The eternal city of Rome (Pictorial)

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St Pauls Cathedral

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Vatican city

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On the way to the Colosseum

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THE Colosseum

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The Roman Forum

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Trevi fountain at night

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Night life!

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Pantheon

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Inside the Pantheon

 

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The famous Trevi fountain

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Change of guards outside Quirinal Palace

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Quirinal Palace

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The natural wonder called Plitvice Lakes

This nature’s wonderland called Plitvicka jezera in Croatian is a UNESCO world heritage site and rightly so. This breathtaking nature’s work of art needs to be protected!

We actually did not know that this place existed up until about 3 years back when one of our friends mentioned about it. He had said that it is amazingly beautiful and is a must see. So after being on our bucket list for the past 3 years, we finally ‘planned’ a ‘last minute trip’ to Croatia 🙂 haha I know you cant really plan a last minute trip but with me & Vin it always has to be a spontaneous decision about where and when we are headed to a new destination…

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After some research on price comparison sites, with our flight & hotel bookings done we flew out to Croatia from Gatwick early on a Thursday morning. I hate early morning flights as that means waking up early but it works out so well for us as we get almost an entire day to explore our new destination without wasting any time on travel.

So we arrived at Zagreb airport and hired a car from City rent a car and drove to Plitvice lakes which took around 3 hours with a stop for lunch. I will write about road trip in detail in another post. We had booked a room for one night in Hotel Jezero-http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g303827-d317295-Reviews-Hotel_Jezero-Plitvice_Lakes_National_Park_Central_Croatia.html

The hotel was located inside the national park and was right by the entrance to the lakes which was excellent as we could just walk 5 minutes and reach the entrance gate or the ticket booth. Also an added advantage was that if you stay at one of the 3 hotels inside the park you can buy a one day ticket and use it on 2 consecutive days. The cost for a one day ticket was 110 kuna & a two day ticket was 180 kuna so staying in the park hotel saved us some cash!

Hotel Jezero

Hotel Jezero

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The park was broadly divided into 2 sections – upper lakes & lower lakes. There are 16 lakes all in one place and at different levels and they overflow into each other creating beautiful waterfalls when they flow into the lower ones. As we had arrived at the park at around 3 pm, we decided we would do the upper lakes in the evening as we had around 4 hours until the park closed at 8 pm. We had to take the buggy ride to the top most lake from where we started our trek walking down one level at a time.

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As we continued walking on the wooden walkways created to blend in with the natural surroundings we were mesmerized by the breathtaking beauty that surrounded us. The water was crystal clear and the colour kept changing from blue to green to turquoise!

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IMG_8856We trekked the lower lakes the next day morning and it again took around 4 hours as we just couldn’t control the urge to take loads of pictures! Who wouldn’t, when everything around you was so very beautiful! It was like I was transported to another world where nature was the center of attention- greenery, waterfalls, fishes and ducks swimming in the turquoise water created a scenery like no other that I had seen before!

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IMG_8441It is quite warm there during august and you need to carry a few bottles of water and some snacks with you as it can be quite tiring…we finished the lower lakes and had to wait almost an hour for the ferry to take us back  to the main station point. The ferry point had restaurants and other facilities so you can have an ice-cream and chill out after a long trek around the park.

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This was such a satisfying and unique experience. Nature at its best!

Golden sand, Turquoise water, Blue sky…Paradise!

A dream came true last October when we booked our Holiday to the Maldives. It was our anniversary and I wanted to surprise Vin with an out of this world vacation that would leave us with memories forever! So after a lot of researching and reading reviews I settled on LUX* Maldives- http://www.luxresorts.com/en/hotel-maldives/luxmaldives

We flew to Male from Heathrow where we were greeted by the resort representative and transferred to their waiting lounge by bus. The lounge was cozy and well-appointed with drinks and snacks. After a wait of around 40 minutes for other passengers to turn up we settled in the sea plane which would fly us to our resort in the South Ari Atoll. When on the sea plane I couldn’t stop myself from looking out even for a second as the views were so mesmerizing! The sea plane ride lasted for around 40 minutes and we crossed many small islands dotted along the Indian ocean before reaching our destination -the Dhidhoofinolhu island.

The LUX waiting lounge and the lovely views from the Sea Plan

The LUX waiting lounge for the sea plane transfer

The views and the arrival jetty @ LUX*

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We arrived on the beautiful island and were warmly greeted by the resort staff and were taken to our beach villa by our guest relationship manager. Yes, there is a GRM for each of the guest that arrive here! We absolutely loved the beach villa which had huge sliding doors opening up to the beach so you literally had the beach at your doorstep! Wow, as I am writing this I want to go again 🙂 We also had an outdoor bathroom which I found really amusing. Took me a while to get used to it to be honest but hey! that is the USP of a Maldivian vacation.

The Beach Villa

The Beach Villa

The room was well appointment with everything you can think of as a necessity and we also got 2 bottles of water which was complimentary. I think was a good touch as many resorts in the Maldives charge a few dollars for each bottle of water. To add to it the bottles were replenished twice a day! Thanks to this we didn’t have to think about paying for water or dinner as we went for the half board plan. We hardly ate more than a sandwich for lunch anyway as the breakfast choice was excellent and we usually never felt hungry until almost evening…

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Some hints on the things you can do when on the island:

  • Lie on the beach loungers There are beach loungers scattered all over the island which you can use to chill out on the beach. Take in the sound of the waves and the fresh cool breeze of the ocean. It does get really hot so don’t forget the sun block if you don’t want to get roasted!

The nights are even more beautiful – imagine sipping a drink by the beach or for that matter on a deck on the beach 🙂

  • Walk or Ride a bike around the island and take a buggy ride from one end of the island to the other- The island has bikes that you can just pick up at a particular spot which is a great way to explore the island. Trust me it was such a relaxing experience to ride the bike a midst all the greenery and sound of the birds chirping. They had these little bottles of drinks hidden away in various spots of the island which was a nice touch…especially when you are tired and thirsty! And when we were lazy, we used the buggy which keeps shuttling from one end of the island to the other.

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  • Snorkeling/ Scuba diving- This was our first time snorkeling and it was such a fantastic experience. We hired snorkeling gear for free and enjoyed chasing fish in the blue lagoon surrounding the island. The resort doesn’t have a house reef like some others do but the variety of fish in the lagoon was huge and we enjoyed it nevertheless. I wish I had a waterproof camera to capture the beautiful underwater sights! So if you fancy snorkeling or scuba diving in the nearby reefs, they also do a boat trip which takes to the reef for some extra charge. There is also a PADI diving school where you can take diving courses and if you are comfortable, go on a diving tour. We did take a beginners diving lesson along the lagoon but we didn’t think we were ready yet for the actual reef diving- next time!

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  • Watch Manta Ray & Shark feeding- The resort has got a timetable of activities that happen on the island and they have manta ray & shark feeding in the evenings. We watched both of different days and it is just amazing to see these creatures up close. The baby sharks were quite big actually!

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  • Must see- Gorgeous sunset & sunrise. The resort has 2 infinity pools and they are the best way to enjoy the sunset. We spent an evening each in both the pools and what a fabulous sight it was! I felt the gorgeous pinks, purples and reds just drain away all the stress from mind and felt refreshed & rejuvenated. Although we would wake up late each day, we decided on waking up early one day just to enjoy the sunrise whilst we were there. I must admit it was hard but well worth it! If you are in a water villa (like we were for 3 nights) I would highly recommend watching the sunrise.
Sunset

Sunset

View of the sunrise from the Water villa

View of the sunrise from the Water villa

 

  • Enjoy the Scrumptious Food and the divine mocktails- LUX has some restaurants that cooks up some delicious food. The restaurants are scattered around the island and we had Indian, Italian, Japanese, Asian, Cafes, bars and pizza joints! So you really do have a massive task of choosing which one to try 🙂 We tried most of them except for the Japanese restaurant. The food was lip smacking and we were never disappointed. Two of the restaurants offered breakfast and the variety was amazing- Continental, Asian- you name it, they have go it! I must add that I enjoyed the mocktails a lot…a perfect balance of being a thirst quencher and taste. A life savior in the tropical heat!

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The Island map

The Island map

 

  • Get a relaxing massage in the LUX Me Spa- we went for a couples full body massage and I thought it was brilliant!
  • Do nothing and be one with Nature- This is best place to let go of all the worries & stress. Get away from technology (we never carried our phone with us, just checked for any messages once a day) and enjoy mother nature. We took a lot back from this trip when compared to any other and would it every year if it didn’t cost as much! lol!

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For the last 3 nights we were upgraded to a water villa complimentary by the resort. We were thrilled as we had mentioned it our GRM when we arrived that at the time of booking all the water villas were fully booked and we wanted to upgrade if there were any available. And voila! We got a free upgrade for 3 nights! We couldn’t ask for anything more as this made our holiday perfect. We enjoyed the water villa more than the beach villa as it was more private and you could just jump into the blue lagoon- talk about easy access!  The water villa was top class- we had a 4 poster bed and also had the bath ready and made up for us one morning! Luxury and indulgence at its best!

Water Villa

Water Villa

 

This was a dream that came true and how! Can you ask for more from a holiday? I don’t think so! Maldives & LUX* you rock!

Bell tent Camping in Wales

I my hubby and our friends went camping in August last year in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Yes, I am still catching up on my posts from last year! 

We did not want the hassle of putting up our own tent-part lazy & part we didn’t trust the British weather and did not want our amateur tent to fly away leaving us stranded in the rain! So we decided we would go GLAMPING=Glamorous Camping 🙂

The Bell Tent

The Bell Tent

Inside the tent

Inside the tent

The above pictures show how the tent looked from the out & inside. We had mattresses, cushions, kitchen equipment, gas stove provided to us by the company we booked the tent with. We booked the weekend getaway with www.cariadcanvas.co.uk. Our experience with them was pretty good. They provide you with a list of sites that you can have the tent put up on and all you need to do is contact the site owner for availability and pay a very nominal amount for the site.

Our breakfast tableOur breakfast table

Cooking our own food out in the open was such a wonderful experience…we loved it!

The area around our Campsite was quaint and lovely. Below are some pictures of places around campsite..

Food anyone??

Food anyone??

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Personally I thought night time camping was the best. Spending time out in the open under the starry sky was just magical!

Just add to it a campfire, something to drink and a hukka 🙂 Cannot ask for more from life- Absolute Bliss!

Night view

Night view

Camp fire!

Camp fire!

On the hunt for Aurora!

It had always been on our list to once be able to see natures very own laser show- The Aurora Borealis (also known as the Northern Lights). In Feb 2012 we set out to Tromso in Norway to fulfill this dream. It took a lot of research to find the best location where there was high possibility of seeing this natural phenomenon. We zeroed in on Tromso which is one of the closest towns to the arctic pole and is in the arctic circle. Given that, it was obviously going to be freezing and as we dint have clothing that could withstand such extreme conditions, we had to go for some shopping!! 😛

With the flight tickets booked with a change over in Oslo, adventure sports booked and the Northen lights tour booked; we were all set.

We landed in Tromso and took a cab to our hotel which was right in centre of town- not that we were planning on using the public transport there anyway, but was good for finding something to eat and also had a supermarket close by for anything we needed.

It was our first night and armed with our SLR cameras, we were picked up by the Photography tour company that we had booked. I wanted to book with Kjetil Skogli but he was fully booked until almost 2013 winter!! So, after some research,we booked a night tour with Creative Vacations.

We went with another couple, so all of us were picked up from nearby our hotel and taken to a place (which was the photographers house) where he gave us a presentation about how to use the camera to its fullest ability to capture the beautiful event we were going to witness in the next couple of hours. This really helped as we had just bought an SLR to make sure we capture the lights and knew very little! 🙂 After some snacks to eat and a hot cuppa we set out on our chase. We were in a minivan with around 8-10 people. We reached a good spot with open sky all around us and set up our camera. Then it was wait wait wait for it to happen. The prediction for that day wasn’t great- was around 2-3 out of 10. Nothing happened for an hour or two, so we were driven again towards the Finnish border. At our next stop we were told it was almost Finland!! Again, we waited in the freezing temperature of -10 degrees( it was not very bad that weekend- lucky us:)). I had 4-5 layers on with a Balaclava and snow boots and I was still cold!! So nothing happened that day and we came back to our hotel disappointed at around 2am early next morning. Whoever we booked the tour with,wouldn’t have mattered that day as mother nature was not ready for the show yet.

With a few hours sleep, and a good breakfast later we set out for the next activity. Snow Mobile Safari!

Yes, making the giant bikes move according to how you want them to was quite some task. We booked this through lyngsfjord adventure. They were very good, timely pickup from a specified hotel in town, an hours journey through the beautiful locales of Tromso, good instruction about what we need to do and not during our ride and they also provided an overall to wear to protect from the cold. The safari lasted for around 3 in total ( both ways). While on the safari we were taken to a place which had knee high snow and when asked I was told it a lake! Yes, a frozen lake!! I was super excited on our way back after being given that information. Saw a couple of the bikes topple over as well. Back we were served some hot soup inside the SAMI tent before being driven back to our hotel.

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On the frozen Lake!

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Inside the Sami tent

That evening we were debating about what to do about our Aurora chase and we finally decided to book a local bus tour for our chase which was quite cheap and all these activities had already made a hole in our pockets 🙂 The bus was full with tourists from every part of the world hoping to get a glimpse of Aurora in all her splendor. The prediction that day was a little higher than the previous day and our hopes were high after the disappointment. Our bus driver got a call from someone saying they had spotted the lights somewhere and he drove to a location with open sky and we just had enough time to set up our camera before the magic began! I experienced something that I had never done before and I don’t think i will again unless we go on another trip to the Arctic. Aurora made her appearance and our joy knew no bounds when she started her beautiful dance 🙂 It was breathtaking- Green, Red and Purple were the colours on display! This was quite early in the night at around 9pm. Stayed there for a couple of hours and after the lights died down we made our way back to the hotel. On the way back we spotted the lights again and asked the driver to stop so we could click some more pictures. And I thought to myself that Aurora din’t disappoint me the 2nd time around…

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I slept really well that night and we just couldn’t stop talking about it the next day. We had the whole day to ourselves and all we did was relax 🙂 We strolled through the town of Tromso and also found an Indian restaurant! Can you believe it- in the arctic!! We are everywhere these days 😛

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The food was yummy, we ate till we thought our tummy would rip apart and prepared ourselves for what would come next- Dog Sledging Safari!

This was booked through the Lyngsfjord again but this time was in the evening (night I can say- it was dark at 4pm). I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had done this during the day as I wasn’t very comfortable with the pitch darkness of the night along with the  snowing blowing in my face. One person had to stand on the sledge bars and guide the dogs/ brake at the right times and the other person would sit on the sledge. We had 5 hyper active dogs and they were all about chasing the sledge in front- very competitive!! Overall, it was a good experience- fell off the sledge into the snow a couple of times thanks to my hubby not braking at the right time! And almost went into a freezing water hole in the ice but thanks to my hubby for Braking at the right time this time!! lol! I made him fall as well- so no complaints 🙂

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All this activity and the freezing temperatures had drained all our energy and tired we set out to catch our return flight on the 4th day of our trip. A few hours in Oslo for our connection, gave us time to walk through the city. There was nothing much to see, we just went to city centre had lunch and bought some souvenirs.

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Oslo

I found the below hilarious…it was in one of the shops in Oslo. All in all a much satisfying trip and we got to see what we had hoped to- The spectacular NORTHERN LIGHTS!

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London Olympics 2012

We got tickets!!

We got tickets!!

I know I am late in writing this post…but hey! Better late than never! This time I do not want to say I am back and stuff like that as no resolutions work for me- ever! My last post was a year ago and I have nothing else to blame other than my laziness…:( No excuses this time.

Anyway, I am back and what more interesting than the London Olympics. It was highly celebrated event of 2012 and through out the summer there was nothing else on people’s minds. After a lot of moaning and cursing the organizers for the poor way of ticket sales, I think we were the most loyal visitors to the official games website everyday. It took a lot of patience, perseverance and refreshing the page to finally get tickets!! yaeee- high-point of the summer for me:)

So on the 1st of Aug 2012, we disembarked the tube and walked towards the Wembley Arena for our session of Badminton. With a huge crowd walking in either direction and games volunteers cheering everyone up we knew we were in for a good time.

 

The badminton courts in Wembley Arena

Badminton courts in the Wembley Arena

As we were hoping to watch Saina in action when we bought the tickets we were on cloud nine when it actually came true 🙂 And to add to it she won that game with a lot of support from the Indian crowd that had come to watch her play!

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The Indian Star!

Go Saina go!!

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Chakde India!!

When the session was finally over, we waited outside the players exit door to try our luck hoping to meet some of them. But that didn’t happen and we were on our way back to the station to get home and who do we bump into!! Pullela Gopichand! He was such a sweet person who readily obliged for a photo and autograph.

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Autograph please…:)

Next, it was round 2! Time to get to the London OLYMPIC PARK. And this time for Paralympics. With the Olympics being a huge huge hit with GB fans and many of the team GB players winning medals there was no doubt that the Paralympics tickets will sell like hot cakes as well.

Again, lucky as we were got 2 tickets to see the athletics in action on the 5th of September in Stratford. The Olympic park was huge and spread over quite a few miles. Involved a lot of walking but was worth all the effort! Long jump, high jump, 400m, 100m, 4*100m relay was all on display and was spectacular to watch. The olympic flame burning in the centre of the stadium truly made us feel like we were a part of the Olympic spirit.

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The OLYMPIC STADIUM

 

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Team GB Fans!

 

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Athletics in action!

 

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Night lights…

A Life time Experience!!