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Archive for March, 2010

More than the 8th Wonder of the World

Posted: March 29th, 2010 by


Taj Majal

I had some clue of what to expect going to a third world country such as India. I have been exposed to the culture, here in the states, for most of my life working with the hospitality industry. Needless to say, I was still in shock and in awe. One cannot really prepare themselves the way I thought I did by just absorbing information from people who have lived there. I saw a Hindu funeral, explored the vegetable markets, rode the streets on the back of a motorcycle, visited Temples, shopped, relaxed on front porch swings all day, visited a beautiful farm in the country, ate great, authentic Indian Food as well as food I don’t wish to eat again, saw poverty as I never seen before and met people who I consider as my new extended family that I will keep in touch with always. 

Hill Society Family

  I was so ready to get there by the time I had flown over19 hours and gone through umpteen time zones. I didn’t realize that I still had a 6 hour car ride to go from Mumbai. We arrived to the Hill Society in Navasari, at the home of Harshad and Roshni Patel, at about 6:00 am on December 17th. For the record, I flew out of Dallas on December 15th. It took a few days to adjust to the extreme jet lag but it took even longer to adjust to my new surroundings. The Hill society is quiet, peaceful and all of the homes are open to all of the families that live there. It is actually pretty amazing when you see the family bond between everyone. I felt at home with them immediately. We ventured into Navasari, which is a fairly large city.  A city filled with pollution, dust, slum areas, motor bikes, rickshaws and people everywhere. Did I mention there are no traffic lights, stop signs or driving laws? There are also restaurants, parks, schools and a wide variety of food vendors lining up and down the roads. The food on the side of the road is supposed to be the best and it was.  I was fortunate enough to stay with friends who told me what was okay to eat and where it was ok to eat from.

Although I did get sick at the end of the trip, it was well worth it. On our way to Dheli and Agra, I was able to visit Hindu Temples and Muslim Mosques in numerous cities such as, Ambaji, Ajmer and Boroda (which is where I saw the first traffic stop light of the whole trip). We visited the Swaminarayan Akshradam in Dheli. This Temple should have made the Wonders of the World list with the Taj Majal. It was fascinating.  After a very long journey via van of six people, we reached the Taj Majal in Agra. It was as breathtaking as I imagined even on the rainy, foggy day that we arrived. A ride on a camel cart up to the entrance made it sink in that I was definitely across the world. Speaking of animals, they are everywhere: Cows, bulls, goats, hogs, wild dogs and even an elephant crossing the road.  One village was filled with monkeys mingling with all of the people and of course trying to take everyone’s hats, glasses or loose articles. That was definitely a different feeling than waving at them in a cage at the zoo, but they were very friendly.  

 I spent most of my time in Navasari, Bardoli, Saroli and the surrounding

Vanita and Dheval just before wedding ceremony

 Surat area. The wedding in Bardoli was fascinating and much longer than what we are used to in the states (3 full days of events). 


Festival of Flowers

Posted: March 23rd, 2010 by

Being described as the premier flower and garden event of the greater Gulf coast is surely enough reason for those of us who can barely wait to breathe in the fragrance of Spring to shuck off our winter attire, shake out those pastels, and head to Mobile, Alabama for the Festival of Flowers.

The Festival, now in its 17th year, takes place in March which is considered the prettiest month in Mobile.  There is over 300,000 square feet of tented space featuring exhibits, entertainment and enchantment for all the senses. 

More than 18,000 people have visited the Festival of Flowers, known as the largest flower show in the Southeast.  The show features flowers from every continent and subcontinent; master gardeners on hand to share their green thumb knowledge; garden landscapes of all types to bedazzle festival attendees; a special feature called Blooming Cuisine with menus involving the use of edible flowers as well as fresh vegetables and herbs; life-sized landscape gardens by regional landscape architects, garden designers and landscape contractors; a children’s program and the latest in garden gear and equipment, plus so much more. 

State flower of Alabama, Photo by Tanaka Juuyoh



 For details you may want to visit http://www.bellingrath.org/festival-of-flowers-display.html

By the way, the fragrant and delicate Camellia is the state flower of Alabama.

“All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today”

 – Indian Proverb

Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Posted: March 15th, 2010 by

Who is St. Patrick?  Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Statue at St Patrick Church, Pittburgh, Photo by Joe Marinaro

 Most of us know when St. Patrick’s Day is, March 17th, but how did it become such a celebrated day? St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He is best known for banishing all the snakes from Ireland. Is this true or false? False, the island nation was never home to any snakes; This was really a metaphor for the eradication of pagan ideology from Ireland and the triumph of Christianity.  March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day,  is his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. For thousands of years the Irish have observed this day by attending church in the morning and celebrating in the afternoon with dance, drinking and the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place not in Ireland but in the United States, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. This helped the Irish soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots and other fellow Irishmen serving in the English army. Over the next 35 years many “Irish Aid” societies were formed, each group would have an annual parade. In 1848 several of the societies decided to unite their parade and form one large parade in New York City.

Today, that parade is the world’s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States, with over 150,000 participants. Nearly three million people line the 1.5 mile parade route, in New York City, which takes more than 5 hours. Many other city celebrate the day with parades, such as Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Savannah, involving between 10,000 and 20,000 participants. And that is how St. Patrick’s Day became to be such a celebrated day in the United States.


Natchez Pilgrimage…A Mississippi Tradition

Posted: March 8th, 2010 by


Spring comes early to the Deep South.  Mid-February usually brings daffodils and the budding of flowering trees. By early March, the dogwoods and redbuds are bursting into bloom followed closely by flowering bulbs and azaleas.  While Northern neighbors are busy shoveling snow from the latest blizzard, Southern gardeners greet the arrival of spring with joy and exuberance. My father always has his vegetable garden well underway by Good Friday; which traditionally signals the threat of frost has passed and it is time to plant tomato seedlings. Although spring is a bit later this year due to some unusually cold weather, the typical rites of spring are well under way.  

Stanton Hall, Natchez MS Flickr photo by Paul V8

In my hometown of Natchez, Mississippi, local garden clubs have been preparing for the annual Spring Pilgrimage for months.  In this five-week event beginning in March, twenty-four antebellum mansions, many of them private residences, open their doors to visitors.  Since 1932, when the tradition of  Pilgrimage first began,  Hostesses attired in lavish antebellum costumes have welcomed visitors to tour these homes. In addition, Spring Pilgrimage offers special entertainment. The Historic Natchez Pageant, presented by over 200 local performers of all ages in elaborate costumes, recreates the romanticized eras of old.  Southern Road to Freedom is a stirring musical tribute by the Holy Family Choir to the African-American experience in Natchez from the Colonial period to the present-day; and Southern Exposure is a hilarious spoof on the homes, homeowners, and tourists of Pilgrimage.

It is this shared history of diverse cultures; American Indian, Afro-American and European, which brings history to life, and makes Spring Pilgrimage in Natchez such a unique and memorable experience.