Big Sur … the greatest meeting of land and water 

Big Sur is more of a feeling to be experienced rather than a dot on a map. It’s rugged coastline, the interplay of the fog and the sun, the glory of the wildlife and the fields of blooming wildflowers are a sight that will take your breath away, no matter how many times you visit this place.

Big Sur and Bixby Bridge in all its glory
                    Big Sur is derived from the Spanish word “El Sur Grande” which means “big country of the south” and is an undeveloped and very lightly populated area on the California Central Coast, just south of Monterey. Here the Santa Lucia mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean making this stretch of coastline one of the most scenic in continental US if not in the world. 
The rugged coastline
                                         Much ink has been spilled praising this rugged piece of natural beauty and yet nothing prepares you for the undeniable magic of Big Sur. This is not something to cross off your bucket list by driving through in a hurry. That’s what freeways are for. You have to savor Big Sur slowly like an aged wine to really enjoy its nuances. 
Bixby Bridge
                                                       The most photographed bridge in California and the setting for many million dollar car commercials is the famous Bixby Bridge. It’s something of an iconic symbol and a graceful piece of architecture and a great photo opportunity for all of us.By the way, there is no service as soon as you enter Big Sur. So your Google maps or any other apps are not going to work here. Best is to do your research before you head to this paradise… I actually think not having any internet is a boon as it puts you in the moment ( by force) spiritually and physically. The wildflowers here are insane…just growing with wild abandon, with no care for the world. It makes you stop in your tracks for a moment and bask in the glory that is God. As I said earlier, Big Sur has to be experienced with your soul. 
Sunlight dancing on the water
                                 Big Sur is a photographer’s dream… whether in the early morn or at sunset, the vistas are unparalleled. When the sunlight shimmers on the water, it’s like gold. You don’t need any filters here to make your photos look amazing… the images will stun you with their clarity and beauty. 
Fog arising from the ocean
                                     The most amazing sight is when the fog rises from the ocean making the whole landscape look almost ethereal. Clouds wafting across the mountains, the slight nip in the air, the smell of the ocean… it’s just what you need to cleanse your soul. It has been described as”a national treasure that requires extraordinary measures to protect it from development”. And it is heavily protected to preserve its rural and natural character. Development is severely restricted and the California Coastal Commission has been very successful in preserving this stretch of unparalleled beauty. Big Sur has attracted plenty of poets, writers and artists who have spoken vividly about this piece of paradise. This has been and continues to be a popular place for self realization, self improvement, self introspection and in general, just being a better person, a better soul… and if you are lucky enough to experience Big Sur, you will surely realize that this pace can surely nourish your soul in ways you were not even aware of!!! 

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The verdant rice terraces of Bali 

The world famous Balinese rice terraces are almost on everyone’s bucket list and for a great reason… they are stunning,breathtaking and spectacular. These sprawling rice terraces make for a perfect photo opportunity and are a great way to spend a leisurely afternoon strolling through the paddy fields. The Tegallalang rice terraces, a World Unesco Heritage site and the most famous of all are just about half hour north of Ubud and can be added onto your Kintamani itinerary.Visit Mount Batur in the morning and drive back here for the afternoon. These rice terraces are engineered using traditional Balinese irrigation systems dating back to the 9th century, by tapping the water from the mountains to keep the paddies wet throughout the year.Even though most rice is harvested using modern agricultural techniques, this gave me a new appreciation for each piece of grain that lands on my plate. Local farmers with traditional woven baskets happily take pictures with tourists like me(please do give them some money for they are but mere farmers turned actors trying to give you an Instagram worthy click)Beautiful verdant green fields filled with water, banana trees swaying to the gentle breeze…you will see plenty of these rice fields as you drive through Bali.Be sure to stop and take some pictures, as these are definitely worth the effort. A green so green,clouds floating up above,tropical trees lining the horizon,a lone farmer going about his daily chores …this bucolic picturesque scenery is abundantly visible from the busy Balinese roads. Thatched roofs on traditional houses make for picture perfect shots overlooking the ancient valley. Plenty of cafes and shops line the rice fields, so do plan on eating a Nasi goreng amidst all this natural beauty… who knows the fried rice you are eating is from the very fields your eyes are feasting upon. 

The lure of the adventure… and the many benefits of traveling often

I often wonder why the fascination with travel? Why uproot yourself from your comfortable bed,your daily routine,spend time packing your bags,stand in long lines at the airport (good idea to get TSA pre checked) and then sit in a plane for hours. But when you view your flight tracker from the seat and countdown the miles to your destination, your heart starts thumping with the lure of the adventure that awaits you as soon as the wheels touch down.                                        And once you are settled into your hotel room or your Airbnb(I usually don’t like to waste any time if it’s daytime) its time to get the party started. But have you ever stopped to ever wonder how good traveling is good for your health!! Lets discuss why you really should travel more often.   1) Keeps your heart healthy and keeps you in shape- and isn’t that what your doctor said was really really important. Travel promotes physical activity whether it’s rushing through the airport, walking the streets of a foreign land or climbing a distant mountain. Tourists may walk as many as 20,000 steps in Europe or even Disneyland . This sure does not happen when you are sitting at your office desk staring at the computer. 2) Keeps your mind sharp-Traveling allows your brain to expand and literally see the world in a new way. When you travel your brain is introduced to new experiences and environments, it becomes challenged and builds resilience at a cellular level, which has been proven to delay degenerative disease. Planning your itinerary and getting organized in an new place keeps your brain on overdrive,  like the rest of your body . So while your body is doing its 15,000 steps your brain is thanking you for keeping it active. 3) Relieves stress and improves mental health- Its a known fact that there is a boost in happiness even at the planning stage of a holiday. Having something to look forward to is quite rewarding. While you are on cloud nine during your vacation,the benefits of travel can be felt even after your return. That blissful feeling has a ripple effect every time you talk about an experience or even browse through your pictures. All this helps in lowering your stress levels and can be very beneficial in the long run.                                 I have listed only 3 health benefits of traveling often , but the list is endless. And that is why I have just one piece of advice to everyone …So travel often and … . PS – Ibn Battuta was a famous 14th century Muslim traveler who travelled for almost 29 years and covered almost 75,000 which is the equivalent of 44 modern countries. Near the end of his life, the King of Morocco insisted that he dictate the details of all his travels to a scholar and today we can read about al his amazing experiences.

Browsing the treasure trove that is Fortnum and Mason, London 

Visiting this luxurious food Mecca during the holidays is an experience that is hard to beat, especially for the foodies( I claim to be a quasi foodie if not a die hard foodie) . With row after row of delectable hampers, sweet treats , merrily wrapped gifts , glittering holiday decor, Christmas puddings, cookies , teas and coffees, bubblies and a whole lot more… it’s like Alice in Fortnum and Masonland!!!When in Piccadilly, plan on spending an afternoon here and then finish off with afternoon tea British style.

I have this strange fascination for teacups,saucers and tea pots even though I am a true coffee drinker. It was hard not to buy these beautifully packaged mugs and teas. I literally had to be pulled away from sneaking these into my shopping basket. I especially love crockery that does not say “Made in China”.These make perfect gifts…even though they may not taste that great. The Tiffany blue colors are visible everywhere… great contrast with the red carpet. Organic honey and jams from Duchess of Cromwell ..I’ll take a few just because they are so pretty.Twinkling and sparkling Nothing like fresh flowers to make me smile Liveried staff bring back memories from a British novel set in a bygone era Those beautiful staircases and balustrades Charming ornaments deck the many trees on every floor of the store If you can’t indulge your sweet tooth during the holidays, then when ?? Go ahead and buy a few of those toffees and fudge and English pudding.My love for linens makes me stop at every table setting … it’s like inspiration on every table Fortnum and Mason, since 1707.

Myriad of Maltese balconies 

On a recent fascinating trip to Malta, one thing stood out prominently.. the countless balconies, windows and doors.Such a staple part of the architectural landscape here, these actually date back to the mid 18th century and have a tremendous Arabic and Spanish influence. The Moroccan balconies called Muxrabija(look out place)may have had a significant role in these. The Maltese government has started an urban regeneration program and actually helps people financially who restore their  baconies … great incentive and an awesome way to keep their heritage alive.Kelly green was the most popular color for these balconies. Their vibrant color made them stand out against the limestone buildings.

The Maltese are extremely proud of their heritage and their doors and the door knockers reminds you of a bygone era.Trees,limestone and wood …what’s there not to love.Beauty in simplicity… white window shutters look stunning.Extensive details are seen on most houses, it’s like the Maltese love making first impressions… and they sure did!! How utterly charming.Even the dilapidated windows had an aura of history.Here, the newer houses are keeping up the tradition of the balconies.Bougaenvillas add that touch of romance to this entry.Eveb simple doors look amazing.That Kelly green againJust look at that scroll ironwork embedded in the limestone… stunning.

Wanderlust, life and a cup of coffee

How does a cup of coffee in a small Italian cafe sound? For me, that is the ultimate bliss. I have always enjoyed traveling …even as a child, I would love to go to new places and the lure of new discoveries was just something I would crave. Luckily, my Dad being a Brigadier General in the army meant moving every few years and I absolutely loved it… new place, new house, new school, new friends… That feeling of anticipation has stayed on and I feel the need to feed that ever so often. On my journey, I hope to write topics that I love and I look forward to begin this journey with you…