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Product review - Travel Accessories from Urby

I love to travel. My bucket list seems to be always longer than my grocery list - which is also always long. So when Urby reached out to me a couple of months ago to review their travel accessories - I gladly said yes. I am always looking for niche smaller companies to talk about - I genuinely think so many of them deserve a wider audience.

I received the cutest package from Urby last month. A black box. For me, packaging speaks a lot. Was it plastic wrapped? Paper? Jute? Urby sent me two of their limited edition customized 'Dexter slim travel wallet - Gunmetal' and they sent it to me in lovely drawstring pouches. I waited a bit before doing the review because I wanted to use it first. I'm still old fashioned that way.


Postcards from a village near Pushkar, Rajasthan

I've always wanted to go to an actual village, and on a recent trip to India - I got to experience one of the best 24 hours of my life. When you live in a big city like Dubai, the idea of silence, barren land and 'no wifi signal' fade to make sense. We live immersed in so much convenience and technology even without actually understanding it, that to see how lives are lived in small villages in the middle of the desert in India can be a heart wrenching experience. (I am not exaggerating)


Why did I choose Pushkar - and where is it? 
Pushkar is a small town a couple of hours from the capital city of Rajasthan. It is very famous for its annual camel fair - when thousands of camels from all over India are brought to this town to trade, showcase, breed etc. That's how I know about this place. I have a fascination for small towns, the community - what makes the people stay in these towns, how they earn a living, how the children think, where do they buy their every day groceries from and what kind of functions/ festivals do the people go to. The fact that there was easy access from Jaipur via the railways and that I found this amazing farmer who had a small boutique hotel (like really a tiny hut) that seemed like an experience worth having combined with the fact that I did not have a reason to travel to Pushkar; made me go to Pushkar.

It's been a while in Dubai

It’s just any other Friday evening. As the colours of the sky change from a dull indigo to a pale crimson to a beautiful midnight blue, I can see the lights come on. From where I sit, I can see the skyline of the famous Dubai Marina. The shadowy silhouette is slowly changing to a beautifully lit silhouette. I am tempted to take a bus, the F29, my lifeline, to Dubai Marina; just to walk by the water – with the many yachts parked, swaying almost negligibly, on one side and the tall rise buildings on the other side. There are residential buildings, hotels and office buildings, all shining glamorously as the designers have ensured that the steel and glass live up to their reputation of being popular modern architecture elements.


I don’t know if Dubai has ever been called the land of dreams, but for more than a million Asian and Western expats, this city has become synonymous to being called a second home. From the outside, Dubai is a perfect city – I say perfect thinking of Nadia Comaneci and her famous 10 score at the Olympics. But Dubai allows, or rather unceremoniously ignores the chaos, the tiny streets where hustlers sell their artefacts, where taxis park erroneously; surely making the visionaries of this futuristic city scratch their heads in their sleep, where an older generation – the one that came to Dubai in the 90’s – lives in buildings so old, it could remind you of a section of Mumbai’s Dadar.

Art inspiration in Dubai

Last weekend, I visited Alserkal Avenue, which is alternatively called a hub of creativity and art. I wanted to check it out for myself, see what exactly the place was all about. Even though it's October it is still hot and humid here in Dubai (I would have loved to declare that Autumn is here, but alas, not yet).

There's a lot of walking around to be done, the Avenue is a maze of warehouses, dotted neatly alongside a criss-cross of tiny lanes. Unsure of where to begin, I walked over to the A4 Space, it seemed like a popular meeting spot. The day I went, there were dozens of NYU students who had come to check out the place, like I had.


The A4 Space is a minimally designed, artsy warehouse space, with benches and chairs, plants and eclectic lighting fixtures all over. A small stairway led me to the top - where there were more couches and hundreds of books to browse through. This was only my first stop at the Avenue, and I couldn't wait to walk around (in spite of the heat).

Some photos from my visit.

Exploring Kuwait - Mirror House and Souk Mubarakiya

Like a scene from a movie.
Did you ever think you would have to move to a country that every one warned you about? Sometimes it happens - school, college, work, marriage - being some of the reasons on the top of my mind. But isn't it almost unlikely that you will actually start to love the place?
Hard to explain, but I am going to miss Kuwait so much. Like so much. But this post isn't a rant about my love for this desert country. I'm going to write about a few of my places I love about here.

The Mirror House

Lidia Al-Qattan came to Kuwait in the 1960's from Northern Italy and ever since, has had a beautiful relationship with the country. She married the late Kuwaiti artist Khalifa Al-Qattan - who is a pioneer of art in Kuwait. Lidia has created much of the work herself. She herself gives tours of the house which is a testimony of the work both the artists have created. When we arrived, we could see mirror work on the outside of the compound wall. We saw butterflies, stars and flowers - all in mirror. Now, the truth is that this place looks a million times better in real that in photos. We could not stop being in awe.

Colombo Layover - What to do in 7 hours?

I am a huge fan of slow travel, of experiencing everything a local would. The recent Airbnb campaign of 'Don't go to Paris, Live in Paris' really touched a chord with me. However, on a recent trip home, I had a long layover in Colombo. One I couldn't possibly waste. I have flown Srilankan Airlines quite a few times, I have always seen aerial views of the city, but this time, I actually had a chance to explore the city - even if it was for only a few hours.

Avacado with turmeric.

Our stay in Kumarakom - Aveda Resort

I am not a fan of writing reviews, it really does sound like I am endorsing the place - but the resort we stayed in recently was nothing short of spectacular. When I packed my bags from Kuwait to come home, that one trip every child looks forward to, I had in mind a small weekend getaway so we could spend some quality time as a family.
We chose Kumarakom for multiple reasons :
The place is only a couple of hours away from the city, yet is totally isolated from the noise and pollution.
&
The only traffic jam you may find is of 2 house / fishing boats coming close to each other.



Kumarakom is so lush, paddy fields and water ways intertwining magically with coconut trees, that you're tempted to say out aloud, "Kerala is so beautiful".

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.

Shepherd walking his sheep.

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.