Things To Do In Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

If you plan to be in Punta Cana for more than 5 days, it would make sense to rent a car. This would enable you to spend time outside of your resort. There are good restaurants, beaches and other spots out there for you to explore.

Playa Macao

Playa Macao isn’t very far from where all the resorts are located. You need to keep going straight on Road 3 and you will come to an intersection that will indicate that Macao is on the road that goes right. The narrow road will lead you straight to the beach. This beach gets high tide making it popular for surfing. Make sure you are strong and brave enough to go into these waters because the waves can be really high and strong. The sands are pure white and soft and the water is really clear. There are patches of seaweed but lots of clean areas. There are a few snack shacks there which will sell beer, water, chips and provide lounge chairs for rent. Outside the beach, the other activities I noticed were horse rides and ATV rides.

The waves were too strong for me. So I just sat at the edge of the wet sand and waited for the mellowed down waves to reach me. This was one of the best times I had during this trip. The water temperature and color was just right and it was an amazing feeling.

4d4b16e7c17b26478f9d606d01edcef1

Source: Pinterest

IMG-20160106-WA0024

And that’s me

Bavaro Village

This is the closest downtown area. If you are bored of being stuck in the resort and want to walk around a bit, you should go to Bavaro city. It has 2 malls (one high end and one local), lots of resorts and restaurants, shops and a beach. We went there multiple times to eat and for rescue shopping at the mall (did I mention I simply LOVED shopping at their fashion accessories store called KB?). I am going to talk about some of their good restaurants soon.

Bavaro also has some good accommodation options. If you are going to be in Punta Cana for more than 5 days, then it would be a good idea to stay in a resort for some days and stay in one of Bavaro’s hostels or apartments for some time (Check out Whala). This way, you would be in the heart of the city and be surrounded by a lot of energy. On the couple of times we went there for dinner, I found that the energy of the young tourists was contagious.

La Casita De Yeya Restaurant, Downtown Punta Cana

This restaurant is located right at the intersection of Road 3 and the road that leads to Bavaro village. It is a popular joint for local Dominican food. In a tourist heavy place like Punta Cana, we had a hard time finding anything authentic and this discovery was heartening. We were sick of having pasta and sushi and breads at the resort and really, we did not fly here all the way from California to have pasta!

The interior of the restaurant is simple, cozy and traditional. The place was full of tourists and locals. We ordered for fresh pineapple juice, chicken stew and Fajitas. The pineapple juice was A+ class – huge serving, really fresh and pleasant. The chicken stew, served in their typical metal bowl (I wish I knew what the bowl is called and I wish even more that I could buy some for myself) was very authentic, with a mild flavor but something that grows on you. It was great for my pregnant state that is off spicy and alien food. My husband said the fajitas were the best he has ever had.

The staff has problem with English but they do have an English menu. Do ask for it if you have a hard time communicating in Spanish.

Their menu is full of traditional dishes like Mofongos, Sancochos, etc. If you are a foodie and love tasting local flavors, you must visit this restaurant and let your taste buds go wild.

vista-frontal-de-la-casitala-casita-de-yeya

Source: Tripadvisor

Pranama Restaurant, Bavaro

After having said that we enjoy local food, we do crave for Indian food once in a while and don’t miss an opportunity to hit a good Indian restaurant, if available. Pranama had got rave reviews online – listed in the top 5 restaurants in Punta Cana by Tripadvisor and we went there drooling.

The restaurant opened not long ago in August 2015 and looks like they are still trying to get a hold of things. They are clearly understaffed (probably even in the kitchen). On top of that, Dec – Jan was peak season for the town. We had a total wait time of 2 hours there. I am sure it was only due to the peak season.  We had Rose Mojitos (virgin for me) in the meantime and they were delicious.  You must try them. For main course we ordered for Madras Chicken Curry, Goat Masala, Rotis and Mango Rice. Because the owner was Indian too, we asked him to make the curries spicy. The food was great. We managed to finish everything.

They have lot of Indian dessert options but we went in for their homemade Chocolate Mousse and it was one of the best I have ever had!

If there isn’t much rush in the restaurant, try talking to the owner, Krishna. He truly embodies the famous Indian hospitality and is very warm, helpful and friendly.

12108991_1483073945354414_1187772249805033997_n11231083_1415762965418846_7299963804282238029_n

Source: Pranama Facebook Page

2-day Trip to Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo is the capital city of Dominican Republic. I did not see a lot of tourists there and I wonder why. The city has several historic architecture and places. Apart from that, if you want to enjoy Domincan Republic like a local, this is the city to be in. You can roam around Zona Colonial (a historic neighborhood in the city) and enjoy local flavors, sights and architecture. The neighborhood has a ton of colonial style architecture and bigger structures like Fortaleza Ozama and Cathedral Santa Maria La Menor. The Cathedral is majestic and the entry fee is pretty minimal.

IMG_20151228_160332IMG-20151230-WA0011IMG-20151230-WA0013IMG-20151230-WA0014

The beautiful cathedral

IMG-20151230-WA0029IMG_20151228_140331

The streets of Zona Colonial

IMG-20151230-WA0017

Some fun sights at Zona Colonial

We were in Santo Domingo for barely 2 days and I feel those weren’t enough. There is so much to see around the city. Sit on one of the benches at Parque Colon (a central square facing the Cathedral) and look at locals passing by. Eat Chicken Stew and Papaya Juice with Milk at El Conde Restaurant and look at the group of men who always hangout under the tree opposite the restaurant. Walk along Calle del Conde (a pedestrian only street lined with street vendors, shops and cafes) and buy fresh coconut water along the way. If you are courageous enough, go to D’Comer Colonial, a basic dining place on one end of the area and have really local Dominican food.

IMG_20151227_220147

The typical chicken stew bowls

This area is super fun.

We had rented a car and drove around the city. You need to be brave to drive around the city but that’s the only way you get around. Moreover, the drive along Road 2 is pretty as you drive along the ocean. We never stop and go near the water but we could see that the waves were wild.

Another restaurant I want to talk about is Cappuccino, an Italian café. There are two restaurants of a similar name beside each other. One is a fine dining restaurant whereas the other is a café-cum-restaurant. We went to the latter and had one of our best meals in the Dominican. We ordered for a simple Veggie pizza, some wine and fruit juice and ended with ice cream. The staff was pleasant, the décor was very elegant and pretty and food was A-class. I am very glad we stumbled upon the place.

There are lots of hotels in the city around Zona Colonial but we stayed in a rented apartment in Jardines Del Sur, which is right by the ocean. It is a quiet locality and isn’t very far from Zona Colonial.

One general tip I will give all travelers is that you must know basic Spanish to manage in Dominican. English is quite rare there. Carry a translator or a book of basic Spanish so you can converse easily.

Anyone other there who’s been to Santo Domingo or Punta Cana? Do share your experiences.

Categories: Dominican Republic, Photography, Restaurant Reviews, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Be Live Hotel Collection, Punta Cana

I usually don’t review hotels, resorts and other services because I don’t want to go on that path. I definitely don’t want to commercialize my blog. But I just had to write about Be Live Hotel Collection, Punta Cana. We spent a week there, which gave me enough time to observe and retrospect. I feel very strongly about some of the things I experienced there.

We got booked there by mistake by a third party website. We were promised their Dreams Suite, as compensation (and access to VIP sections) but were put up in a Junior Suite for some days. This in turn turned out to be a good thing because I was then able to compare both of them.

The truth about Dreams Suites (aka Master Suites)

As compared to a Junior Suite, a Dreams Suite is smaller. And older. It’s only plus point is its accessibility to the VIP Lounge and Beach sections and the lobby. Otherwise, I would prefer a Junior Suite any day. It is much more spacious, quiet and modern. In the Dreams Suite, paint was chipping off, fixings like switch boards falling off and the air conditioning making mammoth noise. The bed was huge, but mattress and bed sheet much smaller. The toilet was tiny and did not have a full door.

The Junior Suite, on the other hand, was very classy. Even the cleaning crew did a better job cleaning this one as compared to the VIP area.

General Service of the Resort

When we checked into the hotel (which was 2 days before New Year’s Eve), people all around were complaining. They didn’t get the rooms they had booked. Or, despite their reservation, they were turned back because there were no rooms available. The resort was clearly overbooked.

In general, the whole of Punta Cana / Santo Domingo / Bavaro region (and probably the rest of Dominican Republic) has a very laidback culture. Service is slow everywhere. People are very relaxed and easygoing. Having said that, I will add that they are simple and friendly.

But the front desk and VIP Lounge staff were arrogant. There were people all around them, begging for rooms or services or something else and either they were overwhelmed or plain arrogant. They clearly had an upper hand in everything and they didn’t care less about customer service.

The staff can be pushy. As soon as you check-in, the Vacation Club guys will hoard you and pester you to listen to their presentation. They might even pursue an unsuspecting you when you are casually strolling by the next day with a drink in your hand. At night, after their daily show is over, their staff will pester you to ‘Come to Disco Disco’, which goes on from 11 pm to 4 am. They will go from group to group, in the common area located in the center of the resort, where people hang out till late by the pool side sipping drinks or playing games, and say ‘Come to Disco Disco’. I am quite against this ritual. I would go to Disco if I wanted to or if it was my choice of enjoyment. I know you have Disco going on everyday from 11 pm to 4 am and I will be there if I want to. You don’t have to pester me to participate in any of your activities. It is not compulsory for me for attend all of resort’s activities.

Other down sides of the resort were the food. There are very few specialty restaurants and each of them has a very small menu. I found the Japanese restaurant to be okay. Rest were very average.

The beach has muddy, unclear water. The whole region has a lot of seaweed. Be Live, luckily, promptly cleans the water and shores of seaweed but that doesn’t stop the water from being muddy. My suggestion would be to go to Playa Macao for wonderful, clear, turquoise blue waters.

Having said all of the above, my overall vacation to the Dominican Republic was great. We met some great people, had some good food, enjoyed great weather and relaxed big time. More of that coming up soon on the blog.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures I took across the resort:

Be Live Hotel Punta Cana

View from Dreams / Master Suite

Be Live Hotel Punta Cana

Flamingoes in a little pond near the common area

Be Live Hotel Punta Cana

Cabanas in the VIP Beach area

Categories: Dominican Republic, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Vancouver Public Library Square

The day we were to leave Vancouver, we decided to spend the morning around our hotel, which happened to be in the Downtown area. We had breakfast at the legendary Café Medina and then stumbled into the Public Library. Well, you can’t really ‘stumble’ into this magnificent piece of architecture. It is grand and very noticeable. Shaped like the Roman Colosseum from the outside, this branch of the library is also known as the Library Square. This library houses more than 1.3 million books, is a storehouse of databases and has various services like free eBooks downloading, internet, etc.

Enter the building and walk inside the promenade along shops, coffee shops and café tables and bask in the grandeur of the building.  The construction of this building was completed in 1995. It consists of 9 stories. The ground floor witnesses a lot of pedestrian traffic. A lot of people walk in for coffee or to cross to the other side.

The library was in news recently for its Inspiration Lab. With just a library card in hand, you have access to creating videos, films and podcasts.

Vancouver public library

Vancouver public library 1

Vancouver public library 2

Vancouver public library 3

Categories: Canada, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Nrityagram, Hessaraghatta, Bangalore

Nrityagram 1

‘How does one start when one arrives in the middle of wilderness, armed with dreams’ – Protima Gauri

Nrityagram was established by Odissi dancer and student of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Protima Bedi (aka, Protima Gauri,Gauri Maa, Gauri Amma), in 1990. It is a fully functional residential dance school that holds regular, full day classical dance classes and offers multiple year study courses. It follows a culture similar to ancient gurukul. They focus on holistic living in a self-sufficient, intentional community.

The feel of the place is divine. There is a distinctive calmness and purity hanging around in the air. Everything is beautiful – the architecture, the graceful dancers, the flora, the music, the words that one hears, the décor and the laughter. If you go through their official website and look at various descriptions, you will get carried away by their poetic beauty.

Nrityagram, literally meaning ‘dance village’ was designed by Gerard D’Cunha and is located in Hessaraghatta, 40 km away from Bangalore.

Nrityagram 2

Nrityagram 3

Nrityagram 4

Nrityagram 5

Nrityagram 6

Nrityagram 7

Nrityagram 8

Nrityagram 9

Nrityagram 10

Nrityagram 11

Nrityagram temple

This temple, which is at the entrance of the dance village, depicts the image of Gauri Maa’s guru, Kelucharan Mohaptra, with a caption that means: Temple at Nrityagram. Fashioned from the raw mud of Nrityagram and fired after it was built, the temple is dedicated to space. It is decorated with panels depicting the elements, dance motifs, mudras and designs from costumes and ghungroos. Inside is a granite rock scooped out to hold water and a flame that stays lit.

It is a wonderful experience if you like art, dance or design. It is worth travelling 45 minutes for. As a dance lover, this was a dreamland for me where you breathe, eat and smell dance the whole day, sweet sounds of ghunghroos and pleasant pitter-patter of feet fill  your days, dance is appreciated an art, a God-send gift, dance is a part of soul.

Visit their Facebook page for wonderful pictures and updates about performances and classes.

* * * * * *

Thank you, M and Ee for the pictures

Categories: India, Photography, South India, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

St. Philomena Church, Mysore, India

St. Philomena Church is a gorgeous Neo-Gothic church built in 1941 by a French architect named Daly. Its architecture is inspired by the Cologne Cathedral of Germany. This church was built to fulfil the needs of a growing European population at Mysore at that time. The fact that the church became such an important landmark of the city and is such a popular destination today reflects the secular nature of the King. An old description of the church is ‘A priceless French statue of a celebrated Greek saint in a German cathedral located in the heart of India’.

Philomena Church 3

Philomena Church 5

Philomena Church 2

An interesting part about the church’s architecture is that its length and height is identical at 175 feet. The 2 spires of the church are made to resemble St. Patrick’s church, New York and are visible from miles away. They give a majestic contribution to the city’s skyline. The 12 feet high crosses on the spires make this church one of the tallest in Asia. There are 3 ornamental doors at the front and several doors on the sides that lead to the prayer hall. All pillars are carved with floral patterns and ceilings depict Biblical events like Birth of Christ, The Last Supper, The Crucifixion, the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ in beautiful stained glass. Beneath the altar, there is an underground chapel known as catacomb that houses a priceless statue of St. Philomena in a reclining position. Names of all the donors who helped building this church are engraved on stone tablets on walls of the chapel.

St. Philomena was born to Greek parents in the 3rd Century after they prayed long to God to bless them with a child. Even in childhood, Philomena showed signs of piety. Emperor Diocletion wanted to marry her but she refused, vowing to hand over herself to God. She was tortured and beheaded by the King as a punishment. People’s devotion to her spread and she was given the title of sainthood. The relic of St. Philomena was bought by the then secretary of Maharaja of Mysore to be kept in the church.

Today, the church is not just a famous tourist destination; it is also a renowned religious place.

I would rate this historic monument as a must visit.

Philomena Church 8

Philomena Church 9

Philomena Church 10

Philomena Church 1

Philomena Church 4

Thank you, M, for the pictures.

A few notes:

– Church timings: 5:00 m to 6:00 pm

– Daily holy mass is held in Kannada, Tamil and English every day in morning and evening. (Updated timings should be available at the church entrance). Special masses are held on Sundays and Holidays.

– An Annual fest is held on 11th August every year.

– The church is all lighted up during Christmas. Special songs and sermons are held on and around Christmas.

– Photography is prohibited inside the church.

– There is no signboard to the effect but many people take their shoes off before entering the church. I don’t think it is compulsory to do so.

– A dress code is not specified but the church expects you to dress decently while in the campus. Inappropriate behavior like casual loitering around, sitting on steps and PDA are condemned.

* * * * * * * *

Categories: India, Photography, South India, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Mysore Palace–India

Mysore is known as the City of Palaces. It houses several palaces and temples that have seen decades of changes in the city. The most well known of all these historic structures is the Mysore Place, also known as Amba Vilas Palace and Main Palace. The palace belonged to the Royal family of Mysore, the Wadiyars. Way back in the 14th century this structure was made of wood and mud. It got damaged by various environmental forces several times later. Subsequently in 1897, the job of rebuilding the whole palace was handed over to the British architect, Henry Irwin.

It took 5 years for this palace to build and it uses different architectural styles – Rajput, Hind, Muslim and Gothic. it is built using fine granite and pink marble. Its tallest tower is 145 meters in height.

The palace has now been converted into a museum housing beautiful antiques and artefacts like lamps, mirrors, furniture and statues. Lot of walls of corridors and halls adorned with wonderful paintings of the royal family and scenes of the Royal family from the olden days. Some magnificent rooms like Diwan-E-Khaas (where the king addressed audiences), Diwane-E-Aam (which was used for public gatherings) and Marriage Pavilion (which is a large octagonal room located on the ground floor). All rooms are grandly decorated with ornamental pillars, stunning stained glass roofs, gigantic chandeliers, and geometrical design mosaic marble tiles. It is very sad that photography is not allowed inside the palace; I missed a great photography experience.

The Royal family gets involved with the people during Dusshera (falls in September or October) celebrations which are considered big in the whole of Karnataka. On the 10th day of the festival, a huge procession, consisting of elephants and other floats, is led from the palace. This festival has been celebrated by the Wadiyars since decades and it still celebrated in an extravagant way. The whole palace is lit up using around 97000 lights. Even today, the king himself travels in a traditional way in a silver palanquin form the palace to the Bhuveshwari temple.

The royal family was in news lately for the sad demise of their last king, Srikanta Datta Narsimharaja Wadiyar. He has not left behind any heirs (which the locals blame on a 400 year old curse).

The palace reflects the grandeur and royalty of the regal lineage. Once you are inside the palace, look at the thrones, large paintings of noble women wearing rich silk sarees, ornate railings and visualize the palace in its functional state, it is a rather extraordinary feeling. It totally captivates you. This destination must not be missed if you are touring Bangalore or Karnataka.

A few notes:

– Palace timings are 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. Entry fee for Indian Adults is Rs. 40 and for Foreigners is Rs. 200.

– The palace is illuminated on Sundays and Public Holidays. Keep in mind, though, that it gets extremely crowded on holidays.

– Sound and Light show is conducted on all days between 7:00 pm to 7:30 pm.

– Photography is strictly prohibited inside the palace. You can take your time to roam around in front and side and take lots of pictures. Camera has to be deposited at the locker room located immediately after the main entrance.

– You are not allowed to wear shoes inside the palace. There are shelves arranged to keep shoes. You will be given a token in return.

No doubt I loved the palace and found it very impressive. But there are 2 things that upset me. For one, I found the staff pretty rude and rough. It was very crowded the day I went there and maybe they got aggressive trying to control the crowd. But, it completely spoiled the experience. They were almost treating people like cattle. Secondly, you remove your shoes at the entrance and exit the palace towards the back. You then need to take a complete round to reach the front again to collect your shoes. That path is made of cobblestone; so it is very hot. Kids will find this task very difficult. Camel and elephant rides happen on the same path and so, it is dirty too. Walking barefoot on this path was such a downer. It is a better idea to carry your shoes in your bag and wear them immediately after exiting the palace.

Mysore Palace 2

Mysore Palace 6

Mysore Palace 4

Mysore Palace 3

Mysore Palace 5

Mysore Palace 1

Mysore Palace 7

Categories: India, Photography, South India, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Two Harbors, Catalina

I visited Two Harbors 2 years back, in December of 2012. We took a ferry (Catalina Express, if I remember correctly) from LA. It is a 45 minutes ride from the shore. Beware, if you suffer from motion sickness!

Two Harbors is actually a small village located on Catalina Island. The biggest town there is Avalon, which is 18 miles before Two Harbors. Your ferry will first stop at Avalon and then more on to Two Harbors. Avalon is the more popular destination of the two. We went in for Two Harbors for a more serene weekend.

Avalon island

two harbors

two harbors 1

Because we went there in December, it was obviously cold. Nights were unbearably cold (at least for me because I was new to USA that time and I was too used to the Indian tropical climate). Most of the people who were there during that time were looking at relaxing and we didn’t see a lot of activity around. Otherwise, you can involve yourself in activities like fishing, cruise, glass bottom boat rides, night walks and camping. There are lots of camping facilities available.

catalina island

Evening views

two harbors island 3

This side of the island is pretty small and walkable. There are hiking trails which will be your best way to explore the area and look at the entire shoreline. I unfortunately do not remember the name of the trail we took but it was fairly flat. It had a very low incline. It was pretty long and endless – I won’t be surprised if it went all the way to Avalon. The views were brilliant, the trail was flat and wide and quite a pleasurable experience.

two harbors hiking trail

The trail

two harbors catalina 1

First views from the trail

two harbors hiking

The shoreline

On the other side is the Isthmus Cove. There wasn’t much to do there except walk around, have picnic in any of the open areas and take in the beauty of the place. This area contains some private properties like cottages and boat houses. It was relatively empty and we could just wander around anywhere.

isthmus cove catalina

View of the Isthmus Cove from The Banning House

two harbors 4

Way to Isthmus Cove

two harbors island 5

These pretty things were the only company on that serene weekend

There is one General Store and just a couple of restaurants. The restaurant we had food at was pretty cosy and food was delicious. No regrets about scanty choice there!

Of all the lodges, I would recommend The Banning House. It is a historic place converted into a B&B place. It deserves a post of its own!

If you go there during summer, there is lots you can do. You can even explore Avalon while staying at Two Harbors. I will definitely like to visit Two Harbors again in a warmer season and explore it well.

More information: http://www.visitcatalinaisland.com/island-info/two-harbors

two harbors flora

The typical flora

Categories: California, Photography, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

{From the archives} Budapest

The moment we enter Budapest, I know why it is known as one of the most beautiful cities of Europe. This place IS beautiful. Nice roads, beautiful stone buildings, statues and castles and bridges. The normal buildings around the city area also look like historic buildings. The weather is pleasant – not nippy and cold.

In the morning, we have left at around 8 am from Prague by bus. The view isn’t very scenic; its just lots of fields and land. I pass my time by listening to music and chatting with A. We stop for lunch at a boat restaurant (a botel) in Bratislava, Slovakia. The food is greasy but the view and the weather is amazing. We walk along the river watching cyclists, joggers and people sitting at cafes enjoying beer (do these people ever drink water?). We cross over the Futuristic bridge and touch the highway again.

DSC02183

We have to take ‘comfort stops’ in between because it is compulsory for driver to take rest after every 4 hours. There’s a tacometer fitted in all buses which keeps track of the time the bus has been continuously driven and how many breaks have been taken. Breaks in between are a must; so is the 11 hours rest per day.

We reach Budapest at 4.15 pm. Our hotel is located on Buda side of the city. I have a nice view of houses and churches, which are slightly uphill, from my room. We have half an hour before we go for a cruise over Danube.

On way to the cruise, we cross a tunnel, beautiful buildings and the grand Chain Bridge. Chain Bridge and many other bridges over the river Danube connect Buda with Pest. Chain bridge is a lovely piece of art. The walls of the bridge are mesmerizing and lion pillars greet on-comers on both sides of the bridge. We immediately decide to come back here to have a better look.

Its nice and sunny when we board the top most deck of our small cruise ship. On the Pest side of the river bank, are huge buildings of Intercontinental hotel and Mariott hotel and some other office buildings and educational institutions. As we begin the audio tour on the cruise, the temperature dips suddenly and I am shivering soon. The cruise takes us till the equally beautiful Elizabeth bridge, crossing many other pretty bridges. We go under them and wave out to pedestrians walking by. I can’t concentrate on the commentary because I am so busy looking at all the beautiful structures and clicking snaps.

DSC02202

DSC02213

DSC02220

DSC02225

After clicking each other’s snaps, trying to handle our bags and stuff and the headphones and after the waiter accidently drops lots of beer/champagne/wine on me, I think I’ve had enough confusion to last for the coming 2 days and I ditch the audio commentary and sit back to enjoy the view and get lost in my thoughts. My 12 mp point-and-shoot camera can in no way do justice to the amazing scenery and I drop clicking snaps too. We cross the spectacular parliament building and it takes my breath away. It can easily be mistaken to be a king’s palace. We are later told that the expenditure that goes in maintaining the parliament is enough to build up an entire new city!

DSC02223

I’ve had a glass of red wine (I don’t drink but thought I should try it out) and I feel dizzy and sleepy. Or I THINK that I feel dizzy. It was just a glass after all and it tasted horrible!

We have dinner in an Indian restaurant called Salaam Bombay. I feel really tired and cold but I still agree to walk back to the hotel with A and S instead of taking the bus. I don’t know what most of these buildings are but all of them are a piece of art. Each one out does the other. All of them have grey or beige stone walls, carved wrought iron balconies, doors and windows and statues put up on the top corners.

DSC02248

DSC02252

DSC02260

The Chain Bridge and the river side looks dreamy at night with all the lighting. We click whatever photos our simple cameras will permit and cross several Japanese tourists to reach Buda. By the time we reach the tunnel, I’m half frozen by the cold. My nose is blocked and hands are ice cold. I’m dying to run into the warm blankets of the hotel. Roads in Buda are almost totally deserted barring a cafe-cum-bar with red lighting which has a couple of occupied tables. The church opposite it, which had looked so pretty in the morning, looks eerie during this time.

Its good that we have free Wi-Fi in rooms; gives me chance to connect with my friends in free time. Not that we have much free time, anyway, because we use up all the free time loitering in the streets, wherever we are!

I wonder how Budapest will look like during the day. Excited about touring the city tomorrow!

To sum up, I’ve had breakfast in Czech, lunch in Slovakia and dinner in Hungary. Not bad. Not bad at all!

(Written in Sept 2011)

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

Granville Island Public Market, Vancouver

Did you know that the city of Vancouver was once known as Granville?

Later, when the city was renamed, the name Granville Island was given to an industrial area that spanned across a small inlet. It used to house lots of sawmills, factories and plants. After the Great Depression, Pear Harbor bombing and other events of the Forties, businesses started closing down. Government then decided to look at rehabilitation of the area and then converted it into a ‘people friendly’ place.

Granville Island is now a major family entertainment district and a popular tourist destination. It houses colleges, hotels, theatres, shops and restaurants. I had the opportunity of visiting there when I was in Canada two months back. Except for the rain, it was a wonderful experience. Rains prevented us from walking around outside. So we ended up spending a couple of hours inside the public market.

Not a bad idea at all!

We looked wide-eyed at all the food items and wonderful variety of fresh farm foods. The interiors are very industrial – high wooden ceiling, metal chains and pulleys, chunky lights are some typical elements. The place was swarming with tourists and regulars stuffing bags with fresh produce. Seafood, fruits, spices, cheese, flowers, coffee, meat, honey, breads – you name it and it was there.

Sigh, I wish I was a local and could shop my heart out there!

For now, I just look at the million pictures I took there and feel the delight inside my heart.

Here are some for you.

 granville island 7

granville island 8

granville island 1

granville island 2

granville island 3

granville island 4

granville island 5

granville island 6

granville island 9

Categories: Canada, Photography, Restaurant Reviews, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Big Sur Food

I do not expect exceptional food when I go to a place merely 2 hours away from SJ. I mean, how different can things be?

Boy, I was so wrong!

We drove down to Big Sur during the 4th July extended weekend. As usual, the trip was about lot of hiking. But unlike typical touristy spots, where food options are limited and expensive, Big Sur had a lot to offer. Big Sur has wonderful restaurants offering all kinds of cuisines along PCH 1. It is a tourist place that has some worthwhile stuff to offer to tourists. Restaurants are done up thoughtfully, interiors are artistic and food is top of the line. Along with restaurants, you will see art galleries. Sometimes, art galleries and restaurants are combined. Imagine the combination?

We tried 4 restaurants in our 3 day stay and were completely blown away by what we got. Here is an account of my experiences and my recommendations.

Big Sur Coast Gallery & Cafe

You cannot miss it. It is strategically located right on the coast on a curve of the road. Ample parking and brilliant views of the ocean, not to mention the pleasure of looking at artsy stuff, makes this a must-stop place. We were tired after a tough hike (Ewoldsen) and wanted something to cheer us up. Coffee and a turkey sandwich, each exceeding our expectations, did the trick. Yummiest cafe-stop in recent times. We managed to get a place with a good view on the deck and then, we were in no hurry to get up!

coast safe big sur 1

The exterior

big sur cafe and gallery

The view!

coast cafe big sur

Turkey Sandwich

Big Sur Roadhouse

Another place where art and food come together. Tastefully done in wood, abstract art and greenery, the mid-priced restaurant is also located right on Highway 1. We went there for dinner and it was a good thing we reached early because soon this place was packed with couples, families and groups. Roadhouse offers local Californian cuisine with some Cajun flavours and Louisiana / Traditional Southern American dishes thrown in to create an interesting mix. Everything about this place was delightful – the servers, the interiors, the food, its presentation. Here are some appetizing pictures. Apart from all this, we also ordered a bowl of Gumbo, which was near perfection. My sweet white wine was a great accompaniment.

I wonder how their coffee must be.

big sur roadhouse restaurant

Southern Chicken Drumsticks

blackened catch big sur

Blackened Catch of the Day

big sur roadhouse 1

They don’t have this on the menu anymore but it was chocolate cake, chocolate and vanilla icre-cream with custard. Interestingly, their dessert menus keep changing according to the season.

Big Sur Lodge Dining

I usually do not eat at the place where I stay. Stay and food are two different things. Never ever have I had great food at the very place I stayed – until the breakfast at Big Sur Lodge. Amazing ambience (patio surrounded by trees and slight sound of water flowing in the stream below) and fantastic food. We went for Eggs Florentine and French Toast. The eggs were one of the best I have ever had. Breakfast is highly recommended here!

mountain lodge breakfast

Eggs Florentine

big sur birds

Steller’s Jays regularly haunt the patio and they don’t seem to be afraid of humans.

Nepenthe

I do not have to sing praises about Nepenthe. It is one of the oldest and probably the best restaurant in Big Sur. Might be a little pricey, but you pay for the view here. So, it is best to come here during day time or in the evening to watch the sun set. We did not have a complete meal here; just a cocktail (which was wonderful, by the way). Being a busy long weekend, the place was packed. Servers scurrying around, barely managing to answer questions, people sitting inches away from each other and a never ending stream of waiting crowd. I wouldn’t want to dine in this situation but otherwise, when crowds are low, this would be a delightful choice.

Do you have any other recommendations for Big Sur food? It is close to SJ, so I may end up visiting again and food is always a highlight for me during travels!

Categories: Bay Area, California, Photography, Restaurant Reviews, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 208 other followers