Saturday, 7 January 2012

Eat a small lunch tomorrow...

as we're going out for dinner tomorrow night.
This was the message that I got, via OCS, from Dave on Thurs 15th Dec.
Me: Oh, okay. Where and what time?
Dave: Nosh in Dalkey at 7pm.
Me: Okay. You do know that tomorrow is both our Christmas team lunches so we'll be eating a v late lunch.
Dave: Yes I know but it's already booked.
Me: Okay.

So, even though I'd been spoiled with a surprise birthday weekend away at The Old Convent the previous weekend I thought that maybe this was an additional birthday dinner (my birthday was Weds mid week) or something.

By 2.30pm on Fri afternoon I'm asking when we're heading for lunch... I have dinner in 4.5 hours you know. By 3pm it was "I have dinner in 4 hours". I finished eating about 3.50 thinking "Oh my God how am I going to manage dinner in 3 hrs?!"

Met Dave at Pearse St Dart station at 6.25 to head out Dalkey on the Dart. At the station we're discussing how full we are and I say that I may not even do the early bird menu as I'm so full... may be better to just order a single dish off the a la carte menu. We get on the Dart and out comes Dave's phone and he's texting away. I assumed to his sister or Carlos. Phone goes away and we natter away (probably about how now hungry we are!) until we get to Dalkey.

We wander down to Nosh and wander in...
Totally Unsuspecting Arrival


I pretty quickly see my brother and his wife Jia there at a large table and I smile to them thinking what a coincidence that they're there that night.
First Recognition


I then follow that thought with "who the hell keeps taking photos of me... and why??" before seeing somebody I recognise at the other end of the table... possibly Amy and Eoin or maybe Fiona?
Oh and you're here too...


Then my clearly "not with it" brain kicks in to action and I think that possibly these people are sitting at the same table for a reason...

Oh!!


And maybe that reason is to surprise me...
Really?


And which point I promptly start crying!
And the tears...


Before the Mascara Runs...


Before deciding that sitting down would be the safest thing for me to do :)
DSC_0948


Thank you to wonderful sister Ciara for organising this... pretty amazing considering that it was organised when Grace was probably only 3 months old and she had my 2 and half year old godson charging around the place and all done from the US! Thank you to Dave for getting the phone numbers of some friends from my phone without my knowledge and passing those with email addresses on to Ciara. And thank you to everybody who was there... Paul, Jia, Ciara, Eunan, Fiona, Jonathan, Fiona, Mark, Amy, Eoin and Sinead.
Waiting


Mark and Eoin


Fiona


I discovered that I

LOVE

surprises and that week in December was just full of them!!

Posing with the mug

Cheers!


Friday, 6 January 2012

The Hong Kong, Macau & China Visit, October 2011 - Part II

Well it's only been about 6 weeks since I wrote up part I and ended saying that i hoped that it wouldn't be too long before I got to Part II... ah well!

Oh my... i've just realised that Part I finished with us leaving for Macau... I thought that i had at least managed to cover Hong Kong and Macau already but it would appear not.

The ferry journey across to Macau was grand, less than an hour I think! We were staying at the Ponte 16 hotel which, like most other hotels in Macau, a casino. First impressions were so very different to our hotel in Hong Kong which was quite discrete. This hotel was not - the reception area was HUGE and quite austentatious. I imagine though that for anybody whose been to Vegas it was par for the course for a casino hotel. Did you know that Macau has actually ovetaken Vegas for gambling income? The Chinese are big gamblers! After a short delay we were checked in to our room which, it has to be said, was very nice. I really liked the view from our room; not scenic in any sense but interesting - a view to local flats.

Residential Building
Residential Building


After a taking it easy afternoon we headed out for dinner. It was a really warm evening and not raining; I was happy :)

On Hols


Macau is well known for its Portugeuse influenced style of cuisine and the Lonely Planet gave a v good recommendation to a restaurant in the centre so after a wander we headed there. I can only assume that this restaurant a) doesn't care about the LP or b) they've read it and are now taking things easy. The service was fine but one couldn't help feeling that they didn't actually want us there! The food was alright but really nothing to get excited about. But it was still a lovely evening as afterwards we went for a wander around... I thought that all the little side alleys and Senado Sq in the dark were lovely.

Macau Alley


Senado Square at Night


Our hotel may have looked very stylish but the kitchen needs to sharpen up a bit! We decided to treat ourselves and order breakfast in bed for the next morning. Dave wanted fried eggs with bacon, I wanted scrambled eggs with tomato. We both got scrambled and Dave got chicken sausages instead of bacon?! I got cereal which I didn't want. Dave got fruit which he didn't want. Interesting... :)

This was to be our sightseeing day as we were going to be leaving early the next morning to get the ferry directly to Hong Kong airport. We got the public bus to the A'Ma temple and then spent the rest of day wandering back up the city via many 17th style Jesuit churches, old government buildings, the odd museum, a great library etc.

Dave at A-Ma Temple
Dave at A-Ma Temple


A-Ma Temple


The Old Moorish Barracks were beautiful. We couldn't go inside as it's now the HQ of the Macau Maritime Administration but the outside is beautifully maintained and lovely to wander along the terrace.

Flowers


Next stop was the lovely Sir Robert Ho Tung Library (unfortunately the Mandarin's House which we really really wanted to see was closed :( ). The courtyard of the library (I want my local library to have a courtyard!) had free wifi and some tables and chairs so we just took a wee break there. Very relaxing...
In the Library


The architecture in Macau is stunningly beautiful! There are many beautiful old buildings from when the Jesuits were there in the 1700 and 1800s. This is a road we walked along on our from the library to the Leal Senado Building. I love the black and white mosaic tiles under foot.

Portugeuse Architecture


There were a raft of churches but not too many photos of those as a) I can only take so many churches in one day and b) I got asked to leave one and not allowed in to another as my head and sleeves were bare!

The Leal Senado Building had an amazing old library (Senate Library) of antique books... many under glass and upstairs fabulous book shelves full of antiquarian books. Unfortunately no photo were allowed so none to show there. Anyway, while this building was full of tourists it is also actually home to Macau's main municipal administrative body.
Leal Senado Building


After a small lunch in Starbucks (Dave needed coffee and there was a small rain shower so it seemed opportune timing though with the air conditioning in there I was frozen!!) we headed over to the small little 2 room museum of the Holy House of Mercy... I liked being out on the terrace best.

Holy House of Mercy Terrace


Then off to the Lou Kau Mansion which was smaller than I expected but interesting to wander around a few rooms nonetheless...
Entrance Hall of Lou Kau Mansion


When we came out it we needed to wander up an extremely busy street... if you think Grafton St at Christmas is bad you want to try navigating up through this!
A Very Busy Macau Street!


We visited the old protestant churchyard and another few churches and by 4.30 we were pretty whacked so headed back to the hotel for a break before heading out for dinner again. I think that Macau is really very lovely in the evening...
Fountain at night


Shuttered Windows


The next installment will be us actually getting to the China mainland!