Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Chamonix, Mont Blanc...

Chamonix (shah-mo-nee) is a mountainous town in France situated at the base of the Alps and barely a two hour drive from Geneva. So one weekend we drove down to this beautiful little town, and at first glance we were in love with this place... 
First glimpse as you enter Chamonix...
The lovely hotel we stayed at... 
The dining area at the hotel, ate the best croissant here. Whenever me and Nam went to supermarkets we would always pick up different croissants to eat, some filled with chocolate, others with custard. But the most beautiful croissants we ever had were at this restaurant, delicately flaky burnished exterior coupled with a warm doughy interior.
 
Entertainment room, with a TV console at one end
And a book shelf at the other...
 The adjoining bar... 
The reception...
 The entrance...
 View outside the hotel, took this while waiting for the bus. It was lunch time when we reached, so we checked into our rooms and took a bus to the town square... which is bout ten minutes away.
Grilled beef steak and fries... 
Grilled duck meat and a baked potato dish... 
 Ravioli, another great discovery (for me).... loved this spinach and cheese stuffed pasta dish. I've heard of ravioli from Giovanni Capello (my favourite character in Mind Your Language, skip to 7:30 in the video) before, but this is the first time I was tasting it and it was exquisite. 
 Town square, and the main church right in the centre...
The church of St. Michael where we attended Sunday mass in french... the service was quite nice, with mostly old people in attendance. 
 Inside the church you see St. Michael guarding the tabernacle...
 A quaint place just outside the church...
 Cute owner and a beautiful husky...
Wall murals... like a real life scene. 
 Strolling around in the town square...
 The bus stop... with the alps looming around majestically. 
 The hotel at night... 
 Went walking with Nam early the next morning... 
 Came across this beautiful chapel... 
 Went inside exploring...
 It's a small chapel for weddings...
 Coloured windows casting a nice somber shade inside...
 The Altar...
 I had to take a close up of the cross, Jesus is depicted like a stick figure...  
 Loved this quaint little chapel hidden away behind the town...
 View outside the chapel...
 The mountains and autumn leaves...
 The chapel, in all her stunning beauty...
 Walking back, saw this cute little house...
 A cyclist and the glinting sunlight...
 Just walking around, taking in the sights..
A twenty minute walk along the banks of this gurgling and gushing stream that runs through Chamonix, leads to the town square... 
 A cute place... just a wooden house with flowers sprouting everywhere. 
 I couldn't stop taking pictures...
 The whole place is like one giant postcard... picturesque every way you turn. 
 You know how people leave flags or other objects to mark their journey, I had to leave something... something intangible to mark my fleeting journey, a breath of gratitude, evaporated and incorporated into the beautiful mountains that surround this charming place. 

Church bells echoing all over the place... 

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Padua And Venice

The next day after visiting Mount Saleve, we flew to Venice in Italy. The only reason of going to Venice was to visit the Shrine of St. Antony (San Antonio as he is known over there, Antonio is named after him) in Padua, which is a mere twenty minutes by train from Venice. 
The flight was an hour's time with pretty awesome view...
Crossing the snowy alps... 
The Alps covered in a celestial blanket... 
On the first day took a train to Padua and visited St. Antony's Shrine... that's the steeple and dome of the shrine seen at a distance.
Entrance to the shrine... we weren't allowed to take pictures inside. The tomb of St. Antony of Padua is inside and people gather round it praying, makes quite a heartwarming sight to see the outpouring of love and faith in this great saint. Papers are placed nearby to write your petitions, after which you drop them in the petitions box. The monks of  St. Antony, and there were many of them in church lighting candles, praying, guiding people and celebrating the mass, will pray for your petitions. 
A bench outside the shrine... with the Saint's initials, San Antonio. 
Explanation about ...
This sculpture prominently displayed in the courtyard, depicting that St. Antony will lead you to baby Jesus. (click on the image for a larger view)
A lot of pigeons around, we (me and my sister) used to smuggle biscuits and crackers from the breakfast table and stock them in our bags, and my brother would tell us to stop behaving like Indians. Anyway, we used to feed the pigeons everywhere we went, here we are feeding pigeons outside the shrine...
The pigeons... 
These cobbled streets are quite a common sight in Europe, it was nice walking along these worn out streets being fascinated by their fan like patterns... After Padua, we took a train and then a bus to Venice.
First sight in Venice as you get off the bus... 
This was our lunch in Venice, deep fried squid rings...
And grilled prawns...
 Then we started to explore the city of Venice... we took a pass to Piazza San Marco or as it is known in English, St. Mark's square. A boating dock, that's where you get off the ferry...
 James Franco was there to greet us, when we got off...
In olden days, every church had it's own square where I guess every major event took place. St. Mark's square is the wide open area just outside St. Mark's Basilica and this place is loaded with tourists. Whole of Venice is loaded with tourists and people who make a living off them. Anyway, the above picture shows the entrance to St. Mark's Basilica, I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside there either.
 Lots of concerts to keep you occupied here... I love this Antonio Vivaldi guy.
 This orchestra was playing some tracks from The Sound of Music and me and my sister did a little Von Trapp family dance...
 Looks kinda sad, doesn't it... Venice doesn't seem lived in. The buildings seem deserted, no trace of people or curtains or flowers, not exactly what you would expect of Venice. The city is slowly sinking, and people have abandoned the place, only restaurants and hotels still exist.... to cater to the mad rush of tourists who probably like me thought Venice would be beautiful, after all Shakespeare set one of his plays here. It looked more like a ghost town to me, of course folks still indulge in the usual caressing and kissing and groping, but the place hardly seemed romantic or full of wonder. Beneath the surface of it all decay lurks and the whole place seems to be under a spell of doom...    
Probably an art installation...
This is a nice picture... with the clouds opening up above this church.
A deserted waterway...
A gondola ride... saw a bride and a groom travelling in one of these gondolas. 
An ambulance...
Venice at twilight...
Bought few souvenirs... 
Lots of masks on display...
This was the hotel we stayed at, notice the upside down Indian flag...
The church near the hotel...
On the flight back to Geneva...
Nearing the Geneva shoreline...
Landing in Geneva...
Padua was quite nice, I liked it better than Venice... the shrine had a nice shop with so many cute and small items that make great gifts. It was one of the best places to shop, the place is quite calm and beautiful too compared to the cackle and bustle of floundering Venice.