BEYOND THE JUNGLE OF KANHA

A jungle safari (or many) is definitely on the top of your list when visiting one of the most beautiful national parks of India – Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh – and it should be so, unquestionably. But while chasing the call of the wild, you’re likely to miss out on the little delights the nearby villages dole out.

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While the trend of ‘do it like a local’ isn’t going anywhere, I list down some meaningful experiences to make sure your trip to Kanha is etched in your memory for all the right reasons. And the best part? Your phone doesn’t work at most locations. That’s a sure sign you need to “switch off” from the chaotic city life!

Put up in a Gond-inspired hut
You’re never going to feel like a local if you’re staying in an apartment-style hotel, no matter how luxe the rooms and facilities may be. Instead, put up in a cottage inspired by traditional Gond (Adivasi people of central India) architecture, made using locally available materials such as mud plaster, stone, terracotta tiles and rough-hewn timber beams.

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Tucked away in the little tribal hamlet of Narna, these eco-friendly huts boast of furniture made from waste and recycled wood and blend in seamlessly with acres of natural forest around. Kanha Earth Lodge by Pugdundee Safaris borders Kanha’s buffer zone, and makes for an ideal option.

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FLOCK HERE FOR FALL FOLIAGE

Enhance your autumnal excursion by appreciating the romance of nature at these destinations that provide wonderful settings for leaf-peeping

QUEBEC, CANADA

Bridge over Canyon Ste-Anne
View the spectacular Canyon Sainte-Anne from the highest suspension bridge in Québec, at 60 meters above the gorge. A memorable sight in fall!

Head to Montréal and Québec cities – bustling metropolises with a perfect blend of poise, playfulness and history. The towns and villages here have English names, but everything else is French: language, lodging and food. In autumn, millions of maples turn red and gold. Treat your eyes to scenic landscapes by hiking the Parc national de la Jacques Cartier, go bird watching at Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area or Marais du Nord, kayak or canoe at Vallée Bras-du-Nord valley or get your fill of fresh air at one of the urban parks. Another highlight the “Magic of Lanterns” event at The Montreal Botanical Garden. Hundreds of hand-painted Chinese lanterns, floating on ponds and hanging from trees beneath starry skies offer a stunning eye candy on a bracing autumn evening.

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A FRUITFUL DAY AT A SWISS FARM

While you may undoubtedly visit the picturesque Alps and sample deliciously popular Swiss cheese and chocolates, you are likely to miss out on an opportunity to experience traditional countryside life in Switzerland. On my recent trip to the Central European country, I uncovered the adorably quaint Hinter Musegg in the middle of the delightful little city of Lucerne, and it touched all my senses.

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Pic by Micha Eicher

Every road in Switzerland gives you a thousand photo opportunities and this isn’t an overstatement. While it does take a good amount of walking to reach this mini farm nestled just beyond the town walls, you are likely to lap up every moment of the stride as the setting on both sides leaves you in awe.

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TOURING PHILLY’S MURALS ON SEGWAY

Yes, you can’t get over the Philly cheese steaks but Philadelphia is known for many things apart from this cheap, delicious snack. You’re right! I am talking about it’s streets that are ablaze with paint!

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Philly is colourful in a special way. The City of Brotherly Love (as it’s called) boasts of a flourishing street art scene; murals painted by locals adorn the walls of buildings transforming the city’s neighborhoods into outdoor art museums.

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6 THINGS I ENJOYED DOING AT SULA FEST 2016

A weekend at SulaFest was a mega mix of great music, wine, drinks, gourmet food, fashion, shopping and more in idyllic surroundings of the scenic vineyards in Nashik. Here’s every little fun detail for you

(1) SHOPPING AT THE MINI BAZAAR

When there is music, wine and shopping, you don’t really need more! SulaFest had these little shops selling knick-knacks and creative items sprinkled across different areas. I found some hand-painted bottles, antique silver jewellery, hand-embroidered little clutches from Kashmir, pretty Pashmina shawls, colourful ganjis with quirky sayings for both men and women, jootis with ghungrus, dainty and French-like kitchen ware in subtle shades of white and pink and a lot more. Even if you don’t really intend to go back with your hands full of shopping bags, sometimes, it’s just a lot of fun to look around and hunt for interesting stuff.

(2) GRAPE STOMPING, OF COURSE!

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The moment you look at those bunches of grapes lying in a huge wooden barrel, you simply want to kick off your shoes and jump in for some fun. The experience of squishing and squashing fresh grapes with your bare feet and feeling them between your toes is utterly delightful. Plus, grape stomping never fails to be the perfect photo op! This activity at Sula Fest was chargeable at Rs 300 per person for 10 minutes. Had it been cheaper, I would be dancing, sleeping and rolling in that tub full of purple grapes all night.

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IN PICTURES: LAZIENKI PARK & PALACE, WARSAW

Anyone who still thinks Warsaw is a city of concrete and cement has clearly never been to the city’s lung, the breathtaking Lazienki Park. The residence of the last king of Poland is one of the most attractive park-and-palace complexes in Europe. It’s name comes from the bath house rebuilt into a palace. The park comprises three gardens: the Royal Garden, the Belvedere Garden and the Modernist Garden, altogether taking 76 hectares of land! Numerous sculptures embellish the park. Turquoise-green ducks, beautiful peacocks and friendly, adorable squirrels – all call it home. Today, the palace serves as a museum housing the royal collection of paintings.

Poles love to spend their summer Sundays here. Fear not though, for so big is Lazienki that it never gives the impression of being crowded, and even on the busiest of days, you will be able to find a quiet, shady corner somewhere!

Let me take you on a virtual tour:

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CHRISTMAS MARKET IN KRAKOW, POLAND

Somehow, I’ve always had a fascination for snow and Christmas markets, and going to Europe during Christmas time was one of the top things on my ‘travel must-do’ list. When I finally happened to plan a trip to Krakow (a city in southern Poland, near the border of the Czech Republic) this December, I couldn’t contain my happiness. I was all excited to hop on the plane and see the European town decked up with shimmering lights and pretty festive knick-knacks.

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RELIVE YOUR CHILDHOOD WITH TINTIN IN BRUSSELS!

Homeland of comic strip heroes, Brussels in Belgium surprises you with an itinerary of colourfully-painted walls

Brussels is the birthplace of Tintin and Spirou, the worthy forerunners of many generations of comic book heroes. The Smurfs, Lucky Luke and the Daltons Blake and Mortimer, Largo Winch and The Cat were also born here. So, it’s only natural that, in Brussels, comic strip is everywhere: events, museums, shops, bookshops, galleries and street gables all celebrate the 9th art, which is an integral part of its cultural genetic make-up. But comic strip can also be found in places where you least expect it: railway and metro stations and balloons filled with creativity and conviviality burst into the scene.

A must-do in the city is a comic-strip trail. As you come across forty or more monumental frescoes, you’ll get to know these legendary characters and their talented authors. This one-of-it’s-kind walk won’t disappoint the comic-strip fan in you!

Here are a few I spotted during my trail in Brussels:

Broussaille

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Broussaille was the very first comic strip mural in July 1991. Brussels author Frank Pe does not deny that Broussaille is an alter ego. Both city boys are sensitive souls, curious nature lovers and avid dreamers. In their philosophical vision, they see fauns, whales flying over the grey city and giant turtles crossing the street.
Where: Plattesteen, 1000 Brussels

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JAISALMER – THE CHARMING SANDSTONE CITY

The rainy season certainly isn’t really the right time to visit Jaisalmer, especially if you wish to enjoy a camel safari and a night of camping under the starry sky. But that did not deter the curious rain chaser in me who desperately wanted to experience the monsoon magic in the ‘Golden City of India’. After living the Maharaja life at a 550-year-old haveli in Jodhpur, we decided to take off to Jaisalmer by road. I must say that our 300 km drive was quite rewarding. The highway was stark empty with open spaces on either side, and no visible economic activity for miles and miles; we almost felt like we privately owned the beautiful surroundings. To make the trip all the more pleasant, peacocks, camels and blackbucks occasionally made an appearance, gorging themselves on the fresh green grass, courtesy the random bursts of rain.
The city that is entirely constructed by yellow sandstone is much more laid-back and hassle-free as compared to cities like Jodhpur and Jaipur and untouched by globalisation. Retaining the rural Rajasthani aura and culture, the city has no fancy malls or popular food chains and is hugely dotted with ruins. We started our day with a walking tour of the city’s major heritage spots which are within the radius of 2 to 4 km. Even if you’ve hired a car or taxi, you’ll have to walk up to most of the places as the streets are quite narrow. When you look at the magnificent, carved havelis and the unique fort perforated with winding lanes and lined with houses and temples, you’ll be transformed to a bygone era and would never wish to return to reality.
After savoring a few local dishes like Ker Sangri and Daal Baati at one of the small joints near the fort, we proceeded to Sam Sand Dunes for a desert safari which was just the perfect way to end the evening on a delightful note. It wasn’t raining that evening and we just got lucky. When it rains, you can’t recognise the desert – heaps of sand are eroded, leaving behind bare nut-brown earth and a camel or jeep safari remains a distant dream. But we got to experience both and it was thoroughly enjoyable. Yes, the ride is likely to take a toll on your back if you tend to become too stiff and don’t move in the same rhythm. Post the safari, you can either get back to your hotel or book an overnight stay at one of the desert camps to witness the breathtaking sunset and spend the night around a bonfire or simply appreciate the rustic performances by the folk dancers of Rajasthan.
My trip to Jaisalmer was indeed a memorable one as it felt like I was travelling back in time. Too hard to believe? Here’s a glimpse

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A panoramic view of the Jaisalmer city from Canon Point
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Jaisalmer Fort Road enclosed by honey-coloured sandstones. Can’t take your eyes off the unsurpassed architectural marvel?

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AUTUMN IN ANTWERP, BELGIUM

Every season has its own charm but the beauty of Autumn somehow leaves me speechless. Trees look radiant as they shun the greenery of summer and adopt the hues of fire – yellows, reds, browns and burnt oranges. This November, Belgium treated me to the most stunning fall foliage on the planet. I decided to simply sit in silence on a small wooden bench at the park opposite Leopold Hotel, Quinten Matsijslei 25 and submerge in the beauty of nature. The weather being just ideal, neither too chilly nor too warm, I wish I could sit there for hours staring at the landscape in idleness…

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