First Time Seeing the Real India

I don’t really consider going from a five star hotel to a business office to a high end mall seeing the real India and although those experiences were not without their challenges I didn’t feel like I had really seen anything. The last thing I wanted was leave this place without seeing the old part of the city, but I was too afraid to do it alone. I could have hired a driver for the day, but that would have been a stranger as well so I was incredibly grateful when a couple guys from work offered to take me out for the day. This was no small offer as the guys were working 7 days a week and were working 6:30pm -3:30am.

They wanted to meet early though which was fine by me and everyone was running a little late. I was absolutely thrilled though when Abi brought Shreya who is one of the young women who work in the office. She was an absolute delight and absolutely made the day. The guys were there mainly to guard us and for logistics…yes they felt a guard was needed…but Shreya was there to have fun!!

Because it was a holiday weekend we had a little trouble finding a cab but finally we were on our way. The first place they wanted me to see was an Old Fort and we gathered with a huge crowd to get in. It is only 25 rupees for Indian people but foreigners cost 300 rupees. I didn’t mind paying the extra, but it was another example of outdoors being less welcome. The fort was pretty cool but I’ll be honest since we got a late start it was HOT. The stairs were steep and after walking around a little bit I was ready to call it and move onto the shopping.

Next to the fort there was a temple and I would have loved to go in, but my three hosts just looked uncomfortable. I don’t know why exactly but I picked up on the vibe and didn’t push the issue. Instead we started shopping and that was really fun. Shreya went into hi gear and we were looking for 100% cotton in XL which by the way is “big girl sizes” which more than one vendor told me they didn’t carry. Despite that Shreya’s enthusiasm was infectious and I found myself buying stuff to make her happy. It was all very inexpensive but I will say that most of the 100% cotton clothing didn’t feel like that and other items when I brought home just didn’t feel right. That being said it was all really inexpensive, but I had better luck in the actual stores in old town. Yes the price jumped up (better than mall prices) but those items after washing were much better. Just my two cents.

I was prewarned it would be crazy crowded but with the guys and Shreya it didn’t really bother me at all. I did the best I could to stay in the shade and it was a really awesome experience. Since it’s setup on both sides of the street crossing back and forth was a bit tough (Abi held my hand every time) but I loved seeing the real India. Also talking to them all about their lives was great and they shared several things about the culture with me. Shreya, for example, actually got a text from her Mom with a possible marriage match and her Auntie called while we were in the cab. She’s a strong independent woman though and isn’t really interested in marriage right now which I commend her for since this is really pushing the norms. I asked if she liked a guy could she get around the match maker and they confirmed a work around was to say you found a guy on a matchmaking site and no one really checked. At a certain age they just want you to get married and look the other way on how you get there. I thought that was awesome.

We also went to the Gold store and with Abi’s Indian phone number I actually got my pair of earrings. They charge based on weight not designer so that was interesting. We also went and ate lunch and went to the 2nd best non-veggie restaurant in the city. I learned that the population is 50% veg (as they call it) and 50% not and most restaurants specialize in one or the other. Since Jax and I are non veg we went to a non veg place but I actually liked the veg options better. Once again we talked through different foods choices and I particularly liked that everyone shared. Actually that happened at both of my meals. The portions are so big and they don’t like waste so they shared. I got my own meal but didn’t eat it all and that really bothered Shreya and Abi, ultimately they decided to package it up and the next time we were approached by a beggar on the street they gave them the food.

Speaking of beggars, I was approached a few times but it was much less than I expected. First of all most people were working and almost everyone has what we would call a side hustle of some kind. I was approached by women on two separate occasions and once by a little girl and boy which was hard. I was prepared for this though and had brought power bars with me so instead of money I gave them a power bar. In all the cases they seemed pretty annoyed that I gave food instead of money but Shreya said that is what they did and didn’t have a lot of patience for it. It wasn’t great but as I said I was resolved and had a plan in advance so that made me more comfortable.

After dinner we had one more place I wanted to go and that was recommended by one of the hotel drivers. I really wanted to get a nice shawl for my mother and we ultimately went to a VERY nice store. I was the only one there and they showed me shawls ranging from $30 US to $140. They explained the difference in the type of goats hair used (baby versus mature) and the intricacy of the hand weaving and embroidery versus machine. Not only did I pick out a beautiful shawl but I bought some other items for myself spending more than I had spent anywhere else. Loved it there and they made me feel very special. This was by far my favorite shopping experience and I was more than happy to spend my money there.

I am so very grateful for these three sharing their lives with me

It was such a lovely day and to make it even better this group and others gave me presents on my last day of work. My favorite was a collage Abi made me with pictures from all the things we had done. That kindness truly brought tears to my eyes and I told them sincerely that the real gift was the opportunity to spend time with them. I meant that and am so grateful for their generosity.

I think that to sum up my trip I would say that I experienced the highest of highs and some very lows. It was terrifying at times and I was way out of my comfort zone, but I am incredibly grateful for those people that allowed me into their culture and guided me through it. In general the times I spent with people from India who knew me were amazing and the times I was out on my own were not so great. But I am glad I had the courage to experience a little of India both ways. I know for many people traveling alone internationally is not that big of a deal but for me it was a real shock to the system and I think it was in a good way. I am looking at things very differently now and I really hope those emotions don’t fade over time. When people ask me how it went I simply say it was truly life changing. I hope reading these blog posts you can see why I feel that way.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

First Time in India

After arriving at the hotel and getting settled I needed to make my way over to the office. As tempting as it was to just stay in my oasis of calm, I was on this trip to do a job and I wanted to make sure I provided enough value to the company to justify the expense. The distance to the office was less than 100 yards but I had to cross a busy street and the general consensus was I should be escorted the first time. The woman I was working with to organize the trip stopped at the hotel on her way to work to give me a ride, and I discovered there was a long concrete barrier in the middle of the road and only a couple of places to cross. So I knew that would complicate things and was glad I had a ride the first day.

My arrival at the office was a bit overwhelming to be honest. I didn’t sleep, because I was afraid I wouldn’t wake up again, so I wasn’t mentally at my best. I also met a TON of people and as a person who has a hard time matching names to faces in the best of situations I was really struggling. Thankfully there were a few people I had been working with prior (and met on Teams meetings) and they were really happy to see me. That made me feel a lot better and I spent the first day getting acclimated, setting up meetings and getting the lay of the land.

The scope of my trip was pretty broad and there are multiple groups and over 500 people working in that office so it was really important that I was careful with my time. It didn’t help that I had one group that was incredibly excited to see me and meet with me and the other team didn’t seem as interested. This was especially challenging because I love working with the front lines workers and seeing their process and challenges first hands and I found it somewhat difficult to get access to some of the team members I wanted to work with.

Part of this I believe is the fact that India is a very hierarchical society. I like to cut through the lines of management and that was received with some initial suspicion. It took me quite a bit of time to reassure everyone that I truly was there to help and when I got access to lower level people they were terrific. First of all their technical skills were amazing…I mean they were flying through the screens and in general everyone was very positive and dedicated. I was especially impressed with the young women I had the opportunity to meet and since I was one of the few women middle managers who had visited the facility they were very happy to meet me.

That being said I still had to get back and forth to the hotel and that was a bit of a challenge. At night two of the men would walk me across the street and like the game Frogger it was pretty scary at times. In the daytime I decided to walk by myself and would generally find a gap in the traffic or follow other people to find my way across. Here I will show you the opening.

The next couple of days were pretty intense, but I genuinely felt like I was making progress. I even got to have dinner with two team members that I had worked on a project with although it took some time to convince everyone that was ok. Generally dinners are only with senior managers but I was adamant I was going to thank the people who had helped make my project successful. This is standard behavior for a project manager and I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of it as long as the guys wanted to go. They absolutely did and we had a wonderful dinner where they got me try all sorts of Indian food helping me out with making sure things weren’t too spicy. They also explained how to use the bread to pick up the food and I knew to never use my left hand although that was something I had to focus on. Quick funny story they don’t really use napkins and when the bowl of water came at the end I almost drank it. Abi quickly noticed my confusion and set me straight it was to clean my hands lol. I was really out of my element.

Then the weekend came and I wasn’t sure what to do. Thankfully a couple of the guys I have been working with offered to take me into Old Town on Sunday and I decided I was going to do a little exploring myself on Saturday. A few miles away there was a VERY nice mall called Phoenix and I was curious to visit it. I also wanted to try on some clothes as well to find out what size I was in India, so when I went to the outdoor markets I would know what sizes to buy at the cheaper prices. The hotel got a car for me and it took about 20 minutes to go four miles but the mall was as nice as any I have been to in the states.

Although they had western shops I was more interested in the differences which were super varied. India is a study in contrasts and they had shops where the male and female areas were totally separate and other shops that had bras etc in their front windows. They also had a Chili’s (one of my favorite chains) and I had a really nice lunch.

What was interesting about the clothing stores were the variety of styles, ranging from completely western to traditional Muslim and everything in between. In the first store I went into I felt a little loss on size and asked a woman about my size if she spoke English and hesitantly asked her what size to try. She was very kind and suggested an XL (I am L in US sizes) and pointed me to a dressing room to try things on and her sizing was spot on. All pants are by the waist size though so I tried on and bought a pair of pants for $14.99 US. The prices were VERY similar to the US which is a lot in India and even though the place was packed the folks I work with say they never go there because it is to expensive. To thank the managers for their hospitality I decided to get candles from the US. This turned out to be a good choice because the gifts were very well received. Gift giving is a big deal in India and its important to get a small token of appreciation for those showing you hospitality.

I also found the home store to be very interesting because mostly the prices and items were similar to the US with some exceptions like this home religious statue. Ultimately I ended up buying many of my presents from the Bombay store which I really liked.

Everything was going great until I went into a jewelry store to look for a pair of earrings. I love gold and rubies and since this is India I thought I would find a great selection. All the jewelry stores are guarded and although they let me in I immediately felt unwelcome. I persevered though being as pleasant as possible, and ultimately found a pair of earrings for $125US. Every time that day when I made a purchase I was asked for an Indian phone number but since I didn’t have one the other shop owners worked around it. The jewelry store absolutely refused to sell to me though without a picture of my passport. I learned later that gold is carefully monitored in the country (even such a small amount) and without a passport I couldn’t buy any. I didn’t really get it and would have accepted it at face value, but the woman was incredibly rude. She talked to me like I was less than her even when I showed her my Amex Platinum card. It was a real Pretty Woman moment and frankly embarrassing and unpleasant.

At that point I wanted to go back to the hotel and I called the hotel to send me a car. The person I talked to said they needed an Indian phone number so the cab could contact me and I said forget it and went to the valet stand. They told me all cabs had to be ordered online and again needed an Indian phone number. At this point I was hot and frustrated, so I went and got in a Took Took. Let me say here I was specifically warned by my company to not get into one of these vehicles, but in that moment I didn’t feel like I had any choice. The guy was rough and quoted me 500 rupees (which I agreed to) and then we sped away. I was prepared for the feeling of taking my life in my own hands but I didn’t expect him to spend almost the whole ride yelling to someone on the phone. I just made my peace with the whole thing and hoped insurance would pay out if I died on the way back. That’s not hyperbole by the way.

Things don’t look that bad in the picture above because I was holding on for dear life during the more scary moments but let me explain. It’s an open air vehicle with no seatbelts. Cars are given some room when they drive, but these carts are not given way. Motorbikes (many with three or more people on them including kids sitting in the middle) whizzed by and I could have reach out and touched them. We also were cut off numerous times and since the driver seemed distracted (remember the yelling on the phone) I just figured it was all in God’s hands. I will say though that the guy knew what he was doing but I didn’t tip him because I felt like I was being overcharged. He dropped me off at the hotel on the street and I walked up breathing a huge sigh of relief.

When I went into the hotel the Concierge asked me about my day and I told him what had happened when I tried to get a cab home. Then I asked how much the ride should have costs and was told 100 rupee. I had been charged 5X what I should have and honestly the $4 wasn’t a big deal but everyone was outraged on my behalf. They were going to go give the driver a talking to but I explained he was long gone. When I calmed everyone down I did talk about it would have helped to make arrangements with me for the return trip prior to me leaving the hotel. Turns out I could have used What’s App to communicate with the driver which I had installed on my phone.

I actually ended up making this suggestion to the hotel at the end, to not assume first time visitors knew they needed an India phone number. All of that drama could have been avoided if I had asked more questions before I left and they had asked some of their own. Anyways, I’ll be honest the whole thing put a sour taste in my mouth, but I was still excited about going out with my coworkers the following day. I really hoped that experience would be different.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

First Time in a Ritz Carlton

When I arrived at the hotel after 27 hours of travel I was pretty anxious. First time in India and first time traveling internationally for work I need a place to center myself. From the moment I entered the doors of the hotel it was an oasis of calm…truly. Part of that was there wasn’t a lot of activity at 6am and part of that was the young woman who greeted me at the front desk. Her name was Wynona and she went on to be one of the best parts of my stay at the Ritz. Not only was she extremely competent, but she was also a very nice young woman and went out of her way to make me feel truly welcomed. I was so grateful for her help during my stay that at the end of the trip I gave her a shawl I purchased for her. I’ve never done anything like that before but I wanted to really say thank you for everything.

To provide some context I will say that although I am experienced US domestic traveler, my hotels stays have been largely in Middle Tier Marriott’s and Hiltons. Traveling on a corporate account necessitates some economy, but I have been very happy over the years with those hotel stays. Nothing , and I mean nothing, I have ever experienced relates to the Ritz Carlton experience. For me what stood out wasn’t the aesthetics (although the hotel was beautiful) it was the extraordinary levels of service. It may be possible that all Ritz properties are similar to this one, but I truly believe the hotel in Pune is special. Best of all it was right across the street from my work and they had a reasonable negotiated rate (including breakfast) for my company so I was able to stay there.

There is a concept in India called Atithi Devo Bhava (The guest is God) and this hotel embodies that principle. As a woman traveling alone I could easily have faded into the background, but most of the staff knew who I was and took an active interest in making sure I have a wonderful stay. I can’t tell you how many times people asked if I have enough food, I was drinking enough, I was going to do something fun, or had I tried a certain Indian food. It made me feel like I had a family looking out for me. This was mostly evident when I ate my meals (especially morning breakfast) and numerous people came up to check in on me. I’ll be honest I struggled with the food because of the spiciness level, but I loved breakfast as it had so many mildly flavored options.

Along with the buffet (which had a different breakfast, lunch, and dinner) there were three specialty restaurants and my favorite was definitely Ukiyo. Again the service was outstanding and when they were out of my favorite wine, the server brought me a free mango cocktail which I really enjoyed. The meal was very special and was an explosion of flavor.

Along with the restaurants they also had a really nice spa and work out room. I am sorry to say I didn’t workout, but I did take advantage of the spa services on my day off. I received an excellent massage one day and it really helped after all that travel.

One of the coolest things about the hotel was the view of the city. I got to see it from multiple locations as they have outdoor areas on many floors and I really enjoyed watching the sunset and the patterns of the city from those vantage points.

Oh and I haven’t even mentioned the room. Has a Marriott Gold member I received an upgrade and found the room to be incredibly comfortable. Housekeeping was amazing and accommodated my need to have the room cleaned after 11am everyday because I was working a later shift for work. Room service was great when I needed a quick meal after a long day and quite reasonably priced. I even paid myself for laundry services and they did an excellent job turning my clothing around very quickly.

Because I am a process analyst for a living, I spent a lot of time just watching the flow of work and it was super impressive. That being said all processes can be improved so I spent some time writing an email to the manager thanking specific people for their kindness and making some recommendations. I was thrilled to learn the next morning that the entire staff had read the email and they were all very thankful for my feedback. On my last day several people actually pulled me aside and gave me a few little gifts and wrote me a beautiful note to thank me for my stay. That note truly mattered to me and I was so grateful to receive it.

Again this hotel was the nicest I have ever stayed in and a big part of the reason I would love to return to India. Next up I will talk about my work and exploring the city.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

First Time Traveling to India

I should start by saying that although my domestic travel experience has been quite extensive, I have not traveled very much internationally. In point of fact, I have never traveled to the Eastern Hemisphere, and never been on a trip that was this long. So although I was incredibly excited for the opportunity to travel to India for business, I also had a ton of anxiety. This post is going to focus on the logistics of the trip (which turned out to be the worst part) and some tips I picked up along the way.

First off, just scheduling the flights was a bear. Even though I was flying out of LAX in Los Angeles my choices were pretty limited and I wanted to make sure that I would not have to go through customs during my layover. I ultimately learned that you don’t need a special Visa in most airports for a layover as long as you stay in the international terminal but I heard some countries (like Canada) do require a Visa even to fly into their airports so that is good to know. Because of my concerns I ultimately booked a 5-1/2 hour flight to NYC and then a 16 hour flight to New Delhi, and finally a 3 hour flight to Pune. Originally I booked coach (which was around $1500) but I was rightly concerned that I wouldn’t be able to sleep on that long flight in the middle. Ultimately I followed my company’s travel policy and booked business class (a steep $7700) and thank heavens I did. It mattered less on the flight from LA to NYC, but it was a lifesaver on the 16 hour flight. One piece of advice is the seats do matter in business class and I was much more comfortable as a solo traveler getting one of the single seats on the outside than being right next to someone in the middle. The seats are all the same but I just felt more comfortable.

One of the other great perks of flying business class is you have access to the airport lounges (when available). These lounges have coffee, water, and tea and a small buffet that is free. They also have quiet rooms which I really appreciated. Unfortunately I was only able to take advantage of the ones in NY and LA because American Airlines subcontracted my flights to India and I was not allowed to have access to those rooms. Prior to my departure we upgraded to American Express Platinum, but none of the terminals I was in had one of their lounges. I actually went up to one in Delhi thinking I might be able to get in and was told “No Americans allowed, just for Indian people.” Yep, that happened, and welcome to India.

Speaking at arriving in India, make sure you apply for and get your EVisa prior to going. It turned out to be pretty easy to get the EVisa for me, and I carried a paper copy with me on the travels. I also intentionally took a small suitcase since I didn’t want to check a bag so I could keep everything with me. I am not sure this was at all necessary, but ultimately I am glad I did because on the return leg they made me check the bag to New York (not sure why since I carried on the same type plane coming out no problem) and I worried about my stuff until it was back in my hands. Borrowing a page from my mother (who is a very experienced international traveler) I took clothes I could either throw away or donate locally and filled my bag up with what I bought coming back. Mostly that worked well.

EVisa or not though when I arrived in Delhi things were pretty stressful. I had to go through customs and then did two different security checks. The lines were long and all of my documents were looked at very closely. The airports I was at were run by the military and they were very serious. I just kept quiet and did what I was told which worked very well. The only time I got a little agitated was when one of the security stops confiscated my E-Cigarette batteries. I knew this was a strong possibility from my research but was somewhat surprised when they actually did it and again I just kept my opinions to myself and did what I was told. Remember you are in a foreign country and they can pretty much arrest you if they want and even if the charges didn’t stick who would want to be arrested in a foreign country??? To be fair coming back into New York wasn’t much better. A woman got in the wrong line and the TSA agent yelled at her in front of everyone saying “you need to do what we tell you to do” in a pretty crappy tone. At least the Indian military is just silently menacing.

One other weird thing about security is to change terminals you need to exit the building and not only go back into security to get into the airport terminal itself but then again to get to the gates. I even had one flight where they did security one more time prior to getting on the flight and we were kept in a glassed waiting area (with no water or bathrooms) until we were allowed on the flight. On the way back to the US I went through security 8 different times before finally landing on the last flight. Pretty miserable especially because the search lines are segregated in India and you have to go into a curtained area with a woman who pats you down and wands you. Not only does it take longer but its also a little more familiar than I am used to.

One thing I want to mention is I was concerned about smells, but all the airports and almost every place of business I went to was incredibly (and I mean spotlessly) clean and had no odors beyond the normal people smells. To the contrary there are a lot of green spaces and flowers everywhere and most people smelled of nice smelling body wash or oils. And since personal space boundaries are closer than in the US I was close to people but rarely encountered an unpleasant smell and I am pretty sensitive to that. Bathrooms were also better than expected again being very clean and all (that I used) had toilet paper along with the more commonly used spray nozzle. Indians in general believe using a spray hose to clean those areas is more sanitary and frankly they may be right. That being said I carried disposable wipes just in case but ultimately used toilet paper. One thing I should mention is in almost every restroom there is one stall that is an old fashioned design which was a hole and a spray nozzle. These were the exception rather than the rule though and I was pleasantly surprised.

Where I did struggle though was food and drink. First of all it is considered extremely bad manners to eat (or shake hands) with your left hand because that is the hand they use to wipe in the bathroom. It was REALLY hard to force myself to only use the right hand to eat but I think I did pretty well. The food itself was pretty challenging because I simply don’t handle spicy foods well. I quickly learned that even mild might be too spicy for me so I always carried protein bars and ultimately ate those in a pinch. Even American food chains are different because absolutely NO beef is allowed in the country. I’m not sure how I missed that but the McDonald’s had veggie burgers and chicken and the subway just tasted plain weird. The closest thing I found was KFC where the mild chicken was like our spicy here. That was ok for me. Worst of all you can’t trust any raw vegetables or fruits (unless you peel them) because they may be washed in water that will make you sick. I couldn’t even trust ice which was super hard for me but ultimately I learned to put the ice in my Life Straw and drink it as it melted through the filter. I put ALL of my drinks through the Lifestraw and was very careful about what I ate and thankfully I didn’t get sick once. Yes it wasn’t the culinary journey I hoped for but staying well was far more important to me.

See that look the guys in the pictures above were giving me? Well as a solo female traveler I got that look ALOT. To counter this I followed my company’s security recommendations and dressed in loose clothing and covered my arms to the elbows but I still got the look. I also bought a shawl but never wore it because many women in this region of India don’t.

To be fair, no one said or did anything but I felt low level uncomfortable any time I was traveling alone. To be clear not unsafe, because I stayed in crowded places and didn’t go out alone at night, but still it wasn’t great. On the way back I was more prepared for the stares and started to ignore them. It actually helped that on the flight back I saw another female traveler with an Ohio State T-Shirt that I recognized from the trip out. I introduced myself to Laura and learned this was her first trip to India as well. She lives in Mansfield and her daughter goes to Ohio State (where I went) and I couldn’t get over what a small world it is. We supported each other via texting on the way back and walked together when it made sense. The sense of relief from having someone else looking out for you was palpable and I am so glad I got to meet her.

Speaking of texting, one of the things I heard from a friend who travels to India regularly is that the phone wouldn’t work in New Delhi if you didn’t have a local number. I had worked to make sure I had international calling and Wifi before I went and wow was I glad I did. People talk about getting a sim card and “popping it into your phone” when in India like its no big deal but I was super intimidated by that. Having a working phone was an absolute lifeline and even without the Indian number I felt much more confident. I will say there are all kind of things you can’t do easily without an Indian number and may make a different choice in the future, but please make sure you have some sort of communication because Wifi simply isn’t available everywhere.

When I finally arrived in Pune it was 5:30am and after a 27 hour travel day I was exhausted. I walked outside expecting to see a driver with my name on a placard but no one was there. I followed the signs (they are all in English and Hindi which is great) and ultimately found myself in a parking garage with six strange men. After talking to them, I called the hotel and learned no one from my company had ordered a car. They sent one right away but it still took 20 minutes and I started crying quietly in the meantime. One of the security guards came over and found me a chair to sit on and the men guarded me (I don’t know how to describe it) until the taxi arrived. That was absolutely the worst of either trip and being more familiar with the country I definitely wouldn’t be in that situation again. I would say my biggest lesson from the experience is take nothing for granted and verify everything prior to traveling and even doing so be prepared to deal with the unexpected.

Next up I make it to the hotel and my adventure truly begins.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

Hollywood Walk of Fame and Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

I’ll be honest, I thought the Walk of Fame would be lame. Most things this iconic don’t live up to their press, but I actually found it to be a lot of fun. I do recommend you come prepared with a few you would like to find specifically but its also fun to just walk and see what you spot. I oohed and aahed much more than I expected as I ran across some stars I didn’t expect. But if you do just want to wander you really need a spotter. I was looking down but Lee (who went on another day) was watching the flow of traffic to make sure I didn’t walk into anyone. That made it more fun for me. I literally did not have to watch where I was going.

On thing I didn’t realize was that there are different categories for the walk of fame. As you can see above Fred Astaire is movies but Journey was music. I also didn’t realize that current day stars who get one of these have to pay a lifetime fee for its maintenance, I don’t really understand how all that works to be honest but I do know its super political on where your star is placed.

As you are walking along there are tons of souvenir shops, restaurants, and tour companies. That part I largely ignored but I did go into one souvenir shop and bought a few things. I also found the large building for Scientology pretty interesting, but I only looked from the outside.

Next we went to the Dolby theater where the Oscars are held. This was a really cool building with an entrance that had shops inside (had no idea) but I really liked seeing it. They offer tours here so one day I would like to come back.

Next was Grauman’s Chinese Theater (technically it’s called the TCL now, but Lee refuses to call it anything other than Grauman’s. Sid Grauman was a legend, and his theater deserves to bear his name for all time) and they had handprints in cement there. That’s how the Hollywood stars started but they realized the stars would work better than concrete. Again they offer tours and I would like to go back there and tour as well.

Finally I had seen enough and was ready to leave. The crowds had gotten pretty crazy and I probably could have stayed all day. So glad I got to see these last few though.

I was pretty much done but Lee had one more place so we went to see the Television Academy. This building has a small outdoor park with statues of some of the most famous icons of TV. It’s a small space so a big deal to be honored here, and the statues were beautiful. Fair warning, it’s tough to find parking near here so be prepared for that. We got lucky because it was a Sunday so we just parked right in front.

Believe it or not I didn’t take pictures of everything. They did a great job with a small space. That’s all my “old” posts. As I write this I have a quiet moment in India, and when I return I will write some blog posts about my experience there!

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

Hollywood Museum and Mel’s Diner

For some reason I have been resistant to walk around in downtown Hollywood, but finally we took a day and explored it. I will say it was overall better than I expected and since we went early in the morning and left when it got super crowded from a congestion perspective it wasn’t that bad. The main thing I wanted to see was the Hollywood Museum (in the old Max Factor building) which is said to house the largest collection of Hollywood memorabilia. I don’t know if that’s true but it was definitely a funky place with several floors and a weird layout. I liked it though and thought it was an excellent bargain for the price. I can’t really explain it so let me just share the pictures.

The first floor was part makeup and part Hollywood starlets and each of the small rooms was dedicated to blondes, redheads, brunettes etc. It was a nice way to bring Max Factor and Hollywood memorabilia together and it was very well done in my estimation.

The upstairs has a really eclectic collection of memorabilia. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it all, but I especially enjoyed all the pieces from the Old Batman show. Loved that show as a kid. And in one corner they had all the different cat women outfits. That was a cool collection.

There was also a side section that had some sci fi stuff (including some Star Trek outfits) and a HUGE collection of autographs. What I liked best about the autograph collections were the framed collections from Gone with the Wind and the Wizard of Oz. This collector went to some time and trouble.

The absolute best part though was the basement. It was all monsters in movies and wow it was spookie. First of all it was all brick in the basement and it was on the dark side. Creepy but super cool.

The absolute best part of the basement was the recreation of Hannibal Lectors cell. It was extremely well done and Lee made me sit in the Clarice chair and that was waaay creepy. I was ready to go upstairs after that.

After we left the museum we walked straight into Mel’s Diner and I was pleasantly surprised. This Diner was the inspiration for American Graffiti and lots of other movies and I really enjoyed the food. As someone who loves diner’s it was great to go to such a famous one and I definitely wouldn’t skip it if you are in the area.

Next up I will cover the rest of the day including the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

Exploring Downtown LA

Since our first experience going downtown wasn’t so great, I wanted to take another crack at it so we explored the area early on a Saturday and a Sunday. “Downtown” LA is sort of hard to define and our explorations weren’t the strictest interpretations but all the things we did over the two days were grouped pretty close together geographically.

The first thing I wanted o try was the flower district. We went first thing in the morning and although this is a pretty sketchy part of town (with many homeless in the area) the district was hopping with tons of people in and out and once you got into the warehouses it was everything I hoped for. So many flowers, truly an explosion of colors and smells and all reasonably priced.

That day we also went to Canter’s deli for lunch which was VERY cool. This famous Jewish deli has been in business since the 1931 and at one time was the place where lots of important deals happened. The neighborhood has changed, with many of the nice houses being broken up into multiple apartments, but the deli and a synagogue are still there and it’s obviously still a jewish neighborhood to some extent. I was excited about trying the matzo ball soup, with the broth being amazing but the ball being on the large side for me. Lee also loved his sandwich and the pickles were delicious.

One thing I have learned about visiting LA is it has a cumulative effect on me. Lee and I have come to an understanding that its ok for me to say I’ve done enough for one day and that’s the end. Almost everywhere we go is very crowded and can be an assault on the senses. Our exploring is supposed to be fun, so I am starting to say out loud when I’ve had enough. That’s why we broke this exploring into two days and on Sunday we went back to downtown to finish our list.

The first thing we did was visit Olvera street which is the oldest street in LA. You forget that Los Angeles was part of Mexico and the town square are was the center of the town. It’s been largely closed off but there is a beautiful church and services were actively happening. The square area has restaurants and vendors and the park celebrates the Mexican culture.

After researching I learned that a statue of a priest (Father Serra) was toppled during the George Floyd protests by native Americans and the park as ultimately renamed and other controversial plaques were removed. There was no sign of that the day we were there though and the park along with the surrounding area was very nice. There are many old buildings still standing in this area including the first fire stations which is free to go into and has some great old fire equipment.

Best of all it is across the street is Union Station and we walked across and checked out the cool art deco design.

We were getting hungry and looking for someplace to eat and Lee suggested I choose from my restaurant list. Ultimately I decided on Redbird which is owned by Neal Fraser. They had a brunch menu and we were able to sit out the counter in an atrium styled area. Lunch was so-so…Lee loved his but I felt my short ribs although flavorful were tough. Worst of all the seats we were in were super uncomfortable. Never trade comfort for style, although this is LA and is it had a slogan that might be it 🙂

I was close to being done after lunch but Lee asked if I would walk down to the Last Bookstore. Despite the kind of long walk, I am so glad I did. We have been to used bookstores all over the country but this one is really special. The selection was awesome and the prices were incredibly reasonable, especially for downtown LA. Also the decorations on multiple floors were super cool where books were used to create all kinds of neat phot opportunity area. I also loved how the books were grouped and although it was somewhat crowded upstairs and the check out line was way to long, I found several books to take home with me. Definitely worth a visit if you are in downtown LA.

I was definitely done in after the weekend, but so glad we had some positive experiences and checked some stuff our list. Downtown isn’t a place I would want to hang out all of the time, but it was cool to visit and see the architecture and other places. Trying to get caught up on all the blog posts before I go to India. I think I have one more then will have more when I get back. Also Lee is out of town so if there are any grammar errors that’s all on me 🙂

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

What’s Happening With Us

You would think with all the blog posts that living here in LA is just like an extended vacation, but that’s actually not the case. Lee has been hard at work developing his local contacts and learning a new skill set. Last week he was booked on his very first job here in Hollywood, and it was for a television show!!! He signed an NDA so I can’t go into details but he had the opportunity to work here and he made it on the call sheet, which is a big deal because that means the show goes on his professional credits. The culture is very different than the live corporate events he has done in the past, but he is learning the rules and he’s in the room at least! He has also planned a trip to the NAB conference and will be meeting with two of his freelance employers there. As a freelancer it is a great place to catch up on new technology and meet new contacts.

While he was doing that, I was working very hard at my new job and three months in I really love it. I have a great boss, am given a lot of autonomy and really feel like I am making an impact. For me, it doesn’t get better than that. Plus I finally have the opportunity to fulfill a life long dream of mine and I am going on an international business trip to Pune, India. These trips are expensive and they don’t send you unless you have something valuable to add so I am really excited about that.

As a VERY seasoned domestic traveler I wasn’t that concerned about traveling alone, but I soon found out international travel is quite a bit different. I have learned quite a bit over the last week and wanted to share it with you. It is important to note that as part of international travel I was sent some warnings from the global security department. Those caught my attention and pushed me down some interesting paths. Keep in mind this was for all of India and as I have learned different areas have different cultural norms. These are the generic India warnings.

“Women should carry a scarf/shawl and wear loose-fitting clothing that covers the chest, arms to the elbow, and legs. Women travellers should minimize travel after dark as risks are not entirely mitigated even when in a small group, including those involving men. Maintain a formal tone with men not known to you. Keep your food and drinks always in sight, particularly if with a recent or casual acquaintance”

OK so let’s break the clothing down. I have spent a ton of time trying to track this down and ultimately the most helpful thing was to look at pictures of people who live there. When in Rome, as they say.

  1. It’s hot and humid in Pune (100+ degrees) so I have no problem at all with loose fitting clothing. That being said I wasn’t crazy about no short sleeve shirts although ultimately am focusing on 3/4 length 100% cotton. As a note I went through my existing wardrobe and only had one work shirt that fit the bill so I am looking for more. One big problem is the V neck in most work shirts. Unless it completely buttons up I wont feel comfortable taking it so that severely narrowed my selection.
  2. I wasn’t sure what covering the legs meant, I have some very nice pants that cover the knee but I think they may show too much of my calves. All my work pants are either black or too heavy so I need to buy some lighter weight tan pants.
  3. It doesn’t mention shoes at all and as all women know that’s a big deal. I ended up asking a woman colleague who works inn Pune and she told me open toed sandals are OK ::: Whew! As a side note I didn’t trust any one source but rather validated what I was told with pictures of people in the area. That helped.
  4. From what I am told jeans are OK but since they are hot and I don’t own a pair that I would consider “loose fitting” I am skipping them. I do have a work friend who travels frequently to India and she says she wears them all the time, but better safe than sorry on this first trip.
  5. Now we come to the shawl. I have pretty mixed feelings about that, but I do know there are some locations (ie: temples) that you cannot go into without your head being covered. I am choosing to view this as a religious/cultural sensitivity and plan on taking one although not sure how often I will actually wear it.

The second part about security was much more important. Sexual harassment and even rape is a big deal in India, but again you get mixed information depending upon who you talk to. Oddly the men I will be working with are taking this more seriously than the women which kind of tells you everything you need to know. Here’s what I have decided at least initially.

  1. I will be working 1pm – 10pm so I am not going to go anywhere at night unaccompanied. I have asked for someone to walk me back to the hotel at night (less than 100 yards) which I will be rigid about not sure yet about the daytime.
  2. To get from the hotel to work I have to cross a busy street and some people I have talked to are concerned I could get hit by the “crazy” traffic. I will need to scope this out when I get there and play this one by ear. I have heard of situations where foreigners are intentionally targeted in traffic accidents and I obviously don’t want any part of that.
  3. Maintaining a formal tone is going to be really tough for me. I found a wonderful travel blog written by a Canadian solo female traveler and she talks quite a bit about this. As a polite Canadian she found that was sometimes misconstrued as being available for advances and has learned how to put up a “force field” when interreacting with men she doesn’t know. Since I tend to be overly conciliatory in unfamiliar situations, this was a big ah ha moment for me. It’s not like I don’t know how to put up a force field (been doing it since I was 14) it’s just I don’t want to be rude. But force field it is as safety is always first.
  4. Keeping food and drink in sight well ok. First off I am worried in general about these. You can’t drink the water so I obsessed about that until I bought a water bottle with a filter system in it. I drink a ton of water and bottled water isn’t always available. After researching I bought the Lifestraw which is good for bacteria and used by back country hikers and international travelers. I had never heard of these so I learned something cool. The spice level in the food is also a concern and they are suggesting I don’t eat in the work cafeteria because the food will be too spicy. I want the whole experience though so I am going to try some things out. If nothing else I might lose some weight. As far as watching my food and drinks, for me this is only something you need to do if you go in a bar in America. That being said I am going to try and follow the advice and having my own water bottle should help some.
  5. Getting from A to B is also an issue. In separate correspondences I was told business travelers cannot take rickshaws or UBER but instead must have an official cab. For women travelers the transportation must be coordinated through the hotel or local office. I have someone picking me up at the airport at 4:30am but I will be there two weeks and want to explore a little on my weekend. My plan is to work through the hotel to get a driver for the day or maybe I will get lucky and someone from the office wants to hang out with me a little. This especially matters because I decided to not check a bag (don’t want to go through customs twice) and instead I will buy stuff or do laundry when I am there.
  6. Finally I am not sure if I will have cell coverage. Wifi doesn’t work everywhere if you don’t have a local phone so I am trying to get an international calling option. The information here is not very good, but I have verified wifi isn’t everywhere. I have an SOS card to take with me for medical or security issues but if I can’t make a call not sure how that will work.

So those are the things I have been working through. The trip is 4/24 – 5/3 and I am not sure if you will hear from me at all those two weeks, but I promise to fill you in when I come back. One other thing I will mention is all of this was pretty stressful and in the middle of the research one day the rig started to shake violently. It seriously felt like we were in an earthquake. It stopped and then it started again and what we realized was someone pulled into a spot in front of us and while they were turning their toy hauler caught our pin box and dragged us several feet. Thankfully no one was hurt but it was one of the scariest things I have experience in an RV and the dog was seriously freaked out. We also discovered that our front window is cracked and although we are still standing have no idea if we have jack damage or not. The only way to know is to hitch up but then we are committed to doing something about it right then and there.

Crunched front cap
You can see how far the jacks slid and they dug into the gravel

The good news is the person who did it is also monthly and he is insured. Lee has to call his insurance company and get the process going but this would be MUCH worse if we weren’t staying here long term. Will let you know how all that goes.

Finally I wanted to take a moment and share the loss of our good friend’s Deb and Steve dog Hurley. Hurley was a pit bull rescue and was one of the sweetest dogs I have ever met. I’ll be honest I was afraid of pit bulls before Hurley but Lee and I both learned how wonderful they could be if raised properly. He also was very tolerant of Jack and we loved him for that as well. Hurley you will definitely be missed and I am sure you are playing up in Doggy Heaven,

One of my favorite travel moments when he and Jack were racing around in Goblin Valley. Hurley as always was incredibly gentle and let Jack win. So cute!

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

Palos Verdes Peninsula

One of the places we hadn’t seen in LA was the Palos Verdes Peninsula. We had a bunch of places to visit in that area so one day we loaded up Jack and off we went.

It turned out to be a day of better than expected sights (which is always cool) and our first was the oldest McDonald’s in the world. The very first McDonalds burned down, but the second is still operating and has a small greenhouse-like seating area with a small museum inside. The sign was super cool and the museum items were great although I will say it wasn’t the cleanest McDonald’s (by a long shot) I have ever been to. Gotta love some history though.

VERY cool sign

After lunch, our next stop was Torrance high school. I absolutely love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and watched it with all of my daughters. Unfortunately the high school didn’t really look like the show although it was still cool to be there. Better was visiting the house they used for the exteriors of her home, and again although it no longer looked much like the show (in all fairness that was the 90’s) there was a house a couple doors down that looked exactly like her house. That was cool.

As excited as I was about Buffy’s house, Lee was equally excited about Ferris Bueller’s house. That looks very similar to the movie. As a side note every single time we stop and take a picture of a famous home, someone else is there doing the same thing. As discreet as we try to be I imagine that gets old for the home owners, but hey you knew it when you bought it.

Next we drove along the peninsula to a spot Lee had read about. We parked the car and walked down the trail and saw multiple people either going to surf or coming back. This is by far the most beautiful piece of coast in the LA area I have seen and I am pretty convinced it was featured in the final scene of Point Break. Love that movie and the walk was great. Definitely want to go back though with better shoes because the path is on the rough side and we didn’t go all the way down.

After we saw the beach we went to Point Vincente Lighthouse. The Lighthouse itself was gated up but there was a lovely park and visitors center as well as a wonderful place to walk Jack. There are several lighthouses along the California coast and we would like to see them all.

Next we stopped at a nearby church Lee had read about called the Wayfarers Chapel. Even though the fog had rolled in and we couldn’t see the ocean views it was still an absolutely gorgeous church and had a very holy feel the minute you stepped in. This would be a wonderful place to have a wedding.

Finally we stopped at Cabrillo Beach (City of LA) so we could see the place where a major scene in Face Off (Travolta/Cage movie) was filmed. As with many of these it looked different than the movie but you could definitely see it was filmed there. Of all the places we went all day this was the place I felt the least comfortable. Despite the parking fees the area was a little rough and I’ll just say I wouldn’t want to be there after dark. The beach house was beautiful though. (This location was also used in 50 First Dates)

It was a lovely day and nice that we were able to bring Jack with us which isn’t something we can do much here. Next up I’ll update you with what’s going on with us and thanks for your patience. I’ve been pretty busy and getting a little behind in the blog.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

It’s a Small World

So if you were thinking It’s a Small World is my all time favorite ride from any park, anywhere you would be absolutely right. The Disneyland version was incredibly well done and brought back all my nostalgic feelings from childhood. I don’t just love this ride because of its place in my child’s heart, but still love it because of the message it represents. I truly believe that every child should have a chance to ride this ride and if it were possible it would have an incredibly impact on world peace. What it says is despite our differences we are all Earth’s children and our similarities are much greater than our differences.

Sappy yes, but who cares. The message is worth remembering. I love it so much I asked Lee to take all the pictures and he did a decent job despite the lighting. for all you fellow lovers of It’s a Small World, here are the pics.

I like how they have added some Disney characters in the different lands, but my absolute favorite part is when everyone is mixed together and wearing white at the end. That’s the best.

So great and for those who have never seen it I wish the pictures were better. It truly is magical in person. Just look at this reaction.

Brings out the little kid in everyone!! I don’t know what else to say except I truly love this ride and what it represents.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes