Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dreaming of the Sideshow

FACT: If you don't pet your labbit everyday, she will get lonely and run away to join the circus. Clover's doing alright but she does sometimes dream of the spotlight. I think she'd make an excellent bearded labbit, don't you agree?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Brattleboro's Own Harris Hill Ski Jump

While Pipkin's visiting the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube in Beijing, Clover has an opportunity to get in some winter sports action herself at Brattleboro's own Harris Hill Ski Jump. If you can't make it to Sochi, you can do the next best thing, which is to cheer on the future Olympic stars of ski jumping.

This year, Harris Hill, which is FIS (International Ski Federation) standardised and can hold international events, hosted athletes from the USA, Norway, Canada, Italy, Slovenia and Sweden.

At the base of Harris Hill you can take up a spectating spot at the outrun. You get an excellent view of the jumpers taking off and landing.

You can also get much closer to the action by walking past the transition area to the landing zone where the skiers land. The sides are marked with the distance in meters.

Even further up the hill you can stand alongside the knoll to watch the skiers fly past.

Clover's favorite part of the jump is way up at the top. The skiers are ferried up the hill in the back of a pickup truck. They then walk up a lot of stairs (with those looooong skis) to the top of the track, where they'll sit and wait for their turn to jump.

Clover got a spot right by the takeoff, where she could watch the skiers come down the track and launch off the takeoff. The skiers fly past very quickly, and the sound is just incredible - like a jet plane flying by! You'll have to turn your neck a lot to watch from here but it's worth it to see them whoosh by and then disappear. Many seconds go by before you hear the smack of their skis on the landing and you see them reappear at the bottom of the hill. If you ever have the chance to see a ski jumping event in person, you have to see it from all parts of the hill.

Here's a little video clip of one of the Slovenian jumpers. Whoooooo!!!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Water Cube, Bird's Nest and Le Cool Ice Rink

We're right in the middle of Olympic fever, so here's an Olympics related post from Pipkin. He visited Beijing's Olympic Green, the home of the 2008 Summer Olympic games, to check out the Bird's Nest (officially the Beijing National Stadium) and the Water Cube (officially the Beijing National Aquatics Centre).

From a distance, the National Stadium's steel beams and gently curving exterior resemble a bird's nest. Up close, Pipkin still appreciates its good looks. This is where the opening and closing ceremonies took place, as well as track and field and football (soccer, for the Americans) events.

The Water Cube (technically a cuboid - a rectangular box) held all the swimming, diving, and synchronised swimming events. Since the end of the Olympic games, half of the Aquatic Centre has been repurposed as a water park with slides, a wave pool and a spa. Outside, a series of water fountains creates a fun place for people to splash and cool off.

Today the park is an entertainment and shopping complex with some varied sports and cultural events hosted at the Bird's Nest. A lot of vendors have set up shop on the Olympic Green, selling toys, games, and Olympic souvenirs. Olympic Green is a bit of a misnomer for the park, given there's little actual green space, and a whole lot of concrete.

Domo joined Pipkin at Le Cool Ice Rink, Beijing's only figure skating training arena, inside the China World Mall. Some visitors skated recreationally, but Pip and Domo also saw some figure skating students practicing with their coaches, and a young group of kids working with a hockey coach. Canada beware: these Chinese hockey players are learning to check at a very young age! Maybe the Canucks need to be more physical in their play at an earlier age...

For some reason the thought of Olympic athletes and watching all those skaters made Domo hungry. That's when the two discovered an ice cream shop in the mall called Cold Stone Creamery. You pick your ice cream flavour and mix-ins like chocolate, fruit, or candy, and they mix your personal flavour together right before your eyes! Drrrooooool...

Tasty, sweet, heaven!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mall Labbits on Wangfujing Street

After Pipkin and Domo's pedicab tour of the hutongs, they stopped at Wangfujing Street, one of Beijing's most famous shopping districts. Most of the shopping is outdoors along a pedestrian street, and given its popularity, Pip was surprised to find not a lot of people out shopping.

Turns out, on a hot, humid day, people head indoors, like inside the Beijing apm mall, where Pipkin met this giant red rabbit, hanging out amongst a field of tulips and happy faced windmills.

For westerners, this mall is like any other in the US, with a giant Nike store, Apple, H&M, Zara, GAP, Sephora, Uniqlo, Forever 21, UGG, and even higher end labels like Longchamp.

Clearly, it's where the cool kids hang.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pedicab Tour of Beijing's Shichahai Lake Hutong

Domo waves to a row of pedicab drivers

Ahhhh, shade!
Domo and Pipkin had done a lot of walking around Beijing and decided to give their feet a rest, so they took a pedicab tour of one of Beijing's remaining hutongs. Hutong is the name given to narrow streets or alleys that are made up of traditional courtyard homes. These old neighborhoods were commonly found in northern Chinese cities, but are rapidly disappearing today. This hutong, in the Shichahai Lake district of Beijing, is a mixture of old traditional courtyard homes, and new two and three storey apartment buildings.

Much like the French Quarter in New Orleans, what you'll see from the street is actually the back of people's houses. The more interesting side is kept private. In the photo above, you see where old has been renewed, and the new new is a sign of the new Beijing taking over the old.

This hutong is a mix of residential and business. You'll find restaurants, temples, sports schools, tea shops, and even a bike shop. Pipkin thought of Masher McBuns when he snapped the pic of the colourful bikes above.

There are also beautiful willow trees along the water, and space for people to sit in the shade.

While the pedicab tour was a nice way to relax and travel through all the streets in the hutong, Pipkin and Domo recommend spending time in the hutong walking by foot. Pedicabs won't take you into some of the courtyards, and they whizz by too fast for you to take in all the different architecture styles. Plus - there's lots of food to be eaten!