Virtuoso Members Shine in Shanghai!

A whirlwind week in China has ended, I'm comfortable sitting at home with my laptop is, well of course, on my lap, and it's time to catch you up on Virtuoso Chairman's Event 3 days in Shanghai.

I already mentioned our arrival at the Ritz-Carlton, the wall of applause as we entered, the breathtaking and well-appointed rooms. I forgot to add when our luggage arrived in our room, each piece had an engraved silver Ritz-Carlton luggage tag attached personalized with our name.

I prefer being on the Puxi side of Shanghai for several reasons, accessibility to my favorite shops and markets, walking along the Bund, enjoying the view of the skyscrapers on the Pudong side with their lighted exterior decor at night, and being closer to the actual city center of Shanghai. Holding that bias, I still delighted in everything about the Ritz-Carlton Pudong - the contemporary yet classic feel of the rooms, the steeping tub that affords a skyline view of the Puxi side, the double-headed shower that allows you to use both the handheld and rain shower head in tandem, the French press coffee pot, bedside room controls, phenomenonal service without the obsequious aftertaste, and food equal to the best privately owned, trendy hideaway.

An editorial correction: I mentioned we dined at Flair but spelled it Flare. Personally, I suggest they rename the restaurant Flair Flare because it is both stylish and eye-catching!

Thursday, October 20 presented us with options for tours such as the Back to the Future tour of the French concession led by W. Patrick Cranley, the Yu Yuan Garden and Old Town area led by my dear friend, Gerald Hatherly of A&K, a tour of the Jewish section (Did you know Shanghai was one of only a handful of places that did NOT have immigration restrictions?).  We lunched at the Swatch Art Peace Hotel and had a sumptuous food-station buffet dinner at the swank Park Hyatt Shanghai. The Park Hyatt Shanghai, the tallest hotel in the world, entertained us in their private dining venue on the 93rd floor.

Friday began with gray clouds and a few sprinkles that morphed into a lovely puffed-cloud, blue sky day. We spent the morning in an area on the outskirts of Shanghai, Zhujiajiao, a village whose roots go back hundreds of years. Many of the century old buildings house art galleries, craft stores, shops, and museums. Often called the Venice of Shanghai, Zhujiojiao is also famous for its system of canals. Before boarding a boat for a ride in the canal, you can purchase a small koi fish to release in the river and that is supposed to bring good luck. This is actually a great business model: The vendor catches the fish in the river, sells it for RMB 5 to us, we release it in the river, and the vendor catches it again! Gotta love the entrepreneurial spirit!

If it's noontime, we must be lunching somewhere wonderful, right? Friday's luncheon at the Grand Hyatt, was nothing less than mesmerizing. Before the meal we enjoyed apertifs, champagne, hors d'ouevres, and opera, arias sung by a tenor whose voice rivaled Andrea Bocelli. Staying with the Italian theme, our meal was a contemporary Italian dream.

Friday night, our final evening, found us all decked out in our custom-made black velvet Mandarin styled jackets. Before arriving in China, we sent our measurements to Virtuoso and included our choice for the lining color. Upon arriving at the Ritz-Carlton Pudong, we had a final fitting of our jackets and proudly wore them for our final Gala dinner, which was held at the Peninsula Shanghai on the Bund. I had the good fortune to stay at that uber sophisticated property last month and was eager to return. After an elegant cocktail hour, our hosts ushered us into the ballroom set with four long banquet tables adorned with silver candelabra, beautiful china, and both Western silverware and silver inlaid ebony chopsticks. Our multi-course meal was an example of the best of contemporary Chinese cuisine, and dessert - glad you asked! Dessert, held in the lounge area of the 13th floor, featured desserts of the future, yummy treats interspersed in a setting of a futuristic chemistry lab! Only the iconic Peninsula group could be so creative!

We reluctantly bid farewell to the Ritz-Carlton Pudong on Saturday morning and headed to the Shanghai Pudong Airport. Our final China treat was a ride on the famouse Maglev, the world's fastest highspeed magnetic levitation train. Reaching a speed of 431 km/h, we traversed the 30 km route in just over 7 minutes.

The takeaway: Plan a visit to China today! Enjoy a mix of the "lure of the past" and feel the "impact of the future" in today's China. This is not your mother's China nor the China many of thousands of people dressed alike in  drab uniforms black, gray, or blue. China is vibrant and exciting, a hotbed of creativity and design, a forward thinking and acting country that today honors its rich history.

PS. Many of you know I've been very critical of the service I've received on international flights. Now hear this: the flight crews on United, both directions, was excellent. Maybe there is hope that we haven't lost sight of true customer care!

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