Tag: travel

London, Paris, Prague

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Priscilla,  a customer account manager and blogger, recently returned from a whirlwind trip to London, Paris, and Prague.

Tips from a first time European traveler:

1)      Be able to carry your luggage without assistance
2)      Bring the best walking shoes you have
3)      Eat everything over there!  Stuff your face because you will definitely walk off all those calories.

After you’ve got those down, here are the highlights of my trip and things that I think you should see and do.

London: If you’re in London, you must have tea at Fortnum& Mason.  This was a definite highlight of my trip.  Their duo of scones served with Somerset clotted cream and strawberry preserve is mouth-wateringly delicious.  My picture does not do it justice.  Fortnum&Mason has been around since the 1700s and their carousel theme runs throughout the entire store.  After a duo of scones and a Jubilee blend pot of tea, stroll over to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guards.  Rumor has it that the guards do not leave their post until they are relieved from their duties.

Duo of Scones at Fortnum & Mason

Changing of the guards

Paris: If you find yourself in Paris, purchase a Paris Museum Pass and have a picnic under the Eiffel Tower at night.  We grabbed quiche and sandwiches from Rue Cler, a bustling street lined with markets and cafes that locals frequent which is just a stone’s throw away from the Eiffel Tower.  We lugged our delicious treats and situated ourselves with a picturesque view of the tower as the sun set.  The Eiffel Tower lights up every hour on the hour once it gets dark.  Sit back and watch it twinkle and shine in the Parisian sky.  The best part about this is that there are no lines, tickets, or security guards.

Twinkling Eiffel Tower

Prague: If you are in Prague in the fall, bring a warm jacket and hike Petrin Hill.  Since I am a born and bred San Franciscan, I haven’t really experienced different seasons and the leaves changing.  On two separate occasions, we hiked up Petrin Hill once to visit Strahov Monastery/ Brewery and the second time to visit the Hunger Wall.  This was a tiring ascent to the top but the views here were breathtaking.  I loved the juxtaposition of amber colored leaves to the colorful buildings that decorate Prague’s skyline.  Make sure to enjoy their dezerty there (no really, that’s how they spell it).

View from Petrin Hill.

Beijing to Shanghai: Part II

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Cindy Young, the manager of technical design at Tea, recently traveled to China. Read on about her adventures!

In addition to all the Mid Autumn festival excitement, there were other highlights of my China trip that I am eager to share.  Since it was a short trip, I did not plan any big excursions to the Great Wall or Forbidden City (for I’ve also had the fortune to have toured those places back in 2006), instead I decided to engage in more normal activities to appreciate the locals’ everyday lifestyle.

Every morning, I went out for a run around the neighborhood or nearby park to experience the locals’ daily activities. Roaming through local neighborhoods and parks in both cities, I discovered pockets of street vendors, food trucks and pedi-cabs.  There were a wide variety of street vendors serving up fresh-made dim sum and steamed buns, scallion cakes, meat and fish balls and other interesting delicacies.  I couldn’t resist and had to sample some fresh steamed veggie buns for breakfast.  They were so tasty and only $1 RMB ($.15/each), irresistible!

A big part of any culture is food, and the Chinese cuisine is anything but boring.  Peking duck is a popular specialty, and only at the finest restaurants will you experience the proper taste and texture of such a dish. They are delicately carved with choice of crispy skin or not (my recommendation, try with skin) and served in sandwich style between steamed buns or roll style with a thin crepe.  Complementary plum sauce and scallions or pickled condiments completes this delicious dish.

Due to the high population of Buddhism in China, vegetarianism is very prevalent.  I am not a vegetarian but I love vegetarian dishes and was able to enjoy a remarkable lunch at Elaine’s Vegetarian Restaurant and Bar, a beautiful little restaurant that sits beside the Luoma Lake in Shunyi, a suburb of Beijing.

Aside from the extensive culinary experience, both cities are shopping meccas in China.  I did not have enough time to visit all of them but did enjoy some fun shopping at the Solana Mall and Sanlitun Village in Beijing, and Xintiandi in Shanghai.

The Solana Mall is similar to an outdoor shopping center in Southern California.  It houses more than 1,000 international brands, with dozens of retail shops (Esprit being the largest store there), restaurants, a sage cinema, an ice rink as well as a lively bar and club strip.

The Sanlitun Village consists of 2 sites, The Piazza (Village South) and The Deck (Village North).  The Piazza features 140 mass brand stores and dining outlets, while the Deck houses high-end designer brands and a core selection of art galleries representing avant-garde and contemporary Chinese and international artists.

More interesting than the shopping, I stumbled upon a boutique hotel, The Opposite House, situated in the heart of the Sanlitun village.  It has a vibrant mix of traditional Chinese and contemporary elements.  The stunning tall ancient wooden doors at the entrance resembled an old design back from the Dynasty eras, but as soon as you entered, you’re greeted by a state-of-the-art drape display that signifies modern creativity and technology.  There is an art gallery on the ground floor that were showcasing a women’s traditional “qipao” (long dress) and men’s mandarin collared jacket made out of porcelain chips from bowls and plates, hundreds and pieces of them.  They were masterpieces of fashion.

Xintiandi “New Heaven and Earth” is an affluent car-free shopping, eating and entertainment district in Shanghai. It is composed of an area of reconstituted traditional shikumen (“stone gate”) houses on narrow alleys, some adjoining houses which now serve as book stores, cafes and restaurants, and shopping malls. Xintiandi has an active nightlife on weekdays as well as weekends, though romantic settings are more common than loud music and dance places. It is considered one of the first lifestyle centers in China.

Last but not least some other highlights to sum up the short yet culturally-enriching trip:

>798 art district, a thriving artistic community in Beijing, among 50-year old decommissioned military factory buildings of unique architectural style. It is often compared with New York’s Greenwich Village or SoHo.

>The Bund: waterfront area in Shanghai. The Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower, Jin Mao tower and Shanghai World Financial Center (aka the world’s largest bottle opener), are extraordinary projects worthy of appreciation.

Shanghai Towers & TV Pearl Tower

Beijing to Shanghai: Part I Mid-Autumn Festival

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Cindy Young, the manager of technical design at Tea, recently traveled to China. Read on about her adventures!

On my recent trip to Beijing and Shanghai, it was the week before the Mid-Autumn festival and National Day holiday. Both cities were in the midst of preparing for the festivities; displaying good luck lanterns everywhere and selling an abundance of moon cakes and a vast variety of treats and gifting merchandise.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is a popular lunar harvest festival celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese people. The festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar.  The Chinese government listed the festival as an “intangible cultural heritage” in 2006, and it was made a Chinese public holiday in 2008.  It is also a public holiday in Taiwan.  This year it was on Sunday September 30th, and National Day occurs on October 1st every year.  The double holiday is one of the Golden Weeks in China where seven consecutive holidays can be taken to allow long distance family visits and promote travel activities (although only 3 days is Paid).

Historically, the festival was strongly associated with the legend of Houyi, an archer and his wife Chang’e. Upon completion of an important task to Emperor Yao (2200 BCE), Houyi was rewarded a pill to eternal life but he was to wait a year to be able to take it.  However Chang’e discovered the pill one day and took it herself, therefore she became immortal.  As a result, the couple became estranged and Chang’e escaped to the Moon while Houyi stayed on Earth.  Houyi built a palace near the Sun where he visits his wife once a year on the 15th of the eight month, hence the reason why the moon is so full and beautiful that night.

Traditional Mooncake

Traditional Mooncake

Traditionally, family and friends gather in the evening to celebrate, eat festive food and moon cakes.  After dinner, a visit to a public space, such as a park or shoreline, may follow for, literally, “appreciating the moon”.  Importantly, lanterns and candles are lit, to enhance the ambiance and festivities.  They come in different shapes and sizes with unique details but most often in red and gold colors as they symbolize good luck.

Non-Traditional Mooncakes

Traditional practices are given a modern twist, most often for marketing purposes. For example, the traditional moon cake with lotus seed or red bean paste and egg yolk is now available in alternative fillings, such as green tea or chocolate or even in the form of characters from the popular Angry Birds game.  My favorite is the mixed nuts filling without egg yolk but also love the green tea and taro fillings.  The salty egg yolk provides an interesting mix of flavors, as the sweet and savory flavors complement each other. Those with the double yolks are considered as more generous gifts with double the luck J.

Since my family immigrated to San Francisco three decades ago, much of the Chinese traditions have diminished as we have assimilated to the American culture, but my father still preserves the tradition of making moon cakes every year, especially now to share the experience with the grandchildren.


Culture Shock in “Asia-Lite” Singapore

Today we’re featuring guest blogger Linh Tran, who recently moved to Singapore with her two kids, daughter age 3, son age 6.

Travel with Kids

Our family lived in the San Francisco Inner Sunset neighborhood where numerous Asian-Americans live.   Stroll down Irving Street, pass 20th Ave and see store fronts with names and banners in both Chinese and English.  You’ll hear people speak in different languages intermingled with English.  It’s much the same here in Singapore compared to the Sunset.  Perhaps that is why some people refer to Singapore was ‘Asia-Lite’.

travel with kids to singapore

Early in my career, I conducted cross-cultural training programs for families who were about to move abroad on an international assignment.  The night before each training, I would take a glass bowl and put a few large ice cubes in it.  “Culture is like an iceberg,” I used to say, “On top the surface of the water are all the things we can easily identify that are different between the U.S. and your new home.  What might be different could be food, language, buildings, clothing, transportation, and people.”  I warned them at some point during their stay in X country, they’ll experience culture shock- that’s the larger piece of the iceberg that is below the surface that is not so obvious and will make you ask the question, Why.

Travel with Kids

Some claim that children adapt quicker and easily to new environments compared to adults.  My children don’t seem to shocked by many things so far here in Asia-lite, but they have certainly asked a lot of why questions:

Why do have I have to take my shoes off (at a public play structure)?

Why do they sell small packets of tissue (at a hawker stall)?

Why did you call him (the taxi driver) uncle?

Why is there no mac-n-cheese?

Why do they have Christmas lights up? Is it Christmas?

Why is do they look in my mouth with a flashlight?

Why are there octopuses with hats on the taxi?

Why is that leaf so ginormous?

travel to singapore with kids

To foster their curiosity whilst helping them through their temporary states of culture shock, we encourage them to be news reporters and ‘interview’ locals to get the answer to their why questions before using the internet.  Being only 6 and 3 years old, they usually get me to doing the questioning and do the internet search themselves  but I don’t mind because we do it together they are learning how to satiate their curiosity.   Hopefully, when we move back to San Francisco the signs in Mandarin will be less foreign to the kids and their experience living abroad fosters their global citizenship.

Travel with Kids

Win a Nordic getaway with Tea Collection + Jetsetter

Sweepstakes with Tea Collection + Jetsetter

Has our Nordic Collection tickled your interest?  Did you want to see our inspiration for the Copenhagen tee in person?  Or did you just need a vacation?  Now is your chance to win our grand prize of a $500 Tea gift certificate to pack your bags and $1000 in Jetsetter credit.

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Click here to win!

Guatemala in Color

Guest Blogger Laura shares her experience of traveling to Guatemala with her children.

With summer at its height, many of us find ourselves heading out of town. For some, the beach beckons with its warm and lazy days. Or perhaps a trip to the mountains is the draw, with pristine vistas and fresh air. Wherever we end up, we usually return refreshed and with new memories. This summer, my husband and I chose a different break. After 5 years on American soil caring for our girls, now 2 and 4, I was ready to dust off my passport and hop a plane to somewhere new. The two of us volunteered to help take 25 teenagers to Chichicastenango, a small town in the western highlands of Guatemala. Mainly a service trip, we would be working alongside the indigenous K’iche’ Mayan people there, helping them build homes, make improvements to current structures, and hold a camp for school children. We would also have the opportunity to visit the town market.

Chichicastenango, or “Chichi” as the locals call it, has been one of the main trading centers in the Mayan region since pre-Hispanic times. The market today is the largest of it’s kind in the Western Hemisphere. Known as the most colorful market in all of the Americas, it’s not hard to see why. The traje, or traditional native costumes of Guatemala, are bursting with color and together with their patterns connect locals to specific villages or groups. The vendors dress to sell their wares, which include ceramics, wooden masks, religious items and of course the fabrics. Oh, the fabrics. In the form of clothing, blankets, and so much more, they make the market a true feast for the eyes.

There was so much to see, from the Mayan priests on the church steps burning sacrifices to the women in their traje selling flowers. I took in the sights, the smells, the feel of it all. And of course I shopped. I was tempted to bring back an entire wardrobe for my girls, from the huipils (traditional Mayan blouses) to the wrap around skirts.  I settled for dolls and headbands while they are still so small.

The market was a treat, and I thoroughly enjoyed taking teenaged girls on a shopping trip like no other. A far cry from the local mall, they tried their hand at bargaining and came away with some fabulous finds and great memories.

I could go on, but a picture is worth a thousand words. And for this experience, pictures tell it all. They tell the story of a people who showed us a glimpse of their lives through what they bring to market each week. Their stories are woven in fabrics every color of the rainbow.


Discovering Ireland

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Margaret, who works in planning & operations, recently returned from a trip to Ireland. Check out her adventures!

Kylemore Abbey, in the Connemara region near Galway.

Kylemore Abbey, in the Connemara region near Galway.

Earlier this month,  I traveled with my friends to Ireland for a wedding.  The wedding took place near Drogheda, a small town about an hour north of Dublin.  I had never been to an Irish wedding before, and it was quite the experience! The wedding itself was fairly short – but then the festivities continued all day.  Later in the evening, the “afters” arrived (additional guests who were not invited to the ceremony and dinner, but show up later in the evening ). Finally, at 2am the party broke up – but then there was a wedding brunch the next day as well!  The Irish certainly know how to celebrate!

Racing Boats in Galway

Racing boats in Galway. We just happened to be in Galway for the dramatic finish of the Volvo Ocean Race – an around-the-world regatta that had begun in October 2011 in Alicante, Spain.

After the wedding, we took some time to drive around the countryside. The first challenge was driving on the right-hand side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right-hand side, as well as shifting with the left hand. We managed not to crash, but we did have a tire blow out in the windy narrow roads of Connemara.  We were amazed at how many people stopped to help and make sure we were okay, and we were able to get the tire fixed and get back to our hotel in Galway.

Burial Mount at Newgrange (Brú na Bóinne).

Brú na Bóinne, a 5000-year-old burial mound in County Meath. The inner chamber aligns with the sunrise on Winter Solstice.

My favorite site in Ireland was the burial mound at Newgrange (Brú na Bóinne).  It’s one of a series of ancient burial mounds that were recently discovered in Ireland, and is over 5000 years old. Although the Neolithic people are not considered especially advanced, they were able to build this mound in such a way that the sun shines directly into the chamber on the Winter Solstice.

Cliffs of Moher

With my friend Sue at the Cliffs of Moher

Ireland was beautiful (I’ve included photos of my favorite places below!), but it was rather cold and rainy. It was actually quite reminiscent of summer in San Francisco, in fact! So after Ireland, we did hop over to Munich for a few days to enjoy the sun for a few days.

Rathaus in the Marienplatz, Munich.

In front of the Rathaus in the Marienplatz, Munich.