Cape Cod again

Aug 6, 2016

DSC_0593Our first big trip with the family, this year, is to Cape Cod. We get off to a bad start with a flat tire, followed by crazy traffic. It’s early evening by the time we reach. We have 4 items on our list – beach + lighthouse, sunset, whale watching and Martha’s Vineyard. We are too late to catch the last whale watching boat, so that gets pushed out to tomorrow. If we can make it to the first boat, we might still be able to do Martha’s Vineyard. When we reach the Race Point Lighthouse, there is a wedding ceremony in progress. The family is highly amused. We head to the beach, where we dip our feet in the ice cold waters. Seals froliking the ocean as we stroll along the shore.

Cape Cod 2016We arrive at the Rock Harbor beach twenty minutes before sunset. Dark clouds, low on the horizon have obscured the sun. We are disappointed, but wait it out all the same. Good things come to those who wait; we were rewarded with the most unexpected spectacle. The sun slowly slid out under the clouds and slipped into the ocean.For a moment it stood perfectly suspended between the cloudline and the horizon, like a dot of kumkum. The throat of the ocean shimmered as it swallowed the orange ball of fire. We waited till the last sliver of light had been consumed. As we walked away, the water greedily lapped up the leftover pink from the sky.

Aug 7, 2016

The first boat is too early for us. We miss the second because we got stuck in a cycle rally to Provincetown. Martha’s Vineyards is now off the cards. Trivia – the first family reached Martha’s Vineyard today for a sixteen day vacation. I did try suggesting, we switch whale watching with Obama spotting, but.. siigh!!

Cape Cod 20161Whale watching is a smashing success. Very soon, there are all kinds of whales, all around us. We get to witness some feeding behavior. The ocean is calm and the dramamine is really helping. I’m having  a whale of a time.

On the way back, we again get a truckload of traffic. Where is everyone going this weekend!

As crazy as it was, the family is happy and the weekend was well spent.

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Akashardham, Robbinsville, New Jersey

31st July 2016

The family wants to visit the Akshardham temple; the husband is mainly interested in the food. We plan so that we get there around lunch time, so we can visit the temple, have lunch there (not necessarily in that order) and then head out peach picking.  When we get there, the temple building is open, but the sanctum sanctorum is closed. God is resting. The doors will open again in about three hours.  The temple, situated on a hundred and sixty two acre plot in Robbinsville, New Jersey  is in itself an offering of  adoration, reverence, and gratitude. This exquisitely embellished marvel, with ornate pillars and panels was carved piece by piece in India, assembled to make sure everything fits, disassembled and shipped halfway across the globe and reassembled here. The Carrara marble used imparts a soft, heavenly glow to the edifice. The intricately carved, high domed ceilings, artistic arches, and ninety nine pillars, each made out of a single stone, give it stature and magnificence.  Each of the hundred and forty four figurines in the temple celebrates the Hindu faith of the sect.  Ninety one elephants are carved on the outer walls of the inner sanctum and each elephant is decorated differently. The husband tried his hardest to find two similar ones. The main dome rests on an octagonal bay surrounded by windows allowing natural light to seep in through the stone latticework – a little bit of modern in this confluence of traditional northern and southern Indian architecture. The inlaid floor contrasts the opulence of the marble and adds a quiet elegance. In winters, the temple is heated by pipes that run under the floor, as opposed to heating the space above. This ensures that the floors stay warm. As hot air rises through the building, it warms the occupied spaces and gradually loses heat as it moves into the unoccupied above. Given that it is considered disrespectful to wear footwear inside Hindu temples and is strictly prohibited, and that devotes like to sit on the floor and pray, this is a necessity. It is also a neat touch of energy efficiency.

akshardham 2

The mandir was inaugurated and opened to the public on August 10, 2014, but parts of the building complex are still under construction. We walk around admiring the carvings – deities and devotees, saints, sages, dancers, musicians, peacocks, elephants and processions. The husband has been given a veshti, with elastic and Velcro to cover his lower body. Shorts not allowed.  Sleeveless shirts, skirts and dresses are also not allowed. Please dress respectfully. This applies to both men and women. A small victory for gender equality – DING! We get lunch at the tiny cafeteria cum shop at the back. The food is good, but the fare at the Guruvayurappan temple was far superior. We are done eating and shopping, but the Lord is not done resting. Dark rain clouds looming overhead make the decision easy. Peach picking is cancelled, we wait inside the temple. Photography is not allowed inside the temple. There are volunteers carry plaque cards to remind you this. They also remind you to remain silent, so as to maintain the spiritual atmosphere and to not touch the carvings. You cannot lie down and nap either. God is resting, why can’t devotees? It is now pouring outside, which means we cannot go catch a few winks in the car. There is an eight minute audio-visual on the temple and its making, which we watch twice.

akshardham 1

The raised platform on which the gods in our prayer nook stand was bought from the temple store

I am telling the husband what fun it would be if they were to blow conch shells and ring bells to announce to opening of the doors, when we hear the conchs. The doors open to slowly reveal the beautiful faces of the idols inside. That first glimpse is absolutely magical. If you can, time your visit to experience this. Each idol is painstakingly adorned. The wooden throne like canopies they are enshrined in are gilded with beaten gold. It is all very grand. This is also the time when parts of India celebrate the Hindola festival. Gods and Goddesses are seated on seated on swings and the faithful move the swing for their enjoyment. The temple has an idol of Swaminarayan on a swing, and we pull the string attached to rock it.

We  prostrate ourselves on the bare floor and offer our ego to the great ones before we head home.

 

 

Montreal – Au Revoir

2nd to 4th July 2016

 Today is our final day in Montreal. The plan is to get some breakfast at l’Avenue du Plateau, head to the Basilica and finish up with shopping at the underground city.

2016-07-08-PHOTO-00001771The long line we saw outside l’Avenue yesterday and people’s obvious willingness to wait to eat there has piqued our curiosity.  B and J, our early risers, head out to reserve spots in the queue, while the husband and I stay back to hand over the keys to our Air BnB owner. When we get to the restaurant half an hour later, B and J are still in queue. We all wait for another twenty minutes to be seated. The restaurant owners have the sense and decency to offer patrons, who have spent close to an hour standing in line outside, complimentary fruits once they are seated. A hungry customer is an angry customer. We place our orders and wait. The fruit is long gone.

Montreal 2016The three South Indians with me cannot do without their morning coffee. Et moi? I’ll have a mimosa, s’il vous plait. Orange juice for breakfast + Champagne for lunch.  Blame it on New York, if you will ❤

When the food comes, the portions are large and beautifully plated. We dig in eagerly. Nom nom!! I got the scrambled eggs with mushrooms and truffle oil, which was so-oh good, but J’s burrito with quinoa in it was even better. The husband and I have enough left over for dinner. We don’t know it yet, but boy will we be glad for it later!

2016-07-08-PHOTO-00001761Next stop, Basilica of Notre Dame. The plaza is packed. There is not a parking spot in sight. We drop B and J off and go looking for parking. When they were done marvelling the stupendous interiors, we had still not found parking, so we simply pick them up and make our way to the underground city, Montreal’s shopping haven. The name underground city conjures images of Palika Bazaar and Heera Panna. Palika Bazaar is New Delhi’s literally underground bargain market, popular for grey goods. Heera Panna is Mumbai’s above ground version of the same. We park and make our way through a labyrinth of buildings, stations, shops and cafes, only to reach a humongous shopping mall. What an anticlimax!

We navigate our way back through the maze to where we have parked, miraculously managing to find Anthea of AntheasChronicles and Rohan in there.  The trip back is uneventful, save for a strange man at one of the rest areas. I wish I could remember which exit we took. This janitor stood outside the restrooms with a broom and a pail, staring vacantly into empty space. He didn’t move a muscle or blink or in any way acknowledge our coming or going. He just stood there like a wax statue, absolutely motionless. Freaky!!!