The Best of Guatemala – Part 2

Guatemala, “The Land of Eternal Spring,” is a hidden gem replete with breathtaking scenery and awe-inspiring colonial cities and Maya ruins.

THE BEST OF GUATEMALA – PART 2:
LA ANTIGUA, ANCIENT MAYA RUINS, LAKE IZABAL

year ago, a group of my friends had a once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunity—seeing the best of Guatemala on a trip organized and generously hosted by our dear friend Ana Cristina Alvarado. None of us could have guessed that this would be our last trip of 2020, but shortly after returning home, we were quarantined due to Covid-19.

No other part of the world offers so much in so small an area: the splendor of the colonial influence; breathtaking mountains and lake scenery; the thriving and colorful culture of the indigenous peoples with their markets and unique lifestyle; and the awe-inspiring ruins of the mysterious lost Maya civilization.

Part 2 continues with our last days in historic La Antigua before heading to the jungle to visit the fabled Maya ruins and then on to Lake Izabal and Rio Dulce for the windup of our adventure.

CLICK HERE to read Part 1.

Lake Atitlán is considered one of the most majestic in the world.

Traditional weaving in a Maya village on Lake Atitlán.

The iconic Santa Catalina Arch in the colonial city of La Antigua.

Native to Central and South America, for centuries Macaws have been prized for their bright, colorful feathers, particularly in pre-Columbian civilizations.

La Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Center, one of the best-preserved colonial cities in the world.

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The Best of Guatemala – Part 1

Guatemala, “The Land of Eternal Spring,” is a hidden gem replete with breathtaking scenery and awe-inspiring colonial cities and Maya ruins.

THE BEST OF GUATEMALA – PART 1:
GUATEMALA CITY, LAKE ATITLÁN, LA ANTIGUA

A year ago, a group of us had a once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunity — seeing the best of Guatemala. None of us could have guessed that this would be our last trip of 2020, but shortly after returning home, we were on quarantine due to Covid-19.

A dream destination, no other part of the world offers so much in so small an area: the splendor of the colonial influence; breathtaking mountains and lake scenery; the thriving and colorful culture of the indigenous peoples with their markets and unique lifestyle; and the awe-inspiring ruins of the mysterious lost Maya civilization.

Lake Atitlán is considered one of the most majestic in the world.

Traditional weaving in a Maya village on Lake Atitlán.

The iconic Santa Catalina Arch in the colonial city of La Antigua.

La Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Center, one of the best-preserved colonial cities in the world.

Tikal, an archaeological wonder of the world, was one of the greatest Maya cities ever built.

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Flashback to My First Shanghai Thanksgiving at Jean-Georges Restaurant

Reflecting back on my first Thanksgiving holiday in Shanghai, I recall I decided to host an elegant Thanksgiving dinner for my international group of friends, as many of them were  unfamiliar with this traditional American holiday.

I wanted to offer them the best, so I planned my dinner party at the award-winning New York chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Shanghai restaurant. His first signature eatery outside Manhattan, this branch is located in Three on the Bund, a 1916 neo-classical building.

Yes, the restaurant is known for its French cuisine, but the chef on this occasion was American-born Eric Johnson, so I knew he’d understand just what was called for.

Jean-Georges restaurant at Three on the Bund, the 1916 colonial building.

Gathering for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in JG’s dining alcove.

Amelie de Mony-Pajol, Geoff Mannering, host Jeanne Lawrence, and Ding’An Fei.

Shelley Lim and David Zhong.

Adriana Mannering and Lyle Hayden.

I owe thanks to the then General Manager, Frenchman Jacky Goergler, for helping me find just the right setting for an intimate “family dinner” feel—an alcove off the bar. I decorated the long dining table with a holiday theme: a cornucopia of seasonal fall flowers, candelabras, and votives.

After sipping French Champagne in the bar area, we sat down to an elegant version of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner: Warm Mushroom Ravioli with Parmesan Broth and Herbs; Slow-Cooked Salmon with Celeriac Puree and Black Truffle Vinaigrette; Roasted Organic Turkey with Chestnut-Sourdough Stuffing; Cranberry; and dessert tastings. To accompany the menu, I chose California wines, in support of my friends in Napa Valley.

Sergio Young.

Annie Wang, Jeanne Lawrence, and Laurette Hartignan.

Family-style gathering.

Jennifer Yan, Christian Poda, and Lyle Hayden.

Geoff Mannering and Jeanne Lawrence.

Alex Hartignan and Chuk-Kwan Ting.

Warm Mushroom Ravioli with Parmesan Broth and Herbs.

Dessert Tasting Finale.

My guest list reflected how international a city Shanghai has become. I was joined by friends from mainland China and the U.S. as well as Taiwan, France, Germany, England, Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Hong Kong, and Japan.

In my toast, I remarked that though we were from different countries, the fact that we were all in Shanghai showed we had kindred spirit.

Laurette Hartignan and Johnny Hornby.

Kiko Sih and Defne Ayas.

Amelie de Mony-Pajol and Ding’An Fei.

Sophie Von Haselberg, daughter of Bette Midler,  and Jeanne Lawrence.

Peter Lim and Liu Ying Mei.

Lynn Barboza and Pippa Dennis.

San Francisco Social Diary: A Century Of Good Taste — The Life of Culinary Icon Cecilia Chiang

Centenarian and culinary icon Cecilia Chiang, pictured with her family in Beijing, migrated to San Francisco and revolutionized American appreciation for authentic Chinese food with her groundbreaking restaurant, the Mandarin.

During this time of Covid-19 and all its ramifications, it’s comforting to hear the inspiring story of Cecilia Chiang, a still-vital culinary icon who most recently celebrated her 100th birthday.

Cecilia Chiang, credited with introducing Americans to authentic Chinese cuisine and hailed as “the Julia Child of Chinese food” by acclaimed chef Alice Waters, is a great American success story. Cecilia is still as engaging today as when we first became friends back in the 1970s. She celebrated her 100th birthday with a spectacular party in San Francisco.

Opened in 1961, Cecilia’s legendary San Francisco restaurant, the Mandarin, was arguably the best Chinese restaurant in the U.S. for over 30 years. Today, she continues to inspire everyone from friends and colleagues to top chefs and restaurateurs the world over. She challenged the American idea of Chinese food and transformed our appreciation for authentic cuisine whatever its origin.

The beloved Cecilia Chiang celebrated her 100th birthday at 3-Michelin-star Benu in San Francisco and received a letter of congratulations from California Governor Gavin Newsom.

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San Francisco Social Diary: SF Ballet’s 2020 Opening Night Gala

The San Francisco Ballet’s Opening Night Gala was a magical evening of brilliant performances plus socializing, dining, and dancing.

The theme of the San Francisco Ballet’s 2020 Opening Night Gala and performance was “Spellbound” — inspired by the magical, fairy tale-like elements of its 87th season program, which includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cinderella.

The gala celebrated Helgi Tomasson’s record-breaking 35th year as artistic director and principal choreographer. The company also welcomed new Executive Director Kelly Tweeddale and principal dancer Vitor Luiz made his final appearance.

The “Spellbound” theme was reflected in City Hall’s glittering décor.

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San Francisco Social Diary: Seventh Annual FOG Design + Art Fair Kickoff

The seventh annual FOG Design+Art Fair attracted a record number of visitors, cementing its reputation as a major player among international art fairs.

Now in its seventh year, the annual FOG Design+Art Fair has helped turn the third week of January into the city’s unofficial art week. The contemporary art fair kicked off with a preview gala at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture to benefit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).

This year’s fair featured 48 of the leading visual art and design galleries from around the world. During its four-day run, the record-breaking 15,000 visitors also enjoyed a series of programming with artists, curators, dealers, and other art and design leaders.

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San Francisco Social Diary: San Francisco Opera’s 97th Opening Gala

The San Francisco Opera Opening Night production of Romeo and Juliet inspired the gala theme of “The Capulets’ Masked Ball.”

SAN FRANCISCO OPERA’S 97TH OPENING GALA

Los Angeles has the Oscar’s Red Carpet, New York has the Met Ball, and San Francisco has its Opera opening galas that are their equal in glamour and excitement. For many, it is a tradition to attend the prestigious Opera Gala that opens the San Francisco fall social season and is one of the West Coast’s most glamorous events.

The Opera Guild produced the highly anticipated opening night gala that launched the San Francisco Opera 2019-20 season.

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La Jolla Social Diary: La Jolla Music Society’s New Home ~ The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center

La Jolla Music Society’s highly anticipated Grand Opening Weekend to inaugurate The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.

The La Jolla Music Society (LJMS), one of the West Coast’s foremost performing arts institutions, this spring held three consecutive days of concerts and celebrations to launch its 50th season and celebrate moving to its new home, The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, known as “The Conrad.” As I had lived for many years in La Jolla and it’s dear to my heart, I flew out to participate in this highly anticipated and historic evening.

La Jolla Music Society’s new home, The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, a $82 million complex, opened just in time to celebrate LJMS’s 50th anniversary season.

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San Francisco Social Diary: California Pacific Medical Center Holds Creative Opening Gala

San Francisco California Pacific Medical Center Hospital celebrated the launch of its new Van Ness Campus, a $2.3 billion state-of the-art facility, with a creative opening night gala.

Following ten years of planning and several years of construction, Sutter Health opened its new $2.3 billion state-of the-art California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) hospital in the heart of San Francisco. The new Van Ness Campus is one of four CMPC campuses in the city.

In celebration, the CPMC Foundation hosted a grand gala featuring bountiful buffets, music performances throughout, and interactive exhibitions that introduced attendees to the Van Ness Campus’s advanced medical technology and personal touches.

The CPMC Van Ness building is the first in North America to incorporate fluid viscous wall dampers, energy dissipation devices that have been widely used for earthquake protection of structures in Japan.

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San Francisco Social Diary: Winter Events

Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara’s Your Dog guards the Asian Art Museum entrance.

The cold weather hasn’t stopped San Franciscans from coming out for their favorite local causes. The opening of Adam Lindemann’s “Venus Over Manhattan” at St. Joseph’s Arts Society, the launch of “Kimono Refashioned” at the Asian Art Museum, and an award ceremony honoring philanthropist Maria Manetti Shrem were among many artistic and charitable events that drew supporters.

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