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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 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

SULTANPUR BIRD Sanctuary 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’ i

Home is where one grows up

Home is where you grow up. Home is where you settle. Home is where one sighs in relief after a tiring day out. But home is not as simple as that. My son Arjun, when he was in class XII at St. Thomas’ Boys’ School, Calcutta wrote a single-page article on what home means to him. He sent this in to a writing competition held by Sheffield University, UK. He was awarded the second prize. For some reason, I lost that single typed sheet. I have been looking for it ever since I started this blog—and finally, a few days back, my wife found the page, torn and tattered. Here’s Arjun’s essay—I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did. And please leave your views and comments!                             WHAT HOME MEANS TO ME Home is where you are. On the streets . People stare because you got yourself tonsured. You stare back because you find them interesting. You move your body. You spend money. You use your brain. You catch a bus. You see them spit on the road and kick stre


ISTANBUL  -  the city of tulips and rhododendrons                     (Part I) PRELUDE In my school days, circumstances compelled a deep interest in history for me. I attended La Martiniere College, Lucknow, and my surroundings were so rich in historical significance that I could not help but fall in love with the past old imposing buildings, the intriguing but magnificent architecture of the main building ‘Constantia’ – an unusual mix of Gothic, Georgian, Palladian, and Nawabi styles, the three majestic cannons on the terrace overlooking the ‘Lat’ ( a 40m long solid fluted column) standing like a silent spectator right at the centre of an artificial lake, the wooden ballroom dance floor in Spence Hall —–a summer palace for Maj Gen Claude Martin. a French soldier who acquired a large fortune while serving Asaf-ud- Daula, the Nawab of Oudh, before founding the La Martiniere schools in Lyons, Lucknow and Kolkata. The ‘Constantia’ was designed and built by Martin himself in the