Here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year! This is the first post for the year and I thought I’d set the tone for 2014 with a bunch of ideas that will inspire you to get going – weekend getaways, road trips, destination ideas, experiential travel – you will find all of these here.
So let’s begin with some resolutions. How about making some travel resolutions that you will actually look forward to keeping? This list from Boots n All is a fantastic one; I particularly like the 1st one – take your travel in any portion you can. Be it a weekend trip or a short holiday, you can always find a few days every month (or every other month) to take a quick break.
Living in Delhi? How about a quick trip to the mountains of Kumaon? Ranikhet is an underrated gem. The "Queen’s Meadow" is a quiet, army cantonment town with some stunning views of the Himalayas. Or try Amritsar – the peaceful Golden Temple is a stark contrast to the noisy old town – yet both are equally worth visiting. And to help you along, Conde Nast Traveller has compiled a list of long weekends in 2014. Now, you have no excuse NOT to travel!
If the pull of the long winding road is irresistible to you, stock up your car, load up your music system and take off on a road trip. Remember to bring along your sense of humour though :)
If you’re based in Bangalore or Mysore, the coffee country of Coorg is the best getaway; check out the ‘Golden temple of the South’ on the way. You will find more road trip ideas here.
2013 took me to four new countries and gave me so many memories to cherish.
Venice, with its pink buildings, pretty bridges and winding canals, stole my heart and its eerie cemetery island of San Michele was quite an experience. Romeo and Juliet’s Verona was much more than ‘that balcony’. Bologna’s reputation of being the food capital of Italy was spot on and we found the best gelato at Carpigiani Gelato Museum (yes, a gelato museum!) just outside of the city.
Gorgeous Florence showed us why it was the birthplace of the Renaissance, with its beautiful art and architecture. The heart of Italy, Tuscany, is perhaps the most breathtaking region – the medieval town of Volterra was quite a discovery. They say all roads lead to Rome; the Italian capital was a mix of ancient sights and charming neighbourhoods. And considering the current exchange rate for the Euro, here are a few free things you can do in Rome!
Paris is truly the city for lovers – romantic cruises down the Seine, quiet walks in its many gardens and sharing good food! As Bogart said in the classic film "Casablanca", “we’ll always have Paris”…
If there's only one place you can visit this year, make it Austria. Experience the cafe culture of Vienna and be sure to take in the opera at Staatsoper - you can find standing room tickets for 3-4 Euros. Hop on a bicycle for a Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg and then pay homage to one of the greatest composers, Mozart. Hallsttat, the oldest still-inhabited village in Europe, is a must-do day trip from Salzburg. And in Innsbruck, wander around the Altstadt, grab some strudels and people-watch in the old town square.
Despite the current political situation (which should hopefully blow over soon), Thailand will continue to remain a favourite with Indians! Take a look at some must-do activities in Bangkok.
Next time you visit a new city, look for experiences that give you a more authentic feel of the place. Whether it’s learning something new or volunteering for a cause, the activity will give you a completely different taste of the place. Take a cooking class (or two) in Italy or try your hand at some Muay Thai (kick-boxing) in Bangkok!
Travel Wish List
It’s a strange thing about travel – the more you travel, the more you realise just how much there is to still see and experience. So here’s my wish list for 2014. I don’t know how many I will eventually tick off or whether I will go in a whole different direction, but these are the places that are firmly on my radar.
The land where East meets West and where Europe and Asia collide... Istanbul has been so vividly portrayed in books and film – the narrow alleys of Sultanahmet (the Old City), the Blue Mosque, cruising the Bosphorous and of course the Grand Bazaar (and James Bond zipping through it on a bike!). The other place I really long to see is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cappadocia and its quirky cave dwellings. But more than these somewhat clichéd images of Turkey, it is Robyn Eckhart’s blog Eating Asia that has made me put Turkey on the top of my wish list. Her latest post is truly inspiring – on her obsession with the place and the new book that has arisen out of it.
One of my favourite Agatha Christie novels is "Appointment with Death", partly because it’s set in Petra. Christie’s second husband was an archaeologist so she spent a fair amount of time travelling through the region, so this novel and her memoir – "Come tell me how you live" – contains several references to this remarkable ‘lost city’. It’s also home to the Dead Sea, located at the lowest point on earth, and the virtually untouched Wadi Desert.
One of the oldest cities in the world, Benares (Varanasi) is on my list not for religious reasons, but just for the experience of it. The temples by the ghat, the Ganga aarti, the countless images of the sadhus, and of course the famed street food… I came across an interesting 3-day curated trip to the city towards the end of this month. Check out ‘Banarasiya’; it looks like fun.
India’s northeast is an unexplored terrain for me, so I hope this year changes that. The incredibly green tea gardens of Assam look so inviting as does the idea of cruising down the Brahmaputra. Chasing rhinos in Kaziranga and immersing myself in the village life of Majuli are the other must-dos on my list.
These are just a few of the places on my incredibly long bucket list! So which places make it to your travel wish list this year? Leave me a comment below. Here’s to an exciting travel-filled 2014!