Posted in Musings, Travellogue

An Ode to Cornwall and Friendship

Last month I had a marvellous trip to Cornwall, with a few friends. We had been wanting to do a trip together and trying to get together for years, given that we are three and respective partners, with each one of us having a different work schedule, in different countries , with our share of responsibilities, it was becoming highly challenging to organise our holidays together. Alas, we got together this year and decided the destination as Cornwall.

I have been wanting to write about this trip, but was not having much luck and hence have been a bit quiet on the blogging world. I have not yet mastered the art of quietening my mind, it still ponders and wonders. In the past I have often found writing on the blog a very effective way of collecting my thoughts. Yet now every time I would sit down to write , about my trip to Cornwall, I would not be able to collect my thoughts concisely and my mind would start wandering off. I have been distracted lately; with work , and combined with a feeling of melancholy lingering , which I attributed to my friends having left back home, hence leading to my lack of coherency in thoughts.

I read recently on a Psychology website, an article emphasising on importance of friendship, referring to friendship as a gift we give ourselves and it went on to describe the meaning of friend as someone who adds the fullness of life. And says Authenticity, honesty and trust are qualities we expect to find in a friend. I wholeheartedly agree with both the statements. It also says “There is an understanding that the binding together of people in friendship helps each of us define and realise a meaningful life”. This trip to Cornwall and my friends helped me realise a meaningful life.

Cornwall, is such an underrated and relatively less talked about travel destination of England. The beautiful countryside ,with its spectacular coastline, sandy beaches and cliff tops, it’s a mystery how it has not been explored much by the travel industry. Since the advent of BBC s Poldark series, I have heard Cornwall’s tourism industry is doing wonders. Ross Poldarks s scything the grass scene has successfully set many hearts fluttering as well as been successful in putting the Cornish coastline amongst top travel destination. I have visited Cornwall a couple of years back, and was completely mesmerised and charmed by the Cornish countryside, with its magical and mystical tales, being the birthplace of King Arthur, caves where Merlin , the great Wizard himself resided, where Daphne Du Maurier lived and most of her novels are based. I absolutely love magic and fables and Cornwall s landscape has a mystical air about it. I so wanted my friends to experience the magic of Cornwall.

We stayed in town called Helston in a cottage , near Mullion Cove. It’s a picturesque little town, in Lizard Peninsula, not far from Penzance and St. Ives. It is also very near the Poldark mine , which is situated in Wendron Valley. While driving to Helston, we noticed a number of radar like structures on a large open field close to Helston, which I later found out is called Goonhilly earth Satellite station, which happens to be the largest earth satellite receiving station in the world, with 60 satellites. There are guided tour offered, but unfortunately I found all this information upon our return. I definitely would love to go back there again. I gathered from the website that you can send an e mail to outer space, which has the possibility of being received by another living form someday. We dropped our luggage at the cottage and headed out to the near by cove called Keynance Cove. When we started our walk to the cove, the sky was covered in dark blueish grey clouds, by the time we reached the pier, clouds were just about parting, letting in a stream of Sun come through. It was breathtakingly beautiful sight, with the sun beams stretching out from sky, trying to reach the crystal clear blue waters of the sea. The rugged cliffs around the sea in the backdrop made the view even more phenomenal. All of us stood there mesmerised, gazing in silence at the vast sea side ,with its beautiful landscape, hearing the waves crashing on the rocky shore, the wind rustling through our hair, noticing the bobbing heads of odd divers in the sea. I have always found the colossal beauty of nature and it’s compelling vastness, to have such an calming and healing effect on the mind. We came back to cottage, had our dinner, and watched the clear night sky filled with twinkling star and silvery Moon light bathing our faces. It was such a remarkable convergence of different energies; a wonderful synergy of food, love, warmth and the feeling of togetherness. Such are the wonders of simple and pure joys of this world.

“If only there were an invention that bottled up memory, like scent. It never faded, it never got stale. And then when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again”- from Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier.

Another beautiful location of Cornwall is the much loved and very well known St Ives. We took a train from St Erth to St Ives, it’s one of the nicest way to travel to St Ives, because of its scenic route and having not to worry about finding a parking spot. It’s very difficult to find a parking spot in St Ives, given its popularity and proximity to beach. The station at St Erth railway station is a pretty little stone building with lovely feeling of an cosy old station, with little wooden benches and hanging flower baskets and a shop selling old post cards, coffee and other memorabilia. The station is also part of Great scenic Railways. The train goes via Lelant and Carbis Bay, the route is very picturesque. St Ives Railway station is above Porthminster Beach, you can walk from there taking int the view which winds down to town centre, with pretty little shops, cafes and alleyways with quaint buildings. St Ives Bay and beaches are known for its surfing activities, and is filled surfers and surfing schools. Originally a fishing town, St Ives now is an extremely tourism oriented town. I love St Ives ,it’s art galleries and its beautiful artistic connection. The town has St Ives Art school, it’s known for its Modern Arts Movement, Barbara Hepworth Museum and now the Tate Modern. Barbara Hepworth, an artist and very important figure in abstract movement of art, lived in St Ives and had a studio in St Ives. There are many present and contemporary artist s studio too. I love the streets and beaches of St Ives, both have its own charm. One can find a ideal spot on a cafe on roadside of a beach or in the town centre and order a Cornish Pasty. Munching on buttery pasty, with the pasty crumbling in your mouth, take in the colourful sight of town, it is an delectable experience.

Another location we had a marvellous time was St Michael’s Mount, Marizon. It is a small tidal island on Mounts Bay. It’s part of National trust and has castle, abbey and beautiful terraced gardens. Historically St Michael’s Mount was affiliated to Saint Micheal of Normandy region of France and a Benedictine monastery. It’s a perfect place for a family outing , exploring the island as a group or just for enjoying a day out in fresh air. Since it’s an island and it would be advisable to check out the weather conditions and tide times. The day we went , it was a misty morning with very little visibility. It was all the more amusing to explain to friends who were from a very tropical and sunny climate, that we were going to walk to the island, because the tide is low now and when we head back we will have to take a ferry. And the fog made it extremely difficult for me, to show them the full pathway to walk , let alone the actual island. The I could see quizzical and confused faces, tugging at their jackets for a bit of warmth,they plodded on with an utmost faith on me, with the sea breeze hitting their face.I could hear them ask me , now and then, what is it that IS there ? And Why are we going there ? By the time we reached the island and bought tickets , had a cup of hot tea and some croissant, the mist started to clear, my friends could get their bearings and look around with their own eyes the path they had walked from the coast, the view of the town from the island and the flower laden path going up to the castle and abbey above. Now were a refreshed, happy and content bunch ; walking up the stone path, taking in the sea air, laughing our hearts out and with my friends little lad looking for the giant s stone heart, which as per legend you can still hear it beating. The legend says there was a 18 foot giant called Cormoran, who lived here on the island and terrorised the villagers until a boy named Jack from the village stayed him and cut up him in to pieces and scattered the pieces around the island . The boy was henceforth called the Jack the Giant slayer. The story amused my friends little lad, he was full of questions about Is Jack the giant slayer same as Jack and the bean stalk giant slayer? How someone who was dead long ago can have his heart beating still? And can all the pieces join together now and become the giant and start terrorising again ? And above all can we cut up someone like that ? And I had to come up with answers rapidly as the questions were coming rapidly. The most difficult one was how do you tell a little boy , it’s ok to cut up someone, if I say yes, I am saying it’s ok to be violent and if I say no, I am saying it’s ok to put up with bullies and not stand up . Hmmm…. not a one where I can respond rapidly. My answer was long and winding, perhaps the giant is sum of all the fears of the villagers, and it just became so looming and large and Jack killed the fear before it could consume everyone. Well my answer did not satisfy the little boy, he just looked at me with his curios eyes and laughed , “ You are very funny , or perhaps it’s all just a story”. Ah the simple and unbiased world of children, where they see the things as they are!!!!! We did find the heart and tried all our best to hear if it was beating.

My personal favourite in Cornwall is the Minack Theatre. It’s an open air theatre, on a cliff top, with views of the vast open sea , and waves on the rocks . crashing. The location of the theatre is spectacular. We went there for a story telling. It was a very hot day with sun beating down, and we all sat under the open sky in scorching heat, listening to a story about a light house keeper who wants to be a writer. It was fun screaming with kids ‘ Behind You’ or making noises like sea gull or flapping about your arms as if they were wings. Although my friends little boy was more than amused looking at us lot. One must let the child in us always be alive, and I am a firm believer of the quote.

Minack theatre is not far from Land s End, the southern most tip of Britain. Land s End is a landmark location, because of astounding views of Atlantic Ocean, for bird watchers and for being Last point of land between Britain and North America. We walked around Lands End, taking photos of the famous sign post, did a bit of shopping and had Cornish Pasties as lunch. One of the walls of the shopping complex talks about the origin of Cornish pasties , it’s links to miners and how it now has evolved as national food of Cornwall.

While driving back to London, we stopped over at Jamaica Inn in Bodmin Moor. Jamaica Inn in the past had been known for its notoriety for smuggling activities and it is said that one of the days author Daphne Du Maurier was lost in the moors while riding and could not head home back because of the fog. She stayed overnight at Jamaica Inn and her stay inspired her to write the novel Jamaica Inn. The building now a grade II listing is still an Inn with rooms available, it also claims if you want you can stay in the room where Daphne Du Maurier stayed. It is no longer connected or associated with nefarious activities. There a bar called Smugglers Bar in the Inn and has a quote at the entrance “Through these portals passed smugglers, wreckers, villains and murderers, but rest easy….t’was many years ago”.This was my second visit to the inn and I remember five years ago the Bodmin Moor looked more desolate than now , the only building that was visible in miles was Jamaica Inn, giving credibility to the work of fiction called Jamaica Inn. There are many buildings around now, and it does not feel spooky. It is a perfect spot to get a great view of the vast surrounding moors. Food served is very delicious and has plenty of vegetarian options too. There is plenty of seating both inside and outside, a very rustic yet comfy decor. Being a fan of Daphne Du Maurier, and having endlessly discussed the book Rebecca in the past many years ago, we enjoyed our visit and the lunch at Jamaica Inn, chatting and reminiscing about our crazy book hunts in book stores of Mumbai.

The trip to Cornwall was so rejuvenating and therapeutic. It brought back such wonderful memories of past, of innumerable moments of affection, warmth and camaraderie, the ability to connect , to be part of tribe and along with it also brought back the surge of grief, the grief I felt when I moved to London. The unacknowledged grief of having been separated from my tribe, having lost my inherent support system, the ones who were always there, during rites of passages ,when I got my first bonus at work, bought my first flat, my first promotion, when I had a terrible day at work, one who would be very comfortable sitting with me in silence without asking any question, or very happily disappear when I need some space. Grief is said to be unspent love, I have heard. Nevertheless it is still love. It is often a mistake to associate love only to joy, happy times spent together. Love is in everything, in joys, in tears, in grief and in loss too. We very easily acknowledge happy times, and block the grief and loss. And this trip helped me realise and experience friendship in its entirety, in its fullest form, making life a more full experience and a marvellous journey.

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Rails, Rail stations and Rouen

I find train journeys very captivating and enthralling. Train stations to me are like a magical portal , a doorway to a land of wonders, beginning of an amazing adventure. They are so dear and have a nostalgic connection,having travelled extensively on trains during childhood years, while growing up in India. I am also a huge fan of ‘The Railway Children’ book. Rail and railway stations have been an integral part of my life. Such is my fascination for trains and train stations, that I had breakfast in Kings Cross station as a birthday treat. Any opportunity of travelling by train, I hardly would ever miss. We have been planning a trip to Rouen for a while now and this Easter break we did a journey to Rouen, by train.

We took the early morning Eurostar from Kings Cross St Pancras to Paris Gare Du Nord, which takes you in to Paris by 11 am. Although I would have liked to take the tube from home in to Kings Cross to make it an all train journey, given the fact it was Good Friday weekend and the tube lines were closed, that part of the journey became a four wheeler instead of a train. Arriving at St Pancras, with bags in tow, the big white tree like ceiling of the station spreading over your head like a white and blue canopy of concrete, made me dizzy with excitement, just like I used to be when I was a child all those years ago, on a train platform in Asia, trying to dart behind my father, who would be darting behind the Porter, with quintessential sound of “Kaapi,Kaapi,Kaapi” ( coffee,coffee,coffee ) ricocheting on the platform, along with announcements blaring on the loudspeaker, “Madras se Delhi janewali Grand Trunk Express platform no …”, along with the chugging and whistling of trains. Ahh the sweet smell and sights of a train station and nostalgia !!!!! The early morning boarding queues of Eurostar are less serpentine and gives you less opportunity to gaze around and take in the setting. Having arrived a bit early we had a time wander about in the station take some pictures . After finishing the immigration checks we waited about in the Eurostar waiting for the platform to be announced. Unlike my childhood days here the announcements were in French and English, I still find train stations mesmerising.We had our breakfast in the train, watching the green countryside from the train window, the train chugging along towards the English Channel Tunnel.

Arriving at Paris Gare du Nord, we printed our tickets to Rouen Rive Droit from SNCF kiosks. We had our booked our tickets online from SNCF s site, we were to printed the tickets as e tickets are not accepted on this route. We walked over to the nearest restaurant, which serves Idlis in Paris, it was the World Idli Day. And being a vegetarian aspiring to be vegan and an idli lover, I was not going to let opportunity slip by.

We took a metro from Gare du Nord to Paris St Lazare, from where were to catch our train to Rouen Rive Droit Station. St Lazaré has many artistic connections, the station has been painted by Claude Monet, with steam engines with rising smoke standing on the Gare St Lazaré’s platform.Artist Edouard Manet, is said to have lived not very far from the St Lazare, who also painted the iconic Gare St Lazare, called The Railway. Claude Monet s painting can be seen at Musée D’orsay in Paris and Manet s work is on display at Washington DC National Gallery. Another artistic connection to the station is to visit Giverny, where Monet lived and painted, you have to take the train from Gare St Lazare. The station has not changed much architecturally and looks as ethereal in real life as in the paintings. I sat their admiring the alluring sight, while waiting for our train, slowly blending and fusing in to the buzz of the station, becoming an integral part of the moment on the platform scene at that instance.Gare St Lazare

The train arrived at the platform, we boarded the train , and the train chugged along the picturesque French countryside, passing various stations including Giverny, arriving finally at Rouen Rive Droit.

Rouen, is the capital of the Normandy region of France, is a medieval city with full of gothic architecture and buildings. It is full of charm and character ; has museums, churches, cathedrals and cobbled streets. We dropped our luggage at Hotel, which had amazing views of Notre Dame Cathédrale of Rouen from the balcony of our room. The Hotel was situated in the Vieux Rouen/Old town. Vieux Rouen is an instagrammers paradise, filled with pretty little alleyways, half timbered medieval houses and full of colour and charms. We tried to have a light snack before venturing out on a walk in the town, a word of warning to the wise, there is no food being served in the restaurants in Rouen after 2 pm, only drinks and may be dessert and pastries. I was having a salt rush, if there is such a thing, I was not in a mood to have anything sweet. But unfortunately, not my day and it was my lack understanding of ways of Rouen Restaurant times. We ended up having a cappuccino, mine was with no sugar.

Walking around in Old town Rouen, is a wonderful way of exploring the town, and take in its medieval gothic architecture. The streets are not that crowded and are not filled with toursits, in comparison to other towns and cities I have visited, but given that it was a Easter break, the town was bustling with activity. We went in to the famous Notre Dame Cathédrale of Rouen, which is a beautiful gothic architecture, with its tall spire looming over the city. The Cathedral has been painted in a series of painting, in different light and different times of the year, by Claude Monet, two of the paintings can be seen in Musée D’orsay in Paris and one in Washington DC.

The other architecturally fetching building in the town is the Gros Horlage/ Great Clock. It is a fourteenth century astronomical clock tower, and is the oldest in Europe and even older then the Big Ben. The clock shows the time, chimes every hour, has a moon dial, which corresponds with the 29 days lunar movement, and moves accordingly. It also has seven days of the week represented in allegorical paintings at the base of the dial. The day painting changes at everyday at 12 noon, we watched the painting change from Friday to Saturday. You could do a tour of the clock and climb up the clock tower. We got to see the amazing view of whole town from the top of the tower. The Gros Horloge is the most impressive work of art, architecture and engineering. And the Gros Horloge has appeared in the J W Turner s painting, and can be viewed in Tate Gallery, London.

Rouen is also the town where Joan D’Arc was tried and finally sentenced to death. It was in the city centre , at the age of 19 she was burnt alive , in the market Square. There is now a church in the market centre in memory of Joan of Arc. It’s a very sad fact and part of the  town s history. Often she is remembered for her courage, conviction and her belief in God. Yet the pamphlet in the church also talk about how she broke down at the time her renunciation, was aware that she was stuck in a situation with out a solution, but of her own sacrifice. This makes her as human as us, reminding us we have the courage, conviction and character in us, we need to look deep in to ourselves and stand up for what we believe in. We need more people like Joan Of Arc, full of conviction and character, especially now in the year of metoo and Gender equality.

We all have our reasons for travelling, mine is the need for a journey, a journey inwards and I find travel very inspiring for it. Recently I saw an advertisement for an airlines. It talks about miracles with in our body -our senses ; see, hear , smell, taste and touch and how we never tap the potential of our senses. I love the thought behind the ad and the emotion attached. I have found travel to be very rejuvenating , both for my body and as well as mind, travel awakens the senses, travelling reminds me to be myself, makes me seek the miracle within us .

“Live life with no excuses, travel with no regret” -Oscar Wilde

Rouen – Full of character, medieval/ gothic architecture, Churches and charm.

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Tallinn – A fairy Tale

Tallinn in Estonia, has been perhaps one of the underrated travel location, it is slowly changing in the recent years. I have heard of the visits to Tallinn as part of cruise trips, you get a day to explore the city. Although, I have been wanting do a cruise trip , not necessarily to Tallinn, I have yet not been able to convince my husband on the merits  and joys of a trip on cruise ship. Well then it has to be a solo trip !!!!

Its become a tradition for us to travel in February, somewhere outside United Kingdom. We wanted to continue the tradition. We looked at various options towards the last year end and we decided on Tallinn, Estonia. This trip also happened to be our first travels of 2018. It turned out to an incredible trip, we had an amazing time in the beautiful Tallinn. Tallinn , with its Old town and medieval buildings and architecture, looks like a page out of a Fairy Tale book.

We flew out from Heathrow Airport, London to Tallinn. The flight time from London to Tallinn is a few hours. I enjoy the early morning flights out, which means we can go to the airport in the morning, check in and drop our luggage and have a leisurely breakfast, watching morning sky aglow with orange rising sun. It gives us a chance to slow down and unwind , from daily life and get slowly in to the wanderer mode, bask in the reflective glory . I call ourselves wanderers , my husband likes to call us explorers.

The flight landed in Tallinn by late afternoon. There was ground snow across and the lake nearby was frozen. We grabbed a light lunch in the restaurant at Tallinn Airport. We bought the Tallinn card, which gives you access to most of the museums, tram rides, and hop on hop off bus tour. We prefer buying the cards, because it gives us easy and quick access to public transport and museum. We arrived at our hotel ,in Raavala, Radisson Blu Sky. It is located at a walking distance to the Historic Old town. The view from our room on to the city and bay was very pretty. We admired the view, left our luggage in the room and walked towards the Old Town. While walking towards the Old town I noticed a huge shop called Suvashop, which sells socks. It made me wonder if I ever had seen or been to a shop which sold only socks.

With that quintessential musing, I walked in to the UNESCO heritage, Old Town Tallinn. The Old town , with its medieval architecture, cobbled roads ,covered in dusting of wintery snow, looked splendid and out of this world. It was like walking in to a set of fairy tale movie. The Old town has many coffee shops, and are called Kohviks, some are traditional and some contemporary. I was recommended by a fellow blogger to visit Maissmokk.( http://www.kohvikmaiasmokk.ee/en/). It is a traditional Coffee house, selling coffee and cakes, and also known for its Marzipans. I was very impressed with marzipans with its very intricate and artistic sugar craft. You can also watch the marzipans being decorated. Tallinn is also very  famous for a drink called Vana Tallinn. I had a Vana Tallinn coffee with Irish coffee roll and my husband had a cappuccino with Biscuit cake. In the blistery winter weather , the warm decor of Kohvik, the hot coffee and the cake felt so divine. We loved maiasmokk so much, that we visited the kohvik three days out of our four days stay.

We walked around the Old town for a bit more, and as the natural light faded away, the old town was iridescent in the warm glow of  street lights. The Old town is not very big , in fact the whole of Tallinn is not very big and it is wonderful strolling around on the Old Town, at a leisurely pace, taking in the sight, wrapped up in warm coats, scarves and hats, the amber rays of street lights drawing geometric patterns on the cobbled roads and buildings. It is an experience, a veritable moment, you start to wonder whether is it the brilliant sight or the coffee you had earlier , making your heart go warm.

Upon returning to our hotel, we went to the 24th floor, where they have a restaurant/lounge with wonderful views of the whole city . We ordered a tea, sat on a table by the glass window, watched the skyline of city shine and shimmer in the lights while sipping the hot green tea. This became our routine for the next three days.

The next day, after a hearty breakfast at the Hotel,(The spread of breakfast is absolutely wonderful and delicious) we walked towards the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, in the Old Town. The walk is beautiful, though slightly uphill, but not stressful at all. It was a bright and crisp winter morning, the ground snow glistening in the wintery sun. We reached the Church. It is a Russian Orthodox Church and is a functioning church. There is no photography allowed inside the church. The interiors of the church is as beautiful and ornate as the outside. I loved the ceiling of the church, which is painted blue with little golden stars. There was a service going on in the church, with smell of frankincense, cloud of smoke rising from candles, making it look hazy inside. We stayed for a while inside. We walked out of the church with cold breeze hitting our faces. We walked on from there to Toompea Hill, Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform. The viewing platform gives a sweeping panoramic views of the city and also has the wall art “ Times we had” almost synonym with Tallinn now and an absolute favourite spot for instagrammers. The phrase is open for interpretation by viewer / observer. It is indeed a wonderful spot for the views and photos.

After lunch, we visited the KGB cell museum. It is situated in the basement of the grey House. It was used as prisons during 1940-1950. The museum shows the methods used to crush the Estonian Resistance movement and prison conditions. It is very humbling experience and makes you think about the meaning of Freedom.

Another wonderful part of Tallinn which I loved and admired is Telliskivi Creative City. The Old industrial complex and parts have been converted in to a creative centre, consisting of shops, creative studios, bakeries, independent shops and restaurants. It also houses the offices of many NGO s and a flea market is held every Saturday The whole area is strewn with beautiful wall art. The unused walls of the old factory and industries have turned in to canvass for art work. I absolutely loved the idea of using the empty Old industry buildings and turning them in to something so beautiful and constructive, without having to demolish any of the old structures.

Telliskivi Creative city is near the Balti Jaam Turg Balti Jaam Turg is a huge market very similar to farmers market but on a much larger scale. You can get everything under the sun, from fresh vegetables, groceries, chocolates, fabrics ,haberdashery to handicrafts. There various shops selling produces from with in Estonia and also handicrafts from Poland, Finland, Russian,Finland. There are cafes and restaurants too inside. It reminded me of Crawford Market in Mumbai and the Spitalfields Market in London. The market is massive and is also one of the perfect spots to pick up souvenirs. I bought a woollen scarf and got chatting with the friendly lady who sold us the scarf. She was the one who told us about the origin of the products. She also mentioned she has a neighbour from India, from whom she sources some of Indian scarves, which were for sale in her stall. There are also other places for souvenirs like Guild market and Katherine s Passage markets. The Baltic ambers, Russian Dolls though not specific to Estonia are very popular souvenirs. There are products made in Estonia too, wooden products, the local wooden coasters, beads and woollen products which are equally popular. The quirky me I picked up socks from the socks shop which I had seen earlier called the Suvashop ( https://www.suvashop.com). It was by chance we passed the Balti Jaam, and I am glad we did.

The next day we visited the Kadriorg Palace. It’s a baroque palace, made by Peter I of Russia for his wife Catherine in 18th century. It was meant to be summer palace and after Peter I s death, Catherine did not show much interest in the palace. It was rebuilt and restored in 19 th century by Russian Royals and was run down later during Soviet occupation. It was restored in its present state by Estonian government with the help of Sweden after independence. It currently displays various collection of art work. The Kadriorg Park around is also considered worth a visit and is know for its greenery. When we visited the park , it was fully covered in pristine snow, and was absolutely tranquil and trees dappled in winter sun. We walked from Kadriorg Park towards the bay. We saw the Baltic Sea, icy and frozen and the shores covered in snow.

Tallinn has plenty of options and choices for vegans and vegetarians. We ate at Chakra( http://chakra.ee/eng/index.html) an Indian restaurant, definitely worth a visit if you like your curries, staff are courteous and polite, the ambiance is warm and welcoming, and food is delicious. The mint paratha and Dal makhani was authentic and delicious. Another place I immensely  enjoyed is Clayshill, a Gastropub (http://www.clayhills.ee/). As the name suggests the menu is contemporary and has soups, sandwiches to pasta and Risotto. We tried the Beetroot Soup and warm roasted vegetable salad. It was absolutely delicious and a food for soul on an afternoon when it was snowing. We had a perfect spot near the window, to tuck in our warm food and watch the snow fall on the cobbled roads of old town. We also tried an Italian restaurant in Katherine s Passage called Contravento  (http://www.controvento.ee/en/). The decor is rustic and usage of the heritage features of property to its best, adds a charm. We had Bruschetta, pesto linguine and Penne Arrabbiata. The food was delicious and staff very polite and attentive.

Tallinn was getting ready for its celebrations 100 years of independence. Lights were being strung up on streets , the landmark spots were getting decorated. The sign of ‘100’ were being displayed everywhere. There will be special events throughout the year. The independence of Estonia is also celebrates the Singing Revolution, which brought them Independence by singing.

The Guildhall museum which is an interactive and interesting exhibits explaining the origin of Estonia since ice age to it present day, the inhabitants, religion and the livelihoods of the region. At present Estonia is Silicon Valley of Europe and is know for IT services and is the birth place of Skype.

I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Tallinn and exploring the city and wandering around the streets and discovering the street arts, the handicrafts and markets. Tallinn is less crowded, quiet reasonable, hence is a value for money.  The city has a charm and romantic allure to it, with its medieval buildings and I can say for sure it has completely won me over.

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A restful weekend at Buckenhill Manor.

I enjoy a city break very much , either within United Kingdom or in Europe. I find it very recharging and I love the vibe of different cities. But from time to time, I do love spending time in countryside, amidst nature away from the white noise and the constant hubbub of the city. Towards the end of last year , I was looking for a quiet holiday, a small weekend break, away from all the buzz , whereby we could unwind, take in a bit of countryside, breathe in fresh air in to our lungs. Buckenhill Manor at Bromyard, Herefordshire, looked like a perfect place to soak in the tranquility and restful countryside. I must say it did not disappoint us. The Manor is as welcoming and warm as it’s owners ( Miranda and Des). The house left a very profound effect on me, it was restful, relaxing , full of character and charm , and had a story to tell . And I love stories.

It’s an 17th Century Manor House , located in Bromyard, not far from Worcester, Ledbury and Leominster. The 17th century house has been occupied and lived in by various owners and at present is owned by a lovely couple, who run a wonderful Bed and Breakfast from there. The house has sweeping views of the English countryside. One can settle on a settee , near it’s large windows , watch the world go by silently, with a nice cup of coffee and a piece of cake , the piece of cake and coffee , courtesy of the owners of the B and B.

The place is tucked away in the beautiful and hushed part of English countryside with breathtaking views. The peace and quiet of the place , is what appealed to me. The place has been decorated tastefully , with plenty of light, big Georgian windows with views of the vast rolling green meadows and blue skies dotted with fluffy clouds stretched ahead. I loved hearing the stories of restoration of the house. When the current owners first came to view the property a few years back one summer, it was in a derelict state and it did not have roof and the sun was beating down the roofless dilapidated house. It took a lot of love and effort on their part and months of hard work to bring the place to it present condition. The labour of their love and efforts is very evident from the beauty and warmth the property exudes. I would always remember Des ‘s words while narrating the tales of restoration “ We all have our share of duty and cares, and it is my time to take care of this place and make it liveable and loveable. Then when the time comes, we should leave it and pass it on someone else to love it“

It was one of the surreal conversations I have had and I will always remember it for years to come. I have not heard the profound truth of attachment and letting go, in one sentence explained with such simplicity. It made me fall in love with the property . And within a span of two months we visited the place twice. We were there on New Year’s Eve, had a wonderful dinner at The Inn at Bromyard. Later on watched the fireworks from Manor’s windows, sitting by the cosy fireplace, the night sky ablaze with colourful fireworks.

Bromyard is a market town, with many walking trails around Bromyard Downs , with Worcester and Leominster not very far. Mostly we confined ourselves in the Lounge, sitting by the roaring fire, watching the clouds roll around in azure blue skies, occasionally looking down at our gadgets, cut off from the constant drone of news and social media . It’s a perfect place to curl up with a book and be lost in bliss of silence .

We did venture out to Worcester, and visited the Worcester Cathedral. The cathedral is very beautiful and we heard the Choir practice. In the cloisters there was a market being held. Worcester is also known for its Victorian Christmas Fayre. We also visited Greyfriars house, a medieval house, which is run by the National trust. They have a cosy Tea Room which serves nice coffee and cakes.

I found the break at Buckenhill Manor very restorative both to body and mind, with its noiseless beautiful countryside, total pitch dark nights which are perfect to gaze at starry black night, and you can fall asleep watching the slivery moonlight streaming from window.

Suitcases and Sandcastles

 

Two Traveling Texans

Posted in Travellogue

It’s that time of the year again !!!

It’s the that time of the year , after Christmas and the week leading up to New Year’s Eve, wondering about the year gone by and gearing up for another year. I must admit, I love the build up leading in to Christmas and the holiday season. There is an orderly, almost sort of regulated amusements, taking you in to gaiety and merriment. The lights on the Streets get switched on , the stores are decked up, the shopping lists being made and gifts being ordered, setting up the tree at home, taking out your Christmas jumpers and hats and leading on to the maddening frenzy and then the quiet after Christmas. Last year we waltzed in to Christmas, this year not so much. This year I have stammered and stuttered in to the festivities with our little bouts of Flu and other urgent medical emergencies, which are part and parcel of human existence. This year also has been a learning that accidentally dropping a mug of coffee on yourself, causes very bad burns and scalds your skin.

This year to get in to a bit of festive spirit, I decided we need go on a petite getaway ,to a Christmas market. Lille , a city in France, which we often pass by on train to reach other destinations. Since this time we wanted somewhere closer and easily accessible to visit from London, perhaps by train and Lille with its proximity to Brugge fitted the bill perfectly. Over a weekend we could visit two Christmas market. Since we had unused Interrail Passes, all I had to do was reserve seats on Eurostar to Lille and pack the bags.

I find travelling by Interrail very convenient and easy way to travel around in Europe plus the interrail includes Eurostar trains also. Lille is a city in Northern France, close to Belgium border, has a Flemish influence and its old town, Vieux Lille has a charm, and in the holiday season, it dazzles.

Lille’s inhabitants referred as Lilloise, are known for their friendliness and we were treated by the Lilloise amiability, when we hailed the taxi from Lille Europe train station to the Hotel. I had to explain in my poorly spoken French the address, which I finally managed by pointing at my phone s google map and the post code. In spite of not knowing English, while driving , the driver managed to point to us the areas of interest , like the Beaux Arts, the Vieux Lille and Marches De Noel.

The next day we took the TGV from Lille Europe to Brussels and from there a connecting train to Brugge. It takes around one and half hours to reach Brugge. To keep me amused on the train , the cubicle had a Harry Potter Game on the tables, which made me a fan of TGV trains. Brugge is a quaint city in Belgium which also has a heavy Flanders influence. The city has a quaint allure on any day, with its Medieval architecture,canals and cobbled streets on and during Christmas the whole town shimmers and radiates. Town is decked in lights and baubles,  aroma of hot chocolate and waffles  wafting in the streets, making the town feel even more magically alluring.

It was nearly lunch time, we decided to have some lunch before going wandering around the magical streets of Brugge. Being vegetarians, we often gravitate towards Mediterranean, Italian or Indian food joints. We took a taxi from Brugge Station to a restaurant called Pitta Haus. The city centre from station is not very far and walkable, approximately 15 to 20 minutes walk, but we were too hungry so we decided to take a taxi.The streets were extremely crowded and there were many streets which has been closed for traffic, our driver managed to drop us right on the door steps of Pitta Haus and informing us the restaurant has a Bangladeshi chef and the curry is great and has ample choices for vegetarians. And  he was indeed proven right,the food was warm and delicious. I had a Dal Soup which is served with pooris( Lentil soup and fried bread) and my husband had Aloo curry ( Potato curry) served with Pooris. There is a tray with five dips on all tables. The dips bring the taste buds and food alive.

We have visited Brugge a couple of times earlier, and the city as I mentioned has a bewitching charm, but during winters and Christmas it’s charm takes new heights. The whole town dazzles in twinkling lights, market square has a little Christmas market, there is an ice rink in the Grote Square, blaring Christmas songs on speakers,Chocolatiers and chocolate makers are bustling with activities, there are parades on street , streets packed with people buzzing around with a cup of Hot chocolate in Hand or a mulled wine, Streets are filled with an array of aromas- Chocolate, cinnamon, sugar and herbs, and it smells like Christmas everywhere. It’s is a  confluence of different elements,  an alchemy.

We were so busy drinking in the atmosphere and our hot chocolate, we missed our train to Brussels. We walked to the station from city centre and went to information centre at Brugge station ,to check out for the next train to Brussels to get back to Lille. We did check on the Inter-rail app which said the next train to Lille was in two hours. The lovely lady at counter said there was a train in 15 minutes to a place called Kortrijk and if we wait for half an hour in Kortrijk there was a train to Lille Flanders Station. We rushed to the platform and got in the train to Kortrijk. Upon getting down at Kortrijk, the lights from the streets were enticing, I looked at my husband, and said we can have a quick wander around and be back in time to catch our train. We walked towards the lights which was towards the old town, there was a little Christmas market. We wandered around in the market and had some Churros with Nutella, sprinkled with sugar. And then walked back to the station to go to Lille Flanders.

Upon reaching the Lille Flanders, we wandered around the Vieux Lille and Marche De Noel before returning back to our Hotel. Lille s Christmas market is situated in Place Rihour, with the Lille Wheel, in the backdrop. I looked at the tall decked up Christmas tree with dazzling lights and star on its top. It was standing tall in the shining backdrop. To me all Christmas Trees, look like a beacon of light and hope, even the small one peeping  out of the windows of home with fairy lights, spreading light and hope , in the heart of home.

Wherever you may be, you look at the light and it guides you back to home , warmth and hope.

With that thought I wish you all a very Happy New year, full of light and hope!!!

Tin Box Traveller
Oregon Girl Around the World

 

Posted in Travellogue

One August weekend in Dublin

I have been in on an inertia for the past few days, having been caught up in a whirlwind of activities  in the fortnight before and as a result ended up falling ill with flu in the  next !!!  I had been  busy last few months with a project close to my heart and which also  involved a 150 miles walk around the London LOOP.  Both my husband and I , are  a little bit of under the weather , resulted in having  to juggle  some of our winter travel  itineraries. Today sitting in quiet contemplation, I realised, I have not had a chance to sit and sip a coffee in silence in a long time, I have not  had a chance to reflect upon the last few months and have been just been whizzing past through the activities with out paying  much attention, which made think of travelling and the Dublin trip.

A friend’s beautiful photos and wonderful words about  the city, acted as an inspiration  for my visit to Dublin. I often like to do a bit of arm chair travelling, by reading travel blogs and posts. I find such arm chair travelling  wonderfully relaxing, sitting in the cozy comforts of your home, curled up on a sofa, reading these stories and travelogues, you are transported to such amazing places, which is a wonderful feeling, similar to reading  a story book  in comforts of your home. You travel along with their words to  such wondrous places, places which you have never been, sights you have never seen, stories you have never heard and sometimes you may have visited the place, yet you see it with a new pair of eyes, a point of view, which  you missed or sometimes you have a shared experience. There are times,  when you open up a travel post of a friend, on a cold and dreary day, seeing photos of a friend smiling in  warm sunny Jordan, you smile, the warmth exuding from the photo , spreads the warmth to your heart and home. I absolutely love and enjoy armchair travelling as much as I enjoy actual travelling.  Dublin,  land of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde, city known for Guinness, busking and music, a city which is dotted with lovely independent bookstores is a booklovers paradise and the photos and words of a friend enticed me to visit Dublin. A photo of Oscar Wilde’s statue, looking rather very happy, perched up high on a rock, with a lovely smile on this face, acted as  an additional boost to perk up my interest to visit the city.

Dublin, is a vibrant city full of charms and excitement, yet it  has an air of calm about it. The streets  of the city are filled with beautiful architecture both old and new, street art, musicians, buskers, pubs, independent bookshops and libraries.

Upon reaching Dublin and dropping our luggage at the Hotel, we walked towards Trinity college,  the college where likes of Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift have studied. The Trinity College is a very prestigious University and also famous for its oldest Library in Ireland called The Old Library. The library is famous for its Long Room , which houses old manuscripts and books, and the library also houses the Book of Kells. Book of Kells is a manuscript of gospels in Latin, and it is claimed to have been compiled by monks completed around the 9 th Century. The Library is open for visitors. You begin with a tour of exhibits of old books, manuscripts and Book Of Kells.  It is believed that it took several years for the Book to be complied and perhaps it began in an abbey in Isle of Iona, Scotland and must have been brought to Ireland for safekeeping during Vikings war. The Book is referred as an illuminated manuscript because it has ornate pictures, icons, artwork and margins along with the gospel text. The Book is supposed to be ‘scribed’ in four different hands. Scribe is term used to  refer to a person , who would handwrite manuscripts, who was familiar with art of writing and possessed the knowledge of languages . They were sort of copyist of olden days. This was a practice followed before the printing press was invented or available. I was very impressed and fascinated with the fact that there were only four Scribes, given the fact the Book of Kells comprises of 340 folios and bound in to four volumes. The scribes could also have been the monks and disciples at the abbey , would have spent their entire days in writing the manuscript, considering the fact they would have to depend only on natural light and their eye sight to be in extraordinary conditions, they should have been of very young age. The Book of Kells is considered the finest example of Western calligraphy work. Once you finish seeing the exhibits of Book of Kells, you walk in to the Long Room Library. Long Room is a library with Oak wall to wall cabinets , full of books and manuscripts, lined with the marble busts of famous writers and philosophers., in front. The library is absolutely stupendous, the tall oak shelves magnificently looming over you, stacked neatly with old  books and manuscripts, catalogued and organised alphabetically. There were winding staircases alongside running up to the ceiling. I walked the length of the room in a state of awe, and I sure would have loved to lean over , take a book , and sit in a corner and read quietly. Given that it was  strictly not allowed and out of question, I walked out of the library with that wishful thinking.  We walked around a bit in the grounds of the college, and then walked out in to the streets of the City.

Dublin is a paradise for book lovers and enthusiasts, is dotted around with fascinating book stores and book shops. The city is a land of literary geniuses. Oscar Wilde , W B Yeats , James Joyce were born here. James Joyce featured the streets of Dublin and Dublin city in his works like Ulysses and Dubliners. There are guided literary Pub trails available, on the trail you could visit the pubs which were frequented by  the writers and authors, where they would have sat and had their drinks and had a tete -a-tete. Unfortunately we could not do the trail this time, but perhaps the next time. We tried, visiting as many book stores we could in the short time we were there. I particularly loved the Books Upstairs,  and Winding stairs. There are some quirky ones hidden in alley ways and street . There was one called The secret Book and Record store, which had a great collection of some second hand books and old vinyl records.

The city has many bridges across the River Liffey. The bridges add architectural charm and also render a lovely story. The most famour bridge across Liffey, which is a wonderful cast iron structure fondly , referred as Ha’penny Bridge.  The bridge was built in the 18th century for the pedestrian crossing, over  the river. Before the bridge, people  used  ferries ,for a charge to cross the river ,run by a Ferry operator. The ferries were not in good condition hence the Bridge was constructed  for safety of the pedestrian and was named the Wellington Bridge.  Upon construction of the bridge there was a toll charge levied to cross the bridge which was  penny and a half pence(ha’penny). Though the charge was dropped after one year of the bridge having been constructed, but the name Ha’penny stuck to the bridge .

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Dublin is known for its music, musicians and busking. The famous musical ‘Once’ is set in Dublin. The city’s famous Grafton street, is the shopping street with major brands having their store, yet is better know for the buskers on the street. In the evening the street comes alive with people and musicians, the street pulsating and vibrating, the musicians smiling happily  and performing passionately, the people standing with a glass of drink , swaying to the music. singing along,  under one open sky, enjoying and having a good time like one big family. The vibe of the place is absolutely electrifying and positive. There are many famous musicians who have busked on the streets of Dublin, there is a youtube video of Ed Sheeran performing as a 11 year old boy busking on the streets of Dublin.

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There are two places where we enjoyed the food very much during our stay in Dublin, one is a place called Cornucopia, which is a vegetarian restaurant , is in the city centre on Wicklow Street. It is a casual and warm restaurant, with seating at two levels, you order the food at the counter and take it to your table, we chose a table upstairs near the balcony, with a view on to the street. The other place we enjoyed was the food hall at Avoca. Avoca is a departmental store, with a food hall, serving healthy,warm and tasty food.

There is a fishing town North of Dublin called Howth, which we heard is very picturesque and had a walking circular trail with views of the coast. We took a DART train from Dublin to Howth. The town is indeed very picturesque beautiful fishing town, with many sea food restaurants ,a port and the railway station itself is a pretty, like the ones from vintage photos. The  shop outside the railway station  gives out the map for the Howth Cliff Loop. The trail is around 6 kms circular route , goes up the cliff from one side and comes down to the village around the other side and the route is rated as easy to moderate walk. Since the walk begins with uphill, and I struggle a bit with elevation walks, I had to sit and take a few breaks to catch my breath. The trail is very beautiful and the walk up the cliff is very uplifting and rejuvenating, with beautiful views of the Irish coastline and cliffs. At that time of the year the heather was in bloom and at peak of its beauty, it was one the most beautiful and colourful sights, with the purple spray of heather all over the cliffs, clashing with the blue of the sea shimmering in sun light. The trail has  very nice and convenient spots to sit and taken in the view. The walk is certainly worth.

I travelled to Dublin, with an intention to pay a visit to the memorial of Oscar Wilde which is located at Merrion Square. Merrion Sqaure is a Georgian  Square with Georgian houses and garden, where Oscar Wilde is supposed have lived at one of the houses and poet W. B Yeats is also  supposed to have lived in one of the houses in the square. Oscar Wilde’s memorial is located in a park , opposite the house, where he lived. The house is marked with a Blue Plaque and is not open to public. The memorial was built to honour the legendary genius playwright and one of the famous sons of Ireland. Memorial is a statue of Oscar Wilde, smiling , with a pipe in his hand , perched upon a rock, with a plinth displaying some of his famous quotes. I think the memorial is befitting the witty genius. The man himself was grossly misunderstood when he was alive, in spite of being literary genius, witty and had immense love in his heart. Unfortunately he died penniless and tragically in a hotel in Paris, but even close to his death his humour had not faded. He so reminds me of someone I knew, who was also grossly misunderstood , was witty and was the one who introduced me to Oscar Wilde and his work. It is very comforting to see Oscar , smiling and reclining happily, having finally arrived back home , even though it was 97 years after his death and he did find a place in his homeland . No one can dispute the fact that he is very much loved and admired at home and across the world.

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I enjoyed travelling to Dublin as much as I enjoyed reading about it. There are many more sight seeing spots in Dublin, we chose to see the spots which perked our interest, there were some which we could not see ,due to lack of time. It is while pondering about travelling today , I thought of Dublin. I have acquired the taste for travel in the last few years, which made me ponder why travel. Travel helps me understand myself better, it makes me a storyteller, it gets me out of my slumber and comfort zone. I was watching the movie, Julie and Julia, yesterday, which is inspired by real life tales of two women, who lived in two different times, who cooked the same recipes, and in the process discovered their true passion, one found her passion and love for food and cooking and the other rekindled her passion for writing.  Whether it is  cooking, writing, travelling ,reading,  or singing  it is all a journey. All it takes is to begin the journey.

“Travel improves the mind wonderfully and does away with all one’s prejudices” – Oscar Wilde.

Wahnder Mum
Oregon Girl Around the World

 

Posted in Travellogue

Paris

There are some cities or places we feel at home. We are drawn to the place, an affinity because we have emotional attachment of having grown up there or have some other nostalgic links to the place. Paris happens to be one place where I feel at home, I can wander around the streets of the city aimlessly for hours. I have no prior nostalgic links to the city nor have I had any special interest in the city while growing up. Yet since my first visit to Paris, ten years ago, I have an ongoing love affair with the city. I am a why/because kind of person, everything must or should have a reasoning. Randomness is a concept which my brain refuses to accept. Normally when we want to go away and are looking at options for places to travel, I often insist on travelling somewhere new, where we have not been. I believe I need to challenge my senses and mind, by travelling to new places. Your eyes see different sights, you breathe the same air yet you can smell different aromas and fragrance, you taste different food, I find it refreshing and awakening. My mind has a tendency to switch to an autopilot mode in familiar area, because it is so familiar to its surroundings and senses. I find travel a perfect way to awaken my senses which otherwise  seem to go in to a slumber. I find Paris an exception to this. I love visiting the city, I have visited the city several times, yet very time the city keeps me engaged and enthralled. I am in love with the city of love, I do think the city , loves me back with equal propensity.
If you are familiar with the movie ‘ Midnight in Paris’ where the protagonist Gail Pender loves to walk around Paris in rains and thinks the rain makes the city look magical. I am very much like Gail, always look to past looking for answers, love Paris, yet I differ in his views of Paris. I find Paris magical in any season, in rains, in blustery winters, in blistering heat with sun beating down my neck and in autumn. I say magical because it always manages put a smile on my face, make my heart feel feather light, making even the mundane daily monotony look rapturous. People say Paris is not very friendly in fact is considered very rude. Perhaps there is some truth in it, may be it is a relative truth. Paris is beautiful yet derelict, passionate yet indifferent, amorous yet sometimes hateful. Paris is much like life, an oxymoron, full of conflicting emotions, a paradox. It is a good place to do a bit people watch, best place to visit museums and art works, with best touristy spots, a paradise for food lovers and fashionistas equally. As for me Paris is an emotion, and that emotion is Love.

As I said I love walking around aimlessly in Paris, looking at paintings in Louvre and Muse D’orsay, sitting by a Café on Monmarte sipping a coffee, walking up to Sacre Coure and sitting on the steps and listen to a busker play harp.( I have visited five times and everytime, he is there, playing harp), walking in the night by the River Sienne and watch the Eifferl Tower Shimmer, having a Berthillon Ice cream in freezing cold, looking at the odd objects in the Flea markets of Cligancourt, browsing the books in Shakespeare and co. And I enjoy doing a Patisserie crawl or what I prefer calling as Patisserie Trail.

I used the below and went around for a patisserie trail. Rue de Bonaparte also has very interesting shops , in case you want a little break from all the cakes and macaroons.
http://foodloversodyssey.com/2011/08/food-lovers-walk-in-paris-rue-de-seine-and-bonaparte/
In the beginning of this year, I read a travelogue on Paris by a fellow blogger, and the photos and words made be long to revisit the city. I messaged my husband saying it has been two years since we went to Paris, and what better place to visit in February than Paris. And again in March I felt I need to visit the Giverny and see Monet s Garden ‘ We have never been to Giverny’ My husband seems to think I always find reason to visit Paris, but I what I find amusing is his response , when I say ‘ Do you not want to go to Paris?’ ‘Na , it been a while since we went to ‘Ol Pari’

PS: I am attaching the photos and not writing about them. A picture is worth a. thousand words, a visual expression!!

Suitcases and Sandcastles
TravelLatte
Smudged Postcard Family Travel Adventures

 

Posted in Musings, Uncategorized

Me, myself and my solitude.

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I have often experienced the overpowering need of solitude and seeking silence.I love Audrey Hepburn s quote” I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel. “.  I have realised from a very young age of  my need to detach and be with myself to be of paramount importance to me.  I have often thought of that to be a quirk in me. Coming from a very large family of cousins, aunts and uncles, from both maternal and paternal side, my parents have always been surrounded by people, incessant chattering and cacophony of noise and no doubt they enjoyed the social attentions and gatherings. And then they had me, anti-thesis of them. I have left my parents quizzical sometimes with my quiet retreating behaviour in to solitude.

Solitude has often been misconstrued and  confused with loneliness.  When you look up the meaning of Solitude on dictionary it is explained as a state or a situation of being alone.  Solitude is indeed state of being alone often voluntary and is positive and loneliness on the contrary is a feeling of being left alone, refers to isolation and is negative. I have been on a quest since long to understand and explain the difference between loneliness and solitude. You can be alone and not necessarily lonely, and similarly you can be surrounded by people, yet feel isolated and lonely. It is perhaps easy for me to perceive the difference between the two concepts  because of my inherent temperament or nature. I seek solitude and silence from time to time , I am a firm believer in Rumi s  saying ” In Silence there is eloquence. A little while alone in your room will prove more valuable than anything else that could ever be given you.”

We humans are social beings , we are driven by our  need to be part of a group, we require affirmations, a sense of belonging . I have often wondered  do people surround themselves with other people because of this social need or the fear of being alone. I also wonder sometimes if we have defined the circles and groups so rigidly that we try to fit ourselves in to these predefined moulds and spend years to fit ourselves in to the mould, trying to be someone who we are not, failing to listen to our true selves. I have a come a long way from thinking of my need of solitude to be my behavioural quirk to realising the importance of solitude.

I have found solitude sometimes in the most crowded of places, sometimes in the garden or sometimes in a book. While living in Mumbai, I often visited a mall called Inorbit Mall, at times with friends and sometimes on my own. I have found the most profound moments of solitude there, people bustling in and out of the shops, mindless wanderers, shoppers with agenda , rising and falling voices drifting around  me, smell of food wafting mixed with the cool breeze from aircons. I would either be sitting in a coffee shop sipping a cup of coffee or browsing a book in a bookshop or simply sitting by and watching and hearing life rushing by. There was a sense of detachment paradoxically also feeling a sense of belonging to the human race. I once mentioned my experience of solo visits at the mall to my then colleague and to my surprise she mentioned she visits the same mall for the very same reasons. We all from time to time, have the need to hear ourselves. In Solitude is when we hear ourselves clearly and loudly, solitude is when we pay attention to ourselves and our thoughts. Solitude is being with yourself, listening to yourself and finding your true self. When you find yourself, you are truly not alone.

I have personally known a man who had been feeling lonely for a long time in his life, in spite of having a large loving family. He was the most handsome man I have ever met in my life, he could light up a room with his sheer presence, would be centre of any social gathering making people laugh with his jokes and funny anecdotes, he could speak eloquently on literature, books,cricket and Shakespeare, one who could whistle a Dean Martin or Kishor Kumar song effortlessly. Unfortunately he could not light up his own life with his laughter, nor could he sing himself to happiness, kept his loneliness masked beneath his beautiful face and ended up  dying tragically alone. He was weighed down by gender specific societal norms, men should take on all the responsibilities,men should be strong, men should not cry, men are defined by their earning power in the world, men should not grieve and the list goes on. He became so tuned to listening to societal responsibilities and call of duty, he never stopped to listen to his hearts voice.

I realised it is not a quirk in me, but we all have a need from time to time, the need to hear ourselves. In Solitude is when we hear ourselves clearly and loudly, solitude is when we pay attention to ourselves and our thoughts.  Solitude is being with yourself, listening to yourself and finding your own happiness.

My many conversations, musings and discussions with my friends on varied topics have helped shed light and understand myself better. I have a great amount of love and gratitude for my many dear bossom friends, who spend hours listening to me , sometimes engaging with me in some deep existential quests. I would not have reached here ,without their endless and tireless listening abilities. And in solitude, my mind recollects some of those conversations and I have some self realisation moments. It was a few years back I was having a discussion with a friend on what consitutes true love. And for whatever reasons every relationship in our discussion ended up stemming from desire or motive, or  then some were tainted with betrayal or hatred or resentment so it lost its essence as pure love.  I said that concludes there is no true love, but why do I feel that is wrong. And then he replied, I think it is because, there is true love, your true love is you. I was not convinced with his reply as it sounded very narcissistic and then we had our own errands to run and get back to our work, reality and had to end our conversation . I understand today much clearly I was so lost in my clinical analysis of facts that I did not hear my true self. I remembered the conversation one day while sipping coffee in my kitchen on a winter morning, gazing out of the kitchen door, on to the garden. We need to love ourselves unconditionally with all its flaws, a detached and pure love has no place for judgements. We see the flaws in ourselves and seek that flawless love outside of us  and end up again looking at flaws instead of love.  Your true love is you, you love yourself with all your inherent flaws, and look beyond the flaws at your true self.

Posted in Musings

Beautiful Hampstead

We all have our special  places or cities. A special attachment to a place, a place which cheers you up, where you are alive, where you are yourself and you shed all your worries and concerns. Hampstead in London is one such place for me, which raises my spirits

Hampstead has captured a special place in my heart, with its woodland  and walking paths, heritage homes, museums, cafes and streets bustling with people. Hampstead is very charming, often referred to as the Hampstead Village. Along  with the cafes, high street shops , the heath with its vast green meadows spread out like a velvety carpet, with  little ponds and tall trees are a pleasing sight. I have a very vivid memory of me and a friend ,  walking in to Hampstead heath, one summer weekend, to talk about daily drudgery  and monotony of our life. We settled on a bench facing the pond, we could see and hear  kids squealing in joy and playing Frisbee on the other side of the pond, the water of the pond was glistening in the sun, and then a swan gracefully landed on the  pond,  there was a combined noise  of  swishing wings, water and the swift landing ,creating beautiful ripples in the shimmering water. We both sat there gazing silently, transfixed by the beautiful sight in front of us. Nature has a very subtle yet powerful way  of reminding us the simple truths about life and bringing about the profound silence of the mind. I had read a quote by Rabindranath Tagore many years ago ,“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky.” It was a bright day and the beautiful sight in front made me truly understand the verse and feel what  the quote meant. I have many times walked in to Hampstead on a gloomy overcast day, my mind buzzing with my list of to-dos and my brain already on an overdrive, a little walk in the Flask Walk, with its antique Bookstore, little cafes and  fragrance of flowers from the florist on Flask walk, are enough to brighten my day and make me cast aside the worries. Hampstead has many activities to offer, one could go on a walk to explore Hampstead village, there are many interesting museums and heritage properties to visit Keats House, Kenwood House,Freud Museum, ISOKON building, Burgh House, Fenton House,  and 2 Willow Road and it is also good spot for a bit of people watching, find a cosy corner in a café by the window , with a coffee.

Hampstead has been often called as residence of the intelligentsia. When I first heard the word I had to look up in a dictionary to find out what it meant, it refers to  intellectuals or a group of highly educated people, who  are critiques and guides and considered to have the power to influence culture and may be politics.  It includes writers, architects, painters, teachers ,composers , artists,  intellectuals etc. Many famous artists have lived for a short while in Hampstead and there are a many who have made it their home. To name a few  Rabindranath Tagore, is believed to have lived in Hampstead for a short while,  Agatha Christie is said to have lived for a few years in ISOKON building,  Roland Penrose, famous Artist, Historian and known for surrealist movement in England,  modernist Architect Erno Goldfinger whose home is now a museum.

Another reason I have an affinity to Hampstead is because of the two houses in National Trusts care, where I volunteer from time to time. It is through these two houses that my love for Hampstead began. 2 Willow Road, home of Erno Gold finger, is one of the earliest Modernist properties in London. It is because of this house, I have learnt about the surrealist Movement of art, modernist art and architecture. Erno ,an Austro-Hungarian by birth , studied in Paris, married an English woman,who moved to London, built this house for himself and his young family. He had to face a lot of opposition, from the local residents and council, who were not very keen on having a modernist property in the area. But he persevered, made a  bit of modifications on his original plans and got his plan approved from the council. The house is here today, standing the test of time, as a testimonial of perseverance and standing up for what you believe in. It is said that one of the petitioners against  this modernist property,  was the famous Ian Fleming, and it is rumoured  hence he named the villain in one of his books as Goldfinger. However, there is no concrete evidence as to why he used the name. Ian Fleming is known to use names that he has come across in his life in his books. The house has a certain quality about it, it grows on you and you fall in love with it over the time. It is a very functional house, unlike its contemporaries it is not ornate, with ample natural lighting, plenty of storage, and everything in the house is much thought through. And the house beyond doubt is way ahead of its time, given the fact that house was completed in 1939. Often visitors say it is hard to believe that it belongs to that era. I love volunteering at the house , I meet people from different walks of life, some of them have immense knowledge about arts, and I end up learning something from them, some share their anecdotes from another property and sometimes standing by the  large windows with the view on to the Heath, I just watch the dynamic painting in front of me, meadows with daffodils and other new spring blossoms, and as the season progress the scene through the window keeps changing, yet never fails to enthral me.

The other house I volunteer at Hampstead is a 17th century house called Fenton House. It is very different to 2 Willow Road, it houses  three different collections from three different collectors. The house was left to National Trust by the last owner of the house, Lady Bining, with its  large porcelain collection.  The house has been furnished by the trust taking in to account the era, and some based on photographs published in the Countrylife magazine. When the trust opened the house to public, it housed the porcelain collection and a collection of musical instruments, by another collector named Benton Fletcher. He had nothing to do with the house, it is just that his collection of musical instruments is housed in Fenton House. Later on there was a collection of paintings bequeathed to the house by another collector by name of Peter Bakworth. Now the house has three collections, porcelain, musical instruments and paintings. Its  a pleasure to volunteer when  someone comes to play the instruments, or there is a musical tour in the house, the music brings the house alive and I find it very uplifting. The house has amazing views of London skyline from the balconies of the house on a clear day. The house also a beautiful garden, a kitchen Garden and  Apple orchard. I am waiting with anticipation for the apple blossoms to come next month. Every autumn, the trust organises an event called  Apple Weekend. It is a fun filled event for the entire family, you can taste the apples from the orchard, there is storytelling for kids, badge making, you can buy apple products, food stalls and the garden is dotted with deck chairs for you to relax and unwind.

It is through this opportunity of volunteering, I have met some wonderful people, I started learning and know a great deal about modernist and surrealist movements, I  got introduced to visit and explore  Hampstead, which I have come to love now and I  have had some memorable experiences.  Just last week, while volunteering,  I had an amazing cup of coffee at Willow Road while watching the daffodils swaying in the breeze from the windows of the living room, which an visitor mentioned makes the house more  dynamic, because the house is being experienced in its truest sense. I couldn’t agree more.

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Posted in Travellogue

Fours days in Germany-December 2016

Its been 20 odd days in to 2017, I am still writing about Christmas. Having been down with flu for a few weeks since Christmas, I have not had much chance to think and gather my thoughts around our Christmas market trip to Germany in December. Today I had the desire and also the opportunity to sit and curl up on the sofa and write after many days.

Here is the link to it.

Four days in Germany

Posted in Uncategorized

The humaneness of Humanity

” I, like you, am rooting for that. I, like you, do believe in the goodness of people, prayers, gratitude, thousands who are extending their hand in help. ” Beautiful post .. with beautiful thoughts..

Antarmukhi

I felt compelled to write a post. I have been doling out ‘quotes’ for the past few months. It has been enough for my mind to keep sensing, feeling, processing, learning & adapting with the help of these one or two liners. That is, till today morning. As I prepared for the day ahead, I got some free minutes, a rare feat I may add. As I glanced through the newspapers, I came across three poignant photographs. A child sitting in a bright orange chair of an ambulance clicked in the dead centre of a picture. It would have been a cute or an adorable picture save for the torn, bloodied clothes, the dazed, war-ravaged injured face of his. He, for me, became the epitome of trauma. He wasn’t crying, he was in shock. He seemed too numbed out to even register himself or his surroundings, all the life-saving symptoms…

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Posted in Musings

It’s the most wonderful time of the year..

There is something magical about Christmas. Call me a romantic or dreamer , I love Christmas, every little drama associated with it. I like the Christmas movies, streets festooned with decorations and light, high streets and shops decked with twinkly Christmas lights, mad rush in the shops, Christmas fair and Markets. I wait with anticipation for the Regents street and Oxford Street lights to be switched on . When I walk back home in the evenings in to our street looking up at all the homes  decked and lit up , windows with  warm glow  of lights, lovely Christmas Wreaths, I feel a sense of elation.

Having grown up in India, where Diwali is celebrated with more pomp and show, my exposure to Christmas was very limited and probably only limited to what you see on movies.  When I moved to London, it was Autumn, and just about when the days are getting shorter and it gets dark very quickly. There were a plethora of conflicting emotions running around inside my brain.I was terribly homesick, missing my family and friends ,I was working full time in India, suddenly I  had no where to go, I had many things to do at home,I was trying to sort things out in a new City, and a new country, trying to make sense of and understand my surroundings , it would get dark outside by 4.00 pm, there were no birds chirping,very eerily silent and I had no friends or family nearby. India is a cacophony of sounds, and I used to live in Mumbai, a city which never sleeps ,I could hear noises and chatters constantly , the neighbours television,the traffic, the odd conversations from neighbouring flat etc . I was feeling miserable and terribly lonely. I would constantly wonder what have I brought upon myself and my husband who probably was facing the same challenges , would listen to me moan about being miserable. And then one day in late November we went to Oxford street, with no pretext, just exploring the new  city we were in , and the Christmas Lights were on ! The theme was Enchanting Christmas, there were blue twinkling lights all over the street, I was so dazzled and captured by the sight,  suddenly everything was bright and shiny.  We wandered  around and ended up in Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. The Christmas Market with little wooden stalls and shops selling  all sort of gifts, ice skating rink with people happily gliding on ice , with Christmas songs playing , smell of cinnamon and wine and smoke rising  from foods stalls,  I was drawn in to a festive cheer. That day on our way back home on tube , I asked my husband, ” Do you think we should put some lights for Christmas at home. ? ”  and he replied, “I suppose we could. “. And that is how  our little Christmas tradition started. 

We all have our favourite parts or moments of Christmas. My personal favourite moment of Christmas celebration is cooking Christmas dinner with my friend , and our respective spouses busy with PlayStation somewhere else in the home , dropping in to the kitchen from time to time to check on the status of food. And after the Christmas dinner, we would all gather in front of television with our desserts to watch a movie. I love the serenity of that moment, all the excitement ,talks and chatter drifts into a blissful sweet slumber. 

I always associate Christmas with lights ,merriment and laughter.  The numerous unknown people on that day years ago in the Christmas market, laughing with their friends and family , their cheery disposition cured me of my misery,  Christmas gave me something to look forward to. Smiles and happy faces are infectious and you never know when cheerfulness can rub on you. So here is a wish this holiday season, have yourself a Merry little Christmas, spread the joy of laughter and happiness this holiday season , you never know whose life you are lighting up..

Posted in Travellogue

Home is where your heart belongs !!!

Sitting here in the Delhi, in quiet contemplation, cannot stop thinking of London. Back home, the Christmas lights would have been strung up, the warm coats and jumpers would be out, it is the time for hot chocolates with marsh mellows and Mulled Wine, there will be a mad rush to buy gifts. I love everything about Christmas, the fairy lights, the fairs and markets, the cold and of course Father Christmas. I would like to believe in good behaviour being rewarded.

When I left London, a few weeks ago it was  Autumn. There is some thing magical about the  Autumnal glow of the Sun,it is warm and sweet as Honey, and the sun beams streaming in to the house cast beautiful shadows, creating beautiful play of light and shadows, often leaves me wondering what if I  were to dip my palm in to the ray and scoop a little out  and eat it. Ah the sweetness of the Autumnal Sun!  The leaves turning beautiful shades of pink ,orange and yellow , shedding their vibrant leaves, teaching us in a way sometimes letting go is beautiful.  It is a sight to behold watching rainfall of leaves descending from the tree, shaken by a not so gentle breeze and scattering the roads and roadside with colour. I have often wondered which is more beautiful to watch , falling autumn leaves swaying and swaggering towards the ground, having been freed from tree or watching a snowflakes falling from the sky. I have not yet made up my mind.

My roots are in India,my extended family is here,I have wonderful friends here,yummy food, I have had most amazing time since I have come here,  yet  sitting here I cannot stop thinking about  London,  my walks in woods, my cycling training , my friends in London and my home. Absence makes the heart go fonder. Perhaps all the wandering and travelling has made me realise where  I belong. Strange feeling it now ,with all deglobalisation happening around the world. Also on a personal level I question myself with mixed emotions of sense of belonging . Where do I belong ? As a human race where do we belong ?  Last week a dear friend said  ‘ Humans began as wanderers, Nomads.It is in our nature to wander around and travel, we have forgotten it and we keep on trying to fit in and belong .’ Until she mentioned it I had never given it a thought, perhaps I truly do not belong anywhere, I am just a wanderer. For now I live in London and call it my home.

Thinking about home, belonging and wandering  I started writing my travelogue about our Trip to Vienna. Click on this link to read my Viennese Wanderings.

Vienna- The city of Music

Posted in Travellogue

An island Trip

The last couple of months of my break plans are on a bumpy road. I have had to defer the 90 mile walk, I  have successfully lost all the photographs from my Temple Trip to Tamil Nadu; a technical glitch on my laptop/icloud back up ended in  wiping out photos from March to May. Such are the maladies of a world dominated by technology. Let me try the law of attraction  and skip the negatives and think of  positives; had a friend got me addicted to listen to songs from Coke Studio, have started my swimming lessons and  learning to ride a bike. These are not great feat or achievements in themselves, considering the Paralympics  held in Rio. But listening to a Persian song on Coke Studio, of which I do not understand a word, I am transported to a  world of love and beauty. Such is the power of Music, a beautiful language, which transcends borders, cultures and barriers and in a minute transports  you to a world of calm and love and if I add to it, the fact  that  a friend sitting  miles and miles away, in another country, thinks about me while listening to a song and pings  me the link, ” listen to it, you will love it “.  Listen to it , I did and since  have  become a fan follower of Coke Studio on Youtube. I like swimming and  there is something fun about swimming. A famous swimmer once said ” Swimming is all about having fun, and I am a firm believer, that you keep swimming as long as you are having fun, but I can say it becomes much more fun as you get older and learn more about the sport, life and especially more yourself.” And as goes about cycling, I have  rarely cycled as a child and have a terrible fear of traffic. In an attempt to overcome  the fear, I am learning to cycle. In spite of the fear, I enjoy cycling, cycling in the woods, surrounded by tall trees , forming a canopy over you, warm sun rays streaming through the leaves, squirrels and rabbits rushing across the trail, rustling of the dry leaves gently rolling on the path, and the smell of grass, mixed with mud and rain,  is  very calming and is almost akin to meditation. And I then went on a small getaway to a small island, which was very rejuvenating.

Here is an account of my trip.

/And the Journey continues … Jersey

Posted in Musings

The one who cannot drive….

What do you call a person who does not drive a car? For the last few days, my lack of ability to drive a car, has been a source of quiet contemplation for me. Never have I have given it so much thought. I have always brushed off the need to learn driving “I do not need to drive”. Most of my adult life has been spent in Mumbai and now in London, where I have always relied on local suburban trains and underground services. And those who have lived in those cities and do so now, would agree, driving around in a car in the city is not very feasible and is extremely expensive. And for driving anywhere else I have extensively relied on my husband, who is very fond of driving , obviously not in traffic and inside cities. Its his love for driving, which prompted us drive from Land s End, England to John o’ Groats, Scotland.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I have to amuse and keep company to two little kids, who have  to be taken to various  summer activities. And I had the opportunity of explaining to my less than 10 year old nephew, the inopportune situation. And upon finding his lovely aunt’s inability, his beautiful innocent eyes, were full of bewilderment. ” Are you kidding me, you are an adult, and you can not drive !!!”. Hence began my ethereal quest on my inadequacy, not to learn driving, but to see how many more share the similar inadequacy.

I have never felt the need to drive a car nor not driving as lack of independence. On the contrary I find it liberating.I have always used alternate modes of transport – public transport extensively. Even while on holidays, I have tried using public transport wherever possible. A couple of years back , I decided I wanted to go on a day trip with a friend out of London. We zeroed in on going to Brighton, but the night before the trip due to weather conditions we changed the destination to Cambridge. We took the underground to Kings Cross , from where we bought a ticket to Cambridge and boarded the train to Cambridge. But I suppose I have lived in cities with very well connected public transport system and I have been able to find my way without driving a car. But a little boys innocent question prompted me to look for a name for the inadequacy.  I did not find a name ,but I found there are many celebrities who do not drive and have never had a license. I sort of find a solidarity with them, the similarities I guess end there.

So I am left with my own devices to find amusing activities which does not  involve driving. I must confess it’s difficult, given that I am in USA, driving around is essential , especially if you have to entertain children. We go to parks riding on a bike or walk around in the neighbourhood , go butterfly spotting and bird watching. We spotted many cardinals flying about in the backyard., spotted many swallowtail butterflies while walking to the park. We went to the park and sat on swing. I sat on a swing nearly after two decades. And I swung on the swing like never before.

This so reminded me of the Black Swan theory. I was so enamoured by the theory when I first read it. It is a theory from Nassim Taleb s books Fooled by Randomness and The Black swan. It refers to an incident of huge negative impact, which  often offer some  positive benefits.  The book talks  about being resilient during negative events that occur and be able to exploit positive ones.  I would like to read the book again.

Mudpie Fridays
Posted in Musings

My Experiences in the last four months

It s been nearly four months since I have been on a break from work. I picked up my tablet with an intention of writing about my Scottish isles trip. Yet my mind wandered off and I started pondering about the last four months and its effect on me. I started with a soul searching trip to India, did I find anything ? Did I find a pot of gold at the end of the Rainbow/trip? More importantly have I reached the end of Rainbow? What have the last four months been like for me ? I started to make a list.

1. I have eaten food like never before, relishing and tasting every morsel- smacking my lips after a cool buttermilk, eating a guava on the streets of Mumbai and rolling my eyes in pleasure, eat traditional south Indian meal on banana leaf with hands, taste the sweetness of a Baklava with a friend on the streets of London, drink Elderflower cordial en route to Oban, eat Dosa with friends in London.

2. Laughing out heartily with friends, till tears started rolling out.

3. Sit Still by the kitchen door, watching the birds, bees and butterflies.

4. Joined a Sewing class and made a new acquaintance, who is also on a break from work.

5. Started reading War and Peace and still reading …

6. Preparing for a 90 mile walk later in the year in Yorkshire.

7. Experiencing the little nuances of life with same bewilderment and amazement that of a child.

8. Feeding ducks by the pond not far from home.

9. Started volunteering as a reading helper in a School, through Beanstalk.

10. I have lived the last four months with out fear, with out thinking about future or any negativity.

Can these be termed as achievements? I have not changed anybody s life nor have I done anything magnanimous.

Yet, I am grateful for having this opportunity of self retrospection, I am blessed with beautiful and wonderful friends and family who have stood by me in worst of my times and laughed and smiled for me in happier times, and are with me now reading this blog, shaking their heads and laughing.

I often now get remarks when I meet friends and family, who say ‘you look the same yet not so same at all, you look so different , but in a nice way’. I must agree I have changed, I am positive, I am alive and with a life full of infinite possibilities.

Buddha:” If your Compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete”

PS: I am still working on my’ to do list on break’.

Posted in Travellogue

On a train to Edinburgh

Train journeys mean happiness to me. I have very fond memories of travelling by train as a child, in India, to visit my grandparents. I used to be excited days ahead of the travel, I suppose it  was a combination of no school, no homework, endless days of fun with cousins, and the journey it self.  So I decided I want to travel by train to Edinburgh on our small getaway to Scottish Isles. Here is an account of my train journey

On a train to Edinburgh

Posted in Bibliomania

The Little Paris Book Shop

I like reading, is an understatement. I have always found books as very good companions, they are a little island of my own away from the cacophony of the world. When I decided to take a break from work, I started buying more books, thinking I will have a lot more time to read. Not that I do not buy books otherwise. I can say I buy books occasionally and the occasions come very often. I went slightly overboard with the thought of being on a break, I bought War and Peace, which I always wanted to read, and the series on BBC rekindled my desire. I bought two copies of the book, two different version of translations in English, along with other books. One of the copies was a gift for a friend, I often pass on my afflictions to my friends and trouble  them, ‘go on read it ‘. When I was paying for the books, the guy who was taking the payment was greater book enthusiast than me. He was very happy to see me with two versions of translation thought I was going to read both the versions of translation and recommended a few other translations, eventually I did mention that only one of them was for me and the other was a gift. I love these little chitchat at the till with another shopper or with employees at the till, where someone says I have to read this one, oh you should read this…. book, or good choice I love the book, have you seen the film which has been made of this book…

It is  surprising that I have not written about  books or reading on the blog. Neither have I read any book in the last three months. I have often stood in front of the bookshelf and sifting through the books that I have not read and pondering, which one should I read. None of the books would  pique my interest and then berating myself for having the time and not reading, I would try and make an effort by randomly picking up a book. But the book would not be able to hold my interest for more than 5 pages. I would go on to do something else. I would wonder may be it is a case of a reader’s Block.

I was rather feeling blue last week and moping about in the house,going  from Garden, to Kitchen and settling in  living room. I sat there sweeping a glance across the room, to find an activity. I sat with a lap top with the intention of doing a research on gardening in order to tend to my ailing rock alpines, when a tiny little Blue spine caught my attention sandwiched between Expo 58 and Unexpected Lessons in Love. On finishing with my work on laptop I  walked over to the shelf and picked up the book. It ‘s one of the books I bought to read during my break. I often sat in front of the shelf with a intention of finding an interesting read and have  looked past the book. And on that instance I found the synopsis and the blue tinted cover of the book Eiffel Tower very beckoning. I started reading the book and was captivated.  Viola! my reader’s Block ended.

It is a kind of book I would read , curled up on a sofa with a nice cup coffee , read slowly and fall asleep nestling the book or having fallen asleep with the book sprawled all over my face. When I say I fall asleep, it is  not because the book is boring or not my type, but the book is therapeutic, it  lures you in to a charming little world, cures you  out of boredom, with its beautiful writing.  There are parts of story which I cannot relate to or dislike because it is out of character of the protagonist  , but the narration is charming , witty at times and full of memorable quotes. The book  is an ode to books and book lovers. In the genre, I would string it along  with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It introduces the reader to a wonderful protagonist, Monsieur Jean Perdu, who runs a book barge on River Sienne in Paris and calls it a Literary Apothecary.   There are other interesting characters in the book like the very Monsieur Jordan, who has attained  fame at 21 and is not able to handle it.

The books is scattered with wise and catchy  quotes, that’s what is capturing my interest and  making me read the book. I am just quoting a few lines below, from the book. The book did cure me of boredom.

Memories are like wolves. You can’t lock them away and hope they leave you alone.”

” A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novel to the appropriate ailments, that’s how I sell books.”

” You see I sell books like medicine. There are books that are suitable for a million people, others only for a hundred. There are even books written for one person only.”

Posted in Travellogue

Temple Towns of Tamil Nadu-Kumbakonam

Today I thought I will write about Kumbakonam. By the time I was nearing Kumbakonam and the counts of temples visited was going up, the heat and the temperature was rising . Braving the rising temperatures, scorching Sun and  driving around the tar roads, I saw beautiful sights  and experiencing the surrounding of Indian countryside, roads lined with trees, surroundings with coconut groves, banana groves, rivers, saw  a beautiful moonrise in the Paddy fields, glowworms referred in Tamil as Minmini Putchi  floating over the farm. These are sites which I had long forgotten. The moon rise reminded me of a tradition in Southern India called Nila Sappaddu, means Moon Meals, referring to a tradition of  eating food under open skies in the night with the Moonlit sky and stars. I have done that so many times with my cousins at my grandparents home on the terrace or in the garden, where one of the aunts and uncles will tell a story and all the little ones will have food under the Moonlit sky.

The first trip that I took on my break from work was in March and we are nearing end of May and I am now hard pressed on time for finishing my account of my soul searching trip to Southern India.

Now, I am looking forward to our little trip to Inner Hebrides in end of May. Please click the below link for full details of trip to Kumbakonam

Temple towns of Tamil Nadu-Kumbakonam

Posted in Musings

Being a Childfree woman

I have often humoured advices, comments, and curious glances from friends, family and mostly from social acquaintances on being  a childfree couple.  I have gritted some out, laughed at some,  worked out methodical ways of weeding those comments out and forgetting them because believe it or not, some of the comments and advices are invasive and sometimes are border lining on being offensive.  They often rear their heads now and then on social occasions. I have accepted these as being part of my life, of something which I am going to  have to be answerable to  or explain for the rest of my life as having made a very different life choice. I have never given these comments  much importance earlier or analysed them.

Yet for the past one year or so  these have  started bothering me or irk me at some level. I suppose these incidents have been in my sub conscious mind and one such question at a social gathering, prompted me to start my research on the internet. I found many website, social forums, for people who do not have children with or without choice, and found out that there is term to call people like me, Childfree or Childless!! There are support groups for us, there are forums which are not so fond of us.

I am a proud PANK, – Professional Aunt, No Kids. Most of my dear and close friends are not child free, and I am a lovely aunt to a pretty niece and a boisterous nephew. I would like to point out my relationship with my friends and brother s family has not been effected either by their or  my life choices. I have the most amazing time with their kids and  I am fairly confident that they are very fond of their Quirky Aunty Usha, asides from the fact the my friends, brother and sis-in-law , often have a feeling ‘That Aunty Usha needs a little chat’. I have never felt being left out in anyways or feel out of place around them.

I was posed a question at a social gathering at a friends house , which has prompted this post. I was standing with a group of ladies, a  bunch of little munchkins playing behind us. I was narrating my soul searching trip to India with all animosity, I was interrupted by a new social acquaintance, ‘Which one is yours?’, in my eagerness to finish my anecdote, I quickly turned around to check if there was anything mine, and realised she was referring to the kids, I replied ‘None’ and carried on chattering. It is later in the night when I was thinking about the incident, made me wonder, why is it when a women is of certain age, it is assumed, she must have a ‘Mini Me’ running around somewhere. I have also observed that I am subjected to more scrutiny on this subject than my husband. I have often been subjected to comments  as a couple you are selfish,  as a woman you are incomplete, is your husband ok with not having kids, you are the lucky one aye, you will regret it one day, I suppose you should go to this doctor he/she is very good, why don’t you try surrogacy ? You do not know true love till you have one of your own? I am so sorry you don’t have children….. I have  never discussed these earlier for fear of being mistaken to be resentful, until recently. I mentioned the innocent question to my friend and the feelings associated with the question.She suggested I should write a post about it.

When I look at popular  blogs and forums written by Childfree, it starts with a statement, we love children…., just like how I have mentioned about having fun with kids . Guilty.  I suppose we feel we are answerable for our choices and we need to explain our  love for children. I have done it too.

Many of the forums talk about sometimes loosing out  friends, and end up with nothing in common , because you are the odd one out. I suppose I have not  experienced it with friends. I have experienced awkwardness in social gathering with social acquaintances’, and in most of the cases I  probably am the only childfree in the room, the topics are normally restricted to school runs, private schools, ballets, potty training etc, where I suppose I have very little to contribute, so I end up listening patiently, then circulating in the room, and then sitting with the little ones and playing with them, which ends up in more comments,’ Oh you are so great with children, you should have one. ‘ Right, playing and engaging kids for half an hour does now qualify me to be a parent. I may not be a parent, but I do know the challenges of parenting and I love and admire all my lovely friends, whom I have watched cope with the challenges of parenthood and learn the nuances of parenting. And they are doing a wonderful job of it. Alternatively, if I stay away from kids to avoid such comments, there are occasional head bobs, narrowing of eyes and hushed whispering.

I recently joined in a group on Whatsapp for classmate from University. I was thrilled to reconnect with my batch mates and exchange a few banter now and then, talking about ye old days. Yesterday, being Mothers Day  messages poured in to the group. I am not Mothers day averse. I always like to celebrate mothers day with my Mother, or my Mother-in-law and wish my friends who are lovely mommies. One of the messages on the group was a tad in bad taste, and lacked compassion. I am pretty certain the person who forwarded the message did not realise it, does not think the same and has nothing personal against me. It probably was a forwarded message from someone else. It left me wondering, how there was a thin line between celebration and insolence, sometimes  we cross the line in self importance, unknowingly.

” From a mom to Mom.. We traded sleep for dark circles, salon haircuts for pony tails, Long baths for quick showers, late nights for early mornings, designer bags for school bags and we wouldn’t change a thing!!!We don’t care about what we gave up and instead Love what we get in return!! That s what being a mom is all about!.

I am not a mother, I used to work very long hours up until recently, I  had dark circles. I left for work at 7 am and came back home by 10 pm on a regular basis. I did not have time to go to salon or have long baths, many a days I did not have time to eat lunch.  I have often got discount cards  to get a make over , from Salons near my workplace  whenever I walked past them. I have often wondered I  must be looking a mess since it happened to me on more than one occasion.  I have designer  bags, Guilty again . The bags are gifts from my brother and my husband, which I do not think have any bearing to my child bearing or non child bearing capacity. I loved my work and was passionate about it. It was my choice. So is motherhood, in the present days. I am not trying to belittle motherhood. I know and understand how as being  a childfree woman I am more answerable to the society than a man , so is motherhood more pressurising on a woman than a man.

I have personally known people who have gone through tough times and have to accept being childless, is the mothers days sometimes not uncompassionate to those? Should there be a Childfree women/men s day like a mother s day or father s day ? Are we forgetting our humaneness in all this? Are we forgetting free will?

I have made certain choices in life, I am not ashamed of my choices neither am  I sad nor selfish. I am happy with my choice, I would not want to explain or answer every now and then for my life choices. I am human too.