Milan

That timeless evening in Milan

Posted By : Sumit Singh/ 123 0

It was a beautiful day in Milan. She was prettier than it seemed from a distance, at least her attitude made her so. And I found her at loss of words, just like myself

It had been raining the past couple of days and the overwhelming aroma of the city kept reminding me of South Mumbai. Only, the sights of beauties such as Ducati, Benelli on roads would bring me back to the happy realisation that I was trotting the streets of Milan, one of the most popular cities of Italy.

There are many aspects that make Milan different, when compared to the sights we are attuned to in India. For example; clearer skies, lazy sit-out cafes on the sides of the water canals, all lit-up restaurants with people sipping their wines in glory. It is also amazing to observe those small football goalposts in nets, partly on water and partly on ground with kids trying to perfect their kicks.

At Milan, you cannot take fashion out of even the mundane things. We don’t get to see as voguish people doing the regular things like picking up veggies, strolling or just enjoying a cuppa latte in our side of the world. The clothes, shoes, walk, jovial attitude and confidence of the Milanese say a lot about the culture of this upmarket city.

For a shopping crazy person like me, ticking all the marks on the ever expanding shopping list is always a challenge. However, I have perfected a trick to make sure that one reaches even halfway with the impulsive shopping list, by trying a thing called window-shopping before the-actual-shopping. It helps you check best deals and compare prices before the money leaves your hand. And if you are at the Buenos Aires shopping street at Milan, be double sure about two things. One, you will get the same pair of shoes for 300 as well as 30 Euros, just keep checking till you need to pinch yourself. Second, do not consider money back as an option even if the jacket you bought has all its threads coming out from everywhere; the salesman will rather ask you to let-it-go and pick-something-else. And there is not much you can do with a tough man wearing black tights with a loud unapologetic tone.

Somehow, even in that business, Milan shows less chaos in comparison to an average Indian metropolitan. I kept looking out to see two Italians roughing it over a traffic feud or a jealous boyfriend picking up a fight about his decked up doll…but nothing, it was business as usual, just in an unfamiliar quiet way. As a regular North Indian would say, ‘machoness’ was missing.

In Milan, they don’t cut the pizzas into those nice little slices; so you just fold one and gobble it up than fighting it with a fork and the usual blunt table knife. Unlike the sophisticated lanes of the coveted Hauz Khas village in Delhi, where the Michelin un-starred pubs entice you with a plus one or plus two on drinks, cafes and bistros in Milan entice you with endless servings of free snacks alongside a 5 Euro glass of wine.

It must have been my fifth serving of some amazing nachos when I found her blue eyes staring at me. Most of the times I am colour blind, but I am very sure it was a turquoise off-shoulder dress that she was wearing. With her black long hair, she sat elegantly as I was fixed on the most beautiful pair of blue eyes. I couldn’t breathe; all the food inside my mouth almost choked me and I had to down it with some of the wine on my table. She smiled and chuckled, making it embarrassing. I heard her friend ask what was funny but she hesitated to point at my face. For any sane guy, that would have been the apt moment for an introduction, but not for me. I had to wait it out till there was another choke building up and the awkwardness had reached newer heights. Like a fool, I finally got up and said ‘hi’. I was greeted with two smiles, one obviously better to my eyes than the other.

“How are you doing?”, I asked and was offered a seat. That was easy; I should have done that earlier… I actually said that, which was thankfully missed in the introductions. “Noah”, she introduced herself as we stared right at each other.

She was prettier than it seemed from a distance, at least her attitude made her so. And I found her at loss of words, just like myself. To our rescue, her friend Christine just could not stop talking. They were waiting there for her boyfriend. “Whose boyfriend?”, I asked. “Mine”, said Christine cheerfully as Noah smiled.

Christine had an Indian boyfriend called Varun. What followed was over thirty minutes of talk by Christine about how much she knows about India and how Varun has promised to bring her to India and everything else. Noah and I spent most of our time stealing glances. Noah liked India, but she did not want to come to India for a short trip, she wanted to explore. Noah didn’t like going out much, she would rather stay at home and watch TV Series than sit at a lousy cafe on a regular evening.

But since, it was Christine’s and Varun’s third month anniversary, she had to be part of the celebrations. How cute! In the middle of all this, Christine suddenly got up and jumped towards…Varun, it was him. While I was waiting to meet an Indian brother to find a common ground, it took me a while to get up as in all her excitement of meeting Varun, Christine had jumped right up, pushed the table and had sent a glass of water in my lap. Never mind, will look at the damages later…”Hi Varun, kya haal chaal?”, I said and I was greeted with a blank look in response. “Vrooon“, he corrected me.

Christine begged him to speak to me in ‘Indian’, and he goes, “Namuhste, kaise hain aap“, which was followed by a great applause and hugs and kisses from Christine. While I was still trying to fathom what had happened and to get over Varun’s err Vrooooon’s ponytail and tattoos, Noah handed me over some tissues alongside an apologetic smile. “Let us paarteh, you want to come bruh?”, asked Vroooon.

As much as I wanted to stay, I still had to go to my hostel and get into dry pair of denims before I could get to know more of Noah. I told them I would join shortly and Vroooon asked me to see him at the third lane under that big grocery shop. Noah asked if I’ll be alright and further explained the exact directions to the pub. I smiled and told her that I would see her at the grocery store and we go together to the place. Generally, i wont quote bollywood but our long handshake parted with each finger bidding adieu to each other.

I kept staring at her walking away in the excitement of knowing someone special. I began to fantasize about how the night shall unfold and just when I was about to name our kids, she looked back and signaled me to hurry back to my hostel. I never did really feel any wetness from the water, on my way back. I changed into another pair of denim and t-shirt making me look alright for the occasion.

I thought if I should take flowers on my way back, but that would not have been alright. I have two more days in Milan to make it work and who knows what the future holds…India and Italy might have better bilateral relations from thereon, I thought to myself. I reached the spot and realized that all the transit had made me 20 minutes late from the decided time of rendezvous. I rushed to the grocery store entrance and then inside it, checked across the road and even in other shops around. But maybe, 20 mins was too much of a wait for Vroooon and Christine…

Escape to Ladakh with BRO

Posted By : Escape Route/ 140 0

Not only has BRO (Border Roads Organisation) built the highest motor-able road in Asia but have also paved a number of really cool signage along the way. So when on a road trip to Ladakh, on the Leh-Manali highway, BRO (Border Roads Organisation) keeps you entertained. On one of our escapes to Ladakh, while we captured a zillion beautiful landscapes, we couldn’t miss these witty lines by BRO. Check them all out as we’ve curated the best of them in a brief video.

If you wish to experience Ladakh and its such amusing features, join us this year, from 15-26 June or 16-24 June!

things about Ladakh

Ladakh, in feelings

Posted By : Escape Route/ 183 0

More than anything, Ladakh is a feeling; a feeling cumulative of several other feelings, and a feeling that everyone experiences for themselves…

The awe-inspiring virtue of Ladakh captivates you to the extent that it seems impossible to encapsulate all its beauty in a definite number of words. And yet, we try…we try to express the allure of this cold desert  in terms of the traits it possesses, in feelings it evokes.

ZEN

Evident in the air of Ladakh, even more than Oxygen, is the essence of spirituality and a state of Zen. The fact that Ladakh was once a Buddhist kingdom is reason enough to explain the roots of this emotion; Buddhist pilgrims used to be the only kind of travelers back then. Guru Nanak also spent some time meditating in Ladakh. In the present times, with places like the Shanti Stupa, Diskit Monastery, Gurudwara Patthar Sahib, Jama Masjid and more dotting its landscape, Ladakh is enveloped with a sense of zen.

CELESTIAL

things in Ladakh

A land of supernatural landscapes, as they call it, Ladakh’s geography evokes a truly celestial feeling. For every second that you spend in Ladakh with your eyes wide open, you’ll witness physical beauty in one form or the other. From vast rocky terrains and snow capped peaks to vibrant and almost magical skies, every frame in Ladakh is surreal. Even amid the crowded Leh, one thing or the other would manage to charm you. And then there are rather breathtaking locations such as the Lamayuru village in Uleytopko. Known as the moonland of Ladakh, Lamayuru is home to lunar landscapes that give one the feeling of being on moon.

MYSTICAL

pangong tso, things in ladakh

Ladakh’s lakes are an integral part of its character and beauty. These extraordinary lakes are alluring to the extent that they appear mystical, even more so when the water is absolutely still and the lake mirrors the sky. All three of them are unique in their own way. Pangong, being the highest salt water lake in the world, owns a reputation of its own. But it is its ever-changing colour – from blue and azure to green and grey – that makes for a visual delight. Tso Moriri, one of our personal favourite spots, is where you get to spot Tibetan wild asses grazing by the shore in all their laziness. And the fluctuating Tso Kar attracts its own share of exotic birds, and awe from travelers.

SOULFUL

Humans of Ladakh; things in Ladakh

If you have already been to Ladakh, chances are that you have come back with anecdotes of your heart-warming experience with the locals. Sometimes, the interaction lasts a smile and if you (you must) choose to live in a homestay, you end up getting a closer look into the life and culture of the Ladakhis. Either way, it is evident that the indigenous people of Ladakh are extremely kind and hospitable, sometimes beyond comprehension. If you do get to stay with a Ladakhi family, you’ll learn how they cherish the little things in life. It is no less than an opportunity to learn a couple of things from people who have found a way of life in a region with extreme climate. Your choice of staying in a homestay over a hotel or resort will not just give you a beautiful experience but will also help keep Ladakh from the risk of commercialization that it is currently facing.

ONENESS

Things in Ladakh

More than anything, Ladakh is all about what you feel; a feeling cumulative of several other feelings, and a feeling that everyone experiences for themselves. Right from the excitement of getting there and the dizziness you feel when you actually get there to the mind-numbing chill, the thrill of being ‘on top of the world’, and the entire experience you bring back with you, it is your own journey that counts.

As much as we love to escape and explore ourselves, it gets even better when like-minded people join us on our journeys. So if Ladakh is on your bucket-list this year, join our Escape to Ladakh this June and Experience Ladakh at your own pace! Talk to us and let us custom-make an itinerary for you and your gang.

One with Wilderness: Camping site near Delhi

Posted By : Escape Route/ 144 0

For the adventure seeker in you, Escape Route has come up with its own camping site near Delhi. Camp under the stars, pitch your own tent wherever you want, cook food the rustic way, go for a nature trail, spot hyenas and/or just laze around and share stories with fellow travellers…& get one with wilderness

For the adventurer in you, Escape Route has come up with its own camping site near Delhi!

Situated close to Damdama Lake, amid Aravallis, this camping site near Delhi allows you get one with wilderness. Camp under the stars, pitch your own tent wherever you want, cook food the rustic way, go for a nature trail, spot hyenas and/or just laze around and share stories with fellow travellers.

Just about an hour from Delhi and even lesser from Gurgaon, the route to this site passes through the Faridabad-Gurgaon forest range which in itself is an incredible off-roading experience for all wanderers. The route is one of the favourites for motorcycle enthusiasts in NCR. The camping site can also be reached via Sohna road in almost similar time.

This site is spread across 4 acres of land in the forest range and is being preserved and maintained as per the strict guidelines of the forest department. On one side, the land has a water stream flowing towards Damdama Lake. So when it rains, one can enjoy a little boat ride to reach the camping site. The network and electricity here is limited; almost perfect for the urban professional who seeks a digital detox every now and then.

To retain its raw essence and allow you a purely rustic experience, we make sure that minimum human touch-ups are made. But don’t you worry, the bare minimum, such as facility of proper toilets, has been made available. More than anything else, it is an honest attempt to escape from monotony without having to travel too far, and spend time with nature in the middle of nowhere.

Please note: The site is functional on specific dates and on group requests only. And you may rent out camping equipment (tents, sleeping bags etc.) from Travelers Cafe by Escape Route.

Manali

Revisiting Manali

Posted By : Escape Route/ 105 0

A lot has already been said about Manali, about its beauty, about its look and feel and more…yet there is an inherent charm to this hill station that makes it worth visiting again and again

Being multi-cultural in its essence, Manali offers you equal opportunities to let your hair down as well as introspect in natural solitude. The hill station is painted in a hue where the old meets new in an enchanting way.

In the town’s nomenclature, you’ll find plenty of mythological references; ‘Valley of Gods’ is what it is famously called. Head to the nearby village of Naggar and you’ll get an insight into what made Manali a painter’s muse. If the famous Russian artist, Nicholas Roerich, were alive (and accessible), we would have loved to get his perspective on what made him fall in love with the  mountains of Naggar, that he didn’t find anywhere else.

From stories about Lord Shiva to being home to people with different nationalities throughout, Manali exposes you to a world of immense possibilities. From traditional Himachali Siddu to authentic lasagnas, the food experience in the city is equally satisfying. At any given point of time, you will find people with varied backgrounds and different nationalities trotting the same streets.

Over the years, Manali has evolved in two parts – an era gone by (Old Manali with its rustic charm) and the developed Manali town around Mall Road. What connects the two worlds, literally, is an old bridge over Manalsu River (as seen in the topmost image).

Any trip to Manali is incomplete without a visit to Old Manali, be it for its vintage streets and wooden houses, for an escape from city life or simply to try the food at its numerous themed cafes. If you like home-made noodles forget everything and head to Tibetan Kitchen. Then there’s Casa Belle Vista for vegetarians who are all for Spanish food and wine. Those seeking a delicious serving of Trout must try Johnson’s Cafe which is open through the year.

Vashisht village set on a steep hill opposite Old Manali is popular for hot springs and old temples, as well as pocket-friendly restaurants and home stays. If you are in mood for a trek through the woods, an eight-hour hike from Vashisht to Pandu Ropa (11,480 feet above sea level) is a perfectly adventurous idea. And we suggest you take local guidance and support to make the best of this long hike.

July to September is the harvest season and apple-plucking is a must-do experience. Some kind-hearted residents allow you to pick apples, pears and plums for free, others may charge a small amount for this lovely exercise. It might be of interest to note that the apple orchards in Manali were initiated by our colonizers.

However popular or travelled-to Manali is, it never ceases to amaze with its own share of history as well as natural glory. With the tinted Beas River flowing through, verdant valleys and picturesque snow-laden peaks all around, the town owns a slice of heaven.

Everyone comes back with their own experience of a destination. Do share yours in the comments section below.

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Summer Escape: Dharamshala

Posted By : Escape Route/ 114 0

Distance from Delhi: 480 kms (Delhi – Ambala – Rupnagar – Una – Kangra – Dharamshala)
When to visit: Snowfall in January, trekking in summer and monsoons from July to mid-September
Top things to do: Bask in the culture of Mcleodganj, camping at Triund and other adventure activities

Dharamshala from Delhi is a little longer by road in comparison to other popular destinations in Himachal Pradesh, India. At the same time, it is an amazing road trip for the adventure seekers especially when covered on a motorcycle. Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh is surrounded by cedar forest on the edge of Himalayas.

McLeod Ganj is a tourist hotspot and popular among adventure seekers for the nature trails it can offer. With a beautiful blend of Tibetan and British influence in its by lanes, McLeod Ganj is a beautiful hill station known as Little Lhasa as well as the Headquarters of Tibetan Government in exile. If you have a soft corner for Tibetan culture, food, chilled out cafes and monasteries, McLeod Ganj is your spot.

Dharamshala offers a lot of options to get that adrenaline rush. An array of new spots are springing up that offer adventure activities like paragliding, nature-trails, soon-to be introduced bungee-jumping and zip-lining among others. Triund is a spectacular hilltop overlooking the magnificent Dhauladhar ranges at a stone’s throw distance. We were blessed with rainbows, clouds, snow covered peaks, sunshine and rain as we stepped on the ridge (watch video).

Camping at Triund is a great experience and is highly recommended. Watch the video for a glimpse of the great experience.