Paris! Paris!

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?

View from our Apartment near the Gar Du Nord.
View from our Apartment near the Gar Du Nord.
Architecture in Paris.
Waiting to find our bearings admiring the architecture.

Read moreParis! Paris!

A Brief Visit to Lucerne and Safenwil : Part II : Safenwil

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 A Brief Visit to Lucerne and Safenwil : Part II : Safenwil

A Brief Visit To Lucerne and Safenwil, Switzerland

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 A Brief Visit To Lucerne and Safenwil, Switzerland

Lone Pine, California : A Gorgeous Town In The Mountains

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 Lone Pine, California : A Gorgeous Town In The Mountains

Hyderabad : A Brief Visit

Hyderabad

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 Hyderabad : A Brief Visit

Sangla to Nako To Kaza: The Roadtrip Continues

Road to Kaza, Himachal Pradesh

Recap: We undertook this monumental road trip from Mumbai towards Spiti Valley at the end of October, 2016. Stops included Udaipur, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Sarahan and Sangla.

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.

Sangla valley Road Skoda Yeti
Parts of the journey had pretty good roads.

Sangla valley
That road down there goes right next to the Spiti River.

Spiti Valley Village
Passing through pretty villages like this one, with trees that have turned yellow for the winters.

Nako, Himachal Pradesh.
This is Nako. A high altitude arid region. Please be respectful of the resources here.

Nako, Himachal Pradesh
The hills have been stepped for cultivation in the short summer months.

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Sangla Valley : Surrendering To The Himalayan Magic

Sangla Valley

Early next morning, the rays of sun unveiled the mountain peaks with scanty snow, as we started our journey to Sangla Valley. We retreated downhill from Sarahan back to NH 22 and stopped at the first dhaba we saw for hot breakfast, next to the Satluj riverbed. The early morning sun was on the opposite side of the river, leaving us shivering in the shadowy part with morning chills. We were now at around 2300 metres, and could see sharp drops below, as we drove on the roads built by thinly slicing the rocky mountains. From a distance the roads looked like thin ribbons, and unbelievable that we were actually driving past them without a boulder or a rock falling on our head. We stopped for a brief ‘soaking the sun break’ and interestingly spotted Kashmir Rock Agama (Laudakia tuberculata), basking in the sun too, and heavily camouflaged.

Village Gate Tibetan Style
Beautiful welcome gates to local villages…

Kashmir Rock Agama (Laudakia tuberculata),
Kashmir Rock Agama (Laudakia tuberculata),

Tibetan Prayer Flags
Tibetan Prayer Flags on the road

Sangla Valley Road
Winding roads like these took us to the Baspa River Valley

Without much breaks, we reached Sangla Valley just a little after noon time. The valley was dotted with autumn yellows and dried up greens, heralding the winters. We arrived at Apple Orchard Camps, and were overjoyed to see Green apple trees all round us. We were greeted with a glass of fresh apple juice and light vegetarian lunch. We then decided to take a walk by the river bed. As the tiny trail that we followed touched the banks of Baspa river, we saw piles of smashed stones, and floating dust as a dam was under construction, another disturbing site of human interference. We decided to walk away and into the forests. As we neared wilderness, we were arrested by the beauty of the white river bed and pristine Baspa flowing in turquoise blue.

green apples
There were green apples everywhere.

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Sarahan: Because travel is all about the journey…

The thrill of journeys begin when it is all dark outside and you hit the road at the brink of dawn, waiting for the celestial body to rise like a crimson ball in the sky. And so we left Chandigarh before sunrise, en route to Sangla Valley, which according to many travel bloggers was achievable … Read more Sarahan: Because travel is all about the journey…

Alleppey And The Backwaters: In Brief

Alappuzha

When you think of Kerala backwaters, what you are imagining is probably Alleppey. Also known as Alappuzha, Alleppey has some of the most naturally beautiful backwaters forming hundreds of channels and waterways. The average elevation of Alleppey is only 1 metre above mean sea level. It covers an area of 1,415 square kilometres and is … Read more Alleppey And The Backwaters: In Brief