I guess our little get together yesterday with the Performing Arts Troupe was a success because this morning we were invited to drop by the Canadian Ambassador’s residence for lunch: quite an honour and the sort of invitation that one doesn’t pass up. So off we all went to the Canadian Embassy compound, which also houses the ambassador’s residence, and in true Canadian fashion we were treated to an amazing BBQ meal of fresh vegetables and steak. It was a very generous and much appreciated offer: excellent food and conversation and it’s always nice to have a powerful connection or two when you are 7000 miles from your border….a terrific start to the day.
After the meal we continued on our planned excursion for the day which is a visit to the Great Wall. There are two sections of the wall near Beijing that are readily accessible to tourists. We chose the section that is a bit further from the city, about 90 minutes, but it is also a little more natural and it is perched on a spectacular crest of mountain accessible by cable car. This was my fourth time on the wall and it is one of those experiences that never really gets “old”. It is such an iconic structure and such an absurdly grand civil-engineering feat that every few minutes you can’t help but stop, look around and think to yourself, “holy shit, I’m on the Great Wall”. My kids will tell you that the best part about this section of the wall is the getting off of it. In true Chinese fashion they have built a long, winding, half-pipe toboggan run that you can ride back down to the parking lot. It’s treacherous and fun as hell: a little Six Flags entertainment with your cultural explorations.
Back in Beijing we went off to one of the more popular Hutongs and had dinner in a fantastic restaurant that specializes in Yunnan cuisine. The Hutongs are the old neighbourhoods of Beijing which are quickly disappearing. They are made up of mazes of narrow alleyways created by small single floor residences that back on to the alleyways but open up in a common interior courtyard shared by four family residences. This restaurant has taken over one of these shared courtyards and the houses that surround the courtyard, which gives the place a great atmosphere. Yunnan cuisine is all about the spices and so we were treated to a meal of the most unusual and complicated flavours. Blair had the misfortune of swallowing something that wasn’t supposed to be swallowed and which incapacitated his tongue for much of the meal. Jared, Tim, Alan and I decided to stick around the Hutong after our meal to check out one of Beijing’s premiere rock clubs, Mao Live House. Unfortunately our jet lag and hike on the Wall caught up with us and by the time the first of five bands took the stage, we were beat. So we retreated back to the hotel.
Just another typical day on the road…..