Palace of Versailles – A royal trip

During my trip to Paris,I decided to visit ” The Palace of Versailles”.I was always intrigued by the palace as it has a very important place in history.As a student I had studied about the French Revolution an Queen Marie Antonniette and her lavish abode, popularly known as Chateaux de Versailles.

It is listed as a world heritage site since 30 years and now a museum, attracting millions of tourists throughout the year.On a cold and foggy morning we started our journey by car ,from Bouffemont,a french city,where I was staying with my French friend , Christine.We had decided to reach early,as it gets crowded by afternoon.

We reached the Royal gate,I was spellbound with the outer facade overlooking the Marble Court.Of course, I posed for a picture! We moved ahead towards the counter,picking up our earphones,that could give information and our guide of course.Quite useful! Every place we reached even if it was a hall or a royal library, I got information in English as well as in French.We climbed the Ambassadors staircase and moved towards the Grande apartments,the bedrooms of the famous King Louise XVI and the Queen Marie Antonniette ,known as the Grand appartement de Roi and the Grand appartement de la Reine.

Grande apartment de Roi

The King”s bedroom faced the rising Sun and had seven rooms attached to it ,dedicated to the planets.The Queen “s bedroom was resided by three famous french queens.The ceilings of both bedrooms were painted with figures from mythology.We slowly moved towards the most famous rooms, The Hall of Mirrors (Galerie de glaces) where the famous Treaty of Versailles was signed.The 17 windows of the Hall ,facing towards the garden.Opposite the windows are large mirrors composed of more then 350 individual mirror surfaces.The ceiling has magnificent chandeliers and paintings by Charle le Brun , a famous french artist.Th Hall was used for official visits of foreign ambassadors and grand events.

Jardin de Versailles

After our tour of the palace we went to the gardens of Versailles.It is the finest example of a french royal garden.The Fountain of Latona mesmerized me.The capitavating view of the green carpet of grass makes one go to the world of Fantasy.

Fatehpur Sikri – A UNESCO site

North of India has many wonderful places with Mughul architecture, built during the Mughal rule in India. When I was in school, in History, I had studied about Fatehpur Sikri and Bulund Darwaza is one of the architectural wonders of the Mughal Era. Many songs and dance sequences of Bollywood films were shot here.

I was excited when I visited Fatehpur Sikri during my school trip. We were six teachers and nearly a hundred students. We traveled in two luxury buses from Agra to Fatehpur Sikri. As our bus came to a halt near the UNESCO Heritage site ( In 1986 it was declared as a UNESCO site), we were surrounded by hawkers selling souvenirs and beautiful bead necklaces.

Built by the famous Mughal Emperor Akbar, the city holds India”s great work of architecture in red stones. The name Fatehpur Sikri means ” The city of victory”, is a huge complex of a mosque, palace, and a lake. It has the Tomb of Salim Chisti, a holy sage, It is believed that all our wishes are fulfilled if we tie a red thread near the white marble jali and put a flower bedsheet on his tomb. We found many tourists doing so, and we too followed them, our wishes fulfilled.

Tomb of Salim Chisti

I was extremely impressed by the Jodhabai”s palace, our tour guide explained that the palace was resided by Emperor Akbar”s Hindu wife, Jodha Bai. The palace had enchanting Hindu motifs like the parrots, lotus, swans, and elephants. He further explained ad showed us two more palaces , one belonging to his Muslim wife ad a Christian wife.

Palace of Jodhabai

We clicked many pictures here. Another structure that fascinated me was the Panch Mahal. It is a five-storied palatial structure, having 84 pillars on the first floor. Each pillar had a jali from where women can view the happening in the city, as they were supposed to be behind the Veil and never came in front of the male members. The second floor has 56 pillars, the third floor has 20 and the fourth floor has 12 pillars with a Chatri or a Dome on the topmost floor.
We then moved towards the colossal Bulund Darwaza or the Gate of Victory, very impressive artwork, and looks majestic.

Bulund Darwaza

Yana Caves – A Trail Blaze

During our short holiday to Gokarna , we decided to visit Yana Caves,just 50 kms away from Gokarna Beach.Early morning after a heavy breakfast of Banana Vada, Dosa and Idli Sambhar , we started our journey by car, which we had hired for the day.My husband and his friend”S family had decided to visit the famous Yana Caves, a huge monolithic rock formation. It can be reached by an adventurous walk through the dense forest and it just has a small path. We had never experienced such a wonderful walk,listening to the chirping birds, stamping dry golden leaves, resting after every half an hour, enjoying the jungle walk, clicking pictures in the dark green dense forest.If you love adventure,nature and trekking Yana caves is a must visit !

After walking for more than an hour we finally got a view of the famous black rock formation,really tall and solid black limestone formation.We were awestruck with the beauty of black crystalline formation.These caves are in Yana village , one of the cleanest and wettest village in Karnataka, South of India.There are two great rock formations,one is called Mohini Sikhara and the other is called Bhairaveshwara Shikhara.The cave contains a shiv linga, very religious to the Hindus.Tourists flock here especially during the festival of Mahashivratri,it is a well known pilgrimage centre.

But by the time we reached the temple had closed as it was noon . so we clicked a few pictures and drank some cold drink at a small shop at the foot of the caves.We needed some energy as we had to walk back to the village and get into our car, to move over to the next destination Vibhooti Falls.

Bandra – Queen of Suburbs

Mumbai is an exciting city with beautiful places to visit. Let me not talk of all the famous places Mumbai has to show the tourists like the Gateway of India, Chowpatty, Flora fountain and endless other place.

The suburbs of Mumbai are also very interesting to visit and most of the suburbs are popular with the tourists as well as the locals, one such suburb is Bandra. Often referred as the ” Queen of Suburbs”. It is tucked away on western side of the city. Rich in history and Portuguese Heritage. It was a small fishing Village way back in 1534.One can still see some Portuguese ancestral homes. The suburb is also a haven to the film stars of Bollywood. House of the famous Bollywood stars Salman khan and Shahrukh Khan is always thronged by fans of these stars especially during the festival of Id.

My memories of visit to this suburb goes back to childhood, when every year in the month of September I visited the Bandra Fair near Mount Mary Church.The church is unique facing the sea and often like to visit on Sunday .Praying in the big hall. The vendors outside the church sell wax houses, limbs, cradles etc It is beleived that one ask for a wish it is fulfilled .So suppose I ask for a wish to buy a house and miraculously I do buy a house, but then I must go to the church and offer a wax house to Mother Mary.

Of course shopping at Linking Road and Hill road I can never forget. Wonderful memories with my college friends, I used to visit these shopping streets of Bandra, popular with all Mumbaikars. Even today (till Covid took to Mumbai) I love visiting Hill Road to shop for clothes of latest designs and cheap to the pocket. Mainly we enjoy shopping here because the street stalls have the best stuff like handbags, scarves, shoes, belts and accessories bargaining is must and you get a feel of winning when the stuff is with us after the bargaining battle with the street vendors.

Also having Pani puri at Elco arcade at Hill Road is must. One can eat delicious chaat dishes and Gulab Jamun (a dessert dish).

Staying in Mumbai hanging around at the Promenade at Bandra Bandstand enjoying the pleasant  sea breeze is  the best way to spend Saturday evening. A part of Bandra Bandstand honors top Bollywood stars by featuring them on Walk of Stars. I just admire the statues of six iconic Bollywood actors and the 100 brass plates embossed with handprints and signatures of other Bollywood stars.

One can also walk to the end of the promenade and spend time at the ruins of Bandra Fort, viewing the Worli Sea Link. Best time during monsoon!

Memories of Childhood

I grew up in Mumbai chawl, though I was born in Ahmedabad. We stayed in a chawl till I was 14 years old.We then shifted to a one room and kitchen house, which was quite a luxurious thing in those days.Regardless of the weather, our dinner time was at 8.00 PM and bed time was 10:00 PM.

Eating out at a restaurant was a huge deal, that only really happened when it was either my birthday or a very special occasion…In restaurant also we just used to eat a Masala Dosa or Onion Uttapam. We had no choice of Fast food on every other day, and having a bottle of Thums Up or an icecream was a real treat.We took off our school clothes as soon as we got home and put on our ‘home’ clothes. There was no taking or picking you up in the car, you either boarded the school bus or rode your bicycle ! I used to walk to school.You got home did your chores and your homework before dinner.That was the life in 1980 s.

Our house phone had a cord attached and there was no such things as private conversations!We didn’t have Amazon Prime or Netflix, we had only 1 channel to watch, Doordarshan!!!… and Black and White T.V.My favourite show was watching a serial called “Swami ” writted by R.K Narayan. and ” Tom and Jerry cartoons”.We waited for gifts from overseas..esp wrigleys chewing gum, camay soap, Charlie perfume, warm cosy knitwear clothing which looked so chic at that time but was kept away for “special occasions” as after currency conversion the garment was super duper expensive.

We played dark room, Cops & Robbers, Hide & Seek, 7 stones, Pitto, and any other game we could come up with…..Ludo, cards, carrom board, chess, were indoor fun with cousins n siblings.. I used to love to read books ,like comics on “Archie” ” Richie Rich” Chacha Choudhary, .. amar chitra katha. As I grew older I started reading ” Hardy Boys” ” Enid Blyton”.

Staying in the house was a PUNISHMENT and the only thing we knew about “bored” was — “You better find something to do before I find it for you! On Sunday our only outing was to a nearby public garden or at a lake in Thane .Once a year we had a family outing by train to the city of Mumbai and visit the famous Gateway of India and the Chowpatty Beach.We played music via a Radio or recording Cassettes….i used to listen to songs by “ABBA” and “Boney M”.

We went to the local Kirana shop for grocery and there were no Malls of course.We ate what Mum made for dinner and if we didn’t eat our vegetables there was no dessert. Bottled water was luxury, we drank it straight from the tap. Even at train stations We traveled everywhere by Trains and the train journeys were such an adventure.Going to my grandmother”s house to Ahmedabad by train was what we looked forward every vacation.The 8 – 10 hour journey was fun , eating homemade Theplas , Godpapdi or Besan Ladoo. Playing with my cousins was another routine during our visit there,and we enjoyed going to Kankariya lake and Bal Vatika.

We weren’t AFRAID OF ANYTHING. We played till dark… sunset was our alarm.If someone had a fight, that’s what it was and we were friends again a week later, if not SOONER.We had to be very careful and be well behaved when we had our aunts, uncles visiting us, we would be punished if my brothers and I misbehaved. Though I was a quiet child and looked forward to out relatives visiting us from Gujrat and especially when my uncle”s family came from Patna.

We got punished at school for not doing homework, being late to class or being naughty and hoped our parents wouldn’t find out or we would get punished again. These days a teacher cannot even raise an eyebrow ,let alone punish.Those were the good days. So many kids today will never know how it feels to be a real kid . I loved my childhood and all the Friends I hung around with…..the best time I had was when I was in college and that is when slowly I started being extrovert and started following my passion of reading more and more books especially travel books and always had a dream to visit America and Egypt.My dream fulfilled…………..Thank you Universe!

Trip To Paris – Part 1 – Musee d’Orsay

During my school days I learnt French as a foreign language subject. I had this black and white text book , but I still remember getting fascinated by Paris, the capital of France. I was intrigued to know that there are beautiful bridges over the Seine river and used to dream about visiting the city .

In 2007 I started corresponding with a wonderful French friend, Christine. Our correspondence was quite lively as she used to send pictures of famous places in Paris which she visited.She often went to Chantilly and I admired the natural beauty of her small town.Often used to dream of visiting her and going around Paris.

In October 2017 I was invited to Paris to attend a Symposium of an American program that I was handling as an educator.And bang there , I found my dream has come true ! I told Christine about it,she was super excited as we could meet .The conference was for two days and I was staying in the famous Historic Hotel Scribe Opera with other educators.

We visited the famous Museum de Orsay, on the first day evening , it was raining the weather was pleasant .This famous museum is a former railway station located on the Left Bank of the River Seine opposite the Tuileries Garden. It was also used as a hotel before being converted into a museum.Due to changes in railway technology the station became outdated and in 1977 , it was decided to convert it into a Museum.The building was remodeled and the interior was designed by Gaetana Aulenti. President Francois Mitterrand inaugurated the museum on 1st December and it was opened to public on December 9th.The museum now houses a fine collection of 19th and 29th century arts and artifacts, one of the biggest art collection in the world.It has three levels . On the ground floor one can see the famous sculptures and paintings .

I was very impressed by the masterpiece art work of Claude Monet and famous paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. One must go to the first floor to the Festival Hall of Musee d”Orsay .The interior gives you a feel of being in a royal palace . The museum is visited by 3 million tourists every year.I suggest one must surely visit Musee d” Orsay during your trip to Paris.

Florence – Birthplace of Renaissance

Florence or “Florencia” was also known as “The flourishing Town” during the ancient times. It is rightly called the “Cradle of Renaissance”, famous for its monuments,churches and buildings of great architecture.It was founded in 59 BCE as a colony of soldiers for the Roman armies.In the ancient times the city was first occupied by Ostrogoth,then by the Byzantines and later by the Lombards. By late 10th century the city prospered under countess Matilda of Tuscany and thus it became a leading city in Tuscany.

The city is located about 145 km away from North West of Rome.Its historic centre was inscribed on UNESCO’S World Heritage List in 1982.It is known as the birth place of Renaissance and also known as the Athens of the middle ages.The Florentine vernacular became the Italian language and the local coin florin, became the world monetary standard.

Florence has numerous museums,famous for its painting and sculpture.The famous one is the palazzo Vecchocia and the Uffizi Gallery, which is the most visited tourist spot with the highest sale of tickets and it gives a great boost to the cultural tourism .Another best known site is ” The Duomo”, a domed cathedral,Santa Maria del Fiore ,whose dome was built by Fillippo Brunelleschi. The dome is the largest in the world, built in brick and mortar,dominating the Florentine skyline.The centre of the city also has the Piazza della Signoria, a masterpiece of marble sculpture.

Florence is marked by the Forbes as one of the most beautiful city in the world, due to its artistic and architectural heritage. Cimabue and Giotto ,the fathers of Italian painting lived in Florence and we cannot forget the contributions of Leonardo da Vince,Donatello ,Michelangelo and Raphael s,and their work of art will be remembered by several generations to come.

Florence is also one of the top 15 cities famous as the fashion capitals of the world,home to the renowned brands like Gucci, Armani, Chanel, Prada and the list is endless.

Basilica of Bom Jesus – An experience

As a child when I had studied about the spread of Christianity in school, and I had studied about St. Xaviers body being displayed in the church in Goa , I was curious to visit the church.

So two years back when I visited Goa,I had decided to visit this famous church.When our bus was parked outside the church,as soon as all the tourists caught site of the massive church they started clicking pictures. I walked towards the church wondering what was there in store for them, that brings thousand of tourists everyday.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus is located in Goa and it is a UNESCO world heritage site.It holds the mortal remains of St.Francis Xavier. Now you must be wondering what is Bom Jesus,well it literally means good Jesus. I was impressed by one of the best example of Baroque architecture and this being one of the oldest church not only in India but around the World .

Outside the Church of Basilica of Bom Jesus : Goa , India

The construction of the Basilica of Bom Jesus began in 1594 and completed in 1605. The mausoleum, designed by a Florentine sculptor Giovanni Battista Fogginni. The church is also adorned with paintings of scenes from the life of the Saint After every ten years the Holy relics of the Saint are displayed during the Saints death anniversary on 3rd December. A 9 day novena precedes the Feast of St.Francis Xavier.

The last time the body of the Saint was displayed in 2014 and now the religious crowd have to wait till 2024. Though the church is 408 years old, it is well maintained and open to public on all days.This is the only church in Goa that is not plastered.

The iconic silver casket has been holding the body of Saint Francis Xavier for so many years, as it needs restoration , the remains will be taken to Florence in Italy.

Tower of London

The Tower of the London, located on the north bank of the river Thames, was designated as a world heritage site in 1988. It is a 900 year old castle and fortress built by King William I the conqueror. However, the moat was built by Richard I. The tower was mainly built for the protection of the people in the kingdom from foreign invasions,but sadly later it was used as a prison and a place for execution.

Now, the tower is notable for holding the crown jewels and also has a museum of armours. It was also used as the royal residence till the 17th century.

The tower has been famous for the mysterious disappearance of the royal princes Richard and Edward, sons of the King Edward.Once imprisoned in the tower, they were never seen and their uncle Richard III took over the throne. Another famous prisoner was Guy Fawkes who tried to blow off the house of Lords was also tortured in the Tower. He confessed about his crime in the famous torture room “The Ease”.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the tower less used for prisoners. The last prisoner was Rudolf Hess, who was Hitler’s deputy. Today the Tower of London is famous for the crown jewels display,one of the most popular attractions as it has crowns used by the royals for their coronations. Queen Elizabeth’s famous crown with 2,800 diamonds,includes the famous Kohinoor diamond ,the world”s largest neutral cut diamond is kept here,in the Waterloo Barracks.

Interestingly The tower of London houses Ravens for good luck. There is a very popular legend about the Ravens. It says that if the Ravens ever leave the Tower of London, great disaster shall come upon England! Sadly, the wings of these birds are clipped to prevent their escape.

Another interesting fact is that entering the tower at night is difficult because the password is changed every night.

Rann Utsav – The White Desert.

The Rann of Kutch or the White desert it is one of the biggest salt deserts in the world.A perfect Rendezvous for winter time, it is  no wonder that it is a hotspot of music ,dance and natural beauty. A visit on a full moon night is recommended strongly to enjoy to the fullest. The Rann Utsav is put up near Dhordo, very near to the airport.The tent city has more than 400 tents.

The Experience

My trip to Rann of Kutch dazzled me. It is a geographical marvel of nature that expands to 7505 miles in the Thar Desert. A sensational salt marsh with a sparkling panorama of white sands that looks just endless, but so close to Pakistan; you almost feel as if you can see the boundaries as you keep on walking tirelessly. The Tourism Department of the Government has started the tradition of the Rann Utsav. It literally means ‘Festival of the Desert’, and it encourages tourism and forms a great source of livelihood for the locals. From sightseeing to shopping Rann Utsav has everything under one roof and of course its a great experience to stay in the Tent city.In the evening one can relax and enjoy the cultural show. I especially enjoyed to listen to the Kutchi Folk Music and the audience gathered there also attempted to do Garba Dance.

Things to do :

  • Enjoy a camel ride and listen to the singers singing the local Folk songs. Tourists end up dancing and merrymaking, the local Gujarati end up playing Garba (a dance Form of Gujrat)
  • Shopping for exotic handicrafts with Kutchi embroidery and artistic jewelry can end a day well spend.
  • After Shopping and sightseeing one can taste Kutchi cuisine which consists of Bajre ka Rotla, Khicdi, Kadhi and fresh onion to gulp it down with lassi or Butter milk.
  • One can also stay in a fully furnished tent decorated with kutchi art work.