Strawberry Picking in Mahableshwar


Strawberries! I never met a person who said that they did not like strawberries. I look forward to the season every year and through the season we always have strawberries at home. This year we decided to make the 5 hour trek to Mahableshwar to OD on strawberries and bring back some.

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The drive to Mahableshwar is about 5 hours from Mumbai, and it is Strawberry Heaven for sure. The way they sell bananas and chai in every nook and corner in the city, in Mahableshwar you can find strawberries. There are several strawberry farms as well, where you can go and buy them by the kilo.

We did some scouting and discovered “Laxmi Strawberry Farm” . This farm that is owned by the Bhilare Family, lets you pick strawberries and even other vegetables and you can buy what you pick. That seemed like a really fun thing to do. You can call them https://www.facebook.com/mahabaleshwarStrawberry  and check when they will be available. We found them on google maps and landed up there.

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The farm had strawberries which were surprisingly easy to pluck. They are nestled in, but the red luscious beauties are easy to spot and plucking them almost zero effort, but supremely satisfying to see a basket full of them.

They also had cabbage, tomatoes and green chillies, which we picked and brought back. Advocating Farm to Plate

Cabbage Farm

The family lives there, they have a few farms in the city, we went to the one near Marathi Medium School. The farm may seem underwhelming, it is quite a small patch of land, but between the two of us , we did not even comb one row and we still had two kilos of strawberries.

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Strawberry Mahableshwar

This was defenitely more fun, than buying a kilo off the street or a shop. You literally enjoy the fruits of your labour. I would defenitely recommend this as a thing to do in Mahableshwar. It sure is an experience and a memory that will stay with us for a while. And as always, I cannot help but think of the Nancy Sinatra duet, when I think of strawberries, because it rings so true.

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Strawberries, cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring
My summer wine is really made from all these things
I walked in town on silver spurs that jingled to
A song that I had only sang to just a few
She saw my silver spurs and said let’s pass some time
And I will give to you summer wine
Oh, oh summer wine

Siolim House in Goa – vintage and history


Finding a place to stay in Goa is a long deliberate struggle. The husband thinks, I give it too much attention, but I am glad I do. On our last visit to goa we discovered “Siolim House” . It is easy to make me swoon if you use words like vintage, historical , back in time – I am quite the sucker for old world charm and the descriptions of Siolim House had me intrigued.

 

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Casa Palacio Siolim House is 350 years old. An old manor house, it retains all its vintage charm. The team at the home is warm and inviting. We reached at 7.30 am which is quite early by Goa standards, but there were people who welcomed us, and our room was ready. We were also served some excellent coffee. You are greeted with the most charming , happy sign at the entrance.

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The Charming Message At The Entrance 

 

You walk -in to a lovely area to relax followed by the common verandah. Honestly if you ask me, it is difficult to decide where you want to while your morning away. We chose the outdoors, if you are curious 🙂

 

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The Sitting Room 

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Verandah 

The Swimming  Pool is inviting and casual. It is not too deep, but serves the purpose of wallowing in the sun, or working up an appetitie for wholesome goan fare. They conduct a morning Yoga class at 7.30 am by the pool. Honestly, that Yoga Class may just spoil your hipster Yoga Class in the City.

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The Swimming Pool 

 

The Rooms are spacious and our window looked out into the well  near the common courtyard and had a charming sit out as well. But the piece de  resistance was “the throne” , which you will see a picture of as you scroll. I normally refrain from sharing pictures of the pot, but this one just screams share! Honestly the bathroom was the size of both our bedrooms in our Bandra Home. The rooms as you can see are very spacious. Gorgeous wooden furniture, and

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Sit Out Outside Our Room 

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The Bedroom 

 

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View From Our Room 

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The Throne 

Around the Property 

The Property has around 7 rooms, and has a certain intimacy to it. There are some charming spots that you can walk around in and simply enjoy your book or a cup of tea. They have a TV room, that houses some enchanting Coffee Table Books, and games so that you can choose to sit in and do nothing at the property that requires effort or planning.

 

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Around The Property

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A Bench To Relax 

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Steps Leading Up to the TV Room 

The Steps you see above lead up to the TV room and Suites. The most interesting feature that we noticed was that there was a door that would become a floor as you climb up. And Prayshwi the really helpful receptionist told us that there were holes in the door, which would help people see who is at the door and in case they had to shoot attackers in the days of yore they would.

We spent only two days there, but as a location it is ideal. It is a stone’s throw away from Siolim Church. A 15 -20 minute drive will take you to Vagator or Anjuna and Ashwem is about half an hour away . That is super ideal in my book. As a policy you pay for your stay in advance, as we made a last minute booking, very honestly I did not read the fine print on that.

This ranks high in my preference of places to stay in Goa.  We missed having any meals at Siolim House, because Goa has so many choices when it comes to eating out and favorites, but that is defintely something I would love to go back for  and stay for a longer time.

 

New York at Christmas


 

There is something about being in New York that makes me feel that I am in the middle of a Rom Com or in an episode of SATC. The whole city has an air of familiarity, but at the same time, promises adventure and discovery at every step.

 

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I experienced the last leg of Autumn and the first leg of Christmas  as I found myself in New York in the first few days of December. The leaves were flaming orange, and yellow , the Christmas Spirit Engulfed the air. Special Shows, Large Christmas Trees, Special Display windows all over the city. They made me forget that I was walking around in 4 degrees temperature. I find 21 degrees difficult to bear, so one can only imagine what Antarctica this would have meant to me.

Here are a few things that you Must Not Miss if you are ever in New York at Christmas. While Fairy Lights, Carols and Happy faces beckon you at evey turn some need undivided attention

Watch George Balanchine’s Nut Cracker at the Lincoln Center

The story of the Nut Cracker is what we have all read in parts or religiously as we were growing up. You will realise how familiar the music is once you listen to the various pieces that are part of the ballet. This was my first ballet and it was enchanting to see dreamy sequences come to life. You see a 12 ft Christmas Tree become 40 feet whilst the dream world of Marie comes to life. While there are several versions of the Nutcracker  –  The George Balanchine production of the Tchaikovsky ballet is the most celebrated one in the US and a must do thing around Christmas. The Snow Flake Sequuence and the Waltz of the Flowers were my favorite, I’d love to hear about yours too.

 

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They do not allow pictures inside, though I managed to sneak one little one at the end, because I just had to walk away with a memory of the lovely experience I had. I got fairly decent tickets at 125$ with a good view. But I was still sitting up on the first floor, I was in the 4th ring.

 

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Make a Date With the Rockettes

The Christmas Spectacular at the iconic Radio City Music Hall is also one of those amazing experiences that simply add to the Christmas Spirit . I watched this after the ballet, so while the productions are very different, this one had a more relatable charm to it, whilst the ballet was etheral. 14 years of convent education had done enough to excite me about any reference to Christmas. Christmas combined by the awe inspiring synchronised dancing of the Rockettes guarantees an awesome show. It is called the Spectacular so expect nothing else. Here I got better tickets in about 110$ so i sat closer to the stage 🙂

 

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This was my favorite song and I spent the next few days singing it while I explored the city.

Check out Rockettes New York At Christmas

 

The Rockefeller Tree

The tree is considered the epicentre of New York City’s Holiday Celebrations. Right from the time of the Great Depression, while workers stood to collect their wages, the Tree has metamorphosed into a symbol that heralds the onset of the holidays. In recent years the lighting of the tree is a celebrated event that is also telecast Live. The 1999 tree was 100 feet tall, the one that I saw last year was 94 feet making it the second largest ever. Honestly it’s difficult to get a good glimpse as everyone wants a picture with it, just like I did. I chose to go during the day and avoid the night.

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The Christmas Markets

The parks turn to bustling markets where you can buy Christmas decorations, gifts or simply hang out to soak in the vibe. I spent a good afternoon at the Bryant Park market watching people skate and enjoy the holidays shopping. You have some amazing stores from around the world and New York and is an ideal place to shop for souvenirs and Christmas goodies.

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I also visited the Columbus Circle Market. What I enjoyed most at both these markets was people watching and sipping divine hot choclate.

 

The SnowFlake on Fifth Avenue

Another New York Icon is the Snowflake on Fifth Avenue. It is put up by the UNICEF and is dedicated to vulnerable children across the world. I can only think of this song when I look at it

“O Star of wonder, star of night. Star with royal beauty bright”

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Coffee Up and Stay Warm

The best thing about the cold is Warm Drinks. And No better Warm drink than Coffee in my book. I am not a fan of regular American Coffee, so I did extensive research on where I must have coffee in NYC. I sampled the following and was not dissapointed at all. The Blue Bottle next to Bryant Park, Blue Stone Lane Coffee in West Village  Toby’s estate next to Flatiron, and Third Rail scored high on my list! I would recommend these to any coffee lover at the drop of a hat

 

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Other Things to Do

High Tea at Bergdorf with a dash of Central Park.

While you admire the iconic window displays at Bergdorf Goodman, it will do you good to go up to the restaurant and enjoy their High tea as you look out into Central Park and at the right time of the evening you can see the sun set on the buildings and it is truly a Rom Com movie sight. The tea and the spread is not bad too. It was a lot of food, and I had time to kill and they do not hurry you at all. So i would say indulge and be a lady and channelise that inner Carrie in you. The tea including tips would cost you about 75$

 

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Walk down Brooklyn Bridge

A clear day with the occassional chill that kisses your face, the close to a mile walk is never boring for a New Yorker so for a tourist you can imagine the charm. This was my second walk and a much longer one, because we walked from Eastern Parkway, over the bridge till Seaport in Manhattan.

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Walking remains the best way to discover a city, but I was a huge fan of the Kick app. it simplified the metro and also worked offline, which is great because no matter where in the world you are connectivity in the subway is weak.

This was only a short list of what exciting things one can do in New York around Christmas. Would love to hear from you, if I must add to this list. Hopefully some day soon I will be back at Christmas and I will be sure to use those notes then 🙂

 

 

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Udaipur – 5 things that will make you fall in love with it


 

Udaipur is a city, where you see the influence of the Royal Family everywhere you go, with the symbol of the Mewars across the city, an underlying reference to the royals and of course the palaces that stand tall. An ideal destination from Mumbai, it takes about an hour to fly there and 45 minutes to reach the city. So when you have a weekend getaway planned, you will be able to make the most of it.Here is my list of things that could make a weekend getaway truly memorable in the City of Lakes as it is popularly called.

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  1. Visit the City Palace.

The City Palace is Majestic. Built over 400 years, the Complex houses 11  palaces. It should take you about 2- 3 hours to complete the tour. The complex is extremely well maintained and you can hire a guide a la Raju from Guide. In fact we spotted a flashy guide in red pants and a printed shirt speaking in fluent Italian to tourists.He was surely inspired by Dev Anand.

 

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The City Palace

 

Even if you are not a fanatic follower of Mewar history, just seeing the palace, display of wealth and the panoramic views will leave you wanting more. There is also the crystal gallery which we gave a miss but is said to be world’s single largest private collection of crystal under one roof.

 

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2. Walk the streets of the Old Town.

We were staying at the Leela, which is very close to the Old Town. The Old Town is a delight to walk through. Really interesting graffiti, art and shopping beckon you at every turn. I thoroughly enjoyed the art, graffiti and the intricate detailed art on the doors.

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Much to our amusement several restaurants screened Octopussy every night. I’m surprised they left out Guide because Udaipur plays a fairly significant part in the movie.

 

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3. Meals with a view.

We ate Rajasthani food in two places which were poles apart but had the most mesmerizing views in their own ways.

Millets of Mewar

One would describe this as a health food restaurant. Friendly, to vegans, those on a gluten free diet and those happy to experiment with Indian twists to fare. My favorite were the Nutella Pancakes, I truly wished I had more meals there, to be able to have them again.

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View from Millets of Mewar

 

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Banana and Nutella Millet Pancake

 

 

 

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Mushroom and Mozarella Millet Pizza

 

 

Sheesh Mahal

The Sheesh Mahal at the Leela Palace in Udaipur, has one of the best views of the Lake Palace on the Pichola.. The name of the restaurant is Sheesh Mahal, because on a good day you dine to the glistening reflection of the Palace on the lake.

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Reflections

This was the restaurant where we indulged in thoroughly traditional Rajasthani Fare – Gatte Ki Sabji, Papad ki Sabji and of course Laal Maas along with Millet Rotis. We understood why dining at this restaurant tops the list of things to do in Udaipur. Impeccable Service, Unmatched Views and meals that you will remember for a lifetime

 

4. Chittorgarh Fort

This is a Morning  – Evening Trip. I wanted to do this primarily for Rani Padmini, Meera Bai and of course the movie Guide. The Song Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai was shont here, and if you are to see the song again, you will recognize some of the places. And as a child, all I probably wanted was to wear a saree and look like Rosie when I did.

 

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Kumbha Palace

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Kumbha Palace

 

It is a two hour drive, and about two hours is what you would spend there. It’s better to have your own car at the fort. It  may be pretty much impossible to cover this on foot and you would be more comfortable in your own vehicle. The Kumbha Palace, The Meera Temple and Rani Padmini;s palace were the main places I wanted to see and managed to tick them all of.

 

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Meera Temple – Made for her to worship Lord Krishna

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Legend has it, this is where Rani Padmini jumped off to save her “honour” – Padmini Palace

It’s simply surreal to walk down the path of figures, that you read about in History Text Books. It is a UNESCO heritage site, and fairly well maintained. Watch out for the Langoors who hang around the fort.

 

5. Stay on the Pichola Lake.

There are several hotels on Lake Pichola, and most of them super exclusive. Udaipur is so much about the luxury, that I would recommend that you choose where you stay with care. Staying in one of them can truly take your experience a few notches.

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There is the Taj Lake Palace, Udai Vilas, Jag Mandir, Fateh Sagar, and of course the Leela. We stayed at the Leela and woke up to glorious skies everyday and that undeniably adds to the Magic of the Udaipur Holiday.

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View from our Room

 

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The Leela Palace

 

 

While Jag Mandir and Lake Palace are on the Lake, the rest of the hotels, while having an access by road, are best visited on a ferry and a romantic ride on Lake Pichola

 

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Udai Vilas

 

 

Udaipur is a city which you would in all probability promise yourself you will come back to. I sure did. I would love to know if there’s something that I missed out and I must try so that I love Udaipur more.

 

 

 

 

 

Palermo – More to it than the Godfather


Palermo is a charming city in Sicily, and an overnight train ride away from Naples. We were keen on a Sicily leg to our Italian holiday, and between it’s mafia  connection and love for all things sweet, our decision was made. We spent two days in this charming capital city and took back a lifetime of Sicilian memories.

It is part of Italy, but has a different vibe to it compared to the rest of it. This could be because of the Byzantine influence. An overnight train journey took us to the city of Palermo from Naples. Its refreshing to wake up to a train ride that brings to you some breathtaking views of the sea.

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View from the Train

 

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Palermo bylanes

We stayed in the most gorgeous Air BnB in the centre of the city – L’Olivella it is very close to the Teatro Massimo. It was strategically placed and we were actually able to walk to most places we wanted to go to. The hostess was really helpful and sets up the most divine breakfast with a whole host of Sicilian treats. If any of you do decide to visit Palermo I would strongly recommend that you check L’Olivella ‘s availability and grab it, if it is available.

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Breakfast at L’Olivella

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The Living Room

About 400 metres away is the Nicest Coffee shop in the whole of Palermo called Ruvol0. For the 3 mornings that I was there, that was where I headed for my morning cuppa, to find a Sicilian gossip conference on as early as 6 am. You have a view of the Teatro Massimo and an array of Sicilian delights to choose from.

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Sweet Treats

Opera Dei Pupi (Opera of the Puppets)

Puppet theatre is quite popular in Italy, we saw it on the promenade in Salerno as well, but the piece de resistance was definitely the Opera Dei Pupi that we saw in Palermo. It has been been listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. When we saw it, we understood why. The marionette was entirely in Italian, and was an enactment of a “Orlando Furioso” a complete pot boiler, it had its share of conflict, romance,metaphysical, fantasy, humour, war, and even though we did not understand the language, it was exaggerated enough for us to get a sense of what was happening.

 

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More than anything, the quality of production is mesmerizing and leaves you enthralled. it transports you to the middle ages and I was in awe of the sheer brilliance. It was nice to see a lot of local families and even children enjoying the show. I really wish that I had understood the language to enjoy it more and laugh at jokes.

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Sugar Rush – Sicilian Treats

Casatta was born in Palermo. This was reason enough to pay obeisance to this city and brave a bus ride (with no ticket) to Pasticcerria Oscar to eat the best Casatta in the city. A sponge cake, moistened with juices, layered with ricotta, and covered with a shell of marzipan. It is sweet and has an array of textures, and a delight for all the senses.

 

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Casatta at Oscar

Cannoli Siciliani was the next dessert, we simply had to try here. It gets it’s name from Cannolu meaning Tube, and it looks like one with a filling of Ricotta or Mascarpone. You may have eaten it with a creamy filling, which could be custard but that’s only because people did not have the right ingredients in that part of the world, and over a period of time, it became the norm. The dessert is distinct to Sicily and I would say make most of it while you are there, as it’s not easily available all over the world.

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Cannoli

 

Brioche Con Gelato, or the Italian Ice Cream Sandwich. This has to be the best use of a Brioche. In most gelataria’s you can make your own Ice Cream sandwich. Choose your gelato flavors and the kind man at the counter, will make your own sandwich. Just the kind of breakfast / snack that calls out to me. It was an indulgent discovery, and a happy one. You cannot take your sweet time with it, because you are managing the melting gelato, and trying to balance that you have enough Brioche left till the very end. However, these are the kind of problems that I love to have.

 

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Brioche with Pistachio and Strawberry Gelato

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Almond Granita

If you have a sweet tooth like mine, there just aren’t enough meals to do justice to the Sweet haven that Palermo is. Never mind the sugar rush, but old favorites and experiments with new ones have to be made.

AdioPizzo

Palermo being the capital of Sicily, had a huge Mafia presence, and that’s what the city is famous for. However, we noticed stickers in our building and a few of the restaurants that we went to, that said “AdioPizzo” , meaning  “Goodbye Pizzo” .

 

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We went to Antica Focacceria San Francesco, a restaurant that was established in 1834, while the food they serve is delicious and they are famous for that, they are in the news more because they were one of the first establishments to refuse to pay “Protection Money” . Focacceria owner Vincenzo Conticello became a local hero.

 

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The iconic Restaurant Facade

The restaurant is very famous for it’s Lamprodetto, but apart from that they serve a lot of snacks as well as pretty decent vegetarian fare. I indulged in the “Involantini di Melanzane” Eggplant Roulades, with cheese in a tomato and pinenuts puree. I could understand the hype around the restaurant. Good food, and history always go very well together for a tourist.

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Lampradetto

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Involantini di Melanzane

 

 

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Other things to do in Palermo

There is history everywhere, and like most of Europe, just walking around will have you marvel at the architecture and the sheer beauty of the city. Buskers, cafes and historical buildings are in every corner. The Normandy Palace, is another place that is simply marvellous. It is grand and very different from the kind of architecture you see in the rest of Europe. The Byzantine influence shines through. Street Food tours are popular, and you can eat almost every kind of meat, possible and also buy some sicilian crockery as you walk in the bylanes of Palermo.

 

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One more thing to keep in mind, is to definitely buy a day pass, if you intend to use the Bus. Your ticket is not checked on it, and definitely not sold. So either you buy it at the station, or a tabachi and that is closed on Sunday. We found out the hard way, and because we were too chicken to risk a fine, walked most of Sunday in Palermo, which I do not regret considering all the Sweets I ate.

I am certain we will go back to Sicily some day, when we will go to other cities like Catania  and Taormina, a  stop over at Palermo will be inevitable for all the original goodies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding #CasaAnjuna – a haven in Goa


This time when we were planning our holiday to Goa, we were keen on staying in Anjuna and beyond . It may be tough to believe that my first ever trip to Goa was about 4 years ago, and that too on work, but since then we’ve been there every year. While we found a lovely hotel in Nerul – The Sol, where we love staying, we realized that we were driving towards Vagator everytime we wanted to step out, which led to our decision to look for a place in the part of Goa that I mentioned.

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The Pool at Casa Anjuna

After some research we chanced upon Casa Anjuna, and we were really happy with our choice. It is a boutique hotel that is strategically located in Anjuna. We were barely 10 minutes away from Thalassa as well as Anjuna beach, and barely 5 mins from ArtJuna which is my favorite Cafe. This made it really convenient to hop back to our room and step out couple of times a day. While I must admit, while the trip advisor rating was good, I always take that with a pinch of salt and like to read few more reviews, but I did not get too much information. I had no reason to worry though.

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Casa Anjuna

 

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Casa Anjuna Entrance

The rooms are very spacious. Ours also had a nice sit out where we could have simply chilled and enjoyed our morning coffee. I did not like the bathrooms too much though. They were not dirty, or unkempt but ours had a weird-ish tub in it, which did not work for me at all. If there was one thing I would want to change, it would only be the bathroom.

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Our Sit Out

Casa Anjuna, is nestled in a dead end. It has a colonial air about it. It is a luxurious Portuguse Villa, with a pool and a lot of nooks and corners where you can relax with a book, a cup of tea or a drink. We were there only for 3 days, so did not have time to just relax at the property for too long, but it’s something that I see myself do with ease. It makes it very convenient for long stays.

 

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Common Area

The pool is something we used every morning. It is thoroughly cleaned every morning, and with all the vegetation around it, it is indeed a haven to swim in. We thoroughly enjoyed our morning swims there.

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The Pool

 

Goa is an exciting food destination for us, so frankly we did not try the food at the hotel, so I cannot comment on it at all. As for the staff, they are really helpful and polite and non intrusive. They were really helpful arranging a cab for us, as we had an early morning flight. We almost had a family send off, with the security and one more manager seeing us off waving goodbye. I found that incredibly sweet especially 3.3o in the morning.

 

These guys also have a property in Vagator, which I am keen to check out on my next trip.

 

Eating & Climbing through #Florence


While Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and can be really inspring and intimidating when you visit it, I  bring back memories of uphill climbs that made all the florentine food we ate guilt free, more than anything else. Oh yes! When you walk 17 kms a day, everything on the menu is allowed and you can indulge without guilt. We ate at some of the iconic places in Florence and discovered some new ones. I share some of my memorable meals, and hope that I am back again soon in this lovely city that celebrates Art and food with equal fervor.

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The Best Pizza and a Breathtaking Panorama

We earned ourselves the right to unlimited calories, or so we thought after our uphill climb to enjoy some of the most splendid views of Florence from Piazza Michelangelo. While you can choose to take a bus, or take a taxi we decided to climb up having no idea how steep that climb actually was. Wear walking shoes, those wedges aint gonna make the climb any sweeter. I must add however that it was well worth the climb as we basked in panoramic views of Florence and a David replica. I feel they made it really tacky so that we appreciate doubly the glory of the David Statue in Uffizzi.  We were lucky we reached when it was still bright and managed to stay until dark. The Piazza is crowded and people tend to buy their food and drink and prop themselves on the stairs, to enjoy the view. The panorama across the Arno – dome and belltower of the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio’s clock tower and various church steeples  – is probably the photo of Florence that you often see and it’s important that you have your own 🙂

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The View From Piazza Micheangelo

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View from the Piazza

Famished and tired, we simply walked back and ended up at Bevo Vino a little place we saw as we climbed down the steps and were making our way back to our hotel. It’s in the funky San Nicolo neighborhood, which you have to pass by to get back to the Arno, and the Ponte Vecchio. It is a Wine Bar, and the Mister decided to have the Peroni Rossa Beer. The pièce de résistance was the pizza which was the day’s special. We still sigh when we think of this Pizza and hope that we will bump into this somewhere. Otherwise we may just have to go back to Italy for this. Sunk our teeth into this gorgeous piece of food art, seemed like a margherita, topped with fresh roquette and succulent fresh Buffalo Mozarella.

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Pizza from heaven

When the Wait is Worth it – Trattoria Mario 

Our next meal that I think of often was at Trattoria Mario. It is run by three generations of the Colzi family it is famous for it’s Florentine home style food. It’s a comfortable walk from the Duomo on Via Rosina. This was one line we were glad we waited in. It is open only for lunch and shut on Sundays, no skipping lines and all you can do is hope people ahead of you drop out!

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We waited about 45mins to get a table, albeit one that we had to share with a group of people and another couple. Very udipi-esque in that sense, and had the same no nonsense, eat and leave kind of vibe. Very chaotic and lively in a way. Lots of screaming, it’s hot, and a lot of locals eat there. Gets my vote.

Apparently here everyone eats together and when Fabio Colzi calls out your name you get to your table, sharing it with strangers, but with a common goal, of eating authentic florentine cuisine. I was impressed with was with the way he  pronounced my name “Soowaathi” , which was amazing, as my name tends to be quite a tongue twister for most foreigners.

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See the Chaos Behind?

 Trattoria Mario’s Ribollita  is world famous and luckily for us it was on the menu. It’s a vegetable soup soaked in bread, and frankly is a wholesome meal by itself. That is the first time I had it, and I have not seen it on too many menus since.

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Ribbulita

The second item on my list was the Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Ravioli in a fresh tomato and basil sauce. The Ravioli was generously filled and the sauce itself is one of the freshest I have had, I can still taste the flurry of flavors in my mouth.

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Stuffed Ravioli in Tomato Sauce

Their olive oil I had read is so good, that they supply to restaurants, so we ordered that with some bread. The bread of course in true tuscan style is not with salt, but the olive oil is seasoned  well. When you do have the olive oil it’s easy to understand why they supply to others.

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Coffee & Gelato Scouts

In between all this, I managed to have coffee at three of their coffee shops.

Scudieri which is right opposite the Duomo, a perfect spot for dessert, or coffee before or after you make the trek up. We decided to go before. Ordered a regular Cappucino and a Macchiato. The second spot that we tried was the Roberto Cavalli Cafe – Cafe Giacosa. I indulged in a Cafe Completo which had espresso, hazelnut and chocolate. Their hot chocolate is wickedly rich and good too.

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Cappucino at Scudieri

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Cafe Completo – Cafe Giacosa

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Hot Chocolate – Cafe Giacosa

Gelato at Grom is probably a must. I’m not a fan of chains and retail but Grom seems different and the gelato is definitely does not seem mass produced but a lot more fresh and natural. We managed to sample 5 flavors. Madagascar Vanilla, Chocolate Extra Noir, pistachio (always) Hazelnut and Coffee. If I could have 2 flavours again, it would be the hazelnut and pistachio!

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Pilgrimage to the top of the Duomo.

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The Duomo

It is indeed an experience that I will cherish, climbing up the duomo, to the top of the Cupola. It is 463 steps, there’s no elevator and it really is a narrow spiral staircase. It is an adventure, and easily an exercise in bonding with fellow human beings and patience. Sometimes the path to go up and the path to come down is the same, so it is an excercise in co-ordination and god bless you, if you are on the heavier side. Very few windows can leave you claustrophobic, but you get through it all to enjoy a view of the cradle of the renaissance.

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View from one of the little windows

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The Final Steps Up to the Cupola

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But First let me take a selfie up there

These are only a few activities that I enjoyed in Florence. It really is the tip of a whole world of history, art and culture waiting to be explored. These are some of my favorite experiences from my trip. If you are reading this, I hope that it helps you. I would also love to hear about your recommendations, so that I am all geared up for my next trip!