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eG Foodblog: nakji (2011) - Gong Xi Fa Cai - goodbye Tiger; hello Rabb


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After getting some fruit, I swung by the local sweets shop to get some nuts for the party I'm having on Tuesday - New Year's Eve.

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They have the best candied walnuts here, among other things.

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Grandma convinced me to buy some excellent bright green pistachios. She knows a sucker for good nuts when she sees one I guess. I like to stop by this shop in particular for the ladies who run it. They have a nine-year old daughter who comes out when I visit, and we trade beginner phrases in each others' language. Her name is Jin; My name is Ailing. She is nine; I am thirty four. She is a student; I am a teacher. It is cold today. Etc.

gallery_41378_6890_732991.jpg Her mum is standing amidst the sunflower seed array.

There are lots of packaged biscuits, too.

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Wow! I joined eGullet just after my wife and I took a tour of China. We left the tour in Shanghai and traveled to Shuzou on our own to see the "Venice" of China. I have posted some pictures of our one day visit that some of you might enjoy. My China Gallery Day 12 was in Shuzou. I wish I had been a member earlier, we might have been able to meet and get a different perspective altogether. We did enjoy our day and loved the Master of the Nets Garden.

Your blog and photos bring back the sights and smells of Shuzou very nicely.

Please let me know if I made any mistakes in my descriptions of the pictures.

Paul Eggermann

Vice President, Secretary and webmaster

Les Marmitons of New Jersey

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Thanks Paul! Suzhou gets a lot of tourists, both domestic and foreign. Whether we can compare favourably to the real Venice is not something I know - but there are a lot of canals! Did you go for a ride on one when you were here?

For Prawncrackers - here are some shots from my local veg stand. It's a bit of a hoof from my flat, but the shop is next to our school gate, and I wanted to pop my head in and wish the laoban a "Happy New Year." He was having a nap when I showed up, but I was able to chat with a local lad and conduct my business.

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Bamboo shoots are in season:

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Various greens; plus daikon. It always astounds me they come out of the ground so white.

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Green onions:

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And various thicknesses of celery:

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The fish are a new addition, perhaps brought in special for the New Year?

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Ready for their close-up:

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Can anyone comment on these fish?

I should point out this veg stand is in a very traditional courtyard house neighborhood. A place like this probably doesn't reflect where most Suzhounese do their shopping. There's a full wet market down the road a bit; plus several very posh new Carrefours have opened, and a Wal-mart. I'll get there later this week, I hope.

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Thanks Paul! Suzhou gets a lot of tourists, both domestic and foreign. Whether we can compare favourably to the real Venice is not something I know - but there are a lot of canals! Did you go for a ride on one when you were here?

No, we walked from the railroad station all the way through the city and then took a rickshaw back to the main shopping district. We were really beat by the time we got back to Shanghai.

Edited by paulpegg (log)

Paul Eggermann

Vice President, Secretary and webmaster

Les Marmitons of New Jersey

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That wrapper on the chive dumplings looks amazingly thin and just at that ready to burst state. They must have been delicious.

The curtain idea instead of doors on your cabs is a good idea, or even just open cabinets.

The fish look...unhappy, to say the least. I'd rather see them on ice, but that's probably a tough commodity. It looks quite cold out, though; what's the temp where you are today?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

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Thanks Paul! Suzhou gets a lot of tourists, both domestic and foreign. Whether we can compare favourably to the real Venice is not something I know - but there are a lot of canals! Did you go for a ride on one when you were here?

No, we walked from the railroad station all the way through the city and then took a rickshaw back to the main shopping district. We were really beat by the time we got back to Shanghai.

That is a fair walk! Transit in Suzhou is unreliable to say the least, and I often end up having to walk further than I'd like.

That wrapper on the chive dumplings looks amazingly thin and just at that ready to burst state. They must have been delicious.

The curtain idea instead of doors on your cabs is a good idea, or even just open cabinets.

The fish look...unhappy, to say the least. I'd rather see them on ice, but that's probably a tough commodity. It looks quite cold out, though; what's the temp where you are today?

Oh, yeah the chive dumplings are pretty special. The chives are suspended in some sort of chicken fat slurry, too that simultaneously oozes and crunches when you bite in.

As for the fish...yeah, Fuchsia Dunlop has a great passage in her "Shark's fin and Sichuan Pepper" book where she watches a friend prep a fish - she notes that at no point does her friend actually kill the fish, it just dies somewhere in the preparation process. It was about 3 or 4 outside today, so not freezing by any means. Discreetly hidden in the upper-left corner of the photo is the gutting/scaling area on the sidewalk.

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So after my walkabout, I met my teacher at a local teashop/bar/lending library - The Bookworm. I had a club soda.

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After two hours of grinding my way through tones, my husband picked me up to take a quick ride out to the SIP to run a cat-sitting errand, and to lay in some alcohol supplies.

We went to a small market called "Summit Classic Life Club". I assume the Chinese name is catchier. We like them for their collection of Belgian and German beers, Western cuts of meat, and "cheese".

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They have the widest selection of cheese in Suzhou - I present this to you to show the sad reality of being a cheese lover. I don't actually miss cheese that much - it's not something I really crave. But my husband misses it a lot. Aussie members will note that most of this product comes from Australia.

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More canal shots - from outside Summit. Since we're in the SIP, things are much more modern. The tall buildings were finished this year.

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One of my friends lives on her boat in a marina. She has had to deal with moisture for years and in her cupboards has packets of silica gel crystals in Tyvek bags that keep molds from forming.

She has them tacked up on every side inside cupboards and in every drawer.

The ones she has change color when full of moisture and can go into a low oven on a sheet pan to be dried out as they turn back to the original blue color.

They are made in China so should be available there.

Some are also packaged with odor absorbers and she uses these in the area where there are chemical odors and in the head.

Many people live in the marina where she lives and they all use these things as do people who have homes and businesses on shore nearby.

I just spoke to her on the phone and she said that when she first moved onto the boat the smell of mildew was almost overpowering but with initial treatment with spraying diluted bleach and drying everything with electric heaters with a strong fan, she began using the silica gel packs and has never had a repeat of the problem during the eight years she has lived there.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I'm still gasping and reeling from the NY blog, and here we go, with another super blogger. This one is of particular interest to me, a Chinese who has never been back to her homeland since age 2 in 1950. I teach students from this area, and I am inspired to make the homeland trip in a couple of years. So now, I am getting some education before then.

As for the curtains idea for your cupboard, if you have flies in the summer, it may be a better idea to have "screen doors" put on instead of curtains. This way, you get aeration as well as insect protection. That's what we had in HK.

I was interested in seeing the picture of the fresh lily bulbs as it was under discussion in the China forum. I haven't seen them with leaves sprouting, so I'd be interested in hearing others' suggestions on how to cook then.

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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We go from NYC to China!!! This country girl is having quite a virtual trip and I love it!

A few thoughts and questions:

I take it you teach English? How long is your holiday from school?

Since your New Year's Eve is Tuesday, does that make it Wednesday here in the states? I get confused about the time difference. In the way of dishes for New Year's, are they similar to ones that I know such as greens for money, long pasta for long life, whole fish etc.?

The shiny, scaly fish in the front looks kind of like a carp to me.

I, too, am drooling over those chive dumplings. Looks delish!

Are those tomatoes behind the bamboo shoots?

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One of my friends lives on her boat in a marina. She has had to deal with moisture for years and in her cupboards has packets of silica gel crystals in Tyvek bags that keep molds from forming.

She has them tacked up on every side inside cupboards and in every drawer.

The ones she has change color when full of moisture and can go into a low oven on a sheet pan to be dried out as they turn back to the original blue color.

They are made in China so should be available there.

Some are also packaged with odor absorbers and she uses these in the area where there are chemical odors and in the head.

Many people live in the marina where she lives and they all use these things as do people who have homes and businesses on shore nearby.

I just spoke to her on the phone and she said that when she first moved onto the boat the smell of mildew was almost overpowering but with initial treatment with spraying diluted bleach and drying everything with electric heaters with a strong fan, she began using the silica gel packs and has never had a repeat of the problem during the eight years she has lived there.

Thanks, Andie. In fact, I have tried these, most of the places I've lived in Asia sharing the same moisture issues. My main problem is that I don't have the time to be on top of replacing them promptly. Last winter, our living room molded quite badly and the landlord came in, and scraped everything down and treated it with mildew spray. This winter we've been assiduous about keeping the windows open at all times, but it makes for a very uncomfortable apartment in the winter. I think the best solution would be to keep the cupboard doors open or take them off completely, but the very thought of the conversation that would require with my landlord...well, it makes me just cycle around to leaving everything on the counter. And I haven't even told you about the problems with the counter-top yet! In the meantime, we've purchased some Ikea cabinets and put them into the dining room, which has inside walls. These are storing our dry goods comfortably for the time being.

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I was interested in seeing the picture of the fresh lily bulbs as it was under discussion in the China forum. I haven't seen them with leaves sprouting, so I'd be interested in hearing others' suggestions on how to cook then.

Aw, nuts! I was hoping you would have some suggestions. Anyone? Anyone?

We go from NYC to China!!! This country girl is having quite a virtual trip and I love it!A few thoughts and questions:I take it you teach English? How long is your holiday from school?Since your New Year's Eve is Tuesday, does that make it Wednesday here in the states? I get confused about the time difference. In the way of dishes for New Year's, are they similar to ones that I know such as greens for money, long pasta for long life, whole fish etc.?The shiny, scaly fish in the front looks kind of like a carp to me.I, too, am drooling over those chive dumplings. Looks delish!Are those tomatoes behind the bamboo shoots?

I know - some of weinoo's pictures looked like here to me, though - especially that snowman!

I'm not sure about the lucky foods, Shelby - I know a fish for wealth, and noodles for long life, but other than that, I'm clueless. Anyone else want to weigh in?

We follow Beijing time in Jiangsu, as does all of China. That means there's a 13-hour time difference between New York and Suzhou. It's quite past my bedtime here, and I'm about to call it a night.

I do teach English, at a Cambridge A-level Centre. I currently teach the IGCSE English qualification to high school students - which may mean something to our UK members, but Americans can think of it as "10th Grade English". My students are all Chinese. We broke up for the holiday on Thursday, and we'll return to class on February 21st. The extended break is to give everyone enough time to make it back to their hometowns. My students were upset for me that I wouldn't return to Halifax, but I explained that flying to Canada in February was not a holiday. I will enjoy the comparatively milder temperatures here. I'll be here until the 15th, and then I'm meeting my husband in Singapore for SATAY and a MAKAN TOUR. W00T. He's off to Vietnam in a few days, when all the pictures here will have to be mine.

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A thought just popped into my head, Erin. Are you sure those are lily bulbs? Maybe they are sprouting arrowroot bulbs which would be a necessary item for Chinese New Year. These you can cook with rice then eaten with lap yuk. You can also stir-fry them sliced. I'm not fond of them, but my Mom loved them. My s-i-l buys them just to grow as plants.

Tangerines, oranges, pomelo are all symbols of good luck and wealth based on sound association and colour of gold.

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Do you attract a lot of attention when you go to the wet market? I doubt many foreigners go there.

Yes! You can even get really fresh green ones that are still on the stem. I like these the most as they have more of a vegetal, piney, fruity flavor than the dried ones.

I would love to see what these look like!

Well, I never actually buy them but I get them in restaurant dishes. Generally a mark of a good Sichuan restaurant. They're on the stem, a bit more plump than the dried ones, and green.

And I also got a new fruit for me - Hawthorne berries. They're sour and creamy, and unbelievably delicious.

Wow, I haven't actually tried these other than in the form of haw flakes, which was a candy that I (and many Chinese) ate as a kid. I like to shout "haw! haw!" when eating them.

Lily bulbs and the sugar cane juicer:

gallery_41378_6890_1460860.jpg

What, you have a sugar cane juice source near you? I have to trudge 3 subway stops to get it. How much do they charge?

For those that haven't had it, fresh sugar cane juice is amazing. It's sweet (of course), rich, vegetal, a little piney (hmm, this sounds just like my description of the fresh Sichuan peppercorns, though trust me they're completely different). I'd love to try it with some rhum agricole—I think that would be especially appropriate as rhum agricole is made with sugar cane juice instead of molasses.

Sometimes I wonder about what it'd be like to work at an agricole distillery in Martinique. Fresh sugar cane juice and rhum agricole flowing freely. They must have some wicked parties.

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OH YES!!!! There is SO much to see and learn about your new home.

Last year we were in Vietnam and Singapore for Tet and welcomed the Year of the Tiger. It was amazing, but being a tourist is so different from being a resident. We are still hoping to spend a week there in 2012 after the canal conference. Now I'll have a head start on planning.

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Thanks so much for the durian photo. Someday I'll get one for sure. I know we have frozen durian in our local Asian market, but I can wait for the fresh.

What an amazing life you have, living all over the world. Our son and his wife live in Halifax, one of the most civilized cities I have ever been in. Just love Halifax.

The new buildings in your photo look just like the ones in Toronto. :biggrin:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Yay! A Nakji food blog! I was really happy to see the return of the food blogs last year and have enjoyed them all. But yours is the one I've been waiting for. This is going to be a fun week!

I was interested to see the nut roasters selling pecans. Are they popular there? Pecans are almost unheard of here in Japan, so I kind of assumed the same would apply to the rest of Asia.

My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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Thanks so much for the durian photo. Someday I'll get one for sure. I know we have frozen durian in our local Asian market, but I can wait for the fresh.

What an amazing life you have, living all over the world. Our son and his wife live in Halifax, one of the most civilized cities I have ever been in. Just love Halifax.

The new buildings in your photo look just like the ones in Toronto. :biggrin:

I've only seen durian on the tv foodie programs and the taste, for the tasters, seems to be not good lol. Does it really taste like old socks??? I'm dying to try it.

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Yay! A Nakji food blog! I was really happy to see the return of the food blogs last year and have enjoyed them all. But yours is the one I've been waiting for. This is going to be a fun week!

I was interested to see the nut roasters selling pecans. Are they popular there? Pecans are almost unheard of here in Japan, so I kind of assumed the same would apply to the rest of Asia.

The diversity of food available in Suzhou alone has shocked me, especially after living in Japan, where I thought pretty much everything but cilantro was available. When I go to Shanghai...well, let's just say I usually have to bring a grocery bag. I guess because China's such a big country, they have the resources for it.

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Thanks so much for the durian photo. Someday I'll get one for sure. I know we have frozen durian in our local Asian market, but I can wait for the fresh.

What an amazing life you have, living all over the world. Our son and his wife live in Halifax, one of the most civilized cities I have ever been in. Just love Halifax.

The new buildings in your photo look just like the ones in Toronto. :biggrin:

I've only seen durian on the tv foodie programs and the taste, for the tasters, seems to be not good lol. Does it really taste like old socks??? I'm dying to try it.

I've only ever tried Durian ice cream myself - it wasn't terrible, but I think it works better if you try not to imagine it as a sweet fruit - it's more like a really sweet onion.

This morning for breakfast, I'm going to tackle a dish that's been vexing me Egg & Tomato.

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A thought just popped into my head, Erin. Are you sure those are lily bulbs? Maybe they are sprouting arrowroot bulbs which would be a necessary item for Chinese New Year. These you can cook with rice then eaten with lap yuk. You can also stir-fry them sliced. I'm not fond of them, but my Mom loved them. My s-i-l buys them just to grow as plants.

Tangerines, oranges, pomelo are all symbols of good luck and wealth based on sound association and colour of gold.

The ones at the fruitshop do look like they're being grown as plants - maybe that's the case! I did pick up lily bulbs without the shoots/pots from my veg man, though. I'll see what the combined wisdom of my Chinese cookbook library has to say.

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Do you attract a lot of attention when you go to the wet market? I doubt many foreigners go there.

Yes! You can even get really fresh green ones that are still on the stem. I like these the most as they have more of a vegetal, piney, fruity flavor than the dried ones.

I would love to see what these look like!

Well, I never actually buy them but I get them in restaurant dishes. Generally a mark of a good Sichuan restaurant. They're on the stem, a bit more plump than the dried ones, and green.

And I also got a new fruit for me - Hawthorne berries. They're sour and creamy, and unbelievably delicious.

Wow, I haven't actually tried these other than in the form of haw flakes, which was a candy that I (and many Chinese) ate as a kid. I like to shout "haw! haw!" when eating them.

Lily bulbs and the sugar cane juicer:

gallery_41378_6890_1460860.jpg

What, you have a sugar cane juice source near you? I have to trudge 3 subway stops to get it. How much do they charge?

For those that haven't had it, fresh sugar cane juice is amazing. It's sweet (of course), rich, vegetal, a little piney (hmm, this sounds just like my description of the fresh Sichuan peppercorns, though trust me they're completely different). I'd love to try it with some rhum agricole—I think that would be especially appropriate as rhum agricole is made with sugar cane juice instead of molasses.

Sometimes I wonder about what it'd be like to work at an agricole distillery in Martinique. Fresh sugar cane juice and rhum agricole flowing freely. They must have some wicked parties.

I don't attract that much attention, actually - I tend to patronize the same vendors over and over, and I think people are used to me. I can't remember if there was attention in the beginning. If I went to a new place, I'd expect a crowd to come see what I was doing, though.

As for the cane juice, I haven't actually had any in Suzhou! I'm not much of a juice person. I used to drink it in Hanoi, and there I had it mixed with fresh ginger juice and rhum agricole from a Rhum bar run by some French guys - and yeah, it's as good as you can imagine. Have you tried that pirate-themed rum bar, "Bounty", in the French Concession, near Fu Xing lu? They do rums mixed with fresh juice, although I can't remember what kind of rums. Research, man!

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Y'all are making me crazy- are they bubs or buds?!? See my post here in the China forum. :)

Ok - the ones in the pictures look like bubs, right? But I have some more in the kitchen that I haven't taken shots of yet - I will do soon - that could be bulbs, as they were sold out of a big bag.

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      This little girl is posing with the Malaysian Consul-General.
       
      After meeting these people we went on to visit a 芦笙 (lú shēng) workshop. The lusheng is a reed wind instrument and an important element in the Miao, Dong and Yao peoples' cultures.
       

       

       
      Then at last we headed to the restaurant, but as is their custom, in homes and restaurants, guests are barred from entering until they go through the ritual of the welcoming cup of home-brewed rice wine.
       


      The consular staff from Myanmar/Burma and Malaysia "unlock" the door.
       
      Then you have the ritual hand washing part.
       

       
      Having attended to your personal hygiene, but before  entering the dining room, there is one more ritual to go through. You arrive here and sit around this fire and wok full of some mysterious liquid on the boil.
       

       
      On a nearby table is this
       

       
      Puffed rice, soy beans, peanuts and scallion. These are ladled into bowls.
       

       
      with a little salt, and then drowned in the "tea" brewing in the wok.
       
      This is  油茶 (yóu chá) or Oil Tea. The tea is made from Tea Seed Oil which is made from the seeds of the camellia bush. This dish is used as a welcoming offering to guests in homes and restaurants. Proper etiquette suggests that three cups is a minimum, but they will keep refilling your cup until you stop drinking. First time I had it I really didn't like it, but I persevered and now look forward to it.
       

      L-R: Director of the Foreign Affairs Dept of Liuzhou government, consuls-general of Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos.
       
      Having partaken of the oil tea, finally we are allowed to enter the dining room, where two tables have been laid out for our use.
       

       
      Let the eating, finally, begin.
       
      In no particular order:
       

      Steamed corn, taro and sweet potato
       

      Bamboo Shoots
       

      Duck
       

      Banana leaf stuffed with sticky rice and mixed vegetables and steamed.
       

      Egg pancake with unidentified greenery
       

      Stir fried pork and beans
       

      Stir fried Chinese banana (Ensete lasiocarpum)
       

      Pig Ears
       

       
      This may not look like much, but was the star of the trip. Rice paddy fish, deep fried in camellia tree seed oil with wild mountain herbs. We ate this at every meal, cooked with slight variations, but never tired of it.
       

      Stir fried Greens
       
      Our meal was accompanied by the wait staff singing to us and serving home-made rice wine (sweetish and made from the local sticky rice).
       
       
       
       
      Everything we ate was grown or reared within half a kilometre of the restaurant and was all free-range, organic. And utterly delicious.
       
      Roll on dinner time.
       
      On the trip I was designated the unofficial official photographer and ended up taking 1227 photographs. I just got back last night and was busy today, so I will try to post the rest of the first day (and dinner) as soon as I can.
    • By shain
      It's been more than a year in which international travel was challenging to impossible, but gladly this is changing, as more countries are able to vaccinate their population.
      Greece had managed to return to a state of near normality, and opted to allow vaccinated individuals to enter. And so I decided to go on a slightly spontaneous vacation (only slightly, we still had almost a month for planning). To the trip I was joined by my father, to whom I owed some good one-on-one time and was able to travel on a short-ish notice.
       
       
      Many people are yet unable to travel, and many countries are suffering quite badly from the virus, and therefore I considered if I should wait some time with this post. However, I hope that it will instead be seen with an optimistic view, showing that back-to-normal is growing ever closer.
       
       
      We returned just a few days ago, and it will take me some time to organize my photos, so this is a teaser until then.
       
       
       
       
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