Monthly Archives: September 2012

Big Red Bus Tour

On a very hot sunny Sunday afternoon we decided to do some site-seeing in downtown Shanghai.  After a very local lunch (chicken head on our chicken dish!) we started our Big Red Bus Tour outside Madame Tussauds.  We were doing the red route which took us along the Bund (means embankment).  This area is 1 mile of spectacular buildings along the waterfront.  It is famous for magnificent 19th and 20th century architecture on one side with state of the art sky-scrapers on the other modern Financial District side.  There is even a mini Big Ben – a throw back to the old British influence!

The ever changing Shanghai Skyline

The ever changing Shanghai Skyline

Moving on from there, next stop was Xintiandi (“New Heaven and Earth”).  It is a traffic free area of restored Shikumen (“Stone Gate Houses”) houses on narrow alleys, some adjoining houses, which now serve as book stores, cafes and restaurants, and shopping malls.  Shikumen are 2-3 storey town houses surrounded by a high walled courtyard, built in the late 1800’s, they blended East with West.  As Shanghai’s population exploded many of them were cleared for new modern developments.   Xintiandi has been restored to its former glory and is a great place to eat out, stop for a drink or shop.  On the edge of Xintiandi is the building that hosted the first congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921 and is now a museum.

Kids by a fountain in Xintiandi

Kids by a fountain in Xintiandi

Cooling off in the Fountain!

Cooling off in the Fountain!

We drove by, but did not stop at, Yu Gardens.  Owen and I had both visited here during our look/see visit in December.  It is a 5 acre spread of a wonderful example of a traditional Chinese garden.  It was established more than 400 years ago by Pan Yunduan who spent 20 years building the gardens to please his parents.  Surrounding the gardens is the Yu Bazaar.  Here, Owen and I were hassled to buy many Chinese souvenirs in December!!

Sara at the Yu Gardens (Look/See trip in December 2011)

Sara at the Yu Gardens (Look/See trip in December 2011)

Beautiful traditional Chinese building at Yu Garden

Beautiful traditional Chinese building at Yu Garden

The red route took us past Nanjing Road East which is one of the busiest shopping streets in China.  The street runs from the Bund to People’s Square, which is where it turns into Nanjing Road West.  I work in a big building on Nanjing Road West, just off People’s Square.  You could be anywhere in the world walking down Nanjing Road, as the shops are just as familiar to any in London, New York or Atlanta.

Nanjing Road East

Nanjing Road East. The building at the end (middle of photo) is the Radisson Blu hotel and is a 5 minute walk from my office.

I can thoroughly recommend the Big Red Bus Tour, but not on a hot, humid sunny day.  We will be back in the Autumn to do the green route.

Big Red Bus Tour Map

Big Red Bus Tour Map. Red Route – Done! Green Route – to do!

End of the Summer Holidays

We arrived back in Shanghai on Sunday August 11th.  Everyone was excited to see Tetley – she had been on her own holiday while we were away and had a great time at a house filled with lots of other dogs – true dog lovers in that boarding facility!

Straight back to work for me on the Monday and Owen had 2 more weeks of days to fill before school started for another year.  Luckily, the weather was fantastic so lots of time at the neighborhood pool, in the garden and playing outside.  First item on the agenda was to pick up Isabelle’s birthday present – roller blades!  Grandma and Grandad had given her all the crash pads in anticipation of her receiving these and she was excited to try it out.  Owen had to pick himself up off the floor from laughing so much at her first attempt.  He said that he didn’t know that legs could move in so many different directions!!

New Roller Blades (still holding on!)

New Roller Blades (still holding on!)

It is always the little things that kids enjoy the most.  They both had an afternoon filled with fun with washing up bowls filled with water.  Oliver was even flexing his muscles:

Muscle boy in the tub

Muscle boy in the tub

Fun days filled with water, arts, crafts, pool, colouring, practising roller blading, bikes, scooters and play dates.

Happy 7th Birthday, Isabelle

Isabelle was very excited about her birthday and was in countdown for at least 3 weeks beforehand!  She was also excited to connect with her friends from Jordans School.  She wanted a Princess Party and so we booked Dandy Doos in High Wycombe where Isabelle and 5 of her friends had brightly coloured hair highlights, manicures, face painting, got dressed up in Princess dresses and enjoyed pizza and a chocolate fountain.  She had a fabulous time and was so happy to be spending time with her closest friends, especially her best friend, Aimee.  Poor Aimee had fallen off a climbing frame and broken her elbow so was wearing a bright pink cast.

Princesses at the Party - Rebecca, Georgina, Isabelle, Aimee, Hattie & Maddie

Princesses at the Party – Rebecca, Georgina, Isabelle, Aimee, Hattie & Maddie

Isabelle in Princess heaven with Rebecca and Aimee

Isabelle in Princess heaven with Rebecca and Aimee

Planning a party from long distance and then only having a couple of days to finalize the preparations was a logistical challenge.  I was happy that Dandy Doos organized most of the activities, goody bags and the overall party.  It was down to me for pizza and cake!  Off to Tesco I go for a cupcake celebration – which turned out to be the perfect sweet treat for the girls.

Making a wish

Making a wish

Oliver had been enjoying a playdate with Aimee’s brother, Sam while the party was going on.  They both arrived at the end, just in time to enjoy some pizza and cake!  Oliver was very happy to see Sam again – they had been good friends when we lived in Chalfont St Giles.

Sam & Oliver

Sam & Oliver

I know that Isabelle enjoyed her party.  As it took 3 washes to get the colour out of her hair, I am sure that I was not popular with the other Mum’s!  All the girls had fun.

On her actual birthday, she got celebrate all over again with party number 2!  After opening her presents in the morning it was off to the Paper Mill Pub in Apsley for a lunch with family and friends.  Owen and I had been there earlier to put up some balloons and take her cake.  Owen had found a lovely bakery that makes custom creations for special occasions and they did not disappoint with this beautiful princess castle:

Princess castle cake for the birthday princess

Princess castle cake for the birthday princess

We had the entire upper level to ourselves and this was perfect for the kids to run around and do what they wanted.  When we arrived, our good friends Jez and Caroline were already there and so we could catch up, while catching the sun rays on the deck.  They have promised to buy each other plane tickets to Shanghai for their Christmas present so we are very much looking forward to seeing them in 2013!!  Mark arrived (on his lunch break from work), Kim & Harley arrived soon after, quickly followed by Peter, Emma, Maeve & Oscar and Mum & Dad.  Sandra, James & Madeleine completed our celebration party.  A lovely leisurely lunch with lots of laughter, food and wine.  The 4 kids were at one end of our table and were having the time of their life with Isabelle’s presents, toys and colouring.  As there was no-one else to worry about, we could all relax about the noise and let them play.  Although it was Isabelle’s birthday celebration, it was just as much for Owen and I to see our friends too!

Sara, Isabelle, Harley and Kim

Sara, Isabelle, Harley and Kim

Isabelle, Caroline, Jez & Oliver

Isabelle, Caroline, Jez & Oliver

Madeleine, Isabelle & Sandra

Madeleine, Isabelle & Sandra

Kids all playing.....

Kids all playing…..

Eating cake at the end of the meal.... and the best group photo I took :-(

Eating cake at the end of the meal…. and the best group photo I took 😦

 

 

 

Vacation in UK – Olympics, Family & Friends

I arrived in London on August 2nd to a Country and family gripped with Olympic fever.  It was a fabulous time to be back home as the national pride was so strong and the atmosphere was electric.  I guess the home advantage really does work on the human spirit and resulted in the UK’s best results in over 100 years and ending up 3rd in the medal table.  I have never felt so proud to be British and so happy to be in the UK.

It was also fantastic to see my family – Owen, kids and my Mum and Dad!  The kids had made a banner to welcome me at Heathrow and I was over-whelmed.  Isabelle had lost a tooth while in the UK and Oliver seemed to have grown a foot!

First priority – shopping!!  After my disastrous shoe shopping fiasco in Beijing, I decided that I needed to stock up while I had a choice of styles and sizes!  Success – 3 pairs later, it was on to finding school shoes for the kids.  BISS had warned us before school broke up for the summer that it was almost impossible to find school shoes in Shanghai.  I just hope that the kids feet don’t grow too much this year!!

A lovely day was spent with my best friend and her family, again a gorgeous sunny, warm day.  When the sun shines in the UK, it is a beautiful place to be 🙂  We spent the afternoon in the garden, where the kids all played traditional “sports day” games and got spoiled by James and Madeleine.

Isabelle turned 7 while we were back home and she celebrated twice!  Details to follow!

Peter and Emma came to my Mum and Dad’s for a few days and we had a fabulous day out at Knebworth.  All of the kids enjoyed the adventure playground, the dinosaur trail and the maze – it is a great family location.

Emma & Maeve, Sara & Isabelle, Owen & Oliver, Peter & Oscar - all kids on the slide.

Emma & Maeve, Sara & Isabelle, Owen & Oliver, Peter & Oscar – all kids on the slide.

We finished the week off with a birthday celebration lunch at a pub and met up with friends and family.  Wonderful to see Jez & Caroline, Kim & Harley, Mark, Sandra, James & Madeleine for a yummy pub meal, a few drinks and more lovely sunshine.

The week flew by and all of a sudden, we were packing up ready to come back “home” to Shanghai.

 

 

What the mice did…..

The Ex-pat community in Shanghai appears to evaporate during the Summer school holidays.  Once we realized that Isabelle & Oliver’s friends would all be in their various home countries for 2 months, and that I had a huge amount of travel for work during July, we decided that the UK might be a better place to be for an extended time.

On July 9th Owen, Isabelle and Oliver flew to London for 5 weeks of British living.  The plan included me meeting them at the beginning of the August for a week of sanity before returning to China.

Owen, Isabelle and Oliver started at Grandma and Grandad’s.  While there they surprised Owen’s Grannie at her 95th birthday celebration – she was thrilled!  It was off to Auntie Kim for a few days before heading to Owen’s Mum and Stepdad’s house in Wales.  A lovely week was spent there with several days at the beach.

Fun at the Beach in Wales!

Fun at the Beach in Wales!  Fantastic boat built by Daddy.

Auntie Kim joined them in Wales too for more fun at the beach and with family.  They were lucky with the weather and had some gorgeous sunshine:

Chilling at the beach in Wales

Chilling at the beach in Wales

On the way back to Grandma and Grandad’s, they stopped off at Peter & Emma’s. Isabelle and Oliver love playing with their cousins, Maeve and Oscar, especially because when the weather is so good and they could enjoy huge ice-creams.

The boys getting mucky

The boys getting mucky

The girls getting sticky

The girls getting sticky

Once back at G&G’s, it was days out at the park, feeding the ducks and shopping – some normal British things to do in the summer.  They visited good friends John & Andrea and their kids and also Sandra & Mark and their kids, but other than that it was time to relax a little.

I missed them all dreadfully.  I have not been apart from my children for that long before and I do not want to do it again.

Graduating from Nursery

We have been so fortunate with Oliver’s education this year.  The nursery that he attended in the UK (Jordans) was fantastic.  He loved all of the workers there, especially Miss Chris!  Moving to Shanghai meant a change and for the last term of the year, Oliver was in Mr Alfie’s class.  Oliver adored Mr Alfie – we heard so much about him at every evening meal.  I think Mr Alfie is a big kid which is why Oliver relates to him so well!!

Oliver has made so much progress in the last few months and he has developed a love of learning – for that I am so grateful to Mr Alfie!

Mr Alfie and Oliver

Mr Alfie and Oliver

Oliver’s  graduation from nursery was a fun and (in)formal affair.  All of the nursery and reception classes were in the auditorium performing different songs around the theme of holidays…..  Oliver’s class were all dressed up as though they were going on safari.  Other classes were at the beach, ski-ing or on a cruise.

Nursery and Reception End of Year Celebration in the Auditorium

Nursery and Reception End of Year Celebration in the Auditorium

He was so proud to be singing all the songs on the stage.  And, we were so proud of him!

Daddy and cheeky monkey

Daddy and cheeky monkey

Cheeky monkey and Mummy

Cheeky monkey and Mummy

Oliver's class - on safari!

Oliver’s class – on safari!