Monday, 17 April 2017

A Day Trip to Mont Saint-Michel, France

Mont Saint-Michel is an excellent choice for a trip away from Paris. As soon as I stepped off the shuttle bus and took my first glance of the island, I stood there in awe at the grandeur and size of the monastery itself. 
 According to legend, the archangel Michael appeared in 708 AD to the bishop of Avranches and instructed him to build a church on this rocky tidal island just off the Norman coast of France. For centuries, the abbey has been one of the most frequented destination by religious pilgrims. The past few years saw approximately 2.5 million tourists visit this island every year and with only 50 permanent residents this island relies much on the tourism. 

 As we continued to ascend we noticed the crowd starting to thin out. The climb up to the abbey was excruciating and definitely not for the faint hearted. When we reached the top, the horizon widens and the views were incredibly amazing. The climb was well worth the effort.

My tip: Avoid going on the weekends as the place will be packed with tourists.

An overnight stay in Rennes is one of the best ways to get to Mont Saint-Michel. The hotel we stayed in was only a few minutes walk to the train and bus station.



We had our breakfast at this cafe near our hotel.


Breakfast options.



 It was cold and windy on the day we visited. 




 



La Mere Poulard, famous for its ridiculously expensive omelettes.

Preparing the omelettes.

Navigating through the narrow alley ways.




During the Middle Ages, pilgrims had to walk barefoot on this dangerous path to reach the island on sand, water and mud during low tide. Today, you can simply enjoy a walk across the bay of Mont Saint-Michel on "foot" accompanied by licensed guides. Just don't get caught in the quicksand.





Let the magic of the island seduce you and let its charm take you back to the Middle Ages.


 


 





 





 Many restaurants were full and we only had less than an hour to grab some lunch before our bus arrived. We found this casual spot that serves sandwiches and freshly cooked oh-so-delicious crepes.

Hmmm... The scent of the crepe filled my nose leaving me very eager to try it.

You'll find creperies line the streets leading to the abbey.

Set lunch: Sandwich, Dessert and Drink
Crepes are extras.
Crepe with Caramel Sauce

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

What To See, Where To Go, What To Do In Delhi, India (Part 2)

Travelling independently is great and I have been doing so for years. I prefer to travel this way because I get to control and decide when and where I want to go, what time I want to leave and where I like to eat and stay. A lot of research is needed though but you can certainly learn a whole lot as you go along. For me, this is more fun and exciting also a great way to meet and interact with the locals and learn more about their culture. Thing is, travelling to India can be quite a challenge. I have been advised by other travellers that going with an organised tour may be a better option for India. For safety issues (especially women travelling alone) this is the best way to do it. It was also a good thing that we joined a tour because just a month before we went, India was hit by a currency crisis. Indian Prime Minister Modi suddenly announced his decision to ban 500 and 1,000 rupee notes and money withdrawals were also limited leaving many Indians and tourists desperate for cash. I was glad all our hotels, sights and meals had already been sorted by our tour agent. The limited amount of cash withdrawals we had, we used it in markets and auto rickshaw rides. For taxi, we just used Uber and so far it was reliable. Another thing I must share is never to use your credit card in India if you want to avoid the risk of getting it hacked. So just always use cash. 

Deciding on which organised tour to book can be rather daunting. I made my research and finally decided to go with "Trip A Deal". I have no regrets. It was definitely the type that ticked all the boxes and we were really impressed with the whole experience. The tour was well organised from start to finish. What's more, we only had a small group of 4 travellers. That was really awesome, it was like having a private tour. We were given enough time to go around all the places without feeling rushed and also enough free time to explore India ourselves. All our local guides were friendly and professional, polite and helpful and most of all didn't ask for extra tips. Our driver for the duration of the trip was very kind, caring and polite as well. It is the type of tour that I would definitely recommend to anyone. 

Remember, just like visiting any other country, it is important to be culturally aware and be smart. 
 
 
 On our second day, we visited Jama Masjid, the grand mosque in Old Delhi built in 1656 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (who also commissioned the construction of Taj Mahal) is the largest in India. It was built in red sandstone and marble by more than 5,000 artisans. Visitors have to remove and leave their shoes at the entrance before entering.




Ambassador is still the most loved car in India.

A trip to Delhi must always include a visit to Chandi Chowk. We had an amazing time trying to zig zag our way through the meandering lanes of Old Delhi and to add a bit of excitement, we hopped on a rickshaw for a thrilling ride. Sure felt like competing in Amazing Race! 

Every Indian kid I met greeted me with a smile. 



Road side food stalls.





Our delicious Indian breakfast buffet at the hotel.

(from top left, clockwise)
Pyaz Ki Kachori,
Medu Vada- Crisp Indian Bread,
Aloo Mattar,
Mattar Parantha

Gulab Jamun is always present at every meal.

The Red Fort Complex is a World Heritage Site and Delhi's most iconic monument. It was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal dynasty for nearly 200 years.

Lahore Gate, the main entrance to The Red Fort in Old Delhi.

Diwan-i-am, the Hall of Public Audiences.

 
Diwan-i-Khas, this is the most expensive building in the fort. It is made of white marble decorated with inlay of cornelian and other stones.

Naubat Khana which houses the Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate). During Mughal times, visitors would dismount from their elephants or horses on this spot as a sign of respect.




Raj Chat, where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated.

It was wedding season in India. Hence, we kept seeing all these pop-up wedding receptions in many places we've visited.