Posted by Nancy D. Brown
Fellow travel writer Beth Whitman has been captivated by India and its culture. She has authored a Wanderlust and Lipstick book specifically for Women Traveling to India. While I have not yet journeyed to India, I interviewed a woman in my What a Trip column for the Contra Costa Times Lamorinda Sun. Here's what she had to say about her visit to Mumbai as well as a recap on my Napa Valley Wine Train birthday lunch and a weekend getaway to Monterey Bay.
While I was learning about the November Mumbai attacks in India via text from a fellow travel writer, Lafayette friends Donna R. Abraham-Moldoff and Michelle Leskin were in India on holiday.
"Fortunately for us, we were attending a wedding in Jodhpur," said Moldoff. "So we were not in Mumbai at the time."
The friends flew to Mumbai and then hired a driver to visit New Delhi and the Golden Triangle in Rajasthan. They toured the Taj Mahal, and the cities of Jalpur, Jodhpur and Udaipur.
Her reflection of India upon arrival, "the heat, humidity and smells hit you when you get off the plane."
Moldoff shared that driving through each of the cities exposed them to how the people were simply trying to survive in such poor areas. Sometimes they would see entire families working in the field. The young children were happy with the small candies they offered. The older kids, 12 and 13, would ask for Bic pens.
"The people are fairly isolated and pens are a big deal. What hit me was that, no matter what, they were all trying to support their families," she concluded.
For Moldoff, the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"To see the Taj Mahal at different times of the day was awesome." A 'must-do' added Moldoff. She also shared that the food was phenomenal. "I didn't miss meat or chicken. They use dal, which is a lentil, for protein, and it was excellent."
She thought the Indian hospitality was incredible but became very aware of the caste system during her visit. The family of four they visited had three servants and a driver. When they were shopping for wedding clothes they were impressed with the beautiful colors.
The auto rickshaws were another experience. Let's just say there were a lot of close calls.
Moldoff felt fortunate that they were invited to the wedding to get a behind-the-scenes look at Indian culture. While the reception took place Friday night, the ceremony began when the stars were aligned. In this instance, it was at 1:30 a.m. Sunday.
Rickshaws to wine trains
Last month's column covered Eurail travel. This month I experienced a touch of the Orient Express in Napa Valley of all places! My husband and I boarded the Napa Valley Wine Train and stepped back in time for a three-hour round trip ride up-valley.
We had an elegant lunch prepared by executive chef Kelly Macdonald in the 1947 Vista Dome car. For a complete review, click here.
The vintage rail car joined several 1915-1917 Pullman dining and lounge cars that had been lavishly restored. While we didn't depart the train for winery visits, several tour packages are offered, as well as vintner lunches and dinners.
Initially greeted with plenty of controversy, the Wine Train celebrates its 20-year anniversary this year with winemaker celebrations and special pricing.
Monterey Bay getaway
Another weekend getaway destination with off-season pricing is Monterey. Moraga's Sue and Rob Tenerowicz took their boys, Robbie and Jake, to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and stayed at the Spindrift Inn on Cannery Row. Sue liked that it was within walking distance to the Aquarium.
"The Inn had old world charm," added Sue. "We enjoyed the sitting room with a fireplace and balcony."
Moraga's Diane Bevis and husband, Bruce Orcutt, along with son, Evan Bowman, stayed at the Inn while Bowman raced in the Sea Otter Classic. Bowman, a professional cyclist and 2005 Miramonte graduate, will return again to race in the 2009 event.
Have you been to India? When's the last time you visited Napa Valley or the Monterey Peninsula? Perhaps it's time for a visit.