Monday, May 05, 2008

Mysore and Mayo

I told you that the 1st was a holiday, right? So both my husband and daughter had Thursday and Friday off. We had actually intended to get away for the weekend, but tried to make plans too late- so instead we decided to head to Mysore for the day! Mysore is .... (below out take from Wikipedia)

"Mysore (pronounced /maɪˈsɔɚ/ in English (listen); to be renamed Mysuru) (Kannada: ಮೈಸೂರು) is the second largest city in the state of Karnataka, India. It is the headquarters of the Mysore district and the Mysore division and lies about 140 km (87 mi) southwest of Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka. The name Mysore is an anglicised version of Mahishūru, which means the abode of Mahisha. Mahisha stands for Mahishasura, a demon from the Hindu mythology. The city is spread across an area of 128.42 km² (50 sq mi) and is situated at the base of the Chamundi Hills."

Manju arrived at about 7 am and we headed off...

Mysore is, according to all of the guidebooks that I have read, approximately four hours from Bangalore. Well. Hah- what do they know! We arrived in 2 1/2 hours on the button. Of course, part of this improved time may have been the new 4 lane (meaning they could fit six cars across if needed!) road between Bangalore and Mysore. This is easily the nicest road I have been on thus far in India! We did share the road with vehicles of all kinds, including ox carts loaded up with sugar cane, but we made good time and arrived in Mysore nice and early.

We decided to start with the Palace since they are actually open early. I had heard from a friend that they have guides inside and have their rates pre-printed on a card for all to see (of course there is nothing to prevent them from having more than one card in their pocket with multiple price sets!) Whatever- we found a guide and began our journey- oh but first stop- the toilet. Now, I am sure that you have all heard about squat toilets, right? Well, believe it or not, I have thus far been able to avoid using one. Bangalore is pretty "Westernized" for good or bad- and I have never been faced with a squat toilet being the only option. Well- not here. Squat toilets they be. Not too clean, but not too dirty either, and I had to go. I do actually have a picture ( No! Not of it in use! geez...) but decided against posting it here out of respect for those of you who are "squeemish". But I came, I went, and I survived. Really, it's not bad. Now, on to the Palace!

Mysore Palace

The palace really is pretty magnificent and I wish, oh how I wish, that they would have allowed me to take pictures inside. But it is not allowed. The Mysore Palace was the abode of the Mysore Royal Family (the Wodeyar family) and seat of the Kingdom of Mysore. They have lived in the area for many hundreds of years. The current royal family (king I think?) still has a private area of the palace for his use, but if I understood correctly the Mysore Royals actually live in Bangalore. It sounds like the Mysore Royals were pretty good - they sponsored many social projects and seem to be well respected to this day- of course this is all according to our guide! There is far too much for me to describe here. The palace contains some beautiful stained glass, spectacular mosaic floors, and incredible halls with ornate colonnades. I was really saddened to see graffiti in some of the areas though. The palace could do with a bit of a face lift as the Indian weather and moisture takes a heavy toll on the best of constructions. Well worth seeing though!

After the palace we were all ready for a bite to eat. When we said to Manju that we needed some lunch, he immediately took us to a local nice hotel. It wasn't exactly what we had in mind, but we really can't blame him as most of the time when he drives us somewhere to eat in Bangalore it is usually located at one of the many nice hotels in town. We do actually eat at other places- it's just that he isn't with us at those times! Anyway, we had an okay but overpriced meal and then decided to head to the local market area. We really didn't want to do a lot of shopping this trip, but we were curious to see the market area. So we roamed around, were offered lots of fruit (which I would have been tempted by if we had had a cooler or something) and I think I saw more bananas than I have ever seen in my life. We did find and stop by Guru Sweets, supposedly the place to get Mysore Pak (good stuff that!) and bought far too much as I am still figuring out that 1 kilogram is actually a good amount of something.

Well- we were soon done with the market and Anna really wanted to see Saint Philomena's Church. It is a Gothic style church and really is not what you expect to see in the middle of Southern India!

We were dutiful Christians and wandered around. Bryan quizzing me on just who exactly is St. Philomena. When my memory of Catholic saints and their iconography came up blank he had to resort to other methods...

Anna posed in St. Philomena's Grotto while Bryan is trying to look her up on the web. Here is the Wiki page if you are interested... Apparently she was dropped from the list of "celebrated saints" on the liturgical calendar in 1961. That must be why I didn't know who she was.

But enough about that. Today is Cinco de Mayo! I have to say that I have been craving isolated Mexican foods lately. The one thing that you just can not find anywhere in Bangalore is real corn tortillas- nor can you get Masa Harina that would enable you to make your own! I absolutely love corn tortillas. I grew up in a very Mexican neighborhood you see, so the things that bring back memories of my childhood are Mexican pastries, (not only the fluffy pink ones, but also the molasses flavored ones that are shaped like pigs! Yummmm) Mexican folkloric dancing, (always loved the endings where the man leans down over the woman with his sombrero covering the two of them- always wanted to know which ones were really kissing!) and fresh corn tortillas. Many an afternoon of my childhood was spent enjoying these tortillas, made by my friend Mark Gonzales' grandmother. We could eat them as fast as she could make them and to this day there are few foods that can compare.

But here we have to make do:

Yes, a taco kit. We ate them all up and they were really quite good. No, we didn't have sour cream. No, we didn't have guacamole (no "butter fruit" in the store these days- butter fruit=avocado) But we did have tacos in real corn tortilla taco shells and they were yummy.

And yup. That's Fosters.


Linda said...

My Texan roommate got a pack of corn tortillas yesterday -- friends of hers are in town. We also got two cans of "Ro-tel" (never heard of it!).

the new 4 lane (meaning they could fit six cars across if needed!) road

so true, so true!

Isha said...

Anna's looking so grown up all of a sudden!

Lori said...

I think I've encountered what you call a "squat toilet" in Paris, of all places. Fortunately my husband had warned me in advance of our first trip there that I might find myself in a toilet stall where there is only a hole and two outlines of feet to guide you where to place yours. I guess it's no different than squating, but not sitting, over the seat in any nasty facility...or camping for that matter.

Rima said...

Mysore. What wonderful memories. And Mysore Pak.

Did you decide what to knit for Manju?

Lynne said...

I love the way different people pick up different things... the road? Easiest way to make a bigger traffic jam is to build a road - build it and they will come!
But the Foster's? No Aussie would touch it in Australia and most avoid it like the plague overseas. I won't say what most people describe it as, only that it is weak. Alas Foster's Brewery (who also do some very nice beers) have to foist their namesake beer off somewhere!

Anonymous said...

Having started commenting, now I can't stop! I live in TX now, and can apprweciate your longing for Mexican food!

Not sure what you could do about corn meal but substituting for sour cream is easy! Full-fat curd (yogurt) from your local Mother dairy or other milk vendor. Nilgiris yogurt (in containers) is also fine - if you do set yogurt at home, then even better - make a bowl of thick yogurt. Leave it in a non-refrigerated location for a few hours. The next step may not be needed - if the curd/yogurt is somewhat runny, pour it into a thin muslin/cotton cloth and squeeze the water out. The residue should be thick curd that makes a very acceptable substitute for sour cream - I substitute the reverse way here in the US, but I know some R2I friends who do it the way I gave you.