Saturday, April 7, 2012

French Kissed

So I left the house this morning on a quest to visit one of the places stuck to my laptop on a tiger-shaped post-it note. I made it there (I'll write about it soon, but I need to do some scanning first), and afterwards found myself wondering what else I might do on this beautiful Saturday afternoon. An Aussie traveler who'd just come out of the museum sat down next to me, pondering the same thing, and asked for suggestions. I sent him off to Tianzifang, but opted to go on a walk-about myself. It occurred to me that I've never written about the French, excuse me, former French Concession (apparently there is some touchiness about that title - harkens back to the humiliating days of colonialism - and a pizza restaurant recently had to issue a public apology for listing their address as the French Concession) and today seemed like a good opportunity to rectify that situation.

My first night out in Shanghers, long ago, was in the French Concession (in for a penny, in for a pound - if I'm going to get in trouble with the glorious People's Republic of China, it will probably not be for dropping the Former, and I'm feeling rebellious...I'm blaming this on my second reading in a month of J. Maarten Troost's Lost on Planet China) with Roisin. We went to this place called the Boxing Cat Brewery, which was probably wasted on a Mormon girl, but it was fun anyways, and they have pretty good virgin drinks there, not to mention the food. I'd met Roisin briefly twice - we were two weiguk ships passing in the Korean night, back in the day, but we both seemed to be of the opinion that anyone who's cool by Bronte is cool by me, and that has proven to be a pretty good rule of thumb. And what is cool by Roisin has proven to be cool by me, as well. Also, she told me that whatever I had to do to have heated floors come winter would be worth it, and boy, was she right. Of course, the French Concession is pretty much cool with EVERY foreigner who steps foot in Shanghai. Everybody wants to live there (okay, everybody but me - give me heated floors and toilets that flush properly over quaint apartments anyday). This is probably because it tricks you into thinking you're NOT IN CHINA ANYMORE.

After all, a scene like this you would expect in Paris more than Shanghai. Of course, Shanghai was once known as the Paris of the East, and this is where the Frenchies made their homes, so I suppose that makes sense. But you just don't expect to see this
and this
just blocks away from each other. It's an area of old apartments with lots of character, in interesting shapes with more than one level. It has Irish pubs, Greek restaurants, clothing boutiques, and shops selling knickknacks. And if you want to feel like you are somewhere besides China, you are more likely to get that here than anywhere else in the city. But as for me, I'll keep K-Town, thank you very much. As I pulled up to the A.P.T. on the bike the other day, I heard, "Mi-guk," and the ensuing conversation I had with a couple of Korean school children warmed the cockleburrs of my little heart. Ahssahbyo!

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