We arrived in Shanghai through Pudong airport and an 11 hour flight. With good veggie food. We touched down at 9.15 and by 9.30 the luggage had arrived on the carousel. We walked to the Maglev and had train lift off at 10.02 by 10.05 we had reached the top speed of 431k p hour. Fast- Or what? ?!
Originally was a very large Japanese garden here but now largely built over with various office and hotel buildings. Nonetheless a beautiful setting still for the hotel with fountains and cascades and pergolas. Many weddings and films take place here. Famous hotel visitors include Nehru, Nixon, and Ho Chi Minh. Still it was disappointing to find that the woodwork painting in our room left much to be desired and there was a large water stain under the bathroom sink. Nonetheless, the staff were delightful, especially the female staff – in fact we found all over China that the women were prepared to be friendly and helpful some really going out of their way – one even came with us in our taxi to where we going after having the usual fare argument with the driver to ensure that we got there safely. Men were more aloof and distant. But all sexes and ages were very good are barging.. we certainly learnt to use our elbows, and luckily my husband is tall so he was able to use his height and the rucksack on his back to ensure that I didn’t get trampled as we got onto trains, elevators etc.
Still there was a lovely pool to swim in and only one other person using it. The staff were very friendly and welcoming but it was confusing as there were two Breakfast rooms, one serving western style and the other Chinese style food, and apparently we should have had the Chinese as the western was dearer. But they let us stay with the western. We would recommend this hotel as the area is quiet and central enough and close to several metro lines within easy walk. There is a theatre in a small park opposite the hotel and my husband went over to practice his Tai Chi there most mornings.
The hotel is situated in the old French Quarters, which definitely do have a strong French influence in the shape of the roads and the buildings and overall feel of the place. Turn of the century and fading glamour. The roads were all lined with Asian Plane trees and you could see their relationship to the London Planes but they were ore branched from a low place on the trunk and a delightful ghost grey with white peeling bark. Somewhat to our amusement, we found that the Authorities were pollarding these trees as we were there, as we had left our own road in London and its Plane trees being pollarded only the day before…
The French Quarters have some interesting small cul-de-sac type alleys which were built in the 1930s as Social Housing and are now high priced dwellings as they are plant-lined and off the main streets. They are Art Deco in style and have courtyards. Some are nicer than others but still a wander down a few is worth it.
Some people in Shanghai of course, have not forgotten their rural roots. All over China we found that every small scrap of land even if all you could was to put a polystyrene box on it, was cultivated with a few greens or other veggies, and also we saw chickens running loose alongside a lawn by the side of a block of flats on the main road.
If you really want to see old-style china then a walk of the Old town is where to go. Ramshackle houses and everything still alive for sale – ducks, chickens, fish and frogs in a net – big fat ones… all for fresh eating of course!
Finally, in Shanghai, you must walk the Bund. Unfortunately, as was much of our visit to China, it was raining hard and rather cold and windy so we didn’t see as much as we would have liked. But at night it is well let and there is a walk alongside the river there where the old warehouses for trade are now high priced fashion stores.
Whilst in Shanghai it is also worth a visit to the Peace Hotel. It is the ultimate Art Deco hotel situated just off the Bund. The fading glamour is very apparent here but very polished up and definitely still very 30s in style and influence. One thing we found to our surprise was how dear green tea was everywhere we went. Dearer than coffee. so we just had coffee and French style pastries there, which was all we could afford….
But then they only seemed to serve in coffee shops and restaurants the best green tea which comes with due tea ceremony items. We have now learnt this from an encounter with somewhat cheaper – but still dear – green tea from a stall in a park one cold and wet afternoon.
First you get a pot of hot water, a teapot, a jug, a strainer or use the top of the teapot, some small cups – very small indeed – and a tray for slops. Preferably a wooden slatted one as this is more aesthetically pleasing. You first wash everything out with hot water. You then place the green tea in the tea pot and add hot water to fill. You then strain the first pot-full into the jug and wash out the cups again and throw the rest away. Empty the tea pot and start again this time filling the jug and then the cups and drinking until the jug is empty. You then start with the pot again and keep on going until the tea is too weak for you. Never let the tea stand at all. It must be poured immediately the water hits it. All the slops go into the tray beneath the cups.