Ailsa’s Travel Theme – Flutter

‘Throw your dreams into space like a kite and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.’  Anais Nin 

Soaring, fluttering kites….Wuzhizhou Island, Haitang Bay, Sanya, China

Colorful dreams

Sanya ….China:



Kumbh Mela, Allahabad, India 2013.. When the riverbanks turned into effervescent, mythical and mystical religious pageant of million voices, chiming temple bells, strains of prayers and discourses against the backdrop of rising sun.

DSCN4967Allahabad is my hometown and in 2013 I joined nearly 120 million, from all over the world, congregating to purify themselves with a dip in the confluence or sangam of Ganga, Yamuna and the invisible Saraswati.

Mark Twain, American author, had visited the Kumbh at Allahabad in 1895 and like him, I too, marvelled at “…the power of a faith, that can make multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination….”



According to Hindu mythology the origin of Kumbh Mela centers on the legend of Samudra Manthan, (churning of the waters), in search of the pitcher or Kumbh filled with holy nectar or amrita. The Devas (gods) and Asuras (evil people) both claimed the pitcher and to prevent the Asuras from drinking the holy nectar of immortality one of the gods flew away with the pitcher and in process four drops fell on earth, Hardwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nasik, deeming them holy places.

IMG_1877The Kumbh Melas are held every 12 years in rotation: River Ganga in Haridwar; the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati at Allahabad; the Godavari at Nashik and River Shipra at Ujjain (Central India). The Melas stretch over two months with auspicious bathing dates, though one can take a dip in the sacred waters everyday, to purify themselves of worldly sins.20130312-203538.jpg



Came across these flower shots in my photo folder ……and promptly posted for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge….Pink or Magenta flowers.

“This is a color that helps to create harmony and balance in every aspect of life; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually”.



Snow Decor

FullSizeRender (2)Our winter drive to Banff, about 126 km west of Calgary and 58 km from Lake Louise, is past intimidating Rocky mountains flaunting their pristine white coyness in new snow-capes. The prominent peaks, Mount Rundle, Norquay, The Three Sisters, are giveaways that we are  approaching Banff, a quintessential mountain town nestled within Banff National Park, Alberta.

FullSizeRender (4)I had visited Banff in the summer of 2014, a bustling colourful timber town with rustic architecture merging with the surrounding rugged wilderness of the Rockies. In January 2016, my first winter trip, Banff appeared still in slumber, a lazy bear waiting to be nudged into action. Later, flipping through tourist brochures I came across a line up of winter activities from wine festivals, music and craft fairs with local flavour and winter sports run-ups in Banff and environs. Maybe, the deserted look was due to lunch time or resting time with few braving the cold outdoors: stragglers carrying their winter sports gear, construction workers, tourists and people like us enjoying a snow stroll on the Banff Avenue or the main road, clicking pictures of the giant Snowman and desperate to leave sitzmarks on the pavement snow.

IMG_4052Banff, discovered in the 1880s and named Banff by the President of Canadian Pacific Railway for his birthplace in Scotland, was a railway outpost and since then has careened down the majestic slopes to metamorphose into a tourist haven with chalet styled luxury hotels developed by the Canadian Pacific Railways and residential and commercial premises borrowing from the picturesque landscape.

IMG_4054Snug in winter-wear we ambled down Banff Avenue or main street,  shuffling in gift shops and chalet-like malls and before the sales person, in one of the stores, could ask for the fifth time ‘Need help’ purchased Ice wine tea gift packs for friends.

IMG_4056Further down the Avenue, preparations were in full swing for a street party complete with ice sculptures including an ice bar, music, d.js and dancing away the winter blues

From street walking we moved into the cozy comfort of the majestic Fairmont Banff Springs, a luxurious ‘castle’ complete with gothic ceilings and glowing candelabra, a take off on Scottish/British royal living with more than 700 rooms, dozen eateries, lounges, popular spa, tennis courts and golf course. The ‘Springs’, as it is referred to by the guests and staff, was a gift of Canadian Pacific Railways and has played host to stars and royalty from Marilyn Monroe to King Edward VIII (who later abdicated the throne) and  present elite, stars, politicians and sportspersons. Walking inside one does feel like ‘royalty’ and we plan to come again.


The majestic buildings merge with the color palette of the surrounding mountains and we watch, from one of the hotel terraces, the setting sun take a ski run down the snowy vista of Bow Valley.

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A refreshing tea break in the Rundle lounge of the hotel and we bid adieu to Banff





Lavender Pathways


Sitting in snow-bound Calgary I dream of the picturesque, aromatic lavender pathways of Okanagan Lavender Farm near Kelowna. This is probably what the glossy brochures mean when they tell you to visit and breathe in the rejuvenating lavender freshness to suffice for the winter months.

We had stopped for a few hours at the farm, it is on the tourist map, lured by the color purple and sweeping view of lavender flowers against the backdrop of the cerulean Okanagan Lake, apple and peach orchards and pumpkin farms.

DSC05912Our timing was slightly mis-cued, as the best time to visit the farm is in July when lavender is in full bloom. August/ September is the harvesting and distillation period when flowers are hand-striped for lavender flavored products. Our visit was in August 2015 but something is better than nothing and enjoyed a stroll on the gravel pathways, admiring the herb gardens and the view stretching towards Okanagan Lake. There is a guided tour, we could not take it due shortage of time, but taking the tour is worth the effort if one wants to know the history, cultivation and by-products of lavender.

DSC05902The stroll ended on the patio of the Lavender café, serves sumptuous fresh-baked snacks and lavender flavored drinks, and in the boutique overflowing with aromatic Lavender fragrances and herb products, oils, teas, scrubs, soaps, etc. Could not resist purchasing luxurious Lavender bath oil and a jar of Lavender jelly.


IMG_3317The farm is well thought of family business as along with natural beauty and shopping there are  hobby and interactive classes, organized social gatherings, a cafeteria and family fun opportunities.


IMG_3316……….for enquiries about 2016 admission and programs.



From Above….Owakudani

Flipping through my Photo file I came across pictures of Owakudani or the Great Boiling Valley in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. Not exactly ‘roofs’ but views of the burning valley and sheds from the Hakone Ropeway.

DSCN3287Owakudani or Jigokudani is centered on a crater formed by the last eruption of Mount Hakone some 3000 years ago. It is still sizzling, scarred with clouds of steam bursting through the crevasses. The entire gorge, engulfed in acrid sulfur smell, makes for a risky walking venture, there is a walking trail from the Ropeway station into the valley dotted with steam vents and bubbling pools. Black eggs or Kuro-tamago cooked in the sulfuric hot waters and said to prolong one’s life by seven years, are  temptation amidst the burning sensations.

DSCN3290Access to Owakudani is via the Hakone Ropeway from either Sounzen Station or Togendai Station on the shore of the fabulously clear Lake Ashi. We took the Ropeway from Sounzen and stopped at Owakudani and then proceeded to Togendai. On a clear day one has a spectacular view of Mount Fuji and vagaries of nature… the still fiery autumn colors and then, next minute, the theatrical boiling Jigokudani.


I had visited Owakudani in November 2010 courtesy JNTO, Japan