The coming of spring means more family outings, and like all Beijing parents we are starting to amass a list of “usual haunts” to take our baby. The selection is paltry for now – just a few spots here and there – as we have neither the time of the energy for elaborate day trips (at least not yet); but we expect it to grow in the coming spring and summer months.
Part of the reason we haven’t branched out very far lies in our own compound, Pingod. The ample garden is so nicely landscaped it draws families from the neighboring compounds (even the more expensive ones), and most days you’ll find it filled with a gaggle of babies, toddlers, ayis, moms, dads and grandparents chatting each other up about growth spurts, ayi salaries, strollers and the like.
Having a nice green space (and the sense of community it fosters) literally at our doorstep is certainly a plus, but unfortunately it seems to be the only such place within walking distance from our Shuangjing area apartment. Otherwise, we are hemmed in by the Third Ring Road to our west, the rather shabby Baiziwan Lu to our north, a rubble strewn half completed road to the east and the always-crowded Carrefour to our south.
Across the Third Ring Road is the new Viva shopping mall attached to Fuli Cheng – a nice option if you want a Starbuck’s cappuccino or to take in an afternoon matinee, but with nary a green space in sight.
And so most weekends we find ourselves returning again and again to the one patch of pristine greenness in the CBD – Ritan Park. The “Temple of the Sun” holds a special significance for our family because it was here that Marianne’s Lao Ye (maternal grandfather) had his first job (a summer stint sweeping the pathways), the place where her parents had their first date (drinks the Stone Boat, followed by a stroll in the park) and later on, the site of their wedding at the Ritan Guesthouse (the back door of which leads directly out to the Stone Boat).
Lately we’ve been taking Marianne to the kids’ area, with its small selection of rides and booths, including a mini-train, bouncy castle, battery-powered karts and an old-fashioned carousel that spins just a little too fast (much to the terror of virtually every child I’ve seen on it). She’s still a little too young to fully revel in the rides, but we figure the relatively fresh air and the chance to check out other kids her age make it worth the trip.
The altar itself is another toddler hotspot, particularly during these breezy spring days when you can find kids high-tailing it around the large, circular space chasing after all the kites.
Aside from that, there are Chaoyang and Tuanjiehu parks – both are relatively short carbides away, but nowhere near walking distance if you’re toting a toddler around. And so I make this general, albeit rhetorical plea to the Chaoyang district government: Please, please, pretty please build more parks in the CBD*.
*A great place to start would be the huge plot of land directly west of Pingod – but alas, from what I hear, that, too, is to be turned into yet another housing complex.
Image Sources: Nick Rolnick (arts-electric.org), Eric Flexyourhead (Flickr), Finanze (Flickr), Robert F Bukaty (AP)