Monday, October 26, 2009

India?


Just in case we had you fooled into thinking that Jon and Pam Shields were just about the most competent jet-setters around, let me burst that bubble with a tale of our trip to India.




On Thursday we awoke with eager anticipation of a week in Rajasthan, intending to join in the 50th birthday party of Pam's good friend Christine Rai from Cost Plus days.  Though of Scottish descent, Christine has lived her entire life in India, growing up on a tea plantation in Kerala, moving on to the import/export business and becoming Cost Plus's sole agent for the region.  Suffice it to say, the party promised to be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

But quickly things started going haywire.  Scrambling to pack our bags, the traveller's checks were nowhere to be found.  Then there was an accident on the A4 resulting in hellish traffic to Heathrow, and when we attempted to check-in, it turned out that our tickets had not been issued.

Running around to various airline desks, the minutes started to evaporate.  What had started as a calm, competent "we do this all the time" trip to the airport was becoming a nerve-wracking countdown. But cool heads prevailed, and thanks to many amazingly friendly agents, the bags soon disappeared down the conveyor belt with 10 minutes to spare.

As a final formality, the Finnair agent asked to see our visas.  We looked at each other: "Visas?  Surely with 1 billion people already in India, they wouldn't insist on any sort of formality for just two more?"

Not the right answer.

And calling the Indian visa office in London, we learned that we could expect to wait about 10 days to get them.  Next thing you know, I'm being escorted through the bowels of Heathrow in an attempt to intercept our luggage before it gets loaded, truly fouling-up the works.

Thirty minutes later, our new friends at the airport had us all sorted: bags in hand, canceled connections, soothed nerves, etc.  By this time, though, I fear they had had just about enough of the two of us, and were looking forward to seeing us off to London in the next cab.

But with dog/teen-sitter all lined-up, bags packed for warm weather, clear calendars and nothing but rain the London forecast, this intrepid duo was not about to simply limp home to mope.  So we scanned the "Departures" monitor for jets flying south.  The next thing you know, we're having tapas and rioja in Madrid!

The next morning we got the early jump on the city, being the first visitors to the Prado (Madrid's landmark art museum).  It was thoroughly enjoyable to walk through the mostly empty galleries of Goya, Velasquez, etc.  But with our newly learnt geography, that being of Madrid's location in the central highlands, it became clear that the dhotis and saris in our arsenal would not cut it in late October.  So it was back to the airport, and by 5PM we were on the island of Mallorca, where we are now ending a glorious 4 night stay.

Some photos:


The scenic northwest coast of the island where we have encamped.


Our village, Déia, surrounded by ancient olive groves and completely built of stone.


Hiking has been the main activity.  Here Pam scales a 'stile' separating the sheep from the olive groves.


Later, at the top of the Sierra de Tramuntana (see if you can spot Pam) about 3000 ft above the sea.


Our hotel, La Residencia.  Like Santa Barbara's San Ysidro Ranch+++


By this time completely over our failings, and plotting another assault on India later in the year.


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