PaperQueen in Shanghai - Week 2 (Feb 15 - 21, 2016)
Week 2/7 in Shanghai - Bruce goes back to work after a week off for CNY (Chinese New Year), and our son Jack arrives from London, Ontario = Jack and Annabel bonding time!
Since Shanghai is an eating and shopping mecca, to begin with I felt it was important to introduce Jack to a "secret room". To find one you simply go into a store and ask to see their triple A quality. They look you up an down, (making sure you aren't a cop) pause and then say "lady, you come with me". You then follow them out of their store, past a bunch of other stores and into some other random shop which usually looks like a dump or like it is under construction (it's just a prop). They then go to the far wall and push a button where a secret door magically opens up which takes you into a secret room full of customers and knock off product galore! It's quite incredible that all these people are in this little room. Some secret rooms are very professionally merchandised and well lit, others are dark and dingy so you really must shop around for "the best" secret rooms. They claim everything is "top quality leather" but I know pleather when I smell it. I think I like discovering the secret rooms better than what's in them. It's the thrill of the hunt. (Our daughter Georgia is going to DIE when I take her to one. She arrives next week for her reading break.)
(me in a Secret Room)
After our (brief) shopping adventure (sons are not NEARLY as much fun (or expensive) to shop with than daughters - they are good for about 20 minutes tops- what is with that?) we built up an appetite for a little culture and headed on over to Yuyuan Gardens. Yu Garden (Garden of Happiness) is an extensive Chinese garden located beside the City of God Temple in the Old City of Shanghai. It's claim to fame is it has a 5 tonne porous boulder in it that doorways and stairs are carved out of. It was interesting but paled in comparison to our Butchart Gardens in Victoria. It is 2 hectares compared to Butchart's 55 hectares. You get my drift.
Jack then announced he was starving and needed "protein". He would announce this many times during his week long visit, (it must be gaining season) so we found a restaurant called Millions of Buffet which seemed like it would do the trick. Did this place have protein! He devoured a lunch of pigs hooves, hairy crab, duck, green beans and a mystery dumpling - all of which had been double deep fried. (I kid you not.)
Another day we had a beautiful, very chic Dim Sum lunch at the Hyatt on the Bund Vue restaurant.
We discovered amazing areas in the French Concession, bought funky sunglasses in this very cool store that I think would do so well in North America, walked on average 15,000+ steps daily, worked out every day, got Jack a custom made suit (we pray it fits when we pick it up), went on a day trip tour to the water town of Suzhou and Zhouzhuang Village, saw acrobats, toured a silk factory, fell in love with the Tianzifang District.... It is endless. Everyday we discovered something different. I love that.
(View above from 38th floor of the Hyatt hotel on the Bund - Vue Restaurant)
(Walking through the French Concession brought back so many memories of living in Paris. Bikes everywhere. LOVE it! Patisseries, cafes, boutiques - I have arrived!)
Tianzifang District above - the alleyways were so charming
Grocery Shopping - Grocery shopping is an experience in Shanghai. First off, unless you recognize the packaging, you have absolutely no idea what you are buying. They have everything dead and alive for sale in the super market. Live, snakes, turtles, frogs and eels to name a few. There is an entire aisle designated for rice, at least 50 different types.
Fresh fish anyone?
I discovered my FAVOURITE thing ever at the grocery store this week. Bulk, pre washed, peeled and finely sliced vegetables (hello stir fry). The veggie lady comes over with her little white gloves and then I point to what I want to buy (100% language barrier). She puts it all in a bag, weighs it and then slaps on a price tag of about $4, which is enough to cook two - three dinners. Come on Whole Foods - get with the program!
My favourite veggies
Things we've done
Acrobats - very impressive apparently (I stayed home - too much together time - what can I say, I'm an only child and need my alone time)
Aquarium - you can give it a miss, unless you love 90 degrees and a lot of screaming kids
Science and Technology Museum - definitely miss
French Concession -loved it, yes, only scratched the surface
The Bund - yes! the view!
Silk Factory - in Suzhou Village - very very interesting
Zhouzhuang Village - The Venice of China watertown - very charming - probably better in Spring when the blossoms are out and it isn't as so flipping cold
Dim Sum - Vue Restaurant - Marriott Hotel - best view of the Bund and Dim Sum ever
Yu Gardens - nice but we are spoiled in Van with our beautiful gardens
Puxi - shopping for tourists
Downtown Pudong - yes, massive buildings and stunning architecture
Knock of Market - over the top
Hairdresser - I made the grave error of ultra low lighting my hair before coming to China - (BIG mistake - we are talking my hair was BROWN) Had to get back to being blond ASAP. Found a British hairdresser named Emily, with neon pink hair, to fix (for a small fortune) but as you ladies all know, money is not a concern when there is a hair dilemma. Emily is now my new BF (she does not know this), is super connected to what is going on in Shanghai, what to do, where to go and has hooked me up on a private Cashmere factory tour next week.
Tianzifang District - another part of the French Concession. This was absolutely a charming district - filled with art galleries (where the painter is actually painting all the art right by the front door), coffee shops, bars, clubs, restaurants... Ooh la la, I am so going back there.
Things I love here:
Our heated 'Toto' toilet seat
Expat living! (I'm ruined)
Trying new things every day
The subway - it's so easy to use, fast and efficient. Taking a car long distance is torture compared to the transit system.
My sliced vegetable find!
The ginger here is the freshest I have ever cooked with.
Our apartment. It is so bright! I love that.
Things I don't love:
the language barrier - starting Mandarin lessons next week
Spitting - it's disgusting
Burping - it too is SO disgusting - what's with that??
Almost getting run over daily - cars do not give a crap about pedestrians
Lack of fashion here
The smell of cigarettes in all the cabs (and they all have "no smoking" signs inside the cabs)
Georgia arrives, and then I start mandarin classes, cooking classes, a jewelry making class, a Tao Bao class and then painting the minute she leaves. Busy busy.
Bai ba lui (bye bye)