Me & You & Some Green & Blue (II)

I was all set to snorkel (for the first time ever!) off the boat before catching the sunset. My practice sessions with the snorkelling gear had not gone well in the pool, but that was hardly reason enough to prevent me from jumping into the deep. One look in had me hooked forever, and all the pains of getting used to the salinity of the water, seepage into the mask, etc were nothing compared to the fantasy land that I could see underwater. Yeah, all that lovely coral formation, and schools of multicoloured, gorgeous fish swimming around peacefully, tolerating stupid ‘big fish’ like me – simply magical! Never one to let go of an opportunity to try funny stuff, I stuck my ziplocked camera into the water (bad experiment or faulty bag – water got in and the pictures were awful).

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I had to be hauled back into the boat to continue the ride into the sunset, and what a disastrous effort it was. Firstly, to haul myself up to a height higher than my head would require super upper-body strength. Now, while I grant you there’s plenty of upper body here, the strength is in short supply, so all my efforts would have embarrassed any self-respecting person out there. Thankfully, none of those people were around, and Souvik is well used to my ungracefulness, so I insisted we drag the boat to the shore, and I could flop in.

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The sun setting behind Gunung Agung was pretty, only fell short of my expectations with the cloud obscuring what could’ve been a very dramatic view. No matter, it took everything of me to shower and tuck in dinner before falling into a deep sleep.

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To catch the rising sun was a lofty plan that was thwarted by us forgetting to set the alarm. But we woke up in time for another big breakfast and immediately headed off to one of the good beaches. I’d been working on Souvik to attempt snorkelling, and those chaps at the beach helped matters in a big way by offering life jackets.
After the first couple of false starts of tripping over our flippers and swallowing some salty water, we ventured 5 feet from the shore, and how that opened Souvik’s eyes! The reef was more spectacular than our wildest imagination, the colors and shapes unbelievable, an amazing blue starfish, all those beautiful fish in their fluorescent glory! Souvik the Sane & Cautious decided that as soon as we reached the truly exciting deep-ish sea, it was time to head back. So I obediently went along, and after depositing him on the shore, went right back in for a quick second round, to see a few more spectacular species.

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The sun on our backs, mouthfuls of salty water, pebbles in our flippers – a morning well spent! Souvik couldnt stop exclaiming, and I was speechless. O gorgeous Amed, we can’t wait to get back and stick our faces in the water, mask and all!
Mandatory shower and even more mandatory lunch (at Sails – great view, delicious crepes!) later, we’re back on our day-beds, committed to spending the rest of our vacation snoozing!

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Me & You & Some Green & Blue (I)

An exciting holiday after ages (read: 3 months)!
I had a ticket to Bali that was getting quite expensive with all the ‘rescheduling due to unavoidable circumstances’ (read: my off-and-on job). Well, after the last India trip, the immigration authorities conspired to take that job away, and now I’m back to my idle housewife status (OK OK not all housewives are idle, just me, thanks to my super-efficient help!)
So, I had this ticket-which-MUST-be-used, and threatened to holiday alone if the husband did not join me (always works).
I picked out Blue Moon Villas at Amed only for their day-bed overlooking the water. Just happened to be 100 km from the airport.

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I caught up on my midday snooze in the 3-hour car ride, and admired all the landscapes of rice paddies, mountains and ocean, then spent the rest of the day on that day-bed, awaiting Souvik’s arrival.

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One of the things we’d planned was sunset and dinner at Potato Head followed by some Saturday night partying, but the prospect of driving back to town over 3 hours and returning seemed a colossal waste of time. So I set sights on boat rides and cycling tour instead.

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Come Saturday morning, and after a hearty breakfast we set out on scooter, driving aimlessly until I figured we were close to Candidasa. Found Vincent’s for lunch (our holidays are little more than killing time from one meal to the next).

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We’d booked a boat for sunset tour, so we couldn’t linger at Candidasa, though we did take a minute to admire the coastline and lotus pond. Candidasa, with its shops and cafes, is a little hipper than Amed which is basically a fishing town and spectacular snorkelling sites, thanks to a complete lack of crazy action on that part of the island.
In the late afternoon we got onto the boat, and that was the turning point of the holiday.

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Day 19: My weekly big bicycle ride

My last day of vacation dawned hot and sunny, but I was not to be deterred from the desired cycle ride around a lake. Madison has 3 lakes of different sizes. We went kayaking on the smallest Lake Wingra, and people watched on the terrace at the largest Lake Mendota, but the mid-sized Lake Monona just begged for a cycling trip.
Armed with a bike and a big biking map I set out for the ride through charming lakeside neighbourhoods and parks. Biking in Madison is Very evolved, with bike paths all over the city, and there are Rules to be followed! A lot of the route around the lake had almost no traffic, making it a pleasant, unpolluted ride that took me a little over 2 hours to complete.
Rukmini worked while I cycled, then we met up for more food and more shopping before heading home for a home-cooked Palak Paneer meal (and a sinful cupcake).
Uploading photos is going to take some more time, because I’m all packed and checked in, ready for my flight back.
And that is the end of my wonderful vacation!

Day 18: Resting my feet and Stuffing my face

That’s all I did on Tuesday, under a nice shady tree at James Madison park for the entire morning. Finished reading a book, watched some people play on the grass, kids out on a nature walk from school, and a late bird looking for leftover worms. Such was my stillness that an enterprising spider thought I would be the right spot for his next cobweb!

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The hunger pangs soon set in. A search on trip advisor came up with Bradbury’s, reputed for crepes. Yumm!! That’s mine, strawberry with mascarpone and mint:

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Rukmini collected me soon after, and we spent the afternoon shopping for shoes (nice boots) and clothes (bo-oring!). Next came a round of putt putt golf, my big opportunity to be silly.

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Walking around for 20 meters had us ready for the awesome Michael’s frozen custard – supposedly it is never frozen, and thankfully not custard at all. Just fresh ice-cream. Nice!

There was still some day left, for a quick visit to Rukmini’s garden patch to harvest spinach and coriander, then tapas dinner at Eno Vino.

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Day 17: On foot in Madison city…er..town

Yesterday was my day about town while Rukmini went to work. I started off with a leisurely breakfast at Starbucks with an eyeful of the Capitol across the street.
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Fortified by the cookie crumble mochaccino, or something like that, I started my walk around the Capitol square, taking in the sights, and the museums (closed on Monday’s). Then came the tour of the Capitol, with an excellent guide and interesting stories, and a walk through the Senate and Supreme Court and other important offices of the Wisconsin government.
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Rukmini joined me for a light Italian lunch at Francesca’s al Lago, then took off again while I walked over to the Monona Terrace designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, overlooking the Monona Lake at one side and the Capitol at the other. I have the FLW coloured pencils jigsaw puzzle, and I so wanted to buy the transparent colouring books and the suncatchers, but settled for the fridge magnets instead, to be able to stay hands-free while walking around, rest of the afternoon.

I then strolled over to State Street, the #1 attraction in downtown Madison, taking in the eclectic shops full of pretty, colourful, mostly useless stuff, and couldn’t help buying a few for myself.

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After being on my feet for 5/6 hours, it was time to give them a break, (read: to be whisked off by Rukmini to get our nails done). Oh bliss! Foot massage equals rejuvenation, and fresh local beer and cheese curds (local favourite pub snack) gives a spurt of energy for…..shopping!
We ended the day on a (relatively) light note with some sushi at Muramoto (numerous and excellent vegetarian options for me!), and an episode of our favourite TV show!

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Day 16: Falling in love… With Madison

My friend, Rukmini, came down to Chicago yesterday to drive me to Madison, the final leg of my very exciting holiday. Everyone I spoke to before that was amused by the contrast between the big city and small town vibes, while I was thinking about putting up my feet and relaxing all the 3 days here.
We had a cheerful 2-drive up, singing along with the latest Bollywood numbers, and laughing over inane matters. Pulling into town, Rukmini decided to give me an orientation to the town. Instantly I was a fan! There was the Capitol building, the University campus, and best of all, the lakes!
Later in the evening, we went kayaking on Lake Wingra, how could I not be supremely happy? All thoughts of chilling out flew through the window, and plans were made afresh for cycling and walking about.
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Next we headed to Memorial Union on Lake Mendota for some locally brewed beer and spectacular sunset.

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Finally we strolled down State Street and got some night shots of the Capitol before calling it a night.

Day 15: Urban Drama

I had just 24 hours in Chicago before driving off to Madison, and my cousin Varun was in charge of the itinerary. Chicago has a reputation for fine architecture, it’s arty vibe was obvious as soon as we hit downtown, and I was excited.
Our first stop was lunch by the river (naturally), and then the Magnificent Mile walk, taking in the big pretty buildings.

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We were walking up to the Millennium Park when we came upon this zombie parade, complete with morbid make up and protesting placards. Thank goodness I knew about the zombie craze, else it would’ve been a creepy sleepless night!

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Millennium Park is one of the most interesting urban spaces I have seen. There’s the obviously well-known Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor, and the Pritzker Pavilion, but Varun showed me so many interesting spots around the park that I was charmed.

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The Cloud Gate was wonderful, nicer than I expected, but my favourite on that hot day was the dipping pool.

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We walked through the Art Institute without looking at the exhibits, but these windows by Chagall stopped me in my tracks.

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We then headed for a boat tour. The architectural tour was sold out, but we got another that took us on both the Chicago river and Lake Michigan, with a lot of welcome sprays and some good views of the Chicago skyline.

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There was still some light when we finished the tour, various street performers had started their shows, and there was a general festive air all around. Simply lovely!

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