A change of scenery

When we first arrived in India, we were immediately cocooned in that marvelous Intercontinental resort, 35 km outside of Chennai. 

Then six days later it was off to Pondicherry, just a few hours away by car. Though it did have some incredibly life-threatening intersections, a lot of what we saw for three days was a sleepy beach community with strong French roots. The tuk-tuks and dogs provided most of the action.

All that changed today. We had a driver take us back to Chennai, but this time to the city proper. (Poor guy was totally lost once we hit city traffic, but he and Don managed to get us to the Crowne Plaza.) We are once again enveloped in Indian/Western luxury, but clearly we aren’t in a small town anymore. This is the fourth largest city in India, once known as Madras, and the first clue that things were different was at the front entrance. One doesn’t just walk through the doors. Instead, tucked away at the side, there is a security checkpoint for luggage, bags and guests. I’m not sure I want to know exactly why this is necessary, but we dutifully got screened before making our entrance. I didn’t dare take a picture.

As those who follow our travels know, points and miles provide us with some very nice perks at IHG hotels, and this one was no exception. We were given an upgrade to a suite and access to the highly desirable club lounge, which makes us feel just so special. (Absolutely nothing about us has changed, but we just feel better.)

The rarefied air of elite membership here requires a special wing with its own elevators. Even the doors are special, and the suite is very nice indeed. One gets spoiled in India so quickly – especially as we are getting all this luxury (plus breakfast) for a mere $100/night. No, we haven’t hit the lottery.

Lots of frills here, which we certainly didn’t see in our last hotel.

We haven’t tried the pool yet, but we did have lunch here. My own comment about that meal is about the bottle of Tabasco sauce on our table. Some people in this hotel may have traveled the world. But how many can join us in having visited the home of Tabasco on Avery Island, Louisiana? Not many, I bet.

Don’s Food Corner

As you might notice, I am still alive 48 hours after consuming ice despite all the warnings against it. (Where did the water come from to make the ice, the naysayers ask.) So here I am 48 hours later. All my teeth turned black and fell out, but I’m alive. And I’m certain the feeling in my right foot will return sooner or later. A small price to pay for ice on a hot day.

Since most of the day was taken up by travel and getting lost in the thicket of sprawling Chennai, where apparently all 10 million inhabitants turned out to greet us, we didn’t have many food adventures. In fact, we succumbed to the convenience one of the hotel’s restaurants. Jo, seeing a comforting hamburger on the menu, went for that with a slab of Cheddar cheese. To her credit, she did not order the Philly Cheese steak that was prominently featured on the menu. If they can’t make a proper Philly Cheese steak in New York, just 90 miles from its birthplace, what could the interpretation be like halfway around the globe? The cheeseburger turned out not to be as comforting or recognizable as Jo had hoped. One of the problems was the ketchup. Thin and runny and with too much spice. The taste of the beef was suspiciously grass fed in nature. Pretty rangy.

While the cheeseburger didn’t quite deliver, the cream of chicken soup that she started with was excellent. The soup had an unusually rich chicken flavor and the chicken pieces were cut up in a perfect dice.

I tried the hotel’s version of the Bombay sandwich. This street-food classic from Mumbai is all vegetarian — cucumbers, tomatoes, slices of boiled potato, beetroot, a slice of cheese and all smeared with a green chutney. Then, the sandwich is grilled, making sure that all the ingredients blend together.

Since it is unlikely we will be eating street food in Mumbai, it’s kind of fun to have it served in the pristine environment of the Crowne Plaza.  However, is it lacking in authenticity the way that Philly Cheese steaks in New York City are? We might not ever find out. I’ve already risked a lot with that ice.


6 thoughts on “A change of scenery

  1. All major hotels in big cities do the security check of vehicles and luggage after the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai at the Taj Mahal and Oberoi Trident hotels. And a few will have you go through metal detectors! Theaters and malls have them too.

  2. I copied down the ingredients for the Bombay sandwich that I will attempt to make for you all when you return. Did I ever tell you the time when the Ecuadorian govt. fell and with some other PC volunteers we made 3 dozen jars of green mango chutney under the direction of the CIA agent’s wife? You just can’t make these things up. BTW: I’ve met David Mackelhenny (sic) (friend of sister Donna’s) whose family created tabasco sauce and named his daughter Avery — what else.

    1. Now I want to know how mango chutney saved you during the chaos! And I sure do wish my family had had the secret recipe for Tabasco sauce.

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