My office window

20120516-113404.jpg

I am blessed to see the world in a different angle, view and perspective.

The view outside my office window is awesome. It changes daily. It changes hourly. Hmm.. It may even change by the minute or by the second.

I have always loved my office window. It gives me a glimpse of what the world is like up there at 36 thousand feet during odd hours. Only a few are given a chance and fewer still are those who took the time to look out and appreciate what unique opportunity they have.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

20120505-212703.jpg

I’m currently in Geneve, Switzerland. 🙂

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A Journey to India: Delhi to Agra

Agra, the hometown of one of the world’s most recognized landmark of love; the Taj Mahal. Although the Taj Mahal is the most well known tourist spot in the city, Agra is also home to two other UNESCO World Heritage sites namely the Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.

In this particular visit to India, my friend Eunice and I have a tunnel vision. We came here on a mission and that is to meet a world wonder in the form of the Taj Mahal. We hopped on a plane to Delhi and hours later it was mission accomplished.

So, how does one exactly get to Agra?

OPTION 1: FLY

There are seasonal flights to Agra’s Kheria Airport (AGR) serviced by Kingfisher Airlines and Air India Regional taking the route Delhi-Agra-Jaipur and back. The flight time is a little under an hour each way. As of press time, this route is suspended due to the ongoing airport construction in Agra.

OPTION 2: TRAIN

Apparently, the most popular mode of travel to Agra is by train since it is on the main train line of India’s bigger cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. With this said, it is a convenient way for both tourists and locals to be able to visit Agra’s treasured jewels.

The train ride from Delhi to Agra takes about two hours and you can choose your level of convenience or budget. Visitors usually take the train from Bhopal Shatabdi Station which departs at 0615am and arrives in Agra at 0812. The express train is the fastest way to get to Agra and back. The roundtrip fare includes breakfast and dinner. The return trip leaves at 2030 and reaches Delhi just before midnight. Train fare is 755 INR or 15 USD in an A/C Exec Car Chair and AC Car Chair costs 390 INR or 8USD one way.

From Agra station, you can hire a car or a motorized rickshaw to take you to the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.

Honestly, I am quite hesitant in taking the train. I have this impression that their trains tend to be overcrowded, dirty and the smell might not be to my liking. Blame my ignorance brought about by lack of credible research and the movies, TV shows and photos I have seen. Despite the hesitation, I still tried to book a train ticket but the best thing I can find is a waitlisted ticket. We have a limited time in India and a waitlist ticket just won’t do. I found out soon enough that Indian trains are always full and gets sold out weeks in advance so it’s best to book it even before you get to India.

To know more about India’s train and railway system, you may read all about it at http://www.seat61.com/India.htm.

OPTION 3: DRIVE

Driving in India is definitely not for the faint hearted. Indian driving skill is a league of its own. The experience is like an “oh my God” moment. The roads are congested not with just cars, trucks, motorcycles and other motor vehicles but with human pulled rickshaws, bicycles, vendors, dogs, monkeys and cows. Yes, monkey and cows are everywhere! I think there are three extra special skills needed to get a drivers license in India:

  • Honking

Honking while driving is a MUST. Don’t ever forget to honk otherwise you might get into an accident. Apparently, the best way to let the other drivers to know that you are on the road otherwise they may think you’re invisible.

  • Create your own lane

It doesn’t matter if the roads are meant to be a single lane, an Indian driver is crafty he will make his own.

  • Dodge the cows

The cow is a revered animal and is often left alone to do as it please. They will cross the road when they want or even lay in the middle of the road. If and when they do this, you must navigate yourself around them, applying special skill number 2 once again or use skill number 1 to try to get the cow moving and out of your way.

If you think you have the balls, the guts or the three special skills above then by all means go ahead for a different kind of challenge and experience. Better yet, just do what we did. We hired a driver.

The drive to Delhi to Agra can take up to five hours depending on the traffic. I personally think that driving to Agra is the best way to go.

Yes, the travel time is longer than taking a plane or a train but you get to see more of Delhi and the towns you pass by. The drive might give you a better view of India and its people. You might see something interesting that is unique in India. The drive is somewhat an indirect immersion.

Yes, hiring a car and driver is more expensive than the train ride but think of comfort and convenience. Need I say more? I don’t mind splurging a little in the name of the two Cs.

However or in whatever way you decide to visit Agra and its treasured jewels, you are in for a treat and an experience to last you a lifetime. Travel with an open heart and an open mind. It is not always the destination that makes traveling worthwhile but the journey itself is what makes a trip even more special.

04.12.2012

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

A Journey to India

How many times have you planned and planned a trip and it never seems to push through? How many times have you been excited about a holiday and it gets canned the last minute? How many times have people backed out, got sick or got an emergency call days or hours just before you leave? I know you know what I’m talking about.

Now, how many times have you had legendary adventures springing out of spontaneity. It’s one of those times when you had a brilliant idea, everyone’s hyped up, adrenaline flowing and the next thing you know you are on your way somewhere. No time to plan, just plain eagerness. No time to pack, just picking up what’s in front of you. No time to second guess, just go with the flow. Spontaneous trips almost always are the best trips and always memorable. My trip to the Taj Mahal is one of them.

I have an itchy feet and I have a friend named Eunice who is a travel drunk (fancy name for kaladkarin). We share the same love for traveling and exploring that is why we are both in the profession of flying around the world in a ridiculously short span of time. This April we share a lot of common days off and we have decided to do something and go somewhere. Something and somewhere. Two vague words. Simply said, we don’t know what to do or where to go. Later on we defined our vagueness into two locations Petra, Jordan and Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Both known for their innate beauty and history. Eunice and I are keen on seeing the Wonders of the World. Eunice is in the lead with 5 visits to these Wonders of the World and I with a measly three!

Days before our common off starts, we are still undecided on where to go and we barely get a chance to talk. I was away in the UK attending a good friend’s wedding and her flying in and out of the hub. Probably a lot of people would’ve given up and think that there’s no way that this will push through BUT the call of travel in our bloods is overpowering us. Travel beckons and we heed its call. We just decided to meet each other on the day we land, sleep for a few hours and get cracking.

April 11

At 0800 hrs I landed after a week long merry making in the UK. Eunice landed after operating a 14 hour New York flight. We slept for a good 6 hours and I popped in her flat at 4pm. We have finally decided to pay a visit to the Taj Mahal. Main reason being is we get visa on arrival in India. (one of the very few countries to do so for Philippine passport holders!)

Visa on Arrival

Visa on Arrival

At this point we have about 3 hours to make it to our flight. ETD is at 2000 hrs. We did a little research to find out what’s the best way to get to Agra from Delhi. There are seasonal flights to Agra but unfortunately at the moment, flights have been suspended due to construction. Next best thing would be by train. We tried to book train tickets but unfortunately the only tickets being sold are waitlisted. That won’t do since we only have three days to spend in India. The only option for us is to hire a tour to take us from Delhi to Agra. With that being decided, next thing is to book a hotel which Eunice is such a pro at. It didn’t take her a long time to organize our hotel stay at City Park Airport Hotel. Last thing on the agenda is to book our plane tickets which is a breeze (airline crew perk!). We lost track of the time and when we glanced on the clock we missed the flight! We had to content ourselves by booking on the next available flight which leaves at 0410 the next day. It was a bummer but we manage to get ourselves together and reorganize everything. We told ourselves as soon as we land, we’ll look for a tour and go straight to Agra and back to Delhi by night and head back to the airport the next day. Another option for us is tour Delhi when we arrive then day after head to Agra and from Agra straight to the airport to go back to Dubai. It’s a bit hectic but we are still determined to go and make it happen. As we are about to book the tickets, Eunice gave me a smug smile and then told me we didn’t miss the flight. We just read the time wrong! Instead of 2000 departure it was in fact 2210! So, we made a mad dash to the airport.

April 12

Indira Gandi International Airport

Indira Gandi International Airport

We landed at 0200 hours in Indira Gandi International Airport in Delhi and head straight to the Visa on Arrival desk. The cost of the visa is 60USD and remember to bring a photocopy of your passport and photograph. It just so happened that I didn’t have any of those. I was breaking in cold sweat and scared that I might get deported and ruin the trip. Luckily, they let it slide. The just photocopied my passport and told me to bring those documents the next time I come back. Whew! Although there was just the two of us it took about an hour to get our visa done. I think the guys were hitting on us and we even got a marriage proposal right there! hahaha 

Indian visa

Indian visa

As soon as we were done with the visa, we changed our money to Indian rupees (INR) and booked for prepaid cab to take us to our hotel. The drive didn’t take long and we got to our hotel at 0400. Since our check in time is at 12nn and the hotel is not flexible in adjusting the time we were charged another day. We didn’t mind at all. All we want is to take a shower, a power nap and be ready for our tour which is in 2 hours time. We booked the tour at the hotel as soon as we arrive. The great thing about hotels is that they can organize almost everything for you at the last minute.

Our driver, Ginesh, came and picked us up at 0700 but was kind enough to wait for us to have a quick breakfast before we start our journey. He told us that the drive would be about four and a half hours each way. He was a quiet man. He didn’t talk much. I think that perhaps he’s the shy type or perhaps he’s not so confident with his English. In any case, we kinda prefer it that way. We need a lot of snoozing to do. I tried to stay awake to do a little bit of sightseeing but frankly speaking there’s really nothing much to see. Basically, what you see in the first few minutes of the ride would be more or less the same until you get to Agra. Cows, monster trucks, rickshaws, monkeys and people.. Lots and lots of people on the street. I zoned out the sights and sounds out and momentarily I was snoozing comfortably in the backseat. I just have to mention that Ginesh is a hardcore long distance driver. He only stopped once for a cup of tea and quick toilet break.

When we awoke, we were already in Agra. Along the way, we stopped momentarily to pick up our guide, Nunu. Born and raised in Agra and in the profession for 12 years, what more can you ask for? I am confident that he would be able to give us a tour worth our while and he definitely delivered.

I will not expound on my Taj Mahal experience, it deserves a separate post. So stay tuned. 🙂

Our Taj Mahal excursion lasted half a day and Nunu even managed to squeeze in a visit to a jeweler to show us some of the precious stones that was used to decorate the Taj Mahal. We also went to an artisan’s workshop (a descendant of one of the builders of the Taj Mahal) where we were educated on how the marbles were painstakingly decorated and how intricate these methods are. Obviously, there is a hidden agenda on this side tour. Apart from sharing the knowledge, it is a sly move to sell their products to tourists. It was both an amusing and enriching experience; a perfect way wrap up our Taj Mahal visit.

ItchyFeetCha and TravelDrunk Eunice

ItchyFeetCha and TravelDrunk Eunice

We left Agra before dusk with our mission accomplished. Another Wonder of the World ticked off our list. Our thirst for travel satisfied (for now). I cannot help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to the Almighty for this wonderful opportunity. I think I should rephrase my profile to, “ItchyFeetCha is one blessed girl given the chance to travel around the world.”

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

The Taj Mahal

20120412-231136.jpg

My fourth Wonder of the World 🙂

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments

36 Hours Mauritian Holiday

Mauritius. Moris. Maurice. An island nation located about 2000 km off the southeast coast of Africa and lies east of Madagascar. The only known home of the now extinct dodo bird.

I was psyched to find out that I am going to Mauritius, even better yet, I’ll be staying there for 36 hours! To understand my excitement, let me break it down. Normally my layovers only lasts a day thus the need to cram places to see, sites to visit and sacrifice sleep just to be able to go around. More importantly, I am a self confessed/proclaimed beach bum! To be able to visit a place as exotic and enchanting as Mauritius.. WOW! Times like this is when I have to say, I love my job. ♥

After about a 7 hour plane ride and about a twenty minute drive, Shandrani Resort and Spa is finally in sight. I seriously couldn’t wait to take off my uniform, wear my bikini, run towards the beach and bask under the sun. After checking in, I was then instructed to follow some instructions to get to my room. I was actually amused. It felt like a scavenger hunt. As I walked out of the reception area, I had to pass a restaurant, gardens and villas! The resort is massive! I was actually getting tired dragging my suitcase and not to mention my uniform is starting to stick to me, thanks to the perfect tropical weather. When I finally found my room, it was on the second level of what seemed like an apartment complex. With no lifts and no guys around to ask for help, I had to lug my suitcase and my cabin bag (which is actually heavier than my suitcase) in my high heels!

When I finally got to see my room, it was worth all that walking and lifting my luggage. Relaxation mode is so ON! I immediately explored my room and I love how it was designed. The bathroom was spacious and pristine. The bed was just the right size, there’s a lounge area and the best part of the room is the veranda. I quickly changed and hung in the veranda knowing I have at least half an hour before I meet everyone for lunch. As I sat there, I thought to myself, if I were to stay here at my own expense it would certainly cost me an arm and a leg.

Shandrani Hotel Resort and Spa

Shandrani Resort and Spa as I soon found out is one of the premiere accommodations in Mauritius. The hotel boasts that it is the first choice of holiday makers when it comes to an all inclusive luxury hotel. Located at the Southern Coast of Mauritius, situated on a private peninsula. Their concept Serenity Plus as they say is devised to give holiday makers the best value for money from the time they checked in til checked out. A major plus for this all inclusive hotel is that there are no more bills to pay. Almost everything is already covered by what you were quoted for. Almost everything, because there are several water activities that you actually pay for like kiteboarding and scuba diving.As for food (room service and restaurant dining), drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), mini bar, activities such as wakeboarding, water skiing, snorkelling, hobbie cat sailing, island hopping and other hotel amenities are already covered. So, how much exactly does the all inclusive Shandrani Hotel and Spa go for? Prices ranges from €224-€364 per person/ per night! It will definitely cost me both my arms and legs!

I consider myself blessed that I am able to go here and enjoy this posh hotel’s offerings free of charge. Of course, not being a “regular” hotel guests there is one thing that we don’t have free acc
ess to. TheOPEN BAR. But, the hotel was considerate enough, they gave us complimentary 4 cans of beer, 2 small bottles of red and white wine in our mini bar. Anything more than that, comes out of our pockets.
I met my crew for lunch aka the pig out session. The food is absolutely delectable with numerous dishes to choose from. I am particularly happy that they have a grill station and seafood station. For me, seafood and barbecue is a staple when I’m at the beach. After my gluttonous way, guilt kicks in and I want to burn some of the calories. In this particular trip, I was with another Filipina, Hannah. We decided to check the entire compound out and see what we want to do from there. We then discovered that are 3 beaches in the hotel. 2 are actually meant for swimming but the other one was highly treacherous because of the rocks and unfriendly waves. The beach actually reminds me of the many beaches in the Philippines particularly the ones in Batangas. White sand but quite pebbly so it’s best to walk with your flip flops or Aqua shoes rather than barefoot.
The shore is littered with sun bathers lying on the abundant sunbeds and on sarongs laid on the sand. I chose a sunbed and lay there for a while and when the sun gets too much for me, I ran straight to the water. The staff was so attentive. Knowing that under the blazing sun, guests might get dehydrated or suffer from heat exhaustion, they constantly check and offer water or drinks. They also offer ice cream! I think I had about three and infinite number of mocktails called Cinderella!
I need to get off my butt and burn the calories again. I saw a speed boat whizzing by pulling a water skier. Fun! I must do it! I tried wakeboarding and water skiing with my friends in Lago De Oro, Batangas but I never got the hang of it. I wasn’t able to stand. I just got dragged by the cables. I was feeling a little scared because I don’t want to embarass myself but then again I just simply have to do it. Well, what do you know, I found myself water skiing and loving every second of it.
After water skiing, Hannah and I tried almost all the water sport available: kayak, pedal boat and snorkelling. Snorkelling was a blast! We rode a glass bottom boat and the water was crystal clear we could see the fish and several corals underneath us. We got our one on one encounter with the fish when we fed them. They’re so big and agressive!  I was still enjoying snorkelling when our guide called us back because the current is getting stronger. We head back to the shore and I wanted to try another activity but it’s just too bad it got too windy so we never got to try Hobbie cat sailing. Next time then.
After all those activites, I was ravenous again! It’s still a good 2 hours before dinner time and I won’t last that long. I told myself, I’m on holiday, so just enjoy and worry about the weight later. I devoured perhaps one of the most delicious beef burgers in my life. I’m still drooling! 
As night time approaches, we gathered for dinner. I looked around the table to see my companions sun kissed as I am. Skin glowing, eyes bright and big smiles all around. We sat enjoying the food, a toast here and there. Here we are a bunch of strangers who met hours earlier tasked to transport passengers to this beautiful island paradise, enjoying a warm and intimate dinner as if we truly knew each other. As much as I have enjoyed Mauritius with my crew, it would have been a bliss if only my friends and loved ones were the ones with me. My strength starts to dwindle, I head back to my room. I lay in bed with a prayer of gratitude on my lips and a wish on my heart. Everything would have been perfect but just like that jaded postcard phrase, I utter, wish you were here!

itchyfeetcha

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Tasting Kolkata

Kolkata, formerly called Calcutta is the capital of West Bengal, culture capital of India and the commercial capital of Eastern India. It has a population of more than 15 million making it one of the most populous cities in India and in the world.

As my plane touches down and the long drive to the hotel commenced, I did what I always do: observe. This has always been a habit of mine. I love sitting next to the window so I could see my surroundings and get a general feel of the place where I am at. One word would sum up my first impression of Kolkata, poverty.
I actually have no plans on what I’ll do in my 24 hour stay in Calcutta but I am not one who will just stay in my room and do nothing. I was contemplating revisiting Victoria Memorial or visit Mother Teresa’s house and orphanage. Luckily, I was spared from further indecisiveness when three of my Indian colleagues (Olinda, Tabs and Kushboo ) invited me to go with them and try authentic Bengali cuisine. After all, what a great way to learn about the place and it’s people but thru their food.
We hopped on an ancient looking yellow cab and my journey to Kolkata begins. Sitting next to the window, I take in the sights and

the smell of the city. As we drive along (or at least try to), Kolkata is so congested that the traffic is a nightmare. The roads were narrow and it seems like there are no road rules. Vehicles just move where ever they please or space to move into. Their driving is crazy! Everyone is like a speed demon each time they are able to move and they slam into the brakes each time they have to stop. Five minutes into the drive and I already have a headache! To make matters worst, part of their driving skill is to honk constantly! We had to ask the cab driver a million of times to take it easy on the car horn.
I decided to take advantage of the traffic jam to have a closer look of Kolkata’s streets and what caught my attention are the sidewalks. Normally, a sidewalk is for pedestrians to pass by or walk thru. In here, sidewalks mean everything to them. I mean, it’s their home, barber shop, restaurant and even their toilets! It’s not unusual for me to see sidewalks with people living on it or shops since I have seen it in my own country but what really shocked me is to see adults taking a bath in the sidewalk or doing a number two for the whole world to see. Sad really. I felt the overwhelming poverty in this city.
Kolkata is not entirely poor. In reality, there are two worlds that exists here: affluence and poverty. This is the city where the priviledged and the less fortunate live side by side. I mean in the same street you would see a mansion and next to it a shanty. I have gotten used to the idea that the priviledged and the less fortunate live separately, each with their own territory.But here, the line separating seemed blurred or non existent at all.
We have been on the road for a good half an hour when we our driver finally confessed that he does not exactly know where we are going so we had to settle with getting dropped off at a nearby landmark close to the restaurant. I didn’t mind at all. I honestly couldn’t wait to get off the cab and get some air. I think I endured enough: 30 minutes inside an ancient rusty cab with no airconditioning on a hot dry day in Calcutta.
It took us quite a while before we found the restaurant. We walked alley after alley until we saw the sign in a remote side street.The sign read Kewpie’s: Purveyors of Authentic Bengali Cuisine. The restaurant is an actual house doubled up as a food outlet thus giving it a homey feel to it.Kewpies
Kewpies is one of the most famous restaurants in Kolkata. Locals and tourists alike rave about the great food the restaurant has to offer after all the owners wife, the original chef is an accomplished cook book writer. That should say something about the food at the very least. The restaurant is so famous that a reservation is necessary, which we didn’t have but we were fortunate enough to be accommodated.
I scan the menu and soon found out that I am very unfamiliar with their dishes. It’s quite worrisome but then again I am up for a culinary adventure. My only concern is that I cannot handle anything too spicy. I have a weak stomach when it comes to that. I was then reassured that Bengali cuisine isn’t spicy in comparison to the other areas in India. I was at the mercy of my three Indian colleagues since they would have to order for me.
The first thing I was made to try is a drink called aamras. It is made from the pulp of the mango mixed with ghee, milk, sugar and spices such as cardamom powder, chat masala and grounded cumin seed. It doesn’t taste bad at all but I must say it’s not something I would order for myself.

aamras

aamras

My companions ordered mitchus maacher thala a traditional Bengalithali (platter) for me. The platter includes rice, chappatti, dahl, potatoes, fried eggplant, cauliflower, mocha (steamed banana blossom), fried fish, jumbo prawn in curry and the sweet ending, sondesh. I was sure I wrote down the local names of these dishes but as usual the absent minded me seem to have misplaced it.thali
The food slowly comes one at a time and each dish is serve in small earthen bowls. The main plate is a typical Bengali style, covered in banana leaf. As for the cuttlery, there is none, we eat with our hands!
The food is amazing and I absolutely enjoyed each dish. It was quite different from all the Indian food I’ve tasted. The spices are not overwhelming and I love the fact that it doesn’t  have any heat at all  unless you want it to. There are chilies scattered in the table though. The platter compliment each small dish and you just can’t stop eating until you finish everything.  I just made a one big mistake, I took my eyes off on what I was eating and accidentally popped a chili in my mouth. I burned instantly and it felt like there was a hole it my stomach! Lesson learned, look before you eat.
We left Kewpies on a very full stomach and decided to wander about the area to burn some of the calories off. As we were walking about, I saw something fascinating, something that I only saw in old movies and history books. I saw a human pulled rickshaw. As history tells it, the rickshaw came from Asia. A human pulled cart used as mode of transport used by the elite. There are only few places where rickshaws can be found mainly out of concern for the rickshaw workers. Personally, I think rickshaws are inhuman and degrading. It makes me sad to know that there are still people who have no choice but to have this job and most of them are rather frail and old already.

Rickshaw

The scene was quite depressing and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Olinda, Tabs and Kushboo then decided that perhaps a visit to a local saree shop was in order. It might be able to lift my dampen mood when I see colorful cloths and intricate designs on what they consider a national dress. I was eager to agree after all, I might be wearing one sometime this year when my friend Chetna gets married.
The word sari or saree is derived from Sanskrit which means “a strip of cloth” which is exactly that. Commonly wrapped around the waist and draped around the shoulder, underneath it is a choliwhich can be a tube top, haltered, short sleeved or whatever the wearer fancies.
The shop was packed with ladies busy choosing colors, materials and designs. It’s just universal, most girls love shopping and the ladies here are no different. This small shop is filled with every color you can imagine and the men are showing everything they got and sweet talking the ladies to buy. It was quite amusing really. One man noticed that I was the only foreigner in the shop asked me if I would like to try one. He even said, “Just try, no need to buy.” I accepted, after all I’m only going to try. Also, I’m very curious as to what I will look like wearing a sari.

itchyfeetcha in a sari

itchyfeetcha in a sari

Cloth after cloth, material after material and designs after designs were shown to us and it’s no wonder that we were in the shop for almost an hour and half already. One of the best things in Kolkata is their hospitality towards their guests. I mean even in this small saree shop they do not disregard the fact that you are a possible client and they ensure you are comfortable in whatever way you can. They bring you refreshments your choice (softdrinks, water, tea or coffee).

masala chai

masala chai

Actually, they brought me this quite unusual tea, they call it masala chai. The color of the tea looks like runny mud and served in a disposable earthen cup. I remember I saw this tea being featured in Discovery Channel and the host didn’t exactly like the tea. I took a whiff and it smells fine to me and decided that anything that doesn’t smell bad shouldn’t taste bad either. My first sip and it tasted like mud. Perhaps, it’s the earthen cup that brought that flavor or the muddy color. I sipped again, it’s not that bad. By the last gulp, I actually enjoyed it.
As my three companions finalized their purchase and as we head out the door, the owner of the saree shop offered us one last thing, paan.It is actually a betle leaf chew meant to be a breath freshener but more importantly it is a sign of hospitality towards guests and visitors. I was deeply touched by his gesture and we thanked him as we left. The three girls were debating amongst themselves if I would like thepaan and all of them agreed that I wouldn’t. But my curiosity was too strong for my own good, I tried it. I almost hurled. I spat it out as soon as I tasted the overwheming mintiness. The taste was so intense that I felt dizzy instantly. The girls said in a chorus, “We told you so!”

paan

Paan

PS
On the way back to Dubai, I had haute couture designer ELIE SAAB. 🙂
Eliee Saab and itchyfeetcha
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Coloseo

Coloseo
I have saved the most visited spot in Rome for last, the Colosseo; impossible to miss and captivating. A thing of beauty yet at the same time a mask of horror in its heyday. It is a known fact that this amphitheatre is a venue of bloodshed and brutality. It is a place where someone’s life ended for another’s entertainment.

Originally named the Flavian Amphitheatre after the Flavian Dynasty, the era in which it was built. It is considered as one of Rome’s most ancient buildings and perhaps the greatest example of Roman architecture and engineering. It can accommodate about 50,000 spectators and the seats were perfectly inclined to enable the people to get the perfect view wherever they sat. This megalithic amphitheater took 10 years to build and upon its completion, a lavish opening ceremony was held which lasted for 100 days. On the inauguration, the arena was filled with water to reproduce one of the most fantastic events called naumachias – real sea battles. During the 100 day celebration, the Romans were treated to great gladiatorial fights (munera), shows and animal hunts (venationes). Historians estimate that about 5000 animals were slaughtered for the occasion. The games inside the Colosseo continued for four and a half centuries.inside the Coloseo

What we see now is actually just a skeleton of what the greatest arena in the world used to be but even in its ruined state, it stands in full grandeur. I can only imagine how awesome it must have been before – all white, made out of marble, completely covered in travertine stone slabs and huge statues decorated the arches. As the Empire declined, the Colosseo was abandoned. In the Middle Ages, with the popes orders, it was ransacked and its marble, lead and iron were harvested to use as materials to build the Barberini Palace, Piazza Venezia and St. Peter’s Basilica.
Coloseo
The first time I saw the Coloseo, it took my breath away and it still does. It’s like meeting a superstar and getting starstruck. Brain stops functioning, speech fails you and you’re just standing there deliriously happy. Don’t wonder why my Coloseo article is short. I tried my hardest to write more but.. FAIL!
As the sun sets, marking the end of my journey. I leave Rome with nothing but great memories that would last a lifetime and a hopeful heart that I would find myself back in the Eternal City.
P.S
Of all the world’s well-known and magnificent landmarks, the Colosseo tops my list followed by the Pyramids in Gizah, Egypt.  One down, one to go and then I can die happy. 🙂
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Roaming Rome 2

I certainly had a good night sleep from all the walking I did yesterday and ready to walk some more today. I decided to have breakfast in one of the many cafes at the city center; the starting point of today’s itinerary.
Campidoglio or Capitoline Hill is one of the seven hills in Rome and this is the citadel of ancient Rome. The Hill and the Temple of Jupiter in it represents Rome’s power as they call it then caput mundi (capital of the world).
Going up, one has to go through cordonata; a broad flight of stairs adorned with statues of an Egyptian lion at the base and on top,Castor and Pollux. This leads you up to Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michelagelo. The piazza is home to two museums Palazzo Nuovo, which is the oldest public museum in the world and Palazzo dei Consevatori. In the heart of the piazza is the Palazzo Senatorio which is still being used today to hold Rome’s city council meetings.
Il VittorioJust beside the Campidoglio is the Il Vittorio, a monument to honor Victor Emanuele, the first king of a unified Italy. Built out of pure white marble featuring a grand staircase, Corinthian columns, fountain, a statue of Vittorio Emanuele and two statues of the goddess Victoria. The construction of the monument created a lot of controversy since building it means destroying a large portion of the Capitoline Hill. This led to several irreverent nicknames such as: the wedding cake, false teeth and typewriter. Today, the Il Vittorio also stands as a memorial for an unknown soldier of World War I.
From the Capitoline Hill and Il Vittorio, walk a bit further and here the Foro Romano (Roman Forum) appear in your very eyes. The Roman forums is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. The Romans called it Foro for the central square of urban settlement. In those days it is here where the crowds would gather to hear meetings done by the orators, witness criminal trials, discuss politics, latest military campaigns or simply chat with each other most likely about the gladiatorial games or races; activities which the Romans are particularly fond of.
In here, the ruins of ancient Rome come to life and instantly my mind wanders how spectacular it must have been. The Roman forum is a vast area of temples, basilicas and arches all in ruins. It took me a good two hours to roam around the Foro and just marveled at the history that is in front of me. There is an admission charge for the Foro but it will also cover for the Colosso and Palatino. The entrance starts at the Arch of Septimus Severus and ends near the Arch of Titus. As I approached the latter, I can see the monumental Colosseo beckoning me to visit her again but there is just one more place I have to see, the Palatino or the Palatine Hill is the centermost of Rome’s seven hills and is one of the most ancient areas in Rome. In mythology, Palatine Hill is the location where Romulus and Remus has been adopted and raised by a she-wolf. According to the mythology, “Rome” got its name from Romulus.
Palatine Hill became a fashionable place to live during Rome’s republican era because of the magnificent view it offers. It stands about 70 meters (230ft) above the city. The ruins found in here are gardens and houses belonging once to Augustus, Cicero, Marc Antony and other Roman emperors. According to Roman history, once upon a time, the entire hill was covered with imperial palaces. If I could turn back time, I would have loved to be here.
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Roaming Rome 1

I head on to my next destination, which is about 20 minutes walk from the Vatican. The Spanish steps is a 200 year old, 12 flights of steep stairs located in between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Trinita dei Monti on top. It has been said that this is the longest and widest staircase in Europe. Designed by Francesco de Sanctis in 1717, the steps follows a butterfly plan and is described as a daring architectural feat then. Its ramps and stairs, intersect and open out like a fan connecting the Piazza and the Trinita Church. The Spanish steps is in its full beauty in spring, where the stairs is literally covered in flowers.

Fountain of the Old Boat Man

At the foot of the stairs is yet another renowned fountain in the city, the Fontana della Barraccia (Fountain of the Old Boat Man). Created by Pietro Bernini, the father of the more famous artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The Piazza is also famous for its high end shops. If you are looking for brands then this is definitely the place for you. A little tip, one of the best times to shop in Rome is the first week of January where almost everything is on saldi (sale) even the branded ones.

A leisurely 15 minute walk would take you to another of world renowned site, the Fontana de Trevi(Trevi Fountain) may perhaps be the most famous fountain in the whole of Rome. It has been featured in numerous films, particularly in romantic ones. The most memorable one may be La Dolce Vita.

Just like all the other fountains in the city, the Trevi Fountain is intricately and artistically done. The center of the fountain depicts the Neptune, the Roman god of the sea. He is seen riding a shell chariot pulled by two sea horses each guided by a Triton. The sea horse are in contrast of each other, one is calm and the other restive. This is to represent the ever changing mood of the sea. On Neptune’s left is a statue representing Abundance who spills water from her urn and on his right is Salubrityholding a cup from which a snake drinks. The fountain is captivating no matter what time of day. You have to visit the fountain and see it both in the morning and night.

Trevi Fountain

There is a belief that if you make a wish and threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, it ensures your return to Rome. Nobody knew who started and how it started but it has become a practice and now there is even a right way to throw the coin. The current trend is to throw three coins with your right hand over to your left shoulder and your back to the fountain. The Trevi Fountain is so famous that it makes about 3,000 euros each day which is used to subsidize a supermarket for the less fortunate Romans. Fishing coins out of the fountain is a crime that is why the police are keeping a close eye of the fountain.

Trevi Fountain at night

After ensuring my future return to Rome special thanks to the Trevi Fountain, I now head to the last stop of my day which is the Pantheon. From the Greek word pan which means all gods and theoismeaning shrine. Therefore, the Pantheon basically means a shrine of all gods. I personally think that the Pantheon is interestingly ironic. The irony brought about its evolution from a place of worship to all gods and then to just one God. In brief, the Pantheon was built in 27 BC, destroyed by fire in 80 AD, partially rebuilt in 125 AD by Emperor Hadrian and in 609 AD the once pagan temple was converted into a Catholic Church. Converted as it is now, signs and symbols honoring Rome’s ancient gods are still visible inside it.
The Pantheon is another example of the majestic feat of Roman architecture. 2000 years after it has been built, it is one of the best preserved buildings in Rome and its dome is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. Standing about 43 meters tall, with 24 massive marble columns weighing about 50 tons each and an enormous bronze door awaiting to welcome you in. Stepping inside, one cannot help notice the occulus, the large opening in the dome. This is the Pantheons only source of light.

Occulus

 The Pantheon is not only a church but also serves as a tomb of the great painter Rafael and three Italian royalties; Vittorio Emanuelle II, Umberto I and his queen Margherita.

Pantheon

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.