The day was 25th August 2017 and I was extremely excited to welcome my Bappa home! The festival is know as ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ in Mumbai and ‘Vinayaka Chaturthi’ in Chennai. Although I live in Chennai, my better half was born and bought up here, I am a hard core Bombayite by heart! I proudly call myself SOBO (South Bombay) girl. So when I moved to Chennai 2 years back, I started to celebrate every festival ‘Mumbaiya’ style. Same is the case with my Ganesha. He comes home in a true King style, and my family and friends come to take his blessings.
So now every year I get to experience Ganesha festival in both Mumbai and Chennai. Usually the first 3-4 days I’m in Chennai and the second half of the festival in ‘Aamchi Mumbai’. There is a big difference in the way the festival is celebrated in both the cities. In Chennai, the festival is more about religious prayers and thanksgiving to God. Every Tamil household keeps a Ganesha made out of mud and they offer sweet Kozhukkattais.(sweet dumpling made from rice flour, with a filling of grated coconut and jaggery)
Here are some Ganeshas that I enjoyed seeing in Chennai:
The Corn Ganesha
Majority of the body is made with Indian corn( Sorghum ), to give an earthy color. Few parts that need to be highlighted are made with the ripe yellow corn and the light green skin.
The Watermelon Ganesha
This lord is made with 3500 watermelons. I totally loved the creativity.
As you can see Chennai Ganesha’s are more sober looking and monochrome. The festival is a quite affair here. This is in complete contrast to Mumbai where the pandals(a marquee) are open 24*7 and the Lord is very colorful. The pandals have loud music playing and the festival is a reason to socialize and enjoy.
Some of the Mumbai Ganeshas that I loved are:
The Red Ganesha
This Ganesha belongs to Pratibha Industies. They have had this Lord come to their pandal for 35 years now and every year he wears the color red.
This Ganesha’s color was so eye catching. That pearl lilac was something I have never seen before. This one is an avatar of Lord Vishnu, and is made with 4 animal forms: fish, turtle, boar and lion.
There is an area in Mumbai, called Khetwadi. You cannot miss walking around Khetwadi during this festival. It’s like a mela (a fair) and you can visit atleast 15 Ganesha pandals.
The Lord above is the King of Khetwadi, infact every year this Lord is the winner at the “Times of India Ganesha Utsav”(a competition held by a leading publication for the best creativity/theme with which the God/pandal is made). The Bhojan (food) that is offered to the God is mouth watering!(The picture on the right)
Fort-Icchapurti Ganesh(The Lord who hears your desires)
This Ganesha, is one of the most peaceful Ganeshas I have ever visited. The chant brings you inner pease and calm.
P.S. – His right palm which is made of pure gold.
This is undoubtedly my favorite! Made up of 30,000 pieces of Cadbury, a total of 69 kgs of chocolate! It’s miraculous how there ain’t a single ant out there. The temperature of the pandal is maintained by 4 air conditioners.
It’s been 3 days since all the Ganeshas have been immersed in the sea, and I’m totally missing them! Mumbai seems like a different place when he is around. Every year, I wait for him to come back to my home, and bless all my near and dear ones!
Lord Ganesha, till we meet again!
The land of ‘Thunder Dragons’ or ‘Druk Yul’ had been on our minds for the longest time. Most of us have heard about Bhutan’s GNH (Gross National Happiness) and how it’s been called a ‘Happy Nation’. Trust us; there is more to that country: their awe-inspiring architecture, magnificent mountains, soothing air, friendly people, reverence for the King & Queen, amongst many others. The more we read about this Himalayan Jewel, the more we wanted to go and see it for ourselves.
To the best of our capabilities, we try to fit in a local festival into our itinerary whenever we visit a new country. Keeping the much talked about Paro festival in mind, we booked a seven nights trip to Bhutan covering Phuentsholing, Paro, Thimphu and Punakha in April 2017 (Looking back, we wish we could have spent another week exploring some more of the off-beat places). Needless to say Bhutan’s beauty is impeccable! Some of the places you just cannot miss are:
Tiger’s Nest or Paro Taktsang monastery in Paro is by far the most iconic symbol of Bhutan. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery. Hence the name – ‘Tiger’s Nest’. The trek takes about 6 hours which includes the tour of the monastery. The trail is uphill but not very steep, pretty doable we must say. It is tiring yes, gives you a serious fitness check (if you don’t believe in any form of exercise, like us!) but believe us, once you reach the top and inhale the pure and serene air, you will forget the aching bones and the gasping you experienced. The scenery over the valley is just mind blowing – completely lined with prayer flags and prayer wheels.
Pro tip – Your ticket entitles you to a guided tour of the monastery and you don’t really need a guide for the trek. Avoid using the horse service. It looks very scary and of course spare the poor thing!
Paro Tshechue/Paro Festival which happens in the month of April at the Rinpung Dzong is a series of dance performances by the monks and laymen wearing ornate costumes and masks. It is said that one gains merit by attending these festivals. (WooHoo! Brownie points for being a part of this) We woke up at 3am (we surprise ourselves by doing things like these :p ) to witness the Thongdrel festival – which is an unfurling of a massive embroidered painting of Guru Rinpoche. It is considered so sacred that simply seeing a Thongdrel unfurl is said to cleanse one’s sins!
National Institute for Zorig Chusum in Thimpu is a must visit! It’s a government initiative to preserve local art and craft. It offers courses on Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts which includes calligraphy, painting, sculpture, wood carving, casting, pottery, embroidery, tailoring, weaving, masonry, silver and gold smith workshops. The discipline and skills that the students exhibit is extremely impressive!
Buddha Dordenma located in Thimpu city is a gigantic 51 meter Buddha statue which houses 12,500 smaller Buddha statues in it.
Do Chula Pass is a picturesque mountain pass in the snow covered Himalayas on the way to Punakha from Thimphu. It has 108 memorial stupas built in the honour of Bhutanese soldiers who were killed in war with Assamese insurgents.
The three day Rhododendron Festival at the Royal Botanical Park in Lamperi aims to create a platform for eco-tourism. Bhutan is home to about 46 species of Rhododendrons.
The majestic Punakha Dzong situated at the junction of PoChu and MoChu rivers served as both religious and administrative centres of Bhutan.
House of Juliet: Punakha had a real version of Romeo (Singye) and Juliet (Galem) from the 14th century. It’s a touching love story of two ordinary people and their extraordinary love for each other, who reunited after death. This historically built house which is in ruins now, belongs to Galem (Juliet). News has it that it is getting converted into a museum of love!
Other attractions that can be visited:
Paro: Chelea Pass
Thimphu: Chuzom (confluence of Thimphu & Paro rivers)
King’s Memorial Chorten
Textile and Folk Heritage Museums
The National Library
Trashi Chhoe Dzong
Handicrafts Emporium and local crafts bazaar
Punakha: Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten
Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang Nunnery
When in Bhutan, MUST DO’s:
1. Beat the cold with a hot mug of Butter tea. You have to taste it to know what it is!
2. Savour the national dish of Bhutan, Ema Datshi – a delicious stew of chillies and yak cheese.
3. Dress up in the traditional Kira (for women) and Gho (for men). You can experience it at Simply Bhutan (Thimphu)
4. Drink at the local bars in Thimpu. (I fell in love with the singer at Mojo Park. What a voice!)
5. White water rafting at PoChu river (it has bigger rapids than the MoChu river)
6. Chew the local betel nut leaves (It stinks and tastes horrible but gives you a kick!)
7. Sing some Salman Khan hits with your guide and driver (Salman is a rage in Bhutan)
8. Observe traffic police in Thimphu. There are no signals, so the policemen constantly are moving their hands,to manage traffic. It’s a sight worth watching.They do a brilliant job, and the traffic is well controlled.
9. Take an hour of your time and visit Thimphu post office. The picture below tells you exactly what you can do.
10. Visit Chimi Lkakhang in Punakha and observe the houses.
Hotels we stayed at:
Paro : Hotel Tashi Phuntshok (excellent location, great room and food)
Thimphu: Hotel Migmar (average room and food)
Punakha: Damchen Resort (beautiful spacious room, average food)
Flights: Rs. 22,000/- per person (Delhi – Paro – Delhi) (if booked in advance)
Package: Rs. 55,000/- per person (includes accommodation, all 3 meals, AC tempo traveller with driver, guide, all permits, all transfers & sightseeing)
A trip for 2 is approximated at a little over Rs. 1,50,000/- (approx. 2340 USD)
We used Norbu Bhutan Travel Pvt. Ltd. The guide and driver were extremely friendly and accommodative.
Planning your Bhutan trip? Have some queries? Shoot them in the comments section right away!
“Yay, I’m finally going to America. It’s my first holiday abroad. And wow, almost a month!” I was only 9 years old and it was the summer of 1995. Those days it was a big big deal – taking a trip abroad. But my Pops made it happen for me, and it was truly a dream come true!
Pops, yes that’s what I call my father, my lifeline, my everything. Where should I start from? I’ve known him for 32 years and can write pages about him. His first trip abroad was when he was 32, on a job in Mount Senia Hospital, NYC. He took his first International flight with 7 dollars in his pocket and spent 6 dollars of it to see two movies on his journey. The balance 1 dollar was used at a public telephone booth to call the person who came to receive him at the airport. So it’s Friday evening, this man’s first time in New York City, and he has no money in his pocket. I’m talking about 1976 – the age of withdrawing money only from banks, no ATM machines and most importantly no cell phones. Being a weekend the bank was also closed. So what does my Pop do? He’s goes to Bloomingdales, picks up a very fancy suit and pays a heavy price by cheque. Then goes to the return counter, returns the suit and takes back the price in cash. Smart way to survive his first weekend in New York, Eh?
Pops has always been a super smart traveller. He knew exactly how to get his way around in an unknown place. My fondness and love for travel is something I have inherited from him. Pops is a Doctor by profession and his profession has allowed him to travel a lot. Right from attending conferences in Barcelona to setting up Dialysis units in Mauritius to even giving talks in Sri Lanka – he has done it all.
I will never forget this incident from about 9 years ago that completely changed my impression of travel. Pops was travelling to Srilanka and didn’t want to go alone. It was a flying visit of hardly 2 days & 1 night. Nobody in my family wanted to disrupt their routine and appointments for such a short trip. I being the youngest, Pops literally dragged me along. He wanted me to experience life. To literally see the world and not stay in my cocoon in Mumbai. Hesitatingly I agreed. And believe you me, in that so called little time I did a city tour of Colombo, saw some of the famous hotels, went to Odel and did some shopping, drove to Bentota and spent the night there, got a massage and also visited a beautiful Buddha temple, that had a branch taken from the tree where Buddha attained enlightenment. The cherry on the ice-cream was picking up a Noritake cutlery set and a LOT of Dilmah flavoured teas. That really short trip made me realise that when life gives you the opportunity to travel, take it! Even if it’s just a weekend getaway. The sights, sounds, lessons you learn, exposure to different cultures and opinions is not just refreshing but absolutely life changing. It broadens your horizons and your outlook to life.
Little did Pops realise that after that getaway I became a travel addict. I would join him every time he had to travel. He’s always treated both his children equally. His famous dialogue is – “I have 2 eyes and I’m not a squint”. So when my brother went to Canada for studies, I too was sent to California for higher education. Oh that one year of living in the USA changed my life totally!!! All my lessons came from – Travelling like a local, not a tourist!
Unforgettable Travel Tips from Pops:
1. Always travel very light – whether you are travelling for 5 days or 20 – pack just 2 pairs of jeans and many tops. It not just keeps the weight low but it gives you a chance to shop there as well 😉
2. While returning from a country where the time lapse is a lot, take a flight that reaches your city by 7am. Take a power nap for an hour and immediately head to office. This strategy helps to overcome jetlag.
3. On city tours that span the whole day, eat a heavy breakfast in the morning and a heavy, early dinner. Since lunch is on the go – keep it light.
4. If you are travelling solo or as a couple, use public transport to get from the airport to the hotel. If more than two of you are there, hire a cab.
5. Drink a lot of water and take short walks around the airplane. This helps you overcome jet lag as well as deep vein thrombosis.
6. Carry an umbrella/ windcheater always. In most western countries you get the odd drizzle at any point in time. Don’t let rains ruin you travel plans.
7. Start young. You will have time and energy on your side.
8. Always carry a copy of your important documents with you and also leave a copy back home with someone reliable and someone who can be easily accessible. Also carry a softcopy of these documents on your phone or in your email. Password protect the folder.
9. Alert your bank about your travel plans in advance. You wouldn’t want the bank authorities blocking the card assuming that there is suspicious activity when you go around swiping it in a foreign country.
Today Pops celebrates 7 decades on this planet and I want to say, “My love and passion for travel is because you taught me to travel right, travel smart!” So here’s wishing you a very Happy Birthday. May you keep celebrating and keep travelling!
Yeh Dilli hai mere yaar.. Bas Ishq mohabbat pyaar !
This is a post, I’ve done in collaboration with a friend Kirti Arora (blog: The Fashion Flings) from Delhi. I requested her write about it because the city is close to my heart. My Mom is from there, so lots of childhood memories.
Now over to you Kirti
Delhi is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. It is famous for its rich history, vibrant culture
beautiful monuments. From the chaos of old Delhi to Lutyen’s, Delhi can offer you different flavors and
leave you spellbound. I can very well say that whosoever visits Delhi, falls in love with this city.
Dilliwale welcomes everyone with a bright smile. People come here to study from different states, to
work and earn their living and call it their home. The rich past coupled with thriving culture brought in
by migrants from all around the world, gives Delhi an identity that is uniquely its own.
As Delhi is the capital of India and people visit who visit north India makes a hard stop at Delhi, as it is
well connected by all means of transport. So, I thought even if you have one day to spend in Delhi, here
are the top few things which you shouldn’t miss.
I’m Kirti Arora. I’m born and brought up in Delhi. I’m a part time fashion, beauty & lifestyle blogger. You
can follow and subscribe to my Blog “ The Fashion Flings” to follow my stories 🙂
Being a Delhiite, I thought it would be perfect to express my love towards “Saadi Dilli” by sharing an
ultimate guide to explore Delhi the Dilliwala way!
I would like to Thank Karishma for giving me this opportunity.
Here’s your ultimate guide to explore Delhi the Dilliwala way!
It is well connected with Delhi metro to travel within Delhi NCR.
Not to forget Delhi Airport is also ranked second best in the world 🙂 Yes, you read it right! Here’s a
glimpse of the magnificent Delhi Airport!
The hasta (Hand gestures/expressions) mudra represents the heritage of Indian classical dance forms.
There are 12 enchanting Asanas of Surya Namaskar sculptures at Delhi airport.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN DELHI
You can cover the Delhi tour by opting for “Delhi Darshan”
Delhi Tourism has provided Hop on-Hop off (HOHO)AC buses to explore Delhi at your own pace. You can select the package as per your feasibility. You can chose the package that best suits you, based on the no. of days. For e.g., you just have 1 day to explore Delhi , so you can chose their 1 day package in which you can pick and choose up to 8 popular monuments, museums and markets to cover at your own pace. You can check the detailed info – HERE. http://hohodelhi.com/sightseeing-2/
If you don’t want to opt for this bus ride,here’s a list of top 10 places which will cover the beautiful buildings, temples, shopping & food joints.
1. Lotus Temple -The Bahai Lotus Temple is one of the world’s most beautiful religious buildings and a must-visit when in Delhi.
2.Gurudwara Bangla Sahib – It is one of the most prominent sikh pilgrimage situated in the heart of delhi,Connaught place.
3.DilliHaat – Is famous for its craft bazar, and food joints. It is operated by Delhi tourism.You can buy unique crafts and artwork from DilliHaat. It is situated in INA.
4.Connaught Place – CP is best described as the heart of Delhi. It lies in the center of Delhi, has various restaurants, shopping centers, street food, street shopping, Almost everything.
6.Akshardhaam Temple–This unique statue has 48 statues of Ganeshji, 200 sculpted figures of great avatars, devotees of Indian culture. It also hosts 25 minutes of the spectacular “Sahaj Anand Water Show” which creatively blends lasers, lights, fire, fountains & projections. It’s a must visit place for an enthralling experience.
7.Kingdom of Dreams –India’s first live entertainment, theatre and leisure destination.Kingdom of Dreams is a perfect fusion of Indian culture, art & crafts, heritage and cuisines found under a single roof.Zangoora and Jhumroo are the two Bollywood musicals exclusively staged at the Nautanki Mahal. It is situated in Gurgaon.
8.ChandniChowk – It is also called as “Old Delhi”. As the name suggests, it is one of the oldest and the busiest places in Delhi. You can find almost anything here. Famous for Jewelry, stationary, silver, zardozi and lace items,antiques, sarees, suits, bridal lehengas, food joints and great religious places (SisganjGurudwara, Jama Masjid) – As I said, everything!
9.HauzKhas Village – HauzKhas village is a popular complex in HauzKhas which has some amazing restaurants. It is famous for its night life, hauzkhas fort & lake.
WHAT TO EAT?
- Food – Delhi is famous for its North Indian delicacies & street foods. I’m Punjabi and a big time foodie hence, my love for food is obvious. It is so difficult to list down only few places here as wherever you go, every place has its own food specialty. So, discover food your own way and as you walk down the streets of Delhi. But make sure , you don’t miss the below:
- ParantheWaliGali – Situated in ChandniChowk, famous for their Paranthas. Paranthas are the staple breakfast in Punjabi household, no1 can beat Punjabi paranthas hence, paranthas are a must try , if you haven’t tasted it yet, you are surely missing something in your life.
- Chaat – Alookitikki, alookichaat, Natraj ked ahi bhalle in chandnichowk, golgappe.
- Butter Chicken – You must have tasted it in all other parts of India but for a proper Mughlai taste head to “Gulatis restaurant” at Pandara Road
- Chholebhature – “Sita Ram Diwanchand” It is mostly available in the breakfast menu options in many restaurants. They are heavy and rich in spices.
- Nihari – It is a slow cooked meet. You can head to Karim’s –Jama Masjid to experience this Mughal delicacy.
There’s a lot more apart from this list,Delhi has lot to binge on. You will get tired of eating but this city will leave you craving for more. Check other options HERE
Fine Dining restaurants
- Parikrama: The revolving restaurant –This restaurant is located on the 24th floor of a building and gives very astounding and breathtaking panoramic view of Delhi.
- On the Water Front – Perfect for your date night.
- Amour – The Patio Restaurant, Cafe & Bar- Perfect ambience with a lake view.
- Lakhori – Haveli Dharampura – Royal Dining experience in a 200 year old restored Haveli with cultural experiences like Kathak, Classical Music, & Kite flying
- Lodhi-The Garden Restaurant – Beautiful ambience.
And there are zillions of cafes in CP &HauzKhas , check them out on Zomato.
PRO TIP – Party in Hauzkhas or CP. Some of the best options are Lord of the drinks, MTV FLYP, Social ,Tamasha, F Bar.
WHERE TO SHOP?
- Janpath – It is famous for its street shopping, you can buy trendy accessories, denim shirts and dresses, aviators at super affordable price. Pro Tip – Bargain more than 50% at the street shops here.
- Sarojini– Have you heard of that song “KudiSaturday ..Saturday kardirehndihai,sarojinikekapdepehenkejati madam disco” . Yes, they are talking about Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar market here. You can buy dresses at throwaway prices here. Again, bargaining is the key. You can even score a sequins dress at INR 100 and I’m not kidding!
- GK- GK -1 M block market is hot spot destination to score 1st copy branded clothes, bags, footwear, accessories. The prices are a little higher, but definitely a good buy.
- Rajouri Garden- famous stop for suits, sarees, kurta, footwear shopping. Here bargaining won’t work, coz they are proper branded shops which offer good quality clothes & I swear they are irresistible. You would definitely want to buy something for your family /friends, so this is the best market to shop any stuff.
PLACES TO COVER AROUND DELHI
Delhi is also surrounded by hill stations and various places which can be also be covered easily of you are planning to visit Delhi, depending upon the no. of days in hand. To name a few, I would recommend Agra, Jaipur as they are not that far from Delhi or if you want to explore the northern belt , You can check out other places HERE.(Link URL)
- Agra(Distance from Delhi – 243 Km) – Famous for its magical allure “Taj Mahal” which is among the Seven Wonders of the World
- Jaipur (Distance from Delhi 281 Km) – also known as Pink City as the whole city is painted in Pink color. Famous for royal palaces, lakes and their rich heritage.
History, culture, green parks & delicious food at every turn: the capital city has a lot to offer. We hope this list will help you move beyond Delhi’s tough, reticent exterior, and delve into the city’s many delights like a local!
You can follow me on Instagram – The Fashion Flings
If you need any further information, please leave a comment in the comment section below J
In my childhood between the age 4-7 years, I had heard so much about America. My uncle stayed in Miami and my parents would visit very often, but my elder brother and me had never been. To me my whole world meant America, because of Disneyworld and New York City. 25 years ago taking a trip to that part of the world was a big thing and not many people would go.
Since I was 5 years old, I would keep asking my father the question, “when are you taking me ?” I literally would chew his brains every week.
And finally my father decided to take us in the Summer of 1995, when my brother completed his 10th standard board exams (equivalent to O levels). USA was also the first International destination that my father wanted to take us, because he believes Disney is a Pilgrimage for every child and also that was the first place abroad, he had been to do his Fellowship in Mount Sanai Hospital, NYC, only difference at the age of 30 and me at the age of 9.
Tickets done, visa got (I still remember going on sitting at the US Consulate, in Breach Candy, Mumbai for almost 4 hours). It got me thinking, is it so difficult to go America. First lesson to go abroad, you need to have patience and a lot of it. Even more so when you take that 16 hour long flight via some place. So almost 24 hours of travel. We took Air India from Bombay (Mumbai as known today) to New York via London. But I was pretty comfortable with 24 hours of travel, my brother, mother, father and cousin sister’s company for a chatterbox like me worked as well as cartoons on the flight. An airline with a TV, I was so happy.
Finally we landed to New York. It was about 7pm in the evening, IST . I was very tired but wanted to go out and see this huge place I had heard so much about.
My memories of NYC:
I went up the Empire State Building, it was the first time I was seeing such a tall building, and watching the view of this city along with the Brooklyn Bridge. This made me feel “I’m on top of the world”.
I even went inside the World Trade Centre, was one of the lucky few. There were tours in those days that took you inside. Writing this brings a tear to my eye.
In all my 9.5 years, I never ever thought that streets could be fully lit, shops open, so many people and so much noice at midnight, that’s what I experienced when I saw Times Square. I was taken a back by the night life of this city. In all this glitz and crowd I found a Hersheys store open in these wee hours, it absolutely gave me a high, going and buy so much candy at that time, a complete Sugar High. And those Kisses chocolate mascots, first time in my life I had seen characters like that.
The boat ride along Hudson River to Statue of Liberty was something I was literally counting time, to reach the Lady. The island is beautiful. So many people and the lady look Magnificent. I had never come up close to such a large statue. Walking inside in the dark right to the top of the torch was little scary as it was very dark. And I would keep screaming to hear my echo. But when I reached the top, i felt liberated in the open air and the world below me.
My last day in NYC I visited Macy’s, the largest store in the world. Looking at such a huge collection of dresses, I was so confused what to buy myself. I wanted everything. I came out with a lot of clothes.
Another store that made me so happy was Toys R Us. Three floors of toys, games, cars, dolls, cartoon merchandise, chocolates, I just didn’t know where to begin. Finally I came out of the store with 4 bags of shopping.
The magic of Disneyworld:
New York was one big city experience. After that we flew to Miami, Florida and took a bus ride to Orlando. We had all of a week to spend in this magical place. The first place in Disney I saw was magic kingdom, I just couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing. Mickey, Donald. Daffy, Goofy. The Disney parade was outstanding, the lights, music and dance. The rides in magic kingdom were not the scary rollercoaster but more experiental, and enjoyment. The thunder mountain ride, with the dip in the water, got me all drenched, but what was very fascinating was those dryers.
MGM Hollywood was interesting to learn about, how movies are made and how cartoons come to life. The Beauty & the Beast show, was one that has been edged in my memory forever.
Epcot center is definitely an interesting place with a lot of learning. I really found the show called “Making of Me” very amusing, and the cracker show very grand. I love fire crackers , and for Diwali go and watch the crackers on Marine Drive, but what I saw here, was out of the world.
2 things in Disney changed my life forever :
A. The ride called “Its a small world” : where the make you sit on a boat, and dolls are shown to you in setting and clothing of different countries in the world.
B. The world showcase at Epcot Center: where this area is divided into different countries from the world, and you see buildings, eat food from there, people walking in the local dress of that country.
Seeing these 2 things at Disney made me realise there’s a whole world out there to explore, and I want to see and experience it.
My trip continued, we visited Miami, Vegas, Niagra and on our return home saw London. But my experience in Disney changed my life and made me want to explore the world forever.
After that trip I’ve gone back to USA 5 times, and Godwilling will keep going for holidaying.
Here are some pictures of my recent trips.
“When the moon hits your eyes, like a very big pizza pie, that’s Amore”!!! While Dean Martin’s deep baritone voice was singing about Napoli in Italy, I was Amore with another city, in another country. Not very far away from Italy. I talk about Paris. People call this the most romantic city in the world and why not? Who can say ‘No’ when a man drops to his knees and proposes to you with the very beautiful Eiffel tower in the backdrop. No no. That’s not my love story. Hollywood has fed us with a steady diet of romantic movies with such scenes that is sure to melt the stoniest of hearts.
But to me, I found a different kind of love. It’s romantic alright. But my romantic moments were with sweets, desserts, chocolates and pastries. The best that I’ve tasted in the world.
Here are some of my favourites:
Ispahan at Pierre Hermes: A blend of rose cream, juicy lychee bits and dense fresh raspberries, sandwiched between 2 pink macaroon shells. The texture is extremely creamy and fluffy. The right amount of sweetness is brought in by the rose & lychee and the tanginess is brought in by the raspberries. The pretty shades of red and pink are as valentine as it can get. Be sure to enjoy this delicacy with your lover.
Icecream & Sorbet at Laduree: The mini macaroon glaces (mini macaroon with icecream) is not the first thing that one thinks of when you hear the name Laduree. This creamy, fluffy, milk textured dessert comes with a shell on the top giving it a satisfactory crunch. The milk based ones come in light pastel subdued colours while the sorbets are bright and vivid. My favourite milk based flavour is salted caramel and raspberry in sorbets. The pink of the raspberry is so beautiful that it makes me feel mushy and in love. Whenever I visit Paris I must visit the tea salon, Champs Élysées. From the interiors of the place to the food, this place is a must in everybody’s list.
Macaroon at Gerald Mulot: There are 2 kinds of macaroons – Italian and French. They are identified by the way the base meringue is made. Italian macaroons are made when hot sugar syrup is poured while the egg whites are beaten and fluffed. The French variations include beating together meringue sugar crystals and egg whites with no heat involved. Taste wise – the Italian ones are crumbly and fine, while the French ones are less sweet and chewier. The almond flavour is also stronger. While Laduree is clearly the most famous store for its French macaroons, the new, sparkly, snazzy kid on the macaroon block is Gerald Mulot. Their French macaroons are vibrant and so colourful that you just can’t resist clicking countless photos to show off on Instagram. But it doesn’t stop there, one bite and you are hooked. My two favourites are ‘lemon citron’ which has a custard texture filling and ‘fig’ which has a sugary jam filling. Definitely go on a love sugar high with these yummy chewy nibbles.
Financier French tea cake at Hugo & Victor: This strange name comes from the fact that this popular tea cake is eaten as a morning or evening snack by the bankers in Paris. This cake has a rich almond and hazelnut flavour to it. Its hard & crusty on the outside and moist & delicious on the inside. That happens ‘cos it’s first baked at very high temperatures and then the temperature is drastically dropped. The locals are so in love with it, that they will walk miles to get the right one. Believe you me, this delicious nutty piece is as addictive as chocolate. You will experience cravings, one cannot explain. While here, you must also try Pate a tartiner. That is hazelnut paste – a crunchier version of Nutella.
Eclairs at La Masion Du Chocolat: History says that eclairs were first made in France during the 19th century, by a chef, for French Royalty. Truly this dessert is rich in cream and texture. Hollow French choux is filled with different flavours, the most traditional one being – cream. However, the flavours I am talking about are caramel, coffee, chocolate and green apple. My favourite is coffee. It’s center is filled with ‘melt in the mouth’ coffee flavoured fluffy cream that is outright addictive. If you are the experimenting sort, try the green apple. Its pop colour and tangy taste is delish! Other specialities out there are bell pepper, garlic and mushroom flavoured chocolate. Something probably you have never had in your life before.
Chocolates at Patrick Rodger: This shop is a lot of fun to visit. Patrick Rodger makes various sculptures and dramatic displays in chocolate that look totally gorgeous. Each chocolate creation is tastier than the previous. His philosophy is “have flavour that compliments the chocolate, not competes with it”. Some of the chocolates are – silver mounded almonds wrapped in chocolate, zesty notes of lime in chocolate ganache, smoky earl grey tea flavoured chocolate, rum & raisin filled chocolate nuggets. My favourite amongst all available was caramel flavour with a hint of pear. Some of the chocolates come artisticly wrapped in a vivid marble look. These designer chocolates are sure to tickle your tastebuds.
Other famous desserts include a lot of French pastries, crepes, choux, frozen yogurt etc. I will need to go back some day to try all their delicacies.
I will end here by saying I hope you are hungry and your mouth is watering on reading this post. Until next time, Au Revoir!
It’s Friyay. Yippee the weekend is here! And if you are wondering what to eat, it’s your last chance to experience the delicious Ramadan delicacies.
I’m sure whichever city you are in there will be that one hot spot where you can go and have a feast. I am fortunate to be in Mumbai this weekend so I hopped over to Mohammed Ali road. Make sure you haven’t eaten lunch cos’ the spread is just outstanding. Even just tasting everything will totally fill you up. One of my friend’s @thetastingtummy (her name on Instagram) guided me through this walk and here are my recommendations:
Shammi Kababs at Noor Mohammadi Hotel:
These are made of chicken or mutton and are literally so soft that they melt in your mouth. And why not, they were invented by a chef in Lucknow for a toothless nawab. So you know what I mean. They are silky smooth and stuffed with finely chopped mint, onions and green chilli. They are priced at Rs.25/- per piece.
2. Sheekh Kebabs at Hamza fast food:
Made from chicken or beef meat these yummy spicy minced meat kebabs are cooked on skewers. These are little more chunky than Shammi kebabs and have a great flavour of aamchur (dry mango powder). Priced at Rs.110/- for a plate of 4. Here you can also try mouth watering chicken tikka, malai tikka and kasturi tikka kebabs.
3. Baida roti and Kasturi mutton sandwich at Jilani Fast Food:
This is a favourite midnight snack of us Mumbaites. It is a shallow fried Indian snack coated with eggs and stuffed with mince chicken and flavourful spices. Another must try at Jilani is their mutton sandwich which is on the tangy spicy side and has a strong flavour of methi (fenugreek leaves). Both these items cost Rs.80/- each.
4. Malpuas and Kesar Phirni at Shabbir’s Tawakkal Sweets:
Sweet endings are always happy endings. Malpuas are a hot favourite as they come here only once a year. These are very soft and fluffy pancakes made with sugar syrup, flour, cardamom and eggs. Always ask for the double egg Malpua as it’s even more fluffy. You need to eat this with Rabri (a kind of sweet condensed milk), priced at Rs.140/-. Another favourite of mine is the Kesar phirni made with rice, milk and saffron, priced at Rs.100/- per portion. Both these desserts are only available here during the holy month of Ramadan.
Some tips when your there:
- Don’t take a car, walk or go by taxi.
- Carry change.
- Wear your rain footwear and carry a windcheater (it pours often).
- Go on a empty stomach (there’s lots to eat).
- Most of the great stuff is at Bohri Muhallah.
On that note, have a Happy and Blessed Eid.
Forget Kokomo. The Beach boys should have really been singing about going to Andaman. You read all about Andaman and hear everyone recommending that one should go there atleast once in their lifetime but once you do land there, the beauty is something that cannot be captured by a camera. It’s indescribable and something that has to be experienced first hand. From the clean pristine sands to the clear blue waters for snorkelling, Andaman is India’s answer to Hawaii or Mauritius. One must keep pinching oneself to realise that this isolated little island is still a part of a country that fights for clean streets and mundane daily problems. A complete stress buster and a favourite for honeymooners. With predominantly Bengali cuisine and a sea food lovers cloud nine, this tiny island is accessible from Chennai or Kolkatta only. Once you land at Port Blair, the jetty is a 2.5 hour ferry ride to Havelock island.
I had rung in the 2016 New Year at Andaman. Unfortunate but true, this island gained popularity only after the 2006 Tsunami almost destroyed it. Curious travellers come to see what happened that fateful morning. Andaman is also a history buff’s paradise. From the Kala pani jail to some of the old British settlement houses, the legacy behind each of these places is very humbling.
We chose to stay on Havelock Island. It’s the most buzzing of all islands with all the happening tourist spots and restaurants. Things you can do around here include:
Named after the fact that elephants used to frequently swim here before the tsunami, this beach is a 20 min boat ride away. A haven for snorkelling, water sports and sea walks (walking under the sea). With corals barely a metre under the water, it doesn’t matter if you do not know swimming. There are enough agencies you can go through to experience these once in a lifetime moments. Plenty of tress that were uprooted during the tsunami are left as it is to add to the natural beauty of the beach. Plenty photoshoot opportunities.
Beach no. 1:
This is right at the main jetty where the boat arrives from Port Blair. Have some coconut water and visit the local market to buy some amazing souvenirs like lanterns and photo frames that are made out of shells.
Beach no 2:
If you are looking at something secluded and away from the hustle and bustle of the tourists that throng this destination, look no further than this beach. And while you are here, you might as well learn a little deep sea diving as most diving schools conduct their training here.
Beach no 7:
Also known as Radhanagar Beach, this is the most popular beach in Havelock. We stayed at Barefoot hotel. Their cottages were so comfortable and beautiful. A home away from home. The staff was extremely warm and friendly. The spa which is situated amongst the trees must not be missed. The sunset views from this place is something I will carry back with me. Every morning we would be greeted by an unbelievably gentle and cute elephant at the hotel.
Located next to Kalapathar village, this beach is named after the black (Kala) rocks that you find here. This place is also great for snorkelling.
Now coming to the food in the island. If you are a seafood lover, you are in good hands. Full moon cafe, Something different, Anju coco and Barefoot Brasserie serve the most delish prawns, calamari and lobsters. In Indian food, authentic Bengali options like fish with mustard, rice, dal, fried fish are available in dime a dozen shacks found across the island. If you would rather not experiment, Continental and Chinese non spicy food is available. Fear not if you are a pure vegetarian. This is India after all and one is bound to find options and pure vegetarian restaurants too.
A tip while staying in Havelock – the island shuts down pretty quickly after sunset. Public transport is also difficult to find. So do find a hotel which has some great indoor activities as you will need it to keep yourself occupied in the last quarter of the day. Regarding network connectivity, I was on BSNL. While I got signal to make phone calls, data and WiFi was very poor.
We also stayed one night in Port Blair.
Do not miss out on Ross Island. This is a 45 min ferry ride from Port Blair. You get to see some really old British settlements and houses, free range peacocks and deers. It is also called as Paris of the East. Famous for its light house, there is no specific beach per say. Be careful of the boat operators who could literally take you for a ride at high costs.
Also known as Kala Pani, this place was used by Britishers to bring in Political prisoners during India’s freedom struggle. The light & sound show is definitely worth a watch and will bring a tear to your eye.
Port Blair is also a shopper’s paradise with mirrors, pens, a variety of statues including Lord Ganesha made with shells.
On the whole Andaman is more than just a tourist spot to check off your list. Spend enough time here, eat like the locals, unwind and relax amongst the beautiful scenery. Disconnect from the world to connect with yourself.
Cost for a couple for a 5 day stay:
Tickets from Kolkata/Chennai to Port Blair by flight – approx 150 USD per person x 2 people = 300 USD
Barefoot Havelock (during New Years which is peak season. Rest of the year costs are about 60% lesser) – approx 300 USD a night x 4 nights = 1200 USD.
One night in Port Blair = 90 USD
Cost of 1 meal = 25 USD x 10 meals = 250 USD (more economical options are available on the island)
Jetty cost to and fro – approx 40 USD x 2 people = 80 USD
Other expenses, recreation, taxis – max 300 USD
Total cost = approx 2520 USD (for a luxury trip in peak season).
*Costs given above are for a luxury trip taken around the New Year of 2016 which is one of the costliest times to visit any tourist destination. Economical options in food and boarding are also available around the year. Please research before setting out.
Ever eaten doughnuts that look like oozing blood or maybe a huge kick ass doughnut that looks straight out of Ghostbusters? If no, then you gotta visit Portland. From Voodoo doughnuts to bikers in thongs, nothing fazes the residents here. So much so, you see plenty signboards inviting visitors to “KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD”.
I first heard about QUIRKY Portland when I was living in Los Angeles in 2013, on a one year, very much Bridget Jones, ‘finding myself’ break. I thought I had more or less completed the full ‘touristy’ tour of the country when a family friend suggested I not miss the very different, very un-regretable and not to be forgotten trip to Portland. So once I got back to India, I tucked away that little piece of information knowing that on my next trip this side of the world, I would not miss it for the world.
Last month when I knew I had collected enough vacation holidays, Portland topped my list of places to visit.
Basically, KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD was inspired by ‘Keep Austin Weird’ and was brought to this city about 14 years back. It was originally used to promote local businesses in and around Portland. However over time this has been imbibed by the residents into their personalities and day to day life, bringing a distinct and clear cut character to this place making it stand apart.
To an outsider, a typical ‘Portlander’ might look weird, unusual and eccentric. Their style of dressing and hairstyles range from strange to absolutely jaw droppingly absurd. But they are some of the friendliest people whom I have come across. An absolute pleasure to interact with. Shamelessly, I felt one with all of them as I too have RED hair :p
If you have about 3 days in the city, please do not miss experiencing the following:
Weekend market by the river side: Open from March to December, this market offers amazing craft items, food and live music. It’s one of the largest open air markets in the USA. You mustn’t miss their infamous fruits with lime & chilli. Another must buy is their super cute, super fragrant, handmade soaps.
Voodoo Doughnuts: I LOVE the way they spell ‘do(ugh)nuts’. It’s not just the people of Portland who want to be different. This has been passed on to the doughnuts as well. I was extremely impressed by their creativity. Very cute and very pink. The tagline, “all good things come in pink boxes” is absolutely apt. My half hour wait in line to score half a dozen of these doughnuts was so worth it.
The Woodbury Tulip Festival: Ever believe in destiny? I happened to be at the right place at the right time to witness this magic. Ideally this festival is only from early to end April. It was so beautiful that I don’t have words to describe it. I will just let my pictures do the talking.
Vietnamese food at Luc Lac: Yes yes, before you ask; you do get veggie broth Pho here and it’s super delicious and the cocktails are mind blowing. Their version of Thai tea is unique. Let me just call it Portland style. You gotta taste it to know what I mean.
Multonomah Falls: There is something very meditative being amongst nature and a walk beside a waterfalls that’s so close that you can feel the water sprinkle on your face. Top this whole Oogway session (Kung Fu Panda anyone?) with an ice cream swirl and Huckleberry jam.
Japanese Gardens: Experience mini Japan in Portland. The waterfalls, multicoloured fish and Bonsai are an absolute beauty. This place also has the best view of the city.
Last but not the least, Beer!! This is available plentiful and almost at every corner. Food trucks, another speciality is found in 2-3 locations in and around Downtown.
‘KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD’ is not just the unofficial motto, but a way of life. You must be a part of it for at least a day, to carry back memories of ‘stuff that Halloween nightmares are made off’.
Cost of trip not including airfare:
Living Downtown in a 3 star hotel (like University Place).
Uber taxi to travel everywhere.
Hiring a car for travelling to the outskirts of Portland.
Eating in Decent, medium priced restaurants.
Guzzling a few beers (hic! Who’s keeping track anyway)
Total cost: 500 USD for 3 days
Memories and a Hangover: PRICELESS!