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?
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.
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.
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!
A snowy winter is a way of life for many. But for someone like me, who has lived all her life in a tropical country (India), snow can pretty much be a bucket list item. My first brush with snow happened last week, on a trip to Switzerland. I enjoyed a lovely train ride from Zermatt to reach up to Gornergrat. From this peak, I was told, I could afford stark views of the steep Matterhorn.
I was looking forward to feel snow on my hands since childhood, and finally, my dream came true. The train chugged higher from Zermatt, and I could see snow around in bits, and gradually, it was a vast carpet. I was so excited by this point, that I was having trouble deciding which side of the train I should look out from, frequently running over to the other side, to see more snow. Sounds silly, I know, but if you’ve waited 25 years of your life for an experience, it can be pretty overwhelming when it actually happens.
I step on snow as I get off the train. I’m told to be careful, as the ice can be slippery. I’m glad I’m wearing my Wellingdons as they offer a sturdy sole and some friction. I walk along, hugging my jacket tighter, taking small steps, mindful of the ice that I tread on. And then in a few steps, ice makes way for snow! I put my foot ahead on soft, soft white fluff and it sinks in a bit to make an impression. I go ahead a few more steps, a smile on my face, my feet digging deeper. And then I look around myself, and all I see is more and more snow and I turn into a child on expresso.
I run, fall and jump about and make snowballs and throw them on my friends. And then I walk further towards the valley where there are no foot marks, and slide my hand in, to come up with a pristine fluff of white sitting on my palm.
I had fallen in love with crushed ice at a young age, when kids used to buy ‘gola’ from a street vendor. A gola is a clump of crushed ice on a stick, doused in flavoured syrup. Something similar to the ‘kachang’ in Singapore.
I pressed my palm shut and the snow hardened a bit. I put it in my mouth, closed my eyes and waited for it to dissolve. My hands were trembling due to cold but when I put the snow in my mouth, it just felt warm. And familiar. And nice.
Where next? What can I expect there? How to get there?
These were three questions I found myself asking strangers and new friends often, in the month I spent travelling solo in Europe recently. I only had my return flight ticket sorted in advance – Mumbai (India) to Geneva (Switzerland) and back – and gave Europe a chance to surprise me. It led me to gorgeous Swiss villages, lively towns in France and a bustling city in Spain, and Lichtenstein and Monaco.
I met several interesting people along the way, a lot many locals helped me, I assisted some travellers with directions myself, and a few asked me out for drinks! I stayed in a fancy hotel, couchsurfed, shared dorms with 30 other travellers and was offered a bed by friends of friends. I had an extremely unplanned trip, with the liberty of spending as much time as I wished in whichever place that caught my fancy.
I practiced broken French, have brought back some Catalan words and discovered that there actually are places where people absolutely do not speak English. I ticked off many items from my bucket list, which include wearing a bikini to a beach and setting off on an unplanned trip. I would consult the map, the hotel receptionist, my Couchsurfing host and people on the street, and come up with a place to go to, for the next day. I spent 3 days in Nice because I loved the French Riviera, a whole week in Barcelona and yet couldn’t get enough of the city, and merely half a day in Lichtenstein, because well, there’s not much to do.
I ate the best croissants in France, drank pitchers of spicy Sangria in Spain and sampled some of the best cheese in Switzerland. I saw impeccably dressed grannies smoking away in French cafes, snazzy cars in Monaco, sunsets in Switzerland that made me appreciate clouds and some insanely cute boys in Spain. I caught my train to France in the nick of time, almost missed all my luggage in Barcelona merely a day before my flight back to India and kind of ran out of money toward the end of the trip!
But I did have an exceptionally excellent time and would urge everyone to visit these parts of Europe and let them dazzle you. I am in the process of pitching stories about my travels to editors of various magazines and I’ll have some stories surfacing here, on the blog, too. Between that, we should have a complete picture of my experiences and the culture of the countries I visited.
Also, due are many thanks to my Schengen visa (I didn’t know Lichtenstein existed until Swiss locals told me about it), EuroLines buses and the French train system. I don’t know what I would’ve done if they weren’t in place.