Saturday, February 9, 2008

Is fog news?

Yesterday we woke up in Calistoga, (our last little getaway before reopening the restaurant on Valentine's day) and promptly turn on the TV news to the biggest story of the day: Fog hovering over the bay area! Every couple of minutes they would talk about the fog and show a live photo. Do you know what fog looks like on TV over and over again? Not much different from filming a snow storm.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

What will we do?

Wondering what kind of new and neat things to expect from us with all we have learned in Asia this trip? Here's a list of things we plan to implement:
  1. Starting Thursday, February 21st, our Thai Thursdays will be Asian Thursdays and might include a Japanese, Chinese, Indian or other Asian styled menu, but most offerings will be Thai. We will always include selections from our grill for non-Asian dining guests.
  2. We will add an optional Prix-Fixe or "super size it" meaning you can choose any entree on the menu and turn it into a four course meal with soup, Caesar salad, dessert and coffee or tea for just $9.95 extra, a savings of over 37% if ordered a la carte.
  3. Like our homemade ravioli of the week, we will add a curry of the week and have it available on our regular menu for those who find that Thursday alone is not enough Thai.
  4. On Monday, February 25th, we will open on Mondays from 5:30 to 7:30 with a tapas only menu. Guests can choose 3 or 4 courses at a fixed price from an ever changing list of items. The word tapas comes from Spain and means "covers or lid" and is now commonly refered to as little plates or snack. Our selections could include meatballs and sauce, mixed olives, fruit & cheese, empanadas, calamari, ribs, salads and just about anything Victor wants to try out. Bring a deck of cards or a game of scrabble and hang out with us for the evening!
  5. And more.....!

On Thursdays of each week I send out a email menu update detailing specials, the Asian Thursday menu and some of the Monday Tapas choices and anything interesting going on in the area that week. Please drop me an email at to get on this mailing list.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sneaking home

We are sneaking home. Not so much secretively, just haven't mentioned to anyone except our flight coordinator, Jack, that we are ready to return. Feels odd. Nobody is expecting us. We fly all day-night and alight in LA ready to hop on another plane to SF. Jeannie is working the 11am flight from LA to SF and we hitch a ride onto her flight. She treats us as if we are in first class, a real treat!

By the way, Economy Plus is a huge improvement over economy minus. The extra leg room makes the flight feel luxurious. We have one of the odd setup seats at the emergency exit row and Victor actually has no seat in front of him and has several feet of leg room. This doesn't help him sleep, but he isn't complaining either.

The weather here at home is rainy and in Groveland snowy, but not so hot as Bangkok!

Causeway Bay Hong Kong, buses & trollys

Now that we are seasoned travelers, we feel a certain freedom to hop on a bus, knowing with great confidence that it will take us where we are going.

That is not at all true! When we are certain that the bus is going where we are, we are still quite nervous about getting on: How much is it? How will we know when to get off? Needless to say, one afternoon we are trying to get home and are willing to take a taxi and I turn around and Victor is waving madly from the steps of a bus...come on get on! I can't believe it, I am the transportation manager, he shouldn't be leaping onto any old bus!

We do get on and do pay the right amount (usually a little over due to not having the right change.)

Off we are whisked from Central to Causeway Bay. One road the whole way, where every inch of scenery once you leave the downtown area of Central looks like every other inch. We are not at all sure when we should get off and keep looking for something familiar in a sea of landmarks that aren't ours.

Finally something we have seen before, the Wan Chai fire station. This means we are further down the road. We go one more stop and then get off. Dazed and confused by the swarms of people and chaos of the setting we roam the streets looking for more that might be familiar. We even asked for a little directional help and were sent 180ยบ the other way. We eventually found this blue bridge that I remember, right in front of the bus stop that is a block from our hotel. I suppose if we had just stayed on the bus we would have saved all that walking and searching time. Ah well, we are far better trained now for the next time around. I am also thankful there is apparently only this one blue bridge!

We did know that we wanted to go to Stanley Market on Sunday, this is a half hour bus ride to the back side of Hong Kong Island. We also knew that the bus passed where we were, we just didn't know where to catch it. We walked around looking for a bus 6, 6x or 66 sign with no success, but did find the library. Having been out of computer touch for a few days, we went in to see if we could use a computer. Little miss smarty pants walks right up to the empty computers and you come into the library and tries to connect to the outside world, only to learn that this is an internal computer with access only to the card catalog system. We later have success on the 6th floor with signing on to a computer.

On our way out of the library we ask about this bus we are looking for and are sent to the front of the library where there is a mini bus station. We read all the bus routes and none are going to where we are going. We as the bus people what they think, they send us to the back of the library saying the bus will pick us up there. Off we go seeking the bus stop, again without success and decide the best way to find the right bus is to just head into central and get on the bus at the station, we know where this is.

Now we need a bus to the bus, but for this route, any pretty much any bus will do. We choose the trolly. The trollys are great fun sliding up and down the road with a clang-clang, but they are very slow. There is also a rotation process that we were not familiar with. You must get in at the back and at each stop you work your way up towards the front. When you get to the front, it is your turn to get off whether you have reached your destination or not. It is only $2, (27 cents). You can stay on until you reach your real destination, but folks will try to push you off at every stop.

When we get to Stanley, we go into the back side of the market, we are only going to one of the shops that is located right as you come out. We shop successfully for all of 15 minutes and then go have lunch. A great little dim sum restaurant just around the corner. The first I remember having this whole trip. Quite nice too.

Brochuring Asia

So, you think this is only a Recipe Research trip? That couldn't be further from the truth. I have distributed many Hotel Charlotte brochures throughout the region. We stacked up at Nick's Pickled Liver, in Pattaya, Hong Kong, Ko Sichang and all around Bangkok. No doubt we will get some interesting guests from around the world!

If you read this blog and see our brochure in Asia, take a photo and send it to us. That would be fun!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Did we stay in the smallest hotel room?

Checking back into Hong Kong, we don't need a big or fancy room, just something basic that will hold us and our stuff. Turns out our choice is the smallest hotel room in the world. I think it would measure in at about 10x7 feet, inclusive of a full bath with shower.

You open the door and directly across is the bath and then two twin beds with almost 6 inches between them. The foot of the bed had enough room for a two drawer dresser where the TV with no English speaking channels sat. We had a little window and stacked our luggage under it.

In the mornings Victor would get up and get ready, then wake me up. I had to send him back to his bed so I could get up.

This was not the type of room you plan to come back to in the middle of the day for some relaxing. There was none. Actually, the only tension we had over our full holiday was while staying in this tiny place.

It was only $50 a night and was supposed to include free internet, but we couldn't connect. The lady was very helpful and gave us access to annother area I couldn't connect at and she gave me a plug to recharge the computer and that didn't work either. I think they have it set not to work, but smile the whole time as if this is a great surprise. Doesn't cost them anyting either way. Actually, they save money.

But it is done now, and we liked the area. A bit about that later.

Back in Hong Kong, more on taxis

Did I mention that all the taxis have turned red and white in Hong Kong? Well they did. Took me a while to catch a cab with an English speaking driver, but when I did I asked about this phenomenna and learned that each district has its own colors and thoses taxis must stay in that district. Red and Whites can go anywhere. Blues have to stay on Lantau. Turns out all the taxis wanted to be in the city area and the more rural areas were complaining they didn't have any taxis. So this color coding system came to play.

The Hong Kong taxi drivers wouldn't think of not turning on their meter and charging some elevated flat fee. At least none we came across. And every time a taxi was hailed, it would go wherever we wanted, a nice change from Bangkok. We tested this a few times and it held true every time.

So, we like the Hong Kong taxi system better than Bangkok, but the Bangkok taxis are cheaper, if you can get one to work on the meter.