I'm sitting at home, no housekeeper (she's out all week), no driver (he's out all week), no kids (still school time, even if the local kids are on summer break), no where to be (finally). The dishes are done, the laundry is as caught up as it's going to be at the moment, the dining table is clear and relatively clean, even the den can be walked through. True, I still have about a thousand shirts to iron and my scrapbook is begging to be worked on, but here I sit, enjoying the quiet. Even the cats quit meowing for once. And it looks like it might rain. Perhaps I'll go for a nap.
But not just yet. First I want to put down all the things that we've been up to.
Friday, Ian had work in Cochin, Kerala, the state to the west of Tamil Nadu and one of the four south Indian states that are part of Chennai's Consular district (the other two are Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.) He had meetings to attend and talks to give so the kids and I tagged along for a much needed break outside of Chennai.
There are real benefits to traveling this way for weekend jaunts. The hotel is arranged by the travel office. Car pick-ups to and from home, to and from hotel are arranged, the airline tickets are arranged. All we have to do is pay for my portion and the kids' portions. Once checked in and Ian spirited off to his first obligation, the kids and I have a day to do nothing or everything. This time, they swam all morning in the forever pool, had a poolside lunch, made spa appointments for Saturday morning, napped in the afternoon (a side effect of waking at 4 a.m. to catch a 6:30 flight), shopped in the hotel gift shops, watched fishermen bring in their catch from the sunset cruise, learned a bit about Kathakali (kaht-KAH-lee) performance, and had dinner in the Rice Boat restaurant.
What's not to enjoy?
The Taj Malabar hotel is right at the tip of Willingdon Island, where three rivers meet and pour out into the Arabian Sea. It's a shipping lane, so cruise ships and cargo ships pass while ferries and fishing boats scoot around and canoes avoid sinking by the larger vessels. There's always something to watch. Our second floor balcony allowed a view of the dolphins at midday and a fantastic lightning show at dusk. Within our executive suite, they crammed an additional two twin beds, kept the fruit&cookies&chocolates stocked and had the most gorgeous bathroom. Katherine wanted to keep the flat screen hanging plasma TV. I just wanted the tub.
The kids spent much of the weekend swimming. A forever pool is built so the water appears to continue out to the sea, a trick of the eye and relaxing to sit by. On Saturday morning the girls dried off enough to have a manicure (Becca) and a pedicure (Katherine) after I'd completed my facial. When I look up such treats at spas in the U.S. I wonder how they can charge the prices they do.
We didn't say overnight on a kettuvallam, a Kerala houseboat, nor did we take a day long tour of the backwaters by houseboat. We scheduled a half day backwater tour by canoe, that brought us to a village home to make rope from coconut fibers, a canal boat ride through coconut groves (formerly rice paddies, but all the young folk are leaving and coconut groves need fewer people to manage them), and a stop for cardamom tea, pink water and coconut dosas. The pink water was boiled river water, boiled with the heartwood of either the Sappanwood tree or the Pathimugham tree (they both dye red), said to have medicinal effects, keeping the locals healthy. Quite a Kerala secret because I can't seem to find anything on-line about it. The water tasted perfectly normal and was a curiousity for the kids. Kerala's foremost income producer is tourism and the Keralites take it seriously. The backwaters are clean and healthy systems, so clean the kids dangled their feet overboard and I didn't freak. Rebecca brought home a bottle of river water we dutifully labeled "Do Not Drink" because even with the natural shades of green from river life, the water in the bottle came perfectly clear.
Cochin/Kochi is a quiet city of about 2 million people (a million live there with the rest and more coming in for work and school), filled with Catholic churches thanks to the Portugese colonial influence, and still has the periodic elephant tromping down the road. The plantlife was a vibrant green with monsoon season kicking in and the temperatures 5-10C degrees cooler than the 40C we returned to in Chennai. I guess it could have been worse, up north this summer temperatures are hitting anywhere between 41-47C. Here's a handy online conversion site for those who refuse to learn centigrade. For the ones too lazy to even look that part up, 40C=104F. In Chennai, that's not dry heat. It's "I'm swimming to the busstop" heat.
I'm looking forward to going back to Cochin some day. We have another 2 1/2 years here and it's such an easy, relaxing and enjoyable trip to make.
God's Own Country. Indeed.