It all began one night, when a friend and I sat staring at the world map. I had landed a fat assignment and finally reached my savings goal for a long overdue trip out of India. After turning down many drab international 3-4 day FAM trips that offered nothing immersive or even remotely exciting, I craved a mix of the east and the west, interesting food and the chance to experience a culture I knew little about. Romania seemed to tick all the boxes. Flights were booked, visa hurdles painfully crossed, and off we went. Into a world that continues to delight and surprise me.
Exactly a year ago, I was packing my bags for a solo trip to Madrid and Valencia. I travelled back in time to revel in the medieval era festivities of the Las Fallas in Valencia, which I wrote about in a story recently published in The Hindu. And I fell in love, almost instantly, with the vibrant colors of spring in Madrid. I strolled along quaint neighborhoods and tree-lined boulevards, and stumbled upon some of the city’s quirkiest secrets to discover why it inspired the likes of Ernest Hemingway. If you’re going to Madrid, take my list, and let the city charm you, as it charmed me.
I’ve forever romanticized about a white winter in Europe. The kind where I would watch snowflakes gently descend upon cobbled streets, and look poetically at the gloomy skies for a ray of sunshine. On this whirlwind trip across Germany with Lufthansa and German Tourism, I did just that. I sipped my first of many cups of gluhwein in Frankfurt, found myself in a time warp with Rothenburg’s medieval era festivities, fell in love with the colorful celebrations in Cologne and Berlin in the backdrop of quaint old churches, and revisited Dresden with much nostalgia.
Guten tag from a cold and festive Germany! I’m on a train from Frankfurt to the quaint Bavarian village of Rothenburg as I pen this. Outside, the landscape is a stark contrast between bare brown forests and colorful countryside homes. It’s symbolic of winter in Europe; introspective and festive at the same time.
Back in 2011, when I took my first trip to Europe, I wasn’t a travel blogger. I was just a girl with a dream to see the world. I was bound to a cubicle, with a 9 to 5 schedule that I couldn’t wait to break out of. And then it happened. I took part in a travel contest on Facebook, and unexpectedly won two return flights to Paris! I decided to make a full-blown Euro Trip out of it, started blogging about travel, and the rest as they say, is history (Read: The Story of How I Quit My Job to Travel).
While in Valencia for Spain’s famous Las Fallas festival, I found my way to Valencia’s best kept secret – La Albufera, a national park on Valencia’s countryside. Home to the largest lake in Spain, rice paddies and potato farms, small fishing settlements, pine forests, and El Saler, one of Valencia’s finest beaches, a trip to Albufera is highly recommended on any list of things to do in Valencia.
I’m not a big fan of cities, but Madrid was almost love at first sight. Maybe because it was just the start of spring, or maybe because the city is just that beautiful! I spent most of my time by the River Manzanares in Madrid, strolling along the parks and squares of Madrid, exploring Madrid’s markets and cafes, and discovering its quirky neighborhoods. In this photo essay, I share a roundup of some of the best unusual things to see and do in Madrid, including local hangouts and relatively secret places, that are sure to make you fall in love with this Spanish city too.
What a month March has been. I’ve travelled along the mountains, rivers and rice paddies of Thailand’s north, revisited with much nostalgia the familiar streets of Singapore, revelled in the festivities of Las Fallas in Spain, and finally made that illusive trip to India’s northeast to live with the Mishing tribe of Assam and explore the wilderness of the eastern Himalayas. And in the midst of all these adventures, I’ve been overwhelmed to see my travel story about Turkey’s Black Sea region, published in BBC Travel, a travel publication I’ve always held in such high regard.
It lies before us in all its splendour, brought to life by incessant cheering and booing. Men in white togas, and women dressed in colourful long tunics, keep their eyes glued to the pit below. The chariots have circled the arena, and the dust kicked up by the hooves of their galloping horses is slowly settling down. Armour-clad gladiators take centre stage; battle-hardened men who know this might be their last fight. The smell of sweat hangs heavy in the air, as their bravado drives the fourteen thousand spectators wild. The crowd is baying for blood, as a strong sense of anticipation mixed with dread engulfs the atmosphere. I am forced to look away from the bloodshed, towards the calming expanse of the emerald blue Mediterranean Sea that this Roman amphitheatre overlooks. I shake off these musings and smile at my vivid imagination.
After my recent trip to Spain, many of you have written to me to ask questions like what’s the best time to visit the country, and whether it’s really possible for a vegetarian to survive without eating supermarket food. I’ve written travel tips for a first trip to Europe before, but I thought it would be a good idea to dig specifically into Spain this time. So here goes, ten travel tips to make your life travel planning to Spain simpler: