Patio Season in Amsterdam

In case you haven’t figured it out already, I am a sun worshipper. If the sun is out, I can’t be kept indoors. Basking in the sun is definitely one of my favourite activities whether that means I am out walking, cycling or just grabbing a coffee on the patio.

Being Canadian definitely has something to do with the sunshine fixation. We love our short summers and all the things that come with it. My favourite being eating and drinking outdoors.

This past weekend I went over to Amsterdam for my friend Fanny’s birthday and to attend a charity concert put on by my friend for a not-for-profit based in Guatemala. While the evenings were taken up by celebrations and festivities, the afternoons were put to good use: biking around de Pijp, eating outdoors, walking in parks and then grabbing another coffee outdoors.

Amsterdam Amsterdam Amsterdam
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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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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

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!

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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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

Places I Called ‘Home’ in 2013

Places I Called Home in 2013

2013 was a great year for travel. When I look at my nerdy country count, I am surprised to see that I only visited five new countries this year (Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Australia and Singapore). But, I went back to a couple of old favourites and found myself packing and unpacking my life five times.

Truth be told: I am a little burnt out from moving around so much this year, but I wouldn’t trade my blessed 2013 for anyone else’s. (Except maybe Jennifer Lawrence’s. But how much I want her life is another story for another blogpost.)

Highlights of 2013 included snorkelling in the southern Great Barrier Reef, wearing at Dirndl at Karneval in Koln, having a picnic on top of a glacier in the French Alps, almost capsizing a boat in the canals of Amsterdam (with all my friends in it!), seeing a koala, living in the most amazing apartment on Coogee Beach in Sydney, and managing to completely fill up passport (took me less than three years).

Passports

The concept of ‘home’ changed throughout the year as I lived in five amazing cities in 2013. ‘Tis the time for the annual year-end recap of places where I received a postcard or two in the past year.  Continue reading

Amsterdam as seen from the canals

I love water bodies. Lakes, rivers, oceans, swimming pools, bathtubs: fill up something with water and throw me in there and I am a happy wader. But even if I can’t swim in the water (example: canals), I still like being around/on it.

So, it’s no surprise that when I went to Amsterdam last month, I bugged my friends to go on a canal tour with me. My Dutch-convert friends protested and told me that those tours were quite touristy (read: boring), but if the weather was nice we could hire our own boat and go exploring Amsterdam the proper way – through the canals. The weather was not nice for rest of my visit.

But, I went back to Amsterdam for my birthday last weekend, and lo and behold we were blessed with a gorgeous autumn day where the sun was shinning bright and the crisp wind was just chilly enough. (There is no way to not make this sound cheesy and poetic – it was just one of those days!) So, we hired a boat through Sloepdelen, bought some picnic food, jumped in the boat and started exploring. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my trusted camera with me, but here are some of my iPhone photos. Enjoy!

5 things I miss most about Canada

Canada Day 2012

Parliament Hill, Ottawa. Canada Day, 2012

Eleven months ago, I left Canada to chase my wanderlust and get a degree while I was at it. I have since lived in three countries, including my current short stint in Singapore, and travelled to many more. While I enjoy embracing new cultures, I often catch myself saying, “If I were in Canada, this would be different.”

There are also moments of “I wish I was in Canada for this.” That includes Stanley Cup playoffs, friends’ birthdays and other milestones, and the Canada Day long weekend. For the last two years I have been road-tripping to Ottawa to celebrate Canada’s birthday, and also fume over the hooliganism of our young, intoxicated, underage Canadians.

The most I can do this year is rock a red and white outfit (which also happen to be the colours for Singapore’s National Day in August) and actively miss Canada.

After almost a year of living abroad, here are the five things I miss most about Canada:

1 – Tim Hortons

Whether it’s with classmates before lecture or coworkers before the big 10am meeting, lining up for Timmys is an integral part of our daily routines. Yes, it’s not the best coffee in the world. In fact, it’s quite awful and many of us can’t figure out why we are so addicted to it. But, I haven’t found any other coffee chain in the world that is cheap, addictive and part of a national identity. Continue reading

The first hazy days in Singapore

It’s been a week since I landed on the little red dot. I spent the first two days trying to hunt down my luggage because an elusive Mr. Chen took home my blue suitcase mistaking it for his. After I got my bag full of shorts and T-shirts back, I got excited to enjoy the Singaporean sunshine.

Singapore hazeBut, the sun has been struggling to shine its light on me and the other 5ish million Singaporeans because the city is enveloped in a thick cloud of haze. Winds are blowing the uncontrolled fires from the “slash and burn” cultivation of Sumatra onto Singapore. Take a look at these amazing NASA images that capture the fumes blowing from Indonesia to Singapore.

Singaporeans are no strangers to the haze from their neighbours drifting over their city, but it has never been this bad. The highest Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) record was set in 1997 with a value of 226. To contextualize the situation, a PSI of 300 is considered hazardous; 400 is considered lethal for the elderly and ill. Today, the PSI soared up to 402. Continue reading

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