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There is something about Europe

I planned on going to Europe the day I landed a job. I obviously thought my employer would foot the bill as I jet setted making decisions that would take the company to higher growths paths and a leader in marketplace.
6 years have passed. Neither of the above has happened.
Yet.
So one day I decided that the Amazons of the world had eaten enough of my hard earned money- I mean there are only so many dresses one could wear and only so many variations of face cream one could apply to fight wrinkles. I decided to go put down the money on some travel.
Now of course the dilemma.
Europe is big.
Every country has so much to offer.
I.need.to.see.eveything.
I have job with limited set of days off.
Umm..INR to Euro isn’t a pretty conversion.
So I charted out a basic itenarary.
Paris has to be there. Because you know Europe gaye aur Paris nahi dekha?
I love Pasta and Elizabeth Gilbert had a good time in Rome so why not. While we are in Italy, let’s throw in Venice and Florence in it.
Heard Italy and France are a bit stingy with the Schengen, but you know who likes everyone to join their party- the Dutch! Amsterdam got added.
12 days in Europe. 7-8 placed to see.
Should be doable?
Booked my flights. Booked hubby’s flights. Booked hotels. Gave passport for visa ( adding Amsterdam didn’t help, the country you stay in the longest counts- so Italian embassy it was), swore on my life that I didn’t plan to immigrate illegally by producing various forms of genuinely-nice-woman-about-to-boost-your-tourism-industry proof in triplicate.
Then the wait began.
A month to go.
Thankfully Italians visa officials loved my bank statement in triplicate.
Now to pack for this trip.
Backpack around Europe? I have definitely seen the back of that dream the day I crossed 30.
Weather? Not really summer yet, so should pack a couple of woolens. What do I have that doesn’t make me look like an aunty from Karol Bagh out to shop at Sombazaar? Can this print Kurti stand it’s own again Parisian fashionistas. Does this skinny jeans make me look like a stuffed sausage? How many shoes are too many? Does Nike women’s pro-runner go with this brand new Zara dress I had saved for the day wearing short dresses on a caudal outing becomes acceptable in India for 30 plus folks. When do I wax my legs to make it last the entire 12 days without that epitome of feminity -leg stubble ruin my Zara wearing plans.
Decisions had to be made.
Because you know this-better-be-the-best-trip-ever.

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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in travel

 

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A Goa Story

Goa to me is now permanently linked to a certain soap that my company makes thanks to spending time on a shop floor. And also Indian uncles jumping into water at Calingute beach in their underwear. But I also remember the greenery and the beauty I used to savor every morning on the way to my workplace. Yes I have worked in Goa. In a factory no less.
So when AB announced the only way to ring in my 30 was to party in India’s party capital,I decided to make the best of the situation by getting started on my excel. Yes, I make holiday excels with itinerary, cost, must dos for all holidays and making the excel is one of the most exciting things I do to build up any vacation in my mind. Yes am an MBA thank you very much.
My Goa trip was very different from the past (and yet it was the cliche-d partaay trip)  and am sharing the things that made this an awesome trip to bid goodbye to my twenties.

1. Peak Holiday Season in Goa = Give me all your monies

So booking airfare and hotel between Christmas and NYE in the second week of December, not such a great idea. SKYHIGH is where the prices where if the hotel wasn’t fully occupied already. At one point we were looking at staying at the beach for 4 days or file for bankruptcy. This is kill time for the tourism business. That Activa you zipped around in for 200 bucks during monsoons, be ready to shell out a grand for it now.

2. Sunburn

Actually the VIP passes to Sunburn – arguably India’s only international level music festival is the one that really bought me in. And I have to say it was everything and more. There was music, food, rides and people. This year they had Afrojack, Axwell and Markus Schulz headlining but I also loved Arnej ,Shermanalogy and Shaan. The mega huge mainstage, lights and pyrotechnics was fabulous.

Morjim Sunset3. Morjim and Aswem

After spending the first evening in Baga, we headed north. The moment we crossed Chapora, we met a Russian overdose. Many restaurants in fact had only Russian signage! But The beaches were beautiful and also much source for eye candy.

4. La Plage

Took some effort to find this Aswem based French restaurant but it was worth the trouble. Beautiful beach setting and some of the best food I had in years. So much so we returned the next day, driving all the way from Candolim. We had grilled mussels, beetroot and mango carpaccio, ravioli and everything was superb. We tried some 4 items from the dessert menu and all of them were mouth watering. We expected to run a huge tab but I found it quite reasonable compared to what many places south were charging. Only word of advice- pre book, the place fills up fast.

5. Hike up the Chapora Fort

I climbed the slippery terrain in a pair of chappals to be greeted with a beautiful sunset over Vagator. Worth the risk of sliding all the way to the bottom!

6. Mum’s Kitchen, Miramar

Food in GoaI had read that this was one of the best places to try authentic Goan cuisine, so off we zipped to Panjim. Its here I learnt Goan food is spicy, spicy, spicy and cocunut laden-much like Kerala. AB had a fish which he couldnt stop raving about. Again the place filled up in a jiffy and we were lucky to have landed early without any bookings and in finding a seat.

7. Thalassa

A Greek restaurant at the edge of a cliff in Vagator overlooking the beach. The location is worth the visit, but the food wasn’t really that great for the money they charged. Add to it chaos due to overbooking and dishes taking more than an hour to get ready. Maybe they were having an off day. The baklava was quite good though.

8. Curlies

A landmark at Baga beach their egg poi sandwich and milkshakes really hit the spot at 1AM. After 6 hours of EDM I no longer had the energy to dance the night away but things would have been different 5 years ago 🙂

Eat. Sleep. Party. Repeat.

Twenties now am done with you!

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in travel

 

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Nights in foreign shores

There are vacations spent in nice warm beaches or driving up the twisting curves of the Himalayas in cold evenings but there is an energy, a madness to spend it in a metropolis. One of the things people always say is how all global metropolis’ kind of resemble each other. Maybe it’s true- the same high rises, the footpaths, an efficient MRT system, expats at bars. And still you find the small quirks, something different because every metropolitan also tells it’s own story. I love being the tourist in a metropolis. Be the one who walks slowly as the world rushes by, try a new hole in wall cafe because it seems crowded, search out the subway to have the veggie delite, walk walk walk the city from tip to toe.
Hong Kong seemed like Singapore’s soul sister. At least the Singapore I remembered. A port. City-state (almost). Immaculately dressed office workers and an easy to figure out MRT connecting everything.

HK Skyline from The Peak

HK Skyline from The Peak

We did the touristy things. Watched the skyline that beat Manhattan to win the best city skyline award. Stood in queue for more than hour to view it actually from the Peak. Sat on the Star Ferry and watched the sun go down and the lights and sound show come on at the Avenue of Stars. And sat at the promenade and wondered how different our life would be if we lived here. This is an old game of ifs and buts we ask ourselves in every new place we visit and then conclude by convincing ourselves how we would rather be home.

Street Art

Street Art

 

 

We try staying out late when travelling provided the city is safe enough. Places change their personality once the sun goes down. Visited the Ladies night market. Saw the electronics- funky USBs, Dr Dre beat knockoffs, phone covers-nothing we hadn’t seen a year ago in Thailand or Malaysia. The things that was different-very street in HK is lined with beauty stores. Not the “fancy ladies” styled mom n pop types back here but chains of Sasa, Bonjour, Colormix, Mannings, Watsons- sometimes two shops of the same chain on the same road which made us wonder if we were simply going in circles. Had read somewhere Chinese and Koreans being the most beauty conscious in the world and it appeared alarmingly true. I hauled like no tomorrow-Korean brands like Étude house, samples on sale (legal?) from Clinique and Lancôme, sheet masks. Avoided the strange snail essence(!!) and placenta masks (what?).

The next night was spent gambling away some hard earned money at casinos in Macau. But more of the Las Vegas of East later.

Halloween celebrations on the street

Halloween celebrations on the street

2 nights later we were on our way looking for Soho- the global cuisine and entertainment centre of the town. Or so we heard. And on foot we discovered a city wide awake at 12 AM on a work night. It was Halloween. There were enough Batmen and slutty kittens around at Lan Kwai Fong. With the expats. So many expats, at bars advertising 10 shots for cheap rates. Coming from a city where shutters down at 11 to protect out culture and our women, it reminded me of Mumbai except this was at a different scale. The music , the street artists, made you want for this night to not end. Even in the foreign we settled on the familiar. Ordered our usual drinks, the usual starters and listened to the in house band croon to the early morning. The expats and glambots came, drank, made out and went.

We took a taxi back to our hotel. There is something soothing about not having to negotiate double the meter at midnight.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in life, travel

 

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Memories

Memories are a fickle thing. And even then its shocking how much we rely on our memories. Our memories pretty much shape up the people we are. Good memories, bad memories-the whole lot of them. For a long time growing up I remembered my fathers ancestral home as huge with the gigantic trees under which I had sat and painted for hours. When I visited the place after 10 years the house was definitely large but not titanic and so were the trees. When many of us were newly reconnecting on Facebook with long lost school friends/classmates we hadnt seen or spoken to in a decade plus,my mind would bring back memories of young girls in skirts- some thin, some fat, some bucktoothed, some gorgeous. Time apparently has been a great leveler and yesterday’s bucktoothed nerd is today’s fashionista in a leading MNC, some are mothers to multiple kids and it was a shock to see those varied personalities in a totally new avataar. And that’s the trick your memory plays on you.

My undergrad days always bring back strong memories for me although the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia have kind of tempered them down. Last month Hubby and me went for a visit to Kochi and I couldn’t resist taking him on my own WSW tour of all my hot spots. Kochi has changed and how! The whole area around my campus has got a facelift (biggest Nissan and other car showrooms I have seen In India! ) that I missed the main gate. But the campus itself had aged. The brand new building had worn down with incessant Kerala rains and everything looked smaller and more small townish. I excitedly showed the eatery which helped me attain modelesque proportions in college with semi starvation owing to bad quality food and the photocopy shop where we photocopied entire books a week before semester exams. Many of the familiar landmarks were gone like the Indian Coffee House and I had hard time fitting the new reality with my memories.

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Sunset on the way to Ernakulam

I was anything but a travel freak during college days and so this time I thought let me do the touristy bits of Kochi. Thanks to pretty much doing all our bookings all the time on Agoda.com- we had a gazillion points lying which helped us get awesome seaside rooms at Taj Gateway (Friendliest front desk staff ever!) for a throwaway price. As soon as we checked in, I dragged hubby to MG Road to Goodwill, which was my holy grail for accessories in college. Once inside I realised I had clearly crossed the age for plastic baubles and settled for some nifty female utilities- colored safety pins and like.

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Heritage Hotel

The next morning we trooped to Fort Kochi on a ferry. Hubby was surprised to see our car getting loaded along with us onto the ferry. I remember being surprised at this totally different face of Kochi when I went there first many years ago and now with some travelling behind me I was mesmerized even more by its old world colonial charm.

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Searching for Kashi’s Cafe

Fort Kochi is a tourist magnet, not so much Indian as foreigners. Streets are littered with open air cafes, art galleries in addition to stately bungalows and heritage structures- The Dutch palace and St.Francis Church. The Jew Town of course is Fort Kochi’s start attraction. It was strange to see David’s star and the distinctively different facial features of the shopkeepers in that part of the town.

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Chinese fishing nets dotting the landscape

We ate at one of the more famous art cafe called Kashi’s, window shopped antiques and wandered around the beach. Surprisingly a large number of roadside vendors were from Rajasthan (strange are the ways of human immigration). We saw the Chinese nets. Hubby tried catching some fish unsuccessfully and we then drove back to the hustle bustle of Ernakulam. And no we didn’t visit Lulu or Oberon mall as advised because we pay weekly obeisance to consumer culture back home. That night we caught a bus back to Bangalore and I again wondered at the countless times I took such buses alone for interviews and such (I used to feel pretty safe at that point in time travelling alone and dozing off next to some stranger).

I guess reality can trump memory at any point in time. But then memories hold sway because they are subjective like most of human life.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2013 in life, nostalgia, travel

 

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Going around the Cape

So just in case you thought that one blog with photos is all you are going to get from my SA visit-let me assure you my attempt at getting back to writing involves detailed travelogues. I have figured that one of the most pleasurable things in life for me is planning a trip and then being  completely obsessed that we stick to the itinerary I made (which involves visiting each and every damn place there is to see in that area). Not for me a luxury or leisure trip- my trips are all exhausting to say the least!

And as for spouting it all online,God knows there is a requirement for more Indian travelogues out there. I mean Indian travelling to non Indian places.

So continuing with my Cape Town sojourn. Next day morning we made our second attempt at table mountains and yes we reached there to find a snaking queue (took us around an hour to clear it) because it was one of those occasions when the cable cars where working.

A lot of foreigners of course trek to the top and there is a nature reserve as well. However the rotating 360 view cable cars is also quite good. While you are admiring the Lions head and the Bay the view would change and the Table Mountains would loom up suddenly. Your breath really does get taken away for that one moment. The view from the top stretches across the city. Definitely worth the effort. There is a café/shop at the top as well. Only drawback-its quite crowded at the top 🙂

 

Table mountain dominates CT landscape.

The rest of the day was spent in going around the Cape. Hemmed in by the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean, the Cape Peninsula Loop is one of the most stunning drives in the world. This area boasts magnificent scenery of mountains giving way to the oceans, quaint fishing villages and beautiful beaches.

As you keep driving the scenery becomes exceedingly dramatic and picture postcardisque. The beauty of each bay is rivaled by the next . We did 3 comparatively large pit stops-Hout Bay, Cape of Good Hope and Boulders beach.

Overcrowded much?

Hout bay is a fishing town just south of Cape Town. The main street in Hout Bay is full of interesting shops  and there is an excellent craft market. There are also daily charters from Hout Bay Harbour to Duiker Seal Island beneath the well known Sentinel Mountain where you can view thousands of Cape Fur Seals .

Next we headed along the spectacular Chapman’s Peak Drive .

Picture Postcard from Chapman's peak drive

Winding our way South to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve we visited the Cape of Good Hope. Here the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean and a rocky peninsula jets out into water stretching as far as they eye can see. The whole scenary is ethereal.

As we returned to Cape Town we moved along the False Bay Coast to visit Boulders Beach African Penguin Colony.

Little out of place to see something which inhabits the Pole near the Equator!

We rushed past Simons Town and  Muizenberg to head back to Cape Town before night fall. I really wish we had spent some time at these places.

If I were to dispense advice based on experience would say spend a day for Cape of Good Hope exploration alone.

Our Cape Town sojourn was done. It truly is home to a stunning setting of mountain meeting the sea and lucky are those who wake up to such beauty everyday.

But we were not done yet.

We were headed to the Garden Route next! And we even managed to find a travel guide-cum-driver for a reasonable price. This was turning into a dream vacay!

 

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Ticking off the bucket list

So after the wedding was done and dusted I couldn’t wait to get that suitcase packed and run off.I had made it amply clear my honeymoon was going to be in one of THE FIVE places I wanted to see. Cape Town was at the top.Except apparently not enough Indians think South Africa to be a very likely honeymoon destination or destination of any kind. Every packaged trip cost a bomb and whenever I told someone our choice of destination the usual reaction would be

1.”ooh..is it safe?”

2. “Waha to bas kaale log hain na?” (not making this up trust me)

So in a burst of frustration both me and AB stayed up with our laptops one night and booked the entire trip ourselves including the flights, hotels and applying for visa.It cost us a bomb. But it was going to be a trip we wanted with places we wanted to see and at our pace than being bundled around in a van with 10 other tourists and going to an amusement park or overpriced game drive.

To be honest, I was scared with the countless warnings we got-doubting my (please note singular not plural) choice of destination. Will we find a guide? Is planning-on-the-go gonna run us to the ground? Will I get mugged/killed the moment I step of that plane.

So after quick stopover at Dubai I was sitting/sleeping my way on the longest flight I had ever taken to Cape Town-South Africa’s mother city clutching my excel itinerary to heart.

Well the Gods they were smiling I guess. Because from the moment I stepped off that plane I knew this was going to be the memorable trip I had always wanted.

Our Hotel was right next to the V&A waterfront. It reminded me a bit of Clark Quay but a lot prettier.

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is the centre of CT tourist's social life

There were pubs music shops restaurants by docks as sailboats splashed on the docks inviting tourists like us for a sunset cruise. Of course we had to have experienced every tourist trap there is.

Sunset Cruise on the Atlantic

The champaigne, the sunset, the beauty was all very heady and finally the husband agreed that maybe maybe that hole in the pocket was worth it!

Spell binding view of city

The next day we left early to visit Cape Town’s main attraction the Table Mountain. The flat-topped Table Mountain dominates the City skyline and is now one of the world’s seven natural wonders.But when we got there we realized it was quite possible that we maybe leaving this continent without seeing the top if it. Gale winds are common at the top of the mountain and authorities dont take any chances with the cable car.

With our spirits a little lower than before we set off for Robbins Island tour.  When we were talking to couple of agents from India one of them happened to mention how quickly this tour sells out. So we had tried to book tickets online the day before we left for RSA. And luckily found what might have been the only 2 tickets left for the entire week.

Robbins island was the place where South Africa kept its political prisoners during apartheid. And we must have been the only honeymooning couple checking out Nelson Mandela ‘s cell. An ex-prisoner takes this tour and it seemed rather punishing to me that someone would want to revisit a place they were imprisoned for decades daily and take a tour of the same.A must visit for history buffs it left us feeling rather glum.

An evening in the buzzing V&A waterfront cheered us up as we stuffed our face with Italian food.

The last day in Cape Town was drawing close and there was a lot to see! (This trip wasnt planned with relaxing or taking it slow in mind!)

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Dont you wish you were here on a Monday morning

Like I was?

Yeah thats a nice shade of green you have going on there 😉

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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