Lacock Abbey and grounds

It was a photo tour of Lacock abbey, by Clare at Suitcases and Sandcastles, that inspired me to add the abbey to the list of places I planned to visit during my trip to England last year.

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Lacock abbey has a very fascinating history. Ela, the Countess of Salisbury, was a wealthy heiress who became the countess suo jure or in her own right, and not by marriage, in 1196. She did marry that same year, at the age of 9, and her husband became the Earl of Salisbury by marriage. A few years after her husband’s death, Ela founded Lacock Abbey in 1229 and laid its first stone in 1232. She joined the abbey as a nun in 1238 and became its first Abbess in 1242. To ensure that the village around the abbey thrived, she obtained a charter from the King which allowed a weekly market to be held in Lacock.

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During the dissolution of the monasteries, Sir William Sharington bought the abbey and converted it into a house in the mid 16th century. Despite the demolition and construction work that took place, the cloisters remained as it was in Ela’s time. The Abbey soon passed into the Talbot family, when Sharington’s niece, to whom the property was willed, married John Talbot. In the mid 18th century, the house underwent alterations in the Gothic revival style.

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The abbey was gifted to the National Trust in 1944 by Matilda Gilchrist-Clark, who inherited it from her uncle Henry Talbot, the son of William Henry Fox Talbot, who contributed to the history of photography by developing the photographic negative process. A museum on photography is housed at the barn at the abbey gates and you can see the copy of the world’s first negative taken by Talbot in 1835 here. The negative is of a window at Lacock Abbey.

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My visit to the Abbey was in winter and so only the cloisters and the grounds was open to visitors, and not the house. However, as my primary fascination about the place was centered around its medieval history, it worked out well for me.

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The entrance to the cloisters was adorned with Christmas decorations and the staff were at work decorating the passageways, as I explored it.

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The Chapter House is a section of the cloisters, which has been well preserved. This room was where the nuns gathered every day and read a chapter from the Rule of St. Benedict for Benedictines and Cistercians.

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If not for Septimus, the kid’s guide to the cloisters, urging one to watch out for the creatures that came alive at night, I might have missed out a closer look of the ceiling bosses. I spotted the swan but not the seahorse or the mermaid. It would have been fun had the adult’s guide also included ‘spot the object’ games.

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The niche in the wall, which once held books, was also interesting. Since books were very expensive during the Middle ages, they were often locked or chained to the shelves.

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The warming house was one of two places at the abbey, which had a fireplace. Visitors were therefore shown to this room, after being received in the parlour. The nuns’ dormitory was above this room so that the warmth from the room would reach them. The huge cauldron, dated 1500, was originally a cooking cauldron before becoming a garden ornament in the 18th century.

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With the quiet surrounding the cloisters, it was very easy to imagine how it must have been like during the time that the nuns were in residence at the abbey.

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Emerging from the cloisters, I decided to walk around the abbey grounds, circling the abbey. The grounds were well maintained and a beautiful place to walk around.

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I passed a deep and still pool, as I walked along the grounds carpeted with the fallen leaves.

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The Rockworks was a mid 18th century creation, built as a mock ruin for those walking the grounds to come upon.

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Other highlights of the abbey grounds was the rose garden, the botanic gardens and the kitchen gardens. The kitchen gardens were used, since the time of the nuns, to produce food for the abbey residents. The botanic gardens were a special endeavour of Henry Fox Talbot, who was a keen botanist in addition to being a keen photographer.

Walking back to the entrance gate, I stepped into the Fox Talbot museum, which was opened in 1975 in the barn, used as stables in the 16th century. The ground floor gallery showcases the history of photography, while the first floor displays temporary photography exhibitions.

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Henry Talbot became interested in photography when he became frustrated with his artistic efforts to capture the scenes he and his wife saw on their honeymoon travel across Europe in 1833. Returning to Lacock, he started thinking about how the image reflected onto ground glass from a camera lucida could be permanently captured, without having to trace its outlines. His chemistry experiments led him to develop light sensitive papers which could be used to leave contact prints of opaque objects, which he called sciagraphs. It was in 1835 that his experiments of using sensitive coated paper and a modified camera obscura led to the development of the world’s first negative. However, he did not publish his results and in 1839, Louis Daguerre announced his independent findings and came to be known as the father of photography.

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While I had heard of a daguerrotype, which was the first commercially successful photographic process, I had not heard of the calotype, Talbot’s invention and modification of his earlier work in 1835, and which he had patented in 1841. So, it was with interest that I explored the Fox Talbot museum in Lacock.

The Lacock Abbey has certainly had a very interesting history from its medieval beginning as an abbey for nuns and then as a site for early photography experiments.

What features of Lacock Abbey is of most interest to you? 

[Linking this post to Wanderful Wednesday and Faraway Files #18]

Wandering along Maunsel Lock

If you are visiting Taunton in Somerset county, a nearby place to visit on a sunny day would be the Maunsel Lock. After my visit to the Taunton castle museum, my sister and I decided to visit the Maunsel Lock area and walk along the canal path. There is a car park near the lock and it is a great place to start one’s walk along the Bridgwater and Taunton canal.

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In its heydays, the lock was busy with boats carrying trade from and to the Bridgwater docks.

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The canal is recommended for canoeing enthusiasts. The British Canoeing organization, UK’s national governing body for paddle sports, considers the Bridgwater and Taunton canal route UK’s best kept canoeing secret and recommends an 8 mile trail that starts and finishes at Maunsel lock.

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Those who want to walk a specific trail can have fun trying out the Somerset Space Walk, which opened in 1997. The Space walk is a sculpture trail model of the solar system, using the towpath of the Taunton and Bridgwater canal, with the walk  starting at the sun model at the Maunsel lock. My sister and I simply chose to go for a short walk along the Maunsel lock area, stretching our legs after being indoors at the museum all morning.

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The Bridgwater and Taunton canal opened in 1827 and links River Tone to River Parrett. A fascinating aspect of the canal is that the locals have set up a volunteer wardens scheme to look after their canal and my walk along a key part of it showed me the well maintained and peaceful towpath.

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While the canal is recommended for wild life such as kingfishers and dragonflies, I spotted a couple of swans fishing for their food.

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I enjoyed the relaxing walk along the quiet towpath, taking in the fresh country air, despite its proximity to the bustling town of Taunton.

Have you explored some of UK’s 2000 miles of canal network? 

Do check out Untold Morsel’s exploration of the London canals and A family day out’s experience of the highest aqueduct in the UK, for more inspiring canal trails.

[I am linking this post to Wanderful Wednesday and Faraway Files #16]
Wanderful Wednesday

Suitcases and Sandcastles

Loving Welsh Food Tour

I was interested in trying out some traditional Welsh food and was searching for food tours in Cardiff when I came across Sian Roberts’ Loving Welsh Food  tasting tour. The tasting tour turned out to be the best introduction to Welsh food and Cardiff.

I met Sian at Cardiff castle, where she gave me a brief introduction to the history of the castle. She mentioned that after the castle had been gifted, by the Bute family, to the people of Cardiff in 1947, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (formerly the Cardiff College of Music) had functioned at the castle for 25 years.

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William Burges’ clock tower

We walked past the animal wall where I tried to spot which animals were the original and the relatively newly sculptured animals. We stopped at Pettigrew tea rooms, which was the former gate house of the castle.

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There, we had a lovely Welsh tea with a slice of Bara brith and a Welsh cake. Bara brith is a mix between a bread and a spiced fruit cake, where the dried fruit is soaked in tea and then mixed into the bread dough together with the spices.  I enjoyed my slice of Bara brith with a little butter, which was a perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of tea.

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I also tried out a little of the Welsh cake, which is cooked over a griddle or flat pan. I found the sweet Welsh cake very filling and quite a meal in itself.

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While enjoying our tea at Pettigrew tea rooms, Sian and I discussed our walking route and agreed that we would skip parts of it to make it easier for my legs. So we next made our way to the Castle Arcades, part of the Castle Quarter arcades opened in the late 19th century, which houses shops and restaurants and Sian pointed out some interesting cafes and shops, like the Science Cream shop which is the first liquid nitrogen ice cream parlour in Wales.

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We walked along the Hayes, one of Cardiff’s historic shopping streets and where the Cardiff story museum is located at the old library. I did revisit the museum at the end of the food tour and found that it was an interactive, little museum mostly geared towards children.

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Old Library entrance to the Cardiff Story museum

Our next stop was at Wally’s located in the Royal arcade, which runs from The Hayes to St. Mary’s Street. I was treated to a tasting of continental charcuterie and Welsh cheeses, together with a brief history of the deli. The deli had been started by Walter (Wally) Salamon in 1981. Wally was the son of an Austrian immigrant, who had opened up a delicatessen on Bridge street in 1947, and which Wally and his brother ran till they sold the place. Wally then opened up Wally’s at the Royal Arcades and the deli is now owned by his son.

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From Wally’s we walked back to St. Mary’s street and to The Cottage, one of the oldest pubs in Wales built in 18th century, now owned by Brains, a regional brewery started in 1882 by S.A. Brain with the financial backing of his uncle, J.B. Brain.

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I don’t like beer generally but I quite liked Bragging Rights, an ancient Welsh style brew which has honey, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, cloves etc. blended in and a festive taste appropriate for the Christmas season.

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From The Cottage, we made our way to Cardiff market, a Victorian indoor market opened in 1891.

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Our first stop at the market was at Ashton’s Fishmongers, which is one of the oldest limited companies in Cardiff and which has changed hands only twice in 200 years.

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Sian prepared a delicious snack with oatmeal biscuits slathered with laverbread and topped with cockles. Laverbread has nothing to do with bread as suggested by its name but is a Welsh delicacy made of boiled seaweed. It was a Welsh breakfast staple in the 19th century and served with cockles but is more of a delicacy now.

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From Ashton’s, we made our way to the Market Deli owned by Andrew Griffiths and Geoff Beer.

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As I was not adventurous enough to try the traditional Welsh faggots, Andrew offered me a choice of chicken curry rice. I tried out their Chicken bhoona, which was well spiced.

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Our last stop of the tasting tour was at Bar 44, a tapas bar owned by brothers Tom and Owen Morgan. The delicious cava with handmade chocolate truffles was a delightful end to the lovely Welsh food tasting tour.

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What I enjoyed most about Sian’s Welsh food tasting tour, in addition to the opportunity of trying out traditional Welsh food and learning about its origins, is the showcasing of local, independently run businesses.

Sian Roberts, the host of Loving Welsh Food TV series on Made in Cardiff, also runs the Cardiff Gourmet Safari, Welshcakes and Wine and Castles and Cuisine food tours.

Diolch yn fawr, Sian, for the wonderful food tasting tour and the Welsh recipe DVDs!

Disclaimer: Sian Roberts kindly gave me a complimentary private tour of the Loving Welsh Food tasting tour, for the purpose of this post. All opinions expressed are my own and I only recommend experiences which I have enjoyed. 

[I am linking this post to Wanderful Wednesday and Faraway Files #11]
Wanderful Wednesday

Suitcases and Sandcastles

En-route to Agra

My mother and I left Delhi after breakfast. We passed by roads waking up to a fresh day. Barbers shaving heads of clients on chairs set up under trees, street food sellers cooking up breakfast on their mobile carts, locals eating by the cart before rushing off to attend to their day’s work.

At my request, the tour operator had agreed to make a detour on the way to Agra so that we could visit Mathura and Vrindavan. Both places are revered among Hindus as the place of birth of Lord Krishna and the place where he grew up. Passing Radhapuram, we came across lots of cows lazily sitting along the sides of the road. My mother was highly pleased as Krishna was said to have grown among cow herders, according to myth.

We were approaching Vrindavan when Dev, our driver, warned us to keep our doors locked. The road was blocked and we saw a small tax booth. Dev lowered his window to pay the toll fee. Immediately, people swarmed the window and started offering us their services as guide around Vrindavan. Dev responded saying that we did not understand Hindi but they switched to broken English. It was frightening, especially, when some of the more aggressive ones tried to open the doors of the car on both sides. They refused to open the gates without taking one of their guides with us. Finally, Dev shouted back at them and asked whether they were going to accept the toll fee or not and one of them accepted the money and returned a ticket and another opened the gate for us to pass. As we passed through, we saw that one of the local guides was following us on his motorbike.

Vrindavan was awash with temples for Lord Krishna and almost every place was called Krishna something and local residents seemed to depend on Krishna tourism for their living. Before stopping at a temple, which Dev referred to as the main Krishna temple, we discussed a strategy to avoid the hordes of aggressive guides and vendors swarming the place. We would be dropped right at the entrance so that we could go directly into the temple and we agreed we would be at the entrance in exactly fifteen minutes so that Dev could pick us up at the entrance again.

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The ISKCON temple was a lovely place but rather crowded that day since there was a special puja – the Govardhan puja for Krishna taking place. We queued to go in to the temple shrine area and passed a courtyard, where a section had been cordoned off and offerings of sweets shaped in lovely designs adorned the middle. We saw kids hanging around the edges of the cordoned off area, looking longingly at the sweets, which would probably be given them at the end of the puja as prasadham.

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We could not stand long in one place as there was a massive crowd making their way in and the area where people could sit was already packed so we had to keep moving with the queue and leave the puja area. We saw our driver waiting for us and quickly got into the car. At the gates which led out of Vrindavan, we were again stopped by the local guide on the motorbike, who demanded our driver to give him his name and mobile number. Our driver confidently gave his name and number, to our surprise. The local was satisfied and let us pass through. We asked Dev why he had done that and wouldn’t he be troubled thereafter by that particular guide. He smiled and replied, ‘Correct name, wrong number. He is happy, so no harm.’

Next, we went to Mathura city, to the place where Krishna was said to have been born. An ancient temple, Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi temple, is said to have been built over the prison cell where Krishna was born. However, the temple was subsequently destroyed and rebuilt several times. We were disappointed when we saw the long queue snaking its way around the temple. There must have been over thousand in the queue. We decided we did not want to stand in the queue in the blistering heat and instead would drive around the temple before continuing to Agra.

While we did not visit the oldest Krishna temple in Vrindavan nor the temple at the supposed place of Krishna’s birth in Mathura, my mother was still happy that we visited the area of so many Hindu religious stories as well as folklore. Even though the toll booth harassment at Vrindavan was not pleasant and somewhat scary.

Have you had experiences of being harassed when visiting a famous tourist or pilgrimage site? 

To be continued in Agra

[I am linking this post to Wanderful Wednesday and Weekend Travel Inspiration]
Wanderful Wednesday

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Special Six: Memories of Delhi

It was ten years ago that I first visited Delhi. The trip was a celebration of sorts for having survived a very stressful year. I had convinced my mother, who had also had an equally stressful year albeit for different reasons, to accompany me. Perhaps because this was the first multi-day holiday trip that my mother and I were taking without any other family members and perhaps because it really felt like we were celebrating overcoming adversity, this trip remains my favourite travel memory. We enjoyed doing all the touristy things that the first time visitor to north India, on a package tour, would do on their travel around the Golden Triangle. This is the first of a series of posts on my Golden Triangle trip memories, starting with my favourite six from our time in Delhi.

  1. Staying at Hotel Broadway

The tour operator had booked us at Hotel Broadway situated on a dusty and tired looking road close to Delhi gate. The hotel did not look promising on the outside but the room that we checked into turned out to be a delight. Room number 46, was decorated by Paris-based artist Catherine Lévy, and was such a fun, eclectic and quirky room to be in. A blue sofa with red and yellow birds stitched on it was placed at one end of the room, with a low table from a nursery serving as the coffee table. I enjoyed writing in my travel journal each morning at the writing desk, which was a table generally found in canteens, and sitting in a revolving chair that was probably from a barber’s shop. The small radio fitted into the wall above the writing desk had strobe lights fitted on. I also liked the bedside lamps, which were an optician’s rectangular eye testing lamps, with the alphabets on its screens. The bathroom had a travel theme and it was covered with blue tiles and each tile with a picture of a different place from around the world. My favourite though was the ceiling fan, which would measure your luck each time you switched off the fan. We loved staying in this room and were disappointed when we were not given the same room at the end of our tour as well.

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2. The ‘do rupiah’ kahani/ story

My mother and I discovered that the Delhi gate bazaar was just next door on our first evening in the city and we decided to explore the maze of tiny crowded and colourful streets filled with bright-coloured clothes, sweet shops filled with fly-ridden sweets, food carts selling pani puri, odds and ends shops selling gifts and souvenirs etc. My mother asked me if I had any small change and I gave her the ten rupee note that I had on me.

When I gave her the ten rupee note, she was like a child with her first ten rupee note at her first carnival. She happily bought an incense stick box and a packet of chips and was left with a 2 rupee coin, which she was determined to spend at the bazaar. We were walking further down the bazaar, when we saw an apple cart and she decided to spend her 2 rupee coin buying an apple. The apple-seller said that one apple was 3 rupees and she said ‘nahi, do rupees’. She was looking at an apple, when she suddenly started rooting through the apples on one corner of the cart. I was getting a bit worried and embarrassed because the cart owner started grumbling about it. She finally exclaimed gleefully as she picked up her two rupee coin, which I then realized had fallen into the cart.

I have always marveled at my mother’s ability to tap into her inner child and experience the moment with a child’s carefree and happy attitude. Especially even amidst painful life experiences. Being of a more serious disposition, I didn’t always appreciate this attitude especially during my teen years. However, I have learnt to value and treasure such moments with my mother.

3. Visit to Raj Ghat

During our first morning in Delhi, the guide who was a student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, discussed the suggested itinerary for the day with us and asked if we had specific places we wanted to visit. I expressed an interest in paying our respects at Raj Ghat so that is where we went first.

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We bought some marigold flowers from the flower seller at the entrance and walked through the peaceful park to the memorial. The place where Mahatma Gandhi had been cremated, on 31st January 1948 on the banks of Yamuna river, had a marble platform and a burning lamp at one end.

As we drove away from Raj Ghat, I noticed the road was lined with memorials of cremation places of other Indian leaders like the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru.

4. A quick glimpse of India Gate

Having watched the republic day parades of India on TV, while living in Madras for a couple of years as a child, I had to stop by India Gate on our drive around Delhi.

Designed by Edwin Lutyens, India Gate is a war memorial to the 82,000 Indian soldiers who died during the first world war. The canopy behind India Gate once had the statue of King George V, but was subsequently removed.

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From India Gate, one could see Rashtrapati Bhawan, the President’s house, and the Parliament House. We were told that both the President’s palace and India Gate were built in perfect alignment and that they were of the same height of 42.5m. The Parliament house were two identical buildings on either side of the road leading to the President’s palace. I liked the symmetry of Lutyens’ design of the administrative centre of New Delhi.

5. Lotus Temple, the Baha’i house of worship

The Lotus temple was a pleasant surprise to my mother and I. What we liked most about the temple, considered the mother temple of those of Baha’i faith, was that not only was it open to people of all faiths, who were free to read scriptures of any faith within the temple, it was forbidden to have any sermons or ritualistic ceremonies within the temple. Everyone was asked to be silent within the temple premises. It made a huge impression on me.

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6. Exploring Qutb Minar

Of all the ancient monuments and buildings we visited in Delhi on this trip, the one that made the most impression on me was the aesthetically pleasing Qutb Minar. It was simply a beautiful masterpiece. The Qutb Minar was built upon the ruins of the old city, with the foundation laid by Qutb al-din-Aibak, the founder of the Delhi sultanate in the 13th century. However, it was only completed by his successor after his death.

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Qutb Minar and the Alai Darwaza gate

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Ala-ud-din Khilji started the construction of the Alai Minar in early 14th century, as he wanted to build a monument that rivalled Qutb Minar. However, he died before the first storey was completed and work on the monument was discontinued.

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Alai Minar

The iron pillar with its Sanskrit inscriptions was brought from its original place to the site during the building of the Qutb Minar complex. Some of the translations indicate that the pillar was raised for Vishnu to celebrate the victory of a King in the 4th century.

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Iron pillar

The UNESCO heritage site is impressive and it was interesting to see features of the older city peeping out of this ancient monument complex.

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Since that first visit to Delhi, I have visited a few times and explored the city more. While several of my Indian friends seem to prefer other Indian cities over Delhi, I continue to find the city fascinating.

I would highly recommend reading Khuswant Singh’s Delhi for those who have visited or are interested in visiting Delhi.

Have you visited Delhi? Which experience do you treasure most from your first visit to the capital of India?

[I am linking this post to Wanderful WednesdayFaraway Files #4Weekend Travel Inspiration and The Weekly Postcard]
Wanderful Wednesday

Untold Morsels
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 Travel Notes & Beyond

A morning walk in Edinburgh

I had planned to have a full weekend in Edinburgh but unfortunately, having missed the train I had booked months in advance, I had to take the coach from London. Buying a train ticket on the day of travel in the UK can be incredibly expensive, as I found out that day. This meant that I spent Saturday on the road, reaching the city only in the evening. I was too tired to go out for one of the Edinburgh jazz and blues festival events taking place around the city that week.

So, my experience of Edinburgh was the early morning walk I took on a Sunday morning in July last year. Given that I was out early, there was hardly anyone on the road and despite the heavily overcast skies and the occasional drizzle, I enjoyed my walk in solitude.

I started at Greyfriars Bobby as I wanted to start my walk from this special place, which happened to be close to where I was staying at Grassmarket. The story of the little Skye terrier who sat guarding his owner John Gray’s grave for 14 years had touched me and I had wanted to visit the little fellow’s grave. I first came across the statue at a water fountain in front of the pub named after the dog. I walked into the church and came across the grave of Bobby at the entrance and quite near the grave of John Gray.

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Statue of Greyfriars Bobby

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Grave of Greyfriars Bobby at the entrance of the church

I walked over George IV bridge and onto High Street, part of the streets that make up the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace. While St. Giles’ Cathedral considered Edinburgh’s principal place of worship for centuries was closed at that time in the morning, I did revisit later in the morning for the choir. The statue of Adam Smith, the pioneer of political economy and the author of the seminal work ‘The Wealth of Nations’, was close to the cathedral.

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Statue of Adam Smith, Father of modern Economics

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St Giles Cathedral

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Along the Royal Mile

At the end of the Royal mile, opposite Holyrood Palace, I came across the new Scottish parliament building inaugurated in 2004.

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New Scottish Parliament with Arthur’s Seat in the background

I walked a little bit along the slopes of Holyrood park before I decided to turn back as the paths were becoming more slippery and my legs were beginning to protest.

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View, from Holyrood Park, of Holyrood palace and Colton Hill in the distance

I decided to walk back along Cowgate road, which was the street along which cattle were herded along during market days in medieval times. It was along this stretch of road that I passed this narrow street called Old Fishmarket Close. I had read about the interesting story of Maggie Dickson, a famous resident of this close, in the Scotland Magazine. Maggie was a fish hawker who had lived on this street. She had been tried in 1742 under the absurd Concealment of Pregnancy Act of 1690, for having tried to conceal her pregnancy, and sentenced to death. Though the doctor declared her dead after her hanging, moans were heard from her coffin as she was taken to the graveyard. She was allowed to live as her recovery was seen as an act of God.

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Old Fish Market Close

Later in the morning, after breakfast, I decided to head towards the Scottish National Gallery and browsed through the collection. While I was enjoying my coffee on the terrace after finishing my tour of the gallery, I noticed that the monument to Sir Walter Scott was just close by. So, I walked up to the Gothic structure. I think I climbed up to the third level but not all 287 steps to the top and fourth level, as my fear of heights was beginning to kick in.

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Edinburgh Castle

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View from Scottish National Gallery

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Scott Monument

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View of National Gallery from the Scott Monument

I  had also wanted to visit the Scottish Storytelling Center, which had caught my eye, during my earlier morning walk. The bookshop of the center was open and I enjoyed going through the Scottish themed books. The Storytelling Center is an arts venue, which also hosts the International Storytelling Festival in October.

All too soon it was time for me to head towards Edinburgh Waverly Station for my return trip to London and not wanting to miss my train again, I made it to the station with lots of time to spare.

Hope you enjoyed the morning walk around Edinburgh with me!

Have you visited Edinburgh? What was your favourite experience of the city?

[I am linking this post to Wanderful Wednesday and City Tripping #50]
Wanderful Wednesday

MummyTravels

Special Six: Shangri-La Experiences

Shangri-La city, in northwestern Yunnan province, is considered to be the inspiration for James Hilton’s novel ‘Lost Horizon’ so much so that the official Chinese name of Zhongdian was changed in 2001 to Shangri-La. The city’s traditional Tibetan name is Gyalthang or Royal Plains. I had the privilege of visiting this beautiful city at the foot of the Himalayas, for a few days, with half my APLP cohort in 2012. It was tragic to hear that a devastating fire destroyed most of the historic old town of Dukezong in 2014. The place has been rebuilt and while I haven’t visited the city since the fire, I did check whether some of my favourite places survived the fire.

My experience of Shangri-La was special and the following are six experiences I recommend to the traveler to this city.

  1. Early morning walk to temple

This was my favourite part of my stay in Shangri-La.

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Taku turning the wheel of the golden temple, photo credit: Mami Sato

2. Visit to Shangri-La Thangka Academy

The Thangka academy is a place where aspiring artists are trained in the traditional Thangka art. It is a wonderful experience to visit the center, and learn of the years of training that the artist goes through as well as see how the colours are mixed etc. There is a shop attached to the center, where you can buy local handicrafts including Thangka artwork.

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3. A Hike to the 100 chicken temple

This temple apparently received its name from the chickens roaming around, though I didn’t seen any chickens on the afternoon I visited. It is a short hike but has steep inclines, which can be a bit difficult for those with mobility issues especially when combined with the change in altitude from Beijing to Shangri-La. I did make it to the temple at the top but when the group decided to go on a further hike through some woods, I decided to turn back with my room-mate and we went back into the old town for some tea.

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Photo credit: Mami Sato

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Photo credit: Mami Sato

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Photo credit: Mami Sato

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Taking a break and enjoying the blue trumpet gentian flowers, photo credit: Mami Sato

4. A visit to the Songzanlin Monastery

I was too tired to go on the third hike, which was a longer one. The photos, taken by those who went to the Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, also known as Songzanlin Monastery, were amazing. I would highly recommend visiting the Tibetan Buddhist monastery, founded by the 5th Dalai Lama in 1679, which is the largest in Yunnan province.

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Photo credit: Mami Sato

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Photo credit: Mami Sato

Songzanlin Monastery 2

Photo credit: Mami Sato

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Photo credit: Mami Sato

5. Stay at Karma Cafe and Lodge.

Our group was split up to stay at three guesthouses. I was delighted that I had the opportunity of staying at this traditional Tibetan house, which had lovely gathering places on the first floor. The verandah space, where breakfast was served, had great views of the temple and the indoor gathering space around the fire place was really cosy. The restaurant also served great local food.

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Photo credit: Mami Sato

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Photo credit: Mami Sato

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6. Eating at Tara Gallery cafe and bar

We had a couple of meals here and enjoyed the fusion of Indian, Yunnan and Tibetan food.

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Photo credit: Mami Sato

The old town is a lovely area, with its narrow streets, and where vehicles are not allowed. Though the shops are targeted at tourists, they are fun to explore. The Yunnan Mountain Heritage Foundation‘s Handicraft center, at the edge of the square and away from the tourist centre, is a non-profit organization that supports local cultural heritage, handicrafts and eco-tourism in Diqing prefecture and is worth visiting.

Shangri-La is also a great base for mountain hikes and treks, especially for those interested in going on the old tea horse trails. Do read Jeff Fuch’s The Ancient Tea Horse Road before going on one of the old tea horse road treks.

Hope you enjoyed the photo series of my recommended special six experiences in Shangri-La! Which of these experiences would you enjoy?

[I am linking this post to Wanderful Wednesday, hosted by Lauren on Location, Snow in TromsoThe Sunny Side of This and What a Wonderful World; and

the newly started Faraway Files, hosted by Untold Morsels, Oregon Girl around the world and Suitcases and Sandcastles]

Wanderful Wednesday

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