Home grown food, markets in the pink city

Home grown food, markets in the pink city
Jaipur, India

Jaipur, India


Jaipur is known as the pink city because it was painted terracotta for the arrival of the British prince. Terracotta is the colour of welcoming in India. Jaipur seems to have more women around, it seems much more together than Delhi. The roads are atrocious and full of potholes, but the people are friendlier and much more well dressed. 6 hours drive from Delhi, we saw many of the sights from the bus on the way into town. Our hotel was a bit kitsch (flowers painted on all the arches and pillars, a doorman wearing a turban with a tail) but cleaner and very roomy compared to the previous hotel. We were welcomed with a bindi and a flower necklace. Unfortunately, no wifi, so you’ll be getting this update later. Once we had set up in our rooms, we went on a walk through the old town markets, a place of spices and lentils in sacks at the front of stores. It looked and smelled amazing. After the walk, we went on a rickshaw ride through the streets. A lot of fun in Indian traffic, I tell you. Lanes are just lines on the road used as guides for which way to overtake, and although most people drive on the left hand side of the island, it’s not a big deal to see a tuk tuk or car going the opposite way. The next day we set out to see the Hawa Mahal, Palace of the Winds, an intricate facade that allowed the royal ladies to watch festivals and parades from the 953 windows without being seen by the commonfolk below. Then to the Amber Palace, a huge complex built on a hillside, with an army barracks built next door. The palace has many entertaining areas, with hooks in the walls to hang tapestries and tents for the summer. They had massage and Turkish bath areas, manicured gardens and black and white marble inlaid with mirrors from Belgium. The architecture incorporated Muslim, Hindu and British tastes to play nice with all the influences that the building had to endure. In the afternoon some of the girls went shopping, but I was looking for some headphones. Another lady from our group had lost hers as well so we left the girls scouring through scarves and saris and went to the electronics market in a tuk tuk. My colleague went for the real deal in a Sony store, whereas I was looking for knock offs, which apparently wasn’t what this market was about (for once). I managed to find a cheapo pair for 350 rupees… about $7. Win! For dinner, we took tuk tuks to a local family home. The husband, wife, his mother and father greeted us, and prepared a very tasty dinner of assorted pakora, masala chai tea, puri, paneer curry, lentils, raita and a mixed rice and butterscotch ice cream for dessert. So very delicious. I wanted her recipe for the paneer curry and raita. We talked about religion, politics and many other aspects of India with the husband particularly, but they were all very welcoming, and friendly. The grandfather had worked in Calcutta, and the house was one of the first in the area.


Street kids and temples

Street kids and temples
Delhi, India

Delhi, India


We set off today to visit a shelter where street kids can come to get food, shelter, medical attention and education. We had a tour by a 20 year old who was previously in the shelter, and now works there to raise money and do tours for the likes of us. We walked through streets lined with piles of rubbish, rats running from one burrow and into another, crows scavenging for food. This particular shelter was for boys 6-12. They were lovely, playing hand clapping games and thumb wars, and wanting to shake hands and talk. One young one just wanted a hug. I picked him up and turned him upside down and held him up like my dad did with me. So sad that these boys had suffered abuse and resorted to huffing to escape the memories. Apparently runaway girls usually ended up in prostitution. They would have shelter, unlike the boys, but they would have no other ways to earn money, the job opportunities only available for men. Next to Jama Masjid, a mosque complex. We had to take our shoes off at the entrance, and pay a fee if you wanted to bring a camera in. Almost all of us were accosted by a guy who wrapped us in robes, and saris for the men to cover us up. The arches and curves of the architecture are amazing. The lack of shoes was a bit of a problem in the hot sun though. The red stone courtyard was baking hot. They had laid out fabric in long trails crisscrossing the expanse, which meant the whole group was single file following the path, gaining a few strange looks. I’m still not used to the stares. When we were getting a group photo, we had a couple of locals on their phones and cameras. Plus with the heat, we were jumping foot to foot, yelling at the photographer to hurry and take the bloody photo already. We then went to a Sikh temple, where we had to cover our heads. The Sikh men wear turbans, and the people attending either wore a scarf or a bandana thing to go inside. There was a foot bath before you entered, but most people also sprinkled water on their heads, and washed their hands and arms. They also touched the steps as the entered and left. Our guide told us Sikh men have beards, long hair and wear boxers….in case in the middle of the night they could still go into battle. I’m not entirely clear on why that might still be an issue, but y’know… The temple also provided food for anyone that needed it. They had huge woks of curry, and a machine that churned out hundreds of chapati. They also had a tourist station to roll out chapatis by hand if you wanted to try it, with a couple of ladies helping (mostly laughing at our efforts). After sampling some of the chapatis we were starving. We walked to a cafeteria type place that served desserts on the bottom floor and lunch care upstairs. Our guide recommended a South India dish called dosa, which is a type of bread made from lentil and rice flour, and stuffed with potatoes and veges and served with a spicy chutney. Paired with a lassi, deliciousness! I also had a dessert called a manchali, which was decorated like a birds nest. The “eggs” were little syrup soaked dumplings. We then went to the main centre of the city, where the brand name shops were. It still wasn’t pristine, but it was better than the streets of other areas. After walking around for a bit, I headed back to the room before our group dinner.


Getting lost, chatted up and joining the tour

Getting lost, chatted up and joining the tour
Delhi, India

Delhi, India


I woke up early thinking I’d get a good start to the day, and help my jet lag. Breakfast at the hotel, and I thought I would have a look around the hotel and get my bearings. Early morning is not a good look for Delhi. The shops are closed, dogs wandered the puddled streets and the only people about are disheveled men, sleeping face down in the back of trucks, getting hair cuts on the street or sorting through rubbish piles. I only saw a couple of women. I stood out like a sore thumb. I know I look like a tourist, I can’t help it in a country with a mono culture of a certain skin tone. My hair cut also got a few comments in the various conversations I had during the morning. I had several people stop to talk to me, and offer to help. They did point me towards the centre of town, which was helpful, but I wasn’t sure who was genuine and who was going to ask for money, so I cut them short and went on my way. Even once I found the tourist office, the guy was helpful in warning me about certain things… He told me that men in India are crazy when they talk to women, and not to talk too long to them, and then proceeded to chat me up himself. *sigh* But most things were closed until 11, so after being lead down a goose chase by a tuk tuk driver who was suggesting I buy Indian clothes from various stores, he dropped me off in the middle of nowhere when I insisted I wanted to go back to my hotel. Nice. After a bit of a rest, I ran into a couple of boys from Finland who were going on the tour. We got lunch at the hotel on the rooftop (palak paneer, yum!). Other people started joining us, and soon we had most of the tour having drinks and chatting. The poor boys had had a run of bad luck though. One lost his luggage somewhere along their transit, and they were ripped off by a taxi driver from the airport to the hotel. Not just a little either…. He rorted them out of $100. Ouch. We met with the rest of the group at 6pm, along with the very pimpin tour leader Yash. Popped collar, chest hair showing, and gold earrings, he had it all going on. Apparently we will get another tour guide when we arrive in Kochi. We went to a great restaurant for a team dinner, and had makhani and cheese and garlic naan. The naan amazing! Oily, but delicious.


On my merry way

On my merry way
Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane, Australia


So I set off at 9am, to Delhi via Singapore. I checked in online, hoping for a row to myself for both flights. The flight to Singapore I sat next to a guy who worked in Delhi and was over in Brisbane doing consulting for Suncorp. Very friendly, but I felt bad for wanting to sleep and watch movies. (I’d stayed up late the night before packing and thinking of things that I hadn’t packed. So not very sociable SJ) But I got a row of three to myself on the leg to Delhi, yay! Stretched out across them and had a snooze. Singapore airport is always so lovely, with displays of orchids everywhere. But they had set up little islands of plants and flowers and seats and even a space screened off called the Sanctuary, that looked outside and had a waterfall and comfy lounge seats. I found myself some wifi, a strawberry cake, and set up a little picnic in the green area waiting for the boarding call. (Thanks for the Singapore dollars, Mum) My transfer was waiting after I picked up my bags and took me to the hotel. Well, something like a hotel. I’ll reserve my judgement until I see the other accommodation we have on the tour, but ummm… The fan and the air con make a huge ruckus, the door looks like it’s been crowbarred open a couple of times, and the sliding lock doesn’t have a holder. They had one of those “Sanitized for your protection” paper things on the toilet, but I’m pretty sure they just have a stock of them they need to use up…. And you can have a shower sitting on the loo. Handy for when you have Delhi belly I’m sure. Anyway, I’m struggling with a bit of jet lag, and how much to tip the bus boy (I think I gave him the equivalent of 20 cents… I panicked! Poor man. He looked very disappointed.) Hope everything is well in Oz.


Back home

Back home
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates


Took the train to Paris and then to the Champs Élysées to do some last minute shopping (it was raining of course). We then headed to the airport to make the long trek back through Abu Dhabi, Singapore and then home sweet home by 9am. I managed to get my Spanish swords through customs too! Yay! They didn’t even look at them, and were simply happy that they were large and not concealable.


Dinner by the river

Dinner by the river
Avignon, France

Avignon, France


Today was a long day on the bus beginning with pancakes, orange juice and fresh bread. I was in heaven. We arrived in Avignon at 4:45pm only to hear our tour leader cursing the French as the receptionist refused to open check in early for the whole 43 of us… We booked our flights home (with much frustration over the Flight Centre helpline, which didn’t respond to our pressing of 3 for all other enquiries… and the stupid thing just kept repeating, over and over; not going to an operator as we had hoped.) We then joined the rest of the tour group for a dinner of brie, smoked salmon, fresh baguette, ham and other meats plus delicious wine (ridiculously cheap) by the river, overlooking the walled city. Just gorgeous.


So sick

So sick
Marseille, France

Marseille, France


I managed to get myself a vomiting bug the day we left Zaragoza to take a 9 hour train to Marseille. Ah what timing I have. Plastic bags were my best friend, especially when we were standing at the door ready to jump off one train and run to a connecting platform and I get a wave of nausea… We also had a run in with a local drunk who took a scary liking to us on our midnight train into Marseille. Luckily we lost him on our way to the taxis. I wouldn’t say Marseille is a pretty place… The first day we left our hotel we went in the wrong direction and ended up walking a street with graffitied closed stores, and children loitering in doorways. We scurried back to the hotel for better directions and found the tourist area with a lovely marina and department stores, which made us feel far safer. The next morning Ena woke up with full blown gastro… I was half asleep and awoke to noises from the bathroom. Poor thing. She has sworn off pizza (the last thing she ate… That repeated on her).


Setting things on fire!

Setting things on fire!
Valencia, Spain and Canary Islands

Valencia, Spain and Canary Islands


Well, our overnight train trip was… narrow, smelly and loud. One of our lovely cabin mates was snoring up a storm, and gassed us in between chainsaw noises. We also had far too much baggage for the space we were allotted and I slept cuddling my backpack. Comfy! Still, we got some sleep and found our way to the hostel with plenty of time to spare. Las Fallas was amazing! We met with our tour (a great bunch of people) and walked around the city looking at the towering statues of crazy caricatures called a fallas. Each fallas had a theme and was apparently a political or social satire. Each city district had one, and had fundraised all year to complete it. Our tour leader Caitlin (soon renamed C-Bomb by none other than my lovely girlfriend) had told us that the most expensive one so far cost €90,000. The most crazy thing was that on the last day of the festival they burn ALL OF THEM at midnight. No wonder Spain is in so much debt… They also had fireworks at 2pm every day, which shook the ground and blocked out the sun with smoke. St Paddy’s Day (smack bang in the middle of the four days) was quite celebration of pub crawls and drinking games. And bright and early the next day the Spanish started up a parade of marching bands to soothe our sore heads. We enjoyed a day on the beach, where the wind was far too cold, so we huddled onto the warm sand and enjoyed the sight of a lone leather-skinned man strutting around in his g-string speedos and occasionally slapping his ass… And despite the cold, Ena still managed to burn the back of her legs to a bright red consistency. I learned that the best way to make a cheap wine palatable is to add lemonade. The sweetness takes away the acidity of the wine, and makes a nice sangria-like drink. On the last day of the festival, we all voted to watch a Trojan horse fallas burn, which was a little slow, but pretty amazing once it did get going. The firefighters were on hand to protect the buildings very close by by spraying them with water, but an ember managed to fly onto a nearby roof. The crowd pointed out the small fire and it was quickly extinguished.


Vin, wine and more Bordeaux

Vin, wine and more Bordeaux
Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux, France


Bordeaux is beautiful city and far more friendly that Paris. Apparently the two cities are enemies, and while the Parisians see the English as inferior, people from Bordeaux are proud of their English abilities. After finding the local tourist office, we signed up for a wine and cheese evening (winery tours were only run on a Wednesday or Friday). As you can imagine in a wine tasting class, you make some very good friends. Our group for the evening comprised three German law students, and a French-Canadian blogger, and the guide, who spoke English for the entirety (thankfully). We learnt a few things: Wine glasses are designed with a long stem keep your hands away to maintain the temperature and stop your hands from contaminating the scent of the wine. Also, the glass should only ever be a third full in order for the wine to breathe. Bordeaux wines are very strictly controlled by laws. You are not allowed to water the vines, a Bordeaux proper is certified by a laboratory to make sure it does not contain much sugar (which apparently hides the taste of a bad wine), the label is only allowed to contain a certain amount of information and depict your estate accurately (no making up a chateau if you don’t have one). You should always smell your wine twice: the ‘first nose’ (the first smell – straight after its poured into the glass) should be the same as, or not as nice as the ‘second nose’ (which is only taken after the wine has been well swirled around the glass). The difference is amazing. I didn’t believe all that posh nonsense about aerating wine until that demonstration. If the first nose is about the same as the second, the wine is finished maturing and is ready to drink, but if the first nose is better than the second, you should drink it without aerating. We picked out some cheese from the cellar to have with the wine, and taste the difference in the wine when eating. All in all a very good evening. On our final day, we wandered around the town centre and bought ourselves some gourmet chocolates to enjoy on the train the next day.