{E} Travel Postcard #2: Elephanta island

Travel_Postcard_Elephenta_Caves

A short ferry ride away from Mumabi is the Elephanta Island, home to the caves of the same name. The Elephanta Caves are a network of sculpted caves dating back to between the 5th and 8th century. There are two groups of caves—the first a large group of five Hindu caves, the second, a smaller group of two Buddhist caves. The statues are hewn from solid basalt rock and were originally painted, though now only traces remain.

The sculptures are beautiful, though a lot of them show signs of wind erosion and are broken in places. The interior of the caves is quite dark though, making photography really difficult. Add the jostling crowds of tourists, and it can be tedious at times. But it is well worth the visit – if for nothing else than the ferry ride and the sea gulls that fly alongside the boat!

Delhi Lens: Monuments: Nawaab ka Masjid, Chawdi Bazaar, Old Delhi

Tiny matchbox shops line both sides of a congested road. A mêlée of pedestrians, cycle rickshaws, two-wheelers and a few tempos are a cause for constant traffic jams. A lot of the buildings are crumbling and dilapidated. There’s a mess of electrical wires overhead. Everywhere you look there is chaos.

 Chawdi Bazaar, Old Delhi, India

And then suddenly, while looking up at that jumble of old buildings, you spot a delightful color combination – terracotta and blue. You pause, raise your camera to your eyes, zoom in, and see a beautiful carved wall. You click a picture, but keep staring at that building as a sea of humanity passes you by, gazing upwards, awestruck, spellbound.Continue reading

Mumbai Diaries: Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2013

I heard about the Kala Ghoda Art Festival, which is held from the first Saturday in February till the next Sunday since the last 15 years, only last year! At the time, I decided that I would visit Mumbai for the next event, and sure enough, I made my way to the city for the 2013 edition of the festival.

I have to say that it was an interesting experience. There were some lovely public art installations, and of course others that left me cold.

Some of the installations were quintessentially Mumbai. Like this one:

Dhanda, Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2013

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Bharatpur: Birders delight

Small birds, Bharatpur Bird SanctuaryWe left our annual vacation planning too late last year. As November rolled around with no destination in mind, I knew that it would be next to impossible to put together a proper itinerary and get reservations at decent hotels. So we decided to reduce our vacation dates – since no time to plan means you can’t visit multiple cities – and go back to Rajasthan. This time, we chose to visit Bharatpur. Famous for its bird sanctuary, it’s one of the few cities in Rajasthan that we haven’t been to yet.

Most of the hotels were, as I had feared, booked or way out of our budget, so we settled on the Falcon Guesthouse. It had got some rave reviews on TripAdvisor, and even though there were no pictures of the place online, I hoped that at least some of those reviews were genuine.Continue reading

My top three travel memories

The Competition is organized and conducted by www.lowcostholidays.com. From July 30th, team Captains of the participating blogger groups will start their leg of the Blogger Relay race by sharing the top three memories of their favourite travel destinations and ranking them 1st, 2nd and 3rd, before passing the Travel Baton on to a fellow blogger, who will then also list their top 3 travel memories. They too will then pass the baton. The Team in the longest chain by the end of the competition all win the Blogger Relay! (And, more importantly, a prize!)

As I take hold of the #TeamPurple #BloggerRelay baton from Sudhagee, I am immersed in my past. I’ve traveled a lot, and not much. I’ve been to most parts of the world, though a lot of those travels are dim memories from my childhood.

Having a father in the merchant navy meant that we traveled a lot – almost every summer vacation was spent on the ship, traveling to numerous destinations both near and far. That exposure to the huge world out there gave me a serious travel bug, but alas, that bug can only be indulged properly about once a year.

Since I got married 10 years ago, the husband and I have traveled to a lot of places around India. There’s so much to be explored in our country, so many cities I had not visited as I spent most of my childhood traveling to countries far and wide. And while I do remember a lot from my various trips abroad as a child, my top three memories are from holidays that I took as an adult.

Nawalgarh

#3: Nawalgarh, Rajasthan

On the third spot with the Bronze medal I’d rate my trip to Nawalgarh in Rajasthan. Still off the beaten track, it was a pleasure to explore the city. Located in the Shekhawati region, it is known as Rajastahan’s outdoor art gallery. The old havelis (large houses) in this region have got some fantastic murals, both outside on the walls and within the houses. Some of the havelis are very well maintained, others are sadly ignored, but the paintings are lovely. Wandering through one of the havelis will take you through Indian history, from the first railway station to the courts of the king; through European cities; and Indian mythology. The sheer novelty and laid back pace of that vacation makes it one of my cherished travel memories.

Read more about Nawalgarh – Rajasthan’s open air art gallery

Disneyland, Orlando

#2: Disneyland, Orlando

In second position, claiming the Silver medal, is my trip to Disneyland, Orlando, with my parents last year. What can I say about Disneyland? It’s absolutely fantastic, something that everyone must do at least once in their lives. Plus, you’re really never too old to be swept off your feet by the magic of Disney! The attention to detail, the passion of the people working there, the vibrancy in the air, getting my photo clicked with some of my favorite Disney characters (yes, really!) are memories to be treasured. The five days I spent there were truly magical. They made me feel like a kid once again! Some awesome rides, lovely stage shows, the Disney parade, the fireworks, and the exhilaration I felt there with my parents are etched into my memory forever.

New York

#1: New York City

The winner by far, claiming the Gold medal, is my visit to New York City. The vibrancy, the shopping, the people, the museums…just the thought of it brings a smile to my lips. The major highlight of the trip has to be my visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s a place that has been on my must-visit list since I was a teen. I was unprepared for it’s vastness…but the experience was mind-blowing! Actually seeing masterpieces by some of my favorite artists was surreal. Taking in the gorgeous sculptures, the Temple of Dendur, the fine Japanese artwork, the pottery…and ending the evening on the steps of the Met as I processed the entire experience was a dream come true.

You can read more about my New York visit here.

As I emerge from these daydreams of trips past, I pass the #TeamPurple baton on to Becki

Neil Barnes of Backpacks and Bunkbeds, is the captain of #TeamPurple and you can read the posts of the other team members here.

Now it’s your turn. What is your top travel memory?

Delhi lens: 7 Degree Brauhaus – restaurant review

Welcome to a new series on Modern Gypsy – Delhi lens. As part of this series, I’ll be focusing on the Delhi-NCR region, bringing your posts on the eating out culture in the city, interesting shopping destinations and tourist  spots.

What better way to kick off this series that with a restaurant review! I’m a self-confessed foodie. Though I am a reluctant cook, when I do step into the kitchen, I almost always step out of it with a masterpiece – unless I’ve been baking, then I just stomp out in tears!

But, what can I say? Good food just makes me happy! And I love experimenting. So, when I heard of a German micro-brewery that had opened up in Gurgaon, I just had to go and eat for myself!

7° Brauhaus claims to be an authentic Bavarian microbrewery and kitchen, and their interiors sure reflect it. The ambiance is really nice – they’ve tried to create an Oktoberfest kind of feel in the restaurant, with large Chestnut trees around which tables are strewn around.

7 degree brauhaus

Seeing as we were visiting a brewery, beer had to be ordered. But since neither of us are beer drinkers, we opted for a Shandy (light beer with lemonade). What can I say – the beer was kind of palatable, until we had a few bites of food, after which it was horrible. The bitter after taste I got from the beer initially was replaced by a bitter taste. Period. I don’t know – maybe the lemonade sank to the bottom after a while? But, please, don’t trust my judgement on the beer – I hate the brew! I just ordered it in the spirit of things!

Where you can trust me is on the food. And that, I have to say, was delicious!

We started with the 7º Brauhaus non-vegetarian platter that came with chicken fingers, calamari rings, prawn skewers, lamb balls and minced meat pie. All of which was pretty good. I guess it’s hard to go wrong when you fry things up!I generally am not too fond of calamari – I find it too rubbery and chewy – but these were quite good!

Next, we ordered the Flammenbrot, a light crispy pastry base topped with soft cheese, caramelized onions and forest mushrooms. Now this dish, it was brilliant! The pastry was soft and flaky, the mushrooms and onions were flavorful and the cheese had melted nicely into the topping.

For the main course, we chose the Nurnberg Bratwurst, which was served with pretzel, fries and a green salad. The sausages were soft and juicy and the balsamic reduction drizzled on them gave it that extra bit of oomph. The pretzel was nice and hard and salty, the fries were done to perfection and the house dressing on the salad was quite yummy.

Next up was desert – Home-made Vienna Apple Strudel served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream in a cute little waffle cup. The Apple Strudel was the perfect end to our wonderful meal – not too sweet with a perfectly balanced cinnamon flavor.

Overall, this is a wonderful place for foodies. I know I’m going to be coming back here soon – I already know what I want to try next!

Mumbai Diaries: Exploring Colaba and Fort

When you think of Mumbai, you think of traffic jams and teeming slums, of roads chock-a-block with people, of sultry humidity and general chaos. You think of Bollywood and industrial tycoons, of the super rich living alongside the poor, of a city that never sleeps. But if you thought that this is all there is to Mumbai, you’d be wrong.

Old_Church_Mumbai_India

A graceful arched window of a Church in Colaba, Mumbai, India

There’s a softer, gentler side to the city as well – tree-lined roads, mansions and apartment buildings that speak of old money, and a blend of Gothic, Victorian, Art Deco and Indo-Saracenic (a blend of Islamic and Hindu architectural styles) architecture. And nowhere is this more evident than in the Fort and Colaba area in South Mumbai.

Gateway of India, Mumbai, India

Gateway of India, Mumbai, India

We started our exploration of this area from the Gateway of India and the Taj Hotel after a hearty brunch at Le Pain Quotiden. Built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary, the Gateway of India is a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture. Many elements of the arch and the design of the windows are derived from Islamic architecture, while the pillars are reminiscent of Hindu temple design. We were lucky to find the area relatively less crowded, which gave us a lot of time to take pictures and generally explore the place.

Taj_Colaba_Mumbai

The iconic Taj Hotel at Mumbai, adjacent to the Gateway of India

From there, we started walking along the lane behind the Taj, with our necks craned upwards looking for interesting window and architectural details. The road is tree-lined and quiet, the buildings are old and regal, and for a while, you can almost forget that you’re in Mumbai – it could be any old European city.

Old_window

An old, elegant window perched above a busy, bustling street in Mumbai

We traversed a path through Colaba, Colaba Causeway and Fort that day, with no real fixed agenda. We were just a couple of walkers, roaming around the area and exclaiming over the architecture. Why we were in architecture overdrive is still a bit of a mystery to me, but that day all we had eyes for were windows and doorways and turrets and spires. Maybe it was the juxtaposition of those old, elegant buildings with the bustling metropolis that had grown around it – but the memories I took away were of an older, more genteel Mumbai than I remembered from my stay there 10 years ago.

Colonial_architecture_modern_life

An old colonial building that now houses a cool junk jewelery store – Aquamarine. Mumbai, India

Of course, being girls, our trip couldn’t be complete without some shopping now, could it? There’s no better place to pick up cheap nick-knacks than at Colaba Causeway (in that area, at least). You’ll find some excellent junk jewellery, footwear and leather goods at prices that will delight your pocket. If you are on the look out for something more exclusive, make your way to Aquamarine at Colaba, which stocks some really cool (though pricey) junk jewellery.

The perfect vacation home

I love traveling…discovering new cities, cultures, people, architecture… sometimes I  think travel is in my blood. I also love the thought of escaping to a cottage nestled in the heart of nature. So when it comes to a vacation home, there are two very different kinds of homes that set my pulse racing.

The first is a cottage by a lake. Imagine an arched gate covered with bougainvillea, a cobble stone path leading to a cottage that looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale. Surrounded by trees and bursting with flowers, with a river (or even a lake) flowing nearby. A place where you can sit and listen to the chirping of the birds, the chirruping of insects and the tinkle of water. Where you can escape the hectic pace of modern life.

Vacation_home_cute_cottage

The rooms are airy, with huge french windows opening out to scenic natural beauty, with a lot of natural light that allows me to set up an easel in any room and paint whenever and wherever I like. A warm and inviting living area, filled with fresh flowers, with soft music wafting through the house. A shabby chic kitchen, one that invites friends in to sit down and have a hot mug of coffee over spirited conversations. What bliss!

vacation_cottage_interiors

My second vacation home is one on wheels – a gypsy caravan! {It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering that my online avatar is Modern Gypsy! ;)} Just look at these beauties – don’t you wish you had one of your own? If I had a house with a garden, I would definitely get one of these built in my back yard. But alas, I live in an apartment complex, and all I have is a balcony.

gypsy_caravans

The charm of a caravan, of course, is that I could hitch it to the back of a station wagon and just hit the road when fancy strikes. No hotel reservations required! Being a gypsy caravan, the interiors wouldn’t be soothing and serene – they’d be colorful and eclectic, bright and completely over-the-top. Like this:

gypsy_caravan_interiors

With a place like that to call your own, do you really need a fancy-shmancy hotel room? I think not!

But alas, these shall remain just dreams. India has no camping grounds, no concept of RVs, unless you want to go out into the jungle – and who knows just how safe that might be? Even a vacation cottage isn’t something that I see myself buying, because when it comes to vacations, I’d rather take the road less traveled.

But then you know what they say…you should never censor your dreams…

So, what’s your dream vacation home like?

Linking up with:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Dubai Shopping Guide

This is a guest post by Ron Davis. Rob’s been blogging since 2010 and is working as a content writer for various blogs. He is currently working for Dubaishortstay.com, where you can find information about Dubai Hotels and Dubai Apartments.

Dubai has some of the most luxurious places on earth and is considered a shopper’s paradise for shopaholics. If you get a chance to visit Dubai, you must surely go back home with some of the things Dubai is most famous for!

Best Buys

Perfumes (ittar) – Ittar is a traditional method of perfume making. These scents are pleasant smell and are very cheap compared to branded perfumes.

Dates –Arabic dates have high demand all over the world. Specially recommended are the seedless Arabic dates, which are not only tasty but also good for your health. If you’re look for some healthy gifts for your family, buy a few boxes of bateel dates.

Carpets – Dubai is the best place to buy the finest and most beautiful carpets, which come in a variety of colors and sizes. Dubai rugs are made from pure wool, which gives a rich look and smoothness compared to other carpets. The price may vary according to the amount of wool in carpets.

Jewellery –Dubai is sometimes called the “City of Gold.” You can be assured of the purity of the precious metal, and snap up some exquisite pieces with a traditional design influence.

Dubai shopping festival

Dubai shopping festival

Dubai shopping festival is very famous all over the world. It takes places between January and February for about 30-40 days. The main intention is to boost retail trade in Dubai and to attract tourist from all parts of the world. It’s a good idea to buy products during the festival as most merchants offer attractive discounts. Moreover, you can enjoy tax free shopping during the festival.

The Dubai shopping festival plays an important role in tourism; the main intention of this festival is to entertain tourists and to lure potential investors to the country.

 Best time to shop

Of course, during the festival! Shopping malls in Dubai are open from around 10 am to 10 pm (about 12 hours daily). Most markets are closed on Friday up to 2 pm, as it is a day of worship for Muslims.

I think the information provided here should give you a little insight into the shopping culture of Dubai. If I’ve left something out or if you have anything to say, please leave a comment below.