The reason I took to Shanghai so well, more so than other cities in China, was because of the former French Concession. Just look at this quaint street.
This map (in Czech, tres cool, n’est-ce pas?) shows the area of the French Concession in relation to the Whampoa River (Huangpu in Mandarin and Hoang-pu in Czech).
France ruled this area from 1849 until 1943 when the Japanese occupation put an end to that. It was such a colorful area, not only with premier shopping and residences, but it also grew into a White Russian enclave during the first few decades of the 1900s.
I learned of the beautiful architecture in the French Concession in my teens when I watched the film, Empire of the Sun (a must-see, mais oui, for anyone interested in WWII Shanghai).
The first and third times I stayed in Shanghai, I rented a room at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, still home to gorgeous architecture.
The French Concession was inhabited by a Who’s Who of modern Chinese history. Here I’m standing in front of Zhou Enlai’s house.
Notorious gangster Du Yuesheng also lived in the French Concession, as did Sun Yat-sen and his wife, Soong Qingling. And of course there’s my favorite former French Concession habitué, author Eileen Chang.
The pre-PRC street names resonated with the vice and romance of old Shanghai: Avenue Joffre (now Huaihai Lu), Rue Bourgeat (now Changle Lu), Gustave de Boissezon Route (now Fuxing Xi Lu), Avenue Edouard VII (now Yan’an Lu), and so on.
And of course there’s the Bund.
If you’ve visited or lived in the old French Concession, what’s your favorite spot?