Two nights in Munich- Day Zwi

Began the day…passing this Mercedes Benz ? Headquarters…Definitely felt like Germany!

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Our plans for this day was to visit Viktualienmarkt, akin to a farmer’s market, a foodie’s delight!

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Enroute we stopped at Marienplatz for the Glockenspiel. The clocktower has a twin-level moving (puppet like) figures, with a king and queen, musicians, courtiers etc. Nice for a short stop, but not with rain! I forgot to mention that the second day had rain all the time, and we had reason to thank our hotel staff for sending us of with umbrellas.

Marien Platz
Marien Platz

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Once inside the market, we first entered a cheese and wine shop, tasted and bought a truffle cheese (melt in the mouth stuffed brie with the aroma and taste of truffle cutting through) and rosemary cheese. There were many charcuteries, but with four vegetarians there wasn’t much point…

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We then went to a wine shop and bought two German wines, troken (dry) white Riesling and robust red Spätburgunder. Rieslings in US etc are commonly sweet wines, but here, dry tasty Rieslings are the norm. The Spätburgunder (pronounced Shpæt Boorgoonda) is German for Pinot Noir, and is called so, as it’s late ripening compared to Burgundy Pinots. Delish wine anyway…This buy started our wine bottle counter. W2, meaning two bottles.

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The next shop we went to was Honighaus, where everything was about honey including beeswax candles, organic honey and… Mead which is an alcoholic drink made from fermented honey and water, best drunk warm.

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We tasted a glass of Mead, bought a bottle of Honigwein aka Mead and also bought some liqueurs. W3.5

Next we moved onto some gift shops, some fruit shops, more cheese and more wine shops.

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We thankfully didn’t buy more wine bottles, but we stumbled on a delightful shop “Chocolates & more!” that hubby had researched about before.

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The shop had the usual run of nougats, flavored chocolates, chocolates with rum, with nuts, orange peel etc, but it was when we asked for dark chocolates, single origin, that the young lady got animated, and started bringing the most exotic chocolates, including an Amadei couverture dark chocolate drops (pistole) Venezuelan raw cocoa bar, different types of cocoa beans, (African, South american, Sri Lankan) roasted and unprocessed (yummy Cocoa tasting!!). While the ladies and the baby were getting raptures sipping on the delicious hot chocolate; DH and dad tried out different bars of Ecuadorian and Madagascar chocolates (bean to bar) and some Criollo chocolates from Venezuela.

The Stash!
The Stash!

After this heavenly experience we sauntered through the market, buying some fresh fruits, some more beer tasting, ogled at some beautiful crafts works and then decided to eat some more!

We reached the same alley with Andechser am Dom and decided to try Augustiner today. We had a tasty tomato soup, some Ravioli like German dish, Sauerkraut and Nuremberg sausages along with a wheat beer.

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The one notable point was our server, a tall Valkyrie in a “Lederhosen”. I researched it later and found that there is a recent fashion of girls dressing up in these leather short pants; you only look good in them if you are fit!

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After miscellaneous shopping and eats, we headed back. Dinner that night was at an Italian place called Mozamo, close to our hotel, with super thin crust wood fired oven baked Pizza with some good Chardonnay!

Gute Nacht!

Two nights in Munich- Part Ein!

Ah, Munich! Aptly described as the city of Beer & good cheer!

Day1- Delhi to Munich (june 2015)

After an uneventful flight, we landed in Munich at 6:00am, nearly 7 hours before the usual check-in time. Since we had only 2 nights to make the most of Munchen, we decided to power through the day, after dropping the luggage at our hotel-Laimer Hof.

Flughafen Munchen
Flughafen Munchen

Being a sweetheart, I decided to take some load of my hubby and In-laws and tried to lug more luggage than my slender shoulders could carry and ended up getting a back sprain and losing my sunglasses in the process!..I know..already!

Our hotel Laimer Hof is in a residential neighborhood, close to the Nymphenberg palace and within walking distance to metro and bus stops. Nice place with helpful staff.

After dropping off luggage we took the tram to Karlplatz, then the train to Münchner Freiheit (Freedom of Munich- World War II name coming from anti Nazi radio station broadcasting from here) this is in Schwabing, and a really pleasant walk towards our goal Englisischer Garten.. You walk past the most delectable cafes bakery’s wine bars and what not..I planned on walking though half of this garden ( which happens to be larger than Central park!)

Englischer Garten
Englischer Garten

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We first stopped at Seehaus, by the lakeside which is a Paulaner bier garden, where the vegetarians enjoyed their first ever, Obatzda (a cheesy savoury dish), Pomme frites (French fries) & a kirschkuchen (cherry cake). I had a currywurst, a Movenpick ice cream for the little one couple of Pils and wheat beer to drink, where the wheat beer won hands down, as everyone’s favorite! Oh…and forgot to mention the Pretzel!

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Seehaus
Seehaus

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Next we strolled on along the lake towards the Chinese tower, or Chinesischer Türm, another beer garden, only to have “German beer, in a Chinese Tower, in an English garden in Bavaria”!!

Chinescher Turm
Chinescher Turm
Hofbrauhaus
Hofbrauhaus

There were plenty of fun rides for the little one as well as the oldest carousel in town! It was pleasing to see carefree children enjoying the mud and puddles without over –protective hovering parents.

We appreciated the Pfand system. You pay a deposit for the Stein, and after you finish, you go back with the empty mug and Pfandmarke (token) to get back 2€ per mug!!

From here, we got a little lost, wandered a little and eventually reached the Eisbach welle, after following some soaking wet students on the bus.

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The Eisbach is a man made standing wave, that all young surfers come to practice and show off. The vicarious exhilaration of watching black clad surfers taking up the challenge of surf’s up was just awesome!!

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Another short bus-ride brought us back to Karlplatz, from where we walked through Viktualienmarkt- a food market which was closed on Sunday, to Marienplatz, where luckily the breweries weren’t.

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Marien Platz
Marien Platz

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At Andechser am Dom, we sampled (probieren) some of their monastery beers, had a Käse Spätzle  (another vegetarian dish- just like Gnocchi, but smaller and made of cheese), Butter and Spargel (asparagus) and Nuremberg sausages. The food was one amongst the best on the trip.

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We then walked to Chocolaterie Beluga (used a Munich map app) and had their chocolate sticks dipped into hot milk.. The orange and cinnamon chocolate was good, but the rum and chocolate was under-whelming.

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Finally on a loaded tummy, waves of somnolence washed over us and with aching limbs, we trudged back to our beds, tucking in early!

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Summer of 2015- The Plan!

So the travel pangs began…it had been 9 months since the last big holiday and the urge of being in a different land, amidst foreign folks, breathing a lungful of exotic aromas was too overpowering! So hubby and I started casual chit-chat about which continent, which country. what sites we would love to see and capture. Since, I was dying to see Munich, one place that DH had been to, without me 😉  and since DH was trifling through Beer at present, we decided on Bavaria!!

Usually during the planning stage, I just sip coffee and DH burns the midnight oil. And usually I rise, just near full term to say ‘why not this and why not there’, completely baffling my sweet husband! So for last couple of trips he has started to bombard me with links and itineraries so that I’m part of “The Plan” right from the word go.
One such link took me to a Rick Steve’s Itinerary which included Bavaria, The Black forest, Berchtesgaden, and Lauterbrunnen with the most beautiful, and tantalizing photos. Just looking at those pictures of Lauterbrunnen gave me goosebumps! That’s how we added Switzerland to the trip which expanded to Montreux (as some of you know by now, a trip to a wine region on a holiday is sort of mandatory), Cochem- the German Wine region on the Mosel river, to Bamberg- home to the Smokey Rausch Beer and added some short trips to Neuschwanstein Castle, Berchtesgaden and R’o’d’t (will expand later).

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This is how we eventually did it! In and out of germany, Skirting through Austria, through peak commute in Switzerland and detour through French-Alsace & lorraine!

Along the way, my In-laws joined the bandwagon and we were set to go in the month of June, far from the maddening heat in Delhi.

DH, during the trip had the mammoth task of balancing the needs and demands of the baby, the grand-babies, the whimsical wife and the Taciturn Sister; some of them being Teetotalers, vegetarians, nature lovers, shopping addicts and foodies..Ha!!

Hi there,

We recently came across the german word ‘Gemütlich’ – translated as feeling of warmth and amiability to all, which usually describes my state of mind as I publish a much pondered post.

We are a Generation X couple, living a Uber cool life in a hot city where we expertly juggle our jobs, an increasingly demanding adolescent and managing a nuclear household in New Delhi, all without any screaming or meltdowns! While last bit may not be true… what’s a fact is that we preserve our sanity and live day to day, always dreaming and planning our next get-away! Pretty early on, in our married life, we discovered each other’s passion for travelling and live to explore the world and its bounty! Passionate nature lovers, and wine enthusiasts, most of our trips involve some hiking, biking, lush wine countries and gorgeous pictures on the way!

So all you genial folks out there, flip through the pages, walk with us and enjoy some amateur photography. These trips may not be path breaking, but everytrip is special, planned meticulously by dear darling, and always a bit off-the beaten path!

Bonne journée!

Königssee & to Füssen

Day3 –  Narrated by Sriram

After first two relatively touristy days spent in Munich, it was time to head to the road! We woke up early for breakfast full of apprehension as a long day beckoned. But first we trouped down for breakfast…

Our second morning breakfast at Laimer hof was fantastic thanks to Sebastian the owner whose personal attention definitely made a difference! He served hot breakfast, fresh coffee, hot chocolate for the little one and kept up a cheerful conversation with everyone.
After getting directions from Sebastian to the car rental location-Laim , I and dad reached the pick-up location with the passport and driving license, forgetting the booking confirmation.. All three are usually needed for picking up the vehicle..  But luckily lady at the counter wasn’t fussy and as soon she heard my last name she chirped…oh, the Minibus!! Taken aback, we realized that the 9 seater van, a Ford Tourneo, that we’d rented was big enough to look like a minibus (comfortable van with two passengers sitting along with the driver in the first row, one car seat and two adults in the next row and ample space for 5 suitcases and three bags.)

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Set out with DW in the front seat navigating, as always, while waiting for the GPS babe to activate… We took the scenic drive avoiding the Austrian highway, driving towards Siegsdörf, then Inzell, on the way meandered through German village roads and passed Chiemsee, and finally reached Königsee (pronounced Kueenigcee).

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We arrived with rain and wind on our back, enough that some of us were wondering if it would be worth stepping out..Berchtesgaden (and eagle’s nest) was definitely out because of the overcast weather. I tried to reassure everybody that we would be traversing lake Königsee in a covered boat, but there first was a short wet cold walk from the tourist information center to the dock that had everyone wondering…

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So we had to saunter into a very inviting cafe, displaying all its bounty…got hot coffee, chocolate, strawberry tart and apfelstrudel.. I think we shared the strawberry tat, kept the apple strudel , and squashed it in luggage on the subsequent trip 😉

After buying tickets we got into the boat with a whole class of French/ Swiss children… For the most, the school teachers kept the children in a cheery and not too noisy order..

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It was very beautiful in the covered boat with some light rain and thankfully not as cold. Half way to the first stop the captain switched off the electric engines, to cut out the noise and blew a few notes pausing to let us hear the echo… It was eerie and at the same time beautiful…

The first stop was at St Bartholomo, a beautiful church with orange onion domes where everyone got off. We the smart, well researched lot, knew that the most awesome views were from the boat and decided to stay in the boat for the next stop..

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Salat, the second stop, is at one end of lake Königsee, where all get off and walk to the next lake, the Obersee..

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We got down at a small harbor, with a beautiful wooden arch, and after utilizing the WC, tottered on for a 15 minute hike.. It was a lot like half an hour going through pouring rain, muddy puddles that our little one wanted to jump in, passing many laconic German cows, mama cows and baby calves.. And we realized that we were missing one person.   I had to run back get Dad…who was patiently waiting by the WC..

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The final view at Obersee was worth the wet hike.. Lovely wooden hut giving a great foreground, the placid lake and mountains all around hiding in the mist..

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After hiking in pouring rain with only our (wet) jackets keeping us sort of dry we got back to the harbor, got on the boat and reached land..
At Königsee, seeing everyones bedraggled appearance, I knew we needed some hot nourishment…and happened upon the Hotel Koenigssee Restaurant, specifically looking for German vegetarian options.  The restaurant had pleasant seating with large wooden round tables, and good portions.

We ordered the Spargelzuppe (white asparagus soup), Kässezuppe (cheese soup), omelette with asparagus and some more. Surprisingly the cheese soup was the most appreciated.

We drove back and reached Füssen quite late about 9:30, and fortunately our rooms were still held for us! The city of Füssen had an otherworldly charm in the evening, with beautifully lit warm glow to the cobble-stoned streets.

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The second surprise was the Hotel Sonne Füssen. Now while booking the hotel, I had looked at many many hotels in the vicinity, but I didn’t like their reviews, and the ones I wanted were not available.. I finally booked Sonne Fuessen knowing it was expensive, but it really exceeded expectations, starting from the staff, who were extremely helpful, the ambience, with beautiful gowns on tasteful mannequins, paintings and quirky lights in the corridors..

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Each room had it’s own different decor and paintings..

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We got together and had a light meal, furnished on the spot with the groceries we were carrying..and many of the party called it a long day, crashing on the luxurious beds!
Anyway after reaching, I and dad went down to the bar to have a glass of wine, we tried a Chardonnay and local German Riesling ( Trocken meaning dry).. The Riesling was excellent.. the chardonnay was passable.. The bar at this place seemed a happening site with lots of couples in snazzy outfits, arriving in great rides!

Thus ended the long day…

Fall foliage trip-New England region- 2012

We have been obsessed with the fall colours for as long as I remember…seeing them on TV, movies, cards, calendars…but never having experienced it live, as Delhi, or the northern part of India, barely has any classical “seasons”…being limited with very hot and dry, long summer months, few rain showers in the name of “Monsoons” and hardly two months of cold weather called “winter”.
Hence, the wish to experience the beauty of nature and weathers… to see the cherry blossom of spring, fall foliage in autumn and the snow white beauty of winter! 
 

After seeing my brother’s pictures of his fall foliage trip, we were quite taken with the idea of a leaf peeping trip! Read about “Leaf peepers” who follow the changing colours from region to region. We decided to plan a trip “sometime” and shelved it. 

 
This year (2012) we got an opportunity as we had to travel to Washington DC on business, end of September, seemingly the perfect time to experience this Nature’s phenomenon!! So we promptly planned a trip to New England region, famous for the most vibrant fall colours in Northern America.
Hubby dear, planned a trip flying through Amsterdam, going on to DC, flying to Buffalo, Niagara falls, driving to Niagara on the falls in Canada, drive back, go to the Finger lakes, (wine tasting !!) then fly to Burlington, drive on a fall foliage trip & fly back from Boston.. Whew!! That was tiring, just writing it.. Keeping me and my interests in mind, he promptly modified the plans. We finally did DC-Boston-Stowe-North Conway-Boston.


We flew Swiss, via Zurich.. and I learnt an important lesson the hard way..Zurich duty-free is one of the most expensive ones.. A bottle of J’ adore, absolute for 200$.. WT**^&&**! I wasn’t really paying attention to the price, getting lost in the fragrances…only after making the purchase did I realise the foolishness of the whole deal! The ordeal didn’t end there…as soon as I took out the bottle to use it, dropped it on the floor, thankfully not breaking the bottle but majorly denting the metallic nob!

After winding up business n sightseeing in DC, we took a flight to Boston n then picked up a rental car to drive off straight to Stowe, Vermont. As usual DH at the last moment, upgraded the car, against my practical wishes…getting a beaut .. A Buick..

 


Hubby had researched and learnt that the more north and east we go, and the higher we go, the more colour we see…he booked us in Stowe, Vermont, which is a skiing resort and we decided to work ourselves east and south to New Hampshire in October (the best time to visit for fall colors is the second Monday of October- Columbus Day weekend, which also is the most expensive and difficult to get accommodation). Hubby kept reminding me not to expect too much colour or get disappointed if we see only Green!!

So without many expectations…we headed to Stowe, which is a skiing resort. Imagine our delight when we started seeing color enroute, in New Hampshire.. We didn’t find any great eats on the way. Stopped for fuel n loo, at Salem NH, Concorde NH, and Sharon VT..and had lots of trail mix.. (muesli, almonds, cashews, pista, sunflower seeds, nuts, cranberries, dates, figs, and prunes). We did have some good cider doughnuts at Concorde NH..





















We were trying to reach Stowe by 3Pm, as Oktoberfest was being celebrated in this town, that day! However, we got late, stopped here n there.. Reaching Waterbury, a small town proximal to Stowe, by 4:30 PM. DH had (as always) researched about multiple local points of interest, one of them being the “Cold Hollow Cider Mill”.

Pumpkins at the entrance and pumpkin spice in the air .. Pumpkin spice for the uninitiated is a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger, that is the essence of pumpkin pie.. Here, we tasted their famous Cider Donuts (which did not live upto the fame), the hot n cold (disappointing, apple juice) apple cider, multiple jams n relishes as well as fudge; the latter two, making up for the disappointing former items!! Ended up buying couple of absolutely delicious sauces, namely the maple mustard and maple-zucchini relish!! We then took the obligatory photos of with pumpkins! The rest of the attractions including wine tastings were shut down by this time..  



Predictably, everything’s shut after 5, so we weren’t planning on doing or seeing much in Stowe that evening. Also DH was tired, hungry, looking forward to a wine cheese hour, at our lodge, The Stone hill inn, Stowe.  
But I was enticed by some colourfully decorated crafts shops in town, which seemed very inviting!! Antique n Craft shops are something I can’t resist..n thankfully hubby dear has come to accept this in Life (I allows him the tastings and he allows me gift shops) !! Grudgingly he parked the car, we plodded in the rain towards the shops n got an incidental benefit of spotting our very first Covered bridge!! These covered bridges are famous Vermont landmarks…some 250 of these authentic ones in existence.. unique because of their covered architecture, in various shapes n sizes (red or brown, functional or not).

Covered Bridge, Stowe
I had to buy something…so bought a maple leaf shaped Pewter salt cellar. Stepped out and saw another pretty craft shop…seemingly a famous one called “Stowe Craft”.  There were pretty glazed ceramic wine glasses, coffee mugs and incredible night lamps, with printed scenes that projected beautifully.. All funnily enough from Oregon (and none of the beautiful  stuff was from Vermont !) we ended up spending some more precious dollars on glazed pottery goblets n mugs!!


Happy & satisfied, we proceeded, finally, towards Stone hill Inn, where we were booked for next 3 nights. Met by our cheerful inn-keepers George and inc.. I expected it to be a boutique, small scale B & B, but was pleasantly surprised to see a luxury resort! 

Entrance to the inn..





















We were floored by our room which was humungous with a huge bathroom, separate wash basins for his and her, a twin Jacuzzi, a two way fire-place and backdoor, opening onto a lush garden (with some more coloured trees)!

  



George helped us in getting reservations at a local fine dining restaurant called the “Michael’s on the hill” http://www.michaelsonthehill.com/.

 
This happened to have a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian tasting menu, which we though would suit our appetites, perfectly. The first course for me was Roasted Mushroom Soup with Lemon Thyme & Artisan Cheese Croutons ( loads of soup, and when I requested it to be shared with hubby, got translated into two separate portions for the both of us) while DH’s first course was -Local Greens with Roasted Pumpkin, Cloth Bound Cheddar & Cider Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette (green stuff with some tasty bits, but mostly grass). The second vegetarian course was Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Fall Vegetables, Shallot Confit, Browned Sage Butter & Local Cheese (this came out as a layer of cheese stuck to gnocchi, with watery confit at the bottom- texture that didn’t impress me much…I don’t really love French Onion soup) while non-veg course consisted of Roasted Winding Brook Farm Pork Loin with Brussels Sprouts, Fig & Gruyère Bread Pudding& Whole Grain Mustard Sauce(the Gruyere bread pudding was tasty but too heavy). Our desserts (we were overfull by this stage) were El rey Chocolate fondue (this was yummy, with loads of sponge cake, fruits etc to dip hot chocolate into) and the mistake, Apple & Blueberry Crisp with Cinnamon Ice Cream (this was like apple crumble and too much for our groaning tummies)
Next day we had planned to do some hiking on Stowe’s many trails…but the weather was antagonistic to the plan and it was a heavy rainy day!!





So we decided to drive on the scenic route 108, towards the smuggler’s notch, which is a mountain pass, located in the Mount Mansfield National Forest, named so, because of some smuggling & Boot-legging activities through this region, predominantly in the prohibition times of early 19’s, via Canada! This region, in my opinion, had peaked in colour at that moment, as it was so vivid and breathtakingly beautiful that we spent better half of the morning, stopping n clicking innumerable pictures! This was the first time, that we witnessed the “Autumn colours” on this trip & fell overwhelmed by this Nature’s spectacle!!



Going forward, reached Cambridge, another small town in Vermont, where we (actually DH, as he can’t ever go on a vacation without visiting some winery in that region) had planned to stop-over at the Boyden valley winery, famous for its Iced wines (dessert wine, made from frozen grapes) called “Vermont Ice”. Other than the iced wines, the apple liqueur and the mulled wine, went into the shopping cart!!





















Feeling content, my husband drove onwards to the largest town in Vermont called Burlington, along lake champlain. This could have been a nice touristy spot, with many activities on the lake side, had it been a nice sunny day! But, alas, it was pouring by the time we found a parking spot, n rushed to a nearby restaurant to find shelter. This turned out to be an Italian joint called “three tomatoes” n had some good pizzas!! The rain hadn’t abated when we finished our meal…we tried to stroll around the market…in a way a letdown.. we nature lovers were not really keen on a biggish town experience, that early in the trip…and trudged back in a glum mood towards the car park..heading back towards Stowe!

Back at the inn, in time for the evening wine n cheese hour, we were, uncharacteristically, not in a very social mood, picked up our wine glasses and chose to lounge around in the living room. There’s a nice DVD collection to choose from and we spent the evening cosily in bed, ordering in some Pizzas and watching movies.
 
2nd day in Stowe was again overcast, practically ruling out some proper hiking! We thought of going up to Mt Mansfield, but the kind old lady at the toll booth warned us against the ride, what with dense fog, obscuring all possible valley views.
 
After many considerations, a drive on the scenic route 100 was decided upon, keeping in mind few lakes n ponds that we wished specifically to visit for photography! So we drove n drove, shooting away to glory, without reaching any water body for a very long time…till we got really bored n hopped off the car at a point marked “ Mad river hiking trail”. This was off the main road and we seemed to be only ones around. 





After hiking for a bit, unexpectedly chanced upon a small pond where we got our very first breathtaking shots of foliage reflections in the water… 


….contented for the day, we started hiking back to the parking lot when I suddenly heard a low grumbling noise..was just starting to wonder what..when the sound suddenly appeared louder and closer. We had seen enough landmarks saying “Bear Trail” or “BEAR Crossing”.. and we literally ran to the car… avoiding a potential close encounter with a live bear!

After this not so pleasant adventure, we drove on some more, detoured to a side road, marked scenic route… which was worth the drive! By this time we had had enough of foliage for the day and quickly took the fastest shortest way back to stowe, no more interested in any ponds or lakes!! Passed by the Ben’n’Jerry’s ice cream factory which seemed bustling with tourist’s n gave it a mis

Stopped at the Cabot farm for some cheese tasting and tried the Lake Champlain chocolates, nex door! One of the “bestest” hot mocha latte that we’ve ever had was at this chocolaterie..what with perfect temperature, and perfect balance of sweet n bitter!! (which our server made sure using a kitchen thermometer)..













….came back to stowe and did some cool shopping!!

Town of Stowe


Not wanting to still call it a day… we decided to pay a quick visit to the Trapp family lodge, having heard about their brewery with delicious locally brewed beer and some awesome valley views. … For a change, the experience lived upto the expectations!! This is the same, Sound of Music fame, Trapp Family who eventually came and settled in Vermont!

Awesome Valley view from the brewery at Trapp Family Lodge!



Perfect setting atop a hillock.. the most awesome views of the valley were to be had here, at a perfect time of the day, that is dusk.. with tasting of four Austrian beers (as a part of Oktoberfest- Oktoberfest beer, an Austrian Wheat beer, a stout, and a lavender beer). DH tried the “bratwurst”, a german-austrian sausage, to make the entire experience more authentic!


This would have been a great way to wind up a fruitful day..but alas..the quest for the perfect finale…DH, in best of faith, wanted me to have a nice vegetarian meal, as I  could not really have anything at the brewery. He had read about a nice vegetarian restaurant, called the Mint, in Waitsfield, doing innovative cuisine (lot more than the standard cheese, pasta n vegetables for us poor vegetarians). Since we were already in Stowe and had driven around enough for the day, I wasn’t so keen but DH insisted and seeing the love in his eyes, I agreed upon the 45 minute drive back, through pich dark country roads .. By the time we reached Waitsfield, it was already dark, the town was much smaller than expected and nobody seemed to have heard about this restaurant.. got lost, made the stupid mistake of not finding the exact address or the phone number, made no reservation and hence a total disaster. An idea occurred and we called our hosts at the stone hill lodge, requesting us to find the address online, fed it into the GPS n promptly found the place on the very next turn! However,… the restaurant was deserted, no lights, folded chairs,, n we learnt the hard way that this restaurant was usually closed on Mondays n Tuesdays!!! Little can one imagine our plight, especially my sweethearts, whose only intention was to delight me!! So we drove back, on a dark, scary road back, with no streetlights, bought some take away pizza n plonked ourselves on the bed!!

Woke up late next morning, had another scrumtuous breakfast at the inn and started packing up!  As was a norm throughout the trip, the day that was assigned for inter-city travel was always a nice bright sunny day!! Seeing the weather, we decided to again give Mt Mansfield a try, before setting course towards New Hampshire. Obviously every other tourist thought the same and by the time we reached the toll booth, there was a long line of vehicles queuing up to climb! 

Queueing up to climb Mt Mansfield! 


After waiting nearly 45 minutes, finally started the slow drive up the mountain…we had read about this being a hair raising ride.. And it was wimpy compared to Indian roads, thus was a cake walk.. With every car being very polite, giving way to upcoming traffic.. 

Got some awesome views on the way up, but by the time we climbed to the top, a dense fog had started rolling in, obscuring the  views, yet again!! That was the hard luck, but we were not the ones to be dismnayed by these small occurrences, n we made the most of the experience by clicking away as many pictures as we could… frankly, slightly cloudy overcast day was better for photography than a harsh sunlit day!!
We climbed down by 2 O’clock, were already late by all standards and decided to pack Subways to be had on the way, not wanting to waste any more time!

Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut and Massachussets are part of a region called New England. I was asking DH, as to what exactly was our plan in North Hampshire, as we had already seen enough of good foliage colors in Vermont… me not understanding the point of seeing anymore!!
Two of the most scenic routes in North Hampshire are the 112 (popularly the Kancamagus scenic byway or just Kanc, in the White Mountain National Forest region) and NH 302. To reach north Conway, our local destination, we could choose from either of these routes from Lincoln. Since it was already getting late for the day and “Kanc” is supposed to be scenic n slow, we decided upon taking a relatively faster yet scenic route 302!! We did see the Kanc next day, but if asked to choose between the two.. I would say “do both”!! 302, though an interstate, has some breathtaking views!



Only after entering the NH territory, did I realize why leaf peepers, throng this region of New England. There is no comparison between VT n NH, VT has beautiful foliage colors, mainly shades of yellow n orange but NH has such vivid reds, violets and shades of pink (depending upon the sugar content in the maple leaves), which need to be seen to be believed!!










We reached north Conway by 6:30 or so, had an easy n friendly check in at Wyatt House country Inn, by a gregarious hostess Elaine. 



Out of the many eat-out recommendations given by her, we were glad we chose “Moat’s”.. a gastro-pub, a very busy place, expansive cuisine with many vegetarian options n free wifi!! We could do video-chat with family back home while having dinner!! And DH could do a great beer tasting from their microbrewery!!

Next day, which was, predictably, overcast, we set out late and decided to cover some local trails, instead of heading towards Kanc!! Got directions from the inn-keeper and headed towards a popular waterfall called Diana’s bath…instead reached another breathtaking view point… called the Cathedral Ledge which is a popular rock climbing destination with a spectacular lookout to the echo lake!! 


 Easily accessed by a winding road to the top of  the hillock! We spent an hour or so just sitting and soaking in the vista, the weather gods obliged for a change with the sun shining intermittently and we could get a few nice pictures!! DH and I had a major argument at this point…as he accidently deleted a few pictures…the argument continuing all the way to Diana’s bath… which was a bit difficult to find and by the time we reached the start of the trail..it was pouring!! Decided to give it a miss and headed back to Moat’s for a nice hot lunch!! Obviously a contented tummy translates into a contended soul and our moods drastically improved…the sun reappeared and we finally could hike back to Diana’s bath!!

By the time we finished, it was already about 5 O’clock! Both of us knew that if we went back to the B & B…we would not get out again…feeling tired and cold at the same time!! A major part of the attraction in North Conway was the tax-free shopping at “Settlers Green” so we (mainly to please me) decided to head there, straight! It was already dark, we were already tired so scoped out a few outlets, collected the maps and decided to come again next day…

On the way back, we spotted an Indiana restaurant called “Shalimar” that out hostess was raving about. Though, by choice, we avoid Indian food during our vacations, being more interested in local cuisine, as we did not seem to have too many options, we decided to give it a try… predictably, the food was very spicy, even by our standards and we both had a difficult night with heartburn!!

Come next day, and the weather was still playing up!! Heavily overcast with predictions of a lot of rain….we headed towards the “Kanc” which can be accessed via a bypass on 302, near Bartlett, called the Bear notch road! 


Passed by Jacksonville, celebrating Return of the pumpkin people!!






Though the day was very dreary, very wet n cold… we did stop at many of the scenic viewpoints, well marked on the trail including the sabbaday falls, the lily pond and the franconian notch!

Sabbaday Falls
The Kancamagus highway
               fog rolling in..but still breathtakingly beautiful!!
Mount Washington Valley 

At this point, I am falling short of adjectives, not wanting to reuse the awesome, breathtaking, scenic ones again! But the ride was one of a lifetime and no words can describe the brilliant vistas that kept rolling in at every turn of the road!! 

Franconia Notch State Park

We drove down again on 302, completing the loop, and gladly stopped for photo-ops that we seemed to have missed on the previous day!!

Conway Scenic Railroad
The Lunch was another Pizza place in Lincoln (midway junction between Kanc and 302). Their hot steaming mushroom soup was just what the doctor recommended on this wet-wet day!! DH spotted a wine shop.. having read about tax-free liquor shopping and bought couple of delicious reds!!


Saw another historical covered bridge in Bartlett…and realised why they are such popular landmarks of this region!

Wiley House Historical Site 
Happy feet..happy souls!!
Next day we started on the last leg of our journey, from New Hampshire, towards Boston, thus bringing us to the end of our foliage trip.. yet another trip to remember!!


Pacific Highway

By Sri

Pacific Highway -One of the most scenic highways in the world!

This was our second trip to the “west coast” and we had decided to do all those things that we missed out on, last time…

The one road trip I was looking forward to was California Route 1, the Pacific highway from LA to SF.. We planned on breaking our journey in two places before reaching San Francisco..
My initial choice of Paso Robles, was shot down by DW saying ” we aren’t again going to some wine country.. We have got to think of something beyond wine!”.. 

So the next best way station was San Luis Obispo, the so called “happiest little town in America”. One of our friends cautioned against staying there, saying it had a near 100% caucasian population, & that they don’t take too well to Indians.. Our experience, was thankfully very good.. 

We started our road trip with the mandatory fight between the navigator and driver (DW& me).. Our GPS was trying to take us to San Luis Obispo through highway 101, a more interstate like road and boring.. We finally hit on the solution, of asking for places we knew were on highway 1 including Malibu.. If we weren’t in a hurry to reach before sunset, we would have stopped for a drink!!


Our route wound through the wine country of the Central Valley (DW finally smiled n said… one more trip through a wine region!!)


We rushed to catch the sunset on the Pismo beach…and managed to reach, just in time..getting directions from a helpful lady, park warden!! what a spectacular site…,  DW had some creative photography ideas and made me jump about a hundred times to catch my silhouette..


We stayed at the Quality Inn suites, a spacious, two room suite, and would probably enjoy travelling with family here.. They had a reasonable breakfast including hot items (eggs, waffles, sausages etc), and a wine cheese hour..

We got a very good recommendation for dinner from the reception, at a fine dining restaurant called the Novo http://www.novorestaurant.com/In fact we spent Christmas eve at this restaurant.. loved the creekside seating with tables interspersed with heaters and lamps.. DW had a Thai curry, while I had a lavender lamb chop with local ale.. Pretty good experience.. 

Next morning, again set out towards Pismo beach, but for the Monarch butterfly grove.. To see the annual migration of butterflies.. 

At first look through the provided telescopes, we saw what looked like dry, brown leaves.. 


That, with the kiss of the first rays of sunshine, opened out to the brilliant orange and black of clusters of butterflies.. 



We had apparently been seeing the dull brown undersurface of the folded wings, mistaking them for leaves!! We spent a good one & half hours at the grove before moving on to our next destination, Morro rock.



The Morro rock was named so by the Portugese, due to its fancied resemblance to the top of a Moors head. A volcanic plug, one of the nine sisters between Morro bay and San Luis Obispo, we wanted to visit it because of its picturesque vista, and because volcanic plugs, are the closest to dangerous pimples.. They are solidified volcanic rocks IN the vent of an active volcano.. This pimple can sometimes lead to enormous, build up of pressure of magma, and an explosion!! The Salinan & Chumash tribes are the only people allowed to climb it, so we took pictures from afar and drove on..

Our next stop, just happened to be a a very picturesque cliff side place, called the Rocky Point restaurant
http://www.rocky-point.com/. Initially a pit stop, we wandered through the gift shop, had a coffee, soaked in some awe-inspiring vistas….and then…chanced upon a beautiful humming bird close to the parking lot.. Actually DWs sharp eyes spotted the bird..That made our day..

 
We next made our way to Julia Pfeiffer Burns Park.. saved some bucks by parking on the road side (weren’t the only ones..), and trekked to an impressive view point.. Looking out to a beautiful water fall ..on a beach.. 


After the mandatory photos, we proceeded once again on the scenic, Pacific highway, headed towards the destination for the day, Pacific Grove, our second stop over on pacific highway! here we were booked into the Seven Gables Inn- ..this was THE most beautiful B&B we have ever stayed in.. 


This b&b is a converted manor, with the carriage house, main house and the bath house made into separate room clusters..

All rooms have incredible views of the ocean, situated on the coast, along a scenic trail and right next to the Lovers point.. INCREDIBLE!!


Probably the most romantic breakfast as well.. Some of the other guests apparently sited some humpbacks, from lovers point! Well, we had no such luck…also we did not really spend time looking!! 

When we first reached the b&b, in the evening.. the instructions were set out like a treasure hunt. Being Christmas, everyone in the b&b had left.. We found a note at the front door to go around the house to the office, where we found a packet addressed to us.. Then we trekked all the way around to the front door.. Lugged our luggage upstairs and settled into the cozy room, soaking in the vista!!

…Dinner turned out to be a sad affair…as we made a big mistake choosing a Thai restaurant called the “Thai Bistro”on the recommendations of Tripadvisor, and against that of Yelp.. Plastic chairs, fishy smells, and average food.. obviosuly the very short drive back was dark & gloomy..

The next morning, I woke up at sunrise, to a BIG hug from DW.. I was her hero!! She loved the room and the views.. 

.. Warned by the previous nights experience, we went to a “Yelp” recommended bike store, “Adventures by the sea” rather than Blazing Saddles recommended by Tripadvisor .. got some unexpected help with parking from an elderly gentleman, who lent us dimes for putting in the parking meter..

We started biking along the 17 mile scenic drive. This first runs through the city and passes by multiple turn-outs and view points.. It was cold and windy, and hence we didn’t realize how much we pumped our muscles, we ended up doing a respectable 9 miles, and then turned back at a steep hill.. but all of it was worth it!!


We then went to the “outlets” (had to appease a, by-now tiring, irritable DW), bought shoes for DW, socks, and a cute loose change purse in the shape of a sock, had lunch, and headed back..  In time for the Wine  cheese hour at Seven Gables Inn.. DW was initially reluctant to come, but once there got into the spirit of it.. Partly the wine and partly good company had her become the center of conversation.. 

Shortly after, we left for dinner at a recommended restaurant.. “Fandango” http://www.fandangorestaurant.com/.. This turned out to be quite a good meal.. We shared some delicious dishes including a pasta, and an incredible bottle of wine, Pinot Noir, recommended by the manager.. Paraiso Vineyards, Sta. Lucia Highlands, 2007! 

Probably because of the exertion during Biking plus the suuperadded effect of wine (? dehydration, metabolite disturbance), DW had a very scary episode of calf and thigh pain, that night! So bad that we had to put the suitcases and bags on her legs to compress.. somehow the phase passed, after pain killers n water.. n we were thanking god!!  

Next day we met up with a good friend, C, who picked us up from pacific grove..n then we drove off to SF with him.. He enjoyed the wine of the dinner past, and the ambience of the inn.. It was nice being with a nice friend on a trip..

Spanish Siesta… Arrival at Madrid…June 2009

By Sri.

Spain brings warm sunny and lazy siestas to mind.. Partying with sangria and tapas.. White villages.. Flamenco..


I made a fanciful plan of biking Andalusia, with family -dad, mom, sis, n DW…searched and found a conference in Spain, but alas, the timing of the conference coincided with peak summer.. 
 
I then thought of getting a spanish travel agent to book a trip for me, DW, parents and sister.. The final quote from the agent was too high.. Like all typical agents, he said five people.. You ll need a van, a driver, a tour guide.. So only Andalusia was about 3,700€, and Barcelona, Madrid, and Valencia (the location of the conference) would be another bomb..
 
Then my parents backed out, and we won a citation for top ten e-posters, and we had to go…
 
The high point that I definitely wanted us to do was to drive through the back roads of Andalucia, see some white villages, try some tapas, get the feel of spanish wine and sherry..

Day 1- Arrival at Madrid via Paris

Our trip had a recurring theme.. Sacrifice.. It started off from when we deplaned at Paris, forgot our inflatable neck pillow.. Then to make things better, we found that we had to reach a terminal on the other side of the airport, within 45 minutes.. I had almost resigned myself  to miss the flight, but asked someone at security.. And lo and behold! We got a demonstration of how helpful the French can be.. We were spurred on in the que by successive helpful people, along with short dialogues in french.. And we reached our plane in time!!! Yay!!
 
Next when we landed in Madrid,  I lifted our brand new clam shell, hard bodied suitcase off the carousel, with the shell in splinters.. Dropping off as we loaded it into the pre booked shuttle.. The driver saying “Do you knowsyour suitcase is broken”.. And the same dialogue from the bellhop at the Viena Suites, Madrid.. 



Vienna suites is located just 500 mts from Templo-DeBod  and close to Plaza De Espana (Plaza Mayor). Saw the famour Plaze Del Sol, from the shuttle ride to the hotel. 



The broken .suitcase brought us on the first jet lagged trip to El Cortes Ingles, a supermercado chain in the whole of spain.. While  looking for suitcases, I asked DW what colour and size do we need, and typically, she shows me a mind numbingly fluorescent orange suitcase, that we would never mistake…
 
 
 
Then we had our first struggle at a Macdonalds.. No veggie burgers.. So he just pulled out the chicken patty, and gave us a limp burger, with a wilted lettuce, and a cheese slice.. Predictably, I rebelled, and made sure we had a more conventional margherita pizza with wine and cold water.. We then went all along the main street trying to find a shop that would sell us a sim card.. With our newly acquired broken, pidgin Spanish!!
 
Our by stop was the Templo Debod, a temple transplanted from Egypt when the Aswan dam was built.. DW had seen a screensaver of the temple lit up at night before coming, (who said she doesn’t research our trips :)! ) The temple was within walking distance from our hotel, but we were not impressed in the bright and harsh Spanish sun.. 
 
..We decided to come back at sunset ..( 2230hrs!!). Our visit at night was ethereal.. Heightened for some reason by our day time visit.. The shimmering, lit up temple looked beautiful, and the obligatory pics were beautiful!!
 
 
 
We checked out some interesting local fruit shop, where we found some tart, but pretty, translucent red fruits in addition to the usual oranges (naranja!!) .. 

 

Day 2- Madrid Sightseeing-Palacio Real, Thyssen & Prado museums

Next morning after a breakfast of Danone, Iberico Jamon, veggie pie and toast, we set out to see the Royal Palace or Palacio Real, after a short subway ride.. 



….I dont  remember too much of the palace, except the session we had with the circular polarizer outside the palace  (cpl cuts out scattered light, showing only straight light rays, and revealing true colours in harsh sunlight), and the modelling session I persuaded DW to get into… For some reason, I like taking pics of DW!!






…and she…Mine…!




After this, we traipsed over to the Thyssen museum, recommended as a well organized museum of conventional art..


On the way we had our first ever, Churros Con Choclate.. “oh so yum and delicious “..as expressed by DW!!


..unfortunately, didn’t think of clicking a picture at that time… so this one’s being shared from the net…


At Thyssen …we took the audio-self guided tour and loved learning about various aspects of paintings, and I could show off in front of DW , I knew what INRI, under the crucifix meant.. Ieses Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum-(Jesus of Nazareth, King of Jews).. This museum was like art of the world101.. 
Next .. with a ravenous appetite..we headed for a vegetarian restaurant called “Al Natural “.. widely rated on Trip Advisor as one of the best… and we were not disappointed!












Then we reluctantly trudged to the Prado museum……, both our novice brains fried with too much art in too much heat… And then two things happened.. One, just as we started going to the (short) que for buying tickets, we noticed the loooong que close by.. I followed Dennis the Menace’s famous poster.. When in doubt, ask!!.. And several people helpfully told us the long que was for the free entry one hour later, and  the short (almost empty) que was the paid one.. We decided to cut our losses and see some more art for free.. And then clouds came out and winds caressed our faces.. It was like god saying, “bachcha, you did the right thing”…


When we entered the museum, DW promptly went to the souvenier shop.. Cos we had noticed in the Thyssen museum that the best paintings had post cards and prints in the shop.. 

..We discovered Joaquin Sorolla, an awesome Spaniard, Impressionist..who loved to paint water, oceans, rivers, and reflections of people, children, maidens.. You have to see a painting to understand the beauty of his watercolours, how he manages to get a translucent sheen and see through effect..

“Promenade on the beach.”. one of our favorites.. shared form the Net… 

Trudging our way back to the hotel, after a long day…happended to see yet another Madrid landmark, the Metropolis building or the “Edificio Metropolis”.. all lit up and majestic!


 

Lake district bit of Uk tour- 2010

By Sri.

Next day we regretfully left Mr Paul Burroughs and Ivy house behind, to start our trip to Lake district.. 

While looking up Lake district, I had spent a, huge amount of time trying to figure out where to stay… most hotels and B&bs were too expensive, as we would have to book two to three rooms. Finally I chanced upon a cottage- Winster cottage at Masons arms, Strawberry Banks, Carmel.. The rub was that this cottage was situated above a pub, and again I had to quieten the apprehensions of the family.. They were pretty fatalistic about it in the end.. Something on the lines of .. “ok..we hope you know what you are doing!!” This place is off the usual touristy areas, and after traversing some thickly wooded areas, with the road winding through smalls hills and dales, we finally made it..
And despite everyone’s apprehensions.. It was fantastic.. A huge multi bedroom cottage with lovely skylights, bunk beds in one room, wooden floors, well equipped kitchen… you could choose to go self catering or ask for meals..


 

The cottage had a separate entrance overlooking the most dazzling vista, rolling hills and ditzy sheep gambolling in the rain.. And what with the temperatures plunging down, we loved it.. not a wee bit of noise from the pub nearby…We even liked the wooden floored bathroom, great for cold mornings.. The minor hiccough was one bathroom for all of us, but it was fine..

My surprise for everyone, was the dinner at “Masons arms”. I bamboozled everyone by getting everyone to wait outside while the table was set up.. Had an ale or two..Then trooped upstairs…


They had actually reserved a huge dining table (that could have seated 12 for the five of us) in a private dining room!! The food was good, and the ambience perfect. DW loved that she had the freedom to open a window and enjoy the beautiful weather! The menu was vegetable soup, lasagna, pasta and for me honey glazed ribs.. 

Next day we went to the Windermere tourist centre, got a map and suggested walking route and set out.. 



Saw a bunch of schoolkids launching a yacht under guidance.. And then set course to the next lake.. Ambleside… 



…Somehow I associate Ambleside with a huge scone with cream, blackberry and strawberry compote.. That I successfully divided up into five!!
We decided to make a round of the lakes by car, stopping when it suited us..

We passed by a quiet pretty little, english village called Grasmere, and I recalled that the ginger bread was good here, so we decided to take a break.. While having pizzas, and looking for ginger bread, we noticed two ladies having a triple cone of ice cream..Mom being the intrepid person she is, went up to them, cheerfully talked to them and asked them where they got their ice creams from.. We promptly set out and had this ice creams.. And we have  pictures to prove it..



One of the most beautiful of all the lakes in this car ride was Ullswater.. Its the second largest lake, and when we went there.. Empty of tourists.. Tranquil with ducks coasting quietly and hills in the background. DW insisted on getting down to take a pic of this tranquil lake..
In the evening, we took the walking trail, upto the windermeyer lake. We traipsed along the winding path, crossing houses, forests, and fields till we finally came to the lake.. We spent some time by the lake.. 
The next day we set course for Scotland.. Our GPS went crazy, and routed us through tiny hamlets and villages, with steep one-car-worthy roads.. You could almost imagine everyone using cycles to get around.. Till we finally reached a main road.. The two most frustrating statements our Aussie accented GPS would say, about a km after a turn.. “recalculating..” And ” lost satellite reception”!
Somehow, there’s not much to write about Lake district,..but our memories, and the incredible photos say tons more!



London, Cotswalds & Lake District part of our UK trip…Summer of 2010

By Sri.
The London and Cotswolds  part of our UK trip (summer 2010)

Our family of five, started our trip from london, ..  We had this division of uneven numbers… which proves difficult while trying to find accommodations in Europe! 

I had repeatedly warned parents and DW to pack light… Little did I know that the parents would pack a world of food stuffs… All because of some misguided vegetarian people who told them “you won’t get anything to eat”! Someone told my Mom “I took a pressure cooker with three kg rice when I went for a month”… I didn’t want to offend my parents by calling their friends morons!!


We made a mistake in deciding to stay at a friend’s B&B in Romford.. Though we experienced homely comfort there…, we missed out on the feel of the city! The one hour transit time by tube meant that we were more interested in getting back home than to explore the night life. 

Having said that, we did have some fun in London.. Our first impression was pathetic.. London was going through a heat wave, and we didn’t appreciate the heat, coming from sweltering Delhi… … But eventually being fun loving, we enjoyed our trip..

The high “touristy” points were a visit to the Tower of London, St Paul’s, Buckingham palace and Trafalgar square.. 



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 jewelled 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”

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.. And miss out on food, great photo ops..

                                 …not to forget the quintessential London tube…



Hungry, after a day of walking, we ended up at Trafalgar square, we asked a man on the street, for the closest, wholesome food..  And his recommendation was spot on.. We landed up in the Sherlock Holmes pub in Northumberland Avenue.. It started off bad… with mother and sister mumbling darkly about the follies of these men folk… Thoughts of drunken orgies and unsafe trip back home.. (This despite my telling mom repeatedly that pubs are great places for vegetarian wholesome food and nothing like pubs in India!)

Our experience..Two vegetarian soups of the day, two pies with vegetables, a side of a salad, and beans and everyone was full!! I even got to try some ale with dad… I wanted him to try some pale and Golden ales.. And I m glad to say he really liked them..





Another great “foodogasmic” 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!


..right from mushrooms, truffles, flavoured olive oils, vegetables, fresh foods…meat…and baked goodies!

.….sampled a couple of Ales at The Market Porter…




Spent an evening shopping on Oxford and park streets…which was a drag for me n dad but a highlight for the ladies!!

Unfortunately, couldn’t see much of theatre in London or the parks.. But surely..Next time!!
After London, we took our car from the same company we used in Spain, carjet.co.uk, and drove off to the Cotswolds.. The heart of England..
Stonehenge was definitely on a priority visit list, as we had seen enough pictures, in magazines and online and were enamoured by it….but after reaching there, somehow.. was majorly disappointed… it was a very hot, sunny day…long queues…ended up taking pics and continuing on..

We managed to see a few white chalk horses.. Large white horses painted on hills by ancestors.. now maintained by locals..

Thereafter we went to Salisbury on DWs insistence.. (I had got DW to read the Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett, about a cathedral builder in Salisbury, Thomas Beckett etc..). 


Eventually this was one place we were happy to visit.. a tranquil cathedral, despite its enormity and popularity… Had lunch at a Pizza Hut, with pizzas better than the generic pizzas we were used to..


the Salisbury Cathedral has the tallest Church spire in the United Kingdom!


Along the way, we tried tender great english and scottish strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries!!

Onwards to Cirencester from Salisbury, where we were staying at the Ivy house B&b.. An incredible and very warm welcome and great stay.. We were in touch with Paul, our host from the beginning, and he gave me plenty of helpful tips.. Their lovely beds, hot chocolate and cookies by the bedside and incredible hot breakfasts had my parents impressed.. In fact all through the trip, Paul became the gold standard of a B&b owner..

One odd thing.. My appetite while driving was almost double normal. So I gorged on omelettes, crisp bacon, sausages, baked tomatoes and hash browns, granola with curd, and coffee… Whew! I got exhausted writing that down…



We liked Bourton so much that we came twice, once with the peak of tourist traffic, and secondly in the evening.. After getting disappointed by our visit at Moreton.. (Our experience of reaching a place to find everything closed down at 5 O’clock was the norm.)The difference was that many of the parking spots had mechanical bollards that could be lifted up… We parked in a side lane, went to a flea market, didn’t buy some fabulous crockery, and tried some great chocolates instead… Rhubarb, and marmalade flavors !! We had dinner at a place I recalled having read about..


We did go to the college dining hall where harry potter’s famous, Hogwarts dining hall ,was shot.. It looked much smaller than the movie!!


Afterwards I persuaded dad to try out a golden ale.. I love the look that comes on dads face, whenever he tastes something  good.. Be it a cheese, chocolates, a curry or an unexpected great ale

                                  .. punting on oxford’s river


We climbed back into the bus drove back home tired and satisfied…

Next day, we planned to visit Bath.. To not only see The Roman Baths, but also have some typical English tea, with crumpets and scones.. A word about scones.. I developed an obsession for scones, with butter, blueberry compote, cream and fresh berries.. And I didn’t want to only eat.. I wanted everyone to wallow in the fruits, the scones, the carrot cakes…


I made everyone traipse up to the tea room on the first floor after checking out menus in multiple such small tea rooms.. 



When we got back to the b&b, I finally realized how much my parents had brought along …just in case…. We decorated one King size bed with all the food.. And it was crazy.. Every day I wanted to go out and try out the local cuisine, I d get” we ve got so much stuff,why dont you eat here”…