2005-05-31

Lost Pictures Recovered

After discovering that one of the SmartMedia Card from my Camera not working at Seville we were really very heart broken and anxious. It had pictures from our first three days of our trip. And in those first three days we traveled from Madrid to Granada. We had captured lots of evening pictures in Madrid and sunset view of Alhambra at Granada.

But we kept our nerve cool and continued with other media cards and tried our best not to remember about the same. Getting home and after finishing lots of house hold chores at late evening we started trying Google for an answer. And quickly it became clear that we were not the only one with this problem. The commercial solutions offered were OK but bit pricy($40) for one time use. Since those pictures were precious to us, so I tried to buy the same over internet and my credit card got declined.

But today my luck was better as I found a better web site with lot of good links(shareware) for the same. Check out, if you happen to have same problem in future (touch wood).

http://www.jr-worldwi.de/photo/index.html?SmartMedia_recovery.html

Well time to go to bed and prepare pictures for posting them on web. Adios

2005-05-29

Hotel Train Lisbon to Madrid


We were at the very last phase of our vacation. We took train back to Madrid tonight as from there we had our flight back to Paris.

We booked the train ticket long back; I went in-person to get the same from Spanish Railway ticket office based in Paris. The office is kind of hidden by all the stores near to Boulevard Haussmann; ever busy shopping place.
Being Indian it was a really something new although we had experienced few other different night trains in Europe. As this was a Hotel Train, there are mostly 4 kinds of tickets in this night train which connects Lisbon and Madrid. The cheapest one being the chair car, next one is four person cabins where passengers are divided according to gender. Then there is two people's cabin, there is also two kinds of the same. One being first class with attached personal shower and loo while the other one is only with personal wash basin. These cabins are maintained and operated by Accor Hotel Group, one of the largest hotel chains in continental Europe.
Well,our booking was two persons cabin with wash-basin. As a matter of fact we were kind of surprised with the hospitality and the cabin itself. It really worth the money we spent in fact I wish and wondered how much extra it would have been for the first class. With first class the dinner and breakfast were included but for us it was only breakfast.
So far I have seen this kind of train service in Hindi (BollyHood) movies experiencing the same in real life was a dream. May be our beloved Laloo-jee can travel once in this first class and he introduces the same service from Patna :))

2005-05-28

Lisbon - Portugal

Second day at Lisbon, as we had covered most of the top attractions on day one we started our day in ease, but I am sure lot of people might not agree with us ;) on easy going part.
We headed towards Colombo Shopping Mall which is one of the largest shopping mall in Europe and built very recently. After being mall rats for a while we bought some and had lunch there in one fast food Mexican place. Depositing those shopping bags to hotel we went to Baixa again. We walked more in Baixa streets and then headed towards Belem. The weather in Lisbon being till far was with overcast all the time and temperature much lower than Spain, we took a long walk along the river side.

Before going back to Lisbon we entered the famous Paties House dating back to 1837. Oh! Those paties they are so good and mouth watering I feel like tasting them now as I am writing. Resturant is really big inside and with very reasonable prices. It should top the list for going to Belem.
For dinner we had some fusion food which had Indian spices with Portugal taste in Chaido. The restaurants are too small and packed so there is always someone waiting near the door.

Lisbon - Portugal



Pictures from Lisbon

Well the over night bus journey between Seville and Lisbon was not very long one. We had an hour long stop as soon as we entered Portugal. The road condition was good and we reached the Oriental Stop of Lisbon at very early hours and the sky was still dark. From there it took another 20 minutes or so to reach the final destination near Zoological Garden. We took a taxi and the ride was a short one to our hotel for only 6 Euros. The driver was nice and he was mentioning about the drought Portugal is facing.

The Hotel (Novotel) was under renovation but the staff was kind enough to get us a room at 4:30 in the morning although we had by mistake booked for only one adult which we came to knew then and there.


After having rest for few hours we headed out from our hotel to Lisbon downtown by metro. It was a very cloudy day. I was feeling heavy headed and wanted to get some coffee.

 Pictures from LisbonAfter walking in Rossio Square for a while we bought day pass for Lisbon Trasport. The Metro system is run by the Government while the Bus, Tram and trolleys are run by a company. Lisbon have lots of trams and it seems like one of the attractions. Lisbon downtown is divided in three major part Bairro Alto, Alfama and Baixa. The first two one are on hills and the last one in the middle of the two.

It took us a while to figure out the starting point of Gloria funicular. We took it to reach the top of Bairro Alto Neighborhood. The ride is very small and full of tourists only. At the end of the 2/3 minute ride the people who bought a single trip ticket was wondering is it really worth or not.

Just getting out of the funicular on the right towards hill there is park, from there we get very nice view of the other part of the city and the river from there. There is also the ‘Porto’ wine collection place just across the street. Start walking downhill towards Chiado. Chaido is very happening place with lots of designer shops and places to east and drink. We visited Sao Roque Church which is very beautiful with lots of excellent tile and marble works inside; it was built in the glory days of Portugal.


We had lunch in one of the restaurant of big mall in Baixa Chaido. After that we took tram 28 for going to Alfama. This one is also a old tram most likely built in 1930s and it passes Baixa district. We visited the Caste of São Jorge. After spending a good time and taking the view of Lisbon & River Tejo we took the same tram back to Chiado. In Chaido we took Bica funicular which is like Gloria a old one but it is very stiff and goes down to the river front. The buildings along side are very old and in poor condition.

Once reaching the river front we took tram 15 towards Belem. There are both new and old tram on this track. Belem is 5 KM outside of Lisbon. On the way we saw 25th April Bridge, which just looks like Golden Gate bridge of San Francisco. The reason may be both are built by the same company. Belem tower and Monastery are the main attractions along with the ‘Monument to the Discoveries’.Well it was a quite a long day and we headed back to Chiado for dinner and then to Hotel.

2005-05-26

Seville - Spain


 Plaza de Espana
Last day at Seville... After checking out from the hotel we took a bus and got down next to the Casino of Exposition. But today it is a public holiday at Seville which we did not knew, so the roads were quite empty at 9 in the morning. After getting down from the bus we walked towards Plaza de Espana. Plaza de Espana was built for 1929 world expo. Lots of Latin American countries joined that expo. The world expo was not a success as that year was marked as first financial disaster of the Great Depression as U.S. securities lost $26 billion.
The famous tile work of Andalusia is at its best here. There are maps of Spain from that time; the benches, the small decorative bridges are really beautiful. We walked along the great corridors of Spanish Pavilion. From there we walked to Alcazar while we saw the university and the famous 5star hotel. The university used to be a cigarette factory before.
King Pedro Castile in the 1360's with his mistress Maria de Padilla, lived in and ruled from the Alcazar. Pedro embarked upon a complete rebuilding of the palace, employing workmen from Granada and utilising fragments of earlier Moorish buildings in Seville, Cordoba and Valencia. The comparison between Alhambra is like comparing apple and orange. This is build with lot of confusing room. The outside garden is really beautiful which worth a stroll.
As that day was religious holiday with procession and big gathering of people around the cathedral. We walked along the cathedral towards city hall and further. After lunch we rested inside a café for 2 hours to beat the scorching heat.
We took a bus to visit Basilic of Macarena, the weeping Mary which is world famous. We walked back all the way from there to Plaza de Espana. It is better to visit west facing Plaza de Espana in the evening for photos.
After all that walking we were really tired and exhausted. We had tapas again for dinner next to our hotel. It was a better place with street side seating. We really enjoyed my food with cool breeze and watching people on the street.
Taxi ride to the bus stop for Lisbon was a good choice at late night. But waiting for the midnight bus was not fun. But the overnight bus ride was not bad.

2005-05-25

Evening in Seville - Spain


Back from Cordoba around 4PM in the afternoon to Seville. We went to buy ticket for next phase of journey that was between Seville and Lisbon. Oh! That was too hot and sweating experience to summarize in short. Back to hotel being boiled with afternoon heat we got freshen up.
We started our evening stroll starting from Puente de San Telmo towards Triana around 9PM, the other side of the river a common Seville neighborhood. On our way we saw the ‘Torre del Oro’. After a while went to a tapas bar which was crowded with local people. Here the server notes down your order and price with a chalk in front of you on the desk while you have your food standing. Around midnight we left Triana as we could not find any flamenco music sounds. This is the only thing which we could not listen to in this trip of ours. We came back walking near to cathedral and took picture of the bell tower (in night mode). At this hour city was still crowded with tourists as well as locals giving a feeling that night is still young.

Cordoba – Spain

 Double Arches - Cordoba
When we started planning for Andalusia we did not thought of Cordoba first. But later friends who had been there suggested visiting Cordoba.
We walked from our hotel on the busy morning streets of Seville to reach the train station. We bought ticket for AVE (fast train) to Cordoba. The fair is not at all expensive compared to French standard as it costs almost similar from Paris CDG airport to city center. The train service is really good and train travels in high speed.


Cordoba’s main attraction is its Mezquita(Mosque). This is a living history of Cordoba as it transforms from one culture and religion to other. It was one of the first big city that was built by Moorish rulers in Spain at 10th century. These leaders wanted to build a mosque for their religion. Earlier the mosque was small but with time as Cordoba prospered, it was extended to accommodate more people.

The double arch with red and white stripes makes a very immense effect to the visitors. These double arches are purely for decorative purpose but it is so unique. Later days when Christians gained their control over Cordoba this was converted to a Church with very little modification giving it a feeling of church inside the mosque.
 Patio Cordoba
The `Mihrab` traditionally had two functions in Islamic worship, first it indicated the direction of Mecca (therefore prayer) and it also amplified the words of the Imam, the prayer leader. But The Cordoba Mosque Mihrab looks south in the same way as the Damascus mosque and not south east in the direction of Mecca. This one is very beautifully decorated with Islamic arts of gold on marble.


From there we went around various streets exploring beautiful patios of Cordoba. Best time is early May to visit the same. There is a competition for most beautiful patio in Cordoba, which means lots of patios to check out in early May.

We had a light snack of fruits and juice near to Alcazar. The afternoon was scorching hot. After waiting a good amount of time for the public bus we took a taxi back to train station. The ride in the AC car was worth (4 Euros) every penny as the outside was burning at 40 C.

2005-05-24

Seville - Spain

 Cathedral Seville I should have started jotting down all my memories from this beautiful city immediately after my return to Paris. But back to work and daily routine.... lots of finer moments are fading off.

We took a morning bus from Granada to Seville; we reached Seville around 11AM. The bus ride was around 2 hours and 45 minutes. From that IntercityBus stop to our hotel (again Novotel) we took again local public bus. But we got down 2 stops before the actual stop which ended up with a walk along the nice boulevard of Seville.

As we reached before afternoon there was no non-smoking room available to us. So left our luggage & went to a Mall next to our hotel.We had our lunch that day at McDonald which is really a restaurant where you don't feel like you are eating 99 cent burgers. Hmm..........money well spent for the interior decoration of this McDo, may be one of those new one where McDo is fighting back to win its market share.

We started our sightseeing around 5PM after fresh up with the Cathedral of Seville which has its entry in ‘Guinesses book of world Records'. Its really BIG we had been to Vatican (Rome) and St. Paul in London but this one is really special. All the money, gold, silver and what not poured from New-World shows its mark. May be like those of Birla Temples of India - more the money bigger and whiter it is with marble . But any way I am not going to question human’s faith and its relation with God like poet Shri. Harivansh Rai Bachchan. The treasury collection is awesome. The craftsmanship of wood, marble, glass and others are really superb. There are so many things inside to pay attention to. The Bell tower is the only remain from the old mosque on which this cathedral was built after the moors were defaulted.

 Santa-cruz-Seville
Getting out of Cathedral, we walked on Santa Cruz district. It is the old part of the city. The lanes are really narrow; some of them reminded me of Vanaras and Calcutta. It has special purpose: as the houses are so close they do not get sunlight that much which makes them cooler than the new city. There are lots of nice little parks and patios with orange trees one of the speciality of Andalusia. These trees serves the purpose of shade as it has got very dense leaves. But we were told these oranges are very bitter .

The evenings are really special in Seville when every body is out to take a stroll. It is really nice to enjoy watching people while sipping something cooler and biting tapas.This city is very lively & warm too.Here, temperature is very high in afternoon around 40C & it cools down by evening 7-8PM with a cool breeze.

In the evening we ended up walking on the Bridge of Triana after passing the bull fight Arena. We had Paella for dinner. Paella is a rice-based speciality which is laced with saffron, paprika and can contain intriguing morsels of seafood, meat and vegetable.It was almost midnight but there were lots of people even toddlers along with their parents on the side walk.

While walking back toward the bus stop for hotel we came across a resturant with lots of tempting , mouth watering desserts kept near the window on the road side. As this place was too crowded with locals & tourists we didnot found any place to sit & have dessert.But, we were also no less... we managed to get two chairs to sit & ordered for the same(just imagine how tempting it could be that without table & proper arrangment we had our dessert).Anyway, we enjoyed it very much.....something we can never forget.

2005-05-23

Alhambra - Granada - Spain

We did not book our tickets for Alhambra before coming to Granada. There can be 8,000 visitors inside Alhambra in a given day. Out of those 8,000 around 6,500 are sold over internet & phone. So for us, it meant getting up early and queuing up in the morning. As it was Monday and not peak of tourist season... we were lucky.

alhambra
Alhambra has main 4 sites to visit. The main attraction is of course "Palacios Nazaries" the best preserved Moorish Palace in Europe. The palace is quite intact from all the wars that were fought between Christians and Moorish (Arab Muslim from North Africa). The war ended at 1429. I heard lots of tour guides mostly Japanese comparing this to Taj Mahal. As I have never been to Taj Mahal I can not say for certain but I am quite sure it is not that close to Taj Mahal in beauty. Still the works of Moorish artists are really very appreciable.

We spent a good amount of time in Palacios Nazaries, from there we went to Generalife via beautiful garden of roses. From there we visited 'Palace of Charles V' and 'Alcazaba'. This makes the four attraction of Alhambra.

After siesta, we went to the Cathedral and walked around there. That evening while strolling we came across Mexican Restaurant - "Chile Grande". The food was really excellent which reminded me of my Californian days.

2005-05-22

Granada - Spain

The temperature in Spain was quite hot compared to Paris. It was around 37° C when we reached Granada in the afternoon. The bus station for intercity is not at the city center but there is a good connection of public transport for the same. Our hotel was at the center - Plaza Royal.

Around 5 PM, we headed out from hotel, it was still very hot and bright. We walked towards Plaza Nueva. We entered into two churches while walking along the Darro River. They were small churches compared to the cathedral but also have nice wood work. Then we walked uphill towards St Nicolas Church in El Albaicín

Alhambra from San NicolaIt is on hill top from where you can have a great view of Alhambra at the sunset. The cobble stone roads are really narrow. There are lots of tourists at that view point in the evening so are gypsies. They were playing music and selling their art works.

As we had time before the sunset we walked down a bit and went to Sacromonte. There are gypsy caves most of which are now converted into houses. But there is one part left for historic and touristy purpose.

Then we came back to The Church of San Nicolás. I am quite sure if you been there recently you must be knowing Bill Clinton also re-visited this place while he was President as he was here once as a young student. Well even with out his historic visit this place at the sunset is really great to look at the red fort – Alhambra.

This is one of the photos that were there in that Smart Card Media with which we had problem. It would have been very sad if those photos were not recovered.

Well I must admit this time the vegetarian place recommended by Rick Steve was good for dinner.

2005-05-21

Madrid - Spain

We were on our way to spring break; we planned to visit Spain and Lisbon for 10 days. We started our trip with flight from Paris to Madrid on Saturday 21st May 2005.

We reached Charles de Gaulle Airport on time and the checking was smooth but after boarding the plane we were in ground for almost one hour before taking off. The cost cutting measures with European state carriers are all alike now, so there is no free snacks & drinks in the short flight. By the time we reached Madrid in the afternoon we were very hungry. We got into the Metro from Airport to our Hotel which involved dragging our luggage for 10 minutes or so. The hotel was again ‘Novotel’, this one was not that outside one like that of Vienna but not very close to the Metro like Berlin. But we found this one is quite OK with public transportation as there is a Bus stop just outside the hotel which takes to the center of Madrid – Sol.

After freshen up we headed towards Sol, after reaching there we had a very late lunch in a Falafel place. It was great – cheap price – tasty and fresh food.

After that we started our walk tour towards Royal Palace via Plaza Mayor. This walk is a kind of an introductory tour referred in any travel guide book. We took lot of pictures of the beautiful ceiling of the royal church, decorated with bright colors. From there we headed more south towards the Basilic.

 Madrid with tripodOur dinner was not up-to mark. As dining section of Rick Steve's guide book is quite empty. There are plenty to choose from when it comes to eating as Spaniards have great passion about gastronomy.After dinner we walked from Sol towards East to “Banco de Espana” and we tried to capture few nice big white buildings in night mode with tripod.

Next day morning we checked out from hotel and started our Bus journey to Granada. We were very lucky to get to the bus station on time to board the bus to Granada with out any wait. The five and half hour long smooth & comfortable ride with one break gave us view of Spain’s agricultural rich country side. Before reaching Granada we passed some scenic view of Sierra Nevada range.

2005-05-20

Vienna - Austria

We just finished uploading pictures from our Vienna trip to our site. It was a great trip. Only complain was the hotel which was really outside of city without any proper public transport. The hotel was “Novotel” and we preferred it as we got good treatment from this hotel chain for our trips to Amsterdam and Berlin. When we booked the same it was mentioned it has Metro next to it. But in real world the metro station is 5 or 6 KM away and there is a bus which runs every one or two hours between the metro station and the hotel.

The evening we reached was bit late around 11PM so I decided to take a cab from the airport to the hotel. The hotel people told me it cost around 35 euros from the Airport to the hotel. But it cost us 54 Euros so I was very angry with the Taxi driver at first for taking longer routes. But when I asked again with the hotel guy he said it is normally around 60 Euros. Well that made me feel good but not better.

Next day, Saturday, we went to Melk by train from Vienna the weather was great with blue sky and warm temperature. The train ride was nice as it gives a good view of Austria’s country side. Melk has a very beautiful abbey which is known as Stift to the local. From there we took a boat ride on Danube River to Kermes. While walking from the boat stop to the train station we met a lady from Graz. She suggested us to take the train ride to her beautiful town in the Alps on any sunny morning.

That evening we came back to Vienna and walked around StephansPlatz and dined in a vegetarian place, the food was good.

Sunday we had our coffee and some tasty pastries to start the day. We walked along the ring starting from Opera, Hufburg Palace, City hall, Museum Quarter Parliament, University and the stock Market. After that we went to St. Augustine’s Church to listen the Sunday Chores. It was a very different experience the music and singing was really very soothing to ears. After lunch we went to Belvedere Palace. It was very special day as Austria was celebrating its 50 years of Freedom. There was live music, dance in different form. We really enjoyed those great outdoor performances.

On our last day we went to Schonbrunn (beautiful fountain) palace. It was summer residence of the royal. Its beautiful park really demands a good amount of time from you to explore those lavish green surroundings.

Well that brought to an end and we were back to the airport for our afternoon flight to Paris.

2005-05-17

Bonjour

After a long time I changed the theme of my web site; hope the color combination looks good. The two templates are 'new' and 'zen'.
There are now more than 1300 pictures to checkout in the Photo Album section. Most of them come from last 3 years as that is how old my digital camera is. And a big section comes from Europe. After moving to Paris, we used this opportunity to visit maximum countries possible which are part of Schengen visa.
This year we went to Germany, Austria, Spain and Portugal till far.
Though, each countries and places have own attractions. But now, it looks all alike .. Chateau, Bateau, Gateau (Castle, Boat Ride, Dessert) along with Museums and Cathedrals. May be this is due to too many places we have visited in last 2 years.
I recently played with Ming a cool system to play with PHP for creating Flash movies. Here is sample Ming, PHP slideshow . Also created a simple banner with typewriter (ticker) effect

Day 3 - Rishikesh

The weather looked gloomy with an overcast sky as we woke up. We had breakfast at the hotel and decided to visit Rishikesh today. Again we...