Liu Yujie explores a cozy enclave with an eclectic mix of shopping.
Satellite views zooming in on Nali Patio show nothing unusual, but take a slow walk around, and you may just fall in love with this courtyard tucked alongside Sanlitun Village.
As you gaze upon its Spanish-style facade, you cannot help but wonder if there is some homage being paid to Antoni Gaudi, the master Spanish architect.
Door frames, pillars, ponds, staircases are generously decorated with Mediterranean mosaics. The white balconies on the south wing of Nali Patio
resemble marshmallows or the icing laces around wedding cakes.
The number of foreign shoppers, thanks to the embassy hinterland nearby, lends an even more exotic ambiance.
You will be spoiled for choice by a wide range of food options including Italian, Mexican, American, Japanese, Indian and Pakistani cuisines.
Or, indulge in a long lazy Sunday afternoon cup of tea. For just 50 yuan, you can have a fresh fruit smoothie and delicious crepe at Crepanini, an eatery half-hidden under a white marquee.
There is also cuisine which echoes the architecture. Taste Spain, with hundreds of bottles lining its huge French windows, is the first store in China to exclusively sell Spanish spices and herbs, wines, olive oil, cheese, chocolate and bread. It's where you can take a vicarious tour of Spain through your taste buds.
Then there is Pantry Magic, a kitchenware store on the ground floor where an amazing cornucopia of tools makes cooking enjoyable and addictive. There are pots and pans of all sizes, and an equally fascinating array of colorful silicon cake molds.
Pantry Magic holds weekly hands-on classes on Western cooking and baking.
Nali Patio is also a haven for dedicated fashionistas seeking a unique look.
C'est La Vie on the first floor was established by Chinese model Qu Ying and her designer friends. The colors here are all simple black, white and gray, but each design comes in only one piece to safeguard exclusivity. You can also have dresses tailor-made here.
Non Season is a boutique with a theme. Designer Zhang Di has exercised her creativity in making a non-seasonal material out of cashmere, and using it in her clothes.
Once you've loaded up on fashion pieces, it's time to accessorize. A stone's throw away from the boutiques is Nicolas Favard, a French jewelry designer with his own showroom on the south side.
He has been in Beijing for more than four years and works mainly with metals and stones. Watch him at work in his shop when you drop by, and you can order custom-made pieces such as engagement or wedding rings.
For the perfect getaway and stopover in Beijing, there are few better places to browse and feed than at Nali Patio. Ask the locals, they'll tell you.