The latest column from Anne Rogers…
I have previously written about Shanghai; perhaps my favourite city, and completely worthy of the glowing prose I, and others, produce. Having just returned from my annual visit, I am unable to stop thinking about how I spent a recent Sunday morning, and it seems only fair to share!
Fuxing (pronounced Fooshing by the way) Park, once the largest in the city, is in the middle of Shanghai’s fabulous French Concession. It was beautifully designed by the French and established in the early 1900’s. Today it is an exquisite reminder of all which is stylish and beautiful about Shanghai, as well as being the very best place I can think of to be on a Sunday. Make a list of simple pleasures – it can be as long as you wish, head to Fuxing Park and start ticking.
This beautiful old garden is home to manicured playing fields, surrounded by ancient figs, magnolias and pines. Rose beds add color, as to myriad beds of annuals. It’s a pleasure to visit at any time however, come Sunday, the park becomes a magnet for local residents – old, young, able-bodied, and physically challenged. They arrive alone, in couples, family groups, or social groups. Park benches are filled with senior folk chatting about the week just past. Newspapers are read and shared, and I imagine there is much chat about the headlines. Activities are both noisy and quiet, solo and group; everyone seems to just enjoy their own personal pastime, oblivious to all the activity around them. You get the impression that this is an absolutely not negotiable weekly ritual.
Back to your list; it might contain; ballroom dancing, badminton, frisbee, kite-flying, tai chi, choir singing, opera singing, solo singing, big bands, small bands, solo instrument playing (BYO power box). It might also have on it water-coloring and sketching, a visit to Speaker’s Corner to “rant”, mahjong, cards, a picnic, street-art Chinese style (beautiful calligraphy on the sidewalk in watercolor paint), a blood pressure check. It’s all here. The Chinese are not at all self-conscious, so photographs are welcome – usually with some assistance to get the best vantage point – and offers to join in are frequent and genuine. It’s impossible not to be completely taken in by the sweet whimsy of it all.
I have previously written about Shanghai; perhaps my favourite city, and completely worthy of the glowing prose I, and others, produce.
Outside the ornate park gates, the beautiful streets of the French Concession provide a wonderful walking route to one of Shanghai’s Sunday afternoon delights. Streets are lined with big old plane trees which meet in the middle forming a stunning leafy canopy. Gorgeous (and eye-wateringly expensive!) colonial mansions are beautifully restored, and best ogled from the footpath. Classy little shops (especially one selling English bone china in many brands) and tea rooms tempt, as do myriad galleries, and smaller parks along the way.
Presently the massive but incredibly beautiful People’s Park looms, and at noon on Sundays the weekly Marriage Market gets under way. Hundreds of parents and grandparents arrive and “set up shop” along the park’s shady paths. Individual stalls consist of an open umbrella with a laminated flyer attached by bulldog clip. There seems to be a fairly succinct (strictly print only), formula for describing the desperate and dateless offspring – date of birth and height feature prominently. I am certain there would be a long list of rules to be followed. “Buyers” – also seemingly parents and grandparents – prowl the pathways, pen and paper in hand, diligently taking notes, presumably to take home and discuss with offspring over dinner; goodness knows what the kids think of that after a hard day at the office! “Sellers” are keen to engage, and photo albums and phones are enthusiastically produced to anyone taking a merest second glance, with photographs to support the bland print of the flyer on the umbrella. One dear old man was fast asleep in front of a faded and dog-eared flyer which has clearly seen many unsuccessful Sundays!
Not all the world’s great cities are so great on a Sunday, but Shanghai is at its best; be sure to include an uncommitted Sunday when you visit.