Little did I know that come winter, I’d visit Mt.Rainier to snowshoe and sled with my friends. While I was awed by the first glimpse of this dormant volcano (that stands tall at 14,411 feet as opposed to 16,000 feet earlier, as a result of  the ‘mudflow’, a cataclysmic event several thousand years ago)  from Alki beach park in Seattle, being there in person, surrounded by snow peaks, and to snowshoe and sled was an experience that left me speechless!

Mt.Rainier, Pike Place and the Bridge of Glass

Having picked up hiking shoes, poles and snowshoes from REI, and layers of warm clothing, we were all set for a 2.5 hour drive to Rainier.  We stopped at the Longmire Administration building (at the National Park Inn), to figure which trail to tread. We zeroed in on the ‘Nisqually Trail‘ and started to snowshoe. The Nisqually Vista Trail (at paradise) is a 1.2 mile loop that begins in the west end of the lower parking lot and leads through the wildflower meadows to views of the Nisqually Glacier. Once done with snowshoeing, it was time to sled on the Snow Play Area.

Off we sled, with our plastic sleds and toboggans. Meandering through the snow was fun, though initially rather scary and nerve-wrecking. The initial few times we slid along the snow path and slowly learnt to take partial control over the sled. Sledding was undoubtedly, an experience I am glad I did not miss due to initial fear and apprehension.

Amidst all this fun, to lie there seeing only snow in every single direction, was spellbinding, breathtaking and serene for the least.

The view of downtown Seattle from Kerry Park, the drive along Lake Samamish were equally beautiful, not to forget Microsoft’s headquarters at Redmond, Pike Place Market,  and the various pieces of glass art by artists like Chihuly at the Museum of Glass, Tacoma.

I can’t thank my stars enough for the clear, sunny weather and my friends who took time out and made this enriching experience possible!

The court of arms: my design that I created at the V&A Museum, London

The place we called home during our visit to London for ten days in June-July, 2011 was just north of Kensington. We had access to the living room, dining area, kitchen and garden in addition to the bedroom(s). The landlady (Holly Lamar) has tastefully done up the place to look and feel like a French Chateau.

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Holly a singer, song-writer known for her big hit “Breathe” (she co-wrote the song) in 1999, won numerous honors and debuted as a solo artist in 2002 with “Unkissed”. She continued to write for others, contributing “These Are the Days” and the hit “That’s the Way” to Jo Dee Messina‘s 2000 LP Burn. Not just a fabulous singer, Holly is a very friendly and warm host, not to forget her adorable, lovable pooches – Charlie (a boxer) and Daffodil (a terrier). It undoubtedly felt like a home away from home.

I flew Qatar airways via Doha (the variety in terms of people from different origins and the Islamic community by itself was huge) before arriving at Heathrow, London where I was welcomed by the big sister. We took the tube to Piccadilly Circus and from there another tube to Willesden junction.  A ten minute walk and we were at 181 Holland Road (place that was to be home for the next 10days). Relaxed for a bit, washed and headed to a pub called The Mason’s Arms. Quaint and old, the interior was atypical of pubs in London is what I learnt unlike the loud one’s we have back home. Guiness beer, cider and rum and coke with a bowl of chips (french fries is what we desis refer to it as) it was.

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Portabello road market in the Notting Hill district was an interesting stretch to walk. Next on the agenda was Nelson’s column at Trafalgar square! The National Gallery and the 2012 official Olympic clock are also located right here at Trafalgar Square.

The remaining touristy spots were knocked out the following day: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminister Abbey (from the outside), the house of parliament (beautiful gothic architecture). A long walk around Piccadilly circus before heading home to call it a day!

Cross posted here

We set out from Bangalore on a 7 hour drive, breaks included to Chikmagalur losing our way thanks to the misleading Google map. NH4 and NH206 it was all the way. Oh and was my friend happy with my car’s performance . 17kms/ltr is what she gave (her first long drive).

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The River Tern property situated amidst the Babudangiri hill range at Lakkavalli in the Chikmagalur district of Karnataka owned and run by Jungle Lodges and Resorts is a perfect getaway for nature lovers. The lodge is named after the River Tern bird, that congregate  to breed on a nearby island. Each loghut, cottage oversees the Bhadra river. The view of the backwaters is breathtaking and mesmerizing.

The safari at the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctury was as disappointing as most other safari’s in the Western Ghats are, while the boat ride to the River Tern island was beautiful. If you are a water animal, you sure are going to love Kayaking and the Water Trampoline. I’ve been wanting to Kayak for a while now but for strange reasons never managed to (I only did learn to row a boat at Lake George, Upstate New York).  I had no clue that Kayaking is child’s play and the water trampoline was more fun than one could ask.

The interior of the room is done tastefully (at least no gaudy sheets and curtains), the wash room relatively big in size and clean (ignore the few ants) and the air conditioner so helped for the humid weather and hot summers that are already here. I was dreading having forgotten to carry a mosquito repellent but to my pleasant surprise, it had no use. The three meals were decent though not brilliant.

What more, my friend fixed me a mojito the evening we arrived and on our drive back to Bangalore it was coconut water and bacardi! Concur is what my friend and I do on the happiness, fun and relaxation quotient this trip provided.

Cross posted here

To explore more of Karnataka I set off  to Mangalore with colleagues for a team member’s wedding on the evening of the 25th of January, 2011. We took a sleeper bus (from Bangalore) that was so not what was portrayed on the website but was just about decent. After a long night’s bus ride in the cold with no bed sheet (I had forgotten to carry one)  and bad roads after Hassan we reached Mangalore at 7a.m on the next morning (republic day). Our colleague, the groom received us at the bus stop and took us home. His family was rather warm and welcoming – very simple yet sweet people.

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The place where we stayed was calm, serene, quaint and beautiful. After a shower we explored the city as suggested by our hosts. We visited the store Parampara, that sold local handicraft articles, followed by the Phalguni Cashew Centre where we all picked up cashews of different kinds (cheese coated, honey sweet, pepper roasted) and then headed to the ‘Ideal Place‘ – the best ice cream parlor at Mangalore where we dug in on flavors like – Gudbud, Falooda, etc (weren’t  as enticing as expected). Our next stop was the St.Aloysius Chapel built in 1884 and is an architectural marvel. All the walls and ceiling are painted in two techniques:  Fresco (fresh lime walls are painted and the colors get embedded into the wall itself) and Oil based. Artist Anthony Moscheni from Italy takes credit for this marvelous creation.  The central row of paintings on the ceiling depicts the life of Aloysius Gonzaga to whom the College and Chapel are dedicated. The floor is made up of brick that gives a 3-dimensional effect.

Next on the agenda was the Gokarnatha temple built in 1912 for the Billava community, who were not permitted to enter  other temples. The area is dotted with temples of Shiva.

It was a hot and sultry afternoon and by 2p.m we were hungry and so decided to try Mangalorean food (vegetarian) at a restaurant by name Ocean Pearl.  After trying the Neer Dosa, we went back to relax for a bit before leaving for the wedding at the church followed by the reception. Cake and wine in hand, all those present at the venue raised a toast to the newly wed and set off to fill their stomachs again. There was a separate counter for us vegetarians set up by Mangala caterers, fortunately.

We hit the sack by midnight and set out the next morning to St.Mary’s Islands, Malpe at Udupi in a hired SUV. En route we stopped to pack lunch at Diana (a local restaurant) and after a comfortable drive for about two hours we reached the Malpe beach and took the ferry (half an hour) to the island. Nature at it’s best once again, we had a fun time jumping the rocks (while I slipped, fell and bruised my back), playing in the water, collecting shells and screeching at the site of an approaching crab, not to forget clicking away at each other. How we all wished we had carried a  change of clothes!

On our way back we stopped to visit the Krishnamata temple (the idol is dressed in diamonds from head to toe and can be viewed only through a window) at Udupi and the surrounding temples. Rafting and Canoeing had to be dropped due to time constraint. A quick adieu to the groom’s family before an even quicker bite of chaat at a local stall, just to make it in time (thanks to Allen the groom’s younger brother) for our bus back to Bangalore.

I had always wanted to go on an all-women trip with my best buddies. Though that is yet to happen, this trip with my women-colleagues was indeed pleasant and fun!

This blog post is cross posted here at Wayfarers and Pathfinders.

Come December and I headed to Srirangapatna and Mysore with my aunt. A hot day packed with too much to see wasn’t one of the nicest of travel experiences during the peak holiday season. Nevertheless, an experience in itself!  A few pictures from this visit:

Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple, Srirangapatna

The Water Gate, Srirangapatna

Tipu Sultan's body was found here, Srirangapatna

Colonel Bailey's Dungeon, Srirangapatna

Mysore Palace

Nandi, Mysore

Chamundeshwari temple, Mysore

St.Philomena's Church, Mysore

Brindavan Gardens, Mysore