Thursday, 31 May 2012

long long wall

2000 years ago, someone placed the first stone (Tea wanted to know which one, ideas anyone?) and today it is the largest man made structure in the world, longer than 8,000 km (though it is not one continuous single wall), two times the distance between New York and San Francisco.  Six Great Walls will stretch around the earth.  How mind boggling is that?

Being the enterprising people that they are, the Chinese have cable cars and ropeways (like a ski lift) taking you up to the wall from Mutianyu and a kind of a luge in a slide (called slideways), coming down.  The ride lasts at least 3 minutes, no helmet is offered and its right under the ropeways. 

We went up the wall three times – the first time by cable car, the second time we hiked up (we were strongly discouraged out of concern that the climb was too steep and difficult for children, but they didn’t know that the Fayet children started trekking in the Pyrenees in their diapers), the third time by the ropeways.  We descended in the slideways twice.  The girls screamed in exhilaration.  I bit my tongue.  Look at the photo of Tea after the ride.  She’s saying “Look at my hair mama.  It wouldn’t have been hair-raising if I had had a helmet on, would it?”

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

weekend at the schoolhouse

As we approached Mutianyu (a less busy gateway to the Great Wall), fruit vendors lined the streets, selling nuts and peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums and melons. 

Our lodgings at Mutianyu is The Schoolhouse  Are you surprised that one of the owners, Julie, used to be a teacher?  But the reason for the name The Schoolhouse is because the main office and restaurant was the abandoned primary school of the village.  Guests have a selection of houses to choose from; they are all houses rented from the villagers and which have been renovated to include modern amenities while preserving as much as possible of its original structure and authentic character.  

The house we have is called Grandma's House.  I have fallen in love with it.  Is it too much to ask for the same in Paris?

China - Beijing & The Great Wall

China, a set on Flickr.

summer palace

About an hour out of Beijing is the Summer Palace, where we spent the morning pushing and being pushed around!  We finally escaped the crowds by renting a pedal boat, and taking a long walk around the gardens.

The Chinese love to perform, whether by a lake or in the park; pop-up karaoke bars, aspiring opera singers and group choirs are plenty.

the forbidden city

It was known as The Forbidden City because you were not allowed in unless you were part of the imperial family or if you were a court official.  Otherwise you had to either be a concubine or an eunuch.  And then, once you got in, you couldn’t get out.  Even so, 10,000 people lived there in those days.

Construction of the Forbidden City started in 1404 and took 17 years to complete.  You would think it took longer, looking at its size and the details in the carvings and sculptures.  A place of beauty, and yet one shudders to think of the things that could have happened here.