Visiting World Wonders: The Rhine Falls

Let’s talk about the Rhine Falls today.

For the previous post in the series, click here.

Hey everyone! Today’s world wonder is a dreamy place straight out of your imagination; what you would think of if I asked you to picture a quaint town from a fairy tale. This natural wonder is none other than the largest, most powerful waterfall in Europe and one of the oldest waterfalls in the world, the Rheinfall or as we know it, the Rhine Falls.

The Rhine Falls is located on the High Rhine, next to the town of Schaffhausen, in Northern Switzerland. It is very ancient, much more than most if not all the wonders we have discussed here. The falls were formed in the last Ice Age, approximately 14,000 to 17,000 years ago. The river has shifted its course over the years but the waterfall has stayed strong with most of its volume attributed to snow-melt in the upper ranges. I visited the Rhine Falls in the summer of 2017 and as my first foray into the country of Switzerland, which I had built up in my head so much, it made quite the impact.

We were driving from The Black Forest(Which I actually have written about,to read my post about it, click here ) in Germany to Zurich in Switzerland, where we were staying for the night.The plan was to stop at the Rhine Falls for a gala lunch before we went our way. As we crossed borders, the scenery change albeit subtly. From the dark forests and high hills of the Schwarzwald mountain range, we were descending down towards flatter terrain. However, nothing convinced me that I am in Switzerland, land of snow, of castles and fairy tales, like the first time I saw the Rhine falls looking out my window. It looked like something out of a painting, a brilliant blue waterfall with a bridge going through it and a castle on its right.

The Rhine Falls is not very tall, I’ll give you that, but it more than makes up for it with just how wide it is, not to mention how absolutely stunning. It is without a doubt, the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen and I have seen quite a few. Although there were viewing platforms on the river bank, we decided to take a boat up the Rhine, to a rock in the middle of the waterfall. (We are quite the adventurists!) The boat ride was great because it got me to see the waterfall up close and personal and it is, in my opinion, the best way to see the falls.

We went to the falls in the peak of the tourist season, so the rock was very crowded and staying on it became more of a daredevil task than we were expecting. I did manage to take a few pictures, despite being jostled around and holding on to my camera for dear life. It was worth it for the view, which was extraordinary and was like standing in the middle of the waterfall. The whole area around the waterfall also contributes to the imaginative aspect of it all. With the Wörth Castle on the hill next to it, a train crossing the bridge on the waterfall (I can only imagine how beautiful the view must be from it), the architecture of the buildings on the banks and the town of Schaffhausen, it was all,just like stepping into an artist’s imagination.

We then took our lunch, within view of the Rhine falls, so in my book, the best lunch we took all vacation. After that, we bid adieu to the gorgeous waterfall, which for me, had been such a surprise. I hadn’t expected it to be such a highlight of my vacation, but it was. Words fall short to explain what it felt like, to be in front of such beauty and natural grandeur: that aquamarine blue water, the rainbows the falls made with the sunlight, the greenery and the beautiful Medieval architecture all around. I hope the pictures do it some justice as it was the best possible introduction to Switzerland for me, and I hope even more, that I get to go back to this beautiful, magical place again.

THIS POSTS’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to the Rhine Falls? What was your experience like? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

Visiting World Wonders: Vatican City

Let’s talk about Vatican City today.

For the previous post in the series, click here.

Hello everyone! Today’s world wonder is quite different from the ‘wonders’ we have discussed till now in that it not exactly a singular ‘wonder’ but more of an amalgamation of many ‘wonders’ if you will. It comprises of many important UNESCO world heritage sites and is one that I’m so excited for because I absolutely enjoyed my visit there and I really just want to geek out about it. (Also I might as well warn you right now because there will be lots of geeking out and fact spouting, so you know, proceed with caution) Without further ado, let’s get on with talking about the world’s smallest sovereign state, home to the Pope(and some of the most culturally significant art and architecture in the world), the Vatican city-state, within the city of Rome, Italy.

DSC_0622 (2)

Vatican city comprises of many important sites like the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Since we have so much to cover, I’ve decided to go about this post a bit differently. I will be walking you through the city exactly as I did, in that order, one Wednesday morning in June 2017. I remember it being a Wednesday because that had turned out to be not a very ideal day to visit. We were unaware that it was the day the Pope addressed the state, every week, so it was a bit of a crowded day with many things blocked off and chairs laid out all over the centre of the city.

DSC_0610

For the Vatican, we had a lovely, very bubbly and cheerful tour guide, Letizia, who I for one, definitely bonded with based on my excitement and fact-dropping when I saw in front of me, all the famous art and sculptures I had only heard of till now. We met Letizia at the main doorway to the city, where she began her tour by telling us that in the sculpture right above us, the great artists Raphael and Michaelangelo (On the right and left respectively) were represented, for their many contributions to the beauty and grandeur of the Vatican.

DSC_0396
The doorway with Raphael on the right with a palette in his hand and Michelangelo on the left with a mallet. (I love how that rhymes)

DSC_0398
We walked in and the first thing we saw was the beautiful Vatican gardens with the dome of the St.Peters Basilica peeking above them.

Then, we walked into the first of the Vatican Museums. The museums surprisingly, became one of my favourite parts of the visit, because there was just so many famous paintings, sculptures and frescoes there and I could not stop obsessing over them. We saw many originals, as well as recreations of famous art pieces and even the ceilings, were so gorgeous! (Letizia was just as excited about the art as I was, which was actually the best and made all this much more fun!)

DSC_0405
A recreation of the famous sculpture, Discobolus or the disk thrower.

DSC_0435 (2)
The aforementioned ceilings.

Next, we went to St.Peters Basilica, a gorgeous specimen of Baroque and Renaissance architecture. It is the largest church in the world and considered one of the holiest Catholic shrines. It is also home to Michelangelo’s Pietà, a sculpture that depicts Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after his crucifixion. It is also the only sculpture that he ever signed. I am not Catholic but even for me, the church felt so grand, so solemn and so unbelievably beautiful.

DSC_0628 (2)
St.Peter’s Basilica

DSC_0531
The Pietà

DSC_0527 (2)
The Dome of the church from the inside.

We then walked into the Raphael Stanze or the Raphael Rooms in the Vatican museum which are pretty much exactly what they sound like and are just covered head to toe in Raphael’s most famous paintings and frescoes. For the uninitiated, Raphael was an Italian Renaissance artist, considered one of the best and part of the traditional trinity of the great masters of that period, along with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo(Who by the way, comes up later.) These rooms were unbelievable, and it was like walking into history, being surrounded by all these gorgeous, really famous pieces of art and I was completely besotten by the beauty of it all.

DSC_0492
Some of Raphael’s most iconic artworks.

DSC_0495

Finally, we got to what you(maybe) and I (definitely) had been waiting for: The Sistine Chapel. This was, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite part of the visit. Seeing Michelangelo’s iconic frescoes through my own eyes was a once in a lifetime experience. Finding the classic god creating man fresco in front of me gave me literal chills. The entire ceiling and every wall is covered in magnificence and I, a mere mortal, was just trying to do the seemingly impossible task of capturing it all and bringing it back with me. It has to be one of the best moments of my life and no words are ever going to be enough. I was lucky enough to see something special, something unbelievable, something from 500 odd years ago. I had only ever seen it in pictures and in my opinion, no picture can capture the grandiose of it all. (Also fun fact courtesy Letizia: Michelangelo saw himself as a sculptor and not a painter and thus took offence at being commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel and rather cheekily painted everyone, god, mortal and whatnot in every fresco, naked. One of his friends came and painted clothes on everyone to save Michelangelo from the church’s wrath. Talk about petty.)

DSC_0505 (2)
The ceiling frescoes. Try to find the next picture in there!

DSC_0506
The close-up you were really waiting for.

Then we walked around the centre of the city, where we saw all of the Vatican standing together, all imposing in its grandeur. The buildings, the gardens, the fountains, it is such a  gorgeous place and each and every part is so striking. It was here that I had a wonderful moment with Letizia, that I’ve actually talked about before in my “Hermione Complex” post. She was lovely enough to tell me that I reminded her of her father, who was a great poet and one of her favourite people and that I  was going to grow up to be a very wise person. It is one of my most cherished memories and Letizia if you’re reading, thank you so much, it was very kind. On that warm and fuzzy note, let’s wrap up on our Vatican adventure. I hope I was able to express at least some of the joy and wonder I felt when I visited the place. See you next time!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to the Vatican City? How was your experience? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Visiting World Wonders: The Dawki River

Let’s talk about the Dawki River today.

For the previous post in the series, click here.

Hello everyone! Today’s world wonder is a natural one and a pretty obscure one at that! I seriously doubt that you would have heard about this place before reading this post unless I told you or you have been there yourself. If you have, kudos, you’re a chosen one. Pick up your prize on your way out. I am proud to take you, virtually to the magical and mystical Dawki River, about 82 km. away from Shillong, the capital of the north-eastern state of Meghalaya, in India. What is so magical about this place, you ask? Join me and read on, as we go together to this gorgeous river in north-east India.

I first saw a picture of the Dawki river on a travel Instagram account in 2018. It was a photo taken by a drone and it made it look as though a boat was floating on nothing, literally and it was just suspended mid-air. Me being quite the cynic was convinced it had to be edited. There simply was no way this place was real. Then I googled it and saw many more similar photos, still not fully convinced but closer to convinced than not. Then I spoke with my parents about this seemingly, incredible place and one thing led to another and we ended up planning a vacation to North East India for the winter holidays of December 2018.

50434546_2397001427186892_7805238694016712704_n

December finally came and we here in Shillong at last, after a long day of travel. We were finally going to Dawki! Northeast India is very beautiful, but nothing had me as excited as this fantastical place that I had only seen photos of. We drove out of Shillong and soon our driver told us that we were here and we had to climb down from the road to the valley where the river was through stone stairs. I still couldn’t see it, not properly with all the greenery and thus began climbing down, almost jumping in excitement. Suddenly, the trees parted and in my line of sight, in a very storybook moment, were the emerald green waters of the Dawki River and a tiny boat floating on nothing, looking every bit as breathtaking as I had imagined and then some.

IMG_20181223_132319 (1)

The Dawki River is smack dab on the India-Bangladesh border. One bank of the river is in India and the other in Bangladesh so tourists from both countries visit it. It is still kind of unknown and is not a widely renowned place, which may be why its beauty is so well preserved and relatively untouched. It is very clean, so much so, that you can see the rocks at the bottom of the river i.e. about 15 ft. deep down, as though they are right next to you. The sunlight bounces off the water, making it look clear as air and the water reflects the green on the mountains around it, making it look the gorgeous emerald green colour that we see. There are tiny wooden colourful boats available to take a ride around the river and these add to the beauty and charm of the place.

IMG-20181224-WA0041

IMG-20181224-WA0040

We also ended up taking a boat ride which was a wonderful, unimaginable, breathtaking experience which I mostly spent marvelling at the beauty that I was blessed to be witnessing and awed by the grandeur of the place. It was the best experience of my vacation, one of the best experiences of my life and for once, no words are enough to express just how entrancing and magical it was and is. I hope that the pictures I am sharing speak a thousand words, and speak the right ones because god knows I am not talented enough to do that. I absolutely recommend visiting this extraordinary river in the northeast corner of India to be humbled by the magnificence of nature and to be reminded of the magical world we live in.

IMG-20181224-WA0023 (1)

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you been to any place that you thought was ‘magical’? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

Visiting World Wonders: The Leaning Tower Of Pisa

Let’s talk about the Leaning Tower Of Pisa today.

For the previous post in the series click, here.

Hello everyone! Today’s world wonder is a pretty famous one and one I have been excited to write about for so long! A UNESCO World Heritage Site, a staunch member of the 7 World Wonders list, the most curious combination of architectural fault and circumstance and the icon of the town that gave us the genius of Galileo Galilei, it is none other than the Torre pendente di Pisa or the Leaning Tower of Pisa as we recognise it, known worldwide for its famous tilt!

393px-The_Leaning_Tower_of_Pisa_SB

Now the thing about this post is, I have actually written it before and I completed it with pictures and everything and almost scheduled the post. Then I lost it due to my laptop losing power and it not getting saved to draft and I absolutely lost it. I cried and was generally pretty devastated as it was days of effort and it was a good post. I tried everything but it couldn’t be retrieved. This happened in September 2018 and I am finally getting to this post(and series) now in April 2020, so you can imagine how distraught I was by it.

I would be remiss to not mention that I realise writing travel posts in the middle of a global pandemic when none of us can actually leave our houses is pretty sad and counterproductive but I hope I can take you on some virtual trips with me because I think it is better to travel virtually than not at all. I also express my deepest heartache and dedicate this post to Italy and its wonderful people, who have been devastated by the ravages of COVID-19. It is a proud, beautiful country with a rich heritage that I have had the privilege to visit and I know it will get through this.

I visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the summer of 2017 and had been deathly ill the night before when we had been travelling from Venice to Padova, where we were staying. Like, sick enough to have no memory of that night whatsoever, even to date. Pisa originally seemed like it would be impossible to squeeze into our tight schedule in Italy but I finally managed to convince my family that we couldn’t possibly do an Italian vacation without seeing THE Leaning Tower. It is a landmark and an icon and it would be tragic to miss it. So, now you know, there were trials and tribulations involved in me getting to see the Leaning Tower. (And also in writing this post.)

DSC_0392

We took a green bus from the Pisa Centrale that took us to a bus stand quite close to the entrance of the courtyard where the tower resides. By courtyard, I mean the Piazza de Duomo or Cathedral Square where the tower resides and is actually surprisingly not the first thing you notice when you enter. The Square has the Pisa Cathedral, Pisa Baptistry, the Monumental Cemetary and of course, the star of the show or the bell tower that we know and love as the Leaning Tower, just peeking from behind them.

DSC_0348
The Baptistry upfront, the Cathedral and cemetery in the centre and the bell tower in the back.

The Tower is actually only the third oldest structure in the Square and was constructed between the 12th to 14th century. As for the tilt, it’s quite a funny story. Due to the soft ground, the tower was built on being unable to support its weight, it began to tilt during construction. Its tilt actually worsened so much over the years that by 1990 it was leaning a whopping 5.5 degrees. Then the structure was stabilised through restorative work and the tilt currently stands at about 4 degrees.

DSC_0380
The curious statues right opposite the tower

It was quite surreal to see the tower in person. I had read about this tower for so many years, had always rattled off its name as one of the 7 World Wonders, had a childhood fascination with this monument that was so impossibly tilted and had seen so many photos of it. I imagined it to be more massive and grander than it was but honestly, it is surrounded by much grander buildings. It really is the most amusing sight, seeing these gorgeous, imposing Romanesque buildings and then this ‘little bell tower that is just tilting away cheekily.

DSC_0350

Pisa, which is a city in Tuscany has maintained its architecture and old-world charm and even just sitting in the bus and looking out or the in the little walk to the Piazza it felt like in a way we were travelling through time and just stepping into history. Dont get me wrong, our trip to the leaning tower was absolutely worth the hype. It really is a World Wonder and leaves you full of wonder and I absolutely recommend going to see the tilt live and in action. I would love to go there again and perhaps explore more of the city and its history.

DSC_0367

In conclusion, you can’t help but admire the spirit of this tiny bell tower that has made the city so famous and was clearly not intended to be its defining feature. It became so by what was an architectural fault as well as a twist of fate, and essentially a flaw, which made it so unique that people from all over the world come to Pisa and Italy for it, to this day, even centuries later.

For the next post in the series,click here.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to the Leaning Tower of Pisa? How was your experience? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

Visiting World Wonders: The Black Forest

Let’s talk about The Black Forest today.

For the previous post in the series, click here.

Hello everyone! Today’s wonder is a natural one and one that I personally have been intrigued by for years. I studied German as my third language in middle school and for one of my assignments we had to do research on tourist spots in Germany. That’s when I first came across the Schwarzwald, or literally, The Black Forest, named so for being so dense that it actually appears black. My interest was piqued; Could it really that dark?

The more I looked into this mythical place, the more interested I got. The Black Forest region is responsible for many good things in the world today. To name a few, cuckoo clocks, black forest cake and the most fascinating to me, fairytales. This area has most commonly been associated with being the backdrop for many of the Grimm Brothers’ fairytales with notable ones being Hansel and Gretel and Little Red riding hood. (If you couldn’t guess it yet, I ended up doing the assignment with the biggest portion of it dedicated to the Black Forest.)

DSC_0217 (2)

Now that you have somewhat of a backstory on me and the Black Forest, I hope you can understand the level of my excitement to visit the forest of literal fairy tales. We stopped at the Black Forest while driving from Mannheim to Zurich and it was an actual dream come true. I had been so fascinated by this place and now, I was actually there. It was mind-blowingly unreal.

To answer the most obvious question, yes, I honestly believe it really is that dark. It’s huge and it stretches over the mountains as far as you can see. I only walked through a very small portion of it and that too in peak daytime but it was pretty dark inside and this is at the edge of the forest. I can only imagine how dark it would be further in the forest.

DSC_0229 (2)

We stopped at one of the charming little towns that are in the Black Forest and did two really awesome things; We had an authentic Black forest cake and we went to a Cuckoo Clock workshop. As a cake lover who has had many different Black Forest cakes growing up, the best one was definitely the original, in the heart of the Black Forest itself. Plus, I get to say I had Black Forest cake in the Black Forest. It is immensely satisfying.

img_20170608_125053.jpg

In the Cuckoo Clock workshop, we saw many different cuckoo clocks of different sizes and different methods of working. Some had just the cuckoo pop out every hour, some played music, some even had characters that moved and played out entire stories with the music but all clocks had an incredible level of detail and were made with a lot of love and it was obvious how proud the lovely people at the workshop were of their work. We ended up buying one ourselves for our bedroom and fulfilling all our childhood dreams of having an actual cuckoo clock in our room.

We also witnessed the hourly show on the giant cuckoo clock in the town square and it was nothing short of magical. The Black Forest was every bit as charming, mythical and straight out a  fairy tale as I imagined it to be and I am so glad I got to actually visit and see it with my eyes and experience the magic in the place in person. I hope I get to go back again someday and experience more of the fairytale that the Schwarzwald is.

DSC_0239 (2)

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to the Black Forest? Do you think it is actually as ‘Black’ as the name suggests? Comment below with what you think about it, I’d love to hear from you!

For the next post in the series, click here.

Visiting World Wonders: The Trevi Fountain

Let’s talk about the Trevi Fountain today.

For the previous post in this series, click here.

Hi, everyone! Today’s monument is considered to be one of the most beautiful fountains in the world and I’m writing to tell you, from experience, of course, that that is most definitely the truth. Today, we are talking about my experience with the UNESCO World Heritage site, world wonder and one of the most famous fountains in the world the Fontana di Trevi, or the Trevi Fountain as it is more popularly known.

DSC_0668

The Trevi Fountain was our first stop in the city of Rome itself, after having been to the Vatican. The Trevi fountain is one of the oldest water sources in the city of Rome, existing since at least 19 BC and has over the centuries developed into a symbol of the city of Rome itself.

DSC_0667

While we were walking to the fountain on a hot summer’s day through a delicious smelling street (They had roadside pizza. Italy, people. Italy knows what’s up.) the first thing that I saw were the statues on the top of the Trevi fountain almost glowing under the sun. Once we reached the end of the street, the grandeur of the Trevi Fountain hit us with full force. The massive facade of the fountains, the shining white marble, the pristine blue waters tumbling over the stone, the Trevi Fountain is, in my most humble opinion, the beauty of Rome exemplified.

DSC_0672

For me, the Trevi Fountain had a certain aura of myth and mystique, from what I read about it and saw in various movies and books and I feel like in person, that the fountain takes that aura and multiplies it manifold. From the statue of Oceanus standing in the middle in all his glory,to the two divergent horses pulling his chariot,to the arch above them,to Triton blowing his shell to signal Oceanus’ arrival,to the intricate detail on every single other sculpture that adorns the facade of the Trevi fountain the one word that comes to mind is majesty. The fact that these majestic, massive, beautiful fountains, an actual work of art have been around exactly as I see them for nearly 300 years was so mind-boggling to me; that this kind of beauty just exists and for someone, this is just something they pass every day. It is easy to say that I was completely dazzled by the shine of the white marble( and the water) at the Fontana Di Trevi.

DSC_0673DSC_0682

Once, I broke a little out of my daze and looked down at the clear pool of water, the glint of the coins at the bottom of the fountain caught my eye. That’s when I remembered the coin throwing ritual associated with the Trevi fountain. I took out my Euro and turned my back and threw the coin over my left shoulder with my right hand just as I had read it should be done. Legend has it, that ensures my return to Rome. If you throw 2 coins, it means you will fall in love with a gorgeous Italian. Throw three and you’ll marry them. I threw just the one because I had other ideas about finding gorgeous Italians to fall in love with that I’ll just get to.

DSC_0677DSC_0666

I threw my coin and opened my eyes and I’m disappointed to say that neither was I mistaken for an Italian pop star and nor did any Italian pop stars ask me to meet them at the Trevi fountain the next day for a magical day in Rome. With the newfound wisdom that What Dreams Are Made Of are Lies my Lizzie McGuire Movie based childhood expectations were smashed to bits and that was about as magical as my day with the Trevi fountain got.

DSC_0663

With that, we left the fountain soon after to continue with our day out in Rome. There’s a lot I can say about the fountain, but the truth is, just about all of it has been said already. I just hope from the bottom of my heart, that the legend of the Trevi fountain is true and that the coin I threw brings me back to the beautiful city of Rome because my mythology fanatic self has not had enough of the city and I hope it happens soon.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to the Trevi Fountain? Did you find your gorgeous Italian? If yes,was it the coin way or the Disney pop star doppelgänger way? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

Visiting World Wonders: The Grand Place

Let’s talk about the Grand Place, Brussels, today.

For the previous post in this series, click here.

Hi everyone! So this world wonder is not a monument per se, rather its a market square. It’s also not as well-known as the Eiffel Tower but maybe that is just me because I found out about it only in my pre-vacation research. Today, we are talking about the central market square of the city of Brussels, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful market squares in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Grand Place or the Grote Markt, as the locals call it.

On the beautiful sunny afternoon of 5th June 2017, we reached Brussels, capital of Belgium and the seat of power of the European Union and were soon walking to our first stop a.k.a the one in the spotlight today, the Grand Place. Now, Brussels, unlike Paris, as a city, I didn’t have any pre-set notions about. For me, it’s always been the capital of the EU, capital of the fantastic country that came up with the godsend to food that are Belgian waffles (And Belgian fries and Belgian chocolate) and the capital of the country that came up with the brains behind my childhood comic book hero, Tintin. In simple words, I loved(Read love) Belgium as a country because it was responsible for the many loves I have had through life.

19787076_1339388649491107_2456323290564307818_o

In real life though, from my experience, Brussels is a city whose power, authority and responsibility shine through. It is very organised, calm, peaceful, clean and laid out very well. The peace of Brussels after the glitz of Paris(As much as I love Paris) was honestly, a highly welcome change.

19787394_1339379876158651_1570041283855336756_o

Getting back to our topic, we walked through a street or two, not many, and there we were, in the middle of the market square’s main square. (Aha!) The ornate, beautiful architecture of all the buildings in sight was the first thing that caught my eye. Then, the gold on the many Guildhalls glinting in the sun did. Yes, the nine Guildhalls of the Grand Place, have actual gold on the buildings. Regardless of whether current slang is considered or not, the buildings were golden.

19942714_1339392729490699_8375411001894019751_oDSC_0543 (4)

As I looked up, the bell tower of the town hall, stuck out. That brought my attention to the gothic style town hall and how it didn’t seem to be even. The tower was off centre vis the hall itself. There’s even a legend to do with this that our guide told us of when I asked her about this. It is believed that when the architect realised this calculation error of his upon the construction of the town hall, he committed suicide. Nevertheless, the building was extremely breathtaking and the architecture was in my opinion, exceptional.

DSC_0602 (2)DSC_0540 (3)

We decided to venture into one of the many streets. On turning the corner, the heavenly smell of chocolate was everywhere and on all sides, beautiful, cute, tiny and huge, colourful chocolate stores popped up. I’m only human, so I went in and had more samples of delicious, smooth, rich chocolate( At multiple stores, please, I have some self-respect. ) than I will ever admit. I am happy to report that at this point I was convinced already that I  loved the Grote Markt very much.

DSC_0539 (4)

On turning the next corner, I spied through the corner of my eye amazing Tintin street art.(Which is pictured below.) The street art, comic book based and otherwise, didn’t stop after that and the Grand Place is for sure, the abode for amazing street art. That’s also when I noticed that we were surrounded by comic stores, tons and tons of them. Imagine an entire Tintin themed or even an entire Asterix and Obelix themed store. I didn’t even think it could be real but hey, there they were. My childhood self would’ve died to be there. My adult self nearly did. So, the themed comic stores were my second Grand Place adventure. Could I love this place more? ( Answer: Yes, I could. Let’s continue and you’ll know why. )

A_street_in_Brussels_de_minimis

At the end of the street, we had reached the Manneken Pis or the Boy Who Pisses. It is a rather cheeky bronze sculpture of a naked little boy well, peeing. It is considered an important symbol of the city of Brussels itself. The story behind that goes, that long long ago while Brussels was under siege by foreign powers, the foreigners decided to place explosives around the city. The little boy pissed on the burning fuse of the explosives and unknowingly saved the city. To commemorate him and his ‘valour’, the sculpture was made.

DSC_0586 (4)

From here, we turned onto a different street, driven to that by waffles for a euro sign I saw and essentially dragged everyone towards. This street was where I was convinced we had entered some sort of wormhole to waffle heaven because there were waffles being sold EVERYWHERE. Waffles with different colourful toppings in all shop displays, the aroma of fresh waffles, the names of various kinds of waffles just flying around, and the taste eventually, that street was a treat for all senses! Of course, we rushed in and got our own waffle and yes, it was the best and the most delicious Belgian Waffle I ever had! I can now say I’ve had a Belgian Waffle, literally. (Bucket list item, check.) At this point, The Grand Place had my heart. (Or was it the waffles? We may never know.)

DSC_0591 (4)DSC_0595 (4)DSC_0592 (4)

With that, our adventures with the Grand Place were all done. The reason why I liked that place were many (Read the street art, the chocolates, the waffles, and the comic stores), but the biggest is how it offers you Belgium’s best, quite literally. Each street was a delight and I barely scratched the surface of the Grand Place, so I can’t even imagine what treasures the many other streets must hold. It is a mini slice of the Belgian culture and everything that makes it what it is and is especially a glimpse into the old Belgium, with the medieval architecture of the Guildhalls, the town hall, the horse-driven carriage rides and whatnot.

DSC_0585 (4)

In conclusion, I’d like to say that The Grand Place now holds a Grand Place in my heart (Cheesy, but I had to. How could I let this opportunity pass? )I would definitely love to go there again to find more of my favourites just tucked away one street corner away from each other.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to the Grand Place? What was your favourite thing about it? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

For the next post in the series, click here.

Visiting World Wonders: The Eiffel Tower

Let’s talk about my experience with the Eiffel Tower today.

Hi! This is an introduction to help you understand the context of this post and why I suddenly have so much to say about the Eiffel tower. So, recently, I was really missing my vacation from last summer and decided to look through the pictures from it, to just reminisce and feel properly nostalgic. Somewhere during doing that I realised how extremely fortunate I am to have seen so many world wonders in my extremely short life. I also realised that these are memories I want to preserve forever and share with the world and thus, I throw at you this little blog post series where I talk about my experiences with world wonders, iconic sites and probably the best moments of my life. That’s all, here on out its all about la Tour Eiffel, as the French call it.

The very first time I saw the Eiffel Tower, technically, was from 12000 ft. high as our aeroplane began its descent into the Charles De Gaulle airport, Paris on 2nd June 2017. It was a tiny smidge, a minuscule A almost, shining to my hunting eyes through the fog and mist. It was almost fairytale, that little moment, the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower.

DSC_0008 (3).JPG
For your reference: Drop the straight line down the end of the wing and you should be able to spy the mini Eiffel Tower, as I saw it.

My next tryst with it was the very same evening when we, fresh and awake drove out of the hotel to the city and I realised why the Eiffel Tower is synonymous with Paris. It conquers the Parisian skyline and is visible from LITERALLY everywhere. No hyperbole here. (I later learnt that this is because there are no high rise constructions allowed in the city. Just some facts for the cynical.)

DSC_0171 (3)

We were headed to our cruise down the river Seine and thus, here comes the whopper. I saw the Eiffel Tower from the sky, the road and the water all in one day. Makes you think of point of views, huh? The boat view though wins by far. I had the most majestic views of the Eiffel tower on our cruise and somewhere on the river Seine around the Statue of Liberty(Yes, like the one in New York but in Paris and smaller.)and gazing at the Eiffel tower it hit me. I was actually in Paris. The French capital. Abode to Aphrodite. The crowning jewel of romance, beauty and love.The one I read about in books and watched in movies. It was a very memorable feeling, one of a dream coming true. I like going back to that moment and just feeling little slivers of that feeling till. It was and remains, extremely precious.

DSC_0173fp
I really like this picture I took while on the cruise. I feel like it captures the perfect blend of modernity and antiquity that Paris is.

The second day we got real up close and personal, me and the Eiffel. We were going to go up the Eiffel tower to see Paris from the point where its glory shone the brightest. The tower has two levels, one kinda midway and the second at the very top. I’m happy to report we went to both. It was a very nippy, windy day, and thus, we threw on our jackets, braved the wind and chill and marched on, for the view of the city spread out from of the highest vantage point in Paris (I am merely guessing here, so could be wrong please don’t throw baguettes at me) and more importantly, the pictures. (Just kidding. Those didn’t turn out too great though, the wind threw all hair haywire and the bundled jackets all aesthetics)  We only lasted so long, I mean I was wearing a skirt, cut me some slack, so that stay didn’t last long but we did get to see the chambers Gustav Eiffel entertained Albert Einstein in. (How COOL is that!) You know what the best part is? Now, I get to say that I was once in my life at the very top of the Eiffel tower.

IMG_20170603_124637

IMG_20170603_112846
The City of Paris as seen from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

 

My second encounter with the Iron Maiden was from afar,a famous photo point for the Eiffel Tower,the Trocadero Place(And one that I highly recommend, it was a great place to take pictures!) so we could take pictures that actually had the whole tower in one frame and importantly, the typical very important Paris pictures to announce that we indeed were in the French capital. This photo shoot, owing to the lack of wind, was a great success.

IMG_20170603_152326

My last and favourite encounter with the Tower was at midnight on our last night in Paris. We made the spontaneous decision to just grab a cab and watch the 4 minute light show on the Eiffel tower that takes place at midnight because hey, you only live once. So, with our hotel cab ( A delightful Mercedes Benz, Y’all) we whizzed through the city at night and that in itself is an experience. We reached the Trocadero Place again and soon the stars were dancing on the Eiffel tower. The show was magical and despite the early morning departure the next day, the hour we spent on the Trocadero Place, watching the lights twinkle on the Eiffel tower and eventually just the yellow lights glow as the city of Paris shined it seemed, for me, is what I consider my ” Paris” moment. It is my fondest memory of the city and something I would love to do again and again.

(Just a disclaimer/PSA: The lights on the Eiffel Tower are considered a work of art and are protected under copyright law and thus, while I did take pictures and videos, I don’t have the rights to share them here. (And I’m a little bit mad because I’d love to show you, but the law is what it is.))

And that’s it, folks! That’s all my Eiffel tower stories, anecdotes and encounters. ( For now, I hope.)It makes me so happy to be able to write this because this was such a major bucket list item for me and a life goal coming true. I am very fortunate to have been in the presence of Madame Eiffel and I’m very grateful for it. Here’s to fulfilling more life goals and ticking off more bucket list items! Cheers!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to Eiffel Tower? What do you consider your fondest memory of it? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

For the next post in this series, click here.

Some Thoughts on Airports.

 

Let’s talk about airports today.

Airports. Grounded gateways to aerial escapes to a different world. A new city, a new country, a new continent. Ah, how I love them.

In my lifetime, I have taken a decent number of flights. In the last year though, I have racked up some crazy flying miles, what with my vacation across Europe and flying to and fro between home and university. All this flying has meant I have spent a rather significant amount of time at airports too. Hence, this post dedicated to airports, paying a homage to the unsung holder of all things duty-free.

The thing about airports is, they’re essentially a test of a person’s patience. A lot of the time spent there is in wait. Waiting for check-in, waiting for security, waiting for your mom to buy the entire batch of duty-free candy or waiting for boarding. The human mind does not bode well for waiting and when in wait, it wanders. All this wandering has led to a lot of thinking and a lot of thoughts many of which I wrote in the notes app on my phone and I’ll try to consolidate in this post.

IMG_20170807_144019

Airports hold so many people. People from different walks of life with different goals, ambitions, dreams. It amazes me to no end when I stand to wait and look around to see all the people who have a different story yet at this epoch they all intersect, right here at this airport. Perhaps, someone is going home or going away from home. Maybe, there’s a new baby in the family. Maybe, god forbid, there’s a loss. Maybe, they’re going to their dream job, maybe they just missed out on it. The possibilities are endless and I cannot even begin to wrap my mind around the extent of these.

IMG_20180305_054249.jpg

One thing I have also always noticed about airports is that time is seemingly not a construct in there. Any notion of day and night is only expressed through a peak outside. Inside, its always moving, never stopping. Airports are the land where time stops or rather, becomes irrelevant because there are people taking a flight to somewhere or from somewhere at just about all times and airports are always full. This led me to the very serious realization that an empty airport with no movement and no hint of day or night makes a fabulous setup for a dystopia or post-apocalyptic novel. Huh, maybe, I’ll write that, someday.

In all the airports I’ve been to, I’ve always seen a tiny glimpse into the culture of the city or country. All airports show little pieces of the personality of the place they are in. Be it the futuristic installations at Changi Aiport, Singapore or the grandeur of the airport at Dubai or even the wonderful food at the airport in Rome, it’s a little slice of what the country or city has to offer. Taking the phrase, “First Impressions are the last impressions” to heart, more often than not, most places put their best foot forward in the airport and thus, exploring an airport will almost always show you the best of what the place holds.

 

Airports are thus, apart from housing great candy and the best books, a building full of many many human emotions. There’s hope, there’s nostalgia, there’s joy, there’s sadness, there’s dread, there’s anticipation, there’s wonder, there’s  marvel. And for me, right there, wedged in with all the billion emotions, it’s almost like, there’s home.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What are some of your airport thoughts? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

The Sad Truth About Going To Disneyland As An Adult.

Let’s talk about going to Disneyland as an adult and why that’s sad.

I went to Disneyland(Any Disneyland that is) for the first time on 4th June 2017 at the age of 18 years,2 months and 24 days. The one we went to was Disneyland Paris, the day was an unfortunate long weekend Sunday. I went on 5-6 rides in 10ish hours, saw the evening parade and 3 shows. It was disappointing.There, I said it.

19402261_1323174871112485_5666433714978104992_o

So, now that you have your pitchforks out and mouse ears on ready to attack me, let me finish with my explanation of as to why. If after that, you still feel compelled to chase me around with digital pitchforks you’re more than welcome to do so. So let’s get on with it, shall we?

Now, shocking as I bet it is for some of you, I never went to a Disneyland before I was an adult. (Yes, some countries don’t have their own Disneyland, imagine that!) I had gone to a theme park before,i.e. Universal Studios, Singapore and had the best time ever. We all had fast passes and Universal was such a breeze that I had higher expectations for Disneyland simply because it’s Disneyland. It’s the OG theme park! It’s where wishes come true. C’mon.

19402093_1323176437778995_6511347866231863268_o.jpg

Instead, I found huge crowds and desperately long lines and  rides I really looked forward to and waited an hour for shutting in front of my eyes as I finally reached the front of the line. It had been my childhood dream to go to a Disneyland. I wanted to feel the Disney magic and carry some pixie dust back with me to soar and fly in the world of my imagination. Instead, I was exhausted from waiting in line, went to barely any rides, had to stand on my toes to watch the shows, was jostled in the crowds and was melting in the sun. Of course, I was disappointed. Wouldn’t you be?

Now, I’ll state factors that I concurred led to this letdown. First off, it was a Sunday. Secondly, it was a long weekend. Thirdly, we did not have fast passes. Fourth, it was a hot day for Paris. Three of these were in my hand. I give you that. I will still feel disappointed because this was a childhood dream and I refuse to be fully logical here. Call me stubborn or call me a child.(How I wish for the latter!) The bottom line is, right now between Disney and Universal Studios, I choose Universal because me, the young adult , enjoyed Universal much much more.

Now, to clarify, I did not think Disney was horrible nor have I written it off for life. The magic in that place is so strong, it doesn’t die out this easy. It only diminishes with the number of people entering the park and the intensity with which the sun beats down on our heads. I liked the rides I went on. I liked the shows. I really really loved the parade. I also realised that I would have loved all the things so much more as a child. It was almost sad, realising I was too old to love things I would’ve once loved so much.

19417405_1323188311111141_5380247501243959908_o19417594_1323186597777979_6701359439434483546_o19250570_1323174434445862_6071548438184105868_o

I would, for sure, come back to Disney, for a better, more magical experience. We all chase magic, I’m no exception. I feel sad merely because my first experience, my mythical changing is tainted by adult things like crowds and waiting too long for human beings to wait. It’s also the loss of my childhood innocence, of being able to see too far, not feeling wonder or curiosity as powerfully, knowing too much and losing sight of the magic that everything holds. That’s all.  Are your mouse ears still on? Can I put mine on too, to match?

2c7a651c744ca41817b7b8e204c5a8ef--diy-disney-ears-headband-diy-rapunzel-minnie-ears (1)
I found this picture on Pinterest but couldn’t track the owner of the picture. Let me know if you know who it is.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to Disneyland? How was your first Disneyland experience as an adult or otherwise? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!