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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.

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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

If in Love, every city is PARIS!

While writing this post, I am not sure if I am writing about Love or Paris. Both have become tantamount.

I browsed and read quite a lot of articles and blogs on Web, on why Paris is called City of Love, I felt every writer had his or her own view on attaching ‘Love’ with this city. A women’s magazine attributes it to being the fashion capital, some say it’s the Seine walks, some say its because of ‘French’ being a lovely language; from Architecture to its streets, to the food and to the unperturbed kissing couples, ‘Paris’ is officially crowned as World’s Love Capital.

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The iconic Eiffel Tower on a cloudy evening. Lovely colors as the sun envelops behind the clouds.

There is so much to love in the river town of Paris. World famous monuments, cabarets, idyllic streets, beautiful people, French food, the highly acclaimed French wine, the fashion which rules the global ramps, and much more.

Maybe I was one of those cynical ‘Not in Love’ who visited Paris and found it hard to relate it to being the Love destination. However if I wear my traveler’s hat, I cannot agree enough, if you are in Paris, you are bound to fall in love with it. My list of the places I found to be really romantic and beautiful.

  1. Cathedrale Notre Dame De Paris

Yes, I am a big lover of Cathedrals. Sounds funny to place a religious monument in a romantic post, but this was always on my bucket list, surprisingly not Eiffel Tower.

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Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

The magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of Paris is more than 800 years old and has stood the test of times of religious and political revolutions. I was spellbound on its detailed and beautiful towers, Kings Gallery and the marvellously sculpted exteriors.

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Towers of Notre Dame Cathedral

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The Kings Gallery at entrance on The Towers of the Cathedral.

The intricate stained glass windows inside and the detailed interiors continue the spell of awe on you. Perched on the banks of River Seine, to me the whole persona of the Cathedral was outright romantic and I could really spend hours gazing at it from every possible corner.

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Nestled between thick canopy of trees, a very romantic view of one of the loveliest monuments of Paris, Notre Dame

  1. Louvre

Who hasn’t heard of Mona Lisa? And if you know her, you know Louvre. World’s most visited museum.

I did not get a chance to enter the Museum as I was past the time of entry, however I did spend a good one hour in the evening at the grounds and was aghast at its mammoth spread. Louvre was a Palace until Louis XIV found it a little too small to stay in and moved to Versailles. Since then this became a place to exhibit the Royal collections and what we see today, the Museum.

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An evening view of one of the sides of Louvre. Probably a high end camera would have done justice to get a panoramic view of the giant edifice.

The grounds do not disappoint you at all. The glassy Pyramide du Louvre is a treat to eyes. A modern architecture marvel, a glass pyramid created as an entry to the Museum. While I felt it looked a little out of place in the backdrop of the 12th century colossal structure, it is still a magnificent creation which will go down in the books of history, to be a vintage gargantuan glass pyramid.

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The giant Pyramid illuminated was a delight for visitors. There were probably more visitors to view the Pyramid than the exhibits inside the Museum.

  1. Love Locks

No you read it wrong. I said ‘Love Locks’ and not ‘Lip Locks’ 🙂

While the latter is quite omnipresent, Parisians have found out a way to seal their Love forever. The Bridges in Paris are a testimony to many ‘padlocked love’. Write your and your lover’s name on the locks, tie them to the bridge, and toss the key into Seine. Yes it is foolishly romantic and I loved it.

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Locks on Pont des Arts on River Seine.

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The romantic feel of the padlocked bridges is enhanced quite a deal by these musicians who churn out melodies of love as the sun sets.

  1. ‘Literary’ Parisian Streets

France like its close English neighbour, England, is also known for its Literary giants and their famed works. On top of my mind is Alexander Dumas whose books I have read in school. Victor Hugo with his work ‘Les Miserables’ is another icon. These lovely fabled streets of Paris lined with vintage books, miniature paintings, posters of famous artists would be the most adorable thing to me about Paris.

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The beautiful streets of Paris lined with books, leaflets, tabloids and posters.

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The humbled streets glamorized with Marilyn Monroe. Check out the books on the top of the wall.

  1. Moulin Rouge

The world famous and much talked about like Eifel Tower, is ‘Moulin Rouge’, a cabaret house since 1889. Yes we all remember Nicole Kidman with the mention of Moulin Rouge, the film which once again immortalised the birthplace of Can-Can dance. I was told that this cabaret house still retains its vintage Bohemian French décor and furniture. The Red windmill and psychedelic lights on it, makes Moulin Rouge the most flamboyant Parisian site and I simply loved it. I highly recommend every traveler to Paris not to miss visiting this iconic place or simply enjoy its colourful halo at night on the streets.

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The glittering Moulin Rouge Cabaret . Clicked this photo from a traffic signal right in the middle of the road just opposite to it.

  1. Seine

My last pick for Love of Paris, and the Best, the beautiful river Seine. I feel that Paris is so attractive owing to Seine cutting across the heart of this river town adding every bit of that glistening glamour all times of the day.

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Seine at mid day. Clicked from Pont des Arts

Studded with world Heritage Monuments on its banks like Notre Dame, Eifel Tower, Louvre, Champs Elysees, Place de la Concorde, historical bridges and many more, a cruise on Seine is like sitting inside a Kaleidoscope

At the fall of dusk, Seine, bejewelled with historical sites, dazzles making it my most loved site of Paris. If I want to come back any day here with my Lover, I would spend my days and evenings soaking in love on the banks of Seine.

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A cruise across Seine crossing under the bridge at night.

The dazzling Seine with its illuminated jewels at Night.

I have made a promise to myself, to come back to this city when I am in Love, with my Lover. I would love to see if the love takes over the city or vice versa. Phew! This is a tongue twisting thought. However Paris is today a symbol of Love and the chosen destination of Lovers!

Whatever said and done, I would say that Love is an exhilarating feeling. If you are in Love, you feel on top of the world, in clouds, maybe in Space also. It doesn’t matter where you are, It’s that feeling which turns the murkiest of places around you, an utopian garden of love.

Love makes life beautiful. So of course, when in Love, every city is Paris!

Categories: france, historical france, love, travel, travel blog, visit france, visit paris, weekend trip | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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