Summer Solstice, Castles in the Sand

Headed down the beach as the tide was coming in with a plan to view the full moon rising from the Cherry Grove Pier.  We got to the end of the pier just in time to see a lovely pale pink moon peaking up over the horizon to the east.  So beautiful and next to impossible to capture with nothing more than an iPhone camera.

On the walk back, the stars and planets started coming out – after identifying Mars, we used Star Maps to also identify Jupiter and Saturn.  I’m sure we also saw Venus and various constellations, but had by then put away the technology and were just taking it all in.


 

 

Salt Life

Rolled into Myrtle Beach around 11.  Got to the townhouse, settled in for a few minutes and then headed straight to Bugerfi!  Hit the grocery store to pick up some provisions for the week – lots of salads and tomato sandwiches in our future..  🙂

Took a long walk down the beach in the afternoon, toes in the sand and surf..

Bonjour Provence!

SOOO excited!  Bought tickets to Marseilles today  – 10 days in Provence to explore the food, culture, and wine.  6 days in Aix-en-Provence and then a long weekend in Marseilles.  Its going to be tres magnifique!

Provence

Knowing the weather was going to be pretty unbearable from @ noon forward, we struck out early for a nice long walk by the river..  Picked up coffee from our fav Either/Or and then went to check out the progress of the deconstruction of the Sellwood Bridge – one span down!  The sun is already getting intense, but we decide to go check out the single track trail on the river side of the Springwater  trail that starts (or ends) directly across from where the rookery trail intersects with Springwater.  What we discovered is an awesome extra loop – you can either do the rookery loop – or crossover and also do the river side loop, extending the overall length from @ 3.5 miles to 5+.

Yesterday’s debate was resolved and we joined the EcoPower gym for the year – it’s on like Donkey Kong!  I issued a 10 day challenge – go to the gym 10 times between now and when we leave for the beach.  Paul countered me with MyFitness Pal – download and use the app to track food for the same period.  Challenge.  Accepted.  Fingers crossed we get results!  http://www.ecopowerexpress.com/

 

 

 

Roasted Carrots and planning for Provence

Had a new dish with dinner tonight – Garlic Butter Roasted Carrots.  Went perfectly with a simple salad of lettuce and tomato tossed with balsamic vinegar eye and mashed potatoes with chunky mushroom gravy.  Will definitely do that again!  http://diethood.com/garlic-butter-roasted-carrots/

Looking forward to the day when most, if not all, of those components come from our own garden!!

Started planning my birthday trip to Provence in earnest.  Looks like a week+ with time in probably 2 locations – Aix and possibly Menerbes.  Look forward to the food, wine, weather, relaxation, and charm!

Sarnath and back to Delhi

Sunrise on the river in Varanasi this morning..   Then checkout and on to Sarnath, home of many Buddhist temples –  as it is reported to be the location where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma (@ 560 BC) in what later became Deer Park.

      

Unfortuately our flight was delayed as were any other we might have transferred to, leaving us stuck at the airport for quite a few hours.  We met a really nice business man and his son from Calcutta and then a couple from Detroit.  Enjoyed sharing travel stories with each of them while having a Kingfisher or two.

 

 

 

River Ganga

The Kedareswar B&B is turning out to be a great find!  Right on the banks of the Ganges – we can even see the river from our room – with a rooftop terrace for breakfast and relaxing.  We headed out to see some unique temples, which I can’t show as they prohibited photography.  <need to insert names here>  All were very interesting, but then we once again made the fatal flaw of attempting to get a rickshaw driver to take us to a market.  To us, a market is a place where we can browse around unimpeded and where local residents shop for daily goods. For a guide, “market” or “bazaar” translates to “shop where the guide has some kickback arrangement for bringing in suckers for high pressured sales pitch”.  In Agra it was rugs and marble, this time it was silk.     Will we never learn??  We were polite and effusive with the compliments, but held firm, cut the visit as short as possible, and didn’t buy anything.  Much to our guide’s annoyance.   Nonetheless, even with the 150 extra rupees (@ $2) he tacked on to the agreed upon price for driving us to a place we didn’t want to go, it was a bargain next to being guilted into buying any of the silk items!!

Had a late lunch at our favorite – and so far only – Varanasi restaurant (Shiva Cafe and German Bakery), then rested until time for the sunset boat ride to see the ghats and ceremonies from the river.  Following the boat ride, we went back to the Shiva Cafe for dinner!   So far everything has been delicious.  🙂

Funeral pyres at dusk.  We’re told they cremate @ 200 bodies a day (not all by wood fire on the river bank), funeral pyres burn 24/7 to fulfill demand.   Curious thing to see.  In the picture below, we saw a pyre ready to be lit with the body wrapped in white inserted among the logs.  There was some sort of prayers or ritual and then the fire was lit.


After dark down river from the Kedar Ghat, a very large ceremony takes place.  Crowds on both land and water gather to observe and participate.

The river is not what we expected.  Maybe because it’s low during the winter and crowds of pilgrims are less?   There’s no offensive smell or waste visible in the water.  Whatever the reason, we’re grateful to be here when it’s a positive experience.

Varanasi – the holiest city in India

We arrived Monday night @ 6:30.  The drive from the airport took over an hour. As we got close, the driver called ahead to the B&B where we would be staying and had some young guys meet us in the nearest street, as the car could only go so far.  We then followed our luggage on foot down narrow winding maze-like alleys lined with tiny shops of all kinds – food stalls, sweets/bakerys, silks, devotional items, bric-a-brac, snack shops – for quite a while dodging cows both large and small, dogs and their pups, motorcycles, bicycles, and  lots of people!

After we got settled in, we headed out for a bite to eat.  They sent someone with us to guide us to the cafe, but we would need to make our own way back.  Sounded easy enough – 5 min walk, back the way we’d gone.  Got it. Amazing how different things look when you’re not following someone and realize you didn’t exactly commit any visual cues to memory!  After over-shooting our turn, we were able to reason it out, backtrack to the B&B and went to sleep full and comfortable.

India – Places we’ve stayed

  • Maidens Hotel, New Delhi
    • Pros – beautiful property, western amenities, upscale and accustomed to western travelers, breakfast included, hotel restaurant excellent, quality beds/linens
    • Cons –  internet not included/pricey, a little staid and stuffy/formal, the location was too far from city center which caused some headaches getting to/from places – rickshaw drivers didn’t quite know where it was or refused to go that far, 45 min from airport
    • Recommended?  It might be easier to stay at a hotel near Connaught Place, which is more central Delhi.  Given the culture shock that is India, a familiar western chain hotel may feel like a really good thing at the end of the day!
  • Ray of Maya B&B, Agra
    • Pros – great location within 5 min on western gate of Taj Mahal, helpful staff will arrange free transport from train station or airport, restaurant on property had very good food dinner/breakfast, clean comfortable rooms, wifi included
    • Cons – Challenged with accepting credit payments (might have been a one time thing), the secondary location (across the street from the restaurant/cafe) was down a dirt alley that seemed a little sketchy after dark and was not passable by car or rickshaw, horrible pillows
    • Recommended?  Yes.  Good value, food, and location.
  • Kedareswar B&B, Varanasi
  • Infinity Resorts – Corbett, Jim Corbett National Park

India – Things we’ve seen and learned..

This is a collection of some curious things we’ve observed while travelling in India – some of which we truly wish we could un-see – and lessons learned about participating in the local culture.

  • How many is too many?  8 adults in a rickshaw (tuk-tuk), 4 adults on a motorcycle, 2 adults + 4 children on a motorcycle, 2 adults + 2 goats on a motorcycle, 2 adults + 2 children on a bicycle..
  • Relatively early on a Sunday morning on the 4-lane interstate thru Delhi, elephants and camels transporting loads of goods.
  • The key to crossing any street is to adopt the herd mentality – find 2-3 other people also wanting to cross, bunch together, and basically just walk out in traffic..
  • There’s an educational campaign to teach people unfamiliar with a western-style toilet how to properly utilize them, complete with signs depicting a person squatting on top of a toilet seat with a red circle and line through it.  I’m not sure how successful they think the campaign is, but I’ve seen shoe prints on numerous public toilet seats, so clearly there’s a ways to go!
  • Where is it acceptable to go to the bathroom?  If you’re a guy, pretty much anywhere.  Women are either much more discreet or find other more civilized ways to answer nature’s call, but the fella’s just let it out wherever!
  • Lying to tourists seems to be a national past time.
  • Don’t take anything anyone tries to hand you unless you’ve asked for it and intend to pay for it, don’t ever agree to go to a market or a bazaar – that’s just a ploy to get you into a high-pressure sales situation for some allegedly local made craft.
  • For the ladies:  if asked your name don’t answer or say I don’t know;  if asked if it’s your first time in India or <insert city name here> answer no, many times;  if offered hand to shake, put your hands together and say “Namaste”.  Many areas in India are not overwhelmingly progressive where the interaction between men and women is concerned.  Women have separate queues for anything requiring a security check, separate train cars in some instance, a separate queue at the train station – well, separate but lumped in with handicapped people and senior citizens.