In 1927, at the age of 23, my grandmother boarded a boat to China following the man she loved to Shanghai.
Who inspires me to travel?
As a little girl, I used to love listening to Grannie tell me tales from her travels. Her fiancé had moved to Shanghai in 1925 to take up a teaching position. Two years later he sent for her to follow. I can’t imagine how my great grandparents must have felt about their daughter going off on such an adventure! The journey took weeks by boat rather than hours by plane as it would now and of course there were no mobiles, emails or skype to keep in touch with loved ones.
They married in Hong Kong and then lived in Shanghai, where my father was born, in Bubbling Well Road now called West Nanjing Road.
Grannie’s stories about her life in China transported me to a world of haggling in the markets, holidays in Japan, visits to India and sailing on the Queen Mary. I remember laughing and squirming when she told me about her cook who had one really long finger nail; she was always telling him off because he used it to stir and taste his cooking! Last weekend I spoke to my father about what he remembers about growing up in China. I’ll share it with you in another post. It really is quite a tale, Shanghai Part 1.
What inspires me to travel?
Souvenirs and old films
The painted plates, vases and intricately carved furniture showing scenes of the orient that filled my Grandmother’s house in England fascinated me; pretty scenes of cherry trees in blossom, willow trees hanging over little bridges with figures in strange costumes. These and watching old films like Casablanca made me wonder what it would be like to go to far away, romantic-sounding places like Timbuktu and Mandalay collecting exotic souvenirs as I went.
Where brings out my wanderlust?
Another person who was a big influence on me was Annie, one of the designers/photographers I worked with producing holiday brochures when I first started working in the travel industry. Every year we’d spend a few days together selecting images for the next season’s brochures. While there, Annie would also show me photographs of her big passion, India, telling me all about her travels. When she invited me on a trip to India I couldn’t resist. It is the most exciting country I have ever been to – the hustle and bustle of Jaipur, the calm serenity of the Kerala backwaters, luxury and poverty side by side, vivid colours and patterns everywhere. You can read about my tour of Kerala here.
Over the next few years, I found Annie an inspiration on many different levels and she encouraged me greatly with my own photography. I don’t think she has any idea just how much she influenced me, both professionally and personally. Thank you, Annie
The company I work for now specialises in West Africa (amongst other destinations). I had only ever been to North Africa before so it has been wonderful to get to know another part of this great continent, in particular, The Gambia. Even though each trip is relatively short I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been and it has given me the chance to get to know a place in more depth. I now have many friends there and I’ve got involved with two Gambian schools. Back home I’ve founded a choir singing songs from around the world including many from Africa. We raise money to help the schools and some members of the choir now wish to visit The Gambia. So later this year we will be off. Most of them have never been to Africa before so it will be quite an adventure for them. I plan to make it one they will never forget! You can read about my adventures in The Gambia here.
Another place I have returned to a number of times is the beautiful island of Corsica but I have yet to explore the interior. I’d love to take the train from Bastia to Ajaccio stopping off for a day or two here and there to enjoy the mountain villages and scenery. I’ve heard that the train ride itself is a real treat winding through the mountains, tunnels and gorges, at times hugging the cliff face, other times plunging into forests. At one point it traverses a valley via the enormous Vecchio viaduct, engineered by Gustave Eiffel. There is even a superb waterfall known as the bride’s veil which overhangs the railway before the train meanders through the lush green foothills to Ajaccio. You can read about my travels in Corsica here.
A few people have told me that my posts and photographs have inspired them to add Corsica to their ‘bucket list’ which is wonderful. I even heard today that my photos had inspired someone to buy a camera, which I was extremely pleased to hear!
When did I first travel?
My first journey abroad was at the age of ten when my sister (aged 12) and I caught the ferry to France where we’d be staying with a French family for the week. It was very exciting being allowed to travel by ourselves on the ferry – not quite a “Slow boat to China” but an adventure never-the-less. It was a wonderful experience, apart from what looked like raw mince that they tried to feed me; I was somewhat less adventurous than I am now when it came to food!
Which bloggers inspire me to travel?
I’ve been blogging through ‘Travel with Kat’ since September 2012 and I have really enjoyed receiving feedback from fellow bloggers and reading their inspiring posts too. Suzanne from ‘The Travel Bunny’ has certainly got me hankering to visit Vietnam.
Lucy’s blog ‘On the Luce’ is another one of the many blogs I really enjoy following and I’ll be looking to her for some inspiration on my forthcoming weekend in Paris.
Recently I was lucky enough to meet and interview travel writer Frances Linzee Gordon. Her tales of travelling solo across countries such as Morocco, Ethiopia and Yemen are fascinating. She believes that you should never refuse an invitation while travelling. She goes by her instincts and uses her three-second rule of maintaining eye contact with a stranger to see if she thinks they are trustworthy. She is certainly a very inspiring lady! I have done some travelling on my own before but Frances has certainly spurred me on to step that little bit further out of my comfort zone. Perhaps I should now make the journey to Shanghai myself and walk down the street that was once called Bubbling Well Road. I wonder what my grandmother would make of today’s Shanghai. I hope to visit China one day and have an oriental adventure of my own, walking in my grandmother’s footsteps!
What inspires you to travel?
Thanks to Northampton Musem for their permission to use the old photograph of Shanghai. You can see more of their historic images on Flickr.
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Stumbled on your blog while searching for Bubbling Well Road, wow glad I did. Can I add you to my blog so I can read more about your travels esp about Shanghai. I have read some books on Old Shanghai and wish to know more about the place old and new. My dad and both side of my grandparents were from Shanghai though I was born in Singapore. I have been to Shanghai for a month 3 years ago, and hope to visit again to explore more places. Yours make me want to start my own travelogue 😀 Maybe you could tell me more lol BTW, can you speak Shanghainese?
Glad you found my blog but I’m afraid the answer is no, I can’t speak Shanghainese. I have never been there but I hope to one day. If you haven’t already, do read the 3 parts of my families story. It explains it all! Here’s a link to the first part. https://travelwithkat.com/2012/06/30/shanghai-chapter-one-the-perfect-grandmother/
I’d really recommend starting your own travel blog. Apart from anything else it will be a wondderful reminder to you in years to come.
Congratulations on winning the competition! I love the bit about the chef who stirred and tasted food with a long fingernail. I can’t decided if that’s gross or super practical!
Thank you so much. I’m over-the-moon about winning and feel very lucky! (In the main I say the finger nail is pretty gross but then again….)
🙂 x littlebigsis
They say that love makes you do a lot of things but I’m pretty sure that even in 1927 I would not have been a follower. lol
This is the best post I’ve read yet of the “Inspiration to travel”s Kat. I’ve decided I want your life! Off to vote.
Oh Jo, thank you. Just like everyone else I’ve had my fair share of heartache but I’ve also been very lucky and I believe in grabbing hold of the opportunities life offers you.
Nice article… The last part is the best of it! “Yes, I really must go and have an oriental adventure of my own, walking in my grandmother’s footsteps!”
We were last year in Eastern Germany, where my grandmother lived till Germany got separated and she moved to the West. It was interesting to be there.
Hi Melvin, Thanks for popping by. Glad you enjoyed my post.
Good to hear you had an interesting time visiting where you’re grandmother lived. I really hope I do get to go to Shanghai one day. I’d love to go next year but no idea how I’d pay for the trip! I’m working on it though!
This is a wonderful and inspiring read, Kat. I love the gentle flow of words that started with the story of your grandmother and ended with your wish to go where she bravely went as a young lady. 🙂
Thank you… what a lovely comment and very much appreciated. 😀
Beautifully written Kat! Your Grandmothers story is so wonderful! It would be fun for you to retrace her footsteps! Thank you for the nomination! Can’t think of anything as romantic 🙂
Thank you so much. Writing this post has really got me thinking! Watch this space!
Great post Kat, your Gran was obviously a woman before her time… truly inspiring. Thanks for the nomination too, this has really got me thinking 🙂
She was an amazing grandmother and I’ll be writing more on that at some point. Looking forward to reading about your travel inspirations!
Very inspirational post. I’ll need to think about the things that motivate me to travel. Thanks for sharing. Cheers.
Thank you. I really enjoyed writing it – you should write one too. Just taken a peek at your blog – looks great. I’ll be making a return visit soon!
What a lovely post – inspiring in itself! I think you should definitely make the trip to Shanghai – what a wonderful story that would make.
Thank you and thanks again for nominating me. Writing this post has really got me thinking!
What a great blog post. Super interesting. I wonder what Shanghai must have been like in the late 20’s early 30’s. It must have felt like going to another planet.
I am off to Shanghai in a few weeks. I am really looking forward to it. I go to China once or twice a year for work. So, the only free time I have is at night. But, it’s an adventure non the less.
Lucky you! I’m sure you’ll have some tales to tell. I’m looking forward to talking to my father some more about what it was like back then. Glad you enjoyed my post and have a brilliant time in Shanghai.