Monday, 26 January 2009
We were at Howrah Train Station at 0802 to get our tickets to Delhi and there was already a long queue which did not appear to be moving. SB queued in one line while I tried our luck and joined the VIP queue and low and behold actually got served and we got our tickets to Delhi. We are leaving Kolkata on the 30 and 24 hours later will get into Delhi.
We had a lazy walk back to the hotel. Most shops are closed and there are lots of people on the streets with the Indian flags and obviously preparing for celebrations etc. Back at the hotel we had breakfast in the dining room – which is akin to a prison cell, very strange set-up. Oh well, we ate and packed and changed hotels. Due to the weird one-way systems, our taxi dropped us off about a block from the hotel where we walked the rest. We dropped our bags off and SB called the cooking school, but there has been a change and they can’t run the classes at the moment, so we have now got an extra unplanned day here in Kolkata.
We left the hotel and went to visit the Victoria Memorial, along with the rest of the indian population. I couldn’t be bothered with queueing, so went to the front of the queue, bought two tickets and then went to the front of the entrance queue, where a security man saw us and escorted us through the entrance gate, I think we would still be there otherwise. The Memorial is closed and only the gardens and parks are open. The memorial is very imposing and on a grand scale and the gardens are well maintained. Today it is overflowing with picnicking families – although the sign outside saying no plastic has obviously been ignored by everyone. We were confused why indians would come here on Republic Day, after all it is a monument to the extravagance of the british who were at the same time bleeding the country financially dry and caused the deaths of millions during partition. We walked around the perimeter of the memorial before managing to get out through the throng back onto the streets.
We walked around trying to find the entrance to St Paul’s Cathedrial, which we eventually found near the entrance to the Birla Planetarium, which also had a massive queue. The Cathedral was the usual catholic paranoia, all closed off to the public and surrounded by barbed wire – you don’t get that in buddhist or hindu sites. The Cathedral was built in 1847, but most of the inside was barricaded off so you couldn’t get anywhere near the altar.
We left there heading back towards the hotel stopping to have an extremely overpriced and ordinary cold drink and snack at Flurries, why anyone would want to come back is unthinkable.
Leaving there much poorer, we had a siesta (remember it is hot here) and organised ourselves. Heading out for a late dinner at Teej’s which was packed with large tables of indian families. This was also expensive, but the food was nice and the service was good. So today we have “pushed the boat out”, back to reality tomorrow.
After dinner we walked back towards the hotel, the restaurant next door was also full, having a line out the door and chairs set up outside for prospective customers. Restaurants here seem to be absolutely chockers or totally empty. We stopped off at a large bookstore for a browse, before calling it a night.