Rovinj – Croazzia 

Some holidays are adventurous, challenging and culturally shocking. Some holidays send you over the edge in relaxation, where you literally forget your computer login details, the name of the tube station where you usually get off and slow down the pace of your steps. Rovinj in Croatia was that kind of holiday. 

Not particularly an English tourist destination but more of a Croatian, German and Italian holiday town, Croatia had a limited number of tourist attractions per se. Again, my perfect holiday. 

The Stats: 

  • Location: Rovinj, North Croatia 
  • Flew into: Trieste, Italy. Then drove to Rovinj. 
  • Temp: Soo hot, like 37 everyday 
  • Language: Croatian / italian 


What it’s like…

Croatia is just as I had imagined it from a number of different photographs. We stayed in the ‘old town’ which was just stunning. Walking through the 300 year old pavement, waking up to the sound of church bells and the smell of fresh pastry…tip toeing across the rocks before finding the perfect spot to lay and soak up the sun… 

It is also Catholic so the Old Church stands out across the old town and chimes its bells each morning. On the roof of my bedroom at the air bnb, sister Mary looked back at me from a ceiling painting. I did wonder what that does to couples who have absolutely decided not to save themselves before marriage. I feel like for some, that painting is a mixture of a reminder of faith, as well as guilt. 

As I sit here at the airport in Trieste I am already looking forward to opening my eyes again to the red washed walls of Croatia, hearing those bells and the immediate sound of life below my window. 
  

What I did… 

There really isn’t much to tell here. I spent my days finding different rocks to lay on like a lizard and just read my book, stopping only to nibble on nectarines, grapes and go for a dip. Each day was a new beach, a new rock. Some days were right next to the old town and others were found by walking or cycling to other parts of the city. Croatia isn’t so much a sandy or even pebbly beach. It is purely against the cool blue water and you can perch on a rock or jetty… Whatever you find really. 

It was also the perfect town to people watch.. The old loves reading books and taking a dip, young children speaking a mélange of italian and Croatian staying up until midnight.. Shop owners drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and making out with their girlfriend / boyfriend who visits between customers…. People drinking espresso and watching the world go by, as I did. Stunning european women – I think I need to start eating pastries for breakfast and pasta for dinner. On a number of occasions there were cocktails at sunset – my favourite 2 Lounges called bar Valentino (a swanky champagne and cocktail bar made from pillows on the rockface) and bar Mediterrano; a Shabby chic spot filled with vintage chairs on the rocks. This was where I found bliss in espresso and peach bellinis (not necessarily in that order). 

  

What I ate… 

Istria plays host to some of the most beautiful seafood, local wines and pasta. Its proximity to Italy means that most of the cuisine is shared and very similar, with the coast influencing the amount of seafood. I ate mixed grills of meat and seafood, fresh salads, silverbeet and potatoes and most of the bread basket. Gnocchi also featured, filled with cheese and truffle, or Istrian gnocchi, which was tomato and slow cooked beef. This was always paired with local white wine. My mornings consisted of fresh pastries from Mlinar, a Croatian chain bakerai that delivers fresh bjurek (cheese filled puff pastry) and apple strudels to start my morning.

Double macchiato too, please. 
 
 

What I took home… 

I adore those trips where you come home feeing like you have learnt something, breathed in the culture and learnt something about yourself. 
On the first night, the waitress who served our table set our places with such deft fingers, with such precision that I remembered what it was like to slow down. for those of you who know me, or chat to my mamma often, you will know that I do a million things. Like a zingara, always flitting onto the next thing, the next spcial outing, the next project, the next hobby. Since moving to the UK it’s definately become worse – I am constantly on my phone connecting across double time zones, my commute takes concentration and is longer and I’m so excited about being here that I say yes to everything and am completely overstimulated. 

The waitress reminded me to take it slow.

Be mindful and take care. 

Everything when slow is amplified, every moment with presence is so much more fulfilling.

  

Something that I couldn’t buy duty free… 

Enjoy the pictures and hopefully this tan doesn’t wash off in the shower 

EC

Xxx

Roma

La bella Roma. And what a beautiful city. I shall not go into juicy details of the main tourist attractions because most of you who have been there will know exactly what I’m talking about. So let me take you on a journey through that 48 hour speed trip spent in the backstreets and what was so special. 

What I saw…

Bright sun reflecting off terracotta coloured walls in the afternoon. 

Gelato in everyone’s hand, including mine.

Every man looks at you as if you are more stunning than the woman next to you… But then looks at her the same way. 

Couples between the ages of 13 and 30 ferociously making out EVERYWHERE. Good on them I say. Is that because italian boys still live with their mamma so parks are the only opportunity they get? 

Marble.. As far as the eye can see.

Thick eyebrows… Most have 2, some have 1. 

  

What I heard… 

The laughter between families as push prams and watch their children play.

Small italian girls and boys speaking such a beautiful language with such innocence and big brown eyes… Makes me melt.

The heated conversations – are they arguing? I think they are just talking. 

Words of sweet nothings between couples of all ages.

  

What I did… 

Wandered through the streets of Rome, getting lost every direction.

Walked to the Vatican and saw the outside. Didn’t see the Pope, but it was absolutely amazing.

Saw the outside of the colosseum.

Met up with my italian cousin giovanni at one of the oldest restaurants in Roma, restaurante perilli. He drove us, windows open, cigarette alight, italian tunes blaring through some of the most beautiful suburbs in Rome to a gorgeous fountain overlooking the city. This was particularly special being with la familia. 

Enjoyed the peaceful garden of oranges and the Spanish steps.

  

What I ate… 

Espresso upon espresso each morning made to us by the hotel Mamma. We exchanged 3 words every morning – ️”double” ” espresso” and “gracias”. In that order. She was such a sweet soul and made a perfect start to the day. This was always followed with toast, cold meats and cheese. Buonissimo. 

Pasta e vino at Restaurante Osteria. Make that a bottle of wine for 7 euros shared between two. 

Cabornara with my cousin, following the most delicious roasted artichokes, a roman delicacy.

Pizza and martini bianco in a local roman square. This is where the locals went on their Saturday nights to literally chat, eat pizza slices and drink around a gorgeous fountain. This was one of the best people watching experiences I’ve ever had, thankfully I don’t stand out amongst Italians so I was allowed to stare! 

Gelato… 5 scoops in 2 days at hidden gelaterias Verde pistache and Come il Latte. Mission accomplished! 

A whirlwind post for a whirlwind weekend of amoré e mangiare. 
EC xx

Honkers

After 12.5 hours flight from London in the middle seat (devo I got the middle seat), I had a crook neck and hardly any sleep, however absolutely nothing could bend my excitement to see William after 100 days apart. Originally Hong Kong seemed like a good idea given the cheap flights from Australia and ‘technically’ we were flying the same distance,  but it became so much more than an easy city to get to. I’ve never seen such a mish mash of cultures, where East meets West, nature meets buildings and fun meets tradition.

The stats

  • Time from London: 12.5 hours, weirdest flight given the sun came up after 2 hours in the air 
  • Why? To see William. Can’t live without the guy and it was our ‘halfway at halfway’ trip
  • We stayed: at the Ozo Wesley in Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island. Used to be a red light district and commonly visited by war veterans back in the day. Obviously that’s why we chose it. 
  • Temp: about 31, super sticky, haven’t been that hot in a few months! 
  • Expensive? Yes. I’m broke. But it was worth it.

It was like…

Traditional East meets modern West. Walking down Hennessy Rd in Wan Chai I see Chinese writing everywhere, neon lights, stand up noodle bars (with menus I could not read unfortunately) traditional taxis, dripping air conditioners… Then I rounding a corner a different sight awaits.  I saw contemporary noodle bars (with menus I could read thank you very much), fun burger and tapas bars, cute coffee shops and fun art deco stores to please any modern renovator. Plus, the lights!!! So many packed apartment blocks alongside towering new skyscrapers. It was traditional, but I think ‘traditional’ in Hong Kong is embracing the Western world. Those towering buildings weren’t far from mountains of lush green canopies. As I said, total mix. 

  

Getting around , tramming downhill 


We ate…

So. Many. Noodles. There is something for everyone but we mainly stuck to Vietnamese, Chinese, wine, beer and burgers (how did burgers get in there?!). The noodles and pho were delicious, as was our special dinner at Hutong, with one of Hong Kong’s most amazing views of their lights. It was breathtaking. Will taught me how to roll a duck pancake and how to eat noodles without splashing everyone in sight – life changing!! We embraced the mix of cultures and also visited an American burger bar that literally only sold cheese burgers and duck fat fries, wined at a French wine bar and also started our mornings with boutique coffee. We weren’t sure of our chances with good coffee in Hong Kong… But we managed to sniff it out pretty quickly in our surrounds. Swathow Street, a 2 minute walk away was filled with boutique roasters. I’m all for being traditional when I travel but this did make for a very welcome surprise. 

  

Local Wan Chai market. Good mango he says…



What we did…

The peak of The Peak 
We had a map. The map took us to the top of Victoria Park peak, which was my favourite moment. Another breathtaking view of the green against the towers. We explored the midlands (Hong Kong’s very own Soho), checked out the Temple Street night markets on the mainland in Kowloon and also went to Stanley Beach (beach!). Hong Kong took me by surprise- there was so much more nature to explore than I had thought. 

  Stanley Beach

So there you have it. A total mix, noodles, twinkling lights, natural wonders and a total surprise. You got me Hong Kong. 

EC  xx

Sunny sagres

My first mini escape to Europe whilst living in london was to The Algarve Coast in Portugal. It is one of those experiences that I have had that will stay in my memories – my girlfriend Renata and I both enjoy going to local towns so this was one of those places I MUST visit again soon. 

Portugal is amazing. We stayed in Sagres that is about 1 hour from the airport and the furthest point of the Algarve Coast. It was stunning. A sleepy surfy town that had lots of local Portuguese tourists and was very authentic. We had a delayed flight on Friday though so even though I left work at 330 we didn’t get on the plane until quite late: we had an hour drive from the airport when we got there so ended up falling asleep at 2am in the hotel! I forgot this quickly – we woke up to the most beautiful sound of the beach and birds because we were able to leave he door open. The hotel was beautiful and so white and fresh, it felt like I was in Byron. They were sweet enough to provide free bike hire and a bottle of rosé left with a hand written card. Perfect touch. 

So day 1 – we woke up leisurely to that beautiful sound of the ocean and sat on our balcony enjoying looking at the boats with hardly a soul in sight. Breakfast was included at Memmo Baleeira hotel so we went downstairs to a Portuguese buffet. After having just a Pret salad at the airport the night before we were famished. Fresh eggs, fruit, rye breads gave us a full tummy but the best part was what they call ‘God’s bread’ – a brioche bun topped with baked coconut and served with cheese fraiche, apricot jam and raisins. It was absolutely incredible! We also had some sneaky Portuguese tarts which I seem to keep falling in love with. We chatted over multiple coffees and planned out the day. 

We jumped on our fixies and set off to Cape st Vincent – what navigators used to call the ‘end of the earth’ when they thought the world was flat. We got 200m from the hotel before my pedals literally just stopped working. An elderly Portuguese man stopped to observe the bike and started explaining to me what was wrong with it in Portuguese. I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, but it sounded pretty serious… So we walked it back to the hotel for a different bike. Round 2 – we set off and about 400m away from the hotel my gear chain collapsed. Great quality bikes! After about 10 mins and some very greasy hands we managed to fix it. Round 3! We pedalled past many brightly coloured houses filled with overgrown rose gardens and outdoor bbqs. We cycled along open roads, stopping at a beautiful beach – jaw droppingly beautiful with huge cliffs. We were so far above the water we could hardly hear he ocean bashing against the rocks. Sagres is known as a surfing town, where foreign tourists from around the world come for their Endless Summer and that ‘break’. We climbed down a rocky edge and sat watching Portuguese fisherman – funnily enough we thought they were Australians as they were wearing Union Jack boardshorts. Once we heard their voices we realised they were Portuguese fisherman who just liked wearing trashy Australian southern cross pants (bless). Sitting on that cliff face was a very special moment – we just felt so off the map. We ended up sun baking at a different beach that day that had huge rolling waves and was clearly a popular locals spot. By this point the fatigue had set back in and I fell asleep on the beach. We woke up to being completely roasted!! I suppose my skin has turned sensitive pretty quickly being in London. As I write this, I am actually peeling….

That night we stopped at a local bar for dinner after a walk along our local beach. We shared a savoury crepe (cheese, ham, oregano, tomato) and a fresh salad, and a glass of white wine recommended by the waiter. He put the glasses on the table and clearly proud of his suggestion, said ‘here, prove it!. We think he meant ‘see if you like it!’. I love the discrepancies with language – a french speaker myself, I think it happens all the time. The portions were so generous and absolutely delicious. We shared a Nutella and banana crepe for dessert and listened to the local band warming up their vocals. An amazing night that only cost €24 euros in total. Highly recommend Portugal if you wanting to cut back on your travel spending. 

                           

arrifana
 
Day 2, we shared our breakfast together (identical as day 1 but unfortunately there were no Portuguese tarts left 😦 ) and went for a walk in the local area. We decided to take the hire care to a nearby village called Vila de Bispo. It was absolutely tiny but we had plenty of fun walking through the streets and admiring the old houses with tiny front doors (Portuguese are very short) and bright colours. We then spotted a map of the Algarve and decided to check out one of the towns. It’s so easy to get around – ‘follow the signs’ they say – and after winding up roads over many hills and valleys we came to Arrifana. This was magic and so unexpected. The steep drive meant that we were on top of cliffs again watching huge waves and surfers below us. It was almost ominous given the size of the waves and how far up we were – we could hardly hear a thing! Arrifana is full of surfing camps – everyone is so tanned and there was bleach blond hair everywhere. 

                               

sagres
 
That night we enjoyed a glass of our rose while getting ready and we ate at a place called ‘the hangout’ run by Portuguese but staffed by whoever is travelling through at the time (I’m guessing this because our waiter had a London accent and a tan – you don’t see that very often!). We shared a Portuguese sage sausage pizza and a goats cheese salad. It was so fresh and delicious and again generous portions. For only €13.50! Bed time and another glass of rosé awaited us. 

                                  

found lagos
 
Day 3 – our final day – we visited Lagos which is more common amongst Aussie tourists. It is gorgeous with its windy streets and brightly coloured tiled buildings. We shared a huge orange and chicken salad and wandered around for the afternoon. Glad we didn’t stay here though as Sagres was definately more local, however Lagos is amazing all the same with so much life to it. I would definitely stay in Lagos if there was a big group who wanted to party for the weekend. We finished our day with coffee and some beautiful fig and almond tarts. 

                                 

bliss
  

The weekend was incredible, I am in heaven writing this as I feel like I experienced a snippet of real culture as well as some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. I am so relaxed too – much needed after the London life that I am loving. (But it’s not relaxing!)

Enjoy the pics 

EC xx

L o n d o n  L o v e

Now, I know I usually return to writing this blog after a whirlwind and each one of them seems to get more and more intense. This HAS to be the biggest and surreal past 2 months of my life, moving to live on the other side of the world. 2 months ago I said goodbye to beautiful Australia, my family, friends and perfect boyfriend (he will be here with me soon !) to live out my dreams in London. It’s more than I could ever ask for. 

 

Petal lined streets
 

 Where do I start? My thoughts have been all jumbled since I got here – can’t remember people’s birthdays, get my words mixed up, forget things easily, get less sleep. Perhaps it’s just worth describing all of those things that float around my head every minute in one big paragraph and my posts to follow won’t be so… ridiculous. 

 

Knock , knock
 

I love the way that everything is so cute. I literally say that word at least 5 times a day describing a number of things. Cute cafes, cute houses, cute terrace, cute dogs, cute kids in puffer jackets. I love the gorgeous spring flowers that are so overgrown in home gardens but still look perfect. I love my little flat and my room mates and I love the way that we sit at a tiny dining table to have dinner. I love being able to walk everywhere and see so much. I love the number of amazing cafes, coffee and food. I love that shops have spiralling staircases to more and more levels underground, unveiling mystery. I love Pimms in the sun. I love the way that Londoners embrace the sun when it comes out, spilling onto the streets with drinks and cranking BBQs on rooftop terraces that you wouldn’t know existed. I love the green parks and how bright they are on a sunny day and how mysterious they are on cold days. I love the rowing sheds near my house where guys in Lycra and gum boots get up every morning to train. 

  

I love wearing coats and boots. I love that every shopping experience is such an amazing one even if I don’t buy anything. I love the mountains of pastries at the markets. I love the fresh fruit and vege markets, where farmers call you ‘gorgeous!’ and fish mongers sell fresh salmon and scallops straight off the ice. I love the tube and the way that ‘mind the gap’ is said before the doors close and you whoosh off towards some other part of london, underground, beneath thousands of years or history and thousands of people. I love the way everyone rushes when they aren’t really in a rush. The way that I hear many different languages and accents every day. The way the my building at work looks over the Thames and I say ‘holy sh*t I’m working in a global head office’ . The way that flights to Europe are only £50. I love that there is history in every building. The way that people make you a cup of tea at work. The way they say ‘are you alright?’ instead of ‘how are you?’. The way that everything is so cute and so delicious. The way they call me Elizabeth, not Lisa, because frankly that’s not my name. 

 A few happy snaps that have been favourites over the last couple of months to get me back into the swing if blogging, I hope you enjoy them. 

More soon… 

EC xx

Good start

Exciting news + Darwinning

It’s official! I will be moving to London in just a few weeks. This amazing opportunity has come into my life and I am grabbing it by the horns…A dream come true for me after many years of being determined to move overseas with my handy British Passport. A couple of years ago I decided that it’s something I want to share with the love of my life, too. So whilst I’m headed very shortly, I can’t wait for this new chapter in my life, career and for our relationship together. Anyway – more on London later. I went to Darwin this weekend!

Why would I go to Darwin?

I went to visit my brother Paul who is currently based in Darwin for the Navy. Realising that I needed to say goodbye and spend time together before heading overseas, I booked flights with mum for this weekend. It was amazing fun! I had been to the Northern Territory for work in Alice Springs previously, however was keen for a cheeky trip to it’s Northern counterpart.

My expectation was that Darwin was going to be just like Alice – flying over red desert, indigenous folk celebrating their land, dry riverbeds and flies…everywhere. It was completely different, bar the indigenous population and the muddy 4WDs on the streets. Darwin was green in its tropical wet season, had plenty of surrounding sea and many, many pubs. It is popular with backpackers and of course has a large presence of Defence personnel.

Mum and I arrived at 1230am after a 4 hour flight and was so excited to see Paulie. He is always in different parts of the country and whilst I’m used to him not being around, it still makes me excited to hang out no matter where we are. We went straight to sleep at Darwin Central Apartments and woke in the morning to walk to the Pearl Cafe. It is owned by a former naval officer and has French influence. In a super cute setting, we sipped delicious macchiatos and shared a croque Madame, avo and proscuitto on toast and mushrooms with pesto. I highly recommend this gorgeous cafe – trendy hot spots do really well in these types of cities. We then visited Paspaley pearls. Darwin hosts the head office as many of their oyster farms are close by. No purchases for me, but I’ll keep the thought of the rose gold chain and $5000 perfect round pearl for another day when I can afford a higher credit card limit…

Wandering

The Parap markets were only 10mins away, held every Saturday. It was a small market loaded with food, fresh produce and some local arts and crafts. I was shocked to find SO many Indonesian stalls selling lassis, noodle soups, laksa and paw paw salad. It shouldn’t have been so surprising though, remembering Darwin is so close to Indonesia!

We spent the rest of the day wandering around the naval base, HMAS Coonawarra and learning about my brother’s exciting job. Looking out over the patrol boats and into a brewing storm, I couldn’t help but be exceptionally proud and accepting of his job and where it takes him. Achieving your dreams sometimes does mean being far from loved ones and I’m so glad we could see his current ‘home’ and meet his fellow Officers and Sailors.

We wandered a lot in Darwin…We wandered past the wharves, along the water, and stopped for a nice dinner of salmon and drinks at il Lido restaurant. We wandered to Alley Cats, a patisserie for breakfast on day 2 and somehow found their almond croissant and coffee wandering into my mouth. You wouldn’t expect croissants to be great in Darwin, but it literally knocked my socks off. Thank you Alley Cats! We wandered through the Croc Museum, where I managed to see a few live crocs for the first time. Seeing one of those swimming towards you in clear water? Eff. That. I’d rather not know that beast is coming. We wandered to have fish and chips on the wharf for lunch, just as the sun started blazing into the clear green water. Then, it was time to wander home. I may just add that if was a blubbering mess, saying my goodbye.

I like Darwin. It was a great experience but certainly a different part of Australia in comparison to what we are used to in Brisbane. Crocs, indigenous welfare issues present, a huge Indonesian influence and (surprisingly!) some great food left me feeling like I was having a completely different cultural experience if I compare to weekends in Melbourne or Sydney. Sometimes what we are looking to experience is right on our door step!

I hope you enjoy the pictures any snags / lamingtons / cricket games currently underway for Australia Day.

EC xx

Making paw paw salad
Making paw paw salad

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The rest of India

Wow. Kerela is such a special place. Out of everywhere so far in India it was the one place I need to go back to. We actually changed our booking on a whim – originally, we were to take a 3 hour train ride to Varkala beach to stay for 2 nights. Hearing that the trains were likely to be delayed and we would miss our connecting flight (and everyone takes a wee on the platform anyway), we completely changed our booking to stay in Fort Kochi in a homestay. The BEST decision we made.

Kerela has soul – unlike the bustling big cities of India, you can actually feel the culture and spirit and their way of life. They live a much more tranquil life and have a peaceful state of mind which is underpinned by their belief in Aruyvedic Principles – a belief that diseases can be cured by living things. You can hear the birds in the morning, the beat of the drums from the local festivals and the laughter and talk of the locals and tourists alike. I was drawn to Kerela after hearing the number of ashrams and Aruyvedic treatments they do there. Needless to say my expectations were blown out of the water.

What we did
We only had two days and 3 priorities for Kerela – massage, backwaters and good food.

My birthday present to Doris was a spa day in India, so our home stay host booked us in with a local for an Aruyvedic spa treatment. For only 3000 rupees (approx $60AUD) we received a massage, facial, hair treatment, manicure and pedicure. The massage was completely out-of-this-world-amazing. Culture shock number 101 in India- get completely nude in front of female massage therapist and just let her do her thing. Sure! I felt completely relaxed and chilled after the massage so booked in for one more. The facial products were completely organic from ingredients grown locally, which I managed to get through customs on my way home. They smell rotten…and I’m not sure what’s in them… I will admit I’m also not sure the manicurist was qualified but she gave it her all and I was so grateful for a set of nails where dirt was no longer visible after a week in hectic, often dirty, cities.

We also booked a tour of the Kerela backwaters. This is their river upon which they depend on for survival through fishing. We decided to book a tour that was recommended on Tripadvisor. Second best decision since landing in India! Peter from Salmon Tours took us on a canoe boat rowed by a local villager through silent backwaters. Narrow canals, the sweet smell of many herbs and plants through the lush trees, banana and coconuts a-plenty… Just silence, for the first time in a week. We stopped off at a small village so that we could see some local customs. We made steam cake out of coconuts and rice, we helped them weave a mat out of the straw from the coconut shell and we held a baby goat (I tried to seem like an animal lover but think it made it more obvious that I’m not) before sitting down to an authentic meal. When I say authentic, I mean fish curry from the river, our homemade coconut steam cake from their backyard trees, homemade masala tea and baby bananas from their own trees – all eaten off a banana leaf! We ate with our fingers as it’s custom to only use the fingers from your God-given right hand while dining. Maybe I should try this in Brisbane next time I go to Stokehouse…Maybe not! It was still so fun though and demonstrated the way that they do great things through simple measures. We rode back on the boat as the sun went down, using the natural light of the moon. Imagine how peaceful… That’s how I felt.

On our final morning, we didn’t have much time, but I was committed to doing a yoga class. I woke up at sunrise and went to a local community club for only $3.50 for a class. Our teacher pulled me in so many directions I can’t possibly come back to Australia and pretend that I don’t have tight hips and work on them to relieve stress and prevent injury. The class was everything I wanted it to be – on a rooftop of a community club with an Indian teacher. Bliss.

…But the food!!
By far the most delicious meals we ate in India. They focus on organic vegetables, fertilised through silt in their rivers and ‘cow sheet’, as our host would say. They are non-veg, so they eat meat, primarily seafood. Here is a run down of some of our highlights…
-Butter paneer curry, made with real cashew paste and fresh herbs and spices
-Fried bananas in coconut oil for breakfast
-Pineapple and ginger curry for breakfast
-Fresh caught fish, pan fried in a banana leaf with fresh herbs, veges and spices.
-Coconuts from the side of the road – flesh and water!

Kerela folk are fairly adamant that their filtered water is ok to drink – after seeing Doris so sick I was sticking to my sealed water bottles and and hand sanitiser. Sorry locals, I know my hand sanitiser is full of chemicals 😦

Food is for wellness in Kerela and it’s so fresh, so organic. This made me want to go back to the farmers markets in Australia and focus on fresh vegetables as much as I can. Our only issue in Australia is that organic produce is so expensive. That being said, a lesson I took away from Kerela is that if you look after yourself now you shouldn’t have to pay for it later.

Our homestay
Our homestay was beautiful. Unlike most of the places we had been staying, it was clean, comforting and in walking distance to most things. Our host was very attentive, helpful and liked to practice his English on us. Kerela is the most educated state in India, which became clear once we met his little 3 year old daughter. She was a rocket ship that reminded me of my beautiful nieces. She would self-teach English on her fathers mobile and sing us English songs. Too cute.

Ahhhhh…
When I wrote this post, I was waiting for our flight with Spicejet to Goa during a 5 hour delay. 3 days prior, the delay would have driven me nuts and I know one of us would have had a mini meltdown. (Luckily we never have a meltdown at the same time). I felt totally chilled, drinking a masala tea and eating banana chips and working out the next time I can come and stay for longer. Who knows, maybe I will join the throng and stay here to become a Yoga teacher?

New Years Eve in Goa
As we continued our journey through south India, we began to fall in love with the complete change of pace. Indians say that every 2km the language, food, dress, customs, attitude and skin colour change. You can imagine the changes that we saw between States and Goa wasn’t any different. Goa is a state full of beaches – I want to call it the Gold Coast of India, but it seriously looks and feels nothing like the Gold Coast. It has significant Portuguese influence, so many Catholic Churches, and has also been going strong with tourism since the 60s. So they have the ‘foreigner thing’ worked out.

We stayed at Baga Beach, the tourist hub of Goa. It reminded me slightly of Phuket – chairs on the beach, cocktails and food at your fingertips, hawkers and massages as you sunbake, and coconut oil. Everywhere. In fact, it’s my new moisturiser. We stayed 4 full days, so half of our time was spent sunbaking on Baga and Anjuna beaches, very welcoming after changing cities every 36 hours. We also did a full day in the Goan jungle where we swam in a waterfall, went on a bumpy Jeep ride, zip-lined over water and rode an elephant. There is something about elephants…the way that they could crush your face with their foot without knowing it but are also the most quiet and slow creatures when you ride them. We fed our elephant and politely waited while it pooped the size of soccer balls. Sorry for the overshare, but we couldn’t get over it! Our second activity was a homestyle cooking class with Chef Mukti, a Goan woman with a passion for the kitchen since she was 7 years old. I can highly recommend her classes. We spent 3 hours making traditional fish curry, chicken masala, aloo gobi (veg curry), paratha bread and chapati. It was such great fun learning and eating our delicious food (with our right hand of course!) and asking questions about Indian women’s role in the kitchen while we ate lunch.

New Year’s Eve was spent at Club Cabana with some of our Indian friends from Mumbai. Club Cabana was an amazing 4 level open-air club, with pools and cobble stones and everyone dancing on the tables. It is located on top of a hill, so we walked the distance and spent midnight in line! Never mind, I was lucky to be with someone I love. Nawww Doris ❤

Clubbing in India was an experience we had to have, albeit being completely different to Australia. The music is a cross between Bollywood, trance and 90s Western music. The bar staff make fresh Indian foodie delights and everyone gets totally wasted on fruit cocktails (liquor is very common in Goa, not so much in the rest of india). Our post boozy feed was oven made naan and paneer cheese, rehydrating with coconuts at dawn. We embraced the overall experience and just because it was different doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun. We felt so amongst it and wouldn’t have spent it any other way.

India gave me life’s greatest gift… Perspective
It’s taken me a couple of days to wind down and digest everything that we saw, smelt, felt and heard. Our flight was really turbulent so I stepped off the plane looking like crap and spent the next few days sleeping very deeply. It wasn’t hard to recover, spending the week at the Gold Coast with Will. A quiet holiday allowed me to reflect and I would like to share some things…

I owe India a big ‘shookria’ (thank you) for giving me the experience and perspective that I came to India to have. I felt so far from home for the first time ever. At first, it was hard to even imagine being amongst the craziness of Delhi but over time it became an addiction. India fascinated me, amazed me, broke my heart, made me angry, confused me, frustrated me, scared me, made me laugh, got me out of my comfort zone 24/7 and kept me on high alert.

Why…?

“Whatever you think is normal, let it go. You’re in India now” – Random lady in Mumbai
You need to accept that the Indian society does things differently. It allowed me to surrender to the way things are done. Most taxi drivers will stop and leave you in the car while they ask for directions, or pee on the side of the road. Personal hygiene means no toilet paper, but a hose (good for the trees). They eat curry for breakfast and you can’t drink the water. They hang out the side of trains. You get frisked before you get on the train for security reasons. They honk..all the time, for no reason, and for some reason, everything takes forever. We can’t keep resisting things that happen naturally or keep comparing with our way of life. India brought many experiences that don’t quite fit my usual style – filthy hotels, unhygienic restaurants, stench, complicated taxi services, complicated everything – but it was all part of the experience. I want to embrace each moment as an opportunity to learn something new or simply love it for what it is.

Treat your body like a living being
The idea of having butter chicken and naan at Sitars in our Western world immediately makes me think of all those times with my girlfriends that we ate so much and had to unzip our jeans by the end of our meals (I’m sure I wasn’t the only one). Cooking Indian food completely took me by surprise. Having our homestay host explain the ingredients to our delicious meals and doing a cooking class in Goa opened my eyes to how healthy Indian cooking is. Forget cream in curries – they use a mixture of fresh coconut meat and cashews blended with water. Who would have thought? Every spice and ingredient is local and any Mamma in the kitchen can tell you the healing and preventative health properties of each ingredient. Back to basics – why is that so hard for us? We ate so clean and fresh for the 2 week period that an overdose of fried Indian foods on NYE left us with a massive food hangover. Taking these lessons into 2015 means that I will be more conscious of what makes me feel good. Within reason, of course. Gelato makes my soul feel good too!!

Family, kindness and unitedness is everything
Why would you leave home just because you can support yourself? Did your mother leave your side when you learnt how to walk? Did she stop providing you food when you learnt how to feed yourself? Why would you send your parents to a nursing home, are you too busy to look after them? Stop saying thank you to your friends… They are your family. Aren’t favours expected and always reciprocated with real friends?

These are some of the philosophies and customs of the Indian culture. Family and friends are everything. They are united through it all. Lending money, sharing meals and being there for one another isn’t even a question. In our social circles, this may be an extreme way of living – I can’t say I 100% would be living that life but it teaches us a lot about being grateful for what others do for us and what it really means to be a friend. We are always too bloody busy to take a phone call for a friend but we are looking at their pics on Facebook. I’m too tired to talk to mum when I get home from work but did she ever leave my side as a baby when she was too tired? I think it’s important in our lives to focus on who makes us better people and investing true quality time with them – personally and professionally.

It tested my trust and assumptions
You just never knew who to trust. We were warned against this and it was probably the most important warning we got. Every time we got into a taxi, we thought ‘Is he ripping us off?’ ‘Will he take us to our destination?’ ‘Why is he asking so many personal questions?’ ‘Where is he taking us through these back streets?’ ‘Does he know where to go?’ Or, our classic – being dropped off a 10min walk away from where we needed to be, so weaving our way through hundreds of drunk tourists in pitch black on an unsealed road. Or, being told that your bags were picked up from the hotel room, but one of the suitcases had been forgotten so we had to go back for it. Never assume. A man is asking you personal questions and offering lifts back to the hotel and complimentary activities. Do you trust them? Do you trust their friends? Are you overreacting? You never know until you make the judgement call. We felt fairy unsafe the entire time because of this and because of the way we were looked at as tourists. I know there are bad people everywhere, but that feeling of literally knowing no one in some towns should anything happen made me feel raw and vulnerable. This didn’t quite hit me until I arrived home.

My personal space was completely assaulted
Oh, I’m not talking about crowds. Sure, there are billions of people in a country that is about half the size of Australia. I’m taking about the staring. Always respectful of the way they dress, we followed suit with longer pants and dresses and scarves. Because we are caucasian, we were stared at as if we were celebrities. It was evident in Goa however, where the locals are used to seeing foreigners in bikinis but the Indian tourists are not, due to the beautiful and very modest saris that women wear as traditional dress. We had multiple men taking photos of themselves in front of us sunbaking on the beach without our permission. We went through stages of being completely revolted to laughing at it, to accepting it for the way it was. It’s just the way things are there and I’m sure many other places in the world. if every culture was the same we wouldn’t travel and it’s so important to respect cultures when you travel, equally when tourists visit our country.

I spend as much time per day on Instagram as they do in prayer
When we visited a friend in Mumbai, we met his mother who prayed for 48 minutes every morning. She wasn’t allowed any worldly pleasures during this time – no shaking hands, no eating, just to sit there. I kept thinking g about all of those times I felt like I didn’t have time to do what I’m most passionate about – it goes to show you that if something or someone really means a lot to you that you will naturally prioritise what you think is important.

Doing more with less
They do so much with so little, even if they do have the money. I’m thinking about the way that we talk about ‘innovation’ these days which often means more digital ‘this and that’. What about doing more with less? What about going back to basics? This has allowed me to look at innovation in a different way, for I am often pushed to be ‘innovative’ at work and think outside the box. The reality of it is that it doesn’t need to cost extra money to be innovative.

It broke my heart and tested my conscious
Kids as young as my nephews were knocking on our windscreen and pulling on our clothes relentlessly, begging for money. My first thought was absolutely devastating – how can I stress about buying the latest Barbie for my niece when these kids’ parents can’t even provide them with food? Then, we learnt that the begging ‘business’ is so corrupt. Some parents send their kids out to beg for them, some people get their wrists broken on purpose just so they can beg on the streets. This tested my conscious on so many levels because I just ignored beggars in both disgust and devastation. The worst part was that I walked away feeling like I couldn’t do anything about the entire situation until the country becomes ,ore developed.

It made me laugh
The head bobble! I can’t even explain it – but look it up. They bobble their head from side to side when they respond to you. It could mean ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘I acknowledge you’, ‘I heard you’, ‘what are you talking about?’ or ‘maybe’. A mystery. We just rolled with it.

Travel buddies
Doris and I made great travel buddies. Mini meltdowns and compromising situations are inevitable in India and I’m so grateful we travelled well together. It requires an open mind, resilience, lightheartedness, looking after each other (not just yourself) and having the ability to bolt if things get real. I kept her on time and she made sure we didn’t get ripped off.

Everything is intense
It’s just so in-your-face out-of-this-world challenging and intense 24/7. We felt intensely unsafe, intensely sick, intensely confused, intensely amazed. Intensely upset, intense traffic.. Intense food, language, devotion. I used to be one of those girls who had an addictive personality…but it doesn’t suit my lifestyle anymore – it’s exhausting and it’s an invitation for burnout. Being back in an intense frame of mind only cemented my desire to balance everything out in my life. That being said, alcohol for me is still 1 wine or 100. Sigh. I’ll get there!

So…that’s my perspective on the very small experience that I had in India – but the very big deal – that I experienced over the Christmas period. Like all life experiences they make you stronger, more brave, wiser, more grateful and above all a feeling of being completely blessed to have had the opportunity and to see the world through a different perspective. a better person. I’ll take India into 2015… Embracing everything.

Enjoy the start of you new year and I can’t wait to share more with my readers soon.

EC xx

Coconutting in Goal
Coconutting in Goa
Cooking with Chef Mukti
Cooking with Chef Mukti
Splashing around in the waterfalls, Goa
Splashing around in the waterfalls, Goa
Baga Beach at sunset - Goa
Baga Beach at sunset – Goa
Eating off the banana leaf in Kerela - bliss!
Eating off the banana leaf in Kerela – bliss!
Into the backwaters, Kerela
Into the backwaters, Kerela
Rowing in the backwaters (Well, we didn't really row. Someone rowed for us), Kerela
Rowing in the backwaters (Well, we didn’t really row. Someone rowed for us), Kerela
Anjuna Beach, Goa. Moo.
Anjuna Beach, Goa. Moo.
Happy new year!
Happy new year!

Doris’s a Delhi Detox (and Christmas in Mumbai)

Merry Christmas everyone!!! Hope you all had wonderful days with your loved ones. I spent Christmas in Mumbai this year and it was an amazing experience. I’ll always miss mum’s cooking but I know we can eat ham when I’m home (Mum I know you’re reading this!).

I feel like our first 24 hours in Mumbai deserves it’s own blog post. Things could be worse and these kinds of experiences are inevitable when you are travelling. I still think it’s worth sharing this quintessential Indian experience – yes, you did tell me so!

This story starts mid-air, on descent into Mumbai. After our lonnnggggg day of travel from Agra, Doris isn’t feeling so well. ‘Just the travel’, we said. ‘Just need some fresh air’. 5 minutes later my darling Doris is suffering from Delhi Belly in Indigo’s back toilet on descent into Mumbai. Doris – thanks for letting me share this colourful story ❤

We landed. A vomit. Got our bags. A vomit. I went to book a prepaid taxi from the airport (street taxis are dodgy for tourists – another point taken) and was scammed for the first time as a tourist. We were asked to follow our taxi company's 'friend' to the taxi line where we waited for about 10mins amongst all the honking. Doris is feeling pretty sick at this point. We jumped into our taxi, with our luggage loaded by a lovely Indian man. Even though you know you will be asked for a tip, it's almost impossible to tell them not to help. We endured about 5 mins of knocking on the glass as the man requested his tip. They sure don't hold back here!! Another vomit.

The Driver asks me if I speak Hindi or just English – only the first sign that our communication was going to be an issue. A 5 minute ride took half an hour winding and speeding through highways and back streets, honking, whilst he stopped at least 3 times for directions leaving us in the car. Doris is vomiting in a bag on the back seat, our cab driver doesn't speak English or know where he is going, then upon arrival at the hotel (finally!!)…. We get pretty cranky and stressed with the driver. Some kind of argument erupts between the driver and the hotel owner. Maybe something about directions?? I'll never know. The driving in this country kills hundreds on the roads each day and I can see why!!!

The hotel is foul. Apparently, it can always get worse in india and we should be grateful for what we have for $50/ night. I thoroughly enjoyed my cold shower and lack of window locks. Again – here is the 2-shower-a-day princess coming out!! Poor Doris is up most of the night doing her thing. I have our Intrepid tour guide in Delhi, her friend in Mumbai, my family, my boyfriend, my pharmacist and some other seasoned Indian travellers messaging me telling me what to do with the Delhi Belly. Thank you all! When morning came, Doris was ready to rumble (that's my girl!) and see some stuff. We eat what looks like dubious local food at the hotel before stopping off for another vomit. We use the wifi in the hotel before deciding that this day of sightseeing is just not going to happen and that she should rest.

Whilst I'm using the free wifi, I heard a couple of British travellers close by. Wearing harem pants, they looked like they knew what they were doing. I smiled and they introduced themselves. They were in India for meditation classes and had been in and out of the country for about 16 years following their respective gurus. Having an interest for meditation and yoga myself, we got chatting about Aruyvedic Medecine and generally just travelling in India. They were about to go to the South and spend time there indefinitely, like a number of years. Cool!!! I love that meeting new people opens up such crazy perspectives. They also gave me some oregano oil and charcoal tablets for Doris to kill bacteria. We took a pun and took the tablets. If she heals in 24 hours I am totally getting onto that.

One of our friends from Mumbai, in Mumbai, turns up with medication and some local food to the hotel. We had like a rice crepe, with some sambal (lentils) and coconut chutney. It was amazing. We managed to walk around outside for a little bit and wanting to fill Doris up on electrolytes, we got a fresh coconut and a banana. Our coconut vendor really put on a show slicing them open, spraying me with the coconut water. Show off! We took a pic with him of course.

Wandering through the streets of Bandra West it became clear that it was a Muslim area we were in. We walked around to get some air and again always I'm awe at the parallel between poverty and wealth. India's economy is structured in such a way that corruption and government policy makes the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. It makes sense when you see 5 star hotels sharing the same fence lines as the slums.

My poor darling Doris was still sick but we had dinner at my colleagues house in Navi Mumbai for an authentic Indian experience. I left some space in my tummy and also went with the intention of eating for both of us. Visiting the suburbs in Mumbai actually felt a lot like home and with the hospitality of my friend's wonderful family (especially his super cute daughter), my mission was accomplished. His mother had bought special spices to create multiple local Mumbai meals for us, including deep fried vegetable dishes and raita. She cooked all day to feed us in her tiny kitchen. Size clearly does not matter when it Coles to their cuisine.

Day 2 – Mumbai (Christmas Day)

Day 2 was Just as eventful as day 1 but with more sightseeing! Doris was so brave to venture out on her birthday and Christmas Day. We were taken around the best of Mumbai with one of her friends who is originally from Mumbai. We saw the Gateway of India, the world's most expensive residential property, Chowpatty beach at sunset, Marine Drive, the Hanging Garden, the Taj Palace hotel and a Muslim temple. So much achieved in one day and all with a local!

Mumbai is SO different to Delhi. It's cosmo, commercial and its people are much more fashion conscious. It reminded me a lot of Dubai. We managed to spend some time on one of the rooftop bars on the 38th floor of the Paladium mall, enjoying the amazing 'winter' balmy weather and a view of this incredible city.

The highlight for me in Mumbai would have to be Chowpatty Beach at sunset. So many people – families, friends, lovers, solo travellers – on the beach, celebrating the sunset. It felt like the city was winding down after a huge day of being crazy. We ate western food – pizza – and polished off the night with a cocktail and some chocolate cake for Doris birthday. She was sort of feeling better by this point… Never too ill for cake though.

By the time we left Mumbai, I felt like we were done with the crazy cities but I wanted to see more of what the Mumbai lifestyle has to offer. I also started to fall in love with the way that some young Indian women dress – I think us Australian girls could take a few pointers when it comes to their dress and simple makeup. I also came away from realising that all taxi drivers actually do ask for directions in Mumbai…and that you should always read hotel reviews before you book.

Next stop is Kerela (though as I write this we are actually finished our Kerela leg) which is very far away from the crazy cities and more about tranquility and outdoors.

Enjoy the pictures of our main day out. We covered a lot in that 48 hours!!

EC xxx

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Delicious Christmas Eve – authentic Mumbai feast

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The gateway of India. We made it!

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Filling up on electrolytes

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The most expensive residential building in the world…

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Christmas fun at the Taj

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That sunset at Chowpatty Beach

Days 1-4 Delhi and Agra

We made it!! As we sat on the plane in between sleeping and watching love actually, Doris and I were pretty scared. What to expect on the other side? All we knew is that we wanted to come back feeling like we had had an experience… What awaits certainly will!

We arrived in delhi airport to a huge line at immigration. When I say long line I am talking about thousands of Indian nationals and tourists crammed in a large hall. An hour later, we heard the stamp of approval that started our adventure. We managed to find our tour guide who would take us to the hotel in the first instance (we just had to find him amongst over 100 other tour guides and signs with the ‘intrepid travel’ logo).

Naturally, we just wanted to have a shower. We made it back to the hotel and was pleasantly surprised at the basic accommodation we had chosen for $50/night. First thing is first – connect to wifi, have a cup of tea and get the heater on. We faced the following challenges, followed by associated responses from the very kind hotel staff
-‘kettle no working’
-‘wifi no working’
– ‘electricity no working ‘
– ‘lights no working. ‘

Right. May as well find out how to get to the nearest mall then. We had heard good things and felt like some retail therapy.

Getting to the nearest mall was probably as hard as making our tea. The hotel notified us that the nearest and biggest mall was only 20km away. That in delhi language means one hour due to the crazy traffic. We ended up taking the metro to some famous markets (the metro was almost on par with paris, mind you) and sitting in the ladies carriage. Presumably given Delhi’s most recent issues with woman they have created this carriage, a very interesting concept.

Connaught Place markets were definitely our first taste of bustling crowds, haggling for discounts and the sheer noise that is Delhi. Hundreds of stalls selling fake shoes, watches and shirts,!street food and the most beautiful hand made textiles. I managed to find a beautiful bag I had my eyes on for only $8AUD compared to the $120AUD I almost spent back home. We ate street food- pappadums, samosas and fried potato balls, masala tea- and wandered around. I cannot even explain the noise and pace at which Delhi has. It’s as if everything is on high volume.

The tour

After a deep jet lagged sleep we woke to a beautiful Indian breakfast (we skipped the cornflakes option – cute). It certainly was interesting to start the day with a spicy bang! We started our tour with Intrepid around 9am, in Old Delhi. Whilst Old Delhi is not a poor area necessarily, it is still described as ‘more backward’ than New Delhi. This means that the buildings are not renovated and people live in much simpler conditions. We went to a ‘Sikh’ temple, which is a firm of Hindu religion. Please look this up if you need to know more! In great respect for their leaders, Sikh communities enter the temples by washing their feet and adorning head scarves. We watched the chanting (which can go for a whole day, if you wish) and saw one of the most unexpected sights – volunteers making food for the masses. Absolutely anyone, even Obama (especially Obama) can come to eat the food prepared by volunteers and donated by devotees of the temple. Everyone who eats there must sit on the floor to eat. It is hygienic and made with an outstanding amount of love. We even helped flip chapati (kind of like a savoury pancake delicious bread thing) and were invited by a beautiful Indian woman for lunch in her home. We rain checked the invitation but were touched by the gesture.

Street food later – samosa and masala tea, cheese with prices, veges with spices – we visited a famous spice shop in Old Delhi. This particular shop was visited by our mate Steve Waugh recently and they also seal and label their spices, making it easier for us to bring through customs on our return to aus. My lucky family and boyfriend – tandoori and butter chicken coming your way! I also managed to pick up a ‘proven’ skin miracle tea and dry dates. Let me know how my skin looks in a month…

We managed to get a rickshaw through Old Delhi after our guide haggled with the driver on price. In this time, some of the sites were so confronting and eye opening at the same time. Old woman selling the most exotic looking fruit on the ground, competing against her peers on the ground beside her. Children doing cartwheels for money, the age of my niece. Using fire for warmth. Re-using oil for frying and selling food. Children laying on the floor for warmth with their mother. Wild dogs. Monkeys. Poverty. Wealth. We felt like we were on the outside of this crazy world looking in.

Agra
Agra was a 4 hour drive from Delhi along the highway. When I think of highway, I think of the Mt Gravatt on-ramp in Brisbane and the 1 hour drive to the Smith St exit at Southport, with minimal traffic at Springwood. This highway ride was stop-start traffic the entire way, stopping for the odd cow or wild dog, constant honking and watching the villages as we passed by. I couldn’t stop looking out the window in awe at the parallel life that is India. Small villages on one side selling street food and houses made of broken brick, yet huge dental hospitals and universities on the other side.

Once we arrived in Agra, Doris and I had a moment of panic. Stuck in serious traffic in the foggy night waiting for a train to pass, we felt so vulnerable with many people outside our car windows looking straight in. Our driver was telling us that in Agra alcohol is prominent, but not because of a glamorous nightlife. Many car accidents happen on their roads due to drunk driving in the evenings and wild dogs scooting across the road. These were also the reasons that we weren’t allowed out after dark in Agra-strict security recommendations from Intrepid. Point taken!

Our hotel was basic, which is fine, luke-warm water, which we are getting used to (do I sound like a 2 hot shower a day princess right now?!). We woke up multiple times on both nights thinking that someone was in our room. Turns out that housekeeping actually stayed on the same floor and the walls were so thin it sounded like someone was banging on our door and sweeping our room.

On our first day in Agra we had vege curry for breakfast with poori ( a puffy and fried bread number) and chopati, washed down with masala tea of course. I am very excited about the fact that my usual ‘930am coffee addiction headache’ seems to have subsided with all of this delicious masala tea in the mornings. We were picked up by our lovely guide and taken to the Agra Fort, a fort made my the Mughals in about 1565 for the royal family. This was an eductional experience on the red sandstone, marble and gemstone design that as the fort. We loved it. Enjoy some of the pretty pictures!

We learnt that in those days, Persian carpets were used to keep the inside of the fort warm enough in winter. So, our guide took us to where they make the Persian carpet that we fondly know from Aladdin as ‘the magic carpet’. We learnt that each of those carpets are made by hand – row by row, knot by knot, and can take up to 8 months to make. Interestingly, this is a dying art. The government of India is now subsiding this handicraft in terms of labour and materials so that it can continue for generations to come and Indian can keep up with the demand from Western countries. We saw so many beautiful carpets and were alarmed at the price comparison of what we have seen in Australian homeware shops…

Next was the Taj Mahal, which we had been so excited to visit for many months now. The Taj Mahal is actually a beautiful love story – a young boy meets young girl, they marry and afterwards she dies after giving birth to their 14th child. She made her husband promise her that he would love her as much when she was dead as when she was alive and requested he do something for her to symbolise their love in the public eye. She got her wish. The Taj Mahal was finished 22 years later and is visited by locals and foreigners alike every single day to remember this love story. We were in absolute awe at this amazing building – so white against a city that is so…. not white.

We discovered that Agra is known for its handicrafts, passed down generations from those who worked on the Taj. Gemstones, rugs, sculpting, etc is its claim to fame, but is a dying art. We visited a small gallery that housed the most beautiful hand stitched silk pictures, boxes and handbags. The gemstones were also featured on these particular pictures, so we went upstairs to learn about rings that ‘choose us’ based on our birth date and occupation etc. The gemstones included those that are featured in both the Agra Fort and the Taj – amazing to have them slid on your finger (and then accidentally packaged up nicely and put into your bag).

Hmmm I’m forgetting something here… Food!! We were also taken to a quality sweets shop in Agra to try and buy some Petra- this is a sweet that is famous in Agra and Agra only, made from pumpkin and sugar syrup. It kind of tastes like Turkish delight but sweeter and comes in multiple flavours. Being nuts about nuts, we bought half a kilo of the nut flavour for 100 rupees – about $2AUD. We suspect it will be gone by the end of the first week 🙂 I’m honestly wandering whether or not I’ll come back fat or skinny – weighing up the risks of food poisoning and delicious curry is a tough one.

Day 4 in agra saw us visiting another fort 40 minutes away. On the way, we ran over a wild dog and had to stop the car. Another moment of epic panic on our side, having a potentially broken down car on a very random highway. These drivers in India seem to know their stuff though – a quick check of the brakes and we were fine. Phew. This fort was a very brief visit, however represented both residential and religious infrastructure of the fort where an Emporer’s 3 wives lived, each of a different religion. For this reason, lots of the architecture represented multiple religions. We donated to a local charity and made a wish using local customs before heading back to Delhi for our flight. One particular highlight of our day was discovering our first squat toilet. All I can say is lucky my thoughts are so strong and I keep tissues and sanitiser in my bag!

Again with the car ride for 4 hours…I couldn’t stop looking at what was going on around me. Poverty. Wealth. Thriftiness. Children playing with sticks. Woman carrying huge packages of food on their heads and scarves over their face from the dirt. Goats, cows and dogs. Chickens. So much dirt. So much honking.

As I write this on the plane to Mumbai, I feel an immense amount of gratitude for what we have back home. I know that most people said we were crazy for wanting to go to this city but it has been an experience where each of our senses have been assaulted. I know that I will come home with a grateful heart and even more inspiration to live a fulfilled life with what we have – sometimes we just need a gentle reminder. Even after a few days, we have certainly got that perspective that we were after in India, though there is much more to come.

I hope you enjoy the pics. Sending love from India this Christmas to you all. Can’t wait to share our Mumbai experience with you all!

EC xx

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Street food samosas

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Me in old delhi

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Rickshaw ride!!! He was fit!

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Can’t wait to cook for my loved ones with these spices

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Agra Fort

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Having fun in the red sandstone. Check out the amazing sculpting!

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The taj. The story of love. My favourite bit so far ❤

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Delicious Petra sweets. I’m not even missing chocolate (yet!)