Got up early as we promised the hotel manager we’d check out earlier for him as he had a school group turning up. Heard the rowdy bunch of students turn up just as we were packing up our stuff and got free chai tea from the manager as a thank you! Stored our bags in the luggage room and started our mini walking tour of the city. Went first to Mother Teresa’s hour. Went inside but we were outside of visiting hours so we didn’t linger. Read about the aims of the mission and made plans to visit again when we come back to Kolkata. Stopped to get the best eggy bread we’ve ever had – quite literally an onion and chilli omelette smushed and cooked into a cut up bread roll.Headed back to the tourist section of the city to book our three day trip to the Sunderbans – a mangrove forest and tiger reserve. Went inside and sat with one of the owners brother. While we waited for his brother to turn up, he showed up Indian comedy on YouTube. Even with subtitles, it wasn’t particularly funny but this guy thought it was hilarious and kept rewinding it cause we didn’t laugh! Turns out, it is his favorite comedian and he watches that episode repeatedly! Booked the tour and, as Jayne and the owner chatted about Irish schooling (the owner had attended the first Irish school in Kolkata), the brother checked all of our money looking at us as if we were master bank note forgers!! Left the shop in the direction of the Indian museum but seeing the cost of it and realising that neither of us actually knew what was inside, we decided to skip it and head to the Victoria Memorial instead. Walked through a playing field where there was at least 5 games of crickets going on and some people flying kites (although none of them were as high as the ones we spied in Varanasi!). Started off by walking around the gardens and found a nice bench to enjoy the view.
As we went inside, we got waved past the bag search (I guess they don’t think tourists are a terrorist treat) and were inside looking at the mis-mash of exhibits. the first section was photos of the building being built with some portrait photos of the key people involved. the next section was 2015 paper painting which had no explanation to them exception that they had been painted recently. We then went into the main dome which had a collection of 400-year old weapons and Queen Victoria’s grand piano. We then climbed up the spiral staircase to the top section of the dome to look at the murals (oil canvas inlaid into the marble stonework) showing the main event of the Queens life. The final tow sections were a collection of oil paintings and an exhibit about the history of Kolkata. The paintings seemed to be a random mix of donated artwork and the history exhibit had more writing than anything else. The only section that caught our eyes were the postage stamps and the first telegraph wires to be installed in India. Left the museum and went for a walk around the ground, sitting for a while by one of the water tank lakes and watching the mist/smog descend on the city. Went over to St. Paul’s Cathedral where there was a nativity scene in the grounds. Went into the church separately as you weren’t allowed in with bags and we didn’t want to leave our bags with passports, electronics etc. outside. Jayne went in first while I looked at the Indian nativity scene and then we swapped over. The church was deceptively big on the inside – with three main sections and a beautiful stained glass window mural on the back wall. Went through the back streets to the metro and went three stops up town back to the main tourist area. Walked past the Oberoi hotel, decided to see if they were serving Christmas dinner and check whether they’d accept day guests. As we went in, we were asked by several different people whether we wanted to check in… I wish!! The restaurant manager seemed delighted that we wanted to dine with them and booked us in for 1pm on Christmas Day. Went to Domino’s for dinner and we were both craving comfort food – Jayne ordered a pizza that had cheese in the middle of the base.
It was amazing but so filling. Really had to force the last slice in!! Went back to the hotel to collect our bags and put on our thermal tops, leggings and socks ready for another night bus. Flagged down a taxi to drop us off at the bus stand and found our bus… Quite literally a palace compared to the other night! All the windows were in place and it actually looked like it was serviced recently! We had reclining seats rather than a bed and we were slowly cooking in our thermals… Until they put the AC on!!
Friday 18th December 2015