Travel Tales

Directional Shift

After exploring the vibrant Varanasi, I trekked back to the small airport where I’d been just three days before to move on to the next leg of the trip: Goa.

The day was a long one. I arrived at the tiny, four-gate airport so early I couldn’t check in for my flight yet; they hadn’t even assigned it an arrival slot. When we did board, it was the old fashioned way, walking across a sun-baked tarmac to the steps up the plane that folded into it once we were all seated.

No flights go directly from Varanasi to Goa, so we had to zip back to Delhi, hang out for three hours, then get on the plane headed south. On that flight I ended up seated in the middle of the Indian equivalent of a big Irish Catholic family. Grandparents, parents, kids, teens, toddlers – at least twenty of the seats around me were filled by people related to each other, and they made the flight – our section of the plane, at least – a veritable traveling circus. Babies were passed from seat to seat as much as meals were – sandwiches, sweets for everyone. Card games, video games, word games, they played them all. And the chatter! Hindi rushed off their tongues so quickly my head started to spin.

I probably could’ve figured out a way to join the fun, but instead I popped in headphones and buried myself in book #2 of the trip, an Anne Lamott novel I finished in less than 24 hours.

From the airport, Palolem Beach is still an hour and a half away, so I asked the hotel to have a driver waiting for me, and he was. Deepak got me safely to the guest house by 10:30p, where my British ex-pat hosts had a cold Kingfisher ready and waiting for me.

I’ve spent today exploring the touristy enclave that is Palolem, and I have to say I adore it. It’s certainly more westernized (and more tourist driven) than the city on the Ganges I’ve just come from, but it may just be exactly the change of pace I needed. A week (plus) doing sight-seeing and tours and more followed by six full days on a small crescent of a beach lined with palm tress, with nothing more to do than eat, drink, sleep, read and tan (or burn, if you’re me) is shaping up to be my ideal vacation. A perfect combo.

On the recommendation of Deb and friends as we talked books over dinner one night in Jaipur, I snapped up a copy of SHANTARAM when I saw it in a local bookshop this morning. Clocking in at 933 pages, it normally would take me months to finish in real life. I hope to be done by Monday.

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I let a clerk at a beachside stall sell me a linen wrap skirt for about $3, and at the recommendation of my guidebook I savored a coffee slush (basically like drinking a scoop of coffee ice cream) from a cafe down the street. In this heat (it’s definitely well above 90* here!), it was divine.

Later, I’ll walk down to one of the beach-front bars to watch the sun set over the Arabian Sea. Tomorrow, I might see what a pedicure here is really like. And later this week, I’m thinking of signing up for a cooking class to learn how to recreate a curry or dal when I get home. Or at least try to.

Maybe there’s a bit of Liz Gilbert in me yet.

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