Monthly Archives: August 2011

Notes on planning your ‘Big’ trip

With the advent of the internet Do-It -Yourself trips are becoming more popular. The whole trip planning experience can be exciting or daunting  depending on your approach. Here are few helpful tips which helped/would have helped me.

#1: Choosing your destination[S]:

This is the hardest part if your trip is as general as a ‘Eurotrip’.Where do you want to go? Spain? Paris? Rome? Italy? Greece?

The best way to deal with it is to reflect  on what do  you a) enjoy doing? and b) Would like to do?

A) is very important because if you  are more of a foodie than a Gaudi fan then it would be logical to spend more time in Italy than in Barcelona.

#2. Research : 

I cannot stress on the importance of research for a DIY trip. Find out the train timings and connections; Do not put it off till you get to the train station. You may have missed the only connecting train by 15 minutes. Also find out openings and closings of museums and galleries and remember they vary depending on the time of year. The internet is the single most powerful weapon for a DIY trip.

#3. Accommodation:

While looking for a place to stay, it is advisable to find one near a metro station or near the city centre.This way you spend less time  in commuting and do not have to worry about taxis late at night.

#4 . Book in advance

Especially during the peak season. This saves time otherwise spend in long serpentine queues. You may also get lucky and land up with an early bird discount.

#5. Read blogs:

There are hundreds of blogs written about almost all places on earth, by locals or by visitors. Read them. There may be unpleasant  experiences they have had or may recommend places that are absent in guide books. It is good to know; after all, wise men learn from others mistakes where as fools they learn only after their own.

#6.History of the place:

Take time to get to know the history of the place.  A walk by a silent street will be more exciting when you know the history of the door knob of the unassuming brick house.

#7. Plan B:

However detailed and fool-proof your plan A be, somethings always go wrong. So a plan B may come in handy.

#8. Reconcile the fact that you cannot see/do/go everything/everywhere. You will have to miss out on a few things. Just make sure you know the ones that are really important to you and change your plans accordingly.

#9: Anticipation

The anticipation for your trip offers as much happiness as the trip itself. So do not put off the planning till the last-minute. It kills the joy and replaces it with  stress.

#10: Just plan the structure:

Do not plan for every minute of the day. Just have a general idea of where are you going to be when and what you would like to do. Once you get there just follow your instincts.

and a bonus

#11: Beating post trip blues:

Sort out stuff at home before you leave  or  you will be overwhelmed on your return. Get started on a new hobby or a new personal project. This will help you settle in to the routine. Something that works like a charm for me every time is planning my next trip.

Have a wonderful’ Big’  trip!

Categories: Everything Else, Travel | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Commercials that sell more than just the brand

[When I was younger, much younger I remember a commercial on Doordarshan*  promoting the '92 Barcelona Olympics.
It started with  a narrator saying
----video of the weight lifting competition
" ... can be measured in pounds. Speed..."
---video of the 100 mts sprint
" can be measured in seconds. But Courage..."
---video of a  man falling during the 100 mts race. A woman in the crowd cups her hand over her face with worry. Then the camera goes back to the fallen man who has now gotten back on his feet and is half limping, half running with everything in him. The first, second and third runners have completed the race. But the wounded man keeps running. The audience virtually running with him. The minute he crosses the finish line the crowd gives him a standing ovation. 
And the narrator finishes with 
"  .... But courage, it can never be measured.
Barcelona 1992".
 I felt inspired every time I saw the commercial.
Recently I tried searching for that commercial on YouTube with no luck. However I came across other commercials that have inspired/tickled  me over time. If you ever find the commercial I am looking for please let me know. Pretty please!]

# 13. Puma – Game Day

Inspiring in the way football fans balance passion and well, their sweethearts! Yeah I know football is a way of life for some!

#12. Peace Corps

How far will you go to help someone? To the end of your driveway? Till the limits of your city? How far are you  willing to go?

#11. Nike – All that you need is inside you

You have all it takes to get there; Now JUST DO IT!

#10 Invisible Children

In 2003, Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, and Laren Poole documented the life of African children. Fearing abduction and forceful induction into Joesph Kony’s guerrilla group, children lived their lives by night , invisible by day.  Of all the pains  you have known of  childhood, did any one of them involve taking guns for a cause you did not understand?

#9: Reebok -Hurt

No pain. No gain. Period.

#8. Adidas – Impossible is nothing

A perfect example of  you lose some, you gain some. You cannot have it all but you sure can make a lot from what you have.

#7. The Eyebank association of India

“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.”  ~ Henry Ward Beecher

#6. Ministry of Education, Singapore

The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called “truth.”  ~Dan Rather

#5. Nike – I can

“A strong positive mental attitude will create more miracles than any wonder drug.” ~Patricia neal

#4. Incredible India

This is Indeed India!

The land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendour and rags, of palaces and hovels,………………………….

…………………., for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the world combined.
~~~ Mark Twain

#3.  Titan – Be born every day

Don’t count the days, make the days count.

#2. Levis – Go Forth

Your  life is your life. Know it while you have it!

#1. Children with cancer

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant.

Love has no language or age.

It is pure. It is simple.

* National television network

Categories: Everything Else | Leave a comment

Places that inspire

Unbeknownst to the  traveller every journey has a theme. Some times you plan with a theme in mind, some times the universe conspires to ‘theme‘ it out for you.

Earlier this year, my sister Maria and I  went on a euro trip. Our theme, (or at least we thought)  was to see as much of Western Europe as our tight budget would allow us to. What really happened to our theme is a story for another time but in retrospective, we realised our theme was Inspiration.

Here are a few of the places we visited. The common link among all of them is that they inspired others before us.

In no particular order: -

#1:  Banks of the Seine:

Seine translates into  Sacred River. Sacred in deed it is. The banks of Seine has inspired artists of many genres, including film directors and poets.  Perhaps Claude Monet would have denied the world several masterpieces if not for the banks of the Seine.

Banks of the Sacred River

#2: Shakespeare and Co:

Despite that the fact that it is not strictly a ‘place’, I think it deserves a mention for the pure literary genius it has helped breed. Shakespeare and Co  was initially started by Sylvia Beach as a book store. Many renowned writers have found solace in the bookstore. The store has 13 beds. It is said that a writer could gain accommodation here in return for manning the bookstore a few hours every day.Great names like Hemingway, Ezra Pound and Fitzgerald worked their magic while they were here.

Shakespeare and Co

#3: Edinburgh:

The birthplace of Harry Potter.

I subscribe to the school of thought that people see the same things differently. J.K Rowling is my living example. Edinburgh has its fair share of castles and eerie stories but only J.K.Rowling was able to see through the stones and see wizards and flying broom sticks and magic wands.

Inspiration of Hogwarts

Tom Riddle ??

#4: Nottingham

Robin hood , price of thieves and resident of Sherwood forest. The real origin of the story of Robin Hood is not known but it is said to have stemmed from tales of actual outlaws.

Robin Hood, Prince of thieves

# 5 Deacon Brodie’s Tavern:

The inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Deacon Brodie was a respectable man by day and a conniving thief by night.

Deacon Brodie's

# 5.Bridges across the Thames:

It is indeed a beautiful place. But there is only one who can put the beauty to words:

Upon Westminster Bridge


Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear

The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

#6: Notre Dame, Paris

I would ask every person visiting Paris to re/re read Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame before the visit. When you climb the steps to the tower you will feel very much in a familiar place with the Chimera and the gargoyles.

#7:Christ Church College, Oxford

Remember Alice in Wonderful? Did you know it was written by  Charles Dodgson,a mathematics tutor in Christ Church and inspired by no less than the then Dean Henry Liddel and his daughter Alice?

Charles Dodgson used the pen name Lewis Carroll to  publish the tales with which he entertained the Liddel sisters.  Many characters and characteristics were inspired by Christ Church people and objects.

The great dining hall has many connections with Alice in Wonderland.  The dining hall has brass firedogs with long necks: Alice’s neck grows long in the story; Alice’s father the dean left dinner every night down a narrow spiral stair behind a raised high table: Alice falls down a rabbit hole,  above the high table there is a portrait of Henry VIII who executed two of his wives: The Red Queen ” shouts off with her head” and finally the dean’s daughter Alice had a cat and yes it was called ‘Dinah’.

The great dining hall

#8 Hawkshead:

The Tale of Peter Rabbit was inspired by Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm. Her works  celebrates the natural beauty of the English country side. She studied the animals around her farm home and many of them became characters in her books.

Sheep grazing on the way to Hill Top Farm

Miles and miles of inspiration

#9 Grasmere:

“… When all at once I saw a crowd,
a host, of golden daffodils.”

Grasmere is my favourite place on this list.  My teacher always said” Wordsworth was taught by mother nature in the open air school” and although I did not see a single daffodil,  she now makes sense to me!

Grasmere may be delightful in the summer but let me tell you it is no less inspirational in the winter!

Lake Grasmere

Categories: Everything Else, Travel | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Hyderabad , The essential

The highlights:

Discover the  uniqueness, the vibrancy, and the affluence that is ‘Truly Hyderabadi”.

Salar Jung Museum:

The  most impressive fact about this museum is that it is a single man’s private collection. Honestly this is a whole day’s affair. But if pressed for time must see exhibits are :

      • The veiled Rebecca: A master piece in marble by the Italian sculptor Giovanni Benzoni.  The lifelike Rebecca looks marvelous beneath the transparent marble veil.
      • The double statue :The statue has Mephistopheles on one side and Margarita on the other.  While Mephistopheles wears a sardonic grin and is a picture of arrogance, Margarita has a very gentle and meek posture.  This sculptor of this work is unknown.
      • The musical clock : It bears testimony to the craftsmanship and quality of its makers. The  clock has a soldier who keeps track of the seconds o with the beat of his drum and another soldier  pops out to ring in the hour.


It would be sinful to visit Hyderabad and not have Charminar on your itinerary.The four minarets of Charminar keep watch while hawkers sell their ware below. Do not be surprised if you see a man flying a kite, selling broken porcelain wares and chasing a cow away  all at once.

The Charminar in Hyderabad, India

Image via Wikipedia

Charminar is also famous for its bangle shops. You can find bangles of every colour, for every occasion and for every attire.

Bangles galore

Chowmallah Palace :

The Chowmallah palace still maintains its regal look. It’s not hard to imagine the palace during its heyday. There are four palaces within it’s complex and it resembles the Shah’s Palace in Tehran.The  architecture is splendid ;there is grandeur and simplicity and a perfect marriage between the two. The servant’s quarters for example was built to a very simple plan. However it has a long corridor with wooden doors at regular at interval which makes it grand .The Durbar hall is beyond beautiful it is grandiose. The chandeliers and the marble flooring quietly state that the Nizams lived in tasteful affluence.

The servant's Quarters

The Main palace

Golconda Fort:

The majestic ruins was once the birthplace of the city Hyderabad;deep in its soil miners chanced upon the Kohinoor diamond. The tales associated with the fort are many and hence I highly recommend employing the services of a guide.

View from the top of the fort

The kings way

Golconda was once a confluence of religions, a cradle of culture and literature  and now has only the walls to speak for it.

View of the clapping portico

The sound and light show is worth a shot; It brings the ruins to life with tales of love, war, treason and betrayal.

Venue of the sound and light show

Sound and Light show

Categories: India | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

A synopsis of Scottish history

To fight the English” , there that sums up centuries of Scottish history ” said Gatsby the New Edinburgh free tour guide. And I was learn a couple of days and a couple of 100 miles later that he  was only partially right!

In my opinion, the summation of Scottish history is dependent on the geographical location. If you were at the border, then yes most of your resources would be spent in fighting the English; but if you were in the highlands or the islands, fighting the English would take a back seat. You would be more invested in fighting the other clans.

Eilean Donan Castle

The beauty of Scottish history is that there are many clans and relatively few heroes. The ideal way to acquaint yourself with the history of the land will be

a). Take a guided tour from Glasgow/Edinburgh or

b). Be hosted by a Scotsman.

I had the good fortune of options a and b. At the end of it I came to the conclusion that ‘Who’s wrong, Who’s right‘ in the stories largely depend on who is narrating the story.

My host , a McDonald spoke eloquently about his clan. He gave vivid narrations about the Glen Coe massacre, how the Campbell butchered the McDonalds after the latter had opened their homes to them.

My tour guide, a Stewart started the Glen Coe story a little earlier in the timeline. According to his version, the McDonalds had raided a Campbell wedding party torched the homes and stole their cattle much before the Glen Coe Massacre.

Glen Coe

The only time  my host and the guide were in syn was when they narrated the stories about William Wallace and Robert Bruce. England seemed to be a common foe .

Despite the contradictory versions of the events in Scottish history I still think it’s a treat to hear it from a Scotsman. To them their history is very personal even today.

My host told me of a time when he a called a customer agency . When he gave his details the lady on the other side warmed up immediately and said,

” Oh you are a Mc Donald too “.

” But  I have to tell you”, confessed my host,” My mother was English”.

“Oh, that’s alright. My dad married a Campbell! “.

And that ladies and gentlemen is a synopsis of Scottish history.

Categories: Europe | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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