Saturday, 2 May 2015



I am a princess, that flaming yellow and red costume becomes me as I perch atop the marble sill,
peeping out of the tiny window, looking out at the world beyond the formidable walls of my Fort Palace; I am Vaselisa the Beautiful, my thick plait dancing wildly behind me as I amble along the dense silver forests, the carpet of grass spangled with lavender kissing my feet, the snowy white rabbits watching me wide eyed as I daintily pluck some cherry blossoms.


I am a dreamer, I SPIN STORIES. I am a traveller, I weave stories around places I see, destinations I visit, things I look at, people I meet. Road trips do that to me, I watch the world go by as I sit pretty in the cozy comforts of my car, time and again rolling down the windows to feel the wind in my hair, taste the salt on my face, touch the tiny raindrops that patter down, soak in the romance enveloping me, to see the new beyond.

I simply love the spontaneity and flexibility road trips offer. Nothing to do on the weekend? Tired of visiting the malls but hate to stay back and spend the Sunday at home?Your friend is lapping up the sun in Bali while you wait for that eluding increment. Voila! The solution lies in your car keys. You had to leave at 5 in the morning but the sheets refuse to let go of you. Hey, another hour of sleep won’t turn your world upside down, after all there are no planes to catch. You don’t need to plan months in advance, just pack up and go.

I can carry an entire wardrobe with me, three changes for the day, those new boots I so wanted to be clicked in, a silver, a gold and a black clutch, the classic sling and the practical hobo. I would need
my floral tiara too and throwing in some chunky chic accessories won’t hurt either. I might find the
novel, I plan on reading, boring so I better keep the other one along. Just in case.
The polaroid, the digicam,laptop, chargers, adaptors, my neck pillow... The boot of the car survives it all. I even carry my blanket along, you never know...

Road trips give you this feeling that you are in control, that you have the power to set the pace of
your holiday. You can take innumerable pit stops, the excuses can be varied, a washroom break, a photo opportunity, inexplicable hunger pangs or the uncontrollable urge to ask for directions from a
corner kiosk even though the GPS seems to be working just fine. Backseat driving adds a whole new dimension to cruise control.

Road trips have a No Fixed Plans recipe on the menu. I grew up at my grandparental home, visiting the small town my parents lived in, only during school vacations. While going back, away from my parents, I invariably developed (read-’feigned’) some kind of sickness which would help delay my departure by a day or two. Those complimentary days meant the world to me. As do now, the extra unplanned extended stays when you have yet not got your fill, when you are reluctant to leave just yet. One more day, another hour beyond lunch, a minute extra...the luxury of those stolen moments which only a road trip can offer.

Road trips are a time to bond, with family, with friends. Long conversations, those songs that stir up nostalgia, recounting funny old stories, making new memories, there is time for it all.
Journey is the reward. It is a learning process, smooth roads, rough terrain, concrete jungles, bucolic vistas, majestic ruins, off beat trails, a new adventure is always waiting around the corner.The thrill
of finding something new, unexpected, is what keeps you going. Meeting interesting people on the
way, exchanging pleasantries with strangers, reading signboards like “KFC-Kangra Famous Chicken”, waiting patiently as the shepherd navigates his scampering sheep from out of the way, tasting that odd cross between an orange and a sweet lime freshly and stealthily plucked from a roadside orchard, listening to the forest whisper and streams chortle, getting lost only to find something more bewildering, more beautiful. Travel is my Drug. Road trips confirm this theory.

Yet don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t just yet fall in love. The bubble is fragile, my romance has a
few enemies, the ride not without hiccups. The treachery lies in the deplorable condition of the roads, the unrelenting traffic snarls, that obnoxious and continuous honking right in your ear. You are
exhausted even before you begin. The back pain and stiff neck will follow for the longest time.
Finding a clean hygienic restroom, forget that, a restroom, any kind of it, becomes an impossible task once you steer away from the highway. You bide time, holding in and listening to “ I told you so”.
Be prepared to eat at road side stalls, forget all about your jasmine flavoured green tea, endless
cuppas of cutting chai and oil stuffed pakoras await you. Carry your own water in case you are
allergic to “Baislari”. Hand sanitizers, wet wipes, paper soaps, deodrant, mosquito repellant need to urgently replace some of your carefully packed make up in the hand bag.

Finding new routes, going off the beaten tracks, taking the roads less travelled, as paradisiacal as it
sounds in your head, can get a little scary when you actually get lost, the GPS won’t work, the
cell phone signals have dropped to a new low, street lights are alien objects, unheard of in this part of the world and there is no soul in sight. I say my little prayer, silently pledging never ever to be this
adventurous, striking off all dreamy epic road trips lined up on my bucket list.

Next morning, curled up in my hotel room at Palampur, fresh like a dew and stuffing my mouth
with hot syrupy pancakes, I tell my husband, `Let’s try Langsdown in October, maybe’.

                         My bitter sweet relationship with Road Trips continues....


Thursday, 8 January 2015


It Rained That Day In Zurich

When it comes to Switzerland, images of Interlaken and Lucerne flood our vivid minds but on our third trip to the country which technically, was 'just' a flight hop, we, that is, my husband and me, decided to spend a full three days in Zurich. We had it all sorted, planning to travel to the neighbouring touristy cities by train each of these three days while our luggage rested conveniently  at some Airport hotel. It had to be Bern and Montreux, I insisted as I had yet to sight the 'Barengraben' and the 'chateau' de chillon'. My husband meanwhile wanted to revisit all the places we had done before( how romantic, one must think, but turned out tickets to the latter were cheaper). So we had plenty of time in our hands and obviously, covering most of these places seemed very very achievable and we weren't ( when I say we, it is mostly I incase of travel plans and aspirations) the types to waste our precious holiday time in Zurich, the financial capital of Switzerland ( yeah! It sounds boring even in the head), especially after several well wishers had warned us about the drab and the dull Zurich. " There isn't anything to do in Zurich", " Why couldn't you catch a direct train to Lucerne and stay there instead", " Three whole days in Zurich, are you guys crazy"....and yet we didn't listen, were here, brimming with enthusiasm to explore Switzerland, we had smartly chosen a central hub, had no worries of chugging the heavy luggage from place to place and planned to take a new direction from here each day.
But what do you do when you wake up on the first morning in the hotel bed and are faced with the looming possibility of having to spend 24 hours in Zurich, Switzerland, as all roads going up to the mountains are closed due to incessant rains. And however crazy you might have pictured us to be, we weren't stupid enough to burn precious swiss franks in train tickets on such a sloppy wet day.
Well, what do you do when it rains in Zurich?! Actually, you are in for a real treat; grab your umbrellas ( in our case, we bought one from the nearest store which happened to be a kid's shop and tried sharing it!), get a Zurich city pass(ask your hotel for one.) and board the first tram to Zurich Zoo. This gem of a  rainforest themed zoological park hidden in the heart of Zurich will enamour you with its lively ambience and eclectic showcasing of exotic animals and their niches and a superb layout. The cherry on the cake is the Masoala Tropical Rain Forest under a geodesic dome where the entire Madagascar biosphere seems to come alive with the musical cacophony of birds flying around, myriads of buzzing, fluttering insects and chameleons and the likes gracing the giant green trees, not to mention the overgrowth of exotic epiphytes and ivys. The gurgling of a waterfall cascading down in the background and soft raindrops pecking your cheeks from an artificial downpour has a mesmerizing effect. The boardwalk through this paradisiacal jungle is a stimulating, exhilarating experience and removes you far far away from that cold blue rainy day of Zurich. Later, you can take a boat cruise on the Zurich lake and a little dance in the rain at the deserted promenade wouldn't hurt either, trust me I am speaking from experience. It was one of the most romantic days of my life, we wandered aimlessly, rode the free trams and city trains( thanks to the all day Zurich pass), drenched ourselves silly and shared umpteenth cuppas of hot tea.  Tomorrow would be another day!!


Friday, 2 January 2015

Manitoulin-Discovering Thousand Islands Canada

Where the giants walked: discovering the Manitoulin Island :: Lonely Planet India -