Nice: Highs and Lows

I told you about how amazing and magical France was, but I missed out telling you about the things that happened to us in Nice that brought us crashing back into reality.

We got robbed.  : |

Well, not all of us. But two from the group. We were staying at the Novotel in Monte Carlo and took a train to Nice in the morning with the intention of checking out the Cours Saleya (because I was fascinated by it and I was deciding the itinerary for Monte Carlo and Nice).

We got off at the station, walked out, and came to a tramway. We decided we’d take the tram and get off at the stop closest to Cours Saleya. It took us a while to figure out how to buy the tickets (since everything was written in french).

Tourists are so invasive no? :P

While some of us were busy trying to figure out the ticket thing, the rest were waiting by the side patiently and apologizing to the locals who came by for crowding their ticket booth (and I was taking pictures of course :P). The tram we finally got into was super crowded (almost like the Bombay trains, but not as bad) and that’s where it happened. Apparently they were very quick and skillful and they got in and out before you could say HEY! 

One of the girls lost 40 euros from her handbag and one of the guys lost his wallet that contained everything from his driving license to credit cards as well as ALL the money he had left for the trip except for a 100 euros which was in our “bank” (we keep a fund for common expenses such as eating out and museum tickets etc). He spent a fair amount of time at the police station, waiting with a bunch of other people who were also robbed. When asked if this was quite common, the cops laughed at him and said ” It is the season for it! You need to be careful!”

The robbery kinda put a damper on things for a bit, but Nice is too charming a place for you to stay mad at it for too long. Besides, you live and learn don’t you. No use moping about it and ruining the rest of your time there.

It was a hot, sunny day and we were quite tired out by the events of the day thus far, so we were looking for a nice cool place to have lunch at. We found a lovely little bar & restaurant at Cours Saleya (I forget the name). It had dark wood interiors and was nice and cool after the heat outside. We cooled off with a lovely cocktail of fruit and champagne that was tangy, bubbly and completely addictive (but too expensive for multiple orders).

I ordered a salad as a starter, which was lovely and so filling I couldn’t even put a dent on the mains!

“starter” that ended up being my main dish!

 

Of course, by the time the others were done  with the mains, I was ready for dessert! Now, when you order 2 scoops of ice cream in Dubai, that’s exactly what you get – two simple scoops of ice cream.

But this is France! Even their vanilla, if you think about it, is french vanilla (sooo much more delicious than regular vanilla!), so when they came with my order, my eyes almost popped!

fee fie fo fum, to what do I owe this treat so white and crimson! :P

Two massive scoops of ice-cream topped with whipped cream, in a jar! You had to dig through the cream to get to the ice-cream!

and it was good!

 

After that, we were too full to do much. The Cours Saleya is along the Promenade des Anglais, and we went to beach for a bit and swam in the ice-cold waters of the Mediterranean Sea. We headed back in the evening. I was all sticky from the seawater and smelling of the sea, but so was everyone else around me, and somehow, being together in our sea-smelliness made it okay!

On the way back, we came across a very interesting parade… but that kinda deserves a whole different post!

So until next time, au revoir!

 

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The Best Laid Plans…

I guess this is why they say you can’t go back.

I wasn’t impressed with Salalah the second time round, unfortunately. It’s weird, cos I was much more prepared this time round, we’d booked hotels, I was going with friends I’d been to several trips with and was comfortable being around them, but it was not a good trip, altogether.

I guess sometimes we tend to look through rose-tinted glasses about the past, conveniently forgetting the painful moments, and when you try and and go back, the glasses come off and reality bites you in the ass. Quite literally too, for us! Wadi Darbat was still beautiful, but the bugs there were relentless (which I had conveniently forgotten about from the past trip) and bit our arms and legs with a renewed fury and have left itchy, angry red spots all over! The magic road was still freaky (we even laid out a bottle and it rolled back upwards against gravity and all that is logical!) The frankincense trail was beautiful in the night.

But the Hilton Salalah was a disappointment. It was a very old hotel, and though it was clean, it smelled musty, like the smell of old, damp houses, and that got my allergies going, and since I was there for 3 days, I got sicker and sicker day after day! I exhausted all my emergency meds as well as all the tissues in the hotel and was miserable as hell! I was ravenous from all the sneezing (which is an exhausting business!) but couldn’t taste any food by the end, which is a pretty bad state to be in! The spread at the hotel was not all that great to begin with, so I guess I didn’t miss much.

The ride back home was interminable and we got held up at customs longer than we expected due to a faulty system, so when I finally got home at 4am, I was exhausted. I spent all day at home, drinking fluids and trying to feel better, which is a miserable way to spend your birthday, don’t you think? I managed to drag myself to dinner with the gang in the evening, but birthday-wise, this one was pretty disappointing.

To be fair to the place, I guess I’m more upset about falling sick which kinda ruined everything else for me. But I still won’t go back to Salalah again.

Independence Day

Do you enjoy your work? Your job? Are you free to walk out in the streets by yourself without fear? Are you able to dress in what you are comfortable in and not be judged or looked at lasciviously or groped? Are you able to have a drink without being molested and then blamed for it cos “you ASKED for it” cos you chose to drink? Are you able to travel without a male chaperone?

Are you really Free?

Rewind

They’ve declared the Eid holidays, and I just found out I’m getting 3 days off. Which means I get a really long weekend (Fri-Tues).

Eid of 2008 was when I went on my first road trip. I’ve blogged about it here, but only spoke about the drive there and not the trip itself. Though I largely have fond memories of the trip, there were a few annoying things that happened which I believe could have been prevented if we’d been better prepared!

For one thing, we hadn’t booked a hotel. Which is a big mistake if you’re going to a small place like Salalah. The only decent place to stay there is the Crowne Plaza. We had naively gone assuming we could easily get rooms and were nonplussed to find out they didn’t even have a vacant broom closet we could squeeze into. It should have been obvious I suppose, but we were completely inexperienced travelers then and didn’t think this would be such a popular destination for Eid.

After we were shown the door at CP, we drove around looking for a place to stay, but most places were fully booked and we finally ended up staying in a creepily large hotel that was almost devoid of patrons or even staff!

The lonely waitress at the empty restaurant didn’t know what half the items on the menu were and looked confused and lost, as if she didn’t know what she was doing at the hotel in the first place! The rooms looked okay, but hadn’t been used or dusted in a long time. In the shower, I bumped my elbow against the soap-dish and it fell off it’s hinges! It wasn’t screwed on and the hinges were rusted through and was sickening to look at! I quickly finished up and ran the hell outta there, wanting to spend as little time in the hotel as possible, which was the only good thing , if you wanna look for a bright side! :P

Salalah itself is quite lovely during this season! I remember losing our way and almost ending up in Yemen on our way to Marneef caves. I remember being awed by how high the waves were that crashed against the cliff, when we finally got to the caves, and how lovely the lights looked in the mist.

I remember our car going at 25 kmph on neutral on the Magic Road (random video there, that’s not our car). I remember lovely weather, beautiful landscapes, and their ridiculously slow pace of life.

I went there with four others, whom at the time I didn’t know very well. The rest of my friends from the group haven’t been there yet.

So, for this Eid, I’m going there again, with the gang. This time, we’ve made hotel bookings in advance. ;)

PS: I know I know! I’ve been going to so many places this year! I hope I won’t jinx anything, cos I’m loving all this travel! 

Photo Credits: My friend Nitin, and his awesome SLR.

Go-Ahh! :D

Annnd I’m back!

Back from my impromptu little sojourn to the most chilled-out place ever. It’s like everyone’s walking around in a stoned haze or something! Which wouldn’t surprise me, considering I walked into Martin’s Corner and instantly smelled pot in the air! I breathed in deeply and exclaimed to sis “I’m gonna love it here!” :D

And who wouldn’t? What with the delicious sea-food and their cheap alcohol and laid-back attitude, the place is a haven for a wannabe beach bum (I prefer mountains, but who can say no to alcohol and good food at these prices?).

I arrived at seven in the morning on Friday to cloudy skies and beautifully lush green landscape. I felt like I was in Kerala, the flora is so very similar! I was staying in South Goa, which is quieter than the north, the party-place. This suited me and sis fine as we are not really into the crazy party scene, and cos it was off-season, we got a very good rate at the hotel as well.

As there is no direct flight from Dxb-Goa and I had to take a connecting flight which basically meant I had to keep running through various airports from 10pm till 6am and was exhausted by the time I’d reached Goa. When I reached the hotel, I took a shower to wash away the grime of 3 cities and fell into the kinda deep, dreamless sleep that comes with exhaustion. I woke up around noon, famished and salivating at the thought  of goan fish curry and rice.

Lunch at Calangute

The hotel lunch, unfortunately, was a bit disappointing. I think what happens at hotels is they try to cater to a wider audience and so compromise on authenticity and opt for bland, safer food. It wasn’t bad, but not as good as the Goan food I’ve had previously (or since).

My sis arrived by the afternoon flight, and we headed straight to the massive pool at the hotel. The water was lovely and cool, perfect for the weather. The pool was surrounded by lovely coconut palms on one side and a massive bar at one corner. The clouds stayed gray and lovely, with a beautiful breeze  bringing us the smell of the lovely frangipani trees a little away. We stayed there for a very long time,  talking non-stop and jumping from topic to topic, running away with our thoughts and so into catching up after so long that we didn’t realize that we had become as wrinkled as a couple of prunes! When we finally got out of the pool, we were both hungry again. Dinner was at Martin’s Corner, where sis got super tipsy after a couple of sips of their very potent Long Island iced tea, or maybe the smell of weed in the air had something to do with it as well!  ;) The food was delicious, and and the conversations hilarious, thanks to the LiiTs!

Aguada Fort

The next day was mainly spent in North Goa and in the evening, we checked out St. Xavier’s church and then headed to Panjim to meet Haathi. She took us to dinner at the lovely Portuguese restaurant – Venite. Meeting Haathi didn’t really feel like I was meeting someone new! I felt like I already knew her, the conversation was easy and flowed just as easily as the feni!

At the end of it, she took us for a nightly stroll along the lovely Portuguese-style houses and I was so distracted with things that I forgot to give her the gift I got her from dxb. :( I felt like an idiot about that, cos I kept reminding myself to not leave it at the hotel… and I didn’t… I left it in the car. *sigh*

Oh well! This just means I’ll have to go back and meet her again, na? :)

Beat the Heat

I was so busy in the office these past couple of weeks that I’ve been working myself to the bone and then coming home exhausted and too mentally wrung out to do ANYthing else.  Though we’re supposed to have reduced working hours for Ramadan, I’ve been staying at work till 7-8pm on most days. Not to mention that it is hot here! This summer’s been the hottest and most difficult that I can remember, with temperatures rising to 50 deg C and lowering only to 40 deg C in the nights.

bit warm, isn’t it?

At work, I had no time to think! My boss was on leave and I was doing his work as well, so I’d be running around from his meetings to mine and then rush back to finish work and when I got home (late) and finally got a chance to catch my breath, the assault of all the emotions pent-up from my day  would leave me exhausted. I would just lie on the couch, surfing the channels continuously, not able to retain interest in anything. I’d fall asleep and wake up hours later, freezing to death, and then drag myself to bed.

I stopped cooking. I’d order take-away or eat maggi. I stopped exercising (other than the mandatory yoga in the morning to control the pain of overworking myself). I stopped cleaning. So there’s piles of newspapers stacked around the house, most still in covered in plastic. The ones that have the plastic taken off are those that I don’t pick up early enough in the morning, so someone “borrows” them and after reading, brings it back. I would have been more exasperated with that, except, I feel slightly better that at least someone is reading the paper and it isn’t going completely to waste. Plus, exasperation takes effort too, and I just couldn’t be bothered.

But thankfully, my boss is quite cool. He gets the all-work-and-no-play-makes-me-cranky mindset (he’s the same) and so he gave me a day off next Sunday (our regular weekends are on Fri-Sat, this being the Middle East). I also got my commissions for the last quarter, and because we did so well last quarter, I’m rich (for like, a month :P)!

So I called my sis and made plans to meet. I mailed Haathi and asked her how the weather was in her neck of the woods, and after hearing  how lovely the rains are and seeing my car’s thermometer rise to crazy levels and stay there, I decided to go to Goa for the weekend! :D

By the time you read this, I’ll have landed in Goa and be enjoying my welcome drink from a nice lounge at the hotel (I hope!). This will be my first trip to anywhere with just my sis.  I’m so looking forward to this!  The rains,  spending time with sis, meeting  Haathi, exploring the Goan landscape and eating the awesome local cuisine … can’t wait! :D

I’ll see you on the other side of this mini-holiday!

Stay cool!