Thursday, May 16, 2013

ALONE in SHANGHAI, (not)

Last week my husband was out of town, in Calcutta to be precise, with a couple of days in UK tagged on to the end of his trip. Ahead of me, including a weekend lay in store. I was busy making plans of things to do while he was away.

I would fit in a pedicure, tidy some drawers, I had a couple of DVD's lined up and also a couple of books downloaded, oh and I might fit in a bit of shopping! I was going to enjoy this week. The sun was shining and temperatures due to be in mid to high 20's. It would be a relaxing week, the diary was clear. Or so I thought!!!!!

Friday night cocktails on Jason Atherton's roof terrace 5-00pm Debbie's text said. Saturday lunch at new Deli said Fiona's text. Sandra's text was very similar, drinks on terrace of Puli Hotel followed by dinner. My weekend was full. Of course I accepted all three invitations, and so happy I did. Debbie's invite ended with dinner at Paula's apartment, a casual relaxed evening. Good conversation, and as this was the first time I had met Paula, a Boston native, I was delighted to be included.



Saturday lunch was another relaxed affair. Sitting outside enjoying lunch and watching people promenading along the street. This is one of the newest areas opening up in Pudong and a five minute walk from the apartment. Think I could spend a lot of time there this summer.I loved the sun. Not yet humid, so able to enjoy it.

                                     Manage to fit in pedicure on the way home.


On to Sunday. Was picked up at 4-30 driven across the river to pick up my friend Sandra. Her husband was at a meeting and may or may not join us for dinner. Sandra and I have been friends from my first weeks in Shanghai.

We arrived at the terrace bar and I was slightly surprised to see everyone lolling across very wide sofas. I have to admit they were not the most comfortable unless you actually did lie back, but hey that made my drink too far away and crawling to pick up a drink is not really cool. We sat as elegantly as we could, trying to look trendy and cool. Think maybe we were the oldest people there. But no problem, sun was still shining and we were in a beautiful environment, and the conversation was good, as always. A cold glass in hand and all was well with the world.


Dinner was delicious, and although Sandra's husband got stuck in a meeting, it did not detract from our evening. Sorry Melvyn, not to say evening wouldn't have benefited from your company, but we did the best we could!  Back across the river and safely home I was thinking what a great weekend I had had.

It is so great to know that in a strange city I never need to feel alone. After just one year here I have a wonderful group of women who all look out for, and care for each other. We are all experiencing the same things, husbands away, different customs and cultures and at times it can be difficult but knowing there is a friendly face always willing to share a cocktail or two, lol, makes it all seem so much better.

Now when can I get those DVD's watched and the books read?





Thursday, May 9, 2013

XIANGLONGBAO RESTAURANT gets MICHELIN STAR

When people come to visit here in Shanghai we try our best to take them to all our favourite places. Places to see, places to eat, to drink and places to view the city at night. It gives people a glimpse into how we live, although we don't, as we do when they are here, do it every day and night.


A trip across the river with a visit to a rooftop terrace is always on the agenda. The views across the river never fail to impress. My brother in law and his wife were blown away with the views, and of the city. Well it's difficult not to be impressed by what Shanghai has to offer.

Another favourite place, this time to eat lunch, is a xiaolongbao (dumpling) restaurant, Din Tai Fung, which is located in a mall about a 15 minute walk from us. Again everyone loved the food on offer. A selection of delicious dumplings, the xiaolongbao, being the famous Shanghai one. As you bite into it a warm soup escapes. Delicious, but needs care when eating otherwise it lands everywhere except your mouth, and it is really hot. Unlike fast food chains it does not come with a warning that it is hot! I'd be disappointed if my food wasn't hot in a restaurant.


One big surprise on this visit was that it has been awarded a Michelin star. Yes this place, in a shopping mall has achieved an award for the food. I am so happy, and yes I think it is deserving. Apart from delicious food the staff are excellent, always smiling and welcoming. I love the large open kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work. It is nice that a place like this can achieve Michelin status. No need for starched table covers, snooty waiters and waiting lists of months. I hope more like this will follow.


Din Tai Feng is a chain and is in cities from Tokyo to Sydney and many places in between. So if you come across one on your travels it is worth your while stopping by. You will be happy you did.

So my guests were impressed that we had taken them there, and as with everywhere we went, they were impressed by the city. The old parts especially as it is there you really feel you are in different culture. Still four days isn't really long enough to"do" Shanghai, although we gave it a shot. When they left I was relieved to be able to sit down and catch my breath. With my hubby off in India there is no need to cook, clean or do anything I don't want to. Ahh, peace perfect peace.

However, it won't be long before I'm wishing our next visitors would hurry up and arrive and we can do it all over again. I love when people come to visit us in Shanghai, indeed anywhere. I love Shanghai and want to share my time here with family and friends.
Luckily we have a list of people all wanting to visit with several people already having flights booked. So it will be a busy year, but so much fun.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

IKEA SHANGHAI STYLE

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week have been public holidays. The sun has been shining and we have been able to take advantage to the full.

However, with visitors arriving tomorrow, Thursday, there were a few bits and pieces I needed to help make their stay more comfortable. Nothing major just a few cushions, candles and plants. Ikea seemed the best place to go to pick up all items in one place.

Reluctantly my husband came along. As soon as we arrived at the car park we realised we may have made a huge mistake visiting on a bank holiday. Down and down we went into the bowels of the car park, eventually our driver had to drop us and drive off to find somewhere to park. The omen wasn't good.

As we entered the store we were faced by swarms of people wandering aimlessly, and often against the direction of the arrows, horrors of horrors, they were committing the ultimate Ikea no no, one which my husband cannot resist doing when he is directed on where he should walk.


But the really strange thing was that the Chinese seem to view Ikea as an extension to their own homes. In fact we were left wondering whether some of them had actually taken up residency. There were people sitting around on the chairs reading, or in some cases taking a quick nap.


In the areas where room settings are on show people were making themselves quite at home. No one was bothering them, and Ikea staff seemed happy to leave them to it. In UK I was told to leave the store for photographing something! I couldn't help smiling when I saw one family eating some food and checking their phones in one of the room sets, they had even pulled in a high chair for the little one. Somehow I don't think Ikea in UK would put up with this.


Kids were drawing in room sets and older people sitting around on beds as if ready to take a nap.



The lady above looks as if she has had enough and is pondering on whether she should have a lie down. Also I couldn't help thinking that someone had already had a quick nap in this bed! 
 "Who's been sleeping in My bed?"
sprung to mind when I saw this unmade bed.


We arrived at the cafeteria and realised a coffee was out of the question. It was full and overflowing, not a spare seat anywhere, and it seemed many had brought along their own food to be consumed in the comfort of the Ikea restaurant. Once again I swear it seems as if people have moved in and treat it just like home. So on we went picking up the items on our list as we went. The crowds thinned out the further into the store we went, and by the time we got to check out areas it was practically empty, once again enforcing my theory that people were actually living in store, lol.


Think it's time for a bedtime story before this little one goes to bed!

So all in all a very interesting visit to Ikea Shanghai. Take out the people and you could be in an Ikea anywhere in the world, and I've been in a few. Put the Chinese people back in and it reminds me of just how different the culture is here in China, and that at every turn I am reminded of it. That's what makes my experience here so exciting and so different. It is an amazing experience, they are warm and welcoming people. I am so happy to be able to enjoy this time.
Still don't think I'll be able to drag my husband back any time soon. He's done his "duty" visit to Ikea China, just enough to keep me happy. Never mind there is always someone who will go with me, just next time I think I will avoid the public holidays when I visit.