Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day 1 and Day 1.5 On the road to India

Day 1 - 14 hour Layover in London
- Corrections
- 538 Quiz
- Saatchi Gallery
- Lunch with Graham
- Seeking a bathroom and no p
- Dinner with Gordon Ramsey at Plane

From now on my honeybunny will now be known by her acronym: MHB
The picture of me in my profile was taken at the Handball venue, NOT at the Birds Nest

538 Quiz: GOTCHA! All you election junkies that couldn’t kick the habit thought I had some sophisticated new info for you. C‘mon, Obama is still in the lead, and he’s staying there and Bush is returning to the outback. All good…

Quiz: Match the temperature with the event (all in Celsius):
A) the temperature when we departed London
B) the temperature while walking the Thames in the afternoon
C) the temperature when we arrived in London
Submit answers via telegraph. Winners selected by random drawing sometime in 2009, prizes to be announced later.

To take advantage of the layover, we checked our bags ($20), buy RT tix from Heathrow to London Paddington Station on medium express train and all-day pass on Underground, total transportation cost $60. We decide to try and make it through the day without converting any dollars to pounds.

Saatchi Gallery: A very large space dedicated to displaying parts of the Saatchi collection, free, and on display was: Modern Chinese art (well, it’s not like I haven’t been to the source in last 6 months and done some research at other museums around the world). Some work quite exciting that we haven‘t seen before: lifelike old folks sitting in dynamic wheelchairs that stop when they bump into something and then restart a few seconds later (very Dennis Oppenheim puppet-like), by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Mutilated human torsos hanging high up off the floor like pieces of meat. Lifelike figures lying on the floor (sort of like Fat Boy, smaller without the mattresses). Lots of work by more well-known artists as well.

Graham, father of James from Olympics eating fame, treated us to lunch in a posh spot in the Temple (legal area of The City), Lincoln’s Inn. Tour included new area (from 1600s) and old (from 1500s), quite good, er…rather quite brilliant (quite good is not the same in British as American). All good with G and family. Lunch: chops and chips for me, very large bowl; of corn, leek and chicken soup for MHB (hint, it was very cold out during the tour), pizza and ice cream for G and MHB and I shared gooseberry crumble, large enough portion that two of us couldn’t finish. Three of us shared bottle of Pinot Grigio. Cost: Unknown, thanks Graham!

After lunch, G goes back to work and we walk the Thames toward the Tate. Though sunny, quite cold (quiz hint, not -8). Now the problem with no pounds: public toilets are 50 pee and one of us needs to go 100% pee (hint: think MHB, not THB). After unsuccessfully trying to exchange one dollar for change, one of Underground clerks shows true British appreciation for American dire needs and fronts MHB 50p, much appreciated by all (and MHB donates $1 to Underground).

We yield to the cold after walking around Parliament and Westminster Abbey, skip the Tate and head back to Heathrow to eat dinner at Gordon Ramsey’s new place in the new Terminal 5, Service very spotty, food quite good: pear, nuts and cheese salad, sea bream (excellent), macaroni with mushrooms and rich cheese / cream sauce, and glass of gruner veltliner and viognier, total $71.

14 hours may be two hours too long for a layover, loved the day in London helping us stay awake so for now seems a good trade-off.

Day 1.5 update: Mumbai

- First Impressions
- Fatigue factor

We’re met by construction in the Mumbai airport, strong smell of paint and plastering. Hotel is meeting us with transfer, and it is pretty clear as we walk to the car that the airport was never finished, at least not the part having to do with cars, buses, and bumble bees. There are tons of small three wheel mini-vans (very mini) painted black with yellow stripes and look exactly like bumble bees (turns out they are the local taxis). All parked in and around front of airport, on semi-graveled parking lot. Not too many bikes, some motorcycles and scooters, nothing like V Nam, crossing the street can be done with eyes open.

Our hotel is about 7kms from airport, or 30 minutes in traffic. Our car won’t function unless the driver uses the horn, or so we surmise since it won’t move unless he honks at the stalled traffic in front of us. We’re staying on the beach nw of downtown, on the Arabian Sea. No surf, nice beach, lots of people playing on the sand, only one or two in the water. Air is semi-grey overcast, we think smog.

This part of town is sort of like Jamaica, not much first world construction (eg, bamboo scaffolding, more ramshackle than solid, lots of street biz run out of very modest buildings/structures). Almost all the women are wearing handsome saris.

This is sort of like Jamaica, not much infrastructure and then semi-fancy resorts with a bit of security out front and on the beach. Resorts not quite as nice, surrounding area not quite as bad…the begging starts almost immediately upon exiting airport and continues during drive and even when looking at beach. A bit of a shock as we didn’t see anything like this in other poor countries, except possibly Mexico. We knew it was coming, it still is not easy to accept disparities.

Lunch: pakodas (fried tofu mouthfuls) and samosas (large deep fried, filled with potato, chick peas, peas) and make it yourself lime sodas, $12.

We actually make it to the fitness center for half hour and a dip in the pool. We’re desperately trying to make it up for kabobs at 7. Two long flights with the 14 hr layover are taking their toll on your intrepid travelers.

Off to dinner and then hopefully 8+ hrs sleep in a bed.

Ralph and MHB


  1. MHB- that was genius- who came up with that?

    sounds like a jampacked day 1 and day 1.5, which i can't tell if it was 24 of my hours, 24 of your hours, or 24 of international ours, or just.... i don't know it confuses me. lb

  2. i'm posting a comment just to show that i was here!

  3. I'm posting a comment to say that I'm appreciative of the comments!