The Wuhan Clan

This is not really a travel blog post in any conventional sense as we’ve done very little sightseeing,  apart from the most important sights of all; our son and his family, including our just one-year-old grandson. When Rosie picked up a rumour in mid-March that tourist visas were available again for China we didn’t waste any time but when I left the Chinese consulate in Edinburgh on March 29th clutching two passports with freshly-minted visas, I still felt it couldn’t really be finally happening.

Travel to Wuhan is not quite as easy as to Chengdu, for our previous visit – flying Newcastle-Amsterdam-Beijing-Wuhan was supposed to have a travel time of a little over 16 hours but missing our connecting flight in Beijing due to slow immigration, a super-busy airport because of the May day holiday, and having to collect and transfer our luggage manually meant an extra eight hours in the airport there, which we could really have done without.  One thing that has changed since our previous, pre-Covid visits to China is that there are now only two ways to pay for things – cash, or WePay, available only on Chinese phones.  The best way to cope with the extra time in Beijing seemed to be to book ourselves into the VIP lounge to have food and drinks on tap, good Wifi and space to stretch out, but paying for that involved complicated negotiations with Ed using a QR code to pay remotely on his phone… The helpfulness of the staff could not be faulted, though, despite the lack of any common language.

We finally arrived in Wuhan after midnight, which meant delaying meeting Kate and Casper until the following morning, but that was a really special moment when it happened.  It’s been hard only seeing them on Zoom for a year but lovely to have two weeks to spend with a toddler at such an engaging stage.

Saturday was such a special day; Casper’s first birthday and meeting Kate’s parents and brother, also there for the occasion – an important milestone in Chinese culture. We got on amazingly well, despite Kate’s parents having as much English as we have Mandarin – they clearly adore the baby and are very fond of Ed. They brought sesame noodles, warm soyamilk and various fried donut-type things for breakfast and Casper was helped to open some birthday presents and had a chance to play with everyone before his morning nap.  When he woke, Kate and Ed dressed him in Rosie’s birthday outfit and we headed off to a restaurant for Beijing Duck for lunch.  I’m afraid my vegetarianism is largely on hold at the moment, for reasons of cultural sensitivity, though there were fortunately plenty of vegetable dishes as well as the duck, including a tasty salad with mango and dragonfruit, which I’ve not eaten before.

Casper loves being out in the pushchair and seeing new things but was less keen on being in a highchair in the restaurant. Fortunately we had a private room so there was space for him to potter around and a good ratio of adults to children, so everyone got a chance to eat and relax.  In an emerging pattern, Casper howled his way through birthday photos when made to sit in the highchair but was otherwise mostly happy!  

We left the restaurant with a ‘doggy bag’ of duck bones and strawberries!  It was a good thing we had the strawberries as Ed and Kate had forgotten to give Casper more than a bit of egg custard for lunch amidst all the busyness and he suddenly got very upset.  He loves strawberries but, predicably ended up with as much on him and his clothes as in his mouth!  With temperatures in the mid 20s, we walked to the shady area around Xi lake where Casper could get out of the pushchair and run around and play in the water features. Kate’s family brought a selection of fruit, including jackfruit and durian, and we parked ourselves in a coffee shop in a pedestrianised area near the lake where they often go, so we could take it in turns to keep an eye on Casper’s explorations; it seems perfectly acceptable here to take your own food and drink into restaurants and cafes. Casper enjoyed watching a group trying to recruit people to an American football huddle by giving them a chance to demonstrate their ball and tackling skills and was keen to join in!

Wuhan skyscrapers from Xi lake

When the worst of the heat had passed, we wandered back to Ed and Kate’s where they ordered in crayfish (a local seasonal speciality), dumplings and an ice cream birthday cake with some lovely ‘natural’ Grüner Veltliner wine to toast the baby’s health.  Casper really liked the chocolate on his birthday cake…

Walking to our hotel after the birthday celebrations was something else.  Ed had warned us that the pedestrianised part of Jainghan Road is Wuhan’s answer to Oxford Street but I’m not sure we’d fully grasped what that would look like on a holiday weekend!  Electric scooters and bikes weave in and out of a solid mass of pedestrians with scant care and attention.  Fortunately our (very comfortable) hotel is one block back from this madness, though we could still hear the hand-held sirens the police used to control people at the points where traffic crosses the pedestrianised zone.  By this time we’d been on the go for around 40 hours with just four or five hours sleep so we didn’t much care!

At the moment I’m reading lots of e-books on my phone!I particularly enjoyed Anxious People by Fredrik Backman – to call it a quirky, psychological detective story with plenty of plots twists and turns would be close but a far from complete description.

I have no idea what’s happing in my garden or allotment as I’m currently 5000 miles away but I’m hoping not to come back to too much of a jungle!

We’ve been eating so many good things – food from all over China including Sichuan, Yunnan and Wuhan.


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