The drive from New Jersey took a quick hour, surprisingly. We figured Monday morning traffic would make it as much as two hours, so we now had four hours to kill before our departure. No worries, because we found that we didn’t print off the final approved visa for India. No visa, no trip! Fortunately, a lovely person with Air India allowed us to use her computer and we were able to print the visa.
Next, you have to go throw a huge serpentine line to get through security. Now, we were only two hours ahead of departure. Our boarding time was one and a half hours prior to the flight, probably due to the many wheelchair passengers and families with children. It was a large plane and almost totally filled.
The plane itself was a little shabby, I thought. The flight attendants were a little surly, too. But, I guess accommodating three hundred passengers for eleven and a half hours can get a bit crazy. We slept a bit, too. I think we will have a little melt down once we get settled in our hotel.
Our guide, Ravi, has worked for Smartours for 21 years and seems very knowledgeable. The groups can be as large as 35 people. Our group consists of only seven of us. There is a couple from Las Vegas and a family of three. The parents live in Florida and their adult son lives in Flagstaff, AZ. We were all on the same plane. Our 15 passenger van will be home throughout most of India.
As we drive in, the traffic is nuts. Cars and trucks fight for space with motorcycles, as they all weave on and out of lanes. Lots of honking, too. We pass many embassies and park-like areas, which are very prominent. Dehli is a very green city. All the buses are powered by natural gas and despite what we heard about pollution, it doesn’t appear to be a problem, as it was in Beijing and Shanghai. Oh, and there are cows wandering around and hundreds of monkeys all along the way.
The Presidential Palace, as well as the government buildings are very impressive. Finally made it to our hotel, Le Meridien, near the center of a Dehli. It is an exquisite hotel. The room is lovely and it has a huge tub. Love that! It also has a bidet, just like the airport bathroom. Very European and civilized.
Our breakfast is included, but we were a bit hungry. The dinner buffet was the equivalent of $38 US and the sit down restaurant even more. We went into the bar and had two local Quicksilver beers and shared two sandwiches. Still, it was $50 for our snack. The taxes on the meal were 38%! Yikes! Off to bed.
Tomorrow is a big holiday in India, New Year’s. There will be lots of celebrations, which is why the plane was full. Folks were going back to be with family.
We arrived on Friday via DFW to Newark for a three day visit before we leave on Monday for India. Sally and Robert have been friends since 1972, when we all lived in married student housing at the University of Denver. My, how the time flies!
They are the type of friends that you see sporadically, but it feels like yesterday. So, under cloudy skies, we are heading out for the day. At least it is not raining and the temps are good. Tomorrow, a day in Princeton to see the sculpture gardens.
…We are back from the gardens and they were indeed amazing. The main sculptor was Seward Johnson, but there were pieces from many others, including Red Grooms. Johnson is famous for his lifelike metal representations of ordinary people. Some were subtle and others of immense proportions. The photos give you an idea, although I have about fifty more. Although the sun never made its appearance, the day was perfect, with lots of walking.
After two nights of dinners at the house, we went out for a lovely Italian meal in Westfield. You bing your own wine, so two bottles later, we were ready to play Bridge again, after reintroducing the game to our friends after over forty years! And they just picked it up where they left off. Great fun!
A little laundry, organizing our items for the trip and off we go in the morning.
Ronda and Marbella – May 23, 2017
After a large breakfast, we were off for the two hour drive to Ronda, one of the oldest cities in Spain and the location of Spain’s oldest bull ring, built in the 1,700’s. However, Ronda is noted for a two significant things. Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles lived here and Hemingway’s novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, was filmed here. Both Hemingway and Welles started as war journalists and shared a love of bull fighting, drink and women.
The other item of note is that the city is built on both sides of a chasm that is 3,000′ deep. The bridge, called the “new” bridge, 400 years old, was built over the old one, built by the Romans. It is a feat of engineering.
The gardens in town are lovely and, as you can see, there are many buildings overlooking the canyon, mostly painted all white. We found a shady table by a small park and had a tapas lunch with a beer for Jim and a tinto verano for me. Better than sangria with all the fruit, this drink consists of red wine, lemonade, lots of ice and slices of citrus. It is very refreshing and you can easily have a couple without feeling the effects. It is sure to become a favorite once we return home, too.
We navigated through the mountains to Marbella, in the coast of the Mediterranean. The central area, with its marina, is the most elegant in all of Spain. On the road down, we saw several gated and very secure communities with massive homes looking out on specular views. They are owned by the wealthiest of the wealthy, mainly from Europe and the Middle East. Marbella is now the primary destination for boating, beach time and fun-loving monied folks have forsaken San Tropez and Cannes to come here. These folks are at the top of the one percent! The yachts are splendid, as are the shops. Just to let you know, I have been saving my pennies and have my own yacht docked here. Check out the picture of the “Helena,” along with a picture of my Bentley and chauffeur!
Finally, back to the hotel, where we had an excellent buffet dinner with many choices. This hotel, part of the Barceló chain, overlooks a beautiful golf course, with nary a soul playing. We saw many courses that were totally empty. Maybe they golf in the morning. Will have to check it out as we depart tomorrow.
As an aside, changing hotels daily is not the most fun, I must say. There are definite advantages to having a base, unpacking and enjoying the place you are in. I guess that is why so many people like cruises.