Today was the first day we had to set an alarm to get up! We were meeting our guide in the lobby at 9:00 and had to eat breakfast first. We were all so exhausted from traveling, and getting the kids up and ready wasn't easy. Some chocolate muffins at breakfast helped to brighten their spirits a little. Right at 9:00 our guide and driver met us in the lobby and we headed out to the Great Wall. Between the traffic and the distance it took us almost an hour to get there. Of course Lily was crying on and off because she wanted to walk around. Seriously cannot wait for that carseat! Then all of a sudden we pull over and they have taken us to a jade factory, AKA tourist trap. Our guide wasn't super verbal, so I'm hoping that he didn't think that this was what we had signed up for, but I was pretty sure that it was an extra stop. I was very thankful that we had already been in China for 2 weeks and knew what prices were competitive. This place was super overpriced! But it was cool to see people actually carving the jade and to look at the giant dragon boat sculptures. We were done rather quickly since we weren't planning on buying anything and then had to look to find our guide. We walked through the factory twice before we saw him. We piled back in the van and headed to the Great Wall.
I knew that the smog in Beijing was bad, but man was it terrible. We drove all through the city and could hardly see any of it, and by the time we got to the Great Wall my throat was literally burning from the pollution. It was hard to even see the tops of the mountains that the wall is on. So sad that such a beautiful place is so clouded by pollution. Our guide showed us where to go to climb the wall, and then left us to explore on our own. I had Lily in the Ergo, and Caroline was having a hard time thinking that we were going to leave her behind somewhere and wanted to be carried so Brian had her. That left Matthew to hike the wall on his own. I gave him a lollipop for extra energy and it worked! I was so proud of that kid. The steps were incredibly steep, even hard for me to climb some of them, and he climbed every single one! He held tight to my hand and we took breaks whenever he needed them. I was glad to have those breaks too! It took us about 30-45 minutes of climbing to get to the watchtower. Matthew was so proud of himself. Mom bought him a medal engraved with his name on it that said "I climbed the Great Wall". He's going to take it to show and tell at school, and wanted to wear it with his name facing out so everyone could see it. Precious boy. Then we had to climb down! That was a little more tricky because I couldn't really see my feet, and Matthew was a little more timid about going down the steps. I held the hand rail with one hand, him with the other, and we slowly made our way down. So many people touched Matthew's head or smiled at him or talked to him on the stairs. One man said "Hello beautiful boy" and Matthew asked me why everyone was talking to him and touching him. I explained that he looked different than everyone here and that they thought he was handsome :o) I was very thankful that Lily slept the entire climb until the end when we wanted to take some pictures. I can't imagine how I would have made it down with a writhing baby attached to me! Once we got to the bottom both kids were tired, hungry, and cold. We still had about 30 minutes until it was time to go so we walked around a little pagoda that was there and got them each a snack.
The next part of our tour was to the Summer Palace. The temperature seemed to drop about 10 degrees between the Great Wall and Summer Palace, and we Florida crackers do not have proper winter attire. And all the kids fell asleep in the car and did not like being woken up when we got there. So to say that the trip to the palace was not as enjoyable would be a bit of understatement. Matthew was crying because he was cold, Caroline cried every time Brian put her down, and Lily was crying because she didn't want to be in the Ergo. Plus it was lunch time and we didn't have an official lunch. While we were standing there buying tickets with multiple crying children I had two different Chinese ladies come up to me and point out that Lily's pant leg wasn't all the way down. Yes, thank you, I'm sure that the two inches of leg skin that are showing are the cause of her screaming fit. I definitely do not have more important things to worry about right now. Please scold me again. Gotta love the Chinese.
The palace was really beautiful, but once again spoiled by pollution. There is a beautiful lake in the center with views of the emperor's home, the longevity temple, and gorgeous scenery all around, but the smog was so thick that we could hardly see any of it unless we were right in front of it. I loved the intricate details, the art work, and architecture and I would have loved to see this palace at the time when the emperor actually lived there. Matthew was pretty miserable and cold the entire time, so we made the tour kind of quick and headed back to the warm van.
Our guide asked us if we wanted to stop for afternoon tea at a tea house. We decided to risk it, even with cranky kids. I'm so glad we did! We went to a tea house called Dr. Tea, and were led to a large table for a tea demonstration. The woman taught us about four different kinds of tea, what they are used for, and how to drink them, and we got to sample each one. We had jasmine tea, oolong tea, puer tea, and fruit tea. The kids tried them too, and actually liked them. It was also free, because the Chinese government wants to educate people about the importance of tea. Thanks China! At this point it was 4:00 so we headed back to the hotel and ended our tour. Since no one got much sleep last night Brian walked down the block to get some takeout so we could feed the kids in the room and get them to bed. Tomorrow is our last day in China!