Let me tell you about my trip so far. We flew from Newark, NJ for about 13 hours, up over the North Pole and across Siberia and Mongolia to Beijing. I didn't see any sign of civilization until we were over China. Everything up until then had a layer of snow and ice. It was very beautiful, though. I think I got some good video, but here is a picture of a frozen river in the distance.I didn't get any shots of the mountains coming in over Beijing because we were supposed to put away all electronic devices, but I think I'll try to get some on the way home.
The first thing I noticed in the airport was the smell of cigarette smoke. You don't usually smell that in US airports. Well, I've found that people here smoke a lot. I had to leave breakfast just now because someone came in and started smoking. Outside it's not so bad, though. Amusingly enough, there were No Smoking signs on the Great Wall. And even in non-smoking rooms and "non-smoking" sections of restaurants, ashtrays and matches are still provided.
Beijing is a huge city. Not just big, but huge. Usually I can get a feel for a place if I have a map and a couple of day, but I was totally lost there the whole time. We just put ourselves at the mercy of the cab drivers. I think we only got ripped off once. I think. Someone Hubby knew from work had a friend in Beijing who was nice enough to show us around Friday night and Saturday morning. He bought our tickets to the Forbidden City, rented the audio tour guides for us, and found us the bus to the Great Wall. His name was Henry. It seems like most people we've met (maybe all) have an English name that they use, kind of like I was Juana in Spanish class. I guess they find it easier.
Friday night we tried to go to two different bar/restaurants for dinner, but they were both full - no tables at all. So we walked down the street and saw "Peppe's Pizza" up on the second floor of a building. We went there. The menu told the story of the restaurant: an American couple from Connecticut moved to Norway and started a pizza shop, and somehow now there's a branch in Beijing. So we ate American-inspired Italian food from a Norwegian restaurant in China. Now that's what I call multicultural! Incidentally, the pizza here doesn't have tomato sauce, just cheese and toppings. It was really good.
Saturday I already told you about, briefly. I will add that I have rarely seen so many people in one place in my life. Maybe at Disney World, but that's about it. Everywhere we went in the Forbidden City, you had to push and shove to get up where you could see inside the buildings. And then you had about three seconds before someone shoved you out of the way.
I think tomorrow I will tell you about the train and the toilets. You won't want to miss this.