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Thursday, 6 March 2014

INDIA AND THE CAMINO REAL


Readers may have been puzzled to my reference yesterday to the camíno réal. It was, in fact, a reference to Tennessee Williams' play, Camino Real, which I saw about 40 years ago in black-and-white on BBC television. Each part was introduced by "Block One, Block Two etc. On The Camino Real". The "Day One, Day Two etc." of the India story is reminiscent of that tale.
 
The actual Camíno Réal was the Royal Road established up part of the west coast of the USA under Spanish rule.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

DAY ONE, INDIA (I wanted to say Day One on the Camino Real)


Last year we were both 70. To celebrate we went on holiday.  I thought that our holidays were getting a bit tame. I felt like being somewhere new, uncomfortable and unknown. I had already visited 56 countries and wherever we went, it would have to be exciting and new. On Valentine’s Day I booked to go to India.

 

I checked out flights and the best way to go was to drive to Toulouse, fly to Gatwick, transfer to Heathrow and from there fly to Delhi. The intercontinental flights were with Jet Airways. This might be the place to show the map of our travels in North India.

 



We got up at 4 (a.m.), fed the one cat who was indoors and drove to Toulouse. We almost missed the plane despite having arrived early as we were told at check-in that the Gate opened at 9h05. This wasn’t true. It closed at 9h15. We left some of our luggage for the day at Victoria (at £9 per item!) and spent the day with Ben.

 

 In the late afternoon we went to Heathrow and, after a tiny portion of caviar and a glass of champagne, got the flight. We arrived in Delhi on Saturday morning.

 

After a bit of trouble with a Cash machine (you have to whip your card out pretty smartly) we were taken by prebooked taxi to our Delhi hotel, The Hotel Perfect.  The drive started gently enough, although I was a little disconcerted by the driver’s wandering from lane to lane on the dual carriageway and a little surprised by the bicycle which came towards us, against the direction of traffic. The journey was carefully nuanced, however, becoming noisier and more chaotic as we went along.  The hotel, however, was clean and apparently well-organised and situated near the Karol Bagh metro station. Our expectations of the accommodation weren’t high, but as a start, this exceeded our hopes. I have to say, though that we should never have found it on our own.

 

After a rest, we went out to explore the surroundings which consisted of lots of small shops and temples. Mostly the pavements had been taken over by traders so we had to walk in the roads, filled with cars, bikes, mopeds, scooters, trucks, trolleys, motor bikes, taxis, trucks and people, not to mention rubbish, building materials and dogs. We were a bit surprised to be caught in heavy rain, it being the end of the monsoon season.

 

We had a late lunch in a vaguely MacDonald’s-style restaurant (Ruffels) but serving solely Indian style food with beer the only alcoholic drink. The ordering methods were a little odd. You had to pay for your food at a counter, having seen what was on offer from the pictures shown on a nearby wall. Then, later you went to collect the food from another counter when you guessed it would be ready. Very tasty, though and not too hot.

 

That evening there was a briefing meeting with our Tour Leader, Nagendra Singh, and the other 10 members of our group. They consisted of two other (Australian) couples, approximately in the 60-70 age group (with me being the oldest) the other half of the group being approximately from 20 to 30. Was the age difference going to be a problem?  If so the split was not as we had expected – 10 young and 2 old. The meeting outlined that way things would work, what to expect and what not to and included the issuing of shoulder bags labelled “Say No to Plastic”, a step towards saving the planet. After that we went to dinner – in the same place where we had had our lunch!
 

 

Our room was on the top floor.
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