Chase decided she wanted to see The Great Wall of China. So off we went.
After a quick, one hour flight, we arrived in Beijing. We were picked up from the airport by a driver, who took us directly to The Wall. (For those looking to visit Beijing, I highly recommend contacting William at firstname.lastname@example.org).
I had a minor anxiety attack when I realized that in order to see The Wall we had to take a chair lift. Chase handled it better than I did. She sat very still and took it all quite seriously (the sunglasses and smile are an attempt to hide my panic).
I'm not sure what I expected, but I must say that hiking The Wall is not for the faint of heart. In all seriousness - if one is looking for a heck of a workout, one should definitely combine steep, uneven stairs with the additional weight of a small child.
As I needed a break, Hubs took Chase up to the very top - and then past a sign that read "do not pass." And yes, we had some words when he returned. Chase, meanwhile, soaked in the brilliant view. We could not have had better weather.
Here's a shot of from the top of The "Wild" Wall, which is now overgrown and falling into disrepair. Special thanks to Hubs for snapping this during his walkabout.
And then we started back down...
Just a few more steps (ha!)...
After the Wall, we went back to our hotel (I have to say, if one ever decides to visit The Great Wall, going directly from the airport is the way to do it). From there, we decided to do a bit of shopping. After our little shopping spree (the first of many), we headed over to an old friend's house for dinner.
Silly me, I did not take any pictures. Her daughter, Margo, bears a striking resemblance to Chase. The girls got along famously. They chased each other. Babbled at each other. And really interacted and played with each other. It was super cute.
We had a lovely time and look forward to seeing them both again soon.
First stop - The Dirt Market - Beijing's oldest, largest flea market. So many stalls, with so much rubbish, but for those who take the time, I'm sure it's a great place to find hidden treasure. The market opens around sunrise (4 a.m.-ish) and then closes around 5 p.m. We arrived about 8 a.m. and people were already swarming in. And yes, it was really hot. Already. At 8 a.m.
We walked away with a gorgeous Tibetan carpet and a few strands of pearls.
Chase loved running her fingers through the strands of pearls.
She just could not get enough.
And then she found the bags (and bags and bags) of pearls.
We knew we were in trouble!
Next - we hopped a cab to 798, a trendy warehouse-turned-arts-district. What struck me most about the art in Beijing - as well as the art in Shanghai - is the anger and sadness captured within the pieces. Some pieces were dark - in both color and subject matter, while others were brilliantly colored but seriously twisted.
Note the Tibetan carpet hubs is toting - because we are crazy enough to bring along a carpet (and a toddler) on an art walk.
Unfortunately, darling Lolly tripped while she was walking and didn't catch herself in time.
She ended up with quite a mark on her forehead. We stopped for lunch and ordered a banana split (worse one ever), but the bananas seemed to cheer her up pretty quickly.
We walked until I was so exhausted I could no longer stand (almost 4 hours) - and we still had not seen it all. The heat, plus the extra weight of a small child and a Tibetan carpet, forced us to cut our tour a little short.
And then we got our second (third?) wind and headed to a warehouse that sells antiques, collectibles and new furniture. They do serious business there - so serious they have their own shippers in-house. So we toured 3 massive floors of furniture (with a shipper shopping with us) and came away with some lovely pieces, which should arrive in the next week or so.
And yes, we bought these itty-bitty chairs for Chase. She just loved them so much. And we bought a little (low) antique table, to go with the chairs.
And then, as the doors were closing, we heard about another warehouse.
Hubs wanted to go. I wanted to go.
But it was 6 p.m. and I was out of snacks (and diapers) for Chase.
So we headed back to the hotel for showers.
I told Hubs that we should tuck in and order room service.
Hubs told me he wanted to go out to a Mexican restaurant.
It was all I could do to motivate myself to get off the bed.
But I am so glad we went.
It was amazing. They had lime.
They even had guacamole.
Beijing only just allowed avocados in last year.
We met the owner. She had some great stories.
I highly recommend the Mexican Wave restaurant.
Chase fell asleep in the cab on the way there, so Hubs and I enjoyed time together unwinding.
After sleeping quite poorly (thanks to a midnight demolition crew with jackhammers), we awoke and headed out to T-square (sorry about the self-censoring, but I want to keep this blog off any watch lists).
A quick shot of us in T-square (below), just in front of the Forbidden City (which was undergoing restoration and was totally covered by scaffolding in preparation for the 2008 Olympics). For this reason, we decided to save the Forbidden City for our next visit to Beijing.
Our little diplomat...
And then we went to the Temple of Heaven, which was used by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911) to worship Heaven and pray for good harvests.
At this point, our dearest little one was so hot and exhausted - it was all she could do to keep her eyes open. It was so hot. I can't begin to describe how hot.
And Chase was soooo tired...
We soon discovered that the grounds of the Temple of Heaven were huge. Just when we thought we had seen it all, another building, courtyard or pavillion came into sight.
We were all hot, grumpy and exhausted. It wasn't pretty. Sure, we should have actually read and followed the map/guide, but that would have been too easy.
And then Chase woke up.
Let me just say, she was so 'over' the Temple of Heaven.
And then there was more...
And finally we managed to find a path where Chase could walk without being mobbed. Plus it had some shade. So we set her down and let her stretch her legs. She happily played about and made it quite clear that she was more than happy to use her little legs. In fact, she threw a little tantrum when we tried to move her from the spot. Eventually we picked her up, and ran toward the exit (and the nearest cab with AC) singing nursery rhyms as she wiggled and wailed.
Next was the Pearl Market, for more pearls (after all, one can never have too many), then came a feast of Thai food (for the first time in 6 months) for lunch.
Following our late lunch, we headed back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and made for the airport.
The things that most surprised me about Beijing - (1) it was so Western (there were white people everywhere), (2) it was so green (tree-lined streets!) , (3) it was so filthy (and I mean unbelievably filthy), and (4) it was so hot (and it is May).
Things that didn't surprise me - the air quality was horrible. I could feel it, see it, taste it. Chase's eyes even became red and weepy for a little while. Everyone's skin broke out on the second day.
Anyone who thinks they don't need to recycle should visit Beijing. The air is muddy with toxins. It scares me to think of what is actually in the rain (which waters the crops).
It makes me want to become an environmentalist.
But I also left Beijing happy to know that a truly international city is so close - and feeling like there was still so much I wanted to see and do there.