On our last day in Udaipur we’d decided, particularly to give Jack a break from incessant shopping, to book in on a short course with the miniature painting chap. We have agreed 11am for a two hour lesson, and after the obligatory stressing about being on time, we arrive 5 or 10 minutes late.
We are each invited to choose a picture which we’d like to recreate. Ella chooses a gold camel, Jack a gold elephant, me a simpler looking camel, and Steve a peculiar bird the like of which I’ve never seen.
First we draw the outlines, and we’re not given any guidance in this, apart from which end of the animal to start from. He shows me how to draw a camel purely by drawing it himself and making a kind of ‘do it like that’ motion. OK, I will try. Not nearly as quickly, we each sketch our outines. Then we are to use a small squirrel hair brush to go over the pencil lines. Again, no guidance, apart from he made a paint colour for us, which, to be honest, was nothing like the colour we are copying…. It’s pretty difficult – firstly I can’t see as I should have brought my glasses, and secondly the little brush has a mind of its own and sometimes will do an unexpected big fat line just where you don’t want one.
At some stage Ella comments ‘this would be really relaxing if it wasn’t for mum making those noises’. Oh dear. They’re usually ‘oh no’ type noises, as I ruin something I was previously happy with. Since the outline my poor camel is going downhill rapidly.
Steve hadn’t wanted to come painting, but is clearly enjoying himself and annoyingly his is turning out most like the original. We all get something out of the experience and leave clutching our malformed ‘miniature’ animals.
When heading back to the tailors to pick up my ‘commissioned’ bag, I realise I’m getting the same face lined up that you have to use if disappointed by a Christmas present. Obviously they’ve gone to trouble to create me something, so despite the fact that I’ve paid for it, I still need to look grateful! I don’t pull off the face – the children tell me I look ‘underwhelmed’ which sums it up really. It’s fine.
We head on up to the Shiv Niwas hotel, which is within the City Palace grounds. We had already asked at another (much less fancy) hotel how much it cost to use their pool, and the answer was 300 rupees per swimmer. We thought we’d see if the Shiv Niwas cost significantly more or not, as it would be a lovely setting and the pool was used in Octopussy, so would perhaps be good for the kids to see.
It all went smoothly – 30 rupees to get inside the City Palace grounds, keep walking until you get to the hotel, and start getting signs for ‘swimming pool’, everyone start stressing and having different opinions on which way to go ‘no, that’s the car park’, ‘let’s ask at reception’, ‘surely we just keep following the signs’, etc… Then finally we reach a room with a few renovations going on and a man in a white outfit, who we ask about swimming. He swiftly whips out a ‘swimming at my own risk’ disclaimer which we equally swiftly sign. As he turns around I see that he has ‘LIFE GUARD’ written on the back of his white outfit, which to some extent explains his efficiency regarding matters of swimming He produces a couple of stripy towels, wheels a lounger or two into position and shows us some very pleasant changing rooms. And by the way, the price is the same as the other less plush hotel, so we’re feeling v pleased with ourselves.
Steve tries to go the bar to get a cup of tea or similar, and is headed off at the pass by an officious looking chap. So, we order a mango juice each, running the risk of Shiv Niwas prices without checking first…
The kids enjoy a swim in the extremely freezing pool and we enjoy the surroundings, before deciding it’s time to head off back to the hotel to get packed up and ready for our ‘treat’ meal out at Ambrai. (After paying the extortionate best part of £10 for four mango juices).
I have pre-negotiated a trip to a shop called Anokhi, which Josie had recommended to me, on the way out, and Steve gave me any remaining cash while he and Jack headed back to the hotel via a cash point. Anokhi was great – I saw some lovely glasses cases for 180 INR each and immediately swoop on a few for gifts as well as for myself. Ditto make up bags, table runner, and two cushion covers. Ella runs round the corner to check ‘is it OK to use a debit card’ as I can see I might go over the cash I’ve been left… There’s some lovely stuff, really lovely fabric prints, and I could have bought a lot, but restrained myself (with Ella’s help!) As I got to the till and counted my money I realised that I’d not got my card with me after all… So everything bar two cushion covers goes back on the shelves.
We call in to a couple of shops clutching our last 120 rupees, and three different shop owners tell us ‘just take it, bring the money later’, ‘I trust you’. We only take one guy up on this – the book shop man who Ella had bought ‘The Da Vinci Code’ from the day before. He said that if we didn’t get time he would call by our hotel for it, which seemed like pretty great service.
As we arrive back at the hotel, we find that Jack is feeling poorly and feels like he can’t manage to go out with us. Also too poorly to pack, which is bad news.
Tomorrow we’re on an internal flight from Udaipur to Kochi (via Mumbai). We’d known this would be the trickier bit of packing, as the baggage allowance isn’t as much as on the flight home, and we’ve bought a few weighty items (including pestle and mortar, as well as a bedspread and some pottery. I suggest a bit of a reshuffle, which involves using Steve’s small bag as a ‘carry-on’ and the two big square canvas bags we have as hold baggage. We do all manner of juggling and weighing (having brought a portable weighing device from home) and don’t quite get it sorted before it’s time to go out.
Steve, with many promises of doom, gloom and ‘we’re going to be late’ heads up the road briefly to pick up the ‘sun bird’ picture he’s had made while the rest of us finish getting ready.
Jack sweetly obliges by throwing up, so that he now feels fractionally better, and able to join us.
We head up the road to Ambrai, quite a stressy little party all-in-all. Steve’s sunbird-miniature is another commissioned disappointed – all out of shape, elongated and wrongly coloured, so he’s had his ‘oh, erm… just what I always wanted’ face on too. Luckily it was only an 800 rupee commission, so worth the risk but not one to take twice.
They haven’t given our table away, as we thought they might, but in fact have saved us a lovely table right at the side overlooking the lake and lake palace. I’d not been out at night, so it was lovely to see the lights reflecting off the lake, and the atmosphere was lovely (only perhaps slightly marred by the hum of well-to-do Brits… the sound of their voices and the smell of their expensive aftershaves and perfumes start to be noticeable when gathered in larger quantities than we were used to), but some subtle background music by way of a live tabla player and flute player (also live, as it happens), just about drowned them out…
The food was very good, and the atmosphere was gorgeous, and, only slightly spoiled by Jack’s groaning and the threat of him throwing up into a nearby posh-Brit’s aperitif. I negotiated one groan every 7-8 minutes with him and he is well aware that he went significantly above his quota. Still, he made it through unscathed, but only managed a mango juice and no food.
Then back to the hotel again, where we set our alarms for an early start. 6am get up, to leave at 7am.