21 December 2014

America - Part 1

After a long hiatus, this post is authored by Jonti – he's written some memories of our first trip to the States.


First I gave Nija a tour of Washington D.C., her nation’s capital.

Now she’d like me to write on her blog about our trip to D.C. and Atlanta together – which I am delighted to do.

When we first met, many years months ago, we were both excited about exploring and re-discovering Manchester with someone else. To see the city through their eyes. I found Nija – a non-Manchester native – who loved Manchester even more than me and during about 18 months – through dissertation-writing and job-hunting and a wedding – we did exactly that: re-discovered this northern city through each other’s eyes.

When we first met, I could not imagine that we would re-discover Atlanta, her home city, together too. Finally, this August we went for our first trip. Here are a few impressions.

We stopped off in Washington D.C. to visit Nija’s grandmother and her Aunt and Uncle.
Here is Nija with Ba.

By day, we wandered around the monuments walking off our jet-lag. I had been a couple of times to Washington and was a hardened Mall-walker. Nija hadn’t really spent any time there so I gave her a tour.

The Washington Monument had recently re-opened following the 2011 earthquake

Nija also showed me some things I hadn't seen before, at the botanical garden.

Of an evening in suburban Maryland, we would enjoy the company of Nija's family. They were incredibly generous & I had my first taste of gargantuan American restaurant portions. A salad is not a light option.


We flew down to Atlanta. Airport security was fortunately relaxed about me being ‘Small’ on my ticket but now a ‘Dalal-Small’ in my passport.

By the time we got to Atlanta we were on the right time zone and I was ready for my first Indian cookery class. Tanvi and Sanjay, Sahil and Sahana, all came around to Nija’s parents. Nija's mother cooked Dal Makhani (lentils, black lentils) and I tried to help.

Throughout the two weeks, we ate very well. Most spectacular was lacy lentils. (khandvi!)
This involved thinly spreading out a paste made of yogurt & lentils, and cooling it over the table.

Here they are laying it out:

With all the eating so well, it was lucky that the neighbourhood swimming pool was just a short walk away.

I could also play tennis with Nija's niece & nephew (reassuringly, even though they had recently won a state-wide competition, I was able to emerge victorious – though not, I suspect, for long).

I’d been warned that Atlanta is a very car-friendly city but one wonderful highlight was an antidote to the car – the late-summer lantern parade. Taking place along and celebrating the Beltline – a walking, cycling, running route which is gradually being opened up – we stood in the warm early autumn evening and watched the thousands of creative lanterns.

Also to stretch our legs we went to ‘hot’ yoga (somewhat strangely, given the sweltering Southern heat outside. In fact, it wasn’t all that hot – at least not as hot as Northern England’s hot yoga.)

The studio was in Marietta – the closest, quaintest town to Nija’s parents –  where the old library is now a flower shop and a vintage cinema shows re-runs of To Kill a Mocking Bird. The general store stocked wine glasses made out of old bottles and had a fridge of local craft beer which we’d take back and drink of an evening sitting on the deck with Nija’s parents.

During yoga, the railroad rattled past, shaking the walls. The showers were in the process of being built – sometimes noisily to accompany the serenity of the class – and one of the teacher’s hamstrings snapped once – but we had a fabulous time.  Best of all at the studio, we encountered people who were just extraordinarily thrilled that we were there, in their town, in their studio.

Even riding around in the car we were always entertained. I’d been told about the ‘big chicken’, a towering KFC landmark.

However my favourite was this restaurant, a fish place that seemed not to mind implying that this was the place to gobble up Flipper –

It was a wonderful trip – this is just a taster. Part 2 is coming...