Also known as Most Serene Republic of San Marino, it’s one of the richest countries in the world, the world’s oldest surviving sovereign state and its oldest republic (since AD 301), the 5th smallest (4.5 miles long by 5 miles wide) and completely surrounded by Italy.
The capital, also named San Marino, a UNESCO World Heritage site, sits proudly at the top of Mt. Titano. It’s chock full of castles with breathtaking views that reach from the Adriatic Sea to the snow-covered Apennines.
It was deserted and oh so cold. The wind was whipping through the narrow streets and rocked my tripod. Our refuge was a cave like restaurant for vino and the first steak we’ve had in a month.
It started in Chennai – in the south east. Bill and I explored northern India 4 years ago and wanted to see the South. Preston and Chloe (eldest son and daughter-in-law) decided to join us.
UNESCO World Heritage sites are always on the radar. On the Coromandel Coast in the Bay of Bengal, Tamil Nadu – the Monuments at Mahabalipuram were a great place to start. The rock carvings were founded by the Pallava kings in the 7th and 8th centuries. The terrain consists of larger than life sized boulders right next to the coastline.
Our original plan was to take the train to travel across the country – opting for overnight sleepers when possible. We got to the station at 10 pm for a midnight train. It was already delayed by two hours. We suspected that as the clock approached 2 am it would be further delayed – most trains were. Everyone was very tired. Sleeping on the floor is obviously okay, but when Bill saw the sign that read “please do not defecate on the station floor” we decided to return to the hotel, get some sleep and fly.
Onward to Kochi in Kerala. An overnight 2 bedroom houseboat trip through the backwaters in Alleppey. We kicked back on the huge lounge at the front of the boat , drank beers and cruised at a snails pace – watching life on the water. Fishing, bathing, washing clothes/dishes, taxi boats and children bobbing in the water are part of life on the banks of the waterway. We stopped at a tiny fish market and picked out humongous jumbo prawns for dinner. Freshly cooked lunch, dinner and breakfast fit for an army was served to just the four of us.
We strolled along the coastline in Kochi and got a lesson on the workings of the famous Chinese fishing nets. It wasn’t fishing season but the Portuguese contraptions make for good stories. Yes, Chinese fishing nets. Nets from China – the idea from the Portuguese. China won on the name game.
Goa – oh Goa. You are so clean. India is known for it’s garage. It’s everywhere! For some inexplicable reason the beach in Goa is CLEAN! We stayed at Utorda Beach area and did I tell you it was clean? We strolled the white sandy beach, splashed in the warm clean water and relished the peace.
Goa is home to a series of UNESCO churches built by the Portuguese in the early 1500’s. They are stunning and attract lots of visitors. The Christian population in Goa is around 25%. High for a country that is mostly Hindu.
We witnessed a Hindu ceremony at the Shanta Durga Temple. Not sure what it all meant but it was special none the less.
A seaside dinner was off the charts. Water front dining with nothing but candle light. The menu – a bucket of fresh fish delivered to your table.
Mumbai – large, crowded, dirty and has crazy traffic which all comes to a screeching halt at 2 in the afternoon when the 6 hour traffic jam starts.
We packed a lot into a couple of days. Highlights were the Haji Ali Dargah Mosque, on an inlet and quite the landmark, constructed in 1431. Mani Bhavan – Gandhi’s headquarters for approx.17 years, from 1917 to 1934. My personal fav- Ghobi Ghat, an open air laundromat without machinery, washing the clothes/bedding from Mumbai’s hotels and hospitals. It’s fascinating. Gateway to India, erected to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. Elephanta Caves, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a series of caves dedicated to Shiva dating back to 550 AD. Lunch at Leopolds (read the book Shantaram) (it still has dozens of bullet holes from the 2008 terrorist attack) and lastly shoulder to shoulder bazaar shopping at Linking Road.
Phew… It was a remarkable trip and wonderful to be able to share it with the kids.