We arrived at our hotel in Beijing at about mid-day. We’re staying at a beautiful, traditional inn called the Lu Song Yuan, which is situated on an old hutong in the city centre. My room has a four-poster bed and views out onto one of many courtyards around which the hotel unfolds. It’s cold outside and Jean-Pierre and I can’t seem to get our layers right - no matter how many jumpers we put on, it never feels like quite enough.
Today was all about exploring. We set off down our hutong on foot just to start getting the feel of the place. Shops and cafes line the hutong at right angles to ours.
It’s Sunday and everyone seems to be out for a casual stroll and a snack.
We ate lunch at a Tibetan cafe - blanketed by Tibetan chanting music. We feasted on beef momos (dumplings) and a ‘fred’ noodle dish with vegetables. Jean-Pierre had a barley soup that was regrettably bland, but the rest was warming and delicious.
Having then walked through the rest of the afternoon - losing ourselves down alleyways, dipping in and out of shops selling everything from high-end fashion to traditional instruments and kitsch Communist trinkets - we slinked back to the warmth of our hotel for a nap.
Dinner was a stone’s throw away in the complex next door. Red lanterns at the lacquer door welcomed us into the building. Indoors, exposed beams, gold silk wallpaper, tiled floors and latticed windows overlooking an inner courtyard.
We feasted on roast duck with fermented beans and chili, beef stew with water chestnuts and dish after dish of tantalising side orders, amuses-bouches and desserts. I was so engrossed in eating, I forgot to photograph any of the dishes, which is a shame as this was certainly the best food I’ve had on this trip so far. Undoubtedly more to follow, however.