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South Africa : Cape Town : Cape of Good Eats and Priceless Views

It was a Big Day! The most awaited part of the trip. A drive around the Cape Peninsula. We had infact drove almost half way through the Peninsula over the False Bay from Fansschoek via Grabouw to the boutique hotel near Simons town. ‘‘Oooohhss, Ahhhhs’’ , I marvelled at every turn a bit to Adi’s annoyance. Adi only punctuated with choicest Marathi words instead!This route was so picturesque. We wondered what views the rest of the Peninsula had for us. Soon,  we drove off on the winding road with mountain to our right and emerald blue waters to our left. Dil Chahta Hai…..We sang merrirly (with twisted lyrics…..Rangile Din, Masti ke din :P) Within 10 minutes we reached the Table Mountain nature park gate at  Buffelsfontein for Cape Point or Cape of Good Hope . One can drive around the nature park to soak up in the gorgeous views and bright sunlight.  If you are little adventurous you can cycle or trek in the area or have a picnic if you have bunch of kids.  It was a Big Day! We were posing at the Cape of Good Hope! Later we hiked our way to Cape Point and the Light house. The flying Dutchman is an excellent way of going up and enjoying excellent views if you are tired. The sun was shining bright and Mr.Sun (Adi) was hungry. Time for Birthday lunch at Two Oceans Restaurant which was packed with tourists! The […]

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South Africa: Pilansberg – Call of the Wild

’You bring us rain!’’, chuckled Alice as we arrived at Ivory Tree Lodge at Pilansberg. Our faces drooped and we apologised profusely. (Rains and English effect) Will we be able to see any animals though? asked Adi, the man who accidently became an engineer instead of a quizmaster.  ‘’Oh yes!’’, We need rain here, animals like to shower after the hot sun. Our faces beamed.After researching for months on Kruger, we had to make a compromise – Pilansberg. Thanks to  Adi’s visa restrictions, we could holiday in South Africa only for a week. Pilansberg was an excellent choice given its proximity to Joburg and the chance to see the Big 5 in a malaria free zone was a bonus. (Yes, I do dread malaria, the fatal mozzie nearly killing me twice) After relaxing a bit in our posh lodge and the clouds clearing out, we boarded the open safari vehicle to a mixed crowd of enthusiastic locals and tourists as co-passengers. ‘’There is a cheetah on a prowl’’, announced  Leon our ranger in an accented Afrikaans.As the rangers co-ordinated about the cheetah spotting, Leon drove us into the heart of the forest reserve. The passionate locals who had been to several safaris in their lifetime (just like we do Lonavala) helped us spot animals even from a far distance. I was keen on spotting a Zebra because of their cuteness factors. (Weird?) and Adi had never seen a herd of elephants […]

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More Prague Tales

I almost had tryst with language, on the morning we started for Vienna at Tesco. So I had ventured by myself to buy few essentials for the trip as it was a long journey and apprehending that we may not stop for lunch. One of them items was a necessity for female hygiene. I scorched earnestly the basement – usual food, toiletries section. Having that Indian mentality, I never bothered to ask the male assistant but approached few local ladies – calling the object of urgent necessity by their standard references. Unfortunately, they did not get what I was trying to say and I was about to make another attempt – by telling them in sign language of course!  What will I enact? wait  a minute ….Eeeks…. I will look like a clown, I thought to myself. Luckily I saw the female assistant on the floor to my rescue.‘Upstairs in women’s section’, in her broken English. Ha! There they were next to perfume and lingerie! This made me realise, how we see world with a One Track mind all the time. My brain was programmed to find them in the toiletries section and nowhere else. How most of the times we often think that the way we do things is the best way.By day 3 , we had seen most of the touristy Prague, including throngs of youngsters walking down the streets for the famous Pub Crawls at night. So […]

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Prague Tales : Discovering the dark , mysterious city

Prague! Where is that? Most of us reacted when we saw the movie Rockstar, many pronounced it as ‘Pregue’ or something of sorts. Thanks Bollywood, you added one more European city to the list. So as hubby was dilly-dallying his plans about summer holidays, I checked with my friends if they would like to have a quick go at the city. So the three of us agreed to ditch our husbands and venture to Prague over a pre-weekend. (Pre-weekend huh? Welcome to life of JK where weekend starts earlier than most mortals) Other than discovering a city by myself, I was also happy that I would get time knowing two new people- MJ and MP. Perhaps the six degree of separation rule holds true. I had bumped into  vivacious MP at my local gym and although we had not exactly spent tons of time together, we did get comfortable enough to tolerate each other for next 3 days. MJ, I met her in fellow Indians locality group and we convinced the funny foodblogger to join us. As I started my research for this trip, I was fascinated by this capital of Czech Republic. A country engulfed in rich history and culture. There was certainly more to Prague than Nargis Fakhri running down a bridge in her long gown at dawn.As we set out with a map (we left the job to MP), to explore the city on foot, we were bedazzled by […]

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A date with Vienna

Here is where it started. Well, not location wise but this is where the apple cart was upset and Europe went ablaze, here we were remembering 100 years since the World War One at Schonbrunn Palace. Schonbrunn which means beautiful spring was the family home (a huge one 66 rooms) of the Hofburg dynasty whose Prince Ferdinand was assassinated by a Yugoslavian national stirring the horrific war of the century.  Here, I was standing in disbelief admiring the gorgeous city views of Vienna from the Gloriette – the viewing terrace of the Schonbrunn.  I don’t quite remember when I had seen Schonbrunn on television but was fascinated by the sheer beauty and grandeur of the place – the city of Mozart was always on wish list since then. I do not have a particular interest in royal families or particularly a patron of their shameless display of wealth. (nor any modern day corporate emperor’s either and thankfully royals do not enjoy prestige anymore) But I am always keen on history and the architecture of the Palaces or Castles built. (I may be unable to draw a single straight line but we claim to be family of famous architects) The Schonbrunn is considered only second to Versailles in Europe and boasts of one of the oldest zoos in the world and a huge maze as also a labyrinth . To cover this huge palace, we were given only one hour by our […]

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Kanya Kumari to Kolkatta

Come December and Goa used to be thronged by the ‘Hippies’, a popular term which Indian aunties have described the western folk who ‘‘bared all’ on the golden beaches. Look at her, someone would nudge at the temple, pointing to a girl in a mini skirt with a huge backpack. She looked only sixteen. ‘’Their parents leave them alone and then they do these vulgar things’’. I didn’t’ bother listening to the remarks. For the seven year old me, the girls were awesome, travelling alone in a foreign land. In fact there may be so many Indian ladies young and old consumed by the wanderlust and yet whose dreams are shunned. Why? They are women.How will my Beti go alone? The question parents ask so often has broken many a dreams. School in faraway place? No.College in different town? No, will she be safe? Will get into bad habits. Job in different town? Nahi… koi baharwala ladka mil gaya toh. Achha, sasural in different town? Hesitation. Pata nahi kaise log honge!  I agree safety is a concern but overprotection is yet another. Today education for girls is no longer a debate but I appeal to the new age parents of today – let your daughter roam freely in her own city, let her commute late hours from work, take that week long education trip, go for a hike in sahyadris, stay in a camp with boys and girls and travel to different parts of […]

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Cornwall via Achara – Nostalgia

Last August, we made a road trip to Tintagel, Cornwall a coastal village in South West of England. Cornwall is renowned for its wild moorland landscapes and its long and varied coastline. Undoubtedly, the road was picturesque and we had more than our share of delicious sea food.  Yet, from the beginning of the trip, I was in a ‘rewind’ mode, a bit nostalgic. For reasons unknown, I was recollecting my innumerable road trips to ‘Achara’, my ancestral village. This was long before the Konkan railway was constructed and a Mumbaikar had to make a long road journey to reach his native home.As a very young child, I barely remember reaching ‘Achara’ in daylight as the enthusiasm at the start of the trip in Mumbai would have died out in exhaustion at 9.00 p.m. when we reached the village. My baby sleep would be awoken only by the call of a cuckoo and the gentle rays of sunlight passing through the ‘Criss-cross’ patterned large windows. While the elders relaxed in the front courtyard with a cup of tea, I set myself a task of collecting the ‘Champa’ and ‘Aboli’ flowers. The rest of the day was spent merrily at the water tank and well or spotting a frog or telling a cousin very bravely that I stood still when I saw a snake!I can safely say that I have spent more time at Achara compared to my cousins. In fact I […]

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Turkish Delights : Istanbul

The mild lamps dangling from the sky high ceiling creates a twinkle in your eyes. The poetic blue grandeur of the prayer hall of the Blue Mosque bewitches you. The blue and red tulip patterns on the ceiling are subtle yet magical. You step into the courtyard of this 400 year old mosque and you are out of a blue dream. The only other distraction: the horn of ship sailing in the blue sea in the backdrop whilst the pleasant evening air tickles your face. We were in the historic city of Istanbul, once renowned as Constantinople. An important destination on the Silk Route. The city spread over two continents was once the pearl in the crown of the Roman(later Byzantine) Empire until the Ottoman’s invaded the city.The Bosporus which connects the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea, divides the city into two sides (technically three) i.e. European and Asian. Our love affair with the city began as our jovial young taxi driver took us to our hotel passing the tiny zig zag traffic laden streets at the Old city centre i.e. Sultanahmet. Whilst the lorries ahead of us, off loaded the goods at luxury in middle of the street, we were lip syncing to a Turkish song with the taxi driver. (I hummed a Bollywood version one) We knew we were somewhere close to home.Being the Research guide for the group, I had mapped a list of places to […]

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The Netherlands – Windmills, Cheese and the Dark Swan

The ReasonThe glimpse of vast green fields lined with canal streams and windmills of all sizes greeted me from the tiny plane window as I landed the Schipol Airport and the drive to Leiden to meet Suruchi tai added to the eagerness of exploring a foreign land. Such is the beauty of the online world, that it gives you opportunities to meet a seemingly stranger over a few pleasant exchanges. Tai is Aditya’s cousin and we know each other only through facebook!The Dutch styled home felt so welcoming thanks to the hospitality of the hosts! My humble rented apartment at wimbeldon seemed like a pigeon hole compared to their spacious home. Chatter with tai gathered momentum over garam garam polis and experiences we had while staying abroad. We spoke as if we knew each other for a long time.  The next noon, I took a train to Amsterdam to continue the rest of my trip to meet my dear friend Hrishi and his new wife Sonal who were coming from Mumbai via Germany. The plan was to spend a weekend at Amsterdam with our spouses. However hubby couldn’t join and I decided to go ahead. The last time I met Hrishi was the day when I left India for London and I was really looking forward for this trip. I might add that our friendship has lasted over years now as also across continents! (In Mumbai we have been breakfast buddies […]

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