Today we drove an hour-and-a-half north, just past the Great Wall, to check out the Ice Festival at the Longqing Gorge.
As you might expect, it was a bit chilly. But it actually wasn't bad while we were outside. It only got painfully cold when we got close to the dam. They'd covered the area with a tarp and built an elaborate city of ice underneath the tarp. There was a snowy Great Wall carved into ice on the side of the Gorge. An ice slide. A castle, built entirely of ice, that the kids had a blast running and sliding through. The whole thing was colorfully lit up - a really impressive display.
At the back end, we came out from under the tarp and face to face with a massive frozen waterfall hanging off the dam itself. Most impressive - if a bit alarming when chunks of ice broke off and smashed behind us.
The kids loved it - except Ainsley, who was just too cold to enjoy the ice carvings. She was fine out in the sunshine, though, where it felt downright balmy, even though it was probably only mid-30s.
I sat on the ground and nursed her while the kids rode down a sledding hill on big inflatable rafts.
It was great - and though the Gorge is one of the most popular tourist sites around here, it was practically deserted. Today is the first day of the Year of the Ox, so Beijing is a ghost town, as everyone's gone home to celebrate.
On the subject of the new year... the fireworks were crazy last night. They started up all around us after dark. At around 8:30, we bundled up the kids and drove around the neighborhood. Every couple of blocks, people had pulled their cars over and unloaded boxes of fireworks from their trunks. Not little sparklers, either - these are the kinds of fireworks you see in professional displays back home, just not quite as high in the air. Some friends of our were putting on a show just down the street. The guards turned out to watch, shovels in hand, so they could put out any fires that might happen to crop up. The show went off mostly without a hitch... though there was one rocket that fell over and shot sideways into the crowd. A few minor burns, but nothing too bad.
It's nighttime again, and the fireworks are once again exploding all around. The dog is barking. It'll be another long night.
That's all the big news from here. I'm in the middle of a spectacularly good book, so I'll end here and get in a few minutes reading before bedtime.
Enjoy our photos of the Gorge.
the entrance to the festival
checking out the carvings
inside the "princess castle"
in front of the frozen waterfall
on the sledding hill