I relished 2016 simply because I had more surprises than planned journeys. Who wouldn’t love that no! Am sure you’d agree that travel experiences are incomplete if your heart hasn’t leapt just that little bit, especially if you’re senses are provoked. Exploring Provence in the South of France & a culture, food & art trail in slices of Spain was overwhelming. And as the year ends I am happy to pluck out of my memory and share what tickled my taste buds, the sights & sounds of a pulsating street, even the seduction by fields of violet colored…Aaha! Let words not hide the drama that only visuals can do with aplomb.

8 TRAVEL EXPERIENCES THAT HAD ME HOOKED

There were many more but I picked the ones that have stubbornly stayed on months after I returned. That have made me suddenly jump in glee at a detail that I remembered in hindsight. Does that flatter my memory or the after taste of the experience? I really can’t say. I’d like to think it’s both, vain as I am about keeping log books in tiny crevices of my brain just like an elephant does. So here are my WOW moments.

#1 UP IN THE AIR IN CANNES (FRENCH RIVIERA)

Aerial views are new to me. I had spent the last couple of years capturing emotions, both of people & well some wildlife too. Being a culture lover meant my lens more often got up close and personal with architecture, art, sculpture & all stories that transcended time. But here in Cannes just a click got me & my friends on a chopper ride, for a gorgeous view of the pretty coastline & landmarks too.

If you want to see how far being spontaneous can take you, go aerial with  VISUAL DRAMA ON A CHOPPER RIDE IN CANNES

#2 VEGETARIAN MASTERPIECES IN SPAIN – 17 COURSE MEAL & SUCH THINGS

Who says only art & music can give you masterpieces!! It’s true that I have never in any travel plan scribbled molecular gastronomy & vegetarian in the same line. So figuring that I did not have to live on salads, tomato-lettuce-cheese sandwiches or pasta & could actually have a feast meant so much. Getting a chance to feed on some terrific Spanish veg food not just in Barcelona but Seville & Granada for 2 whole weeks, finally made me feel less deprived on a European holiday. That included one delicious evening in a Michelin star restaurant too.

If you are heading to these cities & wish to know what and where to munch, as well as the right Spanish terms to use (to get just what you want), salivate at SÍ. SÍ. VEGETARIAN & LOVING THE TASTE OF SPAIN

#3 DISCOVERING PERATALLADA (CATALONIA, SPAIN)

A day trip to Girona was planned even before I left my home city for Barcelona. Little did I realize that something even more captivating was waiting to invite me. After a failed detour from Girona to Figueres, which had Salvador Dali’s museum, I took the cab to a place that made me wish I had prepared for a night over. Sigh! Imagine a medieval village preserved for an authentic experience of perhaps the 13th century. Then imagine being surrounded by a moat (symbolic these days of course) & stone walled buildings wrapped in a tight embrace by an abundance of green…with maroon and wild flowers peeping out to frame you against a colorful palette. Well, I am yet to write about this trip and promise to open 2017 with a fan-girl take on it.

#4 MUDEJAR ARCHITECTURE IN ANDALUCIA (SOUTH OF SPAIN)

Architecture speaks the language of its creator & the influences he carries as a gatekeeper of culture. I realized, that more or less explains the seamless blend of Christian & Islamic patterns, designs & motifs, called Mudejar, so unique to the South of Spain. In parts, much of this region had conquests by Muslim kingdoms of North Africa before its eventual return to Christian rule. But some of the most important places of worship retained the calligraphy & carvings, even as they converted in form to a church. Much of this Mudejar style is seen in the ceilings, arches, corridors and continues to be the beacon of plurality

If you are an architecture lover, you can time travel at DISCOVERING 2 ERAS OF MUDEJAR ARCHITECTURE IN SEVILLE

(Alcove at the Plaça de España)

(Styles from the Alcazar Palace & Casa de Pilatos in Seville, Spain)

#5 MODERNISME WITH ANTONI GAUDI (BARCELONA, SPAIN)

God’s own architect, Antoni Gaudi, is an artist who can evoke extremes. I of course without doubt fall into the cloud that celebrates him and his works. With nature playing his favorite ‘growing up influencer’, I was swept away by the symbolism he brought into his most prized creation, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The use of colors, patterns, shapes made you look at even residential quarters that he built in awe.

Don’t miss his most exquisite yet incomplete contribution in the visually rich, WHEN BARCELONA MET GAUDI’S SAGRADA FAMILIA

(Doesn’t it look like the Tree of Souls from the movie Avatar? This is the ceiling at the Sagrada Familia church)

(Casa Batllo, remodeled from a residential building by Antoni Gaudi at the Passeig de Gràcia)

#6 OCHRE TINT OF ROUSSILLON (PROVENCE, SOUTH OF FRANCE)

Provence region in the South of France is where short stories are written about being lost & found, about colors playing the perfect host & of towns and villages that speak to your eyes first. And let’s not forget the cornucopia of food & wine for the greedy gastronomic traveler. Roussillon which didn’t get the time it deserved from my fleeting visit, is a quaint ochre, maroon-orange dominant village that seemed to show a bias to the red family in the paintbox. Be it in the facades of houses or in the maze of streets, this color is hard to miss. Perhaps I’d pique your interest if I tell you that novelist Samuel Beckett made this his home for a while & made a mention of this village in his theatre play, Waiting for Godot. Got you there didn’t I!!

Go on revel in its beauty. And for a take on my experience there, savor in your leisure time  TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN GORDES PROVENCE

#7 STREETS OF BARCELONA (SPAIN)

I have this well etched and it still evokes wistful smiles even after a few months of leaving the city. And why not. It is where I had my first ever ‘tongue won’t stop salivating moment’ in a Michelin star restaurant (the veggie feast I was animated about), saw Gaudi’s madness in streets and corners, soaked in my first concert at the Palau de la Música, saw artists performing to protect the dignity of animals…just so many expressions of art really. And of course let’s not forget Catalan music and culture. A dedicated post is due at the dawn of 2017, but here is a glimpse.

(Palau de la Música is beautiful when you look at it from the street, but stunning once you slip in. I was here on the first day I landed in Barcelona and the concert kept me awake & agile well into the night. Despite having a crazy jet lag)

(This is architect Josep Vilaseca’s creation at the high energy La Rambla in Barcelona. Called Casa dels Paraigües, the Chinese dragon on the facade is a surprise element on the street)

#8 SMELLING THE LAVENDER BEFORE SEEING IT (PROVENCE, SOUTH OF FRANCE)

Finally here is one of the senses I’d like to close with. One that is very alive in much of France, and Provence in particular during the July-August months. There are two things you must do when here. One is a road trip and second is shamelessly look for lavender fields however talked about & touristy they may seem. I missed the star performance at the Plateau de Valensole but found the yet to blossom ones with just the fragrance. Once you get the whiff I’d urge you to follow the scent and then let your lens take control. Oh! and don’t mind if you are wrapped for just that day in floral notes.

I had wanted to give you a peek into what the year gone by had inundated me with, but like all awesome experiences I couldn’t stop gushing. So here’s a quiet & ardent hope, that 2017 is peaceful, utterly exciting and most welcoming of all those who stay curious. I’ve punched travel into every month of the coming year. What do you want to experience in 2017?

 

 

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