Travel & Me…

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Well, I don’t know what really intrigued me to write this piece but I am still going to go ahead and pour my feelings and emotions about my magical and intense relationship with Travel!

As far as I can remember, I have always loved to travel. No matter what age I was- I was excited each time around mom or dad would announce details of our next holiday. As kids, I’d say our holidays mostly (not all) were to safe and well known places. In the sense, the kind of holidays you usually expect families to take so that minimum risk is involved with going wrong.

A place now not necessarily on one’s “Places to Travel List”- Mussoorie, the “Queen of Hills” as it’s been referred to, made for a constant holiday for us every summer break. To be honest, at times we would detest the monotony. But in today’s times of rampant change- I am glad we as a family had some sense of tradition which got followed and now we do have this treasured trunk of memories. I am not saying monotony was essential but maybe simplicity was. I am thrilled that we tasted the simple things in life as now luxury is more available with growing up.

I mean going pretty much packed in a family car with limited leg room, stocking up everyone’s favourite munchies to share on the way, then heading to modest yet long standing restaurants for their specialties such as Chole Bhature at The Green Vegetarian Restaurant, Steamed Momos at The Rice Bowl, Omellete at the Lovely Omellete Centre or even the Maggie at Char Dukan. All this only added much more flavour to one’s holiday. Best part was that there was little to no “Me Time” and there was a lot of “OUR TIME”. There were little to no selfies but a lot more memories etched in one’s heart.

To be honest, this isn’t a critique of times today necessarily but just a little jiggle for each one of us to be able to enjoy our holidays or family time more. Also, what I didn’t realize then- I wish I am fortunate enough to gift my kids some sense of legacy- in the sense, I visited Mussoorie 24 years in a row straight and that’s not it, this is something which was started during my father’s childhood.  I mean there is no such thing as lack of options but today, I feel blessed to talk about something rather unique even amidst that monotony.

And not to say we just made it to the “Queen of Hills” as a family, we went to the beaches, we went to some really nice heritage properties, we went to some more hills and we also made several road trips. My first flight as well as first foreign trip didn’t come so early but I am glad it didn’t else maybe I would have been devoid of the simple pleasures. For instance, having my father wait as I wrote my final exam to quickly rush to the train station to catch our overnight train to Goa wherein the whole family occupied close to ten beds. Not sure if I’ll do it now but I am glad we did it then as I wouldn’t swap that for anything else!

Today, my job and passion to travel has taken me to several places and I must confess that each place has been ultra-special for me-maybe because there were a lot of firsts attached to them and also for the sheer pleasure of touring on one’s own earnings.

I have to say that my love for travel was triggered during my childhood days and I am glad and grateful to parents and family for ensuring we traveled enough. I pretty much convinced myself of being a travel writer but though that plan didn’t materialize fully (no regrets) – I pretty much got my wings on in my early 20’s and so intensified my relationship with travel.

Here are few snippets of some really special experiences at some really special places-

  1. Thailand, 2012- This one was extremely special as my father let me go by self for the first time to visit friends in Bangkok and Pattaya. I was pleasantly surprised with his decision. And what an empowering feeling- I suddenly felt more responsible and just loved life a little bit more. And not to miss adding- visiting Phuket a year later to indulge in water sports like never before- I feel several fears got conquered at that very instance. Also, Bangkok continues to be special as I have experienced some of the top quality properties, thanks to my blog!
  2. Japan, 2014- I learnt the sense of gratitude and compassion from the most wonderful people I encountered in Tokyo. And in general, the build up to the trip inculcated much faith in self as well as courage and confidence…On a side note, I learnt how to spend 12 hours at the airport if you have a connecting flight 😉
  3. Sri Lanka, 2015- Witnessing the tea gardens of Nuwara Eliya was like my mini encounter with Switzerland!
  4. Bangkok, 2016- This was with family and our special toddler (my nephew), the joy of gifting a holiday to my mom- priceless!
  5. Europe, 2016- What do I say about this one? The trip comprised of my solo visit to Istanbul- sounds fancy but did require much preparation within and out to take it on! But really there was an entire sense of self-discovery during those two days. Then came Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin with my best friend- of course we had some wonderful experiences and ticking off a few things from my wish-list including watching a tennis grand slam live but what it truly made me realize was the richness of a bond that had been nurtured. The way my best friend took care of me, the giggles we shared, the confessions we made- wow, I can see us doing that even at 80!

I must reiterate that I haven’t kicked aside the simple pleasures from my trip, this year itself I thoroughly cherished my trip to Udaipur with my cousin where the simple satisfaction of visiting a temple or being on a boat to absorb the surroundings were truly memorable.

And there is so much more… I can’t thank my job enough for letting me taste immaculate food of Kolkata, treating my eyes to the skyline of Dubai, refreshing my senses in Nepal, indulging in Ayurvedic massages in Kovalam and exploring other cities and their unique offerings such as Bengaluru, Chennai and Mumbai amongst others!

 

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Gokarna Forest Resort, Kathmandu

Lastly, as the quote goes, “Not all those who wander are lost”- I love to wander every now and then, but trust me- mostly my travels have great purpose as they usually do add more purpose to my life!

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Here’s to my endless wanderlust!!!
-Sonali

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HIGH ON HOTELS: Swissôtel Amsterdam

It is not an unknown fact that we absolutely love and adore Amsterdam. The place has a fun and cozy vibe which is very inviting and we just cannot wait for our next visit there. Today, in our High on Hotels series, we are throwing light on a boutique hotel situated in our favourite-Amsterdam which looks extremely impressive and comfortable. So, sit back and enjoy this beauty of a property as we get chatting with its representative…

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Q: Why a stay here would prove to be the most memorable one?
A: Swissôtel Amsterdam offers outstanding, personalized service- making guests feel comfortable and at home. The staff goes above and beyond for their guests and has a lot of knowledge regarding the city and its activities and is always there to help and inform guests. Furthermore, the location of Swissôtel Amsterdam gives guests direct access to shopping, public transport and the main tourist attractions. A few minutes away you will also find the famous Body Worlds, Madame Tussauds and Royal Palace.

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Q: What all facilities would you find in the room?
A:
Every room has a Nespresso machine and tea- free of charge and a mini bar at an additional charge. Furthermore, guests can enjoy complimentary wireless access and every room has a pillow menu, where people can find different pillow types that can be requested at reception.

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Q: Elaborate on the facilities in the hotel for in-house guests?
A: All guests have free access to the Swissôtel Amsterdam Fitness featuring state-of-the-art TechnoGym equipment and to the business centre which offers complimentary internet access and light snacks.

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Q: A must try restaurant in the hotel and why?
A: Swissôtel Amsterdam does not have its own, in-house restaurant. However, right next to Swissôtel Amsterdam- you can find the restaurant ROYAL98, which offers seats with a view on the famous Dam Square. ROYAL98 opened up last year and offers delicious, fresh wood oven pizzas and pastas as well as more international dishes such as sandwiches, cakes, burgers and Dutch Bitterballen. And don’t forget to try the typical Dutch dessert-Trio of Stroopwafel. Hotel guests can also enjoy the buffet breakfast or A la carte breakfast for an additional charge.

Q: Please throw some light on the USP of the hotel?
A: The prime location on the Dam Square and personalized service would be our USP.

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Q: Could you share a little about the connectivity of the hotel?
A: There is a tram stop right in front of the hotel, which is connected to the most important stops in the city. Furthermore, the metro and train stations are situated on a 7 minutes’ walk, connecting to the other areas of Amsterdam and Schiphol Airport.

Q: Further to the earlier question, what is the easiest way to get to the hotel from the airport?
A: By train, you arrive at Amsterdam Central Station within 30 minutes, then it is a 7 minutes’ walk to the hotel. Swissôtel Amsterdam can also arrange a taxi to pick guests up from the airport at an additional charge.

Q: For all the prospective guests and shopping lovers, please tell us about the closest shopping hub to the hotel?
A: Next to the hotel- the famous warehouse ‘De Bijenkorf’ can be found, other warehouses ‘Magna Plaza’ and ‘Hudson’s Bay’ are on a 5 minutes’ walk and the main shopping street is right behind the hotel with stores of all the popular brands such as Pull&Bear and Forever21.

Q: Lastly, if one got back at 2 am to the hotel, what is it that one would get to eat?
A: Swissôtel Amsterdam offers 24/7 room service, with offerings such as pizza, pasta, sandwiches and ice cream.

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Pictures Courtesy: Swissôtel Amsterdam

 

Bright & Beautiful Birthday at Blo Bar

Can only begin by expressing gratitude to all those who made my birthday super special and beautiful. While the celebrations went on for days, sharing a little about the party I had hosted for my girlies at the newly opened Blo Bar in Defence Colony Market.

The minute I came across the fun concept of this place, I just knew it that I wanted to host a party here and what’s better is that the birthday was not very far off. Blobar is India’s first blow-dry bar only. They strongly believe in the transformative power of a simple blowout.

Here is taking you through the journey of planning and executing this very simple yet supremely fun party. As a birthday girl, I can talk for myself for sure with confidence that I had a ball of a time.

  1. Invitation- Being an event planner, I was certain to go into details. Hence, this invite for my close group of friends and sisters. The theme had to have an essence of celebrating “US”- so, I thought of Bright and Beautiful. And I love making invites on www.greetingsisland.com so the birthday invite too had to be from here!
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  2. Venue- Girls, believe me when I say this that I made the best decision to host my party at Blo Bar. It was something so different and unique that everyone thoroughly enjoyed and so many reached out to me to ask more about this entire concept. The package I opted for included shampoo/conditioning and hair styling with drinks from their side such as Champagne, Sangria and Vodka which translates to the fact that each guest got 2-3 glasses of alcohol. Yes, you read it right, the owner-Sargam is ever so sweet and did pop a Champagne as well. In addition, they provided some munchies such as Cheese Crackers, Nachos & Salsa and Puffs. What’s better is that they are ever so flexible and hence, let me add more food to the table. 
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  3. Food- Since the talk on the food just got started thought I’d enlighten you a bit on what all I added. There was Vegetarian Quiche from Defence Bakery, Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian Kathi Rolls and Yummy Sandwiches, courtesy mother.
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  4. Games- Yes, we had to play some fun games as the girls took turns to get their hair shampooed and conditioned and then styled. They have a lovely hair styling menu for one to pick and choose! And each one loved their hair styles and flashed a big smile! The games included- What’s on your phone- the girl with the maximum score won, then-Who knows the Birthday Girl the Best and lastly, I got everyone to write their most Special Memory with Me!
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  5. Cake- Well, this element too had to be different so I ditched cutting the usual cake and instead ordered Passion Fruit, Mixed Fruit, Lemon and Chocolate Tarts from The Bombakery! And believe you me, their tarts are absolutely divine!
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  6. Photos, please- The entire venue is so so pretty but there is one particular wall against which you gotta click enough pictures! And Blo Bar was kind enough to arrange some amazing photo props as well!
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  7. Decor- The place requires very little add-ons. They arranged for some beautiful hangings and I too added a few cut-outs of flowers, pink buntings, purple tissues, polka plates, pink glasses and the like! The place is very bright and beautiful!
  8. Music- I had shared my preferred list and they played them all! In the end, you gotta a shake a leg or two!
  9. Return Gifts- I just wanted to do this! As a very small gesture to express tremendous gratitude to each one of them for adding so much brightness to my life- I gave each one a Face Mask from The Face Shop with a Thank you Card!

    Hope you enjoyed going through my party in brief!!! And THANK YOU Blo Bar for making this Birthday truly memorable and extra special!

    Love,
    Sonali

HIGH ON HOTELS:Canaves Oia

Hey, so first up today is Happy Anniversary to us!!! And we couldn’t have thought of a better post than this one to celebrate the occasion…A place with which we are head over heels in love without even visiting it in person is Santorini, Greece… For it houses such gorgeous and jaw-dropping properties that our love for it only increases by the day.

So, today in our High on Hotels series we throw some light on Canaves Oia. The property strongly believes in turning moments into fond memories for all their guests! And talking about guests, it has been the preferred choice for celebrities like Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Gerrard Butler, Angelina Jolie, Chiara Ferragni, Lucy Mecklenburgh, Laila Monteiro, Tata Werneck and Layla Monteiro.

We have learnt that Canaves Oia Luxury Resorts and Villas is located on the southern tip of Oia in Santorini, comprising of four properties: Canaves Oia Hotel, Canaves Oia Suites, Canaves Oia Villa and Canaves Oia Sunday Suites. Each property delivers a boutique, luxury and private experience to all guests.

The Canaves Oia brand began with the launch of the hotel, which led to the property’s “boutique” concept. 18 uniquely designed suites are complemented by uninterrupted caldera views and a pristine pool with hanging chandelier, among other assets.

With the success of Canaves Oia Hotel, Canaves Oia Suites soon followed. Featuring a similar concept to the hotel with an extra touch of sophistication, each of the 29 suites includes either a plunge or infinity pool and an unrivaled level of comfort and service.

Canaves Oia Villa is right next door. This impressive property follows the minimalist style of its neighbours with whitewashed walls and splashes of colourful art. It features three en-suite king-sized bedrooms, spacious living areas, a fully equipped kitchen, private dining experiences and easy access to Canaves Oia Suites’ holistic spa.

Canaves Oia Sunday Suites launched in 2017 with an alternative luxe style. White sculpted donkeys line the outdoor infinity pool while a nautical décor adds elegance to each of the eight independently designed suites.Here, a new level of privacy is provided to guests during their Canaves Oia experience.

Wow, are already dreaming holidaying here with our loved ones 🙂  And this time we shall talk less and let the place absolutely overwhelm you!

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Binging time at Canaves Oia Hotel

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Grand Suite at Canaves Oia Hotel

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Honeymoon Suite at Canaves Oia Hotel

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Stunning capture of Canaves Oia Hotel

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Dining time at Canaves Oia Suites

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A beautiful capture of Canaves Oia Suites

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How about some pool time at Canaves Oia Suites?

Spa with a stunning view at Canaves Oia Suites

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Meal time at Canaves Oia Sunday Suites

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A capture of Canaves Oia Sunday Suites

Few other important details to note about the properties is that you could reach here from the airport either in a private transfer or shuttle transfer. Also, reference the connectivity with public transport, these are situated about 50 meters away from the bus station. And, their last order on room service is 10.45 pm!

Finally, closing with a quote of Kylie Bax with which we can surely agree, “Greece is the most magical place on Earth.”

Pictures Courtesy: Canaves Oia

WITH LOVE FROM THE MOST ROMANTIC CITY OF INDIA-UDAIPUR

I am a complete dreamer and I don’t shy away from admitting to it either. I love to dream…Dream about countries, cities, beaches, mountains, lakes and so much more. So, while conversing if you feel that I have switched off, maybe I actually have switched off… And have commenced my day-dreaming probably about being on this beach I came across while glancing through my social media account.

For many of these dreams have turned to reality and many are on the wish-list but I am in a happy space as I gradually want to unravel these places spread through the length and breadth of the World Map. Eagerness to visit any destination makes me think more, makes me read more and most importantly it make me work more (harder) so that I can savour the destination in its true spirit.

Today, I am going to throw some light on my very first holiday and trip of 2017… The trip was made to Udaipur- the city of lakes where I had been to-long time ago. But yet again there was something about it which was making me want to visit it sooner than soon and so it happened! Having a loved sister in company just added the right colour and laughter to the trip.

So, without any further delay-sharing as much from our trip…

  1. When visiting this rather romantic city- best is to stay closest to the lakes. I love the water, so there was no way that I was going to be away from the water. We chose- Udai Kothi to be our home for 2 nights and 3 days. Yes, you can see the lake from several parts of the hotel and I must share that our stay was cozy and comfortable. Though we didn’t eat much here, but we would certainly look forward to the breakfast area by the pool to just sit and relax. We clicked umpteen pictures, for the property is gorgeous in white and gets decorated with gorgeous marigold flowers in the common areas. I must add our room was much bigger than expected and was stocked with all the essentials.
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  2. We had amazing gastronomic experiences, like each meal surpassed the one before. For the very reason that we ate to our heart’s content- we are actually happy that we got to walk quite a bit! Hear me out on this one-whenever you decide to visit the City Palace Museum- you must make time to eat at the Palki Khana as this restaurant lets you enjoy the view of the overwhelming structure.
    Also, when both of us were wanting to try out a nice café- we landed in front of the Udai Art Café which was established by Meropi, a vibrant lady hailing from Greece who is a photographer, a coffee connoisseur, a chef and an adventurer. Wow, impressive right? She impressed us equally while she passionately helped us decide our order. We binged big on their pesto pasta and crepe with mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese and bell peppers. We loved our meal which was light on our tummies and pockets!
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  3. For our evening meals we opted for the Aravali Lakeview Restaurant at the Radisson Blu Hotel where we binged on some Laal Maas and the second evening we ate our all-time favourite, Chicken Biryani at this spectacular restaurant right opposite our hotel called Hari Garh. In both cases, we enjoyed views of the lake (both were different lakes), had amazing food and didn’t land up paying all that much. At Radisson Blu, while we enjoyed a live flute performance, the next evening- we played and enjoyed some soothing music from our own phones as we got the best table which only made us pray that the time should freeze as we were having the best time ever!

    Glimpses from  Aravali Lakeview Restaurant at the Radisson Blu Hotel-
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  4. Two things which must feature on your itinerary when in Udaipur- the Lake Pichola Boat Ride and a visit to the City Palace Museum. You are able to soak in much of the city on opting for these two!

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  5. When in Rajasthan, you would certainly have a strong urge to shop everything colourful that meets your eyes. At the Hathipole market– we shopped dupattas like there’s no tomorrow. Also, while passing through several lanes. we picked up jhumkas and lovely neckpieces! Ghewar and Pyaazki kachori are must buys from the Jodhpur Misthan Bhandar for all loved ones back home.
  6.  So, here’s the funniest account-just when someone advised us to head to Sajjangarh for a picturesque panoramic view of the city- we did get there but without looking around much straight away got the tickets for their biological park. Yes, you got that right!!! Little did we know that the very next gate leads to their rather pretty Monsoon Palace… Want to know what next? We were on a golf cart scaling through the park and giggling like little girls spotting the lion, tiger and much more…

  7. For our divine calling, we headed to the Jagdish Temple which is a large Hindu temple in the middle of Udaipur…And we were thoroughly satisfied with our visit.
  8. We thought of ending our trip on a high note and hence, headed to The Oberoi Udai Vilas. Words fall short to describe the beauty that this place is. We had made a reservation for their restaurant-Chandni and post arrival,were soon guided to our table which was facing the lake on one side and gave us a beautiful view of the property on the other. The quality and taste of the food was extremely impressive and we enjoyed every bit of it.
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    Here are few handy tips if you are planning to visit Udaipur anytime soon-

    1. Be ready to scroll around with your luggage in case your hotel is situated in some narrow lane as sometimes the taxi drivers don’t want to risk taking their cars through the congested routes.
    2. Some of the locals take art classes which seem very interesting. Make sure if interested, you keep aside approximately 3 hours for it.
    3. Commuting isn’t an issue, you’ll find autos mostly everywhere…We also made good use of Uber!
    4. Make sure you take reservations in case you are planning to visit one of the plush properties and even check if they allow non-residential guests at all.
    5. We did hear much about the Bagore ki Haveli for its popular evening show with a variety of Indian dance- maybe you could check it out!


    Happy Travelling, always!!!
    -Sonali

Well Travelled Tenerife

Summers by definition (our definition atleast) mean a beach holiday. Bikinis, tankinis, summer hats, sunscreens, flip-flops, pina-coladas and more become the key essentials. My recent trip to Tenerife, Spain was all about these and here I am sharing a tiny part of my Travel Diary with you guys. To tell you a little about it, Tenerife is the largest of the seven Canary Islands. Being a volcanic island, it is not exactly green but a beautiful blend of high peaks, clear waters, barren roads and lot of adventure. On the one hand there are famous beaches such as Playa de La Vistas, Los Cristianos and Playa de Las Americas that will make you feel like a small part of a big tourist crowd and on the other hand there are those like Playa de La Teresitas that don´t just beautifully beam with their golden sand but also give you enough sense of peace and alone time. Saying that, this island will give you enough space to meditate and party your head down when you like.

Tenerife is not that big and is well connected by a highway. We had hired a cute little Audi for 9 days (its actually cheap) and encircled the island in just a few hours. Since, our experience was good, I can actually suggest hiring from Gold Car. Its a beautiful experience to drive on a smooth highway running through small mountains and right next to the sea.

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Starting with my favourite beach of all, Del Duque is for people who constantly seek all things chic. Being located in the buzzing Costa Adeje, this beach was in fact a short walk away from our hotel, H10 Costa Adeje. The sand is a beautiful mix of white and grey and the water is all blue (I know that is a little obvious). However, this beach is a a little rocky and not the best place for swimmers. But girls have something more to look forward to. Check out below the images of this shopping center, `Centro Commercial El Mirador´ lining the beach. It is super stylish with tiny cosy cafes and shops selling everything luxurious.

That also reminds me that you can´t hit a chic beach without a fit body. Well, I myself  love Gymondo for being the new age way to fitness. Whenever, I find time during the day, I switch on my laptop and start training with this online fitness studio. I specially love their beach body workouts. At the moment the videos are only in German but exercises ask for no language. 😉 Subscribe for the trial period and see how you like it and do share the feedback.

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And when you be done with water, sand and sun, then take a drive down to a pretty little town, La Oratova in North Tenerife. Here you can spend a day walking through old lanes featuring the typical ancient Spanish wooden doors and balconies. When tired, rest by at some cafe and drink local wine for prices so cheap that you will be surprised. I am sharing below lots of pictures from this small pretty town simply because small towns and countryside fascinates me like nothing else.

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Every other door got my attention with its exquisite carvings.

 

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And the lanes in which you can just get lost and not care about the world…

 

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There is something very royal about Spanish wooden architecture.

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Tenerife is also a proud owner of Parque Nacional Del Teide (Del Teide National Park). It is one of the the most visited heritage sites of the world. To excite you a little bit, this place is extremely similar to Mars in terms of geographical conditions and serves as a testing site for robots. This place is a must see for it makes you feel like in a different world that of rocks and lava. And just BTW films like ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Star Wars’ were also shot here. The way to Teida is an experience in itself that you should not miss and you can easily drive to the highest permissible point from where you can take a rope-way and get further up to the peak.

TIP- Book your tickets beforehand for the rope-way. Also, if you want to trek up till the crater then you have to make prior reservation on their official website. Lastly, do carry a warm jacket with yourself as the temperature keeps falling as you go higher.

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Way  to the Teida is extremely beautiful and one that you will always remember.

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Mount Del Teida

On our way back, we stopped by at this beautiful and quiet beach, El Medano. It´s a black sand beach but great if you don’t want to see lot of people and get some alone time. However, know that there is a section of the beach that is exclusively for naturists.

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Another of my favourite things from this place was whale and dolphin watching. Seeing them in the most natural surroundings is way more chic and fun than seeing them dance in a zoo. I am sharing this picture below to give a fair impression of how close you can see them from. I could hear the whales breath. Yea, that close!

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And now getting to my favourite part- `fashion´, here are my beach essentials for 2014. You can click on any photo to view enlarged gallery (and also read captions).

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xoxo

Calendar for Good Times

Boys and girls, we have already ushered in the New Year, so any guess what we will be talking next? Bingo! The rather glamorous Kingfisher Calendar is making news in its 12th year as well. Shot at the pristine beaches of Boracay & Cebu, one of the most diverse and enchanting locations in the world, this edition of the Kingfisher Calendar is a true work of art.

The girls have been styled by the talented Leepakshi Ellawadi and wore bikinis from some of the top designer labels such as Falguni & Shane Peacock, Roberto Cavalli, Shivan & Naresh, Sanchita Ajampur, Armani swimsuits embellished by Farah Khan Fine Jewellery.

The preview party was recently hosted by Dr. Mallya at his residence in Mandwa.

Brace yourself and watch out for this coveted and precious possession…

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Atul Kasbekar and the finalists at unveiling 

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Dr. Vijay Mallaya, Chairman, UB Group with the finalists unveiling the 12th edition of Kingfisher Calendar