I thought I was traveling to China to explore the mysteries of China's storied past: the big dynasties with their poetic one-syllable names -- the Qin, the Han, the Tang, the Song. The Ming and the Qing.
I thought maybe I'd be spending my two weeks in China ogling porcelain vases and Shang bronzes.
Which I did.
But what really caught my attention -- and Jon's -- during our September tour of the country was China's storied present: The skyscrapers of Shanghai. The open air markets and airport shops bursting with merchandise. The ubiquitous one-child families. The traffic jams. The fashionistas.
Especially the fashionistas. And their on-trend shoes.
Our Viking tour guides made sure that we hit the big historic places -- we contemplated the Terra Cotta Warriors and we sailed the Three Gorges.
But for me, the most compelling feature of our trip were the Chinese people. The living, breathing, 21st-century men, women and children going about their business on the streets of some of the most populous cities in the world.
Lucky for the foreign tourist, the fun part of being a sightseer in China right now is that 99 percent of the other sightseers climbing the Great Wall and promenading Shanghai's Bund seemed to be Chinese.
Which made it really easy for me and my trusty point-and-shoot to quietly capture the fashion shots you see here.
Most of these pictures were taken at the Yu Gardens Bazaar in Old Town Shanghai -- where Jon and I spent a sultry fall Sunday afternoon strolling and shopping. Jon found some candy to buy, and a pair of cut-paper kittens in little frames, but after a couple of hours of pushing through the crush of weekend promenaders, Jon's feet got tired and his eyes glazed over.
The Yu Gardens Bazaar, Shanghai (photos by BF Newhall)
He was done for the day.
I had on my sturdy shopping shoes, however. I wanted to keep on going. So Jon (thank you, Jon) caught a cab back to the hotel and gave me the gift of a couple of hours of shopping -- and people-ogling -- all to my low-fashion self.
Just me and the fashionistas.
More riffs on fashion, travel and family life at Barbara's website, BarbaraFalconerNewhall.com.