Croatia calling !

Chances are you’ve heard a bit about Croatia, either as all Instagrammers consider this as their new ‘Vacay Spot’, or as a stop on the Adriatic cruises. Croatia’s tourism industry is booming especially after the famous series ‘Game of Thrones’ was shot here. It is “the” destination now on any East Europe tour packages, mostly because of the affordable prices, gorgeous national parks, cobbled streets, and miles of coastline.
So obviously when I had to choose my summer holiday destination I added  Croatia on my list. I travelled to Croatia with my parents, sister, and husband and not to forget my little munchkin – 2 yr old daughter.
As soon as we landed in Croatia we all agreed that it was one of the prettiest places we had ever visited. My first pit-stop destination was the gorgeous – Dubrovnik. Known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik is the most populated by tourists. Here you’ll find your large chain hotels in addition to boutique hotels and guesthouses. But there’s plenty to be seen here, especially for the Game of Thrones fans.
 
With a population of just under 50,000 it’s actually a much smaller town than you might think. Despite being such a popular tourist draw, I urge you not to miss out on a visit to this historical spot especially if you’ve never been before. It is visually truly beautiful, the old town being like something straight off of a movie set. Immaculately cobbled streets and magnificent stone buildings ooze life in the hustle and bustle of the local restaurants, cafes and bars that spill gloriously out all around you.
Take the cable car to the top of the mountain for an unparlled view before walking the smooth, stone pedestrian streets lined with shops and restaurants. After the cable car ride we walked down to start a walking tour of the old town of Dubrovnik. The series of defensive stone walls that surround the old town are considered one of the best fortification systems in Europe. Proving impossible to breach, this impressive defensive structure successfully protected the citizens of Dubrovnik for thousands of years and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and rightly so.
If you have a small kid with you it is highly advisable that you carry a pram along as the long tiresome walks inside the town are bound to exhaust your kid and you eventually. To beat the summer heat, we helped ourselves to their tongue swirling ice-creams and decided to step into one of the many cozy cafes that lined the street. Being a vegetarian, we had loads of apprehensions about eating outside but I must admit that the heavenly Italian cuisine is definitely not to be missed.
Moving on with our journey we reached the Plitvice National Park, which is somewhere on the way from Split to Zagreb. Lush waterfalls, verdant greenery, and pools that change from turquoise to teal to aquamarine — the Plitvice Lakes are one of the most famous sights in Croatia. Classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the stunning Plitvice Lakes National Park was the absolute highlight of my visit to Croatia on this East Europe tour package. I spent around 3 hours exploring the Plitvice Lakes National Park. Croatia’s largest national park is divided into Lower and Upper Lakes and offers different options in terms of sightseeing programs.
The first thing to bear in mind on a visit to Plitvice is the need to bring sensible shoes. While you can get a panoramic view of the waterfalls and lakes without walking much (or at all), the park’s beauty is without doubt best explored along its many paths. The network of boardwalks is impressive and beyond these are another set of lesser-used paths that offer an escape from the crowds.
What I absolutely loved about the Plitvice Lakes National Park is how insanely clear the waters of the lake were. We could see so many meters down, the fishes, and sometimes even the actual bed of the lake! It was incredible. Each individual lake got clearer and clearer, to the point we couldn’t quite believe our eyes. It really shows how clean and how well maintained the whole park is. The park was definitely the best thing of my trip.
The last leg of my Croatian journey on this East Europe tour package,  ended at the capital city, Zagreb. Our first destination was the huge Ban Jelacic Square where we got an obstructed view of the magnificent features of Zagreb. While Zagreb isn’t crawling with attractions, there are plenty of noteworthy sights that lend ample photogenic flair to any trip. St Mark’s Church, with its colourful tiled rooftop, is perhaps one of Zagreb’s most recognizable spots, but you also shouldn’t miss the epic view from Lotrščak Tower‬, where you get to admire the city’s red rooftops from above.
While many travellers dream about sipping espressos in Milan or cafe dwelling in Paris, it’s a lesser known fact that Croatians are also masters of an excellent brew. In Zagreb especially, the café culture manifests in not just tasty coffee, but a wide range of beautiful cafes decked in drool worthy décor. If you like yummy and colourful places to see in Zagreb then Dolac Market is the place to come. It is definitely worth a wander even if you don’t need to buy anything. This food market is brightly coloured and a great place to people watch. Another great thing to do in Zagreb is to visit the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This 1899 cathedral is visible from a fair distance around thanks to high twin spires. It felt like it was calling us so off we went. We were actually surprised by just how beautiful this big cathedral is on the inside.
And thus ended our mesmerizing journey to Croatia and we took back home with us loads of memories and happiness galore.
By SONAL BHATIA

Oh ! Istanbul

Shopping lists and supermarkets are synonymous with the daily humdrum life of a woman. So when you go on a holiday would you want to spend unlimited time in a market…Yes, definitely ..if it’s as astonishing as the Grand Bazaar Of Istanbul. Once you enter you will be too overwhelmed by the opulence and enthralled (or lost …that’s also a serious possibility) to leave. Istanbul, a city where a truly extraordinary experience lies around every corner here!

Merchants greet you at Gate No 1 of this Kapali Carsi or covered bazaar which was built by the Ottomans for trade in the fifteenth century on the shores of the Bosphorus where East meets the West. It has stood the test of time through fires and earthquakes and today is a cavernous maze of 61 streets and 4000 shops.

 

Enter a magical market of colours, aromas and sounds to entice every sensation in your body. The dome shaped ceilings with intricate mosaic patterns are so remarkable here. Be enveloped in a kaleidoscope of colour as more mosaics and ceramic plates and lamps adorn the shops, tempting souvenirs for you to take back for sure.

Clothes in silk, turkish shawls, embroidered boots and handbags and all the local craft to admire and acquire await you. Do you fancy some luxurious carpets or gold and silver jewellry, you are in the right place to indulge yourself. The bazaar today houses both modern and traditional items for you to browse or buy.

Nibble a few turkish delights (but wait for the best baklava …thats in Taksim square) as you stroll though the labyrinthine market and rest your tired but happy feet to have an Apple tea…thats something you can’t leave the Grand Bazaar without. When we visit the Spice bazaar you could buy some of it to take back too along with other wonderful spices.

We have a sumptuous Ottoman lunch whilst we are still in the Ottoman heartland. Savour the food of the royalty with a strong Persian influence. A tram ride to Sultanahmet is an experience not to be missed and you could saunter around here looking at more shops. You must take home some unique copper Ottoman earrings sold here. But we also have to take you to marvel at the splendours of Islamic Architecture here namely the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia and Topkapi Palace.

Coffee time in Taksim square in Beyoğlu which is the European part of Istanbul and tuck into Turkey’s famous dessert : the best baklava, every variety possible and other simply delicious sweetmeats as well at Hafiz Mustafa,1864.

We unwind in the evening at the fishing village of Ortakoy, watching the boats go by. Many trendy bars and cafes, here as the locals and tourists hang out to have a hookah and watch the sun set over the magnificent city that was formerly called Constantinople. Today Istanbul is a perfect harmonious blend of the old and the new, Asian and European cultures, vibrant yet generous people.

Awesome Amsterdam on a bike

The best way to get to know this amazing city is truly on the bicycle, just the way the locals do it.With over the 400 km of bike paths in the city, its quite commonplace to see smartly dressed men and women off to work on a bike everywhere. So “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” surely applies to the tourists too. It really is a great way to explore the city, instead of the mundane coach tours and we will always chose such offbeat things to do.

A city of concentric canals with limited land area available, the slender houses in Amsterdam have been built literally sticking to each other.The tour begins in Dam Square and you don’t have to be Lance Armstrong for this one! You will ride in a small group with your guide at a nice easy pace, so don’t worry, this is great for beginners and there will be many stops to take photos and selfies along the way. Your guide is a fountain of knowledge as well as jokes and anecdotes. You will hear stories about the city, how it gained prominence and also some weird fables about Amsterdam culture, all this with a whole lot of fun.

The cycling tour takes you over the pretty the canals and idyllic cityscapes into the neighbourhood called the Jordaan. The energy is youthful here as it has the most beautiful houses and cosy cafes and restaurants.The Leidseplein is the next stop which is the main entertainment square and has cinemas, discos, theaters and a casino as well. Make a note in your diary to come back here later to both these places for a happening night out.

We take a pit stop at the Vondelpark,south of Leidseplein and watch the world go by with other locals and tourists basking in the sun.Its close to the famous Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. There is actually a bicycle underpass at the Rijksmuseum which now allows you to ride your bike through a museum, the only place in the world you can probably do so.

After all that cycling around for the last few hours ….we think you deserve a special treat. So we end the bike tour in a beer garden Brouwerij ‘t IJ. This has 20 homemade beers with punny names and it also has the center’s only old-school windmill. For the beer lovers we recommend this fun option : The Heineken Experience. Its an amusing and interactive tour of the brewery with simulated rides that you will enjoy. A couple of glasses of the world famous beer thrown in makes it even more splendid !

In the evening we have a canal cruise lined up for you to enjoy the city through its multitudes of waterways. Feast your eyes on the elegant merchants’ houses dating from the Golden Age, the fabulous gables and churches. We pass the iconic Magere Brug over river Amstel (Skinny Bridge) shown in the James Bond movie “Diamonds Are Forever”. This peculiar wooden drawbridge was once so narrow that it was hard for two people to pass each other.

As twilight sets in, all the houses and arches of the canals light up and the reflections shimmer and shine in the waters below, promising the beginning of yet another wonderful soiree on a in this eclectic city for you and me.

I lost my heart in Barcelona!

Barcelona is definitely the best place to go for New Years Eve and nothing better than a slice of Spain for a great holiday ! You can’t help but immerse yourself in the artful lively vibe especially on Las Ramblas Our hotel was perfectly located right off this lively street.

We were most eager to explore the works of Gaudi that we had heard so much about and the very first place to go the next morning was unmistakably the Sagrada Familia.

The Basílica de la Sagrada Família is a dedication by Gaudi to The Holy Family. Antonio Gaudi knew he would not live to see it complete but his mission and spirit will find its fulfillment in 2026,exactly 100 yrs after his sad demise.

The Sagrada Familia covers 3 facades – the Nativity, the Passion and the Glorification.The Glorification is still very much in the making but I can’t find the right words to describe this magnificent creation enough.Definitely a must do when in Barcelona.

 

The Passion facade to the left features the events before and after the birth of Christ.Look closely on the left for “the flight to Egypt” and then for “the slaughter of the Innocents”. Such detailed carvings, look out for the already slain innocents at the foot of the soldiers .

We were awestruck by the beauty and the intricacy of all the carvings depicting Mary being escorted by Joseph on the donkey and the Angel to guide them, the Birth of Jesus,the Shepherds and the Three Kings.Gaudi always used nature to convey his thoughts.Can you appreciate the chameleon here, he meant  it to be there to represent ever changing life.

The Passion facade and The kiss of betrayal with the distinctive serpent….this place has such a mesmerizing effect on you …by we were now all charged to explore this city and discover more enchanting works of Gaudi and certainly the best of all is Casa Batllo.

What can one possibly say in words for this awesome creation? The strong influence of nature – Gaudis signature style is most evident here.The best time to go is towards the evening when you get the best of day and night sights.The “light show” in the evening was as you can see from my pictures just jaw dropping!
The devil is in the detail they say – well this one just proves it! A few uncanny designs to be seen here are skull-like balconies, the bone structures for pillars, mushroom shaped chimney…something no other architect ever conjured in his creations. You wonder what went on in this man’s mind as he envisioned and created a rippling ocean feel in the lights and ceiling. The interior of the Casa is a world of absolute delight. In a way there is consistency in his inconsistecy here I guess as from the rooms to the stairways to the roof, everything so well thought of and designed and executed with such undulating (you will note that there are no straight lines here ) passion !
 
Distinct mosaic patterns …and look at that chimney…who wants boring chimneys? Apparently there was no real plan, just a very rough one and Gaudí stood outside directing his team on a day to day basis like a maestro conductor conducts his orchestra to bring this masterpiece to fruition !
Park Guell 
How does one even conceptualize and construct a whole park seemingly made with just stones? Of all shapes and sizes and some very scientific architecture, beyond my understanding but definitely earned my fascination…..simply brilliant.
All that walking, especially in the crisp winter air got us hungry for some scrumptious paella and Catalan cream dessert thats a soft custard dish with a dark candy crust. So finger-licking good!!! The perfect local food to end a perfect day on our holiday in Barcelona.
Written by Kalpana Xavier

Coffee tales n' trails and Cafes in Bali

I’m a huge coffee freak and the aroma of a good coffee wafting through a coffee shop invigorates me like there’s no tomorrow. Whenever I travel, I do love to visit different cafes and Bali certainly has plenty of them.

Exploring Ubud, the heart of Bali and the little villages around gives you the real essence of traditional Balinese lifestyle, houses, art and culture.

Ubud - Meetime

The drive from Ubud market to Tegallalang Rice Terraces is breathtakingly beautiful as the road winds through lush green rice fields. The local farmers in their straw hats follow the Subak or the traditional Balinese  irrigation system to cultivate rice.

Lush Green Rice Fields - Meetime The Local Farmers - Meetime

There are many tempting cafes to sit and admire the view or take photos. Just laze and gaze at all the vast expanse of greenery around ….reduces stress they say. Well isn’t that why we are here in Bali…to relax and rejuvenate!

 Tempting Cafes - Meetime

The fertile  volcanic soil and the climate in the Kintamani region is perfect for coffee plantations and we went ahead to visit Bali Pulina Agro Tourism to learn about some secrets of coffee, spice and herb gardens.

Bali Pulina Agro - MeetimeHerb Gardens - Meetime

I was aghast to hear why Luwak coffee is the most expensive …because its poop coffee …the ripe coffee beans are eaten by the Civets and then partly digested and pooped out.Their digestive enzymes are supposed to change the structure of proteins in the coffee beans, which removes some of the acidity to make a smoother cup of coffee. As someone aptly said “Its a shitting expensive coffee.”

Civets - Meetime

Much as i love coffee, that story ain’t gonna get Mee to try a cup for sure! Would you?

Plantation Of Coffee - Meetime

Pure Bali Coffee - Meetime

A guided short tour of the plantation ended at the the open cafe or warung on stilts overlooking the rice terraces and we were served an array of lemon tea, ginger tea, ginger coffee, ginseng coffee, chocolate coffee, pure cocoa, vanilla coffee, pure Bali coffee to sample….You can order for some Luwak coffee if you wish.But I  preferred to tuck in to the locally made sweet treats like fried banana fritters served with honey or a palm sugar syrup and lupis (traditional snack made of rice with brown sugar syrup and grated coconut). Be assured of such local specialities on our holidays.

An Array Of Tea's And Coffee - Meetime Open Cafe - Meetime

After some shopping  in Ubud market, it was time to head for dinner to yet another amazing cafe, an oasis on the bustling Main Road: Cafe Lotus.
Cafe Lotus - Meetime

Pond Of Lotuses - Meetime

As I stepped inside I could feel that the place had a mystical aura to it, maybe because it surrounds a pond of Lotuses framed by ancient lowering kamboja (magnolia) and orchids. In the middle of the pond stands the most serene temple complex of Pura Taman Saraswati.The ambience is truly magical – especially during twilight hours and in the evenings. This place just warmed the cockles of my heart !

Pura Taman Saraswati - Meetime

Bali Tours Traditional Menu - Meetime

A Balinese folklore program and delectable traditional menu makes it the most perfect location for a few drinks and dinner.

For dessert don’t forget to indulge in some artisan Gelatos at the pretty in pink shop Gelato secrets just around the corner. They take pride in their signature gelatos oozing fresh flavours of the local fruits and spices. Have you had dragonfruit cinnamon or cashew black sesame before?

Gelatos - Meetime Pink Shop Gelato - Meetime

What’s your flavour? Pina colada, salted butter caramel from Tejakula sea salt,chai tea, coconut pandan, passionfruit, strawberry, organic Sulawesi vanilla or durian from Sumatra ? Try one, try them all, every night in Bali.

 

 

Girlie getaways for all seasons!

 

“I’ll be your girl for all seasons “….the opening lines of the unforgettable song from the movie Grease 2 inspired me to write this blog that take you to all these remarkable places in every season across the globe.

“I like people who get excited about the change of seasons, the sound of the ocean, watching the sunset, the smell of rain and starry nights.” – Brooke Hampton

Spring:

Spring - Meetime

Japan: Cherry blossom or Sakura season

Cherry Blossom - Meetime

It’s a very cheerful time in Japan in spring when the entire island is carpeted with cherry blossoms and transforms into a sea of pink. Locals and tourists gather in the parks for a” Hanami “or “flower viewing “. Have a picnic in the park like Shinjuku Goyen in Tokyo under a canopy of every imaginable shade of pink. The cherry blossoms adorning the shrines and monuments make a very pretty picture and we take you to Kyoto, Osaka and Nagoya Castle to admire these.

The most impressive pictures are at Lake Ashi with Mount Fuji or the symbol of Japan in the background and at Osaka Castle.

Summer:

International Tour Packages Summer - Meetime

Greece: Summer fun

The sun kissed islands of Greece are the most blissful escapade for you in summer. Enjoy the langorous beach life of Mykonos in the day and unwind with some Ouzo and table dancing at night in the taverns.The beach parties here in summer have the best DJs from all over the world and go on till dawn. Explore the coloured beaches of Santorini and visit the winery to taste the Asyrtiko wine that has a unique taste as the grapes are grown in the volcanic soil here. Put your feet up and savour the magical sunset at Oia for me time !

The UNESCO World Heritage sights in Athens like the Acropolis and the Pantheon best seen after 5pm as the brilliant light of the late-afternoon hours will only enhance your experience. Special music concerts in summer and the performances in the vibrant Monastirake area make summer time in Greece super fun time.

Autumn:

Croatia: Fall colours at Plitvice

The beauty of the fall colours is of joy forever in many parts of the world.Yet the transformation of the foliage around the 16 blue and green lakes and innumerable cascading waterfalls of Plitvice National Park into many shades orange and brown is a breathtaking sight. October is not a busy tourist season and hence the best time to enjoy the serenity of the National Park…take a leisurely stroll through this fairytale land and enjoy your me time with glorious Mother nature.

A holiday to Croatia along the Adriatic coast is a must, to revel in Dubrovnik, explore Roman ruins in Split and mend broken relationships in Zagreb.

Winter:

Iceland: Winter wonderland to chase the Northern Lights

The most spectacular natural phenomenons that brightens the earth in winter are the Northern Lights. Multi-coloured streaks of bright green, purple and magenta form a pattern across the sky and viewing that should be on your bucket list. We have a friend who can take you on an escorted trip to the island of Fire and Ice for a week. Experience many winter marvels like ice caves explorations and glacier walks in Iceland.

Soak in the geothermal spa Blue lagoon and drive away the blues.Its a different experience in Winter because although its freezing cold around you and you are nonchalantly floating in warm turquoise water. Steam arising from the waters gives it a wonderful surreal look …yet another perfect setting for an unforgettable holiday !

Fairytale towns in Europe that tug at a woman’s heart….

‘I travel, therefore I am.”

Having traveled to 29 countries and definitely planning to add as many more to that list as soon as possible, here is a list of cities and locations in Europe that I find close to my heart.

Italy: Positano

Positano - Meetime

It’s really hard to pick just one place in a beautiful country like Italy, especially as the charming Italian men make you feel special anywhere and everywhere you go! Yet Positano, along the Amalfi coast is undoubtedly my favourite. A small town of over a thousand steps, it’s not for those with weak knees. But the sheer prettiness of it will make you go weak in the knees for sure. The dramatic coastline, limestone cliffs, the coral pink houses, Sorrentine orange and lemon trees, mosaic churches, narrow cobblestone alleys with shops and cafes make it a totally Dream destination on any Europe Tour package. Sip a Sangria on the beach, read Elizabeth Adlers book “The house in Amalfi”, watch the sailboats in the azure blue sea, the most unforgettable sunsets !

The House In Amalfi - Meetime

Portugal: Sintra

Sintra - Meetime

Half an hour away from Lisbon lies a magical town on a hilltop that has fascinated royalty and nobility over the years and they built their palaces and palatial residences there. These grand mansions and their pristine surroundings are a perfect blend of nature and man-made creations and will captivate you the moment you set foot there. Tingle your senses with a breath of fresh mountain air, wander around the perfectly manicured gardens and explore Pena and Monserrate palaces and grounds for a taste of royalty.

Vienna - Meetime

Austria: Vienna

Palaces galore: Schonnbrunn, Hofburg, Belvedere how many palaces can you be bewitched by in one city? If you have the same thoughts as Julie Andrews who said “Like most girls, I fantasized about being some sort of a princess.” you will simply love all of them!

Schonnbrunn Palace:

Schonnbrunn Palace - Meetime

This was once a Hunting Lodge which was later transformed into a summer palace for the Imperial family. Spread over 435 acres just outside of Vienna city, it’s a mesmerizing journey through the staterooms and gardens, admiring the grandiosity of it all. Don’t miss the concerts of the musical maestro Mozart in the evening. It’s a day well spent!

Musical Maestro Mozart - Meetime

Hofburg Palace:

Hofburg Palace - Meetime

It means “Royal Castle” and was the winter palace and seat of government for the Imperial rulers of Austria. There are various wings open to visitors, but the most fascinating is the Kaiser or the Imperial apartments where you can follow the majestic trail of Empress Elizabeth with a Sisi Ticket. Regale her life, the agonies and glories and admire the free spirit and beauty of this intriguing icon.

Winter Palace - Meetime

Elizabeth - Meetime

Belvedere Palace:

Belvedere Palace - Meetime

Two Baroque palaces in one garden studded statues and marble fountains at the outskirts of the city house a beautiful collection of paintings, especially the works of the iconic artist Gustav Klimt and his masterpiece “The Kiss”.

Two Baroque Palaces - Meetime

In the evening get some me time, relax and enjoy the best of the Viennese coffee and Sacher torte in the heart of the city.

Viennese Coffee - Meetime

Germany: Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle - Meetime

The most charming of the Bavarian castles in the Alps in a picturesque setting of mountains and valleys inspired Walt Disney to create the Magical Kingdom and use the design of this fairytale castle in their logo. Built by the “fairytale” King Ludwig, it reflects his admiration for the renowned composer Richard Wagner. Linger around the enchanting town of Fussen at the end of the Romantic Road and its pretty Altstadt (old city centre) and lakes.

Europe Tour Packages Magical Kingdom - Meetime

Senorita In Spain

 

SPAIN, the vibrant country of Senoritas, Tapas and Flamenco dances is an ideal destination for women only trips!

Seville, Granada and Madrid and the three main towns of Western Spain for you to really enjoy the essence of the country.

SEVILLA

It’s called the sexiest of all the Spanish cities, and even after you have left, the memories linger on they say of this vibrant Andalusian city. Especially if you are lucky to visit during the festivals like we did, Feria de Abril, be prepared for an amazing time.

Plaza de España

The grand plaza was built in 1929 for the Ibero-american Exhibition which was held in Seville by Aníbal González. He has created an impressive blend of a style that owes its inspiration to the Renaissance along with with some characteristic elements from the city. Intricately painted ceramic benches are arranged in a semicircular manner, each one representing a province in Spain and depicting the lifestyle.During the Feria, lovely ladies in their flamenco dresses strike a pose here !

Alcazar

This fortress housed many Muslim and Christian royalties in the past and is now famous as a Game of Thrones Season 5 location for the Water Gardens of Dorne.This grand monument and its gardens are far more captivating in real life than seen on screen. Take a leisurely walk through the Moorish-style horseshoe arches in the Salon de Embajadores and the immaculate gardens around and be mesmerized.

GRANADA

A tour of Europe, especially to Spain is incomplete without witnessing the grand Alhambra. It is so named because in Arabic al-qala’a al-hamra means the Red Castle. Initially a Moorish palace, it was later turned into a fortress-palace complex. During the Christian reconquest, the church was built in place of the Alhambra’s mosque and so like many monuments in Andalucia, it truly is an architectural marvel of Moorish and Christian influences.

Gardens of Alhambra

The perfectly manicured Generalife gardens around the palace, against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains are a real pleasure to stroll through and admire the beautiful flora and fauna here and take all those million selfies to your hearts’ content.

 

a

MADRID

There was just a half a day left for Madrid as we had to catch out flight back the same evening. But we didn’t miss the important places at all …..

Churros

The best place for Churros in Madrid is Chocolatería San Ginés serving chocolate con churros (hot chocolate and churros) since 1894!! And the massive queues outside just to get a table, speak for how yummy they must be.

Its tucked away in a small alley near San Ginés church, close to the popular Puerta del Sol and not so difficult to find if you make sure it’s on your agenda! One bite of those crispy hot churros to dunk in hot chocolate or coffee and you will be coming back here for more.

Plaza Mayor

The main square in Madrid that’s adorned with charming Baroque architecture, tapas bars and stylish boutiques is your place to rest your feet for some quality time ! Have a drink, some tapas and relax in this square and enjoy the great ambience. If you are looking for some more action then head to Puerta del Sol, the physical and emotional heart of the city

Palacio Real

The majestic Palacio Real is the last stop on our walking tour of Madrid. The interiors are breathtaking, with the most elaborately decorated walls and ceilings you can imagine!

Time to say “Adios” and head back home !

 

 

 

Bonding over Beer Gardens of Berlin

Going on a woman only trip to Europe was always on my mind. It can be a little daunting sometimes, especially for the amateur traveller. Europe is known to be a little heavy on the pocket and requires some careful planning ahead.

Berlin makes an excellent destination as ground zero. Germany is one of the most travel-friendly countries in all of Europe, with most people conversing easily in English. Adding to this already obvious appeal, the German capital of Berlin is surprisingly one of the cheapest among the major European cities to visit. Here I would like to add that it is also one of the safest cities in Germany and so makes an excellent destination for a women to travel.

Berlin is a fun, vibrant and totally captivating city with a lot to offer for tourists of all age groups. Over the last few years, it has undergone a major overhaul with the sheer number of immigrants that have flocked here from all over the world to experience life in this amazing city. This makes Berlin totally unique, owing to the fact that it is a totally 21st century place to live in while managing to be grounded to it historical German roots.

Now whether you are looking for history, art, food, museums, great night-life and good German beer. Berlin definitely has you pretty much sorted every way! The best time of the year to visit Berlin is from April to the end of July, which is summer time and offers very agreeable weather conditions for tourist-travel, especially outdoor activities (Germans love their outdoor time!). On the contrary, if it’s a winter vacation you prefer, don’t hesitate because Berlin offers some of the best Christmas markets and New Year’s Eve festivities in all of Europe!

  • BEER

One cannot talk about Germany without mentioning beer. And if you are looking to sample as much as you can, Berlin will surely not disappoint! The city is full of beautiful Biergartens and pubs and bars which will ensure you are never a stone’s throw away from a great brew.

If you are looking to go beyond the traditional German brews on a Europe tour, Berlin has majorly stepped up its craft beer game in the last few years owing to the huge influx of immigrants in the city. This has brought about a wide range of new flavours and ideas to the craft-brewing concept and many craft breweries will offer beer tasters on their menu to give you a proper chance to sample all they have to offer.

Prater is the oldest and largest Biergarten in Berlin but can get crowded on weekends and you may not get a table, so you can head to some other good ones like Golgatha, Bierhof Rudersdorf, Brachvogel etc. For an authentic Bavarian beer experience complete with Lederhosen and Bavarian folk music you can head to the Hofbrauhaus near Alexanderplatz as well..it is a slice of Munich in the heart of Berlin!

So go ahead and start booking your next Europe tour package to get a taste of this amazing city thats rocking from dawn to dusk !

Travelling with friends also allow us unlimited time to take loads of selfies and crazy pictures like this and grab some well-deserved me time.

 

by SHREYA PUNTAMBEKAR

 

Fascinating Florence

Uffizi Museum

A holiday to Italy must include a visit to the city of Florence. It is really a journey down many such old cobblestone alleys to fascinating places in this city! A city for art lovers and more.Everyone has already told you about the truly magnificent Duomo and the Uffizi museum, lessons rich in architecture and art,when you started planning your Italy tour.

Let’s discover what else this city has to offer that could be truly special …..

Magical carousel

Magical Carousel

“There is a little girl inside every woman, you can find her if you try…its right there in her eye “.

Such an apt poem by Steve Eng. One look at this magical antique carousel of the Picci family in Piazza della Republica and that little princess in you will want to jump onto one of the horses or gilded king’s carriage and go round and round on it.Why not? Isn’t that why wander the world, so that no one can stop us from doing just what our heart desires?

Bartolucci, a family of artisans

Bartolucci

This woodwork store really makes you want to within you will be jump with joy …butterflies, fairies, rabbits..it feels like Alice in Wonderland.

A family run a business on Via della Condotta, making these handcrafted wooden toys, they have stores now all over Italy and the rest of Europe too. Hard to tear yourself away! Don’t leave without a souvenir ( I have 3 one from each of my visits to Italy), especially their signature wooden toy  Pinnochio.

Admire more artisans in Florence’s Artisan quarter

Relive a bygone era as these artisans, richly influenced by the Renaissance period, even today can give you the experience of the traditional crafts.

Oltrarno has a little maze of lesser-known secrets in these workshops on medevial streets from via Maggio to Piazza Pitti. You will find hidden gems of quaint studios of violin makers, bookbinding, sculptors and wrought ironworks in different forms as you go meandering down the alleys.All over Italy you will find such quaint places to visit. We should know..we spent almost a year living here in a little town called Grosseto in Tuscany.

Florence’s Artisan Quarter

Ponte Vecchio

The Gold market on a medivial stone bridge across the river Arno is something special. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s certainly worth looking at all the glittering shops that have been there since 1593 ! You get the best view from there and a tryst with history and local culture near the bridge!

Ponte Vecchio

After sunset it transforms in to an hip party zone, with live music on the streets ! Its always party time in Italy !

Devil Wears Prada, so do Angels like Men!

Devil Wears Prada

Not everything that’s beautiful in Florence is traditional. They have the best designer outlet malls where you can strike good bargain on designer shopping. There is lots of street shopping tootraipsing down the old alleys, so you can indulge in all these delightful experiences to your hearts’ content !

Italy tour packages from Mumbai

Walking is great exercise too, so don’t think twice! There is lots of scrumptious Italian food to gorge on just around the corner as well….but that’s another blog in itself !

A tour of Italy is definitely  what the doctor ordered for you!

 

Photo credit : Neha Pallod Limaye