China: First Day in Beijing

(typed on my iPad throughout the day – March 14th)

March 14th 

With little sleep, we started our day with a 6:15 AM wake up call. We got ready and went to the lobby to eat breakfast before we began our activities. Like most international hotels, ours offered a breakfast buffet. As I have mentioned before (I think the last time was on our 2011 trip to Italy), I am generally not a fan of buffets. However, this buffet was amazing. Lots of western foods were offered, including a generous spread of fruits, breads, eggs, sausage, bacon, oatmeal, cereals, pancakes, waffles and an omelette station. I ended up eating a boiled egg, hash brown, grilled tomato and fruit. I also sipped on some deliciously fresh cucumber juice.

After breakfast, we boarded our bus and visited the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven was utilized by Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer for a good harvest. Today it is used for prayer, exercise, and tourism and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When we arrived, there were a lot of people exercising on the grounds. Everything was elaborate and beautiful. When we left I started to feel very sick, almost car sick. However, I found that lying on my back and taking deep breaths made me feel much better.  Anxiety? Stress? Sleep deprivation? Afterwards, we visited the Jade  Museum…err factory. I ended up buying a jade bracelet for myself, and a jade dragon for John.I have always wanted a jade bracelet, so this was a wonderful opportunity for me.

Post Museum, we made our way to the Ming Tombs. The setting was gorgeous and we had glorious weather. Very interesting, indeed. Afterwards, we made our way to a late lunch and had our first group meal.  The set-up was traditional Chinese style and included a lazy Susan setup. We had way too much food set out for us. The meal included rice, soup, fries (!), steamed vegetables and chicken, pork and beef dishes. I ended up choosing a small plate of rice, broccoli,fries and chicken.  The quality of the food was much better than I anticipated and I think our table was relieved to have a really good Chinese food experience. While the food wasn’t outstanding, it was certainly better than I expected.

After lunch, we made our way to The Great Wall of China. Seeing and ascending The Wall has been on my bucket list for years, so you can imagine the excitement I had to actually be traveling there to take it all in.  Once we got to The Wall, Jill and I decided to make the climb to the highest point we could.  While strenuous, the climb was unbelievable. The views from the stairs were breathtaking. The higher we climbed,the more beautiful the vistas became. This was truly an unforgettable experience and I am so glad we accepted our climbing  challenge. Even at the highest point of our climb,  I couldn’t believe we were actually there. Very surreal.

When we left the wall, we made our way to the Olympic Village area.  It was surreal to see these sites after seeing them during the 2008 Games. Surprisingly, many of the sites are right next to each other, almost in a cluster. For some reason I assumed they were spread out all over town.  However, the media center, Bird’s Nest, the Cube and Olympic Village are all within two large blocks of each other. Next, we made our way to our first group dinner.  Since we ate lunch so late in the day, I wasn’t really hungry for dinner. However, I made an effort to try a few foods.

After dinner, we went back to our hotel for an early evening in. Blanca and I got massages – 90 minutes for $30.00 + tip. Just what we needed and a great way to end as fun-filled day.

Travel Confessions:
– I left my purse at the restaurant after dinner. I realized its absence after 5 minutes…and found it right where I left it. And yes, my passport was in my purse. I guess I got lucky! My jade bracelet is working already?
– I brought my Garmin on the trip in the event I had some time to run outdoors. I wore it today as we walked about and we clocked in 3 miles.

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