Looking at 47

I am 47. Closer to 50 than 40. A lot of women don’t like to tell their age, but cancer survivors know that birthdays are victory celebrations. We’re lucky to have them. Since I’ve been in China, I have had four. The first one sucked. But the other three have been pretty good. I have no one to give me presents, and only my girls to celebrate with me, so I’ve made it a tradition to go to a nearby, very nice, hotel and relax (and swim).

The first one here in Songjiang was at a hot spring, which was lovely, and we continued to go there several times. It’s in the middle of a huge ecological park, and it was always just so fresh and wonderful. And the service was fabulous. However, there is only one restaurant on the site and it’s Chinese. When we go out, we like to eat Western food, because we eat Chinese food five times a week.

My second birthday was at the Le Meridian hotel. Beyond fabulous. It’s at the bottom of a mountain. They have a Jacuzzi, sauna, indoor pools and endless outdoor pools. Deep bathtubs, because honestly, all we want to do is be in water. The breakfast buffet is to die for, and dinner is over-priced, but really pretty good. The western restaurant, has a very nice atmosphere and we always sit next to the wall with windows over-looking the mountain. On the premises there are woods to walk through, a vegetable garden, a lake, playgrounds, and they are connected to the sculpture gardens.

This birthday, I thought I would step it up a notch, and go to the Sofitel. I have always understood that these are the best, and most notable. It was more expensive a bit, but still a lot cheaper than a three star hotel in America. Still, I thought I’d try it. When we got there, I was surprised that the doormen didn’t help us with our bag. Every other place we have gone, they have.

We checked in early (because we wanted to swim all day). They were fine with that. After checking in, we went straight to the outdoor pools. It’s big and long, but very shallow. It didn’t go higher than my waist. I could sit in it, like a big bathtub, but swimming was a little difficult. The girls had fun, but they thought it was too shallow too.

All around the pool they had sand, and beach chairs in the sand. Raine brought her sand toys to play, and I met a very nice, very pregnant woman with a six year-old daughter. Now that China has changed the law to having two babies, there are a lot more pregnant people right now. Like they all started in January, the minute it was legal.

We sat on the chairs and talked forever while our daughters played, and then around 5:30 the pool started filling up. She said Chinese people won’t play in the sun, so they wait until dinner time. Also, I saw long-sleeved, high-necked, bathing suits for the first time. Anyway, The sky started to look scary and stormy and there was thunder and lightening in the distance, so we got our girls out quickly –but we were the only ones. The life guards didn’t even tell the others to get out!

The girls and I didn’t know where to go for dinner. There is a Western restaurant that offers a buffet for $70 a person –seriously. There is a Mediterranean Sports bar that has sandwiches and bar food, there was a Japanese cook-at-your-table type place, and some lounge on the top floor.

We changed into nice clothes, because it was my birthday dinner, but we ended up eating in the sports bar. No windows, kind of a let-down. Everything was CRAZY expensive. I spent about $75 for bar food. –It was really good bar food, but we even just drank water because a pop cost $7. It took more than a hour for Raine’s food to arrive, and the appetizers came AFTER that. We didn’t finish our food, but we didn’t want to waste it, so we asked for to-go boxes. They had boxes, but no lids.

They had a foosball table in that place, so we played. I think it was the most fun we had. I played one side and the girls teamed-up on the other. I won all three games, but they were close.

We went back to the room, and took turns taking a bath. We don’t have a bathtub, so this is a huge luxury for us. The only English stations on TV were BBC news, and National Geographic. That was pretty interesting. We don’t have TV Stations either, so it’s always a nice splurge.

The beds were really hard. Before we went to sleep, I noticed that my ankles and feet were horribly itchy. Painfully so. There were welts. I’m not positive, but I think there were bugs or sand fleas or something in the sand. While I was trying to figure out what to do, I got a call, saying that they noticed it was my birthday and they would like to bring a cake the next day.

This morning, we got up for breakfast, and saw our new friends there. The buffet was ok, but I really liked the bread pudding and that is all I ate. After breakfast, the girls had decided that they had gotten way too much sun yesterday, so they wanted to swim in the indoor pool.

I called the front desk, because the cake had not arrived, and  I didn’t want to check out late, but they said I could, so we waited for the cake. It was pretty, but kind of flavorless. Still, it was nice of them.

Two weird things happened in our room, by the way.  First, at midnight, the shower door kept opening and closing.  Not a a few times, but more than ten!  I got up and wedged a towel so it wouldn’t make anymore noise.  And then after breakfast, when we went back to our room, one towel and the bath mat were missing.  We searched the whole place.  I told the front desk, and they just laughed and said don’t worry about it.

After we checked out, they held our bags while we headed for the indoor pool. We were turned away, because we didn’t have bathing caps. We swim in hotels so that I don’t have to try to get Rumi’s big hair into a bathing cap. Rumi broke down and cried right there. She also complained because none of the boys and a few of the girl children were also not wearing bathing caps.

So we headed to the outdoor pool again. They played for a while, and I tried to find a spot not in sand, but there wasn’t one. I did have bug spray and I used it. Within an hour, they were ready to go home. They had said more than once that they liked our home more than any five-star expensive hotel. They also like my cooking better, and they missed Tigger.

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