September 28, 2011
Going green is quite trendy these days. Local and organic farmers are being glorified (most recently by me, as I spent a blissful Saturday on an off-the-grid dairy farm), solar panels seem to be popping up everywhere, and mainstream magazines are splashing “Green Living!” articles across their glossy non-recycled covers.
Sorry my fellow Western tree-huggers. Chinese people SO have us beat.
Yeah, I’m talking about that China: The polluted, industrial, skyscraper haven that’s pumping out fossil fuels faster than doctors can diagnose new cases of asthma. It may be the most polluted country on Earth, but its citizens are greener then NPR, Al Gore, and my Mom put together.
Let’s start with food. During a recent trip to Inner Mongolia all I was served was lamb, milk tea and celery. Why? Well, celery was in season and based on all the sheep and cows I saw roaming through the streets I’m guessing that they are always in season. Throughout the rest of China I had watermelon after every single breakfast, lunch and dinner. Why? It’s local. Chinese people don’t go to farmers markets for the “atmosphere” or because Martha Stewart does. That’s just where the food is.
And the Chinese get to those watermelon stalls on bikes. Although the car market is growing at an exponential rate, bikes are still a major form of transportation. The wealthy city of Hangzhou is embracing and encouraging this green method of transport by providing bikes practically for free. Fully stocked bike shelters are positioned at every corner so riders can pick up and drop off bikes all over the city. With a quick swipe of a card, you can unlock and use a bike for an hour before fees start accumulating. As long as you remember to switch bikes every 59 minutes you can ride all day for free. In addition to limiting drivers’ licenses, this is one method of the fast-growing city’s attempt to keep the traffic in check while the subway is being installed.
And subways! You Chinese and Europeans don’t know how good you have it. If you say “subway” to someone in America, they immediately start salivating for a sandwich. Then they drive their SUV to the nearest sub shop for a tasty meal. The subway (as in the transportation device, not the sandwich) was my best friend in Shanghai. It allowed me to stay in a nicer yet cheaper hotel and still explore every inch of this Paris-of-the-East without consuming any gas. I have lofty dreams of subway lines connecting all my favorite American cities, but my Republican countrymen seem to enjoy their Ford pickups a little too much for this to be a reality.
And while subways are green, convenient, and modern, much of China’s green living is due to their status as a not-quite-developed country. Hand washing clothes is a vestige of limited means, although many parents buy their only child an expensive phone and iPad without even considering buying a washer or dryer. Laundry is hung out to dry in every building in every city throughout China. My daily jog took me past a community of mansions that all featured clotheslines in their expansive yards. The lawn maintenance staff would step around their client’s sequined tops and lacy bras as they planted expensive flowerbeds around the house.
So here we are. The Communist Chinese government chugs on towards a capitalistic modernity as Michelle Obama plots out vegetable gardens for the White House. The Chinese masses pedal their way to the supermarket as urbanites drive to co-op farms. And into a climatically challenged world we all head.
September 25, 2011
This post may sound a little weird unless you are intimately acquainted with the words to The Eagles song “Take it Easy.” You can read them here. Alternatively, you can attend the Standin’ on the Corner 10K which begins and ends at the Standin’ on the Corner Park, next to the Standin’ on the Corner store, during the Standin’ on the Corner annual festival. The Eagles are pretty much played non-stop here.
Take it Easy lyrics that I AM embracing:
- “Running down the road”: I was all about running down the road. And up the road. The 10K course took us from the famed corner, down the new sidewalks along the railroad tracks, through the festival site, and down 3rd Street. It was an out-and-back course, which I love because it allows me to size up the competition at they run past me (or I run past them) on the way back to the finish.
- “Trying to loosen my load”: Although any calories obliterated by my 6.2 mile jaunt were quickly replaced by the free cookies distributed at the finish line.
- “Just find a place to make your stand”: I guess that’s what this whole quitting-my-job-and-traveling is all about.
Take it Easy lyrics that I AM NOT embodying:
- “Standing on a corner”: Although I suppose at some point I might have stood still on a corner, most of my trip to Winslow was of an active, non-standing-around nature.
- “I’ve got seven women on my mind”: At the ½ way point, I only had three women on my mind: The three females in front of me. As a small town race, I figured that this was my best shot at winning. By mile five I had only two women on my mind. At mile six, I had just one. As I turned that final corner the only thing on my mind was keeping that lead.
- “Take it Ea-e-e-easy”: Obviously I was not doing this. My initial goal of running at a 9:10 pace went out the window when I was still feeling good after three miles at 8:30 pace. I opted to speed it up instead of taking it easy.
- “Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy:” So this doesn’t have to do with the race, but my tire situation is getting dire. I had to get new ones in Las Vegas AGAIN. My new-tire count is currently six. I’m really hoping I don’t blow out another tire on the New Jersey Turnpike or some other god-awful place on the East Coast next month.
- “It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford slowing down to take a look at me”: Nobody (girl or boy) slowed down to take any looks at me. I don’t look good running. If you don’t believe me, check out this post-race picture:
- “We will never be here again”: Of course I’ll be in Winslow again! I’ve already been here twice this month.
- “Looking for a lover who won’t blow my cover:” What was Don Henley even talking about? I don’t think I have a cover, and the last thing I need is a lover, whether he will blow my non-existent cover or not. Unless, of course, his “sweet love is gonna save me-e-e-e.” Then I might reconsider.
But for now, I’ll just keep driving and running. This race was a pretty good one. It was the first of its kind, organized by Kim Henling and her sister Larissa. You can read Larissa’s blog about the race here. Kim and her husband always traveled to other cities to race and lamented the fact that their hometown didn’t have a race of its own.
Pretty soon she was mapping out race routes, meeting with the police department, and shelling out her own money to make this 10K/2 mile race a reality. Hopefully it will become an annual event. The race took place at 8:00am during the Standin’ on the Corner festival in Winslow, which is held during the last weekend of September. The race was $15, which is very cheap. Proceeds (if there are any) will go towards future Winslow races. Check out the Standin’ on the Corner facebook page here.
September 21, 2011
Posted by jennavandenberg under China
| Tags: biking
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I fork over the equivalent of $6 and hop on the bike. It’s mine for the day. For the first time in weeks I have my own ride. This rusty contraption that holds two wheels together gives me an exhilarating rush of freedom. I grin like a mad woman for the first two miles. I’m so happy to be off my feet that I don’t even mind the motorcycles, cars and buses that come within inches of grazing my handlebars.
I could really get used to this biking thing. Slightly delusional images of myself biking through the San Juan islandsand completing triathlons in 8-panal bike shorts fill my mind as I roll down the streets of Suzhou on my pink one-speed.
Then the self doubt starts. I remind myself that this is a one-off. I wouldn’t be able to change a flat tire and I’d be screwed if a hill popped up. Who am I kidding? I’m not a biker! Then I think back fifteen years. That stops the negativity.
Because a decade and a half ago, I wasn’t a runner either.
In middle school I HATED running. With a passion. I used to conjure up every excuse in the book in attempt to get out of the 1/2 a mile “fun run” around the school. When the excuses didn’t work I’d make it about forty steps before slowing to a walk, red faced with over-exertion and shame.
But in high school I was jealous of the track team with their cool sweatshirts and their close-knit team bond. A friend talked me into joining the team on the false pretense that I could throw or jump – no running required!
It was a season of humiliation and misery. Throwing and jumping did not turn out to be my great hidden talents. But by the end of May, I could run a mile. Barely, but I could. I kept running all summer and something finally clicked. I joined the cross country team in the fall and to everyone’s amazement I somehow made varsity.
The rest of my high school days were filled with team dinners, mile repeats, races in the rain, captains patches on my letter jacket, and the finishing chute of a marathon. Since then, running has given me an excuse to travel. It’s been a cornerstone of friendships. It’s an escape from cancer diagnoses and the end of relationships. Plus running has kept my thighs in check. (Well, kind of). I don’t know who I’d be today if I wasn’t a runner.
So maybe I could be a biker. I power up the hill and avoid hitting a family of Chinese people on a scooter. I’m pedaling fast and smiling again. Who knows what great new things biking could give me? This ride through the smoggy streets of Suzhoumay be the start of something great.
To rent bikes in Suzhou, find the new Suzhou art museum on Renmin Lu (road.) Turn into the alley just past the museum (towards town). The alley is behind shot #2061. There will be a bike rental sign (in English!) pointing you in the right direction. Look for this guy:
He’ll hand you an explanation of his policies, which basically state that the bike is your until 6:00pm and you have to give him 200 yuan (about $30) as a deposit. The rental fee is another 60 yuan. The bike comes with a lock as well.
The shop is near the tallest pagoda in town, which is handy when you are finding your way back. That pagoda is on 1918 Renmin Lu.
The people of Suzhou are helpful almost to a fault. Every time I stepped to check out my map it wouldn’t take two seconds for someone to ask:
“May I help you?” Everyone would ask me this, even if that line is the only English they know. I started making up questions to ask people, because it was easier than declining or refusing any help.
“North?” I’d ask the helpful person, pointing in a random direction.
“North.” The helpful person would confirm.
We’d nod our heads at each other, satisfied with our mutual geographic knowledge and then head our separate ways.
September 18, 2011
My parents sent me to jazz band camp in high school and I came back addicted to country music.
There’s a lot wrong with that statement.
To start with, “American Pie” had just come out, making band camp a hundred times nerdier that it already was. Much to the horror of our Coltrane-wanna-be-counselors, my roommates and I spent our campfire-y nights listening to Deana Carter, Tim McGraw and Shania Twain. When my parents picked me up, I insisted on listening to “Did I Shave My Legs for This” and “Who’s Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” on the way home. They deemed jazz camp a failure.
But it wasn’t. I pulled of a dual love affair with both country and jazz. Dimetriou’s Jazz Alley was my go-to date destination in high school, where I spent hours listening to Lionel Hampton, Diane Schuur, Karrin Allyson, and Tito Puente.
So I felt an immediate affinity towards Kansas City, jazz capital of the Midwest. We pulled in to town, I dug through my car for my little black dress, and headed down the street to Jardine’s. The club was appropriately small, dark and crowded, but didn’t have the wafting smoke that so often come with these types of joints. There are live bands seven days a week at Jardine’s, and we was lucky enough to be there on Marilyn Maye’s last night in town. Ella Fitzgerald once dubbed Maye as “the greatest white female singer in the world.” This is praise that Maye seems to be quite comfortable with. On her “Maye Sings Ray” CD (a celebration of the music of Ray Charles) she melodically mentions that “I wanna sound like Ray, but I’m too white.”
Maye started off the show with “Celebration” and “Your Smiling Face.” Then she kicked off a set of Broadway tunes with “I’m Getting Married,” after revealing that she’d had “three husbands and one meaningful lover.” She then led us in a toast after adding that all of the aforementioned men were all alcoholics. (“So let’s drink to…them in their stupors!”). Her good natured antics and clever transitions between songs left the audience constantly smiling, laughing, and toe-tapping. Her closing numbers of “Take Five and especially Stephen Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here” were, of course, fabulous.
Jardine’s is located just north of the Country Club Plaza at 4536 Main Street, Kansas City. Free parking is available behind the club. The cover charge depends on the show and where you want to sit. Most nights you can get in for $3 – $10. Marilyn Maye was $35. Shows are pretty early for a jazz club, some even starting at 5:30. Check the monthly calendar on their website for specifics. A full bar, extensive wine list and a steak/seafood menu are available. Call 816-561-6480 for reservations.
A few days later we headed to the other side of town to check out The Blue Room, mainly because it was a no-cover-charge Monday – as all Monday’s are at the Blue Room. In the Historic 18th and Vine Jazz District, The Blue Room hosts local talent, national names, and jam sessions. When we were there the Chris Hazelton trio played for about an hour and were followed by a jam session of mostly younger artists. Unlike Jardine’s, where you show up ready to watch the whole show, the crowd at The Blue Room was more casual, with people dropping in and out to listen to bits and pieces.
The Blue Room also features live music daily. On Monday – Thursday the music starts at 7 and continues until 11. Friday and Saturday’s musical hours are 8:30 – 1am. Drinks are available at The Blue Room, but minors are welcome to attend the show as well. Food is only available as an appetizer buffet on Fridays. Monday’s are always free, Fridays and Saturdays usually have a $10 cover charge, but rates throughout the week vary depending on the artist.
This post contains affiliate links to amazon.com. Purchasing CDs via the links will earn me a bit of money, so thanks!
September 14, 2011
I’m not really a museum person, which I learned after dragging myself to every art museum in Venice before remembering that, oh yeah, I don’t really love art. However, whenever it started pouring down rain in Shanghai I would quickly find the nearest museum to seek shelter in. It rained a lot.
The Shanghai Museum
Billed as “the best museum in China,” by various guidebooks, I actually planned on going to this one. It was okay. I explored the four floors under the guidance of my English audio guide which was 40 yuan (about $7) plus a 400 yuan deposit. Because it didn’t cost too much, the audio guide was worth it. However, it’s not a necessity because all captions are translated into English. The museum featured:
- The Bronze Galley: Mildly boring except I did like the section that showed how one went about making a bronze item back in the day. The Chinese would create molds out of clay and then pour molten bronze into the molds, waiting until things hardened up before breaking the clay mold.
- The Sculpture Gallery: Essentially a gallery or Buddhas and Bodeshatvas. It was a bit more interesting, mainly because I like looking people more than things.
- The Maori artifacts Gallery: A special exhibit that will be in Shanghai until October. I especially liked the bird trapping devices featured here.
- The Ceramics Gallery: It’s interesting how much our normal chinaware of today resembles ceramics and china from centuries ago. Talk about lasting art!
- Coin Gallery: The initial six rooms of coins can be sped through, but the last exhibit on Silk Road currency was pretty interesting.
- Jade Gallery: Lots of jade. It’s green. What else can I say?
- Furniture Gallery: This is pretty interesting, but if you’ve been to any museums that are former residences of rich guys, you’ve already seen it. I liked the fact that not only were folding chairs were around in the eighteenth century, but to sit in one was a seat of honor. At my family’s Thanksgiving dinner table, my parents sit in the folding chairs and save the nice seats for our guests.
- Chinese Minority Gallery: This was the most interesting exhibit, and sadly the last one I went to. By the time I’d reached the top floor I was running out of museum patience. I wish I would have started here. On display were various costumes and traditional dress of the people from the outer reaches of China (Tibet, Inner Mongolia, the Uighur Muslims, etc).
The Shanghai Museum is free. It’s open Monday through Friday from 9-5. To get there, take metro line 1 to the People’s Square. Inside the immense metro station, follow the signs to exit 1 (there are 19 exits). The address is 201 Renmin Ave, but the entrance is on West Yan’an Rd.
MOCA: The Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai
I blew into this museum absolutely drenched, despite the fact that I had an umbrella. The museum was heavily air conditioned. Plus, as previously mentioned, I’m not a huge art fan. So I was prepared to be irritated.
Luckily for me, the featured exhibit was Disney’s PIXAR. How can you be unhappy when surrounded with Toy Story and Ratatouille characters? I didn’t learn anything about China, but I did enjoy watching the animation process come to life. There is no permanent exhibit at this museum, but I hear that things are usually laid out pretty well here. That was certainly the case with the PIXAR exhibit.
MOCA is in the middle of People’s Square, at 231 Nanjing West Road. Take metro line 1 to People’s Square and follow the signs. The PIXAR exhibit will be featured until the end of October. The MOCA fees change depending on the exhibit. I paid 80 yuan (about $10). The museum is open daily from 10 to 6.
Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum and Ohel Moishe Synagogue:
I LOVED this museum! It was only two rooms plus the synagogue, but I spent more time here then at the entire Shanghai Museum. This was probably because I was taking pictures of every artifact as I planning lessons (whole units, actually) for my non-existent students. I am really going to miss teaching next year.
Unbeknownst to me, as the rest of the world was shutting its doors to Jewish immigration during the 1930’s Shanghai became one of the few places where fleeing Jews could go. The Chinese explanation on this is that the Chinese people/government is just that much more caring than the rest of the world. However, I suspect that the lack of visa regulations and laws in Shanghai (which was an international city at the time) might have a little do to with things as well. Jewish refugees congregated near what is today the museum and built a life of sorts in Shanghai. The museum houses many of their stories and artifacts. Inside the synagogue is a database of the Jewish refugees and a continuously running TV program (one hour long) about some of the Jews that have returned to Shanghai for nostalgic purposes.
The Jewish Refugees Museum and Synagogue is 50 yuan. It is open daily from 9-5. They have free tours every 45 minutes, which seemed a little unnecessary since I was one of three patrons and everything was in English. The museum is at 62 Changyang Road. Take metro line 4 to the Dalian road station and head east for about three blocks. You can check out Huoshan Park on your way there, also a Jewish site. I didn’t linger due to the thunder, lightening, and rain pouring sideways, but it looked nice.
Site of the 1st National Congress of the CPC:
This museum is the old house of one of the first champions of communism, and one of the sites were meetings were taking place. When the police were tipped off on the location of the underground group, Mao and his men finished up their plans in a tourist boat on a nearby lake. The crowded museum was not super interesting. The two or three rooms featured mostly pictures of Mao and his cohorts. At the end of the museum is a 3D model of the revolutionaries at a table, drinking tea and sorting out their red plans.
The site of the 1st National Congress of the CPC is open daily from 9-5. It is located in the middle of Xintiandi, an upscale shopping center in the middle of the French concessions, which is kinda funny. Admission is free, naturally. No sense in having a Communist museum if the bourgeoisies are the only people who can afford to frequent it. You do have to collect your free ticket before entering the museum. Take metro line 1 to the Xintiandi station and head into the shopping quarters. Maps (in English) are all over the place and can direct you to the museum.
Shanghai Urban Planning Museum
This vestige of last years Shanghai Expo is a geography teachers dream. The museum uses old maps, pictures and 3D models to show off the city’s past and hopes for the future. The entire third floor of the museum is a model lay-out of the city. Shanghai apparently has a “leave no space un-skyscrapered” approach to urban planning.
The museum also features
- A photography exhibit glorifying construction workers
- A laughable “Green Living” section
- A kids section where little ones can design their own Expo site on touch screen computers
- Models of metro station hubs and computer simulations of people living in houses during different historical periods
- The 5th floor is a “photo story” of the rise of the Communist Party. It doesn’t really match the rest of the museum, and is the only exhibit not translated into English
The Shanghai Urban Planning Museum is open daily from 9-5 (Friday – Sunday until 6). Ticket prices start at 30 yuan, with discounts for seniors, students, and children. The museum is located on the west side of the People’s Park. To get there, take metro line 1 to the People’s Square and take exit #2 out of the station.
September 11, 2011
The Kansas City tourist trifecta is generally considered to be barbeque, jazz, and fountains. And don’t get me wrong – I enthusiastically ate, listened and viewed. But for me, Kansas City was also about sports. Whether I was cheering on the Royals, running a 5K, or learning about Negro League Baseball, Kansas City sports reflects that perfect American combination of patriotism, diversity, and enthusiasm.
And often that enthusiasm is for the under-dog. As a Seattle Mariners fan, I can understand this. One of my first KC activities was to watch the Royals lose a baseball game, which they did in spectacular fashion against the Cleveland Indians. When the whole stadium joined in on singing Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places,” I turned and asked the season ticket holders sitting next to me if the song was only played when the Royals were losing. They just laughed, joking that it had been so long since the Royals won they couldn’t even answer the question. But seriously, the Garth sing-along takes place every night.
At least Ned Yost’s boys lose their games in a nice stadium. Although Kauffman Stadium is out in the middle of nowhere, it’s a nice looking stadium, with fountains cascading across the outfield, a Hall of Fame museum above the left field wall and statues dotting the outfield concessions. Once you’re at Kauffman Stadium, parking is essentially only available there. Have your ten dollar bill ready. In case you aren’t there during baseball season, the Kansas City Chiefs play at Arrowhead Stadium, which is right next to the baseball field.
Kansas City hasn’t always been the home of baseball underdogs though. In the 1920’s, ‘30’s and ‘40’s, the Kansas City Monarchs dominated the league. With ten pennant victories, every boy in American grew up wanting to play for the Monarchs. Every black boy, that is, as Jackie Robinson didn’t break the color barrier in major league baseball until 1947.
Sandwiched in between jazz clubs, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum sits on 18th and Vine just east of downtown. The museum is a nostalgic, poignant, and sometimes tear-jerking celebration of the black baseball league that started in Kansas City in the 1920’s. This VERY well laid out museum includes media clips, memorabilia, stories, and scorecards that showcase the Negro leagues. I’m not really a museum person, but two hours flew by there. If you can’t make it to Kansas City, learn about Negro Leagues baseball history by checking out the oh-so-gorgeous picture book “We are the Ship,” illustrated by the oh-so-gorgeous Kadir Nelson.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is at 1616 East 18th Street. From downtown Kansas City, take 18th street east for a few miles. Street parking is free and easy to find. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from nine to six, and Sunday from noon to six. It is closed Mondays. Tickets are $8 for adults, $3 for children under twelve, and free for kids under five.
Watching and learning about baseball was great, but sooner or later I needed to participate in some sporting activity. My batting average probably sucks and I can’t catch a pop fly to save my life, so I opted to run a race instead of join a softball team.
My race of choice was the Leawood Labor Day 5K. The Kansas City suburb is about twenty miles south of the city center, and by the looks of the houses I drove past, life is good in Leawood. My 500 race opponents and I sang the National Anthem before the race (a pre-race ritual I’ve never experienced before, but rather enjoyed) and dashed off on a flat out-and-back three mile race. Before the race was even finished, initial printouts of results were taped up and Lions club members were firing up the grill for a pancake breakfast. They are efficient here in Leawood, although Lion Bruce was lamenting the fact that the pancakes were sticking to the grill. Apparently last year the flipping process was smoother. They tasted great anyways.
Between eating pancakes with runners, groaning with fans as the Royals left the bases loaded, and silently listening to Buck O’Neil talk about Jackie Robinson, I started to feel an affinity towards Kansas City that sinks a little deeper than ribs and barbeque sauce.
September 7, 2011
While there is a LOT to do in Shanghai, shopping remains king. I met a gal here from Beijing who came with an empty suitcase and one purpose. To fill it. Her attempt to close the bag at the end of her two days in Shanghai was testament to sheer shopping options in Shanghai. Whether you want high end merchandise, fake high end merchandise, cheap souvenirs, or a cool window shopping experience: Shanghai has you covered.
For souviners that scream “China,” the place to go is Yuyuan Gardens in Shanghai’s rapidly disappearing Old Town. I remember Yu Gardens from when I was here six years ago. It was loud, crowded, dirty, and most of all: smelly. I was kinda sad when I returned. Yu Gardens (like all of Shanghai) has cleaned up. The sewer smell was almost non-existent and the din of the crowd seemed calmer too. This is still the place for Chinese-y souvenirs though. Jade Buddha’s, China dolls, silk in any form, chopsticks, and toys spill out from store fronts into the streets. Yu Gardens is all about bargaining – you can usually get whatever you want for at least ½ (if not ¼) of the initial asking price. Bargaining is done via calculator. The salesclerk will type in a ridiculous price, you’ll type in a fourth of that price and then she looks hurt, as if she’d have to live in a cardboard box for the rest of her life if that’s all you’re willing to pay. However if you shrug and walk away she’ll most likely chase you down the street, accepting that price after all. Yu Gardens isn’t really a place to spend a day – it’s kinda tacky. For some ambiance with your shopping, head uptown.
The French Concessions
There are two main shopping centers in the French Concessions, Xintiandi and Taikang. Taikang was my favorite by far. You know how trendy boutique places in America try to create an “old world” feel by creating fake old building and putting up strings of lights? The Taikang Road Art Centre accomplishes that feel without even trying. The narrow alleys, cobblestone walkways and tiny cafes create an endless maze of shops and wine bars. Chinese people live in or above the shops, thus solidifying that this place is “real,” not created. The prices vary here. I got a dress for the equivalent of $15, although most stores were offering merchandise at ten times the price. The restaurant options at Taikang are plentiful, whether you want Tibetan dumplings, New York pizza, Spanish tapas, Tandori chicken, Japanese sushi, or Swiss fondue. Most restaurants have just a few tables and a tiny bar area so prepare to get cozy with the people around you. I ate at a little Italian place (I missed cheese, what can I say?) and watched my waiter/cook make my fettuccini carbonara from my perch at the bar. Taikang Road is right across the street from the Dapuqiao station on metro line 9.
Xintiandi is the other cluster of shops in the French concessions. This place had a decidedly more “French” feel (as opposed to Taikang, which was more international) and was a little more boring. There were some cute stores, but the big restaurants and open courtyards felt a little too close to a shopping mall for my taste. Many of the restaurants were American chains – Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Starbucks (of course), and even California Pizza Kitchen. The Xintiandi metro station is on line 10.
For brand name shopping amongst crowds and crowds of people, head to the pedestrian-only Nanjing Road. This has been the fashion mecca of Shanghai for nearly one hundred years and is centrally located between People’s Square and the Bund. Hundreds of stores, hotels, and McDonalds can be found along this shopper’s haven. While taking in the crowds and stores along Nanjing Road, be prepared for numerous “salesmen” to come up to you with laminated pictures of Rolex watches and Gucci bags. If you show the slightest bit of interest (a millisecond of eye contact for example), they’ll lead you just off the main drag to a room full of (illegal) fakes. On a **ahem** totally unrelated note, I am the proud owner of a new “Coach” purse. To get to the heart of Nanjing Road, head for the East Nanjing Road station (not the West) on metro line 2.
Faking it under the Science and Technology Museum
If you have a long shopping list from your girlfriends that includes Coach, Gucci, Prada, head across the river to Pudong. You’ll find the mother of all fake markets under the Science and Technology Museum. Be sure to bargain here as well. If you can’t find the exact thing you are looking for, the storekeepers will pull extra stock for you out of hidden nooks and crannies, behind false walls or in another location. To get to the fake markets, take metro line 2 to the Science and Technology Museum, and there you are.
Be aware that fakes are technically illegal. On your way back to the states you are asked to declare purchases and customs people can inspect your luggage. If they find twenty “Prada” bags you might find yourself in a bit of trouble.
September 4, 2011
Okay, I know most people go to the fair to ride rides and eat food. And I definitely consumed my fair share of fried cheese curds. However, the best part of the day was checking out the animals. Particularly the baby ones. I’m not exactly a hard-core animal lover, but come on, how can you not love these little guys?
The ten pigs were born at the fair the day we were there. We watched mama pig go into labor in the morning and returned a few hours later to check out her offspring. Prego-animals of all types give birth for oohhing and awing crowds in the “Miracle of Life” barn. In case you can’t get close enough to the action, a big TV shows instant replays of all the gory details. Although all the newbies were pretty cute, the lambs were definitely my favorites. They brought back some memories…
Twenty-something years ago my family was taking a walk along a country road near my parents friends’ home in Mt. Vernon, WA. We stopped to check out a sheep and her new babies when my dad suddenly hopped the fence and barged into the barn. Wielding a stick to keep the mom away, Dad whipped off his coat and soon had a lamb nestled in his arms.
Apparently the mother sheep had been stepping on her baby with the intent of rejecting it. Nice, huh? Dad was playing the part of Child Protective Services by removing the lamb from its dysfunctional family situation.
Farmer Dad made some calls and we were soon bottle feeding “Lambchops” and getting him settled with his new foster parents. Despite protests from my then-two-year-old brother and me, Lambchops didn’t get to live in our house in the suburbs but had to stay with my parent’s friends (shout out to Rick and Rutheia! Thanks you guys!)
Lambchops did get to go to preschool with me, as a nifty show-and-tell item. I still remember my mom chasing him around the neighborhood, trying to wrangle him into the back of the Datsun. Lambchops unfortunately lived a short life, as he consumed a poisonous plant a few months later and died. At least that’s the story I was given as a child. My dad really likes rack of lamb, so I remain suspicious.
If you want to see baby farm animals for yourself, I recommend you check out a state fair. If you want to steal one from your neighbor, you are on your own. My dad appears to be in animal-rescue-retirement. The Minnesota State Fair is in St. Paul each year. It takes place during the last weeks in August until Labor Day.