Waking from slumber, via Puducherry


Well, thank you, Preethi, for that nudge in the direction of the blogosphere. It happens. The world of posts and pictures, and comments and stats seem to be the thing. Very soon, the itch to document everything slacks on the priority list. And before you know it, you are one year older. Yes heck, it takes some persistence of habit to keep at writing blog posts. So without making any promises to self, and Preethi, I’m creeping back here…

…with the calm charm of the French Quarters and the brilliance of coastal colours.

A post box stands, awaiting news from beyond the shadows.DSC09551

Closed doors and ochre walls only serve to beckon…

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A pink door. Turquoise wall panels. A Paris Cafe jazz radio-like tune wafting on to the sidewalk, catching unsuspecting steps, halting them, if for a while. La Maison Rose.

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Main players in the spotlight once, perhaps. But now catching eyes from an odd seat on the sidewalk.

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Art and light.

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Eminently stroll-worthy. Very soon addicted…

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French architecture meets kolam. Charming storefronts..

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… and even more beautiful interiors. The sun lights up more than just the courtyard.

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The French Quarters in Puducherry are based on the French grid-like pattern for cities, and  it is very easy to navigate. Just take a walk along the quieter back streets, or a walk along the Promenade by the Bay of Bengal. Dotted with cafes and restaurants, this IS the place to chill.

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Stay: Hotel Metropole, Mysore


I have probably traveled to Mysore more than any other city in India, from Bangalore. And it still holds some beautiful surprises. Well, so do most places, I guess, but as this one was so pleasant, am sharing it :).

Hotel Metropole is a large, sprawling building just a few minutes walk from the railway station in Mysore. The very obvious colonial architecture indicates it was built in the days of the Raj. It housed European guests in the days of the kings. Today, even though it is located right in the center of the city, among busy streets, the interiors are surprisingly calm, quiet, and you can barely hear the hustle of the city.

It was converted into a hotel many years ago, but fell short of care, we heard. Until the Royal Orchid group took over. It is a now a beautifully kept, well serviced, relaxed heritage hotel.

My favourite colour, ochre, on the walls, lattice work at every turn, ceilings reaching 20 feet high. And what captivated me the most, the inviting corridors.

Hotel Metropole 1

Hotel Metropole 2

Hotel Metropole Lobby

room balcony

 

 

balcony arch

inner courtyard

 

painted

more lattice work

more corridor

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Travel: Iznik ceramics in Istanbul


The feeling that there is soooo much time to prep for a holiday in a slightly strange land. That there will be all the time in the world to read up interesting places, things to do and culture and crafts to check out. And too soon, a travel date is looking up your nose and you have to just go, with only a smattering of information!

Pretty much how it happened with a trip to Turkey. In a way, this is ideal, you are surprised, and enchanted. I had only heard about the fabulous Iznik pottery. That it is traditionally Turkish and comes in whites and blues. So the first introduction to this art at the Topkapi Palace was a breathtaking moment.

Iznik wall tiles in Topkapi Palace

niches and Iznik tiles in Topkapi Palace

It is said that the Topkapi Palace, in Istanbul, is one of the few places today that contains a large sampling of the Iznik tiles. It is only post the holiday, after soaking in the real deal,  that I have spent some time getting to know these a little better. The name Iznik comes from a town in Anatolia, where the pottery was first and largely made between the 15th and 17th century. Initial examples of this art all seem to be pots, jugs and plates, with tiles coming in only at a later stage. By the end of the 17th century, there was a decline in the craftsmanship and quality, which is said to have also started the decline of the manufacture of these beautiful ceramics.

A white ceramic paste was used to craft the pottery, it was then decorated with designs painted on, mainly in cobalt blue, and then a colourless glaze applied on top. It was only in the 16th century that other colours were introduced. Designs originally combined Ottoman and Chinese elements.

The Topkapi Palace contains almost no Iznik pottery today (they are in museums and private collections outside), but it still has the most amazing tile collection, right in its walls. Inside the palace, the Harem section probably contains the most beautiful tiles.

Tiles and an enameled window, Topkapi Palace

The Harem, Topkapi Palace

Harem at Topkapi Palace

Orders for tiles placed by the Sultans for the palaces, mosques, and other monuments were designed by artists working in Iznik workshops and the installation executed by palace architects. Prized by the Sultans, exported for their brilliant craftsmanship to European countries, it is not surprising to see why.

Topkapi palace, detail near the ceiling. Painted art alongside tiles

outer wall courtyard Topkapi Palace

inner window Topkapi Palace

You cannot get too close to the tiles in many places, but the patterns and colours are so brilliant, even to a slightly distant eye.

Iznik tile detail

Iznik tiles in an inner courtyard, Topkapi Palace

The Blue Mosque is another awe inspiring structure, that leaves you craning your neck the full time you are in there to take in the beauty of the tiles high above, on the walls and in the domes. It is a worshipping mosque, so visiting hours are restricted and you are required to take off footwear, use a head cover.

blue mosque dome

The quietness inside leaves all the time and space in the mind to take in the amazing talent and effort that has gone into making this mosque the most beautiful one in Istanbul.

blue mosque

blue mosque detail

Bylakuppe, a slice of Tibet


A home away from home. Can it be? Any substitute would not be the same, I would think. But for hundreds of Tibetans, who left their home land to seek refuge away from their homeland, Bylakuppe <bi-la-kuppey>, 1000s of miles from home, would have to do. It has been home to monks and locals who arrived in this part of Karnataka, near Coorg (Kodagu) and were given land by the government to setlle down and make their own living.

Kushalnagar is the name that is often looked up while searching for this slice of Tibet in down south India, but it is only the nearest town to Bylakuppe. So if you are headed out to Coorg (and visit Bylakuppe en route) or if you want to spend a weekend or more just walking around monasteries, temples, fields and Tibetan shopping – go Bylakuppe. (It is 226 kms from Bangalore).

We visited on the way back to Bangalore from Coorg, and nothing quite prepared us for the sight of the Golden Temple and monastery. It quite took our breath away and we were transported to Tibet.

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The architecture kept our eyes up and raised – to appreciate the beauty reaching towards the skies.

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As we got closer, we slowed down and wished we had planned for more time here. The atmosphere is serene.

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The most fascinating walls and paintings…

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Kushalnagar window

This window was my most favourite part of the temple.

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The huge statues do not seem over the top, the entire atmosphere inside is that of peace.

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The closer one gets to the walls, the longer one wants to stay and observe.

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Surrounding the monasteries and temples, are numerous stores selling Tibetan art and crafts, from Buddhas to incense to shawls. If you have the time to go through half a dozen stores, you are sure to find some beautiful sculptures and keepsakes. There are restaurants serving up Tibetan food and small vendors vending pretty much everything.

Leaving Bylakuppe, as we turned our backs to the life that the monks have built over 30 odd years, taking in the sights along the road that leads to the highway back to Bangalore is like a rude awakening. It is not Tibet after all…