Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mamallapuram (November 17)

Wednesday was the holiday of Eid so Aileen had the day off. We all loaded into the car and headed down to Mamallapuram which is about 90 minutes south of Chennai. After a brief stop for lunch we headed out for some temple hopping!

Our first stop was the Shore Temple. I think this was most interesting to me because when the tsunami hit, the waves pulling back out uncovered a bunch of the temple that had not been previously excavated.

It rained while we were in the temple, but our intrepid guide found a safe place for us to hang out until the storm passed.

The shore temple was most like Tulum in Mexico since it is located directly on the Bay of Bengal.

We then headed of to the Seven Rathra's Temple. This temple is famous because it is carved from a single piece of stone. They started at the top and then worked their way down to the bottom

I love Xochi posing behind me in this picture.

Next up was Krishna's Butterball - the most underwhelming part of the day for me. Thank goodness Frannie and Aileen were willing to keep it up on the hill.

We wrapped up our exciting day by stopping to ride 4x4's on a 1 kilometer track. It was VERY fun. We had also planned to stop at the "crocodile park" on the way home but it was raining so we kept driving.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kanchipuram ( 16 November 2010)

I think the next few blog posts are going to be out of order (unless I figure out how to order them on blogger).

We left Tirumala and headed to Kanchipuram, which is known as a sari/silk town and the Veranasi of the south. For those of you who remember, Veranasi was my "high expectation, low yield" stop of my previous India trip so I was a little leery - but game.

Kumar once again negotiated traffic with a fierce horn, steady gaze and nerves of steel. We arrived by 2:00 with the plan of 1) lunch, 2) sari shopping, 3) temples (they did not open till 4:00pm). We had an ok veg lunch (I had another masala dhosa) and then Kumar's "friend of a friend" met us to take us to a sari shop. Honestly, I was a little tired and grouchy and was not thrilled by the prospect of the *let me show you 8,000 saris starting price 10,000 rupees! ($500)*. Frannie helped by ignoring the salesman who wanted us to stay in the back room and barged us into the front room where sari's were thrown around like confetti. I did end up finding a sari that I liked and sent it off with the tailor last night to have the sari top to find a place to wear it!

We then headed off to see some of the temples in Kanchipuram. we started at the Kamakshi Amnan Temple. This is a temple to Shiva. It was fairly quiet and I had a real *I am in India* moment when we rounded a corner and found ourselves in a deserted courtyard, with an elephant headed directly at us. It was amazing. Unfortunately, we were not allowed in the actual sanctuary since it was Hindu's only, but it was beautiful.

We then headed to Ekambranathar Temple. This temple is famous for being the site on an ancient Mango tree which was where Shiva married Parvati. We saw the stump of the ACTUAL tree and then again the tree which I assume had been replanted. This temple was a high point. We had several great interactions with priests who blessed us and one in specific who was THRILLED to practice his English, explain who the gods are and their meaning and even pose for pictures.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tirumala-Tirupati November 15-16

One of the things that Frannie really wanted to do in India (and I was also game) was to see the Sri Venkateshwara Temple. This is a very famous temple and is considered one of the most holy sites in India. It is the second richest temple (site) in the world after the Vatican. People come and wait in one of several "darshan" lines which range from free (wait estimated at 7 days), 300 rupees (wait estimated at 1-2 days), 500 rupees (wait estimated at 12 or less hours) and the SPECIAL VIP tickets which Aileen has procured for us (wait estimated at 2-4 hours).

It was a bit of a rocky day. We had very few details so were in no hurry to get there. Frannie had booked massages (which turned out to be the oiliest massages every requiring me to wash my hair no less than 10 times) and we were in no hurry. At 2:30 Rahul called our VIP agent and was told that we needed to be there at 6:30. Unfortunately, the town was at least 3 1/2 hours away. Poor Frannie was thrown in the car and we set out for Tirumala. Honestly, it was one of the scariest car rides ever. Imagine a three hour game of chicken on a rainy bad road and you might begin to come close. We arrived at 7:30 (on time by Indian standards) and were informed that I needed Indian dress. *sigh*. I was taken for an enforced shopping trip, re-dressed and our shoes were removed. We then entered the initial stage of the temple.

We were given another *agent* who was supposed to make our way to see the Lord Balaji easier. This involved begging at a locked gate to priests who essentially played rock/paper/scissors to see who would be let in, and in what order. We were let in, but then told we needed to pay for our tickets (pay a bribe). Frannie and I were separated, I was taken to fill out a registration form in which I swore that I believed in Balaji and may have renounced Christianity. Frannie and I were reunited and no money changed hands.

We were then in yet another waiting hall. This time with a video of people paying homage and trying to pray before Balaji while the priests SHOVED them through the line. I guess this is what happens when there is one statue and 30,000 people a day trying to see him and pray (it sounds like this is the guy to pray to if you want money/marriage/children). Unfortunately, I have no pictures since no electronics were allowed (although my watch was fine).

We were then led through a maze through the temple. Indian temples are amazing in their architecture and even more amazing in that the priests seem to LOVE to decorate them with cheap light strings and chandeliers that seem to come from Ikea. We finally made it to the God. It was honestly amazing to see people so moved, when they first saw him they would all shout "Govinda" and put their hands to their foreheads in prayer. Unfortunately, it was so fast that I did not get a good look at the diamond studded hands.

We were then led through the rest of the temple complex where people were dumping money EVERYWHERE. It ended with our receiving rice (yum) and ladoo's - which are a famous sweet. We gave ours to the driver so he could take them home to his family. A priest seemed to like me so I was given several extra.

Oh, and it was raining so we were SOAKING WET. After a fast and mediocre dinner (where I was told to fill out a customer comment card with positive comments before we would receive our bill) we fell into bed at our guest house. After asking for hot water, we were ceremoniously show how to turn ON the hot water in our bathroom:)

The next morning, we were woken up early by the wife of the caretaker couple. She provided is with VERY overpriced chai and then took a HUGE tip. I guess they make their living on tips!

One of the things that the temple is famous for is "hair tonsuring" or hair cutting. People come and shave their heads and the temple sells the hair to add to it's treasure chest. After several false attempts, we finally found a tonsuring site (but were not allowed to take pictures).

So I took a picture of the sign.

We then headed off to see some of the smaller temples in Tirupati. It was raining and wet, but we pushed through to the top!

I loved the temple at the top. It was smaller and manageable for a temple novice!

We then headed for the waterfalls that we had heard so much about. On the way up, I learned that umbrellas are best when shared with friends.
I also learned that "waterfalls" in India must be code for:
water coming out of monkey faces that men bathe in.....

So Frannie and I took another picture......

We then got in a car to head to Kanchi Puram.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

India Bound! (November 12/14)

In all of my packing lists - I am now realizing that the one thing I may have forgotten is the cord to upload pictures! boooo! Thank goodness that Rahul has managed to help me out so I can attach pictures to the blog and make it more interesting to the three of you who come here:)

The good news is that I made it safely to Chennai after an American Airlines flight to Brussels and then a Jet Airways flight from Brussels to Chennai. I gave up my coveted aisle seat to a man who claimed to have a bad leg but drew the line when he then tried to get me to change my seat again so that he could sit next to his wife. This would have put in in the dead center between two LARGE men. I figured nice only goes so far....and I had reserved my seat in September. If he was not on the ball as me, that was his tough luck.

Aileen met me at the airport and there was no trouble getting my bag and getting home. I managed to crawl into bed at about 2:00am. I am lucky enough to be visiting with Aileen's sister Frannie so I have someone to travel with. The Crowe Sister's are a treat!

On instructions, Aileen woke me up at about 9:00am this morning. We at waffles and chatted. Xochi and her friend Sam headed out, Frannie went out to do her tai chi, and I did some laps around the house to close out my zones for the week in the back yard. While it is cool for the people who live is HOT to me!

We went out to lunch at the Madras Country Club. We narrowly escaped being kicked out first because of Rahul's inappropriate footwear (he changed from sandals to shoes) and then Xochi's age (we lied about her being 5).

After a quick nap, we headed out for a snack and to the beach!

Rahul and Aileen took us out for "real" food. They started with a banana leaf place mat which was loaded with chutney's and dhosa, ideli, and udappam. It was FABULOUS!

We then proceeded to walk to the beach were we dipped our toes into the Bay of Bengal and watched Xochi ride on a very scary merry go round. After a gelato, we headed home.

Aileen is headed to Delhi tonight and when her flight was delayed she headed back home for wine and chocolate. Red wine, chocolate and friend are the best. I am buzzed now and may edit later.....but Aileen and Rahul are the best!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Weekend in Tulsa (November 5-7)

I was in Tulsa with my sister and Mom over the weekend for Mollie's wedding to Ben. It was a great "girls weekend". I arrived on Friday and we immediately went to a shopping mall to deck out Mom with new duds. We then progressed to a three bottle of wine lunch with Aunt Lynn, Uncle David and Laura followed by more shopping.

Since it was a 4:00pm wedding, there was a fast change in the hotel and then off to the wedding (which was beautiful) and the reception (which was fun). Uncle David had my mom laughing so hard she was crying for most of the receptions and Katie made us cry with her toast.

Saturday we had a busy day. We started by touring the Gilcrease Museum, which is a museum of western history. Lots of American and Native American art. We had a private docent who walked around the museum with is and was very informative.

After lunch at Sonoma Bistro and Wine Bar, we headed back to the hotel where Mom and Liz napped and I ran on the dreadmill for an hour (and then napped). We ended our Tulsa food tour with a fabulous dinner at French Hen. Fabulous food.

To our great surprise, there was a gathering of people in the hospitality room when we returned to the hotel. A game of Mexican Train dominoes broke out and was VERY competitive. I think I came in third.....and was exhausted by the time we went to bed. Thank God for daylight savings and the extra hour the next morning!

Post Monster Dash

They said that the Monster Dash was long (closer to 13.5) because of a last minute course change. I seem to look fine post race with Allan! 13 ish miles is NOTHING to me!:)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Testing Tuesday - November 2

We had mid challenge testing today. I am down a few pounds but my fat % was up?! How is this? My trainer thinks I am still out of whack from my 1/2 marathon on Sunday so I am going to retest fat %/weight tomorrow morning. Today I am chugging water.

My VO2 Max is better
My flexibility is better
I feel stronger and can see muscles in my arms.

As happy as I am, my partner dropped like NINE % body fat. arrrrrggghhh

My Polar changed my program this week. I now need to do 5 hrs of cardio a week. The good news is that the minutes are added in zones 1 and 3, zone 2 is the same. I am happy that my calorie burn goal is now 2850 so it helps me with the WeWa 2500 weekly thread.

Had an interesting discussion with my trainer about how you really do need to change things up to keep progressing. That is why there are "fat" runners - your body gets used to the exercise if you are just bumping along without adding speed work, tempo, sprints or SOMETHING. She also made the point that (in terms of fitness) you are either gaining or losing. There is really no such thing as maintaining.

My 1/2 marathon on Sunday was good. It was windy and the re-route (thanks O'Bama) took us up north along the lakefront into the headwinds (tough). Apparently the race was also about .4 mile longer than a 1/2 should be (13.1). My time was 2:27 so I am happy with about an 11mm pace.

Yesterday I walked for 30 minutes with the dog and today we ran/walked for an hour. I literally ran to a lightpost and then walked to the next. It was like beginning running - but it kept me in zone 2 and got the calories burned. I've been listening to Michael Pollen's In Defense of Food. Once again, I am realizing that I really need to get away from packaged and manipulated food. No low fat, low calorie, fake sugar, etc. Keep Cooking!

I wish I knew how to insert pictures mid blog like my cool friends. hmmmm might have to ask for advice on this one.