Sunny Sundays at Hyde Park

London has had a glorious spring this year. I know that’s not what my friends in Canada want to hear, and to be quite honest, I wish the weather was a bit crappier so that I wouldn’t feel tempted to go outside all the time. I am writing my masters dissertation these days (and hence, blogging less) and the sunshine pouring through my window is not helping the pace of my project.

I was quite proud of myself for waking up early today and having a two-hour speed writing session that I decided to indulge in some sun-bathing at Hyde Park with my friends. Cheesy crackers, grapes and good company is all I needed to make this gorgeous spring day even more perfect.

Hyde Park Hyde Park Hyde Park
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Palma de Mallorca

Palma de Mallorca

My Erasmus girlfriends and I have a bit of a tradition: we like going on trips for our birthdays.

For my last birthday we all met up in Amsterdam and the year before we went to Krakow. And now that we don’t live under the same roof anymore, it’s even more crucial to plan holidays where we can catch up, overdose on coffee and check off another place on our bucket lists.

Somehow it came up that we go to Palma de Mallorca for Nina‘s birthday. Palma was never on my must-visit list, but it should have been.

By going in the spring, we avoided the hoards of rowdy summer crowds and were able to admire the beauty of this Balearic island at leisure. Inspiring architecture, buzzing squares, delicious food, sea breeze and the company of my two darling friends: how was I not supposed to fall in love with Mallorca?

Palma de Mallorca streets
Before we get ahead of ourselves, the first order of business in Palma was celebrating Nina’s birthday.  Continue reading

Potterheads

I am a total Potterhead. For the uninitiated, that means – and I am quoting the trusted Urban Dictionary here – I am an “amazingly cool person obsessed with Harry Potter.”

After all, I am a part of the generation that grew up with Harry, Ron, Hermione and the gang. I was allowed to skip school for two days every time a new book came out. And I limited myself to reading one chapter a day of the Deathly Hallows because after that, it would be all over. This whole one-chapter-a-day resistance only worked for three chapters and then ensued the familiar n0-food-no-sleep reading marathon.

All Potterheads are familiar with that mellow feeling of emptiness as they read the words, “All was well”. It also meant, all was over.

Harry Potter
But, thankfully there were the movies to keep us excited for a few more years. We lined up for midnight screenings and then went back to see the films after the crowds had dwindled down. And then once again after the second Deathly Hallows film, it meant that all was over.

Again, thankfully it wasn’t. There is the fantastic Warner Brother Studio Tour near London that keeps the sets and spirit of Harry Potter alive.  Continue reading

Amer Fort, Jaipur

The last time I was in India, my brothers and I went on a road trip across Rajasthan with my Dad. We hit up Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jodhpur. Visiting Jaipur was on the itinerary, but we got quite annoyed with each other and decided to skip Rajasthan’s capital and headed home after a week.

Luckily, I got a chance to visit Jaipur this time around when Cat and I were doing our classic Golden Triangle tour (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur).

Let’s just say I really like Jaipur. It’s historic, relatively well-maintained and blessed with good weather in winter. My favourite part of Jaipur was not something that’s in the Pink City, but a place just on the outskirts: The Amer Fort (often written and pronounced as Amber Fort). Since this was also the home of the Rajput Maharajas, it’s also sometimes known as the Amer Palace.

Built by Jaipur’s Raja Man Singh I, it showcases many aspects of the traditional Rajput architecture of the time.

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Amer Amber Fort Jaipur Rajasthan
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Best Travel and Expat Blog, eh?

Friends, readers and fellow bloggers,

I am thrilled to announce that thanks to your support, my blog has been voted Best Travel and Expat Blog in the 2014 Canadian Blog Awards. I was beyond humbled to even get nominated. So, this is a HUGE compliment.

Thanks for reading, liking, commenting and sharing. I hope to keep giving you reasons to keep doing all of that.

Much love,

xxR

best travel expat blog
PS: That’s me at the Amber Fort in Jaipur. A post is on its way!

A billion reasons to visit India

Guest post by Catherine Doherty

Catherine in Jaipur

“Delhi anti-corruption chief minister quits” read a BBC World headline as I logged on one morning during my ten day stay in India. Themes of corruption, classism and shocking human rights violations have long dominated the image of India in Western media, and never more so in recent years following the 2012 Delhi gang rape which stunned the world and the latest Indian Supreme Court decision to reinstate a 153-year-old law criminalising homosexuality.

Accordingly, it may seem an odd vacation destination of choice for a 25-year-old girl from London. Continue reading

Snowy, slippery, slushy Shimla

When I was growing up in India, the Himalayas were my favourite holiday spot. One can say that my love for travel emerged out of my trekking trips to Manali, family holidays to Shimla and relaxing retreats in Nainital.

So, when my friend Cat came to India, I wanted to relive my tween memories by taking her to at least one of the “hill stations” in the Himalayas. Mostly because of proximity to Punjab, we chose Shimla, the Queen of Hills.

What I didn’t take into consideration during the trip-planning was that in the middle of February, Shimla was going to be freezing. And oh boy, it was!

Shimla Mall Road
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Wah Taj!

My first memories of the Taj Mahal were TV commercials with Ustad Zakir Hussain playing the tabla in front of the monument, then sipping on tea and saying, “Wah Taj!”

Directly translated it means Wow Taj and after visiting it a few days ago, I don’t know how else to describe the Taj Mahal. So, I am shamelessly stealing the iconic phrase.

Located in Agra, the Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is unsurprisingly one of the most visited in India. Here are some of the highlights from when my friend, Cat, and I visited.

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Vote for me!

My dear readers,

I am excited to announce that I have been nominated for the 2013 Canadian Blog Awards in the Best Travel and Expat blog category. Hurrah! I am always humbled every time I get a like, comment or a new follower, so this is a massive compliment. If you enjoy reading my blog, then please vote for me here.

Voting ends February 22, 2014.

xxR

PS: I went to the Taj Mahal yesterday

Agra Roop

The Delhi Dash

My friend Cat arrived in New Delhi yesterday. And I am so excited to play host/tour guide/translator/navigator/travel buddy for the next 10 days.

I have been inviting my friends to India for years but no one has visited me yet because 1) Well… I haven’t been back in 5 years, and  2) Schedules and holidays are hard to match up. Naturally, I was stoked when Cat decided that she was going to come visit me and tour India for a few days. She couldn’t get too much time off work, so when she arrived, we got down to business.

We only had one day in Delhi, which is a challenge because there is so much to see in the capital and traffic makes is impossible to cover everything in one day. So, I devised an orientation itinerary, which I thought had a bit of everything: history, culture, colours and flavours.

India Gate, New Delhi
Nothing says “Welcome to India” better than India Gate. Naturally, that was our first stop. And along the way, we spotted the Dandi March memorial monument. The “You Britishers” jokes started from there.

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