Ayubowan!

To take advantage of the long weekend, we took a mini-vacation to Sri Lanka.

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Anantara, Kalutara

We stayed at the lovely Anantara in Kalutara, where they’ve mastered the whole dreamy resort vibe with wide, airy corridors and a wonderful blend of soothing warm wooden floors and lush green lawns combined with the turquoise blue of the infinity pool gently rippling away outside. The vintage-looking ceiling fans carries a gentle breeze that’ll have you drifting off into blissful sleep after that final sip of tender coconut water. And I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to sloth it and just stay that way till the end of your holiday, but the country has a lot to offer, so we managed to get off our bums and explore a bit.

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Czech it Out!

Where has the year gone?! I canNOT believe it is December already!

The last post I had on here was in July, right before my trip to Goa. And now… it’s 5 months later and so much has happened and yet so little has changed that I’m not sure if the stuff I have to say is even worth saying anymore, you know?

I got back from Goa and the week after, flew back to India again, to Kerala this time, to visit the parents. Got back, and went on a few usual rounds around the middle east for work … Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain etc. One of the more unusual work trips though, was to Prague. That was in… September I think. Yeah, the end of September, it was.

The weather in Prague was surprisingly warm for that time of year. I stayed back a couple of days after work to check out the city, which was nice, but also a bit depressing, cos Prague is a romantic city and the place was filled with couples, while I wandered around by myself, finding myself having to explain multiple times that Yes! I *amm* all by myself, table for ONE! No, no one else… I don’t KNOW why Goddammit! Just get me the wine already!! 

Being alone didn't reduce my appetite any! :P

Being alone didn’t reduce my appetite any! :P

I went on a fantastic segway tour of the place, which has got to be the most fun way to explore a city ever!

honeymead... it's delicious! Like... a fairy-tale drink!

honeymead… it’s delicious! Like… a fairy-tale drink!

Went around the entire city for over 3 and a half hours even though I’d signed on for just a 2 hr thing. The guide got carried away in his enthusiasm to show me around the place I guess. *grin*

love locks bridge

love-locks bridge (like in Paris)

I was there for 6 days, and on the evening of the 5th night, I made a shocking discovery! I had just gotten back from my segway tour, and was tired out and freezing to death. I had just had dinner at the microbrewery down the road from my lovely boutique hotel ( table for one again) and was walking back to the hotel when I decided to get some water from the grocery store right next to the hotel. I walked in and saw this:

"happy" popsicles!

“happy” popsicles!

The place has legalized marijuana!!  The “grocery store” had everything I could possibly imagine, made of weed! Weed cookies, weed chocolates, weed vodka!! The massage parlour next door even had a cannabis oil massage!!! And I was leaving the next day??!

Maybe it was just as well… maybe if I’d known about this before, I’d probably be stoned out of my mind on that oil massage and have missed my flight and forgotten about my life back in Dubai.

Or maybe… that’s why it’s taken me this long to blog again! ;D

If It Rains, We’ll Just Get Wet!

wet wet wet!

wet wet wet!

I’m headed to Goa for the weekend. I leave on Thursday morning and am back by Saturday.

Two really fun people who lived about 10 minutes away from each other for most of their lives without really getting to know one another met after a series of failed relationships and life incidents that left them pretty disillusioned till cupid hit them right between the eyes and they never looked back. They’re getting married in Goa, monsoon wedding and all, and the rest of us are going to cheer them on.

I’ll be back on Sunday, so it’s going to be a short trip. But it looks like it’ll be a fun one, and I could do with some fun! I’ve been feeling pretty horrid lately about a bunch of stuff, so hopefully, this will be the breath of fresh air the doctor would have ordered. ;)

Cheers!

Catalan Cuisine

I didn’t take my camera with me for the past couple of trips I made. It needs cleaning and I’ve been too lazy to get to the service center to have it done, which means that I have to rely on my phone camera for pictures. So you’re going to have to excuse the not-so-great quality of the pics below, which do absolutely no justice to the food I had in Spain.

Of course, we started our journey with sangria. Any self-respecting traveler knows that the first rule of travel is to sample the local brew, be it beer or wine, or arak, or absinthe even (if you ever meet my friends, ask them what happened in Mallorca, cos I don’t have a friggin clue! Absinthe took for me that night).

Sangria. Loads of it!

There was sangria. And loads of it!

Anyhooo… let’s talk about food shall we?

mmm!

Breakfast in Barca

Have I mentioned my new-found love for tapas? You just get to try a lot more things than with one main dish, which makes so much sense!

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Fried jalapenos, and that’s artichokes & patata brava in the bg. All delicious!

This one tapas bar we went to in Barcelona was self-service. You just go to the bar, take as many tapas as you like, go back to your table and tuck in. While we were eating, we wondered how they were going to keep track of our consumption.

Tapas Bar. Best concept ever!

Tapas!

Turns out, the little toothpicks that were on the bite-sized food was not just for our convenience. They’d count the number of toothpicks at the end of the meal and charge you accordingly.

Of course, the concept of tapas is only in the big cities. Once you enter the countryside, the restaurants are rustic and homely, serving up food that is delicious, but with massive portions that were impossible to finish (for me anyway)!

On my first day in Cordoba, the owner of the B&B my friends and I were staying at asked us if we’d like to try the “Andalusian breakfast”.  It’s fresh tomato paste on warm bread with olive oil. The flavours are simple, yet delicious and rustic, though it’s not something I’d have on a regular basis.

Andalusian breakfast

Andalusian breakfast

This of course was just part of the breakfast that included cereal, fruits, chorizo, cold cuts, preserves and fantaaaaaastic cheese that you have to grate using a rotary device that makes the cheese come out in little florets.

best cheese ever! And chorizo

pretty cheese!

The orange juice was one of the best I’ve tasted. I think it only compares to the one I had in Cappadocia. I guess food just tastes better in the mountains.

food tastes better int the mountains

food tastes better here!

Speaking of mountains… I had my first brush with real snow (I’ve been to Ski Dubai and see the manufactured variety) only this year when I went to Sierra Nevada. I’m not much of a skier obviously. Once I fell down when I was simply standing around talking, just cos I had skis on and somehow lost my balance. So I spent more time building snowmen and throwing snowballs than actually skiing, but it was a fantastic day nonetheless.

But playing in the snow is hard work too, and it is only when you get back down on level ground you realize how ravenous you are. We went to this cosy little cafe called Cafe Vertical and wolfed down hotdogs and hot chocolate and churros like it was going out of style!

Hearty meal after a day in the snow

Best. Hotdog. Ever!

 

Food memories always have a special place in our hearts don’t they? I think it’s cos it takes us back to those wonderful moments when we first had a bite of something new or delicious and everything around that moment is brought back to us, if only for a fleeting instant. It’s more than just about eating, wouldn’t you agree?

Through Beer Goggles

Copenhagen was fantastic! It’s the first time I’ve been to a country with absolutely no itinerary or plan whatsoever. It’s also the first time I ended up checking out only the pub scene and nothing else! I have absolutely no complaints though, it was the most fun I’ve had on a “work trip” thus far!

The conference itself was fun, which was… a surprise I guess, more than anything else. Who knew my colleagues were such party animals! I spent the nights drinking and the days nursing a hangover while trying to sit through the sessions for work. I was running on 2-3 hours of sleep and gallons of coffee. So obviously, by the weekend, I was exhausted, but knew I had to keep going cos there was a lot of partying left to do!

On Friday afternoon, I checked out of the hotel, said goodbye to my colleagues and went to the airbnb apartment I’d rented out in Norrebro. It was small, but cosy and full of character.

Bearded lady (before Conchita Wurst became famous)

Bearded lady poster (before Conchita Wurst became famous)

There were walls and walls of books and DVDs, which, though I did not get a chance to actually read or watch, was lovely to just have around.

Remedy for a rainy day

Remedy for a rainy day

But I didn’t really spend too much time in the house. I was too busy pub-hopping, drinking crazy concoctions throughout the night and dancing to 90s music ( Denmark is crazy for 90s music! I felt like I’d gone back in time!)

The Zombie

The Zombie

That first night of pubbing I got back home at 5:30 in the morning.

Outside Zef Side, around 5am, taking a break

Outside Zef Side, around 4am, getting some air

I woke up late in the afternoon and went for a walk to clear my head, and to get something to eat. That’s when I chanced upon this lovely little place. Cafe Laekkerier is a fantastic little cafe where they serve Danish dishes with a Latin twist as the owner is Latino.

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Cafe Laekkerier

The owner, John, is friendly and welcoming, with kind eyes and an open smile. I ordered the chicken mouuse sandwich he recommended, which was the best darn sandwich I’ve eaten in my life!

Chichken mousse sandwich

Chicken mousse sandwich

I washed that down with a bottle of organic beer, then feasted on lemon pie topped with melted marshmallows, singed to perfection, for dessert.

lemon pie!!

lemon pie!!

Later that evening, There was another night of pubbing left, and I set off again.

irish pub

At an Irish pub, somewhere in CPH

 

But I’d gotten a little weary of it after a whole week of drinking till dawn. So I said goodbye to my friends including the guy who’d been my guide through Denmark’s nightlife for the past 2 days, and took a cab back to the apartment around 1am to finally sleep off the excesses of the week.

I woke up to a dull and dreary morning, with rain pelting down. Which was just as well, cos I’d have to leave in a few hours, and it’s always easier to leave a place when you know you’re going to sunnier shores.

I wish I’d had more time to enjoy Denmark though. I know I’d go back in a heartbeat simply to eat that sandwich again! But until then… there’s always other places to go to eh? ;)

I do have a lot of travel coming up soon! Stay tuned!

Work & Play

My work trips are usually to boring places. I handle the Middle East, so my travel usually revolves around places like Qatar-Oman-Bahrain-Kuwait… places that you’d not normally want to visit unless you have work there. But once in a while, we have these team meetings and conferences that happen in cool places. Last year we were to fly to Barcelona, but unfortunately, none of us in the office got our visas on time from the embassy, due to which we couldn’t go. This time however, we got the visas done, and I’m all set to go.

I’m not really looking forward to the conference itself (I’ve several workshops I have to participate in and stuff to prepare for which I have yet to do!!) but after the conference, I’m staying back a couple of days to check out the place. I’ve never been to Denmark, so it should be an interesting trip.

I’m back on Sunday, probably sleep-deprived, hopefully richer by the experience.   Either ways, you’ll hear about it here. Cheers!

Incomplete Chaos

I had a baby shower to attend last Saturday. As you know, my work-life is crazy busy and threatening to take over the rest of it, so when I found out that the theme was ethnic wear, I panicked a little as I didn’t have anything I could wear for the occasion. I figured I’d have to buy something, but finding the time for it was the issue.

I got back from a business trip to Qatar on … Tuesday (?! I think!) and then was pressed for time as I’m usually running around from one meeting to another even when I’m in the country. So on Wednesday, when I realized that time was running out, I rushed to this shop I knew where they sold enthic wear and bought a dress in between meetings. I promptly forgot about it till Saturday, when I wanted to get ready and realized that the dress was still lying in the car. 

My friends were coming to pick me up, so I had to rush. I quickly dressed in jeans and a t shirt and decided I’d just take the bag from my car and dress up at my friend’s place, where the baby shower was happening. I got to their house, we walked in and realized we were the first ones there. Which was lucky I suppose, cos when I went inside to change, I realized the shop had forgotten to pack the salwar (pants) part of the outfit!!

There I was, walking around in indignation, in my kurta and dupatta and no pants! My friends were chuckling and sniggering away, except for the one guy who didn’t think anything was amiss and when I asked him whether he didn’t think anything was missing said ” Oh yeah! The sleeves?”  IT’S A SLEEVELESS DRESS DUDE!! *rolling eyes*

Anyway… I called the shop up, yelled “Where are my pants??!” to the delight of my friends who burst out laughing, and they delivered the pants to me in 20 mins ( the shop was thankfully very close to the host’s house). So tell me, is it just me, or do these things happen to everyone?!

Life Getting in the Way of Living

Let me tell you what my life looks like nowadays.

Take yesterday, for example. I got to work, which has been increasingly stressful for the last 6 months, with a lot of crap going on that I don’t think I should talk about here. Suffice to say I spent 10 mins crying in the loo, it was that bad. (I never cry at work. It’s happened ONCE before, and even then I was much younger, a rookie).

I left office early, at 5:30pm… only because I had a flight to catch to Qatar (for work of course! No one goes to Qatar if they can help it!) at 10pm. I got home. I was hungry, cos I’d only eaten half a sandwich (stress makes me lose my appetite) at noon for lunch, but I’d no time to eat cos the cab would come to pick me up soon. My day had started at 5:30am, and I’d not really been able to sleep well for a week or so, so I was exhausted and decided to take a 5 min nap. I woke up when the cabbie called telling me he’s waiting downstairs.

I jumped out of bed, packed everything in 5 mins and ran out the door. I got to the airport and got to the gate at 9pm, ten mins before boarding was to officially start. I saw that they were boarding people early, but I figured I had time for a quick bite to eat, so went to the nearby cafe and ordered a quiche. I sat down to eat it, and just as I’d put a forkful of food into my mouth, I heard the *final boarding call* for my flight. I was confused… cos my boarding pass said they would start … oh why bother! I discarded the quiche *sob* and ran (literally ran!) to the gate. That’s when I realized I didn’t have my laptop bag on me. I must have left it at the cafe. So I hauled ass back to the cafe, but the woman at the counter said she hadn’t seen any laptop bag.

There was a moment of wild-eyed panic cos I wasn’t sure where the hell else I could have possibly left it. I ran back to the gate and explained my predicament to the officer there. By now, people were starting to notice the crazy woman running to and fro between Gate 10 and Paul’s Patisserie. The guy who works those golf-cart type cars was parked there looking at me going back and forth like a ping-pong ball with a look of pity on his face that made me want to start crying all over again. The officer at the gate gave me 10 mins to retrace my steps and find my bag before he closed the gate.

I turned away from the gate wondering where to start when suddenly, the golf-cart driver beeped his horn, and when I turned around, I saw him driving to me with my laptop bag sitting beside him. Apparently the chef at the cafe found it and gave it to him. I thanked him profusely. But words like “thank you” seems strangely insufficient at times like this. I got to the plane, ate the crummy little egg sandwich and a sorry little cupcake they served and fell asleep watching The Big Bang Theory.

I woke up in Qatar, arriving at the same time I’d left cos of the 1 hour time difference, with only my body clock complaining confusedly. The line at immigration looked like it was inspired by Lucifer himself, serpentine and long enough to make me wonder if I should just kill myself then and be done with it. I finally got to my hotel much after midnight. But no, the night was not over, cos you see.. I still had work left to do before I went to sleep. I managed to send a couple of mails before I finally succumbed to sleep. I’ve been up since 6:30am, working. And I just realized I’ve forgotten my laptop charger.

Help!

Time Travel

Did you know that long long ago, a Spanish prince ordered almond trees to be planted on the mountains so that his Scandinavian wife, who was pining for the landscape of the snow-covered white mountains she grew up in, would feel less homesick?

Then, the people were left with so many almonds that they didn’t know what to do with them. And that is how turron came to be! Our guide Catherine told me this story as I was tasting turron for the first time in one the shops tucked into a narrow lane in Barcelona. She gave more details, like names and times, but I always forget those very easily. I remember the essence and the romance of the stories, everything else is a little hazy.

Catherine was our guide for this walking tour of old Barcelona we’d signed up for. She’s an Irish art history student and had lived in Spain for 4 years, which I thought was wonderful, cos it’s long enough to know things from a local’s point of view and yet, not that long ago to remember the things that fascinate you about a new place.

 

lanes

exploring the narrow lanes of Barri Gothic

 

She took us around the Barri Gothic and the Roman barracks (what was left of it), down narrow winding lanes and past massive cathedrals, telling us wonderful and sometimes sad stories about it all.

I listened in horrific fascination about 13 year old Eulalia who was tortured in 13 different terrible ways by the Romans who wanted her to stop following Christianity. One of the tortures involved putting her in a barrel filled with knives and broken glass and rolling it down the street. When she told us that story, I was standing on the very same street the barrel rolled down on! It felt odd. Seven centuries separated me from that incident, and yet, I felt bad for that poor kid, and marveled at her strength, of the faith she had at such a young age that helped her endure so much. I wondered if it was  precisely because she was that young that she held such conviction.

We later went to the cathedral that held Eulalia’s crypt.

eulalia

Cathedral of the Holy Cross & Saint Eulalia

It was beautiful and cavernous, sad and mournful, busy yet silent, peaceful if you wanted it to be, bustling if you didn’t.

Usually, when I walk past ancient streets and monuments, I wonder. I wonder at their history, the stories those walls hold. This time, I heard the stories, and it was an uplifting experience. Never had history come alive for me like it had in those ancient streets. Almost like I’d gone back in time. It felt a little strange afterwards to shake hands and part with Catherine, figure out a place for lunch, take pictures, drink sangria, clink our glasses together, be happy, be present.

If you’re in Barcelona, of course you must go to the Sagrada Familia.

The Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia

Marvel at the weird genius of Gaudi, the wonderful play of light and colours that he worked with.

inside the Sagrada Familia

 

Go sit on the longest bench in the world at Park Guell, check out the Hansel & Gretel gingerbread-style houses he built there.But if you’re like me, you’ll love the Barri Gothic the best. I realized I love exploring new places, but I especially like them when they’re old. The Barri Gothic was where the magic is, where you feel like you’ve gone back in time and history is coming alive around you.

step back

An Escape

These past few months have been absolutely nerve-wracking and stressful, and with each passing week, things get worse and I wonder what I was thinking about when I thought the previous week was stressful.

I almost don’t feel like going on holiday, cos I wonder what I’ll come back to when I get back to work. But then I’d planned a trip so in advance that I hadn’t anticipated the amount of work or stress I’d be in at this point in my life. But when I think about it, I have done everything I can do at work, the rest of the decisions that are being made are not in my control… so why not just let it all go and take some time off to unwind, right?

So I’m going. I hope that it will be a good trip, this. I hope that I can forget my worries for a bit and just relax so that that my insides stop feeling like it’s been twisted into knots.

I have never felt more like the jaded adult cliche that so many seem to be so well acquainted with, and I hate it. I’m hoping that travel will cure me of this affliction. Traveling makes me feel young and curious and happy and carefree. Like I can believe in magic again. And I so very badly want to believe!

So I’m going on a break to Spain. To Barcelona and Seville and a bunch of places. By the time you read this, I will hopefully be drinking my weight in sangria and forgetting all about the drudgery of corporate life.

Salud!