Sunday, February 19, 2017

Scotland

I use to think that I am pretty methodical in doing things till I received a full detailed itinerary from my sister which even included what time we needed to get up and what time we were to leave for a place including the time we were to get out of there in order to reach the next destination.

So, in the morning, as per the schedule given by my sister we got ready and went downstairs for breakfast. The sweet Scottish lady had prepared a scrumptious Scottish breakfast in her  kitchen downstairs and we were more than happy to gobble everything into our empty stomachs. Today was a fresh new day and we were ready to start our first ever 13 day road trip starting from Scotland, England, Wales and then back to Scotland, practically doing a full circle around the UK.

Stirling is surrounded by forts and I love visiting places with lots of culture and history and our first destination was the Wallace Monument, located on top of a hill. It was quite a climb for all of us especially me who is not a fan of walking at all. The 248-steep spiral staircase is indeed a considerable climb that ultimately reaches the crown of the monument, nevertheless the panoramic view was breathtakingly beautiful and worthwhile.

After getting our beautiful shots we went to meet Rinku and saw her cute apartment. It meant a lot to me coz this is for the first time I saw my lil sis all grown up and staying by herself. She was really excited to show her beautiful 310 acre Stirling University which is one of the most picturesque university campuses in UK. Who else can boast of having a golf course, lake, meadow, woods and a castle in their campus. What can be better than studying in one of the best universities and right in the luxurious lap of mother nature.  Since she had her dissertation to finish she couldn’t join us on the trip immediately and was going to join us later on.

Therefore, after dropping her off to her apartment we started our little adventure towards Keswick. Rinku had told us to visit the Falkirk Wheel, we had no idea of what it actually was till we reached the Scottish Canal and wooah what an extraordinary experience for all of us. Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift, I didn’t even know that such a thing even existed. This beautifully engineered wheel raises the boat from a canal below and transports it to the upper canal. It is one of the very few boat lifts made in the world. After enjoying the ride, we drove to the neighboring country England…

It was really cool driving from one country to the other, stopping wherever we wanted. Although on a timeline yet defying it sometimes when completely smitten by the beauty of nature; soaking it all in slowly but surely. Our halt for the night was at Keswick, the Lake District. It would be totally criminal if we were at the Lake District and didn’t visit a lake, so on our drive which was almost all along the lake we decided to stop at one of the viewpoints. The kids had a great time running around on the pier until it got dark and we headed to our accommodation. Every view point we crossed it was fun to see people fishing, some youngsters were just having fun listening to music, eating, dancing, kids playing. The country side really shows you how people can enjoy life without being slaves to electronics. 


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Stirling

This time around we planned our trip way in advance, gave our passports for VISA three weeks before the date and everyone we spoke to told us that they had got their VISA within one week and thus we had no reason to worry. All bookings were done, payments made but if you have read my blogs before then you would know we always end up having some twists and turns in almost all our trips. So here we are ready to fly out, tickets done, hotels booked and the main thing NO VISA.

5 days before our travel date we were confident that we would get the VISA, still positive and a little nervous tried to find out from few contacts if the process can be hurried up but no luck.

4 days before the travel date Aakaash finally went to the embassy and they had no news about the VISA and could not guarantee if we would receive it in another 4 days.

3 days before the flying date, we were as nervous as could be and finally decided to cough up the extra buck to speed up the VISA process however we were specifically told there was no 100% guarantee still.

2 days before our flying date we are sweating and shitting bricks, yet no new and the embassy people who were a little irritated by our constant inquiry.

1 day before our travel…phewwwww finally Aakaash got the passports from the embassy with our VISAs…  the additional cost to speed up the VISA process for all 4 of us did mark a dent to our trip but finally we were ready to board.

When all our bearings fell into place, the excitement started since this was going to be our first road trip and that too with my sister. First vacay with my sister abroad who was doing her post grad from Stirling University on full scholarship which for me is definitely one of her big achievements. Well technically I was going there to visit her and then she was accompanying us to a few of the places. She couldn’t do it all coz she had her dissertation to finish. Finally, we started our journey in the morning from Nairobi and reached Edinburgh at 9:30 at night. We had already booked a car, so all we had to do was pick it up from the airport parking and we headed straight towards Stirling which is in Central Scotland. Instead of going to our B&B we headed straight to where my sister was staying, wanted to surprise her and was also eager to meet her but it backfired since she was not there in her apartment and was studying in the library so we just went to our B&B.

There was a sweet surprise waiting for us – a beautiful bouquet which she had left earlier that evening. I really liked the concept of B&B which I was experiencing for the first time. We were so tired after the long journey that we just changed and crashed in this cozy little Scottish house. Tomorrow would be a fresh new day to start our first ever 13-day long road trip. Was truly looking forward to this wonderful experience of geting up every morning in a new city.

Let the journey begin….

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mahe Mahe veh

In an hour our ferry reached Mahe from Praslin and we checked back into our beautiful Bungalow. Knowing very well that this beautiful journey was coming to an end, we spent the last night walking around the beach under the clear moonlit night. We walked all across different resorts finding our way to an Indian restaurant where the kids enjoyed their dinner.  We strolled back to our bungalow bidding farewell to the star-studded sky - the sound of the soaring waves were beckoning us to stay a little longer, dip a little longer.


Next morning, we were ready to leave the virgin paradise. Whenever you are on a vacation the time seems to fly by and we had to bid adieu to this beautiful country.  We were ready to board our plane from the amazing landing strip to fly back to Nairobi.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Praslin – Virgin Island

Praslin is the second largest island of Seychelles and has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It took us one hour to reach from Mahe to Praslin on a ferry. Waiting on the docks was the owner of our Bungalow who had come to pick us up. We were yet again staying in a beautiful Bungalow overlooking the backwaters, we had the first floor of the bungalow to ourselves that had 2 rooms with a tiny kitchenette and fridge. As usual we quickly dumped our luggage, hired a car and straight away left to see the only thing that you can find here in the whole wide world – Coco De Mer – the largest nut in the world.

Our first stop was Vellee De Mai Nature Reserve which is a well preserved natural palm forest and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We trekked through the forest for around 2 hours. I would definitely advice everyone that if you are visiting Seychelles, you must make it a point to see Coco de mer; since this huge nut can be found only here in the entire world and it is said that this palm tree once grew in the depth of the sea.

After our clicks we decided to explore Praslin as we were just staying for one night only. I drove around the island stopping at stunning white sand beaches surrounded by hills that were covered by tropical lush green forest. The beaches are so gorgeous that it gets really hard to leave one to move to the next one. The beach that I really wanted to visit was Anse Lazio which is one of the top ten best beaches of the world. However, by the time we reached the beach we were a little skeptical to get into the waters since 2 years back there was a bull shark attack and although now there was a safety net around the beach still I was not sure if the net had any holes or not; knowing the fact that the swimmers had been killed less than 30 meters from the shore. Anyhow that didn’t stop us for long from getting into the turquoise blue water.

As the noon was approaching we all ate but Aananya refused to eat anything and demanded to eat just tomatoes. Now one thing you must know that in Seychelles everything is imported. Unlucky for us – Praslin was out of tomatoes literally. I can’t even begin to tell in how many stores big and small we went to find tomatoes and found none; finally, someone suggested that we try a small Indian store where we finally got our hands on the most expensive tomatoes with which Aananya’s hunger was satiated. We continued to drive around till the sun set and for supper we did a take away from a local restaurant and went back to the house. Right across the small street was a big marble table next to the beach and we decided to have our dinner listening to the water under a star lit sky.


Next morning, we hopped onto the boat from right outside our bungalow. We stopped couple of times in some small neighboring islands and then did snorkeling in the marine wildlife park. Finally, we were dropped off at Curieuse Island where the nature thrives and the man is silent. After enjoying the beach, we went on a 2 km walking trail where you cross the dense mangrove forest, and then make your way through the swams go up the cliff and finally reach where the giant tortoises are. The park is flooded with giant tortoises where we had fun holding the hatchlings, walking with the giants and feeding them. After all the excitement died down we went to the other side of the island and took our final shots at the beach and were ready to head back to our Bungalow. Once we reached the rooms, we quickly got ready and were on our way to take our ferry back to Mahe.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Mahe

This was going to be our first trip from Kenya and we were going for a holiday after a year. It was just a 5 day trip and Aakaash and I were celebrating 15 years of knowing each other, so we decided to go to one of the most tranquil places with powder like white sand beaches and deep blue sea – Seychelles.

A little more than 3 hours of flying over the Indian Ocean and we touched down in Mahe which is the largest island among 115 islands of Seychelles. I have been to 30 different countries and till date no airstrip is as beautiful as Seychelles. The airstrip was literally next to the ocean. The view was breathtaking as we were taxing right next to the turquoise blue ocean and were ready to breath in the fresh air plus the weather was just perfectly romantic. After going through immigration and security we withdrew local currency and took a cab versus hiring a car since we were uncertain about the location of our bungalow and the connectivity of local transportation.There was a viewpoint of the entire Mahe from a hillock which was gorgeous.


Our hotel was almost 45 mins from the airport. On the way to our Hotel we drove up a mountain which forms a part of the Morne National Park that also covers 20% of Mahe and descended onto the west side of the island towards the beautiful beaches of Beau Vallon. We also drove past a big Indian temple. Initially we thought of booking a hotel but later decided to experience the creole hospitality by staying in a bungalow. Well truth be told - most of the good hotels were fully booked and exorbitantly expensive. However we settled in this duplex self-catering bungalow right across the beach with the sea view and indeed it was the best decision we made.

This beach was perfect as few of the other beaches were not very safe coz either they were very rough or were full of sharp rocks which can really cut through your skin. However, Beau Vallon beach is considered as one of the best beaches in Mahe as it is usually very calm, shallow and we could walk in for quite a distance with kids. The kids had a blast dipping, soaking and splashing in the sea. Further away we could see a lot of hotel properties and restaurants alongside the beaches. Our Romance bungalow was perched on a small hillock with a sea view (I am not kidding! That was the name of the bungalow). The top of the duplex had a king size bed and single bed for Aananya and the lower segment had one bed with TV which was occupied by Aan. The kids had a blast running up and down. It was like a single house with terrace and we were staying in the terrace so when you look down from the railing you can see the kitchenette and the bed below.

After leaving our luggage in the room we spoke to the owners and understood the way around the island. Although the transportation is good and some of our friends had used the buses we decided to hire a car since we had a short trip and it is more convenient. So Aakaash went and hired a cute Nissan March for 2 days. We just went to the beach and by evening we were tired and did a take away from an Indian restaurant nearby, came home gobbled our food and slept like babies.

The next morning we were woken up by the housekeeper who had our breakfast and fresh juices ready at our veranda. It was a real treat and amazing experience smelling and seeing the sea early in the morning with hot breakfast being served. After the breakfast we got ready and drove all around the island stopping wherever we wished, hopping from one beach to the other, from one resort to the next. It was pure bliss since we were spending quality time with family, taking pleasure in little things. Playing games with nature, when the water would recede Aan, Aananya and I would run after it and as soon as the waves would hit the shore we would try to out run it.. Had a great time with the inner child in me as well. We stopped at a small departmental store filled up the car with knick knacks for kids. I enjoyed driving up and down the mountains, next to the sea and all around Mahe Island. At night when we reached back  to the bungalow, to our surprise we got to know that there was a night market with a local food fair right on the road next to the beach across our Bungalow. We all had a great time mixing with the locals and tasting food from stall to stall. Over all it was an amazing experience.

After a late breakfast we were better prepared and decided to sit in the car with our swimsuits so as to avoid changing our clothes every 15 mins. We stuffed our car with goodies and were out on the run. Seychelles is a place to go and chill, there is not much that one can do. So we spent the whole day driving through Mahe seeing all the most famous beaches of the world. Stopped at a local restaurant with a gorgeous view for lunch and then moved on. We also visited the Baie Ternay Marine National Park and Eden Island – the Marina at the Eden Island is one of the most wonderful properties I have seen.  At night we decided to dine at the same Indian Restaurant since kids were not willing to eat anything else and then called it a night. Tomorrow we were leaving for Praslin – a must see island of Seychelles.






Monday, November 2, 2015

The Big Apple- New York


This was our final day in NYC and one place that was in my checklist was Hoboken – Carlos Bakery. Yes from the show Cake Boss. I am not ashamed to say I am a fan of his cakes, so wanted to visit and taste the cake in person. I usually don’t get star struck; but I can’t deny the excitement that had filled my face. As far as cakes and pastries are concerned I think I was short of buying the whole shop. Buddy – the cake boss was not there but did meet his sister Maddalena. After buying loads of goodies we chilled out in a park and saw the beautiful skyline of New York.

Later returned to Times Square for our final goodbye. The NYPD was also there to say bye to us so we kindly graced them with a pic of ours - basically Aakaash and Aan. Later we had an awesome dinner at Hard Rock CafĂ© and it was time to bid adieu to US. This was one of my favourite vacations and a big tick mark on my bucket list. Little did I know that when I get back to Lagos I was to get ready for a new adventure of moving to Nairobi, Kenya. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Bye Bye LA

In the morning we started our journey back to LA. On the way we stopped at Ethel M Chocolate factory and Botanical Garden. This is also the only Ethel M factory in the world which has the same old recipe and still hand packs the boxes. You can see how the chocolates are made through the factory’s window which goes from pipes and conveyor belts to the storage unit. The overwhelming aroma of chocolate forces you to pick up a pack for yourself and after stuffing our mouths with chocolates we went on a short trip to see 300 different species of cactus.

After couple of hours we reached LA and went back to Amarjeet Uncle’s house and spent time with his lovely family. The next morning we were ready embark our final leg of the journey…. Back to New York.