Thursday December 3
Sorry no photos today, due to the NO PHOTOS signs.
Today was supposed to be an easy day and I seem to be more tired than yesterday. Some expected some unexpected.
The unexpected is that the breakfast here, stink is too harsh a word, aren't up to my usual standards. I had planned on going over to the New Market where a city renowned Jewish bakery is located, only to find that they didn't open until 10:30. Oy vey ! That is not what I wanted to hear at 7:30. The desk man did suggest that I try a place called Flurry’s. About a km away. I've found that you don't get a feel for a city unless you walk some of it. I had a general idea where the street I needed was from the taxi ride yesterday. Kinda one lane and one big street 'just over there'. This is a great town at 8 in the morning. It doesn't start to get rolling until 9:30 and full fledged work mode at 10. The walk was actually pleasant. The salesmen along the way weren't in full sale mode, with most setting up sidewalk shop for the day.
I thought I knew where I was going. The street I wanted wasn't to the left, it was behind the hotel. I had a pleasant stroll taking the long way around three lefts and I was on the right street. Then to find the number, which for some reason no one seems proud enough of their address to post it on their shop. Fortunately there was one guide post in the listing on the internet. Opposite McDonald's. I found Mickey D's and looked across the street and voila Flurry's.
Opened in 1927 as a fancy assed tea room for the aristocratic English and local clientele. It has of course been updated to a much more modern look, but somehow still holds that classic feel as well. Half the room is dedicated to enough pastry to satisfy the sweet of any tooth. The other half is set for table dinning. The breakfast menu looked like any that I would find in the USA. Bacon and eggs with hash browns and toast was my choice, though the pancakes were enticing. It was like being at home on a Sunday morning except for the women walking by in saris and the school children in uniforms. The eggs were overcooked, but I'm just being picky. It was a nice break from buffet breakfast choices. The door ma pointed the way back to way hotel area, it cut the trip by two thirds.
Checked back at the room and grabbed Nikon and went looking for a taxi. I had my camera, my liter of water, with Ocean Spray Cranberry Grape powder in it, turning it a vibrant red. Now all I needed was a taxi. On the way to breakfast there were several just up the street. Now nary a one. One will turn up, they always do. Honk, honk, beckon is how it always goes when I want to walk. Now I want a ride, not a peep or a beep. Around the time I about to go back to the hotel and ask them to call one a car pulls up next to me and rolls down his window. It was a white car. Thinking back he could have been anybody. Maybe just a guy who needed an extra couple bucks. No meter, no little light on top, no writing on the door. The price was right and I hopped in. He took me exactly where I was going, no muss, no fuss. There is a saying about God looking out for something and fools. I wonder how much god was watching out for me today.
Destination, Victoria scene of yesterday's two photo shots before calling it a day. A huge edifice with a central dome and a wing on each side. Kind of like the US. Capital, only somehow appearing grander. Dedicated to Queen Victoria. I was about to walk in, but was directed to the ticket booth. Dual tiered pricing one for Indian nationals and one, and actual ten times higher for foreign nationals. The foreigners did get a much nicer glossy ticket than the locals did, I have to admit.
I got t the gate and with the authority that some men are given, he pointed at my red water and hook his head. I saw the sign that said No Food, but not the No Drinks one, because there wasn't one. Plead my case that it wasn't food, but he wasn't wavering. I ad only had two sips out of it, but decided trowing a fit wouldn't help, so I looked for a trash can. Off to my left behind a gate was a trash can. I turned at tossed the bottle high over the gate and without touching any new dropped it perfectly into the basket. This would have been a three pointer on any basketball court. I looked at him and said “How 'bout that ?”. He wasn't impressed. Tough crowd here today. There were a few football fields between the gate and the actual Victoria monument of open area. Half way there it started to rain. Not his heavy northwest mist type rain I'm used to, that tropical marble sized raindrops that makes every one a contender in the wet T-shirt competition. I headed for the one large tree because I didn't want to win. Let someone else have a chance today. The rain was short lived and as I approached the steps to enter was told no photos inside. What is it with this country and their photography prohibitions. They aren't some African tribesman who thinks it is going to steal their soul. There wasn't anything inside that I saw thy needed copyright protection of. Some old paintings that needed restoration so bad that you had a hard time figuring out what the subject was in the first place. An armory of old knives, daggers and cannons and a new diorama of the history of Calcutta. The most photogenic thing in the whole building was the darned rotunda and it was made out of rock.
Forty five minutes was sufficient for me to see what interested me. Besides the men in uniforms and lifeguard whistles kind of got on my nerves. If a family wants to stand neath the portico before hitting the sun drenched sidewalk let them. Don't treat them like criminals.
This whole reverence to Queen Victoria has me confused. After the British were forced out in 1948 I'm surprised the bronze statue of Vicky wasn’t melted down into post and pans and the statues ground to dust. I know we don't have many monuments to our British roots and certainly none as grand as this.
Next stop on today's mini tour was over to Saint Paul's Cathedral. If not for the heat and humidity it would have been a pleasant stroll. On the way out, I had to walk by the site of my great basket and didn't see my bottle in there. As I walked past the guard shack one of the guys called out to me and told me to come over. Oh, boy ! Here it comes, chastisement for not being respectful to silly rules. Instead he reaches behind the counter and like a rabbit from a magician's hat my bottle appeared. I thanked him greatly, and couldn't wait for that first sip to wash the taste of crow from my mouth.
Saint Paul's was built in the early part of the 1800's and of course no photos are allowed inside. Another temple to in this case a gold man, where the worshipers got to sit in seats and could kneel on soft cushions instead of hard marble. Important people were either buried in the walls and floor or had metal or stone signs telling how important they were. There was one photograph on the wall made on Christmas eve with the entire room lit by candles, that if I could have found a copy to buy I would have. My maternal grandmother was Catholic and I remember going with her to church with her once where she it a candle for me. I was hoping t return the favor, but couldn’t find those darned candles in this place. I hope in his case it is more the thought that counts than the actual flame.
I was kind of done looking at buildings for the day and it was time to head back to the barn. It became obvious quickly that this was not a good taxi street. One of the vendors suggested one street corner over. Which was all peachy keen, ducky fine except for the uncontrolled intersection between here and there. Not your normal intersection, one of your super intersections. Full of Buses and Land Rovers. One that can't stop for anything smaller than a cement truck and one that wouldn't. I was doing my real life Frogger across the street and then like any animal of prey I froze. Thanks to that candle I couldn't find in the church, the next car stopped and let me cross to safety.
One taxi did stop and quoted e a price double the regular inflated tourist price. I told him the real price and he drove off. I stood on the new street waiting for the next empty taxi come by, along with an older well dressed man. We both waited and waited watching cabs with fares snuggled in the back seats. I decided hat I'd go try a different corner. No sooner did I get to the next corner but a nice empty blue and white A/C taxi approached, on the other side of the street. I wasn't about to press my luck crossing against the light on this corner. The light changed to my direction and lo and behold, the angles sang. My blue and white savior had made the corner and was waiting for me. His price was exactly what I thought was the right tourist price, but I was pretty hot and tired and would have paid more He drove me to my hotel's door, took the agreed upon price and then I added a 50% tip. We both went away happy.
A bit under the A/C in my room and I was about ready to face the scourge of m trip to Calcutta. The New Market. A gauntlet of pashmina, jewelry and anything else for sale tis side of Luxor, Egypt. One of the helpers that got me to the shirt shop yesterday found me as soon as I emerged from the hotel. Okay I surrender. Let's go to get some money changed and pick up the repaired shirts. Money changed easily the shirts were not there. He 'just' sent the man after them. Please sit, it will be just minute. After 20 minutes of small talk I told him to drop them off at the hotel when they did get there.
One of my friends asked for a small trinket from India and this seemed like a perfect time to get it. I told my helper that I wanted a small brass female Hindu deity for her. We went back t a store that I was in last evening and thought that they liked their stuff much too much and wanted to hold onto it longer, based on their high prices. This time was no exception. The deal was for a mere 1800 I would be the proud owner of a two inch tall rough cast bronze statue. I countered with 300, he dropped to 1500, I upped to 400 and we both realized neither of us was going to leave this deal happy. I walked and he let me. Pretty much the same starting point. I told him she was just a 600 friend, he said he'd do 8 and then caved to 7. I stuck to 6 and he wasn't moving off 700 so I walked out the door, well halfway out the door, before he called me back and accepted my 600, but not before calling me a very hard women. Maybe he wasn't making what he wanted, but he wasn't selling t a loss like he was telling me that I am certain of.
Off to the Sunderbans in the morning. I am not sure if it is a Wi-fi free zone of not. If so, see you in a couple days.