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Old Shanghai

The 128-story Shanghai Tower backdrops Old Shanghai.

The 128-story Shanghai Tower backdrops Old Shanghai.

The Old City of Shanghai stands on the site of a small ancient settlement which first came to prominence when upstream silting forced the move of dock and market activities downstream in the 12th and 13th centuries.

 

Shanghai soon became one of seven ports of entry designated to handle overseas trade, and Old Shanghai grew up around the customs house.

 

The improbably large load is a common sight in Chinese cities.

The improbably large load is a common sight in Chinese cities.

 

 

 

In the 1800’s, as foreign concessions developed into new urban areas, Chinese authority was effectively restricted to the old city.

 

In the late 1990’s and into the next decade, parts of Old Shanghai were redeveloped into a high rise hotels and residences, drastically changing the streetscape.

 

 

Old Shanghai shop.

Old Shanghai shop.

 

 

The development roused controversy, since it required the destruction of several houses of historical significance and demolition of the last surviving section of the old city wall.

 

Wide, circular streets now follow the vanished wall’s footprint.

 

 

Rooftops almost touch above narrow lanes.

Rooftops almost touch above narrow lanes.

 

In 2006, the Shanghai municipal government protected the remaining 34 streets of Old Shanghai as an historic landmark.

 

The Old City has been necessarily renovated, but its ancient winding streets and hundred-year-old stores still retain the flavor of old China

 

Bamboo steamers in local take-away food stand, Old Shanghai.

Bamboo steamers in local take-away food stand, Old Shanghai.

 

Most of the buildings now standing date from the 1600’s through the end of the 1800’s.

Shops here feature an incredible array of jewelry, porcelain, jade, and silk clothing, and there are a number of antique and curio shops.

China 117 Shanghai candids 2015-03-31

Businessmen sit in a tea house, Old Shanghai

 

American food chains including Baskin Robbins and Starbucks have opened here, but they’re sorely outnumbered by local take-away food stands, teahouses, and noodle houses.

 

There is also a seemingly endless number of shops selling snacks and sweets in flavors unheard-of in the West.

 

The Old Shangai afternoon crowd is mostly local.

The Old Shangai afternoon crowd is mostly local.

 

Not surprisingly, Starbucks serves no Chai in the land that introduced tea to the world, but Chinese green, white and oolong teas are offered along with local specialties like a Lychee & Strawberry Mooncake or Green Tea Latte.

 

Very surprisingly, neither Starbucks or its many Chinese imitators serve decaffeinated coffee.

 

Modern ads and skyscraper make for sharp contrasts.

Modern ads and skyscraper make for sharp contrasts.

 

 

 

While Old Shanghai is quite tranquil early in the morning, tour busses filled with badged Westerners and flag-carrying tour guides typically arrive before midday to beat the rush.

 

The crowd becomes increasingly robust as the day wears on, when it becomes a people-watcher’s delight.  Couples of all ages wander the narrow lanes and teens and pre-teens hang out here.

 

 

 

Police offers stroll through Old Shanghai.

Police offers stroll through Old Shanghai.

 

There are few Westerners around in the afternoon, but foreigners have been a feature of Shanghai life for so long that they invite no second look from local visitors.

 

Several unarmed police officers walk casually through the main courtyard, the first that I’ve so far seen walking a beat.

 

Old Shanghai

Old Shanghai

 

While Shanghai, like any city its size, has its share of pickpockets and motor scooter thieves, there is no sense of insecurity when it comes to personal safety.

 

Possession of weapons – from firearms to swords – is forbidden in China and penalties are severe.

 

When shopping, don’t be surprised if purchases are not rung up, but instead totaled and displayed on a hand calculator.

 

Visitors feed the coy in Old Shanghai.

Visitors feed the coy in Old Shanghai.

 

Also don’t be surprised when a merchant who speaks little English pulls up a language translator on a smartphone and the conversation proceeds as tag-team translation.

 

Fortunately for the tourist, China’s last dynasty, the Manchus, replaced cumbersome Chinese numerical characters with the Arabic numbering system used in the West, and it has been in prominent usage within China since early in the 19th century.

 

Zig-zag bridge traditionally thwarts demons, who travel only in straight lines.

Tradition holds that the zig-zag bridge thwarts demons, who travel only in straight lines.

 

While my guide offers assurances that merchandise in Old Shanghai is the real deal, he also offers cautionary advice on shopping in other areas frequented by tourists.

 

China has a well-deserved reputation for knock-offs of Western products, so it’s “buyer beware” or your silk may turn out to be polyester.

 

Auto ownership is skyrocketing in Shanghai, but scooters are still the only transport for many.

Auto ownership is skyrocketing in Shanghai, but scooters are still the only transport for many.

 

Such retail fraud – along with change rendered in  counterfeit Chinese currency or an obscure foreign currency can be widespread in areas frequented by tourists.  It proves to be sound advice for my next 20 days in China.

 

Shanghai’s tranquilly beautiful Yu Garden is adjacent to the marketplace, and it’s the topic of my next post.

 

See also my related posts The Other Side Of The World, and Capitalist China.

 

 

Capitalist China

Shanghai's Oriental Pearl Radio & TV tower.

Shanghai’s Oriental Pearl Radio & TV tower.

One of the most striking features of Shanghai’s spectacular skyline is the Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower.

Completed in 1994.  It is still one of the world’s tallest broadcast antennas (468 m./1,535 ft.).

 

Pudong skyline, as seen from downtown Shanghai.

Pudong skyline, as seen from downtown Shanghai.

 

The Tower stands on the east bank of the Huangpu River across from the historic city center in the Pudong (“East Bank”)District.

Pudong is home to Shanghai’s tallest skyscrapers including Jin Mao Tower (421 m./1,380 ft.), the Shanghai World Financial Center (492 m./1,614 ft.), and the nearly completed Shanghai Tower (632 m./2,073 ft.)

View from the base of the Pearl Tower.

View from the base of the Pearl Tower.

The Pearl Tower observation deck affords a spectacular bird-eye view of the city, and is a good place to get the lay of the land.

With a population of 1.4 billion, it’s no surprise that the Chinese excel at moving staggering numbers of people around with efficiency, and the crowd at the Pearl Tower is no exception.

Promenade at outside the Pearl Tower.

Promenade at outside the Pearl Tower.

 

The lines move briskly, and elevator attendants uniformed and coiffed as immaculately as pre-deregulation U.S. flight attendants keep the foot traffic flowing

 

As I look out over this sprawling city of 25 million, I can’t help but think that anyone looking down upon the Manhattan skyline in the 1920’s must have been similarly awestruck.

Veiw from the Pearl Tower.  The tall building is the 128 story Shanghai Tower.

Veiw from the Pearl Tower. The tall building is the 128 story Shanghai Tower.

 

There’s an impression of incredible energy pulsing through the landscape below, and an inescapable sense of looking through a window into the epicenter of the global future.

Pudong is the site of the city’s Finance & Trade Zone and the Shanghai Stock Exchange, making it China’s financial hub.

 

Downtown Shanghai from the Pearl Tower.

Downtown Shanghai from the Pearl Tower.

 

The District also encompasses a high-tech park, the 2010 Shanghai Expo Center, and the Pudong International Airport.

 

Incredibly, this entire area was farmland until 1993.

 

 

Shanghai's west bank from the Pearl Tower.

Shanghai’s west bank from the Pearl Tower.

 

Such explosive growth is the product of an economy that’s been growing at almost 10% annually – about three times the global average – since Deng Xiaoping introduced economic reforms more than 30 years ago.

 

China’s shift from a managed economy to a market economy has grown its GDP from $147.3 billion in 1978 to $11.2 trillion in 2015.  The Peoples’ Republic of China is now the world’s largest economy.

 

High-rises cover Shanghai for miles.

High-rises cover Shanghai for miles.

 

The nation not only manufactures more cars – about 22 million – than any other country  (almost 3 times as many as the U.S.) – but is also the biggest market for new cars.

 

China became the world’s biggest exporter in 2009, and Shanghai recently surpassed Singapore as the world’s largest containerized freight port

 

The Maglev Train pulls into the station.

The Maglev Train pulls into the station.

Construction of Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport began in 1997.

 

It is now the world’s third busiest cargo airport, the busiest international hub in mainland China, and one of the world’s 20 busiest passenger airports.

 

It is connected to the city by Shanghai’s Maglev Train, which uses magnets to lift and propel it.

 

 

The reduced friction allows the train to move at very high speeds, and it cuts a highway drive of nearly one hour to 8 minutes, reaching a peak speed of 430 kmp/267 mph).

 

The Maglev Train reaches its peak speed of 430 kmh/267 mph.

The Maglev Train reaches its peak speed of 430 kmh/267 mph.

 

A third passenger terminal and two additional runways scheduled to open later this year will raise annual capacity to 80 million passengers and 6 million tons of freight.  DHL’s Pudong cargo hub is the largest in Asia.

 

 

I’m struck by the amazing contrast between the way in which nominally Communist China has advanced even as the republics of the former Soviet Union have devolved.

 

Only ferries crossed the river thirty years ago, and still do.

Only ferries crossed the river thirty years ago, and still do.

 

The irony is not lost upon me that Pudong’s modern skyscrapers directly face the city’s historic Bund.

 

It was from their headquarters on the Bund that the banking houses and merchant traders of the Western powers imposed their imperialism upon China, and first made Shanghai a financial and trading giant until its fortunes turned with the outbreak of World War II and the 30 years of isolation which followed.

 

The Bund as seen from the Pearl Tower.

The Bund as seen from the Pearl Tower.

This time around, the China is solidly in control of its own destiny, and is turning its new prosperity into better lives for countless millions of its people.

The Other Side of the World

Shanghai's historic Bund with modern skyscraper background

Shanghai’s historic Bund with modern skyscraper background

As I board the twelve hour flight from Seattle to Shanghai, my mind is churning at the prospect of seeing up close and personal what I’ve otherwise seen only from a distance and through a Western lens.

Shanghai Old Town against modern apartments.

Shanghai Old Town against modern apartments.

 

 

Except for Made In China labels on products sold worldwide, China occupies an obscure place in the American consciousness.  My only genuine connection to the place I’m about to visit is my love of Chinese food, which I plan to shamelessly indulge.

 

Businessmen pause over tea in Shanghai

Businessmen pause over tea in Shanghai

In Europe and the Americas, the stamp of Western culture upon three continents creates common and familiar frames of reference.

 

In China I will be unable to speak or read the language. Religion, social customs, laws, and the political system will be alien.

 

Peaks in the Three Gorges area as seen from the river.

Peaks in the Three Gorges area as seen from the river.

And little of what I’ve been taught about China by American media seems likely to shed much light on the subject.

 

Since China’s great “opening up” in 1978, its Communist government has been morphing it from a managed economy to a market economy.

Shibaozhai Buddhist Temple, Chonquing Province

Shibaozhai Buddhist Temple, Chonquing Province

 

 

Headlines tout China’s economic ascendancy, but China has remained for Americans a distant and little understood culture since the two nations first began trading in the 1840’s as an outcome of the Opium Wars.

 

 

 

 

Panda at the Chongquing Zoo.

Panda at the Chongquing Zoo.

 

 

 

As recently as the 1930’s, China remained to most Westerners as remote and mysterious a place as the polar ice caps or the heart of Africa.

 

Misconceptions and stereotypes about China and its people were reinforced by media portrayals like the Charlie Chan movies, the Terry & The Pirates comic strip, and  Flash Gordon’s Emperor Ming.

 

Cardboard recycling in Beijing.

Cardboard recycling in Beijing.

 

 

 

It was not until Claire Chenault led the Flying Tigers into combat support of the Chinese that American perceptions were first refocused.

 

Even today it is not well known that China suffered nearly 20 million World War II casualties, including 8 million civilian victims of Japanese war crimes.

 

 

 

The Great Wall, just north of Beijing

The Great Wall, just north of Beijing

 

By  the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, China and Japan had already been at war for four years.

 

After Mao Zedong’s Communists swept Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists from power in 1949, China was seen by most Americans through the lens of anti-Communist hysteria, punctuated first by China’s entry into the Korean War and then by the Cultural Revolution.

 

 

Drum Tower, Xi'an.

Drum Tower, Xi’an.

 

Americans first began to see China differently upon Nixon’s historic visit to Beijing, but Cold War mentality still survives in perceptions of China as threatening adversary, if not on the battlefield then in the global marketplace.

 

I’m more interested in how the growth of capitalism in China stands against the commonly held American conviction that a capitalist economy and democratic form of government are inextricably linked.

 

Parked hand carts, Mt. Jiu Hua

Parked hand carts, Mt. Jiu Hua

The idea of this trip is to see not just the mega- cities, but towns and the rural interior.  Not just to tour popular sites, but to gain some insight into what makes the Chinese people and society tick.

 

My lessons begin with arrival at Shanghai’s Pudong International airport.  It’s bright, cutting-edge modern in design, and antiseptic.  The terminal is so vast that the view down its long concourse seems to reach the vanishing point.

 

Shanghai's Pudong International airport terminal.

Shanghai’s Pudong International airport terminal.

 

 

Such scale offers a lesson that will be often repeated in the coming days:  There’s enough “Big” in China to give any Texan an inferiority complex.

 

 

 

Chairman Mao's portrait, Forbidden City, Beijing

Chairman Mao’s portrait, Forbidden City, Beijing

 

 

It’s surprised at the almost non-existent presence of police or military.  Sharply uniformed Immigration officers are hospitable, and efficient.  Passengers with nothing to declare are waved around Customs.

 

The guide is waiting with a car.  The trip to the hotel on the city’s near west side takes nearly an hour on modern expressways, and on this Sunday evening traffic is brisk.

 

In the darkness outside, city buildings are lit up by light sculptures and giant-sized video screens.  The only place I’ve seen more lights is in Las Vegas.

 

 

Soviet Exhibition Hall, 1955 gift to Shanghai

Soviet Exhibition Hall, 1955 gift to Shanghai

 

 

Right outside the window is an exhibition hall built and given as a gift to the people of China from the former Soviet Union.  The Chinese seem to be having the last laugh.

Back home it’s morning and even though I’ve slept through much of the flight, I’ll be dragging by mid-day unless I get some sleep tonight.

Tomorrow it begins..

 

 

What To Expect:

China mapThis trip begins with three days in coastal Shanghai and continues overland to Nanking, embarkation point for a twelve day cruise down the Yantgze – China’s Mississippi River.

 

It wanders inland through lowland farms strung between robust cities.  It passes ancient temples, formal gardens, and artisan workshops.  And it continues through the canyons of the Three Gorges and the locks of its great dam.

 

Before boarding a plane for Xi’an in Chonquing, there’s an early morning visit to its urban park zoo and pandas.   Xi’an is an ancient capital of China.  A walk through its historic city center is a must, but it’s better known as the archeological site of the Terra Cotta Army.

 

The trip ends in Beijing, with visits to a centuries-old residential neighborhood, to Tianamen Square and The Forbidden City, and to the Great Wall.

China map

Itinerary: 21 Days in China

Thanks so much for your patience while I’ve taken a break from my  blog to complete work on my just-published books (more info on them below)!

I’ll resume posting on Sunday, July 26 with the first in a series from my recent 21-day trip to China.

The China trip begins with a long weekend in booming Shanghai, continues for 12 days along the Yangtze River and wraps up in  Xi’an (home of the ‘Terra Cotta Warriors‘), and Beijing.

21 Days In China is a chance to look beyond current headlines for firsthand insight into the culture, history, cuisine, and faces of today’s China!

 

+++++ JUST PUBLISHED ON AMAZON +++++

Two of my books previously first released only as digital editions are now available for the first time in paperback on Amazon!

 

Blue collar cover 02

LIFELINES: AN AMERICAN DREAM (2014).  My second book and first novel is the story of two families who abandon their pasts to pursue the American dream, and whose lives intersect in the melting pot of the industrial Midwest.

This is a collection of intimate snapshots that brings to life a history fast fading from collective memory. Rich in historical detail, it is set against the backdrop of America’s emergence as a world power in the twentieth century, and the rise and fall of organized labor.  Find it in Paperback or for Kindle and other e-readers here on Amazon.

 

 

Laguna Tales digital version 5x8 cover hi-res full size

LAGUNA TALES (2011).  My first book, a collection of short stories, draws on my own experiences to capture the lifestyle of the expat community in and around a mountain village in Mexico.

Six Americans from different walks of life arrive at personal crossroads that separately lead them to begin new lives along the shores of Mexico’s Lake Chapala.  Find it in Paperback or for Kindle and other e-readers here on Amazon.

 

 

ETF cover 06 DigitalEMBRACING THE FOG (2015).  I’ve partnered with three American writers from  the Lake Chapala area on  this new short story collection, which includes five of my previously-unpublished pieces.

These eighteen short stories are studies characters at life’s crossroads  in settings that span four continents and more than a century.  They run a gamut of styles from sobering to whimsical, and from stark realism to the fanciful.  Find it in Paperback or for Kindle and other e-readers here on Amazon.

 

 

Mexico Sunshine And Shadows 21MEXICO: SUNLIGHT & SHADOWS (2015).  I’m honored by the invitation to  contribute one of my pieces to this just-published collection of short stories and essays by some of the most widely read English language writers in Mexico.

This anthology captures the work of twenty-two published authors who write and live in Mexico full time, and who share a view of life there as seen through their eyes.  Find it for Kindle and other e-readers ONLY here on Amazon.

 

 

THE MIRASOL REDEMPTION (coming soon).  Watch for the August, 2015 release of my second novel, in digital and paperback editions on Amazon.

Mirasol Redemption cover design

Enjoy the read!

 

More mural art.

More mural art.

What I refer to as “Midtown Guadalajara” runs east from Chalpultepec to 8 De Julio, and south from Calle Independencia to Libertad (map last below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Older buildings like this still dot the neighborhood.

Older buildings like this still dot the neighborhood.

 

The Avenida Vallarta passes directly through its heart, but much of what’s worth seeing and doing in this eclectic neighborhood happens on its less-traveled streets.

 

2015-04-23 Guadalajara Midtown East 04 newsstand

Midtown newsstand

This is a walking experience, and ready accessibility via public transportation means ‘no car required’.

 

These neighborhoods are a great pastime during the day, but come alive in the evenings, so consider a Saturday night stayover.

 

Museo de la Ciudad (Independencia @ 8 De Julio).

Museo de la Ciudad (Independencia @ 8 De Julio).

Start with the Museo de la Ciudad (Calle Independencia 684, just east of 8 de Julio), which presents the history of Guadalajara from its founding in 1542.

 

This building housed a convent of Capuchin nuns beginning in 1761, and its courtyard is now a venue for installations, exhibitions, lectures, and tastings.

 

Sculptures in the Andador Coronilla.

Sculptures in the Andador Coronilla.

 

Six permanent exhibition rooms house artifacts of the historic, urban, ethnographic, artistic development of the city and its inhabitants.

 

Four other rooms house temporary exhibitions that invite repeated revisits.

 

Andador Coronilla café.

Andador Coronilla café.

 

From the Museo there it’s two blocks to the Andador Coronilla, a street-turned pedestrian thoroughfare line with restaurants, cafés, and studios that offer dancing, drawing, and painting lessons.

 

A cobbler works leather into footwear.

A cobbler works leather into footwear.

 

Laborers and shopkeepers occupy the neighborhoods east of Federalismo, and these streets afford a snapshot of everyday life for blue collar Mexicans.  (See also my post South Centro.)

 

A slow day at the casket store.

A slow day at the casket store.

 

Mural art abounds on neighborhood walls.

Mural art abounds on neighborhood walls.

 

From there it’s another two blocks to the Parque Revolución and the University of Guadalajara, which add its own flavor to the mix.

 

 

One of several bicycle rental racks is located in the Parque Revolucion.

One of several bicycle rental racks is located in the Parque Revolucion.

 

I posted my take on the daytime Parque last week.  In the evening other parts of this neighborhood come alive.

 

Habitat bar and pool, Parque Revolución.

Habitat bar and pool, Parque Revolución.

2015-04-23 Guadalajara Midtown East 15

Painting by Maclovio Perez Garcia at Habitat bar.

 

 

The Parque’s southwest side is home to several restaurants and bars.

 

Habitat features a good selection of craft beers, wifi, and pool tables.  It’s also home to some eye-popping art.

 

1er Piso (Premer Piso) Jazz Club interior (Pedro Moreno @ Escorza).

1er Piso (Premer Piso) Jazz Club interior (Pedro Moreno @ Escorza).

 

West of the park on Pedro Moreno is the 1er Piso Jazz Club.  The door to this walk-up location is both austere and obscure (just west of the intersection on the south side of the street), but the inside has comfortable feel of an intimate cabaret.  1er Piso had good food and a great bar.  Saturday evening performances begin at 10:30PM (reservations recommended).

 

Café Gato Negro (Pedro Moreno @ Robles Gil).

Café Gato Negro (Pedro Moreno @ Robles Gil).

 

Cafe Gato Negro has an inviting atmosphere and serves specialty coffee drinks and a modest menu from 2:30 PM.

 

Next up on the walking tour of Guadalajara’s engaging Midtown:  The Templo Expiatorio and the University of Guadalajara’s Museo Bellas Artes.

 

 

 

 

Interior, Café Gato Negro.

Interior, Café Gato Negro.

 

 

To reach Midtown via public transportation:  From Ajijic or Chapala, take the bus to Guadalajara’s Central Viejo bus terminal (around USD $3.50). 

 

From there it’s a short taxi ride, or you can catch the macrobus a couple of blocks east on the Calzado Independencia.   Take it for the short ride to the Tren Ligera station at San Juan de Dios and ride it two stops to the Juarez station (each about USD$.50).

 

There are a number of boutique hotels in this area, but I rate experience as good at the Hotel Portobelo, and the Casino Plaza, which offers free in-and-out parking.  Find great weekend rates on Hoteles.com.

 

Guadalajara Midtown map

 

See also my related posts on Guadalajara Midtown’s Parque Revolución and Guadalajara’s South Centro neighborhood, or browse the complete portfolio of my Guadalajara posts.

Mural on a Pemex station wall, adjacent to Guadalajara's Parque Revolución

Mural on a Pemex station wall, adjacent to Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución

For those who have sated themselves on Guadalajara’s high profile tourist attractions, the neighborhoods of the city’s midtown offer a change-of-pace urban experience that invite the visitor to return again and again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tren Ligera's Juarez Station, Parque Revolución, Guadalajara.

The Tren Ligera’s Juarez Station, Parque Revolución, Guadalajara.

 

 

 

From working-class neighborhoods on its eastern edge that offer up colorful mom-and-pop shops, newsstands, and street food vendors to the stately boulevards and historic mansions on its west end, midtown is a great weekend experience.

 

 

 

Students on a break in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Students on a break in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

 

 

A nighttime stay-over is a must, because while daytime browsing is great fun, it’s in the evening, that these neighborhoods really come alive.

 

 

 

 

 

Street merchants line the entrance to Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Street merchants line the entrance to Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

A weekend stay-over is made even sweeter by bargain rates on hotels that cater to businessmen during the week.

 

Doing homework in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Doing homework in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

 

Midtown is home to museums and monuments, sidewalk cafés, bookstores, bars and clubs with live music, and a checkerboard of eclectic and sometimes funky shops.

 

 

 

 

Flower merchant, Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Flower merchant, Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

 

 

 

At its heart is the Parque Revolución, located where the Avenida Juarez becomes the Avenida Vallarta at the intersection of Calzado de Federalismo.

 

 

 

 

 

Student relaxing in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Student relaxing in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

 

It’s hard to miss.  An ever-changing mural which covers the billboard-sized wall of a Pemex station is visible from blocks away.

 

 

 

Taco stands about in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Taco stands about in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

The Parque Revolución is only a 20 minute walk from the Centro Historico, or two subway stops from the San Juan de Dios Market station, which is located adjacent to the market on the side facing the Plaza de los Mariachis.

 

Hanging out in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Hanging out in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

Here the lines of the Tren Ligera subway system converge just blocks from the University of Guadalajara.  While there’s no question that the concentration of students fuels much of this neighborhood’s ambiance, it’s a also convenient place for workers from nearby shops and offices to grab lunch.

 

Students hanging out, Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Students hanging out, Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

Here you can enjoy a street taco, buy indigenous art and crafts or a bouquet of flowers, and get a haircut or shoeshine.

 

 

Heading to class at Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Heading to class at Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

Or you can just order yourself a paleta, pick a shady bench, and soak up the atmosphere.

 

Barbacoa (barbecue) taco stand in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Barbacoa (barbecue) taco stand in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

 

 

 

On a weekday afternoon, students on their way to and from classes – or just in between classes, study and congregate on the Parque’s north side, where a collection of street vendors holds permanent court.

 

Hanging out in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Hanging out in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

 

The mood here is nothing if not mellow, and has the familiar feel of parks near universities worldwide.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting a haircut in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Getting a haircut in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

There’s more to see here than can possibly be covered in a single post, so my next posts will take you on a walking tour of midtown, where you can enjoy the Guadalajara that tourists rarely experience.

Milano’s spectacular Duomo

Front facade of the Duomo, Milano, Italy.

Front facade of the Duomo, Milano, Italy.

The Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano) is the city’s cathedral and the home church of its archbishop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duomo capped by the "Madonnina's spire, Milano, Italy.

Duomo capped by the “Madonnina’s spire, Milano, Italy.

 

 

 

This cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete. It is Italy’s largest, Europe’s third largest, and the world’ 5th-largest church.

 

Gothic spire detail, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

Gothic spire detail, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

 

The Duomo occupies what was the center of the ancient Roman city, but its construction did not begin until 1386.

 

Facade detail, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

Facade detail, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

 

The signature “Madonnina’s spire”, which rises to more than 300 feet, was not erected until nearly 400 years after construction was begun.

 

Facade detail, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

Facade detail, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

 

Given Milan’s damp and foggy climate, the Milanese consider it a fair-weather day when the Madonnina is not obscured by mist.

 

Facade detail, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

Facade detail, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

 

 

The Duomo’s facade was not added until its completion was ordered by Napoleon Bonaparte, who was crowned King of Italy there.

 

The last details of the cathedral were finished only in 1965.

 

 

 

Facade detail, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

Facade detail, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

 

 

 

Many Milanese, reminded by the centuries needed to complete the Duomo, use the  term “Fabbrica del Duomo” – built like the Duomo – as an adjective to describe an extremely long, complex task.

 

The Duomo’s rooftop is open to the public, and is reached by an elevator.

 

 

 

Rooftop deck, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

Rooftop deck, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

 

 

 

 

 

Architectural detail invisible from the street below suddenly becomes full sized, and statues, gargoyles, and spires tower over roofwalkers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gargoyle, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

Gargoyle, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

 

 

 

The effect of pollution on the Duomo requires diligent maintenance, and officials recently announced a campaign to raise funds for its preservation that asks patrons to adopt the building’s gargoyles.

 

 

 

Rooftop view of the city, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

Rooftop view of the city, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

 

 

Donors who contribute €100,000 or more can now have their name engraved under one of the grotesque figures perched on the cathedral’s rooftop.

 

Downtown skyscrapers visible through stone lattice work, Duomo rooftop, Milano, Italy.

Downtown skyscrapers visible through stone lattice work, Duomo rooftop, Milano, Italy.

 

There can be a stiff breeze up here, and from this vantage point the skyscrapers of modern Milano tower in the distance. On a clear day, the Alps are visible on the horizon.

 

Spires seen from the rooftop, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

Spires seen from the rooftop, Duomo, Milano. Italy.

As I walk the rooftop, I can’t help but be reminded that the weight of this building rests on columns and arches made of interlocking stones without any structural steel.  It seems a gravity-defying feat.

 

Northern Italy 269 Milano

Entrance to the Galleria, from the Dumo rooftop.

“10 Days In Italy” has now gone full circle, and it’s time to depart from Milan’s airport with a long list of more to see “the next time.”

And for anyone who’s been here, the fondest wish is that there will always be a next time.

 

See these earlier posts from “10 Days In Italy”

Understated Milano

Clocktower, Milano. Italy.

Clocktower, Milano. Italy.

Milano is often omitted from lists of  Europe’s top cities, and yet only London, Paris, Madrid, and Germany’s Ruhr Valley are home to more people.

 

Milano may be most well-known as a global fashion and design center.

 

It is headquarters for designers including Armani, Versace, Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Missoni, and Moschino.

 

Residential street, old city, Milano, Italy.

Residential street, old city, Milano, Italy.

 

The city hosts international events including Milan Fashion Week and the Milan Furniture Fair, the largest of its kind in the world.

 

It’s no surprise that one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is located here.

 

Entrance to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milano, Italy.

Entrance to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milano, Italy.

 

Housed within a four-story double arcade, it was completed in  1877.

 

The arcade is principally home to luxury retailers selling haute couture, jewelry, books and paintings.

 

It is also full of restaurants, cafés, and bars, including some of Milano’s oldest, which include the Biffi Caffè the Savini restaurant, and the Art Nouveau classic Camparino.

 

Interior, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milano. Italy.

Interior, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milano. Italy.

 

In 2012, a McDonald’s restaurant was prevented from renewing its tenancy, after 20 years of occupancy

 

The Galleria is such a common Milanese meeting and dining place that it has been nicknamed il salotto di Milano (Milan’s drawing room).

 

Interior detail, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milano, Italy.

Interior detail, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milano, Italy.

 

While the city’s economy has been diversifying in recent years, it has historically been Italy’s manufacturing powerhouse.

 

Both Pirelli Tires and Alfa Romeo Motors are headquartered here, and the city’s older neighborhoods still have a working class feel.

 

Baptistry, Milano. Italy.

Baptistry, Milano. Italy.

 

Like New York City, Milano is the nation’s main industrial, commercial, and financial centre

 

It is home to Italy’s main stock exchange, the Borsa Italiana, and the nation’s largest banks are headquartered here.

 

Restaurant in Milano, Italy.

Restaurant in Milano, Italy.

 

Milano may also be Italy’s most cosmopolitan city.

 

It was for centuries the object of conquest by the Franks, Goths, French, Austrians, and Spanish. Architecture here leans toward the Gothic and Romanesque more than toward Renaissance.

 

Sforza castle tower entrance, Milano. Italy.

Sforza castle tower entrance, Milano. Italy.

The foreign influences are everywhere evident in the city’s buildings, and Milano arguably feels the least Italian of the cities visited on this tour.

 

Milano’s historical heyday occurred during the late Middle Ages under the tutelage of its ruling Sforza family.

 

Courtyard, Sforza castle, Milano, Italy.

Courtyard, Sforza castle, Milano, Italy.

The family’s fortress castle survives today.  This is no fairy-tale castle.  Its lines are simple and unadorned.  This place exudes a sense of brute power.

 

About a kilometer from the Sforza castle is the basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie, decorated with Leonardo da Vinci paintings including The Last Supper.

 

Basilica Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milano. Italy.

Basilica Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milano. Italy.

 

It was in Milano that Fascist leader Benito Mussolini organized his Blackshirts between the world wars, and the city later suffered extensive damage from Allied bombings.

 

When German forces occupied northern Italy in 1943, Milano became  a center for the Resistance.

 

Baptistry entrance, Milano. Italy.

Baptistry entrance, Milano. Italy.

 

Partisans seized control of the city and hanged Mussolini, his mistress, and other Fascist leaders in the Piazzale Loreto.  It was the same spot on which only a year before fifteen partisans had been executed.

 

For this evening’s meal, the choice is completely impromptu.  The Trattoria de la Trebia looks inviting, and even though not a soul in the place speaks English, the welcome for this unexpected traveler felt like the return of a prodigal son.

 

Next… the last of 10 Days in Italy is reserved for spectacular rooftop views from the Milano Cathedral, a gothic masterpiece and the Europe’s third largest.

 

See these earlier posts from “10 Days In Italy”

Parma’s palate

Parma has the look of prosperity.

Parma has the look of prosperity.

Parma is more or less halfway between Florence and Milano, and the drive via the A1 autostrada is a little over two hours, but the road through the mountains from Pistoia to Sasso Marchoni affords an opportunity for a more leisurely drive and scenic stop-offs.

 

The gas station just beyond Pistoia has the look of the last one for a few hours, and the mountains are no place to run out of fuel.

 

A grocery dedicate to Parma's favorites.

A grocery dedicate to Parma’s favorites.

 

Incredibly (anywhere but Italy),  the little mom-and-pop establishment has an espresso machine inside and the cashier brews up a world-class cappuccino while the attendant fills ‘er up.

 

The back road experience is well worth the hour or so that it adds to the trip.

 

Parma's signature ham and cheese in a local grocery.

Parma’s signature ham and cheese in a local grocery.

 

The road winds through the mountains past picturesque villages, and lake-and-valley views are beautiful.

 

About halfway into the mountains, the highway crosses from Tuscany back into Emilia-Romagna, a reminder that Parma, like Bologna – is another Italian town with a great culinary tradition.

 

Parma sits within Italy’s Po River Valley breadbasket and is an major agricultural center, but its two claims to culinary fame are Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and prosciutto dry-cured ham

 

Disability is no obstacle for this cyclist in Parma, Italy.

Disability is no obstacle for this cyclist in Parma, Italy.

 

The production techniques for both nurture these products with all of the care of fine wine-making.

 

This hard, pale yellow cheese less often eaten by itself than it is grated and used as a condiment for pastas, salads, and pizza.

 

In the U.S., the name “parmesan” is used for any cheese inspired by Parmigiano-Reggiano.

 

Prosciutto hams curing in Parma, Italy.

Prosciutto hams curing in Parma, Italy.

 

Within the European Union, the term is origin-controlled and may only be used to refer to authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano.

 

Prosciutto is an uncooked, dry-cured ham – a prosciutto crudo – that’s usually served thinly sliced.

 

Each ham is cleaned and salted, then is gradually pressed over a period of weeks until the meat is thoroughly dry.

 

Bridge over the Torrente Parma, Italy.

Bridge over the Torrente Parma, Italy.

 

 

It is then washed to remove the salt and hung in a dark, well-ventilated environment.

 

When the ham is completely dry, it is hung to air to further cure for up to eighteen months.

 

Cold climates yield the best results, and in the days before refrigeration, prosciutto was customarily cured in winter.

 

Food specialties like these have made Parma into one of Italy’s most prosperous cities, and its well-kept streets look the part.

 

Palazzo del Governatore, Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, Parma, Italy.

Palazzo del Governatore, Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, Parma, Italy.

 

There is easily a day’s worth of sites to see here for anyone passing through at a more leisurely pace.

 

The Teatro Farnese is a four-hundred year old theater that has been restored following damage by Allied bombing during World War II.

 

The University of Parma maintains a botanical garden here, and the birthplace of favorite son Arturo Toscanini is now a museum commemorating his life and achievements.

 

The main cathedral and its signature hexagonal-shaped bapistry are also worth a visit, but in truth Italy has so many cathedrals, baptistries, basilicas, and convents that the visitor soon learns to reserve time only for the most unique or historically significant.

Astronomical clock, Palazzo del Governatore, Parma, Italy.

Astronomical clock, Palazzo del Governatore, Parma, Italy.

 

There are also several hot spring spas within half an hour’s drive.

 

This Parma stopover, though, is limited to a long lunch hour, and after a walk through the city streets of the city center, the place which suggests itself is an outdoor cafe on the Piazza Giuseppi Garibaldi in front of the Palazzo del Governatore.

 

Its astronomical clock is claimed to be the world’ largest, and dates from the late 1500’s.

 

Lunch on the piazza, Parma, Italy.

Lunch on the piazza, Parma, Italy.

 

As in Bergamo and Ferrara, a mid-day stopover in Parma has proven to be yet another pleasantly impromptu surprise.

 

Now it’s on to Milano and the last two days of 10 Days In Italy.

 

See these earlier posts from “10 Days In Italy”

View of the Pitti Palace overlooking the city of Florence, Italy.

View of the Pitti Palace overlooking the city of Florence, Italy.

Today, Florence’s Pitti Palace houses some of the city’s most important museums, but it was for most of its life a private residence.

 

It lies about a kilometer south of the Duomo across the Ponte Vecchio, adjacent to the vast Boboli Gardens, which are also part of the estate.

 

 

 

Tourists sun themselves in front of the Pitti Palace, Florence, Italy

Tourists sun themselves in front of the Pitti Palace, Florence, Italy

 

 

The palace takes its name from the family for whom it was originally built by architect Filippo Brunelleschi, who also designed and built Florence’s famous Duomo.

 

A century later, the property was acquired by the Medici family, and became its primary residence.

 

Pitti Palace with formal garden and skyline view, FLorence, Italy.

Pitti Palace with formal garden and skyline view, Florence, Italy.

 

The Medicis remodeled and dramatically expanded the structure, and it rivals many palaces of European royalty in its size and grandeur.  The family lived in the palace for nearly 200 years.

 

Pitt Palace with formal garden, Florence, Italy.

Pitt Palace with formal garden, Florence, Italy.

 

 

Today, its first floor is occupied by the Palatine Gallery, a collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings by artists including Raphael, Titian, and Rubens.

 

It also houses the Royal Apartments.

 

 

 

Close-up of the view of Florence from the Pitti Palace,

Close-up of the view of Florence from the Pitti Palace,

 

The Silver Museum, located on its ground floor and mezzanine, contains a staggering collection of Medici household treasures.

 

The Gallery of Modern Art occupies the top floor, and  houses a collection of Tuscan 19th and 20th century paintings.

 

The Palazzina of the Meridiana is home to the Costume Gallery, a showcase of the fashion spanning 300 years.  It is the only museum of fashion history in Italy and one of the most important in the world.

 

The Grand Boulevard entrance to the Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy.

The Grand Boulevard entrance to the Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy.

The Pitti Palace overlooks the city of Florence, and the vistas of the city are spectacular.

 

Behind the Pitti Palace are the Boboli Gardens, which are among the first and most familiar of the 16th-century formal Italian gardens.

 

Ramses Ii obelisk, Boboli Gardens. Florence, Italy.

Ramses Ii obelisk, Boboli Gardens. Florence, Italy.

 

The Medicis also initiated work on the adjacent Boboli Gardens at about the same time that they expanded the palace.  The garden’s open design was unconventional for its time.

 

Pegasus, Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy.

Pegasus, Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy.

It is an outdoor museum of garden sculpture that includes Roman antiquities as well as 16th and 17th century works.

 

Grotto with statue of Paris and Helen of Troy, Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy.

Grotto with statue of Paris and Helen of Troy, Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy.

 

It contains expansive promenades, sculpture galleries, fountains, and intimate grottos decorated by statuary and frescoes.

 

Here there’s a space to suit almost any mood, and the sense of tranquility transcends even the hordes of tourists who seem insignificant in its expanse.

 

Triton Fountain, Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy.

Triton Fountain, Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy.

 

During the Medici residence, no one other than members of the immediate family were allowed access to the gardens, and no entertainment or parties were ever staged there.

 

The garden lacks a natural water source, and its elaborate irrigation system is fed by a conduit from the nearby Arno River.

 

Perseus On Horseback, Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy.

Perseus On Horseback, Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy.

 

On the Garden’s upper slopes, the Palazzina del Cavaliere pavilion houses the Porcelain Museum.

 

The gardens have been enlarged and restructured several times, and currently occupy 111 acres (45,000 square meters).

 

Clear water fountain, Boboli Gardens, FLorence, Italy.

Clear water fountain, Boboli Gardens, FLorence, Italy.

 

Catherine de Medici was born here, and when she became queen of France commissioned work on Paris’s Luxembourg Garden, which is inspired by the design of the Boboli Gardens.

 

The Palace and Gardens are a fitting end to a tour of Florence.  Tomorrow it’s on to Parma.

 

Dwarf Bacchus statue, Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy.

Dwarf Bacchus statue, Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy.

See my related post on Luxembourg Garden

 

See these earlier posts from “10 Days In Italy”

 

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