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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Holiday with BFF in Europe.Check!

Well, this one is certainly going to be a treasured blog post as it is going to take both of us down memory lane of a summer so special with two weeks packed with laughter and fun. For few already know, that we got lucky enough to do a proper holiday together for the very first time just sometime back. Needless to say that we made the most of it in the true “bestie spirit”…

So, it all started with me taking the Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul. Since I was entering Europe via Istanbul, I thought of just staying back for a couple of days and exploring what I have seen in pictures is pure beauty. Travelling solo abroad does give one a kick for sure. However, I did exercise wisdom and did some good amount of homework. On stepping out of the Istanbul Atatürk Airport, I hopped into a yellow taxi and had my driver take me to my hotel in the Taksim area.  Well, I stayed at the Metropolitan Hotels and must share that I found my room to be very comfortable. All three dishes which I ordered at the hotel were quite well done including the Turkish style Ravioli in yogurt and tomato sauce. The first day, I decided to explore the Taksim street which is rather happening, I didn’t go big on shopping right away as I had much of the trip left and had very happily come with a mind of not going overboard with retail therapy. I landed up at this cosmetic store-Flormar and was lucky enough to get a make-over of sorts. Post which I did explore many stores and eventually, tried what I had heard so much about, the very famous Turkish ice-cream. Well, just the way it is put onto the cone is overwhelming. Next day, I was waiting in great anticipation for the pre-booked tour of mine. First up, we saw the Topkapı Palace which was one of the major residences of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years, it was truly opulent and the most amazing area of the palace was the one from where you get a splendid view of the Bosphorus. The first time I witnessed it, I just wanted the time to freeze. Up next, we headed to the beautiful Rustem Pasha Mosque post which I got off to the Grand Bazaar. It was bright, colourful and had almost never ending shops. It is here that I tried a very interesting pomegranate flavoured tea and also got myself a Turkish scent. Talking about the local stuff, since I had heard so much about it, I did try the Turkish bagelSimit as well. So, this was about some of the stuff I did in Istanbul during my short stay of 2 days.

Further, my excitement held no bounds as I was going to be at my dream destination-Amsterdam and was going to reunite with my definite better half- Shagun. Outside the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, I waited for the shuttle to our hotel- Ramada Apollo Centre. The hotel enjoys a decent location and I found our room to be comfortable and clean as well. In Amsterdam, we walked and explored quite a bit…

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Here are few experiences which gave us a high in the purest sense:

  1. Visit to Café Winkel for one of the best apple pies we have ever had!!!2016-05-29-PHOTO-00002070
  2. For we were missing Indian food, we headed to Ashoka-an Indian and Nepalese Restaurant and everything we ordered was rather authentic…
  3. For what provided the perfect pump to our day was the delicious brunch at Roasters & Bakers. As they correctly say, “B&R is a New Zealand style café served with a heavy dose of Brazil.”
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  4. An experience of liqueur tasting at Amsterdam’s historic distillery-Wynand Fockink 🙂2016-05-29-PHOTO-00002072
  5. For pure pizza lovers like us, a meal at De Pizzabakkers was so worth it!
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  6.  The Canal Cruise proved to be such a beautiful way of exploring the city…
  7. Hopping on to a quick ferry ride to get on the opposite side of the Central Station and post lots and lots of walking, we landed up at a super exciting flea market and then, at a lovely little space by the name of Fashion & Tea where a quick refreshing drink was truly enjoyable!
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  8. For those who love to indulge in retail therapy, Nine Streets has much to offer 😛
  9. Relaxing at the urban Vondelpark…
  10. Fries, fries and more fries 🙂
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Post falling in absolute love with Amsterdam, we boarded our train to the love city of Paris for many fall in love in this city…Here are few experiences, mentioning about them is bringing a smile on my face yet again…

  1. Watching the French Open live… This one would sure be on the bucket list of tennis lovers…
  2. Chilling at the Little Red Door- An awesome cocktail bar…
  3. For the luxury shopping experience, a visit to Galeries Lafayette!
  4. Gorge on Macaroons and try as many flavours… And don’t forget to go big on desserts when in Paris!
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  5. Love and the urge to further explore the Vietnamese cuisine took us to Maison Sen.
  6. Checking out the Eiffel Tower at night had its own charm!
  7. A cozy space with amazing wine and a worthwhile cheese platter was on offer by Chez George’s.
  8. Indulged in some lip-smacking Italian food at Salento!
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  9. Checking out stores after stores at Le Marais…
  10. Louvre and Musee d’Orsay proved to be best museums pick for my first visit to Paris…
  11. Besides at the above, quick pictures at the Luxembourg Gardens and outside Notre Dame shall be with me as keeps.

    And finally, we headed to the city where my bestie resides- Berlin, a place I was truly able to explore and love like a local- thanks to these guys! Visits to the Berlin Wall, The Wall Museum, Brandenburg Gate, Museum Island, Berliner Dom, Hackescher Markt and Friedrich Strasse were truly memorable and worthwhile…And don’t forget to relax enough at their lovely parks. And I must add that I had some amazing food in Berlin whether it was the eggs at Napoljonska, trying out pretty much World cuisine including Indonesian and Austrian at a Kids Carnival or Italian at Trattoria Toscana or Californian-style burrito at Dolores-all of it was awesome.
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    All I can say is that I am filled with gratitude for this dream holiday and have come back feeling richer packed with experiences of a lifetime and the assurance of having a solid relationship called friendship…

    Happiness to all,
    Sonali