A few years ago, I went to Edinburgh and decided it was one of my favorite cities in the world for its own sake. I didn’t do a whole lot there, other than drink really good Scotch for not very much money and admire the architecture. I tried to connect with this Chinese girl Selma from Couchsurfing so we could maybe go climbing, but it didn’t quite work out.
The day before I left for China, Selma left a message on my blog saying to let her know if I was ever in Shanghai, because she had finished up her studies and returned to her native country. So I contacted her, and we met up so she could show me around a bit.
She took me to a street that she said lovers frequented, a street quite literally filled with poetry, such as a stanza by Yeats:
How many loved your moments of glad grace/ And loved your beauty with love false or true/ But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you/ And loved the sorrows of your changing face.
This was rendered slightly less moving by the fact that the last line read “chang in gface,” which took me a second to decipher.
We went to 1933, a former slaughterhouse transformed into a trendy commercial area where people liked to go to take photographs. Very hipster, I told Selma. After a few hours of walking, we sat down for dinner. There was jellyfish on the menu, and also sea snails, neither of which I had tried. So I ordered both. I was particularly curious about the jellyfish, given that it appears to be the only creature in the seas benefitting from over-fishing and warming waters. Apparently it has almost no calories, although it is high in collagen and certain minerals. As it turns out, jellyfish is also not all that delicious, tasting vaguely crunchy and rubbery, like a cross between squid and uncooked rice noodles. However, it was ok with seasoning, much better than the sea snails, which I couldn’t quite figure out how to eat correctly and which tasted of sand. Fortunately, Selma had ordered spicy crab dim sum, a tasty and filling treat.
The day was well-spent, mostly because Selma was so interesting to talk to. She kept having to pull me out of the way so I wouldn’t get run over, as when I’m deep in conversation I tend not to pay as much attention to traffic. Somehow I always find people when I travel, or often; people I decide I love and thus try to convince to come visit me. Walking around with Selma I decided I liked Shanghai. It was really so much better than I had envisioned.