Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain



Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família = Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family

Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, construction of had commenced in 1882, Gaudí became involved in 1883, taking over the project and transforming the project with his architectural and engineering style—combining Gothic and curvilinear, Art Nouveau forms with ambitious structural columns and arches.

Construction passed the mid-point in 2010 with some of the project’s greatest challenges remaining and an anticipated completion date of 2026—the centennial of Gaudí’s death. Travel Planning: Ms Alefiyah, Zest Tours





City of contrasts, Favelas (slums with fancy names) next to dense rain forest, tranquil Bossa Nova to heady Samba beats, friendly hangover waves on the beaches, but noisy beach restaurants…and much more!

Rio is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America. Rio de Janeiro is the most visited city in southern hemisphere and is known for its natural settings, carnival celebrations, samba, Bossa Nova, and balneario beaches such as Barra da Tijuca, Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon.

Landmarks in addition to the beaches include the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer = Cristo Redentor atop Corcovado mountain, named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World; Sugarloaf mountain  = Pão de Açúcar with its cable car; the Sambódromo, a permanent grandstand-lined parade avenue which is used during Carnival; and Maracanã Stadium, one of the world’s largest football stadiums.


Hann Munden, Lower Saxony, Germany


Located in the district of  Göttingen at the confluence of the Fulda and Werra rivers, which join to form of the river Weser. It has 28,000 inhabitants. It is famous for its old houses, some of them more than 600 years old. Town prospered due to the taxes levied on the goods carried on the river. Due to some unknown reason town was not bombed during World War. It is also one of the towns in the “Fairy Tale Trail” of Germany.Image

Sights: The large Lutheran church of St Blasius (14th-15th centuries), in Gothic style, contains the sarcophagus of Duke Eric I of Brunswick-Calenberg. Forstbotanischer Garten in Hannoversch Münden, an arboretum. Remains of the medieval 12th century city walls / Tillyschanze, and observation tower built from 1881 to 1885 by citizen of the town to remember the siege of the town by Count Tilly in 1626.

Welfenschloss, originally built by duke Eric I in Gothic style in 1501, as both a residence and administrative center. After its destruction by a fire in 1560, duke Eric II had it rebuilt in Weser Renaissance style.

Old Werrabrücke, one of the oldest stone bridges in the country

Renaissance Town Hall, built in the 14th century (now the central Gothic hall remains) and renewed in the façade between 1603 and 1618. Johann Andreas Eisenbarth: surgeon/ dentist (1663): trail.

Highlight: Hotels in this town have the concept of Bike-Hotel. Every room gets 2 bicycles to explore the town or riverside track, which runs for 30KM!

April 2012

Alhambra, Granada, Spain


The Alhambra (Arabic: الْحَمْرَاء‎, Al-Ḥamrā’ = “the red one” = Calat Alhambra= “the red fortress”), is a palace and fortress complex constructed during the mid 14th century by the Moorish rulers of the Emirate of Granada in Al-Andalus, occupying the top of the hill of the Assabica on the southeastern border of the city of Granada in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia. The Alhambra’s Moorish palaces were built for the last Muslim Emirs in Spain and its court, of the Nasrid dynasty. After the reconquest by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492, some portions were used by the Christian rulers. The Palace of Charles V, built by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in 1527, was inserted in the Alhambra within the Nasrid fortifications. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the Alhambra was “discovered” in the 19th century by European scholars and travelers, with restorations commencing.  Alcazaba, Nazreen Palace, Fortified wall, thirteen towers and Generalife gardens complete the Alhambra fortress complex, with old city quarters of Albaicin and river Darro intertwined!

Spain Itinerary: Madrid-Granada-Valencia-Barcelona

Travel Planning by: Alefiyah Motiwala/Zest Tours



Paradise next door: SriLanka


A land like no other!

SriLanka has been a center of the Buddhist religion and culture from ancient times and is one of the few remaining abodes of Buddhism in South Asia. The Sinhalese community forms the majority of the population; Tamils, who are concentrated in the north and east of the island, form the largest ethnic minority. Other communities include Moors, Burghers, Kaffirs, Malays and the aboriginal Vedda people.

The country is famous for the production and export of tea, coffee, coconuts, rubber and cinnamon (native to SriLanka). The natural beauty of Sri Lanka has led to the title The Pearl of the Indian Ocean. The island is laden with lush tropical forests, white beaches and diverse landscapes with rich biodiversity. The country lays claim to a long and colorful history of over three thousand years, having one of the longest documented histories in the world.

Previous visits in 2008, 2010. Last visited in 2011.


Santorini…Photos: KiranAcharya, Words: Anu Pavanje


Santorini a volcanic island located in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km southeast from Greece’s mainland. has an area of 73km2 and a population of 13,670. On a busy tourist season, number of tourists exceed the residents!

Great poets have sung its praises, a 4.000 year old history. And the eternal rock continues to stand, strong and majestic, rising proudly from the sea and guarding well the secrets of Atlantis…

For me, it was a dream destination…where natures fury has created a wonder…where every sunset is spectacular…every view is overwhelming…with colour…

French lessons to save Shekhavati Havelis



The havelis of Shekhawati are a prime attraction of the region. The region which was once on a caravan route lured many affluent merchants to inhabit it. With the dwindling of the Opium trade in this area, the merchants (Goenkas, Poddars, Singhania, Ruias and Birlas) moved to the other prosperous part of the country, yet their hearts remained in this region. Hence, they constructed their havelis in the various small towns of this region. The havelis of Shekhawati are not just huge, rather they are a beauty to adore. The havelis, popularly had a carved wooden gateway as the main entrance that opened into a courtyard. This courtyard again lead to another courtyard. Larger havelis are double storeyed and have upto four courtyards. The windows of these havelis are richly carved and glow with exquisite mirror work. These latticed windows were the means by which the Rajasthani women viewed the happenings of the outer world. The highlight of the havelis are the frescoes that are seen almost everywhere – on the facades, gateways, courtyard walls, parapets and ceilings. The frescoes have varying themes that reflect the changing taste and lifestyle of the people from 1750 (earlier fresco paintings) and 1930 (later fresco paintings). Earlier themes like mythological, local legends, hunting scenes gradually gave way to more modern themes like motor cars, aeroplanes, ships, telephones, gramophones, trains and balloons.

The frescoes seem to narrate an interesting tale in a colourful manner. The entire Shekhawati region radiates with such frescoes and it is precisely this reason that it has been bestowed with the sobriquet of an open air art gallery.

Due to migration of family members, magnificent Havelis are now crumbling due to lack of upkeep. Most owners have sold these havelis to antique dealers ( i saw the materials of a Shekahvati haveli in Jewish Bazar in Kochi recently!)…some are vandalised, some destroyed by elements of nature/ poor drainage system of the town…and mostly due to neglect. If you are interested buy one such haveli, the price ranges from 1 to 5 crore!

A ray of hope from a French Artist!

A beautiful haveli purchased by French artist Nadine Le Prince. It was built in 1802 by a rich family of traders, the Deora, who were also officers at the court of the local Maharaja. Since 1999, Nadine Le Prince has entirely restored the palace and all the frescoes. She is also doing much to preserve and restore the heritage of havelis throughout Shekhawati, working with other associations to give the havelis a second life.

She has opened a cultural center, which she created in order to exhibit French and Indian modern artists, and to confront old and contemporary art. The Kala Dirga Gallery of Contemporary Art features pieces made by artists about India; the Saraswati Gallery covers traditional themes of Rajasthan, through different kinds of painting. There are also two little Tribal Art Galleries exhibiting the artistic work of tribes, as Patachitras and Madhubani. The aim of the project is to offer the visitor a large panorama of works and visions of India; so the exhibited artists have very different origins: From France, from Jaipur Fine Art School and local Shekhawati painters.

Le Prince has also established a program of artists in residence and plans to organize other cultural events, such as dance and music shows, to make this enchanting palace become a lively place for art in all forms.