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Weekly Photo Challenge — Resilient

With its very facinating history of almost not being built to a very shaky foundation that gave it its famous tilt to being declared “healthy” after a long restoration project,  the Leaning Tower in Pisa, Italy has beaten all odds and is expected to stand crooked-proud for another 200 years!

Check out other entries for Resilient here.

Driving into a new country!

Half the fun of travelling to a new country is the anticipation. 


Here we are entering Switzerland from Italy by road. Since this road trip that started from Rome and ended in Zurich took 5 months to plan, it would be an understatement to say that I was full of anticipation for how Switzerland might be and if it would live upto our expectations. And it most certainly did.

Here are more entries for WordPress’s weekly photo challenge – Anticipation.

A hilltop in Tuscany, Italy – New Horizon

SONY DSCA rolling hilltop in Chianti, Tuscany, which seems content and contained at the same time. This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is New Horizon – where we explore something we want to achieve in 2017. For 2017, I want to find my happiness within and in the moment, instead of getting caught up in the loop of “I would be happy if only…..”. As they say, “Happiness is a choice”, and I want to consciously keep making that choice.

Here’s wishing everyone a very Happy 2017.

The Amalfi Coast drive – with gray hues instead of blue.

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On a regular Italian summer day, this should have been a stunning blue sea!

“Driving will not be easy in this rain.”

“Why don’t we take the SITA bus?” I say, referring to the big blue public transport buses easily identifiable on the road.

” That would not be any fun.”

“Fine, let’s go tomorrow then.”

“Oh-kayy (sigh) Let’s just go.”

This is the bizarre conversation that Sach and I had, on repeat for about 5 times, before we drove forth into the twists and turns of the Amalfi Coast. It did not help that our day had started at 4 am when we checked out of our hotel in Rome and we had already drove for three hours to get to Sorrento, a city near Naples which is the de-facto beginning of the celebrated Amalfi Coast drive.

Pick up any guide-book for Italy and tell me if you are not seduced by the jaw dropping pictures of pretty towns along the Amalfi Coast perched over cliffs overlooking the vast expanse of shimmering blue Mediterranean Sea.

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Driving down the Amalfi Coast

But the shimmery azure colors of the Mediterranean need one prerequisite – a sun shining overhead. As it happened, during the day we visited the Amalfi Coast, that too in mid-August, the sky was completely overcast with intermittent showers. And thus instead of blue colors, we drove alongside a sea which was pale blue bordering on grey. This was the case during the entire drive from Sorrento to Ravello.

I had been planning this trip for almost 5 months and in these five months I had almost memorized the Amalfi coast section of the Frommer’s Italy travel guide. And thus I knew exactly what I wanted to see there – the Villa Cimbrone in Ravello.

All along the drive to Ravello as we passed the towns of Amalfi and the celebrated Positano, I was amazed at how the narrow 2 lane road was easily accommodating the blue SITA buses, cars and motor cycles with space to spare for vehicles to be parked on the side.

Once we reached Ravello, we could not find any Parking signs for about half an hour and then finally parked our Hertz rental where we saw some other vehicles parked. After this bit of confusion, finding Villa Cimbrone was easy. Seriously, the village of Ravello, where the Mediterranean plays hide and seek from behind scented lemon groves, is what an Italian dream vacation is made of. After having lunch at a cafe in cobbled stoned piazza devoid of any traffic, and stopping at a pretty souvenir shop selling all manner of lemon themed curios (did I mention that Amalfi Coast is the home of Lemoncello, a lemon liquor that has to be tasted to be believed?), we began the small hike to Villa Cimbrone.

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Lunch in Ravello!!

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Preponderance of the lemon motif in the Amalfi Coast souvenir shops

After stopping many a time to take in the views and passing lemon groves (yes, lemon groves… where else will you find lemon groves?), we finally ascended all the steps to the Villa. The Villa dates back to the 11th century and its charming cloisters and courtyards are reminiscent of the Venetian and  Gothic architectural style and are lush with plants and flower beds. Once in the Villa, you are immediately drawn to is its belvedere called the Terrazzo dell’lnfinito or the Terrace of Infinity. As the name suggests, the Terrace of Infinity really puts you front and center in the Mediterranean. The terrace is surrounded with really run down and broken marble statues which at least look good from a distance.

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The cloisters of Villa Cimbrone

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wThe gardens leading to the Terrace of Infinity

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The magnificent Terrazzo dell’lnfinito (never mind the run down marble statues).

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The Sea as far as you can see!

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Would you believe that this gray expanse is the Mediterranean?

 

We spent a few leisurely hours in the Terrace of Infinity and the pretty gardens of the Villa, admiring the sea from all vantage points, even though its hues were gray instead of blue, and then almost reluctantly started the drive back to Sorrento. The skies had cleared a little bit, and we stopped at Positano to admire its postcard-worthy perfection.

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Pretty Positano

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The drive back to Sorrento

And thus our cloudy-with a chance of dissapointment-day on the Amalfi Coast came to an end. When you plan your trip – pray for a sunny day (or not – it will still be a memorable experience!).

Practically speaking:

If looking for a place to stay on the Amalfi Coast, you cannot go wrong with Best Western – La Solara, a nifty and efficient hotel, with jaw-dropping views of the Mediterranean, and a frequent shuttle to the city center.

Early morning in Punta Cana

We are hardly early birds when it comes to travel, especially less so now because the mornings are spent dancing to the tunes of the pint-sized dictator who is our 17 month old.

But once S and I did wake up early and rushed to the beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, to catch the sunrise. We did not want to miss it and so I did not even stop to change out of my pajamas, and it did not matter as we had the deserted beach and calm ocean all to ourselves. That was a memorable morning

(posted in response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Morning)

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Visiting the Harlem Meer and northern Central Park

It’s not the side of the Park that you will see in the movies or in the tour guides. It is also not the area where you would see brides being photographed for the customary New York wedding photography, much to the amusement and delight of the onlookers.

Such a slice of Central Park exists and its charming and unassuming if not glamorous and over-photographed. I’m referring to the northern side of Central Park starting at 110th Street and 5th Avenue. About a month back, in a renewed attempt to be a tourist in our own city, we took the 6 train up to 110th street and Lexington avenue, and walked 3 blocks to the north-east corner of the Park. We were greeted by a pretty lake, the Harlem Meer with a neat walking path edging it. It was great taking pictures of the lake from a distance because we could get the Swiss chalet styled cottage (which actually is the Dana Discovery Center) into the frame. img_7007

After enjoying a quick picnic of ice-cream and iced-tea at a bench near the Meer, we started walking southward only to stop for more food – this time, for hummus and falafel from a Maoz Grill kiosk close to the Meer (very average falafels by the way, from New York standards).

As we continued our journey southward, we stumbled upon a circular garden which was a total riot of colors, thanks to neatly arranged patches of tulips of different hues, all with petals unfurled in full bloom. We had inadvertently walked into the Conservatory Garden. Now, my love for gardens is only surpassed by my love for bridges and trains, and thus this was a real treat. The centerpiece of the conservancy is a sculpture/ fountain – Three Dancing Maidens, which has three ladies taking great joy in being splashed by the fountain in their midst. img_6469

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Once we left the garden, moving further southwards, we chanced upon a rectangular green lawn, flanked on both sides by cherry blossoms bending due to the weight of the cluster of flowers. The western edge of this lawn was a real legitimate will-soak-you-with-it’s-spray fountain, framed by a shaded balcony. It’s all very pretty, and after a long time, I got the exhilarating feeling of being a tourist again seeing new things.img_6484

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Further south, we came across yet another pretty sculpture, flanked by a tiny pond, which was covered with cherry blossom petals. img_6498

We ended our tryst with northern Central Park by lying under the shade of a cherry blossom tree, in full blossom.img_6521

The northern part of the park doesn’t get many visitors, but that is just well, because this oasis is tranquil and serene, very unlike the city within which it dwells!

Practically speaking:

  • http://www.centralpark.com is an amazing website, and do spend time on this website to make the most of your time in Central Park. Since there are quite a few attractions, you can always find some treasure nearby the entrance closest to you.
  • Read my earlier blog for more Central Park info (more on the western/ southern side).

Beautiful Scotland

For this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, Earth, my mind immediately went to the unspoiled and pristine beauty of Scotland. These photos were taken on the drive from London to Edinburgh and back, where we literally stopped in our tracks to capture the gorgeousness around us.

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Evening shots from South Bank, London 

It’s dinnertime in London! I had seen the majestic Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, before but seeing these gems lit up against the pink-purple-grey evening sky was a sight that took my breath away.

This post is inspired by the WordPress weekly photo challenge, Dinnertime. See more amazing photos submitted by talented photographers here.

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Q&A with Andy’s World Journeys

Thank you for noticing the feathers of this bird! The very prolific Andy from Andy’s World Journeys has posted a Q&A with me on his blog, which covers, among other things, the reason for why I blog.
Thank you Andy! To quote Andy’s favorite line – May the Journey Never End!

Travel Bloggers – Shikha from It’s a Wonderful World

The travel bucket list

What is that one place (or more) that tugs at your heartstrings – the one that makes you wistful, or the one that makes you work harder at whatever you are working at in the hope that it will all lead to you visiting that destination at some point in your lifetime? Do you dream of city scapes or scenic beauty? Are you a culture vulture or are dreaming of doing nothing more than watching a stunning sunset? What makes your travel bucket list?

Well, here is mine. I had once heard that if you really want something, as in really really want something, the stars will conspire to make it happen. In order to nudge the stars in the right direction, I am really opening up here:

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Amalfi Coast, Italy – One place visited and loved that I have put back on the list, because 2 days are just not enough.

 

  1. Iceland
  2. Alaska
  3. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming and Montana
  4. Acadia National Park, Maine
  5. Bryce Canyon National Park or Arches National Park – to see the canyons
  6. Big Sur, California
  7. The scenic beauty in New Zealand (the place Milford Sound comes to mind)
  8. Santorini, Greece
  9. Piltvice lakes, Croatia
  10. Dubrovnic, Croatia
  11. South of Spain
  12. South Africa
  13. Equador and the Galapagos Islands
  14. The Canadian Rockies
  15. Glacier National Park, Montana
  16. Crater National Park and more of Oregon
  17. Amalfi Coast (only place that I have already visited, that it so good that it deserves a place on this list)
  18. Salzburg, Austria
  19. The lavender fields in full bloom in South of France
  20. Costa Rica
  21. The volcanoes in Big Island, Hawaii
  22. Na Paali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii
  23. Lake Como and surrounding villages, Italy
  24. The Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland
  25. Hallstall, Austria

I have told you mine… you must tell me yours – all of them or top three or atleast the top one! Maybe I am missing a gem of a place that you have discovered or can’t wait to explore.

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