Hello welcome to my Blog

Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.

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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The beauty of Cambridge UK

There is nothing like wandering along the backs in Cambridge, going on the river in a punt and then enjoying a cream tea at Fitzbillies or in one of the more continental coffeeshops that have sprung up all over the city.
It is swinging and singing, learned and lively. It is by far one of my favourite towns in England and on a recent visit it was bathed in sunshine and the light of the long evenings was just magnificent on the splendid colleges.

The colleges were closed this time as some of the students were still doing exams but otherwise they are open to the public and are definitely worth wandering around. There is so much history and tradition that attaches to them that I could not sit here and tell you about them without running into pages so I shall just tempt you with a few of the pictures of the colleges and gates. Just opposite where we were staying was a science block and on the walls a carefully carved elephant to remind us of those distant lands travelled by erstwhile explorers.More about a must see object in Cambridge tomorrow.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Hiking in the Lötschental valley

Our destination this year was Lötschental a valley between the Valais and Bernese Alps. It stretches about 27 kms and on the one side there are wonderful and receding glaciers and on the other side mountain villages and alpine passes. The south-eastern part of the Lötschental has been part of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage site of the Jungfrau-Aletsch region since 2001. The villages Ferden, Kippel Wiler and Blatten preserve ancient traditions and customs.

We took the cable car up the mountain and started our walk among gentians, orchids and anemones. Lunch was at the end of a steep descent but we knew that not long after we would arrive at our wonderful alpine hotel with the great name of Fafleralp. Peculiarly it seemed to have electricity surges and power cuts so that my instant suspicion was that it had been specially arranged by our leader Toop to make sure I didn’t get too homesick for Delhi!!
One of our aims was a futuristic Alpine hut called Annenhutte at 2,355 metres. It took us 4 1/2 hours to get there. No short cuts anywhere. We walked through forests, craggy passes, dodged rivulets and scrunched over the icy snow. At the hut we ate a tresse which had been baked with pistachios and ham and was truly delicious but that was topped by “Hay soup”- we slurped it happily without asking too many questions about its contents. Unbelievably the hut was hit by a power cut and we missed out on our coffee. I take nothing for granted these days. My presence clearly confounded the Swiss electricity grid which made us all laugh.

 The glaciers on the upper side and the beautiful green alpine mountains and villages on the lower side.
The valley was full of  alpine passes, wonderful vistas of the snow capped mountains and walks in the extraordinary villages. Noteworthy were the construction of the houses and food storages on great pillars with round slabs of stones supporting them preventing the vermin from climbing in. A bygone era but one still carefully preserved. Equally intriguing were the intricately carved wooden masks which villagers wear at carnival time. Little is known about the origins of these masks which may have been worn to welcome spring or shock the girls. Pagan, punchy and very bizarre. Another occasion when Switzerland takes us all by surprise.India might be incredible but Switzerland specializes in the truly bizarre !

Friday, 18 June 2010

Flowers flowers everywhere

The journey carried out with the kind of precision that only the Swiss can achieve and before we knew it we were riding a cable car to get to the start of our walk. We were immediately captivated by the beautiful flowers and the majestic surorundings.

Gentians,lilies, wall flowers, anemones, forget me nots all there in their profusion and colour.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Hiking in the Swiss Mountains

There is no shortage of valleys and mountains in Switzerland but each time I go to a new area I am once more thrilled at what I find and enjoy the experience as if it was the first time. On my recent trip we visited the area of Löschental which is between the Valais and Bernese Alps. The largely undeveloped valley with its small villages has been a surprisingly interesting venue to discover. The little villages in the area have a very peculiar tradition called Tschäggättä». During the carnival period, terrifying figures disguised in animal skins and carved wooden masks wander through the villages of the Lötschental to the loud clanking sounds of cowbells (“treichel”) worn on their belts.

Little is known about their origins but the suggestion is that it was a pagan tradition to signal the end of winter and as a way for the young men of the village to see the pretty girls without being identified. In my view it would have scared them off for life as they are so grotesque and wild but there are masks everywhere in this valley and even a museum dedicated to them.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

This is the village I used to live in French Switzerland

It is a small little place called Coppet but it is grand. It has a 17th Century Chateau which is a working one, the family still live there and it is the venue for garden exhibitions, theatrical perfomances and musical concerts. The Chateau is world famous as it was the home of Jacques Necker and his daughter Madame de Stael, a fierce intellectual during Napolean's time who collected all the free thinkers around her.
The village has a lovely arcade of shops, some of them dating back to the 14th Century.

The village is on the edge of Lac Leman, what most people call Lake Geneva this wonderful expanse of clear, clean water where people go boating, swimming or just walk along its edge.

The attention to detail is what makes Switzerland the place it is and the fountains are one small example of this.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Walking- are you kidding ?

Walking can add minutes to your life.

This enables you at 85 years old

To spend an additional 5 months in a nursing

Home at $7000 per month.


My grandpa started walking

Five miles a day when he was 60..

Now he's 97 years old

And we don't have a clue where he is.


I like long walks,

Especially when they are taken

By people who annoy me.


The only reason I would take up walking

Is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.


I have to walk early in the morning,

Before my brain figures out what I'm doing..


I recently returned from a short trip to the UK where I walked until I simply could not walk any more every single day. The air was clean, the pavements were even and the public transport, where necessary, was reliable and on time. It was such a joy and if there is one thing I  miss more than anything else is the ability to walk here.I was lucky enough to live in a country where this was a real pleasure but even here where the pleasures are questionable it is to be chosen each time over any mechanised method of getting to where you need to go.I soldier out some afternoons in the area I live with a reluctant and hot dog and the sweat drips off me and the air closes in around me.

We visit parks, there are enough wonderful green spaces in Delhi but the climate is not kind. I look at the efforts that Delhi is making to get its pavements in order, mistakenly perhaps for the purpose of wooing the Commonwealth Games, without realising that actually unless you educate people to choose walking this may be a misplaced and costly priority. Sadly the majority of people who do walk in this country are the people who simply cannot afford to pay for any other form of transport- so not a choice but a necessity.

Soon I will be joining my hiking group back in Switzerland to embark on another adventure in the mountains and valleys of that beautiful country. Here they are, a testimony to walking where our oldest member is in her mid eighties and still going strong !

I will try and post from where I am back to you all so that you can share some of the beauty even at a distance.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Sariska Palace

We approached Sariska Palace in an unconventional way and ended up getting lost in the shrubland surrounding it so we decided to take a shortcut and climbed over the wall with dresses flapping and inelegant jumps,but we managed and headed in for a swim and a nosey. Cold beers by the pool, then a special table laid out just for us on the lovely verandah where we feasted on a variety of biryanhis which were delicious with some local rajastani music and dancing followed by a tour of the Palace.

The comfortable living room area complete with stuffed tigers staring down at you, a wonderful marble staircase with a massive chandelier that the boys cheekily started swinging. The stair case up decorated with pictures of the olden days and sadly many dead tigers at the feet of the Maharajas and guests. The Palace was built in 1894 by the Maharaja of Alwar as a hunting lodge. Now of course it is a heritage hotel sporting over one hundred rooms and no tiger hunts but tiger viewings. There is an air of dilapitated grandeur about the whole place which makes it quite special. The suites are massive done in pinks and bright reds and best of all are the free standing bath tubs in the centre of the bathrooms. Sariska Palace is a great place from where you can explore the Sariska National Park and Tiger Reserve and it is only 36kms from Alwar and 130 Kms from Jaipur.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Sariska National Park

Sariska National Park is about an hour's drive from Alwar and spreads over 800 square kms. It is a very diverse park ranging from scrubland to craggy mountains, to rock formations that are remininscent of slate and lava. It has waterfalls and dry river beds, fertile valleys and wooded areas so there is no shortage of vistas to admire.We visited in the dry season.
For the first time EVER I saw animals that were showing signs of not having fed well. A lot of deer looked quite emaciated and tired. There were cheetal and jackals, antelope and sambar as well as an abundance of peacocks and pea hens.

They were everywhere, on the branches, by the watering holes, lying down in the shade ( had never seen peacocks doing that before ) and displaying magnificently.

The park does have tigers but we saw none other than the ones that were stuffed or hung from walls in Sariska Palace.We saw partridges and teepees and some of them were so habituated that they ate out of our hands

For me the most rewarding part was watching the monkeys. There are so many of them but their anthropomorphic behaviour and mannerisms always fascinate and engage me. The careful grooming of this loving couple.

The gentleness of this mother with her suckling baby .

And the way that this troupe made this tree their very own with monkeys peeping out of the holes and drapped over the branches. Just delightful.

More on Sariska Palace soon.