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A peek into winter

After tentatively skirting at the edges, winter is now finally here in New York, and making its presence felt! And the leaves, which were steadfast in their greenery  are rapidly turning into warmer hues and heaping into the ground in delightful piles of yellow and orange.

Even though winter gets tiring at the tail end of its long stretch, presently I am looking forward to the warm coffee mugs, cozy mittens, spiced cider and twinkling lights on bare trees.

 

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Bronx Zoo, New York

Would you like to give us at peek at something? Contribute here at WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Peek.

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The “stop in your tracks” architecture of Madrid.

Is there something that always makes you stop on your tracks and take notice? It could be a stylish shoe, a perfectly tailored shirt or a bouquet of verdant flowers. What is it that makes you instantly say gleefully  – Ooh, Shiny!

For me, it’s grand architecture – not necessarily grand in stature but in the intricacy of work that was painstakingly put ages ago into the museums or palaces  or cathedrals or fountains. And so it’s no surprise that I was enthralled by the architecture in sunny Madrid.

Here are some of the pictures from the European capital city that are making me nostalgic about that “ooh shiny” feeling:

This post was inspired by the WordPress weekly photo challenge! See other creative entries here.

Lush green drive in Hawaii

Normally when I see the theme for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge, I post the first picture that comes to my mind.

When I thought about “dense”, I immediately thought of the our drive from Kahului to Hana in the island of Maui, Hawaii. 

The Hana highway passes through dense vegetation made up of many different plants, flowers and trees, and you get a distinct feeling that you are driving through a very exotic arboretum. Every once in a while, the winding road dips or rises to reveal the mountains or the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

Hope you enjoy these pictures. Click here for more entries for “Dense“.

Venice – A bird’s eye view

These views of Venice and St. Mark’s Square and its tall bell tower greet you from atop the bell tower on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

[Wordpress weekly photo challenge – Atop]

The Mediterranean jewel that is Capri

What can I say about Capri? The two days spent in Capri, an island off Amalfi Coast in Italy stand out among all my travel memories like a clear teacher’s pet that the teacher keep’s comparing every other student to for decades.

The island of Capri, located in the Bay of Naples, is half an hour by ferry from Sorrento and about an hour by ferry from Naples. 

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Arriving in Capri by ferry

 

The day after we drove the length of the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento to Ravello and back, we took an early morning ferry from Sorrento’s Marina Piccola (the small Marina) to Capri. As the ferry sailed towards Capri, I could not help but notice that the sky was grey, brooding and overcast and it was depressing to think that we would spend another day next to a pale blue Mediterranean (see my post on our day spent on the aAmalfi Coast).

However, by the time we reached Capri and boarded a funicular for Anacapri, the sun was shining cheerfully upon us and we caught a glimpse of the glittering blue Mediterranean that was going to give us company for the rest of our time in Capri, ever-present in the horizon and peaking through the rugged cliffs, villas and lemon groves.   

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The brilliant blue of the sea against Capri’s cliffs

Without wasting too much time, we traded the big ferry that had brought us to Capri for a smaller ferry for a cruise around the island. The cruise boat neatly skirted the cliffs on waters that seemed to turn blue to green to blue again. Seeing Capri’s landmark Faraglioni rocks rising tall and majestic above the sea, and sailing right through one of them was particularly exciting. These famous rocks in the Bay of Naples, even have names – (from the left in the picture below) Stella, Mezzo and Scopolo!

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Capri’s Faraglioni rocks (Stella, Mezzo and Scopolo) as seen from the ferry

The clear highlight of the day was taking a chairlift up from the piazza in Anacapri to Monte Solaro, the highest point in Capri (I must confess – I am partial towards points of high altitudes such as mountains, buildings, towers and campaniles, which through elevators, funiculars, cable cars and the like are easy to scale).  

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Looking down from Monte Solaro

Once we reached the top which is spotted with cobbled-stone steps and shaded gazebos and looked down below at the perfect blue sea and the Faraglioni rock formations, I realized that this was the view I had been waiting for all those days that I had been planning this trip to Italy. It’s hard to say which spot provided the best view of the beautiful cliffs plunging below into the sea, because in all honesty, there was no such thing there as a bad view! 

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View of Bay of Naples from Monte Solaro

The next morning was a whirlwind of activity – checking out of the beautiful hotel San Michele in Anacapri, taking an open air taxi down to the Marina (an adventure in itself), boarding the ferry to Sorrento, retrieving our suitcases from our Sorrento hotel, and beginning the drive to Tuscany. 

But the day’s adventures had just begun, as I would realize later. 

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Sun rising in Capri

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The Mediterranean comes to life on our second day in Capri

Roadtrips in Hawaii

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This graceful curve in the road was captured in Maui, Hawaii. For other entries for WordPress WPC – Graceful, click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge — Resilient

With its very facinating history of almost not being built to a very shaky foundation that gave it its famous tilt to being declared “healthy” after a long restoration project,  the Leaning Tower in Pisa, Italy has beaten all odds and is expected to stand crooked-proud for another 200 years!

Check out other entries for Resilient here.

Driving into a new country!

Half the fun of travelling to a new country is the anticipation. 


Here we are entering Switzerland from Italy by road. Since this road trip that started from Rome and ended in Zurich took 5 months to plan, it would be an understatement to say that I was full of anticipation for how Switzerland might be and if it would live upto our expectations. And it most certainly did.

Here are more entries for WordPress’s weekly photo challenge – Anticipation.

A hilltop in Tuscany, Italy – New Horizon

SONY DSCA rolling hilltop in Chianti, Tuscany, which seems content and contained at the same time. This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is New Horizon – where we explore something we want to achieve in 2017. For 2017, I want to find my happiness within and in the moment, instead of getting caught up in the loop of “I would be happy if only…..”. As they say, “Happiness is a choice”, and I want to consciously keep making that choice.

Here’s wishing everyone a very Happy 2017.

The Amalfi Coast drive – with gray hues instead of blue.

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On a regular Italian summer day, this should have been a stunning blue sea!

“Driving will not be easy in this rain.”

“Why don’t we take the SITA bus?” I say, referring to the big blue public transport buses easily identifiable on the road.

” That would not be any fun.”

“Fine, let’s go tomorrow then.”

“Oh-kayy (sigh) Let’s just go.”

This is the bizarre conversation that Sach and I had, on repeat for about 5 times, before we drove forth into the twists and turns of the Amalfi Coast. It did not help that our day had started at 4 am when we checked out of our hotel in Rome and we had already drove for three hours to get to Sorrento, a city near Naples which is the de-facto beginning of the celebrated Amalfi Coast drive.

Pick up any guide-book for Italy and tell me if you are not seduced by the jaw dropping pictures of pretty towns along the Amalfi Coast perched over cliffs overlooking the vast expanse of shimmering blue Mediterranean Sea.

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Driving down the Amalfi Coast

But the shimmery azure colors of the Mediterranean need one prerequisite – a sun shining overhead. As it happened, during the day we visited the Amalfi Coast, that too in mid-August, the sky was completely overcast with intermittent showers. And thus instead of blue colors, we drove alongside a sea which was pale blue bordering on grey. This was the case during the entire drive from Sorrento to Ravello.

I had been planning this trip for almost 5 months and in these five months I had almost memorized the Amalfi coast section of the Frommer’s Italy travel guide. And thus I knew exactly what I wanted to see there – the Villa Cimbrone in Ravello.

All along the drive to Ravello as we passed the towns of Amalfi and the celebrated Positano, I was amazed at how the narrow 2 lane road was easily accommodating the blue SITA buses, cars and motor cycles with space to spare for vehicles to be parked on the side.

Once we reached Ravello, we could not find any Parking signs for about half an hour and then finally parked our Hertz rental where we saw some other vehicles parked. After this bit of confusion, finding Villa Cimbrone was easy. Seriously, the village of Ravello, where the Mediterranean plays hide and seek from behind scented lemon groves, is what an Italian dream vacation is made of. After having lunch at a cafe in cobbled stoned piazza devoid of any traffic, and stopping at a pretty souvenir shop selling all manner of lemon themed curios (did I mention that Amalfi Coast is the home of Lemoncello, a lemon liquor that has to be tasted to be believed?), we began the small hike to Villa Cimbrone.

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Lunch in Ravello!!

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Preponderance of the lemon motif in the Amalfi Coast souvenir shops

After stopping many a time to take in the views and passing lemon groves (yes, lemon groves… where else will you find lemon groves?), we finally ascended all the steps to the Villa. The Villa dates back to the 11th century and its charming cloisters and courtyards are reminiscent of the Venetian and  Gothic architectural style and are lush with plants and flower beds. Once in the Villa, you are immediately drawn to is its belvedere called the Terrazzo dell’lnfinito or the Terrace of Infinity. As the name suggests, the Terrace of Infinity really puts you front and center in the Mediterranean. The terrace is surrounded with really run down and broken marble statues which at least look good from a distance.

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The cloisters of Villa Cimbrone

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wThe gardens leading to the Terrace of Infinity

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The magnificent Terrazzo dell’lnfinito (never mind the run down marble statues).

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The Sea as far as you can see!

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Would you believe that this gray expanse is the Mediterranean?

 

We spent a few leisurely hours in the Terrace of Infinity and the pretty gardens of the Villa, admiring the sea from all vantage points, even though its hues were gray instead of blue, and then almost reluctantly started the drive back to Sorrento. The skies had cleared a little bit, and we stopped at Positano to admire its postcard-worthy perfection.

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Pretty Positano

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The drive back to Sorrento

And thus our cloudy-with a chance of dissapointment-day on the Amalfi Coast came to an end. When you plan your trip – pray for a sunny day (or not – it will still be a memorable experience!).

Practically speaking:

If looking for a place to stay on the Amalfi Coast, you cannot go wrong with Best Western – La Solara, a nifty and efficient hotel, with jaw-dropping views of the Mediterranean, and a frequent shuttle to the city center.

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