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Here is a confession. I love flying . I love dreaming about the destination that am heading to , getting pampered, binging on food, sipping drinks and most important – watching movies . If it’s a long flight I catch up on at least three films , do some reading and walk in the corridor, chat with the air hostess about her travels and binge on the snacks that she offers . And that is exactly what I did recently on a Bangalore to Hong Kong flight.
But the most exciting part of flying is dreaming . If am flying in the day I watch the clouds drift past me and wonder where they are taking me . If it is the night I am usually lost in my dreams. For someone who is constantly on the move, running around airports and exploring different destinations, flying is like a bit of pause in my schedule. It is when I switch off from work. I empty my thoughts and let my mind wander. I sometimes do a mental journal of my travels but I usually I just allow myself to vegetate and float around like the clouds.
And that is what I experienced on my Cathay Dragon flights, which is the premium full serviced regional airline from Cathay Pacific . I was flying on a Bangalore to Hong Kong flight.  The Hong Kong Cathay Dragon flight was short and sweet and it was so comfortable that I barely even realized that I was in Hong Kong . Sometimes a flight to Delhi from Bangalore would feel longer . But I just reached Hong Kong in a jiffy. And that is probably why Cathay Pacific is one of the best airlines to fly you to Hong Kong and even better to the rest of the world.
 I have flown Cathay Dragon a couple of  times to Hong Kong and Cathay Pacific Airlines to USA . And yet I have always been pampered on the flight , even though they were personal experiences .This time however I was on a work trip to Hong Kong on invitation from the airline . I was heading to Japan on a holiday and it was such a seamless experience flying from Hong Kong to Tokyo (Narita) and from Osaka to Hong Kong.
 I often wonder how people spend their time on flights , especially if it is around four to five hours. On my Bangalore to Hong Kong flight, I was privileged to board early even though I was only travelling economy. This service is however only available to wheelchair bound passengers or for parents with toddlers.  Sipping on a glass of white wine I was so wired that I decided to watch a movie – The Shape of Water , a love story between a mortal and a (perceived)monster and one that questions if humans are monsters sometimes . A little morbid for a quick late night flight but I managed to have a tasty vegetarian meal before getting some shut eye . If you are interested in planning which movie to watch, you can even check before you start travelling as the entire inflight entertainment menu is available online here. I was however keen on watching this film which won the Oscars this year.  I only woke up to a cup of tea and a light breakfast as the hazy lights of Hong Kong’s skyline appeared from my window . Before I knew it , I was already in Hong Kong airport after a pleasant immigration taking the Airport Express to Kowloon .

Pic Courtesy – Cathay Pacific Airways

The Cathay Pacific flights are your magic carpet to Hong Kong. With several connections from India, it flies from different cities and the timing is just perfect. In fact both Cathay Pacific Airways and Cathay Dragon operate 48 flights a week from India to Hong Kong and there are daily flights from Bangalore to Hong Kong as well. You are in Hong Kong in the morning, ready to explore the city. Perfect way to kickstart the day after a short, relaxing flight.
Three days later I was back at the Hong Kong airport waiting to board the flight to Tokyo . This time I took an airport shuttle bus from my hotel in downtown Kowloon and landed within minutes at the airport . The sun was glowing as I took the morning flight to the land of the rising sun . Tokyo was my destination . Tokyo is barely five hours from Hong Kong and it’s a perfect connection if you are looking at travelling to Japan from India. I took a comfortable morning flight from Hong Kong which is ideal if you are transiting too. You are in Tokyo by evening . You could either connect to Narita in Tokyo or Kansai in Osaka, from where I returned to India.
As the Hong Kong skyline faded out of sight and the blues of the ocean merged with the blues of the sky , I spent my time dreaming about Japan while I was pampered by the staff . Drinks flowed in followed by a simple vegetarian lunch but this time I did not watch movies . I chatted with the air hostesses from Thailand and Hong Kong on their travel schedules and read a bit about Tokyo and planned my itinerary.  Within five hours I had landed in Narita which is a city by itself and takes an hour to head to downtown . But airport trains were so super fast that I was already in down town Shinjuku, a bustling suburb of Tokyo  in just an hour and was all  set to explore the city . However it was wet and cold when we landed late evening as we walked around literally soaking in the flavors of the city.
A week later I was back in the airport this time in Osaka as we hurriedly took an airport shuttle bus from downtown to the airport. It was such a smooth and continuous experience – perfect timing and a transit with enough time to explore and shop in Hong Kong airport before heading back to catch my return flight to Bangalore.
The Japan flights were very convenient – perfect time to enter and exit the cities and the duration was also just about five hours and it does not tire you at all . The thumb rule is that all Cathay flights from India land in Hong Kong by 940 am and the transit is not too much of a wait either.  I was also surprised to get hot Indian vegetarian food in some of the sectors and it was, unlike more airline food not insipid or overcooked.
I could even use electronic devices on board. The flights also gave me sufficient time to just relax and unwind and recall some of the best moments of the trip. A perfect way to end a perfect trip. The very ethos and the essence of Cathay Pacific Airways is the travel  experience as they believe travelling well is part of living well and they strive to ensure that every passenger takes home more than just an album of memories. And the first step begins with a comfortable, pleasant flight.
How do you spend your time in a flight ?
This post is written in collaboration with Cathay Pacific Airways who hosted me on the Bangalore-Hong Kong-Tokyo-Osaka-Hong Kong -Bangalore sectors. There are several offers available and you can avail them here.
Pictures Courtesy – Cathay Pacific Airways

The post Flying Cathay Pacific from Bangalore-Hong Kong-Tokyo-Bangalore appeared first on Lakshmi Sharath.

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Travel and sports are an amazing combination. There are several destinations worldwide which are becoming favourite arenas for sporting activities. The Olympics is what comes to everyone’s minds as destination vie to hold the prestigious event. But then, every sport draws crowds to various cities, be it cricket, tennis, football,  From Barcelona to Melbourne, I have done tours of football and cricket stadiums as well. One of my dreams is to watch Wimbledon in Wimbledon. There are Formula one destinations that beckon those who love races. But right now it is football fever that has seized all of Europe as the UEFA (Union of European Football Association) Champions League Semi finals are around the corner.  The cities that will be playing host to the matches include Madrid in Spain, Munich in Germany, Rome in Italy and Liverpool in the UK. The grand finale will be in Kyiv, Ukraine, a city that is on my bucket list.

It’s a great time to hit to these cities to catch some sporting action and also to lose yourself in the tourist attractions. You could even catch a flamenco dance in Madrid and head to a beer garden in Munich in between the games. So book your tickets right now to the cities of your choice and get ready for the adrenalin rush. If you cannot make up my mind where you would like to head to, here is a list of the top attractions of cities that are going to hold the UEFA champions league.

Rome

Pic Courtesy – By Viacheslav Lopatin, Shutterstock

Think Rome and you think of gladiators. The Colosseum which is one of the earliest sporting arenas, where public spectacles were held is an iconic symbol of Rome. Built over 2000 years ago, this is where brave gladiators fought each other while animal hunts, mock sea battles were held to entertain over 65,000 people. But there is also a connection to Good Friday where the Pope leads a massive procession in this massive amphitheatre. While it has withstood the onslaught of several battles over the years, it has however been affected by earthquakes over a period of time. Nevertheless it still echoes with cries and screams as triumph and failures have resulted in life and death here.

There are so many archaeological tours in Rome that take you to museums and monuments where you can see the ruins of the erstwhile great empire that had conquered the world at one time. I would also recommend that you spend an extra day and head to the Vatican City and explore the museums besides heading to the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica. The second leg of the first semi-final takes place in Rome between Liverpool FC and AS Roma on 3 rd May.

Munich

The first leg of the second semi-final between the biggies – Bayern Munich and Real Madrid takes place here on 25 th April! Munich has so much to offer for every tourist from sporting arenas to old towns to palaces, cathedrals, beer gardens and breweries. The passion for football runs in the veins of the Bavarians as you meet ardent fans of team FC Bayern. Get to the Allianz Arena and get a stadium tour and enter the locker rooms and listen to the stories. There is another legendary stadium – which housed the Olympics in 1972 and now the Olympic Park is a destination by itself.

However for me Bavaria is all about the old world charm and walking around Marienplatz and Odeonplatz is an experience by itself. The stories come alive in monuments as even puppets perform in monuments. Head to the Neues Rathas or the New Hall in Marienplatz at noon and stand in front of Rathaus Glockenspeil . 43 bells will begin to chime as 32 life sized puppets start to dance and perform for you.

Madrid

The Spanish capital is full of vibrancy and energy. From flamenco dancers to matadors fighting bulls, there is so much of action and passion here. And you cannot miss the Real Madrid Bernabéu Stadium tour. Madrid hosts second leg of the second semi final between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich on 2nd May!

Pic Courtesu yangyuen, shutterstock

However Madrid is also a city of art and museums, history and palaces. If you want to lose yourself in the old world charm then head to the old squares – Plaza Mayor where red brick buildings greet you. The oldest square is the Plaza de la Villa where you can soak in the atmosphere. Stop by any of the pavement cafes or the tapas bars as you continue walking around Plaza de la Paja.

Liverpool

Pic Courtesy – Gordon Bell, Shutterstock

The land of the Beatles, Liverpool is bustling with football fever as well with fans of Liverpool FC rooting for them. Anfield is the football stadium here that can house 45000 spectators. The city hosts the first leg of the semi-final between Liverpool FC and AS Romaon 24th April. The ancient port town however has several attractions making it a UNESCO World Heritage Maritime Mercantile City. But first, immerse yourself in The Beatles Story, an exhibition dedicated to the life of the Fab Four and head to The Cavern Club. Walk around and lose yourself in the lively and vibrant atmosphere of Albert’s Dock where the old dockyard and warehouses still remain. The Maritime Mercantile City includes the Pier Head as well. Some of the other cultural attractions include the Gothic styled Liverpool Cathedral while there are several museums and concert halls.

Kiev or Kyiv

Pic Courtesy – Olgysha, Shutterstock

The finals of the adrenalin pumping UEFA Championships will be held in Kyiv, in Ukraine on the 27th of May, one of the most historic, cultural and sporting destinations, It has been on my bucketlist for a while and I hope to explore some of the iconic sights in the town. Museums and markets fill the city along with theatres, cathedrals, an opera house and a concert hall. Do not miss the Besarabsky Market located right in the heart of the city where the local seasonal produce is sold. Parks and gardens are found everywhere giving it a lush cover. But there are a lot of sacred sites including the Kiev Perchersk Lavra or the Monastery of Caves and Saint Sophia Cathedral, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

As you plan your travels this summer, ensure that you are in one or all these cities for the sporting event. If I had to pick a choice, it would be Kyiv. International travels are today are made possible today with forex cards where you can travel anywhere with one card. It’s safer, less cumbersome and you can access any currency you want anywhere. One of the biggest advantages is that you can manage your card safely than cash, especially when you are travelling in crowded events like the UEFA Championships.

Pic Courtesy – SPF, Shutterstock

If you are planning to head to Europe then your ticket to UEFA Champions League Final is the Axis Bank Forex Card. Axis Bank has tied up with Mastercard and there is an exciting offer for travel and sports enthusiasts. If you are an Axis Bank Forex Card customer, then you stand a chance to be at Kyiv for the finals courtesy Mastercard. There is an all expenses paid trip for a couple to watch the UEFA Champions League Final and you also get an Axis Bank ForexCard with $250 loaded in it for you to spend. You will also get of 300 UEFA Champions League Merchandise with your Axix Bank Forex Card and do not miss this opportunity.

This post is written in collaboration with Axis Bank Forex Card and Mastercard.

The post Travel to Europe to catch the UEFA sporting action appeared first on Lakshmi Sharath.

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I woke up in the 30th floor of a five star property in Singapore. I could see the sea from my window. As I gazed at it with awe, I was summoned to the lobby immediately as we had to rush to the airport to catch the flight to Australia.It was my first time abroad but it had not yet sunk in. It was also the first time I had flown in an aircraft and I was on transit.  I had landed in Singapore in the wee hours of the morning and had just fallen asleep. When I woke up, I was lost in the blues of the ocean . Mesmerised, it took me a while to realize that I was on the 30 the floor. For a 21 year old, who had never been to Mumbai or Delhi, whose travels had only been limited to the Southern States, whose idea of a big city was Chennai and a tourist destination was Ooty  – seeing the vast open expanse of oceans from the 30th floor of a luxury hotel in an international destination which I had only heard about, was more than just an experience. I wanted to call my parents and explain to them how I felt. I wanted to speak to my eight year old brother.  I wanted to just jump in joy and share my excitement and describe my travel experience. But I had to wait a month for the same.

We talk about travel all the time and so let us do some time travel. We are not travelling to the Middle Ages, but just rewinding the clock a bit to an era, where one actually feels that you are in the medieval times.I am just on a nostalgia trail, recollecting my first ever international jaunt and my travel experience to a slew of countries – Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia for about 28 days

Back in Singapore, I was a wide eyed, naive and raw traveller. I wanted to log every moment of the trip. But I did not have a camera to record my memories. I did not have a mobile either. No facebook or instagram to announce my presence or whatsapp to speak to my family and friends. There was no google to give me any information or show me photographs. Wait. There was no internet, no wifi, no network – no one knew what those words meant.  To me, this was my first tryst with a unknown destination and I was alone with myself and my thoughts.

Sometimes i wonder if this was the real journey. The mind is open to new cultures and people, to novel experiences without any preconceived notions. Every conversation, every encounter is special. There is a childlike innocence when you travel. A fresh perspective, an open mindedness, and a natural sense of awe that one experiences. It is an uninterrupted special bond between you and the destination. After twenty countries and several jaunts, I wonder if I could head to a country today without reading about it or even seeing any images about it and without any cameras or phones. Technology has taken travellers to different realms and yet I wonder if it is just a crutch. Has it taken away the fresh flush of travel, the naive excitement, the raw flavour and killed the eurekha moment ?

I did two trips with my late grandfather, who was a renowned coffee planter  and they were both study tours on coffee. While the first was to Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia, the second was even more exotic – to Brazil, San Salvador and Costa Rica. They were not solo trips and yet it felt like one as I was always on my own. In New Zealand I  went boating alone in a little lake near Auckland. In Malaysia I took off on a water scooter with a stranger for about 30 minutes. Every moment of my travel experience was much more pronounced than before and I lived in that moment. And every experience seemed much more real and was novel as I had not seen or read about it before. Feeding a kangaroo in a national park near Adelaide and cuddling a koala,  sipping wine at a chateau in Barossa Valley, yelling at the Whispering Wall to see if someone could hear me on the other side, touring the Melbourne Cricket Club, watching in awe at sky trains, losing myself in the many lanes. I remember being in tears when the fireworks swept the sky on Australia Day as I wondered why we did not celebrate our own Republic Day with such elan. And every bit of my travel experience felt real, something that you feel deep within you.

How different would these experiences be today ? Perhaps not very different and yet there is something special about a first time. Nothing prepares you for it. You probably have an itinerary on paper and you let your imagination take over. Today, you however have media in every form being bombarded in front of you. When I saw the statue of Jesus with his arms spread out near Rio, I felt an inexplicable sense of awe. I was glad in retrospect that I had not met the internet then.

I do not have too many photographs but every memory is captured in my mind’s eye.  That is when I realized how travel can open your minds to other cultures, in its raw and naked form. Many memories stay in my mind. I did keep a journal but this journey kick started in me a new habit. I sent a post card to my parents from every destination. In New Zealand I also discovered a Madras Street and went ballistic and sent a postcard to my parents.To me these postcards are my souvenirs of memories, snippets from my journal and precious fossils of an era before internet.I try and send a post card to myself from every destination even today.

As a world traveller travel I have always believed is about conversations than just sights and sounds. People make places for me. In New Zealand I met a Maori in a train and we shared stories. In Brazil I chatted with samba performers and tried the Caipirinha. I did not have a Facebook to keep in touch with them but the conversations made the journeys priceless. Travel to me is all about serendipity and in my old jaunts, every moment was serendipitous. And I had several of these moments  as I continued travelling down the ages. Cab drivers, guides, waiters, co passengers in a train – every one had a story to share. And even as I knocked off more countries as a traveller, I wondered if i have evolved as a traveller ?

Today I see a destination through a lens, my mind is more familiar with the experiences, my phone has replaced me as my favourite travel companion, my facebook and instagram has more pictures of me than people and places and I have already beefed up my brain with lots of information about the destinations. But imagine the era before internet, before technology invaded our lives – we were more mindful, we observed and listened more, we made more friends, we learnt more from conversations, we saw, touched and felt more than just with our fingertips. Our minds were more vulnerable even as the child in us was always awake, waiting to lap every experience and absorb every moment !

I think we were true travellers in the sense of the word. Would you love to time travel with me to such an era ?

The post Time travel to a world without internet or phones appeared first on Lakshmi Sharath.

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It almost felt like a holiday . I had not been to Delhi in over a decade and I had always been there only on transit. And so when I got an opportunity to visit Delhi on work and was hosted by the Accor Hotels at Aerocity, I jumped at the opportunity. There are over a score of hotels in Aerocity which is spread over 40,000 square feet. While these are not not just airport hotels, the entire area is becoming one of the hot spots in Delhi with bustling events and shows. I was on a hotel hopping spree, spending a couple of nights at IBIS New Delhi Aerocity and then at Novotel New Delhi Aerocity and finally at Pullman New Delhi Aerocity. Accor Hotels apparently has the largest inventory of rooms in Aerocity alone, with 445 rooms in Ibis and a combined lot of 670 keys in Pullman and Novotel.

IBIS New Delhi Aerocity

We were picked up by the IBIS staff and in barely ten minutes I was inside IBIS. Despite the close proximity of the airport, the hotel was an oasis of silence as I sipped ginger tea, in the gazebo and basked in the sunshine for a while. The highlight of my stay in IBIS was my room – English Vintage which was designed by Neha, an employee of the hotel. It had a Victorian flavour about it – from the colours to the decor. Delicate touches like an antique mirror, an old clock, a kettle and  a poster of the vintage car on the walls added to the charm. Painted in hues of blue, lavender and purple, I loved the lace that decorated the walls.

The My Room Concept is one of the most unique experiences – it not only bonds the employees of a hotel with the guests, but it also brings their dreams true. I met Neha over coffee and we discussed her dreams and desires and how she would like to visit UK sometime. There are many more rooms designed under My Rooms, one even themed on Bollywood.

Read more – English Vintage or Chateau Lille – where would you like to stay ? 

While I was exploring Delhi on the two days, I enjoyed meeting my friends who visited me and we chilled at Spice IT, the restaurant at IBIS . Be it chatpatta Indian fare or delicious continental,  buffets or A la Carte meals, there is something in it for everyone. Speaking to the chef, he explained the challenge of catering to different audiences each day as most of them were here on transit between flights.  However what I liked about the restaurant is the atmosphere. Bright and cheerful, vibrant and casual, it is open and has a live kitchen as well.  No wonder it is always full of life. I walked around Aerocity in the evenings and I found the area bustling and much safer compared to rest of Delhi.

Novotel New Delhi Aerocity

It was almost late night when I checked in to my room at Novotel. My luggage was already brought in the morning while I had stepped out to explore Delhi and when I walked into my room, the soft light and the lilting music greeted me. For a moment I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. I was not in Delhi, any more but in Chateau Lille.  The room was designed by a sommelier and little wonder that I was in high spirits. Chateau Lille was also a part of the My Rooms concept initiated by the hotel.

I particularly enjoyed the bright and chirpy atmosphere of Food Exchange the signature restaurant where I would have a leisurely breakfast that almost ended in brunch. It was an elaborate affair by itself with different cuisines that you would probably have to skip lunch after a sumptuous meal. The flavours are distinctly organic Asian and it offered an elegant dining experience. The Pizzas here are highly recommended as they are hand rolled wood fired pizza. The Rotisserie is a destination for meat lovers as the chef explained that there is a different menu everyday and you can even purchase the meat by weight. Being a vegetarian however I settled for some Indian fare with their signature dishes, Panner Tikka, Pumpkin and Corn with mango chutney with rice and roti.  If you are looking for a quiet bar to sip some cocktails and wines then head to  Quoin.

Pullman New Delhi Aerocity

But if you are looking for an exclusive F&B destination in Aerocity, then head to Pullman NewDelhi Aerocity.  I had the most luxurious suite in the hotel, but if you ask me which is my favourite place, it has to be the Herbs Garden. Sitting in the open, along the warm sunshine, sipping a Watermelon and Basil cooler, I watched gardeners at work .

After a while, I went on a tour as we saw the herbs and vegetables being plucked. It looked like a small garden but the in house farm is over 5000 sq feet in space and the chefs plucked the ingredients right from here.Serving both European and Indian flavours, the menu is based on the seasonal vegetables that is grown here and it is all about farm to table.  Some of the signature dishes that I tried included the signature Golgappa and Caviar and the Sweet Potato with Feta and Pomegranate just added to the flavour.

I love the names here. Besides Pluck you have Plink and Honk. The latter is a bistro style restaurant serving contemporary Asian menu and I had my dinner here.  Their motto is apparently serving Street Smart Food. I had a set menu which included a mic of Chinese and Japanese, Indonesian, Thai and Singaporean cuisines. The menu has been created keeping in mind the travellers who stay here. While it is a foodie haven  for meat and sea food, there are good vegetarian options as well. I loved the Crispy Lotus Stem Asparagus, which is one of the Raw and Nibbles which is served with caramalised onions. There are vegetarian dumplings as well besides Stir Fried Spinach with Ginger Oil

But it was the ambience with the soft and dim lighting that made it an experience. Even the decor told a story. At the entrance you could see banana trees and lamps which symbolically denoted Pinjor, a festive celebration in South East Asia.

Plink is where i ended up my culinary tryst with Pullman.Wine tasting with Kriti S, the award winning sommelier was an experience in itself . And while we tasted different reds and whites from different parts of the world , the fun began when Kriti started doing a personality analysis based on our favourite wine of the day. And she told me that I am restless and love to travel. Just kidding, I am not going to share what she told me, although I must say that it was rather true.

Three days in Aerocity just whizzed past and it was a honour to end my tryst with the 100th property of Pullman in the world.

This post was written in collaboration with Accor Hotels and they hosted me for four nights in Ibis New Delhi Aerocity, Novotel New Delhi Aerocity and Pullman New Delhi Aerocity.

Pictures courtesy Accor Hotels

 

 

 

All these can be savoured with Sides of Baby Spinach, Grilled Vegetables, Sautéed Garlic Broccoli, Corn, Parmesan Cream & Garlic or Seasonal mushrooms. Natural Potato at Pluck can be savoured three ways: plain old Baked Potato, the same can be savoured in a Smoked Chipotle flavour or Bacon and Crispy Garlic flavour.

House Sauces are the best condiments on the table with a choice of 3 Mustard Sauce, Bearnaise, Blue Cheese, Peppercorn or BBQ; these add a punch to every meal.

 

Desserts get special attention at Pluck with a wide choice ranging from delectable Hot Caramelized Pear with Valrhona Chocolate, Biscuit Breton, and Hot Toffee Sauce & Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream to a sublime Yuzu Flan: Caramelized Banana, White Chocolate Mousse, Champagne Pearls & Maple Ice Cream. An extraordinary treat in the form of Greek Custard, Rasmalai Parfait with Strawberry Sorbet and Candied Beetroot awaits you. The Greek custard is made from salty feta cheese and stuffed with a sweet rasmalai parfait. It is accompanied by a very pleasing strawberry sorbet and candied beetroot and finished with cocoa boondi, a rather novel take.

Drinks

 

Quench your Thirst with Grape Year which is bursts with the flavours of Apricot jam and Prunes muddled with lemon juice; these are combined with grape juice and finished with prunes as garnish. The Sunrise Kick is a spicy drink made up jalapenos, orange chunks, apple juice, crushed ice and finished with a slice of jalapneo as garnish; one for the adventurous palate. From cocktails, Cucumber Basil Refresher is a great way to start your meal, prepared with freshly plucked basil and cucumber. Amalia, our orange flavoured cocktail is an rare cocktail that you will only find at Pluck.

Signature dishes at Pluck include:

  • Golgappa Caviar with Tzatziki Dip and Dried Ginger Gastrique
  • Parmesan Burnt Garlic with Oat Meal Streusel roll over Melba
  • Quinoa Broccoli Cake
  • Roasted Cod Candied Orange with Lentil Stew, Madeira jus and burnt butter
  • Deconstructed Mulligatawny with Coconut Gel and Puffed Rice & Lentil Broth
  • Tandoor Roasted Amritsari Salmon Pomelo & Mint Salad with Sweet Lemon Rind
  • Bhavnagri Chilli & Candied Onion Paneer Tart with Texture of Onion
  • Pulled Tandoori Chicken Cannelloni with Crispy Skin, Roasted Cumin and Cheese Sauce
  • Five Lentils Crusted Fish with Idli Sponge, Beetroot Murabba Puree with Malabari Sauce
  • Caramelized Hazelnut, Chocolate & Saffron Milk Bar Candied Orange, Lemon Curd, Mango Coulis.
  • Greek Custard, Rasmalai Parfait with Strawberry Sorbet and Candied Beetroot

 

 

 

About Chef Ajay Anand

Chef Ajay Anand, Director of Culinary at Pullman and Novotel, Aerocity, New Delhi is a passionate professional who loves serving what he relishes. He swears by the motto ‘Imagination Unlimited’ whilst at work. Ajay’s cooking style has evolved from the techniques and flavors from cultures around the world, but is rooted in classic French traditions. He endeavors to balance European traditionalism with Asian minimalism and American ingenuity.

 

About Chef Ashish Dhar

Chef Ashish Dhar, is associated with Pullman and Novotel as Chief Culinary Designer. He brings along 15 years of rich and varied experience in Food & Beverage operations, Client Servicing and Team Management in the Hotel industry in US, UK and India. He specializes in European cuisine and wants to take farm-to-table food concept to newer heights at Pluck.

 

Pluck Factsheet

 

Seating capacity: 110 guests

Meal for two: Rs 3000 + taxes (without alcohol)

Lunch timings: 12pm-3pm

Dinner timings: 7 pm -11.30pm

——————

#CelebrateYou

Asset No 2, Aerocity Hospitality District,

IGI Airport New Delhi – 37, India. T: +91 11 4608 0808

Reservations: H7559-RE@accor.com

www.pullmanhotels.com | www.accorhotels.com

Join our Global Loyalty program

at ACCORHOTELS.COM

For further information, kindly contact:

 

Urvashi Malik           

PR Manager                                                      

Pullman Novotel New Delhi Aerocity

9899871553

H7559-pr@accor.com

Pullman Aerocity New Delhi

Situated at the lobby level of Pullman New Delhi Aerocity, Pling is the elegant, sensuous and tranquil lounge-bar. The very name is inspired by the sound of ice dropping in a glass of liquid and connotes good times and shared laughter. Pling offers a high-end lounge bar experience with live music, exclusive club style services and showcases the signature ‘Vinoteca by Pullman’ which offers an international wine selection by the glass or bottle. The elegantly designed aesthetics of the bar, accompanied by the sumptuous selection of hors d’oeuvres and tapas, makes it a perfect place to meet friends and associates alike. Pling transforms from an active luxury light-dining space to a vibrant lux-lounge featuring both national and international bands.

Vinoteca by Pullman

The Vinoteca is a concept that is synonymous with Pullman across the world. The introduction of Vinoteca by Pullman is a good example of how Pullman Hotels & Resorts aims to meet the needs of the modern traveller. At Vinoteca by Pullman, a minimum selection of ten wines are served by the glass and a minimum of two Champagnes served by the glass.  The selection changes regularly to vary the offering as Pullman encourages guests to try as many wines as possible. Appropriate wine preservation systems to store and serve wines by the glass effectively are in place. At Pullman, wine is an ice-breaker, a conversation starter. After work, after a meeting, before going back to the room, at cocktail time or after dinner, wine brings people together.

Food

We at Pling thrive to surprise our guests with food elements prepared & presented in a way which compliments local tastes and aspirational dining desires. Menu at Pling has been curated by Chef Ajay Anand, Director of Culinary. Menu will be presented to the guest by Chef Ashish Dhar, Chief Culinary Designer and Chef IN charge at Pling. The food menu at Pling is divided in to four sections – Small Plates, Sliders, Between the Breads and Charcoal Smoked. Guests can choose from simple Parmesan Podi Popcorns or succulent Lamb Sliders, to start with or pick from an array of lip – smacking charcoal smoked dishes like Amritsari Lamb Pepper Tart, Nagori Methi Chicken Tikka with Pineapple Relish or Kashmiri Chilli Smothered Paneer with Mint Chutney. The menu is made to suit the alcohol menu at Pling. A selection of Desserts cater to those who like to spend late evenings in a bar, have a glass of wine and enjoy sweet something’s. On the menu are desserts like the indulgent Dark Milk Chocolate with Milk chocolate Mousse, dark caramel, candied macadamia and warm malted caramel. Hazelnut Praline with a Flourless hazelnut cake, gianduja mousse, orange curd and praline ice cream is for those who look for desserts sans chocolate.

 

Cocktails and Mocktails

At Pling, the Cocktails and Mocktails are made up using fresh, homemade infusions. Pullman Signature, inspired from the legacies of French collection of spirits and liqueurs is made using Cognac, cointreau, espresso, chocolate. The Twist, our mixologist’s concoction is made using Kentucky straight whisky with a twist of ginger in the sweetness of maple. Some amazing creations like The Marriage which is a perfect blend of Gin, egg white, homemade peach syrup and vermouth or The Debut which is amalgamation of Bacardi, kaffir lime and homemade chilly syrup.

Grape Year, a non-alcoholic legacy drink, made from breakfast compotes & preserves creates an outstanding character by itself. Cucumber Cooler, another non-alcohlic gem is a a perfect balance between cucumber and flowers plucked from our in-house herb garden.

Celebrate success. Celebrate you.

 

Pling Factsheet

Seating capacity: 60 guests

Operating hours – 0700hrs – 0100hrs

Alcohol service – 1100hrs – 0100hrs

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Pluck, our modern day eatery at Lobby Level serves Modern European and Contemporary Indian flavours. Pluck is committed to offer the freshest, safest ingredients in a seasonal menu that is locally focused and globally artistic, cultivating a healthy relationship on our tables. The menu at Pluck is decided by seasonal availability of produce. With an in house farm of 5000 sqft, our chefs pluck the freshest ingredients for your meal and the result can be felt in every bite that you take.

Food

The menu is divided into two sections: Modern European and Contemporary Indian flavours. The Modern European offering at Pluck features old favourites like a hearty Mushrooms and Chestnuts Soup with mushroom carpaccio and truffle mascarpone and the or Parmesan Burnt Garlic Soup with oatmeal strudel, roll over melba. Whether it is the Light Spinach Salad with Crispy Bacon & Mushrooms Blue Cheese Aioli or the Crunchy Smoked Salmon & Tenka, these farm-fresh and scrumptious choices set the tone for the meal.

All soups are presented in a deconstructed form and arranged right on the table. Start with a flavourful and low-calorie Tomato & Coriander consommé served with handpicked greens or The Deconstructed Mulligatawany with Coconut Gel, Puffed Rice and Lentil Broth. Guests can also try an unusual combination of Mushrooms & Chestnuts Soup which are done in a deconstructed form and assembled on the table to make this a novel and interactive experience. The Golgappa & Caviar (made of tangy golgappa water) are served with a tzatziki dip and dried ginger gastrique and topped with mint and spell all things modern – there are traditional flavours with elements of molecular gastronomy. Sweet Potato, Feta & Pomegranate is a stunner on the plate with tamarind pipette and mint soil. For mains, Pulled Tandoori Chicken Cannelloni with crispy skin, roasted cumin and cheese sauce is a must have. The chicken is marinated thrice, cooked in a tandoor, then hand-pulled, rubbed with spices and finally stuffed in homemade cannelloni and is served with crispy beetroot skin, roasted cumin and cheese sauce and garnished with beetroot powder that gives it a distinct colour.   Vegetarians can opt for a robust treat in the form of Plantain kofta, Pukhtan style served on a bed of quinoa and spinach pulao. This dish is made up of 75% plantain and 25 % pumpkin. Both the vegetables are boiled and passed through a sieve repeatedly to smoothen their texture, mixed with spices and rolled into croquettes that are served on a bed of quinoa and spinach pulao with Pukhtan style gravy, borrowed from a similar dish from the streets of Pakistan. Roasted Cod with Candied Orange and Lentil Stew is another favourite of our guests; it is eaten with some crunchy puffed rice and very soft mashed potatoes, one cannot miss this. Grilled Chicken: En Sous Vide Morel Jus, Spiced Fries, Sticky Cabbage is a..

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Neha  grew up with a dream that someday she would visit England. It all began with a small photograph that she had seen as a teenager in a magazine. It was a magazine focussing on interiors and decor and Neha was lost in the design of a room filled with lace and lavender.  And that is how she fell in love with the concept of Vintage English. ” I always wanted my room to look like it and I used to tell my sister that we should redesign it, but it never happened,” she said as we sat in the sunny courtyard of Ibis Aero City Delhi sipping a cup of hot ginger tea. But her ideas eventually took shape, as she designed one of the rooms of the hotel, where I stayed.

Ibis New Delhi Aerocity has a concept of My Room where some of the employees get a chance to redesign the room based on a theme . Unleashing their creativity and giving expression to their dreams and fantasies, each room had a unique story and a design.  They were given a budget and all they needed was a design and a dream to create a room of their choice. When Neha, who works in the sales department at Ibis New Delhi Aerocity got an opportunity to work on the My Rooms concept,  her mind immediately went to the little photograph in the magazine. She immediately recreated the magic in the small but charming rooms of Ibis Aero City Delhi.

It almost seemed like a magic wand had changed the entire atmosphere. Walls were painted in shades of purple and lavender with a tinge of teal while every little element reminded you of the UK. Small curios added to the decor. A pretty floral kettle, flowers and lace, vintage cars took me to a different world. A quaint vintage clock announced the time. Neha added how she went with her colleagues to various flea markets in Delhi, to look for vintage curios that suited the theme.  The room was designed in just a few weeks and yet it seemed like a magical transformation. The soft light, the bubbles, the delicate sheets – for a moment I felt that I was in London. And I was touched by the chocolates and a warm handwritten note inviting me to stay in this lovely room.

Neha’s English Vintage Room is just one of the many rooms designed by various employees of Ibis New Delhi Aerocity where they are given a free hand to express their ideas and thoughts in the form of designs, colours, patterns and decors.

I stopped at a beautiful blue room called Aqua which took me into the world of the sea and the sky, birds flying as I floated on waves. There are rooms designed based on themes and personalities like Bollywood, Basketball, Spiderman, Rajasthani among others.

But for me the Victorian themed English Vintage was absolutely special as I stayed here for a night. Every element was so carefully thought of, that for a moment I forgot that I was in Delhi and felt transported to UK. Neha was excited that she got to design the room of her dreams, but she is yet to fly to her dream destination. As for me, I slept peacefully, dreaming of my next trip to the UK.

If I felt transported to the magical and vintage charm of UK in Ibis, then I had a surprise waiting for me in Novotel Aero City. It was nothing short of a heady experience as I woke up feeling like I was in France, in a winery and vineyard. I was in Chateau Lille. Surrounding me were aged red and white wines. There were even barrels and also furniture made out of them.  I was in high spirits. It was little wonder that the room was designed by an award winning sommelier, the pretty Kriti Malhotra.

Kriti did not just know her wines but she knew how to design a room like a Chateau. As we sat in a comfortable chair carved out of an oak barrel, designed specifically for this room, Kriti told me that she chose Lille as it was one of the first destinations where Novotel apparently launched its maiden hotel. Sipping a glass of wine, I lost myself in a spirited experience as I slept peacefully.

Like Ibis New Delhi Aero City, Novotel also has the My Room Concept designed by the employees. There are apparently three of them and my dream next time is to stay in the  Bohemian Traveller’s Room designed by Kanupriya, a marketing professional who is also a traveller. Every souvenir in the room tells a story of a journey while a world map marks the places visited by the traveller. Perhaps that will be my next destination, where I can put my head to rest on a pillow in a Bohemian Traveller’s Room.After all, that is where I actually belong.

This post was written in collaboration with Accor Hotels. I was hosted by Ibis New Delhi Aerocity and Novotel New Delhi Aerocity and Pullman during my trip to Delhi.

Picture Courtesy Accor Hotels

The post English Vintage or Chateau Lille – where would you like to stay ? appeared first on Lakshmi Sharath.

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I was born in a haunted colony with a Portuguese connection in Chennai. “Well, it was not haunted when you were born”, corrects my mother as we both walk around the deserted stretches of De Monte Colony. The colony is all of two streets and I can see only old crumbling ruins of bungalows surrounded by dense vegetation. As my mother goes on a nostalgic trail, let me introduce myself. I am Lakshmi Sharath, travel blogger and writer and you are listening to Travel With Lakshmi. In this episode we will journey together to Chennai as I will share with you some stories about my favourite city and we will visit some of the interesting landmarks of the city. And I shall let you in on some of my favourite hangouts and quirky and touristy things to do in the city.

Travel With Lakshmi

You can quit the media industry but you can never let of the media professional in you. I spent one third of my twelve year media career in broadcast media, setting up FM radio stations across the country. I made the transition from content to a business head, learnt about the business of bidding, set up offices, recruited teams across nine markets, strategised the content and marketing plans and even tied up with celebrities as brand ambassadors. While my work as a top management personnel was entirely strategic and focussed on the business of the medium,  I barely got a chance to be on air even once. Twelve years after I quit my career in media, I found myself being featured as a travel blogger and writer by several FM radio stations in the country. That is when I dreamt of having my own travel show on air. And the dream has just come true with Storytel, a Swedish based podcast company that has just been launched in India. And the first audio story or podcast on Travel With Lakshmi has to be on my favourite city and home, Madras or Chennai as its called now. You can hear the promo of Travel With Lakshmi  here

However coming back to De Monte Colony, I often wondered why it wore a haunted look. The houses are crumbling with overgrown vegetation. It almost seems like a forest. There is something eerie about it. The trees cast long shadows, lending a dark and desolate feel to the area. It is located right in the heart of the city  in one of the most posh neighbourhoods and yet there has been no one living here for more than a decade. If you are a first time visitor to Chennai and you are into haunted trails, then you must visit De Monte Colony right at midnight. When I was living in Chennai, De Monte Colony was just a street away. My local auto rick shaw guy who used to park near my flat would refuse to drive down that stretch late at night or early mornings. He claims he has seen ghosts.  But the spooky stories are just dismissed as myths even though they were enough to inspire a Tamil movie.

So let me tell you the story behind the settlement. 200 years ago, this entire neighbourhood was owned by one man, a Portuguese businessman , named John De Monte who was actually a handkerchief merchant. Sadly locals believe that he  brought ill luck to the area. His wife was apparently mentally unstable and his son died early. Even after 200 years, the tragic tale seems to echo from every crumbling ruin . De Monte had donated the land to the church and he had willed that it could never be sold. There was a time when it was leased to a corporate but then it has been deserted for over a decade with legal issues plaguing it. I ask my mother if she has seen ghosts here but she shakes her head. She says that she is haunted only by my memories as I gave her sleepless nights as a baby , all those three months when  we were here.

There are more stories and experiences from Chennai on the podcast. The audio story also takes you to Mahabalipuram as we do a virtual tour of this ancient port. Tune into Travel With Lakshmi on Storytel. Download the app on your phone and you get a month free trial as well if you click here. I would appreciate it if you will listen to the podcast and give me your feedback .

Look forward to seeing you all there. Lets travel together.

The post Travel With Lakshmi – Now on Podcast on Storytel appeared first on Lakshmi Sharath.

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It was almost ten pm in the night and my husband gently nudged me, asking me to wake up. I was a little disoriented for a moment, but then I realized that my Edinburgh-London train had suddenly come to a grinding halt. We were returning from Scotland to London and our train was to reach London Euston around midnight. It was our last night in the UK and we were to head to Heathrow to catch our early morning flight back home. However in that moment, everything seemed like a blur. The train had come to an unscheduled spot and we were at Birmingham. A voice on the speaker system said that there had been a tragedy on the tracks as someone had died and all services from Birmingham to London had come to a standstill. In other words, I realized that we were stranded and with no connectivity, network and communication, we had no idea how we would catch our  fight back home.

The railway officials threw their hands up in despair. There were no trains at that hour. Some of my fellow passengers raised their voices and began arguing. We explained that we had to be at Heathrow early morning and the railway officials just shrugged their shoulders. We wandered around Birmingham station looking for alternatives. By then the officials came back with a suggestion. They were able to organise a few cabs but we would have to travel with complete  strangers in the thick of the night. Huddled in a cab with a single woman traveller from Spain and another traveller from Germany , we left Birmingham almost close to midnight and drove all the way back to London. In that couple of hours, we had all become friends.

Travel is not always about the bright and the beautiful but yet even at dark and dreary moments, it brings strangers together on a journey. You open your minds and reach out to the passenger next door. Our taxi driver, Ibrahim, during the journey was a Bangaladeshi and he immediately bonded with us with a few Hindi words. After a two hour drive to Euston, he ferried us without even blinking an eyelid all the way to Heathrow.”We have to help our own, ” he said as we gratefully thanked him at Heathrow. It was well past midnight but his beaming smile and loud laughter is all that I remember even today.

And that is why I love the world.  Borders blur, barriers break and minds meet during travels. Inhibitions drop as we embrace cultures and open our minds to people. There is a connect that we build with strangers that is inexplicable. Sometimes it lasts for just a few minutes, sometimes an entire night, at other times a whole lifetime. Sometimes its just a simple gesture, at other times its a conversation. When you are in the big and beautiful world, a moment is enough to strike a chord with strangers.The echo of the laughter is all that we remember even after a trip is over.  Being open minded brings people together and to me people make places. That is what inspires me to travel. As a story teller, I love to talk to people, listen to their tales, laugh and cry with them.

I was having coffee with my guide Helena in Zagreb and we were discussing Zagreb as the city of love. She was narrating a personal story when her teenage classmate proposed to her in front of St Marks Church. Suddenly she burst into tears, sharing with me that she was feeling lonely and was reminded of her mother who had passed away recently. Travel brings people together even in the most vulnerable lonely moment. When I was on a solo travel in Barcelona, I made friends with a local waiter in the hotel that I was staying and we would sit late in the evening, flirting a bit and discussing our dreams.

As a world traveller, we are constantly looking for something new.  And sometimes you find travel inspiration in the house of strangers. In Copenhagen I was invited by Marie Vixo Simth, a lady I have never met at her home for dinner. The Danes have an initiative called Comeat where they try to bridge the gap between travellers and locals by inviting the former to their homes for a meal. The simple home cooked meal was the tastiest meal I had during my Denmark trip. Meanwhile in Paris, a small restauranter opened his kitchen and whipped a delicious vegetarian meal for us in a jiffy when we landed at his doorstep hungry after a long flight. We were so touched by his generosity that we decided to visit him again on our last night in Paris. He spoke about his visit to Pondicherry and even served us champagne on the house. The waitress, Andrea and I had become pen friends for a while and we exchanged a few postcards.

We are very often caught in our own lives, jumping from one destination to another. We rarely pause in our journeys to simply observe life or catch a random conversation with a stranger. And yet, in my recent trip to Japan, I realized what it is like to fall in love – not with a destination or its culture or traditions but with the people. My latest crush is Toshiaki saan, an adorable 65 year old man who was our guide in Kyoto. He was warm and affectionate the moment he arrived at our hotel and  was concerned that we would lose our way. The ice broke when I spoke a smattering of Japanese, a language I had been fascinated since my college days when I studied it. He asked me where I would like to begin and I said, ” Naan demo ii desu” – a quintessential Japanese phrase which meant I was ok with anything. And that built a bond that lasted beyond an afternoon in Kyoto.

In the next six hours  Toshiaki saan told me about his life , family and travels. He had been working in a finance company all his life until two years ago and had just become a guide. He loved meeting people and hence he enjoyed travelling and being a guide. We completed our Gion Geisha tour but Toshiaki saan was concerned that we would lose our way as we were heading to Fushimi Inari shrine. So, he decided to come with us without charging a single yen for his time and spent another three hours with us. We bonded over laughter as we gulped sakes, munched sandwiches, binged on sweets and discussed spirituality.

Toshiaki saan taught me one important philosophy that the Japanese believe in, a word – Ichi go Ichi e . It literally means “this time only” or possibly “once in a lifetime” or “never a chance again” . It’s a concept that Japanese believe in – treasuring moments and meetings with people . Japanese believe in the power of now and they treat every meeting as if it was the last time they would meet the person.  “It is probably the last time that I would be seeing you and hence would like to treasure it in a way that one does not forget ,” he said . And so I learnt not just a new word, but a new way of looking at life and people.

Travel is special because of such special people and treasured memories. If there is one reason I would #Sayyestotheworld, it would be because of these beautiful moments . And that is the very essence of the Lufthansa campaign – opening minds to a new culture, exploring different worlds, seeing the beautiful world with a pair of new eyes .  Every world traveller should embrace the concept of being openminded. What I personally love about the new campaign of Lufthansa are the rhetoric questions that embody the very spirit of travel, the zest for life and the love for exploring new worlds. So lets just pause time and #Sayyestotheworld now. Where are you heading next ?

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The post Travel Inspiration – Why people make places for me appeared first on Lakshmi Sharath.

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We are in a charming town with a little harbour called Carnlough in County Antrim when Billy my guide makes an unscheduled stop. “You have to see this, ” he said as we walk towards a plaque. An unusual war hero is commemorated here – Paddy the pigeon. The story goes that Paddy, a  recipient of the Dickin Medal, was one of the pigeons trained during World War 2 to pass messages. And it is believed that he was also one of the fastest to do so. The Irish carrier pigeon took about four hours and fifty minutes to cross the 230 miles of the  English channel as he flew passing on coded messages. It is beautiful just standing there and listening to Paddy’s story and touching to see the Irish remember one of their own heroes, even if it is a pigeon.  But there is more to Carnlough, located on the Antrim Coast as it is one of Game of Thrones charming locations as well. I am on a Northern Ireland Road trip and the journey becomes the destination as we take the Causeway Coastal Route from Belfast. There are stories everywhere as we see ruins of churches and castles in Northern Ireland and look out for  fairies and leprechauns.

The winds howl through the trees, sounding like wailing banshees. It is dark and dramatic. The sea and the sky are in shades of grey. Forests are enchanted. I stop to soak in the view. A hazy canopy of branches, dipped in various shades of green greet me as the murmurings of a rivulet sound like music to the ear. Northern Ireland is hauntingly beautiful – its eeriness and melancholy only  add to the charm.

“The little people are watching,” whispers Billy as I shiver in the cold.  I am standing in front of a little nursery filled with sculptures that look straight out of a fairy tale. They look like pretty garden gnomes . I wonder if they are leprechauns but I am told they are little people who were once rulers of the country but were later defeated and forced to live in the underworld. They apparently arrived in a mist and vanished into thin air. Legends say that they love children and often abduct them, if the parents were not around. 

Billy has a stock of ghost stories up his sleeve. The small  inns and taverns along the coastal villages are home to ghosts. And the castles are haunted.  We stop at the 12th century  Carrickfergus Castle, which  is one of the oldest stone castle in the region. Built by the Normans  it stands overlooking the Belfast Lough or the Carrickfergus Bay . The story goes that John De Courcy a Nornan Lord had heard of a prophecy that the region would be ruled by a white knight riding a war horse with birds of prey on his shield. He believed that the legend spoke of him and invaded the land. A well in the castle is however haunted, apparently by a soldier who was wrongly executed for murder. Almost all castles in Northern Ireland seem to have ghost stories echoing from the walls.

  

The town itself  is steeped in medieval lore. An ancient inn, Dobbins Inn is haunted by a lady who was believed to have been in love with a soldier who guarded the castle and was murdered by her husband. The walls of inns and taverns are coloured with quaint murals as the town hall stands right in the centre, painted in hues of yellow like a pretty sunflower looking up to see the sun which has briefly made its appearance.

We continue on our Northern Ireland road trip  and  pass through Glenarm, a pretty coastal village with its historic lanes and cobbled streets which is the first of the nine glens in County Antrim. Looking straight out of a picture postcard , the village also has a very old private castle, home to the Earls of Antrim. You cannot have enough of nature while driving through the route. The Forest Park located amidst the Glens of Antrim takes you to see some of the most spectacular waterfalls, particularly the Glenariff waterfall. There is a charm in the ruins that cannot be explained. Crumbling walls tell stories of their own, like the ruins of Ardclinis church and a cemetery. The sea is one side and the meadows on the other, while the broken remains of the 800 year old monument lie scattered around amidst the trees.  

There is so much drama in every destination that it is little wonder that Game of Thrones was shot in several of these locations in Ireland.  Our Northern Ireland road trip takes us to Ballintoy, a harbour which became famous as a Game of Thrones destination. Rocks and rock formations lend a fantasy touch to this dramatic landscape fishing harbour. As we drive past the village, we visit the Carrick – a -Rede- Bridge that dangles precariously 98 feet above the rocks, connecting the mainland to a tiny island called Carrickarede. The bridge swayed by the winds is about 66 feet and is believed to have been built by fishermen to check their fishing nets to catch salmon.

The main attraction on the Causeway Coastal Route is the  Giant’s Causeway, but on the way we stop at one of the castles in Northern Ireland. I am fascinated by the ruins of Dunseverick Castle that look like two large stumps of a tree that have been chipped off. One of the oldest castles in Northern Ireland,  it was believed that St Patricks visited here in the 5th century.

Nothing prepares me for my first view of Ireland’s first Heritage Site, Giant Causeway, a natural site caused over 60 million years ago due to volcanic activity with 40,000 basalt columns formed out of it. The winds are getting colder by the moment and the skies darken. I love the Irish for their stories. They can make even a basalt column and a volcanic site into a legendary story around giants.

Ireland’s favourite giant, Finn MacCool was challenged by the Scottish giant Benandonner who goes into hiding when he realizes that the Scottish giant is bigger than him. Finn’s wife however tucked him in a cradle when Benandonner knocked on his doors. Seeing the massive baby, the Scottish giant apparently fled for his life destroying the causeway originally built by Finn, so that he wont be followed. 

But it doesn’t end there. The Irish with their humour and sense of imagination have named many a rock formation . Look out for the Organ, the Chimney Stacks, the Giant’s Boot  before posing at the Wishing Seat among others. And as the cold winds bite into my skin, I head to the mammoth visitors centre to lose myself in a world of fable and folklore.

Our last port of halt on the Northern Ireland road trip takes us to rugged cliffs overlooking the sea.. A gaunt spectacle greets us . Perched proudly are the ruins of an ancient castle, another famous Game of Thrones location . There is an air of melancholy in the magnificent ruins of the Dunluce Castle, one of the most dramatic castles in Northern Ireland.

Built in the 13th century, the ramparts and the turrets hide many a secret like the ghost of a broken hearted woman who roams through these windowless ruins. Another tale speaks of the time when a part of the kitchen fell into the sea , killing all servants but for one boy. The castle which passed on from one generation of another of the gentry was eventually abandoned, left to only ghosts and haunted tales.

And as darkness envelopes the sky and the lighthouses wink along the coastline, I end my Northern Ireland road trip across the 120 mile Causeway Coastal Route with a final visit to the oldest distillery at Bushmills to flavour the spirit of Ireland before calling it a night. 

UK is definitely the flavour of the season and plan your trip to UK this summer with Wego, which is my favourite one stop shop for all deals when it comes to fares for flights and also hotels. It helps you to get an understanding of the various fares offered by different sites to the same destination and you can choose the ones that suit you, based on cheap deals and convenience. Belfast is just a flight away from London and you can lose yourself in the dramatic beauty of this region.

The post Northern Ireland Road Trip – The Causeway Coastal Route appeared first on Lakshmi Sharath.

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It is wet and cold on a late autumn afternoon and I am introduced to the typical  weather in London. But am lost in the quaint dark and gloomy charm of  Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, one of the oldest pubs located in Fleet Street in London.  This is the first of the many unusual London experiences that I have in this city.  I realize that am on hallowed ground. Frequented by none other than the likes of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Oliver Goldsmith, Lord Tennyson and PG Wodehose, the pub was also associated with Polly the parrot as well.  Built after the Great Fire in 1666, it was earlier known as Horn Tavern in 1538 and in the medieval era it used to be a Carmelite Convent. The six tiered pub is more like a museum and a monument and the smallest room next to the entrance is almost devoid of natural light. Even today the vaults of the pub remind you of the medieval era while the wooden furniture smacks of the Victorian period. There is even a reference to the pub by Charles Dickens in his novel, The Tale of Two Cities. Pub hopping in Fleet Street is one of the unique things to do in London and  combined with history and literature, it makes for a fascinating experience. And as I spend a day in London, I am lost in a different world.

Fleet Street, the very synonym for the British press is filled with taverns, pubs and inns which were frequented by writers, poets and journalists. We walk in and out of them, such as Ye Olde Cock Tavern and the Old Bell Tavern listening to anecdotes as we try to escape the rain.There is a London that is found in pubs, inns, stores, cafes and souvenir shops that no one tells you about and these offer some unusual London experiences.

I was introduced to London as a five year old – not from books or movies, but through the famous board game called Monopoly. So, when I visited London for the first time, I wanted to see every part of the city, painted in different colours as its depicted in the board game. So, from Trafalgar Square to West Minister, from Parklane to Mayfair I explored the city, looking for unique things to do in London. However I discovered a different facet of London, away from the tourist attractions like the London Eye or the Tower of London, the Big Ben or the Buckingham Palace as I spend a day in London.

 My next haunt is  Carnaby Street as I scout for unique things to do in London. Searching for a cup of hot chocolate to beat the gloomy rains, I land in a café  here which seems to be straight out of a page of Alice in Wonderland. If the pubs were dark and dingy, then this cafe was all bright and dramatic.  Delicious Greek Gods woo me. An edible skull grins at me. I even look around to see a tall Ganesha with his mouse , adorned with colourful flowers. A little stout man watches over his circus.  From clowns to gypsies, witches to wizards, gods to goddesses, teddy bears to tigers, every thing here is edible, sculpted in chocolate and hand painted in various hues. I am inside a chocolate heaven.
Choccywoccydoodah , a chocolaterie may seem a mouthful but it looks like a scene out of a fairy tale.  As I sip hot chocolate in a dainty chocolate bar, filled with flowers, pink I realize is the flavour of the season. And love is in the air, even if skeletons carved out of white chocolate declare their dying vows to each other. Choccywoccydoodah  does not believe in making just cakes. Chocolate for them is art. They carve statues and sculpt their passions and make chocolate an experience, not just a delicacy. If you have just one day in London and you are looking for unusual London experiences, then this must be on your itinerary.

Walking along Regent and Carnaby Streets and losing myself in the colourful graffiti, I forget about the rains and discover the real city and explore some of the unique things to do in London.  Where else would you find an old urinal converted into a café ?

The quintessential London is filled with bookstores and souvenir shops, quaint flea markets and old colourful markets. In Covent Garden I spend hours inside a little souvenir shop that is meant for only Tintin fans, one of the unusual London experiences.

I head back into the streets as the shower turns into a drizzle. I am in a mood to feel pampered. I head to Regent Street where an aromatic experience awaits me at Penhaligon’s.  There is barely anything in London that does not have a royal connection and it includes a sensory experience as well.  History blends in with the fragrance here as I am treated to a wild and spicy flavour. Woody meets floral, lavender merges with citrus. Losing myself in a perfumed world,  I listen to a charming story. It was more than a century ago when William Penhaligon  moved to London and became the Royal Barber and started creating exclusive perfumes for Queen Victoria. The tradition still continues as Penhaligon’s is the personal perfumer for the royalty.

I take a whiff of their very first perfume,  The Hammam Bouquet , a century old scent that was inspired by the flavours of the Turkish Bath that gave it its name.  A heady mix of everything Oriental, it takes you into a world of musk and melon.  My olfactory buds are tingling as I try out the favourite perfume of Winston Churchill, the Blenheim Bouquet, created over a hundred years ago. There are fragrances galore for men and women and I am enamoured by Vaara, an exotic mix of white musk and honey and resins. It has the flavour of India in it – ingredients that include a blend of coriander and saffron and flavours of roses and sandalwood. Created exclusively on the order of Maharaja of Jodhpur for his daughter, Vaara is a delicious onslaught on my senses.

One of the unusual London experiences is to head to a market. The colourful Borough market a foodie’s paradise is my next stop.  Believed to have been around since the 11th century, the present day market is located at the Southern End of London Bridge and is a gourmet food market with over 100 stalls. Pick any you want – spices, coffee, cheese, cakes, breads, seasonal produce, meat besides fruits and vegetables. It is a photographer’s delight. The sun is slowly up as I spend most of the time walking around with the camera in hand, speaking to  farmers, chefs and local traders who share a passion for food.

Finally it is time to see London from a height of  300 metres . Standing atop the tallest building in all of Europe, I am on the 86th floor of The Shard a tall skycrapper near London Bridge that offers me the entire view of the city. The dark clouds are refusing to retreat even as the sun peers from them. London looks dazed, still recovering from the rains. The Thames flows silently below. Ferries cruise down the river between the London Bridge and The Tower of London. From the other side, I can see London Eye towering over the landscape. Palaces and churches stand tall. The rest of the city lies huddled together, bound by the dark clouds and the thunderstorm that seem to wrap it.

It has been a fascinating day exploring the unusual London experiences.  And now I finally head towards West Minster to see some of the top London attractions. If you had just a day in London, what are the unique things to do in London that you would recommend ?

UK is definitely the flavour of the season and plan your trip to UK this summer with Wego, which is my favourite one stop shop for all deals when it comes to fares for flights and also hotels. It helps you to get an understanding of the various fares offered by different sites to the same destination and you can choose the ones that suit you, based on cheap deals and convenience. When are you planning your next trip to the UK ?

This post is written in collaboration with Wego.

The post Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese to Choccywoccydoodah – London diaries appeared first on Lakshmi Sharath.

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48 hours in Edinburgh

You cannot resist the Scottish melody.  Rising up from the hills, flowing down the fields, ringing across the Lochs , reaching into towns and villages, the bagpiper lures you with his tunes . I stopped in the middle of the journey in Edinburgh just to hear him busking , his song transporting me to a different era .  Knights , warriors, poets and ghosts visit you from every lane of Edinburgh.  There is so much to do , so much to absorb and just so much to live it up here and there are so many best places in Edinburgh which need to be explored. And as you down  a glass of Scotch , you hear stories of ghosts haunting the town. I travel for culture and stories, for fun and relaxation and for food and drink. And Edinburgh promises me all of these experiences. The Medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town charm you  for Edinburgh is always celebrating – the Fringe Festival, the International Festival, the International Book Festival among others. However if you are spending just 48 hours in Edinburgh,  here are some of the places to see in Edinburgh .From whisky tours to literary tours, there is something for everybody and here are five top things to do in Edinburgh.

The Royal Mile

There is history, legends, monuments ,forts , palaces,  restaurants, pubs and shops all along one Scottish mile in the old Edinburgh town. One of the popular places to see in Edinburgh, this is where every tourist lands and explores the linear streets that take you to a medieval world. If you have just 48 hours in Edinburgh, then this is where you should be. Start your walking tour from the Edinburgh Castle and end at Holyrood Abbey .

The alleys or closes as they are called add to the character. You may want to take time off to explore the four main streets  – Castle Hill, Lawnmarket, High Street and CanonGate where you get to explore the monuments . The Royal Mile walking tour is one of the top things to do in Edinburgh. My personal favourite is the Holyrood Palace, one of the best places in Edinburgh and which is the official residence of the British king in Scotland.  You get a glimpse of the  life and betrayal of Mary, Queen of Scots here, while you see the ruins of the Holyrood Abbey founded in the 12th century.  But then you get to down history here with large glasses of whiskey, so don’t miss out the pubs here. My favourite is the 16th century White Hart Inn , one of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh .

The Whisky Tour

Now a trip to Scotland is never complete without getting high and a taste of all the whiskies and single malts. The Scotch Whisky experience is one you must not miss, if you have just 48 hours in Edinburgh. On my way to Glenkinchie distillery, one of the best places in Edinburgh, we discussed the highland and lowland malts and got the entire low down , straight from the horse’s mouth.  Discover the various flavours and aromas and get a bit tipsy with every sip of various malts and whiskies.  If you have the time, do visit any of the distilleries around Edinburgh where a tour guide will take you through the entire process. There are several whisky tours organised in and around Edinburgh and this is one of the most popular and top things to do in Edinburgh.

The haunted Edinburgh

Some laugh it off, others shriek. But the many haunted tours around Edinburgh is one that will tickle your senses or tingle your nerves. It is even better if you are a bit tipsy with some Scotch inside you as you explore the underground vaults.  These vaults  are basically dark and dingy chambers that give you a sense of  exploring the hidden and spooky world of Edinburgh where they tell you stories of serial murderers and ghosts which still haunt them. It is one of the most fascinating tours if you like ghost stories and an ideal tour to fit your 48 hours in Edinburgh itinerary.

Literary tour

My wanderlust started probably when I got hooked onto Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island as a child. And then of course there is the Deacon Brodie’s Tavern, started by the man who inspired Stevenson to write The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Deacon Brodies Tavern – Edinburgh

Brodie’s story is stranger than fiction itself and that is why Stevenson’s novel is based on him. The literary tour of Edinburgh is one of my favourite and top things to do in Edinburgh. If you are into literature like me, do visit the Writer’s Museum , which is one of the top places to see in Edinburgh, where you can see the works and memorabilia of Sir Walter Scott , Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson among others.

Edinburgh – Scotts Monument

The towering Scott Monument is a landmark of the city. If you however ask me, the best way to explore is to sign up for one of those Literary Pub Walking Tours where you can get high on literature and get drunk as well. If you have 48 hours in Edinburgh, I definitely recommend that you do not miss this tour.

Arthur’s Seat

Scotland is always synonymous with knights and if you are into legends like me, then the first thing that comes to your mind is King Arthur of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. Right in the heart of the old town is a  group of hills and most hikers scale the peak called Arthur’s Seat, which is one of the top places to see in Edinburgh.  It is believed that this rocky outcrop was possibly the Camelot, referred to in legends. Forming most of Holyrood Park, these craggy hilltops were a result of volcanic activity. However legends and myths, religious and literary allusions to this hill make it a tourist attraction. If you are the adventurous , go take a hike, which is one of the top things to do in Edinburgh.

The beautiful landscape of Britain

These are some of the best places in Edinburgh and the top things to do in Edinburgh if you are here for just a couple of days. What else would you suggest for an itinerary if you are spending just 48 hours in Edinburgh ?

I love travelling around UK and if you are like me who #LoveGreatBritain, then there are plenty of destinations in Scotland besides Edinburgh. I visited some of the Lochs and I also went to the Glenkinchie distillery which was a heady experience by itself.  Plan your trip to UK this summer with Wego, which is my favourite one stop shop for all deals when it comes to fares for flights and also hotels. It helps you to get a quick bird’s eye of the various fares offered by different sites to the same destination and you can choose the ones that suit you, based on cheap deals. When are you planning your next trip to the UK ?

The post From whisky to ghosts – 48 hours in Edinburgh appeared first on Lakshmi Sharath.

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