Posts Tagged With: #followtheredbagandpurpleshoes

England’s Bay of Naples :Weymouth, Dorset

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

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

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The beautiful pebble beach of Weymouth

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

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View from the Beach

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

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

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

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Conversations!

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

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

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

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

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

Ok if this didnt appeal you then how about this!

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Lewis Hamilton, home grown Merc F1 champ

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

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The Fab Four from Liverpool. The Beatles!

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

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

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

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The Jubliee Clock

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

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

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The Bay area with ships and cruises

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

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

Notes for Travelers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On the banks of Danube, a glittering monument

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

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

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

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The left colonnade of statues of statesmen at Hosok tere

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And the right colonnade of imposing statues.

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

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

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

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

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

Note to Travelers

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

A day at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock England

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

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Entrance to Blenheim Palace

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

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

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Palace grounds from inside

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

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The skyline with statues in typical Baroque style

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

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Sculpted – Sir Winston Churchill

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

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One of the state rooms

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The room in which Winston Churchill was born

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Beautiful painted ceiling of one of the rooms

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One of the official Rooms of the Dukes

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The royal dining place

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And my favourite room, The Library!

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

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The base of the organ has these operational knobs.

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

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One of the rooms with the puppet

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

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View of the castle from the gardens. Retro look!

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The gardens

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

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The beautiful scenic lake

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Lovely view of the palace from the parks

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

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

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

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

 

Note to Travelers

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

The soulful town of Bangor, Northern Ireland

Sometimes the most blissful experiences in life are the simplest.

And sometimes impromptu!

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

And little did we know…..

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The port of Bangor

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

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

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

Indeed it was….

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Views from the Boat ride in the Ocean

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The lovely blue swelled up Ocean, albeit quite cold.

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

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

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

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The starting of the coastal path from the Bangor town

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

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

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Views of the coastal walk

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The rocky coast of Bangor

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

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Probably one of my most beautiful clicks

And we continue to walk…

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The rocks and the marine flora and fauna

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

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The green meadow walk alongside the Irish Sea

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

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The beautiful almost deserted beach

By now we had walked for more than three hours…

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

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

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The sun about to kiss goodbye on the Bangor beach

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

———-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Little Secret; Big Surprise : Gdansk, Poland

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

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

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

The Beaches!

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Gdansk Beach early morning

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And a pic in the evening as the sun goes down

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

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

Old Town

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

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

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Old Town, Gdansk

Town Hall

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

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The Main Town Hall

St Mary’s Church

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

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St Marys Church

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

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View of the organ

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

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

The Green Gate

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

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

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The Green Gate

Streets of Gdansk Old Town

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

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One of the streets in Old Town of Gdansk

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Another beautiful street at nightfall

River Motlawa

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

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On the banks of River Motlawa

Food

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

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

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

Ulica Mariacka

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

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

Note for Travelers

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

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

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

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

Stonehenge and Salisbury : The Mystery Wonders of England

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

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

Salisbury

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

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Salisbury Cathedral

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

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The facade of the Cathedral

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View of the Cathedral from one of its gardens

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

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The interior of the Cathedral with its tall columnar pillars

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View of the interior of the Cathedral

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The gardens and the intricate arches all around it.

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

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

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

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

Stonehenge

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

View of the Stonehenge from outside the fence

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

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

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A close up view

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

Another close up from another side of the stone arrangement

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

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

Polish Sausages; quite a common site in any local market

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

Wooden toys which are actually plant holders.

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

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

A bridge across the canal

*Note to Travelers*

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

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

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

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

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

For train bookings from London to Salisbury

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

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

For booking tours to Stonehenge

http://www.thestonehengetour.info/

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

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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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

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