Right after our Tokyo trip, we flew back to Hong Kong for a couple of days, and then jetted off again to Beijing, China! This time, it was our much anticipated annual girls’ trip with just myself, Bridgette, Mimi, and Brianne.
It’s been about 7 or 8 years since I had been to Beijing, and I was really excited to take Bridgette there for her very first visit. Getting her China Visa in Hong Kong was a stressful and grueling process, but it was all worth it in the end to allow her to see and experience the Great Wall!
Beijing is just a short 3 hour flight from Hong Kong. We arrived in the morning, and took a car that our first hotel arranged for us. Our first stop would be for 2 nights by the Great Wall of China, which is a more suburban area of Beijing. After about an hour car ride, we arrived to Brickyard at Mutianyu, this amazing heritage resort that my sis found.
From the Brickyard website:
Brickyard Retreat is a repurposed glazed tile factory. Our 25 rooms and suites all open to vistas of the Great Wall through story and a half window walls. We also offer 11 vacation homes nearby with 2 to 5 bedrooms that were created from village homes. Brickyard was founded by Jim Spear & Liang Tang, who live nearby and designed all of our facilities.
Dining is all day from 07:00 to 21:30 in the Lodge. Everything we serve, from breads to ice cream, is homemade from scratch. A generous country breakfast is included for all guests staying in rooms in the retreat and at other times we offer an a la carte menu with comfort foods from China and around the world. We also help guests try local restaurants and farm stay dining experiences.
We booked their Stone Forest home, which was once an abandoned 3 room hut that’s now been restored into this rustic retreat with a romantic outdoor shower in a private courtyard, sheltered by a honeysuckle arbor. I loved their exposed stone and brick walls, huge beams, custom paneling, and granite hearth.
We had lunch at the hotel, and then quickly got settled into our home there before we ventured out to the nearby villages by the bikes that Brickyard provided. Most of the villages seemed deserted, so there wasn’t too much to see or explore. We ended up back at the hotel to chill in our lovely Stone Forest home before we enjoyed a delicious Beijing-style hotpot dinner at a nearby restaurant.
We all slept really well that night (no significant time difference from Hong Kong to Beijing, yay!) and woke up bright and early the next morning for our much anticipated visit to the Great Wall of China. But first…breakfast in our beautiful backyard, and some pictures of the amazing autumn foliage all around!
My sis had brilliantly pre-arranged with our hotel to provide a picnic style lunch for our day on the Great Wall. However, when we arrived to the lobby, they had everything in 4 separate paper bags for us. Being the planner that I am, I couldn’t help but question the validity of this arrangement, as it definitely did not feel ideal to hike up the Great Wall carrying all those heavy paper bags until lunch time! Fortunately, the hotel staff was very helpful and when we voiced our concerns, they came back with a light-weight backpack for us to use, which also acted as a semi-cooler as well. We couldn’t fit everything in the backpack, but that was fine as we had our own backpacks that had some extra space.
Brickyard arranged for a driver to drop us off at the bottom of the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. We purchased our tickets and took the chair lift up to Tower 6 to begin our journey there.
I seriously don’t think we could’ve picked a better time to walk the Great Wall. We were bundled up for the morning chill but by the time we got up to Tower 6, we were stripping our coats off and feeling the glorious sunshine on our faces. There were virtually no crowds, and we were treated to beautiful autumn foliage all around us!
We took our time walking from tower to tower, often stopping to snap pics and taking in the magnificent scenery in front of us. The girls even did some impromptu skit inside the towers for fun! When we climbed up one of the towers that we felt had the best view, we decided to have our lunch there, and it was just so cool to be sitting there, on one of the 7 Wonders of the World, eating sandwiches and being with the people that I love.
After lunch, we continued hiking further, and stopped for awhile for the girls to read (they are avid readers and always want to read no matter where we are!) before reaching the most anticipated part of the Great Wall for the girls–the toboggan ride!!
Bridge was gung-ho to ride the toboggan at full speed, but got yelled at several times to slow down. 😅 We weren’t allowed to take out our phone/camera for photos while riding, but I did catch a quick pic of my sis flying down the slide at the very end since she was the last of us to go down.
Overall, we had an amazing experience on the Great Wall of China, and I think it will always remain as one of my favorite memories with the girls!
Prior to the trip, my sis had done some research and found that some of the villagers near Brickyard open up their homes to cook local food for people. We were all really excited to experience that after our day on the Great Wall! The hotel staff gave us the address to one nearby villager and suggested that we go early. We arrived to the villager’s home before 6pm and knocked for quite some time before someone finally opened the door, dressed in sleepwear attire. She told us that we were too late…her family was finished with dinner and ready to retreat for the night. At 6pm! 😳 We asked her to point us in the direction of other villagers that could still accommodate us, and she was kind enough to call around to ask. She pointed us in a different direction, and it took a few failed attempts (most said the same thing when they opened their doors….they were ready to sleep before 7pm!!) but finally, one villager agreed to let us in! She and her family were also ready to retreat for the evening, but she was willing to fire the wok back up in the kitchen and cook for us. Yay!!
We entered their home, which was humbly furnished, and sat at their dining table. They had a simple menu for us to look at, but we said we would take whatever they recommended. Within 15 minutes, our table was filled with the most delicious Beijing style dumplings, noodles, and other local dishes!! What an amazing cook she was!!
We wanted so badly to finish everything, but couldn’t. The girls, who normally don’t go crazy over Chinese food, agreed that this was probably one of their very favorite meals. The noodles, especially, were the BEST! The couple chatted with us a bit as we ate, and it all felt really homey and comfy. We were really happy for such a unique and memorable experience.
The next morning, we checked out of Brickyard (as much as we didn’t want to leave!!) and headed back into the metropolitan city of Beijing. I’ll share our city experience in Part II. of this post, coming soon!