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Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

#MonthlyTravelTadka: October 2019 Edition

October 08, 2019 0 Comments
How many of you come across interesting things when you travel this globe which adds additional flavor to your travel? Be it the local tour guides, or the people who habitat these places, each trip will always have some juicy gossip about the place, the people who lived there or about the culture.

D and I love travelling and collecting such interesting stories and will be sharing such snippets, as and when we come upon them.

October Travel Tadka

Zimbabwe: 
  1. Hwange, the largest  National Park of Zimbabwe's largest is half the size of Belgium, accounting for an area of approximately 14,000 km².

South Africa:

  1. Lifespan of slaves when slavery was in full force was 7 - 9 years
  2. In the mid 1900's, the court used to perform the infamous "pencil test" to determine how much African heritage you have thereby determining your purity or impurity of race. If the pencil got stuck in the hair of the person, they were declared African and deemed of lower race. Many of the erstwhile "white women" and "African men" got reclassified into white and black because of it.

Costa Rica:

  1. Covering only 0.0013% of earth's surface, Costa Rica accounts for 7% of world's biodiversity
  2. Volcanic eruptions are of two types - it's not what is commonly propagated by mainstream cinema - molten lava sprouting from the peak and engulfing entire towns. In most of the cases its ash and rocks which is considered far more damaging and dangerous. A realistic depiction is referred in the movie "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."

Stay tuned for the November edition.




Tuesday, 1 October 2019

The Elephant House

October 01, 2019 0 Comments


As Harry Potter fans both N and I had decided that ‘The Elephant House’ would be our first stop once we land at Edinburgh. I remembered a bit about the café from the interview Jo Rowling did there after Harry Potter became famous and was looking forward to experiencing it myself.


The café is within the walking distance from the railway station. So, we decide to walk to the café for our morning cup of tea and breakfast. The first thing that you notice about the café is its bright red appearance. The sign proclaiming ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter that the café has put up on is also quite attention grabbing. The café is very proud of the fact that it has served a number of authors. From ‘Writers & Reviews’ board in their café to the mention of these authors on their website, the café boasts of not only having served J. K. Rowling but also authors like Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith. Therefore, this café is not only hallowed ground for Potterheads, it is a great place for any bookworm and aspiring authors.


Once you enter the café, at the first glance, it feels small and very underwhelming.But it is soon apparent that there is more to the place. Once you have placed your order and move towards finding a table, the ‘Writers & Reviews’ board becomes visible. That is also when you notice the framed autograph of the lady herself and it is a ‘Limited Edition certification’. There is also a big frame with a number of pictures of Jo Rowling on it. But they all seem to be like from the day she did the interview there rather than of her writing days there. Apart from the café’s own wall of fame, a lot of Potterheads seem to have visited the café and left their mark. There were a lot of graffiti and scrawls from fans all over the world. They have left comments and words of appreciation for both the series and its author.


Sitting there was a wonderful feeling. To be where the magic was created and to see what the Rowling had seen. The best part of our experience there was the fact that we found a lady sitting alone at a table with a cup of coffee. She was furiously scribbling in her diary and I couldn’t help but smile at the scene! It was probably very similar to the scene that the patrons of the café witnessed decades back. I was also really tempted to go and ask the lady her name, so that if and when she becomes famous and is added to the café’s wall of fame I could reflect back on my visit to the café. But no, I did not disturb her from plotting.


The nearby landmark of George Heriot’s School building with four towers is said to have served as an inspiration for Hogwarts School. The Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetery may have served not only as the inspiration for quite a few names in the series but also may have served as the inspiration for the graveyard where Voldemort’s father was buried.

If you are not a bookworm or a Potterhead, even then you should pay this place a visit. The café has a terrific view of the Edinburgh Castle from its sitting room at the back. They have great food at really reasonable prices (irrespective of their demand) and friendly staff.


This post was originally written for BUZZ Magazine

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Calton Hill

September 29, 2019 1 Comments


I took a short vacation to Glasgow and Edinburgh over the Easter break. While vacations bring on images of peace, tranquility and relaxation, ours was a bit overloaded. We were limited by time but not the number of things on my places-to-visit list! We each have our roles to play while planning for a vacation. N takes care of destination, dates, tickets, planning and I am left with only one job – research the destination and make a list of places to see. This time was no exception… While the whole trip was filled with beautiful and scenic locations, Calton Hill simply took my breath away with its easy access, scenic views, and grand architectures.


Calton Hill is centrally located and as the name suggests, yes, it is a hill. It is about 15 minutes’ walk up from Royal Mile. Once you get out of the city’s hubbub and get to the stairs that marks the beginning of the ascent to the hill top, things get quite calm and peaceful. The City Observatory building is the first thing we came across, but it was closed. The Dugald Stewart Monument was the next thing that we noticed. We did take a few photos with it in the background but I have to admit that I only discovered later (on Google after returning) that Dugald Stewart was a Scottish philosopher. Further up are the Nelson Monument and the National Monument. The Nelson Monument looks almost like a watch tower and I had mistaken it for one when I had spotted it earlier in the day from the Edinburgh Castle. However, it was used to send signals to the ships in earlier days. The National Monument is as memorial to the soldiers who died in combat during the Napoleonic Wars. Its pillars and arches are huge and majestic.


The view from the hill top is quite something. You can see the whole city and well into the sea. We had gone up there just after a spell of rain and like most things, the view somehow felt ‘clearer’ at that point. We were among the first few to get up there once the rain had stopped and as such we got to see the view in comparative peace. The place soon was full of people – both locals and tourists. It was a clear favorite of the locals as well who came there for their evening walks and to exercise their dogs as well. The open area and the greenery just add to the charm of the place. There is a quaint little tea shop up there, just in case anyone wants a cuppa to go with the view.


The beauty of this hill top lies in the fact that it brings together the view, the monuments and beauty of hills together all the while being within the city.

QOTD: Have you been to Edinburgh? What did you like the most about it? 



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Friday, 27 September 2019

Falling in love with Venice

September 27, 2019 1 Comments


As a kid I had this memory game card set that I loved very much. They had different photos representing each city. For instance, New Delhi had a snake charmer (yeah! :/), London had Big Ben, San Francisco had The Golden Gate Bridge and so on... The card for Venice had the picture of a three tier Gondola with the canal in the background. The idea of a city on water with canals instead of roads seemed very exotic to me. Ever since I have been obsessed with it and over the years my obsession with Venice had become my obsession with Italy. And guess what? I got to tick Venice off my bucket list in April!!


People say that you either love Venice or hate it - there is no way you can be indifferent to the city. And after dreaming of what it would be like for the better part of my life, I was prepared to be disappointed once I landed because I didn't think reality could beat my imagination. So after checking in at our hotel and a refreshing bath, we soon headed to Pizza San Marco. At first glance, the city seemed and felt like a typical tourist trap. Restaurants, Murano Glass Shops, Souvenir Shops and a lot of  tourist attraction points rammed into one square. There are attractions peppered all over the different islands, but Piazza San Marco is the center of all the hubdub. It is a city with a lot of art and culture to offer to its visitors. At the same time, it is also a city that can deliver gastronomic pleasures with its usual flair. It can also be a shopper's paradise.


But it wasn't until I had a look around and ended up sitting down on the bank at the Piazzetta for a break that I really took notice of the rustic charm of the place.  We ended up skipping a lot of "spots" that we had planned to visit and walked around the town instead. We switched off our Google Maps, and made it a game to see how long we could walk without having to cross a canal. Sounds childish perhaps, but it was fun discovering small cafes, churches and different piazzas on our own. We may have missed out on some of the "must see" places that makes lists look good, but we also got to avoid the crowd and see the side of Venice that perfectly planned trips do not cover. The beautiful bridges that connects the city, the modern touch ups on really old buildings, the really small alleyways (the last two things did make me think of Banaras/Varanasi for a second), lovers locks at random bridges, the gondoliers trying to convince you to take a ride with them and the chefs insisting that you don't have to pay unless you absolutely love their food - things that you do not seem to take much notice of at the beginning turn out to be the things that you take away from the city. To enjoy this city, you have to forget your plans and just follow where your heart takes you.

 

Venice did not knock me off my feet nor did it Wow me. It kind of grew on me and captured my heart. The really old buildings with crumbling plasters, the cheery Gondolas, the narrow alleys and the small pizza parlours - all it took was 3 days - to fall in LOVE.

QOTD: What do you think about a city on water?


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Sunday, 15 September 2019

St.Paul's Cathedral

September 15, 2019 24 Comments

Blame it on my missionary boarding school education or on the pleasant and welcoming atmosphere at St.Paul’s Cathedral in Kolkata – I have always loved visiting the local churches and cathedrals. So, St.Paul’s Cathedral was on my list.

St. Paul’s Cathedral was founded in 7th century but the present building is about 300 years old. This building was rebuilt after the Great Fire by Christopher Wren. This fact is only a drop in the sea of the rich history of the cathedral. The cathedral is filled with artistic masterpieces – from the statue of Duke of Wellington to the famous Madonna and Child to The Light of the World painting. Walking around and discovering each piece of art with its own history was indeed a fine experience.

The Quire Aisle and the huge organ take the spotlight on the main cathedral floor. The Organ boasts to be the fourth-largest in Great Britain in number of pipes. It felt really grand and inspiring even to someone like me who understands very little of the instrument. Another aspect that always attracts me in churches/cathedrals is the stained glass works. In St.Paul’s the only stained glass work one can see is behind the High Altar. Both the High Altar and the Quire Aisles were rebuilt after the Second World War and that is when the stained glass was incorporated into the building.

The Crypt at St.Paul’s is supposed to be the biggest in Europe and has many famous people buried under it. Christopher Wren, Alexander Fleming, John Donne and Duke of Wellington are among the few. The Crypt also has the Order of the British Empire Chapel. Then there is the Whispering Gallery which is 257 steps up from the Cathedral floor. If you whisper something at one side of the dome, it can be heard on the opposite side! Take another 119 steps up and you will reach the Stone Gallery. The view of London from the Stone Gallery is breathtakingly beautiful. And, it is just another 152 steps up to the Golden Gallery. You can have a panoramic view of the city from there.



What took my breath away though was the monochrome painting on the Dome. There are eight scenes from the St.Paul’s life drawn by James Thornhill up there. I spent majority of my time sitting down and craning my neck up to look at it. Stained glass and mosaic art is widespread and I this was my first experience (I am sure there are many around the world) of large scale grisaille work and I am bowled over!

It is a must visit while you are in London.


For More details visit: https://www.stpauls.co.uk/

QOTD: Do you notice the artwork in your place of worship?




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Sunday, 8 September 2019

221B, Baker Street

September 08, 2019 57 Comments


Being a bookworm has its advantage and disadvantages. When people learned about my trip to London, everyone seemed to have opinions and advises for me. From what to carry to what to do and of course the places I must visit. But very few people ever guessed the first place I would visit after landing here. It should have been very obvious to anyone who knows even a teensy bit about me.


Visiting Sherlock Holmes Museum was the first thing on my list. As such, I headed to Baker Street within a few hours of landing in London. The road from the tube station leading up to the museum seemed oddly familiar after having stalked it on Google Street View for years! [Yes I am crazy enough to stalk dead fictional characters.] We bought our tickets from the Gift Shop and after about 15 mins in a very well behaved (being an Indian I was almost disappointed at the lack of impatience and pushing) queue, we got our chance to enter the hallowed grounds.

The ground floor houses the gift shop which is stocked full of Sherlock Holmes books, souvenirs and tidbits. The famous study room, on the first floor, is so well set up and maintained that it was as if it had come straight to life from the pages of the books. The bedrooms of Sherlock, Watson and Mrs.Hudson are equally well maintained. Then on the third floor are wax statutes portraying various characters from the stories - including the man himself and the notoriously famous Professor Moriarty.


There are knick-knacks spread throughout the house to give it an authentic feel. From Sherlock and Watson's personal belongings to what could be only termed as Sherlock's souvenirs from his various cases make for interesting decorative pieces. The aptly dressed up staff add to the air of this Victorian set up. From the policeman at the gates, who by the way is expert at spotting people taking pictures and then posing for them, to the maids in the house who were ready to answer queries and guide the visitors at all times - only made the experience more fun. But what was priceless to me was Watson's diary containing extracts from the famous adventure of The Hound of the Baskervilles. It was so precious.

The nicest part about this whole set up is that if you look out the windows of 221B Baker Street, you will still see a somewhat Victorian London. The buildings around 221B have been kept up and maintained in a manner so as to add to the whole experience. Of course, the cars and people with gadgets cannot be helped, but the buildings remain the same as 1880s - the time when Sherlock and Watson is said to have lived there.


If you visit Sherlock Holmes Museum and forget that he is just a fictional character who couldn't have owned a house or any of those materialistic things, I will not blame you! Go on... Go and experience the very real lifestyle of a very fictional character - You know you want to ;)


For more details visit : http://www.sherlock-holmes.co.uk/

QOTD: Have you ever tried 'traveling'  around the world with Google Street View?



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