Monday, August 15, 2011

God's Own Country - a retreat in Kovalam

I was lucky to be invited for a leadership travel retreat to Kovalam, Trivandrum organised by Make My Trip. This was an event where MMT and their top business partners had a chance to interact and relax in an informal setting. We stayed at the beautiful property of Leela's and experienced God's Own Country first hand.

On the first evening, we had a dinner reception at the Taj which is another beautiful property. The MMT staff entertained us. There was also other entertainment like a fire eater and a stand up comedy show which I enjoyed quite a bit. The next day we went to the Poovar Island resort for lunch and a cultural show.

Smitaa and I had a very relaxing time - eating, drinking, partying, dancing, relaxing and the 2 days actually felt like a week of fun.

The view from the Leela Kovalam

The original elephant parade

The infinity pool definitely beckoned us!

The Taj property. The Chinese fishing nets are symbolic of Kerala.

The MMT staff put on a great show.

On the way to Poovar Island

So calming and soothing....

Typical symbol of Kerala

The welcome bowl of flowers

The cultural show amidst the superb setting of beach, sea and coconut groves

A Canterbury Tale....

I was fascinated by Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales when I first came across them in University whilst I was reading English. The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written at the end of the 14th century about a group of pilgrims travelling together on a journey to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at the Canterbury Cathedral.

So recently when in London on a business trip, I had the opportunity of visiting Canterbury over the weekend, I immediately jumped at the chance. Luckily for me, my cousin John and his friend Helena were able to join me, making the trip even more entertaining and enjoyable. It was surprising how many people I came across (including John and Helena) who had never been to Canterbury even though it was only a 90 minute train ride from London. Don't we all take our own country for granted?

We took the train from St Pancras station to Canterbury West (there is Canterbury East too and both stations are equidistant from the Cathedral). It lies in the district of Kent which is in the South East part of England. The cathedral dominates the town and is the most important site of the Church of England. It is also a place of pilgrimage after the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170. This pilgrimage provided the theme for  The Canterbury Tales.

Many historical structures remain in the city, including a city wall founded in Roman times and rebuilt in the 14th century, the ruins of St Augustine's Abbey and a Norman castle, and perhaps the oldest school in England, The King's School. Modern additions include the University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University, the Marlowe Theatre, and the St Lawrence Ground, home to Kent County Cricket Club. 

The first thing that greets you is the Roman gate with a quaint City Gaol Cafe! Then you wander through narrow cobble-stoned lanes with interesting tea shops, chocolate and sweet shops and pubs/restaurants with amusing names. The entrance to the Cathedral is quite ornate and is filled with sculptures. The Cathedral itself is quite huge and cavernous. The stained glass is one of its most important works of art. The tombs of the Black Knight and Saint Thomas Becket and all the Archbishops of Canterbury are also to be found within its precincts.

All in all, it was an interesting day trip.

The Roman Gate

The entrance to the cathedral

Amazing sculptures

The magnificent building

The cavernous interior

The beautiful stained glass collection

The cloisters

The bustling town square

Helena, John and myself having a vegan lunch

So typical of Canterbury!

A day to appreciate freedom

Today is India's 64th Independence Day. Whilst the country is going through a lot of turmoil and angst due to the various scandals unfolding, I believe we have much to be grateful for.

  • First of all, we are a democratic nation. I truly appreciate this fact after having visited many countries around the world. We are allowed to express ourselves and in general, most Indians are peaceful.
  • We take our freedom for granted! Freedom of speech, freedom to walk around town, freedom to worship, freedom to vote, freedom to think, etc. Think China, the Middle East, even South Africa and when compared, India is far ahead.
  • We have the freedom to be anyone we want to be. This is truly the land of opportunity and it is up to us.
  • In addition, I am truly grateful that I am born in the family that I am born in. They are not perfect but at least there is no discrimination between males and females. I have been given a level and equal playing field. There are so many countries in the world where women do not have a voice, where women are treated as second class citizens or not at all and where women are married off before they can think for themselves.
  •  And then, of course the people I am surrounded boss is great. He truly brings out the best in me. And my colleagues and friends are very supportive.
So whilst we can be cynical and tend to focus on the negatives, I prefer to focus on the positives and am sure we will have more to be thankful for in the future.

Annemasse and Archamps

When you are open to the universe, you will find yourself experiencing the most unusual things in life.

Post Martin and Hasna’s wedding reception, I stayed over at their friend’s place in a town called Annemasse. They were a very nice couple – a Frenchman Romauld and his wife Buhalys who is from the Ivory Coast. So when it turned out that Martin and Hasna were busy with their relatives, Romauld and Buhalys invited me to have lunch with their friends who lived in the mountains outside of Annemasse. So off we went – Romauld, Buhalys, their 2 beautiful daughters Mathilde and Louise, and myself. Spending time with these wonderful people made me appreciate their generosity, openness and their willingness to share their lives with me. The couple we visited were art teachers – he French, she Korean and they had 3 beautiful gorgeous girls. We had a simple barbecue alongwith salad and ofcourse French wine – white, rose and red. It was an amazing meal.

We then decided to walk up Le Mole – the mountain on which they lived. Due to paucity of time, we made it a short stroll rather than a hike. But the views were awesome and the walk helped digest all the food and wine consumed. Along the way we came across raspberries and cherries and had an impromptu feast. All in all, an unexpectedly beautiful day spent with some wonderful people.

Le Môle is a mountain in the Haute-Savoie department of France which dominates the neighborhood of the town of Bonneville. It rises to 1863 metres and affords an excellent 360-degree view of the surrounding region. Though a small mountain for the Haute-Savoie, it is of great geographic importance as it divides the vallée de l'Arve to the south and the west from the vallée du Giffre to the north and southeast, and dominates the southern entrance to the Geneva basin.
Source: Wikipedia

The view from their house.

A road less travelled :)

Wild raspberries

The sunset from Martin's house in Archamps