Jossi's dad had visited the city on many occasions and so we had a well seasoned tour guide in our midsts as we went to explore China's capital. Jossi and I couldn't wait- it was both of our first times in the city and my first visit to mainland China! We only had the weekend, but were determined to see all the main sights so, armed with our water bottles and sensible shoes, we went exploring!
First stop, The Great Wall.
The wall itself is quite tricky to walk as the smooth stone waves up and down under your feet as it follows the shape of the mountain peeks. You can see notches in the stone where horses' hooves had worn in footholds as they patrolled the wall. You can imagine marching up and down the battlements, looking out for the ferocious huns and other invaders below!
The wall is simply spectacular and surprisingly fun to visit. You can see why it's seen as one of the wonders of the world!
After a walk around Tiananmen Square (The home of the National Assembly), we entered the Forbidden City which was another great place to explore. As the home of the Emperor of China and his household for nearly 500 years, and named the Forbidden City after the fact that no one used to be able to enter or leave without the Emperor's permission, it was steeped in history.
We walked through the expansive grounds, peering into rooms and around the gardens. The palace was very busy with people from all over China coming to visit the historic home of their emperors.
Our little watery friend came with us to see the sites!
I especially loved the gardens with it's ancient trees and beautiful pagodas.
All of our exploring was hungry work and so we visited some brilliant restaurants although not without making some rather large friends first....
The first was called Da Dong and was magnificent. Located in Peking, it promised some of the best Peking duck around and it did not disappoint! After being roasted, the duck was brought to our table while a chef prepared it in front of us. We were then presented with dishes of mellon, cucumber, spring onions and pickles, along with pancakes and sesame buns. Being the only westerner at the table, the chef then helpfully showed me the proper way to assemble my duck (much more elegantly than I possibly could!). We also tucked in to a fabulous (yet to me, rather mysterious) set of other dishes, all which tasted and looked amazing. Jossi's dad ordered a fish dish which arrived, complete with head and teeth!
Da Dong itself was also a beautiful restaurant. We ate around a flat, still pool where, on a centre island, chefs in tall white hats roasted the ducks in what looked like giant pizza ovens. The walls were decorated with shadowy silhouette projected onto the walls and interesting partitions broke up the dining space. It was very modern without being cold and I loved it!
Mongolian may not be the most photogenic cuisine (one dish was literally a giant lamb bone which you picked the meat off of) but it was definitely delicious and also rather spicy! Definitely something I'd like to eat again!
One evening we stopped at the Beijing branch of the American Club for dinner. Although the food perhaps wasn't some of the most interesting we ate in Beijing, it was definitely beautifully presented and I really enjoyed seeing how they made each dish look special!
The one food we didn't dare sample however was the deep fried insects, a local delicacy. Stalls in the street were selling scorpions on sticks, which were then plunged into vats of batter and fried in front of you. However, as hard as the store vendors tried, they couldn't convince us to munch on a creepy crawly! We did however try some bubble tea and toffee strawberries on a stick.
Beijing was fabulous and not at all what I was expecting. It was vibrant and lively and didn't at all fit the kind of 'repressed' view I'd previously had of mainland China. There was so much to see and do and I'm incredibly grateful I was given the chance to see it (thank you so much Jossi's fam!). Hopefully one day, I will get a chance to return!