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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 47: 10 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysDrive out to see his family house, about half an hour from the centre of Shanghai. The well-trimmed lawns, the swinging garden seat and the mock-Tudor mansion with its beamed ceilings and latch doors, wrought iron chandeliers and minstrel's gallery, are pure Sunningdale. But the grand piano is under covers and there's no one in plus-fours and a pipe standing by the fireplace nor any cucumber sandwiches to be enjoyed in the big antimacassared armchairs. It's an odd and melancholy experience to see this ghost of a past and to realise such quintessential Englishness survived the days of Mao Tse Tung intact.

Driving back into town, I sense a prosperous, confident city, with many of the manifestations of other boom towns on the Pacific Rim. A huge amount of new construction, much of it hotels and trade centres, is under way in conjunction with foreign companies - Australians and Japanese and Americans. One sign beside a picture of towers of the future reads, 'Sister Cities Co-Operation, Shanghai - San Francisco'. It's very easy to forget that you are in a Communist country.

Lunch at the Shanghai Old Restaurant, in existence for 100 years, my first experience of traditional Shanghainese cuisine. The menu is nothing if not original: Preserved Duck Eggs, Crab Yolk and Sharks Fins, Smashed Chicken with Sea Slugs, Squirrel Yellow Fish, Minced Pork Ball and Potted Big Fish Head. Being conservative we stick to crabmeat and bean curd, and squid and eel with garlic and pepper - which is quite sensational.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 47
  • Date: 10 November
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Shanghai
  • Book page no: 161

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