One of the cool parts of living in Qingdao was the opportunity to visit all kinds of cool things, even sometimes things that you would never expect to find in China, let alone in the “small” town of Qingdao (only by China’s standards… there are well over 8 million people living there). Now, being the end of September, reminded me of this little “getaway” just over a year ago…
Some of our best friends had previously visited a local winery and had talked about what a nice time they had. So when September rolled around, I suggested that we spend an afternoon at the Huadong-Parry Chateau and Winery celebrating the birthdays we all shared that month. Trent and I are both September babies, born 6 years and 10 days apart, and two of our closest couple friends also have birthdays in September… in fact, back-to-back birthdays. Justin’s is on the 27th and Zach’s is on the 28th. The three of us couples (Trent and I, Zach and Heather, and Catherine and Justin) decided on a Sunday afternoon, the 21st of September, to visit this place.
Trent and I had a hell of a time trying to get there. After church got out, we grabbed some fruit and cheese to share and headed outside to wait for a taxi. We waited… and waited… and waited… to no avail. We walked to the next street up, hoping that the change of scenery would gain us luck… not so. So after about an hour of waiting, and me VERY anxious to get there, we decided to get our scooter. We hadn’t wanted to ride it since we knew we’d be drinking wine and wanted to be safe, but after waiting for so long, we decided it was our only option. Trent headed back up to our apartment (which is no short trip) while I waited in the hopes that I would still catch something. Nearly 20 minutes later, I did manage to catch a taxi, but now the problem was how do I tell him to wait for Trent??? I told the cab driver in my (very) broken Chinese “hiyo yiga ren,” which meant to me, “There is one more person coming.” He must have understood me because he waited while I called Trent and he ran the half mile back down to where I was. In fact, this driver was very kind. We’ve had all sorts of interactions with drivers and most are grumpy and impatient (I guess who can blame them?), so this guy was a pleasant surprise. When Trent got there, we began driving. The next problem… the driver didn’t know where we were going and since we’d never been there before, neither did we. I called Justin and Catherine, who had already been there nearly an hour and a half by this point, and they put him on the phone with someone who worked there. Thankfully they were also very helpful and about 20 minutes later, we were making our way up this beautiful driveway in the mountains to the chateau. We thanked the driver and paid him and then got out to meet our friends.
We opted out of the actual tour of the grounds, on account of how much time we’d already lost, and made our way to our friends instead. They had already found a cute little pagoda and set up shop underneath it. They had brought in bottles of wine (you are allowed to do so as long as it is their wine- Huadong), cheese and fruit and nut platters that we would all enjoy together. Baby Elijah was comfortably laying on a blanket in the grass. Behind us were rows upon rows of grapes, many of which had just recently been harvested.
We enjoyed some time just hanging out, eating and drinking wine, and taking in the scenery around us. Somehow, being here didn’t feel like being in China. It felt like an escape. With the mountains behind us, and grapes and greenery surrounding us, the chateau seemed like a romantic diversion from the normal grind of Chinese life.
After a while, we decided to go explore and wander around. Catherine hung back to feed Elijah while the 5 of us wove our way through the endless rows of grapes… sauvignon blanc, merlot, chardonnay…
After a while, we wandered over to some statues…
…and subsequently up some stairs to another gorgeous trellised walkway where we had a clear view of the whole grounds including the iconic chateau.
While we were up there, we had a lot of good laughs and lots of great photos.
The view from up here was great too! There was a small lotus pond and it was quiet and serene.
The guys even invented a game… grape bowling. Yep, using our *now* empty wine glasses, we tried to roll grapes down the walkway and into the cups. It was harder than it might seem to get the grape to roll over the lip of the glass instead of bounce off of it.
As we were making our way back, the owners came to tell us that they were closing up, but we weren’t quite ready to leave yet. Fortunately, since Zach and Heather had been here several times and had good rapport with the owners, they allowed us to stay and pack up when we were ready. We stayed and hung out with baby Eli while the boys chatted.
As the sun was setting, we packed up and then wandered back down the road in search of (several) taxis to bring us all home. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long and were on our way back to reality.
We really enjoyed our time at the Huadong-Parry Chateau and Winery. We recommend it as a getaway for sure! Their wine is good too! We had a great time!