All posts by Claire Walter

Toilet Tales from China

Modernizing fast, but not always well. One exploded recently.

dsc01064One of the things that distresses many Western visitors to China are the public toilets. Most are very clean (attendants are often on hand in public restrooms to make sure), but squat toilets still predominate. Westerners in general, and Americans in particular, just don’t like them.

Even as China is building the tallest skyscrapers, the highest bridges, the longest tunnels and the most bullet trains, it is addressing more basic needs by modernizing public toilets, which in places other than tourist areas badly needed modernizing.

It doesn’t always go well. One person was killed and seven injured when a build-up of gas (methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulphide) in sewer pipes caused a public toilet to explode in northwestern China on New Year’s Eve.  A blast in Yulin, Shaanxi Province, caused a new toilet building to collapse. One person was killed and several were injured, according to a report in the South China Morning Post. Despite the inevitable jokes, it was no laughing matter.

Clean but not comfortable for many Westerners.
Clean but not comfortable for many Westerners.

Chinese toilets in public buildings (including at highway rest stops) come in two basic styles, “squatters” and “seats.” Squatters are porcelain fixtures at floor level, with places for the user’s feet. Seats are closer to Western-style.

Except in fancy hotels and restaurants, toilet paper is not provided. BYO — or, if you are on a tour, be grateful that tour buses usually have a supply. In many places, there is a waste basket next to the toilet. That’s where the TP goes. Flushing might often clog up that delicate plumbing.

Perhaps the most bizarre toilet I encountered was a concrete trench near a historic fort not far from Wenzhou.  A waist-high “privacy” wall enabled two women to squat over different parts of the trench. A flow of running water flushed it. I didn’t have my camera so sadly could not take a picture. #SATWChina

Hotel Boulderado’s Upcoming Lobby Renovation

Boulder’s historic landmark hotel to upgrade main floor space.

boulderado-logoThe Hotel Boulderado, which opened its doors on New Year’s Day 1909, continues to reinvent itself, piecemeal. The restaurant was the Teddy Roosevelt Restaurant or Rough Rider Room (or similar) when I moved to Boulder in ’88. It was later Q’s at the Boulderado, and is now Spruce Farm Food Fish. The down-market Catacombs has been turned into a speakeasy-inspired cocktail lounge called License #1. The Corner Bar has been refreshed.

Now, the hotel at the corner of 13th and Spruce is about to embark on its most dramatic change, a makeover of the lobby. Beginning right after the enormous Christmas tree comes down on January 2, the four-month renovation will begin. The hotel initially said that the restaurants and rooms will still be operating, but it appears that Spruce Farm and Fish is, in fact, closed while the work is going on.

If I understand the plans correctly, the beautiful front desk will become a lobby bar and the gift shop will become a coffee bar operated by Boxcar Coffee Roasters. I’m not sure where the registration desk will go — or perhaps it will be replaced by several sets of tables and chairs. The beautiful staircase to the mezzanine, the stunning glass ceiling and the water fountain boasting of the Arapahoe Glacier as its source will presumably all remain.

Colorado’s Deep Snows

Mountain snowfalls measure deep, especially at Crested Butte.

crestedbutte-logoI am looking out at the wintry snowscape in my yard — five inches or so on the deck railing birds on the heated birdbath and at the feeders (right now a white-headed woodpecker is vacuuming out the seed from the feeder outside my office window). The mountains are reveling in even more snow, a very good thing as the holiday peak season approaches.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) has received over 21 inches of snow in the last 24 hours and 29 inches in the last two days. That appears to be the deepest storm totals in the state of Colorado with a two day total of 29 inches.  Here is a picture from yesterday’s snow.

 The resort says that flights are arriving into the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport with just some minor delays and Monarch Pass is currently open. And that’s pretty much the picture all over the state. Click here for current snow and lift reports from most resorts state-wide.

Wellness & Cuisine Meet at Beaver Creek Studio

Monthly packages combine luxury lifestyle elements.

beavercreek-logoIn European spa resorts, guests come to renew, rejuvenate and relax — and eat well. That concept with an American spin comes to Beaver Creek this winter. Beginning in January, and taking place monthly thereafter, the essential elements of Earth, Water and Fire inspired for the new ‘Mind, Body and Appetite’ series at this luxurious mountain resort. Each element is to be  incorporated into the series to complement movement, nutrition, and cuisine.

What intrigued me was that Vail Valley star chef Kelly Liken is the culinary key to this new series with the “appetite” part offered at her new-ish restaurant, Harvest By Kelly Liken in Edwards. The press release describes this combination thus:

Each event begins in The Sonnenalp Club’s new Movement Studio with 45 minutes of yoga and meditation, taught by renowned yogi Suzanne Oliver, concentrating on one of the three elements. After the yoga class, guests move into The Lounge at Harvest by Kelly Liken to hear a talk from Ashley Eaves, certified nutritionist, dietitian and intuitive coach about how the element affects the body. Guests then enjoy inspired cuisine created by Chef Kelly Liken, comprised of ingredients chosen by Eaves, from a customized menu that stimulates the appetite while interpreting the components of each element through a culinary lens.

The Schedule & MoInfo

January 25. Earth Element (Prithvi), representing all that is stable and unwavering.   Mind – Yoga class includes standing postures and gentle hip openers, ending with a guided meditation and grounding breath work.   Body – The effect of grounding the body through nutrition and its application on mind/body balance . Appetite – Menu focuses on earthy, hearty winter vegetables while incorporating a healthy balance of macronutrients.

February 22. Water Element (Apah Jala), representing the force of attraction and enables flow, circulation, rhythm and fluid movement.   Mind – Using the breath as the guide and meditation to bring intention to thoughts and desires.  Body – The effects of water, hydration, nutrients in fresh juices from fruits and veggies, Omega3, detoxing and healthy digestion.  Appetite – Fresh seafood, healthy fats and umami vegetables, plus juice bar offerings from The Pantry at Harvest.

March 22. Fire Element (Agni), delivering a spark of heat, stimulation and movement, digestion and attitude.  Mind –Yoga session focuses on drawing energy up from the earth into the core of the pelvis, firing up power for arm balancing postures.   Body – Nutrition session focuses on metabolism and the effects of caffeine, proteins, carbohydrates and spicy foods on the body.    Appetite – Menu incorporates spicy foods known to boost metabolism.

Each session takes place from 4 to 6 p.m.  and starts at $65 for Sonnenalp Club members and $80 for non-members;  all three classes start at $175 for members, $215 for non-members. And for those who an adult beverage at the end of the day, “specialty elemental cocktails” are available for an additional charge during the culinary portion. Reservations are required; call 970-477-5377.

Cross-posted to Culinary Colorado.

Taos Named Top Ski Town

USA Today cites Taos as nation’s best.

USATodat-Top10-logoTaos (the town) and Taos Ski Valley (the mountain resort) are connected by a narrow 18-mile canyon road, but that didn’t stop USA Today readers from naming Taos the best ski town in the land. I like Taos as much as anyone, but it really doesn’t feel like a “ski town” — and with the recent developments at the resort, both on the mountain and at the base of the lifts, that vote seems even more far-fetched.

Taos has a fine historic plaza and a great hotel right there, good galleries, terrific places to eat and a nearby pueblo that ranks as one of the country’s longest continuously inhabited communities. But a ski town? Not really. Did someone stuff the ballot box?

Upon contemplation, I think not. The Tahoe area resorts are many miles from #2 Reno and somewhat closer to $5 Truckee. Even the town of Jackson and the resort of Jackson Hole are not contiguous. Maybe USA Today readers don’t like to ski. Just a thought.

10 Best Ski Towns

  1. Taos, N.M.
  2. Reno, Nev.
  3. Whitefish, Mt.
  4. North Conway, N.H.
  5. Truckee, Calif.
  6. Crested Butte, Colo.
  7. Jackson Hole, Wyo.
  8. Stowe, Vt.
  9. Steamboat Springs, Colo.
  10. Breckenridge, Colo.

And for what it’s worth

10 Best Ski Resorts

  1. Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows – Olympic Valley, Calif.
  2. Sugarbush Resort – Warren, Vt.
  3. Big Sky Resort – Big Sky, Mont.
  4. Alta – Alta, Utah
  5. Crested Butte Mountain Resort – Crested Butte, Colo.
  6. Deer Valley Resort – Park City, Utah
  7. Revelstoke Mountain Resort – Revelstoke, British Columbia
  8. Killington Resort – Killington, Vt.
  9. Steamboat Resort – Steamboat Springs, Colo.
  10. Whistler Blackcomb – Whistler, British Columbia

 

Spiffed Up Miami Airport Food Scene

North Terminal Marketplace debuts.

mia-logoEn route to and from Lima, Peru, and Havana, Cuba, in the last few months, I spent interminable hours at Miami International Airport. During one stopover, I was so uncomfortable that I booked a day room for a few hours at the dispiriting airport hotel.

Things are about to get better with the opening of the cheerful  North Terminal Marketplace, a row of 10 new restaurants and shops to provide a multi-cultural taste of Miami without leaving the airport. 

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The diverse collection of dining and retail locations includes iconic brands and local small businesses: 305 Pizza; Chefs of the Caribbean, which serves island favorites such as conch fritters and Jamaican patties; Cuban Crafters cigars; Estefan Kitchen Express, owned by music superstars Emilio and Gloria Estefan; Fig and Fennel, a farm-to-table eatery owned by Miami Beach hot spot Icebox Café; Half Moon Empanadas; a Miami Marlins merchandise store; Maru and Friends, which features collectible, ethnically diverse porcelain dolls by award-winning artist Dianna Effner; My Ceviche, the popular seafood deli with five locations in Miami; and The Penguin Store, by Miami-based Perry Ellis. Members of the local business community will join MIA officials and Marketplace tenants for free menu samples, giveaways, discounts and entertainment. I’m not dreading my next stopover quite so much.

On the Road with Dave Wiggins

Wiggins on Wheels is new experiential road trip site.

5thwheelHere’s what my friend Dave Wiggins recently posted: “For those of you who may not know it, I’ve become a travelin’ man with no set address or house. My home is a 43′ fifth-wheel trailer named Big Mo. To log my odyssey I’ve created a blog. Check it out if you want: https://wiggonwheels.com/. Happy travels!”

I didn’t know it. Dave is a founding partner o Widness & Wiggins Public Relations . He’s been Colorado,  but now is roaming. Sara Widness remains anchored in Vermont as Dave takes to the road. Since August, he’s been in Montana, Nevada, New Mexico,  old Mexico and Arizona. I looked at his site, enjoyed the pictures and the words and enjoyed all.  Take a look. You might too.

China Travel: Signs to Make You Smile

Disclaimer: I have nothing but admiration for people from China or any other Asian country who learn to communicate in English or any other Western language.  But some signs I saw during a recent three-week visit to China did make me chuckle. So with respect, I share these with you:dsc00344

"Abandoned kindling," a sign at Shanghai's Pudong Intl Airport, seems to mean "Matches."
“Abandoned kindling,” a sign at Shanghai’s Pudong Intl Airport, seems to mean “Matches.”

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Many signs tell visitors what not to do.
Many signs tell visitors what not to do.

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China Travel Report: A Wrap-Up

Observations from my fourth visit to China since 1999.

satw-logoThe first time I went to China was to see the fabled Three Gorges of the Yangtze before the completion of the grand dam at Sandoping. The second time was to experience skiing in Heilongjiang Province, north of North Korea. The third was to see the completed dam and sail through a lock. And the fourth time was for the Society of American Travel Writers 2016 Convention. Here are some observations about the China scene:

  • In cities, more skyscrapers and residential highrises (many built on former farmland on the outskirts).  The national bird of China is the construction crane.
  • Incredible transportation infrastructure improvements. To try to help those of the country’s 1.385 billion who wish to get around do so, there are new tollroads, new bullet trains and new metros all over this sprawling country. China is working hard to provide public transportation, but those who can afford them remain enamored of their cars.
  • Whistle-clean cities, kept that way by squadrons of street cleaners — individuals with brooms. Part of the full-employment situation.
  • Still a lot of smoking, but a lot less public spitting than during my previous visits.
  • Tourist-oriented vendors moved from the entrances to major attractions (such as the Terracotta Warriors near Xi’an) to the exits,
  • Serious commitment to recycling.
  • Impressive tree-planting projects in cities, as former dense low-rise neighborhoods are replaced by far taller buildings with significantly smaller footprints.
  • Creation of more and more “scenic areas” and “cultural attractions” for the benefit of both domestic and international visitors.

A Flight to Remember: Snake Falls from the Overhead

Slithery stowaway on Aeromexico flight.

aeromexico-logoA 5-foot serpent recently descended from the overhead compartment during Aeromexico Flight 230 from Torreon to Mexico City and slithered down the side of the plane before falling onto (hopefully unoccupied) seats.

Chron.com image.
Chron.com image.

According to Mexican newspaper El Debate, “flight attendants quickly notified the pilot who immediately began organizing an emergency landing,” adding that…

“A professor at Universidad Politécnica de la Región Laguna, a university in Coahuila, Mexico, captured video of the incident.

He Tweeted in Spanish: ‘The flying snake. A unique experience on a flight from Torreon, Mexico, flight 231 of Aeromexico. That being so … priority landing.’ He later added that Mexico City’s animal control division boarded the plane to secure the ‘unexpected traveler.'”

The airline reportedly is are working to determine how the snake found its way into the cabin in the first place, and how a similar incident can be prevented in the future. I certainly hope so