Itlay revisited

We have been to Rome for 4 days in 2003 but we wanted to visit the other parts of Italy but could not do that due to time constrain. We were planning for trip to Florence, Venice etc old classic route for long time.

Krovi and Vidya went to Italy on their paper honeymoon which was 3 weeks earlier than us and they did provided us with lots of good tips. Then we too spent a lot of time on Internet especially on Rick Steve's site and talking to other friends about the same.

We found a very good deal on train via SNCF to Milan for to and fro in 1st class which we opted. We booked almost all our hotels via venere after planning our itinerary.

Our itinerary was:
Day1 : Arrive Milan, after check-in leave for Pleasure day-trip to Lake Como and back to Milan.
Day2: Train to Cinque Terre (hiking to an extraordinary old villages set in rugged coastal mountains )
Day3: Pisa (Picture stop at the Leaning Tower) and continue further for Florence
Day4: Day trip to Sienna and back to Florence
Day5: Explore renaissance city Florence
Day6: Half day at Florence and leave for Venice
Day7: Venice at leisure
Day8: Back to Milan and at same night journey to home via rail.

Provence - South of France

We have been thinking to visit South of France for a long time. Writing the dairy for this trip is very unique as it had so many vivid events one after another. We took a packaged deal with one of the travel agency (Hotel and Bus with Sleeping-Berth)

After the event-full after-noon at Cite Perfecture we started at 9 P.M from Paris. It was not a bad start till the first stop. Then, the inside of the bus got converted to allow people to sleep; this is quite unique unless you have traveled once in any of those I am not sure how to explain. We did not know what it is either and tried to be polite when people pushed us to go first. But when we got in we found almost all the spaces were taken and there was no place left for us together.
There was one typical old French lady who occupied the place for two & did not wanted to adjust as there was one more place where another lady also occupied for two and who called themselves sick and lucky (as they came first). Few co-passengers did not like this and were vocal about the same. Some suggested me to get down from the bus to show my protest. Any way after the afternoon episode I was not much left to fight with. So, we slept separately somehow and the night ended after all.

Day-I

We reached Marseille on time; after keeping our bags in hotel we left for exploring the second largest city of France. Marseille is a very big ugly city; it does not care for your visit. We went to near by island on a boat and a very great view of Marseille and Mediterranean Sea, we visited Notre-Dam and Cathedral followed by a lunch.

We were told to meet at hotel at 4:30 for our next destination. But when we reached hotel there was no one and hotel guy gave a key for our room. After freshen up I asked them where are the rest of the passengers from our group. He said coolly  -- Oh! They left. What!!!!!

So I rushed back to room - told Pamela about the same. So, now after several questions of her we realized that we were supposed to stay in this Hotel for next 2 nights and the bus will come back. This was highlight of Day two when after having a good time in Marseille we missed the trip to "Aix en Provence"

Day-II

After a good sleep we did make sure we do not miss any thing today. The day was great, we saw "Gorges du Verdon" which cannot be compared to Grand Canyon but it is great in its own. The bus ride to the same was really great. On the way back we stopped at the lake and a small tourist village.

Dinner on Easter Sunday: most of the restaurants were closed and the open ones were very crowded. We got in to one place to try the Fish Soup (Bouillabaisee) speciality of Marseille. So, after waiting a long time waiter took the order and then after a big pause we got the starter; and then again started the eternal wait for main course. There was another couple right to us, who were also waiting for their turn just like us. On left another couple was also bored to wait after drinking their water and eating the bread pieces, as there was no one to take their order. It almost took us an hour to get the main course. The scenario was even much worst in the right table; the husband finished his meal with out any bread and there was no food for the wife L till then. As French menu consists of 4 courses so after main course it was to be followed by salad ? but seeing their delay I decided to skip that & thought dessert would be better to opt for ? but no luck; it was just the same. Lastly, I decided to leave without taking my dessert. And, they were very prompt while presenting the bill ? charged for the complete menu no concession on their poor service and incomplete meal.

DAY-III


We visited Arles, a place famous for its Roman Arena. There was bullfight in the arena that we did not watched but there was Bull race on the road before that which was quite memorable.

Then we moved to Baux-de-Provene a ruin castle visited by too many tourists each year. But it was really worth going to the top. The panoramic view of Provence rolling hills is great!
From there we went to Avignon where Pope was moved for few centuries before going back to Vatican. It has the big church an old bridge that is broken in the middle.

Rest of the trip to Paris after dinner was event-less this time as we were given the Premier Entry to the bus and was made sure by well wishers that we sleep together that night.Well, Tuesday morning at 5:30 AM the journey ended which just reminded us to go back to Cite for our long term visa.

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.

LA HOLLANDE, ALLEZ-Y MAINTENANT!

Seeing one of friend's photographs we were so excited to visit that place. That, in our last trip to Amsterdam (May 2003) we tried to visit that - but alas! Local people told us that Tulip season is already over. But deep down in our heart we wanted to visit that place particularly Keukenhof thinking -maybe next year.
Then we were in touch with Holland tourism in-order to know more about Keukenhof. We tried twice, booking with a travel agency as it would have been economic & hassle free for us compared to self-trip- but no luck. Luck at last smiled on us when Krovi & Vidya asked us to join them to Keukenhof.
We started on April 3rd and reached around late afternoon after 5hrs of driving. Roads to Keukenhof park being well marked in town of Lisse (very close to Amsterdam) we didn?t had any problem to reach there
No other flower heralds spring like a tulip, especially after months of dreary, not to mention cold and bleak, weather. Like a river of clear, cool water on a hot summer day, our mind's eye feasts on the color and shape of tulips in early spring. Millions of tulips and other bulb flowers are then in bloom. As soon as we entered the park there were too many flowers other then Tulip to catch our attention. It was really magnificent view & worth going
After spending 3- 4hrs.at Keukenhof garden we went to Amsterdam where we spent that evening & Sunday there.

Got an IPOD


Requested my brother to send me one I-pod from USA with Hitesh as he was coming to Paris on a business trip. It was very nice to catch up with Hitesh, Neetu and Simran after moving out of CA. We met them at their hotel in Latin quarter and had dinner with them. It was almost 2 in the morning when we returned home in the cold night of February. But that did not stopped me to open the box start playing with the new gadget.
On a secondary note - I started liking Paris but some time French system and people makes me mad. Yet, I am enjoying my stay here as much as I can. Now a days I am trying to run more regularly - ran two Half-marathon so far this year and recently started taking tennis class.

A year in Paris

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.

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.

Back from vacation

Back to Paris after a nice and quick vacation of 4 weeks from India. The days passed by very quickly between meals and sleep. Our vacation got split between my parents and in-law's house. But it was great to spent time with family. Will post some new pictures and others later. Paris is very beautifully decorated for holidays, it is a great sight to see all those big trees along the road being lighted up, as they don't have any leaf now.

Paper Anniversary

Yes!!! Its one year that we got married,the year was quite eventful for both of us. On this day we went to Ramkrishna Mission.The hour long train ride to outskirts of Paris was very scenic with fall color.Winter was breathing on our neck with its chilly wind. Durga Pooja and Diwali is just over, but celebrations in Paris goes on.We went to Salon du Chocolate. It was some thing not to be missed. There were chocolate stalls from all over the world and they were giving away so many chocolate to taste for free.

Rome (Sep 5th-7th)

We wanted to visit all the top attractions of Italy in one trip but due to vacation time (for Parisians) and taking off from work and with Pamela's school we could not do. So, we planned for only Rome. We flew with Alitalia from CDG this time in early morning. It was much better than Ryan Airlines in terms of access to the airport. But the initial fun started when just before checking-in we have to run 3 terminals to collect our tickets from Air Traffic office. But other than that running, every thing was smooth. Luckily, we had nothing to check-in.

We started our days visit from Colosseum - just to check if all gladiators have gone home or not. I still do not know how to express my feelings about this magnificent achievement of mankind and engineering, which dates at least 2000 years back. After having lunch we walked along Via del Corso from Colosseum to Roman Forum and all the major attractions to Fontana di Trevi which refers to the three roads. Needless to say, the famous custom-to throw a coin into the fountain over your shoulder to ensure you return to Rome. A second coin will have you falling in love with an Italian, and the third marrying him or her. But we didnot took a trial. Anywayz, on the way we got the taste of traffic rules of Rome. From there we walked towards Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna) with all the big brand designers shops around it. After strolling at Piazza del Popolo square we walked to the top of the hill towards Pincio - a nice garden to take some time off under shady trees. From here we went to Pantheon via Piazza Navona another city square with fountain of four rivers and Egyptian obelisk in the middle. WOW !!! extraordinary dome of pantheon is the largest masonry vault ever built. Its really magnificent to see that. Finally, after hectic day of walking day long we decided to move towards Metro-Colosseum for our hotel.

Second day, we planned to visit opulence of the Vatican. So, started with Vatican museum and went to Sistine Chapel. It is must if you want to see the work of Michel Angelo and Raphael the great artists of Italian Renaissance. Better start this way as museum gets closed early around 2PM. From there we went to St. Peters Basilica the main Vatican church. We went to the top; the lift takes up to 3rd floor which is quite at height and from there it is 320 stairs more for the top. The view from the top was worth with those narrow stairs.

Last day, we spent again the whole day for one more last time in ancient Rome. We went inside of Colosseum and Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. Those big structures with columns still standing just as it use to be really takes you back to history. After doing a final round of walk which included a late lunch close to Pantheon and walking towards Piazza del Popolo on Sunday when most of the road is taken by pedestrians we decided to pack-up. That road is really crowded and you need to watch your belongings that time. And, thus our trip to eternal city came to an end.
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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.

London 5days (July 29th - Aug 3rd)

We went to London the proper Bilayet (Foreign land -as mentioned by S.Rushdie ) for five days. We stayed as guest of Sampath, at his home bit outside of London. The trip would not have been so pleasant and memorable without his help and warm hospitality.

We reached around noon at Waterloo station by Eurostar. After keeping our luggage at cloak room we went straight to London Eye. It was a nice start to see all the monuments of London from birds view. After that we crossed-river Thames and went in front of Big Ben, Parliament and West Minister abbey. We walked through St. James Park and reached Buckingham Palace. On the way back towards 10,Downing St. we walked along the Mall. After that we walked to Piccadilly Square when it started to rain. It was a nice little welcome rain of London. At the end of the day we walked back to Waterloo. It might sound a lot of walk around Central London but, we did not found this walk as too much.

After finishing some top sights, we went to Windsor Castle very next day. We spend almost the first part of our day there. Then again we returned to central London to visit Tower of London. If you are interested in seeing all those big and famous diamonds you cannot miss this especially KOHINOOR. Around 3PM we went to HMS Belfast -II a WW ship turned into a museum now. It is just across the river. The walk along the river and London Bridge was worth as you get a good view of Tower Bridge. Most people confuse that with famous London Bridge but in-fact London-Bridge is a dull one.  After that we went to London Aquarium on the way we saw St. Paul Cathedral and traveled on those double-decker bus. In the evening, we met Avijit. We were meeting after 8 years after our college days.

After two hectic days of sight seeing we slowed down and started with Madam Tussaud. Thanks again to Sampath for advance tickets as that saved at least 40 minutes of long queue. After that we went to British museum. In the evening we were guest of Purbayan's concert at Royal festival Hall. He along with Kumar Basu made a very wonderful evening of Indian classical music in Sitar & Tabla.

4th Day we were really slow we reached London quite late spend around 2 hours with Purbayan. We went to Shri Swaminarayana temple in the afternoon and then went to Tate Modern. It's a great place to be if you happen to appreciate modern Arts. I personally do not understand much unless the art is described; there are lots of collections of Picasso to Pollock.

Saturday Sampath drove us to Stonehenge and Bath. They have respectively history of 5000's and 2000's years. What makes Stonehenge so special that there is no source of such big stones around. So, how those civilization people were able to carry those big stones and place them in the way they are today -its still a mystery to modern man. Similarly, for Bath famous for its Roman bath- surrounded by seven hills, the River Avon running through the heart of the City and the towers of Bath Abbey combine to create a wonderful first impression along with its hot springs.

Sunday we had our train to Paris, but before that we went to Greenwich. The trip was not long but gives a great view of London city. That is all for now with MIND THE GAP and Chicken Tikka Masala .

Heat wave of August

Oh! summer, it reached 40 degree cel. or 100+ F this week at Paris.The global pollution is taking its effect may be? 20 years back it used to snow a lot in Paris but now it does not snow any more. The houses, metro's are not designed for this kind of hot weather which makes it more unbearable. We are surviving with Pedestal Fan but it is still far from a rain. The heat wave is going to be there for another 10 days atleast from now. Not only this, here power failure is also there.We too faced the same, one fine evening it went off around 9.30pm & came back at morning 2.30am.