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On to Mysore, the Palace

October 20

We drive to Mysore, about three and a half hours away. The drive is totally unspectacular. While we see bits of Indian life, there is no scenery of any interest. For the most part, the roads are good, many of them excellent. Part of the trip involves heavy traffic; in other parts, we move along quite well.

We have Wi-Fi access in the van, so we are able to check and send emails. Is this good? I’m not so sure. We also have access to the Internet, so, for example, we were able to follow, pitch-by-pitch, as the Astros eliminated the Yankees. While I am always happy when the Yankees lose to anyone, and we now know it is the Astros we have to root against along with our grandson, Jasper, when we back the Nats in the World Series, I wonder whether we really needed to know this driving through India. Seems like another example of being connected a lot more than we need to be.

On first blush, Mysore seems a city of some character, as opposed to the rather non-descript Bangalore. At less than a million people it’s about a twelfth Bangalore’s size. I like this street sign, which we encounter en route to the hotel.y

We check in to the Hotel Royal Orchid Metropole, a very nice, unpretentious hotel.

We unpack in our comfortable room and have lunch in the hotel restaurant.

Our guide for the next two days, Sachin, is not a professional guide but someone who grew up in Mysore and has a deep love for the city and knows its inner workings, giving us an insider tour of the city. Sachin is an avid reader, philatelist and connoisseur of art. He’s an amazing story teller with a smart sense of humour. Sachin holds a bachelor degree in engineering and is a mixed martial arts student. He is a fourth generation Mysorean and has always been proud of his heritage and culture; hence his passion for learning about history and meeting travelers.

We meet Sachin and start at the magnificent Mysore Palace, originally built in the seventeenth century, but now in its fourth incarnation (completed in 1912), due to various forms of destruction.  The palace follows the Indo Saracenic designs prevalent in the north and is built in grand proportions with a confusion of domes, arches and colonnades of carved pillars. One of the largest palaces in the country, it is beautifully restored and maintained and has beautiful stained glass, ivory inlaid doors, wall paintings and some valuable art treasures. It is the second most visited shrine in India, topped only by the Taj Mahal.

The palace is mobbed and at time claustrophobic, but quite spectacular. Sachin does a great job of threading us through the throng and stepping off to the side to explain clearly and interestingly what we are seeing. He is very engaging and easily understandable. He’s amused by how much I know about him (as a result of having pumped our travel agent for information) and impressed by the extent of our travels.

When we first met Sachin, I told him that we were old and couldn’t remember a lot of stuff about all the places, so I wanted him to make sure that we understood two or three key things about Mysore. He clearly “got it” and said he would, over the course of our time together. I told him that I did not feel I had that about Bangalore, that we understood that it was an IT hub, but that that was not something we’d seen. Sachin said that people say that the best thing to do in Bangalore is to go to Mysore.

I use my new walking sticks, which I’m not sure I actually need for the palace and which present a challenge in tight quarters, but I think they do lend an extra measure of stability. By the way, thus far, I’m enjoying not having my camera along.

The following photos don’t begin to do the palace justice. Note the “plastic free zone” sign in front of the first photo.

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As we leave the palace, we encounter a light drizzle, which provides a refreshing cool. We drive back to the hotel and rest up for a while, then are picked up by our driver to go to see the palace lit up at night, which happens only on Sunday nights and holidays.

So this is what we see when we first get there, okay, but not spectacular.we are almost ready to leave, when, all of a sudden, 97,000 light bulbs light up the palace.Very cool!

The evening is a festive event,with many Indians and their children and grandchildren in tow. Of course, I’m actually more intrigued by some kids playing on a statue of a tiger than by the spectacular palace complex.We head back to the hotel, where we have a pleasant dinner in an outdoor courtyard, then retire.

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