Saturday, August 23, 2014

Set the Wayback Machine to...2011

There is no place in all of Shanghai I love as well as Tianzifang.  My first year there was more than half over the first time I went there, which was for a friend's birthday.  JoAnn was with me - hell, pretty much all of my friends except her husband were there, and we felt the need to remedy the fact that he hadn't come with us about two weeks later.  We ate dinner at the same restaurant, Bali Bali; the food was okay, but we were more charmed by the building. 

Tianzifang is partly known for this architecture, which I had to look up to find the name...shikumen.  Between these 2-3 story structures are narrow alleys, along which are galleries and shops, some selling communist kitsch, others selling stationery with mangled English.  The narrow alleys are hellish on a Saturday afternoon,  but I've braved them more than once. 
On the night I went back with JoAnn and Michael, however, it was cool and rainy.  We wandered into the museum this fountain is attached to and saw the most incredible glass art.  The prices were pretty steep, but I fell in love with a necklace that I went back for after payday, and never felt buyer's remorse!
Of all the art in this art heavy district, this was one of my two favorites.  This guy makes paintings of traditional Chinese landscapes with ink, but does away with all the fancy brushes...he uses his fingers to get the job done.  It kind of shocked me to see what he could do.  (The other favorite was work by a surrealist/printmaker/illustrator.  I'm still wishing I'd found a way to afford the print of the girl riding the tiger made out of rabbits.  It was cool).
Another favorite was the place that sold ocarinas.  In a former life I was a flutist, and I own more than a couple of these clay whistles.  It was incredible to see them in so many shapes and sizes.
The variety of restaurants was another draw for me, and led to more than one guilty post-church Sunday afternoon side trip (not my fault that a:I was starving when church got out, b: it was right on my metro ride, and c: I was still a ridiculous distance from home!)  Some of them are better than others.  Yes, the sign says Teddy Bear Thailand Restaurant.  No, I never ate there.  I went back to Bali Bali a number of times and was a fan of Lotus Land Indian restaurant, too - but probably would have passed them both by if the New York Style Pizza had ever been open after I finally discovered their Brooklyn.

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