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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A European Odyssey


The excitement of travel to new land and with family to accompany for the first time is never easy to express. An invitation to attend a conference where the family could be a part of entourage was something which was godsend at a time when the school of my daughter had closed for summer vacation .

It was hot even at 2 AM in the morning in the month of May as we took a cab to IGI airport, Delhi.  The  Royal Jordanian flight headed westwards sharp at  6.30 AM as the huge ball of sun was casting its magic glow over the horizon. The flight reached Amman at 10 AM the local time.

We spent time going around the duty free shops at the Queen Alia International Airport to kill time before boarding another connecting flight to Amsterdam. Once more the flight took off in afternoon and reached there as the sun was setting. The temperature outside was 18 degrees . The massive Schipol airport greeted us as we descended to the metro station through a maze of escalators and purchased the tickets to ,The Hague. It is the third largest city by the North Sea. The train zipped passed the lush green fields and within half an hour we reached there. The hotel was a short ride from the station. The driver reminded us not to eat in the taxi. The hotel had grandeur of a palace and looked imposing amidst picturesque surroundings. The beach promenade adjacent to the hotel and was bustling with activity on the weekend. The chilly winds greeted us as we walked along the beach front. The sun was still shining though it was almost 10 PM. Our room overlooked a Casino where a steady stream of visitors continued to pour in. At night I woke up with start on hearing noise of crowds and breaking of glass! As I looked out of the window, I saw more than 50 people on the street who were drunk and were making merry. The laser beams were illuminating the sky as the revelry continued
At Madurodam,The Hague

Next morning we walked into the hotel restaurant for our breakfast. After a hearty breakfast we headed for Madurodam. The place is also known as Mini Holland where one can see all the miniatures of the buildings in Holland in ratio 1: 25.One can see the beautiful canals, the windmills, the floating ships, traditional cheese making, port of Rotterdam and also a full scale model of Schipol Airport complete with aircrafts and runway! This is one place which is ‘must visit’ to get to know about full Netherlands in a few hours. One should not forget to see the ‘sand museum’ which is unique.

Our next halt was Rotterdam, where we landed in train by mistake! Instead of boarding the train to Amsterdam, we took one in opposite direction to Rotterdam and fortunately, we were not checked en route otherwise we would have ended up paying fine for boarding a wrong train. Rotterdam is the second largest city in Holland and one of the busiest ports in the world. After hanging around the port area for a while we walked into a pizzeria and enjoyed the nice pizza. We took a train back to Amsterdam and arrived at the Central Station. As we stepped out we were greeted by the sight of ferries plying in river Amstel, the trams scurrying around and generally a very festive atmosphere. The water in the canals is changed 5 times a week to keep it sparkling clean. A canal cruise followed which took about an hour. This gave us a glimpse of Amsterdam city and the major landmarks, big warehouses, bell shaped arches of buildings, old church spires and canals. Later we took a tram trip to the far end of the city enjoying the sights as, the cyclists thronged the specially constructed ‘cycle ways’. We kept hopping into trams to see the life in this busy city and get the pulse of the place and appreciate the way of life. We finally returned back to our hotel around 8 PM after a full day of merry making.

Next morning was a day for boat cruise. We stopped by a windmill which was tied. We were told that the blades of the windmill are tied when there is a new born or a marriage in the family. We stopped by a small hamlet where many traditional items were on sale. We had some delicious coffee and apple pie from the local vendors. The boat cruise offered a magnificent view of the country side with traditional houses, big farm lands, windmills and huge cows. The bright and sunny day made the trip even more enjoyable. After about an hour long ride we reached Amsterdam and went to the local wineries to taste the brew. On our way back to The Hague we passed by Delft, which is known for the pottery and crockery. There was a traffic jam so after a crawl in the traffic for 45 minutes we reached the hotel and retired for the day

After a busy day in meetings and conference, I was ready for the evening. We cajoled our daughter to stay back in the hotel as there was a dinner party arranged in a restaurant near the infamous Dam Street. The streets along the canals wore a festive look and this RLD  is unique. There were girls flashily dressed in skimpy clothes and were behind the glass partitions. Those interested would walk in and when the deal would be struck and the curtain would go down. We stopped by to see the wine sellers and were offered free drinks. Finally we reached the restaurant where on ordering the vegetarian menu was served fish! What a surprise! We were later told that fish is considered to be vegetarian, so we had to pick up some stewed vegetable and bread for the dinner.

We then took the bus to return to the hotel past midnight and were shocked to find our daughter crying in the foyer as we returned so late. She told us later that she had gone to meet Sharon, our coordinator and was informed that we were having a ‘gala time’. That had upset her even more. Feeling a little guilty, we finally consoled her and settled down to sleep

Next day we packed our bags and checked out of the hotel. We reached Amsterdam Central station and took an evening train to Antwerp, our next destination as we had purchased a four country pass by Eurail! It was a nice journey through the lovely landscape with a brief stopover at Rosenthal. We arrived in Antwerp at around 9.30 PM. Luckily we found a money changer close by and converted money in Belgian Francs (pre Euro days)

As I had not booked a hotel, we hunted for a short while before locating a hotel nearby. It was a nice comfortable hotel where we fell asleep soon after

Next morning we checked out of the hotel early and went out to see the city. Antwerp is very well maintained and Grote Market(Main Market), City Centre, Opera were some of the interesting places we saw. We took a stroll by the River Scheldt as the morning breeze swayed the nearby flowers gently. We sat near a fountain and enjoyed chocolate milk and croissants. There are innumerable shops selling handmade Belgian chocolates which were very alluring. We then stopped over at pizzeria where the hand tossed pizza and the garlic butter served with bread was one of the best we had tasted.

We returned to the Central station and boarded a train to Brussels in the afternoon. In 40 minutes we were in Brussels. We took a city tour and saw the major landmarks like St Michael Cathedral, the Grand Palace, and City Centre and passed by numerous antique shops and eateries. It was very fascinating to see the lace work which is done by the local craftsmen, involving intricate designs. We were also lucky to witness the Changing of Guards ceremony at the Grand Palace. We then looked for hotel and finally checked in La Bouche a hotel located in the heart of the city. It was owned by a Pakistani national. A nice clean hotel with a very small lift took us to our room. It had been an enjoyable day and we soon dozed off to sleep.
The Petrusse Express-Luxemborg

Next morning we got up early and after a breakfast we checked out of the hotel and took a bus to Namur. From here we took a train to Luxembourg. The city is an important member of EU and is on UN World Heritage List. There are some outstanding monuments like the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Palace, and History Museum. A one hour ride by the Petrusse Express with commentary about the history was a good experience to learn about the place. The city has a number of open air restaurants, and some mouthwatering bakeries. We had some nice pastries and ice-cream.
At the City Palace-Luxemborg

Later in the afternoon we once again boarded a train for Trier and then to Bonn and arrived in the city. Bonn is a sprawling city on the banks of River Rhine. After a little hunt we managed to find accommodation in at Venus Park. It was around 9.30 PM when we reached the place. The room was comfortable and had bunker beds. We had traveled through three countries starting from Belgium and ending up in Germany with a stopover at Luxembourg, in one day!

The morning light greeted another day and we got ready and reached the city centre. On the way we saw the Bonn University. In the town we visited Beethoven’s house where the entire life of the famous composer is depicted and his belongings are on display. The Old Town Hall and the streets were crowded and were very colorful. We also took a long bus ride to a nearby village and were awe struck by the picturesque surroundings and lovely flowers. We indulged in some small shopping including a CD of Beethoven’s music.

In the afternoon we boarded a train for return back to Amsterdam. The journey was uneventful and we passed through Cologne en route. It was dark by the time we arrived in Amsterdam. We boarded the Royal Jordanian flight to Amman from Schipol airport and arrived in Amman later in the evening. The next flight to Delhi left at night and we arrived back home as the dawn was breaking.

Although it has been many years but the memory of those moments of European whirlwind tour remains as fresh as dew drops settled on rose petals on a bright morning.


85 comments:

  1. I wish someone sends such an invite to me, a conference that too in Europe. Enjoyed reading the details of your trip. First trip with family is always special.

    Beautiful photos, which reminds me that I lost all our pictures in flood :(

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    1. Saru, I wish you get an invitation sooner than you imagine! Am sure you must have felt bad to loose your pictures in flood:(
      A nice comment from you made my day today!!

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  2. Again, I am the first one to comment :) Do I get any foreign trips for that? :P

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    1. Undoubtedly, you are the first one to grace this blog! I have already wished a foreign trip coming your and Alok's way!! Do let me know when you get the news:)

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    2. Not foreign but we're planning for Niagara (from US side) this summer. :)

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    3. So my wish just earned you a trip to Niagra! Do not forget to see from Canadian side too to get some lovely views and hop over to Toronto if you get time, Saru:)

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  3. I must compliment you on your fabulous memory! All these years and you can still recount your experience so vividly.

    Btw, Amsterdam and Brussels happen to be my favourite cities :-)

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    1. Thank you Purba for those words but somehow the trips have got embedded in my memory :) So happy that Amsterdam and Brussels happen to be your favorite destinations too!

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  4. A wonderful account of your trip

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    1. Thanks a lot Deepak for having liked the post:)

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  5. According to the pictures, your daughter is the perfect age to travel and remember about the trip. Visiting three countries in one day is incredible. It can happen either in Europe or South. east Asia.

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    1. Absolutely right Alka! My daughter vividly recollects those moments despite passage of time and these are one of trhe most cherished moments of our life:)Yeah, only in SE Asia and Europe you can visit different places in one day!!

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  6. Wow, I loved the trip. And having lived in the NL, I just love the country.

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    1. Rachna, am sure this post would have refreshed your memories of NL, a lovely country! Thanks a lot.

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  7. Hi,
    This is my first visit here.In fact I have been noticing you regularly on Rachan's blog.
    Enjoyed reading this post.However,it will take time to run through some more posts.

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    1. Welcome to my blog Mr Chawla and I am honored that you are following this humble blog! Not enough words to thank you!I would endeavor to write things that would keep your interest alive in my blog!

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  8. Lovely travelogue! The pictures are beautiful :) Your daughter is such must be such an angel to stay back. I would have made a big hue and cry about it and wouldn't have settled for anything less than an exclusive shopping extravaganza.

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    1. Ha ha Akanksha, that was such a sweet comment! I would'nt have disappointed you for shopping extravaganza if you were on the trip with us:) A big thanks!!

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  9. Awesomeeeeeee its like trip to Netherlands Superbbbbb :D loved it and the way you have described it and also the initial excitement and the description of the sun :D loved it, 3 countries in one day hahaha :D bf in one country, lunch in one and dinner in one!!! wah life ho to aisi! completely in love with your life ;)
    Beautiful pics of your happy happy family
    So so awesome I want to go to Netherlands toooooooooooooooo

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    1. Ramya, your comments push me harder to find things to write about, that would earn me such accolades:)How clever of you to suggest having bf in one country, lunch in another and dinner in yet another! Hope your life continues to get more exciting with every passing day!!Thank you and would give you tips for travel to NL next time:)

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  10. Although have been to only one city in netherlands, the post bought back some beautiful memories of my trip there. Also, it's nice to clips back from our past journeys. Lookisn at them itself brings back so many memories! Your travel stories are the best Rahul sir.Always look forward to them.

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    1. Jenny, your post on Amsterdam is still fresh in my mind and this is just a follow up from where you left:)I too love your comments and keep suggesting what you would like to read about in next posts ! A huge thanks for those words!!

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  11. Hi Rahul, your European excursion sounds like a grand and eventful adventure. Just reading your experiences brings these cities to life, the picture memories of your family are beautiful. Three cities in one day..now thats what I call a seasoned traveller!

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    1. Yeah it was an adventure of sorts and everything was totally unplanned when we had left India!!Maybe I would write a post of a trip where every destination was planned while sitting in train( crazy is'nt it) Thanks a lot for those encouraging words!!

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    2. Thanks for your kind comment... Have a wonderful weekend!

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    3. Have a lovely weekend and nice week ahead!

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  12. exploring new places is always an adventure

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    1. Very true Ruchi! Wish I could go around the world:)

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  13. wonderful place, with no worries about world..
    family What else we need :D

    Smiles.Nice read !!!

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    1. A worry less world is what we aspire for! So happy that the post made you smile, Jyoti:)

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  14. That is a lovely trip report. Lucky to take family along. Three countries in one single day- wonderful!

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  15. Very interesting description of your tour and Netherlands is not a commonplace for touring. I have heard that it is a beautiful place. How do you keep even small details in your memory? Do you jot them down on the day of the trip?

    It was new for us when we saw the sun at 7 pm in the UK. It was shining at 10 at night?!

    You have got a happy family, Rahulji! Nice.

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    1. I did jot down a few things but most of it is by memry which makes me travel back in time and reproduce the same as I felt, Sandhya! Readers like you make my day:) Thanks for that comment!

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  16. What a great description of your trip to Europe. I really must visit Amsterdam!

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    1. Thanks a lot, LadyFi! You can visit Amsterdam anytime as you literally live next door!

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  17. The memories remaining intact itself is a blessing and being able to share it with others in an interesting way is a gift, liked your narration a lot!

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    1. Padmaja am grateful to you for this kind appreciation!

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  18. Beautifully narrated travelogue... I also travel with your words.

    If more photo... It become more beautiful

    thanks

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    1. Thanks a lot Krishna! May be next time I would add ,ore pics

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  19. What a lucky trip-that too when your daughter had holidays.Looks like you had a lot of fun.

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  20. Lucky indeed and packed with fun , Indu!

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  21. Very nice reading. And cool with Luxembourg since I go there in March.
    Hope you have a good time:-)

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    1. Thanks a lot Tanya ! Hope you have a good time in Luxemborg

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  22. Hmmm...another trip..I wish I was your daughter :P heheh..btw, I started reading this post and always ended in the first para itself..I felt a bit bored on few lines..But as I kept reading, I lost myself travelling and imagining in all the cities you travelled. The word and name Amsterdam somehow makes me feel exotic all the time...Enjoyed it completely!! Belgium chocolates...I want some..now... :)

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    1. That was indeed a sweet comment Latha:)I would'nt mind adopting even now! Hope you see many more places!!

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  23. Wow! I had a voyeuristic journey of sorts. After all these years, you remember every detail so very vividly. I'm glad that you got to travel with your family -- a lovely memory to treasure and cherish.

    Joy always,
    Susan

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    1. That was indeed a very kind comment Susan and am happy you could induge in voyeuristic peek at the journey:)Thanks a lot!

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  24. Lovely description of the trip Sir. Loved reading every bit of it...
    I missed Holland in my Europe trip... maybe someday I too get a business meeting invite, no harm in dreaming. :) Your posts have a charm..

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    1. Thanks a lot Manjulika for liking the travel tale and your kind appreciation:) Wishing you a business invite soon, abroad!

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  25. Replies
    1. Thanks Francesca, I too am lucky to have her !

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  26. Enjoyed reading about your trip. The pictures are lovely. Looks like you love travelling to new and exotic locales.

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    1. Rachna, I just love traveling and my jobs ensured that my hobby gets become a part of my life:)Thanks a lot for liking!

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  27. This post didn't need pictures at all. Playing in my mind were a whole lot of images: of mini Holland, of windmills, European villages, churches and canals. Thank you for taking us along.
    Three countries in a day? That's a feather to your travel cap. :)

    It must be terrifying to hear the noise of breaking glass and all that in the middle of the night; that too when you're in another country, right?

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    1. Not enough words to thank you for all those words and what more could I ask for if I could take you to the destinations I went just through words!

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  28. Wonderful trip. So well narrated a post, reading it made me feel like as if I could see it with my own eyes. Seeing/visiting so many countries on one single day was great! lovely places.
    In fact, I always love visiting your space, but couldn't do so for sometime due to pressure of work. Now little relaxed to read my favourite blogs as well as write for my blog.

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    1. Ruprekha , I feel just the same visiting your blog but was disappointed not to find the new post coming for reasons of your busy schedule!Hope you will continue posting.A sincere thanks to you for liking this post and enjoying the narrative!!

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  29. I thought I was visiting the places myself. You narrate it so well, and the memories are so vivid even after many years!. Why wouldn't anyone invite me like this!

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    1. A big thanks for your kind comment and liking the post! I push my memory to recollect for the reward of reader like you who read it!

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  30. This is such a vivid description... thanks for taking us on a trip along with you!! :)

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    1. Thanks a lot Shilpa for that kind appreciation:)

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  31. Yes I have visited the miniature Netherlands years ago. It is a must.
    www.thoughtsofpaps.com

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    1. Am sure you too must have enjoyed, PAPS!

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  32. Since you mentioned European, I was looking for vivid descriptions of the countryside. But yea, the ferry boats there are supposed to be really good, I was told :-). Good that you did not go way beyond the point of getting lost in a new country. Nice experiences indeed :-)

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    1. It was a lovely trip and so comforting that someone else enjoys reading it too!

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  33. Nice old memories beautifully narrated.

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    1. Thanks a lot PN and good to see you again after a while:)

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  34. The last line just says it all - "... fresh as dew drops settled on rose petals on a bright morning... " And that is exactly how you conveyed it, fresh as a dew drop. Beautiful account, Rahul sir... your travel posts always get my feet itchy but at the same time I feel lucky to have seen it through your wonderful words :)

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    1. I just realized something was amiss till I saw this delightful comment from you Arti! Your comment is like an icing on the cake!! Thanks a lot:)

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  35. Dear Rahul,
    I loved your post on Samosas some time back. Here is Masala Dosa for you. http://paliakara.blogspot.in/2012/10/masala-dosa-indian-cusine.html

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  36. Oh you remember tha post on Samosa:)A big thanks and Dosa happens to be even a greater liking for me:)

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  37. Thanks for your visit, hope your week is going well and thanks to PN above for the link, would love to try to make Dosa!

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    1. That was awesome! Never knew you too could be tempted by Dosa, Sam:) Do let me know if you could manage to prepare! All the best and wish you have a nice week too!

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  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  39. What a great amazing,magical & exciting travel adventure Sir JI ! Laced with nice pics and riveting narration.

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    1. Oh! thanks a lot Rama, for enjoying this travel tale!

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  40. Fantastic narration, Rahul as always! Thanks for taking us on a trip along with you!! :)

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    1. Thank you Panchali, for having liked! A pleasure indeed to take you on trip through a post:)

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  41. I wonder how u remember in such minute detail! U probably always maintain a travel book!!! Lovely

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    1. Jerly, I did make some scrap notes but most of it plays like a movie in mind when I try to recreate in a post!Thanks a lot for those observations and liking:)

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