Saturday, February 22, 2014
We're back from China, safe and sound! It was a fabulous trip, needless to say. I am happy to be home and in our own bed and indulging in unrestricted Internet access -- not to mention breathing clean air -- but I did have a great time. We landed yesterday about 3 p.m. London time. We haven't even seen Olga yet -- the kennel will bring her home later today.
I'll give you a quick rundown of our trip, a few days at a time. You may remember that when I flew to Shanghai last week, Dave was already there, so I had to navigate getting to the hotel on my own. I was a little stressed about how to do this without speaking or writing any Chinese. I ended up showing the cab driver the phone number of the hotel, and he called them directly, which worked fine.
Shanghai is huge, a vast urban sprawl surrounding a central city filled with both modern and historic skyscrapers. It kind of reminded me of Los Angeles, weirdly. There's tons of construction everywhere, hundreds of clusters of brand-new residential high-rises stretching out in a loose grid away from downtown. The air was clean enough that I could clearly see the city as I flew in.
When I got to the hotel, Dave and I had a brief reunion before he had to go to rehearsals with his band students. Left on my own, I set out walking in the neighborhood surrounding the hotel, which was a fascinating experience. The streets were full of people, the shops along the main thoroughfares were humming, and because it was a sunny day there were lots of blankets and pillows and other laundry hung out to dry. (The high-rise on the left in the photo above is our hotel -- a Holiday Inn!)
I wandered into a large covered food market, where I saw vegetables that were completely unfamiliar -- one looked like a pyramid of tightly packed brussels sprouts -- and ink-black chickens (head on!) that clearly had been marinated somehow. (Squid ink?)
Dave's students performed their big concert on Saturday night at the American School in Puxi, or west Shanghai, and then Dave and I went out with the other attending band directors (mostly American) to a bar called The Monk. (What would Buddha say?!) After two killer gin & tonics and a bus ride back to the hotel, we ended up at an after-party in someone's room and prowled around our peculiarly decorated hotel (huge lemons!) in the wee hours, probably making too much noise.
The next morning we went downtown to meet up with a choral music teacher who, coincidentally, is about to move to the London school where Dave and I work. We had brunch in the French Concession, a former European district, and then wandered through a market area known as Tianzifang, a warren of alleys, tiny shops and restaurants.
The sunny weather did not hold out, alas.
The rain made for some nice photos, though! After an afternoon coffee we left the other teacher and walked down East Nanjing Road, a swank shopping street in the heart of Shanghai. Lots of neon lights and posh brand-name boutiques. I kept thinking, this is Communism?
By the time we reached the waterfront, dusk was falling and my shoes were squishy with rainwater. We abandoned our plans to go to Shanghai's famed Cloud Nine Bar, high in one of the downtown skyscrapers, because we wouldn't have been able to see anything anyway -- the rainclouds were too low. We went directly to dinner at Lost Heaven, an excellent restaurant near The Bund, as the riverfront is called, and then grabbed a taxi back to our hotel.
The next day, we were off to Beijing!