Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride…A leopard in the palace…

The locals are doing their laundry in Lake Pichola, but no laundry soap is allowed. Nor are fishing and private boats permitted on the lake.

It would be possible to upload 20 posts with the information and photos available after yesterday’s fantastic tour in Udaipur, India. We visited places, rode in wild congested traffic in fast, expertly driven tuk-tuks (two motorized passenger rickshaws) to get Shiv Niwas Palace to dine in a fabulous nearby restaurant with exceptional food and service.

A structure on the grounds of Shiv Niwas Palace also known as the City Palace.

But before going further, we must provide an overview of what transpired yesterday to explain a change in the arranged itinerary (through the Maharajas Express train).

Tom listened to our tour guide and provided headsets with the five-star Taj Lake Palace in the background.

After a lovely breakfast on the train by 10:00 am, we wandered to our company-owned, assigned bus #2, of two, that follows the route of the train always to be available for passenger tours to various arranged venues from the several train stations where we stop along the route from Mumbai to Delhi.

The Maharajas Express provided us with many gifts, including scarves and hats.

In air-conditioned comfort in the luxury buses, the ride to the first venue of the day in Udaipur was pleasant and uneventful. We pulled into the guarded gates of the City Palace, also known as Shiv Niwas Palace. We headed to a veranda overlooking the famous artificial (1362) Lake Pichola for photo-taking and detailed storytelling by our guide.

Side view of the City Palace as our boat wafted past.

We’re posting several of those photos today with more following as time allows. About 40 minutes later, the 70 train passengers boarded a flat bottomed boat wearing mandatory life jackets for what proved to be about an hour-long boat tour of Lake Pichola.

Descendants of royalty still live in the Shiv Niwas Palace 

When the first segment of the boat ride ended, our guide explained the much-anticipated lunch venue in the City Palace would have to be moved to another restaurant. The reason?

The palace began being built in 1559 and is always under construction and renovation yet today.

A leopard had entered the palace overnight and had been seen in an area close to the original restaurant in an area that had been cordoned off to protect visitors as well as the leopard.

In recent times, the lake was bone dry during periods of little rain, as shown by watermarks.

Rangers had been called with hopes of tranquilizing and relocating the leopard back to the nearby mountain from whence it had come. Unfortunately, we never had an opportunity to see the leopard, nor did we hear if they had been safely relocated.

A shrine was built between the walls of the palace.

Subsequently, very last minute, the lunch venue was changed to another restaurant on the opposite side of the palace, which was way too far to walk, nor would buses be able to maneuver in the congested, traffic-laden area.

Lake Pichola was man-made in 1362.

After the boat ride, we all meandered to a nearby street within the confines of the palace to be driven by tuk-tuks for what ultimately proved to be an adventurous, heart-pounding 20-minute ride through the worst traffic one can imagine.

As is tradition, a bride and groom have photos taken before their wedding.

My favorite ride as a kid was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, most like long gone from the park but memorable for those of us who remember this ride. Nonetheless, it was the wild ride of our lives. We both giggled over the excitement of it all, which reminded me of my childhood living in California and visiting Disneyland quite often.

Another stunning palace overlooking the lake.

The sights, the sounds, and the smells as we whipped through the city streets were a senses overload. The cows wandering through the streets, the smile on the faces of the adorable children as they waved to us, the shops, the street food, the endless array of motorbikes, the tiny tuk-tuk type trucks, and the people, all was a part of this glorious experience.

Jag Mandir Palace.

Tom couldn’t wipe the smile off his face as our driver rapidly darted in and out of traffic and tight spaces, unlike any ride we’ve ever experienced. We felt like little kids having the time of our lives.

We spotted a few green parrots on the grounds of Jag Mandir.

The lunch as the fantastic restaurant was an indescribable buffet of Indian foods like none other with many items I could eat. The head chef walked me through the buffet line, pointing to the safe things for my way of eating. Once back at our table of eight, I was in pure heaven eating the spicy and flavorful foods.

The tuk-tuks were lined up and ready to take us to the opposite side of the palace, which required a 20-minute wild ride through narrow streets and outrageous traffic.

On the other hand, Tom only had a few bites, claiming he was saving room for another great dinner on the train. But I knew him better. He politely tasted a few items, but these spicy items were not his “cup of tea.”

A cow and her calf were scavaging for food on the city street.

And, later on, we did have a fabulous dinner with Chef John Stone, preparing yet another memorable meal for me, often stopping at our table, hands pressed together in a gracious Hindu bow, seeking the knowledge that I was pleased.  I was.

Colorful shops lined the streets, many offering a variety of textiles and Pashmina scarves.

Tom even ate lamb last night, the first time I’d ever seen him do so, finishing every last bite. This morning I only had a bowl of plain yogurt since I was still full from yesterday’s eating frenzy.

Busy streets on which we scooted through traffic.

Tomorrow’s post will share some historical facts about the palaces and the fort we visited. There isn’t enough time to go through all of that today since soon lunch will be served, after which we’re heading out on another extensive tour which will include “dinner on the town.”

We were awaiting the name of the restaurant where we dined on delicious Indian food. We’ll add it later.

Need I say? Yep, we’re enjoying every moment of this marvelous adventure, and, undoubtedly, we’re loving India. We’ll be back with more…

Be well

Photo from one year ago today, February 4, 2019:

A hippo and a cattle egret have symbiosis in their relationship. For more photos, please click here.

Humm…Post or nap…Guess what I chose?…

Both of us were excited to be on our way to the palace and Lake Pichola in Udaipur.

Udaipur, also spelled Udaypur, is a city in southern Rajasthan state, located in northwestern India was one of the fascinating cities we were anxious to explore after doing some research on the country many months ago.

Today, the Maharajas Express train made its way to the Udaipur train station. We disembarked to make our way to one of two comfortable air-conditioned buses owned by the train company to be transported to Lake Pichola, where a fantastic day of sightseeing and dining ensued.
We returned to the train close to 4:00 pm, and I was faced with a difficulty, either rush through the hundreds of photos we’d taken to get somewhat of a post uploaded before the 6:00 pm happy hour or take a much-needed nap.
Sorry folks. I chose the nap. It’s now 5:40 pm, and we must get dressed for the evening of lively conversations, food, and wine with some of the beautiful people we’ve met in the past 30 hours.
Tomorrow after breakfast will be a  perfect time to put everything we’ve discovered, sort through the photos, and share the wonders we experienced on this rich and fulfilling day. 
Please check back for some gorgeous surprises.  Need I say, we adore India, just like we thought.
Have a lovely day/evening. We’ll see you soon!

Part 1…St. Petersburg, Russia…A city to remember…The Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral…

“The Peter and Paul Cathedral (Russian: Петропавловский собор) is a Russian Orthodox cathedral located inside the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia. It is the first and oldest landmark in St. Petersburg, built between 1712 and 1733 on Hare Island along the Neva River. Both the cathedral and the fortress were originally built under Peter the Great and designed by Domenico Trezzini. The cathedral’s bell tower is the world’s tallest Orthodox bell tower. Since the belfry is not standalone but an integral part of the main building, the cathedral is sometimes considered the highest Orthodox Church in the world. There is another Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul Church in St. Petersburg, located in Petergof.”
This Baltic cruise provided us with an opportunity to visit and subsequently add six new countries to our world travel itinerary. We hadn’t added many new lands in the past few years, and this is particularly exciting.
Sailors were walking down the street with a mission in mind.

It’s not as if we’re on a mission to experience most of the world’s safe-to-visit countries. That was never the purpose or goal of our world travels. Instead, it’s simply fun to add more countries to our travel map on the right side of our home page.

On the streets of St. Petersburg, this Russian woman had an impressive arrangement of fresh fruit cups available for sale.

These Baltic countries have been exciting and unique compared to many other countries we’ve toured in almost seven years. Never in our travels had we been to Russia or other of the Baltic countries.

The luxury in the cathedral is indescribable.

Today, as we travel through Scandinavian countries, we find a very different feel from European countries, except for the varying designs of many churches and historical buildings.

There were so many tourists inside the Peter and Paul Cathedral. It was challenging to take photos without including them.

Let’s face it…buildings 200 or more years old seem to take on decor, design, and ambiance of specific typical characteristics, architecturally interesting, significant, at times flashy, and often made of gold and valuable stones, marble, wood, and jewels.

“The current building, the first stone church in St. Petersburg, was designed by Trezzini and built between 1712 and 1733. Its gold-painted spire reaches a height of 123 meters (404 ft) and features an angel holding a cross at its top. This angel is one of the most important symbols of St. Petersburg. The cathedral’s architecture also features a unique iconostasis (the screen which separates the church’s nave from the sanctuary). In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the iconostasis is normally a flat wall or screen with three doors through it. The central Holy Doors are used only for very solemn entrances and the two side doors by which the clergy and others enter and leave the sanctuary. However, at St. Peter and Paul, the iconostasis rises to form a tower over the sanctuary. The cathedral has a typical Flemish carillon, a gift of the Flemish city of Mechelen, Flanders.”

After seeing 100’s of historic buildings, we’re always searching for an unusual or unique series of features that can take our breath away. This happened in St. Petersburg a few days ago.

Pure gold was used in creating the exquisite ambiance of this famous cathedral.

As mentioned in our last post, found here, I wasn’t able to participate in Day 2 of our St. Petersburg tour due to my difficulty walking. After the previous day’s 12,000 steps ending at 13,500 when wandering about the ship that evening, my legs hurt enough to prevent us from another long day on foot.

“The cathedral is dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, the patron saints of the fortress (Saint Peter being the patron saint of the city). The current cathedral is the second one on the site. The first, built soon after Peter found the city, was consecrated by Archbishop Iov of Novgorod the Great in April 1704.  The cathedral was the cathedral church (i.e., the seat of the bishop; the term cathedralsobor (собор) in Russian—can mean the seat of a bishop, but it can also mean simply a large or important church) of the city until 1859 (when St Isaacs became the city’s cathedral.) The current cathedral church of St. Petersburg is the Kazan Cathedral on Nevsky Prospect. The cathedral was closed in 1919 and turned into a museum in 1924. It is still officially a museum; religious services, however, resumed in 2000.”

Yesterday morning we were docked in Helsinki, Finland, and after attempting to post with no luck, we took off for town, utilizing a  private taxi which is the most accessible means for me.  

As we moved through the immense structure, we discovered one fantastic scene after another.

Photos aren’t as good as they’d be when on foot on the Hop-On, Hop-Off buses since they have to be taken through the glass windows, although it’s better than not going at all.

The remains of many leaders and their family members were interred within the church walls.

Years ago, we wouldn’t get off at some ports-of-call on some cruises, especially in the Caribbean, when we’d already been to many cruise lines owned islands intended for passengers to spend, spend, spend…on drinks, beach chairs, umbrellas, and trinkets.  

“The cathedral houses the remains of almost all the Russian emperors and empresses from Peter the Great to Nicholas II and his family, who were finally laid to rest in July 1998. Among the emperors and empresses buried here was Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia for 34 years.  Of the post-Petrine rulers, only Peter II and Ivan VI are not buried here. Peter II is buried in the Cathedral of Michael the Archangel in the Moscow Kremlin; Ivan VI was executed and buried in the fortress of Shlisselburg or Kholmogory (alleged discovery at Kholmogory in 2010 currently under forensic investigation). On September 28, 2006, 78 years after her death, Maria Feodorovna, Empress of Russia, was reinterred in the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul. Wife of Tsar Alexander III and mother of Nicholas II (the last Russian tsar), Maria Feodorovna died on 13 October 1928 in exile in her native Denmark and was buried in Roskilde Cathedral in Denmark. In 2005, the governments of Denmark and Russia agreed that the empress’s remains should be returned to Saint Petersburg in accordance with her wish to be interred next to her husband.”

Such ports hold little appeal for us when we are always seeking authenticity, history, and charm. An artificial island or strip of beach certainly doesn’t fit that criterion. However, many passengers find such places as the highlight of their cruises, especially those who don’t live near an ocean and sandy beaches. We get that.

The exterior is slightly less impressive than the interior of the cathedral.

Of course, a natural strip of sandy, volcanic or rocky beach always inspires us, prompting us to take many photos of varying angles of nature’s bounty. We never tire of the view.

As expected, the evenings have been entertaining and filled with lively chatter among other passengers we’ve met and between ourselves. There’s never a dull moment, nor do we spend much time in the cabin.

The chapel’s roof, ornate and gold-covered.

We managed to squeeze in a few movies in the ship’s small theatre, the Cinema, the past two days. The first was the most recent documentary about Apollo 11’s trip to the moon with live footage that left us on the edge of our chairs. It’s well worth watching and provides a perspective we could hardly imagine from memory 50 years ago.

After returning from touring Helsinki in the taxi yesterday, we relaxed and watched another movie, “Instant Family, “very sweet and entertaining. Tom dozed during the first 20 minutes but was awake for the balance.

As soon as we upload this post, we’ll be taking the shuttle bus from the ship to Stockholm, Sweden. From there, if possible we’ll take a taxi to tour the city.

Tomorrow, a sea day, we’ll have time for Part 2…St. Petersburg. Look for us then! We still have many more Baltic cities to share!

Enjoy the new week!
Photo from one year ago today, August 19, 2018:
This artistic piece, made by Agness at the Wayi Wayi Art Centre in Zambia, was made with hundreds of scratch-off tickets.  Please click here for more photos.