A good friend of mine, Thomas Molgaard, picked me up from the quarantine hotel and drove me to my Shanghai hotel where I was going to stay the rest of the 10-days. I was staying at the JW Marriot near people’s square. This is in the center of town with all its shopping centers. The check-in process was easy, I did have to show my health code (more about this in an upcoming blog) and I got a nice upgrade to a corner room with a gorgeous view overlooking people’s square.
Thomas had promised me a night on the town. The first stop was to grab a beer. Thomas has been living in Shanghai for 3 years now (this is his second stint in China) and he lives right in the middle of the French Concession. During the ride over we caught up, we hadn’t actually talked since November 2019, and Thomas filled me in on the Shanghai expat community and the situation in China. Not too surprising most Americans had left China but there was still a large contingent of Europeans. Thomas made it a point of calling out the apparently surprisingly large Dutch contingent who were mostly in finance or manufacturing.
The first stop was the The Bull and Claw. It’s a surf and turf restaurant in the middle of the French concession located in a traditional 1920 style villa with a little courtyard. They had a small but good beer selection, including an IPA from my favorite Beijing brewery 京A. Since I’ll be having ready access to that beer in Beijing, I decided to go for a local Shanghai hazy IPA whose name escapes me (no, it isn’t Boxing Cat). While we were having beers, Thomas looks over at the table next to us, goes what the heck, and walks over. It turned out that the GM of the hotel in Sanya (kind of like China’s Hawaii) that Thomas visited a few months ago was having drinks with his friends. The two chatted for a while and then we got back to our drinks. A bit later Thomas jumps up again and runs after a woman who passed on the street. That was apparently his American neighbor in Shanghai. The expat community seems to be closely knit here in Shanghai and they all gather in the French concession.
The next stop was dinner. Thomas had selected a Spanish Fusion Tapas place called Tomatito on Hubin road. He knew the owner and apparently the chef cook is Dutch. The place was described to me as the unofficial Dutch embassy in Shanghai and it is frequented a lot by Dutch folks, although I didn’t hear any Dutch that evening. Now, I must admit that after the drinks started flowing, I wasn’t paying much attention.
Thomas had brought his wife Joanna along. It was immediately clear that Joanna and Thomas were working on expanding their family. Joanna told me that she was 5+ months along. That got us onto the topic of Chinese citizenship. China is not a birth right country, so her newborn would not become a Chinese citizen. He could become a Brazilian citizen (Joanna is Brazilian), a Denmark citizen (Thomas is Danish) and a UK citizen (because they officially live in the UK). I’ve only met one person before that had collected that many passports. In fact, that person had a 4th passport because she was also Jewish and managed to get an Israeli citizenship to boot.
Dinner consisted of lots of small Tapas. Everyone swore by the Salmon bombs although to me it was a toss-up between that and the grilled octopus. Since Thomas knew the staff well, we didn’t make a food selection. The staff just kept on bringing little plates of good stuff, some of it off menu. After we finished off the second bottle of wine, Thomas started ordering individual drinks. This is where things got hazy. I remember having a grapa, wiskey, another glass of tempranillo, and some other drinks that I could not identify. All good stuff but perhaps a bit too much.
After dinner, I think it was 1:30am at this point, we ordered a DiDi (Chinese Uber) and for one reason or another it didn’t show up. The bell boy stuffed us into a waiting car that drove us to my hotel. I don’t think that was our DiDi and at some point, I must have ordered a DiDi too because I vaguely remember getting a call from a very angry Chinese speaking person. All I could utter was 对不起 (sorry).
The next morning it took me over an hour to convince myself to get out of bed to have breakfast. This was not going to be one of my most productive days.