of the best chocolate croissants I’ve eaten in a long time and a croissant, which I wolfed down, and then washed down with tea when I got back to my room 15 minutes later.

Was knackered by then, but had to get ready for my presentation. Murphy’s law – the hot water in the shower wouldn’t come on (had just told the girls the day before how I appreciated the really hot shower) and I had to bathe gasping and jogging in the cubicle. Oh well, at least it warmed me up. I told the lady at the reception and she said I was the second person to bring it to her notice and she’d check.

Made it to the conference venue in good time. Well, I was the second person there and was beginning to think noone would show up after the festivities the night before. People had been drinking hard with dinner which I refrained from because my tummy was already not functioning well out of sleep deprivation and nerves. I had been pleased my talk was scheduled in the morning because more people tend to be awake then, but I realised first session in the morning of the second day might not be best time.

Funny thing about my presentation, the other girl who was supposed to be in my panel just didn’t show up. I had kept a lookout for her since the start and hadn’t met her, and then on the morning of the panel, I asked the organisers and one of them was sure she had met her, but basically, she didn’t show. That’s been one of my nightmares, the alarm going and hitting the snooze button and missing my own presentation. I also worried about her – what if she was lying in a ditch somewhere? Noone else seemed overly concerned though.

I didn’t get as many questions as I would have liked, though I did get one challenging my thesis, which I actually appreciated. I know I’m walking a fine line, so it’s helpful to get a sense of what people are thinking and to be forced to elaborate and justify. And the conversation after convinced me that one of the ideas I’ve been planning to go with is worthwhile.

By day 2, we had established our clique of sorts. I felt enough loyalty to the Japanese and Spanish girls to go to their presentation over the other one I really wanted to. I did not ask difficult question to Japanese girl during presentation, but after over drinks. I had mentioned my intense desire to go to Irish pub and we did. The pub (in blue), home to the charming bartender

It was such a cliche of the Irish pub.The bartender was drunk and chatty and flirty. He asked us where we were from, what we were doing, making jokes at the other guys around the bar. In the end, I chickened out of Guiness and plumbed for a whiskey. This got a whistle, but really Jameson’s is very smooth. It went down like mango juice. By now we were comfortable with each other, and I was with the four most down-to-earth of the group, so we just chatted up a mix of academia and nonsense. Then we went to gallery for official drinks and talked up a storm. I had to pull myself away and get home.

Stopped to buy a sandwich for dinner and croissants for breakfast and met the Spanish girl. We hugged goodbye and then after walking a bit there was panting behind me and the Scottish girl had caught up with me out of breath. I felt nice that she had hurried to catch up with me and say goodbye. We’ve all promised to stay in touch, and I’ve already on FB with one, but I don’t know how far it will go.Nice while it lasted I guess.

Slept well that night and woke up rested so I guess it really was the nerves. Or maybe I’m only entitled to sleep every alternate day. Had a leisurely breakfast of croissants and tea, bathed, packed, and pottered around delaying my inevitable departure. On checkout, the sweet lady was fascinated by what I informed her was my “wrap dress”. She insisted on me turning around so she could check the maker of the dress and read G200 as Gucci. I hastily informed her that she should be able to find this design anywhere. We said warm goodbyes and then I got cab to the train station. The cabbie was chatty and told me all about the Shandon bells which I did not visit. At the station, got another sandwich (I basically sandwiched myself the entire trip) and sat down to check in. Noticed professor types from conference and was tempted to be groupie-like and pay darshan but they were involved in conversation and I had nothing stellar to say so I went to the loo instead.

In the train, bag lady elderly lady with lots of bags got in and sat opposite me. She took out some bookmarks with a prayer on them and started telling the girl opposite me how she is selling them in aid of some blind children. It was all very vague. The girl gave her three euros and then she turned to me. “I rather not” I said weakly but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. Finally, gave her the money to shut her up. Which is what the other girl must have done too, only earlier. I figured that the Irish had been so damn nice to me, this was the toll I would have to pay, and all things considered it came cheap. That was the end of my Cork adventure. I wanted to nap on the train but of course didn’t. Instead I gazed out at the countryside, which this time around seemed prettier.

Luck of the Irish – 4

So conference. My first impression was not favourable. Ok backtrack. My first impression was favourable because the university is beautiful. Like straight out of a picture book, the kind of campus you dream of when you think of universities. Why is it that the word university conjures up exactly these kind of images in our mind, like our idea of a village is also a certain kind of green with black and white picturesque looking cows in it.    Entrance to the University 

My second impression was so-so. People were medium-level friendly. It is muchos liberating to not care that much. To be okay with just standing or preferably sitting down on your own. It would help to have a phone to check, but I didn’t because guest wifi has to be applied for in advance at first-world university. The first session was okay, I think. I felt like some of the papers were borderline master’s level. Maybe I was being unfair. The fact is my paper for this conference isn’t stellar either, but I know that. Then again, I won’t let on that I know that when I’m presenting so maybe that’s what people are doing too. I think I offended one girl by not couching my critique quite properly. It was very badly articulated. Ouff.

It appears that the dominant aesthetic in the Humanities these days is piercings, preferably of tongues. It is funny how many people here have tongue and/or nose piercings of the bull ring kind. Also bright led lipstick. I too favour this shade. However, before the conference, I wondered whether it would be too much, and then finally put it on because I was too lazy to reach for the magenta, my other choice these days. Turns out everyone else did the same unabashedly though (I’m assuming). How does this happen? Does a memo go out? “Young sprites of the humanities, please note if you wish to retain your street cred you must pierce your tongue and preferably wear bright red lipstick.”

Also, the majority of the women, and we are a majority of women at this conference, are pretty. Unusually pretty, and not afraid to show it. Also, all the girls wear dresses, some of the kind that one would wear to a party. I wore a dress too, but from my office days, with a jacket. I might have stood out a little, looking older than the other ‘girls’ but I didn’t care too much. It amused me. Like when I was heterosexual and on the cusp of marriage in my Master’s and everyone else was committing to being gay. I hope I queered the queerness a little bit.

I had brought a dress for the dinner, but then thought fuck it, I’m too knackered to change, and my dress was in the same vein as my conference dress only the day dress was brown and the night dress was grey. However, some of the others did change, into skimpier outfits. Little edges of lace bras on view, for example.

In this, there is a divide between the older women there and us, the PhD students. I wonder what they thought of us. Well, I was somewhat in between so what they thoguht of “them”. Were they rolling their eyes at the third wave? (I liked attending the papers of the older women, I got more out of it.) At one point there was a conversation I overheard between a keynote speaker and two of the younger women, about what to wear. Clearly this was an issue people had given some thought to. “Just wear a dress. You’re a girl, dammit,” someone said someone had told her. Interestingly, the older, seemingly very pragmatic older woman, had changed into a skirt for a keynote, admittedly a fairly staid one. She was cool that woman; she’s a fairly big deal in this admittedly small circle but I had a nice conversation with her. Some of us are mothers and that breaks the ice. Also the fact that I’m flown here from Hong Kong and the jet lag. I also liked that as time wore on, we were frank about how nervous we were.

I didn’t think I was that nervous, but I was because I woke up at 3 am the night before the presentation (when I had slept at 12 am) and couldn’t sleep after for thinking about it. Jet lag may have played it’s part, but the other thing that threw me was that people were pretty much just reading their papers. I had prepared a full PPT with … wait for it… pictures. What? I like pictures. However, this might not be viewed as very … academic. However, in the end, after a short poll (of V and MinCat) I decided to just do my thing. I felt that if I scrapped the PPT at the last minute, it might throw me off because I had rehearsed with it. Sure it would be easier and less time-consuming to just read like an automaton, but that is frankly…boring. So yeah, I did the PPT and it was fine. I think people enjoyed having some to look at, though they would never admit it. I like that PPTs are not mandatory, but I actually prefer when they’re there. Later, the cool older lady, had a PPT with pictures, though smaller, less attractive ones. Why do we play down attractiveness? Clearly, the younger set don’t do this with their bodies, only their presentations.

The dinner broke the ice. Some of us ended up sitting at one end. A very cool Scottish girl with bright red hair, a Japanese girl with a thick North (?) British accent, a Spanish girl and the American diva, who for her presentation had hopped onto the table and crossed her legs. The girl at whose presentation I asked awkward question nearly sat next to us but then chose to sit at another table. Unfortunately, Indian lady came sat next to me. Did I mention her? I was very happy to know that another Indian was going to be the conference – it’s weird, I find comfort in seeing Asian or brown or black faces at this very white destination – and also her topic was relevant to me only I couldn’t attend her talk as it was at the same time as mine. She turned up in the afternoon, and from her body language I had my doubts about her. Then she asked a question at the presentation and it was worse than the poorly worded one I had asked. Then I actually met her and my suspicions were confirmed. She was one of those with a big ol’ chip on her shoulder. Everything she said to me was heavily patronising or critical or both. She criticized the food and that they were giving us enough free stuff and the presentation and oh god. Are Indian supposed to get together and just bitch about everything at these events in the Western world? Ugh.

And at the conference dinner, she wanted to do more of the same. I mostly tried to angle away from her and talk to the person on my other side. Also, I just hmmed and nodded to things she was saying which probably made her think I was an idiot, when actually I already knew the obvious points she was making about Indian womanhood, not all of which I agreed with but which there was no point articulating to her because she is already sure she knows because she’s been around the block (though in a different field, which apparently people are turning to now because feminists have failed to answer these questions. Ahem.)

One of the things that came up was how good it was to just matter-of-factly air feminist views and not get the inevitably pushback or be treated as some kind of niche specimen. I found that Irigaray, the theorist I love, is not unfashionable at all like I had been given to understand. There were at least three fangirls in our group. We took a picture and added each other in Facebook. See, even academics do normal things.

Luck of the Irish – 3

Slept beautifully. Woke up and pottered around, had a good hot shower, then at suitable hour (9 am) trundled down to explore the town. And honestly, loved it. I don’t know whether it was the rain or the general clamour in the city centre but Dublin did not speak to me on first sight. Cork, however, is exactly how I like it. Quaint, but quirky with people actually living their lives. I get that it’s ironic that I want to be a tourist and walk around but don’t want to encounter (too many) other people like me, but this is a person who gets annoyed with the smoke from my own cigarette if it blows into my face.

Pretty street.

Eye Hospital which may or may not function as such.

First thing I saw after clicking selfies and general photos madly – luckily it was early and there was nobody to point and laugh at me – was a church. It was open so I went in hesitantly, because I know religious placed don’t exactly cherish peerers. But I was there to pray so I did. It’s been a while but it does focus the mind and churches are so calming.  Then on my way out I actually looked at mass timings and wondered if I should make my mother’s day/week/month/year and attend. A little old lady saw me and said, “Are you alright? You look a bit lost.” “It’s been ages since I went to church,” I explained. See here’s the thing, people here are so chatty. I’ve also noticed that everywhere are girls standing around having a big gossip. Don’t know whether I’m just missing that in Hong Kong because of language but it seems that girls here are super passionate about …talking about stuff.

On the right is church I went to.
Then I asked her for directions to the English market and she took my arm and explained to be super sweetly.

Self explanatory.

Feel like I need to plagiarize this and start a fashion blog just to use the name.  

Wishing well. Did not wish. Felt like I got my wish just being there.

Man playing traditional Irish music outside the market. He later got up and started dancing with high kicks. And his puppets danced too.

Started at the English market and wandered and wandered. Covered practically everything there is to see just by wandering which is my favourite way to do this. Streets that have names that I do not remember.
At some point I decided I must sit down and pee. That is, I needed to pee (obviously sitting since  don’t have a penis and have stopped squatting) and after that, I needed to just sit somehwere and not pee and possibly eat. I had considered some places in the English Market but I’d figured they’d be pricey because tourists so I finally decided on an Irish chain O Brien’s. Though ironically, it was similarly priced to other non-chain places I chanced upon in my latter wanders. I had this toasted bagel with everything breakfasty in it, which was too heavy to finish. Like a full Irish in one bagel. So I packed it and saved it for lunch. Which might have slightly screwed my stomach. I need to remind myself that the positive of the cafe was that I got a clean loo and change for a 100 euros. So purposes served.

An Irish breakfast in one sandwich.
Then, I wandered some more, churches, churches, landed in Bishop’s Park which was on Lonely Planet guide as place to eat sandwich. I didn’t have sandwich but I had book. So I read it in park. So writerly. Opposite me was a hipster guy, obviously a tourist, who had clearly found the place owing to Lonely Planet. I had landed there serendipitiously okay. Seriously. Hipster guy was determinedly listening to iPod. He looked like he was going to talk to me, which I was not very interested in. I read Confessions of Listmaniac which I really liked, as I do all Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan’s stuff, once I got into it. There was child running about blowing whistle at ravens who were just not having it. Made me laugh. He was so all “Here ravens, I’m talking to you” and they were all “Get us some bread and we’ll talk.” It reminded me of my babies.

Raven in Bishop Park. Why can’t HK have greens like this? 
Walked back, got dressed for presentation and Skyped with said babies. Mimi has decided to be shy of me. Hmph. V is wheedling his way into her affections. Hmph. We’ll see when I get back.

Dressed in conferency outfit and left. More on that later.

The river Lee and pretty Irish houses. I wonder how they decide on the colours, especially of the doors.

St Fin Barre Cathedral Cork. There are so many beautiful churches in Cork, it’s hard to choose. In the end, I decided to just admire from the outside.

Luck of the Irish – 2

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First view of Dublin. Gorgeous no? Why is it that when one travels one can’t quite sleep as one would like? Is it old age? Jet lag? Over-tiredness? What? I was knackered yesterday, and yet, I couldn’t quite fall asleep. Woke a couple of times at night. I had aimed to sleep till 9 am but 7 was the best I could do. Lolled around till 8. Called V and exchanged some romantic texts. Strange. But I think Pretty Woman plus being alone has some effect on me. Hope it lasts. Decided to have the full Irish breakfast, which was well priced all things considered. It was a good choice. Thought I’d be done in half an hour but I was there a whole hour. It was scrumptious. The best sunny side up, I’ve had. Dunno how they got it so thick and non-runny. And best sausages I’ve had in ages. Also, I took away a couple of muffins for tea. Skyped with the kids – who were super cute and chatty – and then tried to nap. Really I was so tired and part of me didn’t want to leave the room and face the rest of the adventure. But as expected couldn’t. So ended up wasting 45 minutes or so which I came to regret. And then when I went down, because I needed to call the guesthouse in Cork (which I’m glad I did because the lady sounded so unsure on the phone) I missed the shuttle and the next one was half and hour away (which made me consider how lucky I’d been to get the one from the airport right away). However, I got the Airlink into Dublin as soon as I got there, so that was nice. The niceness of the people too. Someone helped me put my ginormous suitcase on the upper rack as that was the only one left. The bus took longer than I’d expected though. And the wifi kept shutting off and I realised I’d forgotten the name of the baggage storage thing and couldn’t call up the map on GPS. However, at the last hour the wifi came on and I got the name. Turned out it really is literally 5 minutes away. Very convenient and super sweet man running it, who helped me find directions to the James Joyce Centre. Took the Luas to Abbey Street and according to my map and the rather involved discussions the guy at the luggage storage gave me, I shouldn’t have been too far away. I asked a lady at the tourist office and she said, oh yeah, up that way, so I figured it was a few metres on. I decided to go find a loo and pee, which was a good thing, but then I was horribly late. And it turned out my stupid Lonely Planet map was wrong and the James Joyce Centre was on North Great George Street and not North Earl Street. Had the map messed up the names or had the Centre shifted recently? I finally asked an elderly and very serious guy who was just standing around. He looked like exactly the kind of person who could turn out to be a horrible racist. Instead he was the sweetest person ever. He held onto my hand and told me the directions in this lilting voice, and then repeated them for good measure. Frankly, the repeat delayed me further, but seeing as I am really capable of getting lost (surprise!) it was a good thing. As I was parting, this other old guy said “do you want a better map than that one?” but I had to say “sorry!” and ran off. I literally ran the two blocks to the actual centre, having to ask for directions once again. Got there huffing and puffing in the nick of time though there were people signing up. Honestly, the centre entry is sooo discreet. Anyhoo, of course it was pissing down. The tourist guide and the whole group frankly was a bit weird. Noone smiled at each other, which is totally unIrish. But whatever the failings of the guide in the initial sociability department, the tour was excellent. He really knew the Lestrygonians episode really well and recreated it for us excellently. Even though we couldn’t get close enough to him due to our umbrellas, the patter of the rain and the general traffic, I could still catch every word. He brought old photos to show us how things would have been – in the rare cases where the actual building, or feature of the building, like the ball on Ballast House, was not there – and read out passages from the book. Honestly, if I had to read the book while taking a walk like this one for each section it would be awesome. Makes me want to read it again, to really appreciate it. Bit of my boot on Footsteps of Bloom Unfortunately, I had to shove off awkwardly before the tour ended, because I feared I was getting too late. I took a taxi to be safe and panicked at the luggage place when I couldn’t hear the doorbell ring. Luckily, the proprietor was incredibly nice and forgave me for the incessant ringing. Got to Heuston well in time, collected my tickets without incident, used the cleanest loo I’ve ever seen in a railway station, sat down and munched the muffins I had saved from the breakfast buffet, resisting the urge to buy anything else. Then, onto the train, where thankfully storing my luggage was relatively simple and the wifi worked. Alas, or maybe fortunately, I got super sleepy and nodded off. Irish countryside. Initially, I tried to keep awake to admire the Irish countryside, but it was pretty much green fields and the odd cows or sheep. Pretty, but dare I say it, California is prettier. How is that possible? I think dad with his ‘the most beautiful country in the world’ set it up too high. Disembarked in a very disoriented state, used loo and almost exited when I realised I’d forgotten my umbrella. Walked back to the platform and flagged down a guy from the train. If it was HK, he would have ignored me, but this guy stopped and when I said I’d forgotten my umbrella, he said which one and knew exactly which it is. Got it for me. Got a sandwich and toyed with taking the bus before giving up and getting a taxi, who knew the Killarney Guesthouse where I was staying. Killarney Guest House It looks rather charming and there’s a very sweet elderly lady at the desk. An Indian guy is helping out and gives me a hand with my bags. When I enter my room on the second floor, it’s the opposite of the airport hotel room feeling. This is a room I could live in. Alone. It’s strange because it’s not beautiful, but just very cozy and like something out of an old Bandra house, only the view outside is Irish. The bed is comfy, the loo is small but clean, the kettle works. And the wifi works. So far so good. Hope I sleep tonight.

Luck of the Irish – 1

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2015-07-09 12.35.18

So remember my visa hassles? Well, in the end, it went through. I needn’t have panicked so much. Next time, I tell myself, I won’t. Though I know I will. Old traumas die hard.

***

As the trip neared, I started to get excited. I started to read, to plan, to let that feeling wash over me. It isn’t just that Ireland is one of the few places left on my bucket list. I like to think that I’ve ticked most places off my bucket list except possibly Kenya or South Africa. Actually, at the risk of sounding like one of those, any country in Africa will do. But even as I don’t feel the wanderlust, when the possibilities raise their head, I think … maybe this too.

So yeah, it’s not just that every literary great in the modernist English canon seems to be from Ireland, not the rolling hills, and the romance of it, and the fact that I secretly like Riverdance (well the music anyway, okay even the dancing) but that I’ve never actually traveled solo. Ever. I’ve done girlie trips and a work trip, but nothing entirely on my own. This is the first. And I think it’s time. So much so that while there were people who might have jumped on this (and MinCat this does not refer to you, I’d have jumped on you jumping on this trip), I pretended not to notice their hints.

So I have expectations and apprehensions for this trip. It could be the one.

***

Two days before I leave, I am paralysed by the inability to decide whether I should do the James Joyce tour on Day 1 and leave the general tour of Dublin for the last day, even though it makes more sense to do the general tour first. V snaps at me for how much I’m on the phone, but I’ve done no research for this trip – well, practically none – I’m trying to cram it all in last minute.

I run my dilemma past him, and after smirking, he says I should do the James Joyce first and then other one later. But I’m still not sure, his word is not the final one anymore. The next day I run it by MinCat. I propose skipping Joyce, and she says: “I think you’ll regret that.” And that settles it.

***

The idea of leaving the kids makes me uneasy. It’s been a while, and they’re older. I tell them, and they don’t seem happy, but not as bad as expected. On the day before I leave, I take them to the library. I suddenly realise I could borrow a travel guide, something we always did on our trips, but it’s been so long I’d forgotten the routine. V tells me to reserve it and I ignore him, but when I get to the library, it’s not on the shelf, but it shows available. “Is this a sign?” I think.

I realise my belief in signs is an attempt to control the uncontrollable in the absence of prayer. Earlier, I emailed the free general tour asking a question that I did not get a reply to. I wanted a reply, as a sign that I should go ahead with my plan. I didn’t get one, and I had to make a sign-less decision.

***

The day before the trip V decided to get standoffish with me. I can’t figure what ticked him off but I don’t let it bother me. I have inklings that this might be the making of me. Well, even if it’s a disaster it’s a milestone. And I can’t look over my shoulder too much, even though I’m increasingly becoming a person who is walking alone even though someone is walking beside her.

I leave the house, alone, with a slightly unsettled feeling. I get the security guard to call me a cab, and for the nth time, I wonder at how seamless all this is in Hong Kong. Sure, I worry but it’s more out of habit than anything else.

When I reach the in-town check-in, I encounter my first glitch. Apparently, my flight can’t be checked in there. I need to go to the Airport. It’s a minor problem, as fortunately I have enough time. However, it’s a lesson for the future. Call and check.

I barely have time to grab a danish at the lounge and do a quick Skype with the kids. When I get on the flight, I’m disconcerted at how ugly business class looks (nevertheless, I harboured fantasies of being upgraded and didn’t wear torn jeans) and how small the economy seats are. It really is cattle class, ain’t it? My reservations about flying return.

And then I realise, I’ve checked myself into a window seat. I don’t know how this happened. But it’s too late, so I sit down. However, finally, I just work up the courage and ask the air hostess if I can change. And she says yes, and points to me to – wait for it – one of the front row seats (with extra space) that has been vacated by a lady with a baby. I can feel the daggers on me as I slide into one of the best seats in the house.

And then it’s beautiful from there. I oscillate between watching movies (2) and reading my book with the radio on. The food is great. I force myself to nap and I get some sleep in. The service is good, no incessant announcements and generally helpful (and elegant) hostesses. They make me half belief in air hostesses looking pretty. The reality of the experience is so dreadful might as well have something nice to look at? This while I’m reading a book on feminist aesthetics. The irony does not escape me.

***

Disembark at Dubai, and get my seat for the next leg changed. The upshot of this is that I realise I can have a meal coupon. Terminal 3 is fairly empty but this is good because there’s place to sit. And contrary to popular opinion, the wifi works. Because here I am.

So Dubai Airport. Well, I can only speak for Terminal Three, which is where all the Emirates planes land. In this age of the Internet, I highly recommend doing a bit of research even on airports. However, my research on Dubai Airport said it sucked, which was surprising because I had heard it was uber post. It was also mentioned that Emirates flights land in Terminal 3, which is new and generally better, and I guess it was.

At least, I found a place to sit and managed to get free wifi. Though yes, as someone mentioned, it kind of sucked. Apparently, one gets one hour, but I really got half. Seriously though, we are in the 21st century, and does their need to be a limit on the wifi?

Had four hours to kill and they went by fairly quickly, thanks to an hour and half of blogging. I began to think that maybe I really did have Internet addiction because the urge to check Facebook and write was so strong. Then I wandered around looking for places to use my coupon for lunch. Credit goes to Emirates for giving pretty good choices.

I finally went with my gut and located the buffet at the Mezzanine lounge. Tip for anyone travelling through Dubai Terminal 3 with a longish layover – that lounge is a good one. The buffet is suited to Indian tastes. There was some Indian-ish looking Chinese, unfortunately the gravy was sweet and sour pork. I had a good chicken biryani and some amazing shahi tukda.

Headed down for my flight resisting the urge to buy anything just to get change. Figured I’d find a way to do that in Ireland.

Slight incident at the gate when I couldn’t locate my boarding pass. While the Emirates person at the gate said she’d get her colleague to print out one for me, seeing as I had already been checked for it once. However, guy in security jersey said no, I couldn’t board without the pass. For once, I garnered up some attitude and glared him down. I mean, I was searching in a panic, no need to get snotty. I found it in my file. The issue with playing too safe I guess.

On my flight I had an Irish guy next to me. He was super sweet (though very Irish looking which I now realise is a thing. Something about the nose. Not my thing. Also he clearly was religious because he made the sign of the cross before takeoff. Twice.) Problem was I couldn’t quite understand what he was saying. He was from an inner county, maybe that’s why.

The seat wasn’t as comfortable as on the earlier leg, but blessedly was an aisle. Irish boy got up only twice the entire flight and apologised both times. They are unfailingly polite, those Irish. I’ll have to mind my pleases and thank yous. How do they do it? (not the thanking but the not needing to pee. Not the Irish in particular, all boys I mean.) Was exhausted by the time we arrived. Hadn’t slept a wink.Was beginning to regret the travel.

And finally, some 20 hours later, here I am in Dublin. Ghosts of Joyce, Yeats, Wilde, Eliot (?), Michael Collins, all ye dashing souls who made history and art, here I come.

My first view of Ireland.

Project Disney – Day 2

So a typhoon was heading straight to Hong Kong, and while this had made for perfect weather on Day 1 of our Disney sojourn, it was not so perfect on Day 2 because the stupid ever-vigilant Observatory hoisted the No.3 signal. This means that all the outdoor rides in the Park shut down.

The previous night V had asked me if I would prefer to leave the next day and use our tickets on the weekend instead (since you can use the second day tickets anytime over the next seven days). It did throw me into confusion for a bit because logically it made sense – we had had our fill and could recharge and come back again for more fun – but emotionally I was against it. For some illogical reason, I wanted to do two consecutive days and really saturate in the Disney experience.Anyway, we later realised we had special tickets for the Frozen Village attraction and so that decided things for us.

However, when we got to the Park, I heard the attendant telling V something about the rides and him asking about the Frozen Village. I was a bit behind him and when it was my turn to enter, the attendant told me that the outdoor rides had shut down due to the typhoon. It was too late to reconsider since V had already entered so I went in after him.

Frankly, had I known that the rides were not all operational, I might have chosen to save our tickets and return another day. I was surprised because the weather was not typhoony at all. It was similar to the previous day. But since the Observatory had raised the signal, Disney was just following protocol.

Anyway, we had some time to kill when we entered so I clicked some photos of Mimi (since Nene would not cooperate hmph) on Main Street, something I’ve been dying to do for ages. When the Park gates opened it was crazy to see people literally running in all directions. Luckily, we were not stampeded on the path we were on. Much as I it was hilarious and slightly dangerous for the kids, I can understand the sentiment because the queues can be crazy.

1. So our first stop was the Frozen attraction. If your kids are into this film (and how could they not be?) then this should probably be your first stop this summer (it’s only on till 30 August). Entry is free with park tickets, but they get snapped up. I’m not actually sure how to get them because we already had our waiting in our hotel room thanks to friend and we could bypass line so we marched into the Palace of Arendale the target of many envious looks.

The main attraction is the show in the Crown Theatre in which Elsa, Anna and Kristoff appear. There’s also a lot of singing along karaoke style. Frankly, I did not love it, but it was cute to see Mimi belting out Let It Go complete with actions. Unfortunately, Nene was singing very religiously also till he saw he laughing. Bad mommy! But really, it’s so funny how the kids with totally serious faces sing these songs as if they’re in church. At one point, I looked at Mimi and she had this queer expression on her face and she turned to me and asked “Where’s Elsa?” and I realised she was utterly star struck. It was like a cult member finally getting to meet the great leader. Oh well, I guess this is their mythology. Since the message of the film is the love between siblings and how not to fall for the first guy that flatters you, I’m ok with it.

Outside in the Festival Square, kids get play in snow/ice and build castles. My kids spent all of five minutes there. Wonder how they’d handle real snow. Then one can do a toboggan ride for which you have to queue up. The queueing was a bit chaotic but didn’t take that long. The ride is over in a minute though and it’s a bit of a crash landing. However, worth doing.  

Unfortunately, Olaf took a break just as we decided to queue up for him and then Mimi had a meltdown because she wanted to buy the expensive Elsa dress from the shop. Somehow V managed to get her to lunch and feed both the kids who ate like angels while I zoomed off to get the only other Fast Pass for Space Mountain.

2. I could only get a Pass for 12.55 pm so after lunch we went to It’s A Small World. The last time we went, the kids were not impressed with this one, which surprised me because it’s the one I loved the most when I visited Tokyo Disneyland as a child. The good thing about this ride is that queue is indoors and moves quickly. I kept Mimi and the people in the line near me amused by singing the Small World song. While I tried my best to make the ride come alive for Mimi, she didn’t seem to love it. Hmph!

3. We then headed to Tomorrowland for the Space Mountain ride. Although Mimi was tall enough for the ride, the attendant warned us that it was a fairly scary roller coaster and so we decided against sending her. V and Nene proceeded to it, and V said that it was scary so I’m glad we took that call. Unfortunately, I just missed the Lilo and Stich encounter, so ended up buying a slush and sitting around with Mimi, watching a moving and talking trash can.

Surprisingly, even the UFO Zone was closed which was a bummer as Mimi would have enjoyed that. However, she didn’t seem overly bored just shooting the not-typhoon-level breeze.

At about 1.30 pm, we decided to call it a day. The kids were visibly flagging and we had done most of our must-dos. The wait time for the Astro Blasters said 30 minutes and we felt that was too much. My big regret was not having done the Jungle River Cruise but I guess we’ll just have to come back.

On the way out, I noticed that there was no queue for the Art of Animation studio so we went it. It’s basically a drawing class where they show you how to draw a Disney character, this one Olaf. I was pleasantly surprised at how Nene focused on his considering that his kindergarten teacher said he’s not that into art.

On the way out, we got a Spiderman T-shirt for Nene and a Princess swimsuit for Mimi as a souvenir. A little overpriced but I know that Nene at least is going to wear that T-shirt to death. Alas, no mouse ears for poor (literally) ol’ me.

So that was our Disney experience. Had I had my way and the weather cooperated, I would have wanted to do the Jungle River Cruise and Astro Blasters and probably another spin on the Orbitron or the Carousel. So two short of my ideal list, which is not bad all things considered. I’m glad we got so much done on Day 1. My plan had always been to wing it on Day 2 anyway.

We collected our bags from the hotel and took a cab back. The kids passed out in the taxi and Mimi is only now getting back to her normal self. She was quite emotional over the past two days, which I realised was because she was upset about being back to real life.

At one point, V trying to be clever, said how this whole thing is a money making racket. Yes, it is, I don’t deny it’s consumerist but I think buying an experience is better than buying things. I went to Disney when I was 9 and to this day I remember the details clearly. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I know that when we first took my kids, they were soooo excited and talked about it and asked to go back for ages.

Yes, Disney is probably a perfect example of Baudrillard’s simulcrum, but so what? It is kitsch and it’s also magic. It’s like entering a wonderland where almost everything is pure fantasy (except the part where you have to pay in real money).

Initially, V had suggested we go to a resort with a theme park in China instead, which I overruled with the Disney idea. In the end, the China plan was not working out that much cheaper and with the hassle of the visas etc. I just could not be bothered. But also I realised that Disney was easier to get too and would be more memorable for the kids. And it was.

In the bargain, I realised I should just shut up and admit it. I’m a total Mouseketeer.

Project Disney – Hotel

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So as mentioned we decided to stay overnight at a Disney hotel. Hong Kong Disneyland has two hotels, the fancier and more expensive Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and the cheaper but still three-star Hollywood Hotel. I’ve stayed in both since the very first time we went to Disneyland was for my niece’s third birthday and the SIL insisted we stay in the better hotel and paid for it (yes, crazy generous loaded person). While the Disneyland Hotel is super pretty, I didn’t find any reason to pay extra bucks for it. The room was huge (able to accommodate four) and very comfortable, but that’s about it.

To my surprise, V was angling for the better hotel too (maybe it runs in the family), and while I’m usually the one up for more luxuries, this time I put my foot down. The whole trip was expensive enough and for me the hotel served a functional purpose – a place for the kids to nap and take breaks so they didn’t get too tired out.

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However, I have to say when I first saw the Hollywood Hotel, I did not love it. I thought the design was strange and unattractive. The lobby is very old fashioned in a style that would appeal to Chinese tourists. It was only on looking closely that I realised that was the point – it was an art deco theme in 20s Hollywood glamour. And you know what, it began to grow on me, though I guess I’m never going to be an immediate fan of the art deco style. I do love me some black and white chequered flooring though.

What I really appreciate was that although the official check-in was 3 pm, they gave V the room at 9.30 am when he went to drop off our suitcase. This was really helpful as we could bring the kids in to nap at their regular time.

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Thanks to a friend we got upgraded to a seaview room. While this is nice, I would not pay extra for it.

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The room had two large beds, and as expected was very comfortable although much smaller than the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel room. But more than enough for our purposes.

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A nice touch were these hand towels folded into animal shapes which the kids amused themselves with for ages. Sorry for the dark photos. I should have lightened it before I uploaded them into WordPress, but as ever lazy is my watchword in these matters.

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Art Deco style Disney art.

The bathroom is not huge, but comfortable with a tub and a shower with great pressure and water that really heats up fast. While they provide shampoo and shower gel in cute little mouse ear bottles, they don’t provide lotion, which is odd. V had ridiculed me for the amount of ‘cosmetics’ I was taking (literally foundation, lotion, and dental stuff, please!) so I left out the nice Bvlgari travel ack that I intended to take and then was miffed when we got there and there was no lotion.

The hotel has an arcade with time slots when all the games are free for hotel guests. Unfortunately, we kept missing these although we were in the room just lazing about. Or rather, because we were just lazing about.

There is also a pool and an outdoor kids play area. Again, we didn’t have time to use these.

One can also do a special Chef Mickey buffet breakfast or dinner. This used to be a full fledged character dining experience but when I called to check they said it’s just Mickey so I decided to skip it. It’s fairly expensive and I know my kids wouldn’t make full use of the buffet. If there were a lot of characters waking about – which was the case when we did it with our niece – i might have sprung for it. Instead, we took loads of break and travel sized butter packs and munched on that, which worked out fine.

The hotel has a souvenir store so if you “forget” to buy anything in the Park you have another chance to deplete your wallet. I nearly bought a pair of mouse ears (for myself!) here but finally saw reason desisted. I still have buyer’s remorse, or the opposite of buyer’s remorse (the one where you regret not buying something).

Stay tuned for Part 3 on our second day at Disneyland. You can read Part 1 here.

Project Disney- Day 1

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Note: This post is possibly only of interest to parents and Disney fans. It’s a public service since I really found reading blogs with tips on navigating the Park useful but there is a dearth of posts on HK Disneyland.

So as usual while the rest of Hong Kong was racing to cooler climes or frankly anywhere but here, we decided to go all the way … across town to Disneyland. Even in the matter of Disneyland we are tad different from our upper middle class colleagues in the Honk. We don’t own an annual pass and we go fairly rarely because Disneyland is expensive and has got more expensive over the years. Also our kids still nap and so cannot last a whole day there. The last time we left at 3 pm, which is not exactly value for a day pass. Although it was very hot and the queues were long meaning that we didn’t exactly do a tonne of rides, the kids loved it.

Now since the kids were older, I decided it was time for a revisit and I convinced V that we should stay a night to really cover the Park properly.Again, the hotel is expensive. In fact, once in the past, I booked and V made me cancel convincing me that it would be cheaper to go back on two days in a taxi than stay over. However, I won out this time and I’m glad I did. More on that later.

Unlike previous times, this time I planned obsessively. I read blogs and made notes on how to best cover the park with preschoolers. And I stuck to my plan, which proved to be a wise choice. Last time, the kids ran into Tomorrowland and V overruled my protests, resulting in us getting stuck in queues the whole day and seeing half of what we should have. So.

Here’s The Bride’s Top Tops for How To See Hong Kong Disneyland with Preschoolers (over two days, but I’ll try and scale it down for the daytrippers).

1. Off Off and Away: We took the MTR and then the Disneyland Express from Sunny Bay. From this point on, the Mouse ears are ubiquitous. Not that I’m complaining. By the end of our trip, I wanted a pair of ears myself.

The kids loved the little Mickey touches on the train and the blue Velvet seats. We disembarked at Disneyland station. V took our suitcase and went to check in at the hotel. I took the kids to the park to redeem our tickets.

From memory, its a bit of a trek from the train station to the park entrance, but with the kids older, it went by faster than expected. There are little touches like flags with Disney characters on them and fountains you can point to to distract them.

V had found us tickets with a slight discount from a travel agent. I was a little nervous about whether there would be any problem redeeming them from the park but there wasn’t.

Since V took some time coming back from the hotel, so I settled down under a tree and fed the kids some biscuits. You’re not really allowed to take food into the park, though I did sneak some in, so it’s good to snack before entering if you’re kids are fussy eaters. My kids had a good time feeding the sparrows some biscuits.

As per my plan, we were to arrive earlier than 10 am when the Park opens, and enter bang on time. However, the hotel magnanimously gave V our room when he went to drop off the suitcase, so he took longer than expected to return, and we entered at 10.30.

2. Because of the amount of walking, I insisted we rent a stroller. We don’t have a stroller at home, because ours broke on a trip to another theme park and since our kids were good walkers from the the time they were 2, we didn’t get another one. However, although Hong Kong Disneyland is small as far as Disney parks go, it’s still a lot for little kids, especially in the heat.

I had wanted V to get a stroller from the hotel so we could use it on the long trek from park to bus station, though I remembered we couldn’t take it on the bus. However, the hotel convinced V that we could rent it at the park itself. This was a flaw, as the stroller rental is at the end of Main Street which means that you have that whole stretch of walking to do.

But anyway, we got one. And it turned out to be a good decision. The Disney strollers are shaped a little differently from your average pram and this seems to amuse the kids. I had worried that mine would fight over it, but they cooperated in taking turns and pushing each other mostly without incident.

Strollers cost 100hkd to rent, and you have to pay a 200hkd deposit that is refunded when you return the stroller. You can park the stroller at designated spots and they’re pretty safe there. Well, I’ve never heard of a stroller being filched.

3. When you enter the park, do not stop at the main Meet and Greet area where Mickey and Minnie might be. Our kids had the pleasure of Mickey and Minnie strolling by hand in hand out of sight, and we bustled them along. There’s another Meet and Greet spot called Fantasy Gardens where queuing up time is much shorter. So unless you must get a photo of Mickey in a tailcoat, save it.

4. Head to Fantasyland first. It has the most rides for kiddies. However, be warned it has very little shade, and can be a killer if the sun is out. We were so lucky the day we visited that it was cloudy with a bit of breeze thanks to an incoming typhoon (that proved not so lucky later).

5. There are two rides in Hong Kong Disneyland that have a Fast Pass system. This is a free service where you insert your park tickets into a machine near the ride and get a time when you can come back and bypass the regular line.

The two Fast Pass rides at HK Disneyland are Winnie the Pooh and Space Mountain. Winnie the Pooh is the only one suitable for a three year old, and it’s super popular in general so a Fast Pass is worth it. I sent V off to get our Fast Pass entry times as soon as we hit Fantasy Land while the kids and I queued up for the Carousel.

6. The Carousel looks beautiful and the queuing time is fine first time in the morning, though even later in the day, apparently, it’s manageable because it’s shaded. It’s your standard merry-go-round with lots of horses etc.

7. Avoid Dumbo the Elephant of Doom, which from personal experience and all reports is a time suck. The kids start badgering to go on it as soon as they see it, but having queued up for half an hour in blistering heat last time, it was a complete let down, despite being one of Disney’s classic rides. There’s a ride called Orbitron in Tomorrowland which is similar but actually better with less queuing up.

8. Since our Fast Pass time was 11.15 to 12.15 we had time for one more attraction. V shepherded us in the direction of Mickey’s Philharmagic which had no visible queue (though that’s always an eye wash). It’s is an indoor 3D show on a big wraparound screen, which has the advantage of being air conditioned. It takes a little persuading to get your kids to wear the 3D glasses which they must because these are proper 3D effects with things flying at you etc. Well worth it.

9. On to Winne the Pooh.

Even with our Fast Passes there was (what felt like) 15 minutes of queuing so really get the pass or skip it. You sit in Honey Pots which take you through a classic Winne the Pooh story in the style of Its A Small World, if you’re familiar with that.  Frankly, my kids aren’t yet into Winnie the Pooh so the narration fell a little flat for them, but the advantage is that when we came home and I put a Pooh story on for Nene on the telly, he loved it.

10. Our kids are early eaters, so we broke for lunch at the Royal Banquet Hall. This large food court is probably the most reasonably priced food option (apart from the concession stands) to get a meal in Disneyland but that doesn’t mean it’s cheap. A dish is about 100hkd, which is on the high end for a food court. On the plus side, there are a range of options from Western to Asian, including curry, and the portions are big. Two dishes was good enough for the four of us. On the negative side, the taste is so-so to bland. I was especially disappointed with the seafood fried rice, which though choc-a-bloc with seafood, was really meh tasting. My kids, for whom fried rice is always a safe choice, rejected it and peched at V’s mixed grill instead. The dim sum also went down well with them if you have kids with a Chinese palate.

11. Post lunch, we headed to the Meet and Greet area. The queues here were totally manageable, especially for poor Pluto who barely had a queue. Minnie was the longest being a popular character and the first one you see. We started off in the Minnie line but convinced the kids to switch to Mickey. Unfortunately, as I had been warned, the characters take 10 minutes breaks all together, and they did just as we got to the top of the line. When they came back, they hammed it up with Mickey and Minnie doing a parting-is-such-sweet-sorrow routine (below) that melted my jaded heart (I know I know).

We not only got photos with Mickey, but with Goofy as well, since I noticed that he was totally acting it up. Actually, Goofy was being a bit of a ladies man that day, but anyhoo, we all hugged him ignoring the latent creepiness.

12. Finally, we did one last ride for the morning – Mad Hatters Tea Cups. For some reason, there was barely a queue for this, so it’s a good choice. The ride can be adjusted according to age because you can turn the wheel in your tea cup to make it go faster, and it really does spin. I had to glare at V to make him stop it as the kids were looking leery.

13. And then it was back to our hotel for a break. I’ll do a separate post on the hotel, but let it be said that the kids DID NOT NAP. It was so frustrating because I had expected that would be the case if we got the room at the regular check in time of 3 pm, but we got it in the morning and got back at their regular nap time. However, they were either too tired, too excited or both, not to mention that they are not used to napping in the same room, so after several attempts we gave up, and headed back to the Park a wee bit earlier than expected at 4.30 pm.Although they didn’t nap, I’m still glad we got the room because we all did rest and it was a wonderfully cooling retreat from the heat.

14. In the evening, I decided to go to Toy Storyland. This is at the far end of the Park and with good reason, but really there is only one ride suitable for little ones – the Slink Dog, which was my target. In a way, the Park has done a good thing putting the two lands with the most rides for older people at the far end because presumably teens and adults can manage the walk. So if you have one day, I’d skip Toy Storyland, but since we were there for two, I was determined to cover as much as possible.

However, frankly while Slinky Dog was fun, there was longish queue and it turned out to a be a tad fast for my kids. So I wish we had skipped it, though the land itself is very cutely done up. A case of FoMo if there ever was one.

15. My next target was the Festival of the Lion King show in Adventureland to get to which we had to pass through Mystic Point and Grizzly Gluch. Both these are more for older peeps, but Mystic Manor is a ride that has to age barrier so since we had a bit of time, we queued up. The queue winds past these old photos explaining about Sir Henry Mystic which frankly would have gone above my kids’ heads if I hadn’t been desperate to distract them and so painstakingly explained each picture as if it was the most exciting thing since radium was discovered.

Finally, we got on the carts for the ride, which turned out to be quite scary for kids. I knew that it was scary but nothing in Disney is that scary except this was. And V had this brilliant idea of letting the kids sit alone up front, which worked well for Winnie the Pooh but not so much for when a headless knight bears down on them with a sword.

Again, totally should have given this a miss, though Nene who is a total horror addict couldn’t stop talking about it, primarily to scare Mimi. And V said he enjoyed it best, so well. However, the result of taking in Slinky Dog and Mystic Manor is that we missed the Jungle River Cruise, which I totally regret.

16. However, we did make it to the Festival of the Lion King in the nick of time.

After Mystic Manor, I think Mimi was a little on edge, and I feared when the lights dimmed and the African drums began to beat that it might be a tad scary for her, but overall the kids enjoyed it. Nene’s strategy when he’s afraid is to focus on the one thing that scares him, which in this case meant he obsessively asked after Uncle Scar. The confusing thing for the kids were there were actors playing the roles, when I think they would have preferred furry mascots but overall it’s a wonderful taste of the musical. If you sit in front you get a chance to high five some of the cast members but we were too far up to do that.

17. We then headed for dinner again at the Royal Banquet Hall, though Adventureland does have an Indian themed restaurant. However, the meal costs around hkd300 which we thought was a bit much for the risk of substandard Indian food. I’ve been thinking about why Disney food is so mediocre and I realise it’s because they try to make every dish cater to every palatte and thus succeed in pleasing none. I’ve actually eaten their signature Halloween set in the restaurant on Main Street and while it it is beautifully presented, it fell short in the taste department.

18. After dinner, it was straight to Main Street for the parade. Alas, throngs had already bagged their spots and we only got standing space five lines deep. Which means that when the floats came by, the kids could barely see anything. Here is one of the times when you realise how parenting changes you because I found the strength to carry Nene and hoist him up for a good half hour. Well, parenting and running every day, because V couldn’t manage the same for Mimi. I tried getting Nene to stand on assorted rubbish bins but was chased down by security guards hmph. The Paint the Town parade, which is all about glowing lights, was lovely, but we really should have bagged a spot earlier. This was a biggest disappointment of our trip.

19. As I remembered it, the fireworks are at 8 pm, but now they’ve shifted it to 9 pm (or maybe that was always the case?). This means there’s a good 40 minutes between the parade and the fireworks. Most people keep their spot, but I knew my kids were not going to sit there for that long. Also, from experience, I know that you can watch the fireworks from anywhere in the square though admittedly, being bang in front of the castle is the best vantage point.

20. So despite V’s grumbling, I dragged us to Fantasyland for a ride on Orbitron, which proved to be a very good choice. There was a cool breeze and Orbitron was the perfect antidote to the disappointment of the parade.

21. After Orbitron, the rest of the rides seemed to have shut or the queues were long, so we sat in front of the UFO zone, which is a UFO themed fountain area with geyzers etc. This had proved a hit with my kids when we took them in summer when they were little. We have a super cute video of them getting totally drenched. This time, they were old enough to avoid most of the splashing and I warned Nene that I didn’t have a change of pants for him.

22. Finally, we sat down in the square for the fireworks. By this time, Mimi was completely knackered and watched the whole thing with a dazed expression. One of my aims in a getting a room was for the kids to watch the fireworks, and on this count, I’m not sure it was worth it as I think I was the most impressed by the spectacle.

23. I ended up having to carry Mimi to the bus, and she fell asleep on my shoulder in five seconds flat, not waking up tell the next morning. Nene held out till we got to our room, but then crashed in five minutes. In this sense, the room was worth it.

I, however, could not sleep until two hours later, so overtired was I. And ‘A Whole New World’ kept playing in a loop in my head.

However, it had been an awesome day. We had been afraid of a typhoon hitting Hong Kong and not only did it hold off, but the result was perfect weather. Also, I had been afraid of my period coming, but it didn’t. So overall yay!

Special thanks to this blog, and this one and this one which were a great help when planning my trip.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Shopping binge

So remember when I said that I felt a shopping binge coming on? It happened.

I happened to be in Causeway Bay and there was a Gap sale on and I wandered into it because I’ve always loved Gap’s style even though it is a tad on the expensive side for the casualness of the clothing, and for once, the sale prices were actually good. And wham. V found himself standing around for 20 minutes with no end in sight and finally, he decided to just get a seat. One hour later, I still wasn’t done and he suggested I come back on a Monday morning when the lines for the fitting queue weren’t quite so long, not to mention that I should be looking at Mango which was on sale too.

After all that trying, I came away with a pair of jeans for a really good price, one T-shirt, again dirt cheap, and a tank that I ended up returning later. I’m pleased about the jeans because it does thrill me to own Gap jeans but also I’m so in need of jeans to suit my newly trim ass.

So, I decided on a shopping day. I didn’t even need to come into Causeway Bay because the mall in my part of town has all the four shops I targeted – Gap, Zara, Mango and H&M. What I’ve realised is that while there was a time when shopping for me was a whimsical exercise, now with time and money not on my side, I need a strategy.

I need to compare. I need to try on because I have bulges in places that can be hidden but only with the right clothes. I need a good refund policy. All this takes time, and prunes the stores I’m willing to visit. Gap never used to be on my list, but now it is.

Anyway, I first visited H&M. The tragedy is that when my friend was in town we browsed in H&M and I ended up buying a pair of slouchy cotton pants which I noticed are now on sale for half the price. And of course, I’d lost the receipt. Well, I’m actually quite good at keeping receipts, but somehow this one got lost even though the pants were still in the bag with the tag on. Finally, today, I stopped searching for the receipt, ripped the tag off and wore the pants. They are wonderful, but my heart breaks a little to think I could have got them 50% off. The rest of the stuff in H&M was not awesome though. I dumped my pile in a corner and left for Zara.

Zara has beautiful clothes. Just that they are in the 200hkd and above range on sale, which is fine because they are well tailored and can be worn to office, except I don’t need such clothes anymore. Ditto Mango.

So on to Gap. And yeah, lots of things that suit my current aesthetic. Which I realise has returned to blue and denim. I am feeling the desperate desire for a denim skirt, or dress, or shorts. I got myself a dress, a pair for cropped trousers, a couple of tops, and a jersey dress that is way out of my budget but looked so good. I also tried on one of those black jersey sheath dresses and loved it, but I realise that this is not going to get worn a lot. The same problem with the jersey dress, and I’m still thinking I might return it. One month return policy, even on sales items.

I belatedly realised that I had not really bought t-shirts which were the thing I claimed I needed. These days, T-shirts which are the simplest thing really, have become annoyingly expensive, by which I mean they are not to be had for less than 70$. This is 20$ above my preferred price point. Unlike some boys, I do not want to be spending good money on a T-shirt, although just about anything will not do either. I bought a couple of stripey T-shirts but I’m planning on returning them having finally found acceptable options in Baleno.

Oh, and finally, I bought a swimsuit. I have been swimming a fair bit and a trip to Bali is coming up, so I figure two swimsuits in the closet is warranted. I’m pleased that I got one at a decent rate – nice swimsuits are another thing that are insanely expensive for an itty bitty piece of clothing – and its a design that I’ve been coveting for some time. Gave it a whirl in the pool yesterday and it was great.

Hurrah.

Except I am so broke. I have two  conference trips with a little leisure tagged on and am literally watching the pennies. In addition my beauty supplies need replenishing.

My Shiseido make-up removing gel got over, and I went and bought this Bioderma micellar water, which is really not working for me. It’s supposed to be the wonder item that French women and models use and I cannot believe I fell for that trick. I am not French nor a model but a mother-of-two with oily skin living in Hong Kong which has 90% humidity at this time. What was I thinking?

On a more positive note, a friend kindly leant me some Moroccanoil to try and I think it’s the thing for my hair. Only I can’t afford it. Dilemmas dilemmas.

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