East Georgia - Trailing the Wine Route

Georgia is one of those countries that offers an entire platter to tourists. Winter? No problem. Summer? Even better. Every month is special - from grape picking to cultural events. We went in December, and had the time of our life.

We stayed in Tbilsi the whole time, in a lovely airbnb owned by a Georgian architect and his wife. Every alternate day, we would explore the city. And every other day, we would take day trips to villages, towns, cities around Tbilsi. We took 2 tours - one to Telavi - via Sagarejo, Signaghi and Gurjaani and second to Kutaisi - via Ananuri and Gudauri. Both these trips were in different directions.

This is a post on our day trip to East Georgia, and our first stop, to be honest, was before we stopped at a vineyard. It was to get us some breakfast - we got some fresh bread with delicious raisins.

Sagarejo
When we were traveling to Georgia, a few friends who'd probably been there, asked us to definitely try the local wine. We drove by Sagarejo, a town in the Kakheti district. Kakheti is famous for its vineyards. Even in the winter, these lovely vineyards had a beautiful charm. We drove through miles and miles of the 'wine route' - and both sides of the road offered this view. 
Eat: There are small stores on the way that will make excellent Nescafe coffee for you and from where you can buy warm fresh bread. 

Nature stop. By the wineyard.

It was winter, but a wineyard is still a wineyard.

This poor guy got left out and froze.

Shepherd walking his sheep.

As we drove on, I found this unusual sight. And he was so happy to see us,
he gave us few Khurma - sweet squishy delicious local fruits available in Georgia.

It was yumm.

Signaghi
On our way to Signaghi, we stopped at the Bodbe Monastery - a major pilgrimage site in Georgia. The smaller church nearer to the main road is more than a 1000 years old - and the inside is beautiful. It's a must visit church.
Signaghi is called the 'city of love' - with neat cobbled streets and lovely homes on both sides. The town did have a romantic feel and our guide told us that in the summer, this is a popular wedding location.
Signaghi is surrounded by a fortress which protected the town for several centuries. We walked upto the fortress - and the view is stunning.
Eat: There's a great cafe called Nikala and I had a great vegetarian sizzler. And an even better Georgian lemonde. There are other eateries there - where you can also do wine tasting.

Bodbe monastery - this is the newer construction - infact still under construction.

Signaghi - the city of love.

Handmade.

I love this photo - there was something surreal and romantic that was happening here.

Georgia lost a significant portion of its population during world war II - and this wall memorial pays a tribute to those lost. If you look closely, you can see names of all those deceased.

Cars made during the Soviet era, stronger than any made now.

Gurjaani
I have always wanted to catch a glimpse of how people live - not in tourist places, but in normal cities. I like seeing students go to school, daily commuters, people dressed in suits, colleges goers giggling in Starbucks - all of that. So when our guide told us we will be going to a residential city of Gurjaani to a local's wine cellar - I was quite excited. We stopped at a lovely home and a local explained the wine making process inside a cellar. We even tasted different wines and the local chacha which was really strong.

Inside the wine cellar - drinking some wine.

Telavi
It had been a long day, we had driven really far, to realise that the sun was setting, and it was getting dark. Our guide, Anri kept saying there was something he wanted to show us. We went to see the giant plane tree - a 900 odd year old tree. It was supposedly an attraction - but, it was the view of the mighty gorgeous Caucassian mountains that got me totally awestruck. The glow of the setting sun on the snow capped mountains was one of the most beautiful sights in Georgia.
Eat: We stopped at Rosata - an eateria near the city centre and I had the best vegetarian pizza there. Lovely people, lovely food.

That after glow.

Ruined cars that once served as a car for VIPs during the soviet era.

We visited the local market in Telavi - a lovely experience.

We had contacted a tour company via the internet but I suggest you use one of the several tour operators you'll find near Chardin Street - as it's a lot cheaper. And the car / driver are pretty much the same. Trips will cost you around 150 - 200 LARI - and are totally worth it.

Tips:

  • If you're going in the winter, it is a lot chillier than it looks. Carry sufficient warm clothes - complete with gloves, hoodies, a scarf and boots.
  • Carry something to nibble in the car - along with drinking water. Also carry tissue and other usual stuff you'd carry during a road trip.
  • Don't be shy to ask to stop when you see something you like, even if it is to talk to locals.
  • Carry cash as the ATMs are few and far in between once you leave the city.
  • Vegetarian can heave a sigh of relief - there are lots of veg dishes that are the favourites of locals - including kachaburi - do try it.
  • Try the local fruit - but it's quite a messy eat - there - you've been warned.
  • I recommend to not go all the way to Telavi during this trip - it is too tiresome - although the view is gorgeous.
  • There is a point - most guides will stop here - from where you can see the mighty Caucass - behind which on the left side is Russia and on the right side is Azerbaijan. It's a beautiful feeling.


Writing about Georgia makes me miss my holiday. I hope you guys travel to this beautiful country. Let me know what you think in the comments below xx

The instax mini 8 camera review

A couple of years ago, I had a Facebook friend who had posted a photo of his new polaroid camera. Ever since I wanted to own one. I love the idea of having an actual photo that you can hold. I mean, I take hundreds of photos on my phone every month and probably have an entire hard disk of photos - but to be honest, I have no clue what's where.

Recently, my husband gifted me a polaroid. It was impromtu. We were browsing for camera accessories and I found this polaroid camera sitting on a shelf just looking at me. And before I could figure out whether to buy it, or read reviews first, or perhaps ask around, it was getting billed.

The polaroid:

The polaroid camera is called instax mini 8 and is by Fujifilm - a trusted brand in all things photography. The camera is easy to hold, has a plastic body and seems sturdy enough. It isn't as lighweight as you'd hope, especially considering it is, after all, a toy camera, but it has a vintage feel to it, which made me overlook the slighly bulk nature of the instax mini 8.

We came home and quickly unboxed the instax polaroid. It comes in 7 colours - and I chose sky blue. I always thought the decision whether to buy one would be tough - but it was challenging to actually select the colour. All the shades are nice - yellow, light pink, black, white, grape, raspberry and sky blue.

The front.

The film:

The camera doesn't come with the film - you need to purchase the film separately. I was a little bummed when I saw the price. Each box of film has around 10 credit card sized films and cost around $7 - $9 USD each time. Well, it's not expensive, but considering that the camera costs around $60 USD, I thought I was getting better value for money for the camera rather than the film.

It is easy to mount the film to the polaroid, and as such, the casing is quite sturdy. There's a tiny counter at the back showing how many photos you can still take before the film runs out. I found that extremely convenient.

Polaroid dreams.


Selecting the mode:

The camera comes with a 5 mode exposure selection levels - which simply means that depending on the amount of natural light available - you can select the mode. Now, this isn't as straighforward as it seems. I had to do some trial and error to get used to this feature - especially becasue I do not use DSLRs. The trial and error method seemed expensive - for each film I used, I was using almost dollar.

The lens comes with basic options - Home for indoors, Cloudy, Sunny but slightly cloudy, Sunny+bright and Hi Key. Hi Key allows you to take photos with a softer impression. I would recommened using the Sunny but slightly cloudy mode to start your trial and error. The camera does have a sensor indicating which mode would be best for the current set up, but you in all probability, you will still have to get used to the modes.

You best shot would be nice, not too clear though. You need to remember that it is after all a instant camera and costs lesser than an average digital camera.

Top - you can see the 5 modes.

Should you buy it?

If you have always wanted to own your own polaroid camera and appreciate the small white bordered photos, and are not too much affected by the fact that each new set of 10 films costs around $8, then go ahead - it's a great buy. You can find some great deals (including good deals on the film) on Amazon.

However, you should remember this will not be one of those 'value for money buys' but a 'nice to have' buy. One reason I wanted to buy it was that I love traveling, and I thought it's a 'nice to have' travel accessory.

When you do buy it, I would recommned not buying the cover it comes with - as this is adding to the already slightly bulky camera. And as a sling bag - it's not exactly stylish.

My mum stole that photo.

The first polaroid instant camera came out in the late 1940's and less than a decade ago, they resurfaced as a style statement.
Photo - Credit

I hope you liked the review, would love to hear your thoughts. Also, would you buy one? Do you already have one? Leave your comments below xx

Holidaying in Tbilsi, Georgia

I have always loved the summer, and it would be fair to say that I would prefer 50 degrees of sveltering heat to 5 degrees of, what some people call, pleasant cold. As I grow older, I still prefer 50 to the 5. So when we thought of where to travel to in December, I quickly said Egypt without much thought. I knew Egypt (especially the coastal city of Sharm El Sheikh) would be nice and warm. But as luck would have it, my Kuwait residency had less than 6 months validity remaining, and hence, we could not apply for the Egypt visa - which was a huge bummer - becasue Egypt could really do with some tourism inflow.

Anyways, with maturity (not) I put aside my dream of diving in the Red sea, for now, and looked at other places. We were already late as it was mid November and we could only have managed a Visa on Arrival now. We then looked up Georgia, which I did not know much about. I was quite skeptical - the average temperature in December was 0 degrees much to my dislike.

But remember, someone famous once said - 'Do something new every once in a while and conquer your fear'. So with a lot of courage, and winter clothes aplenty, we took our flight from Dubai to Tbilsi. Flydubai has introduced affordable and convenient flights, and the flight was really nice. No freebies, but it was only a 3 - 4 hour flight.

Styling the Palazzo: in Monochrome

It's been a while I posted something on my blog. I usually post about travel, and recently, a couple of lifestyle posts too. I stay away from fashion, becasue, honestly, there are a tonne of great fashion bloggers. But recently, I have started to enjoy documenting what I wear, and what better way to document than to blog about it.

I think style is a way of expression, and minimalism, monochromes, simplicity, pastel, feminine, affordable and comfortable are words that you'll hear often. I am excited to be doing these posts - but beware, I am a terrible poser and also, quite camera shy. My wonderful husband makes me look a hundred times better than I am.

I have always been a fan of palazzos, those stylish yet comfy wide legged pants, that don't stick to my legs! On one of my recent shopping hauls, I found the perfect palazzo; the black and white one.
Vertical stripes make me look taller, I shall never complain about those few extra inches of perception. And to make a complete look of it, I have paired it with a short, well fitted black top, with an interesting neck. Palazzos go well with crop tops too.

It's been 6 years !

I just realised this is my 100th post. (Hundred !!) I started blogging in March of 2011, when I was a wedding planner. It seems like a hundred years ago. That was a time when my meetings used to be in Le Meridian or Ramada. Or my favourite, Taj Malabar, overlooking the water. I don't mean to show off, but I am reminiscing a part of my life that I am surprised I experienced. Most people, at 22, wouldn't have taken the risk that I took - of chasing a dream.

Of chasing dreams.
I wanted to be many things as a kid, most of all a vet, I thought there was nothing better in the world than to spend time with animals and take care of them. But for many reasons, that never materialised. Though even today, if I had to spend time in an animal shelter or a farm, I would be more than happy.
When I graduated as an engineer, I had an offer to join Infosys, at the time considered 'amazing'. And a person in the right frame of mind, who did not want to do a Masters or who had no clue what to do in life, would have taken that offer up. (The Mysore campus of Infosys was apparently world class)
But I chose to do wedding planning. I remember when I took that decision, there were people who I did not know cared for me, who told me to think twice.

Ladakh, through his lens.

I have always wanted to travel to Ladakh, but for some reason or another - that magical trip never materialised. Sometime in June this year, just before we left for Thailand, my husband was planning what he called 'a dream trip' with a couple of his friends - he was planning a road trip to Ladakh in September. I knew I wasn't going to get leave, in fact - for once in my life - I did not even have the required 'days off'. Yes, it is a real problem - a lot of my friends have asked me how I travel so much - well, there you go, I sat this one out.

I was a little bummed - it would have been amazing I was sure. A couple of years ago, when I was working in Delhi, for some reason or another, Ladakh did not happen. Plans would be made, plans would be cancelled. The place now seems jinxed.

Anyhow, my photographer husband, came back a couple of weeks ago, and I was excited to have him back. But he literally seemed disoriented. I was initially confused, but then I realised once you've seen something so beautiful, lived a dream and then have to come back to reality, it takes a toll for a few days.

From Thailand, with love - part 3

Bangkok was our last stop, and we were feeling the same familiar feeling you feel when you know something good is going to come to an end. I hope you guys read the previous two posts on Thailand - you can read them here and here.

Bangkok is one of the largest cities in the world - where urban married vintage. Bangkok is where you can see sky rails and you can see long tail boats. You can meet tonnes of westerners who call this bustling city their home and you can also find busy office goers, who if you stop and ask for help, will speak broken English. What were my first thoughts upon reaching Bangkok ? I wanted to move there. My husband and I actually wanted to move to Bangkok - it seemed doable - and come on, we're in Kuwait - it seemed like a good idea. Here's a small Timelapse I made.

This is one of my favourite photos from the trip to Bangkok. Captures the essence of Bangkok very beautifully.
But first things first, we left Pattaya in a Volvo, and were dropped at the Suvarnabhumi airport. From the airport, we took the airport metro line to the metro closest to where we were put up - in Central Bangkok. We also bought metro cards. Unlike in Delhi - there is no one card fits all - various lines have various cards. Though I think they should unify the whole thing.

From Thailand, with love - part 2

I hope you guys enjoyed reading the Part one of this series. If not here's the link ! I have been procrastinating writing about the lovely Pattaya and Bangkok - but it's finally here :)
Pattaya, is a very lively city, it is more tourist oriented, as though it was build as an after thought. Pattaya is also infamous for being the unofficial sex tourism capital of the world - information I did not know until I was actually in Pattaya.

We took a Bangkok airways flight from Phuket to Pattaya. It was a really small turbo-prop aircraft, and I was already feeling uneasy at the thought of the turbulence, the rains did not help either. But the service, like everywhere else we had stayed and encountered, was top notch. I loved their inflight magazine - I read the whole thing :)

We had arranged with our Airbnb host to arrange for pick up, because honestly, we were tired, and we did not want to struggle with finding the location. Our driver was very friendly, upon seeing my excitement, he would offer to stop to take a few photos. (Where else would that happen ?)
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