Vino Weekend

Recently, my girlfriends and I got the chance to take off during the long Diwali weekend and we wanted to go for a quick short trip. After some considerable research of places to go near Mumbai, we finally zeroed on Sula Vineyards in Nashik. I was really excited for this since I had only heard about the vineyards and seen pretty pictures of it online or on friends’ social media feeds. This place is famous for the Sula fest that takes places during the harvest season in February every year. We had booked a hotel near the vineyards. We left on Saturday morning in a rented cab and checked in to our hotel at 3 pm. We quickly got ready and rushed to Sula since we wanted to finish the vineyard trip and head to another nearby winery, Soma to see the sunset as a lot of people had written about pretty sunset views from Soma.

When we reached Sula, it suddenly felt like some fair. It was crowded and like how. There was hardly any place to walk in that huge property. We were really disappointed and decided to directly head to Soma and do the wine tour the next morning before heading back. Soma, on the other hand was empty and pleasant to explore. We directly headed to the terrace restaurant since we were there mainly for two things- wine and sunset, both of which were quite a delight.

 

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Sunset from Soma Vineyard

 

The wine at Soma was quite nice. They had the Chenin Blanc Dessert which was was a mixture of peach, dried apricots with lushness of melon and pineapple. It had the perfect balance of sour and sweet with an after taste of apple-honey which made it absolutely palatable. They have another variant in this: the Dessert Sauvignon Blanc which is high in its acidic content with more of pineapple flavour. We spent the entire evening at Soma, drinking wine, walking around the vineyard before calling it a night.

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Next morning, we made sure we reached Sula at 10.30 am (that’s when it opens) so that we get to do the wine tour before the crowd pours in. For spice lovers, there’s a very famous restaurant near Sula, called Sadhana Restaurant where you get charcoal made misal (lentil stew) which is loaded with spice, so much so that my friends had to pour bowls of curd in it to douse the spice. Our wine tour started at 11.30 am, before which we were touring Sula vineyards, which is a huge property. It has an open amphitheatre where the festival takes place, surrounded by lush green gardens.

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From understanding the entire process of grape harvest to what kind of grapes go in making each kind of wine to holding a wine glass properly followed by a finale of wine tasting, the tour was quite enjoyable, so to speak. There were a few myth busters as well like how wine should not be stored for years. It starts to oxidise which eventually makes it completely sour and inedible to drink. Also the fact that Champagne is Champagne. No other brand can use that name. Just like you cannot call France as India, you cannot call sparkling wine Champagne in India. Champagne is the name of a village in France and that’s how the sparkling wine that’s made there is called that.

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Cylindrical tanks in which wine is made

In all we tasted six different kinds of wine: white, red, rosé sparkling wine (my favourite) and three other types of red wine which were late harvest and hence dry in taste.

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Obviously a vino trip is incomplete without wine bottles, so I ended up buying tonnes of bottles to stock them for all the upcoming year end celebrations. Before coming here, I was not sure how the place is going to be cause Nashik is still an orthodox developing town but the vineyards feel like a different world altogether. A must visit place. In fact I plan to visit there again specially during the harvest season between December to March so that I can also do some grape stomping. Will be a lot of fun, I am sure 🙂 Till then happy vining guys!

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All images © Kainat27

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Living the Parisian Life

This year’s annual visit to Cannes Film Festival was exciting for a lot of reasons. From being planned at the last moment to getting the visa on the day of departure to mom and mine’s first solo trip together, this trip was full of surprises at every step. Also since mom hadn’t been to Paris before I thought it would be great to cover some of the old and nice cafes of Paris.

It was difficult getting vegetarian food at these cafes for mom (this is before I turned vegetarian) but there were quite a few options available. In this blog, I have listed the cafes that I went to while exploring Paris, again.

  • Café des Deux Moulin– This was the first cafe we went to since we were on a walking tour in the area of Montmarte and if you have seen the movie Amélie, you would surely want to experience the place where the film was shot. It is a popular cafe bustling with tourists and Amélie fans getting their pictures clicked around a corner designated to the movie’s art. The food is reasonably priced. We had a glass of wine and some Crispy de Serrano, hot cantaloupe on toast with fried veggies. The cantaloupe on toast can be a blast of sodium for people who are not used to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole– Looking to have a feel of the 18th century Paris? Then Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole is the place for you. A cafe cum restaurant, this cafe is situated very close to the Notre Dame cathedral and was built around the same time as the cathedral. It was once home to the Church priest and there are rooms that still exist on the second and third floor of the cafe. They do rent it out to travellers but do not advertise because they don’t wish to commercialise the stay. This cafe, although situated in a tiny little corner will immediately grab your attention thanks to the colourful decor and an array of vines beautifully decorating the windows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even the interiors are thousand years old, the staff believes in maintaining                              the legacy. It was a little past lunch time when I visited the cafe but I had a                              nice lunch with chicken breast, salad and a glass of wine. This cafe is a                                        must visit for all photography lovers.

 

  • Café de la Rotonde– Another old brasserie frequented by artists like Pablo Picasso Diego Rivera, Alexandre Jacovleff, La Rotonde is a famous cafe in the Montparnasse Quarter of Paris. I was lost while finding my way to the cafe and when I asked the owner of a small pancake shop nearby, he was really happy that I am going to this cafe. Sitting outside on the street under umbrella, sipping wine, witnessing the crowd go on about their lives was fascinating, so to speak. I went for a tuna salad and a glass of wine. The staff was the best part about the cafe; impeccably polite and quick.

 

 

 

 

 

  •  Shakespeare and Company Cafe– I have to admit but out of all the cafes, this is one of my favourite. Situated at a walking distance from Notre Dame, one of the favourite bookstores in Paris, now also has a cafe right next to it. Had I not been with mom, I could have simply grabbed a book from the bookstore and sat in this cafe for hours, doing absolutely nothing. Such is the vibe of the cafe and the people who frequent it. They mostly serve vegetarian food so I went for a avocado bagel sandwich and a hummus pita platter along with some fresh pressed fruit juice. And when you are at Shakespeare and Co., how can you resist the temptation of buying some books?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Le Verre Luisant Cafe– A local friend of mine took us to this cafe near Chatelet. The manager of the cafe was American and he was really happy to have Indians at the cafe. It was a quaint little cafe located at the corner of the street from where we witnessed a beautiful colourful sunset while enjoying our pasta and burger. The menu is all in French but the staff is extremely helpful with their suggestions and the ambience is all young and energetic.

There were a lot many cafes that I wanted to visit but couldn’t due to my limited stay but I am sure I will visit them again during my next trip. Lastly, every time I return from Paris, it has become a ritual to get different croissants so that I can relive the Parisian life for a few more days in Mumbai. I was lucky to find Du Pain Et Des Idees, a very popular and amazing bakery near my hotel so that I could pack fresh croissants right before my flight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Send gifts to your beloved ones with IGP.com

Recently, I was looking for something to gift my mom as her retirement gift. After much thinking and looking around I came across this India Gift Portal website which has curated gifts for everybody on the basis of their age, gender, relationship and it’s amazing when you browse through each category, you will realise how thoughtful the categorised gift items are. Since my mom has now resumed driving and she has been asking me to get her a cushion as a back rest, I found a really cute cushion on their site which I thought would be the perfect way of surprising her when she would be least expecting it.

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I loved the fact the way each and category has been mentioned which makes it really easy for a shopper to simply choose the occasion, the gender and in some cases the relationship has been specified so you get to see options which you might not have thought of. Even once you select the category that’s not it, you can further apply filters like boyfriend/ husband/brother/friend, the occasion and personality type. It was absolutely amazing. Since I was looking for gifts for mom, the options ranged from gourmet kitchen food items to temple accessories, house decor etc. They also have personalised mothers day gifts apart from other occasions like Fathers Day, Valentines Day, Friendships Day etc.

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Now that I was on IGP.com, I thought I might as well buy a gift for my best friend whose birthday was coming in the next few days. It was overwhelming to see the range of products IGP.com has to offer there. From beautiful flowers to beautiful accessories, there was everything that I couldn’t even think of. Furthermore I could choose the personality type ranging from Geeky, Traveller, Foodie, Homemaker, Fashionista, Fitness Freak, Nature Lover etc.

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Finally, I came across a very pretty choker kind of a neckpiece which I thought goes well with her personality and would look good on her.

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Since then, I have recommend IGP.com to all my friends and colleagues as it is an absolute hassle free way of choosing and sending gifts to all your loved ones. They also deliver gifts to a lot of countries so now you won’t have any more excuses of not sending gifts to friends and relatives living abroad.

 

Dreamy. Pretty. Beachy.

Yes that is how I’d like to describe my recent Seychelles vacation: Dreamy. Pretty. Beachy. It is so far the best vacation I have had till date (not that I have explored a lot of beach destinations around the world) but I am sure Seychelles tops the list. After all, it is touted to be one of the best beach destinations in the world. Although I was there just for a week, initially attending a close friend’s wedding and then later extending the trip for another 3 days, I cannot and simply cannot stop myself from revisiting the photos everyday atleast twice since my return. Especially for someone like me who is a city person and has a crazy hectic life here, Seychelles was a therapeutic break; much needed and absolutely rejuvenating, so much so that the hangover still lingers in my heart.

More than the beautiful beaches, it is also the people  who contribute a great deal in shaping the perception that you will take back home with you. Seychelles homes perhaps the most humble, kind hearted and forthcoming people I have ever come across, again something which comes to them naturally from having living in such a beautiful paradise. Not even a single person I came across who sulked or stared down upon me. Each and every person starting from the tour guide to the driver to waiters and the local people were warm, sweet and jolly. Even when the plane descended on the runway, which felt artificial, something that came up from the middle of nowhere just so that we could land amidst blue waters and mighty green mountains.

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159 tiny islands make up Seychelles

I was staying in Mahe for the first two nights followed by 2 nights in Praslin which is an hour and half by ferry. One can even fly to Praslin but I would definitely recommend the ferry because of the beautiful journey. Once in Praslin, I went to one of the most famous beaches there: Anse Lazio. I was there for over three hours from late afternoon until the sunset and it felt like one private beach. There were hardly people around and they were all engrossed in having the time of their lives. The tide was quite strong and hence I couldn’t really swim but playing with the waves is some fun, isn’t it? All I did was swim, play, stuff myself with some food and then went back again. It was magical, so to speak.

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Beginning of the beautiful sunset

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No filter sunset

 

This was followed by a sumptuous meal at a French restaurant which also had freshly made yoghurt ice creams. Don’t forget to try their local Creole cuisine. Next day was a long beautiful day since we had to leave for another tiny island, La Digue which is a 45 minute ride by the ferry. Once we reached there, we were given our individual bicycles around 10.30 am and the island can be explored in both north and south directions, having different attractions. Everybody has to return to the starting point at 4.30 pm to take the evening ferry back to Praslin. We cycled the whole day long for some 5-6 hours, taking cosy breaks by the beach, soaking the sun, getting wet in the waters. So there are vanilla plantations, turtle park where one can find a family of some 100-150 year old turtles. One beach that you absolutely cannot miss is the Anse Source d’Argent. It has perhaps the cleanest water I have ever seen at any beach. It was like a glass film on sand bed. Inspite of not having the basic scuba gear, which I seriously regret now, I could see so many pretty fishes swimming next to my feet. It was straight out of a scene from a movie, it felt surreal.

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Anse Source d’Argent

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Lazy turtles

Actually Anse Source d’Argent was the last beach that we went to since it was in the other direction and that is the only beach in the north. In the south of La Digue there are a number of beaches where one can simply park the bicycle, hop off and have a dip in the water. Most of the cafes are also on the south side. We stopped at a cafe to have a simple meal and the waiter there turned out to be an Indian. He got excited seeing us there and simply couldn’t stop talking. The vanilla plantations on the north are pretty but except for the Anse Source d’Argent and turtle park, there isn’t much to explore there.

It was a long, tiring, sweaty day but definitely I never had so much fun cycling before.

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On my last day, we moved back to Mahe since our return flight was from Mahe the following day. We stayed near the famous beach of Mahe: Beau Vallon. After all the cerulean beauty that I had experienced throughout, I thought there is nothing left to explore and it will all be the same. But my last beach definitely had the lasting effect on me. It rains at any given point of the day in Mahe. It must have rained heavily on 8 out of 10 occasions while we were there. So even on our last day it started pouring just when we were about to go to the beach and finally when it did not stop until 5 pm, we decided to take our umbrellas and go. We couldn’t have stayed inside the hotel sulking about having missed going to the beach.

I am so glad that we decided to go to the beach. The entire lane opening to the beach looked like the set of La La Land and it was gorgeous. Beau Vallon is like an infinite wave pool with baby waves where one can just float and swim without having to worry about huge waves washing you ashore. The icing on the cake was the formation of a beautiful rainbow which spread across the green mountains, spreading throughout the arc of the evening sky casting its magic on the sand bed. That was a moment that I chose to consciously capture in the laboratory of my mind, which can be evoked at times like this where I still have the ability to pour it vividly in full detail.

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Beau Vallon Beach

While Seychelles is definitely an expensive destination but it is totally worth going there once in your life. There were certain things that I learnt during the course of my trip that I feel will come handy to you guys:

  • Since Seychelles rupees is not a commonly available currency, please carry euros whenever you go. Although dollars are accepted too but the conversion rate on euros is much better than dollars or any other currency.
  • Unlike other countries, very limited hotels in Seychelles provide free wifi. In most of the two star hotels and apartments/ guest houses, you are expected to purchase wifi which is very expensive (ranging from 10 euros to 25 euros for 24 hours)
  • Carrying some dry food and snacks came really handy in Seychelles since the most commonly available food option is meat which is quite expensive and one can simply eat snacks whenever and wherever.
  • You will have to buy water at a supermarket there since tap water cannot be consumed.
    • Don’t forget to carry basic swim gear like goggles, breathing tube so that you can get into the water to experience the beautiful corals and fishes.

Seychelles is definitely a dream retirement haven where one day I will have a French architectural house overlooking the beach, barbecuing fresh catch from the sea while enjoying my favourite movie or book.

 

 

All images © Kainat27

 

 

 

 

Bon Appétit

The famous French phrase Bon Appétit meaning ‘good appetite’ is usually said to someone at the start of their meal in the hope that they will enjoy it. But don’t we all thrive to eat good food? Atleast, a foodie like me does. I look forward to my meals, be it after a tiring workout, a long day at work or more enthusiastically during my vacations. Because that means I will get to try a different cuisine and a new dish every day. Very rarely, I have been disappointed by a new dish, except when I haven’t been careful about enquiring about the ingredients used in them. I remember the time when I tried the Arabic dish Shakshuka for the first time (thanks to peer pressure and the chef’s recommendation) without understanding what it was and boy, it was terrible. I ain’t a fan of poached eggs and tomato sauce in general, and the combination made me sick. Unfortunately, I had to waste the entire dish because I couldn’t eat beyond a morsel.

I have developed a romantic relationship with Goa. There hasn’t been a time in the last 6 years that I haven’t visited Goa atleast once, sometimes even twice. Travelling to the same city year after year can get quite boring and monotonous but somehow I always manage to have a novel experience every single time. This time when I went there last month for a work trip and to celebrate a friend’s birthday, starting from the place that I stayed to the restaurants, cafes, even the beaches I explored were new. Before the work began I was there for about a week so I’d like to tell you about the places I visited.

  • Villa Blanche Bistro, Assagao: This has to top my list of cafes. A spacious open French cafe covered with tall conical canopy, Villa Blance’s interiors are painted in bright blue colours and house pretty wooden furniture with beautiful tile art paintings all around. It is run by a French lady who has made Goa her home for the last 11 years. There is a small boutique shop housed within the cafe where she sells dresses, jewellery and artefacts by other designers.

I went there twice for breakfast since the place is famous for its vegan and gluten-free dishes. You must try their pancake which is quite different from the ones you must have had. Their juices, shakes are freshly made and the lady personally tastes every ingredient that goes in the making of the dishes. The side dishes that they prepare along with the sausages are amazing. There are different varieties of freshly baked breads like walnut, multigrain available for sale every morning.

 

  • Burger Factory, Anjuna: I ain’t really a burger fan but the sheer number of good reviews and rating for this place tempted me to go there. There was not even a single negative review on Zomato for Burger Factory. That’s quite a feat in itself. Their burger portions are huge and since we were just two of us, we called for a barbeque chicken burger which they serve along with baked potato wedges and a yummy egg yoghurt dip (the recipe of which the owner refused to share). Their potato wedges were great in taste and so was the burger, juicy and tender.

The only downside is the fact that they get sold out way before the closing time so if               you really enjoy burgers, then you should go there early. They have good pork and                   beef variants too.

 

  • Gunpowder, Mapusa: The taste- buds had a re-defined experience of South-Indian cuisine. I am not exaggerating but seriously the food was so good that we relished every single bite. Even something like curd rice was different and the spices that were added for flavour tasted so good. We had called for some prawn and chicken curry along with this yoghurt based veggie that had spinach and beetroot for the vegetarians on the table. Everything was perfect to the T. In my excitement to gorge on food thanks to a growling tummy, I forgot to click pictures of the food 😦 But seriously please put Gunpowder on your must-visit-restaurants in Goa.

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  • Baba Au Rhum, Anjuna: This is another cafe that I always visit when I am in Goa, because of its secluded location and the friendly staff here. Since this time round I was on a break from caffeine, I went for their strawberry smoothie and mint smoothie. Along with that I had a yummy feta cheese croissant and Spanish omelette. The best part about this cafe is that you can just sit there indulging in endless, uninterrupted conversations for hours while gazing at the infinite stretch of land in front of you.

 

  • Artjuna, Anjuna: From attending the season onset party to lazy breakfast and befriending interesting strangers, Artjuna has been one of the highlights of the trip. The season party was so good. It started at 4 pm in the evening and was to go till 10 pm, in which the cafe will serve some appetisers and sodas for free. It was entertaining to watch the locals dance like free souls letting their hair down without having to worry about a penny (considering it was first week of demonitisation).

 

  • Old Quarter, Panjim: This is also a hostel located in one of the prettiest, old town of Panjim. There is a famous church around the corner and I went here on one of the evenings after my work strolling around. All the buildings near the hostel are painted in different colours of the rainbow inhabited by cute old aunties and uncles and how I wished I was staying in them. Even the tea stalls there were colourful. The cafe is quiet and although it doesn’t have much variety on its menu, you must visit the place for pretty architecture.

 

  • Lila Cafe, Anjuna: I went here since it had got a rating of 4.2 on Zomato but it wasn’t that great. The ambience and decor was quite dull. The entire cafe was painted in white and had the same colour furniture which kind of dampened the overall feel. Apart from their croissant with orange marmalade, there was nothing worth raving about the food we ordered. The sausages at Villa Blanche were far more superior than they were here.

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Since I was staying in Vagator, most of the cafes that I went to were around Anjuna, Morjim and Vagator. But trust me if you want to have a European cafe experience, you must visit them. I want to write about the beaches I explored and the place I stayed but I will do so in the following blog as I am introducing a new section on experiential review of the places I have stayed at during my vacations.

 

All images ©Kainat27

 

Paragliders Paradise

It’s been a while since I wrote about my getaways although I have taken a couple of them in the last few months. Recently, a friend of mine went to Himachal on a backpacking trip without any agenda and ended up in this village Bir Billing, which is famous for paragliding for almost ten days doing random things with the villagers there and had amazing stories to share. And that was when I thought, this could be the perfect place to escape from all the work pressure that drives me insane here in Mumbai. To tell you the truth, this has been one of my budget friendly trips in a long time.

Bir is a two hour drive from Dharamshala. Since I couldn’t get cheap flight ticket to Dhramshala due to India New Zealand ODI, I decided to go via Delhi as I am also not a big fan of spending hours in buses. It makes me sick. So I got a cheap return airfare to Delhi and from there I took a train to Pathankot. There are trains from Chandigarh as well but I preferred Delhi. From Pathankot, Bir was a 4 hour drive (around 145 kms) and since my train reached Pathankot in the wee hours of morning, I reached Bir at 7 am. While boarding a taxi, its important to negotiate with the driver so as to reach the best price possible and if you have people sharing with you, boom! Staying in hostels has become an integral part of my travel so even this time I stayed at Zostel Bir. It’s a recently opened property and definitely one of the best.

Zostel at Bir is run by two engineers who quit their jobs to pursue their passion and love for creating an eco friendly vacation getaway. They plan to extend the idea to encourage corporates to plan meetings integrated with vacation for families in an interesting way.

The food at Zostel is delicious especially their parathas, omlettes and daal. They have a cool lounge like setup on the terrace where one could enjoy the sunset with piping coffee or tea admiring clear sky changing hues over the green mountains.

There isn’t much to do post sunset in mountains. That is the time when you engage in interesting conversations with the locals, hear stories of other fellow travellers, enjoy some drinks with strangers before retiring in the comfortable dorm beds at the hostel. The hostel is reasonably priced, boasts good cleanliness and hygiene.

Next day, I rented a bicycle and rode uphill to a monastery. It was physically exhausting as the route was narrow and full of curves. There were times when the incline was so steep that I couldn’t peddle after a point and used to start sliding down, so I had to get down and walk. Once I reached the monastery, the feeling of achievement was thrilling and the place was grand so to speak. It is one of the biggest training institutes for monks in Asia and quite heartening to see them pray and share a glimpse of their routine with strangers.

Next on the agenda was paragliding. I have never ever done any aerial adventurous sport before and there were butterflies in my tummy before I went for my jump. There’s a pilot who accompanies you on the jump. I can’t really explain the feeling in words but the initial couple of minutes that I was in air, I was just smiling throughout and talking to the vast universe which embraced me in its warmth. It was cold up there and my pilot was worried since I wasn’t shouting or exclaiming, which could be a common form of expression for others. But little did he know that I was happy and it was a great feeling within. Towards the last lap of my landing, I was actually starting to feel sick because if you are going to do paragliding with the expectation of thrill then it might just disappoint you. It’s more meditative than adrenaline.

After Bir, I descended down to Mcleodganj. Although in hindsight, I wish I could’ve stayed at Bir a little longer as you start gelling in the vibe of the place only after two-three days and by the time I had started enjoying the calmness around me, it was time to leave. Mcleodganj was a sudden plan as I was joining a few friends there but I know I will be back to Bir soon. The only cafe I went to in Bir was Silver Lining cafe and fortunately I was their first customer. The guy there makes amazing cafe mocha. Make sure you guys try it out when you’re there.

Mcleodganj was commercial and surrounded by tourists. It’s good for shopping and cafes. Thanks to international travellers there has been an increase in the number of cafes at such places in the last 2-3 years. I stayed at this hotel called Zambala and it was a decent hotel. The room was clean, nice and comfortable. And since it was in the centre of the city, we could just walk to the nearby places. Some of the favourite cafes that I went to are:

1. Shambhala restaurant: they are good with their breakfast and coffee but I didn’t quite enjoy the food there especially their momos. They were huge and didn’t taste as good as the ones you get on the street. Personally, one should go for the street side momos rather than the restaurant ones. Shambhala did have good thukpa though.

2. Illiterati Cafe: I went here twice and I must admit that it is one of the best cafes I’ve ever been to. It’s a huge cafe integrated with a bookstore and a mini terrace kind of setting. Fortunately I was there during full moon day and I could witness the moonrise from behind the mountains illuminating our tiny table with its full might. Everything on their menu is droolworthy, be it coffee, sandwiches or burger.

3. Moonpeak Espresso: another favourite cafe of mine for breakfast. It’s a tiny cafe located in a busy shopping lane. A must try for coffee and chicken sandwiches.

4. Shiva cafe: one of the most popular cafes of India, to be honest I was a bit tad underwhelmed by it. Firstly, it’s located on top of a mountain so the trek is literally exhausting and then the food (not that I tried anything fancy) is nothing to rave about either. It’s just the location that attracts people and the not-so-great view from the top. The only good thing was the fresh mountain water from the tap which you’ll need after the tiring steep trek!

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5. McLlo: perhaps the most famous Indian restaurant in the entire Mcleoganj only cause it has host the cricket team from India and elsewhere. The entire place is full of photos of all the popular cricketers with the owner and the food was just like any other Indian restaurant but the apple cider beer is something that could be given a try there. Good place to drink and chill with friends.

There is also a small village Nadi near Mcledoganj city where we took a cab while going and because we wanted to enjoy the sunset, we trekked all the way down from the valley. It was a beautiful little trek and I’d advise you to try it too. You’ll find the descending walk down the narrow green valley exciting and peaceful.

This was perhaps one of my most commercial hill experience, barring Bir ofcourse. In my next blog, I’ll write about my experience of Leh Ladakh where I went in July this year.

All Images © Kainat27

Life is indeed beautiful

While we crib and whine about unimportant things in life, which, might not even matter the next day, those are the times I truly hope (for myself as well) that I am reminded of the movie Life is Beautiful. It is a 1997 Italian film directed by Roberto Benigni that won him the Oscar in the Foreign Film category. Since then, the director hasn’t been able to make anything memorable as such. The movie is sensitive, emotional, strong on characters and will make you cry towards the end.

******spoiler ahead******

life-is-beautifulThe story rides on the shoulders of the director who is also the lead in the film, Roberto Benigni, who is portrayed as a Jew by the name of Guido and dreams of starting his own bookstore in a country that discriminates against the Jews in the pre Second world war time. He works as a waiter in a restaurant where he loves playing riddles with a doctor appointed with the German concentration camp. Guido falls in love with an Italian teacher Dora (played by Nicoletta Braschi), who he meets at several occassions and tries to woo her every single time with his antics. Dora finally gives in to Guido’s affection and they get married and eventually have a beautiful son Giosue. When the World War II breaks out, Guido, his uncle Eliseo and son are captured by German army to be sent off to a concentration camp. His wife, Dora, although not originally a Jew volunteers to go to the camp too, just so she can stay close to her family.

As an audience, you’ll expect that the movie will take a serious turn and there will be blood, gore and all sorts of unpleasant things, but Roberto gave the series of events such an interesting treatment that it wouldn’t be non-violent visually, yet it will break your heart. Like everyone would know how old people and children were gassed in chambers under the pretence of a hot shower, Guido’s son Eliseo escapes the holocaust every single time as he hates taking bath and on other occasions Guido convinces him to stay hidden under the garb of projecting the concentration camp as a game and the one who manages to stay alive until the end wins a tank. He chooses to hide their true situation from Eliseo so as to not affect him mentally. There will be times in the movie when his son is unconvinced by Guido but Guido manages to get him along every single time.

As the war comes to an end, Dora and Eliseo are united after Guido loses his life in order to ensure their safety. Guido in all respects, fulfils his promise to his son who gets to ride on an American tank that he assumes he has won as a prize. It is only years later that his son realises the sacrifice his father made for him and his mother. More than them, it is the sacrifice for your loved ones. The love that is pure, selfless and unconditional. I was weeping profusely by the end of it, merely by the performances and the narrative. Even as I am writing this (although it’s been a really long time that I watched the film), I can feel the exact emotion I felt when I watched it for the first time.

One of my favourite movies of all time.

 

The city to be: Udaipur

From someone who hasn’t visited Udaipur even once all her life to being who has been to Udaipur almost thrice in the last five months, Udaipur has become one of the places where I can just be. For someone, who has the option of going to Goa due to its proximity to Bombay, Udaipur has definitely become one of the places where I can simply relax and lay back.
My first time was during New Year’s Eve when I wanted to escape the maddening chaos of Mumbai and enjoy the weather at its best. Contrary to what I imagined Udaipur wasn’t cold at all (it was almost 30 degrees) but it definitely was a pleasant experience.

I stayed at a hostel called Bunkyard which is perhaps the best hostel I’ve stayed so far. It had just opened in December and I was one of their initial guests. From being centrally located to extending the best service and hospitality, Bunkyard felt absolutely like home! Also my interaction with people from different countries over evening tea that Bunkyard organises everyday over sunset was something different and to look forward for.

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Sunset view of Udaipur from Bunkyard

Inside Bunkyard there’s this long curtain kind of hanging depicting flags of countries from where people have visited since the time it opened, which I thought was quite cool.


As far as places to visit are concerned, following places will be among my recommendations:
– City palace: it’s interesting to simply visit the huge palace for its grandeur and history.


– Bagore Ki Haveli: my best pick cause I enjoyed this puppet and dance show by cultural troupes of Rajasthan thoroughly and it takes place everyday between 7-8 PM and 8-9 pm. You have to go there in the evening between 5 pm- 6 pm to book tickets. Since, I wasn’t aware of this and went there only before the show, I managed to find a standing place in the end.

– Grasswood cafe: the best cafe I explored during my stay. The cafe is managed by an Indian couple who serve great brewed coffee and an amazing range of breakfast. And more than that the fact that the owner himself cooks everything fresh, the wait for the food is completely worth it. A must visit cafe.

– Jheel Ginger cafe: another interesting cafe in the lane next to Grasswood, Jheel Ginger cafe is located right next to the lake that makes it a place to spend some serene lone time by yourself. They also have pretty amazing coffee and some small bites. But if you wish to sit and read or spend good time with your loved one, this is the place to be. The view of the lake from Ginger cafe is gorgeous.


– Savage Garden: another interesting cafe run by an Italian expat is pretty looking and the food was good too. A lot of foreigners frequent this place and it has been one of the top rated cafes in Udaipur. I ordered for a mushroom Ravioli and it was yum as hell. Haven’t eaten such a good ravioli in ages. For a beautiful blue surrounding and some great Italian food, this is a must visit place.

 

-Ayurvedic massage: yes you read it right. Udaipur is full of lanes luring tourists for a relaxing Ayurvedic massage. I bargained for a reasonable price and had the best one hour of the time the masseuse had to offer.

Udaipur is a shoppers paradise. The place has lanes full of tiny shops selling stoles, sarees that have the famous Rajasthani Bandhej print on them, kurtas, salwar, bags made of camel leather. You have to be smart enough to bargain or else you might end up getting duped.

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If you are looking for a budget friendly travel, then my itinerary might come handy but if you are also looking at a lavish stay away from hustle bustle of the city for a relaxing getaway, you can check out Ramada hotel which is a little on the outskirts of the city (about 10 mins by road). It is a lovely, secluded property where you can have private time with your loved ones.

A place that I missed going during my three trips is Sajjangarh Fort (also known as Monsoon Palace) located on the top of a hill. It is a place one must visit to witness a beautiful sunset. There are these private vans that leave from the city palace everyday or if you are one of the adventurous kinds then you could hire a bike and trek all the way up.

Go,plan your Udaipur visit today. It is definitely worth a visit.

All images ©Kainat27

The Goan Holiday

Goa is synonymous with Las Vegas for Indians and it stands true to that identity since Goa is all about letting the fun side of you have an unimaginable time. I have been to Goa several times in the last few years, for both work and vacation in equal ratio. Most of the times, it has always been about visiting the same old stereotypical locations that almost every second tourist flocks to which kind of sickened me and I had started to despise the fact of visiting Goa for vacation fearing the crazy crowd. Until, this time when I had to visit Goa yet another time for work and was extending the trip by a couple of days cause I simply needed a break.

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The view from Marriott Goa

And I couldn’t have asked for a better holiday. I had gone to attend a film market as part of my work and was staying in the heart of Panjim near the casino hub. I have always wanted to visit a casino bar and during all my visits, I have never managed to. I stayed in a hostel called Zostel in Calangute. It is situated in a small unidentifiable corner of Calangute, not too far from the beach and just the perfect place in case you are looking for solitude and privacy. Zostel hosts backpackers from all over the world and is a great place for people to network and bond on the go. I have never stayed in a hostel before cause hygiene and clean surroundings is a big concern for me. But this was quite a surprise considering it has started only 2 months ago, this place is already giving other places a run for their money. But one thing the owners of the place are clear about is that Zostel is not meant for tourists, it is meant for backpackers and solo travellers who are looking at bonding with other people and having an experience. You got to try the place in order to believe me.

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Zostel, Goa

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The people at Zostel had told me that there were a couple of French cafes around Anjuna and they are a must try so the next day, I was at this quaint little cafe Artjuna which is hard to miss if you are speeding on your bike. It is one of those places where you can just chill and relax the entire day while gorging on yummy coffee and French croissant and hummus. Another cafe I went to was Baba AhRhum, the name feels completely Yogic but trust me once you reach there, you will fall in love with the place for what it is: the space, the decor, the food, surrounding and the feel. The cafe is run by a French couple who manage the entire chore of the place. It is a must visit if you are looking for some lone time and good food. Their speciality is croissant, crostinis and bagels.

Entrance of Artjuna

Entrance of Artjuna

Hummus platter at Artjuna

Hummus platter at Artjuna

 

 

 

 

 

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Baba AhRhum

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Baba Ganoush

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Chocolate Croissant at Baba AhRhum

Library in Artjuna

Library in Artjuna

 

After all the hogging, it was time to go to the beach and enjoy the cold waves by the feet. I chose the rarely frequented Morjim beach and Hard Rock Cafe was my go-to-shack. The water wasn’t that clean but it was isolated and I thoroughly enjoyed playing in the water. This was duly followed by ice cold Kings beer.

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Morjim beach

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My next stop was Thalassa in Vagator. I can swear by all the Gods, living and dead that this is perhaps the best place one must visit in Goa if they want to enjoy the most prettiest sunset of their life. You got to book this place in advance to get the best table by the beach view. I spent some 3 hours at this place sipping on some great Chatet Rose wine and lots of yummy food with feta cheese that added to the flavour. While I was lost in the tranquil of the vast ocean in front of me with the sun casting different hues over its surface, lot of people around me were so busy capturing pictures on their phones that they were missing out on the real beauty of the place. If you are looking at a place to unwind, then this got to be it.

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Uninterrupted view at Thalassa

I was keen on visiting Ashvem beach too which is another quiet beach in Goa but couldn’t cause it was time to return home. All the places I went to were located far away from the chaos of the city which I think makes them alluring and special.

In 3 days, I experienced a Goa that I hadn’t before and it indeed is one of the best travel highlights of 2015.

 

All images ©Kainat27

 

My Mother

  Mumbai film festival or MAMI as it is fondly called is one of the most awaited festivals for movie loving Mumbaikars and all those who specially fly down to attend a series a well- curated films chosen from all over the world in different sections. Thanks to my commitment towards my regular job, I don’t really get to watch all the movies but I do try and watch some of the interesting international ones.

Today I got a chance to watch this beautiful French- Italian film Mia Madre (My Mother) directed by Nanni Moretti. It is about this film director Margharita who is shooting a social drama and going through the personal crisis of an ailing mother. This film portrays the confusion, frustration and a plethora of emotions felt by Margherita as she is trying to juggle between hospital and shoot. She is emotionally supported mostly by her brother Giovanni played by Nanni Moretti himself who has taken a sabbatical from work to tend to his mother. The film particularly traces Margherita’s initial discomfort and denial about her mother’s detiriorating health through the emotional and mental upheaval she goes through the process. I could feel her confusion, agony and pain throughout.

One of the entertaining characters in the film to look out for is John Turturro who will make you laugh with his antics throughout. He was extremely adorable to look at. What I really loved about this film is the way in which Nanni has portrayed the bond of a mother and daughter, the pain eventually death inflicts and no matter how much you deny, acceptance eventually comes about. The movie stirs emotions within you without making it look unrealistic. The plot was clean and crisp. Definitely worth a watch! Do catch it at MAMI if you can.
PS- the festival is until 5th November.