Friday, July 31, 2009

My Bollywood Fix

Every now and then I need my Bollywood fix. I like 3 things about Bollywood movies: a) The escapism. What is the point of a movie if it doesn't make you believe that somewhere, there is a perfect world?, b) The music. Nothing can beat a good Bollywood number, and c) The clothes. I am amazed to see how Indian designers are putting such creative spins on salwars, sarees and kurti tops! 

So anyway, today we went to this movie called Love Aaj Kal, after having read some decent reviews and because I haven't seen a Bollywood movie in ages. As the name suggests, the movie is based on a contemporary love story. While the movie isn't necessarily a great entertainer, nor did it have much escapism as it focused on a very real problem, and what is increasingly becoming a very common problem among young couples - balancing ambition with relationships. 

The movie shows how couples these days place higher importance on dreams and ambitions than their relationships. People often work pretty hard to get what they want, and it is very hard to give it all up in the name of Love. The movie also hints at the new generation's "independent spirit" that makes them feel tied down in a marriage. Add "long-distance" to this and you've just multiplied the problem. The movie also does a fairly decent job of contrasting the new-age, complicated relationships with the simple ones of the past, where matters of the heart came before ambitions or jobs, and where people felt less "threatened" by marriage.

The crux of the movie (unfortunately beaten to death) was to show how sometimes your ambitions may seem so important that you may not consider sacrificing them for your relationship. However, you may begin to question how much they truly mean to you later in life, once you've actually achieved them. What I really liked about the movie though is that it doesn't necessarily show shades of black and white, in the sense that it doesn't preach you to treat love as the ultimate goal in your life or otherwise. It underlines the fact that if you were to just drop all your dreams for your relationship, you are almost sure to question that decision later in life. It's necessary to find what is truly important to you, even if it means that you have to make some difficult choices and wait for that self-realization.

While the movie wasn't a great entertainer, it did strike a chord with me, having been in a similar situation not very long ago. I was in a rather long distance relationship for two years and many times I had questioned the choice I made in terms of pursuing my career at the expense of potentially damaging my relationship. It wasn't easy. However, I do know that if I hadn't made that choice, I would've had some serious regrets, perhaps even a sense of loss. At the same time, it made me realize how much I valued C, and I was able to sort out things that seemed important to me, but really weren't. I think sooner or later in life, we all question the choices we make, however, what is important is that once you realize what you truly value, make that a real priority. 

Now there's a sentimental post, fit for a  Bollywood movie ;)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Belgium - Ah Brugge!

Sorry to have taken so long to Blog about the next stop on our Europe trip. Well, everyone knows what happens after a vacation right? You're buried under an endless pile of work and the R&R you just got during your vacation pretty much takes no time to wear off ... harsh but true. Anywho, I'm finally doing my promised post on the next stop of my Europe trip - Belgium.


We arrived in Brussels on the afternoon of the 29th (June). We started our trip with a visit to the Grand Place which I've heard so much about. The place was really spectacular, one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, or so they say. Seeing this place also made me realize that we really, really need an SLR. Our Sony Cybershot couldn't do much justice to the grandness of this place, but here are some of our best shots.

Grand Place

Grand Place

After that we went to see the Manneken Pis. Now, I already knew from online reviews that not much is to be expected, but nothing could've prepared me for what I saw. It was a tiny, most ordinary statue of a pissing boy, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out what the big deal is!

Manneken Pis

After this, our evening in Brussels was pretty much spent walking around and trying out some chocolate here and there. We visited the Atomium and some other historical places in the city. I'll have to say that the Grand Place, and the St. Hubert Arcade with chocolate & lace shops right next to it is perhaps the only reason to visit this city. I wouldn't advise planning on spending too much time in Brussels if you're planning on visiting Belgium.

Belgian Lace (another Belgian specialty) and dolls on display

The Grand Place was beautiful by night. We ate our dinner of some excellent falafel sitting in the square that was full of people just sitting around and having beer. The square was alive even at 12 in the night.

Grand Place by Night

Chocolates, Waffles and Fries!

Belgian chocolate is just wicked, wicked, wicked! You cant walk 10 ft without seeing a chocolate shop. And I'm not talking about cheap candy or snickers bars. Ladies and Gentlemen! - this is the most exquisite, hand-crafted chocolate you would've ever seen or tasted in your life! Just going by the number of chocolate stores/chocolatiers we saw in Brussels and Brugges, I'm given to think that this is their national occupation. We had so much chocolate there, it's almost a sin!

Chocolate cant get any better than this!

Their waffles and fries are equally sinful! No better way to start a day than with an authentic Belgian waffle. Just melts in your mouth guys, this ain't not ihop waffle, let me tell you!



I would've loved to dedicate a separate post to this most beautiful city (my favorite of all in my trip) but decided to stick with one post per country. We took the train from Brussels to Brugge which was most convenient. Brugge is a most tourist friendly place. You'll get a map and a list of must-sees as soon as you exit the station and the place is small enough to walk around and big enough to spend at least an entire day in it.
*Note: I've noticed that this place was spelt/pronouced in at least 4-5 different ways. I'm going with the spelling on the tourist map :)

The Belfry Tower

We started off our trip with the Belfry tower. After huffing and puffing our way up the 300 odd, steep steps, we got the most breath-taking views of this charming city!

The Belfy Tower

The charming city of Brugge

Oh the beautiful canals!

Following the Belfry, we went on a canal cruise of the city. Brugge is also known as the 'Venice of the North'. If I thought that the Amsterdam canals were beautiful, Brugge' canals just took my breath away. You wouldn't even feel like blinking your eyes, lest you miss something during this beautiful cruise.

Canal cruise views

More canal cruise views..

More canal cruise views..

A befitting end to the cruise, the swan lake! Oh so romantic!

Other attractions

After the cruise, we pretty much followed the directions on our tourist guide to the Basilica of the Holy Blood, where they claim to have the blood of Jesus Christ in a vial. It was built in the 12th century. This is some serious history we're talking about!

Basilica of the Holy Blood. That light seems almost .. divine doesnt it? ;)

Inside the Basilica. Very awe-inspiring..

We actually never saw the vial (shown to small groups at a time). How and why it missed our minds, I don't know, but needles to say, I regret it very much :(.

Following this, we went to the Church of our Lady which has a stutue of Madonna and the Baby Jesus carved by Michaelangelo himself. One of this very few statues outside of Italy. The Gothic church walls and ceiling were spectacular.

Madonna and baby Jesus by Michaelangelo

Brugge has numerous museums and churches, and beautiful squares such as the Market Square and Burg Square to offer. I would recommend spending 12-14 hours in Brugge at least to cover everything at an enjoyable place. A lot of places close before 5pm, so get there a little early if you can.

Brugge and your 401K

A visit to Brugge can have interesting consequences for your 401K (retirement) savings. You'll suddenly want to live there, if not now then at least when you hit 60, and it wont take long to do the math to understand exactly how much you'll need in order to do so. I for one am going to start saving more in my 401K to live in a place like this one:

My dream home in Brugge

I highly recommend that everyone put Brugge on their must-see list. A day in Brugge will feel like a dream, and you'll want to hold on to it tightly, lest you get woken up too soon!

Friday, July 10, 2009

On 3D movies and the Environment

Just got back from a movie. We watched our second 3D movie in a month - Ice Age 3, following Up (both really good movies). 
Over the years, I've made my peace with having to pay 3$ extra for a pair of 3D glasses when I'm not allowed to bring along the pair I got for my last 3D movie. However, I lose it when they put a big box right outside the theatre with a message saying 'Help recycle your 3D glasses' under the pretext of saving the Earth. So I'm just supposed to drop off my 3D glasses which I paid 3$ for (and which I have no use for either, I must admit) so that these people can repackage them and make more money off of them? And all this while, they wont allow me to just pay the regular ticket price and bring the glasses I saved from my last movie? If they're so concerned about the environment,  why not allow people this option? Imagine how much plastic could be saved if people were just encouraged to save their glasses and re-use them by saving them money!
This almost makes me as angry as I get when I see a sandwich at the place I frequent for lunch, being wrapped in an aluminium foil first, then placed in a plastic box and finally put in a paper bag. And to this people add several paper towels, and sachets of ketchup, salt and pepper picked up indiscriminately at the help-yourself corner, because, well, it's all free isn't it?. Grrr! I wont pretend to be the most environmentally conscious person, but this is just pure evil!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Holland - Windmills, tulips, cheese & wooden shoes

We began our trip with the Netherlands. I like to call it Holland as that is how I used to call it as a child. We spent about three days there, which was perfect for exploring not only Amsterdam, but the beautiful country side as well. For the sake of brevity, I'll leave out some of the mundane details, and list some of the things that I enjoyed the most.

Canal Tour around Amsterdam

Amsterdam is criss-crossed with beautiful canals. It's as easy to get around the city by boat as it is by road. Seeing how much water flows into the city (almost the entire country is below sea-level, hence the name Netherlands), one must appreciate the Dutch for fighting all odds. Truly great engineering minds. Anyways, we began our trip with a canal tour around Amsterdam. It gave us a sense of what was where and also beautiful views of the city. The historic warehouses with beautiful exteriors and unqiue gables, flanked the canals on either side. These have been preserved and converted into apartments. The Dutch don't believe in drawing their curtains, so you get beautiful views of the insides of these apartments as well. I noticed that they use a lot of paintings/art pieces for decoration.

Beautiful historic warehouses that flank Amsterdam's canals

Floating Flower Market

A visit to holland would be incomplete without seeing the beautiful flowers that grow there. Unfortuantely, their tulip season was over, however, we got to see a lot of beautiful flowers in their floating flower market (Bloemenmarkt). We visited it right after breakfast and it was a real treat to see the endless, beautiful flower shops. A great way in which to start the day. The "onion" like things you see in the pic below are tulip bulbs. I bought two, lets see if they bloom next summer :). Also, it's called the floating market, because all the flower stores start at the end of the road and float on the canal water.

Flowers in Bloemenmarkt

Tulip Bulbs (can be easily mistaken for onions)

South Holland Tour

We went on a tour of Hague, Delft and Madurodam. The noteworthy of these places was Madurodam, that has a mini-holland park, very, very popular with kids (and Telugu movie directors :)). It was a real treat, it had a mini-version of every landmark in Holland in a 1:25 ratio.

Mini Holland

North Holland

This was my favorite part of the Holland. It was exactly like I had imagined the Holland countryside...and more. We went to the "Windmill town" of Zaanse Schans. There were beautiful fields, windmills and cheese farms - just what you would expect from Holland.

One of the 1000 remaining (traditional/old) windmills in Holland

Zaanse Schans

We also visited a cheese farm, where we indulged in some cheese tasting. The cheese was phenomenal! It was not only picture-perfect to look at, it also tasted nothing like the cheese I've tasted in India or the US. Rich, creamy, delicious!


We also saw how traditional Dutch wooden shoes, also known as Clogs, are made. You'll see tiny wooden and china clog-souvenirs in every store in Holland.

Tiny Clogs

Following this we visited two fishing villages called Volderdam and Marken. Both were really beautiful places with traditional wooden houses. Luckily the day we visited Volderdam was also 'Volderdam day'. So we got to see a lot of people in traditional dutch attire walking around and drinking beer in groups.

Pretty little girl in traditional Dutch Attire

Fishing Village of Marken

Amsterdam's Red Light District

We took an organized walking-tour (taking special pains here to specify exactly what kind of tour :))) of the famous Red Light District in Amsterdam. I must say, it was one of the most interesting aspects of the city. It really opens up one's mind to see how if something is legalized and not abused, how "unshady" it can be (for the lack of a better word). In my mind's eye, I expected this area of the city to be super-shady. However, it wasn't that way at all! It was as well integrated into the rest of the city as their flower market for example. No demarcation really. Also the tour guide told us that there is no human trafficking and there are several security measures to protect these women.

Culinary experiences

Although very few reviews online mention the numerous culinary pleasures that Amsterdam has to offer ( I suppose the focus is on the other kinds of pleasures ;)), Amsterdam has a whole array of cuisines/restaurants to pick from. There are streets after streets lined with restaurants boasting of cuisines from all around the world (Anyone been to an Uruguayian restaurant lately?).
Also, Amsterdam is a vegetarian's delight. Whoever said that vegetarian food is hard to find in Europe, is seriously mistaken. We went to a vegetarian restaurant called Cafe De Waghaals. The food there was phenomenal! It was almost like...a beautiful lullaby...sung softly and beautifully..ahh. Another noteworthy meal was at Two Greeks; their Veg Mousaka is rather delicious.
Cafe In De Waag is another note-worthy cafe. It is actually located in an old castle. Tremendously nice to be sit in their outdoor seating view a view of the castle and the local fair right beside it. Of course, Amsterdam also has it's very famous "coffee shops" for those seeking a different kind of ... coffee ;).


I wouldnt call Amsterdam a romantic city, but it sure is a very charming place. One of the things I enjoyed most about Amsterdam was just walking around the city. It is very bike and pedestrian friendly. Also, it doesnt really grow dark until past 11 pm in summer. The city is alive at all hours, and so rich and full of live that it was a real treat to walk around the city (hand in hand, may I add ;)).

Amsterdam by Night. Beautifully lit canals.

Well, so that sums up our visit to Holland. The only thing we missed was a visit to the Anne Frank house (which was right opposite our hotel btw; typical oh-its-right-next-to-us-can-be-visited-anytime syndrome). Not sure if my post did justice, but Holland is every bit as beautiful as they say it is, and Amsterdam every bit as fun!


Just got back from what was a most wonderful and relaxing vacation. I didn't realize that spending 10 days in places you know nothing about - just exploring and discovering new things - could be such an exciting experience!
Since I'm hardly a woman of few words (as those who've read my previous posts may have already noticed), I'm going to do a separate post for each country I visited. I also want to sort out and add a few pictures to my posts as well. Will do this soon, I promise! For now, I'm jet-lagged and need some sleep. Stay tuned!