Our first Beijing Christmas & New Year
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Hope you all had a lovely Christmas & New Year. We've had a really lovely time, even though we’ve been so far from home.
We left you last on Christmas Eve, which seems ages ago now, where we’d won tickets to a grand Winter Wonderland Gala dinner at a very posh hotel. Well, we got all dressed up and arrived around 6.30, and were taken into a very grand ballroom decorated beautifully in white & blue, very Christmassy and very pretty. Turns out we were the only foreigners there, apart from the hotel manager & head chef! It was free flow wine, which wasn’t very flowing, so we kept pestering the waiter, hardly anyone seemed to be drinking, despite the cost of the tickets being around 550 pds each…… It was a buffet, so we went out into the next room for food, which was amazing, particularly the seafood table which Andy very much enjoyed, lobster, crab etc
Waking up on Christmas day was odd thinking that the UK were just about to go to bed on Christmas Eve. Andy got up & made me eggs Benedict, well – eggs Perry, replacing hollandaise sauce with cheese as we couldn’t find any!
The afternoon consisted of talking to loads of friends & family on Skype, which made it very special, and a cocktail in Paddy’s bar down the road, before heading out for dinner. A 4 course Christmas meal in the evening at Switch restaurant, with a group of 12 of us which was lovely. A day made very special as I was struggling being away from home, so thank you to my lovely husband! Really has been hard at this time of the year, and have missed everyone more than ever.
Boxing day was a very lazy affair, watching a few films and only venturing out later to have a quiet drink with our friend & neighbour Barry for his Birthday. Andy stayed on to watch some of the Boxing Day football too.
Thursday we ventured to the lakes for a wander, and were amazed by the ice activities, weird & wonderful!! The lakes all freeze over, and are made into playgrounds with all sorts of weird & wonderful vehicles!
Friday evening was a few drinks with some friends at the James Joyce Irish bar, then a pizza at the Tree.
Saturday we went away for the weekend to Tianjin. It’s about 90 miles from Beijing, and the meaning of Tianjin is 'the place where the emperor crossed the river’. It was once an imperial port, and serves Beijing’s gateway to the sea. The city was once shared by 9 countries, Italy, Germany, France, Russia, Great Britain, Austria, Japan and Belgium which is clearly evident seeing the different buildings & architecture. We decided to go by high speed train, which is cheap and very efficient
Arriving in Tianjin, we got a taxi which was a short ride to the hotel, the Astor. The hotel was opened in 1963 and restored in 2010, it has a rich history & has hosted prime ministers and presidents. We had a lovely hotel room overlooking the river. After checking in, we went out to explore, enjoying the different feel to the city, less crowded, less crazy, and much prettier! Lovely streets to wander around, and buildings to look at (and photograph, Andy constantly found that he was talking to himself as I’d stopped for a photo opportunity!!). We explored the ‘Five Avenues’ area, which evidence of various countries influence, then had some food before walking through the more modern area & shopping district down towards the river. It was bitterly cold, and the river was frozen, but looked very pretty.
In the evening, we got a taxi to the Italian concession, a very pretty area dating back to 1901, with many restaurants & bars
Sunday we checked out & got a cab up to the other end of town & the river, to go on the Tianjin eye, a bit smaller than the London eye, but looking very similar. The big difference is that it’s built across the river instead of alongside it, and is in the middle of the 2 lanes of traffic crossing over the road bridge, weird!! A little less stable than the London eye it wasn’t Andy’s most enjoyable moment, and it had a few wobbles along the way. You really shouldn’t find yourself thinking about the poor quality of things in China at that particular moment, but you couldn’t help it…..!! Anyway, I loved it! Amazing views across the city & the frozen river on a beautiful sunny day, it took around half an hour to go round.
Back on terra firma, we walked along by a Bhuddist Temple, and through some of the streets, before hitting the ancient Cultural street, quite touristy & fun to walk around
Went out Sunday evening after getting home to the James Joyce, as Everton were playing at 9.30pm, so were enjoying that until they went 2-1 down to Chelsea L managing to convert one of our American friends to being an Everton supporter!
New Years Eve….. a wander into town for a late lunch, a manicure for me, then home to chill out before our big party. The Chinese celebrate their own new year which is early February this year, so there isn’t much excitement for the calendar new year like there is elsewhere, however quite a few restaurants & bars still had parties. A group of 12 of us went to a Spanish restaurant called Ole, about a 15 minute walk away for a lovely 4 course dinner & wine pairing. We’d been told about a Spanish tradition of eating grapes at midnight, one for every chime to wish for a good 12 months, whilst avoiding choking. Dinner finished about 20 minutes before midnight, so chance to employ ‘grape tactics’ which involved anything from trading big grapes for small grapes, peeling and de-seeding, and lining them up ready to go!! Midnight approached so we went to the lower level bar for the countdown joining other party goers, glass of champagne in one hand, a bunch of grapes in the other!! No choking disasters, and lots of cheering in the new year. The rest of the night was free flow drinks, finishing at 7am which was the Spanish NY, UK at 8am. Didn’t quite last that long, drinking & dancing until 6am, the latest I’ve stayed out for a very long time!! Very impressed though! Had really good fun with a great bunch of people from all over the world, our table included Australian, Canadian, American, Spanish, Scottish, Brits and Swedish
New years day as you can imagine was a lazy affair, managing to meet up with a few friends late afternoon for carbs & a few drinks before crashing into bed again!!
Expecitng to go back to work on the 2nd, our manager rang us up on NYE, saying that due to the Chinese holiday, we actually have the 2nd & 3rd off too, so we only need to go in tomorrow (Friday) then it’s the weekend again! How lovely having had almost 2 weeks off.
Yesterday we went to see our friend who was in hospital over Christmas, he’s back home now but needed some help with a few things & some shopping, so we did that – good deed for the day! He was a lot brighter than when we saw him before, but is stuck on crutches for 6 months poor thing. Not the easiest city to get around either.
More pub grub, more films, a bit of walking today & that’s it really. We’re totally shattered, think the cold weather just gets to you after a while, and as much as the summer exhausts you, the winter is pretty harsh too
Happy to discover by email yesterday that we’d won 2 more prizes, a spa / massage, and a champagne brunch for 3 at a posh hotel, how cool! We have won so much, and have been very lucky!
So here’s to 2013, entering 2012 was very exciting what with getting married & planning to come to Beijing, here we’ve entered a brand new year in a brand new country with a complete open book, quite a strange but exciting feeling, and can’t really think too far ahead still. Both still loving it here and enjoying life, ready to hit work again now & get back into it all.
Lots of love to you all, and wishing you all a happy new year – hope it’s a good one.
PS. There are lots of photo's from the last few weeks, if you're not on facebook you can click on these links: