Thursday, September 30, 2010

Up a Lazy River

Aboard the Victoria Jenna on the Yangtze River sailing the Three Gorges Dam. Woke up early and took a Tai Chi class. On to a tour of the dam with several stops to look out at the massive structure. A model of the dam was very interesting and just the immensity is awesome. They can move four boats at a time in each direction and are building an elevator to move smaller ships. It is the largest hydroelectric project in the world which supplies about 4% of China’s power needs.

Back to the ship for a buffet lunch. We have two tables assigned to our group and there are other groups and individuals aboard. Some Canadians, Europeans and Chinese. Crew are young Chinese with very good English and bright smiles. The ship is very nice and clean. Our room is small, but comfortable with twin beds, a sitting area and balcony. The bathroom is larger than those on most cruise ships.

Went upstairs at 2 o’clock to watch the river and saw many boats and boys swimming. Barges with coal, trucks and containers passed to and from the dam. Just after 3 pm we started to the first gate. A barge pulled up beside us and two more boats behind. About 5 pm we moved through the gate and sat while the water rose. During dinner we passed through the fifth gate and back on the river. The captain’s reception and cocktail party was tonight and everyone looked festive in dress up clothes. Dinner was good and I was delighted as there were mashed potatoes and eggplant on the lazy susan tonight. Decided to miss the nightly entertainment and headed to bed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Woke up to another gloomy day, but the superb breakfast made us happy. 13 of our group have asked the guide and bus to take us to Ohel Moshe, a museum which had been a synagogue. Here we saw a movie and exhibits on the Jews of Shanghai. Most had escaped the Nazis and found shelter here in China. The Chinese “Shamash” spoke to us and knew all the Hebrew names of the holidays and ritual items. This was such a meaningful experience and we all felt so good about this visit.

Later we boarded a plane to Yichang and arrived late afternoon. We had a local guide meet us and give us a city tour with a stop at an embroidery showroom. Jeff and I bought a beautiful piece to hang in our great room. Another lazy susan dinner in a hotel and then we were driven to our riverboat to begin our cruise.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

China Doll

Woke up to another beautiful weather day and enjoyed a sumptuous buffet breakfast. The hotel is modern and bright. From our window we have a great views of the tall skyscrapers and also the athletic complex at Fudan U. First stop is the Temple of the White Jade Buddha. This is an active temple with many worshippers stopping in to pray. We are taken around and then burned some incense and made a wish. On to a silk factory where we were shown how silk is made by worms and then processed. We bought a silk duvet and arranged for it to be shipped home. Also got some scarves and a purple tie for Brian.

Lunch today upstairs in a embroidery factory building. First time there was no lazy susan and they actually brought us a plate with our choice of chicken or pork. As we left it started to rain heavily and our afternoon plans changed from a park to the Shanghai Museum. Everyone was thrilled and we got to tour this fine museum with Chinese art, jade, porcelain, calligraphy, furniture and more. Jeff and I enjoyed a special exhibit on Catherine the Great on loan from the Hermitage.

The rain stopped when we left so we were able to drive to The Bund and walk on this avenue along the river. It is the home of many old European style buildings and the other side of the river is new and full of modernistic skyscrapers. Dinner was at a tourist factory – a three story building where every Caucasian in Shanghai was eating dinner. Very funny and mediocre food. More lazy susans with typical Chinese dishes. The parking lot was full of tour buses and afterwards we all headed to the acrobatics show at a nearby theatre. The show was pretty good with young athletes beautifully costumed and choreographed. Unfortunately I slept through much of it.

Shanghai driving may be the worst we’ve ever seen and they are so aggressive. Jeff and the guys loved watching and not being behind the wheel. The city has 19 million people and is very cosmopolitan and very impressive buildings.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Stairway To Heaven

Up early and checked out of the hotel. Our bus took us to the Temple of Heaven which is located in a beautiful park. Many senior citizens hang out here all day and play cards and exercise. First we saw two men playing a paddle game and Jeff took part. Out of nowhere some enterprising men sold everyone sets of paddles and balls. We saw ladies doing fan dancing and lots of games of checkers, dominoes and cards.

Finally we walked to the temple which celebrates Taoism and nature. It is so beautiful, round with a blue pagoda style roof and a gold knob on the top. Three layers of steps lead you to the entrance and there are smaller buildings all around which house exhibits.

More shopping at a six story discount mall where everything was a knock-off. Lots of bargaining. Lunch was at a real restaurant set in a picturesque park. More Chinese food on a lazy susan and then a chance to roam around the lake and enjoy the willow trees blowing in the breeze. Good bye Beijing as we are headed to the airport. The city is big, beautiful and large government buildings built in the Russian style – boxy.

We arrived in Shanghai as it was getting dark and were driven to the Crowne Plaza Hotel near the campus of Fudan University. Saw tall, modern buildings from the highway and the lights of the city were remarkable. Our local guide is Scotty, a young man with a great sense of comedy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Wall

Slept well even though the bed was hard. Arranged to have a feather bed put over the mattress. Hotel is beautiful and luxurious. Had another breakfast buffet with Chinese and Western food. Boarded our bus and first stop was a jade factory where we’re shown how it is carved and polished and then led to their huge store. Continued on to the Great Wall at a site called Juyongguan which is a recently restored section. What we could see were lots of steps leading into the steep hills. We got off the bus and climbed a wide staircase to a level area and then began the adventure. Jeff and I bought “I Climbed The Great Wall” tee shirts and wore them immediately. We climbed the uneven steps and rested and talked with people from all over the world. It was tiring and exhilarating all at once. We got pretty far and decided it was enough and headed back. It was lots of exercise and not as spiritual as I had hoped, but an experience I will never forget.

A welcome lunch break was at a cloissone factory. After another lazy susan meal we (surprisingly) had time to shop. The afternoon activity was a visit to the Ming tombs and we stopped at the largest one. Toured the temples, museum and grounds and climbed up to see the dirt mound which is the actual tomb.

Next was my favorite activity in Beijing. We went for a pedicab ride in the Hutong district. This is an area with old houses set in walled neighborhoods. We were driven through and visited a courtyard home and met the family. Part of the neighborhood was becoming an entertainment section with many outdoor bars with couches set on the sidewalks.

Tonight we enjoyed a Peking duck dinner which was in a restaurant located in a shopping mall. We had a full Chinese meal plus the duck wrapped in flat pancakes. Very delicious!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Hundred Million Miracles

We woke up at 6:30 and were really jet lagged. The hotel had a large breakfast buffet with Chinese and Western foods. In addition to the omelet station there were traditional breakfast meats and French toast or pancakes as well as juices, yoghurt and breads. The Chinese foods were won ton soup and several other soups, tofu, vegetables, noodles, relishes and steamed buns. A popular dish is rice congee which looks like thin oatmeal and hot soy milk which is eaten with bean curd. Lots of choices.

After breakfast we boarded the bus and headed to Tianamen Square, the largest public area in the world. We saw very large buildings all around the open space which included a museum, railway station and public works, Inside the square is the tomb of Mao Tse Tung and there was a very long line waiting to enter and see his body in a crystal coffin. Chinese are encouraged to travel and we saw so many tour groups. Beautiful floral displays were everywhere and there was a large monument to the people in the center of the square. In one area were two huge electronic screens with displays of young girls doing acrobatics.

We used an underground passage to cross the street to the Forbidden City which was home to Ming emperors and their successors. You enter through a gate house with a huge portrait of Mao and go through courtyards and meeting houses until you get to the main official buildings. In the back are the living quarters for the empresses and concubines and it is a myriad of courtyards. We were able to look into furnished apartments and see what it must have been like to live inside the palace grounds. At the back were beautiful gardens decorated with porous rocks and ponds. Outside the back gate we fought our way through the crowds to the bus and off to lunch.

We drove out of the city center to a pearl jewelry store with a restaurant on the top floor. Lunch was many Chinese dishes served on a clear glass lazy susan that was almost as big as the table. You help yourself to whatever you like and there were about 10 dishes plus soup. Tea and cut up watermelon completed the meal. Afterwards we went downstairs to shop and then on to our next stop, the Summer Palace.

High above the city this serene property was beautiful and a delight to walk around. There is a large lake with paddle boats and dragon boats and several bridges leading to small islands. The main attraction is the palace and to reach it you walk through a raised wooden walkway decorated with paintings on the ceiling. Such a great way to spend an afternoon and imagine the grandeur that existed here. At the end you can see the palace and we did not go in and not sure if it is open to the public.

By this time we were all tired and anxious to get back to the hotel and rest. We stopped along the way to see the Olympic site and saw the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube buildings from the road. Got back and ran upstairs to freshen up before going to the Peking Opera. Jeff opted to sleep and missed a great production. The opera is done at several locations and we went to a large theatre in a hotel. The show was 1½ hours and quite enjoyable with sparse sets and beautiful costumes. There were four scenes including a love declaration, acrobatics, clown comedy and a fire eater. The heroine sang in a tiny falsetto and took teeny baby steps. The clowns were security guards with red noses. It was different than anything I’d seen in theater and short and sweet. Much better and different from the Kabuki I saw in Japan. Believe it or not, I saw a man wearing a Sarel shirt and spoke to him. He was Canadian and had just returned from volunteering. Great!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Leaving On A Jet Plane

A long journey from Bluffton to Beijing. We left home on Wednesday morning and flew from Savannah to Atlanta and changed planes to JFK. Upon arrival we spent the night at a tacky Howard Johnson’s and ordered in great Italian food. Next morning we returned to the airport and boarded our flight to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific Airlines. Only 15 hours later we landed and were glad to stretch our legs. We boarded another flight an hour later and five more hours of flying got us to Beijing where it was Friday. There are 21 people in our group and we are travelling with our friends Laura & Michael Marks. We all met our tour guide at the airport and his name is Sun or Harry in English. We were to find out that many Chinese and all our guides take English names to keep things simple. Sun is actually his family or surname. We landed at terminal three which was built to handle the Olympic traffic and is the largest terminal under one roof in the world. We would see many large buildings.

Sun led us outside where we sent our luggage off to the hotel and boarded a luxury bus which drove for 45 minutes to the Capital Hotel, our home for the next three nights. We were so tired that we fell into bed after unpacking and exploring the room which was quite lovely and spacious. Have to say that the beds were very hard and the next day they delivered a feather bed which made it quite comfy. Our room number was 909 and that is a good omen as nine is a very lucky number in China.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sentimental Journey

Tonight was the cast party for Follies and the "sentimental journey" is a pleasant memory. We had so much fun doing the show and working with so many nice people. We have already signed on to perform in a monthly production in November and will produce/direct the "Sunny Awards" in February (our third time) so not much time to idle. In addition we are teaching a travel course at the local adult education college and I just signed on to do a genealogy course for our temple. Jeff keeps busy with his computer stuff in addition to all our other activities.

We leave Wednesday on our big trip to China and I am in a frenzy of packing and tying up loose ends. Can't wait to get there and start seeing the sights. Might take a few pictures too.

Happy New Year and all good things to our readers.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Comedy Tonight!

Jeff and I are appearing in the Sun City Follies. This annual production is a variety show with a theme. Our show is called Sentimental Journey and starts just before WWII and continues into the 60's ending with the Age of Aquarius as the finale. I am doing a comedy bit called "My Friend Irma" which is an old radio show. I am ditzy Irma in a big, blonde wig. I also sing backup in two musical numbers, Chatanooga Choo Choo and Charlie & The MTA. Jeff is doing "Who's On First?" and he is Costello. He has a solo in My Girl (Tom Lehrer) and backing up in Calendar Girl.

We are having so much fun and had two performances today and two more to go. The cast has about 100 people on and off stage and sold out audiences for each performance. We have a live band and great costumes, wigs and sets.

Top photo is me with Hinda Klinghoffer in one of her dance costumes. Middle is me with Carole Carl who plays Irma's roomate, Jane. Jeff and Stu Blickstein as Abbott and Costello.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

We are Family

Carol poses with daughter, Sharon and cousin Lauren. Lauren with her Dad, Arnie. Arnie and me - birthday buddies.
Posted by Picasa


Laura & Larry enjoy some quiet time at their sweetheart table. Carol and me with our cousin Tami. More cousins from my mother's side, Arnie, Meryl, JoAnn, me, Jayne and Jeff. Bottom photo is cousins, Debbie, Jayne, Meryl and Rich. We all had so much fun reminiscing and dancing up a storm.
Posted by Picasa

Sunrise, Sunset

Some photos from the rehearsal and wedding. Top is Laura & Larry with Larry's sister Sharon and her guy, Jon and brother Jon at the rehearsal dinner. Carol & Larry walk down the aisle. Laura & Larry under the chuppah with the beautiful ketubah. Jeff and me posing before the reception.Posted by Picasa

Chapel of Love

Wow - Just got home from a wedding weeknd in DC. It was wonderful to see my nephew Larry and his bride Laura standing under the chuppah. Had a great time visiting with my family and friends and celebrating together. Jeff and I took the train and it was a pleasant (long) experience. Need some time to collect my thoughts and photos and will post them. Glad to be home.