A Timeshare Year of the Dragon

The Dragon is the only one of the Chinese Horoscope signs that isn’t a real animal and as this is the Year of the Dragon, fortunately it’s supposed to represent power, luck and strength.

If you’re planning a pre-summer city break soon, here are six of the world’s most cosmopolitan city centres where Chinese culture plays an important role in the feel and flavour of the city. Some of them are popular destinations for points-owning timeshare owners for a city break in between holidays or a stop off in a hotel in between long-haul flights.

London

London’s Chinese New Year kicked off on January 29th in Trafalgar Square with music, acrobatics, firecrackers and a fair share of colourful and quite friendly dragons! Chinatown is around Soho, next to the theatre district. But originally, London’s Chinatown was in the East End (in Limehouse/Docklands) before it moved to the West End in the fifties. It has become a real foodie destination – most of the best, most authentic restaurants and dim sum bars are based there. The prices are usually lower than in more commercial parts of London and it’s always full of life.

Liverpool, Manchester and other cities also have their own Chinatown districts – often near the port area where Chinese immigrants would land when they first arrived. Their influence has really enhanced the classic British menu – Chinese and Indian food have become part of the British food scene, along with Mediterranean, and more recently, Moroccan, Tunisian, Lebanese and other North African and Arabic influences.

Paris

Paris has 2 Chinatowns or “Quartier Chinois” as the French call them; one of the Chinatowns is in 13 arrondissement and another in Belleville, 20 arrondissement. The original one in the 13th arrondissement is on the Left Bank, around Place d’Italie and the other in the 20th arrondissement, in Belleville, once a depressed neighbourhood but now much more vital – and hip. There is surprisingly little information about these French Chinatowns online, but there’s a great guide to Belleville which is an area many tourists would miss, at http://www.secretsofparis.com/belleville-district

Amsterdam

One of the main influences in Dutch cuisine is Indonesian, because of the country’s history, but there is a small Chinatown bustling with atmosphere in Amsterdam, and it’s located in the Nieuwmarkt area. It’s packed with places to eat, including Thai and Japanese.

New York

If you’ve ever been to one of New York’s massive dim sun restaurants for lunch, you’ll know there’s nothing like it! Huge round tables, trolleys laden with dim sum, and pots of jasmine tea or Chinese beer to wash it all down with. The Lower East Side is a tourist magnet, full of Chinese flavour (sometimes a bit over the top).

If you’re heading to New York this year and want to check out the Chinatown district, there’s a great guide in New York Magazine here: http://nymag.com/guides/everything/27795/

San Francisco

If you thought New York’s Chinatown was the largest outside Asia, it’s not! It’s here. And it also happens to be one of the top tourist attractions – a visit to the city by the bay is incomplete unless you’ve soaked up some of the flavours of this vibrant neighbourhood. You’ll have seen it featured in movies – even the district’s Bank of America is decorated with golden dragons – very appropriate this year, and perhaps a good omen?

If you’re spending a week or two at a timeshare resort in the area, a great idea is to combine time in the city as well as the Napa Valley, an easy drive away.

One of the best website guides is http://www.sanfranciscochinatown.com

Vancouver

Last but not least, there’s a reason why this city’s dubbed Hongcouver. Immigrants flooded into the Pacific coast city before Hong Kong was handed over to China and, just like San Francisco or New York, Vancouver’s Chinatown is a main attraction. There are well over 200 Chinese restaurants in the city. Vancouver’s Chinatown is probably the most authentic – more down to earth and less kitch than New York’s. It’s divided into the merchandise section and market section and is the third largest in North America.

An excellent website covering the history, food, culture and attractions in Vancouver’s Chinatown is http://www.vancouver-chinatown.com/history/history.php run by the area’s merchants and business themselves.

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