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.
After checking in pre-booked hotel at business centre of Italy, Milan and having our breakfast we left for Sforza Castle, rebuilt brick fortress and Parco Sempione. There is also “Arco della Pace” resembling Arc-de-Triumph of Paris to hail Napoleon’s entry into Milan. These are in the northern part of Milan and worth visiting.
Santanu had heard a lot about Lake Como from his old colleague Antonio about his home town. Those countless description aroused a curiosity to visit Lake Como. Como and other lakes of Northern Italy are very famous as they border with southern part of Switzerland. They are the tourist destination to relax in tranquillity for rich and famous. Rich bankers, fashion designers or Hollywood movie stars all want to grab a lake side property here. In old time, these lakes also meant reliable mode of transport to higher Alps from southern end.
Just half an hour from noisy, bustling Milan, Lake Como is a magical combination of lush Mediterranean foliage and snowy alpine peaks. We took a classic lakeside promenade, where roads are narrow, bit congested, and lined by old villas (some of which even converted into hotels) and from here we took a ferry ride to Bellagio on the southern shore known as the pearl of the lake.
Ferry ride is very enchanting leading to other small villages along lakeside which are hop away. Bellagio has narrow cobbled streets, breathtaking views, impeccable small homes and glorious villas with winding alleys, flowering balconies and lace-curtained windows which give a feeling of most captivating spot.
Tips: Instead of walking you can take a cab or bus from the train station to the lake front if your legs feel weak.
In recent time, two big ticket movies which I saw were shooted here - “STAR WAR –II” and “Ocean Twelve.”
Although, village is not animated by tourists but still we repented to leave this place as we had already booked hotel at Milan. Train journey from Milan to Como was nice but lost in our memory to the natural beauty of the lake and that magical afternoon on ferry. On returning had dinner at one of the restaurant near Galleria Vittorio Emanuele which was scrumptious.
Tips: As summer days are long, afternoon ferry ride is a better option that way you can use the first part for exploring something else. You may enjoy the afternoon sun on the ferry for a sun-tan. But too late in the afternoon means you might not be able to get an “aller-retour” ferry ride.
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.
- 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 can share the ride but routes are fixed for this kind. Mostly Mumbai-ans uses them to reach office from station or vice versa.
- All most 99% black and yellow cabs are Premier Padmini by FIAT
- FIAT does not produce these car any more so all cars on the road are 20/30 years old.
- They run on CNG (that is the only reason taxi fair did not got a hike in last few years).
- Fixing the car is easy, not much electronic like new car. Each driver knows his car’s technical fine points like his palm.
- Taxi drivers in Mumbai are still OK; not as honest like old times but better off from their counterparts in any other major cities in India.
Though there are new air conditioned taxi on the road which are yet to become mainstream. These will be air conditioned and fitted with GPS, cordless phones, electronic meters with printers. These new taxis will charge a little extra than the traditional black and yellow taxis because of the luxury frills.
Even recently one Cab Company has decided to employ ladies driver catering mainly to ladies passenger and this service will be started by this November.
Cricket – is India’s gorgeous past time – it is not taken as a sport. This picture was taken during Cricket World Cup of 2007 inside a Mumbai cab. But somehow I never posted the same. I am not a big cricket fan but is impossible to avoid cricket while you are in India.
In recent time, performance of Indian cricket team is quite disappointing. But that does not change Indians breathing cricket - be at India or abroad. Performance of India in any other sport is quite dishonorable considering its population.
Cricket and cricketers are most sought after in India. Best Indian performance of cricket in world arena was almost 20 years back when there was not so much glamour and money in that game. May be that is why they were more interested in playing cricket rather than endorsing any brand or product.
The worst of all is the Indian cricket board which is most money milking sport’s body in the world even beating those big football clubs of Europe. Chairs of Indian Cricket Board are filled up with politicians and old cricketers whose greed for money, power and limelight or Page-Three attention never ends. Enough of ranting …..for something which I don’t even care.
After scorching heat, monsoon has arrived in Mumbai. From last two consecutive weeks particularly weekends (June 23-24 & June 30-July 1) there were disruption of normal life due to heavy shower. Thank God, those were weekends otherwise life of 20 million people would have affected some way or other as many schools and offices are closed. We stayed mostly inside and I only ventured out twice to nearby shops to get some grocery done for forthcoming week.
Almost all modes of transports were affected severely; local trains which symbolizes life-line of Mumbai were stopped. People flying in and out of Mumbai also had great difficulties. But with all that Mumbai was back to business on Monday. This city and its people are doing quite normal but as a first timer to the monsoon we are taking things with surprise. Monsoon of Western India are well known to us as we were taught with importance in our Geography classes about them and how they effect the livelihood of farmers of this sub-continent.
These pictures were taken by one of our Support Engineer at Worli. Due to heavy rain there were around 2000 customers of MTNL (State owned Telco) were effected. One out of those 2000 customers was ours (a big fat multinational bank) whose services were compromised for a week. Counterparts sitting in developed countries don’t understand why it takes seven days to get a link fixed during monsoon. Basically, they don’t have idea of what monsoon is?
I am sure people would appreciate this hard effort put by telephone line-men they had to pump out water from the trench before fixing this mess. Red salute to all those people who get Mumbai going through tough time like this.
Calcutta (Kolkata) – mega city of Eastern India. In this vibrant city with a distinct socio-political culture, cabs are grand old Ambassadors from Hindustan Motors and most of cars are manufactured from the nearby plant of Uttarpara. This picture was taken next to major long distance Sealdah Railway Station which shows that city of joy still struggles with traffic congestion. Unlike of other major cities where Tata indica or fiat or Maruti are common hired forms of mechanised transport this city has almost all taxis as amby painted in yellow.
Before Maruti it was the only car on Indian road. This reminds me of my childhood times when me and my brother used to identify a Mark-II, Mark-III or Mark-IV by its sound (all these models looked very similar). It was a stupid game in era of Nintendo –Wii. The game was a simple one - we used to hide behind a wall as we saw an Ambassador approaching, try to identify the same by sound and confirm as soon as it passed by from behind.
While writing this post I just found the web page of this car and found 10 reasons to buy this car ……
- First Indian car – [born in 1950 (inception in 1948. Originally based on Morris Oxford ,United Kingdom ]
- Power Steering – [Trying to match up the new market with Maruti, TATA, Honda and Toyota.]
- Multi Fuel Injection – [Well, all new car has that - what a big deal?]
- Company fitted CNG – [Well, you can convert almost every petrol car in India to keep your running cost as low as 1 Rupees for 1 KM.]
- Tough - [tested on Indian roads for long time but why they have to list the toughness twice?]
- Roominess - [Yes, more then 10 people can travel in a single car at a given time!!]
- 5 Speed Gear box - [Another lame reason, all car now a days has the same. ]
- Easy repairable – [They claim across the country all mechanic knows the car inside out.]
- Serves the country – [Used by Indian Army and de-facto car of Indian bureaucrats and politicians. ]
If I have enough money one day I will like to have a chauffeur driven amby for myself just to hang out in nostalgia or in the roomy car or to be different from every one else .My eleventh reason or may be only reason for having this car.
From Sunday evening I keep waiting for middle of week i.e., Wednesday as next weekend looks too far to me. If there is any special occasion planned for Wednesday evening it really cheers me up. On last Wednesday it just happened that Pamela called me at work saying that she is going to come to VT (CST) all by herself boarding a local train (…..for first time).Thanks to Meher for encouraging Pamela to come over in the first place.
Well, Pamela did panic at last part of her journey as she was all alone in the wagon with two transsexuals sitting beside her. Moreover, on not seeing me at VT she vented her anger on me over phone as I was to meet her there. Its true, that I somehow always get entangled in work or some urgent phone call when ever I need to be on time to meet her. On top of it her phone battery was also running low. Somehow we did meet up without much problem and I am not that good writer to juice up that meeting. Anywayz, as per plan we met Meher in front of GPO and headed to Kala- Ghoda via Cab.
Kala-Ghoda is crescent shaped plaza nestled around an array of heritage buildings such as Elephantine College, the David Sassoon Library and the Watson Hotel. It is named after a statue which is long gone now of King Edward VII astride a black horse. This plaza is around South Mumbai which is fast emerging as the arts hub of downtown Bombay. Meher being born and brought up in south Mumbai she knows streets like back side of her palm. After walking across all those gorgeous office buildings from bygone years we reached Horniman Circle Park where French rock band “Merzhin” was to perform for the Kala-Ghoda festival organized by Alliance Française, Mumbai.. This festival actually takes place inorder to improve the existing infrastructure of the area and giving it a distinct identity as Mumbai's art district. And this festival basically brings together work from various fields like arts, theater, film, music, literature, dance, heritage walks, exhibitions, children's events offering an interactive cultural mélange for Mumbaites.
Anyway, the introduction from the Director was very "French" as he mentioned if you want a good life learn French. What a snobbish French way of welcoming audience. Point to be shared is - a very different experience as we enjoyed the concert sitting on chairs ;) ...hmm a rock concert and sitting!!! The band was good and they tried their best to get people rocking but it did not work after all Indians..... that too on Wednesday evening.
From there after an hour we left for dinner walking two blocks we found ourself in front of Café Mocambo. It has two levels of seating.; the interior is decent but not stunning. The menu is mostly continental and parsi with lots of Pasta dishes to choose from. Other then that lamb, steak and lasagna are also available. They have standard fridge displaying yummy desserts - really yummy! Many phirangis also hang out here.
Well like always I apologized to her and this is a confession publicly :D
I just wanted to share my home network. It is not a state of technologies with the latest & greatest wireless or wired network with complex router and switches. I did it in old school way with a single long CAT5 Ethernet Cable. I have a FreeBox which is an ADSL2 router connecting to the main phone jack. The output from the FreeBox connects my PC, Television and Phone. Now all these components are connected with the single wire as I mentioned before. It takes benefit of the fact out of 8 wires in an Ethernet cable only 4 are used for network; the pins 1-2 and 3-6 of RJ45 are used. The connection is simple, wire from pin 1 to pin 1 of the other side and like wise.Similarly, I use the other two pairs for telephone and ADSL.
The input of ADSL router is a simple RJ11 connecting with 2 wires.The connection between PC and router is 4 wires with RJ45 (2 pairs, one pair for transmit and other for receive). The phone needs only one pair RJ11.
These pictures show RJ45 connections in detail and also a picture of backside of freebox.
The success of doing this by oneself depends on one's skill of how good one is with crimp tool as the connections sometimes are not proper and one has to repeat the whole process right from the start. Doing a search for making rj45 cable connections on web will lead to more details. Need any more tips on the same please drop me a line.
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.
From there we went to Moulin-Rouge; the famous cabaret of Paris then to Assembly National the French Parliament. We crossed Seine and came to Concord. From there we went to Invalids, the military museum and resting place for Napoleon.
- Eiffel Tower
- Sacre Coeur
- Arc de Triomphe
- Champs Eleysees - and Concorde
- Notre Dame and Saint Chapel - If possible a cup of coffee on the top roof of Samaretine (now closed till 2012) to have the best view of Paris Center. But you can try Institute de Monde Arabe .
- La Defense - Paris version of New York Manhatten.
- The Mega Stores - Galeries Lafayette and Printemps
- Boat Ride. This gives the best magnificent view of Paris architectures
- Bastille - Best hang out place lots of bars and food place a happening place
- Moulin Rouge or Lido [Both French Cabarets] your choice ;)
- Tower Montparnasse
- Louvre - home of Monalisa
- Orsay - best place to go if you like impressionism artists like Monet/Gaugh etc.
- Rodin - Sculpture
- Picasso - the name say it all
- Be aware of pickpockets and small thefts.
- Paris is a small City it is only 15KM by 10KM.
- Ask for a metro Map when you get here.
- It involves a lot of walking so get yourself a good pair of walking shoes.
- There are not many public toilets and you need to carry change [coins] to use them.
- Get yourself a phone card from "TABAC" [where you buy cigarettes] for calling inside and outside France. There are special cards for India or US if you need any.
- Metro tickets you can buy the 10 tickets "carnet" or day pass depending upon your travel plan. You can use the same on any other public transport as long as you with in Paris.
- Each Street corner will have road names and tells you which arrondisement you are in.