Saturday, 24 March 2012

A picture a day - for the next 30 days

Spring is coming you can feel it in the air.   Just that little bit warmer as the sun is working its magic through the morning mist.  

The magic that lifts spirits - not that mine were down you understand but I was experiencing that moment when there was an extra 'spring (pun intended) in my step'.   I could feel smiles bubbling up inside as I greeted people with comments that the day was looking good.

Little sighs of happiness escaped as I looked at the daffodils and crocuses in different gardens and glimpsed small buds emerging on hedges getting ready to unfold their leaves for the year ahead.

You can see I was musing and thinking of how I might share this moment through my blog - this is what this blog is all about after all random musings.

Then I thought what if I structure my randomness?   I know your thinking it wouldn't be random then;  but bear with me while I share my idea.

I'm going to take a picture a day for the next 30 days with no plan; no preconceived ideas of what to photo I just take my camera with me and see what makes me look through the lens.    

Now I enjoy taking pictures - in fact the more the merrier but this time I want to take a picture that captures this bubble of 'spring' feeling.

I've set up another page in the blog titled "A photo a day" and for each of the days photos just click.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day

When I was growing up every St. Patrick's Day my aunt in Ireland would send over some shamrock and Irish Harp badges for us kids to wear on this very special day.  

Although by birth and nationality I am Scottish; in terms of belonging, heart and culture I'm Irish and so this is an important celebration day.

I did some digging into my family tree last year which is a separate page of posts in this blog.

So for everyone out there who is Irish and of Irish descent

 " Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit"

and Slainte

Friday, 16 March 2012

The end of passport stamps......

I read an article a couple of days ago which was musing on whether the passport travel stamp would die out given the world's penchant for all things electronic and barometric.

I found myself taking a sharp intake of breath - no! and grabbed for my passport to browse through the stamps which jog the memory of past holidays and adventures.

The passport stamp is a right of passage.   You enter the line at passport control just after a long / short flight; you watch the officers as they ask passengers to come forward from the yellow line.   The closer you get you hear the questions being asked.   Where are you staying; how long for; first visit etc.  

Sometimes passengers don't get smoothly through and are taken where??????

Then its you're turn and the official goes through the questions; prepares the stamp; finds a page and thump you have another entry stamp in your passport.  

As I browsed through my passport I remembered a very wet hike on the Appalachian trail where not only was I wet through but my rucksack and passport was well and truly drenched.   My passport now has a very crumpled look which I love.

The various stamps survived if in some cases a bit blurred and nonetheless a record of travel.

I love my passport travel stamps do you love yours?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Rich; poor and industriousness

I suppose no visit to India is without its contrasts in terms of rich and poor.   From the obvious wealth in Mumbai with its high rise apartments on Marine Drive and apartments with roof top gardens overlooking the Hanging Gardens:

To the people who arrive in the cities hoping for a better life and living on the pavements or in slums by the railtracks while they earn enough to live.   I struggled with a range of emotions as to whether or not to take pictures which showed this side of India.   Then I struggled with should I take photos blatantly or be surreptitious.    In part I felt intrusive; I also thought how would I feel if that were me.   I realised that by no stretch of the imagination could I ever know how it feels to be living on the pavement.

In the end I offered to pay to take photos which some people agreed to and some didn't.    The picture I'm sharing has no people in it.   I cropped it because what caught my eye when I looked at it again was the care and tidyness of the persons belongings.   They may be living in a lean - to on the street but it was tidy.

A story about industriousness:

In Pushkar I was taking some time out enjoying the peace at a Ghat when I heard behind me a Yorkshire accent.   It truly is a small world and I got talking to Lynne who was taking time out before starting work in Leeds.  

As we returned to pick up our shoes she was bemoaning the fact that her favourite sandals had broken and she was thinking about buying a replacement pair in Pushkar market.   At that moment a man came up to us and said he could fix her shoe.   She looked at me and we agreed that she had nothing to lose it was bust anyway.    She agreed a price 50 rupees which is less than a £1.    Within 10 minutes the sandal was returned and fixed.  

This just emphasises one of my strongest impressions of India. 

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Holiday tales

When I travel I design an itinerary which in theory lets me see and do all that I want to do.    I always find though that it is the unexpected and unplanned which often provides that holiday moment of memory which stays with me.   Here are some of those moments shared with you:

Memorable shopping

Since Kolkata was my last stop I waited until then to do some shopping amongst the street bazaars and licensed emporiums.   Some shops are licensed by the government and as a visitor there is a huge difference shopping in them and being accosted constantly by touts and shopkeepers wanting you to come to 'their best shop'.   The difference is also apparent in that the staff don't pounce on you as you enter and you are free to browse without interruption - such a luxury.   Anyway in this one emporium I was looking for a shawl and after a browse found the section with shawls and located an assistant.    She was busy showing and explaining to me the different shawls from different regions and asking what weight of shawl I was looking for when out of the corner of my eye I glanced down only to see a rat  - the size of a cat scuttle behind my feet.

My jaw dropped - I was unable to speak and my eyes must have shouted 'its a rat'.   However the shop assistant nodded and said "Yes rat" - and without missing a beat went on to show me shawls from Kashmir.   One of those shawls has come home with me as a memento of that moment although I don't think I will ever forget it or indeed the shop assistant's blase reaction.

My tram journey

I only saw trams in Kolkata and my first sight was after I arrived and while I was in the taxi taking me from the airport to where I was staying.   On the way the driver was pointing out sights of interest and what struck me on that journey was the amount of new buildings and apartments going up.   The driver was very proud of Kolkata and how it was expanding.

Anyway he pointed out the Kolkata tram which looked a bit ramshackle but nonetheless spiked my interest in getting on one.   He explained that the first carriage was first class and the second was carriage was not.   I wasn't. sure what the difference was except that a journey in first cost 4 rupees and in second 3.

The next day I managed to find my self at the tram terminus at The Esplanade and thought a tram journey would be a good and cheap way to get a tour of the city - working on the principle that a tram journey is circular and would at some point bring me back to where I started.

This is the driver cooling off before starting:

This is the tram at Esplande terminus:

You can just see the conductor in the second carriage.


Getting on the tram; getting ticket was all easy peasy until the other terminus which in metro terms would be one station so the route is not a long one.   Those on the tram got off and new passengers got on.   My still being on the tram confused conductor who urged me to get off.   I'm trying to make myself understood that I was trying out the tram but going back to where I got on - the language of round trip does not translate!   

Anyway as is usual in India when something happens everyone joins in and a passenger with better English than my Hindi explained that I wanted to go back to Esplanade and was happy to pay another 4 rupee fare.   I think if I'd got off the tram and got on again he would have been OK it was me staying on which caused the upset.   How and ever all ended well.  

Bollywood comes to Jaipur

I had joked before I left that I'd hoped to see some Bollywood action as I was going to be in Mumbai.   However Bollywood turned up in Jaipur at the Amber Fort where they were using it as a backdrop to a current film.   Now the only Indian actor I know is Amitabh Bachchan and low and behold his son Abishek was playing the lead in this film - he is the one in the checked red shirt so people told me:

Now the fort doesn't usually have stalls in its forecourt but they do make a wonderful vibrant sight

A dance sequence - which no self respecting Indian film would be without:

and of course the starlets:

Sadly no western extras required!! - perhaps another day.

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Taj Mahal

No need for words - just savour:

Delhi - a days sightseeing

Pictures from Delhi sightseeing but first a street view from hotel roof garden:

Humayuns Tomb

This is south east of the centre of Delhi and is the first garden tomb built for a Moghal emperor by his wife Hajii Begum. Built before the Taj.

Ba'hai 'lotus' temple

This temple is absolutely beautiful.  From the outside it looks like a lotus flower and inside it is laid out reminiscent of a Cathedral - I found it to be beautiful and peaceful.

India Gate

Memoriam to war dead

Jami Majid Mosque

This is a huge mosque and square.   I heard one guide say that it can hold up to 25,000 people at major festival times.  Thankfully I was dressed appropriately and didn't have to wear this fetching robe as modelled by 2 American women

Delhi metro
Pictures aren't allowed inside the metro.   There is significant security in evidence at all major travel sources where photos are not allowed; bags are checked and passengers have to go through electronic security screens.   Due care is given to separate queues for men and women and screens are in place for women to be 'patted down'.  
The metro is a really cheap way of getting about if a bit busy.   Indeed this was the case for the metro in Kolkata as well.   I never really saw a time when it wasn't jam packed.  Imagine 'Mr. Bean' pressed up against the window inside a London tube and that should give you an idea.

Delhi train station
I wasn't sightseeing here but travelling as the next day I set off to Agra by train.  Indian Railways are brilliant.   Constant round of food being sold.   Very comfy seats for long journeys.


I arrived in Delhi at half past one in the morning and fairly scooted through passport control  - the longest wait being at the baggage area where it took ages for my rucksack to appear.   I had arranged a car for pick up to my first hotel as I'd thought that an easier option than trying to find a taxi after a long flight -  it never appeared.   Not to worry most big airports I'd read had this option called 'pre-paid taxi'.   But first money - rupees are not a currency which you can get before you travel and I always carry a pre-paid card as its easier to use ATM's.   Find the ATM's.   After waiting in queue - everyone had same idea - hoping that the machine would not run out of money I eventually had Indian rupees in my hot little hand.

Off I trotted to find the pre-paid booth.   Handed over the information about my hotel in Delhi and was handed a slip with details for my taxi driver and told to go to number 30 taxi stand.

The pre-paid taxis are the common black and yellow topped cars in Dehi.    They do however come in all shapes, sizes and ages..   Some are what I can only call extended auto rickshaws to what will pass as a taxi car old and new.    Mine of course was an extended auto rickshaw.

This is a picture taken of another ride in a black and yellow taxi - see auto rickshaw in front - is this a dual carriageway - you decide 'cos I never made sense of the road rules.

Anyway to continue - my rucksack was loaded into the taxi and driver has the travel slip.    By now it its around 2.30am and so my first experience of the trip into Dehi is one of Indian driving.   What can I say - the horn goes constantly and lane discipline (whats that?).   Passing signs to India Gate so realising that I'm approaching the city and now I'm looking for signs to Karol Bagh where my hotel is.    Karol Bagh signs approach and I'm thinking great only to realise that driver of course does not know the hotel and stops frequently to ask people (yes there are people up at this time 3.30am).   We drive up and down unlit streets getting chased by packs of dogs when by accident I spot the name of my hotel and start waving like a mad woman in the back - eventually I make myself understood and he turns round to go back to the building.

I am deposited at hotel and after giving genourous tip - all 100 rupees= £1.50 am registered and shown to my room - by now it is 4am so catching some sleep before a hectic days sightseeing tomorrow.