Homestays in (South India) – A collection of sketches!

We’ve been exploring beautiful home-stays in the Deccan region in the last couple of years. Mostly they are vacation-time with family and friends and the short time is spent relaxing and enjoying nature and local food. But more often than not I do manage to sneak in a sketch of two! Here is a compilation of various sketches from my last couple of trips that have been slumbering in my travel journal…

Captain’s Bungalow

A lovely place, Captain’s Bungalow is in Coffee Land, set in a beautiful plantation in the Western Ghats in a popular vacation district of Chickmagalur, Karnataka.

View from Captain's Bungalow

View from Captain’s Bungalow

Surrounded by lush mountains and fields, your get stunning views from the well designed verandahs and open spaces around the bungalow. The bungalow itself is a delight, with high ceilings and lovely four poster beds that need a few steps to climb onto!

The great personalized food, friendly and smiling staff, awesome bonfire and barbecue, and several lovely dogs in the property equals one amazing stay/vacation. Walking down to the local pond with lovely trees and reflections accompanied by the enthusiastic dogs was great fun! As I had so much fun and R&R I only managed to get a couple of sketches done …

I would certainly go back to this gem…

 

Sakleshpur

Sakleshpur is a hill station in the Western Ghats mountain range, in India’s Karnataka state. It’s surrounded by slopes covered with tea, coffee and spice plantations. We spent a couple of nights there at the Aroha eco hill resort, a lovely place with magnificent views of the mountains.

Sakleshpur, Majestic mountains
Sakleshpur, Majestic mountains (click to see larger image)

With a number of activities including zip lining and wall climbing, this is a place ideal for kids and families. The 18th-century, star-shaped Manjarabad Fort has sweeping mountain views and was really beautiful and a must-explore.

sak03            sak02

The resort is lush with greenery and a large variety of plants and other life and one could sketch there for days!

Sakleshpur

Sakleshpur

A lovely place to be closer to nature and escape the hustle of our city lives!

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New Zealand Road Trip Part 3

The last leg of our NZ sojourn was quite exciting and adventurous… true Kiwi style!

We headed out in our rental towards Taupo, a town on the shore of Lake Taupo, which occupies the caldera of the Taupo Volcano in the center of the North Island. The drive was as expected totally gorgeous with glimpses of the lake as we got closer to our destination. The Waikato River, NZ’s longest, starts at Lake Taupo before crashing its way through the Huka Falls (which I’ve mentioned in NZ part 1) and continues onto the west coast.

Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo

Our resort in Taupo was as expected, absolutely beautiful, at the lakeside, with lovely weather and ducks for company! The lake, the size of Singapore(!), is home to many water sports and other adrenaline pumping activities. One can enjoy the cycling paths, thermal pools, bungee jumping or row out to see ancient Māori carvings. But we were there for a singular purpose, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

The Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park in New Zealand and is one of the 28 mixed cultural and natural World Heritage Sites. Its noted for both its cultural as well as natural signifiance. The active volcanic mountains Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe (of Mt Doom fame in LOTR), and Tongariro as well as a number of Māori religious sites are within the park. Many of the park’s summits, including Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, are tapu, or sacred.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is widely regarded as one of the world’s best one-day hikes. The full distance of the track is usually 19.4-kilometers and yes, although the 7 to 8 hour trek is challenging, the spectacular views make it so worthwhile. You could almost be mistaken for walking on another planet as you go across a landscape of craters, active volcanoes,  mountain springs, lava flows  and mounds of volcanic rock. You come across a contrast of colours with the perfectly blue and emerald lakes to the fiery red crater.  In another life I will go back there and paint from atop of the red crater.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Tongariro Alpine Crossing- Click to see larger

After a well earned/ relaxing evening painting by the Lake we left early the next morning for Waitomo, a village known for its extensive underground cave systems. We spent the afternoon Black Water Rafting. This means essentially navigating the river running through these caves by walking, climbing and tubing under expert guidance. It was great fun floating on tyres and even jumping off mini waterfalls backwards into the dark caves!!! The best part was when we formed a human tubing chain and switched off our lights and it was pitch dark until we saw thousands of glow-worms light up the caves. It was an absolutely amazing and surreal experience… as it was Xmas Eve, our lovely guides had us singing carols!

It was totally fun getting acquainted with the herds of cute jersey cows we spotted everywhere….I found a spot near our hotel where I could sketch them and just loved the way they ran up to fence to look at me with curiosity!

Moo

The next morning we drove out to our last stop, a gorgeous property called Appledore in Paihia, a bustling seaside town right in the heart of the Bay of Islands.  Right next to a beautiful river with lovely rooms and gardens, we had a great time there with our hosts who whipped up a superb Xmas night dinner as well as scrumptious breakfasts!

We decided to drive up to Cape Reinga the next morning. Te Rerenga Wairua is at the northwesternmost  tip of the North Island. The names in Maori mean ‘leaping-off place of spirits’ and ‘the underworld’. According to mythology, the spirits of the dead travel to Cape Reinga on their journey to the afterlife to leap off the headland and climb the roots of the 800-year-old pohutukawa tree and descend to the underworld to return to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki, using the Te Ara Wairua, the ‘Spirits’ pathway’.

Cape Reinga is the separation marker between the Tasman Sea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east and its amazing to see the point where the differently shaded waters meet and create a tidal dance!

Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga

There is a lovely lighthouse overlooking the beautiful seascapes. Also a number of paths that one can explore to go down to the beaches or for amazing views…

On our drive back we drove to the famous 90 mile beach to watch some enthusiasts bodyboard down the huge hill of sand… we also discovered some lovely beaches on the way back…

Beaches of New Zealand North Island
Beaches of New Zealand North Island

NZ3b

 

The next day we took a boat to romatic-Russell. This little Island was the first permanent European settlement and seaport in New Zealand. There is much historical value here but today its a big tourist destinations with mainly cafes and B&Bs. We had a fun trip exploring the beaches, walking around the town and enjoying a lovely sunset over the sea…

Well, our trip ended all too soon and all I can say is that its not over yet….till we meet again New Zealand…Kia Ora!!

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New Zealand Road Trip Part 2

So after a great time in Rotorua, we hired a car and drove to Wellington for the next leg of our Kiwi adventure. Well, for us who have driven in India all their lives amidst the crazy traffic and chaos, driving on this beautiful highway with km upon km of smooth, buttery road with gorgeous mountains or rolling hills dotted with cows and sheep, and little traffic …. was a treat for the senses. The greatest danger ….falling asleep!

New Zealand farms

New Zealand farms

We made a quick stop at Huka Falls,  Taupo, where one can view the majestic falls from various footbridges. About 200,000 liters of water plunges 9 meters down every second! Its known as ‘snow-white’/’ice-blue’, as the Waikato goes over the falls it picks up masses of tumbling air bubbles giving it amazing colours.

We drove along the Desert Road where we got to see spectacular views of Mounts Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. Ruapehu, the largest active volcano in New Zealand, is also the highest point on the North Island. Some scenes of Modor and Mount Doom were filmed on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu.. Read about the Tongariro National Park in the Part 3 of my blog which was a surreal experience for me!

Mount Ruapehu aka Mount Doom

Mount Ruapehu aka Mount Doom

Wellington

Loved the vibe of this multi-cultural city. Wellington sprawls out over several bays, beaches and one is never too far from the sea. Its built around and about hills that drop down to the bays giving lovely views. Our hotel overlooked one such bay with docked boats oh! so prettily arranged…

There are places around town where you can climb up to the top of the hilly mountains for fabulous views. We trekked up to Mount Victoria for the sunset view…oh the views were breathtaking… The city is spread out next to the sea with lush green hills bracketing it all.  The distant hills dotted with houses make me want to explore the streets probably quaintly rising up and down with the slopes…perhaps I will in another moment in time. But for now I’m content with capturing this magical view…

Mt Victoria lookout

Mt Victoria lookout

The next morning we took a small plane ride to get to Blenheim…and when I mean small, I mean a 12 seater! That itself was a treat! Loved the cute, bright green, manicured vineyards below us as we approached our destination.

Sounds Air plane ride

Sounds Air plane ride

Blenheim is a town on New Zealand’s South Island. Known for its wineries and thus, the local wine and food culture. We debated on various tours and hiring bikes but finally choose to hire a car, which BTW is so very convenient in NZ. So we ended up visiting a couple of gorgeous wineries, first of which being ‘Cloudy Bay’, a large well known winery where we spent a relaxing hour or so sipping on some nice varieties of wines, lazing in the lush lawns, napping (hubby), sketching (me)!

Cloudy Bay Wineyard, Blenheim

Cloudy Bay Wineyard, Blenheim

I highly recommend our second winery ‘Spy Valley’ for the personal attention we got from the young lady in charge. She very sweetly answered all our wine-questions!

Blenheim is also known for the The Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. It houses filmmaker Peter Jackson’s collection of World War I aircrafts, the ‘Knights of the Sky’, displayed in sets re-creating their flight history. The display was brought to life by creative talents of WingNut Films and mannequins by Weta Workshop*, of the Lord of the Rings fame…

I loved the Curtiss MF Flying Boat and the Fockker Triplanes among the impressive collection of replicas, flyable and original aircrafts!

So after the museum and the wine tasting what comes next? Ah yes, food of-course 🙂

We decided to drive to Havelock, a village, also in the Marlborough region famous for its green-lipped mussel-industry. We sampled an interesting mix of these while I sketched them!

Green Lipped Mussels, Havelock

Green Lipped Mussels, Havelock, Click to see whole image

Next: Havelock to Picton. This famous drive, called the Queen Charlotte Drive, is a 40-kilometre winding road fringed with native forests…. it offers one of the most scenic drives you’re likely to encounter. The Sounds are basically an extensive network of sea-drowned valleys giving rise to spectacular scenery… there are ample tours and boat rides available to explore these….we took a ferry from Picton back to Wellington and totally enjoyed the views over sunset…

The Sounds, Picton

The Sounds, Picton

The next morning before we headed out to our next cool NZ destination, we made a quick visit to the Weta Cave.

*Weta Workshop is a world-leading design and effects facility based in NZ.  They have worked with many directors and producers across the globe on special effects, concept design, props, set designs etc…. the most notable one being The Lord of the Rings…

So hope you liked this post and are inspired to travel to New Zealand too….
Part 3 and the last one for NZ coming up soon!
Love and peace ….

 

 

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North Island, New Zealand Road Trip Part 1 (Rotorua)

Of all of our travels, New Zealand will forever remain ingrained in my heart…. Its a peaceful, gorgeous country with such diverse landscapes, miles of pristine farm land, beautiful beaches, fun, friendly, happy inhabitants and loads of adventure stuff to explore!

NZ001

Rotorua

Our North Island sojourn started from Auckland where we landed in the middle of the night and took a shuttle to Rotorua to stay with our cousin for 3 days. We reached at dawn but our jetlagged brains just about registered the varied and beautiful birdsong beginning around us. Later after a nap, we got our first glimpse of Rotorua from our cousin’s house set in a beautiful location, and we were stunned….the rolling hills with untouched natural vegetation, the Rotorua lake shimmering in the distance, the lovely cottages around us, I just had to paint it!

Rotorua city

Rotorua city

Rotorua is renowned for its geothermal activity and Maori culture. The smell of sulphur in the air is ever present but the furiously bubbling mud pool, the shooting geysers and natural hot springs are an amazing sight. There are many lakes set in the volcanic craters of this area, the water beautiful shades of green and blue that I fail to create on my palette 🙂

Hidden gems of Rotorua

Hidden gems of Rotorua

Among these experiences, my favourite was Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, a sort of thermal park, where the landscape has been sculpted by geothermal activity and where unique volcanic features can be viewed from well defined tracks. They also have the Lady Knox Geyser, that is made to erupt each morning by using some soapy solution.

Here’s my attempt to paint the world famous orange and turquoise ‘Champagne Pool’.  The presence of unique minerals like gold,, silver, mercury, sulphur, arsenic, thallium and antimony etc in the ‘Champagne Pool’ gives it its unique colours. With a surface temperature of 74 degrees C, it was formed 700 years ago by a hydro-thermal eruption! The bubbles are due to CO2, giving it its name!

Other Interesting pools apart from the Champagne Pool are the Artist’s Palette, Primrose Terrace and boiling mud pools…just when you think you have seen it all, you turn around a bend and come upon another breathtaking thermal creation.

Hidden gems of Rotorua

Champagne Pool

Rotorua is also home to authentic Maori culture. Whakarewarewa, is a small village where Maori people still live today…one can watch them perform the traditional dances as well as the Haka, a traditional war cry, war dance, or challenge. New Zealand sports teams’ practice of performing a Haka before their international matches has made this postural dance widely known around the world. Then you are taken around the village on a walk learning about their way of life among the geothermal springs. Great fun to watch Pohutu, a geyser which erupts up to 20 times a day, from a distance of course!

Rotorua is home to many adventure sports…we chose White water rafting – professionally done by the amazing outdoorsy Kiwis, and it turned out to be everything that was promised and more. Rafting the rapids of the thundering river Kaituna, home to the highest commercially raft-able waterfall in the world – the 7m Tutea Falls was extremely thrilling… not only was it fun, but it was a reminder of the elemental and the compelling forces of nature. As the raft was plunging down the rapid…one of the thoughts flashing through my mind was….I hope I survive this….to paint this!!

Kaituna River Rafting

Kaituna River Rafting

If you go to Rotorua, don’t miss the Polynesian Spa…its touristy but not overpriced…a series of pools/baths flooded with natural thermal waters either acidic or alkaline, flooded with minerals, said to have immense therapeutic benefits as believed by the Maori. We did this right after the white water rafting and gratefully sank into the various degrees of hot water with glee!

I especially enjoyed an evening of walking through the iconic Redwood forests, the Whakareware. This beautiful forest is home to a large number of native plant species including the famous ferns adopted by NZ as their national emblem. But most striking are the giant Californian Redwood trees that provide shelter to many species of birds and flora underneath.

Wakarewarewa Redwood forests

Whakarewarewa Redwood forests

And this was only Rotorua… more from the gorgeous Island coming your way!!

Would love your comments and suggestions!

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Hilly Homestays in South India – Part 1

Munnar

Set in the Western Ghats extending into Kerala, Munnar is a popular hill station with Tea plantations being the major attraction. We recently stayed at the Talayar Valley Bungalow operated by the Woodbriar group. It is 18 km from Munnar, and the drive to the estate was spectacular and so very refreshing dotted by little brooks, bridges and rain-fed lush waterfalls. Our visit was in the 3rd week of September, the tail end of the rainy season, but we were blessed with absolutely lovely sunny weather!

The property is surrounded on all sides by tea estates, creating a blanket of velvety green in a 360 degree panoramic view. The bungalow has a vast compound with plenty of space for exploration and games.

Talayar Valley Bungalow

Talayar Valley Bungalow

It has a very well maintained flower garden that really inspired me to paint away all weekend!

Flowers

Flowers

Flowers

Flowers

Flowers

Flowers

Photo credit for brilliant flower photos to my friend Savita Pant

The room decor is very grand and colonial and the staff superb. Special mention for the fabulous cook who dished up really wonderful food meal after meal!

There are plenty of activities for explorers to do in and around Munnar but for us long treks into the estates as well as down into the tiny village with its cute temple, church and post office were very satisfactory. As were lazy football and badminton sessions with the kids. Paint. Play. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Not a bad way to spend a few rejuvenating days I say!

 

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Exploring Tuscany – Part 2

Well, since we spent only a day in Tuscany, not counting Florence, I can tell you for sure that going back and spending time in this region is definitely high on my travel wish list.

With its gorgeous manicured fields, rustic farms, and cute towns that look like they are clinging onto the side of little hills, Tuscany is truly THE romantic image of Italian countryside. The sun-kissed vineyards and olive groves are a sight to behold. So are the quaint historic towns scattered all over the region. And did I mention the wine tasting…

So our guided day tour (something we never do but I don’t regret a minute of)  included a visit to Siena, lunch at a Chianti vineyard, the town of San Gimignano, and last but not the least the famous town of Pisa.

Siena

As the name suggests, Siena is a medieval city made up of yellow-ochre buildings, terracotta rooftops and green shutters. Oh so very quaint. It has the world’s oldest bank… there is an interesting story about how Roman travelers would exchange money here in ancient times. The Piazza del Campo, the main square here, is actually SHELL shaped and is the site of the 600 year old Palio horserace. This twice yearly race has 10 bareback horsemen and horses dressed in the appropriate colours representing ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards. They circle the Piazza thrice and the race is over in about 90 seconds but is watched by crowds of thousands that come from all over the world!

The Duomo or the Gothic Cathedral in Siena is filled with treasures by Pisano, Donatello and Michelangelo. Even the floor of the cathedral is beautifully decorated with mosaic art to create storytelling masterpieces.

Here’s my sketch of the steep street that leads up to the Duomo from the Piazza del Campo, lined with shops and little cafes…

Siena

Siena

The scenic Chianti Countryside

At the heart of Tuscany lies the Chianti region famous for its gentle green hills, tall cypress trees, and world famous wine. Our traditional Tuscan lunch at a family run organic farm was great and their wines were really good. But the view was truly spectacular. Here’s one glimpse of the views…

chianti region

Organic Food/Farmhouse, Chianti region

Their homemade pasta, cured meats, cheeses were fantastic but special mention to the last course of traditional Tuscan biscotti that was had dipped in a sweet and strong dessert wine….bliss!

San Gimignano

Known as ‘Medieval Manhattan’ or ‘Town of Fine Towers’, San Gimignano has a skyline of medieval towers, including the tallest, the stone Torre Grossa. I spent half of my short time there standing in line to sample the world famous – award winning Gelato from ‘Gelateria Dondoli’  in the triangular shaped square – Piazza della Cisterna. The other half was spent sketching one of the towers – torri gemelle/Torri dei Salvucci. The historical center of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

San Gimignano

San Gimignano

Pisa

Now here was one leg of the journey that I was thinking would be the least interesting as its main attraction would be the touristy Leaning Tower of Pisa. But I was unprepared for the famous bell tower itself being spectacular and the history of its construction, restoration and preservation being so fascinating.

There are a lot of highlights in Pisa including more than 20 other historic churches, several medieval palaces and various bridges across the Arno. We were bound by time constraints so I ended up mostly taking cheesy touristy pictures against the Tower and sketching in the short time I had…. Here is my version of the leaning tower as well as a huge sculpture, titled ‘the fallen angel’ by polish artist Igor Mitoraj, just lying on the grass in a nearby garden.

PIsa Bell Tower

PIsa Bell Tower

 

The Fallen Angel

The Fallen Angel

So although I would say we hardly did justice to Tuscany in our first trip, I got a pretty good glimpse and am definitely going back for more!

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Exploring Tuscany – Part 1

Tuscany is a beautiful region in central Italy, home to some of the most famous and recognizable Renaissance art and architecture including Michelangelo’s “David”, Botticelli’s works in the Uffizi Gallery, the Duomo basilica and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The region is world famous for it’s marble quarries, vineyards, truffles farming, and gorgeous rural views. It’s a wealthy region but very well preserved, so much so that many of the views are the same from ages back.

Our trip was short but extremely enjoyable and left us wanting seconds.

Florence. My dream destination. We were staying just a couple of streets away from the Il Duomo di Firenze. As we turned the corner and saw it, we were all gasping at it’s sheer magnificence! The Duomo or the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, was completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi, one of the founding fathers of the Renaissance and a master goldsmith with knowledge of architectural works, sculpture, mathematics, engineering, and ship design! It is still the largest masonry dome in the world.

The Duomo

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – Il Duomo di Firenze

The city center, as in most European cities, is small and lovely to explore on foot. From the Duomo, one could explore Piazza Signoria and the grand Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall.  The lush interiors and frescos of this palace are associated with names like Vasari, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo!

Here’s my illustrated watercolour map of Florence to orient you on the highlights. Do click to see larger version…

Illustrated map of Florence

Illustrated map of Florence

Next up was the Uffizi and Museo Accademia (with the original David, by Michelangelo), both can take an entire morning easily. The highlights at Uffizi were Botticelli’s Primavera and Birth of Venus, and several artwork by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Filippo Lippi, Titan, Caravaggio and Rembrandt.

In Florence, Vasari also built the long passage, now called Vasari Corridor, which connects the Uffizi with the Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the river. The enclosed corridor passes alongside the River Arno on an arcade, crosses the Ponte Vecchio and winds around the exterior of several buildings. This is the same corridor that Dan Brown has referred to in his thriller ‘Inferno’.

The famous Ponte Veccio is the main bridge over the river Arno, to the left bank of which you’ll find the Pitti Palace and the wonderful Baboli gardens. If adventurous, you could walk up the steep paths that lead up to the Piazza Michelangelo for breathtaking views of Florence. See my interpretation of sunset over Florence from this Piazza.  You can see the Ponte Veccio and the Duomo dominating the skyline…

Florence skyline from Piazza Michelangelo

Florence skyline from Piazza Michelangelo

Speaking of Ponte Veccio….what’s an evening in a European city without experiencing the unique street music and art 🙂

Here’s my illustration of a couple of musicians we heard on our last evening in Florence, with lovely high spirits who literally were rocking the bridge with their enthusiasm!

Music on Ponte Veccio

Music on Ponte Veccio

Next up, Tuscany part 2, a journey into the Tuscany countryside 🙂

Thanks for reading and do write in your comments!

 

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Finding Destiny….in the ‘Blue Mountains’!

Tucked away in a pristine, untouched valley, Destiny Farm-stay is a unique resort, set in the Nilgiri biosphere, 25 km from Ooty. We set out on a Saturday morning, a bunch of us, in high spirits….in smiling anticipation of some fresh air and promised R&R.

The route via Gundlupet had some pretty sights, lush greenery and lovely sunflower fields…

Sunflower fields

Sunflower fields

The drive via the Bandipur National Park is always fun….we love driving through the lush green beautiful forest spotting the usual deer, monkeys and the occasional elephants, wild boar and in one instance, a large snake crossing the road! This time there was an abundance of all these, including multiple spotting of wild elephants. We also saw a multitude of ‘characters’ belonging to the family ‘Homo sapiens’ who were doing highly crazy things…here’s my illustration of one of these situations!! (Btw, do click on the images to see in bigger size…)

Selfies at Bandipur

Selfies at Bandipur

Destiny is a set across two hills and a lake and the views are simply breathtaking…It is a completely self-sufficient farm with Eco-friendly methods of cultivation. They produce a variety of herbs, fruits, vegetables and spices. They offer many outdoor activities as well as many indoor games that will keep kids totally occupied. The star attraction for my daughter was the stable full of horses and a dairy full of cows. Check out my sketch of her riding a beautiful horse named Danish…

Daughter riding Danish

Daughter riding Danish

The property was extremely pretty with activities like zip lines, wall climbing and fishing. Here is a quick pen and wash sketch of the property restaurant and the rooms, seen from the fishing pond.

Destiny

Destiny

I will definitely love to holiday in the lovely Nilgiri mountains again, hopefully soon…. 🙂

Look forward to your comments…

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Venice in my suitcase!

My presumption of Venice being touristy and over hyped as a holiday destination was happily untrue! Well touristy? Yes… (60,000 tourists per day according to wiki)… but I thought the ‘sinking city’ had incredible charm and romance value…no, not talking about riding into the sunset with your beau on a gondola with live singing as accompaniment!!

I’m talking about the architecture, the rich history and artistic movements since the 9th Century (although Venice origins go back to 400 AD) including the fact that this is the birth place of the famous Renaissance period, for all you art lovers.

The City State of Venice is considered to have been the first real international financial center and maritime power rising from the 9th century to its peak in the 14th century. This made Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history.  Until the ‘Black Death’, the famous Plague of Europe that brought about the city’s decline.

The fact that Venice has no cars or vehicular traffic itself is known, but the lack of noise strikes you on the second day as you wander around the tiny narrow streets of the canal city. After every turn you see a pretty, canal branch with a picture-perfect bridge on it. Venice is situated across a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by bridges. These are located in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay that lies between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. The Grand Canal forms one of the major water-traffic corridors in the city. Public transport is provided by water, the Vaporetti and private water taxis and the pricey Gondolas. Here’s my sketch of a typical canal scene done in pen and wash…

Venetian Canal

Venetian Canal

The main public square is called Piazza San Marco, St Mark’s Square. As you first come upon it I bet your jaw will drop to the floor in awe…it is very grand! The scene is dominated by the beautiful St Mark’s Basilica. In my sketch you can see a tall tower, the Campanile of St Mark’s church too. The astronomical clock of the Clock Tower is also stunning.

stMarksSquare

Piazza San Marco – click to see larger

Among other highlights is the Doge’s Palace, with beautiful, richly decorated chambers. A tour of the palace will lead you to the prisons and then the famous Bridge of Sighs, built in 1614. The name of the bridge dates from the Romantic period and was supposed to refer to the sighs of prisoners who, passing from the courtroom to the cell in which they would serve their sentence, took a last look at freedom as they glimpsed the lagoon and the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore through the small windows.

venice2

Bridge of Sighs

Then there is the Piazzetta di San Marco, an adjoining open space connecting the south side of the Piazza St Marco to the waterway of the lagoon. Imagine standing there at the quay in the 14th century watching ‘Merchants of Venice’ unload their riches for trade…

Venetian Windows

Venetian Windows

Close to Venice are the Islands of Murano and Burano (among others), really worth the visit. Murano is home to the workshops of the glass blowers of the famous Murano glass. Take a boat to the Island to see the glassblowers at work…very enjoyable for kids and adults alike.

Burano, our favourite, is known for its colorful, block-like buildings and its lace industry. The quaint little place has a main canal bordered on both sides by colourful houses, art galleries and shops.  This is how the place looks:

Burano

Burano

Well, that was my attempt to take away a small part of the beautiful Province of Venice in my suitcase…

Hope you enjoyed the journey…do write in with your feedback!

 

 

 

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Exploring London

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…

Well, welcome to my ‘Travel and Sketch’ blog. The space where I could share with you my mostly delightful travel experiences….through my sketchbook!  It is truly a unique feeling to sit down with paper, pencil and possibly some watercolours, and attempt to capture what you are seeing in front of you. Whether one is admiring the myriad sights of Nature or the objects of beauty created by man; now or perhaps in the thirteenth century; drawing it makes you look at everything with wonder; the old and the new, the everyday and the exotic, the man-made and the natural.

I’ve just had the pleasure of travelling to Italy with a short visit to London at the start of the holiday. So London’s where I’m going to start my journey of sharing my art.

London brings to mind The Big Ben, red double deck buses and telephone booths, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, The London eye, Tower of London and so on. As I walked around, I felt compelled to create a collage-sketch of the London skyline that would capture the essence of the great city.

london1

On a free evening, we walked to the Kensington Gardens to get some fresh air and ducks (yep one of our daughters is a duck pond fanatic). We thus discovered the fantastic Kensington Palace and its lovely gardens (within the already gorgeous park). The Palace was a former home to Princess Diana, who loved the gardens. There is now a special memorial to her – a Sunken Garden – “planted with flowers and foliage inspired by memories of the Princess’s life, image and style…”. Visitors can view the gardens from a special walkway around them….the walkway itself is so amazing that, well, here’s my quick painting of it!

kensington

windowFlowers

Random cute window flower box with yellow and blue poppies…

Oxford: what can I say…I had no idea that the town and University of Oxford is so amazing! Truly an eye-opener and highlight for me.  Being a city university, it does not have a main campus; instead, its buildings and facilities are scattered throughout the city center. Oxford provides endless stunning examples of the way the old (sometimes nearly a thousand years old!) can harmonize beautifully with the new. Here is my sketched version of Oxford’s iconic building – The Radcliffe Camera.

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This large, circular building was designed by James Gibbs and built in 1737-1749 and is part of the Bodleian Library complex. We took a student guided walking tour (highly recommend it) around the town catching some of the famous buildings and were totally overwhelmed by the grandeur.

That’s it for my first post, I’d love to hear your comments and feedback.

Next up ….Italy!

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