Seven Sisters : Trek from Seaford to Eastbourne

March’15

A bunch of crazy people of a trekking group randomly meet from different parts of England to spend a day walking from one town to another crossing one of the most iconic natural landmarks of the country.

This is the account of a day long trek of the cliffs of Seven Sisters in East Sussex. And I was one of those crazy trekkers.

Seaford

We all met at Seaford station near the Martello Tower. Led by our guide Lana, we walked towards the seafront. Seaford is a lovely seaside town, east of Brighton and west of Eastbourne, right at the foot of the rolling hills of South Down in East Sussex. It has scenic beaches and is a perfect spot for lazy summers.

It was a cold, misty and cloudy day. Too add to the fun, it was quite breezy.

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A view of one of the beaches of Seaford in South Downs.

South Downs National Park:

Our walk commences into the South Downs National Park which is home to the white chalky cliffs of Seven Sisters with the dreamy blue waters of English Chanel washing their feet. The  The walking trails are clearly defined.

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Commencing the walk. The ascent to the cliffs was right in front of us.

Due to some parts of the South Downs being closed, we had to take a diversion, bit of a roundabout to Cuckmere Valley Park crossing beautiful scenery of Cuckmere Haven

And some stopped by Cuckmere Valley Inn for a quick refreshment

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The beautiful and cute Cuckmere Inn huddled among green bushes and trees.

Continuing our walk, we now approach the majestic chalky cliffs overlooking the vast expanse of the English Channel.

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The Seven Sisters

The Seven Sisters are seven cliffs. All of them have different names. They are in a nice sketchy pattern with gradually declining arches. The names of the cliffs from west to east are: Haven Brow, Short Brow, Rough Brow, Brass Point, Flagstaff Brow, Bailey’s Hill and Went Hill.(Source : http://www.visitsoutheastengland.com/places-to-visit/seven-sisters-p274481)

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Birling Gap : A beautiful spot with a restaurant of National Trust from where you can admire some really scenic views and click some envious shots.

Next few hours was trekking up and down all seven cliffs. My pace was falling, so were my legs. The views are worth every painful muscle.

Few shots along the way, a misty and cloudy day throughout with sporadic drizzles.

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These rocks seemed to have the side face of a haggard man. Rather many side profiles. Interesting work of nature

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We can see Beachy Head at a distance which is the highest cliff point. While it looks near, we have a good distance to walk upto it.

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There is a red lighthouse here, very similar to the cliffs of Dover. In contrast to the chalky cliffs and lovely blue waters, this is like a bright color brush stroke on a mundane painting.

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Beachy Head :Chalky Headland on English Channel. Also known as Suicide Point. (No wonder)

 

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The undulating terrain of the cliffs is its real beauty. A motor-able road for those who want to take it easy and chilled out.

 

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Another angle of the winding roads

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The sun is slowly settling down. There are breathtaking views as it plays a hide and seek behind the clouds.

As our lovely walk nears closure, we could get the first sight of the beautiful town of Eastbourne from the vantage point of the South Downs park. We have to walk all the way down to that road. As we walk we decide what to do next in the town, and needless to say the unanimous choice is to rest our limbs and treat our famished self at some very well known fish and chips local joints.

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Eastbourne. Very European, red roofs, terracotta shades and some lovely beaches.

Oh, what a day it has was. As I boarded my train from Eastbourne for a long journey of 2 hours back to my home at Reading, I relaxed and reminisced the day long walk , the strain in my calves and tingling numbness in my toes actually felt very rewarding. I would surely come back for another trip probably in summers when its less windy and we have more sun.

Vital Stats

How to reach Seaford or Eastbourne : Both these stations have railway stations which connect them to London and many other main stations. If you are coming from London, you can take trains from London Victoria to Seaford. There is a change that you have to make at Lewes. The change time is very short and you have to change platforms. So be quick. To book tickets and see timetables refer http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/

When to visit Seven Sisters : Even if you are driving up to the South Downs National Park, it will be advisable to visit during summers i.e June-August time frame. If its too wet and windy, it may get difficult to walk around.

Where and What to eat : Both Seaford and Eastbourne are coastal towns and have a great selection of sea food delicacies at their local joints. We had fish and chips in Eastbourne at Qualisea Fish Restaurant which has been dishing mouth watering seafood delights since 1964.

 

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Categories: Chalky Cliffs, Cliffs, England coastline, europe, seven sisters, solo travel, travel, travel blog, travel europe, Uncategorized, visit britain, visit england | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Queen of Hills to Queen of Hearts

There is no other credential about me that makes people ‘Wow’, than the fact that I hail from Shimla.

Most people reading this post, if from India would have understood the above statement. If you dont know whats so great about Shimla, you may want to use Google Images to get a first hand feel. Or cruise thru this post as well.

Shimla is a small beautiful scenic hill town and the the capital city of Himachal Pradesh, a state in Northern India which cradles in the backdrop of the mighty Himalayas. Its cool summers and snowy winters made the Britishers feel at home making it as the ‘Summer Capital’ of colonial India in 1864. The era of the British ‘Raj’ gave this town a European facial with Victorian buildings, parks, town hall, hospitals, markets and even a railway line which is today protected by UNESCO.

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As if it hangs in mid air. The beautiful landscape of a busy town today, Shimla!

There are millions of sites and blogs which would tell you what to see and do in Shimla. Its so damn touristy. Its probably also the Honeymoon Capital of India. Since I have my entire family there, I generally dont do the touristy trips. However 2 months back, i did take a walk with my camera to capture some shots of places i liked the most

Mall Road : Heritage Walk

Very obvious place as its the center of the town. An arterial road flanked by shops, eateries, hotels and many old buildings. You can start walking from whichever end is nearest to you. A km walk from the Mall road will bring you to the opulent Heritage Hotel Oberoi Clarkes

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Hotel Oberoi Clarkes: The beautiful heritage building dates back to 1898. It boasts of Victorian era furniture, mantelpieces and heirlooms.

The Mall Road is local at the same time elite. It has some great views of the city thats now getting congested with concrete. However the misty mountains continue give it the young gal look.

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Queen of Hills, Shimla. Gentle valleys, sloping mountains and the red roofs, very European indeed.

As you walk ahead on the mall, there are some notable and beautiful Architecture to admire. Some of them are now government offices, some are hotels or bookstores.

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The Christ Church : You cannot ignore this incredibly beautiful Church at the Ridge. Clicked from the Mall Road

As we walk further ahead on the Mall, you come across Gaitey Theater. Dates back to 1877, this Victorian Theater has hosted illustrious British statesmen, Indian Cinema glitterati and needless to say abundant tourists. Much of this structure was destroyed in a fire few years back. The Theater has undergone a restoration and then reopened to public. On the other side of the same building is a Police Control Room

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The beautiful Victorian building housing the Gaitey Theater 

A stone’s throw from the Gaitey Theater is the majestic building of the Municipal Corporation of Shimla. This was the Town Hall of Shimla as established by the Britishers, which is now the local Municipal office. I was reminded of many Town Halls I have visited in Britain, indeed this is a clear reflection of the Victorian architecture.

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Dating back to 1851, The splendid building of Municipal Corporation. The police band plays here sometimes on Sundays in their uniform, its nothing less than a much awaited musical performance for both locals and tourists

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A local policeman dressed smartly yet bit dramatically

Probably the last stop on the Mall as you move towards the end of the bifurcation to the Ridge, next to the Scandal Point is the General Post office. This is a Heritage Building, dating back to 1883, it has appeared on Postal Stamps as well. This is my favorite. Iam told the colors of white and red are contemporary as per a government direction.

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General Post Office of Shimla. A well restored Victorian building. Love the white and red color combination

Right outside the Post Office are these filigree benches that you can even see all over in the UK. People sitting basking in sun. Conversations, gossips and some knitting.

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Shimla has a typical laid back hill resort kind of ambiance. People are not rushing, jostling or hurrying for something. Its relaxed; its like living.

And Britishers did leave their stamp behind till today.

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The Red Letter Box!

My last stop on the Heritage Walk on the Mall road is the Ridge. Its another road a level above or higher than the Mall Road which gives way to some amazing views of the other side of the city. On the Ridge are two iconic Heritage landmarks. The Christ Church that we earlier clicked from the Mall is now in front of us with the State Library onto the Left. I have fooled many folks showing this pic to guess this place and 9/10 guessed a place in Europe.

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This place is full of selfie lovers. There are many films shot in this area. One of recent ones was 3 Idiots.

Shimla is a total unwind place. Coming from a stressed worklife and a fast paced daily routine, I feel totally relaxed here. More because Iam not a tourist here, its Home for me. You can explore the markets and hike nearby places on foot. The peak winters can be harsh and experience heavy snowfall, however the summers are yummy. Bright sunny days and cold nights.

While Shimla still retains the charm of the era of ‘Raj’ it will be always preferred by tourists worldwide as a scenic spot giving access to the majestic Himalayas. Though I have been to Shimla a countless number of times, my favorite part of my stay every time has been to admire the wilderness, the dramatic skies, the misty mountains and cuddle in my quilt.

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This is one of the clicks when i was waiting for my parents to come out of a government office, as me and sis had nothing else to do, we kept firing our shots.

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This was literally a crisp morning…you can actually feel that crunch. Sun kissed valley, thick green forests, I feel blessed to be breathing these views right from my balcony.

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And this is not sunrise…the sunset on a very dark cloudy day.

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If there is anything that stole my heart in this place, its the flirtatious skies, they tease you every minute with different moods and you just cant get enough of it. 

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The most interesting time of the day; sunset on the valley; this is the best photo out of around 75 photos of the same sky at the same time

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When you are bored of the looking at the same mountains every day, there are enough interesting avenues to entertain you…Like staring back at these new fellas…And you dont have to go to a particular place to find them. From Mall Road to offices to terraces, they are omnipresent.

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Or eavesdrop at their deep conversations

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Or get envious at that back rub

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Oh no…dont think it that way…Its not doggy style at all….Its Platonic Langur play…

Vital Stats

  • Shimla really doesnt have a functional airport. I understand it would take sometime for it to be completely operational for civilian flights. So the best option to reach there would be by road. You would likely come from New Delhi. Take a bus (around 10 hours) or hire a cab (around 8-10 hours) or take a train to Chandigarh and a bus or cab from Chandigarh (around 4-4.5 hours) or take a train from Delhi to Kalka and take the toy train and experience the UNESCO Heritage railway track on narrow gauge cruising through mountains and a 100 tunnels. Its a lifetime experience so if you have plenty of time and fancy to go slow, this is the option you must take(around 6 hours)
  • Eat like a local. Step down from the Mall Road to the Lower Bazaar. Its where you get the real street food. Jalebis, Chaat, Pakoras to get the local flavours. And if you want to dine for a heavy meal, Shere Punjab or any other joint which has a place to sit is good. It will be essentially a north indian punjabi meal, chole (chickpeas), kadi, rajma, mixed veg, potato in everything, for a change you will love all of it
  • Stay at any hotel or guest house or B&B, there are a whole lot of new ones that have cropped up. For great views you may want to step a bit outside the city like Mushrobhra. There are three and five star like Oberoi Clarks, Wildflower Hall, Holiday Home etc who have good service and accommodation.

And for more tips or any suggestions, feel free to write to me.

Categories: capital city, castle, cathedral, Christ Church, church, churches, europe, Gaitery Theater, Heritage Walk, hill resort, hill station, himachal, himachal pradesh, himalayas, honeymoon trip, incredible india, india, love, lower bazaar, Mall road, mountains, North India, old town, Queen of Hills, ridge, Scandal Point, shimla, solo travel, streets, Summer Capital, travel, travel blog, UNESCO, visit india, visithimachal, visitmyhometown, weekend trip | Leave a comment

…and there were more Balconies at Barcelona

Barcelona is undoubtedly an architectural marvel. Its a sheer delight to walk in its streets and be awed by the creations of its master Architect Antoni Gaudi; Or get frenzied in its soccer mania; Or savor its lively beaches.

Among all this, what caught my attention after first few hours of walking around the city was that most of the buildings have amazing Balconies. They are symmetrical, intricate and have both modern and pristine look. Some have Georgian look and some of them are real quirky.They are ubiquitous in the entire city and I could not get enough of them.

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Pastel shades was a common sight on Barcelona buildings

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Another one with beautiful patterns and intricate railings

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This was one of my favourite. Looked like baskets hanging out of the windows…And who is that in the corner??

When i zoomed in and clicked this, I was instantly reminded of a poem we read in school. Cant relate it better here.

“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare….”

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The lady in Red

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Its not only the Balconies but the beautiful designs, floral or geometrical that adorn the buildings.

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The National flag and the FC Barcelona flag are the most omnipresent across the city

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These balconies are amazingly symmetrical and look prototyped

And this beautiful building is work of the Catalan Architect Antoni Gaudi. Casa Mila or La Pedrera on Passeig de Gràcia today houses a cultural center. For its unique architecture, its inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

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Casa Mila or La Pedrera

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The heavy tinge of cobalt blue in these balconies is beautiful

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This is a long building which is near Catalunya. I cannot recall the name, probably a Bank. But its intricate pillars and balconies were lovely

Another wonder from Antoni Gaudi on Passeig de Gràcia is Casa Batlló. The building was also known as House of Bones. The facade looks to be made from Skulls and Bones. The balconies are skulls and the pillars are the Bones. The colors are starkly vivid chosen from marine life. This was one of the best work of Gaudi.

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Casa Batllo is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The building that is adjacent to Casa Batllo is equally gorgeous and has one or the most intricate designs on its walls, i saw in the city

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The adjacent building to Gaudi’s Casa Batllo

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A close up shot of one of its beautiful balconies. Note the jutting out gargoyles.

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Another amazing building with filigree patterned balconies

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This probably would be one of the old buildings. It has elaborate balconies and detailing on its facade

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One of my favourite. Notice the painted shells design on the walls..Or are they umbrellas?. It amazes me the painstaking decoration on the walls of simple buildings

I find it really hard to believe that the buildings are so painstakingly decorated. I wouldn’t say that each building in Barcelona is like this, but as you walk around Catlunya and many of the streets where works of Gaudi are there, spotting these exquisite balconies is easy.

While the Must See lists and Not to Miss websites would name all the famous monuments of Barcelona, for me, the most notable feature of this city would be its amazing and elaborate balconies…And Iam sure there were more of them which I still need to see….

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This was such a unique lamp post on La Rambla peeping out from one of the balconies of a restaurant.

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Danube Bend : Exploring Hungarian Towns

In my short three days trip to Hungary, I chose one day to step out of the glitz of Budapest. As this was a last minute planned trip, I couldn’t do much of my usual research on where to go. So I browsed and chose a small group tour for a day, Danube Bend which would take me to few towns on the banks of the River Danube.

So here started my Day 2 in Hungary. A small matador picked me and few other travelers from the Chain Bridge in Budapest. As I introduced myself to the group of people from Japan, Spain, Argentina and Belgium, I found that other than the guide only I could speak English fluently. Amusing!

What is Danube Bend?

Danube is the lifeline river which flows from Slovakia into Hungary(Magyarorszag). The Danube Bend is a curve where Danube bends near the town of Visegrad to flow into Budapest. This map below which I clicked explains it all.

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The blue line is the depiction of River Danube’s route with a clear bend which is the theme of this tour

Our guide was a Hungarian-Spanish who was explaining in both English and Spanish. After a short 45 min drive from Budapest, we were on a bridge and voila, he announced we are in Slovakia. Were we being abducted?? Hell no! Slovakia and Hungary share borders alongside Danube. As a small treat to us, we had our first stop-over in Slovakia; so well we can technically say we have visited Slovakia though for a short 20 minutes.

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My first photo of the day from Slovakia of Hungary. While I was standing in Slovakia I clicked this beautiful site of Eztergom Basilica in Hungary across the Danube which would be our next stop

After grabbing a quick bite, we headed back to Hungary to explore our first town.

Esztergom

Esztergom is one of the oldest towns of Hungary and former capital city. It is the seat of the Catholic Church in Hungary. It proudly houses the Esztergom Basilica, the largest in Hungary and third largest church in Europe.

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Esztergom Basilica. Its massive structure is truly impressive.

The vast pillars of the Basilica is quite an intimidating site.

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Pillars of Basilica

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The interiors of the Basilica are equally impressive.

After a short visit inside the Basilica, we explored its backyard which gave way to some stunning views back of Slovakia from where we had come across to Esztergom

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The bridge on Danube that connects Hungary and Slovakia

There is this huge statue of the coronation of St Stephen which is equally massive.

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The white statue against the Blue sky

That was Estergom known for its Basilica and Catholic faith. The Basilica appears on currency notes of Hungary as well. We started back on our journey in the company of Danube to the next town.

Visegrad

A quaint town on the Right Bank of Danube. Famous for the remains of Royal Palace of King Charles I.

It is more significant as near this town is where the Danube bends. We stopped at a viewing point from where we could see the famous curve of the Danube as it bends and makes it way into Budapest.

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Danube Bend

After clicking some photos of this picturesque sight, we made our way to grab lunch in the town of Visegrad. the streets were isolated and it did give a village feel.

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A small village ‘mall’ which had some cute handmade knick knack shops. There was a lot of wooden furniture and handicrafts as well

After our lunch we headed to our last destination. A short ride and I took a nap behind my sunglasses and woke up when our matador halted.

Szentendre

Finally we came to a town which looked very touristy. Szentendre is a charming town on banks of Danube close to Budapest. It has every element of a quaint European town. Cobbled streets, quaint interesting antique shops, baroque churches and a small town square.

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Szentendre town

We were given one and a half hour to explore the town. Its just one long cobbled street with many narrow offshoot streets. Most of the time I spent was stepping inside each shop. What I bought? Well the most well known Hungarian Paprika for my sister and some wooden Hungarian dolls. And since it was horribly hot and sultry weather, in the short time, I gobbled two large ice creams.

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There was something very quirky about this whole town. Jazzy shops, cars, bling.

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A beautiful street with lemony colored umbrellas and antique shops

And some interesting alleys…

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An alley with some graffiti.

With aching heels, I was exhausted walking around. And it was time for us to head back. Interestingly our journey back to Budapest was not in our rustic Matador but in a big boat. Our guide met us and bid goodbye handing the boat tickets to us.

A beautiful day was coming to an end. It was almost an hour journey cruising through the beautiful Danube and taking last morsels of its enchanting sights. I would remember this peaceful cruise back as I sat and thanked my stars above for these lovely blessings.

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Starting our cruise on the banks of Danube

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And my last click from the boat as the skies turn crimson

 

Some help?

Booking a Danube Bend Tour is easy. Book through any credible operator online. I booked through the City Discovery Tour which costed £36.

http://www.city-discovery.com/budapest/tour.php?id=699

 

 

Categories: capital city, castle, cathedral, cathedrals of europe, churches, europe, hungary, river cruise, travel, travel blog, travel europe, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

England’s Bay of Naples :Weymouth, Dorset

Firstly let me confess that the title of this post is not original. I have never been to Bay of Naples other than giving it longing glances in magazines and web. While I was researching on Weymouth’s history to write this post, i came across this classic analogy and couldn’t resist borrowing it; and by Jove, it truly befits.

Weymouth is a beautiful seaside town in the county of Dorset on the south coast of England. Historically it holds its significance being one of the important port towns of England. Today its probably the Top Three most popular beach destination for Brits when the sun shines abundantly.

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The beautiful pebble beach of Weymouth

The Jurassic coast , a World Heritage Site runs along Weymouth. This is home to some of the most beautiful sea views, flora and fauna. However in the town one can enjoy lazing around and walk on the beach.

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View from the Beach

I had no plans to visit Weymouth. My plan was to go for a hiking day trip to Lulworth cove via Poole. Since i missed my train and ended up catching another wrong train, I landed up in Weymouth. Dressed for hiking, i walked like a comical overdressed baboon on the beach. It was a hot day and my boots were like a furnace boiling my feet. Thankfully there are enough shacks of icecream and juices to cool you a bit.

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Not only icecream you can grab your sand shovels, pick one of those peppy umbrellas. Kids would love this.

What i admired most about the Weymouth beach was the white pebble spread. They looked like a million eggshells together.

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Conversations!

Half day over, i took a stroll into the town in search of food. What briefly i read about Weymouth was that it was quite famous for its fish and chips. Well, almost every seaside town in England writes that, anyhow i wanted to honor the dish of the land. By Jove again! it was worth it.

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Highly recommend to pop into one of these seaside joints and have the large cod fish and some thick fat chips. Carb overdose, but loved it!

Contended with my meal, which i struggled to finish, I googled on what else I could visit in Weymouth. Apparently there was something called Sandworld which i read as quite a recommended place to view sand sculptures. I decided to find it which was around 20 minutes walk. Though it was very sunny and I was boiling in my non beachy attire, I made it to Sandworld. It is housed in an amusement park kind of place which has many other attractions. There was an entry ticket.

I recommend this as it had some really good work by renowned sand sculptors.

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Sir Winston Churchill. Yes he did look like this when he was really old.

Ok if this didnt appeal you then how about this!

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Lewis Hamilton, home grown Merc F1 champ

Ok, guess you must be finding this boring, then how about this!

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The Fab Four from Liverpool. The Beatles!

Yes there were many others. Political, historical, modern day celebs carved in sand. I could fill my post with them, but i will show one more, which probably is my favourite.

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A master work of art of the Master of Literature. Famous sculptor Wilfred Stijge depicts here a composition from three plays of William Shakespeare. For you to guess which ones are those!

I walk back to the town. I had an hour to catch my train back home. As i walked back to the beach to go to the town, I clicked this beautiful Jubliee Clock in bright red. Built in 1887 to commemorate the 50th year of Queen Victoria’s reign.

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The Jubliee Clock

On the other side of the town is the short river Wey. A road bridge built on it which is raised to let the ships pass through. Its a sight something similar to the Tower Bridge in London. From the Bridge are the lovely views of the boats parked and people thronging for river cruises.

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The bridge that was raised and now leveled for the traffic to resume.

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The Bay area with ships and cruises

The rocky Isle of Portland is very close to Weymouth. Seeped in history, its also a place to explore if you are in Weymouth. There are ferries from Weymouth to Portland which one must do. I couldn’t because of paucity of time. So i decided to say goodbye to a very lovely day in this beautiful town. While it was a totally unplanned visit because of missing one train and hopping to another wrong one, I can now only say, sometimes Mishaps are beautiful!

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Couldn’t miss clicking the railway platform. It was one of the most beautiful i have seen in England. Weymouth, you are beautiful everywhere!

Notes for Travelers

  • How to reach – There are direct trains from London Waterloo to Weymouth. Most of the main cities are connected with direct or have indirect connections via Poole or Winchester or Bournemouth. I took a train from Reading-Winchester-Weymouth. More details for travel refer the link http://www.visit-dorset.com/plan-your-visit/travel-information/getting-to-dorset
  • What to eat – Hands down fish and chips. Other than that anything that you please. Dont miss ice-cream on beach. Nothing special about them, just for the experience on a sunny day on beach
  • Where to stay – There are lots of beach houses and shacks along the beach which you can book for a day in advance. Other than that the town has many hotels. You can try staying in cheaper towns nearby as well or Dorchester. Link for reference http://www.visit-dorset.com/accommodation
  • What to take home – Not really sure what to recommend. There doesn’t seem to be a specialty here. The beachside is lined with souvenir shops which were selling almost everything that you find around the world in souvenir shops. As always I picked a pretty fridge magnet for my memories.
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Budapest by Night!

Its no Las Vegas, no Dubai, nor a Japanese spangled city.

This is the snazzy, flamboyant and ‘youthful’ historical city of BUDAPEST!

Of all the East European capital cities I have visited, my favorite stands the Hungarian capital city. It resembles Prague in many ways; however I felt Budapest to be so congenial, a city that seemed to be speaking to me through its streets, the beautiful Danube, the different shades of its vast skies and its glittering nights.

Every traveler has to ‘consume’ Budapest at night. Its a Must. The city changes its mood, sheds its formal day clothing and starts the night long party. River Danube glitters with centuries old historical jewels on its banks. I spent three hours at nightfall sitting by the banks of Danube admiring, clicking and not getting enough of the lovely views. A dreamy hour of river cruise, what I would say was one of the best I have ever done. Here are my pictures of Budapest at Night, a must do!

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Iconic scene, most clicked and most loved. Chain Bridge on River Danube. In the background is the illuminated Buda castle.

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On the banks of Danube, a glittering monument

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St Stephens Basilica. A massive structure with busy eating joints around it.

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Hosok tere: Heroes Square known for its imposing statues and the column of victory. A UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Archangel Gabriel holding the holy crown of Hungary. Quite an impressive sight when you zoom in your lens.

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The left colonnade of statues of statesmen at Hosok tere

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And the right colonnade of imposing statues.

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The statues at the Basement of the victory tower of 7 chieftains.

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Back to Danube. In the background you can see the Mathias Church, the Fisherman’s Bastion, churches and the illuminated streets

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One of the most impressive structures of Budapest, The Buda Castle in the Castle District. The lit up castle was truly a fantastic site from the other side of Danube

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While Chain Bridge hogs all limelight, there are many more beautiful bridges on Danube. A night cruise will take you underneath many of them.

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And my favorite, The most beautiful monument in Budapest which dazzles both at night and equally at day, The Parliament. Gothic architecture at its best!

Note to Travelers

  • River Cruise on Danube can be purchased from any operator which you will find at all tourist spots. Some of them are operated by the City Sightseeing Tours which i took as well. Cruise prices vary according to timing and also according to the services. The one i took was at 10 pm and the duration was 1.5 hours. It costed 4200 HUF, around 12-13 Euros. They served a welcome drink (champagne) and another drink of your choice. There are options of dinner and music as well.
Categories: budapest, budapest at night, capital city, eastern europe, hungary, monuments of budapest, places to see in budapest, places to see in hungary, places to visit in budapest, river cruise, what to see in budapest | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A day at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock England

I have been in England for about two years now. Taking a stock of the places I have explored here, I realized that I have been more of an outdoor person; trekking and hiking the cliff paths, seaside, walking across towns on long hiking trails. As fate would have, my knees caught up with over stress and have been very bad last one month. So no climbing, no hiking for next 2 months. Apparently the only travel I have been making is from home to office and back. In this gloomy scenario, my good friends lightened my dull life with a day out to Blenheim Palace in Woodstock near Oxford in England. I have never spent one full day in just one monument, this was exceptional and I still felt when we left at 6:30pm that I didn’t have enough of it.

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Entrance to Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has so much of historical significance for the English, most of which was not known to me before I visited.

This is a grand palace; built from 1705AD to 1733AD. The battle of Blenheim was won by the Duke of Malborough, John Churchill; to celebrate the success, this Manor house and parkland was gifted to him with £240,000 as a gift from Queen Anne. After this began the construction of the Palace that we see today.

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Palace grounds from inside

Designed in old English Baroque style architecture which had a short life; however the magnificence of the architecture is evident in every corner of the Palace. It resembles the Palace of Versailles in France in terms of its overall layout and architecture. I certainly could relate the similarities between them.

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The skyline with statues in typical Baroque style

The palace belongs to the Marlborough lineage. Another major reason why this palace is so significant and hogs much historical limelight is because Sir Winston Churchill was born in this palace. From his birth to his childhood, his days of youth, entering wedlock, this Palace has been witness to the life of one of the most powerful and renowned statesman the world has seen so far.

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Sculpted – Sir Winston Churchill

In the backdrop of Marlborough family tree and the life of Sir Winston Churchill, you would tour the whole palace. There are royal rooms and apartments which are open for public viewing. The rooms spell richness and royal splendor with precious collections of furniture, porcelain, tapestries, silverware and other antiques.

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One of the state rooms

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The room in which Winston Churchill was born

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Beautiful painted ceiling of one of the rooms

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One of the official Rooms of the Dukes

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The royal dining place

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And my favourite room, The Library!

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The ornate and massive organ is placed in the entrance of the Library

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The base of the organ has these operational knobs.

Last hour in the palace, we attended a 30 minute of audio-visual tour titled ‘The Untold Story’. A very enthralling dramatic set up in the Eastern Wing of the Palace which has puppets and a story that plays as a dialogue in the background. The story is of the Marlborough family set in the Palace.

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One of the rooms with the puppet

The palace sits in acres of lush green parklands and a beautiful lake.

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View of the castle from the gardens. Retro look!

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The gardens

While the palace interiors will take most of your time, there is a lot to explore outside as well, specially if you are with kids and pets. The large parks have great spaces, rose garden, botanical gardens housing exotic plants, butterfly garden which is a very cute greenhouse observatory with lovely butterflies and humming birds, a green shrub maze, a small toy train to ferry passengers, a large lake with sloping grassy lawns; you will be really spoilt for choice here.

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The beautiful scenic lake

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Lovely view of the palace from the parks

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A small toy train ferries passengers from the front of the Palace to the Pleasure Gardens

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The Maze at Pleasure Gardens. Its fun. It will take you 25-30 min of running around to find your way out.

I am sure you would have got a fair idea that how we spent one full day in the palace and its green ambiance. The Blenheim Palace is a treasure trove of English heritage. Its a must visit for anyone who is looking at visiting a great monument, a world heritage site, a wonderful family day out and learn more about the British history.

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My last shot before leaving the majestic Blenheim Palace. This photo shot reminds me of Palace of Versailles and certainly there is a similarity in both

 

Note to Travelers

  • Travel : The Blenheim Palace is not easily accessible by Public transport. Its outside the city limits. You must come to Oxford Station and take a Bus to Woodstock and further ahead a taxi. Its best to drive if possible. There is ample car park space in the Palace.
  • Food : There are quite a lot of options in the Palace. From coffee shops to restaurants there is a decent spread of quite bites and elaborate lunch options.
  • Walking Shoes : There is a lot of scope of enjoying the green spaces by walking around. Ensure you wear your walking shoes or very comfortable flats.
Categories: castle, castles of europe, palaces, travel, travel blog, Uncategorized, visit britain, visit england, weekend trip | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The soulful town of Bangor, Northern Ireland

Sometimes the most blissful experiences in life are the simplest.

And sometimes impromptu!

For a change for this trip I was not Solo….And it was ‘We‘ who never planned, rather did not even know there is a place called Bangor that existed. Since we did not have much options in Belfast, because of a late start to the day, we reluctantly settled to take a short train journey to this almost unknown place….

And little did we know…..

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The port of Bangor

Bangor is a maritime sea town in Northern Ireland. Around 11-12 miles from the capital city of Belfast, Bangor was a historic coastal summer retreat for the English. Blessed with envious beaches, this town has been a haven for seafarers and sailors as well.

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The sails on the port. Check the Victorian houses in the backdrop

After a good walk around the port, we came to the pier. A £5 boating trip in the Atlantic Ocean! Well it wasnt really bad, rather quite lucrative. With a bright sunny day, this was going to be a fantastic ride.

Indeed it was….

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Views from the Boat ride in the Ocean

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The lovely blue swelled up Ocean, albeit quite cold.

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View of the Bangor town from the Boat. Lovely row of Victorian houses along the sea.

The Most Beautiful Walk in Northern Ireland : North Down Coastal Path

Standing on one side of the Bangor coast, confused whether to take a train back to Belfast or walk for sometime along the coast to explore.This is a long coastal path from Hollywood to Bangor. My legs were still strong and after settling for a nice whippy ice-cream, we decided to walk few miles down the coastal path.

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The starting of the coastal path from the Bangor town

Now in hindsight, I thank my stars that we decided to walk….

For me, this was the walk of my Lifetime….

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Views of the coastal walk

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The rocky coast of Bangor

And all the way we stopped to swallow a mouthful of the breathtaking scenery. What a lovely surprise Bangor turned out to be.

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Probably one of my most beautiful clicks

And we continue to walk…

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The rocks and the marine flora and fauna

Tired?? No certainly not…I was loving this walk and wanted to walk some more…so we continued…

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The green meadow walk alongside the Irish Sea

And as the evening was setting in, we enjoyed walking the beach. The beach is broken, somewhere more muddy, somewhere with more pebbles. Charles Dickens is believed to have relaxed and bathed on one of these beaches.

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The beautiful almost deserted beach

By now we had walked for more than three hours…

It was a heavenly walk. I have never in my life walked such a picturesque stretch of dreamy skies, shimmering blue sea, lush green meadows, a horizon to sit and gaze for a lifetime; walking beside someone I truly adore.

Travel gives us memories to cherish; To hold those priceless moments for a lifetime. A part of me is still in Bangor, walking that beautiful path; wishing it never ends.

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The sun about to kiss goodbye on the Bangor beach

The sea hath its pearls,
The heaven hath its stars;
But my heart, my heart,
My heart hath its love….

———-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Little Secret; Big Surprise : Gdansk, Poland

Poland was never on my list of ‘To be visited countries’, however my work gave me this glorious opportunity quite a few times, and what more can I say now, I love this country more than any other in Europe.

If you are not able to pronounce ‘Gdansk‘, its acceptable, neither was I. G-dansk or Danzig in German is a small port city on the Baltic sea-coast. Along with its picturesque neighboring cities Gydnia and Sopot, they form the famous ‘Tri-City‘ which is the next most upcoming hot spot for multinational organisations. With its modern infrastructure and lots of skilled workforce, we too went there as part of a project for my organisation.

I stayed here for two days. As part of my work I attended a job fair at Gdansk University, meeting a whole lot of professionals from other organisations and a bright young generation of students who on an average speak 2-4 languages. Our morning started with a quick visit to the beach. The questions in my head ‘Whats there in Gdansk’ were answered as I was stunned by the beauty of its coastline.

The Beaches!

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Gdansk Beach early morning

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And a pic in the evening as the sun goes down

The city comes alive during summers when it starts buzzing with tourists. A much cheaper and affordable beach holiday destination compared to its neighbours. My visit was during March which was pretty cold.

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Gearing up for the oncoming Summers. A beach shack under renovation.

Old Town

Like any other European City, the nucleus of the City is the Old Town which is a legacy of the heritage of the country. Gdansk old town is quaint and picturesque lined with old rustic buildings, churches and narrow cobbled streets. Couple of hours is good enough for a tour. And i would insist as always, to reserve your time for enjoying and clicking after dark.

Gdansk old Town is in the Tentative List to enter the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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Old Town, Gdansk

Town Hall

The towering spire of the Town Hall is visible from quite a distance. Gleaming in the setting sun. this clock tower was re-built after it was ruined in the World War II. I didn’t get a chance to visit inside, however I have read about its ornamental painted ceiling and other spectacular exhibits.

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The Main Town Hall

St Mary’s Church

You would be surprised to know this; St Mary’s Church, in this small city is the largest brick church in the world. The church is massive and certainly an architectural marvel. Located in a congested area, I couldn’t find any spot from where i could click a full photo of the church.

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St Marys Church

The Church has modest interiors at the first look, however a walk around would unearth a beautiful ornate organ…

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View of the organ

….And many rare Gothic and Baroque paintings in the Church as well.

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A painting and exhibits on one of the walls of the Church

The Green Gate

Paraded by the Polish Kings, the Royal Route is an architectural delight, starting from the Upland Gate to the Golden Gate thru the Long road which is lined with beautiful monuments and ends at the Green Gate.

Green Gate has now become a tourist spot, famous for its four arches. It houses a museum too. If you are in the center of the Old Town you cannot miss it.

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The Green Gate

Streets of Gdansk Old Town

Gdansk is a small town out of a Russian Fairy tale. It has lovely streets that you can incessantly admire and photograph.
Small town with colorful buildings and of course the old world charm.

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One of the streets in Old Town of Gdansk

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Another beautiful street at nightfall

River Motlawa

Gdansk perches on River Motlawa. Lined with old houses, few modern buildings and eateries, it does give it a little dreamy Parisian feel. One of my favorite views of the sketchy buildings on the banks of the river.

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On the banks of River Motlawa

Food

A seaside place has the advantage of treating you with fresh catch. Gdansk like other Polish cities was a delight for food specially meat lovers. We ate at a small restaurant called Big Apple. There is McDonalds, Istanbul Kebab shops and many other fast food joints as well if you want to go with the usual.

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Wild Rice with salad, fried meat liver, fish in a white colored curry and boiled vegetables

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That a giant salmon fillet with carrots in a white curry, tomato flavoured rice, fried meat livers and carrot juice..

Ulica Mariacka

More popularly known among the tourists as St Mary’s Street. Words would be less to describe the enigma of this street which is truly timeless. This is an old secluded street which has attracted lovers and artists for last many years.
Flanked by eateries and museums which are really as small as your washroom, this street was re-constructed after the World War II. A Must click at nightfall. My favourite recommended Must See Destination for All.

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Ulica Mariacka, From St Mary’s Church to Motlawa River

Note for Travelers

How to reach Gdansk – Fly to Gdansk from Warsaw or other European destinations. It has a full fledged airport. You can reach here by train as well from major destinations like Warsaw or Berlin. I traveled from Warsaw to Gdansk by Train and it costed 150 PLN and was about 3 hours.

Where to Stay in Gdansk – Many hotels are there in the city. You could book something a little closer to the beach if you are camping here in summers. I stayed in Golden Beach Resort which was 10 minutes walking distance from the Gdansk Beach.

– Language spoken is Polish, a fair understanding of English is selective. The currency used is Polish Zloty.

Categories: baltic sea coast, basilica, cathedral, cathedrals of europe, catherdals of poland, church, gdansk, must visit in gdansk, old town, places to see in gdansk, poland, streets, travel europe, travel gdansk, travel poland, visit gdansk, visit poland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stonehenge and Salisbury : The Mystery Wonders of England

Stonehenge needs no introduction to anyone in the world. Brushing shoulders with Pyramids of Giza, as one of the seven wonders of Ancient World, this pristine wonder is one of the gems of English Heritage. Generally people are caught in a dilemma whether to visit or not, as there is nothing touristy to do there and to travel so far to see some stones may not sound as an exciting holiday idea; however I would say for those who are looking to explore British Heritage and go down the lane of history, it cannot get better than this.

Visiting Stonehenge would certainly require a day. If you are based at London it will take you a 2 hour travel by Train or a little over 2 hours by road depending on the traffic. My personal suggestion would be to take a Train from London to Salisbury which in itself is quite a treat of historical marvels. There are Stonehenge Bus Tours from Salisbury which will take you around Salisbury, Old Sarum and Stonehenge. So you get to explore some more pearls of British history.

Salisbury

Salisbury is a town in south-west England in the county of Wiltshire which basks in the glory of the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral.

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Salisbury Cathedral

Built in 38 years, Salisbury Cathedral has a Gothic architecture style, quite evident from its spires. It is difficult to get enough of its detailed designs and sculptures on the façade. The saints and kings on its walls seem to be talking to you every time you look at them.

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The facade of the Cathedral

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View of the Cathedral from one of its gardens

The inside of the Cathedral is intimidating with its huge stained glass windows, tall pillars and high arches.

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The interior of the Cathedral with its tall columnar pillars

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View of the interior of the Cathedral

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The gardens and the intricate arches all around it.

However other than its magnificent architecture, what makes this Cathedral attract visitors is that it houses the original best preserved copy of ‘Magna Carta’. A quick refresher from our textbooks, Magna Carta was the royal charter which led to the rule of the Constitutional law in England. Beautifully handwritten in Latin, The Magna Carta is on display in the Chapter House of the Cathedral. Photography is not permitted.

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Magna Carta. Original copy of the document is preserved in the Cathedral.

Though a lesser known one than its peers, this Cathedral has many entries in the record books of UK.  Standing tall with its 404 feet high spire, which is the tallest in the UK, it pretty much dominates the skyline of this quaint town. Dated as old as 1220 AD, this Cathedral has the largest ‘Cloister’ and ‘Close’ in Britain and houses world’s oldest mechanical working clock.

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The tall spire of the Cathedral can be spotted from miles. This is certainly the major highlight of this structure.

Stonehenge

Around 9 miles from Salisbury lies the World Heritage site of Stonehenge. Unlike other monuments, the entry to Stonehenge is highly regulated. One cannot go near the stones and have to view them from the periphery of a restricted fencing.

View of the Stonehenge from outside the fence

Well, an obvious question arises in every visitor’s mind what is after all the hullabaloo around Stonehenge? I had the same apprehensions arising in my mind too prior to my visit. This matter can be very subjective and would be more appropriate to say that it depends what interests a traveller. I am a history freak so it was a natural incline to visit places of historical significance which made me plan a trip to Stonehenge.

As a visitor to Stonehenge, I was completely awed with the brilliance of its placement in the middle of a countryside. It also amazes me like many theorists as to how these gigantic stones were transported and then made into these vertical and horizontal patterns.

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A close up view

Some theories mention these stones were transported from Wales through waterways and then rolled to its current site, while some believe that this is not possible without human intervention and a large workforce was involved to get these stones. Definitely there must be a deep study of some science involved. Maybe it was an observatory, maybe it was not.  A part of me also goes with the Pagans and Druids to go by the thread of Religion that this place was of religious significance and has a supernatural dimension too.

Another close up from another side of the stone arrangement

Yes a day out seeped in history can be tiring; if its summers you can come back to the quaint markets of Salisbury to soothe your nerves with some retail therapy and chilled beer.

Some of the photos from a local market in the town center of Salisbury

Polish Sausages; quite a common site in any local market

The world would be different without Italian desserts and we are all are bitten by the ‘Italiano’ bug.

Wooden toys which are actually plant holders.

And as I call it a day and walk back to the station, there is an English flavour that i cant help clicking. Canals in the towns with bushy canopies and bridges with the charm of yore.

Salisbury is at the confluence of 5 rivers. One canal flowing in the town.

A bridge across the canal

*Note to Travelers*

The cheapest and easiest way to travel would be to purchase the tickets of the Stonehenge tour from either Salisbury Railway station or get onto the Bus at the marked stops and purchase directly from the Driver.

Online Resource Pool: There is plenty of information on web about Salisbury and Stonehenge and other stone circles in the UK. My suggestions would be to refer the below prior to making your visit.

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/

http://www.stonehenge.co.uk/about.php

http://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk/

For train bookings from London to Salisbury

https://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/

http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/

For booking tours to Stonehenge

http://www.thestonehengetour.info/

Categories: cathedral, cathedrals of europe, England coastline, english cathedrals, magna carta, salisbury, stonehenge, visit england | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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