Good evening and thanks for tuning in.
T Minus 3 Days to Ryan – We spent the day sightseeing in & around Beijing. The first of two very full days. We had breakfast at the hotel buffet – they had everything, even huge breadsticks.
First stop: The Great Wall, north of the City. (Due to the visit of the Indian Prime Minister, Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City were essentially shut down – so we’ll hit those tomorrow,) Our guide for these two days is Robert, a handsome (just ask him! – JK Robert, if you ever read this) man who is very knowledgeable and extremely likeable. He has a great attitude, and put us and the children at ease immediately. On the 90 minute drive from the hotel to the Great Wall, Robert explained the highlights of Chinese history in a very entertaining and engaging way. We also found out that he’s married and has a 6 year old son. He lives in Beijing, and was born here, as well. He shared with us that at 32, he’s one of the oldest guides in his company – he’s not pleased that his colleagues call him “Old Robert”!! Our driver (who shall remain nameless, for the time being) did a tremendous job navigating the chaos that passes for traffic in the City. Just as in most major cities, road lines/markings and traffic signs and signals are apparently merely suggestions
Once we got to the visitor’s center we boarded a shuttle bus that took us to the loading area for the cable car. It was a tough climb from the bus drop, but we all made it. Ashley & Mom were noticeably bothered when they got a look at the cable car (basically a ski gondola – enclosed, but still a bit dicey in their eyes. Despite the clear and present danger (not really!), Mom & Ash shook their heads and jumped in. The ride moved a bit, but we’ve been on worse. Robert pointed out that we rode the SAME cable car that Michelle Obama rode in when she last visited.
When we got to the top, it was a short walk to the Wall sections we would see. The day was unusually clear and the air was very comfortable – a nearly perfect day for what we were doing. We walked mostly downhill, except for the last few hundred yards. We walked through a number of watchtowers, and saw a handful of small cannons used to protect the Wall and China from invading forces from the North. The slopes in some sections were severe, and the steps alternated between 2-3 inches up to a foot to a foot-and-a-half! The kids were really good and didn’t wander off too much. The views of the wall and of the surrounding mountains were spectacular.
We made our way to the Toboggan entrance. Yes, you CAN ACTUALLY TOBOGGAN DOWN THE GREAT WALL – or at least along side. At first glance, the sleds seemed much dicier than the cable cars! Ashley was nearly scared off, but I would NOT let her off the hook! For younger kids, they had double sleds so they could ride with bigger people. She rode with Dad while Dylan rode with Mom. It’s a simple contraption with the equivalent of a big joystick in the middle. That served as the brake We jumped on and away we went.
What a load of fun!!! You controlled your speed pretty easily and the track was a polished steel half pipe, The downhills and turns were manageable and in some sections you could really pick up speed. On our sled, Ashley actually took over steering and braking duties, so I could enjoy the ride and capture it on video! The ride is quite popular and there are a number of YouTube Videos about it.
All-in, we walked nearly 4 MILES this morning.
There was one watchtower that had a place to sign your name – which the kids indeed did do.
Robert and the kids…
The upper end of the Toboggan Run
We broke for Lunch at a restaurant near the Wall, arranged spot-on by Robert, The selection of Chinese dishes was great and the meal was really enjoyable.
Gotta run, more soon…