We just had a long lazy brunch at a friend’s house. It was nearing nap time for our middle child. Melt downs were happening.
“Maybe we should just go home?” My husband said.
“No,” I said, “It will be fun. She can sleep in the taxi.” Though I was seriously doubting if it was a good idea. But one thing I have learned from the last 4+ years of being a Mom is that sticking to schedules and naps times can mean never leaving the house and kids are more flexible than we often give them credit for.
So we all hopped into a taxi and surely enough my 2-year old fell promptly asleep. I directed the taxi to take us to the famous Ferguson street in the Former French Concession area (FFC). My husband lifted Miss A onto his shoulders where she kept sleeping and we started walking around. The Former French Concession area is one of the most beautiful and green parts of Shanghai. It was once home to the bulk of Shanghai’s adventurers, revolutionaries, gangsters, and writers (according to the Lonely Planet). And it is still one of the hippest parts of Shanghai.
It is not the first place one would put as a top kid’s destination in Shanghai but I think they enjoyed exploring the area as much as we did. Though we find it key to let the kids set the pace and to let them explore what they find interesting. Which is how we spent a good half hour or so watching a bridal party have pictures taken, but our daughters loved it and they refused to leave until the bride was driven away in her smart Rolls Royce.
Ferguson street is cool. Very hip with good restaurants and art galleries. After our brunch we were not very hungry and, to be honest, we are not very hip. With three small kids we are like a constant moving tornado of energy, which, in the nice interiors of trendy cafes and restaurants, makes me nervous we are going to destroy something. So we tend to like places where dirty children (and parents) can run around and feel at ease. I will say the FFC seems to have a lot of low-key but funky cafes hidden away in its leafy streets.
So we started walking down the leafy streets of the Concession area. We headed up Wukang Street, which is a great part of the FFC. Beautiful old houses and lots of small cozy shops and boutiques. We hadn’t walk too far when it became apparent that Miss A was becoming uncomfortable to keep carrying. Luckily we came across the cafe, Le Salon du Chocolat.
If there is anything that can make an area kid friendly it is chocolate. Hot chocolate, cold chocolate, chocolate cake, and it was all so so good. Except for the techno music playing in the background, it felt almost French. But the chocolate was all excellent. Miss A fortunately woke up towards the end to also get a couple sips of chocolate and a piece of cake. It would not have been the first time that she slept through a yummy family dessert.
With the kids (and us) floating on a sugar high we continued to explore the streets. We came across a photography class, which my daughter decided to join with my iPhone. They had a model doing some posing. We couldn’t understand the instructions in Chinese but we chatted with a couple of the students and made some fun pictures.
In return one of the students sent me a couple pictures he had made of me and the family. This is part of what I love about traveling with kids and worldschooling. Learning is everywhere and people are often more open and friendly when you have kids. And we even, almost, got a decent family picture (which without some photo editing is often impossible).
It was then that Miss O spotted the bridal party. Like many little girls she is obsessed with all things princess, sparkly, and beautiful. This woman in her gorgeous white dress and her bridesmaids were no exception. She was in love. Once we left, Miss O spent the rest of the afternoon telling me she needed a wedding dress and that she needed to get married. I kept saying okay hoping that we didn’t come across anything that resembled a wedding dress.
After over 3 hours of walking around we decided to take the metro to Xintiandi (New Heaven and Earth). Xintiandi is still part of the FFC though a bit more touristy with lots of indoor and outdoor cafes, restaurants, and shops.
Getting there looked simple on the map, we just needed to change metro lines once. It ended up being a whole lot of walking since the metro lines were not actually connected and we needed to walk between them a few blocks. And Chinese city blocks are very very long. We are quickly learning that changing metro lines in Shanghai is often not as simple as it looks, especially if you have 3 small children with you.
But, on the plus side, after all that walking we decided to end the day with dinner at a German restaurant, Paulaner Brauhaus. My Dutchies love their sausages and sauerkraut.
I thought my oldest was going to fall asleep at the table. I will admit I was proud of her. We didn’t have a stroller and I had to carry our 9 month old and Papa was often carrying Miss A, so this meant Miss O walked the whole time. Around 4 hours of walking for a 4-year old (with breaks, of course) is nothing to laugh at. Actually I couldn’t believe she did it. And never once did she even asked to be carried. As the Chinese would say, Li4hai or awesome.