Finding Beth #WriteBravely

Central Park, New York

When I visited New York a couple of years ago, I had a few place marked down on my must-visit list. There were the usual suspects like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Wall Street, as well as iconic eateries in Little China and Little Italy. But along with the usual list, there were a couple of places that may not make it to people’s must-visit itinerary.

One such was the Bethesda Fountain.Continue reading

#KashmirDiaries: Doodhpathri – Where water turns into milk

In our quest to be far away from the maddening crowd, we visited some truly stunning, less touristy places in Kashmir. The one that really stood out for me is Doodhpathri, which is still being developed and promoted by the Jammu and Kashmir tourist board. Located in the Budgam district, it is a roughly 3 hour drive from Srinagar. And what a drive it is! There are some breath-taking valley views and lots of cute little villages along the way. In fact, the entire route is dotted with rivers and streams and small, tinkling waterfalls.

winding-roads-doodhpathri

Winding roads, Doodhpathri, Kashmir

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#KashmirDiaries: Naranag – Where nature and history meet

Sometimes things happen by chance, and they turn out to be absolutely wonderful – like our day trip to Naranag. We had originally set out for Sonamarg, but encountered a major jam on the way. So our driver suggested we turn back and go to Naranag instead. We had passed the turn-off a while back and had been wondering whether we would have enough time to visit it on this trip. Turns out, we did!

Shepard’s huts built into the hills, Naranag, Kashmir

The road to Naranag is steep, winding and narrow. Lined by small villages on one side and gorgeous valley views on the other, the drive itself is beautiful.Continue reading

#KashmirDiaries: Pahalgam – Of fairy tale gardens and the majestic Lidder

Kashmir is reputed to be heart-stoppingly beautiful.
It’s called India’s Switzerland.
Ghalib famously said if there’s Paradise on earth, it’s Kashmir.

Honestly, after seeing Sringar, I was rather cross with all these descriptions.

Sure the Dal Lake is beautiful and the Mughal gardens are a piece of living history, but it’s a busy, bustling city like any other. Comparing this to Paradise, really?!
{Yes, I realize I equated the city of Srinagar with the whole state of Kashmir, but bear with me. I am only human, after all! I also blame some of the husband’s grumpiness rubbing off on me. Moving on!}

Then we went to Pahalgam. And what can I say? If there is Paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.

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#KashmirDiaries: Srinagar in a day

When you drive down from the airport into Srinagar, one of the first things that strikes you is the army presence. After all, the state is regularly in the news for skirmishes between the army and militants. Kashmiris are quick to assure you “yeh yahaan nahin hota” (this doesn’t happen here). Indeed, skirmishes are often closer to the border or in areas that don’t get much {or any} tourist inflows.

Mughal garden Shalimar Bagh Sringar in a day

The main pavilion at Shalimar Bagh

Then you notice the houses and how they are constructed. Almost all the buildings have gently sloping roofs, and a lot of them – even the big houses – have tin roofs. Most houses are built on a base of stones, with liberal use of wood and tin – to better insulate them during Kashmir’s cold winters.Continue reading

#KashmirDiaries: Romancing the Dal

When you think of Srinagar, you think of the Dal Lake.

And I think of Shashi Kapoor romancing Sharmila Tagore in Kashmir ki Kali. {Yes, yes, complete cliché, but it is what it is.} So it should be no surprise that a shikara ride was right up there on my have-to-do list. I was so eager to experience the romance of the shikara that I dragged the husband to the Dal almost as soon as we had checked in to our hotel.

Dal lake srinagar kashmir sunset shikara ride mughal garden gate

Sailing into the sunset

I had heard that the Dal Lake is dotted with shikaras selling everything from trinkets to chips and Coke, and that they start hounding you almost the minute you get into a boat. That was not what I wanted at all, and I was prepared to tell the boatman that in no uncertain terms. But when we reached the lake, I didn’t see any other shikaras floating around – how lucky was that?Continue reading

#KashmirDiaries: The journey begins!

I’ve always wanted to visit Kashmir.

A typical Kashmiri house with sloping roofs

A typical Kashmiri house with its sloping roof

Growing up, I heard stories about Kahsmir’s legendary beauty from my mother and maasi, who had been there as children. I saw it pictured on the silver screen, as Bollywood stars played out their romances in shikaras on the Dal Lake and in the meadows and valleys of Kashmir.

Then militancy struck the valley in the 1990s and continued seemingly without end, and I wondered if I would ever be able to visit Kashmir. But after over a decade of strife, things have normalized somewhat and tourism has opened up once again. Though incidents do happen in the valley occasionally, they have never, to my knowledge, targeted tourists.Continue reading

{X} Xenodocheinology: For the love of hotels

Have you ever experienced Xenodocheinology?

Part of the travel experience, for me, is choosing the hotel. Our travel philosophy is to utilize the maximum resources on sightseeing and shopping, and keeping a very limited budget for our hotel stay.

If you thought limited budget = seedy little hotel/backpacker’s hostels/soulless hotels, think again. A little research is all it takes to find charming places to lay your head down at the end of a day of hard sightseeing.

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{J} Travel Postcard #4: Joie de vivre

Tango_Class_Central_Park_New_York

There’s something in the air of New York. A certain joi de verve – a love for life. In the many parks and squares that dot the city, you’ll find people sitting around, reading, having a cup of coffee…a group of people skateboarding while the rest of the people watch and applaud…and in Central Park, you come across different sights – a fashion shoot, free tango dancing, rollerblading, musicians, a group of drummers with random strangers stopping and dancing. It’s exhilarating. Vibrant. Alive. Joyful.

And it’s something I sorely miss back home in India. That spirit that lets people dare to be different. To march to their own drum beat.

Which city do you associate with joie de vivre?