As a health professional attending conferences as a delegate or a speaker is a welcome diversion. A chance to catch up with friends from college days or colleagues from the profession. Most of the conferences are confined to big cities because the are better connected or have great venues with excellent facilities. That is reason I avoid many of them even if they are interesting. I hate cities. I love open spaces and cities cramp me. Traffic snarls annoy me sufficiently to make me want to scream.
Unfortunately, if I get invited to speak at one of these conferences I have little choice to pack my bags with some formal stuff. My jungle greens and earth browns have to stay on the shelves!
4th August, 2012. Destination Ernakulam.
I started off at a quarter past three in the afternoon with the express agenda of dropping in at the Renault showroom and wangle a test ride in the Duster. I had got on the Palakkad - Shornur road to avoid the NH 47, but I was rudely reminded that the "best laid plans of men and mice...." are always at best plans. It seemed the whole world had decided to use that road that evening and by the time I got onto the NH 47 after Thrissur it was 5.30 PM. Two hours for a little under 80 kilometers!
I thought four lane roads were designed to save time but I guess Kerala needs eight lanes. The two kilometers through Angamaly took me 15 minutes. I was restraining myself from spewing expletives at the inconsiderate drivers because my son was sitting next to me. So, when I finally rolled onto the Edapally-Vytilla bypass it was almost 7.30 PM. The Renault showroom would have been closed anyway and besides, in the wonderful mood I was in, taking a test drive in a SUV in maddening traffic would have been a recipe for disaster. We decided that Duster could wait.
I got to the reception of the Grand Hotel at 7.45 PM and the mood was beginning to lift. I've seen Ernakulam change over the last three decades but here was a place seemed to be caught in a time warp though it was located in the heart of M.G road! Not yet hungry, we left our bags in the room an drove out. Marine drive at 8.15 PM looked deserted which was a surprise for me. In Kerala's most happening city, nothing was happening on a Saturday evening. Rainbow bridge lacked colour.
Perhaps the threat of rain was a deterrent, or maybe the raids on the eateries after food poisoning instances in the Shawarma stalls.
The tide had gone out and the boats were half floating on the muddy bottom of the lagoon. The lights on the distant wharves looked inviting but there was no boatman in sight to take us on ride. Enrica Lexie would have had a hand in the matter.
We came back to the comforting warmth of the hotel as a light drizzle started making an outdoor jaunt a little risky. I had a talk to deliver next day and I didn't want to end up with a non-performing throat!
The restaurant was packed, as always. Grand Hotel is a little older than me and it is not a place that attracts it's guests through advertisements. It's fame is more from word of mouth and most people come back to its restaurant for the seafood.
If you want to enjoy a meal here be prepared to wait. The food comes slowly. No one pushes you or hurries you. Eat slowly, soak in the atmosphere and inhale the aroma of beautifully prepared sea food. If you are looking for traditional Kerala cuisine you can be assured that your tummy will gurgle in delight.
We found ourselves a table and for the next hour we were lost in the delicate tickling of our taste buds by Grand's chefs. My son and I love our food and that helps us sleep well. We retired to our room walking though narrow corridors lined with coir matting, not exotic carpeting!
There are about 15 rooms to a floor. The road facing rooms are a little larger and spacious and the corner rooms (the suites) have balcony that over looks the gate and the M.G road. Once you are inside your room you feel you are transported back in time because the TV is still the one with the CRT type picture tube, the furniture and fixtures are old and the floors are wooden and un-carpeted.
We settled for the night comfortably. The next day's tale is for the morrow!