The Brijrama Palace is a luxurious heritage hotel on the ghats (high embankments with steps leading into the river) in Varanasi. More than 200 years old, it’s been open since 2016, after 18 years of restoration. It is beautiful and opulently furnished with antiques and 18th-century art. Located on the Darbhanga Ghat, the only way to get there is by boat. Following a fascinating hour-long drive from the airport to the Mahishasura Assi Ghat, we took our first trip on the sacred Ganges. Luckily for us, once at the Brijrama, it’s the only hotel on the ghats with an elevator (the first in India). When we arrived, we were met by a priest who anointed our foreheads and gave us each a traditional marigold garland.
If you must consume alcohol and eat steak nightly, this is not the place for you. Since the Ganges is a holy river, there is no alcohol or meat served in facilities along its waters. Several kilometers inland you can eat and drink whatever.
This is one of the best ways to experience India as it has been for thousands of years and we were happy to forego cocktails, wine, and meat. From a culinary standpoint, the elegant restaurant Darbhanga at the Brijrama was wonderful and we really enjoyed our dinner of the traditional vegetarian Banarsari Thaali. It was actually more like a feast, delicious – I wish I knew what everything was. Read the rest of this entry
Can’t escape the media. Our guide from yesterday was very excited when he called this morning. . . . .
Ironically, (because I’ve had a career in PR) he was telling us my picture was in today’s local paper.
We’ve been in Jaipur for the last few days and were visiting Jantar Mantar, one of several observatories built by Sawai Jai Singh II, and completed in 1734. Since it was a holiday there were lots of school children visiting and quite a few were asking to take pictures with us.
I have no idea who took the picture. I’m told the story is about visitors adding color to the area. Go figure.
Spoiler alert – we did not see a tiger. As disappointing as that was, our visit to Ranthambhore National Park was a wonderful experience.
The weather was beautiful, clear, low humidity, blue skies, and cool. The scenery was so much more varied than I imagined. We traveled through dense forest and open fields, around huge lakes, along sandstone cliffs, forded rivers and saw more types of vegetation than I will ever sort out.
Birds were plentiful and we saw many of the species we see in south Florida as well as bright blue flycatchers and huge owls. There were plenty of spotted deer, and huge Sambar deer, both good prey for the 60 tigers and 80+ leopards that inhabit the Park. Marsh Crocodiles and monitor lizards reminded us of our American Crocs and iguanas. On our third drive, we spent a long time waiting in hopes of seeing a tiger because the deer and the monkeys were all sounding their warning calls repeatedly. I just know the big cats could see us . . . even if we didn’t see them. Read the rest of this entry
There is a bit more to Agra than the Taj Mahal and we tried to cover the bases.
First, I want to acknowledge the staff at the Oberoi Amarvilas. Making a few adjustments to our itinerary we made our own arrangements with the Oberoi. And WOW, they were amazing. We are still not quite sure how we deserved the incredible upgrade they gave us to the Robert Burns Suite, or all the other things they did for us including the bespoke touches in our suite. But we loved every minute. Read the rest of this entry
Our guide said it was like we had walked into a movie set and the director screamed “action.” It was a perfect representation, everyone and every vehicle were in motion.
For three hours we walked through the streets and alleyways of downtown and northern Varanasi. It was at once surreal and a bit intimidating. Intimidating because I felt like I could get mowed down by a motorbike or Three-Wheeler at any moment. Our 30ish guide encouraged us to find the flow of the city and just move with it. Let me tell you that is easier said than done.
The alleys were just wide enough for a motorbike, a person pressed against a wall, and maybe a sleeping dog, trash, or a randomly placed step. If a cow appeared, all bets were off. One time a large (possibly aggressive ) monkey blocked our passage. The pathways are uneven and wet. Sometimes shopkeepers were dumpling water to clean the area in front of their shop, often they were sweeping – but both the water and the swept trash have nowhere to go except a few feet ahead. When the “wet” was not from water it was best not to think about it. Read the rest of this entry
Let’s put this part of the world in perspective, look back to the 7th century BC.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built, the Maya culture was thriving, Ezekiel the Hebrew prophet was born, Egypt’s Thebes was captured and sacked, Argos defeated Sparta for the last time, Greeks had their first naval battle, the Zhou Dynasty ruled in China, and Varanasi was part of the world stage.
This century, every kilometer closer to Varanasi is a step closer to another world. About an hours drive from the airport, we reached Mahishasura Assi Ghat* on the Ganges to board a boat to take us to our luxurious hotel on the ghats. The Brijrama Palace is a 200+-year-old Heritage hotel, open since 2016 after 18 years of restoration. On the Darbhanga Ghat, the only way to get there is by boat, but luckily for us, it’s the only hotel on the ghats with an elevator. The Ganges is a holy river and today Varanasi is the spiritual capital of India, a sacred city for the Hindu. The entire area along the 7.6 kilometer stretch of the river is vegetarian and there is no alcohol served (there is in the interior of the city). There are 84 ghats and 300 temples. Read the rest of this entry
There might be a haze from smoke in Delhi, but little pollution from vehicle exhaust. They use CNG – natural compressed gas, so no diesel odor. And believe me, we were in traffic a lot.
Temps feel pretty much like Miami and the vegetation would be familiar to South Floridians. There are a lot more green areas than I imagined, frangipani trees are blooming, and green parrots are just one of the many types of birds flying around. We haven’t seen cows, monkeys, or peacocks, just goats, ox, and lots of dogs. Dogs are everywhere, sleeping in the middle of sidewalks, most very much out in the open. No cats in sight. Apparently, people here think cats are demons. No wonder they thought it was odd when we said our husbands were home taking care of our cats.
I also expected odors to be more of an assault on my senses and they are not. At least not yet. Read the rest of this entry
Overseas travel is never easy – and, unfortunately, today it’s not as lux as it once was.
My good friend Sarah and I have headed off to India. I sometimes think if you combined the two of us we’d be one super-traveler. In any case, we seem to do very well as a travel-team.
So far we’ve met some really nice, helpful airline people as we’ve navigated a 22-hr flight delay with British Air (thankfully, we got an earlier connection), lots of extra time at Heathrow (filled by dining and shopping), and a confusing checked bag situation (fingers crossed).
We are looking forward to trying a new airline, Etihad, as we make our way through Abu Dhabi to Delhi.
See you in India.