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 is Mecca for foodies. We also checked both BMW and Mercedes showrooms where you find designer items other than car designed by those famous engineering and designer with perfections.
We walked to Berlin’s famous landmark Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche rebuild itself but not at the cost of wiping its past. The ruins of Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church stand as reminder of the suffering of the war, right next to its hexagonal bell tower very much building of the present. The church is a reinforced concrete structure with blue-colored glass bricks while Memorial hall has still some of the mosaic decoration that survived the bombing.
From here we hopped onto double-decker bus line no 100 famous among tourists as it crosses most of historic Berlin.
Tip: Sit at top as it's easier to get a view of most top sights like Reichstag, as well as the many other historic buildings on Unter den Linden.
Got down at Alexanderplatz to see Berlin’s 365 metre high TV tower. Next to the TV tower is located the gothic Marienkirche, the second oldest church (built in late 13th century) of the historical centre of Berlin. It is close to river spree and surrounded by few notable buildings with red-brick roof and right across the street was Starbucks – had coffee there. I do not drink coffee but those chilly winds outside we took shelters few times where Santanu tried to give quick dégustation class on coffee. From here we walked to Berlin Cathedral built between 1895 and 1905. We even climbed to the top of dome to take panoramic view. It faces the Lustgarten (pleasure garden) and the Berliner Stadtschloss (berlin city palace). Lustgarten is a park on Museum Island. It houses Altes museum (old museum) which we visited later.
It was dusk when we were waiting in a long queue to visit Reichstag - German parliament near the Brandenburg gate building with large glass dome and access to top with a great view of Berlin. Although free entrance but extensive security check and at same time its worth visiting.
Then, we went to see Germany’s iconic landmark Brandenburg Gate at historical center and nucleus of former East Berlin district Mitte. This is where it’s all happening. It’s numéro one place to be seen and to see. Cafes, bars restaurants, theatres, designer shops selling everything from shoes to scarves; day or night places along with many other sites of historic interest are teeming with people. It is new hangout for young and restless. In the very heart of Berlin is a memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe which we didn’t visited as it was already dark.
Lastly, went to house of world culture centre for non European art whose floor was superbly decorated… no doubt. Had dinner at one of Chinese restaurant near Zoologischer Garten and left for our hotel.
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 restaurants lined against the narrow lane which we found outrageously priced and too crowded with tourists. We walked along that street and had mouth-watering pizza for lunch in one resturant.
Siena’s cathedral is outstanding with black and white marble columns and dazzling mosaics on the floor. Do not miss the magnificent Bernini statue of Mary Magdalene (does this bell a ring from Da Vinci’s Code?) hidden away in a niche of marble. Duomo is unfinished as you can see the half constructed outer wall. inside every possible inch of wall, ceiling and floor has been decorated. Adjoining the cathedral is the Piccolomini library which is also must.
Later, we walked to San Domenico (Basilica Cateriniana) with delicate and soft gelatos in our hand. This is a huge gothic church with minimalistic design so there is no fancy marble works or any thing.
Finally, we walked back to the bus stop (to Florence) with my eyes wide open this time.
At morning we crossed famous open market of Florence. But unfortunately, in the morning we were too early and in evening we were too late.
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.
On day 2 we woke up late from bed took a stroll in the backyard then decided to walk towards main market to book our return trip and to have breakfast. On the way we had strawberry from street corner as its very common people selling it through out same product. We booked our return bus trip and were asked for shared taxi at 175 Rs for Mahabaleshwar darshan which we accepted. Walked on main bazaar street of Mahabaleshwar which is full of quaint shops that are certain to catch your fancy.
Its bit hot at noon in this time of year. We had Kate’s point, Echo point, Needle hole, Venna lake, Lodwick point, Elephant head and sunset point.
Sunset point called Bombay Point being close to our MTDC resort, is the expansive view of the sunset considered to be one of the most beautiful, popular and oldest sights in Mahabaleshwar. But too crowded with tourists and people come here to ride on horse and get themselves photographed with horse stunts and backdrop of sunset. It got its name since it was on the old road to Bombay.
Next day started return trip in the morning; we got to enjoy the whole journey in those semi-comfy chairs of bus. Otherwise we had to face hair raising stunts from some of the crazy drivers in those winding and hair-pin bending roads.
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.
Ballard Estate is old corporate park in Mumbai where most of the buildings have high ceiling and windows a left-over from British Raj. I feel very fortunate as my workplace is on this street and moreover when I get bird's eye view of Mumbai from my desk.
For lunch, I have walked past Britannia before but for some or other reason I did not entered. It is one of Bombay's famous old Irani (Persian) restaurants situated at Ballard Estate. This no-nonsense, no-frills, 90-year-old restaurant is the last of a dying breed of establishments once found on every corner of South Mumbai. The environment is simple and functional, with little room for extras like presentation and ambiance. There is no love greater then love of eating - is their motto. It is mentioned on the menu food will be served within 10 minutes and they really do so. A must if you don't like vegetarian food you might want to drop-in. There is a different menu for each day of the week. Apart from the fact that it is the stuff of legends, the building was designed by George Wittet, the architect of the Gateway and the Museum.
I was lucky one as there was Berry-pulao that day one of their speciality. Berry pulao (a version of the Iranian zereshk polow) is the outstanding signature dish, made with succulent spiced boneless mutton (or chicken), fragrant long-grain basmati rice, and tart barberries imported from Iran. Though it was rich and heavy but its worth - once in a while.
But this post is not about why we left Paris and why moved to India. It is all about how we spent our last one week in Paris. Before leaving, we wanted to take pictures of those which makes Paris so desired destination for tourists. No doubt it is one of the most visited place in the world be it for Eiffel Tower or Champs Elysees.
As our time for departure was coming close we tried to visit few of the well known Brasseries or Bistros to hidden street corners to passages away from busy tourist area. We did our best, but weather was not very happy with our move and unexpectedly August was very grey with clouds and rain all those thirty-one days. It is a month when almost every thing stands still in Paris or France from bakery to fashion-store to office- “tout le monde”. As every one heads towards sea “au bord de la mer” for getting “bronzee” sun bathing. If you come back from vacation with out noticeable change in color your vacation is not well spent.
Not only, we took lots of pictures and uploaded to our gallery but we reorganized them. It was very long and meticulous process with thousands of pictures to sort and write their details as much as possible. In a way it was great to know more about Paris. All credit goes to Pamela for the same. With less than 16 hours to go before the movers were to arrive I rushed to La Defense to take pictures,
YES!! It was crazy but its worth for people like me (amateur photographer) as it allowed me to capture those tall buildings with blue sky after washed by rain.
Although, I am not sure if any one going to visit Paris is going to read this post and check our pictures or not. But, somehow I got a feeling of “been there – did this…did that…” and I am very content from heart for the same
As we spent our last two days in cleaning after the movers left before handing over our apartment keys to our landlord. In this process with lots of small things to be done on other hand at last moment like closing the bank account, getting official papers from office etc. we got so tired and exhausted that we could not effort any long to run and take pictures of “Parisians in roller blade”.
This post is getting bit longer than I thought so I will split the last few days and hours in another one. Keep reading ….
New in gallery - bibs from running . Well you must be wondering what is that ? For a person like me from whom the activity of sport was taken away by various pressures at young age it means a lot. The good side of it is that I am the very few fortunate one to run at this age at various places but rest remains as silent voice in vast population of India.
- These three are adaptation from plays by Tennessee Williams
- A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
- Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
- These two are so funny and witty you will roll on floor :D
- Bringing Up Baby (1938)
- Arsenic and Old Lace(1944)
- Dracula (1931)
- The Rains Came (1939) - A movie set in British India
- An American in Paris 1951
- Sunset Boulevard (1950) - A Hollywood Story
- All About Eve (1950) - A Broadway Story
- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
- Dead Again (1991)
- Howards End 1992
- The Piano (1993)
- Phone Booth (2002)
- British animation productions
- A Grand Day Out with Wallace and Gromit (1989)
- Wallace & Gromit in The Wrong Trousers (1993)
- Wallace & Gromit in A Close Shave (1995)
- Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
Though journey was not very memorable or different than that of those I had while growing up in North-East region except that Pamela was with me this time. Traveling by Jeep through those narrow winding roads is an experience in itself where our co-passengers thought that we are going for honeymoon trip. The drive was very scenic with Teesta River flowing all the way. The forested hills are still green but truly there is continuous deforestation going on for either cultivation or smuggling woods.
Weather was getting worse. Tea, snacks & film rolls are available at the dozen of temporary stalls near the lake. But there is no facility of accommodation or proper toilet for the tourist. Rides on yaks and mules are also offered which was worthless to enjoy for Pamela at that temperature.
Now, looking forward to travel to North Sikkim some day which we heard is more beautiful with valley of flowers and lakes to explore.
We stayed in the centre of Stockholm (Drottninggatan) one side of this pedestrian street with full of shops.Our first day, highlight was Old town of Gamla Stan, Skansen and Vasa museum. We walked all day and it was a great way to get feel of Stockholm.
Second day we spent most of the time on boat seeing archipelago; it is very unique to see all those tiny islands so near by and ended with bit shopping for Sweden glass work at City center. All these glassworks are so nice but expensive too I wish, I had more money for them.
Third day the weather was all clear with very blue sky. We visited Mills garden and around - it was great!
Air tickets were only around 19 Euros. But when two of us calculated later we spend much more than that including the Shuttle and Airport Taxes. Sitting on those long shuttles it seemed like we spent more time in bus compared to flying time. But one thing for sure Ryan air was very punctual and their services were good for the price. I may fly again with all these known complain for the price.
- 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.