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 ; yes they are really small villages. Tourist attraction has not yet turned them into mini town.
Cost of hotels in those five small villages were enormous so we booked hotel at Levanto, north of Cinqueterre a small village with sandy beach, bustling day-time markets. Later, while exchanging travel notes with friends we found Levanto was a better choice in terms of food, spacious room and most importantly price and service.
After checking into the hotel in afternoon we rushed back to the rail-station to head towards the south most station Riomaggiore. We got one day “Cinque Terre Card” that allowed us to hike and ride public transport in Cinqueterre. This small amount helps to maintain this National Park.
The best way to explore Cinqueterre is to hike the trails between the 5 villages; there are other numerous trail which connects vineyards and sea. Of course, there are public transport or ferry to hop between villages.
We planned to hike south to north in one go; the distance between Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare is 12kms, a lot of the trail is steep and rocky. The hike started with steep stairs leading to famous Via dell’Amore, (which needs no translation I hope - Path of love). The walk from Riomaggiore to Manarola is the easiest which takes about 15-20 minutes depending on how long you stop to gaze at the view! It is paved all the way and fairly flat.
The next section of the walk is from Manarola to Corniglia ( 3km long and takes about 1 hour). Parts of this trail are pretty easy, but it is steeper at times, the ground is sometimes uneven. The most exhausting part of this section is at the end. As you arrive at Corniglia train station there are also signs to reach secluded or public beach along the way. That means you need to hike down to the sea. The station is located by the sea side, while the town of Corniglia is on top of the hill which is connected by long flight of stairs!!!
The section between Corniglia and Vernazza is most scenic part passing through vineyards, fragrant herb bushes and rocky outcrops with spectacular views. It took about 1.5 hours to complete, though we stopped quite a bit to admire the views and took some breathe.
Toughest section is between Vernazza and Monterosso with lots of ups and downs and steep stairs. It is a real bridle path which unwinds itself by the seaside.
From here, we returned back to Levanto by train full of sun-burned tourists.
TIP: Need good pair of shoes to avoid weary legs and hiking pole will save your knees. We hiked this part in late afternoon as we were crunched with time but will advice to start in the morning so that you take more frequent stops to admire the beauty and give rest to your legs and lungs.
At the end, we almost had to run as we were not prepared for hiking in dark and it was only us on that trail. You can spend few days in these villages to unwind and explore churches and other historic buildings if those interest you. </p
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.
While coming to work this morning oxen (castrated male) cart carrying sugar canes caught my attention. It is not a common site to see a bullock cart or hand pulled cart (pulled or pushed by a man) at the heart of Mumbai city next to VT Station.
They are not allowed in the main roads of the city but can only move in the peripheral roads of the city. These kinds of slow moving objects cause most notorious traffic jam in India. But for poor villagers, these are the only way to meet their daily needs and feed few hungry stomachs. Revealing the very true fact of economic and emotional hardship that these low-wage workers face on a day-to-day basis.
Cart is being used for ages and still continues to be an important mode of carrying goods mostly agrarian goods even in this modern age. Although, its popularity has declined considerably but it is very cheap than any other mode of carriage vehicles.
It has many shapes but the basic idea of transporting material remains same. It has usually two or four wheels. This cart is made entirely of bamboos and the wheels are wooden. It is also a very eco-friendly vehicle. Number of men or animal required to push or pull depends on what being hauled.
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.
Siliguri is gateway to the North East of India. It is commercial city of North Bengal where tea, timber and transport are the main business. It is a base point to head towards Darjeeling, Sikkim, kalimpong, mirik etc. Besides, it is also the transit point for air, road and rail traffic to the neighboring countries of Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
Situated at foot of Eastern Himalayas it has very pleasant temperature but weather is very unpredictable as it gets shower any time. Summer is not like other parts of India which burns in hot lava. It hardly exceeds 32 C in day time and after every 3-4 days there is a light rain sometimes short sharp downpour. Winters are really biting cold with mercury level hardly rising to 15 C at day time. During winter, on clear day it gives excellent view of Himalayan peaks with an opportunity to see as backdrop of snow-clad mountains.
In the month of May, we went there for 10 days which was a great escape from Mumbai’s heat and frequent power failure. These pictures are from the terrace of my in-law’s house.
As we couldn’t enjoy much earlier day we decided to opt for rented bike and move around in our own pace. Rented a bike for 2 days for 400 Rupees. One thing which is very interesting about Goa’s motorcycle taxi locally known as pilots ideal for nipping between beaches or for short distances. Bonafide operators ride black bikes with yellow mudguards and white number plate. These vehicles transport a single pillion rider. (Photo credit: from GoaBlog.org)
As usual after breakfast we headed towards Anjuna beach. Anjuna is gorgeous with its rocky shore and mighty cliffs where you can hear of techno-thumping sounds and see hippies around. With morning sun and plenty of time at hand we made this special sign to remember Goa. Vagator, however, is the perfect hideaway spot with its few beach shacks and fishing boats off in the distance. Black lava rocks, the coconut palms, the lush green landscape, nature playing its own music, and the sea turning from aquamarine to emerald green with Chapora Fort at its background. The reminiscence of the old Portuguese times giving a splendid view of the sea and hills covered with coconut trees and rice fields. To reach middle and little Vagator one needs to walk but the calmness worth the effort as big Vagator gets bus loads of Indian whiskey drinking male tourist.
At noon, sun is really hard to tolerate but for lunch, we made sure to have exotic flavour of the Goan dishes at whatever cost. So, we searched hard to find one place called “Gabriel” recommended by our guidebook as an authentic goan cooking. It was really worth searching.
For most Goans three basic necessities – fish, curry and rice. Goan values their food as much as they do their daily siesta. In their daily meal, seafood always has a pride of place in some or other form. From fried fish to exotic concoctions; sea food is usually a must on the menu, except for the occasional break for some religious observance. Besides fresh seafood, dried and salted fish dishes are also highly prized by Goans.
We ordered Galinha com Coentro (chicken with fresh coriander leaves and vinegar) and prawn curry with rice. It was really fresh, home –made and scrumptious. Owner was friendly; had chit-chat with him. We figured out it was guest-house cum restaurant with lots of shady trees around and not far from sea. Sitting arrangement is in the garden under trees with fan. Since it was shady we spent 2 hours there and at last we were offered yummy chocolate (European one after a long time).
In the evening we prepared ourselves for soaking at Baga beach; smeared well with body-oil. As on day two we found that sand was very fine and it gets stick to the body like glue even after proper shower. So, smearing oneself helps as sand can’t stick to the body and washes off with each roaring waves.
At evening we went to Tibetian market right across our resort where Santanu bought one finger-ring for himself and then headed for dinner at Baga-Calangute road to one nice restaurant. Wanted to taste one goan dessert for last 3 days; since we were not left with an inch place in stomach we could not but today made sure to eat less so that we can taste it. For dessert best is “Infantaria Pastelaria” recommended again by our guidebook which was again right across our resort where we bought Bebinca – a layered pudding.
Unlike last time we booked our trip with bus agency for 700Rs (2 persons). Our reporting time was 00:15AM at Kharghar node but we were quite early then our reporting time 11:30 PM fearing we might not get a public transport to reach on time. We waited for our bus and waited, and waited and waited some more. It was about 00:30AM and there was still no sign of our bus. We gave a call to bus counter and asked them when the bus would show up. The guy there kept on saying that it was late and it just started from other side of Mumbai-suburbs.
It was about 01:00 AM and yet no sign of our bus. All shops had closed down and everybody else around us had boarded their respective buses and gone. And there we were, two sitting with bags on the pavement in the middle of the night. Phew! All along we were cursing ourselves and was thinking the difficulties we might have to face if we have to return home then at last at 1:30AM we did board the bus.
Well, this time we even booked our hotel beforehand with MTDC. One can check the availability; book the room of your choice from your own PC. The only trap is - pay heavy penalty if you change your mind at last moment. We booked for Krishna cottage for 1450 Rs per night. MTDC is located near the road to Pratapgad outside of the city center, the dwelling units are covered in thick greenery. The stretch of road on which the MTDC lay is quite desolate. The PWD guest house is adjacent to this resort, which is equally or rather more charming. Tourists of MTDC can walk into the PWD guest house, stroll and even have food at the PWD restaurant. One more beauty about the PWD bungalow is the sunset spot which we missed. The beautiful lawn in front of the PWD bungalow overlooks the whole ranges of Sahyadri, more importantly, there is no crowd here. Really, much better than Mahabaleshwar’s famous sunset spot. The lonely road is a good joggers’ track or one can enjoy the walk (inside) which is pleasant or can enjoy the backyard of cottage and you have an opportunity to listen to chirping of various kinds of birds. There are 30 cottages which is most beautiful part of this resort. This resort is heaven for nature lovers as shrouded in greenery. A great escape for those assaulted daily with the view of our urban jungles who really want to get stress relief. The trees sway in the wind the swishing sound engulfs you and makes you feel relaxed.
Since, we reached early morning we had an option of choosing cottage of our choice. We picked lucky 13 close to PWD guest house. The cottage rooms are quite spacious and have good clean big bathrooms as well. The rooms are equipped with television which is only useful in case you plan on staying indoors.
Not accustomed with nocturnal bus journey we were groggy. And moreover Santanu wanted to relax rather then rushing from one point to another. After having breakfast at PWD guest house we took a nap to recharge ourselves. With nothing better to do we set off for Panchgani, Pratapgarh and Wai at noon. Though Taxi wallah having fixed rate cards we bargained for 1000Rs for 3 places.
We started with Panchmari which derives its name from five hills that surrounds it. This trip includes Parsi point and tableland. Parsi point is famous for best view of Krishna valley down below. And table land offers the panoramic view of Panchgani itself. It's largest plateau in Asia, a small plane can land here. It is situated 60 meters high on the eastern side of the town. It protects Panchgani from strong winds, heavy rainfall and makes this hill station enjoyable all year round. It streches far beyond eye can see. On way we went to strawberry garden where you can buy all the fresh products available there. We bought strawberry jam.
From here we went to Wai, foothills of Panchgani ancient town with temples. It is believed Pandavas stayed here in disguise during their exile. Dolya Ganapati Temples on the bank of Krishna river are well preserved of their times.
After having late lunch we set off for Pratapgarh which is about 26 kilometeres from Mahabaleshwar on the opposite side of our first two destinations. This is the fort where the legendary confrontation between Shivaji and Afzal Khan took place and which saw Shivaji emerge victorious. At pratapgarh we hired a govt. recognized guide Satish for 80/- who was very informative and helpful for taking our snaps:-).He explained every aspect of it in detail. The fort was quite fascinating and we climbed up some 400 odd steps to enjoy the view from atop. There is a splendid view of the lush green valley and the forts Raigad and Makarandgad can also be viewed on a clear day. We were not lucky enough to have crystal clear weather rather it was hazy. On the east and the south the hills have steep slopes covered with dense forest in contrast with rocky west and the north. The hills gradually descend to the valleys separating Mahabaleshwar and Kineshwar range on the east and the Konkan valley on the west. We enjoyed sunset on our way back to Mahabaleshwar from one of the Shayadri range.
At twilight, we headed towards our cottage. Suddenly there was a strike in the city and all the shops were closed. This situation caught every visitor’s off-guard and everyone approached MTDC restaurant for dinner. Though tired and famished we had to wait for 2 hours - as small kitchen was not capable to handle such big volumes of orders in one evening. What a chaos it was. Oh GOD!!!
It is on hill top from where you can have a great view of Alhambra at the sunset. The cobble stone roads are really narrow. There are lots of tourists at that view point in the evening so are gypsies. They were playing music and selling their art works.
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.
We moved to Paris almost a year back from US. We try to travel around at least once a month outside of Paris. This year so far we have been to Zurich, Mt. Saint Michel and Barcelona.
I like Paris but some time French system and people makes me mad. I am going to run Paris Half marathon in March first week. Now a days I am trying to run more regularly. Got an I-Pod recently, its cool to enjoy music while commuting on public transport to work. Pamela is studying French more and keeping herself busy with that.
That is all keep in touch.
- 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.