|Diana and I began our journey with hopes of an upgrade to United Polaris class after promising United 60K of our Mileage Plus miles and enough money for a down payment on another trip. We were successful on our LAX>SFO leg and enjoyed a "free" breakfast at the United Club near our gate. Our fate was sealed at SFO when we went from numbers 14 and 15 on the upgrade wait list to 24 and 25. How does that happen? So we took our seats in Economy Plus, for which we had already paid extra, and started watching movies.
Upon arrival at the largest airport in the world (so we were told by our tour guide, Duan) it took 2 hours from our gate, to luggage claim and boarding the bus. Then it was another 45 minutes to our Hilton Hotel. By this point we had been awake for 24 hours. I never pulled an allnighter in college, so my body was begging for sleep. After a quick dinner lights out was called at 9:39.
This morning we finally got an upgrade when we boarded buses at 7:30 am for the two hour drive to the Great Wall about 44 miles NW of Beijing --- where we walked a true upgrade. It rained all day so people of all ages went traipsing up the wet stone ramps and steps with plastic covering their shoes (certain to slip) and umbrellas. I was thankful for my Pacific NW training while living in Bellingham and closed my umbrella so as to maintain a better sense of balance as I ascended. Have coat and hat, will hike the Great Wall! The pictures on this rainy day do not do it justice. The fall colors were beautiful, as well. As I hiked up the steps I thought about how friends and I discussed training for and completing the "Great Wall Marathon" back in the early 2000s. I decided I was fine with having "hit the wall" at mile 18 of my first marathon in 1999.
By the end of our trek we all were soaking wet and enjoyed coffee and tea back at the souvenir shop where I asked the first of two questions:
Q: Do I need another piece of jewelry?
Q: Did I buy another piece of jewelry?
A: Yes, a beautiful cross made of lavender jade and 14K gold.
We spent two hours at the wall and then headed back toward Beijing and had a wonderful family style lunch. From there we went to the older part of Beijing and did tea tasting, a wonderful last stop on a cold, rainy day where we had to walk through massive mud puddles to get to the location.
Now on to the Welcome Reception and Dinner with 65 new friends.