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Mountains and sea: A Qingdao getaway

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  I expected warm sun, cool breezes and possibly working on my tan. We were, after all, going to the beach.But when we stepped off the train platform in Qingdao, warm sunshine did not greet us. Rather, a thickwet fog weighed me down as my group trotted toward our hotel.
Qingdao is a beautiful city, and the mist added to the mystery of exploring a new place. There was a hint of the unexpected that left my initial impression lacking. I wanted to know more. In a city where Western architecture still lingers from when the Germans occupied, Qingdao is a perfect example of the blending of cultures and histories. I was told one thing repeatedly before heading to Qingdao: Eat the seafood – it's fresh and delicious.That advice did not disappoint. All the fish we had was every bit as delicious as anticipated. Plates were empty and bellies satisfied at the end of every meal in Qingdao. The food alone was worth the trip. We also went to the outskirts of Qingdao to Laoshan, the tallest coastal mountain in China, for some hiking and to enjoy a combination of mountains and beach. Clouds formed at the top of the mountain, cooling off hikers and creating a view that was simply spectacular. The hike wasn't demanding, but it involved a lot of stairs. By the time we finished the hour-long trekup, we were all dripping with sweat from the humidity. For the faint of heart, there is a cable car taking passengers over the trees to the top – without the sweaty workout.The climb made us look forward to relaxing with the sand and surf. After taking in the views, we  made our way to the beach, where a thick bloom of green seaweed awaited us.

  Qingdao this time of the year is overrun with the seaweed. When we were there last week, the bloom was so large that it blanketed the blue waters with a thick green layer. As we were relaxing on the sand, most of the bloom had come ashore.

  Some parts of Qingdao were more covered than others, but cleanup efforts were everywhere. Garbage trucks hauling the heavy mass of green away drove up and down the shores. Men heaved bags of the algae up from the walks to trucks on the roads above.

  But even the algae couldn't ruin a perfect day on the beach. With sand between my toes and a towel outstretched, I was able to relax and unwind. The perfect ending to the day.

  A trip to Qingdao isn't complete without a tour of the Tsingtao brewery and a meal on Beer Street. The popular Chinese beer has been around for more than 100 years, having a rich history, including going from German to Chinese control.

  Touring the facility and tasting fresh beer capped off the trip with a memorable finish. With full bellies, rested minds and wonderful memories, we boarded the train back to Beijing – rejuvenated and ready to take on whatever came next.