Family in China Part 1: Exploring Shanghai

There’s something about showing people I love a piece of my life abroad. Today I dropped my parents off at the airport after an amazing 10 days in China. Having them here meant the world- We did a lot in ten days so let me break it down:

Part 1: Exploring Shanghai (note: Days 1-5, 10)

Part 2: Exploring Hanghzou (note: Days: 5-7) 

Part 3: Exploring Beijing (note: Days 7-9)

Let’s begin!

Day 1: They arrived (yay!) We took a taxi to my area of town and ate Chinese halal dumplings called “jiao-zi”

Aren’t they cool? 🙂


Day 2: Yay they are here and rested. We ate a Western style breakfast at Warehouse Cafe. We walked around YuYuan Garden for the majority of the afternoon.


Go into the garden for a peaceful escape from the busy city, expect several traditional buildings with old furnishings and newly painted palace-esque structures, but in all reality, its pretty and green and the walk ways aren’t too crowded. Eat xiaolongbao, a famous Shanghai specialty and definitely get a giant mango smoothie in this touristy area.


Take the metro Line 10 Yuyuan Garden to Shanghai Railway Station. Walk (I used Apple Maps) from Shanghai Railway Station to the M50 Art District. This is a super cool graffiti’d area with cool cafes with ample AC. Walk out of the Art District towards Changhua Road. Urban Grill is just a few blocks down at the intersection of Anyuan Road.

To wrap up their first day in Shanghai we ate delicious Mediterranean food at Urban Grill and waited out a brief rain shower.

Day 3. Being the fabulous tour guide and active daughter I am, I dragged the fam to my yoga class. In the Shanghai heat it was more like hot yoga.


Before the class we chatted in a local cafe called Paradox, after the class we bought fruit from a fruit stand and reenergized with coconut water (from actual coconuts).

That afternoon we toured the Bund, ate Yang’s dumplings, and had Coco bubble milk tea before walking to Mayita’s rooftop for dinner and a view.

Dad and I walked home (thank you Apple Maps) and went to dive bars along the way. Nothing like father-daughter bonding, walking in the rain, and drinking beer!

Day 4: Not gonna lie TimeOut Shanghai provided the best walking tours for this trip. Today I took the fam on a walking tour of the French Concession.

Follow these steps to take your tour! Courtesy of TimeOut Shanghai

Walking time: 1.5 hours Starting point: Shanghai Library metro station, Line 10

1. Secret garden

From Shanghai Library metro station, head north up Hunan Lu. At number 11, you’ll find the 1984 bookstore (this was closed when we went, but there is another cafe nearby) Question: What shape is the window outside the cafe?

2. Secluded cocktails

Double-back and turn immediately left, heading north on Yongfu Lu. At number 200 is Yongfoo Elite (open 11am-10pm daily), which was recently renovated in May 2016. A cool quiet garden area. Great photo op here. Question: At the entrance is a sign featuring a man and a woman wearing a scarf. What colour is it?

3. Inside the lanes 

Continue up Yongfu Lu, passing the Shanghai Film Group headquarters on your left. At Wuyuan Lu turn left, and continue until you hit Wukang Lu at the end of the street. Here, take a right and head north. Near the top, close to Anfu Lu, head into Lane 40 on your left. Turn right in the lane and have a look at building number one, with a large green door below a stone arch. Question: To the left of the door is a row of post boxes. How many are there?

4. Hidden propaganda

Keep going up Wukang Lu until you hit Huashan Lu. You’re right opposite number 868, a non-descript block of flats. If you go around the back to building 4, you’ll find the excellent Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre (open 10am-5pm daily, entry 25RMB) in the basement, with no signs telling you where it is. You can, however, get directions from the security staff who will give you a name card with directions.

I highly recommend this museum, so fascinating!

Otherwise, turn left and go west down Huashan Lu to lane 1100.

Question: Look at the building to your right as you head into Lane 1100 (the sign reads Fuyuan Yakun). Which animal is depicted by the statuettes at the entrance? 

5. Off the track knick-knacks

From here, cross the road and head south on leafy Xingguo Lu, which takes you down into the residential areas of the western French Concession where the Party cadres live. At Taian Lu turn right and walk until you see the stone-carved archway announcing number 120. Pop inside, and turn left down the lane to find building number 15, which houses the charming shop Aroom (open midday-8.30pm Tue-Sun), decorated with plenty of knick knacks. This is a fabulous place to rest in the AC and grab a latte or mango smoothie!

Question: In the wrought iron gates at the entrance of 120 Taian Lu there are two animals. What are they?

6. A secret language (French)

Double back along Taian Lu, and continue south along Xingguo Lu until you hit the Huaihai Zhong Lu/Wukang Lu apex, by the red-bricked Normandie Building, designed by László Hudec. Cross Huaihai Lu and head south down Tianping Lu, where you will pass by Old Jesse restaurant on your left, turning right where it meets Kangping Lu. A few metres west you’ll find the pretty, curio-filled Le Petit Jardin at number 220 (open 11am-11pm Mon-Thur, 11am-midnight Fri-Sun), complete with sunny conservatory, slightly-overpriced coffee, wi-fi and snoozing cats.Question: How many nutcracker statues are there in Le Petit Jardin’s window?

Getting home: From here continue west until you hit Huashan Lu, where you’ll see signs for Line 10’s Jiaotong University metro station, not far up the road to your right.

We used Apple maps and headed to Shanghai Community Fellowship for an evening of worship! Afterwards we continued our French themed day and dined at La Cabane for some lovely French food and wine with one of my Shanghai friends from Iowa (yay for the Midwest).

Day 5: We got up early, ate a street food breakfast and took the bullet train to Hangzhou! See Family in China Part 2: Exploring Hangzhou.

Day 10: When we returned from Beijing we had a last full day ahead.

We started the day by having breakfast and coffee with another friend of mine from New Zealand. What started as a supposed “meet in Tianzifang at this restaurant that opens early” ended as let’s go to this chain cafe because the other one was closed. But we ordered really expensive “poop” coffee and had a lovely chat. Let me just explain about the poop. It was really good shit let me tell you and probably one of the best cups of coffee in Shanghai, mostly because it’s from Bali and “it has been produced from the coffee beans which have been digested by a certain Indonesian cat-like animal called then palm civet or also civet cat. This is the reason kopi luwak is also called cat poop coffee or civet cat coffee. The feces of this cat will be collected, finished and sold as kopi luwak.” So there you have it. Cat poop coffee is the most-expensive coffee in the world. Done and done. Insert coffee emoji and facepalm here.

Tianzifang is a lovely back alleyway of quaint shops and souvenirs and old-time Shanghai feels. Go here for a stroll and meander through the winding paths before continuing on walking tour number 1 for the day. Thanks again TimeOut Shanghai~

shanghai tianzifang

Note: we got slightly turned-around and there was a some construction going we walked through the lanes and toured the temple then ended back at Laoximen metro to head to the starting point of walking tour number 2.  It was a cool part of town that I had never been before!

Old City Wall Walking Tour

1. Begin at Laoximen metro station (exit 7) – as per the name, this was once the western gate of the old city.

2. Head to Confucius Temple (215 Wenmiao Lu, 15RMB).

(Really neat to see a temple in the middle of a city)
3. Lunch around the corner at Zhejiang restaurant Kong Yi Ji (36 Xuegong Lu). Most notably, they make their own huangjiu and sell it in plastic bottles out of a take-away window. (We did not have lunch here).
4. At the far east end of Wenmiao Lu is a great chance to dive into some of Shanghai’s narrowest residential lanes. Jump into any and explore.
This is about where we got turned around and wanted to venture other places. The following directions are taken from the “Walled City Adventure Walking Tour” from Timeout Shanghai.
5. The intersection of Penglai Lu and Ninghe Lu sees the start of the Ninghe Lu market, an open wet market that’s always full of action, packed with locals and a great place to pick up some traditional snacks.
6. Pass by the former residence of Ming Dynasty scholar-bureaucrat and important Shanghai figure Xu Guangqi, a humble house marked with by a plaque at 234 Qiaojia Lu.
7. A grand gateway at 113 Qiaojia Lu marks the entrance to Catalpa Garden, once the finest residence in this part of town. Head into the lane to see a European-style villa (not open to the public) where, in 1922, artist Wang Yiting lived and hosted a dinner for Albert Einstein.

8. The walk finishes at Xiaonanmen metro station. A concrete-clad structure sits opposite exit 2 on Zhonghua Lu. Built in the early 20th century and said to have been inspired by the Eiffel Tower, this was an observation tower for fire prevention. Other similar structures existed in Shanghai, but only this one remains.


Walking Tour Number 2: Eileen Chang’s Shanghai (this is one of my favorites!)

Born in Shanghai in 1920 as Zhang Ying (her mother later renamed her Zhang Ailing), Eileen Chang went on to become one of China’s best known writers. In addition to spells in Tianjin and Hong Kong, the author of Lust, Caution and Love in a Fallen City spent many of her formative years in Shanghai, penning some of her most famous works here.
There are numerous sites associated with Chang dotted around the city, though unfortunately only a handful have received protective cultural heritage status. Her former school for example, the St Maria Girls’ School from which she graduated in 1937, now stands in ruin in the middle of a construction site next to Zhongshan Park metro station after it was nearly demolished several years ago. This walk takes in some of her old haunts in Jingan and the former French Concession.
Starting point Nanjing Xi Lu metro station, line 2
Walking time 1.5 hours

1. Head out of exit one onto Nanjing Xi Lu itself and turn left, crossing the junction with Maoming Bei Lu and going past the entrance of Jingan Villas to number 1081. Inside the gates, you’ll find a grand red brick building housing a Chinese restaurant surrounded by smaller, more modest white-washed houses. The simpler buildings make up Zhonghua New Estate, where Chang lived with her aunt for a short time after they vacated the Changde Apartment complex, where this walk will end.

Question: Dragons adorn the entrance to the Meilongzhen Jiujia restaurant. How many green dragon heads are there in total?

2. Retrace your steps back out through the gates and towards Jingan Villas. Use the pleasant old Shanghai longtang as a cut through to Weihai Lu.

At Weihai Lu, turn left toward the junction with Maoming Bei Lu. Just beyond the bakery on the left used to stand the house of Cao Qiqiao, the main character in Chang’s The Golden Cangue, purportedly based upon an aunt of the author. The original building was demolished some time ago. Head south on Maoming Lu and turn right when you get to the junction with Yanan Zhong Lu, just past KIN. At number 740 Yanan Zhong Lu, just past a VW showroom, is the entrance to the leafy Kangle Estate, mentioned in Chang’s short story A Flower in a Sea of Sins.

Question: Below the lamp on the right of the entranceway to the Kangle Estate there is a plaque of what?

3. Once you’ve taken in the plesantly peaceful longtang, continue heading west along Yanan Zhong Lu and use the pedestrian bridge over the junction with Shaanxi Nan Lu to cross underneath the Yanan raised road to the southwest corner, beside the Hengshan Moller Villa. The fairytale gothic-style Villa, today a fairly exclusive hotel, was built by British merchant Eric Moller for his youngest daughter and completed in 1936 after a decade-long construction period.


Keep going along the southern edge of Yanan Zhong Lu until you reach number 877, opposite the Russian classical-style Shanghai Exhibition Centre. Beside the entranceway at 877 is a small plaque commemorating the former residence of Mao Guangsheng, an accomplished Ming dynasty scholar.

Question: Next door to the entranceway is an old Concession-era house, now home to a branch of which restaurant chain?

4. Head in through the gateway at 877, travelling south until you can go no further. At this point, turn right, squeeze through a small gateway and continue on until the complex, Siming Estate, opens up into one of its main passageways. Chang lived for a short time here before 1945 with her first husband Hu Lancheng, himself a renowned writer and editor. Other important Chinese literary figures such as poet Xu Zhimo also resided here and the area is one of the best preserved longtang in the city. Head south from here and you’ll emerge on Julu Lu. This is an area with with cafes and restaurants always changing!

Question: Turn and look back to the first building inside the estate. How many stories are there above the archway?

5. Turn right on Julu Lu and head west to the junction with Fumin Lu. Here, take a right heading north under the raised Yanan Lu, past the site of the new Shangri-La hotel and Kerry Centre, and across Nanjing Xi Lu. On the western side of Changde Lu at number 195 is the beautiful Art Deco structure of the Changde Apartment. Chang lived here for two stints and penned novels Love in a Fallen City and The Golden Cangue during her time in the complex.

Question: According to a heritage plaque on the wall, Chang’s second stay in these apartments lasted until what date?

Along the way we stopped for beers at World of Beer. BrewDog brewery out of Scotland had a “12 tap takeover”. Nothing like an ice cold beer on a hot day out walking the city.

6. The ground floor of Changde Apartment is now occupied by a small coffee shop (it’s delightful!) supposedly dedicated to the author. In practice, this means that there are a few posters displaying Chang’s face, Chinese editions of her books and, if you’re lucky, the odd copy in English. Nonetheless, a small courtyard hidden out the back makes for a pleasant place to rest your feet after walking this far, with coffee, tea, bottled beers and glasses of wine all for 50RMB each. According to the menu, this is where Chang ‘found her favorite cream cake’. Question: What is the name of this cafe?

Note: Getting home From Changde Apartment, Jing’an Temple metro station is just a minute’s walk away. Follow the signs for lines 2 and 7.


This is my hood so we walked back to my place and along the way stopped for wonton’s across from Paradox cafe on Wuding Lu. My wonton lady serves the best! What a day celebrating Dad’s birthday in Shanghai too! We called it an early night since my parents would be flying out the next day.

It’s been a whirlwind of a trip; lots of walking (10-15 miles a day), site-seeing, funny t-shirt reading, exploring local sides to the cities, and spending quality time with family. I am so blessed and thankful for my family! Cheers~

Read more about Family Adventures here:

Part 2: Exploring Hanghzou (note: Days: 5-7) 

Part 3: Exploring Beijing (note: Days 7-9)










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