travel

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

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

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

An evening in the charming Krakow, Poland

I stayed in Krakow for a night and was in this charming city for two days. Of course work kept me occupied and confined to a hotel during the day, but its the end of April, crisp spring weather and long days of sunlight; it did make me lucky to go around the town and explore after work. Thanks to my lovely Polish colleague and friend who was my local guide and so patient as I stopped now and then to click pictures.

Krakow is Poland’s second largest city and supposed to be a financial and IT hub. The city dates back to 7th century. After Poland was invaded by Germans during World War II, Krakow was the headquarters of the German occupied Poland. Unlike Warsaw, this city was not heavily plundered and still retains most of its old historic buildings and monuments.

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One of the first view of the old monuments as I started my walking tour to explore the city.

Irrespective of the time you are here, its fairly easy to understand the town and navigate. My short and working knowledge of the town which should assist anyone who wants to wander around in the least bit of time and enjoy Krakow. The new part of Krakow is quite swanky and has many state of the art Business Parks. Multinational conglomerates have made a beeline to this city owing its multilingual workforce, good infrastructure and strategic location with a proximity to Germany, Czek Republic, Austria.

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Krakow is located well to connect major cities in all neighboring countries and Poland as well

The UNESCO listed old town of Krakow is the one to visit to enjoy the old world charm. Like many other European towns, it is also straight from a sketchbook. Criss-crossed with cobbled streets, towering church spires, outlined with quaint restaurants, its large town square, called Grand Square or Main Market Square, locally Rynek Glowny is probably one of the largest and most beautiful in Europe.

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Grand Square at the Old Town Krakow

While you stroll around the Grand Square, there is a lot to see and observe. The most obvious monument to catch your eyes undoubtedly would be the Town Hall Tower with the ceremonious clock glaring with its hands spread out.

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Town Hall Tower

Next overlooking the Square is the grand pair of towers of St Mary’s Basilica. Yes like you I had the same question in my mind, why this Basilica has two towers? I have always seen one dome or pulpit; well there is a fable around it, of two brothers building each one and one of them dying to leave it unfinished, hence its the shorter cousin.

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The grand towers of St Mary’s Basilica or Bazylika Mariacka

Up from the taller tower, goes the daily ‘bugle call’ called ‘hejnal mariacki’. It is believed this was used as a watchtower and a trumpeter was sounding off alert to the people of the town of approaching Mongolian army when he was shot in his neck. To keep the tradition alive and honour him, today every hour the bugle sounds off and abruptly breaks off mid-melody. Do not miss it!

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Close up of the Twin Towers of St Mary’s Basilica

The Basilica is open for prayer but for a visit you have to pay 10 Zloty. I wasn’t expecting this at all, when I entered , the interiors blew me off completely. Sheer opulence and richness drips from every corner of the Basilica. The ceiling is an interesting starry sequenced with a striking blue background. The altar is the highlight with its large altar piece which is supposed to be the largest Gothic one in the world. Golden gilded figures, elaborate carvings and lavish interiors, you wouldn’t be able to get over it. Honestly I didn’t know when to stop looking at this sight and exit. Its like you cant get enough of it.

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Photography is not permitted inside. This one was clicked by phone camera as I wasnt aware. The only one photo I clicked.

Supposed to be the World’s oldest shopping mall, The Krakow Cloth Hall dates back to the 16th century, is right in the middle of the Main Square. A beautiful piece of architecture houses neatly lined shops inside, most of them sell handmade artifacts. A must visit!

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Krakow Cloth Hall

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The other beautiful view of the cloth hall market

Huddled in the corner of the Market Square is this bundle of domes, the 11th century Church of St Adalbert. More than 1000 years old, this is one of the oldest stone churches. Of course you cannot miss this one as well, as its right there though a little intimidated by St Mary’s Basilica’s flamboyance.

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Very interesting architecture of St Aldalbert Church

Next to the St Aldalbert Church is something that caught my eye. A quaint cart of souvenirs and knick knacks. While the masses were busy in clicking selfies in the Market Square, this small treasure trove certainly finds a place on my blog.

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The cute Cart of lovely Krakow souvenirs

All these monuments are packed in this large square, so the best way of course is to walk around. However you can also try these chariots driven by some lovely Polish women. Take a relaxed tour of the whole town in some charming company.

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White Chariots. Prices are unknown as we chose to walk around the town

If you are venturing a bit outside the town or traveling into the Old town from another part, the Trams are a great bet. Cant say much about the fares or timing as I didn’t get a chance to use them, but surely clicked a picture.

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Beautiful trams on cobbled streets

After having a good walk and clicking lots of pictures, we moved to another part of the town, towards the castle. Easiest way is to walk through the Grodzka Street from the Old Town. Apparently this is also called the ‘Royal Route or Royal Road’ as it is flanked by monuments. As you walk through this street, you will actually feel like one of the Royals as you cross various historic buildings, churches, giant statues.

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Cobbled Street upto Wavel Castle

As we keep walking, we cross another beautiful and very famous Church, The Church of Saints Peter and Paul, first Baroque Church of Poland.

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Church of Saints Peter and Paul

The most striking feature is the raised platform with statues of the Apostles. The interiors are beautiful and opulent too.

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The statues of the Apostles in front of the Church

As we left the Old Town Square behind us, we reach the Wavel Castle situated on the Wavel Hill. The evening views of the Castle were fantastic. Perched high this fortress has treasures inside it which we reserved to explore the next day. I will also write a separate post on the beautiful Wavel Castle.

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The Wavel Castle on Wavel Hill top

The setting sun glistening the Castle Walls with many stories hidden behind its high walls.

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One of the views of the Wavel Castle

Our walk for last few hours was one of the most amazing ones I have had in Europe. Truly felt transported back a few centuries and walking the beautiful streets amidst the timeless historical giants looking down at us. The river Vistula adds an extra charm to this idyllic town. As we called it a day and proceed ahead to the Jewish part of the town called Kazimierz to celebrate my belated birthday, we stopped for a while to admire the sunset on the horizon of this beautiful river town; And I would say my best click of the day.

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Sunset on River Vistula

Note to Travelers:How to Travel : Its really easy to travel to Krakow. It has an international airport and has good connections. You can also travel by train from major stations in Poland. I traveled to Krakow from London Gatwick and the flight was close to 2 hours. On my return I took a train from Krakow to Warsaw which is about 3 hours and costs 150 Zloty. In Krakow, wear your walking shoes and enjoy the city on foot. Alternately Trams are there as well. – Where to Stay : Preferably stay in the Old Town as its easy to explore it by walking. I stayed in Best Western Hotel which was a little on the higher side, around 400 Zloty a night. However lots of hostels and budget hotels are available in Old Town. – What to Eat : Eat at local joints. Try Pierogi which are meat or cheese dumplings, Zapiekanka which is like a crunchy long baguette with Pizza kind of toppings. Very filling and cheap. In the old town try some nice ice cream.

Categories: basilica, castle, castles of europe, cathedral, cathedrals of europe, church, churches, crakow, eastern europe, europe, grand square, krakow, old town, poland, polish, royal route, solo travel, travel, visit krakow, visit poland, wavel castle | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Solo Travel v/s Not a Very Solo Travel

The quintessential debate on Solo Travel vs Travel with a companion or a group…And the argument continues…

Today is International Women’s Day . As I reflect back on all my travels in last one decade, they have mostly been Solo, however I am not a hardliner to over sell the concept of traveling alone. Yes Solo travel is fun, high on learning and it’s liberating, however travelling with a partner or a group of explorers is equally exciting, jovial and high on discovery.

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Sometimes Solo, Sometimes Together!

Why I started traveling Solo?

As a child I was an exceptionally travel sick kid. Travel was equal to nausea, puking, headache or some new ailment which did not happen to me before. The smallest journey from my school to home was a suffering with me puking almost thrice a week (good stats!). And my big sissy always leaving her friends behind to take care of Me. Honestly I could write a separate post on My many embarrassing puking moments in public. My family and Me were all on the same page – I never ever can travel alone.

Life changed and i landed up in a job which made me live out of suitcase for 25 days a month. Traveling alone for a girl in India is neither safe nor a very pleasant experience, however when you have less options you start loving what you are doing. What started as a drudgery, soon became fun. I started loving my solo trips mixed with work and exploration. Thereafter there was no looking back.

You Love it? I Love it too. Whats so wonderful about Solo Travel?

Its so exciting to travel Solo. Really?? I must be an old mad cynical woman to say this. Well traveling all by yourself has certainly lot of merits to it which i can explain from my first-hand experience. And yes it’s a fast catching up trend now.

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The tension free Solo swim.

Tough Decisions…Whats that?

When both of you or many of you are traveling together, don’t you spend endless hours first to decide where to go, how much to spend, how to share expenses, where to stay, where to eat, how to travel, what to carry, phew! endless decisions over which you squabble endlessly. Traveling Solo is so peaceful, you know where you want to go and where to eat and you freeze it then and there.

Freedom Unlimited

Solo Travel gives you the space you always want. Wake up when you want, go to your choice of places. You can decide your itinerary. You can explore places at your own pace. I have discovered more places by myself on solo trips than I have with others. Sometimes I do the touristy thing of seeing more places in a packed time, sometimes I do a traveller thing of soaking myself at one single place which I love.

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No one is seeing you. Sit freely where you like. This is yours truly at a railway station in Switzerland.

I don’t have like-minded travel friends

I love historic places. I love going to museums as well. There have been times when I have gone with friends who are not fond of museums. While I admire the sculptures and paintings they fret whats so marvelous in twisted figures and admiring overdressed Victorian portraits. By the time we walk out of the museum, we have to walk to the nearest pub to chill our disagreements. Phew! Unless you have like-minded travelers, it maybe sometimes harrowing and at times compromising situations in your travel plans.

I don’t have to impress anyone

Yes I know all you Men have this complaint that women take ages to make an appearance from the powder room even on a holiday. Don’t all shops sell exotic bikinis to sun tans to coolers all for vacations? I have waited for fellow travelers who are busy striking the right combination between their footwear and lipcolor, after all, those pouts in selfie on Facebook will call for many Likes. I am at my filthiest best when I travel alone and trust me its very relaxing to wear the same jeans or shorts for the whole trip. No makeup and a bad hair day is all mine; and I am happy.(I seldom have my own travel photos on Facebook or my blog, now you know why)

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And you can cleverly hide that unstylish outfit with some silhouette photography 🙂 I did it in the deserts of Emirates

More the Merrier! Travel with Companions is not bad at all.       

There are lots and lots of pros of travelling with a companion and friends. You are certainly in for a lot of fun and exciting times. I have traveled with family, friends in India and abroad; I had the most memorable trips.

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Catch up time. Being together is good!

Someone to look behind your back….SAFETY!

I recall one silly solo trip I did in 2007 in India. While traveling in the state of Kerala from Kovalam Beach to Trivandrum, I boarded a city bus, being tired, I slept, rather slumbered. I have no clue when I reached Trivandrum. When I opened my eyes, I was being shaken awake by the Bus Driver and Conductor and the bus was empty with only me and the two of them. Though they meant no harm to me, I was petrified to my bones being alone. I am sure many of you share this great habit of dozing off on travel like me. I miss a companion to watch over me when I land in such situations.

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A Companion in the journey of Life!

I am Sick! I am Stranded! SAVE ME!

While Solo Travel rocks, you can actually go down to rocks if you fall sick. I remember on one trip to Chandigarh in India, I was gripped by a bout of viral fever and simply couldn’t even get up from my bed in the hotel. Fortunately my cousin drove all the way from Shimla to rescue me. Have you missed flights or been sometimes in a tight spot during travel? I have been plenty of times. One horror experience was being stranded in a small place Raniganj in East India at mid-night with no communication channel. At such times, all I can think about is to have someone along with Me.

Tired of Selfies! CLICK ME!

We endlessly click photos to preserve memories. When it comes to clicking your own photos, Solo Travel really sucks. Though you can stand anywhere and make those weird faces and click selfies for Instant Messaging, a better click with the landscape in background may be a better one to preserve in your Album. Traveling with friends really is the best solution to click happy photos. Thanks to such friends who traveled with me, I could get some decent profile pictures as well.

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Clicking together, Experiencing together, traveling together!

The Itch of saying it all….SHARING!

You see Eiffel Tower, or Grand Canyon or Alps and you are just Wow. And then you want to incessantly rave about the beauty of these places. Or you expected a lot and got too less, you want to rant. Each of us want to express what we feel when we see these amazing places. There are jokes, and you want to comment on just everything to someone, don’t you miss a companion that time. I saw this grumpy portrait in Tate Modern, London who exactly resembled a person I despise at my work place. I burst out laughing in a relatively quiet gallery. Quite a shame, but I had this bad itch to tell someone about it.

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Yes only with a partner in crime can you do all under the table conspiracies.

Friends, Friends and MORE FRIENDS!

Probably the best part of traveling with people is knowing them and then befriending them. I am sure each of you would have at least one friend you would have made in your life from any of your travels. I too made quite a few, and its so good to know people of different nationalities, different walks of life and then staying in touch with them for more good times. And you never know, your soul mate may be a fellow traveler too 🙂

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Friends Forever! Friends for Life!

So whats the conclusion? I would take the middle path, as I travel heavily Solo but love going with a companion as well. My big problem is I feel my trip is ruined if I am not with like-minded friends. Glancing through my 2015 travel plans, all I can see are Solo trips. So I guess I am going to auction my companion spot. What you get is an adventurous and funny companion in return. Are you game?

Write back to me on sonalbhardwaj2006@gmail.com Would love to hear and publish your travel stories too.

Categories: solo travel, travel, travel blog | Tags: , | 7 Comments

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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