Must Go to Melbourne!

It is still 2014, and I’m already dreaming about the places I want to visit in 2015. I made dozens of wishlists of things I want to try and food I want to gorge on. But I threw those lists out of the window when somebody told me I could do it all in one place! Last month, my friend from Melbourne flew down to Mumbai and he couldn’t stop telling me about all the lovely things one can find in Victoria. He flew back to Australia but left me dreaming about that city down under…

Breathtaking Drive on the Great Ocean Road

That magnificent stretch of silver is surrounded by pure gold – the golden sun above, the golden reflection of the sunny skies on the Pacific Ocean, and the Twelve Apostles jutting out of the waters from a golden era! What wouldn’t I give to go on a long, long drive with my best buddies (a la ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’! 😉 )

Top Secret: The 12 Apostles change colours at sunrise and sunset! Those rock statues sure know how to rock! 😀

Squeal at the Seals or Point at the Penguins

Source: visitmelbourne.com/Regions/Phillip-Island

Source: visitmelbourne.com/Regions/Phillip-Island

Now, there are some birds and animals you don’t get to see everywhere. When in Victoria, make the best use of the opportunity and head to Phillip Island! If you go on a boat cruise, you’ll get to wave your hands at the slippery seals barking from the rocks. And once you’re on the Island, you’ll witness the wondrous sight of thousands of little penguins wading across the sand to head to their burrows on Summerland Beach! (Yes, you don’t always need snow to spot penguins! 😉 ) While we’re on the topic of wildlife, let’s not forget koalas! These cuddly furballs are only found on this continent. You can take a peek at their joeys in their pouches at koala conservation centres or treetop boardwalks that let you watch the playful marsupials scurry along trees and bushes.

Slurp some Chocolate or Swirl some Wine

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Phillip-Island/Things-to-do/Food-and-wine/Local-produce/Pannys-Phillip-Island-Chocolate-Factory.aspx

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Phillip-Island/Things-to-do/Food-and-wine/Local-produce/Pannys-Phillip-Island-Chocolate-Factory.aspx

If you are on Phillip Island, you might as well drop in at Panny’s Chocolate Factory and feel like Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If the brown elixir is not your cup of tea, head to The Coffee Collective for your shot of caffeine in this coffee capital of Australia! For wine lovers like me, Melbourne has acres and acres of lush vineyards and a whopping 850 wineries! The cool climate and fertile lands of Victoria make it one of the best places to produce fine quality wines. Take a tour of a winery and indulge in some wine tasting with a sommelier.

Fly Over the Yarra Valley

Source: visitmelbourne.com/Regions/Yarra-Valley-and-Dandenong-Ranges

Source: visitmelbourne.com/Regions/Yarra-Valley-and-Dandenong-Ranges

Touring this beautiful wine region shouldn’t all be about walking. One can zip through the estates on a Segway, or even better – float in the air on a hot air balloon! The best thing about the ballooning experience is that you get to test your own balloon and watch how the hydrogen-filled giant is propped up. Yarra Valley has an ideal terroir. The harvests produce the country’s best wines with fruity notes. And, there’s always grape-stomping for the teetotallers! 😉

Pick Your Own Strawberries and Relish them with Cheese

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Gippsland/Things-to-do/Food-and-wine/Local-produce/Prom-Country-Cheese.aspx

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Gippsland/Things-to-do/Food-and-wine/Local-produce/Prom-Country-Cheese.aspx

For the ultimate “farm-to-plate” experience, spend a day at the Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm which is open from November to April. They’ll let you pick strawberries straight off the ground! You can either eat them on their own or try some exotic strawberry liqueurs and jams. Melbourne also produces some interesting artisanal cheeses. You might want to try the deliciously creamy sheep-cheese varieties! However, if your are on a budget and wish to try everything under the Victorian sun, catch a tram to the Queen Victoria Market. It is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere and sees footfalls of over 10 million a year!

Melbourne is not called cosmopolitan for nothing! You will find almost every cuisine you crave for. Cafes and restaurants dot this megacity where fresh organic produces are in demand. You cannot visit Australia and not try barbecued dishes or craft beers! Microbreweries and streetfood are insanely popular with the local crowd here. And the variety you can have is mindblowing! There’s Greek souvlaki and Indian samosas in the same block sometimes! 😀

Relax in a Thermal Pool

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Mornington-Peninsula/Things-to-do/Spa-and-wellbeing/Peninsula-Hot-Springs.aspx

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Mornington-Peninsula/Things-to-do/Spa-and-wellbeing/Peninsula-Hot-Springs.aspx

Too much travel can tire me out. This is why I shall pre-book a session at the Peninsula Hot Springs and let my body and soul unwind with a mud wrap and hot stone treatment. The natural spas in this region have therapeutic properties in their minerals. After I’m rejuvenated, I shall get back to more activities in Melbourne! 🙂

Gawk at Artsy Streets

Melbourne is very progressive when it comes to street art. This is so liberating for budding artists and expressionists! Hosier Lane and a few others are dedicated to creative and edgy street art. One can lose oneself in this maze-like place full of messages displayed through spray-paintings. Even the street-name is a work of graffiti!

And Do A Million Other Things…

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Melbourne/Things-to-do/Tours/Sports-tours/Melbourne-Cricket-Ground.aspx

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Melbourne/Things-to-do/Tours/Sports-tours/Melbourne-Cricket-Ground.aspx

Melbourne cannot be seen in a day. Not even in a week. And no, even a month won’t suffice! This multicultural city has SO MANY SURPRISES that you will want to move here permanently for a couple of years to truly enjoy the spirit of this place. There’s something for every kind of traveller. The budget tourist can take the hop-on-hop-off City Circle tram which is free! The well heeled can book a helicopter ride over the Southern Ocean to watch the 12 apostles from the sky. The sports enthusiast will find the Aussie Open, the ICC World Cup and many other matches to keep her busy. The History buff can take the Gold Mine Tour at Sovereign Hill, and the architecture-phile can awe in wonder at the sweeping arches and towering skyscrapers. Even little kids can let their feet hang out of a window on the Puffing Billy! 🙂 It’s hardly a surprise then that Melbourne has been titled the “most livable city in the world”! You wouldn’t just live here, you would THRIVE!!!

When I woke up from my daydream, I was so amazed with the variety of activities I could take part in that I decided to pull my friends into this dream too. Without re-creating any scenes from Inception (the movie), I simply asked them a few questions:-

I set the ball rolling on Twitter

I set the ball rolling on Twitter

My tweet got my followers dreaming on Twitterland! 😉 And I picked out some replies for you to see:-

Picture5 Picture3 Picture10

Surfing was something even I did not think of! And even though I’m not a big fan of cricket, I love stadium tours. This virtual interaction taught me I could dream better if I spread the dream to more spheres. So I threw the same questions to my fans on my Facebook page:-

The excitement spread to Facebook! :-)

The excitement spread to Facebook! 🙂

The number of replies I received did not even fit into a screenshot! 😀 See how community dreaming is better than fantasizing on your own? I don’t want to leave my WordPress followers out of the excitement, so I have a special New Year Contest for all of you!!! 🙂

All you have to do is answer the following question and send in your replies as comments to this post:-

Which of these places would you want to visit in Melbourne and why?

(Psst… You can reread this article to make a decision. 😉 ) The most creative reply will win a shopping voucher worth Rs.500! (Yay!! 😀 ) Send in your entries by 5th Jan, 2015.

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Travelling With Children

On my blog, I’ve always written about travelling solo or with adult friends. But in reality, most vacationers are family-trippers. And while it’s wonderful to have your close people around you, it becomes a little challenging if you have little kids. 🙂

I have fond memories of travelling to multiple destinations with my parents and sister as a child. I loved each and every one of those moments, but it is only today that I realize what my folks must have gone through, handling two mischievous kids! 😉 Kids add a kind of excitement to every vacation as they view the world with their innocent minds. To help you experience magical trips and avoid misery as you tag along your little ones, I have curated a list of things to do and know when travelling with children:-

Kids Love the Sand and the Sun

If there’s any group of people that loves beaches the most, it is children! If you want to have a relaxing vacation, head to the beach. Leave your kids with some plastic spades and buckets so they can make their own sand castles, and sunbathe without their constant chatter! But remember to slather some sunscreen lotion on them as their sensitive skin is prone to sunburns.

Kids are the world's cutest beach-bums!

Kids are the world’s cutest beach-bums!

Snacks Can Save the Day!

Do you know the main reason kids are always agitated on a trip? They are hungry! Always carry titbits for your toddlers, especially when on a long road trip. You may not always find kid-friendly restaurants or food  on your way. As far as I know, road-side dhabas make food that’s way too spicy for children. So pack some sandwiches, nuts, crackers and chocolates when your bundle of joy accompanies you on that weekend break. Remember, not to make the food boring. Your kids don’t have to drink milk or eat bitter veggies when they are on holiday! Cut them some slack and indulge them with some junk food. (It’s okay once a while!)

The Bangali puchka

Food can keep your kids calm when all else fails!

Playgrounds Are Kid-Magnets

When you need some quiet time with your better half, head to the local park and let your kids have the time of their lives. Children can be surprisingly easy to manage if they have something or somebody to play with. The slides, see-saws and swings at playgrounds will keep your kids happy and active at the same time! Be careful of ride-injuries though. Make sure you carry some basic first-aid stuff with you. Nothing fancy, just band-aids and ointment. You can always buy other things from the local pharma-store. And this reminds me of medication! Do not forget to keep a few tablets or syrups for stomache-ache, acidity and fever. Dehydration can be quite common in the summers. A packet of Electral will see you through any eventuality.

Footloose in Kodagu

Swings and slides and swing your kids’ mood in your favour! 😉

Theme-Parks and Cartoons

Your trips with your children should not just be about keeping them busy or out of your way. You must plan something that they will truly enjoy. And what better than a trip to a theme park! From my visits to Ramoji Film City, Essel World, Water Kingdom and a few others, I have realized how wonderful it feels to go back to being a kid again. If you can take your kids to any of the Disneyland(s), there’s nothing like it! If you can’t, there’s plenty of other stuff you can plan. There are doll-museums around the world (one in New Delhi) and toy trains in many touristy places.

Nordic nights

Children love animated experiences

Children have their own way of perceiving vacations. They can give us some interesting insights into the places we take them to. You will be amazed to know how kids write their travelogues. Catch a glimpse of their words here – http://www.clubmahindra.com/teddytravelogues/

Help Oindrila Choose her Stay in Moscow!

I was on top of the world when I found out last month that I won return flights to Moscow! 🙂 I pinched myself five times to confirm I wasn’t dreaming. This news couldn’t have come at a better time as I was really upset with my life and the lack of any foreign travel lately. But the world has an amazing way to surprise you and lift your mood when you least expect it!

One of many magical sights that await me! :-) (Source: burgessyachts.com/en/locations/moscow)

One of many magical sights that await me! 🙂 (Source: burgessyachts.com/en/locations/moscow)

While it is really nice to daydream about the wonderful experiences I’ll be having in Moscow, I must not forget that I first have to sort out my stay! I did a quick search for hotels in that city, and boy, are they expensive! I really don’t want to blow my budget on something I’ll only be using for the night. (I’ll be spending a lot of rubles on sightseeing and interesting restaurants and shopping!) I shut my laptop, and a fantastic thought struck me – Airbnb! This option is perfect for a travel freak like me who loves the authentic local experience. Here are the benefits:-

  • I can stay with a local, and yet have some privacy. (I get my own room! 🙂 )
  • If the host is nice (and has free time), I’ll have company on my outings.
  • I’ll get to practise some Russian with a real Russian! 🙂 (That makes me go “Ура”!)
  • And most importantly, it’s dirt cheap!

Now, you know how indecisive I can get when I have too many lovely options! So, I’m asking you all (my wise and well meaning readers 😉 ) to help me choose my stay. I have handpicked 5 rooms offered by some kind ladies (I have nothing against men, but my parents are paranoid! 😛 ) who live in the heart of Moscow. Now, I need your help to finalize my stay! Are you ready? Here are the nominations (*Academy Award style*):-

1. Cute Pink Room

Pink walls with pictures that tell a story? (Source: airbnb.co.in/rooms/1095147)

Pink walls with pictures that tell a story? (Source: airbnb.co.in/rooms/1095147)

This room is right at the top of my list. I love this one because of the thick mattress I can see on the bed. I’m already dreaming of what I’ll dream about when I sleep on it! The room also has a nice window from where I’ll be able to watch the snow melt. Can you see the three racks of books in that corner? I know I’ll be reading myself a story to bed every night!

2. Drawing-Room-Turned-Bedroom

Pullout sofa anyone?(Source: airbnb.co.in/rooms/3889387)

Pullout sofa anyone?(Source: airbnb.co.in/rooms/3889387)

This is a cosy flat in North Moscow. The host is offering her pullout couch with some pillows and blankets thrown in. This looks pretty basic and neat to me. What do you think? This room also has curtains (unlike the previous one). Then again, I’d really like all the sun to keep me warm in the -7 degrees of Moscow!

3. Free Kitchen Access

Home away from home? (Source: airbnb.co.in/rooms/4123024)

Home away from home? (Source: airbnb.co.in/rooms/4123024)

This host lives with her husband and a little child. She’s ready to give full access to her well equipped kitchen. (What if I want to try cooking a new Russian dish?) The neighbourhood is pretty posh and safe, but the residents will be at work all day, so I won’t have a local to take me around.

4. The Brain-and-Brawn Room

Gym + Library in my bedroom? :-)

Gym + Library in my bedroom? 🙂 (Source: airbnb.co.in/rooms/881796)

The spacious wood-floored bedroom has an entire wall full of books! And as if that wasn’t enough, they stock it with a treadmill an weightlifting bars! If I stay here, I’ll not only be slightly more intelligent from my trip, but also look like the female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger! (Okay, I was REALLY kidding there! A week’s worth of working out won’t even help me burn the pounds I’ll gain gorging on Muscovite cuisine.)

5. Four Poster Bed and Flowerpots

Wood and chocolate room?

Wood and chocolate room? (Source: airbnb.co.in/rooms/3870842)

This host sure has greenfingers because every room in her flat has half a dozen flowerpots! 🙂 It’ll be nice to share my room with another living being (only talking about plants here 😉 ). The room is really small, but the price makes up for it.

Alright! I’m done describing my options. If you were me, which would you choose? Help me decide and I’ll delight you with wonderful stories and pictures from my adventures in the mystical city of Moscow! You can view my Airbnb Wishlist for details of the rooms. If reading this article got you interested in Airbnb, you can sign up with my referral link. I’m giving away Airbnb credit worth Rs.1,549 if you use my link to register! (Thank me by helping me choose my stay, please.)