Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Top six things to do in Mattancherry in Ernakulam, Kerala


The historic town of Mattancherry in Ernakulam is located around 2.5 kms from Fort Kochi and approx. 10 kms away from Cochin. The place, that has a rich cultural history has a remnant of the Portuguese, Dutch and Jews in India during the colonial era. The architecture and streets are influenced by a mix of Portuguese and Dutch, and also shows traces of British and hints of Kerala. It is perfect for a day trip from Fort Kochi. This is what you can do while in Mattancherry:


#1 Visit the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry


Interestingly, the Dutch Palace was originally constructed by the Portuguese in a predominantly Kerala style of architecture and gifted to the royals of Kochi in 1555. Though most part of it resembles a Kerala bungalow, there are traces of European architecture as well in their arches and chambers. The flooring of the Mattancherry Palace resembles a black marble, but is actually a mix of burnt coconut shells, egg whites, plant juices and charcoal. The Dutch took over the palace in 1663 and it was later taken over by Hyder Ali and Bristish. There are a couple of temples in the palace premises, into which you’re allowed entry only if you’re a Hindu. The entry fee to the palace is a nominal Rs 5/-, and photography isn’t allowed inside it. The palace comprises of several paintings and mural covered walls and a lot of them are religious in nature.

#2 Explore Jew Town in Mattancherry


The narrow street right outside the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry that leads towards the Paradesi Synagogue is known as Jew Town. It is quite touristy than you’d expect it to be and has a ton of stores, cafes, galleries and houses. A short walk away is a Jewish cemetery, entry to which isn’t permitted, but you can see it through the gate. Through the foliage, you can see engravings on the tombs in Hebrew, English and Malyalam.

#3 Shop for some spices and artefacts in Mattancherry


The streets around Mattancherry have some really great artefacts and trinkets you can take home if you’re a history and art buff. The most popular ones are the bronze and other metal items, wooden furniture, crockery, jewellery, musical instruments and handicrafts. The Jew Town also features a spice market which has spice stores lined up amidst heritage houses on both sides of the street, where one can shop for multiple Kerala spices.

#4 Visit the Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry


The Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry is one of the two synagogues in Ernakulam (one of which is in Cochin) that was apparently constructed in 5105. It is the oldest synagogue and only one that is still in use. It comprises of a large 18th century clock tower at the entrance. Mattancherry has just one Jewish family comprising of five members and they are the caretakers of the Synagogue. I was told by one of the Jews that the rest have migrated to Israel. There are strict dress codes and timings to be followed, and the Synagogue is shut during weekends and Jewish holidays. There are several items of historic importance in the Jewish Synagogue, for example, the Scrolls of the Law, gold crowns received as gifts, Belgian glass chandeliers, and a brass-railed pulpit. The flooring of the synagogue is made up of multiple 18th-century Chinese hand-painted porcelain tiles – every one of which is unique.

#5 Visit art galleries and arty cafes in Mattancherry


The streets of Mattancherry are lined with art galleries and arty cafes. Most of the galleries have a café attached to it and has a basic café menu. Though the food offerings are varied, they serve the best tea. You must experience the calm sitting by the window side and sipping on some tea as you see life in Mattancherry slowly progress. Some of the lovely cafes you could visit are Mocha Art Café, Café Crafters, Café Jew Town, Café Mattancherry and Yoga Art Café. If not, grab lunch or dinner at a restaurant in the Muslim stretch of town; preferably beef curry with Kerala parota or chicken biryani at Kayees Biryani in Mattancherry. 

#6 Spend some time at the Jain Temple in Mattancherry


The Jain temple dedicated to Shri Dharmanath, the 15th Jain Tirthankar is the only Jain Temple in Kerala and is open for public at certain timings. The temple which was constructed in 1960, is an example of the cultural confluence of the place, spreading over a large area of worship and offerings. The tranquil temple is located on the Gujarati Road in Mattancherry and is inspired by the Jain Temples in Gujarat. Hundreds of pigeons call the premises of the Jain Temple their home and one can feed grains to the pigeons there.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Musings after my first solo trip to Kerala, India


Here I am, a 24-year-old Goan girl, having been on my first ever solo vacation! Well, I've travelled alone before, and have a crazy set of stories to each one, but this one was special. This trip was without really a purpose, without a real destination... It was about getting lost and finding myself while at it. It was about my soul gliding wonderfully in the universe and trying to find itself. It was about going out and living on my own terms, for an entire week!

Yes, I packed my bags and went on a solo trip to Kerala. Why Kerala? Because it's a familiar land. I don't know the language, I don't understand their culture and I don't like a lot of things about the place and its people. Then why 'familiar' you ask? I've been to Kerala four times, and this would be my fifth. Being confident about finding my way around, is what familiarity meant to me!

Why Kerala in the rains? I wanted to travel during this special week. Secondly, I've been to Kerala in the rains multiple times and I know how beautiful it is. Thirdly, I love the train journeys through the Konkan coast during the rains - they are simply phenomenal. Tried it ever? Yes, I could have easily taken a flight to Kochi. But I didn't. I instead, took a train, a slow train and slowed down - slowed down myself, slowed down my thoughts...

Kerala as a place, is quite slow as compared to any city. Like, the busy city of Cochin isn't that busy. Everything runs at its own pace, and it's like everything slows down for a moment. At the pace at which my life was going, I needed this. I needed the bliss you find while seeking new lands and new cultures. Why travel solo? Because, I wanted to be my myself. I wanted to introspect. I wanted to spend time by myself, understand myself more deeply and cherish every moment.

As you may have realised, it was a really slow paced vacation - of slow walks in quaint villages, of slow boat rides, of eating slow, of doing everything slow... Of just slowing down in life. Of realising that every minute, every second, every moment is meant to be cherished. Of knowing what you truly want from life. Of meeting new people and watching the sun go down. Of enjoying every moment, just the way it comes. Of letting the universe decide your course, just the way it wants to. Of smiling more and making everyone smile. Of writing handwritten notes and pasting a thank you message to everyone. Of opening my mind and bearing my soul. Of listening to stories and telling some of my own. Of just being....who I truly am!



What did I do in the entire trip? Relax, unwind, walk, walk some more, drink some tea, smile at strangers, write by the window side, drink some more tea, eat some good food, talk to strangers, catch on some sleep, make stranger friends, walk down the beach, watch the sun go down, relax, unwind... Basically do everything I've ever wanted to do since the longest time. Do everything I've wished for, do it only for myself and enjoy doing it.

Every day of this trip has been a blessing...so perfect, it makes me emotional. It has restored my faith in humanity and the universe. It has taught me things I never thought I could learn. It has helped me unlearn a ton of things I wished to unlearn. This trip has confirmed that I'm a beach baby, tea lover and a cat person! This trip made sure I find myself. And this trip is one of the many solo trips that are yet to happen!

A big shoutout to every one who has inspired me to travel alone, to everyone who pushed me to go for it when I had second thoughts and to everyone who believed I could do it, when I myself didn't. Dammit! It's not so difficult. On the contrary, it's so much better to be by yourself. For someone like me, who is a seeker for companions in every walk of life, this was a welcome change. And this is something I wish to do more often! 

I love how it changes your entire perspective about a lot of things - life, relationships, yourself, people, places! I love everything about traveling solo. I hope every one of you, who have read this till now, go on at least one solo trip in your lifetime. Go for it, there shouldn't be anything stopping you. Work. Save. Travel. And trust me, you don't need as much money as you think you need to travel - so that shouldn't be your concern at all! Signing off... Love love! xoxo

Related post: An open letter to Fort Kochi by an Indian solo girl traveller

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Dear Fort Kochi, thanks for making me feel the way you did


As I turned a year older, I decided to be in a place that attracted me the most ever since I discovered it. And when I eventually decided to pack my bags and go, the universe conspired to make sure the entire trip was as good as I imagined it to be. The only regret I had was cutting my trip to half of what was initially planned. And as I leave from the first solo trip of my life, I sit to write an open letter to Fort Kochi - the wonderland on a faraway island in God's Own Country!



Dear Fort Kochi

You were everything I hoped for, and so much more. From your wonderful history and heritage to your welcoming nature and warm hospitality, everything shall be missed as I head back. I wish I would never have to say good bye. You my love, are a perfect blend of parallel roads and narrow streets, art cafes and arty restaurants, world cuisine and authentic flavours, vast stretches of green and historic architecture, art galleries and museums, beaches and colonial bungalows... And all of it while retaining a bit of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British, beautifully complimented with bits and pieces of Kerala. With such rich history linked with the Jewish Synagouge to the Dutch Palace to the Indo-Portuguese Museum to the Kathakali centre, you are nothing short of a wonderland. As I joyously devoured your wonderful Syrian Catholic food and sat sipping tea by the windowsides of your beautiful cafes, all I could wonder was, how could something be so wonderfully beautiful! You dear Fort Kochi, has blown my mind. And I leave a piece of my heart here as I leave... Leave with a regret - a regret of not staying longer, a regret of underestimating you! You were truly fabulous. You liberated my mind and my soul in ways I didn't think possible. I shall be back to walk the alleyways another time, to hop ferries some more, to venture on to a bumpy rickshaw ride hunting for a toddy shop, to enjoy local food by the river side, to walk some more, to watch the sun go down by the Tibetan fishing nets, to inhale some more culture, to be awestruck by everything that you are...to be consumed by you as if I'm your own. Until we meet again, stay awesome. 

Love from Goa

Flexcia

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

8 iftaar dishes you must try in Goa during Ramazan

While for the Muslims it's a means of breaking their day-long fast, for other communities it's a feast of delicious food everyday! Come Ramazan and the lane outside Jama Masjid in Panaji (very close to Panjim church) is lit up with several food stalls selling delicious food post 4.30 pm. Though it tends to get crowded once they are done with their prayers, going there before dusk means an empty street! They have a variety of food to pick from, have a look. Here are my top picks:

Khichda

It's a variation of the popular haleem and cooked with chana and meat (usually mutton). @ Rs 70


Baida Roti

An egg roll gently shallow fried and stuffed with minced meat (chicken or mutton). This one's my favourite. @ Rs 70

Chicken Kheema Roll

It's seasoned minced chicken cooked and wrapped in rotis. Most value for money @ Rs 50. Or try the chicken cheese roll which is oozing with cheese, @ Rs 75. 


Sherbat

A hydrating and cooling apple drink for a refreshing start or end to your meal. @ Rs 10 a glass or Rs 50 a bottle

Kebabs, tandoori, tikkas

You can also find a multitude of fresh tandoors, kebabs and tikkas at the live station. Try the beef steak, chicken tikka or chicken tandoori. From Rs 30 to Rs 100.


Biryani and kheema

Muslim food for me, honestly, is biryani and kheema. And I cannot 'not have' the yummiest biryani and kheema while there! @ Rs 100

Eat the food there, or parcel some. But a visit to this food street is a must!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Jaipur, Rajasthan travelogue | Three days Jaipur itinerary & budget | Exploring Pink City


Dining and partying in palaces, watching the sun go down from a fort, lunch with a view and some delectable Rajasthani dessert - some of the fondest Jaipur memories. Experiences in Jaipur - both, the good and bad - will be remembered for a lifetime. But here are some key highlights I'm compiling into a blog post - with all deets about what I did, what I did wrong, what you could do for a great experience, budget, getting around, etc etc etc! Hope you enjoy it...



From Goa to Jaipur (via Delhi)

The Pink City has always been alluring. It was the first thing that came to my mind whenever I thought of Rajasthan. Everything from the royal palaces to the local culture seemed interesting. Probably that’s exactly a reason why I chose to begin my Rajasthan backpacking trip from Jaipur. Second reason being, it’s connected by an airport and one can fly directly into Jaipur from Delhi!

Jaipur, like many other places, has accessibility through train, bus and aircraft. However, a train journey from Goa wasn’t a way forward considering it took 25 hours to get there. While checking for direct flights, it was tough to find one that directly took me to Jaipur from Goa airport. So I had to pick one with a layover in Bangalore and Delhi. And I picked Delhi!



First impression of Jaipur and checking in to Zostel Jaipur

It was on a Saturday morning that I reached Jaipur and got completely consumed by its grandeur and palatial vibe. It was a busy city and a perfect blend of vintage architecture with modern-day charm. Though it is the most touristy place in whole of Rajasthan (among the six places I visited), it has it’s own aura that blows you away.

Starting off, we stayed at Zostel Jaipur, which is located right within the Pink City. The Pink City isn’t exactly ‘pink’, but it’s more of a dusty orange+pink (I don’t know what exactly to call it). Though the colour was disappointing, the Pink City didn’t. Living in the heart of the Pink City meant many places were at a walkable distance. But, considering it was summer, we hardly even could walk (not that weaklings like me can walk in the winters anyways).

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

My summer 2018 beach vacation | Beach cottage, bioluminescent waves and midnight beach walks


Blue waters, warm sun rays, golden sands…yes summer! Living on one of those pristine beaches nestled between lush hills has always been my idea of a perfect summer vacations. We found ourselves chilling in the cozy comfortable beach cottage we got to call home for three days, taking a dip in the bioluminescent sea at midnight and sipping on chilled beers as we watched the sun go down, all while basking in the summer sun and getting the tan that will remind us of the good time for days to come.


It was one of those long weekends, when Anjali and I decided to ride towards the pristine beaches of South Goa. Since it was almost end of the season in Goa, we weren’t very sure what to expect. The bustling Palolem and Agonda could just be dead, but nope, we were in for a sweet surprise. Read on to know about how we spent this wonderful weekend in a beach cottage (wooden beach hut) right ON the Palolem beach.


We got delayed and reached there only post sunset on Saturday evening, thus brushing off the chances of catching the sunset. But it did not disappoint us, considering our cottage was just the best thing! The balcony, which had a hammock and a couple of easy beach chairs was something I decided to spend my mornings at! But before that, it was time for some beer and chill time!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Dressing up for summers in Goa – ft. Max fashion store, Porvorim


Summer dressing in difficult, especially in a place as humid as Goa. All you know is, how much ever great your outfit looks, you’ll land up being a sloppy mess within minutes of stepping out! Over sized outfits, natural fabrics, bright colours and summery prints could be just some of your options. I stopped by at the Max fashion store of Mall de Goa and picked up a bunch of outfits to add to my summer wardrobe. I could mix and match them and I’m sure they’ll help me sail through these hot months. 
The collection is extremely chic, has something to fit in every budget and stocks varied sizes – basically, something for everyone! The store is conveniently located and spoils you for choice when it comes to not just clothing, but other accessories like shoes, belts, bags and the rest. You can even shop from the Max Fashion India website online (which I usually do) and they deliver within a few days. The apparel is true to size, and the sizes are the same throughout the label. My absolute favorites are their shorts, but I love their Indo-Western outfits too. Here are some of the looks I created wearing Max:
Summer look #1: Colour-blocking this summer
Summers are for colours. This outfit is just a classic example of how you can include your spring style essentials into your summer wardrobe as well. Colours, prints and embroidery – this outfit is perfect for a day out with friends or even while running errands! Who can go wrong with crop tops for the summers? Wear it to the beach or wear it to brunch, by just styling it a little differently.
While denim pants are a strict no-no during summers, culottes are life! This elegant silhouette accentuates your body and makes you look flawless while you’re struggling to beat the heat. Additionally prints and patterns help camouflage sweat way more than solid colours would. Throw in a simple, sturdy pair of jootis to complete this Indo-western look!







Summer look #2: Easy breezy summer dresses
While natural fabrics are breathable, they are way less stretchy than synthetic fabrics. So the trick here would be picking a size or two bigger depending on what you’re comfortable in. This floor length maxi dress with buttons in the front was perfect for me. You can easily slip into it, though it has a very high neck. It had attached sleeves, but who needs sleeves in summers right? Also, the colour works wonders while you’re trying to beat the summer heat. And if you love to feel the air circulate in this hot weather, this Indo-western dress is your go-to option for all of the summers.
I threw in this printed multi-coloured scarf which adds the pop of colour and makes the otherwise simple outfit stand out. It also changed the look of the outfit when worn differently. For example, tie it round your neck or hang it on your handbag, while running errands or heading to a casual meeting. Or convert it into a headband by simply typing it around your forehead to add a boho touch to your summer look. I threw in my basic tan Kolhapuri jootis, which are super comfortable and make the entire look seem effortless and elegant.








Summer look #3: Shorts and a summer themed top
In the weather that we have in Goa, shorts are wardrobe staples and you can never go wrong with them, almost all round the year. A good pair of ripped shorts in a dark colour goes on almost any type of top or tee! Considering there’s almost no winter here and summers only get hotter, how about wearing your favourite summer prints to distinguish your style for the summers?
Here I am wearing a trendy cold shoulder shirt as a coverup on a basic black spaghetti top. You could just use it as a coverup over your swimsuit at the beach while you munch on watermelon and sip on your mocktails too! I threw in my favourite red sneakers to add that sporty feel to the outfit, also giving it an edge over the rest for days when you have a lot of running about to do!







Styled and modeled by: Flexcia D'souza
Photography by: Ghananil Naik

Friday, April 27, 2018

A Mediterranean experience at Artjuna Garden Restaurant in Anjuna


On a recent visit to Anjuna, I stopped by at this cozy garden restaurant called Artjuna. The place – though seems little from the outside, is so impressive once you enter! With a boutique, garden restaurant, library, co-working space, yoga and MMA centre, and even a kitchen garden, it’s an amazing place to spend those summer afternoons. Though it’s pretty warm and humid these days, the restaurant has fans and a shed for their outdoor space. The thick foliage that forms a canopy above is an added bonus. The decor is minimalistic and exudes a peaceful vibe.



They are known to serve one of Goa’s best coffee, however this being a season not so favourable for coffee during the day, we found ourselves reaching out for some cool summer drinks. They serve an array of cool drinks, fizzers, fresh fruit juices, lassis, milkshakes, iced teas, vegetable juices, iced coffees and smoothies. They even have a health shot for the health conscious ones. We opted for a refreshing Pomegranate Eskimo @ Rs 140. Their thick, mushy Mango Blizz Smoothie @ Rs 140 and Jamun smoothie @ Rs 140 made of seasonal fruits was every bit of perfect!



Their menu is extensive, with a major focus being Mediterranean cuisine. Their breakfast menu is very interesting! Though they are a vegetarian restaurant, they do serve egg. I am definitely going back for breakfast... Their desserts too, equally tempting – I could have all of them. They have authentic Italian gelato, waffles, pancakes, cookies, cakes and a bunch of French dessert from Delicieux – which again, is my favourite place for dessert!


We started with Shakshuka @ Rs 200. It was my first time trying it and how I loved it! Made of eggs poached in a thick onion and tomato sauced spiced with paprika, cumin, garlic and pepper, it is served in a pan and alongside homemade soft bread.


It was followed by their Blue Cheese Salad @ Rs 340. The green lettuce, onion, chopped cucumber added the right amount of crunch, while the blue cheese added the creaminess. It was topped with crunchy bits of walnut, apple and spring onion and drizzled with vinaigrette dressing. Definitely a must try while there. It’s loaded and tasty, yet vegetarian – how cool!


I’m usually someone who prefers non-vegetarian food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, not once during my entire meal did I hope for seafood or meat, because everything I ate was yummy! For example the Bowl of Hummus @ Rs 130 was delicious. Made of fresh boiled chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and topped with parsley and served with pickled veggies, spicy green chutney and pita bread, it was divine.


Next up was another platter of goodness – the Mazzet Platter @ Rs 220, with extra balls of falafel. It was my first time trying falafel – chickpea balls made by adding some condiments. The platter that comprises of Greek kalamata olives, feta cheese, tahini, olive paste, mixed pickled veggies and pita bread is something you must try while there! Mind it, the portion is quite large and you wouldn’t finish it by yourself, especially if you are eating something else too.


At the end we feasted on some delicious Caprese Salad – a simple Italian salad, made of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, and seasoned with olive oil. I loved all the food. Everything was so fresh and light on the stomach – perfect for the Goa weather. I loved the presentation and how colourful all of the food was too. The portion sizes are quite large and it’s totally value-for-money!


Getting to the last part – the dessert, which were great at expected too! We started with a strawberry gelato and moved on to a chocolate ball and baked cheesecake. I specifically loved the cheesecake and recommend you try it when there. The cheesecake was loaded with cream cheese and rested on a crumbly crust, making it tempting enough to dig in right then! And trust me, it was divine.





Artjuna Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato