ARRIVING TO BEIJING
CHINA TRAVELOGUE - DAY
1 - ARRIVING TO BEIJING
Boarding Varig at the Rio de Janeiro Airport.
FLIGHT FROM STOCKHOLM TO BEIJING
There is only
one non-stop direct flight from Stockholm Arlanda (ARN)
to Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK), and
that is Air China. We normally would have
opted for this flight, as it is the shortest, but
for this trip, we would be returning to Stockholm
from Bangkok, Thailand, so the easiest routing in
our case was with FinnAir, who flies both to Beijing
and Bangkok, 1-stop through Helsinki. The
flight was an overnight, relatively painless, and
FinnAir had a nice seat-back entertainment system on
the plane to make it go by quickly. In a short
8 hours and change, we arrived.
After a pretty
uneventful flight, made easier because we paid a few
bucks extra for extra legroom, we touched down in
Warsaw Poland. We were coming to Warsaw
primarily to see Andrea Bocelli in concert, as he
was only playing there and Riga in Europe in 2009,
and we had just been to Riga the month before and
hadn't been to Poland before. As we
exited the airport, we were immediately swarmed by
people claiming to be taxi drivers offering us rides
to our hotel. One guy showed us his very
official-looking taxi driver badge, and next thing I
knew Sandra was handing him our hotel address.
Although we knew better than to go with him in
general, we hadn't done our homework and didn't
realize just how much we were about to get ripped
followed the driver to his car, parked in the
regular parking garage, I asked him how much he
wanted. 120 Slotzy! That was about
$40.00 at the time. I had read in the
airplane magazine that a fare of about 80 Slotzy
was usual (though later I read online that it
should be about half of that), so I knew he was
ripping us off, but for some reason, after
bargaining with him was unsuccessful, I
reluctantly agreed. I must have been tired
from the flight or something. Oh well, stupid
stupid stupid. We made it to our hotel and
paid him his 120 Slotzy and were on our way.
Itupu Dam in Foz do
Iguacu - World's Largest
San Martin Hotel in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil.
THE HOTEL - MAMAISON LE REGINA
Le Regina hotel turned out to be a beautiful little
boutique hotel, much nicer than we had expected.
The bellman met us right away and took our bags, the
lady at the front desk was very nice and showed us
the facilities before sending us up to our room.
There was a nice bar in the lobby with a very
comfortable seating area and complimentary
chocolates, a Michelin-rated restaurant (we didn't
try it, but it looked nice), and torches lining the
walls in a gothic but modern fashion, very original
room we booked was very nice, everything looked very
new, and the bathroom was one of the better ones
we've had. There was a big desk, easy for both
of us to work on at the same time, a flat screen tv,
and complimentary wi-fi and high speed internet by
LAN. Throughout our stay, the staff at Le
Regina made us feel at home, and were always very
friendly and helpful. The location was great
too - right outside the city walls of Warsaw's Old
Town, it was a piece of cake to walk where ever we
wanted to go, whether Old Town, New Town, or the
settling in, we headed out to check out the surrounding
area. It was a glorious afternoon - bright and sunny
without a cloud in the sky, warm (about 80 degrees), and
just a light breeze to keep it comfortable.
immediately taken by Warsaw's Old Town. A UNESCO World
Heritage Site, Old Town was completely destroyed during
World War II by heavy German bombing. During the
communist rule in the 1980s, it was completely rebuilt to
look like it originally did, and it was so cozy! We
had no expectations going into Warsaw - we pictured a gloomy
communist-era gray with nothing much to see. We were
very wrong. Old Town and the surrounding parts
of New Town along with the famous Royal Route (where many of
the famous palaces and parliamentary buildings are located)
were bursting with life and color - both the attractive
buildings and the brightly colored flowers that lined all
the balconies and the sidewalk cafes throughout the area.
With all the
flowers everywhere, the sidewalk cafes, and french
balconies, Warsaw's Old Town reminded us of Paris believe it
or not. We walked the cobblestone streets,
marveled at the perfectly restored buildings, smiled as
horse-drawn carriages wheeled tourists through it's center,
and snapped photos in it's lovely market squares.
We loved all the sidewalk cafes, which were everywhere, and
quickly found ourselves a seat. The first restaurant
we tried was Barbakan. Here we tried the local Polish
beer Zywelc, at the recommendation of our taxi driver, and
it was quite tasty - malty and smooth like a stout, but
light in body and not at all bitter. Of course we
ordered as typical of a Polish meal as we could find - I had
Roast Duck with Apples and a bowl of Zurek (Polish soup with
sausage and eggs served in a sourdough bowl), and Sandra had
soup with dumplings in it along with a bread bowl of XXX, a
Polish specialty consisting of beef, sauerkraut, and XXXX.
We thoroughly enjoyed both of our meals, and were really
full. I was really surprised by how flavorful and
tasty the food was throughout our trip to Poland.
We walked up
through the market square, through the city walls, and up
the Royal Route. On the way through the marketplace,
we couldn't help but notice the gargantuan mugs of beer
people were drinking at one of the cafes - they were huge!
I made a mental note to come back and try one before we went
back to the hotel. We checked out the Royal Palace,
the Presidential Palace, and several other very nice
buildings, and noticed that ice cream was apparently
extremely popular in Warsaw - there seemed to be an ice
cream kiosk on every corner, and they were all busy!
There was some sort of bicycle protest going on that day,
and thousands of bike riders filled the streets of the Royal
Route. Kind of interesting - we didn't know what was
going on until our tour guide the following day told us.
I think she said that it was to protest the lack of bike
lanes in the city. As the sun was setting, we
made our way back toward the hotel. On the way, of
course, we had to stop in at Bazyliszek for one of those
massive beers on the patio.
We asked the
waiter if we should sit down or wait to be seated, and he
said to sit where ever we liked. We did, and eagerly
anticipated that monstrosity shaped like a mug of beer.
Unfortunately, we were left to anticipate it for over a half
hour while we were totally ignored. Finally I waved
down one of the waiters, and he came over and asked if we
had ordered yet. We said no, we hadn't even been
brought a menu yet. He left for a moment, returned
with two menus, threw them on the table in a heap and walked
away without a word. Wow, we thought, nice service
here. Another half hour went by with no service, and
we were getting upset now - nearly an hour and we hadn't
even been able to order a beer yet. Finally, I managed
to get a waitresses attention, and she came over and took
our order. Another 15 minutes later, she came out with
a tray full of beers, set it down on someone else's table,
and proceeded not just to serve that table, but to take the
orders of about five different tables around her while our
beers sat there getting warm. As we debated whether
just to walk out, she finally came over and gave us our
beers - at last! We asked for the check immediately
because who knows how long we'd have to be there otherwise.
We were completely finished with our liters of beer before
she came back with the check, so again we had to flag her
down and remind her. All told, it was just shy of two
hours for us to drink one beer. Needless to say, we
weren't happy and did not return to Bazyliszek for food or
more drinks, even though it had probably the best patio area
in the Old Town and would have been very nice to sit at.
Now it was
getting late, so we headed back to the hotel to rest up
before heading out to have a late night snack. All the
restaurants seemed to serve food until at least 11:00 PM, so
we figured we had time. After a quick rest, we walked
back down the cobbled streets, to a curious restaurant we
had seen earlier that had swings on their patio. The
swings were on rails, rather than regular swings, so had a
back and forth horizontal motion rather than a pendulum
swinging motion - very strange, first time we'd seen a place
like that. XXXX turned out to be much more than we
expected. We started out on the swing patio, but we
decided that being stationary for the food would be much
easier, and we were already feeling seasick. We
ordered a cheese plate to start with a bottle of white wine.
The cheese plate was outstanding - much more than expected.
We should have just stopped there - it would have been
enough. However, we'd already ordered a second course
- I ordered a Zurek and Sandra ordered some assorted Perogi
(dumplings filled with different things - kind of like
Ravioli). All our dishes were outstanding, and
our waiter was picture-perfect. He was well-trained
and attentive, and did everything right. We ended up
relaxing there for a couple hours, just enjoying the wine
and picking at our food and talking. It was really
nice, our favorite restaurant in Warsaw during our stay.
MORNING - GUIDED TOUR OF WARSAW
hired a private guide to show us around Warsaw. Ewa
XXX was waiting for us in our hotel lobby as we came
downstairs, right on time at 9:00 AM. After a brief
introduction, we walked outside to her car and drove to the
starting point of our tour, just outside the city walls of
Warsaw's Old Town. In contrast to the previous day,
this morning was gray and cloudy, no blue skies to be found.
We were thankful we took the time to take a few pictures
yesterday because today's photos were going to be dull due
to the weather. We started our tour at Castle Square,
home to the Royal Palace, which had been restored in XXXX.
Ewa shared with us the history of the palace and the Old
Town in general. We didn't know anything about Warsaw
before coming here, so it was all very interesting and new
to us. Ewa spoke fluent English, and her accent was
easy to understand, which was nice - some other tour guides
we have had in the past had such thick accents, it was very
difficult to understand what they were saying, even though
they seemed knowledgeable and were friendly.
We walked the
streets of the Old Town, visiting such churches as St Johns
Cathedral, where we went inside. Ewa told us the story
of the church, as well as about Watong Poliski, the fabled
hero of the Warsaw Uprising, who was honored with a plaque
near the entrance.
Day 2 - Iguassu Falls National Park
or select an option from the menu at left.