Backpack to Buggy

Travel with the kids, not for the kids.

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Tourism by Walking Around: Lost and Found in Delhi Neighborhoods

March 30th, 2011 · Destinations, Experience

When traveling, especially since Mirielle joined us on our travels, we spend more time just walking around different neighborhood than visiting sights listed in a tour book. Sometimes it’s because we get a little lost, other times it’s misinterpreting distances on a map, confusing addresses led us ‘astray’ in Delhi, but, usually it’s just that strange need to walk around more when we’re not at home.

Wandering around neighborhood near Hauz Khas metro in Delhi.Wandering around a very nice neighborhood near the Hauz Khas Delhi Metro station, we saw how Delhi’s rich live while trying to find an address (that was no where near the Metro, I mean, why would Hauz Khas village be near the Hauz Khas Metro station?)

Adjacent to the ritzier neighborhood, this middle class housing block has a large Muslim community including a mosque, goats grazing in the parks, women and men with head coverings, and kids playing everywhere.

The urban Dehli version of the tire swing?  A couple of bicycle intertubes tied together and around a tree limb.

This very friendly resident of the housing block switched with her friend, above on the tire swing, to come meet us and practice her English.

Delhi Park with kids playing, women talking and goats grazing.

For all the stereotypes I can conjure about a “third world” country (seriously, is that a relevant term anymore?), playing with 18th/19th century toys was not what would come to mind.  Using old bicycle tires and sticks, the boys would chase the tire around the field, propelling it with a swat of the stick.  The last time I saw anything like this was visiting Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum where an 1830’s New England village has been preserved.

Most park entrances had these little gates to keep motorcycles off the fields and theoretically, to deter animals from grazing.  It was tricky navigating with Mirielle in the Ergo, but she was being stubborn about walking, and we weren’t ready to let it slow us down. (Plus, we were too lost to find a cafe to take a break.)

My husband works for our local power company, so he was excited to see Delhi’s own (very well maintained facilities he said, though local residents think very highly of the reliability.)  Was the trip now a work-related tax write off?

Trash and pollution do lead the list of stereotypes about developing nations (trying different expressions.)  Behind one of the markets, we found this puddle of radiator fluid surrounded by motorcycles and scooters. How many gallons does it take to make it that green?

Visiting markets or grocery stores where the local residents buy their daily provisions has always been a favorite activity of mine.  While it’s often to check out local products or regional packaging, the kiosk filled markets in Delhi were about people watching, picking up a few things and learning how the supply chain works.

While there might be 10 different kiosks selling personal products (shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream), each kiosk carried different brands, sizes or products.  There was some overlap and competition, but looking for shampoo, each of the first three kiosks we stopped at had different merchandise.  It was similar for other products as well.

The markets were filled with the forbidden “street food” including donuts.  Okay they had another name, maybe gulab jamun, but fried dough sprinkled with sugar?  Of course I can’t tell you how good they were, no matter how much I want to.

Most of the places we walked, especially where tourists were uncommon, people would come and say hello.  Young children and mothers were friendliest. Generally, if someone could speak or understand some English, we would talk.  President Obama’s visit to Delhi coincided with our visit, so we were always able to talk current events and US-India relations.  Most of the time, people just wanted to say hello, find out where we were from, ask about how we liked India, and pose for pictures like these kids.

There is a myth about travelers who want to really connect with the local people/culture, see the real country/people, or not be tagged a tourist.  We weren’t trying to be those travelers.  But, through tourism by walking around, we glimpsed the everyday life of Delhi-wallas. Talking with a unusual range of people did help us learn more about India and connect with local people.

Mostly though, it was relaxing, fun and interesting.

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These Ecco Boots Are Made for Walking in Leaves, Snow, Rain, and Style.

March 28th, 2011 · Gear

I won a pair of Ecco shoes at BlogHer last year as knew I was going to get the stylish, tall Ecco Cloud 2 GTX leather boots lined with Gore Tex I saw in the conference suite.  I fell in love with my boots and Ecco shoes the first time I put them on.  Super soft leather, comfort, and style, plus, with no break in period, I was hooked. And did I mention they looked HOT with my jeans?

Enjoying jumping in leaves in my new Ecco Boots

Enjoying jumping in leaves in my new Ecco Boots

I have pronated ankles, aka flat feet, that have been a lifetime source of injury and pain.  One ankle was surgically repaired 6 years ago, greatly reducing my injury frequency, but I still have a hard time finding shoes that are both comfortable and stylish.  You know, the perfect travel shoes? While there isn’t extra arch support or footbed gimics in my Ecco boots, I have walked miles in them on sidewalks, navigated snow piles in them and did some light hiking sporting them with no foot or ankle pain.  (And let me mention again, no break-in time needed.)

Without extra lining and a pair of lightweight wool socks, my feet have stayed dry and warm in my Ecco boots. Traction has been surprisingly good though the soles don’t look like ATV tires.  There is extra elastic at top of the boot to allow extra room for those of us with “athletic” calves.

A month after I started wearing my  boots, I bought a pair of Ecco kids mary janes for Mirielle.  The shoes met Mirielle’s shiny or sparkly requirement while meeting my durability requirement as she treats all shoes like sneakers. On our last visit to an Ecco store, we added a pair of boots and another pair of mary janes for Mirielle, black dress loafers for my husband, a second pair of boots for me and a pair of red patent leather pumps for me.

Ecco shoes have really impressed me and my family with their style, comfort and practicality.  They are already in our travel shoe rotation, but we wear them all the time.

Mirielle's Ecco Boots Perform!

Mirielle's Ecco Boots Perform!

My first pair of Ecco boots were won in a contest; I did not pay for them. I was not asked to write a review or express any specific opinion.  All other shoes mentioned I paid for but shopped around for super deals.

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The Delhi Metro

March 23rd, 2011 · Destinations, Experience

Arrival of Delhi Metro Car

Arrival of Delhi Metro Car

Weeks before our arrival, Delhi’s Metro system was greatly expanded as part of infrastructure improvements for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.  The Delhi Metro is wonderful and makes visiting India’s capital easy.  While I wouldn’t suggest bypassing an auto-rickshaw ride or walking the side streets of old Delhi, the Metro is a cheap, clean, air conditioned way to travel around Delhi, without the hassels of traffic and gridlock.

From our guest house in south Delhi, it was about a 30 minute and US$0.40 ride to Old Delhi and less to Dilli Haat, Hauz Khas, and other areas we visited.

Tunnels at newly opened Delhi Metro station.

Tunnels at newly opened Delhi Metro station.

Important things to know about the Metro:

Visible security presence in the Delhi Metro

Visible security presence in the Delhi Metro

1) Security is taken very seriously.  Everyone must go through a screening before entering the platform with separate lines for men and women. Armed miliary personel can be seen in many stations, and photos are prohibited (found out after taking these, I promise I did not sneak them.)

Navigating on the Delhi Metro

Navigating on the Delhi Metro

2) Guide books are not updated for the recent metro station expansions.  I learned the hard way, don’t rely on a guidebook or even station names to get to a destination on the Metro.  Get specific directions from as many Delhi-wallas as you can find and don’t be hesitant to ask for directions.

Making friends on the Delhi Metro platform.

Making friends on the Delhi Metro platform.

3) The Metro is very popular, and train cars get very, very crowded at all hours. Despite the crowds (and stares), we found everyone but the older Indian women to be very considerate. (An Indian-American friend warned me about the older women’s aggressive elbowing tendencies and WOW, she wasn’t exaggerating.) I highly recommend the women-only car for mom’s and young children which is less crowded.  Dad can stand at the back of the women only car if it isn’t full.

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Review of Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 Camera: Thumbs Down and on the Lens.

March 21st, 2011 · Gear

For our trip to India, I wanted to bring a compact, point & shoot camera for convienence and so I might actually show up in a couple of pictures. I also was shopping for something Mirielle could use as she was asked to bring pictures back to her classmates.  In looking at all the options available, I chose to give up a smaller size and try a water and shock proof (pre-schooler resistant) camera.

The reviews led me to buy the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 14.1MP Waterproof Digital Camera. Unfortunately, a couple of days into our trip, we discovered a HUGE design flaw in the camera.  There is not a lens cover or cap resulting in a continually smudged lens.

This was clearly an issue with Mirielle using the camera, but it wasn’t much better for Jack or me.  In fact, we stopped to use the  lens cleaning pen I (thankfully brought,) before taking most pictures once we discovered the issue.  Stopping to clean the lens before each photo defeats some the convenience of a point and shoot camera.

Take a look at our walk through Old Delhi to see the results of a smudged lens.

I DO NOT recommend the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 camera and advise everyone to look closely at the lens cover mechanism and placement before buying any point and shoot camera.

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Great Maple Syrup Stops: Sweet Maple Alpaca Farm, Vermont

March 17th, 2011 · Destinations

Steam in Sweet Maple Alpaca's sugar shack from the maple evaporator. Vermont.If you’re headed to southern Vermont this weekend with the kisd for the Vermont Maple Open House, stop by Sweet Maple Alpaca Farm in Westminster, VT. Located less than 30 minutes north of Brattleboro, VT along the steep banks of the Connecticut river, Sweet Maple Alpacas is owned by a sixth generation Vermont farming family. (Wow, families stay in the family business in VT; no wonder it produces such great food.)  Currently the farm focuses on breeding and raising alpacas and maple syrup production.Sweet Maple Alpaca Farm, Vermont during Maple Open House Weekend.

During our Vermont Maple Open House Weekend visit to Sweet Maple Alpaca’s last year, we were able to meet the alpacas, check out their lineage, learn about their various breeds and breeding, shop for knitwear made with alpaca fibers, visit Sweet Maple Alpaca’s sugar shack to taste maple syrup, and, if we wanted, buy an alpaca.  There were lots of activities that included the kids (if getting up close with furry animals isn’t enough for them) and lots of young ones in attendance.

Sweet Maple Alpaca Farm, 154 River Road, Westminster, VT  05158, 802-376-9846/802-380-075, http://www.sweetmaplealpacas.com.  Check out the website for open house details.

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