About

Malpe

This is a word I have to keep up….

I had promised to do a detail blog on Malpe when I touched upon this jewel of a beach during my road trip episode. Well; here it comes….

Beautiful Malpe beach

Beach Umbrella typical of Malpe

Some of you will think….What’s so different ? A beach is a beach whether it’s in Goa, Kerala, TN, Maharashtra or even Pondicherry. Well it’s not like that…each of these beaches has it’s own flavour and ambience. Each of these beaches has its own colour of sand, the coarseness of the sand grains, the rockiness of the coast, the width of the beach, the drop of the sand ridge into the ocean and various parameters that make each one unique. Each of these beaches has its own unique water sports, food and local ambience too! I will be touching on most of these beaches in my forthcoming episodes and that should clear the air.

Located just 6 kms from the temple town of Udupi in Karnataka, Malpe beach is an awesome destination. Very few know about the wonderful beach that this temple town is home to.

Mangalore at a distance of 60 kms is the nearest airport and Udupi the nearest railway station. It is located very conveniently at a short drive from the Mangalore Mumbai highway.

Not as well marketed as the beaches of Goa, helps in maintaining its serenity and peace. I have visited this beach many times and I can tell you, its gaining popularity but simultaneously losing its peace. So those of you who love peace on the beach, you are running out of time!.. Head there before it gets to that stage of “just another beach”. Those of you who like crowded beaches can take it easy….the more you wait, the more crowded it will get…the popularity of this beach is growing!!!!!

A little history and geography…

Malpe is one of the exquisite unexplored beaches of the Indian West Coast. Located at the mouth of the Udayavar River, the rocky coastline has 4 islands, the most famous being St. Mary’s Island.

For centuries, Malpe has been an important trading port with the West. It is also believed that Vasco da Gama had made a short halt during his voyages at St Mary’s Island and it was he who gave the island its name. Malpe is also an important fishing harbour due to the diverse marine life here due to the mixing of the fresh river water and the sea.

Safety is what adds to the tourist attraction of a place. Being a very uniform and gentle sloping sand beach with no sudden depth , makes it one of the safest beaches in the region. As mentioned earlier, the popularity of this beach has grown and lot of tourists and locals reach this beach in search of a great beach holiday. The authorities have risen to the occasion and a lifeguard station functions here. Apart from that coloured flags indicating the level of danger are put up on the beach front regularly. Beach patrolling by the guards who monitor the swimmers also occurs.

Life guard station Malpe

Red flags on a risky day

Accommodation

Accommodation of various categories ranging from luxury hotels to backpackers and homestays are available close to the beach itself which makes it very convenient.

Paradise Isle Resort where we usually stay

Some other hotels overlooking the beach

A variety of watersport activities take place here in the evenings. Indulging in them or even just standing by and watching them can be a very relaxing experience. Some pictures from my visit to Malpe…

Boards displaying various activities at Malpe

Some of the activities at Malpe beach

Sea Walk

A seawalk is one of the latest additions at Malpe that helps one enjoy the sunsets from an extended walkway into the sea.

Sea Walk Malpe

St Mary’s Island

Another activity that one can indulge in, is a visit to St Mary’s Island. This island can be spotted in the horizon from Malpe. A short boat ride takes one to this palm fringed island.

The boat ride to St Mary’s Island

Approaching St Mary’s Island

St Mary’s Island

Rare basalt volcanic rocks are found here and it has been added as a National geological monument.

The Basalt Rocks

Food

The word Udupi is almost synonymous with typical South Indian breakfast fare of Idly,(a steamed rice cake) Dosa, ( savoury pancake made of rice),Sambar,( a gravy that accompanies the idly) and Vada (deep fried lentil fritters) . When we talk loosely of a Udupi Hotel, it refers to such vegetarian fare. But contrary to that, local food includes lot of nonvegetarian items too.

Malpe offers great non vegetarian cuisine especially fish. Tulunadu…that’s what this region is known locally , is known for its variety non veg fare. (“Tulu” is the local dialect of Kannada and “nadu” is country) Kori Rotti, ( chicken and wheat bread) Fish Curry, Prawn roast, Neer Dosai etc are part of typical tulunadu food.

A typical restaurant signboard

Just reaching the kitchen!!

A sombre ritual

I was witness to a religious ceremony one morning on the beach. A family was performing the obsequies of a relative.

It is customary for Hindu families to perform certain rituals after the death of their family members. It is performed close to waterbodies and Malpe is no exception….

Obsequies

As you have seen, Malpe beach is a hub of activities that can keep anyone entertained. However, if you prefer a quieter place with the ambience of a lagoon, head to the mouth of the Suvarna river a few kms from the main beach. Here there are resorts on the banks of the estuary which have a quiet ambience.

Some pictures from one such place.

The resort

The beautiful views from the resort

With Malpe offering so many avenues of entertainment, it sure is finding its way into everyone’s bucket list. Apart from Malpe, one can visit other lesser known beaches along the Karnataka coast from here.

Kaup is one such beach destination where there is a famous light house. It is also a famous surfing destination.

Kaup Lighthouse

Maravanthe is also another beautiful beach close to Udupi on the highway.

Beautiful Maravanthe

So as you can see , there are lot of beach holiday options along the Karnataka coast. Easy to approach and pocket friendly, all of you should definitely try out some of these.

Before I bid goodbye , let me leave you with a sunset view from Malpe..

A cloudy sunset at Malpe…

As you plan your beach holiday, don’t forget to subscribe, comment and send in your feedbacks.

Munnar

Munnar is a cute town nestled in the Western Ghats in the Idukki district of Kerala.

“Moonu” in Malayalam is three and “aar” is stream. Munnar got its name as it is located at the confluence of three rivers Muthirapuzha, Nallathani and Kundala.

It is known for its pristine green valleys, misty mountains, tea estates, spice estates, waterfalls, and dams. The Nilgiri Tahr, an endangered species of mountain goat is found here and in the adjoining Eravikulam National park.

At an altitude of more than 5000 ft above sea level, it enjoys cool winters and pleasant summers. It provides a nice escape from the hot and humid summers of the plains in Kerala and has hence grown into a popular tourist destination over the years.

Resorts and home stays abound in Munnar and provide accommodation of various categories to tourists making it easily affordable for everyone. It has also developed into a popular hiking and trekking destination in south Kerala.

It is easily reachable from Kochi which is the nearest airport located around 140 km away.

Angamaly and Kochi provide railway connectivity at a distance around 120 to 140 km.

It is also a pleasant drive after taking a diversion to Munnar on the Kochi Salem highway.

Our Trip

One beautiful morning, we drove down from Coimbatore to Munnar.

We took the route via Pollachi, Udumalpet and Marayoor which works out to roughly 200 kms.

Marayoor is known for two things, the sandalwood forests and its jaggery.

The sandalwood forests of Marayoor

Molasses being processed into Jaggery

The finished product…jaggery balls

We also crossed Eravikulam National park on the way

Eravikulam National Park

Eravikulam is a reserve forest area where tourists are allowed only in designated areas . It is home to the endangered mountain goat known as the Nilgiri Tahr.

The entrance to Eravikulam National Park

The Nilgiri Tahr

Reaching Munnar late afternoon, we checked into our hotel and rested for the evening enjoying the climate and the scenery.

Tea gardens over acres and acres and over several hill ranges dominates the scene in Munnar.

View from the hotel

Mist covering the hills

Tea Gardens stretching as far as one can see….

Tea shrubs

Spice Estates abound in Munnar….particularly cardamom.

Cardamom plants

Over the next two days, we explored various points in and around Munnar.

Echo Point

Echo point lies about 15 km from Munnar town on the road to Top Station.

The Kundala lake provides a serene front to the hills on its backdrop covered with thick forests and lush green grass. These hills echo the sounds generated from across and hence the name.

Needless to say, one can hear a cacophony created by the tourists here!!

Echo Point

Kundala Lake

This pretty lake created by the Kundala Dam is another popular destination for tourists. Boating facilities in the lake in a backdrop of lush green mountains really make it a beautiful spot.

Early mornings are less crowded here and one can get beautiful pictures particularly if clouds have descended here , as they sometimes do.

The serene Kundala Lake

Mattupetty Dam

Located on the Top Station road, this dam and lake are part of the Indo Swiss livestock project . It is a popular picnic spot even for the locals and one can go boating on the lake or undertake hikes and treks from here.

Mattupetty Dam

Attukadu Waterfalls

A multitiered waterfall, Attukadu falls can be seen even from a distance as one approaches Munnar. It is located in the middle of a rocky terrain and reaching close to the falls may be difficult for the less agile. As expected, this waterfall is in its full glory during monsoons or immediately after. A small pool at the end provides a nice bathing spot!

Attukadu falls from a distance

The water cascading among the rocks

Enjoy the falls in this video

Top Station

True to its name, it is the highest point in Munnar and offers unparalleled views of the Theni plains below. With green hills surrounding you on all sides. it gives a heavenly feel .

One of the highlights here is the blooming of the Neelakurinji in the hills once in twelve years. When in bloom, the hills literally turn blue in colour and adding to the beauty of the place

Top Station

The Neelakurinji in bloom

The Blossom Park

Situated close to Munnar town, this park is home to a variety of flora and fauna and is a popular picnic spot. When we visited Munnar, there was an orchid exhibition on at this park. We were treated to a feast of orchids in full bloom making us long to carry some of them home!!

The orchids….

Lakkam Falls

Another beautiful waterfall in Munnar is the Lakkam falls.

Lakkam Falls

Adventure Sport Activities

Various adventure sport activities like zip lining, mountain biking, rope climbing etc are available here for the enthusiastic tourists. Some pictures…

Adventure Sport activities

After enjoying the cool climate and the lush green surroundings, we were treated to this wonderful sunset over the hills on our last day at Munnar

The sun sets on a wonderful holiday….

Driving back via Pollachi, we were put off by the traffic and the heat ; but we were pretty sure we would go back there soon….

So do visit this tea paradise and of course pick up some tea from the factory outlets there….to savour the cup of tea ; if not the estates

Do give me your comments and feedback…

Parambikulam

Another lovely destination which is easily reachable but really refreshes one is Parambikulam. Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is located in Palakkad district of Kerala.It is located 40 km from Pollachi in Tamil Nadu. The tiger reserve is located in an area surrounding the Parambikulam Aliyar Project or PAP.

PAP

The Parambikulam Aliyar Project is a unique initiative aimed at augmenting the irrigation facilities in the drought prone Coimbatore and Erode districts of Tamil Nadu and the Chittoor area of Kerala. The project includes 10 dams , 4 power houses, 6 main tunnels and 7 irrigation canals. It accomplishes the integration and diversion of 8 rivers with reservoirs at various elevations and utilising this for generating hydro electric power. Most of these rivers are rain fed rivers in the Anamalai ranges. The canals, tunnels and reservoirs are located in picturesque surroundings in reserved forests. Thus , it utilises natural resources optimally and also serves the interest of tourism. It is also an excellent example of inter state cooperation between Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

The Parambikulam Tiger reserve is home to four tribal communities who live here in hamlets. These tribals work as guides for treks and safaris in the reserve and serve as an integral part of the comprehensive harmonious ecosystem.

The activities available here include Jungle safaris, treks, bamboo rafting and tree top experiences. There is a giant 500 year old Kannimara teak tree here. It is more than 41 metres in height and almost 8 metres in girth. This tree is worshipped by the indigenous people of Parambikulam. Legend has it , that it bleeds when anyone tries to cut it and hence the tribals preserved it. “Kannimara” means virgin tree .

Our Trip

We drove down from Coimbatore to Pollachi and after a sumptuous breakfast, headed to Sethumadai. The road was beautiful with trees on either side of the road.

Pollachi Anamalai road

From Sethumadai we first reached the Anamalai Tiger Reserve where the first check post is located.

Anamalai Tiger Reserve

Here we paid the entry fees and completed registration formalities and proceeded further and reached Top Slip.

Top Slip

From Top Slip, we proceeded further. As we proceeded further, we saw the Elephant camp at Top Slip.There were lot of deer in the forests around and very often they crossed the road in front of us.

The Elephant Camp at Top Slip

Deer roaming around freely at Top Slip

Proceeding further, we reached the Kerala border at Anapady where we entered the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve. Here again we had to pay the entrance fee and register the vehicle number .

Parambikulam Tiger Reserve entrance

About 2 km after this check post, we reached the Parambikulam jungle safari area. From here on, only people with pre booked accommodation are allowed entry into the reserve. Others have to leave their vehicles here and join the jungle safari organised from here in special vehicles.

Since we had booked for accommodation, a guide who belongs to the local tribe accompanied us inside the reserve. As we drove along inside the reserve we saw some more deer. Langurs and peacocks were also seen. We also spotted a fish eagle.

A peacock and an inquisitive langur

As we drove on, we entered more forested areas. Soon we were at Thoonakadavu where there is a large reservoir. As we drove past the reservoir, we saw some crocodiles basking in the sun on the banks of the reservoir.

The forested roads near Thoonakadavu

Thoonakadavu Reservoir

We proceeded further down and reached another reservoir , the Peruvaripallam Reservoir.

We had booked accommodation at Peruvari Island nest, a beautiful tree top bamboo house on an island in the Peruvaripallam reservoir. The only way to reach this resort is by bamboo rafts.

So we had to leave our vehicle near the bamboo rafting point and we boarded a bamboo raft .The local guides including the guide who accompanied us rowed the raft.

The Bamboo raft

Starting our journey to the Island resort in the bamboo raft

This was really a unique experience. The surrounding areas had large bamboo clusters which looked beautiful against the waters of the reservoir.

The beautiful bamboo clusters on the banks of the reservoir

Reaching the Bamboo house….seen with green roof in the back drop

The beautiful tree top bamboo house called Peruvari Island Nest

The house was made of bamboo and had all modern amenities. In addition, there was a bamboo extension bridge built into the reservoir where we could walk up to and enjoy the scenery around

The bamboo extension bridge

Feeling happy and safe on grandpa’s shoulders

The local guide who accompanied us quickly provided us some tea and snacks which we enjoyed sitting in the balcony of the tree top house.

It was truly a great experience. Beautiful views of the reservoir and surroundings with cool breeze wafting in made us feel ecstatic.

Beautiful views from the tree top house

After sun set, it was a different experience with the sounds of the forest and occasional sounds of nocturnal birds.

The guide along with the local raft helpers cooked up dinner for us. We enjoyed the meal in the stillness of the night. Spending one night in an island in the forest was really something unique for all of us.

Next morning we enjoyed the views of dawn and the breakfast provided by the helpers. After that we took the raft back ashore and then visited the Parambikulam dam by car.

At Parambikulam dam

We wanted to see the Kannimara Tree but unfortunately the road leading to the tree was damaged and tourists were not allowed at that time.

From there we proceeded back home via Pollachi with refershed minds and wonderful memories of a day well spent in the lap of nature.

This is again a very easily doable option for a unique refreshing holiday. The experience of living on an isolated island in a forest is a rare opportunity. So just pack your bags and head to Parambikulam…..

To keep me refreshed and enthused to get you more destinations, do keep your comments and feedback flowing in like the gentle breeze of Parambikulam….

P.S

There are various accommodation options available at Parambikulam and one can pre book at the site

http://www.parambikulam.org.

A Road Trip

This time, I am on a road trip from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu to Ratnagiri in Maharashtra…..a simple Indian road trip. Not focussing so much on the destinations as on the travel. We covered a distance of more than 2000 kms over 10 days, halting at interesting places along the way.

A map showing the route we took….

The Route Map

This blog will focus on the sights along the way…

Starting from Coimbatore early morning our target was 200 km to reach Mysore by noon. Drove to Annur where we had breakfast of idli, vada….traditional south Indian and topped it up with filter coffee.

From Annur we were headed to Sathyamangalam. On the way we passed a famous temple at Bannari

Bannariamman Temple

It was a cloudy day and the drive was pleasant. The road condition was good by and large. Crossed the town of Sathyamangalam and headed to the Dhimbam ghat road.

This drive took us through the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve . Some pictures captured as we drove through the reserve..

The entrance to The Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve

A video to give the feel of driving through the reserve.

Soon we found ourselves on the Dhimbam ghat road. This road has 27 hairpin bends …some of them almost V shaped with significant lorry traffic making it a little challenging for anyone.

The Dhimbam ghat begins…

The Dhimbam ghat road

The view of the plains below

The sharp turns

Soon the fog started setting in hampering visibility…

Fog setting in

Dhimbam was the highest point and from there we started the descent.

As we descended, the fog reduced and we were in for some sunshine…and of course the vegetation also changed. There were bamboo clusters all along. This area is a elephant habitat and the bamboos are probably the reason , as it is a favourite of the giants.

Warm sunshine again

Bamboo clusters…change in vegetation

Soon we were at the town of Hassanur where everyone was taking a break….

The break at Hassanur

Hot vadas sizzling in oil

Soon after that we crossed the border from Tamil Nadu to Karnataka.

We crossed over to Karnataka

From there we headed to Chamarajnagar…a small town on the way. The road was bad for a few kilometers here.

Then on to the temple town of Nanjangud , and on to Mysore

Nanjangud Temple gopuram

Reaching Mysore just past noon , we took our overnight halt here. Checked into the hotel, rested for sometime and took a nice walk around The Radisson Blu hotel . Had some nice filter coffee and bonda in a hotel nearby.

Saw the excited crowds at the zoo which we were not interested in , as we had visited earlier. Returned to the hotel, had dinner and rested for the night.

Left Mysore next morning and took the Mysore Madikere highway NH275 en route to the temple town of Udupi which was our next halting point…..300kms drive

Authentic Karnataka breakfast of Dosa at Mysore

Mysore Madikere highway

The Mysore Madikere highway had good road condition and some pictures taken on the way...

Fruit shops like this one dotted the highway as we left.

Besides, there were lot of new developing housing projects on the outskirts of Mysore.

As we moved away from the city, more fields were seen on either side…..

Fields on either sides of the highway

Road signs like this one provided guidence and direction as we proceeded.

Some of the towns we passed was Hunsur, Periapatna and KushalNagar.

Just as we reached KushalNagar, we crossed Bylakuppe, the Tibetan settlement colony.

The Tibetan settlement colony at Bylakuppe

Tibetan monks in traditional attire is a common sight around KushalNagar.

A few kms away, we crossed Nisargadhama too. Nisargadhama is an eco park along one of the tributaries of the Cauvery river which offers various recreational facilities. It is one of the important to-do destinations from Coorg/Madikere.

Nisargadhama

Gradually the roadside scenery changed from fields to estates of coffee heralding our location to be Coorg. The climate was also getting little cooler and we had a slight drizzle. This added to the beauty though it hindered my photography.

A typical coffee plantation with pepper vines on the trees.

Another familiar site as one reaches coorg are the boards advertising typical Coorgi food .

Coorgi Pork recipe advertisements are typical here

Soon we were at Madikere ,where we bypassed the town. There is a proper bypass to this town and it helped a lot in saving time.

After that, there was a steady incline and the roads were more winding.

We passed several coffee and pepper plantations on the way. Coorg has plenty of spice plantations and the roads are dotted with spice shops.

The roads started getting more winding .

More coffee and pepper….

We did take a short coffee break among the coffee estates…

A short coffee break was welcome!

Another typical roadside sight are the spice shops like this.

After some beautiful scenic roads, the coffee estates were replaced by rubber estates heralding our descent to the plains….

Rubber estates on the way

We were entering south Karnataka and the main city there is Mangalore.

The first main town was Sullia where had a lunch break.

A typical south Indian Thali Meal

After lunch, we crossed Puttur and were heading to Bantwal when we had a stretch of real bad road for about 10 kms. That really slowed us down , but after that we took NH 73 which was again pretty good and reached Bantwal.

The Bantwal river was one of the first of the many rivers that we crossed on our way

After Bantwal, we joined NH 66 and headed to Mangalore but diverted off to Udupi from the outskirts of Mangalore . Again we did cross some bridges over rivers like this one near Mulki town

The Mulki river

Soon we were at Udupi the town known for its Sri Krishna Temple where we took a halt for the night.

We had visited the temple earlier and decided to stay at Malpe, a beautiful beach resort town near Udupi.

Malpe is a beautiful beach resort near the temple town of Udupi. One of the safest beaches in this area, it has various recreation activities. Some pictures from Malpe….

Beautiful Malpe beach

Resort at Malpe

Evening at Malpe

We also made a new friend here, a little lady who compared us to her grandparents ……

A new friend at Malpe

There is a lot more about Malpe which we can talk about in an episode dedicated to it. Here, Malpe is just one of our halts on the trip….

Next morning we departed from Malpe headed to Murdeshwar.

This was actually a break day after two long days of driving. So we did a short journey of around 100 kms only.

Continuing on our own “Route 66″…NH66

NH66…..our own “Route 66

This route is dotted with bridges crossing beautiful rivers and backwaters ( difficult to distinguish) . Islands of mangroves can also be seen here in many places.

One of the many beautiful rivers on this route

There is a beautiful beach on this route at Maravanthe where the road is adjacent to the beach….some pictures from Maravanthe

Beautiful Maravanthe

Maravanthe….the beautiful beach

After this amazing beach comes the town of Kundapura from where one can visit the famous Kollur Mookambika temple.

The beautiful Sowparnika or Kollur River

Mangrove islands in the backwaters

Our destination for the day was the temple town of Murudeshwar where we halted .

Murudeshwar is a temple town with a huge temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple is unique in many ways and more details will come up later.

Murudeshwar has a beautiful beach with lot of water sports activities too. More on Murudeshwar in an episode dedicated to it.

The arch at the entrance to Murudeshwar town

The beautiful beach at Murudeshwar with its water sport activities

Next morning after breakfast we were headed to Pernem in Goa, a distance of 300 odd kms for the day.

Joining NH 66 again we continued our journey northwards skirting the west coast.

One thing I noticed was the lurking danger of cattle crisscrossing the NH 66. I must mention this here as it is rampant. Cattle are left to fend for themselves on the road and they are a serious threat to the unwary driver. We did see a couple of cattle run over along the highway too. This trend continues into Goa and Maharashtra too. On city roads we do find cattle , but on a highway with speeding vehicles they really pose a danger.

Lurking cattle ….danger on NH 66

Some of the important towns we crossed were Honavar, Kumta and Gokarna. Also saw the roads to Sirsi and Jog Falls branching off the highway.

The River Gangavali was skirting the highway for some time too.

The River Gangavali skirting NH 66

Soon we crossed Ankola and Karwar and there was a clear change of landscape see. Muddy hill slopes dotted the highway. The highway was probably carved out from these slopes.

The muddy hill slopes from which NH was carved out

Soon we crossed the Karwar Naval Base, Karwar fishing village and Karwar Port

Karwar fishing village

Port of Karwar

Soon we were on a long bridge across the Kali River.

The Kali River

Soon after this we crossed the border to Goa.

One of the first signs that greeted us at Goa was this….

Welcome to Goa….

Crossed the Talpona river . Could see the muddy water clearly joining the blue sea.

The Talpona river…note the muddy water and the blue sea at a distance

Plenty of rice fields also dotted the highway…

The paddy fields of Goa

After entering Goa, for a considerable distance, it looked like an ordinary road and often with ghat sections. Soon we joined a 4 lane highway and then on to some amazing roads. A long flyover which crosses backwaters at places connects North and South Goa.

Was quite impressed with the infrastructure development in Goa. Crossed the Zuari River bridge. As we crossed it, we saw the new Bridge under construction….really impressive.

The new Zuari Bridge under construction

We also saw the Atal Sethu bridge which is a cable stayed bridge which is over 5 km long and is the third longest cable stayed bridge in India. It is built over the Mandovi river and one can see the River and the passenger terminal as one crosses the bridge.

Atal Sethu Bridge

The Mandovi River and Goa’s passenger terminal.

Proceeding further north we reached Pernem where we halted at Mandrem Beach which is one of the last beaches in North Goa.

At Mandrem, we halted at the Riva Beach resort. Some pictures..

A cute wooden bridge across a small backwater stream leading to the beach

The resort as seen from the beach…nestled among coconut trees

Beach bar

Some authentic Goan food was also on our radar

A typical Goan Thali with a big chunk of fish

After a day’s break at Riva Resort where we rested, we were headed further north towards Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri. Another 300 kms was our day’s target.

We continued on NH 66 for a considerable time and from Rajapur diverted towards Pawas.

Very less traffic once we left Goa and the highway was concreted probably keeping the high rainfall that these regions face in the monsoons.

The highway was dotted with huge mango orchards…

Mango orchards

The road from Rajapur was bad and it took us some time to reach Kohinoor Samudra Beach resort at Kurli in Ratnagiri. This resort is just 5 km from Ratnagiri town.

It is a huge resort with excellent views of the sea . Located on a hillock, we can see Bhatye Beach Ratnagiri from here. It looks awesome…the arial view..

Some pictures from Kohinoor Samudra resort where we spent Diwali 2022.

The open sea as we reached Kurli.

View from hotel, the Ratnagiri light house point is seen in the backdrop

Bhatye beach from resort

Sunset point at the resort with cliffs protruding into the sea.

Diwali celebrations at the resort

The sun sets on Diwali 2022

After a two day halt at Ratnagiri, we started our return trip

Benaulim beach in South Goa was our next destination.

Since we were following the same route down to South Goa, on NH66, the views were the same…some pictures

A typical Goan scene

One of the many churches that dot Goan roads

I must mention here one more dangerous trend on these highways. The 6 and 4 lane highways suddenly become 2 lane roads specially close to towns, With no proper warning boards, this can be dangerous and one has to be careful.

One such example

Sudden narrowing of the highway...a real nightmare on the drive

Well apart from being careful ourselves, nothing much can be expected….

Leaving the unpleasant things away….let’s talk about Benaulim…one of the best Goan beaches I have seen.

Really great broad beach with clean whitish sand.

We stayed at Benaulim for two days and enjoyed the beach ambience and of course also saw the rare solar eclipse from here!

At Fairfield Marriott Benaulim

Beach shacks at Benaulim

A parasailer looks down at the sands of Goa

And I managed a shot of the solar eclipse at sunset

Next day, we were headed to Koteshwar, a town close to Udupi where there is a beautiful beach at Beejadi. An unspoilt beach ; far from human intervention, it was a sort of private beach for us.

We were put up at Gluklich Beach Cottages, a cute small beach resort with direct beach access. Some pictures..

Gluklich Beach Cottages

Some of the offered activities

As you walk to Beejadi Beach

The long coastline along Beejadi beach Koteshwar

A lone unfortunate star fish was washed ashore!

Nature had sketched on this beach!

And we tried our best to get the sun home!!

The last beach sunset on this trip….had to be beautiful…..see the pink of the sky on the sand below!!!

After a nostalgic goodbye to the beaches, we returned to the hotel for the night.

Next morning we left Koteshwar for Hassan, a distance of 230 kms which we thought would be easy , but it took us some time due to the ghat roads, bad roads at Chikmagalur and nearing Hassan.

Some of the main towns we crossed were Haladi , Belve, Agumbe, Balehonnur, Chikmagalur and Belur.

After Haladi and Belve we were in to some winding roads with thick forests on either side. Arecanut and Cashewnut orchards were another common sight here.

Arecanut farms

Cashew orchards

Soon we were on the ghat road to Agumbe. Agumbe is one of the places in this region which receives lot of rainfall. Close by to Agumbe near Sringeri is also the most number of Indian King Cobras sighted according to National Geographic. The forested ghat road had some challenging hairpin bends where vehicles often stopped to give way to others. Some pictures

Thick forests line the ghat roads

Sharp turns at Agumbe ghat

The spectacular views from sunset point Agumbe ghat

After we cleared the ghat road, we were at Agumbe town and following SH 27 and 65 we were into Chikmagalur district. Coffee , pepper and arecanut plantations dotted the roads. Surprisingly we did pass through a small tea estate too. Some pictures

Coffee plantations

Driving through a coffee estate

The roads were pathetic in Chikmagalur area to say the least! There were no roads at places….felt like we were on a Himalayan rally!!!!!

After an overnight halt at Hassan, we left next morning to Bangalore and reached our son’s home by noon. Staying there for a couple of days, we took a breather after nearly ten days on the road.

After a nice stay at Bangalore, we drove back to Coimbatore.

A successful road trip of more than 2000 kms; a memory to cherish!

This blog has been different from my usual ones…

HERE I WAS FOCUSSING ON THE JOURNEY RATHER THAN THE DESTINATION! As promised, details on the various beaches will be covered in separate episodes . And as per popular demand, food was also included !!!

Hope you all liked it…

Do keep your feedback and comments coming

Kumarakom

Kerala is known for its backwaters, lush green paddy fields and some awesome beaches. A major stretch of backwaters lies in Kottayam district in Kerala. A large network of rivers and canals empty into the huge Vembanad lake here. Vembanad lake itself is a developing tourist destination with facilities for boating, fishing, bird watching and other sightseeing experiences.

Vembanad Lake

Kumarakom is a green peninsula jutting into the Vembanad lake situated 15 kms from Kottayam.

Kochi , located 75 kms away is the nearest airport.

Like in any place in Kerala, the coconut tree is omnipresent and the gracefully bent coconut palms swaying in the breeze against the backdrop of the backwaters leaves everyone mesmerized.

The omnipresent Coconut palms

Much of the rural life in these areas is intricately connected to the canals and backwaters. Many houses are located along these canals and a boat ride on the canals gives one a sneak peak into the day to day lives of the locals. Most houses here own a boat and that meets most of their transport requirements. Even the women folk in these villages are deft at handling these boats.

A typical house along the backwaters with their boat

Mangrove clusters also dot the shores of the Vembanad lake where migratory birds arrive and thrive regularly. That provides bird watching opportunities to tourists.

A Cormorant family

Seagulls

One of the best ways of exploring these backwaters is to take a boat ride on one of the many houseboats that cruise these canals and the Vembanad lake. The houseboats are iconic of Kerala and are made of wood and have woven bamboo/palm mats used to provide shelter and shade.

A typical houseboat

These houseboats have all facilities for lodging of guests with a kitchen, bedroom, dining area etc. There are houseboats of various sizes with the larger ones having multiple rooms to accommodate more people. They all follow a particular itinerary.

A typical overnight cruise itinerary:

A typical overnight house boat cruise starts around 11 am. The houseboats are anchored along the jetty which abuts the side road and is lined by local houses and shops. The driver and assistant pick up the requirements for the overnight stay including any special meal requests from the guests and then set out.

The initial part of the boat ride is invariably through a narrow channel with houses on either side. After sometime the boat leaves the narrow channel and enters the lake. The driver takes a round of any particular area of the lake and by noon, halts for lunch and siesta.

Lunch is usually typical Kerala cuisine with fish and other varieties of seafood being the highlight. After lunch and siesta, the boat again cruises other parts of the lake and anchors around sunset at another jetty. Here the boat is connected to powerline for the airconditioning and other requirements. The guests are free to take a walk around the jetty or visit the local market or just laze around and enjoy the ambience.

Dinner is again provided according to the guest’s choice. Next morning the boat again starts and cruises the lake and breakfast is also provided. By around 10 am, the boat reaches the jetty from where they started.

Our Trip

We did an overnight trip on a house boat after driving in from Kochi and leaving the car at one of the houses along the jetty.

Some pictures as we cruised Vembanad lake and its surrounding areas. Take a look…

Our houseboat before it left the shores…

The narrow channel with houses on either side.

Soon we were in the open waters of the Vembanad Lake

A typical kerala style lunch with fish curry

Some of the resorts along the shores of the back waters

And some Chinese fishing nets along the shores

Sitting on the upper deck and relaxing as the boat cruised along

The beautiful sunset painted by mother nature…..take a look

And gradually it got darker

After the houseboat anchored, we just took a stroll on the village road and returned to the boat for dinner. Next morning we enjoyed the sunrise views and were treated to some nice tea and biscuits .

Then we again cruised and enjoyed some more views….

Peaceful morning on the backwaters….

Followed by some authentic Malayali breakfast…

A typical kerala breakfast of Puttu( rice & coconut preparation) , Kadalacurry(chickpea gravy) and Nendrapazham(banana)

With that, the boat had reached its starting point and we stepped ashore and on to our car and drove back to Kochi.

We had a nice relaxed time on the houseboat and this is an excellent holiday destination….more so for small groups of friends and family to meet up and spend time with each other.

So do add this to your list…

Before that, do comment and give me your feedback..

Athirappilly Falls

Starting my first destination in India with the roaring Athirappilly falls….

This week, I take you to Athirappilly the famous waterfall in Kerala. Closer home, this is one destination that anyone can visit. No elaborate plans or preparations needed. Just fill up your fuel tank and take off to this beautiful destination….

This Niagara of South India will take your breath away for sure! A beautiful waterfall; the largest in Kerala, Athirappilly must be in every nature lover’s bucket list. Athirappilly falls is located on the Chalakudy river in Thrissur district of Kerala. The Chalakudy river is the fifth largest river in Kerala. The bountiful fall is seen mostly in the monsoon season or immediately after that. If there is a shortage of rainfall, the quantity of water flowing is reduced unlike in Niagara where the flow is constant by and large.

The Chalakudy river originates in the Anamalai ranges of the Western Ghats and after an initial smooth flow, cascades 80 feet below at Athirappilly creating this magnificent waterfall. Here, the river flows in between rocks and forms three plumes before it plummets down. The peculiarity of this waterfall is that the entire breadth of the river cascades down the rocky ledge.

There are two views of the falls. One from the top which is where we reach first. A trek down a mud road takes one to the lower part where there is a totally different view of the falls. The trek up after seeing the falls from below can be a little challenging.

Have a look….

The falls as seen just as one approaches it.

Our Trip

We drove down from Coimbatore on NH 544 Salem Kochi highway. The diversion to Athirappilly is clearly marked on the sign boards after Thrissur. Once we diverted to Athirappilly on the left, we reached a more picturesque environment. Winding roads, with thick forests on either side welcomed us. A couple of theme parks for children are also located on this road.

As we drove further down we crossed the deceptively calm Chalakudy river. We were fooled by this calmness as the same river roars with ferocity at Athirappilly falls a few kilometres away.

The deceptively calm Chalakudy river.

As we drove further down we reached Thumboormuzhi dam where there is a beautiful foot bridge across the river.

The beautiful foot bridge at Thumboormuzhi

A couple of bridges to cross and we were at the first view point of the falls. Here we saw the falls from a distance across a forested area.

The falls as seen from the first view point

A short drive further down and we were at the main entrance to the falls.

There is a ticket counter where we purchased tickets . The entrance and ticket counter are made of bamboo giving it a very natural feel and matching the surroundings.

The entrance to the falls

From there we walked for a few metres and reached a flat rocky area. We walked on the rocks carefully as it was slippery at places. At many places we had to skip over a small stream of water.

The flat rocky area just before the river tumbles down

After we walked in between the rocks for a few metres, we reached the actual point of the falls. Suddenly the flat rocky terrain is not there and all we can see is the river hurtling down a rocky precipice . When we went we saw the river flowing down as two or three branches. With incessant rain, this can be just one broad mass of water….I was told.

The point where the river plummets down

A rainbow at the site of the falls

There is another fascinating sight at the edge of the falls….a cute little hut (Watcher hut) which is believed to have withstood many a spate in the river.

The mighty hut!!

After enjoying the view of the mighty falls from above, we decided to trek to the bottom of the falls. A passage paved with stones with a bamboo fencing leads to the bottom of the falls. We followed the path and soon were at the bottom of the falls. The trek passes through some forested area and can be a challenge to the less agile.

The path leading to the bottom of the falls

The view from the bottom was awesome!! Here it was very windy and the roaring of the water added to the thrill. Have a look…

Looking at the falls from below….a different perspective

Get the feel of being at the base of the falls by clicking on the video above

At the base of the falls….An exhilarating moment indeed!

After all the trekking , we were tired and decided to take a short break. Had a coffee and some local snacks at one of the food stalls around constantly keeping a watch on the monkeys around.

Then we decided to visit Vazhachal falls which is about 5 kms upstream. The drive to Vazhachal was through some dense bamboo thickets along the road which added to the charm.

The bamboo lined road to Vazhachal

The entrance to Vazhachal is also beautifully done up in bamboo. The tickets for Athirappilly can be used at Vazhzchal too.

The entrance to Vazhachal falls

A herbal garden lies on the way from the entrance to the falls.

Herbal Garden

The Vazhachal falls is more flat . Take a look…..

At Vazhachal falls

We had decided to stay for a couple of days at Athirappilly and were put up at the Plantation Valley resort which was a beautiful resort on the banks of the Chalakudy river.

The beautiful Plantation Valley Resort

The Chalakudy river seen from the resort.

After a refreshing stay on the banks of the Chalakudy river and few more visits to the actual falls, we decided to drive back on a different route.

We drove back via Sholayar dam and Valparai to reach Pollachi and returned to Coimbatore. This route is very picturesque but sometimes you may encounter elephants here.

Foggy tea estates lined this route adding to the charm…

Foggy tea estates near Valparai

We had a bonus during this drive; a lone Nilgiri Tahr was resting by the roadside near Sholayar. Nilgiri Tahrs are mountain goats which are an endangered species and so finding one on the roadside was really a surprise!

A lone Nilgiri Tahr by the roadside

Enjoying the beauty of the tea gardens of Valparai, we reached Pollachi and from there on, it was back in to the hustle and bustle of the city.

It was a nice easy to do holiday….easily doable by anyone…so don’t put it off…just hit the road to Athirappilly!!!

Meanwhile do give your comments and feedback and subscribe below….

Milan

Milan is an alpha global city known for its art, design, fashion, entertainment and finance and is the second most populous city in Italy after Rome.

Recognized as one of the fashion capitals of the world, it hosts several fashion events and is home to innumerable fashion boutiques.

Its museums are a store house of art and house the world’s most celebrated art works including that of Leonardo da Vinci.

A. C. Milan and Inter Milan , the famous football teams have Milan as their home .

Milan is thus an important destination for tourists, art enthusiasts, sports enthusiasts and fashion designers.

Our Trip

Milan Cathedral

This cathedral church of Milan, has become the symbol of Milan and is the largest church in Italy and third largest cathedral in the world. Like in other cities, the Cathedral is located at the central Square and streets radiate from the central square. Dedicated to Nativity of St Mary, it took six centuries to build , starting in 1386 and ending in 1965.

It was finished under Napoleon Bonaparte and he wanted to be crowned the King of Italy here.

The exterior is beautiful , made of carved white marble and has 2000 statues and 136 arrows. The interior has 52 columns representing the weeks of the year. Tombs of several archbishops and a crucifix made by Leonardo da Vinci can be seen here.

A visit to the terrace of the Cathedral is possible for a fee and offers great views of the city.

The Milan Cathedral

The interior of the Cathedral

The ornate doors

The terrace

The gold Madonna at the top

One of the several marble statues

Victor Emmanuel Gallery

This gallery is another attraction in the Central Square close to the Cathedral. With its magnificent arcades and glass dome, it looks very attractive. It is Italy’s first shopping gallery named after the first king of Italy and built in the later part of the 19th century. It is considered as the first step in the evolution of shopping malls.

The central octagonal space is covered with a glass dome. The floor has beautiful mosaic designs. Inside you will find some of the most famous fashion designer stores and high end restaurants.

Some pictures….

Victor Emmanuel Gallery

The beautifully designed entrance

The octagonal centre of the gallery

One of the main lanes in the gallery

The glass dome and ceiling

The mosaic designs on the floor

And the high end shops

La Scala ( Milan Opera House)

One of Italy’s most celebrated Opera Houses, La Scala has hosted some of the most famous singers from around the world, operas , ballets and other performances.

La Scala the celebrated Opera house

We find statues and sculptures by Leonardo da Vinci everywhere in Italy ; but a statue of the master himself adorns the square outside La Scala….

Statue of Leonardo da Vinci near La Scala

Sforza Castle

A medieval fortification built in the 15th century, the Sforza Castle is in the centre of Milan. Quadrangular in shape and with watch towers, it was built to protect the city from invaders. It has undergone several modifications and changes and houses some museums today.

Some pictures…

The Sforza Castle

The fortified walls

Watch tower

One of the towers

After a visit to the main attractions at Milan, we had some free time to explore the streets around. Here are some pictures ….

A typical street scene in Milan…note the Indian Tricolour

A rather unexpected sight…..monks displaying the art of levitation…

After the quick walk around we headed to the bus to be driven back to the hotel. This marked the end of our Europe trip.

One thing that impressed me most….

We did the entire Europe tour in the same bus with the same driver. Starting from London, crossing over to France and the drive up to Italy.

No compromise on safety at any point of time. There were days when we would be in the bus the whole day….but the driver stuck to his mandatory break periods. In fact he said he has to swipe his card on the bus when he starts driving and he is allowed to drive only for a particular period of time( don’t recollect the actual figures). After that, he will not be able to swipe it on that day. So he kept requesting us to stick to the schedule everywhere.

I wish we could get such a system here in India, to avoid driver fatigue and the ensuing complications. I have a picture of the bus that took us around….let me end my Europe sojourn with that picture.

(Unfortunately I do not have the picture of the driver or the guide)

A small thought for the bus and driver who took us through this trip

See you next week at another destination. Till then, do comment, give your feedback and subscribe!

Pisa

Pisa is a legendary city in central Italy known worldwide for the Leaning Tower. But it has a great deal of other sites than the legendary leaning tower. Pisa has historic churches, palaces and bridges across the Arno river that it straddles. It also offers some beautiful scenery along the Arno River. “Pisa” means mouth and it is believed that it got its name as it is located at the mouth of the Arno river. It was originally a very powerful maritime nation.

Our Trip

From Rome , we drove to Pisa.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

This famous leaning tower is actually a campanile or bell tower of the Pisa Cathedral located adjacent to it in the Cathedral Square or Piazza del Duomo along with the Baptistery.

The Tower, Cathedral and Baptistery are UNESCO World Heritage sites. The architecture of the tower is beautiful with the six rows of stone arches and one can climb on top to get great views of the city.

The tower began to lean in the 12th century due to the soft ground which could not support the structure’s weight. It worsened through the completion of construction in the 14th century. However, this same soft soil helped it survive four strong earthquakes!

By 1990, the tilt had reached 5.5 degrees. Restoration work has reduced it to 3.97 degrees. Restoration work has also been undertaken to undo the corrosion and blackening due to exposure to wind and rain.

The average height of the tower is 56 metres and has 296 steps.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The entrance to the tower

The pillars

The winding stairway

Pisa Cathedral

The other important structure at the Cathedral square is the Pisa Cathedral. The real name of the Cathedral is Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. It very often gets over shadowed by its own bell tower which is the Leaning tower of Pisa.

The exterior of the Cathedral is ornate with a series of stone and marble arches and bronze doors. The ceiling is done in gold and the interior of the dome has a beautiful fresco .

The Pisa Cathedral

The beautiful arches

The entrance to the cathedral

The beautiful frescoes inside

The Baptistery

The other structure in the Cathedra Square, the Baptistery was also built along with the leaning tower and has a great exterior design with statues, arches and decoration. The dome is half covered with orange tiles and the other half remains bare. It has never been completed.

The Baptistery

Campo Santo ( holy field)

Located at the edge of the Cathedral square is this monumental cemetery said to have been built around sacred soil where bodies rot in just 24 hours. This structure stands where the original Cathedral once stood. It has a large courtyard bordered with artistic arches and inner walls are decorated with frescoes and sculptures.

Campo Santo

The artistic arches

Sculptures inside

We had a short visit to the Cathedral Square in Pisa and headed to Milan.

But there was something interesting which we visited at Italy which has still not found a place in my blog. So , let me add that here. It might interest the car enthusiasts among my readers.

The Ferrari Museum

Located at Maranello, this is a Ferrari company museum dedicated to its sports cars. It has various race cars exhibited besides trophies and photographs related to car racing. Technological innovations in the field are also show cased here.

Some pictures :

Entrance to Museo Ferrari

Some displayed models

The Ferrari factory

With this, we move on to Milan, our final destination in Europe. See you next week at Milan. Till then do subscribe, comment and give your feedback.

The Vatican

The Vatican is an independent landlocked city state surrounded by Rome and as such is the smallest independent country in the world. It became independent of Italy and is a distinct territory under the Pope who is the Bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church. The Vatican is the most important holy city for the Catholics, an important archaeological site of the Roman era and a major cultural centre. Understandably it is an UNESCO World Heritage site.

Vatican city contains religious and cultural sites such as St Peter’s Basilica, The Sistine Chapel and The Vatican Museums. They feature some of the world’s most famous paintings and sculptures. Vatican city is enclosed by its walls.

When we visited The Vatican , our guide had emphasised to us that it is very important to stay together in a group and ensure not to lose track of the group. It was extremely crowded and once you lose track of your guide, finding one’s way back is next to impossible. After this warning, he handed us over to the local guide; a lady who was carrying a long pole with a coloured flag. She also emphasised the need to stay together and not get distracted. The coloured flag is held high by the guide so that the group members can see her and follow her even in a crowd. I had not seen this system elsewhere, but of late, I find this being followed at many places.

With the fear of God, we all diligently followed the guide as she weaved in and out through the crowd. We first visited St. Peter’s Basilica.

St Peter’s Basilica :

One of the largest churches in the world, it is located at St Peter’s Square and can accommodate 20,000 people. Constructed between 1506 and 1626, it is the most outstanding example of Renaissance architecture. St Peter, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus and the first Bishop of Rome was buried just below the main altar where the Basilica stands today and hence the name.

One of the most impressive parts of the Basilica is The Dome. The Dome dominates the Vatican skyline and has been the inspiration for the domes at The Capitol in Washington and St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Michaelangelo started the design of this dome.

Most of the important speeches of the Pope are delivered at St Peter’s Square.

Some pictures :

St Peter’s Square

St Peter’s Basilica

The detailed architecture on the exterior of the basilica with St Peter’s statue in front

The impressive dome from outside……note the windows

The beautiful insides of the dome

The main entrance

The main altar at St Peter’s Basilica

St Peter’s tomb with a beautiful fresco in the background

The Holy Door

A huge decorated door which opens only during the “Holy Years” as per the instructions of the Pope is seen here. The belief is that if one crosses the door, one is cleared of his sins.

The Holy Door

One of the most celebrated works of Michaelangelo is ‘Pieta’ which depicts Christ after crucifixion on Mother Mary’s lap. This statue can be seen next to the entrance of the Basilica.

Michaeangelo’s Pieta (Pity in English)

Bronze statue of St Peter is another important aspect of the Basilica. To be noted is the toes that have worn out due to pilgrims touching the toes and kissing the feet

Bronze statue of St Peter

Mummy of Pope John xxiii can be seen preserved here.

Mummy of Pope John XXIII

Vatican Grottoes

St Peter’s Basilica is the resting ground of several Popes and their graves can be seen in the underground level. These are artificial caves decorated with elaborate designs, frescos and paintings.

Besides this, the Basilica is a storehouse of art in the form of frescos and paintings and decorated ceilings. Some pictures..

The last supper ….a celebrated fresco and the decorated ceiling

The Swiss Guards :

Another peculiarity seen here is the presence of Swiss guards who wear very colourful dresses and are armed with traditional and modern weapons. They are responsible for the safety of the Vatican Palace and Pope.

Swiss guard at the Vatican Palace

The Vatican Museums :

The Vatican museums are public museums in Vatican city with enormous collections of art work and sculptures from the Roman era and Renaissance period collected by the Popes. Apart from the art work displayed, some of the extraordinarily artistic rooms of the Vatican palace also form part of these museums.

At the entrance to the Vatican museums ( note the guides with their coloured flags)

Inside the museum

There are several smaller museums inside the main museum complex dedicated to various eras, popes, faiths etc. Some of these are: Sistine chapel, Christian Museum, Jewish Lapidarium, Egyptian museum, Collection of Contemporary Art etc.

A model of Vatican city in the Museum

Works of art form part of the beautiful ceilings of the corridors ,or ,are frescos displayed on the walls of the museum or ceiling. There are small display monitors in the museum where pictures of these great art works are saved. The guide explains the pictures and frescoes from these display monitors.

Guide explaining the frescos from the monitor

Some pictures from the museums:

Large tapestry on either sides of the corridors at the museum

Tapestry on the walls of the museum

Beautifully decorated arch

The beautiful ceiling of the Museum

Resurrection of Christ, one of the most important frescoes

Sistine Chapel

The Sistine chapel is a chapel and the official residence of the Pope. It is also part of the Vatican museum complex . It is famous for the Michaelangelo frescoes that decorate the interior particularly the ceiling . The ceiling has intricate frescoes about which the guide explained to us on the monitor. “The Creation of Adam ” is one of his renowned works which adorn the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

The ceiling of Sistine chapel painted by Michaelangelo portraying the creation of Adam

“Creation Of Adam “by Michaelangelo

Another of Michaelagelo’s famous work, “The Last Judgement “can be seen behind the altar at Sistine Chapel

“The Last Judgement” by Michaelangelo

Guide explaining ‘The Last Judgement” on the monitor

Another important painting is “The Handing over Of The Keys” by Pietro Perugino

“Handing over the keys of heaven to St Peter” by Pietro Perugino

The sculpture of Artemis the Goddess of Fertility is another attractive statue here.

Artemis

After an exhaustive session on history ,art and architecture by the guide, she let us off to the gardens of the St Peter’s Basilica where we had some time to ourselves to walk around and explore.

Most of us were pretty tired mentally and physically and chose to rest under the shade of the trees there. Soon our guide arrived and escorted us back to our hotel ending our visit to Rome. We would head for Pisa the next day.

A small note to my valued readers…

I am taking a two week vacation and hence my next episode will be uploaded after I am back. It will start with Pisa and its leaning tower!

Till I get back to you all, do continue your support in the form of your valuable comments and feedback. I value each one of them .

See you all after a short break…..

Rome

Rome was not built in a day…..so goes the proverb and I am sure you will agree with me by the time you go through this blog! An ancient city with ruins dating back hundreds of years and testimony to the hard work and architectural expertise of the Romans.

A heady mix of ancient ruins, beautiful art and vibrant street life, Rome is one of Europe’s most charismatic cities. Ancient icons like the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Pantheon are a testimony to the city’s golden age while the monumental basilicas are a stamp of it being the seat of the Catholic Church. Ornate squares and fountains add a baroque flavour to the city’s streets. Rome is generally considered the “cradle of Western civilisation and Christian culture.” The Vatican which is an independent country lies within the city boundaries and is the only country that lies within a city.

Rome’s history spans 28 centuries and is one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in Europe. Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome at around 753 BC but it has been inhabited from much earlier. Beginning with the Renaissance, the city saw a very vibrant architectural and urban programme making Rome the artistic and cultural capital of the world. This further led to it becoming the birthplace of Baroque and Neoclassical styles of architecture.

Its historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Several United Nations special programmes have their offices located here. In addition to the ancient, one finds the latest and most modern day attributes here too. The presence of several fashion brands has made it an important centre of fashion and design.

The Colosseum

One of Rome’s most famous land marks is the Colosseum. It is an oval amphitheatre built with limestone , volcanic rock and concrete in ,central Rome and is still the largest amphitheatre in the world despite its age. It has 4 floors; the first 3 having 80 arches each and decorated with huge statues. It was built in less than 10 years….an amazing feat for such a large structure in those times.

It was the Roman Empire’s entertainment arena for over 500 years. It had room for more than 50000 spectators to watch gladiator fights, public executions, exotic animals and other spectacles. In the medieval era, it was stopped to be used for entertainment and was used or housing, workshops, religious orders and shrines.

What we see today is just a skeleton of the original structure. It has been substantially ruined by earthquakes and stone robbers. During the medieval period iron and lead was extracted to build other structures and the holes we see today are the holes used for this.

Approaching the Colosseum

At The Colosseum

The pattern of repetitive arches

Note the holes on the walls

Renovation work in progress…. unrenovated part seen on the right

An enactment of a scene in Roman history by locals….for tourists to pose for a price!

Inside the Colosseum

On entering, we see the arena ahead of us. The main stage has disappeared and what is seen are cellars used for storing equipment for the shows.

Inside of the colosseum….whatever remains now!

Arch of Constantine

This triumphal arch next to the Colosseum dedicated to Emperor Constantine, was used by victorious leaders to enter the city in triumphal procession.

Arch of Constantine

The Pantheon

Originally a small temple dedicated to Roman Gods, the name means “everything divine”. What is unique about this structure is that it was the first temple built for the common man. All other temples were meant for priests and forbidden to the common man. Its architecture and external beauty are a unique combination of Roman and Greek architecture. The dome of the Pantheon is unique.

The concept of a temple being a place of worship and communication with God started from here.

The Pantheon

The Roman Forum

Is a rectangular plaza surrounded by ruins of several important ancient government buildings which was originally a marketplace. For many years ,the forum was the centre of all activities in Rome like processions, public speeches, criminal trials etc. Today , it is a ruin of architectural fragments

The ruins of the Roman Forum

Monument to the First King

Also called the monument of Victor Emmanuel II , this is a national monument made in white marble in contrast to the ruins of earth coloured buildings seen all over Rome. The focal point of the monument is the statue of a horseman representing Victor Emmanuel II. Just below this is the statue of Goddess Roma and below that is the tomb of the unknown soldier dedicated to all the unknown soldiers of Italy.

An external flight of 243 steps is an additional feature of this monument which also houses the Italian museum of unification.

Monument of the First King and the tomb of the unknown soldier

The External Steps

Roman Aqueducts

As one drives through the city, ruins of Aqueducts are seen everywhere. The Romans constructed aqueducts throughout their territory to bring water to cities and towns. This water supplied public baths, fountains, households and farms. These aqueducts were designed to move water according to gravity gradient within passages of stone, brick , concrete or lead. The ruins of their complex aqueduct systems can be seen all over Rome today and stands testimony to their planning and architectural skills.

Ruins of Roman Aqueducts

Trevi Fountain

An 18th century fountain, it is the largest baroque fountain and one of the most famous fountains . Famous for its intricate artwork decorated in the Baroque style.

The myth about the Trevi Fountain originating in 1954 with the movie “Three Coins in the Fountain,” goes like this: If you throw one coin: you will return to Rome. If you throw two coins: you will fall in love with an attractive Italian. If you throw three coins: you will marry the person that you met.

Wonder how many have tested this out?

The Trevi Fountain

Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus is one of the largest sports arenas ever built. It was a popular chariot racing stadium. It is now in ruins and all that can be seen is an open area with some ruins. Many movies have been shot here with the background of the ruins, the most popular among them being Benhur.

The ruins of Circus Maximus

Well, I can almost see you agree to what we said when we started out …..it had taken a lot of time, effort and expertise to make a city like Rome. That most of the work of the ancient Romans is now in ruins is also testimony to the fact that nothing is permanent here and everything and everyone has to see a day of downfall. However, we have to accept the architectural skill of the ancient Romans.

As if this was not enough, we have a visit to The Vatican next week. This country within in a city is another amazing creation. See you next week at The Vatican. Till then, keep your comments and feedback coming and of course do subscribe…