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Tag Archive: Rome & India Trip

7 Days in India (where we went, what we ate, what we did!)

Welcome to the last post in my series on our 10-day trip to Rome and India where I’m sharing a peek into our trip — where we went, what we learned, and how we saved money. For details on why we went to Rome and India, read this post. For more information on where we stayed in Rome, read this post. And for budget-friendly things to do in Rome, read this.

Our flight from Rome to India was quite eventful. We flew from Rome to London first… but our flight was delayed and we ended up having an incredibly tight layover. But British Airways was amazing! They met us at the gate as soon as we deplaned, gave us these Express Passes, and they personally ran with us to security to make sure that we made it through.

There were some hangups along the way, but the British Airways personnel made sure that we got through security as quickly as possible and then they made sure that they didn’t shut the boarding process down until we were on the plane.

Getting on the flight involved a whole lot of running and craziness, but we made it — and we are so thankful to the British Airways employees who were incredible to work with and who bent over backwards to take care of us!

Since Jesse and I have status on American Airlines (because it’s the only airline we usually fly), we were able to get amazing seats on this flight — well, as amazing as you can get for free (without paying for business class or first class!). The leg room was so nice on the 10-hour flight!

I wished we would have gotten to see London, but it was fun to at least fly over a little of it. We are hoping to visit London and Rome as a family in 2019.

Once again, the British Airways food was delicious — a word I would rarely use to describe airline food! 🙂

We made it to India! We flew into Hyderabad and I was instantly impressed with how much nicer everything was there compared to where we flew in on my last trip.

They had a McDonald’s at the airport!!

We made it to India… tired and without our bags (because of the flight delay and the really short layover, our bags didn’t make it on the flight). But we made it!

(They had made us check almost everything because of their bag restrictions — which was fine and we had all made sure to pack toiletries and an extra outfit in our carryon bags — but it was kind of a hassle when we got into India because there was only one flight per day on British Airways from London to India and so we’d have to wait a full day for our bags to show up. In addition, it was kind of complicated because of the language barriers to try to figure out how we were going to actually get our bags since we were going to be leaving our hotel before they could deliver them to the hotel and we wanted to pick them up from the airport instead. But that was not their typical protocol… but we finally got it all sorted out and were able to leave and head to our hotel.)

Hyderabad is a very Western-influenced city and has a lot of wealth. This was the view out one side of the hotel

And this was the view out the other side. I really loved Hyderabad and would go back there in a heartbeat!

After napping and getting some work done at the hotel, we all went out for dinner at Paradise — which is well known for its Biryani.

Buttered Naan… by far my very favorite Indian food!

I thought the Biryani was okay… I honestly much preferred the Chicken Fried Rice. Which I’m sure shows how Western I am! 😉

Since no one uses silverware in India and you only eat with your right hand, your hand gets quite messy. So they bring you these hotel bowls of water to wash your fingers at the end of the meal.

After dinner breath refreshers.

The next morning, we drove a ways to meet a number of the orphans and start doing eye exams. Covenant Children’s Homes has around 650 orphans that they care for in their homes and all of the kids had had eye screenings and then only the 125 kids who failed the eye screenings came for the exams.

Of the 125 who came, 103 needed glasses. Some of them needed them desperately and we’re not sure how they have been functioning at all without them!

This photo might not seem like anything special or out-of-the-ordinary to you, but it represents so much to me.

Since I didn’t have an official job and was just filling in where needed, I spent most of my time just sitting with the kids and getting to know them (and eating the food that they kept serving us! Indians are so hospitable!)

I used to feel incredibly awkward going into situations where there were language barriers and huge cultural differences. I didn’t know what to ask or say or how to act, so I’d gravitate toward the little kids or just stay on the sidelines — or just avoid situations like this altogether.

But the more I’ve put myself in these kinds of situations, the more confident I’ve become. On this trip, I realized anew just how life-giving it is for me and how I’m no longer nervous going into these situations.

Yes, it will be awkward. Yes, you won’t understand a lot of what is being asked or said. Yes, you’ll have to use your phone to talk through pictures. Yes, you’ll have to repeat yourself slowly multiple times. Yes, you’ll have to ask them to repeat themselves many times, too. Yes, you’ll need to use big hand motions & gestures to help communicate.

But it’s worth the awkwardness and the effort because it opens the door to learn so much from others and to have the opportunity to look into someone’s eyes and let them know that they are seen and heard and loved.

When you push past the awkward, you get to experience the awesome.

By the way, you don’t have to go to India to put this into practice. Look for someone who is hurting or lonely or in need of love and reach out to them. Invite them into your home, invite them out to coffee, or just stop and take time to look into their eyes and listen to them and let them know that they have value and worth.

I wholeheartedly believe that this is one of the most important ways we can change the world — by stepping outside our safe and comfortable lives and taking some risks in the name of love. It’s so worth it!

Jesse was in charge of doing all of the refractometer readings.

Drew and Jamie’s kids had never traveled internationally before and yet they jumped right in and helped out.

It was so fun to get to see them interact with the kids and teenagers.

This has been a longtime dream of Drew’s to get to come and serve in this way and it was incredible to see him in his element!

The guys wanted to get lots of selfies with me while we waited… and were also quite fascinated to find that I had a Facebook Page and Instagram page with so many followers (most of the people in India are quite tech-savvy!)

Jamie helped everyone who needed glasses pick out frames after they had had their exams.

Lunch!

Yes, I know I have my eyes closed. No that was not on purpose. 😉 But I thought it aptly represents how we all felt at the end of the day. TIRED. But so fulfilled and happy to have this opportunity!

After all the eye exams, we left to travel a few hours away to another town. We stopped for dinner — and I used my first squatty potty at the rest stop. (Can you believe I managed to go my entire first trip to India without using a squatty potty??)

And then we ate at Domino’s for dinner… our last time to see anything Western for a few days.

The pizza actually tasted weird (though it’s not like I’ve eaten a lot of Domino’s pizza, so I don’t have a lot to compare it to!), so I mostly just ate this instead…

We got into our hotel around midnight. The place reeked of smoke and mold, but we were so tired, so we were grateful for a bed to sleep in! And then we got up early the next morning and drove another hour to go to a village church.

The village was SO excited for us to be there — this is a very non-touristy area so it’s likely we are some of the few Westerners who have ever gone to this village!

They greeted us with flower petals and flower garlands.

Their church service was so incredible to be a part of.

They had chairs at the front for us to sit on while they all sat on the floor. As time went on, more and more people came and crowded in the building.

They were so enthusiastic in their singing and praying and — even though we couldn’t understand the language, it was a joy to be part of.

One of the things I noticed on this trip was how excited people were for me to take their pictures. I would usually ask if I could before snapping a picture and they were so happy to oblige!

After the church service (which was a few hours long and SO hot… we were dripping sweat the entire time; it’s such a good reminder how much comfort we live in with all of our climate-controlled homes and buildings!), we went over to eat lunch with the pastor and his family and some of the locals from the church.

They made this incredible spread of food for us.

I got to try Thumb’s Up for the first time (a sort of Coke-like Indian drink). I don’t drink soda, but it was actually pretty good!

After lunch, we asked if we could pray with them and then they all gathered around and prayed for us. When I realized they were going to pray for us, I asked one of the young girls if she could get some pictures with my phone because I had a feeling it was one of those moments I would want to have captured.

I was right. They all pray at once and it’s so powerful and moving.

I was sort of the unofficial photographer for the trip and I took at least a few thousand photos. Jamie got this one of me taking the above photo, which I loved!

We drove for a few more hours and finally made it to our next hotel quite late at night.

We were now in a very non-touristy area of India that has basically zero Western influence. We stayed in the best hotel in the city and it was by far the most primitive hotel I’ve ever stayed at. It was so good to think about the fact that this bathroom — which felt like “roughing it” for us, would have been extremely upscale and glamorous for almost everyone in this city.

For dinner, we went to the very “upscale” (for this area) grocery store and bought crackers and bananas and water — what I would be eating a lot of the next few days since we were almost out of the snacks we had brought with us on the trip!

Because most of the water is very unsafe for Westerners (and you can get violently sick from just getting a drop or two in your mouth), we had to be extremely careful the entire trip what we ate and drank (especially since I really didn’t want to get Dehli Belly again like last trip!

Thus, we could only eat items that had really thick skin on them or were in packages. And we had to use bottled water for everything — including brushing our teeth. So it meant we ate a lot of things like crackers and bananas. I may have even eaten a package of wafer cookies for dinner one night because I was hungry and that was about all we had left.

While it felt a little inconvenient to have so little access to the foods I would usually eat, it was such a good reminder how blessed I am to have access to safe, clean drinking water and so many fresh foods and such a variety of wholesome foods. So many, many people in the world would love to have crackers and bananas to eat.

The next day, we went to a big conference center and did more exams for more of the orphans.

Lunch!

Then, we went to a local wholesale market to do some shopping.

The prices were insanely low… but we were told we were supposed to haggle with them since they were likely triple charging us because we were Westerners. In addition, I guess it’s sort of not polite to not haggle as it says that they don’t have great products… or something like that.

The next morning, we went back to the same location to do more eye exams… and these people had another ceremony to honor us for coming. We were so blown away by their kindness and warmth and hospitality.

This was one of my favorite meals. They put more sauce on the rice after this photo was taken… it was SO good!

This young lady was so well-spoken and had the best English of almost any of the kids and teens… so she helped interpret for us. We loved getting to know her and learn so much about Indian culture from her.

We went up on the roof to watch the sun set.

And then we went back to the same wholesale market to get more gifts to bring back to family at home.

Drew was a pretty amazing haggler and he didn’t need our Indian friends to even help him out at all!

We ended the evening by riding on an auto rickshaw back to the hotel!

The next morning, we woke up early and drove to the Indian ocean. It was so vibrant and colorful and alive on the beach.

I was sad I didn’t have my DSLR camera to capture the colors on the beach. It was truly stunning.

And then we checked out of our hotel for the 8-hour drive back to Hyderabad. We stopped at a Coffee Day on the way back. It was incredibly clean and modern.

And look at the beautiful latte they made for Jesse!

We spent a lot of time in this kind of traffic while in India. They are amazing drivers and it’s pretty incredible to witness!

We stayed at a really nice hotel in Hyderabad the last night. We were all so glad to have real showers with hot water and clean rooms and clean beds to sleep in. It’s amazing how much our perspective had changed in just a few days!

And we left for the airport the next morning around 4:15 a.m.

It was time to say goodbye to India.

We were so ready to get home to our kiddos… but also so glad we came on this trip!

One of the highlights of the trip home was seeing Michael Phelps (most decorated Olympic swimmer of all time!) at the London airport (can you spot him with the baseball cap on right next to the 32 in the above photo?).

This meal on the way home basically tasted like the best pasta dish I had ever eaten in my life! 🙂 Also, it was so nice to get to use a fork again! 😉

My first trip to India (in August) was really rough. It started with a man trying to force his way into the airplane bathroom and then one of the hotel staff actually forcing himself into my hotel room (and standing in front of the closed door for a few minutes so I couldn’t leave) and it ended with me getting violently sick with Delhi Belly.

I struggled with sensory overload with all of the newness and different tastes, sights, sounds, smells, and cultural differences and it was hard to know how to grapple with the overwhelming need.

I also found it hard to be one of only a few white women in a huge city. The gawking, the pointing, the incessant staring by men… it felt unnerving.

I came home wondering why I had gone. Yes, my courage muscles were stretched. Yes, my worst fear of getting Delhi Belly happened and I survived. But I felt confused as to the purpose of the trip… because I honestly just didn’t know what to think about India.

But if I hadn’t gone on that trip, I never would have gone back to India this past week. That trip was a catalyst for us to go on this second trip to India.

And there was so much redemption in this second trip. I was much more mentally prepared for the sensory overload, so it didn’t overwhelm me like the first time. I also was super careful about what I ate and drank.

Most importantly, I fell in love with India and the Indian people this time! I was so touched by their warm hospitality and the way they live and work in such community with one another. They are so involved in one another’s lives. They don’t have the same personal space bubbles I think we often have in the Western world and it’s really beautiful to observe.

I was also able to see past the “sensory overload” to see so much beauty, life, joy, and celebration in all the colors, sounds, smells, and tastes. It touched me and inspired me in a deep way.

It’s so good to be stretched a little (or a lot!) out of our cultural comfort zones and to get to experience a very different way of life.

There’s so much I learned and was inspired with from spending time with and getting to know those who live in India on this trip. I will never forget it!

Budget-Friendly Things to Do in Rome

Visiting Rome and want to stick to a budget? Check out all these great budget-friendly ideas of things to do!

Welcome to my series on our 10-day trip to Rome and India where I’m sharing a peek into our trip — where we went, what we learned, and how we saved money. For details on why we went to Rome and India, read this post. For more information on where we stayed in Rome, read this post.

We only had one full day to see the sights in Rome and we wanted to make the most of it — and we also wanted to keep our expenses down as much as possible. So we ended up deciding to only spend money on a few things today — the tickets to the Vatican Museum, lunch out at an outdoor cafe (we ate snacks we had brought with us on the trip for breakfast and then grabbed some inexpensive sandwiches for dinner), and gelato. We also stopped once at a convenience store to re-stock our water bottles since they were selling them for around $0.75 USD each and that was half the cost of anywhere else we found.

We opted against paying for any transportation and instead just walked everywhere. It was a LOT of walking (maybe 10-12 miles?), but it meant we got great exercise and we got to see a lot more of Rome very up close and personal!

As we were walking, we kept seeing signs advertising “American Breakfasts”. I found it interesting that this is what they consider an American Breakfast… and the price is kind of crazy high! (Scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee and orange juice for around $17 USD with the exchange rate. Say what???)

They day could not have been more perfect weather-wise. I wore comfortable shoes, leggings, a tunic top, and a heavy long sweater and that was the right outfit choice as it was cozy, and I found that when the sun was behind a cloud, I needed my sweater.

But when the sun was out, it was warm enough that I didn’t need my sweater during the middle of the day. (I also brought a lightweight scarf in the backpack and ended up using it when it cooled down in the evening.)

It was fun to pop into McDonald’s and see what they offered in Rome. It was definitely somewhat different than America!

We started the day off by visiting the Pantheon (it’s completely free to get in). I had visited here back in 2016 so it was fun to get to take Jesse here to experience it!

Jesse went around and read almost every plaque and sign and absorbed all of the historical significance. I love watching him hungrily lap up anything history-related!

Next, we headed to the Trevi Fountain (it’s free to visit). Even though the fountains were off because they were being cleaned, there were still mobs of people taking photos.

The sun was so bright and the crowds were so packed that we struggled to find any place with decent lighting to get a photo. But after multiple tries, we finally got this one.

It was a long walk to Vatican Museum and it took us over 30 minutes to get there, but it was a beautiful walk. There were a LOT of people outside St. Peter’s Basilica, and we we had to almost push through the crowds to get to the museum.

(We found out later that the pope has his general audience to the people on Wednesdays so that’s why it was so crazy crowded at St. Peter’s Basilica! I’d recommend not going on a Wednesday unless you want to get to see the pope. We didn’t realize we could have seen him… I somehow missed that in my research!)

We had purchased our tickets online in advance for the Vatican Museum. It was 4 Euros more per ticket to do this, but when we saw the huge crowds, we were glad that we had.

In the end, it didn’t save us an hour or two of extra time waiting in line to have booked our tickets ahead of time, but it definitely saved us some time and also gave us peace of mind that we would be able to get into the museum!

(I had read online that you’ll sometimes have to wait in line an hour or two just to get your tickets. And there’s a possibility that there will be so many people there that you won’t get to get tickets at all.)

The one place we knew we wanted to see for sure in the museum was the Sistine Chapel. You end up walking through a lot of the museum to get to it!

I had been to the Vatican Museum before, but it was fun to see it again (this time in a less sleep deprived and hungry state!)

The ornate-ness of everything can almost feel overwhelming! It’s inspiring and beautiful and just so much — everywhere you look!

This was one of my favorite photos from this day. It aptly captures the essence and beauty of the Vatican Museum.

And of course, Jesse stopped to read a LOT of signs and take it all in… and then he’s been telling me so many interesting tidbits from what he learned over the past week!

You’re not supposed to take any photos in the Sistine Chapel… though so many people were anyway! But I stood outside the chapel and took this photo looking in to give you a little peek!

We made the mistake of not looking for the secret passageway to get to St. Peter’s Basilica from the Vatican Museum so we didn’t end up getting to go into it because the line to get in was massive and we likely would have waited in it for 2-3 hours (it’s free to get in but because it was Wednesday and it was the day that the pope does the general assembly there were SO many people waiting in line!) But we did get some great photos outside!

By the way, on the Vatican site, it says you can’t bring backpacks in to the museum — that you’d have to check them for free at the coat check. But we were able to bring our backpacks in and they didn’t ask us to check them.

We ate a late lunch a cafe and then made our way to the Coliseum. On our way, we saw this — I guess it was a restoration of this site that had been dug up in an archeological dig? It looked like painstaking work but it was fascinating to watch!

I hadn’t gotten to spend time at the Coliseum last time we went to Rome, so I was thrilled to get to spend some time there this time! It’s so massive and impressive!

The gates were closed by the time we got there so we couldn’t go in it (you have to pay to do so), but we got to walk around the entire thing and take our time soaking it all up and being pretty awestruck by how massive it was.

On the back side of the Coliseum, there was hardly anyone and it kind of felt like we were having our own private tour! Also, if you don’t actually go inside, it’s completely free to walk around it for as long as you’d like!

After spending time at the Coliseum, we headed to the Spanish Steps. I’d not been to this area on my last trip (at least I don’t think so!) and it was so beautiful and upscale. (There were so many high end shops around here I almost felt like we had better leave because we weren’t dressed nicely enough to be walking down these streets with Gucci shops!)

We sat on the Spanish Steps for quite awhile to take a breather and to just take it all in!

Drew, Jamie, and their two kids — our fellow travelers and good friends!

On the way back to our apartment, we knew we wanted to find a gelato shop. We decided to look for one that had a lot of people at it as we’d been told that was the sign of a good shop. We found Giolitti and it had people all around and was bustling inside, so we decided to go with it!

I’m more of an ice cream person than a gelato person, but when it Rome, you need to buy gelato and then eat the entire huge cone yourself since you walked so many miles! 🙂

I’m so grateful for Jamie’s friendship and that it worked out for us to go on this trip together. Jamie has loved me so wholeheartedly and poured into me so much this past year.

We’re so different and yet we complement one another so well. Also, it’s such a gift when you can just be yourself in a relationship and you don’t have to try to be “on” or to even worry about what the other person is thinking.

We’ve experienced so much crazy together on this trip and we were talking about how much you really get to know people when you are in close quarters and experiencing long days and short nights and weird schedules and challenging circumstances (like racing through airports and barely making some of our flights because of different flight delays, spending 3 days in a hotel in India that only had primitive bathrooms, learning to eat interesting and unique foods with our hands only in India, language barriers in India, luggage that didn’t make it on our flight, many unexpected delays, jet lag, hotel rooms that wreaked of mold and smoke, days that were so hot we were dripping with sweat for hours… and so much more! I’ll be sharing about all of this in my upcoming posts!)

Trips like this bring out the best and worst in people and it’s only served to further strengthen our friendship to experience all of this together! I’m so grateful!

Have you been to Rome before? If so, what are your favorite budget-friendly recommendations? Tell us in the comments!

Next up: Our rather eventful flight from Rome to London, almost missing our flight, all of our bags not making it on the flight, and more about our first day in India. Stay tuned!

Our Experience Staying in an AirBnB in Rome

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Welcome to my series on our 10-day trip to Rome and India where I’m sharing a peek into our trip — where we went, what we learned, and how we saved money. For details on why we went to Rome and India, read this post.

Since there were six of us going to Rome and India on this trip — two couples and two kids — we realized that it might be cheaper and smarter to split an AirBnB apartment rental together than to get multiple hotel rooms. It’s not something we’ve done much before, but we ended up loving this option!

I didn’t get any photos in the actual apartment, but you can see photos of the inside here. It was the perfect arrangement for all of us.

Jesse and I took one bedroom and the bathroom closest to it and Jamie and Drew took one bedroom and their kids shared the other bedroom and then they all shared the other bathroom.

The apartment had this old elevator that was so fun to use! And the views out the windows were gorgeous (see the photo at the top of the post!)

The apartment was situated right in the heart of the Jewish quarter and we were able to walk to the Coliseum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, Vatican City, the Spanish Steps, and more from it. Plus, within a few blocks, there were many different shops, cafes, and restaurants.

(The view out our window one morning — it was so idyllic!)

The apartment was extremely clean and they had tea and coffee on the counter and water bottles, juice, fruit, and milk in the fridge. Plus, they had towels, soaps, and shampoos in every room — just like a nice hotel! And the hosts were very gracious.

The only two issues I would point out that we had were:

1) They asked us to pay an additional $42 tourist tax when we arrived. They hadn’t mentioned this to us before and they asked for it to be in cash. We felt a little bothered that they hadn’t mentioned this and didn’t include it in the apartment fees. However, it is on their site, so it’s possible we just missed it there when we booked. And it’s possible that the government requires this to be collected separately and that it can’t be collected as part of the AirBnB fees. But I still would have appreciated it if they would have mentioned it and let us know they would need it in cash when we checked in.

2) The bathtub leaked when we drained it. We let them know and they came to check on it and offered to call someone to come fix it, but it was the second day and we just decided that Jesse and I would take “sink baths” (there wasn’t a shower in our bathroom — though there was a sprayer in the bathtub). They were very gracious and apologetic about this and I’m guessing they got it fixed as soon as we left!


Many of the buildings in the Jewish Quarter had little gold plates in front of them with names of Jews who were sent to the concentration camps during the Holocaust. It was so sad and such a poignant reminder of the turmoil and heartache from history that these buildings could recount if their walls could talk.

Rome has so many fun outdoor cafes and restaurants!

We’ve only splurged on two meals on our entire trip and this was one of them! We went to Ba’Ghetto Milky — which was just a few blocks from our apartment and specializes in Roman Jewish Cuisine and Middle Eastern Cuisine. We loved it and the service was fantastic!

Fried artichoke hearts are really common on most of the menus and it’s one of the things I fondly remember from my time in Rome!

My salad was so delicious — I was just sad I couldn’t finish all of it!

But of course, I had to save room for Tiramisu! 🙂

All in all, we LOVED going the AirBnB route and not only was it very economical, it also allowed us to feel a little bit more like we were getting a true Rome experience by staying in such a beautiful old building and area!

Have you ever stayed in an AirBnB rental? We haven’t done this much, but I think it’s something we’ll definitely consider doing in the future since this worked out so well!

I’ll be back tomorrow with a post all about our time in Rome — where we went, what we learned, and how we did it on a small budget!