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New Zealand South Island road trip


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2 hours ago, KennethT said:

After our winery visit, we went into the town (city?) of Wanaka to get some lunch.  This was one of the best meals of the trip...


We went here:


Unlike many of the restaurants, it's not on the main street with a view of the lake - it's set back on a side street and down an alley. While they had their share of tourists, lots of locals were there as well.


The table setting and our view:





Fried local blue cod tacos with chipotle aioli and chimichurri.  These were amazing.



Pressed chicken sandwich with caramelized onion and brie - really tasty.


To drink:


Interestingly, this lemon/lime soda had a dash of bitters in it. My wife had a ginger based soda (not ginger ale) not pictured.


After lunch, we took a hike to the Diamond Lake Conservation Area (probably not the best idea to do that right afterwards, but oh well) to see some of the scenery.





I loved the reflections off of Diamond Lake.


Views of Lake Wanaka:




Some idiot's finger got in the way











Wild flowers.




Might trigger a Monty Python sketch if you aren't careful

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51 minutes ago, gfweb said:




Might trigger a Monty Python sketch if you aren't careful


No no no - they are foxgloves!!! I grew them for years. The chemical compound in digitalis originally. Lupine have smaller inflorescence and face up. I grew up with fields of wild lupine (purple) - we called the big hill above us  lupine lane  Rare now in the area. https://www.growsonyou.com/question/show/86952  Funny reference though ;)

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1 hour ago, Okanagancook said:

I hope you got to Felton Road Winery!

We were at Rippon in 2011 when they first opened their spectacular winery building.  The wine is not a stitch on Felton Road though.

We only went to one winery - we are well acquainted with Felton Road here in NYC as it has wide distribution... Rippon much less so, but also, we visited them for other reasons.

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8 hours ago, heidih said:

Oh those rounded rocks - I just want to run my hand over them. I'v been into public art lately so my first glance at your sausage roll on the dash elicited the thought that it was interesting road art - but in the middle of the road? 


My thought exactly on the sausage roll. The boulders are really cool. I was not familiar with them either.


With such gorgeous scenery, less-than-stellar food becomes a minor consideration.

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Don't ask. Eat it.


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10 hours ago, kayb said:


My thought exactly on the sausage roll. The boulders are really cool. I was not familiar with them either.


With such gorgeous scenery, less-than-stellar food becomes a minor consideration.

That was exactly our thought as well...

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The next day was a long day.  Being Christmas day, and many things being closed, we thought it was an ideal time to drive to Milford Sound in Fiordland, which is about a 4 hour drive each way, without stops.


The drive to Milford is filled with gorgeous scenery...



Not quite before the halfway point, we decided to set up our picnic at a scenic picnic spot




We had a feast!!!  Byt he time we got to the store the night before, it was pretty well cleaned out, but we think we did pretty well.  All products were locally grown/produced.


These strawberries were probably the best purchased strawberries I've ever had.  They reminded me of the ones I used to grow when I was young.







This smoked salmon was definitely, imo, the best salmon I've ever had... and I come from the land of smoked salmon, NYC!  The fish was rich and buttery, it had just the right level of salt (much less than typical NYC smoked salmon) and a nice background smoky flavor.  It was so perfect just on its own, with no accompaniments needed.



This was probably the one stinker in the group.  It was ok - but just not really great.













I loved these - deer jerky.  I could have these on a regular basis.


All together now!



The ash rind goat cheese was also a standout - it had a great acidity to it and a creamy texture.  The bleu cheese was ok in the beginning - a little cool from being in the cooler, but got better as it warmed up.



Gratuitous scenery and strawberry interior shot.  There was barely a hint of white on the inside of the strawberry - it was ripe from edge to edge.


After our picnic, we drover further down the road.  Once you get to Te Anau, the scenery changes and it starts to seem like you've entered an elvin woodlands...  we decided to talk a walk at the Lake Gunn trail:




Everything is covered in moss... it is magical





Here and there the trail takes you to the edge of Lake Gunn.


Back on the road, we continue to one of our primary destinations, a section of the Routeburn Track.  The Routeburn Track is one of NZ's Great Walks, which are hikes that usually take 3-4 days to complete.  We're not in nearly good enough shape to do something like that, so being able to do a section of one of these walks is fantastic....








The trail is well formed, but for much of it, the outer edge is almost a sheer drop off.


There are spectacular views all the time...







At the summit are some nice views of mountains still with some glacier ice...








Up at the summit, there is a nature walk that has a whole bunch of unique plantlife....



They've built a walkway over some of it so the plantlife doesn't get damaged by people walking on it.





After we get back down, we continue on our drive to Milford Sound.  The drive there was as scenic as the destination...






It started raining about halfway into our ascent of the Routeburn... the wet roads made some of the hairpin turns (of which there are many) even more fun.  And then you reach the Milford Tunnel:






They have a system of traffic lights that stops traffic in one direction while the other way goes through... until after 8PM when the light system stops, which we discovered why as we came back around 8:30 - there's no one on the road!!!!  We didn't see another car for about 2 hours!  But I'm getting ahead of myself...


On the other side of the mountain, the weather was much clearer....



Note that the road is dry on the other side of the mountain....




And then we get to Milford Sound.  Milford is a very popular tourist destination, but being Christmas day, many of the smaller tour operators were closed, and the fact that we got there so late - probably around 6:30-7, means that there was practically no one there.  Most people take a tour where a bus picks you up from Queenstown and tends to get to Milford around noon and then has a boat that takes you through the fiord.


This is the shot that is basically on every postcard:



Some other ones...




I love how the light and clouds paint the rocks with the shadows.


By the time we finished walking around Milford, it was around 8PM.  We had some more deer sticks then got in the car to start the long drive back.  Dinner was composed of the rest of the bag of potato chips, but that suited us just fine.  It's quite odd driving around the middle of nowhere when there are no other cars on the road.  We didn't see another car until we got about halfway back.




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Amazing stuff, thanks for sharing.


It's been several years ago that I visited my best buddy in Seattle. He drove us out to the Olympic Peninsula and we hiked in the Hoh Rain Forest. Scenes very similar to your pictures. They brought back some good memories.

Edited by chileheadmike (log)
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That's the thing about opposum inerds, they's just as tasty the next day.

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Another thanks here.  You prompted me to pull up my summary and photos from my own NZ trip, also over Christmas and New Years but some years ago. Great memories of such a beautiful place.  

@KennethT, I'm wondering if it would be out of line if I added an ancient history post from my old trip to your report here?

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The next day was our time to explore Queenstown a bit.  While we were staying here for 4 nights, we really only used it as a base of operations, and hadn't really seen anything there yet.  After breakfast, we made our way to the Skyline gondola which takes you to an observation deck above Lake Wakatipu.  Up there is a bungee platform (no thank you) and a ski lift that takes you up to the start of a luge track (again, no thank you).  Also up there is the Ben Lomond trail - a supposedly great hiking trail.  We got a start on the Ben Lomond trail but realized that we were still pretty tired from our long day yesterday, so we decided to turn back early and never really saw anything good on it, but we enjoyed the rest....


Some views of/from the gondola...







Once at the top, we got a nice view of the lake (without the smudge on the window)





We also stopped at the cafe for a drink:




Once down on the ground, we walked around for some more views, then stopped for dinner...




We decided on a restaurant called "Prime" which was at the edge of the lake, had a great view and had some tables outside.



The view from our table



We started with New Zealand's famous green lipped mussels, up to now, we hadn't had a chance to try these yet...  They were excellent, in a white wine sauce with garlic bread.



Rack of New Zealand lamb - much better than the version the other night, with kumara mash that was encrusted with crushed nuts and spices - lots of coriander... this was really interesting and tasty.



New Zealand venison - excellent also.


I'd highly recommend this restaurant.  It definitely exceeded our expectations and was much better than it had to be, considering the view and location.

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13 minutes ago, blue_dolphin said:

Another thanks here.  You prompted me to pull up my summary and photos from my own NZ trip, also over Christmas and New Years but some years ago. Great memories of such a beautiful place.  

@KennethT, I'm wondering if it would be out of line if I added an ancient history post from my old trip to your report here?


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The next day was our last day in Queenstown, our flight leaving around 4PM... This gave us time to wake up, pack and take a leisurely walk around the lake before heading to the airport.






We had a late lunch at the airport on our way back to Christchurch...



Another try at the sausage roll - this one was much different from the first and was much better.



Chicken sandwich with avocado lettuce and tomato


There were some great views from the plane:

















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We had only 1 evening in Christchurch, and by the time we landed and got settled into our hotel, we didn't really have time to see anything... but we had a really nice dinner - we went to Fisherman's Wharf which is outside the city proper, in Lyttelton or something like that...





The restaurant is right on the water and is known for getting fish that were caught that day....





More green lipped mussels... these were really good too...



Paua dumplings.  These were much better than the first time we got them - you could really get a better sense of the paua





Monkfish in a coconut curry sauce with coconut rice.  This may be the best monkfish I've ever had - usually, it's a bit chewy, hence its nickname "poor man's lobster" but this one was tender and moist.  I could have this every day.



Fried monkfish sandwich - a different take on fish and chips.... again, the monkfish was tender and perfectly cooked.

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Wow, an airplane w propellers !




and how were those green tipped clams ?


do I love clams and so many other things  


I do


Tj's does have some Fz clams  


i might have to look into it


your Journeys are always 




Im I thank you for taking the time for


sharing w Us her on eg


too whats next ?

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The next day we just got up and packed for our 12:00 flight to Singapore.  We decided to have breakfast at the airport:


Almond croissant.  This must have been the worst excuse for a croissant I've ever had.  The almond filling was ok, but the croissant was soggy and limp, which made it greasy... but I was starving so I wound up finishing it.


Once on the Singapore Airlines flight (linked at the top of this thread).... then, we had about a 7 hour layover in Singapore.  That's just barely enough time to get into the city, have dinner, then come back in time for the flight.... plus, we haven't really seen the airport's new Jewel which I had been looking to see so we decided to stay in the airport.  The Jewel is not in the security area, so we actually had to go through immigration first. The Jewel is like a giant mall, with tons of shops and about 100 restaurants - some international chains, others are locations of local chains of which SG has quite a few nowadays.  Many chains started out as a hawker stall or kopitiam but in order for the owners to survive, they've had to expand to multiple locations.


Here's some Jewel shots:



The walkway from the airport terminal.... 








There is a huge forest in the Jewel, complete with walking paths through the trees.  Unfortunately, they've been prepping for some event, so they closed the trails just before we got there.




It is also home to this huge waterfall.  In the evening, every hour or so, they have a light show that is projected onto the water.. but I'm getting ahead of myself.


After taking a quick look at the atrium, we headed for dinner.  In all our trips to Singapore, we have never had Bak Kut Teh, which is a pork rib soup and considered one of the national dishes of Singapore, even though it's also very popular in Malaysia (but I gather it's different there).  After a bit of  research, Song Fa seems to be one of teh best places for it.





This is the original Bak Kut Teh.  As you're eating, servers come around with pitchers of soup refilling your bowl.  The soup is very savory with the aroma of pork and garlic, and has a bunch of dried spices in it, but most notable is pepper.  Supposedly, Song Fa uses a particular Indonesian pepper which makes them stand out.



This version made with pork tenderloin (we're trying to be a little healthy!)



pickled veg to brighten things up..



fried dough



stir fried very young pea shoots



Gong fu tea - Bak Kut Teh was originally a dish you'd sit around with friends and family to eat while having tea - hence the "Teh" in the name... They had maybe 10 different teas you could get for the gong fu set, I decided on Ti Kuan Yin oolong - the shot above just has the hot water warming the tea cups.  We were exhausted by this point (it was about 4AM New Zealand time) and we must have had like 40 shots of tea each to perk us up.  Also note the requisite lime juice behind the tea set.


I really enjoyed the bak kut teh - I can't believe I waited this long to have it.  But it seems simple enough, so I'm going to try to work it into our repertoire at home...


More walking around the Jewel after dinner...




They have something called the Canopy Bridge, which is a glass floored bridge over the trees...








It was also a good place to watch the light show... kind of hard to see here:





So that's it for me... it was way too short, but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and definitely plan to return to NZ - we only saw a small part, and there's so much left to see!!!



Edited by KennethT (log)
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8 minutes ago, rotuts said:



Wow, an airplane w propellers !




and how were those green tipped clams ?


do I love clams and so many other things  


I do


Tj's does have some Fz clams  


i might have to look into it


your Journeys are always 




Im I thank you for taking the time for


sharing w Us her on eg


too whats next ?



The most amazing thing - I forgot to mention - is that there was no airport security in Queenstown before our flight to Christchurch.  We checked our bags and walked on the plane.  No security lines, no bag xrays, no metal detectors... nothing!  It was such a weird feeling.


The green tipped things were mussels though, not clams, and we really enjoyed them.  I've seen them here frozen but never tried them.


We haven't completely planned our next trip, but we really are enjoying this scenery/hiking kick we've been on and are looking into this summer in Iceland.

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I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed these posts about @KennethT's trip to New Zealand. As I mentioned above, it prompted me to dig out my notes and photos on a trip I took to the South Island at this very time of year.  While it's not exactly current, I'd like to share it and encourage anyone who's considering it to visit this beautiful place.   I can't say that food was the focus but lots of exercise and time spent outdoors made almost everything taste pretty great!  

I arrived before the group trip I'd booked so I could adjust to the time change and spent the first day wandering around Christchurch, a very walkable city, with lovely footpaths along the River Avon where you can rent punts or canoes.  I spent quite a while at the Arts Center, visiting artist studios and wandering the weekly outdoor market where I picked up fruit, cheese and bread for picnic meal. I also visited the Canterbury Museum and the Christchurch Art Gallery.  I spent the next morning walking around the Botanical Gardens and then headed out to tour a few wineries in the Waipara Valley: Canterbury House,  Muddy Water Vineyard, Torlesse Wines (my favorite) and Pegasus Bay Winery.  We had lunch at the first winery (a generous spread of breads, cheeses, dips, olives, pickled and fresh veggies, fresh fruit, etc) and finished with dessert and coffee at the last one. 

I booked a 14-day South Island trip with a company called Active New Zealand (now called Active Adventures) and met up with my group of 8 travelers and 2 guides the following morning.  On the way to our lodging at Lake Tekapo, we stopped for a short hike in Peel Forest at Te Wanahu Flat and had a picnic lunch that was standard for most of the trip - make-it-yourselves sandwiches chips, juice, fruit, muesli bars, cookies - nothing fancy but good quality.  The van was stocked with a big bowl of fresh fruit, muesli bars, gum, mints, a pile of New Zealand bird, plant and animal reference books and plenty of sunscreen and bug spray.  Our guide regularly played music from New Zealand artists during our drives - some of which still bring up memories of this trip when I hear them.  We took another short hike after lunch, then checked into our hotel.  Since the days are long at this time of year, we were often able to head back out after dinner for a short hike or walk along a lakeshore.  

Here's a view of the Church of the Good Shepherd on the shore of Lake Tekapo



The next day, we headed to the vicinity of Aoraki / Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand.  It was misty and raining steadily so we never saw the mountain but enjoyed hiking the Hooker Valley Loop and appreciated stopping for mugs of hot cocoa afterwards. 

Almost every trail featured suspension bridges like the one below.  All of them were marked with a limit for the number of people allowed and this particular group of brightly garbed hikers were sticking close together as they crossed.



That evening, we went out to Pepe’s Pizza for dinner.  It was quite a popular spot and offered interesting pizzas like chicken, brie and cranberry,  a seafood combo with mussels, shrimp and salmon and a venison and lamb combo.  

The next day, we had sunnier weather for our drive to Queenstown. 





We stopped at a fruit stand that had an interesting ice cream gadget I hadn't seen before.  You picked your fruit, which went into the hopper along with scoops of regular ice cream:



What came out the bottom was a soft-serve-like mix of fruit and ice cream.  



They also had lots of New Zealand honey available for purchase



We continued on, stopping to hike to the top of Queenstown Hill to take in the views and eat our picnic lunch, then had a briefing on what we'd need for the highlight of our trip - guided trips on either the Hollyford Track, which I chose, or the Milford Track. As @KennethT mentioned, the New Zealand Dept of Conservation maintains a network of trails that and can be hiked independently with accomodations in rustic huts where you can reserve a bunk or in your own tents.  The "guided walk" option was described by one of our group as "filet of hiking" as instead of tents and sleeping bags, we stayed in lodges with hot showers and comfortable beds so we only needed small packs for the clothes we'd need for 4 days - no need to lug tons of gear.  So lazy!   That night, some of us went to Roaring Megs in Queenstown.  I had delicious lamb and some great pinot -  the best dinner of the trip, for sure.

The next morning, we drove to Te Anau and spent some time visiting the town and walking around the lake, then headed out of town to hike part of the Kepler Track (one of those "Great Walks") before checking into our lodge on Lake Manapouri.  


Dinner was cooked outside on the barbecue and afterwards, we learned to do Tim Tam Slams with Tim Tam cookies and mugs of hot Milo around the fire.  I guess Tim Tams are more of an Aussie thing and I've since bought them at Target but that was my first!


The first day of the Hollyford Track featured a comfortable walk through some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen.  From mossy green trails...


where we were surrounded by plants and trees I've never seen before..


to clearings with views of lakes, streams and snow-capped mountains



After 12 miles of this, we arrived at our lodge where we were greeted with freshly baked cookies and mugs of tea and coffee.  We had time for showers before a delicious dinner, complete with New Zealand wine and comfy beds.  Ahhhh!

Here's a photo of Mt. Madeline that I took from outside the lodge before we headed out the next morning.  



We first took a short walk to Lake Alabaster which was like glass early in the AM



More beautiful scenery as we hiked along Lake McKerrow 



Just off the trail, we found a tent cabin set up with our lunch, complete with a Christmas tree - it was Christmas Eve, after all!





After that break, we continued hiking until we first heard and finally were able to see the sea



When we arrived at our lodge at Martins Bay, we were greeted with this platter to enjoy with wine



Dinner was salmon



with chocolate cake for dessert



I'd intended to make one short post but I've been enjoying my trip down memory lane so much that I've gone on much longer than I intended!   I'll have to finish up in another post later if people are interested in this blast from the past! 

Edited by blue_dolphin (log)
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I spent a month in NZ, roadtripping from the tip of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island.  Even that was not enough to see it properly.  This was way before the LOTR movies and tourist mania.   The foods I remember were: venison tips;  fish and kumara chips; roast meat dinners with baked pumpkin as a veg,; the breakfasts with sauteed mushrooms and broiled tomatoes and meaty bacon; beans on toast;  and buttered roast beef sandwiches.   For an American that was adventurous roadfood.   Oh and the tiny bottles of milk with the cream on top in the hotel/motel mini fridges for tea.


I remember the Kiwi burger at McD's had beetroot and egg on it.   And the tomato sauce was almost, but not entirely, unlike ketchup (paraphrasing Douglas Adams).


Funnily enough, after my NZ trip, I continued onto Singapore, which was (and is) an eater's paradise.   And I had banana ketchup there for the first time (tying in another eG thread..............)

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Super report - thank you! So on the next run there - do check out the outdoor bits of Auckland International. My friend's son did the design (sufacedesign - San Francisco). A very thoughtful concept incorporating history, culture  and the flight experience.    

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9 minutes ago, heidih said:

Super report - thank you! So on the next run there - do check out the outdoor bits of Auckland International. My friend's son did the design (sufacedesign - San Francisco). A very thoughtful concept incorporating history, culture  and the flight experience.    

Thanks.  I don't know when we'll head back, but hopefully not too far in the future.  I also don't know if we'll be going through Auckland or not - this trip we went through Christchurch.  But if Air New Zealand's direct route from NY to Auckland (starting next year) isn't too expensive, then we'd probably go that way since it's quite a bit shorter time-wise than going through Singapore (even though I enjoy my Singapore fix whenever I can). But then it would depend on whether we decide to tour some parts of south island that we missed (which is a lot), in which case, we'd never see the outisde of the Auckland airport.  But if we decide to tour the North island, then I will defintiely keep this in mind!

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      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


      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.
    • By Drew777
      I'm a Brit. I'm also a closet Frenchman.  To cap it all, I'm happily retired in Bangkok, the city of a street food culture that's second to none. The Thais are healthy and slim. I'm just this side of alive and far from slim. Lockdown has me fantasizing about my days working in London, Paris and New York, an existence, if one could call it that, revolving around gastronomy of one kind or another. They paid me, not so very much as it happens, to do what I enjoy doing most in life. We all get to do it, but I was one of a fortunate few who made it his metier. Well all that's in the past now, but I still dream of my time in Paris when lunch was a tad short of 2-hours, little-known local bistros remained affordable until the day they were discovered by La Bible (Michelin Guide) and the students were revolting - this was the summer of '68, for heaven's sake. Someone should open bistro here in Bangkok with a table d'hote of Soupe a l'Oignon gratinee, Blanquette de Veau, a stinky Epoisses and Tarte Tatin to finsih with creme fraiche. Ah, it's back to lockdown and pad Thai. 
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