Costa Brava

Costa Brava had been on my travel list for a while. And as soon as we started driving though the Catalonian countryside dotted with ancient castles, and hit the gorgeous coastline in Blanes, I realized why! The area is just stunning, the water crystal clear, the food fantastic, and a way of life I’m definitely envious of! We started off with a hike atop the castle at Blanes which rewarded us with some wonderful views of the coastline below. We then went to the botanical gardens that did not disappoint, with gorgeous coastal trails and plants from the world over. Ariana braved a parrot on her arm for an adorable photo! We then drove over to Lloret de mar where we dined at Sybius Cala Cantelles, enjoying a delicious meal of shellfish paella (dare I say the best I’ve ever had) by the seaside while the kids played on the playground overlooking the ocean. Next, we stopped at Tossa de Mar, and took the rather touristy train up to the castle taking in some breathtaking views. We ended the day in the charming town of Begur where we were staying, and enjoyed a meal of pizza and curry at Pizetta. The kids were thrilled to see an impromptu concert in the square with a large band!

The next morning, we set off for Cadaques. We had a lunch reservation at Compartir, the original restaurant created by the trio of chefs that are now the creators of Disfrutar! The meal was by far the best “casual” meal of the trip, the most memorable part being the oysters that Gaurav (thankfully!) urged me to try. We walked to the house of Salvador Dali, and then spent some time at the beach, before driving back. We also drove through the Cap du Creus national reserve to the lighthouse with stunning views that reminded us of Point Reyes. On our way back, we spotted a go-cart race track and we all (particularly Ayaan) had a blast racing! Ayaan got to go twice and did particularly well, so thankful for the impromptu surprises we’d encountered to far. That evening after dinner, there was a local fair created in the square where the kids enjoyed carousels and bouncy houses – the surprises didn’t stop!

The next morning, Ayaan and I had a two hour kayaking trip booked through stunning caves. It ended up being a private tour with a wonderful guide, Nael who really bonded with Ayaan in their collective love for soccer and skiing. Toward the end of the tour, we snorkeled together and saw some colorful fish! Ariana and Gaurav hung out by the beach, and we joined them after our tour. That evening, after taking in breathtaking views from the castle atop Begur and some delicious ice cream, we dined in the square in Begur. We were pleasantly surprised to see a woman’s guided dance break out in the square half way through our meal, which we all joined briefly after a few glasses of cava. Gaurav met one of his work colleagues who is a local for dinner.

On our last day on the coast, with some coaxing from Ayaan, we decided to rent a boat, and as we’ve become accustomed to realize, it was the best day ever! Ariana and I lazed on the deck while Gaurav and Ayaan navigated, and we stopped in beautiful coves and beaches along the way. A bottle of champagne later, Ariana, Ayaan and I were dancing to Abba while the boat meandered along the calm waters. We all had a blast, and eventually returned the boat that afternoon to make our drive down to Girona. We had a beautiful apartment right in the middle of old town, allowing us to wander through the charming cobblestoned streets. We enjoyed some unique flavors of ice cream at Rocambolesc, and spent the rest of the evening people watching in the Placa d’Independencia while the kids played hide and go seek.

On our last day in Girona, we strolled to the magnificent cathedral, the Arab baths, the walls of the old town, the Basilica de Sant Feliu and marveled at the charming beauty of Girona. We then decided to take our apartment host’s recommendation for lunch at a Basque Country restaurant, and enjoyed some delicious pinxtos, steak and garlic prawns, followed by 7 (pinxto) desserts! After lunch, we took turns getting Aromatherapy massages, while the other parent relaxed in the apartment with the kids. In the evening, we revelled at getting lost around the old town walls and cobblestoned streets (Ayaan in his soccer Manchester United soccer jersey bouncing around his new soccer ball). After dinner comprising pepperoni pizza and brut rose, Ayaan and Ariana helped me dry our clean laundry, and we then settled in for an early night, to prepare for our flight the next morning to Mallorca. Looking forward to seeing Nani, Dhara Masi and Kunal Uncle!

Barcelona and Penedès

We got off to a somewhat rocky start in Barcelona. When we landed, we discovered that they’d left Gaurav’s bag (with all his belongings) and one of our car seats back in Nassau. We spent a while in lines trying to locate the bags (unsuccessfully) before taking a cab to our downtown hotel. When we arrived, we were informed that the maximum occupancy was 3, and we’d need an additional room for Ariana. This is uncommon in the US and had us perturbed but we eventually conceded, and proceeded to wait another hour for our room. Jet lagged, we tried to snag some zzz’s, awakening in the afternoon fairly famished. We strolled over to a restaurant Gaurav and I had visited 10 years ago, Tapas 24 for a perfect meal of sangria, bikini sandwich with truffle and cheese, and the pain de tomat, the best we’d ever had! Not long after we’d devoured this meal, I discovered that my phone had been damaged with water in the Bahamas and wasn’t going to make it. What a day!

The next morning started off better. Gaurav and I had managed to hustle our way into Disfrutar, ranked #5 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, created by a trio of chefs that had been trained by none other than El Bulli! The meal, which consisted of 28 courses of molecular gastronomy aimed to surprise and delight, definitely exceeded expectations. At the beginning of the meal (similar to restaurant Gaggan that we’d visited in Bangkok), customers are given a card with a variety of emotions that the meal might invoke, the restaurant keeping the actual menu a secret. Each course seemed to top the next but some of the standouts were the caviar xiao long bao, the “pasta” (made without any), the ribeye, and the foie gras topped with corn. Each desert was fantastic as well, the peppers being the most deceptive in their appearance as they actually had a rich chocolate flavor.

Much of the rest of our time in Barcelona was spent shopping for Gaurav’s clothes to replace his lost bags, getting me a new iPhone and getting over jet lag. The only saving grace was that we’d been to this Catalonian city before, so the FOMO factor was low. We did manage to stroll through the gothic quarter and the cathedral, and Casa Batlo, one of Gaudi’s masterpieces. I was pleased to see that Ayaan still really enjoyed the large bubbles prevalent in most squares in European cities, and he begged to return the next day to play with the “bubble man”!

As soon as we left Barcelona in our rental car, things got a lot better. Less than an hours drive later, we arrived at Mastinell Hotel & Cava, which was a true delight. We lazed by the pool overlooking the vineyards with glasses of cava, followed by a sumptuous meal at their restaurant. That afternoon, we had a cava tour and tasting with a guide, Nico who really did a fantastic job at keeping the kids entertained and engaged. We were joined by a wonderful South African couple whom we quickly befriended while discussing our travel adventures. That evening, Gaurav and I went on a hike up to the mountains behind the hotel, and we all enjoyed another wonderful dinner at their restaurant. Mastinell and the wonderful staff certainly set the right mood for our trip ahead, and we all left thankful for the opportunity to have stayed there, wishing we could’ve lingered on longer.

Bahamas!

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”. This anonymous quote has been my life’s guiding principle since my father taught me the joy and thrill of travel. And it is this belief that led me to where I am today – ready to embark on another sabbatical covering 5 countries, this time with the hope of inculcating this same joy and love of travel in my children, aged 7 and 5. Our first stop – Nassau, Bahamas. Since my hotel school marketing class back in 2003 when we did a case study on the Atlantis Paradise Island, I’d dreamed of going there. We finally made it happen this summer, and it did not disappoint. From over two dozen water slides to a rapid river to a underwater tunnel from the lobby leading to a large aquarium replete with an impressive diversity in marine life to beaches boasting crystal clear Caribbean agua, it was just what we all needed! Ariana had been excited about the water slides ever since we started thinking about this trip a couple of months ago, and her squeals of delight as she raced down them into pools water were instantly gratifying! At night, the property turns into a pseudo Las Vegas with Michelin-started restaurants, casinos, live entertainment on the harbor and dancing. The kids watched amazed at their first slot machines and couldn’t understand why they were restricted to adults only. We enjoyed a Father’s Day dinner at Fish by Jose Andre and it was superb. We tried the conch salad, which was similar to a ceviche. Ariana and I then shared the steak roasted over an open fire which the kids got to watch in awe and amazement.

On Friday, once Gaurav had wrapped up work, we took a boat trip out to Rose Island. It was beautiful – our day started out snorkeling (we saw some stunning, unique fish) although Ayaan and Ariana are still getting used to the snorkel masks and preferred to use their googles instead. Next we relaxed on the beach with Bahamian cocktails and saw the pigs swimming in the waters, something unique to the Bahamas. Ariana loved this experience and the pigs seemed to display a liking for her as well. Lunch consisted of delicious bar be cued chicken, salads and hot dogs. Ayaan and I then went kayaking while Ariana continued to play with the pigs, peacocks and some human friends too 😊. We returned to the hotel for a last few splashes in the water slides.

The kids really enjoyed the cultural shows at the hotel, especially the fire ones and the dances in which Ariana participated. Overall, the Atlantis was a perfect place to kick off the trip, and gave us all a dose of relaxation mixed in with some excitement and activities!

Peru!

After 2+ years of the pandemic and the entire family being fully vaccinated, we decided to take a bucket list trip to Peru! We landed into Cusco on April 2nd, and after checking into the beautiful Palacio del Inka (a Luxury Collection property with a rich heritage), we strolled down the cobble stoned streets to the main square. We enjoyed a sumptuous dinner at Ceviche Seafood Kitchen which was recommended by one of my friends, and called it a night. The next morning, Ayaan arose to a broken tooth and was pleased to see that the tooth fairy visits in Peru as well. After a hearty breakfast, our first stop was the Cusco Cathedral, followed by a taxi ride to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman. We rented a guide and were so pleased to see Ayaan really enjoying the history, culture and beauty of these amazing ruins. Our guide customized the tour for the kids, pointing out hidden stone formations of lamas, and the kids got to meet real lamas too. We then strolled back to Cusco, stopping at the San Cristobal church where we enjoyed amazing views of Cusco from the top of the tower. We enjoyed a Nikkei lunch of Tiradito and then retreated to our hotel for a tour of the rich heritage of our hotel and an Inkan performance. Gaurav and I then joined a Pisco Sour class while the kids played nearby in the bar. The next morning at breakfast, the kids got to pet a baby alpaca. We then went to the choco museum for a chocolate making class which we all thoroughly enjoyed and Ayaan bravely volunteered himself for a sacrificial ritual. Replete with bags of wonderful treats which we dropped off at our hotel, our next stop was Qurikancha or the Sun Temple. That afternoon, Ayaan and I had booked a cooking class at the hotel, where we prepared ceviche followed by lomo saltado. The art of cooking the meat over a large flaming wok was thrilling and gave us both a sense of pride. We then enjoyed the meal which I accompanied by a glass of Bordeaux.

The next morning, we ventured to the market enjoying some fresh mango milkshake. Our driver Richard then picked us up to stop at the Cochahuasi Animal Sanctuary where we interacted with several rescued animals including lamas, condors and alpacas. Next, we went to the awe-inspiring Pisac ruins where a guide explained the 4 different townships. The drive was beautiful and the kids were in great spirits. Our next stop was the Maras salt mines followed by the agricultural terraces of Moray where the kids did really well climbing the steep terraces. Richard finally dropped us off at Tambo del Inka in the beautiful Sacred Valley where we enjoyed a special dinner by the fireplace. The next morning, we boarded the 360 Inka Rail train to Machu Picchu with incredible views of the valley, waterfalls, mountains and river. Ariana in particular really enjoyed going into the standing open cabin to take in the sweeping views. We then met our guide and travel companions and boarded a bus to Machu Picchu. Words cant describe the beauty of this seventh wonder (Gaurav’s final one and my 6th) and it was really gratifying to see how much the kids were in awe as well. At dinner that night, Gaurav and I decided to try the guinea pig which was cooked to perfection with a crisp skin, and we washed it down with a bottle of red. The kids enjoyed multiple courses of pasta.

The next day, we made our way to Ollantaytambo and hiked through the various terrain. After a quick stop at Chinceros, we boarded our flight to Lima. We managed to snag last minute reservations at Maido, which quickly became one of the best meals of my life! The fatty tuna or toro prepared tableside will be etched into my memory forever! After a short break strolling through the Cathedral of Lima, the main square and grabbing dinner for the kids, Gaurav and I made our way to Central, another unforgettable meal where we also had a chance to meet and interact with the chef, Virgilio Martínez Véliz. Peru, you were a true delight and I’m so glad to have enjoyed this experience with the family!

Central

2019 travels & memories

After settling back in Sausalito and the Bay Area in the beginning of the year after our amazing sabbatical, 2019 turned out to be a year of a lot of rediscovering California and family trips. What surprised me through the year was how much Ayaan and Ariana remembered our sabbatical and wanted to talk about all the places and memories we created. It was also very clear that their time in India was their favorite – immersing in the culture, learning Hindi, eating yummy food, spending time with grandparents and getting spoilt.

Local California travels highlights included driving trips to Tahoe for Memorial Day where we experienced snowfall at the start of summer. A trip down to Santa Barbara and central coast in the summer. And a few weekend trips to Carmel, Napa and Lake Shasta (with our friends Karishma and Anshul). But perhaps the biggest local highlight was staying at Anjali’s new glamping AutoCamp sites at Yosemite and Russian River. We also had a fantastic Thanksgiving in Big Island, which was a first for all of us except Anjali. The kids loved the beach and pool time, the live music and the fire lanterns everywhere. Ayaan learned to swim in the fall and he practiced everyday in the warm pool at the Marriott. But their favorite was running around at lawns of the Four Seasons where they made many friends.

Internationally, we made 3 big trips for the year. The first was an urgent trip to India since Anjali’s dad passed away. The kids were very sad but took it incredibly well. It was a tough trip and few months for us, but we were so glad that we spent a lot of time with FIL during our sabbatical. On a more happy note, in the summer we all did a big trip to Europe with my entire family of 14 representing all decades from 0 to 70 to celebrate my parents’ 50th Anniversary! We all gathered in Copenhagen where we once again (after our visit last year) explored Nyhavn and the sites together. We then caught a 7 day Holland America cruise together to the Norway towns of Bergen, Kristiansand, Oslo, Stavanger and Eidfjord. Ayaan and Ariana loved spending time with the entire family including their cousins and to this day remember it in detail. They got really fond of Morgane, Loui and Neela, in addition to everyone else they had spent more time with during the sabbatical in 2018. We ended the trip in Amsterdam where highlights included day trips to Zaans Schaans and Gouda. Overall a wonderful trip.

Ayaan and Ariana also really enjoyed family visits from Dhara, Anjali’s mom and Sonil. Ayaan says his favorite thing is when family visits his home. Finally, to end the year we made another trip to India – the kids loved spending time with their grandparents, at CCI, and with the Christmas festivities. Anjali and I also got the chance to escape for 5 days to Myanmar which was truly fantastic. Highlights included Bagan, Shwedagon in Yangon, the 1 night Paukan river cruise from Mandalay to Bagan and the incredible food. Thanks to the grandparents for entertaining the kids.

2019 was a challenging year with settling back, getting adjusted back to our life after our sabbatical and the death in the family, but we still managed to make the most of it. As we reflect back on the decade, it was very busy and we are so glad we had the opportunity to take 7 months off and spend time with people we love the most exploring our planet. Ayaan ended the decade with 32 countries and Ariana at 28 countries. To many more as a family in the next decade!

India leg of our Journey

After Mauritius, Ayaan and Ariana spent 6 straight weeks in India during the festive season in September, October and November (Anjali and I had a 5 night escape to Jordan without the kids that was incredible). During this time the kids have really adapted to the Indian culture, school, food, lifestyle and Hindi. They’ve loved getting pampered by the grandparents and have really started enjoying their school Creative Kids. On dropping Ayaan to school he always says “Don’t pick me up too late”, while Ariana on getting picked up from school says “I want to go to school”! At school they’ve made friends, dressed up in Indian attire, made several field trips to the post office, grocery store, library etc, done several show and tells, and made several art things. Even though it’s just 2.5 hours for Ayaan and 1.5 for Ariana, they seem to be making the most of it. They even come home singing Hindi songs like “Henna Bolo Bolo”. Ariana continues to develop exponentially and is now potty trained using the 3 day method, while Ayaan can ride a tricycle super fast and remains obsessed with his baby car.

I have kept busy playing tennis (my game is finally back), watching cricket, reading books, spending time with kids and parents, spending time at CCI (including the lawns) and connecting with friends. I’ve also started advising Hearsay, my most recent employer again, which has been intellectually refreshing. To our complete surprise we were also able to catch Above and Beyond, our favorite DJs, at a show in Bandra! We’ve also tried a few more restaurants in Mumbai including Miss T, Yautcha, Clearing House and our favorites Trishna and Mahesh. I also took advantage of having help around and no work to get a minor surgery on my hand that went smoothly. I was also lucky to be able to watch the India – West Indies ODI cricket match at CCI and the WTA Mumbai Open at CCI in October.

One of the highlights of this leg of our journey was our trip to Delhi end of September to celebrate my brother in laws 50th birthday. My parents and I spent 3 nights in Delhi, while Anjali and Ariana joined us for just 1 night. Ayaan stayed with Nani and it was the first time Ayaan and Ariana were separated. It was a great trip as I got to spend time with my nephews Aditya and Siddharth, take them out for lunch to sushi and see Sids new college. The 50th birthday party was fantastic as my sister Sonil hosted over 200 people at her beautiful home and I got to meet several folks after decades. We also got to visit India’s best restaurant Indian Accent which once again lived up to the expectations with its amazing modern 6 course menu.

After the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi in September, the kids enjoyed praying to the Durga mata idols in the neighborhood and collecting Prasad everyday. They also loved the Dassehra festival celebrations where they saw an effigy of Raavan or “the 10 headed monster” being burnt followed by fireworks. They enjoyed the Radio club festival for Dassehra in October where they won chocolates in game such as bowling, spin the wheel and shooting. Being there to celebrate Nani’s 65th birthday was also special! A couple of weeks later the kids enjoyed the grand festival of Diwali. Ayaan went to the CCI Diwali festival with his grandparents and loved the cotton candy, train, the hanuman god on a unicycle, the live music and the laser and fire works. He’s also learnt many, many Hindi words and phrases and songs such as “Khushi Manao, Diwali Aayi hain”. Both kids enjoyed decorating dadi and Nani’s house for Diwali, and doing puja and eating sweets for Diwali.

Between Dassehra and Diwali, we made another trip to Delhi to visit my sister Sonil. It was great to spend time as a family as my parents joined as well and Sid and Adi were around too. The kids were excited to be on a flight again after 4 weeks and were very well behaved. The highlight for them was playing with fluffy, a pug, and playing with all the gadgets in the house including a handicap chair for the stairs. They also loved driving the motor cars and bikes in the mall and jumping around in the bouncy house. We got a chance to try out some fantastic restaurants including China House, Bukhara and Olive. We also took a stroll at Lodhi gardens and visited the amazing Humayuns tomb – which was an inspiration for the Taj Mahal. I asked Ayaan at the end of this 6 week period if he liked India and this was his response “yes I like India because it has a lot of speed bumps”. Oh the mind of a 3 year old!

Jordan #50 – part 2

On our 3rd morning in Jordan, we woke up to a panoramic view of the red stone mountains of Petra and spent an hour gazing at the amazing site. We then drove 1.5 hours south to the Wadi Rum desert or “the valley of the moon”. It’s really more like Mars as was portrayed in the Martian. Wadi Rum was the unexpected highlight of our trip to Jordan. We had high hopes but the experience that entire day took us to a different planet.

We first stopped at the visitor center where we booked a 4 hour 4×4 tour through the desert. Our driver Najeh met us as we finished another average local meal at the village and drove us into the desert. The experience reminded us of our Tanzanian safari. As we drove through the amazing red soft sand and gazed at the amazing Martian mountains, Anjali and I were in awe of the magnitude and the beauty. The weather was fantastic as well since October is a one of the best times to visit. The tour took us to a sand dune we climbed, the little bridge and Um fourth bridge, Lawrence’s house and spring and the khazala canyon. We ended the tour a bit early, so we decided to experience the Bedouin lifestyle and took off on a camel ride in the middle of the desert!

Around 430pm exhausted we drove in search of our camp – The Space Village luxury camp. We were originally planning to stay at the Wadi Rum Night Luxury Camp but we found out a week ago that they couldn’t honor our booking since their email, website and Facebook page were hacked 5 months ago! We had trouble finding the Space Village camp and had a scare when our car got stuck in the sand and I had to push it out while Anjali guided us back to the road – thank god we didn’t have the kids with us. Once we got to the camp, it was fantastic and pure luxury glamping. It’s just 6 months old, spanking new with 30 tents with very nice hospitality. Right outside the tents is a large sand dune which is also one of the most popular spots to view the sunset. We climbed up the dune and sat while watching one of the most beautiful sunsets we’d seen. We then ran down the large sand dune to the camp where Arabic tea and shisha (or hubbly bubbly awaited us). The dinner was very local and fantastic with a rice and chicken stew cooked underground for hours. We had a great nights sleep on the very comfortable beds only disturbed by Anjali waking me up at 4am to see a sky full of stars, like we had never seen before. You really couldn’t ask for more in a days experience!

Next morning we departed Wadi Rum after a nice breakfast and drove for 4 straight hours to the Dead Sea. We got stopped a second time on the trip for a random ID check, but besides that the drive was seamless and breathtakingly beautiful just before and at the Dead Sea. Dead Sea is really a salt lake that is 400m below sea level, the lowest point on Earth. We arrived at the Marriott right at lunch time and devoured on some Italian food and wine. The Marriott is located right on the Dead Sea with a private beach and 5 pools. After relaxing for a bit we went down to the private beach for a dip in the Dead Sea. The water is 10 times saltier than a sea and it’s super easy to float almost like if you were on the moon. The salt can burn your eyes and nose though. We also put some famous Dead Sea mud on our bodies. The pool and spa was inviting after and we watched the sunset from there. After some shisha we spent our last night having a nice dinner and watching belly dancing. We spent our last morning floating in the Dead Sea and chilling in the pool before taking the red eye to Mumbai to see the kids and family. Jordan was amazing! Thank you to the grandparents again and looking forward to seeing the kids.

Ireland – part 3, Galway & Dublin

After a sumptuous breakfast of waffles, freshly baked croissants, and smoked salmon, we set out for Connomarra National Park, a 2.5 hour drive from Corrofin. As we approached the area, our eyes were greeted by stunning lakes, and lush green mountains with waterfalls streaming down. Our first stop in the park was for lunch at the visitor center, after which Ariana played with her grandparents in the park while Ayaan joined Gaurav and I for another hike. As we walked up the mountain, we could see a spectacular view of the valley and lakes below. After the hike, we drove to the beautiful Kylemore abbey which was set against the backdrop of a lake. After strolling the grounds, we drove to Galway and checked in to our apartment. Gaurav brought dinner for the kids and grandparents, and then we enjoyed a date night out! Our first stop was at Cava Bodega where we enjoyed pinxtos and tapas with a carafe of Rioja. Next we headed to the popular pub, Tig Cioli where we each enjoyed a strong Irish Coffee. We learned that Tig Cioli was the first pub that ever opened in Galway and they’d listed the price of a pint for nearly every year since 1900! I’ve begun to really appreciate the pub culture in Ireland because it is extremely kid friendly with baby changing tables, kid menus and live music to drown out any tantrums :). The pubs have become what I look forward to for each meal, and possibly what I’ll miss the most about Ireland! This time though, we were kid free and we decided to make the most of the night. Our next stop was Tich Neachtain where we were able to hustle our way into a fantastic seat right by the live band. We started off with a black Jameson reserve which was fantastic and then proceeded to have several pints of Guinness and whisky flights interspersed with shots of Jameson. We stumbled home and woke up to a heavy hangover the next morning.

It was dada’s birthday so after breakfast at home, everyone enjoyed a treat of the famous Murphy’s ice cream. We walked to Eyre Square and then strolled the medieval streets of Galway taking in the live music at nearly every corner. We made our way to the Galway cathedral which was beautiful. Finally we enjoyed lunch at a pub near our home and then headed back for the kids nap. Ayaan and Ariana have been to over 50 playgrounds during this trip and we took them to another before dinner. It was one of the densest playgrounds we’d been to with a train in addition to the usual and the kids loved it. It was dada’s 73rd birthday and we celebrated with dinner at Buddha Bar. The kids enjoyed singing “happy birthday to Dada”, blowing out the candles and eating up the cake.

In the morning we drove 2.5 hours to Dublin and arrived at our apartment in the heart of Dublin near O’Connell St. Gaurav returned the car to the airport after 1600km of driving, while I picked up groceries and lunch. We spent the afternoon strolling through the historic streets of Dublin – Trinity college, Dublin Castle and St Patrick’s Cathedral. Ayaan wanted sweet corn chicken soup again so we found a nearby Chinese restaurant called M&L which worked out great, and also gave us the opportunity to walk down the touristy city center. After putting Ariana to sleep, Gaurav and I sneaked out to check out the night scene in Dublin. We stumbled upon the Quays bar with a live band that played many of our favorite Karaoke songs! We also visited the famous Temple Bar which is a huge indoor-outdoor pub with Irish local music. The Jameson Black Barrel became our go to drink for the night. Overall we really enjoyed Dublin’s vibe with its historic streets, canals and live music everywhere.

On the last day of our European adventure, we woke up to a sunny Dublin. We took the tram to St Stephens Green, a lovely local park with beautiful flowers, ponds and a playground, and neighborhood. The kids and parents enjoyed the short tram ride. We spent the morning strolling through the park with our coffee, and ate lunch at the mall next door. To celebrate the end of our 2.5 month journey through Europe, Gaurav and I had a special meal at Taste of Rustic, a new age Japanese restaurant in Dublin. After enjoying some Nigiri, we visited the Church bar, a unique experience since neither of us had previously had a drink at a converted church!

It’s been a wonderful journey and we’re thankful that Ayaan and Ariana did incredible, and the grandparents joined us for some of it. On to Bombay for the next phase of our journey!

Salzburg & Munich

We drove early this morning to Salzburg, a return visit for me after 20 years, on our way to Munich. The city seems to have developed considerably since I last visited, but maintained its charm. Our first stop was the Mira bell palace and gardens where I reminisced about the songs from Sound of Music. Next, we headed to see the Salzburg Cathedral but it was closed for Sunday service. We strolled around the beautiful baroque quarter, and stopped in a beer garden for a tall mug of beer while the kids played in the fountains and sand pit nearby. After a satiating Indian meal, we continued our journey to Munich while the kids napped.

Gaurav and Ayaan were thrilled to be checking in to the Westin Grand, a hotel with air conditioning after several nights of apartment living. Gaurav’s insights and love for hotels while traveling (and lack of appreciation for apartments) should give us lodging real estaters some comfort in the midst of the sharp rise in shared lodging establishments. After some rest, we headed to the famous Hofbrauhaus for some mugs of beer with sausages, roast chicken and pretzels. The kids enjoyed the live music and the meal. We then strolled around the various squares and made our way to Marien platz where the sounds of beautiful live music at every corner had us stopping several times to appreciate the beats. Later that evening, Gaurav and I enjoyed the remainder of our Tignanello after putting the kids to bed.

The next morning, it appeared that Gaurav was more excited than either of the kids as we planned to visit Legoland! A first for me, it was pretty incredible to see miniature cities replicated entirely in LEGO – Venice was particularly impressive due to our recent visit. The kids enjoyed riding in the LEGO train, boat, car, helicopter, and following the boats and trains in the miniature models.

Today is our last day with a car; we return it at Munich airport tomorrow and fly to Brussels. The past seven weeks have been incredible! Ariana has blossomed into a lively toddler that loves to sing – she awakens singing and often sings during the car rides. Her favorites are “baa baa black sheep”, “how far I’ll go” from Moana and “Five Little Monkeys” complete with the act of jumping on the bed! She’s also extremely talkative and expressive and her comments often leave Gaurav and I looking at each other in wonder going “did you hear what she just said”. Keep that going, Ariana. Ayaan continues to be very caring particularly about his little sister which is also very gratifying to see. Nearly 7,500 kilometers later, Au Revoir to our white Puegot, you served as well.

Como / Bellagio

After a long journey from Switzerland, we were thrilled to cross the border into Italy where we knew we’d be greeted with amazing food (the only country in Europe we all have been to)! The kid-friendly attitude of the Italians was a welcome respite after several days in France and Switzerland! We ate at a Pizzeria in Como where Gaurav and I were delighted to dig in to our favorite marina pizza which we’ve seen only in Italy. The kids played in the lakeside park and Ayaan jumped through the water fountains, becoming drenched for our short car ride to Lezzeno, a small town bordering Bellagio. We stayed in a lovely apartment with a 180 degree view of the lake which was perfect after the smaller rooms in Switzerland.

The next morning, the rainy weather, combined with a long and grueling journey the previous day convinced us to relax in our house and enjoy the beautiful vistas of Lake Como. Once the kids awoke, we drove to a park near Bellagio where Ayaan enjoyed a mini zip line! We spent the evening strolling in the beautiful town of Bellagio with its mansions and amazing views.

The next morning, we hit the Lido di Bellagio beach club where the kids enjoyed playing in the outdoor showers and with their sand toys, while Gaurav and I relaxed with a bottle of Prosecco. After a few hours of sun, we took a dip in the cool lake.

That evening, we rented a boat from Lezzeno and passed the beautiful palaces and gardens of Bellagio. Although we were worried about being on the boat with both kids, they were fairly cooperative with Ayaan serving as co-pilot with his daddy while Ariana enjoyed the thrill of the boat and the beautiful view! We enjoyed dinner at Pizzeria Aurora before retreating to our home for a nightcap of Brunello di Montalcino from Banfi. Our time in Como / Bellagio was relaxing and filled with a lot of fantastic food and wine – just what we needed!! Italy is one of our favorite countries so we weren’t surprised that both of us wanted to return back to the area someday.