Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Brittany - Day 3

I got up a little early around 5:30 to see the sunrise. It was a splendid view from the balcony.

After sometime I decided to enjoy the morning breeze so picked my sweatshirt (was little chilly in the morning) and took a walk on the concrete side walk just next to the beach. I came back to my room around 7 and again took a short nap. We got ready and after having our breakfast at the hotel, we headed to explore a new town and the destination of the day was Dinan.

Dinan is an old medieval town. One of the peculiar things about this town was that it was well preserved and still had some very old buildings. When I say old, it means around 13-14 century. The walled city had a Chateau (castle) in the middle of the city. A peculiar thing about some old buildings in this town was that they had wooden supports/beams. In some cases, even the floor was made completely of wood rather than concrete even on first or second floors. I don’t think I have seen it so commonly elsewhere.

After having our lunch at a restaurant we further explored the city. We walked along the city walls. The view was great from there.

We came back to St Malo in the evening around 5 and went to out hotel rooms to freshen up. I took my book and sat on the bench outside our hotel facing the sea. After a while, the others joined me and then we all went for a walk. K was having a fast that day so he was skipping lunch. We walked to the main city in the night for dinner and K decided to stay back. D did some souvenir shopping. This time for dinner we opted for an Algerian restaurant. The restaurant was pretty impressive with a lot of carvings on the wall. Out of curiosity we asked the owner about it and he said that he had brought some carpenters from Algeria for a month to do the carvings. The owner was a humorous middle aged guy and kept us entertained with his talks for sometime. D and I had couscous with vegetables and A had some traditional dish made from eggplant. We had our daily dose of calorie bomb aka dessert after dinner and headed back to our hotel.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Brittany - Day 2

After our night stay near St Mont Michel, the destination for the next day was St Malo. It was a nice historical place near the sea which has a walled city. We reached St Malo around noon and looked for a hotel along the sea beach. There were many hotels so we decided to check the prices of a couple of hotels and finally selected one. And old lady was running the place with no knowledge of English. But we still managed to book the rooms. We got rooms on the second floor facing the sea with a balcony. It reminded me of a dialogue from the movie, Mr India: karma, kamre kea age balcony, balcony kea age sand beach, beach ke aage samundar. I really liked the hotel and the view from there. The weather was not the best when we arrived but luckily it got better along the day.

The hotel was outside the walled city and nearer to the sea beach. After checking in, we decided to go on a stroll along the sea towards the main city for lunch. A friend I met on the way (pic below) reminded me of the movie Abyss.

The area is more famous for its oysters and other sea food but most of us being vegetarians had to look for other options. The inside of the walled city had a lot of shops and eating places. After walking around the city for a while, we decided to have some Paninis for lunch.

We went back to our hotel after lunch since D wanted to take a nap. K wanted to enjoy the sea water so he spent time on the beach. A sat with me doing chit chat on a bench outside our hotel facing the sea admiring its waves and in the meantime I also updated the travel journal. About an hour later D also joined us. We all then decided to walk towards the small island formed due to low tides. The view of the walled city from there was pretty nice.

After exploring the small island and taking enough pictures, we walked towards the city for our dinner. This time we opted for Italian cuisine. The walk back till the hotel was good for food digestion as we were feeling an urge for a dessert. We all then went to a small bakery nearby to treat us with some calorie bombs :)

The sunset on our way back.

So, it was a nice end to a relaxing and lazy day by the sea.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Brittany - Day 1

The trip was planned for June 2009 and it was decided that we all meet in Paris and take a rental car from there to Brittany. We were 4 people in total, my childhood friend A and her girlfriend D plus A’s friend K whom I was also meeting for the first time. We all had decided to meet at the main station, Gare du Nord (which is in the heart of the city) and take the rental car from there. A and D were already in Paris, two days before we were supposed to meet. They were attending the marriage ceremony of one of their friends. K had taken a flight to Paris and had to take the train then from Charles du Gaulle airport to reach Gare du Nord. Since the airport is quite far and I have a special liking for the Thalys train service, so I took the train from Cologne which took me direct to the main station.

I left home early to take the first Thalys scheduled to depart at around 7 am. Few minutes after arriving at the station, I could see Thalys arriving from a distance. I boarded the train with the same excitement like a small kid. I took my seat next to the window and was glad to travel yet again to my favourite place in Europe on my preferred mode of transport.

On the train, a book kept me entertained. When I reached Paris around noon and stepped out of the train, it was like standing next to a hot tandoor. It was particularly hot and humid that day as per Paris standards. But I was still happy to be once again in Paris. So, I reached the main section of the station and saw K waiting at the previously planned place. After a few minutes of casual chit chat, I saw A walking towards us. I was happy to see him since I was meeting him after long. He quickly took us to the parking where D was already waiting for us in the car. They had already picked up the car to save time. It was a 5 seater golden metallic Peugeot Combi. What else can one expect in France other than Peugeot or Renault. We shoved our luggage in the back, greeted D and buckled our belts for the roadtrip. Now, the challenging task was to get out of the congested traffic of Paris to reach the highway. The navigation system of the car was a little buggy which made us take few wrong turns. After a while, we decided to follow the paper map we had with us and guided ourselves to the highway. Our destination of the day was St Mont Michel! The weather outside was pretty hot than we expected but the air conditioning of the car was comforting. We stopped at a petrol station on the way to eat lunch but being a vegetarian, it was tough to find something other than baguettes, croissants or salads. And I knew it would be tougher in the coming days since we were travelling close to the coast. After this food break we drove non stop till we reached our destination of the day.

From a long distance, I could start seeing the peaks of St Mont Michel’s spire and was getting pretty excited. As we kept driving closer to it the magnificent and humongous structure it was slowly revealing its beauty. The structure sits at a place which is like a small island with about a kilometre of road connecting it to the mainland. It was already around 5 in the evening so we decided to see the place before we check into the hotel. The parking was right at the foot of the mountain.

We got out and stretched ourselves, flexed our muscles and then I for one kept staring at the beauty of the place. I was completely in awe of the place and wanted to store every tiny pixel of that view in my memory forever. One has to see it to believe it. We slowly started walking uphill from there to check out the castle on the top. The walk to the castle at the top takes us through narrow cobbled streets with souvenir shops, eateries, small hotels on both sides.

The view from the top was simply amazing. This road joins the place to the mainland.

On one side was the unending ocean and on the other side you can see a road connecting it to the land which is covered with water once the tides come up. After taking enough pictures we walked back to the foot of the mountain. Since it was summers we had to wait till 10 pm to see the beauty of the place in the night. We decided to check into our hotel and have dinner in the meantime and then take a walk in the night to see it again. This caught our attention at the restaurant where we had dinner :) Lost in translation I suppose :P

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Travel Diary

Usually, I keep a dairy with myself while traveling to new places. Since I have started a blog, I was thinking maybe it is a good idea to write some of my traveling experiences here. This way I can get rid of those paper diaries by documenting my trips in electronic format.

After travelling to many of the usual touristic places in Europe (usually capital cities), I thought of taking a break and travel to the more relaxing and regional touristic places. Travelling and seeing major cities can be sometimes tiring and exhaustive. So when (in 2009) my friends asked me if I was interested in going on a trip to north-west border of France (Region: Brittany), I readily agreed. But I must confess here that the major part of that “Yes” contributed to the piece of information that they were also planning to visit Mont Saint-Michel during this trip! Now, this was something I was craving for a long time. I don’t know why but I had some kind of a fascination for this place. Moreover, in the past I had also been on a fun trip to Lake Constance (a lake between the borders of Germany, Austria and Switzerland), also called Bodensee with the same group of friends. So I knew I will have a great company on the trip. In a couple of days we made all the bookings and were all set for an exciting holiday along the north-west coastline of France.

I will try to write about the trip in the next days.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Clash of the Sexes (age old saga)

Lately, after a casual exchange of messages with a fellow blogger on the topic of Hindi grammar, the tone of discussion moved towards a more complicated and controversial topic. The final question which came forward and made me write this post was – If it is okay to address a daughter as a “son”, is it also okay and acceptable to address a son as a “daughter” ?
If we can call our daughters as “beta”, will it also not show equal treatment by addressing both boys and girls as “beti”?

Now, this question is hanging on a fine line between the heat of the Icelandic Volcano and the waters of Japanese Tsunami. A reply to this question will result in offending either one group of people – either the feminists or chauvinists. Let me take them one by one:

Yes: This will bring the wrath of all male members of my species upon me for addressing them as a female. To some, it would be even offensive to be called as daughter. Some might even interpret it as being regarded weak and some would even consider it dishonourable.

No: This will unleash all the horrors of the world on me by the female members of my species that I am a MCP (Male Chauvinist Pig), that I degrade all the women of the world with that reply. Some will get offended that this would mean they are inferior human beings.

Incidentally, just yesterday I read two articles back to back which made me wonder that if someone from Europe must be reading it, it would be pretty confusing for him/her. Because it might raise some valid questions like:
If there are women at such high and influential places in Indian political system then how is it possible that there are record numbers of female infanticides in India ?
If the deity for wealth and power as per the sanatan dharam of India are Goddess Lakshmi and Durga, then how is it possible that women are bought and sold for marriages in India ?
If the women in India really want equal status in the society then why does she need special favours of reservations from seats in buses to the parliament ?

So, the dynamics of current Indian society are such that it can be tough to come up with a valid and logical answer to many of the above questions.

Coming back to the question of current topic, in my opinion no son would like to be addressed as “beti” but at the same time no daughter would mind being addressed as “beta” (of course exceptions are always there)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cannes 2011

Cannes Film Festival, arguably one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world. All the big shots of world cinema attend it with much fanfare. The jury list each year consists of the most sought after people. From the most bizarre to the most entertaining films from around the globe are premiered. The tabloids overflow with photos from the red carpet to the award ceremonies to the after-parties.
Over the years, admirable film makers and actors from the Indian film industry like Shekhar Kapur, Nandita Das, Mira Nair, Mrinal Sen etc have been selected in the Jury list of this film festival. I have always wondered why there are almost zero Indian movies at this festival taking into account the record breaking numbers of films rolling out from the Indian film industry each year.
Of course Freida Pinto was seen there since she is the latest Indian muse in Hollywood. As a side note, personally it was shocking for me to see her as the face of Loreal since I always had her memories from Slumdog Millionaire, where she appeared not too good looking (at least to me). Maybe this was the target of Loreal to show the world how their makeup can make a below average looking girl into a diva. I can also understand for Aishwarya Rai to appear at Cannes since she had been a Jury once (long time back) but I really wonder under what makes Sonam Kapoor and Minissha Lamba appear there (given the films both have done so far). Now, it was still tolerable to see photos of FP, AR, SK, ML in the tabloids. But a Tsunami came and broke all my tolerance barriers when I saw that horse teeth Mallika Sherawat. And to my utter disbelief, when I saw her photos with Rober De Niro, Sean Penn, Jodie Foster etc, my brain stopped working and prompted me to write a post. I mean what in the world out of all the talented Indian actresses is "she" doing there ??? Here photos with these actors were like a 5th grader's art work kept next to Michelangelo's work at Louvre. Or even like a "bhoond/Maruta" (country-made vehicle to carry people in villages, particularly in Punjab/Haryana region) along side a BMW 7 series. I mean what are her credentials relating to cinema ??  A kitty full of flops ?? If breaking the records of on screen kisses in an Indian movie count as a credential then yes, sure she has surely made her mark there. Otherwise, the only other memory of her for me was that she was in news for a movie with Jackie Chan and some snake movie lately. I would agree to see Nagin/Nagina (starring Sridevi) again any day but there is hardly anything one can bribe me with, to watch Hisss. After seeing the promos, trust me, I have seen better computer graphics from a new computer science engineering graduate in India than what I saw in the promos. And I think, I must refrain myself from talking anything about her acting skills. It will be an insult to the actors of my town’s local Ramlila performed each year. So my question still remains still unanswered that what was MS doing at Cannes ?? Is there anyone who can give a valid answer ??

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Let's get going

The D day finally arrives. After all these years of blog surfing and being an avid blog reader, I finally made the efforts of starting my own thing. But it finally dawned upon me that writing a blog could be more time consuming, more effort taking and less fun making. I feel that I am a better listener than a better speaker. So let us see how long can I keep the momentum up.
I would like to keep this blog like an electronic diary, jotting down my thoughts as life goes on. And who knows, maybe I find some like minded people on this journey :)

The Begining

Finally, here we go .....