Brian and I woke up this morning about 4 a.m. We were happy to have gotten a good 8 hours of sleep. The room is very comfortable. We headed to the gym (what else are you going to do at 5 am) and then headed to the buffet for breakfast. I must say that Brian is much more adventuresome than I when it comes to trying some of the foods. I did try some miso soup (not a fan) but Bri seemed to like it. Mostly the food was good, with lots of western options (omelets, bacon, hash browns). We headed to Starbucks after (of course!) with one of the other American couples, and their college- aged daughter. We took a nice stroll around the city and got to know one another.
One of the bellhops at our hotel is very friendly…always trying to talk to us about things in America or the best places to go around our hotel. This morning we learned of a grocery store nearby (called "wonderful" in English) where we can get the "best American pop tarts" (if we understood him correctly). Not sure that we will be taking him up on that offer. But good to know anyway!
The rest of the day was full of adventures. The weather did not cooperate, as it was very cold and very windy. We estimated that with the wind chill it had to have been in the lower 20s. We took a bus to Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City . Tiananmen Square was as I imagined, but The Forbidden City was much more than anticipated. There were a lot of street vendors trying to push their products on Americans. We learned to say "bouya,,bouya" (not sure of spelling, but this is how it sounds). This means "no thank you." Brian has difficulty with this and it seems the vendors could sense this, as they always flocked to him. We all got a big kick out of it. At one point I heard Brian say (as a woman was pestering him for money) "where is my wife?" wanting me to deal with her. I just let him go and enjoyed the show J (see picture)
Words really cannot describe The Forbidden City, and I really don't think the pictures do it justice either. It is so vast, so beautiful, so detailed and so rich in culture and history. Our guide, Catherine, is just a wealth of knowledge and I feel we learned so much about China today (she is the one in the pictures with the blue flag).
There are 18 million people that live in the city of Beijing alone, which is only the 3rd most populated in the country (Shanghai is the second with 22 million)---hence, everywhere we went it was very crowded. Driving in this city is similar if not worse to driving in NYC….quite a scary experience.
We next went to the Olympic Village and saw the water cube and the stadium where the opening ceremonies took place. (My mind is so tired right now the name of it is escaping me..the fish bowl??) Although we enjoyed seeing the village, it was so darn cold, and after walking for 3 hours in Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City, we just wanted to get inside and warm up….
So we headed to "Dr. Tea"—this fantastic and gigantic tea room in downtown. (see picture) We got to sample lots of different teas and learn all about the medicinal and ritualistic value of tea. For example, they only fill their tea 7/10 full in the cup; the empty 3/10ths is representative of the friendship shared over tea.
Last, we went to the theater for an acrobat show. It was quite interesting and again full of the culture and artistry of China. I would love to fill you in on all the detail, but I am so tired that I must sign off…. Brian is already snoring. Even with all the hustle and bustle of the day, Lucy was never far from our thoughts. Only 2 days!! Good night (really, good morning for you) for now…