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Photo Essay – 10 Must See Sights in India, but with a “light” twist

26 Apr

On World Heritage Day this year (i.e. on April 18) I had posted a photo essay on Celebrating World Heritage Day with 10 Heritage Monuments from India.And while shortlisting pictures for this post, I came across some other beautiful pictures and sights in India, that just compelled me to write this post. Hence posting another photo essay on 10 beautiful sights to see in India that too in a unique way.

Now all of us visit the typical touristy sights at some point in time or the other, but with my own travels I have discovered that many of these places are even more stunning or beautiful when some minor natural / artificial elements, ceremonies, etc are introduced or amended. And I feel that in some ways, these sights then become a unique travel souvenir – images in your own memory or a wonderful story. This is also what takes your holiday to a whole new level. I am sharing 10 of my own such memories (from my recent visits) with you today –

1. Waiting and waiting for that rare yet wondrous sight of the snow-covered Kangchenjunga peak on a day with clear blue sky (and this is very rare :), West Bengal – Sikkim –

Kangchenjunga Peak, from West Bengal

Kangchenjunga Peak, from West Bengal

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Photo Essay – Celebrating World Heritage Day with 10 Heritage Monuments from India

18 Apr

Today and on the 18th April of every year , ICOMOS i.e. International Council on Monuments and Sites celebrates the “International Day for Monuments and Sites”. The aim of the International Day is to encourage local communities and individuals throughout the world to recognize the importance of cultural heritage in their lives, identities and communities, and to promote awareness of its diversity and vulnerability and the efforts required to protect and conserve it. And I thought what better way to celebrate it on my blog than with a photo essay on 10 of my favorite heritage monuments and sites that I have been lucky enough to visit recently. I am limiting myself to 10, as I can go on and on with these pictures and the post can be never ending.

1. The Mumbai CST Station and the heritage walk on DN Road –

Mumbai CST Station, Mumbai, Maharashtra

Mumbai CST Station, Mumbai, Maharashtra

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5 Must Visit Stores in Chennai

16 Aug

I love shopping and have to buy something from every place that I visit. Hence my trip to Chennai was no different. While Chennai was always known for its traditional sarees and gold ornaments, there is now a lot more to it’s shopping than just that. Chennai is evolving and has some interesting brands that you must definitely check out on your next visit here.

Naturally Auroville Boutique.Photo courtesy -http://naturallyaurovillechennai.com/.

Naturally Auroville Boutique.Photo courtesy -http://naturallyaurovillechennai.com/.

Naturally Auroville Boutique – A visit to Auroville is a must for everyone visiting Chennai or Pondicherry. The Auroville boutique stocks products that are made in Auroville and are natural, artistically designed and ecologically sustainable. They have a wide variety of products in home décor, aroma & fragrance, handmade paper deco, organic food etc that make beautiful gifts for yourself and for everyone back at home. I bought a lot of cosmetics, essential oils, fragrant candles, organic food etc for my friends and family and each one of them loved their gifts.

You can check more on them at – http://naturallyaurovillechennai.com/

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A piece from Chennai’s History – Fort St. George

14 Aug

In February this year, I was in Chennai for a very short trip and my friend Sridhar showed me around. Per his suggestion, I decided to explore a small piece of Chennai’s history with a visit to Fort St. George. I was also assured by Sridhar that I will be amongst the very few distinguished people (even amongst the local residents) to have seen this Fort.

A quick recap of its history –  this fort was built-in the early 17th century by the East India Company to secure their spice trade lines against the possibility of an attack. In 1639 the Company bought a piece of coastal land and permission from a Vijaynagar chieftain named Damerla Chennappa Nayaka, and began the construction of the harbor and the fort. The fort was completed in 1644 on St. George’s Day and hence was christened Fort St George. It originally faced the sea and some fishing villages, but soon also became the hub of all local merchant activity. It also gave birth to a new settlement called George Town (also referred to as Black Town), which subsequently grew to include the surrounding villages and led to the formation of the city of Madras. Within the Fort too, a group of buildings – namely The Fort House, St. Mary’s Church, Fort residencies, Clive’s House, the Grand Arsenal, King’s Barracks and the Exchange House were built at different intervals of times for different purposes (per the needs of the Company).

Painting of Old Chennai

Painting of Old Chennai

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An Afternoon at Amethyst Cafe, Chennai

24 Jul

On my recent trip to Chennai, my friend Sridhar introduced me to a coffee shop that I can only equate to being an oasis in a desert. After spending an entire morning outside in the Chennai sun (whose heat you actually have to experience to believe it) I was at my snappy best, when Sridhar suggested that we visit the Amethyst Café.

Amethyst Cafe, Chennai

Amethyst Cafe, Chennai

This Café is built-in an old building (was earlier a mill) and situated right in the middle of a bustling section of the city. However when I walked in into the Cafe, it felt like having time travelled into an another era altogether. This café has been beautifully designed as a colonial style building in the center – with round tables & wicker chairs, and a huge garden all around it. The gardens are beautifully designed with numerous trees,  smaller zen gardens, fountains, numerous birds and even has an in-house cat.  Though the café is right in the city center with traffic all around, somehow this café seems insulated to all the noise, chaos and general city sounds.

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A Cuppa coffee at Madras Cafe in Chennai

21 Jul

Earlier this year I found myself in Chennai for a quick 3 day trip. With no specific agenda, the highlights of this trip were meeting with my two friends – Deepa and Sridar, making a new friend – Lavanya (Deepa’s adorable 3-year-old daughter who only spoke Tamil), loads of shopping (no – no gold and no sarees) and loads of amazing coffee. With Deepa as an amazing host and Sridhar as a perfect guide, I saw and tasted a small slice of this city.

A cup of filter coffee. Pic courtesy - wikipedia

A cup of filter coffee. Pic courtesy – wikipedia

While I loved a lot of things in Chennai, my absolute favorite was and always is the filter coffee (pronounced as “filter kapi”).  Traditionally north and west India (where I come from) have been more tea drinking areas, whereas South India has always been a coffee drinking area. Now with a huge cultural shakeout within India, coffee has traveled and made home in a the taste buds of a lot of us (me included) but somehow no one has ever been able to replicate the taste of an authentic filter coffee here. So  it is no surprise that whenever I am in Chennai, the first thing I ask anyone for is – my cup of “filter coffee”.

So what makes the taste of this filter coffee so unique? First and foremost – the beans. The most commonly used beans are robusta (grown locally in South India) and mixed in a certain proportion with chicory. Secondly the method of preparation. This coffee is prepared using a simple filter which is specifically designed for the preparation of this coffee.

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