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

 

 

PC: Visitphiladelphia;Planetware; Touropia;Sydneywalks;Spinmonkey

 

Top of Form

Talking Walls

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PC:Tripoto

Who needs a canvas when you have walls?

Street art have been transforming neighbourhoods and how!! Once considered destructive, street graffiti is taking the world by storm and is now recognized as a way to breathe life into dilapidated walls, by transforming entire buildings into works of art.

Created on surfaces in public places like exterior building walls, highway overpasses, and sidewalks, Street art in urban areas, convey a message of either political ideas or social commentaries.

Originating thousands of years ago, contemporary street art, can be traced back to the late 1960s.

Street art, which was initially illegal and seen as vandalism, has turned into a legitimate form of presenting artistic contents, and has a great potential to increase tourism related activities.

Murals have become the visiting cards of many cities and an important part of their tourism.

Walking tours, street art festivals and culture tours increase footfalls and generate revenue in such places that are offbeat and boast of further growth of the place through the local community engagement.

Philadelphia has become recognizable as a ‘City of Murals’ and the world’s largest outdoor art gallery.

philly1PC: Pinterest

Internationally renowned, Melbourne has become an attraction for local and overseas visitors experiencing its creative ambience with its murals.

melbournePC:Timeout Melbourne

Cape Town, South Africa  is one of the best cities in the world for street art. The murals can be found just about anywhere.

cape townPC: Cape Town Tourism

Montpellier, France is famed for being one of the most popular student towns in France and this incredible city is home to a plethora of amazing street art.

montpellierPC: Sunra

Toronto, Canada known as the most culturally diverse city in the world and this diversity can be clearly seen through the street art scattered across the city.

torontoPC: City of Toronto

Malaysia’s UNESCO world heritage city of Georgetown is home to one of Asia’s most distinguishable and unique collection of hand painted murals and wrought-iron cartoons.

penangPC: Travel Daily Media

London, Montreal, Mexico are just some more cities that have some of the biggest set of un-commissioned street art in the world.

street-art-montreal-cr-alamyPC: Conde Nest

Here in New Delhi too, St+Art India Foundation  a Non Profit organisation aims to embed art in streets. It hosted its first-ever Public Art District in India, with as many as 25 street artists from India and around the world who came together to paint the walls of the iconic Lodhi Colony of Delhi,  reclaiming the cities’ civic spaces and simultaneously transforming its urban fabric.

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lo1PC: ThebetterIndia; St+art

The next time if you are visiting New Delhi or even if you are a resident, do walk or drive around Lodhi colony’s leafy lanes to admire these beautiful “talking walls” in all its vibrant glory.  You are sure to find something happening on the streets all the time, whether it’s a photo shoot, or a music video, or just the neighbours having a jolly time.

 

🙂 Madhavi

Unheard travel tales of India to fuel your wanderlust.

Bustling cities, dusty remote villages, exquisite temples, lush tea plantations and fragrant markets , rich culture, traditions, religions and ethnicities, India is a unique mixture of eastern values and western freedom.

You might have travelled a lot of India, but do you know that there are some intriguing facts that make travelling in this country even more interesting.

 

  1. Varanasi – One of the Oldest Inhabited Places of the World.

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Situated on the banks of river Ganges, the holy city of Benares (aka Varanasi) is at least 3000 years old. According to Hindu Mythology, Lord Shiva founded Benaras or Kashi 5000 years ago and is a major religious hub of India and one of its holiest cities.

Did you know : Varanasi has a hostel where people come to die- Terminally ill people check-in  themselves in to ‘Mukti Bhavan‘ , to breath their last, which they believe frees them from the cycle of life and death (“Moksha“). All they have is two weeks to die or they’re asked to move on to make way for others.

 

  1. Shani Shingnapur – A Village without Doors.

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Attracting over 40,000 devotees each day due to a 300-yr old legend, Shani Shingnapur is a village in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The village is known for its popular temple of Lord Shani (Planet Saturn).

Did you Know: Its residents sleep soundly as they believe Lord Shani to be the guardian of the village and none of the structures, be it dwelling houses, huts, shops, etc. situated within one kilometre radius of this Lord Shani temple have neither doors nor locks. The villagers believe that thieves will immediately be punished with blindness, and anyone dishonest will face seven-and-a-half years of bad luck.

 

  1. Kumbh Mela Gathering.

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Crazy and chaotic are the words that best define the Kumbh Mela (or Grand Pitcher  Festival) .It is a spiritual event held once in 12 years in India Amidst the intermittent chanting of mantras, the heart rendering dance of the Aghoris and the holy ghats lit up with fiery diyas, the Kumbh Mela, will not just lend you with a day’s feeling but a mind boggling experience of a lifetime.

As per the Hindu mythology Kumbh derived from the Sanskrit word ‘pitcher’ had the ‘Amrita’ or the immortal nectar that had appeared during the churning of the seas (Samudramanthan). It is believed that the Gods and the demons had churned the milky ocean to obtain the nectar.

This year it attracted approximately 150 million people, breaking the record for the world’s biggest gathering. It has been inscribed on the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Did you know: The festival is over 2000 years old! The first written evidence of the Kumbh mela can be found in the accounts of the Chinese traveller Xuanzang, who visited India during the reign of King Harshavardhana.

 

  1. The most visited place in the World.

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Awarded by the World Book of Records, the Golden Temple in Amritsar is the most visited place in the world with more than a hundred thousand devotees flocking at the shrine every single day. The largest langar (community meal) typically feeds roughly 40,000 people a day for free. On religious holidays and weekends, the langar can feed upwards of 100,000 people a day. All the diners have to sit on the floor, irrespective of caste, status, wealth or creed, symbolizing the central Sikh doctrine of the equality of all people.

Did you know: The dome of the temple is gilded with 750 kilograms (1653 pounds) of gold. The ceiling inside the main sanctum is made with gold and precious stones. The main hall of the Golden Temple houses the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture of the Sikh religion. It is placed on a raised platform under a canopy studded with precious jewels.

 

  1. The Highest Motorable Road in the World.

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The world’s highest motorable road Umling La or Umling La Pass greets you at Ladakh. The road passes through Umling La Top at an elevation of 19,300 ft. Bike enthusiasts, take note because little fact about India could bring about a new adrenaline filled adventure for you.

Did you know: 235 Kms from Leh, all civilians will need a permit from the Army and administration to travel through the pass.

 

  1. Lonar Lake in Maharashtra – Formed by a Meteor.

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A 4-hour drive from Aurangabad and doubling as Maharashtra’s best-kept secret, this lake was formed by a plummeting meteor about 50,000 years ago. Travel enthusiasts must not miss this astronomical marvel and the temples around it.

Did you know: Also known as Lonar crater ,the lake is notified as the National Geo Heritage Monument and is home to thousands of  migratory birds.

 

  1. Mysterious Anti-Gravity Hills In Ladakh, Magnetic Hill.

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Located on the Leh Kargil Highway a small stretch of road defies gravity.Landmarked by a yellow notice board that spells out instructions and asks you place your car on neutral gear right on the spot marked by white paint, this one will leave you in awe as your car will begin to move uphill on its own.

Did you know: The magnetic force is so strong here that airplanes increase their altitude while flying over this region.

 

  1. Auroville an experimental township belongs to nobody, but everybody.

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Auroville, an international township in Tamil Nadu and in some parts of Pondicherry, contributes in the progress of humanity irrespective of caste, creed, color and religion. Everyone is equal here and people live united. Once you visit this place, you will never wish to come back.

Did you know: The township runs on a concept of sharing, giving and exchanging , a cashless economy, much like the barter system.

 

  1. Ancient Hindu temple that was carved from a single rock.

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The  Kailasa temple in Aurangabad is over 1200 years old and was carved from a single rock in Ellora. An estimated 400,000 tons of rocks were used to construct this monolithic structure. With bare hands and few hand tools, it is hard to imagine someone carving such an astonishing sculpture.

Did you know: The temple is double the size of Parthenon in Athens.

 

  1. A floating post office in Dal Lake, Srinagar.

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With the world’s largest postal system, India has post offices in some pretty unusual places. Inaugurated in 2011, in the Dal Lake, Srinagar, set in a huge houseboat is India’s first and only floating post office, believed to be the only one of its kind in the world!

Did you know: This heritage post office is a tribute to the already beautiful Dal Lake and houses the philately museum showcasing the fascinating history and stamp collection  and a souvenir shop that sells stamps, postcards, greeting cards and books on Kashmir.

 

  1. Step wells that take you to another world.

Chand-Baori-India

Baori or ‘Step wells’ are the wonder of ancient architecture which can be found all around India. There were around 3000 step wells built in North India, many of them in the arid states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. These baoris’ narrate the beauty of their era with their marvellous sculptors and artwork. These elaborately carved step wells all over the desert were used to store water. Rani Ka Vav, Gujarat is enlisted in the UNESCO world’s heritage sites. Chand Baori, Jaipur is one of the oldest ,largest and the most astonishing Baoris of India in terms of its architecture While most are now abandoned and some have fallen into disrepair, many are well-kept and incredible to look at.

Did you know: Many of these step wells were meeting places, especially for women, for many centuries, and the oldest date back to around 500 CE.

 

  1. The Living Bridges.

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The ‘War-Khasis’ a tribe in Meghalaya, make the bridges entirely out of living trees, by training roots and vines of rubber trees, to grow across canyons and streams. Some of them estimated to be 500 years old. The beautiful thing about these bridges is, unlike the traditional bridges, these get stronger, as they get older. Although they take several years to create, but when finished they’re much more durable than wooden bridges, which would quickly rot in Meghalaya’s incredibly wet climate.

Did you know: It takes about 15 years for a new bridge to become strong enough to bear the weight of people.

 

  1. Delhi’s Khari Baoli is Asia’s biggest spice market.

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Asia’s biggest century old spice-den is located in Delhi, very close to the Red Fort. This market has local, as well as exotic spices. It’s a unique experience for anyone to see large quantities of spices and traders accumulate in a bazaar and through shops which are located in small alleys and bylanes hardly a meter wide. Trade worth millions are carried out in a highly organized and strict orderly system.With the spice filled aroma in the air, you can practically taste it once you enter the market.

Did you know: This spice market was started in the 17th century and today is run by the 8th or 9th generation of traders since their first set up.

 

  1. Spa for elephants.

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Every year a group of pampered elephants at the Punnathoor Cotta Elephant Yard Rejuvenation Centre receive elaborate spa treatments. The elephant yard is attached to the Guruvayurappan Hindu temple in Kerala, India. The elephants play a key role in Kerala’s legendary temple processions and with July considered a month of rejuvenation for humans and animals alike these ellies are certainly not complaining.

Did you know: The Punnathoor Cotta Elephant Yard was a former palace, which was converted into a sanctuary and renamed to Anakottaor Elephant fort.

 

  1. The Ghosts of Bhangarh Fort

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Located at the borders of the Sariska Tiger Reserve in the Alwar district of Rajasthan, the Bhangarh Fort is not for the faint-hearted. Widely known as one of the spookiest places, this fort resides in a deserted area and has many legends behind the paranormal activities experienced here. Although it is open to the public for visit, however, many tourists have admitted that a creepy heavy feeling prevails in its atmosphere. According to local tales the fort is cursed into desolation by a tantric priest who wanted to marry the princess and couldn’t. Apparently if any villager tries to build a roof it mysteriously collapses.

Did you know: the Archaeological Survey of India has installed a board which mentions that it is prohibited to roam around the Bhangarh Fort between 6 pm- 6 am.

Love it or hate it! But when you explore this beautiful and exotic country India, she will change the way you see things.

 

Safe travels

Madhavi

 

 

 

 

PC: Lonely Planet; Travel triangle: BBC : Getty Images :NDTV: Conde Nest