Around Kyoto with Taichi

The red, green and gold tour of must-visit locations around Kyoto was most interesting because of our friendly guide for the day Taichi Asami. A university student, who volunteers with Kyoto greeters to show foreign tourists his city, his way..

A lot of emails had gone back and forth between us to chose these three most popular spots around Kyoto. Yet Taichi had promised we would break free from the stereotype tours here and do the different on his local food tours.

We were excited to met him at the Yamadaya ryokan where we were staying close to the station and he helped us navigate the crowds to reach the platform of the suburban trains we were to board for our tour of the surrounding areas of the city

First stop : Gimme Red : Fushimi inari shrine

A truly remarkable shrine that boasts of 10,000 vermilion red Torii’s (traditional Japanese red gates) that snake it’s way up the hill.At the summit is the shrine in honour of Inari, the god of rice, sake, and prosperity. Hence visited by devotees from the business community and individuals thankful for their prosperity.

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Each torii has the name of the donor inscribed on its left.There is a feeling of bliss as you walk through this long tunnel of torii which is truly one of the most iconic visions of Kyoto.

All that energetic climbing up and down (albeit half way) the hill had left us ravenous for food and it was sheer delight to exit into the food alley. Taichi helped us chose the right food (Vegetarian mochi rice cakes on a stick for Jaydeep). Lots of grilled meaty delights topped with mayonnaise here. Munching on the sticks we walked back to the station to board the train to our next site.

Second stop : Go green : Arashiyama bamboo forest

 

 

 

Third stop : Golden temple : Kinkakuji 

 

Soul trip to the southern land’s end of India

We had visited the Westernmost point of Europe in Portugal (Cabo de Roca) a couple of years ago where there is an inscription of a quote “Where the land ends and the sea begins.” ….that reminded me that we have a similar “Land’s end” of the Indian peninsula thats more unique because its where a sea, a bay and an ocean meet….Kanyakumari.

We planned a trip here in the midst of the monsoon of July 2018. The great coastal drive from Trivandrum airport was very pleasant through the rain-blessed verdant coconut and banana groves and estuaries with birds, sometimes with a glimpse of the rugged sea.

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We were greeted by a small shower in the morning as is typical in July and the sky was heavily overcast with clouds. When we reached Kanyakumari in afternoon, the waves were lashing, the ocean roaring in a fury and the waters so turbulent around us. All the fishing boats were safely docked on the shore.

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As we boarded the ferry to the Vivekananda rock and I looked back at the shoreline, the words of the Great Swami spoken at the Parliament of Religions reverberated in my ears “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world tolerance & universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration but we accept all religion as true.”

Can you spot a church, a mosque and a temple in this picture that together reiterate even to this day his beliefs of 1893.

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The Vivekananda Rock Memorial was built in 1970 in memory of Swami Vivekananda who is said to have attained enlightenment here. The Living memorial and the mandapams are worth visiting. The most interesting is the sundial and sunrise calendar (although we were totally devoid of any rays of the sun here that day !)

Just sitting by the sea and listening to the sound of the waves is a truly immersive experience here….Smell the sea and feel the sky. Let your soul and spirit fly…

The Thiruvalluvar Statue in the memory of the the greatest poet of South India looms large at 40 metres and one can see people bathing in the Triveni Sangam or the holy confluence of the three great water bodies.

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The billowing clouds engulfed the sky in the evening too so we really could not witness the sun set and the moon rise over three seas (Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean) simultaneously. A morning walk to the pier in the hope of seeing the sunrise revealed just a streak of light at the horizon but a wonderful photo opportunity to capture the fishermen and fishing boats not really in a mood to brave the stormy waters around.

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Based on the reviews we went to Sarvana restaurant for lunch looking for an authentic south Indian thali but found it very bland and not up to the mark especially the rassam. Dinner was a more satisfying fare at a smaller family run restaurant opposite Hotel Sangam called South Food Center and would recommend it. We stayed at the Seashore Hotel which definitely had the best view and a scrumptious breakfast.

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Its a great feeling to have visited this “V” tip and southernmost point of the Indian Subcontinent which was definitely on my bucket list and I hope to visit more such iconic land’s ends as we wander the globe..Cape of Good Hope or Land’s End, Cornwall maybe….

Top 5 things to do in the heart of Naples

The old historic centre of Naples is traversed by Spaccanapoli and as the name suggests the mile long street literally “splits” old Naples into two parts.

1.Eat some Napolitano Babà
Taking a leisurely walk on this street that has so many places to eat, I noticed something in the window of this unique Patisserie Giovanni Scaturchio, Mount Vesuvius is certainly the star attraction of the region but a dessert made in its shape, surrounded by these small mushroom-shaped sweets intrigued me further and I entered the cafe to sample one !Um baba or baba au rhum is a small cake saturated in syrup and rum and they have ones filled with whipped cream and custard too ! They are so scrumptious and just melt in your mouth !!!!!

18403007_10155202158887744_6399133767156656815_nCertainly started my morning on a sweet note! No worries as there is plenty of walking to do to burn all those calories !

2. The Church of Gesu Nuovo in Piazza del Gesù Nuovo

This 16th Century Church is unique because it is the final resting place of local saint Giuseppe Moscati, a doctor who served the city’s poor. Also when a bomb was dropped on the site in 1943 failed to explode.(Its shell is aptly displayed inside). The pyramidal structures on the external facade are made of ashlar stone and have esoteric symbols. A great example of Renaissance architecture. Must visit !

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3. Santa Chiara Convent and Cloister.

Across the street is the Santa Chiara church and you can’t miss this masterpiece of Provençal-Gothic architecture. You must visit peaceful cloister behind.Walking around this monumental cloister, you can see the elaborate and well-preserved fresco paintings . and the alluring colorful majolica tiles in the center. Take a selfie underneath the orange trees for sure!

 

4. Walk through all the little alleys, lots of street shopping to do here. Especially on Via San Gregorio Armeno you will find the souvenirs with scenes of the Nativity and interesting tambourines.The face of Diego Maradona is unmistakably seen on several different souvenirs because he played for the Napoli football club !

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5. Some Me Time to rest your feet, have a gelato or a coffee and watch the world go by at Piazza Dante. Lots of cafes, bars, eateries and bookshops here for you to browse through or just do nothing and soak in the local atmosphere

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P.S. Naples was considered very unsafe in the past but the new Mayor Luigi De Magistris has cleaned up the city and made it safer as well for tourists.Military vehicles with armed guards are seen in every big square!

 

Why Me Time?

Forget the laundry,  go paint your nails, 
switch off the alarm & wake up late ; read a book, take a nap; and for a few moments, give a break to all crap! 
 
Sit by a brook and listen to the breeze, for some time, lady, let the daily chores all freeze !”  
Carve out some moments to unleash and travel; to the beaches, under the blue canopy and endless horizons;  as the chirping birds and shimmering sunshine soothe your aching soul; soak in the beauty the twilight & star studded sky holds !” 
 
Engage in this therapy called ME TIME occasionally, let your hair down , sit with a glass of wine & you are sure to bounce back and be just fine !
This picture not only spoke volumes but also subtly reminded me of some lost times, silenced with the urban clamor & outcries. It was literally like this articulate thought, I could relate to instantly ; it distinctly defined  and added that coherent meaning to the otherwise m !
Yes, our very own ME TIME,  something we all dream of, but which has apparently & silently, got crumpled under the burden of the hurrying and scurrying ;  and the disorderly haste we are all caught into. And subsequently, it never gives us a chance to even iron out the creases on it.  We have somehow not only lost track of its whereabouts, but the endless list of the “to-do’s” never seem to give us a breather. It is sad & distressing to even imagine how the simmering rage of the palpable chemistry that we once shared with the ME TIME,  bridled away just like that !
Though the deplorable truth is , that no matter how hard you resist, the clattering of the chores and the complexities of daily life may never actually leave your back, but how well you learn to carve out these special moments that belong to just YOU,  is what defines you; what helps you re-discover the lost YOU!
In the tumultuous riot of school excursions of kids and the swirling business trips of the husband, we have almost buried our desires to travel with the company of just our soul…we hardly remember how it felt to take a stroll all by ourselves, without having to worry about the bills and groceries …
But then, we are here for you, to help you unbury & unwrap those lost dreams tucked away cozily somewhere… we are here to remind you of a few small things which brought your immense happiness once upon a time !
“There are some walks you need to take all by yourself, to clear your head and to prune down certain things; you need to get away from places and people occasionally, to calm your restless mind & silence your irrational thoughts; and by expecting this time of yours, it absolutely does not show any imperfection or flaw; but merely and simply  implies, that you are ready for the soul cleansing therapy, by making space for everything beautiful, ready to enter your life … it is like a new window you are creating for yourself, every once in a while. So wake up, and shake the guilt, and rejoice as you watch it fragmenting into tiny pieces;  live the life of today, with gusto; let the dreams fly; stop being a part of the appalling and frightful RAT RACE, which never seems to have a finish line.. step back from technology, and stay away from the interminable self defeating & pointless pursuits of momentary happiness; release yourself from the urban trap & fall in love with the distractions all around you, in the music of the birds, leaves, the winds and mountains!
It is high time we remind ourselves the importance of ME TIME, which teaches us to live life, not by the ticking clock but by the magical  “compass” ! Wake up to the chirping birds and not alarm clocks, soak in the sunshine, as it sprinkles golden dust on your face; let the blue oceans whisk your worries away; let the soft sands tickle your feet; watch as the rivulets pave their way through the lushness and the wispy clouds adorn the velvety blue skies … walk in the narrow winding streets and mysterious stairways, explore and relive the lost history; saunter through the woods and take paths less taken, leave a sprinkle & something good behind…
Take a breather lady, and breathe in the beatitude travel has to offer ! We can always make more  money; but we sure cannot make any more time than what we are assigned… if we have to feel the vibes each place has in store for us, we need to get away from our sedentary life & unleash the adventurous side of ours; we ought to make MEE TIME a priority, so we not only read about exotic places, but actually travel to them , to get imbued by its strikingly unusual and strange beauty!
Travel changes you ; and you come back feeling accomplished in ways you can imagine; you are definitely not the person you used to be , because you are a little bit of every place visited and every person met !
Defy rules and mess up plans, ignore logistics, all the odds and complications you may find; listen to your inner voice and your instincts, they take you exactly where you need to be; just follow your heart and go for it ;
Fancy yourself with the precious ME TIME, after all, as they say, the best view always comes after a hard climb and those are the few moments when you find yourself drenched and flooded with Euphoria!
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Venture out with some ME TIME and enjoy the vibrations in the wind’s eye !
by
Vrushali Lambe
——

Capering on the isle of Capri

Most people go to the isle of Capri from Sorrento by boat which takes about 20 min . But one can go from Positano or Amalfi as well. We had originally planned to do so when we were in Sorrento , but those 2 days  weather was so rough and the sea very choppy , no boat trips were operating. So we went to Pompeii instead and climbed the Vesuvius on a cold windy day, but thats another story in itself .

Everything happens for the best. We waited for the weather to get better and went to Capri from Positano in a private boat.

 

Although the time taken is longer , the views of the rugged limestone Amalfi coast and its cliffs , rock formations, caves and grottos while cruising on the water were so amazing that it made this trip unforgettable  and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way !

By

Dr Reshma J Palep

Postcard Pretty Positano

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The highlight of the Amalfi coast is most certainly the vertical town of Positano .Like all the towns on the coast its located at the steep edge of the hills overlooking the blue waters. Yes it has atleast 1000 steps ! But whats sets it aside from the other towns is the dramatic panorama of colors presented by the peach and pink houses with terra-cotta roofs offsetting the grey-white limestone cliffs above and the blue waters below.

Such a delight to be in Europe in  Spring !We were greeted by bright flowers in various shades of pink  everywhere we went …..

 

The views from the balcony of our Hotel were so magnificent . A perfect place to put up your aching feet from all the walking , have a coffee and soak in the views.

Excited to explore this picturesque town, we walked down about 500 steps briskly to the the Mulini  bus stop after which the narrow cobblestone alleys began towards the beach.

Every shop you passed was so enticing. Positano sandals, Linen clothes, colorful beach wear, and limoncello souvenir shops were so attractive. You will be awestruck by the netted canopy of ivy above , through which beautiful vistas of the town peep out. Its easy to miss a step going down the steps of this fascinating vertical town !

You can’t miss this interesting  cafe and sweetshop La Zagara Garden Bar, a family run place that dates back to 1950 .The ambience is warm and friendly with artwork on the wall and wicker chairs to relax. The Yellow and blue Majolica tiled dome of the Church of Maria Assunta can be seen from the garden cafe surrounded by lemon trees

We deserved a treat after walking all those steps ,even if it was downhill.It has such a wide selections of desserts, many that I had never heard of before, that it was really hard to make a choice. but since we were in the land of Lemons we chose the local and traditional dessert from Campania region called the “Lemon Delizia” and it was totally delicious.

The cafe was so pretty we didn’t want to leave but we were excited to see more this exciting town had to offer yet ahead at every corner .

The steps led to the courtyard of the Church where local artists were painting beautiful paintings of the town and the coast .Ceramic tiles and plates depicting the blue sea and sky and yellow and green lemon trees adorned the walls as you walked towards the pebbly Spiaggia Grande beach. Boats and ferries had returned from their day trips and docked at the pier and painted a very pretty sight !We booked our boat trip to Capri for the next day and lounged on the beach for a while , soaking in the views and enjoying the cool breeze . As the sun set ,the skies seemed to reflect the the pink hues of the town .

Chez Black seemed to be a really popular open restaurant on the beach with live music so we we headed there for dinner .The decor is that of the interior of a chip and you are served by “sailors”.The walls have pictures of celebrities who have enjoyed a lovely evening here as we were ,eating warm woodfire oven pizzas and seafood delicacies by the sea

All that yummy food and then climb back a 1000 steps again! Not possible ! We waited for the bus after a few 100 steps and and as the bus ascended upwards , we were so fascinated by the town views. If Positano is pretty in the day , its magical at night

Especially a full moon night if you are as lucky as me !

By

Dr Reshma J Palep

 

Sorrento Sojourn

The Sorrentine Peninsula of Italy, famous for its rugged coastal beauty and of course the isle of Capri. This abode of orchards of oranges and lemons intrigued me because I had heard a lot of stories about the place from my neighbour when I spent a month in Tuscany, Italy in 2007. Ever since, I’ve always wanted to visit this land of “Limoncello”, one of my favourite Italian  liqueurs.

Instead of a typical hotel in the city centre, I chose an “Agriturismo” or farm stay in the lofty hills, with a fabulous view of the bay of Naples and the majestic Mount. Vesuvius.

Agriturismo Primaluce” is an old farmhouse straight out of an Enid Blyton book. Half of it still has old stone structure of the 18th century and takes you back in time. The other half has been renovated with chic interiors, beautifully hand painted rooms and modern bathrooms.

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The hostess Lea and her two daughters, Anna and Angela, were very helpful, gracious and made me feel at home throughout my stay.

The farm had many dogs , Fortuna the spaniel was the most friendly . She took me on a tour of the farm to show me the coop with about 15-20 hens who clucked away noisily and laid brown eggs for breakfast every day .

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Two goats, two ponies and a-not-so friendly cow completed the farm animals family. Green peas, tomatoes and other vegetables were being grown on the farm . Strawberries, basil and lemon, everything we ate came fresh from the garden.They also had a small vineyard and barrels of wine to store the house wine.

 

 

The first evening, we had a hot cup of cappuccino in the garden,enjoying  the view and then set forth on our adventurous ride to the city centre.The hosts offer a free drop and pick up to the city centre and bus stop and believe me you need it ! The road to the Agriturismo so is so steep and narrow, its a fifteen minute roller coaster ride up and down every day which Lea takes you on confidently like a mini -grand prix driver in her little yellow Fiat. After all the Italians are famous for their cars and grand prix drivers, so why worry ?

Sorrento city centre is very pretty with yellow and white buildings and churches, spring flower baskets everywhere.There is a small train from Piazza Tasso that takes you around the main streets of the historical centre, down to the port ,stopping at the seaside terraces. This is certainly the best way to see the town meandering through narrow alleys with artisan shops and  panoramic vistas of the sea.

 

 

We happened to spot a very interesting shop called the Cornershop while on the train and we made our way back to explore it. It had all the local products of the region directly from local producers. They have a huge wine cellar carefully selected to stock the best wines in the country as well as Limoncello, Grappa and so many other liqueurs.You can sample a few here. Their Single Malt collection is massive and from all over the planet.They cater to people who seek authenticity they say !You will certainly find excellent pastas , olive oil, balsamic vinegar, truffles, sweets . .best of everything the region has to offer and well worth a visit and buy for sure !

We sat on a terrace Cafe at the coast sipping Amaretto disaronno another of my favorite liqueurs Amaretto disaronno , watching the sunset and birds and then headed back to the city centre for dinner to Ristorante sorrento. 

Spaghetti al Limone

I had it for the first time and loved it !

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By

Dr Reshma J Palep