Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Parks and Hutongs and Duck, Oh My!

Today has been fun!! The weather is beautiful today... warm and sunny, the complete opposite from yesterday's rainy and chilly! We almost needed to use our umbrellas like parasols, like all the Chinese women do! We would fit in better if we did!

We started the morning by visiting Beihai Park! It was fabulous! There is a big lake (aptly named Beihai lake) with sections completely covered by huge green water lilies!

Beihai Lake, water lilies, and the White Dagoba

On an island in the center of the lake, there is a huge white temple called the White Dagoba. After hiking up many many stairs, you could almost get to the top, with a nice city view as a reward. Also at the top, we were crowned Empresses! :)

The Newest Chinese Empresses

We had lunch at a little cafe overlooking the lake, and ate dumplings and noodles (yum!)... a bit more authentic than yesterday's meals! This little Chinese lady struck up a conversation with us at lunch... turns out she was an English teacher and wanted to practice her English with some native-speakers I guess. She was very sweet, and even invited us to join her and her husband on a paddle boat ride in the lake, but we decided to keep with our plans for the afternoon instead. Hope that didn't violate any major rules of etiquette...we thanked her a lot for the invitation!

We had an hour or two until Butch was due to arrive, so we decided to start heading back to the hotel, and maybe to stop at Jingshan Park on the way back, but at the last minute, we were approached by (several) rickshaw drivers asking us to take their hutong tour... the is on our to-do list, and we had just enough time, so we went! It was so fun! Our driver was young and tried very hard to explain everything to us in English (and did very well actually!) as he pedalled us through a hutong behind the Forbidden City. The hutongs are the old tradional Chinese neighborhoods, still inhabited by the poorer people of the city, as well as some soldiers. We saw the little house where Mao lived as a student for a year or two in his twenties. It was really interesting... you wonder how people still are able to live in this way. There were some nicer areas (like the "rich people" house where our driver posed for the picture below), but mostly it was very ramshackle.

Our rickshaw driver and Hutong tour guide

Butch arrived after shortly after our rickshaw ride... we were happy he made it in one piece!! We walked around Tiannamen Square for a bit, then went on a culinary adventure- Peking Duck!! Our hotel had recommended a certain restaurant, Da Dong (yes, funny name...), and it was fabulous! It was a nice new swanky place, and we had to wait an hour for a table! Here is the story in pictures... Close your eyes, Chrissy Tatum!

All the ducks in a row!

Ducks in the oven

Veggies! Broccoli and snow peas...

Carving up the duck tableside

Ready to eat!

Our dessert... smoking fruit! (It had dry ice underneath!)

On a side note, I talked to Ron a few times today. He's in the Village now with no more planned adventures out until after his races! Ah, the focus! He's sounding ready... maybe a bit nervous, but mostly excited! I'm excited for him...and I'm the nervous one! I hope he'll just get out there and do his best on Friday and Saturday, and that that will be enough for a shiny prize! He did get to participate in the Opening Ceremonies this time, a first for him, and he said it was beyond amazing! We were in the airplane at the time, so we missed it, but we watched it on TV today in our hotel room. We just missed seeing the USA team march in, so I'm gonna have to watch it again! We did see the frog-children dancing though, which was hysterical! That was his favorite part, he said.

And finally, I just got an email from a former Paralympian's wife... she has taken my Oprah idea and run with it.... and just talked to an Oprah person on the phone! We may be going!! Woo hoo!! I'll be sure to post any more details if I hear them!