Saturday, September 15, 2012

Heading ahead...(600)

I need to tag in the title that it's my 600th post. Else I lose track.

So once every now and then I feel that need to turn around and look back at all the blogging I have done. Usually, it's a milestone or a birthday or simply new year. This year, I forgot my blog's birthday, like I did my sisters, like I did my parents, like my parents did mine, and like I nearly did mine! So apologises to all my friends whose birthday I forgot and congratulations to all those who wished (facebook is very dutiful).

Hence, I look back at my last hundred posts (and even older). But when I do look back, it was meant to be a soul-searching sentimental feeling. So as I sat to write this post down I was struck by writers block for hours. I have indeed changed. I haven't lost the capacity to write, just to be overly sentimental. And just like that I could write again.

When I look back, I often feel sad that I have changed so much, even though change is the in thing. Looking back to when I celebrated my 100th, so poetic used to be my writing style, it amazes me. But I guess, posts like that come out of a bubble. If you think of it, it lacks in it's imagination. The sea has always been a part of me and I miss it terribly, I make do with London's South Bank now. But to romanticise it, like it has been done for a million years is poor imagination. Not to belittle the young me's effort or far less to belittle the impact of the vast seas and oceans. But it is true that I thought little back then and my world was tiny.

My 500th will show you a different side of me, having experienced different worlds outside mine own. A city me though, all the glitz of London and more of so of New York City struck me dumbfound and excited. When I tried to look back, I looked look beyond that.

But the last 100...
They have been fascinating. I experience snow. I have understood the meaning of travel. Not to say that I have done enough of it. I have never truly travelled. Once or may be twice in my past journey's have I felt I did but not through a trip. My excitement for life hasn't reduced though. Every weekend I look at a new possibility. Every week I plan for a new trip. It may be beyond my country or to a different city. But London itself celebrates so much. Visit I did however. Asia and Europe and UK. And I noted down all my visits that I call travels. I was introduced to the world of sport. I follow champions league and watched Wimbledon in real and watched hockey at the Olympics. I read a lot and even got free books in return for a review, first through BlogAdda and later directly from debut authors. I worked for an NGO called Samhita. And BlogAdda also inspired BSR (Blogger's Social Responsibility).

And now I need to change my header and write a lot more.
Here is my new header symbolising new worlds...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Channel Connection

When I was still studying in IIT, and we called up a European alumni for something, her mother said she went to France in the morning for some work, and should be back later that evening. It was so fascinating to me that you can just say you want to go to another country and just go and just come back all in a day and all with no prior booking.
So the fascination never left me... till last weekend that it.

On Thursday, a friend thought out aloud that it was going to be a beautiful weekend and a trip to Dover might be nice. I thought out aloud that if I go to Dover, I might as well go to Calais ! So I thought I would go on Saturday.

But I woke up late on Saturday and no one else seemed interested. Yet it was a sunny day. So I accompanied friends to Oxford Street for some random shopping, more like window shopping with all the live models posing as mannequins and the different kinds of decorations that turn up only in Oxford Street (check out LV window below, oh, and this pic is from Instagram which I have recently joined as "pranavab").

And later went to my favourite part of London (have I not said it enough number of times already?), South Bank, only to find it insanely crowded. And yet South Bank is always enchanting and full of surprises. Did I tell you the weekend before that I found this shortcut from Covent Garden Jubilee Market that brings us to the Thames (stairs on the opposite side of Strand from the market), and also introduced a friend to the magic of the area.

Anyhow. Come Sunday. I took the tube to London Bridge. I waited an hour on the platform because I missed the previous train in a matter of seconds. I reached Dover. I took a bus from Dover Priory to Port of Dover. I took the Spirit of France to Calais. I walked from the ferry terminus to Plage de Calais. I spent some time there. I walked back to the terminus. I took the Pride of Burgundy back to Dover. I took a bus from Port of Dover to Dover Priory. I took train to London Bridge and a tube back home.

And from these the open deck of Spirit of France, I watched the White Cliffs of Dover with sun shining brightly off of them. I strongly believe I could see them from Plage de Calais as well as I dipped my feet in the French waters, though someone might disagree.

A trip I always wanted to take, and such lovely weather it was! But now that I have done it, the charm is lost.

And a heads up, the next post is going to be senti...

Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Belfast dAIry

Belfast is not big and not very old either. Yet you can spend a couple of days with much left to be seen. The city has five quarters, not four. And it seemed to me that each quarter is different in so many different ways! The city has drawn out a few "trails". You can find them at any tourist information centre marked out on the map.

The City Hall is by far the most impressive point in Belfast. A massive structure, it has glorious internal design as well. Some of the windows have been commissioned to depict glass paintings telling us of incidents in the history of Northern Ireland. The lawns are dotted with weird cement cows but unlike in Milton Keyes these actually depict people and ideas.

You will find a lot of interesting architecture and stories on the City of Merchants Trail including Belfast's very own leaning tower!

And the other thing that Belfast is proud of is building the Titanic. The largest ship ever built, and it sank. I read in somewhere that it is fascinating how much Belfast talks about Titanic but not all the great ships that it made that did not sink. What about Olympic and Britannic ? Titanic Museum has opened up to celebrate 100 years. But we couldn't go in cos we needed to book in advance. Anyhow we walked the Titanic Trail. Oh, And did I say this is now called the Titanic Quarters ?

Oh one other thing there is about Belfast. The Murals. The freedom of expression manifested. They are not like street art. They are art. They are on the street. They have  a message but more importantly they have a strong message. I never knew anything about Belfast or it's turmoil and that which continues even today in a more subdued fashion.

You must go to the Queen's Quarters to the see the lovely Queen's College and the magnificent Ulster Museum. You can truly spend days there. And the Royal Botanic Gardens. It's quite a different city once you come to the quarters.

Scottish Highlands

Train to Edinburgh
A nearly beautiful journey through the country side of England a bit of Scotland brings you to Edinburgh from London after about 4.5 hours on a train.
Waiting on the train for the view to get better and better we fell asleep till we reached. Edinburgh was on the verge of a fest so everything was shut down or closed out and bus stops were changed and worse of all, maps were removed I mean REALLY !!!

We found our little hotel behind the castle that looked like somehow they managed to keep it together, but it was really nice inside. A spooky look on the outside was pretty cool...
The next day we found Hertz, showed him a license and got a lovely little family car. A car so much like our own that it felt own. A near new Ford Fiesta. And invested well in a good road map.

The Loch Drive
We started off west towards Glassgow and weaved through the city passing by the Cathedral before hitting for the prettier roads. We drove through the Trossachs and past the all the Lochs that come in the way. Loch Lommond was lovely. taking mini detour's through little villages we pass by it was the prettiest little place I have seen. Loch Ness should be called a river, really. It is so long!

And we stopped for the night at a place just off the highway which was a pretty little hospital convert.

The Castle Drive
We had the Scottish National Explorer Pass for 3 days that allows you to visit many of the castles in Scotland for free. 70 attractions for some 28 quid, pretty good deal if you are here for a short time.
The next morn, we went back a bit to the Loch Ness to visit the Urquhart Castle. A ruin but the castle has the locational advantage of being on the Loch Ness bed and more lovelier on the morning we went cos of all the fog. And as the old man would say, Nessy is breathing heavily. The intro film is actually quite boring with blood and fire and steel but the ending is marvellous. Recommend anyone to watch the film and then move to see the castle.

From Urquhart we made our way by passing Glamis and Blair castles to Stirling Castle. Stirling Castle is a fully complete castle very recently made and very nicely maintained. There are stories on how it was built, etc. they protect it and show case it so well. It is definitely worth a visit.

And finally reached Edinburgh, dropped the car and slept in a Travelodge.
The next morning we walked up the royal mile and into the Edinburgh Castle. Very cool very you see the links between the Unicorn with the golden horn and the Lion with the crown. From the wall you could see as far as Water of Leith and a good view of the city as well.

Train back to London
On the train back to London we were sitting on the right side of the train passing by the east coast. Pretty pics along the way. But the best was the rainbow that became a  full semi-circular rainbow and then a double rainbow as our train went around it. Lovely as ever.

Scotland! Enchanting, out of a fairy tale!

Towering Museums and Olympic London

On a splendid rainy Sunday we went to Tower of London. A tower so well preserved but it isn't that old either. It was the first fort/tower/castle sort of thing I had seen. Having been sucked into A Song of Ice and Fire, it felt like the book comes alive. The crown jewels are of course the most important part of the museum. Though we went to see the Kohinoor, what we saw more importantly was the Cullinan I. It was the largest thing eve, as large as an egg and dwarfs anything around it. The wall walk was the most amazing though. To walk around and see the different gates, the draw bridges, the buildings that the walk encloses, it all feels so real!

Monday was reserved for a special purpose. London 2012 Olympics. I picked up tickets because I thought it might be easier to get tickets for a Monday, because hockey is the national game of India and we associate it with the Olympics, because an afternoon session does not require you to wake up early in the morning or delay your return to the night. As it turns out the tickets I picked up were Spain vs Pakistan and Netherlands vs India. Pakistan lost. India lost. But the second match was a delight to watch. My parents have never seen a game live in the gallery. And none of us have ever watched a hockey match. So it was all very exciting and happy. The sun was strong but the wind was cold and there was no rain thankfully. The Olympic park was large and filled to the brim with people. Like a funfair!

Then we went on a Museum Marathon.
The Museum of London is fascinating museum. It starts with when London was nothing to today and beautifully takes you on a walk through history. A lot about this small area of land that was bound by the Roman wall. You even peep to see the wall.
Walk over to the Bank of England museum. It is made for kids to see how money works but there is a bit for adults as well explaining the history of banks and nationalised bank. You also get to try and pick up a bar of gold.
Walk along again to the breath-taking St Paul's Cathedral, the most impressive structure in the London skyline. A beautiful peaceful place.

Walk across the latest construction across the Thames, the Millennium Bridge on to the South Bank to turn around and look at a post card view of the cathedral.
Take a walk into Tate Modern and gaze at the Picasso paintings on level 4. and make your way down passing through the many art galleries that I really don't understand. Not that I understand Picasso's cubism, but at least I recognize the style.

Been and seen parts of London I hadn't seen before!