Roof of La Meridien in Pune
On Wednesday morning, I was walking down the hall to breakfast and one of the staff addressed me by name. I asked how he could possibly know my name and he responded that he's observed what room I'd come from!! On top of that, while I was eating breakfast, a manager asked if it was my first time in the hotel. When I said it was, he gave me a personal tour and explained some of the magnificent artwork. Talk about feeling welcome!!
As I said in my summary, through ignorance on my part, I ended up booking my trip so my Wednesday there fell on on Republic Day, a major national holiday. When I discovered my error, it was too late to reschedule the whole thing but I was able to extend my visit by a day to compensate for the loss.
I simply told my associates that I'd be happy to relax at the hotel while they spent the holiday with their families. Though I repeatedly implored them to spend the day at home with their families, all three of my engineers took their entire day and into the evening to show me the sights! This was obviously a wonderful example of the hospitality for which the Indian people are so well known.
The only thing better than a personal guide is THREE personal guides! While I still feel guilty about "stealing" their day, I must admit that it was wonderful! I had a blast and they made me feel truly welcome. I had a little time by myself to wander around the hotel and, after a short business meeting in my room, we went with a hired driver to Sinhagad, an ancient fort outside of Pune.
Sinhagad is obviously a VERY popular holiday destination and it was absolutely mobbed! After the car climbed a tortuous road most of the way up the mountain, we walked a tortuous path the rest of the way. I was one of only a very few westerners there and peoples' curiosity was obvious! One of my great regrets was that, because of the limitations of my western digestive system, I was unable to taste the many local foods that were for sale along the way. I really wanted to try some of the local foods but not enough to spend the next several days in the bathroom! By the time we left several hours later, traffic on the narrow mountain road was totally gridlocked and it took forever to get down off the mountain. Next, we stopped at a water reservoir where many people were swimming and relaxing on the beach.
However, the amazing sight was the many camels owned, apparently, by people from Rajasthan
. I'd mentioned at dinner the previous evening that I was very interested in cultures and I probably displayed that by an unceasing barage of questions all day long. As a result, after a short stop at the Pune zoo and a stop to do a little shopping, they took me to a restaurant called. "Sanskruti". I was told that "sanskruti" means "culture" in Hindi and this was a perfect spot to learn a lot about Indian culture, especially on a holiday. It's not anything at all like a western restaurant but more like a park. It was an open air venue with entertainment, crafts, music, food booths and, eventually, what we would call a buffet meal. The only negative was that there were a fair number of mosquitoes and the CDC website seemed to indicate that malaria was the least of my worries! I really enjoyed the place but my friends picked up on my nervousness about the mosquitoes as the sun went down and whisked me back to the hotel, thus ending a perfect day!