Damn straight, I had the dumplings. Within minutes of arriving at Amelia's Shanghai pad, we were off to the city's popular Xintiandi complex to meet her pals at Din Tai Fung for superlative Soup Dumplings (pictured above), delicate morsels filled with pork and crab, oozing an unctuous broth slick with pig skin gelatin goodness. Din Tai Fung might be a chain out of Taiwan, but they got Shanghai's famous dumplings down to a slurp-happy science.
After downing a couple of orders, along with a hearty dish of silky Tofu Stewed with Crabmeat; toothsome Jelly Fish; crunchy Cucumbers doused with tart vinegar, chunks of garlic and spicy chili peppers; and slices of lean Seared Pork, and it was time to move the party elsewhere.
In this case, the Shanghai outpost of Jean-George fit the bill. Glam to the max, this decadent spot was situated on the legendary Bund, with views that went on for miles, a sleek ocher Giallo Reale stone bar and a late-night two-for-one Champagne bottle special that kept our flutes filled to overflowing.
Not a bad way to be introduced to the city.
The next day didn't start with quite the same opulence, as I headed to the far edge of town to wind my way through Shanghai's dingy Fabric Market to haggle with tailors about stitching up a few pieces.
Then I ventured into Shanghai's tranquil Yu Gardens...
...and wove my way through the adjacent Old City bazaar before taking a breather at the charming Huxinting Teahouse (see below) for my first glimpse at a bona fide Chinese tea ceremony.
But, no sooner did I leave this bastion of late nineteenth century Shanghai, when I came upon a grand Oriental house devoted to another beloved beverage...
I quickly realized that I'd have to remove myself from Shanghai's typical tourist attractions in order to get a real sense of the city. So I turned to my iPod and the Louis Vuitton Soundwalk tour that I'd downloaded before I left the States.
That's right. Louis Vuitton. Don't snicker.
The luxury fashion and leather goods brand released a special collection of audio walking tours guided by leading Chinese actresses right before the Beijing Olympics. I was lucky enough to discover that they covered the three cities on my China itinerary. Today, I would hit "play," be greeted by Joan Chen, and follow in her footsteps through the leafy streets and winding back alleys of the city's French Concession district...
It was magical. She ushered me through main thoroughfares lined with chic boutiques, helped me gain entrance into a secret, private garden, and even pointed out the real life characters who are still the lifeblood of the neighborhood -- from an elderly bicycle repairman to a couple that dines each evening at a makeshift table in front of their apartment, come rain or shine -- finishing the tour at a very modern stairwell...
...where a special "insider's" passcode would unlock the mysterious entranceway into a stylish, contemporary restaurant-bar known as People 7.
As I listened to the last strains of Joan Chen's tales of the city, I ordered up a Gin and Tonic, smiling as I sipped the cool, bubbly drink, offering up a private toast to Shanghai.
Starbucks aside, I was more than enchanted.
And to think, I had only arrived 24 hours ago. I couldn't imagine what the next 24 might bring.