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Sunday, October 23, 2016

India Adventure: a bit more why and the facts!

So I shared the why India in the post before we left and now that we're back I can add to it.  It really was about being a family.  Letting our actions with some discussion outline our values- travel to new and different places matters. Learning and exploring together matters and is something we do. Quality family time was so valuable-what would be an hour and half car ride here, was four hours- one way.  We had many days of these situations.   One of the guide books Joe found was coaching about being in India and the repeated advice- slow down, go with the flow, relax, be patient...that alone was a reason to go, as a family.  Seeing what the kids reacted and how was fascinating. I feel I know my kids sooo much better after these ten days.   Know them right now- they grow and change so fast, we're all so busy.  Other vacations are comfortable now and with extended family.   How did they cope with 14 hour flight is one example of this? Two of them were very independent and applied lessons leaned.  On the way home we paid for 5 seats and we took 17 on the way home...the less than full flight allowed us to all spread out- Clare and Peter basically flew solo.  The good news we all flew home well rested having actually slept on the plane.  Adventure is the right way to describe the trip. I also would say it was filled with challenges- fun, happy, sad, exciting, simple, complex, deep challenges.  I'll share more about these but accepting and working through them together was quite a benefit of a family trip like this!

So here are the facts about our trip, the what and the where.  Later I'll share reflections about what we experienced but this feels like the way to go about chronicling and sharing this exciting adventure in my life on Newark-Granville Road!  Know we didn't get to do it all. I love what Andrew Hoover  said- go to a place expecting to return- that way you don't try to do it all.  We knew this was a "taste of India" and yes I do hope to go back someday....there is so much more to see and the people and their care call you to return.  Here are the details on our Granville Leithauser India Adventure:

Travel:   We chose to fly Emirates Air.  Price and reputation with the bonus of time in Dubai was the logic.  We used the same approach we did for Africa- driving to Maryland so my parents could take us to the airport- no parking fee.  They picked us up on our return and we get a day to fill them in on the trip, do laundry and regroup. We flew from Dulles/ DC (a great airport) to Dubai with the first leg going to New Delhi. We flew out on a Wednesday and arrived on a Friday morning In Delhi. We were picked up by our driver and taken to our hotel.  We spent two nights in Delhi then were driven to Agra to see the Taj and then drove the leg to Jaipur all in one day.  We spent three nights in Jaipur.  Our driver kept us safe and made all arrangements for guides- we are so grateful for the care from Joe's colleague, Manoj for helping and being with us via Whats Ap!   From Jaipur we flew Indigo (internal airline) to Chennai. We had three nights with fantastic hospitality in Kay Clarke and Andrew Hoover's home.  We flew from Chennai to Dubai and enjoyed a long lay over exploring the city via metro!  We flew home to the USA/ DC on Saturday am, then drove to Granville on Sunday- today.
We stuck with the Marriott's while in hotels.  The kids loved this treat and Delhi's stay was indeed a treat!  Service in both cities was over the top and a highlight.

Excursions/ Site Seeing.  A highlight was all the history of this ancient country- I admit to not having known much about the Moghul empires, or had much interaction with Hinduism and Islam religions, not the case any more!  Our adventure stops included:
-Qtab Minor- tower built in early 13th center, without cement/mortar, art and science inspiration!
-Humayun's Tomb- inspiration for the Taj Mahal!
-The Red Fort- Forts are more than forts in this part of the world, they hold the palace!
-India Gate
-The Taj Mahal- yes it is amazing and deserves to be a "wonder" of the world. Bonus was the material science and craftsmanship lessons about the marble and gem stones!
-Fatehpur Sikri- we went with the temple site and hope someday to return to the palace.
-Amber Fort- elephant ride up, temple visit complete with blessings! Impressive engineering.
-City Palace in Jaipur- we opted for the tour of the residence- kids really had fun with this component and the view from the top delightful, not to mention the refreshment break when Kings and Queens have entertained.
-Hawa Mahal- the drive by version but to see
-Jantar Mantar- fascinating what a mind will visualize, not what I was expecting when I heard we'd see an observatory!  Truly a must see!
-Albert Hall Museum- another pause in front of to hear the story and local interactions, this one includes bringing sick children, the pigeons will fly away with the child's illness.
-Rathenbourne National Park- we did not see tigers but the hunt to spot was something I'll always remember. The scenery and other animals, the open air jeep and quiet- worth the drive!
-Mahabalipuram-monolithic rock cut temples from the 7th and 8th centuries!! Includes Krishna's Butter Ball.
-Koyambedu Markets- the flowers, the bananas, the cilantro!
-The American International School of Chennai, Andrew and Kay's impressive home away from home.
-Swimming in the Bay of Bengal
-Lots of shopping in cottage industry spots and boutiques recommended by the Hoovers and guides.
-Burj Khalifa- the tallest building in the world located in downtown Dubai, connected to the Dubai Mall.
-Emirates Mall- with SkiDubai- indoor ski slope, complete with penguins!

What did we eat and drink?
We loved it all!  We ate both Veg and Non Veg.  North and South and regional delights. The best two meals were in homes. How lovely to be hosted for lunch by Sheila and Ravi in Chennai.  Kay took us through dinner prepared locally - we ate on banana leaves with our hands- all veg and delicious!  At the hotels staff presented us with domas- a breakfast treat- it became one of my favorites.  We also had eggs cooked to order (on breakfast Peter had 4 hard boiled eggs) I had my own, they peeled it for me and it was delicious! The kids found the Japanese noodles and thought that was amazing. We also found pizza- fun story the kids had in making a delivery happen.  The tea was wonderful and I was so happy to have "chai" served in a glass.  We avoided the water and fresh veggies until we were in Chennai.  Happy to say no one experienced "Delhi Belly"! Clare also had her "chain" experience- it was Baskin Robins and Papa Johns!  I had my first Burger Shack in Dubai of all places!

What else did we take-in?
Yes trash, yes poverty, yes noise- the beeping/honking, pollution, yes many many many people. It wasn't as bad as I had been told, but there were moments.

I think that gives you the basics. I'll share some stories and thoughts on my next post.  I'm so grateful for the trip, the adventure, the opportunity and all the interactions with our drivers, servers, hosts and my family.  Joe is the one who deserves big kudos for leading the effort- life on Newark-Granville Road is so much better sharing it with him.  I remember when dating friends would talk about how a trip with a significant other can make or break relationships. I'm lucky Joe and I have always traveled well together.

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