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santorini

Santorini was the expected highlight of our trip.  we had a wedding to attend, and A was meeting his university friends after a v. long time {the last time we met them was at our wedding in Mumbai in 2015}

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we spent three nights, three days here at a quaint colorful hotel Aquavatos at Kamari beach. although, not as popular as the well-known fira and oia, Kamari a.k.a. the black sand beach was one of my favorite places on the island. all the restaurants we tried here {at least 3-4 different ones} served excellent food. also, it’s home to some of the best bars I’ve seen {special recommendation: mango bar}

the day we landed, A had a bachelor night to go for and I, a hen party. the bride’s sister had planned it so brilliantly. we were about 15 girls, all from different parts of the world {when I say different I really mean it. we covered austria, phillipines, america, united kingdom, india and nigeria} the hen night started with some wine tasting at a winery. the venetsano winery in particular. this was where I first experienced the infamous Santorini view. i’d seen SO many pictures but nothing could prepare me for that. I still don’t think I could ever get over that VIEW.

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we tried four different kind of wines all locally made accompanies with some tapas. it was very chilly and at some point during the tasting they had to give us blankets to cover up.

our next stop for the hen night was a restaurant in fira, blue volcano {semi decent food and v cute waiters ;)} I ate chicken souvlaki {no surprises} we watched the sunset there. and just when I thought the views couldn’t get better, they did. that’s the thing about Santorini, every part of the island takes you by surprise.

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the night ended at the tango bar. and if you ever go to Santorini, this is one place you wouldn’t want to miss . the views from the bar were something else. so were the cocktails. and the people and the vibe. that night event though i was with a group of girls I had never met before, we got home when the sun came up. one of the best times I’ve had in greece.

… and then we spent almost all of the next day in bed {no surprises}.

at night I forced myself to get out. even if it was without Adi. i went with the bride and a group of her friends to an open air theatre in kamari {a first for me} and we saw king arthur under the stars with a glass of wine and LOTs of popcorn. my ultimate movie experience.

 

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the wedding day

adi and I started the day early. we went on a small cruise ship to nea kamini {an active volcano}. on getting there, we had to trek to the top of island near the crater. Adi has always been so fascinated by volcanos and I cant remember the last time i saw him this excited about anything. he may have picked up atleast 20 volcanic rocks during the trek up to the crater, to take them back home to Mumbai.

after the trek to the top and back down, we got back to our little boat and on to the next stop: the volcano hot springs. highlight: we had to jump from the boat into the warm waters of the volcano spring. the mud by the shores of the island is said to be therapeutic and we rubbed the volcanic mud all over our bodies. aah. I need to go back just to do that again.

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that evening, back in Santorini, we attended the most beautiful wedding ceremony. at the santos wines winery.

it was a Christian wedding {one of my firsts} between an indian boy, born and brought up in London, and a Pilipino girl, born and raised in austria. the wedding was a beautiful mix of different cultures getting together. that, right there, was what made it so special.

after the wedding we went to the theros wave bar for the reception and after party. and for some more wine and dancing.

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mykonos

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” - Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky.

I cannot emphasize the importance of travel enough {especially when you are working a 9 to 9+ job like mine}

travel has the power to change you. change your perspective on things and just generally help you look at everything around you more positively and with less judgment.

about two weeks ago, we started our trip to Greece with Mykonos {i won’t count the few hours we spent in Athens before we caught the blue star ferry to Mykonos, because all we did was sleep.}

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opting for ferries {cruise ships?} for our internal travel was one of the better choices we made. the waters of the aegean sea are so breathtaking and what better way to see it than by boat? you also pass by a whole lot of little islands on the way, each one with its own charm.

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we stayed at a cute little all-white hotel on paradise beach called the Paradise View Hotel. the positives – its right by all the beach clubs {about a short 2 to 5 minutes walk, depending on the beach club}, there’s a bus stop right outside the main gate {with a bus taking you to mykonos town coming in every 30 mins}, amazing views of the beach and a beautiful hotel pool and jacuzzi easily accessible from all the rooms. the negatives – none really.

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my favorite part about mykonos was mykonos old town. the white winding streets you see on all the greek postcards and movies, the windmills and of course, little venice. you could spend an entire day walking around old town. it’s also great for shopping {not if you’re me though. A would give me the worst look every time i even entered a shop. So lets just say i didn’t get to buy much in greece other than a few nic nacs to take back home for everybody}.

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^^I would also recommend having a drink at one of the beautiful bars in little venice. we selected the coziest little bar with outstanding views of the old town and the sea ^^

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^^For meals – we pretty much ate only souvlakis. you can tell from the different pictures of the all the souvlakis we tried. our favorite, by far, was the souvlaki at souvlaki story in mykonos old town^^

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^^after much coaxing I also managed to convince A to accompany me to the tropicana beach party. i’m pretty sure he was glad we went. we had a blast. the music, the people and the view were all on point!^^

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we had a v short stay in mykonos. there’s still so much more i would like to do. but that we can save for our next trip back to greece, because i am pretty sure we will be coming back :)

carmel, monterey and the big sur

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during our trip to SF, we spent a long weekend traveling to  carmel-by-the-sea and monterey, driving by the big sur!

it was such a memorable weekend and was the first time that our entire family was together at one place – along with its’ newest additions {leheir and my brother’s wife to-be devika}.

we spent 5 hours driving from SF to Monterey. more than usual, as we took the big sur route and had brunch halfway at a beautiful restaurant by the coast.

we stayed at a hotel in monterey. the houses/ air B&Bs’ in carmel were all booked out by the time we got to planning our trip due to the long weekend.

we got lucky though as the hotel was right by the city center and a two minute walk away from the wharf. all the good restaurants were close by. there was also fair going on right outside the hotel lobby with the cutest little shops and food stalls.

we spent sunday at carmel. had brunch at a beautiful french restaurant {which btw serves the best chocolate mousse ever} where we celebrated leheir’s 4 month birthday and then did some dolphin spotting at the carmel beach. we may have seen at least 20 dolphins, which were all v close to the shore. it was breathtaking and to think we almost decided against going to the beach!

we also spent an entire 40 minutes trying to get a good picture of the entire family, on mom’s insistence.

looking back,  i know now that these are the little moments life gifts us…that keep us going and make all the long work hours, the tough times and the distance bearable.

*vegas*

i’ve been to vegas before. but around 8 years ago. it was a different time then. and one thing i’ve realised during our weekend there is  ….. i’ve grown up!

we didn’t do pool parties or clubs {except if you count the 30 mins we spent at tao at the venetian on saturday night}.

this trip was more about the casino. and food. good food. signs of ageing???

we were there for just two nights and one day.  we stayed at the pallazo {which is connected to the venetian} and it was a good choice as it’s right where all the action is. thanks arjun, for insisting on not staying anywhere else.

we spent the entire first night casino hopping. it was A’s first time and we wanted him to experience vegas the way one should experience vegas.

our favorite casino that night was the cosmopolitan. we ate late dinner or should i say breakfast? at their open restaurant called the henry.

the next day we visited the seven {or is it six?} pools our hotel had to offer and then went off for some more casino hopping. got our caricatures made and ate at this amazing restaurant called beauty and essex.

we slept that night at 11 pm {!!} and it was our last night in this crazy city. that’s when i knew that i was getting old. my body can’t handle anymore what it could earlier.

we spent our last morning in vegas at the bouchon bistro. and it was the best breakfast i’ve eaten yet. we ate the beef burger {for him} and the sandwhich du joir {for me} he had the expresso martini and i had the bellini.

we finished the meal with beignets {which were a.m.a.z.i.n.g.}

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^^ where we stayed. i got one word for you: location!^^

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^^ the strip is always buzzing. even at 5 am ^^

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^^ A’s reaction was v similar to mine, when i first walked by the faux venetian canals inside our hotel. he was quiet for a whole 5 minutes absorbing it all in^^

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^^ monkeying around in the hotel lobby after 1 too many drinks. isn’t it just the best thing in the world when your husband and twin brother get along like a house on fire?^^

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^^ lunch at sushi samba and one of my favorite pictures of arjun till date ;) ^^

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^^ trying our luck at the slots one last time before leaving vegas…. what’s going on? we look confused ^^

IMG-20161017-WA0016^^ and that’s a jackpot! a 20 dollar worth jackpot ;) ^^

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^^ pictures with the cops. a vegas must do ;)^^

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^^ hotel lobby pictures. just about every corner in our hotel lobby was so breathtaking we couldn’t help but pose for pictures all over the place ^^

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^^ brunch at the bouchon ^^

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^^ expresso martini for him and bellini for me ^^

some more of SF

here’s some other places we loved in SF. some of them may be v touristy {but we love those too!}

palo alto

we visited palo alto around 2-3 times during our visit. it’s close to where my sister stays and it has some really good restaurants. it’s also home to stanford university which has one of the best campuses in the country. two restaurants we visited and loved were reposado and tacolicious.  both mexican coz we LOVE mexican.

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^^ the set lunch menu at tacolicious that day was green salad, grilled vegetables and chicken soft taco, refried beans and rice ^^

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off the grid at fort mason centre

it happens every friday night from 5 pm to 10 pm at fort mason in san francisco. until October 30th. there are around 30 food trucks, 3 bars and live music. each food truck serves new and innovative cuisine.

i had a blast. and must have eaten every cuisine there is. mexican, lebanese, chinese, brazilian you name it, we ate it.

pier 39 and china town

pier 39 has the quirkiest shops. they have a pet shop with the cutest pet accessories, a lefty shop dedicated to lefties! {which is pretty cool and fascinating if you were a lefty like me}. they also have some cool places which are great for people watching.

china town is great for 3 dollar ‘san francisco’ caps and exotic varieties of green tea. oh and the MURALS. they were REALLY good.

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^^ that’s me in a LOT of pictures. poor A. consequences of him having  a phone with a better camera ;p^^

burma love

burma love at mission for burmese. specially their tea leaf salad and the samosa soup. both available in vegetarian..

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SF

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my brother told me that locals call the city SF or san francisco. not ‘san fran’ or ‘frisco’. which is all just tourist talk (guilty!)

he also told me that if he was asked to close his eyes and imagine one place, his happy place, he always thought of dolores park, SF.

that got me thinking about what my happy place would be? now that i’m back in mumbai and back at my work desk, if i had to close my eyes and think of my happy place, i’d say it’s san francisco.

not just because it’s beautiful or has great weather throughout the year and a crazy good vibe, but more because  it’s where my family is. and where i now feel most at home outside of mumbai.

we shuttled between my sister’s house in emerald hill {which is about a 20 minute uber drive away from the main city} and my brother’s house in beach street {which is bang in the city centre}, so we had the best of both worlds.

some of our favorite things to do in san francisco …

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(1) Walk the golden gate bridge and visit sausalito.

it seems almost cliched {so much that A refused! i had to eventually drag him..}. but it was the perfect san francisco experience. we got lucky as it was sunny the day we chose to walk the bridge and not too windy. the weather was just perfect.

it was a long walk from my brother’s house near the marina, but it was worth every step. once we crossed the bridge and reached the vista point, our feet were tired and we uber-ed it to sausalito.

{P.S. uber is the best thing to have happened to us this trip. we used it for all our travel. it’s convenient, quick and reasonable cost wise}

sausalito would turn out to be one of my favorite places in california. i’d heard a lot about it from friends and family and so i went there with high expectations. but it still managed to pleasantly surprise me with it’s little city charm.

sausalito also happens to have one of the best views of SF city. it’s dotted with tiny outdoor cafes and restaurants by the pier which are all worth visiting just for the view.

we ate at the napa valley burger company. we didn’t try the burgers {silly us} but the guacamole we ordered was great. just the way i like mine.

we took a ferry on our way back to the city and i’d recommend it just for the view of alcatraz up close.

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^^ some pictures of sausalito {looking back i wish we’d taken some more!} and the guacamole at napa valley buger co.^^

(2) DOLORES PARK!

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i have this annoying habit. every time i meet a local at a city i’m visiting i ask them what their favorite place in the city is. i always get such fun and different answers. places i’d rarely read about in a travel blog, guide or magazine. this visit, 5 out of 6 times the answer was – dolores park.

my brother in law insisted we go on a saturday afternoon and so we did. after that we returned on wednesday afternoon and then thursday afternoon ;p. so you can guess how much we loved it.

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(3) North Beach

north beach is in the north east of san francisco adjacent to chinatown, russian hill and fisherman’s warf. we visited north beach by chance. we were googling “closest in-and-out” {a must visit for all cheeseburger fans} and found one there, adjacent to chipotle. we ended up staying way longer and went back at night to check out the bar scene. which btw is awesome.

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^^ we took our burger to go and ate it at an outdoor bench close by^^

so many places that i might have to continue this in another post.!!

san francisco

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the last time i went to san francisco was eight years ago. i was there for three days. with friends. it was such a great experience. i’d never seen a city like that before. the vibe was just so different. laid-back yet inspiring.

looking back i always felt i didn’t get enough of ‘frisco’. i wanted So more of it.

then.. a few years later my twin brother moved there. and last year my sister and her husband moved there too. so now, me going there again was inevitable. but the thought of sitting in an 18 hour flight made me delay this much needed trip for months/ years(?)

i booked my tickets the day leheir was born. literally just a few hours later.  my much needed incentive.

i leave in three days. A leaves tomorrow. he booked an earlier flight. we will also be going to las vegas and carmel.

but what i’m most looking forward to is holding…

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this cute little baby. she’s going to be three months the day i land.

can’t wait to see her beautiful face up close. and give her a million kisses.

el ain sokhna and the 6th of July ;)

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i am thankful to have found a husband like A. i got lucky. i always tell friends how i feel he’s a lot nicer than what i am {if that’s even possible ;)} he is my best friend, career advisor, partner and the most fun roommate. but what i love about him the most is knowing that seeing me happy, makes him the happiest. i hope and pray that it always stays this way.

he doesn’t care about birthdays the way i do. the childish girl in me loves celebrating birthdays as if i was still 18! and that’s something i plan to over come. soon. he doesn’t get it. at all. but he will always comply. because he knows how important it is to me.

this birthday we spent in el ain sokhna in egypt. it’s merely a 1.5 hour drive from cairo and i’d recommend anyone who visits cairo to make sure they drive down to el sokhna. we stayed at ashraf’s vacation home right by the beach. we spent the entire day swimming in the red sea. literally. we reached the beach at 8 am and swam and drank and ate till the sun came down. then we came home had a chicken and quail barbecue {i tried quail!}  and went back to the beach until midnight.

to bring in my birthday ashraf has invited his neighbors and friends for dinner and drinks and they got me an ice cream cake and sang happy birthday in Egyptian. i was so touched and got teary. i did not expect the cake. nor did i expect people who i had met merely 5 days ago to go out of their way for me.

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^^ my favoritest egyptians !! mark and seline^^

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^^ the clear waters of the red sea^^

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^^ my husband’s attempt at taking my picture. he always manages to goof it up somehow ^^

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^^ which is why i resort to selfies during vacations!^^

el gouna!

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our best discovery and favorite part of the trip was our stay at the movenpick resort and spa at el gouna.

el gouna is this small resort town by the red sea near hurgadha, developed and owned by the Sawiris’ family of egypt. it’s a 4.5 hour drive from cairo {we rented a car and driver}. the drive to el gouna is beautiful to say the least. with the red sea on one side and the desert mountains on the other. this one time while A and i were playing 20 questions {the things we do to pass time} we randomly saw dolphins! in the sea. that’s how close the road is to the sea and that’s how untouched the place is.

el gouna was so unexpected. the resort was beautiful and vast. it took us 10 minutes to just walk from one pool  to another. we spent an entire day by the lagoon pool which overlooks the red sea. el gouna serves alcohol everywhere even during ramadan. and it comprises mainly of european tourists.

on day 2 in el gouna we had an experience of a lifetime when we went quad biking into the Sahara Desert. it was a 5 hour tour, where we visited the bedouin villages, drove up the hills {mountains?} and saw the view of the Sahara desert and the entire town of el gouna from up top. the time we spent in el gouna will always stay with us. and i have a feeling we’ll find our way back there again.

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^^ during ramadan the occupancy is generally v low and it’s like we almost had the hotel all ourselves ^^

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ramadan in egypt

our entire 6 day trip to egypt was during the holy period of ramadan. at first we weren’t sure whether it was the best time to visit. but it worked in our favor in several ways.

firstly there was little to no traffic on our drives to the pyramids and zamalek {by the banks of the nile} from heliopolis. which ashraf informed us, could have taken us as much as 2-3 hours on a normal day.

secondly our hotel stay was cheaper than it would have been during the non – ramadan period and unlike what was informed to us most of the restaurants that we wanted to visit were open during the day.

the negative – no alcohol available freely. only in 5 star hotels and bars {if you show them your tourist passport}. but fortunately we had carried our own liquor and could easily have a drink of two at ashraf’s home before heading out. oh and another tiny negative – v.v. long lines at the shopping malls. i spent three hours at the mall and could only manage to buy a total of 3 items. and that’s very unusual for me.

the best part – we got to visit a ramadan tent! during ramadan cairo gets festive and every night after the sun sets they have festive tents in few areas of the cities {mostly in five star hotels} with a wide variety of egyptian food, sheesha, live music and dance. also the shops are open way past 10 pm and there is such a festive atmosphere during the streets at night.

we visited the tent at the concorde el salam. we had the most delicous Egyptian food, kebabs, breads and rice. and listened to live arabic music. the night went on till 2 am and that’s the closest to egyptian nightlife as one could get during ramadan!

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during the day we decided to try non-egyptain food for a change. we visited maison thomas, established over a hundred years ago in the zamalek district of cairo in the 26th of July street. after that we had cheesecake a makani’s which i highly recommend.

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^^ pizza at maison thomas is one of the best in cairo!^^

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^^ impromptu stop at sequoia for pictures^^

Egypt Again.

the last time i visited egypt was in June, 2011, a little more than five years ago. it was more of a stop over on the way to my final destination, new york. we decided to stay for two days with the primary intention of visiting the pyramids and the sphinx.

this time it was different. A has been wanting to visit egypt ever since he can remember. i had an off from work on the 6th of July {which also happens to be my birthday} so we decided to make a short trip out of it.

A has colleagues in Cairo, a family of four. he’s very friendly with them and they had been inviting us to come over for a while. we decided to spend 2 days in cairo at their home. two days in el gouna this beautiful resort town by the red sea {around a 4.5 hours drive from cairo} and the remaining two days in el ain sokhna another resort town by the red sea {around a 1.5 hours drive from cairo}.

we flew via egypt airlines. cairo is a short 5 hour plane ride from mumbai. on learning of our plan, a lot of people asked us whether it was safe to travel to egypt. we inquired with our friends in cairo {who informed us that it was 95% safe} and decided to take the slight risk.

Day 1.

we landed in cairo at around 5.30 am! our friend ashraf picked us up at the airport and drove us to his house in heliopolis which is a 15 minute drive from the airport. he showed us around his beautiful home {which was to be our home too, for the next few days} and we met his sweet wife and the two most adorable kids. seline {1.5} and mark {5}.

after having an Egyptian breakfast of falafel {it’s not just a lebanese staple! but egyptian too}, ful {egyptian flava beans} eaten with aish baladi {egyptian flat bread}, koshari {egyptian rice with lentils} scrambled eggs and cheese.. we took a tour of old cairo and visited the coptic district of cairo  and its’ several churches {ashraf and his family are catholics}.

it was 35 degrees and sunny .. but old cairo is beautiful and we didn’t mind the sun at all.

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^^ walking around the streets of old cairo with ashraf and his family^^

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^^ something about narrow lanes ^^

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^^ A and Seline….up until then i had never seen A even hold a child. seeing the two of them bond the entire trip made me SO happy. i think it’s safe to say now that he likes kids^^

at night we saw the pyramids of giza and the sphinx. the sound and light show. we were 6 of the 15 people in total who were there to watch the show. it was a friday night and a public holiday.

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it’s sad that a sight as beautiful and mesmerizing as the pyramids of giza and the sphinx {one of the seven wonders of the world} attracts such few people these days. it has a lot do with political instability in the region {two revolutions in 5 years!} and worldwide terrorism in general. and it saddened me so very much to see all the locals outside trying so hard to sell us their souvenirs. running after us and even begging, ready to sell them for as low as 1 USD. Ashraf informed us that a few years ago they would sell the same souvenirs for 20 USD and we would have had to reserve seats for the sound and light show a week in advance!

i hope and pray that things get better for them soon. and that the egypt tourism industry bounces back to its former glory days which it well deserves.

the machan

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A and i have been fortunate enough to have traveled a lot in our first few months of marriage.

there’s no better ‘quality time’ then going away, just the two of you.

a few of our closest friends gifted us a weekend stay at the machan, lonavla and we can’t recommend it enough to people.

it’s a very different concept. they have tree villas with glass walls, which make you feel very connected to nature. also, they don’t have wifi or phone network. which made A a very happy man {i survived! only because it was just a weekend}

we stayed at the sunset villa. and had our very own outdoor hot tub. in the evening we took a stroll around the property and found out about their yoga classes. A and i both joined in, and it was extremely relaxing {although i practice yoga regularly at home with my teacher, somehow doing it at the machan surrounded by nature, was a whole different feeling}.

the machan has both lunch and dinner buffets with simple indian cuisine options. we both liked the home-made taste of the dishes.

we ended the night with a one-hour game of scrabble which to my surprise, he won :/ who knew about his hidden vocab knowledge?

i tell you, this man, it’s been three years {almost} and there’s still so much to learn about him. and that right there is my favorite part of our marriage.

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^^us^^

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^^ the best part of our villa ^^

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^^ scrabble wars^^

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^^ beautiful flowers everywhere^^

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^^ duplex for two^^