Monday, March 20, 2006

The Great Wall - Grandma MarcacciMy grandmother came and went. Angela and me spent nearly every waking minute this weekend with her. We waited for her at the airport Friday evening. Her flight was almost two hours late and then it took a little over an hour to clear customs and whatall before she emerged. She was pretty spent after arriving and the three of us took a taxi to her hotel. We didn't tell her tour group and they waited 15 minutes at the airport for her. Oops.

We met Ruth the next morning, picking her up at her hotel, and went on to Tiananmen Square. She was ditching her tour group again, but this time they knew about it. The weather was windy and crisp outside, but not too cold, clear and beautifully perfect. We couldn't have asked for a better day for sightseeing. Fortunately, Chairman Mao's Mausoleum was open (it's only open on certain days and at certain times) so both her and Angela took a peek inside while I waited at the exit with their stuff. Visitors are not allowed to enter with bags or electronic equipment, such as cameras. Afterwards, we walked through the square and made our way to The Forbidden City, now known as The Palace Museum, which overlooks the square. We walked along the newly restored west side of the city, which had been closed during my previous two visits and enjoyed the sparklingly fresh appearance of the famous ancient city.

Simply walking through The Palace Museum was an exhausting ordeal for all of us and, as it was getting late in the afternoon, we were ready to eat. We took a cab to Hou Hai and sat down for lunch at the Hakka restaurant I mentioned a few posts ago. We ordered carefully, taking into consideration my grandmother's dietary restrictions, and enjoyed an abundant meal. My grandmother thought everything was wonderful and kept pace with me at the table. Many of the dishes and their ingredients were unfamiliar to her. After lunch, Angela and Ruth took a ride through the old city streets on a rickshaw. We were all pretty tired, but took Ruth to our apartment, where we chatted for a few hours before returning her to her hotel.

Yesterday morning, Sunday, we met Ruth and boarded the tour bus with her. We were going to escort her to The Great Wall. We stopped at a jade factory along the way, which wasn't very impressive. She was worn out from the day before so we really just spent the day riding the bus around and talking with her, which was fine with us. We were pretty worn out ourselves. This morning we went to her hotel for the last time and wished her well as she continued along on her tour to other Chinese cities. We were thrilled that we had this chance to visit with her, especially as she has so many years under her belt. She's an amazing woman and we can't wait to see her again this summer in Italy!

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