ROME – Europe Vacation Part 1

So finally our mini Euro trip happened. I said finally…. because…. it was on our mind since quite some time. Like every traveler’s bucket list, Europe was always on our list but it was not until the beginning of this year that we actually started planning. To tell you all the truth, initially the thought of planning a Euro trip was a bit intimidating. Europe is enormous, intriguing, beautiful and is filled with plethora of history, culture, architecture and good food. With so many beautiful countries to choose from, it was definitely not easy to decide. Anyhow… since it was our very first Euro trip, we caved in for the most popular destinations, Italy and France
 
And like I mentioned in my last post, we decided to go for the big three.. Rome, Florence and Venice in Italy and for France it had to be Paris.
Rome, Italy’s capital was by far our favorite of all the places that we saw in Europe. Roman empire, historical monuments such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Vatican city, Vatican museums and the beautiful architecture are some of the reasons why Rome is such a sought after tourist destination. 
“Rome wasn’t built in a day” is an adage you must have heard a lot. This proverb emphasizes on the fact that it takes a lot of time to create or build great things. It is only once you see Rome up close that you truly understand the meaning of this saying. It is brimming with ancient architecture that is so beautifully carved and intricate, that it makes you wonder whether such architectural marvels are even humanly possible to make. No… I am not exaggerating when I say this. I was simply blown away by the architecture surrounding me. This was a major topic of discussion during our entire trip.

Here are some helpful tips that you may want to consider and keep in mind while planning your trip to Rome.

1) Taxis: First and foremost, the moment you step out of the airport lookout for white colored cabs that have a sign bearing “TAXI” on their roofs. They are the ones that are legit and equipped with meters. We made our very first and crucial mistake by taking a private black colored taxi (from the airport to the Airbnb) that charged us double the amount. Learned from our mistake and only took white cabs whenever we felt the need to. We were fortunate enough and had a good experience with the cab drivers during our entire trip. But always be alert and on a lookout for anything that is out of place. Most of them don’t speak English but they do understand if you tell them the name of your destination.
2) AirBnb: If you are booking an Airbnb check out the amenities list and reconfirm by asking the host about air conditioning and or ceiling fan/standing fan/table fan especially if you are traveling during summer season. Our Rome Airbnb had centralized air conditioning but unfortunately that was not the case with Florence, Venice and Amsterdam.
3) Elevators: Again, if you are considering an Airbnb always check which floor the apartment is located and whether the building has an elevator. Our building had an elevator but for some weird reason we were not allowed to use it (the building tenants have separate key to use the elevator) and was only to be used by the tenants. We packed light and hence thought a few flight of stairs wouldn’t be a problem. But trust me, climbing the stairs would be last thing on your mind after a long tiring day of sight seeing.

4) Commute: Take the bus whenever possible. When checking google maps initially you might be tempted walking it off to all of the nearby attractions. I know walking is the best way to explore Europe, but trust me… by that I mean “really really trust me” when I tell you, try not to walk all the time. Try to find a closest bus station and take the bus as much as you can.

5) Bookings: If you are going to do the tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Vatican Museum and other museums make sure to book  your entry tickets or guided tour tickets in advance. This way you can easily avoid huge lines and save time. These places attract the highest number of tourists hence booking your tickets in advance is a must.

6) Footwear: If you are planning on walking a lot then slip onto something comfortable like flats, or loafers or your favorite pair of sneakers. Since the roads there are all cobble stones be smart and avoid heels altogether.

7) Eat Local: I couldn’t emphasis on this enough. You might have to forget all the dieting and simply give in to the delicious food Italy has to offer. Pizza, pasta and tiramisu was our regular food while we here followed by truck loads of gelato for dessert.

Now that I have covered few of the important travel tips this is what our itinerary for Rome looked like:

We also made a rough plan on a website called visitacity.com which was quite helpful but at the same time made some last minute changes as and when required.

Day 1:

Check-in at Airbnb- Lunch – Castel Sant’Angelo – Victor Emmanuel Monument

Our flight was supposed to be a direct flight from JFK to Rome but there was some last minute changes and instead we had a stop over at Paris and from there we took another flight to Rome. So we reached 1-2 hours late as opposed to our earlier flight. Made the very first big mistake of hiring a private cab, once in the cab we got in touch with our Airbnb host and reached at the given address in around 40mins. Our Airbnb was located centrally and was at a walking distance from the Vatican city. Apart from the stairs, the Airbnb, our home for the next 4 days was very cozy and comfortable in every sense. Totally loved the retro vibes of the apartment.

Our Airbnb in Rome. Very cozy and comfortable and most importantly was equipped with centralized air conditioning.

Once settled in we freshened up, changed and left for lunch nearby with our camera and other essentials in hand.

Our very first Lunch at Rome – Uhhhhh not a fan
Gelatooooooo….Yes pleasseeeee
Gelatoooo time

Post lunch it was time to explore. The Castel Sant’Angelo was one of the nearest attraction located at a walking distance of 10 mins from our Airbnb. We didn’t go inside, instead only clicked few photos from outside while gaping at the beautiful bridge of the angels.

Castel Sant’Angelo
St. Peter’s Basilica
Across the bridge and a little walk further ahead and we were welcomed by the enormous sight of the gorgeous St. Peter’s Basilica. Since we had allotted a different day to explore St. Peter’s Basilica, without wasting any time we found our way to the nearest bus stop, purchased tickets from the ticket vending machine at the stop and boarded the bus that would take us to our next attraction for the day which was the gigantic Victor Emmanuel Monument.

Victor Emmanuel Monument is a monument built in the honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of unified Italy. It is located between Piazza Venezia and Capitoline Hill. I won’t be discussing much of the history but would love to share some of the pictures that we clicked instead.

Victor Emmanuel Monument
View of Piazza Venezia from the monument
For dinner we opted for a little pizza place that was around 10 – 15mins walk from our Airbnb. Hubby ordered pizza while I settled for ravioli with pesto sauce and for dessert we ordered tiramisu. The food was absolutely delish. The ravioli was sooooooo good. And this was the place where we had the most amazing tiramisu ever.

Day 2:

Vatican Museums – The Sistine Chapel – St. Peter’s Square – Trastevere – Janiculum Hill

The highlight of our Rome trip was certainly the enormous and gorgeous Vatican Museum. We both are not great art enthusiasts but walking through all the beautiful Roman artifacts and paintings left us spellbound. We had booked the the entrance tickets to the Museum well in advance and hence were able to skip the very very long line. The ticket includes the Vatican Museum and entrance to the Sistine Chapel (where photography is not permitted). If you are an art enthusiast I would suggest booking a guided tour because the museum is enormous. I had downloaded free audio guide by Rick Steves and that was quite helpful for me. So if you are not interested in guided tours you could certainly download a free audio guide and walk through the museum. The only thing that dampened the whole experience was the crowd. The museum was very very crowded which made the whole experience a bit annoying. But after all its “The Vatican Museum” and everyone wants to see it.
The ceilings were unbelievably stunning
The popular Bramante staircase

So after the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, our next stop was Trastavere and the Janiculum Hill. We hired a cab to Trastevere where we had some lunch, which was some delicious pizza followed by some mandatory gelato. The walk to Janiculum hill turned out to be long one which we were certainly not expecting. Nevertheless, the view was really good from up there and you could practically see entire Rome. We also had some fun spotting all the attractions from top.

I would highly recommend La Boccaccia, a little pizza place in Trastavere. You can order the length of the pizza of your liking and they will cut it and weigh it before cooking. This was by far the most delicious and good value for money pizza. We also packed some extra to devour later.
Beautiful bylanes of Trastavere
A cute little Gelateria in Trastevere
Janniculum Hill – View from the top
Can you spot the Colosseum?

Day 3:


Colosseum – Palatine Hill – Roman Forum – Piazza Novona – The Pantheon – Trevi Fountain

The magnificent Colosseum was truly a memorable experience. An altogether different feeling looking at it up close as compared to the endless pictures of this beautiful structure on all forms of social media. The beauty, craftsmanship and its sheer size can only be deduced when you come face to face with it. In my opinion it is best to opt for a guided tour of the Colosseum. You will get to learn so much. We booked a guided tour for the upper tier and the lower tier which are not accessible to the general public and can only be seen through a guided tour. The tickets also included guided tour of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.


View from the upper most tier was truly spectacular
The Lower Tier
The Roman Forum
It is basically a rectangular plaza consisting several ruins. They are basically ancient ruins that comprises of important ancient government buildings while the Palatine Hill, the most famous amongst Rome’s seven hills, was home to aristocrats and emperors. You will certainly need a guide while walking the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hills since there are no signs or boards explaining what the ruins are.
Palatine Hill
The Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica can be seen from the Palatine Hill.

Piazza Navona

We winded up our third day by strolling at Piazza Novona, quick tour of the Pantheon and checking out the most famed Trevi Fountain. For dinner we decided to try out a small restaurant right below our Airbnb.

Piazza Navona is a beautiful and colorful plaza with some very ornate fountains. You will also find many hawkers, street artists and restaurants. A good place to hangout after a tiring day of sight seeing.
The Pantheon
The Pantheon was a former Roman temple and now a church. It is also the most imitated piece of architecture. And why wouldn’t it be…this ancient building is a fantastic piece of architecture. Even though it was bit crowded when we visited, the line moved quickly and we we were in and out without any hassle. It is supposedly a very old building and the best preserved ancient Roman monument. This one is a must see indeed.
While on our way to the Pantheon, we came across this beautiful church the name of which I cannot recollect now. I will update it if I am able to find the name online.

Trevi FountainOne of the most popular and stunning fountains in the world, Fontana de Trevi. Be prepared to also be amazed to see thousands of tourists around this fountain if you are planning to visit in Summer. The Trevi fountain draws the most tourist of all. You guys might feel that I am only cribbing about the crowds but it was so crowded that we hardly got any chance to click a decent picture let alone sit on the steps and gaze at this beauty. But crowds aside this fountain is simply a marvel and should be on your must see list when in Rome.

The Crowd

Day 4:

Inside St. Peter’s Basilica and climbing St. Peter’s cupola – Galleria Borghese – Spanish Steps – Piazza di Spagna – Mercato Centrale 

Last started off pretty early for us as we wanted to see St. Peter’s Basilica minus all the crowd. That was only possible if we went there as soon as the basilica was open to the public. As we reached the St. Peter’s square at around 7am, to our delight we saw only a handful of tourists waiting in the security line. Again I had downloaded a free audio guide and was listening to it on my earphones as we headed to the entrance.
St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest church in the world and is considered the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture. It is regarded as one of the holiest and greatest of all the churches in Christendom. A beautiful basilica from inside and outside, you will be amazed by the huge pillars, architecture and beautiful intricate sculptures. Make sure to also visit the dome when you are here. You have to pay a small fee to visit the dome but the climb is totally worth it and the view from top is really good. Note that the entrance to the “cupola” or the dome is on the far right. There are signs put up and you will be able to spot it easily. You can take an elevator up to the roof level and from there it is a climb of around 551 steps in total to the dome.
Inside the Basilica
View from top of the Dome
The Dome

Next stop – Galleria Borghese is again for the art enthusiasts. To tell you the truth we didn’t spend much time here and headed towards our next stop for the day. Ohhhh….fun story…as we were waiting for the bus we noticed that sidewalks on both sides of road were planted with orange trees and we could see big and huge oranges hanging all around and as always my inquisitive hubby was trying to figure out a way to pluck some. Hahahaha.

Our last attraction for the day was a huge disappointment. The Spanish steps and Piazza di Spagna was buzzing with tourists. Also the buildings next to the steps were under construction which didn’t make for a good picture. It was a very hot and humid day and to top it all the crowd made the experience less exciting for us.
The Spanish Steps
 
Our last and final stop for the day Mercato Centrale located in Rome’s termini station was a pleasant experience. Here you will find almost all artisan vendors under one roof. We tried pizza, some chicken and tiramisu. They were all good although I simply loved the food that we had in the local restaurants. 

So this was our 4 day itinerary for Rome. We thoroughly enjoyed our very city in Europe even though the climate was way hotter than we expected but we compensated by eating loads of gelato. And the food here was simply amazing. We had some of the most delicious pizzas, pastas made from the freshest ingredients and also got the opportunity to taste some of their regional delicacies as well.

Hope you enjoyed reading this post and pictures. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment and if you liked this post do share it with your friends.

Photo Credits: My Husband 🙂 If you want to check more photos by him do check out his Instagram account here 

Signing off with some night photos of Rome.

Snippets from Our Mini Euro Trip!!!

I know…. I know….It’s been a while since I wrote my last blogpost!😖

If you are following me on Instagram (if not, I think you should 😛 ) you must be aware that we are back from our 2 week long vacation to Europe. So let me update you guys real quick.

Last few months was quite crazy with us planning our mini Euro trip, listing all the possible places to visit, places to eat and communicating with the host’s of Airbnb at each location. We had a packed schedule for every single day. Since this was our first major Europe vacation, we wanted to cover as much as we could without missing out on any must see attractions. But I think maybe we should have taken it a little easy. Although our trip turned out to be amazing, we were super tired and exhausted by the end of it.

So before I write a detail account of each of the places we visited and skim through thousands of pics that we clicked, select and edit all of it, I thought why not start with a little snippet of our trip instead for my readers. Sounds good?
Our original plan was Italy and France. For Italy we selected the famous big three, Rome, Florence and Venice and without doubt for France we selected Paris. Paris was our last stop and we had designated 6 days for Paris. But as we started off we were almost done checking out all of the major tourist attractions and still had 3 more days. This lead to an unplanned and impromptu trip to Amsterdam which is a 3 hour train ride from Paris. We ended up spending one night in Amsterdam.

Anyhow…….here is a sneak peak of our trip . 😀

Photo Credit: Hubby dearest

ROME:

This pic was clicked from the top of Victor Emmanuel Monument, Rome. Do you see the Colosseum?
The mandatory touristy pose near the mighty Colosseum 😛
Pantheon
St. Peter’s Basilica

FLORENCE:

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – Florence Cathedral
This one was clicked from Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence

VENICE:

AMSTERDAM:

PARIS:
Stay tuned for more pics and stories from all of the places we visited in Europe.

Thank you for stopping by. Have a great weekend and Happy 4th of July!!!!

Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley

This post is going to be a photoessay on our impromptu trip to Arizona and Las Vegas 😄. Impromptu trips almost always turns out to be the best ones, don’t you think? In this post I will be sharing only the pics from our trip to Arizona and not Vegas, as I have already shared pics of Vegas on my blog from our previous trip few years back.

In the month of February there was a long weekend, hubby had 4 days off and the same weekend was also my birthday. I had no special plans for my birthday or for the long weekend. All I had in my head was spending some quality time with hubs or maybe go out for dinner some place decent and maybe catch up with friends. To my surprise out of nowhere he suggested that we go somewhere instead of staying home. It had been a long time since we did a short trip. Our last vacation was in June 2016 to Alaska with friends (you can read all about it here) and since then we had not been to any place. Both of us were really missing all the fun of traveling and exploring. So this was the right time and opportunity to plan one and hence we didn’t think twice. That is how the same night we found ourselves sitting on the sofa with our laptops planning our 4 day trip to Arizona and Las Vegas. Since all this was last moment, the flight tickets turned out to be the expensive part of the trip. The other drawback of impromptu vacation planning, the WEATHER. Although Arizona was not that cold as compared to what we have here in the East Coast, we were certainly not expecting any rains. Unfortunately the weather for the entire weekend predicted rain showers and clouds. Now this was something that we had no control on. With flight tickets and accommodations all booked, we could only pray that the weather would change its course.

Anyhow in the end this trip turned out to be all that we hoped for. The weather gods were kind enough to us.

We landed on a Thursday night at Phoenix, Arizona, stayed the night at a hotel near the airport and headed to Page, Arizona the next morning. Next morning we went to the airport to pickup the rental car that we had booked and from there it was a 4 hr drive to Page, Arizona. We both decided that each of us will drive for 2 hrs. As we were nearing Page it started raining. Our excitement slowly turned into disappointment because of the weather.
On our way to Page

As soon as we reached Page it was lunch time. Grabbed a quick lunch at John’s Texas BBQ (a must try at Page, loved every bit of it) and then we headed to our hotel, La Quinta to freshen up. By this time to our delight the rain had started to dwindle and stopped completely after a while.

My Birthday Lunch 😛

Finally the rain stopped and it was time to explore. The horseshoe bend was only around 2 – 2.5 miles drive from the hotel and we decided to spend the evening there. It was a very cloudy day hence no chance of witnessing the sunset. Nevertheless we didn’t let the weather spoil our mood. The horseshoe bend overlook was about a mile (roundtrip) from the parking spot. The walk or hike if you may say so is fairly easy, however we would suggest you wear good hiking or sports shoes. Parents who are visiting with kids please be very very careful because the overlook doesn’t have any form of rails to hold onto.

On our way to the overlook

Although we went on an off season, we were pretty surprised to see many tourists. So if you are planning to visit this place in the summer be prepared to come across hoards of tourists. Nevertheless the sight was certainly beautiful and one of a kind, just like the pictures you come across on Instagram. We spent a good 1 – 1 1/2 hr at this spot. Later we headed for dinner, went back to the hotel booked tours for Upper and Lower Antelope canyons for the next morning and called it a day.

The Horseshoe Bend

Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons:

The next morning after having light breakfast, we drove to the office of the tour company from where we had to take the bus for Upper Antelope Canyon. Once we reached there, we collected our tickets and waited for the bus. Just so that you know, there are no restrooms near the canyons so use the ones available at the tour office before you hop onto to the bus.

For the Upper Antelope Canyon there are basically two tours to choose from one is the regular scenic tour and the other is a photography tour. We are no professional photographers, so we did the regular scenic tour. You cannot go in alone to visit the canyons. The canyons can be visited exclusively through guided tours only as the canyons can flood very easily during monsoon season and this can be very dangerous. The tour operators that we chose for Upper Antelope Canyon was Navajo Tours.

It was a cloudy day and the sun was nowhere to be seen. Although the Upper Antelope Canyon was beautiful, it was very very dark the whole time and hence we hardly got any good pictures. Sunshine or not, the whole experience was totally worth it. On the other hand the lighting at the Lower Antelope Canyon was much more better and as per our opinion the Lower Antelope was even more beautiful that the Upper. Its simply hard to believe that these beautiful structures and its mesmerizing grooves were formed primarily by erosion of the sandstone as a result of flash flooding. These canyons are simply nature at its best. Take a look at some of the pictures and you can decide for yourselves.

Tip: Cover you cameras with your scarves or bandanas to avoid the crevices of the lenses to be filled with sand at the end of the day. 

Some pics of the Upper Antelope Canyon:

Lower Antelope Canyon:

Even for a very cloudy day, the Lower Antelope Canyon was much more brighter and clearer as compared to the Upper. It is a little longer and narrower in some spots. Unlike Upper Antelope Canyon, this one requires climbing up and down a few flight of stairs. I think overall its fairly easy but it may be a tad bit difficult for people with knee problems or who find climbing a few flight of stairs daunting. The guide we had was very nice. She gave us a lot of info and once inside the guides will also tell you how to adjust the settings of your camera as well as your phone camera. In addition to that they will also help you click pictures of yourselves. The tour operators that we chose for this tour was Dixie Ellis’.


Exiting the Lower Antelope Canyon. Awesome experience.

Monument Valley, Utah:

We finished the Lower Antelope Canyon tour by afternoon and since we had some more time left for the day we decided to check out Monument Valley in Utah which was about 2 hrs from Paige, Arizona. Once we reached Monument Valley we did the Monument Valley Loop Drive which consists of 11 stops/overlooks. The loop drive is pretty much straight forward and all the stops/overlooks are numbered. It is the best and the quickest way to explore this spectacular place. The drive along the loop can get a bit rough in some areas but nothing that a regular car cannot withstand. Although a 4×4 would be much more easy I would say.

Monument Valley is one of the most popular and a must see place in the west coast of USA. Many Hollywood movie scenes were shot at this stunning place. The sand dunes and buttes are super huge and you will only realize its sheer size once you see this place for yourself. It was a very surreal experience. I would highly recommend this place. A must see indeed.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any questions or just want to say hi, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Beautiful and alluring… Alaska!!! (An unforgettable vacation with friends)

We (me and hubby) and our friends had been thinking about planning a vacation together since a really really long time. After a lot of pondering, the destination was decided and finally everyone agreed upon the dates as well. So after almost 7 – 8 months of planning, consulting, numerous messaging on whtsapp and face timing, our most awaited vacation with friends was finally here. And in no time we all found ourselves packing for….ALASKA!! 
The beauty of Alaska and all that it offers is very hard to describe in words. Breathtaking, gorgeous, amazing, alluring, mesmerizing are some of the adjectives that comes to mind now when I think back about the wonderful time that we spent there. You have to actually see it and experience it to believe it. I think no matter how wonderful photos you click, it still won’t do enough justice to the breathtakingly natural beauty that Alaska is.

Pssttt…..almost all the pictures (except for few) are clicked with Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. So yea you do not always need a DSLR to click amazing pictures :P.

There are so many ways you can explore this beautiful state. We opted for all the possible adventurous options that we could find for exploring Alaska. I think that is the best and the only way to enjoy mother nature and get up close with her. Although our schedule was a bit tight considering we had made plans only for 8 days, it was surely an experience of a lifetime. Hence no regrets whatsoever. I think we managed to do many things and saw many places in a really short amount of time. So believe me when I say this, if you are ever planning a vacation with friends then Alaska should be definitely on your list.

This post is going to be a short photo essay. I hope you will enjoy the pictures.

Day 1: We reached Anchorage around 10:30am, rented a car and drove to our first stop that was Seward. First day was pretty much a rest day. We had booked an AirBnB for the night.

Enroute
AirBnB at Seward

Day 2: Kayaking at Kenai Fjords. This was one of the best and the most unforgettable kayak experience ever. The first few pictures were clicked on our way to the starting point of kayak from the water taxi.

This picture was clicked on our way to Kenai Fjords 
Spotted a lot of humpback whales also. It was such a beautiful experience to watch this gentle giants swim around. 
Sea lions lazing around on the rocks 😀
Beautiful views everywhere we looked
Aialik Glacier: This was our final kayaking destination watching this beautiful glacier and witnessing some major glacier calvings
Such a wonderful experience. Lunch by the glacier with our amazing friends. 
Time to head back

With our kayaking guide 

After an awesome kayak experience we did some sightseeing at Seward. Spotted some fresh caught halibut, salmon and other fishes at the dock and then headed to our next stop at Seward.

Next stop was Summit Lake Lodge where we spent the night. The below picture is the view near the lodge. Isn’t it awesome?

Day 3: Started off our day with a beautiful hike to Harding Ice field. The hike was moderately strenuous but totally worth it. With beautiful trees, flowers, glaciers and mountain for company, it was site to behold. 
At the Exit Glacier

At the top (almost)….. totally worth it. 
Breathtaking…. isn’t it?

Two of our friends decided to climb all the way up. Can you spot them?

Day 4: Was a rest day which also included a trip to REI to pick up our camping stuff and some grocery shopping (which included loads of cup noodles….hehehehe) :P.
Day 5: We reserved a one way train trip to Denali National Park through Wilderness Express. The train journey was amazing with some beautiful views. Below pictures were clicked from the train. 

Once we reached Denali we took the shuttle bus to reach our camping site named “The Wonder Lake Camping Site” which was 85 miles inside the national park. On our way we spotted a lot a wild life and enjoyed some more breathtaking views.

Caribou popularly known as Reindeer 

Spotted a blonde grizzly bear 🙂

Day 5 and Day 6: Camping at Lake wonder lake was one of the most fun experience for me as it was my first ever camping experience. The camp site was right in front of the mighty Denali mountain but unfortunately the clouds covered the mountain the whole time and we never even got to see a glimpse of it. 🙁

This is where we camped for 2 nights. Can you see the mountains in the background?? That is where Denali is situated. 
Noodles in the making LOL
The Wonder Lake 
Just as we were packing our camping stuff to head back….we spotted this huge Moose behind us 
Day 7: We headed back super early in the morning from the National Park to Denali where post lunch we went for ATV Ride and River Rafting. I would highly recommend the ATV Ride, certainly a one of a kind experience. 

Hubs 😀

River Rafting
Day 8: Our last day on our way to the airport to Anchorage we had booked an Airtaxi ride and glacier landing at Talkeetna. The views from the flight was simply fabulous and absolutely mesmerizing. We also landed on Ruth’s glacier and spent 15 mins playing with the glacier snow and clicking loads of pictures. :). Do check out my Instagram account where I have uploaded a video of the flight as well.
Glacier River 
Majestic glaciers everywhere 

Our ride 😀

Ruth’s Glacier 

I hope you enjoyed this post. Please let me know you opinions and comments, I would love to hear from you all.

Travel essentials for a long flight

We travel to India once every year, it has now become an yearly ritual for us :D. And we are all set to visit our homeland soon Yayyy!!!. Although the overall feeling and vibe of going to India is always very happy and exciting, the grueling tiresome long flight hours is the only thing that dampens the entire mood for me. The thought of sitting in a plane for really long hours is always the least exciting part of the entire trip. And if it’s a connecting flight then its even more frustrating. I lack patience when it comes to really long international flights. Just like last time, we have booked a direct flight to Mumbai this time as well since it cuts the overall travel time by 5-6 hrs (14hrs always sounds better than 20 -21 hrs). Anyway, coming back to the topic, after having traveled to India and other countries in the past few years, I think there are some must haves/must do stuff which will certainly put you at ease during your long flight. 
The list includes things that I think are essential and very helpful. I have not included the passport and boarding pass because you know you won’t be sitting inside the flight without these two things. 😛 😛

Socks, phone and backpack is not included in the pic 😛
1) Comfortable clothing: You should certainly avoid clothes that are really tight or clothes that may get uncomfortable when traveling for long hours e.g tight jeans. It is always best to choose the most comfortable clothes like light weight sweater, t-shirts paired with long shrugs or long cardigans or a light weight jacket. Team it up with joggers, jennie pants or cargo pants. Casual and comfy that is the mantra for me. 

2) Comfortable shoes and socks: My favorites are slip ons and loafers. They are much easier to slip off and slip in especially when it comes to security check. I also carry a pair of socks with me and wear them once the flight takes off to keep my feet nice and warm throughout the journey.

3) Oversized blanket scarf (optional): If you are planning on wearing a light weight jacket/long cardigans/shrugs you can skip this. Flights can get uncomfortably chilly at times. Hence an oversized blanket scarf always helps.

4) Neck pillow: I never manage to get a good sleep on long flights (and when I do its like a blessing) especially when you can hardly recline you seat. Invest in a good neck pillow if possible. It did help me lot. Not only for sleeping but it also gives a good support to your neck which gets easily stressed out during long flights. Use it while watching your in flight entertainment or while reading a book .

5) Facial wipes/Kleenex tissues/baby wipes: This comes very handy when you need to freshen up your face quickly. These are also helpful to wipe your hands after meals or snacks.

6) Drink plenty of water: You all must be aware of the low humidity in cabin air. The humidity inside the cabin is usually low as compared to the usual indoor humidity. This leads to dehydration and dry skin. Hence try to drink water as much as possible and stay away from alcohol and other beverages that may cause more dehydration. Buy a big bottle of water before boarding the plane and keep on sipping throughout the flight. 

7) Moisturizer: Like I mentioned earlier lack of humidity in cabin air also leads to dry skin. Have a small travel size bottle of you favorite moisturizer handy and apply to your face, neck and hands whenever you feel like it.

8) Lip Balm: I generally avoid any kind of makeup while traveling. It is not a requirement for me. The only things that you will find in my bag apart from a moisturizer is a good plain or tinted lip balm. I reapply whenever I feel my lips are getting dry. My current favorite is Burt Bee’s tinted lip balm.

9) Comb: You don’t want you hair to look all messy when you land, now do you? I always carry a small wide toothed comb with me.

10) Hand Sanitizer : I bet this is something everyone has in their purse or bag. Use it before meals or after using restrooms etc. This is another must have which you will always find in my bag especially when traveling.  
11) Toothbrush, toothpaste and tongue scrapper/cleaner: Nothing feels more refreshing and invigorating than a good fresh and clean mouth. Carry a small travel size toothpaste, a toothbrush and plastic tongue scrapper/cleaner.
12) Listerine coolmint strips: This is optional but I think they are quite good for long flights. These strips dissolves quickly inside your mouth and helps fight bad breath. 
13) Deodorant: Trust me, a small travel size deodorant is very very helpful during long flights. 
14) Ear phones/headphones and good music/movies: Everyone loves to listen to music especially while traveling. Long flight travels are no exception. Don’t forget your earphones and load you phone, ipod, ipad with tons of songs or even movies so that when you are bored of the in flight entertainment you always have your favorite songs to listen or movies to watch. 
15) A good book to read/Ipad/Kindle: I personally don’t like reading books on Ipad or kindle. So I always carry a book in my bag. Nothing compares to reading an actual book especially when you have ample time and completely disconnected with internet and social media.
16) Snacks/energy bars/Chocolate: Carry some dry fruits and nuts in a ziplock bag and munch whenever you want. Energy bars and dark chocolates are also my favorites. 

17) Big tote or back pack: Whenever I have a laptop or an Ipad with me that is only time I carry a back pack instead of a tote. I try and avoid carrying my laptop when traveling to India because hubby also takes his. I feel like its unnecessary to carry two laptops. So when there is no laptop or Ipad involved I dump all the above mentioned stuff in my tote. I carry a simple and sturdy big tote bag while traveling nothing fancy or branded. But most of the time I prefer back pack over totes because its more easy on your shoulders.

18) Pen: The next time you are traveling remember to keep a pen or two handy for filling out the customs and immigration form.  This way you don’t have to keep staring embarrassingly at the person sitting next to you and wait for him/her to finish and ask them for their pen. 😛

So there it is, my long flight travel essentials. Do not get scared of the long list. You can easily buy travel size pack of all the things that I have mentioned so you will stay within the TSA permissible limits and it won’t be heavy on your bag.

Last but not the least do not forget to stretch as much as possible and take a break from sitting for long hours on your flight.

What are your favorite travel essentials? Let me know in comments below. 🙂

So until next time, happy and safe traveling. 😀

Marvelous Peru – Part 2 Machu Picchu

So here it is finally, Peru trip Part 2………Machu Picchu with tons and tons of photos.

We saved the very best for the last. Our final and the most awaited destination at Peru, one of the seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu.

Have you checked out my previous post on Peru? If not click here

Surreal, breathtaking and indeed a wonder. 

The only way to get to Machu Picchu is by train or by walking the Inca trail. A 3- 4 hr train ride to Aguas Calientes (the little town that is located below Machu Picchu) and from there a short 20 – 25 min bus ride, will take you to the main gate of Machu Picchu. The Inca rail and Peru rail, these are the 2 train company options that you can choose from. We opted for the Vistadome by Peru Rail. Vistadome had some really good reviews and the fact that it offered a panoramic view from the train sounded impressive. The tickets also included buffet lunch at Hotel Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge.

As the hotel where we stayed in Cucso (Tierra viva Cusco saphi) serves breakfast very early in the morning by 5am, we quickly grabbed something to eat (I don’t function empty stomach in the morning :P), checked out and then left for the train station at around 5:30am. The reporting time at Poroy station was 6:10am and departure time was 6:40am. The hotel staff offered to look after our luggage till our return. So we only carried stuff that was needed for our 1 night and 2 day stay at Aguas Calenties.

All the trains to Aguas Calenties starts from Poroy station, which is around 20 – 25 minutes from Cusco. We asked the hotel staff to book a taxi for us a day before and the taxi driver also offered to pick us after our return. It will cost no more than 25 to 30 soles from Cusco to Poroy station. 

Some important things to carry for the trip:

  • Print outs of train tickets
  • Payment receipt of entrance to Machu Picchu
  • Print outs of hotel bookings
  • Passport (very important)
  • Rain ponchos/rain jackets/waterproof jackets/Fleece
  • Backpack
  • Hiking shoes
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito repellant (the sand fly bites at Machu Picchu can get really nasty and very itchy)
  • Camera (we carried both DSLR and water proof camera)
  • Water
Once we boarded the train from Poroy station it took us around 4 hours to reach Aguas Calientes. The ride to Aguas by Vistadome was a pleasant one. The train was overall very spacious, comfortable clean with air conditioning/heating. Food and service were good. The large panoramic windows and the windows on the roof of the train provide an amazing view of the beautiful landscape. There was also a cultural dance performed by the staff on our way back from Aguas Calientes to Poroy station.

Windows on the roof  
These huge windows are definitely a plus. We clicked a lot of photos on our way. 

Aguas Calientes

We reached Aguas Calientes at around 10am. We quickly freshened up at the hotel left our luggage and decided to some sightseeing of the little town followed by lunch.

Aguas Calientes, is a charming little town located below the ruins in narrow valley between the mountains and surrounded by forests. You will find a lot of restaurants, shops selling souvenirs and also many massage salons. 

Some of the narrow lanes leading to the restaurants are very steep. 

Delicious lunch at Tree House. I particularly enjoyed my quinotto (risotto made with quinoa)

We had lunch at Tree house and dinner at El Indio Feliz. I would recommend both of them good food and great ambience.


Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is a without a doubt the most surreal and one of the most beautiful historical site. If simply put in words this place is magical in every way and should definitely be on your must see bucket list. 
However to make your trip up to see the most beautiful Inca ruins memorable, it is always better to be prepared well in advance. I have listed some of them below.  
The very first glimpse as we entered 

Be prepared and keep in mind the following things:

1) We booked the entrance tickets to Machu Picchu online in advance. Once booked we received an email with attachment of the payment receipt. But remember this is not the original ticket for entrance. We showed the payment receipt at hotel reception where we stayed for a night and they gave us the confirmation printouts. We took this confirmation printouts with us and bought the original tickets at the counter located near the bus stop. Please make sure that you have your tickets one day prior or the night before. Buying tickets on the same day of your visit is not recommended as it becomes very very crowded in the morning with people lining up for the bus as well as for tickets. This way you save a lot of time and will reach up early. 
2) The first shuttle bus to Machu Pichhu starts at 5:30am and people start lining up very early in the morning. We were at the bus stop by 5:00am and were surprised to find a really really long line. But the line moved pretty quickly as there were many buses heading up. So try to catch the earliest bus if possible if you want to watch the sunrise. 
3) DO NOT forget to carry your passport. They check the tickets and your passports at the entrance. 
3) Carry your very own water, snacks and lunch. Generally all the hotels at Aguas Calientes offer to prepare and pack lunch for you so ask about this at the reception. Although there is a cafe near the entrance but it is pretty expensive. 
4) Keep your tickets safe with you. You can reenter only once after you exit.

5) Two major downsides, the first been availability of restrooms/washrooms. Once you enter the main gate at Machu Picchu there are no restrooms/washrooms, you will have to walk all the way back to the entrance where the only restroom is located and line up there as well :(. Second downside, since this is one of the most popular tourist attractions, it does get very crowded. So don’t be surprised.

6) If you are feeling adventurous you can hike up to Machu Picchu, or the other easier option is to take the shuttle bus up and hike back down.

7) Check the weather and be prepared in case of rain showers as well.

8) Gather as much information as possible online before planning your trip so that you are not in for any surprises during your trip.

9) If you don’t have a train back to Poroy the same day, you can spend the entire day at Machu Picchu. Checkout the Sun gate and the Inca bridge. If you are interested in checking out Huana Pichhu you will need a separate ticket for it. 

It was a very cloudy day and as we entered the clouds were enveloping the ruins completely. All we could see were glimpses of the ruins here and there.

We kept moving up and up for a good clear view
Waiting for the clouds to clear up

We started ascending for a good clear view. As we reached the top we couldn’t see anything initially. The clouds were playing peekaboo with us for a good amount of time. Just as we were waiting for the clouds to clear up it started to pour cats and dogs. We did check the weather before and it did mention few rain showers but it poured for straight 2 hrs. Since our train back was late in the afternoon, we still had enough time and so we waited patiently for the rain to stop. 
And when the rain started to dwindle we decided to checkout the Inca Bridge. The Inca bridge (pictured below) is believed to be a secret path that lead to Machu Picchu. It is small hike (around 20 25 mins) and the trail is well marked. There are a few places where the trail gets narrow be careful and hold on to the metal and rope hands along the trail whenever required. 

View along the trail to Inca Bridge 
We were hoping to watch the sunrise but unfortunately it was so cloudy that day, the sun was nowhere to be seen :P.
The rain finally stopped after around 2 2-1/2 hrs later and we could finally see a clear view of the citadel. We took of our back back, sat on the near by rocks and kept gazing at the incredible view in front of us. 
And as the clouds started to clear up we clicked as many photos as we could. 🙂 Sharing some of them here. 

Closeup of the ruins
You will also spot many Lamas grazing around 

Time to exploreeee the ruins upclose…..
And yes that is how my hair looks when exposed to humidity 🙁 🙁  hahaha…I dont care though 😛 

Hope you enjoyed this post and the photos :). So until next time. 

Marvelous Peru…Our first trip to South America – Part 1 (Huaraz and Cusco)

Last post of 2015 and highlight of our year, trip to Peru. Can you believe this year is over…..already??? Hoping next year would be filled with wonderful surprises…here’s to 2016 🙂

I wanted to post all about our Peru trip as soon as possible but at the same time didn’t want to rush into it. I simply wanted to write a post that was short, precise and up to the point but at the same time highlighting our experience and challenges that we faced in a whole new country. Being our very first trip to south america we were nervous and excited all at the same time. We did a lot of research, read a lot of travel blogs and started making notes about all the important stuff. So please bear with me as it is going to be a long post since there are certain things that I just cannot leave out. Alas not a short post that I was hoping for :P.

This post will be divided in two parts, this post (Part 1) will be all about Huaraz and Cusco while the second part will be exclusively dedicated to Machu Picchu in another post :).

Peru is a breathtaking country, blessed with beautiful mountains, natural beauty in every corner and rich with cultural heritage. But what I liked most about Peru was the warm and friendly people that we came across. Almost all the cities in Peru are tourist destinations. So it was difficult for us to narrow down to places that we really wanted to see in our short time there. If you are someone who has ample amount of time or planning a really long vacation, I would say that you could easily spend 3 weeks or up to a month and cover almost all the attractions. However we had only 10 days to spare. 
After a lot of pondering and research we decided to cover Huaraz (3 nights and 4 days), Cusco (2 nights and 3 days) and Machu Picchu (1 night and 2 days). Unfortunately we had to skip some of the must see attractions.
Now before I start writing about our experience and share all the beautiful pics, there are certain things that you should keep in mind before visiting this country. 
High altitude: Peru is situated at a very high altitude. Adjusting to higher altitudes can take some time. I would suggest to take it slow. Plan you trip such that you get accustomed to the higher altitude gradually. Cusco and Puno are the two cities with an altitude which is more than 10,000ft (3300m). Huaraz is also situated at about the same altitude. Machu Picchu is at 8040ft;2450m. There is a possibility of getting altitude sickness if you don’t get acclimatized. Hence it becomes imperative that you move gradually towards higher altitude during your trip. People usually spend few days sight seeing at Lima and then take a bus from Lima to Huaraz. Some suggest that taking a bus is a better idea since you will be slowly moving to higher altitudes which is not the case with flights.  Due to time crunch we skipped Lima and instead only stayed there for a night and flew to Huaraz next morning. Some people may get easily acclimatized to the higher altitude while some may not. It took me 2 complete days to adjust to the higher altitude while hubby was fine after one day. So you see it totally depends upon an individual.

Tips to overcome altitude sickness:
1) Moving from lower altitude to higher altitude: Like I mentioned plan your trip such that you start off at lower altitudes and gradually move towards higher altitudes [Cusco/Puno/Huaraz]. I am not sure how well this works but that is what is suggested by some.
2) Drink plenty of water: Very very important. Tried and tested. The thin and dry air at higher altitudes causes extreme dehydration. When we were in Huaraz we drank around 5 to 6 liters of water everyday. But this helped us tremendously. There were times when I felt like I was going to have a headache, drank loads of water and the headache disappeared.

3) Coca Tea: Coca tea is also highly recommended for altitude sickness. Locals swear by it. It tastes somewhat like green tea. Coca tea will be served to you almost every place you go in Peru, it is easily available and cheap.

4) Do not take altitude sickness pills: Yes you read that right. When researching you will find many websites and blogs that may suggest you to take pills. But trust me, it will only make you feel worse. We heard lot of stories and also saw people getting terribly sick after taking these pills. You really don’t need them. Give yourself a day or two maybe 3 to acclimatize, but don’t take pills it will only make you more sick. Water is what helped me. After spending 4 days at Huaraz, Cusco was so easy and Machhu Picchu was a breeze because I was already acclimatized. But that doesn’t mean you should decrease the amount of water you drink in your entire trip.

5) Eat lots of carbs: Yup you read that right. Worried that you might end up gaining few pounds? Don’t. It will be the other way round. Even merely sitting on a chair at higher altitudes makes you loose calories :P. Because you will be burning a lot of energy while trying to adjust at higher altitudes. Fuel your body with the right carbs, eat lots of food and have fun :).

Travel smart and travel light. Below I have listed some important things to carry. I have also included things that will be needed if you are planning to go on a hike.

  • Running or trekking shoes and an extra pair of shoe
  • Long sleeve and high collar shirts (higher altitude means you will be more prone to sun burns)
  • Ponchos
  • Fleece/jackets
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun Hats
  • Sun glasses
  • Toilet paper/wet papers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Torch
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, soap, shampoo, toothpaste) soap and shampoo only if you are planning to stay at Llanganuco Mountain Lodge 
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Compass (if you are planning to hike)
  • Printouts of all the hotel bookings and flight bookings
  • Backpack reservoir/Hydration Pack (very important if you are planning on hiking)
  • Warm socks
  • Camera (DSLR & waterproof)
  • First aid kit

Some other helpful tips:

1) Carry change and enough cash: Carry bills and coins of smaller denominations. Apart from hotels and restaurants in the cities, you will find very few places that accept credit cards. Hence carry enough cash (soles) whenever you are out for sight seeing or shopping at local markets.

2) Be informed: Collect as much information as much as possible. For eg: Taxi fare from point A to point B. When we first arrived at Cusco airport, we ended up paying double the amount on taxi. From there on we made sure that we knew the expected amount of taxi fare. Just ask the person at the hotel reception and they will be more than happy to help you.

2) Learn some basic Spanish: Not mandatory but helpful. Although most of the hotel and restaurant staff speak English, locals rarely do. Find some time to learn the basics before you plan your vacation, it will make your trip more fun and memorable.

3) Do not flush toilet papers. Instead throw it in the dustbin.

4) Carry toilet papers and hand sanitizers: Many local restrooms/washrooms may not have toilet papers so do carry some with you when traveling.

5) Drink only bottled water: Drink water only from bottled water. It is not recommended to drink water directly from the tap unless you are planning to get sick :P. And carry bottled water at all times with you to avoid dehydration.

6) Be aware and be safe: We found Peru rather safe but when you are visiting a new country it is always better to take some precautions. Carry your passport with you at all times, do not flaunt too much cash or wear flashy jewelry or do anything that might catch unwanted attention. 

Now that I have taken care of some of the important pointers lets move on to the fun part.

HUARAZ

Our first stop was Huaraz. This place is a hidden gem of Peru. Surrounded by mountains from all the sides, Huaraz is a dream destination for people seeking solace in the lap of nature. A perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungles, pollution and the one thing that keeps us away from the outer world “Technology” or should I simply say social media :P.
We were totally off the grid for 4 days. And boyyyyy it was amazing. But make sure to inform you loved ones that you will be unable contact them when visiting this place. 

On our way to the Llanganuco Mountain Lodge

Llanganuco Moutain Lodge:

One look at the photos online and we were in love with this place. We just couldn’t give this a skip. Nestled among huge mountains, you will fall in love with this place if you are a true nature lover. We zeroed down this specific lodge since we wanted a place away from Huaraz city and convenient for hiking. Location is a plus as it is near to all the hiking trails. The lodge is beautiful, rooms are neat and clean with a big cozy bed, a fire place and hot water shower in the bath. Two magnificent mountains surround this lodge. On one side, you will see Cordillera Blanca (Blanca is White in Spanish) and on the other side you will see Cordillera Negra (Negra is Black in Spanish). Our hosts Chris and Stephanie were absolutely lovely and took very good care of us (especially when I got altitude sickness) and guided us in all possible ways. Breakfast and lunch were simple but dinners were extravagant and delicious. I would highly recommend this place. Just be aware that you will be off the grid when here, if that is not your cuppa tea you should checkout other accommodations in Huaraz city.
The Llanganuco Moutain Lodge

Made some friends at the lodge 😛
Huaraz is a paradise for hikers with many hiking trails. Day 1 was pretty much a rest day and a small walk along small lake situated near the lodge. Day 2 we did the small trail of Llanganuco lake and hubby continued on his way to another hike while I came back to the lodge.

Lake Llanganuco if simply put is just breathtaking. I have never seen such a beautiful place ever (till now). The glistening turquoise blue color of the water and the never ending majestic mountains simply didn’t look like they belonged to this world. Ok well… I might be exaggerating a bit 😛 but trust me I was at complete awe. Mother nature certainly has her way of surprising us. My altitude sickness just disappeared because I was transported to another world altogether. The lake is all glacial water and hence the beautiful color. 

The gorgeous lake Llanganuco 
Simple amazing
Strange and interesting looking tree
It keeps getting better and better

Now how could we miss a boat ride with all this beauty surrounding us. 
Coca Tea 
The next day that is day 3 hubby went on for the very popular hike, Laguna 69 but unfortunately I had to stay back since I was not totally up for hiking due to the altitude sickness. And moreover it was for the best since we still had to see Cusco as well. Anyhow, long story short hubby could not complete the long hike to Laguna 69. He could have but instead he listened to his body and decided to walk back. Well you see its not for everybody but he gave his best shot. No regrets whatsoever. 

Important Note for Hikers: When at higher altitudes do not try to walk at a faster pace or even try to run. Take small steps and take it easy. We heard stories about how a couple ran all the way up to Laguna 69 so that they could finish the long hike at a short time. Later both of them were throwing up the entire night. So don’t hesitate to take baby steps while hiking. Let all the people pass you by, but trust me at the end of it you will be glad that you did.

CUSCO
First day at Cusco (Day 4) was again a relaxing day. We arrived at the hotel (Teirra Viva Cusco Saphi) at around noon. This hotel is very conveniently located at a walkable distance from Plaza De Aramas. Beautiful and clean rooms with a very helpful staff. We were welcomed with some Coca tea and the receptionist gave us a map and pointed out some nearby places to hangout and some good places to eat. Breakfast starts very early in the morning at 5am at the hotel and they provide very good wide variety of options. The early morning breakfast is definitely a plus if you have to catch an early morning train or a bus for site seeing as you can grab a bite or pack some too.

The Hotel – Tierra Viva Cusco Saphi

Plaza de Aramas

Plaza de Aramas 

Being a foodie, the first thing the both of us did was look for some delicious food :D. We actually did some research while planning our trip on good restaurants at Cusco. Finally zeroed down on Cicciolina. The food here was so delicious that we came in again after our trip to Machu Picchu. A must visit restaurant indeed.

The awesome food that we had at Cicciolina

There are a lot of places for site seeing in and around Cusco. The popular ones being Centro Historico de Cusco also known as Plaza de Armas, Sacsayhuaman (historical ruins), Inca trail, Sacred Valley, Tambomachay, Qorikancha and many more. The best part is once you reach Cusco you will find many private tours and travels operating at every nook and cranny. We opted for a half day tour the next day since we had Machhu Picchu planned the day after and hence had to skip few of the popular attractions.

Plaza de Aramas

For our half day site seeing we selected the Maras Moray tour. The first stop was a local village where the village folks demonstrated some amazing skills. Things like how they procure wool, how they clean them using all natural and organic soap, how the wool is colored using natural colors etc. It was indeed very informative and entertaining at the same time.

Second stop was Salinas de maras or Salt mines. Situated at an elevation of 3380 in Urumbamba valley outside of Cusco, Peru, is a network of around 300 salt pans/pools which are filled by a hypersaline underground spring water believed to be developed in the pre Inca times. Very unique and one of a kind. It is definitely a sight to behold.

Salinas de Maras

Salinas de Maras
Third and last stop Moray. Moray is the name of the Inca ruins situated west to the village of Maras. The ruins consists of terraced circular depressions. It is believed that these were used by the Inca to study the effects of different climatic conditions on crops. 

Our half day tour ended at around 2:30pm and later that evening we started preparing for our trip to Machu Picchu the next morning. The hotel staff were kind enough to hold our luggage until our return. So that was definitely a plus, no hassle of carrying all the luggage with us. 
Once back from Machu Picchu, we decided to visit the local market and then do some shopping at the Plaza. I personally enjoyed the vibrant and colorful market a lot. Highly recommend it. We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and overall we both had a really wonderful experience in Huaraz and Cusco. 

 Hope you enjoyed this post. Check out Marvelous Peru – Part 2 Machu Picchu here. 🙂 

Thank you so much for stopping by and thanks a ton to all my followers for all the lovely comments and encouragement. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016 EVERYONE. STAY HAPPY AND STAY BLESSED.

Kerala….God’s Own Country

Hello everyone!!!! Few days back i was just browsing through my old archives of photos (just for fun..i do that every now and then :)), when i came across pictures of our honeymoon trip to Kerala. The amazing pictures transported me to this lush green and beautiful state all over again. Hey hey hey… i am not being biased (considering that its my native place :P), you have to see it to believe it. It is being labeled as “GOD’S OWN COUNTRY” for a very good reason.  
We booked our trip through a website called keralahoneymoon.com. They have got various packages at a fairly good price. Overall our experience was very memorable. A few tiny hitches here and there but in the end i would say it was totally worth it. I was not into blogging back then. Never thought these photos would one day make it to my blog. There were hundreds of photos, obviously it is impossible to share all of them here, so sharing some selective pics with you all. 

I hope you will enjoy the photoessay on one of the most beautiful states in India.

Our package included Munnar, Thekkady, Boathouse at Alleppey and Kumarakom.

Enroute Munnar we spotted this beautiful waterfall.
Quick stopover for some much needed yummy south indian breakfast.
Kerala is incomplete with these gentle giants. 

Welcome tea on our arrival at Munnar

This where we stayed. Isn’t it breathtaking? The location of the cottage was truly spectacular. Well maintained clean and beautiful. 

Munnar is well known for the vast tea plantations. Fabulous indeed.
Clouds over the majestic Rajamalai. 

A small hike at Rajamalai

Nilgais strolling around at Rajamalai

Can you spot a nilgai here?

Not to miss this when in Kerala. Traditional Kathakali dance show at Munnar.

Kalaripaiyattu traditional martial art show at Munnar
Simply awesome

Got a chance to visit a tea manufacturing factory.
Our ride to the other side of the river at Thekkedy
A very early morning (mini adventure) nature walk at Thekkady. Saw few birds, monkeys and pug marks of leopard and elephants.

Delicious sadya (lunch with various assortment of food viz. rice, sambar, vegetables and pickles served on a banana leaf) for lunch at Thekkady. 

When we were not eating we were canoeing 😛
Beautiful boat house waiting for our arrival. 
The famous Backwaters of Kerala
The food on the houseboat was outstanding and the staff very attentive and caring.  They even surprised us with a cake along with a candle light dinner in the night. :). Pictured above: Karimeen fry (fish fry top), sambar, rice, cabbage sabji, avial and beans sabji for lunch. They also served yummy payasam (rice pudding) for dessert. If you are planning a visit to Kerala, you should do the boathouse totally worth it. 
Thats him 😛
Sunset from the houseboat

The houseboat dropped us at our last stop, the resort at Kumarakom.
Kumarakom 
Sunset at Kumarakom

There is so much more to see and so much more to explore in this beautiful state of India. Ohhh well there is always next time. 🙂

Edinburgh, Scotland Photo Essay – An Impromptu 2 day Trip

This post was supposed to be my last post for the year 2014. But to tell you the truth i was being plain lazy and hence no posts since last few months (yes!!! sighhhh 🙁 ). And thats the reason why i never came back to complete this post on time. Now that i am back from a really long break from blogging its time to get back on track :).

Edinburgh, Scotland was certainly not on our list when we were in London. After giving it a lot of thought finally we decided…..why not?. Since we were in London for a good 2 weeks (for hubby’s work) we wanted to make the most of it. This trip was a quick tour of Edinburg and we managed to squeeze in as many places as we could. 
The most memorable part of the trip for me was the mesmerizing victorian structures and the beautiful lush green landscape. I am not a big fan of cities or modern buildings.  Ancient architecture, ruins and the history behind them is what fascinates me the most. 
Although i am well aware that there were a lot of stuff we missed but this what we could manage in our 2 day trip and i must say it was wonderful. I hope you will like and enjoy my small photo essay on this beautiful country. 
Day 1: Edinburgh City tour 
We started off our first day with scrumptious breakfast at a local restaurant called Triacle near our hotel. I had the scottish vegetarian breakfast and hubs ordered eggs benedict. My scottish breakfast was the most delicious and scrumptious breakfast i ever had….yummmm. So if you ever happen to visit Edinburgh do check out this place or atleast try out the scottish breakfast. 
Eggs Benedict – 2 english muffins topped with spinach and poached eggs with hollandaise sauce
Vegetarian Scottish Breakfast comprised of veg haggis (this was to die for yummmmyy), veg sausage, tomato, portobello mushroom, beans, hash brown, potato scone, egg, toast and tea….burrrrpppp!!
After a very satisfying meal we headed for local sight seeing. The easiest, quickest and reasonable option for city sight seeing would be the hop on and hop off bus tours. The bus tours include Edinburgh tour, City sightseeing tour, Mac tours, Majestic tour and Bus & Boat tour. You can choose a particular tour based on what you are interested in seeing (each tour covers different local attractions). 

University of Edinburgh

View of the old town from above the Princes Street Gardens

University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle 


Beautiful view captured from the Castle



National War Museum 

Inside the castle 

Some beautiful stained glass windows

Striking a touristy pose 😛

St. Giles Cathedral 
New town Edinburgh


Scottish National Gallery (view from behind)
Day 2: Loch Ness, GlenCoe and Highlands

Next day we had booked a one day trip to Loch Ness, Glen Coe and the beautiful highlands. Words might fall short to describe the beautiful landscape that we saw. I would rather share the beautiful and breathtaking pictures instead.

Highland cattle aka hamish cow (looks like this one needs a stylist 😛 )

Simply beautiful

Lupines

GlenCoe

This is one of my fav pics that i clicked during our tour

Spotted a white one (must say this one was very friendly)….do you see the brown one standing in the corner? They look so cute with the bangs hehehee..
Loch Ness Boat Trip

Yeyyyy finally we spotted Nessie 😛 


London – A photo essay and some foodie thoughts

Hubby’s work trip to London turned out to be a wonderful travel and gastronomic experience for us. Since this was not a leisure trip i will keep this post short and share some of the beautiful photos instead. On second thoughts i would love to share things i liked about London and places to eat (being a total foodie now how can i miss the food part).

This has been in the drafts since…forever….Can’t believe how lazy i am at times…heeeee 😛

Big Ben – Also know as the Clock Tower happens to be the largest four faced clock tower in the world.
Palace of Westminster – UK Parliament
Tower Bridge – Noooo!!! that is not the London Bridge 😛

Some highlights:

1) The beautiful Victorian structures – Victorian structures are a welcome break among the high rises that you often get to see in all the major cities and downtown. It was a deja vu kinda feeling as we can also find these stunning architecture in our very own Mumbai.

2) The Food (especially Indian Food :D) – I must confess the Indian food here was by far the best of the best. We also enjoyed few other delicacies.

I have listed few of our favorites from our trip below:

Indian and Bangladeshi Food

  • Brick Lane: If you are ever in London city and are craving for Indian or Bangladeshi food, do check out the restaurants on Brick Lane many options to choose from. 
  • Lahore Kebab House: By far the most delicious mutton tikka and paya that i have ever had. The food here is lip smackingly delicious. This place is a must try if you are a die hard non vegetarian. 
  • Dishoom: With a nice laid back ambiance, this place also serves delicious food. Although i wouldn’t say its all the way traditional but more of a modern indian approach. 
  • Simply Indian: A simple hole in the wall kinda restaurant but the service was good and food was absolutely delicious. And the menu was interesting too, with many different options ranging from hyderabadi to goan to mughlai. 
  • Bangalore Express: This is the one near gracechurch street. The veg thali and south indian cuisines are a must have. The only very big disappointment with this place is the service. Its very very bad. So if you are patient enough and can tolerate a bad service you can give this a try maybe once. 
  • Punjab: This is known to be the oldest north indian restaurant in the UK. Ambiance, service and food everything is excellent here. A must try indeed. 

Other Options: 

  • Gaucho: If you are a steak lover then this is something you shouldn’t miss. Gaucho is an argentine steakhouse and argentine beef is known to be best in the whole wide world. Steakhouses can be expensive so save this for a date night ;). Please excuse me for the poor quality of photos clicked from my phone :P.
                          

                                                         

  • Pho – A small and charming restaurant that serves delicious vietnamese street food. Loved the quaint small place and the food. 
  • Old Spitalfields Market – A must visit place if you are in London. I so so regret for not carrying my camera while i was here. This is the place where i passed most of my time while hubby was busy with his work. A great place for food and shopping. Clothes, bags, fashion jewelry, make up, shoes,  arts & crafts, handmade crafts, vintage collections, mediterranean food stalls, basically everything old and new could be found here. Now as far as food is concerned there are tons of options to choose from. I loved the falafel options served by Pilpel, small greek deli by The Real Greek which is just outside the restaurant serve some delicious fresh salads along with lunch options and delicious crepes by crepeaffaire. I am sure there are many other restaurants that serves delicious food but these were some of them that we both liked and enjoyed. 
Old Spitalfields Market Image Source- Google (Wikipedia)
3) Transportation: Easy transport options like buses and trains makes it easier for tourists to roam around conveniently everywhere. I especially loved the double decker red buses :).

The vintage red Double Decker bus 😀

Some photos of the major tourist attractions.

Buckingham Palace
Changing of the Guard, at Buckingham Palace

This cantonal tree displays the coats of the arms of the 26 cantons of Switzerland. 
It states that on 15th April 1991, on the occasion of 700th anniversary of the Swiss confederation, 
the right Worshipful the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor David Avery named this area “Swiss Court” 
as a token of lasting friendship between Switzerland and the United Kingdom. 
The London Eye – One of the popular tourist attraction, this Europe’s tallest ferris wheel offers the
highest public viewing point in London (however now The Shard has taken over as the highest viewing point) 

Birds eye view of the city from the London eye
The British Museum

Inside the Museum
So until next time….signing off with some spectacular night view

Palace of Westminster lit up at night