Sep 29, 2011

Thursday Challange #4

This Week the Thursday Challenge is GOLDEN.
I can only think of the sun when someone says the word Gold ... Here are a few snaps that I clicked in the course of my travels ....

Sunset turns the St Lawerence River into molten gold

Rays of the rising sun like golden arrows over the River Ganges at Rishikesh

The sun turns the Eaton School into a Golden Yellow

Sep 28, 2011

Book Review - Adrift - A Junket Junkie in Europe

Author: Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu
Publishers: Leadstart Publishing

As most of you know, I am an incurable travel addict. I have to go on a trip at least once every 3-4 months or I am left feeling extremely dissatisfied and restless with my life. I am also a sucker for travelogues so when Blog Adda had "Adrift – A Junket Junkie in Europe" up for review I grabbed it in a flash!

"Adrift – A Junket Junkie in Europe" is written by Puneetinder, a thirty something travel enthusiast who spent a very happy summer traveling through Europe. As someone who has just spend a month travelling across UK and Canada, I was very keen to read what a fellow travel enthusiast had written!

Personally, the reason this book apealed to me was because my and Puneetinder’s views on travel are very similar. Like her I am perpetually afflicted with the travel itch, the never ending desire to explore, experience and relish whatever the world has to offer us both in terms of travel destinations and culinary delights. Like her, I also treat travel as an escape from the mundane and sometimes unpleasant realities of life. It is a “soothing balm and the light at the end of the tether” as Puneetinder rightly points out. Like me Puneetinder also believes in letting her heart rule her mind as far as travel goes and believes more in unchartered random travels that characterize a true travel gypsy rather than following a fixed boring itinerary.

One fine day, Puneetinder decides that she is not too satisfied by the way life is turning out. Naturally she chooses travel to escape her problems! She had an unutilized air ticket to London which she promptly puts to good use. Before she sets out, she lays down a few cardinal rules of travel such as “I shall avoid all tour operators” (something I whole heartedly agree to!); and other equally important dictates’ such as avoiding all summer romances on the way,avoiding consumption of fast food and seeing too many places in a day!

While in London, her aunt in Germany offers her indefinite stay at her house provided Puneetinder cooks Indian meals for the family! Puneetinder promptly takes up the offer and hence begins her travels across Europe as she hops from one country to the next, staying with various cousins and friends scattered across the continent. 

In true sense of adventure, she shuns journeys by air or rail and instead uses “Mitfahrzentrale “a car pooling service that enables her to travel across Europe in a much more cost effective manner. Among other countries, she covers Sweden, Hungary France and Austria where she falls head over heels in love with Vienna.

The style of writing is very simple yet the descriptions make you feel as if you are actually seeing the places through her eyes. Her joy as she savors the different cultures, cuisines and places is almost palpable. The book is rather a delightful amalgam of anecdotes and interesting descriptions of the places she has been to. She shows us the “Asli Europe” as Shahrukh khan says in DDLJ. Puneetinder has a wry sense of humor and a very happy go lucky attitude - two things that always make a good traveler , and the two things that make this book such a pleasure to read.

I do have one complaint regarding this book. The book doesn’t have a normal Index but a few lines explaining what each chapter contains. While some people might appreciate this, I don’t really like the idea much! It was like knowing the end of a movie before you even begin to watch it! I like to keep the expectancy alive as I read a book.

However this book is a delightful read for anyone who has even the slight love for travel running in their veins!

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Sep 19, 2011

London Diaries(6) :Westminister Abbey

Westminister Abbey ... An ancient church steeped in history ... A place of Royal coronations and burials and most recently the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Most of the people who go to Westminster, just look at the whole Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminister Abbey Trafalgar square bit from a tourist bus and content themselves by clicking a few snaps from the outside. But if you are a lover of architecture and history, Westminster Abbey is something you should not miss.

It’s truly an architectural masterpiece. The marvelous gothic architecture, the breathtaking sculptures, the carvings, the high vaulted Roof, the magnificent altar and the beautiful stained glass windows all come together to lend it a almost hallowed beauty. Westminster Abbey is a working church and services are still held every day. Inspire of the multitude of tourists walking about, everything was very hushed and peaceful. As I walked around the Abbey,an unbelievable sense of tranquality stole over me. I sat down for a few minutes near the high altar  and in those few minutes of quietude I felt a lot more serene than I have felt in a long time.

Apart from the obvious architectural magnificence, another thing that had attracted me to the Abbey was the poets” corner -A corner in the Abby that contains burials and memorials of many British poets such as Chaucer, Tennyson, Robert Browning, John Masefield, William Camden, , Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy are also buried here. Charles Dickens John Milton, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Robert Burns, William Blake, T.S. Eliot Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, etc.

Unfortunately taking pictures is not allowed inside the Abbey – I was bitterly disappointed as I would have wanted nothing more than to capture the magnificence of what I was viewing on my camera.

Here are a few of the pics I clicked of the outside 

Sep 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - 13: Love in the Sky !

Quebec City - Canada

Sep 13, 2011

London Diaries (5):Down the Downing Street

Across the Westminster Bridge lies the Big Ben and the houses of parliament. I chose a warm sunny day to walk across the bridge to reach the big Ben.

Next to it is the imposing House of Parliament. Its a great deal of effort to go inside - you need a whole lot of permissions so I just contented myself by clicking photographs from the outside.

A short walk down the street is 10 Downing Street. Off course its a extremely high security zone and we couldn't click any pictures except of the fierce looking policemen !

Just across downing street was a tribute to the women who fought in world war 2

Sep 4, 2011

London Diaries (4) : Marching with the Guards at Buckingham Palace

After I was done with Trafalgar square, I decided to walk to Buckingham palace. Its quite a walk but I didn’t really mind. I believe that the best way to see a city is by foot. I like doing things at my own pace and I abhor guided tours where they stuff a lot of useless information about a place down your throat and then herd you quickly to the next tourist spot without giving you much time to actually enjoy the place. It makes me feel as if everything is just passing in a blur. I need to go slowly, walk around and get a feel of the place, take snaps, stay for as long as I want and take in the surroundings …

One of the things Buckingham Palace is famous for is the changing of the guards’ ceremony. I did want to see the change of guards, but I had been told that I’d have to reach at least 2 hours before to make sure I get a good spot. I had no intention of waiting for such a long time just to see the ceremony and I didn’t want to push and shove a lot of people to get a good view and get pushed and jostled around in return. So I decided to just see the Buckingham palace and forget about the change of guards.

From Trafalgar square, I walked under the Admiralty Arch and on to The Mall road. The Admiralty Arch houses important government houses is also a ceremonial entrance to the mall road that leads from Trafalgar square to the palace.
Admiralty Arch
The mall is a very long road and was milling with tourists. Both sides of the road were decorated with the Union Jack. It has the St James palace and St James park on it as well as many important buildings whose names I forget but remember them as being rather imposing structures. Architecture in London is spectacular where ever you go.

I was walking leisurely when there was a sudden rush of activity and all the tourists started rushing towards the St James Palace that was a little ahead. Not one to miss any action I followed them. Everybody had their cameras out and ready as if they were waiting for something to happen. Suddenly Four mounted policemen came out of the palace and stood on all sides of the roads to ensure none of us would rush forward - Although for the life of me I couldn’t understand what they thought we would rush forward for. Suddenly we could hear the sound of a marching band. The crowd fell silent and quivered with anticipation. And then marching round the corner, resplendent in their red tunics and bearskins came the Queens guards! What I didn’t know was that the Queens guard always marches out of St james palace and down the Mall before joining in the change of the guard ceremony. I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time! The guards marched on towards the Buckingham palace and we kept pace with them by walking along on the pavement. We had the most perfect view !

The guards

A policewoman
The mounted guards
My luck ran out when the guards turned towards the Buckingham Palace. The road ahead were so packed with people that it was impossible to get any further. I knew that even if I did manage to reach close to the palace I would hardly be able to see anything over the heads of let’s say – a million people ! So I contented myself by listening to the band and catching an occasional flash of red as the ceremony took place inside the gates of the Buckingham Palace.

If I may say so, (and I say this at the risk of earning the ire of many) Buckingham palace is not really that imposing a structure. Honestly I find our Presidents house much grander. The Victoria memorial right in front of the palace is rather impressive though. So are the royal mews and the gardens.

Here are a few pictures!

Buckingham Palace

The memorial in front of the palace

The changing of the guards ceremony inside the Palace

coming up next - Down the Downing Street !

Sep 1, 2011

London DIaries (3) : Trafalgar Square – where have the pigeons gone !

Do you guys remember the opening scene of Dilwaale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge – The one where Amrish Puri is feeding the pigeons at Trafalgar square? Well believe it or not, doing that was on top of my "Must Do things in London"list. I didn’t care what else I did or did not do, but feed the pigeons at Trafalgar Square I must. I would not consider my London trip a success unless I did that ! So one fine morning I took myself to Trafalgar square in anticipation of feeding these birds that are as famous as the square itself.

So, Imagine my surprise, no, my absolute shock when I didn’t even see one single pigeon! Trafalgar square was positively milling with tourists but there was not a pigeon in sight !  It seems that a few years back these poor pigeons were declared a health hazard and feeding them was discouraged. Slowly they all but dwindled away !

Pigeons or no Trafalgar square is a spectacular sight ! In the middle is the Nelsons column flanked by four lions. This column was erected in the memory of Lord Nelson who died in the battle of Trafalgar.

Nelsons Column - Click to Enlarge
Click to enlarge - Lion at the base of the column
The famous fountains in the square are designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens (The same architect who built our capital city !). Behind the square is the National Gallery – a very imposing structure as well as St Martins church.

St martins in the background

National Gallery
The whole combination of Nelsons column, the fountain and the National Gallery in the background make an arresting site ! It was a sunny day and I was in photographers heaven !

Fountain - Click to enlarge
Trafalgar Square - Click to enlarge
 Another interesting thing I saw near the fountain was the Plaque depicting how many days are left for the London Olympics !

Coming up Next - Marching with the guards at Buckingham Palace !


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