Category Archives: street scenes

Eating and playing in Paris

Standard

After our tour of two churches, we found some narrow winding streets to explore, including a cafe with a lovely view.

I had mussels, pomme frites, wine, and..snails! The snails were the best part of the lunch. The kids had pommes frites and baguette.

    

   

Afterword, we found a McDonalds. I had promised Kaden we could get chicken nuggets if we saw one. She wanted to see how they tasted compared to Bangalore McDonalds (thumbs down) and U.S. McDonalds (thumbs up). I continue to be amused by the range of McDonalds in the world. I have talked about the Bangalore stores before where beef is not served. The funny item in the Paris stores was the McBaguette.

Plus below, you can see that they offer the traditional fries but also deluxe potatoes. Plus some very fancy desserts!

    

We were making our way to the Jardin du  Luxembourg, but had to stop for sorbet. Kaden deemed the fraises (strawberry) sorbet to the be the best she had ever tasted at Dalloyau. And that is quite a statement.

   

The Jardin du Luxembourg is the second largest park in Paris. The French Senate is housed in the Luxembourg Palace. The place was designed to emulate the Pitti Palace in Florence.  It was touted as a “must do” for anyone with kids, and I have to agree.

      

Have a look at Kaden’s expression when she caught site of the amazing playground on site. You have to pay to enter the playground, but it is well worth the price.

    

This zipline was the main attraction for my older kiddos. They must have ridden it 30 times.

   

The climbers were also amazing. As were the sand boxes, the spinners, the slides. Plus immaculately clean bathrooms and a tempting snack shack (although I’m sure the Parisians have a much more dainty name than ‘snack shack.’).

     

Above, older folks were playing what looked like Bocce ball next to the playground. And below, we found this snack shack on our way out of the park. Absolutely amazing cotton candy–the size of their heads! They call cotton candy “barbe à papa (dad’s beard).” Kaden thinks that’s a disgusting name, but loved the treat.

A tale of two chuches–Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame

Standard

On our second day in Paris, we set out to see the Notre Dame. But first we ended up at Sainte-Chapelle since our metro stop exit put us right in front of the chapel. Of course, we had a 40 minute wait, which we seemed to have for any attraction in Paris. The chapel is on the grounds of the Palais du Justice, which meant going through some serious security. The place jas been the site for determining justice in Paris in medieval times.  built on the site of the formal royal palace of Saint Louis which is why Sainte-Chapelle is still there.  Also, Marie Antoinette was imprisoned on these grounds before she was beheaded.  Below, a judge is talking on his cell phones in between court cases.

  

Above, waiting in the long line can be hard for kiddos! Below, the chapel itself is known for its beautiful stained glass windows. And in these photos, they are very impressive. I’m  not sure they were worth the 40 minute wait though. The chapel is surprisingly small, and with no pews, so it is hard to sit and appreciate the windows. I also thought that they could have done a much better job making the history of the building accessible to the visitors. An audio tour detailing the stories in the windows would have been great. As it was they had a handful of boards in various languages that you could borrow to read brief descriptions of the windows. But the English bin wsa empty, so no description for us! I don’t think I would recommend Saint-Chapelle for kids, and only for adults who really love stained glass and chapels.

    

   

After Saint-Chapelle, we took a crepe and ice cream break, served by a very cranky French woman!

Below, a nutella crepe and a row of electric cars!

   

As we walked past the boats on the Seine, we had thought of taking a boat ride later, but ran out of time and energy. Below we caught sight of Notre Dame.

Above, Kaden is annoyed by the smokers everywhere.

  

Getting into Notre Dame was quite easy since it was free. So the lines moved freely.

We observed a mass in session.

 

Kaden lit a candle for Pap Pap and Grandma.

Then it was time to exit and wait in the separate, and LONG, line to go up to the top to see the gargoyles. That line was about an hour. Long enough for the kids to discover “much needed” treasures in the nearby gift shop including key chains and pocket knives. Carson managed to cut his finger on his pocket knife within five minutes of the purchase. Nothing serious but enough for him to be more concerned about his finger than the gargoyles at times.

  

The walk up the turret to the top was not as far as the Eiffel Tower, but still a lot of steps!

From the top we had beautiful views of the city. And we all enjoyed the many faces of the gargoyles. Very cool indeed.

   

  

Above, Kaden makes her own gargoyle face.

  

   

Paris pit stop

Standard

On our way back home to the United States, we booked our tickets to have a few days to see something in Europe. Kaden insisted she wanted to see the Eiffel Tower. We flew into Frankfurt, stowed our luggage at the Holiday Inn Express (for free, thank goodness!), and took the fast train to Paris. Below, we are waiting for the train and then finally boarded. After an all night flight from Bangalore, we were exhausted!

   

The scenery in Germany and France was gorgeous–yellow flowers in big patches blanketed the springtime countryside.

In Paris, we found an apartment to stay in through the website airbnb.com  It’s a website that links you with individual people who want to rent their house out for short term stays all around the world–even in the United States. All of the photos are verified plus individual certifications from people who have stayed at the homes make it feel very safe to use. With five people, we would have needed two hotel rooms (no hotel rooms with two beds in Europe!). Plus, this was just so much more pleasant.  A kitchen, a neighborhood.

We stayed in Phillipe’s house on Rue D’Hautpol near Canal de San Martin. It’s the apartment he has his kids staying with him. We guessed he was staying with a girlfriend while we were in his place.  He came over and showed us the neighborhood, helped us to book a taxi and overall was very kind.

    

We were delighted to find boulangeries on the corners, fresh fruit stands, and if you went up the hill just a half a block, a gorgeous park. We arrived on May Day, so many things were closed. Most signs in Paris said Closed December 25, January 1, and May 1. So May Day is a huge deal in Europe!

      

The Canal St-Martin  connects the river Seine, near Bastille, to the Canal de l’Ourcq, near the Villette in the 19th arrondissement. Here, the Canal turns into a beautiful park just a few m inutes from the apartment. Above is a view from the park to the apartment below where we were staying.

The Parisians were really enjoying their May Day at the park. I do’nt know if you can see the plumes of smoke emerging from each group of people. Smoking is still in full force here in France. Kaden was shocked!

This picture was taken at 8:30 in the evening. We were astounded that it doesn’t get dark here until 9:30! In hot and humid Bangalore, it gets dark at 6:30!

    

The neighborhood also has a school. Although it was unclear if they really did have uniforms all the kids were in black. The place looked so big and depressing to me, I honestly stopped to consider whether it was a prison! The kids were in a caged area for their recess/break that was kind of freaky!

    

The neighborhood also had a cool cemetery and lovely patisseries, boucheries, and boulengeries!

    

    

Kaden summed it up this way “smoking, dog poop and lots of old things, but lovely cafes on every corner!!”  We loved the food, and we are not talking fancy restaurants. We saw none of those, but perfect baguettes, crepes, croissants, and fruit on every corner. Carson loves the nutella crepes. I am returning home inspired to find beautiful ingredients even for the simplest of foods.

And the art is amazing. And we love how it stays light for so long.

The graffiti was an issue too–Kaden thought it was a disgrace. Carson thought it was cool.

Jantar mantar and other final explorations

Standard

On our last morning in Jaipur, we said goodbye to the Varvarigos family. They would be continuing on for four more stops in Rajisthan. We  were going to head home. That morning, we had a few final explorations of town. We were sleepy from our theme park fun the night before, but we didn’t want to wait too long to head out due to the heat. So we made our way to Jantar Mantar.

The Jantar Mantar site was built the the Mahraja Jai Sigh II between 1727 and 1734. It is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments and is really fascinating.

       

Above is the largest sundial in the world, accurate to two seconds.

We hired a tourguide (shown below) at the front gate–a must for this site or else it would be hard to make sense of the machines. He clearly had a presentation and wanted to make it his way. But I kept stopping him and re-explaining the scientific principles to the kids. Since the kids had a solid grasp of earth rotation and revolution, they were able to understand the structures and remained very engaged, despite the heat.  Below right, Carson checks out one of the instruments.

   

Kaden was most taken by the astrological instruments. Indian astrology is taken very seriously. One’s birth day, year, time and place of birth can be made into an astrological chart. Often this chart is matched with a potential spouse and compatibility can determine the wedding date and in traditional settings, even if the marriage will happen at all.

   

After the observatory, we stopped in on a Jaipur institution–Lassiwalla. We tried a sample from the original, the oldest shop in Jaipur. He only offers one flavor–plain in a (disposable) terracotta cup. The lassi is a sweet yogurt drink. The stand next to him offered mango and banana, so we got one of the mango as well. I thought they were delicious, but the kiddos found them to be too strong. So then I had two for me.

I was looking forward to taking the terracotta cups home as souvenirs. But when we stopped in the Anokhi shop (below) for some snacks and some shopping, the taxi cab driver had cleaned the car of the garbage. He couldn’t understand why we would possibly want to keep the cup!  

We found Jaipur to be a beautiful, colorful, and very HOT city!! Ready to catch our plane, though, back to the Garden City of India!

Visiting Jaipur–the pink city

Standard

In Jaipur, we stayed at the beautiful Alsisar Havelli hotel. The hotel was originally a palace built in the 1890s. It didn’t feel old though. The place was charming and remarkably clean. The staff was attentive but not pushy and we felt very much at home.

 

Jaipur is known as the pink city for the terracotta buildings of its old town. The last time the old town was painted was for the state visit of Bill Clinton back during his presidency.

Below is the outside of the Palace of the Winds, a beautiful exterior, but apparently too dilapidated for touring inside.

           

Below, these colorful hats were a common souveiner sold in Jaipur

Jaipur has one of the floating palaces of Rajasthan. It also is not tourable, but beautiful to behold. Camel rides were offered right by the photo stopping point for this palace.

Below, these two women were wading through the water near the palace. Our tour guide suspected they were going to swim over to the palace to look for duck eggs laid by the ducks who live on the property. Below right, a streetside vendor of flowers that are usually used for religious purposes.

 

We toured the city palace as a part of our visit to Jaipur. Below is the gate toward the palace plus one of the historic buildings on the palace grounds.

  

The royal family of Jaipur still lives in this part of the palace grounds (below). The flag signified that they were were present in the palace on  the day we visited.  I finally got the answer from this tourguide of why the royals in India do not receive the attraction of royals in Europe and elsewhere. First of all there are many royal families in India, so royalty is a regional thing, not a national one. But even more so, in India, royals get involved in politics all the time, running for office and otherwise. Thus it is in the interest of the opposing parties to not play up the importance of the glamour of these individuals or it could cost them the election. Thus the continuing intersection of politics and royalty make them not a source of universal press interest or attraction. I also think it has something to do with the fact that most of the royal families also were lackeys of the Brits. But my tourguide disagrees.

  

The City Palace is especially known for it’s amazing doors and archways. I thought that these peacocks were incredible!

  

The palace hosted a few small museums, including costumes and weaponry. Carson and Ducky really enjoyed looking at the weapons!

 

  

After braving the heat in Jaipur, we returned back to the hotel for a long afternoon of swimming and a delivery of a Domino’s pizza!

  

Shopping…old school and the modern way.

Standard

One of the oldest and most ceremonial form of shopping in India is sari shopping. Having just read a great book on the subject, called The Sari Shop, it was particularly interested to head to a Sari shop with my mom. She was looking to buy sari fabric to turn into curtains. My yoga moms have encouraged me to buy a sari before I leave. But I just don’t think I would have an occasion to wear one in the States.

   

The colors and designs on saris are beautiful and can be overwhelming. The design of a sari shop is not for browsing independently. The saris are stacked in a way that you can only really see them if you have the attendants lay them out for you on the mattresses. Often women sit on the mattresses as well, but this shop also had chairs. Choosing the right sari can take hours, usually with a friend or family member helping to advise. And it involves continuous asking of help to bring down sample after sample.

In contrast, to old school shopping, Bangalore also has better modern shopping than we have back home. Right before our trip up North, I had to bring the kids on a journey to Mantri Mall the mega mall to buy Carson some shoes. The place was packed with people on Good Friday, because apparently most of India gets the holiday off–even though Bangalore has few Christians. We don’t even get the holiday off in the States so the crowds were unexpected!

   

Bangalore’s fancy malls have far more amenities and much better shopping than our mall back home. Above, the kids love playing virtual reality games in these colorful pods. While waiting for them I looked out the window six stories below to see a maze of autorickshaws zigzagging down the street.

Our main reason for coming to the mall is because Carson had broken his Crocs the night before playing soccer out in our courtyard with his buddies.  The Croc store at this mall is massive and nothing like we have near State College back home!

Carson picked out red crocs with flames along the sides, and a complementary metal jibbit!

Outside a bookstore we found a trampoline. A woman tried to put a two year old baby on the trampoline at the same time as Kaden was jumping. I had a fit! So unsafe for that little baby and to have more than two kids of any size jumping on such a small trampoline is so dangerous! Especially without any walls or a soft surface for landing. But once we got off, we turned around and six Indian kiddos were jumping at the same time. Sigh.

Every outing these days seems to end with ice cream, and especially Swensen’s ice crem

Somnathpur and water

Standard

On the way back home from our safari, I made the call to stop in Somnathpur at a very famous temple called Keshava temple. My driver was very grumpy about the idea and so were the kids. They all wanted to go home. But this temple is one of the best examples of Hoysala architecture in all of India. The temple was built in the 1200s out of soapstone and has intricate carvings. It took 500 people 50 years to coplate it. Since the Moguls plundered it twice it is no longer an active place of worship, which was great for us because meant we could take all the photos we wished.

The Hoysalas were “a mighty martial race who ruled large parts of present day Karnataka between 1100 and 1320 AD.” This stone tablet inside the temple main gate contain inscriptions in ancient Kannada script (the local language of the region) containing details of about the construction of the temple as well as details of ongoing archeological work.

It stands on middle of a walled compound encircled by a verandah with 64 cells ( almost all the cells are empty now ).

    

The Temple is built up on a raised platform, star shaped .The outer walls are divided into different layers the lower layer contains the scenes of daily life like people riding elephants etc while the middle ones contains exquisitely curved gods and goddesses

Inside the temple are three incaranations of Krishna

We finally found a guide who could speak good English and he showed us all the details of the carvings—the names of the Hindu gods and goddesses. The outside walls of the main temple is covered with intricately curved out figures in stone, scenes from Ramayanas, Krishnas life (like Krishna killing the poisonous serpent of Kaliya) , Vishnu, scenes of daily life people riding on elephant .There are 194 images in all and around 40 of them have been curved by master sculptor Mallitamma.

Below are images of Ganesha the elephant and of a swan feeding its babies.

   

Kaden loves anything of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, light, wisdom, courage, and good fortune (above).

I love Sarashwathi, goddess of knowledge, music, arts and sciences.

The temple also had mythical creatures, such as this “rhinosaurous” It combines the best features of six animals. Lion feet, crocodile mouth, cow ears, monkey eyes, and so on. Carson loved that.

  The temple even had some, ahem, kama sutra carvings.

My driver was grumpy for the rest of the trip, but it was worth it. I came home very happy indeed. The place is considered a national treasure and I can see why. Such artistry preserved over generations. Todd came home happy too because on the way through Mysore we stopped so that he could visit the palace and market that the kids and I visited during our last trip there. The kids were asleep in the car, and I sat with them and worked on an article while Todd hopped out to do some touring. So in one day, Todd was on a safari, saw a maharaja’s temple, toured an old market, and saw one of the most historic temples in India. My job is done!

On our trip this weekend, here are some kiddos who waved to us on our way:

   

We also saw lots of rural villagers bringing water back to their houses. Some have to walk a mile or more to bring fresh  water to their homes.

  

These little girls below touched my heart. The didn’t look older than Kaden and they were carrying really heavy water jugs to their homes.

Here’s where their homes are–tarps in a field.

We also saw a cemetery during our travels. Rare since cremation is the preferred method in India. Can you imagine if all Indians wanted to be buried in a cemetery? With so many people it would be quite a space crunch.