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Autumn has gone, winter is here, and the end of the year is near…

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Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.  ~ Hal Borland

My autumn truly began in Long Island, NY at another half marathon the first weekend in October. This half marathon is called the Diva’s Half Marathon and it was very fun. They gave us tiaras and feather boas to cross the finish line in as well as little champagne flutes of sparkly juice at the end.

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Run Sister Run Divas! My big sis Taj & me. 

Later in the month I went geo caching for the first time with a friend of mine in Punderson State Park here in Cleveland. It was an absolutely gorgeous autumn day. Temperatures were close to the low 60s, the sun was shining, and all of the leaves were changing colors beautifully. We hiked for a few hours caught up and then warmed up with tea. It was a great way to end the month.

November is always a short month to me because of Thanksgiving. Every year I take shameless advantage of the fact that I have a built-in four-day weekend due to turkey day. This year I went to Germany; Munich to be exact. A close friend of mine moved to the city with her husband and I went for a visit. I only stayed for a week but I was able to get a lot done. Here are some of the highlights:

Zugspitze: highest peak in the German portion of the Alps:

Architecture and History in Munich: the whole freaking city is awesome, way too much cool architecture to see in a week, will be going back to see more.

Deutsch Museum: Science & Technology Museum; this is a definite must see! You need at least half a day to get through most of this place…just plan a whole day.

Day Trips: Nurnberg (only a 2 hour train ride away)

Christmas Markets: while I was there most Christmas markets were just opening up. I was able to go to more local markets, which was very nice.

Needless to say the trip was so much fun. My friends had to work during the day say, so most of my trip I was alone wandering about, but its nice traveling alone sometimes. I had plenty of time for reflection and I didn’t rush anywhere. I was able to take my time and see the city the way I wanted to. I missed some things but not many, either way I will be going to Munich again.

My trip to Germany wrapped up my November and December blew in with crazy cold temperatures and snow here in the Northeast. Work was extremely frenetic the first two weeks and utterly dead the third week in December. My family does a holiday trip every year for the Christmas season and this year we went to Universal Studios. It was nice to get out of the cold weather and have some fun while we were doing it. Of course the highlight of my trip was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

When I look back at this year, I can’t believe it went by so quickly. So many things have happened for the good and the bad. I’m just so thankful that I am healthy, happy, and my family is well. There has been plenty of change in 2016 and I can’t wait for what 2017 brings.

Since I will probably be asleep when the New Year rolls in, Happy New Year all. See you in 2017.

Quote from: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_newyears.html
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Belated Summer Wrap Up

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Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. ~ Dr. Seuss

The old saying goes, when life gives you lemons – make lemonade. However, what is the saying for when life this sort of takes over and everything else falls by the sidelines?

Unfortunately, there is no catchy saying for that.

Apologies for such a delayed couple of posts, but life certainly took over for the past seven months and many things fell to the sidelines. Since my last post I have graduated with an MBA, been on numerous trips and am now flying back to my home from yet another trip to wrap up the year 2016. This is going to be a much shorter recap then I wanted, due to timing, but better late (and abbreviated) than not at all right?

My summer began in Mexico. This has been a yearly trip with a large group of friends for the past couple of years now. We rented out houses and then just lay about on the beach, and go on a few trips as well. The stay lasted a week but of course if felt like one very long summer day. The houses that were rented were steps from the beach. During this trip I was also training for a half marathon so a couple of those days I took some three to seven mile runs in the early morning along the streets of Playa del Carmen and on the beach itself. On this trip I was able to go to the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza and to dive into one of the largest cenotes that I’ve been to. Mexico was as always and amazing trip; great food, great company, cool excursions, and beautiful views.

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Beach Running in Playa

The month of June was peppered with small trips to Atlanta to visit my mom and younger sisters, Columbus to have orientation for my new job, and training for my half marathon, which was in July. July brought me to Chicago to run the Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon with a friend from work and my one of my younger sisters. Not only did the race go well (even if it did rain), but also we were able to go to one of my favorite museums, Chicago Art Museum, while we were there. We also to advantage of the weekend to walk around the city and take in the sights not only on foot but also in the back of a horse draw carriage.

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Rock N’ Roll  Chicago Half Marathon with my sister Torryn and friend Jennifer!

July wrapped up with a friend’s wedding at the end of the month and August rolled right in afterwards with a trip to Atlanta for my youngest sisters 14th birthday (BIG deal). Middle of august rolled around with a trip to Cincinnati for a summer meeting for work that happened in the latter half of the 3rd week. That Saturday I drove back up to Cleveland with a friend from Columbus and we walked around downtown Cleveland looking for quirky plastic art installations.

Between work and my busy social calendar, September was here before I knew it. As I spend every Labor Day weekend, I went back to Atlanta for Dragon*Con 2016! Had a blast catching up with friends that I usually only see during this time and had some great moments for being a fan while meeting some actors that have been on my wish list for a while.

My September wasn’t over by a long shot because as soon as I returned to Cleveland I flew back to Atlanta the next weekend for Midtown Music Festival 2016 where I was able to see some of my favorite artists on stage. My favorite was 21 Pilots, they are amazing! It was a great way to wrap up the summer!

 

Next up: Autumn has gone, winter is here, and the end of the year is near…

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Travelling in India: Friends, Food, and New Beginnings

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“If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. you shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by.” –F. Burton Howard

Travelling always brings new perspectives, new friends, new thoughts, and new life into me. I think that I grow and learn more every time I go some place I’ve never been, or even revisiting places that I love the most. There is always a new adventure and a new story. On this adventure to India, my family and I were going for the grandest of occasions – a wedding!

One of my dear friends from graduate school invited me to his wedding, clear across the world. Of course I couldn’t say no; Indian weddings are so grandiose and beautiful, steeped in cultural ritual, with great food, awesome music, and infectious laughter. It was going to be an event and I had to see it.

As always traveling to India is not for the faint of heart. It’s a long trip even with a nicely timed layover to get refreshed and eat something before another long flight. My family and I made it to Mumbai on April 1st, a day before the wedding to give our bodies time to recuperate from the trip and acclimate to the weather and the time. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency closest to the Mumbai airport. It was super nice, very convenient, and the breakfast bar was great, I’d highly recommend it if anyone needs a place to stay, for just a rest. It’s farther from all of them historical things to see, but it’s literally 1km from the airport, which is part of the convenience (Hyatt Regency Mumbai).

Later that day our driver picked us up and took us to Pune, India. Pune is further south than Mumbai, it’s about a 2 – 2.5 hour drive. It’s not as humid thank goodness) as Mumbai, but it is very very hot. For the majority of our stay it was always hovering around 100 degrees Farenheit. The hotel we stayed at here was the JW Marriott Pune (JW Marriott Pune). I have to say without a doubt it’s one of the best hotels I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in. I loved this place and my family did too. Everyone was extremely helpful – a few of the ladies helped us into our sarees for the wedding – and the food was delicious.

There is a club/restaurant at the top of the hotel called Paasha that has some of the best Dal Mahkni I’ve ever had. If you come to Pune, you have to go to the restaurant at least once. The dal on the menu is called Dal Paasha. The other food items that were good here were the chicken scewers, tandori seabass, and the salmon tikka. We also had lamb, but I didn’t taste it, everyone said it was delicous.

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Enough about the hotels, moving onto the wedding – it was fantastic! My friend’s family and his now wife’s family were absolutely wonderful. We were invited to several of the events for the wedding besides the wedding ceremony and the reception. We went to an event the day before the wedding, which was the meeting of both of the familes, extended relatives included, before the main event. It was really nice to see and hear all the rituals behind what was going on. We were severely underdressed, but at least we were able to get our henna done prior to the event to start getting ready for the wedding which was the very next morning.

The very next morning we woke up about 5AM to start getting ready to head to the wedding. Ameya (my friend) and his family invited us to joing them for breakfast before the wedding ceremony and that was at 7AM. Why did we need 2 hours to get ready? We have 6 women getting ready in two hotel rooms and 4 of us had sarees…needless to say it was quite the adventure. The wedding was in a hall that was set up for events like this and it was beautiful. It overlooked the city of Pune and it was quite nice to be there in the morning because it was a lot cooler then it would be in the afternoon. The wedding took up the rest of the morning and early afternoon, but the whole things was just beautiful.

Both families’ were so open and welcoming and the definitely made sure we were comfortable, knew what was going on, and had plenty of food to eat!

I was so happy to make it to Ameya’s big day. It was lovely to see him so happy and to finally meet Purnima – his bride – for the first time.

It was an extremely hectic day for them, but we were able to get a group shot towards the end of the morning, after they were officially married and before they could finally take a break and eat!

 

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(From Left) My Mom, my friends Katie, Amber, Purnima, Ameya, Me, Torryn and Taylor

Of course the day wasn’t over yet, because the reception was the very same night. That was a lot more chill than the wedding. There were a lot of people at the reception as well as the wedding (700 at the wedding verus 2000 at the reception), but we had a great time, and as always, the food was amazing.

The day after the wedding (April 3rd), the whole group went and explored Pune. We visited the Ganesha Temple, and the main market in town. We visited the fort that was in pune and we also went to Aga Khan Palace, which is where Gandhi, his wife, and confidant lived in the latter stages of his life. It was an amazing place with a lot of history, and the grounds were gorgeous. We also went to this amazing restuarant called Vaishali, which makes many different types of dosas and other great dishes. I had the onion and tomator uttapam and it was delicousl – I’d highly recommend stopping in here for a bite, but be forewarned – it’s a popular place, so there is a line. It’s worth the wait though. We also visited a very nice park at the end of the day which had many meandering paths.

On April 4th, our last morning in Pune, Ameya invited us over to his house and we were able to sit and chat with him, Purnima, and his family. It was great getting to catch up and just relax after the hectic couple of days (for my family), and a long couple of months for them! A few more friends from XLRI came to see Ameya as well so we all went out to lunch together before my family and I headed back to Mumbai.

Back in Mumbai, we stayed at the Taj Palace Hotel, which as always was great. We had great views of the Gateway of India and the hotel rooms were nice and comfortable. Over the next day and a half we galavanted around the town via taxi’s and recommendations from a couple of my friends that live in Mumbai. We visited the Gateway of India, blitzed through the main markets in Mumbai, shopping for scarves, sarees, and more. Our group mosied over to a bakery opened by a French couple who live in Mumbai, it’s an amazing little place. The place is called Suzette (Suzette Website).The one we went to is in Nariman Point and there is another further north in Mumbai. I’d highly recommend stopping here. It’s a nice little place to get out of the traffic that is Mumbai!

As always it was a whirlwind of a trip but I could not stay at the Taj Palace Hotel and not get sushi, so on our last night we had a very nice (and expensive) dinner at the sushi joint in the hotel itself.

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And that brings my latest trip to India to a close. It was a blast from beginning to end and I look forward to my next trip back! Until next time folks.

 

Next Up…NYC and Playa del Carmen, Mexico!

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Travelling Iceland: Reykjavík and More

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“I’ve walked a lot in the mountains in Iceland. And as you come to a new valley, as you come to a new landscape, you have a certain view. If you stand still, the landscape doesn’t necessarily tell you how big it is. It doesn’t really tell you what you’re looking at. The moment you start to move the mountain starts to move.”

~ Olafur Eliasson (Danish-Icelandic Artist)

Iceland has been on my ‘Must Travel To’ list for years. My mother was stationed there during her military career; it was actually her first 15-month assignment away from home. Any time anyone asked her about the place, she said it was beautiful, and was worth the trip.

Now I’ve found out she was right. Iceland was absolutely breathtaking, from the landscape, to the people, I loved it all – this will definitely be a country that I come back to more than once.

This trip came about after talking with a great travelling buddy of mine, Katie. We’ve taken a few trips together now over the years and at the end of 2015 we both had mentioned we wanted to do Iceland one of these days and would love to go with each other.

Well – around the same time a mutual friend of ours was married and one of her friends met Katie and expressed an interest in visiting Iceland as well.

Kismet? You bet it was.

So like all people with a common goal, we decided to visit the country together the last week in January 2016.

Of course the day we fly out, there is a Snow-pocalypse on the east coast, but we all made it on time and in one piece to Reykjavík! We decided to use AirBnb for our accommodations and the little apartment we found about 40 minutes walking from the city center was adorable. Our host was amazing and even made us breakfast!

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Our first day there, we just spent getting our bearings, since we rented a car, and we decided what we wanted to do on which days. The very next day we woke up early to get into gear for our snorkeling tour of the Silfra. We booked this tour with dive.is (https://www.dive.is/). They have many different tours and are a reputable company. If you go, see if you can get Alexi as your tour guide, he was awesome!

So the Silfra was created when the two tectonic plates – European and North American – pulled apart – eons ago. There is a lake not far from the Silfra and when the plates pulled apart, water began to trickle into the location. The water is the purest water around, having been filtered for 70-100 years through lava rock.

Anyway long story short, the snorkeling was amazing. The water is super clear; you can literally see everything under water. The rock formations that were created were stunning. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera that could last in the water. Let me forewarn you, the water is cold. And it’s not a little cold; it’s a lot cold. The temperature of the water all year long is between 2 and 4 degrees Centigrade, which roughly translate to between 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit (I think). I think I’m going to invest in a goPro plus an insulated case for my next trip so I can take video.

After the snorkeling tour, we commenced on our own tour of the Golden Circle. Here is a brief on the circle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Circle_(Iceland). I think we hit all the major spots in the circle. The park itself is gorgeous and many more sites to see, not just these. I will return when the weather is better to do some hiking.

The next day we walked from our Airbnb into downtown Reykjavík and took a free tour of the city, after stopping by the Hand knitting Association of Iceland and picking up some awesome Icelandic yarn and sweater patterns. The tour was really good! Our tour guide was great, he told us about the history of the city and of Iceland and imparted a lot of cool local knowledge. Here is the link to sign up for the tour: http://www.freewalkingtour.is/. It is free, but they do ask for a monetary tip at the end. You can basically give how much you think the tour was worth.

After a mini break we took the car on a ten-hour day trip, to see the cute town of Vik and the black sand beach, and also Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. Our day started extremely early and we drove (well Katie drove, I was the navigator) through crazy snow, and dark roads to make it to Vik when the sun rose. As we approached our destination we had to stop and pet the Iceland ponies we saw – they were too cute to pass up.

Not long after our pony stop, we reached Vik and the black sand beach. It was absolutely beautiful. The black sand was so soft; our boots literally sank down into it. The roaring of the waves and the wind was all you could hear as the waves crashed up along the beach. I could have stayed there just watching for probably a good hour or so, but after a quick lunch in town we pushed on to the glacier lagoon.

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is made up from the long glacier that stretches along the tops of the mountains in Iceland. The lagoon was formed from the glacier on one side breaking apart and then the water from the ocean meeting and eroding the glacier even more, causing pieces to break apart and flow out into the open water. If you do nothing else, make this trip. There are no words to describe how amazing this place was. It’s definitely a place I’ll return to again.

On our last day in Iceland, we headed to a Geothermal Power Plant called On which powers Reykjavík to get our nerd on, which was pretty darn cool. Then we drove to a little fishing village where we wanted to eat lunch, but found out the restaurant was closed for the season and wouldn’t be opening for another week or so. Instead we stopped in another village and had some pizza, which was very good. After that we found a lava tube that was along the Ring road (literally a road that can take you all the way around Iceland) and decided to go down and investigate as much as we could. Getting down the huge snowdrifts was a challenge, but once we did, the cave was pretty cool.

During this entire time we tried (and failed) to see the Aurora Borealis. It was extremely elusive for us, though a couple of people we met and talked with had seen it before we made it to Iceland. Our final morning we tried to see it again, but just wasn’t happening for us.

Oh well – there is always next time. 🙂

So this concludes my trip to Iceland. It was awesome and I’ll definitely get back to this land of awesomeness when the weather is a little warmer and I can see more.

Until next time!

Quote Credits – Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/iceland.html
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Reflections: Mad dash to the finish and beyond…

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“Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.”

― Napoléon Bonaparte

When I think of the last ten to eleven months, I am reminded of training for three to four half marathons in quick succession of each other. Every day is a challenge, whether it is mental, spiritual, or even physical. The last two semesters of getting any degree, not just an MBA, is a sprint to the finish. There are meetings to talk about meetings, group sessions and projects that go awry, pop quizzes, pop tests, and homework that seems to be unending to keep up with your studies.

However, on top of all the school work, there is job searching, figuring out what path you want to travel after this gauntlet, and all of the self doubts and unending questions of what comes after? Or why did I do this? On top of all of this I had received a life altering diagnosis at the start of my summer semester that severely impacted my health the rest of the year. There were days that I was so tired I didn’t want to move, let alone go be productive at school, but I did it anyway. I had quit my job for this degree, threw away my cushy future and went after what I wanted – there was no way I was going to let anything get me down.

I don’t think I have ever been as unsettled before when I thought of my future, as I was finishing my degree requirements mid December, without a job offer in hand. I really felt like I had failed. Or if not failed, performed severely under par. I was by no means the only one feeling this way, but it’s really crushing when the feelings just cascade one on top of the other. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t know exactly what my next steps were going to be or what I was going to do.

I was terrified.

After the initial burst of fear that last a couple of days after finishing classes and finals, I woke up one day after one of the deepest sleeps I’d had in months, completely at peace. I didn’t have anywhere to be, nothing to compete with my time; I could do whatever I wanted. Around the same time, my doctor let me know that my health was on the mend.

I had finished the gauntlet, the degree was mine, and the experiences I had had were amazing, terrifying, and could never be replaced or replicated. My health was back on track; I could get back to where I had left off months before-if I wanted to.

Or I could carve out something completely new and actually be able to spend the quality time to get it right for me this time around. Without a job to quickly jump into, I actually had the time to focus on me. And that’s just what I did and what I’m continuing to do. I’m still looking for a job, but I’ve been working also on mentally recharging my batteries, spending time with friends and family, travelling the world, and truly giving myself a break.

The MBA taught me what I needed to know in business, working in teams, and how to become even more successful in the next phase of my career. However, I also learned that sometimes, it’s okay to slow down as well and take time to really live life and not have a plan moving forward.

So am I still internally freaking out every now and again? Sure. Am I letting it rule me? Absolutely not.

Whatever is supposed to happen will eventually happen and not a minute sooner.

Next Up: Travelling Iceland

*Feature Image Credit to M. Walcher

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Travelling England, Czech Republic, and Good Ole’ USA

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You would think that I was tired of travelling after being gone for so long right? Yeah no, not in the slightest; you can thank my mother for this travel bug. Summer classes started in May 2015 back in Cleveland, Ohio at Case Western Reserve University. Prior to the semester starting a great friend of mine, who was studying at Cambridge University (she’s since graduated), asked if I’d like to attend May Ball with her at her college Jesus (yes, it is called Jesus College) in Cambridge in June.

Let’s just say, it wasn’t a question in my mind. I decided that I was going! If you’d like more information on the tradition of May Balls and the history at Cambridge, Wikipedia has a pretty good synopsis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Ball). The May Ball for Jesus College was on June 15th 2015, so I flew in a couple days early to catch up and revisit Cambridge, which is a very fun cute city. It was great getting to catch up with my buddy Katie and also get to see some events leading up to the May Ball. So rowing is a very big to do at Cambridge. The final rowing competition was happening Saturday (13th June) so Katie took me and started explaining everything before the competition started. Long story short it was a great couple of hours. The other event that we were able to see the end of was where different colleges used only cardboard to built boats and see if they could float in one of the rivers close to campus. It was hilarious, but awesome to see. Jesus College won that one – after all, it is the college known for engineers.

The day of the May Ball two more friends of Katie’s came to enjoy in the festivities as well. They had been travelling in Scotland or Ireland (I can’t remember now) and made it with a few hours to spare.

In short, the May Ball was awesome! We splurged a little and were able to get a sit down dinner in one of the special dining halls in Jesus College. The food was amazing and there was a wine paired with every course.

The theme was Wild Card, and every part of the college was decked out in the different suits of a card deck. There were also a rides; one of those high swinging rides always at carnivals, dodge em’ (aka bumper cars), laser tag, silent disco (everyone is wearing headphones), and even a concert! The headliner was James Bay, who is a newcomer on the music scene – his first album came out last year (it’s awesome btw).

The whole night was such fun! The morning is even better because there is always a survivor photo outside on the lawn, so it’s nice to be apart of that.

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Setting up for Survivor Photo! Woo Hoo!

Of course, the whirlwind party didn’t end there. As per tradition, you stay up all night, catch a couple zzz’s and then you are off to another city. Which city did we pick? How about Prague, Czech Republic. Considering I had class to get back to, I spent a lovely 16 hours in this gorgeous city, walking around, taking in the sites, and enjoying the food. I had a marvelous time with lovely lady friends. Best 4-day trip ever!

The next trip I took last year was in October 2015. My mom decided that we were going to go on a family trip to what is called the Rise Festival. Last year this took place in the Mohave Desert outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Essentially the Rise Festival is a festival of lights. People gather together in the middle of nowhere and light lanterns and watch them float into the heavens together.

Sounds hippy dippy right? Well it is, but it’s so very cool.

On the lanterns you can right out hopes, dreams, wishes, angry rants, whatever you want. The whole purpose of the festival is to commune with like-minded people, rid yourself of negative thoughts and energy, and put forth good energy and positivity. I was skeptical, but it was so beautiful to be a part of it.

We didn’t just do the Rise Festival while in Las Vegas. It’s Vegas! You must see a show, eat awesome food, and enjoy the landscape, and that’s exactly what we did. We visited Red Rock Canyon, which were stunning feats of natural architecture, and also experience some great cuisine on the Las Vegas Strip. The show we saw this time around was the Cirque Du Soleil show ‘O’ at the Bellagio Hotel. This is a must see show. It’s been there for a while, but well worth the money spent.

Finally I wrapped up my year in San Diego, California. I had never been to the city before, so it was great to just have a few days to chill and walk around. The Airbnb we stayed at was right downtown, which is extremely walker friendly.

So this completes my tour de 2015, as far as travels go. I had an awesome time last year, and with school it was hectic but crazy fun. I’m two posts away from being completely up to date on the blog! Yay! Stay tuned!

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Travelling India Part III: Kerala & Rishikesh

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After the school semester ended in India, one of my good friends and I decided to take two weeks and explore parts of India that we were unable to get to during the semester. I knew I wanted to go someplace new and also revisit old pleasurable places. With this in mind our traveling took us south to Kerala and north to Rishikesh.

While hanging out with friends in Bangalore I met the owner of a tour company in India called Travspire (http://travspire.com/). It was a great meeting, Arjun was/is awesome and he was more than happy to help me with the planning of my trip. (Pssst, he was also the organizer of our tour of old Bangalore – really cool guy!)

Moving forward, working with Travspire, our itinerary unfolded before us. We were going to spend 5 days and 4 nights in Kerala before heading to the mountains of India. Travspire coordinated a private driver to meet us at the airport in Cochin and be with us for our entire stay. They also coordinated an all day tour of Fort Kochi, the hotel stay there, and our backwaters bungalow in Alleppey, plus a kayaking experience on the backwaters. Our driver was from that area so he was amazingly helpful in helping us find a respectable Ayurveda Spa to get massages at.

During our stay in Cochin, we stayed within Fort Kochi at one of the few hotels in the Dutch quarter called the Tower House (http://the-tower-house.neemranahotels.com/). This place was great, you could definitely see Dutch influences in the design of the hotel and the hotel was situated close to the water. We arrived in Cochin late afternoon. Our driver promptly took us to our hotel and we just wandered around the fort for the night. The next morning we woke up early enough to take a walk along the waters edge. All across the beach there were these Chinese fishing nets where fishermen were looking for that day’s catch.

At the Tower House, our breakfast was included in the room price; we ate a more western style breakfast that day, before meeting with our tour guide. The tour was very good. He started close to the hotel and then took us along to one of the oldest churches in the fort, to a renowned spice shop (where Rachel and I bought a ton of spices), to the last royal family’s house in the fort, and finally to a couple of antique shops. The whole tour was great and we had an enjoyable first half of the day.

In the afternoon we drove to Alleppey, which most people equate with the backwaters in Kerala. There are backwaters really all over the place, but Alleppey is the most well known stop for them, due to the fact there are many there. During our stay here, we stayed in the Katis Home (http://www.kaitshome.com/index.html), which is a homestay along the backwaters. This place was amazing. The family who runs it was so very nice and thoughtful. We had the majority of our meals here and all of them were delicious (the masala chai was also really really good). Here we had our own little cottage/bungalow and there was a gazebo right on the water. It was peaceful and relaxing, which was exactly what we were looking for after our semester.

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How close were we to the backwaters?…this close. Pic taken from gazebo at Katis House.

The kayaking experience on the backwaters was also very neat. We were up at the crack of dawn, around 5:30AM. The kayaking took place in the early morning sun, which made it even more fun, because it was quiet and before people began to start their day. The tour group was maybe 8 of us, and they had a boat that followed us the entire time in case we wanted a break. We kayaked for about 2.5 hours in 20-25 min intervals. It was breathtaking. Our kayaking tour also included a traditional Kerala Indian breakfast, which was phenomenal.

The Ayurveda Spa we went to was also really nice. The prices were decent and the place was very clean. The masseurs were really good at their job and the whole experience was interesting to saw the least. A traditional massage involves a lot of oil, and depending on the add-ons you can add hot stones or other things to the regular massage. I think this was the first time I was pretty much naked in front of someone for a massage, but when in Rome right? It was all very professional and I was super relaxed after the whole experience and I decided another massage was in my future.

During our last day at the homestay, we took a kayak that the homestay had and kayaked a little up the backwaters right outside our front door. We also walked to the nearest village and pretty much just looked around, bought some ice cream, and just enjoyed the fact that we were there.

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One of the many beautiful dwellings to/from town by the Katis House. It was a very good walk.

I had such a good time there and I know my friend did as well. For anyone going to Kerala, Cochin and Alleppey are must dos on the list. I’ll probably revisit these places on my next trip there and of course, go farther afield.

We flew into Rishikesh the next day, not knowing that a large earthquake had hit Nepal and triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest. Yeah you remember that day last year? Well we were on our way to Delhi airport for our connection and were apparently in the air when it happened. Crazy right? We arrived in Rishikesh around 9pm that night.

Rishikesh is hill station at the base of some of the Himalayan mountain chain. This place from what I’ve been told is a very holy place and the Ganga River that flows in this part of the country is very clean and a place where many sunrise and sunset rituals are preformed. There are many yoga retreats and ashrams in and around Rishikesh and all number of stores and places to eat. The first time I came was in 2011 and coming back was very surprised at how much more there was. It is now touristier than I remember, but still a very cool place.

As I did before, I stayed at the Sattva Wellness and Retreat center (http://thesattva.com/). This place opened up in 2011, so the first time I was one of the first guests. Many amenities have been added since that time, but this place – I just really find peace here every time I’m there. There is a riverbed down the steps of the resort and you can hear the water running along it even up in the rooms of the restort, it makes more a very calming experience. Our entire stay in Rishikesh and at the Sattva center was one of lazy relaxation. We went into town, we hiked up the riverbed, we had massages again, and we just rested. It was a great way to end our stay in India.

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