Let me start by saying that if I had any idea of what was really lying just around the corner from me that I would have ventured outside my normal commute zone long ago. You see, until now I have only traveled between the airport, the hotel and the office… or to visit potential flats that were relatively between the hotel and the office, haha. Until today I had not seen one historic building, a single museum, the famous “Central Park” of Bangalore, or the infamous MG Road. But yesterday my personal driver finally started full time, basically bringing with him my ticket to mobility and freedom until I learn to drive properly on the left side of the road in Bangalore traffic.
He picked me up at 14:30 and man-oh-man I LOVED my first glimpse of MG Road (Mahatma GandhiRoad), which of course I had read about but had never actually driven down. My guess is that this road was probably built for four lanes of traffic but in true Bangalore style it is now used as a six lane road. It has a continual set of columns running the length of the center divider that support the soon-to-open over-ground mass transportation system that will run above the city. This wide street is lined with wonderful trees and a combination of shops, coffee houses, restaurants, commercial buildings and all sorts of street vendors. And, of course, it is full of people, people and more people. From there we drove past a stunning parliament building that has giant rabbit sculptures holding all the rubbish bins around the building. Also, the Government Museum & Venkatappa Art Gallery that is painted an amazing deep red, which I plan to visit next Saturday after I walk up and down MG Road. I literally did more sightseeing in 20 minutes on our drive to the mall than I had done over the past two weeks, it was wonderful. And Shiva, my driver, was very sweet to pull over to let me snap a photo here and there while playing my tour guide.
Our first stop of the afternoon was a “just for fun” quest to check out the spring and summer line of Prada bags and shoes that was completely unsuccessful. UB City is, by reputation and quite right, Bangalore’s most decadent shopping mall boasting signature shops like Ferragamo, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Mont Blanc, Versace, and many more. The interior is chockablock full of marble, the architecture is very open, spacious, and has ceilings that are painted similar in “feel” (not style) to the Sistine Chapel (for my American friends that would be the Forum shops at Ceasar’s Palace, hehe). The ceilings, the tranquility (no sound of horns!), and the squeaky cleanness of this mall are amazing. If you have some cash to spare and live in or will visit Bangalore soon, you really must go one day for a stroll around, a little shopping and then lunch outside on the terrace (or maybe just a beer in the posh sports bar).
Note: I about to go really girly… so guys might want to skip down to the next paragraph!! Ladies, I discovered a little gem in UB City called “Mirrors & Within, The Salon” that is by far the loveliest decorated salon I have ever stepped into in my life (their card says they also have a sister salon in the Leela Hotel, which I still haven’t been to so need to sort that out). If you don’t know me, I am really boring with my hair because it pretty much always looks the same, and I don’t like change — especially with respect to changing my stylist. Saying goodbye after 6 years to my lovely stylist Marta from Atram in Sitges was hard. In fact, I went for my final salon visit to Atram the day before my move to Bangalore, haha. But friends, when I walked through the doors of Mirrors & Within it was like angels started singing…and I knew I had found my new salon. Apparently they are very proud of their facials too and offer many other services like mani/pedis, massage, scrubs, etc. so it will be easy (and fun!) to plan a half day spa session there from time to time.
Well, after my hooray success at Mirrors & Within I took myself outside to one of the terrace restaurants for a salad lunch with … wait for it … WINE finally! Woo hoo!!! It felt like I was back home in Spain, eating lunch under the sun, overlooking the Med at Zanzibar Sitges (except I missed my friends). I enjoyed a yummy and very well presented salad (see photo, cost $3) and a teeny glass of merlot (yeah, about double the cost of the meal as usual) and just sat back, relaxed and people-watched.
It is interesting to note that during the one hour and 15 minutes I spent strolling around UB City, consulting with the salon or eating my lunch I saw maybe only 20 women in traditional Indian attire — and all but one of them were grandmas. And at Garuda Mall only about half. This was a real first for me because at work and around the hotel roughly 70% or more of the women dress more traditionally. The families, couples and – reminding me of my daughter – the giggling teenage girls leisurely dining and shopping at the malls favor international fashion designers and current trends over the traditional attire of India. And why shouldn’t they? It’s not fair that men can wear anything off-the-rack from any shop or off the pages of any fashion magazine but women in India are often — by either influence or by choice — wearing the same cut and shape of fabric that could be seen on women from centuries past. Don’t get me wrong, I think sari’s and shalwar kameez’s are beautiful, and this week I plan to buy my first sari to wear to a colleague’s wedding. But I can’t imagine having to wear either almost every day.
Okay, I am off my fashion soap box now 🙂
Next stop was the Garuda Mall on Magrath Road so I could watch a movie and boy did I have fun there too. I had been to the mall once, actually, on my interview trip and ended up buying some cool bangles for me and Alina (my daughter) there but the mall was mayhem, over-crowded, warm and loud… and I hadn’t really planned to go back so quickly. But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do and I wanted to see a movie so there I was. I bought my ticket and then passed through the “ladies only” security entrance where they confiscated my camera’s battery (I guess in case I was a pirate). I then went over to the snack bar and this part was AMAZING. Well, I have to say that the variety of drinks and sweets was lacking. BUT in addition to the typical snack counter with nachos, popcorn and chocolate, there were a couple of smaller kiosks. One sold freshly cut exotic fruit and another one sold a large variety of freshly baked pastries. Inside the seats were nice and comfy and it was sort of fun to be the only blonde amongst so many people yet again. What I wasn’t ready for, however, was this: about half way through Source Code (my film du jour), at one of the really climactic scenes where the train is about to blow up and Jake Gyllenhaal has just pulled a gun… then all of a sudden the lights went on!! It was intermission! Haha, really!! Wow, although it was really annoying (loads of people moaned when the lights went up), it was kind of fun for me to experience Intermission for the first time since I was 6 years old. Turns out that since Bollywood films are all quite long that people welcome the intermission break. I hear that! I certainly would have welcomed one during Lord of the Rings 🙂 Anyway, it was a fun time.
I really did have a great day. I even worked for several hours today, although now I am just relaxing in my room testing a Shiraz by the Indian wine maker Grover Vineyards.
XOXO from Bangalore
© Angela Carson, Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore blog and photos, 2011