Tiles and Touring around Chettinad.

The next day started again with yoga – only two of us this time. Then breakfast followed by a 4 hour tour with Sarah. She works at the hotel for the few months of busy tourist visits. She takes guided tours of organises her own tours.

She’s American but grew up in the area, the child of missionaries. So she has a very good understanding of the life and people of the area of Chettinad.

Our first stop was a tile making business. It’s amazing to see how they make tiles in a rather primitive way. A technique from Italy. We had a demonstration. It involves putting a glass square in a frame then dropping in colour, making the pattern then putting sand and concrete over the top compressing it then turning it out. I was given a go at creating a design! Such fun.

This area was a big trading centre many years ago 1850-1950. Men left Chettinad for a few years to set up trading. They were traders and money lenders. This was how to make money in those days. When they returned they came with teak from Burma, enamel from Indonesia, woven mats and many other goods you see in the houses of the area.

As they returned rich they built mansions. The front door was used by the men for business. The back door women, children, the produce. There are around 4-5 courtyards in each house. When banks opened it changed Indian society. Rich money lenders lost a source of money making.

Most houses are now derelict. The owners – the men and the families are living overseas and only return for weddings and family occasions. A few have been turned into boutique hotels. The Bangala Hotel was first used as a men’s club.

We visited several of the mansion homes of the area.

Read about the area here: https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/www.cntraveller.in/story/looking-grand-mansions-chettinad/amp/

The first was Lakshmi House. We met one of the owners a men sitting at the house entrance. It was preparing for a wedding.

The people looking after the house were old and quietly dignified.

When we visit historic houses in other countries we see the furnishings as well here the mansions are empty. The people don’t have beds , tables and chairs.

Then the Kanadukathan Palace.

This sits in a small village which was obviously a centre for rich traders as there are a number of empty mansions. It has a large water reserve which is fenced to stop people and animals using it and it is the towns water source. People come with their water containers and fill them for home use.

We couldn’t go into the Palace but visited Mrs Meyappans fathers house. Once beautiful it was now neglected.

Last stop was a mansion which like the Bangala has been turned into a hotel. It’s lovely but we were pleased we were staying at the Bangala.

Back through the dry countryside to our hotel for coffee and fruit by the pool. No real lunch as we wanted to enjoy our 3 course dinner.

Another walk through the bustling village to the antique markets. They were in a particularly dusty street that was all dug up and hard to walk.

The antique traders weren’t interested in bargaining much. We tried hard to get better prices. But they stubbornly wouldn’t move much on price. Considering there were so many shops and so much for sale it was surprising.

Before dinner we enjoyed an aperitif on our verandah before our Indian fusion meal. Mrs Meyyappan the owner designs all the menus and the food is great. https://www.cntraveller.in/story/restaurant-bangala-karaikudi-chennai-28-top-restaurant-awards-2018-list/#s-cust0

Tonight we enjoyed Spinach & Broccoli soup, crab cake with spiced chutney and tangy cucumber salad , chicken stew with coconut rice and an egg hopper ( a delicious rice pancake like shape with an egg in the bottom – found also in Sri Lanka). Ending with bread pudding dressed with marmalade served with homemade vanilla ice cream. A delicious dinner for the equivalent of $A19 !

We’ll be sad to leave this gracious hotel and Mrs Meyappan who at 83 still has such presence. She is there every day with her diamond earrings twinkling as brightly as her smile – having a chat to all the guests.

Tomorrow Madurai and a visit to the Ghandi museum.

Good Morning Yogis from Chettinad,India

We’ve been having a few restful days in the Bangala Hotel. I don’t think we realised how tired we were.

I started the day with yoga beside the pool. Our instructor was a very kind, softly spoken man who was gentle with us – especially my knee.

He would show us the movement and whispered ‘listen’. We’d then do it and he’d finish with ‘reeelax’.

Following this we had a swim and breakfast on the terrace.

We decided to walk through the village. The hotel owner Mrs Meyappan offered to let us visit her house not too far from here.

The hotel is very special. Read this article about the owner 83 year old Meenakshi Meyappan.

https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/83-year-old-meenakshi-meyappan-serves-fantastic-chettinad-food-at-a-palatial-home-1758033

Walking in these villages is dusty and rocky and constant beeping from cars and bikes doesn’t make it all that pleasant but there is plenty to see.

We found the ATM to restock our rupees and looked into various businesses. They are very poor looking but Interesting.

The afternoon was spent swimming, resting and have a massage. Completely relaxing.

Mrs Meyappan house.

Hot footing it around the Temples of Tamil Nadu

We explored this fascinating village hotel before having a delightful breakfast in the large courtyard.

Then it was back onto the bus to what is known as the ‘most important’ Temple of Southern India.

It’s in Thanjavur.

We were to see both the Palace and the Temple. The Thanjavur Marathra Palace built in 1534 is occupied by the Bhonsle family. In fact we saw the Prince arriving home.

We crossed a moat to enter what is known as the Big Fort.

We met a new guide and proceeded to the Bibliotheca. It’s a small but very famous Library with some wonderful illustrated manuscripts.

Next stop was the Museum containing countless statues of Shiva. Along with his wife Parvarti and many of the other Gods / disciples.

The Palace is more a fort. No grand rooms but we climbed to a terrace for great views and some Islamic style architecture.

Then we needed a break. Our guide promised us a sit down coffee place and clean toilets. Naturally it was a shop where we were bombarded with special offer things to buy. We fell for the old guides trick! But it was airconditioned and had ok toilets!

By now it was midday and hot when we arrived at the Temple. Bad mistake when you have to walk big distances over hot matting and hot stones. We yelped and jumped and were a little glad to finish and head to our hotel.

It’s in a small place called Karaikkudi. The hotel, a former old mansion is a step back in time. And has a great swimming pool. We were greeted by George the manager, hit the pool, enjoyed our lovely rooms, met the 83 year old lady who owns the house, dressed up for drinks on the terrace and enjoyed a 3 course meal.

Then retired to bed.

Tomorrow will get a catch up day. We’ve been super busy since we arrived in India so here we are for 3 nights.

The Bangala Hotel a hotel designer by famous Sri Lankan Geoffrey Bawa.

Check it out.

http://www.thebangala.com

Tomorrow is a quiet day with a village walk, banana leaf lunch , swims and massage. Yes. Heaven

Farewell Pondicherry as we go to Temple towns.

Leaving Pondy is a little sad but exciting. Another adventure awaits.

We have a new driver and this time also a guide. Although on talking to him it turns out he’s a computer programmer working for his father’s travel company on the weekend! He’s with us because the bus driver doesn’t speak English.

We set off through the country side heading for Swamimalai. It’s in the Temple area and we’ll be seeing some temples on the way.

First stop was Chidambarum and we met our guide a very petite gentleman with gentle slow speaking English and very bad teeth.

There are 4 temples of various sizes and they are preparing for a festival. So arches are being prepared with newspaper to then be painted in a very colourful style.

We’re finding the removal of shoes for these huge structures rather wearing on our feet. There are quite long distances to walk. There is some matting which can be very dirty and then the stones which are hot and hard. I’m hopping a bit!

The Temple grounds had people sitting everywhere enjoying a picnic Indian style with tiffin boxes laden with delicious food.

It was Moms Day Out with mothers and their children from a town an hour away enjoying time together at the Temple. I got talking to one lovely lady. Her English was very good and it turns out she’s a Doctor. A gynaecologist! And was so friendly and chatty about her life and family.

We soon left there and continued further into the countryside through lots of villages and saw what I think is fairly authentic village life.

Arriving at our hotel was a treat. It was actually a small village which has been turned into a hotel. It’s called the Indecco http://www.indecohotels.com/swamimalai.html

Check it out. It’s so lovely. Steve Borgia the owner has spent a lot of money restoring it. It has a farm, several housing blocks all furnished in wonderful antiques. The pool is beautiful. At first we thought it looked a little slimy! But that was explained. It was meant to look like a village waterhole. It’s elegant and serene.

We were treated to an arrival foot massage! Heaven after walking barefoot through the temples.

We went the main village to see the bronze casters. A really Interesting process. We walked through the workshop are were able to see the various stages of production.

Google bronze casting Swamimalai. The business we went to is called :

Shri Rajan Industries (Statues/Bronze Castings Manufacturers/Panchalogam Statue Manufacturers)

Linda was very keen to own a statue. She particularly wanted Shiva as the dancer. Natajara. As a thank you from us for planning this very special trip, we decided to buy one for her as a gift. This meant visiting the sales area but no one was there to show and discuss pricing. A lovely young man rode up on his bike. His family owned a temple and he was picking up a commissioned statue. He guided us to a local family home where they have a small workshop.

Such a special experience. Linda spoke to them and found one she liked.

Meanwhile the children from the little street we were in all gathered and wanted to chat. They were delightful.

Finally the statue was polished and delivered to us and we drove off with everyone in the street waving.

Back to the hotel for a drink and a dance show and to bed.

We had a very late lunch when we arrived so couldn’t eat a thing.

Pondicherry: a delight

Our night was peaceful and breakfast on the terrace was wonderful. We had a choice of Indian or continental. Most chose Indian which was presented with a large dosa in a rolled cigar shape.

The Intach Heritage centre was our target today. They offer walks through the French Quarter pointing out the architectural history. But first the Grand Bazaar. Each city has it markets and Pondy has a great one. Walking from the smelly fish through the fragrant herbs and spices to the floral flowers was a treat for the senses.

A quick shoe stop. The girls spied a shop with comfortable looking sandals and with a days walking in mind made a quick purchase.

Arriving at the Intach Centre we sat waiting for our guide and became part of the prayer ceremony. There was a peaceful feeling about the place which starts at the door when you leave your shoes.

This is a custom observed in many shops and always in the temples. It can be a hazard though. In one shop I kicked my toe on the door and have a very red swollen toe.

Our guide Ashok Panda arrived. He was a serene gentleman in his 50s. He was very erect , fine features and was well spoken- if somewhat quiet.

He spoke to us as we had gathered around a table in the courtyard- a feature of the Tamil house.

He planned our day and we set off.

As it happened we walked down the street we had used last night to get to the beach.

We paused at another hotel the Dune Mansion Calve Boutique Hotel and Ashok told us the heritage centre he worked for had done the restoration, as they had done for our hotel the Anantha. He said the Government us encouraging restoration of the Tamil houses and French style villas. The problem is the owners then maintaining the restoration.

We stopped for coffee in a hotel by the beach and Ashok got carried away telling us another Government- it’s structure and it’s corruption.

Continuing on we paused in the garden and observed the way locals and visitors used the green space. School groups were there enjoying the space – something they don’t often experience in their very crowded country.

French villas are a feature of this lovely residential area though many have been turned into smart boutique hotels. Tourism is important in this area. Our next stop was Villa Rosa and the Coramandel Cafe. Quite beautiful. We decided it would be a great spot for a drink this afternoon.

By now it was lunch time and Ashok took us to a local vegetarian cafe. He suggested the platter. A large tray with 10 different pots of sauces, chutney and vegetable dishes to dip your rice or naan into. I also ordered a Marsala dosa. Washed down with a lassi or pomegranate juice it was quite filling and delicious.

After lunch we separated. Some returned to the hotel Di went off exploring and Marlene, Shelley and I walked and walking taking in the sights , shops and the Cathedral. An oasis in this busy duty free city.

At 5 we met at the Coramandel cafe for drinks but when Marilyn and Linda didn’t arrive we worried until we heard they had attended a puja in the Sri Vedapureeswarara Temple. Quite an honour.

Drinks for us turned into dinner at the Villa Shanti and we missed the dancing at the Lycee Français. Whoops!

Home to bed by tuk tuk with a limoncello nightcap. Tomorrow is spent on the move Chidaburam for the 12th C Temple then Swamimalai.

Mahabalipuram: Traditions continue

Breakfast in a new place is always a treat. Indian breakfast is a whole different experience. Don’t expect a western breakfast ( well maybe in 5 star generic hotels ).

My plate contained a little rice cake called Idli, a rice donut , little accompaniments if coriander, tomato sambal and

And a rice congee. All delicious.

Kandan our driver picked us up at 8 and we set off for the 1.5 drive to Kanchipuram.

The drive through the countryside was wonderful. Past stone sculpture businesses, local markets fresh chicken shops and saries everywhere brightening the rather dusty and sadly dirty villages.

Kancheepuram is an ancient town of important Hindi temples. We visited this huge three thousand year old temple with many other Hindi people. We appeared to be the only westerners.

We started with a toilet stop and had the privilege of paying 20c each to wade through water to a communal trough. A bonding experience for a group of sheltered woman. But for us not a problem!

Then into the courtyard with our guide to remove shoes. We paid a lovely girl 100 rupee to mind our shoes.

We walked over coloured designs on the floor which our guide told us were new – ready for the festival to be held in the temple in three weeks.

The long corridor opened onto a courtyard with the famous mango tree. This tree from one 3.5 thousand years ago was famed as the place where Shiva married Kasakshi.

Nearby a wedding was taking place.

Everyone loves a wedding and an Indian one in a temple was joyful to watch. They invited us to take photos and even wanted to be in one with us.

The bride and groom were beautiful.

Continuing along the corridor we came to an altar where a Hindi priest gave us all a blessing.

We recovered our shoes and set off for another temple nearby. This one does not have the religious standing of the last one so is not part of the Hindi pilgrimage.

It was strangely quiet until we heard drumming outside. Lots of drumming.

It was a local funeral. The street was roped off. We were told it was an elderly man and following the drumming there would be drinking. So we were to stay away.

Starting back to Mahabalipuram we couldn’t resist stopping at one of the stone carving places one of many along the way. Like many local craft industries it looks a little overwhelming to see so many things together. Individually they would look lovely in a garden at home but collectively they are too much.

We asked to stop at a silk and Sari shop. There are many in this area – it’s famous for it and judging by the variety of Sari in the street they all do well.

We had a chat about the production then went to the buying floor.

It was quite a scene. Men sitting with their women looking at bolts of fabric in the most stunning colours.

We decided scarves were a better buy for us so had the scarf show!

Back on the bus

Another supermarket stop, getting lost in the aisles looking at products. I bought a few packets for the pantry. Others bought aurtheic soaps and shampoo.

Back at the hotel by 3.30 we had a refreshing swim along with chai tea.

Before we knew it it was G&T time.

Dinner was down by the water at the Santana restaurant. Choices included mint and lemon prawns, fish in carrots sauce, crispy calamari and my selection prawn biryanis. Delicious.

The walk home involved a little shopping. How can you not shop. Inviting goods: floaty tops and dresses, scarves, earrings , rings, pendants beads, bags. I bought a floral dress for $20! Marlene bought the same one!

And a stop at the shop across from our hotel to pick up a few things they made for us. The men on the machines were sewing away. Today we saw a mobile tailor shop. A sewing machine mounted on a little cart being pulled along by bike. So practical.

A full day. We haven’t wasted a minute. Tomorrow Pondicherry or Pondy as the locals call it.

Weekend in Adelaide

Adelaide is definitely the festival state, the event capital – an all round ‘there’s always something on’ capital.

I’ve been browsing various brochures for all the events on now and coming soon.

The Adelaide Festival is on in March. You should check it out. It looks wonderful.

https://www.adelaidefestival.com.au

This weekend is more about family for us though. The family came for dinner on Friday. Always fun with the children.

Saturday and Saturday mornings Steve and I tried the pools nearby. Saturday it was Unley pool.

Sunday it was Burnside.

Both pools are lovely. The lifeguards here take sunsafety very seriously. They wear long pants and long sleeved shirts topped off with shady hats. The pools are also partly shaded. We could learn a lesson in Sunny Qld.

On Saturday afternoon we headed into the Adelaide Hills. Niece Vashti,her husband Jeremy and their 4 children have bought a small farm. It’s not far from Hahndorf , has a creek running through it, wonderful big trees, a dam, 3 alpacas and a very large dog!

Inside the house there are multiple musical instruments and ten year old Soraya played the double bass for us. Very talented she is too!

We drove to Ambleside Gin Distillery and had a sampler flute of three different gins. I’m becoming a bit of a gin fan. In the hot weather it’s really the perfect drink!

https://www.amblesidedistillers.com

It’s in a beautiful spot and is the perfect place to go on a lazy Saturday afternoon. There were some very trendy young people there but we managed to not disgrace ourselves.

Then it was back to the farm for a walk and dinner before finishing with marshmallows on the fire.

Sunday afternoon we visited yet another historic house in Adelaide. It belonged to Edward Ayers ( a certain large rock was named after the family)

It was an interactive museum. You could touch things, use things and make things. Great for children.

The ball room where they now have concerts

The lovely dining room

They even had a dress up box which I took advantage of!

The weather has changed again. It very hot today. At least 32. So our plan for a drink on the roof top bar changed. We headed home for our own gin tasting.

Ayers House.

http://www.ayershousemuseum.org.au/events/signatureseries2018/

Decorative Arts in Adelaide.

Visiting another city, even one you’ve been to before can offer opportunities for something new.

I had heard about the David Roach House Museum when talking to ADFAS friends.

ADFAS for those who haven’t heard of it is the Australian Decorative & Fine Arts Society and I am Chairman of the Brisbane Society. We have lectures on things of a decorative & fine arts nature: it can be painting, sculpture, gardens, music, fashion, porcelain…….

My sister in law booked us into the 10am tour this morning. It’s in Melbourne Street North Adelaide, a fairly trendy area with beautiful home and many coffee shops.

We arrived in plenty of time for our tour and were greeted at the door by name. The Director of the Museum Martyn Cook met us, introduced himself and took us to the stylish reception room. We were the only two for the 10am tour. Yesterday it was booked out.

Take a tour with me now. Let me know what you think!

The Reception Room

Our guide John then took over. He was super informed and gave us a very good commentary on all aspects of the house and it’s collection.

David J Roche AM (1930–2013), a collector for almost sixty years, spent his lifetime developing what has become The David Roche Collection. The collection, which spans the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and includes European furniture, ceramics, metal ware, clocks and paintings, is remarkable in its quality and range. 

House exterior

The central hall

He came from a large Irish Catholic family and moved to Adelaide as a child. He had a passion for dogs! He had around 53 dogs and was a world renowned judge and often a winner of Best in Show. It’s definitely reflected in the paintings, ceramics and collectibles around the house.

The house is not big. He lived there by himself and often had guests stay in the one extra bedroom. Every inch of the house is decorative. All furnishings were custom made with no expense spared. The effect is overwhelming but somehow, beautiful. The collections are vast and stunning. From walking sticks, to hat pins, jugs, vases …….

The Russian room

Mr Roach’s bedroom

The sitting room

The Library.

The kitchen collectibles

Then the urn where Mr Roach’s ashes are kept.

We had a wonderful tour for 2! I urge you to visit.

http://www.rochefoundation.com.au

Lest We Forget: a Special Day of Remembrance

A century ago the guns fell silent on the Western Front.

On the anniversary of the Armistice we honour all those who sacrificed their lives in World War 1.

The end of the War came suddenly. The Armistice that had brought the end of the fighting was signed in a railway carriage in a forest clearing in Compiegne, France, on 11November.

Six hours later, at 11am, the guns fell silent.

I have walked the battlefields of France. I have seen the fields where the action took place, where bodies fell and sadly where the bodies Rest In Peace.

It sends shivers right through you. The words on the headstones restricted to 60 characters tell about those who would not be returning home. Their age, something about them.

Remember them with pride on this special day. ‘They shall not grow old …..’

Attending today’s ceremony in Canberra was a privilege. The silence and respect shown is moving.

The crowds were quiet and respectful.

At the conclusion of the ceremony we walked to the National Carillon. We were fortunate to hear the bells accompanying the Canberra City band perched high up in the tower than makes the Carillon.

Canberra has beautiful spaces to be able enjoy concerts, parades, ceremonies.

We finished the day at the National Portrait Gallery, a beautiful space filled with wonderful portraits. A cross section of Australians including a familiar Queenslander.

There was a Concert at 4pm. Evensong. The four voices echoed through the gallery. It was quite beautiful. A lovely way to end the afternoon.

Tonight we had dinner in Hughes with John & Judy, Brett & Jenny. Steve went to school with John, Brett & Jenny at Telopea Park High School and since their reunion 7 years ago we have kept in touch. They are great fun and we had a a lively night with them reminiscing- they even got the school albums out!

That’s the nice things about old school friends. You just pick up where you left off! They are now planning their next reunion. Sounds promising.

Eating: Restaurants in Seminyak Bali.

I’ve heard so much about the restaurants in Bali I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

There are great restaurants all over the world. Having just been to New York we experienced some really good food but it’s very expensive. Cuba wasn’t expensive but then again it wasn’t too exciting.

Italy is one country where I never get tired of the food. It’s regional, fresh and you can eat out well, without breaking the bank.

Bali has a range of food – from inexpensive street food to higher end cuisine from other parts of the world.

We tried a few different places and I’ll try and capture each one as they were different but memorable.

Try one if you want a good eating experience. Mind you everyone has different expectations- but to me – a bit of a traveller and one who likes food they were great.

Night 1: La Lucciola

La Lucciola

Area: Seminyak

Jl. Petitenget

We arrived via a little wooden bridge after passing through the car park of the Petitenget Temple. It has a beautiful setting by the beach. It’s like a tropical house with wide verandas overlooking the grass into the beach.

The menu is primarily Italian with a slight Asian twist.

We shared a few entrees always a good way to start a meal. The stuffed zucchini flowers, the smoothest burrata, some antipasto. Main course we chose our own. Being gluten intolerant I had the yellow fin tuna which was delicious others had heavenly soft house made pasta with king prawns a touch of chilli.

They were lovely to the children who loved their pasta.

For 5 adults and 2 children several cocktails, a bottle of Italian wine, sparkling water, shared entrees, 5 main courses and 3 desserts it was just under $400 Australian.

Night Two was a Denise’ birthday, so her choice was a restaurant just out of Seminyak but easily reached by taxi: Slippery Stone.

Jalan Batu Belig No 9

This was a Greek restaurant and it looked like we’d arrived in Greece.

It would be good for groups, has a fire show and a lovely outdoor setting.

The food is typical Greek food but very well done.

Night Three was Sarong:

Jalan Petitenget No 19.

This was more theatrical. Dark ( in fact so dark they give you a little light to read the menu!) , moody, beautiful decor and menu of Indian fusion. It’s a share food type of place. We started with some absolutely beautiful tuna betel leaf, delicious dumplings then some shared plates: saag curry, spiced octopus, butter chicken and beef rendang. All delicious.

Night 3: Barbacoa

Jl. Petitenget No 14

The fusion food here is designed to share. Though I love sharing I sometimes think I end up with too many flavours.

They had a good kids menu as well. We started with a bite each – I had a tiny fish taco. Bite sized and delicious.

Others had roasted corn, a dumpling,

Then we shared a beautiful piece of beef with a green sauce. The dishes ‘from the garden’ were wonderful. A spiced toasted cauliflower dish, green beans with anchovy butter and garlic, eggplant roasted,

Desserts were sensational. The nitrogen ice cream was prepared st the table and thrilled the children. The creme brûlée just right and my dessert cocktail – limoncello finished with Italian meringue.

Night 4: Bikini or You look Hot in a Bikini

Jl. Kayu Cendana, near Seminyak mall.

This is a little show stopper. Very creative. Very cheeky and fun.

And a menu to match.

It can be shared or ordered individually.

Exquisite small plates like works of art.

We had a crispy salt & pepper kale crisp! Yum. Satay. Clever and tasty, crispy eggplant – to die for, glazed beetroot, whipped feat and candied hazelnuts. Yumo beautiful barramundi with apple purée, beef rib w artichoke and glazed chicken. All wow.

Night 6 : Potato Head Beach Club

Jl Petitenget 51B

FUN! This is a true beach club where in the afternoon the bikini is almost the dress code. But not for us and it didn’t matter.

Go in time for a few drinks at sunset. Book a large flat bed. Or swim in the pool.

This is more a fun drinking kind of place but the food is still good. We set up on a big lounge area, the children played , the adults people watched and the sunset was amazing. If you enjoy a bit of a show and like to see party people in action this is for you. It’s off Petitenget road by the water with a huge swimming pool and swim up bar.

The menu has various sections from burgers to Indonesian selections to a little little Italian. There are different kitchens around the huge complex. I like it because it’s table or lounge service.

There’s a gelato shack and the music is cool. Just chill there for awhile

Brunch at W Hotel

For more sophisticated eating try the W Hotel famous Sunday Brunch in their Starfish Bloo restaurant. By the huge pool it a great place to spend some time eating, drinking and swimming.

It’s an amazing buffet with one big decision. With or without alcohol!

So get into the eating in Seminyak Bali. Have you got a favourite place? Please share it in the comments.