Ruins and glory is history’s lot, Oh the thrill when the car was got*

It was the day to pick up the car in the afternoon, which meant that I couldn’t venture too far in the morning. There was some frantic tossing of the coin to choose from a ride to Henley-on-Thames and Oxford some 100 miles away to Baddesley Clinton and Kenilworth next door. After a sumptuous breakfast, the decision was made and Kenilworth won.

Kenilworth is just 6 miles from the hotel, but I wanted to save my energy for traipsing around the castle, so a 10-minute taxi ride it was. I’m still marvelling at how short the distances are, and how little time it takes to drive from one place to another.

The Kenilworth castle has hundreds of years of history associated with it, some wars, some sieges, some romance. It was first built in the early 12th century as a single structure, then was expanded by successive rulers into a palace fortress surrounded by a ‘dammed’ lake and finally a renaissance palace before it was destroyed, and now is preserved as a heritage structure.

The self-guided tour is wonderful; the history and architecture dished out in bite-sized doses, as you walk around the various points of interest. There was a school trip in progress while I was there. It was almost as much fun to watch them learn about the castle from the teacher who was making it come alive with stories about kings and battles and lots of playacting.

A significant part of the tour is dedicated to the story of how Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, wooed Queen Elizabeth I, by buiding new sections to the castle and a beautiful garden for her. There’s an exhibition on this piece of history in the gatehouse. And I have to go back and watch the movie Elizabeth by Shekhar Kapur.

The stables now house a cafe, where I had my lunch of cheese and chutney sandwich and a pot of tea with a fudgy brownie. Set off by bus to Leamington, picked up a very nice car with satellite navigation, and got back to the hotel to spend the evening planning out the route for today.

Jamie and Denise had promised us a Scottish dinner of haggis (veggie for me), but Tammy put her foot down and we ended up at a fabulous Italian restaurant instead. The menu sounded like Italian-English fusion, and I thoroughly enjoyed my beetroot risotto with grilled goat cheese tart and caramelised onions. Souvik had chicken with butternut squash. The food was delicious, but the company was super, and we had a madly entertaining evening.

*Now there’s a pressure to do this daily, and Souvik has started to protest!

That trip… Sixième Jour: From Upcountry…

Our last day in Alsace.

We choose to hike up the hill to the Chateau L’Ortenberg we have been looking at almost everyday. The view is spellbinding. The Vosges Mountains on one side, the pretty town of Scherwiller on the other, vineyards all over. A nip in the air with the promise of a storm, and the sun obscured by heavy clouds. Uphill hikes are always ‘uphill’ for me, but Souvik doesn’t even pause for breath. So he gets to lug my camera. Which I keep pulling out of the bag, wanting to take pictures of everything. Naturally, we take a few wrong decisions, plodding on until we realise that walking downhill won’t get us to the castle up there. Then we spot the right path that somebody has marked with fluorescent chalk, string, some marking on trees. Huh! It’s steep, I keep my head down and pause at every hundred steps to catch my breath that got left behind. It’s a good thing, because there are lovely views at every pause. Then we catch a glimpse of the castle wall and I give it my all to get there quickly… Only to find that it’s locked up, and there’s no way in. :-/ We are disappointed, but rationalise that we had our oxygen spa and need to get back in time to finish packing. A quick peek into the chapel where I parked the bike, and we are off to Scherwiller, 800m away.

There’s a fast and furious storm just as we get indoors. Lucky to have escaped that! Missed breakfast, so find our way to Chez Cathy Salon de thé for croissants and coffee. Buy a couple of souvenirs (kougelhopf moulds), stuff them into the already full suitcases. Wisely decide not to buy the local wine we’ve been drinking everyday, because then the suitcases wouldn’t have shut.

We meet Nick to say goodbye, and he says, oh you should have gone around the locked ruins to the other side to the main castle which is accessible. Really? We missed those chalk marks on that trail then. It’s time to leave. Madame Eltier brings her taxi around, and we say au revoir to Madame & Monsieur Ramstein who have made a name for themselves for their excellent hospitality. The taxi zips away passing some of the now-familiar towns – Dambach-la-ville, Ebersheim, Epfig – and in no time we’re at Gare Strasbourg to take the fast train to Paris.
Au revoir Alsace. Paris, here we come!












Kolhapur of our youth, revisited

I’m still recovering from a harried, hectic trip to India, and the blogging mood has stayed safely away until now.

This was not a fun trip (sorry family, it really wasn’t), except for a couple of weekends in Bangalore, but we did manage to accomplish much in the area of various paperwork, license renewals, annual health check ups, so it was definitely worth the effort.

There were a few interesting, eye-opening moments, especially when I got down to one project commissioned by my friend, Rupali, to photograph some of the places in Kolhapur where we grew up. Here goes:

1. Dafle House still looks pretty, but all the open space around it is gone, sadly.



2. Rupali, this was the lane to your home. The house has disappeared, replaced by a colony of boring apartments. Oh, and there’s a Fabindia right outside this lane!


3. Our esteemed school, nothing changed, not one thing! The same old buildings, that little room next to the headmistress’ office, with a photo of the first batch of girls that graduated Class X, brought back memories of why exactly I hated school. All our teachers have retired, and I was just about ‘permitted’ to take a couple of pictures.


4. This seemingly pointless spot is Dabholkar Corner, one of the places that has changed almost completely. See that blue & yellow building on the left? That’s were we had Treasure Island, our favorite library in a shack, now a hotel or office, I don’t care what.




5. Aditya Corner at Tarabai Park – didn’t we spend hours milling around here – Rupali, Zeenath & I? There was a video rental too, which has given way to a sweet shop.

6. Just around Aditya corner, there used to be a Pop’s corner, where we had ice-cream floats occasionally. Now there are apartments, a bunch of cafes, and a big garbage dump across the road.



7. One of the sweet spots – the badminton court. This area has Vivekanand College just down the lane for many years now, transforming it from a sleepy lane to wild buzzing activity.


8. Castle. Need I say more?

I missed Rajaram College in this trip, but promise to add that sometime soon!