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News for the New Year!!

Happy New Year to everyone! I spent the last night of 2010 in a snowy farmhouse in the Dutch countryside, listening to the local farmboys setting off firecrackers as soon as it got dark, at about four in the afternoon, and continuing all the way through to midnight. I had spent the day in Amsterdam yesterday (more on that in tomorrow’s post), wandering the wonderful streets and canals and having the bejeesus scared out of me every five minutes by people setting off firecrackers in the middle of bridges. The Dutch seem to go in for noise rather than spectacle in the firecracker department, just like the Chinese. It’s all about the bang rather than the lights! 
The remote farmhouse we’re staying in is in the midst of the Veluwe, a huge forest about an hour from Amsterdam, and I couldn’t be further away from the crowds and business of Shanghai. I can actually hear myself think. I haven’t heard a single car horn, or truck horn, or bus horn, or motorbike horn for a whole week, and I think I can hear birds too, the only other sound. The garden is full of rabbit prints in the snow. I’ve spent a week cooking, taking all the assembled kids for sleigh rides in the snow, and reading, and relaxing, and generally having a very quiet time. It’s been fabulous (and all thanks to my sister, whose idea it was to get as close to the middle of nowhere as possible). We travelled long and hard to get here, having braved the debacle of Heathrow, the snow and ice and frreezing fog the length and breadth of England and Scotland, spent a couple of days in the snow in Edinburgh, to visit my darling Grandma, and gather up my sister and her family, and now survived a North Sea crossing in the Newcastle-Amsterdam vehicle ferry. It does make me wonder why I didn’t just fly directly to Amsterdam from Shanghai, but, you know, I love a train trip, or a boat trip, or a car trip, where you can see the scenery and watch the transition from one place to the next. If you can see through the heavy snow, that is. 

So over the next few days I’ll tell you all about the Veluwe, and Dutch food, and Amsterdam, but for today I have three exciting pieces of news to write about. 
Firstly, a few months ago I was very excited to be asked by iPhone app company GPSmyCity to write a GPS guided walking tour of Shanghai. My very own app! I was given free reign to write a tour of my own devising, so I decided to write about the Old City, the area of Shanghai I love the most. It took weeks of taking photos, and recording the audio over and over again until I sounded like I was just having a chat, rather than giving a high-school presentation, and it was finally published before Christmas. It’s so easy (and daunting) for tourists to get lost in Shanghai, that they rarely stray off the tourist track. So GPSmyCity had this fabulous idea of making tours all round the world utilising the clever GPS thingy in your iPhone. You just take your iPhone, and walk around the old streets of Shanghai with my little voice in your ear telling you what you’re seeing and all the while not getting lost. Brilliant. You don’t even need to be able to speak Chinese.
The tour The Old City – Hidden Secrets is available for the tiny price of $2.99 through the App store  and you can also see it at the GPSmyCity website too. I’ve got another two in the pipeline,  French Concession tour, and the Bund and Nanjing Road. Just working on that relaxed tour-guide voice.


Secondly, I have started writing online for Shanghai City Weekend, as their new blogger. I’m hoping to encourage expats living in Shanghai to just get out there and try something new each week, new places, new experiences, new foods. 
Try Everything Once….. features every Friday on the City weekend website. And my first print article for City Weekend monthly magazine will be out in February. Exciting!

Thirdly and lastly, for foodies who love to read, the Foodie’s Reading Challenge 2011 has invited all of us food-lovers to read more books about food, cookbooks, cooking biographies, and novels with a food theme in 2011. The website will be like a portal for discussion and reviews on the books you’ve read. 

The Foodie’s Reading Challenge 2011 invites you to be a 
  • Nibbler (1-3 books)
  • Bon Vivant (4-6 books)
  • Epicurean (7-9 books)
  • Gourmet (10-12 books)
  • Glutton (more than 12 books)
I for one, have a long list of books I’d like to read about Chinese food (like Musings of a Chinese Gourmet, written in 1954 by F.T Cheng to educate westerners about Chinese food), so I’ve taken up the challenge as a Gourmet, with a view to reviewing 12 books, one every month on Life on Nanchang Lu. 
I invite you to join in too!
So, enough news already. Back to food and travels tomorrow……Happy New Year!