Nanhu Park Flower Market

Now that Spring has officially arrived in Shenyang, as evidenced by the enormous amounts of construction, dust storms, and ladies with scarves wrapped around their heads, my friend and I decided to head out and look for some plants and flowers to bring some green and life into our apartments.

We weren’t sure exactly where to find them, as usual. This is the one of the biggest struggles as an expat. At home, I know exactly where to go if I want to buy flowers (or lightbulbs, or shoe strings). Or if I don’t want to make a special trip to the nursery, I can just pick up a couple pots while I’m at the grocery store and kill 2 birds with 1 stone. You can’t really do that in China. The “superstores” and “one-stop-shops” aren’t the same. When you move to another country, it’s all those little things you have to relearn that you don’t really think about.

Now, I’d heard from a friend that there was a flower market near Nanhu Park. Unfortunately, that’s all I knew. And Nanhu Park is pretty big. Normally I’d take a bus over since it’s not too far, but in this case, we decided to take a cab.

First I told him to take us to the park, but then he wanted to know which gate. I really had no idea, but thankfully, I have just enough Chinese to explain that we wanted to buy flowers. He understood and drove us right to the place and even pointed the direction we should walk to get there. Having even limited communication skills really makes this life so much easier. I’m not even sure we’d have found it otherwise.

I seriously can’t believe how huge, and awesome, and green this place is! I don’t know about you, but early Spring plants just make me so happy! I miss my yard and my grass a lot, and this was a little dose of home.

They have nearly any type of plant you could want. Potted, blooming cherry blossom trees, roses, azaleas, and plenty of others that I’d never seen before. From huge trees to teeny tiny baby plants. Most of the small pots run about $1.50 and the trees, as low as $20 USD.

They even have fish to go with your flowers. The ones for decoration, not for dinner.

After we browsed and shopped all afternoon, we ended up having to call another friend to come rescue us. We had so much stuff. That’s one of the best parts of being an expat. Friendships take on a whole new level because you have to depend on each other so much. No one has family nearby, so we become family for each other.

And it was a good thing she was available to come help. I don’t know how we’d have gotten home otherwise!

My living room window looks so much more cozy with that touch of green, don’t ya think?

Hope the ayi isn’t too annoyed she has more plants to nurse back to life after my brown thumb destroys them.


Guess what?

I need to tell you a secret. I’m working on something. Finally. I just about, pretty much, almost decided to make this happen. It’s something we’ve talked about it since before we moved to China, since this blog was just beginning, and I’ve had friends and readers suggest it many times. But I was unconvinced.

I have had many reasons why I can’t couldn’t do it.

A book.

It’s just too… Continue reading


Le Lys – Shenyang’s French Restaurant

I’ve been hearing rumors of a new French Restaurant for the last few months. We’d heard some great things about it, but let’s be honest, any kind of Western food will get us excited these days. Well, we finally got to try it out (after our little misadventure the first time we tried to go). It is seriously wonderful food! And it’s one of those places that as soon as you step through the door you forget you’re in China.

I love those places.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like China. But even still, sometimes it’s nice to feel like you’ve walked through a little time warp and ended up in a little French cafe, far away from the horns and crowds and hustle and bustle.

French Restaurant in Shenyang

Le Lys is located just south of the Kingdom Hotel (Jin du Hotel). It’s tucked down a little alley so you have to be watching for it, but it’s not too difficult to find.

View Shenyang Places in a larger map

They have a nice wine list as you would expect. And bread is served while you wait for your meal.

The prices were a little on the expensive side for a normal night out for us in Shenyang, but I definitely thought they were fair for the meal. Probably still a little less than you’d pay for an equivalent night out in the US. You can expect to spend around 150-200 RMB per person, not including any wine or cocktails.

None of us could decide what to order so we did a little thing we’ve learned since living in China for so long. We all ordered something different and passed it around! I just love that about China. It’s something I always miss when I’m back in the US… “You mean, I have to choose just one dish?” Ordering a sampler for the table is a great way to dine.

We ordered a steak.

And duck with orange sauce.

And a rack of lamb (which I didn’t manage to get a photo of.)

And lamb chops!

It’s so nice to have good friends who are willing to share their lamb chops!

Speaking of, I’m still not sure what we’re going to do without these two partners in crime. They’re heading back home to South Africa in just a few weeks. It is the best and worst thing about expat life. Meeting so many awesome people who become like family in such a short amount of time.

And then it’s time to go home again.

But I digress.

Le Lys is definitely a great place for a fancy night out with amazing food and a fantastic atmosphere.

And even better when you bring along great company to share it with!


Closed tonight. Everybody is tired.

Last night we had made plans with some friends to meet for dinner at a new French restaurant in town that opened a few months ago. (Yay for more foreign food!) We were planning for an early dinner around 6 since it was a work night. I’ve been there once for a luncheon with International Club of Shenyang so I knew where it was, had pinned it in my iPhone (one of the greatest technologies ever I might add…) and then shared the pin with our friends (also one of the greatest technologies ever). We all planned to meet at the restaurant.

French Restaurant in Shenyang

LB and I were the first ones to arrive. Our taxi dropped us on the main road and we walked down the little side street where the restaurant is. And here’s where the weirdness starts.

As we walked up, we realized everything was dark. Apparently they were closed. Now, first of all you have to understand that this is a little weird because in China, even the banks and post office are open seven days a week. Except for Chinese New Year, most places are open every day. Especially a restaurant at dinnertime. But as I mentioned, it was our first time and it is run by a foreigner so maybe this place is different. We didn’t think too much of it, just quickly tried to phone our friends to orchestrate a new game plan for dinner.

And here comes weirdness number two.

A Chinese guy walks up to us and says, in these exact words “Were you guys going to the french restaurant?” Yep, in perfect English.

I’m pretty sure we both just stared at him with dumbfounded looks on our face for about 10 seconds before we could answer with a nod.

So he says, “Yeah, I’m not sure where they are. I’m going to try to call them. I don’t know. Maybe everybody’s tired.”

Weird #3: Maybe everybody’s tired? They’re just not open… Because everybody’s tired. O. K. then.

So we’re still on the phone with friends trying to coordinate a new place to eat. He’s standing nearby, also on the phone.

A minute later he walks back up.

“Yeah, I just talked to them. They are tired tonight so they decided not to open. But if you guys want a drink I can let you in. I have the key.”

I still just don’t know what to say.

Finally, we just thanked him and told him we’d go eat somewhere else.

Only in China can you just decide to close because you’re tired, and then not tell the staff (as I’m assuming he was considering he had a key).

The funniest thing about this whole story is that the part I thought was weird was the guy coming up to us speaking perfect English and offering to call the owners. LB had to remind me that it was also not *normal* where we come from for a store to just close because they are “tired”. I think I’ve been in China too long…


Frigidly Cold

Realization #1: Our friends have a weather channel television in the elevator.

Realization #2: The weather channel changes between English and Chinese so we can actually read it!

Realization #3: It’s really cold here.

Realization #4: Whoever translated the weather descriptions into English may take my title as the Human Thesaurus.


In case you can’t make it out, our weather choices for the next four days are:

1) Sunny, but very cold
2) Frigid with bright sunshine
3) Sunny and bitterly cold
4) Partly sunny and frigid

And the total difference is a maximum of 4 degrees. Winter in Shenyang…


What we do for fun in China

We go bowling!

There is a bowling alley in Shenyang. Just beside the Jindu Hotel. (This card is in the BMW Taxi Guide.)

You’ll have to ask the taxi driver for the hotel. Most know where the hotel is even if they’ve never heard of the bowling alley. Then just look for the neon lights next door and go down the escalators to the basement. And there’s the alley. Just like you’d find in the US.

We like to play girls vs. boys.

(Notice the shoes are just as attractive as they are in the US.)

It’ s a good way to do things, ya know.

Less fighting. More trash talking.

The girls smoked the guys the first round.

But they came back in the second to tie it up, 1 to 1.

It’s a lot of fun!

And you sure can’t beat hours of fun for $5 a person!


How you know it’s fall in Shenyang

Fall has always been my favorite season. I just love the colors and the cool breezes. It’s the season of jeans and boots. And Clemson football. (Undefeated so far this year. Go Tigers!)


And while we do get a little bit of that in Shenyang, it’s not the changing leaves that signal fall here. It’s not the first sightings of knee-high boots or the lack of bare baby bums either.

Nor is it the crispy cool weather. (Does anyone else call fall weather crispy? I always have for some reason. I think it is a good description.)

In Shenyang…
Continue reading


My map of Shenyang places

Not long after we moved to Shenyang I discovered someone’s saved Google map of Shenyang. It had some really great finds and I really appreciated having it as reference when I was looking for things during our first few months in town. Unfortunately it was several years old and therefore quite dated in this fast changing city. A lot of things were no longer there or moved.

So I started building my own.

I’m not sure why I never got around to sharing it until just now, but here it is anyway. I try to add places as I find them. Hopefully, you’ll find some useful places you haven’t yet uncovered in this huge city.

View Shenyang Places in a larger map

What are some of your favorite spots in Shenyang? Did I miss something? Please leave them in the comments so I can add them to the map!


The best coffee in Shenyang: IS Caffe

Ok, let me start by saying that yes, we do have Starbucks in Shenyang. And we even have Dunkin Donuts. (Unfortunately, DD misses the mark on the brewed coffee here. The American style coffee is still “new” here I guess and I think they still don’t really “get” how to make it well just yet. Usually just tastes stale. Maybe it’s good if you can get a fresh pot.) And while I enjoy both of those places, if I really want a relaxing cup of coffee nobody can touch Icy’s coffee at IS Caffe. (yeah, that’s not a typo. I’m not really sure why it has two f’s but it does.)

(looks black for some reason in the photo… the sign is actually brown.)

I’m not sure what it is. Maybe because it’s the closest for me, and I can walk there in 15 minutes.

Or maybe it’s just the great atmosphere. The decor is adorable and she plays great music.

Or maybe it’s because she speaks fluent English and so I can mix it up and order something special and off the wall and she gets it right. always.

Or maybe it’s because she serves them in beautiful mugs and glasses. That are normal size and not over-priced miniatures.

Or maybe it’s just the beautiful, perfect cup of latte, mocha, frappe, cappuccino that you get EVERY time.

But I love it.

It’s located on San Hao Jie (aka. Computer Street) in between Wencui Lu and Wenti Lu.

View Shenyang in a larger map

Just look for the FT. Silicon Valley sign. It’s easy to spot from either direction. (Just watch out for construction… of course, that goes for everywhere in Shenyang.)

Do yourself a favor… the next time it’s -20 degrees outside this winter and you need a break from this crazy expat life, go grab a comfy chair and a steamy mug of joe at IS Caffe. (Just don’t go too early in the morning. She doesn’t open until 11ish.)

Just chill and enjoy the free wifi and amazing coffee.

You won’t be sorry you braved the weather. Or the sidewalks.


Update October 21, 2011: Did I mention how much I LOVE this place?! Today, I switched bags just before I left the house to walk here. Got up to the counter and ordered my coffee only to realize I had left my wallet in my other bag and had no money! Being the awesome people they are, they made my coffee anyway and said, “Just pay me next time you stop by.”

I love Shenyang people! They really are fabulous.