Friday, December 31, 2010

BACK TO THE BHARATPUR BIRD SANCTUARY

This year, after a gap of 2 years made another visit to 'Keoladeo Ghana National Park' popularly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. This park has thousands of migratory birds arriving for breeding  every year from October to March. I was particularly keen to visit the park this year as there had been a very good monsoon and I expected the marshes and lakes of the park to have plenty of water for migratory water birds to land. Was therefore unpleasantly surprised to see that most of the park was dry with just some pockets of water in the many  ponds, lakes and marshes. Apparently whereas most of North India had excess rainfall, the region of Bharatpur ( which is just 150 Kms from Delhi) recd very little rain. However did manage to see a number of local as well as migratory birds. The most prominent bird at the park is the Painted Stork. This year two there were more than 2 colonies of painted storks nesting and breeding.
 A painted stork with it's catch
As usual there were a number of migratory ducks. Spotted some comb ducks, mallards, greylag goose, ruddy sheldock amongst others. Ibises, egrets, cormorants and herons are other water birds that are abundantly present.
Was fortunate to come across a pair of Sarus Cranes that were feeding in the marshy waters. Sarus cranes are always found in pairs. It is believed that in case one of partner dies, the other starves itself to death.
A pair of Sarus Cranes
Was also fortunate to spot some birds of prey at close distances - the Shikra and  Crested Serpent Eagle.
This shikra had a just hunted down a rat and was busy eating it's catch. Though not visible in this photograph, the rat is firmly held by the bird in it's claws.
Crested Serpent Eagle on the lookout.

The Keoladeo National Park is situated in Bharatpur in Rajasthan which is short 4 hours drive from Delhi. Bharatpur is also well connected by train and buses.
Bharatpur has a number of hotels to stay which cater to both the Indian and foreign tourists. I would recommend The Bagh -  an excellent property with well furnished rooms, excellent service and good food.  It also has a library which has a very good selection of books on birds of India. The hotel has a nice garden with numerous trees and many species of birds can be spotted in the trees. You would also be able to spot turkeys roaming the grounds during the day. If you are planning a visit, be sure to carry your binoculars and if you are a photo enthusiast, carry your telephoto lens.

Friday, December 10, 2010

NEPTUNE FOUNTAIN AT THE SCHONBRUNN PALACE

As we move from the main Palace to the hill, is a pool at the end of which is the Neptune Fountain. A retaining wall curving back forms the back wall of the vast basin. At the centre is a semi oval plinth from which rises the statue of the sea-god Neptune surrounded by his entourage.

Above the rocky grotto stands Neptune in a shell-shaped chariot, his trident in his hand. To his left is a nymph, while on his right kneels the sea-goddess Thetis.  Frolicking at the foot of the grotto are the Tritons, creatures who are half-man and half-fish, and belong to Neptune's entourage.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

ROMAN RUINS AT SCHONBRUNN

The Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna is a huge and majestic palace. As you move from the main palace to the grand gardens and up the Schonbrunn Hill and when you descend the hill,  at the foot  stands a structure which supposedly is in ruins, These are  the Roman Ruins , orignally called the ruin of Carthage. Designed by Hohenberg who created the Roman Ruin at Schönbrunn as an entirely new structure on the model of the Ancient Roman temple of Vespasian and Titus, the remains of which had been recorded in an engraving by Giovanni Battista Piranesi dating to around 1756.The Roman Ruins consist of a rectangular pool in the front with a massive semi circular arch overlooking it and walls flanking it giving an impression of a building slowly degenerating  and crumbling into the ground,

The main Structure
 
The Gods of the rivers Danube and Enns
Built in 1978, it is completely integrated into the surrounding landscape making it a very integral part of the vast gardens.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Shots from my Camera: COOT

Shots from my Camera: COOT: "Coots are common water birds found throughout the Americas and Europe. This was photographed in Switzerland swimming in the Lucerne Lake"

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Was in Shanghai last week and decided to go out for an Indian Meal. Shanghai has a number of Indian restaurants but most of them are not worth a visit. During my last visit in July , I had discovered an interesting Indian restaurant - 'DERA' located in North Xiangyang Road . The restaurant is on the first floor of the building and not visible to a passerby. It has a nice quite ambiance and the food is authentic Indian. The bar is well stocked with the regular whiskies and beer but has a very limited wine selection - also don't expect any exotic whiskies etc. The tandoori dishes are well cooked and food tasty. The service though needs improvement. The address :
Dera Restaurant
2nd Floor, 1 North Xiangyang Road (near Julu Road)
Shanghai
It was however on this visit that I discovered this nice restaurant serving Indian food - ' MASALA ART ' located on Yandang Road . This street has rows of restaurants on both sides of cuisines from around the world and you would probably find all the popular cuisines here. I noticed an Italian, Mexican and Thai food joint here. However back to Masala Art - Nice cosy place, good ambiance, well stocked bar (by Chinese standards) and authentic and tasty Indian food.
For starters, try the all time favourite - Chicken Tikkas washed down with beer - my favourite is Carona which goes well with Indian food. For the main course, don't forget the  tandoori dishes - you could try the most popular Indian dish - Tandoori Chicken - or you could try the tandoori pomfret if you are fond of fish. Like always, Dal Makhani and some fresh vegetables with paneer round up the meal very well. If you want a lighter meal, you could exchange the Dal Makhani for the lighter Dal Masala. The restaurant also has a wide variety of spicy masala dishes, both in vegetarian and non vegetarian. For the breads , order a bread basket which would have a mixture of naans, lachha parathas etc. Try all of them.

Waiting for the food 
The Location : 

PHONE:6327 3571
ADDRESS: 397 Dagu Lu,
near Shimen Yi Lu
大沽路397号,
近石门一路
AREA:Jing'an
METRO:20 mins. walk from Nanjing Rd (W)
HOURS:Daily 11:30am-2pm,
5:30-10:30pm
CARDS:Local and international cards accepted

PHONE:6327 3571
ADDRESS: 397 Dagu Lu,
near Shimen Yi Lu
大沽路397号,
近石门一路
AREA:Jing'an
METRO:20 mins. walk from Nanjing Rd (W)
HOURS:Daily 11:30am-2pm,
5:30-10:30pm
CARDS:Local and international cards accepted

If you are the health conscious type and love walking, the place is a close 20 minutes walk from Nanjing Street ( West). I would however recommend a cab which does not take more than 15 minutes from Nanjing Street.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

CAPTIVE BIRDS OF PREY AT PRAGUE CASTLE

As a visitor to the Prague Castle, when you enter the main complex and turn left towards the sprawling gardens you could come across an unusual sight  of majestic birds of prey perched on posts . A closer look will show the legs of all the birds tied to posts . These birds belong to the falconry that exists at the castle.
One of the captive Eagles
Hawks/Falcons waiting for their chance of flight
With quick twists of its neck, this owl was a keen observer of all the tourists
 A Falcon with its head Gear - does look pitiable !

The falconry at the castle organises special shows of these birds in flight and also the opportunity to have these powerful birds perch on your gloved hand.
However it is sad to see these mighty birds in captivity, their freedom taken away from them.

Friday, November 5, 2010

HAPPY DIWALI

Today is Diwali , the festival of lights . This is the most important festival of India. It signifies the triumph of good over evil and victory of brightness over darkness.
Candles and oil lamps ( though these are now being replaced by electric lights) are lit up and placed around homes to give a bright and festive look.
Diwali is derived from the Sanskrit word Deepavali which means an array of lights. Balconies of homes and windows are decked with lights on window sills and parapets.
On Diwali, the goddess Laxmi, a symbol of prosperity, is worshipped.  Special Pujas ( prayers ) are performed at home before the beginning of celebrations. People wear new clothes, share sweets and light firecrackers. The North Indian business community usually starts their financial new year on Diwali and new account books are opened on this day.
Puja Place
The place where Puja is held is specially decorated with colours and flowers. This ritual is performed in every Hindu home. The main doors of homes are left open for the evening to enable the Goddess Laxmi to enter homes and bring wealth with her.
The evening ends with family and friends getting together, exchanging gifts and sweets, bursting crackers and dining.

Wish you all a Happy and Prosperous Diwali

Sunday, October 10, 2010

COVENT GARDEN IN LONDON

Street performers, bars, restaurants, shops and theatres - that is Covent Garden. Situated in the heart of London's Westend, Covent Garden would probably be the most lively and action packed entertainment and leisure destination in London.
The Covent Garden Piazza
The area of Covent Garden consists of  an Italian style central  piazza which is dominated by what orignally was the fruit and vegetable market surrounded by bars, restaurants and fashionable boutiques.
The Apple Market
Built in 1632 by Inigo Jones, the Covent Garden market is a large glass covered building comprising os several arcades of high fashion boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants and a plethora of arts and crafts. The Apple Market which is a part of this unique market does not sell apples !! It is estimated that 30 million tourists visit this famous tourist destination.
The Covent Garden Market
Covent Garden attracts street performers from all over. You will see numerous mime artists, musicians, jugglers and others entertaining the tourists in the central square. Dont be surprised if a statue springs to life as you approach it and reaches out towards you. This is just one of the acts that you will come across.
A Street Performer
Another scene of Covent  Garden

So if you are in London , head for Covent Garden , have a drink at the numerous bars in that area, watch a street performance , shop at one of the fashionable boutiques and in the evening take in the theatre. You could end it with dinner at Belgo !

Monday, October 4, 2010

EATING IN LONDON - BELGO FOR BELGIAN FOOD

If you are in London and in search for great seafood - head for Belgo at Earlham Street near the Covent Gardens. Belgo is a very unusual restaurant. The main entrance leads to a waiting bar area where you can start off with a glass of beer before you are seated at your table. The main restaurant is in the basement to which you descend in a cage like lift.
View of the Restaurant
The ambiance and look of the restaurant is very different from most places. A bit noisy with tables and benches for seating. Remember to book your table in advance or you may land up waiting for over 30 minutes. Lots of steel visible with no false ceiling. When you think Belgian Food , what does come to mind is seafood and in particular mussels. There is a wide variety of seafood available at the Belgo, however what you must order is a steaming pot of Mussels accompanied by a bowl of freshly made crisp fries with creamy mayonnaise. And of course the Beer without which Belgian food is incomplete.
The Kitchen
The area around the Belgo at Covent Gardens is a very lively and and fun place. There are numerous pubs and other entertainment activities which includes plays and musicals over here.
In front of a theatre showing Chicago
While you are in the area, be sure to spend some time at the covent gardens which is a very unique and interesting place. Lots of street performers, places to eat and shopping.
The surroundings
To find out more about the restaurant click on the following to go to the official site of Belgo   

HAPPY EATING

Friday, October 1, 2010

THE MYSTIQUE OF STONEHENGE

Huge stones sticking out of the earth to a height of over 30 ft in a semi circular horse shoe shaped formation in the middle of lovely green meadows - that is Stonehenge. Another must visit place when you are in London, the ancient Stonehenge leaves you full of questions on the origin and purpose of these stones. Stonehenge is an icon symbolizing mystery, power and endurance. There has been a lot of speculation on its original purpose , from being a sacred burial site for high ranking citizens of that age  to a temple for the worship of ancient earth deities and a place for human sacrifice . It has also been speculated that this was an astronomical observatory for marking significant events on the prehistoric calendar. One fact is certain, Stonehenge must have been something very important to the ancients to make them take this effort and investment to put up this magnificent structure.
Stonehenge as it is today
The ancient monument of Stonehenge  was built as a temple about 5000 years ago as a large earthwork with a circular ditch surrounding a raised bank with upright wooden poles. This was the new stone age or the Neolithic Age.
The Circular ditch around the Central area with the Stones
(Note the Station Stone in the foreground)
About 2500 years ago, when the wooden pillars had begun to rot, the first stones were brought to replace the timber. This 2nd stage of Stonehenge started around 2150 BC when some 82 blue stones from the Preseli mountains from Southwest Wales were transported to the site. These were believed to have been brought by sleighs and rollers and through waterways - travelling a distance of 250 miles. This also marked the beginning of construction and alterations that lasted over 800 years stretching into the Bronze Age.
By this time, Stonehenge was the greatest temple in Britain, its banks, ditches and standing stones arranged in sophisticated alignments to mark the passage of the sun and the changing seasons.
A great Sarsen stone trilithon
These are two massive upright stones capped by a horizontal Intel . This is one of the 5 that originally stood over here.
Part of the outer sarsen circle with the best preserved section of surviving lintels.
It is apparent that the sarsens were carefully trimmed and shaped before being set up in their positions.
                                   
The Heelstone at Stonehenge
About 250 ft from the centre of the monument on the northwest periphery of the circle is a single large sarsen stone known as the heelstone. This is about 8 ft in diameter and stands 12 ft above the ground. The purpose of the heelstone however still remains a mystery.

Some Facts about Stonehenge

Age estimated at 3100 BC
Location Wilt shire, UK
OS Reference SU 122 422
Type of stone Bluestone, Sarson, Welsh Sandstone
Worship Lunar, Solar
Access English Heritage - there is a charge to visit the stones.

Stonehenge is an easy 3 hours drive from London. There are numerous tours to Stonehenge during the day. Normally there is no access to the inner circle - however there are special tours on certain days at sunrise and sunset which allow one to go within the circle up close to the stones. However you need to book very much in advance to get a seat on one of  these tours. I was in London in August and every tour was full up even though I had tried a month earlier to get a booking.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

THE RAVENS OF THE TOWER OF LONDON

If you are a visitor to the The Tower of London, don't be surprised when you come across some large black birds that look like over sized crows. These are the Ravens of the Tower of London and have a history almost as old the tower itself.
One of the ravens at the Tower of London
There is no authentic record of when these ravens first appeared at the tower, their presence is however surrounded by myths and legends. Legend dictates that at least 6 ravens must always remain at the Tower else the Tower and the Monarchy will fall.
To prevent the ravens from flying away from the Tower, their wings are clipped and have pens to live in.
Pens in which the Ravens live
Currently there are seven ravens at the Tower - this is so in case one of the ravens dies or escapes, six will always remain.
Raven with it's wings clipped
All seven ravens at the tower have names and have their wings clipped. One of the Yeoman warders is the Ravenmaster who cares for the birds.
The Legend of the ravens of the Tower can be traced back to a Medieval chronicler - Geoffrey of Monmouth. In 1136 he wrote a book called Historia Regum Britannia - The History of he Kings of Britain in which he refers to a British King called King Bran Hen. Bran is a Welsh word for Raven. King Bran had requested that on his death in battlefield, his head be buried as a talisman against invasion on the White Mount where the Tower of London now stands. The ravens therefore came to symbolise the king and to this day they are accepted as necessary occupants of the Tower and the legend that should the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the White Tower will crumble and a great disaster shall befall Britain.
It is believed that King Charles II ( early sixteenth century) was responsible for the declaration that at least 6 ravens should be kept at the Tower at all times to prevent disaster. This has since been followed religiously.
Here are some interesting facts about the ravens of the Tower of London
  • There are seven ravens currently in residence
  • The wings of the ravens are clipped so that they cannot fly away
  • The ravens get a healthy diet of meat, bird biscuits and eggs besides other foods
  • Ravens can live up to a ripe old age. The oldest raven to live at the Tower was Jim Crow who lived to an age of 44 years.
  • Ravens who develop bad habits are dismissed from the Tower and sent to a Zoo.
  • Ravens have also occasionally escaped and have been found at distance from the Tower.
If you plan to visit the Tower of London, book your tickets online and save time standing in queues and save time. Click on the Link below for The official site of the Tower of London is

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Eating in London - The Dickens Inn

If you are visiting London, The Tower of London would certainly be on your ternary. After a few hours (that's the minimum time you will spend here) and as you move out the exit you will notice the magnificent Tower Bridge on the river Thames on the right. Just beyond the Tower Bridge are the Docklands - St Katherine's Docks. On the banks of the harbour and overlooking the Tower Bridge and the harbour is this picturesque restaurant - The Dickens Inn - a place popular with both the locals and tourists.
The Dickens Inn in London
Tracing its origin to the early 17th century when this building was a warehouse, it was moved from its original position to a new spot and converted into a traditional London pub. Whereas the place has 3 specialist restaurants, the most interesting is ' The Tavern Bar ' a traditional English Pub and the Beer Gardens ( which are really a part of the Tavern Bar)  where you can enjoy some traditional English food with beer.
At the Beer Garden with Fish & Chips and Beer.
If you want to enjoy the warm sunny London summer day , choose one of the beer gardens. Collect your beer from the bar and place your food order - the food will be served at your table ( you will need to choose your table first ) . My choice was the traditional fish&chips which is served with a selection of sauces  and beer. The fish was excellent as was the beer.
Pigeons enjoying a bite at the pub.
A walk around the area after a bite at the pub is very pleasant  with some lovely views of the harbour with its boats.
The Harbour with it's Yachts
One of the many interesting boats anchored in the harbour.

My vote is  a definite YES for  visit to this charming English pub and a stroll around the area

The Address :
The Dickens Inn
Marble Quay
St Katharines Way
London
E1W 1UH
Tel 0207 488 2208
Click on the link below for details on getting there

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