When Moments Mean More Than The Continuum Of Life

Over the past few months, all I have been savouring are moments. No earth shattering events, no prominent blips, no fantastic activities that would make for great stories… just some moments that I will always remember, and that mean more to me than any stories that would be a fitting (and expected) answer to the “so what’s up with your life?” question.

What are they?

  • Every morning, my mom and I sit together when she wakes up; she holds my hand tight & talks to me with a big smile on her face. I love it. It’s a bond that needs no words.
  • In the past few months I have met many friends who no longer live in this city/ country and even our regular conversations have taken me back in time and made me feel many years younger. Ok, maybe I am just getting old.
  • I recently attended the wedding of one my closest friends and I was just in a serene, happy state throughout – and my life was on pause for those 3 days.
  • I occasionally listen to a few songs (that I love) on loop  & that has made my morning drive something I treasure – even with killer traffic. No, I don’t do that if someone is with me.
  • The flowers blooming in all my plants, with their myriad colours, make me pause to admire them & yes, I speak to my plants!
  • Some conversations have given me unexpected clarity – about myself, about life. No, I haven’t discovered the meaning of life.
  • I have made some great new friendships that I would have thought were unlikely. And it’s always a good feeling to have more friends!
  • I am trying to develop a new hobby – but more on that only if it works out!

Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But it is! I couldn’t have been happier than I am, with all these little moments, making for a great life. This fragment from As I Walked Out One Evening always plays in my head.  “And Time will have his fancy,  To-morrow or to-day.” W H Auden

 

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Back To The Future – My Version

I received an email last week, with the subject: happiness. When I read it, I was stumped. It was from a site called FutureMe, and was in fact from myself. I had forgotten all about it. This site lets you send an email to your future self, and you can set the date when you want it to be sent. It was spooky, to say the least, to get an email from the past, a mini “back-to-the-future” experience, especially since I had no memory of doing this, and I do have a pretty good memory.

So there was no Doc, no fancy time machine, no big clock that allowed me to set a date, no lightning. But it was pretty significant all the same.

This email was from last week, three years ago, and was a message I sent to myself. I won’t reproduce the message here, because it is private. But essentially it was about what I was going through then, and wondering if I would have found the answers, by the time I read this email, three years hence. There were a lot of hopes I mentioned in it as well. As I read it, I knew that while I hadn’t found the answers to a few things, the questions had changed! The things I was most concerned about then, have turned out to be things I needn’t have worried about. Some things have remained the same, but in doing so, are no longer a matter of concern either. As for the hopes, well, they remain hopes. Probably because they are best left at that.

It’s strange how much time one spends thinking or feeling about things that seem so critical to life, and then finds a few years later, that while they matter, they haven’t taken the form one feared or expected. It is in fact this very unpredictability about life that means we shouldn’t worry about these things at all. Just continue to do what you have to do. Easier said. But I found some proof! Sure, I have maintained diaries before, and when I read them now, I wonder why I thought like that. But this was a mail I sent to my future self. So it wasn’t as much a record of what I was doing then, as it was me telling myself what I wanted/ expected/ hoped. But what if things have turned out in a way that your worst fears are in fact quite benign?

I attended this session once, a philosophical/ spiritual discussion & the speaker said, the problem with the pursuit of happiness, is that you are always in pursuit. So you can never find it. Stop the pursuit and it will come to you. Sounds simple but trying to put it in practice is tough. This doesn’t mean you don’t do what you have to do. It just means you stop taking that moment and projecting it into a big ‘what if’ and building a whole set of expectations to go with it. This involves struggle and this involves friction. Whereas if you simply do what you do, in that moment, leave it there and go into the next moment, you stop struggling. You surrender.The crux of many of our historical & mythological texts. I have been trying to do this for a long, long time. Succeeded a few times, but sank back into it. This email really had an impact on me.

The very fact that many of those things had changed in context, and in doing so changed in significance, reminded me that my present should not be doing the same to my future. Projecting/ expecting/ wanting. It’s not the pursuit that matters, it’s the relentless surrender.

Am I writing to a note to my future self now? No. I don’t believe I need to.

Top 10 Types of Facebook/ Twitter Updates

Tweets, Facebook updates, LinkedIn updates… The pressure to answer that ‘what are you doing?’ seems to have afflicted all of us. Am sure your daily newsfeed is full of such updates, some that you enjoy, some that annoy and some that you just want to hide. Thought it would be good to categorize these (am guilty of some of these myself). You can share any that I have missed! And hey, don’t get offended. Chill.

1. The Location Flogger:
This person got onto Foursquare and got all excited, so linked everything to the Foursquare account. Now you know where this person is on a second to second basis. “AW checked into his own office” every morning, no doubt that’s where you should be… “at the international airport”… “at the shady bar down the street”… “In the 8th floor loo”… There isn’t a place the person hasn’t checked in. And soon become the ‘Mayor of random roadside streetlight”. Unless one is trying to establish an alibi for a murder investigation, it’s hard to see why every check-in is news-worthy.

2. The Self-Conversationalist:
This person believes that the way to talk to oneself is through the update. So the updates will be incomprehensible to anyone else. “JM said I rock in MZY 5 years ago & I think I am still the goddess of FGJKTY” Say what?! Who’s JM? What’s FGJKTY? You will never know even if you ask. You’ll probably get a smiley in response.
Or there will be something supposedly intriguing like “can’t stop smiling” to which some unsuspecting friend will say ‘I think I know why’ & the response will be “you think you know but I know you really don’t 🙂 🙂 🙂” at which point said friend will give up, as will everyone else. Until it’s repeated.

3. The Apportunist:
If an app has launched, it must be tried, & must be allowed to keep updating the status for everything possible that’s inane. Who’s my celebrity lover, what animal cub am I, dhongibaba ki bhavishyavani, boredville, flutopia, crystalballfengshuihorroscopetarotparrotiser, there isn’t a thing that hasn’t been tried and broadcasted and invites sent out for. In fact there are no updates of any other kind. The newsfeed is full of farms, animals, restaurants, wars, zoos.

4. The Self-Promoter:
Whether this person was featured in page 16, bottom-most corner buried beneath articles like ‘experts say exercise leads to weight loss’ & got exactly 5 words or whether this person’s tweet wishing Mallika happy birthday was randomly picked by Bombay Times as ‘Fans wish Mallika’, you will know about it. And not through the element of surprise either! This will be updated across Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter so you don’t have a hope in hell of missing it. This will continue for any of the 15 bytes of fame this person gets.

5. The (Non-stop) Commentator:
This person wants everyone to know about everything that’s happening around him/ her, no matter how interesting (not). “f***ing traffic crawling at a snail’s pace”, “frequent flyer lounge seems to be less crowded today”, “guy next to me in the train is looking over my shoulder as I type this”, “there are crows kawing outside”, “driving, car next to me playing munni badnaam, it rockz!”, “Monday is here again”… No matter how innocuous, it will be shared.

6. The Ranter:
This person uses the status update as a venting machine. Whether it’s a product that isn’t liked or the GPRS has gone off or the Blackberry is hung or the favourite team is losing the game or the boss left early and he/ she’s staying late or the tea in office is bad… You get the drift. Everything sucks, or is #fail. In fact they are also most likely also say “my job sucks” when everyone including the boss can read it. You really want to tell them to calm down for fear of them suffering from blood pressure or heart ailments.

7. The Armchair Activist/ Critic:
A close cousin of The Ranter, this person could solve all the problems of the world, if he/ she were not tweeting or facebooking. Too bad they are too busy doing all this so they can’t run the country. “What was the govt thinking” “no other solution to inflation worries except…” “nothing in this country will ever work when so- and- so is minister”, “Kashmir issue can be easily solved if we…”, ” what was Chidu thinking”… No doubt there maybe some valid point, but constantly putting it up here isn’t going to change anything, is it?

8. The Quoter/ World Peace Finder:
Believes that he/ she can change the world either by quoting something deeply philosophical or spiritual or by writing messages about loving your brothers & sisters. “Let us pray together, I will pray for everyone’s happiness” “start your day with a smile & pass it onto strangers till it comes back to you”. The Quoter finds a famous phrase and shares it everyday, many times forgetting to give credit to the original creator, & amassing ‘likes’/ retweets with comments such as ‘wonderful’, ‘lovely’, conveniently pocketing praise for something someone said 200 years ago.

9. The Incomprehensible:
“lyf rockzzz n den getz u kut in peesez”. Self explanatory, right?

10. The Joker:
Funny guy with a great knack for punning and for finding the funny in everyday life. These updates are a laugh- riot and non-stop entertainment. Needless to say these are popular and appreciated and people look forward to them to brighten up their day.

Note: Any resemblance to person or persons is coincidental (or not)

My Trip to Rome, Italy – History, Art, Architecture, Grandeur

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The second leg of my March 2010 trip, that I am finally determined to finish the posts about, before another destination comes up! The earlier one on France is here.

Rome Day 1

The much panic-stricken running at Nice airport did result in our catching the flight to Rome & we landed well after midnight, so we had arranged for an airport pickup & hotel drop with a private taxi service since there was no public service available at the late hour. After more drama when he took us to the wrong place at 1 am, got upset at whoever had assigned him with much angry yelling in Italian on the phone, & finally found his way to the hotel, we were exhausted and ready to sleep wary of the early checkout. We were only staying one night because our couchsurfing host was taking us in the next day. That was going to be a great adventure, first time for us staying with hosts.

The Trevi Fountain Rome

The Trevi Fountain, Rome

The Hotel Julia was super, highly recommended to anyone for its central location in Rome. We began by seeing the Trevi Fountain was our first halt, walking distance from the hotel, and it was magnificent. Lived upto everything seen or heard including the famous scene from the movie, La Dolce Vita. Like everythingelse in Rome, we just came upon it. We spent a long time there as it was just too beautiful. History at every corner is the best way to describe Rome, cathedrals hundreds of years old are routine & any monument 200 years old is called young!

Rome

Sun setting over Rome, as seen from Castle San Angelo

From there we headed to the Castle San Angelo which is now a museum, and apart from the exhibits, also has a superb view of Rome & St Peter’s Basilica in particular. We also went to Spanish Steps, the longest and widest staircase in Europe leading to the church Trinita Dei Monti where a choir was in full swing. Our heads were buzzing with everything we had seen on just our first day. It hadn’t come to an end yet. We met Giuseppe, our host in the evening, and he drove us back to his apartment (we passed the Colloseum on the way, all lit up & a magnificent sight!) with a super tiny lift – no idea how we fitted us and our bags into that lift! He even cooked us dinner, pasta with mushrooms, served with some lovely wine. Honestly, we were relieved that he was so sweet. It’s not common to be offered dinner in your hosts’ home.

Rome Day 2

Roman Forum

At the Roman Forum - the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

Rome has so much to see that a few days are difficult to do justice. The Foro Romano (Roman Forum) is so large that a few hours are not enough. It’s part of the centralised area around which the ancient Roman civilization developed & is an absolute must-see if you like ancient architecture and ruins. Next up was of course, the Colloseum and I had the fight scene from Gladiator playing in my head as I saw what the amphitheatre looked like.

The Colosseum Amphitheatre Rome

The Colosseum Amphitheatre, Rome

The impact of being in a monument built in 70 AD is like nothing else. This was followed up in the evening with a visit to the Pantheon, where we saw the full moon through skylight in the dome. The Pantheon is a beautiful structure, with its Corinthian columns & its gigantic dome. And we also met our second host, also Giuseppe, who volunteered to show us around Rome for the evening even though we were not staying with him. He was just as sweet, took us to some places we would never have been to ourselves. Like a place on a hill with a view of all Rome, we saw it all lit up at night.

Rome Day 3

St Peter's Basilica, Rome

St Peter's Basilica, Rome

The next day was devoted to the Vatican. This was also the most memorable day and a brilliant climactic ending to our stay in Rome. The lines are extremely long for both St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican museum. So we were prepared to stand for hours but it was well worth it. Entering St Peter’s Basilica, it leaves you spell bound. It’s even more beautiful than any pictures can do justice to. Lined with murals, sculptures, paintings, it has more than you can take in all at once. It’s overwhelming in size and in its architecture. Next up, the Vatican Museum. Passing the famed and oft-seen Swedish Armed Guards in their typical uniform, we headed around the wall of the Vatican City to the Museum entry point. Its great to pick up the audio guides at all the locations as they give you a sense of the history and what’s special about each place. In here, you see the works of Raphael, from his paintings to his frescoes/ murals & of course, works of many other artists. The Sistine Chapel, where photography is not permitted, is an extremely large area with a high ceiling and you can stare at the beautiful panels, of which the central one is the most popular representation, for hours. Though one doesn’t have that kind of time, especially since its crowded and there isn’t enough sitting space.

The Pope, Vatican City, Rome

Yes, that is The Pope at the event at St Peter's Square, Rome

It was late evening by the time we finished and headed for some food. Sitting in an open air cafe, we had just finished our meal when we heard music emanating from St Peters square. Rushing over, we found a concert in full swing! There were popular local singing stars and choirs (from what we could make out since it was all Italian. There were large TV screens projecting this since the square is large. The energy of the thousands assembled there was something to see! There were also armed forces, army, navy present watching the show. Despite the cold wind sweeping through the square, for which we didn’t have enough protection, nothing could get us away! After a while, the Pope came out in a little car, he was driven around, waving at the crowds and finally made his way to the stage and gave a speech. The odds of just walking into something like this, not knowing this was going to happen, really put us on a high!

We met Giuseppe (not the one we were staying with) again at the end of the concert, and he took us to the area with the buzzing nightlife – Trastevere, with its tiny cobbled lanes lined with pubs. Italians also drive and park much like Indians. Can’t find a spot? Park anywhere and hit the distress lights. Live performances in our pub, kept us on a high after that superb evening. Next we went to a place that specialises in shots served in little chocolate

Menu at Trastevere, Rome

Menu for the shots at Trastevere, Rome. Succhiotto means Love Bite.

Shots in chocolate glasses!

Shots in chocolate glasses with whipped cream and chocolate flakes. In a word, awesome.

glasses! All the drinks are named after positions or actions e.g. 69, lovebite, there’s even the kamasutra. After pouring the drink into the glass, it’s topped with whipped cream and chocolate flakes. The bartender also instructs you on how to have it. You have to hold it from the top of the glass, and put it bottom first into your mouth, swallowing it whole! Quite an experience this! And we wouldn’t have had it were it not for Giuseppe! What an end to our stay in Rome.

Couchsurfing is highly recommended, but you do have to tidy up and keep your host’s room & bathroom clean. If you are on your best behaviour, you will find bonding with your host also easy as the last thing anyone wants is strangers messing up their home and expecting them to clean up. As long as that’s taken care of, you will learn more from them about their country & culture than you could by reading guide books. That’s what travel is about anyway. It’s the human interaction that enhances the experience & makes you appreciate your surroundings.

Next up was Florence. So different, but just as memorable. More on that in the next post.

Giuseppe, couchsurfing host

Giuseppe, our couchsurfing host who took us around Rome.

Giuseppe, couchsurfing host

Giuseppe, our couchsurfing host, with the dinner he cooked for us.

Hostels & Startups: 2 Must-Have Experiences

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There was a time when I felt that one absolutely essential experience in life was to live in hostel. After I had to do so for post-graduation, I understood its value. Something new got added to the list – working in a start-up. Having done so for now my 6th year, I can say that it is an experience any working professional should go through to be able to broaden your world view. What is it about these experiences that shapes what you become?

Ability to handle unpredictable situations

Whether in a hostel or in a start-up, there are many things that you can be thrown into, that you could not necessarily anticipate. There is no choice but to adapt, and learn to live with that, and be able to handle it without letting it overpower you. In a hostel environment, you do not have a choice but to be able to co-exist with your classmates. Even if you are caught in conflict situations, you have to find a way to resolve them. You see your classmates everyday, they aren’t going anywhere and neither are you. So the only solution is to take all this in your stride, and find a way to see them the next day & the day after that without letting things rankle. Similarly in a start-up, you can face anything from recruitment issues, to a few unprofessional employees who choose to behave irresponsibly for no reason, to a dissatisfied customer who doesn’t see reason – and you don’t have the luxury of heirarchy, of letting someone else handle this. You have to take a  deep breath and get into each of these situations, switching roles from HR to client servicing to administration seamlessly.

Fearlessness

This gets reinforced constantly. Living in a hostel, you will find people with different levels of aggression, some who aim to intimidate, others who intend to do what they want, even at the expense of others, & you have to be able to stand your ground without getting trampled over. Sure, this is to some extent an innate part of personality. But it needs a mindset that isn’t afraid of who says what & who does what. There are situations in which you have to be fearless. For e.g. job placements – the all important goal in a b-school. You may have an off day and be unable to impress the interviewer, you may be in the last few people to get placed (as I was) despite having a good track record. It isn’t the end of life (though it may seem like it at the time). You do the best with what you have & take the next opportunity that comes your way. When it comes to a start-up this is even more important. You could lose a big slice of business, you could lose your best talent, you could be thrown into a tricky situation in a meeting. It’s all on you. So you need to have the belief that you are not afraid, because fear breeds poor decision making. It’s only fearlessness that gives you the ability to overcome, to build, destroy and re-build.

Speed of response

How quickly you adapt to any situation makes a big difference to how you handle it. This could mean dealing with a mosquito swarm (of the kind that would give a bee swarm a downgrade) or a new expertise you need to acquire overnight because it’s suddenly a consumer favourite and hence your customers expect you to have it. They don’t care about how many resources you have or what it would take to develop. It’s the speed at which you respond that can save you from being bitten (literally & figuratively).

Focus, amidst many distractions

It isn’t easy to stay focused on your target if you have people around you who are pulling you into another direction, or if you are in a situation where you are tempted to take the short-cut, knowing that it will harm you in the long run. It’s important to not lose sight of the goal & more so in a start-up, if you waver from the goal, it has business implications that can spiral beyond your control. It’s easy to go running after every shiny new toy even when you know that it isn’t central to your (business) goal. But you will learn how detrimental it can be, and if you learn fast enough, you will ensure you don’t stray from the goal. The distractions could be ego-battles in the midst of assignments with deadlines or the temptation to start a new business line though it’s not aligned to the central vision. You have to ensure you focus on the target (even if it’s a moving one).

At the centre of it all, is the passion & energy that you are surrounded by. Nothing quite like it anywhere else!

India And The Art of Honking

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What is it about us in India and honking? This is something we have perfected as a skill over the years. The Art of Honking. My quiet neighbourhood has transformed into a busy lane with cars honking at all hours of the day & night with scant regard for it’s residential status. What’s worse is that the horns have gotten louder & shriller & are guaranteed to cause a pounding headache should you so desire to leave your windows open. In most countries, it is considered rude to honk and is only done in the case of emergencies. But here it’s non-stop. I have now learned to distinguish these from the countless cars that disturb the peace every second.

The Vuvuzela Rival Honking

Even before the World Cup happened, we had Vuvuzela equivalents – lean on the horn all the way down the road you are driving on, trying to get a hapless auto or other slow driver to give you space, where there is none. The belief is that honking non-stop will make the driver in front of you abandon his vehicle out of fear of debilitating damage to his eardrums. Invariably these honkers also have the loudest & most shrill horns and leave you with a repugnant feeling that’s equivalent to nails scratching a blackboard. This is why the Vuvuzela is so popular in India. There are already practitioners here.

Horn OK Please Inspired Honking

We have all grown up seeing this great sign painted on the back of every truck. Many of us seem to have taken this to heart as ‘it’s OK to honk’. in fact, says Wikipedia, “The popular ‘Horn OK Please’ seen on almost all trucks in India bears its roots in the second world war where the trucks were run on kerosene engines. Kerosene, being highly unstable in nature, would cause the trucks to explode at the slightest accident. Hence a warning would be painted on the back saying ‘Horn Please,On Kerosene’.Gradually this became a norm and is still seen on most trucks even today.” There are other explanations on the same wiki. But I am going this one.

I suppose, somewhere along the way, the part about kerosene got lost, and it became only about honking. So it’s OK to honk, and because it’s OK, it must be done at the slightest opportunity. Traffic slowing down? HONK. Traffic jammed & nothing moving for miles? HONK. Person crossing the street? HONK. Cyclist in your path? HONK. Building gate closed? HONK. Don’t like that you have to yield to “right of way”? HONK. Want to double park your car on a busy street? HONK. It’s all OK, please.

I Am Behind You Honking

There’s another set who honk for no apparent reason even if the traffic is moving smoothly and no pedestrian is jumping onto the road. The motivation for this appears to be purely as a warning for the car in front. In case, for some freakish reason that car is not equipped with a rear-view mirror, or it’s there but the driver forgets to look into it, this constant beep-beep is to remind them that there is a car behind them. After all, it’s so unexpected in our traffic, isn’t it?

Just In Case Honking

There’s another breed that believes that one should honk just in case… after all, life is unpredictable, you never what will happen next. So keep honking just in case someone or something materializes out of nowhere. I believe that this nifty trick is taught in our driving schools (as narrated by a friend who’s mum learnt driving) – just keep honking, to be on the safe side. Nevermind if no one else can understand what’s got your goat.

Watch The Signal Honking

This honking occurs the maximum within the 5 seconds before & after a signal turns green & is meant to test the reflex actions of drivers in front. Heaven forbid the driver has managed to relax for 20 seconds at a red traffic light, this incessant honking is a public service to alert him/ her that the signal is about to turn green & to prod them into moving their car at the very instant the light changes. Even a miniscule forward movement (that achieves nothing because no cars are moving yet) is enough to assure these drivers that you do in fact intend to move your car & are not just waiting at the signal for the joy of it.

Do you know more such honking traits? Feel free to comment!

Image source: Zazzle.com

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My Trip to France – Art, Food, Wine, Beauty

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Long, long pending posts about my France & Italy trip in March 2010. It was so amazing that I wrote this one How to Make the Most of Your Travel Experience just to share my views on traveling! With some 1200 photos, umpteen curios, plenty of cheese and wine and some fantastic people, this turned out to be one of the best trips to Europe that I have ever had. My posts are going to be less about documenting every place we visited and more about the enjoyable moments. Is this for myself or readers? Both, I think!

Aix-en-Provence

Starting with the South of France, where our friends, Tanvi & Julien played gracious hosts to perfection, & their little son, Rohan, was the sweetest face to see every morning with that bright, beaming smile. The town of Aix-en-Provence is picture perfect (as is everything else in the region). Originally called Aquas Sextias & in existence since 122 BC, it has a lovely main street with a large fountain, Cours Mirabeau. We stayed at the Mazarin Quarter which had everything from a cinema hall to proximity to the markets. There’s a lot of emphasis on dressing well, as evidenced by people even taking their dogs for a walk. The clothes, scarves, hats, shoes are all in harmony and the sneakers & rough-it-out pants look makes you really stand out.

Mazarin Cinema Aix-en-provenceThe Market, Aix-en-provenceApart from wandering around the Aix markets (& loving every minute of it!), the highlights of the trip were the visit to Cezanne’s studio & the climb up St Victoire. Cezanne was born in Aix and worked here & the roads are marked with a seal around all the places where he lived/ studied/ worked. His studio (Atelier Cezanne) is a huge room with windows from floor to ceiling, where his clothes & his art tools are still preserved. No photography allowed inside. I just loved seeing that room with large easels and the old furniture. A master artist’s place of work. Climbing the St Victoire, that appears so often in Cezanne’s work added to the charm of Provence. On the way down, we stopped at a cafe where I got locked inside the loo for almost 15 minutes until Louella (my travel partner) came looking for me!  It was not a particularly new occurrence as the waiter opened it very matter-of-factly with a knife and waltzed off.

France is all about wine and cheese and desserts and we had our fill of everything. Multi-course meals with different wines for each course, cheese platters… aah my mouth waters just thinking about it. The sensuousness of Europe is enhanced by the food & drink, such an integral part of the experience. I know the tendency (given our supremely jaw-socking exchange rate) is to eat budget food, & that’s what I have done before myself, but eating more like the locals gave an entirely different perspective to the place. The lunch at Julien’s parents place in particular was lovely,  but more than that the architecture and decor of the home was even more beautiful.

Arles, Marseille, Cassis

We also used Aix as a base and visited nearby towns & villages. We visited Arles, Marseilles and Cassis from here as day trips. Arles is a village famous for it’s Roman Amphitheatre dating back to the 1st century BC. It looks like time stood still here, with it’s quaint square & intricate doorways. It’s charming to walk through and lined with little shops that you feel like stopping at.  Marseilles was very different, the port town, hub of the region and full of life. The walk to the BBoats at CassisasilCalanques at Cassisica of the Notre Dame on top of the hill took us through many of the little streets & houses, a throw-back to scenes from movies made in the 40s & 50s. The port itself is very busy & full of large boats. By this time we were also getting used to the fact that salt doesn’t find it’s way into the food much. Sitting in a cafe watching the world go by was one of our favourite activities. Cassis, which we would not have gone to, had it not been for Julien’s recommendation, was beautiful. The quintessential rich coastal town with mansions overlooking the ocean, majestic boats and fast cars. It’s known for the Calanques – limestone cliffs in stark contrast to the aqua blue waters. They were created around 12,000 years ago & actually surrounding valleys, but the ocean levels rose after the ice age. Going to Cassis & doing the walk up the Calanques is highly recommended. It provides spectacular views of the coastline.

Nice & Eze

After spending a week in Aix & around, we said goodbye to T, J & R and moved to Nice. Since we were visiting in March, it happened to rain on the days that we were there, so we go to see a different side of it. It’s sunny 300 days of the year, we were told… I guess just not when we were there. Nice has lots to see & many parts of it look just like they are out of a movie set, which isn’t surprising given how perfectly co-ordinated everything is. Place Massena, the large square is the hub of plenty of activity including live performances on the street. We saw one by Native Americans & even bought their CDs. The antiques market in Cours Saleya was the most memorable part of the Nice, with curios, art, prints, clothes, furniture. I bought an Art Deco cup & saucer & a few other pieces here, browsing was just as much fun. Nice in the old quarter is full of tiny cobbled streets & old style lanterns but also houses pubs and restaurants, most of which have an open air section. Lou managed to get locked in the loo (ironic, eh?) this time round! We had some delicious salad with goat cheese & also the local specialty

From Nice, we also went to Eze, a charming medieval village through which you can spend atleast half a day walking around. It was covered in mist & we felt like we were in a fairytale. The old structures are intact and homes and shops are all there, housed in stone covered walls. From the Jardin Exotique (Exotic Garden), you can see Nice & the Cote D’Azur (The Azure Coast) – there is nothing like it! If there was one place that left it’s mark on us, it was Eze. Dreamland personified (Not the Inception kind).

EzeFrom Nice we flew to Rome, which will be the subject of another post, with much drama at the Nice airport when we almost missed our flight because we were sitting the wrong section. We would have in fact missed it were it not delayed by 40 minutes, a fact we learnt only after much panic stricken running through Nice airport.

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