Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia deserves its own post simply because of the history behind it and the fact that it’s still being built as I type this out.

To read more about the architect, Antoni Gaudi, click here. To know more about the basilica itself, click here.

For the rest, just keep scrolling to see some wide-angle images of the church.

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Discovering Barcelona- I

When I visit a new place, I don’t just focus on the well-known or even the off-the-beaten track kind of locales and sights; I like to capture the every day lives of the people there.

Here are some glimpses of Barcelona, the way the locales live.

Apparently Annabelle resides in Barcelona

A bit of Argentina on a Barcelona sidewalk

St.Joan’s church..FYI it’s a he and not a she.

In the midst of elegant balconies and facades is graffiti.

Butcher shop store front

Grocery stores are a riot of colors

The Travel Diaries: Kolkata’s Waterways

The city of Kolkata offers a tremendous amount of stimulation to a visitor; whether you’re armed to take pictures, eat your weight in the food available in and around the city or just sight see and take your fill of the sense of history that still lingers all over the city.

Even if you don’t have a massive colonial hangover, the gorgeous buildings, relics of the British Raj can’t help but capture your fancy with their massive pillars and high arching roofs. That people from a different century and generation are now flitting in and out of those buildings only add to their allure.

But there are a few things to keep in mind while planning a trip to Kolkata: a) avoid summers if you aren’t used to a humid climate and b) you cannot do justice to the city without factoring in its waterways.

The summers in Calcutta can be quite debilitating if you’re used to drier climates. The humidity saps your energy, making sight seeing a cumbersome thing. You are actually left with only the evening and pre-dusk time to visit places, many of which are in the process of shutting their doors for the day. Keep in mind that this city is pretty far east and the night sets in fairly early as compared to many other places. Ideal time to visit would be the winters which can be tackled with a light to middling heavy sweater.

But to move on to another extremely charming part of the city- the river Ganges which flows through it and also around it. Apart from the river cruises which are operated by the West Bengal government, there are quaint little fishing boats which can be hired out for half and hour or so right from 5 in the morning and till 8 at night.

Local fishing boat sailing under the Vidyasagar Setu- or the new bridge as the locals still call it.

Local fishing boat sailing under the Vidyasagar Setu- or the new bridge as the locals still call it.

Sunset near the Prinsep Ghat- small boats, ferries, barges can be seen throughout the day.

Sunset near the Prinsep Ghat- small boats, ferries, barges can be seen throughout the day.

One of the best places to visit via a boat or take a boat ride once you reach there is the Dakshineshwar Temple which is situated bang on the river. There are steps leading down from the temple courtyard into the river where the worshipers bathe and also offer flowers since the river is also considered holy.

Belur Math which is situated just across the river from Dakshineshwar boasts of a calm, serene setting as the international headquarters of the Ram Krishna Mission. Seeing the sunset from the steps just above the river while the soft chants and drones of the hymns float out from the prayer halls is something which has to be experienced. Atheist, agnostic or true believer, the ambiance of the place is just uplifting and while photography is restricted at both places, a sneaky click of the sunset over the river is something everyone attempts irrespective.

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Sunset over the river.

Sunset over the river.

The distinctive domes of the Dakshineshwar Temple.

The distinctive domes of the Dakshineshwar Temple.

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On another day, commute with the locals from one ghat (dock) preferably in the evening while many go back to their homes across the Ganges from the main city hub. The ferry boats or river taxis are chock full of office goers who rush to get standing rooms on the steamers for a 15 minute ride that terminates close to Howrah station. You will also see children cooling off after a long hot day by canon balling into the river while barges a couple of yards away.

One can get down, stroll around with a terracotta cup of hot tea made on the roadside and poured deftly by the vendor who seems to be able to dole out tea to 10 at a time, take the money and still keep an eye on the ever-boiling liquid for the next pot.

Of course, what is considered by most to be the ultimate river trip in this region is the trip down to the Sunder bans. Once the din of the city fades away and even the endless drone of the motor made peace with, the sounds of nature take over. The water is murky to be sure but it’s vast and areas around it lush. The ferry motors down past small villages where the river is a lifeline as well as a part of life.

Kolkata cannot be seen properly in just a few days. You barely end up getting a taste of the city and are baffled by what ought of be viewed next. A segment of the trip ought to feature the waterways to even starting to understand the tone, flavor and pulse of the city.

Next time you find yourself with a few days off and free to travel…take a trip downstream, or upstream and just go with the flow.

Parenting Chronicles

We landed up at my parents’ place for a month (poor them) a few days ago. This was preceded by a mini family vacation to the Northern part of India, a nice, fun wedding, loads of pictures (no surprises there) and some amount of barfing- MLM.

But that’s not the crux of this post. I had another REALIZATION. I write it in caps since it’s no less than an epiphany and one I’ll need to heed in order to make things come together for me at a personal level and my child and the memories we can make together while he grows up and we try to be good parents.

A lot of children are adaptable. Flexible. A lot of kids are rather inflexible and have adjustment issues. My child falls rather squarely in the middle. He adapts and adjusts to brand new situations depending upon his comfort levels and a certain amount of identification with the issue. I guess he looks for that little spark of familiarity and then goes about his own way of learning something.

We had taken a trip to a lovely little city up in the hills, Shimla, and this child was fairly bored out of his skull. Now is it fair to want a proper break for Red and I? Yes! Is it fair to want to expose our child to new experiences? Yes! If it fair if he doesn’t take to them and wants his comfort food wherever we go and be a baby about being carried about and generally being a poopyhead? Sadly…yes. Kinda at least.

Forget the part about kids being creatures of habits. It’s not always about unleashing kids on a theme park that can ensure a successful holiday but taking them to places which require long periods of travel- I defy any parent of kids above 2 to tell me the last time their kid sat calmly on a road trip that extended beyond 2 hours and didn’t fidget or go down the “are we there yet” road!

My child can quite easily let go the gadgets. He sees me taking pictures and wants to emulate. Does a fairly decent job. Hands don’t shake too much. Pictures aren’t too hazy either. But given that it’s an expensive gadget and one that could take a tumble from small little paws, I put aside my dreams of him being a photography prodigy and become the kind of mother who lets him take one picture for his contentment and then promptly repos the camera for good. Well until next time anyway.

He ate what was put in front of him but only if it was familiar. He didn’t care much for the crowd at the events preceding the actual wedding or for the wedding itself. Totally understandable. We lugged around the last love of his life, an inflatable, nearly 4 ft tall T-Rex up and down hilly roads because he hadn’t been able to bring himself to stay away from Mr.Dinosaur. Again understandable. Not appreciated but you can tell when a kid’s in love.

But this holiday was so much more about me and what Red and I wanted to do that we kind of factored in our enjoyment and just brought him along gadgets in tow and thought he’d be able to wing it. At nearly 5 it’s not always viable and we should have known better. The wedding possibly, wasn’t something we could’ve avoided but everywhere else we took him that was aimed at his amusement, he enjoyed. Thoroughly. The boating, spotting ducks, chasing monkeys…all are aces in a child’s book of Fun Things To Do During Summer Vacations.

Sitting still and behaving while his mother chomps down momos in a tiny little restaurant wasn’t something that was designed to please him.

At while at my parents’ I find him bratty and trying on and off but he’s more relaxed. No more travelling to and fro from one place to the other. No more slathering of sunscreen and having caps jammed on his head or posing for pictures near places he doesn’t know, doesn’t care about and sure and hell won’t remember.

He wanted his Play Doh. Wanted to recreate the situations he saw in his cartoons and play with this dinosaur, swing, slide, jump, hop and have his everyday life. The interlude of a family holiday that took him from the plains to the hills and back again in the midst of unknown people whom he doesn’t know; did nothing for him at all.

But that being said, it was good on multiple levels for Red and I and next year we’ll try again but possibly keep it to a place that has more activities designed towards holding the attraction of a little boy. Because let’s be honest, if seeing fish swimming around is what gives him happiness, it’ll be sensible (and that much less stressful) to take him to a park with a pond, or a zoo rather than visit a world-famous pilgrimage place that boasts of a pool of water no child should get near, dip his fingers in or even peer into.

That kind of wasn’t fair. Of them that made the rules or us who made him try to follow it.

Summer holidays are what bring out the kid in everyone…now he’ll get a chance to do exactly what he’s meant to do. Because at the end of the day what a kid really wants is just a dinosaur to play with, isn’t it?

I just hope the rest of us survive till June when his school reopens 🙂