Monday, 29 September 2014

Market Walk #1 - Food Street - Camden Town

Wherever I go, my love for good food follows J Good company, good food, easy on the wallet shopping, an evening boat ride on river Thames summarized my start to the weekend.

On a Saturday early noon, we headed out to Camden Market about a 20 min tube ride from Canary Wharf - where we stay. Camden has been the centre of alternative culture in London be it punk, Goth or hippie and you can see oodles of it as you walk through the Camden market place.

But what interested me most was the variety of food from around the globe, whole lot of food stuff that I love ranging from Tex mex food, Oriental, Indian, Mediteranean and much much more...
Oh! Did I forget mentioning about the fun filled street performances that you will always walk past while you are at Camden. This place is full of life!
Our first stop over was at Tex Mex outlet that servers one of the best food at Camden market, we gorged into some yummy Enchilladas and Buritos filled with vegetables and beans flavoured with not so spicy sauces *slurp*, followed by Pizza, icecream, lemoanade, Donuts, waffle dressed with chocolate, strawberry and cream ..(creating this post makes me want to visit Camden yet again) . It has been 3 weeks in London till now and I have visited Camden market for its food twice already.


In between the food marathon, we checked out the quaint shops that line up the market selling quirky souvenieurs, t-shirts printed with the pictures of ‘places London is famous for’ (I especially loved these ones), goth styled dresses, goth styled make over studio (which seemed quite interesting but none of us were in a mood for it).

After all the shopping around and eating we quenched out thirst with a glass of chill freshly squeezed orange juice J Now you know, why I really love this place ?

My favourite stall in the whole of Camden market - Fresh and Refreshing !
London has many interesting markets, each with a speciality of its own. I have decided on starting a Market Walk series in my travel blog to experience the flavours and culture of various markets from around the world. You just read my first post in the Market Walk series.

Let me know your favourite market in London / Europe ?

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Namaste London !

Happy weekend from London!

It has been a while since I updated my travelogue, the moving around, settling down and all other things that come with moving into a new city has kept me busy the last few weeks.

Travelling to a big city and visiting all touristy places is very different from living in one. For many years now, I have been looking for an opportunity to live by myself for atleast a month or two in a new place where I have never been to before and my wishes came true when I was got seconded to the UK three weeks back by my employer. London is going to be my home for the next 6 months and I am gladly looking forward to it.
The very next day I landed here, I got my Oyster pass made which will help me travel the length and breadth of the city via their public transport system (underground rail, DLR, bus and also the ferry service in a few routes).
We were welcomed to a very pleasant weather in London the day we landed, our happinness however didn't last long when we woke up to a rain Sunday morning with plans to travel to the Notting hill carnival,  which despite delays we reached the event and had a gala time.

Look forward to a whole lot of travel posts from in and around London in the coming days :)

Have you visited London or the places around it ? Where did you have your best time in London, let me know your favourite places. You never know, it could turn out be my  favourite as well !

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Happy Birthday Central Park !

I am writing this post a day after Central park turned 161 years young and beautiful. With every passing year this place I believe turns more green and more beautiful. 

Amidst the dizzying height of skyscrapers donning the skyline, the fast paced life of the people in the city, the homes of the rich and famous celebs, the multi national banks, international fashion brands, the cosmopolitan population and all .. exists 843 acres of well maintained greenery in the heart of Manhattan. That is NYC for you.

We took a Ric ride around most of central park before we headed back to our hotel, we were glad we could make sometime to get around this enormous beautiful park as it happened to be the last place we visited in NYC before we took our flight back to India the same night.

After our no so good experience of taking a Ric ride around Times Square, more about it in my next post. We were a bit sceptical to hire a Ric to go around Central park. However, our Ric driver convinced us into taking one with his fixed rate for the ride.

 He was a very jovial guy from Nigeria who had come to NY in search of a job and has since then been doing odd jobs to survive and make ends meet. He spoke a lot - about how wonderful NYC is, he showed us the various high rises which were homes to celebrities, he showed us the various locations were many Hollywood movies were filmed in Central park, he spoke about his life, his family and the place he stays in NYC - Bronx.  

He told us that there is another side to NYC and that can be seen in Bronx and how he learnt about life from his friends in Bronx. We were glad we took the Ric ride and only wish we had more time to spend more time in Central park. Despite the cold weather and chill breeze, his warmth made it for a pleasant 2 hours in Central park.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Boston - New England - Fall Foliage

After touring the south central part of USA and the west coast, we landed in the east coast to experience the Fall foliage in the outskirts of Boston and experience the most populous, happening NYC.

First things first, Boston was the first city to welcome us in the East coast, it was a very cold welcome in every sense. Right from the weather at 12 degree Celsius - **I am a Chennaite and 12 degree C is very cold for us**, to the airport pick up shuttle from our hotel which was delayed and the creepy guy who was waiting next to the bus stop at the airport who followed us to our hotel in the hotel shuttle and then went on his own way. Phew ! thankfully he did.

We were more than glad when we reached our hotel  - Country Inn and Suites, Brockton. The hotel was over flowing with travellers from around the world. The rooms were neat, clean, spacious and the service - not bad.

We rested a bit and headed to the nearest train station to take a train to Quincy market. This market's history dates back to 1822, it is lined with shops selling all kind of knick knacks, souvenirs, food, clothing, art work and what not.. Did I forget to mention, that we devoured some yummy donuts from Dunkin' Donut before walking around Quincy market.

Donuts from Dunkin' Donuts

It was a great place to sink in to the local culture, people watch, eat some local food and enjoy the street shows. like the locals do.Our stint with Quincy market came to an end late evening when we decided to head back to our hotel. We decided on crashing early that day as we had planned to take a fall foliage tour the next morning :) Fall, was yet another reason for the hotel being so crowded.

People watching at Quincy Market

Street performer - He was awesome !

He made walking around the place musical with his drum beats.

For those of them who know me, will vouch for my abilities to sleep under any circumstance and oh so peacefully!, this only adds to my advantage when the weather is cold - I get to my hibernate mode. This can go on for hours or days. This is what happened to me the two days I was in Boston.

Next morning after our breakfast at the hotel, we began our fall foliage tour through Boston, New England, New Hampshire etc.

Fall colors were beautiful, met other travellers from various countries during the tour, relished pumpkin delicacies in family run restaurants by the country side, fell in love with bright coloured flowers. It was a beautiful day !

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Lake Tahoe and Reno

It was a day long road trip from San Jose ->  Lake Tahoe -> Reno where we decided to bunk for the night and start back from Reno -> San Jose the next day late morning.

The plan to visit Reno came as a surprise from my uncle and aunt, I was more than thrilled with the plan considering the fact - while we flew from Houston to San Jose we transited through Las Vegas and I was unable to try my hand at the slot machines in the airport as we were running short of time.

It was one of a kind trip..

Our destinations for the day - Lake Tahoe and Reno

Mid way through the journey we lunched at the Kaveri Madras restaurant, which was so aptly located enroute to Lake Tahoe. Good south Indian food ! Yummy Idli, vada, pongal, parotta et all.

When every small thing  happens to be the way you like them to be, you just happen to fall in love with the place even more and that is exactly what happened to me with California.

After a sumptuous meal and quenching our crave for soul food we continued our drive to Lake Tahoe. The drive along the hilly region around Lake Tahoe is beautiful with tall pine trees lined along the stretch. First peek of the blue water and I was completely dumb struck. I can sit right there and look at the vast expanse of the blue water for hours together. It was gorgeous !

First glimpse of Lake Tahoe
Avenue of pine trees bordering our drive to Lake Tahoe

We spent the rest of the evening lazing around by the lake, before starting our drive to Reno. We drove along the Sierra Nevada range as the sunset between the mountains. We stayed at The Grand Sierra - Hotel and Casino, wonderful place with large rooms. I was told Reno was a mini version of Vegas.. So let what happened in Reno stay in Reno ! ;)

Before heading back to San Jose, we went back to Lake Tahoe, didn't I just mention that I will never get enough of the vast expanse of the picturesque scenery.

Lake Tahoe in our background
Our next destination was Boston. It was good bye to sunny days, clear skies and the warmth of our extended family who hosted us in Houston and San Jose, it was time to go around on our own and experience fall in Boston.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Being a tourist in San Francisco for 8 hours

It was a bright and sunny day in Dublin, San Jose - it was what they call a typical Californian day with a clear blue sky. We were on our way to San Fracisco in the BART train.

On reaching SFO, we walked around union square for a bit checking out the big brands that have their stores around this place. SFO was unlike any city I had been until then, the population was very cosmopolitan yet it was not a very fast paced life .. And most important of all, it has a beautiful coastline, I instantly fell for the place. 

I totally believe, one gets to know a place best when explored on foot. So we decided to give the customary hop on hop off sightseeing bus a miss and decided to walk around union square, china town before heading to Amber for lunch.

Walking along union square

Few of the many items that were lined up in the stores in China town

The food was sumptuous and perfect adding to my already oh! so! perfect day. To me good food = happiness ! After the meal we walked to the union square and queued along with other travellers, excited to take a ride on the cable car. Until I reached this queue I was assuming to be taking a typical cable car ride (a cabin moving around in a cable much above ground level). These were much different in that sense, they were tram like vehicles moving along cabled rails in the road.

After getting to know the history behind the cable car, we waited eagerly for our chance to ride it. while we waited in the queue, I noticed other passengersin the cable car were more thrilled by taking a ride on the foot board, considering this was the only mode of transport in SFO were foot boarding was permitted unlike in India where we see this day in and day out in buses and sometimes in trains too ;) I rode the cable car on foot board too !

Waiting in the queue to ride the cable car

Clicked while foot boarding in the cable car ;)

After an almost 15 mins ride we got off and walked towards Lombard street - which supposedly is the world's crookedest street, and you need special skill to drive there. And walking down the street leads you to Ghirardelli square. The houses along this stretch is fabulous.

Lombard street - world's most crookedest street
Ghirardelli square is lively ! In addition to their famous chocolates, I would suggest each of you visiting the place to try out their ice creams. Their ice creams taste fresh and delicious and seem to be very popular with the locals. A walk inside Ghirardelli's facility give you a complete walk through of preparing a chocolate from bean to bar.

Walking along the coast line towards Fisherman's Wharf is beautiful, with famous bakeries and tiny stores selling quirky items. The sea lions at Pier 39 are fun to watch except for the not so pleasant smell.

Checking out the magician, hard rock cafe and the lefty's store at Pier 39 .. we settled in to munch on some crepes before we boarded out train back to Dublin for the night. Phew ! whatta fun filled happy day it was with the family :)

Sunday, 11 May 2014

CALIFORNIA ! - Day 1 - San Jose

We took an early morning flight out of Houston to San Jose, and reached the city just before noon. Oh ya, did I say we had a transit through the airport in LA. I was surprised to see slot machines right in the airport.. I will probably go to LA one day, more about the place then ..

The only reason I love early morning flights - Beautiful colours

After being received by my uncle and aunt at the San Jose Oak aiport, we headed to their home which was our place of stay for the next couple of days. After a sumptuous Indian meal and discussing on the places we plan to visit in the next few days. We took a drive around the neighbour hood.

We drove through the Apple's one infinite loop campus at Cupertino, Silicon valley - crossing Google, Linkedin, Stanford and numerous other campuses before heading to Madras cafe. The place in and around Madras cafe was quite literally like a scene out of a quaint grocery store and quick eat udipi food place in Chennai - right from the way the place looked, to its smell filled with spices, grains etall and of course the people running the place.

Evening snack at Madras cafe

As we drove through the Stanford campus

We treated ourself to a variety of chaat for dinner that night at an Indian eatery.

Soul food !!

In case you are wondering why I am sticking on to eating Indian food despite me liking to try out the local cuisine of the place I visit, it is because of the fact that I know I am not going to get any Indian food for the next week or so. However, alien the place is as long as one gets to eat their soul food every thing else falls in place.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

My memorable 8 hours in Trivandrum

I have visited this beach city along India's west coast numerous times on work and what surprised me most about Kerala's captial city is the laid back attitude of its people which during many occasions made me think Kochi was Kerala's capital as it seemed more buzzing with activity.

I think it is this laid backness and the city's proximity to many beach destinations that has made Trivandrum one of my favourite places in South India. This time over when I got an opportunity to explore the city during one of my work visits, I took the day on my stride and charted my own plan to visit places and booked the cab and took off..

My first trip all by myself .. exploring a city that I always enjoyed being in ..

I had booked an 8 hour cab package with my hotel 'Ginger', the cab had arrived at sharp 8:30 am while I was in still in my breakfast table.

8:45 am - started from the hotel and let my cab driver know of my itinerary for the day. The cab driver seemed very interested in showing his city to me and suggested few places as well..

9:20 am - I reached Padmanabhasamy temple and Kuthiramaliga palace, adjacent to the temple. I skipped visiting the temple and directly entered the palace. On walking few meters into the palace premise made me feel I was the only one at this time walking in .. as I continued walking in.. i could spot families and bunch of teenagers waiting to take the guided tour through the palace . I joined them, as I waited for the tour to start clicked few pics of the palace.

The entire palace seemed more homely than lavish. We were told music festival is conducted during 6th to 12th of January every year as the king of Travancore was a huge fan of art, culture and music.

10:45 am - I am fond of Kerala food, banana chips and jackfruit chips fried in coconut oil. So, was in the look out for the best place to buy these chips for the folks back at home and google suggested Maha chips in east fort road, about 10 mins drive away from Padmanabhasamy temple.

One side of the shop is lined with different varieties of halwas and the other side lined with baskets of freshly prepared chips of different kinds. Love the variety and quality of chips at Maha chips.
After purchasing few kgs to take back with me to Chennai and couple of packs for Saji, the cab driver who was heloing me out in the new city. I headed to Vivata by Taj, Kovalam for their Sunday brunch.

12:30 pm - Vivanta by Taj, Kovalam is chic, warm service and relaxing. I have always felt Taj group offered the best service in the country. Just before deciding to head to Taj, I visited Leela, Kovalam and I walked around the place to get the information I wanted for about 15 mins before deciding to head to Taj, the choice I made while planning my day.

I only remember walking in alone, during the 3 hours I spent there it felt so warm, right from the guy at the reception to the buggy driver everyone had a conversation and made me feel comfortable and at ease. They were extra special considering I was a solo woman visiting their hotel.

There was a french lady performing a live music gig, a magician entertain with a trick at the brunch table, an artist making a sketch of the visitors.. The beach is not accessible from the hotel, I think that is the way it is in Kovalam. It is blocked with rocks. So you can see the beach and feel the breeze but you cannot go drench your feet or take a swim at the beach.

View of the beach made me want to experience more of it.

3:45 pm - I wanted to head to Shangumugam beach to view the sunset. Driver Saji suggested I drop by Veli, a tourist village for a bit before heading to the beach as it may be quite hot considering the time of the day.  I took a stroll along Veli, it is more like a huge park with kids play area, few shops and boating along the back waters..

4:30pm - Reached Shangumugam beach and spent almost an hour people watching, enjoying the cool breeze from the Arabian sea and clicking pics. It happened to be a cloudy day and sunset was more hazy than usual, however beautiful !!!

After almost exceeding an hour of the pre booked cab package of 8 hours, I reached back Ginger at 5:45pm and an almost free one hour cab ride. Saji turned out to become more like a big brother of sorts advising me on not to venture out alone and denied to take any payment for the additional hour usage of the cab. Beautiful place, wonderful people, great food !!!

It is also a safe place for women travelling alone before dusk sets in. However be wary of your surroundings

If you need more details about the place, drop in a comment. Would be happy to help :)