Showing posts with label street. Show all posts
Showing posts with label street. Show all posts

Perfect Parking


Encountered this perfect parking on a small by-lane in Bangalore. For sure I will not be able to park like this; normally have enough difficulties in parallel parking on the street between cars. I was failed (fatal) as rear tire touched the ramp in my first attempt to secure Californian driving License. Looks like the owner will not be change car as this is customized parking only which can accommodate small car.

Berlin Diary

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.

Beutiful decorated Mosaic Tile

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.

Marienkirche

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.

Reichstag - German Parliament

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.

We at Bradenborg Gate

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.

Siena

Doumo from Distance

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.

Piazza del campo

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.

Marble Work small

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.

Milan and Lake Como


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:

Parco Sempione

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.

Lake Como

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.

Mahabaleshwar Day-II

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.


Relaxing 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.

Sunset Point

Wednesday- Best of all weekdays

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.

Gate of HORNIMAN CIRCLE GARDEN

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.

Spanish lamb

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.

Britania - Irani Restaurant

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.

Last days in Paris

We moved from Paris to Bombay. Yes it is a big event in our life and we are still not sure whether things will fall in place at the end or not. We are trying our destiny – but we are not sure what will be there for us???????? Well lots of questions and raising eye-brows from friends and families.


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 ….

Last Week


Watched lots of movies, uploaded some photos to Running and walked around Paris last week.

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.

Tried lots of combination for uploading video to my website and found due to some mismatch between my Digital Camera and computer I could not get the precise result for which I was looking. Here is one from Paris - Metro. These are the few of those musicians who play for free inside the metro. Some of them are great who just play as they try to get a good number of audiences. Especially in Chatlet; the most crossed metro stop by people as it is the bull-eye of paris Metro Network. Rest plays for small money in the metro compartment and that some times sound hard on ears.
And most importantly have watched lots of classic and good movies recently. Here is the list that I borrowed - Merci Francois!!
    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)

Baking Bread

For quite a long was thinking to prepare bread at home which I would have never thought of in my wildest dream if I was in India. But staying at Paris it just clicked why not to try once on experimental basis as it is there staple food. It’s like an icon of France. This is why French people visit the local "Boulangerie" (hot bread shop) at least once a day and this shop is there at least at every street corner. Filled with delicious sensations and smells of warm, just-baked bread will definitely increase your appetite for sure while passing by these boulangeries particularly at morning and evening time. As this is the time when fresh bread along with other baked items like croissant comes out of the oven.
While staying at Paris, I often see people riding bikes, mopeds or motorbikes with baguettes strapped to the back, or walking the streets with their baguette under their arm racing to get home at end of the day. So, it might be another reason for thinking of baking bread at home.
Anywayz, I wanted to get Santanu’s concern on this matter although answer was known to me… “No way”. As he said “no” now I was bit determined to do it so was trying to gather all my courage to do the same by myself when he is not around.
First was to get ingredients particularly leavening agent such as yeast which I got it from nearby super store rest others are normally there at our Indian kitchen. As Santanu is bit health conscious so keeping that in mind I opted for wheat-flour which has superior nutritional value rather than plain all purpose flour and thought to encrust with either sesame or poppy seeds to give a special taste.

Well, there is wide variety of breads and preferred varieties often vary from region to region especially at France. This variation is done by just manipulating rising times, kneading techniques, and with the use of especially traditional brick ovens though basic ingredients like water, salt, yeast and flour remains same. It can be served ranging from room temperature to hot. But always best to have fresh. This can be used as an enclosure for sandwiches other then topping it with jam, butter or cheese. Even it can be served with pasta or as a complement to a crispy fresh salad or hearty bowl of soup. Once baked, bread can subsequently be toasted. And its better not to be stored in fridge as it becomes stale rather one can store in zip-lock plastique so that there is no room for air to get in.
Here, I used very simple technique as this was my first experiment on bread and voila unexpectedly my experiment came out quite well then I thought. Even Santanu was astonished to see that.
Once you have tasted the fresh bread either from boulangerie or home-made I am sure you will never forget its taste. A crisp, crunchy crust and slightly chewy, soft spongy center make this bread bit traditional.

Sikkim - Gangtok

My current home in India is Siliguri, north of West Bengal may not be the most alluring for tourist destinations. But it is the most important city in the entire Eastern Himalayas due to its geographical location. As city is unabashedly an industrial centre and gateway to seven sisters of North-East along with Sikkim & eastern part of Nepal. My parents moved here ten years back and by that time I had just started my career; never had ample holidays to explore any thing around. Always I used to be too tired to get out of home and end up with novels and old music. But this was for the first time I did take days out to visit Gangtok.

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.


We reached Gangtok after midday and the Taxi Stand was the most active part of the city like any other small or hill town in North-East. There are too many touts to rob you. If you travel light and are able to carry your luggage yourself you can avoid them. We stayed in a ITDC hotel near to M.G.Marg where we had our lunch at its expensive restaurant. Then we went out for booking our trips for sightseeing & daytrip for next 2 days. Being a tourist place it seems everyone wants to rob so you need to have good negotiating skill & make sure what you need you get the same. After bargaining we were able to book our trips for next 2 days. Then from there we went to the Government Institute of Cottage Industries (also called the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom) which promotes and teaches the ancient crafts of Sikkim (like painting, mask making, weaving, wood carving) to keep them alive. It is located at zero point, few km uphill from the main Gangtok town.


Day II, we had Allu paratha as breakfast early morning near to Bus stop at Agarwal restaurant & got the same packed for the route also. Then we headed towards our agency. Indians are famous for their IST so our co-passengers. After waiting a while for them to join we started our trip to Tsomgo Lake.
Tsomgo Lake is situated at an altitude of 12,310 ft on Gangtok-Nathula highway. Just few kilometers away from Indo-China border. This road also continues to Lasa, Tibet. Drive to that region is again very different with snow capped mountains & this whole belt is undertaken by Indian military. Salute to our Indian army who are taking pain to guard those borders to make our life easy & peaceful. Really I wonder sometimes how they are struggling there to earn their meal in those extreme cold regions far from there near one.
On reaching Tsomgo lake (pronounced as Changu Lake which means source of lake) we hired snow boots as all the travel agents take their customers to respective brothers stall for hiring jackets, snow boots and water-proof boots. Because of the high altitude heavy woolens are required which we already had.
From there we went immediately to Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial which lies between Nathula-Jelepla pass which is at still more higher altitude of around 13,450ft. Actually, it is built in memory of a sepoy of 23rd Punjab regiment. It seems after few days of his missing he appeared in the dreams of his fellow comrades & expressed a desire that monument be built in his memory. Now it has acquired a statue of a pilgrimage, being Sunday there was langar (free meals served after Sikh services) offered by Indian Army. After one hour stay we came down to Changu Lake.

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.
In the evening, we walked on the main street of M.G.Marg which is normally closed for all vehicles from 5 to 9 PM. Looked for budget restaurant for our dinner; we found one and also found a long queue waiting for their turn. The wait was delightful.


Day III started for us early morning as we wanted to return to Siliguri ASAP. We started our sightseeing activity from Rumtek monastery (largest monastery of Sikkim) and ended with exotic orchid show along with Enchey monastery, Do-drul stupa.
Gangtok is a blend of the traditional and modern, where modern concrete multi-storied structures clings to the hillside along with stupas and monasteries; buddhist prayer flags flutter with the mountain breeze; young college girls in trendy dresses while elderly matrons clad in traditional 'bakus' and lamas in colorful maroon.

Now, looking forward to travel to North Sikkim some day which we heard is more beautiful with valley of flowers and lakes to explore.

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.

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.

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.

Barcelona

Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, located on the north-east coast of Spain. City is well connected with five metro lines other then public transports like city railway and buses.

We started for Barcelona on early morning of Feb.28. It?s a city with charming streets, busy with people and full of life. There is nowhere better to make Barcelona's acquaintance than La Rambla, the bustling avenue, famous for the vivid colors of its flower stalls ? is a perfect place for a stroll. It?s the place where we had our hotel.

Barcelona being city of marvels comprising Gothic Quarter, the Ribera and Raval districts, and famed for its historical monuments, narrow streets and bohemian atmosphere. A wander through the maze of streets is essential in order to understand the different periods in the history of Barcelona and to admire its finest monuments: traces of the Roman wall glimpsed between well-preserved Gothic buildings, the remains of the Jewish Quarter. To explore this city more you need to walk a lot or walking is best way - which we did on our first day of trip.

Second day, we went to Montjuic - the place where Olympic Games were held in 1992. Pla?a d?espanya, MNAC, montjuic fountains?etc were worth visiting. And it takes complete one day to visit that area.
In the Eixample district (heart of the city) most of the buildings, built in unique style wereplanned in 1860, which constitutes a unique model of European urbanplanning. The Sagrada Fam?lia, the Casa Batll?, Casa Calvet and the Casa Mil? (also known as La Pedrera) are some examples of this, which was work of Antoni Gaudi. Other then that there are Casa lle? Morera, the Casa Amatller, Casa Serra, Casa Comalat, Casa Thomas. Along with all these it was worth going to (Park G?ell) Gaudi?s Park-, which we completed on 3rd day of our trip.

On our last day at Barcelona we visited monastery, Palau de la m?sica Catalana in Ribera district that is magnificent work of Lluis and world?s one of the most beautiful concert hall. For which advance booking is necessary as its 2 hrs. guided tour and no photography are allowed insideL. And after lunch we went to Olympic village, which is lined by a series of beaches and covers 4kms of a city where you can enjoy the most modern amenities, these beaches are not very far form Barcelona's historical and cultural landmarks - walkable distance.

Although trip was quite tiring because we walked a lot these 4 days in order to explore as much as we can, but we enjoyed our stay there.

St. Michel

Perched on a rocky islet in the midst of vast sandbanks exposed to powerful tides between Normandy and Brittany (on the north coast of France) stand the 'Wonder of the West', a Gothic-style abbey dedicated to the Archangel St Michael
It was built in 8th century, the buildings of Mont St. Michel were constructed of granite which were carried from near-by island but some limestone were also used in the cloister. Its arrogant location along with abbey's church, cloister, gardens, the north-facing, Gothic buildings of "La Merveille" (The Marvel), the narrow town streets, and the ramparts combine to make Mont-Saint-Michel one of France's most impressive sites. Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site
We went to Mont St. Michel on Feb.14th for two-day trip with one travel agency. The day was quite bright but with chilled wind blowing across. After spending 4 hrs at St.Michel we were shifted to hotel where we had our early French dinner & proper night sleep so that we are fresh enough to start for next day?s trip to Cancale on the way to St.Malo.
Cancale has made its reputation as a fishing port, famous for its oysters. It?s the place from where granite rocks for St.Michel were taken. St.Malo a walled town made its reputation as a world port thanks to its sailors, merchants, and corsair ship owners and to it?s trading with India, China, Africa and America. Other then its port, miles long beach attracts visitors for sunbath in summer. The best view of St.Malo is from its ramparts.

Stockholm (Aug 14th - 17th)

While browsing through web sites for summer travel deals I found there was a very attractive deal by Ryan Air to Stockholm.We went there middle of August when Paris was burning with summer heat. It was a great escape to Scandinavia. Stockholm was very clean and very beautiful. Although, the weather was not at its best as it rained for first two days.

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.

Trip to Amsterdam (June 7th-9th)

Our first trip in Europe, I decided about Amsterdam because of two reason Van Gogh and people of Amsterdam. To our delight it was really great and was a great escape from noise and crowd of Paris.The city is not so big compared to Paris but very clean and friendly. As most tourist books suggest Dutch people has unique and very efficient solution to their day-to-day problem. The streets are not crowded with car.We reached there on Saturday morning and visited Van Gogh museum followed by Albert Cuypmarkt. We had Surinamese for lunch and Indonesian for dinner. Both were great. Both these countries were Dutch colony but you get roti in Surinamese cuisine.Sunday we visited Rijks museum. The main part of museum was closed as they found asbestos in museum. But they had all the major work of Rembrandt and other great Dutch masters for display and the entry fees was reduced with free audio tour.Monday we rented bike and biked a lot. Yes a lot for 3 to 4 hrs and in that time we crossed the south canal belt few times. We had Falafel for lunch and Nepalese for dinner; the falafel was great I think the best falafel I tasted so far.Yes it was a great trip, which ended on Tuesday morning as soon we back to Paris with general strike for 2 week in a row.

Visiting Paris a Desi Guide

Me and Pamela are living in Paris for a while now and we are still enjoying going around and exploring Paris. Lots of my friends asked me about our personal opinions on the same before visiting Paris and France for a week or so. So here it is will all the best information that I can write down with out making it too boring for you.


A brief about Paris:Paris is divided in 2 main parts by the River Seine; the left bank and the right. Traditionally the city was divided just like a human brain left one for art and music where right one for money and power. Now there no such difference any more. It has 20 districts or arrondisement in a snail pattern starting at the center of Paris.
Top attractions: [Not in any particular order]There are lots of Photos from Paris in www.santm.com
  1. Eiffel Tower
  2. Sacre Coeur
  3. Arc de Triomphe
  4. Champs Eleysees - and Concorde
  5. 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 .
  6. La Defense - Paris version of New York Manhatten.
  7. The Mega Stores - Galeries Lafayette and Printemps
  8. Boat Ride. This gives the best magnificent view of Paris architectures
  9. Pantheon
  10. Bastille - Best hang out place lots of bars and food place a happening place
  11. Moulin Rouge or Lido [Both French Cabarets] your choice ;)
  12. Tower Montparnasse
Museums:
  1. Louvre - home of Monalisa
  2. Orsay - best place to go if you like impressionism artists like Monet/Gaugh etc.
  3. Rodin - Sculpture
  4. Picasso - the name say it all
Outside Paris:
  • Versailles
Few Tips:
  • 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.

Getting a place to Stay/ Hotel:It is expensive when it comes to hotel in Europe and Paris in particular. The rooms are small and expensive. Personally I think if you get a hotel around Latin Quarter that is 5th, 6th is best as you are close to city center and the locality is nice. 7th, 8th are also good with 1st to 4th. Paris is very safe city in general. I personally do not like the area around the big Train stations of Gare de Nord and Gare del'Est The 18th,19th and 20th are should be avoided from my own prospective and you have happen to stay in 13th-16th make sure your hotel is not very far from Metro Station as these are more residential arrondisements with metro stations not very close by like center of city.
Food:Few lines about French food; if you do not take fish and a Indian vegetarian then there are not many choice for you L. Fish and Sea food is very common in French cuisine; it is almost considered vegetarians some times. But the pastry, bakery products and chocolates are delicious I am not joking.But there are lots of Indian place to choose from but make sure you ask for right amount of spices as it is very scaled down for locals.