"Madam, everything is possible"
I visited the small holy Hindu city of Pushkar for a few days and this was the catch phrase of every salesman. I felt like I was back in Yangshuo, China because of all the eastern/western shopping.
Pushkar is a city where there are herds of Israelis around. If there are cheap drugs to be taken or sold, there are Israelis. Most are embittered by their time in the army for a cause they don't care about and just want to get high. In the process they have populated this small Hindu city and many are very rude to the locals. This is not to say all Israelis are crackheads, but I didn't see one that wasn't strung out either on drugs or the infamous "special lassi".
The "everything is possible" phrase gave me a good laugh because when you would walk into a shop, a tout would run over and say it. THen when you asked about a different color or size they answered, "no madam, not possible" and would try to interest you in something that didn't fit or was hideously ugly. According to our group leader (who is Indian), the prices I got on my silk chinese pants were dirt cheap (70 rupees which was originally 80 but they had a small hole which I wasn't very fussed about but I felt compelled to bargain). I also bought a pair of cotton pants that are VERY flowy and almost like bellbottoms but they dont go tight around the knee, just straight up to the waist. They match a beautiful silk punjabi top, which together cost 320 rupees ($6.50ish). Again the group leader said I did really well.
After a shower, I put on my new duds with my usual travel head rag and wandered around a bit more. One quiet old man walked up to me and told me I looked like a beautiful maharani and then walked away. I suppose there are worse compliments!!! I also find that I get more attention when I am in local dress than not. Why, I don't know. This really confuses me. Oh well, go figure!!!
Pushkar was a welcome sanctuary for a few days and we stayed in a resort that doubled as a plant nursery. We got the fun of shopping and bargaining while staying in an oasis of greenery. ROCK ON! :)
Anyone who knows me, knows I was traumatized as a kid by the movie ET. It has never ceased to haunt me, and I never thought it would happen again in India.
Ok, so the group decided to stop at an Italian chain cafe called Barista. I think I mentioned the Delhi Barista in one of my first blogs. When we were there, we saw this huge ugly/beautiful kitsche cinema across the way. It's called the Rajmandir Cinema. We all decided to see a movie because we wanted to experience the whole Bollywood thing, and this was the place to do it. We went in to our "Diamond Seats" and got comfortable. After the usual amount of previews, the movie started. I had no idea what the story was and I expected flying saris and ear splitting singing.
I was wrong.
Instead we sat through half of the most bizarre and trippy movie EVER. Let me attempt to sum it up.
A young boy was born with a strange condition and he grew up faster physically than mentally, sort of like the Robin Williams movie Jack. Big body, little boy brain. He also seemed to have this condition where he had two thumbs on one hand (the actor really has this condition and it's considered good luck). Two Thumbs meets a beautiful Indian woman and begins a strange love triangle with her and her West Side Story-esk hulking boyfriend. The Hulk gets jealous that Beauty is spending too much time with Two Thumbs and proceeds to beat him up with a basketball (Two Thumbs was trying to learn to play to impress Beauty). However Beauty doesn't care and invites TT back to meet her parents and he sees she has a computer. TT then wants to show Beauty his father's antiquated computer that he used to use to communicate with space aliens. Of course TT didn't know that's what it was for and the two of them inadvertantly call the alien ship to Earth. This is done by playing the same 4 note tune OVER and OVER and OVER.
Ok, here's the ET part. A few days after the alien ship startles all of India (which is pristine Alpine countryside straight out of The Sound of Music and you expect Julie Andrews to show up singing Do Re Mi) Two Thumbs wants to go play with his friends. His mother gets upset and TT throws a tantrum. When he whistles the 4 note alien beacon, a little alien whistles back. Thinking one of his friends are messing with him, he smashes a clay pot on the ground. THe next day he comes outside to find the pot perfectly fixed and TT and Beauty head off into the forrest to find the mysterious alien who fixed it. While looking for him, they save the little alien from being eaten by huge dogs and there is a brief Vulcan Mind Meld during which the alien's forehead light pod glows in communion.
All during this, there are song and dance numbers at regular intervals. One song takes place in the rain, another on a hillside, all with computer generated birds. Two Thumbs cuts a rug pretty well.
We didn't stay for the rest of the movie, but we were told that ET and TT become friends and TT saves ET from the evil American scientists and military. After that, ET helps TT win a basketball tournament (by cheating, nice moral there) and Beauty helps him learn to dance and eventually win a dance contest, much to the chagrin of the big hulking boyfriend. TT and Beauty fall in love and TT helps ET get back to his ship in the same way Elliot got ET back to his ship, a flight across the moon. Instead of a bicycle though, the blue ET is in the basket of one of those little mini scooter things that are very popular with kids.
With movies like this, who needs drugs?
P.S. I also visited the Amber Fort and a really interesting observatory built in the 17th century by one of the many Singhs.
Amy, if you are reading this, you know the cripple fight in one of the South Park episodes? When they yell "CRIPPLE FIGHT!!!" with Timmy and Butters? Well I saw an Indian cripple fight today at the Amber Fort over begging space rights and I thought of you. :)
Bundi is the city of tubas and pharmacies.
As our train rolled into the smallish town of Bundi, we had a strange predicament, no rickshaws!! Most train stations are packed to the brim with pain in the ass richshaw-wallahs who want to wrestle every rupee they can from you and STILL take you to the hotel they get commission from. To our surprise, Bundi's train station had no rickshaws and our group leader had to go gather a few up.
As we rode through town, I noticed dozens of pharmacies and also a huge number of shops selling tubas. Umm.... are there many infirmed tuba players in Bundi? I never got to find out unfortunately.
What I did find is an amazing palace of ruins, which is owned by the current 56 year old maharaja. As I walked through the palace/ruins, I found brightly colored murals depicting British soldiers, elephants, the various maharanis, etc. Bats and monkeys are now the rulers and inhabitants. The monkeys are the scary red assed ones as well. Nasty things.... bleh. And they all seem to have a case of old man balls...
Earlier in the day I also was able to visit Chittorgarh Fort, a fort that spans 13 kilometers. The word MASSIVE comes to mind. We had to have rickshaws drive us around the fort it was so big.
Bond, James Bond
Last night I dined at the Lake Palace Hotel here in Udaipur. This is the amazing hotel/palace where where the James Bond flick Octopussy was filmed. It did not disappoint. Opulent huge chandeliers, small intimate rooms scattered all over, perfect for British secret agents to seduce dizzy girls. When you walk in, there are huge vessels filled with candles and rose petals and hundreds of romantic archways. There is a garden with pools of coy moving underneath small bridges and it is lit up at night. A night at this place costs $350-1000 for a suite I am told. I can see why! I felt like a spoiled bratty rich chick for an evening, a much welcomed novelty.
As it is not peak season yet, the group was able to get a reservation for the amazing buffet dinner, which costs 1000 rupees a head. 1000R is about $22, which for a dinner in NY is usually no big deal. So we went and ate and ate and ate... fish curry, red pumpkin souffle, all sorts of amazing indian dishes, the names of which I forget.... They had great desserts as well... mmmmm...
We had to take a boat to the Lake Palace and on the way back, we all agreed that it was definately lower in the water from what gluttons we were. The Roman idea of a vomitorium seemed like a good idea for a minute or two...
Needless to say, today I was not much interested in food. Instead I decided to attempt to book 5-6 days in Kathmandu while I wait for Anthony to reach Varanasi. It didn't work out, so instead I am visiting the chill out/ yoga city of Rishikesh instead. I can realign my chakras and be one with myself like Sting.
I also spoiled myself by spending a big old 15 rupees (35 cents maybe?) on getting my upper lip waxed. Veena (the waxer) was most efficient. Finally, to get rid of a nagging cough I have had, I went to see the pharmacist/chemist. He sold me a months supply of anti-malarials, 5 days worth of cipro, cough syrup, and some fem products for the big old sum of $5.50.
TOnight I am off to a local traditional dance session. I'm watching, not participating. :)
Hope everyone is well.
I was in a very "anti-India" mood last night. Nothing was working out the way I wanted it to because of Diwali in October.
I couldn't get train tickets for the days I needed because they were all booked up. I wanted to tear my hair out. It was so stressful because I could get a train to one place I wanted, but then leaving to get somewhere else was near impossible. ARGH!!!
So I decided to call it quits for the night and went for a quiet solo dinner at a pseudo western restaurant here in Udaipur. Dinner was great and then afterwards, the owner came over and we chatted for a good 30-45 minutes. Rakesh (the owner) offered to give me a quick motorcycle tour around last night and I accepted. He was quite the upstanding guy, so I felt cool about it. It was a nice way to see the city at night. After 20-25 minutes, he dutifully drove me home and shook my hand. It was nice to see there are guys in India who aren't total shitheads.
This morning I went to the City Palace which was so kitsche (sorry about the spelling) that it almost seemed out of place. Also, a few of us girls also went to this tribal village thing outside of town and the ride itself was very relaxing because the scenery was really stunning.
When I arrived back at the travel agent he had great news!! He was able to book my tickets from Calcutta to Bhubaneswar and from there to Bangalore. For an almost cross country journey, it cost $39 in an air conditioned sleeper car. Not too bad I thought. The only other option was a $209 flight, which I wanted to avoid, and I would have missed stuff along the way.
Tonight I am being totally crazy and spending $20 (1000 rupees) for dinner at the Lake Palace Hotel, which is where Octopussy was filmed. I will fill everyone in on the decadence of it soon.
The train system in India actually makes sense.
Loads of other things don't but for some reason (I suspect the British influence), the trains are well organized and generally on time. However, booking a ticket can be wacky because each individual train has it's own number, instead of a regular route. For example, if you want to go from Varanasi to Calcutta (as I did) you have to pick from 4309, 1275, or a bunch of other ones that stop in different cities along the way. There aren't many everyday repeating services that have the same train number. After you figure out the train number, you fill in this highly coveted reservation form, and wait. Fortunately, I paid the 40 rupee fee to have someone else do this for me and didn't have to deal with it.
Then there are the different classes of ticket, reserved, unreserved, 2nd class sleeper, 3rd class AC 3 tier, etc. It's all so confusing at first. Then, I spent my most useful 40 rupees (about 90 cents) on a Trains At A Glance book that explains EVERYTHING. After getting all that organized, I was free to roam the city of Jaisalmer.
Jaisalmer is a city I thoroughly enjoyed. It's a relaxed city of about 45,000, a third of which live inside the huge fort. Our hotel had the most patient and helpful staff, and a kickass strictly veggie restaurant.
Also great were the merchants. They were very relaxed, as opposed to Bikaner
and definately more relaxed than in Delhi. They didn't get all mad and pushy when you just wanted to look, and had very good attitudes about the whole bargaining/bantering charade. I only bought one thing, and now I am going to go through the ordeal of shipping it home, along with a few things I made the mistake of packing. I hear shipping a parcel can be interesting as well... we shall see.... that will happen in our next city after this one, Udaipur.
Right now, I am just going to relax in Jodhpur, have a lassi, get a small henna tattoo, hit the fort, and just wander. Laters!
Those would be camel humps.
For the last day I was out in the Thar Desert riding a very tall camel whose name I forget. He was a well behaved camel and I couldn't complain. The group was a bit delayed in leaving because our leader (Taesh) fell ill with malaria. He went and bought anti-malarials, took em, and is on the mend. He had to be carted around on a camel cart while the rest of us rocked back and forth on our camels. The camel dudes that were hired brought along a young one they are training and one of the young camel boys tried to hop up on him, and he freaked out. He threw the kid, stomped on him briefly, and ran off. The 10-12 yr old boy got up without missing a beat and ran after the rogue baby camel.
After a few hour ride, we wound up on a beautiful dune filled area. The camel dudes set up camp and cooked us some dinner. The sunset was beautiful, the stars unmatched, and I could actually see the Milky Way. Mars was shining bright and the moon rose pretty late and did not ruin the view of the stars. After they ate their dinner, the camel dudes came and sung for us for over an hour while using a 5 liter plastic container as a drum.
Other amusements were dung beetles. These huge beetles would collect a ball of camel shit and roll it around. Some of the beetles would attempt to roll it up these massive dunes, but always keep rolling back down again and have to start over. We tried to help them by making a path, but still no luck. It seemed to belong in Dante's Inferno or something.
Today we rode back, our sick people were mended and healthy and tonight we head for Jodhpur.
Thanks for all the comments!!
I am Indiana Jones....
This morning I visited the Karni Mata temple. This temple is where thousands of rats run free among a temple, while you walk around barefoot. Being this is a holy Hindu temple, shoes are not an option. So, I paid my 20 rupees camera fee and went in search of the rats, which were piled up drinking from a huge bowl of milk. If a rat should run across your foot, it's a symbol of good luck, and if you spot a white rat, it is the rat incarnation of someone who will be a very holy saint.
The story behind this odd rat worship is that a Hindu demigoddess named Karni Mata was somehow cursed/blessed by the fact that all of her descendents/devotees would be reincarnated as rats. So now all the rats are sacred and if you should accidentally kill one by stepping on it, you have to gift the temple with the rats weight in gold. I walked carefully after hearing this...
We did a public bus to Deshnok, and it wasn't nearly as manic as Delhi. In fact, most of the men got up so we westerners who were melting could sit. Very polite people here in Bikaner, which is about 3-5 hours drive from the Pakistan border.
After rats, I visited the Junagarh Fort, which is a huge complex. It was a a most impressive place to visit. Along with the fort, I visited the Old City and bought some really tasty India sweets. MMmmmmm...... I also know a good place in Delhi for them as well.
Anyway, a note on trains in India. Dude, they are HOT. From now on, I am going to take the 3rd class AC reserved car as opposed to the 2nd class sleeper. I nearly choked from humidity and claustraphobia. But, I came out fine this morning, and had even gotten some sleep in. The trains in China were amazing compared to this! Not a prob though, I can adapt.
Hope everyone is well.
Waiting for it....
I'm waiting for Delhi Belly. It hasn't happened yet and I've been here 2.5 days.
I've been so busy today and yesterday. Today was definately more fun. As I have never been to India before and arrived alone, I decided to do a 3 week tour to get a feeling for things and then head south for 2 months to roam around. I'm with traveling with Intrepid who are a super low impact tour operator who I have done short tours with before. Small groups, lots of free time to do whatever, and not too much hassle. I've already learned so much from our group leader that I can't be let down from here.
Delhi is mad. It's craziness of the same order as Cairo, and I felt as out of place my first day here as I did there. However, after today, I feel SO much better. It's not like I will ever look like a native, but I went and bought myself 2 salwar kameez' which are the pajama like outfits all the women wear if they aren't wearing a sari. It's really comfy and deceptively cool. I got one in cotton and one in chiffon (it's not as extravagant as it sounds... it cost less than $5). Both included top that reaches the knees, pants, and a long scarf. One is super practical, and the other is super vibrant.
I have now learned how much extra shit I packed. I should have left the monopod because I used it once, and my fleece is going in the garbage. It's too bulky and I wont be needing it until who knows when. Other useless crap, extra tshirts, and I am a huge book slut so I have separation anxiety with every one I read. The last two have been Dune and Little Women. Dune because it's just cool, and Little Women because it was there in a hostel and was on the BBC's "Big Read" list of the best 100 books ever. Anyway, I also have a new one from another tour member and feel guilty about leaving the other two in a hotel because no one wants them.
I experienced my first Delhi public bus. What a ride. Shoving and pushing and stinky people, but once you get a seat next to an Indian woman, it's easy as cake. The older the better because they shoo away all the assholes. Nobody in the group got mugged or pickpocketed and it was a successful journey.
What else... I walked by the Red Fort this morning, and also visited the Friday Mosque. Both these pictures don't show the amount rain and humidity that I had the pleasure of experiencing this morning. The area of town that these are in is a bit sketchy (and muddy and filthy) to say the least and I was super glad to have someone to follow.
After that, we all crowded into a jeep and headed back to Connaught Place for a really relaxing and snazzy coffee at a Italian coffee chain. It's sort of like Starbucks, but a frappe cost me $.80 and they use mineral water for everything. Whew, my last taste of ice cream for months... That's also when the fun started.
Kat (the Aussie I am sharing a room with) and I decided to go buy some clothing so we didn't look SO out of place. I didn't think I looked that different, but when the three South Africans on the tour walked right by me without recognizing me, I guess there was some change. Also, we bought some essentials like saline (which everyone told me was nonexistant but I found within 30 seconds and it was the same stuff as at home, made in the States) , toothpaste (Colgate!), laundry powder, and the all important TOILET PAPER. I think I am going to make a shrine to TP when I get home. Really, I am.
Tonight we do the overnight train thing, and it should be interesting. Hopefully we will have 2 compartments to ourselves so we can play cards. That was the one think I forgot to pack, playing cards. I will have to buy them along the way or Ant can bring some when he arrives in October (hint hint).
I hope everyone's enjoying my blog and Stephan I got your email. I'm, glad you get a chance to read everyday over your tea and muffin. :)
If anyone has any interesting news from home, drop me a comment, I'd appreciate the news/feedback.
I have arrived, and I am about to melt. It is about 1pm here in Delhi and I'm in a small internet shop, with a fan blowing on me, and I'm ROASTING. I guess I'll get used to it!!
This place is very similar to Cairo, with one exception. I expected to have "hello lady" and "taxi madam?" at every other step, but so far, I haven't had one offer for a rickshaw or a taxi, and only one general hello. Granted, I was only out on the street for 10 minutes, but still. :)
Not much to report yet except that I saw my first "holy cows" last night in my cab ride to the hotel. Pretty scrawny guys as well. Even if they did eat beef, there wouldn't be much meat to eat. Oh, and the honking, OH the honking. Honk if you are passing, honk if you thinking about passing, honk if you see a cow on the road, honk if you want someone to hurry up, etc. They must go through horns like mad around here.
Mom, I will call you shortly, and maybe by the time you read this, I already will have. Quit worrying.
So, got into London. I had forgotten how much I loved it here. Sigh.....
I'm staying at The Generator, a drunken student hostel in the Russell Square area, but because I booked through BootsnAll, the price was only £9/nt as opposed to the usual £15-18/nt. I was stoked. Anyway, I had a bunch of chores I had to do, such as ship film home (cost me only £6.03!!) and buy more film (at the London branch of a photo supply store we have in NYC, Calumet).
I decided to revisit the British Museum bc their Egyptian collection was closed when I was here in 1997, and I didn't have time in 2000. WOW, they're Egypt section was almost as good as The Metropolitan in NYC. Impressive. I'm glad I went. Wait, no, their mummy section was closed.... not the whole Egypt section. Anyway, it was amusing bc there was this guy standing in front of the Rosetta Stone showing off to his girlfriend or some girl about how much he knew and was talking COMPLETE SHIT. He had no idea what he was talking about.... It took everything in me to keep my trap shut and let him look smart. It was my good deed for the day.
I then went to dinner at my FAV Indian place in London, Khan's in Bayswater. I love that place and I make everyone go there. Ahhhhh, tasty Indian food......
The next day I went to go see David Blaine. For those of you who have no idea who he is, he's a street magician who has decided to put himself through all these different tests of endurance. At first I wasn't that impressed and I had a conversation with Ewan in Edinburgh about him. Ewan thought he was incredible. I must admit, I am in agreement. He spent a week buried alive in a coffin, then 3 days standing in glacier ice in NYC. However, now he is spending 44 days/nights in a plexiglass box suspended next to the Thames with no food and only water. He hopes to make it until he birthday on October 19th. I hope he makes it.
As I sat there watching him stretch or write in his journal or read, I kept wondering how was going to make it. No food for 44 days? I guess it's possible because there are those monks who meditate for months on end. To make matters worse, a friend of his (or so it seemed) came down and sat under the tent near David and proceeded to eat a big ol' hamburger. It looked like he got the finger from David for it, jokingly. I spoke to one of the guards and he was telling me there is no way for them to communicate with him, and he only has a one way radio in case of an emergency. David tries to conserve his energy and is in the process of slowing down his metabolism. The guard also told me that it was looking a bit windy and if the wind hits 25 mph they have to bring him down because the crane holding him can't take it. I hope that doesn't happen and I hope he makes it through this in one piece.
Anywho, then went to have drinks with Holly, a friend I made through Mel (who I met in China last year). She joined my family and the Barthels family for Thanksgiving to partake in a turkey so big it's ass fell off. It was great to see you Holly and glad to hear about the great new boy you've got yourself! We met up in Leicester Square, and were later met by Nicola, another physio (Holly and Mel are both physios) and we all shared a few drinks. Great fun.
Tomorrow I am off to India, and tonight I am feeling like shit. I thought Delhi Belly would hit me in India, but it's come early so I am heading out now. Write as soon as I can in India!
After Bath, I cruised through Salisbury for a day. I was intrigued to see the cathedral there and also I figured I'd go to Stonehenge and Avebury again. Yes, I know, more standing stones. But I felt I had to compare them with the others I had seen.
By far, my favorite "henge" (I know my mother will chuckle as the use of the word henge bc she'll think of strawhenge and woodhenge from an Eddie Izzard DVD) was the Ring of Brodgar in the Orkneys. Stonehenge was just too insane with hundreds of tourist everywhere, and Avebury was a hassle to get to by bus. I could have had a better day elsewhere...
Anyway, back to Salisbury Cathedral. I took a free guided tour (well worth while) and learned all about the Cathedral. It's an a good example of Early English Gothic architecture. I bet you didn't know that!! If you want to see it, click on the link and go through the interior and exterior tour. The highlight of this visit was the unexpected chance to see one of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta. For those of you who don't remember your history, the Magna Carta was the earliest form of a constitution that the barons of England forced King John to sign. It granted certain rights to all people, though how often it was upheld, I don't know. One of the very first ones was that a widow shall not be forced to remarry if she choses to live without a husband. The American Constitution and the Bill of Rights both have been based on the Magna Carta.
My high school AP European History teacher Mr. Sinito would be proud....
I had a slight screw up and when I had planned to stay in Shrewsbury, there was no hostel there!! The last YHA I stayed in told me it was a great place, etc. and then when I rolled in, there was no hostel bc it was closed for renovations. It was my own fault for not calling..... travel fart....
So, I stayed in Bath for a few days. I had been there ever so briefly back in 1997 when I was doing my summer long London stint but I thought it deserved another stop. Bath is a place where you almost forget you are in England. From the color of the buildings (a really beautiful yellow limestone) to the architecture (Palladian school) to the shopping, its all so not English. I got in, tired and beat from traveling all day, and I was glad for the slight hostel mix up.
The Bath Abbey is an interesting place. The funniest bit was in the front, there are statues of the saints Peter and Paul. One is haloed and looks all saintly while the other has a weird hunched look with no halo. Turns out, a few hundred years ago, someone used the statue as target practice. They shot off most of the left saint's head! So, when all was back to normal, a new head was sculpted for the saint out of his former beard. He looks like a head shrinker did a number on him.
Other interesting places I saw were the Royal Crescent and the Bath Circus. The last place I visited was The Museum of Costume, which of course made me think of my sister Vanessa. She would have loved this place, except for the last part where they had a mannaquin of J Lo in the famous green Versace dress from 2001. That was chosen as dress of the year for that year.
Not the most exciting few days to read about, but definately interesting and I learned a lot!
Well, I've been in Wales for a few days. I've been touring around seeing some massive and impressive castles in Conwy, Beaumaris, Harlech and Caernafron. They were all built by Edward I, the shithead from Braveheart who was determined to not only dominate the Scots, but the Welsh and French as well.
As it happened, when King David of England died, the Prince of Wales at the the time (Llewelyn) refused to pay homage to David's successor, Edward I. Edward declared war, and beat the PISS out of the Welsh. He then built this Iron Ring of castles around Wales to show his supremacy.
Edward I is quite the character in history. Here is a guy who ordered his fruitcake son, Edward II, to boil his bones on his death (from syphillis) and take them onto the battlefield with him. Edward II decided to not do it, and had him buried in Westminster (I think) with honors instead. He also played a joke on the Welsh. He promised them that they would once again have a Welsh born "Prince of Wales", speaking not a word of English. So, when Edward II was born in Caernafron, Edward I carried him on a Welsh shield to the window and proclaimed him "Prince of Wales". A son of an English king, born on Welsh land, speaking not a word of English is right! That is why heir apparent to the thrown of the UK (such as Prince Charles) have been created Prince of Wales ever since, in Caernafron no less. The Welsh still don't appreciate it.
Contrary to this ruthless and brutal image, in every account of Edward I, comes the story of how much he loved his wife, Queen Eleanor of Castile. They were married when he was 14 (and she was 10) and when she died at 46, he was so heartbroken he had crosses built at the 12 stopping points of her funeral, hence all the King's Cross streets in England.
I am so intrigued by this wacky and bipolar guy I am going to see if I can get a book about him here in the UK. I'll post anything of interest!!
I'm such a dunce.
Everytime I visit a major city, I want to buy new clothes because the ones I have with me are just too practical. I hate my cargo/conversion pants and my Tevas with a passion, but I wear them because they make sense. I miss my long Betsey Johnson sweater and my leather skirt and my knee high boots. I really detest looking like a hippie all the time. Ok, the rag around my head doesn't help, but my hair is unruly these days.
Today I though I'd go for some retail therapy. I found the local H&M and bought a striped skirt, a safari type shirt (this was practical for India) and a jersey tee. THen I ran off to find a normal pair of non-travel shoes, like a pair of snazzy Pumas. I felt really good after buying them.
Then I got back to Ewan's flat. I had a major guilt spasm because the shoes alone were 3 days budget. Did I really need them? Not really. They didn't really serve a purpose that the ugly Tevas didn't. Same with the skirt and jersey tee. So at 5pm I bolted out the door to return all of them. I just made it in time for the 6pm closings on Princes Street.
At least for about an hour, I felt like I looked like my old self. I feel better now. :)
Ahhhh, back in Glasgow. I like Glasgow because there are loads of free things to see and the atmosphere isn't as snooty as Edinburgh. I revisited some old favs of mine, and recalled my last visit with my brother Nick. Nick nearly killed me as I dragged his jetlagged ass through the Necropolis. I actually just read it was modeled on my other fav cemetary, Pere Lachaise in Paris.
Anyway, on my last visit to Glasgow, Nick and I attempted to find the museum where the famous Salvador Dali painting of Christ of St. John of the Cross was. We walked RIGHT by the place without even realizing it. This time I found it, and I was so glad I did. The museum is free (always a plus) and is very open minded and non-judgemental about all sorts of different faiths. But then the kicker was seeing this incredible painting in person. I'd seen it in books before and I even knew I guy who had a poor copy tattooed on his back. Nothing compared to this. It is now quite possibly one of my favorite paintings ever.
The painting was so controversial when it was done and eventually bought by the St. Mungo Museum that some guy slashed it in 1962. The damage to the canvas is still very visible. THe museum seems to have a problem with closed minded people messing with their pieces because recently another lunatic attacked a huge bronze statue of Shiva and damaged it. People need to just CHILL OUT!!!!!!
As I was in a cemetary/cathedral mood, I decided to visit Stirling the following day. When I got into Stirling, I ditched my bag in a locker, and headed off to the Church of the Holy Rood. Rood or Rude is another word for cross. This is the only surviving church in Scotland that had a Scottish coronation in it. James VI (and later James I of unified Scotland and England) was crowned here when he was 13 months old, in a ceremony preached by John Knox. The church itself is from the 15th century.
An added bonus was the cool graveyard that is attached. Some of the oldest dates go back to 1597, but there are older undated stones that just have symbols on them.
After all that history, I am heading to Edinburgh for some modern retail therapy. :)
On the way back to Edinburgh, I decided to stop for a day in Loch Lomond and also for a day in Glasgow.
Loch Lomond is another huge tourist trap, with one exception. I wandered into the Balloch Castle Park for a really beautiful late afternoon walk. I had read about it in my guidebook. The really special part of the park was called the Fairy Glen. It was the section of the park that was totally different from the rest of the park, which was most open grassy fields. Instead the Fairy Glen was a heavily wooded area with little streams running through it. It was complete with a mossy floor, massive shadey trees, and tiny little bugs that flitted around in such a way that reminded me of pixies in movies.
Lucky for me, I had this area of the park all to myself. I sat, had a snooze, and then walked back to my hostel (check this out), which was 3.5 miles away. Walking that 3.5 miles with my pack was DEFINATELY not fun though. I survived, and I am in Glasgow now, enjoying cheap internet and free museums.