Tag Archives: Views

Is This Just Fantasy? Five Magical Locales Around The World

By Rohan:

The greatest joy in traveling comes from finding places that don’t feel real.

Whether they are just out of reach of my comfort zone or completely zany in every possible way, our planet is blessed with a myriad of places that feel right out of a fairy tale.

Here are (in no particular order) places that will absolutely blow your mind in this regard.

1. Park Guell (Barcelona, Spain)

Step into the Gaudi-designed Park Guell, and in an instant, you have escaped the bustling street life of one of Spain’s most popular destinations and entered the imagination of both an artist and a visionary. Gaudi has spread his influence throughout the city, from his house that depicts the tale of St. George and the Dragon to the colossal Sagrada Familia church, and his style is prevalent in this magical outdoor space. Adorned with houses that look like they’re made of gingerbread and featuring the famous tiled salamander, the park is a must-see on your trip to Barcelona.

Park Güell – Source: The Telegraph

 

2. Sacre Coeur (Paris, France)

The City of Lights is considered to be one of the most romantic destinations on earth. From the glimmering Eiffel Tower to the impressive galleries at the Louvre, there is no question that Paris is a hub for honeymooners and lovebirds from around the world. In our opinion, one of the city’s most stunning monuments is Sacre Coeur, a cathedral nestled on a hilltop surrounded by charming shops along cobblestone streets. The warm lights of the city glisten like summer fireflies below as the charm of the hill provides the backdrop for a perfect evening with that special someone.

Sacre Couer – Source: favilletours.com

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Going Up to the Peak in Hong Kong – Takes our Breath Away Every Time

The Peak, Hong Kong

By Lakshmi:

Ask any visitor to Hong Kong what he/she must do before they leave the city and two attractions are bound to feature on the list – The Star Ferry and The Peak.  The Peak is the highest mountain on HongKong Island.  Many a travel article have waxed eloquencies on the entire Peak experience and it is featured on the famous list of 1,000 places to see before you die.

Our first foray to The Peak was over a decade ago when we did the must-do tram ride from Central.  This funicular railway has been in place for over a century and transports passengers from the base of Central to the top of the mountain.  As we went up, we marveled at the skyscrapers that appeared to lean as we zipped by.  And when we got to the top on a clear day, we were taken aback by the absolutely breathtaking 360 degree vistas from the top.  While there are many places in the world that offer beautiful views from a high point, Hong Kong sure had the jewel in the crown.

Like many a tourist, we crossed it off our bucket list and went back down.  The next time I was in Hong Kong, we celebrated a very successful business trip by cabbing to the peak close to midnight for dinner.  The night time views of a city that never sleeps coupled with the superb food made for a moment of tremendous joy and gratitude.

For many years now, Hong Kong has become an annual pilgrimage for the Paupers.  And The Peak is a must do on our list, now elevated to the status of a half day or day long excursion.  We take the Star Ferry from Kowloon to Central and then take front seats on the upper deck of the 15c bus that slowly transports us to the top.  We look at the store fronts in Central, survey the new additions or restaurants we must add to our list, smile as we pass the now familiar Gurudwara as the bus takes hair pin turns weaving its way to the top.  We  absorb the locals boarding the bus, the nannies and chauffers taking kids to school, children playing outside and of course the apartment complexes and homes that house Hong Kong’s wealthiest in some of the toniest, most expensive real estate in the world.  All this happens while we admire the absolutely gorgeous collage created by the ascending peak, the harbor, the skyscrapers, and the people.

Once at The Peak, our first order of business is always to pay obeyance to the views from the top.  The next several hours are spent eating and shopping!  We fuel ourselves with a good cup of capuccino and then invariably end up at the same stores every year that we simply know as our favorites.  Baleno for t-shirts and sweatshirts, a small store with the quirkiest tech accessories, a handbag store run by a woman who knows we will walk away with at least a couple of collage handbags of beautiful places and people, and of course the home decor store for one more piece to add to our collection.

Several hours later, as we walk out debating whether to bus or cab it down, the song “You Take My Breath Away” from Top Gun plays in my head.  Yes, without a doubt, The Peak does this to me each year.

To learn more about The Peak, click here:

http://www.thepeak.com.hk/en/

An Offbeat Experience in Istanbul – Biking Buyukada

By Lakshmi:

“A Turkish Idyll Lost in Time”, read the enticing headline of an article introducing readers to the tranquil island of Buyukada, a two square mile  island in the Sea of Marmara.   Less than a month later, on a clear but somewhat chilly August morning, we were on a ferry watching the Istanbul skyline fade away and the small town of Buyukada welcoming us.

For many years, Istanbul held this special place in my heart.  The history was fascinating, the Turks I knew built an even greater longing to visit, and the yummy Turkish food, especially the Imam Bayildi and Baklava we had sampled in Washington and Germany, left me craving for the authentic culinary experience.

Alas, when we arrived in Istanbul in August, it was overrun with tourists.  Every place we went, we had to stand in long lines and crane our necks to see things.  Travel to us is all about blending into the place, experiencing at least a slice of the local people and life, and unfortunately, every place we went to felt like a giant contest to get in line with half of Europe who seemed to be in town.

It was in this frame of mind that we set out to Buyukada, hoping to get a dollop of old world authentic Turkish charm.  And the island did not disappoint.

As we got off the boat and sauntered onto the island, we were immediately drawn by the small town feel….horse drawn carriages, bikes, people afoot and no cars.  This was already feeling good.

After a quick pick-me-up cup of coffee, we headed over to rent bikes.  Our goal?  Spend the day biking across the island, stopping to take in what our hearts fancied.

The day was indeed the ideal antidote to the rest of our trip, giving us a palette of audio-visual treats.

  • The Ottoman era mansions lining the streets were old, beautiful distinctive structures with architectural interest and ample greenery and foliage.  Many an affluent family from the mainland own a home here and rentals are popular among authors and poets.
  • The horse-drawn carriages transporting people to the two peaks, the clickety clack of the horses’ hooves creating a consistent background score throughout the day
  • Children racing one another, yelling and laughing
  • A set of teenagers racing their bikes, trying to pause, gawk and overtake us
  • People weaving through the market place eating lokmas (turkish donuts) and ice cream
  • The spectacular views from Agia Yorgi, a tiny hilltop church
  • The mares resting for a potty break on the roadside, their smells melding with those of the fragrant flowers carried by the fresh breeze
  • The many small restaurants each vying for our attention by yelling out their menus
  • Just us sitting at the top of a peak, with nothing but the ocean in front of us, reminding us of how gratifying even a small moment can be

As we watched the sun going down, we returned our bikes and made our way to a ferry packed to the brim with people heading back to the mainland.  As Buyukada gradually faded away and the distant lights of Istanbul twinkled on the horizon, we reflected on the day and agreed that this would be one Istanbul memory that would stay with us forever.