This Saturday, The Schoolhouse turns six. Since its humble beginnings in 2006, the sustainable tourism enterprise has expanded from a restaurant and art glass studio to include chic, eco-friendly rental homes and The Brickyard. To celebrate its birthday, The Schoolhouse is offering free homemade ice cream to all visitors from 11am to 6pm tomorrow.
Seeing the news reminded me of my trip there last May. Over Mother’s Day weekend, I had the chance to stay in the Pavilion with my partner Mike and his family when they came to see us in Beijing. We knew that The Schoolhouse’s rental homes had a great reputation, but the reality went beyond our wildest expectations.
The trip got off to a rocky start with our foray to Mutianyu Great Wall. It was a blazing hot day, with too many souvenir stands and too few bathrooms. My boyfriend’s father disappeared briefly during lunch and came back to the table with five bottles of Yanjing.
“How much did you pay?” asked Mike. “Oh, about 60 kuai per bottle,” replied his dad. Eyes widening like saucers, Mike and I marched back to the shop and argued with the owner for 10 minutes. In the end, all we got for our trouble was an extra bottle of beer and a bag of stale chips.
By the time we got back to the Pavilion, we were exhausted and more than a little cranky from hiking and dodging vendors. Thankfully, we didn’t remain that way for long.
The bathroom was located in the same section of the house as our bedroom, the shower stall separated from the beds only by a low brick wall. The entire room was lined with tall, wraparound windows that bathed the space in natural light without sacrificing privacy. Standing on the cool, stone floor of the Pavilion’s shower in perfect stillness and listening to the sounds of dogs and birds in the distance was a restorative – almost spiritual – experience.
That evening, the staff arranged for a driver to take us to a local Chinese restaurant near The Brickhouse. The food was hearty, delicious, and affordable. “This is what I had in mind when I thought of real Chinese cuisine,” said Mike’s dad. Again, we ordered a few Yangjings – but this time, for the right price. After dinner, we ambled through Beigou, encountering locals, stray pups, and tranquil country houses with tiled roofs.
The good feelings carried through to our return to the Pavilion. We set an iPhone into the (provided) dock, put on some Beatles classics, fed the fireplace to ward off the chill, and laughed and played cards until late. The next morning, we spoiled Mike’s mom with The Schoolhouse’s Mother’s Day brunch – complete with roses, champagne, and a live band.
Since then, I’ve come to regard this particular weekend as one of the highlights of my time in Beijing. Mike’s family may be on the other side of the world, but we’ll always have the Pavilion.
Thank you for the fond memories, The Schoolhouse.