… and the snow comes to Stratford

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I decided to go for a tear down to Stratford last night, and was greeted by the first snowscape of the season when I arrived. Markham has been getting some wet snow, as well as some real flakes yesterday, but nothing that would be permanent.

This is, which means that winter has started seriously in Southwestern Ontario now. The pictures I took this morning turned out wonderfully. Enjoy.

The Boston connection

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With all the excitement last week in Boston, Jennifer and I couldn’t help but wonder how our niece Cora was faring down there. She’s at Boston College, studying for her JD (the picture above shows her with Jennifer, from our trip there last US Thanksgiving). Her studies are going quite well — of that we had no doubt! — and the family should see a legal beagle emerging by July, who can practice in the US as well as China.

We were rightly concerned, as she is living only some 2km away, on the other side of the Charles River, from the spot in Watertown where the police took down the Tsarnaev brothers. She hastened to assure us that she was safe. That was a relief, because the authorities had ordered residents in her area to stay inside all day as a safety precaution because of the manhunt.

The trip there last November was quite fascinating. It was the first time there for both of us. Jennifer and Cora took advantage of the Black Friday madness on Thanksgiving night, and did not return until just before 7am Friday morning. I had stayed back, because I prefer to be an early riser, and left shortly after they flopped back into their respective beds to head downtown.

The Green Line on the T was quite efficient. The Prudential Center downtown (just a block or so away from where the bombings would occur this month) was quite impressive, and a walk past the Boston Common through the downtown to the harbour was fresh with lots of great stuff to view. I eventually settled on having lunch around Faneuil Hall, and by that time everyone else had woken up and come down to join me. The lunch itself? In Boston, there are really only three choices: seafood, Irish or Italian, and I chose the last. Good call. Check out Bertucci’s the next time you go.

We left on Saturday, choosing to take our time heading back. Some more shopping, a side trip to Gloucester, spending the night in midstate, and heading into upstate New York the following day and driving through the Adirondacks before getting back into Canada and back home. All of the above is definitely worth doing again, and it just might happen when Jennifer’s mother and sister head over here later this year. It’ll be better if our niece can join us as well, before she takes her new shingle and heads back to the Middle Kingdom this summer.

Reflections on the Fragrant Harbour

It’s a dreary day here, raining with the prospect of the temperature dropping to freezing by evening. Ah, such is April in Toronto…

It was around this time in 2004 that I ventured for vacation to the other side of the world – to Hong Kong (香港, being the “fragrant harbour” of the title). I have always liked to vacation abroad for my holidays, but the pound and the euro were getting quite expensive at that time, and the airfares and hotel rates in China were really a bargain in comparison. I had also not taken a vacation in a year and a half, and a break was definitely in order.

And I was amazed. It was an Air Canada flight, switching planes at Vancouver, and the headwinds did slow us down on the way over. We arrived at Hong Kong International Airport (Chek Lap Kok, or 赤鱲角) at 7:15pm on 20 April, cleared Immigration and Customs, took the Airport Express to Central, the shuttle service to the Excelsior Hotel at Causeway Bay, checked in, and flopped down on my hotel room bed. At 8:45pm! Something was definitely going right.

The following seven days did not disappoint. Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Lantau, the various parts of the New Territories – I covered them all. And I fell in love with the territory. I returned every year until 2007, adding trips to Macau, Taipei and Shanghai along the way. My admiration for the Middle Kingdom only grew, and it blossomed into several wonderful friendships, leading to my marriage in 2008.Image

After marrying Jennifer, we went again for me to meet the in-laws in Beijing and Harbin in 2009, around the Lunar New Year. And the adventure continues.