From the map, it looked like the Forbidden City was only five or six blocks away.
What we didn't understand is that those are BEIJING blocks, which go on until you drop dead or reach the Mongolian steppes, whichever happens first.
We met a number of interesting people on our long hike. Most were young, eager to explain that they had been to university in the United States (the U of Chicago is a favorite), and even more eager to take us on guided tours of the city. We declined these offers, for obvious reasons. More than one person approached us crying, "I am a teacher!" Another woman approached us several times, apparently forgetting that she'd already told us her story and made her pitch. She was surprised when I said, "Hello, Grace! It is nice to see you again, on this corner where you introduced yourself last time! We must hurry along now."
Everyone seems to be running some kind of ... enterprise. People do hustle here. The rule for getting through doorways and other tight spaces is the person with the biggest muscles goes first. Traffic signals are honored more in the breach. I am getting used to it.
On our hike, we discovered a hutong, or alley, where we were befriended by a woman who explained to us that the street itself was four hundred years old before urging us to visit her art gallery at one end of a deserted, though rather picturesque, courtyard. Again, we had to decline, as we were on our way to the Forbidden City. She told us it was not open; evidently she had been misinformed. At any rate, the street she so helpfully dated for us certainly looked old enough, and narrow, and very traditional, with men sitting outside shops on little stools, smoking and chatting and sipping drinks.
There were fruit and vegetable stands and hot food stands where all sorts of delicacies were on offer -- buns, roast meat on skewers, thin fried pancakes. All of it looked very delicious, but not compatible, alas, with the Wonky Gallbladder Diet.
Labels: china, travels with jane