Monday, August 27, 2007

Xi'an China

Having a guide who does the airport check-in for you ROCKS! Our Beijing Guide Sam took our passports, waited in line and waved us up when it was time to check the bags. In fact, he did ALL of the line waiting the entire time we were in Beijing (considerable) and we got to mill about and poke each other. It was the only time I didn’t have to be the mommy and an invaluable service to Mike “I never met a line worth waiting in” Nolan.

The flight on Air Euina was a tight one, the smallest plane seat I’d ever seen. When the lady in front of me put her seat back, her head was so far into my lap I could have done dental work. I discretely dropped a pack of floss down her cleavage.

Two hours later we arrived in Xi’an, the original capitol of China, and home to the famous Terra Cotta Warriors (more on this later). Xin, a charming young woman and our guide for Xi’an met us at the airport and took over right where Sam left off.

There is a wall about 4 stories high and 40 feet thick that surrounds the center of Xi’an City. Like the Great Wall it was used to protect the city from invasion. Now tourists and locals alike come here to bike around the top and see the city from this vantage point. We saddled up and biked around it ourselves (about 8 miles) dodging potholes, construction workers and Chinese tourists who stared at us, pointing, laughing, and snapping our photograph as we peddled past.

There are two story pagodas supported by bright red pillars every couple of blocks along the wall. And twenty foot tall black poles with dragon heads hold red Chinese lanterns. Seeing my family bike through this wholly exotic backdrop felt like a dream.

Afterward, two families of tourists asked Jack and Charlie to pose for a picture with them. My kids are getting quite used to this sort of attention now and are starting to ham it up for the camera, flashing the peace sign or the thumbs up and throwing their arms around these strangers.

After the bike ride we went to lunch. Let me tell you a little about feeding the Nolans in China. Every restaurant we have visited serves dishes family style on a giant glass turntable. Your place setting is a saucer –sized plate, pair of chopsticks, cup, bowl and spoon. You serve yourself by spinning the turntable and snatching something from the 6 or 7 platters on the table.

We asked our guides to order for us, requesting no fish – a little too exotic for this group. Generally the food has been pretty good, and sometimes VERY good. It is very salty and oily though which makes snatching it from the platter as it spins past you a task requiring speed, agility, and commitment.

Additionally the fact that EVERYONE here smokes has been a big challenge for us. For our first lunch in Xi’an we were seated next to a table of 6 men, cigarette in one hand, chopsticks in the other, smoking and eating at the same time while pausing periodically to hork up something nasty.

When the dishes were served Mike speared a piece of chicken and put it on my plate. There, poised like the arthritic claw of an old woman, was a chicken foot. I just might get thin here.

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