The lion in winter

After a smooth flight and taxi ride, dropping S off at her hotel on the way to ours, M and I checked in and also picked up the train tickets that were waiting for us (yay!). The hotel in Beijing isn’t as nice as I’d remembered. Lobby is still fancy, with a dramatic marble staircase, but the room is small and worn. Good water pressure, bad drain. That sort of thing. Just not well taken care of.

We wandered around a bit and found a place in a nearby mall that had dumplings for dinner. Then sleeping on the still-firm-even-with-an-extra-mattress-pad beds.
Woke up, checked the weather on my phone, and peeked out the window to confirm. Yup. Snowing. “Feels like 22F”. Okie dokie.

Hotel breakfast buffet was alright. I carboloaded on noodles and fried rice, then bundled up to head out. Fleece leggings under travel pants, smart wool shirt, fleece jacket, wool coat, scarf, gloves, hat. And sneakers. Whoops! Slippery outside! I was thinking of doing a little Christmas shopping at the nearby mall, but after slipping and falling less than 20 feet out of the hotel, I wound up shopping for winter boots, instead. Don’t want to be slipping along the Great Wall, and the hiking boots I brought with me are also not great if it’s wet, since they’ve got mesh ventilation sections. Of course, it turns out that I have massive paws, so none of the cute women’s winter boots were available in my size. I wound up looking at men’s boots, but didn’t buy any.
Back to the hotel, changed into hiking boots, and then M and I grabbed some lunch (noodle soup, back at the mall). He picked up a winter hat and gloves and we wandered over to the entrance to the forbidden city. Fended off a guide who tried to tell us it was going to take 2 hours in line (it didn’t). It was a cozy crush of humanity, getting to the security checkpoint. Fortunately, winter hats are good at softening the blows of umbrella corners. Many lines later (security, buying tickets, checking tickets, more security) we made it in.

  Even with the crowds, it was a bit of a magical winter wonderland inside. 
Last time I was here, I missed the clock/watch exhibit, so this time I was careful to keep an eye out. We made it there, only to find that we had just missed the last entrance time. Dang winter hours! There’s some kind of joke here about being late to the clock museum.  Oh, well. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

 One nice thing about the snow is that it really cut down on the number of people trying to sell us things at the exit of the forbidden city. And no beggars at all.
We wandered back through narrow and slushy streets, stopped at a convenience store to pick up some interesting snacks (cucumber flavored potato chips, cheese flavored shortbread cookies), and headed back to the hotel to warm up before dinner (fancy dumplings at the mall). So THIS is what shumai is supposed to be! Soup dumpling on the bottom, whole shrimp on top.  Wow!