Jaipur

Last stop before the return to Delhi and the flight back to the UK.

Jaipur.

Possibly one of the prettiest cities in the world.

  
Painted terracotta for a visit by Prince Albert, and kept that way ever since.

A hill top palace

  
Mirrored halls

  
The beautiful Jal Mahal

  
The absolutely bonkers Royal Observatory

  
Poppadum sellers

  
carpet makers

  
And Tattooed camels

  
Yes Jaipur has it all.

As Alanis Morrisette would say Thank you India 

And no, that’s not ironic.

🙂

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Pigeons and tigers and tractors (oh my)

Health and safety is not a concept that seems to worry people unduly in the area of India we have experienced so far.

From the impressive clusters of up to 7 people riding on a single motorbike (without helmets), to the laid back cows strolling down the middle of the dual carriageways, to the families walking nonchalantly across railway tracks seconds before high speed express trains go thundering past.

A quite liberating embracing of risk and responsibility.

Unless you are a pigeon landing on one of the myriad exposed electricity cables hanging between buildings in the streets of Agra.

On the bright side, the resulting power cut was quite short lived.

Just like the pigeon.

  
From Agra we caught the train to Ranthambhore Nature Reserve.  

The train station gave another opportunity to witness lives that we rarely get to see in the protected and privileged environs of the U.K.  

So much poverty.  Beggars with heartbreaking disabilities.

And also, a brief sighting of a Sadhu, or holy man.

Brief, because this particular Sadhu had chosen the path of the drug-taking holy fool and was taking great delight in accosting and embarrassing onlookers.

For some reason, we suddenly found an urgent need to inspect something on the opposite side of the platform.

Ranthambhore is a vast nature reserve with an impressive range of different landscapes and terrains within its boundaries.

A haven for wildlife, we were fortunate enough to see this beauty

  
He stood in the middle of the track for several minutes before lying down and making sure everyone got to photograph his best side

  
  
The Tigers were amazing, but for some reason the image of Ranthambhore that is staying with me most is…..

The Musical Tractors

  
Look at this bad boy.😄

You could see them coming a mile off.

And, with their fondness for playing Indian pop music at a decibel level nearing that of a harrier jump jet taking off, you could hear them from even further away.

Hmmm, that may possibly be a reason tiger sightings in the reserve are quite rare.

  

Delhi Dichotomy

Nothing prepares you for the assault on the senses that is Delhi.

You think you know what to expect.

Noise, colour, smells.

People.

But actually?

Nothing prepares you for Delhi.

On the one hand, a global city.

Full of new high rise building, fancy technology, designer shopping malls.

On the other hand, entrenched traditional class system, rubbish and pollution on a jaw-dropping scale.

Slum ghettoes built of plastic bottles and corrugated iron.

Nicely juxtaposed with the air conditioned shopping shrines to Versace and Armani.

  
And Delhi seems to comfortably absorb it all.

In amongst the chaos of the markets of Old Delhi is the haven of the Jama Masjid mosque. 

  
What you don’t see in this picture of beauty and serenity is youngest child being chased by a frenzied mob of adoring fans who all wanted to take selfies stood next to the small girl with the strange red hair.

You also don’t see the fetching polyester neck to foot covering tablecloth all women are required to wear when visiting the site.

Can’t help thinking it would be more apt to provide blindfolds for the men.

But who am I to judge?

And as an added bonus all that polyester in 37 degree sunshine provides the convenience of a portable sauna for the fortunate ladies who get to wear it.

Result.

  
I have a thing for archways.

  
And green saris 🙂

  
And monks taking selfies.

A hard day.  

So many beautiful historic sites.  And so much abject poverty and misery.

The tourist gaze awestruck.

And uncomfortable.

A journey …

It’s been a long time coming.

Getting on for 30 years in fact (how did that happen?)

BUT

We’re finally here.

India.

An intriguing mix of the cutting edge, and the very traditional.

Secular and sacred

  
 Delhi airport.  Passport control and giant mudras.

And why not?

And actually, after battling with Indian bureaucracy and biometric data collection, you can see why people might need a bit of calming meditation.

So, in the spirit of immersing ourselves in the experience, youngest child and I had booked a yoga class at our hotel.

I had assumed this would be a gentle generic type of yoga, aimed at the flagging business person.

You should never make assumptions.

The class consisted of youngest child and myself.

The teacher, a 29 year old, dressed all in white with film star good looks, took one look at youngest child and myself and sniffed “I usually just teach yoga teachers, but never mind”

I’m sure I don’t know how  he could tell we weren’t yoga teachers.

Possibly the look of fear on our faces?

What followed was a very interesting hour of yoga, performed outside in the grounds of the hotel.

And probably a very entertaining hour for anybody who happened to catch sight of us.

Not only did we have to get into the postures, but we then had to hold them whilst performing a type of pranayama called Kapalbhati See this you tube link for an example .

And then, if that wasn’t bad enough, we had to do standing balancing postures on a hill.  Whilst doing Kapalbhati breathing.

At one point the teacher made the comment that this was very good exercise for the belly.

Before looking at youngest child and saying pointedly “Of course, you don’t have a belly”.

Don’t know what he was implying. 🙂

And then just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse he did a…

Chakra Reading.

I’m not sure what I expected.

But I know I didn’t expect to be sat in a room, just him, me and youngest child

Having to take turns chanting a 7 line long mantra.

Anyone who knows me will know I am vocally challenged.

But to my horror, and for some unknown reason, Halfway through, I found myself chanting in a pub singer stylee.

Occasionally throwing in a Mariah Carey type falsetto wobble, just for a bit of variety.

I could see the corner of the teachers eye twitching.

But reader, I found myself unable to stop.

We were all relieved when the session came to an end.

India.  It’s going to be an interesting journey.
  

 

Pearls

I thought they were extinct

Or at least an endangered species

But at the Faversham Hop Festival today we spotted them.

At first just a pair

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But later,  a whole posse of them

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Performing “Roll out the barrel”,  “My Old Mans a Dustman”  and so many more.

It was great.

There were hops a plenty

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In garlands

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And on hats.

And Faversham is lovely

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It has a Physic Garden

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A rather beautifully decorated brewery

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And a gunpowder mill.

Every town should have one.

Ahem.

The festival was noisy,  bustling and good fun.

Beer was flowing freely

But as I cant stand the stuff we sampled other local produce instead.

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All in the name of supporting small local artisans you understand 🙂

Yum.

Disturbing (AKA Fiction Friday)

It’s been a long time since I last visited Stratford Butterfly Farm

In fact youngest child was about 3 the last time we visited.

That was the time I turned my back for a minute and she decided to pet a butterfly.

Only, 3 year olds are not renowned for their finesse and fine motor skills.

I do hope it wasn’t an endangered species.

Ahem.

So, it’s been a while.

And what are you greeted with when you visit nowadays?

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A shop mannequin with the top of it’s head chopped off, and filled with plants.

As youngest child said as we approached it

“Well, that’s a bit disturbing”.

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

This is the perfect early summer read.

It is the story of Ove, a man who at first appears bitter and unpleasant but whose tragic background, good heart and stubborn defense of his own, old fashioned, moral values and code of ethics lead, ultimately, to his rehabilitation.  You’ll laugh and, if you’re like me, you’ll weep buckets (earning plenty of eye rolls from oldest child).  This is a real feel-good story.

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

It’s been on my wish list for a few years.

Hope  it’s worth the wait.

Bud dha Boom

Sunday was our last day in Paris.

It had to be done.

A short Metro hop to the Ile 

  

Notre Dame

Beautiful French Gothic.

And even better?

  

Yay, a bit of dead person.

Still not sure who is in here, but I have several books on relics (bien sur) so hopefully I will be able to track them down.

Then a quick wander around the old and quirky Ile

   

 

A sombre moment en route to the Metro

 

A very brief stop in possibly the most expensive tea shop in the world 

 

One look at the menu (cups of tea starting at 10€ each) and we were running out of the door like we’d just robbed the place.

I was quite impressed by how fast we could run.

Must be all that yoga strengthening the leg muscles.

And then?

A very long and very leisurely lunch at

 

The Buddha Bar.

A place full of the young, stylish and beautiful of Paris.

Chiselled cheekbones, designer labels, effortless style and sophisticated conversation. 

 

 Hello Tracey, hello Julie 🙂

The food was ok.

A buffet style set up featuring an unusual mix with pastries at one end, continental breakfast at the other and curry and noodles in the middle.

Most dishes running out very quickly and being replenished in a very leisurely manner.

I think the whole concept of buffet dining /instant food is anathema to the Parisian dining ethos.

But!

You don’t go to the Buddha Bar for the food.

You go to see and be seen.

Or in my case, just gawp at the beautiful people.

Au revoir.

  

Oh la la

So, Saturday night in Paris.

So, three child free Mums on the loose.

So, three child free Mums being sensible and cultured and grown up and sophisticated.

Ha!

Saturday night we hit  

 

Yep, The Moulin Rouge in all it’s flamboyant, kitsch glory.

We didn’t book for the meal before the show, so when we arrived the place was absolutely packed.

Expecting to be crammed on to a shared table somewhere behind a pillar we were amazed to be shown to a tiny table for three, right beside the stage.

Two bottles of champagne later and the pre-show warm-up crooner, singing American Rat Pack toons in a strong French accent, sounded uncannily like This, though fortunately he was not that shade of yellow.

Just a shade of Leo Sayer circa 1976.

Then the show.

Oh my God.

I knew the Moulin Rouge was famous for the CanCan.

I hadn’t realised it was famous for the dancers dancing, erm, topless.

But after spending an afternoon similarly exposed in the Hammam, we were hardened, in a distinctly unBritish way, to such things.

We could greet them with a Gallic shrug.

And lots of eye contact.

But.

The show is good fun.

It isn’t intellectual

Or high culture.

It’s a laugh

It’s pure entertainment

And it is distinctly and unmistakably French.

The theatre itself is slightly battered, slightly worn, but a wonderful example of fin de siècle architecture and interior design.

An architectural Grand Dame.

Afterwards?

A stroll through the, erm, colourful Pigalle area 

 

Ending up at a small bar 

Listening to a budding Edith Piaf singing in the corner and drinking absinthe.

Tres Parisienne. 

Bonjour Tristesse

Can’t quite believe we’re here.

Here being  a bijoux apartment in the Montmartre region of Paris.

You get off the plane and you are immediately hit by the sense of being in France.

It hits all the senses.

Sight 

 

Sound

Touch

Sound and taste

 

Hello Julie, hello Tracey.  Bon Appetit!

An afternoon scouting the streets around the Sacre Coeur

Early evening by the tower

   

   

An evening meal in the heart of the Pigalle.  

Couscous and red wine.

Perfect.

A bientot.

Reprieve

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It feels like spring is just about here.

Without winter really having shown its face at all.

A few frosty mornings.

A sprinkling of snow.

But already bulbs are staring to push through, and curling leaf buds appearing on some of the hardier (foolhardy) trees.

A dry day on Friday and we took our chance to explore close to home.

The beautiful Warwickshire countryside

Along country lanes

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Picking up a companion for part of the way

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Stopping at Chesterton church

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And pondering a “fixer-upper”

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A good day.