Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I bid a bittersweet farewell to the midtown skyline as our plane taxied into the take-off line yesterday. Saying goodbye to our nearest and dearest was much harder than I had imagined. Fortunately, the heaviness I felt in my heart got easier and easier to ignore as the anticipation for what lay ahead grew stronger.
19 ½ hours proved to be as tiring as expected. The flight to Paris left much to be desired. I am always amazed at how dismal accommodations are with Delta. Domestic flights are usually short enough to overlook them but 8 hours in coach to Paris was pretty trying. The layover in Paris was nondescript saving the overly friendly woman with security who seemed to enjoy her pat-down duties just a bit too much for my liking.
The flight from Paris to New Delhi was far more pleasant. I find European Airlines to be so much more comfortable, have more amenities and by far more accommodating and pleasant staff. Air France was no exception and with a slight upgrade to the 2nd level of the 747 we found ourselves each with an entire row to ourselves to stretch out and get some much needed sleep.
As the plane started its dissent into Delhi I was overwhelmed with curiosity. Luckily, my expectations of the Delhi airport were well off-base. Although it is far from modern, I found it to be quite easy to navigate and fairly clean. Our line through customs was a bit long but ordinary and baggage claim was a breeze. Dare I think my lost baggage curse is over?
So far all the warnings of initial shocks; smells, crowds, waiting…India had yet to even make my heart skip a beat…the most discomfort we encountered was the heat and the humidity in the airport but even it was no worse than some in Mexico.
Our drivers were waiting just outside baggage claim and it was as we stepped into the night that I had my first case of “India shock”. I had read much about the pollution in Delhi but I could never have prepared myself physically for the shear thickness of the air. The smoke and dust were so overwhelming (even in the car with the air conditioning running) that I found it difficult to imagine that this air wouldn’t kill me, much less keep me alive for the next 7 weeks.
After a quick 15 minute ride from the airport (only once was I nervous and that was when all lane lines disappeared and it seemed a free-for-all was going to ensue) we arrived at The Trident.
In one word….breathtaking.
As we got out of the car we were greeted by numerous people and given business card after business card but in truth I found it difficult to pay attention. With each turn of the head my eyes were filled with grandeur…from the enormous reflective pool at the entrance (above photo) to the 30 foot glass doors that opened into the stark white lobby capped high above with an impressive gold dome…it was a welcome to this country I couldn’t have imagined.
Our room, is of course beautiful and each staff member we’ve encountered could not be more accommodating and pleasant. As I lie here in the sunny spring-like weather next to the enchanting pool listening to the sound of the flowing water of the infinity feature encircling above (even the air seems a bit lighter) I cannot imagine being more comfortable and relaxed... the two emotions I felt sure I would be running low on in this country.
They say India is a country full of the unexpected…with just 12 hours under my belt I have found this to be true in a most delightful way.
Some photos from the hotel...