On our third day we went to Beijing’s Summer Palace, an amazing display of wealth and opulence built by China’s famed Empress Dowager Cixi (also known as Dragon Lady – though Michael, our earlier guide, pointed out that the title wasn’t necessarily defamatory as the dragon is revered as a symbol of power and strength.) We enjoyed the compound, but again the sky was smoggy and the landscape not nearly as beautiful as it must be on a clear day.
By this time, Jessica was fairly tired of history and the familiar Chinese architecture, not to mention Linda and I snapping pictures every chance we had. After walking through the living quarters, we hiked up to the temple at the top of a small mountain before getting lost in the winding paths that were supposed to lead us down to the northern gate. With help from a passerby, we made our way out the exit and to a taxi cab that took us to the area of the city where most of the Olympic events will be held.
The Bird Nest stadium and the aquatic center were not yet open for visitors, but you could see people hard at work everywhere in preparation for Beijing’s “finest hour.”
Everyone, from waitresses to hotel clerks, seemed very eager to make us feel welcome. Our taxi driver went out of his way, though he spoke no English, to take us to spots where we could get the best pictures of the stadiums.
Later that night, Linda and I strolled a few blocks from our hotel to the famed Wanfujing Shopping street. While that was fun, it was a side street we discovered that really captured our attention. Called “Snack Street”, this block was filled with vendors selling every kind of food imaginable – from the delicious to the atrocious! But the main aim of this venue was to offer the most exotic foods possible. From really disgusting animal parts to silk worm larva, squid and beetles, everything was served up fried. Fried scorpions, fried octopus, even fried starfish!
There was a group of high school students from the UK sampling the delicacies, so we were able to enjoy them vicariously. But more importantly, we were able to gross out completely on behalf of mothers everywhere. Lots of fun!!