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Sunday, October 11, 2015

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Spain Travel Diary #3: Seville

After feeling satiated with the chocolaté  con churros and other delicacies in Madrid, we headed all the way down to Southern Spain, to the city of Seville in beautiful Andalucía region. People rave about this city and I didn't know why until we reached there. According to me, Seville is one of the most charming cities in the world.  It didn't take me more than a couple of hours to fall in love with the city, almost like love at first sight! It is now easily among my top 3 favourite cities in the world :)
While in Seville, we stayed in the historic old town area which has the rustic look with ancient monuments, cathedrals, palaces, towers etc which give you a completely different experience compared to staying in the new town. The lovely Moorish architecture is definitely something to experience!
It's very easy to explore all major attractions in the town by foot and we loved walking through the narrow cobblestone streets and shopping on the way. One of my favourite places in Seville is Plaza de la Encarnacion. You can walk up the building in the centre of the plaza to get a 360 degree view of the entire city. It is breathtakingly beautiful and an experience not to be missed!!! I would easily rate this place as the MUST DO while in Seville. You get a free drink along with the ticket that you purchase to go up and you can enjoy a glass of Spanish wine soaking in the charm and beauty of the city. Go especially during sunset time and then wait up until it is dark to see the city in lights.
Another day was spent exploring the Cathedral, Giralda tower and the Alcazar Palace in the old town. The architecture of these buildings is simply stunning and you can stand there for hours admiring the beauty of it! While you are here, make sure you go restaurant hopping along the street by the cathedral, relishing Spanish tapas, Paellas and some local wine. They have outdoor seating and you get to enjoy a romantic dinner with the cathedral/tower view!

If you are in Spain, you would have heard of Flamenco dance. Did you know that it originated in Seville?! We made it a point to watch a traditional live Flamenco show here where it all originated!! It was truly an experience of a lifetime. The guitarist, singer, dancers everyone was extraordinary and I got goosebumps watching them perform with so much passion and energy. These shows get booked in advance, so make sure you purchase the tickets online and go early to grab a front seat..
The day we were leaving Seville we rented a car and we were so glad we did that 'coz there is no way you can drive around in the town in those narrow crowded streets and don't even expect to get a parking place! Even if you have a car, highly recommended that you leave it at the hotel and take a cab or walk around. You get to explore, enjoy and soak in so much more of this city by walk than by drive. Make sure you carry a map though while navigating as it is easy to get lost!
We had a few hours before heading out of Seville and Plaza de Espana popped out. Am glad we visited this place. It is one of the most beautiful plazas I have seen in all of Europe! The details inside are incredible and it also has a small river/ pond inside where you can go boating to see the plaza as well. Another must visit place in Seville!!

Last but not the least, if you are an adventure seeker/adrenaline junkie, then Seville has a dropzone nearby about 45mins from the city where you can skydive. We couldn't do it as the weather wasn't good during our stay but I would definitely go back here someday just to skydive to get a bird's eye view of this lovely, beautiful, charming city!!


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Spain Travel Diary #2: Madrid

You cannot go to a country and miss visiting the capital city. Even though Madrid is fairly a new city compared to rest of Spain, it has rich culture and history. Not as big as Barcelona or exquisite as Valencia or lush with heritage as Granada but there is a charm to this city which no other has! It is chosen as the capital merely because of it's geographically convenient location, in the heart of Spain.
I expected an urban environment, with tall modern buildings, corporate crowd, heavy traffic etc, like most other capital cities in the world but this one took me by surprise. In the historical part of town, there are still a lot of ancient buildings with stunning architectures that are well preserved and they look like jewels of the city. We stayed on Gran Vía street, one of the most popular streets in Madrid and I could spend hours just looking at the buildings there and admiring them!! They are indeed extremely beautiful. No matter how many photos I clicked, I wasn't satisfied as you just cannot capture that beauty but only soak it in and experience it! So if you visit Madrid, I highly recommend staying on Gran Vía and no where else..


After enjoying long walks on Gran Via, shopping, eating, strolling, photographing (sometimes in rain), our next stop was to explore Plaza Mayor. The advantage of staying on Gran Vía is that it is very close to many of the city's attractions and they are all in walking distance. Walking is a great way to explore any city, in my point of view. The walk from Gran Vía  to the plaza is enjoyable especially if you go through the alley ways and some of the narrow streets. Plaza Mayor is a very touristy place so it can get very crowded so be wise in choosing what time you go there. We went there during sunset and it was raining lightly at that time so there weren't too many people. It is surrounded by several tapas bars, cafes and restaurants where you can indulge in Spanish cuisine to your heart's content.
Talking about food, one of the specialities of Madrid is 'Chocolaté con Churros' which is thick dark chocolate (with or without milk) along with salty churros. It is delicious and you should not leave Madrid without having this for sure!! And of course, there is the usual list of tapas you can try all over spain, one of which is Patatas Bravas.  There is a chain of Pizzeria called 'Papizza' where we loved eating. They have a good variety of vegetarian pizzas and pastas and it is an eye candy and mouth-watering to watch those pizzas in the counters with fresh cheese and tomatoes!
Chocolate con Churros
Patatas bravas
If you are a football fan, you will love visiting Santiago Bernabeu stadium which is the home for Real Madrid football club. I am not, so it was a no brainer for me to skip this one!
If you still have time left after indulging in tapas and pizzas, then Royal Palace would be a great option to explore. The palace itself from outside is nothing exquisite, but the gardens around are very beautiful and worth spending time. Once you go inside the palace, into the courtyard, the open space and the views are gorgeous and so are the paintings and artwork inside the palace building.
There is more to explore in the city but it depends on what you are interested in. I am not a museum person but if you are, then Prado museum is something you would want to consider. I was happy with the 2 days we spent there and what we explored because I could get a flavour of the city, which I loved.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Spain Travel Diary #1: Barcelona

Spain had always been on my list of countries to visit. Everything about that country has been very attractive to me - culture, language, cuisine, people and more! It was literally calling out to me this year and we finally made a trip there is month! The weather was just perfect, not too hot, not too cold, just pleasant and nice. I am so glad we didn't go there during peak summer or tourist season. Not that there weren't many tourists now but it would have been way more crowded in summer.
So according to me, the best time to visit is October/November.
As always, when I plan a trip I ask which places would be the most contributing to visit and I look at which one invites me energetically. So the itinerary started with Barcelona to Madrid, Seville, small towns in Andalucía mountains, Granada, Murcia, Valencia and back to Barcelona. The trip was a combination of trains and car. Driving around in southern spain has an advantage as you get to see these small villages which are not accessible by train or bus easily.
Started this awesome journey in Barcelona. Having spent just 4 days in that city I would still call it one of my favourite cities in the world. I loved everything about it. The city has it's own charm, even though it is seen as very touristy, you can get the local flavour of Catalonia everywhere you go. Apart from visiting the famous Sagrada Familia cathedral, we lived there like the locals, exploring restaurants, cafes/bars and relishing on the delicious tapas, shopping in La Rambla, strolling through the markets and the neighbourhood. This is a totally different way of enjoying a place when you travel, rather than visiting the museums, standing in long queues at the attractions, taking guided tours which most people do. Try it, at least in Barcelona and you will fall in love with the city for sure!
As we didn't visit all the touristy attractions, obviously I will not be listing all the places to visit, on this blog! ;-) You can find that on google or any travel book in the store. But what I am writing here is the way I experienced the city and hopefully that would inspire you to go there too!
What we did -
1) Sagrada Familia - is the famous Roman cathedral by Antonio Gaudi. This church is a UNESCO world heritage site and I didn't know about it until I visited. (There is something about UNESCO world heritage sites that always attract me!) You will find loads and loads of cathedrals all over Spain but this one is truly unique. The gothic architecture is extraordinary and stunning to say the least and I stood there just admiring the building from outside for a long time! This place can get very crowded, so if you want to go inside, then highly recommend buying tickets in advance from their website. They have limited/fixed slots too.

2) Montjuic mountain - If you want a beautiful bird's eye view of Barcelona city and the coast, then definitely don't miss going on top of this mountain. It's extremely beautiful up there! You can either take a cable car up, a train or even a cab. We took the cab as it was the fastest. There can be an hour long queue to go up the cable car!
3) La Rambla - a very popular street in Barcelona, for food, drinks, shopping, artwork, galleries, flamenco shows  and more! Just taking a walk up and down the street is an amazing experience. Even though it gets very crowded, there is still an ease and joy in strolling through. It is beautifully lit, very lively even past mid night and so much to do and explore. There are people who do sketches by the street side and you can get some caricatures/ sketches of yourself done as a souvenir!  Do not miss the La Boqueria market on this street. Never been to a market which was this crowded! Watch your bags/wallets while you are here. You will find the best local fruits and fresh fruit juice here along with many other local delicacies and pizzas and tapas bars.
4) Eat tapas, tapas, and more tapas - yes, you heard it right! Spain has a popular tapas culture which is small portions of finger food/starters served along with your drinks. If you are a vegetarian like me, don't be disappointed, there are still good variety of them to try. Patatas Bravas, fried padron peppers, stuffed olives, croquettas, bread with tomato and olive oil, and so much more! Try them with wine /Sangria for sure.  I went crazy happy eating all of these. Just for tapas I would go back to Spain again. Simply loved this culture!!!
5) Plaza España - Barcelona has a lovely night life and it is best spent in Ramblas and Plaza España! There is a building called Arena at this plaza where you can go on the roof top to get a view of the entire plaza. Even the elevators going up here have great views. The fountain in the centre of the plaza is worth a look!
6) Take a day trip to Montserrat - When you have soaked in the city enough, consider taking a day trip to Montserrat mountains, which is about an hour by train from Barcelona. You can even do it in half a day but a full day is a better option. The serrated mountains, monastery, trains going on steep slopes, cable cars, hiking, shopping and so much more. It's truly a memorable experience, to be missed and you get to see the outskirts of Barcelona too. I will be writing another post with more details on this this space!
7) Watch a live Flamenco show/Opera - We did this in Seville where Flamenco originated but if we hadn't planned it there, Barcelona would be a place where we would have watched it. There is a theatre in La Rambla which had great reviews. Flamenco is unlike any other dance form and gives you a great experience of Spanish culture! And if we had an extra evening we would spend it watching Opera on La Rambla for sure....
When in Barcelona, be a local and soak in the culture!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The true gift and power of Vulnerability

Have you ever been around someone who is completely vulnerable, in total allowance with no judgements or points of views and being who they truly are? Well, I did get an opportunity of being in a class with one such awesome person for 3 days in India last week and oh my god, did that change my world?! It showed me a completely different way of being which I had never imagined was possible. It is so interesting that someone can change your entire life just by the vulnerability that they embrace and that vulnerability actually shows in every molecule of their being AND their body! It was such a blessing and joy to be around, work with and learn from someone so amazing and I have no words to express how grateful I am for the contribution he has been to my life. I sure did get lucky!

In this reality vulnerability is seen as a weakness but on the contrary it is the biggest source of strength, which I have slowly begun to understand. It is all about being in complete allowance of you and everything and everyone around you with absolutely no barriers or judgements, like an open wound. You are not hiding anything about you and completely fine with every aspect of who you are. Most of us are forced into vulnerability by circumstances and we assume it is being something it isn't, like being a doormat. It is just the willingness to be open to receiving anything and everything, including you with no judgement. 

So what if we could choose vulnerability consciously? We could then be that space every moment and create everything in our lives from this space of no judgement. When you are truly being vulnerable and in allowance, you become the catalyst to changing the world, which I noticed and experienced in those 3 days of classes. I saw how someone can actually receive the insanities and stupidity that people function from and transform it completely through their space of vulnerability and kindness!! We think that being angry, frustrated and using power can create change but I was shown the complete opposite. There is more strength and change possible through vulnerability, kindness and allowance. This is the true gift of vulnerability!

So at that moment I made a demand that I am going to be and have all of that in my life and there has been immense peace and calmness around me, just by making that choice. Because being vulnerable starts with YOU. You cannot NOT love you or reject you and still be vulnerable. You love and receive ALL of you with no barriers no matter how much you love to judge yourself. It is only when you are in total allowance of you can you be in allowance of everything and everyone around you! The more I started to embrace this space, people are seeing more of ME, my power, my potency, my abilities and talents. I even got an opportunity of shooting for a Television show where I was just being me and spoke about what's true for me, there was no rehearsals, no practise, just 1 shot and before I would have judged myself for not having been perfect but this time I chose to be vulnerable and in allowance. The crew actually noticed that and rather than having judgements they saw me as confident, potent and talented. And I have had my clients and friends tell me that my potency and who I be, inspires them to choose greater for themselves and create the change they desire. When you are vulnerable you begin to attract people to you who are inspired by your openness, allowance and no judgement.

It is easy for people to connect with you when you are vulnerable because you have no barriers. Connection cannot happen with barriers pulled up. Have you ever tried talking to or connecting with someone who have huge (invisible) barriers up and it felt like hitting against a brick wall? Was it fun for you? Did it contribute to your life? Was it a gift? I can easily answer that for you. NO! So would you rather be that or be the gift of vulnerability that can change the planet?  Just a CHOICE :-)

I love this quote from Brene Brown ...

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.

If you haven't watched this Ted Talk by Brene Brown on 'The Power of Vulnerability', I highly recommend it! It is mind blowing.

To know more about me and what I do, my sessions and workshops, visit

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Your elusive creative genius..

I watched this Ted Talk recently by Elizabeth Gilbert, the famous author of Eat, Pray, Love and it continues to amaze me. One of my favourite talks of all time! If you haven't watched this you are really missing something!

She has a completely different take on creativity. What if creation is totally different than what you think it is? What if every single thing in your life - whether its your  business, projects, job, poem, music, book, song etc is an entity and has a life form of its own and you could invite it to play with?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cambodia Travel Diary: Siem Reap

Cambodia is one place that had been on our minds to explore for over a year now.  Why? Because it has one of the world's wonders and it is a UNESCO world heritage site! My husband and I finally planned a trip there to celebrate our anniversary few weeks back. One of the advantages of living in Singapore is that it makes all of South East Asia easily accessible. It was just about 2~2.5hrs flight and visa on arrival for Indians (you will know what a relief that is, only if you are an Indian!)

What is one of the top 5 things you do when you plan a travel? You check the weather and the best time to visit the place. And we being very cute, forgot to do that and ended up there in the HOTTEST (note the bold letters) season of the year. It was around 38~39 degree Celsius but felt like 45deg. Not a smart choice, considering that majority of the places you have to visit are temples made of stone which heat up like crazy! So please don't go there in May/June unless you want to get a tan, sunburn or badly roasted.

Siem Reap is a small town and thrives mainly on tourism. So be prepared to be hounded by the local sellers, tuk-tuk drivers and tour guides wherever you go. We stayed at the Royal Angkor Resort which was a French colonial building, on the national highway slightly off from the town centre but the tuk-tuks make it accessible to get anywhere around easily for just under $5, if you know how to bargain with them. It had a lovely ambience and very friendly staff and I highly recommend it!

We had just about 4 days to explore and we started off with the Bayon and Angkor Thom temples as you get the best sunset view from near there. We got a 3 day Angkor Pass which would allow us to visit the entire set of temples for 3 days as many times as we wanted and cost about $40.  It was an adventure exploring this during peak afternoon with scorching heat and we were so dehydrated that I thought I would faint anytime  (which is why you have to be smart and not go there during summer time!) But it was worth all of that hardship as the temples are beautiful and the guide we hired gave us a lot of the history which made it more interesting. Hinduism and Buddhism are very predominant there and as I am familiar with both, it kept me very engaged while I gulped down 2 isotonic drinks, 3 bottles of water and some tender coconut water. 

We went on later to explore the famous Ta Prohm temple also known as the Tomb Raider temple as a small part of the movie was shot there with Angelina Jolie. So it is a major tourist attraction and it was completely packed with people, especially the Japanese tourist groups (we see them in action everywhere :))

Another full day was spent exploring the main Angkor Wat temple, both at the time of sunrise and sunset. They look very different as the temple gets fully lit up for a few minutes at the time of sunset and the sun rises behind the temple during sunrise if you are at the west gate, so you can capture some amazing photos. It is very important from which entrance you go in if you are looking to do photography based on the sun's position. So make a note of that! As it was summer, there was hardly any water in the mirror pool in front of the temple, so we couldn't get great pictures of it with the reflection in the pool, which are the signature photos taken at this location. But nevertheless, managed to capture a few decent ones!

During Sunrise

During Sunset

Honestly I was a bit disappointed with the Angkor Wat temple maybe because I had huge expectations. So it didnt take my breath away or made me feel like I should come back here again. I was happy to just tick this off my list of places to see. 

Apart from the countless temples to visit, you also have the old market to explore in the heart of the city. There is a night market if you are someone who loves to shop till you drop, like yours truly! There is nothing unique to buy except for some wooden handicrafts and regular clothes and decorative stuff. Cambodia uses USD as their main currency even though they have their local cambodian currency. So all transactions are in USD which means no hassle of exchanging currency. People work really hard there, manage to speak english and are very polite as their economy thrives on tourism. So you will feel at ease while you are travelling there.

There is also a pub street nearby which as the name suggests has loads of pubs and restaurants to tingle your tastebuds. Make sure you don't miss tasting Khmer cuisine, which is the local cuisine of Cambodia. It is mainly non-vegetarian but if you are a fussy vegetarian like me, you can go to this restaurant called Chamkaar near pub street which serves only vegetarian Khmer cuisine. To my surprise, I loved a couple of their dishes! And if you get bored there are many Indian, Italian and Thai restaurants as well to explore.

Apart from the above, you can visit the cultural village on the national highway and a floating village to do some boating and other short trips all of which we skipped simply because of the weather. Instead we chose to indulge and pamper ourselves in the spa with some amazing body massages, head massages and foot reflexology. You have to use your awareness and choose a good place for this to have a nice experience.

Overall it was a good vacation. Will I go back there? May be during winter just to see if the experience would be different.