Wednesday, December 29, 2010

12/29/10 It is rainy, windy, and cold here at Park Sierra and we are wishing we were back in the Caribbean again! We have only been back a few days and are already out of sorts and complaining about the weather. Time to make a resolution that we will absolutely NOT spend any time here next winter!! Maybe the fact that Elaine is still suffering from a cold she picked up on the cruise, and I am still suffering from a knee injury that started on the ship, is contributing to our dark moods. The fact that our fridge has gone wacko and we now need a new cooling unit (which will cost $900 installed) hasn't helped. Our friends Curt and Viv have loaned us a small electric fridge to use until Jan. 17 when our repair will take place. They have also fed us 2 delicious meals, and Ken and Carolyn have fed us one meal, so we aren't starving - and we have enjoyed their company. It was lucky that this happened when we had been away, because we didn't have a bunch of food that got spoiled.
The last 2 islands that we visited, Curacao and Aruba, were both very colorful and interesting. And because they are so close to Venezuela, the weather was very warm. On Aruba, we took a local bus with our new friends Jeff and Dorothy and went down to the beaches in the hotel zone. It rained a little bit while we were sitting in a beach bar trying out the local beer. When we returned to the ship, we were amazed at all the water that was in the streets. They had a huge downpour there, and it was only a mile or two from where we were. Tropical weather, I guess.
Friday, the day we docked back in Puerto Rico, we got off the ship in record time. Such a difference from when the Adventure of the Seas disembarked. So we had a long wait at the airport, then another layover of several hours in Miami. Lorraine and Steve, other new friends, were flying with us, so we enjoyed a nice Christmas dinner together in the Mexican restaurant in the terminal. Because of the layovers, and the time zone differences, it was a very long travel day by the time we landed at LAX, rented a car, and drove to Darran's apartment in San Diego. Had intended to stay there a few days but the weather wasn't very nice and Darran was in New York, so we drove back to Park Sierra the next day (Christmas Day). After watching all the travel difficulties on TV, we have resolved never to travel at this time of the year again. We were just lucky that we had no delays or cancellations, probably because we were traveling in warm weather areas.
I have not managed to organize my time efficiently and so have still not written a holiday greeting to all our friends and family to send out. It will have to be a Happy New Year greeting, I guess. Our New Year's Eve will be spent celebrating here in the clubhouse with our Park Sierra friends. We are hoping that all of you have a Happy New Year celebration and a wonderful year in 2011. I will also be organizing and posting some pictures in the next few weeks, to go with our travel experiences of the last few months.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hello from the southern Caribbean, where we are having our first sea day. Tomorrow we will be in Curacao and the day after that, Aruba. The weather down here is warm and sunny and we have been enjoying it, especially after watching the snow storms in Europe and the heavy rain in CA on TV. Yesterday we were in Grenada and we did a shore excursion which involved a fairly convoluted drive on the island to a river where we had a river tubing adventure. It was interesting to see the homes and the topography of the island. In 1983 our government was invited here to drive out the Cuban communists who were taking over, and in 2004 this island was almost totally destroyed by Hurricane Ivan. It has taken a lot of work to get things going again, and there are not only a lot of houses still standing with missing roofs and walls, but lots of new and colorful homes which look much more substantial. I'm sure their building codes have improved. This island is called the Spice Island because they grow lots of things like nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, vanilla, ginger and cacao here.
The river tubing adventure was fun. The tubes had a rubber flooring tied into them which turned out to be a very good thing because there were lots of areas where we were scraping our butts on rocks and the flooring offered good protection. There were about 10 young men who were stationed in the river along the route who made sure that we did not end up on the big rocks, and who often spun us around and splashed us as they propelled us on our way. Because it was such a nice temperature out, we were never cold either. They have this type of excursion on some of the other islands as well, and there are also at least 3 islands where zip-line adventures in the canopy are available.
Today there was a delicious brunch offered in the dining room, so we have just waddled back from that. Later there is going to be a special gathering for Captain's Club members offering gourmet treats and cocktails, So sea days on this ship are seeming like gluttonous events. We do think that having a brunch like this is so much smarter than the usual midnight buffets, because so many more people attend and it is a much better time to be eating. There were even 2 chocolate fountains, one white and one dark.
Our usual holiday greeting e-mail will be late this year because we don't fly back to CA until Friday. Then we have to pick up our car at Darran's, in San Diego, and head back to our RV at Park Sierra. So look for our Holiday letter sometime between Christmas and New Year's. We are wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and a very Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hello Blog Readers from the island of St. Kitts. Today was the 3rd day of this 11 day cruise on the Celebrity Millennium. The cruise started in San Juan, which was a most delightful place. Too bad getting off the Adventure of the Seas on Sunday morning was so difficult due to delays by immigration. It used up some of our sightseeing time there. We did manage to make it down to Old San Juan and enjoyed it immensely. Next time we will stay longer because we can see that we could have such fun exploring more of the island. Monday afternoon we boarded this ship and by Tuesday we were docked in St. Croix. We did some walking around in town and a little beach combing, then worked out in the gym on the ship. Today we did the same here in St. Kitts. The last time we were here we hired a taxi and explored the whole island, so didn't need to do much today. The weather has been sunny and about 80 degrees, so we are having a very tropical experience. In a few minutes we are attending a special Elegant Tea, for Elite members here on board. They have been treating us well, the food is really abundant and delicious, and we are enjoying everything.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Hi from the middle of the Atlantic. I just finished the India travelogues so here is the last one. Enjoy!

India Travelogue #10
11/21/10 to 11/26/10
We had enjoyed the little hotel right on the waters of Allepey but it was time to head out of town in our van. Too bad three of our people were sick. First we stopped at a special Hindu temple, called Mannarsala Temple, which was the snake temple. It was made of wood and there were lots of people there. We were not allowed to take pictures inside. There were areas where people were lined up to pay money for special blessings (from 10 up to 20,001 rupees) and also an area where people put their kids on a scale and weigh them with rice, or bananas, gold or silver, and then donate that to the temple as a thank you for having the child, because this was a fertility temple. It seems amazing to us that in such a crowded country, with 1.2 billion people, and hard economic times due to too many people, they are so concerned with fertility!! But that is because there is no social security and people depend on their children to take care of them in their old age.
There were also areas where they could buy sweets to take home which were made by the priests, so the blessings could be spread around at home. And a place where they sold music, statues, etc. So it seemed like one big area of sucking money out of the faithful. Shanji told us it is the only temple where a woman is the high priestess. It is also unusual because it is made entirely of wood. We had to go barefoot, and we weren't allowed in the inner sanctum.
Next we stopped at the Krishnapuram palace, which was also made of wood and had beautifully manicured grounds. It was built for a maharaja about 250 years ago. There were a lot of collections of things in there: coins, swords, statues, etc. And it was a good example of how buildings were designed in those days to ensure nice breezes and open courtyards for resting and socializing in the court.
Kerala gets a lot more rain than the north and this is an unusual year, so it started in again. It rained pretty steadily the whole time we were driving and was raining hard by the time we reached the hotel, the Deshadan Cliff Resort in Verkala – a sister hotel to the one we stayed at in Munnar, up in the mountains. The hotel was nice with a beautiful pool right in the middle, and a nice little restaurant (open air) off to the side. The room was nice too and happily had more lights than the last 2 and also a TV with good English stations. At lunch at 3 in the restaurant, we watched the rain pour down and Shanji had arranged a birthday cake for Tom, who was 23 that day.
Verkala is a sacred town for the Hindus. It also sits on a 2 km long ragged coastline of red cliff. The shops, restaurants and hotels are all on the cliff, with lots of steps leading down to the beach area. It clearly is a place that has been adopted as a hangout for western young people who are staying around a while, and there are lots of good tourist restaurants and buying opportunities at the many stalls nearby.
Hooray – the next day was a bright, clear, sunny day. John drove us to the 2000 year old Janardhana Swamy temple where we walked around and Shanji explained more about Hinduism. This temple is on the top of a hill and as we walked up the steps we stopped at an area where a man was stationed to accept money from people as they entered, then he shot off a very loud firework which was supposed to drive away the evil spirits. Once again, we were not allowed in the inner sanctum, but there were lots of interesting areas around the main one. Then we drove to the beach area where priests were having consultations with people who had a loved one die recently, and who performed special rituals for them. To bathe in the sea here is considered holy, especially on the new moon of the Hindu calendar.
Verkala is the final resting place of the great social reformer, Sree Narayana Guru, so we went to his Ashram called the Sivagiri Mutt, took pictures of some of the people there for weddings, and also saw the guru's house and the temple built for him. Ghandi visited him once and stayed overnight so that is also a big deal for the faithful. He was in favor of treating the lower classes much better, and for fair treatment for everybody, including women.
The day was very warm and sunny so we enjoyed the fact that we had some down time by the pool.
Dinner was at 6 with the gang and we went to the Cafe Del Mar, on the cliff. The food was good, with lots of non-Indian choices that we haven't had for a while but it took a long time to arrive. We had a spinach salad and a pizza with gorgonzola, mozzarella, tomato sauce, chicken, and mushrooms. The crust was very good. As we were eating, it started pouring down rain again; this has been a very wet year!
Tuesday (11/23) we had to leave by 9 because we drove back to Kochi and it took about 5 hours.
Along the way we stopped to see two Asian elephants in a field. Elephants are still used for work here, and we have seen them carrying big loads as they walk along the roads. One of the towns had a replica of the Taj Mahal, and we had tea in a restaurant where we watched a two-foot long mud snake catch and eat a frog.
When we got to Fort Cochin we stopped at a big laundry place where they wash, dry and iron the clothes, all by hand. Shaji said that there are not enough people who want to do this kind of work anymore, so it is a dying occupation. I guess they are going to have to buy washing machines.
Late afternoon, we went to a Kathakali performance. It is an ancient dance form which is mostly dependent upon facial movements to communicate thoughts and feelings and mostly only found in the Cochin area. First we watched the guys put their very elaborate makeup on, then toured a museum showing some of the outfits they wear, then there was about a 45 minute performance. First they explained the facial expressions and the hand movements, then they had a little play/dance. There were guys with drums accompanying them and also some annoying chanting which might have been an explanation of what was happening on stage, if we could have understood it. It got to be a bit tedious, but happily it didn't last that long.
11/24/10 was the last day for this tour. We did a walk around Fort Cochin which included going to a big church nearby which is the 2nd oldest cathedral in India, and on the way stumbled on a street where lots of little girls were all dressed up and lining the street waiting for a procession of important people. Then we walked to the church where Vasco da Gama was originally buried. His home while he was there was across the street. Queen Elizabeth had also visited this church, and there is a commemorative plaque. Then we walked along the riverfront to see the big Chinese fishing nets, which require about 6 guys to work them. They are mostly a tourist attraction now, although there were stalls selling fish nearby. We all took the ferry to Mattancherry area where Jew Town is. There were very nice stalls there and it was very clean. There used to be a big Jewish community (from the 1500's) which was very well accepted but when Israel was created, most of them moved there. Today there are only 6 Jewish families. Most tourists go to see the beautiful synagogue with great handmade floor tiles from China and a nice chandelier from Belgium. Next we went to the former Maharajas palace. There were some kama sutra type frescoes in the basement and there is a copy of part of it in our room at the hotel! Elaine and I walked back from Jew Town to the hotel and it was interesting walking through the industrial area and places where they sell spices.
That evening we all walked to a really nice hotel and restaurant down by the water where we had a delicious departure dinner. Elaine had a calamari dish and french fries, I had coconut chicken, and we shared an eggplant and spring onion starter with peanut sauce. The food was all good and it was a fun last evening with everyone. Once again it rained heavily while we were eating so we were glad to be inside. No wonder it is so green here!
On Nov. 25 we got up early, said goodbye to Shaji who was a great tour leader and a delightful person. He arranged for a taxi to take us to the airport, which turned out to be an hour and a half drive due to people trying to get to work. The buses were absolutely packed, and none of them have side windows, which is so surprising because they get so much rain. It was the beginning of a day and a half of travel since we had to fly to Delhi, then wait nearly 10 hours for our flight to London and subsequent flight to Barcelona.
The new Delhi terminal is very nice but the system they use is stupid. You can't get into the airport building if you don't have a ticket, and when you do, you are in the area where the check-in counters are and only a couple of small stalls selling food. You can't go through security until you check in and you can't do that until about 2 hours before your flight. So all the good stores, food court, restaurants, etc. are on the other side of the security check area, and by the time you can go there, you don't have time to use them! We wanted to have a nice dinner at the airport but couldn't get back to the restaurants because flight check in for us wasn't until nearly midnight. When we went to check in, Elaine caught her hand in the luggage cart and smashed it pretty badly, including her wedding ring. The bathroom attendant helped her get it off with soap which was good because her fingers started to swell and it would have been a disaster if her ring was still on. Once we got through security, I got her some ice at McDonalds, in the food court, and once on the plane, she iced it the whole flight. Her hand stayed swollen for many days and eventually was very colorful, but probably nothing was broken. We arrived in Barcelona the next day at about noon and took a taxi to the Holiday Inn Express, which was a wonderful place to recuperate from the rigors of travel. We slept from 3PM until the next morning! The hotel is not in a tourist area, but there is a shopping and restaurant area within a block, and a metro stop 2 blocks away in the other direction. We had 24 hour free WiFi, and the daily included breakfast was huge and delicious. We highly recommend this hotel if you need a place to stay in Barcelona.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Blog Update 12/4/10
Hello from Gran Canaria Island which is one of the 7 Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. Our ship is here for the afternoon and evening and we are looking forward to exploring the town of Las Palmas, and possibly doing some shopping. The Canary Islands have had duty free tax status since 1852 which has greatly stimulated trade and thousands of cargo ships call in here every year.
So far we have mostly enjoyed the ports of call on this cruise. Toulon, in the Provence region of France was first but we didn't get off the ship. The main part of town was too far away, it was too cold and ugly out, and there isn't that much to do there. But the next time we are here we will definitely either rent a car or take a taxi to Le Castellet, a medieval village perched on a hilltop overlooking the wineries of the Bandol region. There are narrow cobblestone streets with houses dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries and there is an 11th century castle and a 12th century church. The original entrance gate still stands along with 6 guardtowers and most of the original town walls.
Our second port, Ajaccio, Corsica was an easy town to walk into because our ship docked within blocks of the main streets, and the weather was warmer, at least in the morning. It has a nice walk overlooking the water and seashore, past an old fort and moat, where several burros and goats are now grazing. The so-called tourist attractions focus on the fact that Napoleon was born and raised here and the house he lived in, and that of his uncle, are now museums. The streets are so clean and the buildings interesting and well kept. Of course, the place is also loaded with coffee shops and tourist crap shops. We enjoyed walking around and made it back to the ship for a late lunch at just the right time – before the rain came in.
On the British Airways flight from LAX to London, I sat next to an Iberian Airways pilot who was from Palma de Mallorca in the Balearic Islands, our third stop. She told us we would enjoy her home town and we LOVED it! What an absolutely gorgeous setting, with a huge number of yachts and boats in nicely arranged marinas near where we docked. There was an gorgeous promenade along the water leading all the way to the main part of the city and the cathedral, which is the second largest Gothic cathedral in Europe. It towers over the city above the Arabic walls which protected the city, and was easily seen from our ship 3 miles away. It also helped that we were having a warm and sunny day. Many Europeans come here as a resort destination because of the beaches and sunny weather. Jack, Elaine and I took the city bus in (1.25 Euro compared to the ship's shuttle price of $6), and then walked back after exploring the main part of the city. The streets and buildings are beautifully restored and meticulously kept, with impressive artistic touches everywhere, such as sculptures, statutes, parks, and artistic streetlights. Across the street from the docking area and up some stairs we found where the crew goes to shop and do internet in an area called Puerto Pi. It was an impressive area and totally local – not dolled up for tourists. Finding free WiFi in these areas is always a treat because it costs $.65 a minute on the ship. Luckily, because we are diamond plus status on the ship, we got coupons for 45 free minutes each, but we still try to find free WiFi in the ports.
The fourth port was Cartagena, Spain which is in the southern part of the Costa del Sol. We have been here before and always enjoy it as it is a very manageable town to walk in with clean streets, beautiful buildings, and good shopping. The free WiFi here is right in the Tourist Information office on the main street. By now we were getting tired of wearing the same outfit all the time, because we only brought one set of clothes for cold weather. So we found a shop where we had discovered some great deals last time, and bought new sweaters and scarves. The sun was out today and it was starting to warm up already, something we knew would happen as soon as we bought more warm clothes!
Yesterday was our first sea day, and we always enjoy the relaxed pace of those. We have been working out in the gym everyday, trying to get back in shape and also work off some of the calories we are taking in. A lot of those calories are coming between 5 and 8:30PM each day when we hang out in the Diamond Plus lounge with Jack, and some other new friends we have made there. Elaine and Jack have a running argument over who likes the free drinks more. It is held up in a lounge called the 19th hole, which is on the 14th deck with panoramic windows and we enjoy watching as the ship leaves port, or as the sun sets over the sea. The nightly live entertainment in the theater has been pretty good, as well. Such an enjoyable contrast to the hectic touring days in India.
Speaking of India, I am aware that I have not finished posting the travelogues from the adventure. I am posting Travelogue #9 today, right after this update, and I will finish writing the last travelogue on the next sea day, which is Dec. 6.

India Travelogue #9
Thursday 11/18/10
The Greenwoods Resort near Periyar had a great breakfast buffet and we enjoyed it thoroughly before boarding the van again to head up to one of the tea plantations. There was a guide there who showed us the plants and told us a lot about the tea before taking us through the processing plant. Pictures were not allowed inside, but we were able to see the big trays where they spread the leaves out to dry, then chop them up in a big machine, put the crushed bits through mesh to sort the sizes, then put the crushed tea in a revolving tank with warm air running through to dry it. It was very noisy inside the processing plant so we were taken outside to a little outdoor kitchen where he showed us the proper way to make tea, and served us 2 different kinds.
Next we stopped at a very large catholic church (St. Francis) which was made of a bluish colored stone and architecturally interesting. Kerala has a large percentage of Christians although there are also Muslims and Hindus here too. Shanji says they all are pretty accepting of each other and live together happily as neighbors. We have seen LOTS of churches since we have been here, and Sunday is pretty much a holiday with a lot of the businesses closed. In the north, where there aren't many Christians Sunday is not a day that everyone has off from work.
The third stop was at a cattle market which takes place only a couple of times a month. The van pulled off to the side of the road and let us out to take pictures. Below us, in a field, were hundreds of cattle, most with colored paint on their horns or colored dots or numbers painted on them. I guess that helped identify who was the owner or seller. On the road, where our van was stopped, there were big cargo trucks and also smaller individually owned trucks which were being loaded with cattle. And wow, did they cram them in there! By the time the trucks were loaded and driving off, you couldn't have stuffed a piece of paper in with them. Also, the cattle seemed so pathetically thin! If they were on their way to market, there wasn't much meat on them. Probably this could only happen in the south of India because the Hindus revere cows and would never do this to them, but in the south, the Christians are in the majority, and they eat beef.
A bit further along the road we stopped next to a rubber tree field and Shaji explained the whole process. They cut a groove into the bark of the tree and the liquid latex comes out and is collected in a little cup attached to the tree trunk. They cement a sheet of plastic around the trunk and over the cut area and the cup, to keep rain water from getting in there. They have to reopen the groove each morning and then collect the latex each afternoon or evening, so this process demands regular labor. The trees last a long time, and the plantation owners are doing very well financially. We passed some of their houses and they are always big, behind walls, with nice courtyards, and colorfully painted.
Arriving at the Whispering Palms hotel near Karakoram, there was a very nice buffet lunch waiting for us, with lots of food choices so the ones having problems with India food could eat something else. Shaji had managed to get the use of the houseboats that the hotel owned, so some of our people stayed in those and the rest of us had nice rooms in the hotel. In the late afternoon Shaji arranged for ice and some appetizers to be put on the smaller boat and we all brought the booze we had purchased earlier, and we had a happy hour boat ride out on part of the Backwaters. It was great to be out on the water for sunset, and to see the houses, rice paddies, coconut trees along the banks. As it started to get dark and we headed back towards the resort, the engine crapped out. They couldn't get it going again, so eventually they brought the other boat and towed us back. There was some entertainment of a drum and flute before the dinner buffet, which was another delicious meal which even included lobster. While we were waiting for dinner, a big busload of Indian people arrived, got checked in, and then had a separate dinner in another room. Shaji pointed out that it is good to see that it is not just foreigners who are interested in touring India – they are finally becoming affluent enough to travel in their own country and stay in these same nice hotels. The next day, at the swimming pool, we chatted with a young woman who was obviously Indian but who said she now lives in New Jersey and is scheduled to be an American citizen by next year. She is studying nursing. She was on a vacation with her family, who still lived in Kerala. This was a theme we encountered all over Kerala: get educated, learn a skill and English, and emigrate to an English-speaking country for better opportunities. There were billboards all over advocating this, and Shaji said the schools are packed with people planning to do this. It is part of the reason why Kerala is one of the more affluent states.
The next day (the 19th) we didn't have to leave until about 11, and we were traveling to Allepey by boat, so all we had to do was go to the lakeshore. The boat was not one of the houseboats but it was covered, which we appreciated because the sun was hot. Shaji took us to a small building on one of the banks where they serve seafood and toddy. Toddy is a palm alcohol drink and Shaji explained how the men have to climb the trees and attach a container to capture the juice of the flower, after they cut into it. Later they have to go back and collect it, so they climb the trees twice a day. The juice ferments very fast and is sweeter when it is fresher, becoming quite potent and bitter after only about 6 hours. We tasted the fresh stuff and it was good. The local people drink it when it has fermented longer because they want more of a “kick” from it. It is cheap and they can afford it. Apparently these little Toddy huts become quite the gathering places for the local villagers and Shaji said all the gossip gets spread around there.
The rest of the ride we were passing locals in small wooden canoes who had been out fishing or collecting mussels, or some of the big houseboats. The houseboats are of varying sizes, some of them with 2 to 4 bedrooms, a kitchen and living room on them and the crew does all the cooking. The outside walls and roof are woven reeds and some are very fanciful looking. Shaji said there are now about 500 of these boats in this area and they are so popular in the Nov-Jan high season that they cost between $500 and $1000 a night! They are very comfy and most also have a diesel generator and TV. They travel slowly down all the waterways, which are called the Kerala Backwaters. People have houses along these waterways, there are towns, businesses and even a “bus” boat route for the locals to get around. The rice paddies are located in fields behind the dikes that have been built up to keep the river water from getting in.
Our hotel in Allepey was beautiful and right on the water with manicured landscaping and an open-air restaurant. Lunch was ready when we got there and the food was good. There were only 12 rooms at this hotel and we were using 7 of them, so the staff really catered to us, including fixing special foods requested by Shaji. The rooms had open air bathrooms, which we also had at our last hotel. There were only outside walls and no ceilings. This hotel also had a spa area and one of the included activities was to get an Ayurvedic massage. Elaine and I went in for ours after a swim in the pool. This was the first massage we had allowed since about 31 years ago when we stayed at The Spa hotel in Palm Springs. These ladies really covered us with oil and had us slipping and sliding all over the table. Also, there was no concession for modesty – we were naked the whole time. It was an interesting and educational experience, but I don't think I would ever repeat it. The oil did some nice things to my skin, however it took lots of washings to get it out of my hair!
As soon as we cleaned up after the massage, our group left for a boat trip through the nearby waterways in a big wooden boat which is usually used for hauling lumber, I suspect. Shaji wanted to show us the life along the waterways and also get us to a special spot for sunset pictures. By the time we got there, it was starting to rain. He had brought along a lot of umbrellas so we didn't get soaked on the way back. This was the only hotel we stayed in which had mosquito nets over the beds and although the bugs weren't too bad, there were some and we were glad to have the nets.
The next day (Nov. 20th) we took another boat across the river and Shaji lead us on a walk through the village which was spread out over there. He explained everything about what the people had to do to live there, all about the rice paddies, which were actually lower than the river, how they collect and prepare the mussels. We saw many houses which had water in their courtyards so the people had to wade to get into their houses, which were thankfully built up a few steps. Some guys also showed us their makeshift gym, which had weight lifting equipment in an area protected by tarps, and they encouraged Elaine to try the machines.
Later that afternoon some of us went in the van into the main town of Allepey, which was much bigger than we had expected. We went to the liquor store, which is where several men behind a protective screen sell booze to people through little windows. There is always a long line of men, and when Elaine and I got at the end of the line, the guys quickly hustled us right into the back where we got to look at the goods and make our selections. We don't know if we got this special treatment because we were the only women, or because we were foreigners. India wine isn't really that good, and it is fairly expensive (by California standards), and we quickly learned to buy Grover wine. I tried some of the Indian whisky and that was perfectly fine, and the Indian rum is very good.
Anna and Shaji visited an orphanage for teenagers while the rest of us went down to look at the beach. It was starting to get overcast and dark, with rain threatening, so we just stayed a few minutes but there were quite a few locals doing things on the beach, which had nice sand. There were food stalls there too. And another big sign was up about learning English and emigrating. By the time we picked the others up, it was raining, and by the time we got back to the hotel there was so much water on the ground that we had to wade to our rooms. Usually there isn't this much rain at this time of the year, although it always has more than the north. We took our booze to the open air restaurant and we all sat there and talked until dinner was ready. A young Indian couple was there, visiting from Delhi, so we chatted with them. She was an investment banker and he was in computers and they clearly were from affluent families. They told us they had been married for 9 months and that theirs was not an arranged marriage. They said that more of the young professionals in the large cities are marrying for love and not doing what is usually done. But Shaji said that there is also about a 40% divorce rate among love marriages and hardly any divorces among arranged marriages. Perhaps it is because there is such a stigma about divorce, and arranged marriages get more family support.
That night for dinner, Shaji had arranged for us to have some of the mussels we had seen all the local people collecting. They were delicious and we ate several helpings of them with no problems, but Jasmine and Peter were both sick overnight and the next day.