20 February 2009

Day 03 Shanghai

February 14th, Valentine's Day and our three-year anniversary. While out and about the past couple days I have been wearing just a t-shirt, but today was much colder and cloudier than previous days. Our itinerary today included a few tourist sites and then a fabulous dinner that we made reservations for a month ago.

First, we took the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel from the west side of the river (Puxi) to the east side (Pudong). This is no ordinary tunnel, mind you. You ride in enclosed modules (rather space-agey) on tracks through a tunnel covered in LEDs, lasers, and inflatable clowns. It's a good thing that neither one of us suffer from seizures because this was a mind trip. At the same time, it was a classic Chinese attraction because it was a lame attempt to be high-tech, well worth the 5 dollar ticket though.

Once we were on the other side, we went to visit the iconic Oriental Pearl TV Tower, a simultaneously perverse and communist building that is the symbol for Shanghai, like the Space Needle for Seattle.

You can buy tickets to the top, but since the air was not clear, we stuck to the Shanghai History Museum on the bottom floor. Rather than using artifacts or pictures, the museum relied on dioramas to recreate thousands of years of history. Some of them were very accurate; the hair on some of the Chinese mannequins was authentically balding--you could see individual hair follicles. Some of the exhibits though left us bewildered. Take the image below for example:

This is supposed to be a famous dance hall for the westerners in the French Concession during the occupation of Shanghai at the beginning of the twentieth century. The figures are about the size of Barbies and look like zombies. I'm not kidding! I call this the "Zombie Ball." It was really creepy because opposite this was a life-size reproduction of a hovel with poor Chinese covered in dirt. I'm not sure if this juxtaposition was intentional by the museum staff, but you can just imagine the message they're conveying: Look at the tiny, money-grubbing foreigners sucking the life out of the honorable, proud Chinese. Overall, the dioramas with Chinese figures were much more lifelike than any that contained a baigui (white devil). We left the museum in a state of befuddlement.

Then on to another museum, the Urban Planning Museum in People's Square, that was chock full of more dioramas about the future development of Shanghai and, more importantly, for the World Expo in 2010. (Shanghai has count-down clocks around the city that let you know there are 440 days left until the Expo.) By this time, we were tired, cranky, and overwhelmed by all the minute details. Turner took a lot of pictures though.

For dinner, we had reservations for the special Valentine's Day menu at Casanova, an Italian restaurant in the French Concession. At our table was a red rose and specially printed menus for the evening's four-courses, along with two flutes of Tattinger champagne. My menu consisted of Steamed Crab Meat with Cress Salad, White Beans, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Fig Vinaigrette Dressing; Fettuccine with Boston Lobster Sauce and Thyme; and Crispy Red Fish Fillet with Saffron Sauce, Mashed Chick Peas and Asparagus. Turner had Pan Fried Goose Liver with Port Sauce, Goose Liver Terrine with Orange and Marinated Goose Liver in Sweet Wine Sauce; "Candy" Dumpling Stuffed with Porcini Mushrooms Served with Butter Sauce, Truffle Pate and Crispy Parmesan Cheese; and Pan Fried Beef Tenderloin Wrapped with Smoked Ham, Rosemary and Mustard Sauce. The dessert course was shared, called the Cupid's Platter with Chocolate and Rum Mousse, Ricotta Cheesecake, Coconut Shooters, and Truffles. (You can tell that I saved the menu so I would not forget all the details!)

After our first glasses of champagne, we knew we would need more to go with dinner so we ordered a bottle of Prosecco. Everything was delicious! Yes, I ate a little crab and lobster, the first tasted like tuna and the second I gave mostly to Turner to eat but it flavored the pasta sauce nicely. Turner said that his beef was "something else," the best he'd ever had. This was a very memorable V-Day and anniversary, with better food and drink than we can usually afford in the US. Ah, the benefits of being an expatriate.


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