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Sorrento, The coastal town of Italy!

Right from the day I have got back from Italy, I can’t wait to write about Sorrento. My ordeal is now over and I finally get to jot down my experience and thoughts about this wonderful coastal town. We hired a taxi from Naples train station to reach Sorrento. Our drive to Sorrento was along the beautiful Amalfi coast and we were lucky to see the amber colored sky in the midst of sunset by the Mediterranean Sea. Our driver was very kind to make a stop and help us get some beautiful pictures of the sun setting along the coastline.

As soon as we entered into the town, I could spot the beautiful street sides full of orange and lemon trees. The most amazing and unique part of this town was that there were orange and lemon trees everywhere including street sides, restaurants and hotel backyards. It was such a delightful experience to have the lemons just fall of the trees while you are sitting and eating under lunch/dinner them. We enjoyed picking lemons from our hotel backyard and enjoyed freshly squeezed lemon juice every day. Our hotel management was so very sweet to offer us orange juice freshly squeezed out from the oranges from their pool garden everyday during breakfast. We stayed at the Carlton International hotel and I would definitely recommend this hotel because of the location which was so central, the garden by the pool and more so because of their warm behavior and great service.

The best part about Sorrento is that it is very well connected to beautiful islands and other coastal villages. The nearest beautiful places that we traveled from Sorrento are Capri, Positano and Amalfi. There are ferries that run throughout the day to Capri and Sita bus that runs to Positano and Amalfi from Sorrento train station.  During our visit, we made our day trips to all these beautiful places and returned back to Sorrento later in the day. Our third day there, we actually got a chance to explore Sorrento. The central square of Sorrento is the Piazza Tasso around which there are neighborhoods where there are lots of stores for shopping. The Marina piccolo is the main port area of Sorrento and at a walking distance from the square.

In all out trip to the town of Sorrento was fulfilling in every way and was one of the highlight of our Italy trip. Definitely add it to your bucket list if you haven’t yet🙂


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Five things to do in Island of Capri!

For all those who are planning a trip to south Italy, Capri is a destination that just cannot be missed. It is a picturesque island on the Gulf of Naples located south of Italy. Capri is accessible from the Marina piccolo port of Sorrento via ferry which takes about 30 minutes. It is beautiful island surrounded by blue green emerald water bordering the rugged surfaces. One can spend a perfect day relaxing, swimming and exploring the island in and out. Here are few things you could do in Capri!

  • Beach- Beach- Beach

The crystal clear beach of Capri right by the Marina Grande bay covered with pebbles is probably the first thing to spot as you walk through the island after hopping off from the ferry. Simply relax by the beach or take a dip!

 

  • Funicular up to the Piazzetta

Piazetta is the heart of Capri and provides an panoramic view of the spectacular island. There is a cable car that takes you from the bay area up to the Piazetta which takes about five minutes. The lines are long but they move fast. Once you are in the top, the wide view of Capri is just spectacular with water surrounding the island from all sides. The sight of the blue bell flowers and lemon trees all over the hills is just outstanding.

 

  • Swim the Green Grotto

The best way to explore the island of Capri is by boat. There are different sight seeing tours offered by tour companies that do both group and private tours in the water. We rented a private traditional gozzo boat for three hours to go around the island. Our sailor took us to all the prominent sights of the island including the blue grotto, green grotto, natural arch and Faraglioni.

We also stopped by the green grotto to take a quick dip in the turquoise green water. The waves of sea being pretty strong didn’t let us swim for a long time, but we still enjoyed our short swim.

 

  • Boat ride to the Blue Grotto

The Capri Island is known for the Blue grotto. The blue grotto is an illuminated cavern in the Mediterranean Sea which reflects azure blue light when the sun shines on the surface of the water. It is just indescribable and a must experience during the visit to Capri. The tickets are 13 euros per person and the Italian serenade music in the background sung by local gondola boat riders makes it all the more beautiful. Usually the wait time is long since it’s a very touristy thing to see, but we got lucky since it wasn’t very busy in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon🙂

 

  • Faraglioni – 

The spectacular rock formations eroded by the ocean over time stand by the island of Capri. Our boat went under this rugged formations and it was a splendid view to watch those huge standing rocks in the middle of the ocean . We also spotted red pastel corals in the coral island and enjoyed the sight of natural rock formations that resembled faces and bodies of different animals.

Are there any islands that are close to your heart and you would recommend for travel? Please share, I would love to read!


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The city amidst Tuscan hills, Florence!

Florence is one city that is a perfect blend of architecture, history and music surpassed by natural Tuscan landscapes. The city is basically divided in two parts by river Arno. One side encompasses the rolling countryside region where the Florentine locals live amidst fresh air and the other side is the red roofed old architectural city swarmed with tourists all year round. We were in Florence for two days and our bed and breakfast was located along a hill in the middle of dense lush trees and winding pathways. As soon as we reached there we were lucky to find an excellent India restaurant within walking distance from our bed and breakfast.

We explored Florence just like a local and not as a tourist. Instead of taking any tour buses or guides to help us explore, we hopped on local buses for transport which was both cheap and efficient. The historical center of the city is the main area around which the churches, galleries, and shopping area are all at a walk-able distance. Piazza del Signoria was right around the corner when we reached the historical center of the city. It is the political hub of the city with various sculptures among which the most prominent ones are The Fountain of Neptune, David’s statue and the huge gold turtle. Next to the piazza square , stood The Uffizi gallery which is one of the most famous art museum in the world. After walking for a few minutes from the gallery, we stumbled into The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore which is the most noticeable church in Italy with a huge red duo-mo designed with Gothic style marbles. After strolling for a bit around the main center we headed back for lunch and a little afternoon nap after all the walking.

Me and my mom, as adventurous as we are, we walked back to the city to enjoy the beautiful evening after our power nap. We walked along the bridges over Arno river. The street musicians played soft music which was just perfect to listen to while the sun set. We went back to the Duo-mo to watch it while the sun set and we got a glimpse of the most amazing sight on our way back. We got to spot the Strawberry moon, which is a rare phenomenon when a full moon and a summer solstice coincide, the moon appears to be a large amber colored one. We were lucky to see it along the bank of the river Arno while all the tourists tried to capture the moon in their lenses. We were in the taxi and weren’t lucky enough to capture it but nevertheless we at-least got to see it.

After spending the first day at the tourist hub of the city, we wanted to explore the serene Tuscan hills the following day. We boarded a local bus to the Piazzale Micheangelo which is one of the highest points along the hills and the best spot to get a extensive view of the city. The river Arno flowing right in the middle of the city with the backdrop of the humongous Duo-mo surrounded by red roof topped old architectural buildings was a beautiful sight to enjoy. I clearly remember that day was international yoga day and I tried to get some clicks in different yoga poses while the tourists watched me go crazy.

After enjoying the sunshine along the hills, we headed towards the Ponte Vecchio bridge which is a medieval time arch bridge. It is very famous among the tourists for jewelry and art shops. We then munched on some delicious Chinese noodles at a Chinese restaurant by the bridge for lunch. After our lunch we were all set to grab our luggage and get ready for our train to Naples. All in all, we spent great time in the beautiful historical city and I would recommend it to the travelers who would love to explore an artistic city with rich history and background.

You also must be surprised to read that we ate Indian and Chinese food while we were in Italy but to be honest we were tired of Italian pizzas and pastas and wanted our taste buds to taste something different. Has this ever happened to you ? Do share , I would love to read!


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Positano, a Cliff-side Village along the Amalfi Coast!

Having been brought up in a small town of India surrounded by so many villages, I have always had desire to visit villages of other countries. I have been endlessly curious to know and see how villages of other lands look like. That is how Positano, the coast side village of Italy was a part of our itinerary during my family trip to Italy. The Cliff-side village of Positano along the Amalfi coast is more like a beach town surrounded by little houses puzzled up together built upon high cliffs. The breathtaking bird’s eye view, ample greenery topped with ornamental flower vines on the hillside during summer makes it look all the more beautiful.

The village of Positano is about 45 minutes drive from Sorrento. The cheapest means of transport from Sorrento is via Sita Bus which leaves the train terminal at Sorrento every half hour. The tickets are just 8 euros person and the bus provides transfer to Positano and Amalfi, the coastal villages along the Amalfi coast. We hopped into the bus at around noon. Our drive was very scenic overlooking the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The drive was uphill cutting sharply through the mountains making way downhill and finally landing into the magical land of Positano.

The bus dropped us at quite far in the hills away from the beach and we stepped down about 1ooo steps to reach to the main shopping area. The walk down the stairs was very unusual, it was through the houses that were built along the hills. It looked like private stairways going down right by their houses. We enjoyed walking down the stairs looking and appreciating the vegetable gardens in the backyards of private houses, just like any other village. I even noticed green figs hanging on the trees yet to ripe on our way down. After a few minutes of walking down the stairs , we overlooked the panoramic view of the city which was just like something that I had never seen before for real. The blue sea surrounded by the cliffs and hills packed with little colorful houses covered with beautiful pink Bougainvillea flowers looked just magnificent. Living in one of these houses must be such a wonderful experience.

We then finally reached further down to the main shopping district of Positano. Little boutique shops on both sides, lemon scented soaps and perfumes, ceramic handmade art and craft were few of the things that caught my attention while walking through the shops. As we walked further down, the streets got narrower and narrower and they were covered with purple pink bushes all over the walkway. The beauty of the this place can be experienced only by visiting it for real and I was really awestruck looking at the natural creativity and happy at the same time that I got to visit such a lovely place.

At last we reached the beach “Spiaggia Dell Fornillo” which was a sight absolutely worth those stairs and walkways. The colorful beach chairs all around the beach, tourists basking in the sun and the hustle bustle of the little restaurants nearby was a perfect spot to relax. We spent some time sipping on green detox smoothies in one of the restaurants facing the beach. After lazing around for quite some time and soaking in the view of the city, we made our mind to head back to the shopping area to buy some souvenirs. We really loved the lemon scented perfumes and I personally loved the soaps too, their lemon like fragrance was just to die for. We then made our way to the local bus which dropped us back to the Sita bus stop to hop on the bus back to Sorrento.

Overall we had a lovely day, although we were bit tired by the time we reached Sorrento at the end of the day, it was all worth it. I had never seen such a serene and scenic village. It is a perfect getaway to spend time away from the city and enjoy mother nature. Is there any other villages you would recommend for visit? Do share. I would love to hear!


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The City of Canals, Venice!

Venice is the most unique city I have ever visited in my life so far. My recent visit to this city has left me amazed and the time I spent there with my family is very memorable. We visited Venice just for two days and explored every nook and corner of the city on foot. We stayed at The Westin Europa and Regina which was an absolute delight with magnificent views of the Grand Canal.

As soon as we landed into Venice we rented a water taxi to our hotel. The water taxis are expensive in comparison to the water bus, however we had a lot of luggage and ended up taking the taxi. There is no way to get to Venice by car since there are no cars or roads in Venice, isn’t that amazing. Venice is full of narrow streets and walking ways just like a maze. There are canals and boats all over the city instead of roads and cars. Our boat ride to the hotel was very exciting, it was a speed boat with a covered seating area and right there our trip started with a bang.

After reaching the hotel and relaxing for a bit, we made our way to the Piazza San Marco which was just a five minute walk from our hotel. The square was full of tourists surrounded symmetrically on all four sides with magnificent architectures on each side. The sight of the tourists feeding the pigeons with the backdrop of the beautiful St Mark’s Basilica is still vivid in my memory. We sat by the Basilica and enjoyed eating delicious Pizza topped with red pepper and cheese from one of the many Italian restaurants at the square. After enjoying lunch by the square we started exploring the little shops along the narrow streets making our way to the Rialto Bridge which was full of touristy shops along both sides. It is also called the Rialto market and it is the bridge that connects the two sides of Venice that is separated by the Grand Canal. I really liked browsing through the Murano glass work and leather bag shops which were very prominent throughout the city.

After reaching the other side, we relaxed for a bit by the canal taking pictures and enjoying the beautiful view of restaurants by canal lit with lamps and decorated with flowers on both sides. I loved walking by them and took the opportunity to capture them as well. We spent the rest of the evening at our hotel enjoying beautiful view of the Santa Maria Church reflecting over the calm well lit water of the grand canal.

Our second day in Venice started with the delicious breakfast at the hotel deck which overlooked the Grand Canal. The fresh smoothies, juices and fruits was an awesome kick start to our day and we were ready to explore the rest of the city. We started our day with a charming gondola ride along the beautiful canals and bridges. Although it was a bit overpriced, we enjoyed riding under the bridges, passing by little restaurants by the canals and appreciated the elegant view from the water. We learned a little bit about the history of Venice and the lagoon that was created after diverting the water from the Adriatic Sea. We were then dropped on the opposite side from our hotel at the Santa Maria Church.

After strolling by the stairs of the church, we crossed the narrow bridges to walk towards the market and made our way to the Academy Bridge. The bridge showcases brilliant views of the city with Grand Canal in the back drop and is such a perfect spot for photography. We then returned to our hotel to pick our luggage to get to the train station. In the mean time we had hot cup of tea with some snacks at the hotel bar at the deck facing the canal view. It was a perfect end to our absolutely splendid trip.

Venice has undoubtedly been one of the best destinations that I have ever visited and it is definitely worth an experience. It is truly a romantic city with unique setting. Which is your favorite city so far? Do share. I would love to hear!


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Cherry Blossom Festival, Washinton DC!

Year after year Washington DC celebrates Spring Cherry Blossom festival in the honor of the 1300 Cherry trees gifted by the Mayor of Japan to the city of Washington DC to represent cordial relationship between the two countries hundreds of years ago. I personally think it is such a beautiful gesture and wanted to experience this phenomenal event of watching pink bouquets of flowers all over the city for a long time now. Finally my yearning came to an end when I recently visited the green and clean architectural capital of United States with my friends.

The historical and architectural vibe of the city made me fall in love with it the moment I stepped in. We started our day at the US Capitol and mostly explored the city by foot. Strolling around the colorful tulips and pink/white cherry blossom trees along the streets, we made our way to the enormous Washington Monument. As a part of the spring festival, kite festival was being observed at the Washington Monument over the weekend that we were there. We were amazed to see hundreds of people flying vivid kites around the monument. My favorite ones were the Kung fu Panda and the Minions, those were the most adorable ones🙂

Right across the road from the Washington Monument stands the World War 2 Memorial with pillars embedded with all the States of the United states surrounding the magnificent water fountain. Walking all day and exhausted at the end, we relaxed by the refreshing breeze of the water fountain for a while and then headed to the tidal basin which has rows of cherry blossom tress with the backdrop of Jefferson Memorial. The floral library by the tidal basin had beautiful tulips at its peak bloom and plenty of tourists around to get a picture. The sun was setting and the day ending while my heart was greedy and wanted some more of it.

Next day we visited the Alexandria Old town which is a cute little neighborhood in Virginia. After our slow day spent there sipping on coffee and munching some fine dining, we headed towards the White House which is definitely a spot not to be missed in Washington. The White house was well surrounded with security and we managed to get some beautiful pictures with the security guard of course. We also went back to the Lincoln Memorial to catch a view of the Washington Monument in the reflecting pool. During sunset , the reflection looked spectacular. After a long day, we chit chatted and relaxed by the serene reflecting pool. My favorite part of the trip was the walk from the Lincoln memorial to the World War 2 Memorial. There was something very romantic about the site with the benches surrounded by lanes of lush trees. I had a great time strolling by that area and could sit there forever.

Overall I loved my short trip to Washington DC and would definitely recommend to take this trip during spring to make it all the more beautiful. Is Cherry Blossom one of the items in your bucket list? Do share🙂 I would love to read.


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A Perfect day in San Francisco!

Can San Francisco be explored in a day? Yes, it can! I have done it. Here are a few highlights of the city that I enjoyed in just one day.

Golden Gate Bridge

Our day in the city began with the beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point. We enjoyed our walk along the pathways by the Pacific Ocean down the stairs all the way to catch scenic views at the bottom of the trail. I wish I was wearing more comfortable shoes, I wasn’t really prepared for a trail in the middle of the city. Nevertheless I had a great time. The ocean was perfect for surfing with huge waves and I caught a glimpse of a surfer swim on his board towards the strong tides.

Golden Gate Park

After enjoying the views of the Golden Gate Bridge we drove to the Golden Gate Park which was about twenty minutes’ drive. To my surprise the drive was very scenic with huge trees on our way with winding roads. That I think is the beauty of California, lot of surprises my way. We parked our car and made our way to the garden which was huge. It started with the rose garden, tea garden and then we finally reached the main area which has famous museums surrounded by lush greenery. My favorite was the huge palm trees which I hugged so tight🙂

Union Square

By the time we were walking out of the Golden Gate Park, we were hungry and ready for a delicious lunch. So our next stop was Union square which is the Downtown area of San Francisco.  At this point we parked our car in one of the public parking garage by our hotel because finding parking in downtown is calling danger.We relished the authentic Indian buffet at ‘The Amber’ which had great variety of options in their lunch buffet and also was very appetizing.

After our lunch, I was very excited to ride the cable car which was one of the adventures in my bucket list. Cable car is one of the oldest way of commute in history and San Francisco is one of the very few places to still have it. The drivers have to manually rotate the cable car to ride the opposite way. It was a wait of more than one hour but completely worth it. We rode up the steep hilly roads of San Francisco city with our heads hanging out of the cable car which was quite an adventure. We rode the cable car towards our next spot and that was Fisherman’s Wharf.

Fisherman’s Wharf

I don’t know what that was but I always imagined Fisherman’s Wharf to be this beautiful place in San Francisco that everyone goes to. It turned out to be completely opposite of what I imagined. It was beautiful no doubt but it was very crowded and smoky. It was more of a tourist trap with shops around and crowded street performances around. To be honest I wasn’t able to enjoy much there because of the swarming tourists over the weekend. Probably would have been better over the weekdays.

The only thing I liked in the Fishermen’s Wharf was the Ghirardelli Square where you could actually watch how chocolate is made from scratch using raw cocoa. It was great experience to know how chocolate is processed.

 Lombard Street

Quick but not easy walk up the hill from Ghirardelli Square took us to the Lombard Street which is a steep winding street. It is one of its own kind and one of the must see stops in San Francisco. While other people were driving down the Lombard Street, we walked up the stairs to finally reach the top. The funny part was our Uber cab driver that we called to go back to the hotel was very kind to drive us down the Lombard Street. So we got to ride down the steepest winding street, yayy!

China Town

After relaxing in the hotel for an hour or so, we then went to China town for dinner which was just a few minutes of walk from our hotel. We enjoyed the Chinese food there and the jasmine tea which I still remember which was such a bliss after the long day🙂

We crunched in everything in a day because we just had one day in San Francisco. End of the day I was contended to explore an awesome city full of surprises.

Things to do:

Explore explore explore

Hiking at the Fort Point

Ride Cable Car

Drive down Lombard Street

Places to Eat:

Amber (Indian)

Hunan Home’s Restaurant(Chinese)


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El Yunque National Forest and Luquillo beach, Puerto Rico!

By now you all know how much I love hiking and being out in the nature trails. I thoroughly enjoyed trekking the El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico which is the only tropical rain forest in the United States. The jungle is located few meters above the sea level so we had to drive through winding roads to reach one of the parking spots to catch the trail. We also stopped to enjoy delicious coconut water on our way up to the forest. We decided to take the La Mina trail which took us to the La Mina falls. It was a challenging trail and although it was just a mile each way, the uphill walk made it seem longer.

It was totally worth it when we reached the gorgeous La Mina waterfall. The tourists enjoyed taking a dip in the icy cold water while the warm weather around kept them comfortable. I couldn’t resist myself from getting into the water and enjoyed the dip amidst the slippery rocks. After our hike, we quenched our thirst with the refreshing lemonade right where we started our hike.

On our way back we stopped at the magnificent Luquillo beach which was about 20 minutes of drive from the forest. The beach was beautiful with the rain forest in the back drop. The beautiful tall coconut trees made the beach all the more beautiful. I watched the kids enjoy digging sand in the beach while sipping on my mouth-watering virgin Pinacolada. After a short walk along the beach we ended up having the most delicious italian dinner at Pasta y Pueblo which was a little restaurant by the beach. They were giving away free Margaritas on the occasion of Valentines Day and the their pesto pasta was one of the best I have ever had. Their menu was limited yet delicious. The day ended on a very sweet note when we munched on the chocolate cake on the house🙂

Things to do:

Hiking the Rain Forest
Swimming in the beach
Take a dip in the waterfall

Places to eat:

Pasta y Pueblo( Italian)


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The Colors of Old San Juan!

One of the most architecturally rich old cities, Old San Juan is a perfectly small town easily tourable on foot. The charming cobbled stone streets that go up and down hill through out the city surrounded by vividly colored houses make Old San Juan a very bright and colorful getaway destination. The little downtown that is always buzzing with tourists and offers world famous delicacies with fresh local drinks specially Pina Colada in a pineapple shell.

Wandering in the streets which had innumerable photogenic spots was the most joyful experience I had in the historical city. I found it to be a very laid back town and was amazed to see people learn and play musical instruments right by the streets. The art galleries by the main street was very interesting to look at, most of it represented the history and design of the city. The colorful doors of San Juan was the highlight of many of these galleries.

We visited the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista which is the Roman Catholic Cathedral and one of the oldest buildings of San Juan. We also explored another National Historic Site Paseo Del Moro which is a scenic relaxed walk way along the coast on one side and wall on the other which once upon a time protected the city. Overall the experience of Old San Juan is very welcoming and pleasant. I would love to return and unravel the unexplored areas of the city.

 Things to do:

Visit the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista
Explore National Historic Site Paseo Del Moro
Walk,walk and walk all over the city

Places to eat :

Istanbul Turkish
El Picoteo Spanish


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The Forts of Old San Juan!

A photographer’s delight, San Juan in Puerto Rico holds a very long and enchanting history. A tropical hub of forts, jungles and beaches, Puerto Rico is a chain of islands in the Caribbean deserves to be in every traveler’s bucket list.

On our first day, we explored the old city of San Juan by foot and visited the national historic sites of the city. The two castles stand proudly in the heart of the island about a mile apart from each other for hundreds of years now. Our first stop was the Castillo San Cristobal Fort. The dome shaped stone walls in every corner looked marvelous with the backdrop of the dark blue Atlantic ocean. The fort was originally created by Spanish rulers to protect their land of San Juan. It is very commendable that the strongly built tunnels, walls and canons are well preserved for decades of years now.

We then walked towards the San Felipe del Morro Fort which was about twenty minutes walk along the coast from the San Cristobal Fort. We enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the tourists flying large colorful kites in the park. The castle is surrounded by the colonial-era cemetery Santa María Magdalena de Pazzison on one side and a gorgeous pebble walk way on the other. We relaxed by the park for quite some time and relished delicious mango coconut ice cream on the way back as it was a beautiful sunny day in the middle of February. I truly loved the spectacular tropical city of San Juan and would recommend it to all the avid travelers who would like to explore a historical yet serene city.

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