Tag Archives: food

Palace Stay in India

While visiting India, Alex and I had the opportunity to stay at a palace in the small town of Karauli. Built in 1938, this palace provided a unique insight into the life of royalty in Colonial India. Located in the countryside of Rajasthan, Karauli was a welcome break from the busier cities of Delhi and Jaipur.

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Upon our arrival, we were escorted into the main reception room of the hotel. The first thing we noticed was a giant tiger, who had been stuffed many years ago. Everyone ran over to him immediately! Despite the prevalence of wild game on display, there was no sign of Bungalow Bill 😛 karaulilobbyIMG_7892

After receiving our room keys, we had a chance to walk around the palace. The main courtyard was very beautiful and serene. It was the perfect place to sit down, enjoy a cup of masala chai, and read a book.

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Near the main building, they have a garage with a cool collection of vintage cars, which are still maintained and driven occasionally. My friend and I resisted the temptation to go for a joyride, but enjoyed ourselves anyway!

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Lunch was in the formal dining hall. It was a beautiful set-up, and right off of the main courtyard. They served us sandwiches and light soup, but it was a nice “refresher meal” for us after a first few days spent in Delhi.

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The room itself was in a separate building from the main palace. We were surprised to find that we had one of the largest rooms in residence, the “Queen’s Room”. It included a large main bedroom, a bathroom, a separate sitting room, and a large private balcony. We were very lucky!

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Being a 21st century traveler, the first thing I noticed was the absence of a television. Then came the realization that there were no outlets, either. Aside from the light next to our door, we felt like we had really stepped back in time! We laughed about it for a few minutes and then decided to fully embrace the experience. I’m glad we did!

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We had a good, authentic Indian dinner, which took place in one of the other main buildings. The food was good, and it wasn’t very spicy (read: easily digestible). Everyone enjoyed their meals, and I especially appreciated all of the vegetarian options that were offered.

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Overall, we had such a memorable stay. Most of all, we really appreciated the opportunity to have some peace and quiet outside of the city, and also didn’t mind “unplugging” for a bit.

The biggest issue during our stay was that the screens on the bathroom windows were widely spaced (and not able to be closed), so we did have mosquitos flying around our room at night. To deal with this, we sprayed ourselves with mosquito repellant and wore long shirts and pants to bed. Neither of us woke up with any bites, luckily, but anyone staying out in the countryside should be aware that there are plenty of mosquitos around!

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Edinburgh Christmas Market

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Edinburgh is an easy place to get into the Christmas spirit. It has cold weather, hearty food, and a very Dickens-esque vibe…this is the UNESCO City of Literature, after all.

But truly one of the best ways to celebrate the holidays in Europe is at the Christmas markets. Luckily for us, Edinburgh has a great one. If you are in town for the holidays, be sure not to miss it!

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Located off of Princes Street (with stunning views of the castle) the Edinburgh Christmas market runs from the end of November until the beginning of January. Charming stalls sell everything from furs, to fudge, to nutcrackers. It’s a good place to pick up gifts for friends and family…don’t forget to treat yourself too! IMG_2188 IMG_2200Food stalls are everywhere, and most of them have a Bavarian theme. You can find bratwurst, streusel, gluhwein, mulled cider, and soft pretzels. You heard me right: soft pretzels (these are very elusive here)! If Bavarian food isn’t to your taste, it’s easy to find fish and chips, burgers, and crepes.

IMG_2138 IMG_2181IMG_2157The market is also extremely family-friendly. There’s an ice skating rink, a Ferris wheel, a Christmas tree maze, train rides, and visits with Santa Claus. For brave souls, there is also a terrifying giant swing. I just might build up the courage to go on it next time 😛

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For those over 18, the market has some interesting and unique drink stands. We really loved the Carousel Bar, which is near the National Gallery, and the Hot Toddy Bar, which overlooks the skating rink (above the “SKATE” sign in the picture).

IMG_2171 IMG_2191All of the bars have similar menus, and for a £2 deposit, you’ll get a ceramic souvenir mug which can either be taken home or returned. You can order various types of  drinks, including hot toddies, gluhwein, and mulled cider. They have non-alcoholic beverages available too, of course!

Most importantly, the Christmas market can be a wonderful place to enjoy the company of good friends 🙂

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The Expat Experience: UK First Impressions

Last week, my husband and I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, where I’ll be studying for the next year. While I’ve visited Scotland twice before (and loved it), I knew that living abroad would present itself with very different experiences and its own set of challenges. Here are some of the things that will take some getting used to:

Shopping

  • Instead of a magnetic stripe, the standard credit card in the UK contains a chip. Since our card doesn’t have a chip, cashiers have to ask to see our signature on the back. Instead of a signature, however, “SEE ID” is written across the back. This has confused nearly everyone. We then have to show the signature that is on our driver’s licenses, but it is quite a process even to make a simple purchase.
  • Clothing sizes are different from the US. Further, some brands have European sizes, while others have UK sizes. I’m sure this will be a fairly painless adjustment once I memorize the conversions, but it’s a very intimidating problem at first! 

Food

  • It’s very time-consuming to go out to eat here. The service is very slow, and even a casual meal at a sit-down restaurant can take up to two hours. You also have to factor in the time that it takes to get there, whether it’s by walking or via public transportation. That usually tacks on an additional 30-60 minutes.
  • Foods from home are not as readily available here in the UK. This seems like such an obvious one, but I didn’t realize the extent to which this was true. I initially had a difficult time finding all of the ingredients for my favorite recipes while on a recent trip to the store (And while there are many “express” food stores, I did go to a superstore for these items). I had to find substitutes for black beans and chicken broth, as they were not in stock. The total grocery bill was also twice the amount I pay for the same meals in the US. I’ll have to start finding new recipes that are tailored to the UK, although I guess this is not the worst thing in the world 🙂
  • It’s very difficult to stock up on food in advance. Since the food is fresh and without as many preservatives, things expire quickly. I’m finding that shelf life is typically only a day or two. Perhaps this is why refrigerators are so small here!

Fuel

  • Going to the gas station is quite an affair. Filling up can take quite a while since there is usually a line of cars waiting for the pump. This is because there are no credit card machines outside, so you must go inside to pay. And there is usually a line in there, too!

Health

  • In the US, I wash my face with an over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide cleanser. I couldn’t find any face washes with benzoyl peroxide here, and was told that I have to go to a chemist for it. The chemist explained to me that all benzoyl peroxide is out of stock until further notice and recommended an “antibacterial” face wash as a substitute. So far, it works, but if anyone has suggestions on where I can find benzoyl peroxide face wash here in the UK, please advise!

City Living

  • If there’s one thing I learned this week, it’s that I’m unapologetically suburban by nature. This isn’t something unique to the UK, but since this is something I’m not accustomed to, I’ll include it on this list. In particular, the crowds of people, public transportation, and the smell of car exhaust and cigarette smoke are a big adjustment for me. I feel like I have to carry around hand sanitizer with me at all times to stay healthy!
  • On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy living in a small space. While I wish that we had a backyard, I don’t mind living in a small flat. We have 1/3 of the square footage that we had in the US, but I don’t miss it much yet. Our “cozy” flat is definitely manageable for two people.

Culture & Misc.

  • I haven’t learned how to get people to move out of the way when I am trying to get past them. I’ve tried “excuse me”, “pardon me”, and “sorry”, but nothing seems to work! When I am going down a path with only one point of access, I simply have to stand and wait for the person to move on their own accord. Am I missing something? AWKWARD.
  • Everything simply takes longer. For example, doing laundry takes a long time because the washer cycle is approximately 90 minutes. The clothes also have to air dry, since we don’t have a dryer. Also (as mentioned above), eating and shopping takes a long time, since you typically have to take public transportation to get there. I didn’t realize how many conveniences we have in the US, and I won’t lie- I miss them! But these things will definitely help me to live a more active and healthy lifestyle overall.

That’s it for now. I look forward to the upcoming month ahead, as we get ourselves adjusted to life here in Scotland. There will be more updates to come!