Connect the dots

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mysore, No Eyesore

Our final state in India: Karnataka. (At least, for this trip.) Upon arriving, we visited Marc's friend Pavi in Bangalore. She was in her 38th week of pregnancy, looking like she literally swallowed a watermelon, but had as much energy as Alex. It was a relief to come over and then have a home cooked Indian meal. Being Keralan, she and her auntie prepared some delicious curried lamb, veggies and wholesome red rice!

As the Silicon Valley of India, you can indulge in the most authentic international cuisines. And you'll pay for it too. We splurged on sushi and a bacon beef burger. (Yes, the sacred cow, medium rare, please, and slap some greasy, fried pig on top of it!)

Green, green, green with lots of parks and gardens throughout the city. However, there wasn't much else for us to see or do, so we headed out of the green to keep some green in our wallets. Back on my favorite of all trains, the Shatabdi Express headed to Mysore. Mysore, like Bangalore, has stretches of big, wide, tree-lined streets. The difference, less traffic and more beautiful, older buildings. 

Hit the Devaraja market (because one can never get enough colorful market action and it's the best cheap touristy thing to do)...

Reminds me of Dutzi bags
Chew on these
Grate some of the fruit below with these

Wouldn't be India without a cow

More floral temple offerings

Jaggery for the ultra-sweet Mysorepak.

Plastic woven bags

...visit the palace interiors by day...

...and watch it light up like a Christmas tree on the weekends by dark...

...and pay a visit to some caged (but well taken care of) fauna at the Mysore Zoo.

Week old dholes
White tiger. Forget any wild sightings. This is the best we got.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


One year ago...

we packed up our house. 
we carefully walked on ice and shoveled snow. 
we nursed our illnesses and surrendered to antibiotics. 
we celebrated Alex's birthday with her best friend before they turned 3. 
we took a leave from work. 
we trusted Marc's assistant to run the show at 158 and 164.
we said tearful goodbyes to friends and family. 
we packed 3 backpacks.
we left Brooklyn. 
we embarked on a journey. 

One year later...

we know a tiny bit more about the world.
we attempted to at least say "thank you" in the local language.
we made over 100 hotels/guesthouses/B&Bs/palaces! our home.
we traveled by foot, truck, bike, motorcycle, bus, train, boat, car and auto rickshaw (tuk-tuk). 
we had 3 motor vehicle accidents and walked away from them. 
we still sing Beatles songs, listen to Alex's version of Michael Jackson and Talking Heads' Road to Nowhere.
we donated a stroller, books (that were given by Fort Greene friends), clothing and toiletries. 
we ate local food at the side of the road, in the markets, in transit, and in hole-in-the-wall and upscale restaurants. 
we missed (but found places to eat) oysters, bacon, steak frites, sushi, noodles and pizza. 
Alex grew taller and Marc and I, wider. 
we found relaxation is easiest where there is sun, sand and water.
we don't take electricity, hot water and high speed internet for granted.
we always keep a flashlight close by. 
we've had at least 15 different SIM cards and mobile phone numbers.
we have an addiction to Anokhi.
we've had people who invited us, total strangers, into their homes.
we've taken over 15,000 photographs of people and places that we found fascinating.
Alex has endlessly had her cheeks pinched and kissed, hair pulled, stroked, patted, and can completely stand up for herself when she doesn't want to be touched. (Warning: Stay away, stay very far away.)
we met other families with children doing what we were doing. (And loving it just as much as we did.)
we had family come see us wherever we were, even if that meant taking 4 flights, being in transit over 48 hours and lost baggage. (Thanks Mamalene!)
we realized we needed a lot less than what were used to having. 
we, physically, as well as mentally, survived nearly 365 days of constantly being together. 

One year later and we still feel lucky and happy we made the decision to take this trip. But it's not over yet. Our remaining 7 months will fly by, exactly like this past year did.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Alex does MJ

How do you entertain yourself during a long car ride through the Tamil Nadu countryside? Sing some Michael Jackson, of course!

No Comment 9

North vs. South

If the north were to duke it out with the south, I would definitely be rooting for the south. With it's lighter fare (coconut milk vs. cow cream, rice based starches vs. wheat, less pulvarized spices), there's no limit to how much I can eat this stuff. 

Lead me to "South Indian Thali" on the menu and my eyes look no further. My stomach has already decided. Even for you hardcore meat eaters, opt for the veg version. I just can't get enough sambar, coconut curry, mixed vegetables, masala potatoes, and raita - all served with South Indian papad and tons of rice on a fresh banana leaf. Get that right hand ready and dig in!

Chettinadu thali at Grand Gardenia Hotel in Trichy

The thali at Gnanam Hotel in Thanjavur

The South Indian lunch at Mamalla Heritage in Mamallapuram

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mama(llapuram) mia!

Despite being somewhat templed out, we could not (and were glad we didn't) miss the beautiful granite carved cave temples at Mamallapuram. Another reason we had to go: Stefano Beccari. Our friend Beatrice's brother spends his Swedish winters in Tamil Nadu carving away at granite and marble and getting other artists from around the world to do what they do best at his Global Stone Workshop.

Stefano, Pongal or the new year and harvest festival, the Mamallapuram dance festival,  rock temples/caves/chariots or rathas, birds and an Eagle temple in the surrounding area kept us busy for a week.

From the lighthouse
Arjuna's Penance - nothing sorry about these carvings!
Holy cow. What a relief.
My girl Durga
Five Rathas (chariots) looking like sandcastles
Shiva's vehicle: the sacred nandi

Shore temple

A visit to Creative Sculptors/Global Stone Workshop with Marc trying his hand at a new medium.


A Creative Sculptors/Global Stone Workshop gallery "vernissage" complete with chai and burfis for refreshment.

Apparently a pair of eagles from Varanasi show up at Vedagiriswarar temple in Thirukazhukundram everyday at around noon. We paid our dues by climbing approximately 550 stairs. We didn't spot any eagles but there were plenty of monkeys!

Ambassador taking us there

Nearly there
Temples from the temple

Mind your head for incoming poop from the painted storks and pelicans at the Vendanthangal Bird Sanctuary.

Pongal or the new year's festival/harvest celebration was in full swing with special kolams for the occasion.  Sweet rice boils over pots, cows are adorned with flowers and painted, pottery is broken for good luck and people pour in from villages to visit temples and picnic along the beach.

Each night ended with some Bharatanatyam at the dance festival right beside the Shore Temple. She was my favorite. But what's the deal with the Tamil Nadu minister's inflated ego?