Saturday, May 24, 2014

Villa Maya in Trivandrum...

So last week me and a couple of friends, Shilpa and Anju, happened to stop by Villa Maya for lunch. This place was initially a house for the royal consorts of the Travancore king. The Travancore kingdom was strictly matrilineal, meaning the heirs of the king could not inherit the throne, the throne was passed on to the descendants of the king's sister... basically the royal female line could be traced through the history of the Travancore kingdom. So anyway, the kings used to have a number of wives and they all stayed at this beautiful antiquated house, that now functions as a posh restaurant.
This is the nice old fashioned entrance...
A lamp right in the courtyard... 
The entrance to the restaurant... elephant fountains on either side, filling the air with soft sounds of water trickling...
Decor outside, I like this display of old kitchen tools. These stone equipment's were used in the not so distant past to grind or powder rice and other grains. 
This is how you know it's the woman's restroom... do you think her waist looks disproportionate?
How cute is this, a brass urli in place of a wash basin... urlis are antique bowls that are now used for decorative purposes, as seen here.
The menu book, inlaid with wooden binding...
Everything rings of old world charm here... check out this woven table mat and the table underneath. This was our welcome plate, a (too) sweet drink and some spicy chaat. 
This is a lamb soup my friend ordered, it came in an edible bowl. The soup was quite good... the bowl, not so much. 
These are stuffed crabs, and they were really good... 
This was my lunch, I wanted authentic Kerala food... so ordered appam and vegetable stew, it was great!   
We had these chicken rolls too... (picture taken from the ViIlla Maya website)
This was our dessert, a mango & raspberry cheesecake and a desi tiramisu, we loved every molecule of it... 
We ordered a few other items, I didn't take their pictures... I don't know why, I didn't think about doing a review then. Anyway, the food was really good... it ought to be, this is quite an expensive and posh place. 
Picture taken from the Villa Maya website... 
The decor is really charming, the outdoor seating area has small fountains and the sound of trickling water is never far... 

It was a nice afternoon, sitting here and discussing life with friends... in this royal household where the consorts probably did the same. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Divinity of Mother Mary...

So I am in the church editorial committee and the book seen above is this month's issue of the magazine.... 
I wrote quite a few articles...

May being the month of Mary, wrote the following article about her...

Divinity of Mother Mary

Many friends and cousins started joining this relatively new movement called AG, which stands for Assembly of God, where the service usually revolves around some pretty awesome praise and worship session (a full-fledged band, with a superb choir that induces people to sing along) with an hour of preaching. I’ve gone for a few of these services on Sunday with my cousins and I did have a nice time there. Apart from their indifference to Mary and the saints who according to them are just ordinary people, they believe pretty much everything we believe. Truth be said, a few of them have told me to change my church too, they have given me loads of reasons why their way is the right way and how I seem to be worshipping idols. I used to argue with them initially, but then I let go, you can’t really argue with fanatics. So nowadays, I just smile and vaguely listen to whatever they vehemently proclaim while saying a prayer of thanks in my head for not becoming a crazed fanatic like them (I refer only to my friends and cousins here).

Once while attending mass, a priest said something that was quite brilliant and honest. He said that the other denomination Christians who get upset that we pray to Mary to intercede for us don’t really understand that they perform the same thing to a lesser degree when they tell their own pastor to pray for them. Their pastor is after all a mere human being, and they often say ‘Pastor please pray for us’, believing that their pastor, a good and holy man will genuinely pray for them (which is a good thing). Just think, how much more powerful it is to have the Mother of God, pray for us, and intercede on our behalf. Even when it wasn’t time for her Son to start performing miracles, He did convert water into wine cause His mother wanted it (John 2:1-11). In the same way, Mother Mary listens to our prayers and tells her Son to help us too, in our times of suffering and strife.

Now you might argue that God already knows what we need and there is no need for anyone to pray on our behalf. Which is partly true, I agree, but if you remember in the Old Testament Abraham repeatedly kept beseeching God asking Him if He would spare the town if there were only fifty or forty or thirty or twenty and finally only ten good people left in that town (Gen 18:20-33). It is apparent from this bible passage that Abraham interceded for the town people, and that’s why God spared that town. So holy people interceding for us is a good thing, saints interceding for us is even better, and the Mother of God interceding for us is one of the most powerful things.

There is this story in the bible about a woman who was immediately cured of her ailment as soon as she touched the edge of a cloak Jesus was wearing (Mark 5:25-34). If a piece of garment worn by Jesus can transfer power, how much more powerful is the womb that bore Jesus? Just imagine the power present in Mother Mary whose blood stream provided sustenance for our Saviour for nine months, her body is a living tabernacle. At the foot of the cross, Jesus told his beloved disciple John, ‘Here is your Mother’ (John 19:25-27), and if we are all Disciples of Christ, shouldn’t she be our Mother too? Shouldn’t we look to her and ask her to protect us, as only a Mother can? Our Blessed Mother is to this day appearing to the faithful in Lourdes, Velankanni, Guadalupe, and many other places as she did ages ago. In February she even graced our grotto with her divine presence. She comes to us to spread the word about her Divine Son, that through Him salvation is possible. She comes to save us all, because that is what Mothers do; they help us in this journey called life.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Aigle

So one fine day in October 2013, we decided to visit the Castle of Aigle, or Chateau d'Aigle as it is known in French. The train ride from Geneva to Aigle takes about an hour and a quarter, and our breakfast would usually be some fruits and flavoured yogurt. So there we would sit in the train, munching on grapes or bananas and marvelling at the landscape that passed by. Times like this, I really missed the slow chugging of our Indian trains... there were so many moments, where I just wanted to freeze time and somehow transport myself outside the train carriage to click pictures. Once the train doors slide shut, I don't think you can open them there, unless you are at a station. But in India, the train doors are always open and it's pretty easy to stand at the door and click pictures (Tonio keeps saying that, one of these days I might land up on the tracks if I keep taking pictures from moving trains... ). So anyway, a road trip or biking or plain backpacking is the best way to see all the lovely sights that go whizzing by when you are on a train in Europe... 
Aigle in French means Eagle, and as you get off the train and wander around you'll come across this eagle statue... the town's namesake. 
Aigle looks quite bewitching...
You see any tall spire, you follow it... chances are it's either a castle or a church, and these two are never far from each other. 
This is a church and the castle is quite close by... 
Which means royalty attended services here... 
Everything looks quite medieval, the light fixture, the door... 
A close up view of the altar... 
The coat of arms with the eagle at the centre... 
The pulpit... notice the eagle again behind the book stand. 
We then resumed our walk... Spotted this beautiful lace curtain on the way... 
This cobblestone path is a sure indication that the castle is near...
Houses and pretty lace curtains on the way... 
The medieval Inn... 
Old wine presses... 
The castle of Aigle is surrounded by vineyards on either side.... 
They stretch as far as the eyes can see.... 
And here is the Castle of Aigle... 
The symbol of the eagle hangs proudly... 
The courtyard...
A multimedia presentation  depicting the castle and the vineyards surrounding it... 
This castle is now a wine museum, and they have wine tasting visits... this is a medieval wine crushing machine. 
Another medieval contraption used to in the wine making process... 
Barrels to store and transport wine... 
Typical medieval flooring and the arched doors... 
Massive wine barrels...
Different types of wine pitchers, bottles through the ages and wine dispensing taps...
A drinking room .... 
Wine making interactive sessions... 

Different smells associated with wine are released when those canisters are pressed... this was quite nice, me and Nam were running around pressing these jars and taking in the earthy scents of different wines. 
Wine stomping boots...
Flowers lining the balcony... 
That runs the length of the castle... 
View from the castle towers... 
Imagine waking up to this.... the mountains... 
Another view of the vineyards... 
This is where prisoners were tied up, hands on either side and the head rests in that square section... 
The prisoners had a pretty awesome view...
Steel pitchers used by common folk, wine containers, a miniature display of people making wine, the different scents and colours of wine and ornamental wine jugs....
I guess these holes are for firing Cannon balls... 
One last look at the castle before biding adieu...
Flowers along the way... 
A wall covered in ivy... 
Spotted this church along the way... 
Stepped in... this is the altar.
We stopped at a COOP supermarket to have lunch... ordered this awesome pepporoni pizza,
And a ham sandwich. Every place I went, ham was my meat of choice... I've always liked ham above the other meaty food like salami, bacon, sausages and the like. In french it's called jambon, so I would always look out for jambon sandwiches.

On the way back to the station, we came across a chestnut tree and there were so many chestnuts lying beneath it, we picked up quite a lot to roast at home and eat later. That was one of our new found discoveries, our love for roasted chestnuts... or marrons as it is called in French and Marroni in German. These were quite nice to munch on and not that expensive, and they come in these cute little paper bags with two separate compartments. In one compartment are the hot marrons, and the other section is for the husk of the chestnut, that are collected and thrown out later. This way, you don't littler the road as you walk along. I like that they give importance to simple things like this, to keep their surroundings neat. I didn't take a picture of the paper bag... was too busy eating them, let me see if I can find a picture online. 
Picture taken from Makiko's blog at Just Hungry...