As we step out onto the streets of the French Concession in Shanghai, two realisations sprout in my mind.
- This finally *feels* like China.
- No one is staring at us.
Almost Like Coming Home
The reason for the second is obvious. There are foreigners everywhere. Shanghai is absolutely crawling with them. This is what we expected, and did not find, in Beijing. Shanghai, at least this section of Shanghai, is a truly international city.
We assume that most of the white faces we see are not tourists, but expats, living and working here. The proof of this theory is borne out in the shops and restaurants around us. There are sandwich bars and pizza places, little vegan delis and hip speciality coffee shops. And there are bars. Irish pubs, English pubs, cocktail bars, wine bars, and brew houses. Hallelujah alcohol!
Side note: If you’ve just joined our blog, the way we have been waxing lyrical over the sheer availability of alcohol lately might have you worrying about our health. Don’t worry, we don’t have a problem. It’s just that after nearly six weeks not drinking, through some highly stressful times, I guess we’ve both been craving a little artificial relaxation.
This isn’t a modern identikit city, indistinguishable from its Chinese and European peers. It is distinctly China, distinctly Shanghai.
There are tiny shrivelled women rolling fruit carts along the street, a man with a bicycle loaded down with bamboo poles, calling out to the shopkeepers to let them know what he’s selling. There are noodle stalls and dumpling shops. Mixed in with all this remains a French colonial atmosphere, fortified by the Euro-Chinese buildings around us.
For a reason I can’t explain, stepping onto these streets for the first time not only felt like China, but the atmosphere just feels right.
Good thing, too, since this will be our neighbourhood for the next month.
Thick Walls Make Good Neighbours
In one of the many coffee shops, Cafe del Volcan (chosen by Stephen, naturallement), we met Heather. She is a long-time friend of one of our most dedicated readers (hi Cassie!), and it has worked out that we can sublet her flat for almost the entire time we’re here.
She has a great apartment nearby, with a gorgeous view of the city spread out below her windows, a rambunctious golden lab puppy, and a roommate we’ve yet to meet. There is also a reportedly excellent Mexican restaurant in her complex, complete with Happy Hour margaritas. We’re both looking forward to having a place we can call home for a few weeks.
And cooking. We’re really looking forward to cooking!
The only downside is, we liked Heather immediately, and it’s too bad we won’t be able to hang out with her while we’re in town.
After meeting Heather, we dragged our bags across town, trading in one less-than-ideal accommodation for another, very slightly cheaper, very slightly more conveniently located, less-than-ideal accommodation. The afternoon was spent giggling at the insalubrious noises coming from the room next door.
As I said, we are desperately looking forward to having our own place.
Four Floors Of Heaven
For dinner, we had plans to meet the lululemon Shanghai team, in anticipation of the lululemon community class Stephen is teaching tomorrow. It is a truth universally acknowledged that we will immediately like and feel comfortable with anyone who works for lululemon, and this proved true again tonight.
We shared stories with Jen, Flora, and Susan over dinner. I love getting to hang out with women who kick butt on a daily basis, and these three obviously do. They are busy laying the groundwork for lululemon’s introduction to Shanghai. As their grand opening event a few weeks ago proved, with more than 600 yogis in attendance, Shanghai is ready and waiting.
They treated us to dinner at Lost Heaven, a famous and immensely popular restaurant just off The Bund. This is one of those places to which wealthy foreign tourists flock, but it has an old-world charm about it that tourist joints in other cities tend to lack.
That is to say, it is four floors of fabulous. The atmosphere, the decor, the food, and the company – all were a huge treat that we would never have experienced on our own.
Thanks again lululemon! ♥