There are some positives too !!!

 

 

Words like eerie, deafening, bizarre, desolate, resounding etc have often been used to describe the sound of silence.
However, today, the only words I can think of are reassuring, beautiful, heartening, appropriate, enlightening and soothing.
This stay at home during the corona virus pandemic might be proving very difficult to most people especially those who are dependant on daily chores and wages or regular practical jobs and do not have the luxury of sitting at home but the janta curfew today comes like a breath of fresh air…literally!
The slowdown has already proven that pollution levels are lower. Animals have started returning to their natural habitats which have been run over by human activity….most of you must have seen the video of dolphins playfully swimming in the oceans. Human beings too have gotten that much needed break that they could never think of ever indulging in.
Today there are barely any man made sounds around us…baring those from a few idiots who are still in denial and are recklessly flouting all curfew norms , thinking they are invincible.
Today each bird song is clearly audible. The peacocks began calling out to each other at 5.30 informing their families that today is that happy day when the invaders will be stuck indoors and they are free to roam. The woodpecker’s steady tick tick can be heard, the minah bird is singing her song, the pidgeons are cooing happily, the swallows are flitting in joy.
The rustle of the leaves and the chitter of various birds and insects have never been so amplified!!
The palm fronds are rustling in the soft breeze, the berries on the trees are soaking in the sun instead of being beaten by sticks by greedy children.
Even the annoying yellow wasp buzzing around me seems to be more confident.
Never have my ears been so sensitive to the variety of sounds of nature than I am today as they are mostly undisturbed by engine sounds or shouts from wayward youngsters.
Ambala is still blessed to have so much of open green areas where flora, fauna and humans still coexist but today I am sure that cities like Mumbai and Delhi too may be giving their citizens a glimpse of what is was like before we monsters roamed the earth.
Its sad that it took a pandemic like this to restrict our movement, encroachment, plundering and abuse of our planet and Mother Nature but I hope this exercise brings to people the awareness of how good slowing down can be for everyone and everything.
God bless us all and keep us safe!20200320_101219

When The Soul Heals by Pulkit Sharma.. a humble review

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The author has written a well structured, easy to read and understandable book, proposing the marriage of spiritual teachings and practices along with traditional psychological/counselling tools.
It starts out with a basic explanation of the evolution of psychology as a subject of interest and study in the West, so the starting can be dull, especially for those not interested in the history of psychology. But don’t be too quick to judge.
From the 2nd chapter he tackles major psycho-social ailments that exist in modern society, including stress, depression, anxiety, etc. with one chapter allocated to each ailment.
He structures the chapter by starting out with a story of one of his patients who has suffered from the ailment, describes the depth of this individual’s suffering and the circumstances both leading up to, and being faced by the patient. He then gives the common causes of the ailment, what the clinical psychological treatment is (be it the use of medicines or cognitive behavioural therapy), what the modern psychological understanding of the ailment is, how spiritual teachings and practices can be used to tackle each ailment and finally ends with how each patient overcame their gruelling psychological issues by combining psychological therapy and spirituality, with a special emphasis on the spiritual development of the individual.

What makes this an interesting read is the outright acceptance by the author that traditional psychological techniques are inadequate for dealing with modern psycho-social problems and that spirituality has to be embibed in dealing with them at all costs. The author’s own in depth study of the various religions and spiritual masters and how their techniques can be applied to that particular ailment is impressive.
Its very often our inner demons that lead to mental stress and further to grave mental illnesses and maybe its our belief in a higher power that can bring us back from the brink. It is this concept that the author has explored and applied. Problems sometimes cannot be tackled only in a physical context but digging deeper into our conciences and spiritial beliefs maybe the answer.
Usually modern science or doctors don’t want anything to do with spirituality nor do they recommend their patients to get into it. It is refreshing to see that doctors like Pulkit Sharma are now beginning to not only accept spiritual means but also recommend it to their patients. It is possible that they have no choice because of the classic failure of the traditional methods due to the high number of suicides, increase in violence both within families and outside world over.

Unfortunately it is not very original and is simplistic in form but thats not a bad thing as it allows us laymen to grasp it better . These ideas may already be present in other books, videos and magazines. This book is for beginners on the path of merging their psychological well-being with their spiritual well-being. If you are already following spiritual gurus or practicing meditation or other spiritual practices for years, it may prove to be a tad underpowering. Nonetheless everyone needs a reminder once in a while as to the importance of spiritual practices and this easy to read book does that.

Travel creates flavors!

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Image from the net..not mine!

 

There’s something about watching floozy movies that breathes some hope into your life again! And Under the Tuscan Sun is one of those amazingly feel-good movies!
I saw it twice a number of years back but since my amazing amazing 21 day trip to Italy with my sister I have seen it 10 times more..and fallen in love each time cos now it was not just a sweet movie set in some European country..it was that film whose very locations and setting was its real USP, the places I had just recently walked in !
Anyone who has been to Italy may not come back feeling as my sis and I do and just see the country as an overrated historical city with gigantic stone monuments ridden with cultural and political tales of love, power, marauding and plunder but I see it as a marvel of history and architecture! The huge stone walls that hold century old secrets are not cold to me but exude a sence of mystery and romance. I guess beauty really does lie in the eyes of the beholder.
The Colloseum depresses people who cant see beyond the images of animals in battle or of gory torture stories..those of plunder and death! But we stood within its gigantic walls and columns, looking down into the maze where prisoners and animals were kept and only saw history in its fascinating glory..The Duomos and Pontes, the museum’s and coastal towns, the castles and canals all met with our approval and received our stares of bewilderment and fascination.
Throughout our trip we marvelled and revelled even when things were not so perfect! I guess it was cos we were together and couldn’t care less about imperfection.
Under The Tuscan Sun brings it all back to me…Rome, Florence, Venice, Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre…and above it all the serenity of Tuscany and its quaint villages and landscapes!
A strange feeling washes over me when I watch a film I can relate to…it could be just imaginary cos I guess everyone is a romantic deep down somewhere..but honestly I feel the sun on my face, I see the tall cypress trees standing guard over the undulating landscapes and the rolling plains with meandering roads that took us past gorgeous vineyards and into stony villages lost in time!

Sipping the local wines, reds , whites, rosès with pastas in arabiatta sauces or pesto sided with bruschettas of all sorts , reinvented this food for me and made me appreciate flavours a whole lot more! Flavors of the local cuisine, flavors of the local culture, flavors of street music and art, flavors of history, flavors of travel!!

The background score in the film adds to the romanticism of the moody scenes and you almost sway to imaginary notes from a harp or cello being strung by a well defined Italian hand.
I think our brains are so filled with tales of love set in Italy and France, it’s all we associate these places with when we see or read anything that is set against these backdrops. And I’m glad for it..amidst rumours of mafia activities or the changing scapes since time has moved on and strangers have cast their negativity on the original Italian flavour, I would still like to cling onto the hope that love will always linger overhead and retain its eternal flavour for ever more!
Travel certainly changes how you view life, people and places , Travel is the magic wand everyone needs in their life!

No Margin For Error by Tanushree Poddar

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An author who has 8 novels behind her that have been received well writes her 9th with a flair of confidence and a ‘been there done that’ attitude!
Her intro where she explains her strategy for approaching an issue has affected us all on many a level..personal, emotional, impersonal but sympathetic, anger, helplessness and hopelessness , rebellious yet languishing! It could have been handled as she said, like a documented piece but her experience and better judgement told her to add fictitious characters to narrate their stories and perspectives and in doing that she succeeded in adding a personal touch to an otherwise gory and disturbing tale.
While traversing each incident , unfolding one by one, you are drawn to the characters emotionally and can actually feel the palpable, fear, nervousness, determination, bravado and cowardice, repulsion and fury all intermingled with a residue of hopelessness and despair at the turn of events and inhumanity of the perpetrators!! Her descriptive narrative allowed us to picture the events unfolding like a mental film reel.
Humankind has reached a crossroads of sorts…as predicted many years ago by the sages..the crossroads of Kalyug and Satyug…where the choices are all extreme, repercussions immense and reaction immediate!!
Good begets a whole lot of good but bad has no saving grace! And right now all we can see is the worst of the worst, overcoming any vaguely inherent noble intentions. We are destroying all we touch! We destroy the environment , we destroy our homelands, our planets, we destroy and puff out lives and nowhere is it so apparent than in the world of terrorism.
Selfish ignorant jihad, clash of egos and power hungry crazed beings, the desperation for power, money and destruction! This is what reiterates itself in our consciousness as we walk the corridors with the brave men who fought and lay down their lives for unknown people.. suffering in the aftermath of duty ! We hear those screams, our skins recoils with the heat of the flames, our chest tightens everytime a bullet finds it target, we feel our blood boil at the cruelty and insanity of the terrorists, we weep with the families of the slain! This book is a multi-emotional journey..tumultuous and gripping!
Tanushree weaves a tale with ease and has done her homework! She is able to stir up a myriad of emotion in the reader!
She speaks of characters she has drawn from in her previous books so maybe it’s time to relate by reading those too.
Nothing impresses more than a satisfying book in the hands, emanating the sweet smell of fresh paper and ink and telling a story that keeps you from putting it down for a while!
You close the book finally, a little the wiser (and angrier), hoping that better sence prevails on this earth before all is lost!

Review written as part of @blogchatter ‘s #blogchatterbookreviewprogram

Book Review Program from Blogchatter

Missing Presumed Dead by Kiran Manral..a review!

 

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I promise you, no spoilers!

Kiran Manral is a master of lexicon and adjectives which she uses generously to turn a mundane matter of fact sentence into a descriptive and visual one! She obviously is experienced in matters of the heart and how they change as do the phases of a person’s life… ‘The humiliating divide between the two matresses’. Self explanatory !

In this case, experiences of the soul too, where the lead character Aisha is an unapologetically real and flawed person, oscillating between normalcy and extremacy while dealing with mental illness and its monsters! She is promising at one time and depressing at others which is probably why she is relatable too! Dont we all allow demons in our heads to take over many a time plunging us into negativity and despair. Life throws so many balls at you..sometimes they hit you in the face making you feel inadequate and depressed!

Aisha obviously had more misses then catches, turning her into a shadow of the woman she once was, the story of many a women’s life. Her helpless reflection into her past and despair at her present forces you to introspect too and find many common instances during the gradual way in which life tends to slip out of your hands. ‘Isnt hate just  love flipped over onto it’s back kicking and squealing for attention’, she writes! Yes , it is..and its possible to still love a person after 30 yrs yet not be in love with him/her !!

Her character specific build up is detailed and retrospective allowing us to visualize each one whether it is the central protagonist or the other characters she introduces as the tale progresses.Her admirable command over the language and its vocabulary helps her along in her endeavour. . Some interesting words made it to my favourite list as I shuffled through my hardback dictionary..yes I’m still old school when it comes to books. My kindle languishes uselessly on my bed side table ! Sepulchral,…love it!

It’s a sad scenario when love turns to hate over the years and her husband is equally flawed and selfish, a shadow of the man he used to be too. Was it circumstances or inate nature that contributed to the progressive disintegration of their marriage, where genuine love and a concerned will to help her deal with a demonic, manic disposition brought on by mental illness that threatens to tear up the family, ultimately turns  into exhaustion, disgust, repulsion , exasperation and indifference as  spirits die and self preservation comes into play.

Desires, materialistic or bodily, take a back seat for a while or then explode uncontrollably forcing the protagonists to wheel and deal in questionable ways. The plot thickens interestingly and weaves itself  like the twists and turns of the roads it travels through.

The vulnerability of the husband and wife with episodes where you feel sorry for them and hate them at the same time for their misdemeanors particularly towards the children speaks volumes for the writer’s ability to get you fully involved emotionally.  You find yourself constantly judging and analyzing each character as she uses her exemplary prowess with expression to run a visual film reel  as you play out each word, each scene in your mind.

Engaging and gripping throughout it comes to a bit of an abrupt end as you wait impatiently for each piece of the jigsaw puzzle to fall into place!

Insightful and gory interspersed with hopeful, tender moments , it is an eye opener into the distressing life of those suffering from mental disease..a field that needs to be explored further in order to understand and help the victims. Kudos to the writers effort !!

This review was written as part of the #blogchatterbookreview program

Book Review Program from Blogchatter

 

Drawn To The Sound Of Music

The Austrian capers continue! The drive to Salzburg was another story . We left Vienna at 7am in a comfortable coach that was filled with tourists eager to experience the journey through the Salzkergammut Lake region of Austria dotted as they were with crystal clear blue lake with their drinkable water and parrot green rolling grass plains that were the foreground for gentle hills as well as taller mountains with some peaks still bearing witness to the winter that had just passed. Austria in every season has its own beauty largely due to the contrast in winter and summer temperatures. Winter landscape in the Austrian Alps is aweinspiring while summer is absolutely lovely!!
Our trip to this region would extend to several days as I had chosen to the major part of our holiday rejuvenating and pampering ourselves in this peaceful haven!
Bu it was Salzburg that we would make our home first and I was as excited as a child to witness the home of Mozart and Strauss as well as the Land of my favorite film The Sound of Music. I was annoyingly perked up in mood as I sang every word of the songs from the movie that they played on the coach driving there.
Our Knowledgeable guide kept up a stream of information about the Von Trapp family, the Hofburgs, the royal family of Salzburg and the life of Mozart and it made for a very interesting and inspiring drive as I was transported into vintage era and bygone years in Europe.
The mood was set all the way and when we actually strutted down the streets in Salzburg marveling again at the quite imposing and old architectural of the city I had a skip in my step.
Mirabel gardens where the children led by an impish Maria defied all norms and flitted through sing Do Re Mi, Mozart House still preserved with his original belongings , the lovely Old Town, the bridge where thousands of hopelessly romantic visitors had locked their love for keeps, the numerous churches like the infamous 13th century Don Quartier and its gorgeous interiors, the castles standing tall on top of craggy mountain tops with views to die for, the Abbey and Convent which was the location for Maria’s home before she began her tremulous journey with the Von Trapp family.
Austria is a wonder as many other European cities for those who love a holiday drenched in art and culture and history along with stunning locales and backdrops. My camera shutter had to gasp for breath as I clicked every corner , every alley, every facade, every angle relentlessly.
And so continued the next few days that showed us Salzburg and it’s surrounding and our days on the banks of numerous lakes in the Salzkergammut were steeped in wonder and peace and self indulgence, Apple strudels, shnitzels and noodles, goulash and what not were on every menu and I felt like a character in The Sound of Music experiencing my list of favourite things!!
We made day trips to surrounding counties and towns in a bid to leave nothing out and the towns we passed left a sigh in our hearts!! Bratislava, Budapest, Slovenia were a stones throw away but each city needs a lifetime to experience it to the fullest. What remained common was the quite charm and peace, and the pride evident in their history. The red sloping roofs sitting atop stone walls and encompassed by a bright green backdrop was a colour combination that has tinted my heart forever.

FASHION IT DIFFERENTLY!

15600107134066520992783061751774.jpgAt the end of this if you want to judge me then please go ahead! My menopause and thyroid hormones have rendered me quite the ‘I dont care less’ types now simply cos I have no energy to care..not that I am insensitive or anything!! Its enough to haul myself…. a much bigger myself might I add ..out of bed , than bother about what people are thinking of me.
Actually I am about to do the unthinkable. I am about to profess that I dont understand high end fashion #facepalm!! Oh the horror you must be thinking!! Does this woman live in the 21st century? Is she faking it? Is she demented! How can anyone not understand fashion ! What a faux pas of a life she must be living !! I can hear your hushed whispers, guys. I know you all are condemning me right now but I seriously couldnt care less! I’m too busy trying to yank my comfy old top which I used to float in a year back down my waist!! Somehow it seems to have shrunk three sizes!! And the lowers..dont even begin to ask about them. They seem to have a mind of their own and have suddenly developed a phobia for riding up my hips and stobbornly refuse to settle on my newly baked muffin top!! Talk about loyalty!!
Moving on, hopefully my mind still hasnt been served too much of a memory fog by the menstrual hormones who are waving goodbye with a smirk on their cruel lips, and I can still gather my thoughts together! Ps. Why the hell do these eostrogens and progesterones suddenly decide to disappear..after torturing us with floods all our lives now they fake busyness and walk off leaving us barren and exhuasted!! Im pretty sure they have no prior commitments or anything better to do! They are just sadists!!
Going back to the world of fashion, where was I? Oh ya..professing a lack of understanding and ineptitude when it comes to high end fashions vis a vis everyday fashion.
Street fashion I can do! High end fashion..I am zapped. My ignorance was set in steel today when I flipped theough the pages of the latest issue of Vogue.
Say what you may but I cannot find logic behind a 65000 rs scarf, or a 115000rs dress or 500000rs worth of bag ! Shoes for 250000rs? Come on..they’re ugly! And that ruffled gown with huge stones on the edges..165000rs? Ha ha ha!! First spend that much money and then walk around in a bejeweled tent! No way!!
My kids have given me a lot of explanations..its the quality, Its the workmanship its the etc etc etc! Okay I get it..it shows in a car. It shows in many a place but that horrendous looking dress that is asking me to shell out more than I lost during the demonetisation days is beyond belief for me!
It doesnt even look comfortable! I feel as if I’ll be strung up like a starched chicken and struggle to remain on my feet while making a grand entry into any party! I fear the hospital bill I incur after falling flat on my face , twirled amongst its many flounces and frills will add to its renumeration at the end of the night!
For me fashion is comfort! Once upon a time it was purely about covering up! Loose, long, soft on the sking, flatteringly forgiving of all the bulges! It later translated to much more…what looked good, what felt good, what was trendy, what was more in sync with the times! Street fashion yes, branded fashion to a slight extent , me fashion Yes!!
I always profess to have and understand shoes more than I have clothes and my family and friends can vouch for that! Shoes are my thing ! Tall ones ,short ones, pointed ones, open toed ones, stilletoes, wedges, blocks, sneakers you name them I have them. People match shoes to outfits ..I do the opposite. I decide what shoes I’m feeling and search for clothes to go with them. In fact this illness runs in our family from my Dad downwards. If we were to guage wealth by the no. of shoes collectively in my family, we would be on our way to buy a luxury yacht right about now!
But , but ,but I reiterate…high end fashion freaks me out! I love running my hand down a good quality fabric or being awed by a label that I heard about in every magazine or fashion site but fathom its wearability or price , I rarely can!!
In fact even the grouchy models strutting up and down a runway wearing so and so’s clothes seem grumpy and uncomfortable in them. Have you ever seen one of those emaciated models let out a smile??? Think about it!!

Tuscany and All That!!

It’s been a while since I updated my Italian travel diaries, not for want of enthusiasm but from getting into a routine as soon as I touched base after so long and squeezing in a trip to Hotel Oberoi Udaivillas in Udaipur too. ( covered that in vlogs and insta photos).
Do check out my insta handle @rynachopra.

Let’s just head back to Florence and make our way to the rolling hills of Tuscany.
Sigh!
Having made pretty good use of our 1.5 days in Florence already, we signed up for a trip to Tuscany including a visit to the quaint towns of Siena , San Gimignano and of course the must do gimmicks in Pisa.
The drive itself by coach was well organized by a local tour company and a couple of hours later we we were riding along undulating rolling plains that stretched for miles, dotted with the quintessential tall pointed cyprus trees that are so typical of instagrammable photos of Tuscany.
By now we were drenched in beauty and nature and the insides of our gaping mouths were very obviously seething with jealousy, demanding to be drenched as well albeit in the rose and white wines that were native to thos region..the famous Chiantis!!!
Of course, we had to take that into consideration as we couldn’t be mean and selfish, depriving our mouths of pleasure while our eyes and nostrils had a hay day! Thus, much against our will (🙄) , we forced ourselves to be led up the cobbled pathway of a Chianti winery to sample their wines and local cuisine!! We could feel our palates and tongue dance and sing in unison inside their den, fighting to hang out like a dog’s and search for the promised ,unforbidden splendors themselves!!
Whites, reds, rose`s, pastas in pesto and basil , bruschettas, meats and desserts later , our eyes and mouths were back on good terms again and we carried them forth to our next stop…Sienna.
Quaintness poured out of every alleyway, every stone and brick and my trigger happy phone had a field day. A quiet town that was milling with tourists and home to many of those who enjoyed a quieter and laid back holiday. Italy at it’s best!
San Gimignano carried on the tradition and as we queued up in front of famous ,age old gelaterias and soaked in the sun and sounds of local musicians we sighed and smiled! It couldn’t get any better. Forts and several stone structures that incongruously housed branded stores dressed to kill, cafes and the smell of fresh coffee interspersed with aromas of basil and vanilla. Chocolate and ham…a heady concoction indeed! That’s what filled the summer air as we slurped and stared onto the Tuscan plains that stretched before us!
We were by now, armed and ready for the cliched activities in Pisa…you all know what I mean!! Yet when we actually pushed our way passed the large no. of Bangladeshi immigrants who were hell bent on shoving souvenirs of the tilting structure into our faces, something I didn’t approve of for sure, we took in the first sight of the heritage structure we had only seen in picture books.
Many would call these touristy spots overrated and done to death and I may eventually agree, but for now I was revelling in the fact that this trip was all about chasing my childhood and what I was taught about the world. This trip was about seeing rather than only reading about the world so before going off onto the beaten track , the typical touristy stuff had to be scratched off my list first.
Thus.
We stared in awe , while keeping our hands firmly clutched to our bags and phones , heading the many notices that warned of pickpockets throughout the spot…sad I felt…!! We humans have tainted evrything and every place of beauty by our misdemeanors !!
Foolishly but enthusiastically we quickly joined the hordes of idiots who were trying to hold up the tower with the tips of their fingers, or push it with all their might or kick it to its tilt ..there were so many ideas out there that all theories of a structural defect centuries ago seem to be challenged that day as every tourist there tried to claim responsibility for the degree of tilt we witnessed before us..history was being questioned by all sort of distorted bodies whose angles were more questionable that the Leaning Tower of Pisa was! It was a hilarious sight and we quickly got into the groove too, attempting to time our silly poses with the perfect click a la idiots-of-the-world!! Please dont think it was easy..rather it was quite the most challenging part of our holiday so far.
Having mastered a couple of photos, we limped back to our coach clutching our backs and shoulders that had been twisted and contorted for the past hour all for the sake of cliche`, and settled down for the picturesque drive back to Florence.
Our smiles said it all!!!

Firenze….here we come!!

Tanned and peeling, smelling of the sea , lots of limoncello inside us, we left the south coast behind with a sigh and it was on to Firenze..now I know where JK Rowling got her inspiration from…for the half man half horse character in the forbidden woods.

We made our way back through Naples which frankly didnt impress me too much except for its famous Napolitano Pizza but by now pizzas were pouring out from my ears so I wasn’t so tempted!

We passed thru the stunning Umbrian countryside and took in the sights that included its typical serene and quaint towns like Assisi and Orivieto. The same old rambling green hills that housed these little towns which we by now recognized as being so similar in their alleyways and cafes, cobblestone roads and stone walled houses that sprouted colorful and greenery…truly a sight for sore eyes.

The smooth onward train ride made our journey almost unnoticeable and soon we were headed to our hotel that sat just 50m from the gorgeous Duomo …Il duomo di Firenze or actually Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.
And how breath taking was it!!

We got into our busy hotel which was housed in a typically olden style building that has existed since the Roman times. It was a bit disconcerting to see a hotel hidden within its walls…a tad incongruous yet convenient. We knew that staying in the city centre involved being a part of a traditional styling and that’s what we enjoyed here. To stay at an ultra modern hotel a la the west would have been equivalent of insulting those that left us the architecture in the era BC….to treasure and uphold I’m sure they hoped!

We wasted not a moment as we knew there was a lot to take in …we were in Florence!

Donning our walking shoes again , our trusted steeds for this trip, we stepped through a narrow lane replete with gelaterias and cafes again. Little souvenir shops and fine dining…all with a 50 m radius surrounded us and cleverly hid the Duomo fron us long enough to surprise us when we stepped onto the piazza del Duomo…let me catch my breath!!
I will insist on being audacious and will declare this cathedral to be the prettiest one we had seen yet..even more than St. Mark’s Basilica…please forgive me if any of you objects to my observation. It’s just that it is so different in architectural styles from the ones we had witnessed before..built in the 13th century, this Gothic style cathedral was awarded an exterior that looks resplendent with its geometrical green ,pink and white marble and adorned with the most intricate of sculptures …gentle, detailed, fascinating. We sat to gaze…take it all in…eyes turned upwards in awe….for a long while!!
Until of course better sence prevailed.
We recovered quickly  enough to whip out our selfie sticks and do justice to our travel diaries……point, smile, shoot!!!! Wow!!! A few dozen more photos dropped rapidly into my camera roll…justice done!
What a backdrop!!
Foreground was also not bad!!!

We took off after half an hour..to explore further, not a minute to waste…we had to find David, Pointe Vecchio, Pallazzo Vecchio Uffizi, L’academie, Palazzo Pitti , Piazza del Signoria ..more and more Piazzas, more and more excrutiatingly gorgeous sculptures and artworks…mind you, these places are not for those who are bored by art and architecture…you want happening and glitzy, go to Patayya… you want raw , unapologetic love for the arts, you’re in the right place.

That doesnt mean it is not happening…just not in the quintessential way…for us, gazing, admiring, scrutinizing was enhanced by the vino we shared in front of all these Goliaths…the rose`, the prosecco, the chardonnays only served to add a tinge of mystique to the whole atmosphere…the Italians know and love their wines and we had to learn too…after all, when in Rome…err Florence…!!!

It was probably this very glass of rouge that I put into my sisters belly that dulled her better senses enough for me to able to force her to trudge a trifle hesitantly yet sportingly behind me as I traversed the length and breadth of Firenze and its many bridges and piazzas, galleries and fountains in search of that view that had inspired me to come here in the first place!
Blame it on Instagram and travel posts…not my fault!
I blocked out her protests and I’m sure a few curses were thrown in for good measure but I couldn’t care less! I coerced her on and pulled her along…I had to reach Piazzale Michelangelo if I wanted that ultimate viewpoint. It was 100 bridges, 20000 stairs and 50 roads that we traversed before we got to the top! And it was all worth it. Even my sister forgave me !!
The Duomo in all its glory stood before us, dwarfing the red rooftops that surrounded it …the whole city lay like a river of red before us …it was a glorious sprawl worthy of a bow and a pat on the back!!
Quick, grab that selfie stick!
We finally collapsed at the feet of a green David replica…replica it was but still owned the six packs and other more famous assets for which the original is known…wolfing down our double gelato which I think we deserved after that 29000 steps we had walked to get here…minus the steep steps!
Our eyes and cameras took it all in lest we forget…!!

Wait, it didnt end there…we ran across the road , crossing the piazzale to hop onto a bus headed for the green hills just outside Florence with its famous town of Fiesole ….the view carried on as we climbed higher and higher and every bend uphill would expose another facet of the city that lay below us. That was the crowning glory!!

Thankfully after that ,the walk back home was much shorter and a quick meal later we had settled into bed to dream of David and the day that was to follow next!

My holiday must involve water!!!

After scouring every street and alleyway in Rome…getting lost and found again to the point that we were actually able to give directions to other lost tourists, it was time to take the Trenitalia to the Amalfi Coast.
The trainride upto Naples was pleasant enough but uneventful…such neat and clean and dead-on-time trains with queued boarding!! What a contrast to our unfortunately stinky and crowded platforms where you dont have to make the effort to actually climb the train…you are simply shoved on by the surge of people behind you! It’s just a mindset here…why should I bother to keep the environment clean types!!
A quiet pleasant ride it was  with gorgeous countryside views….just a sighworthy unexciting trundle.
However,  as we turned the corner into Sorrento on our taxi fron Naples towards the sorrento coastline, we let out a gasp in excitement!! We were here!
Those who know me are well aware of what water does to me so that turquoise blue water freckled with emeralds, gold and diamonds on its calm surface sent a surge of contentment through me and a huge grin lit up my face!! I was quite like a Cheshire cat that time I’m sure!!
Our hotel lay atop a beautiful hill just off the road towards Positano and we were afforded the most gorgeous views of The Bay of Naple and Mt Vesuvius fron our balcony.
The next few days were a haze of events..walks and busrides to explore Sorrento and each pretty little town on the Amalfi Coast…the roads were windy and heartstopping but the views were to die for!
Sorrento was calm yet buzzing all the time..the perfect mix of new and old ..the perfect base for our next few days! It was well connected, restful yet happening and offered the best connectivity for a whirlwind of sightseeing from Pompei to Vesuvius, Amalfi to Capri, Ischia to Salerno!
Every evening we would stroll through its lanes passing high end stores and traditional ones too as local musicians brought the squares alive with their soulful, foot tapping and local and international music!
It was always a great way to wind down… eg After a boat tour to Capri and surroundings where we swam in the Mediteranean sea right in front of the famous Faraglioni arch that we sailed through to get to lovely calm spot …here we threw all caution to the wind and quickly stripped off our flowing dresses in a quest to be the first to plunge into the deep green, clear, cold water !!! We swam around happily , peeking into red  white,blue grottos…sipping wine on board the boat and taking in the wind and sun….. and snorkeling ..swimming erratically and crazily like fish..err whales???!!
Or After a few days spent taking hair raising busing rides along the Amalfi Coastline..about 30km long I think, visiting pretty spots like Positano the vertical town with its hidden boutiques, cafes and ristorantes…Amalfi, Ravello, Atrani, Furore, Praiano, Vietri sur Mare..the list is endless! Of course you cant compare the black sand or pebbles beaches here to the endless stretches of white powdery sandy Kenyan beaches , but they had a certain charm and even in the scorching sun which has turned me into a believable Kenyan by now, people were flocking to the water and sunbathing…roasting themselves to a toasty brown colour!.
The local flavors are deeply into colorful ceramic pottery which was delightful..from tiny souvenirs to crockery and decorative items in all shapes and sizes to huge vases and tables like the ones that hotels would clamor for. Linen ruled the clothing world…pastel soft fabrics and dresses adorned many a window display and seemed the most suited loose and cool clothing for the sweltering weather here!
The local bus drivers were adept at maneuvering those heart-in-the-mouth bends and very often seemed to fly off the very edge while still keeping the careening bus under control somehow!!
What an adventurous journey this was!!
What an interesting one!!
What a tanning one!!!
A great 3 days spent in an otherwise lesser traversed part of the world!! And we always had a cold comfy room to come back to every evening with the option to enjoy breakfast and dinner with a view….all over again!!
Err…..did I mention the amount of photos we took?? Good thing I emptied my memory before coming…my phone’s memory I mean!! Mine’s gone anyway!!!