Just One Place
If time constraints forced you to choose
just one city in a country and just one place in that city, what would it be?
Here’s a quick guide to one set of special delights.
Photo: Sheila Kumar
Looming spires hallowed halls, cyclists
with their robes billowing in the balmy breeze- this is Oxford! Walking through
its cobbled lanes is the best way to ‘do’ the place. Visit the Ashmolean Museum
and the Bodleian Library; gawp at the ancient universities. Pop into the Alice
(yes, the Wonderland girl) memorabilia shop or just stop by a bridge with weeping willow ornamentation that stands over the
Cherwell River. Take in a play. And don’t
miss the Gargoyle Walk. Almost every building has statues of these creatures
poised atop balustrades and columns.
France/Paris/A Boat Ride Down the Seine
Photo: Sheila Kumar
Just the boat ride in a city famed for its many attractions? This one‘s a tough call but there’s something
about Paris as seen from the gray-green waters of the River Seine. On a sunny day, most of Paris comes to the river, stretching
out on the banks, reading, lovers canoodling, walking their dogs or fishing.
The Seine meanders through 32 ponts
(bridges). See the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) and Rive Droite (Right Bank), Notre
Dame, bookstalls, Isla de la Cite, Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre. If Paris is an
unforgettable feast for all the senses, the Seine is its main course.
Photo: Yaj Malik
Ride in a vaporetti, a motorized water boat, on the waters of the Laguna at
night when the Murano chandeliers send prisms of light through the open windows
of the palazzos, onto the glimmering waters of the Grand Canal and straight
into your heart. Walk in the footsteps of Citizen Casanova, visit the Rialto
Bridge, eat tiramisu and sip Prosecco (or grappa, if you are particularly
adventurous) in the small cafes. Gaze at the world’s most stylish open-air
drawing room, St. Mark’s Square.
White buildings glimmer atop the sapphire
waters of the Aegean, with an alluring blue sky is suspended above --- a dazzling
mix of austerity and opulence. Visit Delos for its villages that remind you of
Zorba the Greek. Park yourself at a tavern, sip ouzo, nibble on feta cheese and
journey back in time to a hedonistic civilization.
Australia/Sydney/ Darling Harbour
People who see the Harbour for the first
time wonder aloud at the possibility of immigrating to Sydney. If you are fit,
sign up (make your bookings online well in advance) for the three-hour walk
atop the bridge. Go for a cruise around it or sign up for the Harbour Circular
Walk. In the evening, sit at the Circular Quay, crack open some oysters and
gaze at Port Jackson, the Sydney Opera House and the stunning setting.
Australia/Melbourne/ Great Ocean Road
Photo: Sheila Kumar
Wondering why Oz rates another entry? It’s
because the Great Ocean Road is one of the most scenic routes ever. The road
hugs the cliff atop the coastline from Melbourne to Adelaide, and affords
breath-taking views of churning waters hitting the Shipwreck Coast, open Downs,
kangaroos, even a whale sighting if you are lucky. At Port Campbell are
spectacular rock formations, the London Bridge and the Twelve Apostles.
Thailand/ Wat Pa LuangtaBuaYannasampanno
Forest Monastery (Tiger Temple)
Big cats, well-fed, somnolent tigers, with
a Zen-like calm. Not surprising, as these felines are cared for by Buddhist
monks. The Tiger Temple, 200 kms west of Bangkok, is a full-fledged wild animal
rehabilitation centre and a tiger conservation project. Under the supervision
of trained volunteers, tourists can touch the tigers and have their pictures
taken with them.
Czech Republic/ Prague/ Charles Bridge
Sitting on the banks of the Vltava River, with the
Prague Castle in the background and picturesque bridges spanning the city,
Prague is gorgeous. See the Astronomical Clock, St. Vitus Cathedral and the
quirky Dancing House. Once the only way to go across the town, the Charles
Bridge is famous for its stunning views, Gothic towers and Baroque statuary
that lines the 516-m long, 10-m wide Bohemian sandstone structure.
China/Beijing/ The Great Wall
The Wall over the Forbidden City is the
world’s longest structure, almost 4,000 ft long, with 10,000 watchtowers,
demarcating Northern China from Inner Mongolia. Climb those steep steps,
arduous though it may be, for the sublime satisfaction you get when you reach the top.
Dubai/ Gold Souk
It’s a lot of gold for your dinar.
Filigreed earrings, necklaces, rings, pendants that run the gamut of patterns
and bracelets that range from wafer thin bangles to sturdy cuffs… all that
glitters here really is gold!
Africa/ Kenya Game Reserve
There really is nothing as soul- satisfying
as seeing wild game in the wild. At the Masai Mara Reserve, the open savannah
puts on a show featuring innumerable animals and birds, the tall, red-robed people of the
Masai tribe and striking rock formations. Don’t skip the ride in a hot air
Tibet/Lhasa/ Potala Palace
It rises proud and serene, and the
traveller who sets eyes on it is never the same again. Perched upon Marpori
Hill, 130 m above the Lhasa Valley, the Potala Palace rises a further 170 m and
is today a state museum of China. Luckily, it was only slightly damaged during
the Tibetan uprising in 1959. The venerated statue of the Arya Lokeshvara is
housed in the PhapkaLhakhang.
Visit Shah Jahan’s tribute in marble to his
beloved Mumtaz. It is not for nothing that Rabindranath Tagore called it “a
teardrop on the cheek of time.” The trick is to examine the Taj without haste,
to take in the fact that it shines blush-pink, then pristine white, then it is
touched with gold later in the day; by night, it is pale, luminous, lovely.
One of the most memorable places in
America, its steel towers, orderly streets, magnificent bridges, smorgasbord of
eateries and Central Park, the green lung of this city, make Manhattan a
marvel. A man-made marvel.
Redefining “jaw-dropping,” the Incas
actually settled a civilization up here in the Andes 9,060 ft above sea level.
It is invisible from below but once you climb to the site, there it lies before
you, hundreds of stone structures high above the Urubamba River. Clouds weave
in and out of the well-packed stonewalls and the Intihuatana, which is a stone
column, looms tall. At midday on 21 March and again on 21 September, the sun stands
almost directly above the pillar, creating no shadow at all. Pay your respects
to an evolved people who lived long ago.