Well, our weekend has come and gone in the thriving metropolis of Ningbo, pop. 1,567,000. To say that we were underwhelmed would be quite accurate. However, there are a few stories to tell.
We booked in to the Howard Johnson Hotel, and booked the Butler Service, which gets you a butler on call, with many services. On the elevator up, Terry noticed that there is a Night Club on the fourth floor. “Oh no,” says the bellman, “Night club is for gentlemen only – no ladies.” In a Howard Johnson???
After we get in to the room, Steven the Butler rings the bell to welcome us, introduce himself and provide a cup of tea. “I need two, Terry is in the bathroom.” (Ed. note: Complete with rose petals in the bowl.)
“Do you need anything ironed,” asks Steven. “No thank you” OK. Five minutes later he is back with a pair of pink slippers for Terry – mine are in the closet and are white. This is the last we see of Steven.
When Andy and Cheryl arrive we go out for lunch and a wander around. We wind up at Tianyi Square which is home to many shops and restaurants and instant tent shops advertising and selling everything from wedding photos to running shoes to lottery tickets.
Then it was off to listen to a very loud barker who was hyping the opening of Z-Daves Jewelry store (Ed. note: Classic Chinese name). Some 10 year old kid kept going up on the stage and getting gifts for something or other. We wandered next door into a Catholic church. They were putting balloons on the pews – a wedding in 45 minutes. “Could we come?” “Of course” We go back 45 minutes later. We hear the Wedding March overture, combined with some music from Carmen plus a couple of other tunes three or four times. Then the bride comes rushing out from the back of the church to the head of the aisle. Then the groom comes rushing out, carrying the bouquet and hands it to her. Then they walk down the aisle. Remember Z-Dave? Well, he was right next door and louder than the music in the church. Nice touch. Also, we weren’t the only crashers. People were constantly coming and going all through the service. Very unusual. (Ed. Note: That night at the restaurant, who should we run into but the wedding party and their reception. How coincidental.)
Back to the hotel. We call down to get four wine glasses and ice to cool off the white wine. (Ed. Note: Minibars in China serve only as containers with no real cooling ability.)
“You want ice and 4 wine glasses?” “Yes please” “You want anything to drink? “No thank you, just 4 glasses and the ice” “Nothing to drink?” This goes on for two more interchanges like this before we agree.
Five minutes later the phone rings. “My colleague says there are two red wine glasses on the bar.” “Ok, then please bring two more glasses and ice” “You want anything to drink?” “No just the glasses and the ice” “Nothing to drink?” “No thank you” Finally the glasses and the ice arrive.
When we told people we were coming to Ningbo, the universal reaction (friends, baristas, students etc) “Oh, Ningbo has wonderful seafood – they are famous for it.” Given that we have not had good seafood in China we were plenty excited. We did all the necessary research and decided on Shipu Restaurant – the best in Ningbo – after all it is the kick off dinner for Terry’s month of birthday celebrations. If it is the best, I wouldn’t want to try the second best. One indication only. Each tablecloth is covered with a sheet of thin plastic. The waitress spilled hot water on the plastic and didn’t bother to wipe it up. OK two indications – the plastic kept sticking to your arms. The squid has turned Terry off all squid in the future, the brown slop sauce the whole fish was drenched in was the same as was on the aforementioned squid. The best dish was the beef and green beans in some kind of spicy sauce. (Ed. note: Really? Beef is the best dish in the best seafood restaurant in a city known for its seafood?)
Coming next – Days 2 and 3 of Ningbo, Shningbo
The Shoe Blog
It is unusual, I think, to see two women wearing the same shoes as one wanders through life. In Ningbo, twice we saw two women together wearing exactly the same shoes. (Ed. note: The other two women were also also wearing cute shoes, and were also cute. They were at the train station, rushing for a train with their husbands and babies and I couldn’t get a photo – sorry.)