Bitting into the Big Apple – Part I

“I Smile because New York City Happened to Me”

-Anonymous

In his Netflix special, Trevor Noah starts by saying “New York! New York! New York!” I often find tend to mimic this randomly on the street, either to myself or to the people next to me. Having completed quarter of a year in the city, it was inevitable that I do a post on all that the unstoppable city has to offer.

Meet you at 50th and Broadway! 

When you first step into the city, all those numbers and avenues can be slightly overwhelming. To those who are new to the city or are yet to visit, here is a breakdown of how the streets and avenues work:

The streets run East to West while the avenues run North to South. 

As you move northward, the street numbers start to ascend. To give you a better idea, 1st street starts at Greenwich Village and the city goes up to 220th Street which is Inwood Section.

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Avenues use a mix of numbers and names. For instance, the hotel I work at Roger Smith is located in 47th and Lexington. Confusing right?

Besides the avenues that are numbered, Lexington, Park and Madison Avenues, run between the 3rd and 5th Avenues.

Fifth Avenue is Manhattan’s central dividing line.  Streets running to its east are titled “east” (i.e. East 46th St), and to its west are titled “west” (i.e. West 46th Street).

Street address numbers begin at Fifth Avenue, and increase as they move outward (the higher the number, the farther to the east or west).

6th Ave. is also called Avenue of the Americas. There can also be other variations that one will notice across the city. For instance:

Broadway, one of Manhattan’s oldest thoroughfares (and the world’s longest) runs perpendicularly as it progresses north from the tip of Manhattan up into the Bronx.  As it criss-crosses the straight avenues, it creates large, open intersections (Union Square, Madison Square, Herald Square, Times Square, Columbus Circle, etc.) (For more information, check out: https://www.walksofnewyork.com/blog/manhattan-streetsmarts).

A to the Q to the R; 4, 5 , 6, maybe even 7? 

Subways, tubes, metros, across the world work differently. Some go by zones, some by color coded lines, some more complex than the others. When in New York, always pay attention to the numbers and letters even though the different lines are color coded.

To help you understand better, lines 4, 5 and 6 are all green lines, but they all take you to different destinations. Hence, it is very important to check the number or in some cases the alphabet of the subway you want to take.

The other important aspect of New York Subway is: Uptown or Downtown.

As you go towards lower street numbers, you will be taking the subway that goes Downtown, and vise versa for Uptown.

Simple right? (There’s always your best friend, Google Maps)

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Purchasing a Metro Card:

Unlike London where you can switch between the Oyster Card, or credit/debit cards and Contactless, New York Subway still requires a Metro Card. They can be bought at vending machines at most stations and can be refilled as and when needed. Any trip costs $2.75, whether it is one stop or 50. If you are taking the Path Trains to New Jersey, it is an additional $2.75 and $5 if you are taking the Air Train from Jamaica Center to JFK Airport.

As of a month ago, some stations have installed contactless and Apple Pay (and made my heart swell). However, you still need to carry the metro card to avoid having to purchase more.

As I used the Subway only over the weekends, I don’t have the special monthly passes or the unlimited ones. These too can be bought depending on your requirements.

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Once you get the hang of the subway, it is convenient to move around the city. However, no better way to explore New York than on foot!

Now that we have explored navigating through the city, here’s a list of my top picks on what to do in the city!

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Parks and Recreation 

The beauty of this city lies in the access to numerous parks. From Prospect Park in Brooklyn to Central Park in Manhattan, they all deserve the same kind of love. One of my favourite things to do is walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, head towards the famous photo spot in Dumbo (for all your instagram worthy pictures) and then head to Brooklyn Bridge Park for the most stunning views of the skyline.

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Bryant Park is another favorite for  relaxed afternoon of eating good food and catching up on reading.

One understands the hype around Central Park only after visiting. What I have come to realize is that never have I been to the same spot more than twice. Each time I go to Central Park, I end up at a new place, and it gives me the satisfaction of having witnessed another piece of New York. Don’t miss Bethesda fountain! I hope that soon enough, I can share some secret and specials spots at the park!

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And if there’s one park I have gone on almost every weekend is Washington Square Park. I ended up going very often to check out the famous N.Y. Dosas run by a Sri Lankan man for over twenty years. On two occasions I returned because the line would have lasted for nearly three hours. But thanks to that , I stumbled upon a Kathi roll place and satisfied my inner Desi with a Paneer Roll!

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Chasing the Skyline

Can one ever truly get enough of the those magnificent structures standing tall, owning the world?

  1. Brooklyn Barge or NYC Transmitter Park
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By far the best one I have seen! There is a reason why I am an aspiring Brooklyn Girl ❤

2. Pier C Park, Hoboken, New Jersey

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Manhattan clearly prefers a Hello from the other side!

3.Staten Island Ferry

 

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4. Brooklyn Bridge

 

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One can never get enough of this epic walk and spectacular views!

5. Rooftops!

 

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Find someone who knows someone, who knows someone with access to private rooftops 😉

 

 

 

6. Top of the Rock

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If like me, you would match rather see the Empire State than the view from the Empire State, I would recommend going to Top of the Rock, the viewing deck at the Rockefeller Center. The 360 degree views are unbeatable and don’t miss the sunset!

7. Penthouse at the Roger Smith Hotel 😉

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Salut! To the fabulous four months in New York! Leaving you with the view I am grateful to be able to witness each day!

Let me know in the comments below what you would like to see covered in Part II!

 

 

 

 

 

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Passage to Marseille: French Diaries (Part 1)

“One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are”

– Edith Wharton

And my, have I been lucky with this!

I must have done something right to find people who plan some great adventures with practically no effort from my side except showing up. When I told my dear friend Rohan about moving to Europe, we already knew that there was a travel plan around the corner. To give you a quick background, Rohan and I went to the same school, but spoke to each other only a of couple of years back when a common friend planned a get together. Rohan has been living in France for the past 6 years and as soon as I told him the dates for my spring break, there was an itinerary for the whole week along with links to book the tickets (no guys, I don’t know what I did to deserve this amazing human)

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Having visited the eastern and central parts of France, Rohan thought it would be a great opportunity to explore the southern part. As he has been living in Aix en Provence for the past few years, I couldn’t think of a better person who would help me experience the place like a local. The only obvious thing left to do was get that indispensable little plastic ready.

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Thanks Dad, I appreciate it 😉

Adventure

On 30th March, I had a train from Geneva to Aix-en-Provence with a change in Lyon. I left early from Bluche with the hope of exploring Geneva. And like I had learnt nothing from living in Europe for three months, I forgot to check the weather forecast. Heavy rains in Geneva meant I was walking aimlessly from one corner of the station to another for about four hours, accounting for my first misadventure. I did not even realize there was a shopping complex in the station, beyond the Body Shop and Starbucks stores that I could see (just for a future reference, in case something like this happens to any of you).

Thanks to the Swiss and their impeccable timing, at 17H 20, my train departed for Lyon, and I was beyond happy.

It was short lived.

When the ticket collector approached, I had absolutely nothing to worry about because I had diligently brought a print out of my ticket instead of relying completely on my phone that turns off right when necessary (oh, what would this world be like without power banks?!) I was all smiles until the collector started to scan through that one page of information longer than required. I don’t know if she could see my behavior change from overconfident to nervous wreck because she finally decided to break it to me that my ticket was not valid.

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Naturally, my first thought was ‘I’m going to be debarked from a moving train.’

So I tried to present every possible Identification Card, (I think even my Aadhaar card was in there) to prove to her that the name on the ticket belonged to me. That the date was the day I was traveling. But apparently, nothing was good enough for her because the “QR Code” was missing. Because obviously there is no value for actual text anymore. Come on woman! I am not even out of Switzerland yet!

The only solution I was given was to buy a new ticket!

A new ticket? I already spent 70 euros on the actual one! But 50 euros didn’t seem like much in front of the monster of being debarked.

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However, that’s not where the problem ended. I had a half an hour layover in Lyon, where I had to get the “new” and “valid” ticket printed. So I went to the SNCF office in Gare de Lyon, only to be told that my ACTUAL , NO QR CODE ticket was completely valid and it was totally unnecessary to buy a new one. Now, for those of you who might be wondering why I didn’t just fight with the ticket collector in the first place – because the only scenario that stood out to me was how much money my parents had spent in sending me for a masters and would I rather be deported (I can always be overly dramatic) or shell out another 50 euros.

So in short, misadventures – 2,3,4 were – buying a new ticket, being told there was no need to buy a new ticket, then finally getting the new one printed and running back and forth in Gare de Lyon to get my REFUND. Yes, all in 30 minutes. Did you also know that I had only five minutes to figure out which platform, compartment and seat I had to get to. Quite the achievement, I thought (not really, a french couple were extremely generous to help me figure it out).

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The Glorious New Ticket that helped me make it to Aix-en-Provence.

Hence, guys, ALWAYS, AlWAYS, have the damm QR Code.

And the final misadventure, my TGV of all things was delayed by about 40 minutes, which meant Rohan, the extremely kind and chivalrous soul had to wait for over two hours for me because he got there earlier than expected.

I don’t know if I told him enough, but I was so happy to see him after that long, stressful day (filled with first world problems).

So on my first night in Aix, Rohan gave me a taste of the nightlife there. It was great to be away from Bluche and experience vibrancy! Aix-en-Provence is the perfect blend of a city life and and calmness. With a strong student population, Aix-en-Provence couldn’t be more perfect for youngsters. After meeting Rohan’s friends, who were some of the most warm and welcoming people I have come across! I had one of those days with the right kind of people, the right atmosphere and the right amount of drinks (can never be too many, can there?!)

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The only picture from our not so hazy night – Taken at Barberousse (in case you are in Aix, definitely give it a try)

Day 1: Aix et Marseille 

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The perfect view to wake up to from Rohan’s cute little apartment

Rohan would do exceptionally as a Superhost. He already had a day of adventure planned out. To be very honest, I knew I was in for a surprise, just to what extent – I was about to find out!

The drive from Aix-en-Provence to Marseille was absolutely incredible. Throughout the drive, Rohan kept saying “this is just the teaser, wait for the real thing.” He couldn’t have been more right, because Marseille just kept outdoing itself. Here’s why:

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Warm, Sunny welcome by Marseille
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Brunch with a view! (Old Port, Marseille)

I was in love. Marseille took less than 30 seconds to make it to my list of favorite places. I feel like I could walk for hours in the city, and still not get enough of it. A port city, and the second largest in France, Marseille has been a crossroads of immigration and trade since its founding by the Greeks circa 600 B.C. And right at its heart, the Vieux-Port or Old- Port was our playground for the day.

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Spot the Notre-Dame! – Part I

After brunch, we started walking through the town to get to the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde (Time for a hike!)

A symbol of Marseille, the Notre-Dame is a Catholic Basilica, built on the foundations of an ancient fort at the highest natural point in Marseille, a 149 m (489 ft) limestone outcropping on the south side of the Vieux-Port, and happens to be the most visited site in Marseille.

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To the Dame….

 

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Are you ready ?

 

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Lets do this!

AYE, AYE, CAPTAIN! 

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Spot the Notre-Dame – Part II

 

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Are we there yet?

Rohan: This is just the teaser, just wait for the movie! 

Rachna: How can it possibly get better than this? 

And by this, I was referring to:

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We Made It!

Guys, brace yourselves…………

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The Movie

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This magnifique structure offers the greatest panoramic views of the city. The construction of the Basilica began in the year 1852 and lasted for 21 years. There’s a large statue of the Virgin Mary on the bell tower. It was made by the sculptor Lequesne in bronze with gold leaf in the Christofle studios in Paris and put in place in September 1870. Le musée d’art sacré  in Notre-Dame de la Garde opened in 2013 to tell the story of the basilica.

Incredible, isn’t it? Like with most stunning views, I cannot do justice to it with these photographs. Marseille ranks high on my places to visit, and if anyone is planning a trip to France, I urge you to explore the southern part first.

I kept stalling Rohan when he said it was time to head back. I never thought I would try my luck so hard with “Five more minutes, please!” Saying goodbye to a place you fall in love with is never easy, but there is always the hope of going back.

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With an equally fun drive back, the next thing on our agenda was watching a movie with Rohan and his friends. I loved the thought of going to a theatre after months (thanks to Bluche, I need to go to another town to find one!)

After Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, good food at a cafe (and the struggle of finding me vegetarian food) it was time to call it a night.

Day 2: The Calanques

I was already having a tough time getting over the gloriousness of the previous day, and was not sure I could handle more of those insane views. But Rohan being Rohan had already planned something (which I was sure, was going to be nothing short of epic) We also had the pleasure of being accompanied by his friend Matthieu. And yet again, we set out on a picturesque drive.

Nestled between rocky headlands, a string of crystal-clear coves await you. Venturing towards the south of Marseille will lead you to the Provence’s prettiest beaches trapped in the Massif des Calanques.

After hiking for a couple of hours, we found the golden pot at the end of the rainbow.

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Overwhelming would be an underestimation. I was so spellbound by the place that I couldn’t bring myself to say the right words or even react. I just stood there trying to capture every inch of the place in my mind.

I was lucky to have Rohan who could drive me up to the place. Alternatively, for those of you visiting, there are options of taking a boat ride. You can read more about it here or make bookings on this link.

I cannot stress enough on how magnificent this place is, and I hope the pictures give you an idea of why I feel so and why it should make it to your bucket list.

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The unforgettable place with these phenomenal people!

 

Back in Aix-en-Provence, we had the perfect end to my short, yet incredibly sweet trip with a movie night and some good food.

To my dear friend RohanMerci d’être le meilleur hôte! (Hoping Google Translate got it right!)

 

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About the Host: Clearly the best one anyone could have! Rohan is a precious soul that will go out of his way to make sure you have a ball! He has an eye for some of the best places and his love for travel only adds to his passion for showing you a great time! He makes the perfect travel companion and I am so grateful to have explored what has come to become my favourite cities with him!

Merci Beacoup Rohan!

Santé! 

P.S. I will do a quick tips on how and where to book tickets (with QR Codes at the end of Part II)

 

 

Magical Montreux

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.”

– Anonymous

Until the time I moved to Switzerland, I didn’t realize just how much there is to explore in the land of Fondue.

Speaking of Fondue, my dear friend Hemanth (who by the way could have his own travel blog – 15 countries in one year and what not) was visiting from Germany, and it was apparent that I had to take him to try Fondue. But I also wanted him to experience Bluche and one city neither of us had been to. Which brings me to my next destination: Montreux.

The one thing I admire about Switzerland is its infrastructure and connectivity. As opposed to how inaccessible everything usually seems from Bluche, getting from one town to another or one mountain to another is rather easy – thanks to the trains (let’s not forget: expensive)

Luckily enough, we found Super Saver Tickets, that I have mentioned in my earlier blog – To the Chaplin. A ticket that would normally cost around 25- 30 euros was about 5 Euros with the Super Saver Option on SBB.

Once again, how you can go about buying the Super Saver Ticket and optimize on travel plans in Switzerland:

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As always, Patrick was the man behind the itinerary! The three of us set out early in the morning, with our usual drill of taking the funicular down to Sierre and then catching the train to Montreux.

Located on the Lake Geneva shoreline, Montreux instantly captures your heart. Understanding the significance behind the question “How does the weather seem today?”, I came to realize what a difference a sunny day in Europe can make! With the gracious weather that had been offered by the weather God’s, the vibrancy and colors of Montreux really stood out. We were so captivated by the beauty that we started walking along the shoreline with no particular agenda in mind.

There was so much to just stop, look at and admire. It wasn’t one particular thing that was extraordinary, but the way everything came together to become one marvel.

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Note: All images featured in this blog have been captured by the extremely talented Hemanth Mandapati. 

As we walked past different streets we realized we needed to check off the one big thing on our list: The Chillon Castle. Situated between Montreux and Villeneuve, the Castle is one of the first things you notice not just when you walk through the boulevards of Montreux, but also when you are on the train. This historical structure in the canton of Vaud is one of the most visited monuments in Switzerland.

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Spot the Castle!  Part I

What we didn’t realize was how long it was going to take us to walk there and how unprepared we were in terms of finding a cafe with decent food that would help us last through the walk. This is where I would like to point out that it always helps to carry some sandwiches and snacks in your bag!

At one point we were so hungry that we decided if not anything, we can grab some coffee and croissants and be on our way! We found the perfect little cafe with stunning views of Lake Geneva and the Alps.

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3 expensive croissants and coffees later, off we went! And as you would expect this little town nestled on the shoreline with the most picturesque views just kept getting more beautiful. There were so many distractions that delayed us from reaching the Castle. I will just let the pictures do the talking now…

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Our first tryst with European Spring 

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Our friendship in a nutshell

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The moment I fell in love with Montreux

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You see what I mean? And thanks to Hemanth, he does justice to the beauty of the place with his photography skills.

Because we had walked in a different direction from the station to hunt for food, it took us a little longer than expected to get to the Castle.

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Spot the Castle! – Part II

Don’t make any conclusions about the Castle until you enter. Because only once you do, do you get to experience this:

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There is an entrance fee between 10 – 15 Euros (Use your student discount wherever applicable!) Whether or not history interests you, this place is highly recommended.

The first written record of the Castle dates back to 1005. How these structures still stand with all their glory, is beyond me. Its most famous prisoner was probably François de Bonivard, a Genevois monk, prior of St. Victor in Geneva and politician who was imprisoned there from 1530 to 1536 for defending his homeland from the dukes of Savoy.

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The Castle was made popular by Lord Byron, who wrote the poem The Prisoner Of Chillon (1816) about François de Bonivard.

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And if you are a Disney fan, you can instantly relate it to the Castle in Little Mermaid.

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Source: Google Images

You can read more about the Chillon Castle here.

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And some noteworthy shots for your Instgram, outside the Castle 

Once we were able to take in all that the Castle had to offer and taking a breather from the overwhelm of  it all, we had to head to an authentic Swiss place that Patrick had picked out for us. Cutting straight to it, we went to Caveau Des Vignerons, ordered the truffle fondue and beer and to our delight, Hemanth quite enjoyed it! (Since his verdict was all that mattered!)

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Tastes as divine as it looks

Post lunch, we decided to stroll through the town once more to just enjoy it. We just sat by Lake Geneva, talked and just chilled (as simple as that!)

Since we were short on time, we couldn’t explore beyond this. However, if you have the time, I would recommend staying over night and experiencing the town a little more.

Montreux also hosts the world’s second largest Jazz Festival which is just around the corner, starting on June 29th!

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Just saving the best one for the last…

Something I would have definitely loved to do would be to rent a bike and explore the place! So if you get the chance to, please do it! (This applies to a lot of places in Europe!)

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About the Photographer:
Hemanth Mandapati
Hemanth is currently pursuing his masters in Germany. His backpack is his armor, and every other weekend you will see him exploring a new place/country. 
He has seen over 15 countries in the past year in Europe alone. He is the perfect travel companion because of how knowledgeable he can be about things, his willingness to try out new things, and his endless tales about past travels. You can follow more of his work at: https://goo.gl/CXiYu7
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About the planner:
Patrick Anthony
Patrick has the ability to remember any name, any description exactly the way it is. He has an eye for the right places that would serve as the best experiences. And if you are traveling with him, you are in for some great wine and desserts! You can get to know more about him at: https://goo.gl/Bu1tig

Stay Tuned for the next one (I promise it will be sooner than this one!) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the Chaplin!

“A day without laughter is a day wasted”

Charlie Chaplin

Earlier, in my blog 35 Minutes you have been introduced to my incredible travel companions: Pooja, Patrick and Darez. It’s time I present to you the fourth and very important one: Araya.

If you ever see any stunning photographs on my blog from now on or my social media, it is probably her doing. She has the ability to light up any room she enters and I am grateful that I get to travel with someone who has a number of countries and a ton of fun up her sleeves. Araya and I were about to do our first trip together!

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In case I haven’t already mentioned, getting to any place from Bluche requires quite the planning. To give you an idea: in order to get to any other town/city within Switzerland, we first need to travel to Sierre, since its the closest stop with train station. We usually do this in the Funicular (Great Views for 5.30 Francs!)

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The Funicular that has been our savior in getting around!

 

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You can spot our College as point of Departure and Sierre as Destination (and the cute little Funi)

When we plan our trips we keep in mind the following:

  1. Time of the Funicular from Bluche to Sierre
  2. Time the train leaves from Sierre to our desired destination
  3. The last funicular back to Bluche (Except on Weekends, the last Funicular is usually at 9:15 pm)

The advantage of traveling with Patrick is that he loves to plan things to the dot. The only task you will have to do is book your tickets. He will have the best itinerary in hand so you can trust him blindly and board the train.

 So where were we headed next?

Charlie Chaplin has embraced all of our televisions, brought families together and filled our homes with laughter. It was essential that I go see the place he spent his last few years in. After being denied re-entry into the United States, which had been his home for over 4 decades, (read more about it here) Chaplin, along with his family decided to reside in the town of Vevey, in Canton – Vaud on the North Shore of Lake Geneva.

With the intention of reaching Vevey for breakfast, we got an early start to the day and took the 7:27 AM Funicular.

Departure from Bluche (Funi or Omnibus) 7:27 am

Arrival at Sierre: 7:37 am

Departure from Sierre: 7:50 am

Arrvial at Vevey: 8:54 am

Traveler’s Tip: If you prefer to save on food, its always useful to pack your own box of sandwiches or fruits and peanuts (or whatever you like!)

Lunch box

After munching on sandwiches and croissants on the train, we were ready to explore Vevey when we got there. Our first stop was The Fork of Vevey. Holding the Guinness World Record for the tallest fork in the world, standing at 26 ft. , the Fork was created to mark the Alimentarium (The world’s first food museum’s) 10th Anniversary.  There is also a placard stating The Fork is a symbol of the purity of Lake Geneva.

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Capturing the essence! (I told you, Araya is just too good!)

And right across from The Fork, I spotted the real reason I was there:

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Chaplin, Thanks for the Laughs!

On our way to see The Fork, we stumbled across a flea market with a ton of vintage goodies:

I am not sure how often they have stalls, but in case you are in Vevey and are enthusiastic about owning a vintage collection, I would definitely recommend stopping by, you should find it just across from the station.

Following this, we decided to visit the Alimentarium.  I would suggest anyone traveling to do some research on the place to see if it is of interest to you. With a student discount we payed around 11 CHF, so without it I think it would be over 20 CHF. In case you are interested to know about Nestle and all that they are doing, this would be a good visit. If you are traveling with children, there are fun games inside the museum to enhance their experience.

Vevey is a nice little town to stroll around. Since it was winter, we were still not able to enjoy the colors of the place to its fullest. If you can instead visit during the spring, I am sure you can make the best of it.

The highlight for me on the trip however were the food trucks. After 5 weeks of living in Europe, I spotted Indian Food! (Of course I was missing my spices!)

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Life felt complete

 

Dal Chawal, pickle and Samosa, all at once?! I had clearly hit the jackpot! 

After relishing every bit of it, we decided to walk around and explore the town a little more. Just like most European towns, these places are best explored by foot. What’s interesting was how different Vevey and Lausanne are even though they are all on the same stretch.

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Its always wonderful to find people who share the same amount of fondness for traveling as you! So go out there and find them, and just get going!

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Stay tuned for more on one day trips, budgeted traveling and my shot at getting back to fitness!

SANTÉ!

 

35 Minutes

“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.”

— Peter Hoeg

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Scene from our Dinner table:

Patrick (The planner of all things): Guys, lets do a day trip to Lausanne!

Pooja: I am in!

Rachna: Yaasss!!!

Darez: *Already Checking the Train schedules*

This is a typical conversation at our dinner table during most days at Les Roches. The convenience of studying in the world’s most beautiful (but expensive) country comes with its own perks.

I have been extremely lucky to have found a wonderful group of friends who have the same set of likes and fondness towards traveling. Patrick is on a study abroad from the US and loves to plan everything to the point. If you ever need an itinerary to travel, he is your guy. He planned out the most wonderful one day trip to Lausanne for us and Darez figured out the schedule for all the trains and the Funicular. Pooja is the one who convinces me to just go for it! If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have experienced half the things! And me, well I try to be good company 😉

Living in Bluche can be a real challenge. To get to any place you first need to get to Sierre. On the 4th of Feb, we got an early morning start to the day by taking the 8:19 Funicular to Sierre.

 

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The Furniculaire that takes us to Sierre

Even if you don’t intend to spend the day at the place, the views that you get from the train are worth the money. The thing about Europe is, there is so much to take in at once, it can be rather overwhelming.

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I stumbled upon the Swiss views that were made famous on DDLJ

 

 

By the time we reached Lausanne it was 10:30 and we were all obviously hungry. Here’s the catch, it was a Sunday! The Swiss take their weekends very seriously, besides an Indian store that we found, and I felt like I had hit the jackpot, everything was closed! It was cold. It was a new place. We were starving.

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First world problems, you see

With frozen hands we managed to locate something on google maps, and to our delight ended up at a restaurant called L’esprit Bistrot with that had some excellent food. Pooja and I are the only vegetarians in the group (vegetarian, in Europe? Yes, its manageable) so we usually order something to share, and I am so lucky to have her because she knows what will taste good. We decided to order the Rosti, and My! My! it was divine.

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And to make life better, we ordered some Hot Chocolate!

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So much for being a fitness blogger eh?

Our plan was to first see the cathedral and walk through old town only to realize we were on the other side of it and it would be a hike to go back up. However, it worked out for the best because our master planner Patrick had already figured out what would be the highlight of our trip.

Lake Geneva was close to the restaurant and we started walking towards it. On our way we got a glimpse of the Olympic Museum, met a German woman who spoke fluent Tamil (my mother tongue) and figured out how to get to the Ferry Station. Because we were going to take the ferry to Evian. 35 Minutes, and Voilà! We would be in France!

I am soon going to run out of adjectives to describe the places, but Evian was beautiful. We took a stroll through the cute, rustic town and almost convinced ourselves to enter the casino. The plan was to go in with 3 Euros and come out with 500 (One can dream)

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Since it was a Sunday, the shops were mostly closed. If you are someone who enjoys shopping, I would definitely recommend going on another day. We found a bakery and got some more food! During our walk through the many lanes, we found the most adorable shop run by an artist: Sonia Laden. To sum up our entire trip, we found the perfect Post Card made by Sonia herself. The colors of Evian blend in to give you a picturesque experience. And through those tiny lanes you can always spot Lake Geneva following you.

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I did not return with a lover though!

With little time left to take our ferry back, we had to unfortunately skip the Hot Wine we were about to order. Back in Lausanne, we spent a decent amount of time exploring the Cathedral and just walking through old town. This is a must do! The walk is an adventure in itself.

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There is always the option of taking the metro if it gets too cold, but I would suggest walking as much as you can because thats the experience you will take back with you (Also, that money can be used to get some Hot Chocolate!)

We ended our day with some delicious Fondue, because Switzerland!

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The restaurant is adjacent to the cathedral and I would highly recommend trying their Curry Cheese Fondue.

Quick Tips for the one day Trip:

  1. Plan Ahead: If you are living in and around, you probably own the Half Card which allows you to buy the tickets at half price. However, if you don’t own one and are visiting, you can always book it in advance through an application called SBB which allows you to book discounted tickets. SBB will also guide you regarding the train schedules and this will make life a whole lot easier!
  2. Layer Up: If you are not used to the cold, make sure you have enough winter clothing to protect you, because towards the night it can get extremely chilly and hard to walk.
  3. Do Evian: In case you haven’t already done France, this could be one more country off your list! The ferry ride is quite the experience too! For us, this part was the highlight (and the Fondue)
  4. Do not overestimate the time you have: Make sure that you calculate the time it takes to walk back to the train station from whichever part of the city you are in.
  5. If possible, go on a weekday: We were ok with going on a Sunday because our schedule allowed that, and we were happy because we didn’t spend time shopping. But even many of the restaurants tend to remain closed, so make sure to choose an alternate day if possible.
  6. Get that Fondue and Hot Wine! 
  7. Find yourself a Pooja, Patrick and Darez 
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The Scheduler, the Go-Getter, The Master Planner, and the one who just enjoys everyone else’s hard work.

Stay tuned for our next one day trip!  

Always got your back!

“Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero!”

-Marc Brown

And have I been lucky to grow up with four of them!

A question that my cousins and I are often asked is “How come you are all so close? We are not this close to our cousins.” This always surprised me, I mean how can you not be? Throughout my life, they have been everything to me.

It took me a while to realize that there are a few reasons behind this:

  1. We lived in a joint family for half a decade
  2. I am the only child
  3. Whatever we do, we want the other to be there to witness it
  4. We developed a strong bond which was inspired by the one shared by our parents and their siblings.

Raksha Bandhan, or simply Rakhi is a Hindu festival, celebrated in many parts of the Indian subcontinent, notably India and Nepal. Raksha bandhan means “bond of protection”. It is observed on the full moon day of the Hindu luni-solar calendar month of Shravana, which typically falls in Gregorian calendar month of August. A day dedicated to celebrate the bond between a brother and sister!

Today, to mark this beautiful festival, I want to share why each of them is and will always make a significant difference in my life.

Vijay (Nickname: Viju) 

Superpower: Making Dreams come true 

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The eldest of the cousins, Vijay is the epitome of hard work. He taught me that no matter how big or small my dream, I have to chase it! And in the process I have to make sure to have the right balance of hard work and passion, and once success finds it way to me, being humble is what will help retain it. We haven’t had the chance to spend a lot of time together, but whatever we have spent has always been the most precious. Vijay is a senior chef and whenever he visits India, my only request to him is to cook me something special (I have been so ignorant of the fact that when he is on a holiday, thats one thing he probably doesn’t want to do). This one time, there were no ingredients in the house that he could use to make me the Pasta he had promised, and it was too late to go out and get some. Luckily, there was fusilli and being a top notch chef, he cooked up some white sauce and added some veggies, and by all his Juggad I had the best Pasta till date! He is the brother everyone deserves! Dear Viju, thank you for giving me so much to look up to!

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Vinay (Nickname: Vinu) 

Superpower: Staying Calm, and just making everything better! 

Where do I even begin? Of all the cousins, we have spent the maximum time together. Vinay, is the most kind and understanding soul you will ever come across. Why do I say this? When he was about 9 and I was 5, we lived 5 Kms apart in Pune. As soon as the weekend would approach I would start throwing tantrums that he has to come and stay over. So he would cycle every single weekend to come play with me. To make it worse I made him play with my Barbie dolls. Till date, Vinay has always been just a call away, he has been my confidant, my dance partner, my travel buddy and just everything a girl could ask for in a brother, and so much more. Dear Vinu, thank you for being my best friend! From hanging on to Monkey Bars to Hanging out at Monkey Bar, we have come such a long way, and I am glad that I got to share my childhood and continue to share Adulting with you.

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Pritish (Nickname: Gullu) 

Superpower: Know everything about every automobile in this world! 

Pritish and I have spent most summer vacations together either in Alibag or when he came to Pune and it would be world war 3 because Vinay and him would team up to pull my leg.

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But we have had some of the greatest memories trying to see who gets their hands on these:

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playing WWE cards and mandatory visits to the beach. The thing about Pritish that baffles us all is his immense knowledge about any damm automobile in the world. He has the ability to recognize which car is approaching from a mile away, and has never once been wrong. You will listen to him with envy, because you will want to be that knowledgable about something.

Just like any brother and sister, we have fought over silly things, only making our bond all the more stronger. Dear Pritish, thank you for teaching me how to puncture tyres, pull pranks and for always leaving the orange walla pepsi (popsicle) for me!

Adarsh (Nickname: Adu) 

Superpower: Do anything and everything with SWAG! 

The youngest one, so by default the naughtiest one, Adu in every sense is my best friend. Sometimes all the wisdom he imparts on me makes me wonder if I am the older one.

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Adu and I have spent a significant amount of our time deciding which movie to watch, where to eat and taking selfies. We have seen the Nanda Devi and Mont Blanc together, and every minute of our journey from the Himalayas to Alps has been one hell of a ride with countless memories. I am allowed to spam him at 3 am asking for some silly relationship advice (boys perspective and all you know) and he will reply sounding like the most qualified person to answer (they always make so much sense!)

 

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The idea of traveling without the other gets us more stressed than anything in life, because hello? making the other person jealous is too mainstream!

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Sir giving me important life advice on the streets of Sydney.
Dear Adu, thank you for putting up with my endless doubts and anxiety about trivial things, for always sharing yummy food, watching crappy movies and of course traveling the world with me!

A special thanks to my mom for capturing all of the above moments, we love you!

 

To my dear brothers, thank you for always having my back, for your unconditional love and affection, for standing by me, come what may and for making my life worthwhile! Cheers to you all! I love you!

Happy Rakhsha Bandhan! 

 

 

Escape to London…

Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions. 

-Peter Hoeg 

In my early teens, I used to watch these shows on the channel Travel and Living, solely because I was so fascinated by the fact that people were getting paid to travel and taste different cuisines, meet new people and check off everything on their bucket list.

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“If traveling were free, you would never see me again.”

Not only were these trips completely paid for , but this is what the hosts made a living out of (Who doesn’t want that?!).

But clearly, when time came, my choice of career was very different and right now I am caught wishing someone would magically stumble upon my talent of being a tour guide (self-claimed, of course) and offer me my own show!

However, coming back to reality, (alternatively choosing to spend my father’s money) I decided to make a trip to UK to visit my cousin, sister-in-law and my nephew instead of joining my parents to India in the month of May.

I know what you are thinking – she is constantly complaining about her leg pain, and now all of a sudden she wants to travel. But I guess a part of me knew that traveling (and cute guys with thick British accents) would be a great medicine. And I promise you – the tickets were very cheap!

So in between the above photographs, was my ride on Qatar Airways, and I am one of those people who gets excited at the idea of trying out new airlines. What I loved about it was the fact that they saw an opportunity in the way the safety instructions are conveyed to the passengers, which is otherwise ignored by all of us, no matter how much effort the air hostess puts in or how good she looks. But the Airline plays a video which takes place on the soccer field with real players and penalty cards! (Way to grab people’s attention!)

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I made it! (I was doubting this at the immigration)

Isn’t it exciting how one minute you are in the scorching heat of UAE and 9 hours later you are in the pleasant (not so gloomy yet) weather of UK. It was like going from an oven to a refrigerator.

My cousin Vijay had come to pick me up and getting from the airport to Croydon (South London) was a journey in itself, changing all those trains however gave me a teaser of the beautiful country.

The next two weeks were absolutely delightful! Vidya, Vijay and Vedant accompanied me for the majority part of my vacation showing me some of the most interesting and unique places in Londonand there were few places that I explored on my own. The latter was where the learning part came in. It is so important to be able to enjoy your own company. I recently read somewhere that ‘The Cure for too much TO DO is Solitude and Silence.‘ This process of self exploring was made easier by my sister-in law who gave me the inch by inch directions along with tube lines and buses that I would have to take.

So the first stop I made alone was traveling within Croydon itself. I went shopping, well window shopping because Dhirams to Pounds was no more comforting than Rupees to Pounds. But I did buy a butterfly shaped Gingerbread for Vedant, because it was going to be my first time picking him up from his Nursery, and I got a heads up that he likes to be received with treats. As soon as I entered, Vedant came running towards me, announcing that his aunt has come to his class (felt like I got to have my filmy moment!) We had a great ride back home, because I was in company of someone who could talk more than me!

And get this, it was also the day that Vedant learned about the life cycle of the butterfly at play school! (The universe was definitely with me!)

The following day, my destination was Wimbledon! There was a tram from Croydon to Wimbledon, making my journey extremely easy, until I got to Wimbledon and couldn’t find the bus stop I needed to board the bus from(there were like 20!) And of course, of all days the weather had chosen that particular day to betray me. It was extremely cold (please do keep in mind I was coming from UAE) and it had started to drizzle, my shoes were giving me a shoe bite, and to top it all, I literally  paced 20 times from the Tram Station to what I thought could possibly be my bus stop. I called Vidya up, and I failed miserably at explaining the crossroads I was stuck in. And this was all after seeking help from an elderly woman and google maps. I know, so much for wanting to be a tour guide! Finally, I saw a guard (who I swear should be in Hollywood) who took less than 10 seconds to guide me and Phew! I was on my way!

I was welcomed by the sweetest and most humorous guard – who asked me if I wanted a picture taken! (Hell yes I did). Now, let me stress on this a little more, in an era of selfies and DSLR’s, no matter how exciting it is, when you get to Wimbledon you need to take a picture of yourself against the Centre Court. Its a Prerequisite to show that you really did visit the place. The task is a little tricky when everyone has come in a group and are busy clicking pictures of their family and friends and you realize that so much solitude isn’t worth it after all!

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I was left with no choice but to ask a Wimbledon Employee to take this. It was also a reminder that I did play Tennis at some point, met Sania Mirza and could have actually made it here someday (One is allowed to dream)

The next few days I tried to get some office work done, I met a couple of friends from school who were living there, and spent a lot of time with family. My cousin is a senior chef in London, so my fitness goals and Rujuta Divekar’s voice went for a toss whenever I wanted to try something new (DO NOT, I repeat do not ever do that). The mind has a great way of playing tricks on you if you let it, so I convinced myself that the cold was making me hungrier and all the walking was balancing it. This is true to an extent, but what I was trying to achieve was a lifestyle change and not something temporary.

I just want to take a moment to talk about Sky Gardens, the view from the top is Mind Blowing and it should definitely be on your list of things to do if you are ever in London (It is free, but requires a reservation)

 

My very last day in London was the highlight. I found Benjamin, I saw the Tower Bridge open and the cherry on top was dining at Jamie Oliver’s Kitchen, thanks to my darling sister-in law.

So why am I mixing my travel diary and fitness journey?

  1. No matter where you are, and how hard it gets, try your best to stick to your goals. Yes there will be temptations, there will be distractions, but it ultimately comes down to what you want out of it and how far you are willing to go to make it happen.
  2. It is a lifestyle change! You deserve to treat yourself, you are allowed to have that delicious new dessert, just remember to earn it.
  3. Fall in love with taking care of yourself!

Throughout the trip everyone was constantly worried that I might encounter a lot of pain. However, it came as a surprise to all because it was very limited, I was able to walk everywhere and do everything I wanted to (not sky diving or Bungee Jumping though). The only question was will it be the same once I was back in Abu Dhabi, and if not, what was causing it.

P.S. If you are ever traveling alone, offer to take pictures of others so that you can have yours taken.

Until next time folks!

 

 

Abu Dhabi, here I come!

“I haven’t been everywhere,

but it is on my list.”

– Susan Sontag

My soul is perpetually consumed by wanderlust. Hence, there is nothing in this world that gets me as excited as new travel plans! As you would have already read in my previous post – my father had taken up a new project in Abu Dhabi, which for me meant one more country ticked off my bucket list. Even though I have been blessed to have already visited a few countries, the aspect of living in a new country was thrilling to me.

But good things don’t happen overnight, so to get to it – you indulge in better things!

During the time when my thatha was serious; in the midst of all that chaos, I got a call from Amazon regarding Artista’s products and If I would be willing to sell them on Amazon! (For Real!) I was slowly starting to live the quote ‘God always opens a New Door’.

So my mom and I spent a lot of time in choosing different categories of cards that we could sell and the products that she could put up on Amazon as well.

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Mother – Daughter out to conquer the World!

So we went to do a photoshoot for our products and it was incredible!  – (I was secretly hoping the photoshoot would involve my pictures too)

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Cards from my Adventure Awaits Collection

Me being me, I thought the cards would sell like hot cakes. But when you are out in the real world, it is essential to realize that everything takes time, and gaining recognition requires a whole lot of hard work and a little bit of luck! The cards got sold gradually, but I was prepared for uncertainties because we were going to move soon.

On December 31st I had a Skype call from my current employer (which was going to once again change my life). And that was my interview for the start up that I am currently working for – Vaagmii. Now you must be wondering – I knew I was going to move then what am I doing taking up a job in India? So, this was my second door opening – I had the option of working from home, and I could do it from Abu Dhabi. Exciting right?

So between December and March (when I actually moved to Abu Dhabi) two of the most significant things happened. Artista went live on Amazon and I got a new job.

Oh but wait a minute, how can I forget  – THE PAIN IN MY LEG(s). Double Trouble.

So my surgical leg would hurt now and then but my left leg had started to feel it too. Remember hop scotch with my left leg? Well, it was bound to have a reaction at some point.

So finally, coming to why I really started this blog. When I visited the doctors I was repeatedly told I had to lose weight. My immediate reaction was always anger which I would suppress with a Smile and “Yes” or some other excuse. But it was too late for that, the damage was done. Was there scope for prevention and betterment? There always is!

As you would have guessed, working out post surgery would be impossible for me post surgery, considering I couldn’t move an inch (All I did was add extra pounds). But like the cliched old saying – where there is a will there is a way!

It was my wake up call. The injury could have probably been prevented if I knew how to  listen to the signs my body was giving me, however I was meant to embark on this journey of self realization and tell you all that nothing is impossible. If you want it, go out there and get it (with the help from some cardio, greens and whatever else you need!)

Now Remember, when you set out on a transformational journey – it is important to surround yourself only and only with positive people who will support you. I have the greatest family and friends who were always my pillar and I have so many people to thank for the role they have played in my life. But then there are three people who I have to say a big thank you to – first is my mom who has put up with my tantrums and break downs over the past two years and always found a way to get me back on track, Aishna(who is my transformation buddy) and finally Siddhant – who in the past two years post my injury has never missed a day of asking me “How is your leg”  and always – KEPT ME GOING.

 

My mom has seen me go through every little change I have gone through, in person, and she would counter  all my negative comments with positive ones. She was my ultimate source of strength and accepted everything I needed to do to achieve my goals with grace and it was almost like she did it with me.

Everyone needs a source of inspiration, something that triggers them to START. I found mine in Aishna. She is my long distance transformation buddy, she motivates me by tiny acts such as a liking my goal of the day on MyfitnessPal. She is the reason I was able to reflect on where I was going wrong and what I needed to do to start looking after myself. She is my go to person when I am stumbling and she is the first to notice even the slightest bit of change in me and I am grateful for her.

Siddhant is the definition of  a gentleman and chivalry. During our exams, he would come every single day from another block just to wish me and ask me how my leg was, and two years later he continues to do it every single day. He always knows the right words to keep me motivated even if I have had a bad day or skipped a work out.

By the time we moved, I had decided not to eat outside food and really focus on my food intake. I failed miserably.

But, I had something big to look forward to. Moving to a new place meant a brand new beginning. It was my chance at doing something extraordinary and different for myself and the way I lived. Abu Dhabi was my shot at all kinds of possibilities, and trust me, it was exactly that.

On March 5th my dad came down to India and all three of us moved to Abu Dhabi.

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To New Beginnings…