A little bit of Bangalore

My sister Meave and her family moved recently to Bangalore, where her husband James will be working until late next year. We decided to pay them an early visit, taking advantage of Robert’s final “free” flights  before he turns two at the end of this month.

They’re living an a nice big apartment in the Domlur area, which allows James to walk to and from work. Avoiding the often chaotic traffic was a key factor, but it’s also a good neighbourhood, close to the lively Indra Nagar area. (They could have  chosen a more sedate gated community, but I think they’re getting a better experience where they are, even if it takes a bit more energy and effort.)

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They’ve quickly taken to the pace of life there. Even after just a few weeks they have a good grasp of the city – and a dash across the busy streets is almost second nature now.

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We spent a considerable amount of time in autorickshaws – or “autos” – manoeuvring through the busy traffic, with every available gap quickly filled by motorbikes, autos or cars that are remarkably free of dents and scratches. The air is dusty, and always filled with the sound of horns and hooters. But it’s a fun way to get about and we were soon taking rides alone, having learned the ins and outs of agreeing a fair fare. (The photo shows Nadine with James and my nephew Daniel.)

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Naturally, this being India, wheeled vehicles are not the only hasard on the road. These cows were strolling nonchalantly down one of the quieter streets in Domlur, but we often spotted animals in the midst of the rush hour traffic.

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Thankfully our visit was after the rainy season, but there were still showers now and again. When the rain gets heavy, the bikers pull up at the side of the road and take shelter wherever they can, patiently waiting for the shower to pass.

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Our first week took in a visit to Lalbagh Park, where Daniel was very excited to add to his count of monkey-spottings, and a swim at a very nice pool complex in one of the gated communities. Perhaps the biggest hit with Robert, however, were the slides and climbing frames at the playground in Indra Nagar.

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One of our two trips away from the city was to Mysore, just over three hours away by bus. It was a smooth journey in air-conditioned comfort, but it felt quite strange to be watching a Bollywood film shot partly in Dublin while travelling on a bus through the India. (The volume was also way too loud – thankfully our return journey was movie-less.) Mysore is considered a must-see in the region and it was thronged with Indian tourists. We managed a quick tour around the impressive Amba Vilas Palace…

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…but Robert was definitely  more excited by the horse and cart we used to get back to our hotel. (A change from the auto.)

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The following day we visited Mysore Zoological Gardens, where we were pleasantly surprised to find large enclosures, healthy-looking animals, and messaging focused strongly on conservation and sustainability. (Nice photo Nadine!)

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At times it felt like we – and particularly Robert – were just as popular as the exhibits however. We had lots of requests for people to take photos of or with Robert. We mostly declined as politely as possible, but in this case he was pounced on while having a little rest on a bench.

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Back in Bangalore, the weekend included a visit to the small (for a palace!), but perfectly formed Tipu Sultan’s Palace, preceded by a walk through the city’s famous flower market. William and Daniel became the centre of attention, presented with garlands of flowers (in their respective favourite colours of course). We also took advantage of our hosts’ offer to babysit and had a night out to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. Sadly our visit to the Mavalli Tiffin Rooms didn’t live up to our expectations – but it was nice to be out and about for the night (or at least until the citywide closing time of 11pm).

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Sunday brunch at the Leela Palace hotel was a real treat. As impressive a buffet as you’ll ever see and plenty of bubbles to wash it all down. (Robert was so excited by it all he refused to take his usual nap.)

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During our second week we flew down to Kerala for a couple of nights, saying at the little slice of paradise that is the Bethsaida Hermitage, near Kovalam. It’s an Ayurvedic health resort, but our chosen therapy consisted of nothing more than relaxing as much as possible. The food was almost entirely vegetarian and really tasty. We sampled cuisine from all over India, with curries, dhals, biryanis, and breads of all kinds, all bursting with amazing flavours.

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Our room had a little terrace and garden, and a view of palm trees wafting in the breeze coming in off the Arabian Sea. It wasn’t yet high season, so the resort was quiet. There were a few glum-looking Russians lazing by the pools or wandering about in dressing gowns following some treatment or another. (One treatment seemed to involve having a palm leaf wrapped around your head for a few hours – very strange-looking.)

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I took a couple of dips in the sea. The waves were big and there was a considerable undertow, but with advice from the local lifeguard I felt confident enough. It was exhilarating!

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Back in Bangalore we spent a final couple of days shopping, eating, bowling and generally making the most of our time with the family. I have to say, one of the best aspects of the holiday for me was being able to spend two weeks more or less constantly with Robert.

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Our final evening included an early 2nd birthday celebration…

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… and we took advantage of the play area during our stopover at Frankfurt Airport to shake out the long haul wrinkles.

It was my first visit to India and although Bangalore wouldn’t have been my first choice of destination, I feel that I know the country much better than I did before. I’m sure I’ll return to explore more widely in future.