Monday, April 24, 2017

Coventry to Bristol (Cadbury World, Warwick Castle and Stonehenge – All in a day’s drive )

We started our journey from Coventry to Birmingham where our first stop for the morning was the Cadbury World. Kids were so excited to see the love of their life in its making- chocolates. The moment you enter you are engulfed with the overbearing smell of chocolates and hell ya they do give out free chocolate to taste that eventually you have to refuse because the decision becomes very personal; do you want to gulp more chocolate vs throwing it all out from your system if you consume any more of it. There is so much to do and see like tours, play areas, eateries, music, games etc.; you can spend an entire day there if the chocolate overload doesn’t make you sick. Warning for parents: stay away from the gift shop, the kids go crazy seeing so many chocolates and truth be told so would you. After filling our bellies with chocolate overload and battling to keep everything inside we left for our next stop- the Warwick Castle in Warwickshire.

I was already told by my sister that this is a must-see castle and it sure is beautiful. There are a lot of shows that happen during the day. When we reached the castle, jousting was just starting so after enjoying the show we went around seeing the beautiful set up of the castle. There are loads of opportunities to get great clicks with the Royals around and so many wax models with different settings that it made the entire experience a lot more fun discovering different parts of the castle. Later on, there was a birds of prey show which all of us enjoyed thoroughly and then headed to the Princess chambers where only kids were allowed and they felt so special. Finished seeing the rest of the castle, clicked some goofy pictures and right then it started to pour, we knew it was time to head to our next destination.

We were to drive through Cotswolds to go to Wiltshire to see Stonehenge which has been on Aakaash’s bucket list for a long time. All of a sudden, we decided to drive through Oxford instead which was a little detour but we said what the heck we can do as we please, all though I’m not sure why we did it but I think we were curious to see the town. One thing that was really working in our favor was the daylight saving. That’s how we were able to drive such a long distance and were able to make it to Stonehenge- one of the most famous UNESCO World heritage sites. It was incredible to see the prehistoric site and the mystery that surrounds it is intriguing in itself. Where did the stones come from and what was its purpose? Apart from it being a burial ground, I wonder if we will ever know the use of these stones. Although we were little disappointed since we were not allowed to go inside due to some restoration/ construction work that was going on, we were pleased with the pictures we took from outside. After enjoying the scenery/landscape, we headed towards Bristol when it started to get dark.


We reached the Inn at 11 pm after driving around 200 miles, we were dying to hit the bed and hurried our luggage to the room. The kids were excited seeing the room and were running in and out. Between Aakaash checking in, filling in forms and formalities and bringing the luggage from the car
and me shoving the luggage in the room, I suddenly heard Aananya scream at the top of her lungs. Next what I saw, stopped my heartbeat completely. Aananya’s finger stuck in between the hinges of the door and she was screaming in excruciating pain. I just didn’t know what to do for when I tried to open the door she would scream more and if I tried closing it thinking that it might free her finger she would yell and cry. Hearing her scream Aakaash came running and finally he was able to free her finger. You would think it was over. To my horror our nightmare had just begun. What I saw next I can never ever forget in my life, Aananya crying hysterically looking at her battered blue finger which was flat and deformed. We just ran at the reception asked for the nearest hospital and drove like mad for 10 miles. Landed into emergency but the doctor was on round and we were asked to wait. This was the most unsettling wait I have ever had to do. We had to wait for 2 hours before we got to see the doctor. Aananya had stopped crying by then and was tired and sleepy. The doctor asked us to take an X ray of the finger and asked to give her a pain killer. Luckily there was no fracture and Doctor gave us a thumbs up after which we went back to our hotel and just crashed on our beds.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

England

So, we were crossing countries by road and from Scotland we drove to England. This is for the first time we took a very unorthodox approach for our accommodation. We really had to think through as to how much time it would take to travel to and fro from the accommodation we were to book, keeping in mind the traffic and time to leave the city in order to reach the next destination. Hence, we decided that whatever accommodation we would find enroute to our journey we would book it. I would say that we were lucky to find an accommodation on the highway itself.  Our halt for the night was at Keswick. Usually we always read reviews and find out more about the accommodation that we are going to stay in. However, in this case we didn’t bother much because we were just staying for one night. While booking we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into but we didn’t bother much because we were reaching late anyway and were there just to sleep for the night and leave the next morning. For sure I was definitely in for a shock; and kids were super excited when we entered this tiny room, the room had 4 bunk beds and that’s it. Nothing else, not a single piece of furniture not that there was any space to fit anything else either, we could barely fit our luggage in this tiny room…. The name of the property did suggest bunkhouse and this establishment was more so for bikers and had a dorm room set up but still….. There was a bathroom for all the dorms, separate for men and women and I refused to use the shower facilities there the next morning, although apart from me everyone else did. A little walk ahead and there was a kitchen where we had our breakfast and I was happy to leave the place in a scurry.
At least the kids were really excited, they had a great night in their bunk beds and were going to Puzzling Place. I would really recommend this to all parents – it’s a fun way to play with science. There is an anti-gravity room, crazy perspective room, illusion room and a lot more. We all had a blast running to our favorite instruments, machines/ rooms etc.

Due to our over ambitious goal of covering a lot of places and driving through 3 countries in 13 days covering over 3000 miles, it didn’t give us as much time to explore all the places as much as we would have wished or wanted to. So, from Puzzling Place we headed towards Liverpool to see the UNESCO World Heritage Sites - Stanley Dock, William Brown Street, Pier Head, Castle Street, Albert Dock and the Lower Duke Street.
  

On our way, we stumbled upon Killington Lake service station and it was just beautiful. All of us stretched our legs on the lush green pastures right next to the beautiful lake but it was so windy and cold that we were forced to run back to our car. Once in Liverpool, it was quite a task to find all the 6 World heritage sites and we spent most of our time in Liverpool looking for the sites rather than really getting off and seeing some of the interesting places but then that’s the price you pay to have overambitious goals to cover a whole lot of distance. Later we crossed Manchester, although we wanted to spend some time there but we were running late on our schedule and had to reach Coventry before night fall. The Inn that we had booked was very comfortable and we relaxed well for the next day was going to be a very long ride.


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.