Travel is our motivation. While on the move and @Home. Sharing stories from our Travels and our travel inspired Home.
Author Archives: Rajan’s
Medical professional’s by occupation and explorers by heart for all things exotic, be it food, fads or faraway lands.
“Sri” is the vagabond husband, whose passion for exploration knows no limits. He loves trip planning almost as much as the travel itself and could really pursue this as a carreer! Every trip is unique, meticulously planned and researched to the D, by Sri to accommodate the littlest whim of the youngest member and the craziest fancy of DW.
Ruchi is the partner in crime, stoking the embers of restlessness and egging the hubby to plan the next one! And to pose graciously and get clicked.
We love nature and though we land in a big city always, we quickly drive out to the country! This blog aims to be a compilation of our travels (not wanting the memories to fade), our experiments with foods and beverages ;) and sharing everyday novelties of life...especially with an adventurous young tyke amidst us! Also, a catalogue of our travel pictures.
Most of the trips have been as a couple but we decided long before conception, that travel can never stop. So post the baby, it was the the baby carrier which was an essential item on the travel list which has helped us traverse the underground caves in vietnam, bylanes of bali, sauntering in the central park or hiking in the Swiss Alps!
And then there are the Fockers...both sets of in-laws, who have been our travel companions on some of these journeys which makes things even more interesting while balancing everyone's tantrums!
We hope these pages can inspire some of you guys to get out of your comfort zones, rent that car and go vroom….
Petrichor, a beautiful word but rarely used in everyday conversations and language. Only times I have used it is in trying to explain to my little one, that the earthy, feel-good fragrance that he can appreciate is actually the fragrance of freshly soaked earth after a long awaited rainfall!
“Oh, I didn’t know this was called something, mumma… wow!” His words!
This is the point where, ideally, you should close your eyes and recall that aroma that fills the air during monsoons! It’s the fragrance of the previously parched earth, now gurgling and heaving in pleasure of being satiated. This is the season when all creepy crawlies are forced to venture out of their dark holes and onto the path of us humans. Walkway’s become obstacle courses as we try to avoid squelching a snail or an earthworm. There’s generally a feeling of calm contentment, when leaves have been freshly washed and seen to be singing in the rain.
Go back to the times of jumping up and down in muddy puddles. Perhaps not your own childhood but that of your little one! Sound of wet shoes and feel of wet hair after a rain shower!
Hot beverage of your choice… mine would always be cocoa.. and perhaps some fried goodies. Warm socks and wood wick candle?! Ok… now, I’m confusing rainy season with winter’s. Never mind… you got the gist, it’s all hyggelicht. (That’s my next favourite word, BTW). 😊
This New Year’s Eve was a bigger and an even more dramatic, “end of era” celebration world over (despite all the restrictions), honoured with even more zest and jubilation, than the change of millennia, some20 yrs back which I, a 20 something then, had participated in all its glory.
It’s heartening to see people embrace hope and positivity and look ahead wishing for a “normal “ year ahead. While I’m honouring positivity this January, I don’t much care for all the flak that the last year got.
Did you know that the word January originated from the two-faced, Roman god of doors (and transitions) called JANUS… with one face looking ahead to what will be, and the other looking back to what has been. The transition between a new beginning and an ending.
And looking back to the notorious year 2020, I honestly don’t have particularly strong negative emotions.
Accepting that “life as we knew“ dramatically changed, the last year was a unique time in all our lives.
• A unique opportunity to stay at home and wear PJ’s all day! It was like a summer vacation that we grown-ups never get.
• Even if there was work from home, getting up late (No horrid commute) and still enough time to enjoy brekkers with family.
• Potential morning hours for a quick run or spin.
• Casual dressing!! Yay! Bath, totally optional😂
• Leisurely lunches (despite having to have prepared it on your own)
• And the added advantage of having learnt new culinary skills!
• Now that we were spending so much time at home… the house was cleaner and better organised.
• My eyes opened to the fact that I have a beautiful house with many nooks and cosy crannies to lounge in all day. And Work could be done lounging in a recliner or on a deck chair!
• Made the effort to be in touch with family and friends with regular calls (no more excuses of a very busy day)
• I read so much more.
• Some others “watched” so much more.
• Had time to appreciate the sunrise and the sunset… the glorious skies and the cool breezes!
• …. and the silence in the neighbourhood.
• Which meant we could hear the melodious song of the birds!
• For a change, life did not revolve about “me and mine”… but I felt part of a larger community, “the human race“ and part of a global phenomenon… the pandemic.
• Learnt to be more grateful. Grateful to God for keeping my family safe, grateful for a wonderful family, an awesome support group of friends, a comfortable house to be cooped up in, a cooperative neighbourhood and grateful to all public workers who made our lives easy while risking theirs every day.
• Learnt to be content. Life during last year was surely not about acquiring more but learning to make do with what we already had and being content with it. Be it the lack of fanciful groceries, premium wines or imported products that we thought we couldn’t do without. Well, we did manage with what was available and fairly well!
• Learnt to be calm. By basically tuning out negative news and negative people. Honestly, life is too short to waste on people that don’t add value and positivity to your life.
• Learnt the advantage of healthy habits- the endorphin rush! The most positive aspect of the whole year was the fitness regime that we started and have managed to make part of daily practice. A friend introduced me to a “20K steps for 20days” challenge… which thankfully lasted rest of 2020 and propagated to a fitter lifestyle where I started running and cycling as well.
So, you might see my point of view, that all was not lost and all did not go awry last year.
I don’t need to list the downside of this period, in our personal lives or through the world. There is no way we can ever forget. People lost their lives, their dear ones, their jobs, financial stability, basic freedom of movement and social interactions. But.
But. We survived. We adapted. We learnt and we grew. And perhaps become a better version of ourselves compared to the year before. We learnt to count our blessings. We learnt to be content. We deciphered how little one needed to still be happy and we identified true friends which add meaning to life.
Weed out unhealthy habits, useless people, and maximalist, unsustainable lifestyles.
And welcome the year to be, riding proudly on the small and big achievements of the year gone by. Be happy to be alive and be hopeful.
Infact, if you whine with wine, you’ll feel even lighter! 🙂 So, who else out there is missing wine country? Come on, let’s whine together!
Once upon a time, there was a studious city girl who went on a grand trip with her bae, to San Francisco, the city of her dreams and also the city hosting a Radiology conference. While this trip was being planned, she chanced upon a luxury travel magazine and fell in love with the pictures from Napa valley. “Oh, please can we go…” she chimed! “You don’t even know wine or enjoy wine!” stated DH, matter-of-factly. “Why do I need to know wine…I just want to enjoy the beauty of a lush countryside, the vineyards, cycle around the rolling green hills…!” DH…rolled his eyes so hard, he saw his brains!- True Story!
Yes, somewhat like that, in an unconventional way, started our life-long love of Wine-countries and then, Wine!
Though Australia and South America are yet to be uncorked, we have some of the European (the Old world vintage) and North American (new world charm) wine regions, bottled up! (do see the movie Bottle-shock, if you haven’t already!)
Sitting with a cuppa coffee (folks please, it’s early morning) I’m flipping through tons of pictures on Iphoto and drooling over wide open spaces, something we city dwellers sorely miss. Noticing that some of the greenest scapes are from our travels to wine regions, I started compiling a list of my favourites and hence this post, based in order of the impact they have left on our memories and the special charm they bring to the table!
Napa-Sonoma (Northern California) (2007)
Since this was the first-ever wine-country experience, it will remain our favorite. Though pictures 13 yrs back were not DSLR quality, we still had to discover wine snobbery 😉 and our palates were not as refined (not saying we are connoisseurs now but can differentiate the fruity notes of a Pinot Noir, from a spicy Syrah), we loved the experience which is etched on the memory as if it was yesterday!
Right from the pre-planning stage when we read and acquainted ourselves with etiquettes of wine-tasting which included, practicing “spitting” in the wash-basin, to reading California Driving manual (for rules against DUI), extensively planning which towns to stay and which wineries to visit and pre-renting cycles, mapping the routes, this trip was an eye-opener.
It was like being Alice, in a wonderland, exploring wide-eyed, an entirely extraordinary world! It’s not only about tasting, buying and drinking wine, we learnt about viticulture (which is the art of growing wine) and vinification (the process of making wine, including the grape crushing, mainly staged for us, the tourists, but still fun!).
Ever visited a temperature regulated, cool and dry wine cellar, stacked roof-to the floor with wine barrels, collecting wine from a barrel using a Wine-Thief and keeping a straight face when all about you are claiming to sniff peppercorns or red berries in their wine.
Did you know that some of the wineries are actually housed in beautiful mansions or places of historical interest or simply owned by famous families/ popular personalities, housing memorabilia, made into museums, and giving private pre-booked tours of the properties? One such was the Jacuzzi-family winery, yes the same jacuzzi that we soak-in.
Some of the wine-makers might entice visitors with wine-food or wine-cheese pairings while others might break the ice with a game of basketball or Golf!
Almost every tasting room has a view to-die-for and prices of some of the “Reserva” wines on offer, to die-off. Most of the wineries predictably have shops selling labeled wine merchandise but also, wine-vinegars, olive oils, preserves, all produced locally, worth the money that you buy it with and worth the effort put into bringing it back home!
Though, this is not a Napa Valley exclusive post, its still worth mentioning that we stayed at the top of the valley, in a town called Calistoga, very scenic with hills dotting the backdrop, ideal for those long cycling days, and known for its Mud-baths!
Stop smirking right there and let me explain. Its very-very difficult for me to choose between the famous wine regions within France (hell we drove for almost 20 days and through some of the most scenic routes). I cannot choose between Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire or Provence and cannot ignore upcoming regions like Bandol.
Before the trip, as usual, we scavenged for information on forums, as to which regions to visit for which wine, the wineries to visit, any festivals around that time, best cycling paths, and which child-friendly routes to take. A note that kept popping up was the snootiness of french winemakers and how making appointments was mandatory and sticking to them, even more. Now either we call the french snooty or accept that they appreciate punctuality and that’s no reason to think they are uptight.
In fact, our experience was in most part, very pleasant except for one very over-priced wine-lunch which, in all honesty, could be blamed partly on me being a vegetarian and partly on lack of vegetarian cooking skills of rest of the world. In one particular incidence, the host at a winery in the village of Pommard, in Bourgogne (popularly Burgundy) was so helpful and patient with us, despite us getting massively delayed due to a small biking accident, that he hosted us very pleasantly when we showed up three hours later for a cellar tour and tasting!
There is something to be said about being the old world when you can boast of cellars about 1000 yrs old, all cobwebby, no electrical lighting, wax candle-lit tasting, and in all a bit vampire-style spooky if everyone is wearing black! 🙂 It’s only polite when you buy not one but four bottles! Pity we couldn’t ship back an entire case!
We had the time of our lives, cycling in Burgundy, picture-perfect in every way, on the Véloroute! Enjoy the scenic vistas and do check out the dedicated post from our trip to Burgundy, before planning your next trip (Don’t worry, it’ll happen sooner than you imagine…keep the faith)!
Repose in Bordeaux, in the middle of a vineyard, near St Emillion, was as high as it can go in terms of staycation experiences, and we cannot wait to go and park ourselves there, again! Pictures are worth a thousand words…so here they are!
Can one have enough of cycling? Never, says me, through verdant wine regions, because that is one way to slow down your pace, your thoughts and soak-it-all-in! Here’s cycling through some of the most iconic landmarks of the Loire valley.
Lavaux, Montreux, Switzerland (2015)
Why Turquoise Blue for the Title? You may or may-not wonder but it’s my job to give you all unnecessary trivia.
Close your eyes and imagine vibrant green hills bedecked with grape-laden vines, rolling down to a turquoise-blue Lake-Geneva. The vista around Lavaux region of Switzerland is jaw-dropping in beauty and so exceptional that one has to go there to believe the stunning beauty.
Switzerland is not primarily known as a wine-growing country, because the world is not used to seeing Swiss wines on the aisles of their generic wine-shops. This is because the product is lesser in quantity, but great in quality, and is produced mainly for local consumption within the country, rather than for export. In fact, the Swiss drink a lot of wine per capita, import 2/3rd of the consumed quantity, and for a fun-fact, import more Beaujolais than the whole of the USA.
Spain as a wine-growing country is as complex or even more so than France!
Haven’t we all enjoyed a fruity red Tempranillo, one of the most famous red wine varietals, from the famous Rioja region of northern Spain? Cava, the sparkling wine, grown in the regions along the Mediterranean coast, which includes a blend of Garnacha (or Grenache in neighboring France) or the exquisite oaky Dry-Sherry (not the sweet sherry sipped by elderly English ladies) from Jerez de la Frontera, in Andalucia!
Spain is ideally located in terms of latitudes, with its warm to hot climate aptly suited for viniculture and the various influences on the wine-growing process from the neighboring regions.
Though Rioja in the Basque region is still on the travel bucket list, we visited Sant Sadurní d’Anoia near Barcelona to sample their famous Cava and instead of cycling or driving, ended up on a long walking-trip in the country. Not definitely by design, was too hot to handle but makes for one hell of a reflection!
We drove through the spectacular Andalucian region of southern Spain, bedecked with charming Pueblo Blancos or white villages, stunning countryside dotted with wine and olive groves, ancient Moorish, or Romanesque architecture, and turquoise lakes.
Andalucia epitomizes the charms of slow-travel, driving through awe-inspiring landscapes and breaking for wine/sherry tasting in tradicionalbodegas, during the day.
Checking into a new town every-other-day, exploring street-foods or go on a Tapas-bar hop, in the evening, pairing food with Cerveza or Sangria according to your whim! Later, head out for some foot-tapping flamenco experience or just stroll to a local popular Plaza and soak-in, life-as-a-local!
If you ever felt like “there’s so much to see, so little time”, you will feel it a 100 times more in Andalucia. Needless to say, pre-planning is your best bet!
Moselle River Valley- Germany (2013)
The Moselle (or Mosel) valley is a region around the river Mosel, meandering through parts of western Germany, eastern France and Luxembourg and is known for its White wines, especially the famous Rieslings from Germany.
What makes this region spectacular and on this list, is the landscape, as distinctive and charming as it gets!
Close those eyes again, and now imagine… hiking through terraced vineyards on hill slopes while the placid river Mosel, calmly meanders below, and a medieval, almost fairytale-like castle sits atop a neighboring hilltop.
Alternatively, imagine cycling along a beautiful track right along the river bed, with bird-song in your ear, dense foliage along the banks, intermittently opening its curtains to panoramic vistas of hillsides adorned with palisading vines.
Pacific Northwest wine regions (Washington and Oregon states)
If you’re wondering what or where’s that…nobody will blame you. The lesser-known of the New World wine regions, over-shadowed by neighboring Californian wines, but holding the fort, are the wines produced in Oregon and Washington states of north-west USA. While Oregon produces Pinot Noir in the majority, inland of Washington, along the Columbia River valley which is warmer in climate, produces a mix of great whites (including Chardonnay) and Reds.
Having driven along the scenic Pacific Highway 101 in California earlier, we wanted to explore the more rugged northern Pacific coasts and the Olympic peninsula.
Thus, originated the mammoth trip to the North-west pacific (including British Columbia in Canada), including their famous wine regions!
While boarding a flight from Seattle airport, the immigration officer seemed dumb-founded when we said we were visiting Walla-Walla, and he went, “Who the hell visits Walla-Walla”…and hubby goes, “we crazy, wine-loving Indian nomads”. Another, absolutely true story!
If you consider yourself a traveler and scoff at touristy attractions, you just might understand the charm of visiting places that are off-the-beaten-path! The novelty of visiting unheard-of places, being greeted with warmth, enjoying uncrowded vistas, and never having to come across the terms “booked-out or sold-out” are all, “simple joys of life”. Sampling delectable wines amidst splendid country setting is a top endorphin-releasing experience too!
Though, “there is so much wine and so little time” …the quest is on, albeit on a corona-break, and hopefully, we’ll be on a road-trip soon, on another continent, driving or cycling through sun-soaked, verdant countryside, sampling wines, cheese, and chocolates, keeping ourselves hydrated, sipping and spitting (part of the 4s’s…sniff, sip, swirl and spit) and minding speed limits.
The online world is full of posts labeled lockdown diaries, lockdown blues, how to cope, etc. That makes my task, of having to write an account of lockdown, for posterity, a tough one. The two major challenges are, what to call the post, without it sounding redundant and secondly, the approach for the article.
I must have spent 15 minutes trying to decide if my post was going to be a motivational speech, a rant about people and attitudes, or a post full of positivity. Not finding peace with any one approach, I decided to do what I think I always manage best. Blurt out everything pell-mell. Because since when do we have fifty shades of black or white? It’s always a shade of Grey…or is it Gray? 🙂
Let’s start at home. We fall squarely in the classical mid-zone. Happy to be home but unhappy without the bai – the bane and boon of our lives. We were definitely happy about being home 24 x 7, days on end…the feeling was akin to a summer vacation which we grown-ups, never get! As our little one put it, it was two months of back-to-back Sundays, because Sunday is the day when K has no school, momma has no cases and Daddy has no office. Family-time, in a big big way!
But (…and there always is a but), we didn’t have house-help. And have a big(gish) house which though, utilized to the hilt, did not seem all that cool, now that all 3300 sq ft needed to be swept, mopped and dusted, some of which in the form of balconies which were a playground of pigeons (I’m sure some of you urban dwellers would get me when I confess that the first thing on my amazon pending cart were bird-spikes)! Yes. Painful.
I discovered that when forced to, I could cook well and honestly don’t care about being modest. I fed my family for two months and churned out some remarkable, inspired dishes. The north-Indian bahu, finally fermented idli-dosa batter at home, good enough to knock the socks off of a Tam-Brahm.
I was given ample opportunity to be grateful. Grateful that we have mentored a calm, patient kid who can entertain himself, most of the time. Happy that we could spend so much time with him, reading, cooking, baking, doing chores, and hopefully, imparting some wisdom.
Grateful, that I have a kind husband, who helps. Having heard of some true-blue “Husbands”, who live up to their status of bread-earners and remained foolishly proud of not doing any house-hold work, making their trophy- wives realize their actual role of a “kam-waali” (who cooks, cleans, mops and preens, herself) during the lockdown. Obviously, I could not, but thank my stars…that aligned so well on the Janam-patri! 😉
Once again had to be thankful that I chose Radiology for post-graduation, when I did, as we were well suited to working from home and were practicing Telemedicine (in the form of Tele-radiology), long before that became a norm in the Corona-times.
So much more, time to read!
Re-discovered and put to good use, the miracle machine, Dyson, that was only randomly used in the pre-lockdown era to vacuum the carpets but now took over as the mainstay in cleaning. Wow, what is with us Indians, that we would first sweep the whole house ensuring all dust particles get afloat and settle on our precious tchotchkes and upholstery. Then we go about dusting the hell out of everything, thus re-displacing this “not-so-magical-dust”, only to be mopped up this time with a wet cloth. Seriously?!? all that precious time wasted!
Ramblings aside, it was fun to be the Queen of my own house, though it was more like Queen-bai, than Queen-Bee. There is to be found, immense satisfaction in knowing exactly what is kept, where in the house, and kept the way interior designers planned them to be kept, not like a dumping ground. It was very tiring but yet satisfying to cook meals the way Thomas Keller and such, have propositioned that mankind should cook. It was smugly satisfying to wear smart clothing, gently ironed by your own hands. And talking of hands, I now understood how Rhett Butler figured that Scarlett’O’Hara, was working in the fields, just by holding her hands. I, the working woman in the most honest way, had now developed hard calluses, holding the mop and the hoover.
I was proud to be self-reliant in the department of self-grooming, unlike many of my comrades who suffered the loss of self-esteem having gained a near handle-bar.
The Pros and Cons.
It was all very interesting, to study mankind, and how people respond to confounding conditions. Of course, life turned topsy-turvy. All of his conscious childhood, we have tried to teach our little one the importance of a firm handshake. Now, tucking our not so proud tails, we had to teach him and ourselves, the value of a humble Namaste.
No more eating out or ordering in, no more home deliveries, no catching up with family or friends on weekends or jumping into cars and heading to Sunder-nursery.
In an instant, times changed from when kids would be deterred to have an online presence or their own web-accounts, to times when schooling including PE and extra-curricular, shifted online. Kids now had their own zoom, teams, and such accounts, were constantly attending online classes, chatting with friends, playing chess online, and sharing screens. It took absolutely no time for a seven-year-old to learn how to export documents to word/ notability/ other such apps, modify, save and import their answer-sheet, and finally hand-it-in to the class teacher. I’m sure some teachers would have spent more time figuring all this out, compared to these COVID-kids or more acceptably, the Generation-C kids!
Tech-worthiness was now, even more, a necessity than ever, not only to be able to work from homes, but to be able to learn from home, what with a plethora of webinars, zoom sessions, free online classes and discounted courses, social-media challenges, and likes, hounding you to be productive! The pressure to achieve had never been more. How to smartly utilize this unusual amount of time that some of us had on hand and what new skill to learn?! The pressure to be funny when you don’t feel it, and upload quirky videos on Instagram, just to amuse others? Raging online debates about China and China-made, including Tik-Tok!
These were the times to be part of social movements, helping your fellow human beings, and the non-human strays. Make more Rotis, donate here, help, feed there. At no time, have the upper/ middle classes been made to realize the value of those less fortunate, who until now, silently build our worldly castles and now had been left, literally in the lurch. Commendable are those who came forward with ideas to help those in need, because every roti-donated for the needy and every vegetable peel for a stray was much-needed.
People realized the art of simple living and re-visited the teachings of the older generations. Remove your “chappals” outside the door, wash/ sanitize your hands after you enter, clean the vegetables, and clean them some more and cover your mouth. Not that any of this was new or path-breaking, but it was something that most people only preach to their kids but somehow, forget as they themselves grow older and in their heads, wiser. As a party host, I have been previously scoffed at, for asking guests to leave their footwear outside the door, but now was happy to see, everywhere shoes piling outside the pretty facades.
These times also brought to fore the germaphobes and mysophobes of the world, who went about locking themselves in a world of extreme cleanliness, and sometimes paranoia. But, we would leave everyone to their own devices as long as that gesture is returned. People needed to do something, I agree, but that should be mostly about minding their own business and being less of snoops. There were those who had to shame that one father who chose to take his son, cycling in the sunny afternoon when most choose to stay indoors anyway, or those joggers who forego their sleep for an early morning or late night run. While firmly believing in the importance of distancing and avoiding walking paths in the crowded evening hours, I don’t understand the rant against those maintaining social distancing and choosing awkward, uncomfortable hours to get their bit of exercise.
Definitely, interesting times. Not because people being sick or dying was something interesting, but interesting to see the power of human adaptability. No wonder that humans have succeeded where no other species did, adapting to changing times. It’s heartening to hear stories of kindness, stories of survival, and those of perseverance. We have and will continue to change but hopefully in a positive way.
But why all that plastic again? My one rant which will never end. Just to hide from Corona, we have produced probably more plastic than ever, in the form of sanitizer bottles, shields, masks, etc. Time to ponder people. Time to change.
1. The starless sea: mentioned on some Instagram post but what caught the eye was a quote from the book “not all stories speak to all listeners, but all listeners can find a story that does, somewhere, sometime.” So of course, I picked it up.
2. The song of Achilles: which I came across on Scribd… and how can one not read a book about a hero after whom is named one of the thickest tendon in our body. Ok, I’m a medico. I can’t help this weird thought process.
3. Grandpa’s great escape: because my son made a book review for the same and I needed to have my facts correct
4. Twilight: because I wanted to feel mushy and romantic… again
5. Gone with the wind: because I haven’t read it in last 5 years… so high time for a Re-read. Plus I need Scarlett O’hara’s tenacity right now.
6. And yes… intermittently some cookery books. Self explanatory.
This is in the midst of all house work (we Indians are used to house- help, cooks etc and we are truly struggling under lockdown) and WFH. Though also rediscovering our passion for cooking, getting over some of our cleanliness OCD’s and finally getting work done without domestic squabbles.
For some, end of the day relaxation is achieved via Netflix (or some such…). For me and hubby and the little bibliophile that our combined genes have concocted… a good book and a good story is the way to wind up a day. Or to catch a break. Or just relax.
So when you’re prompted to say something about books… people like us don’t know where to begin or end. And we babble…
“For in books, one can climb the highest mountains and dive into the deepest seas…” well, Dumbledore said something similar about dreams, but he wouldn’t really mind if I extrapolate dreams to books… cause at both places we are lost, on purpose.
Blessed are the curious, for they will have all the adventures!
Some folks might wonder why I’m posting a pending post from a previous trip, now, at the time when there is no imminent travel on the horizon, for anyone.
As I see things, now is the time to keep hopes and morale up, now is the time to find the silver-lining and now is the time to look forward and dream. I am going to. And giving everyone an outlet to enjoy the wide open vistas, which is a rare commodity at the moment.
Morning at our Air B&B at Killorglin was like waking up in an Enid Blyton book… with crispy morning air, blowing through a picture-perfect window, displaying a bubbling brook and emerald-green vista, aroma of hot-breakfast wafting up to our room and sense of adventure lurking around the corner.
This was a very productive day as we managed to drive through some bits of Dingle and Kerry on the same day (see the itinerary maps for the same), experiencing their mix of scenery and micro-climates, had a thrilling falconry experience in Dingle, drove through the amazing highlands of Glencar, as suggested by our very helpful host and had an unnerving encounter with the notorious coastal fogs in Kerry.
The first planned stop-over was at Inch Beach, a long sandy beach, popular for all kinds of water sports when the weather is favorable, but it was one of the windiest spot on the coast, that day and we bid adieu too soon after few mandatory pictures.
One of the attempted self portrait looked something like this…
Bypassing the town of Dingle we drove to the farthest point on our itinerary, towards Dunquin Harbour, site of dramatic sea-mounds, cut-off by the fiery Atlantic winds. A very picturesque spot and definitely worth a visit.
After a bit of hiking and photographing here, we drove to the vibrant town of Dingle for lunch. Does anyone recall that particular scene from the movie Leap-year when the actress boards a ferry from Wales (in England) towards Ireland and after a stormy sea trip, lands at Dingle? Just FYI, that’s not possible, since Dingle is situated on the west coast of Ireland! But then, movies we always knew, know no geographical boundaries. Sorry for the totally random trivia!
Lunch at quirky cafe called Pantri, was a colorful affair, serving organic produce with plenty of vegetarian options for me and thankfully, seating available for three, at rush-hour.
After a satiating meal, there was an appointment to keep at the Dingle Falconry.
This majestic eagle owl, largest species of owl in the world, was one of the many species of predators we saw during this private, pre-booked, hour long falconry experience. The falconry also has a public tour everyday, though at fixed hours and suitable if you’re in town for longer! Check their schedules and do put it on your itinerary, it was definitely worth the time and money spent!
Our little one was thrilled by the experience, as is evident on this YouTube video he agreed to shoot, sharing his experience of the same. If you’re traveling with kids and wondering if its for them, do listen.
Now it was time to explore Kerry. Our Air B&B host suggested that we go down via the midlands rather than follow the coastal road in entirety, to see best of both worlds!
So, following instructions and our trusty google maps, we headed to the spectacular Glencar region (a hidden gem alert) making our way towards the coast, to Waterville. This Glen of river Caragh, is a dramatic landscape with mountains in the back drop and wild moorlands criss-crossed by the river Caragh. A small, barely traversed road meanders through the region, bedecked with jaw dropping landscape, completely out of this world.
Though, we would not encourage standing in the middle of the road, out of respect for the sheep… we did take some of the most iconic pictures from this trip, perched on the road, here.
Most of the Irish midlands have Peat bogs for harvesting Peat, a fuel source, also known as Turf, with the harvesting process called turf-cutting. This is one site, you don’t see everyday.
At Waterville, we took a pit-stop at a gift/ coffee shop, and ofcourse, picked up a few tchotchkes 🙂 (what to buy in Ireland deserves its own dedicated, as yet unwritten blog post).
Along the ring road, while we were busy admiring the magnificent views, rolled-in a fog so dense and so fast, that visibility was reduced from 100-0% in minutes. We barely managed to turn around from Portmagee, aborting the Ring of Kerry loop, leaving behind the now-dangerously obscured roads, heading back towards Kenmare, via inland roads.
Point to highlight here is that despite the best-laid plans, sometimes, one has to bow to mother nature and know when to turn back. Weather in Ireland is very unpredictable, can rain just when you thought it couldn’t be brighter, sun would peak-out just when you’ve trashed all plans due to incessant rains and particularly along the coast, fog could roll in before you could say Wow!
Wind is another factor that can play spoilt-sport, precluding that well deserved walk on the beach or a planned hike, thus owning a sturdy wind cheater, a mandatory clothing item on your list. I feel colder than others in my family and had ear muffs too!
Evenings, after soaking up the scenery, are meant to be relaxed, and what better way to wind down than with live-music in a local pub!
Wild Atlantic way is the Wild Wild West of Ireland, where the lawless Atlantic waves break on the rugged, almost 2500 km long, meandering coastline with stunning finger-like fjords in the south, scenic bays in the middle and steep sea cliffs in the north.
It has something for everyone. With stunning vistas and unspoiled, rugged natural beauty, it’s the perfect road-trip destination with jaw-dropping views at every turn (one has to remember to look more to the road!). The coastline is dotted with quaint and colorful towns with plethora of local pubs pulsating with foot-tapping live music, serving freshest & most delectable sea-food preparations, with locally distilled Irish Gins, freshly brewed beer, including Guinness which nowhere tastes as good as it does in Ireland. There is hiking for the outdoor lovers, whale watching, falconry experience and puffin spotting to entertain families, and the surf coast for the adventure junkies. Might as well, mention the almost “too” famous Cliffs of Moher!
If you have enjoyed the drive along the pacific coast in the US of A or marveled along the Gold coast in Australia, you would simply die of happiness and sensory overload along the WAW!
Its Easy to follow the Wild Atlantic way, with many sign boards with a zig-zag sign, just like this one:
It all comes down to the number of days at hand and the must-visit destinations/ must-do experiences. We had just about 6 nights to spare on the West coast and we planned to drive South to North and then back to Dublin. We don’t mind pushing ourselves a tad bit but the ideal would be at least 10 nights here.
One of the Popular Itinerary is as follows:
Dublin to Galway
via Cliffs of Moher
Down to Dingle
Ring of Kerry
Back to Dublin.
We, being a bit greedy to see more, started south and went northwards. After driving through the jaw dropping Wicklow mountains, in the east, we powered through with a long drive of about 4 hours, cutting straight to Glengarriff, in County Cork, at the mouth of Beara peninsula, at the west coast.
Ring of Kerry in reverse via the stunning landscape at Glencar and Ballagisheen pass, Portmagee, cahersiveen, to Killorglin (night-stay)
Dingle peninsula (Inch beach, Dingle, Dunquin Harbour)
Ferry across Shannon to Tarbert
Cliffs of Moher
Galway (2 night-stay)
Donegal- Sleiveleague Cliffs (night-stay)
Amongst the peninsulas on the southwestern coast, are the three big ones; Beara, Ring of Kerry and Dingle. A question frequently popping on Ireland travel forums is, “which is the best?”.
The simplest answer would be to drive through all… or some bit of all, to appreciate all the flavors.
I’ve broken down the regions, as we covered them, on the map.
Tips about Beara:
Follow the road except for two small diversions for Kilcatherine Point and Healy pass.
Stop for a sumptuous meal and one of the best Chowder-sea food soup at The Beara Coast Hotel in Castletown, Beara. We did not, but intend to stay here on our next trip, the location being idyllic.
On our way towards Eyeries, we chanced upon this beautiful arts gallery called Adrigole Arts, where we met the Talented owner and musician Gerry Bruton, picked up some inspired curios and had a slice of the most delicious Guinness Cake! Heard him play live at a pub in Kenmare, later.
Healy pass, according to us is a must-see point, not just any detour, and is a meandering, snaking route through the highlands seen from a high vantage point.
And a perfect closure to a long post should be with some Live music! Don’t panic, I’m not performing, this is straight from the land of shamrocks!
I’m Breaking the road trip into a series of posts, so click here for the next one, which covers Ring of Kerry and Dingle!
Whether you’re a world traveler, nature lover, or Harry Potter fan, you might have heard of the Cliffs of Moher.
The mighty sea cliffs are located on the west coast of Ireland, on the Wild Atlantic way and are one of the most visited sites in Ireland.
So naturally it was part of the itinerary on our recent trip to Ireland.
While researching, we came across many reviews and opinions, calling it too touristy and crowded. Now, we the Rajans, steer clear of the crowds and actively avoid any tick marks on touristy, bucket lists. We are nature lovers and like any sensible person would understand, humans and nature don’t go so well together.. too many humans, even less so! 😬
But the cliffs.. or rather the pictures of the cliffs were dramatic, to say the least. We just had to see them.
On Further browsing the internet, we got our solution. So if you are a like minded individual/ family, who do not mind a small (or longer) hike, to stay away from the crowds AND get better views, steer clear of the visitor centre. Or, at least don’t let that be your starting point.
Cliffs are about 14 km long and the visitor centre, is about midway on the cliffs, where the masses usually descend. The southern starting point is at Hag’s head and northern end is at Doolin.
So either one can start proximally, at Hag’s head or distally at Village of Doolin and hike up to the visitor centre (where there’s an option of taking a bus or cab back to either ends). The hikes are beautiful and safe… We can vouch for the one starting at hag’s head.. and even our 6 yr old was merrily trotting along. There’s one official Path, totally safe.. and the other, unofficial goat-track, closer to the edge, also safe but one just has to be careful, at places. Wild pink flowers were in full bloom along the cliffs and sea-gull nests, dotted the edges.
When we started the day, it was downright gloomy with pouring rain, totally a kinda day you don’t want while visiting the cliffs. One should track the weather conditions (for what it’s worth) to ensure there’s no fog around the cliffs, which will make the trip meaningless.
Nonetheless, since we were anyway headed north towards Galway, we started our day, praying for better weather.
The friendly gentleman at the reception of Coachman’s Townhouse at Kenmare was very helpful and gave us an important travel tip which saved us a lot of fuel and some hours on the road. So, instead of driving around the strait, via Shannon and Limerick, he suggested we cross the bay in a ferry at Tarbert, barely a 20 minute ride.
Having saved some hours on the road, we reached the village of Liscannor, the closest to southern point of the Cliffs, at about 3.00 pm, while still pouring, but luckily, not fogged-out, took a quick break at the Rock Shop, did some “essential” souvenir shopping and snack-tucking, then drove about 2km to the private parking at Hag’s Head, at a farm, that charges only 2€. Yes, you read that right, versus, 8€ / person at the visitor centre. Need more motivation to park and hike? Then please read on…
Since the land around the cliffs is all privately owned, the tourists who are allowed to visit are expected to respect the locals and close the cattle gates on the path so there is no cattle-trespassing.
Having heard the phrase, “If you don’t like the weather in Ireland, wait for 10 minutes…” many a times, we experienced it first-hand, this day. Parked our car, geared up for the wet and dreary weather, with a woolen cap, rain jackets etc and started walking.
10 minutes into the hike and the sun started shining so bright that now I was missing the sun-glasses and a hat!
There were exactly 2-3 people visible to us at any one time, the weather gods couldn’t be more favorable and the views were jaw-dropping!
It took us about 2 hours at a leisurely pace, clicking a gazillion pictures with the cliffs, the cows and the clouds to reach upto the visitor centre.
To further corroborate our decision to hike, we came across hordes of tourists and tourist buses completely swarming the landscape. We forgot to click a picture of the same, wasn’t thinking ahead for the blog, so here’s one from the web…
We made a mandatory free trot through the shop and decided to book a cab ride back to Hag’s head, as the little one was now completely exhausted. A bus ride would have been more economical but the service had closed for the day.
10 minutes to the parking lot, and we were back- on our forward journey to Galway! See you there!
Click here for the Wild Atlantic Way part 1- Beara
Click here for Wild Atlantic Way Part 2- Dingle & Ring of Kerry
· …who love long breezy road trips along winding coastal roads peppered with sheep here and vistas there.
· …for those who can not have enough of green. Be warned, it’s called emerald Isle for a reason and if too much of wet and wild is not your cuppa coffee… then maybe, hike some place else.
· …for those who love to sweat it out for a view that’s worth it’s while! Full of awe-inspiring hikes, ireland is a haven for adventurers.
· …for those who own a sturdy, smart, Rain jacket. That’s self-explanatory.
· …for those who dig pubs, live traditional Irish music and stout beer. Heard of Guinness? 😁
Why Ireland. We faced this question a bit more than we liked. Well, for all these reasons and more!
Ireland is hugely popular with Americans (since a fair majority can claim Irish inheritance) but it does not seem to be on any major tourist bucket-list for fellow Indians . And Europeans (that I know) don’t see the point, probably as they’re done with wet and green😬.
But hey.. ever heard of Dublin, one of the most trending cities of the world with old world charm and new age shenanigans. Galway, with its vibrant style and epic arts and music culture? What about the dramatic Wild Atlantic Way? No. Ever heard of “craic“…don’t you want to feel it? Or Guinness anyone? Which can never taste as good anywhere, as it does in Ireland!
Not sold yet. Please read on.
Ireland, the island, is divided into Northern Ireland, part of the UK with Belfast as the capital, and the Republic of Ireland, a separate country, with Dublin, the capital city.
Schengen visa does not cover Republic of Ireland, so one needs to apply for an Ireland visa.
A UK visa only permits you to visit Northern Ireland, unless you’ve been stamped with a BIVS (British-Ireland visa scheme, given by default to citizens from some nations including Indians) on which both countries can be visited. All this might change with Brexit.. so keep yourself updated with the latest at your time of visit.
Having said that, boundaries are, as of now, only on paper, or can be spotted funnily on a GPS…easily missable in actuality, since a sign board marks the boundary. Also, you’ll realize you’ve entered UK territory when suddenly the GPS starts talking in miles vs kilometers. 😁
Irish folks, on the whole, are a friendly cheery, relaxed bunch of folks, who will always guide you in the right direction.
We had 9 days in Ireland, not much by any standard but since we had plans to be in London already, we latched on the opportunity to visit Ireland, a wish, brewing in the mind for some time!
I wont lie when I say that it was Hollywood that first inspired us to visit Ireland. Being compulsive romantics at heart and suckers for all things wild, we loved the movies, “PS, I love you” & Leap Year, both shot in the stunning Ireland. Movies of course, know no geographical boundaries, jumping from East to West in a wink.
Of course we wanted to see it all. Of course, we were driving around the country.. but distances and time taken on road, don’t mean the same in Ireland, as you will read everywhere. Smaller coastal roads, tourist traffic, sudden fog rolling in, could all alter the variables. And with a young kid, though very tolerant for his age, we couldn’t overdo the driving, push the timing or change cities everyday.
Our itinerary was as follows:
Day 1: London (STN) to Dublin, via Ryanair, arrival 10am, car rental pick up and drive out to Wicklow, a 1 1/2 hour drive, via Lough Tay and short hike in Wicklow to Glendalough. Then Drive across the country, from East to West coast, straight to Glengariff about 41/2 hrs drive, arrival on the west coast). (One might notice that we shaved off the southern part of the island from our itinerary which was tragic but necessary.)
Day 2: Morning in Glengariff, at the mouth of Beara Peninsula, exploring the Ring of Beara. Arrival at Kenmare.
Day 3: Kenmare for exploring the Ring of Kerry: Did a bit of loop the loop on this day, to avoid tourist buses by taking the longer route and to be on the opposite side of the road as the general traffic. Arrival at Killorglin.
Day 5: Cliffs of Moher. Drive north to Tarbert- Took ferry across the estuary- drive to Liscannor- followed by a short spectacular hike from Hag’s head to see the Cliffs- arrival at Galway. Serenaded by Galway’s night life!
Day 6: Galway farmers market, drove towards Achill Island via Connemara- biked a bit of the picture-perfect “green way“. Had plans to see the Kylemore Abbey but couldn’t manage with the time constraints.
Day 7: Galway, exploring Latin quarters, saw Emma, tapping to Irish music. Lunch- Drive to Donegal via Sligo- Glencar waterfall on the way- arrival at Kilcar.
Day 8: Morning exploring Cliffs of Slieve League. Drive to Giant’s causeway in northern Ireland. Drive to Dublin.
This November (of 2018), we made a whirl-wind trip to Chicago, for work. Of course the little one accompanied us and we took turns attending conference and entertaining the little one. We all wear the traveling pants in our family, and Mr little pants who is already a pro-traveller contributed to travel planning this time, voting for things he wanted to see/ do /eat in Chi-town.
“I wish we could skate everyday back home, I’ll get so much better with practice “. No surprises there, as he was thrilled at the end of this tryst. Considering that we, the tropical dwellers do not usually engage in this sport, and little one has no skating/ balancing skills, the enthusiasm that he showed to try his hand (oops, feet) at ice skating was commendable. Through the week, we passed by the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink (at the Millennium Park), numerous times, dreamily ogling at the skaters. Both me and the little one were keen while daddy was speculative (having earlier torn his ACL in a freak injury). Anyhow, the last evening, few hours before our flight back home, we gave-in to our instincts and queued up to rent skates. Daddy dear was kind enough to also gear up, helping the little one by the perimeter. Despite tumbling a dozen times while balancing the act on the edge of a skate, the little one was all smiles and never once gave up.
“Wow, mum, Sue was amazing, not at all scary” Sue had already charmed the little one’s heart long before the trip! A Dinosaur enthusiast from the very beginning, he marveled at the chance to view the largest, most complete T-Rex skeleton in the world! Cherry on the topping was the giant Titanosaur, nick named Maximo, the largest dinosaur discovered. Along with him, even we were dazed by the fact that there have been about six “Mass Extinctions” on our planet till date. Makes one wonder, as to when would be our turn?!
“The Tilt was amazing and the view was so awesome! I was a teeny bit scared though…only a teeny bit” At the 360 Degree Chicago, located in the John Hancock Tower, is where people go to get thrilled (tilted) about 1000 meters over the city, in a glass window. I don’t have Pictures, of the tilt, as typically, photography was not allowed and one is cornered into buying garishly bright, flash bombed overpriced pictures, which we refused to buy. Though the panoramic views and pictures from the gallery were awe-inspiring!
This is the window where we Tilt. I had butterflies in my tummy when we actually inclined, (getting bizarre Final destination scenarios in my head) but the Little one was Rock-solid and enjoyed himself!
“I’m thankful that we got to see snowfall in November!” Having never seen a snow-fall, its not hard to imagine the ecstasy that little one felt seeing the cotton-wooly shower from the Sky, the very first snow fall this winter in Chicago, which was in itself an unusual occurrence around Thanks-giving, making it even more fortuitous. The Winter-wonderland that Chicago turned into soon after, was literally icing on the cake. Despite freezing cold, our hearts were warmed seeing the young one’s joy making snow-balls, kicking snow-balls (since he considers himself a soccer player, Ha) and making a snow angel (Brrr)! Truly, simple joys of life!
“Dolphins are so amazing and so is the giant alligator turtle, and the sea horses are so cute!” Of course, he loved the aquarium. Who doesn’t?! What’s not fascinating about a largely alien world with such marvelous under-water creatures. The grand slam of the tour was the Dolphin show, Dolphins being such fascinating and jolly creatures! There were sea lions on the show who entertained the little ones and almost all present were squealing in delight!
“Its so big, Daddy! It looked so small in the pictures!” Having heard of it while planning and seen the pictures, the Bean or the Cloud-gate, didn’t seize to amaze! When later, in a drawing class, the kids were asked to do a free-drawing, our little one chose to draw this…
…his memory of the Millennium park tree, the bean and the skyline of skyscrapers in the Windy city!
Zoo Lights, Christkindl Market and the Chicago River walk:
Little one is a trooper and though he said it only after coming back, he enjoyed the river walk and city walk and said, “I wish we could everyday walk to breakfast, by the river- side, back home!”
We loved the Zoo-lights, of which, we could get just a glimpse, since it was off-limits, for a private party on the evening we visited. Nonetheless, got few good shots!
Christkindl Market was all twinkling and sparkling and colorful, what with all those baubles and ornaments! It was paradise and not only his favorite, but our’s too!
…& then there was the Food!
Pancakes and Breakfast at Wildberry:
Mindy’s Hot Chocolate:
One thing he did “not” dig (into) was the famous Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza
Can we blame him? It was just too over-whelming, the size of the slice! Let’s be frank… it was delicious, but let’s call it a pie, please. With two layers of bread, tons of cheese and oodles of filling its not anyone’s conventional pizza. Our little one, like me, is a picky eater and could manage to nibble just a quarter of a slice! All the rest was packed for our mid-night feast, since the jet-lagged family was up and hungry middle of the night, every night!
Let’s wrap up by saying that he had an incredible time. Despite the odds of freezing weather, numb hands, heavy boots, and the massive jet lag etc, he enjoyed the furlough. It was special because he knew what to expect, was part of the planning and the execution. He had opinions and views which as a parent was so forthcoming and heartening. We understand that as they grow up, they may not remember everything from a childhood trip, but having been exposed to new experiences, kids get a wider horizon and gain confidence.
Let me know your inputs. Do you travel with children? How old are they? And aren’t you making memories for a lifetime?