798 Art District (China Day 7)

The afternoon we spent in the 798 Art District in Beijing is one of my favorite memories of our trip to China. The famous modern art district is known for being different than anywhere else in the city. While it is away from the majority of other tourist sites and away from any subway stop, I am so happy we made the trip here.

The 798 Art District was named after the 798 Factory that was built in the 1950’s. After the corporation moved out of the area in the mid 1990’s, artists started moving in owing to the many vacant plants and architectural design of the buildings. Eventually the entire area was converted into galleries, studios, shops, and cafes.  In order to promote community, the majority of galleries don’t charge an entrance fee. We walked in and out of many studios and galleries without ever being asked to pay an entrance fee. The galleries sustain themselves by doing fashion shows and other events that will charge fees. It’s a unique area that is full of countless exhibits and open air sculptures sprinkled in with trendy places to eat and drink.

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Flashback: Epidavros, Greece 2011

During our full day in Nafplio, we made the short drive in the afternoon to Epidaurus (or Epidavros). Epidavros is reported to be the birthplace of Apollo’s son, Asclepius, the healer. Epidavros was known for it’s healing sanctuary and theatre.

The theatre was designed in 4th century BC and originally had 34 rows. The theatre was eventually expanded by an additional 21 rows of seats. The Epidavros theatre is best known for having almost perfect acoustics at all 14,000 seats. The perfect acoustics are likely a combination of the design of the rows and the limestone itself. The limestone likely filters out low frequency sounds. It’s a beautiful theatre and I can only imagine watching a play or listening to a concert there (which occasionally still happens). But hopefully it wouldn’t be a long play or concert, as limestone isn’t very comfortable.

Epidavros Theatre Epidavros Theatre Epidavros Theatre Epidavros Theatre Epidavros Theatre Epidavros limestone seating

Included with admission to the theatre is the Epidavros Sanctuary. While the theatre is in fairly excellent condition, the sanctuary is still fairly in ruins. Not much has been restored and not very identifiable without reading the signage around the ruins. We walked around, but didn’t linger too long as it was incredibly hot mid-afternoon. The healing sanctuary was the most famous of its type in the Classical World. The sanctuary was named Asklepieion after the Greek god of medicine, Asklepios.

Gymnasium or place where visitors ate meals (has been identified as both) Propylon of the Hestiatorion Stadium where atheletic games where competed to honor Asklepios

Travel Tip: We visited Epidvaros as a side trip from Nafplio (under an hour away), but a visit here could be combined with Mycenae as a longer day trip from Athens. I will also mention this again, but having a valid International Student ID allowed us to visit many of the historical Greece sights for free (at least in 2011).

Money Spent approx. in 2011:
Gas = 36 euro (or about $50 USD)
Water = 1 euro (or about $1.40 USD)

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Old Summer Palace (China Day 7)

We spent a good amount of a morning at the Beijing Old Summer Palace (or Yuanmingyuan). The Old Summer Palace is located a bit out of the main Beijing central area like the newer Summer Palace. We visited them on separate days, but they could easily be combined into a full day to save on transportation time there and back. Be warned however, to visit both in one day would require a lot of walking.

The Old Summer Palace was built in 1709 by Emperor Kangxi. The Old Summer Palace is roughly divided into three sections: Yuanmingyuan (Garden of Perfect Brightness), Qichunyuan (Garden of Blossoming Spring), and Changchunyuan (Garden of Eternal Spring). The majority of the gardens are in ruins due to destruction by Anglo-French forces in 1860.

We entered the Old Summer Palace via the South Entrance. The Old Summer Palace is incredibly tranquil compared to many other tourist sights in Beijing. The park is full of plants, water, and willow trees. It was a very easy, relaxing morning spent walking around the immense gardens. It’s an interesting blend of Chinese and European structures.

The first main sight in the Qichunyuan area, we saw was Jianbi Pavilion located on Juchi Lake. It’s a small pavilion that dates back to 1811.

Jianbi Pavllion

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Beijing at Night (China Day 6)

This will be a relatively short post. I was originally going to just add these on to the end of my Summer Palace post, but it got too long as it was, so I opted to just add a short post about Beijing at night. After exiting the Summer Palace, we had a short walk back to the subway station. Along the way we passed some guys selling roasted chestnuts. They smelled amazing and we bought a bag to eat on the subway. They were absolutely delicious and incredibly cheap, even though the guy marked up the price for us since we were clearly tourists. They were 2CNY for the guy in front of us in line, but even at 5 CNY they were quite the bargain.

Our food tour guide had recommend walking the National Centre of Performing Arts (also referred to as The Egg) at night when it is lit up. The Egg is located just off of Tiananmen Square, which she also recommended walking around at night. Since we were still pretty full from our food tour and not quite ready for dinner yet, we opted to do the loop from The Egg, around Tiananmen Square, and back to our hotel before dinner to experience Beijing at night all lit up.

The National Centre of Performing Arts is an opera house located in Beijing. Construction began in 2001 and the building was designed by a French architect. The first performance was in 2007.

National Centre of Performing Arts

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Beijing Summer Palace (China Day 6)

After finishing our hutong food tour, we headed to the Beijing Summer Palace. In order to visit the Summer Palace, you will need to commit a good amount of time. The Beijing Summer Palace is not a place you can just visit if you have a two hour window in your day, mostly because it takes close to an hour to get there via public transportation from most places within Beijing. It’s an easy metro ride, but it’s many stops away and does take awhile. In addition to the long commute there, the grounds of the Beijing Summer Palace are massive. We were there for a few hours and didn’t get close to visiting the entire area. We skipped several sections altogether, though to be fair we did visit the majority of the most popular areas within the Summer Palace.

The Beijing Summer Palace ended up being one of my favorite sites that we visited while in China, which maybe because I didn’t have any expectations for what it would be like. We had read that the two best times of day to visit are either first thing in the morning before tour groups arrive, or at sunset because it’s one of the few places in Beijing you can watch a decent sunset. We chose to visit close to sunset. We arrived a little before 3pm which gave us a few hours to really enjoy the grounds before sunset. There are also multiple entrances to the Summer Palace so you will have multiple options on how you want to visit. We chose the main entrance (East Entrance). The north entrance is technically closer to the metro station, but our guide for the food tour recommended starting on the eastern end due to timing and she mapped out a route for us to hit most of the important buildings while not having to backtrack a lot.

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Photo of the Day(s): Wine, cheese, and butterflies. 

Spent yesterday relaxing in Williamsburg and had a good time despite the overcast clouds and rain. Then spent today celebrating the holiday by trying to find open restaurants and visiting the botanical gardens once again in the rain and clouds. 

Photo of the Day: Norfolk

Spent the day mostly in Norfolk. Ate brunch, visited the glass museum and Chrysler Museum. Visited a cute little wine bar before heading to Virgina Beach for dinner. 

Photo of the Day: Virginia bound 

Headed to Virginia for the holiday weekend! New book and a latte while waiting at the airport.