One of my favourite areas in Shanghai is the French Concession. The streets are older and narrower and there are glimpses into the history of Shanghai hidden in dusty alleys and behind wrought-iron fences – sometimes it feels as if one is stepping back in time. In summer the plane trees offer leafy shade from the baking heat, but at the moment they seem very hesitant to welcome the incoming spring weather – their winter boughs are still without cover.
Last weekend we started our Saturday morning with a brunch in the trendy Tianzifang area – this is a community in which some of the older shikumen (stone gate) buildings have been restored and combined into an up-market arty district of art galleries, shops, boutiques, restaurants and bars. Some of the residents still have their homes above and among the converted buildings, but as the area seems to grow more popular and prosperous, they appear to be being squeezed out by more commercially viable projects.
However, it is a really an interesting place to visit, to have a drink or a meal, or just to browse through the shops or the art galleries.
We fortified ourselves with brunch at Origin – their Eggs Benedict with Salmon and Spinach was a real treat.
We had the whole upstairs area to ourselves when we first arrived, but it became busier as we lingered over our meal.
After further sustenance via a delicious bread basket, we set off through the streets of the French Concession – always finding different routes and streets to explore, always fascinating, as life spills onto the street and mingles with the passing traffic.
Our destination was the shop/fruit stall belonging to the now famous “Avocado Lady” of Shanghai. This enterprising lady is one of the few fruit sellers that stocks avocado pears and has increased her standing amongst the ex-pat community by stocking other imported goods, ranging from cheese to anchovies, olive oil to pesto, as well as all sorts of fruit and veg, both local and exotic. Her prices are considered to be cheaper than some of the retailers that specialise in imported products. I managed to limit our spending to avo’s (from Mexico), blueberries (from Chile), and some asparagus, but if M hadn’t been there to curtail my buying instincts, I am sure I would have loaded my backpack to the brim. Perhaps the knowledge that we still had to detour through Carrefour for our regular grocery shopping also helped to dampen my enthusiasm.
P.S. The avo’s are delicious!