Friday, January 13, 2012

Italo Calvino - Hermit in Paris

Every once in a while, one comes across a book that makes one pause periodically and reflect. Hermit in Paris, a collection of essays by Italo Calvino is precisely that.

Italo Calvino is an Italian author, possibly his most well know work is 'If on a winter's night a traveller'. In this collection of essays, he takes us behind the scenes, so to say, and talks about the various experiences that have contributed to his writing.

The first half of the books talks about his time in the US in the late 1950's. And possibly the fact that his experiences so closely mirrored mine when I visited the country nearly 5 decades later could be one of the reasons why I liked this book. The author then talks about his time in Italy during and after the second World War. In between, there is a small essay about his stay in Paris, and ends wit a few interviews where he talks about his literary style and influences.

After reading the book, I couldn't agree more with the following review - 'Beautifully written...the work of an extraordinary mind, one that is worth exploring from every angle' - Independent on Sunday.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

2011 - Looking back

2011 was quite an eventful year for us. Looking back now, a few days into 2012, we cannot even recall where we welcomed 2011 in! By then we had packed up our belongings in Sydney, and were on our travels around Australia and New Zealand.

Most likely, we were in Port Douglas, in the far north of Queensland, on the first day of 2011. By then we had been to Cairns, and done one snorkelling trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. We spent 5 days in the small, beautiful tropical town of Port Douglas, from where we made one more trip to the Great Barrier Reef, visited another World Heritage site in the Daintree Rainforest, and more rainforests in Kuranda.

From Port Douglas / Cairns, we flew to Alice Springs, and the highlight of our Australia stay - the Outback. We took a 3 day / 2 night budget tour of Uluru, Kata-Tjuta and Kings Canyon. Words fail me to describe the beauty, grandeur and mystery of these ancient places. Suffice it to say that these are truly one of the must-see places on the planet. Beyond these sights, the wide open spaces, endless blue skies flecked with white clouds exerted a strange pull on us. These places might be remote and desolate, but I won't be too unhappy if I got the chance to visit them again!

After a couple of days in Sydney to say our final goodbyes to one of the most beautiful (and livable) cities in the world, we headed to Christchurch in New Zealand. We rented a campervan and spent the next 17 days exploring the South Island of New Zealand. The ideas came from my wife, and it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

From Christchurch, we headed inland to Lake Tekapo, then back to the south-eastern coast, visiting Moeraki and Dunedin. After visiting the Otago peninsula, we headed to the Catlins, in the south eastern coast of the island, for some more fantastic sights. We then headed westwards via Riverton to Milford Sound, where we did the obligatory cruise. We then headed north and spent a couple of hours on Fox Glacier, a first for both of us. Continuing north, we visited the pancake rocks in beautiful Punakaiki, and then reached Nelson, on the northern coast of South Island. We then headed to Kaikoura via the beautiful Queen Charlotte Drive, before ending our road trip in the beautiful, relaxed town of Christchurch.

On the way back to India, we spent a day in Singapore - the first time I have been here. We did a quick 3-hour trip of the city from the airport, but the highlight for me was the fantastic Changi airport. I was a like a small boy let loose in a toy shop, what with all the fantastic, high-tech things to see and do at the airport!

After a relaxing couple of weeks in Mumbai, we left for the UK, our fifth country in a little over 2 months!

Arriving in the UK, we spent a few months in Essex, while looking for a job and a place to stay. We found both in a couple of months, and moved to our place in North London.

Places we visited in England include St. Albans, Hadleigh castle, Stonehenge, Bath, Cotswolds and Cambridge.

But the most momentous event of all in 2011 was the birth of our first child. It is truly a life-changing event, and we are now looking to experience 2012 and beyond with the new addition to our family!