The British Colonisers had a tough time dealing with India’s hot summers. They constantly looked out for summer getaways in cooler locations, and created a concept unique to India: Hill Stations. These were ideal sleepy little villages, located atop hills which had moderate temperatures in summers. Over a period of time, these hill stations became very popular with local Indian tourists trying to beat the heat as well.
Mahabaleshwar is one such hill station in the state of Maharashtra. Located on the Western Ghats range (called the Sahyadri Mountains in Maharashtra), Mahabaleshwar was once a tiny hamlet, now a full fledged town with traffic jams. It is so popular that we avoid it on tourist days and seasons (school holidays, weekends, long weekends etc). We also avoid its bazaars, which, without over-tourism, are frankly quite charming.
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