My favorite part of Beijing were definitely the hutongs, which are small alleys off the main road like mini neighborhoods. After finishing at Jingshan Park, we headed over to Guowang Hutong where my friends first lived in Beijing many years back. It's part of the Gulou neighborhood which is probably most famous to tourists for the Drum Tower there. The most interesting part of the hutongs, in my opinion, is how the little allies split off from the larger road, and then tucked away within each are more little gated allies to people's homes. Hutongs have a shared bathroom area which all the families (and even the public) use, which definitely takes "neighborly love" to a whole new level. But, in a lot of ways there's a special closeness and community that other areas in Beijing, and even many cities, towns, and neighborhoods here at home, lack. Not that I would necessarily want to share a bathroom with my neighbors, but everyone looking out for everyone else is nice. It's also very common before a couple's wedding day to take pictures in the hutong, and so I definitely geeked out (stalked) a few brides and grooms taking their wedding pictures!
Having your friends as tour guides is handy for so many reasons! One of the coolest reasons on this day though was that we walked by one of open ally courtyards and Will immediately stopped. He had noticed the Chinese characters, which had been uncovered from under some of the concrete wall. He explained that the writing is leftover from the Cultural Revolution, and someone had chipped away that part of the wall and uncovered the writing which had to be from sometime between 1966-1976. When you consider the age, It was a really interesting relic to see, but unfortunately it also represents a time when millions of people were persecuted during the Revolution.
We wrapped up our hutong tour with a dumpling lunch, where the dumplings claimed to be "the fullest". I didn't eat enough dumplings to confirm or deny this, but I'll take their word for it. I navigated chopsticks like... an infant. If that. But I mean, I was able to eat a normal amount of food so I consider that a success! After lunch we also checked out Great Leap Brewing, a local brewery hidden away down one of the hutongs. Will swears by their beer, I can definitely say their craft ginger ale was spot on, and baby John likes their courtyard. Win all around!