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2013 dawned with a number of tragic deaths in Bali. On New Year’s Eve a brawl in downtown Denpasar left one man dead; a 51-year-old Australian has drowned in a Kuta hotel swimming pool; and two high school students from East Java have died in Bedugul when a lakeside pier collapsed, sending a group of students tumbling into Lake Beratan.
A violent robbery at a Canggu villa has sent an Australian man to hospital with serious knife wounds. That attack has prompted Bali’s governor to order all villas in Bali to hire security guards to ensure the safety of Bali visitors.
Other lead stories this week include a serious outbreak of a new genetic strain of Avian Influenza in three regencies of Bali. Bali environmentalists have formally sued Governor Pastika over the 55-year lease of the Tahura Mangrove Forest to a private company. And, the Bali police have plans in hand to safeguard the gubernatorial election in Bali in May of this year.
Economists are warning that optimism over Bali’s economy in 2013 should be tempered with some degree of caution. The Minister of Tourism says the continuing economic woes in Europe and the U.S.A. means that Indonesia should concentrate on recruiting visitors from Southeast Asia.
by Roberta Sotonoff
Six people pile into a helicopter, buckle up and then the copter soars. It cuts through ridges of the mountains flying so close that at one point it looks like the copter will scrape the granite-but it just glides past. The craft lands 6,000 feet above sea level on 2,000 feet of ice – the Tasman Glacier. Surrounded by mountains, silence, and a feeling of peacefulness, passengers leave the copter and walk on dry snow. They gasp in amazement at the serene beauty that encircles them.
The Tasman Glacier is part of Mount Cook. Maori call it Aoraki or “The Sky Piercer.” The pointy snow-covered mountain that majestically rises to about 12,216 feet really does puncture the clouds. Located in the central part of New Zealand’s South Island, it sits deep in the heart of the Southern Alps. Before attempting to climb Mount Everest, Mount Cook was Sir Edmund Hillary’s training ground.
It’s about a four-hour drive from Christchurch to Mount Cook via the Canterbury Plains. Snow-capped mountains emerge in the background of New Zealand’s largest flatland. In front of them, sheep graze amid multi shades of green grass and the yellow flowers of Scottish Broom. On a sunny day, the clouds stretch across the sky like white cotton candy.
Along the Waihi River at the bottom of some foothills sits the village of Geraldine. Trees and gardens border its main street. Here, one can sample some very good Hokey Pokey vanilla ice cream with chunks of toffee- a Kiwi specialty. But Geraldine’s real claim to fame is “The Giant Jersey,” or sweater as we call it. At 7 feet high and 5 feet wide, the garment looks like the perfect covering for the Jolly Green Giant.
One can use a sweater, particularly around Lake Tekapo (pronounced Take-a-poe), the bright turquoise lake with the snow-covered mountains as its backdrop. Sitting alongside the shore, the little stone and oak Church of the Good Shepherd is one of New Zealand’s best photo ops, especially when the picture is taken from the altar window which perfectly frames out the dazzling lake and mountains.
The activities center at the Hermitage Hotel houses the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, a small museum about the mountain and the man. A 3-D movie, “Mount Cook Magic,” gives one the feeling of climbing Mount Cook, skiing on the Tasman Glacier and flying like a bird across the Southern Alps. Another part of the center contains a large gift shop that sells merino wool everything. Stock up on gloves, stockings and a hat–essentials in a place where the weather can change on a dime. It is possible to have rain, sun, warmth, cold, and blowing snow all in one day.
Exploring Aoraki Mount Cook National Park on an Argo Tour in an ATV comes with laughs, learning and adventure. The ATV bumps over rocks and slithers through water. There is a stop for a nature walk to see the world’s largest buttercup flower. Then the drive continues to 2,800 feet. Here a rocky but easy 400-foot climb to a steep ridge reveals a glacier lake full of rocks and milky water. This area is so pristine it is no wonder that the Mount Cook Range was the backdrop for the fantasy movie trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings.”
The Mount Cook area offers incredible scenery and experiences. The serenity felt when walking on a glacier, the starkness of Mount Cook, and the turquoise-color of Lake Tekapo is well worth the long plane and car rides required to get there.
Dublin is renowned for its world-class cultural credentials, which include several Nobel prize-winning authors, its designation as a UNESCO City of Literature, and a non-stop celebration of the arts. Come September, the city ratchets up its output to celebrate an abundant cultural harvest that’s written in the very stones of its streets and buildings. Forget hushed museums and hallowed halls – this fall visitors are invited to jump into the explosion of vitality that is Dubiln’s Festival Season.
By Luis Lechuga
You may have asked yourself this question, or been asked by friends or relatives…. Can wine tours be enjoyed with children?
Everyone may have his or her own answer about this question, but in my case 2 things make this question especially important. As a matter of fact, I myself have 2 children, aged 3 and 5, who are adorable… but also noisy (you would not expect otherwise being Spanish children) and who love to run and jump, and play fight.
The second thing which makes my case a bit special is that I organize wine tours… My friends have indeed asked me. “Have you ever visited wineries and done one of the tours you propose with Mateo and Miguel? “ (my sons) Well, eh, the answer is no. Better said, the answer was no… I decided I had to try.
On the one hand I feel it is very important for me to transmit to my children passion about the job I do, and I think this can help them chose in the future a job they will like. In my case, it involves visiting the places I recommend and strolling along endless rows of vines amongst many other fascinating activities. On the other hand, there is also the challenge to make out of a wine tour a trip enjoyable for children. Is that feasible?
Spain is a land very rich in history. This results in a myriad of castles and monuments spread all over the country. I also know many wineries near those castles, and wineries which were literally carved in rock, and which welcome the visitor with tunnels hundreds of meters long in a very intriguing manner. With these 2 ideas in mind my wife and I decided we could get the boys ready for the trip a bit in advance… We will tell them stories of knights and warriors, princesses and kings… and also the story of secret places that stored and kept safe treasures or food (what could be more of a treasure than food in days of famines?…) All these things were to be visited during our next trip, and the bed-time stories revolved around castles and secret places…
We had 4 days and we decided to do both Rioja and Ribera del Duero. From Madrid this is a good option. Ribera is one hour and a half drive North of Madrid. The River Douro was for centuries a natural border and the region is full of castles which protected it. We left Madrid a bit later than peak time to avoid any traffic jams and arrived at Aranda de Duero at 11:00 AM. In Aranda we spent some time walking near the Douro river and visiting the town center, which hosts a beautiful Main Square and 2 amazing churches. The children prefer early lunches (by Spanish standards) so we had planned a short visit to Bodegas Portia (Norman Foster was the architect involved in this project) and had lunch at their restaurant, which turned out very convenient. A drive to Peñafiel (http://www.turismocastillayleon.com/cm/setLocale?pgseed=1343401464939&dvRegLocale=en_UK) followed and during the drive a small siesta for the children. Great! Peñafiel literally means the “Loyal Rock”… and if you are there and stand in front of the mountain and its impressive castle you fully grasp why it is named so. Going up to the castle was a great experience for the children. The city hall has installed a replica of the castle in one of the local parks, and our boys spent a good hour climbing and playing knights and dragons… The views from the castle are simply amazing and you can easily, and so did the children, imagine yourself in ancient times, spotting for any troops in the horizon.
We decided not to visit any other winery that same day, but to take a walk in the streets of Peñafiel instead and relax at our hotel. The following morning we visited Protos. This is a classic if you are in Ribera and a winery of a kind… it is built underneath the mountain and has kilometers of tunnels that contrast with Richard Rogers new winery next to the old one. Impressive.
After this visit we drove straight to Rioja (http://www.lariojaturismo.com) . Motorways in Spain are good and from Peñafiel this is a two-and-a-half hour drive to our selected destination in Labastida (http://tourism.euskadi.net/x65-12375/en/contenidos/d_destinos_turisticos/0000006316_d2_rec_turismo/en_6316/6316-ficha2.html)
We opted for a Casa Rural this time. This type of accommodation in Spain is very convenient if travelling with children. Old, typical houses have been restored with charm and equipped with modern facilities in order to guarantee a pleasant and comfortable stay. We selected a House with a 2 bedroom apartment. The house dates back to the XVIth century and it has a maze-type garden… perfect for the kids to play. Labastida is one of those villages in Rioja where a hill hosts a church. Down the hill narrow cobbled streets make you think of the days these streets were full of horses. Labastida is a great location to visit La Rioja. It is a 15 minute drive from Haro (where many wineries are concentrated around the train Station, from which the trains transported wine to the harbours in the north), 20 minute drive from Laguardia -an amazing walled city- and 45 minutes drive from San Millan (in Santiago / St James way) or Logroño.
We visited 4 wineries altogether the following 2 days, in 2 of them we opted for wineries where nice walks in the vineyards are possible… and also visited the wine Museum of Dinastia Vivanco. We could not obviously stay there all the time the place deserves but the children were fascinated by some of the items exhibited. They also loved the “grape train” in Laguardia… boys do always love trains, a kind of adventure for them!
People are very welcoming in this part of Spain, and you can feel that children are always welcome in restaurants… Here are a few tips though if you are travelling with children in this part of Spain (or maybe in any part of the world!): bring along some drawing material and a couple of toys. We had printed before departure from Madrid some colourings (grapes, oak barrels, castles and knights) to keep them entertained… plus also a mighty surprise: 2 warriors and their horses… a prize for good behavior after Day 1. It is amazing to see what sort of imaginative stories the children come up with… and the toys helped us a bit to be able to combine winery visits. My wife and I both drive. We therefore took turns with the driving, although it didn´t prevent the driver from tasting the wine anyway (remember you can, as professionals do, spit the wine in the recipient provided). However I must admit that there is no way I was going to spit out such delicious wines when it wasn´t my turn to drive!!!
A great family trip! Would I include a Tour to enjoy with children in our offer at www.winetourismspain.com? I still need to think about it…
by Barbara Kingstone
There is much to do and see in Beijing but certainly one of the captivating activities is shopping… the mecca for anything you want to own.
It could be for a jade object, jewellery especially pearls or a canvas, painted by one of the up and coming artists. Those artists who have already arrived are now costly and much in demand. Try The Red Gallery and Beijing Central Art Gallery at the Kempinski Hotel for top rated artists.
But if there is a time limit on your shopping spree, be aware that each stop could take hours. A good tip is to know what you should be compared with auction-credo. Know how much you want to pay, stick with that amount and learn to walk away.
Finding the item may take time unless you know exactly where the shop or the stall in a market, is located and leave time for haggling – an expected art- which could take as long as choosing your treasured find. If you don’t haggle, and even the locals do, you’d be considered foolish since this is part of the tradition of the deal. Often the shop keeper will mention that since it’s early morning, you’re his first customer, it’s someone’s anniversary or the stars are lined up properly, he’ll come after you and accept your price.
The Pearl Market is certainly a good place to start since the signage and directions are good. You’ll discover many locals are there as there are tourists, although many nay sayers will say it’s a place only for tourists. But know that the don’t only have pearls but floors filled leather goods, glasses, handbags, electronics as well as many other selections. But, if pearls are your choice of the day, head to the 6th floor where you’ll find the best quality.
Then, of course, there’s the famed Silk Market. Once, an outside area devoted to hundreds of stalls selling everything from silk to fur, from leather to jewellery, it is much more convenient now. It’s centrally located near a subway stop, in a smart, though extremely busy, multi building on the same site as the old Silk Market.
Thinking and hoping that it would be open at 9AM (it opens at 9.30AM) and perhaps that was wishful thinking since I had to leave the hotel and get ready for a long bus trip to The Three Gorges on ship H.S. Yangtze 2, I only had a two hours to find far too many items on my list. Two hours is like a nano second for even the most knowledgable shopper in this market place.
While sitting on a step waiting for the doors to open, a young man with bleached blond hair sat down and told me he was studying English and wanted to speak with me. He was going to the art
school just across the wide street. We spoke about his life in Beijing which he loves, his desire to travel to the west when his English improves, where he would continue to study art and refused my offer to buy him a cool drink in this already sweltering day. That was one of the many encounters and the kindness of the strangers, and the unexpected willingness to speak about how the country has changed, especially for the young people.
Silk Market now opened, the first sighting are active wear, cashmeres for men and women, silk clothing on the main floor. But it was a time issue for me so I had to forego the search. Another problem is trying on clothing for size – another story. There are no dressing rooms and since most Chinese sizing is smaller than for the Western body, it’s a good idea not to believe the sales person who, always has a tale about someone the same size as you are and everything fits perfectly
Dresses, ties, scarves, fabrics, knock-off watches and purses (beware, that if the have the Chanel or Hermes stamp, the savvy custom officers know the real from the fake. The best outcome is having the goods confiscated, the worst scenario is a very costly penalty and having your name on the computer for a very long tim).
As go from floor to floor, I found the merchandise increased in quality. For instance, just by instinct, I went to Katherine Jewelry #5037) since I liked the window presentation, designs and the interior. Items went from traditional pearls and semi precious stones to more modern baroque and button shaped in various sizes and nacre. And if something doesn’t fit, right on site, within minutes, the practiced crafts women manage to get it right. Prices are not set, nor do the tags give you a hint of price. But it’s assumed you would bargain, which I did, and came away with a earring that suited my price limit and quality.
However, feeling really great about my purchase, I stopped at a nearby leather shop that had very trendy, well designed leather goods and watches. Thinking that I was a big ‘catch’, they took me to a back room where all the fakes are hidden (though I’m told that the police person know of these “secret rooms”). But beware, when my watch never started and I tried to exchange it, I was blatantly told me that they didn’t sell that type of watch,as I stared at it in one of the showcases, that they had never seen me before, even though I had filled my Visa with several of their goods. Their stone faces told me, I hadn’t purchased what I had told them…a belt, handbag and another watch for my husband. When I told them that a door at the rear was where I was taken and made my choices, they just starred. I also mentioned that in this secret ‘hideaway for big shoppers’ a few other shoppers were there too. Stay away from the no-name but #2056 shop, although it’s on the 5th floor.
But what isn’t a secret, however, however not well known to tourists, is, 798, a huge series of streets and often compared as the New York Soho of Beijing. Out of the way in Dashanzi Art District in Chaoyand District and since taxis are inexpensive, it’s worth the approximate $8-$10 trip. It’s a large pedestrian area and was initially a factory area now known as it has become, as an art centre with very fine galleries (I wish I had had more time since I was looking for the “new” Chinese art) and all sales staff seemed very knowledgeable. There are also terrific, trendy, shops from men’s and women’s designs that aren’t the usual ‘oh hum’ styles but with edge to unique designer. Also designed are kitchenware, furniture and just a pleasant place to spend several hours. Besides, there are so many outdoor cafes, that any choice would be a good one and the perfect perch to watch the wonderfully fashion forward outfits that the young, hype women, obviously aware of their creativity. At the same time you can get a great cup of coffee or tea. You might even want to stay for lunch. It’s a perfect day’s outing away from the “madding crowd” of huge, busy, traffic filled Beijing central.
Another grand walking area is the pedestrian street in the old Hutong area. It was my my favorite destination just to see the traditional lifestyles and very old and complicated living arrangements and architecture. However, the condo market crept in and alas, in their stead, there are now high rises and the development of this swell but so expensive pedestrian street. I think back and what I really liked best were the umbrella,parasol stores which women and now some men, use to block the sun. Inserted lace, sequined, brilliantly and artistically painted, some with deluxe, shiny fabrication, they are art pieces and very tempting but would look a bit strange in the rain at home. The other stores from stationary to clothing are all very special but seemingly overpriced (no haggling here). However, this is a well-known tourist area with interesting side streets and lanes to explore.
Even though I had hired a driver for my short time in Beijing, I was left for over two hours wondering if I’d ever locate him again. With it being the busy traffic time, which seems is always but worse at about 4PM, I stood at the designated stated area in 40c (over 100F) and then decided to find a place to sit.
Although, in Western lingo, it would be considered a ‘greasy spoon’, considering the circumstances, I had no choice and went into Nice Rice on South Jiaodaokou Street. The kindest young servers insisted that I have a cool drink, they tried to phone (and they did several times) to track down my driver. That kindness to a stranger was not an isolated situation but these young servers went out of their way for someone who only wanted a seat and cold, non alcoholic drink. Another case in point. On a slippery, rainy day where I’ve never seen pelting rain like this, a young man took my arm, held my heavy bag for me as we ascended in what seemed like a 100 stairs to a nearby dry area with a bench. Neither of us could speak the other’s language but my few words included thank you in Mandarin, at which he smiled and shook my hand.
On the return flight back, I sat beside a charming well-dressed young Chinese woman wearing a stunning outfit. She had just spent a few years working in Beijing before returning to Canada.
When I recounted the one miserable shopping mishap regarding my never to work watch, she laughed. “Locals never go to those stores at the Silk Market. We have our own high quality markets that are less expensive, with better quality.”
I told her I’d have to wait for a return visit but here are the names she mentioned. Nan Hu Market, Jiu Xian Qiao Market, Xi Dan Market, Taiyanggong’s Sunny Moore Market. They’re on my ‘must visit’ on the next trip to Beijing..a city I’ve learned to love because of the diversity.
As for shopping, If you see it and want it, get it. You’ll probably never get back to the area or even locate the shop again. But do try to down the price. It’s not only finding the object but the great story that probably will go a long way at any cocktail gathering. Life is about fun so just grab it when you can.
Beijing has so very much to offer in many categories. But when it comes to shopping, I’m sure Confucius would have had a brilliant saying or advice but I doubt if he would understand the art of haggling.
Starting in 1980, the Zurich Theatre Spectacle has become one of the most important European festivals for contemporary performing arts. Street artists come here from all over the world to participate in this theatre festival on the Landiwiese meadow at the shore of Lake Zurich. From Aug 16 to Sep 2.
Zürich Theatre Spectacle
The largest street fest in Southeastern Switzerland will be celebrated from August 17 to 19 in the town of Chur. Over 40 organizations will offer culinary and musical performances. A special highlight is the contest of the bearded men, traveling from all over Europe to elect a winner in the category “Natural Full Beard”. Enjoy this “hairy affair”!
What if your bags get lost in transit, a medical emergency forces you to cancel your non-refundable trip, or a hurricane strikes and you have to cut short your vacation? Most travelers prepare for vacations by packing their bags, making reservations and mapping out excursions, though they often overlook contingency planning, which can be financially detrimental. InsureAssist, a new provider of travel protection products and services, recommends everyone be prepared for the unexpected and purchase insurance before they leave home. With its partner Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, a leader in the travel insurance industry, InsureAssist provides a suite of options, from trip cancellation to travel medical coverage.
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by Subhasish Chakraborty
The Côte d’Azur, popularly referred to as the French Riviera, is ideally located in the Mediterranean coastline of the south eastern part of France. It extends from Menton in the East to Cassis in the West.
Its largest city is Nice – a wonderful French Riviera city, one which is a very popular destination for honeymooners and sun-worshipers. It is a large city, no doubt and finding one’s way in the city can be intimidating to the first time visitor.
As a student of Alliance Francaise de Calcutta, I was provided with an opportunity to visit the French Riveria along with a few of my batch mates. We had all done reasonably well in our final semesters and this trip was to be a test of our language abilities. Nervous we were, but deep inside there was a belief that we were at par with the best in the trade.
From New Delhi we boarded the Air France flight to Paris and from Paris we hopped on to a connecting flight to the city of Nice. Instead of staying in a luxury hotel, we were offered with the option of staying on “Home Stay” mode with a host family. This was indeed a very good idea as we would have a first hand experience of staying with a French family and be exposed to their culture and lifestyle, apart from honing our language skills in this 15-day trip to France.
The rooms were quite spacious with all modern amenities. What really helped was the warm and friendly attitude of our gracious French host. The first few days were spent exploring the local neighborhood and testing our language skills. It took me two days to polish my skills and we would often sit hours together with the host family trying to fathom the beauty and diversity of the French Riveria
We became particularly very fond of the traditional French cuisine and would wait with bated breath for lunch or dinner when the lady of the house would usher us to their elegant dining room. The variety of French seafood recipes that would be cooked for us was something we would never forget. From easy wine braised fillet to bucolic Cajun fish fry…the gastronomic delights on offer made us feel every bit French.
From our frequent interactions with the host family, we were pretty familiar with the historical and geographical importance of Nice. According to Maria Bruni, our gracious host - “The French Riveria was one of the world’s first modern resort region and in the days of yore served as a winter resort, catering to the discerning needs of the upper class Britishers.” The introduction of railways in the 19th century forever changed the destiny of this region. It soon evolved as the playground of the aristocrats and the crème-de-la-crème of the society. From Queen Victoria to the Prince of Wales, the royal families simply loved the French Riviera.
In the first half of the Gradually the place began to evolve and by the 20th century it was a much preferred holiday destination of artists and scholars and some of the luminaries of that era like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Edith Wharton and others of their ilk began frequenting this stunningly beautiful region. The ultra rich Americans were not to be left behind either.
The huge popularity of the French Riveria compelled the town and country planners to sit back and take notice. After the World War II, this part of France was gradually developed into a state-of-the-art convention centre. According to our gracious host Maria Bruni, many top ranking Hollywood superstars have their apartments here and there was a buzz doing the rounds that Elton John was in town. There is a certain throb here at Nice and the amazing part of this speck of paradise is that Nice alone has nationalities of 163 countries and it is a fact that non-French nationals outnumber the native people.
Nice’s fabulous Cote d’Azur Airport one of France’s busiest airports after Paris and there is another airport airport at the neighborhood of Mandelieu, which is now the nexclusive domain of private and business category flyers. Time permitting, a visit to surrounding places of the French Riveria includes a virtual galaxy of paradise like locales like Cannes, Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Ca-d’Ail, Frejus, Saint Raphel and Saint Tropez. There is also the principality of Monaco to contend with.
Given the fact that the French Riveria receives 300 days of sunshine per year and with a coastline that extends to all of 115 Kms. along with numerous ski resorts has meant that this area has evolved as a major yachting centre. Don’t be taken aback to see some of the world’s costliest and most luxurious yachts anchored along the area’s impeccably maintained marinas. From the Sultan of Brunei to Lakshmi Niwas Mittal (world’s richest Indian), they all come here to party. If statistical records are anything to go by, each year the French
Riviera hosts 50% of the world’s yacht fleet, which in itself is astonishing.
Like most visitors in Nice, we too embarked on a leisurely stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, which was conceived of almost 200 years back and shapes Nice’s Mediterranean coast at the marvellous Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels). This iconic boulevard is popularly referred to as the ‘Promenade’ and extends for 6 Kms. If you feel tired, there is no dearth of the quintessential Nice “Blue Chairs” where you can sit down and bask in the uninterrupted sea vistas.
Many of the city’s elegant monuments are historic and dates back to the 17th century. Of particular significance are the magnificent Palais Lascaris, the Cathedral de Sainte Réparate and the impressive Monastère Notre Dame de Cimiez. However, we were more interested in the beach side activities and the legendary Nice coastline would be our hangout zone in the evenings. We preferred the city’s Neptune beach because of its idyllic location and the easy availability of sun loungers and throbbing beach life.
It was reassuring to know that the water is checked regularly and evaluated as “good” according to the exacting European standards.
There are countless “must visit” tourist attractions around Nice and a majority of them are landmarks in their own right. Mention may be made of the impregnable 16th century Fort du Mont Alban. This is one place that impressed me a lot. Given the fact that I have always been fond of colonial architecture, the Fort du Mont Alban is one of the best places to have a glimpse of the traditional French military architecture and one can be assured of breathtaking natural vistas.
The city is home to a number of high profile museums and art galleries. I have been to a few art galleries in my native Kolkata, but I must tell you the art scene in Nice is a completely different cup of tea. One has to be thoroughly oriented with the French way of life and a well-informed guide is a must. We were fortunate as our gracious host Maria could spare some time from her busy schedule to accompany us on our trips to some of the city’s principal cultural centers.
We went on a full day’s tour of the city’s cultural mosaic – the Musée de Palaeontologie Humaine Terra Amata (popularly referred to as the Museum of Human Palaeontology), the Musée d’Archéologie de Nice-Cimiez (the Archaeological Museum) and also the Musée Départemental des Arts Asiatiques (Regional Museum of Asian Arts). The methodical manner in which the art objects and artifacts are preserved, deserves kudos.
When it comes to Fine Arts, Nice is like a “Mecca” – the Musée des Beaux Arts (Museum of Fine Arts) which is ideally located on the upscale Avenue des Baumettes was particularly fascinating. So also the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain which is strategically located on the posh Avenue St. Jean Baptiste. They are virtually a storehouse of contemporary paintings.
When it comes to the question of culture, the city of Nice has its own individual character. The native people have always held onto their independence, their own language –“Nissart” and folk traditions.
As far as the traditional costumes are concerned, the most common is the “Bouquetiere” for girls, which is a red and white striped cotton skirt, blouse and black velvet waistcoat with apron and embroidered black satin shawl plus, of course, the famous capeline. For boys, the chosen outfit is the red and white striped corsaire trousers, a broad belt of red wool and a white cotton shirt with a big-buttoned collar.
In course of an animated conversation with a native Nice couple at the elegant Atmosphere restaurant located on Cours Saleya, we got to know that the “Nissart” language is part of the Occitan linguistic ensembele extending from Catalonia to the valleys of Piedmont and Le Limousin. Most of the vocabulary, we were told, comes from the Latin spoken by the Romans who came here to build the town of Cemenelum.
In order to stop the “Nissart” language going into oblivion, theatre productions are of great help. Time permitting, a visit to the Theatre Nicois de Francis Gag and the Lou Rodou Nissart can be a very rewarding experience.
Every now and then, we would take a break from our sightseeing activity and sit down and relax at some of Nice’s archetypal pavement eating joints. The recipes here explain the lovely looks of the girls of Nice. From local candid fruits to “Pissaladiere” (golden onions with a hint of anchovy) and Nice’s very own exclusive Mediterranean sandwich “Pan Bagnat” to the warm and crispy “Socca”…the French gastronomic delights had fully satiated our taste buds.
With such great variety, many restaurateurs have decided to pool their efforts to make this into a common asset. To promote the authentic cuisine of Nice, restaurant owners have made a solemn commitment by signing a Quality Charter – “Cuisine Nissarde, Le Respect De La Tradition”. Restaurant owners holding this collective label can be identified by this logo on their storefront. When you step into any restaurant with the “Cusine Nissarde” label, it is a guarantee of excellence and good value that cannot but appeal to you.
When it comes to wine, as a perfect complement to the cuisine of Nice, the AOC wines have earned an excellent reputation, in particular in almost all the popular restaurants of Nice. The fact that the vineyards too are located in the hills that are in close proximity to Nice has helped tremendously.
No visit to Nice is ever complete without a visit to some its impeccably landscaped gardens. My father being a Doctorate in Agriculture, he had asked me to collect some information about Nice’s famed gardens. There are at least ten gardens and Municipal Parks, but the ones that stand out are – Jardin Albert, Jardins Suspendus Du Paillon, L’Esplanade Du Paillon, Le Parc Du Chateau, Le Jardin Du Monastere De Cimiez, Le Jardin Des Arenes De Cimiez, and Parc Chambrun.
While Jardin Albert happens to be Nice’s oldest garden that stretches for almost 2 Kms. from the seafront to the hills, the Jardins Suspendus Du Paillon is ideally spread out between the Old Town and the city center. However, it was the Parc Chambrun, which impressed me the most by its quintessential French romantic architecture. Other gardens worth visiting are the Le Jardin Botanique, renowned for its classic collections of Mediterranean flowers and the Parc Floral Phoenix.
As the city’s old timers are apt to say – “Nice has changed more in fifty years than it did over the past two centuries: Its history advances, but its past remains. I have been fortunate to visit this incredible city of the French Riviera where the world’s greatest stars have ignited millions of flash bulbs from the paparazzi’s cameras and I am not going to forget in a hurry the city’s salubrious climate and beautiful sights.
From the cascade to castle, I have seen everything in Nice without being seen. This city of a thousand delights will inspire me forever.
Traveler’s Fact File:
It is certainly interesting to arrive in Nice by plane as one gets an immediate bird’s eye view of the city and the reasons for its very special character.
Nice’s Cote D’Azur Airport greets nearly 7.37 million passengers each year. With a global network of more than 60 connections, the Riviera International Airport is your privileged gateway to the city of Nice. There are more than 45 international airlines offering routine flights to more than 88 cities worldwide.
For instance, the popularity and the easy accessibility of Nice can be gauged from the fact that there are more than 300 flights a week to Paris. The route from Paris to Nice is the busiest in France.
Nice is a Mecca for shoppers. From small boutiques selling craftwork and traditional fabrics in the Old Town to the jewelry shops on the Avenue de Verdun, a bewildering variety of shopping outlets are available in the city of Nice. Typical souvenirs in Nice include – Wines, Olive Oil, Candid Fruit, Perfumes, fabrics, art and crafts.
Nice offers a wide range of accommodation options. Nice Convention and Visitors Bureau publishes a Nice Hotel guide, which is available at 17, Rue Paganini. Tel: 33(0) 4 93 88 39 42. E-Mail: email@example.com
Furthermore, Day and night SIGNOTEL panels at Nice’s Cote D’Azur International Airport and at La Scoperta Services on the motorway provide tourist information on hotel availability and bookings can also be made.
Rentals and accommodation offered by private individuals can also be booked at –
Regional Tourist Committee,
55 Promenade des Anglais,
Tel: 33 (0) 4 92 15 21 30.
by Subhasish Chakraborty
India is a land of stupendous dimensions. It is often said, India is not a country but a continent. The “Incredible India” marketing blitz launched by the Ministry of Tourism in all the major cities of the world as well as participation in some of the most renowned International Travel Fairs like the ITB Berlin, the WTM London etc…. have indeed paid rich dividends in terms of popularizing India as a tourist destination.
Travelers from affluent countries like USA, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Australia etc…are increasingly opting for luxury train travel as they believe the best way to discover India’s enormous variety and diversity is best explored on the ground level rather than flying aimlessly at rarefied heights of 30,000 plus feet high onboard airlines
Recently a team of 20 Archaeologists from France had come on a fortnight’s visit to India to attend an international seminar at the township of Kalyani in the state of West Bengal and thereafter proceeded to the city of Mumbai for a “Workshop on Archaeology” conducted by the University of Mumbai. I was entrusted with the task of guiding the group during their fortnight’s stay in India
The French have a sentimental attachment to the city of Chandannagore in West Bengal, which once used to be the headquarters of the colonial French rulers. After doing the rounds of the French City of Chandannagore, it was time to depart for Mumbai where prior arrangements had been made for their accommodation at the fabulous Taj Mahal Palace & Towers. And as a token of affection to the French guests, the Department of Tourism, Government of Maharashtra offered the entire group with a complimentary weeklong train journey aboard the luxury Deccan Odyssey.
The state of Maharashtra is one of the largest in India both in terms of population and area. Its booming capital – Mumbai, makes it not only one of the most important states economically but also a major arrival point for overseas visitors. Most of the state stands on the high Deccan plateau and historically this was the main center for the Maratha Empire, which defied the mighty Mughals for a long time under the leadership of Shivaji.
Given the highly priced tour package, it wasn’t surprising to see a majority of guests being foreigners from the affluent Western countries with the odd NRI in between on their mission to rediscover their native country, which they may have left long back.
As the train chugged off from the Chatrapatti Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, the quintessential whistle blew its final salutation to all that was royal and grand about the state of Maharashtra. The train with its 21 royal coaches out of which 11 coaches are exclusively meant for passengers offered all the royal indulgences one would associate with the erstwhile Indian royalty. Apart from passenger coaches, the train also had an exclusive coach dedicated for conferencing and two coaches that served as royal restaurants. The Spa coach was meant for those inclined to rejuvenate their senses with the most relaxing of natural therapies.
We were given a warm traditional welcome and I had some light snacks and went about exploring the royal opulence that was on offer in the Deccan Odyssey. I stopped by at the well-stocked library, stepped into the elegant Bar and had a sip of my favorite tipple, ventured into the exclusive Spa coach and the gymnasium, and returned stupefied to my coach, completely bedazzled with all the regal aura inside the train
My frenetic exploration of the various coaches of the Deccan Odyssey made one curious bellboy laugh excitedly at me and I thought it would be prudent to take his help as a guide. Vishal who has been working for the Deccan Odyssey for the past five years made me aware of all the facets of this one-of-its-kind luxury train, like the ethnic style interiors as well as the architectural content of the royally designed coaches. Each coach is aptly named after some of the finest historical places and forts in the state of Maharashtra.
In course of my animated conversation with Vishal, the affable bellboy disclosed that the luxury Deccan Odyssey train is a joint endeavor of the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. and the Indian Railways. This train is ranked amongst the best luxury trains in the world and is up there with the likes of the Orient Express of Europe, the Eastern and Oriental of South East Asia and the Blue Train of South Africa.
The seven days round trip covered some of India’s most fascinating tourist destinations like Mumbai, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Goa, Kolhapur, Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad (Ajanta – Ellora), Nasik and Mumbai.
Our first halt was at Ratnagiri. From Ratnagiri we traveled in an air-conditioned coach to the picturesque Ganapatipule beach, which is considered to be amongst the most beautiful beaches in the coast of Maharashtra. As we passed through the meandering lanes of Ratnagiri, we were captivated by the town’s charming ambience. Ratnagiri is world famous for Alphonso mangoes, easily one of the best mango varieties in this part of the world, a majority of which is exported.
The Ratnagiri-Ganpatipule circuit is actually a fine blend of nature and history. Majestic Maratha forts, palaces and temples vie for attention with some of the most breathtaking stretches of virgin beaches you will ever encounter in India.
After a fascinating bout of sight seeing we returned back to our respective coaches and settled for a sumptuous lunch. Post lunch, the train once again chugged off leaving behind the splendid historical facades of Ratnagiri only to halt at Kudal station from where we proceeded to the heritage town of Sawantwadi
My French guests couldn’t stop marveling at the grandeur of the majestic Sawantwadi Palace, which we were told was built by the gallant Maharaja Khem Sawant Bhonsale III way back in the 18th century. Although photography inside the palace is prohibited, a few of my French guests could resist their instincts.
If the Sawantwadi Palace was Marathi royal grandeur at its very best, the Shilpa Gram (Crafts Village) was an eye opener to most of the foreign guests. The opportunity to view rural Maharashtrian craftsmen at work in the village was a unique experience for all of us. As a token of appreciation, most foreign guests bought handicraft items from the Shilpa Gram as souvenirs. By evening, with dusk gradually descending on Sawantwadi, a captivating cultural song and dance performance by the local artists of the village was the perfect parting gift to my foreign dignitaries.
We were back at Kudal railway station and hopped into our respective coaches. We were now entering one of India’s most beautiful tourist hubs – Goa, where the world comes to party. At the dinner table, my French guests were given a fascinating insight of Goa as a tourist destination by one of the knowledgeable guides of the Deccan Odyssey. I was surprised to know that most of them knew quite a bit about Goa and a couple of them had reportedly visited this enchanting state a few years back as backpackers.
After a relaxing night’s rest, we woke up refreshed in the morning and alighted at Sindhudurg railway station and hopped into a waiting air-conditioned coach that transported us to the Malvan jetty for a glimpse of the magnificent Ocean Fort, which used to serve as a strategic naval base during the rule of the Marathas. The fort was built in the period between 1664-67 by the courageous Maratha ruler Shivaji
After doing the rounds of the magnificent fort, we proceeded to the picturesque beach resort of Tarkali. The mandarins of Deccan Odyssey have included the Tarkali beach on the itinerary given the fact that most foreign guests are particularly keen to spend a considerable amount of their time at the beachfront so as to be able to soak in the balmy beach ambience. The beach is long and slender, ideal for sun bathing. After an impromptu lunch on the beach we proceeded to the fascinating village of Walaval to pay our homage to goddess Laxmi Narayana and were back at Kudal railway station where the Deccan Odyssey train was parked.
For a change, tonight’s dinner was strictly Marathi. The past 3 days we had a bit of the Continental, the Mexican and the nouveau international but never really savored the gastronomic delights of Maharashtra. Laid out on the table was the quintessential Bombay Duck or “Bombil”, which was fried to perfection by the train’s resident chef along with boiled rice and “Bhakris”, which is basically soft “Chappatis”. Other miscellaneous tid-bits were Rice Puris, Amboli, Urad Dal, Papad and Shreekhand (Sweetend Curd) etc…. that made our dinner sumptuous to the core.
On Day 4 we arrived at Karmali in the state of Goa and an air of expectancy prevailed amongst the guests. Our first stop was Old Goa or “Velha Goa” as it is popularly referred to. Old Goa has a distinctively Portuguese flavor and easygoing ways. It used to be the principal bastion of the Portuguese and is replete with many elegant churches, monastries and convents. This small Portuguese enclave is still one of India’s most touristically important places.
We went on a whistle-stop tour of Old Goa and visited the renowned Se Cathedral, The Convent & Church of St. Francis of Assisi, the Basilica of Bom Jesus, Church of St.Cajetan, the church of St. Augustine, The Church & Convent of St. Monica and other lesser-known heritage buildings.
We also visited the Latin Quarters at the capital city Panjim and my French guests marveled at the city’s colonial ambience. Panjim’s main attraction is the narrow winding streets, small cafes and bars and the occasional old stone buildings dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.
We retuned back to Verne Railway Station and had lunch onboard the royal restaurant and after a brief post lunch siesta were off to the nearest beach. We were given enough freedom to indulge in beach activities. Some splashed on the waves, some indulged in Wind Surfing and the more reticent ones enjoyed a session of beach volleyball. A Goan cultural troupe was invited to entertain the guests and after all that Goan razzmatazz we proceeded to Madgaon railway station to board the Deccan Odyssey for our onward journey to Kolaphur and beyond.
Day 5 and Day 6 were spent discovering the sights and sounds of Kolhapur and the city of Daulatabad. While Kolhapur is renowned for its 250 odd temples, the quintessential Kolhapuri Chappals and the distinct Saracenic style of architecture, Daulatabad is renowned for the Bibi-Ka-Maqbara, which is a kind of mock-up of the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world. My French guests were completely overawed by the intricate designs patterns like the Paithani, Bidriwork and Himroo and bought some fabulous handicraft items from the local craft showrooms dotting the city.
We were now heading towards the fag end of the royal train journey and reached Jalgaon station on the penultimate day of the tour. We hopped in to our waiting coach and proceeded to the world famous archaeological site of Ajanta.
Ajanta is an UNESCO declared World Heritage Site renowned the world over for its cave paintings and frescoes. There are a total of 29 caves, each one unique in its representation. The cave paintings dates back to the period from 200 BC to 650 AD. The shape of the Ajanta cave is semi circular resembling a horse’s hoof. The middle portion of the cave is conspicuous by the presence of paintings adhering to Mahayana sect of Buddhism and the rest of the paintings to the Mahayana Buddhism
Ajanta remained hidden from human eyes for thousands of years and it was largely due to the efforts of one British patron by the name of George Griffith who for the first time uncovered the mask of Ajanta to the rest of the world. The manner in which the stories and legends of the Jataka period is depicted through murals and engravings is truly outstanding and needless to say, in the present times commands the admiration of the entire world.
By noontime we once again assembled for lunch onboard the Deccan Odyssey and had a few forty winks as the train proceeded to Nashik Road station where we alighted and boarded a luxury bus that transported us to one of the holiest of Hindu pilgrimage site – the Panchawati Ghat. It is here that the all-important Kumbh Mela is held. After doing the rounds of this all-important “Ghat” we boarded the Deccan Odyssey that was stationed at Deorali station for the last leg of our journey to Mumbai.
The past week, as we traveled together discovering some of India’s rich virile past, fascinating palaces and forts, breathtaking beaches and stunning architectural facades meant that we were all bonded in a unique manner, sharing the diversity of culture and heritage that each of us were bequeathed with. Today even after one full year had elapsed since we undertook that magical royal train journey, many of us still keep in touch with each other through telephone, E-mail and online chatting reminiscing about that memorable train journey.
Indeed a journey onboard the Deccan Odyssey is one of the world’s most unique train journeys. Are you up for the ride?
For further information and booking, please feel free to get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org