Mumbai- My heartbeat!

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Mumbai is an incredible city. And I do not say this because I was born and brought up there.

But the fact of the matter is that the city holds a very very special place in my heart. For me it’s like a love affair that will always continue even though I don’t live there anymore. (how I wish I was)

The city though is a ‘dream city’ and its not just because of being home to the biggest film industry of the country. The city has an electric, energetic, and throbbing vibe that you just can’t miss. The city is life itself. And no other city in India can hold a candle to the vibrancy that Mumbai has.

You can sense the little hearts around my eyes don’t you?

And the best part about the city is the people living there. They go about their business very seriously yet having loads of fun at the same time. The people make this city what it is. Their spirit is undeniably perhaps the one thing that other people find most unbelievable about Mumbai.

They have survived bad infrastructure, floods and repeated terrorist attacks, only to go back to work the very next day. Not something you’d see in a lot of other countries, and something that continues to startle other people to this day.

Here are a few gems of the ‘maximum city’ that you probably didn’t know about.

It Was An Island!

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Yes! Mumbai was a name denoted by 7 closely located islands which were Portuguese territories until the 16th century. In 1961, Portuguese gave England these 7 islands as dowry in Catherine of Braganza & Charles II marriage. Around 60 years (1784-1845) were taken to combine these 7 islands into a coastal city.

First Train in India!

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On 16 April 1853, Bombay (now Mumbai) witnessed first train movement in India. With 14 carriages & 400 passengers left Bori Bunder (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal- CST ) for Thane in Maharashtra. Bombay (now Mumbai) also witnessed India’s 1st rail bridge. 

Sprawling slums and the rich-poor divide!

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I know, I know, what could I say about Mumbai’s slums that hasn’t already been spoken, written or sung about in articles, films or music videos? The slums have been analyzed, studied, investigated, dissected, condemned, saved, conserved, exploited and celebrated — but there’s no denying their place on this list. Dharavi, once Asia’s largest slum and housing nearly 300,000 people, and the slums in other areas of Kurla-Ghatkopar, Mankhurd-Govandi and Bhandup-Mulund — all larger than Dharavi — account for more than half of Mumbai’s population of close to 13 million people. Another Mumbai cliché that never fails to amaze visitors is the rich-poor juxtaposition. Where else in the country, or the world, can you find slums or shanties, next to multi-million (and now multi-billion) dollar homes and hotels?

National park in the middle of the city!

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Leopards, deer and monkeys right in the heart of Mumbai. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park, is a unique 104-square-kilometer park within a metropolitan area, -a protected forested area that houses around 5,000 insect species, 1,000 plants species, 250 bird species, 40 mammal species, 38 reptile species, nine amphibian species and ancient Buddhist caves going back to the first century. In fact, Mumbai may be the only city in the world to have a fully functioning national park with freely roaming large carnivores, within city limits.

A Geological Wonder in the Heart of the City!

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Located in the Andheri West, the unique Gilbert Hill is a 200 ft single column of black basalt rock. Also referred to as Gilbert’s Toe, the hills is more like a sudden protrusion from the ground with a sheer vertical face around it. It was formed a little over 65 million years ago when molten lava was gushed out of the crust and cooled, during the Mesozoic Era.

Secret Tunnels and Escape Routes!

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South Mumbai still retains its old world charm, filled with beautiful colonial-era buildings and other monuments. Not surprisingly, it has also clung on to some secrets. An underground passage speculated to be dating back to 200 years was built by the British who were worried about a possible French invasion. The entrance to the tunnel and its existence only came to light a few years back , when it was discovered below, what is today, Mumbai’s General Post Office (GPO).

Colaba Railway Station!

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Ask any youngster in Mumbai and it’s likely that he /she hasn’t even heard about Colaba station.  Although long forgotten, Colaba once had its own railway terminus, and began operations in 1893 .It was housed in an imposing stone building with high towers, just adjacent to Wodehouse Road and next to Sassoon Docks. As the city kept expanding and reclamation efforts accelerated, the rail line between Colaba and Churchgate had to be severed, to make way for the creation of Backbay Reclamation.

Best Food Suppliers in the World!

Dabbawala

If you ever travel to Mumbai and notice a person wearing a white cap and holding too many lunchboxes or tiffins as they are known by, you might wonder what will he do with these many lunch boxes? Known as Dabbawalas these people are a part of the giant organization. They collect the tiffins of food from homes to reach the customers office and return back with empty tiffins back to the homes, efficiently without any flaw. Every day they transfer 260,000 dabbas only in 6 hours. They work 52 weeks of a year and more impressively have got a six sigma compliant. Usually transporting these dabbas by the local train they get only 40 seconds to load and unload these boxes. They have been doing it since 1890 every day at a very steady rate. But what is even more surprising is that even after their average literacy being of 8th grade, they are chosen for various management case studies and their management skills are discussed in colleges like Harvard and Stanford.

Many places of Worship!

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Mumbaiites are very proud of their cosmopolitan culture and their embrace of religious diversity. This is one of Mumbai’s proud traditions, with temples, mosques, gurudwaras, and churches to be found in almost every corner of the city. In the older areas you will also find fire temples and synagogues. What most of the city’s inhabitants do not realize is that Mumbai is also home to Chinese and Japanese temples that date back to the colonial era. At the time, Mumbai was an international trade hub, attracting merchants from across the world. Many lived and worshipped in the city. In the Mazgaon area, you will find Kwan Tai Shek, a Chinese temple, while at Worli Naka, you will find Nipponzan Myohoji, a Japanese Buddhist Temple.

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So the next time you are traveling through Mumbai, look around and soak in the rich history. These interesting facts should enrich your experience and help you appreciate the amazing city.

 

Madhavi

 

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Baby on Board !

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I love kids. The quiet, cute and cuddly kinds.

They make me all mooony when I see them throw an unintended smile at me. I wish I could lip-bite into their chubby cheeks or just tickle them on their tummy.

However travelling with them ….well that’s a completely different story!!

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I did travel a lot with my young ones. And although travelling with 2 little boys was quite a handful, I was mostly lucky when they would sleep through most of the flight. But you can’t be lucky always now can you?

There were always instances when everything would go topsy turvy, with either one of them being absolutely crabby, and then I would be spending most of the flight carrying them around the aisle so that the rogue would keep quiet!

Seriously, I would be a reck myself hoping that the fellow passengers do not throw me off the plane as well!!! And back in those days we didn’t have the luxury of travelling with mini screens full of entertainment to keep the tots occupied till they got tired and fell asleep.

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Travelling with a ‘hangry’ cry baby can be a nerve racking experience especially on a long haul flight. After all, tots can be messy, tantrum throwing, and easily bored little creatures when confined to a cramped aircraft seat.

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Some of the tips that I am about to share have helped me survive on what otherwise would have been every flyers worst nightmare!

  • Carry their favourite toy or their ‘security blankie’ always. It keeps them secure and comfy.
  • Monitor their eating even on a plane. If it means having to carry some of their favourite snacks, it will be well worth the trouble. Remember if they are fed they will be less cranky. Keep an empty bottle handy which you can refill with water every now and then to keep them hydrated.
  • Carry their activity books, some Flash cards or sticker books or you can even use that in-flight magazine to play I Spy, or even let the child interact with other flyers as long as they are both enjoying it.
  • Pack a few items which are multiple purposes. Baby wipes, for example, can be used to clean messy hands or tray tables or get food off of clothes. A fleece jacket can also be doubled up as a blanket, pillow or even help you cover up if you are a nursing mother.
  • In this digital age don’t be too strict with ‘screen time’ while travelling with kids. Download their favourite content before you set out. That way they will be quiet and comfortable, and so will you.

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Plan your trip the best you can — and then just roll with it. Booking red-eye flights, for example, or flights that coincide with nap times, can help reduce the need for a lot of in-flight entertainment.

While you plan hotel accommodations, don’t forget to stay somewhere with space to explore. Kids hate being cooped up in small spaces. So to avoid meltdowns, try to stay near places that they can run around and explore.

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TOP TIP: Put empty water bottles in hand luggage and refill them after security.

TOP TIP: Psychologists say young, nervous flyers like to feel in control of their situation and that toy planes they can pretend to fly may help

TOP TIP: Be ready with distractions if your children don’t like seat belts and have sweets at take-off and landing to avoid blocked ears.

TOP TIP: Cabin crew say one toddler is sick on almost every long flight, which is why children need top-to-toe changes of clothes and parents need spare T-shirts. It’s why wet-wipes and plastic bags for smelly clothes are ‘must-carry’ items.

TOP TIP: Try to catch a few winks when your baby is asleep. It will renew your energy too.

TOP TIP: It’s a good idea to let the child roam around and stretch their legs at airports in between inter connecting flights.

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To be clear, these tips aren’t meant for everyone. Every kid — not to mention every trip — is going to be different. What you plan to do and where you plan to go may mean that some of these suggestions just aren’t feasible. And that’s completely OK.

And lastly keep your composure. There’s not much you can do to tone down that passenger who complains the moment your child sneezes or giggles. Here’s what you need to remember: As long as you’re trying (and what parent isn’t?), you’ve got almost everyone on your side.

 

Safe travels

Madhavi

 

 

Overtourism – Coping with the Crowds.

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Come to think of it, we are more than responsible in bringing about a lot of damage on the planet by travelling.

In this age of everybody wanting to travel someplace, overcrowding is inevitable. And it hits you the moment you reach the airport which seems packed to the brim. Mass tourism affects popular cities that are being overrun with short-term visitors, or  beautiful sites that are becoming polluted, or when the pristine landscape of a hill station is being cleared of its natural fauna to find land for hotels, or even when ancient ruins are being pounded by never ending footfalls. You realize then that somewhere we need to stand up and say NO!

What shocked me more than all of these reasons was the fact that even the Mt Everest was not spared.  When you imagine the summit of Mount Everest, you picture a quiet, snowy peak far from civilisation. But a striking photo, taken by mountaineer Nirmal Purja, in May’19 shows how the reality is a lot more crowded.

Experts say crowds at Everest have also increased in recent years because expeditions have become more popular. Many “traffic jams” are caused by unprepared climbers who “do not have the physical condition” for the journey which risks not only their lives, but the lives of the Sherpa’s taking them up the mountain.

But regardless of how often we tell ourselves that we’re “travellers” and not tourists, good intentions don’t change the fact, that we’re all just a part of the huge number. And we are destroying the world by loving it to death.

The question is though: what can you do? I mean I love to travel I gain too much from seeing the world, as I’m sure so many other travellers do. So how do we find a balance of loving the world without destroying it?

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The crowded beach of Maya Bay,Thailand

The government is doing its fair share in controlling overcrowding by  implementing entry and exit timings with managing  footfalls around the world heritage sites and some more listed below;

  • In Italy’s hugely popular Cinque Terre, a phone app is being trialed that shows visitors real time congestion on the trails, and points them in the direction of alternatives.
  • For some places though, like Maya Bay in Thailand, and Boracay Island in the Philippines, the strain of overwhelming visitation has led to the extreme measure of closing the destinations to tourist’s altogether: an enforced time out for clean-up and recovery.
  • In one of the world’s most remote destinations, Easter Island, has recently changed the length of stay for tourist visas from 90 days to 30; an effort to curb the impacts of rising tourism on the tiny Pacific isle.
  • Even though there’s stringent management that includes a pollution-free perimeter zone, and capping the number of tourists visiting the Taj Mahal, there’s no improvement outside the tourist attraction itself. With an enormous number of tourists visiting the monument on a daily basis it is slowly falling to the victim of pollution.

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However as an individual, the choices you make about where you go and what you do as a responsible traveller, can actually go a long way to helping ease the pressures of over tourism.

1. Search out Regional Alternatives

How about getting off the tourist trail and visiting destinations with lesser known sights and experiences?

Take the island of Bali. With attracting close to 6 million tourists in 2018, visitors tend to congregate around the island’s south, in heaving tourist centers like Seminyak and Kuta. But outside of Bali’s places such as Munduk, Padang Padang, Amed with some eco lodges in Munduk and Amed is where you can still find paradise, mingle with locals, and experience Bali’s distinctive island culture.

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2. Visit during Off-Peak Periods

When you visit a popular place outside of peak times, you’ll be contending with fewer tourists, and you’ll often be able to take advantage of cheaper flights, accommodation and experiences. For instance, in Croatia, Dubrovnik’s Old Town turns into a tourist crush during the hot daylight hours of the cruise ship season. But a morning stroll along the city walls before the crowds arrive, or an evening wander through its lantern-lit streets after they’ve shipped out? Magic.

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3. Support the Local Community with Your Time and Money

While tourism can bring a much-needed boost to a local community, by staying longer, sleeping in locally owned accommodations, eating at smaller, locally owned restaurants, and joining tours or experiences run by responsible local operators, you can feel more confident that your valuable dollar is going directly into that community.

Safareya local

4. Explore Beyond the Hotspots with a Local Guide

For many of our over-loved destinations, crowds are often concentrated around a handful of hotspots. Exploring a destination with a responsible local guide who will often take you to places most tourists never get to see, can reveal an entirely different side to the place you’re visiting, and get you away from the over-touristed mainstream.

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5. Be an Eco-friendly, Responsible Traveller

‘Leave no trace’ that’s all there is to it!

By taking steps to minimise the waste you produce on your travels, and encouraging others to do the same, you can do your bit in helping to ease the pressures on this front. A cloth shopping bag, or a reusable water bottle, will immediately reduce your environmental footprint as you travel.

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What we need to do is to develop the idea of conscious travel and start to imagine a better alternative. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand or silver bullet; change will need to occur at the grassroots level, one destination at a time.

 What about you? Have you ever attempted to give back to the places you visit? Post a comment below.

Madhavi

 

 

 

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Satisfying my wanderlust -one step at a time

Whenever I travel to any new city, first thing I do after checking in is to frantically figure out my way around town, the use of public transport if any, and  how do I buy and use the oyster/subway cards or on what side of the street do I catch the bus on. But I am always utterly delighted when I discover that I just need my own two feet.

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So, I just want to say a big thank you to some of the world’s walkable cities -I am pleased to meet you, and appreciate you for the fact that you allow me to explore your beauty all on my own.  I love getting lost on your cobblestone streets and quaint bazaars. I love watching the street performers and stop by to listen to them singing or playing funky music on the guitar. I appreciate the quiet privacy I get even when sitting on a busy street bench, enjoying my Gelato and people watching (Something I can never do in Delhi).

Walkable towns and cities offer so much more in terms of sightseeing, something a bus or train ride can never lay claim to. But I have to warn you that not all cities are well suited to pedestrians (I’m looking at you, Los Angeles), and offering my utmost respect for those people that prefer to get around on foot (I’m looking at you New Yorkers).

I’m amazed at just how many miles I walk by the end of my trip (always forget to turn on the app on my phone) and the excitement of exploring a new city always trumps the exhaustion of a long day on my feet.

 While I may not do enough justice by listing out all those cities here, there are some of the few here I have had the opportunity to explore on foot and are just fantastic to walk around.

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New York

This one literally takes the cake. I am amazed at how much walking I can do in NYC even if I do not want to do all of the touristy things. I always look at Google maps and the subway app before I venture out and work out exactly where my must-sees are, in relation to each other. I feel grouping things geographically is by far the best way to maximize my time and minimise unnecessary walking. Using the subway does get you pretty close to most of the sights, such as Highline and Brooklyn Bridge, but exploring all of New York City takes more than a subway ride. Around Central Park, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center it is much easier to walk the blocks exploring this frantic city as you go by.

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Philadelphia

Consistently ranked as one of the country’s most walkable cities, Philadelphia is ripe with colorful neighborhoods, great buildings, and cultural sites to explore. Seemingly a world away from Philadelphia’s colonial sites, the South Philly section has a rich history of its own. Cheese, chocolate, spice, and olive oil stands are plentiful at the famous outdoor market, which is open daily and is America’s largest.

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Boston

Smaller when compared to New York City, Boston has its own charm coupled with  elegant neighbourhoods, historic streets, and American landmarks from the Back Bay to Beacon Hill and  the Freedom Trail. Newbury Street known for its trendy shopping, Copley Square for its beautiful open square and the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church give a cool vibe to this city. The Boston Public Garden one of the loveliest green spaces in the city also has one of the most photographed statues — the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture. The North End is a captivating, lively quarter, with its many Italian restaurants and picturesque streets that transport you back in time.

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Washington, DC

One of the best features of Washington, D.C., is its walkability. Not only are many of its major sites and attractions grouped together on the National Mall, but the city is a series of true neighborhoods knitted together, easily traversed by foot. Whether it’s historic or cultural, food- or monument-centric, watching the cherry blossoms in full bloom or taking a tour of the memorials by moonlight, DC has many things to offer its tourists.

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Vancouver

Vancouver is popularly known as the ‘walker’s paradise’, all thanks to the pedestrian way finding maps that encourage a person to walk through the city. Among the most famous walks, False Creek to Granville Island takes the front position where we would stop by and shop at the Public Market for locally grown fresh produce. Downtown Vancouver, Gastown, Stanley Park and the Buchart Gardens which is an easily reachable place from the downtown Vancouver adds to the list.

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Venice, Italy

Probably the originator of the “getting lost” in Europe mentality, (which I have yet to feel) Venice is the ideal place to explore on foot.   Of course, a gondola ride along the canals is a wonderful treat; however, the true magic can be found in the streets along the canals.  Walking on the Rialto square and around St Mark’s square, you will experience the locals going about their daily business shadowed by the city’s historic structures.

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London, UK

London is one of the most foot-friendly cities in the world and one of my favourite too. Its bridges and the London Eye (on a clear sunny day) provide some of the best views in London. Central London has most of the landmark locations which are closer to each other. The City Visitor Trail also known as “the Square Mile” a guided walk maps a route through the heart of the City, taking you past a range of famous attractions on a stroll through the historic heart of the capital to see St Paul’s Cathedral, Guildhall, the Bank of England, Mansion House, the Monument, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge – along with a host of City churches, like the famous St Mary-le-Bow.

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Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Amsterdam’s flat, compact, and lively streets make the city an ideal place to explore on foot. In fact, walking may be the best way to appreciate gorgeous 17th-century canals, leafy parks, and former industrial docklands.

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Shanghai, China

With clean, wide sidewalks, and interesting sights along the way, Shanghai has lots to offer for a fun walk. The Yu Garden is the number one tourist attraction in Shanghai, and the only example of a Classic Chinese garden left in the city from the dynastic period of Chinese history. The added advantage is that it borders the Yuyuan Tourist Mart, where one can browse through a wide selection of touristy trinkets and test out bargaining skills. There are two parts of Shanghai, worth visiting –one a scenic/cultural part of Shanghai in the French Concession, and the second covers a famous temple and Shanghai’s art district through a more local route.

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Sydney, Australia

The 6km trail from Bondi to Coogee is perhaps the most famous coastal hiking trail in Sydney, New South Wales and perhaps even Australia.  Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach walk treats visitors to some of Australia’s best beaches and most impressive ocean views. Not only tourists but even the local Sydney-siders come to Sydney’s east coast every day to enjoy Australia’s best beaches, stunning ocean views and lots of parks, cafes and restaurants on the way.

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New Delhi, India

If you have ever been to Delhi, you will notice that it is a huge maze, and to manoeuvre it can be a task—especially if you are new to the city. The best way to soak in the rich culture of Old Delhi is to take some guided tours that are a combination of walks and cycle rickshaws rides, as you absorb the street vibe , the historical sites, and bazaars, and experience the various culinary treats and street foods. Although there are many heritage monuments dotted around the city, the Heritage Walk is an excellent way to connect the historical dots, since the guided walks are themed. That way, you learn what one monument has to do with another, as it was intended all those years ago.

Another interesting tour is the Cycle Tour where a group of 8-10 participants is accompanied by a friendly tour guide in bright orange, who will maintain a nice pace as you pedal through Old or New Delhi.

While you will definitely enjoy most of the ‘walking tours’ in some of these places, do note that you need to take heed of the following steps before you do so.

  • Walking tours usually involve long distances with each excursion lasting around two to three hours. While you’re possibly used to walking around your hometown, it is advisable to check out the general terrain of the city where you’re going. I have seen many a person who is part of a group tour getting excruciatingly tired after a few miles of walking that the entire group feels the strain.
  • Condition your body and build adequate stamina so you can enjoy exploring your vacation destination. Wear proper footwear and break in your trekking shoes by wearing them regularly for a few weeks in advance.
  • One of the prerequisites of enjoying a walking tour is keeping up energy levels and hydration. Eat a filling breakfast to fuel your body for the trek and bring bottles of fluids.

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Exploring a city or town on foot is one of the most exciting ways to get a closer view of its inherent charm. Not only do you get an immersive experience of its attractions and people, but you’ll understand it better than any conventional excursions.  Guided walks and city tours are available just about everywhere; to find them, do an Internet search, consult a good guidebook or contact the local tourist office.

Enjoy!

Madhavi

 

 

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Top of Form

Micro Travel-When less is more.

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With time travel trends keep changing almost every year or so. The ever evolving travel market is always on the lookout for extraordinary experiences which can satiate the ever demanding need of the current generation.

Increasingly, most millennials are foregoing see-everything, do-everything vacation junkets for Micro Travel.

Micro travel is focused, have less-frantic itineraries that concentrate on limited locales and activities and offer a deeper, more rewarding appreciation of each destination. You see less but you see more. Seemingly contradictory but true.

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A trend to be noted is that travellers who are short on time for ex. the “bleisure” trip, where business travellers tack on an extra night or two to have a fun, leisure trip.

For some travellers, that kind of schedule checks all the boxes and allows them to say, “Yep, I’ve seen Croatia” or wherever they find themselves in.

I’m not judging, but just thinking about an itinerary like that makes me stressed. In the end, for me, it would all be a blur.

I’m a devotee of small, personal and concentrated travel. For me – and I am sure increasingly for more and more people – travel shouldn’t be a chore.

Too often, with the fast pace and ever-present “chatter” of modern life, it isn’t surprising that we want our leisure time to be calmer, more meaningful and more digestible.

But if you are enthusiastic and are loaded with short bursts of energy, micro trips are definitely for you. Micro trips have to be well planned, which means you can maximize destination time, minimize wasted time and cut down on expenses with clever flight times and usage of optimal time zones.

Most micro trips generally center on great flight options which allow you to leave after work or land near the same time you take off. Yes, it may sound slightly crazy, but you need to be looking for destinations which involve overnight flights where you Leave after work and land in your destination in the morning.  Or taking flights going west or short destinations you can fly to in the morning and return in the evening.

By taking advantage of any of these options you’re able to maximize time and spend the hours you’d be sleeping let’s say in the air instead of hotel rooms. This way you can also save huge money. By flying overnight you easily avoid one night of hotel and if you can find an evening flight back, you get two full days while booking just one night.

For Example USA to Europe, Or Vice Versa- Thanks to overnight flights from the USA and late departing flights from Europe back to the USA, you can put in a full day’s work whichever direction you go. You could take a 10PM flight from New York to London on a Friday evening, land Saturday morning, buy one night of hotel for Saturday night and spend all day in London Sunday, before heading back to New York on the 8PM flight, which gets into New York around 11PM.  No days of work missed, and you have two full days of exploration ticked off the bucket list. If you’re starting in Europe, you could take an 8PM back from the USA and land in Europe in time to make it to the office on time.

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Depending where you are from your micro travel could be anything such as some indigenous culinary experiences with locals in France teaching you the secrets of baking the perfect baguettes, or learning the art of making the famous blue pottery in Jaipur.

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Maybe it’s a journey to visit the dozen most historic pubs in London. Or even a small-group kayak trip on the Dordogne instead of the usual wine tour of Bordeaux.

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Or experiencing the wonder of living in a real palace turned hotel in Udaipur.

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Micro trips are for the people who are ready to throw themselves into a destination, make the most of every hour and turn up to work on Monday with a better “how was your weekend?” story than the rest of the office combined.

 

Madhavi

 

 

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A New York state of mind !

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This isn’t my first time in New York but still whenever someone asks me what they should see and do in New York, I’m almost always stumped for an answer.

I mean besides the obvious touristy places /things, how can I sum up my answer? New York isn’t just any other big city. It’s an experience.

New York emits a mixed response from people. The crowds that throng this city is unbelievable. Some just love the crazy vibe the city has, and others hate it.

There are a million things that you can do in New York City that if I start talking, I wouldn’t know when to stop. After all, it is known as the city that never sleeps.

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But let me begin by saying that you better be prepared for walking a lot! A lot, a lot, a lot!! I mean you definitely can hail a yellow cab, just like in the movies and all, but who wants to see NY from a cab window, come on !

New York traffic can really leave you exhausted; not to mention the cab fare which can add up and get expensive in the long run.

Subway is your best bet and the 7 Day Metro Pass card will give you the best bang for your buck. And sometimes, Uber and Lyft are better options since most of the time, they are cheaper than regular cabs.

Speaking of traveling by Subway, be prepared to spend a little time figuring out which train goes where. Although I have traveled by Subway several times, it does get a little confusing for me. Figuring out the direction I need to take rattles me but then I figured out that doing a recee first on the google maps helps in taking the best possible route. Also downloading the NY Subway app on your phone can be really helpful.

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While there are the definite,’Things to do in NY’ such as the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building , Rockefeller center- the Top of the Rocks a 3-tiered observation deck at Rockefeller Plaza, that offers a great view of Manhattan, Chinatown, SOHO, the numerous Museums , the list is endless, but most of these attractions are chargeable . But surprisingly there are also so many things that you can do for free.

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Some Museums have free entry on certain days/ times. Or you can catch The Staten Island Ferry which is a Free commuter ferry that travels back and forth from the Whitehall Terminal at the tip of Manhattan to the St. George Terminal on Staten Island. You can catch a stunning view of the city as well as the Statue of Liberty while on the Ferry. This is such a great alternative especially if you do not wish to buy tickets and go to Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty or have already done that in your previous trips.

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Apart from this, popular places like Central Park, Bryant Park, Battery Park, Grand Terminal station ( an Icon) the 9/11 Memorial and Museum , Wall Street and its cobbled streets,  taking a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge , or DUMBO (The neighborhood of Dumbo is a beautiful place to visit. It has cobbled streets, vintage brick buildings, sits under the Brooklyn bridge and sports some sweet street art. Just walking around this area is a real treat). The HighLine which passes through Chelsea market and the nearby honeycomb structure  ‘The Vessel’ are all free activities.

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Stretching out underneath the Highline you’ll find a plethora of art galleries. These galleries are funky and weird as hell. They’re free to enter and some are big. This may be one of the most underrated things to do in New York City.

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Other than the tourist spots there are numerous other places of interest such as the ‘house from FRIENDS‘ in West village, or the the fact that Macy’s the trendsetter store covers an entire block with 11 levels of fashion for you and your home.

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NY has some of the hippest restaurants and rooftop bars that exude the vibe of this vibrant city.

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Of course there are many more sights that I haven’t included in this post, as I feel there will always be something I may leave behind.

You can somewhat relate to the quote from the movie Forrest Gump – “Life is a box full of chocolates, you never know which one you get”

Such is New York- Always a little mysterious, a little sweet and a whole lot saucy!!

 

Madhavi

 

 

PC:Lonelyplanet;NYTimes,Personal

A photo walk through the TWA flight center

 

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The last time the Trans World Airlines (TWA) terminal at Kennedy International Airport saw a weary traveler was in 2001.

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The flight centre has since been closed until May 2019 , when it reopened and transformed into the lobby of the new TWA hotel , the only on site airport hotel.
Offering an homage to a past era of aviation, today the terminal’s twin corridors lead you to the TWA hotel with 512 rooms.

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What was once an ‘Arrivals hall’ , is now the reception area of the hotel . The check in desks of the terminal serve as the reception desk .

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Lining the walls are the many pictures of the cities TWA  once flew to.

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Hotel guests will feel like they’re stepping back in history — with the old flight board on display, model cars in what will be a restaurant, rotary pay phones and red plush furniture. There are more than 500 guest rooms, dozens of meeting rooms and even an infinity pool on the roof.

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Walking into the Flight Center, you are greeted first by a vintage Lincoln in the porch. As you enter you see a ticking departures board and a hostess dressed in a purple polyester TWA uniform. Moving on the graceful staircase, the Sunken Lounge, huge window panes, and a view of a restored TWA plane on the long-abandoned runway..

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A cocktail lounge in a repurposed Lockheed Constellation L-1649A from the 1950s stands outside the new hotel. Four large sofas and eight vintage airplane seats reupholstered with a retro pink and orange plaid seat the guests .

 

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The display of TWA uniforms and luggage through the decades is just one taste of history in the brand new hotel.

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There are multiple places to eat throughout the TWA Hotel, such as the Paris Cafe, located on the mezzanine level of the historic building. The 200-seat restaurant is now open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and serves food inspired by in-flight menus from TWA.

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For quick meals, what was once the ‘Departures Hall ‘ now has a mini food-court style offerings and coffee carts.

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Located through the terminal are the multiple memorabilia reminding you of the aviation era gone by.

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Whether you’re an avid plane spotter or just love rooftop bars , the Pool Bar at the TWA Hotel is worth visiting . Looking out over JFK’s Runway 4, you can watch JetBlue and Delta planes take off while sipping a cocktail at the bar or while swimming in the infinity edge pool.

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The TWA hotel at JFK Terminal 5 takes you down memory lane with a marketable “story” and some absolutely wonderful ‘Instagrammable’ photos.

 

Madhavi

 

 

PC: Personal;TWA Hotel;