One of the great things about where I live is having easy access to London, the beautiful countryside and the wonderful coastline. The best of both worlds. I am a fan of the big city and its craziness but at the same time I am keen to explore everything that my home county has to offer. Having days off in the week too I have been able to go when it is at its quietest allowing no parking problems, weekend traffic and most importantly having beaches to myself.
I have visited Paphos three times, now I am not usually one for going back to the same place twice, but a good friend of mine has an apartment which allows me a cheap and cheerful break in the sunshine. I tend to go out of season when flights are ridiculously low and I get to experience warm sunny weather before we either start or lose our summer.
This year Paphos has been named Culture Capital of the year. So there has been a lot of work involved, mainly in the Old Town where most of the roads have been dug up and new pavements have been replaced. The town is very quiet and slightly eerie but I can imagine by the time the summer arrives it will bring with it a great bustling and thriving atmosphere.
The apartment I stay in is located in the Old Town where it is nice to stay away from the more touristy harbour, and there are plenty of lovely restaurants within walking distance. My favourite bar/restaurant is the wonderful Muse Bar. A trendy type modern bar with stunning views, a fantastic atmosphere and an extensive menu. The portions are huge and the cocktails are delicious. If you do prefer to be more into the harbour scene, you can catch the most wonderful sunsets, this is worth a trip on it’s own.
If you want to explore further afield and visit a lot more of what the island has to offer I think renting a car would be a really good option. The prices are reasonable and gives you the flexibility to do your own thing. However there are plenty of buses that can take you around that are all cheap and reliable.
Paphos has a couple of great archaelogical parks to visit, so if you are looking for some culture as well as topping up your tan, I would highly recommend The Tombs of the Kings and The Archeological site situated down by the harbour. During the springtime these are both covered in the most beautiful flowers, including stunning red popppies.
Here is a collection of my photo’s from my recent visit in March, where the weather certainly didn’t disappoint.
Jaipur would be our last stop before flying back to Delhi and home to London. Luckily we had almost a week here so no rushing around and keeping to schedules. We were getting a train here and finally this one was not cancelled. I was actually excited to have this experience, especially as we had missed out on all the other journeys. This was an over night train where we had our own cabin with four beds, except the grumpy man at the train station gave us 3 tickets in one cabin and one other in the cabin next door. The annoying thing was, was that there was a gentleman also in our cabin who wouldn’t swap with our odd ticket. So rather than being split up we decided to share one of the bunk beds, which obviously had to be me being the smallest, this resulted in a rather uncomfortable sleep, well lack of, as I also panicked we might miss our stop. Despite this, this would otherwise have been a rather fun adventure.
When we arrived at our hotel we were amused to see our beds all lined in a row with cute gingham sheets looking like a scene from goldilocks and the three bears, very funny and very sweet.
Jaipur was another one of those crazy busy cities. The largest city of Rajasthan , known as the Pink City, famous for its terracotta pink walls that surround the city. It’s colourful and vibrant atmosphere was truely captivating with markets, jewellery, art, the beautiful textiles and most importantly the majestic forts and palaces.
Our first day was already arranged before our arrival where we were to take The Dera Amer Elephant Safari.
Here in the stunning landscape and serene and peaceful setting, we were made to feel welcome with refreshments and stunning views of the country side. There is a lot of speculation that the elephants are mistreated in these kind of environments but I can honestly say that here they were very looked after and cared for. The elephants are in as natural surroundings as can be and are only allowed a couple of rides a day. So as not to over tire them. We were the only people there that day so that definitely made it feel a more unique and enjoyable experience. So here we got to ride the elephants for a 45 minute trek through the beautiful setting and then later paint their trunks in the vivid and fluorescent paints. I was excited by this as for a long time I admired the lovely decorative patterns and eye catching designs, again from my pinterest boards I had collected before the trip. Unfortumately the painting proved not to be as easy as it looked and our joint group effort looked pretty shocking. The poor elephant, I apologise for not letting you look so pretty. Also included in our package was a buffet style lunch, with lots of homemade tasty dishes using organic vegetables that are grown on the site. It was a shame the meal was slightly wasted on us, as a couple of the group were still sick and also my dislike for curry, as I had mentioned in a previous post, however there was still food I could eat that was equally as yummy.
I would highly recommend this experience and definitely say it was one of the highlights of my trip. http://deraamer.com/
Later that day after getting back to our hotel we just grabbed the closest tuk tuk and went for a stroll through the city. Getting stopped by literally everyone who wanted to sell us Sari’s and Pashminas, and other colourful assortment of fabrics and nik naks. We were delighted that we stumbled across the Hawa Mahal Palace, also known as the Palace of the winds. This was stunning.
And so over the next few days of our stay in Jaipur we visited the many forts and palaces this city is famous for. These included
- City Palace
- Jantar Mantar
- Nahargarh Fort
- Amer Fort
- Panna Meena Ka Kund
We also visited the Taj Rambagh Palace hotel where we had lunch on our last day on the wonderful lawns and gardens where they filmed part of the “The best exotic Marigold Hotel”. It was so nice there we decided to go back that night where they had a restaurant named Steam which was on board a train on the hotel grounds. We decided to go in our fancy dress costumes that Andrew had bought us. It was a fun way to round off the trip and go over all the crazy adventures we had enjoyed and experienced over the last few weeks before we flew back to Delhi and back home to London. I think I needed another holiday after this for sure.
We didn’t really do much on our only night in Udaipur as we were so shattered from our horrendous couch journey, we had no energy to leave our room and once more we had an early start the next morning. I really could have had a day around the pool if I’m honest with you, but we had to keep to schedule, plus I was very much looking forward to going to Jodphur and visiting the blue city, so i could take photo’s like the ones I had saved on pinterest and admired on instagram.
Jodhpur was one of the locations where we actually treated ourselves to a stay in a 5 star hotel. It felt so luxurious and miles away from sleeping on that bus ride. The first thing I did was run to the balcony and see the fabulous pool which we were finally going to lay by within the next few minutes. I could not wait. I know this isn’t the typical traveller scenario but I was so grateful at that point for some rest and relaxation and some cheeky sunbathing.
Later on in the afternoon we made it our mission to find the blue city before sunset. It was a struggle to find the energy and leave the pool area but it proved to be definitely worth it. It took us a while to find it as we thought every house and building would be painted and they would all be grouped in one area. But mostly they were sporadic. We walked up little streets which were sweet and rustic, dogs barking and sleeping everywhere, we met locals and took thousands of photographs. It was really a wonderful experience. One boy who was probably about fifteen, invited us back to his house to meet his family. They were so endearing and welcoming. The young boy proudly showed us his foreign currency collection and talked about his school and his ambitions. I was really impressed by how bright and smart he was.
After exploring the blue city and riding around on crazy fast tuk tuks we stayed at our hotel and watched a puppet show and a funny magician who performed for just the 4 of us.
The next few days, just 3 of us ( the other was, sadly, very sick) ventured out and ticked a few more of the tourist spots off our list. These included The Mehrangarh Fort, one of the largest forts in India, Umaid Bhawan Palace, a luxury grand palace and hotel, and Jaswant Thada, a centoph in Jodhpur built in 1899.
After the Taj Mahal, where we spent the whole morning taking in every magical moment we headed back to our hotel, for some much needed relaxation and sunbathing by the pool. It was so nice to finally do nothing.
That evening we had to catch our train to Udaipur. However, when we got to the station we discovered once again that the protests hadn’t stopped and all the trains were still all cancelled. We really were truly stuck, as Udaipur was an 11 hour train ride away we had no idea how we were going to get there. After exploring all options and some well sort after advice from the locals, our best bet was to catch the bus. Little did we know this bus would take well over 16 hours to reach our destination. The bus was dirty, dusty and fully cramped with people and luggage laying practically anyway there was a space.There were literally people sleeping on the floor so everyone had to step on them to get past.There was no toilet facilities either, so it was legs crossed all the way. Three of us had a sleeper bed to share and the other who was suffering from the horrid delhi belly was sat squashed with a family on another sleeper bed. Luckily a very kind man looked after her and kept her company.At first we laughed about it and amused ourselves for part of the journey, but the second half proved to be a lot more arduous as tiredness and hungar set in. It felt like we were on that bus for a week it simply took forever.
When we did eventually arrive we were exhausted, filthy and bedraggled. It was still quite early in the morning and we only had one day in Udaipur, which was probably one of our biggest regrets as not only were we extremley fatigued but Udaipur was possibly one of the most beautiful places I had ever been. It almost felt like we were in the mediterranean, our hotel over looking the Lake Pichola, which resembled the beautiful lakes of Italy. It was such a welcome surprise and one place I really would like to go back and re-explore properly.
With the remaining hours we visited the City Palace and The Jagdish Temple and took in the film location of the bond film Octopussy.
Never in my life time did I ever think I would be getting up at 5am to see the sunrise at the Taj Mahal. It was a real struggle trying to wake up at that time, especially after all the travelling we had done in such a short time. But oh my god was it worth it. Nothing can compare you for that first glimpse as you walk under the archway, it literally takes your breath away. As the sun rose on the white marble mausolueum you could actually see it sparkle and glisten. It really was magical. I did take ten million pictures but here is a small selection of my favourites.
So our next destination, which we were enourmously excited about, was to Agra. We were finally off to see the Taj Mahal. Eeeeekkkkk!!!!
Unfortunately, our trip didn’t get off to a good start when we were told there was news of protests throughout Rajasthan resulting in all the trains being cancelled. After much waiting around and debate the easier option was to take a taxi there. This actually ended being quite fun, well despite the moody driver who hated us.The drive though allowed us to see monkeys which climbed all over the car, and beautiful painted elephants just casually being rode down the street. It was spectatular. As we had decided that the next day would be dedicated to visiting the Taj Mahal, we would spend the afternoon visiting a few other tourist spots. These included the Agra Fort, a historical fort built in the 16th Century, also known as The Red Fort due to the red sandstone with which it is built. Here we were able to glimpse our first sighting of the Taj Mahal in the distance. We also visited Tomb of i’timād-ud-daulah which is a mughal mausoleum often described as ‘jewel-box’, it reminded me of a mini Taj, but I later read it is often regarded as a draft of the Taj Mahal. Then to finish the day just as the sun was setting and you get that nice warm glow on everything, we went to Mehtab Bagh, which were the gardens overlooking the Taj Mahal and where we got to see the back view of it.It was such a breathtaking moment. It was peaceful there and as there were hardly any tourists around at that time of day it really was a special moment for the four of us to enjoy. We had finally reached our destination.