When I visited Beijing last year it was covered in thick smog the entire time. Maximum visibility was a few hundred metres. This time there was nothing but bright blue skies. It was a slightly odd experience in a city infamous for its pollution.
It was good to see the city with clearer skies, though I have to admit that photographically the city rather suits the greyness that the smog brings, bringing out the grey and red palette of the architecture. It's a fascinating city to wander around whatever the weather though, and it was good to be back. Not just because of the delicious ducks...
Just like everywhere else in China, it's the old people having all the fun. They gather in the big public parks to play games (cards and chess), exercise on the communal exercise machines, use spinning tops, play musical instruments, and practice their calligraphy by painting with water on the pavement. The man I saw doing this encouraged me to give my own calligraphy a go, which is about the most embarrassing moment ever when about the only kanji I could produce was "mountain".
The Chinese really make use of their public spaces in a way that doesn't seem to happen in the UK, except in a very corporate way. It's actually really great to see things like a mini roller blading circuit set up for children next to a historic tower.