Braveheart!

William Wallace!

I have fallen in love with Braveheart. A movie which tells the story of the thirteenth century’s Scottish warrior named William Wallace who led the Scots in the First War of Scottish Independence against King Edward I of England. I have seen this movie numerous times now. My favorite part of the movie is when Wallace (Mel Gibson) gives freedom speech to his countrymen to bring the zeal in them to fight for the freedom of their land. Here’s that speech that fills me with zeal every time I see this movie.


I am William Wallace! And I see a whole army of my countrymen, here in defiance of tyranny! You have come to fight as free men. And free man you are! What will you do without freedom? Will you fight? Fight and you may die. Run, and you will live at least awhile. And dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our freedom!


 

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A day of Spiritual Rejuvenation!

There are times when all of a sudden you start feeling low. And there is no reason for this low ebb of your emotions. I was going through the same wave. I think it’s the traveler’s soul in me that gets edgy after a period of time. Nine hours of sitting keeps me in a cage where I’m always dreaming of opening my wings and breathing in an unknown destination. Well! This ‘feeling low’ was the result of the everyday dreams that wants me to move out of the daily regime and explore the unknown, make friends, write stories and gorge on delicious food.

The place decided for weekend’s getaway this time, was Amritsar. The spiritual center for Sikh religion. It is home to the Harmandir Sahib (an important Sikh shrine). And also houses the Sikh temporal and Political authority, Akal Takhat. Apart from that it is also known for Indo – Pak Border, Jallianwallah Bagh, and of course it’s food :). Since childhood I have been visiting this place, that now it is like a second home to me. My parents have always encouraged me for traveling but the idea of solo trip in India is a NO-NO for them. Still I managed to convince them for Amritsar.

Blue Hour at Golden Temple, Amritsar

Blue Hour at Golden Temple, Amritsar

There are many trains from Delhi to Amritsar. My journey started on Friday from Delhi on Amritsar Shatabdi. This train departs at 16:30 from Delhi and reaches Amritsar at 22:55. I always make a point to book window seat. So I was in my coach on confirmed window seat with only a book as my companion for the journey. As train started moving at speed, I started turning pages of my book, and also the day was slowly coming to retire. The feel of watching setting sun from the moving train with a book in your hand is amazing. The feeling of watching the retiring sun took over the feeling of clicking a picture of it. So I didn’t click any. I had a family sitting next to me who were on vacation. They were really nice and three kids in that family were very cute. But towards the end of the journey their jabbering was intolerable. Phewww! Anyways still they were not that annoying. There were two middle aged men in the train who did not miss a single chance of stare at me. At one point, I got little scared, as they were aware of the fact that I was traveling solo. The best way of ignoring their stare was to avoid eye contact with them. And I did exactly the same! In spite of the fact of men ogling at fellow female travelers (solo or with company), I support the idea of traveling because I feel traveling has made me learn the art of alertness, sensing the people with negative vibes and avoiding them. Anyways, train was little late and I breathed in ‘City of Gurus‘ at around 23:45. Quite an odd timing for a female! Parents and friends who knew about this trip were worried back at home. I too, was worried! Traveling has also made me learn the art of hiding my worries from my loved ones and taking it all alone with strength. I hired a rickshaw which charged 40 bucks. The distance from railway station to Gurdwara is approximately 2.5 km and it took around 10 minutes to reach the place. The area around Gurdwara is always bustling with crowd. So, food retail outlets like Subway, CCD, McDonald’s, Giani’s Ice cream and few other restaurants were opened till late at night.

Since it was not a planned trip, I had not booked a hotel and I had to spent a night in Gurdwara’s premises. It is very safe! There are hundreds of pilgrims sleeping on the Sarovar side and many more doing sewa (Service) like cleaning the floor, and reciting Gurbani (Holy Hymns). I decided to take a short nap before taking a dip in Holy water. I woke up at around 2:00 in the morning (you don’t feel that it’s 2:00 in the morning until you see the time in your watch as it is always full of people).  I got ready and headed to bow my head in front of Guru.  The aura of being inside the shrine (Gurdwara) with hundreds of other people who are dipped in faith is unexplainable. You need to be there to experience it! Tears automatically rolled down from my eyes. I experience it on every visit. After listening to Gurbani for some time, I came out to click photographs in blue hour and rising sun. It was only 6:00 in the morning and I was already so hungry. So before stepping out to search out a hotel, I decided to hop on some food. Punjab and Punjabi’s are known for their rich food. Food is not a problem in Punjab. Especially if you are in Amritsar. At any hour of time, you can get food, both inside or outside Gurdwara premises. I had heard about Giani’s Tea Stall on Queen’s road but never got a chance to pay a visit. So I hired a rickshaw to the place. It’s not very far from the shrine. This stall is years old and is famous for its masala cha(tea). Do not miss it if you are a tea addict! The creamy masala cha was sufficient to release the journey’s stress. I then  moved on to a hotel named Sita Niwas. It is a budget hotel. The room was very small and was not clean and I was too tired to search for another hotel. I slept for 2-3 hours before I started my food trail at Amritsar.

Immersed in yellow lights!

Immersed in yellow lights!

Breakfast @ Kanha Sweets

Breakfast @ Kanha Sweets

The first destination for breakfast was Kanha Sweets. It is in Lawrence road. Auto wallah charged 100 bucks for it. You can bargain till 80 bucks. If you are good at bargaining! Reaching there I got to know that this place is always crowded and one has to wait for sometime before getting a table. I got a table to share with two school girls, Manvi and Swati. Both of them were sweet enough to share their piece of information about the place. And I promised them to write about them in my blog. I hope that they read about it :). The poori chole at Kanha were tasty! After having breakfast I headed back to the shrine and devoured a much needed cup of coffee at CCD.

Mashaal @ Jallianwallah Bagh

Mashaal @ Jallianwallah Bagh

It was already noon and scorching sun was over my head. I went back to room to spend peaceful summer afternoon and cool myself. By the evening, I was ready to visit Jallianwallah bagh. This is a park which was built in the memory of people that were massacred on the occasion of Baisakhi by British Raj on orders of Gen. O’Dwyer. He was later assassinated by Sardar Udham Singh as the revenge of Jallianwallah bagh massacre. Late evening was spent inside the shrine again. The day had already retired. By now, Crescent moon had replaced scorching sun. I headed towards Langar Hall’ (kitchen) for food. The food served in Langar is simple. The best thing about Langar is that there is no discrimination. Everybody sits together in a row and waits for the food to be served.

It was 23:30, I then headed to my room. I had train in morning at 4:20. I left hotel at 3:30 and started my journey back to home.

It was a quick one day of ‘Spiritual Rejuvenation‘ at Amritsar. It filled me with positivity and I’m again back to my daily routine. Already feeling an urge to explore unknown.

The food joints that I missed out in this trip (but I have already visited in earlier trips) are:

1) Kesar Da Dhaba – for finger licking paranthas and lassi
2) Ahuja Di Lassi – for delightful lassi
3) Gurdas Ram Jalebi Wala – for mouthwatering Jalebis
4) Beere Da Chicken – for tempting non veg delicacies dipped in lots of butter

 

The place I missed is ‘Indo – Pak Border’ or ‘Wagah Border’. It is particularly known for the elaborate Wagah Border Ceremony that happens at the border gate, two hours before sunset each day. The flag ceremony is conducted by Indian Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistan Rangers.

People preparing food for Langar

People preparing food for Langar

 

Happy Clicking!

Happy Clicking!

People at Wagah (from previous visits)

People at Wagah (from previous visits)

 

Sunrise @ Golden Temple

Sunrise @ Golden Temple

Food Trail in Queen of Hills!

Finally! I was able to hit road in 2015. Well! Never the late, it was a short weekend trip to erstwhile ‘Queen of Hills – Shimla’. It was more of a leisure trip. I remember an Italian phrase from the movie ‘Eat, Pray and Love’ which says – ‘Dolce Far Niente’. It means ‘sweetness of doing nothing’. And Shimla is exactly the same!

Shimla!

Shimla!

 

If you are not pleased with the first sight of Shimla, you are not the only one. It is over built and overcrowded, forming layer on layer on mountain. Its first look is little tacky. But once you begin to unmask its layers, you start feeling its rich history. You will start enjoying it. Its grandeur buildings will make you fall in love with every layer of it. Its amazing past lives on in the cobbled lanes and celebrate it. No matter how the time has changed!

 

During British rule in India, Shimla was marked summer capital of India. It is one of the densely populated hill stations of India. The first thing to do upon reaching Shimla is to hit ‘The Mall’, the happening street of Shimla. As the title says, this blog will only be about food and restaurants in Shimla which we were able to cover in 2 days of our stay.

 

View from Hotel Flora, Shimla

View from Hotel Flora, Shimla

There are many budget hotels in Shimla. So, a backpacker like me need not worry much about staying options. You can get quite a comfortable room from Rs800 – Rs1500. It is around 6-7 hours drive from Delhi to Shimla. But since we had chosen to drive at night, it took 7-8 hours. Highway NH-1 from Delhi to Chandigarh as well as highway NH-22 from Kalka to Shimla, both are amazing. There are lots of dhabas (roadside small kitchen) on the way. Even at the odd hours of the day. On reaching the hilly area from plains, you can also stop on the way, move out of your car, feel the cool breeze and watch sky full of stars. A rare sight in cities!

 

 

The Mall

The Mall

Shimla has its own charm! Its people walk with pride of its past. The buildings tell a story of its great history. After getting fresh, we were ready to hit heart of Shimla, the mall. But before that, we stopped at the end of Lakkar Bazar at Sita Ram’s shop to devour Shimla style Chole Bathure which had a tinge of sweetness in it. Quite a unique taste! Then we headed to Honey Hut for a perfect cup of coffee and lip smacking finger linking walnut pie. It was divine! I mean it will leave you satiated with no more desire. Well! At least I felt that. Taking a stroll on mall will leave you amazed. It has very old book shops, eateries, bakeries and coffee shops. I always wonder why hill stations have great bakeries and that too those which are years old. Anyways, walking on mall made us thirsty and we headed to HTDC’s shop under a huge tree to quench our thirst with fresh apple juice. It’s on the upper mall. And you can watch people riding horse, clicking selfies, taking family pictures. One can also wear Himachali dress and get clicked. After a long stroll, we went to Indian Coffee House, one of the oldest coffee houses in India.

Strawberry Jelly Cream at Indian Coffee House

Strawberry Jelly Cream at Indian Coffee House

It is famous for Indian style filter coffee and Strawberry Jelly Cream. The taste of strawberry jelly along with cream and little crystals of ice melted in mouth and tasted very good. The day was retiring and we too were tired after a long stroll. There are benches on mall where one can take rest. There’s a little area at the middle, we chose that place to sit and sooth our eyes with changing colors of sunset. We then headed to Goofa and Ashiana for dinner. The amazing thing about this place is that if you decide to sit in the outer area of the restaurant, you will get to see amazing view of lit up houses on the hills. The food, the cool breeze and the view are enough to fulfill your visit to Shimla.

 

Gurdwara at Shimla!

Gurdwara at Shimla!

I woke up little late next day as I was enjoying being in bed more. I got ready till early afternoon and along with my friend, went out to try out a new restaurant for breakfast. So the restaurant to hit for breakfast was Wake $ Bake. It is a very small restaurant on the mall. The yellow window panes let you see the outside building and the people on the mall. It is best in all ways. Be the ambiance or the service or the food. I loved being there. You just can’t miss it if you are in Shimla. I then wanted to visit Gurdwara in Shimla. This is ritual that has been inculcated in to me by my parents. Where ever we go, we make it a point to pay our homage to a Gurdwara at that place. One need to cross many stairs downwards from mall to reach Gurdwara, we actually got worried to climb all those stairs back to mall. But we were determined to pay our homage at Gurdwara. Thank god! My friend found out about lift which goes up till mall. There’s a nominal charge of Rs10 per person for the lift. We took a breath of sigh on reaching mall 😛 :).

 

We then headed to ‘Thakur Brata’, a famous shop for pickles and murabba’s (traditionally sweet). It seemed to be a very old shop. You can also get pure honey of hills and ayurvedic medicines. As I mentioned hill stations have very good bakeries and Shimla is no different. It has three famous bakeries, Krishna Bakers (being the oldest), Trishool and Baljee’s. You can try different breads and pastries at these bakeries. Baljee’s have Indian sweets too. I bought some freshly baked biscuits for my parents back at home. We then spent some time on the mall. We watched people talking and walking, mothers waiting outside school for their kids, lovers walking hand in hand, oldies enjoying post retirement with their friends. Everybody was happy being there! God damn! There’s so much to observe and write.

 

View from Dining Table at Goofa

View from Dining Table at Goofa

 

I am very fond of watching plays. The lighting, the stage, the actors and the perfectly written stories can sometimes give you goose bumps. And we got a chance to watch a play ‘Chanakya’ by a renowned TV actor Manoj Joshi. We were lucky enough! After having dinner at Goofa, we headed back to take a sound sleep for few hours and start our journey back home.

 

While writing this blog, I am back to my daily routine. And I’m missing being in Shimla. I think that’s the best thing about travelling. After coming back, you have stories to tell; you have things to write about, you have pictures to share.

 

I’m about to end this blog but there’s a feeling that a lot more has left unwritten. The feeling of being there has not been expressed well in words. Anyways, there has to be end to a vacation and this blog too. But now you know your next destination for leisure trip and to enjoy the sweetness of doing nothing:). It will rejuvenate your soul!

Sunset from Mall Road

Sunset from Mall Road