Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Le Pondy

Pondicherry trip was not an exceptional one.  But it did have its moments and I loved it for its simplicity.

The food for one , I had a couple of firsts here . Had my first lobster and quiche here. The bakery Zuka we went for breakfast on day 1 had the best éclairs . K loved the place and there are very few eateries that really cater to K's tastes .

The pizza in Cafe Xtasi was very good albiet the hunt for the place is a story that K loves recollecting . I chose this place from a list of awesome eateries in TripAdvisor and spurred by the huge success in navigating to the beach island and auroville using Google maps , I switched on the map using that option directly from TripAdvisor . Off we went in our hired activa  , me giving the directions and all. After a while we saw that we were leaving the city and entering suburbs. I reloaded the map , again from TripAdvisor . The route remained same. We kept going . After almost half an hour , we turned right into a dinghy lane and entered a slum . 'Your destination is on the left' read the map. On the left was what looked like a dilapidated building. I searched for cafe Xtasi on Google instead of TripAdvisor and we made the journey back the same route . Guess what . Cafe Xtasi was about 200 mts from our hotel . K had something to joke continuously about for the rest of the day . we did tell the owners that their address is wrong on TripAdvisor.

This was the only issue we faced with Google maps , It was a lifesaver while going to auroville ashram and beach island . And it is fun sitting pillion and giving instructions to your man .  "when is the next turn " K would yell , trying to be heard above the sound of traffic and engine . " 200 mts ahead and then left " I would yell back . " Are you sure its left , this doesn't look like a road to me " K would ask . " Just move , if the blue arrow veers off the route then we ll reverse back " . And once he had taken the turn , if the route remained I would happily check for the next turn or else re route after K grumbled to me and I blamed Google . And so this continued .

The maps helped us to catch the last boat to the island after a school girl sent us on a wrong route . The return journey after sunset was a remarkable feat considering that it was an hour long ,we were in a strange place , the traffic was chaotic , lanes were narrow and confusing and K simply can't take the glares of vehicles at night . Somehow Google maps behaved wonderfully well that day and I too didn't misinterpret anything. The island was pretty , nothing much to talk about save for the scores of jellyfish in the back waters.

We used the maps to find that wonderful restaurant where I had my first lobster .

I also discovered I love riding pillion in scooters . Specially if I am the navigator .

We caught a couple of movies being shot but I didn't spot the actor in one shoot and didn't recognise the actor in the other.

The last evening was spent strolling on the shopping street.

Pondicherry was relaxed and unhurried.
Good food , Google maps and each others company made it a good trip for me .

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Travel and Living in Europe

When the husband announced that he'd be sent onsite on an onsite assignment to Switzerland for 9 months, I vaguely pictured myself walking on those cobblestone paths you'd normally see on Europe travel documentaries shown on NDTV goodtimes. We had a home loan to pay off and a few other minor commitments , so me really wasn't sure how much of travelling we would do. Maybe I can check out Vienna , I had thought to myself. I am a big follower of history and the hapsburgs were omnipresent in European history. Vienna being the seat of hapsburgs , held a special interest to me. A few days later the husband said he wanted to visit Rome as well. So Vienna and Rome, I had thought. And so it happened in that order. Then Barcelona and Berlin were added to our list. After which we went to Black forest. And of course , a host of places in Switzerland were covered in between.

  It was the first time I was planning trips all by myself. And that was a hugely exciting by itself. All my trips in US were planned and executed by friends. I had chipped in here and there but mostly stayed away from the main planning. I didn't want to then. It was different in Swiss.  As I searched and researched various places, I discovered the joys of planning out a trip. I was alone at home with lots of time in hand and tripadvisor became my best friend. I became a  member , wrote my reviews on places and restaurants. our neighborhood Indian restaurant owner who is a Pakistani also requested me to review his restaurant. I did and in turn got free glasses of that wonderful mango lassi that I praised in the review.
Stay in Europe is pretty expensive save for the Motel One chain hotel we stayed in Berlin.
While I loved Maria Theresa , more for the food than the room though, The husband would surely chose Die Reichstadt in Black Forest as the best hotel.
The hotel in Barcelona was a huge disappointment and the Motel One in Berlin , a pleasant surprise.
Gambrinus in Rome just served the purpose . Neat and nice place to rest after the hectic sightseeing.

Travelling in Europe is beautiful. If you choose the right area to stay many places can be covered on foot. Covering Vienna was easy peasy even without taking a public transport. Everything was within walking distance of our hotel Maria Teresa, except for the Schonbrunn palace. The bus and the metro can be used to get anywhere inside other bigger cities quickly and without much hassle. Trains are clean and run on time. The Barcelona metro and bus network is the most efficient and the cheapest . After getting lost in Rome multiple times and spending a bomb on Taxis , barca was a relief. But then the tourist attractions in barca were not so many or as far apart as in Rome.  Rome definitely is not covered in a day. It needs a whole week to fully appreciate the main attractions this city has and I am not even counting the lesser known ones. The swiss transport system is also very good albeit a little expensive even with the half fare card that Swiss residents can avail. The Swiss Panorama express is a special train that runs through the most scenic areas of Switzerland and has a specially wide window for the passengers to enjoy the panorama. This was one of the first long train journeys we made in Swiss and it was a trailor of sorts for the things to come. As the train passed through hills ,rivulets , lakes, meadows and alongside  mountains and small waterfalls I realized that Switzerland is more beautiful than what gets showcased in bollywood movies. In fact, the little you see of Swiss in television is nothing compared to what meets the eye here.
Another myth that got busted in Europe was that hiring guides is expensive, unnecessary and sometimes a pain. Vienna in any case didn't need guides and those that hired guides wrote about how tiresome it is to be confined to the pace of your guides rather than explore things on your own. I too believed that half the fun is in exploring things on your own. Research on net, books and the information boards that most places of interest have pretty much covers what we need right? Wrong. Once you take the services of a good guide you realize the things you have missed.
Our first guide was an Indian Malayali lady who took us through the ancient catacombs in Rome. Yes you read it right, Malayali. The husband quipped that there could well be tours of the Vatican in Malayalam. The catacombs cannot be toured without a guide and this lady was brilliant. After the tour I realized that without her to explain the details the place would just be an underground tunnel with lots of slots that once held dead bodies. She brought it alive by sharing her knowledge of the place. After that we chose a guide for the Colloseum as well and were not disappointed. In Barca I hired a student for the tour of the Gothic Quarters. She turned up on time and did a very good job of showing us around though we were the only ones on her tour that day. She showed us the best eating places to try out Gellato and, believe it or not, there were Gelatos in Chili and Marijuana flavors. Much to my surprise, the husband tried chili Gellato. Berlin saw us mostly with guides. One whole day was spent walking to all the major historical places in Berlin with a guide and the holocaust memorial tour was also with a guide. Both were adequate.

I also noticed a sense of community feeling here that I feel isn't there in US. Come evening and there are huge crowds in City Squares and you can see people bonding over a bottle of beer. People are eager to help. If you have a visible lost look on your face , someone will come over and enquire if you need anything. You can walk around admiring quaint buildings and statues that dot most of old European cities. And there is always a person playing some wind instrument , maybe bagpipes or singing a song in every street . People gather around and throw in some money into his bags if they like the performance. As we hiked our way up Neuchatel , fellow hikers stopped and made small talk. The funicular driver in Stanserhorn regaled us with stories on himself and the place. Of course India far exceeds any country when it comes to befriending strangers , but Europe isn't half bad. Language can be a major hindrance here. There was this lady who stayed in the apartment above ours and whenever we met she would smile and rattle off something in German . I would smile back and shake my head to make it known to her that I did not understand a word. This happened whenever we met. I knew she was saying something nice from the tone of her voice and I too started saying some nice things in English. Eventually each time we met , she would have a warm smile and talk in German accompanied with hand gestures and I would say something nice in English , maybe speak about the weather . I once contemplated speaking in Tulu to her. How does the language matter anyways. And then there was this guy who came to fix our window. I had to find a way to converse with him as he needed to tell me his lunch timings, or what time he would come the nest day or if he needed furniture to be moved. I used the Google translate here. Streto , the window repair man, grinned and gave me a thumbs up when I typed out the sentences in English and the German translation came on the other box.

Learning the basics of German was on my agenda when I moved to Swiss. But sadly that didn't happen.

Another thing on my agenda was to try out the local cuisine everywhere we went. This was a resounding success. Though initially I was a little crestfallen when I saw the most of the local delicacies are animals that I don't usually eat. The waitress in Morges had difficulty in communicating the days special dish as she spoke broken English. "Fish with legs" she told me gesturing with her fingers. As I formed mental images of bangude or buthai with legs sprouting out , the lady at the next table spotted my confusion . "Its Octopus" she smiled. I was relieved it wasn't a fish she was talking about. Being a Mangalorean if I hadn't known that there existed edible fish with legs , that would be a major shame. Next delicacy was beef in that restaurant. Finally I gave up and ordered Omelette , same as my husband. He had no confusion though, Its always pasta or pizza or egg . Being a eggetarain with aversion to cheese , he doesn't have much choice . I on the other hand have to really struggle if I want to avoid the likes of beef , turkey , octopus and yet try the local cuisine. Explaining to the folks what you don't eat is an ordeal by itself , given the language problem . Things improved from then on though. After initial failures , I began researching the restaurants nearby before the trip and chose something that catered to both our needs. The traditional Viennese Schnitzel in the Fugmuellers was wonderful . As luck would have it , this was pork Schnitzel . What's more , the husband opted for cheese Schnitzel , pleasantly surprising me.  He experimented with food.  Vienna is also famous for Apple Strudel ,chocolate cake and the accompanying coffee , all of which we enjoyed in 'Demel'. Another interesting dining concept was in 'Vapiano' , an Italian restaurant . They cook up the dish you ordered right in front of you and you need to tell them the amount of garlic , chilies , spices you want in your food. Vienna marked our first success with European food.
Here I need to make a special mention of the wonderful buffet breakfast in Hotel Maria Teresa in Vienna . The spectacular spread included champagne as well. Champagne for breakfast , that's a first for me. Though I loved the breakfasts in other hotels we stayed , nothing could beat this one. Considering that I chose Maria Teresa mainly for the breakfast spread that was praised lavishly in Trip advisor , I wasn't disappointed at all. I also had the best wine ever in Maria Teresa . The ice wine they served was surprisingly sweet. The barman explained that frozen grapes are used and hence the sweet taste. Apparently , sugar concentrate is higher in frozen grapes.
The tapas bar in Barcelona had a cute way of tracking the food we ate. Tapas is a bite sized snack served in Spain. It could be anything - seasoned prawns , tiny roll , or even plain bread with some topping. The bite sized piece is attached to a toothpick and after you are done the toothpicks are counted to determine your bill. Imagine doing that in India . I presume our guys will swallow the toothpicks as well just to take delight in fooling someone to serve them free snacks. Being the experimental person that I am , I tried the tapas with Caviar and spat it out immediately. My mouth stank like Jeppu market for some time. Husband had a more difficult time than usual in Barcelona . Most of the places didn't seem to have the veggie options that he preferred . Hell , they didn't even have chicken in most of the places. It was beef all the way. Then on the last day , we stumbled on this excellent Indian restaurant near the beach. It was most welcome to be eating something familiar.
Berlin also had a very good Indian restaurant that provided a much needed  respite from the breads , pizzas and pastas.
During our black forest trip , we visited the small café where the famous Black Forest Gateau was first invented. The original recipe calls for a lot of Kirsch(Cherry) Liqueur and I found it too overpowering.
Though it was exciting to know that we were eating black forest cake baked using the original recipe , the mellow taste of the cake served in Cochin Bakery in Mangalore is much suitable for Indian palate.
I had one of the best Lamb filets in the restaurant near our hotel Die Reichstadt. The perfectly pink meat was accompanied with ratatouille and it was the first time I was tasking this dish. I couldn't help feel like one of those anchors on food shows who travel all over the world tasting the best looking food and commenting on the taste.
We also visited a host of wonderful eating places in Swiss. The pizza served near the Indische stores has one of the thinnest crusts and was delicious. I quite enjoyed the Swiss Rosti in Appenzell mountains . And who can forget the Swiss chocolates. We were regulars at the Sprungli stores in Zurich. The melt in the mouth macaroons are to die for. I tried all the possible varieties of pastas, Pizzas, sausages , cakes , beers , wines , meat , seafood everywhere . My husband indulged my food eccentricities as I did his in quite the opposite ways. One of the many things that we both so differ in but oblige each other.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Stanserhorn - A Heavenly Experience

I believe Stanserhorn is relatively new on the tourist front. That 'topless' cable car or the caBrio as it is called was introduced just last year. I signed up for this one mainly wanting to experience the ride on the open top caBrio , feeling the wind hitting my face. Spectacular views were promised and I was looking forward to that too but figured that it cannot be anything that I haven't already seen. After all , I have made trips to the Matterhorn , Interlaken , Appenzel , Neuchatel and the like. I figured that I have seen every beautiful view worth seeing in Switzerland and the rest would more or less be replicas . No cable car could possibly beat the ride or the views in Klein Matterhorn cable car , or so I thought. I was so wrong.

Nothing that I say here can aptly describe the view from Stanserhorn on a cloudy overcast day. I think this is the first for a review , but to everyone out there planning a trip here, do go on an overcast day. As we alighted from the train in Stans on the last weekend before the cabrio closes , I was a little disappointed to see rain clouds looming all over us. The funicular was pretty old , first built in 1893 and it cutely chugged up the hill . As you slowly climb up,  the beauty of the place starts unfolding . It was very cold and slightly misty which , combined with the lush greenery around , created a magical effect. After a few minuted we were dropped off at the cabrio base.
K was a little hesitant on letting me go up the top as I have a very low threshold to cold. A small breeze and I start shivering and this was a full blown ,open deck travel in biting cold to the top of a mountain. But I insisted. Somehow all the limits , threshold that I have get stretched beyond expectations when something exciting pops up. So off I went up and stood holding the railing , peeping out , impatiently waiting for the cabrio to start. As exciting it was to be here , I was a little disappointed that the promised view of 5 lakes will not be delivered to me as I had chosen a cloudy day to visit.

As the cabrio started moving up the view became more and more foggy and my face fell. After a couple of minutes we were completely enveloped with mist with absolutely no view. It was at this time that the gentleman managing the cabrio inside consoled us all saying that in a few moments there will be blue skies and sunshine all around . I don't think any first timer would have caught the meaning of what he said then , certainly I didn't. K seemed to get an idea though . And then we saw it. Slowly the view became clearer and we emerged out of the clouds to an absolutely blue sky and wonderful sunshine , the best part being that the clouds were all below us forming what looked like a fluffy cotton floor. And the mountains around us also appeared to be emerging out of the cotton floor. It was surreal to say the least. I don't know about the rest but I have never seen anything remotely like this in my life and I stood spellbound. I guess if we had been there on a sunny day then the view would be similar to the view from any other mountain top , it was the rain clouds that made all the difference. It reminded me of the devaloka scene from kannada movies , the kind of place that the apsaras danced while the pantheon of hindu God's watched.

Outside the sun was quite sharp on the deck as there wasn't a speck of clouds in the sky . Reason ? All the clouds were below us . hehe . What joy. Who would have thought such a thing existed .

There was a revolving restaurant that I guess didn't quite serve the purpose today. the clouds looked spectacular from every possible angle and you don't have to revolve to get to see the best possible view. Moreover , the revolving pane was fully occupied. Me and K took our order of Asian Noodles and sat at the first free table we could find. The dish was pretty good and prices surprisingly reasonable for a Swiss restaurant. After lunch , we strolled around , clicking the usual snaps and then headed to the restaurant again for a warm drink that was complimentary thanks to the SBB offer tickets.

Then we began the descent back. This time we knew what to expect but still it was enthralling . When we reached the funicular , we hopped on to the open seat next to the 'driver' right at the front . The 'driver' turned out to be a jolly good man, regaling us with stories on the place and himself.

On the way back to Baden we stopped at Zurich for some small shopping and the mandatory box of Sprungli's.
A beautiful day .

PS : I just realized that this post has the word 'topless' . I figure that my blog will get at least one hit now.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Weekend Show - Forts , Food and Friends

This weekend was one of surprises. A rather last minute decision to visit Bellinzona followed by an unexpected dinner invitation by one of K's friends. Both turned out wonderful.
The weekly Saturday morning market in Bellinzona was a delight , more so after we found a lady selling Indian sweets and savories . She told us that her husband is from India and he prepared all of the stuff to be sold there. The samosa and coconut barfi was pretty good but it was the jamuns that had us going there for seconds. And this time she gave away 2 additional jamuns for free. That was a sweet start to the weekend.
The castles were not really tourist friendly , by which I mean that there were no Audio guides or notes that we could read to know more about the place . But it was preserved in the best way a medieval castle could and somehow the lack of all things 'touristy' lent an authentic touch to the place. It was my first true castle if you don't count the visit to the small fort next door in Baden. The castle door that doubled up as a bridge across the ditch when open , the small openings in the walls that probably was used to open fire on attackers , the towers used to keep a lookout and the fortification -I hadn't seen all of this from such close quarters. The small museum we visited in the first castle wasn't great but the video was ok . I  huffed and puffed my way up to the second castle that was much lower, so going all the way to the third castle that was still further on top of the hill didn't appeal to me a lot and we skipped the third castle.
Instead we simple wandered about in the old town , bought some biscuits from the bakery , took a few snaps and then wandered back to the station to catch the train back home.
And oh , did I tell about the wonderful spaghetti with mussels that I had for lunch ? It was real good and so was the pizza that K ordered . Then there was this orange color drink that everyone else was ordering and K also tried it out of curiosity . I sort of liked it.  It had a bitter taste towards the end but still tasted interesting.
After this Saturday trip I was thinking of lazing around on Sunday and we were watching Madras Café (awesome movie by the way) , when one of K's friends called and invited us over for dinner. I immediately prepared a small batch of Rava Laddoo and packed some along for them . The hostess had really outdone herself . There was fish and chicken and prawns. What more is needed to make a Mangalorean happy ? I was delighted. Plus there was tom and jerry playing on TV and another friend S who love to chat. We were busy in our girl talk and the guys were busy talking whatever is it they talked about amongst themselves. I suspect they were also trying to listen to what we were chatting coz S's husband smiled to himself every time we spoke something silly. Cant blame the guys , girl talk is always more interesting :).
After a wonderful evening we walked back home . I had always dreaded Sunday evenings when I was working and even if there was something wonderful happening on Sunday the thought of Monday lurking around in the corner would dim the excitement for me. Its a beautiful feeling to enjoy a weekend without worrying about the start to a weekday. Few more months of those weekends and I hope I make the most of it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Independence Day Special

When I was in Rome amidst the 3000 year old roman ruins and artifacts  , I couldn't help wondering if there is any other culture that is as old as ours but is still alive and kicking in a society that is as evolved as ours. The belief system, culture and traditions of all the important ancient civilizations except our Indian is in history books , museums and for tour guides to spin stories from.
Commendable job by India !

On a related note , I love my country but I do not understand the concept of borders and excessive patriotism . I guess having a border is just a legal thing that makes the job of governing easier . People who aren't in the borders wouldn't understand this but people in the border areas , weather state or country , would understand that drawing a line in between doesn't remove the cultural and linguistic similarities that they share with their brethren across the border.
In my recent trip to Ladakh it was plain simple that Ladakhis have more in common with Chinese and Tibetians than mainstream Indians.  Their food , language , clothing , looks is nothing what anyone would associate with India . Nobody will say that Momos is part of Indian cuisine or that a slant eyed person has 'Indian looks' when in fact it is as much Indian as the region of Ladakh is.
Same with Tamilians down south . I guess their sympathies lie with LTTE for the reason that they share so much in common with them than say a Kashmiri.
The Punjabi dress ,language and food is similar to western Pakistani regions than anywhere else in India.

So let us not impose language , culture on someone just because they belong to a particular country or state because the country and state is man made. Its never existed naturally in the first place. I am sure south Indians would learn Hindi more willingly than they do now if it was not imposed on them and if they didn't have to hear lectures from everybody on how adamant they are.

Happy Independence Day folks !

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Rome Ramblings

Rome wasn't built in a day they say , that is pretty evident to anyone that knows a thing or two about Rome. What they should add is this - It cannot be seen in a month . Yes, there is so much to cover and so much to see. Its mindboggling.
When I drew up my Rome itinerary I was quite clear that I shouldn't cram everything into those 2.5 days . So I didn't include the Villa Borghese and Roma museums though everyone raved and ranted about them. The Vatican on one day and the trinity of Coloseum-Forum-Palatine on the other was my plan with Pantheon , Catacombs and St Angelo castle thrown in between somewhere. The next half day would be to stroll around a couple of churches. But there is no end to the history you see in Rome and everything is so beyond words , you get stuck in one place marveling at every bit of this ancient wonder. What a marvelous place . It also helped that we had wonderful guides. The Indian lady in the catacomb of St Sebastian was excellent in her description of the place . She had a musical tone to her voice that caught the attention of listeners even more . Apparently she has been a guide for more than 30 years and the experience shows . I was pretty surprised to find this Indian at the catacombs but more surprises on this followed when we saw 'Sadhus' at the entrance to the Vatican showing off their 'miracles' .Kaushik quipped that we shouldn't be surprised if there were Malayalam language tours of the catacombs and the Vatican.

Of the 2 we visited, the catacombs of St Sebastian impressed me more and it was also older than St Callixtus . Without guides it will just seem like an underground tunnel with lots of holes but the history it holds is what enthralls you. This place started off as being a burial place for Pagans and eventually Christians took over. The Pagan chambers were elaborate and beautiful . We were in just one level and the place has 3 levels of burial chambers covering many acres. At the end there was a place for the families to have refreshments and this place opened out to St Sebastian Church. The footprints believed to be of Jesus were one of the highlights of this place. The catacomb of St Callixtus was less impressive but a good visit nonetheless . It was a burial place for early Christians and the popes. Both the catacombs have been sanitized and there are no bones/bodies .
Those visiting St Callistx need to make a note of their lunch hours - They are closed from 12 - 2 PM  . Also note that the catacombs are under the jurisdiction of the Vatican and Roma Pass cannot be used here. 

I wanted to visit St Peters final resting place under the Basilica as well but the Scavi tours are limited to 250 people per day and the slots were full by the time I mailed them . The basilica itself is beautiful and ornate but as the husband put it , for people used to the grandeur of Indian temples , this doesn't seem like a breathtaking monument.  The main sanctum is nothing like  any of the churches I have seen . There was no crucifix that is usually a part of catholic churches. But it was interesting and beautiful . Michelangelo's Pieta is a beauty. The Cupola was closed by the time we were done with the church and this was a bit of a disappointment .
There was more of Michelangelo waiting for us at the Sistine Chapel . A part of the chapel is under renovation but even that didn't diminish the grandeur . The Vatican Museums as a whole is too large and has too many artworks to be able to enjoy in a few hours and even if we had the time it was too complex for an art illiterate like me to take in. Though we did love many of the items on display by the time we reached the end of the tour we were exhausted .

That day dinner was in the Piazza Campo di Fiori , The place is absolutely alive. And the Lamb was delicious. My husband gave a thumbs up to the pasta as well. We went to the same place for dinner the next day too , a different restaurant though and the food was just as good.

The next day was a big one - Colloseum . I hadnt booked the underground tour online but once we reached we decided to take that and boy , I am glad we did. Our French guide was charming and delightful in her description of the colloseum and the history behind it all. It was now pretty clear to me that visiting any historic place without a guide is just not the same.  Like the catacombs , the colloseum is simply an ancient ruin without a guide to explain the details.

Next in our itinerary was that Forum-Palatine combo. I knew there were acres to walk and the peak summer sun was quite unmerciful . And with no guide to help us we were a bit lost in the Forum. Audio guides aren't really very helpful here . There are so many things hidden from plain view that you need someone to point it out. Nevertheless , the whole place leaves you marveling about the architectural skill of ancient Romans. And the ruins are endless. Its a good thing there were portable water taps everywhere else the expense for drinking water would have beaten our airfare and hotel bill combined.
The palatine which I thought would be least interesting threw up a beautiful and huge ruin towards the end . By that time sudden showers had forced us to stop and the unplanned rest gave me my breath back . Plus it cooled the place down and so I really enjoyed the last hour or so in the Palatine.
We were quite hungry by the time we were done but there wasn't time to stop for a bite. The castle of St Angelo closed at six and we made a dash towards it. This place needs just needs about 2 hours and the view that I missed in St peters basilica was seen here. It gives a birds eye view of the whole of Rome. The Audio guide here is pretty good too.

The Spanish Steps that we visited next is really not a worth a visit but then if you have the time , why not.

My culinary experience in Europe is improving by the day . It started with Austria. The Schnitzel was pretty good and so were the traditional Viennese deserts - Apple Strudel and Sacher Tort with whipped cream. I tried chicken , pork , lamb in Rome and each one was excellent. The gelato near the Vatican was massive and it was a 'medium' cone. It had me wondering how big the 'large' one would be .
Dining under the stars in Piazza Rotunda near pantheon and Piazza Campo di Fiori were one of the best dining experiences I have had. Both the Piazzas are absolutely bustling under the stars.

Pantheon was the last monument we saw in Rome. Incidentally, it was the first one too . Right after we landed in Rome , we went to check out the look of Pantheon at night. . The amazing fact about Pantheon is that its the only Roman monument that is standing in its entirety till today . Its 2000 years old and still as good as new. Come to think of it , an apt place to welcome our special day - July 5th. Papa tried to get us hunt for a temple in Rome and visit it on our anniversary and I guess pantheon is the closest we got to a temple that day - It was originally built as a temple to the Roman pantheon of Gods and is now a church . Interestingly we started the day at this church  , went to another church in the morning - St Sebastian's and then ended the day with the mightiest of all the churches - St Peters Basilica and the Vatican . So July 5th was spent in holy places , albeit a little different than what our parents would have liked.
And my best moment in Rome - As the plane touched down on the Rome Fumincino airport , my husband turned to me and said that it has been a happy year together and it dawned on me too that , contrary to what all well meaning friends had warned, staying together as husband and wife has been even better than being a lovey dovey  'hitched' couple(Knock on wood)  . Nothing can beat what I felt at that moment.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Morgan's Gate to Morges

"Fish with legs" this is how the only English speaking waitress described the days specialty in restaurant we entered in Morges. As I was trying to form a mental image of bangude or buthai with legs, the lady sitting in the next table bent over and said "Octopus" freeing me of the shame of being a Mangalorean and not knowing that there existed edible fish with legs . Ok , so that was ruled out. Nothing else in the menu suited my tastes and it suited my husbands tastes even less . So we finally ordered omelets. Me with cheese and he with herbs. Geez , being in France border and having omelets . "I am always determined to taste the local cuisine but I always end up eating burgers and pizza wherever we go" I complain to my man . "That's because the local cuisine is mostly beef that you don't eat" he says matter of factly. No arguing with that. I should lower my expectations with food in Europe. But the beauty of Morges more than made up for my disappointment in food.

Earlier as the train whizzed past the canton of Aargau into Vaud , I was admiring the hills when suddenly Lake Geneva emerged from behind the hills and I was spellbound . It looked surreal.

The tulips were of every conceivable color. Mom and Amma both would have had a field day if they were here. Mom would definitely have tried a best to take some saplings home as well. back home any visit to a relative with a garden is not complete if Mom hasn't got a few saplings home. Kaushik was a wee bit disappointed . He expected the whole area to be covered with Tulips like shown in Yash Chopra movies . Here it was multiple patches of tulips , each of a different color.

After lunch , we strolled to the lakeside for a few photos. A very helpful gentleman not only offered to have our snap taken but also answered our queries on the other attractions around in detail. Taking his suggestion we decided to walk along the lakeside and then take a bus to Lausanne to the Cathedral of Notre Dame. But first the castle .

Being a history buff , this castle , my first , left me mesmerized though it didn't have much . The view from top wasn't great too. The gallows room gave me goose bumps . Some of the artifacts , specially the arms and weapons were worth the visit. Kaushik on the other hand seemed happy to end the castle tour ASAP. "What's this fixation with castles and all things old" he wanted to know. Since I landed in Swiss , he has been suggesting going to Zurich and Milan and I have been suggesting Chillon castle and Hapsburg castle and when he decided on this trip I asked to be taken to Morges castle.

The walk was 6 Kms. We kept chatting along the way , took a few wrong turns , asked for directions everywhere and finally after about a good 2.5 hours reached the bus stand to take the Lausanne bus. The walk was tiring but the views all throughout was excellent .

The cathedral is an imposing structure and has been standing since the 12th century. The glass work inside looked beautiful . I could see a few tombs inside. Loved the view from top. There was a good amount of reconstruction work done on the church . The husband tells me that Swiss rebuild even those monuments that are reduced to a rubble and make it close to the original one as possible.

Morges was a lovely place for a visit. But as I see more and more of the western world , I think I am starting to appreciate the chaos of my home country more.