It's freezing, like -7 freezing.
We get up around 630am ready for a pre- booked trip via Viator travel for the Great Wall of China including the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. The trip starts with a walk to the square which has heavy security procedures and upon arrival it appears we cannot walk on the square and so have pictures taken from across the street and we then walk to the Forbidden City.
The people here stare at us a lot, practically going out of their way to walk up to our faces to have a closer look - the spitting is intolerable Jacqueline gags every time at the sound of it.
With its 9,999 rooms the Forbidden City is stunning and unbelievably spacious, the emperor housed his family here including his 3000 wives (not all of them were attended to, wink wink) - it was as it seems - a forbidden area only for royalty and servants.
Our Guide is very enthusiastic but frustrating, Matt wants a few pictures by the dragons and certain architecture but she seems adamant we don't have time to stop at. Given we have such a small group of 6 we are all a bit confused by this. Our group consists of us and a lovely Australian family - Rebecca, Ian, Acacia and Kale.
We then meet our driver at the other end of the city and head for a local mall that the guide insists will make up for us not being allowed to check out the souvenir shop at the Forbidden City. Upon arrival, we are greeted by a lady in traditional Chinese dress, she shows us silk worms and the process of making silk, it's fascinating. As we walk through it becomes apparent the entire floor is dedicated to silk and we are being encouraged to shop - all if a sudden we appear to have unlimited time and the guide stops rushing the group. Matt points out she is obviously on commission.
We buy a beautiful pink silk scarf for Jacqueline's granny, two postcards, a purse for Jacqueline and a "man purse" for Matt. We then move onto another shop where we are given the history of jade stone - this expensive shopping tour no one knew about is getting a bit annoying now and no one buys anything. Lunch is then served in the restaurant upstairs and it's beautiful - sweet and sour chicken, steamed rice, tomato soup, spicy chicken and a glass of beer. We move on to the Great Wall stuffed and content - upon arrival we are left to our own devices finally with a 90-minute curfew to explore the wall. The section we visit (badaling) is literally just steps - it's beautiful but everyone agrees we expected to walk on the wall on some flat areas which don't appear to be present. Despite this the views and winding staircases are a sight to behold, so we give it a good go and really do enjoy the walk. Whilst on the wall the Australian family's' daughter is pounced upon and grabbed by a middle aged Chinese lady who finds her fascinating to look at. The daughter Acacia, has gorgeous blonde hair and pale skin - we soon discover the Chinese find these features to be good luck charms, hence the interest. Her poor mother must tear her away as the Chinese lady is pulling and tugging at Acacia to put her in position for some photos that the child clearly did not want to be in. We then return to the bus which takes us to a traditional Chinese tea house - it's brilliant but we do all feel that 90 mins at the wall was not enough.
We go into a room with a tea lady who offers us samples of various Chinese teas - all delicious and inexpensive. Matt mentions the jasmine one, that helps cure hangovers, may be more apt for us so we purchase it. We are also provided with a comedy Buddha which is used to check the water temperature (ask us later re the comedy) We return to our hostel cold ridden and decide a couple of beers are deserved after such a great day.
In the evening, we meet three guys from Spain, Barcelona who work for inter cruise serving various cruise lines with bookings etc., Manuel, Raquel and Cynthia are hilarious and the night continues with happy hour beers at 90p a go, labamba on guitar and too many selfies. Oh dear ...