Another blog from our friends in Shanghai. As we have frequently found if you’re feeling a bit under the weather, your own bed at home is where you want to be. Also celebrating Christmas and New Year in far away countries has always been a disaster for us, I’m not sure about how our friends feel after their experiences. Are we envious given all I’ve written recently about our lack of travel? I’m not sure. Certainly it’s interesting to compare our friends new year with ours – we were in bed.
One of the difficult things about leading an adventurous life style are those times when you would just like to be back in Blighty. Christmas approached and it did not feel like Christmas at all. Shanghai does put up Xmas decorations but this seems to be mainly for commercial purposes (a bit like home) to attract shoppers onto Nanjing Road and into the many assorted glossy shopping malls.
Most of our Xmas shopping was done over the internet or via long suffering family members who agreed to purchase gifts or pass on money on our behalf. It certainly took the foot slogging out of the equation and with no entertaining so there was no food shopping to do either, apart from a few boxes of M&S mince pies, some smoked salmon and cheeses, we felt rather un-Christmassy. This was to be countered by dinner in our local French restaurant on Christmas Eve, bound to be full of Westerners, or so we thought, celebrating Christmas with the Waldorf Astoria renowned Christmas brunch on the big day itself.
As it turns out, very few Westerners were out in Petanque (the French restaurant) on Christmas Eve and it seemed to have a rather disproportionate number of Chinese clientele dining, quite unusual for this little eatery. Not so Christmassy then, they did have tree up, but nevertheless we had a nice evening, plenty of wine and some rather mediocre food. No problem, we were really looking forward to the Waldorf the following day.
It was not until Christmas morning that I realised that my other half had been up for half the night with what turned out to be food poisoning or a violent reaction to something he had eaten. Troubled at both ends, we concluded by process of elimination that it must have been the mussels from the night before. We gamely opened presents and ate some breakfast before it was time to jump in a taxi to take us for brunch. I had worried that we would struggle to get a taxi on Xmas day. I need not have bothered my head about it; we stepped out to business as usual outside. Shops and banks all open, people going about their ordinary business and taxis aplenty.
My husband (Zhangfu as I now like to call him) still green around the gills, we arrived at the Waldorf Astoria. Staff in full regalia were wishing everyone merry Xmas as they arrived. This wore a little thin after the 10th waiter but never mind, I am not one to be a humbug at Xmas. The event starts in the famous long bar with champagne on tap and beautiful tiered trays of hors d’oeuvres. Unfortunately, Zhangfu was more concerned with locating the nearest washroom. I managed to consume most of the platter of tasty delights and was on my fourth glass of champers when we moved into the Grand Brasserie. Food of every description and as much as you could eat was laid out in an endless buffet with, of course, a lot more wine on offer- all part of the package. Again, I did my best to rise to the challenge, husband less so. We could only reflect that this was probably the most expensive bowl of soup, slice of turkey and cup of tea that he had ever eaten as the brunch was fixed price regardless of what you actually consumed.
By Boxing Day the bout of nostalgia and homesickness had passed, Graham was back at work whilst I took a day off (without pay – it is not a holiday here) and roasted a chicken to make up for his lack of sustenance the day before. All’s well that ends well the chicken was delicious and we even managed a M&S Christmas pudding and brandy sauce for dessert. I am happy to tell you, dear reader, that he was also restored to full wine drinking health.
New Year’s Eve turned out to be a rather bitter sweet occasion for us. We had plans to go with friends to a restaurant on the Bund, the famous waterfront here. The restaurant on the 29th floor of a hotel had a wonderful view of the river below and all the illuminated buildings on both sides of the river, Pudong (east) and Puxi (west). The food was good, no one was sick and, again, the wine flowed being part of an even more expensive package. What feels like the whole of Shanghai flocks down to the river for New Year’s Eve. We briefly braved the freezing winds on the balcony of the 30th floor as the countdown to 2015 was illuminated on a building across the river. At the stroke of midnight was ‘Zhangfu’ waiting to fold me into a manly embrace and wish me a magical 2015? No, dear reader, he was taking photographs on his ipad!
We were well prepared on this occasion and, booking well in advance, were picked up by a London taxi from our home and collected from the hotel at 1.00 am to return us there. The streets were very crowded and progress was slow but we arrived safely home after an hour’s journey. The hangover the next morning was enough for us to swear of alcohol for the whole of January (I am still on the wagon but Zhangfu fell off after 5 days).
It was well into New Year’s Day when we learned of the tragedy that had taken place below us the night before when 35 people were crushed to death on the Bund and many more injured as crowds of people tried to get up the steps to the waterfront as others came down. Rumour has it that someone threw money from a window above the street and those who bent to pick it up were knocked down causing other to fall and a fatal pile up ensued. It does not bear thinking about, the stuff of nightmares.
So, we enter 2015 philosophically and are thankful for our good health and good fortune and an increased awareness of how temporary and tenuous all things are. We wish you all the best, good health and happiness.