When we landed in Shanghai, the weather was so bad, there was sideways rain and menacing clouds set against brown-gray skies—not the kind of conditions in which you want to be bopping around the city, all tourist-like. The pouring lasted the entire four days we were there, and thus, we didn’t really see much of the city at all. This was fine by me, as we were holed up in the Fairmont Peace Hotel, which is quite like a city itself, for two nights and found more than enough to do to occupy our time. Or, as I like to say, we ate our way through the Fairmont.
After checking in, we headed straight to Victor’s, a cafe attached to the Peace Hotel, to stock up on pastries. We hadn’t eaten since leaving our hotel in Hong Kong approximately nine hours earlier and were absolutely ravenous. Little did we know then, it would have been smarter to save up space in our stomach for the full-on feasts that awaited us in the next two days. Our room had an espresso maker, so we made cappuccinos to accompany our late afternoon nibbles.
After some relaxation time—something I hadn’t had much of on the ship—we went to dinner with another visiting journalist from Singapore in the traditional Chinese restaurant, the Dragon Phoenix, where we tried a little bit of everything: Mongolian beef with ginger, the Peace chicken in rice wine, pineapple fried rice and much, much more.
Dragon Phoenix image courtesy of Fairmont
After dinner, we retreated to the ground floor and nabbed a table in the Jazz Bar. If you’ve never been to a Fairmont before, you might not know that jazz music is one of the brand’s specialties. This was even more of a treat as we saw the acclaimed Old Jazz Band—whose average age is 77!—play, before being followed by a group of young American jazz artists. The place usually fills up quickly, particularly on weekends (they play nightly), so making a reservation in advance is recommended.
The next morning, we slept in (a luxury these days) and grabbed a late bite at the Dragon Phoenix—buffet breakfast was included in our stay—before heading to the on-site American restaurant, the Cathay Room, for an early lunch with the sales manager.
I was already so full from breakfast that I couldn’t even fathom eating again, but I ordered coffee and a small quiche anyway.
Though my intentions quickly changed when I saw this spread:
As a bona fide chocolate connoisseur and lover of all desserts, I couldn’t let these sugary masterpieces go untasted, so I loaded up a plate and sampled a few.
In between lunch and our next dining experience, SVV and I headed up to the Willow Stream Spa, where we got side-by-side Mystic Peace treatments, an hour-long massage that utilizes feng-shui principles to de-stress and relieve tension. Due to my running habits, I try to get a massage every month or two—or every week or two while on Semester at Sea, as it turned out—and this was by far the best treatment I have ever had.
Willow Stream Spa image courtesy of Fairmont
We had barely digested from earlier when it was time to eat again, this time at the Fairmont’s signature afternoon tea, which I’ve experienced in both Vancouver and San Francisco before. (High tea at Laurel Court in San Francisco, in particular, is a famed pastime and something everyone should do when passing through the city.)
High tea takes places in the lobby’s Jasmine Lounge, and if I thought the nibbles at lunch were delicious, they were nothing compared to the mini creme brulees, tea cakes, scones and clotted cream, sliders and various other treats. There were also champagne cocktails and macarons on a stick. Have you ever seen anything so cute as a macaron on a stick?!
I highly suggest if ever in Shanghai, you try to make yourself available for either the Classic High Tea (Monday through Friday) or the Afternoon Tea Buffet (on weekends), as it’s an experience your stomach won’t ever forget.
Shanghai was yet another situation where we did not have a bad meal—from Ghana to South Africa, India to China, every last morsel we tried was delicious. My stomach definitely has not suffered these past four months (though oddly enough, all my clothes still fit…thank God).
Have you been to China before? If so, what’s your favorite dish?