“This probably sounds terrible mum, but it tastes just like the Spaghetti Bolognese from The Gap Tavern,” The Ballerina said to me tonight as she twirled piles of pasta round her fork and into her mouth.
“Not terrible at all my darling,” I responded, secretly chalking up a maternal win as I finally witnessed my baby eat some food.
Not a traveller
The Ballerina has never been adventurous, which makes travelling with her a challenge.
She doesn’t like crowds, or grubby side streets or funky sewerage smells. In fact, everything that might be described as ‘local colour’ bothers her.
Can’t tempt The Ballerina with street food
She won’t eat outside the hotel, gagging at street food and shaking her head at the most benign neighbourhood restaurant. Even a ham sandwich and a lemonade from the hotel lounge doesn’t tempt her. When we travel she lives on oxygen and bottled water. And even at 16 she likes to hold my hand on a crowded footpath.
If she had her own way she’d never leave the mall attached to the hotel, an antiseptic cathedral where well-heeled locals and tourists worship at the alter of European excess.
The Ballerina feigning disdain. She actually loves this gear.
Last night we ventured beyond the windows for me to try on a handbag, talking to the sales assistant as if weighing up which colour to buy. I even asked about matching shoes. The pale grey, hand stitched satchel draped perfectly over my shoulder and I said I’d think about it, passing my phone to The Ballerina to punch in the price for conversion to $AUD.
“I must have made a mistake mum. It says $10,000,” she said.
“No mistake,” I whispered as we scurried from the store. “That’s the price.”
Today we explored an area of Hong Kong where regular people shop, travelling by metro to Mong Kok
to look at active wear (her) and electronics (me). I wanted to take her through the striped awnings of the Ladies Market but that was a step too far for my timid baby.
The Ballerina at home with her tribe #shoppers
We navigated our way through hundreds of shoppers – families and couples and gaggles of teenagers and middle-aged women – surging in both directions along Nathan Road. She had fun, printing her Instagram photos from a booth and finding name brand gear at bargain-basement prices.
Eventually we made our way back to the hotel lounge for a lukewarm coffee (me) and glass of water (her). I read my book for an hour and she put her head down and slept. Hong Kong is tiring business.
Followed by more shopping
Thus fortified, I dragged her outside again for a late afternoon exploration of Wan Chai, an old neighbourhood on our hotel’s doorstep. It has enough colour to keep me happy, balanced with clean, wide open spaces flanked by European eateries and brand stores for my delicate companion.
We discovered Kee Wah Bakery
, famous for its moon cakes which are a hot item in the lead up to the Mid-Autumn Festival. I bought two of the local delicacies for us to try but she demurred. Her loss. They were delicious.
Have I mentioned how fat I’m getting?
Then I took her up the hillside to explore the boutiques and brasseries of Star Street
and surrounds. I bought some shoes, French. At half their original price they were only mildly extravagant.
An art and coffee haven
Then Nirvana. We opened the door into Odd One Out
, a small art gallery selling prints by local and international artists with a sideline in espresso. I chatted with the owner, who’s married to a Melbourne man, and scored an invite to the opening of a new show next week. I hope I go.
As the sun set we found a bar serving Aperol Spritz and risotto and spaghetti Bolognese. The Ballerina looked a little crestfallen at taking the easy route, eating her standard Italian in an Asian city housing half a million restaurants.
I reassured her that no one was watching. Then I ordered the duck pancakes as a nod to the local cuisine and a glass of New Zealand Pinot to make me feel at home. Not every meal has to be an adventure.