#EatPrayPlay – Would you like to join the cuisine and culture trip I’m hosting to #India November 7 – 23, 2015?

at a Sikh Langar (free food kitchen for all regardless of background) in Delhi - photo - Pauli-Ann Carriere
at a Sikh Langar (free food kitchen for all regardless of background) in Delhi – photo – Pauli-Ann Carriere

This will be the fourth time I’ve lead cuisine and culture journeys to India. It gives me great joy to share this year’s itinerary here.

This year’s trip is all about #EatPrayPlay.

#EAT – because this trip is for food lovers and our shared passion for the mouth-watering cuisines of India.
#PRAY – because India’s religions are so much a part of the vibrant daily life of her people – we make an effort to learn about them and the culture that forms around them.
#PLAY – because, though we’ll see lots of “life in our face”, India will surprise you with the joy and love in most of her people. We make sure to play, have fun, join in festivals and unwind with a restorative form of yoga that anyone can take part in.

Let me share some photos and highlights from trips past and plans for this year’s custom tour designed by me and my partners at Indus Travels.

I’m thrilled that we will start the trip and be in Delhi for Diwali.

Diwali is the festival of lights, the triumph of good over evil and the sweetness of friendship. We spend it with dear friends. Here’s what that looked like a few years ago when we danced into the night after enjoying a feast fit for kings and a few Pimm’s cocktails for good measure.

You might wonder how I got started taking groups to India?

I’ve been blessed to recipe test and teach Indian cooking with a wonderful mentor – Noorbanu Nimji of A Spicy Touch cookbooks – for many years. Through my work with Noorbanu, Indus Travels noticed my passion for all things Indian and invited me to lead groups. I would never have taken on India as a tour guide on my own but my good partners make this annual adventure a joy for me and my guests.

A tour like this takes team work.
I have a wonderful team of guides to support our travel in India. They are my family in India – along with the owners of Indus Travels and HiTours.

Because yoga can be hit and miss as we travel we also travel with dear friend and experienced yoga teacher, JoJo Brooks on our team. JoJo shares her calming and always fun outlook in all that we do. JoJO and I met when we were both young oncology nurses over 30 years ago and JoJo is still a practicing pediatric Oncology nurse to this day. When we have the opportunity to practice with a wonderful master we do so, otherwise we’ve got “the JoJo” as our resident yogini.

The tours are filled with fantastic food, fun and adventure.
Here’s a bit more about what that all looks like.

We eat a lot of great food.

We cook with great chefs and home cooks alike.

We see the country’s most beautiful monuments.

We stop for chai in some pretty interesting places.

We engage with the Indian people where they live and work and we find empowerment projects to support.

We do yoga.

We restore ourselves with ancient Ayurvedic treatments.

And most importantly, for me…
we spend time with the Indian people
… and before you know it faces turn into friends and we blend.

Still interested?

Here’s the detailed breakdown for this year’s itinerary as follows:



LODGING INFO: 14 Nights + ½ day
Accommodation will be provided on twin sharing basis. Hotel list is as follows:

VARANASI – 3 nights – The RADISSON
DELHI – ½ night – RADISSON – DAY ROOM pre-flights


• Accommodation on Double/Twin sharing room basis
• International air from Calgary
• Street foods / Meals at hotel as specified in the itinerary
• Diwali night dinner
• Farewell dinner at ‘The Great kebab Factory’
• Session with Chef Sumeet Nair with lunch
• On arrival meeting & assistance by our office representative.
• Exclusive airport assistance by our professionally trained airport staff.
• Indian Traditional welcome.
• Transportation/Transfers by air-conditioned vehicle as per itinerary.
• Sightseeing as per the itinerary
• Service of English speaking accompanied guide.
• Monument entrances fee
• In India – Domestic flight tickets
• Driver allowances, Petrol/Gas cost, Toll Tax, Parking, and Vehicle Insurance.
• All presently applicable taxes.

 Meals other than those specified as per itinerary
 Nominal camera fees at certain attractions.
 Expenses of personal nature such as tipping, porters, laundry, telephones, etc.
 All other than those listed in above inclusion
 Air Taxes


Make your way to the International airport for your flight to India.

Welcome to Delhi, India. This monumental city is a vibrant mix of old and new teeming bazaars, stately British boulevards, powerful Mughal palaces and forts, and intricate, ethereal towers, temples and tombs. You will be met on arrival at the international airport by a representative of Indus Travels and escorted by private vehicle to our grand hotel – The Imperial. While the room keys and check-in are organized, our representative will brief you about the tour program and hand over the documents to you. Overnight at the hotel.
Meals included: None

Monday, NOV 09: DELHI
We’ll proceed to Old Delhi, the Mughal capital established by Shah Jahan in 1638 for a city tour. At the famous Red Fort, where Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled the flag of newly independent India on August 15, 1947, we’ll trade our vehicle for a ride in a bicycle rickshaw. Weaving through the warren of crooked congested alleys off Chandni Chowk, one of India’s oldest and busiest bazaars, you’ll see the traditional workmanship for which India is well known and still thrives. We’ll visit Raj Ghat, Mahatma Gandhi’s serene and evocative cremation site and the Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. We’ll walk through the by-lanes of the wedding street and the jeweler’s lane to savour a 350 years old culture up-close and culminate the tour at the Spice Market also known as Khari Baoli. This is Asia’s largest wholesale spice market. At present, the street is a congested and busy market with shops on both sides selling spices, nuts and herbs. You will have a unique experience here viewing the whole process of loading, carrying or unloading of huge sacks of items from manual trolleys, shopkeepers busy dealing with the customers, customers selecting large quantities of items and weary labourers resting and chatting aloud. The overall appearance seems to be very chaotic but in reality it is very well managed. There will be great photo opportunities here.

Thereafter we’ll visit Chor Bizarre restaurant for lunch and savour ‘Wazwan’ cuisine, from Kashmir. The restaurant has a unique concept and all kinds of wares find their way here (with or without the consent of the owners). The traditional Wazwan consist of thirty-six courses. Each dish has its own tradition and brings to mind memories of events such as festivals and wedding feasts. Other than on special occasions, it is very seldom that all thirty-six courses are laid out, but eating twenty odd courses on a regular basis is quite common. The attendants pass around ‘Tasha-t-Nair’ so that you can wash your hands. It would be sacrilege to use anything but your fingers to eat this meal. People sit in fours (considered auspicious) to share sustenance with dear ones over a ‘Tarami’ (large plate). Overnight at the hotel.
Meals included: Breakfast & Lunch

Tuesday, NOV 10: DELHI
We invite you to rise early for yoga with JoJo. Today we’ll make our way to the country and an organic farm to attend a lesson with Chef Sumeet Nair who will be giving you a demo on cooking his secret recipes. Sumeet is the co-author of The Bangala Table – a celebration of the beautiful food of the Chettiyars.
Overnight at the hotel
Meals included: Breakfast & Lunch

Wednesday, NOV 11: DELHI
We invite you to rise early for yoga with JoJo. Time to shop today – a saree shop and Fab India and time to get ready for the night’s festivities because we have a very special “Indus Exclusive” evening has been organized for you to celebrate Diwali- the most important of all Indian festivals. Diwali or as it is more commonly known the Festival of Lights marks the victory of good over evil and is also the end of Hindu calendar year. It’s marked all over the country with special “Pooja” (prayer) ceremonies, exchanging of gifts and special culinary delights to tempt even the most finicky palate. There will be fireworks all around the city, music and dancing. This is the one evening when the whole country is in a party mood and you will celebrate as personal guests at an exclusive private party at a farmhouse on the outskirts of Delhi. Pack your most glamorous outfit and dancing shoes for this evening as everyone will be at their glittering best. Dinner at local restaurant / hotel. Overnight at the hotel.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Thursday, NOV 12: DELHI – AMRITSAR by flight 9W740 (1705/1805 hrs)
We invite you to rise (a little less) early for yoga with JoJo. Visit the Secretariat buildings and the Vice Regal Palace, now the official residence of the President of India. Also see the parliament house and drive through the beautifully carved roads of Lutyens Delhi. Later visit Qutab Minar- a UNESCO World Heritage Site- the tallest brick minaret in the world, at 238 feet (72m). In the afternoon, we’ll transfer to the airport to board our flight to Amritsar. Upon arrival we’ll check in at our hotel- The Hyatt Regency Amritsar. Amritsar – is the second largest town in the state of Punjab. It is known to be as a cultural and spiritual centre for Sikh religion. It was founded in year 1574 by Guru Ram Das – the fourth guru of the Sikhs. The city is named after the sacred pool around the Golden Temple- Amritsar meaning ‘Pool of Nectar’. People from all over the world come to pay their reverence to Guru Granth Sahib and take a dip in the holy water for spiritual purification. Overnight at the hotel.
Meals included: Breakfast

Friday, NOV 13: AMRITSAR
Rise early to join JoJo for an early morning yoga session. After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, enjoy a city orientation tour of Amritsar. Visit Golden Temple again. A private audience with the chief priest will be arranged (subject to his prior commitments). Visit the Community Kitchen (langar) where food is served free of cost all day and night to thousands of people. The Sikh religion is founded on principles of social work. Enjoy a volunteer experience in the community kitchen. Prepare and serve a meal for people from all walks of life. Continue to Jallianwalah Bagh, a historical monument of national importance, which immortalizes the massacre of innocent women and children on 13th April 1919. Visit the Martyr’s Gallery to pay homage to those who lost their lives in one of the worst carnages of its times. Enjoy a street cuisine experience near the Temple. The walled city around the Golden Temple, the oldest part of Amritsar, is a heaven for food lovers. Recommended: A lunch of chole kulche transformed to a gourmet meal at Kanhaiya Dhaba and the very special local dish-Ghur ka halva. Late afternoon leave for an excursion to Wagah border (India-Pakistan Border) to witness the “Change of Guard” ceremony (45 minutes drive). Indian and Pakistani soldiers march to a very enthusiastic crowd and the flags are lowered with great skill and precision. Return to the hotel. Dinner will be at Surjeet, mentioned in Lonely Planet and a favourite with Bollywood stars. Instead of the small fish shop that he started out with near the railway station, there is now a new “restaurant”, air-conditioned, where you can sample Surjeet Singh’s delicacies. Overnight at the hotel
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Saturday, NOV 14: AMRITSAR – DELHI by FLIGHT – DELHI – VARANASI by flight
Transfer to the airport to board flight to Delhi. Arrive Delhi and connect on to flight to Varanasi. Arrive Varanasi and get transferred to your hotel – The Radisson. Varanasi – The antiquity of this city is veiled in immortal times and has been the center of religion, learning and civilization since ages. The city gets its inherent charm from the location as it’s situated on the west side of the Holy Ganges. The principal attraction is the bathing Ghats that are always, bustling with life at any given time of the day. Later visit the Ghats (bathing steps) of the Ganges by candle-lit boats and witness the intriguing ‘Aarti’ Ceremony (collective prayer). Observe the mystical scene of Ghats lit with oil-lamp lights; Brahmans chanting the hymns and numerous floating oil lamps. Overnight at the hotel.
Meals included: Breakfast

Sunday, NOV 15: VARANASI
Early morning, enjoy a boat cruise on the river Ganges. This is the time to see thousands of pilgrims and devotees worshipping the rising sun. At sunrise, the scene of pilgrims doing their rituals and paying offerings to the River Ganges, set against the back drop of the centuries old temples is probably one of the most impressive sights in the world. It is a centuries old tradition and belief that by dying in Varanasi or by immersing the mortal remains in the Holy Ganges, it clears one from the birth circle and you are incarnated to human life in the next birth. Sail past all the Ghats and stop at the important ones. The riverfront, as seen from a boat, early in the morning, is a spiritually uplifting sight. Stop at one of the Ghats for an early morning session of Yoga. Enjoy an unusual walking tour through the old town of Benaras with its centuries old temples, The Well of Knowledge, it maze of little lanes with teeming bazaars selling flowers, brocade and other temple offerings. Discover the finger licking delicacies that Varanasi is renowned for. You will visit traditional food stalls and at each stop you will unravel the history, traditions, and culture behind the “house specialties”.
➢ Kachauri Gali with its sweet and savoury fried delicacies
➢ Wholesale condensed milk market of Khoa Gali
➢ Milk and yogurt based drinks
➢ Paan, a traditional digestive and a local specialty
Late afternoon experience the multi-hued arts and crafts of Varanasi. Accompanied by an expert you will visit the weaver colony and the wholesale sari market to observe the influence the local culture and religion has had on the life and work of the craftsmen. You will meet toy makers; see badges and epaulettes being stitched using traditional zari (gold and silver thread) work, and brass utensils being made. Evening enjoy vegetarian dinner at Amrit Rao Peshwa Haveli. Disembark at the Rajghat for a splendid evening with the theme “Relive Benares” at Amrit Rao Peshwa Haveli – a heritage mansion built in 1807 as a Brahmin refectory to feed the Brahmins (priests). The entire Haveli with the adjoining temple complex is illuminated and aesthetically decorated all around with lights, flowers and earthen diyas (oil-lamps). Thousands of diyas are set afloat on the river. Enjoy the special evening with Vedic chants by priests and a classical dance performance. A magical and once in a lifetime experience of spiritual & traditional Varanasi. Overnight at the hotel.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Monday, NOV 16: VARANASI
Morning: A spiritual discourse on Hinduism and the sacred river Ganges will be arranged. Afternoon visit Sarnath, a major Buddhist center in the world. After achieving enlightenment at Bodhgaya, Buddha, the ‘Awakened One’, delivered his first sermon here. It was 6th century then, when he also set in motion the wheel of law, the Dharma chakra by initiating his first five disciples into Buddhist monkshood. Dhamekh Stupa at Sarnath is an imposing cylindrical structure (43.5m high) of the Gupta age, partly built of stone and partly of brick. Its stone basement has eight projecting faces with large niches for statuary and is further adorned with delicately carved floral and geometrical patterns. Also visit the archaeological museum at Sarnath. Time permitting experience a special meeting with the monks and take part in a Buddhist meditation session. Return to hotel. Overnight at the hotel.
Meals included: Breakfast

Tuesday, NOV 17: VARANASI – LUCKNOW drive by air-conditioned coach – 315 kms/ 7hrs
Drive to Lucknow. Upon arrival check in at your hotel- Vivanta by Taj. Lucknow – the capital of Uttar Pradesh state rose to prominence as the centre of the Nawabs of Avadh. These Muslim rulers, also known as the Nawabs of Oudh controlled a region of north-central India for about a century. Most of the Avadh rulers were hopeless at running the affairs of state. However, they were great patrons of the arts, especially dance and music and Lucknow’s reputation as a city of culture and gracious living stems from this time. Relax at your hotel. Overnight at the hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

Wednesday, NOV 18: LUCKNOW
Morning: Proceed for the city tour. Lucknow – city of gardens has the 18th century capital of Nawab Wazirs and the centre of culture and tradition. Visit for 3-4 hours the great Imambara – built in the 18th century. The absence of beams and pillars in the huge main hall is an architectural achievement. Lucknow residency where the British lived, picture gallery exhibiting excellent full-sized portraits of the Nawabs of Audh.
Evening: enjoy the Awadhi cuisine. Lucknow can very well be termed as a city that has carved a niche by attracting gastronomes for the want of discovering and re-discovering the Awadhi Cuisine. Lucknowites spend the most of their earnings and time on their kitchens. Lucknow is one place that has a colony of chefs called ‘Bawarchi Tola’ and then there is a full street where one can find the best from Lucknow’s very own kitchens. We take you for this evening walk and allow you to hop-in, hop-out of the traditional roadside eateries making you try the best that is on the menu. This is a guided tour with our own set of cutlery and basic dining gadgets that allow you to experience the best of the best in the restaurant without having to worry about how to eat without a fork or to wipe your hands clean after you are done. Overnight at the hotel.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Thursday, NOV 19: LUCKNOW – DELHI – DEHRADUN by flights – DEHRADUN – NARENDER NAGAR DRIVE (40 kms/ 1 hr)
Morning after breakfast transfer to airport to board flight to Dehradun. Arrive Dehradun and drive to Rishikesh Check in at your hotel – Ananda in the Himalayas. Dinner at the resort. Overnight at the hotel.
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Friday, NOV 20: NARENDER NAGAR – Ananda in the Himalayas
Enjoy the spas at the resort. Explore the many activities on offer, hike in the Himalayas or roam to the nearby town and ashram.
Overnight at the resort
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Enjoy the spas at the resort. Explore, hike or roam. Overnight at the resort
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Sunday, NOV 22: NARENDER NAGAR – DEHRADUN APT drive (40 Kms/ 1 hr)- DEHRADUN – DELHI by flight – DEPARTURE
Transfer to Dehradun Airport to board flight to Delhi. In Delhi, transfer to your hotel near the airport(Radisson Blu Hotel) and check in. Relax for a while and then proceed to ‘The Great Kebab Factory’ for a sumptuous dinner with the glorious taste of kebabs made from age-old recipes. This iconic restaurant is located at the lobby level of our hotel Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi. The restaurant is known for its avant-garde interiors combined with the classic menu, filled with delicious kebabs and breads, and makes it a great place for our farewell dinner. Later get transferred to the airport to connect your onward flight.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Want to join this once-in-a-lifetime 5 star trip to India?
We’d love to have you on board. You would be very welcome. We can accommodate 20 guests on this journey and already have 14 signed up from previous years, word of mouth and our wait list. If you would like to join us please contact karen@calgaryfoodtours.com for the registration form and further instructions.

Namaste. I hope you’ll come along and #EatPrayPlay with us on this fantastic journey. All the best, Karen

exotic flowers for an exotic country - photo - Karen Anderson
exotic flowers for an exotic country – photo – Karen Anderson

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