Our First Visitors

Kids,

We made a point to tell our family and friends that we needed at least a year before we could comfortably have any visitors in Mumbai. We figured that we’d need at least that long to figure out how life was going to work in Mumbai, and it was a great decision.

Nana, Papa, Jeanne, and Greg traveled back with me after a business trip and I was looking forward to it for months. Although Jeanne and Greg have been international several times, this would be the first time Nana and Papa would be so far from home.

Friday February 15th & Saturday February 16th: Travel, travel, and more travel

After a two week trip around the Midwest, I met Nana, Papa, Jeanne, and Greg in Kansas City at the Marriott Kansas City Hotel.  Our flight to Mumbai was the following morning at 6:00 am so we decided to stay at the hotel closest to the airport that had a shuttle at 4:30am.

We started the night with happy hour, followed by an amazing dinner at the hotel restaurant, and I took the opportunity to get another steak before we headed back to India. First thing on my agenda was to talk to everyone about the rules and expectations when traveling to, in, and moving around India. The rules were:

Number 1: No petting the dogs

Number 2: No petting the dogs

Number 3: No petting the dogs!

Number 4: Let go of controls…it will all work out…just not as you expect.

Ok, so 1 to 3 are probably overkill, but Jeanne loves animals. So naturally our concern was bringing back fleas or other small parasites to the apartment.  She did amazing, although several close calls, including a puppy who just wanted our attention in Agra.  It wasn’t easy.

The next morning we woke up at 4am and met in the lobby for a quick breakfast in the lounge. The shuttle left right on time, and was completely packed. I bet there were 20 people in line to get on, and luckily we were the first in line so we got seats.

After making our way through security and baggage check-in, we headed towards security. Papa and his bionic hip made it through with little trouble and we had around an hour to wait for boarding.

The flight to Dallas was very uneventful, which is exactly what we wanted, and we had plenty of time to get to Terminal D by the airport shuttle.

After another routine check-in, we headed through security and straight to the Emirates Lounge. The lounge in Dallas is not the best, but in my opinion it’s just large enough to support the demand. We hung out in the lounge for 2 hours grabbing some food and drinks before making our way to the plane.

I learned at this moment that my anxiety about making it to the plane on time comes directly from Nana. Although I will say that she has it way worse that I do, it was nice to be the one who’s not worried about time. I should add that with all of our travel over the last two years my anxiety is much better, but I still like to be at the airport and gate early. I thought it was hilarious….she did not….

We were fortunate to have all of us in Business class, which was an amazing experience for everyone. Me because I was able to watch as everyone learned what business class means, and the rest because this was their first time.

We landed in Dubai after 15 hours, 10 of which I slept, and made our way to the lounge. The lounge in Dubai is amazing and the best we’ve seen around the world. We had around 4 hours between the flights which gave us plenty of time to grab some food before our final leg to Mumbai.

After arriving in Mumbai at 8:00pm local time, we hopped in the scheduled cars and headed to our apartment. It took us around an hour to get to the apartment and the kids where in bed already. We ended the night with some drinks and a tour of the apartment.

Sunday February 17th: The Renaissance Sunday Brunch

On Sunday we didn’t want to schedule too much since we figured everyone would have some major jet lag. To get everyone around while in Mumbai we scheduled another car through our current transportation provider for Nana, Papa, Jeanne, and Greg.  We worked it through Ajay mostly which really helped keep the miscommunication to a minimum, and the experience was great.  The additional drivers name was Anil, and throughout the visit he was affectionately referred to as Nigel by the group. Not sure why, but it stuck.

We’ve learned that the first few days at a new location are usually the worst for jet lag and typically the afternoons are the hardest. The key is to push through and make it to the night. So we woke up and made our way to the Renaissance Sunday Brunch.

It was a great experience and with the kids playing in the kids area we had plenty of time to talk about the plan for the week. Up until then we didn’t plan out the week days, because we wanted to make sure it was what everyone wanted to do.

We returned to the apartment to cake and presents for the two February birthdays, Madelyn (3) and Johnathon (8).

Monday February 18th: Birthday Parties, Leather Guys, Bandra Fort, ASB Visit

On Monday I headed to work and your mother took the group around Mumbai to the usually spots. Today was the leather guy, the Bandra Fort, and a visit to your school (ASB).  Unfortunately since I’m the photographer of the family I don’t have any pictures.

Tuesday February 19th: LPQ & Culture Shop

On Tuesday the group went to LPQ, which is an amazing French restaurant about a block from our apartment. The restaurant originated in Brussels, and has some amazing food.

On Tuesday afternoon Christopher and Madelyn have dance class near the school while Johnathon does his After School Activities (ASAs), and the group tagged along.

Wednesday February 20th: Day off & Lunch at LPQ

On Wednesday we gave everyone a break to sleep in and relax.

Thursday February 21st: Travel Day, LPQ for Breakfast, Gateway Brewing

Our trip to Agra started on Thursday with an afternoon flight to Delhi. We started the day with breakfast at LPQ, after which we headed to the ASB Middle School campus so I could participate in career day, or Futures Day. It was an amazing experience and I’m very happy that I decided to do it.

After I was done we gathered outside the school and your mother attended an afternoon meeting while I went out to lunch with the group at one of our favorite places, Gateway Brewing, before going to the airport.

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After lunch we headed to the airport and met your mom, Johnathon, and Christopher after school let out at noon.

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The flight left from Terminal 1, the domestic terminal, which is a lot different from Terminal 2 where we landed the prior weekend. In the domestic terminal buses take you to the airplanes parked on the tarmac and lines weave in and around the waiting area.

We landed in Delhi and made our way to the Marriott where we grabbed dinner and spent one night before heading to Agra. I can’t help but mention that in India, and at a restaurant with at least three different types of cuisine, all of our guests opted for the club sandwiches….. It was hilarious.

 

Friday February 22nd: Akshardham, Agra Road Trip, Happy Hour overlooking the Taj

We woke up the next day and went to breakfast before starting our journey to Agra. The breakfast was like the Mumbai Renaissance, absolutely amazing. After a great breakfast we met our driver outside, not the gentlemen with the turban, and boarded our bus.

Our first stop was Akshardham Temple. We had visited the temple before, although this time we had more time to walk around. Remember the anxiety about missing a flight… The temple was just as amazing as the first time and this time we made sure to get photos taken in front of the temple.

After the walk through we boarded our bus to Agra, typically a 3.5 hour trip, although last time it took us 5 hours.  The trip to Agra is split fairly evenly between a highway and just getting out of Delhi.  The first time it took us 2.5 hours to get out of Delhi and another 2.5 to reach Agra.  This time we scheduled the day much better and got out of Delhi in no time.  The highway portion of the trip is great because you get to see the countryside, which is a pleasant sight when we spend most of our time in Mumbai.

This trip was more as expected and we made it to Agra just in time to stop by the Oberoi Hotel to see the sun set over the Taj.

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After a round of drinks, and the sunset, we headed to the Agra Marriott to check-in and have dinner. The hotel was amazing, and the staff made a big deal out of Johnathon’s birthday by bringing him a chocolate cake.

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Saturday February 23rd: The Taj Mahal, Agra Carpet Maker, Red Fort, and Baby Taj

We woke up at 6:00 am on Saturday to visit the Taj hotel, and this time we had a guide. His name was Azhar and he was great. He met us in the lobby at 6am and we headed for the Taj.

There are two entrances to the Taj, and this time we entered from the opposite side. Azhar went and got all of our tickets and proceeded to the security lines. There were four lines, two for men and two for women. It turned out the lines were for locals and foreigners, and he told us to go down the local lines, which happened to be empty. I guess we passed his test during the first 30 minutes of interaction.

Since we went down the local line we passed by everyone waiting and got through security in less than 10 minutes. It was only after we got through that our guide told us that he sent us all through the local line. Oh well….

The Taj experience was amazing and having a tour guide there to point out the special details and give a fuller history of the location was great.

It had been a full year since our last visit to the Taj, but one thing didn’t change…..

After finishing at the Taj we headed back to the hotel to grab breakfast, check out of the hotel, and make our way back to New Delhi. The hotel was amazing and they even tried to give us another cake for our departure.

During breakfast we decided to take time to go to the Red Fort while we were in Agra. Our tour guide Azhar also offered to take us by a carpet shop on our way to the Fort, which turned out to be a very expensive stop. It was fun seeing everyone experience the typical bartering pre-game and and actual negotiations.

We ended up buying the three beautiful rugs shown below, although we wanted the blue one on the bottom in red.  It took 3 months to make, and arrived the week before we published this post.

Sunday February 24th: Travel Day

Our flight was late morning so we had plenty of time to get up, grab breakfast, and catch a ride to the airport.  Getting through security was a breeze this time and the entire trip back was uneventful.

Monday February 25th: The Jewelry Guy, Bombay Store, & South Mumbai Store

Given the travel plans from the prior few days we thought Monday should be a low key day, and so your mother took Nana and Jeanne to our Jewelry guys at Bhaghem India in the Fort area.  Papa and Greg even tagged along and had a good time, although they may not admit it.  They spent 3 hours looking at jewelry, chests, elephants, pashminas, and rugs.

Tuesday February 26th: Flavour Diaries

As we approached the end of their visit we started to stretch for things to do in Mumbai that didn’t require a lot of car time.  Your mother had visited a place called Flavour Diaries a few times during our time in Mumbai and absolutely loved the experience.  As you can see from the website, Flavour Diaries is a place that you can go and learn how to make all types of food, and with Jeanne’s love for cooking we thought it would be perfect.

As usual I wasn’t there, but I think the photo tells a better story than I can write.

Wednesday February 27th and Thursday February 28th: Johnathon and Christopher’s School Open House

We were pretty fortunate that this week both Johnathon and Christopher had open houses at school that allowed parents, and in this case grandparents, aunts and uncles, to see them in action. Johnathon’s open house was for PE, and Christopher’s was an opportunity to see him in the pool.

Friday March 1st: Harry’s Jewelry Shop, South Mumbai Tour

On Friday I took the day off so that we could get to South Mumbai.  We started with breakfast at LPQ and made our way back to Baghem India by 11:30-noon when it opened.  I’ve been there three times and opening time for the store has been different each time and always dictated by traffic, morning tea, etc…

It was today that I got to put my eye’s on your mothers new ring.  She did mentioned it to me before she purchased, but seeing it in person was amazing.  It was a little bulkier than her other rings, and would need to be modified again, but nothing major.  I kept reminding myself that my 10 year anniversary present was a one way trip to Mumbai….so she deserved this and so much more for making this experience awesome.

Before heading back north we swung by the Gateway and stopped at Leopold’s Cafe for lunch.

Saturday March 2nd: Festival of Nations, and Travel Home

The Festival of Nations was scheduled to take place in February, however due to the pollution levels it was postponed until March 2nd, which worked out great for us.  We spent the morning packing up and playing around the apartment before heading to the festival in the afternoon.  We were all very happy that we could share this event with them because it’s one of the many reasons we absolutely love the school.

The timing of the event meant that everyone would have to leave directly from the school, and after an hour at the Festival I walked everyone outside to catch their cars back to the airport. But not before getting photos with Ajay and Anil (Nigel).

There’s not doubt about it, being in Mumbai was overwhelming for the entire group.  But we hope that the trip was as much a success for them as it was for us.  We can’t wait until they come back. Hint, hint….

Love,

Mom & Dad

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