Icelandic Southern coast-2 The soaked and drenched bit…

Days 5, 6 & 7- Vik, Vatnajökull Glacier walk, Svartifoss, Glacier Lagoon, Hofn

By the time we were ready to close our droopy eyes, tuck the cold feet in warm duvet, and call it a day, It was already 11 pm. It was dark outside… where was the Midnight Sun, I wondered. Likely, brooding behind the thick blanket of rain clouds that had appeared on the horizon a day before, out of nowhere. Arctic storm, they muttered. 

We had been in Iceland for 5 days already. Why does time start flying at the speed of a racecar on the Autobahn, when you start a holiday… The same time that refused to budge another week, during all those months of planning and anticipating. 

We had a few glorious sunny days flitting between touristy spots on the Golden Circle on Day 1, the perfect Day 2 spent on Vestmannaeyjar (Heimaey Island), the long but awe-inspiring Trek to Landmannalaugar on Day 3 (when the first rain clouds blossomed) and the verdant, lush hike through Fimmsvorduhals on day 4… In a tolerable light drizzle. By this day thankfully, I had picked up a long raincoat from “Icewear”, the expensive purchase touted as a souvenir, but a useful one at that. 

Day 5- Reynisfjara, Vik, No Dyrhólaey

This particular day-number 5 (whose end, began this story) was the first day of disappointments. Not everything stays perfect on any holiday or so we reminded ourselves. 

Beautiful cottage in Hella, Air B&B

We woke up in Hella in our beautiful “English” summer cottage to a typical dreary English winter morning… torrential rain, billowing wind, and poor visibility. The task of packing and shifting our bags to the car was wet and squelchy, one hand busy muscling the car doors from being blown away and trying our best to not get groceries all soaked and mushy. Forget the undergarments that needed drying (let’s not shy away from practical details).

Story of our lives…

This day, as our expectations stood, we were to behold the pretty Southern town of Vik, its rustic red and white church spire framed by lupins, in the foreground and a contrasting dark background of black beach with lava stacks, looming over the horizon like the giant trolls that they were representing. We had seen a lot of such pictures, in every season, and were paying a lot to live around Vik and close to the mystical Reynisfjara (black beach), the deadly black beauty. I was hoping to spot puffins in plenty and up close (having been disappointed at Storhofdi due to timing) and maybe hike to the Dyrholley lighthouse. The day was to be winded down by having hot chocolate from a cafe called Skool Beans… Run from inside a school bus and savor some beautiful Arctic macarons. 

But in reality, smashing all vain expectations, the day was so dark, so brooding and so wet that other than the window wiper and the tail lights of the car in front, there was only a world of grey to be seen. Since we had driven a part of this route a few times (to and fro from Vestmannaeyjar ferry terminal) we knew exactly what we were not seeing– the expansive verdant plains on either side of the road flanked by majestic snow-covered volcanic peaks. 

Vista while driving, a day before with some sunshine.
The subdued and wet view.

Light Fog or were they stratus clouds, blanketed everything… Including the gorgeous views of the supposedly stunning Southern coast of Iceland.

The mighty Reynisfjara was washed out… Wet and cold. Either because we had seen so many pictures already or because the rain was just annoying, the wow factor never came. There were still too many people, and the expected contrast between the water and the beach and the sky was missing because it was all a grey blur… And there we still a queue to climb the columns which were best located. 

Renisfjara, the black sand beach
Thankfully, no red lights flashing, meaning it was “fairly” safe

Took some mandatory pictures of the basalt stacks and quickly ran back to the car.

Drove to the town of Vik in a downpour and spotted the church on a street high above the town so turned the car towards it. Now, usually this would be a beautiful walk up and down the side of a hill to get a good picture against the omipresent lupins. But in the rain, it was just me and my doggedness that stepped out of the car… Trying to get a decent vantage point for a tolerable pic to remember this spot. 

One ray of sunshine was that we spotted the Katla wool shop close to the church and decided to enter it. 

Warmth of a small hill cabin engulfed us as two large canines trotted out to welcome us and immediately laid next to our feet for belly rubs. These two were so sweet and so friendly that finally there was a smile on my grumpy face. The owner then sauntered in all smiling and warned us that the greedy dogs will seduce us with there beatific faces and we would end up rubbing them all day long… 

We picked up the most genuine Icelandic lopapeysa headbands and a woolen throw and some soaps from this gem of a shop. 

If there’s a god of lost things, please help me find this band!

Drove down to the main Street in town which was overshadowed by a huge icewear store next to a huge(r) Kronur and was milling with tourists who would just shop some more rather than be wet and miserable anymore. 

By now we had almost everything we already needed or wanted in terms of souvenirs or essentials and we picked up a coffee and warmed ourselves browsing the aisles while our son was trying to finish yet another book about trolls. 😊(Incidentally our favourite souvenirs from the trip, apart from sheep skin were the books). 

Some chill (Icelandic) wisdom.

Not knowing what to do next and feeling a bit crappy spending all this precious time trapped inside a shopping complex on this beautiful island… I thought what the hell, let’s accept the vagaries of weather as part of the quintessential Icelandic experience and we stepped out again in the rain determined to make the most of whatever. In hindsight, this was a good mindset to have because the next 8 days were nearly the same! 

Me, Stubbornly, and the rest of the company begrudgingly, trooped to the Vik beach, got wet some more.. no sea or sunset or stacks to be seen. 

Spotted a shade of yellow and realized it must be the Skool Bus cafe… Though they were just shutting down, the staff obliged us with a coffee and hot chocolate which we sipped in our car as we decided to call it a day and head to”The Barn”… This was our first ever shared bathroom accommodation but the apprehension was laid to rest as it was squeaky clean and well-maintained property with a well-stocked communal kitchen.

By now, constantly checking the weather app hoping for better weather at the next stop had become a tic. 

Thanks to this I noticed that there was a window of no rain early the next morning from 4-6 am… And the maniac in me decided we’d wake up early (which would also help us get unused clean washrooms) but we might be able to hike to Dyrhólaey or see Reynisfjara sans the “Reyn”. 

Day 6- Glacier Walk, Svartifoss

In reality, by the time we finished brekkers and the washing up.. it was nearly 6… It had started drizzling again… Though we got to see some more of the vista without the mist.

At least, this morning though overcast, there was no rain and there was this stunning vista.

Getting ready early turned out to be lucky as we had underestimated the time to reach the next stop.. for the glacier hike near Vatnajokull. We reached in time, geared up with harnesses, ice axes, and carrying our crampons, boarded the super-jeep (glad for this Icelandic experience), and headed towards the moraine on a bumpy ride.

The glacier hike with local experts was great, though we had the shorter safer version that was allowed with a 10 yr old kid. We were dreading a lot of rain but thankfully while on the glacier it was mostly cloudy without any rain so we could enjoy the hike. 

Interestingly, our group had a couple from the US who were the directors/ producers of the Netflix documentary… The Volcano-Rescue from Whakaari which we saw later, and in retrospect realized that we must give nature the due respect… Especially in a place like Iceland. 

We had planned to do the Svartifoss-Sjonarnipa hike that day but were tentatively looking at the weather. As we finished the glacier hike, dark clouds again loomed but it had not yet started pouring. 

Taking this as a positive on the whole, we decided to take the hike. And what a great decision that was. The weather stayed mild, cloudy but no rain and since we opted to hike this in the counterclockwise direction, we had the advantage of having the beautiful trail mostly to ourselves. This particular trail leads up to another lip of the Vatnajokull Glacier with majestic views.

Svartifoss was brilliant too.. and one could figure out why the architect of Hallgrimskirkja was inspired by this natural formation. There is a detailed post on this hike that you should read.

By the end of the hike, it was 6 pm already and I presume weather gods who had been too indulgent so far, decided to go on a rampage. 

We were to sleep tonight at Hofn, and on our way, we were going to pass by the Glacier Lagoon, the gem of the South Coast. 

The last happy picture from that evening…beyond this everything was fogged out.

Earlier in the day, I being a typical nagging wife was questioning my dear husband, as to why we hadn’t booked the Glacier Lagoon on the same day as the hike since it was on the way to Hofn (pronounced hup) and we could have avoided driving back next morning. 

Now I understood why. Of course, we didn’t/ couldn’t have predicted the weather earlier but by evening it started to pour in earnest. But worse than the rain was the dense fog. 20 mt visibility, if you could believe me 😅

Could see absolutely nothing other than the tail lights in front, which I thought was a crutch to hold on to but which thoroughly irritated our dear driver daddy.. who’s used to lead. 

As the GPS showed us approaching the lagoon, I was swiveling my neck to behold this majestic sight but nothing was visible. In fact, the fog was worse and denser near this water body. We saw some cars turning towards the lagoon exit and couldn’t help but wonder if they were off their rockers.

Of course, everybody, unlike us, probably didn’t have the luxury of time and 16 days on the ring road. And probably they just had to see whatever they could see before returning back to Reykjavik (many tourists do only Reykjavik and the south coast, the lagoon being the last point). 

I was trying to find pictures from this evening but clearly there was too much tension in the car, all eyes on the road ahead to bother with any photography!

Anyhow, we learned the next day that all boat rides had been canceled the previous evening because of zero visibility. 

Hence the importance of keeping a wider window during planning. 

Nobody had mentioned fog in June. This was so scary and so not predicted that I went into a bit of panic. though seemed completely calm mentioning these same roads as easily passable. I guess Icelanders are used to this and as long as you stick to the lane you shall eventually cross the fog zone, though not without much stress.

We reached Hofn, fixed a meal, and dozed off. Not before eyeing the gloomy vacant town with unease. Where were the tourists? Were we the only stupid ones staying in this stupid sleepy town? This was all my internal dialogue happening. DH has a more solid steady head. Thankfully

Noodles and quickly sautéed vegetables…the town was shut, like most towns after 7/8 so one must have groceries handy all the time!

Day 7- Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach, No Múlagljúfur Canyon hike, No Vestrahorn

Day 7 was probably the wettest and clammiest, by far. Now, I was descending into that low mood that accompanies the lack of sunlight and the incessant deluge with everything squidgy and slushy. I was tired of the wet raincoats which needed to be worn as soon as one got out and to be removed every time one got back in the car.  But worst was the lack of a view. Icelandic road trip is all about the spectacular vistas and to be missing most of this leg was getting to me. To top it off, we were getting late for the boat ride… meaning we should have reached by 9:30 for a zodiac tour at 10 (with Ice Lagoon) but we were reaching at 10 sharp as per the GPS. 

Expecting some prior gearing up and safety briefing, this was cutting it too close, and missing it would have been the last straw.

I tried to speak to them on the phone (which in hindsight was smart) but they said they of course couldn’t make others wait. However, the person on the other side did mention that we should try to reach the big blue truck directly as we run towards the lagoon and not dawdle to take pictures, etc…. Couldn’t he see that there was no view to take pictures of?

We raced, as much as was allowed by the speed limits and the visibility, and screeched into the parking lot where I promptly jumped out first and reached the truck drenched. 

The fellow behind the counter wanted to say get lost. But for some reason he didn’t… maybe he saw I was at my breaking point… maybe he thought we deserved a soaking ride after all and he gave us our wet suits and drove our family in a separate super jeep going full-throttle and full-bumpy, and made us reach the rest of the group already assembled on the beach, who had made the same ride slowly and smoothly in a bus. Because they had been on time. (*Sheepish expression)

Glacier Lagoon would have definitely been a mind-blowing experience if the weather had been any better. I imagine it would have been a placid, calm, and cold place of ethereal beauty.

The beauty was still there, in the form of glacial blue icebergs but in a not-so-restful setting. It was a steady downpour. Though we were not cold or essentially wet…the rain with the wind was like shrapnel on the face and add to it the water from the Lagoon being splashed from all sides. Somehow water managed to trickle inside my boots and enjoying anything in wet squelching socks is not very easy. Nonetheless…

We finished the tour, went back to the shop, shed our dripping wetsuits, spent 10 minutes rummaging through the pile of wet-wetsuits to look for the car keys which we thought were in one of the suit pockets and then walked to the car park getting soaked yet again.

When one is planning, and imagining a trip, there are so many nuggets of information that come up, one of them I vaguely recalled, mentioned some delicious food trucks at the lagoon parking. While DH headed to pay the parking fee, I tried to look for them. They were so close but thanks to the downpour, we hadn’t spotted them earlier! The end result was steaming cups of soup and the best fish and chips ever, according to hubby…I guess anything served hot and piping that day would have been the best meal ever!

Just out of the parking lot and across the road was the Diamond Beach. We would have missed it if he hadn’t spotted a packed parking lot! Once we parked we realized where we were. At this point, the little one refused to again get out and wet. So it was again me and DH, the designated photographers who geared up yet again, the rain jacket and the gloves and stuff to brace the weather and click some shots! Every moment was worth it, I’ll tell you!

The diamonds on the Beach!

If all had gone according to plan and if the weather gods had stopped messing around, we would have done another magnificent hike here with the complicated name of Múlagljúfur Canyon hike, one of those less well-known but spectacular ones with tens of falls seen across a canyon. What can we say, we missed it. But that’s the truth about travel, you make a whole lot of plans and then enjoy whatever, materializes. Also, this evening we had to visit Vestrahorn, the better-known mountains also on the south coast, but we couldn’t. If you have done your homework and seen the pictures, you would know that the charm lies in visiting on a sunny day when one catches the spectacular reflections in the water. No such sun around today and a whole lot of precious fog blanketing everything, so we tucked in our wet tails and headed straight back to Hofn and to Dima Studio apartments, to try to dry out our wet boots!

The boys took a well-deserved afternoon nap and I caught up with the bulk of photographs. At around 5:30 in the evening, I peeked out and was ecstatic to see a patch of pristine blue sky through the grey clouds! It’s called a silver lining for a reason! Donning our damp attire and the wintry accouterments, we stepped out. Walked in the general direction of the ocean and were pleasantly surprised to see like-minded travelers, all finally stepping out of their rabbit holes to enjoy the fleeting, though glorious sun!

The town of Hofn or it’s probably a village still, is an erstwhile Fishing town, the claim to fame being a landing site for an allied plane during World War II. Sauntered along the promenade before ambling towards the town center where we spotted a fine(r) dining restaurant, I think the only one in town, called Otto, and what a find it was! Easily amongst the top meals in Iceland. We presumed we wouldn’t get a table, it being peak dinner time and a whole lot of people waiting outside, but they just offered us drinks at the bar and we were happy to wait.

Needless to say, we all slept well and content, a sign of better days to come!

Icelandic Sagas

The sagas, begin in folklore, with how the Norwegians, then Vikings, crossed the mighty seas and reached Iceland and why they bothered at all to make a base on this cold and desolate island. I do not really care to share the stories from the Stone Ages, but we’re here to share our sagas…which though less gruesome, are no less audacious.

Our saga begins with how these tropical-dwelling asians (that’s us) went traipsing across mainland Europe, why they could not just stay there doing the usual touristy things, like Venice or Budapest or even Slovenia…and why they bothered to venture to Iceland. The sagas of modern times will include the turmoils during the planning phase (something most travel bloggers fail to address) and then the travel stories themselves, including the adventures and misadventures endured, the vagaries of nature braved, the facets of human behavior faced and how the two and a half humans persisted on the road for 16 days.

Do not expect the common kind of blog post with the best things to do, spectacular drives, favorite hikes, etc. All that goes without saying, but there will be unadulterated and blatant truth of an Icelandic trip, the travels, and the terrors.

Iceland first appeared on the horizon of our perspective, in the form of the movie, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” an outstanding and vivid tale of travel and attendant escapades.

We have always had this urge to see faraway places, this longing to be amidst raw natural beauty, to be far from maddening crowds. Homo sapiens have this nomadic gene, dubbed the restless gene by David Dobbs, (National Geographic Magazine) which describes this urge of humankind that eventually led to them to move out of Africa, and then to the moon and then beyond!

We first saw this movie back in 2017 and started daydreaming about this road trip. Time went by, other plans were made, other cities explored and finally, it was the dawn of 2020 when we sat down and booked the entire 15 days of Iceland for the upcoming summer. Every reader, unless an Inuit in Greenland, would know exactly what followed next. The world became a large lonely place, with empty streets, vacant beaches, lonely monuments, and happy wildlife. Yes.. it was 2020 when the modern world came to an abrupt standstill. And so did our best-laid plans. 

Thankfully we managed to rescue our accounts, with near-complete refunds from the airline and Air B&B.

The next opportunity knocked in 2023. Correction, it was an opportunity, willfully created. Though we had other commitments, I stubbornly insisted that Iceland was to happen this very year and not to be delayed any further. Sacrificed some of the planned Himalayan treks to fit this mega trip on our limited holiday reserve.

DH started rubbing his hands in nervous anticipation.. just ready to attack the internet to disclose, all its travel tips and tricks, where to stay, what to eat, and what all layers to wear. He is like a kid in a candy store when given a destination, dates, and an approximate budget and he dives in with both hands and feet to find the juiciest airfares, the most delectable restaurant bookings, drool-worthy destinations, and the most colorful accommodations.

So, lets talk about “the planning”.

Touristy London with family

By Sri (Summer 2010)From the Archives

Our family of five (back then the little one had not been conceived even in our thoughts) with us, the parents, and sis, started our UK trip, from London.

Despite being against the idea, on parental insistence, we ended up making the mistake of staying at a family friend’s B&B in the suburbs. Though the people were lovely and the stay there was very homely, we missed out on the feel of the city! The one-hour transit time by tube meant that we (meaning the parents) were more interested in getting back home than in exploring the nightlife downtown. 

I had repeatedly warned parents to pack light… Little did I know that they would pack a world of foodstuffs, all because of some misguided vegetarian people who told them “You won’t get anything to eat”! I guess, most desis would understand how this goes, but it’s not that my parents have never traveled, it’s just that according to Murphy’s (bless his soul) law, the advice from friendly neighbors is always closer to heart than familial banter. Luckily, since that trip, and having to either lug most edibles back or gift them to people, they have been more receptive to my advice than following thy neighbor.

Anyhow, we were in London and out to check the touristy spots. Arriving from sweltering Delhi, our first impression of London was pretty sad, what with the heat waves engulfing the city. Eventually, we appreciated the bright sunshine, absent rain, and the opportunity to laze in the parks and be able to amble around town.

The high “touristy” points were a visit to the Tower of London, St Paul’s, Buckingham palace and Trafalgar square. Other than the former, most other stuff was appreciated from the outside, as we can only take so much of history and jewels and majestic lifestyles.

The Tower of London was partly eerie, partly tranquil, and worth the trip. The memorial at the scaffold had these words.

Gentle visitor pause awhile: where you stand death cut away the light of many days: here jeweled names were broken from the vivid thread of life: may they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage: under these restless skies”

The Tower of London

We got on to the HO HO bus and also did the “Thames river cruise”.. Our experience was mixed. You do get to see more of the city this way, but miss out on people interactions. River cruises are a great way to see more in a short amount of time, especially in the evenings when everything is majestic and lit up.

…not to forget the quintessential London tube.

Hungry, after a day of walking, we ended up at Trafalgar Square, and at Sherlock Holmes pub on Northumberland Avenue. After the usual dark and ominous rumblings by Mum about the follies of drunk men, of orgies, and the potential unsafe trip back home, the evening was delicious with wholesome pub grub, filling the souls even of the vegetarians with soups of the day, pot pies, a side of a salad and beans and delectable round of ales, quenching our thirst.

Another great “foodgasmic” experience was the Burrough market, which we visited one evening! 

We sauntered into a very famous cheese shop called Neal’s yard Dairy, where we sampled and bought a variety of “oh-so-yum” cheese n crackers!

From aromatic mushrooms including truffles, flavoured olive oils, vibrant fresh produce vegetables, meat, more cheese, baked goodies to tipsy afternoon with sangrias, ales and beers…it was just a “perfect day”, ala Lou Reed!

Spent another day shopping on Oxford and Park Street, a drag for the men but a highlight for the ladies!

Unfortunately, couldn’t see much of the theatre in London on this trip, but that ensured our imminent return.

From London, we hired our rental car from the same company we used in Spain,, and drove onwards to the Cotswolds, the heart of England…more about it in the next post.

Loire Valley in 3 days


This was the second last leg of our “French road trip”, though Loire Valley commands a dedicated trip to itself. Spending 3 nights here didn’t seem enough, but basing ourselves in the picture-perfect town of Saumur helped cover all bases!

Loire Valley in central France used to be the summer getaway for the French nobility who built numerous Chateaux along the river Loire and its tributaries. The rich river banks are lush with vineyards and fruit orchards, and dotted with magnificent chateaux, each with its own individuality, not surprisingly, attracting tourists and locals alike!


We left L’isla’sur’la Sorgue (in Provence) at about 11 o’clock, after quickly visiting the Sunday market. This was expectedly a long road journey of about 8 hours and after traversing an “Oh-so-French” countryside, reached Saumur at about 7:30 pm.

Having ogled at the photographs of the Loire region in one of the travel magazines, we were inspired to cycle around, imagining happy summer days of tasting delectable wines and soaking our eyes in the magnificent architectural marvels while cycling around. On deeper research, we figured that it’s not easy for weekend cycling enthusiasts like us to bike from one chateau to another, as they are spread far apart. And we had a kid and grandparents along! For the abled cyclists, Loire is their oyster, and Chateaux a velo website, their guide. For us, there were two options, either hire our own car and cycle, lug them around, and use biking trails. Or one could tie up with local bike rentals who could drive around and carry the bicycles too. Unfortunately, none of the two options worked for us, the former was not possible because of our big troupe (place for either cycles or cyclists 😅in the car), and the latter was priced a bit too steep for comfort. We did manage cycling eventually, as the pic above proves, but you must read on!

During the planning phase, choosing a base to explore the Loire was challenging with many variables to factor in; like proximity to the chateaux, whether to stay amidst vineyards, or staying in one of the many quaint towns.

Town of Saumur (pronounced, saw-mewr)

Factoring in all these variables, we finally decided to base ourselves in Saumur, in itself a very picturesque town. We had booked ourselves in a downtown apartment (Air b& b) which was perfectly located close to all the best eateries, shopping streets, carrefour 😉and a hop across from the banks of the placid Loire river with its romantic vistas.

The first evening was a task to find dinner, as most restaurants/ cafes had shut shop, except for an Italian place. After our hurried dinner, we opted to walk along the river after dropping our car at the charming river-side parking lot. Being dusk, the most beautiful time of the day, and free of usual touristy hordes, (we prefer to call ourselves travelers 😀), this turned out to be a walk to remember!

Words cannot adequately express the feeling of tranquility as we wandered along, while feasting our eyes on the dreamy spectacle of twilight hues, reflecting on the placid waters. After clicking a hundred pictures in maybe 10 minutes we came upon a bridge where we heard some melodies floating in the wind.. and decided to follow the music. This whimsical decision turned out to be a wonderful experience, as we chanced upon an outdoor musical soirée with military bands playing from across continents! The band from Belarus knocked our socks off, playing all our favorite English oldies! Little one burst into an impromptu jig on the road!

The next day was dedicated to visiting the chateaux, and we sat with a map (acquired from the visitor center next door) and chose according to the grandeur (based on pictures), the attractive features, and proximity. Some are known for their manicured gardens, some for their architecture, others for the boat rides, etc The decision was also influenced by the help of fellow travelers and their reviews on various forums. A common sense advice is to wear comfortable footwear, as there’s lots of walking. Hats and sunscreen and water and munchies, the usual “day-in-the-country” needs.

We started with the furthest and worked our way backward. Chateau Villandry was first on the list, best known for its exquisite green spaces with manicured flower and vegetable gardens and a breathtaking water garden. It’s advisable to buy tickets online, though reaching before the usual daily hordes, we easily managed to acquire tickets onsite.

The trip was made worthwhile right from the parking lot. I presume, everybody is a photography enthusiast in their own way, and would understand when I mention my obsession with hay stacks…and trying to photograph them. Now on a road trip, one can see acres of fields and the geometrically organized, picture-perfect hay stacks. But it’s so not possible to capture them while on the go, driving on the autoroutes.

The point of this diatribe is that as we parked outside Villandry, a picture-perfect field with stacks of hay was waiting to be photographed! It was a dream(a long time) come true! Not dithered by the thin fence, I and the little one marched up to the nearest stack and had tonnes of fun, posing and clicking! Must have spent a precious half hour, with every moment worth it!!

As far as the Chateau Villandry is concerned, pictures are worth a thousand words!

Chateaux Villandry

Next, we headed to Chateau Chambord. And what a place. We never once ventured inside any Chateau for fact, not really interested in the grandeur of the nobility’s bed chambers or their dining rooms but definitely their vast green spaces and spectacular vistas around.

The highlight of Chambord, or more like the entire Loire trip, was the cycling we could manage around Chateau Chambord! This is a sprawling place, with a tributary of the Loire meandering and encircling the palatial grounds with biking and walking paths and availability of Rental bikes. This ticked our dream of cycling in the Loire! The grandparents and their grandchild biked around in a “Rosalie- pedal car”.. which can carry three or four bodies, while two can pedal, holding hands…could potentially sing “We are going on a summer holiday…”😊

Chateaux Chambord

The short, about 5-mile bike trail around Chateaux Chambord was spectacular. The chateaux itself is out of a fairy tale, and the cycling path goes along the stream, over footbridges and woods.. just perfect! No wonder we spent a bit too much time here…which made us a tad late for the next two!

Chateau Amboise must have been a spectacular chateau, but now seems hedged in by the overgrown town.. which limits a panoramic view. The town itself is like many other small French towns, beautiful and on top of the list for tourists to stay in. It sprawls on either side of the bridge and the views of the town are great from the opposite side. We found a dilapidated parking lot, across town, and took some great shots!

Now it was almost 4:30, and we really wanted to see Chenonceau, but knew it to close by 5:30. so decided to wing it, managing to reach by 5 pm, almost closing time. This was a drawback only in one way; that the souvenir shop was closed. In every other way, it was a blessing. Nearly empty parking lot, vacant and thus beautiful green walkway to the chateau, and nearly complete absence of the hordes (other than a Korean family)!

On the outskirts is a maze which was great fun for the little one. The Chateau is a novelty, like no other, surrounded by a moat which makes for great reflections. We meandered through the beautiful wooded grounds, so peaceful and awe-inspiring, just what’s needed at the end of a long day. It also was the time for the take-off of Hot air balloons, and we saw many colorful ones in the sky, making for another unique photo shot! We stayed as long as we were allowed and then started our drive back to Saumur.

Day 2 was about Saumur, the small train ride around town, up to Chateau du Saumur, shopping in town, and Degustation at Combier!

Wine a little, you’ll feel better…

“Nothing makes the future look so rosy as to contemplate it through a glass of Chambertin.” 

― Napoleon Bonaparte

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!

Different notes that one can expect in a typical red wine

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!

France (2017)

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!

It’s like a painting!

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.

Chateâu Chambord, Loire valley, France

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 (2009)

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.

Sant Sadurní d’Anoia

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.

Montefrío, Andalucia, Spain

Andalucia epitomizes the charms of slow-travel, driving through awe-inspiring landscapes and breaking for wine/sherry tasting in tradicional bodegas, 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!

Setenil de las Bodegas, Spain

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.

Columbia River Gorge

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!

One of the kid-friendly wineries

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!

Willamette Valley, Oregon

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.

A wine colored lolly is always a good-idea!
A can, really?

And now it’s time for a workout!


Dingle & Ring of Kerry – Wild Atlantic Way 2

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.

Inch beach

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.

Dunquin Harbour

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.

Eagle Owl

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!

Golden Eagle

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.

Mounds of Peat
Peat Harvesting/ Turf cutting

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).

A celtic print scarf
Celtic Print scarves

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.

Fog just starting to roll-in

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! here to see the first Wild Atlantic Way post about Ring of Beara!

Click here to seen the next post on how to “do” Cliffs of Moher, right!

Our Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary is Here!

& Check our Youtube Video about Dingle Falconry experience here!

Wild, Wild Atlantic Way Part-1

When in doubt, always take the scenic route!

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
  • Beara
  • County Cork
  • 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.

Our itinerary (in a broad way) was as follows:

  • Glengariff (night-stay)
  • Beara peninsular (Castletown Beara, Allihies, Eyeries, Healy pass)
  • Kenmare (night-stay)
  • 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)
  • Westport-Achill cycling
  • 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 southern Peninsulas

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.

Points of Interest- Beara

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.

The chocolate Guinness Cake- perfect slice!
Allihies, Beara
Colored buildings of Irish villages
So pretty that it inspires the photographer in everyone 🙂
Vivid village of Eyeries

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.

Healy Pass
The Vibrant town of Kenmare
Coachman’s Perfectly located for break of Journey.
Winding down the day…

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!