A typical mom and freelance writer with atypical ambitions, Amy Nicholson's vision of a dream life includes primarily raising her three wonderful children. In addition, she would not feel complete without a few exotic trips to places worthy of creating inspiring stories, lasting memories and a broader sense of her own place in the world. Her experiences in Europe, Russia, Israel, Washington DC and China, have been life changing ones that have molded her character, and produced stories that will last forever.

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The Glorious Spa Experience Anyone Could Afford.

If we had headed straight to Qingdao and spent our entire vacation there, that would have been the best, because it was a beautiful city with a nice beach and an out of this world spa.

After our bad hotel experience in WeiHai, I was greatly relieved to find our room in Qingdao to be the best one so far on the trip. It had dark hardwood floors and furnishings in cherry wood. There was a long bumped out window along one wall with a view of the city. The beds were covered by fluffy white spreads and were a little larger than the standard twin sized beds found in most Chinese hotels. I was so happy that this was where we would spend the remainder of our trip visiting coastal towns in the Shandong Province. The first thing I wanted to do after our horrible night in a filthy hotel, was get everyone clean. I have to add here that our shower at this hotel was even enclosed in glass. Believe it or not, enclosed showers are not the norm and even the showers in our apartment in Tianjin were just showerheads mounted to the bathroom walls.

When Brian, the three kids, and I were all squeaky clean, the group we were traveling with was ready to go to lunch. Half of the members headed to a very nice Chinese restaurant and the other half hurried to McDonald’s for something a little more familiar. I would have liked to join the group going to the Chinese restaurant, and I was told later that it was the best food of the week-long trip, but I was over-ruled by the rest of my family who enthusiastically voted for McDonald’s. I have to admit, the food tasted pretty good once I sank my teeth into it after all the wacky things I wasn’t use to that I’d been eating. The McDonald’s was housed inside a huge upscale mall, so we decided to look around for awhile. The clothes were fashionable and expensive. We stopped in a supermarket to pick up some snacks and wound our way though a massive fresh fish section of splashing blue tanks.

Back at the hotel, some members of the group told us they had located a place we could go for massages. I am an avid connoisseur of spa treatments, though usually only on my birthday because of the expense. One major perk of living in China was that massages only cost a fraction of the price in the United States. Since Brian doesn’t even like massages, he generously offered to stay with the kids at the hotel while I joined a dozen members of our group and merrily headed off to the spa.

When we walked in the door we came face to face with a larger than life painting of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. One woman asked, “Why do you suppose that picture is in here?” We started discussing it and decided that, since China is not a Christian country, the vast majority of people there don’t know anything about Jesus, and would not recognize a picture of him, the picture was almost assuredly chosen because it matched the theme and décor of the place. To us it was a beautiful, spiritually uplifting portrait. To them, it was a guy giving a foot rub.

The spa was as plush and glamorous as any top-notch establishment I have ever visited. We were led into a room filled with comfy recliners. Each of us had a masseuse who rubbed our feet, then rubbed our shoulders while we soaked our feet, then rubbed our feet some more. We were all having a heavenly experience when we were shown to our own private rooms to change into silky shorts and shirts. The next part of the treatment was a deep tissue Thai rub down with oil. As part of the treatment, I also received a thorough ear cleaning. It felt like I was getting my eardrum scrubbed with a Q-tip. It wasn’t painful or unpleasant, just unusual. The total treatment lasted for 2 hours and 40 minutes and it only cost $30! Like I said, a week in Qingdao would have been the best.

The next day, we visited a nice sandy beach along with one million other people. We could have rented paddle boats or gone parasailing, but we didn’t have enough time. Instead, we watched Ian and Isaac play in the sand and Sophie run out into the waves up to her shoulders. people.

Going to Qingdao made us seriously think about our decision to move to Tianjin and wonder why we didn’t take up residence in that quaint little coastal town instead. We definitely saw more Westerners in a ten-minute stroll than we would encounter in a month’s worth of strolls in Tianjin. Oh, well. Tianjin was our home and after a 10-hour bus ride and a stop at “The Donkey Meat Restaurant,” where the bus driver ate dinner, we were very glad to return safe and sound to our snug little apartment and curl up in our beds. Home sweet home.

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