I never thought I would admit to loving early mornings but I do! After another buffet Indian breakfast (I am only managing a piece of toast and one vegetable pakora now!), we checked out and met Sukhvinder at the entrance.
Having got over my little tantrum of not being invited to Jodphur’s wedding of the year, we drove to the spectacular Umaid Bhawan Palace high on the hill overlooking Jodhpur. It is one of the world’s largest private residences and is now a hotel managed by Taj Hotels. It was extremely manicured; not a piece of litter nor flower out of place. There was a super museum explaining all about the architecture and I was delighted to hear that the British architect, Henry Vaughan Lanchester, was in fact a friend of Sir Edwin Lutyens. Now in the great year of 2005 I myself (oh yeah) got married in New Place in Shirrell Heath which was designed by Edwin Lutyens – we didn’t need 347 rooms nor elephants for our grand entrance; John and I settled for a fabulous piper with men in kilts and surrounded by loved ones (I wasn’t able to negotiate a deal with Hello magazine so the world missed out on our celebrations!).
Not being a huge car fan I was, nonetheless, very impressed with the vintage car exhibition and my Dad would have been in his element with the vast display of clocks also. Bit miffed to have paid the entrance fee and not to be allowed to walk around at least part of the 26 acres of gardens.
Jodhpur is the second largest city on the edge of the Thar desert and is also famous for being known as the Blue City due to the sea of small buildings all painted blue. Sukhvinder told us Jodhpur means Sun City due to the many sunny days and the light from the sun which reflects on the sand coloured buildings.
We climbed (by car, friends, by car!) the 410 feet above the city to the Mehrangarh Fort (also known as Mehran Fort). Another fort with several palaces within and we loved the exhibition of elephant’s howdahs which are the travelling compartments fastened to the top of the elephant’s back; some very ornate and stunning ones. We also enjoyed the display of palanquins which carried the noble ladies around.
Spectacular view of the Blue City which we really enjoyed and the sun was very hot! There was a wonderful courtyard at the top of the fort with a man decked out in the most handsome attire quietly playing music (photo attached). We had to remove our shoes to enter the courtyard we tried to lose ourselves in the peace of the moment and tried to avert our eyes from the left of the gentleman to the two ladies openly breastfeeding their children of about 3 years old!! Again all a tiny bit spoilt by the incessant request for photos and selfies; it started as a rather flattering and endearing request at the beginning of the trip but is now becoming rather upsetting and irritating!
We couldn’t believe our luck when we were invited into a private room for a meditation session. I perched myself on the cushion and closed my eyes longing to be sent to a place of relax. Hannah fell straight into the music and was away in her mind. Me? when am I going to find time to put the Christmas decorations up on return – the thought of John and Dave cooking Christmas lunch for the 9 of us (note to self; lock the wine cupboard!) – I hope Francesca got to her business meeting in Kent safely – how my darling Dad was feeling after his poorly spell and, quite honestly, anything else I could find to worry about! The session was over far too quickly and Hannah bought a CD of the fabulous music whilst I felt more stressed than when I entered the room!
A quick drink in the grounds of the fort and I bought some homemade biscuits to share with Sukhvinder on the long drive to Jaisalmer. The M&S mint selection is dwindling and I am now saving for emergency use.
We had a super walk in the Mandore gardens and loved the various temples and peacefulness (no selfie requests) and Hannah delighted to find oodles of monkeys running around (but this time none landing on my head).
And so began the long drive to Jaisalmer which was fanbloodytastic I can tell you! The difference again in the landscape was superb and, entering the Thar desert, I almost screamed (note to self SA; you are 52 and British – decorum girl, decorum!) when Sukhvinder pointed out the wild camels! Happy? The smile on my face was huge and I quickly asked Sukhvinder if I could use his WiFi for one minute to send a message to John to share what I had just seen. Another point to note – how come Sukhvinder’s WiFi signal in the middle of the Thar desert in Rajasthan is amazingly quick and efficient when I can’t get a WiFi signal in the middle of John Lewis in Southampton?!
We past through yet another election checkpoint (really? necessary? who are being bribed this time? the camels?) and this time we had our car checked. I put my innocent look on and acted demurely (I can do it!) and we were waved on.
Another roadside stop and this time Hannah and I ordered a black tea with a packet of crisps whilst Sukhvinder munched on a sandwich. Very amusing to watch two busloads of Indian tourists use the toilet in the cafe and fill up their water from the urn but didn’t purchase anything or left no tip – imagine doing that on the M3, Waitrose would charge you for theft! When we walked back to the car everyone was hanging out the windows looking and waving happily at us! At that moment I thought I was going to cry with sheer love and happiness; I wanted to run onto the buses and hug each and every one of them – so welcoming and so darn happy – I waved like mad as we drove away! I then got my indignant hat on and raged for half at hour, with Sukhvinder nodding in agreement, about how, if we just all loved each other in the world, respected one another and didn’t interfere in others lives, what a wonderful world this would be (I feel a song coming on!). Hannah was embarrassed by my passionate outburst and fell asleep. I meanwhile sat in the back of the car and waved for miles at the schoolgirls perched on the back of the trucks on the way back from school and the small children with no pants or shoes but all with happy faces. Smile world and the whole bloody world will smile with you – how much do love and smiles cost ?! I’ll stop now.
Suddenly Sukhvinder pointed out the large army camps in training. He also explained that this is a nuclear training ground – I didn’t want to hear it! We continued the drive and stopped at the Jaisalmer War Museum which was very moving and inspiring – my Dad would have loved it and I would have loved to have shared it with him – I have taken lots of photos to show him on my return; I adore my Papa x
Arriving to a very dusty Jaisalmer with lots of stalls selling combat gear (bizarre?), and a big military presence, Sukhvinder explained that we are only 60 kms from the Pakistan border and “relations are not good”! Well I didn’t realise that when booking for this adventure and another dress code error; I don’t do combat wear!!! We checked into a wonderful Haveli and had a shower.
Sukhvinder recommended a super restaurant at the gateway of the Rajwada Fort and ashamed to say Hannah and I enjoyed the most wonderful pizza with two glasses of Merlot – heaven on earth! The rooftop was fabulous and the views of the fort very impressive.
We managed to get lost on the way back to the Haveli and Hannah managed to step in some kind of sewer which made us run back to the hotel, through the backstreets in Jaisalmer , dodging the cows unseen in the pitch black whilst Hannah tried to use google maps (really?!?). Two English females walking out at night is not for the faint hearted and Hannah told me tonight how proud she was of me for how I have handled situations – oh yeah one cool Mama am I!
Today’s worry; a night in the sand dunes tomorrow night in a tent – what is there not to worry about?!
Love and world peace