Conquer the Great Wall

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The Travelers
Gregory and Colleen Bryant, their sons Michael (14) and Cian (4), daughters Katie (11) and Cole (7) and Grandpa Gregory, Sr.

The Plan
The family drove from Beijing to The Schoolhouse( at Mutianyu, located 75 minutes from Shunyi. The Schoolhouse contains 11 rental homes, ranging in size from two to four bedrooms, and sleeping up to ten people. Originally locally-owned houses, the homes have been renovated using salvaged materials whereverpossible. Today they are modern, luxury accommodations that reflect timeless Asian architecture while maximizing views of the Great Wall. The family won their stay at a silent auction. For those not so lucky, a house will set you back 1,800 RMB to 5,000 RMB per night.

The Best Part
The best part of the trip was a hike up a local trail to the Great Wall. Far from the tour buses and flag-waving guides, the climb up the mountain followed a quiet trail under the shade of trees. After trekking past friendly villagers who were tending to their vegetables, the Bryants climbed up a winding, rocky path that their son Cian decided to take on like a mountain goat. Each time they reached a clearing in the vegetation, they would turn back in awe at the view of the valley below and mountain ranges in the distance. The 30-minute trek ended at a base of steps leading up to their own private section of the Great Wall.

The Worst Part
The worst part of the trip was the mosquitoes. The house features an outdoor fireplace and sitting area, as well as a courtyard garden,  best enjoyed with bug repellent.

An Unexpected Surprise
The Schoolhouse features more than just rental homes. In addition to restaurants, the Schoolhouse has a glass blowing studio that provides demonstrations throughout the day. In addition to vases and other creations, the artist can blow unique "singing" glasses and bowls that produce a lingering resonance when rubbed.

Kid-Friendly Features
The house at the Great Wall is perfect for families looking for old-fashioned family fun, and a little bit of privacy. Children can explore the courtyard garden while adults relax and chat. With a well-equipped kitchen, families can prepare their own meals around a generous farm table. The Schoolhouse also has a restaurant, where the staff speaks fluent English and Chinese. They can also provide maps for hikes and offer advice for the best kid-friendly trails.

Travel Tips
Evenings are quiet, so families might want to bring a few board games. Bug repellent and sturdy shoes are a must. If families are interested in cooking their own meals, they should bring the necessary food and drinks prior to leaving Beijing.

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