Tenerife, a Canary Island

Canary Islands in Spain are the best places to visit between October and March if you don’t want too much crowd and if you are looking for pleasant temperatures between 20 and 25 deg C. We have already been to Mallorca and Gran Canaria, so this time we decided to visit Tenerife for a week. Tenerife, also known as the Volcanic island is the largest and the most populous of Canary Islands.

The 4 hour flight to Tenerife was uneventful. Neel slept off during the flight. Everyone suggested I feed him or give him a pacifier during take off and landing but he seemed to be fine without them. We found out that we were allowed to carry a stroller and car seat for Neel, so we did not have to book another one while renting a car. It is highly recommended to rent a strong motorized vehicle as the island is very hilly. Our Rental car was a BMW 116d rented from Hertz.

Day 1

Ride through El Teide to Puerto de la Cruz

El Teide (Pico del Teide) is not just the highest mountain in Canary Islands but, at a height of 3718 m, the highest in all of Spain. It is an active volcano. The drive from our AirBnB in Las Galettas to the mountains was breathtaking and picturesque. We drove up to the car park in El Teide which is almost at 2200 m height. We made sure to drive slowly and carefully, as it is not recommended to take the baby to such heights. We made stops in between to check on Neel. From the car park, tourists can take a 10 minute cable lift to the top (27€ per person/return). From the top there is an amazing view of the island. (We did not make this trip because of Neel). A lot of hiking paths are also indicated.

From there we drove on towards Puerto de la Cruz. After lunch we walked around the city and the sea promenade while enjoying ice cream.

Day 2

Drive through West coast of Tenerife

The next day we drove around Santiago del Teide, Parque del Drago, Los Silos, Masca, Garachico, the lighthouse at the Punta de Teno and back to las Gallettas to our apartment. It was one of the best drives we took on this island. We passed many tiny beautiful towns and villages. One of them was Masca. We had to drive through many winding roads and hairpin bends to get there. Unfortunately, the village was crowded with tourists and no parking was available and so we could not stop and walk around the village.

Day 3

Adeje

We met our friends from Switzerland who were staying in one of the hotels in Adeje. Located in the South-western part of the island, Adeje is a famous tourist spot with beaches, hotels and malls. We ate amazing lunch at a restaurant called Limoncello by the beach.

Day 4

Loro Parque (Spanish for “Parrot Park”)

Loro Parque is a zoo in Puerto de la Cruz. Since its inception in 1972, Loro Parque has created the most diverse genetic reserve of parrots that exists in the world, attaining more than 4,000 specimens of 350 different species and subspecies. Along with these parrots, Loro Parque is home to many other birds and animals including Penguins, flamingos, swans, cranes, chimpanzees, gorillas, lions, tigers, killer whales, dolphins, to name a few. There are some interesting shows like dolphin shows, parrot shows, orca show. We spent one whole day at the zoo. Neel enjoyed watching the animals and the birds. Entry fee costs 35 Euro for adults and 24 Euro for children between 6 and 11. Free entry for children under 6 years old.

For an additional 11 Euros per person, we enjoyed Discovery tour where a tour guide took us around the zoo explaining about the animals and their habitats and also took us inside some of the animal enclosures to show how they are fed and taken care of. If you are in Tenerife, do visit this zoo. It is totally worth it!

Day 5

Playa de las Americas

It is a popular holiday spot in the Southwestern part of Tenerife and features bars, nightclubs, restaurants and beaches. We took a walk along the coast enjoying lovely warm weather. We ended up eating burgers at Hard rock café.

Day 6

Los Gigantes

Los Gigantes is a resort town in the Santiago del Teide municipality on the west coast of the island. It is one of the most attractive natural wonders on Tenerife. The town is protected by impressive rock cliffs up to 800 m high. Taking a walk around is the best way to explore this beautiful town.

Day 7

El Medano / Flight Home

On our last day in Tenerife, we drove to El Médano, on the south east coast of Tenerife very close to the south airport. The town is very popular with windsurfers.

Accommodation

As we had heard a lot of good reviews about Airbnb, we decided to give it a try. This was our apartment in Tenerife.

Located in a small village called Las Galletas, our apartment had 2 bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. All the amenities like TV, fridge, washing machine and air conditioning were available. They even had a crib for the baby. In the vicinity of the apartment there were cafes, supermarkets, pharmacy and various other shops. The owners Luca and Alina made sure that we were comfortable and happy with the place.

Right next to our apartment we found a small bakery called Café Del Pan that offered nice varieties of croissant, coffee and freshly pressed orange juice for very reasonable prices. This was our daily breakfast joint. Also, just few minutes’ walk from our apartment, we found one of the best Indian restaurants called Bobby’s 2 Indian Tandoori Restaurant.

Las Galletas has a small beach of black volcanic sand and rocks. The sea front promenade is lined with restaurants and cafe bars where you can relax in the sun overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Things we carried for our baby

As it was our first trip with the little one, we made sure to carry everything that Neel liked and felt comfortable with. From the soft toys, the mobile he loves, we even took the swing he likes to sleep on (though we did not use it as he slept in the crib). Extra diapers, clothes, thermometer, oils and all his medicines. It is better to be safe than sorry. Make sure to take sun screen and some shawls or swaddling cloths to cover the stroller from the sun.

-Madhurya

 

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Close Encounters with the Wild

It was our third visit to Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. (You can read about our first here and here) Shruthi, Ashwin and little Shristi (who were visiting us from the US) joined us along with other family members. We needed a couple of SUVs to carry us all to our favorite Jharana Lodge. After the welcome drink (refreshing), lunch (delicious) and watching a few resident male Turkeys woo a female (noisy and endless), it was time for one of our favorite parts of visiting a jungle – Tiger Safari.

We’d booked 2 jeeps into the core area. No sooner did we enter the Jungle than we spotted a couple of bears foraging on grass and insects. They were huge and it seemed funny that they were feeding on bugs instead of something that would suit their bulky frames!

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While we were too busy describing the bears to one another, we barely caught sight of a Leopard, who crossed our jeeps and made a leap into the thickness of the Jungle, before we managed to click a picture of him.

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We were on a roll! Thanking Goddess Luck, we drove on, now wishing we spot the Big Gun, a Tiger. By the shimmering lake, basking in the winter sun, who do you think we spotted?! No, not a Tiger, but a huge Crocodile!  We were exhilarated!

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There’s something about visiting a jungle- all your senses come alive! There’s nothing to distract- no phone calls, messages or TV. If you stay longer, your sensations are only heightened. You’ll listen to the warning call of a Sambar deer and know that the Tiger is around. You’ll see pugmarks on the ground and figure out which direction he’s gone. You’ll smell the carcass of a dead animal and prepare yourself to the possibility of spotting him. Digression aside, Luck favored us once again.  Around a bend we spotted a couple of Tigers with their prey. One of them was tearing at it (It looked like the limb of a Deer) , while the other seemed to have had his fill. This one stretched and ambled down towards us.

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He sharpened his claws on the bark of a Tree and sat upon a stone wall. He was close enough to give us a high five! The other one finished his lunch, licked his paws and regally made his way towards the ‘throne’ the other Tiger was seated upon. We learnt that they were 2 brothers- Tarachand and Chota Matka, the cubs of Choti Tara and Matkasur. It was adorable to watch them pat one another and unwind after a hard day’s ‘work’!

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A long queue of Jeeps and Tour buses had formed by now and the cubs seemed to be enjoying all the attention! We had taken several trips into the jungle before and went on multiple trips thereafter- into both the Core and Buffer areas, but never did we experience such a spectacle! It was a First Day First Show for Shruthi and Ashwin and they were absolutely elated!

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Prasad and I had to manage the kiddos who were all loaded into our jeep and now were clambering atop its railings to get a better view of the cubs. Their excitement (and ours) knew no bounds! We’d spotted almost all of the Big 5, except Wild Dogs, on a single trip! Did it lessen our enthusiasm to continue exploring the jungles of India? Not at all. It has only intensified our passion for Wildlife and Nature.

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So long, wilderness…

– Manasa.

PS- Photographs were taken by Shruthi and me..

A day in Papiliorama

On a cold, depressing morning, Mike decided to take us to PapilioramaLocated in Kerzers, in the Canton of Fribourg, the French part of Switzerland, Papiliorama is a Botanical Garden with exotic butterflies, birds,  insects and nocturnal animals. More than 60 species of butterflies from all over the tropics can be found in this garden.

Here, visitors can observe the complete life cycle of Butterlies from egg to a vibrant adult, and the stages of caterpillar and pupae in between.

 

One of the highlights of Papiliorama is the Jungle Trek. Papiliorama has reconstructed an exact copy of a jungle in Belize. Once you enter this area, you feel like you are walking through a Central American Forest (I haven’t been there yet, but watch the movie “Rio”, and you will know what I am saying). You can spot birds like Toucans and  roseate spoonbills spreading their wings alongside fascinating reptiles like the Iguana.

The plants, the humidity and the temperature is set to help the wildlife survive in this frigid country.

Another interesting feature of this place is The Nocturama, in which an artificial moonlight is created for the nocturnal animals like night monkeys, bats, tree porcupines. Visitors are allowed to wander freely here, while bats fly right at them… Don’t worry, they are harmless!!

 My 2.5 month old was quite mesmerized with this place and so was I. I carried him around in the baby carrier I use, so that even he could enjoy the sights and sounds. Papiliorama is a family-friendly place with a restaurant serving simple yet delicious meals. Entrance fee costs CHF 18 for adults and CHF 9 for children between 4-15 years of age. I highly recommend visiting this zoo (with or without kids).

-Madhurya

 

Schaffhauser Fasnacht

This is a short post about a Carnival we went to, this year. It is called the Swiss Carnival or the Fasnacht. Over 200 carnivals take place throughout Switzerland in the week after Ash Wednesday, and most of the action is concentrated around the City Centers.

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The carnival is a fascinating mix of party atmosphere, vivid costumes, stirring tunes of drummers and piccolo players, and the weird but wonderful music played by brass bands.

Many visitors and locals simply enjoy the experience of wandering around the city’s lively streets, alleys, checking out bars and restaurants while soaking up the festivities around. We did the same. 🙂

It’s so much fun to participate in and absorb the local traditions and customs, isn’t it?

So what’s happening in your neck of the woods this weekend?

Take care and Have Fun!

Love,

Madhurya.

On a “Musical” Journey in Salzburg

The hills are alive with the sound of music…

Do you remember this song from the movie “The Sound of Music”?

It’s my absolute favorite!

Ever since I watched this movie (and re-watched it about a hundred times!) I made up my mind to visit the beautiful city of Salzburg, home of the Von Trapp family (based on whom the movie was made), before they fled from Austria during the Second World War. Salzburg is also the birthplace of the World famous Musician, Mozart.

The drive from our home to Salzburg took around 5 hours. Since it was Christmas time, we enjoyed beautiful vistas of snow-capped mountains throughout the journey. In Salzburg, we checked into hotel Motel one and took the public bus to Altstadt (Old Town) which is the city`s center. Public transport is pretty cheap here.

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From the moment we set foot on Salzburg, I fell deeply in love with it. Located on the banks of the river Salzach, the city is filled with effortless old world charm. Walking around the old town, we admired the beautiful Baroque architecture found in many churches, museums and residential buildings.

Salzburg Cathedral is the most significant religious building in the city. This cathedral was built in honor of Saint Rupert and Saint Vergilius. Over the years, it underwent extensive damage, especially due to fire, but it has been reconstructed and enlarged ever since.

Towering over the city atop the Festungsberg hill and approaching 1,000 years of age is the “Fortress Hohensalzburg”. A visit to this fortress is a must when one is in Salzburg.

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It can be reached after a strenuous 15-minute climb from the centre, or a quick ride up via the funicular railway! The fortress consists of various wings and courtyards. Some of the highlights inside the fortress include the Golden Chamber, which is richly decorated with gold-studded ceilings and walls, the Salzburg bull organ, Bedchamber, Torture room and the watchtower. The views from the watchtower are spectacular, giving us a commanding view of Salzburg and it’s surrounding mountains, villages, and foothills.

The next day, we took  The Sound of Music tour. It is a bus tour taking us to the sites where the movie was shot. Our tour guide was really cool, telling us anecdotes about the movie, the story of the real Von Trapp Family and some interesting facts about Salzburg. Apparently the movie makers made a lot of changes to the story.

We visited many places like…

Palace of Leopoldskron – The part of the movie where the kids fall from the boat into the lake after the song “Do re mi”, was filmed here with the palace used as the back of the house.

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Nonnberg Abbey – This was where Maria was a nun in the movie as well as in real life, but it was also where the real wedding  between Maria and the Baron was held in 1927.

The Gazebo Rolf and Liesl sang ‘Sixteen Going On Seventeen’ under this Gazebo.

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St Gilden/Lake Wolfgang – This spectacular vista is seen in the opening credits of the movie. Also, on one of the mountains, the starting part of the song “do re mi” from the movie was shot. St. Gilden is a picturesque village by the Lake Wolfgang where Mozart`s mother was born.

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Church of Mondsee  Located in a small town called Mondsee on the shore of lake Mondsee, this is one of the famous churches in Salzburg. This was where the wedding of Maria and the Baron was shot in the movie. The Wedding was shown as a grand affair in the movie  while in reality it was a very simple occasion.

Mirabell Gardens – Finally the tour ended at this garden where the ‘Do-Re-Mi’ song was shot with Maria and the children.

While most of the scenes picturized indoors were shot in Hollywood studios, we got to see the places where the outdoor scenes were shot. We also passed the house which was used as the facade of the Von Trapp family home and the mountain Untersberg where in the beginning of the movie, Maria sings “the hills come alive..”

In the end the Von Trapp family are shown to escape over the Alps to freedom in Switzerland (while in reality they took a train to Italy). The best part of the tour was listening to the songs from the movie and singing along with “Maria” as our guide played them on the bus. I highly recommend taking this tour if you are a big fan of the movie just like I am!

Located in the old town is a small Christmas market, known in German as Christkindlmarkt. We spent some time after the tour window-shopping there before dining at one of the restaurants.

We ended the evening by having the famous Sacher torte, a Chocolate delicacy specialized in Austria, and a slice of  Apple pie, at the Hotel Sacher Salzburg, where you get the original Sacher torte .

(Another Sound of Music fact- Julie Andrews, the actress who played “Maria” stayed at this luxury hotel during the shoot for the movie).

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Finally, on the last day before we began our journey back home, we stopped over at Hallein salt mine. Salt is one of the most important natural resources in Austria. Salz in Salzburg means “Salt”. Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau transformed this treasure of the mountain into hard cash and had Salzburg developed into a magnificent Baroque city. This is one of the oldest mines in the world. The tour around the mine can be accomplished using mine trains, mine slides and a bit of walking.

I’m so glad we took this trip. I look forward to visiting this place again, maybe in Summer?

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Love,

Madhurya.

 

A Day trip to Chikmagalur

One of the best trips we took last year was a One-day trip to Chikmagalur. Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law who made this outing possible for me and Mike.

Chikmagalur is a town located in the Indian state of Karnataka. My sister-in-law is well-acquainted with the place as she worked there for a few years; So SHE became our special tour-guide for the day.

We began our journey early in the morning at about 5.30am. With a distance of 150 km from Panemangalur (where we were staying), it took us around 2 and a half hours to reach the town. It was one beautiful ride! India is at its prettiest, very early in the morning, when there is less traffic. Driving through the majestic Western Ghats during Sunrise was absolutely breathtaking!

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Western Ghats

We were quite starving by the time we reached our destination, so we made our way to the Town Canteen. Trust me, we ate one of the best Dosas we’ve ever eaten in our lives (Mike was eager for more!)

After our breakfast, we drove to Mullayanagiri. Located 15 km from Chikmaglur, Mullayanagiri is the highest peak in Karnataka. Standing tall at 6330 ft, it is also one of the highest peaks between the Himalayas and the Nilgiris. After parking the car at the foothills of Mullayanagiri, we began our trek up the hill. Enjoying the panoramic view of the Western Ghats and the beautiful Coffee estates of Chikmaglur, we climbed up further. Talking, regaling one another with our stories, singing and falling (just me!), we trudged on for another hour!

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View from Mullayanagiri hill

We took breaks in between for fruits and biscuits (Again thanks to my sister-in-law, who’d packed every essential needed for this trip!).

After climbing the steep hill, we came across a muddy road used for vehicles, which was closed for construction purpose (Mullayanagiri can be reached through road as well). Another hour and a half’s trek took us to the foot of a temple. A 600 steps later, we finally reached the Shiva temple, which is at the highest point of Karnataka. (Lord Shiva is called Mullaya around here, and that’s how the hills got the name Mullayanagiri). The views atop were awe-inspiring!!

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Steps to Mullaya Temple

A couple of hours later we were back where we began.

And then we drove from there to Manikyadhara, where there is a beautiful Waterfalls (As we were too tired by then, we did not walk down to the falls). The view of Bababudangiri hills from there was Impressive!

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After resting at Manikyadhara, we visited the Bababudangiri shrine, named after the Sufi saint Baba Budan, who was and is still revered by both Muslims and Hindus.

Then we drove to Belur. Located in Hassan district, Belur is one of the major tourist attractions in Karnataka. The beautiful temple sites of Belur and Halebidu, at the heart of the Hoysala Empire, form the richest sources of Hindu art and sculpture in the country. I was too young to appreciate this amazing wealth of art when I came here the first time, so I’m happy I got another opportunity to visit this place. The geometry and design of the Hoysala Temple architecture and the beautiful carvings left me dazed!

Sadly, we were already short of time and had to head back home, so we skipped visiting the temple of Halebidu.

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But I must say I had one of the most wonderful experiences in India and I’m proud to come from a country so rich in Heritage and Beauty!

Love,

Madhurya

A visit to Allmend, Frauenfeld

When Mike suggested we go for a walk on a warm lazy Sunday afternoon, I gave into the idea, but not without a tough fight, as I had to pull myself away from the book I was reading.

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But as we neared Allmend, I had to admit I felt glad to be out and about.

We drove from Dachsen to Diessenhofen, before stopping at Allmend. Located in the region of Frauenfeld (in the canton Thurgau), Allmend is a Natural Habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna.

Hedges interlink different habitats like dry meadows and forests while the river Thur (which gives the name to the Canton, Thurgau) cuts through the landscape.

Different species of birds, amphibians and reptiles make this region their home. Apparently this area is full of Beavers. Though we couldn’t spot any, their presence was evident in many trees, which were gnawed upon so much that they were ready to come crashing down!  Some of them already had fallen, creating dams.

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According to some reports on the Allmend, between 1999 and 2005, more than 800 arenas (the size of 15 football fields) were restored. Some of the barren meadows were sown with native flowering plants, and the rest were planted with different species. However, sadly, due to the recent climatic changes, there has been a strong decline in the flora and fauna. But the Canton is doing its best to protect them.

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We walked around for an hour or so. There weren’t many visitors that day. I wonder whether they allow folks to have picnics or barbecues in the premises. It was very surprising to see the area so clean and well-maintained, even though there were no supervisors around.

Allmend is a fun spot where the whole family can have a great time walking, playing and exploring, while kids can learn a lot about nature. I highly recommend going there to enjoy and appreciate the tranquility and to soak up the beauty around….

Love,

Madhurya