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Europe Trip – Part 3 – Italy – Venice

Next to Paris & Switzerland, Italy is the neighboring country that will be in any European trip itinerary. And, we didn’t want to miss anything in the big country. So, one whole week was dedicated to cover 3 major places in Italy – Venice, Florence & Rome.

We actually didn’t want to leave from Switzerland. But, since our tickets were all pre-booked, we had to catch our train as planned. Swiss to Venice was a long journey with 2 halts in between.

Lucerne to Arth-Goldau

Arth to Milano

Milano to Venezia Mestre

We decided to stay in Venezia Mestre, for cost cutting. So, had to take bus from our apartment to Venice and vice versa. Again bus number 2 for both to and from journey. The bus stop (via Fiume) was just on the door steps of our apartment. We only had to walk further in search of the Tabachi shops. To know why we went in search of Tabachi shops and what we did there, read my friends blog.

Every city we visited, the first thing we did was to learn the public transport system there and the mode of transport from our hotel to places we wanted to visit and back to the hotel. We then took a route map of the whole journey and then only we set out to explore. By the time we familiarize ourselves with the transport system in a place, it would be time for us to move to another place.

So, after saving the map and route in our mobile, we went to Venice mainland. “The floating city“. We are still wondering how the houses and other structures stand still, surrounded by water. All types of vehicles, transport by water and you reach one place to other faster by water ways. There are water taxis, both government and private taxis, water ambulance, gondala boats, private boats and so on. Like how we park our cars in front of our houses, people there park their boat in front of their house. Come out of your house, get down into your boat and go wherever you want. Nice to see.

Now, a quick look into the actual itinerary.

Day 9 – 05/05/2017 : Agenda for the day was to reach Venice mainland, then enquire in the tourist office about options for the Island tour and Gondala ride and then decide what / when to do.

Swiss to Venice was a long journey and by the time we reached hotel, refreshed, found a nearby pizzeria for a quick bite and then reach main Venice, it was almost evening. On further enquiry we found out that all the major items in our list can only be covered the next day. So, decided to simply walk around the grand canal. The entire stretch was filled with lots of shops all around, tempting the tourist to buy lots of stuffs from dresses to toys to all types of souvenirs, and we were no exception. We too filled our bags with all that caught our eyes and heart and we walked till the famous rialto bridge. The night view from the bridge was awesome. We spent some time around that area and by then, everyone was tired and so, we decided to do the return journey through water taxi.

 

Day 10 – 06/05/2017 : The only day we had in Venice. So, not to waste a minute, the whole day was packed with all the places we wanted to visit in Venice. Got ready early and reached Venice water taxi station by 8.30 am. While 2 of us go and search for the boarding point for the island tour (we had already purchased the tickets the previous day during enquiry), 2 of us search for the nearby coffee shop for the quick muffins and coffee / hot chocolate, for our breakfast. On days, where we have to leave early for our sight seeing, these quick bites are our breakfast. All set, we started on our half day island trip at 9 am.

Island trip covers 3 island. Murano, Burano and Torcillo island.

Murano Island – famous for glass making factory. We happened to see how they made glasses and the various designs out of it. We were not allowed to take photos inside their shops. Such beautiful piece of works. You can sit the whole day and admire.

Burano Island – known for Lace making factory and uniquely, differently, brightly colored houses.

Torcello Island – known for ancient historic cathedral & a famous stone chair (Kabali chair).

The island tour ends by 2 pm and we got down at San Marco water taxi station, as that is the most happening place. After lunch, we went for the famous Gondala boat ride. The gondala boats looks beautiful. Don’t ask me anything more about the ride. 🙂  Then spent some time on St. Mark’s Square, visited the Cathedral and simply walked around for the rest of the day.

enroute to island trip

 

Murano island (glass making)

Burano island (color houses)

Torcello island

San Marco – St.Mark’s Square

Thus ends our Venice story.

Part 4 – Florence – to be continued…

 

 

Europe trip – Part 2 – Switzerland

Europe Trip – Part 1 – Paris

Swiss Alps will be in the list of all people who love nature and traveling. We (atleast I) have heard about, read about or even watched in movies about the natural beauty of the snow-clad mountains and its surrounding. But, when you actually physically visit the place, and you are surrounded by white mountains and green grasslands, the feeling is amazing. You will want to have eyes all around your head to have a 360 degree view and not miss anything. We were all awestruck with eyes / mouth wide open.

Some of us wanted to get lost in Swiss itself. We started envying people who stay there. There were also discussion about the various means of surviving, if we settle there, assuming we don’t get the kind of job we do now. Like options from putting a tea stall to rearing cattle. Oh. No! I am not good at them too. What shall I do? May be I can try tour guide / cab driver / school teacher.. Some of us tried influencing the teens in our group to look out for higher studies options over there. We were crazy enough to discuss all options. The whole idea being, get lost in Swiss. No wonder, the visa officers were very strict. 😉

Ok. Let me get into the day wise details.

Day 5 – 01/05/2017 : We checked out from our hotel in Paris and started our train journey to Swiss. We had 2 hops before reaching Lucerne.

Paris to Strasbourg

Strasbourg to Basel SBB

Basel SBB to Lucerne

We started at 7.45 am from Paris and reached Lucerne by 2.10 pm. Traveling across the European countries by train was another checklist item in our wish list. And the European cities are so well-connected by public transport, it makes the life of tourist smooth and easy to explore.

We had booked 2 apartments opposite each other and it was such a big / nice apartment. After our 4 days stay in budget rooms in Paris, this looked even bigger. 🙂 Read more about our budget room stay in my friends blog.

Refreshed, had our Pizza lunch (since most of us were vegetarians, the vegetarian pizza was a safe food and easy to spot in any restaurant), and set out to explore. We found a nearby bus stop and figured out how to purchase tickets from the ticket vending machine in the stop. We need to go to Lucerne station for all our enquiries and sight-seeing for the day.

Our bus stop was named Reussbuhl, Fluhmuhle and Bus number 2 has to be used to reach Lucerne station and vice versa. All buses had a running display of the next stop, making it easy to use them. We reached Lucerne station, found the tourist information center to enquire about the weather for next 3 days and decided our itinerary based on local weather conditions. Then, we went out for that day’s sight-seeing.

The Lucerne lake was just besides the Lucerne station with mountains on the other side of the lake. The view was breathtaking. It started drizzling / raining and added more fun. We visited Chappel Bridge and Lion Monument. Then had food in an Indian restaurant. That was the only Indian restaurant we visited in the whole of our trip and that was the only costliest bill too. 🙂

Lake Lucerne, Chappel Bridge & Lion Monument

Day 6 – 02/05/2017 : Mt. Titlis. Since, weather was clear in Lucerne on that day, we decided to do Mt. Titlis. We started early and took tickets for the entire journey (from Lucerne station to Engelberg, Engelberg to Mt.Titlis, and return till Lucern station).

The whole train journey was filled with spectacular views all around. You just take a random picture, it is sure to be your desktop wall paper. At one point, we closed all our camera’s to save some battery till the end of the day and started capturing pictures with our eyes and stored it in our memory. 🙂

Reached Engelberg and took a cable car ride upto a point and then a rotating cable car to reach the top. As you step out into the real mountain peak, all you see is white snow and blue sky. A clear sunny day it was. The ice flyer ride and the hanging cliff walk was amazing. The actual feelings cannot be explained in words. You have to visit the place to experience it.

The few wallpapers that we captured.

After spending enough time over there, on our return, we spotted a place where people were playing snow tubing and other snow games. The cable car slows down as it crosses that place and we were not sure if we could get down there. We were split in 2 different cable cars. Made a quick decision to get down and hinted people in other cable car in front of us also to get down. And that was one right decision we took at a right time. All of us had great fun in the snow sports. Snow tubing and snow scooter slide. We don’t have a count of how many time we did that. Particularly the kids. We were all there until it was time for them to close and they sent us out. We were all fully contented and done for the day. Couldn’t ask for more.

Few more clicks.

 

Day 7 – 03/05/2017 : Plan for the day was to visit Rhine falls in Zurich. Since Zurich was in close borders with Germany, we decided to visit the Blackforest region in Germany and searched for day tour packages that covered Germany Blackforest region, Titisee river, famous Drubba Cuckoo clock factory and Rhine falls. We spotted one such tour operator and took the day tour covering the placed mentioned above.

Scenery en-route to Blackforest region in Germany

 

Drubba Cuckoo clocks, Yummy Black forest cake in Black forest region in Germany.

 

Rhine falls in Zurich

 

Day 8 – 04/05/2017 : Plan was to do Mt. Jungfrau, from Interlaken. But, the weather conditions were not favorable. So, we changed the plans after reaching Interlaken. The train ride from Lucerne to Interlaken is called the “Golden Pass Line” and you can just keep doing that route up and down, any number of times. Such an amazing stretch, filled with natural beauty. Nature is so partial by having all its beauty in one place.

From Interlaken, we changed our plans and visited Trummelbachfalle and a boat cruise ride in Lake Brienz. One could see all shades of green, blue and white colored water, in the lake.

Golden Pass train line – Lucerne to Interlaken

Trummelbach falls.

Lake Brienz

Collage of candid shots by friends 🙂

 

Actually, 4 days were not sufficient for us. There were lot more items in our itinerary, which we missed to do, due to lack of time. You will need 1 week in Swiss alone. Another “Operation Swiss” get added to our wish-list.

 

Part 3 – Italy. To be continued…

Tour de Europe – Part1 – France

Destination Europe – It was a dream come true trip. Our magalir-mattum gang has been planning for a destination trip to 3 countries in Europe. The plan has been on for so many years. While all along it was in talks, this year we wanted to execute it. This time, it was a group of 11 people (8 adults and 3 teen kids).

Though we planned for the trip 4 months in advance, until the last week, we were not sure how many are going to actually do it. The toughest part of the trip was the visa processing. What would you do without a valid visa, even though you have everything in place for the trip? My friend had written in detail about the same and i am linking them here.

Dont underestimate the powers of schengen visa officers

To go or not to go? That is the question, Visa officers answered!

Finally, All 11 of us made it to the trip. It was a tightly packed 16 days trip. All planning from flight ticket booking, hotel reservation, sight-seeing analysis, detailed itinerary, mode of transport in all places were all decided and executed by us. Not any package trip. We explored on our own, which added more fun to the trip and made it even more memorable.

Almost all our days were long. We started early and stayed outside till late night. Sun set was around 8.30 pm on all days, which gave us more time to explore out. We left behind all smaller kids in the age group of as young as 18 months to 12-year-old. We are all grateful to our family members who took care of our children in our absence, without whom, the trip would have been only in dreams.

Now coming to the actual trip. Actually i can write a detailed post for each day of the trip. So much experimentation and exploration. But, I am giving only a gist of all that we did.

Day 1 – 27/04/2017 : Reach Paris, refresh and visit Eiffel Tower, was the only agenda for the day. We used only public transport for all our commute except when we have to carry our luggage. Paris is well connected by Metro and so, found the nearby metro station ‘Porte de St-Ouen’. Managed to get metro ticket. Now, we need to take 3 different metro train to reach Eiffel tower. Studied the metro map ‘n’ number of times, asked people around, who talked in a different language, which we tried to decode, but in vain. Finally got hold of a person who speaks our language and found the route. The route goes as

M13 – from ‘Porte de St-Ouen’ to ‘Place de Clichy’

M2 – from ‘Place de Clichy’ to ‘Charles de Gaulle-Etoile’

M6 – from ‘Charles de Gaulle-Etoile’ to ‘Trocadero’.

(Note : These details are for my fellow travelers to remember the places we visited and all that we did there. There are some more metro stations that we visited in the 4 days stay in Paris, like ‘Porte de Clignancourt’, ‘Invalides’, ‘Gare du Nord’, ‘Gare de l’Est’ and so on. I have promised to give them all a spelling test later. 😉  )

 

Now, as you come out of the ‘Trocadero’ metro station, you get to see the stunning view of the Eiffel tower. We spent rest of the day there. We went to the top of the tower for the breathtaking city view, and by the time we finished that, the sun was set, the light were on and the tower was glittering. One can sit the whole night looking at the beauty of the tower. Traveling long hours all the way from Chennai and ending the day in Paris with night view of the tower was an awesome feel.

 

Day 2 – 28/04/2017 : The same route to reach the tower and we went on an hour-long Cruise ride on the ‘Seine River‘. Then post lunch, visited ‘Louvre Museum‘. There were painting all around and we didn’t know where to start and where to end. Managed to cover most part of the museum by evening. Then spent some time in front of the Louvre pyramid for some different photos. Next, we went to ‘Arc de Triomphe‘. Spent some time there. Then walked along the ‘Champs-Elysees’ street till the ‘Champs-Elysees’ metro station, to take the return train to our hotel.

Views from ‘Seine Rive Cruise’

 

‘Louvre museum’ – Famous ‘Mona Lisa’ painting was the huge attraction.

 

‘Arc de Triomphe’ – in one end of ‘Champs-Elysees’

 

Day 3 – 29/04/2017 :Palace of Versailles” – This was our only agenda for the day. It is not a palace, it is a town / city by its own. We wondered how they maintained those huge acres of land. Heavily crowded too. Try to reach early so as to avoid the waiting time in the long queue.

 

Day 4 – 30/04/2017 : We visited all other important left out places, like

Sainte-Chapelle‘ – known for its stained glass windows, the interior view of the chapel with the huge stained glass windows, left us awestruck.

Notre-Dame Cathedral‘ – Huge church with fine architecture and incredible interiors.

Love lock bridge‘ – Famous spot in France. Actually not just this bridge, you can find love locks in all places wherever there is space for a lock. 🙂

Tuileries Garden‘ – the public garden between ‘Louvre Museum’ and ‘Place de la Concorde’

Place de la Concorde‘ – It is square on the other end of the ‘Champs-Elysees’ road, with ‘Arc de Triomphe’ on one end.

‘Sainte-Chapelle’ & ‘Notre-Dame Cathedral’

 

Love lock bridge & ‘Place de la Concorde’

 

Thus ends the tour de France and next day, we started early in the morning to catch the train to Switzerland.

Part 2 : Switzerland. To be continued….

Team trip to Wayanad – Dec 2016

A trip to any place in God’s Own Country is an amazing feel. And if it is with a big team, it will turn out to be even more fun. Every year, during Nov / Dec time-frame, we do our team trip and the team size keeps increasing year on year. This year it was a big group of 60 people.

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Day 1: We started by early evening train and for this big gang, the entire coach looked like ours. Even if there were few outsiders, they either silently enjoyed our galatta or volunteered to move to a different seat. Train journey with a big gang is just awesome. With few kids in the group, some adults became kids too.

Day 2 : We reached the Calicut station early in the morning and took 2 buses from there. With stops for tea and breakfast, we reached the Thusharagiri falls. The falls was in different levels of climb. All of us could walk till the 1st level, some climbed to the 2nd level falls and few climbed even to the 3rd level. Finally managed to reach the resort by 2 pm.  Lunch, refreshment and roaming around the resort was the only agenda for the rest of the day. The resort itself was a beautiful place and you can simply spend time within it. Our nights extended to the wee hours of the next morning, with various group games.

Day 3 : This was our main day and one half of the group went to Chembara Peak, while the other half went to a lake nearby in the morning session. Post lunch, all of us joined in the BanasuraSagar Dam, the largest earth dam in India. The vastness of the dam is a breathtaking view. The speed boat ride was a thrilling experience. One of the must watch places. The day again ended with camp fire and group games.

Day 4 : After breakfast, checkout from the hotel, visit pookode lake, lunch on the way, reach railway station to catch the early evening train.

The trip ended with lots of pictures and fond memories.

Our team trips in descending order :

Dec 2016 – Wayanad, Kerala

Nov 2015 – Lonavala, Mahabaleshwar – Pune

2014 – we skipped.

2013 – Masinagudi, Tamilnadu

2012 – Parsn Valley, Ooty, Tamilnadu

Note : Will write about Pune and Masinagudi trips and link it here for reference and to feel nostalgic in future. 🙂

A Trip to the Capital City of India

We made a short trip to the capital city of India during October 1st week. (Post has been in draft for quite some time).

It was a 4 days back to back packed trip. We planned it during semester 1 holidays for kids. I thought October was an ideal time to visit the place, but it was hotter than expected.  Although we found it difficult to roam around during the day, we still enjoyed the trip.

Day 1 : Nothing in the agenda. Reached Delhi and checked in the hotel by noon. In the evening, roamed around the crowded market area of Karol Bagh. Language was a big barrier. None of us knew Hindi. I don’t know ‘abc’ of the language and kids were not fluent at it too. So, it was real fun communicating / bargaining. 😉

Day 2 : Delhi day trip covering most of the important places in the city.

@Lotus Temple

@Qutub Minar

In front of parliament house & India gate

@The Famous Red Fort

 

Day 3 : Visiting Taj Mahal was an important agenda in the trip. In-spite of a tiring previous day trip in Delhi, we did the day trip to Agra. It was a long journey up / down, and had to start very early in the morning and return late night. The quick naps in the AC bus, helped us to regain some energy.

@ Agra Fort

One of the 7 wonders of the world. Beautiful Taj Mahal.

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More different views of the wonder.

Some different poses. One of the important check list item for kids. 🙂

 

Day 4 : Another day trip in Delhi, covering the left out places.

@Humayun Tomb

@National museum, Gandhi House & Akshardham.  Akshardham is yet another wonder. It is an architecture marvel.

Finally the late night flight from Delhi. It started raining, just as we finished our day tour. With rain adding to the delay, we almost reached Chennai at the wee hours of the following day.

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One of the long pending trips done. There are lot more in our list. One per year. 🙂

 

 

Happy Diwali 2016

Kids enjoying the festival at grandma’s place. Ilam is super excited and wants to try all types of fire crackers that his sisters use. It is a tough job for me to keep him safe. But, altogether fun time for kids and me.

Happy Diwali to one and all.

The art of questioning ?

Me and my kids discuss on various topics under the sky and there will always be umpteen question asked, until they are convinced with my answers. I have to listen to all three of them in parallel and answer them.  My son tops the list. He will ensure that i answer him first and then to his sisters. The only time i stop them from questioning is, when i don’t know the answer. 😉 Narrating one such incident.

Sunday, my elder daughter was writing a homework about historical temples. My son has the habit of sitting besides his sisters, while they do their homework. He silently learns a lot of 5th and 7th std portions, and when i teach them some concepts, he will catch it quick and answer me, thus keeping his sisters under pressure. 🙂

Now coming back to his question from historical temples.

Ilam : Ma, What is B.C? Akka is writing about a temple that is build in 300 B.C. What does B.C. mean?

Me : (without thinking about the series of questions that would come up)  : B.C. stands for ‘Before Christ’.

Ilam : That means?

Oviya interrupts : Before Jesus Christ was born.

Ilam : Who is Jesus Christ?

Oviya : God.

Ilam : That means? Who / What is God?

Me (interrupts quickly, knowing where the conversation is tending) : Oh.. Stop Oviya. We can’t explain in that direction. I will answer him.

Ilam, Before Christ is ancient times in history. We are in 2016 now. 300 B.C are all olden days.

Ilam : Why it is called B.C? And not as A.B or C.D? How many B.C years are there? Who named it as B.C.? Why don’t you explain in a way, I can understand?

Me (knowing i can’t give a convincing answer) : Ok dear. Give me a day time. I will study and then explain in the way, you can understand.

Mind voice : Why didn’t I ask these many questions, when I was a kid. Even now, we hesitate to ask questions. I think that is a childhood habit. As a child, I can’t ask these to my mom, as she will only say, “I don’t know. Read it from your books”.

I am happy that my kids ask questions until they get a convincing answer.

Then, i spent some time, reading on timelines in history, ancient timelines and finally settled with few links, using which i could explain to him in simple terms. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timelines_of_world_history

Monday night : After dinner, before it is time to sleep, sat down with my son and started explaining..

Me : Ilam, you asked about B.C right, let me explain now. B.C., is also known as B.C.E, and it stands for “Before Common Era”

Ilam : Wait ma. (runs to his sisters and brings them to join my explanation). You said something else yesterday. About God and all.

Me : Leave that. Now i will explain to you with links.

Ilam : “Common Era” means.

Me : You take it as “Common Years”. The negative years are Before Common years and now we are in common years. Had to explain / show some events in Before Common Era and now in Common Era too.

Ilam : Ok. (Looks at the future years links). How many future years are there?

Me : Showed few events about eclipses that would occur in future and about planned games and so on.

Ilam : There are ten thousand and more years. After that what will happen.

Me : Ilam, let us worry about recent past and near future. You understood B.C right. Far future times, we can discuss in detail, some other day. Is that fine.

Ilam : Yes Ma. (looked convinced). Love you Amma. (He often says that)

Me : Love you dear. (Feeling Relieved) One topic over. What is in store next? It is a challenge everyday to keep him engaged and occupied. So far, going good. 🙂