Day one, we make a real effort to get up on time and acclimate to this time zone. Which means that even though we went to bed at 4am…we are up and on the move at 8:30, ready for breakfast at 9. Exhausted, but happy. And STARVING. Thankfully, we came a day early-so today is nothing but lounging at the pool and getting ourselves used to this heat.
We meet at breakfast, a sweet restaurant in the heart of our hotel with a view of a courtyard and the sunny deck. It’s a buffet style Indian and western breakfast with lots of choices in the western section, and lots of things we’ve never heard of in the Indian section. We get homefries, deep fried to perfection, and eggs, bacon and fried tomatoes. Delicious. We get a little brave and have some flat bread looking contraption and some of the many chutneys offered. Pineapple mango chilli chutney is the table favorite-sweet heat for our bread-ish stuff. I promise I will get better at the names of foods…but for not that’s as good as I can do.
After breakfast we decide to go to the pool-a lovely area that has more shade then sun…-we are a little disappointed at first – we’re more full sun people….but then we realize that its so hot that Chris is starting to slowly disappear….turning see through and melting in front of our very eyes…so we go with it. And thank god we did. The pool is kept cold-and the air is naturally as hot as the face of the sun. so it’s a perfect combo. What we didn’t plan for was the judgement……
We are sitting at the pool in our swimsuits, girls out on display- regular bathing suits…..when we realize that we are getting stared at like a piece of angus beef at a vegetarian convention. By both men and women. Like, I’m expecting there to be a Cersei Lannister situation where they start to walk Nicole through the town square shouting “shame…shame”…. I think this is how the monkey’s at the zoo must feel. Like, they know everyone is staring at them, and so they just sit there…eating their bananas, bothering no-one….but still- the people sit and watch them. I’m getting pretty close to flinging poo at one lady who is staring so intensely that I wonder if she’s going to come over with a towel and make me cover myself up. …she’s dressed head to toe in cotton layers, husband and children in speedos. Its like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Shamefull, eyes like saucers, actual staring. Honestly feels like we’re animals at the zoo…and I wonder if they might have responded to vending machines….like if there was food around, would they start to feed us? I picture them all talking, “that one big one came up and ate right out of my hand?!”….I’d be willing to take advantage of that. Note to self for next time-wear shirt that says “please DO feed the white people”.
We stick around the pool for hours just enjoying the heat…not the sun. We are more then happy to “chris” it up and stick to the shade- tans be damned. At one point I drift into the sun while in the water and actually hear my skin crackling. Which makes me wonder if the slight smell in the Delhi air is just burning human flesh. The pool guy continuously brings us cold bottled water and asks us if we want beers or snacks. The pool bathrooms are absolutely divine and made entirely of stone and marble, equipped with hand lotions and rose petal water, wrapped fresh candied ginger and a machine for hot towels and warm wet facecloths. There is lavender and ginger iced water which I wish we could drink- but it isn’t bottled, and we are still at the point in the trip where we foolishly believe that if we stay away from local water we won’t get the Delhi Belly. I think we will laugh/cry at this from a toilet somewhere near Jaipur in the next 2 weeks. But for now we will live in our delusions.  The restrooms also include a steam room and saunas….which is pretty much how I’d describe my undercarriage right now…so I ask myself why you would want such a thing in a 40 degree country…but whatever floats your boat I guess. They are very beautiful in any case-stone and teak wood, with floors covered in rose petals again. They seem to place a great deal of importance on spoiling their guests in this country…and that’s an idea I can get behind. I do feel spoiled….and even though I feel as a woman I am maybe pushed aside at times while the concierge or hotel management prefer to speak with our husbands….I actually also feel quite precious. I don’t feel marginalized-just very well taken care of, now ask me how I feel after 3 weeks of being slightly brushed aside and I may feel differently, but as of right now I don’t feel any offence has been made. I am greeted with a bow and “namaste” every time I walk past a man. I have eye contact and a kind smile at every meeting. And I am asked if I need anything every time I enter a room. It feels more like protection then oppression at this point. We’ll see….
We nap and lounge all day- in and out of sleep to roll into the pool ala Canadian seals on occasion. We get more and more used to the stares, and at this point I almost feel resentful that I DON”T get stared at in Canada. And after returning to our rooms for showers and changes of clothes we meet in Gary and Nicoles room for refreshments and, we decide, room service. Its Nic and Gary’s 18th anniversary tonight, and they ALWAYS love to do room service on their anniversary night. The menu is HUGE and LONG and FILLED with every food imaginable. Nicole plays a game of “name it, I bet its on the menu” and as hard as we try we can’t name any reasonable food that isn’t. From fish and chips to steak, chicken nuggets to pasta. Everything in what I assume is Hindi and also in English. We order Pad Thai, Red Thai chicken curry, spring rolls, samosas, a chicken and prawn dish we can’t pronounce, tandoori chicken, flat bread with Labneh, and all the sauces they are willing to give us. The strange thing is that when I am elected to call down to order the meal, after saying hello, I am greeted with, “Yes Mrs. Keddy, what can I get for you this evening.”… which is a little strange since I’m calling from Nicole and Gary’s room….and then when the food arrives, Nicole answers the door and is greeted with, “I have your food Mrs Hersey, where would you like it.”…..Chris gives him a tip and he thanks him as Mr. Keddy…..later they deliver an anniversary bath to the room- a man shows up and asks if he can pour them a bath for their special night-and adds essential oils and rose petals into the huge soaker tub in their room. Thing is, Gary answers the door and he addresses him as Mr. Hersey. We haven’t even been here for 24 hours, and they know all our names AND FACES. Creeped out a litte-but also feel very important and again, taken care of. I think we are going to have to let go of a lot of our feelings of insecurity and distrust.
Anyway-back to the meal. Oh. My. God. They come into the room and instantly we smell the spice and heat. They came equipped with a table to set up in our room-when we ordered they asked how many were dining and I said 4- thinking what a silly question- we ordered 4 entrées..but when he opens all the cloches we realize that they have sent the meal up “family style” which large plates of each meal, enough to serve a large portion of each to all four of us. So as soon as he is gone we set up our candles and pour our wine and get to work dividing out all the food. I have never had food that was that flavorful or perfectly seasoned in my life. Some things are so foreign that it takes us a minute to place it along side the western versions…for example, I’m expecting our tzatziki from home- so I dip my samosa all in and take a big bite. the tzatziki is so flavorful and overpowering that it takes me a minute to catch my breath and actually taste it…and when I do my eyes instantly roll in my head and I whimper a little. Its like what I’m used to at home, only with so much more tzatziki flavor that I realize I only need ½ of what I would usually use. The same with the cilantro….its made into a minced sauce and one little dollop does my entire pad Thai meal. Anything red is the same-so intense that you have to be very careful as it can quickly go from garnish to changing the entire taste of the meal. And I realize that since there are about 8-10 different side sauces, they must reinvent each bite by adding a different flavour. Keeping in mind that we love condiments so much that I actually brought vinegar with me to India, and you know we are in our happy place. I take video and as we watch it back we realize that Gary is moaning so loudly that we can barely hear the commentary.  Everyone is complexly entranced with this food!! We can’t get enough!
We graze like a stagger of the happiest Muppets alive, and talk about tomorrow and the real beginning of our trip. I feel like we’ve experienced so much culture shock already that tomorrow will be mind blowing. We wish Gary and Nicole a happy 18th and take our wine back to our room. It only feels like 2pm to us…but its actually 10:30pm and 6 am is going to come really fast. Although, with the promise of another meal like this one tomorrow, I think I’ll spring out of bed (probably to get to the bathroom but…..whatever). Tomorrow is a Delhi city tour and our welcome dinner, the “Namaste” dinner, which will be OUR 19th anniversary dinner. I can’t wait.