Mumbai (Bombay), India
Well, what a lovely last day in India it has been! First of all I woke up without a black eye so the ice pack etc must have done the trick! A good start.We Ubered down to South Mumbai, a journey of perhaps 20km but it took about 80 minutes in the traffic. Went across the lovely sea bridge again.Today we were concentrating on the Colaba area of the city, which is right at the south tip and the area where the British were centred during the time of the Raj. Went past the vast and ornate main railway station – a Victorian Gothic masterpiece. We got the taxi to drop us at the Flora fountain, a large ornate affair in the middle of a roundabout built by the British in 1864. It’s very near the High Court of India and a whole host of other official buildings most of which date back to British times. Unfortunately – or fortunately – the fountain is under complete refurbishment to get it working again and is swathed in scaffolding and screens so we couldn’t see it!!! We walked down the main road past many of the Raj buildings. Nice shops and some stalls along the way and the pavements are under a sort of “arcading” which gave very welcome shade from the boiling sun. Summer is officially here in Mumbai apparently. It is scorching. We saw the Rajabai Clock Tower which is near the High Court, British built in 1869 and modelled on Big Ben. Apparently it used to play the tunes of “Rule Britannia”, “God Save the King”, “Home! Sweet Home!” and “A Handel Symphony” among the sixteen tunes which were played in during the British era. I’d love to have heard that!!! Only one is played now and I don’t know what it is! Can’t go up it anymore after several suicide attempts. These clock towers reoccur everywhere the Brits were. Like the lighthouses along the coast, they all seem to be very similar in design.Anyway, continued onwards towards the sea, passing the old lending library, and Elphinstone College.Now part of the University of Mumbai, Elphinstone was set up in 1856 to further education of Indian students and has an illustrious past and present. Did I mention our route took us past the largest FabIndia in Mumbai???? Well, we had to go in and have a look around…. didn’t buy anything but it was ginormous. Nice A/C too!Finally we reached the Mumbai museum, formerly the Prince of Wales museum, an amazing oriental palace of a place. Would love to go and explore that next time. At this point we bore onto the Colaba Causeway, one of the most famous shopping areas in Mumbai. Small boutiques with a rampant market of stalls all along the pavement. We had a good wander along there. Freddie had told us of a few places to go – thank you, Freddie – including a fab leather shop. Bought a few smallish pieces in there. Also visited a really great ayervedic creams and perfume shop and sprayed and sampled in there.Stopped at the famous Leopold;s Café for a cold drink. Its been around for about 150 years and was one of the places hit in the Mumbai terror attacks some years ago. You can still see the bullet holes in the walls. Spent lots of time window shopping in Colaba and then turned down towards the sea and Marine Drive. Marine Drive runs along for about 4km with lovely old mansions on one side and Chowpatty beach on the other. Lots of yachts and colourful ferryboats anchored off. Right at the south end is the Taj Palace hotel and also the monument, the Gateway to India. We went first to look at the Gateway. Its a triumphal arch that was begun in 1911 and formally used as the entry point for the celebrations in 1924 when George V and Queen Mary – the Emperor and Empress of India as was – visited. It is rather impressive I must say. Rather poignantly it was also used as the last march through of the British army in 1948 as they left India to independence. Walked all around it. From there you get a great view of the famous Taj Palace Hotel which stands behind and to one side of it. Tonight we have to get to sleep fairly early as we have an early call tomorrow for a 620am flight first to Istanbul and then to London. So, instead of dinner we decided to opt for High Tea at the Taj. What an amazing experience! It is held in the Sea Lounge a beautiful restaurant area on the first floor looking directly out to the Gateway and the Arabian Sea beyond. They made a big fuss of us and had kept us a table right by the window with a birds eye view. First we were given a glass of champagne – very nice – and then the waiter brought us plates of very refined versions of Mumbai “chats” or snacks. There were so many…. but memorable were some that were like little crisp balls, cold, about the size of a golf ball. Inside one was an infusion of mint and coriander juice so that you popped it into your mouth and bit down and it “popped” and this incredible liquor came out. Another was the same thing but it had scented drinking yoghurt inside. They were so delicious as well as visually beautiful. Then there were just a succession of other savouries: little quiches, smoked salmon and turkey sandwiches; lamb sliders; mini croquet monsieur; a puffed rice and coriander salad; then warm mini scones with cream and jam. Then they brought tea – choice of loads of course – and a tiered plate stand with savouries and sweets on it. Our chap told us to eat the savoury layer and then he took us to the tea buffet table where we could just help ourselves to even more savouries before moving to the sweets. You had to take your time – it was worth it. A pianist was playing a selection of tunes and we just sat there and lapped it all up. Outside the world walked by and the sun began to set. We waddled out at about 7pm!!!! I must mention what a totally beautiful hotel the Taj is. So many interesting photographs on display of famous people who have stayed there over the years, plus displays of old costumes, menus, artifacts. It reminded me of the displays they have on the Cunard ships – a pageant of history. The staff were lovely too. So incredibly kind and attentive without being obsequious. Our main chap, Nelson, had been there 38 years, since he was 14 years old.A very special experience, and one we will not forget. Not something you’d do every day, but well worth it.I must say we have really enjoyed Mumbai this time. A complete turnaround in our view of the place. Will definitely be back again on a top and tail of Goa. It was really fabulous.
Got back to Bandra at about 830 and packed the last stuff. Quick messages to the girls and we turned in. Ready for home tomorrow. Turkish Airlines have made arrangements for passengers to deposit their electronic devices into special checked containers at the gate in Ataturk airport. To be handed back at baggage reclaim in London. So this is great. We can keep our kindles and laptops on the Mumbai- Istanbul leg and then check them at the gate in Istanbul for the homeward leg. Not so bad. It’s been a wonderful winter! Thanks for reading along with my ramblings…… Hope you’ve enjoyed it too. xx