Yesterday, I visited the Former French Concession area for the first time and met one of my former Chinese class mates from university, who lives in Shanghai. I took the metro line 10 to Shanghai Library, which is a great starting point for the quieter area of the Former French Concession. Inside the metro station is a cute little bookshop with great post cards, but sadly all their books (except exactly two about Chinese culture) are in Chinese. The first thing I noticed when I came out of the metro station, was that I saw lots of Europeans (opposed to the area we live in Shanghai which feels more like the true China). As we walked along the tree alleys, we discovered many small flower and clothes shops as well as European-style coffee shops and restaurants.
We stopped in a cozy and sophisticated looking inner courtyard on Ferguson Lane and had a look inside a small gallery, a clothes shop, a spa / hair dresser and spent ages on a new rooftop bar called Yogalicious where they serve healthy smoothies, coffee, acaii bowls and cocktails. The rooftop bar was amazing, as it was very chilled out and they actually do yoga there on the rooftop in full sun (never mind it being 35°C in the shadow). However, all the shops around that area are quite expensive for Chinese standards (clothes are between ¥500-1,000, hair cuts between ¥1,000-2,000 and non-alcoholic drinks around ¥30-50).
After some iced coffees and Italian antipasti, we took a taxi to South Shaanxi Road (too hot to walk and so cheap to take a taxi in China) and were amazed by the glamorous tailor shops for traditional Chinese woman gowns (prices about ¥20,000 but looks like it’s worth it) and small vintage / slightly upscale clothes shop in a mix of Chinese / Korean and Western style clothes. A few clothes looked like they might actually fit us (at this point in time one of my colleagues from the UK had joined us) and we will definitely be back after payday.
At the end of our long day, we originally wanted to eat food that is typical for Shanghai, but then spotted an advertisement for a Tunisian restaurant that looked very appealing. This was probably my most adventurous restaurant experience so far: the “restaurant” was on the 3rd floor of a residential house and was basically someone’s private flat. We were the only guests and a Tunisian man and his Chinese wife were making food for us and serving us. Initially when we sat down it felt all so strange to me that for a moment I was considering that it was a scam, so I asked them how much we’re paying per person, as there wasn’t even a menu. They were a bit strange about it, explained that they don’t have a menu and made up a price (68¥ per person for 3 courses – fair enough!) and then I was a bit more relaxed after hearing the price, but it just all felt a bit strange – like we’re in some stranger’s living room! The food was good, but I will definitely not do that again.
Overall, I loved the Former French Concession and can’t wait to go back again soon to wonder around the various small shops and cafés!
Please leave a comment with your favourite places in the Former French Concession, if you have travelled to or live in Shanghai!