One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things!

Wish all my friends who religiously follow the blog a very happy new year! I hope all of you could take some time off at year end and spend some time with people who matter and introspect on how wiser weare after 2013 with all the experiences and mistakes we made during the year J.

Well, 2013 for me was completely a travel year, seeing new places, meeting new people and some wonderful memories.

Nice promanade!

I lived the luxury of Nice and Monaco, the place is lavishness personified, as an automotive consultant I have always been fascinated by cars and Monaco displayed more mean machines than what I had seen at the Geneva motor show J.

On my way from Nice to Monaco

Fun facts of Monaco/Monte Carlo:

  • It’s the second smallest country, known for Monaco grand prix and the flamboyant Monte-Carlo casino complex.
  • Known as Europe’s tax haven, each and every individual citizens of Monaco enjoys a tax-free  lifestyle since the 1870s. For decades, Monaco lived off solely on its casinos.
  • You may take the train, your helicopter or your yacht (if you have one) if you want to go to Monaco but please, no private jets (if you have one as well.) There are no airports in Monaco.
  • The total population is just 32,000 out of which only 6000 have a Monaco passport, rest migrants.
  • The elegant façade and panache interiors of the Monte-Carlo Casino had been a filming location of three James Bond Films namely “Casino Royal”, GoldenEye, and Never Say Never Again.” I wouldn’t be surprised if one day they choose to shoot a new James Bond film at Monte-Carlo Casino. It’s just that classy!

Spring brought in a breeze of romance with me in Venice. I met people who had come there to marry but I particularly loved the laid back life style. I was amazed to see the entire city on water, the only mode of transport – boats and it’s truly romantic.

Fun facts of Venice/Venecia:

Venice captured the impression of a magical floating city by setting wood pilings on the 118 submerged islands in the Northern end of the Adriatic Sea. 400 foot bridges and 170 boat canals connect the city to make it easily accessible to the local populace.

  • It was truly a maze where I got lost a few times and walked through the narrow alleys and foot bridges was a good walk through the day!
  • Go to Venice and no Gondola ride, you haven’t seen anything then. It was a wonderful experience where I got to know only 3 to 4 Gondolier licenses are issued annually. To qualify, applicants must be able to finish an extensive training after passing a rigorous exam. There are only 400 licensed Gondolas operating in Venice today. I had just seen the movie the tourist and got me to such a déjà vu feeling. In fact Stromae, the pop singer too created music on a Gondola on a valentine’s day.
  • Venice has a cursed palace known as the most eerie place. The series of unexplainable deaths which seem to affect all of its owners first started way back when the structure was built in 1847.

Summer got me on a different high when I visited Amsterdam! I was amazed at the open and non-judgemental culture the place offers. I got off the cab to find police rushing into the Park hotel where I had booked. Ichickened out J while checking in I saw the police take in a man (with no

expression and walking dead) being handcuffed and taken away. Out of curiosity I asked the receptionist to which she promptly mentioned, “that’s a routine!” “Routine?” I looked at her puzzled. “Yes mam, he is stoned after getting high on drugs and turned the tap on the entire night and turning the entire room into a swimming pool. We do nothing in such cases and just call the police. They take him.” I had no reaction but still asked, “And? Now what?” She cooly explained, “Nothing, they take him and once he is sane, they leave him, he will sleep in the lock up now.”

Cool! I said to myself…welcome to Amsterdam!

Now some interesting things about Amsterdam

  • There are 700,000 people and a million bikes…wonder who rides them!
  • Amsterdam May Soon Disappear L. The majority of Amsterdam is below sea level. At its lowest point, it is 6.7 metres below sea level. If climate change causes even a small increase in global sea levels, Amsterdam may go the way of Atlantis.
  • 86 percent of Amsterdam residents are polyglots (people who speak more than two languages), speaking English, Dutch and third language fluency. That made my life way easier.
  • On average, an Amsterdam resident consumes a minimum of 140 litres of coffee per year or about 3.2 cups of coffee per day, making them the second largest coffee consumers in the world.
  • The average height for a Dutch male is 184 cm, and the average height for a Dutch female is 170 cms.
  • Now this is interesting, Amstie has more canals than Venice. Often called the “Venice of the North,” Amsterdam boasts over 165 canals that compose a comprehensive network throughout the entire city. 
  •   I also saw the Gay pride parade 2013 – a fun event of music and colourful costumes, spreading a message of equity and a right of being oneself.
And some kinky facts too
  •  Drugs are freely available in Amsterdam. The Dutch allows buying and selling of 5 grams of soft drugs to each person in over 300 of their coffee shops. I tried it two nights and had a trip will not forget for life!
  • Prostitution is legal here. You can visit the red light district to see women in their skimpy clothes. And trust me, they look super. Get back guys and don’t ideas!

Winter got me to the land of the midnight sun, Norway! Mesmerising, Hypnotic, Enthralling and still fall short of adjectives to describe what I witnessed. This has been the most wonderful and memorable travel so far. I visited a place called Tromsø, known as the capital of the Arctic as is located 350 kms north of the Arctic Circle.
Tromsø has 70,000 inhabitants, but is a vibrant city! People are very warm and hospitable. I had some very interesting conversations and memorable moments.


The midnight sun can be seen during summer months, I witnessed the beauty of the Aurora lights, also known as the northern lights. The sun rose at around 10 am and set at 14.00; I would leave with the tour guide at 17.00 hours and come back an hour or two past midnight. She would drive a group of 5-7 of us outside the city with no city light pollution and a temperature of -13 degrees. We would park at a spot known to her. I change the tense now to present for better depiction of the experience. She switched off the light of the van and I peep outside from behind the glass window. Not a soul in sight or a ray of light and deafening silence. I followed others out of the van, and dropped myself in waist deep snow. After some struggle, the tour guide, Trine pulled me out. Even after 7 layers of clothing, I was cold. I balanced myself and then looked up. The view was out of this world, pun intended. The sky was clear and completely starlit; there was not a patch of darkness in the sky. The view was simply breath-taking. I was stunned! The sound of waves, the silence and the awesome view gave me more than what I could ever ask for.
We walked a few steps to hit the shore of the ocean and set our cameras. The show then started. A streak of milky light started appearing in from behind a mountain and kept spreading across the sky. The neon lights are not visible to a naked eye and can be seen on pictures taken on a high end camera. The pictures showed colors of neon green, orange, pink and violet. I forgot I was cold, I forgot I existed in this world, I forgot my work, and my life and all that existed around me. I felt blessed and divine. Trine told stories and myths around the existence of the lights. We enjoyed the beauty for a couple of hours before Trine took us to a Lavo (a tent). A

bonfire in the middle of the Lavo surrounded by logs of wood with reindeer skin placed over them for warmth. We sat on it, enjoying the flames that provided comfort. Trine got us dark coffee and homemade cake and I relished it a lot. We had a few rounds of viewing the lights followed by coffee before we returned.

The next day, was no less adventurous. A group of 20 on a boat out in the ocean, very far north to view the whales, I couldn’t ask for more. The ocean was wild and choppy as we started early in the morning! The two guides’ one from Iceland and the other a Norwegian were so informative and almost grew up with whales. The ocean was colder than I had thought. 

We stood there waiting for the whales to appear. After more than a couple of hours in the ocean, the guy perched on top of the ship shouted, “I see them, 3’oclock.” All 20 heads turn right and yes, we see a black body far getting into water. The ship moves closer and we see two more. Magnanimous beings, following each other in a perfect rhythm in the water, I zoom in my camera to get a view, beauty at its best! We see more and more of them, feasting on other fish, their fins splashing water and pumping water up to 3 feet in the air. It was a trip worth it.
 “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream.Discover.” Mark Twain.

all pictures ©2013 Shweta Dave


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