My daily exploration trips just started.
In the first few days we had other things to take care of such as finding the nearest grocery store and fill up the fridge which is, by the way, the only thing giving me an idea of stability and permanence. The apartment is still empty and our stuff is supposed to hit the Chines shore only in a handful of days.
Once again, I'm learning to live minimalist which is not so bad after all : less stuff to dust, no unnecessary clutter around the house. However my back hurts from watching tv lying on the floor and sleeping on an inflatable mattress. Of course, nothing a good masseur won't be able to fix :-)
Anyways, like in Taipei, we're back to be dependent on three different supermarkets to find all the products we need and know and, of course, two of them are very conveniently located on the other side of town.
Around where we live there's a couple of very fancy grocery stores selling courgettes with the same display and price of Tiffany's jewelry and where, I believe, the tomatoes are regularly dusted and polished one by one. I'm ready to go over the budget for a box of caviar or a bottle of champagne but not for a carrot.
Therefore we’d rather go to other stores, like Carrefour, selling mostly Chinese goods where the excitement and the sense of achievement at the sight of a familiar brand or product is overwhelming :
- Look they have Barilla !!!!!
- Look this is ricotta cheese !!!
Or, and this is by far the best option, we do our shopping online through several vendors with English websites and a good selection of imported goods.
So now the fridge is full and so is the pantry. My stock of detergents is pretty decent which is quite reassuring to a cleaning freak like me.
I had to replace some appliances because the voltage here is different. I can work with a transformer, a very heavy black box I plug my device into and then plug this into the wall but it’s taking too long and it’s annoying.
So, first thing I've got myself is a very sophisticated wireless steam iron just because I couldn't handle anymore being pushed to buy it by this Chinese woman shouting incomprehensible things into my ear, a blowdryer and a vacuum but both very old school at her utmost disbelief : Vacuum with bags very old, very old !
Eventually, Wednesday last week, I found myself free and ready to take a walk in my new neighbourhood, finally connecting streets where I’ve previously been, in some sort of a personal map where I’m also marking special places of interest which happen to be, at least in my case, mostly shops. Museums and cultural spots can wait.
Muji, the Japanese store, is what has dragged me outside first and pushed me to walk all the way until their flagship store which was a sight for sore eyes.
On three levels with a lovely café inside, it's on Huahuai Road, approximately 20 minutes walk, or one subway stop, from Xintiandi, the neighbourhood where we live.
I liked Xintiandi since our discovery trip in May when I was still very depressed and sad at the idea of leaving my beloved Upper West Side.
It must have been the term "Xin/new" to inspire me. After all in Taipei we were living in Xin-yi and both the neighbourhoods have some resemblances. Central yet recently renovated, are dotted by brand new buildings and malls but, at the same time, at a stone throw away from more authentic streets.
Xintiandi has also a very nice old site of so called Shikumen houses dating back to the mid 19th Century that have been restored and turned into cafes and shops. A bit touristic of course but not bad at all for a first morning coffee at the very beginning of a new experience in Shanghai.
From there it's nice to walk along Fuxing Road and to its crossing streets until the French Concession which is celebrated as the nicest neighbourhood in Shanghai. This is where many expat are hanging out as you can see from the crowd sitting in its cozy cafes and restaurants.
By now I'm quite familiar with Anfu Road, where the Italian Consulate has also his offices, and the perpendicular Wulumuqi Road, name that I've always found pretty curious.
In Anfu Road there's also a store with an incredible selection of movies in dvd for ridiculous prices, including very recent releases which is offsetting the lack of Netflix and the poor quality of the local cable network.
So far my morning walks truly helped me connecting the dots and getting a clearer idea of my whereabouts, feeling less lost and stranded. I must also say that getting around Shanghai is pretty easy.
The subway system is much better than in New York. All the signage is, at least for now, also in English, the trains run often, the platforms are safe because protected by glass panels that are preventing accidental or intentional falls in the tracks, and it's clean.
Taxis can also be handy and extremely cheap as long as the driver understands where you're going which is not often the case.
There were a couple of occasions where my PI (Patience Index) reached an alarming level trying to get to pronounce correctly a million times a very short street name while getting back from the driver a clueless gaze paired by a repetitive "buzidao/I don'tknow".
So far I learnt that yellow cabs are slightly more expensive but the drivers not only seem they more cooperative and smart but their cars are also cleaner and less smelly.
However, according to many, Uber is, also here, in Shanghai, the best option but we're still figuring out how to set up an account with a local credit card.
My next plan is to turn into a committed tourist and explore, day by day, a new area of this immense city so that even if we move again soon and unexpectedly I won't have any sorts of regrets such as I wish I did this or saw that like it happened in NYC.
And now I have plenty of time to do that because I'm somehow in early retirement as my kids disappear to school very early in the morning and I don't see them until the afternoon. I love it and want to enjoy every single bit of a long deserved freedom.