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

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Wavel Castle, Krakow – Walking in the footsteps of Polish Kings

A hot sunny afternoon today and I have been dreaming since last night about being one of the Polish queens walking the Royal route alongside my King in the timeless streets of Krakow. Well sounds preposterous and very bloggish to write some invented crap like this. To be honest I do take my historical travels seriously. Okay!! After these possibly ‘LOL’ statements, I need to really say that I couldn’t help writing this tripping specifically on Wavel Castle; it was indeed one of the most impressive fortress I have visited till date in Europe.

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First sight of Wavel Castle

The mighty Wavel Castle situated on Wavel Hill in Krakow is built in Gothic style. Cited in many records are evidences of earliest settlement on Wavel Hill in Paleolithic age, hence human establishments and trade grew around it. For many centuries this was the royal residence of the Polish Kings. Today this is a symbol of Polish Heritage and a reflection of its rich culture.

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The edifice of the Wavel Castle from mthe riverside

Me and my friend just had an hour in between work which was our lunch break; we decided to munch something on the way as we both wanted to tour the castle. Staying close by was a boon; we grabbed a ‘zapiekanka’ each and walked up the gentle climb to the castle entrance.

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Entrance to the castle. Rather this is the view while we exit.

The giant doors admit everyone in and you can tour the grounds and get great views of River Vistula and a part of Krakow without any entry charges.

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One such view from the grounds of the Castle

As we walked to the main square inside the castle compound, I was suddenly taken aback by the beautiful architecture of the buildings inside, the multiple domes, sculptures, the whole ambience glistening in the sun looked quite a fascinating sight..

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The inside view of the Castle Compound

The Castle compound houses the Wavel Cathedral, Museums, Royal Crypts, State Rooms and Royal Private Apartments, Sigismund Bell. You can take anywhere from an hour to maybe a day to take a tour of the Castle. With the crunch of time we had, we decided to tour the major and most talked about corners of the Castle and the first one being the Wavel Catherdral

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Wavel Cathedral and the domes of the Royal Crypts. The golden dome undoubtedly stands out.

The interior of the Cathedral was stunningly jaw dropping. Its rich golden gilded pillars and altar, silver statues and exuberant tapestries, all spelled luxury and wealth of the Polish Kings. This is supposed to be the third Cathedral as the previous two were destroyed. There are more than 15 chapels inside the Cathedral which are all ostentatiously decorated. Photography is not permitted inside. This is definitely a must visit monument in Krakow.

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The front of The Wavel Cathedral

From the Cathedral, there is an alley leading to the inside of the Castle. The beautiful creamy Castle Courtyard is flanked by stately rooms. There is also an exhibition in one of the ground floor rooms which houses the world famous painting ‘Lady with an ermine’ by Leonardo da Vinci; one of the three of of his oil paintings in the world and a close cousin of Mona Lisa in ‘being mysterious’.

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The Castle Courtyard

Next me and my pal made our way up through a dark cellar with rustic narrow wooden steps to view the Sigismund Bell. The Bell is up at the top of the Tower and its quite a gruesome climb up but an interesting one. While you climb up the dark woody staircase you will cross few huge iron bells as well.

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Bells on the climb to the Bell Tower

Finally after all the sweat and strained knees, we reach the belfry of the tower. Hanging from the wooden ceiling is this giant intimidating bronze monster, Sigismund Bell, supposedly weighing 13 tonnes. This bell rings till date on national days and important festivals and the gong is heard as far as 50 kms. A true testimony of Polish heritage.

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The Sigismund Bell

It was truly rewarding to have walked the path of the Polish Kings all the way from the Wavel Cathedral to the Stately Apartments and Courtyard and then shed some sweat on our ascent to the Bell Tower. Before we take a flight down the steps to the Castle grounds, captured some lovely views of Krahow City from behind the ‘bars’ at the Belfry.

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The chariming city of Krakow as seen from the Sigismund Bell Tower at Wavel Castle

*Note to Travelers*

– Tickets to the Wavel Castle can be purchased from the Wavel Castle Office.

– The entry to the Castle Apartments, Bell Tower, Royal Crypts, Exhibition is all through the Wavel cathedral which shall be your entry point to explore all the spots.

Categories: castle, castles of europe, cathedral, cathedrals of europe, catherdals of poland, churches of poland, travel europe, travel krakow, travel poland, visit krakow, visit poland, wavel castle, wavel cathedral | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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

The Chalky Cliffs of England : Isle of Wight

soutEngland has an envious coastline spreading miles enveloping this beautiful little country. As they say the English are blessed with everything best and luxurious and i cant agree enough; its coasts are bountiful with scenic beauty and many splendors of nature.

If you browse thru the Must Visit Places in England, its chalky cliffs would definitely appear as a Not to Miss sight. There are various places on the English Heritage Coastline that you can have a view of the chalky cliffs, however some are really popular ones with breathtaking scenery. Chalky Cliffs are limestone rocks, very calcium-y in nature, thats how they get their white color. Well, I will stop here as Iam not a geologist neither do I have a profound interest in this subject; there are many learned souls who have published the How and Why of the ‘chemical side’ of these alkaline wonder; as as admirer of the wonders of nature, my post would showcase three sights that I visited in last one year of the Chalky Cliffs and trust me some of the sights blew me off.

Isle of Wight

More famous for the Isle of Wight Festival, this small county is located in English channel off the Hampshire Coast. It has been a favorite summer resort since Victorian era. Apparently Queen Victoria breathed her last moments of life here at Osborne house. Travelling to Isle of Wight is easy. You can reach Southampton or Portsmouth which are well connected by trains from anywhere in England. From here you can take a ferry to Isle of Wight. I did the former, Southampton route and took the Red Funnel ferry to West Cowes in Isle of Wight

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The view of one of the Pier and the Isle of Wight Mainland.

For ease of navigation, i took a bus tour which took me to the Chalky Cliffs area called ‘The Needles’ and a complete round of the Isle. In retrospect it wasn’t a bad choice tho i dint walk quite a lot. The views from the Bus of the highlands, the sea, and the lush green pathways was exquisite.

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View of one of the streets opening to the Sea

The Cliffs

Enroute the views opened to the beautiful chalky cliffs in the English channel. Spread across few miles, these cliffs look were also checkered with green vegetation patches.

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The first views as the Bus took a turn onto the path to Needles

There are many small towns enroute where one can stop to admire these cliffs. However the route on which i planned my journey took me all around these cliffs till the south point of the Isle. There were limited photo opportunities however got to capture some great views thru my eyes.

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Walk along the coast in any of the small towns along the coast

The last bit of my ride along these kind of tree tunnels. The photos clicked from the moving bus created this whirlpool effect.

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Tree Groves and Tree Tunnels enroute to Yarmouth

When you dont have a high-end camera, the easy way out is to sit in the upper deck of the Bus. From this top perched seat i could get great views and some decent photos to preserve memories of this trip

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Lush green scenery enroute

And finally a much more beautiful view of the Chalky Cliffs.

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Glistening under bright sun the white chalky cliffs of Isle of Wight

Yarmouth

Finally I alight from the Bus at Yarmouth. A small town and one of the oldest in Isle of Wight. Famous for its Pier, Castle, a transport hub and a retirement destination. I did enjoy few hours here.

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Yarmouth

Right on the banks is a long wooden Pier. It opens up on the English Channel.

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Check the names written on each wooden plank

After a day of lovely views, my stomach ached for some good food. And what a delight to sit in one of the most well known Cafe of Yarmouth overlooking the Sea with some lovely mac and cheese and french baguettes. The Gossips Cafe, a quaint Cafe. What a lovely name and well yes i did manage some Gossips here with my friend who accompanied me on this trip.

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The lovely Gossips Cafe

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A well deserving meal at the end of a day of overdose of Cliff views

I prepare to catch a bus back to West Cowes. And then a ferry to Southampton. A long journey ahead.

What a lovely day it was and I regret to have made such a short trip to this beautiful place. There is lot more to discover here and spend some days at leisure at one of the beautiful beaches like Shankhlin. Its a romantic getaway and spending a day or two would be my recommendation to everyone.

My last click before the sun rests for the day. To come back again!

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From the Pier of Yarmouth.

Note to Travelers:

Links for booking Ferries to Isle of Wight

http://www.wightlink.co.uk/iow/

http://www.redfunnel.co.uk/

Read more about Isle of Wight and also the Isle of Wight Festival

http://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk/

http://isleofwightfestival.com/

Link to my Trover Album featuring some of the pictures on my Blog as well.

http://www.trover.com/u/theredbagandpurpleshoes

Categories: Chalky Cliffs, England coastline, ferry, hampshire, southampton, visit britain, visit england, visit isle of wight, visit yarmouth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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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Iconic Temples of Chennai

If one has to count the temples in Chennai, I am sure it will be one of the most herculean task. There is a temple in almost every street or neighborhood. Sometimes they are so enveloped between the houses and shops that you would know them only from the sandalwood fragrance mixed with some ‘sambhar’ aroma on the streets.
Chennai is referred as Temple City many times. Its almost a daily ritual of people residing here to make a visit to these temples. For those who are in the city as tourists, some of these Iconic temples should definitely be on your ‘Must See Places’. 
Iam wearing both the Hats while writing this post; that of a ‘Chennai-te’ if I may say so and of a traveler.
An earthern lamp lighted in a temple, flickering in the wind. The flame still holds strong, as strong as the prayer of the one who lit it.
Chennai is a 400 year old city, so are the temples. There are many known, and many lesser known temples which date back to the era of the dynasties of Cholas and Pallavas. Most of these temples have tall gopurams (towers) with innumerable deities carved and scenes depicted from many Indian epics.
 
Secondly most of the temples are made of stone, black stone which gives a very dark look to the temples. Even the deities in the temple are generally of black stone.
Thirdly photography is banned in most of them, atleast in all the ones I have visited. So you can click some shots of the temple exterior only.
 
Fourth, there are a whole lot of bikes, cycles, and vendors selling jasmine flowers, lamps, coconut s outside the temple, so you may struggle to get a full portrait photograph of the temple. So this makes the Third point difficult.
 
Fifth, most of the sanctum sanctorum are dimly lit. There are no bright lights, its only the glow of the earthern lamps that lights up the deities. So dilate your eyes well to capture the moment.
 
Sixth and very important, ‘Temple’ in the local language Tamil is ‘Koil‘ or ‘Kovil‘. Most of the temple streets will start or end with the word ‘Koil‘. Also, inside the temple most of the directions, entry, exit and the names of the deities are written in ‘Tamil’ the local language. At few places they are in English. So if you recognize Indian Gods, you maybe able to decipher whom you are praying to and choose the right prayer. But if you dont, like Me you can simply admire their beauty and pray with faith in their superpowers. 
 
Seventh which is important for all who are not very familiar with Hindu Mythology. Hindu Gods are highly polymorphic. They appear in various forms or avatars. A single God is worshiped in different avatars in different temples and have different legends corresponding to it. Yeah, it can be confusing, I get confused too but at the same time very interesting and mystical. Truly spells the prowess of ‘multivariate existence’ of Almighty (oooh whats that???).

 
Having stayed for four years in Chennai, I never clicked a single picture of any temple. It was like home and who clicks photos of your own walls daily.While leaving the city for good to move to another destination, I visited these temples again as a mark of reverence for what the city offered me. Here is my pick of the temples that i loved in Chennai. This is also my recommendation to all travelers and tourists visiting Chennai who are looking to soak themselves in some history and aura of spirituality.
1. Sri Ashtalakshmi Temple
In a very cluttered metropolitan city, this is a young temple situated at an envious spot on the seashore on Besant Nagar Beach. Dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi who in Indian mythology is the consort of Lord Vishnu. She is also an embodiment of prosperity, beauty and wealth. This temple houses her eight different forms hence its called ‘Asht'(eight)Lakshmi.Its a three storeyed temple. I loved its ‘vimana/gopuram’which I got a chance to have a closer look as the terrace was open and i sneaked some photos of the beautiful scenes sculpted in bright colors.
The Vimana of Ashtalakshmi Temple
View from the Terrace of the complete Vimana
View of the Bay of Bengal from the terrace of the Ashtalakshmi Temple
2. Parthasarathy Swamy Temple
 
This 8th century temple in Triplicane, Chennai is believed to be the oldest and one of the 108 Holy temples of Lord Vishnu. Built by Pallavas, it is dedicated to Lord Krishna(one of the avtars/forms of Lord Vishnu).This beautiful temple is replete with history. The presiding deity is ‘Parthasarathy’. In Mahabharatha, Lord Krishna was the charioteer(called Sarathy) of Arjuna, the Pandava prince(also called as Partha), hence the name Parthasarathy. The deity who is a charioteer sports a moustache and is believed to have scars on his face owing to the blows from the arrows of Bheeshma in the war.One of the very few Hindu temples in the world dedicated to Lord Krishna as a charioteer and Lord Vishnu being present with his three generations..
The Gopuram of Parthasarathy Temple on a very Bright, sunny day.
Photography is prohibited inside the temple. So the only photos i could click were of the magnificent Gopuram of the temple.
 3. Kapaleeshwara Temple
Maybe one of the most visited temple in Chennai, located in the heart of the hustling and bustling Mylapore. Dedicated to the most popular Indian God, Lord Shiva, this was built in 7th century. This temple also worships his consort, Goddess Parvati, depicted as a pea-hen and called ‘Karpagambal‘.The temple has a beautiful gopuram. Statues from the life of Lord Shiva galore.I have always loved visiting this temple though its quite crowded. Being in the heart of an old part of Chennai, this temple is surrounded by lovely shops offering some delicious South Indian food. My favourite is ‘Karpagam Mess’ which is a family run mess featured in many National Food Shows for its amazing simple snacks(referred as Tiffin) Dosas, Vadas, Khichdi etc. A famous Kanchipuram Sarees showroom ‘Rasi Silks’ is just a stone’s throw from the exit of the Temple.
Kapalesshwar Temple Mylapore, Chennai. Clicked from my phone Camera from inside the temple.

4. Sri Nitya Kalyana Perumal Temple : 365 days Wedding Festival
Built by the Pallava kings, this is also one of the 108 holy temples of Lord Vishnu. This temple has an interesting legend. It is believed that Sage Galiva had 360 daughters. Woo! Thats a whooping figure, so needless to say he was a troubled father with worries of getting his daughters married. The very benevolent Lord Vishnu came to his rescue and promised to marry one daughter a day of the year. On the last day the Lord converted all of them to one, who is depicted as his consort, ‘Komalavalli‘ in the temple.Lord Vishnu is in the form of ‘Varaha‘ (Boar) and holds his consort on his left thigh. 
Because of this legend, this temple is very important for all those who are facing difficulties in finding their beloved Life partner. Parents, single men and women, pay reverence here beseeching the kind Lord Vishnu to answer their prayers and gift them the much awaited fruit of marriage.
I have visited this temple with my family members to pray for the wedlock of one of our unmarried ladies and well, it worked(though after a decade of visits) 
 
*I havent clicked any photographs of this temple and neither borrowing from the web, If you search by the name of the temple, you shall find many images*
 
5. Marundeeswarar Temple
My last pick and my Best one!
Another pristine temple dating back to 7th century and one of the largest spread over 1 acre near the shores of Bay of Bengal. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva called as Lord Marundeeshwara who taught Sage Agatsya about some magical medicine. Hence this temple gained fame for all who wanted to get rid of diseases and ailments. They pray to the Lord for a speedy cure.
It is believed that Sage Valmiki stayed here and was blessed by the Lord. The neighbourhood of this temple is called ‘Valmiki Nagar‘.
This temple is closest to my heart. During my fours years stay in Chennai, i was residing at Valmiki Nagar, a stone’s throw away from this sacred temple. Visiting this temple was quite a frequent affair for me. The peace and serenity of sitting in its stone courtyard soaked in the chanting of hymns is inexplicable.
I still remember those countless evening when I used to sit under a tree all by myself, reflecting on my life, sometimes shedding tears. Well I wasnt ailing if you thought so, just hit by a low phase in life.
We all turn to God during such testing times, don’t we?
After all he is the only companion who never leaves your side; be it Sun or Shade!
 
Marundesswarar Temple Gopurams from the front of the Temple. It was a very bright and sunny day.
Temple Tank also called Sarovar outside the Marundeeshwarar Temple.
Shops and Stalls outside the Temple selling Rosaries, earthern lamps, idols and other knick knacks.

Note to the travelers:

* Chennai is the capital city of Tamilnadu, India. Its the fifth largest city in India (source ; Wikipedia).
It is very easy to reach here from any national and international destination. It has a large international airport.
Language can be a big challenge for first time visitors while commuting or trying to get your way in local places like temples, shops, streets etc
Commuting in Chennai is also not too difficult. Autos and taxis is what i would recommend to first time travelers.Word of caution : They can be very expensive at times.
Weather is always sultry with high humidity. You will sweat, sweat and sweat! So prepare accordingly. Best time to visit as a tourist should preferably be in last 3-4 months of the year.
Food : Chennai is a haven for food lovers. Food from all over the world has a place here. However my strong recommendation would be to try local and famous food joints serving South Indian food.*
Categories: chennai temples, india, tamilnadu temples, visit chennai, visit india, visit tamilnadu | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Souk of ‘EXTRAVAGANZA’: Dubai. Chronicles of My Solo Travel!

I am not new to Solo travel. Most of my travels in the last decade have been all by myself, either my personal or work trips.

This trip was just one of them, however it was a significant solo trip for me. It happened just a week after I closed a chapter of my life and said goodbye to a relationship which was special to me. I wasn’t really suffering from a heartache or heat of loss, however this was my own little celebration of coming back to my own individual life and maybe a kind of liberation which i cannot really pen down. So here i was, to unite back with my travel spirit and continue to discover the beautiful world and myself.
Dubai was not really a chosen planned trip. While i was travelling from India to UK in November 2014, I had a weekend to spend, so what can be better than to halt at world’s most happening city.
I have wandered around the magnificent Dubai airport on couple of occasions in the past in transit however never stepped into the city so this was my maiden visit.
Glittering Dubai at Night!
As read, seen and experienced in media, Dubai truly lives up to its much hyped ‘Glamour Quotient’. Every place on this earth has its own character, its DNA and so has Dubai. If cities had Zodiac signs, to me Dubai would be ‘Leo’ : Chic, Exuberant and Feline.
‘We swear by the Yellow Metal’…Golden Stallions in the driveway entrance to Hotel Al Qasr.
I had quite a few apprehensions in my mind of travelling alone in a Middle East Nation; I chose to stay in Ibis Hotel, which was a safe bet in a place called ‘Deira’. However my two days stay proved me wrong completely as I could cruise with the same ease as anywhere in UK or India, rather it was way safer there with stringent laws and world class infrastructure.
Burj Al Arab Hotel. Clicked from the entrance next to Wadi Adventures.
Dubai is a modern architecture marvel. I was taken aback when i crossed the Sheikh Zayed Road flanked by steely neck straining sky scrapers; they were in all shapes and sizes, some had snouts, some were weirdly curved, some had glassy Gothic domes; the prides of Canary Wharfs, Downtown Cores and Manhattans would surely take a beating here. This road is an arterial connect and the longest road, so you cant miss it.
Sheikh Al Zayeed arterial Road.


I strongly believe that the true spirit and beauty of any city comes alive after dusk. As a traveler I ensure to experience every city or town after dark, maybe not a very safe proposition but certainly worth it. Dubai glitters at night. Its an absolute delight to drive the smooth roads with the lighted towering buildings. 
The Atlantis Palm Hotel at Night. Clicked from a train.
The only structure which i was searching right from the time the aircraft was descending till i actually saw it; Blown and Bowled completely! Honorable Burj Khalifa!!My personal recommendation would be to view Burj Khalifa at night. There are tours operating daily to climb on top of the tower. I saw it from Dubai City Mall at 9pm midst the beautiful musical fountain and an eager jostling swarm of people all around.
Burj Al Khalifa at Night. Clicked from Dubai City Mall next to the Musical Fountains
Opposite to Burj Al Khaifa. Clicked from dubai City Mall
Not to miss in Dubai as its a haven for shopping would be the Dubai City Mall. Brands galore; Glittering shops; Luxury unlimited.
To explore the authentic Dubai i decided to explore the Souks. There are many Souks, Spice Souk, Carpet Souk, Camel Souk, Gold Souk, however with the paucity of time and my own interest i decided to settle with Spice and Gold!
Not far from where i was staying in Deira, a 20 minutes drive took me to The Deira Spice Souk , behind this was the Gold Souk.
From the first look it resembled an Indian bazaar with sacks, encroachments, excited and loud shopkeepers trying to woo the foreign customers. Woo! Sultry weather and not a place to step in, this Souk was bursting with the aromas of Arabic spices(and even sweat). I got my small pack of assorted spices of ‘Zatar’,’Saffron’ and ‘Ras el Hanout’ and many boxes of Arabian Dates.
Shops displaying Spices at The Deira Spice Souk
Spices at Spice Souk
Also in Spice Souk one can find the Moroccon and Turkish lamps, traditional Arabic footwear and dresses.
Adjacent to the Spice Souk is a completely covered Gold Souk which has shops galore, glittering with gold and precious ornaments.
The Gold Souk
Coming from South India, it wasn’t a huge surprise to see ostentatious, rather obnoxiously extravagant gold jewelry, however its a unique experience to visit the Gold Souk for its affordable and abundant choice, however you need quite strong necks, arms, ears to bear their weight.
Gigantic neck pieces displayed at a shop in The Gold Souk. You need a strong neck to bear their weight 🙂
Another one, if you can dare!
When gold is in abundance, we find ways to use it, like using as a embellishment on our chappals ~ The Dubaites 🙂
Phew! Golden Overhang! I came out of the Gold Souk albeit empty handed, but the gold ornaments were flashing before my eyes for next many days, whether in office or at home, so i did have some takeaways from the visit.
There werent many places to eat and I was quite starved. Only saving grace was some icecream. Well for those who thought, like Me, that Gelato was only Italiano, wake up guys, its very much Arabiano; and you cant beat this one…Camel Milk Gelato!! And that too Worlds’ First Ever! This City couldnt stop surprising me enough!
Camel Milk Gelato :O
It was sunset and time for me to head back to my hotel. Before moving ahead i stood for a while admiring the stretch of Dubai Creek and the view of Mosques and buildings on its banks; so serene; so tranquil amidst the glitz and panache of luxury. A city has so much to give to its people; it becomes our home, our life, it dwells inside us. One of my friend  once said, a City grows on us, and when we leave it, it leaves a void in our heart. As i viewed the lazily setting sun, I thought about the city I too left behind me in India; A city which gave me lot of happiness and finally a sunset!
Pensive thoughts! Some pain! Life in retrospect! And what to do next!
Well not for long, i had a Desert Safari waiting as an evening Bonanza for me at the Magical Dubai.
(My next post on The Desert Safari)
Dubai Creek as viewed from the road opposite the Spice Souk.

***Some pointers if you are a traveler like Me***

Safety : 9/10 : That 1 mark is left as ‘it can happen anywhere’. Its a place where everything is organised and under strict control. So yes a safe location if that worries you.
Language : English is a safe bet. Other than your co-passengers (like i was in a group of Germans and Russians who couldnt speak or understand English), you can manage with English.
Stay : Any good 2-3 star hotel for Budget travelers. For luxury seekers, Burj Al Arab is the limit. I stayed in Deira which is a hustling bustling area full of hotels, students and facilities. It has good hotels to fit anyone’s pocket. I stayed at Ibis Al Rigga Hotel.
On the move : Unfortunately i couldn’t explore too may ways of commuting. I traveled in taxi only as i found them to be cheap. The Dubai taxi meters start from around 3.00 AED. They are all AC sedans and the Drivers I met were utmost courteous and disciplined, I traveled as late as 10:30 PM alone so it was safe too. However there are metros as well that operate almost everywhere across the city.
Currency : Everywhere UAE Dirhams(AED). I didnt step into the high street brand shops, I assume they would accept Euros and Dollars in Cash. However all merchandise on Dubai Airport, display prices in AED and USD and accept all cards, so its quite easy.
Food : Not to miss the Sherbets, Kebabs, Biryanis, the meat curries, Baklava and various other Arabic cuisines. Vegetarians will also find decent options. For those who want to go Budget way, there are the Mc Donalds, Burger Kings, Subways of the world everywhere and also cheap local food outlets serving Doner Kebabs, Biryanis and Maqlooba.
Categories: Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa, Dubai, Emirates, visit dubai, Visit Emirates, Visit UAE | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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