Pleasure to know – Mumbai

Tuesday, and we have the day to ourselves. Notionally we were going to the cricket to see the semi-finals of the interstate one day series here. But the BCCI website is spectacularly unhelpful about the venue or the time, so we hit the shops instead.

First stop, the Gateway to India facing the Arabian Sea. Like all monuments we’ve seen here, it is both imposing and impressive. Next the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. After the bombing and siege of a few years ago there is some security, basically a scanning arch as at the airport, and anything we are carrying is scanned separately. In we go. If only our budget stretched to this!

There is a display case of famous guests over the years, including the current and previous two US presidents, the first man to walk on the moon, Ravi Shankar, Roger Moore, the present Prince of Wales, and John and Yoko amongst them.

We rest up in the lobby, and then begin exploring the ‘arcades’ within the hotel. Dior, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Versace, Dunhill, Chanel, Zegna, and a Boss which was closed. There are lesser names too, and Kerry explores some jewellery options. I am sure we’re paying top prices (and then some), because of the real estate, however the salesman certainly knows his stuff. He has identified our country of origin, and correctly converts rupees to “Aussie” to save us doing the maths in our head. Kerry has jewellery brought in from the shop next door as well.

We’ve paid for the privilege, however the shopping has been leisurely, hassle free, the assistant knowledgeable, and we place faith in the location offering some guarantee of authenticity, if not quality. Kerry gets a little something for herself, gratis.

Ian goes next, for a not dissimilar experience in the world of shawls and pashminas. Again, I suspect we’re paying a price here, but we’re not getting the same level of attention (there is a Japanese man taking all of that). I take some convincing but I make the purchase. This is rather more cash than we collectively carry, and the store keeper lets me pay some on the credit card, with a (very small) discount on offer for paying the rest in cash. This requires a trip to an ATM, and the store owner is happy for us to leave with the goods, and our promise to be back after lunch with the cash. Mind you, he does have my credit card number, so his risk is zero.

For lunch we find a Belgian bakery and cafe. More international food, French press coffee which is the best we’ve had in a month, and a lemon tart with chocolate lining the pastry.

When we return to pay, he spies us in the lobby and is by my side in a flash, asking if I have been to an ATM. Indeed I have. I joke about his reputation being seen accepting cash from a foreigner in the lobby.

Back out into the streets, and even more shopping follows. Ian joins the Titan watch bandwagon – how is it that we both miss the Titan 40% off sale ? – and Kerry finds even more jewellery to buy. A few other stores are on our must-see list, and we do our best with a limited map, and haphazard street naming conventions.

Dinner at Leopold’s cafe, which appears to have been connected with the Mumbai attacks, and has a bag search on the door to prove it, and we call it a day.

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