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Weekend trip to Lonavala

Since arriving in Mumbai a month ago I've had a lot of days off: Labor Day of course, but also Indian holidays like the Ganesh Chaturthi, to celebrate the elephant-headed god who stands for wisdom by submerging his statue, in progressively larger sizes, in water for nine days. Apparently the fall is 'festival season' over here in India so despite the monsoon there's plenty of fun to be had.

I'm still living in an empty apartment, so I figured staying home for yet another long weekend wasn't an option. We'd just end up watching TV and ordering things on Amazon to fill the emptiness. We arranged to go to the nearest town known for its greenery, historic sites and hiking--Lonavala. We'd gotten a list of trip ideas from a colleague/friend who just left Mumbai, which was an excellent place to start.

The recommended hotels were fully booked, but we found a family-friendly hotel called Fariyas. It features an outdoor pool with slides, an indoor pool, a playroom and an all-you-can eat buffet. Naturally, the kids loved it. Although: when we first arrived they thought it would be like a waterpark we recently stayed at in California (Great Wolf Lodge) and found it lacking in comparison. My son said some pretty awful things about the facilities and, in truth, some waterslides didn't work and they looked old. Still, it was one of those moments I was absolutely sure I failed as a parent. Clearly, I've spoiled my kids rotten.

Parenting comes with high highs and low lows, often in quick succession, so the kids were having a great time an hour later. But it took me a little longer to shake off the feeling. I tailor every trip to the needs of the kids, assuring they not only see the most beautiful places in the world but also have all their personal wishes fulfilled, get plenty of attention and get enough sleep at night. And what do I get? Kids who think the hotel pool isn't good enough for them. It stings because I try so hard to compensate for uprooting them, most recently by leaving Berlin, by making sure they're having a wonderful time no matter what.

The next day I was ready for an adventure and challenged the kids to climb 600 steps up to medieval Korigad Fort. Both kids had zero problems with this, even though the monsoon rain came down hard and, before we even made it to the steps, we got lost on some steep hill that added more than an hour of climbing and sliding. Now I got to feel proud of my offspring; they're incredible hikers for their age (5 and 8) and even after half a day of this stuff they didn't complain about being tired once. The fortress itself was rather bare, apart from the beautiful greenery, and most of it seemed recently rebuilt, but because it was engulfed in a cloud it had white voids beyond the walls 360-degrees making it look like we'd landed in heaven.

The next day we visited the Karla Cave, which I found impressive. After going up more windy stairs we entered a muddy square where other tourists wanted to take pictures with us. The kids are getting used to this now so it was fine. I think it's nice to make people happy with such a simple gesture. Then we took our shoes off and went inside an incredible rock-cut Buddhist shrine built over 2,000 years ago. It's just one room but it's stunning: from the size of the interior space to the stately symmetrical columns and the many rock ornaments (most of them depicting a man and a woman hanging out with an elephant or tiger). It's very much intact, even some of the timber is. There are several of these really old shrines in the area but this one is the biggest.

All in all the trip was a success. I almost regretted choosing the expensive family hotel because of how my son acted at first, and because it doesn't always feel like a vacation to be stuck at a pool for hours on end, but we all ended up enjoying it a lot. Ultimately, what makes the kids happy makes us happy, that's just how it is, no matter how frustrating it can get. And that's why I spoil them so much.

Saturday night featured activities for the whole family--hilarious nostalgic games like 'pass the parcel' in which many Indian families participated enthusiastically and my son and I joined (with last week's musical chairs is this becoming a theme?), especially because it was in the same space as an indoor street food market, which is an amazing way to taste all of the delicious local specialties without risking a bacterial disease.

Next month we have 3 more holidays... oh the places we'll go!


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