Lovell to Beijing, Series Finale

From Tongling, we returned to our Beijing ‘home’, the Nuo Hotel. After an almost six-hour high speed train ride, we arrived at the Beijing South station which was newer than the Beijing West station but just as large, crowded and confusing. Except for a one day trip to Shijiazhuang to visit Anna’s original host family seven years ago, we spent the rest of our stay in Beijing. (Interestingly, Anna will be doing her required spring internship with her host mom working in one of her businesses)

You can’t go to China without  visiting the Great Wall. We really didn’t want to go on a guided tour or take public transportation, so we decided to hire one of the taxi drivers which we became friendly with. The ride from the hotel to the Badaling visitor’s center was about 90 minutes but the traffic was incredible. Apparently, choosing the correct day to go is critical. Going during the National Holiday is not a good time. Our taxi driver sneaked into a back parking lot and we walked a long distance. It was bitter cold with a very strong wind. While waiting to buy our admission tickets, I spotted someone selling scarves. It was like finding a bottle of water in the middle of the Sahara.

The engineering history of the Wall is incredible. After walking and climbing the steep steps and looking out in the distance and seeing the Wall stretch out over the hills, I cannot believe that it was ever constructed. I can’t imagine how all of the giant blocks of stone were put into place. Really worth a visit but try to pick a slow tourist day!

One other thing that was on my to do list was to see the raising of the flag at Tiananmen Square.This is done at sunrise every morning and is quite a site as an Army brigade marches (in impressive precision) out of the Palace, crosses the street to this large flag pole. The troops are followed by a band that plays the National Anthem as the flag is raised. We were told to get there early and we took a taxi to the Square and got there about 6:15 am for a 7:23 am sunrise. I thought we were being smart and crafty but as you can see from the photos, there already was a large crowd gathering on both sides of the street. After going through security (a routine when entering the Square, all train stations, subway stations and airports; although I detected less attention paid to us foreigners), we picked a spot by the Palace and were in the second/third row next to the barricade. Thanks to Anna, we spent the time talking to people and all of them traveled a long way to get there. We were next to a young man, his third time attending, who is the captain of the flag raising team at his school. Very proud of his country and stood at attention and saluted the flag during the entire ceremony. We wanted to go see Mao’s tomb, which is open only in the morning hours, but the crowds were too big and you are only in there for about 30 seconds.

One place we visited multiple times was the Great Leap Brewery. A tremendous selection of craft beers brewed on site with all Chinese ingredients. During our time in China, the Great Leap was the only place where you might think that you were back in the western world. Outstanding hamburgers and fries as well!!!

When we were planning this trip, neither Rondi nor I had any idea what we would experience. We spent a lot of time getting Maine-based gifts for our various hosts and friends. Little did we know that we would be returning home with more gifts than we brought. Everyone we met welcomed us to their homes and were very generous with food and laughs; despite not knowing how to speak the other’s language. There were some political discussions but not often and everyone was respectful. Rightfully, the citizens are very proud of their country and its rich history. But the United States is still a beacon, especially among the youth. Learning English is so important to the children and so many of them said they do so because they want to come to the United States. As for the many parents we met, from rich to poor, they all work hard and want the same thing we strive for — to provide a better life for our children.

All in all, a fascinating country. And we are so very lucky to have stayed in the homes of so many families. And very humbling, that all of these people we met, living in diverse parts of the country, came about solely from our daughter’s relationships developed over many years.

 

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Lovell to Beijing, Part Three

From Chongqing we flew to the Hefei Airport on an early morning flight that took about two hours. Like all of the other airports we went through, the facility was large, modern and efficient. Anna’s roommate’s Dad met us and we traveled about another 90 minutes by car to the town of Tongling.  We did cross the mighty Yangtze River on a long, tall bridge. Amazing that we also crossed the Yangtze in Chongqing. It is the third longest river in the world and the longest in the world to flow in just one country. The river was much busier in this section with lots of barges and boats.

Of course, when we arrived in Tongling we drove to a residential subdivision where we stopped at a relative’s house for a visit and lunch. As in every other house we visited in every city, we were treated with a wonderful display of food. The dishes here were quite different than in Beijing or Chongqing. There seemed to be more stews and vegetables. At what I thought was the end of the meal, came rice, soup and dumplings. Who can argue with that? Unknown to us, our hosts had reserved rooms for us at the Lake View Garden Hotel where Rondi and I had a large suite overlooking the lake and Anna had a separate room. That evening there was a large dinner in our honor at a very nice restaurant. The dining room was in a private room with the largest circular table that I have ever seen and it appeared to have a ‘Lazy Susan‘ that rotated the food electronically. The men were all located at the top end of the table and that evening the Asian custom of toasting with what I call ‘White Liquid’ was active. A memorable evening!

I knew that we were scheduled for a mountain hike at some point during our stay and didn’t give it much attention. Until we arrived at the mountain town which was about a 90-minute ride from Tongling to Huangshan, a small village at the base of the Yellow Mountain. At the base, I wasn’t certain as to what we were doing as we boarded a small bus from a terminal. It is important to remember that I am accustomed to hiking in the White Mountain National Forest. Throw that out the window as, except for the majestic beauty of the mountains, there are no similarities. The bus ride was on very winding road with steep drops outside our window. When we got to the end of the bus ride we proceeded to queue for a gondola ride. Uncomfortable with heights, it was not what I was hoping for. In summary, once we got off of the roughly eight-minute gondola ride, we had a 4.5 hour hike to the hotel that we were staying that evening at the top of the mountain. There were concrete walkways, railings, restrooms and benches everywhere. Access to the mountain allows many people to visit the mountain and see the jagged mountain peaks poking through the clouds.

There is a rumor that the Yellow Mountain will be on the 2018 AMC International Dinner Schedule. Stay tuned!

 

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Lovell to Beijing, Part Two

With the exception of our overnight trip to Shijiazhuang, our first week was spent in Beijing. Took a public bus to view Anna’s school to visit her campus and dorm. We hired a private guide to take us through the Forbidden City and later a tour of a Houtong neighborhood. Also, high on the ‘to do’ list was to walk through local neighborhoods and to have Peking Duck. Anna recommended that we go to the Beijing Wangfujing Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant, in business since 1864. Simply spectacular! So good that we went back a second time upon our return to Beijing.  We flew from the Beijing airport to Chongqing via China Southern Airlines on a roughly three-hour flight. When planning the trip, I was apprehensive about flying domestically but Anna pointed out that would require a roughly 24-hour train ride. Nothing but high praise for the airline system. From security that was fast and efficient (and it seemed to me more thorough than our system) to the new airplanes and the friendly service, especially to the foreigners, to the airplanes that are well designed to handle large numbers of passengers. It is said that Chongqing is one of the fastest growing regions on the planet. And based on the traffic, stores/malls and people, it sure seems that way. Known as the city in the mountains, it offers spectacular vistas. The residents are also very proud of their spicy cuisine and ‘Hot Pot’. When dining, our hosts always made sure that we had a cooler option available.

 

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Lovell to Beijing, Part One

How true is it that so many of life’s great surprises are unplanned? Rondi and I never imagined that one day we would be spending three weeks traveling in China, staying in both hotels and private homes. Our daughter Anna is studying in Beijing for a year, finishing her senior college year. This is her fourth extended stay there and we figured now was a good time to go. And all of this started because she decided to take Mandarin instead of Spanish.

We planned our trip to coincide with the Lunar New Year as Anna, along with the rest of the country, take off from work and school. After spending the first few days in Beijing, we traveled to Shijiazhuang where Anna first went to school there while in her junior year at the Fryeburg Academy. Anna’s friend Katie (her English name) and her Uncle met us at the train station. After a lunch at a local restaurant we drove about two hours to Katie’s house in the countryside.

Over the next several days, I plan on posting a variety of pictures of our trip.

At School No. 42

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2017 KEZAR REALTY CALENDARS

Just in time for the Holidays! The 2017 edition of the Kezar Realty calendar is now available. After experimenting with different formats over the years, we have gone back to the full magnet backing. Perfect for throwing it at the refrigerator and having it stick.

I will be sending some calendars out via mail but they will also be available in the local stores as well as the Kezar Realty office. You may also send me an email at stan@fairpoint.net and I will be happy to send you one (or two).

As always, not only is the calendar functional but what better way to dress up your kitchen appliances.

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SHOP LOCAL — SHOP LOVELL

santa-decorating-christmas-tree

It happens every year! Thanksgiving has come and gone and we all think that we have plenty of time for decorating, baking, party-going and gift shopping. And before we know it, it is almost mid-December. And then the panic kicks in!

This Holiday season, shop in Lovell and surrounding towns! Here’s a list of shops and ideas where you not only get a great gift but you are helping our local businesses!

* Lots to choose from at the HARVEST GOLD GALLERY in Center Lovell. Custom designed earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings and more. Inside their large gallery is a wide variety of American-made art work (much of it local) that will brighten every home. Bill and Lynda can be reached at 207-925-6502.Visit their website here.

* You need to check out the great things that Brent Legere is creating at the Lovell Box Company. Wonderful, one-of-a kind boxes and creates made from pine grown on the family land. Perfect for wine, beer, storage, produce, etc. Brent would be happy to make something from your own specs. Check out his Facebook page here or call him at 207-432-2900.

*HILLTOP HANDSPUN, located in North Lovell, Maine, is owned and operated by fiber artist and designer, Lucy Rogers. Lucy enjoys creating and selling hand made yarn to hand knitters and fiber and roving to hand spinners and felters. The yarn and spinning fibers are made from alpaca, mohair, wool and angora fleeces that she hand selects from Maine and New England fiber farms. Many of her designer yarns are hand spun and a number are spun at a local mini-mill often on a fleece by fleece basis. Beautiful colors in the yarns, which are inspired by the local mountain environment, come to life during the hand dyeing process in Lucy’s kitchen. Here is a link to Lucy’s webpage where you will find yarn and kits for sale.

*LOVELL HARDWARE, located at 411 Main Street is up and running! Great selection of lumber, paint, nuts and bolts, mulch, pellets, pet and horse feed, propane and much more. Can’t beat this special offer on Gift Certificates: ‘Buy $50, get $10 free; buy $25, get $5 free’ The store is open every day. Call 925-9053 for hours.

*HOMESTEAD ICE CREAM SHOP. Beth Armington’s store sells much more than ice cream, coffee, hot dogs and stew! She also has two floors of local artisans’ work ranging from small crafts, iron pieces and quilts. A great spot for unique gifts at affordable prices. And don’t forget that Homestead is an authorized United Parcel Service drop-off location. Stop in and visit. 207-925-9005.

*PIETREE ORCHARD. Located on the top Waterford Road in Sweden, this Orchard is a great place to shop for local produce, baked goods, flowers, jams and pizza. The ‘Pick-Your-Own’ season is over but there is lots to choose from in the store. Visit PietreeOrchards.com for more detailed information. 207-647-9419.

Karl’s Auto Repair, located at 118 Cushman Pond Road in Lovell. Get rid of that winter grime inside and out for your special person’s car with an auto detailing package from Karl. Call for more details at 207-928-3132 or visit their Facebook page here.

*How about a Gift Certificate to some local eating establishments?
1)Rosie’s Lovell Village Store. Stop in or call Rosie at 207-925-1255.

2)The Center Lovell Market. Open on a year-round basis for great food, coffee, a bottle of wine and gasoline! Great pizzas! 925-3090-1051.

3)The Stow Corner Store. Original menu, great portions, a warm environment and a local institution! Check out their Facebook page here for updates on specials or call 207-697-2255. Don’t miss the award-winning chili and seafood chowder!
4)AJ’s Everything Store at 409 Maine Street in Stoneham. A small convenience store upfront and a nice restaurant out back. Great food at great prices! 207-928-2454.

5)THE CENTER LOVELL INN. The Inn offers 10 large comfortable guestrooms each appointed with family antiques and sitting areas for relaxing and reading. A full country breakfast is served piping hot each morning. Enjoy gourmet dining in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere in the evening. The forty-seat dining room offers a crackling fire on cold winter nights. In the summer, enjoy breakfast and dinner on the screened-in wrap-around porch. In the evening enjoy the sunset over the White Mountains. Visit the website here!

6)THE OLD SACO INN. Pete and Sandi welcome you to their pub, restaurant and inn on the banks of the Old Saco River. Good food and cocktails in a friendly setting. Great access to the snowmobile trails as well! Old Saco Inn.

7)‘Best Beer Bar in America‘, EBENEZER’s PUB During winter, it is an easy snowmobile ride to their front door. The Pub’s phone number is 207-925-3200.

Still can’t figure out what to give to someone who has everything? How about a gift in their name to some of our local organizations? The Charlotte Hobbs Memorial Library, Lewis Dana Hill Memorial Library, Lovell Historical Society, Brick Church for the Performing Arts, Greater Lovell Land Trust, Kezar Lake Watershed Association, Lovell’s United Church of Christ or Lovell Friends Helping Friends (winter fuel assistance for the needy)!

Please let me know of any additions to this list.
MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!

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TOYS for TOTS

The long Thanksgiving weekend is over and we quickly move right into the Christmas season. The shopping frenzy has started with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. It is exhausting and somewhat frustrating when the focus is strictly on the need to save a few dollars. It does seem to me that some folks like the very act of obtaining a deal rather than finding that right gift for someone.

But if you scratch the surface, there continues to be evidence that people give generously to their local communities. I just became aware of a movement started five years ago called Giving Tuesday. The famous 92nd Street Y in New York City joined forces with the United Nations Foundation to put the focus on giving and using the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to kick off the charitable season. It appears to be quite a success and grows every year.

When donating, people like to see their contributions stay local. Here is one program that fits the bill! Since 1991, The United States Marine Corps Reserves has supported the Toys for Tots program where new toys are collected and distributed to needy families in time for Christmas. “The mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.”

Thanks to Beth Armington at the Homestead Scoop & Gallery, Until December 10th, Lovell residents can drop off new and unwrapped toys for boys and girls seven days a week between the hours of 10 and 5. All of the toys donated will be collected by the Reserve Unit located in Brunswick and will be distributed in Maine.

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