Late last night we arrived at the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, our lodgings for the next 2 days. It is truly amazing. Upon arrival guests ascend a grand staircase while being showered by rose petals from above. While checking in, the staff brings delicious guava juice in champagne glasses. The kids just loved it!! Our rooms are set around a courtyard that seems to be just for us. We truly feel like royalty here.
This morning, we woke up to some very noisy birds and after some exploring, William found several peacocks walking around the grounds. He was so excited.
The boys have really enjoyed their visit so far and are doing as well as can be expected with the long car rides and sightseeing. A lot of it is hard for them to understand, so we've had our share of fights and temper tantrums, but overall we are all having a great time.
Yesterday we went to Agra Fort. This fort is older than the Red Fort and was the home of the Mogul kings before moving to Delhi. The fort is very grand and surprising clean. It is made up of several smaller palaces, one that stands out is the one which Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son. He lived there for 16 years, until he died, but was afforded a beautiful view of the Taj Mahal.
This morning we went to the Amber Palace and rode the Kings road on the backs of huge elephants. It was quite an experience. The boys were a little scared and first and Ravi was very concerned for the elephants' well being. Once the ride was over we visited the fort/palace.
The Amber fort was built by the Rajputs - or Hindu Kings - so a little different in design than the forts in Delhi and Agra. It has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site because of the water storage system. Parts of the fort were built over a thousand years ago. The Amber Fort also has inside the Mirror Palace. A beautiful room decorated with mirrors all around the outside and inside. We just imagined how beautiful it must look at night with candles and moonlight reflecting off of the mirrors.
The kids favorite sight at the fort was the snake charmer that sits right outside the gates. It is a real cobra in the basket!!!!
16 February 2015
After the Taj Majal we spent some time at hotel, which has several shops and vendors. A couple of highlights were the Sitar player, the puppeteer and the magician....Nana has really set the bar high for this trip.
Today, after a long car ride, we reached Agra and visited the Taj Mahal. Definitely the highlight of our sightseeing trip so far. We all loved it and wished we had more and more time to explore. It is truly a wonder and such a romantic story.
15 February 2015
After checking into our hotel, we raced to the Red Fort to see the sound and light show. It was a very interesting tale of Mogul culture in India and gave us a bit of history that will help us understand our time in Rajastan better.
The Red Fort is the home of the Mogul royalty in Delhi. Over the years it was attacked by several factions, most notably the Persians and the British. Tomorrow we head to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Built by Shah Jahan, one of the Moguls who ruled Hindustan.
Ravi's new smile.
We experienced authentic Indian travel today. Flying Air India to New Delhi for the sightseeing Portion of our trip. After a 3 hour delay, which I gather is quite normal, we finally got on our way. Unfortunately we will miss some of our plans in Delhi.
The highlight of our plane ride is that Ravi lost his tooth on the plane. Apparently, he had been fiddling with his too and managed to twist it around; he was making a huge commotion and worrying the passengers around him so I reached in with a napkin and gave it a gentle tug. Luckily, it came out easily and he is much happier.
14 February 2015
Jeff arrived in India yesterday very early in the morning. After a bit of sleep we began the whirlwind part of the trip. I'm glad he is able to cope with jet lag better than the kids and I because there is not much time for rest the remainder of the trip.
After doing some sightseeing around Mumbai, we headed to Mulund for a large family gathering. Two of my dad's sisters and one brother came along with several of his cousins, their children and grandchildren from both my grandfather's and Grandmother's sides. It was so amazing to see and meet so many family members. Some we met for the first time and others after a long time of not seeing each other.
The kids were able to see their Indian cousins again and had a blast playing. It's amazing to see the family resemblance in their faces even though their coloring is so different.
We left the party late in the evening. I was amazed that Jeff, Gigi, Alex and India were able to stay awake after just arriving.
12 February 2015
Today, my sister Gigi, her Husband Alex and Daughter India arrived. We had a really relaxing day in the hotel yesterday and decided to head out for shopping today...just the girls. They boys are staying back at the hotel to enjoy the pool and run around a bit.
We are heading to a place called Bandra with our cousin's wife, Purvi. I only wish James came along so he can be my personal calculator. His ability to calculate the exchange rate is uncanny.
10 February 2015
The boys making Chocos cereal and donuts.
William as a builder and window washer. He earned 16 kidzoes!!!
Ravi and James as traffic cops. They got to go around "town" and enforce the "no running" rules.
Our last stop of the day was to a place called Kidzania. It is sort of like a kids amusement park in a mall setting, but instead of rides and crazy things like that, the kids get to try out different jobs, like firefighting, piloting, driving, policing, building, window washing, cooking, etc.. Surprisingly, as I can hardly get them to lift a finger at home, the kids loved it!!! They tried on all sorts of uniforms and took their jobs very seriously. We went with a cousin of ours who is 8 years old, which also made it so fun for the boys.
Our second stop was to my dad's cousin's, Viju, and her famy's apartment. We had a delicious lunch of authentic foods, rested and caught up a bit with the parents and kids. Each of the boys got a fabulous gift of 500 rupees when we left. They were so thrilled. I wonder what they will buy with it....
Our first stop today is Muktangan, a school for children started by friends of my parents. The school is on one floor of a larger building and has preschool through 7th grade. Their are about 40 kids in each class and the learning instruction is in English. We were able to look into each classroom and the boys participated in PE activities.
We visited the preschool class first and found that aside from having many more kids in the class, it was very similar to a US school. The schedule of the day is about the same as William's starting with circle time and flowing through the day in different groups and learning activities. Finishing up with clean up, daily reflection and more circle time to say goodbye.
The boys really enjoyed seeing the school and all of the kids. They remarked on how much smaller the rooms are compared to their school and thought that this school had a lot more toys! James really enjoyed sitting in a 4th grade class while they were having library time.
9 February 2015
We just returned to our hotel from my Aunt Manju's apartment in Vile Parle. It was definitely a more authentic experience for all of us.
Unfortunately the boys were so sleepy they all fell asleep shortly after arriving and William came down with an upset stomach. Instead of going out for dinner, we took a quick trip to the local supermarket for some light foods. The market was similar to a small US market, but the hustle and bustle was really different. The crowds and the traffic are overwhelming and trying to cross the street seems life threatening. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but did enjoy seeing daily life in India.
Tomorrow we will visit a school started by my father's good friend, then visit cousins and finally take the kids to an amusement park called kidzania...it may be a bit to much, we'll see what we can actually handle. Then Wednesday is a quiet day at the hotel so we can rest up for Gigi, Alex, Baby India and Jeff's arrival later in the week.
Today my dad took us down memory lane in Mumbai. Our first point was a drive by of the college he attended, Jai Hind. A school close to our hotel in a nice district of the city. After that we drove past Victoria Terminal and Flora Fountain.
The next stop was to an more residential, less touristy neighborhood in Mumbai, where he grew up. The building is much the same as when he lived there in 1947. This was the India I remember as a child when we would visit. Lots of crowds, noise and strong smells. The kids were definitely overwhelmed, Ravi and William especially noticed the smells and the honking of the motorcycles speeding by. They were very happy to get back in the safety of the car.
Next we visited the home of my Aunt Manjula, one of my father's sisters. She is the only one of my father's siblings who still lives full time in India. It was a long drive, mostly due traffic, but mostly looks the same and we are enjoying our visit.
8 February 2015
This afternoon we visited cousins in Mulund, a large suburb of Mumbai. My father's aunt and uncle's family live all together in a large flat on the 10 floor of a building there; 3 generations, 4 families. They have 5 young kids that are school age, Hersh is in high school, then Ham is 10, Vendant is 7 and Sia is 3. The boys had a blast, played in the playground, showed each other their toys and games and took a trip to an arcade and McDonalds. By about 7:30 jet lag caught up with us, but we promised to visit again this week for some more play time. It was really fantastic to see the kids getting along so well; as if they lived right next door.
Kids playing with their cousins
Taking the morning to play in the pool before heading to visit cousins. The kids are loving their hotel life. It's pretty luxurious. By the time we leave they may even remember their table manners.
7 February 2015
It's been a lovely first day in Mumbai. We are all tired due to jet lag, but are keeping the schedule open and taking breaks to rest. The hotel is in the Maharastra district of Mumbai, directly across from the Reclamation, which is a beautiful path along the sea. My father's college is nearby (Jai Hind) and we plan to take a walk over later today. Hopefully we will get to the pool later to burn off some energy. Even with The jet lag the boys are getting restless.
Playground and pool at the hotel
The things I remember most about Mumbai from previous travels are the smells, noise, colors and crowds of people; all very strong and overwhelming. The juxtaposition of poverty and wealth was also very stark. I'm excited to see how things have changed and stayed the same.
We arrived in India...after 24 hours of travel. The boys did amazing, I am pleasantly surprised. The kids are really tired so customs was a bit difficult, but our car was awaiting us as we exited the airport to whisk us off to our hotel. So far Mumbai is nothing like I remember it. The airport rivals that of any western country and even has a starbucks. The crowds are kept at bay so getting around is very easy and safe. The kids must think I am crazy for all the warnings I gave them about the crowds.
Can't wait to hear their reactions to seeing the city while riding in the car. They got a huge kick out of the driver on the right side.
The flight from Paris to Bombay is about 8.5 hours. We have gone through about 6 so far, most of which we all slept. Ravi and James have eaten close to nothing and William will only eat the Belgian chocolates my dad bought him in the airport. Thank goodness for movies and the snacks Kim packed for us. The crankiness has kept at bay so far. Hoping for a few more hours of sanity before we arrive in Mumbai.
Safely arrived in Paris...wish we could spend more time here...it's like 5th Avenue. Kids did well on the flight, but are super tired now. At least we all got a few hours of sleep and hoping for much more on the next leg. 10 hours to Mumbai.
5 February 2015
William had grandpa answering his every whim...I got to sit on my own for a bit. Glass of wine and a movie. It's like a night out. Kids are enjoying the flight so far and looking forward to dinner.
We are all set for our 7.5 hour flight to Paris. Boys are all settled in and Grandpa is running William interference. Fingers crossed we all sleep.
William having a ball on the plane to Detroit.
William is getting a little sleepy
The first leg of our 24 hour journey is complete. The boys were great, although there was a certain 4 year old having a very loud temper tantrum and kicking the sea in front of him. I feel so sorry for his mom. Off the plane in Detroit to meet reinforcements (aka my parents). Then we head overseas to Paris. One leg closer to our destination.
We're off...I didn't think we would make it, but after a lot of very loud talking (aka yelling), running round, stuffing of suitcases and the help of a very kind neighbor (aka lifesaver) we're off.