January 24-26, 2020

Trying to prepare for time away from home is often a frenzied time. Usually last minute items creep in, I wish that once there would be a smooth preparation with little stress, but that hasn’t happened yet. With phone calls to return, letters to mail and clients to to talk to, packing usually is a last minute task. This time I figured if I don’t have it I don’t need it or I can buy it.

By the time we had to go to the airport I was ready. On the way I had to stop at an office in Ingersoll to drop off cleaning supplies, then as soon as we entered the 401 hwy that familiar feeling of giddiness and freedom filled my soul!

Traffic was light which was unusual for a Friday, we made it to the airport neighbourhood in good time so we headed to Moxies for a drink and an appetizer. Steve dropped me at the airport, Air Canada at Terminal 1 and soon saw Nancy and Donna who were already checked in. We headed towards our gate and soon met up with the rest of the group. There are only 8 of us on this tour, a very small group but fun! Bev had broken her foot in December and she was in a lounge resting and keeping in touch with Nancy by text. Everyone was hungry so we went to a sit down Asian restaurant.

The last piece of beef that I will have for the duration of this trip was excellent! Nancy suggested that we could tear off the name of the restaurant that was embedded in the napkin for our journal.

Flight AC 046 to Mumbai was a long one. Managed to sleep a couple of shifts of 2-3 hrs over the almost 15 hrs gate to gate. Watched the movie Joker but darn it fell asleep near the end. Don’t tell me the ending! The food was Indian which was quite spicy, I guess no time like then  acclimatizing to the food than on the flight.

We lined up at Immigration and underwent biometrics while having our e-visa placed in our passports. My fingerprints wouldn’t take, so over and over I tried. Thank goodness the man saw my frustration and he was very pleasant. Finally success and my passport was stamped! India! I’m here again! Our Indian tour representative met us and took us to the bus, we were presented with a Marigold garland which signifies a sign of respect to an individual. They were lovely!

A beautiful Marigold garland

It took about an hour to get to Gordon House which is located near the India Gate and the Taj Hotel. The Gordon hotel is very modern with white tile on the floors and walls. Green palm plants in pots created a welcoming break in the colour scheme. Off we went to the second floor to retrieve our keys and room partner for this hotel. I was with Barbara from California and off we went. A tidy,  clean but somewhat small room was waiting for us and we quickly dropped off our items and gathered to go find something to eat. It was around 12:30 a.m. by the time we entered Cafe Mondegar, the kitchen was closed. So we proceeded to have adult beverages and the peanuts sufficed. Marian Jane and I walked Bobbie home and we went off in search of more beverages which a waiter at the Cafe told us about. We had an amazing time listening to the American and Indian modern music where the crowd sang along with the lyrics.

On Sunday January 26 we were treated with a wonderful breakfast with choice of juices, fruits, breads and made to order hot dishes. Following breakfast Nancy took us for a walk around the neighborhood where we had to watch our steps on the sidewalks that were uneven. Cobblestones in some places, construction in progress on others. It was Indian Republic Day and as we approached India Gate, the Taj Palace and Taj Tower Hotel area, locals were out selling their wares, trying to make a sale. The odd time my arm was touched I sharply had to say NO! And they got the message. I have plenty of ‘things’ from India and don’t want any more of the same.

It was a easier to walk along the edge of the street where the road was flat and even, so we travelled single file to get ready to cross the street together during a break in traffic to get to the entrance of the Taj. A beautiful, luxurious entrance to the Tower, we placed our bags through the scanner, gathered our bags and entered the most welcoming lobby with the scent of Jasmine, quiet, calming Indian Tabla playing, fresh floral arrangements attracting the eyes, light reflecting off the marble and granite floors and walls. Beyond the lobby was an outside wall, 2 stories high glistening with water flowing continuously where I would have spent lots of time had we stayed here.  At a cost of  3-500 US $ a night, it wasn’t happening on this tour.

The hallway towards the Palace had niches with photos of people who stayed here, John Lennon, Alfred Hitchcock, Obama and Trudeau’s photos are displayed. The faceted spheres of crystal chandeliers sparkled clear and clean, hugged the ceiling and were placed every few feet, while entrances to room sections and shops lined the corridor. As a cleaner, I notice those things and I was really impressed at the state of cleanliness of these chandeliers. It’s a lot of work to keep them sparkling.

Gorgeous crystal lighting

As we continued our walk we passed a church, I think it was a Presbyterian church, where I

could hear people singing and when I looked in, a theatre screen displayed the hymn’s lyrics in  English. For some reason, my body began to get the goosebumps from the top of my heard to my feet, and my eyes watered. I must have felt the love of the people in the congregation and I just let it envelope me for a moment. It was good.

Later, we dispersed to do our own thing, some of us went to the supermarket to purchase water to rehydrate after the previous days long flight. Following that, we went to find Nancy who had met her long time friends that came to Mumbai to be with her, following their 4 hr train ride. Jehingar Art Gallery was our destination and eventually caught up with everyone. Since this was a holiday, it was very very busy, the streets in this area were also lined with shops and stands. While Nancy’s friend was explaining historical and other facts, we looked up and saw these large black things hanging in the top of the enormous tree above our heads. He said they were Vampire bats! Was that true? I don’t know but all I could think of was the guano that may fall on my head at any time! They were in fact fruit bats.

We all entered cafe Mondegar and our group settled in for lunch. As it was Republic Day, it was a ‘Dry day’. No alcohol. The tea was wonderful. The food served here is excellent,  but a little differently served than at home. The hotdog that Bobbie ordered came quartered lengthwise with tomato, lettuce and peeled cucumber, not onion. I had a club sandwich. Delicious!

I joined Donna and  Nancy with her friends to walk back to Victoria Station with them to go back home. People still call it Victoria Terminus but the name has changed to the same name as the airport, Chahatrapati Shivaji.

We had to do a detour because of construction and ended up walking on the street and up on a temporary street made of metal. As people were walking towards us, with the traffic, I was freaking out but our Indian friend said it’s OK, as he steadily walked, guiding us, on the left hand side on this one way street, facing traffic. I was imagining Steve getting a call that I was in the hospital with injuries from being hit by a car or being arrested for walking on this roadway instead of a sidewalk! Our friend said if it was a Monday we would never do this, but the traffic was very light, it’s OK. What an experience that was! They say when in Rome do as the Romans do.

As we walked, we saw many beautiful buildings, Government buildings, the Stock exchange, schools and a Military building. Victoria station was crazy busy, we walked down the stairs forward and under the street and up the stairs to get up into the Station. Beautiful architecture, stained glass windows, gilded carved wood and stone floors throughout. Families were gathered in groups on the floor in places, eating, children playing, adults talking while waiting for their train.

We said goodbye to our friends and returned to Gordon House


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