People keep asking me, “I am in Mumbai this weekend, what are the places near me, where can I go?”. This is not generally the kind of article we would write, but here we are. Where CAN one go? Well, wherever there is peace and fewer crowds, good ambience, a nice place to stay and good food.
Like every city, Mumbai has plenty around it for visiting. And I shall not mention the overdone Lonavala/Khandala.
One of our recent trips to Ratnagiri, Konkan Maharashtra, yielded an unusual discovery. Thousands of years old rock carvings made by early humans. Such carved drawings on rocks are called Petraglyphs, and we must be thankful to Mr Sudhir Risbud, who has painstakingly discovered, documented and made (continues to make) supreme efforts to preserve these and bring some public attention to these.
Our hosts told use as part of “what to do”, to speak to Sudhir Risbud on what we can see around the area and that he has interesting visits in mind. We had no idea we would be seeing rock carvings, made around 20,000 BCE to 2000 BCE! (Mr Sisbud says it is very difficult to accurately time these peraglyphs, but we can get a fair idea from the materials used and the animals portrayed. We find drawings of Rhinocerous, but they have been extinct from this area for 10s of thousands of years. Elephants have been carved as well, which are not found here for many years now).
To start with, tickets are so so expense. One person’s one way ticket is equal to an average person’s monthly salary (almost). What do you get in return?
After booking your ticket and some 15 emails, 8 SMSs and a couple of WhatsApp messages from the booking site later, you are asked to WebCheckIn. You try and nothing happens. Then you get an email at 6 am saying WebCheckin is now open. You quickly drop everything to go through the arduous process of handing over all your privacy data to the airlines, answering many questions while the airlines doesn’t offer to answer even one (“Would you serve food without known allergens” for example) and accept your destiny as the seats offered to you in the centre row or on the wing (with no view) as the only choice.
Reach the airport at least two hours before your flight takes off. In Covid times, 3 hours prior since there are long long queues. Long queues while entering the airport. Show ticket, search for ID while juggling your luggage. And frowning at fellow passengers who aren’t following the Covid Protocols. Long Queue at Kiosk. The first Self service kiosk you approach doesn’t mostly work. Baggage drop after self check in has long queues making kiosk self checking useless. If you didn’t do a web check in pay extra again. Long queue at security, take off belt, shoes, remove laptop, remove cameras etc
Travel creates memories, and sitting home in this lockdown all we can do is revisit the memories. Over the last 10 plus years, I realised we have covered more than 100,000 kms, road tripping across North and South India. A whole lot of it was related to work, where we decided it best to drive, … Read more
Many years ago, as a kid, I had chanced upon a coffee table book titled ‘New York City In Pictures’. Mesmerised by this amazing city full of energy and ideas, being in New York has since been a dream. I would scribble famous buildings like The Empire State Building or Chrysler Building. Would draw those … Read more
Paris is the city that probably evokes feelings of attraction and romance the most. That’s the way the city is marketed and that’s the reason we visited this city, with a certain family elder who was determined to visit Paris and Switzerland, longing for the Bollywood nostalgia.
We found a wonderful place to stay via AirB&B (perhaps the only good AirB&B experience we have had) near the Gare Du Nord train station. First opened in 1846, it is one of the busiest train stations in the world. If we wanted to travel Paris in fast affordable ways, we would have to use the underground, and it was actually a fantastic experience.
But the best way to explore a city is to walk it, and we found it extremely rewarding. Here are some walks we could indulge in, considering we had limited time in Paris. If you are interested in museums, there are many in Paris, and this is a cool list.
Moulin Rouge : We wanted to see this iconic Cabaret (only from the outside). The Metro station nearest to it is called Blanche. Step out of the Metro and Moulin Rouge is right there. Do walk on the Boulevard de Clichy, an awesome walking area shaded with the canopy of trees. Look out for many adult themed shops and also some amazing food joints. From Wikipedia: Moulin Rouge is best known as the birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. Originally introduced as a seductive dance by the courtesans who operated from the site, the can-can dance revue evolved into a form of entertainment of its own and led to the introduction of cabarets across Europe. Today, the Moulin Rouge is a tourist attraction, offering musical dance entertainment for visitors from around the world. The club’s decor still contains much of the romance of fin de siècle France.
Canal Saint Martin: Walk along this canal, pass the hill side walks and the temple atop the hill. Walk past the Point Ephémére, the artsy bit to the hip Antoine Et Lili.
Montmartre : This rustic but now hip part of town has many a cafe, gallery and restaurant. This walk has always charmed artists, and you can find many painting live right here in its lanes. Walk the length upto the Basilica Of The Sacred Heart Of Paris, or the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. This is also the highest point in Paris and get a glorious view of this lovely city.
Rue De Rosiers : This fantastic part of town, also known as the Jewish Quarter, is full of history, excellent old architecture and great eateries and boutiques. Go for fallafels here and you will never forget the taste.
Saint Germain:(From Wikipedia): Saint-Germain-des-Prés is one of the four administrative quarters of the 6th arrondissement of Paris, France, located around the church of the former Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Its official borders are the River Seine on the north, the rue des Saints-Pères on the west, between the rue de Seine and rue Mazarine on the east, and the rue du Four on the south. Residents of the quarter are known as Germanopratins.
Walk along the lanes from Rue de Seine and Rue Jacob. Walk along Rue Bonaparte, and the Rue de l’Université. The entire block has many fabulous old buildings and context in history and culture: Ernest Hemingway had once stayed here, The Treaty Of Paris which gave the USA independence from Great Britain was signed in one of these buildings, Julia Child learnt to cook here. Walk into the Orsay Museum in the lanes of Saint Germain Des Pres. You need to give this part at least half a day.
There are many more amazing walks in Paris, but we had time only for these. Which walks would you recommend?
It’s not often that one gets to visit a typical village in a different country, so while visiting Lucerne when a friend invited to his village of Safenwil, we were more than delighted. A tiny village/town, the first settlement here was in the Roman era. This village has old rock carvings, The Eberkopf (Boar’s head), … Read more
Waking up one morning from deep sleep we saw an amber glow in the skies. Looking out of the window, we were blown by the magnificent painting like sky of Lucerne. We had our first ‘Why is Switzerland Called So Picture-Postcard Beautiful’ moment. On a brief trip to Paris, we had taken out two days … Read more
For all of us having grown up on a culture of movies, and vast majority of them being Hollywood ones, Los Angeles has a special ting of excitement. The original movie town, Los Angeles literally means the City Of Angels. In Sunny California, this city is one big party and at the same time is … Read more
Serendipity plays a huge part in traveling, and perhaps that’s what leaves you with a good feeling after a travel. We discovered Lone Pine, California, out of sheer good luck. From Los Angeles we wanted to visit the Death Valley National Park. After much searching, we couldn’t find any place inside the park, since everything … Read more
The old cities of India have always been charming for their richness of cuisine, culture and architecture. Hyderabad is a prime example, a city of the Nawabs founded in 1591 by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah. About 100 years later, the Mughals captured the region and around 1741, a Mughal Viceroy Asif Jah I declared sovereignty … Read more
Our hosts at Sangla told us it was possible to reach Kaza the same day. So onward we left and wanted to halt for breakfast around Kalpa. But around breakfast time, I was stuck with a bout of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). Nausea took over and I had to give up the driving seat. The sickness made me lose my appetite but we managed to get some khichdi, some of which I ate and mostly we packed for the onward journey.
But soon we realised that mountain roads aren’t to be taken lightly. From Pooh the road was just a gravel trail, winding around the mountains. My AMS got worse, and to add to it all, we got stuck at a major land slide. For over two and a half hours, we had to wait it out while earth moving equiopment from BRO (Border Roads Organisation) cleared the roads ahead. While we waited, the strong cool breeze blew stones at the car. It’s apprently quite common here, flying stones. The packed khichdi came in handy as we were stuck around lunch time and all were starving. Finally when the road was cleared, it was getting late. The entire stretch of road ahead was nothing but gravel which slowed us down considerably.
It was getting dark so we decided to noit move towards Kaza but halt at Nako, with the hope of staying over at Knaygoh Kinner Camps. We drove into the town at dark (must be around 7 pm) and asked a shopkeeper directions towards the Knaygoh Camps. A kind looking gentleman standing there asked us if we had a booking. We said no, and he nodded his head saying the camps have been shut for winters, and he owns the camps! He told us we shouldn’t have come at this time of the year, and especially without bookings in place!
Important lesson : In the mountains we had mistakenly hoped we could cover plain level distances in one day. We realised it was hopeless to try and cover Sangla to Kaza in one day. We had advance bookings for hotel stay in Kaza but not in Nako.
Shanta Kumar Negi of Knaygoh Kinner Camps kindly helped us look for alternative accommodation, which we found very unsuitable. It was a truckers’ lodge and honestly, looked very very run down. We have stayed at extremely modest places but this was too much. Meanwhile it was getting colder with a biting breeze blowing. After about an hour of talking, discussing, we managed to get one room only (for all five of us) in a guest house’s semi-basement. It looked good enough and we jumped on it, tired and hungry.
Since we had come off-season, there were no restaurants serving dinner. Everything was shut. The guest house kitchen was taken over by a very large and very loud family who were hell bent on cooking something exotic and time consuming for themselves on the kitchen’s lone stove. We managed to convince the over worked cook at the tiny restaurant in the truckers’ lodge to cook something simple for us. And he did, some delicious thukpa and noodles.
The night four of us shared one double bed while I, still sick with AMS, took a tiny cot on the side. It was tough, but fun!
The morning was sunny but cold. We woke up to see the guest house packing it’s gas stove. End of season.We chatted with another couple on a bike trip from Dharamshala, and told us how they slipped on the ice sheet near Nako Lake. I was too AMSd out to try the walk till the lake.
The truckers’ lodge cook made us simple dal, parathas and eggs. Remembering the last day’s land slide, we packed enough parathas for the road ahead. Shanta told us we could read Kaza the same day but should still keep a backup in Tabo. So off we left at around 9am.
The road head was generally fine but deteriorated near Sumdoh. We slowed down again. At around 2pm wew reached Tabo, only to realise everything was shut there as well. We wouldn’t find food too. The home stay that Shanta had suggested in Tabo had it’s water freeze in the pipes so it was shut too. We had no choice but to move ahead towards Kaza. It was already around 2:30, Kaza a good 50 km away. It would be a breeze if the roads were good, but not being sure, we left quickly, only to take a brief stop for our packed parathas by the Spiti River.
On the way towards Kaza, we passed Dhankar, and could see the lovely monastery on the hill. Tomorrow, we told ourselves, and drove on. We reached Kaza by around 6pm.