Saturday, February 22, 2014

China: Shanghai

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!


  1. Oh, it's so good to read about your journey, Steve! I thought about you a lot and missed my daily visit to your blog and your walks and the photos. It looks like we're in for a treat, though, as you catch us up on your adventures! The lemon theme of the hotel cracked me up, and I seem to remember from my days working with quite a lot of Chinese people in NYC that there really are black chickens and that they are medicinal as well as edible. I can't wait to hear what's next!

  2. Fabulous!

    I assumed you would have fun. You're a great traveler. Lucky for me, I can see your pictures and read about it without having to actually go myself. Thank you!

    One thing I love in Paris are the food shops. They always seem so earthy to me. But I bet China takes it to a whole different level.

    Friends say going to China is like visiting another planet. I believe it.

  3. You made it home! These pictures are amazing. That last one- ah, it caught me hard.
    I can't wait to hear more, see more.
    You are our window on the world, Steve.

  4. Welcome home traveler! You were missed. I look forward to hearing your impressions of China as I may never go there in this life. You never know tho.

  5. Welcome home! Glad you had a good trip.

    Those black chickens you saw are highly prized. I think they are called Selkies. They actually do have black skin. They probably leave the heads and feet on to show that it's really that type of chicken. When we lived in France they had a very expensive breed of chicken (Bresse) that were sold that way to prove that was what it was. Once you bought the chicken, they chopped off the unwanted parts. :)

    I'm looking forward to your travelogue!

  6. Wonderful shots, of course you would come back with a wealth of them! Is that furniture tiny or is the lemon large? Glad you are back- been thinking about you guys and wishing you safe travel. Loving the photos SO MUCH! China- another world!!! LOVE!

  7. Thanks so much for the comments, everybody. I'm so glad to connect with you all again. It felt weird to be away from blogland.

    Re. the black chickens, thanks for the info, Elizabeth and Lynne! I have never heard of them, but yes, after doing some research, I see that they are naturally black and they are believed to have some medicinal value.

    Here's another blogger's account of eating black chicken in Shanghai:

  8. welcome home, love the pictures and of course looking forward more!!

  9. I'm glad you are back safe and sound. You've posted some wonderful photos today and I enjoyed reading about your adventures. I can' wait to see more photos and hear more about the trip. I love that skyline photo with the low hanging clouds.

  10. love the pictures (can't wait to see more) and so happy to have you back on the unrestricted intertubes. i didn't realize how much enjoyment i get out of your daily posts until they were missing!

  11. I was so happy to see a post from you! (although late to the party as usual). My favorite picture is the one with all the umbrellas :)

  12. So exciting! I'm enjoying every minute you are describing! Looking forward to your next entry.