Monday, September 19, 2016

Brighton through Lens part 2

When the feet need some rest...
....And when the belly rumbles for its own rewards 

Fish and chips you must, in this beach town!!
And then just lay on the beach... soak in... remember your girlfriends...

Or that first smooch...
And all your crazy friends and those crazy antics...
or may be just remember those solitary moments when seats around you had been empty and you had to give that test of life alone

and then remember how you cracked it with flying colours!!

The colourful town brings back colourful memories!! Brighten up. 

When done with the sea and the beach, visit the Royal Pavilion!!

And then explore the nooks and crannies, and enjoy interesting wall graffiti.

And do visit the North lane. Shed your Pride and your Prejudice!! And celebrate gay rights!!

Brighton, then, gets etched in your memory and by the end of the trip, you take back more interesting memories and things than Lydia could think of!!

Brighton through the lens Part 1

"I am sure my sisters must all envy me. I only hope they may have half my good luck. They must all go to Brighton. That is the place to get husbands..." Lydia's thoughts from Pride and Prejudice invaded mine when we decided to drive down here...husband, I had one along...but Brighton since Austen's Pride and Prejudice has come a long way from 'husband-hunting ground' to being the gay capital of Britain!! Great to see how it has got over the petty prejudices and shed the vain pride - it is bright and colourful and beautiful!!

We Started Early 

and got lost thinking about the numerous Lydias who might have traveled this road in search of a bright prospect

Driving down to a beach town early in the morning has its own charm

sleepy and leisurely, not yet up for the day...streets are at your disposal
Parked the car and headed to the most obvious destination, first! The Brighton Pier.

trying the 'Luck' early in the morning when it is fresh and raring to go ;)
All in the hope of winning a minion! Because 'partner' I have already :)

And while at it, there's something if the 'luck' needs some mood-lifting to perform well ;)

Some fresh air might also work well for the 'luck'

But if luck doesn't bring you a 'partner' or a minion, it will compensate with a beautiful view!! 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Notes of a Traveler-Parent:

It has been a long long time since my last post. Quite a few travels have been undertaken in between, but the most important has been the journey that we have embarked upon since 2014 - an experience, an adventure, an enterprise of a lifetime. Parenthood is indeed the grandest journey we have undertaken so far. Till now, the experience has been like any of our travels, but only this has been more exhilarating and rewarding, enriching and also exhausting. While groundwork - of reading, researching, listening to advice and also witnessing from close quarters others at it- has been necessary for mental conditioning and to have an idea of what we are heading for; meticulous planning has never worked in our favour in the travels and neither has it in this journey till date. Raising a kid is just like traveling with a 'somewhat' itinerary in mind and then just letting yourself into the flow - so there might be change of plans because of circumstances or on the way someone tells you to visit some place not in your plan or 'you gonna miss big time' and you head to that, or simply you like one place so much that you chuck your other plans and stay there to just enjoy and explore it more; and then from there starts the digression and the itinerary goes kaput - and when you are done you realise its a different story from what you thought you would tell when you begun.

Right from adoring those cute little dresses in the girls' section of baby attires throughout the nine months and then ending up being congratulated by the doctor - 'it's a boy!'; to seeing the cherub's super wide eyes and playful mood at bedtime and rushing to get the caffeine dose to keep you ticking and then just as you lick the last drop from that giant mug in preparation for staying awake through the night you find your playmate has dropped off to a sound sleep!! Welcome to the topsy-turvy journey of parenting! Plans and plannings, that had been your soulmates for so long may ditch anytime now without a notice and leave you distraught. But, as I said, my travels taught me something - do not take it to heart, just go with the flow. If there's a typhoon on its way, and your plans for the precious next few days of travel (for which you have spent a fortune) dangle mid-air bashed by the storm and the rain, don't sulk and curse your fate couched in your hotel room; just experience the typhoon in a land which is also famous for its natural calamities and disasters (and may be just brave a little of it like the citizens and head out; surely if only you are allowed to).

Traveling with a baby has been the biggest apprehension of parents, I realise. Indeed, it had been one of our prime concerns as well. Not traveling was just not an option for us - we had decided that beforehand. Blogs on how to travel with an infant/toddler had been high on my reading list throughout my pregnancy. So the moment he was three months old, we got back to what we did best, start planning our next trip. However, it was not to happen until his sixth month, what with endless weddings in the family in between and also his big fat 'rice-eating' ceremony to keep our plans at bay. Taking our first baby steps to traveling, we decided to visit my sister in Bangalore and may be go around to nearby places. The three hours flight would have been otherwise peaceful, all the more as he was still not mobile on his own, but for the fact that my poor thing had his first bout of cold and got cranky with a blocked nose. #Lesson1: Do not be embarassed of or bothered by what people around you think about your baby's cries and wails. Ignore those looks and let them deal with it. Be concerned about your baby and how you can comfort him/her. The more you panic about what others might think, the more you lose cool to comfort your baby, and things will only get worse. #Lesson2: Always keep things handy to keep your baby distracted, especially during these times when they are physically down. Something visual scores above all those rattles and stuff. So, while our rattles and soft toys failed to draw my boy's attention or calm him down, a neighbour's iPad did the trick (and thankfully it had animation videos of nursery rhymes downloaded - she had a niece she said and could perfectly understand our predicament). 

One thing that I realised later when I traveled with my baby when he was one and already walking, that it is indeed much easier to travel when they are a little bundle. It is much easier if they are breastfeeding, but even if they are on formula it shouldn't be difficult. If you are traveling within the country then you can always buy the formula wherever you are headed to, but if you are traveling abroad it is advisable to pack the extra supply of formula (which is the only tough thing, as that would mean quite an amount of extra supply or a very short trip). Though you can buy formula feed at the destination, it is better if you carry what the baby is used to, as often the composition might slightly vary even if its the same brand, but manufactured in a different country, and may not suit your baby. However, you can take your chance of trying out the formula feeds found there (my paed had said we could do that). Anyway, my baby was already on solids in his sixth month, so putting up at my sister's place was quite a relief for us as first time traveler-parents (redundant to say, it was a well contrived plan).  

#Lesson3: Prepare yourselves and the baby for the travel by taking him/her out in the carrier and stroller for longer times. While you need to get used to carrying your baby for longer periods of time, your baby also needs to be used to being in the carrier or stroller or both for a prolonged time and  nothing better if he/she gets used to sleeping on their own in the stroller (my one got so pro he could sleep dangling in the carrier as well). This indeed came as a big help for us in the longer run as well, when he had grown out of the carrier and we only used the stroller. When we traveled just after he was one to U.A.E., we really did not have any problem whatsoever of carrying him. With him being comfortable in the stroller it also gave us a lot of mobility and we could explore more and quite easily. We would take him out of the stroller when we were in the malls or subway stations or anywhere indoors and let him run around and allow him time to enjoy himself, and stretch so that he would not be cranky of tiredness of just sitting. Happy baby, happy us. We had a great time and we did walk around all the souks and the deira or take that lovely walk at the JBR in Dubai without a complain from the baby. 

#Lesson4: Do not fret too much about baby's exposure to the outside world and the germ hazards. While you surely need to be cautious, you also need to get his/her immunity stronger and that can only happen once he/she is exposed to the outside world. Also, do not deprive the baby of exploring as they develop their senses - they really enjoy what is mundane and banal for us with utmost alacrity. Allow them to meet and greet the surroundings and the people from an early age, so that the stranger anxiety does not hit them hard. On one of our early days of strolls outside I tried to whisk my baby away seeing an ugly looking stray dog (Disclaimer: I am a dog lover, and this was only from my baby's perspective that I was trying to think) barking and snarling and scratching away to glory, thinking that dog hair would be harmful and also it might scare my bundle, when I noticed those eyes lighting up and the hands and legs cycling in a matchless speed of excitement, and my heart had to forego the anxiety and let him have his first eyeful of what would later on become his favourite and first mates outside home. Also, going out and meeting people from a very early age helped him being generally friendly - so much so that on our flight back from Bangalore, he for most part of the journey was happily moving from one lap to another without a care and I had a difficulty keeping tab of his whereabouts in the flight. Even when he was one and had a mild stranger anxiety, it didn't stop him from befriending people at the malls or the subways in U.A.E., who even looked ethnically different from what he is used to seeing usually. 

#Lesson5: While traveling it is best to carry some of the baby's comfort items - a few toys or rattles or teethers he/she is fond of; the security blanket surely, but also may be the wrap you (the mother) usually use if you happen to co-sleep with the baby, like us; his little pillow if your baby uses one. And also some new toys and sources of entertainment to keep him/her busy! In our preparation for U.A.E. the father went overboard with entertainments for the son, so that in the flight we were literally lending out toys and books to other babies to distract them from crying, for whatever reasons they did; while my son happily amused himself seeing the other babies. Indeed, trust me, in-flight entertainments for the baby are a must. They are yet to attain that age where they have the patience to sit through for a longer period of time and watch cartoons or anything on the screen, so being stuck in the lap is the last thing they are up for. It's a coup if you can manage the front seat (ask for bassinet while booking your tickets - in most international flights they would then assign you the front seat with more leg space). More leg space means you can let the baby slip down and play in the little extra space available. And new toys and books can be the masterstroke. My little boy had a smooth time enjoying the 51/2 hour journey. However, this was not before we learnt another lesson while we were heading to U.A.E.. The onward flight timing was deliberately chosen to be late in the evening to coincide with his sleep time, as we thought he would be off in the flight and that would be easy for us. Everything went according to the plan and he dosed off as well just before the flight took off, right at his usual bedtime at home. But then after sometime he started getting fidgety and woke up being cranky with a disturbed sleep. And then through the entire flight he alternated between dosing off, fidgeting positions in my lap and waking up being cranky. It is only later that we figured out that, while he is used to taking his day time naps in the stroller or carrier in a single position, he is used to the luxury of rolling in the bed and change positions and sleep at night time, which was denied to him in the flight. #Lesson6: No more late evening flights till he grows up. The baby should not be robbed of his luxury of the night time sleep, especially if he is into the habit of sleeping through the night without disturbing the parents.   

#Lesson7: It is also very important that you start conditioning your baby to eating outside at just any place. We used to take our little one out on our off-days for the whole day, packing his lunch and snacks and feeding him at random places - at the food-court of a mall or in a park, or just random open place by the road. This really helped a lot. While he knows that in the house he is supposed to have his food sitting in his booster chair and at the dinning table, when out, his stroller is his dinning chair and food has to be had that way. Though this doesn't apparently seem important, but believe you me, kids are very disciplined and can be extremely disturbed if a regime is not followed, or they are suddenly introduced to a new regimen at a new place amidst new people. So it is better that the mind is conditioned beforehand, and not everything new is just thrust upon them all at once.  

While meticulous preparations are never a guarantee for a error-free successful show on the d-day, they are nevertheless necessary  to ensure that the show is satisfactory and rewarding despite the glitches and the lessons learnt on the go come handy always for the next show.  

 A friend (and a mother who has been really good at her job) had advised me when I was still pregnant that your baby grows up the way you want him/her to. So true. The onus is on us as parents to shape them. We want our boy to be a traveler, a fearless explorer. That's just one aspect though. And we are trying our best to prepare him for that. Fingers crossed. So far, he loves to go out, meet people, see and enjoy new surroundings and new things, explore every nook and cranny with an indomitable zest. But its a work-in-progress!!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tokyo Diary - Part IV

Day 4:

After two failed endeavours due to inclement weather on the two previous days, we were resolved to make it on this day to that one place, which should be in the bucket list of all those who travel to Tokyo. Tsukiji Fish Market, apparently one of the largest  wholesale fish markets of the world, is indeed worth a visit, and especially for two Bengalis from Kolkata (though not very high on fish usually, and thus much of a disgrace to the clan and respective families and yet...) set to make proud their tribe by digging into (and mostly with their eyes and nose, except for the sushi breakfast) anything and everything that was on offer. And they say, "If it is in the sea, it is there in Tsukiji".

We had much deliberation on the previous night on whether to attempt for the famous Tuna Auction. For that we needed to be there by 4:00 am to reserve our place among the first 120, who are allowed to the visitor's arena ( in two batches of 60 each) during the auction, that would start at 5:00 am. However, finally we decided to give it a miss and start a bit late and catch on the action post the auction. The foremost reason for giving the Tuna auction a miss was transportation. At 4:00 am or earlier, we only had the option of taking a cab to reach the place. We really didn't want to blow a fortune on a cab ride for 20 minutes of an 'auction treat' which again depended on sheer chance since the 120 bookings fill up in no time. People, in fact, put up in manga cafes and capsule hotels or just hang around in late night karaoke bars close-by, just so they can reach way ahead to queue up and grab a place amongst the lucky 120. Undoubtedly, it is during this wee hours that all the action takes place, when catches from all across find their way into this wholesale market for live auction.  However, once the bidding is over and the prizes taken, restaurants, in this case, the wholesalers set up shop for trading the other catches from the sea. With over 1500 stalls and 450 different types of seafood found in the market, this place is an amazing revelation for everybody worth their fish and also for those who aren't that 'fishy'. 

At 6:00 am in the morning, we thus headed for the Tsukiji experience. Walking down from the Tsukiji subway station on the Hibiya line, towards the market, we came across the Tsukiji Honganji shrine - a venerable temple of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Budhhism. Apparently, the original shrine was built in Asakusa in 1617, but was destroyed in a fire soon after. It was then built in its present place, but was again leveled in the 1923 Tokyo earthquake. The present structure was built in 1934, and is quite unique in architecture compared to the other Japanese shrines, with distinctive Indian influence.

The very approach road to the market is an inevitable indication to where the road leads.

 As we crossed the main gate, we found on our left what seemed an off-limits zone with stacks of polystyrene boxes, which we learnt later is where all the packing is done. 

On our right was the Tsukiji outer market - a warren of narrow streets packed with stalls selling vegetables and fruits, to seafood, to specialty items like fresh wasabi roots, bonito flakes or better known there as Katsuobushi, cake rolls to Japanese ceramic bowls and sashimi knives, interspersed by small sushi restaurants. Redundant to say, I lost myself again into the lanes, hopping from one shop to another, submitting to my inquisitive self and inquiring about various stuffs, that I could not make out of what use they can be. I realised that if I had to prepare an authentic Japanese dinner, then nothing better than this place to find my ingredients - though certain things, especially the vegetables, seemed quite pricey to my Indian sensibility. 

We ambled along the few blocks, as the busy market employees hurried past, or eased their way around on the turret trucks.

 Since the seafood wholesale market is closed to the public till 9:00 am, we thought we might as well tick off the next must-do thing from our list  - the sushi breakfast at Tsukiji Market. There were number of sushi restaurants lined up and all of them had a thing in common - compact counter-sitting. The queues were long, often winding to the next lane. The shops usually open doors at 5:00 am and people line up since then, as the waiting time is quite long. Though late, we hovered around to decide on the place where we wanted to have that much-awaited and anticipated sushi experience. Finally we zeroed in on Daiwa Sushi, for its friendly English-speaking staff, who was managing the queue and helping out people like us to figure out the menu and the offers. It is only later that I learnt that Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi are the two best sushi restaurants in Tsukiji, to try out. Lucky us, indeed, we patiently waited our turn occasionally sneaking through the red curtains to catch a shot of the activities inside. Finally, as our turn arrived we were ushered into the tiny setting, with barely any elbow room for a dozen people, with almost no place for our camera bags. It was also not appropriate to spend our time clicking pictures of each piece being served, when you could see impatient customers waiting in a long queue outside, and peeping in hope that we finish off ASAP and make space for them. There were options for a la carte, or omakase, that is the chef's choice. The omakase at 3500 yen offered seven pieces of  nigiri and a roll, miso soup and green tea. The flavours depended on the catch of the day and typically included ebi (shrimp), tamago (sweet egg), toro (fatty tuna), uni (sea urchin) ikuro (salmon roe), maguro (tuna), aji  (mackerel) and unagi  (sea eel). We decided on an omakase selection and also go a la carte, so that we could order more of whichever we liked. Indeed, they just tasted out-of-this-world, fresh and melting into our mouths. For two souls, as mentioned already, not very high on fish, it was indeed an incredible experience as we ordered more and more (as if, there was no second chance to taste such heavenly delights) and finally we had to check ourselves before the bill went out of our hands..and pockets. The chef spoke smattering English, and engaged in conversation with us as he deftly timed each piece to our pace. And then we finally led ourselves through the back exit, thoroughly satiated and super ecstatic, so much so that the dent in the pocket didn't bother us at all for once. After all, we had at least for once behaved as a true-blue Bengali worth his fish. Interestingly, I later also learnt that the Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi are run by a father-son duo.

Loaded and happy, we then made our way, dodging the turret trucks, to the inner wholesale seafood market. 

One really needs to see it to believe it, indeed. The array of seafood on offer almost made me go bonkers with curiosity, also the sizes of certain fishes were something I had not seen definitely, neither imagined. One needs to be very careful to not come in the way of the business while going click happy as well as be cautious not to slide over blood and water.

The action starts winding down by 10:00am. After a thorough photography and viewing session we were finally on our way out. Close to the market, we came across the Namiyoke Inari Shrine, which has been the unofficial guardian of the fish market. 

Paying a visit there to thank for our wonderful experience, we now set ourselves for further explorations through the rest of the day.

Exulting over our morning sojourn, we somewhat slackly headed then for building tycoon Minoro Mori's ambitious "city within a city" - the Roppongi Hills. Surrounding the centrepiece of  54-storey Mori tower, the mega complex features offices, apartments, shops, restaurants, hotel, art museum, observation deck and much more.

The Mori Tower
  Even as we alighted from the subway and walked towards the exit, we were welcomed to Roppongi Hills by the array of the ongoing Tokyo Film Festival posters. 

The first thing to strike is Louise Bourgeois's giant spider sculpture, Maman on the open expanse. 

The Mori Tower, other than housing leading IT firms, has an observation deck on the 52nd -floor, called the Tokyo City View. Tickets to the observation deck also includes admission to the Mori Art Museum. 

The Tokyo Tower From Roppongi Hills
There are large open spaces, and the lovely Mori Garden - a typical elaborate Japanese garden, which apparently was part of a lost mansion that housed members of the feudal Mori clan. 

Hanging around the various shopping options for sometime and then treating ourselves to a lovely lunch in one of the cafes, we headed for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices Building.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices Building
An Installation inside the TMGO building
The TMGO has two observation decks at the 45th floor, and entry is free. On a clear day, Yokohama and Mt Fuji are distinctly visible from the South tower, though we had to satisfy ourselves only with the silhouette, but one that could be made out actually, and not in imagination. We enjoyed the 360 degree view of Tokyo and just for information, the South Tower is a better option than the North one, which mostly has residential view. 

We decided to comeback later to capture some clicks when the city is draped in its neon hues. We ambled by the Park Hyatt Tokyo, tempted to check out the swanky bar where Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson had their first rendezvous, deciding to keep it for the 'next time' when 'indulgence' would be our motto. 

As the evening set in, we took the JR Yamanote line from Shinjuku to Shimbashi Station, where we changed for the Yurikamome to head for Odaiba (the station is called Daiba) - a popular shopping and entertainment district on a man-made island on the Tokyo Bay. The chief attraction for us was the lovely ride over the Rainbow Bridge on the Tokyo Bay, and the views of Tokyo and the Bridge from Odaiba. There are numerous shopping malls, the iconic Fuji TV building, museums, and other entertainment places to explore. However, we enjoyed the chill of the bay, strolling around and enjoying the beautiful views on offer. 

This replica was gifted by the French to the Japanese, when they celebrated the The French Year of Japan in 1998-99 

The 377 ft giant Ferris Wheel, called the Daikanransha, at Pallette Town in Odaiba, is also one of the world's tallest 
After a sumptuous tempura dinner, we decided to head back home and give in to the demands of our tired feet with a hot foot bath back in the hotel.