We woke up very early, and had our last breakfast at Araveli. I had very mixed feelings. We had such a meaningful time at Araveli. We made such wonderful connections with the staff and the other families, we were all a bit sad to leave. On the other hand, we knew this experience was only one phase of our time in India, and I was looking forward to all of the adventures to come.
We had a 2.5 hour drive back to Udaipur and met up with Michelle’s daughter, Melody. We were all so excited to see her. Udaipur was described to us as the “Venice of India”, but Aubrey says that it is nothing like Venice. This city of six hundred thousand is not built on canals or water, but it is a vacation and wedding destination thanks to the seven constructed lakes in and around the city. We started with a tour of the Lake Palace and a visit to Jagmandir Castle in the middle of the lake. It was built is 1620 by the Royal Family of Udaipur. Like most of the palaces in India, without any power of rule or tax income, royalty have donated some of their property to the government for museums and tourist attractions, and much has been transformed into hotels to maintain income for the family.
Udaipur really has to be seen to be believed. Although not much like Venice, it had a lot of charm. In the old city, there was a maze of small streets, quaint bridges. and (like every other place we have visited in India) plenty of random cows wandering around, sometimes in the smallest alleyway, and sometimes in the middle of the busiest traffic circle. It is hard to explain, but I really loved the feeling of this city. At the risk of sounding cliche, it had a wonderful vibe to it. I felt comforted by its energy, both when quiet and chaotic.
After a boat ride to the lake palace taking in the sites, we had lunch at the Sunset restaurant overlooking the lake. By crazy coincidence, we bumped into a childhood friend of mine, Deborah Dalfen, who also works at the same law firm as Melody Burke. What made this small world even smaller, was that India, one of the kids in our group from Detroit, goes to camp in Algonquin park with Deborah’s daughter. It was so great to see her; she looks exactly the same.
In India, weddings are a big deal. Families will regularly host 1000 people for an event, and it lasts often at least ten days. Everyone in Udaipur was talking about a pre-wedding party that was held in Udaipur in December, only two weeks earlier. The daughter of a very wealthy businessman was getting married, so they rented out the most extravagant hotel in Udaipur for ten whole days. The event itself was only ten hours or so, but it took the rest of the time to decorate and prepare for the event, as well as the take-down and clean-up. Beyonce was one of the entertainers. Also, as a gesture of goodwill, and in thanks for taking over the city for ten days, the family fed over five thousand disadvantaged local people for several days as well.
After our lovely lunch, we were given free time to wander a small stretch of the market. Our facilitators gave us clear boundaries and set themselves up in a cafe where we could come and go as we pleased. The boys haggled for a few small souvenirs, and Noam and Teva spent a long time in an art shop, fascinated by one of the artists who specialized in traditional miniature paintings. The detail work was exquisite, all hand-painted with a squirrel hair brush. He was very patient with the boys, answering all of their questions. He even gave them each their own paintbrush, but only if they promised to paint. We purchased a special piece of art from him. Details to follow…
We ate a light dinner at the cafe and then were driven to Enjoy! Udaipur, also known as Hari’s Homestay. We had a heartfelt and tearful good bye with our wonderful facilitators, Varun and Ra’ana, and then were warmly welcomed by Hari and her family. One door closed while another door opened…