Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A few months later....here is the ECLIPSE of the Century!

Well, the blog did not work from that area of the world but I hope you are still interested!

July 16, 2009
It has been a long time since I’ve flown Air Canada. We were seated in various sections of the plane and we all commented on how nice the service was and the crew. A very refreshing welcome for a long flight!

After 3 meals and as many movies and games as you wanted, we arrived ahead of time to find out that the health department would come on the plane and test every single person for their temperature! They are very serious about swine flu and if there was any indication that your temperature was above the normal level you would be quarantined. Well, it turned out they only tested the folk in business class - of which Gene was one.
All passed with flying colors and we were allowed to de-plane.

It has been about 10+ years since we were in Beijing airport and it is now a huge monstrosity with miles of corridors and again two more areas where your
temperature is taken. Passport and immigration control were frequent and we finally were led to our luggage area and customs. The outside of the airport looked like the Bird’s Nest Olympic arena!

A shuttle took us to the Airport Olympic hotel - a basic Chinese 4* hotel, mostly occupied by Chinese (as we approached the desk they already had our paperwork in hand as they knew we were the people with the foreign names!). We negotiated a taxi for a few hours and drove in to Beijing. It was a nice clear night, much less humid than we had experienced upon arrival. During the day it must have been brutal.

We headed to the Olympic village and it was so beautiful! We were there at dusk so we were able to see it first in daylight and then with the lights on. MUCH MUCH larger than it appeared on TV. And the colors at night are stunning. A beautifully shaped flame building with a Times Square movie-type and advertisements in the center and a pretty blue square swimming center, the Watercube, and the Bird’s Nest National Stadium …all being visited by Chinese nationals who were out with their children in strollers. You can enter the National Stadium between 8-6 daily but we were too late.

It was dark by now and we headed in to Tianamen Square. Very much like we remembered EXCEPT for all the cars!! No bikes around at all -- just cars, cars, cars. Nothing like we remembered. New cars and people were driving somewhat sensibly. Lincolns and Toyota and Mercedes and Hondas….We asked the driver to go around the square twice and past the entrance to the Forbidden City, the government building, the mausoleum…a very nice introduction to the city and a beautiful night drive. In bed by 10:30 totally exhausted!

Tianamen Square is the world’s largest public square and also the resting place of Mao Zedong. He announced the establishment of the People’s Republic of China from the Gate of Heavenly Peace on October 1, 1949.
Early each morning an honor guard raises the Chinese flag. The square is flanked by the famous portrait of Mao hanging from the Gate of Heavenly Peace and the Great Hall of the People. The granite obelisk in the center is 125 feet high and commemorates those who died for the revolutionary cause of the Chinese people.