Tag Archives: Shanghai

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!

Sunday Brunch at Shangri-La

The Sunday before we were to be separated for the summer, we decided to treat ourselves to brunch at another popular spot in Shanghai – the Yi Cafe at the Shangri-La hotel on the Bund.

What a treat!  10 different food stations with open kitchens, chocolate fountains, noodles and sashimi in a rainbow of colours.  Flavours from all over the world that is all freshly prepared and in many cases you can see them cooking in front of you.   We had a great table by the sushi station – the only thing separating us was a huge fish tank filled with colourful tropical fish and of course, the kids thought that was great!

This is one of the few places in Shanghai that serves Mexican, so it was a real treat to see a chef from Mexico City that made fresh, yummy guacamole.   Isabelle thought it was yummy and went back for 2nd’s of that!  There was also a fabulous Indian station with an authentic tandoor oven, fresh naan and chicken tikka.  Both kids loved the noodles that were being made by hand in front of our eyes and in the blink of an eye – what a skill to be able to do that at lightening speed!

The food was fantastic, the service was fantastic and the whole experience was fantastic!  It was great to have attentive servers that ensured our glasses were always full, without being intrusive.  They all spoke excellent English and made a fuss over the kids – a guarantee of a tip!

Saving the best for last – the Dessert Station was AWESOME!  All of us were over-whelmed with the choice, but had to go back for 2nd’s here.  At the end of the meal, Owen filled little boxes with sweeties at the candy station.  There was a lady hand-making marzipan figures – again, another skill.  The only down side here was the amount of people being so greedy and filling so many boxes with the free candy.

This is one place that we will be returning to.  A 3 hour brunch experience that we all enjoyed.

Fab table by the Fish Tank!

Fab table by the Fish Tank!

All of the beautiful coloured noodles are made by hand......

All of the beautiful coloured noodles are made by hand……

The Tandoor Oven in the Indian Section

The Tandoor Oven in the Indian Section

One side of the the Seafood Station

One side of the the Seafood Station

Another view of the Seafood Station

Another view of the Seafood Station

The kids were mesmerized by the dry ice at the Seafood station

The kids were mesmerized by the dry ice at the Seafood station

The Marzipan Lady - wonderful creations.....

The Marzipan Lady – wonderful creations…..

Isabelle & Oliver LOVED the Candy Station!

Isabelle & Oliver LOVED the Candy Station!

Kids (!!) at the Dessert Station!  Chocolate Fountain, here we come.....

Kids (!!) at the Dessert Station! Chocolate Fountain, here we come…..

Chocolate Fountain - milk and white, with marshmallows and fruit to dip with.

Chocolate Fountain – milk and white, with marshmallows and fruit to dip with.

"I can squash your nose, Daddy"

“I can squash your nose, Daddy”

We Love you Daddy - You are the Best!!

We Love you Daddy – You are the Best!!

While the mice are away……..

It has been a very lonely existence for me in Shanghai all by myself.  Owen and the kids left at the beginning of July to spend the summer in the UK and I will join them at the beginning of August.  Work is so busy for me and I have so much weekend work during July that I would not have seen very much of them had they been in China.  BUT, this weekend was my 1 weekend at home alone and it was a horrible feeling.

I would like to send my sincere thanks to Steve Jobs for inventing FaceTime.  I hope he can feel my gratitude beyond the grave.  FaceTime is what keeps me sane – I can actually see my beautiful children and feel like I am in the same room as them when I check in each night.  (Not forgetting my gorgeous husband either!)  The other great thing about FaceTime is that it is free over wifi!!!

Back to the weekend…….  Friday night was supposed to be a casual dinner with a group of people from the office (ex-pats and locals).  We went to a Japanese restaurant for Teppanyaki and Sushi, which was a great choice as I love Japanese – especially the Saki!  The thing about Saki is that you do not feel any effects while you are sitting down and drinking it – it is only when you stand up that you realize your legs do not work any more…….  Which is exactly what happened to me!  I quickly realized that I probably needed to be at home before I made a fool of myself so made a fast exit.

5.00am came banging through my dreams – I knew I had been drinking Saki the night before and needed pain relief!  6 hours later, 4 Tylenol Extra later and I felt much better!  After several weeks of overcast, cloudy and rain, this weekend was perfect – glorious blue skies and sunshine.   I spent the afternoon at our compound pool before getting ready to see Shrek the Musical with a group of friends from the office.  The Shanghai Cultural Center is a modern, great acoustic theatre that has an intimate feel to it, despite seating seating about 2000.   Normally a great facility for experiencing a musical, however, “This is China” and things are a little different.  I should have been warned when I saw people walking up and down the aisles with signs saying “quiet please” in Mandarin and English.  The show starts and it is in English with big screens either side of the stage displaying Chinese translation.  Only issue with this is that most Chinese kids in the audience cannot read Chinese so their parents are loudly explaining what is going on in each scene.  As the show progresses, the kids are getting more animated, louder and more fidgety.  No-one cares about the noise level!  We get through the show – not bad, but not in my Top 10 of musicals.  I probably would have enjoyed it more with Isabelle and Oliver.

After the show we all headed out to Zahapats Mexican for dinner and drinks.  After a little dancing on the bar (a la Coyote Ugly!) it was time for me to call it a night.  It was a fabulous night out with a lovely mix of locals and ex-pats who all had fun together.  As this is 1 of my only weekends in Shanghai while the family is away, it was nice to have some plans to be out and about.

Dragon Boat Festival

The ancient cultural holiday of the Dragon Boat Festival occurs on the 5th day of the 5th Chinese lunar month.  For the western calendar, this fell on June 23rd this year and Friday was a holiday – a lovely long weekend.  As legend has it, the festival began when a famous exiled poet named Qu Yuan, drowned himself in a river in 277 B.C.   Local people did not want to see Qu’s body eaten by the fish so they started throwing food, such as Zongzi, into the river, and some fisherman began racing their boats out to save him.    Chinese citizens now throw bamboo leaves filled with cooked rice into the water.  Therefore the fish could eat the rice rather than their hero poet.  Over the years this has turned into the custom of eating tzungtzu and rice dumplings.  The tradition has continued year after year to honor Qu Yuan, and the constant beat of the drums, and paddles splashing into the water, are sounds that have marked this time of year in China for centuries.  The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated by boat races in the shape of dragons.  Competing teams row their boats forward to a drumbeat racing to reach the finish end first. 

 The celebration is a time for protection from evil and disease for the rest of the year.  It is done so by different practices such as hanging healthy herbs on the front door, drinking nutritious concoctions, and displaying portraits of evil’s nemesis, Chung Kuei.  If one manages to stand an egg on it’s end at exactly 12:00 noon, the following year will be a lucky one.

Dragon Boat Festival in Shanghai

Dragon Boat Festival in Shanghai

20th Wedding Anniversary – night out at Mr & Mrs Bund

June 6th was Owen and I’s 20th Wedding Anniversary.  Quite a shock as I don’t feel old enough to be married that long!  What a ride it has been – lots of adventures, memories, travel, laughs, ups (many), downs (just a few) and all of it shared with a wonderful man.  We have 2 fabulous children that are the light of my life and the continuing best accomplishment of our marriage and my life.

Friday night was our official celebration.  It was also our first out without the kids since we arrived in China.  We have found a great babysitter so the kids were left in safe hands.  We went to Mr & Mrs Bund in downtown Shanghai.  The restaurant overlooks the fantastic skyline which is brilliantly lit up at night.  It reminded us both of 2 Urban Licks in Atlanta, very open, open kitchen and similar vibe.  They make a big deal out of you making the most of their menu, your way, so that is exactly what we did.  Owen started the evening off with a cocktail – an unusual margarita which was delicious.  We shared seared scallops with ginger and lime, and a huge tiger shrimp served in a glass jar with citrus.  The scallops were quite exquisite – a perfect combination of flavours.  The shrimp’s presentation was very original and the infusion of the citrus peel and juices made this dish.   Following this, Owen and I shared a huge Wagyu Ribeye Steak which was FANTASTIC.  I have never eaten steak that literally melts in your mouth.  We chose dauphanoise potatoes that were so finely sliced and mixed with brie and proscuitto – wonderful.  Steamed garlic spinach and a herb salad completed this course.

Wagyu Ribeye Steak - fantastic!

Wagyu Ribeye Steak – fantastic!

The menu was so impressive, we were spoilt for choice.  I felt full after finishing the steak, but was determined to have dessert!  Owen choose Tart Tatin and I had their signature Lemon and Lemon.  This is a time consuming dish to prepare as the lemon is cooked whole in sugar for 3 days.  It is then scooped out and filled with lemon sorbet, lemon curd and vanilla chantilly cream.  I was not sure about my choice when I was presented with a whole lemon on the plate, but once I had cut into the lemon and taken my first bite, I had to resist the urge to stuff the whole thing in my mouth!!

Lemon Dessert

Lemon Dessert

Inside the Lemon & Lemon Dessert

Inside the Lemon & Lemon Dessert

To say it was a 5 Star meal is under-rating our experience.  It was all super yummy!  The service was great and it was an all round wonderful night out.  Even the toilets had candelabra in them!  I loved the fact that kitchen was open and you could see all the chefs busily preparing the delicious food.

Fancy Toilets!  Love the Candelabra!

Fancy Toilets! Love the Candelabra!

Mr & Mrs Bund's open kitchen and very busy.....

Mr & Mrs Bund’s open kitchen and very busy…..

After dinner, Owen and I walked along the river front and admired the lights – at least until 11.00pm when they were all switched off!  We passed a British shaped postbox painted green, obviously a hang-over from British days in the early 20th century:

Almost like home!

Almost like home!

The Bund is the corner turn of the Huangpu River in Shanghai.  One side is the modern skyscraper buildings and the heart of the Financial district.  The other side (where we ate) is the older European influenced district with many original buildings in an old British colonial style.  There is even a mini replica of Big Ben!

Beautifully lit up (at least until 11pm)

Beautifully lit up (at least until 11pm)

The skyline is obscured in this photo due to the smog!  You cannot see the tallest building – the Bottle Opener, because of the pollution.  It has been especially humid in the last few days, so I do not think we will be seeing clear skies for a while.

A smog covered skyline.

A smog covered skyline.