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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

…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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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

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45 minutes in Pisa

As a tourist we are often in a rush to see as many sightseeing spots as possible in any city. We have less time, more to click, more selfies to take, more to absorb, more to tick off from our list. Though my travels are mostly unstructured and impromptu, I too do some of the touristy trips and one such trip was last year to Italy.

On a sunny afternoon enroute to Montecatini, in a group of 45 odd interesting fellow tourists, we halted at the world famous city of Pisa in Tuscany. Our lovely tour guide announced we have 45 minutes to see around. We were dropped off at the entrance of Piazza del Dumo. Well, yes even I was confused as every ‘Square’ in Italy is ‘Piazza’. My excitement had no bounds as I came to know this Piazza houses the world famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, but only 45 minutes??

I knew it had to be a Marathon now. As I stepped inside the premises of the Piazza del Dumo, I was completely awed to see the Leaning tower from the entrance.

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The group of monuments at Pisa

Apparently this is not the only monument in the Piazza. The square formerly called the Pizza del Dumo is known more popularly as Piazza dei Miracoli. There are four monuments in the Piazza, which are an example of brilliance of human engineering and are a part of World Heritage site under UNESCO: The four monuments are The Pisa Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Leaning Tower and the Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery).

I started with the much obvious Bell Tower or Leaning Tower,. With the paucity of time, I decided not to climb up the spire but admire it from a shady vantage point. This lopsided tower was built over 199 years. The construction stopped after completion of its Third floor as the tower began to lean; and it resumed only after a century.  There have been several attempts to correct the angle of the Tower and they say it leans lesser now, but if you ask me, its beauty and fame is only in its crookedness, so, we love it leaning, don’t we?

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Leaning Tower

Next I turned to the Pisa Cathedral. A rather unusual shaped facade, the doors were open. The entry is free, however a coupon for entry has to be purchased from the Ticket Office. It was the past the entry time and I had to make a compassionate begging to the Italian speaking officials to allow inside, and voila they did.

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Pisa Cathedral

The interiors of the Cathedral blew me off as i was expecting something a little modest. But baby we are in THE Italy! This country has world’s 60 percent of World Heritage Monuments and yes, they are exuberant and spendid.

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Pisa Catherdal, first view inside

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The altar and the giant mosaic image of Jesus

The altar spelled grandiose with colors of gold and shimmer everywhere. What stole the limelight was indeed the ceiling which was very typical Italian and of the era where the Cathedrals were elaborately painted.

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The painted ceiling of Pisa Cathedral

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The Cathedral interiors of giant pillars and sculpted walls and ceiling

Awestruck walked out of the Cathedral with another 20 minutes left to return back to the meeting point. There was no time now to purchase tickets or wait in queues for other monuments. So walked around each mammoth structure.

The third monumnet was The Pisa Baptistery depicts the life of St John, the Baptist. I would rate it as one of the most unique building from the Architecture point of view. As the information displayed there said, what started being built as a Romanasque style structure, later got a Gothic dome which is the most notable feature in the Piazza. I couldnt go inside, however as I read on the web that the Baptistery is quite simple and unassuming inside.

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Pisa Baptistery

The last of the monuments in this miraculous Square is the Monumental Cemtery or Camposanto. This is rather a very important monument historicaly. Legend has it that this was built around the same place where shiploads of sacred soil of Golgotha was brought where Jesus was crucified. This Cemetery later became the burial ground of the upper class and whos who of the region.

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Camposanto Monumentale

I read that the Cemetery has some rare paintings and is adorned by spectacular frescoes inside. This was surely a miss. And i would really want to come back to Pisa in a bit more relaxed time to view these monuments with some more ease and admiration.

However I would say 45 minutes wasnt bad at all. And as they say a high return on investment, isnt it!

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A last view of the Piazza. It was a very sunny day. Have given some effects on this photograph of this beautiful marble wonder

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Murud Janjira : The Monsoon Bride of Konkan

India is a country which experiences nature’s blessings and fury equally. Largely know for its tropical climate, with harsh snowy winters in the north and crackling summers in south, it transforms into a young blushy bride during the rainy monsoons.
The western coastal belt of India also called the ‘Konkan‘ has some of the most beautiful towns with lush green scenery in the backdrop of rugged Mountain ranges. The mid-year rains bring relief from the scorching heat and purges the whole atmosphere. Mostly people avoid travelling during this season as rains are quite moody, the roads may get slippery and driving may become cumbersome. But then, whats life without some adventure and taking an off beaten path? I made a trip to one of the towns in Konkan on some very rainy days of the season. 

After a fresh downpour, women in a Konkan village carry pails of water back home

Murud, is a small coastal village which is around 165 kms from Mumbai. (source:Wikitravel). A drive of around 3.5 hours in mild rain thru the lush green Konkan villages got us to this small village. Known widely for its timeless 11th century fortress ‘Murud Janjira‘, built on a rock just off the Arabian Sea coast. Turning some pages of history, this fort has stood test of times of foreign invasions and was pride of the chivalrous Maratha warrior clan. Iam not sure if its open to visitors, as we did not venture there owing to heavy rains. However from our vantage point on Murud sea coast we got some great views albeit a little bleary.

View of Murud Janjira fortress from the Murud Beach
Murud enjoys an envious position on the coast. It has unspoilt golden and sometimes chalky beaches. We couldn’t get much glimpses of sun which was enveloped behind heavy dark clouds. The waters were milky and frothy, surprisingly quite clean. The beaches are lined with resorts and hotels; you can just walk up to them from the beach. In hindsight I feel it was such a great idea to drive here on a rainy weekday, with only few locals around, we got the experience of the Beverley Hill celebs, of having our own private beach for hours and getting some good photos of the beach with no human obstructions.

Murud Beach

Flanked by date palms and coconut trees, the reflection in the clear water was ethereal 

The frothy waves making myriad patterns. 

And who minds some company after being whole day by yourself.

Two is a company. Come down beside Me!

We don’t mind a nice stallion ride on the beach.

While its holidaying for us, for someone its just another day!
And this is the most welcome company…Some good Sun to dry our soaked self!
And here comes the Sun…I remember it from Madonna’s song ‘Rain’. So truly befitting the mood.
Iam not really sure whats more to explore in Murud. We took a walk around in the evening and could only find resorts around, quaint shops and streets with houses of the local residents. Maybe the more enthusiastic ones can find something more other than the Janjira fortress.

As for me, I loved getting wasted on the beautiful beach of this quaint fishing hamlet. I have never had a beach to myself where I enjoyed just lying down gazing at the pouring sky, in between blinded by the thick drops of rain, to let the waves wash my feet, unknot my body and my mind. This was one of the most unforgettable trip of mine in India which was not touristy, which was with friends with whom Iam just Me and was actually relaxing in real sense. And yes it was my first tryst with a borrowed Nikon DSLR. Looking at the photos…well not a bad start 🙂

As we get back to Mumbai, a quick shot on a very misty day on Mumbai-Pune highway.

Notes for Travelers :
* Location – Murud Janjira is in the state of Maharashtra, India
* How to Reach Murud – Drive from Mumbai or Pune, great roads. Hire a private cab is the best way.
* Accommodation – Plenty of options, one google search will solve this for you.
* Food– All types of food was available in our resort. Try seafood or local Marathi dishes.
Language-Annexed to Mumbai, so easy to navigate. Safely English and Hindi to get you thru

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The Lost Chambers, Dubai

Iam sure the mention of the city ‘Dubai‘ would have given you a visual landscape of The Lost Chambers being a steely skyscraper and maybe one of the many architectural wonders of this exuberant city.
Well, I thought the same, till i got these lovely 45 minutes to get lost in the marvelous Lost Chambers. 
Atlantis‘ is a lost city which has its earliest mentions by Greek philosopher ‘Plato‘ in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias around 360 BC. Its described as a highly advanced and spectacular land. However today we cannot trace where this city got lost, but its believed to have disappeared into the Ocean owing either a massive earthquake or a gigantic underwater volcanic eruption.
To discover this lost civilization, the Lost Chambers at Atlantis Palm Hotel is a magnificent underwater realm of Chambers, with amazing rare artifacts, marine life, and a whooping 65000 marine inhabitants. 
What amazed me most was the beautiful lighting in each chamber, the carefully chosen placement of the artifacts in the marine habitat, the sheer glass which many times looked like an illusion to the onlookers, the sit-outs at each chamber typically Arabic style for the visitors to sit, relax and be in rhythm with our marine friends.
Few pics which i have clicked at Lost Chambers. All are thru the glass and i dont have a powerful camera yet, so they look little grainy and stretched. However i couldn’t resist sharing them and insist all my fellow travelers to reserve 30min to an hour visit to discover the mystery of The Lost Chambers when in Dubai.

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The unstoppable festive spirit : Diwali Bazaars of India


The last leg of any year is probably the one that I eagerly look forward to. Festivals and carnivals galore across the world. Being an Indian, it’s the best time of the year and I can never get enough of the festive spirit that soaks every part of this beautiful country. It’s the time to come home to Mom’s wonderful food, to hog on street food stalls, to nudge elbows in crowded festival bazaars, to buy all the bling-y clothes from heavily embellished shops, to haggle for almost everything that’s on sale, to click photos of anything and everything, to let the ‘Chi’ of your habitat be blessed with everything that’s auspicious. 

Nowadays whenever I open my web browser and surf, I find plenty of commercial Ads from tour operators for tour packages for ‘Christmas’ markets in Austria, Denmark, Belgium and many countries of Europe. I stay in England and definitely agree that these markets are worth a visit when on full bloom. A thought crossed my mind this week while I was in India, that Indian festivals are so grand and we shop till we drop for them, then why don’t our Festival Bazaars feature in the way like that of our western counterparts. While I was walking through these crowded ‘gallis’ (streets) of a Diwali Bazaar in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh in India, I thought to put together some quick shots from this Bazaar in my Blog today.

Diwali…One of the largest festivals celebrated by Indians across the world. Popularly known as the festival of lights as people light earthen lamps on a dark No moon Night to celebrate the mythological lesson of victory of good over evil.
As I walked on a very hot afternoon through a Diwali Bazaar, it was not only a delight but an interesting journey to see how every person in the Bazaar, irrespective of the weight of his or her wallet, looks forward to buy a share of this festivity for his or her home and family.

Handmade earthern lamps being sold in the Diwali Baazar.
All around the Bazaar one can see a heap of these Earthen Lamps being sold by girls and ladies who come all the way from their villages to sell them.

A village lady selling Earthern lamps
While, the traditional earthen lamps make their way in every house, we are also bitten by the Chinese bug here. Fluorescent Chinese Lanterns with ‘Happy Diwali’ written and images of Hindu Gods hanging in the streets.

Chinese Lanterns

The quintessential ‘Rangoli‘ which is traditional Indian art design made by loose dry colored powder or flour or flowers is a must have auspicious accessory of Diwali in every home. Generally drawn at the entrance of the house, this welcomes wealth and prosperity into the house on Diwali. The bazaars galore with colors of Rangoli.

Beautiful heaps of colors of Rangoli
For the more perfect and flawless designs these ‘design mesh’ are a great buy. Beautiful display of their designs in the Bazaar.
Easy to make, No Nonsense Rangoli patterns drawn with the Sieve or Mesh
Diwali is a lot about decorating your house. I remember as a child cleaning every nook and corner of the house few days ahead of the festival. Chasing cobwebs, wiping every piece of furniture clean and then decorating with the house with flowers, trinkets, dainty traditional hangings. The essence still remains, however its more plastic and Chinese now.
Plastic flower garlands for adorning the house
A seller selling terracotta hangings of bells and idols. 
Well, with all decorations and beautifying the house, aren’t we trying to please someone? Oh yes. Its the Gods above whose blessings we seek for all goodness. Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu who is the Goddess worshiped for wealth and prosperity on Diwali. And yes, like everything else the Almighty finds its place as well on the sale window.
Idols of Goddess Lakshmi accompanied by other goddesses in the Bazaar
So when we are talking about pleasing the Gods for prosperity, don’t we have to find ways to tickle their taste buds too. Our Gods are a little too inclined towards food that is high on sugar.(Diabetes alert!) Crystallized sugar sweets locally called ‘Batasha‘ is a photographers delight with colorful cubes piled on baskets. Well, before the Gods, its the Bees which seem to be gracing it.
‘Batasha’. Colored quirky shapes of crystallized sugar

Exchanging dry fruits is a popular practice among families on Diwali. And there are small, large and some really humongous packs in the Bazaar with very colorful wrappers.
Ready to pick dry fruits packs
If in Central India, how can you not have the local savories for Diwali. Called as ‘Namkeen‘ made of flour, spices and deep fried, these are probably the yummiest food in the streets in the Bazaar for me.
Gram flour fried snacks called ‘Namkeen’
Puffed rice baskets make its way in the Bazaar. This is offered as an offering to God in the Pujas on Diwali.

No marketplace in the world is complete if it doesn’t cater to its most important customer…The beautiful Women 🙂
Diwali is a time when the ladies have a bash at emptying their wallets. Flowing sarees, colorful fabrics, the tinkle of bangles, the dark deep kohl for those longing shopaholic eyes, this Bazaar is another of her playgrounds.
Bright and colorful sarees in a saree shop
Colorful glass and metal Bangles galore in the Bazaar. A common accessory for Indian women
A seller in a Bangle shop

Phew…going around this beautiful marketplace is so delightful. As the sun smiles benevolently, more and more eager shoppers flood the Bazaar haggling, choosing and buying their favourite Diwali items. Smiling faces of the shoppers, contended smiles of the sellers, eager eyes of the kids, the tinkle of the temple bells, this is truly an experience which is more overwhelming that the festival itself which we all eagerly await to welcome
Fire crackers for sale. No Diwali is complete without lighting the sky with these sparkling fireworks.
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