Friday, July 29, 2016

Just a walk in the park!!!

Today (Sunday), we started our first day of adventures in Beijing.  We went to the hotel Breakfast buffet but found that there was no black tea or coffee so we started out to find a coffee shop.    I had an idea of where some might be, based on things I had seen as we had driven in yesterday.  Sure enough, we quickly found a Starbucks and a “Twosome Coffee” shop, however neither were open yet so we walked a bit to kill some time.

We heard a loud, steady beeping and wondered what was causing it.  As we walked closer we realized that a train was crossing the major street and that this gate on wheels was being moved out to stop traffic…..DSC08030

The beeping starts when the gate is being deployed or reeled in.  There are two attendants that stand there all day and move the gates whenever a train passes!!!

The Starbucks was the first shop open so we went in for the usual fare.  I loved that one of their coffee blends was called “Komodo Dragon”.    Now, Michael LOVES his Espresso and normally drinks 6 shots each morning.   To avoid confusion, the first time thru he just ordered a double.   Then I went back to order 2 more doubles (4 shots) at one time.  The little girl that was making it carefully brewed four shots into the tiny espresso cup and then realized that it was too full to carry.  She tried to hand it to me, but I knew that I couldn’t get it upstairs so asked that it be poured into a larger cup.  One of the other workers came over and made her re-make the 4 shots into a larger cup….I felt terrible!!!

Today, we were supposed to go to the Great Wall again, but apparently the weather was bad in that area so we ended up traveling to the “Beijing Botanic Garden and Fragrant Hill” complex.  As we neared the park, I was amused to see that people were selling butterfly nets along the street and I actually saw one little boy in the park who had caught a butterfly and had it in an air-filled bag.

We were hosted today by Professor Lee and he took great delight in sharing with us all of the historical information about the area…..

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As we talked,  we learned that his parents were both highly educated and, during the cultural revolution (1966-1976), his family was moved out of Beijing and sent to work on farms in another province.    He is now a professor at the Beijing Forestry University.   He certainly did know his history…..and his trees!!!!

He pointed out several interesting types of pine trees including this one with a very weird looking bark…..IMG_6786

….and this White Barked Pine, whose younger bark looks like camouflage and older bark is pure white.   In this photo, the young tree is at the front……

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While Professor Lee and Michael talked science and history, I zipped around and took photos of the more interesting sights, including this lion protecting the entrance to the park…..IMG_6784

The first gate that we came to was protected by two, 16 foot warrior statues, known as General Ha and General Heng….

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The first hall that we entered was for the Buddha Maitreya.  According to the sign outside, it was built during the Ming Dynasty and holds a Buddha whose “image is vividly designed with a face lit up with pleasure”…

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The next hall contained another Buddha…..

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…and his cohort…..

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At this point, I was told that no photography was allowed in the temples….OOPS!!!

As always, I LOVE the colors and shapes found in the pavilions…..IMG_6814

Red ribbons were hung everywhere in the park and especially inside the temples. 

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Professor Lee told us that the printing on the ribbons are various prayers that are being offered.  Some of the ribbons were praying for good grades or getting accepted into Peking University (the PREMIER school in the nation), some were for family, marriage, children or money.    Most of them were signed with a marker at the bottom of the ribbon.

One of the most interesting sites that we saw was the Memorial Hall of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, a revolutionary who was considered to be the founding father of the Republic of China.  He was instrumental in overthrowing the Qing Dynasty emperor and instating a republic form of government.

There was one statue that was based on a photo that was displayed.  It was of him reading the newspaper that announced the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty!!  The walls of the memorial hall were covered with his last writings, relaying his hopes for freedom and for what China could become.

We continued walking thru courtyards, pagodas and other structures…..IMG_6835

….stopping often to rest because it was incredibly hot and, as Michael described it, “ impressively humid”!!!

As usual, I found lots of design ideas during our walk, including the ceiling of a small Pagoda……

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….this VERY cool window…..

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….and LOTS of pictures of stone designs in the paths.  I really want to make a quilt using some of these ideas……

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We loved how these trees were growing out of the stone walls…..

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At this point, Professor Lee suggested that we climb Fragrant Hill.  We agreed, and after climbing stairs for about 45 minutes we had reached the top….or so we thought.   As we turned the corner, Professor Lee pointed to our ultimate goal….DSC08032

….at the top of the NEXT hill.

Now, Michael and I were both struggling to make this climb, mostly because we hadn’t slept well the night before and were definitely dealing with Jet Lag.  We had also drunk all of our water!!!  When he said that we were going further up, Michael said “No…we are going back down again”.    This is me having a happy face that we weren’t climbing any higher….

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One of the interesting things that we noticed along the trail were these butterfly cutouts…..

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I kept trying to figure out what was on them and when I got in close, I realized that the form was made out of fly paper and that it was covered with small insects.   We still cant figure out why they have these outside where the bugs are supposed to be!!!

One cute interchange happened while we were on the way up…..we passed a family coming down the stairs with a cute little girl in tow.  She looked up at us and I said “Hello.  How are you?”  She smiled and answered “I am fine thank you” (just as she has been taught in her English classes).  I then asked if it was pretty at the top of the hill.  She looked quizzically at her Dad who spoke to her in Chinese.  She then looked at me and held her hands out as wide as she could get them……a perfect description of the spaciousness at the top of the mountain!!!

We walked down for a ways and then stopped for some tea made from a flower of some sort…..IMG_6891

It was good and finally we both started feeling better, however I really wanted some water.   I saw a small store near the tea shop and went there to buy some water bottles.  They were 5Y each and I wanted to buy four of them.   I agreed when the shop keeper indicated the price by holding up 5 fingers, but when I held up four fingers to indicate how many bottles I wanted, she vigorously shook her head and held up FIVE.  After we went back and forth with this several times, I finally realized that she thought I was only wanting to pay 4Y for each.  So, I stopped the exchange and reached over the counter and picked up four bottles of water.   She laughed as I paid her the 20Y and was still smiling and laughing at me as we left the complex!!!

We continued down the hill and I loved this sign…..

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They seem rather incongruous and personally, if I needed a bomb shelter, that would be my Happiness Garden too!!!

We exited the garden and walked down the street a ways to a restaurant for our mid-afternoon meal.  As I looked around, I felt that we had been there before, and, sure enough, we found out that this was the same restaurant that we had visited on our last trip to Beijing in 2011!!  

We had an EXCELLENT meal, with spicy beef and peppers……DSC08036

….spicy Cabbage……

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….and spicy eggs and onions (served on little “tortillas”)…..DSC08038

I hope that you caught the recurring word in the last descriptions….everything was Spicy and WONDERFUL!!!!

We couldn’t find a taxi to take us back to the Hotel, so Professor Lee suggested that we ride a bus.  It was an interesting and easy ride, although it took over an hour to get back to our room. 

Once back, we had a most welcome shower and fell gratefully into bed!!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

From here to there….well almost!!!

First of all, I haven’t posted yet because I have had a huge accounting project that needed to be finished first and this morning I sent it off to the client so I finally have a bit of time to catch up…….

We flew out of Atlanta at noon on Thursday, but actually started our trip a day earlier by driving to Atlanta on Wednesday, having dinner with Brian and Amber and then they dropped us off at a hotel near the airport.  It was a great start to the journey!!!

The hotel, a Holiday Inn Express was perfect for the evening and was amazingly sound insulated!!  We could see the planes landing directly over our room but couldn’t hear a sound!!

I have always found the patterning of hotel carpets interesting so one of the things that I decided to do on this trip was to keep a hotel carpet journal….photographing the hall outside of our rooms, so here is the first entry in that journal……

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On Thursday we had a great flight to Detroit, found a place to have a nice lunch and then got ready to board our long flight to Shanghai.  Unfortunately, there was a thunderstorm coming in and the captain decided that it would be too dangerous for the ground crew to work during the storm so he delayed our flight until the weather cleared out.  The interesting part of this was that the plane next to us boarded and took off in the middle of the storm!!!

So, we ended up leaving about an hour late and arrived into Shanghai an hour late as well.  Unfortunately, we had a fairly tight connection to make our flight to Beijing and were especially worried when we saw the length of the Immigration line.  On Michael’s suggestion, I mentioned to one of the workers that we had a close flight and she immediately moved us to a short, “fast” lane!!!

We found our bags and ran hopefully to the ticket counter only to be told that the flight had closed about 5 minutes earlier!!   However, the wonderful attendant gave us a certificate stating that the Delta flight had been late and also a voucher to a local hotel.  At the next desk we were able to present our certificate and be booked onto a flight for the next morning.

A quick taxi ride took us to a BEAUTIFUL Ramada hotel….all at no charge!!!  And, of course, it meant another carpet for my journal…..

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We hustled our bags in the room and headed downstairs for a quick dinner.  Eventhough we were both looking forward to having Chinese food, we couldn’t resist the Indonesian food on the menu and ended up with this…..

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It was YUMMY!!

On Saturday morning, we took the shuttle back to the airport and stood in a massive line to (we thought) check in and drop off our bags.  Unfortunately, when we got up to the counter we were told that we had to first go to the ticketing desk….ARGH!!!

We did that and he pointed us back to the line, which had grown even longer!!  Michael hopefully asked one of the agents if we really had to stand in the line again, and the young man opened the gate and let us cut to the front….people are SO sweet!!!

The flight to Beijing was completely uneventful and we landed almost on time.  We were met at the airport by two people from the University, Professor Lee and Doctor Jianfeng.  They drove us to our hotel, pointing out many sights along the way, including the Olympic stadium and park.  The stadium is very interesting as it looks like a great big bird’s nest!!!

We are staying at a hotel and conference center that is located in the middle of a series of Universities and used to be for the exclusive use of those institutions.  In later years, it has been opened to the public as well.

As soon as we dropped off our bags, they wanted to take us to lunch….at a Japanese restaurant!!!  We enjoyed a series of dishes, including Sashimi (yes, it was raw but it was delicious)…..DSC08015

We also enjoyed steamed Salmon, Dumplings, Fried shrimp and stir-fried rice!!

We returned to our room for a brief time and were then met by Michael’s host, Xiao-Ru (pronounced Shou-ru).  We were joined by another couple who were professors at Peking University….or maybe it is called Beijing University….we heard it both ways.

They took us on a tour of the gorgeous campus, including a haunting lake…

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…and a VERY ornate water tower…..

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The campus was once a botanic garden and the rule of new construction is that it must keep the same style and character of the ancient buildings that were originally there.  Consequently, the gym looked a lot  like a temple!!  There were several beautiful vignettes as we walked……

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…and I hated to go inside again!!  They offered tea and I was rewarded with a refreshing brew of flower petals…..

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We were told some interesting history about the University.  This particular property was original owned by Yenching University which was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church in America.  In 1952, Peking University took over the property and the school as well.  Today, PU is the premier University in China!!

After they all quit talking science, we headed to a restaurant (still on the campus) and enjoyed a wonderful meal consisting of NINE different courses!!   I love the elegance of the table setting…..

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As a sign of the times, the menu was on an I-Pad and not in the usual large book of dishes.  This food was tasty and included a steamed flounder…..

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….wonderful veggies…..

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…..and shrimp and noodles……

 

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One dish was little brown cubes of a lacy looking substance and I figured that it was some sort of tofu.   I was surprised to hear that it was pure gluten!!!  (sorry Kathie….you cant eat it!!!!)

We ended the meal with refreshing fruit for dessert……

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We returned to the hotel and fell happily and sleepily into bed!!!!

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