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Showing posts from 2007

Berlin Diary- Potsdam

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Today sun and clouds chase each other across the skies along the shores of Berlin as it glides past. We decided to visit Potsdam city situated on southwest of Berlin known for Sanssouci (without worries) palace; reached there by train. As we were short of time having our return ticket to Paris same evening we opted for sight-seeing guided tour bus available right outside the train station. So along with other tourists we visited new palace, old town hall, Fortunaportal and Nikolaikirche at Alter Markt, Schloss Cecilienhof, Potsdam’s Brandenburg gate, Dutch colony, Russian colony Alexandrowka providing flair of a city steeped in European tradition. Last but not least Sanssouci palace where we left guided tour-bus as it was last stop for them. We spent quite a time in Sanssouci garden – terraced vineyard on southern side. From where we walked down to railway station. On returning we found even Berlin had a sunny day; without wasting time we hoped again to bus no. 100 to take shots of …

Berlin Diary II

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Freshened up to kick start our day and decided to go through past of Germany. Took metro and got off at Potsdamer platz. Had coffee at Starbucks just outside the metro exit as it was too cold.From here we walked to Checkpoint Charlie - a crossing point between East and West Germany during the Cold War and Berlin Wall Memorial. The scenes blur as present dissolves into the past. Images flash through our mind of 1989 when news flashed with headlines of demolition of Berlin wall. The wall no longer divides east and west instead the city straddles past and future.As this is close to Friedrichstrasse known for upmarket shopping area like Lafayette; strolled there on our return towards metro station of postdamer platz we visited Helmut john’s Sony centre - skyline is a mixture of buildings marked by WWII shrapnel and glass-steel giants - a symbol of new Berlin office-cum–shopping centre.In Berlin, the past is everywhere like Gendarmenmarkt - a classical square in Berlin whose name dates bac…

Berlin Diary

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Today while leafing through the pages of our album found yet another trip waiting to be jotted down before it gets erased from our memory. A trip to Berlin where present and past are in sync once again.We went there for 3days- 2 nights stay by train on Easter weekend when sky was gloomy and mercury dropped to almost freezing point but didn’t deter our enthu to explore city as much possible. We took overnight train from Paris which reached at very early hours. We bought metro (u – Bahn) day pass tickets before going to our pre-booked Novotel hotel.After taking our room key we left to meet Berliners, no longer East or West Berliners but just Berliners. Had a takeaway breakfast on a way from one of the bakery shop at metro station and got off at Zoologischer Garten Bahnhof to visit Kudamm. It is here that the KaDeWe the largest departmental store in all of continental Europe stands. If you don't have a lot of time to browse the whole store at least pay a visit to the top floor which …

Milan shopping - trip came to end

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Time to say Ciao, a presto (bye, see u soon) to Venice!!! Although we knew it might never be soon again. With happy mood we left for Milan from where we started our memorable journey. We boarded Euro-star for which we had to make advance reservation. Indisputably it was the best train we boarded in last seven days. On reaching Milan kept our luggage in lock room and set off to explore the business city as well fashion center of Italy.

Starting with Milan’s cathedral, the city’s centerpiece and third-largest church in Europe is worth visiting. Next to Cathedral Square “Galleria Vittorio Emanuele” – Milan’s great four-story-high, glass-domed arcade- place to shop for rich and famous. Milan’s famous opera house was closed for renovation. We skipped Leonardo’s “Last-supper” and his bronze horse which he never built.
We had pasta at lunch in small store which was really ambrosial - no doubt. Late afternoon, wandered through big brand stores for clothes and ultimately I bought one wrist wat…

Venice at leisure

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Next day, when we woke up, were very happy to see blue sky after two days of grey sky. Around 9.00 AM we came by boat to hot-spot St. Mark's Square. St. Mark's Basilica which is Byzantine influenced was too crowded to visit that time and unfortunately in evening we ran out of time and could not make it so satisfied ourselves from outside only. Doge's Palace is a gothic palace with bridge of sighs at rear end which is made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars. It connects the old prisons to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace and last view point of Venice that convicts use to see before their imprisonment. Campanile bell tower is worth for city view only but we did not take the flight of stairs as we have lot more to explore. Visiting museum was big NO as we had enough (time was another constraint).Did enjoyed trip along the Grand Canal with hopping on-off. Countless bridges lace together the neighborhoods of Venice. Amazed to see many historical …

Half day at Florence and Venice

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After spending three nights in Florence it was time to move on. We packed and checked out, keeping our luggage in the hotel. We walked towards Palazzo Vecchio (Piazza della Signoria) - city square adorned with fine arts. Basically, Florence is full of timeless beauty which can keep you captivated. Close to this square is Uffizi which we reached by 8:30 AM for our visit. Uffizi’s structure is like a long rectangle; it is not very big in structure like other top European museums. Famous paintings by Leonardo, Dante, Michelangelo & Boticelli are a sight not to be missed; a true Mecca for art lovers.Around mid-day we were back to hotel; picked our luggage and headed to train station for next destination – Venice. Venice is only three hours away from Florence by train. An unusual city built on small islands and traversed by some 100 criss-cross canals.Reaching Venice first thing we bought 2 day-pass for Public Transport. Don’t be surprise the only way to transit in this man made city i…

Siena

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There are plenty of places to explore in Tuscan region from Florence as day trip. We decided to visit Siena which is only one hour. Reason for choosing Siena was for its medieval beauty; in that era Siena and Florence were at war when Florence defeated Siena.Travel by road through Tuscan region is really amazing as you cross those post-card hills. But exhausted from yesterdays walking on the cobble stone roads of Florence I dozed as soon we hit the highway that made Santanu bit furious as he couldn’t share those moments.Bus dropped us near to city center from where we visited top-sights – Piazza del campo square (city hall, museum, bell tower) and cathedral (with a baptistery, cathedral museum and viewpoint) of medieval town with twisting alleyways.Siena’s city square (unique shell shaped piazza) is huge and it is the main landmark; only accessible by feet or taxi. There are lots of leather shops along Via di Citta (Main Street). Besides, there are numerous other shops and restaurant…

Florence

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Yesterday, late evening when we reached Florence it was drizzling and continued raining during the night. We got up to find grey sky - a very big disappointment compared to last few days as we had picture perfect blue sky. We also had to take out light jackets as temperature dropped. The hotel we stayed was not great but it was clean and functional in the centre of city even we could see the dome of famous cathedral from our hotel room window.Florence was capital of Italian Renaissance so planned to visit famous Uffizi and Accademia dell’Arte. We started with the later one as it was next to our hotel. But we were surprised to find a long queue at 8.00 AM. We had to use even umbrella in between but those rain did not deter anyone in the queue as all were waiting with patience for their turn to enter.Photography is completely prohibited inside; there are too many security personal who try their best to stop you as soon as you remove lens cap off your camera. Although flash photography i…

An afteroon at Pisa

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Being exhausted from last evening we got up bit late and had very good breakfast before hitting the road. According to our itinerary, distance to be covered was long one as our hotel was booked at Florence.We took train to La Spezia, it was a crowded, got packed with each passing stations of Cinque Terre but became empty as soon as we crossed Riomaggiore. We had to wait a bit at La Spezia as train was coming from north was late. We heard trains in Italy sometime get delayed by few minutes to hours.On our way to Florence we planned to visit the amazing 180 feet high Leaning Tower of Pisa - stop for taking pictures as we were crunched with time for visiting top sights.At Pisa, we left our luggage at locker room of railway station went to “Duomo” by local bus, which was a quick way to get a glimpse of this old city. Pisa is also known for its famous university. As soon as we got down from bus we found the entrance was packed with hawkers and souvenir shops. It is a pretty common site in…

Cinqueterre – Mediterranean nirvana

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We got up early had a quick breakfast and dragged our bags to Milan Central Station; bought our ticket for next destination “Cinqueterre” - refers to five small villages (Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore and Vernazza) - cling to the rugged mountains along Mediterranean coastline with breath taking view. This UNSECO heritage site is not on the main train line or motor-way that connects Milan to Rome. To get there, we have to cross the mountain to reach the western side of Italy. Need to change train at Genoa- known for its pesto sauce and native place of Columbus. It is said that as the western side of the Liguria hills gets the best sun light which is perfect for tomato and basil. As we had to change train from main line to local line we could only get glimpse from train. There are special trains from Levanto to La Spezia which stops in these five villages. As I write down about different trains lines I am sure you got an idea how remote these little villages are …

Milan and Lake Como

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Prologue:
Weeklong journey of Italy takes us back to summer of 2004; due to various reasons never posted travelogues on time though pictures from the same were published on time. Please hang on as we try to recite detailed vacation from our faithful memory.We had a night train from Bercy Station, Paris. For us, reaching Bercy was bit far from our Metro Station (Exelmans on M9) as there was no easy interchange; while on street-road map it looks closer from our apartment. This train is not a fast train (TGV) but fast enough to take you to Venice from Paris in one night. We started around 20:30 but due to summer it was still very bright day when we left Paris. We travelled by first class; the cabin was similar to AC 1st class compartment of Indian trains in size. No doubt, the spotless and punctual services are incomparable. Only down side of this night train is missing the beauty of Alps as we cross in the night.
Journey Begins:
After checking in pre-booked hotel at business centre of It…

Fresh Tomato Soup

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Till far only soup ever tried to make was carrot soup in Paris that too in bleak winter. Big thanks to my French Teacher for sharing the recipe en Français. Recently, went to local vegetable market; seeing tomato got so tempted that without thinking bought two kilos. Then I brainstormed a bit to think and idea of soup came as an escape. Here is my 2 cents recipe. If craving for something sweet and sour at the same time just have a bowl of creamy tomato soup to satisfy your desire as an appetizer.One kilo Tomato – boiled, peeled and deseeded.Two/three carrots – chopped to tiny pieces.One big Onion finely choppedFew cloves of garlicOne red chiliOne Bay leaf½ tsp cumin seedsBlack pepperNutmeg2 tbsp Olive oil / ½ tbsp butterJuice from one fresh OrangeLow fat cream or thick yoghurtDried Basil / Parsley leaves - optionalSalt to tasteHeat the oil/ butter and fry cumin seeds, bay leaf, garlic and onion with pinch of salt. When onion turns golden, add carrots and continue frying at low flame. …

Playing with shutter speed

Love taking pictures with long shutter speed at night - technique is very simple. All I needed was a tripod to secure camera from shaking while leaving the camera shutter open. I know this is not a great picture but that is what I got from my balcony. A better one with Kharghar landmark Utsav Chowk is posted here.

Got G(oogle)-Phone

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Well downloaded G-Phone application from Google. on my Blackberry. All I needed was data access enabled phone to download G-phone. The speculation was running high about a new hardware from Google in lots of web sites. Lets see how these applications (Gmail, Google maps, Google news, Google search, Gtalk, Google calender) will work on a normal phone where the display is not as big as Blackberry and you do not have full keyboard or track wheel. Any feedback on that, have you tried already ?

Festival of lights

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Today as we celebrate India’s grand festival of Light signaling triumph over evil after a protracted fight which is marked by lighting of oil based traditional earthen or clay lamps as they shine brightly in each and every home - Be it lowly or mightily from the hut of the poor to the mansion of the rich when good with all its might, leads us from darkness to light. A day when old and young indulge in royal feast on this festival of snacks and sweet.For one and all we pray gift of light -
Wherever you travel, may a star lead you
The wind be at your back and road rise to meet you
Let God holds you in hollow of his hand.Wishing you all a very happy, prosperous and safe Diwali

Sunsets in Mumbai

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Sunset with blue sky of late October seems “magnifique” along with open space of Navi Mumbai as viewed from local train (picture taken through window) This one I clicked last Saturday when I was stuck in middle of JJ Flyover - the longest flyover in Mumbai (2.3 KM). It is constructed like a snake, which makes its way through labyrinth of old buildings on either side; basically you bypass the busy, crowded market underneath. Few buildings along the way are almost at a kissing distance from the flyover.

Calamity of Mid life & middle class

It is impossible not to eavesdrop when people are having a loud conversation on phone in Mumbai's life line - local train.
Unlike other days today morning, was special one which is worth describing.
A guy gets in; stands next to me and elbows me to make his room and starts chatting over mobile (so how it goes....).
“Sorry yaar (friend) had to switch off the mobile as train was coming in; you know how much rush is there nowadays.”
As if there was less rush in last 20 years in Mumbai local. Well, from his conversation I figured out on other side will be another mid-life middle class male on the call. After few lines of small chit-chat the big one comes (which inspired me to write this blog).
“Oh he (some friend)! he is still in hospital on dialysis and doctor says it will take another two weeks to recover.”
Oh God! that is alarming that friend can be just like me another middle aged middle class. And now you read and hear everyday about people as young in twenties are getting heart atta…

Cabbies of Mumbai

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Black and yellow metered taxi’s made famous by Bollywood movies play a major role of public transport in Mumbai other then auto rickshaws, trains and buses. In New York they are yellow, in London they are Black and in Mumbai they’re both yellow and black. They are part of Mumbai heritage. Normally, they move in snail space at peak hours which may depend on the area traversed and the state of the roads. Truly, at times cannot help to mention their weird way of driving. Few facts:These metered taxis ply throughout Mumbai otherwise only mode of hired transport in proper Mumbai as auto-rickshaws are not allowed. Bandra on western and Sion on central line marks the demarcation point. This is a big bliss as there is not much noise pollution, no mad driving and not much squeezing on road for space.They are quaint vehicles which are quite reasonable in price to hire, even if short on leg room, seat comfort, ceiling height, and window space.They also run in share mode, maximum of four person …

Remembering Belgium

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While categorizing our old travelogs I found there was no post on Belgium which values a lot for me. As I go down the memory lane......year 2003, within 2 ½ months of marriage we have to move to Paris from US which was a big change for me. Apart from the cultural shock, language was immense barrier for day today life as well to mingle up with people around. Not only that, in Indian arrange marriage, it takes time to understand each other with each one's weaknesses and failings. So, quite an adjustment in every way. Somehow, in milieu of all this I lost embedded stone from my wedding ring given from Santanu’s family. Because of which I couldn’t wear for long. And everyone use to consider me Mademoiselle even in presence of Santanu (thinking him to be mon ami) which I use to enjoy a lot.Well, it triggered Santanu and he asked me to wear something in replacement but since I didn’t had any extra ornament with me that time I couldn’t. So, I asked him casually one day why don’t you gift…

Festivity begins

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Monsoon is about to end. So begins the celebrations and festivals across India. Any Indian festival is incomplete without the typical Indian festivities, the gatherings, celebrations, exchange of sweets and gifts, lots of noise, singing and dancing. Festivals are the celebration of not only togetherness but also being part of the family.In India, monsoon follows FIFO (first in first out) model so the festivals. As the fields look brilliant with a bountiful harvest; the beautiful landscape of greenery can be seen in its full radiance at this time. Starting with Onam - the harvest festival of Kerala (the southern most state) where monsoon was first to arrive. Almost in same time, in other parts of India month of Shravan is considered to be the holiest month of the year which begins with festival of Naga-Panchami. When each Monday of this month, known as Shravana Somvar, is devoted to the worship of Shiva as this day is sacred to Lord Shiva and is specially observed with austerity. Thus,…

Sweet potato dessert

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Sweet potato dessert (Ranga Alur Puli) is an age old Bengali dessert - a sweet lover's delight for sure. Its crispy outer layer mesmerizes gastronomic senses. As for its availability, it is more of a traditional sweet, prepared in households. These days some sweet shops are starting to include this in their repertoire to cater to the time-constrained generation. My hubby being born with a sweet tooth, do enjoy sweet of any kind. So, this recipe is actually initiated and arranged by my mom-in-law for him while I prepared it under her guidance on our short stay at Siliguri this year.Ingredients:For Puli Dough:Sweet potatoes: 500 gmsFlour: 1 ½ tablespoons if preparing stuffed one (otherwise 100gm for plain one)For Stuffing: (optional)Milk: ½ litreSugar: 1 tablespoonCoconut: ½ (grated)Cardamom (green): 2-3RaisinsFor Syrup:Sugar: 1 cupWater: 1 cupOil for fryingMethod:The Puli Dough:Wash and boil the s.potatoes until soft. Peel and mash. Add the flour and knead into dough. Keep aside.The…