I love the nuances of characters and people watching – traveling provides serious fodder for this love.
Whether it be Dr Heisse, the tropical diseases specialist in Boulevard Saint Michel, or Nadine in the apartment upstairs, these were two of my favourites from Paris. And, in Delhi, there were almost too many to describe but I suppose I could start with Amit who made an excellent gin and tonic after long days of jumping in and out of auto tuk tuks (our carriage of choice); Pipal the doorman who wore more ceremonial dress than the guy that invented it; the auto driver who drove us home from the funniest dinner in Hauz Khas (which started as lunch on Tors’ first day)- the wind literally blowing our hair back as he screamed past the presidential estate singing a made up song about discos; the multiple thousands of staff at the Imperial who were around every corner and made the Madams lives so happy with their comments and unfailing willingness to help us.
We are convinced that there is a bush telegraph on high alert operating throughout this country – the coincidences are just brilliant and not for one second have we ever felt alone.
Today we sadly said goodbye to the Imperial Hotel, which we both agree is the most wonderful place in the world and one we were so happy and grateful to call home for five days. When we phoned through to reception this morning and asked for help with our bags, the concierge asked with genuine concern in his voice ‘madam, what is wrong with them,’ as if they were pacing the room having an anxiety attack.
We spent yesterday in an auto whooshing through the city, stopping off at the beautiful Humayans Tomb, followed by the Red Fort and then a wonderful lunch deep in Old Delhi at the fabulous Karim’s which served lunch on plastic plates and Coca Cola out of paper cups. We were full of ghee and dal and glee as we marched up the steps through gate two of the stunning Jama Masjid at around four o’clock.
Following this beautiful moment amongst pigeons and prayer, we made our way in a tuk tuk to the Spice Market in the depths of Chandi Chowk in the northern part of the old city. Sneezing and rasping through mountains of chilli and piles of hessian sacks laden with every spice known to man, we were eventually tipped off about the most wonderful dirty old staircase that took us to the top of the market and into a world probably not seen by too many very white madams. The stares and the stairs were remarkable and once at the top we enjoyed sweeping views of the old city through the late afternoon haze, as children played below on one side, and old men worshipped in an ancient mosque to the other.
We were so fortunate in Delhi to meet some of the most wonderful people, with Tuesday night being no exception where, after an introduction from home we were hosted at the Delhi Gymkhana Club by a true gentleman with a penchant for mutton sandwiches and whisky and joined by his jovial brother and his very glamorous wife. The two of us have laughed until we have cried, and cried until we have laughed and there is nothing more special in the world right now than the time we are having in this magnificent country.
This afternoon we arrived in the wild city that is Mumbai- the streets are even busier, the traffic choked within an inch of its life and the architecture just superb. I am so excited for what the next few days hold, but first up we are joining the brother of our fabulous Tuesday night hosts, for a drink at the Harbour Bar tomorrow night before he takes us to the Bombay Cup on Saturday.
As we sipped a gin and tonic under a balmy Bombay dusk this evening, we were delighted (speaking of characters) to find Joanna Lumley sitting and holding court on the table beside us. Tor looked at me and said ‘Pin, I need to tell you something,’ and as we thigh slapped around the corner out of sight of our childhood hero, we came to one conclusion- nothing can prepare you for the surprises that India continues to deliver.
Pictured: our taxi form the airport today, with Shiva emblazoned on its back with our suitcases on the roof.