Beijing has a different vibe to Shanghai. It seems more spread out; the avenues are wider, the buildings more monolithic (though not tall or particularly modern). It seems less sophisticated. Not a very fair analysis given that our two days are limited to the city's north-east corridor, from the British Council office to the residential suburb of Shunyi and the airport just beyond that. And there is plenty that is ultra-modern (all the Olympic stuff, China TV building...) or conversely wonderfully old (Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven etc) which Shanghai doesn't have. We just didn't get to see any of it this time round.
Instead we saw five international schools on seven campuses. They're all fine, with great facilities (particularly the ones out in Shunyi). So good that we can't make up our minds which to go for. The British School is an obvious choice, but we also liked Yew Chung which adopts a 70% English / 30% Mandarin approach with two teachers in each class but still based on the British curriculum. And the girls liked its playground, the pitch-and-putt on the roof and the pandas they were given at the end. Obviously we're keen for them to get a good grasp of Chinese while we're there and this seems a good approach.
We had dinner with two lots of friends-with-families out in Shunyi which gave us the opportunity to ask more questions and get the low-down on living out in the sticks. Some real pros for sure. But we didn't have time to see apartments in town. Nevermind, we've plenty of time to sort that out in August.