Tuesday, April 12, 2011
MADAME POMPADOUR'S WRITING SET One of the nicest things about travel is the priceless treasures and other artefacts that you get to see, in museums and private collections, in different parts of the world. Priceless jewels, royal one-of-a kind customised collections, religious art, and countless other objects preserved forever.
TRAVEL SET The most beautiful collection of treasures that I saw recently was at the Residenz (the home of the Wittelbach dynasty) in Munich- in the treasury. It looks more like a private collection of treasures in ten intimate, small rooms than a museum: Duke Albrecht V had made a provision in his will that the treasures collected by him will not be sold and this was the beginning of the Treasury. There are jewel encrusted crowns, , exquisite mobile altar pieces like folded books which provided people with a mass wherever they travelled, a compact travel kit that belonged to a French Princess, stone studded ivory crosses, ornate cups of ostrich eggs and, bejewelled daggers which make for a mesmerizing morning. I loved some of the pieces like a gold and enamel statue of St George slaying a dragon made of ruby and emeralds. OLIVE STONE BOAT BRONZE VESSEL WITH INSCRIPTIONS
Another great museum where I saw some other unique treasures spirited away from Beijing’s Forbidden City was the National Museum in Taipei, Taiwan. The collections here are so vast that at any one time only about 1% of the treasures are displayed! The show stopper here was a bronze cooking vessel with three legs called the Mao Kung Ting. Inside the vessel are inscriptions from 771 B.C. Another stunner was a tiny boat made from an olive stone: with a covered deck and moveable windows. And that’s not all! The interior has chairs a table, and even dishes! What I really appreciated were the small magnifying glasses which was mounted, so that we could appreciate the details. Another much loved piece is the jadeite bok choy cabbage with semi- translucent leaves and even an artfully carved grasshopper! This has a troubled history attached to it. It was part of the dowry of a Chinese princess, and the symbols on the cabbage like the katydid represented fertility. However the poor princess was not able to conceive and the marriage was doomed. This museum is surely on my list of places to re-visit!
What are the treasures that you have enjoyed seeing? Would love to know...
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
I have travelled to the world’s most carnivorous cities and survived, even enjoyed being a vegetarian! Of course, quite often, I feel like it’s just me against the whole establishment. When I eat at a local restaurant in a strange city and ask,” Do you have anything which is vegetarian; they say, “Yes, we have a lovely plate of steamed vegetables”. But I have learnt to adapt and I can say if you are inventive, you can find interesting options around the world, as a vegetarian.
Some pointers for vegetarians:
1. Plenty of research: Do read up on what is the local food, what vegetarian options exist and write it down so that’s it easy to communicate when there. Make a list of vegetarian restaurants by visiting sites like happy cow.com.
2. A sense of humour: In most countries and cultures, meat is a kind of status symbol and you are perceived to be some kind of freak so it helps if you can see the funny side of things!
3. Know how to say ‘vegetarian’ in the local language. The International vegetarian Union lists a range of vegetarian phrases in various languages. Carry a pocket dictionary from English into the local language. Write down the word for ‘vegetarian’ and ‘no meat’ in the local lingo.
4. Hit the local grocery stores: there is always some form of bread and cheese.
5. Look out for the hidden meats: Beware of stews and soups which usually have some meat broth.
6. Look for local vegetarian specialities like a potato pie in Poland, or a vegetarian thali in India or a Middle Eastern mezze with lots of salads.
7. Carry some back up supplies like dried fruits, granola bars and nuts.
8. Think outside the box: if there is nothing on the menu, order sides like potato wedges, salads and a fruit salad and make a meal of it.
9. Go Italian: What is often available is good vegetarian pasta in a tomato or cream sauce or a vegetarian pizza.
10. Carry a bottle of hot sauce. Even the most uninspired meal can be set right by this
11. I subscribe to the ‘When in Rome’ theory generally. Every culture can give you at least one vegetarian dish. So ask for it!
12. Ask: Unless you ask local people for help you are not likely to get it. So use a phrase book and communicate.
13. Fast food chains like Burger King or Hungry Jacks or Subway usually have at least one vegetarian option Find out in advance if they exist in the city that you are visiting.
Browse the following web sites for some help:
Would love to know your tips and experiences of travelling as a vegetarian?
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
I was in Queensland, Australia after many, many years and it was truly a wonderful experience filled with new friends, good wine and food and exciting travel. The global media famil was to dispel the fears about damage due to floods and to tell the world that Queensland was back in business.
I snorkelled for the first time, breaking a barrier on the Barrier Reef (!!)... I was amply rewarded: the the most astounding underwater life to see. A must- do is the scenic helicopter ride over the reef which gives you an entirely different perspective and the most spectacular views. The Whitsundays, a group of 74 islands where resort development is restricted to just eight islands, is an interesting playground to explore the Barrier reef as well as some pristine beaches and rainforest. Every Queensland itinerary should have these islands on it. Hamilton Island was our first stop (remember the Best Job in the world frenzy?)-where a person was to be appointed as the caretaker of the island, living and travelling these islands and blogging about it. Well now they have something called the Million dollar memo...Do check it out if you are a company and have at least three employees..You can win trips to Queensland Jhttp://milliondollarmemo.com/. Hamilton Island has just golf buggies for transport and the uber luxurious qualia on its northern tip. The island which is just the ultimate escape is however, on Long Island called Paradise Eco Bay. Just twenty people at a time, a central gazebo cum restaurant, thick jungles and a stretch of private beach...this is the most amazing place that I have seen! The only way to reach here is by helicopter transfers and the cost is all inclusive (meals, drinks, accommodation and daily activities like snorkelling trips or island visits). You can base yourself out of Airlie Beach, a party town on the mainland too; we did this for a couple of days. An enjoyable way to see the islands is to hire a sailing ship like the Solway Lass, a turn- of- the century sailing craft. There are good packages for two- three nights with food, drinks and excursions to islands, snorkelling, etc. If you want a taste of adventure try ocean rafting: these inflated vessels were originally rescue boats. Check out http://www.oceanrafting.com.au/. The most enjoyable part of the trip was a sea plane ride to the rock star of these islands called Whitehaven Beach, and a trek to this look out from where we saw a palette of multi- hued sands created by the shifting tides. Our visit to the Sunshine Coast was in adifferent genre and the two high points there was our stay in Hyatt Coolum (a world in itself) and our visit to Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. The Hyatt Coolum is a great destination for those looking for good accommodation, food, golf, and a private stretch of beach. The Australia Zoo gives you all the animal experiences that you may look for. Both highly recommended!
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