The Great Wall

I had to see the Great Wall. I was in Beijing, so really, I had to. My tour manager Alberto and I decided to visit the lesser-known Huanghuacheng Section, known to those of us who speak no Chinese as "Lakeside Great Wall." We hired a car and driver to take us out of Beijing on one of the bad pollution days. 

 We passed the IBM building on our way out of the city. You can see the pollution haze.

We passed the IBM building on our way out of the city. You can see the pollution haze.

It took about an hour and a half to get there. We left the driver and walked first through a small village to get to the entrance of the park. As with most tourist sites, there were vendors lining the way.

 Walking sticks for sale.

Walking sticks for sale.

 Roasting chestnuts.

Roasting chestnuts.

 We stopped for some sweet dried tomatoes and plums.

We stopped for some sweet dried tomatoes and plums.

 At last, our first view of the wall, by the entrance to the park.

At last, our first view of the wall, by the entrance to the park.

There were large groups of students touring the site. Just inside the entrance, they were having activities.

 Teenagers jumping rope.

Teenagers jumping rope.

Time to ascend the wall. This site is by a reservoir, so first we had to cross a bridge. The willows reminded me of the willow pattern plates we had when I was a child. 

 Look! No other people! All the pictures I've ever seen of the Great Wall have had lots of tourists, but this site is only recently opened and on a weekday, it wasn't crowded at all. 

Look! No other people! All the pictures I've ever seen of the Great Wall have had lots of tourists, but this site is only recently opened and on a weekday, it wasn't crowded at all. 

It was a beautiful day, with wonderful views. It's amazing to think that we were standing on the longest wall in the world, first built around 2300 years ago. This is not the original wall, clearly, but a reconstruction. We did see ruins in the distance, though. 

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I love how it snakes through the hills. You can see the reservoir down below. We walked down to it, had a snack and took a boat across. 

To get back to the entrance, we walked under the dam.

We worked up an appetite so on our way back to the car, we stopped at a little restaurant. We chose it because it had such lovely flowers.

Alberto speaks some Chinese. He ordered chicken and something else--he wasn't certain what, but he thought duck.

 Dishes in some restaurants are wrapped in plastic.

Dishes in some restaurants are wrapped in plastic.

The chicken arrived and was not very good. Feet, beak, skin, grease. Nothing else seemed to be forthcoming, so we wondered if we had possibly not ordered another dish. We stood up to ask for the check. Some women working at a table nearby motioned for us to wait. One of them rushed outside to get the man who took our order. He came back in a few minutes with the most delicious herb-encrusted fish I have ever eaten. It was so tasty I didn't even think of taking a picture. He had probably told us that it was the specialty of the house. He grilled it just outside the restaurant, on the street. 

All in all, with the exception of the chicken, it was a delightful day.