Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sicilian Adventures

Day 1: Her side of the story

After months of planning and re-planning we finally started our vacation to Sicily. To begin with, the idea of heading to Sicily was his ;-)). At the end of our vacation, I must confess it was one of the most exotic vacations for us. There was too much to see and too little time (The same story as always). So lotsa reading on the internet and with lots of help from Trip Advisor and most importantly – Ryan air – we decided to start our sojourn in Trapani.

Trapani is one of the bigger cities in the western part of Sicily and is a convenient base for touring this region of Sicily. Trapani. It has good bus connections and ferry connections in addition to having an airport. The town isn't particularly well-known to foreign tourists, and is not one of the island's most obvious holiday destinations. But it makes a good base for exploring this part of Sicily, or a useful stopover on a touring holiday.

After all the adventures of finding our B&B, finding a place to eat we hardly had the evening left. As suggested by our B&B owner, Alessandra we decided to head to this tiny hamlet called Erice. More about Erice <> – The place definitely deserves an exclusive-post.

Trapani by night was a humdrum of activity. We headed towards the beaches and spent the evening strolling around the old town. Our first taste of Sicily was quite appetizing and we couldn’t wait to see more.

Geographically, Trapani is an unusual Sicilian city for its westward position, which affords spectacular views of some of the Mediterranean's most beautiful sunsets. The surrounding coastal plain is distinguished for its rich salt deposits. Apparently this town has the closest feel to Africa - the sea, the famously-ripping wind, the cruel, bleaching almost-African sun characterize Trapani.

Sicilian Cuisine – specifically Trapanese Cuisine - is an exotic blend of North African and Italian flavors. If one is a sea-food freak - Try the specialty couscous with fish or biscotti con fichi (moist, fig-filled cookies) – Since neither I nor my better half enjoys sea-food, we were happy and content with the pastas and pizzas – Pesto Trapanese is delicious. Pizza seemed tasty enough in almost all pizzerias.

Statutory warning – Sicilians follow Siesta like a discipline. So don’t be surprised if you don’t find any place that serves lunch. The town wakes up only in the evening and probably goes on all night long.

The place we called "home" in Trapani suited our needs. We started to book in the B&B – I Colori Del Vento. But this place was completely booked out for the dates. But the helpful Alessandra suggested “Sea House” – An apartment - and this was convenient enough if you are just looking for some decent place to spend the nights – Nothing fancy about it.

Alessandra who runs the B&B and probably owns this apartment is an extremely hospitable person. She gave us all the tips we needed for our stay including – must-see places, must-eat restaurants etc. We would recommend the B&B to anyone who is looking for a convenient place to stay with no fancy services, balconies etc. The B&B is preferable to the apartment “Sea House” mainly because it’s accessible to every place – Close to the Town Centre, Close to Ferry and Hydrofoil docks, Close to the restaurants and it faces the sea - http://www.icoloridelvento.it/

Some links and information about Trapani and what to see and do around Trapani.

Excerpts from Trip Advisor
“Trapani is a small city where Sicilians live and work, not touristy but local and real – Erice is beautiful, but more a tourist destination. If you intend to explore the sites on public transport, Trapani is a more convenient base – You would take the AST bus from Erice to Trapani to begin each day’s excursion if you were to stay in Erice. That inconvenience doesn’t matter to some because they prefer the charm of Erice “

Recommended B&Bs -
Erice - Hotel San Domenico, Il Carmine or La Pineta.
Trapani - Bed & Breakfast I Colori del Vento or Casa Trapani B&B

Excursions and Sights from Trapani –
“Erice and Segesta would be your top excursions from Trapani.”
Other places that could be visited with Trapani as a base –
Isole Egadi e la Mattanza (EGADI ISLANDS) This is a group of small mountainous islands in the Mediterranean Sea – Our experiences on the islands <>
San Vito Lo CapoA small town is located in a valley between spectacular mountains. Famous for its beautiful Caribbean beach with a mix of crystal and turquoise sea water.
Riserva dello Zingaro - Natural reserve that stretches along 7 kilometers of unspoilt coastline of the Gulf of Castellammare and its mountain chain - little bays and steep cliffs.
SelinunteGreek Archeological Site with 5 Temples - Backdrop of the Sea.
PantelleriaIsland in the Strait of Sicily - caused due to volcanic eruptions and continental drifts.
Castellammare Del GolfoA small picturesque town - Sea Fortress of the Gulf.
MothiaIsland and Archeological Site – We couldn’t reach the Island since we missed the last ferry (which is at 15:00).
Le SalineThe salt plains near Marsala.
The public transport – Trains and Bus Connections are available for most destinations (not too frequent in every season) – But renting a car and driving around to these sights is probably the most efficient and highly recommended (after all our experiences in using the public transport). Regular hydrofoils and ferries reach the islands and are quite convenient to reach the islands close to Trapani.

More details about other places will be updated soon ;-).

Sicilian Adventures

Day 1: His side of the story

Scene1: Italian cab drivers
The day began early with an adventure trip to the airport! We were to take the flight from Rome to Trapani.
Airport was hardly 2 km. away from the Hotel we stayed in ( thanks to all the planning we did with the initial hotel booking) but the cab driver was an Italian Version Of our dear Prem chopra - smooth talker with equally cunning intentions -- charged us 30 Euros for the ride and all that with a big smile on his face. What a way to start our day!

Scene 2: Airport
This is always the tricky part... 15kgs allowed to check in and only 1 cabin baggage per person is what Ryan air says and that was quite a challenging ask. On a lighter note we had second thoughts to check-in Rashmi instead of the big suitcase. But all went well and we reached Sicily with no further hiccups.

Scene 3: Trapani and the Statue of Garibaldi
This time from Airport we had our learning not to take the cab so we waited for the Shuttle service to Trapani. The hotel owner had given us directions from the statue of Garibaldi in Trapani. So we asked the bus driver to stop near the statue and he assured to indicate the stop when we pass by.
The drive from the airport to Trapani was interesting and extremely long (close to 45minutes).
The landscape was more like an African village (not that I have been to one but I read something like that in a book :-)). It was more like a spaghetti western movie in Sepia mode. Some of the towns we passed by, reminded me of Chitradurga (a district in Karnataka).
After 45 minutes of drive we reminded the driver about Mr. Garibaldi and he promptly dropped us near a park which had a statue and explained something in Italian which we did not really understand.
We searched all around for the statue and did not find one. With all our linguistic and expression of Italian skills we found out that we actually got down in a wrong place. After about a couple of Km's of walk with the entire luggage we got to the Garibaldi statue and then the B&B was not too difficult to find from there.

The owner of our B&B (Alessandra) was a very warm person welcomed us with some sweets and local sweet wine. After some small talks we found out that she was in India as a tourist some years back and was very impressed by India (also I realized that she had visited more places in India than me so I decided not to discuss that part too much )..

Scene4: Food hunt
Trapani is probably as lazy as me. The city wakes up probably after sunset... had a real tough time finding place to have our lunch. But food probably is one of the best parts of Trapani. Rashmi could not stop eating their local dish (Pesto trapanese) everywhere we went.

The rest of the day went smooth with lesser surprises.... except for the part where we forgot our address and had to communicate with the locals only to realize that we weren’t aware of any street names except for our Mr. Garibaldi's statue (but we were really overwhelmed by the support we got from the locals to trace our way back)..

Her side of the story will have some more of the practical details about Trapani and so on :-)))

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Vacation Nostalgia

St. Peter's
Don Corleone
Linguistic Talent
Terrace of Sicily
Mrs. Elena
Sunny beaches
Snow capped Etna
Isola Bella
Ferries, Hydrofoils, Cruise
Citrus Groves
SITA Buses
Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Pompeii
Italian Cab Drivers
Colosseum Mini-Studio :-)
Julius Caesar
Withdrawal Symptoms
Vacation Hangover
Back to work

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Poland Experience - The Start - Her side of the story

We are doing fine here.Life here is normal and  a routine now …..Weekdays Rajaneesh is busy with work and office and weekends we just laze around or travel a bit. Cooking , Cleaning , Washing , Office work and some shopping keeps me occupied most days during the week. Its quite easy to get used to this lifestyle but the need to work creeps in once in a while now :-).

I am familiar with the trams and buses and the public transport system and can figure my way to the city centre, supermarket etc.

The long summer days are over and its getting a little cold.The sun is still shining occassionally during the week and the leaves are slowly turning colors. Quite beautiful and nice outside.

During one of the weekends we had been to this town called Sobotka. Its the base of a small mountain called Sleza. We stayed in the town on Saturday and hiked up to the summit on Sunday. It took us about 2 hours each way . Was quite tiring but nice.
Snaps link here


Another nice town we had been to was a tri-city place called Gdank-Sopot-Gydnia 3 weeks back (for a weekend). Its in Northern Poland at the Baltic Sea. That’s where World War 2 started apparently. The place was quite pretty and had a nice mix of medieval european town and a beach city.

Snaps are shared

Rashmi's brother was visiting us here during the last weekend since he was on a 10 day vacation in Europe. We had been to the Tatra Mountains in Southern Poland and to a town called Zakopane. It was quite an exotic place with the mountains and the nature. A must-see place in Poland.

Lotsa snaps in the below link :-)))).

Rajaneesh went berserk with the camera and couldn’t stop clicking pictures …….Fortunately or unfortunately I forgot to get my camera from India :-))))))))))))))

Wroclaw is a beautiful city with a river and lots of bridges. .But people dont speak english at all and its not possible to survive here without knowing the language.Even for the basic stuff like Policeman , Post Office or hospital we need to know Polish.
Rajaneesh knows a few words and phrases and can manage to pass off some conversation.

Polish people - I havent interacted too much with them since we have a language barrier.But Rajaneesh interacts with them everyday at work etc and he will have many interesting stories to share when he is back in India .

The apartment is a nice residential locality but accessibility is not the best. The closest bus stop or tram station is about 10 mins walk (which is ok in summer). Now we are looking for another place since its easier to stay downtown/city centre especially during winter.

Havent found too many Indians around. In fact I have seen just 1 other Indian whom we bumped into in a tram. Seems like he has been here for 5 years and is from Hyderabad. Didnt sound too happy with the people :-)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"OMIGOD" continues

"U must be totally excited"....."We see happiness glowing on ur face"!"Are u having jitters already"? etc etc

What am I supposed to say to these ? I really need some tips to answer questions!!!!! I guess the reality is just beginning to sink in very slowly .....CONFUSED and DAZED are the words I would associate with myself these days ... Honestly I dunno what to be psyched about .There are way too many things happening !!!!!

And so I went to my counsellor, my personal counsellor - No points for guessing...I dunno what gave me the idea that he can actually help me ;-)But I went and poured out my confused , psyched state of mind to him ---- And he says "No one is happy to accept change in life and this is a very big change- So its fine to be confused "---- FUNDAE of the Day, rather FUNDAE of Life ....

So I am gonna continue to be dazed for a while more before I get one more of those jitter attacks....

Any tips and advice from any of you who have "Been There and Done That" is most welcome :-)

And I hope I can post something juicier and more interesting next time and hopefully sooner!

Friday, February 20, 2009

OMG its Monday..PART II.

The clock finally struck 12:00 PM and it was time to send that really silly but important mail. Panic scored again this time and I missed half the people I intended to call and thanks to my presence of mind ( scarcasm intended ) I also got half the sweets I needed to buy.

This meant another trip to the sweet store which was atleast 3kms away ...and this time I was more than willing to make the short trip as long as I didn't have to bump into any known face. All the way and away from my seat in office as possible was where I wanted to be that day...

In the midst of the panic and confusion I had a lot of explaining to do for the typical/routine questions..
And as expected the reactions received varied from surprise to shock.

Some did a great job of putting up a straight face whereas others like the Pachha's and the Giridhar's went overboard with thier expressions, showing a clear influence of bollywood (or was it sandalwood) on them :-).

After a week or so, things did sink in and thankfully I no longer carry those shades of pink on my cheeks...

Monday, February 16, 2009

The other half of the OMG story

The Big Day of Announcement has arrived - At the end of the post you will agree how dreadful the experience can be ;-)....

For some strange reason I felt its my moral responsibility to tell my team first in office. So at 10:00 in the morning, I sent a mail to the team asking junta for a short meeting.
I guess the location of the meeting sent some wrong signals coz I asked everyone to assemble in my manager's room.

People gathered one after the other and like any other meetings , I had to make some multiple catcalls to get everyone together. Every time we have some sort of a team meeting I feel like I am facing a trial with a bunch of attorneys and this was no different.

So before I lost the nerve,I just blurted "I got engaged during the weekend".

The look I got from the team was "How can UUUUUUUUUUUUUU get engaged?" "Which fool of an ass would get hooked to u ?".

This reaction from the guys didnt add any relief for my already cracked nerves but hey come-on ,I shud have expected this ;-). The guys outside the room must have thought I am having one of those 360 degree feedback sessions ......and I was getting looks of sympathy and pity

So this was just the beginning. At the end of this ordeal one sweet box from KC Das was empty :-(

Learning:1 - Choose the right venue for a wedding announcement ........and it should never be a manager's cubicle/room.

Keep watching this page for more learnings on wedding announcements ;-)