Highlights of the Summer

I cannot imagine having a better summer. After spending time in Beijing (recap here and here), I came back home for a week, then left again for an Americana trip to visit family. My summer was the best of everything: full of adventure, travel, independence, exploring, but also family, America, relaxing and comfort.

First stop was Maine. My family goes to Maine about once every other year, so it felt so good to be back. Maine was full of hanging out on the beach, lobster, family, exploring the beach, lobster, family, then going to the beach again. 

Maine // blog.leahsprague.com
Maine // blog.leahsprague.com Maine // blog.leahsprague.comMaine // blog.leahsprague.com

 

Then we headed over to Michigan for a week. Michigan was filled of gardening, kayaking on the lake, making/eating good and fresh food, Nascar, doughnuts, hanging out with the bunny, making honey, and also lots of time with family.

Michigan // blog.leahsprague.com Grandpa's Honey in Michigan // blog.leahsprague.com Michigan // blog.leahsprague.com Michigan // blog.leahsprague.com Michigan // blog.leahsprague.com

Beijing Summer Travel Essentials

If I have at least somewhat convinced some of you to come explore Beijing from my last posts about places and food, here is a list of all the things you definitely need to come here. If you take anything at all from this post, do NOT take the hand sanitizer and tissue paper lightly!

Beijing Summer Travel Essentials // blog.leahsprague.com

Phone: The airports all have SIM cards stations for about RMB 150 (USD 24).

I highly recommend the Baidu Maps app. Baidu is as widespread in China as Google is in the US, and is a lot more reliable in China than Google Maps is. You can download a full map of Beijing that includes subway and bus maps. SO useful!

Good Camera: Beijing is really exciting place to take photos. Bright new office buildings are right around the corner from beautiful ancient temples. Even simple walks in the park are fascinating.

Hair Ties: Beijing summers are crazy hot and humid. Trust me; you do not want hair anywhere near  your neck.

Lip Balm: Always a good staple.

Sunglasses: Again, it’s hot and sunny here.

Suntan Lotion: Don’t get sunburned!!

Passport: Always keep this on you. Although they rarely do, police reserve the right to ask you for your passport at any time.

Universal Adapter: This is just a good thing to have, period. Why get one just for Beijing?

Travel Kleenex/Toilet Paper: Paper is considered very expensive in China, so many public bathrooms do not supply toilet paper in the stalls. If you look, sometimes toilet paper is at the end of the bathroom, but half the time it’s just not there.

Crossbody Bag: This is just a travel staple. Having all your important documents and phone close to you is both convenient and safe.

Hand Sanitizer: Let’s face it: Beijing is really dirty. I never trust the sinks in public bathrooms, so I rely solely on this when I am out and about. Bring a lot; hand sanitizer is very expensive in Beijing.

Big Bag: For holding all your bigger items on carry-on.

Best of Beijing // Food

It is impossible to have a “Best of Beijing” post without including food, right? Right.

I always knew there were Chinese bakeries, but I never really explored them. I guess a stubborn Western stereotype I always had in my mind was just that the Chinese just don’t know how to make good pastries.

My favorite fruit market in the entire world has various non-fruit stalls snaking around the main walls that I decided to check out one morning, and actually try the food they offered. Man, have I been missing out! Chinese pastries are not as sweet as Western ones, but they are a lot more interesting. The far bottom photo is of bread made from tofu, and various ones in between are made of sesame paste, pumpkin, green tea, etc.

 

From all the apartments I have been in in Beijing, I was sure that ovens were a luxury and anything wider than 2 feet long was a luxury. The metal thing behind the vendor just below is actually a huuuge oven, so I guess it is possible!

Oh, one other great thing about these bakeries. I would order a very full bag of different pastries just for myself so I could try everything, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to finish everything. The total price would still be less than 8 RMB (1.30 USD) – I definitely can’t complain!


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Best of Beijing // Places

Hey everyone,

Long overdue, here is some of my favorite photos from my 5-week adventure in Beijing this summer. When not at my 9:30-6 internship, I was off on my own, exploring the city. My experience this summer was very different than my experiences living in Beijing for three years with my family. Having full control of my schedule and transportation, my goal was to leave the house as early as possible and get back as late as was safe.

Here are some highlights!

Forbidden City
You can’t go to Beijing without visiting Forbidden City or eating Beijing kaoya (roast duck). It would be like going to Seattle and not seeing the Space Needle or NYC without going to Times Square. It may not be the absolute highlight of the trip, but it is so classic that you have to go.

After I exited, I found this great old Chinese lady with sparkly blue shoes. I complimented her shoes, and she immediately broke into a huge smile and replied in Chinese, “Thanks, I got them for 1o RMB (USD 1.63)!” One of my favorite things from this trip was talking to new people – even if our conversation is very short and consists mostly of smiles.


Highlights of Beijing // blog.leahsprague.com
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Beihai Park

I came here on my first day in Beijing, so I was a little overwhelmed. I had never used the subway by myself, nor (this sounds ridiculous) had I ever had to look up these locations on a map. I decided to start small and go to Beihai Park, a beautiful park which is conveniently located right next to a subway station. It turned out to work out perfectly though – the perfect transition tourist place! :)

I look back on it now, and I am so proud of how just 4 weeks later I was riding the bus and subway without blinking twice, and barely looking at a map.
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Panjiayuan Dirt Market

This is a really fun market to take photos of and explore. Stalls and stalls of interesting, random, and usually useless things.

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Temple of Heaven

Another classic. My favorite part of this park is actually just outside of the actual Temple of Heaven: the Long Corridor. This is the section where locals play games, sing, dance, exercise, talk, smoke, and just hang out. I love watching; I truly wish this sense of community could be translated as well into US culture.

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Temple of Heaven, Beijing. // blog.leahsprague.com
Temple of Heaven, Beijing. // blog.leahsprague.com
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The Best French Toast

French Toast with Huckleberry Syrup and Blueberries // blog.leahsprague.com

I have made french toast about 3 times in my entire life. The first was when I was 11. I was home alone with just my sister, and decided to make a special treat for breakfast. I can’t remember if I had a recipe in front of me or not, but the end result was a very egg-y bread that was uncooked in the middle. Needless to say, after one bite I retreated back to cereal.

The second was this year, mid-June. I found this recipe for “Never Fail French Toast” on The Sugar Hit. “Never Fail” sounded pretty promising to me, so I decided to try it out.

It is perfect. So perfect, in fact, that I ate it before I could even take photos. Which is actually okay, because now I have a chance to make it again! This time I made it with huckleberry syrup (my favorite!!) and some fresh blueberries, which honestly makes me never want regular old perfect french toast again!

Keep scrolling for the recipe I found off The Sugar Hit.

French Toast with Huckleberry Syrup and Blueberries // blog.leahsprague.com

2 pieces of stale bread

1 egg
2 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix ingredients together in a wide bowl. Place pieces of bread on the mixture, and squish down a little bit to make sure it gets really soggy. Let it soak for 1 minute, then flip the pieces over and repeat.

As Sarah from The Sugar Hit explains, the secret really is using low heat to make sure the bread cooks all the way through. Soggy, egg-y bread is a thing of the past.  ENJOY! -Leah

French Toast with Huckleberry Syrup and Blueberries // blog.leahsprague.comFrench Toast with Huckleberry Syrup and Blueberries // blog.leahsprague.com