Photos: An Escape to St.Louis…

It’s our first winter in Chicago and trust me its harsh, as temperature started dropping to freezing cold we decided to make an escape towards St.Louis. It was on our radar from quite a long time & currently a hot spot compared to Chicago, we planned for a road-trip.

As usual early in the morning when the temperature was giving us a bone-freeze at -12 degree C, we move towards our destination.

We planned to take I-55 South, a straight highway which leads into St. Louis, covering 280 miles on our way.

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Most stunning sunrise.. !!!

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We will be back soon with more from this trip ..

Keep Exploring !!!

Pamban Bridge: Solo link between Pamban Island & Mainland India

Lying in the lap of blue sea bed, Pamban bridge is an example of civil marvel and architecture excellence. Connecting the island of Pamban(Rameswaram) with main land of India, this is a duo bridge having rail bridge on one side and a parallel running road bridge on the other.

The most striking feature is double leaf bascule section of Rail Bridge which opens to give a pass way to ships.

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If you are in due course of visiting Rameswaram anytime, it is highly recommended to take a road trip on your way  and covering the return journey via train or visa versa, so as to enjoy the view from both ends.

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While on the road track do stop by for few clicks and enjoy the panoramic view. Well!! while on train the slow moving train, sounds of sea and gushing tides made it our most memorable ride.

 

Junagarh Fort- Grandeur of Bikaner

As 2015 is bidding adieu, reminding us our first road trip of the year in January. Its going to be an year since we visited Junagarh Fort Bikaner, an unplanned detour while we were on our way back to Delhi from Chandigarh after New year celebration with family. We did all bookings on the go and fortunately got a good deal via Makemytrip.

Junagarh Fort means the old fort, so called after the Royal family moved their residence to Lalgarh Palace. The fort standing since 1594, is a significance of Royal culture and marvelous architecture. This fort was originally build by Raja Rai Singh Ji and at that point it was called Chintamani, build between 1589 to 1593. There have been lots of additions over centuries under reign of many kings, which has resulted in many palaces, museums, temples and gardens.IMG_1515

At entrance Sati Handprints can be seen which are of the women who offered themselves to fire after their husbands died saving the fort.IMG_1510

The beautiful doors in the fort are build out of walnut wood from Kashmir with astonishing carvings. Also can be seen the big silver door weighing 65Kg, while entering towards courtyard after Karan Mahal.


KARAN MAHAL (Public Audience Hall) was planned in reign of Maharaja Karani Singhji and constructed under Maharaja Anup Singhji in memory of his father. A finest example of Mughal style architecture and extensive use of white marble.

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PHOOL MAHAL This is the oldest part of the fort constructed under Raja Rai Singhji. The decorations and artwork in this part is mostly inspired by the Jahangirian period.

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ANUP MAHAL (Private Council) Build by Maharaja Anup Singh this hall has a throne in the middle, which was used by Maharaja to meet high officials and foreign visitors. When we look around the throne it has golden work all over with mirrors beautifully engraved, elevated by splendid use of colors like green, violet purple. One look at this place keeps you spellbound for a while. This hall played the same role as Diwan-I-Khas in Mughal Forts.IMG_1552.JPG

BADAL MAHAL As per its name this hall explains importance of rain in this dried arid land. On roof there are blue and white clouds depicting rainy time.

GAJ MANDIR Build by Maharaja Gaj Singhji along with his two favorite queens, this hall has all lavishness, architectural and decorative arts of its time. Looking at the detailing of floral artwork and use of marble, this is more of a fairy world in itself.

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DUNGAR NIWAS Maharaja Dungar Singhji, who is better known as modernizer of Bikaner built this hall. This hall as others has many architectural exquisite and artwork details, but what put this on a different level is the Lift…Yes! In 1886 he imparted electricity to Bikaner city.

DURBAR HALL also known as Ganga Durbar Hall was build by Maharaja Ganga Singh. It has beautiful pink walls and on side displays are weapons and protective clothes of war times. The heirloom (sandalwood throne) seen in Darbar hall is said to be one which was brought to Bikaner by Rao Bikaji, being elder son from Jodhpur (Mehrangarh fort) after his father Rao Jodha ji died.

Vikram Villas The only one not after any dynastical ruler, this is named after King Vikramaditya, known for his justice. This one house mainly war souvenirs, palkis, awards, throne and a plane in middle: WWI De Havilland DH-9 biplane bomber.

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Shiv Temple

We consider this our best trip till date, as we didn’t had a lot in our list, but what we got was the best scenic drives between Chandigarh to Bikaner and then Bikaner to Delhi.

Travel Tips:

  • Junagarh Fort Timings: 10: 00 AM to 4:30 PM .
  • Free public guide to get more familiar with the fort and its history.
  • Must visit Kote Gate, it’s over crowded whole day but very popular for shopping Rajasthani art and craft material.
  • Prefer local transport in main Bikaner city, driving is not advisable for outsiders due to heavy rush.
  • Must try  Kachoris and Ghewar at “Chotu Motu Joshi Sweet Shop”, Station Rd. 
  • Bhujia from “Bhikaram Chandmal Bhujiamal”, Kote Gate, Bikaner, Rajasthan.

Agra Fort-An Epitome Of Mughal Architecture

A visit to Agra is incomplete without Agra Fort, another UNESCO World Heritage monument. Situated on the bank of Yamuna river,this fort had confronted many invasions and ruins. Originally, there was a brick fort known as Badalgarh built by Raja Badal Singh at the place of Agra Fort.

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Agra Fort-Entrance

This fort has been known to be home of many famous rulers like Lodi’s, Suri’s and Mughal’s. The marvel we see today is the great work that happened in reign of Akbar who rebuild it from a brick fort to red sandstone one . When Shah Jahan,grandson of Akbar came into power he preferred Marble instead of red sandstone, so the exquisite work of white marble inside the fort shows his sheer love towards it.

Inside the fort there are many buildings one after the other like Diwan-I-am, Diwan-i-Khas, Khas mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Shah Jahani Mahal, Jahangiri Mahal, Anguri Bagh and Musamman Burj depicts glorious Mughal Era.

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Diwan-I-Am

 

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Anguri Bagh

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Musamman Burj was build by Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. He was confined to this place by his son Aurangzeb for 8 years and was taken care by his daughter Jahanara Begum. He spend his last days in this burj over viewing Taj Mahal.

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Musamman Burj- Interior

Most remarkable building inside fort is Jahangiri Mahal, built by Akbar. It was the principal Zenana (palace for Royal women), mainly used by the Rajput wives of Akbar.

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Jahangiri Mahal
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Jahangiri Mahal Courtyard

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Courtyard outside of Jahangiri Mahal
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Jahangir’s Hauz
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Inscription on Jahangir’s Hauz

Agra Fort is a perfect example of a dynasty with glorious past,their succession & love for architecture…!!!!

Let’s Take A Road Trip To Mount Abu..

We have been fond of Rajasthan and for some reason the magic has never ended, so last year we took a vacation trip to the most famous hill station in Aravalli Range, Mount Abu to take a break from  scorching heat of Delhi.

Mount Abu,highly admired by the tourists as the only hill station in Rajasthan, shares the border with Gujarat. Not only as a tourist spot Mount Abu is also recognized for its religious values. It’s almost 800 kms from Delhi, so driving down in a go with traffic in summers was too tough. We needed a stopover, as we had already paid couple of visits to Jaipur, we opted for Pushkar which is nearly 500 kms and famous for having the only temple of Lord Brahma.

We are not really morning people but we prefer to start our journey early in the morning. Also as we gathered information about route we came to know that the Delhi-Ajmer highway (NH 8) was broken in middle near Kotputli and we have to take the detour to State highway 25 . As we crossed Alwar and then through Sariska National Park via route 248A we joined back on NH 8. But well strech of 85 km(SH 248A) from Alwar to Shahpura was one of the worst driving experience on patch roads, abrupt speed breakers on a road where you cannot drive at more than 30 km/hour. Finally when we joined back on NH the rest 200 kms went by as an easy go.

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SH 25

IMG_0458Pushkar is a valley surrounded by hills on Ratnagiri in the south, Nilgiri in the north, Sanchoora in the west and Suryagiri in the east. As per the legend, Pushkar is the only pilgrimage of Lord Brahma which is result of curse of Savitri/Sarasvati, wife of Brahma. It so happened while Brahma was slewing demon Vajranabha, who was trying to kill Brahmas children and harrasing humans, 3 petals from his Lotus fell and created 3 ponds namely Jyeshta, Madhya and Kanishta(first, middle and youngest) Pushkar. Even the name of city is derived from this Pushpa(meaning Flower)+ Kar(meaning Hand)=PushKar.IMG_20140625_192106

 

IMG_20140626_081651Next morning we planned our journey further starting with Ajmer Shariff Dargah,the shrine of Sufi Saint Moinuddin Chishti. This dargah is very popular and mostly crowded to get enter inside, we made visit early in the morning around 6:30 am. If you are going there by your own vehicle or taxi then you have to pay Rs 100 parking per hour. Even at that early in the morning, there was too much of the rush. It took us an hour  for the visit.

After taking blessing from Khawaja Gharib Nawaz , we continued our journey on NH-8.

So, finally you can feel the zing of Rajasthan when you see people will bright and colorful turbans with herds of sheeps and camels passing by you every now and then.

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Till few kms ahead of Beawar we were having the good time enjoying the beautiful landscape unaware of the coming wrong turn !! We took a diversion from Sojat towards State Highway-62.

3.5 hours on a single road constructed in such a way that you will get shaken every now and then. Well, as been very optimistic we only concentrated on the brighter side that we will reach Pindwara very soon as it connects at NH 14. I started screaming like a kid as we merged onto NH-14.. What a relief !!!!  We were 65KM far from our destination, while heading towards the hills, we found our solace. Cool and fresh breeze welcomed us in Mount Abu..!!! We reached our hotel around 2:30pm, the bookings were already done so without any delays we took the keys and went for a nap.

Around 5 pm, we headed towards Nakki lake which was a five minutes drive from our Hotel on Mt Abu Rd. We parked our car and joined people walking towards the Nakki Lake.The first thing you will notice that Gujaratis outnumber everyone else. The way to the lake is through a lively market where you can find people enjoying shopping, local foods, crafts and ice creams.IMG_0558

Nakki Lake is the most famous attraction of Mt Abu offering boat rides and some spectacular view points,one of which is Toad Rock. It is a formation made of igneous rock placed on top of a hill overlooking the lake gives an impression of a toad about to jump into it.IMG_0692

It was time to tighten our shoes to climb up for the sunset point. After a ten minute tiring uphill walk, I can see the crowd climbing on rocks and waiting for the finale. We almost finished our popcorn but there was no sign of sunset as the clouds were ready to shield it. Fortunately, after the wait of an hour we got a glimpse of sun from blanket of clouds. I must say this place is worth a visit for its breathtaking view.IMG_0599IMG_0585

Next morning in Mount Abu was quite chilling, I wasn’t expecting it in the month of June. We got ready and left to cover up our day-2 itinerary.  In market you can find number of stalls offering bread omlette, poha, dhokla for breakfast which are light on pocket.

After having poha for breakfast we geared up for Guru Shikhar. Do not forget to buy some fresh fruits like berries and mangoes on your way to the top.

IMG_0620Guru Shikhar is the highest peak on the mountain at 1,722 m (5,650 ft) above sea level & is 15 km far from the main city with a steep uphill drive. It was the home of Guru Dattatreya, an incarnation of the three Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Dattatreya is composed of two words Datta which means given and Atreya referring the sage Atri,his father. There is also a cave shrine of Guru Dattatreya and that’s how it got the name Guru Shikhar. It offers spectacular panoramic view of Aravalli hills and the town.IMG_0642

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After spending a good 30-40 minutes enjoying the views from top of the hill we dropped downwards to move on to our next stop Dilwara temples.
Dilwara temples, most acknowledged for their amazing artwork were built between 11th to 13th century AD. These are example of exquisite craftsmanship and stunning marble carvings. One can see minutely carved details over corridors, pillars and arches of the temple, which are simply amazing. A collection of 5 temples, Dilwara is a place to capture in memories only as no photography is allowed here.

As we left Dilwara we drove towards Nakki Lake and enjoyed the beautiful sunset sitting at lake shore.

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When it was dark we had our meal at Arbuda Restaurant,offering traditional Rajasthani & Gujarati food and ended the day with some shopping in the market..
Early next morning around 5:00 am we started our descend to the plains and saw the wonderful view of rising sun while we were still rowing around the hills.IMG_0709

We had learnt our lesson and so we decided to keep our tracks on National Highway. It was our longest one day drive covering nearly 800 kms in a go and well it sure was tiring. But we found that its pretty much doable, what you need is NH, couple of stopovers, good song collections, great navigator.

Our first long driving experience was wonderful ,share your story in the comments.

The City of Madison Day-2

Continuing on our journey , It was time to explore more of Madison city.
After having breakfast in hotel itself we headed towards our first stop,which was just couple of miles from our hotel.

Olbrich Botanical Garden is famous for its vast landscape and is beautifully located next to Lake Monona. There is a stream which flows from Monona right through the gardens and the view of this Starkweather creek is a boon to eyes. We spend couple of hours in this peaceful environment, it has shrubs and trees from various countries. So,to get the best experience must visit this place in Fall season. I specially loved fall colors in Chinese Maple and liked vibrant colors in Thai pavillion, Wildflower garden and birch walk.IMG_2405

Thai Pavilion- Originally, this pavilion was built in Thailand, then dismantled, took almost seven weeks by sea, then rail to Chicago and finally by truck to reach here. Even nine craftsman traveled to Madison and assembled it.IMG_2404.JPG

As we had a visit in later fall, so sadly most gardens such as herb and rose didn’t had a lot to offer, but we could see the vast area they have and the diverse flora which might be the reason that its a worth to watch in every weather throughout the year.

Union Memorial TerraceAfter Olbrich we headed to Memorial Union, located on the shore of Lake Mendota in University of Wisconsin. There was some construction/ maintenance work going on near Memorial Library and The Pyle Center, so we had to park our car 2-3 blocks away and we took a walk towards the lake. It was a chilly day and to walk in sun felt like the best thing to do. It took us nearly 10 minutes walking by side of Chazen Museum of Art and Kohler art library, through Historical society. We finally reached the bay area by the Union theater and the view was spectacular. It was worth walking down to enjoy the view. We spend nearly half an hour sitting at Memorial Terrace in the serenity.IMG_2464.JPG

As we headed back we thought of having a lunch in campus itself. We had our favorite wings(as usual) and Buffalitos with beer at Buffalo wild wings. After having an energetic meal, we headed to Lake Monona.

Lake Monona -It was around 4 p.m when we reached this place opposite Olbrich Botanical Garden. We had a stroll around lakeside and then sat down on benches for nearly an hour before sun finally started going down behind the Capitol.

As the daylight started fading out,it gave us the feeling of contentment.Well it was worth waiting for it in that cold windy day.IMG_2544

Travel Tips :

Where to stay- East side, near East towne mall. Budget hotels, good restaurants nearby.

Duration of stay– 2-3 days.

Attractions- Wisconsin Capitol, Dane County Farmers’ Market, Olbrich Botanical Garden, University of Wisconsin, Lake Mendota,Lake Monona, Henry Vilas Zoo..

Every attraction has ample parking space and paid public parking is very cheap($1-$1.50 per hour).

Well this was our 2 day trip to Madison and we tried to get familiar with this city. If you liked this post,do let us know. Click here for pictures

Keep Exploring.

Milwaukee In A Day !

In September we made a weekend road trip to Milwaukee. We firmly believe that best way to see a city is local transport. I scanned my TripAdvisor for Milwaukee trip and luckily got this Untapped tour with excellent rating and reasonable price of 38$ per person. Booking done,payment done, Milwaukee here we come.

Next morning around 6:30 am(yes seriously)we left for Milwaukee to reach there for 10 am tour. It took us just 2 hours to reach Milwaukee Downtown, as it was early morning most of the restaurants were closed and we were in desperate need of something to fill our hunger pangs. After few minutes of search we found this place Bruegger’s Bagel, which was our savior for the time.

It was 9:30 already and we marched towards city hall, the pickup point of Untapped Tour. There were couple of people already there, whom we later came to know as our group partners in the tour. After few minutes Mike arrived, took a roll call and greeted everyone. Our tour started there only with City Hall of Milwaukee.

City Hall was the tallest building of United States of its time, completed in 1895. The building was magnificent, be it architecture or design everything was remarkable. Then, we proceeded to Bronze Fonz.. a bronze sculpture of Arthur Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) from Happy Days TV show. 

After photo session, while proceeding towards Milwaukee Art museum, Mike showed us the Wisconsin Gas Building. A tower located in downtown has a flame shaped artwork which shows weather forecast by changing its color. He even told us the rhyme associated with this:

When the flame is red, it’s warm weather ahead!
When the flame is gold, watch out for cold!
When the flame is blue, there’s no change in view!
When there’s a flickering flame, expect snow or rain!”

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Now, it was the time to see one more spectacular creation Milwaukee Art Museum. Located on the shore of Michigan Lake.This architectural marvel has “wings” which remains open in the daytime and gets folded in the night.IMG_2190IMG_2199

We came across famous mansions on Lake shore drive on our way to Northpoint Lighthouse, which is beautifully situated in the midst of Lake park. We spend 15-20 minutes here in the lap of nature, Lake Michigan shoreline was visible. We also came to know that this was moved back from its original place.IMG_2217

We also got chance to see Henry W. Maier Festival Park, where the largest musical festival Summerfest of Milwaukee takes place & Historic Third ward from the bus on our way to Clock Shadow Creamery.  

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Historic Third Ward

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Located in 138 W Bruce St. Clock Shadow Creamery is known for there Quark, Chevre and cheese curds. It was our first cheese tasting experience & we had  Habanero,Spicy cheese, chevre cheese(goat cheese) and some chutney. I just loved Habanero and Chevre but unfortunately both were sold out and I was not able to buy them.

Apart from the famous landmarks, we covered many more places while sitting inside the bus. With Mike we came to know a little bit about everything whether its Miller Brewing Company, Miller Stadium, Tripoli Shrine Center(replica of Taj Mahal) or Pabst Mansion.

And finally Lakefront Brewery, what could be a better way to wrap up the tour. Lakefront Brewery started in 1987 by brothers Russ and Jim Klisch, offers some very famous beer such as Riverwest Stein Beer and East Side Dark and we tried both. The lady associated with our group tour was very informative and provided the history of Lakefront brewery. Also our group got a chance to taste their another very famous cherry beer.IMG_2252IMG_3289

After getting pint glass as a Souvenir, we headed for City hall as it was the end of our Untapped tour. A day spent in Milwaukee exploration was worth with the tour.

We would like to cover all those left out attractions and restaurants in our next visit.