???????????????????????????????After a wonderful Yangtze River cruise on the Century Legend John and I looked forward to a couple days of doing nothing at the luxurious InterContinental in Chongqing. It was a time for organizing and resting up for the next segment of our journey. It turned out to be a wonderful stay with more to do than we thought. The hotel is located on a pedestrian walkway in the heart of the city.

We had contacted the local Global Greeter Group for a culinary tour. Greeters are volunteers who love their city Nick - our Greeterso they volunteer to show their city to visitors. We have met Greeters in Chicago, New York City, Buenos Aires, and other places. The service is free. In Chongqing our Greeters, Nick, Mandy, and Chen, who were three wonderful young college students showed up and as per our request took us to the local food mall where we learned about traditional Chongqing Hot Pot. We never would have found the food mall even though it was on the busy, modern pedestrian street next to the hotel as it was on the lower level of a modern department store. There were many food stalls with a variety of items both familiar and unfamiliar. The area where hot pot was served had special tables with a warming tray in the center that held a divided metal bowl with hot hotpotspicy broth on one side (they like it hot in this part of China) and mild on the other. Since the menu was in Chinese we asked Nick to order a variety of items to go into the hot pot. He ordered veggies and several kinds of organ meat not usual in the normal American diet. Hot pot is a great way to dine with friends. Everyone picks what they want, places it in the soup – spicy or mild – to cook, and all the while the conversation flows. It was a great experience.IC3When we returned to the hotel we stopped to check out the chocolate display in the lobby noticing that some of the chocolate has gone Asian. There was Green Tea chocolate. We knew there were complimentary chocolates and fruit waiting in out room but we were not prepared for the surprise that arrived shortly after we did. We responded to the knock on the door and, lo, and behold, there was a birthday cake – for me! What a touching surprise. At dinner, Sharon Fraser, the InterContinental’s General Manager stopped by to welcome us to the hotel. She is without a doubt the most spot-on GM we have ever had the pleasure to meet. I thanked her for the cake and commented on the how I am impressed with all the fine chocolate details that adorned the cake. We took her up on the offer to meet the pastry chef who is also the chocolatier and have her show us how she makes some of the chocolate creations.

choc2The next day we met May Jiang who showed us how to make the white and dark chocolate swirl sticks. After the chocolate is heated it is poured ???????????????????????????????on the marble slab and scored with a special plastic utensil after which it is covered with the white chocolate. Next came the tricky part – scraping it into nice thin rolled two-tone sticks. Truly an art. We watched May Jiang create some other chocolate fancies. It is always a pleasure to watch someone who is so good at their profession.

Stillwell2We thanked Sharon Fraser for the wonderful experience and she asked us if we had been to the General Joseph Stillwell and Flying Tigers Museums. “All Americans should visit them,” she added. We are so glad she told us about them. Chongqing, China was known Chungking and during World War II it was China’s provisional capital. The Flying Tiger Museum is dedicated to the memory of the American pilots, also known as the 1st American Volunteer Group, who fought with Chinese pilots against Japanese invading troops during the Second World War. The Flying Tigers, under the command of Claire Chennault, consisted of three fighter squadrons with about 20 aircraft. Their planes, mainly Curtiss P-40 Warhawks, with their shark teeth design were easy to recognize and their exploits were widely publicized.

Across the road is the museum that honors General Joseph W. Stilwell who was the Chief of Staff in theTigers China Theater of Operation and Commander-in-Chief of the American Army in the China-Burma-India Theater. Stilwell helped to train the Chinese army and he was instrumental in the construction of the Burma Road whereby supplies were able to reach China to aid in their fight against the Japanese. In 1991 the museum opened in the house Stilwell occupied for several years with rooms restore to their wartime likeness and displays dealing with the war.

Our stay at the InterContinental Chongqing turned out to offer us so much more than we expected – a culinary tour, a chocolate demonstration, and we learned more about our own history.