Guest Writer: Stephanie's Mom
We were able to sleep in a bit this morning and it was wonderful. Then we checked out of the hotel and met Lucy's dad's friend (who had the big vehicle) and his son, Eric, who is 21 and going to university and wanted to practice his English. He was extremely nice, pleasant, friendly and a great guide. At the end of the day, we exchanged emails because he would love to stay in touch and continue with his English.
Eric's dad drove us to the opposite side of the lake that we were at yesterday. He drove us around all day which was extremely nice of him. They brought us to a place where the famous Hangzhou tea is grown, including the Emperor's personal 18 tea trees, to a tea garden, to a cave and to a beautiful park. Despite the previous projected weather of a rainy weekend, Sunday was an absolutely gorgeous spring-like day, sunny and warm.
After exploring a bit of the tea garden and the dragon's well, we had some tea and sunflower seeds out on the patio. We decided to stay for lunch there and Eric's dad ordered us a feast, several different dishes and our favorite was a fish dish smothered in a dark ginger sauce. After we finished, we climbed the hill to see a temple and then went even higher. We figured at some point it would open up to a beautiful view but wasn't sure how high we had to go. Lucy asked some people coming down hill and they said it would be another 15 minutes to the summit. But we had left Eric's dad at the table and decided to go back down.
When we went back to the patio, the lunch dishes had been cleaned up and there was more tea and sunflower seeds (they were slightly flavored with soy sauce, we think, and were awesome, we couldn't stop eating them). It was a beautiful setting with wonderful weather, so peaceful and quiet, we decided to stay for a while. Luckily, Stephanie had her playing cards on her (which apparently she always has on her) and we decided to play some poker, Texas Hold 'Em, which Eric knew and we taught Lucy and Eric's dad. We used the sunflower seeds for betting but were eating them so fast while playing, that Stephanie had to buy us another bag to continue playing. There was lots of laughing and the last hand, ALL the sunflowers were thrown in (big pot!) and both Eric's dad and I won, so we split the pot.
After the game, we went to a few more spots and then we got dropped off at the train station. We were a little late getting there because the New Year's traffic was so heavy, so there were quick goodbyes and thank yous, we practically ran through security (imagine 20 people throwing their stuff in the security machine at once) and pushing and shoving like your life depended on it. I honestly don't know how they really check everything piled on each other like that. I think it may just be for show.
As we ran down the corridor toward our train car, the conductors were telling us to just jump on the nearest car, and walk down the aisles on the cars. Lucy said no, that we still had a few minutes so we walked very fast towards car number three. I was afraid they were going to close the doors on us and leave so I was ready to jump on the nearest car, but we made it in time.
We have used all sorts of public transportation during this trip; taxis, the Maglev, subways, trains, planes. The public transportation stations and vehicles are immaculate. They are so clean and organized and neat and safe. The subways are HUGE, almost entire cities underground with shopping centers and huge walking areas; I think they could have concerts down there. One we went to had 20 exits that extended over several blocks. So you had to make sure you took the right exit, or you would come out in totally the wrong place. Also, at the busy intersections, they have underground crossings so you don't have to cross in the road. At a couple of places, we saw huge elevated circular crosswalks to prevent people crossing the roads.
Once we arrived back in Shanghai, we said our goodbyes to Lucy (who had to go in a separate direction) who had to work the next morning and planned on seeing her again on Thursday night. We grabbed a cab, stopped for a quick late dinner from the local convenience store (baozi – big steamed dumplings with fillings that I'm becoming obsessed over), and went home to bed.
Now we were back in Shanghai, Stephanie's territory. Now we can slow down and maybe get some more sleep.