East is East

Hello lovely readers and a big thank you for the warmth of your response to me finally getting to meet my lovely grandson Dermot.
I’m going to try and keep you up to date on #Shananigansontour with brief posts most days to capture impressions of this trip while they are fresh in my mind.
We finally got here late Sunday afternoon after a few hours delay at Heathrow as a result of sandstorms and heavy winds in Beijing the previous day which had delayed our incoming Air China flight. The upside was that the air had cleared and for once I got to see the city on a stunningly beautiful spring day.
We are staying at East Hotel Beijing which opened just a few months ago down the road from where Shane and Shan live. This part of Beijing, in the north east of the city just outside the 4th ring road and close to the airport, is developing rapidly. When Shane moved in a few years ago it was a relatively sleepy outer suburb (well as sleepy as Beijing ever gets), with a neighbourhood feel and local shopkeepers who greet him warmly to this day.

East Hotel Beijing

Now, new developments are springing up all over the place and the city is once more extending its reach. East Hotel is all clean lines and modern high tech fittings – an Apple lover’s paradise of USB sockets, excellent wifi and even an integrated iPod touch with an app on which you can order room service. The staff are warm and friendly, young and casually dressed in teeshirts and hoodies. It’s a far cry from the rundown, older Chinese hotel we stayed in last summer and only slightly more expensive. Young Beijingers are embracing the service ethos with enthusiasm.
Below the hotel sits a modern shopping mall which I haven’t explored yet and behind it a new park is being built which will be covered in winter to allow for seasonal entertainment. The skyscrapers crawl ever further out of the city but the old markets (in the bottom right of the picture below) survive and that’s where MaMa heads every day to buy her supplies of meat, vegetables and spices at a fraction of supermarket cost.
Beijing extending its reach to the North East

Of course yesterday was all about meeting Dermot for the first time and those are special memories that will always be with me.
The moment I had been waiting for

Well hello Grandad!

Nooh… I’m not being rude Grandad.. honest

Best mother’s day present ever

And what’s more I get to see him all over again today.
As always food played an important part in the celebration of our arrival. Shan’s MaMa was on hands to welcome me with a huge hug and within moments, dinner was served – a steaming dish of her version of Big Plate Chicken to which she added home made wide-flat noodles.
This was followed by bowls of noodle soup with lamb and tofu, fulfilling the tradition of serving noodles when visitors arrive for the first time to represent the bonds of family and friendship. But these were also “longevity noodles” which are usually served on the day a child is one month old and on subsequent birthdays. MaMa had saved the ritual for our arrival. We ate the noodles with chopsticks from the bowls first and then drank the light, nourishing broth.
Dessert was a platter of fresh fruit including slices of dragon fruit which MaMa tells me is good for the digestion. I think I will teach her the recipe for Saba’s  Dragon’s Tail cocktail!
Dragon fruit

Of course MaMa served dragon fruit in honour of Dermot’s pet name of Teng Teng or flying dragon which he was given because he was born on the tail of the Year of the Dragon. In China food always has meaning.
Time to face the day now and a lesson in making noodles for which the requirement appears to be strong arms!
This is what smog looks like on a sunny Monday morning in Beijing.
Morning smog

You feel it in your lungs as soon as you step outside the door. With my new found paranoia, I’ve taken to tracking air quality using the CN Air Quality App. This is how it looks just now, depending on who you believe…
Air quality

Until later.