Coffee Break

Summer riding piggy back on +40 centigrade during daytime and I’m frazzled by multiplying dust particles, the seeping lethargy and the unhealthy attachment to my air-con. The blanket of snow, recent visit to Calgary, seems an illusion, another planet. I rather have a glass of cool, refreshing Lassi (yoghurt drink) but then any hot beverage is an ideal companion to loosen thoughts.

The early morning walks are the best time of the day,  before the sun lays claim to the land below., recently renamed Guru-gram, replacing Gurgaon. The sun too must be mystified as the name change has had no effect on animate and inanimate objects, except for change of status to  ‘ first cousins of Insta-gram’ or ‘entire city is equal to a gram’. A full article can be devoted to this horrendous name change. The new name of Guru-gram is to honor Guru Dronacharya of Mahabharata fame.

But what truly is an epical spoof, of Mahabharata and Ramayana,  are the gangs of monkeys staking claim to their habitat desecrated by concretisation. Instead of trees the simians terrace vault in search of food left for them by gullible humans who consider them as avatars of Hanuman (Monkey God).

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On one of my earlier returns home I had a mother and son visitation. I was out for my evening walk and on nearing my building I could see the duo saunter into my apartment through the unlocked balcony door. I never felt so appreciative of my  cell phone and called the colony Maintenance number. For a change there was prompt response and the minute the monkey duo heard the thuk-thuk of bamboo sticks they slunked out from where they had entered. Fearing the worst, I walked into the living room and kitchen strewn with contents of a ransacked refrigerator…. bread, vegetables, eggs, butter, milk all over the kitchen counter, the floor and living room couch. Food must have been on their bucket list as my laptop was still where I had left it…..on the couch.

Few days later, on a particularly scorcher of a day, a monkey gang  yanked the neighbour’s terrace water tank cover and took dips in the cool water. It was their swimming pool for an hour as they took turns to dive in and out. Once done the leader, I suppose, slid the cover back and the ‘cool’ gang left. We had to tell the neighbor not to use the water and to have the tank cleaned.

There are monkeys in Hong Kong but not as brazen as the ones found in indian cities. In Mathura, North India, I remember a monkey swooping away my niece’s shades. Someone suggested that we should offer a box of sweets and it worked. The minute the monkey saw the sweet box he came down, took the box and left the shades. It makes one wonder whether they are trained to harass tourists/visitors.

This week the gang appears to be in hiding, except for the lone monkey, jay walking on a parapet.  I can see him/her from my study window, and wait for its next move. A few minutes later there it was, swinging Tarzan, hiding in the branches of the  of the Mango tree, enjoying raw mangoes. Few minutes later our Tarzan disappears and I am left staring at my laptop screen.

In two months time I am off on my travels, Canada, USA, and wish my simian friends the best of Gurugram ambiance.




Whether in frozen magnanimity or tranquil anticipation…..lakes add oomph to their surroundings.

Winter blanket: 1.Kananaskis Lake, upper and lower, located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada .

2. Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

Lake Louise

Summer Special:  1. Okanagan Lake, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada


2. Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada,


Kananaskis, Alberta

DSC07254Before bidding adieu to Calgary and Canada we took a short trip to Kananaskis set amidst the towering Canadian Rockies hiding their bleakness under passive layers of melting snow. I suppose it is the pronunciation, Kananaskis, emphasis on two Ns, that adds to the topographical mystique of the place. It took me some time to get the name correct and this helped set the genial mood of the drive through the now brown prairie land towards the mountain foothills. Kananaskis Valley was home to nomadic Stoney Indians, a mountain Sioux band, who had lived and hunted in the barren flats of Bow Valley and mountain paths of the treacherous Rockies. One does get a feel of the awesomeness of the surroundings from the Lookouts along the walking trails overlooking Kananaskis River.

FotorCreatedKananaskis Country or K-Country and Village, an hours drive from downtown Calgary, tumbles out of a picture gallery with snow-covered meadows, gurgling mountain rivers, swishy- chirpy cool breeze rustling through Spruce Pines, trembling Aspens and other vegetation visited by discreet wildlife. The bears were still in hibernation and once again we had to be content with grazing Elk and mountain goats.

Frozen Kananaskis Lake

Winter is the time for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and ice fishing, came across a couple in the frozen Kananaskis Lake areaClose at hand are the Nakiska Ski runs and we could see the skiers cascading down snow-ribbons. Nakiska was developed during the 1988 Winter Olympics and remains popular with novices, professionals and habitual skiers for its variety of terrain. Other nearby popular ski runs are Fortress Mountain for cat skiing and Canmore Nordic Center Provincial Park for its 65 km of designed ski trails.

Summer is another holiday opportunity and the mountains resonate with enthusiastic energy of mountain bikers, trail-blazers, hikers, horse riders, campers and golfers. Add to this kayaking, rafting and water sports and for loungers perfect selfie moments from decks of cozy lodges amidst the greenery.

ImageHike: Our hike was confined to Village Rim Trails, a flat, short paved easy path wrapped around east end of Delta Lodge. It is an exhilarating walk with spectacular views of the meandering Kananaskis River and valley, a beaming Mount Kidd and other peaks. The lookouts, Points 1 to 5, with conveniently placed wooden benches, are tempting journey breakers to watch the changing colors of the peaks attuned to bracing mountain air.


The entire Kananaskis region with its wooded and rocky slopes, caves, canyons and river paths is a hiker’s haven, graduating from simple to tough.

IMG_4235The refreshing mountain air makes us ravenous and our short walk ends in Woody’s Pub & Lounge.


Winter Fun–Calgary (2)


Calgary in winter !!!!!!‘ …but here I am revealing in frisky icy winds and the white blanket all around. I had compiled a Calgary winter activity list in an earlier post.  Now, when it is time to bid adieu to Calgary, for Hong Kong, I glance through my jottings to see how many I re-accomplished… 7 out of 10…not a bad score.

1. Walk the Malls…this i did aplenty…. especially on days when the temperature dipped to minus 20. There is choice, depending on area where staying, from themed CrossIron Mills, Chinook Plaza, South Center Mall and others to spend entire afternoons and evenings walking along the length and breadth of inner space flanked by brand outlets and showrooms, restaurants, pubs, coffee slots and children’s play stations.

Wonderland …a 12-metre tall sculpture made of wire in Downtown, Calgary

2. Continued with Downtown visits.…..particularly Stephen Avenue the pedestrian mall/ walk in centre of Downtown. Past and present comes alive with cafes, street musicians and vendors, cultural shows against the backdrop of restored buildings flaunting architectural styles of the 1800s to 1930s. Calgary is referred to as the ‘The Sandstone City‘  because of the sandstone buildings replacing most wooden buildings after the devastating fire of 1886. Stand alone buildings are the Old City Hall, east end of Stephen Avenue Walk, and the upscale Teatro restaurant (200-8 Avenue) housed in the former Dominion Bank building  and an example of Beaux Arts classicism. The Avenue walk can be divided and sub –divided into segments to appreciate and savour the settings. One can break the classicism monotony by loosing oneself in the nerdmania of INDIGO on 7th Avenue or the innaneness of Winners or Dollarama stores.

3. Calgary Tower… for a bird-eye view of Calgary from the 191-meter Calgary Tower. We were unlucky as it turned out to be a cloudy day. The booking for the revolving restaurant, Sky 360 was already done, this includes the glass-floor walk for a peek down at city streets. The hazy view was compensated by the 60-minute movement (dinner time revolve) for an all round vista view of the city.

Display in Glenbow Museum

4. Visited Glenbow Museum. A must visit particularly for Niitsitapiisinni: Our Way of Life (The Blackfoot Gallery) to share in the history presented through an interactive display of artifacts of Glenbow’s Blackfoot collection via a circular narrative path.  On 4th floor is the presentation Warriors..A Global Journey Through Five Centuries that compares ‘cultural approaches to war and people who do the fighting’ from First Nation of the plains,the Maoris, Samurai, Medieval Europeans and contemporary society. An multi-faceted display of armour and warfare choreography.


Elbow Falls

5. Continued with exhilarating snowy walks …..along the frozen Bow and Elbow River.  (Start from Eau Claire and cross ‘Jaipur bridge’ for a stroll along the Prince’s Island Park, stop at River Cafe for refreshing coffee and sandwiches, continue towards the vermillion Caterpillar or Peace Bridge, west of Princes Island Park. This is a pedestrian only bridge ‘to nowhere’ connecting southern Bow River pathway and Downtown with northern Bow River pathway. The other easy walks are Heart Creek, the Bow Valley Provincial ParkNose Hill and other Calgary parks.


6. Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise favoured all-weather activities. An all time favourite summer or winter drive is to Banff and surrounding areas such as Bow Valley ParkwayMoraine Lake valleyLake Louise and its Ice Sculpture festival held in January, the Jasper National Park and its environs,  Columbia Icefields (winter time restrictions are there) and Canmore, a quaint village town, an hours drive from Calgary, nestled in heart of Rocky Mountains along Bow River.

7. Christmas Markets, Farmer’s Markets, Crafts Markets, Calgary Library…an active winter. 

Still hovering in the horizon:

1Heritage Park. Spring and summer are the best times to enjoy the vastness and the exclusivity of the Park……family fun place for shopping and celebrations, buggy and train rides and viewing vintage cars at Gasoline Alley. If a history buff, like me, then the largest living history museum in Alberta, is the place to spend time in. The Heritage Park Historical Village started in 1964 and since then has become popular tourist destination.

 2. Canada Olympic Park…Not ski person hence watched the skiers from far. The recent death of two teens in a sled accident in the Canada Olympic Park was heart-rending. …..(Canada Olympic Park on the city outskirts is a legacy venue of the 1988 Winter Olympics. The park is home to North America’s fastest ‘zipline’ where riders reach 140km/h after launching from the ski-jump. No harm in going for a look around).

3. Saddledome….A tick on my future activity list is to watch a hockey game at Saddledome, with its unique ‘saddle’ flowing concave roof.  Another may-be is dog sledding and snow shoeing. or simply walking in the snow.

4. Drumheller located along Red Deer River (Southern Alberta) is a children’s and adults fantasy world with an interesting collection of Dinosaur fossils from the Alberta badlands housed in Royal Tyrell Museum.

5. FORT CALGARY and Calgary Zoo..a miss this winter.. .Fort Calgary was constructed in 1875 by North West Mounted Police at confluence of Bow and Elbow Rivers. The Fort comes across as a mansion, unlike the forts of India, but still interesting to see the reconstructed barracks and life of the people involved in setting up a new city. Close by is Calgary Zoo and during Christmas popular for Winter Lights.

6. The aerial Glacier Skywalk, an observation platform 918 feet over spectacular glacier-formed valleys and rushing waterfalls on route to Columbia Icefields. Unfortunately the Skywalk is closed for winter months.

Quarry Park, Calgary…winter setting sun



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.