There is no rest for the weary on this trip--well not quite. After 4 hours of walking in the morning, we had an incredible foot massage. More later...

Tiananmen Square is the large, 108 acre area in front of the iconic Tiananmen Gate with the picture of Mao on it. This is the political heart of China. Chairman Mao's mausoleum is here, the Chinese ruling body meets here, and it was from the gate that Mao declared the new People's Republic of China in 1949.

Walking through the square with thousands of people, we were only a handful of "big noses"--as the Chinese call westerners. The term, which is supposedly not meant to be derogatory, refers to the size of the nose bridge which is bigger on us than on Asians. It causes many problems for those wanting to buy fake designer sunglasses in China! Tourism is quite off and many foreigners have chosen not to come mostly because of the economy.

We had a group picture taken, then moved through to the other side and into the breathtaking Forbidden City. It is so named because up until 1924, it was the home and center of government for the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties and only accessible to people who worked for these emperors. Deceptively large, each section has a huge gate which hides the next section. In reality, it's huge - over 8000 rooms in a vast layout of buildings.

We walked along the administrative section which features three large buildings (the Halls of Harmony) not open to the public, another huge gate, the residence area where several windows let you see a typical area designed for the imperial family as well as the concubines (numbering in the thousands!), and finally the impressive imperial garden.

To be considered an authentic Chinese garden, it must include 4 elements: limestone, architecture (i.e. buildings like pagodas), vegetation, and water. If you've been to Versailles, it is about twice as big, but other than the crowds, not at all the same.

Lunch was at a typical restaurant where the eight of us shared about 6-8 dishes of food. Several of the members in our group don't eat much Chinese food, but Jim and I are quite adventurous eaters. One of the dishes was lamb and cumin--a favorite of ours that we usually order for our Chinese New Year celebration every year.

Hubert, our guide, is a real history buff and gives a running commentary on all aspects of history, including the nuances of modern politics. We are learning so much!

Our reward for our 5 miles of walking was a real treat--a Chinese foot massage. You soak your feet in very hot water while the therapist massages your neck, scalp and back. Lying back, they work on each foot for about 20 minutes, then with small hammers, hit the feet and calves. It sounds painful, but actually felt wonderful. I'm bringing one of the those giggling young Chinese women back with me to have one every day!!

We were all quite exhausted but only had an hour before getting on our coach once again for trip to the Red Theatre way downtown. Saw a Kung Fu show which was very well done, but quite touristy. Lots more "big noses" here, also tons of school groups from all over the world.

Fell into bed for some rest before climbing the Great Wall of China (again!) tomorrow.