Last time I posted was over a month ago, and I was in the process of writing my end of year report for university – I’m very pleased to say this is now all finished and submitted! To celebrate with me, Bill flew out and we spent a fantastic weekend in Paris practising the art of the flâneur.
Being only three hours away by train, I don’t know why I hadn’t visited Paris already! When asked if they like Paris, people often claim that they love the city but find the Parisiennes to be rude – this was far from my experience, as everyone we encountered was friendly and very patient with my bad French.
Having never explored Paris before I was keen to take in all the touristy sites, and in our brief visit we managed to see a lot. We stumbled into the Grand Carnival in Montmartre, walked the Champs-Élysées, and ate an inadvisable amount of macarons.
After quite a few successive weekends in the lab working on my report, a trip to Paris was just what I needed. I’ve got a few months ahead of me without any uni work, so expect some exciting posts on the following:
- A super fun design collaboration with the excellent Versatyl & Pilgrim of New Street Records for their new single, Lessons/Underground Sound – follow them on all the social medias so you don’t miss it!
- Complaints about camping and snarky comments about all the acts I get to catch at Eurockéennes Festival next weekend!
- A guest post exchange with the fabulous ALMSEE, who’s fresh off the plane from Trek America – find out more about her travels on her blog!
- A picky vegetarian restaurant review for my follow chemistry student Greg of the brilliantly named new food blog Boy Who Eats – I can’t wait to get back to Birmingham and check out some of his recommendations for myself!
Of course you can also find the usual travel snaps and self-important ramblings right here – I’ve got two months left in Basel, so I’m hoping to explore the surrounding area some more before flying home to England! As usual, I’d love to here where you think I should go – I’m currently thinking Milan for next month – so let me know in the comments!
As usual, I’ve been using my stack of uni reading as an excuse to go and drink coffee in pretty cities near Basel under the pretence of “studying”. This week, Freiburg:
Freiburg is a small German city on the edge of the Black Forest. I’d visited Freiburg once before, but on a Sunday; as with Basel, Freiburg is pretty much closed on a Sunday so it was great to see it on a busier day. Even if it was a bit grey:
The weather did nothing to deter the stallholders, however; the Freiburg Münstermarkt has existed in one form or another since the town was granted market rights in 1120, so a bit of rain wasn’t about to stop it. There are huge flower stalls, as well as vegetables, handicrafts, and all kinds of exciting food stands.
I even found a stall full of mysterious vegan treats! They’re made from nuts, dates, dark chocolate and dried fruit. I got a few to try, which went well with my coffee on the train home.
I spent the rest of the day exploring Freiburg. The city is full of beautiful cobbled side streets, lined with pastel coloured buildings and “Bächle” – tiny canals set into the ground.
All in all, a great place to get lost for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. On the train back to Basel I encountered a group of Fasnachtlers who were already gearing up for the festivities, which begins this evening! I’ll be at Chienbäse and Morgenstreich tonight – any advice would be greatly appreciated!
When I moved into my Swiss apartment, I was surprised that not one of my new housemates (of which there were almost twenty) was vegetarian. I guess vegetarians have a tendency to surround themselves with other vegetarians for convenience’s sake.
It was only a matter of time before my new housemates started to question my vegetarianism. I never try and “recruit” people as vegetarians, and as a rule I presume that no one cares what I eat which is thankfully most often the case. I’m always really happy, though, to tell people more if they show an interest – and not once since September have I had to field the age-old, “but where do you get your protein from??”. Nine times out of ten, people don’t want to lecture you on your dietary choices – more often they’re just making polite conversation.
My problem is, this topic of conversation always seems to get raised around mealtimes – for obvious reasons. My choice not to eat comes from a purely ethical basis; I’m always a bit smug when I read about the health/environmental benefits of cutting down on meat, but I can’t pretend that’s my number one reason for avoiding it. For this reason, it’s quite difficult to answer this question in a way that doesn’t make it sound like I’m judging everyone else. When the rest of the table have just ordered massive steaks or veal-and-foie-gras-wellington or whatever, I really don’t feel like getting all Morrissey about it. This usually leads to me claiming I, “don’t know” why I’m vegetarian (which is unconvincing at best), or point blank refusing to discuss the matter, which I’m pretty sure is just as much of a mood killer as going into the gory details of the beef industry during the main course.
So, this goes out to anyone who’s quizzed me on my eating habits recently: Thanks for asking! I know this probably reads as a deeply entitled, self righteous rant, so well done for making it to the end.
And for any other vegetarians/vegans reading: Do you encounter this problem too? Let me know how you field it in the comments!
The last couple of days here have been super busy! The conference started on Monday, and I’ve met so many brilliant lovely people that I’ve been too busy to update until now! I did have a chance to explore the area around the hotel on Monday morning, though. The hotel I’m staying at is in the Xuhui district of Shanghai. The local area has a very different feel to the centre of the city; it’s primarily a residential area, but still has plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. It feels like it has a much slower pace than the centre, which is nice to come back to after a busy day! The hotel is only about 10 minutes walk from a metro station though, so it’s still well connected to the city centre. Despite having a few large hotels, it doesn’t seem to be a particularly touristy area – the majority of
the people you see on the streets seem to be locals. There are lots of street food vendors, with chairs and tables being set out on the streets each day. On Saturday I came across a reasonably sized supermarket, which I then managed to loose again until this evening (it turns out it is literally 5 minutes away, so I’m not sure how!) While I was having a walk around, I came across a really sweet little pâtisserie just around the corner from the hotel. After seeing their cakes on display in the window, I couldn’t resist popping in to try one. And to think I was worried about finding enough to eat while I was here..
It was even cuter on the inside! I had a kind of pasty filled with hazelnut cream, and it was delicious. It also gave me the chance to try out the very limited number of Mandarin phrases I’ve picked up out here, as none of the staff spoke English. If I was here a little longer, I would definitely be
The conference has been keeping me pretty busy – not just with the presentations and posters, but also with a super fun trip to the circus!! More on that soon – it’s the last day of presentations tomorrow, so I’ll post again then.
Another day exploring in Shanghai! After a good night’s sleep I was up and ready to see more of the city. After exploring on my own on Saturday, yesterday I was joined by Phyo, another of the representatives from the University of Birmingham. Shanghai can be a little daunting at times so it was great to have some company!
We set off at 7:30, wanting to make the most of our only free day left before the conference started. First we took the subway from our hotel into Changshu Rd station, from which we walked along Changle Road. Changle Road, which runs right through Shanghai’s French Concession, is home to numerous clothing boutiques, as well as a number of maternity and baby clothing shops; the Maternity and Infant Hospital is also on this road. As it was early morning when we got there a lot of these places weren’t open yet, but it was a great place for a stroll – it’s lively even at 8am on a Sunday, with small motorbikes zipping up and down the streets and clusters of street food vendors serving breakfast on the corners.
We had planned to get a subway into People’s Park after this, but by the time we looked at the map we realised we were already more that half way there. We walked through Square Park, a beautiful green space complete with koi pond centred around a huge crossroads. This area really brings together Shanghai’s mixture of urban spaces and parkland.
Square Park almost joins on to People’s Square, which we visited before heading into town for some serious shopping. Shanghai is full of huge, multi story department stores – the once we went in were pleasingly airconditioned, but did seem to be full of mostly American shops. Generally not the most interesting, although we did get a chance to explore the M&Ms store and see the “Great Wall of Chocolate” (which is exactly what it sounds like – a whole wall on the first floor is covered in massive tubes filled with M&Ms). I also spotted this disheveled looking Mario outside a clothes shop. He was enough to draw me in, but I found to my disappointment that there was no actual Nintendo merchandise in store.
We came across a busy indoor food market, where we could try loads of different local foods – I ate some sort of puff pastry treat which was possibly the sweetest thing I’ve ever tasted. Phyo picked up a sweet mooncake and whole bag of fruits, fresh and dried, none of which I’ve seen in supermarkets back in the UK. I feel like I would do well to be a bit more adventurous with the foods I try out here – I’m just paranoid about taking a bite into something and getting a mouthful of meat or fish!
After this we carried on walking until we got to the edge of the Bund, the main river that runs through Shanghai. This is a bit of a tourist trap, so it was quite busy! The view was still fantastic, though. The space-age looking building to the left is the Oriental Pearl Tower, which (like a lot of the tall buildings here) lights up in rainbow colours at night!
After seeing the Bund, we had one more stop on our itinerary – Yu’yuan Garden. Unfortunately by the time we got there the garden itself was shut, but the bazaar that surrounds it stays open late, so this is where we grabbed some dinner. I employed my “WO CHI SU (I eat vegetables)” flashcard and managed to get a huge, deepfried pancake filled with leek – for only 8元! (That’s about 80p!)
Phyo tried a few different things, including a stick of fried quails eggs, but I was most envious of
the steamed buns she found. A lot of the steamed bun places in the bazaar had huge queues, but we managed to find a quieter one. They even served huge buns, about the size of an apple, which came with a straw stuck in the top for drinking the broth from inside! These all looked yummy.
As it got darker, the bazaar was lit up – it was reminiscent of a German style christmas market with it’s wooden buildings and festive atmosphere. We were both reluctant to leave, but after fourteen hours on our feet the comfort of the hotel began to call and we got the subway back home.
So, that’s been my weekend in Shanghai. As the conference gets underway, I might not be updating as often – but I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures! We’re all off to see an acrobatics show tomorrow night so that should be good. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a photo of me being the biggest tourist ever and posing with my new bff:
After a twelve hour flight (ew) from Amsterdam I made it here! Also I got to watch Cuban Fury on the flight which was cool.
I rode the Maglev train from Pudong Airport into the city – this is literally a levitating train, so it goes super fast! It got up to 430km/h when I was on it. I then got a taxi to the hotel, and after some card troubles (sorted now) I got shown up to my room – on the 28th floor! It’s so high up that getting the lift from the ground floor makes my ears pop. Pretty worth it for the view though.
I was mega tired from all the travelling, so I went to bed pretty soon after arriving. This morning, though, I was up and ready to explore; the U21 Conference doesn’t start until Monday, which means I have a whole weekend to myself here.
First I went to the supermarket to fill up the fridge in my room. I mostly bought bottled drinks – it’s
really warm and sticky here, and you can’t drink the tap water. I also got some blueberry icelollies, which are excellent, and a can of some sort of alcoholic beverage which has Hello Kitty on it. I thought Hello Kitty was kind of for kids so I found this a bit confusing, but having tasted it I can confirm it is definitely alcoholic and actually really nice! I haven’t had anything like it before, and I presume it’s a kind of alcopop – nothing like what we have in Britain though. It’s quite dry and refreshing, and also sweet – almost like a white wine spritzer maybe? I don’t know, but it has made me want to pick up the other flavour to try!
In the afternoon, I headed over to People’s Square – braving the subway on my own! Luckily it was really easy and much less horrifying that the London Underground. I got into town and had a walk through People’s Park; I had no idea how big it was, or that it had fairground rides!
I then wandered round Raffles, a huge shopping mall opposite People’s Square – it had about seven floors, and was fully air conditioned. I needed that! A lot of the shops are the same as you would find over in the UK, which was a bit disappointing. I did, however, find some gems:
I also checked out a huge toy shop, which had possibly the most Gachapon machines I’ve ever seen in one place:
Obviously all this was hungry work, so I hunted down Gong De Lin, Shanghai’s oldest vegetarian restaurant. I had this place recommended to me by my veggie travel guru Natalie of The Tofu Diaries, and I can’t thank her enough! I was greeted by a sign outside the door proclaiming that the chefs had “GODLY vegetarian production skills”, so you can imagine my excitement.
The meal I had was fantastic – although you’ll have to excuse my terrible food photography – I was in too much of a rush to get stuck in. I had some yummy green vegetable rolls with this, but they were long gone by the time I thought to take a photo!
So, that’s how my first 24 hours in Shanghai has been! Is there anything I should be trying to fit into my visit? Let me know below!