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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^^

Dubai

we went to dubai in january, 2016. the last week of january. it’s already been two whole months.  have been meaning to write about our time there before. but man, does time fly…

it will forever be one of my most memorable trips with the husband. yet.

we didn’t do much. mostly just ate really good food. shopped at the dubai mall. swam a lot {does jacuzzi count as swimming?} and spent quality time with few of our favorite people.

we stayed at husband’s friends house near downtown dubai. very close to the burj khalifa. which was great as that’s where most of our friends stay so everything was walking distance. also they were just moving in themselves, so helping them unpack and sort the furniture was a fun and new experience.

the dubai shopping festival was going on and they had a beautiful outdoor market at the burj khalifa park, all the days that we were there. husband and i walked by the outdoor market on our way to the khalifa.

on this trip, we finally got to try  pappa roti! AND it’s gone right to the top on my list of favorite foods. i liked the regular bun. but husband liked the nutella one better.

one night we kinda ‘crashed’ a bachelorette and chandni and i  had an amazing meal at zuma. inn my previous visits to zuma we mostly just had their cocktails. but guys their truffle mushroom rice?!? i’d go back just to have another bowl of it ;)

we tried out cafe habana and the mexican food there was surprisingly good. so were their drinks {a.k.a the blow job shop. no seriously}

we also went for the arab health expo importers meet at the habtoor grand beach resort and met few of husband’s colleagues from germany. post dinner we had a few drinks at buddha bar with chris and anette. it was a night that we would never forget. our last one  with chris {r.i.p. chris, you will forever be in our hearts}

although i left early. was there just for 4 days. husband stayed back a few more nights for work. it was sad leaving him behind. and just leaving dubai. over time i have grown to really like the city

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^^ jacuzzi time with baby rajveer on the 76th floor was something else! there was a slight chill in the air and the view was amazing. husband joined in too, only by then we were too comfortable to get out and take more pictures.  sorry you were missed out A!^^

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^^ pappa roti regular bun. my favorite^^

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^^and husband’s favorite. which was great because we didn’t have to share^^

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^^ bachelorette time – at zuma. too bad we didn’t get any pictures of the food ^^

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^^ breakfast with husband at the IHOP. my standard order, the buttermilk pancakes + mushroom and spinach omelette^^

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^^ the cocktails at buddha bar. husband went back again on his last night just to have another espresso martini ^^

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^^ our very last night with chris…. so grateful to have had a chance to meet him in this lifetime. he will be missed dearly :( ^^

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^^ shake shack. husband tried his shake shack burger for the very first time and he wasn’t disappointed ^^

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^^ vapiano. need to eat at this one in every city we go to^^

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^^ chandni and i, shopping at the mall while the husbands were at work ^^

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^^ view from the top ^^

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^^ mexican cola! am always up for trying new colas ^^

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^^ cute little cafe at the dubai mall, which unfortunately we did not try.^^

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^^ customary touristy picture^^

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^^ dubai buses ;) ^^

ubud

we spent an entire day in ubud.

we visited the rice terraces, the batik painting stores, the wood carving stores and the bali zoo ! {fun fact – what i liked about the bali zoo is that unlike most other zoos that i have visited, the bali zoo has some fun interactive activities that each visitor could opt for. A and I chose to feed the crocodiles and the tigers at nominal extra costs.

at night once we returned to our hotel in seminyak, we visited the kudeta beach club {food tip – if you are vegetarian do NOT try their sushi. have the pizzas instead}

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^^ batik painting which is a technique of wax-resist dyeing of cloth ^^

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^^ feeding the crocodiles and the tigers. for those few hours we were kids again. ^^

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^^ the beautiful rice paddy fields of ubud. it was a 45 minute trek to the top, unfortunately i forgot to wear sneakers, so i had to do with slippers throughout! let’s just say it wasn’t very easy and A wasn’t v happy with my shoe choice that day^^

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^^ unfortunately the only picture i have of kudeta^^

other fun things we did in bali because really this could go on for several most posts…..

Visit the dovetail – we happened upon it while we were walking around seminyak square. their bartenders whip up some of the best cocktails in seminyak. also the owner was super nice and gave us lots of dishes to try out {on the house!} he was a delight and we spent hours at the bar just talking about how similar our traditions and cultures were!

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^^ the tomato balls at dovetail were amazing ^^

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^^ with the namesakes! my husband and the owner shared the same name and birth dates! how co-incidental ^^

Also visit saigon street if you happen to be around the potato head beach club. they serve some great vietnamese food and the most good looking sangria i have ever seen!

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if you like desert as much as we do, try out the fat turtle. we had the red velvet pancakes and the nasi goreng. but everything on the menu looked so v tempting >>>

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and last but not the least – the truffle polenta fries at sisterfields is a MUST try. i’d go back to bali just to have those again ;)

all in all it was a great vacation. A and i  met so many people from around the world.

i say this every time i’m back from a vacation but its amazing how people  from different countries and cultures are deep down all so very similar. we think the same things and believe in the same principles. well most of us anyway….

bali (continued)

we sat in our beautiful hotel for almost all of day 3.

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^^ our beautiful villa…. when we first booked it, i was v excited about the thought of having our very own  pool right beside our bed, but we barely used in the six days we stayed there. ^^

we stayed at aria luxury villa and spa at seminyak.

the temperature on that particular day was upwards of 40 degree Celsius. we finally made our way out of the room just to grab a bite.

since potato head beach club was just only few minutes walk away, we decided to try their indonesian restaurant called Lilian.

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^^ our meal of grilled tofu in yellow curry, Indonesian chicken curry and fried catfish with some steamed rice.^^

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^^^ we had heard so much about rock bar before we left for bali but nothing could have prepared me for this incredible view. it was a 40 minute drive from our hotel and totally worth the ride.  also it helps that they whip up some of the best cocktails in bali. ^^

after having a few drinks at the rock bar, my husband surprised me with an amazing meal at this hip new restaurant in Bali  called cuca. he had done a bit of research before we left the hotel and come to know about it. the meal, which was fusion indonesian, was incredible and there was an indonesian wedding going on right by our table {it’s an indoor/ outdoor restaurant}. such a perfect date. it’s unfortunate we took no pictures !!

fast forward to Udaipur

i haven’t received my wedding pictures from the photographer as yet. it may be a while before i get them and it only makes sense to post about the wedding/ reception/ cocktail party once i receive the pictures.

so lets fast forward to udaipur?

udaipur was my top choice for a destination wedding. unfortunately we didn’t go ahead with the idea of a destination wedding {too much planning and with both of us working all day we had little time}

so my very sweet family decided that we would all go to udaipur post the wedding and spend three days to celebrate the marriage  and to detox ofcourse…

we were around 30 of us and had the entire top floor of the hotel to ourselves.

we stayed at the fatehgarh palace which is about 30 mins away from the city center. it’s a breathtaking property. calm and peaceful and has some of the most amazing views of the city.

in our three days there, we walked around the city palace, ate street food and did some jewelry shopping at the small shops on the roads.

one night we had dinner at ambrai. a beautiful lakeside restaurant to celebrate my aunt and uncle’s 25th wedding anniversary.

A and I stayed back an extra day and had dinner at this other amazing rooftop restaurant called AD 1559. it is brilliant and i would recommend it to everyone who visits udaipur. it offers one of the best views of the city and of the city palace

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^^ the hotel lobby, pool and the view from  our hotel room!!^^

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^^ our hotel from a distance^^

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IMG_1716IMG-20151203-WA0092^^ best part of the day was breakfast with this amazing view! breakfast wasn’t extravagant but just perfect. with a bit of indian and continental both ^^

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^^ posers^^

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^^ matching colors with this cutie!^^

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^^ A and i were upgraded to their royal suite {was it?} but it was a great surprise and kind gesture. they even left a chocolate cake in our mini fridge and we had our very own jacuzzi right by an amazing view ^^

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^^ walking by the city palace^^

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^^ view of the city from the top!^^

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^^dinner at ambrai^^

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^^ our last day alone in the city^^

udaipur is definitely one of the prettiest cities i have been to. there’s such a charm to it. the lakes, the palaces and the cute little cafes by the road. i love it all and i’m glad that part of my wedding festivities took place there. i wouldn’t have had it any other way.

GOA

my office colleague and good friend aditi got married this weekend at goa.

it was such a fun wedding. and absolutely different from any other wedding i have been to before.

firstly because the groom and bride actually seemed to be having a blast. they were so calm and chilled out the entire time. 12 am on the night before the wedding (which was at 7 am) they came to our room in their swimwear and said guys get dressed it’s pool party time. i feel how a wedding is, says a lot about the couple itself. and this is one crazy fun couple.

also we were some of the few indians at the wedding. and  the other guests were from all over the world. there were guests all the way from nigeria, estonia, washington d.c., taiwan, singapore, netherlands, london and many more.

they were such a fun and enthusiastic bunch. ideal wedding guests. with no hang ups and always willing to participate in all activities no matter how alien some of the traditions might seem to them.

it was great getting to meet and then get to know each of the guests, personally. and learn about their experiences.

lastly it was a small intimate wedding (not more than 50 guests) – which is my favorite kind of a wedding. too bad i can’t have that for myself but i am happy for anyone who can.

it’s going to take me a few days to get over this weekend. till then all i have his my last few days of notice period to distract me ;)

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^^we stayed at this charming portugese villa called palacete rodrigues it was a 10 minute walk away from anjuna beach and had beautiful antiques and rooms. perfect for the intimate wedding^^

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^^ need a ride anyone? the host couple had rented around 10 – 12 bikes for the guests to use to explore the city during the day. i was strictly off bikes this trip {due to an impending wedding ;)} but walking out to this site of these colorful bikes was something else^^

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^^ pool parties at the villa pool which went on all day all night. i kid not^^

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^^ the happy couple!^^

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^^ FINALLY got the chance to visit thalassa, goa. the food was exactly how i heard it would be. we had the kalamata olives, the chicken souvlaki, fried cheese and the gyros.^^

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^^ i even made my roommate come with me to ozran heights next door, the place where A proposed to me a few months ago on my birthday. read here.^^

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^^ and they are hitched!!^^

cannot be happier for the married couple…