Imperial Jewels of China – Day 2 – Free day to explore Shanghai

Phew I’m exhausted! Today is the only full day we have free on our tour of China. My hubby and I have decided to make the most of it.

The alarm went off at 6am. I’ll be honest, I could have quite happily put it onto snooze for a while if it wasn’t for the fact there was so much we wanted to see today!

I put the kettle on and used the time it took to boil to get a few more minutes of shut eye! I have to say though, I am really enjoying the Chinese tea in our hotel room. It’s funny, at home, the tea is in bags and the coffee loose. Complete opposite to here.

After a quick shower we head for breakfast. I decide to try some of the local food as well as some traditional food. Sorry but I really can’t resist baked beans! I’m loving the eggs boiled in tea especially though and great steamed corn bread.

The fresh fruit is lovely too although I don’t know what the purple things were and they were not my thing!

After breakfast we walk down to the water front. It’s quite quiet right now so great for taking photos. The beauty of starting early is you miss the crowds.

It was lovely just walking along the waters edge watching the boats sail by and looking at the landscape. Today though we are also heading to the Pearl Tower.

The Pearl Tower is on the other side of the river. You can take the ferry for 2 yuan each way or like us, you can do the tunnel for 70 yuan return. Yes it is a lot more expensive but it’s quite fun. You get into glass trams and as you travel through the tunnel you are treated to an amazing light show. I’ll show it to you on my YouTube channel when I post my video on it soon.

The whole trip only takes less than 4 minutes, but it is worth it.

We headed straight to the tower. As it was early – around 9.30 am there was only 1 person in the queue before us. The entrance fee is 220 yuan each. It seems a lot but it is absolutely worth it.



Initially they take you up in the lift to the sightseeing tower which is 263 m high. You get stunning 360 degree views of the city.Next stop is a little lower! Don’t be fooled though! This is where you find the glass floor! I have to say it took me a few attempts to get my legs to stand on it! When I did I kept to the metal joints just in case. My hubby told me later he could feel it move. I’m not sure if that was true or not but if I’d known that I wouldn’t have gone near it!

There were people lying down and posing, taking selfies. Not me, no way!

You can then take a lift up to 351 m where you get even greater views, on a solid floor, before coming down to the outdoor viewing level at a reasonable 90m.

I have to say, the whole experience exceeded my expectations!

After getting my feet onto solid ground we headed to the cruise port for an hour trip down the river. You can pay 130 yuan each or for 160 yuan you can go on the upper deck. This is what we chose as you could go outside and get better views and of course photos!

Afterwards we took a lovely walk along the waters edge before heading back through the tunnel.

We walked our little socks off, taking in the beautiful buildings and people watching, although many Chinese seemed to be doing the same with us.

We headed up Nanjing Road East, passing the Peace Hotel which seemed to be getting a lot of attention. I must ask Terry out Viking guide why that is. Carrying up the road we came to the shopping area. It was fascinating seeing the types of shops and habits of the Chinese.

Finally the humidity got to us and we decided to head back to our hotel for a quick shower and rest for an hour before heading out for the evening.

A quick check of my Fitbit shows we have already done over 22,000 steps today with more to come!

We head off about 5.45 pm to get a good spot before sunset. The lights on some buildings have already started to come on, so it’s taking on a whole different landscape. We find a great spot opposite the Pearl Tower and wait. During the hour wait, the skyline starts to change. Rain was forecast for 4 pm but there is so far nothing! We are keeping our fingers crossed it stays dry long enough for the photos.

Boats are passing us now illuminated with brightly coloured lights. It’s so beautiful. We have waited an hour and hubby is getting frustrated as there are still no lights on the Pearl. I have a theory. We can see the tower from our hotel room. Based on the time we arrived, I think lights go on at 7 pm. Just a few seconds before we are asked to move as professional photographers need our area to take paid photos of tourists. It was so annoying as we had a great spot and had stood patiently for over an hour.

We walk down the promenade a little. It is packed with people but I manage to find us a small gap. We finally get the photo opportunity we wanted and the buildings didn’t disappoint. It was spectacular and well worth the wait.

We decide to head back to our hotel via the shopping area where we were earlier. Oh wow! I have never seen so many people in one place, apart from when leaving a major concert. It is well organised though with each side of the street going one way only.

We arrive at the shopping area which has now really come to life. We decide to take some quick pics before heading back to our hotel for something to eat and a hot bath.

It has really been a full on day with over 27,000 steps in total, but what a day! I love China.

Tomorrow is back to the tour programme with an 8 am pickup, so I will say goodnight for now.

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Imperial Jewels of China – Day 1 – Shanghai

After the long day yesterday we had an early start this morning. The alarm was set for 5.45 am so we could have a cup of tea before shower and breakfast.

Tea was a bit different to what you usually get. It was loose tea leaves. As I don’t speak Chinese I couldn’t tell you what it was but it was delicious. After adding the hot water it looked almost like fresh leaves.

Breakfast was amazing. We are staying at the 5 star Westin Hotel. Breakfast options are vast. You can have a full on Chinese breakfast which includes rice, noodles, dumplings etc. Alternatively you can have a selection of fruits, cereals or an English breakfast.

By the time we had got ready we now only had 30 minutes before leaving on our tour so opted for something quick and easy. I had a chicken sausage, baked beans, an egg boiled in tea, bacon and a steamed bread roll, followed by fresh fruit. Tomorrow we have more time so I plan to be a bit more adventurous. It looked so amazing that it would be a shame not to try some traditional foods.

Our tour left the hotel at 7.15 am for a full 9 hour trip to Suzhou. It takes about 2 hours To get there from Shanghai, but this gives us a chance to look out of the bus window and take in the views. There are lots of high rise buildings, which just reflects the high population here in China.

Suzhou is known as the ‘Venice of the East’, with its canal network . Unlike Venice though it isn’t sinking as the canals are all man made.

Our first stop is for a trip along the Grandcanal in a traditional boat. The houses are very basic, many with no private bathrooms or in some cases, kitchens. People are washing clothes and shoes in the canal as we sail by. Washing is hung from most windows from bamboo canes. It’s so pretty in a kind of way it’s hard to describe. We have taken lots of photos which will be transferred to my YouTube channel when we return home.

Lunch is next on the agenda. It’s a traditional Chinese lunch at the Garden Hotel. We sit on tables of 10 with others on our trip. Plates of food are placed on a lazy Susan. Dishes included rice, noodles, chicken gung po (which I made a slimming world version a few months ago for my YouTube channel – https://youtu.be/mkD4RFWz7uM ), aubergines in hoisin sauce, egg with onions, fish and tomatoes, tomato and potato soup, just to name a few. This was washed down with a bottle of Snow beer. Yes Snow! It made me laugh in view of the current heat.

After lunch we headed to the Silk Museum. I found this really fascinating. You get to look close up at the silk worms, the cocoons etc. They take you through the process from start to finish. At the end you have opportunity to shop. Silk quilts or as they call them ‘comforters’ are so reasonable. Less than £100 for a king size. If I hadn’t just bought one at home I would certainly have brought one back. Instead I bought a large scarf and glass case. I was worried about my luggage allowance for the internal flights so didn’t buy more. I’ve since discovered the China airlines are a bit more flexible. I’m kicking myself now as I know some friends and my own mum who would have loved a Silk scarf too. Maybe on my trip I will find more.

After leaving the museum we went to a gardens. It is down a little alley, tucked away. The garden is built around the house. Ponds, rocks and trees are beautifully set out. It’s called the Master of the Nets Garden. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Yes there are many people there at the moment, but somehow it is so quiet and romantic!

There are a group of Chinese people who seemed fascinated by us and and taking many pictures. I can’t help wonder what they will do with them! I do play to them for a while. They then notice my camera holster and seem to like it. I show them how it works which pleases them. I had it for my birthday and have to say it is amazing. It’s called a camera holster by Spider. It fits comfortably on my waist so I don’t have to have my Camera around my neck in this humidity!

It is here I experienced my first squat toilet! It was a choice thing as the normal toilets had a massive queue! I can see why Chinese ladies have good legs!

It’s been a lovely day. I am certainly going to sleep tonight and although the tour laid on by Viking for today has come to an end apart from the trip back to the hotel, we still have this evening to explore more.

I think our plan is to head towards the river to explore it lit up. We want to do a boat trip tomorrow so may see if we can get one booked. In the meantime I’m chilling out on the bus for our return journey back to the hotel.

I can’t believe the traffic. What should have been a 2 hour trip home now turned up into over 3 hours. To make things worse it’s started to pour with rain.

As we reach our hotel it’s still raining hard. We decide that as it’s also after 7.30 pm the best thing is to get a bottle of wine and a few beers to take to our room, have a bath and chill.

We aren’t hungry but could do with something light so pick up some salads from the cafe in the hotel to take to our room too.

It’s a shame it’s raining but in someways we are both tired, so it gives us a chance to recharge our batteries for tomorrow. We are free to explore on our own so plan an early start.

We are both loving this trip and it’s only really just begun!

Day 2 – Game of Thrones

Today I’m so excited. We have booked on the GOT walking tour. It’s scheduled for 2 hours and promises to show us where some of the episodes were filmed.

I’d booked the tour through a company called – Get Your Guide. I’ve used them before and find their website really helpful. At only £17 per person it is very reasonable.

We met our guide Boska at the meeting point. Today was an unusually large group – around 19 of us, so we were given headsets so we could hear him fully.

To say Bosko was passionate about GOT is an understatement. In fact he auditioned to be an extra and was successful, but for personal reasons he couldn’t take it!

Funny enough, our taxi driver from the airport was an extra. He showed us very proudly a photo of him waking behind Cercei when she did the walk of shame!

We started our tour by walking up to the old fort! As with Dubrovnik it’s a bit of a steep walk, but the views are really worth it!

The entrance fee to the fort isn’t included in the tour price so you need to factor another 50 Kuna per person (approx £6).

Once inside the fort the magic of GOT unfolds. You do need a little bit of imagination due to the fact that on the set the fort has more levels due to special effects, but Boska has plenty of pictures to help you visualise it better.

Filming was done in July and August mainly, when Croatia is at its hottest! Can you imagine how the actors and extras coped in that heat in their costumes! It apparently got a little bit smelly as the weeks went on with long days and no time to wash the costumes!

I was amazed at how many different scenes were filmed from this small location. It was mainly used as the Red Keep, but other locations were also filmed there!

The view of the old town from the top is spectacular. If you are not a GOT fan it’s worth going up for that alone!

It was reassuring to see the local cat keeping guard for us !

You can also see the park where Joffrey and Sansa were married! Hubby and I had walked through it the day before completely unawares.

You learn all about the tricks of filming including using mirror image to move islands ! How do you tell? Check how many left hand people are in the scene!

Next stop was the harbour where Jon Snow said his good byes along with other scenes.

We then walk back into the old town. Thursday and Saturdays are cruise ship days so the town can get very busy. To avoid the crowds we were led down some lovely old alleys until we reached the steps where the walk of shame was filmed.

I was stunned at how much they compensated residents to move out or close businesses down to allow them to film. Even paying per window for them to keep their shutters closed!

All in all this was an amazing tour. I would certainly recommend it as a must do.

The tour ended with a photo opportunity in the iron thrown!

At the harbour was a lovely restaurant which we visited for lunch. Such a stunning setting and a perfect end to the morning.

As we finished lunch the rain started. Not hard but enough to send a lot of the people from the cruise ship back so the town wasn’t so full.

We decided to visit an exhibition on Photography of War. The Entrance fee is about 50 Kuna but worth it.

It’s not a joyful experience. Very humbling and heart wrenching. Photos over 2 floors on wars in Iran, Yugoslavia’s, Croatia, Afghanistan, Bosnia etc. The truth behind war! I’m so glad we went but it brought tears to my eyes.

It’s hard to imagine that Dubrovnik was in a war zone not that long ago. You would never know today.

After a relaxing walk around another part of the harbour we headed back to our apartment to get ready for dinner.

Tonight’s restaurant was called 1838. It’s right on the waters edge by the main entrance to the old town.

This restaurant is an absolute must.

The food is amazing. I had the mussels (89 Kuna) with a side salad (35 Kuna) and shared a litre of their house white (140 Kuna).

As with the previous night we were greeted with a complementary starter and plenty of bread.

When we paid the bill we were given the best drink I’ve ever tasted! Prosecco, lemon sorbet and vodka! OMG, I loved it!

It had been another great day. Tomorrow had more surprises to come !

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss when I start uploading my videos next week. Here is today’s : https://youtu.be/niVu4o0xHdw

A perfect weekend with friends

I’m on my way home now after an amazing weekend with friends!

Our friends live in Bridgend in Wales. After feeling very guilty about how long it’s been since we last visited them, we put a date in our diaries!

So yesterday we drove the 2 1/2 hours to see them. Now if you know me, Wales and I just don’t get on when it comes to the weather! For some reason it always rains on me! This weekend however it was kind! The sun came out. A little bit chilly, but still it was a beautiful spring day.

After arriving our friends took us out to 2 amazing beaches. The first one was in Ogmore-by-sea. So beautiful. The dogs would have loved it.

Next was Dunraven Bay – Southerndown. Again the dogs would have loved this beach, but what was stunning was the rock formations!

Both beaches are absolutely worth a visit. There is something magical about walking along the beach. Listening to the waves. I just love it. Great way to get exercise too.

We headed back to their home and enjoyed a few drinks in the garden in the spring sun. A nice Cedars gin and tonic was perfect ! Followed by a Slim Wine!

As the sun set the braai (BBQ) was lit! Steak, South African sausage were cooked to perfection by our host.

The salads to go with it were amazing. Slimming world friendly pasta dishes and salad. Even a @promise roll for garlic bread. Delicious!

It was a lovely evening catching up.

This morning after a cooked breakfast we headed home via Caerphilly Castle.

Wow, we were totally blown away by it! If you have never been I highly recommend it! I’ll post some pictures on my YouTube channel. In its prime it must have been magnificent! The entrance fee is £8.90 for adults, but well worth it!

Eventually it was time to head home.

We have had such an amazing weekend. Thank you to our hosts Derek and Michelle.

Sometimes just a night away can really recharge your batteries, and getting to visit new places is fantastic.

Here is a fuller insight to my weekend

We will certainly not be leaving it so long next time!