It’s close to 7am on New Year’s Day and we’re reluctantly waking up, thanks in equal parts to our intention of exploring the Keralan backwaters this morning, as well as to the bird symphony that seems to be taking place right in our room. In general, the group has been early to bed and early to rise, and New Year’s Eve was no exception – we shut it down before 2am! Must be the heat.
This year’s New Year’s Eve was decidedly different than our last ones in Norfolk, Connecticut (2010), NYC (2009), and L’Orignal (2008). A rainy afternoon brought the nerdiest among us on a visit to the Hill Palace Museum, about an hour away by Ambassador taxi in Tripunithura. The Hill Palace Museum was the home of the Cochin Royal Family until 1980, and consists of a stunning series of buildings surrounded by ornate gardens and filled with the King’s astounding collection of treasures. Our faithful and often unintentionally hilarious cook Sajimon told us a riveting but sometimes incomprehensible tale about his great-grandfather actually being the King of Cochin, and that someone (who exactly is unclear) murdered him and his wife, leaving his grandfather an impoverished orphan. He feels the treasures on display at the museum are actually his family’s pillaged assets. We were horrified but decided to go ahead with the educational trip anyway, promising to spit in every room we entered. (Of course, we didn’t really, but Sajimon seemed so pleased that we didn’t have the heart to tell him we were kidding.)
The museum’s collections were fascinating – particularly the King’s collection of sceptres, horse ornaments, and weapons – and an element of adventure was added as we tried to get photos (highly illegal) of the confiscated loot for Sajimon. When we walked into a room containing paintings of the King, we agreed he bore an uncanny resemblance to our gregarious cook!
On our way out, we were shyly accosted by a small family of 58, each of whom wanted to get their photo taken with Riccardo. Relishing his newfound celebrity status, he bore the intrusion gracefully and posed amiably for each one.
In the evening, our entire ragtag group assembled for a New Year’s feast prepared by, apparently, a descendant of royalty. Some of the gang elected to do the countdown at 10pm in order to retire early (!), but the more hardcore among us stayed up for the real thing. A bottle of Amrut (Indian-produced whiskey amazingly NOT widely available in India) was opened, as well as one of White Mischief (a vile brandy purchased in jest at the local liquor store), among many others. We welcomed 2012 on the upper verandah with Bevan, Eliza, Rick Tran, Annie, Connor, Eric, and Sajimon, accompanied by U2 on YouTube and impassioned shouts of “HAPPPEEE-NEWYEAR!” from drunk kids passing on mopeds below.
HAPPPEEE-NEWYEAR to you all as well!