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FLORENCE     Florence –  the capital of the Tuscany region and the cradle of Renaissance   We opted for Flix Bus while traveling from Venice to Florence. The road journey takes about three and a half-hour. In Florence, it terminates at the rear end of Santa Maria Novella (SMN) train station. One of Italy’s busiest stations, it got its name from Santa Maria Novella Church just across the plaza from the main entrance. We debarked at the station and refreshed ourselves at McDonald's before hiring a cab for our hotel. Florence, popularly known as ‘Firenze’ by the Italians, is located in central Italy. This dreamy city with a romantic name is the regional capital of the lovely Tuscany region.   Columbus Hotel, where we stayed, is located in Lugarno District. We always prefer to book our hotels through Booking.com as we always land up getting good hotels at good locations. Despite being a little away from the heart of the city and Santa Maria Novella station

Where the Cranes fly -----Sultanpur


About 15 km from my house in Gurgaon lays the famous Sultanpur bird sanctuary. Before it attained the status of National Wildlife Sanctuary it was known as Sultanpur Jheel. Peter Jackson, a famous ornithologist stumbled upon it in the seventies and decided to pursue the Indian government to convert it into an exclusive reserve for birds. Finally in the eighties the jheel attained the national status of bird sanctuary. The sanctuary is situated on the way to Farruknagar in Haryana. From Gurgaon it is the road which runs almost parallel to the road leading to Pataudi, the princely estate of late Mansoor Ali Khan -- ‘Tiger Pat’ to cricket lovers all over the world. The sanctuary used to be a favorite haunt for late Dr Salim Ali, the greatest ornithologist of all times. Haryana is a state where one gets the chance to see the rarest of birds,compared to all other states in India . Haryana Tourist Lodges are all named after birds , like ‘Jungle Babbler’ in Dharuhera, ‘Shama’ in Gurgaon, ‘Sand Piper’ in Rewari, ‘Magpie’ in Faridabad and so on so forth. Haryana Tourism has set up a Tourist lodge in Sultanpur,Rosy Pelican  within the premises of the wild life sanctuary for those who like to enjoy their nights in the wild.Winter is the best season ie. between October to March when one could spot the migratory birds who fly in from as far as Siberia and Europe. There are watchtowers all around, including the areas around the  lake There are about 100 species  ( both local and migratory ) identified in this sanctuary which include birds like Kingfishers, Sandpipers, Demoiselle cranes, Siberian cranes, Teals, migratory Geese. Other wildlife found here are Black Bucks, Nilgai, Hog deer, Sambar, Wild Dogs, Striped Hyena, Leopard and Wild pig. Whenever I visited Sultanpur I loved watching the Cranes flying. When they take off from the trees they occupy during their stay here they tuck their legs inside. When they get down on the tree or land on water, the legs come out and are almost vertical pointing downwards.  The whole operation of taking off and landing back is similar to an aircraft take off and landing

One more relevant point I would like to add. I consider myself privileged to view birds sitting at my Gurgaon house because of its proximity to Sultanpur.

A bird searching for food at my verandah
This prehistoric looking bird was spotted from the window of my Gurgaon house

A lone parrot amongst squirrels
An angry parrot and a squirrel


Sultanpur Jheel

Sultanpur Jheel
Sultanpur Jheel

A crane flying

Sultanpur Jheel
Sultanpur Jheel
A crane about to land

A Nilgai



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