Travel Diaries: Goa in the monsoon (India)

Monsoon of 2012

The wind lashes at your face and the rainfall makes it difficult to see ahead clearly. But to peer on and continue riding the bike on gorgeous roads with gay abandon is possible in few places. One of which is Goa. We’re not talking about a speed junkie racing his modified bike, we’re making a plan for you – who rides a Vespa or a Scooty Pep, and is cautious around the corners.

Live a different Goa in monsoon – forget the beach for a day, and fill your bike’s fuel tank to its fullest. Look forward to lush paddy fields flanking the empty, palm-lined roads and maybe even close your eyes for a few quick seconds while riding. Zip up the small sling bag inside the windcheater and let your hair down. Get drenched. Be drenched the whole day. Don’t fix on a destination; just keep enjoying the road. Drive slow and enjoy each beautiful turn and bridge.

A rainy July day on Goan roads. Pillion rider and pic credit: Monisha Ajgaonkar

A rainy July day on Goan roads. Pillion rider and pic credit: Monisha Ajgaonkar

Enjoy the grey sky, the puddles that spray water on either side as you ride through, and halt a while on the bridges to say hello to the river in spate. Grin at fellow tourists as you pass them on the bike. Rush inside a restaurant and take a few seconds to wipe your brow dry. Look for a street facing table and order a mug of feni, the local alcoholic favourite, brewed from cashews. Attack the plate of hot fish xacuti. Do not drink much, for it’s soon time to be back on the road again.

If you’re riding pillion, it’s time to swap seats. Take charge and veer in the direction you like. Petrol is available in most stores, and you’ll never get lost. If you do, smile and ask a local for the main road. Sing rain songs aloud while riding. And as the sun dips down on the horizon, begin the ride back to your cottage.

Travel Diaries: Marseille, France

Oct 4, 2012
Marseille

Boats by the harbour-front at the old Port Vieux

Boats by the harbour-front at the old Port Vieux

Marseille, if it were larger in size, would’ve been the perfect sister-city to Bombay – it’s full of bylanes, traffic and people crossing the streets without obeying the signals. And, it’s a port city, there’s construction everywhere and they are new metro stations coming up. There are traders on the street – especially African immigrants – selling sunglasses, scarfs and other knick-knacks.

Marseille (2)

Marseille is a working person’s city – Most people seem to be in a hurry, and no one’s out taking that leisurely walk. I also do not find the locals here fashionable as the French are known to be. No buskers on the streets here. In fact, the pavements hold no space for them. There are either scooters or cars parked on the pavers, or tables from a restaurant spilling out, or people, or construction work. Several buildings, I notice, are old and marked down for rehabilitation. No French romance here!

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Crossing La Canbierre street

There are shops everywhere. The harbour-front at the old Port Vieux down La Canbierre faces some of the most expensive hotels and the long curving street is packed with restaurants. I saw a lot of obnoxious American tourists around and a bunch of Indian uncles ambling about with their potbellies and vacation caps. But the majority of the tourists are senior, retired folks, enjoying their walk along the harbour-front.

A look back from halfway up the grand steps of Gare du Saint Charles

I am, right now, waiting awhile at Gare de Marseille Saint Charles. This train station – large and in the centre of the city – is like a mini airport from the inside and international trains to Italy leave from here. Suits walk around with black bags and eat sandwiches on the go. In Marseille, I see signs on an active life in France. Finally. There are antennae and water tanks on home terraces, and junk stored in balconies. From the good vantage point here at the station, I see that the skyline is made of red roofs and spot a prominent castle.

I don’t know whether or not I like Marseille, yet, but it does feel like home and reminds me of Bombay. Only, nobody honks here!

Gare du Saint Charles

Dandelion love!

Growing up in India, I’d never actually seen a dandelion. Only read about it in books written by Western authors. Yeah, maybe there are dandelions growing in India too, in the mountains perhaps, but being a city girl, I’d never actually come across one.

A dandelion was one of those things, such as scones, or say, a jackdaw, which at 26, I still haven’t seen one. But I remember well, that the Famous Five used to relish piping hot scones for breakfast and there was always an annoying jackdaw in their barn. But I was an Indian kid without Internet. In fact, despite all the international travelling that I do now, I still haven’t tried scones. (Must put that on my bucket list.) Nor seen a jackdaw. 

So yeah, I was glad to come across this ethereal dandelion, after seeing numerous pictures of it on Pinterest. This was at Grousse Mountain in British Columbia, Canada. The flower was exactly as I had imagined it to be – light and magical. 

Anyone here know if I can, and how to plant dandelion at home? 

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Dandelion in Canada’s Grousse Mountain.

A helicopter ride #LifeList

I’ve always thought that helicopters are way cooler than planes. They lend a sense of urgency to the surrounding, in the manner of which you have to board a chopper and I associate a VIP feel to them, thanks to its smaller seating capacity. I also love it how you need to crouch and hurry and be mindful of the strong wind that the blades churn up. Now compare this to how you board a flight. Yawn.

It was last month in Canmore (close to Calgary, Canada), where I participated in heli-yoga, run by the guys at Kananaskis Heli Tours. The concept involves being taken atop a secluded and spot on the Rockies and amid that calm and lush surrounding, practice yoga to vitalise your soul. Yoga guru Kristen Stuart – who by the way, has the most magnetic personality – accompanies you (and the small group) up the mountain to train you in yoga.

Being all cool in the chopper with my earphones, with our yoga instructor Kirsten Stuart (right), on our way up on the Rockies.

Being all cool in the chopper with my earphones, with our yoga instructor Kirsten Stuart (right), on our way up on the Rockies.

Down at the office, before the short flight, we were briefed on the chopper etiquette by owner, the jovial Ralph. We were supposed to bend low, move around only when asked to, and generally be more aware of the surrounding. Upon landing, it’s possible that the wind from the blades cause a yoga mat or a personal belonging to be flung away, but we’re not to make a run for it, and remaine crouched till the chopper leaves, and retrieve the item later.

That's me striking a yoga pose next to the helicopter that transported us.

That’s me striking a yoga pose next to the helicopter that transported us.

The ride in the chopper was uber cool, as we put on large earphones with mics and could only communicate with each other through them. I’d only seen people in films do that and have always wanted to do it! The experience of practising yoga in a spot that we chose in the Rockies was one that will inspire me during low times. But as far as memories go, the helicopter ride wins all the way!

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