In the English Countryside: United Kingdom

Madame Tussaud's - Pele
River Thames
We started our trip to the UK with London (no guesses there). The city, steeped in centuries of history, is breathtakingly beautiful, in spite of the not-so-enjoyable weather. We first visited Madame Tussaud's wax museum and Baker Street, where Sherlock Holmes' homes was located in the books. That afternoon, we visited Hyde Park and Kensington Palace under a blanket of gloom and clouds as it was set to rain that evening.
Big Ben
Westminster Abbey
The next day, we saw the Buckingham Palace, standing mighty and regal, following it up with Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the river Thames and the London Eye. After a good night's rest, we set out to explore the British Museum, the next day (yes, it takes at least a day!). That evening we visited Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and the Nelson column.
Windsor Castle
Buckingham Palace
Tower Bridge
The day after, we set out on a day tour to Windsor Castle, one of the royal family's many homes across the country, Bath, a Roman city in ruins and the enigmatic Stonehenge (it was hailing by the time we got around to the Stonehenge!). Our last day in London was spent visiting the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London complex.
London Eye
Houses of Parliament
Buckingham Palace
York Cathedral
Edinburgh Castle
The next day we set out on a road trip to Edinburgh, Scotland stopping at Cambridge, York and Newcastle on the way. Edinburgh is a beautiful city, but the most scintillating site in the city is the Edinburgh Castle nestled on the edge of a cliff overlooking the city.
Shakespeare's House
We then went to the lake district, where poets like Wordsworth and Keats lived and then reached Liverpool. We visited Penny Lane and Anfield in the port city of Liverpool and then rode down to Stratford-upon-Avon to explore Shakespeare's house. We then drove back to London to catch a flight back home. All in all a great trip I would say!
Penny Lane

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The Mediterranean Adventure: Part II (Greece)


...So continuing where I left off, from Istanbul, we proceeded to Greece (the cradle of civilization as some people prefer to call it). We landed at Athens (the traffic is as bad as it is in India) and checked into our hotel to get some much needed rest.
Athens from the Acropolis
The next day we began our tour of Athens by first visiting the Acropolis which looked as splendid as always (in spite of large-scale renovations going on) and the view of the city from atop the hill is one to behold. We then visited the stadium that hosted the first modern Olympic games in 1896 followed by a few scattered remnants of Greek temples that dot the cityscape.
Corinth Canal
1896 Olympic Stadium
That night we visited the neighboring port of Piraeus where we enjoyed an authentic Greek dinner full of moussaka, gyro meat and the Greek version of pita bread along with some ouzo (Greek home-made liqueur).
We then continued our journey to a seaside temple of Poseidon  located a couple of hours away from Athens after which we proceeded on our trip to Sparta. Our first stop in Sparta was the Corinth Canal, one of the world's thinnest canals, that separates the island of Sparta from the rest of Greece. We then visited Olympia where we saw the ruins of a temple complex dedicated to Zeus, and the site where the ancient Olympic games were held. The Olympic torch of the modern Olympics are lit at this site before being transported across the globe to host cities.
Amphitheatre at Delphi
Temple of Apollo at Delphi
We then proceeded to town of Delphi, also known as the 'Navel of the World'. Delphi holds the ruins of the temple of Apollo and was the seat of the oracle in ancient Greek times when young women were recruited as oracles, who would then communicated the future of the world, as ordained by the Gods, to men. The amphitheatre at Delphi, was one of the largest open air theatres of the ancient era, and still possesses a captivating charm nestled on the slope of a picturesque hill.
From Delphi, we proceeded to the town of  Meteora in central Greece. The complex of rock cut Eastern Orthodox monasteries that stand on the cliffs of Meteora are the second most important complex of this type in the world after Mount Athos.
We then drove back down to Athens and boarded a cruise to visit a few Mediterranean islands including the famous islands of Hydra and Poros. The view of white houses, white blue roofs nestled around a cove with a jetty is truly a memorable vision to take away from this trip!
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The Mediterranean Adventure: Part I (Turkey)

So, a new post after a long time, and this is going to be about one of my first trips abroad to Turkey and Greece!
Bosporus Bridge 
Back in 2006, we decided to visit these two Mediterranean countries to soak in the rich history, the magnificent architecture and the bright, blue sea. We first visited the Turkish city of Istanbul (to date it remains my favourite city ever, something that I don't see changing for a while).
Istanbul is beautiful in many different ways. As the only city to span two continents, it holds a unique place in history as the gateway to Asia for European empires, and the gateway to Europe for Asian empires, and yet today's Istanbul stands united both geographically and culturally. It is a symbol of harmony with grand mosques built into derelict churches, and palaces overlooking bustling streets and skyscrapers. Istanbul's atmosphere is unique to the city itself, something that is hard to replicate elsewhere.
Blue Mosque
Hagia Sofia
We visited the three great mosques of the city; the Hagia Sofia, which was built inside a Byzantine church when the Ottomans took hold of the city; the Blue Mosque, which stands tall, topped by its blur domes; and the Suleimaniye Mosque named after the great Ottoman emperor Suleiman II. We also visited the two palaces that adorn Istanbul; the Topkapi Palace, the abode of the Ottomans; and the Dolmabache Palace.
Suleimaniye Mosque
'From Russia with Love' Poster (LOL)
We also took in the beautiful scenery of the city of Istanbul as we drove up to edge of the Black Sea, and took the cruise down to some picturesque islands in the Bosporus Strait. Our guide took us to the Basilica Cistern, an underground water system where the James Bond movie, 'From Russia with Love' was shot!
The last thing we did in Istanbul involved a lot of shopping as we visited the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar.

(P.S. - Sorry for not having many good pictures, it was a long time ago and I'm having a hard time finding pictures)

(P.P.S. - Wait for Part II on Greece to come out soon!)

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Serenity, Tranquility and Beauty: Maldives

A boat in the middle of the ocean
Maldives, a picturesque haven in the middle of the Indian Ocean, is one place everyone must visit atleast once in their lifetime (sooner rather than later, or the islands themselves might disappear due to global warming). The islands are one of the smallest countries in Asia and the roads seem to be a secondary way of travelling when compared to ships, boats, aircrafts and helicopters.
The jetty
                                                             Firstly even before leaving we had a huge scare when my passport had not returned with the Maldivian visa a week before we were supposed to travel. We were preparing ourselves to fly to Mumbai and try to sort things out with the Maldivian authorities, but thankfully my passport was returned three days before we were supposed to leave. 

We landed at the airport one autumn afternoon in late October (Autumn as a weather, though, doesn't exist in the Maldives where the sun shines every single day of the year). Anyway we reached the island where our resort was located in an hour by speed boat. Our rooms were located on the sea and allowed us to snorkel and swim in the vast ocean just outside our rooms. The resort was very relaxing and entertaining and I spent my days kayaking, sailing, snorkelling, swimming, eating delicious seafood, collecting seashells and corals, feeding sting rays and baby sharks and sunbathing and lazing around on the beach. A perfect holiday, if I may say so...
Sting Rays
The jetty

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Reaching the highest of heights: Ladakh

So Ladakh happens to be India's highest, northern barren frontier, and easily, the most underrated tourist destination in the country (Tip #1 Sit on the left side of the aeroplane to get really good views of the mountainous landscape below while the plane readies itself to land at the Leh airport). 
View of Ladakh from the plane
Leh Palace
The first evening, the crisp chill of the ensuing night refreshed our minds as we toured the Leh palace, or what remains of it. The weather, though initially a little cold with the whipping wind adding to the discomfort, gets better as you spend more time outdoors ( like wine ;) ). 
The next day we drove all the way to the ancient town of Lamayuru stopping at the famous Alchi monastery and the Magnetic Hill on the way. The ride, though long and pretty bumpy in some parts, was absolutely worth it; the road winds around this small mountain stream with picturesque mountains, forests and occasional gompas dotting the way. 
Khardung La pass

View from Khardung La
Bactrian Camels
Nubra Valley
The next day we proceeded north from Leh to the valley of Nubra, a mere 100 kilometres from the famous Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world! The valley is flanked some of the tallest mountains in the region making for very scenic landscapes as we drove to the town of Hundar in the valley. We stayed in the valley for a night enjoying the scenery, riding Bactrian camels, and fretting occasionally over the breathlessness that weighed upon us sometimes. The route to the valley consists of crossing the Khardung La pass, which is the world's highest motorable road at an altitude of 18380 feet ( It is advised that one spend not more than fifteen minutes atop the pass for the low levels of oxygen that is present in the air ). We also stopped at the Diskit monastery on the way which looked truly majestic nestled in one of the lofty peaks that flanked either side of the valley.
Diskit Monastery
Thikse Monastery
On the way to Pangong Tso
On the way to Pangong Tso
Once we were back in Leh, we set off towards the east to the magnificent lake, Pangong Tso, very close to the Chinese border. On the way to the lake, we stopped at the famous Thikse monastery. The road to the lake led us through the Chang La pass, the third highest motorable road in the world at 17,586 feet. The lake itself is absolutely pristine with its multi-shaded blue waters flanked by barren mountains on either side expanding all the way to the unending horizon.
Pangong Tso
Pangong Tso
 My trip to Ladakh made me see things I could only imagine and believe things that I could only dream of. 

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I (heart) NYC - New York City

Times Square

Empire State Building
So the last time I had been to NYC, I was four, the World Trade Center still existed (clearly since I had gone up the elevators in it) and I don't remember anything else about the trip....and so my trip to the city this winter was technically my first. The story begins thus; a group of 12 of us (international students at Cornell) had to catch flights out of NYC to get back home for winter break and we left by the 1 AM bus on a Saturday morning after stuffing our luggage in the terribly under-spaced luggage compartment below the bus. The bus ride was, I'm assuming, good on the whole (I don't know for sure since I slept through all of it). We arrived at the Port Authority terminal at 5:30 in the morning, one and a half hours earlier than expected, and our flight was at 11 PM that day (I am still considering suing the bus company for getting us to NYC earlier than expected). 
Times Square

Toys R Us
Empire State
Empire State

So the twelve of us are sitting at the bus terminal, where everything seems to be closed, trying to figure out what to do with all our luggage while we roamed around the city for the rest of the day. After one and a half hours of waiting we finally found a place to leave our luggage at the terminal and got ourselves some breakfast before we began our day in the city. The twelve of us walked to a Starbucks nearby and decided what to do while sipping coffee. 
Chrysler Building
Most of the group was pretty 
tired and just wanted to relax and maybe watch a movie, and so me and three others got up to go sightseeing around the city. We first made our way to Times Square (OMG the lights were blinding even during the day!); Hershey's Store <3 lol....So well after taking an enormous amount of pictures at Times Square, I wanted to see the Chrysler building and so I typed in Chrysler on my iPhone (the ever reliable GPS (not)) and it directed us to the West Side of Manhattan (wrong side if you hadn't guessed yet) and finally after having walked for half an hour, we realized that we were in the wrong place and that there was no Chrysler building around, and so we hailed a cab that took us to the Empire State since that was next on our list. Well, we did not have the time or the patience to go all the way up to the top and so we satisfied ourselves with just pictures of the building and then walked to Broadway. After Broadway, my three friends wanted to go back to the terminal and so I continued the sightseeing trip alone (sad I know =P).
Chrysler Building
Grand Central Station
I really wanted to see the Chrysler building, so this time I typed in Chrysler building on my iPhone and it directed me to the right spot; that building was worth the effort, trust me, so beautiful!! 
Anyway after the Chrysler building I made my way to the Grand 
Central Station, and then finally walked all the way to the United Nations headquarters...That building cannot be described in words; the whole complex looks like its separated from the city, standing on its own with no connection to the hustle and bustle of NYC. Well, the last thing of note that I did in NYC, other than having lunch with one of my best friends whom I hadn't met in a long time, was shopping on Times Square (= unhappy parents)! Happy Holidays everyone! 
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