We had breakfast in the executive lounge. It was pretty great, they had a nice spread every day with a variety of options. Paul used the espresso maker to make us coffees every day, and oh how we needed them. The girls were very fond of the yogurt (we basically lived on it). We were able to pick up a couple of bottled waters for the day thankfully, that was so handy. You could have omelets made to order and the fruit was always fresh and ripe. They had a rotating menu and of the executive lounges at Marriott it probably had the biggest variety. They usually had congee or oatmeal (An Izzy fave), fried noodles, sauteed vegetables, they had a pastry bar, multiple coffee machines, you could get tea as well. They had cereals and several juices, pancakes, waffles or french toast every day. The executive lounge privileges are a MUST with adoption. You don’t need to worry about fixing breakfast or hauling everyone to a restaurant in town. You head to the floor, have breakfast and you are set. The food is always pretty good and it is so easy. Once we got home I missed it terribly.
We met the other family in the lobby and all piled into the van, we were dropped off and told to meet back in front of the Victory Hotel. We went to the statues to have pictures taken. The Island is beautiful. We walked up and down the tree lined avenues looking at historical buildings, many restored to good condition. This territory was originally divided and given to the UK and France. You can really see the European influence in the architecture. Many of the trees on the island are over 200 years old. Years ago this island was known for the foreigners who worked and lived there and the White Swan Hotel where it seemed all adoptive families stayed an took the now iconic pictures of the children on that famous red couch. The White Swan has been remolded and is now catering to businessmen and not to adoptive families. The hotel was closed when we were there and I was sorry about that because I had wanted to see it. I wanted the red couch picture but I am pretty sure that couch is long gone. Also gone are the Mattel Going Home barbies that the White Swan left in the adoptive families hotel rooms. How sad. I have seen the dolls and would love to have one.
After the pictures we split up to shop for a little while, we bought several silk outfits and a pair of pink silk shoes for each girl, we bought several silk table runners, a jade ship for Paul to take to work, a small wooden folding screen decorated with a scene painted on it, As we headed further down the boulevard we found the place with the cute little squeaky shoes and bought several pairs for each girl. We met up with the other family here, we were all buying the squeaky shoes. While we waited in front of the shop a couple of girls came up and wanted their picture taken with the little boy from the other family. He was probably 10 or 11 and really embarrassed but dad said ok. Then a young guy wandered up and wanted his picture taken with me (uh ok..) I did it of course but how odd. I should have taken his picture. LOL
We all walked down the sidewalk to find a place to eat, the first place was a well known seafood place but we decided it would be hard to locate something everyone would eat, we continued on and ate at Lucy’s, a restaurant popular with expats, the food was okay but not great.
After lunch we walked back to the Victory hotel to meet our guide and driver. Gabby had a huge blowout and we had to run into The Victory and use the bathroom to change her into an alternate outfit before getting into the van and heading back to the mainland and the China Hotel. I love Shamian Island and would have loved to spend more time there, it was much too short.
We put the kids down to nap and then took a stroll in the hotel to get Starbucks and then to check out the tiny 7-11 on the side of the hotel. We grabbed a few snacks at both the 7-11 and the little supply store in the hotel. It was crazy windy that day.
We played in the room, bathed the girls, got take out from McDonalds. Only this time Paul ran into a local “business” gal standing at the bottom of the China Hotel stairs during his food run.
We gave the kids a bath and put them to bed. At night I washed the ExOfficio underwear in the sink using tiny packets of Tide and hung them to dry. This was by far my favorite purchase. These undies were light airy and breathable in the super hot sweaty days in China. In normal undies you would be marinating in sweat all day. I would sure look for more ExOfficio clothing for our next adoption trip. They were awesome! Also at night before bed I would wash the bottles and pre-fill them with powder, wash any of the little take and toss bowls and utensils we had used and wash the sippy cups and re-stock the diaper bag and snack cups so we were ready to go the next day. We usually watched some show before falling dead asleep..
We ordered room service that first morning because we had not figured out the executive lounge yet. We horked breakfast down and hurried to get ourselves dressed so we could meet our guide and another family from our agency in the lobby.
We had been alerted that there was another family from our agency also in GZ at the same time. They turned out to be this perfect family, they brought two of their kids along to adopt another little boy (they were always helpful with the new brother). It was hotter than Hades and mom always looked like she just stepped off a magazine cover, always had makeup on and her hair was done (I on the other hand called it a good day if I had pants on). The kids were always clean and dressed nicely. Plus they were just a nice family. Dad was a scream. They had this whole thing down pat while we were a traveling circus by comparison. I think the agency only let us know because in GZ you share a guide with other families from your agency. I had no idea that was how it would work but it was nice for us.. Probably not as great for them.
Our baby bag weighed 80 pounds (ok not really but close) and we were constantly hunting for snacks or some other thing in the depths of that damned bag.
We all assembled in the lobby and realized this family had been on our flight from Seattle to Beijing. All of us piled into the van.. all 11 of us in the van (this includes the driver and our guide) which was our traveling standard for the week.
We arrived at the medical clinic and had visa photos taken of the kids in the lobby. We went upstairs and entered a room with chairs in rows and tons of adoptive families and several locals. Our guide took all of our paperwork to the front desk and a while later we were called back one child at a time to have the kids weighed, measured, visually inspected, TB test done and the records were skimmed over. They checked the child’s picture against the child you presented for the exam.
I went in with Gabby. She had to be naked at one point and LOST HER MIND. Gabby had this huge bulge at the top of her diaper area that had not been there before. I said WHAT is that? The “Doctor” said “No worry it’s just a fibroid”. WHAT? So at this point everyone reading this knows what it is but we had been operating on very little sleep (night terrors etc) and we were all sick (Izzy came to us sick), but I KNEW it was no fibroid. I was pretty sure the janitor just put a pair of scrubs on and examined our daughter. My mind was racing about this HUGE lump Gabby had sprouted.
Izzy went in with Paul and was easy peasy, no crying, no theatrics.
Then there was a room at the end that parents could not go in and it was a blood draw apparently (for the TB test). Gabby was a mess for that too. It took three people to hold her down. We were all glad to get back in the van.
We stopped at a store on the way back to the hotel, it took us a lot longer than the other family of course. We needed formula and diapers, yogurt, juice, snacks, fruit etc. I could think of nothing else but this huge lump Gabby had.
We got back to the hotel and spoke to our guide about the lump and she told us we had two options: Go to the hospital and pay a few bucks but have to wait hours to be seen or go to the clinic and pay $250 be seen right away by an English speaking doctor. We went to the clinic.
Lily came with us and our driver dropped us at the clinic (this was above and beyond his duties for sure). We told the doctor what had happened at the medical appointment, he took one look and said “It’s a hernia.” I burst into tears I was so relieved. That poor doctor, I am sure he was just stunned to have this foreigner crying in his office. We had not had a full nights sleep so I was pretty emotional. The most idiotic thing is that I had both a single hernia repair then a triple hernia repair, I should have known what it was but I just did not think of it. I had lots of things going through my head and none of them were that benign.
We took a cab back to the China Hotel, Paul ran down to the McDonalds and a snack for us. The odd thing is that the sundaes were made with a butterscotch flavored ice cream and not vanilla.
Later we walked down to the Starbucks (right in the hotel) and grabbed a coffee. We just meandered around the hotel a little.
For dinner we ordered from Room Service, we bathed the kids and put them to bed. In GZ Gabby sleeps between us and Izzy sleeps in a longer version of the Pack and Play. We got into bed and watched TV for a little bit before crashing out.
We ate at the buffet and got ourselves ready to go. Packing 4 suitcases and several carry ons for all of us was just nutty.
For whatever reason we ended up getting checked out of the hotel very early by mistake and were stuck in the lobby for close to two hours. It was a nightmare. Thankfully we liked the door man.
Our guide Susie, her son and the driver arrived to take us to the airport. There was a HUGE traffic jam because some yahoo in a big truck was trying to reverse away from the on-ramp.
We get to the airport and Susie comes in to get us checked in. We get our luggage checked in and you wait to see if your name appears on this screen in a certain number of minutes. If it doesn’t, your luggage is ok and you can head on over to security.
We go through security (which is an ordeal in and of itself) and then hunt around for a place to eat lunch. We find a place and draw a crowd of at least twenty onlookers as well as the staff who stood across from us. It was the strangest thing. I now know what all the animals at the zoo feel like.
We were followed by a man all over the airport, after the third or fourth comment about it from Paul I thought that is IT I am going to confront him and get airport security. Thankfully we did not see him again because we do not speak the language and probably would have been arrested. Adopting a child with albinism caused a lot of strange reactions and after a week of this crap I was OVER IT! We still had another week to go.
We get to the gate and have to take a standing bus to the plane. The plane was on the other side of this massive airport and it took forever. When we got there I was pushed off the bus by some jerk that was in a hurry to get on the plane and nearly landed on my face (and on Izzy). Then when you get off the plane you need to haul yourself up the 2.5 flights of stairs to get on to the plane. Carrying a baby in a front pack, a back pack and a stroller was crazy. Hence my recommendation to start hiking in advance of your adoption trip, you will need the stamina. By the time I made it to the top of the stairs I was shaking. I am woefully out of shape. Paul had a front pack, backpack, his cpap and a baby bag that weighed a ton.. I have no idea how he made it up the stairs either.
We get on the plane, and get settled. I have the window, Gabby is between Paul and I and Paul has Izzy on his lap. Gabby went BANANAS when the plane took off of course, but settled down and was pretty good for most of the flight until it was time to land. A flight attendant helped us off the plane and asked if Gabby was from China and thanked us for taking the girls. That was so sweet and genuine, after the insane negativity over Izzy that woman had no idea how nice it was to hear a positive comment.
We arrive in GZ at 7:10 pm, we collected our bags and they checked our tickets against the bags as we left the baggage claim area. Our guide Lily is this tiny little sweet gal. She was there right on time and just the nicest lady. She proceeded to push our HUGE luggage cart that probably weighed twice what she did. We pass through a throng of people outside the airport, it is very hot for being so late in the evening. Taxi drivers were offering us rides all the way to the air conditioned (thank you!) van and our driver.
We get to the China Hotel and get checked in and taken to our room. We ordered room service, bathed the kids, did bottles and went to bed! What an exhausting day!
The next morning we again ate at the buffet and our family had multiplied overnight so instead of just one screaming fussy baby we had two. I’m sure we were a delight to all who were forced to eat in that dining room.
We have a system. I go get the girls food and Paul gets them set up and gives them cheerios/puffs, when I get back he runs to grab us coffee and food while I work on feeding the restless natives. It is a circus and probably funny to watch. When Paul gets back we divide and conquer and try to feed/cajole the kids into eating and not screaming while trying to sip and eat ourselves. Izzy was by far the more restless of the two and after he ate Paul took Izzy to the far side of the dining hall and walked her around. She was delighted and stopped her tirade.
After breakfast we went to Civil affairs to sign for Gabby. We had asked our guide if she and the driver wanted to go to lunch someplace. She did not and unceremoniously dumped us back at the hotel. Having few options we ate at the Coffee/Waffle house place next door. Maan Coffee. We picked a few things hoping to get the kids to snack on something.
We did some internet stuff and took a walk down the river. It was hot out and the kids were glad to get out of the room for a bit. We skyped with family back home. We skyped with Grandma Wanda and with big brothers Ethan and Carl.
Dinner we ordered from the buffet in the hotel again. We did a load of laundry in the Washer/Dryer combo and it took hours and hours to dry. HA!
After bathing the girls they had bottles and went to bed and I packed and re-packed all of our crap.
We got up, gave Izzy a bottle, got dressed and went to the breakfast buffet. Izzy screamed her head off of course, because why not? I spent the entire meal bouncing her in the carrier trying to eat, sip coffee and feed her. She was not having it. Yes we were THAT family.
We met Guide Susie in the lobby and were loaded into the van, Izzy was in Paul’s Ergo and we headed to the Civil Affairs office which was about half an hour away from our hotel. Of course the office was up several flights of stairs.
When I rounded the corner I see Gabby down on the other side of the room in an off white princess dress with a little sweater. A man and 4 ladies were with her. The man turned out to be the director and the ladies were all nannies from the orphanage. They had made the 4 hour trip the night before and stayed 2 nights to meet us, finalize the adoption and say goodbye to our pint sized dynamo with the huge personality. Paul told me later that the director watched me like a hawk through the entire meeting with Gabby. He probably wanted to be sure we were going to take good care of her.
They gifted us with a 7 foot tapestry and sent Gabby home with a new suitcase, new clothing, 1 pair of sandals, 1 pair of sneakers, a quilt, a stuffed panda, a pink stroller, linen jammies, bowl and spoon, and A CHOP with her Chinese name. Absolutely amazing because generally you are lucky to get a diaper and formula. Gabby was very well loved in her orphanage.
After the appointment we went to Walmart to pick up a few things to get us through the next few days. We grabbed a TON of yogurt, formula, baby pouches, snacks, diapers, wipes, a bath basin, and a beach towel. Once again we were dumped off and left by our guide. We went to the restaurant next door to the hotel for lunch. We got a Mango Smoothie and I think little miss Gabby horked the entire thing down (much to Dad’s dismay). It was at least 16 ounces.
The kids played in the room and dinged around. For dinner we ordered from the hotel kitchen and the food was fabulous. We loved this spicy beef and rice dish. The surprise was however that the rice looked as if it was just plain steamed white rice and it was not.. It was hell rice. It was super spicy hot. What invisible spice had they cooked this with? I had no clue. The food was good but it was really HOT. This did nothing to stop us from ordering more the next night.
We bathed the girls separately in the little wash basin and got them ready for bed, watched Chinese cartoons and relaxed. We had two cribs in our bedroom and we could still get around! I loved that room. The kitchen was super convenient and I really missed it when we left.
We got dressed, ate breakfast at the buffet. We tried plain congee for Izzy and that was also a no go.
We met our driver out front of the hotel and drove to the Civil Affairs Office for “Family Day”
We signed untold amount of papers and put our red fingerprints on every sheet. We did a couple pictures for Izzy’s book before heading back to the Holiday Inn.
We returned to the hotel had lunch at McDonalds and walked around the mall before meeting our guide and driver.
Denise took us to the airport, got us checked in and made sure we got through security. We were taking Shehnzen to Chengdu. Shehnzen has a reputation for being late and it did not disappoint. They were two hours late and every announcement in the area was yet another late, delayed or cancelled plane.
After we get to our seats and get settled a woman came to get into the window seat, we let her in. A short time later, before takeoff she has a full out panic attack because of Isabella. She had to be moved. This did nothing to help my mood.
We got to Chengdu and looked for our guide. We had been assigned Susie. I had heard not great things about this gal and had specifically requested we not get her. Awesome. So we can’t locate her anywhere and after 30 minutes I was LIVID. I texted our in country coordinator to locate this gal, finally she breezed in, grabbed our cart and took us to the waiting van.
Our driver was a super nice lady. They took us to The Chengdu Sommerset, apparently this is not Susie’s preferred place to for families to stay because it is not near to many restaurants or shopping areas (meaning we’d ask her to take us). We were dumped off in our room and our guide made a hasty retreat. Not Impressed!
The room was very spacious with a kitchen, dining area, separate bedroom, small desk area and a gigantic living room. This was by far the largest room we stayed in while in China and it was amazing. The views were nice, the extra room was great for the kids to play in. I really liked the place. The only drawbacks were that they did not have a tub so we had to buy a bath basin (5 bucks at Walmart) and the location not being convenient to many eateries.
We were really busy with all the events of the day and didn’t have time to be nearly as freaked out about picking Gabby up the next morning. We didn’t get to the hotel until late, we were tired and ready to wind down.
We got up and got dressed, went to the breakfast buffet (which was amazing) It was large and varied. This is where the Holiday Inn became phenomenal.
We met Denise in the lobby, climbed into the van for the drive to the Civil Affairs office. It was my turn to be nervous and Paul was calm. It was a surreal day for sure. I thought I would barf all the way there.
We pulled up and there was our baby in the arms of the orphanage representative Coco. She handed Izzy off to me and I thought she would scream but after a moment of fussing she laid her head on my shoulder threw her arm around my neck and it was fine. We signed saying we would be her guardians overnight for the “Harmonious Period”. She was not interested in any of the toys but was happy to walk around the office with help and eat cheerios.
We headed back to our new favorite eatery in the mall and got lunch. We ordered her congee and she was not interested NOT.AT.ALL.
Our laundry was delivered to the hotel lobby (perfect).
We ordered room service for dinner, gave Izzy a bath and put her in pajamas, we played on the bed for a while before putting her down. She is such a quiet sweet baby and seemed much younger than her 19 months.
Sunday morning we met David in the lobby and checked out of our hotel. We drove to the airport and said goodbye to our driver. David was kind enough to take us into the airport and get us checked in and made sure we made it thru security. With the TSA in China they want all electronics together. Battery packs, cameras, cell phones, iPads etc. It was a little nutty because we had brought so much tech. Seriously DON’T DO IT. If you are reading this and getting ready to travel PACK LIGHT. We did not and I regretted it bitterly.
We were flying China Eastern and of course our flight was delayed. It was delayed for about an hour. The gate took forever to even be assigned, it was crazy.
The flight was shorter than we had anticipated and when we arrived in Nanjing, we collected our luggage and headed towards the exit. Our guide Denise was waiting for us with a big sign.. she knew exactly who we were (inconspicuous?). We were sure glad to see her. We climbed in the van and drove through terrible traffic and high flood waters to the Holiday Inn.
The room was large but it felt damp-ish and was not super clean. We were both glad we were not going to be there very long. I had heard great things about this hotel and perhaps because we paid using points we got the crappy room. It certainly did not live up to the hype. The main area had a large window into the bathroom (What is with that anyway?) and the blinds did not work (awesome).
Denise arranged for our laundry to be picked up at our hotel. The lady was so nice. We needed her services because we wore most all of our clothing in Beijing.
The Holiday Inn is attached to a mall, Shoppers start your engines.. That’s right a mall connected to the hotel. They had a number of restaurants on the lower level and(not to mention a grocery store) we picked a favorite and ate there a couple of times.
We ventured to the mall and shopped around. I was a little stunned at the price of the children’s clothing. It was pretty expensive. Considering we buy a ton of clothing made in China here in the US, I felt it was pretty shocking to see we would pay more for the same thing there. We picked up diapers and wipes and said goodbye to our sanity and our selfish lives. We picked up a few snacks at the grocery store. Paul was freaking out about meeting our new baby girl the next day, I was strangely calm.
Saturday we started out at Tienanmen Square, then we went on to the Temple of Heaven, we watched all the activities, dancing, exercising and games. Fabulous place to people watch. Both places were crammed with people.
We went shopping at The Pearl Market (called that because there is a huge faux pearl statue out front), it is really a flea market for everything. Bags, scarves, table runners, t-shirts, shoes, jewelry, carvings, scrolls etc. hundreds of little stalls all hawking one thing or another. We bought two back packs (one sport type and one plain), we found something nice for each of the big kids.
Then we headed over to the Old Beijing Noodle Shop for lunch. Thankfully we had reservations, it was crazy busy (Paul had the traditionally prepared noodles with the bean sauce) we all had the potato string stir fry, fried rice, a sweet chicken dish etc I’ve only eaten with chopsticks when we are out and in spite of not being fabulous at it, I am actually sustaining myself. Score!
Paul and I rested and cleaned up for an hour, went to a shopping mall with nothing but tech stuff to locate another camera battery. We found it at a great price. Our guide took us to this amazing acrobatic show. Wow is all I can say. It was freaking amazing. The talent was phenomenal. They did crazy, insane stunts. It was like a circus without animals. I am not going to lie, the motorcycles in the ball had me on the EDGE of my seat the entire time. This is a must see. We did get an ice cream sandwich from the gal that comes around before the show similar to the old style cigarette girls at the theater, but way better because .. Ice cream! Loved it!
After that we had dinner at another older style restaurant right next to our hotel. I could not eat the Peking Duck because of the sauce, which is really sad because as I recall Peking Duck is juicy, tender and fabulous. We had this stir fry dish with celery, a beef tomato soup, and fried rice. It was all excellent. We stopped at the local quick shop for snacks before heading to our room for the night. We bought our first fruit yogurt there, and yogurt in China is WAAAYY sweeter. I shamelessly ate it daily after that. .
We packed up our bags so we were ready to head to Nanjing the next morning.
The next morning we ordered room service for breakfast. We ordered omelets, a smoothie, yogurt and coffee. All delicious. We met our guide David in the lobby early to head out to the Mutianyu section of The Great Wall. It was about an hour and a half to get to there.
The drive was interesting and I liked seeing all the things along the way especially the CAMELS and Horses in the dry reservoir. Yes I said Camels, and I couldn’t believe it either. There was a hotel there too. It seemed sort of an odd place for it.
We passed little towns or villages and several larger restaurants catering to those folks coming to see the Great Wall. They were so big it seemed like they could handle all the residents of the entire nearby village and then some.
We arrived in the parking area and boarded a bus to head up to an unloading area ten minutes away. We walked up an incline to an area filled with vendor stalls, shops and eateries. They were hawking every sort of tourist trinket you could ever dream of.
We got on the rickety looking ski lift to take us to the top of the wall. Plan on moving quick. The view was incredible, but I was nervous as we looked down on all the tree tops and then assessing the look of the lift.
The Great Wall itself was pretty amazing, each brick had the seal of the brick maker who made it. The engineering for the time was really brilliant. The wall had built in drainage system to keep the deterioration to a minimum. We walked quite a ways on the wall taking in all the incredible views.
I was also participating in my favorite sport…People Watching. Sometimes you just want to yank the Selfie Stick out of someone’s hands and beat them with it. I saw a family and the mom must have taken at least 300 photos of herself. At one point the little girl says I’m not in the picture mom. OMG! Just stop already.
Paul did the toboggan down, I however was not up for that. Our guide told one of the workers that the toboggan track had a broken section!! What? Yeah I think I will pass. The workers scrambled out and went to fix it right away, but I am a huge chicken.
We did the Hutong Tour and had lunch at the home of a local family. I had sent word in advance about my dietary restrictions and they graciously fixed items I could eat. Everything was delicious, probably the best meal we had in China actually. They served a fried celery dish, a rice noodle, these delicious peanuts and several other dishes I am forgetting (if you go take pictures because you won’t remember later). Everything is so crazy you forget the details.
We went to a Jing Shan Park to get an overview of the Forbidden City. There were a lot of stairs but the view was incredible. David was such an incredible guide and had lots of information and history. David answered all of our questions and pointed out little interesting details. We had such a great time and learned a good deal while we were at it. I have nothing but great things to say about David Wang as a tour guide.
That evening we took advantage of our executive club benefits and had a few snacks in the Executive Lou Itnge. They have drinks as well but we were just there for the snacks! We started eating breakfast there for the remainder of our time in Beijing. They had an amazing little buffet spread every morning. Made to order omelets, congee, sausages, bacon, fruit, egg cream cups that were to die for and so much more. I really felt like they took care of us. They also had the coffee machines and believe me this hotel had the best coffee of anyplace we stayed in China. I looked forward to it every morning. Every employee of the hotel was always impeccably dressed and very nice. You can check out my here review on Trip Advisor.