Inside the vast 'Indo-Saracenic' building, commissioned by Lord Curzon, was a museum of the history of Calcutta. Written in 'local' English, we were entertained by such wonderful phrases as, "Though a relic of the Raj, it has mercifully been saved a significant amount of tinkering."
Mum, Dad and Ben were very keen to visit an old Armenian church some way to the North of the city, so we needed a taxi to get there. We then embarked on the silliest of wild goose chases in a yellow Ambassador whose driver had no idea where the church was, nor the streets that were near to it. Every time the car was stationary due to traffic, which was frequently as this was in the middle of the day on a Saturday, our driver who spoke no English would stick his head out of the window and ask the way of a fellow taxi driver, pedestrian or indeed anyone that happened to be nearby. This resulted inevitably in several conflicting answers, routes and no doubt churches to which we were directed, as we, exasperated and verging on hysterical in the back, attempted to persuade our chauffeur to be guided by us (in turn, being guided by Mum's life support, aka the iPad).
Finally, we passed by St John's church, which was also on Ben's to-visit list, so we insisted we could walk the rest of the way from there and disembarked. Yet, it wasn't to be that simple. After a welcome respite in what at first seemed to be an underground strip joint, but perhaps with hindsight was an executive lounge, fortified by India's own Antiquity whiskey and an endless supply of salted nuts and crisps - literally, the moment we polished off a bowl, the waiter would be over with a new one - we finally found a Portugese Catholic church in the spot on the map in which our Armenian church should have been.
We took another look and thought that perhaps we needed to head into one of the side streets, which was bustling - nay, clogged - with street sellers and a local bazaar. Forging a path through the melee, we turned into what was in fact a dead end and asked an onlooker for directions. "Armenian church?" he said, "No problem" and indicated that it was out, straight then left. Marvellous, we thought, at least he's actually heard of the church, which was more than could be said for everyone else who'd been asked that day. We followed his instructions and, whaddaya know, we ended up back at the Portugese church. Perhaps he didn't know after all.
Eventually, more through luck than judgement, we homed in on the Armenian church, which was buried deep within the bazaar, behind high walls and a gate. Discovering that it had shut at 12.30 that day to visitors, I expressed my dismay to the waiting guard and soon I was approached by a kindly looking gentleman who asked in excellent English if he could help. He explained that he was the 'caretaker' and offered to open up for us, as we'd come some way to see the church inside.
Paul Stephensian was his name ('ian' being the Armenian suffix) and he was kind enough to show us round. We were grateful for his assistance and also for explaining to us that if there's 0.25 on the meter when you get in a Calcuttan cab you pay the fare that's displayed at the end, but if the clock shows 0.10 at the start of your journey when you reach your final destination you pay "double plus a little extra". Top tip.
It occurs to me writing this later that the cross dressing local approaching cars in one of the numerous traffic jams we endured that day must have been a eunuch. There are still eunuchs in the subcontinent & according to William Dalrymple's City of Djinns, they are untrusting, secretive and number around 3 quarters of a million. Just so you know.
That night, we were booked in to eat at one of the city's most reputed restaurants, Oh! Calcutta. It's actually a chain, but is recognised by the locals as an upmarket establishment with excellent food. More importantly for us (in particular, Dad), it had a license to serve alcohol and an extensive drinks menu that included Indian and imported wines, plus liquors.
We decided to splash out that night in honour of Nani, so as well as being a great money spinner for the Manager (so pleased was he that we got a free bottle of bubbly to take home), the 4 Remys we ordered to finish off our meal were most appropriate as, to Nani, 'a drink' meant brandy. Cheers!