Jageshwar Dham - Almora

Complex of over 500 ancient temples, precisely nestled in fairytale surroundings....

Istanbul - Where civilizations merge

Being one of the oldest cities on this earth, Istanbul is a delight to history lovers...

Malana

A place which has been lying forbidden and disconnected from the mainland. Malana still follows their culture and traditions...

Temples at Batesara

Around 350 temples are estimated to have existed here. Excavation work is ongoing to restore temples of a lost era.

Murud Janjira Fort

In 15th century AD, this majestic structure was constructed inside the Arabian Sea to protect the kingdom from the pirates.

Dharamsala

Synonymous with tranquil environment, spirituality, great food and Teachings of LORD BUDDHA. Find out true meaning of life at Dharamsala...

November 19, 2017

View Finder: Top 10 Places to Catch Dinner and a Sunset in Charleston

What could be better than savoring the taste of Lowcountry cuisine from award-winning restaurants in Charleston? Enjoying them while enjoying a beautiful sunset over the Holy City, of course.
With its warm climate and gorgeous sunsets over the Charleston Harbor, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect place to wine, dine, and unwind. Here are the 10 best places to grab dinner while taking a sunset over the Holy City.
Fleet Landing
Fleet Landing may seem like nothing special from the outside, but step inside its cozy interior, and you will quickly realize the appeal. With picturesque waterside views, a jolly atmosphere, and some of the best shrimp and grits in town, Fleet Landing will make it on your list of favorite places to dine.
This popular restaurant stays packed, so make a reservation to guarantee a table and avoid the wait!

Charleston Harbor Fish House
If you’re on the Mount Pleasant side, be sure to stop by the Charleston Harbor Fish House. Named Best Water View Dining by Charleston Living Magazine in 2016, the Fish House is the only rooftop bar in Mount Pleasant that offers stunning views of the entire Charleston skyline, Ravenel Bridge, and U.S.S. Yorktown.
Besides watching the sun go down over the Charleston Harbor, you can also enjoy the restaurant’s delicious seafood entrees such as their impeccable crab cakes and pan-seared swordfish. Grab a cocktail at the Bridge Bar on the roof and unwind as you take in one of the Holy City’s best views.


Bowens Island Restaurant
You know that you’ve found a great place to eat when it’s a hotspot for locals and tourists alike. Bowens Island is a funky restaurant that you have to visit to understand its quirkiness.
Located five miles from Folly Beach, Bowens is covered in graffiti, and guests are encouraged to sign their own names on the wall. The restaurant’s eclectic vibe is only part of its charm. The delicious oysters, fried shrimp, Frogmore Stew, and other Lowcountry cuisine have been a local favorite for decades.
To top it all off, Bowens has seating on the deck for guests to enjoy their meals while they watch the sun sink into the marsh. Whether you are a tourist or Charleston resident, this legendary eatery shouldn’t be missed.

Morgan Creek Grill
As if their breathtaking waterfront views weren’t enough, the Morgan Creek Grill on Isle of Palms has a superb offering of both upscale and casual dining menus featuring unbeatable Charleston cuisine. Whether you are going for brunch, a fancy dinner date, or simply want to have a drink while taking in the view, the Morgan Creek Grill is sure to please.
Located at the Isle of Palms, the Morgan Creek Grill is a great place to find savory Lowcountry cuisine and listen to live music as you watch the sun set into the calm waters of the Charleston Harbor.

The Rooftop Bar at Vendue
Do you love art, incredible views, and colorful cocktails? If so, The Rooftop Bar at Vendue is calling your name.
This rooftop bar is part of an art hotel which features interesting wall art and provides unique guest rooms for visitors. Even better, you don’t need to be a guest to enjoy the views and impressive bar menu on the rooftop! Go on a Sunday, and you will also hear live music that perfectly bends with this creative oasis by the water.

Salty Mike’s Bar
For a casual dinner or a quick beer with friends, Salty Mike’s is a fun choice. Locals frequent this dive bar for its cheap, tasty drinks and the tranquil view of the marsh.
This may not be your place for a romantic, fine-dining experience, but Salty Mike’s deserves your consideration for its wide array of beers on tap, juicy burgers, and stunning views of the ships and boats on the Ashley River.

Élevé Restaurant & Rooftop
Inside the Grand Bohemian Hotel is Élevé, a quirky restaurant with an equally eclectic rooftop bar. Although many simply go for drinks on their fourth-floor rooftop, Élevé also offers serves Lowcountry cuisine with a French influence.
The furniture and the décor of the outside bar area are part of Élevé’s appeal. With its glowing pink planters and shabby-chic furniture, Élevé is probably more suitable for younger crowds, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying their fantastic selection of wine.

Coda Del Pesce
Are you craving Italian food? Coda Del Pesce is the place to go if you’re staying in the Isle of Palms. Unlike many so-called Italian restaurants, Coda Del Pesce offers an Italian-meets-seafood restaurant experience and provides an intimate atmosphere for special date nights.
If you want a romantic dinner date with a view, Coda Del Pesce won’t disappoint. The cozy setting and calming views of the beach are amazing, whether you catch the sunset or not.

California Dreaming
From chicken strips to pasta and prime rib, California Dreaming has a menu that will please even the pickiest of eaters. For classic American fare, this restaurant is a winner.
California Dreaming also has a wrap-around deck and patio that allows guests gorgeous views of the Ashley River. Do yourself a favor and save room for the New York Cheesecake!

Market Pavilion Rooftop Bar
The prices of their cocktails aren’t cheap, but the Market Pavilion Rooftop Bar makes up for it in other ways. Not only does this bar have an impressive skyline view of Charleston, but its bar-side pool offers a respite from the blisteringly hot days in the Lowcountry. 
Market Pavilion Rooftop Bar is considered a high-end restaurant, so it’s great spot for a romantic dinner. However, with the amazing atmosphere, stunning views, and delicious cocktails, it is worth experiencing at least once.

Final Thoughts
Charleston isn’t short on picturesque views. Whether you are a Charleston native or merely visiting this magnificent city, watching the sun set in the Holy City is a must. With ample venues to see the show, you will have plenty of opportunities to see why Charleston is such a special place.

November 10, 2017

Forts, Beaches and Alibaug in the Incredible Western Ghats

Older than the Himalaya mountains, is the Western Ghats ranges that runs parallel to the western coast of the India through the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. A drivable road from inside the lush green forests and alongside the coastline will take you on journey to a different world.

What is Western Ghats? A world set aside in the serenity of the green mountains, where music of chirping birds and where streams of flowing water play a perfect symphony to the tired souls. Well known for their rich and unique flora and fauna, Western Ghats is one of the eight "hottest hot-spots" of biological diversity in the world and UNESCO has declared Western Ghats, a world heritage site.

As per the studies, Western Ghats are sustaining around 7402 species of flowering plants, 1814 species of non-flowering plants, 139 mammals' species, 508 bird species, 179 amphibian species, 6000 insect species and 290 freshwater fish species. This is not all, many may get discovered tomorrow. Over and above these, Western Ghats provides shelter to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species.

A small welcome break from the business schedule opened a window to explore the incredible Land of Western Ghats' biodiversity, nearby a small coastal town of Alibaug. Alibaug is much popular for its neat and clean beaches. It was the time to enjoy attractions near Alibaug.
We started early morning for our first destination, Korlai Fort which is approx. 25 Km. (75 minutes) from Alibaug. Though now in ruins, Korlai Fort is an old Portuguese structure situated on a hill top. Built in the year 1521, Korlai Fort originally meant as a watch point for the invaders and was used to be a house of 7,000 people including horses and Portugese army men. The Korlai Fort is surrounded by Arabian Sea on three sides and has a beautiful lighthouse as major attraction.

Thrilling Korlai Fort trek goes via very narrow stairs which one has to ascend with skill and excitement in order to reach the Fort.

The mighty walls and the structure of the Fort is now totally covered with almost waist high grasses. 

From the top find a suitable spot, relax and cherish the beautiful views of Korlai fort lighthouse, beach and surrounding landscapes from the top.


Settlement around the Korlai fort is all fishermen colonies. 
After enjoying for around 30-minutes at Korlai Fort, we started for Murud Janjira Fort which was approx. 42 km. (90 minutes) from Korlai Fort.
In the way, 12 km. from Korlai Fort on the way to Murud Janjira Fort is the Kashid beach. Situated on the Arabian Sea coast, Kashid Beach attracts people for its beautiful clear blue water and plenty of water sports options.

Kiss of the sunlight turns white clean sandy beach and its crystalline water into a wonder of natural beauty that makes this beach a sought out destination for tourists as well as water enthusiasts.
There are food stalls which serves freshly prepared delicious omelettes and local savouries like misal pav, vada pav, dabeli, sea food dishes. Hungry stomach will be extremely thankful. Or you can just CHILLAX in the leisure time.

Approx. 21 km from Kashid Beach, is the Murud Janjira Fort. Surrounded by the turquoise colored waters of the Arabian Sea, tourists can enjoy a boat ride to the Janjira Fort by availing row boat service. This is how Murud Fort looks from the shore:

The entrance to the fort is as majestic in line with the traditions of India. The fort is keeping alive the memoirs of the numerous battles waged in order to protect the motherland from the invaders. The structure may look weary, however the pride and esteem is still held high.

Eye catching is one carving at the entrance which is depicting one tiger trapped by six elephants, probably the soul behind the construction of this Fort.

It was constructed in 15th century AD by ruler of Ahmednagar, Malik Amber to protect his kingdom from the pirates of the seas. No doubt the fort supports a large number of canons.

Though a pale shadow of its glorious past, the fort is still a majestic structure speaking volumes of engineering expertise available in India in earlier times. Check the top view of the Murud Janjira (Picture taken from one of the promotional bill boards nearby).

India has mastered the art of constructing Forts/ Palaces in water. There are other noteworthy water palaces in Udaipur, Deeg and Jaipur.
The last spot in our itinerary was the Kankeshwar temple, 13 Km. from Alibaug on the other side of Murud Janjira Fort. While asking for the directions from the locales and passers-by, we realised that they were also as unaware about this place. Only when we reached close to the temple, we got to know that the temple is situated at a hill top, approx. 1200 ft. height and we have to climb approx. 650 stairs in order to reach the pious temple. 
650 stairs sounded OK to us and we happily started the climb. Soon we came to know that the size on single stair is equivalent to 5-6 steps. High in spirits and excitement we assumed that very soon the size of stairs will turn to normal stairs, like stairs we have in our houses. However it was not so! 

The walk till the temple is covered with trees on both sides. Even if it rains heavily, the trees provide a beautiful cover to the visitors/ pilgrims. You might get fully exhausted during the climb, as size of steps and inclination is pretty demanding. However, all the tiredness and fatigue will evaporate, the moment you will enter the sacred temple premises and look around the scenic beauty of this place.

The main temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, there are 2 lions guarding the entrance along with traditional lamp pillar which is illuminated at festive occasions. It comprises various small temples of Sri Kundeshwar, Lord Vishnu, Sri Balram Krishna and Lord Shiv. Every year on the occasion of Kartik Poornima, a grand fair/ festival is held. Devotees arrive here from very far off places.

This beautiful temple is an example of Hoysala style structure and was built in 1764. Other than the temple the prominent attraction is the step well water tank, also called a "Pushkarni". This step well has water throughout the year (circular step well visible adjacent to temple).
Some distance before the temple is another water reservoir, known as “Brahma Kund”. It is a rectangular tank, surrounded by steps on all four sides.
Such type of step wells have been extensively constructed in India, which not only preserves precious water but also provides solace from scorching sunlight during summers. Huge step wells are situated in the state of Rajasthan, like wise Chand Bawdi near Jaipur.

The hill on which Kankeshwar temple is situated is known as Kankeshwar hill and it supports a variety of flora and fauna. While climbing up you will find a lot of crabs in the way to welcome you on the Kankeshwar temple steps. If you are around this place, a visit to Kankeshwar temple shall be a must for all offbeat explorers.
Forget to mention that Alibaug also has a beautiful and colourful beach, Alibaug Beach. Beach is a popular spot and one can enjoy horse rides and riding in horse pulled carriages, locally known as “Tonga”. If you arrive here around 4:30 PM, you can take a walk to the Kolaba Fort situated inside the Arabian Sea, hardly 100 m. from the beach shore.

You can also see kids enjoying football/ cricket on the beach side. 

Once you are in Mumbai and thinking about things to do near Mumbai, do consider these Alibaug attractions as an offbeat getaway.

What a day it was. Simply fabulous! Keep travelling Guys.
Hard facts about Western Ghats:
Very few people know that the mighty Western Ghats is now only 10% remains of the dense forests which once decorated this area. The Western Ghats weather is perfect for growing tea/ coffee and teak plantations. So the forests are getting cleared up for agricultural activities and settlement of humans. Also the forests are getting fragmented due to increased human activities. Native tribal people, rare fauna species are the ones which are affected the most by this definition of “Development”.

We owe this Earth to our future generations, time to rethink else Human race will find itself helpless against fury of nature, someday. 

November 3, 2017

Food you can't miss in Old Delhi

Purani Dilli is heaven for food lovers in winter, and for all things sweet, savoury and spicy.


Freshly-baked naan khatai. (Below) The chaat spread; Gobhi samosa and matar kachori; Charcoal-grilled paneer tikka.

Chaat, Chowk Hauz Qazi, Chawri Bazaar corner
Ashok Chat Corner has been satiating chaat-lovers' hunger and souls since Independence days. More than 70 years old, the place enjoys such a large fan following that should you reach a little late into the evening, you might not get everything on the menu. Be it their papdi chat, my favourite, with its topping of saunth and slivers of kachaloo, or crunchy golgappas, aaloo masala, kalmi bada and chaat gunjiya, this is your heaven for everything chaat and spicy. If that already had your mouth watering, there's more on the menu.


Gobhi samosa, matar kachori, Chawri Bazaar
Shyam sweets down the busy lane might be everyone's go-to shop for things that you like and stuff that you have never even heard of. Slowly and steadily reaching its century, the establishment can make you a regular with its bedmi poori (made of flour and urad daal) and aloo ki sabzi, available only till 1. I, however, was awe-struck with gobhi samosa and all-time favourite matar kachori. A quick chat with co-owner Sanjay Aggarwal made me enter bhindi and raw banana samosa in the list for next trip. Their rabdi is also lip-smacking; I overheard someone pay a compliment, “Dhampur bhi fail hai. (this even beats Dhampur's sugar.)”
Naan khatai, Balli Maran
While walking through Balli Maran towards Gali Qasim Jaan for Ghalib's Haveli, expect your nose and taste-buds to be suddenly tempted with the aroma of freshly-baked goods. As you follow the smell trail, you would find yourself at this cart selling home-made cookies – naan khatai. These melt-in-mouth, baked-to-perfection naan khatai can transport you to your childhood days in a flash.
Dahi bade, Natraj, near Bhati Mati Das Chowk
There are dahi badas and then there is Natraj ka dahi bada. Started in 1940, this small shop at the corner of the lane that takes you to the metro station is always full of customers. The bada made of coarsely ground batter, topped with thick fresh dahi and sweet and sour chutney and a Natraj-special masala is supremely filling and refreshing.
Paneer tikka, Nai Sarak
Old Delhi can make you succumb to its flavours even on a full stomach. Just as I decided to call it a day after having had my fill of food I saw this vendor making paneer tikka on his coal grill. Even if you could ignore the aroma, the visual delight would make the foodie in you give in to the temptation. 
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October 7, 2017

Past perfect in Old Delhi

If you want to see the Delhi of old books and stories, spend a day in Purani Dilli.

The life in the lanes of Old Delhi. (Below) A tea vendor; The happy coexistence; Mirza Ghalib ki haveli.


My first tryst with Old Delhi, its Chandni Chowk, and other lanes had ended in a mutual dislike. All of 10, its chaos, crowd and odours were all a bit too overwhelming or beyond comprehension for me. For the flag-bearers of Delhi-bred Gen X, like me, Delhi was New Delhi, with its broad roads, South Delhi malls and new markets. Old Delhi didn’t fit into my idea of the Capital.
Once I gained some wisdom with age and developed appreciating taste-buds, Old Delhi’s narrow maze-like streets and ways were no less than treasure tracks. From once promising myself to never set a foot in that place again, I gradually turned into a life-time admirer of this part of Delhi.
The trips to Old Delhi with my father became the breeding ground for many stories and experiences. The food elsewhere after that was never to be had without drawing a comparison with the same from Old Delhi.
I still remember that shop in Khari Baoli (Asia's largest wholesale Spice market selling all kinds of herbs, lentils, rice and tea ) where my father and I would go to for buying our annual dose of saffron for kheer and other sweets. To reach his shop we had to climb up two levels of stairs. On the first floor, the Nepalese saffron-seller’s family would ask us a lot of questions to ascertain we were mere buyers and no one else. We would then be allowed to ascend to the second floor and wait for him in a room. He would then come with a lot of keys and open his big safe.
The sheer process of him taking out small plastic containers filled with saffron from around the world, sitting wrapped in cotton beds, would make me feel like living in a fictional world of secrets and unknown places. Armed with enough knowledge about saffron, just when I would think I have become ‘Miss know-it-all’, this largest spice market of Asia would stump me. I would righty guess the aroma of cloves, cardamom or cinnamon in that highly fragrant air. Then suddenly I would find myself standing dumbfounded at some shop. There was always a spice or two that I had never seen. That place introduced me to star anise. A live school beyond comparison! Perhaps why famous poet Mohammad Ibrahim Zauq said:
In dinon garche dakkan mai hai badi qadr-e-sukhan
Kaun Jaye ‘Zauq’ par Dilli ki galiyan chhod kar

Those Dilli ki galiyan would then treat me the most authentic of recipes and freshest of flavours. For me, no one can still match up to Natraj ke dahi-bade, Chawri Bazaar ki chaat, Nai Sarak ki kachori, Fatehpuri ki kulfi and the rest. Those serpentine lanes and bylanes of Old Delhi might be a chaotic setup for many, for others like me they were and still are a place for exploration. No doubt, even large number of foreigners can be found exploring this charming spot of Delhi. Perhaps there is no other Purani Dilli on this earth.
You just need to visit Mirza Ghalib's haveli, spend some hours wandering in those lanes, soaking in the music that I always found in that commotion, and you would also get mesmerised by Old Delhi. A walk through the rooms where Ghalib spent last days of his life would make you also fall in love with this place all over again.
Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan, famously know as Mirza Ghalib, made romantics out of many with his ghazals and shayari. Though born in Agra in 1797, it was Delhi that saw the best of him after he moved here which was soon post his marriage at the age of 13. His residence in Gali Qasim Jan, Balli Maran, is a heritage site not only for the archaeologists but almost a pilgrimage for his fans and followers. The sheer Mughal era look of the place, with bricks, sandstones and a huge wooden gate, Ghalib's couplets and literature for the company, is a perfect way to end a day at Old Delhi. You can almost imagine the Delhi of Ghalib through his ghazal:
Ballimaraan ke mahalle ki wo pecheeda daleelon ki si wo galiyan,
Saamne taal ke nukkad pe batero ke qaseede,
Gurhgurhati hui paan ki peekon mein wo daad wo wah-wah,
Chand darwaaze par latke huye boshida se kuch taat ke parde,
ek bakri ke mamiyaane ki awaaz,
Aur dhoondhlayi hui shaam ke be-noor andhere,
Aise deewaron se moonh jor kar chalte hai yahan,
Churi-waalan ke katri ki bari bee jaise,
Apni bujhti hui aankhon se darwaaze tatole,
Isee be-noor andheri see gali qaasim se,
Ek tarteeb charaghon ki shuru hoti hai,
Ek quran-e-sukhan ka safa khulta hai,
Asadullah Khan ‘Ghalib’ ka pata milta hai.

And, who knows if you are paying attention you might even find yourself in these lanes, just like these poets did.




October 1, 2017

The Seychelles: Here, life’s much more than a beach

The waters and sunsets of these islands will spoil you for life.



A serial window-sitter in me has had her share of stares and curses coming her way all throughout. Yet, time and again, the views from that seat have always made the struggle worth it. One such reassuring moment was reaching the Seychelles
From a tiny green island in the sea, as the view changes to blue waves turning white upon crashing at the beach, I am already telling myself to be proud of the window-stealing habit. This time though there was no resistance as the non-existent competition for the coveted spot on the plane came from the husband. And, once on land, this place welcomes you with untouched beauty and unbridled love that you will rarely find elsewhere.
The small airport, packing sea, greenery and hills, all in one frame, is your first tryst with picture-perfect vistas of this archipelago consisting of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. As John drives us to the hotel at the beautiful bay of Beau Vallon of Mahe Island, the largest island and hence the place for the country’s capital and international airport, we cannot help but admire the riot of colours the nature is and how well the people add to it. 
Le Meridien Fisherman’s Cove, meanwhile, is one among those idyllic and romantic getaways of the Seychelles that any couple would have been dreaming of. Probably the reason why Prince William and Kate also chose to honeymoon on one of the Seychelles’ islands! 
Our hotel is also a peep into the country’s love for life and happiness. You work for five days or a half more and spend the rest partying or lazing around on the beaches sipping on the sweetest of the coconuts – the King Coconut, a huge variety of the species in striking yellow colour. After all if you have such ivory beaches at your disposal, why would you want to go anywhere to let your hair down.  As the sparkling turquoise waters of the Seychelles spellbind us, even a non-swimmer in me is unable to resist the new-found love for water and get into the infinity pool once the evening tides start spelling danger. 
If you knew all about great evenings, wait till you see the one at the Seychelles. Can they get better than floating in the calm pool, sipping on the cocktails made from the local spiced rums, coconut liqueurs, and just gazing at the setting Sun lending the sky beautiful tones of amber. The night, however, gets even better. Creole cuisine with an obvious abundance of seafood (read fish, crabs, lobsters, snail, octopus...) and exotic desserts due to the French influence, coupled with live country folk music and a dash of Calypso rhythms, somehow makes you believe you have found your heaven right in this land. 
The admiration, either at the natural beauty or the organised, simple and happy way of life, increases with every passing day.
The capital city of Victoria is nothing short of a modern French colony with its planned spic and span roads, colonial structures and green pathways. It is also a pedestrian’s delight as many must-see places are within walking distance. Right from the Clock Tower that was erected in the memory of Queen Victoria of England, Natural History Museum where you get the first lesson on the legendary Coco De Mer and black parrot among others, the National Park to the street market, all could be checked out on foot. Kenwyn House at Francis Rachel Street is an elegant example of French colonial architecture and a must-see yet often-ignored in Victoria. It also offers the visitors a chance to browse through the world-class jewellery from the Home of JOUEL- the premier luxury retail company in Seychelles. The collections are inspired by the Seychelles islands.
Among the cluster of restaurants near the Clock Tower, The Pirates Arms is among the few that boast of a small casino inside the restaurant. We still crave for the pizza and the cocktails the place had despite their casino having made us lose some of our cash. Such is the charm of the Seychelles that even if far from the country the evident Indian influences make you feel right at home. The many buildings and shopping complexes have Indian owners and are named so. Apart from a number of Bank of Baroda branches, the Quincy Street takes you right back to India with its magnificent Sri Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple constructed in familiar South Indian style. The currency of the Seychelles is also rupee – Seychellois Rupee. 
After Mahe, Praslin and La Digue are the next most-visited and approachable islands. We pick Praslin for its famous beach of Anse Lazio which has been ranked among the top 10 beaches of the world by many travel magazines and portals time and again. We opt for inter-island ferry rather than a plane to reach Praslin. The sudden showers and turbulence at the sea spark off a bit of fear but add a lot more to the 60-minute adventure ride. 
Robert Johnson, our transfer incharge from the jetty point to Hotel Coco de Mer and Black Parrot Suites in Anse Bois de Rose gives us a quick lowdown on the must-visit spots and rare flora and fauna. After indulging ourselves in the lip-smacking curries and desserts, ice cream on caramelised coconut on this occasion, we can’t wait anymore for Anse Lazio on the other end of Praslin.
Its snow white sand sparkling like gold in the sunlight, palm trees, large Takamaka trees, granite cliffs and thunderously-crashing waves have us in a trance in an instant. If waters at Mahe made me a convert, the crystal-clear blue waters of Anse Lazio has spoiled me for life. Anything less pure or beautiful will not have me even dip my feet into it. That might not bode well for future travels involving a sea, but as John Watson of TV series – Sherlock – says, “It is as it is.”
Like a star-struck teenager we bid adieu to Anse Lazio with great difficulty. The next meeting, with Aldabra giant tortoises, ignites similar youthful excitement. As we stop for some snacks at a restaurant, we chance to see these unique reptiles. Found only in the Seychelles, Aldabra giant tortoise is one of the largest in the world and can live up to 200 years. Despite their legendary laziness, a younger one establishing eye contact with me indeed makes me feel special. The hubby, much to my disappointment is only amused and not jealous!  
Praslin’s wonders don’t end there; Coco De Mer being the next. The buttock-like nut of rare Coco De Mer is the largest seed in the plant kingdom. Found only in islands of Praslin and neighbouring Curieuse, this Seychelles native has separate male and female trees; the gender known only when it produces flowers or fruits which takes almost 25 years. A reason why eating the nut which grown at the bottom of the tree unlike other coconut varieties is illegal and is used for cultivating new trees. The Seychelles black parrot, the national bird of the country, is also another unique attraction of Praslin. Found only on this island, in the World Heritage Site of Vallee de Mai Nature Reserve and the lower part of Fond Peper in Praslin National Park, you should count yourself among the luckiest on the planet if you are able to see one. We were not.
The dreamy night under the clearest of skies and abundance of stars with the rhythmic crashing of waves, however, more than makes up for it. As we gape at the horizon together, I know I have found perfection and love all over again in this place where land meets water in the most beautiful imagination.




September 23, 2017

Of food, fun and the run in Jaipur

Jaipur by Nite ended with great food, live music and marathon.


When you are left with a follow-up act to something as soul-stirring as a musical night by Mame Khan and Indian Ocean, the task is indeed a tough one. The ultimate day, or night – Bite Fest, of Jaipur by Nite, however, didn’t fade out to penultimate evening of divine rhythms and musical bliss.
Just think of daal-baati-churma, the spicy panchmela daal and crispy baatis dipped in desi ghee with sweet coarse churma, and you would be lying if you didn’t salivate a bit. Add to that the authentic Rajasthani methi-mangodi ki sabzi served with makki and bajre ki roti, lehsun ki chutney and sangari ka achaar making for those perfect accompaniments, and I am sure you would have found your own heaven right there. I definitely did.
The super crisp golgappas tempted me into filling myself even before the ‘dinner’. The local band Swaraag’s Rajasthani, sufi and Bollywood numbers adding that perfect ambience made it a joyous weekend. Also, the wood-fired oven didn’t only add to the flavours of the pizzas on another restaurant’s stall, the smoke and warmth of it in that breezy night almost hinted at the arrival of chill in the air.
The rustic seating with wooden benches, cots, colourful cushions thrown in, cane garden chairs and low stools adorned with local craftwork added to it all. Luring the tastebuds and making many forget about the diets were stalls serving Kashmiri cuisine, range of burgers, pastas, desserts, south Indian food, and more.
For those who still braved the temptation despite such a spectacular spread around, a couple of restaurants working in the healthy food zone, came to the rescue. It’s rather a point of debate though if they gained on health or lost on taste!

And then they ran:
Health was not a lost case at all as over 1,500 enthusiasts from Jaipur, nearby cities and other part of the country got together for the last act of the three-day event – 10km and 5km marathons. Post 10, the Mubarak Mahal and the grounds had an altogether different buzz to them as groups of runners, in their colourful sportswear, started collecting around for the marathon. 
The longer run started from the City Palace gate, went to Gandhi Circle on JLN Marg and back. The route for the shorter run was from the Palace to SMS Hospital and back. Flagged off by the erstwhile royal Padmanabh Singh, the marathon made for quite a picture with traffic-less roads and lit-up historical buildings as the backdrop, showcasing the citys beauty in the night.
Just like night and moonlight adds to romance, Jaipur by Nite did to the citys charm with its presentation of music, food, fun and the run. Do mark the dates for the next year to experience this yourself.
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