Day Trip to Jinan. Two Friday’s ago, we took the day off and boarded an early morning train to the Chinese city of Jinan. I wish I could tell you that our day was packed with sightseeing and family fun, but honestly, we had one goal in mind, and not much time for anything else. It took us about 3-4 hours to get from our home all the way to Jinan, traveling by taxis and, of course, the main stretch of the route by train. Jinan is the provincial capital of Shandong in China – Source of Image below. It is located in the North-West of the province. In the South the city is flanked by the hills of The Tai’an massif, while the Yellow River passes North of the city. Jinan carries the nickname City of Springs (泉城 quánchéng) because of the many artesian wells that bubble up within the city limits. The water from these springs flows North towards the main landmark, Daming Lake (大明湖 dàmíng hú), and onwards to the Yellow River. While it doesn’t always make the short list of tourists visiting China, there is certainly enough to be done in Jinan to warrant a couple of days stay. Perhaps one day we will return to Jinan to visit the parks and springs.
We arrived at Qingdao’s train station bright and early to pick up our train tickets. On the way to the main entrance, we stopped to take a picture (the one that you see above) and as we did, the screen flashed a warning that the camera contained no memory card. FAIL! For that reason, the above picture is the first and last picture with somewhat decent quality. The rest are crappy iPhone pictures – and if you know me, you’ll know that I hate phone pictures!
Our purpose in going to Jinan was purely administrative so I guess it wasn’t too awful that we ended up without a camera. With Elijah getting bigger and more active, the lap-rides can be draining. I am sure that although we have to pay for an extra seat on flights from June, we will appreciate the guaranteed extra room. For the most part, we are often blessed with a free seat next to us, so we get to spread out, but sometimes the journey is long and the space is limited. On our train rides to and from Jinan, there were no spare seats, and many standing passengers meant that we had no chance of one opening along the way.
We met a friendly guy on the trip from Qingdao to Jinan. As many on that train probably were, he was heading to work. There are probably a lot of people that travel long distances for work, even if they only do it once or twice a week. He asked to take a picture with us, and amazingly enough, we got a really good one. It is hard to get Elijah to turn and look at the camera, but this time he did.
We had bought some breakfast from McDonalds before we left, so we got to munch on egg McMuffins and sip coffee along the way. Elijah was pretty good, but he did want to run up and down the aisles once or twice. With the train rocking from side-t0-side, we had to run closely behind him, making sure his face didn’t hit any of the chairs he was passing.
Since there is no French Embassy in Qingdao, we had to find the nearest one. We thought this meant we would be heading back to Beijing (man it sucks living in a Chinese city that doesn’t have all the embassies that you need in it), BUT Justin was really struggling to find info on the French Embassy’s location and application process. During his research, he came to the conclusion that we would only be able to apply through an agency located in Jinan. This was good news for us because Jinan is closer to Qingdao than Beijing is.
If any of you need more info on applying for a Schengen Visa through the French Embassy
– Feel free to drop us a message/ email. We used an agency called TLScontact. Check them out HERE.
There were some hiccups during the submission of our paperwork, and we discussed that briefly in this post, and we got stuck behind a massive crowd of Chinese tourists all applying for Schengen visas as a group. Once the papers were in and the biometric face and fingerprint scans were done, we walked over to the shopping mall next door to the building in which the agency was located. There we had a couple of hours to kill so we walked around and then sat down for lunch.
The night before we had eaten at a Xinjiang Restaurant in Lion Mall with some friends. We absolutely loved the food, so you can imagine our joy when we found a similar looking restaurant in Jinan. There were pictures of camels and arabic writing on the windows – so, excitedly, we sat down to eat Xinjiang food for the second time within 24 hours.
Xinjiang cuisine (Chinese: 新疆菜) reflects the cooking styles of many ethnic groups of the Xinjiang region, and refers particularly to Uyghur cuisine. Signature ingredients include roasted mutton, kebabs, roasted fish, and rice. Xinjiang cuisine is found throughout much of China, as migrants from the region often open Xinjiang restaurants or food stands in other regions. Since we didn’t have our camera, there aren’t too many pictures of the restaurant or food that we ate, but it was all really great!
Eli and mommy took a small colorful train ride around the mall. Of course, Eli was more interested in jumping out of the train than actually sitting inside of it. Each time we passed Justin, Elijah tried to open the door so that he could hop out and run to his dad. He is in a stage of daddy-obsession, and it is nothing short of ADORABLE!
Below top left, While I was upstairs and they were downstairs, I called out to Elijah. He lifted his head and looked all around but it took a while for him to locate me. When he did, his face lit up. As you can see, he had a dinosaur in his hand for the entire trip to and from Jinan (favorite movie at the moment – “The Good Dinosaur”).
There was also a small petting zoo inside the mall, so we saw a Lama, monkeys, and rabbits, but Eli wasn’t too impressed with any of that. He was most impressed with running through the mall, and into daddy’s arms – over and over and over again!
By late afternoon we were back on the train, and getting very tired. Elijah had napped for a while in his Ergo carrier, but not long enough. Our biggest mistake was not taking his stroller. Trains are narrow and jam-packed in China, so we knew we would have no place to store the stroller, and we only just ordered a lightweight travel stroller last week. Our day was not a relaxing one, so we should have known that carrying him would be draining.
Above, It looks like we are being photo-bombed by that Chinese couple in the row behind us on the train. They were, in fact, just watching “The Good Dinosaur” with Elijah. It looks like they were enjoying it as much as he was!
By the time we made it back to Qingdao, and into our apartment, we were shattered. Nothing like a day trip to make you ask yourself WHY THE HECK you want to travel everyday for two months!! The truth of it is that China is rough…. lines are long, there are bad smells everywhere, the pollution is bad, the air is thick and sticky, toilets are scarce and often revolting, and there are massive cultural gaps to overcome. On top of all of that… we have an active toddler and we didn’t take a stroller. No doubt about it, travel is rough in China. Let’s just say, we were glad to be home that evening!
You might be wondering… What happened with the visa?
Check out this post – Schengen Visa Suspense.