Monday, September 12, 2016

A City of Hidden Treasures

Shopping frequently stumps me in Mumbai.  Unlike either Jakarta or Arlington, most shopping is accomplished outside of central shopping centers.  There is no mall in my neighborhood.  Our local market is both fabulous and affordable, but a shopper still needs to know which shopkeeper will have which items behind the counter.  I've begun to maintain a list of favorites - when someone tells me their favorite restaurant or shop, I jot it down in my little notebook and try to visit soon.

Flowers had left me stumped, though.  No one had recommended a place, so I asked our driver for advice.  He took me to a glass-fronted shop with neatly placed bouquets that looked pricey.  We moved on to a street lined with buckets, each filled with long stems.  I negotiated for a few bunches of flowers, which were placed directly into my back seat.  Climbing back into the car, I remembered that a friend had recommended a bakery just around the corner.

I asked our driver if he knew of the Hearsch Bakery.  He did not.  We found it on the map, just at the corner ahead, which looked like this.

We kept going, scouring the buildings down the block for a bakery sign, or any sort of store front.  We drove past two times, at which point our driver said, "You are looking for a bakery?  I believe there is one back at the corner."  Rather incredulous, I asked him to show me.  We returned to the spot above.

I looked at him in surprise and walked through the gate.

I rounded the house, passed the crowd, and discovered a small bakery back in the corner.

Exactly what I had been looking for.

This city is full of these hidden treasures, little shops and restaurants that you can stumble on or walk past a hundred times and never discover.  I've been picking up insider guides and paying strict attention to my list in an explorer's effort to find all of the little discoveries hiding in this city.  Walking through a neighborhood further south, I stumbled upon a fabulous cup of coffee, some amazing little art shops, and this very blue Jewish temple.  When I returned the following week, a friend took me to five places I had completely overlooked on my first visit.

On another walk, a historian pointed out this gem below.  It is now being used as a hospital in an intensely crowded and dirty part of town.

The building was originally constructed as the home of one of Bombay's richest and most influential men, famous for holding lavish garden parties on the estate's grounds.

More so than any other placed I have lived, these hidden treasures make me want to explore, and more specifically, to have a number of guides who will show me the hidden shops, the tasty restaurants, the clean street food vendors, and the history behind so many of these gorgeous, crumbling, old buildings.

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