Imperial Jewels of China – Day 3 – Shanghai & Yoyuan Gardens, and so much more!

Another 6am wake up call today. This will be the theme of this trip I am sure. It is great to wake up and have a beautiful cup of Chinese tea, or two while getting ready. I am really a massive fan of it. I will definitely have to bring some home with me.

Today we are off to old Shanghai and Yoyuan Gardens but not before breakfast.

Chinese breakfasts are also a favourite part of the day. Hubby commented about how adventurous I am being with my food. I am determined to try new things each day. Today was pork stuffed dumplings. I also had to have my boiled eggs in tea, although I learnt today it also has Soy Sauce in it. I really need to try making them when I get home.

Today is also the first official day of the trip – Imperial Jewels of China. The last few days were an optional extension to the tour. Everyone will now have arrived, so it will be interesting to see what they are all like and where they are from. The people we have met so far are mainly American or Canadian, with only another couple from the UK.

I look around breakfast to get my first view. Most of the people here will be on the same trip, getting something to eat before we leave for our trip at 8 am.

We are a large group so for the rest of the trip we have been allocated our guide. We still have Terry who has been with us since we arrived which we are really pleased about.

We all meet in the hotel lobby where Terry checks the batteries to our voice boxes. These will be with us throughout the tour so we can always hear him. We were also given badges to write our names on. This is new as we didn’t do this on our last Viking trip. I’m so bad at names this will really help me.

The weather is awful. It is pouring with rain and a lot of today is outside. The hotel has provided umbrellas in our rooms which will certainly be needed today, plus we have our waterproof jackets.

We get on our bus and meet some people from the day in Suzhou and discuss what we all did yesterday. New arrivals were feeling tired after long flights the night before. I remember how tired I was and have been thankful for the extra days to help me adjust.

The first stop is a trip to old Shanghai. It only takes a short time on the bus. I have to say, from now on, I’m sorry but I won’t able to confirm the cost of the things we see, as Viking are excellent at including all tours in the price of the trip!

As we walk to the old town from the bus, it is still pouring with rain, but it doesn’t take away the beauty of what I saw. Traditional Chinese buildings surround us. It is surreal when I look up and see the top of my hotel roof from down here. I feel I’m in a completely different city.

I’ve learnt that in China it is as important to look up as it is to look straight ahead. There are so many hidden gems in the roof tops. Beautiful architecture including many carvings.

We walk through the old town to Yoyuan Gardens which dates back to the Ming Dynasty. Here it is really important to look up. Carvings of ancient warriors and dragons adorn the roof tops. The curves of the roof add to the beauty. It’s still raining but we still enjoy walking around some of five acres of gardens, through rockeries, pavilions and grottos. It is just so peaceful here.

We are then given some free time to explore the garden and old town more.

In a shop window a lady is making something which looked like a sweet dumpling. She saw us watching and smiled a beautiful smile before showing us what she was doing. Another thing I have found is that the Chinese are so friendly.

The rain hasn’t stopped so we are relieved when we head to our next destination – a silk carpet and embroidery workshop. I have to say, the silk embroidery absolutely blew me away. One piece in particular was of a leopard cub. See what you think :

It is absolutely stunning isn’t it.

A lady is sat showing you how they are made. Some take over 200 days to make. It is a great skill to be able to produce something like this. Plus what amazing eyesight they must have.

There were carpets too. Sadly whilst I’d have loved to bring a few back, they were not in our price range this time, but who knows, if we win the lottery we could be making a call!

From here it was time for lunch. In China, it’s not unusual for lunch to be served from 11.30 am.

We were told that lunch would be dim sum in a local restaurant just above the carpet and embroidery workshop. I wasn’t expecting much except a sample of a few dim sums, so when lunch arrived, I was blown away. It consisted of about 10 different dishes ranging from noodles, fried rice, egg plant, beef and chicken dishes to the dim sum itself. This was accompanied by a local Chinese beer.

If I’d have realised how much food was coming, I’d have cut back on breakfast. I know I could have said no to some of the dishes, but it smelt and looked so good. It tasted good too. This is the trouble with Viking, they give you the most amazing food everyday, you can’t help tucking in.

After lunch we visited the Shanghai Museum. Over 4 floors you can explore art and antiquities from over 5000 years. For us the statues were of most interest, but each floor was full of amazing things.

Can you believe that this is actually a pillow. I’m not sure I’d swap my feather ones for it today!

After the museum the tour should have ended with a trip to the bund. Due to the rain it was decided to delay this until tomorrow morning, so we all headed back to our hotel, arriving back at 3 pm.

As if we hadn’t eaten enough, dinner was to be served in the Crystal Garden Restaurant in the 5th floor. We decided to have a bottle of beer with dinner. The cost in the hotel is 58 Yuan which is about £7.25 for a 330 ml bottle. I didn’t see the wine list so can’t say how much it is.

I have been having wine in my room each evening while getting changed. A Chinese wine from the local store is about 42 yuan (£5.25) and has been really nice though.

After dinner we got back onto the bus to another hotel to visit the Shanghai Theatre, to see the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe. I was sort of expecting something like the Circus Du Soleil, however this was very different to that. We were not allowed to use photography during the 1 hour show so I can’t show you any pictures. What I can say is that that it was a really good night out. A lot of humour, audience participation (well for the unlucky ones that got plucked out of the audience) and some very talented performers. I would certainly recommend a visit.

We are now back in our hotel. Tomorrow we catch a flight from Shanghai to Wuhan where we will see our home for the next 8 days – Viking Emerald.

Viking are as efficient as ever. They already have our passports to check us in. We just need to leave our cases outside our hotel room door at 7.30 am tomorrow and the next time we will see them will be in our cabin.

When we arrive at the airport they will provide us with lunch boxes to keep us going until dinner too.

So it’s time to say good night for now and enjoy our last sleep in our amazing hotel room. I shall really miss it. Our time in Shanghai has been amazing and thank you to the staff at the Westin Hotel and the various Viking staff for making it so special. Terry will continue with us throughout.

How is it Monday already?

Wow, I can’t believe it’s Monday already. How does it come round so fast?

It’s like Groundhog Day when the alarm goes off! While I try to wake myself up to take the dogs out for a walk with hubby, Fido is there jumping all over the bed in excitement! Lola is a bit like us. Actually no that’s wrong. We do get moving when the alarm goes off, whereas she lies there moaning, groaning and stretching! She really doesn’t do mornings !

At least now the mornings are lighter! Chilly but spring is definitely here!

The weekend was good. For a weekend with nothing planned it was fun.

Saturday morning was a leisurely start. An amazing brunch followed by a spring clean! I do love it when you give the house a good going over! Hubby was productive too in the garden. It’s the first time this year he has been able to really get out there! It looks so much nicer now with the spring bulbs coming through and the new shoots appearing. It’s amazing what a bit of sun can do!

Saturday evening hubby had offered to cook dinner! If you know me you will know that rarely happens! He had seen a recipe in the latest Tesco magazine for a Chinese soup! As long as I made sure he had all the right ingredients he would make it for me!

OMG, for a man that doesn’t cook very often it was amazing! I know he followed the recipe, but even his chopping and presentation skills were spot on! Restaurant quality.

You can see what we ate here on my YouTube channel.

We ended a perfect day by watching Bohemian Rhapsody. It was a great film don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure I’d go and see it multiple times. Hubby thinks we feel that way because we already knew the story, and maybe he is right! I’d still recommend you watching it though.

As the days are brighter we decided on Sunday to take the dogs for a longer walk. We opted for Earlswood Lakes. I haven’t been there for years. I printed a walk off the internet and off we went!

Now, I have to point out that today it wasn’t our fault! I know whenever we go on long walks hubby and I will always take a wrong turn at some point, but today wasn’t down to us!

The route we picked didn’t include a map! The instructions looked clear when we started, but soon they didn’t make sense. We had to ask directions a couple of times. Well I did! Hubby wouldn’t ask lol!

Eventually we gave up on the route and did our own thing. We didn’t mind. It was nice just to get out!

As we headed back to the car it dawned on me! We went the wrong exit out of the car park at the beginning! No wonder it didn’t make sense!

At least it made us chuckle!

The afternoon was relaxing with a visit from my wonderful parents.

As with every Sunday in our house we had a lovely roast to finish off the weekend.

Next thing I know the alarm is going off and it’s Monday again.

As we arrive at the station the car park is more full than usual! I’m dreading the train now. I’m expecting to crush my way on!

As it pulls onto the platform I look through the windows. A few people are standing but there is still daylight! I’m shocked but pleased. What happens next shocked me even more ! I got a seat! Woo hoo! I can’t believe it! Maybe Monday isn’t going to be so bad after all!

Have a great week!

What a week! Thank you fridge and freezer!

I don’t know about you but I always find that whenever there is a bank holiday the week drags!  This week was no exception!

For some reason every 1st of the month this year I have developed a cold!  So on 1st April as I was having a lovely walk around Stratford Upon Avon, I could feel my throat start.  You know that feeling that you are swallowing glass.  For me that is always the first sign!    I would have liked to have spent Bank Holiday Monday in bed, but had my stepdaughter staying so that wasn’t an option!

As the week developed the cold got worse.  I really didn’t have an appetite which meant planning for meals was really difficult, as I didn’t know what I wanted.  It is so easy to just pick at junk when you are feeling like this!  I was in the office for the 4 days this week and despite feeling as bad as I did, I still made myself go to the gym!  I couldn’t go at the same pace as other weeks, but decided any exercise was better than none!

When it came to food, I was really good and decided that I would make sure I had every meal planned out for work at least.  That would be my biggest challenge as there is always a lot of biscuits and cakes around.  I decided that carbs was the way to go, so made a big batch of pasta salad which I split over a few days.  I reheat it at work with a couple of light cheese triangles.  Melted they make a lovely cream sauce which is part of my HEA.

Evening meals were more of a challenge.  I would take things out of the freezer that morning.  The problem was I really didn’t have any energy when I woke up, so by dinner time my levels were even lower!  Thankfully I always have a fridge full of fresh vegetables.  Again I loaded up with carbs by slicing up new potatoes and cooking them in garlic frylight with every meal!

By Thursday my motivation was rock bottom!  To make it worse, on the way home our train was stopped between Stetchford and Lee Hall stations.  The conductor said there had been an incident at Marston Green Station and so we had to wait.  Eventually after what felt like hours, they advised us that they were taking us back to Stetchford where the train would terminate.  It turned out that someone had run in front of the train in front of us!  You must be in a terrible state to feel that is the only option for you!  The train driver must also be so traumatised.  Its such a horrible thing to happen.

We are now though stuck at a train station miles from where we need to be.  If any of you commute regularly you will know that we are all creatures of habit!  We stand on the same spot on the platform each day so we meet the same people.  One of the ladies on our train quickly got onto the Uber App and ordered a taxi.  It was going to take 20 minutes but that was better than waiting to see what was going to happen – i.e. could there be a bus service laid on?  Even if there was it wouldn’t take us to our station as there is a low bridge!  My husband and I and another lady who also gets our train with us decided to join Natalie with the taxi and share the cost.  As we were quite far out, Natalie’s husband offered to come to Birmingham International to pick us up, so the taxi didn’t have as long to travel.   We finally got to our car at the Station an hour later than normal.  We still then had to drive the 30 minutes home.

I have 2 border collies who would be expecting us home.  I checked the CCTV to see if they were ok.  Bless them, as soon as the time comes for when we are normally home, both move to watch the front door.  I wonder what goes through their minds when we are late!

They were so happy to see us when we got home.  No accidents either, although Lola quickly told us to stop saying hello to her and let her out!!

I’m already exhausted from the cold, I’m now late home and the dogs still need to go for a walk.  We decide that it really is too late for me to start cooking!  Phew I was so relieved! But then the decision of what to eat!  If we had still lived in Warwick it would have been easy!  Fish, chips and mushy peas  for my husband and chicken kebab meat with salad and lemon juice for me!  We do have a chip shop in our village but it doesn’t do kebab meat as far as I know, and I don’t really like chips and definitely don’t like fried fish or anything in batter.  So that leaves Chinese or curry.  Hubby didn’t fancy a curry so a Chinese it was!  We didn’t have a menu as I have only eaten there once when I first moved to the village so went in blind.  I know what hubby usually likes so decided to play safe.  Beef and black bean sauce with Singapore noodles for him, and chicken in oyster sauce for me.  I should have ordered boiled rice but really couldn’t face it, so decided to pinch a few of the noodles! It was actually very tasty!

My cold was getting worse by Friday so I was so pleased I already had lunches sorted in fridge.  I quickly grabbed a lamb, chicken and dhal curry from freezer for dinner that night which I would add boiled rice to!  I am so pleased I have free food in the freezer for times like this.  It would be so easy to turn to junk food right now!

By Saturday morning I have had it!  I feel like death and decide that I’m staying in bed for the day.  I don’t have any real plans for today so I don’t need to get up!  I am not one for staying in bed.  I am the one up and out walking the dogs at the crack of dawn, or doing housework!  I knew the dishwasher needed emptying and the washing basket was full, there was dog hair on the carpets and don’t get me started on the kitchen floor!  Right now none of that mattered!  Well until  the postman woke me at 2 pm to take a parcel for my neighbour!  Then my OCD kicked in!  I couldn’t just lie around when there was so much work to do!

After a couple of hours cleaning I finally curled up on the sofa, only for my hubby to ask if I wanted to join him to walk the dogs.  I didn’t have to, he knew I was unwell, but I thought the fresh air might do me good and anyway, I needed the steps!

I decided I needed to pull myself together and make something for dinner!  I had some turkey mince in the fridge which I was going to make a pizza with (I will have to share the recipe with you sometime!) .  I didn’t fancy that now but I did fancy a lasagne!  Its amazing how you crave carbs when you are ill!

My husband doesn’t really like turkey but what he doesn’t know doesn’t kill him!

I mixed the mince, 1 chopped red pepper, chopped onion, tinned tomatoes, 10 slice chestnut mushrooms, 1 pint of beef stock (to hide the flavour of turkey!), pepper, 4 tablespoons of Worcester sauce, 2 tablespoons of tomato puree into a frying pan and cooked it for about 15 minutes. Just before the end I added 2 large handfuls of mixed frozen vegetables.

I lined a lasagne tin with sliced courgette.  Added a layer of the mince mixture then topped with lasagne sheets.  I repeated this until all the mixture was used up!

I then mixed 500 g of quark with 3 eggs and topped the pasta.  Baked at 150 degrees on low shelf for 50 minutes.  Then added grated cheese and cooked for another 10 minutes.

I served it with garlic bread.  For hubby it was the shop bought bread but for me I took 2 slices of wholemeal bread (HEB), sprayed with frylight butter and spread with Lazy Garlic.  Both were baked in oven for 10 minutes until golden.  Absolutely delicious.  I also have another 4 portions left for the freezer for lazy days!

My husband was even heard telling my parents today how nice it was !!

Today i’m treating my parents to Sunday dinner.  I’ve booked Charlecote Pheasant by me.  Its a carvery and really good value for money.   I had pate to start, that was the healthiest option, then a lovely roast for main.  I was trying to keep on plan but its very hard at carvery’s as you don’t know what they have cooked the veg etc in.  I opted to fill up on the protein so had a slice each of ham, pork and beef, 1 yorkshire (well its not a roast with out one!), carrots, beans, red cabbage and 2 of the smallest roast potatoes I could find.  It was all cooked so well.  I decided to skip dessert.  I did have a look but nothing took my fancy so decided not to have one for the sake of it.  If you ever want lunch out I would recommend it.  For 4 adults, 3 having 3 courses, me 2,  including 2 glasses of wine, 1 pint Cider and 1 pint of coke it all only came to £80.

The restaurant is bright and traditional.  There is plenty of room if you want to bring a large group.

I’m now suitably full so I won’t need to eat again until tomorrow.  Lets just hope the week ahead is better!

Looking back this week could have been a complete disaster.  You can’t plan when you are going to feel ill, but you can plan for those times when you need something quick any easy.  Keep your fridge full of fresh vegetables and the freezer full of healthy options.  Batch cooking is your savour on weeks like this.  Planning is the key to successful food optimising !