So this is my final China blog, honing in on the beautiful hutongs James and I spent some time in during our week in Beijing. Hutongs are gorgeous walled villages which were first built in the Yuan dynasties, some being expanded and preserved in later years to preserve Chinese history. They reminded me a lot of European villages, especially Italian ones, especially the one James and I stayed in- one of our Air BnB rooms being pictured below in Lady’s list of hutongs she and Tramp visited.
I’m not sure why I chose Lady and the Tramp to write a story on in this instance… I did think of Carl and Ellie, but they’re too perfect, too pure, I can’t possibly write a disagreement or miscommunication for those cuties. Plus, if they were to have gone on a trip during Ellie’s lifetime, it would have been to Paradise Falls, so I went with the charming couple of Lady and Tramp.
I hope you enjoy!
“I just don’t understand how we had to nudge ourselves out of the doorflap to go out to dinner for once, and now suddenly you’re considering going to China” Lady marveled, giving Tony and Joe a louder yip of appreciation as they left the alleyway, “It seems to go from one to one hundred with you.”
“I think you’ll find that you’re the one who had to be nudged out the flap, Pigeon” Tramp replied, “And besides, they need us. On their own they’re just another European restaurant trying to make it big in the Asian community, but with us? We’re the cute gimmick! You know how famous our little move has become, all we gotta do is sit ourselves outside, chew either end of a noodle… no wait it’s still an Italian restaurant so it’ll still be spaghetti right?… anyway, chew the end of something and BAM! Business. You know how humans are with silly cute crap, and we are famous silly cute crap. American dogs don’t get the opportunity to travel as far as China, we shouldn’t waste the chance!”
“Mmm” Lady mused doubtfully, “Just because it’s a rare opportunity doesn’t mean we have to take it, T. What ever is so good about the place? I’m sure I heard Jim Dear mention that they actually eat dogs like us…”
“Oh Pidge, is this logic talking or is it your hatred of those two cats Jim Dear’s aunt loves so much?” Tramp teased, ruffling her ear fur playfully despite her stony expression, “Look, we can sit around on Park Avenue making presumptions from what others tell us or we can take a chance and see for ourselves. And Tony and Joe will give us far more freedom than the Browns do. This can be our adventure.”
Lady paused for a moment at that. She had never had much time for adventures, what with Jim Dear and Darling needing her help from the moment they bought her, and while she knew that was her place she still found herself hiding a layer of jealousy under her enjoyment of Tramp’s stories of his youth.
“…would the kids be ok without us?”
Tramp jumped through the window of opportunity and began listing all the things that could not possibly go wrong with the help of Tony and Joe, especially when it came to their communication skills which gave them far more of an advantage to discuss the terms of the trip with Jim Dear and Darling. “Then they’d know that we wouldn’t be around and they’ll keep an extra eye on the kids!” Tramp reasoned, “Even Jim Jnr. could help out, he’s been growing into a fine big lad! Heck, we’ve never left them before.”
Lady promised him she would think about it and moved onto discussing other things, while knowing in her heart of hearts that she had already made up her mind…
Halfway through the trip Lady decided that she was very proud of her progress. She found her spirit of adventure was climbing day by day. The sights, the sounds, the smells– she was so pleased that she had not only taken to the place but was eager to keep moving around, getting used to shifts in their environment. Tony and Joe’s indecisiveness over which area of Beijing to put their restaurant in was therefore suiting her down to the ground.
The only thing rubbing her the wrong way was Tramp’s very apparent displeasure with what they were getting up to. He was so very excited in the beginning, which made her feel a little guilty and nervous that she’d disappoint him by not being able to keep up, but as soon as she began to find her paws and jump into action as soon as Tony or Joe suggested seeing something new, Tramp’s enthusiasm had begun to ebb.
After seeing the Great Wall, the shining diamond upon most people’s bucket list, no matter the species, Tramp suggested they stray from their two friends for awhile and try and make it on their own. Lady was hurt. “Oh I see” she thought, “On your adventures you could make it without human help. My version is just too boring for you.” Of course she did not vocalise her insecurities, for then they would be confirmed, so instead she listed the merits of human accompaniment: “T we simply won’t be able to get as far away on our own, not by paw. Human transport is the only way we can soak up as much of Beijing as we can, and I know Tony and Joe can’t speak these people’s language but at least they get across a lot more than we ever could when it comes to directions.”
Lady felt a knot of guilt at the end of her speech, especially due to the look of exasperation lining Tramp’s brow and mouth-corners. “‘Directions'” Lady scoffed internally, “How boring and needlessly cautious I must sound…” But then she gave herself a quick shake. “No” she thought, as they returned to their room, “You’ve come a long way, Lady. You’re doing very well and having a lot of fun. Don’t allow him to make you feel like you’re any less than he is.”
Lady awoke first, as usual, and pondered whether or not she should nose Tramp out of the bed too. She lay on their laughably large bed in their equally laughably large room, and was grateful when Joe cracked open the door to take the task away from her, since Tramp had become increasingly irritated by her insistence on early rises.
“Heyyy-ey Butch and-ah Lady!” he announced in his lovely leaping accent, “We have-eh decided where to put the new restaurant!!”
The couple shot up in eager anticipation of his announcement, only to be met with the names of three possible hutongs in which to situate the eatery. Their skeptical looks made Joe roar with laughter, and Tony waddled in behind him to explain further: “We love all of these places so-a closely that there is-a no POSSible way we can choose. So, we have decided to take a break and allow-a you both to revisit the three hutongs, and show us your favourite this evening!”
Lady had grown used to the Italians’ funny way of acknowledging that dogs could understand humans, Jim Dear and Darling being quite selective with said knowledge if they had it at all, and barked an enthusiastic response to the request… and, much to her surprise, Tramp did the same.
“He’s thinking of the freedom from the humans” Lady thought, “Well let’s do it then. Let’s see if I’m made of the same stuff he is after all.”
She was indeed made for what Tramp made her do for the day.
But she had not expected it to be so easy.
Hutong 1: Jian Chang Hutong
This was the hutong they had been lodging in for the majority of the trip. Tramp decided that to fully judge the charms of this area they might as well spend more than the time they sleep in their luxurious, authentically Chinese (according to their Italian friends) room. The morning was therefore spent buying breakfast in the local store and snuggling back into bed to chat while watching some extremely nonsensical television.
Upon emerging from their room the pair were taken around the hutong by a kindly local gentleman, who noted their confusion. Many of his friends nodded their way in jolly approval, nudging and pointing, and they eventually ended up towards the hutong’s beautiful exit, it being situated very near a stunning Confucius temple.
Hutong 2: Nan Luo Gu Xiang
The next hutong would have taken about a half an hour to walk to, but they stopped to gander into many sweet little shops and sniff anything that caught their fancy as they padded down the streets.
All the walking worked up their appetite for a meal, so they quickly chose a Western style restaurant to shelter them from the bout of rain and also allow them to sample a possible competitor of Tony and Joe’s. The food, they were glad to find, was terrible in comparison, but the movie-themed venue was charming, and watching the umberellas bobbing about outside the opposite window heightened Lady’s cosiness as she leaned against the heat of her husband. They lost track of time but left the restaurant as soon as they began to attract too much attention. Flower-shaped ice creams were given to them from a local stall towards the end of the street, and they left for the next hutong with matching milky grins.
Hutong 3: Shichahai Hutong
The dogs sat at the lakeside watching the lilypads skim the surface of the water as the skies overhead cleared. Their next stop was another restaurant, seeing as how they ate very little of the scraps given to them in the other hutong. In this Indian/Chinese eatery they were offered an actual table, the owners being big fans of them.
They even received a bowl of wine to share between them, which made Lady very tipsy indeed, so much so that upon encountering two Chinese dogs in a nearby chocolate shop she considered sampling some chocolate they were selling. Tramp reminded her that in America that stuff made dogs ill. He instead tempted her with a boat trip to the island in the middle of the lake, and she leapt at the chance, but remained rather quiet after expressing her enthusiasm.
Tramp seemed so content staring at the lights reflecting off the now night-black lake that Lady hadn’t the heart to voice her confusion, but he turned at exactly the right (or the wrong, depending on perspective) moment, catching her searching look.
“What’s up, Pidge?” he inquired with the grin he knew was her favourite, “Lake-sick?” Lady forced herself not to smile back, and quipped back an: “Ohh I see. The one adventurous thing you decide to make me do today, by your standards anyway, and you’re doubting my abilities?”
Tramp visibly bit down a shocked laugh; “What? Pidge… wh… what??”
“The trip wasn’t what you wanted so far!” Lady howled, “All the Tony and Joe accompaniment! Well, I thought it was wonderful, and that we accomplished a lot. And then the time came for us to be rid of them for awhile, for you to do your thing and go it alone, show me what it was like for you all those years on the streets, without human dependency. But what did we do? Stay in for the morning? Eat? Go shopping? Then onto a boat for a bit of an edge and suddenly ‘Oh we should stop. Lady simply cannot handle it. She’s clearly lake-sick.”
Tramp sat for a moment, attempting to connect what his wife had just said of the past while, attempting to see how she could have perceived everything in this way all this time (which, by the way, this narrator thinks any good partner should do, thank you very much). Then, and only then, did he explain what it was that she had been missing: “Lady, I just wanted some time with you.”
It was then Lady’s turn to sit in stunned silence, but her mind was so clouded with what she had been thinking all this time that she needed clarification: “…some… time with me…?”
“We hadn’t left the kids or the Browns alone in months before we decided to go to Tony’s that night” Tramp began, “And the entire time when we were there Tony and Joe wouldn’t let us be, let us talk to each other. But their China suggestion gave me a bit of hope. Surely they’d give us some time alone… and they have. And hasn’t this just been swell?” He finished with a twinkling wink.
“But… but you said it would be an adventure…”
“Our adventure. I wasn’t asking you to prove yourself Lady. I know you’re capable of everything I can do, do you think I’d settle down with a human family for anything less? Sure, I thought you were cute at first, and nabbing an upper-class pooch was certainly an attractive challenge, but your spunk and feistiness and quiet capabilities were what made me want you forever… I’m surprised I have to say that.”
“Oh T” Lady’s voice quivered, “I think I really did need to hear that. I thought whenever you’d recount an adventure to the kids that you were yearning for the good old days… and that during my chance to prove I could do it too that I was somehow boring you…”
“No! Pidge!” he leapt over to her plastic seat and licked her face, “I just wanted some time away from Tony and Joe. Why do you think I was so excited when I saw we had our own room together? Until today we didn’t even get the chance to enjoy that!”
Lady began to look at her insistence on early leavings in a whole new light. “Oh T, I wish I knew that’s what you wanted, instead of assuming the worst.”
“I’ve been guilty of that too, Pidge, don’t worry” Tramp grinned, resting his silver head on her golden one, “I’m glad this all came out. We can be our own worst enemy sometimes. I love you Pidge Darling.”
Lady laughed; “I love you too, Tramp Dear.”
And the pair floated shore, knowing they had already made up their minds for Tony and Joe but needing that little bit of extra time together before they made their way back to them.